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Friday, 18 July 2014 00:00

Review - Divinity: Original Sin [PC]

 Recently I received a gift of Divine Divinity and Divinity: Original Sin on Steam as a belated birthday gift from one of my best friends, David. He had been keeping watch on Divinity: Original Sin while it had been in development and thought I might like it. I had never heard of the series nor its creator Larian Studios, but I was willing to give it a go.

Divinity: Original Sin is a top down, third person, isometric view RPG. Think of the way the Diablo series looks and you get the idea. However, the game play has very little in common with the Diablo series.

First things first. The character creation.

Character creation is interesting because you start by making two characters. The appearance editor is okay. It has a several options for both male and female characters, but nothing really to write home about. However, the class or abilities portion of the editor is where it shines. Yes, you have 11 classes to choose from, but each of these can be modified by the player during creation. Playing a Wayfarer but don't want the Pet Pal talent? Change it to something you feel will be more useful. The only part of the editor I took issue with was the character portraits. Despite there being many, I really felt like it was still too easy to come up with an appearance for your character that didn't have an analogue in the portrait selection.

The visuals and audio for the game are both well done. The maps and general animation are on par for this style of game, but the spell and particle effects really kick it up a notch. Some areas you walk through will have seeds and leaves blowing by your field of view, making the game feel more alive and further immersing you in the game. The sound track for Divinity: Original Sin is truly top notch. Normally I tend to turn music way down or off in games because often times I find it jarring and that it doesn't fit the mood of the game. Not so in this case. The first time I heard the theme music at the beginning of the game I was hooked. And the music in the game is no different. It just sounds great and works.


Looks like you passed out around a lot of combustibles, little goblins.

Divinity in gameWhere Divinity really shines for me is the feel of the game play. I have never played an RPG video game that feels so close to playing a pen and paper RPG, ever. The game doesn't spoon feed you your quest information or where to go. You have to spend time conversing with NPCs and looking for clues. For the most part I really like this, but there have been a few times now where I've missed a vital clue or it just seemed there wasn't one.

The combat also feels like a table top RPG too. When out of combat you just roam around at your leisure, but once you go into combat it goes to an initiative based turn system like most pen and paper RPGs. Once in a fight you rely on action points to determine your movement and what attacks or actions you can take. This might not sound very interesting, but believe me when I say that the combat in this game is some of the best turn based combat I’ve ever experienced in any game. There is so much that goes into an encounter that it's really hard to describe it with out writing a small book, but i'll touch on one of the coolest parts; that being the area effects. With your elemental attacks as a magic user or a ranged attacker, you can set the field on fire to burn anything coming at you. Fire isn't working? Cast a rain spell to douse the fire and create steam clouds which you can then hit with lightning to electrify. This is just one example of many.

My only real issue with Divinity: Original Sin is also one of its strengths. The conversation. On one hand you have these great moments of dialogue between your two main characters that can reveal a lot about their personalities and back story and reward you with in game bonuses. On the other hand dialogue with random citizens is the same thing over and over. I would have preferred that there be no conversation option with the background players because they all pretty much have the same dialogue options which tend to be pretty jarring and pulls me out of the immersion of the game.

Divinity: Original Sin in a very well done RPG. I think for true fans of the genre it's a game well worth owning and playing over and over again. If you are hoping for another Diablo clone or something hack n' slash, don't bother.

 This review originally appeared on GameonGirl.com

Published in PC
Saturday, 18 April 2009 00:00

Street Fighter 4 Review [X360]

 

There is something extremely satisfying about a well thrown punch. The feeling of contact between your fist and bone. The sharp snap it makes. The tinge of pain in your forearm from the shock of the impact. I'm not talking about justhitting something. I'm describing what happens when you use everything your body has, directed through your fist, in an attempt to destroy whats on the other end. Its addictive and dangerous. Most people never really experience that. But those that do, know exactly what I mean.

When I was younger, I was very familiar with that feeling. Growing up in the projects meant that when someone pushes you, you push back harder. It's a simple rule that worked amazingly well.I didn't get pushed that often, andwhen I did,I made sure it didn't happen again.

That rule changed when we moved to the suburbs, but no one told me. Being one of the few Black kids at Linkhorn Park Elementary School, I got pushed a lot. And I pushed back. Punched back. And when I'd get pulled into the principles office, I couldn't care less what she had to say. She obviously didn't know how things worked. Her rules weren't my rules. Even when Chris, the only other Black kid in the school tried to explain things to me, I ignored him. "Derrick,the kids here are wimps, you can't hit them like that anymore'. He was right, the kids were wimps. A shove on the basketball court was a reason for tears. A kick at the playground was a reason to run to the teacher. Why were they crying? They have 2 parents, nice houses, and didn't have to use a free lunch card in the cafeteria. Wimps.

I finally got the message when my mother was called in for a 'conference'. I waited outside while the teachers recited my crimes to her. When my mom came out of that room, I expected a smack to the head and to be shoved into the back seat of the car. That what was supposed to happen. But it didn't. Instead she refused to look at me and headed for the bathroom.Tears streaming down her face. I had never seen her like that. When the teacher appeared, she looked at my blank expression and accused me, 'You did that to her.You're the most apathetic child I've ever seen, do you know what apathetic means?' I nodded my head. I knew exactly what it meant. It meant 'boy who makes his mother cry'. That's when I decided to change. What beatings, and restrictions, and suspensions failed to do over the years, was accomplished in a split second by the image of a strong woman reduced to tears.

But deciding not to hit other kids doesn't mean the feelings go away. And they needed an outlet. When I saw a new game at the supermarket called Street Fighter 2, I asked my mom for a quarter and played it while she shopped. When another kid joined in, it was a revelation. I could punch him, kick him, throw him to the ground. No punishments. No crying. This was a good thing. Very good.

Over the years other ways to channel those feelings have come and gone, and Street Fighter faded into the background. Each new version seemed to get farther away from allowing me to throw a punch and enjoy it connecting. Instead of an outlet, it turned into a way to watch a combo meter count upward. I just wanted to hit someone.

Street Fighter 4 brings that back. The visceral thud of a punch is conveyed in beautiful images that make the violence seem like a work of art. The controls have been simplified so that I don't have to search online for a 13 page move list to enjoy it. And most importantly, when a punch connects on screen, I feel it. And it feels good.

Score 9/10

 

Published in Xbox 360
Friday, 09 August 2013 00:00

Rise of the Triad Review

 

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I didn't get really into gaming until the early 2000s, so I missed a lot of the classic stuff that some people remember about the early days of gaming, including Apogee. They eventually turned into 3D Realms, but they put out some stuff before then that people really liked like Wolfenstein 3D, the Blake Stone games, and Rise of the Triad: Dark War. ROTT was a prime example (at least from what I've heard) of the old school style of shooters, with crazy enemies, weapons, and power ups. Also you could turn into a dog. So it would make sense that someone would want to reboot a franchise like this. It's unfortunate that they had to reboot like this, because it's not very good. 

In the new Rise of the Triad, you once again slip into the leather boots of H.U.N.T., the High-risk United Task-force, consisting of Taradino Cassatt, Thi Barrett, Lorelei Ni, Doug Wendt, and Ian Paul Freeley. They are sent to San Nicolas Island off the south coast of Calfornia, which has been taken over by a terrorist group/cult called The Triad. Once there, the team gets discovered and their boat is destroyed, meaning the only way off the island is to fight your way through the Triad. And beyond that I honestly couldn't tell you anything more. The only story bit I saw was at the very beginning of the game. It was told in a motion comic style cutscene, complete with pretty decent artwork and absolutely terrible voice acting. You'd think that last bit would be a negative, but it got me really excited to play the game. While some of the characters' voice-work was just the bad kind of bad, most of the main five have the kind of bad voice acting that just makes laugh and feel good about things.

Then we get to the actual game part of the game. You can play as any of the five characters listed above and each come with their own stats, like endurance or speed, meaning some guys are tougher while other guys are faster. But honestly I couldn't tell you the in-game difference between any one of them. All of them seem to take the same damage, which is really inconsistent depending on where you are, and they all move at one speed, which too fast to be playable. Every character moves at half the speed of sound and the mouse is so sensitive even at 50% that trying to look around while walking down a straight becomes a huge ordeal that will probably end with you running into a wall repeatedly or being stuck on some piece of the world geometry. The movement speed is especially crappy for searching for and collecting coins and secrets, which the game scores you on. A lot of times they are on walkways or platforms that you have to jump to or use jump pads to reach. Since you're in first person the entire time, you can never see your feet to judge when you're above it. Add on to that that your movement in the air is just as fast as when you're on the ground, it becomes a game of trial and error trying to get these items. If you want to avoid these annoying platforming bits and forget about the collectibles, some levels force you to platform in order to finish a level. To top it all off, some of these sections result in instant death if you mess up even once, meaning you have to go back to the last checkpoint, which there are only two of in every level.

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But you don't come to a game like this for the platforming, you come for the guns and shooting which kind of work. You got your standard stuff with your pistols, machine gun, and rocket launcher, but then you have some of the cooler stuff. You've got the heat seeking missiles, which home in on enemies. You've got drunken missiles, which can be fired like a minigun or just flying off in random directions. You've got the heat wave, which shoots out a wall of fire that incinerates your enemies. And you've got Excalibat, a magical baseball with an eye in the center of it that kills enemies in one hit and fires energy balls. The weapons themselves are actually kinda weak and don't really have any kind of punch behind them, but they can make the game bearable for a brief few moments. But these weapons come with very limited ammo and once you run out, so long interesting weapon. You can pick up more of them and if you know where to look you can be rolling with these for a good chunk of the game. If you aren't looking carefully, though, you can miss these weapons and be stuck with your standard stuff. The pistols and machine gun are total jokes, with enemies soaking up bullets and barely even reacting to being shot by these guns over and over again. It makes you feel completely powerless and these weapons, along with all the other ones I mentioned, can be stolen very easily by the enemy leaving you with a solitary pistol until you can find something interesting again. The cool thing I will say about the pistols and machine gun is that both of them have infinite ammo but you can still reload them. So you can just stand there for twenty minutes reloading your dual-wielded pistols with an awesome animation. It won't affect anything and is entirely pointless, but it looks great.

The enemies will be shooting at you, too, so you'll need to know where their shots are coming from to find them. Good luck with that, because the damage indicator is a joke. It barely reacts when you're being shot, so you only get a notification when you're being shot every fourth or fifth time. It also doesn't dynamically move to show where the shots came from relative to the way you're looking. Combine that with the movement speed problem and you will have no idea where most shots are coming from unless you stand still and just wait while you're getting shot to find the enemies. Also, have fun finding the enemies. All of them dress in grey and brown, and since this is an Unreal Engine game, all of the environments are grey or brown, so enemies can very easily blend into the background while spinning around trying to find them. It gets especially fun in the poorly lit corners when the only way to see them is their muzzle flare. Plus, enemies can just randomly spawn in. Multiple times throughout the game I'd be walking along and all of a sudden an enemy just appears before my eyes.

Speaking of environments, they are quite bland in this game. Every level I played was interchangeable with every other level in a given area, just with a different layout. Because of this it can be difficult to figure out which way you're supposed to go. A few times while playing I got turned around and ended up running back to the start of the level before I realized I was going the wrong way. From what I've seen of later levels this gets better, but they still look incredibly boring. One of the later levels gets lava and it looks just awful.

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This game is also bugged up the butt. I already mentioned the enemies magically appearing in front of you and being caught in the world geometry, but that's just the tip of the iceburg. Many times while playing through the game, I was forced to reload my machine gun. The machine gun, need I remind you, has infinite ammo and no need to reload. But still, I would walk in to an area, running out of my rocket launcher or special rocket launcher ammunition, and switch back to my machine gun. I would click to fire, but instead I would reload, giving the enemy a chance to shoot me to death.

The cheats are bugged as well, because yeah there are cheats. Twice when I was in god mode, you know, the mode that makes you invincible, I was killed. And this wasn't an instance where god mode just randomly turned off (although that happened a couple of times, too). I was in the middle of a god mode massacre, when all of a sudden this big new enemy or boss would show up, fire off one shot, and kill me instantly. Even if I wasn't in god mode, I was at 100% health. Either those enemies have one-hit kills or I got screwed. On top of being buggy, the cheats just aren't really that great to begin with. Sure, god mode and no clip and stuff like that is fine, but all of the cool stuff brought over from the original game are just power ups, even with cheat codes. The god mode power up is way better than the god mode cheat, but that and dog mode and every other cool thing from the original game can only be used for a short amount of time before they run out. Then you'll have to jump back to the command console, which doesn't pause the game when you pull it up, enter in the code again and pick up the power up it spawns. That is, assuming it even summons the power up at all. I've had to enter codes four or five times to get the power up to appear.

Finally there's multiplayer. But I couldn't tell you anything about it. I waited in the lobby for 10 minutes while the game searched for servers. It never stopped searching.

Rise of the Triad is not a good game. It is a pretty bad one. While some of the weapons and power ups are kinda cool and it's nice to play this style of shooter again, the game is buggy and bland and too damn fast you to enjoy any of the nostalgia this kind of shooter will invoke. If you're a huge fan of the original, I can maybe see you getting some enjoyment out of this. But you have no love for the original and are just looking for a fun, old-timey shooter, DOOMSerious Sam, and Painkiller are all available on Steam. Get them. Don't even bother looking at this game. it's not worth your time.

Published in PC
Monday, 09 February 2015 00:00

Rollers of the Realm [PS4]

The fun thing about indie developers is that you never know when they are going to come up with something unique. Take for example Rollers of the Realm, by developer Phantom Compass; it combines video game pinball with a role-playing game (RPG).

Since a majority of your gameplay will be playing pinball the story is kept light, but engaging. You start as the Rogue. She has come to town with her dog looking for some easy targets. Eventually her dog gets kidnapped by the town blacksmith who wants to make the dog his dinner. The Rogue encounters a drunken Knight who decides to help her recover her dog and a Healer who wants to help defeat the blacksmith. You work your way through different pinball tables, which represent various parts of the town, until you finally encounter the Blacksmith in his forge. When you finally defeat him you find out his brother is the evil Baron of the realm and now you have to hide in an outlaw camp to avoid capture. Here is where your adventure really starts.

The gameplay mechanics are your typical video game pinball: flippers, bumpers, teleport holes, rails, etc. What makes it different is that each character in your party is represented by one of your balls on the table. Each ball has its own specialty. The Rogue has the ability to steal gold from characters on the table and does "backstab" damage to enemies. The Knight is a larger armored ball that can do more damage and can break boxes easier. The Healer can heal your flippers and has a special power of bringing back lost balls, if you have enough mana. All the balls can generate mana by hitting things like torches and other special items on the table. The other characters can also use the mana pool in order to activate unique magic powers. The Rogue can summon her dog to the field for "multi-ball" action and the Knight can temporarily block the gutter so he can't "die." You can swap between the balls as needed by trapping the ball with one of the two main flippers and then selecting the character you want.

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As you play you gather gold. This gold, in typical RPG fashion, can be taken to shops where you can purchase items to upgrade each character. You can even add new members to your party by "hiring" them from the shop.

The tables play out much like any other pinball game; somehow make the balls into certain places to progress further. Other times you have encounters where you have to defeat all the enemies on the table. For the most part, the pinballs physics are sound given that there are certain exceptions for powers of the characters. Difficulty does ramp up as the game progresses; you'll even eventually get tables that are multi-tiered that you have to work through section by section to clear the whole table.

I love both video game pinball and RPGs so for me Rollers of the Realm is a bit of a no brainer. I do have frustrations with the pinball aspects, but then again I have those same frustrations with regular video game pinball. I may love the genre, but I am no master of it, so sometimes trying to manipulate a ball to go into certain places can be a little bit of a challenge.

I am really enjoying Rollers of the Realm. There is an arena mode that you can open up after a while that lets you "grind" to earn more gold so you can buy those power ups you just know you are going to need for later levels. In fact the one complaint I would have is gold seems to be hard to earn so grinding takes a bit longer, but if you've spent any amount of time in World of Warcraft you know grinding all too well.

rollers of the realm review 3

I say if you like video game pinball definitely check out Rollers of the Realm, the characters and powers add a unique twist on the normal fun game of pinball. If you are an RPG fan it might be hard call to recommend. You have to be up for something very different than what you are used to as far as "adventure."

Published in Playstation 4
Wednesday, 18 November 2015 01:42

Pathologic Classic HD [PC]

Pathologic Classic HD is a remastered version of the cult classic first person survival game where you search an open world to find clues, items, and of course a lot of stopping random people and children to talk and barter items. Not a lot of action in this game, and after awhile it can get a bit dull doing the same things over and over. You live out the story of 3 people in this game and it may leave you scratching your head wondering what is going on and why.

GRAPHICS:
The graphics are reminiscent of Day Z and H1Z1. The overall animations of the characters are fairly basic, as the people you 'talk' to look at you with various facial expressions. You’ll have to "talk" to a lot of people in the form of reading text on a screen..lots of reading text on the screen...lots!

Pathologic screenshot original 1

CONTROLS
With this game you should be able to use either joystick or keyboard/mouse, but my joystick never worked on this game. I’m not the best keyboard game player and the learning curve is small but it does take awhile to get used to. The overall motions are smooth once you get used to the controls. The quick loading times are a plus when going in and out of buildings. With such a huge map, there are a lot of houses to go into and places to buy stuff. Although sometimes you wonder why there is so little to choose from in some shops.

Pathologic screenshot original 2

GAMEPLAY
This is a very slow game in my opinion. After a few hours of walking and reading text with no real action, I lit up when I was slapped in the face by someone who I had spoken too. On another occasion I was getting punched in the face for doing talking to someone else. That led me to believe that there was going to be a battle, but no, just run out the door and the fight is over. Your reputation is very important in this game, so be careful how you treat the people you are talking to. But there are times where the actual audio of the person has nothing to do with the task at hand and sometimes the choices you get for communicating are to either saying something mean or saying something even worse.

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THE FINAL WORDS
This is the kind of game that is an acquired taste for sure, if you like a game where you do a lot of walking and reading text, finding random items and seeing some things that just are simply strange, then you may enjoy Pathologic HD. Not much shooting or fighting in this one. Be prepared to play for hours trying to figure out what is exactly happening in this game. It seems to be aimed at the more cerebral gamer that steers clear of twitch action titles.

Published in PC
Thursday, 17 April 2014 00:00

Forza Motorsport 5 Review (Xbox One)

Forza-Motorsport-5 review

 

A long time ago in Art Class, I had a specialty. Whenever we were given a project, I’d draw, paint or sketch pretty much the same thing every time. It was an image of a house with a tree in front with a mountain in the background with the sun peeking through. I got pretty good at creating this vista. Each iteration was slightly different from the one before. Sometimes there would be smoke pouring out of the chimney. Or the sun would illuminate the tree and cast a shadow in a different direction. When we studied Monet I even did a pointillist version of the image using nothing but dots. That house/tree/mountain was my touchstone.

Turn 10 Studios have become masters at delivering a solid racing experience. For years they've sculpted Forza Motorsport into showcase of beautiful cars and race courses. Forza 5 looks great and drives even better. Turn 10 Studios have become masters a delivering a solid racing experienceTwo hundred gorgeously rendered vehicles and a driving model that has been top notch for years is all that's needed to make it one of the best games on the Xbox One. Each car has a stunning interior view and even the guys from the famous TV show Top Gear lend their voices and test track to the game.

Near the end of the school year, the Art Class final exam included the assignment of creating whatever image you wanted using the techniques we had learned. So of course I dug into the well worn well of the house/tree/mountain. While I was going through the motions of creating the house, I glanced around the room to see what my fellow students were up to. The guy to the left of me was trying to sketch a barely decipherable animal, either a cat or a horse. The girl in front of me was working with seemingly random blotches of paint that might as well have been finger painting. I was clearly at the head of the class, secure in the knowledge that I was leaving with an easy ‘A’.

forza5 topgear track

For the first time, multiplayer in Forza allows 16 players to race against each other at once. When racing against the AI, you are actually going up against ‘drivatars’ that have been built using traits from other online drivers and people from your friends list. Turn 10 has even added a multitude of gaming modes for drivers to compete against one another. Standard events like drag racing, and circuit racing are joined with less common affairs like cat and mouse and tag virus. The Rivals section has returned from Forza 4 that matches you up against a single person’s drivatar to compete against.

The next week, I returned to the classroom to receive my test score. I was stunned when I opened my portfolio. ‘C’. A big post-it note with a ‘C’ was stuck on my painting. It had to be a mistake. I quickly surveyed everyone around me. ‘Do you see anything wrong with mine? Be honest, is this painting just average?’ Each person agreed with me that I had been grossly wronged and that my house/tree/mountain was definitely worthy of an ‘A’. As soon as the class was over, I went to the teacher’s desk to rectify the situation.

The balding old man with black rimmed glasses was buried deep in his gradebook. I stood there for a while waiting to be acknowledged. He glanced up slightly and I saw that as my cue.
‘Yeah, Professor, I got a ‘C’ on this, and come on, it’s not a ‘C’ painting.’
Before he could respond I started pleading my case.
‘I mean, compared to that cat thing that Ronald did, it’s way better. And the splotches of paint that Marie turned in, she even said she had no idea what she was doing and she got a B. You can’t tell me that this is a C. I have shadows, l added smoke. Check it out.’ I laid the painting in front of him, cementing my point.

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He stared at me for a beat before fixing his gaze on the painting I had placed on his desk and speaking.
‘I’m not grading you compared to the work of others. I’m grading you compared to you. You’ve been doing that scene all year long. And yes, you use light well, and yes the composition is fairly balanced. And so was the one before that, and the one before that. It’s a good scene. I was hoping that you would challenge yourself this time. Take a hard look at the work you've done and ask yourself, is it the best you can do?’

That question hit like a brick. He had called me out on something that I didn’t even realize I was doing. I was coasting. I knew what was needed to be considered a success and thats what I did. Nothing more, nothing less. I figured the work was good enough to get by and so why do more? Thats why I got the grade I did. Not because the work wasn’t good. Not even because it wasn’t good enough. But was it the best I could do? No, it wasnt.


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Forza 5 knows what it needs to do to get a passing grade, and thats exactly what it does. And that's all it does. The 200 cars included look and sound fantastic. Even though for a series that has spanned 3 consoles, the low car count raises some eyebrows. As dozens of DLC cars were quickly released over the past few months, you realize that the low car count was a thinly disguised money grab, nearly doubling the price of the game if you want to get close to the levels of previous iterations. It’s even more telling when you hear the detailed descriptions that once accompanied each car have more often than not, devolved into a lukewarm overview of the car manufacturer instead of a history of each individual vehicle.

The race courses included with Forza 5 look incredible, although it seems odd that it’s always the same time of day and weather is non-existent. Especially considering some of the tracks included are well known for their night races. Lemans, Sebring, and Yas Marina all go hand in hand with night racing. With this being the fifth version of Forza running on one of the most powerful consoles available, the omission of night racing or any type of weather is very noticeable.


With so much emphasis placed on the multiplayer side of Forza 5, it falls short on closer inspection. You aren’t allowed to create a public room or even search for a specific race type. If you want to find a race with a certain number of laps on a specific track to join, it simply isnt possible. Instead you’re restricted to pre-created hoppers or private matches which you have to fill yourself. And since the ‘Car Club’ feature from previous Forzas isn’t included, finding and staying in touch with a group of like minded racers is difficult at best. 

Somewhere along the way the franchise has started coastingForza has been doing what it does extremely well for years. But somewhere along the way the franchise has started coasting and has done just enough to get by. It’s good. It’s even good enough to be the best racing game on the XBox One. But it's lost many of the features that made it exceptional. The game has relied on higher resolutions and framerates instead of expanding on the features and capabilities that would make it great. It's almost like the game got to a certain point and just stopped evolving.  Forza Motorsport 5 needs to take a step back, look at what it’s done and ask the question, “Is this the best you can do?”

forza5 boxScore 7/10

 

Published in Xbox One
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 00:00

The Golf Club Review [Xbox One]

I’ve only been on a golf course once in my life. I’m not talking about the Putt Putt courses with a spinning windmill and an orange ball. I practically used to live at those things. But a real, honest to goodness 18 hole PGA level golf course. That count stands at one.

At the time I was a web programmer. I spent my days sitting in an office, writing the same apps over and over while our salesman convinced local businesses that they really needed a contact page added to the new website he just sold them. Suddenly, I found myself in the passenger seat of Pete the salesman’s convertible BMW, on our way to a golf course in the middle of nowhere. According to Pete, I was there to ‘check out the golf pro’s system’.

HB Studio’s ‘The Golf Club’ on the Xbox One doesn’t boast PGA courses or professional golfers. Instead it offers you the chance to create your own course via the built in, Greg Norman branded, editor. You can share your courses online and have them rated and ranked by other players. I can’t help but think that whatever HB Studios paid for the Greg Norman licence was could have been used elsewhere because the legendary golfer makes no appearances in the game. No helpful tips on what makes a good course, or a critique of your creations, or even a simple audio clip saying ‘Hi I’m Greg Norman’ show up. Instead the only impact I see from the trademark is his Shark logo on the main menu. Your choice of golfer consists of either guy or girl. I admit that I’ve been spoiled by the extensive character creators of other sports titles, but at this point it’s almost a prerequisite.

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A major part of The Golf Club is the voice of your golf buddy, John, who gives you tips on certain shots and comments on your play. He has a friendly, ‘one of the guys’ tone but unfortunately, he quickly gets repetitive. Before I had finished 18 holes I was already hearing some of the same remarks over and over again.

When we arrive it’s eerie how close the scene was to the stereotypical golf clubs you’d see on TV and the movies. You’re immediately greeted by beautiful mahogany decor with deep leather furniture carefully placed throughout the sprawling lobby. There was even a chandelier. I quickly asked where the server room was, hoping to be in and out of the building in a few minutes. Pete gave me a quizzical look and informed me that the computer could wait, we were on our way to the dining room to get lunch. As someone who was living on a diet of Subway and Rally’s I was a little out of my depth when the waiter came to our table and asked to show the wine list. I just ordered a chicken salad sandwich.

In The Golf Club, the decor is a bit more sparse. I know that actually hanging out at in the proverbial clubhouse in the game may have been too much to ask for, but John, the disembodied voice keeps bringing it up, making the absence of an (admittedly gratuitous) visual lobby even more noticeable. The game boasts local and online multiplayer, and it also allows you to play against your own best rounds or those of your friends. You may be a little disappointed when you don’t see your opponents on the screen though. I would have enjoyed the feeling of a group of golf buddies on the course together. Instead only their golf balls make an appearance.

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We had been there over an hour and I had yet to see anything resembling a computer. Finally, the golf pro appeared and we led us back to his office, overlooking the driving range. After deciphering his non-technical explanation of ‘This computer aint working’ I realized why I was there. Tech support. It turned out that he had ordered a video capture card because he wanted to tape his lessons and sell them online. The problem was, he had no idea what a capture card was and definitely didn’t know how to install one. The next thing I know, Im installing drivers, screwing in video cards and configuring the network adapter.‘Sure I got Internet, but It don’t work’ was translated into ‘I never plugged in the network cable and don’t know if I even have one’.

Controlling your golfer on the XBox One is a very straightforward and intuitive affair. Instead of the standard 3 button-press control scheme for your swing, The Golf Club relies solely on the analog stick. Pulling the stick back winds up your swing and moving it forward completes the motion. It’s the same for driving or putting. It’s a natural feel and easy to get used to. The downside is that you aren’t given much in the way of gauging how much power you’re using. You have to guess how far back a swing you’ll need for a 28 ft putt or a 53 yard chip shot. It’s frustrating and transforms each hole into a difficult series of guessing games. There’s no kinect based control options.

In the middle of downloading drivers for an ancient Creative Labs card, I realize that I’m alone in the office. I look out the window and see Pete practicing his swing and getting a steady supply of tips from the golf pro. I could hear them both in between swings, sometimes talking about how important to bend your knees when on the backswing. And sometimes discussing just how they’d split the commission if the golf pro convinced the Club to ’add this internet stuff’ to the building. And thats when it hit me. I was living a textbook example of how the world works. These two guys, puffing on cigars, playing golf, were deciding how much money they were going to make from the work I was doing. And the numbers being tossed around were way above the hourly rate I was getting. As a matter of fact, my workday was done hours ago, so I wasn’t even being paid for this.

I put down the screwdriver and announce that I’m done. I gave some technobabble excuse as to why the videocard wouldn’t work and that he needed to buy a new one. Maybe it was true, maybe it wasn’t. I honestly don’t remember. But I do remember deciding I wasn’t going to spend another second sweating over some old rich guy’s computer while he squabbled with another old rich guy about how much money they were going to make from me.

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The Golf Club is a solid golf game. There’s is no denying that. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go much further. On the XBox One the game looks beautiful in still shots, but in motion, cracks appear under the surface. You can’t help but to notice the trees popping into existence during long drives or the emptiness of the course thats void of any other golfers or even a caddy. The Golf Club is perfect for a simple relaxing game of golf on the XBox One. One of the things HB Studios’ title has over the golf club I was a guest at, is with it’s budget price tag, you won’t feel like some old rich guys are trying to cheat you out of a dollar.

Score 6/10

Published in Xbox One
Friday, 14 June 2013 00:00

Rush Bros. (Mac/PC)

rush bros review

If you would like to play a fun, energetic, competitive  type video game, then you may want to play Rush Bros. In the multiplayer mode, you play against your friends and find out just who is the better player.  Rush Bros. is essentially a platform racing game, where your video game character travels and avoids or conquers several obstacles before reaching the finish.  The gameplay consists of about 40 levels, with you as the video game player choosing the specific level you want to play. You do not have to traverse each level in sequence -- you have the freedom to choose whichever level you prefer to play.  There is also a survival and fast forward mode where the gameplay is basically the same; however, your character will move more quickly.

 

Rush Bros. Gameplay Before I get into the specific gameplay, lets talk about some preliminaries.  Rush Bros. is a PC/Mac game, so it is playable on either the PC or the Mac.  I played this video game on my Mac, and did not experience any problems having the game added to my Steam library for gameplay.  So it goes without saying that before you play this game, you must already have a Steam account or be prepared to set one up.  I'm thinking that if you are an avid video game player, whether you play games on your favorite consoles, PC or Mac -- that you more than likely already have a Steam account.  If not, why not set one up so you can play Rush Bros. with your friends?

 

Rush Bros.!Rush Bros.!

 A big part of video games in addition to gameplay is the graphics.  This game did not disappoint in this area.  I believe you will enjoy the bright graphics as well as the colorful backgrounds as you play the different levels of this game.  Even though Rush Bros is a racing game -- the race to the finish may not be as simple as you may think.  On your way, hopefully to victory, you will encounter spikes and other obtacles that you have to avoid if you want to clinch the win.  

 

Need help in getting to that next higher structure while you are racing?  Simply, use the springs to propel your character to the next higher height.  If the springs do not do the trick, then you may have to scale the side of the structure before jumping over the spikes to continue your journey for the win. My points here are there are a multitude of ways to move your character along the platform.

 

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 You may say to me -- "Well, that's all good, Ms. H, but were there any negatives about this game?"  My response would be the positives of this game outweigh the negatives -- but there were some.  When I loaded the game and saw the graphics on the main page, I thought this would be basically a music game.  I saw two figures wearing sunglasses who appeared  to be DJs.  And what do DJs do?  Among other things, they play music.  So I was getting excited about playing some sort of music game.  However, that was not to be the case.  Music is a big part of this game -- in fact, you can change the music to listen to different tracks as you play the game.  However, music is more of a by-product of the game -- instead of being intricately woven into the gameplay -- at least on the parts of this game that I played.  Once the gameplay started, the music was more of a backdrop to the game itself.

 

I'm not sure if this was a glitch in the game; however, while trying to get my character through a maze of blocks, I got him actually stuck in a block -- and he could not get out.  Try as I may -- the little figure stayed in the confines of the block until the challenger, of course, obviously won the race, since I could not get my character out of the block.

 

Another possible glitch is at one time during gameplay, I stopped pushing buttons during the game; however, the figure continued to run back and forth across the screen. Mind you, this was a character that should have been following my directional commands -- but that was not the case. He kept moving along, without me pushing nary a button.

 

There was also what I would call a "tedious" part of the game. The gameplay involved the character needing a key to open certain doors.  In order to get the key, the character had to backtrack over areas that had already been covered to retrieve the key -- and then go back to the door with the key to open it.  I found this part of the game to be tedious, because I felt that I made progress in getting to the door that required a key -- only to find out that I had to sometimes retrace my steps to get the key and return back to the door to open it.  Some may see this as a way to win the race, especially if your challenger is not fast at locating and using the key; however, I found it tedious to go back and forth in this game.  My suggestion would be to position the key at a checkpoint that is very close to the door to be opened instead of having the player to retrace his or her steps.  

 

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From a PC/Mac playing standpoint, versus the video game consoles, i.e. the current Xbox 360, and the PS3, I had to get accustomed to using either the directional arrows or the specific alphabet keys to move the character. In my opinion, this game would be more enjoyable to play using a controller instead of the keyboard.  In fact, I believe it is recommended that a controller be used along with your PC or Mac.  Unfortunately, during the game, in my zeal to win, my fingers would sometimes become overly taxed, as I pounded the keys to move the character.  Thankfully, my fingers returned back to normal after I stopped playing the game. Of course, you may or may not experience this discomfort while playing the game.

 

Now back to the positives. I liked  getting co-op help on certain parts of the game via challenger on Skype. I also liked the upbeat music that played during the gameplay, as well as the different environments that changed with each level. 

 

Sounds like a video game you would like to play? If so, you can play Rush Bros. now since it is available on Steam for the PC and Mac. 

 

Rush Bros. was released on May 24, 2013 by Xyla Entertainment.

{youtube}http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYe_JNDUiFo{/youtube}

Published in PC
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 11:52

SOMA Review [PC]

Introduction to SOMA Video Game

SOMA by Frictional Games can be described as a combination adventure puzzle search and find role playing video game. In my opinion SOMA is a video game that has to grow on you. In other words, when you start playing SOMA, you may think there is nothing unique or different about it. These were my initial thoughts; however, I decided to give SOMA the benefit of the doubt. As I got further into the video game play, I got the impression Frictional Games was attempting to provide a different type video game playing experience from the usual type video games I’ve played before. By the way, I played SOMA on my Alienware PC.

As a summary of SOMA, the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, experiences adventures not of his own choosing as a result of a brain scan that seemed to have gone haywire -- to the point where he is transported to all types of environments while facing various dangerous situations.

Positives of SOMA Video Game

SOMA, in my opinion, has excellent voice acting including that of the main video game protagonist in the game, Simon Jarrett. As you venture through the SOMA video game environment, additional, expert voice actors are added to the cast for video game characters such as Amy, Carl and others.

I think SOMA has good sound effects. When you hear the stomping steps of the robot villain as it approaches near, you get the feeling that it is right there with you, wherever you are playing the video game. As the robot villain gets closer, the stomps become increasingly louder. As it moves away, the sounds become fainter which gives you the impression that it is safe to either start or keep moving around the SOMA environment.

I liked the puzzles within the video game play with problems you had to solve. For example, in this game you are faced with having to log into a computer; however, the challenge is you do not have the i.d. number to access the system. You have to not only figure out how and where to get the i.d. number, but you must also try to stay away from the robot villain as well. To add to the challenge, you must remember how to get back to the location of the computer, once you have found the i.d. number.

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SOMA gives you lots of missions to complete which are necessary to advance through the video game. Sometimes you get your missions directly from a computer within the video game itself. For example, during the initial part of the game, you must locate the communication center which is a room with a domed ceiling. This, of course is easier said than done, because in trying to do so, you must not only remember where the communication center is once you get this mission -- but you must also try to locate it in what seems to be a gigantic, partially dilapidated mechanical plant that is not the safest place to be.

Some of the puzzles involve opening locked doors, which may sound simple, until you find out you have to roam around the massive plant to locate a special type tool to do so. Once found, the tool is added to your inventory. I liked that you can retrieve your tool as well as other items added to your inventory as needed by just the simple push of the tab key -- if you are playing SOMA using your PC. Bonuses are also added to your inventory during gameplay as well. For instance, during the early part of SOMA video game play, I earned a special trading car as my bonus.

I think SOMA has detailed, realistic-like graphics that complement the sound effects. In the scene where I was trying to get away from the robot villain, the mechanical plant was so realistically illustrated, I got the feeling I was actually fleeing down the winding metal stairs, rushing to get safely away from it.

If you like exploring environments and real worlds in video games, SOMA may be your type of video game. You can spend quite a lot of time roaming the areas within the context of either escaping villains, locating items, going to and from different locations or other travels depending on the missions or challenges.

Additionally SOMA video game play provides a level of suspense of not knowing exactly what is going to happen next. In a way, SOMA plays like a mystery novel where as you turn the pages, you can delve more into the various actions taking place. The difference, of course is as the video game player, you are the one who must guide the character in order to solve the mystery. From the SOMA video game play, the mystery appears to involve some type of devious underhanded actions going on that are revealed the longer you play SOMA. You, as well as the main protagonist, Simon Jarrett, are learning more about what is happening to him as you advance through the video game.

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Some of the puzzles in SOMA, in my opinion, were creative. For example, once you located a computer, there is a section of the video game, where instead of inputting an i.d. number to log in, you had to realign vertical and horizontal lines within the computer screen so an emblem on the screen defragmented just right for a connection to take place.

Another positive of SOMA was the checkpoints. I liked that if for some reason you were destroyed during the video game play, the checkpoint started at a logical place -- so time was not wasted repeating video game play that had already been completed.


Negatives of SOMA Video Game

I mentioned previously that exploring the SOMA environment was one of the positive attributes; however, there is a not so fun side of this exploration. Even though there was a map of the mechanical plant on a computer within the video game -- SOMA did not provide a map to help you navigate through different environments. Many times, instead of following a map on the screen, you had to try to remember locations based on either the layout of the building or signs posted in the plant.

Since there is not a SOMA map, you will probably end up retracing your steps or going in circles until you determine the correct way to go. This happened to me quite a lot during the SOMA video game play, with me sometimes opting to check out either the hints or a youtube video of SOMA game play to find out where the character should go next and to avoid circling the environment over and over again.

A hint given during the underwater scene was to follow the lights, which was not helpful since there were a myriad of lights in the hazy darkness of the environment. To me it was a waste of time for the character to follow lights that sometimes took him back where his travels began in the first place.

Regarding the robot villain in the early part of the game -- you are not able to fight or defend yourself against it. If you do not get a chance to hide before it spots you -- it will destroy you. Your defenses are to hide until it’s out of sight or to run away from it and hide somewhere else. The plus side is the robot villain moves very slowly which gives you a chance to get away.

SOMA gives you the option of moving items within the environment around, similar to other similar type video games. However, in my opinion, there was no need to be able to move some items that did not serve to advance the story along or help solve puzzles. For example, I was able to move boxes and some other items around for no other reason except that I could do so. Initially when I played this video game, I was under the impression I was moving around items for a specific reason -- but this was not the case.

I know video games do not depict real-life situations because after all -- they are video games. However, I think the developers may have been stretching this a little too far when after Simon Jarrett experienced lots of perils, he reaches a computer and Amy, the person he is talking to on the computer, asks him what is going on. I agreed with Simon Jarrett when he indicated he had no idea and thought that she (Amy) knew. My thought was unless Amy had Simon under surveillance during his earlier adventures, how would she have known what had been happening to him which could have led her to ask such a question.

Even though I did not mind playing this video game as the male character Simon Jarrett, I think it would have been a plus if I was given the option to play as either a male or a female. Additionally, I understand SOMA is rated M for Mature, but personally, I did not like the video game dialogue that was sometimes laced with profanity.

The above being said, overall, I think SOMA has an interesting storyline and challenges. The major minus for me was the lack of on screen map or hints or options in the video game. In my opinion, some of the long stretches of travel during the game where you are simply moving the character along from place to place, would have been ok, if there was a simple diagram to show where you should go next. Even if a map was not used, visual hints could have been displayed to help move Simon Jarrett to his next missions quicker-- which would have eliminated wasted time moving the character around needlessly, sometimes in the wrong directions while playing this video game.

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Rating of SOMA Video Game

Initially I was going to rate this video game lower because of the tendency for repetitive game play due to non-defense capability of the main protagonist as well as the lack of maps or helpful hints. However, I reconsidered my rating taking into account the attention to detail of the video game graphics, the creative storyline as well as the good sound effects and voice acting.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being the highest, I give SOMA a rating of 7.

Availability of SOMA Video Game

SOMA is rated M for Mature and is available for purchase on Steam, the PlayStation 4 store, GOG.com and the Humble Store.

Published in PC

 

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Tomb Raider:  Definitive Edition

Tomb Raider:  Definitive Edition - Unboxing

After playing part of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition video game for the first time, I have a three letter word to describe it --  "Wow!"  I preordered this game awhile back and have just now had the opportunity to play part of it.  When I received Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, starring Lara Croft on the release date in March, 2014 from Amazon.com, I did an unboxing of this game complete with pictures. I was that impressed by the artistry of the video game packaging which included a hard cover book with artwork from the game that is worthy of framing.  What was missing was a poster of Lara Croft in action as she braves the perils and tribulations of what it takes to survive.

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Tomb Raider Unboxed (game and book) with Pixelbot robot courtesy of DPL looking on 

Of course packaging is just that -- packaging.  What really counts about a video game, in my opinion, is the enjoyment that you experience from playing the game, whether your excitement for the game stems from the action, characters, story line, creativity of plot, or any number of other reasons.  If you ask me which of these choices Tomb Raider: Definitive Collection excelled in, I would have to say the character and the action.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Expectations 

When I slipped the physical video game disc in my PS4, and the Tomb Raider cover art showed on the screen, I was unsure what to expect.  I saw the previous version of this  game played during the holidays by my family member, and at that time, I was impressed by the realistic graphics, as well as the requirement to use logical thinking skills to advance in the game.  At that time, I was a bystander, just looking at the video game playing action, listening to the realistic sound effects as Lara Croft splashed her way through the deep seas, roamed forests, etc., to accomplish her missions.  Just as there is a saying "Seeing is believing" -- regarding video game playing I think there should be a saying "Playing is believing."  It is only by actually holding a video game controller, controlling and experiencing the actions of the video game characters yourself that, in my opinion, you can truly decide if you will not only play the video game again, but will also recommend others to play it as well.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Spoiler Alert

I am going to give you a spoiler alert here, just in case you have not played the game and want to experience the gameplay with the surprises and suspenseful moments in tact.  If you have not played Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, you may want to stop reading here, because the next sections I will be talking about my experiences with this video game, including how Lara Croft got through certain obstacles during the first part of the game, that you may prefer to figure out on your own. I played this game in the normal mode, vs. the easy or hard options. Also as a disclaimer, this review does not cover the complete video game -- only the first parts that I played.

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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Actions/Adventures

I liked the action-packed movie introduction which included actions where Lara Croft seemingly spirals down a long drop before she reaches the bottom. She is visibly in pain, her clothing is soiled and she has blood all over her, including her face. Unfortunately, she also is hurt and has a sharp object jutting in her left side.  My first action in the gameplay was to use the controller to remove the shart object from hurting her -- which I succeeded in doing.  From then on  -- for the part of the game I played, Lara Croft moves throughout the video game environments, clutching her side with her right hand over the wound while in some cases holding a torch in her left hand.  But not to worry, as I played the game longer, eventually she felt well enough to remove her hand from her side, to regain use of both of her hands.  

As I continued to move her along the terrains, I had already decided that this was an exploratory type game, where you use the character to discover the surroundings. However, I stood to be corrected.  I found out soon enough that Lara Croft does a lot more than move around the environments.  Just when I was getting comfortable moving her through parts of the dark cave where she had landed, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, an enemy apppeared and tried to capture her.  I literally jumped when this happened, because this was totally unexpected. From then on, I knew this game would be adventurous and suspenseful.  After about three tries, I was able to get Lara Croft to fight off her enemy, and breathed a sigh of relief when within the small cave she was in, a door closed that blocked the enemy from entering.  

That one particular unexpected action got my adrenalin going.  I kept thinking what would happen next.  I had Lara Croft continue her adventures in the cave by having her to traverse treacherous waters where there was fire on one side of a waterfall and barrels of fuel on the other.  The problem was that in order to get out,  Lara Croft had to go through the waterfall while carrying her torch -- which of course did not work. The water would put out the fire each time, as expected.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Strategies

Throughout the game, you are given pictures of which buttons on the controller to push as well as information on the mission or environment that Lara Croft has entered. Also, when you push the L1 button on your controller, the environment turns to black and white and items that can help you to escape, etc. are lit up brighter than the others. Once you release the L1 button, the game actions, including the colors return.

I studied the environment and saw a hanging apparatus, as well as a street car-like vehicle on another level of the cave area. Both were lit or shined  brighter when I pushed the L1 button so I knew these items were required for her to escape. Also the square button would appear on the screen to push as barrels and boxes floated in the water. When I did so, the barrels would start burning and continued to float in the water.  To give you a visual of where she was during this part of the video game -- Lara Croft was in thrashing waters, among lots of burning boxes and barrels, with debris, old bottles, shoes etc. floating around with loud sounds of waves of water crashing through several areas.

To make a long story short,  I was unable to get Lara Croft to push the street car off the ramp or get her on the hanging apparatus.  This is the first part of the game where I got stuck.  After a phone call for advice, I went back to the game and tried again, this time using different actions to get her out of this cave-like atmosphere that had water and firey barrels and boxes everywhere.  I was unable to pile barrels beneath the hanging apparatus as suggested, so I tried a different strategy which surprisingly to me -- worked.  Somehow I got her into the hanging apparatus. She was unable to swing back and forth -- so I had her to jump from this apparatus. Then I had her to try once again to push the street car which by this time was full  of burning barrels.  Lo and behold -- this time the street car actually moved out of the way.  Previously, it would move just a little and then return to its original position.  When the street car moved, a multitude of actions seemed to happen all at once which resulted in her being in a totally different mountainous environment.  I had Lara Croft jump over mountains where she hung dangerously off tall cliffs. She also had to fight off another enemy in this environment. As a disclaimer -- The apparatus/street car scene actions I did when I played this game, may or may not work for you.  It may depend on the level of game that you are playing, i.e., easy, normal, hard -- or even some other reasons.

Now for the next adrenalin moment I experienced when playing the first section of Tomb Raider:: Definitive Edition.   When Lara Croft reached the mountains, she had to actually climb the mountains, by frantically clawing her way up.  To keep her from falling, I had to keep pushing the L2 and R2 buttons quickly at the same time.  I also had to move the left stick on the controller either right or left to have her dodge large, gigantic boulders before I got her to the top of the mountain.tombraider4  I tried numerous times to keep her from falling by pushing these buttons, even at one time turning the PS4 controller around so the L2 and R2 buttons were facing me.  However, I got her on the mountain-top and kept her away from the boulders by using the controller positioned in the normal way.  My fingers got a true workout here, and with the controller rumbling, the sound effects of her climbing up the mountains, and her gasping -- when she finally reached the top of the mountain, breathing heavily, I was doing just about the same thing.  I felt as if we had both shared a victory at that point, and felt quite exhilarated that she had made it up the mountain safely.  

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Likes and Dislikes

Here's  what I liked and did not like about the part of the game I played.  I liked the realistic video game graphics, where the grass moved with the wind. I liked that the game started over close to the part where you may have tried to complete a mission, instead of starting all over again.   I liked the sound effects including the sounds of the rushing waters that in some ways can be a nice sound to listen to, but can also be frightening as well -- especially if the character is on a high mountain, looking down in deep, thrashing waters.   The voice acting, was ok; however, in some of the scenes, the voice actor was difficult to understand, and when the character fell from a tall mountain, I personally think that she could have screamed more realistically.  Also the illustration of the character can be improved in some of the scenes, because in some, her face seems to be swollen at her jaws -- not in all scenes -- but in some.  I liked the realistic movement of the character's eyes, as well as the expression she had which signaled that she was at a loss as to what to do in certain situations -- however, she was able to figure things out. I also liked the voice commands where you actually speak your options, such as showing the maps, pausing etc. 

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition - Highly Recommended

If you have not played this game, and enjoy playing adventure, action games, I highly recommend you play Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition on your PS4.  If you do not have a PS4, you may be interested to know that Tomb Raider is currently free to play on the PS3 for PS plus members.  I also have a PS3 -- but I was happy to play this game on my PS4 where I was able to use the new features of the PS4 and experience the improved graphics and sound qualities.

I'm looking forward to playing more of this game as well as seeing and experiencing via video game play the other adventures/missions Lara Croft will encounter in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition is rated M for Mature and is playable on the PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows PC and Mac.

{youtube}https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKuYhe1PWr8{/youtube}



 

 

 

 

 

Published in Playstation 4
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