Total Reviews: 276
Average Overall Score Given: 7.51377 / 10
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MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries

I've always been fascinated by mech games. From my childhood days of Voltron (yes, I'm that old), I've always enjoyed being able to control massive robots from within and unleash an absolute torrent of weaponry against adversaries to save the day. Now though, when someone says to me, "Hey there's a new mech game coming out", my initial response is one of reservation due to the history of mech games and what they've been able to accomplish. Recently, Piranha Games has released Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries onto the Xbox Series X and it must be said up front that this game is basically a port of a 2019 PC release. Let's dive right into the good, the bad, and the 'W-T-F' of the port of Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries.

In today's world we are interconnected to multiple devices, platforms and people, so when you port a PC game over to console, one would venture to say that you would also adapt your game to fit the platform it's releasing on, but not here. When you hit the main page of the game itself, you'll notice in the top left-hand corner that there is your gamertag with a long number underneath it. This is what I'm calling your pilot ID. That ID is what your friends will have to type in to add you to their friends list so they can invite you to a co-op game. I know you already have a friends list on Xbox, but this is more complicated and serves for multiplayer support. You can't invite friends to play through your Xbox friends list, so it's either utilize your pilot ID code and play or stick to single player. This is a feature that I felt could have used some refinement and adopted the use of the existing friends list.

Sticking with the co-op, should you go through the numerous steps to find someone who wants to play this game on your friends list, add their code to your friends list in the game, you can then have some control of content, but it basically boils down to if you want someone to be able to help you or not. Should you opt to be the dictator of your party, you have say over every setting, every repair, every upgrade, every purchase, you get the idea. This also means that all the responsibility is on your shoulders, however, if you don't have proper management of your resources (cue big upcoming foreshadowing moment here) then you have no one to blame but yourself. Should however your Grinch heart grow three sizes that day, you can give access to your teammate who can repair, upgrade, purchase, etc. This actually makes them engage in the game rather than just sitting there as you do all this behind the scenes stuff. It's not all frustration and dictatorship though with co-op, as you can take your single player progress into your co-op experience with you and build off of that with your team and then jump back to single player and vice versa. This is a clever feature that actually makes playing the game worthwhile in single player mode, especially when you take into account how poor the AI actually are in this game.

You have the ability to hire up to three other pilots, but it should be noted that you need to take into account not only their weapon proficiency but also their ability to grow and learn and improve those skills. While having a pilot that is 4/4 for energy is good, it's not as good as a pilot that is 0/7 because the growth isn't there. As you go throughout the systems, you'll encounter various areas where you can hire pilots, so keeping an eye out for potential quality help should always be on your radar. Having a quality AI pilot though doesn't always translate into having a reliable teammate though. Using the game's ability to issue commands to either all the AI pilots or an individual one, I find myself trying to ask them to form on me, and when some mechs that are used go really slow you can easily find your squad separated and not very helpful when surrounded by 4 enemy mechs and light assault craft.

Going into single player mode you will be choosing a faction which offers various types of mechs from light, medium, heavy, and assault. Each of these mechs not only are tailored individually and look independent but also provide varying types of firepower on board and maneuverability options. The overall map when you first see it is colossal in scope and at first can seem very overwhelming, especially when you dive into the details of the various sectors within the system. There will be conflict zones where you can do missions and earn resources (cue 2nd foreshadowing moment here) and you will find friendly outlets within your system of choice that will offer you deals on mechs for sale, certain weaponry and much more. There is a major difference between these two areas (conflict/other regions vs. friendly/home region) and that is with your repair work.

Let's be honest with each other here, you're going to get bombarded CONSTANTLY by incoming fire from various light attack craft to other enemy mechs and there were times when I would watch as one of my arms got severed off by a laser blast, or worse, both arms. Depending on your mech that would normally spell disaster but thankfully I had one rocket pod and some mediocre AI to help see me through the mission. When I was finished, I had to not only repair the missing limbs (which cost money) but also the weaponry attached to said limbs which also costs money. Now earlier I mentioned about managing resources being a foreshadowing moment and here is why that is. MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is primarily about managing resources. When you do a mission, you have your choice between cash or salvage or a mixture of both for payment. You also have the ability to buy damage insurance which will pay you for damage occurred on the battlefield or call in a bombing run from above.

Here's a scenario. Let's say you have a friendship with another faction and they like you, so when you do a mission for them you will have, for example, 7 negotiation points. These points can be spread out or focused depending on what rewards you want. So, when you are in the mission screen you will be able to increase the value of each of the factors (cash payout, salvage shares, insurance, or bombing run). Let's say cash payout has 0/4, salvage is 0/4, insurance is 0/3, and bombing support is 0/1. With 7 points you can do things like a max payout and full insurance or do 2/4 for both payout and salvage shares and full insurance, or any combination of how you want to play.

You may be thinking why salvage shares? Well, when your weaponry gets destroyed, where do you think you find replacement weapons? From the battlefield and market. However, some weapons can run in excess of 400,000 credits so when you're only getting a payout of maybe 1.2 million, to sink 400k of that into replacing one weapon can be a tremendous setback for your resources. This is why salvage shares will allow you to pick weapons from the battlefield to stockpile for when you need them. Not only can you get weapons from the battlefield but you can also get enemy mechs as well. Mechs, you destroy on the battlefield can be reclaimed as salvage. This is especially valuable when you take into consideration that purchasing some mechs can cost well over 4 million credits and a lot higher. To get them for free from salvage allows you the option to either sell the mech outright and get what you can from it (think of this like a bonus payout), or you can repair the mech completely and replace all the weapons on it and then either sell it or use it.

You do have a limited amount of space that you can store your mechs, but should you need extra room you have the option to put a mech into cold storage which will strip it of its armor and weapons and put it in a holding section. It won't be counted as your inventory but will be available if you wish to use it. The reason I just went through the incredibly long description is because should you be in a conflict/enemy zone rather than your own, the repair work will cost more and take longer to complete. Normally you can expect anywhere between 10-40% increase depending on where you are and the faction's respect for you.

All of this deals directly with the single player campaign where you can dive through the story missions and explore vast areas of space. I should point out here that the further you travel in your jumps, the more money it costs you as well. It's not uncommon to sink over 900k into a long flight, so make sure that you have enough cash in reserves. One point I need to touch on is the cantina. As you level up, you'll gain access to the cantina and its missions. Here you will have the ability to complete various side objectives to earn upgrades for your mech and reputation increases. You can unlock things like an increase to your energy weapon damage, heat reduction, weapon range extension and much more. These cantina missions can vary as well from collecting so many of a particular type of weapon, to killing a certain number of "X" type of mechs, etc. and are critical for improving your mechs for the latter missions in the game.

As you may have noticed though, in the beginning, I mentioned this is a port of a PC game that came out two years ago. There are still issues with it such as notifications when you have human teammates that they can hit "Tab" and other computer key combinations. This is minor in scale but is a lazy oversight and shouldn't even exist to begin with. Other issues as well would be that the lands and map layouts feel recycled with slight alterations to map layouts and level design. One of the biggest learning curves though, by a mile, would be movement. Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries utilizes a two-stage movement where one stick controls your legs and the other controls your torso. While those familiar with mech games will take a fair amount of time to acclimate themselves to the controls, for someone just starting out though, the experience will be a bit frustrating.

Learning how to manipulate both parts of the mech is going to either determine your victory or send you to the scrap heap, so to help me I spent a lot of time in the opening areas trying to do weaker missions but allow me to practice maneuvering in low combat threat conditions while managing a party. The game itself does do a good job bringing to life the scale of these massive machines, but the overall graphic detail of the game is something you would have marveled over seven years ago. While the graphics may not be all that impressive, the audio is clearly lacking as well. Poor voice acting and a soundtrack that isn't dynamic or memorable leaves you focused on the combat in order to maintain interest and that is few and far between when you take into account how much managing you will be doing in this game.

Despite all of this, Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is a game that I love to fire up, sink some hours into and call it a day. Yes, the graphics aren't up to par, the AI is bad, the port at times tells you to input PC commands and there's so little combat that the game turns into a managing resources simulator. Regardless of all this, Piranha Games delivers an enjoyable single player mech experience that will keep you playing for many months to come. If you're a fan of mech games, then this should definitely be on your radar.

**MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 NBA 2K21

One of the absolute hardest genres of any game to keep fresh are sports. While shooters can rely on an entertaining (albeit short) campaign and thousands of multiplayer games going on to keep things fresh, sports games have a greater challenge because most of the time they seem like minimal improvements for full retail price which can come across as a cash grab, and that really upsets the gaming base which is something you never want to do. With that being established, NBA 2K21 from 2K is trying to do multiple things with this latest release. Improve upon the incredibly rocky release that was 2K20 through gameplay improvement, pay homage to a legend that was lost and deliver an incredible amount of content that will allow the gamer to spend countless hours enjoying their NBA experience. Has that happened? Lace up because we're going to find out.

As we kick off this review it's got to be said that the 2K NBA games have become the definitive bar that is set for all others to follow for NBA sports games. Over the years the series has taken the globe by storm with incredible graphic presentations, gameplay mechanics that become almost second nature after playing and delivering what could easily be regarded as the premier NBA gaming experience. A lot of familiar modes will make their return from the previous installments. Modes like MyTeam and MyCareer return, and already you will see that this is a basketball simulator, not an arcade style basketball game. What do I mean by that?

Well, in MyCareer you will take on the role of "The Long Shadow". Basically, you're going to start from the beginning of High School on your quest to become an NBA legend. Throughout this adventure you'll realize that your character isn't going to be some incredibly dominating player. You're going to have to grind it out and work your way through High School to one of the 10 officially licensed college programs: West Virginia, Florida, Gonzaga, Syracuse, Texas Tech, Michigan State, UConn, UCLA, Oklahoma and Villanova. Just like in life, when you start something you want to excel in you'll quickly realize that you're not that good and you need to put in the work to get out the results you want. In MyCareer that is through earning Virtual Currency to spend on upgrading your player. Microtransactions DO exist and sadly you get the feeling that unless you spend your real money to gain virtual money, your character will not amount to much of anything. This makes the initial grind of the game very tedious, and you'll rapidly see that the importance of that virtual currency (VC) is a heavy focus on making sure your character actually is somewhat talented. If you wondered why some of the pre-order bonuses were 100,000VC, now you know why.

Me personally I'm not a fan of this at all. I think using microtransactions to improve a character that you control is not the best way to move forward. I can understand a company uses microtransactions as a revenue stream to fund updates and future content, etc. however, to have your character development basically hindered unless you spend a ton of VC on it seems like a bad way to go about it. I understand the grind of life and what it takes to accomplish a lofty goal such as making it to professional sports, however, I feel that 2K missed the mark on this and I hope that moving forward they focus more on actually giving you the ability to make the same rapid progress without having to spend money on VC for your character. In the future I hope that there is greater incentive to actually grind out the character rather than pay to boost your stats and be done with it.

MyTeam also makes a return but there's a new twist with this that involves the next generation consoles. If you're making the switch to the Xbox Series X, then you'll be happy to know that your MyTeam collection and progress will carry over from one platform to another. Other things that will carry over are your VC (thank heavens for that), your pulled cards, Tokens and your MyTeam Points, so when you get that next gen console you can pick up where you left off with your MyTeam. MyTeam also tends to follow a similar feel to MyCareer in that you are trying to upgrade your team of players rather than your individual athlete. To do this you'll need some player cards and thankfully, unlike MyCareer, there are multiple ways for you to earn and unlock new cards, but there are times when it's still a gamble. Let me explain.

Think of this like a trip to Vegas; you sit down at a progressive slot machine and the more you play the greater your chances of winning are. That is the principal behind MyTeam and its cards. There are different tier cards that you can earn and once you hit that "jackpot" you're going to be hooked. To earn these cards, you can play online in full games or even 3v3 style games, plus you have the single player challenges. If you think you have what it takes to dominate you can enter for a chance to play in a real money tournament, and on the weekends 2K will be featuring a MyTeam Limited mode where you can earn a championship ring. If you earn all the championship rings during a season you'll then unlock the best rewards. The Unlimited MyTeam mode also returns with 9 leagues that you will need to triumph over in order to reach the premier rewards of the top tier. Also like life, there will be times when you will get cards that you don't want, no worries because now you can trade cards away, and since every card has a value attached to it you will be able to get the cards you do want.

One final note about MyTeam is that now the hunt will be on for the IDOL Series Collection. These cards consist of the NBA's legends from the past to the present and contain valuable cards such as a Pink Diamond card. These cards will ONLY be collectable through 15 special releases so make sure, if you want the best, to keep your eyes out and grind for those limited-edition cards!

All of these new modes though mean very little if the gameplay of NBA 2K21 isn't up to par. This release sees a shift in the shooting mechanics and has been known to be the feature that is the most critical of anything in NBA2K21 and it makes perfect sense as to why. What good is dribbling the ball when you can't hit water if you fall out of a boat? Basically, what good is the rest of the gameplay controls if you can't shoot and make baskets? This new shooting mechanic is called "Shot Stick Aiming" and fundamentally changes how your shots are going to be made. While this will understandably frustrate gamers, it will make the gameplay more realistic. If your character is covered, your target window will be smaller. If your character has poor shooting percentages then the window will be smaller still. There are many factors that contribute to the shot's difficulty and that is the same that would happen in reality. So, while this statement may offend some gamers out there, this is setup to make your game better so quit crying and devote some more time to actually getting better and you'll be happier.

The Pro Stick has also been revamped and now offers a wealth of dribbling options that make the play mechanics feel more natural. Crossovers, break down dribbles, various steps and fakes and so much more are at your disposal, and going through the 2KU (NBA 2K21's tutorial) teaches you all about this, shooting, defending and more. I strongly recommend that you check this out so you can get a feel for the game first and then adapt your play control to match the new features found on the court. Defense though still feels a bit weak with the primary focus involving you almost running into your opponent’s ala Bill Laimbeer Combat Basketball style. Hopefully in future editions there will be more of a way to break this down into a way that allows defenders the same type of play control that we have when we are dribbling the ball.

Graphically speaking, NBA 2K21 is once again in a league of its own. Visuals in regard to the players themselves look stunning, including the WNBA players. Even though the announcers and whatnot seem like a rehash from a previous release and the soundtrack isn't anything that is going to be standout or memorable, the visuals are absolutely incredible. Over the years the NBA 2K series of games have worked hard to provide an incredible realistic experience, and as the technology improved, so have the standards by which the graphics are delivered. What personally blows my mind is that the graphics now on the Xbox One X look incredible but what will the upgraded version look like on the Xbox Series X? With such tremendous potential at their fingertips I can see NBA experiences that will defy anything we ever thought possible and I can't wait for that day to arrive.

While 2K has done a fantastic job in delivering the standard in the basketball simulation game, that's not to say that the game is flawless. Actually, it's far from flawless if I'm honest. One thing for example is the difficulty set in MyTeam. It's uncanny how it seems like everyone controlled by the CPU seems to make impossible shots on anything higher than the lowest difficulty setting. So you could be leading a close match in Superstar difficulty and then it's like the AI could do a bounce pass that gets tipped like a volley ball, hits the backboard, and then the AI grabs it in the air, throws it back to mid court where the water boy steps in, grabs the basketball, turns around with his eyes closed and throws it over his shoulder backwards and makes it in. Also remember how I said you can earn cards and whatnot through single player challenges? Well if the challenges are online based and your opponent quits, your work toward the challenges don't count.

Yes, even in today's world you still can become the victim of rage quitting. Also remember I mentioned about the pink diamond card in Unlimited mode. Well apparently, you can only get rewards once. So, once you get 12 winds and unlock the pink diamond card, that's it. You literally can't earn more rewards in Unlimited mode. So... Explain to me again the reason I would keep doing this after I gain all the rewards? These are a few of the numerous bugs/glitches that plague the game, but thankfully 2K will go to any lengths to update the game and get things dialed in perfectly. Out of all gaming companies, I do have faith that 2K will keep updating NBA 2K21 until it's near perfect. The sad reality is that it takes quite a long time to update everything. As we know, NBA 2K20 was being updated for MONTHS after the release to make things perfect. You would think that after making such improvements that some of that quality would transfer over, at least in the main structure of the game. One of the fixes in 2K's patches involve a problem with apparently clothing that was causing glitches. Yes clothing. So apparently you could not have "Tall Scrunch Socks" while wearing "Compression Pants". Of all the things to have a problem with, no one from QA ever thought that this would be something important?

NBA 2K21 from 2K is the bar setting standard for NBA simulation games. It delivers the closest thing some of us couch warriors will ever experience when it comes to playing in an actual NBA game. It has faults and flaws for miles, but it also has a company that cares about its customers and wants to keep supporting the gamers with massive updates that improve every facet and function of the game while listening to the feedback from you the gamer. Not many companies do that in today's world and would rather consider you to be just a dollar figure to them. 2K on the other hand values your input and honest feedback, which is why I feel comfortable knowing that moving forward with NBA 2K21 you're going to get a fantastic basketball experience. Rather though than buying it new at launch you may want to wait until the updates have improved the gameplay and functionality. Please though 2K, GET AWAY FROM THE MICROTRANSACTIONS and work on a better, more entertaining way to get player upgrades and improvements. That is one of the things that will forever stain something this good. NBA 2K21 is a good, but severely flawed game. Once those flaws get fixed though, there won't be a better basketball game on the market.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Wasteland 3

What if there was a game that you never knew existed, yet when you played it, wondered how in the name of everything that is holy, did this game slip past you. That my dear readers is Wasteland 3 by inXile Entertainment. If you've never played Wasteland or Wasteland 2, then Wasteland 3 is surprisingly a great place to jump into the story. Hoping to deliver a strategic RPG experience, Wasteland 3 is priced at full retail price $59.99. At that price however, can this be the RPG experience we have all been waiting for, or does this game leave players out in the cold? Let's take a look deeper into the realm of Wasteland 3.

On the surface, Wasteland 3 looks to be an incredibly in-depth RPG game that offers you an opportunity to jump right into battle with your premade character pairs, or you can spend a lot of time going through and customizing your characters and their traits that best match your gameplay. Do you spend all your points on AP so you can always have tons of moves per turn, or do you focus on defense and become an agro sponge to your enemies and in turn save your friends, or do you spend it all on toaster repair skills, because what's worse than some bread with oil on it right? Here's a rough breakdown of how the character development becomes so important for Wasteland 3.

For starters we have the backgrounds. This is a new setting for Wasteland 3 and provides various bonuses (along with some backstory) to your character. Bookworm gives you +5% Experience Bonus, Goat Killer gives you +5% Critical Chance, Mannerite gives you +1 to Kiss Ass and so on and so forth, you get the idea of where this game is going with this. Now, you're probably sitting there going, "did I just read that a bonus you can get is called Kiss Ass?". Why yes, my astute reader, yes it was. Those are but a few of the many skills you find to choose from. Skills such as brawling, sniper rifles and big guns are very self-explanatory, but skills such as Sneaky S*** which improves your ability to approach enemies undetected for stealth attacks or Weird Science which unlocks science arms and allows you deal elemental damage to your enemies, is less descriptive. Choose these skills carefully because some of them will unlock various story moments throughout the game which I will get into later.

Next on the character creation tour we have our attributes. These provide various stat modifications such as Coordination which contributes primarily to your AP and Max AP stats which allow you more options in combat (a knife attack may only take 1 AP point in a turn, but a sniper or rocket can take over 5 AP points in one turn). Awareness increases your hit chance, as well it impacts your perception and ranged damage. Strength will allow you to use the biggest weapons and the heaviest armor, but you will have an impact in Constitution, Melee Damage, Throwing range and more. These skills, without a doubt, will help shape your character and your gameplay experience.

The last element of meaningful character development comes within your Quirks. These can wildly alter your character and experience in Wasteland 3. You have the option to not even take a Quirk, but sometimes the risk is worth it. For example, the Quirk Death Wish gives your character +3 to Max AP and gives you +3 AP, but what's the cost to your character? You can never wear any armor of any kind. Ever. The Sadomasochist Quirk gives your character +33% to both Melee and Ranged damage but in turn, you receive +33% more damage. Towards the later parts of the game, that can be quite severe. As you can see, creating your character will take quite a long time given the sheer number of customization options at your disposal. And that's wonderful because in an RPG experience, the more customized character you can create, the more unique and independent experience you can develop.

Wasteland 3 enables you to almost become lost in all the customization options that are at your disposal, but if you thought that was deep, once you get out of the character creation and into the cold, vast wilderness of the game itself, you'll quickly see that this game offers so much more than you could possibly imagine. Now as for myself, I can say that I haven't played Wasteland or Wasteland 2, and the post-apocalyptic setting of Colorado delivers an ominous atmosphere of both savagery and hilarity. You play the role of the last standing member of a ranger squad called Team November that is tasked with bringing peace to the states like Arizona and Colorado, but first you must deal with the offspring of The Patriarch. Think of it like this, a dad has offspring that grow up to be real a-holes and have amassed their own armies and power, seeking to take the father down and the other siblings as well to obtain total control of the region. Your task is simple; stop that from happening. Along the way you'll gather various troops to aid your party including a foul-mouthed parrot, a half cyborg/half chicken... Yes, chicken, and other animals that contribute to making your party highly entertaining. And in the end though, you need that because the setting overall is a post-apocalyptic Colorado that looks remarkably cold and miserable.

While the plot is fairly direct and to the point, and the combat of this RPG is familiar and one that will require little time to become efficient in. Being a turn based combat system, you will have to not only manage your AP between movement and actions, but you'll also quickly become familiar with the cover system which can either provide half or full protection. If your cover can provide full protection, then your character will receive a maximum bonus for your defense and can only be flanked to receive any credible damage, so you'll know where to look for enemies. This is part of the in-depth strategy that Wasteland 3 brings to the CRPG realm. While this may seem to create a combat system that is overly simplistic where all you need to do is create a choke point and focus your attention on eliminating your enemies as they funnel their way towards you, the open levels of the world prevent that.

Instead you will have to balance your cover, hit percentage, AP point usage, critical change, any penetration percentage, enemy cover (yes the enemies will also seek out cover), environmental interactive pieces and more just to stand a chance of making it out alive. Remember how earlier we were going over characters and all the details surrounding them? This is where all of that becomes critically important. If you like to try and tank your way through enemies and overpower them, then tailor your character to wear heavy armor, have a lot of strength, specialize in melee combat or short arms combat and literally agro the opponents and go smashing while your team hits them off from other areas of the map. And believe me, you'll be glad you have your team when you're in combat.

Throughout the game you can build this team however you wish and that's in part to how you play the game and your interaction with characters. Through intimidation you can force weaker characters to bend to your will and submit to your requests, but hard headed and stubborn NPCs will see that as a threat and could potentially turn violent against you, forcing you to eliminate them and thus possibly taking them out of your party, and the game permanently. Other times however, a few choice words can smooth over an intense situation which can lead to valuable intelligence and even a possible teammate or two. Wasteland 3 though does have its "decision" points where there are times when you will have to decide if terminating an alliance with someone is worth it to ensure the safety of others, including yourself.

While you're travelling and exploring the lands of Wasteland 3, you'll come across various items for crafting gear, weapons, items etc. and this again is where it is valuable to have competent team members who have unique specialties. What this means is that you don't need to have everyone with an ability to craft armor and upgrades if one person in your party is already very proficient in that skill. As you can see this once again points back to where developing and selecting what type of character you will have, and their skills, is critical. Now you will have to be cautious. For example, if you are controlling the only party member in your group that can do armor upgrades and they die and you don't revive them (because you're out of health packs, etc.) then you have no one in your group that can make armor upgrades. If I've said it before, I'll say it again; character development in this game is fundamentally critical. One way that Wasteland 3 allows you to deal with this is by granting you the ability to play with a friend through co-op. This way you can spec your character one way and your friend can complement or break away from your character with regards to skills and development.

One of the biggest surprises I found was the audio of Wasteland 3. From the dialog, which can be comical in its delivery at times, to the dynamic soundtrack music that kicks in between overworld navigation and the battles you'll face, every note seems to have been crafted with the same level of quality that we see in every other aspect of Wasteland 3. You can see where inspiration was found throughout the soundtrack and it goes a long way to making your experience in the game one that you'll remember.

Outside of combat the gameplay mechanics of Wasteland 3 are very simplistic where you have a camera control mapped to one stick and movement to the other. You do have the ability to map certain items, weapons, etc. to "hotkeys" on the controller which can be priceless to you both in and outside combat, especially on the harder difficulties that Wasteland 3 offers. The biggest challenges I found were navigating the environments. At first I would take my entire team with me and then when I would accidentally trigger a trip wire or step on a landmine, a lot of damage would go to my entire team which forced me to utilize a ton of my health packs. To solve this I would only control one individual on my team (who would be able to scout for traps) and they would go throughout the pseudo open sandbox areas and explore for various pieces of loot and disable whatever traps they found.

Wasteland 3 is about adapting to a situation and environment while managing a "choose your own story" adventure. While the main story is fairly straight forward, how you experience that story is totally in your hands. This is why I can say that Wasteland 3 is one of the best CRPG games you will ever come across. It provides a depth that would allow you a seemingly infinite way to experience the game without being overly complex and hard to manage and all the while not taking itself too seriously in its delivery. If you want a good RPG there are a ton out there that are a dime a dozen, but if you want one of the best CRPG experiences you can have, then you absolutely have to purchase Wasteland 3.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Railway Empire - Complete Collection

Before the days of interconnectional flights and transoceanic shipments, nations were dependent purely upon rail transport for almost everything. From vacations to employment to farming and commerce, the railroads became the vascular, nervous and skeletal structure of every growing nation. Game developer Kalypso decided to not only show how powerful the rail system was to developing nations, but create a massively deep experience in doing so. Going into this game I thought "oh I'll just hook up some stations, send some trains out and call it a day.". I've never been more surprised and more wrong in my entire life. Having missed out on this title back in January, I was excited to see what this game had to offer, and it turns out it was more than I ever imagined.

Real Time Strategy games require you to balance expenses with the resource management, then expand and dominate your opponents. This quintessential core function is Railway Empire's strongest feature. Starting up you're greeted with a long list of options at your disposal, and every one of them is going to happily drain countless hours of your life away. I started out with the campaign and decided to see just how Kalypso decided to tell their tales, and the campaign is broken into chapters where each has with it a set of objectives where some are required and others are optional, but all are time sensitive. This small adjustment forces play and requires you to start thinking of a plan and how to properly develop your company.

Railway Empire is more about managing your railroad company against your opponents. However, there is more to this game than just developing faster. You will have to manage your business by paying attention to things such as the stock market, your competition and the needs and wants of the various towns and businesses. This is how the campaign attempts to get you to focus on the basic methodology of the game itself. Every town has supplies they stock for shipment while at the same time are in need of others. This way direct lines of transportation are established that ship from one city to another dependent upon the need. However, as you will see on the map there are various businesses that provide things such as milk, cattle, corn, wheat and more, and it's these places that need to be connected to various cities so that goods can be traded.

Should these businesses fall on hard times you have the ability to buy them, but auctions are also available but can become more intensive with your competition. While you may see it as a way of blocking an opposition from expanding their grounds, they may see it as a necessity and will bid high for this, putting it possibly out of your price range depending upon your cash reserve. You can also play the stock market though, which can provide you some ample cash injection should you strike it big. To adequately manage this side aspect of the game though requires tremendous diligence as you will constantly have to micromanage the investments, but for now, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Back to the campaign.

Railway Empire's learning curve is steep; very, very steep. I hit the start button and I said to myself "self, why is there a highlighted blinking circle on the Tips & Tricks part of the game?". 10 minutes into the tutorial and I'm digging deeper into that than a colonoscopy. The game itself will go through a tremendously shallow introduction that will teach you about connecting cities, supplying trains with resources, setting up side tracks with switches, establishing a maintenance building and that's what the game basically covers in the beginning. Now as you progress, the game will take you through the rest of the menus in again, a very anemic way which will, once again, have you looking at tips and tricks to see if there's something that can help you.

One of the big aspects of the campaign involves the research tree. Before I get into the research though, let me touch on how the game expands and some resource management. Throughout the game your cities will grow in size based on the happiness of the people. This comes by meeting the needs of the city while setting it up to sell its goods and have an economy stream of its own. When the population expands, the city grows, and when it grows you can start to generate some businesses that can start producing better quality items should the resources be available. All of these take time to produce and require large sums of cash to begin with, plus as stated earlier, the resources required will be tremendous, so start thinking of warehouses. These act as massive storage facilities and can house resources from other trains. For example, let's say you have an area that has about 5 production businesses near a town. Create a warehouse and have those businesses funnel their resources into the warehouse, then send a train from a warehouse to a city station. This way you don't have to worry about congestion, as you can have a dedicated line for a warehouse and a dedicated line for transportation between cities.

Now as you progress and grow you'll have the ability to expand into the research tree of the game. What this will do is allow you to unlock permanent bonuses for your trains, unlock new main trains, and even acquire specialized train cars as well. The main train unlocks will grant you access to more specialized and bonus upgrades that you can acquire by spending what is called "innovation points". You get a set amount of points every month, but you can also do things that increase that amount. A lot of these permanent bonuses can mean fantastic things for your trains such as shortening the time for repair work (yes your trains will break down), resource increase (your trains will need to have resources feed them along the lines otherwise they will not run efficiently), to increasing the fares you get when transporting passengers. This research tree is fairly expansive and will require a lot of playing to unlock but that's the beauty of it.

You'll already be engrossed into hours and hours of the game, and once you start to get over the learning mountain (no hump here), you start to have fun with your strategies and how you network the cities and grow your business. Which reminds me, earlier I touched on the stock market. When you take a look at the company tab you'll notice your competitors, see the stock market and banking activities. If you want to dominate your competition, you'll need to buy their company. To do that you'll need to buy shares in the rival company. Doing this early will undoubtably set you back tremendously early on, however, would you rather buy Apple shares when they were $20 or $400? Exactly. Should you wait, the competition's company will grow and become more valuable. Now you're getting money for your percentage ownership if the company grows, however, the stock shares become higher value as well. Once you gain 100% of the company you own everything.

To acquire the capital you can have some options at your disposal outside of just grinding it out. You can buy stocks as well and you have various fields such as consumer and industrial goods or food and raw materials that you can invest in. These can net you a tidy profit but take time to grow, so don't look to this to make you an overnight millionaire. You can also gain extra cash through bonds which act as loans for your company. While this sees a tremendous increase in cash, you will have to pay that back after a set time, and yes, there are even prepayment penalties as well. Going after your competition has always got to be on the top of your agenda because throughout the game your competition can do some serious damage. For starters, they can completely take over your cities. They can buy out businesses in your cities and take it over from you. Next, just as you can buy out their company, they can buy shares in yours and make money off your efforts. Yes, you can actually fund the bankroll of your competition, but that's business. Then they can even hit you hard at the auctions or even steal your employees away from you.

Yes, in Railway Empire you will have to manage your crew on your train. When you observe your train you'll see 4 slots for personnel. The train personnel are the two squares on the left while next two consist of your office worker (who impacts things such as faster unloading times, lower construction costs, etc.) and the last slot are your commission personnel such as the about to be mentioned Saboteur. There are many different types of personnel that you can employ including characters like a Saboteur. What does it do? Well you can deploy one on an opponent's industry or city and cause damage to the company which can lower the share prices of the company. Not bad if you want a quick way of cutting the competition, but beware because they can do the same to you. Your train personnel has to get along with each other which means you have to be mindful of the stats that each available personnel carries with them. If you have a good crew that will work well together and get along, then you can expect a more efficient train with bonuses to your income. Should you though have a train where arguments and fights break out then you will run the risk of them leaving, or being targets for your competition to steal them from you.

There are other personnel that you can acquire that provide interesting bonuses such as Promoter, Spy, Auctioneer, Bandit and many more. Each one of these is on a limited time availability and can cost a nice bit of coin for a high quality personnel. You should consider what personnel to look for and employ based off the needs of your situation, but I can't stress enough to always be mindful of your competition and how they headhunt employees away from you. Should you take on regular employees you will have to pay out regular sums of money but it will be smaller than the one time large payment to a commissioned employee.

Everything I've covered so far pertains to the game mechanics themselves, but doesn't begin to start talking about strategy. Trying to navigate these menus and options will take some time to get to become comfortable with as the buttons can feel a bit cumbersome as they change context from menu to menu. As you progress though and become more comfortable (I've personally played a bunch of practice and campaign sessions to familiarize myself with it) you'll get used to networking, managing and micromanaging all at the same time. And you'll be doing all of this while looking at some beautiful scenery. Railway Empire looks absolutely beautiful and Kalypso has done a fantastic job in all the details from the bridges, to the tunnels and the cities themselves. You can see how cities expand and how the citizens evolve with their transportation and society and all of which blanketed by an ambiance that fits the area you're looking at, encompassed by a soundtrack you feel is plucked straight from the 1830's itself.

The other modes for Railway Empire consists of challenges and scenarios as well as a free mode sandbox that allows you to experiment and try out new strategies and methods, but I strongly suggest you go through the campaign to get used to the game, the mechanics and the initial strategy of the game itself. Once you progress through the game and become comfortable with how you plan your operation, then think about venturing into the scenarios to test your abilities.

When you start to think of the depth of involvement that trains played in the beginning years of any developing nations, Kalypso has done a masterful job in delivering an experience that will leave you captivated and challenged for hours. Railway Empire is beyond deep with the amount of content and management that you will have to commit to, but at the same time it looks beautiful, sounds authentic and provides a level of strategy that will have you wonder where the last few weeks of your life went. Now when you combine all the DLC that has been released since January, Kalypso has bundled this incredible experience together for only $40 which makes this one of the best investments you can make on the Xbox One and should definitely be experienced.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 F1 2020

Lauda, Senna, Schumacher. What you just read are three names that have changed F1 racing for eternity. Just as teams such as McLaren and Ferrari have impacted the automotive world, the drivers of these very cars are the quintessential key to understanding the potential power that is quite literally in your very hands behind the wheel. Codemasters for years has been trying to develop a quality F1 racing game, and this year they put Schumacher's name to the game. For those who need to be brought up to speed, Michael Schumacher is arguably the greatest F1 driver ever to have existed. He started in 306 races during his career, winning 91 of them and taking 68 pole positions. Sadly, on December 29, 2013 Michael Schumacher suffered a skiing accident and spent 6 months in a medically induced coma, and while alive, his status as of today remains shrouded. If Codemasters is going to put this legend's name on their game, personally speaking, they better do it right.

They surpassed all expectations.

While Codemasters' F1 games have been decent in the past, you kept feeling like there were things missing and things weren't polished enough, but in F1 2020 you get the sensation that everything you ever wanted in and F1 game has finally come to fruition and in a way that is purely spectacular. Normally you can expect racing games to rehash familiar resources which can produce a game that almost feels like a cash grab that we see in other games every year (Madden I'm looking at you), but not this time.

Loading up F1 2020 you'll see that Codemasters included a mode called "My Team" which is hands down the biggest success of the game. Yes, the basic driver's career is still included where you can go through as you always have, or you can jump straight into racing and time trials, etc. But My Team is the mode that takes this game into stratospheric heights. Normally, F1 games make you the driver of a team and you go about your career, however this time you are not only the driver but owner of the team as well, which means you will have to contend with all the logistics of being a team owner. You'll have to manage your budget, performance, schedule, drivers (yes, you'll have to sign a teammate), R&D, sponsors, strategy and so much more.

This literally added a depth to the game that felt like it had been missing for the longest of times. So, when you begin, you will have to first sign your sponsor. Here you will have to determine your initial cash allotment which needs to be divided up between hiring your driver and building your power for the car. Now, your sponsors will give you an upfront amount of money, however, they provide bonus payouts should you complete the secondary goals of the sponsor. These bonuses should be a priority for you considering that every week you have your weekly expenses for your team (divisions of your race team, drivers, etc.). As you progress and win races and level your team and drivers up, you will be able to select more sponsors with more secondary goals and more payouts.

One of the sponsors I selected had a secondary goal of do 75 laps combined from the start of the first practice day to the end of race day. I thought that things were going to be going well for me but then when the end of the race came and I saw that out of 75 laps required, I only did 74 and I was gutted because I missed out on over $130K because I needed 1 more lap during a training or qualifying session (races are set amount of laps). The negative here is that there's no real way to tell how much progress you've made throughout, so if you have a secondary goal like that then you have to pay attention if you want that bonus. Some secondary objectives can be simple such as lead the race for four laps and you get an extra $160K. These secondary goals may seem trivial, but are essential for your development of your team. How do you develop your team? Well...

After you've begun your team, you'll be tasked with generating a schedule. These activities are spread throughout the upcoming week and can range from 1 - 4 days on the calendar. You obviously can't do them all, and if there are any events that take a day or two out of the week then you'll have to make some tough choices. After you've planned out your week, you'll need to take a look at your facilities. This is where your team is grows and is divided into 6 departments (Aerodynamics, Powertrain, Durability, Chassis, Personnel and Marketing). Each facility generates weekly resource points that you can use to develop new upgrades for your vehicle. These upgrades take time and are not guaranteed to be successful, so if it fails you can install a lesser version at a higher success rate. The rate of success is determined by your upgrade and morale of the individual facility.

To boost morale you can invest into upgrading these facilities which increases the weekly running cost (remember you have a budget to think about) which also increases the number of resource points you can generate. If you can't keep your facility open, you may have to shut it down to make sure you don't bankrupt your own team. When you invest you can spend millions, so if you're thinking of emptying the bank early on then you're going to be hurting when your cash reserves are almost nonexistent. When you upgrade you can purchase things like decrease failure rate by 10%, decrease development time, work on multiple parts at once, etc. You can also boost morale by saying complimentary things about the different departments during interview sessions. When the mic gets thrown in your face and they ask you about how the car handled, if you give a positive answer then your aerodynamic team will take notice and they will get a boost of morale which will slightly decrease the development time of an upgrade and slightly decrease the failure rate.

After you've managed your facilities then it's time to get into the R&D of the game, and this is where you can branch out in Powertrain, Aerodynamics, Chassis and Durability. Each branch gives you the opportunity to improve various functions and features of your car, but as I stated earlier, these upgrades are not guaranteed to succeed and they do take time. Some of the upgrades you can't even get until you get through your first season, so if you want to really develop your team and make your mark on F1 glory, then you'll be racing for many seasons. To purchase these upgrades, you'll need resource points, so here is where your department management is critical. You can also earn resource points for your actions during the race weekend.

Your vehicle tab will keep track of your components of your car, the status and wear of each part. Here you can see the overall wear and tear on and how much performance you can get out of it before it needs to be replaced. The Corporate tab will allow you to manage your drivers, contracts, sponsorships and more. Starting out, my driver was beyond poor and finished in 21st place as his highest placing, which earned my team nothing, but if I want to sink 19.5 million I can buy Lewis Hamilton who is currently rated the best driver in the world. This plays a massive role because throughout the season if you're saving your money, when contract negotiation times come around you can either replace your driver teammate or negotiate the current driver you have. The reason this "Driver Market" is important is because it's based off performances. Meaning if you notice that a top tier driver is going through a slump you will watch their price drop significantly, which means you can get a deal on amazing talent (better than what you can start with obviously).

After you have managed all of this, it's time to race. You have 3 practice sessions, qualifying and the race itself. Now you can go straight to the race and bypass everything, but here is everything you miss out on. For starters, you will have various team objectives during the training session that you can complete for resource points, as well there are numerous challenges such as tire wear, fuel economy, pace setting, track acclimation and more. The better you do in these challenges the more resource points you get to spend and after these events you can be greeted by a news reporter who will ask you various questions which will give you an opportunity to boost morale in your various departments.

You can also tune the various aspects of your car such as your Aerodynamics, transmission, suspension, suspension geometry, brakes, and tires. The level and degree that you can adjust these dynamically impacts your car and your experience. The beautiful thing about this is you can read a description of what each modification will pertain to and you can test it out on the track during these practice sessions to see what best fits your method for driving and car development for the track itself. When you actually get to the race itself you can also customize your race strategy to either pit earlier and be on the track for longer periods of time or stay out longer and risk wear on the tires.

Other modes such as the Career mode offer the identical experience to everything you just read about the My Team except you're not the owner, you're simply the driver and can select if you want to start in F2 or jump straight into F1. You are also able to customize your race season all the way up to a massive 24 race season. Everything I've written so far is easily enough to make a phenomenal racing title but Codemasters isn't done yet. They have improved on the handling tremendously, so the car feels far more responsive, and you can really feel a difference when you start switching tire compound and go from medium to hard tires. This difference also applies to wear and tear on the tires themselves and can find you losing tremendous amounts of time as you start to lose your grip. This plays a massive role when you take into account the dynamic weather, and God help you if you're caught on the track with racing slicks and a storm opens up. I'm speaking from experience because one time I ignored my pit telling me to come in and switch tires and a storm opened up and the rain came down in sheets and I was stuck going like 20mph around every corner just trying to limp back to the pit lane.

Another neat feature that surprised me is that this F1 game can utilize Kinect. Yes, the dead peripheral of massive wasted potential can actually be used to deliver commands to your pit crew. You can order up new tires, new strategy, etc, all with your voice, or a headset if you're like the millions who don't use Kinect. This is one of the downfalls of the game because you have to hit the B button to open up the in game menu where you can make all these changes, but you can't do it when the game is paused so you actually have to slow down, take your eyes off the road and examine your options and which can be very costly.

F1 2020 also ticks the boxes when it comes to graphics and sound. The pit crews sound authentic and the engine noises (especially when you upgrade them) sound like angels blasting their trumpets with hundreds of horsepower under your right foot. Also, the menu music is sensational and really does a fantastic job at not being annoying, but rather melodic and soothing. This audio contrast is pure blis,s and when combined with the amazing graphical work, helps create such an immersive and dynamic racing experience that you'll never forget.

Oh, and did I mention that this isn't a full retail price game? This was truly inspirational to see the quality and depth of work done on this title. Many have tried to make a good F1 game, but Codemasters not only did so incredibly, they just became the new standard for F1. F1 2020 has exceeded any and all of my expectations and Codemasters has not only set the bar the gaming world was hoping for, but has generated a new standard of improvement and innovation that the rest of the racing game industry should take note of if they don't want to get lapped.

Codemasters put Michael Schumacher's name to this game and delivered a racing experience worthy of the greatest F1 driver in the sport's history. An incredibly deep and extensive game, F1 2020 has very negatives which is why Codemasters has released what could arguably be called "The Defining F1 Experience" ever to be found on Xbox One. If you are a fan of racing games, pick this up and you can thank me later. Are you in the market for an F1 racing experience that is quite literally second to none? I give you F1 2020 by Codemasters which I'm calling "A Thank You to Michael Schumacher".

Overall Score: 9.5 / 10 Assetto Corsa Competizione

So here I am bounding through Forza Motorsport, making tremendous progress thinking I'm a good racer. Then I hit up the Project Cars series and I think, OK I'm probably not as good as I thought. Finally, I hit up Assetto Corsa Competizione and I realize I'm like the John Snow of racing, in that I know nothing. Released at the end of June 2020, Assetto Corsa Competizione (ACC) by 505 Games hits the track and it catches the gaming world by surprise, not just with the amount of content, but how exacting this game actually is. Start your engines and hold on tight because I can guarantee you're not ready.

Starting this review off, I cannot stress enough how much of a simulation this game is. Read that last sentence again. Assetto Corsa Competizione is without a doubt the absolute undisputed king of GT3 racing simulation. Driving games are all about physics. Once they get too comical, they start to become "arcady" in feel. Not here. Nope, in Assetto Corsa Competizione you strive to master the physics. When I mean strive, I mean you will devote hours upon hours to this game for the quest of completing 1 clean lap. Let me explain.

When you start the game, you can go instantly into one of the championships (think of this as stepping on to a 747 plane for the first time without any training and flying it, thinking you'll make it, or will you crash and burn?). This is where you can recreate actual championships that have races that range from 1 hour, to 3 hours, to even the infamous 24 Hours at Spa. Don't worry you can pause and save and come back to finish the race so don't worry about having to block off an entire day to finish a race (unless you wanted a realistic experience). All the teams from GT3 racing are here with over 200 drivers, 120 teams, 24 cars and of course 11 racing circuits that were duplicated using laser measuring for accuracy. If the track is like that in real life, it's like that in the game.

If, however, you wish to gain a feel for the game first, you can try out the career mode. Here you start at the beginning at the Lamborghini test track. You'll be racing alongside a few other cars, but your main quest will be to set the fastest CLEAN lap time you can. So, this is where I decided to start my ACC adventure. I went through the settings that made me feel... well, insulted. I went through and customized my setup for a dry/safe condition rather than fast because I wanted to get a feel for the car before I worked on performance (sounds legit right?). So I use the Y button to switch my view to outside the car (the controls aren't really explained to you but I'll touch on that here shortly) and away I went out of pit lane to start my 10 min training session.

Yes, I had the course arrow on, but you know what, it didn't matter. By the time the arrows went red my car was already flying past 180 mph into a series of tight 90 degree turns. Having literally cut that entire corner not only was my lap time invalid but my car and its tires were already damaged not even a quarter mile out of pit lane. Oh, this was going to be fun. So, I approach the next corner which is a medium sweeping curve to the right and try to keep control of the vehicle. In doing so the back end kicks out which I over correct and end up in the gravel. I manage to get the car back on the road and lower my goal bar from finishing first to just get around a corner.

This is because the driving physics on this game are absolutely incredible. Yes, it's very, very hard to manage at first, but after a while, you still won't get it. I played 30 minutes of training and out of that time I only completed 4 clean laps and never got higher than dead last. This mind you, was accomplished with all driving aids on and the difficulty set to practically newborn. This is how unforgiving the game actually is. So, then I thought it was the way I had the car setup. Of course, it couldn't be my driving skills, right? *insert rolling eyes*

So before the 2nd 10 minute test run session, I go over and configure the car and what you can adjust is literally everything, right down to how the aerodynamics of the car impact the air around you as it drives. There are menu setups for tires, electronics, fuel & strategy, grip, dampers and even aero. The tuning options of this game is unbelievable. You can tell where the air makes the most impact as well as the downforce generated which help create grip as it pushes the car down onto the track. So, the trick is to find the right balance between grip and speed. Other things you can change are the controls itself of the game. ACC allows you to bind various factions within the car to buttons on your controller and/or steering wheel setup. Sadly, we were unable to test the steering wheel functionality, but ACC has partnered with Fanantec to deliver a realistic racing experience wheel specifically for ACC. Of course, since this is a simulation, I fumble around like I know what I'm doing and then I take off out of the pit!

Up comes the series of 90 degree turns and I'm thinking I'm going to take this like a pro and teams are going to be knocking on my door to lead their racing team. Well, in reality I made the car totally unstable, and as soon as I went to turn my car basically had a seizure, locked up and I never knew a car could slide so much. Oh yeah, I had made it totally worse. Restart and reset to default settings. Yeah, the customization of this simulator is incredible and not to be taken lightly. Now I'm off for my 3rd restart of the training session.

Opting for safety over speed I get out of the pits and I start breaking a little earlier, using more inertia in the corners to allow my car to accelerate through them. I start racking up the clean laps. One, two, three, four! I couldn't believe it, and let me tell you that this is a WONDERFULL STRESS TEST of the Xbox Elite controller... WONDERFUL. I felt like I was on top of the world and I crushed it! I was so happy, and then the standings came in. Dead last. Yeah, thanks. Not by like a tenth of a second or anything, no. More like 7-8 seconds ahead of me which is enough time to read War and Peace backwards, twice.

Since I finished clean I thought I could just do some slight tweaking on the next practice session and I could shave some time down right? So, the game gives me a pop-up that basically says I suck and should play the game on easy with everything turned on but traction control. See, to fully experience what racing is like you HAVE to have the traction control turned 100% off, not even 5% and the game points this out to you VERY clearly. So, I crank that TC all the way up to 100% on. Just try and stop me. Now the next session loads up and guess what, it's RAIN! Oh happy day.

Naturally now my friends decide to hit up a multiplayer match. Sure, why not? I've been doing so well so far. So, popping over to the multiplayer server side, you're greeted with the server list at the bottom, Quickjoin on the left and competition server on the right. In the middle is where you can select what team and car you use when you drive. The entire roster is here for you to choose from and you can also set your livery and your racing number as well. Once you've selected your team and you're back to the main multiplayer menu, the Quickjoin is what you would expect, but the competition server is where the real racing is and your access to this server depends on your rating within the game itself.

One of the interesting aspects is how ACC tracks your progress in the game with the cars and the tracks. This data is found in the main menu under driver (bottom left) and then click the rating menu. You'll see a vertical menu on the right-hand side that details various stats of the game. For example, Track Competence is about how many clean laps have you done on the tracks. Each track has medals to win, and when you win the medals, the track competency grows. Consistency pertains to how often you can post similar lap times, and should you see lots of yellow and red, mixed with green, that's not very consistent.

Then car control is interesting because ACC is grading you on how often you put the car into a position to get the maximum speed and grip out of the vehicle and essentially crashing or overdriving the car and spinning out. Again, unlike golf, a higher number is desired here as well. Pace pertains to completing events and leaderboards. The next is a big one... SAFETY. This monitors how safe of a driver you are. Again, you want a high number here because that can affect you joining multiplayer matches. As you can see there's a ton of data being logged throughout your gameplay and all of it is important for multiplayer. So anyways back to the friends and the multiplayer.

We head into a match from the server list as we were clearly not ready for a competition server and we wanted control of what to play. We start off and there's a moment just like the beginning of every race where you have to stay within your limits for a rolling start. We learned that the hard way as all 3 of us hit the gas and practically failed instantly. Once you complete the rolling start and the green light drops, the gas pedal gets planted and the race begins. I kept clipping corners and kept getting penalties, but I remained within the top 3, but then I was called into the pit and was disqualified because I apparently didn't know the rules of racing.

Being disqualified just meant I had to wait till the next game so I would go into camera mode and look at my friends and how they were doing, and that's when the sheer beauty of this game shined through. ACC is an absolutely beautiful game to behold. The car models and cockpit views look painstakingly detailed and the racing environments themselves are so detailed that you almost wish you could stop and look around you, especially when you hit up legendary tracks like Spa-Francorchamps and Laguna Seca. The only downfall I could see would be when you're in the cockpit view, the slightest move of the Left Stick causes your steering wheel to almost go into convulsions it becomes so jerky. You could be smooth on the corner but inside your driver looks like they are experiencing a serious cerebral medical condition event. But damn does it sound good.

The main menu music and all that is meh, and if I'm honest, I turned it off after a while. Why? Well for starters it's nothing that stands out as quality, and the real beauty of the sound is to be found in the cars themselves. Get into a McLaren and go through the various views including the cockpit view and listen to the engine sing. Now hop into a Ferrari and listen as everything is tuned perfectly to be unique. This is the best soundtrack to any racing game if the engine noise is authentic, and thankfully it is. Everything from a low rumble growl to a high-pitched humming can be found on cars such as Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Porsche, Lamborghini and so much more.

We decided to play another race and I was racing clean until towards the end and I got disqualified again. Yes, I know I need to work on that IF I want to actually finish a race. After that I decided to confront my training session which, may I remind you, is now in the rain. I set my car up for default on the wet setup and lap after lap I managed to finish 1st! I could not believe it, so I took a picture for recorded evidence. It goes to show that the best thing that you can give this game is time. If you can give ACC some devotion, it will make you a better racing driver, period.

Despite being horrible at Assetto Corsa Competizione, I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best pure driving simulator that you can find on Xbox One. That's a big statement I know, and I'm sure you Forza fans are sharpening your pitchforks, but hear me out. The main focus of making an accurate driving simulator IS the physics and ACC delivers a racing experience unlike any you can find on the market. While other racing games may be fun to play because of their entertainment, ACC can actually help you become a better driver because of its realism. Don't get me wrong, I'm terrible at this game, I mean absolutely horrible, but that's just because I have limited knowledge, which is a nice way of saying I know nothing.

If you don't mind being SEVERELY humbled by your talent and skill behind the wheel, Assetto Corsa Competizione hits your wallet with a bill for $39.99. Huh? From incredibly gorgeous graphics of the cars and tracks, to the detail of tuning and adjustment, to the engines that scream as they fly down the straights, to the physics that take the handling of this game to new levels,and more, for $20 less than big named racing games. I guarantee you right now Assetto Corsa Competizione just made Turn 10 and others take notice, and they should. Assetto Corsa Competizione is one of, if not arguably, the best racing simulator you can find on the Xbox. Sure, it may serve you some humility with a side of humble pie, but if you stay with it, it will become one of the most rewarding racing experiences you can have on the platform.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Disintegration

Have you ever heard the phrase; a jack of all trades is a master of none? It's a phrase that signifies that while it may be tempting to do a little of everything, the lack of focus will prevent you from mastering anything. This is the same theory that directly applies to Disintegration from V1 Interactive. In an attempt to integrate both FPS and RTS elements within the game, you can already see going into this the ambition on the table. Does this game though break the mold and find a way to harmonize both genres together in a fluid gaming experience? Let's find out.

For starters, Disintegration was directed by one of the co-creators of Halo, Marcus Lehto and his V1 interactive studio. This instantly perked my attention being a titanic Halo fan, but such aspirations have burned me in the past and led to disappointment, but I was hopeful. The backdrop of Disintegration takes place roughly 150 years from where we are now. Science has figured out a way to let our "existence" carry on beyond our physical bodily limits. We've seen similar plot lines in science fiction movies before, and like those movies, a race of integrated machines called the Rayonne rise up against humanity and without anyone to stop them. They work on enslaving the rest of mankind and forcing people to turn and become members of the Rayonne army. Cue heroic music now.

You play the role of Romer Shoal who used to be a celebrity grav cycle pilot. Shoal was not some ordinary pilot though; we are introduced to him as arguably the best (he'd have to be right?) pilot ever seen. These grav cycles can be outfitted and modified to increase speed, damage, etc, and the Rayonne saw this as a threat, so grav cycles were outlawed. Shoal though wasn't having any of that though, so he started smuggling grav cycles and thus broke Rayonne law. Well, it's not long and he finds himself imprisoned in a mechanical Rayonne structure called the Iron Cloud, which was run by the commander, Black Shuck. A daring jail break and rescue operation commence, and you not only manage to cripple the Iron Cloud, but also escape the grip of Black Shuck.

As your team makes it to the ground you come across a massive ship that acts as your team's base of operations. With a crew that consists of characters that we typically see in a party system game, although this time, they're robots, but with personalities. You've got your mechanics, scout, big tank brute, etc. Before each mission you can go throughout the area and talk to all your members to get a deeper sense of the story, as well as these "helper robots" that give you challenges for the upcoming mission. It's here that I found my first flaw. There is a LOT of dead space in this sort of "gathering area". I find myself literally quick walking throughout this massive structure just to talk to one NPC, and should you just press 'A' to trigger the conversation and then walk away to save time, the conversation won't register so you have to walk your *** back to the NPC, hit 'A' again and literally sit through the conversation.

When you play the game, you will see how the entire area has probably about 70% wasted space. This trend continues throughout every gathering point, whether it be in the ship or not; By far one of the worst aspects of Disintegration. After you've talked to everyone (or not if you don't want challenges) you will go to a designated point in the gathering area and load up the next mission. Here you can also hit 'RB' and switch to configuring your team members and upgrading their abilities and yours as well. To do this you need to find upgrade chips as you scan the environment, but more on that soon. Once you're good to go you can press 'LB' and go back to the mission and launch it.

The loading times aren't terrible, which is surprising given the sheer size of the maps and levels. There is though one aspect that really didn't sit well with me though, which was the lack of a map of any kind... at all... ever. These wide expanse levels and I'll be trying to go off the path to find secrets only to be given a pop-up saying I'm out of the mission zone and I have 8 seconds until I'm dead. Thankfully, this is solved by pressing 'A' for a boost and directing your grav cycle back in the direction you came from to return to the map. Would have been nice to have A MAP so that didn't happen, but I didn't make the game.

Speaking of the grav cycle, you'll need to get accustomed to its mobility, and fast. Think of these like flying command centers with weapons. You can direct your team and their actions through it, and you can cue up special abilities such as a concussion grenade, ground slam, mortar strike and more. You can also have them team up and target enemies. This helps a lot if you wish to focus your attention rather than let the Muppets roam free and shoot things. The handling of the grav cycle though is sluggish so it may take some time to get used to its maneuverability. You can scan for loot and interactive items by using the 'B' button to enter a scan mode that is similar to the scan feature we find in the Batman Arkham series. The downfall of this? You can't use weapons in this form, but you still have full tactical control of your team and their skills in this mode.

Managing the crew almost becomes your primary focus throughout all the missions. There is a button combination 'RB + B' and that will bring your team back to you, which can be advantageous, but also risky, as no one on your team seems to be able to walk backwards and shoot. They all run back to you, exposing themselves and not firing back. Should your teammate fall, depending on your difficulty, they will respawn near you after a set amount of time with limited health. Or if you play on the hardest difficulty, they're dead and will not come back. This is where Disintegration tries to excel in its RTS capabilities, but there really isn't much worthwhile to it as it feels unpolished and almost segregated. You can do either FPS or RTS but you can't do both. So rather than trying to work on molding the two genres together into some type of super hybrid awesome type game, you're left with a game with one hell of an identity crisis. But oddly enough, it's enjoyable.

This is the basic format of the campaign itself. Go between enormous gathering places with tons of wasted space, to a level that's vast and open and doesn't provide ANY MAP, complete the goals, back to enormous gathering place and finally onto a vast level with NO MAP. You get the point. If you want to achievement hunt, you'll need to really grind out some of it. When you scan with the 'B' button you can see that lootable objects show up with a green outline. Well, on these massive levels there will be well over 15 hidden loot boxes, and trust me, you need them. These containers can hold upgrade chips which you use at the party screen where you can upgrade your team members, as well as scrap which is needed to collect to level up. The kicker though is when you kill an enemy, they drop scrap; Yay! But if you don't move your grav cycle near the scrap, it will disappear and it won't count to you leveling up; Boo! This means in a heated battle, when there are dozens of enemies on the screen at once and all of them are firing at you and your team, trying to come out of the battle with all the scrap you need can be quite difficult.

These levels though provide some fantastic detail and beauty, and the artwork you see throughout the game and in the environment is stunning to behold. The music feels a little canned at some points, along with the voices of your teammates. While trying to create some type of unique character in the robots, the dialog doesn't feel natural and it almost seems like they were trying to create comical moments that don't fit the narrative. While it's nice and all, there isn't much in terms of character interaction with your team to create any sense of bonding which is kind of a big disappointment. They're your team and you don't really get presented with a reason to care about them. Not very human.

Outside of the main campaign is also a very anemic multiplayer system. With a stable of varying grav cycles to choose from you get the familiar sensation of "heavy, medium, light" vehicles that we have in other games, each of which comes with their own unique weaponry. You also get to design your character, and just like the campaign, you get a crew with you as well. While you may sit there and think, "Oh OK, I'll take out the smaller enemy team members and then focus on the grav cycles!". Well, if you destroy the cycles then the enemy team that follows them is also destroyed. So, there's literally no reason of any sort to go for anything but enemy grav cycles. Since you have a team in multiplayer, you can also give orders to that team as well, but remember it will be challenging to get your team to target enemy grav cycles with abilities since there's only so many with range.

In multiplayer there are only 3 modes to select from: Zone Control, Collector, and Retrieval. Zone control requires you to occupy a zone to "claim" it and is the basic fare that we've seen throughout many, many years. Collector involves you killing an enemy and collecting their "brain can". Think of this like Dog Tags in Call of Duty but with less enjoyment. Retrieval is a remarkably similar mode to capture the flag and will require the most teamwork to complete it successfully. Another massive knock against it, outside of the sheer lack of enjoyment found in all three modes, are the lack of multiplayer levels. There's only a few, so the repetition can become, well... repetitive. What sent me over the top was the microtransactions for the skins. Yes, you can spend real money or grind this multiplayer matchmaking for an exceptionally long... long time. So rather than unlocking via merit, these cosmetic items unlock either via grinding or cash only.

Disintegration had amazing potential and it still does. I do enjoy the campaign, but I can't forgive or overlook the sheer number of faults and flaws that exist within. I hope that V1 Interactive genuinely takes the feedback from the community and improve upon this game because I see the potential, but the execution is what prevents this game from taking flight. Would I recommend this game at its current $49.99 price? No. Half of that and below though? Every day of the week.

Suggestions: In the name of everything holy can I please have a map in the sequel?

Overall Score: 6.5 / 10 World War Z - Game of the Year Edition

Last year XboxAddict got the opportunity to review the zombie game World War Z. While there were some who didn't enjoy this, and probably don't like puppies, or kitties either, we found it a wonderful zombie game that was a diamond in the rough, which is almost "unicorn status" given that it's a game based off a movie; and we all know how successful those can be (insert sarcastic eye roll).

Now that the world is gripped in a viral pandemic of Coronavirus, we here at XboxAddict found the timing a little eerie that we get the opportunity to review the Game of the Year Edition (GOTY) of World War Z. So naturally a game about destroying an obscene amount of zombies while a virus rampaged the world and claimed countless lives in reality, provided an interesting backdrop. I guess this sort of 1up's 'Dead Island torso' controversy, but let's move on.

Without going back into the detail of the core game review, this article will more focus on the content that you get with the GOTY Edition. Priced at $49.99, World War Z GOTY Edition comes with the game, season pass, one extra mission that is split into 3 levels, all the character skins from both sides, weapon skins, and also a weapon packed to be named later. On top of that, you also get some game modes to contend with (challenge and horde).

When you step into Challenge mode, take note that like Walter said in The Big Lebowski, you're entering a world of pain. Now, I'm not saying you're going to die a lot, I'm saying you have a very slim chance of survival given that this game mode offers up some pretty insane random gaming modifiers to make your experience more memorable. This mode has weekly goals that will set you in the levels you're used to, but the modifiers is where you can really get the short end. Modifiers can and will alter the game dramatically. What if you were playing a game and everyone but 1 person on your team were invincible, not just that, but all the damage taken from the invincible 3 went to the 1 normal team member. Or what about increasing the damage to friendly fire? How about the game producing literally endless waves of zombies and you having to literally run and gun your way through? These are but a few of the over 40 modifiers that exist within the challenge mode.

If you're lucky enough to make it through, you'll be rewarded with challenge coins which you can use then to modify your character's appearance. You can't purchase these through the store, so everything, and I mean every character customization option, will have to be painstakingly earned. But if you want that special backpack charm, like Rupaul said, you better work.

If you're thinking, "oh I really wish there were other ways to earn challenge coins!", well, wish granted with the new Horde mode. This is where the developers literally want you to last as long as you can before you die (which you will over and over and over again). You know those moments in the game where you have to defend swarms of zombies from overrunning your position? Well now take that same experience, but never have it quit and get progressively harder. In between each wave you'll be rewarded with loot that you can decided how/when you will spend it on upgrades (that will continue to carry over). If you can save some loot in the earlier stages, then that savings will come back to become invaluable later on.

Yup, in this mode you're going to be dying quite a lot, but that's the point. You collect what you can for your character, grind out the loot and experience, die and repeat the process from where your character left off. Now you may be thinking, well we have defenses that we can fortify and if we work together we can survive right? Wrong. First off, this new version adds some new "special zombies" to the mix.

You have your enemies like the zombie signal beacon and the screamer, but now you have this zombie called a Bull which is a massive zombie covered in police riot gear who will lumber towards you, but shoot it enough times and it'll get angry and like the Hulk will want to smash things, including your skull; very, very violently. Then you get the Bombers who... I don't want to get into trouble... so I'll just say blow s*** up, but they do that by running right into your group. As Aragon said to Legolas; "Bring him down, and do it quick." Other zombies such as a Lurker are now in the mix and these Adidas pant wearing zombies love to hide around corners and sneak attack you, so when you hear a snarling growl, start checking corners from a distance in case it leaps at you.

In some sadistic world, the developers thought, "Hey, let's make this experience more rewarding to the gamer. So how can we do that?" Well that answer came in the form of a Horde update back in February that applies to today. The list is extensive and can be found onliune(https://forums.fo3852/patch-the-profe020) but here's a small snapshot of a few:

• Rewards for beating wave 10 and higher are greatly increased
• Wave difficulty increases much faster
• The amount of resources player get is slightly reduced, especially after wave 20
• Introduced a limit to the number of defense kits of the same type that can be deployed simultaneously

Oh you're wondering about those challenge coins again? Well while normal difficulty Horde mode will allow you to grind and upgrade your weapons and classes, but doing Horde on hard mode will allow you to earn challenge coins. As if you needed to increase the difficulty to have more fun with this game.

One slight problem I came across, which wasn't mentioned in our original review, is that sometimes there is this graphical shifting hue that seemed to make focusing on navigation and targeting a real challenge. It didn't happen often but was distracting and really took away from the feel of the game itself. I wish it wasn't there, but it's a small price to pay for a fun and entertaining experience. For $49.99 World War Z GOTY still brings about a lot of enjoyment. I do though wish that they dropped the price to $39.99 (which oddly it is if you get game pass ultimate) because the content that is technically "new" outside of the zombies and the 3 stages is all cosmetic and things that have been released already.

Suggestions: Visual rating would have been higher without the graphical distortion.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Darksiders Genesis

Ever since there was recorded time, there was the story of Good Vs. Evil, Heaven Vs. Hell and God Vs. The Devil; the stories have echoed throughout all of recorded human history. Throughout the Darksiders games, we have always been treated to 3rd person games that were littered with impressive cut scenes that depicted the horsemen of the apocalypse and their battle to maintain balance at behest of the Charred Council. Now though, things have changed. Developer Airship Syndicate Entertainment has opted to go a completely different pathway and give us a top-down isometric view, akin to a Diablo style game experience. A complete shift from the games we've come to expect from a Darksiders game, but with such source content at their disposal, what could possibly go wrong? (Insert foreshadowing music here)

In Darksiders Genesis we get to take control of Strife, who is, for lack of a better phrase, the "Deadpool" horseman. His primary weapon are his two guns which are basically two handheld machine gun pistols. These have tremendous range so they work well in targeting enemies from far away, and as you go through the game you can customize their damage, but more on that shortly. Strife is paired up with War and the two are sent to deal with Lucifer and Samael as the Charred Council claims that they have been conspiring with each other. In reality though, Lucifer has offered a price that no demon would ever be able to resist; anything they want for the death of Samael.

The story behind Darksiders Genesis IS a Darksiders story that is done well. The game consists of you literally teaming up with Samael (as you always seem to do) to go after Lucifer. The game itself boils down to doing the errands of Samael in an attempt to get closer to Lucifer. It's something similar we've seen before in the original Darksiders, but on a much larger scale. There are over 15 levels and each one of them is a very large sandbox world that is laid out and designed to offer rewards to those who go exploring. However, there is a massive problem here. The map sections.

This thing is one of the absolute worst abominations of any map structure. For starters, you have absolutely no icon to show where your character is on the map itself. Think that may be a helpful thing? I do too. Instead of a very logical pointer icon, they have sections of the map flash to indicate that is where you are. That makes absolutely no sense and there were times where I had to go to previously opened chests or collectibles and gain my bearings from there. Why? Because as you navigate, the map doesn't rotate. You can shift the map around and even zoom in (which is literally the most useless feature I've ever experienced in a game... ever). If you don't even know where you are, the point of zooming in is to what, see a larger flashing area that you don't know where you're at? How hard would it be to get a simple icon that said "you are here" and put an arrow or a dot, or ANYTHING other than this. Sigh... This is a big blow, especially when you gather how large these maps actually are and all the intricacies within them.

Now onto another thing that is kind of pointless, but for other reasons. The characters Strife and War. Now you're thinking, why are these pointless? The reason is, when we first see Strife, we see a fleeting glimpse in Darksiders III of him going to wage war on an oncoming demon army. Now, in Darksiders Genesis you get to upgrade your character and unlock abilities, but that's the problem. War isn't how we left him and there’s no sort of "backstory" as to why he now needs to go around upgrading his abilities. Strife is the exact same way.

There are three abilities that each character must unlock by obtaining them, 3 distinct gear slots that you have to obtain to unlock, and finally, each character also comes with a unique skill wheel that pertains to their character. You have to also obtain these as well. If these are supposed to be the horsemen of the apocalypse, then why are they always so weak to begin with? I understand that developers want to give something the gamer should work for, but you could also increase the challenge on a fully powered character and get the same effect. Alas, in Darksiders Genesis you'll be forced into navigating the levels and figuring out how to access these upgrades and unlocks. Good thing you have a good map system to guide you right?

The game controls are pseudo simplistic. The Left Stick moves the character while the Right is where you aim your focus for your attack. Your bumpers and triggers do different things depending on the character you're controlling, but your Right Bumper calls up your skills menu where you can select X, Y, or B to perform a unique skill. For example, if you're controlling War, pressing RB with X performs a massive AOE attack that sends blades up in circles around him that deal massive damage and knock enemies back. If you're controlling Strife though, pressing RB with X causes Strife to move out of the way exposing a shadow clone of himself that fires at enemies with ammo that can not only pierce through, but also bounce off surfaces and draw the aggro of surrounding enemies.

The transformations into Havoc forms exist, and while we are accustomed to War, Strife's form is interesting, as he seemingly turns into a massive demon with some truly overpowered swords and what appears to be a minigun. Along with the havoc form, since there are two horsemen to play as, there is a special link attack as well. Let's say you're playing as War. You're killing enemies left and right and this little bar builds under your character's wrath that is your link gauge. After you've done enough action your meter will be full. During this time, you can hold down A and Strife will come in and essentially perform a screen clearing, Quentin Tarintino shooting scene that decimates everything.

There is a new tree that focuses on Demon orbs. These orbs come from fallen enemies and consist of both minor and major quality. There are three classes for these orbs which I'll call health, attack and wrath. This tree allows you to insert these Demon orbs into these slots that will grant you upgraded powers such as increased damage, increased wrath time/power, more souls, etc. Now should you match a slot on the tree with the corresponding orb (attack slot + attack category orb) then you will receive an extra bonus to your enhancement. This is particularly helpful when you also realize that the slots range from tier 1 to 3, where 3 provides you the biggest bonuses. This means you have to choose your orbs wisely, but the customization options are endless since you don't HAVE to go for these extra bonuses if you don't want to. This tree is a wonderful addition to the game and one of the best parts of it. To obtain these orbs you can either farm through the game's levels or you can enter the arena and go through all the stages for a really easy way to max them out.

The graphics of the levels are nice sometimes, good most of the time and meh sometimes. There's one massive flaw though in this game's development and that comes with the boss fights. Once you get Strife upgraded through the tree, he literally becomes a one-man wrecking crew with his guns. When he fires and hits, he builds a meter that when full, unlocks his full shooting ability and you can unlock a charged version of his secondary ammo. Secondary ammo? Yes, outside of the infinite standard ammo (which honestly, you'll use 99.5% of the time and be perfectly fine with), you get the ability to have different types of shots from your guns.

You can fire chain lightning like a Sith lord, you can fire a gravity shot that acts like a mini black hole on enemies or how about healing shots that act like a shotgun blast that converts shots landed on your opponents to health orbs (this is a GREAT way to survive long rounds in the arena but you don't get this shot till later on in the game). When you reach a boss, Strife literally just needs to go in a circle (if possible) and strafe and shoot until the enemy is dead. This makes the fights incredibly boring. What about those who you can't orbit while firing? Simple, switch into Strife's havoc form, target the boss and literally do not let go of the trigger. The damage inflicted will be incredible which will allow you to simply mop up the rest when you break from the form.

This hurts the game because Darksiders is always about the massive boss fights and you don't really get that sensation here. Sure, the character models themselves are big (sometimes) but there's no real grand scale since we are looking from the top-down. This is where I felt a detachment from the Darksiders genre. I would have given anything to switch into a 3rd person point of view for the boss fights and just alter the controls for a time being and really produce something incredible. Sadly, that isn't found here. Just like Dark Helmet said, "Keep Firing" and you'll beat any boss with very little trouble.

Another letdown are the cutscenes themselves. Done in a scenic still display with narration rather than actual movie cutscene, these moments helped showcase the grandeur of the characters and the roles that they play. I'll even admit it, I miss the old Vulgrim. Darksiders Genesis could have done so much with all the characters, especially with Samael. However, we do get the voice actors at least (thankfully) so I guess that's something? Speaking of the audio, that has to be my favorite part. There are scenes of choirs chanting, melodies ringing, beats driving and I loved hearing every minute of it. I think it was easily the part I enjoyed the most.

I would talk about the camera system but honestly, I don't want to beat a dead horse... I'll just say that it's fixed position would be OK if there was absolutely never any level design feature that would have served better through a rotational camera. Say when trying to traverse around poles, ledges and performing jumps and glides that require precision. Think of the camera system like the quality of "map 2.0" and that should sum up how absolutely terrible it can be at times. OK so I did actually talk about the camera, you'll be glad I did.

Darksiders Genesis is heavily flawed. If you're thinking it's simply Diablo with a Darksiders skin you're going to be disappointed. Darksiders Genesis is a cheap Diablo knockoff that doesn't provide the same spectacle that made the previous 3 games the iconic status that they are. Despite all of that though, I LOVE DARKSIDERS GENESIS. Yes I'll tolerate the worst map ever, a camera and movement system that makes me want to hunt down the developers and deal with all the problems of level design and boss development, because I enjoyed playing the hell out of it. A game doesn't have to be perfect to be fun and Darksiders Genesis proves that to be true.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Zombie Army 4: Dead War

Zombie shooters have been popular for ages. Wielding weapons that unleash tremendous amounts of punishment, caution is thrown to the wind and you live and die by your ammo count. Rebellion has thrown their hat into the ring with Zombie Army 4: Dead War, and if you ever wanted a game where you literally killed everything you see, this is it. Stealth has been replaced by survival and Rebellion has decided that while killing Hitler in the Sniper Elite games was fun, killing zombie Hitler and his army of the dead would be even more so. Because why not right? Let's see if Rebellion can take a bite out of the Zombie shooter genre.

The premise of the game itself couldn't be simpler. The main hero from the Sniper Elite series returns, Karl Fairburne, and he has been called into action because of a "Plan B" that Hitler was working on; a way to raise the dead and have an unlimited army at his control. Well, in war, there's no shortage of bodies, so you can imagine the size of the army that you're up against. It’s up to you to go back into the fight and this time, kill Hitler... umm... again. I guess make him more dead this time. If we are honest with each other though, playing this game for the story makes as much sense as having a screen door as your boat hull.

That story will carry you through vast, detailed terrains that follow a basic formula, to create chokepoints and force action upon you. It sets the pace of the game well and allows you to have moments when you can catch your breath and reload. While you navigate these sandbox levels you'll come face to face with some of the most incredible undead enemies you've ever faced. Hitler wasn't playing around, and because this game doesn't take itself too seriously you can expect some insane, over the top moments. Sure, you have your basic walking zombie, but this is Zombie Army 4 and it's time to go big. Ever face a colossal zombie great white shark? What if you had a zombie tank coming after you? If you want to survive you have to balance your stamina and utilize your environment to your benefit.

The environment itself is unique throughout the levels. With a wide-open sandbox at your disposal you have many paths before you. Each level provides it's unique "feel" and that really helped break up the monotony of go here, shoot everything and repeat. Also, I was a big fan of the lighting effects in the game and yes, being a zombie game doesn't mean bright and colorful, but what is done with fire and the light sources is done brilliantly. The levels do look amazing, but at the same time, provide some shortcomings. For example, they are done with such detail that there were some incredibly creepy moments right from the start. However, on the negative side, there are graphical glitches sometimes with the kill cam along with the environment itself. None of the glitches were anything that became game breaking, but even though there were some negative ones, there were some weird ones as well.

There was a typewriter that was sitting in a room that had debris in it and I could interact with it, so I did and the type writer prints up a message on a blank page that says "They want to play with you..." and then the paper goes back into the typewriter. I interact with it again and it says "HAHAHAHAHA...". I repeat the process and this time the message says "Don't look behind you...". So of course, I do and there's 6 Anabelle-like dolls with a pentagram in blood on the wall behind them and they screamed so loud it almost made my ears hurt before they vanished. I went back to the typewriter and it kept giving me different messages (over 20) but no repeat of the dolls. This level of detail is amazing to experience all throughout the game and really adds to the enjoyment. You know what else adds enjoyment to a zombie game? Guns. Lots of guns.

This is Rebellion and their Sniper Elite weapon customization makes a wonderful return in Zombie Army 4, and being a zombie game, we just can't have weapons without ways of customizing and upgrading them. Through the use of upgrade kits you can go to town on your favorite weapons and really turn them into items of immense damage. Thankfully you'll be able to see what the stats are of weapons so you can choose which one works best for your style of play. For example, some weapons allow you to opt for "healing bullets" over increase in damage output. Yes, shooting your teammate with bullets will heal them. It's a zombie game, I don't know. Even handguns can become powerful hand cannons if upgraded properly, so make sure to keep an eye out for upgrade kits. You can find upgrade kits throughout the levels, but you can also gain them for completing challenges. Each level gives you challenges and upon completion of them, you can earn upgrade kits as well. I found that this tremendously helped the replayability factor for the story levels.

I cannot stress enough though how your chances of survival increase dramatically with the increase in ammo storage. As your character levels up themselves you'll be able to use perks which will become a blessing as you literally will have moments when you see no end in sight. Use these perks wisely and you will make it out alive. Thankfully to do that, your control scheme from previous Sniper Elite games makes a return, and the more modern setup makes for a hell of a lot of fun, especially when that kill cam gives you that zoomed-in-gan-explosion.

Although, what would a good zombie game be without a horde mode right? Rebellion has you covered. Their horde mode is what you would come to expect from other games and requires tremendous teamwork to survive. You get an option to leave around wave 12 and this is the game basically giving you that last chance, because once you get into wave 13, you're there till you drop. This mode is incredibly fun, and I can easily see how this will drain many, many hours out of your life and each one will leave you smiling ear to ear.

Rebellion absolutely killed it with this release of Zombie Army 4: Dead War. Everything we love from the Sniper Elite series is tailored into an intense yet amazing experience that will satisfy any zombie craving you could ever want. When you take a game concept and simplify it, you have a greater chance at perfection and Rebellion came damn close. A few graphical bugs were really the only negatives, which is honestly, an amazing thing to say given how other top tier games have far more going wrong for it. Priced at $49.99, Zombie Army 4: Dead War is one of the best shooters for value that you can find on the market.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

Hot on the heels of the groundbreaking Baldur's Gate I & II Enhanced Editions, Beamdog is at it again bringing the spectacular world of D&D to life in both Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale, and both releases are getting the "Enhanced Edition" treatment. Both games offer you a top down view that we all have come to love, but there are some dramatic differences between the two games. This means that there are some new tweaks and changes, but is this going to be enough to deliver a quality gaming experience, or should we retire these titles to the oblivion of the past?

I say the past because these games both came out around the turn of the century when many of you who may be reading this now weren't even born yet. Back in the gaming days of old, game developers needed to keep people playing their games even without DLC to purchase. They did that by making their games incredibly challenging, and we find that tradition hasn't been broken in this bundled release, also offering options for gamers to experience the game utilizing real D&D 2nd Edition rulesets. Without question, one of the largest innovations relating to difficulty to come from this new release has to be the Story mode difficulty in Icewind Dale, which actually eliminates the chance for your character to perish. Think of this as the ultimate easy mode for those who wish to enjoy the story of the game itself.

In Planescape: Torment however, you may wish for that ease of difficulty. Planescape opens with a classic computer-generated introduction movie that sets the stage for your character who wakes from certain death with amnesia and can't remember things such as, who they are, how they got there or whom put them there. Utilizing the guide at the beginning that happens to be a talking skull named Morte, you'll be guided through the walkthrough and then you and your team will be diving into the story which unfolds as you experience some of the best quality writing that can be found in a RPG.

Planescape: Torment's graphics don't appear to be as dynamic as Icewind, or even Baldur's Gate, so out of all the recent D&D releases, this one stands out as the weakest graphically, but the real downfall of this game involves the combat itself. With the hidden roll system determining your fate, there are numerous times when you think your character will easily defeat an enemy, only to suffer mortal wounds as your blows miss wildly and yet, somehow, the opponents you face don't seem to be so unlucky. This type of imbalance isn't found in Icewind and is a dynamic contrast in gameplay that may not have aged so well. That isn't though to say that there's no joy to be found though.

With what could be argued as one of the most dynamic storylines ever written, the audio that blankets this game comes to life by the dialogue that is presented throughout the game itself. While the combat may be challenging and the graphics on the mediocre side, it goes a long way that the audio of this game actually does more for the delivery of the story than anything else. These details are very apparent as well when you start talking about who should join your party and jumping into their histories. The level of detail far exceeds what we will see on most modern-day games today and highlights something that seems to have been lost over the ages; quality storytelling.

The companion title to Planescape: Torment is Icewind Dale, and as stated earlier, offers a little bit easier setting for those who wish to just pick up and jump right in. This is also where you will find a more traditional D&D experience with character creation, party creation and so forth. The gameplay does offer some areas to explore, but for the most part, gamers will find themselves more along a predetermined pathway with the core focus being combat. Already graphically better than Planescape, Icewind Dale tells the story of Jerrod who makes the typical ultra-hero move and sacrifices himself to save the land from an army of evil creatures, and then picks up the story right with your party.

While Icewind Dale packs a tremendous amount of new content, the biggest inclusion has to be cross platform multiplayer. Yes, you read that correctly. Now you can play with other people on other platforms right on your Xbox One! In today's world when we have games that come out that don't offer multiplayer even on the same platform, to offer this on a game that came out back at the turn of the century is pretty amazing and should sound an alarm to all developers that if a game that is almost 2 decades old can do this, so can they.

There are a couple of gripes though that I must touch on. First, in Icewind Dale, the combat can become so hectic at times that it's not uncommon for you to lose all objectivity within the battle. This makes party management absolutely critical and can make you more than dependent upon the ability to pause, survey the action going on and then queue up commands. The next issue is shared amongst both titles, and that is the menu system. While both share a similar menu system, both are equally cumbersome and derail a lot of momentum that the game itself builds for the audience. While these may seem like small issues, when you take into account how often you'll be trying to navigate the menu systems or pausing to direct the combat and make sure you don't lose your grip on the battle, they rapidly become pretty large over time.

Despite these faults, Beamdog has done something that, until it was released, was only a myth. With the release of Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale: Enhanced Editions, Beamdog has once again delivered an experience that will last well over 200 hours combined and produce stories that will captivate your imagination and leave you spellbound. What would normally cost you $49.99 is currently on sale and can be found for only $29.99, which makes this release from Beamdog a must have for anyone who is a fan of RPG games.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts

There are few first-person shooter games that prioritize stealth, adaptation and military tactics. For the most part, it's the same methodology that we've experienced for decades. Spawn in, run around, kill people, die, respawn and repeat. This formula is literally the foundation of a lot of games, but what if there was a game that challenged that status quo? CI Games tries to tackle that very notion with their latest installment of their Sniper Ghost Warrior games, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts. Let's take a look through our scope and see just what this latest release is all about. Stay focused Seeker.

The last word of that title should already tell us a few things. First off, this really isn't a sequel to Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, and the word Contracts indicate multiple options/targets. In Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts (SGWC) you play the role of a Seeker. One who is contracted out for a variety of specific tasks and paid accordingly by your boss, The Handler. Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts takes place after Siberia went to war for independence against Russia, and in typical fashion, once the war was over, the corrupt took over, which is where you come in. The game is split into 5 massive sandbox areas, and while you may be sitting there and think, "only 5 areas?", what you would be missing is the fact that the size of these areas permits you to actively pursue multiple targets however you wish. To do that, you'll need some gear.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts offers up a few pieces of kit. You have throwable items such as throwing knives, frag grenades, EMP grenades, flashbangs, etc. and you have items that you can plant such as warning detectors (you plant them and when an enemy gets near, they're tagged and you're alerted) and mines (which can also be used in a gas form to target enemies and is very useful for patrolling enemy pairs). However, there are two items that will become invaluable to you; your drone and your remote sniper turret. Yup, in Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts you can outfit and even upgrade a sniper turret that can take out multiple enemies with a few button presses.

This turret can make small groups of enemies drop in moments and will become crucial to some strategy, but we're not done yet. There are still two more pieces of gear that are essential; your mask and your rock. Your mask is used by pressing 'LB' and acts as what you would use as your heads up display, as it allows you to see traps, highlight enemies, auto tag enemies, and when you upgrade it, even follow footprints of enemies to see where they went. Your last bit of kit I want to touch on is your rock. This tool will help you guide enemies to locations you want to use as a kill spot or steer them away from your location. Moving from cover to cover and utilizing a rock, you can gain access to even the hardest fortified areas without firing a shot. And speaking of shooting...

You're going to do a lot of it, but you need to learn the mechanics of the game in order to be successful. First, let's talk about your scope. There are multiple scopes for purchase, so I strongly suggest checking out the distance measurements as well as the magnification range. The more of each, the more detailed a shot you can get. Now that your scope is selected, you need to focus on what rifle you wish to use. Naturally you can expect a trade-off between power and noise suppression, and another trade-off between handling and preferred range. While some rifles are tailored for incredible range, I find that only a few times will I be engaging targets from over 400+ meters out, so based off how you play, this should be something to consider.

With all this gear and weaponry, you may think you're an incredible shot, but unless you practice the mechanics of shooting, all your gear means nothing. Let's say, for example, you have an enemy that is far away. You break out your binoculars or drone and tag the enemy and notice that the icon above his head reads 335m. Now you switch to your sniper rifle and take aim. You can manually adjust the zoom on the higher end scopes, so let's say you take the magnification up to 10x. Now you need to adjust the distance markers on your scope with the D-Pad until the number on the right of your scope reads 300.

You'll notice that the first tan line underneath 300 is either 325 or 400 depending on the scope, but let's say that it's 325 for this example. So, you make one final adjustment on your distance and cue up 325, and while you're doing this, you notice a dotted white line appearing intermittently about an inch from the center of the scope. This is the path of the bullet when it will be at the target, after factors such as elevation, distance and wind are factored in. Now, since your target is at 335 and your scope is dialed in to 325, you put the head of the target a little bit below the sights and line it up with the dotted line. Next, we hold our breath and pull the trigger. The 'bullet cam' doesn't always activate, so even if it doesn't load, you can still get an enemy kill.

All of this is important if you wish to take on your contracts which is what the bulk of this game is about. Each sandbox area carries with it at least 5 contracts. These contracts range from assassinating targets, retrieving items and even freeing prisoners. Within these sandbox levels also come with various challenges such as get 10 double kills, 2 kills with 1 sniper bullet, blow up 5 enemies, gas 3 enemies and so on. Each challenge will also pay you for your performance, so if you're looking to score some extra cash, this is the way to go. Also included in these levels are rival snipers (hey you thought you were the only big gun in town?) who are after you as well. If that weren't enough, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts also pack in a few bounties as well.

Just to do a quick recap, in one area you have your contracts, challenges, bounties and rivals. Completing all of this will seem incredibly daunting at first, but after a while you'll get the hang of it and how you need to go about planning your mission. Each one of these areas is prefaced with a video that goes into a generalized overview of your mission's contracts only. This lengthy introduction movie is also followed by a rather lengthy loading screen. Ultimately you will find some rather long load times when you play this game, however, should you have to reload a checkpoint the loading time is remarkably quick.

Now you're probably thinking that this game is incredible, and if it wasn't for the glitches and faults of the game, you would be right. For starters, the game has three difficulty modes. One of them I'm calling Blind mode, another I'm calling Normal mode and another I'm calling cheating overly sensitive mode. In their easiest mode, the field of view is relatively narrow and limited and takes a long time to 'dial in' on your position. This is thanks to a simple outline on the bottom right of the screen showing your character. Solid white means you're open and exposed. Solid black means you're hidden. This basic visual principle even applies to standing, so you can literally stand next to an enemy and have them not detect you as long as your character at the bottom right is solid black.

In normal mode, the field of view widens and the detection happens more rapidly. In cheating overly sensitive mode, every enemy becomes an omnipotent being of all knowledge that will be able to pick you off of a mountain edge at 400m with an assault rifle should you fart while crawling. This mode is what I like to call, comfort with restarting checkpoints mode and it's quite simple; either you kill your target with your first shot, or your position is then relayed to every enemy within the sandbox and they all descend upon you at once.

There are other issues as well that pertain to trying to navigate the levels themselves. Quite often I found myself getting stuck on invisible objects, or what I found to be the worst, instant running. I should point out that this happened quite often. I would take out some perimeter troops no problem, but then I would walk in a crouch position to eliminate sound (there's an upgrade where movement of any kind is silent). I would work my way to a point where I was just outside the target area and I wanted to do one last recon. Still crouched, I find some cover and send out my drone. I scan the area and realize that there's an enemy about 10m to my left. He's my target. Then, I go out of my drone and load up my rifle to see if there are any stragglers that I can pick off for engaging. With the coast clear I turn to go after my enemy that was just 10m away, but then it happens. Instant running.

Now, for whatever reason, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts thinks that I want to sprint as fast as I can to the target, so my character literally starts running towards the enemy. I was crouched but as soon as I started moving, my character it was instant running. Well of course the enemy heard that, turned towards me and opened fire. This caused me to restart my checkpoint and became a real pain in the ***. However, when you talk overpowered glitches, the enemy AI takes the cake hands down.

Let's say you're 800m away from your target and on top of a hill looking down at an industrial complex. You start tagging enemies and notice that there are some enemy turrets stationed throughout the place. They don't detect you as you're too far away; remember that fact. They... Don't... Detect... You. So you load a round into your rifle and shoot the turret that's oh say 750m away. Instantly, the turret starts locking in on your location and can see you with pinpoint accuracy. Just to quickly recap, these turrets go from not being able to see you at all to having the accuracy of Robin Hood in the form of an automatic gun turret, leaving me wondering"What the hell?". So now this turret is locking in on your position and you try to find cover, but in doing so you get stuck, because apparently the Sniper's feet get stuck on ledges? This stops all movement and also allows for the turret to lock in on your position and start firing. Now your cover is blown and it's time to start looking at restarting the checkpoint.

Other traversal issues arise as well. There were missions where I had to traverse side to side across ledges that I was hanging on. The problem with this is that the game doesn't allow your character to 'jump' to the next ledge at all. Instead you almost have to turn your field of view totally to the side to 'activate' the jump feature, and then you're jumping literally to the side and not to the ledge. Oh, and I forgot to mention that there IS fall damage. A LOT of fall damage. You may be a lot of things, but a sure-footed mountain goat that doesn't get hurt from a drop of 20 feet isn't one of them.

Another glitch comes from having a computer system that doesn't apply the same rules to the AI enemies as they do to you. Case in point, being in Siberia, the water you find there is obviously going to be freezing cold and you suffer tremendous damage should you have to swim in it for any period of time. That is, of course, unless you happen to be an enemy. There was a level where I was observing enemy positions on a dock where some boats were kept. I missed a shot and that sent the enemies into cover. Well, one of the enemies ended up taking cover behind a floating crate in the water. He was completely submerged in this water that damages me if I touch it, but yet he can camp there unscathed without any repercussions. This happened a few more times in the area and it became annoying because I was unable to try and interrogate them or even loot their bodies after I shot them in the water. However, I tried to loot their bodies thinking that there was some glitch in that area that I could do it and not get damaged; I was wrong.

Even though Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts has its share of faults and is far from perfect, it still has its moments of beauty. The sandbox levels feel unique and offer a variety of terrain styles to navigate through, the lighting effects are done well and the game offers a lot of various options for how you want to actually pursue the contracts. When you get down into the details though of the items in the game, you get the sense that this could use some more time in the oven to cook as it feels a bit unpolished at times, especially when observing the military vehicles.

Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts offers a lot in a surprisingly small package, however, with all the glitches and errors, there is just some guilty pleasure I get when I drop a sniper from 500m+. With a lackluster story mode that means relatively nothing, some graphics that are good but not great, an army of glitches at its disposal and no bullet X-Ray kill cam, this game is far from perfect, and at $40 maybe even a bit overpriced. When you think of all the content you get for that price however, Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts just may be on your radar.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Baldur’s Gate & Baldur's Gate II Enhanced Edition

Growing up a child of the 80's, it's fair to say that I've developed a unique perspective of the gaming industry, and more specifically, the RPG tabletop style games. This came in the form of an iconic series that's still played to this day; Dungeons and Dragons. What started in book form with physical dice has digitally transformed into what could be called a "genre defining" title, Baldur's Gate. This game released back in 1998 (some of you reading this weren't even born yet) and it become the definition of an icon, legend, myth or whatever word best befits a game that helped shape CRPGs to this very day. Many moons have passed since the game's original release and now RPG games are focused on player UI, graphics, story, or at least they should be.

Very few games have made such an impact on the industry as Baldur's Gate, and it's easy to see why. Baldur's Gate offers an immensely in-depth character creation and gaming experience that always feels fresh and very challenging at the same time. This is because Baldur's Gate focuses on delivering the quality classic experience that made it legendary. Rather than bowing to the community that would demand "pretty" graphics and a more "modern" take on the game, Beamdog decided to bring this iconic staple back to life in all its original glory, and I love that.

That means that this game isn't some hyper reality visual masterpiece that you find in current RPG games that have 15 entries, but rather 1998 graphics done in beautiful detail. Yes, the pixels are back and very tiny! The environments are steps above what you would find back in the 1980's, but nothing like you have come to expect from today's games obviously. While other games have incredible lighting effects, Baldur's Gate does not. I cannot stress this enough, as this is classic gaming at is absolute finest, so if you're expecting something different, then you're going to be disappointed.

As I stated before, Baldur's Gate is a pure Dungeons & Dragons experience. You start off by choosing your difficulty. There are 7 levels to select from which, as you may have guessed already, get progressively harder. Just as you would expect to have variety of difficulty, you also have more choices when pertaining to the type of character you want to play as. Not only do you have your basic single class characters, but in Baldur's Gate you have 2 and even 3 class characters. Now, before you go off thinking you're going to be some trifecta God that can steal anything undetected, pick any lock without fault, slay any enemy with more physical power than a deity, and conjure up the most devastating magic by selecting these multiple class characters, you will have drawbacks including not being able to master weapons, etc. This is because Baldur's Gate is setup so that you can play how you want.

While you may be able to play how you want, Baldur's Gate will implore you to play as a team and as you progress along in the game, and you'll be glad you did. You're guided along your quest by a narrator which acts as the game's dungeon master, and throughout the game you will be faced with moments that will define your character. How you choose to interact with these moments will encapsulate how your character is viewed by your party and will affect the dynamic in which they interact with you. These are all mechanics we find in today's top of the line RPG games that capture our imaginations for days, weeks and months, but games like Baulder's Gate is where we can trace some of the earliest examples of this.

To say that the customization level of the game is deep is like saying there's a few grains of sand on a beach. If you're familiar with D&D and those massively detailed character sheets, you'll understand and appreciate just how well they transferred over to the console, but if you don't want to spend all this time creating your character from scratch there are tons of presets that you can activate and just jump right into the game. This aspect helps cater to the hardcore and casual fans simultaniously.

Earlier I touched on how the graphics of Baldur's Gate seem dated, but when you dive into the realm itself you'll see just how open and expansive this land really is. While the visuals of what you can see will be shown via a revealing circle, the fact that you can see the land itself and plan is paramount when talking strategy. One thing I have to make note about, the one thing that has aged like fine wine is the soundtrack. I found the voice acting to be better than average, but nothing, and I repeat, nothing compares to the soundtrack itself. The chords and melodies that construct every second of audio within this game is reason enough to make it one of your top favorite games of all time.

With this "bundle" you get Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, but if you jump right into 2 you will effectively ruin all of the first story, and if you have never played the first release, the game should almost lock you out of playing the second because the story is one of the best ever experiences in the video game industry. This "experience" however, wouldn't be possible unless the great minds of Beamdog figured out a way to allow the user to interact with all the endless menus and selections and sub-menus all from an Xbox controller. It really is a tremendous feat to see what kind of UI interaction Beamdog created using the limited controls that you find on a console controller rather than a keyboard with many more keys.

This new interface is an absolute blessing but it's not the only new thing in town. Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition also brings to the table some brand new classes and characters than what was available back in 1998, but guess what makes its debut after all this time? MULTIPLAYER! Yes, now you can dive into this D&D experience with your friends and really enjoy everything that Baldur's Gate has to offer. These upgrades help solidify why Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 became iconic staples and foundations of an entire genre of future gaming.

In today's world, you can pay full retail price for a RPG experience and most people expect a grand cinematic interactive experience, and an overwhelming majority of the time they are disappointed. Not in the pretty graphics, or the sounds, but in the story. Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 provide what could arguably be called the greatest RPG experience ever found on a digital platform (even better than Final Fantasy VII). Yes, the graphics are dated, but now they are 4K dated, and the audio sounds better than ever before, and the story you find in both games is the reason why for $49.99, Baldur's Gate Enhanced Editions is the best value for money that ever existed on any outlet to date.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Surge 2, The

When game sequels come out, I'm always cautious as to how the developer took the input from the community to build the latest release. I will openly admit upfront that I never played the original Surge before so jumping into The Surge 2, so I wondered if I was going to be confused or if there was some type of backstory that I needed to brush up on first. Thankfully, this sequel has nothing to do with the first game, so if you're like me and haven't played the first game, then don't worry. In this sequel, developer Deck 13 doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, but rather deliver a more robust experience to create an entirely new and enjoyable experience. How do they do that? Well, let me explain.

The Surge 2 starts you off by selecting and customizing your character. In the previous Surge you took control of a character named Warren, but rather than continue a story that ended on a cliffhanger, Deck 13 lets you customize your character. This new hero awakens after a crash into a place called Jericho City, where you have no idea as to what is going on, but yet for some reason, you're directed by a sort of phantom little girl. The main story behind The Surge 2 opens up throughout the game with more of the mystery being unveiled, but your choices will determine the outcome of the ending.

The Surge 2 follows along the "Souls" style of gameplay where your ability to block, dodge and parry will become your saving grace. Along from the previous entry returns the dismemberment system that, some could say, is the entire crux of the gameplay system. In The Surge 2, you're able to auto lock on an enemy by pressing in the Right Stick, then you can move the stick to target various parts of your assailant (head, left or right arm, chest, etc..). Now when you select the various targets you may see a blue circle or a yellow shield, which represent either armored sections or not. While you may be correct that a non-armored section of the enemy is weaker than an armored section, if you want the gear, you got to break the armor.

When you are fighting an enemy you may see the 'X' button appear during your fight, and it's at this point that if you hold the 'X' button down, a killing sequence will occur and you stand a chance to gain blueprints for gear that you can craft using the scrap. So, let's say you see someone wielding a plasma cutting torch and you want that weapon. You press in the 'RS' to lock onto the enemy and slide the stick to the left to select the opponent's right arm (remember you're looking at them, so your selection would be reversed). Then you proceed to attack, and during your combos you see and press the 'X' prompt and now your character goes into a sequence that dismembers the arm off the body and kills the enemy. Your spoils for this fight? Why your own plasma cutting torch that you can craft and then upgrade throughout the game.

This is how the game essentially functions and this is also how grinding should be. Case in point; when I first started out, I worked on my blocking, dodging and parrying skills in the very early moments on weaker opponents. Once I got my defensive skills down to where I was comfortable, I would progress onward to the next medical station (think of these as your "checkpoints") where I would spend my scrap to upgrade what I could, construct what I could and level up my character, and then I went back to the grind.

I would go back through my earlier areas, as the enemies respawn every time you enter a medical chamber (much like a Dark Souls bonfire), and in doing so, target other pieces of the enemy. If I got a weapon one time, I'd go for the chest and try and get an armor blueprint, or I'd go for the head and go for an implant blueprint. I would literally work on these types of cycles in an area, and once I had the blueprints, I would then go back through the cycles some more and go for upgrade parts and more scrap. As I said before, this is what is regarded as the currency of the game and is used for basically everything.

When you spend scrap to level up your character you can upgrade your health so you can take more damage, or you can upgrade your stamina so you can do more attacks, or you can upgrade your battery charge capabilities for your exoskeleton so you can hold more charges for health (like a health potion that essentially charges based on combat, so the more you fight the more you can heal yourself). Upgrading your character also allows you to equip more implants that your character can use to improve themselves. One of the implants that I have grown fond of is one that allows you target any "area" of an enemy and no matter the angle at which you attack, so that you will always hit that designated spot. This is invaluable because if you target the right arm, but swing and hit the left, then you'll just damage the enemy, but you won't hit your target.

Scrap is also used to construct items from blueprints. At medical stations you can make any item from blueprints so long as you have enough scrap to make them. Scrap is also used in part to upgrade your items, but the main ingredient for that would be an "item specific" scrap. What do I mean by that? Certain scrap from level 1 items, level 2, etc. This is what I was gaining by grinding these cycles over and over again. Now, as you level up an item, you obviously have no more use for the certain level scrap, so you move onto the next area. Should you die though, your scrap remains where you perished, and you respawn back at the nearest medical station along with all the enemies between you and your scrap. As you fight your way back, and acquiring more scrap along the way, you'll notice your scrap is on a timer, which when expires, will vanish. Should you die again as well on your way, you will lose that scrap. Plan wisely.

This scrap, as you progress, will become your most challenging balancing act, because as you increase in levels, so does the cost of scrap. Meaning you'll be finding yourself taking bigger risks thinking that you can stretch yourself just a little further, and that's when you'll usually expire. While it may seem a bit overwhelming at times, early on in the game you'll come into contact with your new best friend; your combat drone. This little guy can be dispatched by pressing the 'Y' button and then pressing the button again to fire. Whatever you have locked and targeted (for example, and enemy's head) the drone will shoot at. You can find ammo scattered throughout, but the real fun comes when you start upgrading the weapons on the drone. That's when The Surge 2 really has you feel like you're an unstoppable force and the game really kicks into gear.

There are a few downsides however, but they aren't game breakers by any means. The first drawback has to deal with the graphics. When you're on the Xbox One X and trying to bang away at 4k resolution, the game doesn't look that smooth and the character modeling doesn't seem to be at current gen levels. To compensate though, the game does offer some very nice effects and a new RPG choice system in your dialogue that will affect the outcome. I'm OK with that. There are some other points to note as well. Graffiti makes a return and throughout the game you can place tags around and rate them, point towards hidden items, etc. Also, just because you may be alone, doesn't mean that you're alone on the network. Whenever you see an enemy that's designated a Revenge Enemy, that is an enemy that has killed another Xbox player in their game. Should you kill it, you'll gain bonus materials. I'm sure I've already got an army out there for people to vanquish.

When you have a fairly well-done RPG element, story choice, character upgrades and development, smooth combat and a gameplay system that allows for a fluid experience, you have The Surge 2. If you're a fan of "Souls" style gaming, then Deck 13 has a very solid title for you to experience. It may not be on the same level as other "Souls" style games, but what it does deliver is amazing amounts of entertainment and fun. Bring on the sequel.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Tom Clancy has, arguably, one of the most popular IP stables in the history of gaming. Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon are all iconic series that push adventure and excitement to entirely new levels. The latest installment, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, provides us with a diverse adventure on the tropical island of Aurora. It goes without saying that Breakpoint has very big shoes to fill, given that it’s predecessor, Wildlands, was a wonderful game. Does this trend continue in Breakpoint or do the hopes of this latest Ghost Recon game go up in smoke? Lock and load because we’re going to tackle the latest Ubisoft game in the Tom Clancy series.

Starting things off, you’ll notice that this game has a gigantic day one patch, so to save time on the install I’m suggesting you take your console offline (if you have the disc version) and install the game, and then bring the console online and then download the patch. If you’ve got the digital copy, my condolences. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint follows the adventures of Nomad and Walker. If you haven’t played the connective mission in Wildlands that gives you some background insight into the relationship here between the two, I strongly suggest you do so, otherwise you will essentially be jumping into a story that is partially told already and things may not make sense. In Breakpoint, Walker has essentially formed an army of ghosts that are called the Wolves. These characters travel in packs (just like ghosts), wear protective gear that makes them harder to kill (again, just like ghosts) but use the same tactics you would (for instance, flash bang an area to blind your opponent before going in guns blazing). You will find that these enemies practically require precise head shots to drop them (or a helicopter rocket fire is another great way).

Walker has structured his Wolves just like you would expect any other military bad guy to do so. Of course, Walker is at the top, but below him are a few select Wolves called, Alpha Wolves. These are your sub-bosses that unlock the main boss Walker. It’s a structure that we have seen before in the past and allows for nice organization of missions, and it’s here on your mission board where you can dive into everything Breakpoint has to offer. Like Wildlands before it, Breakpoint allows you to tailor your mission selections so you can work on what you want, when you want to. If you want to prolong the 28 main story missions, then dive into over 25 side missions and explore some of Aurora’s best kept secrets, or tackle the faction’s missions and help the Homesteaders reclaim their island.

I’m not going to dive into the story too much, but if you don’t want to play the mission in Wildlands, here you go; Walker felt betrayed by the CIA and the country he swore to protect. He leaves and joins a private military group (Sentinel) and basically becomes the general of the army. This army became employed by Skell Tech, a company on the island of Aurora that is fixated on creating a Utopian society. Free from disease, poverty, hunger and violence, Aurora was supposed to be a paradise. Until that is, Skell Tech partners with Sentinel and their technology is used to create drones of incredible power and lethality. It is this very tech which managed to sink a ship that was headed towards the island, and that’s where Nomad and his ghosts are brought into the picture. They depart with several helicopters from a carrier that’s sitting offshore and are on their way to investigate the island and figure out what sank the ship. This is when the helicopters are attacked and are torn out of the sky by hundreds of these tiny drones. You survive the crash (got to have a main character to play right?) but the status of your own crew is MIA and presumed dead. What does this mean? This means get ready for a solo fight.

In Breakpoint, you’ll tackle this adventure alone. Personally though, I miss the team. While the AI was a times “less than efficient”, when you combined them with the drone and decided to play the game from a tactical position, it made Wildlands incredibly fun. You don’t have that here. Rather than use your drone and team to sync up your shots, now you have these sync shot drones which are a pain to use. Normally, you would think you could just mark enemies from your drone like last time. Nope. Instead you have to spend a slot in your utility wheel and equip a sync shot drone and then target your enemies through your scope, not your drone. This becomes quite cumbersome and detracts from the gameplay that we had before. This is sadly, a step backwards for me, but what’s even more regrettable is that this isn’t the last step either.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint offers you a central location which acts as your “hub” if you will. Here you will find various individuals that can deal with missions, a store that allows you to buy items, weapons, etc. and locations for PvP actions in Ghost War. This mode pits two teams of players against each other and can get really intense if you’re not in a group relaying information to each other. It’s here that you see that this Ghost Recon is trying to be almost like the Division game of Ghosts. Where Wildlands had its own unique identity, you feel that they literally tweaked some mechanics of Division and just stuck them all on an island. To me this seems lazy because it loses the feel of what a Ghost Recon game should be. Rather than develop on the Wildlands identity, it feels like Ubisoft took everything they had from Wildlands and literally just threw it all in the trash. Unfortunately, there’s more broken about this game than good and there’s very little “Ghost Recon” and quite a bit “Tropical Division”.

One of the qualities of Breakpoint is that it allows you to pin up to 3 missions that you want. They can be any kind, just mix and match however you want. The problem here is that when you’re looking at your character and you have your missions pinned to the screen, there is well over 40% total coverage which blocks and inhibits your field of view, ultimately leading you to have tunnel vision as you can’t see your peripherals very well. This could be solved by backing the camera a little further away rather than close enough to do a colonoscopy. This clustered view continues onto the map as well. When you call up the map, you’ll notice how it is divided into several regions. These regions will range in difficulty and character level, but like your field of view in the game, become so overly populated and crowded with information that you would literally pay someone at Ubisoft to code in a map filter, but sadly you get none.

This means that when you go and look to where your mission objectives are, you have tons of little circles of all various meaning that are sprinkled throughout your view and finding out where you have to go next can be quite challenging. The best way I’ve found to help quickly identify the area(s) I need to go to, I turn in the game to face my objective, call up my map, and then move the cursor in the direction I’m facing. Otherwise, I’m zoomed all the way out trying to find what little circle is my next objective. It can be challenging at times. I wish I could say this was it for the problems folks, but there are other issues I discovered with the gameplay as well. Multiple times I found that vaulting over an object when there was another object on the other side led to my character being frozen within the vaulting animation (so basically my character looked like he was falling with his arms in the air) and I was unable to move. I tried crouching using the 'B' button but that didn’t work, I tried running but that didn’t work and I even tried vaulting with the 'A' button, but that didn’t work either. You know what did work? Completely shutting the game down and restarting it.

There’s another gameplay bug that ties right into the new leveling system of Breakpoint. Now, you have the option to select various classes, and each class unlocks with it, its own perks that alter the game in unique ways. Each one of these classes can be ranked up by going through the various stages of the class by doing various challenges. For example, in the Assault class you may have to kill 3 enemies within 20 seconds of each other which you’ll have to do 5 times. Well on Level 8 of the assault class, you have to kill over 20 enemies with an assault or shotgun without reloading. I killed my first guy, second, third, and worked my way up to 15 and then old habits kicked in and I reloaded. My counter then reset to 1 instead of 0 and now I can no longer advance my class. I tried things such as switching classes at a bivouac and then switching back after a kill, but no such luck. Apparently now, if I want to go for level 9 or 10 in the Assault class, I have to start a brand-new character. Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

While we are on the topic of gameplay, the cover system in this game is downright horrible at best and non-existent at its worst. Trying to get into cover will find you fidgeting constantly with your character, and God forbid you wish to shoot someone while you’re in cover, you’ll find that your aim (when you peek around corners, not over boxes) that your sights are half covered by your cover and find yourself trying to lean further out which eventually will break your cover and leave you exposed. I would rather see a snap-to system where you can enter and exit cover with a button press, that way it would be more manageable when you’re playing to effectively utilize cover. Other bugs that pertain to gameplay involve going into prone position, and when you lay flat you fall straight through the ground (I have a clip of my character doing that, it’s pretty interesting), having mission characters unable to move or talk to you which prevents you from completing missions so you have to restart them, and so much more. With all this talk about bugs, glitches, and disappointment, I figured I continue the tradition and talk about something that really gets to me. Breakpoint requires you to have an online connection to play. No offline playing for anyone.

Outside of the gameplay bugs and glitches, Breakpoint fails as well with the weapon customization. 7 years ago, Ubisoft unveiled a system to modify aspects of your weapon and show any/all benefits/bonuses in real time, and it had a tremendous amount of customization options. Now fast forward to 2019 and you’ll find nothing but a shell of what it used to be. Why was this included this way? Here’s the more important question: who at Ubisoft looked at this and thought that this skimmed down version of weapon customization was a good idea? This shortsightedness may go unnoticed for so long until they decided to go and put their entire inventory of EVERYTHING behind in-game purchases and real currency. Are you impatient? Don’t want to tackle a Behemoth to try and gain a weapon blueprint? Ubisoft is here to offer you a way you can bypass all the grinding and just become “instant soldier” by giving Ubisoft more of your money.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint’s character customization is broken down into a few areas. For starters, your gear score becomes your best friend. This is taken from other games, but if you’ve never experienced it, your gear score is a summary of all the gear you have equipped (clothing and weaponry). There are also various typical tiers of items that range in colors of value such as white, green, blue, purple and yellow. Each weapon can be broken down for components to upgrade, or it can be sold for credits at the store. Your character can carry 300 points of inventory, and one gun counts as 1 point. When you dismantle a weapon you gain components, and like you’d expect, if you dismantle a high-end weapon, you get high end components. One issue I talk about later involves the gunsmith itself, but while we’re talking about weaponry, if you want to be able to max out your weapon’s potential, you’ll need to invest skill points into the MK2 and MK3 tiers of the skill tree which are immediately on the right hand side.

What is the skill tree you ask? The second aspect of your character is your leveling system. In the next menu over from your inventory is your player skill tree. Here you will unlock the 4 classes (Assault, Panther, Sharpshooter, Medic) and be able to branch into numerous trees from a central hub. Each one of these classes have their own unique item and ability. Assault carries with them gas grenades and their skill of True Grit which offers healing of your character with every kill. The Medic carries a medkit into the field and has a unique skill of a healing drone. Panther class is equipped with a cloaking spray that can make you invisible from drones for 60 seconds and has a skill called cloak and run. Finally, your Sharpshooter packs a sensor launcher that is basically a recon grenade that outlines enemies in range, with their skill called armor buster, where you get 3 rounds of increased damage and penetration (this is VERY nice to have when you go against a Behemoth). You gain skill points through leveling up your XP level and finding them in chests. Once you hit XP level 30 though it stops as that is the cap (for now). Some skills in the tree are equipped automatically while others have to be equipped to gain their benefits. You can equip up to 3 skills so make sure you chose wisely for how you enjoy playing. One of the perks allows your mini map to highlight nearby resources for collecting. This is a great bonus as you can see resources for crafting, but again, is relatively pointless and let me explain why.

In Breakpoint, your Bivouac becomes your temporary base out in the wilderness, and it’s here that you can equip perks, buy things at the shop (because it magically appears at every camp somehow?), but the two options that are interesting are the garage and the crafting. The garage is nice because you can request vehicles be delivered whenever you are at the Bivouac and when you leave, poof, they are there! This is convienient and all, but if we’re honest with each other, once you start getting the attack helicopters for 54,000 credits, this will be the only vehicle you request, ever. So basically your “Garage” option is just a way you can summon a helicopter. Now to crafting that’s essentially useless. There are recipes that your character can use to make various consumable rations that do things such as increase damage resistance or increase your stamina, etc. These types of rations have 3 tiers with their effects being greater and lasting longer in the other tiers. You can also craft consumables such as frag grenades, rocket launcher ammo and more. However, as you play Breakpoint, you’ll realize that this is one of the most pointless features in the game.

When you take on enemies at bases, or even checkpoints, you’ll quickly realize that enemies drop ammo and explosive consumables almost constantly. Plus, when you are out exploring and come across a small group of soldiers by a car, or buy some vehicle, you’ll also come across many resources there as well. If you didn’t want to deal with gathering resources, you can always save money by obtaining a perk that decreases the cost of consumables at the store at your main hub base which will enable you to buy more for less money. What this means is that with the abundance of ammo and consumables I can’t see really any point to waste on these rations. Sure, you can gain some damage resistance, but if you’re sniping from 500m away, it’s not like you’re going to need to take less damage.

Ok, things are getting a bit negative, so why not dive into some positives? Breakpoint’s island of Aurora is absolutely beautiful. The dynamics and contrasts of environments that can be found on the island will be some of the most impressive sceneries you’ll ever see in gaming. Waterfalls crashing, fog rolling in through the forest while the sun shines through as you catch all the individual rays of light popping through, and even the character models in the cut scenes look amazing. Ubisoft has done an outstanding job delivering more dynamic environments in a beautiful presentation. Couple of issues though. First, during the cut scenes sometimes the focus of the character is off, so it looks out of frame for the scene. Second, can someone at Ubisoft PLEASE IMPROVE YOUR MOUTH MECHANICS. I don’t know what has to happen, but sometimes the mouth moves, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it doesn’t even look like they are speaking the words of the voiceover. I’ve seen better work on old dubbed Kung Fu movies. The environment is this game’s saving grace, and if I may make a suggestion, get to the highest point and just sit there and look at your surroundings and take in every bit of it as it’s truly breathtaking.

Breakpoint does offer some type of comedy throughout the game. For example, apparently people of Aurora think it’s wonderful to put almost every chest in the game on the roof of buildings. Very rarely will you ever come across a chest on the ground, so be prepared to look for ways up. While we are talking about loot, these chests contain things like weapons yes, but you’ll also find boots, pants and other articles of clothing. Yes, you can get through a massive firefight, navigate your way to a chest only to pull out some boots as your reward. This also goes for enemies, on top of collecting ammo and explosive consumables from enemies, you are rewarded with items such as pants, boots, and honestly, I’m not trying to take a dead guy’s boots to wear, and it’s kind of morbid if you think about it. Plus, with the microtransactions you can just buy your guns, and not have to fight Behemoths for blueprints.

Now, I know you’re probably reading this and think “wow this guy must not like the game”, and you would be wrong. I’ll say it, Breakpoint is broken. I think for a full retail game, it’s unpolished, underdeveloped and inexcusable for the poor choices in its development. It’s an incomplete game, and what is there is full of gameplay glitches, numerous bugs and game breaking moments that really make you wonder why you paid your money for this. Despite all of this though, I love every minute that I play. I know these issues will hopefully be addressed in upcoming patches, but for now despite all these issues, the core of Ghost Recon Breakpoint still delivers an amazingly entertaining experience. While it’s far from perfect, it’s not far from fun, and in the end, if a game is fun, then it should be played and enjoyed right?

Suggestions: There's honestly so much to list, I would need a database.

Overall Score: 6.5 / 10 Meow Motors

Racing games are quite honestly one of my biggest addictions in life. I love the ability to race vehicles I'll probably never see, let alone drive, but outside of the realistic racing games, I LOVE games that put the arcade combat racing on the forefront, much like what we see in games like Mario Kart. In fact, recently a game came out that seems to take a LOT of cues from that very game, but does so with a feline twist. Time to start those cars and get those motors purring because ArtVostok has released Meow Motors for the price of $14.99, and if you're telling me I can get a Mario Kart experience with cats for under $15 bucks, then I could be looking at the game of the year for me here. Time to get this review into gear right meow.

When you start Meow Motors, you'll see a rather barren menu system that consists of Continue, New Game, Quick Race, Options and Quit. This is where you'll enter your career under New Game, as Quick Race is a mode that just lets you do local co-op racing only (I'll touch on that here in a moment) on various tracks. Meow, your career mode will be comprised of three different modes: Race, Strike and Drift.

As your career begins, you'll come face to face with your nemesis in a sort of comic scene layout as your villain in black (think a Darth Vader-like cat) comes through and crashes your car, gets out, taunts you mercilessly and then jumps back into their car and drives away to victory. Your character watches teary-eyed as all the other racers speed past, which lights a fire within your character, and you're now off to the races as you work to form a team of cat racers to go after this main villain. The premise of the story is one that doesn't fail, but what really stand out are the racers themselves.

All different species of kitties, each one of them provide some benefit to you such as being immune to oil slicks on the road, a damaged car automatically repairs itself or more power for jumps and collisions. There's an achievement for racing with each character but you'll want to tailor your driver to match the race you'll be driving. For example, if you're doing a race mode, it'll be in your best interest to pick a racer that has an immunity to an oil slick. What this ultimately means though is that even though you have many different racers, you have only 3 types of races, so you'll only have the need to race with 3 of them. This red flag sadly is just the tip of the iceberg.

Meow Motors has a very simple control scheme. Your Right Trigger is your gas, Left Trigger is your brake, 'B' button is your handbrake, 'X' is for boost, 'Y' button is for your oil slick and 'A' button is used to fire your weapon. As you drive along, you can throw your car into a drift fairly easily, and the more you drift, the more your special meter fills up. This meter will allow you to either use your boost or your oil slick. So you essentially have one tank to draw from and you decide how you want to use it, as it's pretty self-explanatory (boost makes you go faster, oil slick causes them to crash behind you). Drifting charges it up, so go sideways as much as you can and you'll always have something in the tank.

As you progress through the story, based off the number of stars you gain, you'll automatically unlock various cars, drivers and weapons at multiple milestones. To say that this game is pun crazy is an understatement. Instead of a Lambo you get a Leo, instead of Ferrari you get Purrari, and so on. The tracks are done in a very light-hearted way with a cartoonish feel to the layout and design. They provide instances of jumps and "secret" pathways that you can explore for shortcuts, but each track also offers obstacles that can naturally hinder your path and slow you down.

Earlier you heard me touch on weapons, and they are your lifeblood on the track. They range from your basic machine gun, to a great white shark missile launcher, to a freeze ray, dome shield, land mine and so much more. Thankfully since you'll be sliding around the track at high speeds, the targeting system auto targets for you, so every weapon will automatically target your nearest opponent. This is a blessing when you're trying to avoid obstacles while you're drifting, yet want to blast your opponent with a great white shark. Each weapon though does have a limited range, so if you're fast enough with your boost, there's a good chance you can outrun them, however, you will practically need a full boost to do it, and not... hit... anything. If you hit anything, your speed drops and the weapon has you.

This is a great feature to have, despite one tiny flaw, which is the AI rubber bands like crazy to keep up with you. One race, I had a full boost and buried my paws into the gas pedal. My tail hit the boost button and I launched. I was flying along the course and drifting (which kept my meter building after each completed drift) every chance I could, and I pick up a Nitro power up and use that as well, which adds even more speed, and then I look back and magically the whole pack is somehow just a couple seconds behind me and charging up fast. Huh? This is a bit annoying because you can race flawlessly and still be under fire from weapons from behind. What really rubs salt in this wound is that the ONLY weapon you know that will be coming for you is the great white shark missile. Everything else will be a total surprise because the game doesn't tell you anything.

There is though one gargantuan problem that almost immediately made me turn the game off completely. No online multiplayer. Excuse me? In today's world when you have lesser racing games that are worse to play, released with online connectivity, it's kind of a shame. But with Meow Motors, it feels like a knife in the back that totally blindsided every ounce of joy out of this game. It's by far the biggest failure of potential ever. In fact, had this had online multiplayer I would have struggled to give it less than a 90% because the quality is good, but if you can only enjoy it in your own home and not with friends elsewhere online, then what's the point? Oh, sure you can have people over and do local co-op, but this is a textbook example of a colossal failure to capitalize on quality and enjoyment. I'm not sorry I said that because it's true.

In today's interconnected world, everyone wants to play with other people. Look at the most popular games now that are out there and what is one of the most common threads they all share? ONLINE MULTIPLAYER. Why, in the name of everything that is holy, would you release an amazing kart game and NOT provide it? I can say this, I'll play through, get the achievements and then I'll be deleting this game from my hard drive, because if I can't play with my friends around the country and the world, then why would I pay $14.99 for a game that should be the cat's meow, but instead, Meow Motors puts the "CAT" in catastrophe.

Suggestions: Unless you can somehow come out with online connectivity, this is basically a $14.99 waste of time. You broke my heart over this game.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 PC Building Simulator

At the turn of the century (wow that makes me feel old), I had opened up a computer business with a partner and we took it upon ourselves to build computing solutions for both individuals and small businesses. This was an amazing experience because we realized that everyone uses a computer for different reasons. Now though, developer The Irregular Corporation, has tried to bring this PC building to a virtual environment with the aptly titled: PC Building Simulator for the price of $19.99. The goals here are to provide you with a realistic environment to build the PC of your dreams and take a peek behind the curtain of what it takes to run an actual PC business. So, does PC Building Simulator overclock the competition and deliver an amazing performance or does it get a blue screen of death (BSOD) and crash spectacularly? Let's find out.

At first glance, PC Building Simulator seems very sparse with not a lot of content on the surface. You're granted only a couple options which are career and free build modes. I'll tackle these individually, but the primary difference is that with career, you have to work your way through the trudges of the business to unlock new components and build opportunities, whereas the free build already has everything unlocked for you and you can build whatever you wish, however you wish. Other than that, the mechanics of each mode are identical, so let's dive into career mode!

In career mode you play the role of a nephew who's Uncle owns a PC repair/building business. This Uncle has decided to venture out in search of another business to start up and has left you in charge of the PC business. This Uncle also decided to take $15 out of the drawer (for gas he says), so you find yourself starting out -$15 in the hole and left with a business that you don't know where to begin. Thankfully the game's tutorial will take you through step by step as to the procedure which is as follows:

1. Check emails for PC jobs (repair or builds) and figure out what they need.

2. Load up your "Store" and browse through the various components (CPU, CPU cooling, Memory, Storage, etc.) that you will need to complete the various jobs.

3. Select 2-day shipping for the components so they will arrive the next day (should you forget you can get your components on the same day for an extra $100).

4. With your components ordered, go back to your emails and accept the jobs that you ordered the parts for.

5. Now leave the store and you'll advance to the next day. If you select "Go to work" then you'll arrive in the hallway and you'll see your parts and the PC's that need work.

6. Pick up the individual computers and follow through the necessary repair/upgrade work that needs done, then place it back in the hallway to pick up.

7. Go back to your emails and find the job you just finished (I use the subject line as a good way of recognizing what PC needed what work done and what needs to go out) and click "Accept" to have the PC picked up and money deposited in your account.

8. When you're finished with that PC and the money has been deposited, you can get rid of the email to make things less cluttered for you.

9. Move onto the next PC and repeat steps 6-8 until everything is all sorted and completed for the day.

10. Now go back through steps 1-5 to get new work and more components.

One thing to make note of though, just like life, customers have certain "requests", and your business can make a much better profit by paying attention to the customer's requests. For example, you may have a customer who states in the email that they want you to build a PC and they'll state: "I've heard Intel CPUs are the best." If you build this customer a PC with an Intel CPU then you'll have an extra happy customer and your review will reflect it and this is important.

It's important because some jobs will only unlock when/if you have a certain star rating, so the more you make your customers happy, the better the reviews and the higher rated your shop will be, thus more business you will be able to do. The more business you do leads you to level up and unlock new parts and equipment (this will be especially helpful when you try to go for that achievement of hitting a benchmark on the amount) that you can use on upcoming builds/repair work.

This aspect does inject a lot of real-life situations in it. For example you'll get emails that say things like "my son was using my computer and now it's slow and pop ups are everywhere", or "my computer doesn't work and I don't know what's wrong with it", or even things like "I got this from you a while ago and it doesn't work, can you fix it?". These represent the bulk of the emails you'll be addressing and will tend to represent a typical business deal. You will also get the occasional email about how some Nigerian Prince wants you to build him a PC and once you do, you'll be rewarded with $4,000. Things you can expect to appear in your spam folder will appear and I'm not going to tell you what happens if you build the Nigerian Prince his PC because you should experience it for yourself.

This simulator also provides a great deal of components to use and, should you not be familiar, will teach you about overclocking your CPU, GPU and RAM, and will take you through the details regarding water cooling systems as well. It's quite possible when you've unlocked everything to build a system that is easily over $10,000 worth of components and make it a legendary behemoth of a machine. The nice thing about this is that if you manage to screw up your overclocking you can actually test your machine beforehand and see if/where errors will occur, and you can also test your water cooling system as well to make sure that there are no problems within.

I do have one colossal gripe though. For instance, when you're doing ANY work with repairs, just like life, you'll have to connect the power cable, the cable to your monitor, keyboard, mouse, etc. Now this normally wouldn't pose a problem, except for the reality that moving these cables to connect can be a painstaking process due to the movement sensitivity of the cable. Granted, there is a benefit by seeing an orange(ish) outline on the area the cable gets plugged into, but moving the cables to their connectors can be a pain (again, like life). To solve this, you can spend thousands of your hard earned dollars on "quick connects" that will instantly connect peripherals, internal components and even the wiring outside as well (all the cables described above), and that seems like a cop out to me. It seems like the game makes doing the work more tedious than it has to be, so you almost feel compelled to invest in these types of "aids" to help make the work feel less strenuous.

The reason I'm talking so much about the career mode is because that's where the heart and soul of this game resides. The free build mode just gives you all the toys to play with and you can create and experiment at your leisure, but that's it. There's no bill paying, no customer emails, no jobs, nothing but building your own PC at your whim. This doesn't seem like much but there are a couple of achievements you can snag in this mode since everything is unlocked already and you don't have to work for your levels.

The graphics are decent and provide detailed views of the actual real-life components. The cases are all modeled correctly and the game is setup nicely to help those who don't know what they're looking at, understand what the component is and what it does thanks to a small pop up dialog window that displays the information. Now, for those who may already be a pro and understand what everything does, this may not be a worthwhile thing, but for those who wish to learn, this is invaluable. Sadly though, there isn't much of a quality soundtrack, and thanks to all the PC's I had to clean and dealing with the sound of the compressed air can (which is realistic by the way), I ended up turning the sound effects and music completely off and just put on my own tunes and went to work.

If you're looking for a simulator that offers a taste of real-world PC building and customer interaction, then this game is a must have. With some relatively easy achievements to compliment the experience, you'll quickly realize that the only thing that isn't real world about this simulator is how your screws magically vanish whenever you need them. I'm rating this game just shy of 90 because outside of the graphics and the audio, but the entire composition of PC Building Simulator is near flawless. For $19.99, PC Building Simulator is one of the best, and unexpected, sims the Xbox platform period.

Suggestions: Could you please not charge so much for the "auto-connecting cables"? Maybe make it an option that you can toggle on and off? Also include bags of screws in the shop because everyone already knows that they will go missing.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Pawarumi

One of the original styles of video games that gained tremendous, almost god-like, acclaim in the video game world are shumps (shoot-em-ups). From the days of games like Space Invaders, Galaga and even Tempest, massive shoot-em up games have always worked to deliver an experience that was easy to pick up and play but challenging to master. As technology has advanced, so have the games within the 'shump style". With much competition from other titles, developer Manufacture 43 has released Pawarumi for the Xbox One for the price of $14.99, with the hopes that we find a game that is captivating and stimulating. As a big fan of the genre, I'm expecting big things given that the competition has set the bar very high. So, to stand out and make gamers want to spend their own money, Pawarumi has to bring its 'A' game. Right; enough chat, let's see what is under the hood.

Starting out you'll notice a few things, but the big standout is how sparse the game actually is. The opening screen has you pick between the Play, Leaderboard, Settings and Credits. Selecting Play will open up another menu where you have the choices of: Tutorial, Arcade, Training and Back. I strongly recommend you spend quite some time in the tutorial though, because Pawarumi offers a different twist to modern shump games, mainly being the inclusion of a 3-way color system interaction.

While other great shumps have included color themes before, this takes it to a whole new level. The enemies of Pawarumi are going to be designated colors of Red, Blue or Green, and coincidentally, your weapons are Red, Blue or Green as well, mapped to the coordinating buttons on the Xbox controller (since there's no yellow color, the Y button is used for your "special attack" or basically a screen clearing massive explosion). Now this is where Pawarumi shows off its individuality.

If you have a red enemy on the screen you can use various colored weaponry to eliminate it, however, what color you decide to use will determine what also happens to your ship. For example, if you shoot a red enemy with your red weapon, you'll regenerate any lost shield power you may have taken. This is CRITICAL when you're finding yourself with a screen full of enemies and energy shots all around you. Being able to repair your ship by just eliminating enemies is a massive help, rather than waiting for a power-up to appear.

Now let’s say you use that same red weapon against a green enemy. That is how you fill your meter to unleash your special attack. This means that once you use it, you can use your appropriate color attacks to rapidly build it back up so you can use it again (great to use for boss fights, etc.). So now we've seen what your red weapon will do to a red and green enemy, but what about blue? This is where you find that your red weapon will actually deal more damage than normal, so think of it like a damage boost.

So, your one red weapon has multiple different uses depending upon the enemies you decide to terminate with it. Now if this seems confusing to you, rest easy, because it is. This is why the tutorial is so important, because it will get you acclimated to thinking along the lines that the game wants you to. There is though, a slight flaw in the execution of this, and that is it provides little to no incentive to ever switch from the 'B' button (red weapon). So, your blue weapon ('X' button) is a narrow stream that looks like an Ice Laser, and your green weapon ('A' button) is about 10% wider but still isn't the width of your craft. Your 'B' button though (red weapon) is this wide scanning cone that fires missiles at those it tags. Basically, you can get through most of the game simply by holding down the 'B' button and moving back and forth. The reason for this simplicity is thanks in part to Pawarumi's own unique color balancing trait. Let me explain why.

With the 'B' button being the best weapon in the game outside of your special attack, any red enemy you kill with it (where there are a LOT of them), then my shield is always going to be refilling. With green enemies dying to it, I'm gaining more special attack power, and with blue enemies I'm obliterating them almost instantly because of the damage boost. Quite frankly, because of this, Pawarumi's own weapons and color balancing system has taken what was supposed to be a unique feature that made the game stand out, and made the game more boring. Literally holding down the 'B' button constantly and strafing from left to right, you should be able to tackle 99.9% of the game without any problems; and that made me wonder: Why even have this? Why have the other weapons if they are rendered relatively pointless? Why even have the color scheme at all?

By having the three colors Pawarumi is trying to innovate, but instead has created a game that offers no upgrade in your ship or weaponry, and generates no real reason to switch from one single weapon. This type of reality made me wonder what else Pawarumi has to offer, and that's when I noticed a continuing trend... of sparseness. Arcade mode is your Story Mode and is broken down into three difficulties. Now it's been said that the story is unique for each one, but having experienced it, there's no real story to begin with that is of any worthwhile value to the gamers. There's no connection with the gamer, and Pawarumi doesn't give a reason for the gamer to care, but the story is laid out in very beautiful painted imagery. The main difference between the difficulties is that the levels you experience are in different order, the enemy’s patterns are different, they take more damage and their shots hit harder.

There's a MASSIVE problem though with the story of Pawarumi. Let's say you spend the time and get all the way through to stage 4 of 5 and you die. Since you only have one life in Pawarumi, should you expire on level 4, you have to start ALL the way over from the beginning and fight your way through. Forget starting out where you ended, or even have another life to play. In Pawarumi, once you die you have to start your journey all the way over again. This became a massive source of annoyance throughout my time playing the game, but then I thought to myself, why not train on the levels so you can beat them in the story? This is when I started struggling to look at positive things for Pawarumi.

Graphically speaking, the game looks wonderful with environments that range from industrial, volcanic areas to digital warfronts and areas that reminded me a bit of Bespin from ESB. I'm sad to report however, that the music though is not on par with its competition and actually became something I turned off. Unfortunately, there are other flaws that have to be mentioned as well. For starters there's no co-op system, so Pawarumi has no way of pitting you with your friends, except for the leaderboard. So, unless you have a strong desire to climb the leaderboard, Pawarumi only offers up some insanely hard achievements to get (at least they are based off multiples of 5).

For $14.99, Pawarumi offers up a weak story, overly simplistic gameplay, very sparse content and a gameplay system that offers up no reason to continue playing, ever. This game is actually a heartbreaker for me because I wanted to love this, but I can't overlook the sparse content and all the flaws that come within the game itself. If you're a fan of shumps then look elsewhere for a quality title and pass on Pawarumi until a big sale.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 SAMURAI SHODOWN

Being a child of the 80's had its advantages when it came to video games. Sure, the games weren't as advanced graphically and there was no internet connection gameplay, so playing online was out of the question, however there was a system that became mythical in terms of status; Neo Geo. While others had their Sega and Nintendo, Neo Geo pushed the boundaries of what was possible in gaming back then. SNK had prided themselves in developing an iconic fighting game called Samurai Shodown back then, and when you saw it, and then saw games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, you wondered what these people at SNK knew that others didn't. Samurai Shodown became a staple on the system and held its own fighting crown because no other system could touch it. Now though, times have changed.

Gaming platforms are exponentially more powerful today, and while we have seen groundbreaking revitalizations in both the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series, the gaming world had heard of nothing from Samurai Shodown since 2008. Since then, we have seen beautiful, fluid fighters from Dead or Alive and Soul Calibur, to completely new mechanics in games such as Mortal Kombat. How can a game that hasn't been seen in over a decade be now worth full retail price? Can Samurai Shodown come back and deliver the same performance that left it light years ahead, decades ago? With the hardware being relatively equal, it comes down to the game itself. Let's take a look at SNK's latest version of Samurai Shodown.

Right off the bat I should make this a point. Samurai Shodown was never a controller destroying button mashing fest, but rather a more tactical "chess" style of fighting. Rather than beating someone repeatedly with a stick, you look for the slightest opening (or make one yourself) in your opponent's guard and deliver unrelenting brutality with every swing of your weapon. Samurai Shodown delivers a type of fighting that is less hectic and more strategic, but once your opponent has an opening, you can guarantee that a lot of pain is coming your way rapidly. Because of this, I can't stress enough how important it is to go through the tutorial. While going through the actions is OK to get you through it, I would recommend repeating these short exercises until you feel comfortable with how the mechanics of Samurai Shodown are.

I say this because Samurai Shodown's gameplay involves intricoes that can literally turn the tide in an instant. For example, one of the methods of defending is to dodge your attack. Dodging an attack takes your character and shifts them into the background for a moment which then allows the opponent's attack to miss entirely. Benefits of learning how to do this effectively will not only keep you alive and provide you no damage, but also create an opening that you can exploit for massive amounts of damage. This simple little mechanic provides a whole new dimension of fighting as you could be getting demolished, then dodge one attack, trigger your rage meter with Left Trigger and do a lightning blade attack with the trigger again; and if the enemy's health isn't full, then you stand a good chance of winning the match. All of this happens within mere seconds, just like how a sword fight in reality is like.

Samurai Shodown's mechanics ride on an edge that’s as sharp as the swords in game. While dodging is an invaluable skill to learn, trying to open up counters requires timing that would make you the master of any dojo. Counters require you to perform your move within the window of movement of your opponent's attack. So, if your opponent is winding up for a massive heavy attack, getting in close to land a light or medium attack can counter with some bonus damage applied. If you miss however, you're going to be cleaved in half, but what is life without a little risk right? You can find similar techniques used in timing your character's blocking ability. While you can block attacks and stave off tremendous damage, you can time your block which will cancel the attack of your opponent and give you an opening to counter. Again though, if you block to early, you'll defend the attack, but if you block to late then you're going to be annihilated.

This approach to Samurai Shodown's gameplay mechanics is just one example of how it's more of a thinking game than wildly slamming buttons, and why I must stress again how important practicing your timing can be for your survival. What's more interesting is that while every character has their own style of attacks, they also each have their own style of attack if they are disarmed as well. Samurai Shodown offers you ways and techniques to disarm your opponent, and in the heat of battle, a quick disarm can confuse your opponent who would normally rely on their weapon attacks and is now resorted to attacking with punches and kicks. I know now you're thinking if I'm unarmed and my opponent has a massive sword how can I block it? Well, if you time your block correctly, you can actually catch the blade and disarm your opponent. This will create either a balanced playing field or an opportunity for you to get to your weapons and pick them back up.

I keep harking about this I know; however, a fighting game is as only good as it's gameplay mechanics, and Samurai Shodown practically demands a more cerebral approach. This type of gameplay though is split between a few modes, such as online fighting, story modes and even the dojo. The dojo is probably my most interesting mode outside of story because it puts you against the ghosts of real opponents. You can have multiple difficulty level,s but fighting against someone who is better than you will condition you to improve yourself, figure out what areas you need to work on and formulate a strategy for victory.

There is, however, a minor knock against Samurai Shodown which involves the story. I'm sorry, but there are elements that seem to be directly ripped off of other fighting games (I'm looking at you DoA glowing blue energy boss character). To me this has always been the biggest gripe about fighting games, that being that the story doesn't always fit the narrative. When you have a roster of over 15 characters, writing story arcs for each has to involve something more than an opening splash scene with some text to read and a final ending sequence. With all that has been created here, it feels like the story itself got dealt the short straw.

Despite the ding, that doesn't stop Samurai Shodown from delivering absolutely beautiful graphics that equate to a beautiful piece of evolving artwork. Remember when Street Fighter IV came out and the new art style took the gaming world by surprise and people fell in love with it? This is another one of those moments. The levels to compete in are absolutely stunning, and when you start getting into these super special moves, the screen becomes ignited with various colors and effects to compliment the weapon's use. I also must touch on the audio, as it made me feel like I was in Japan and going through these different levels. Upfront, I'm already a massive fan of wind and string instruments from Asia, and the sounds they make in Samurai Shodown felt like I was transported elsewhere, and I loved every moment of it. Speaking of moments, I need to take this moment to say thank you to everyone at SNK who worked on making this game possible because you delivered a graphical masterpiece for fighting games.

Thanks to the hard work of SNK, Samurai Shodown has become the emperor of the fighting game empire. Breathtaking graphical deliverance of tactical, cerebral fighting that can be over within the blink of an eye, thanks to the balance and content of Samurai Shodown's gameplay mechanics. I do wish there was more in terms of content that would keep me drawn into their world, but what is there is nothing short of mind blowing. I tend to base my reviews off of value for money, and at $59.99, Shamurai Shodown is worth every penny, and for a limited time, the season pass is FREE to download, so make sure you pick that up as well. Who knows when, or if we will ever have games that have free season passes (looks around at all the other gaming companies and developers)? For an unbelievably entertaining fighting game experience that is far beyond simple button mashing, Samurai Shodown is where the real fighters can be found.

Suggestions: Provide better story content that is unique to each character and have it evolve throughout the story mode. It will take time to do it right but will be better in the end.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 MotoGP 19

Being the avid racing fan that I am, I tried my hand at Moto GP a few years back and quickly came to a few realizations. For starters, I couldn't control a bike, know anything about how physics work and the list continues. Now though, Moto GP 19 is out, and I thought I would like to see how the game has evolved throughout the years, and I have to say, I was surprised. Priced at $49.99 I was wondering how this would hold up compared to other bike games out there, and it feels like Moto GP 19 has had major improvements throughout every facet. How about we take a look and see what you get for that $50 bill shall we? Get ready to ride.

Moto GP 19 comes right out of the gate and delivers a tremendous career mode, where the overwhelming majority of your time will be spent. There are going to be a couple options you can select for your career, those being standard and pro modes. You could call this more of arcade vs. simulation, where in arcade mode, you can tailor the driver assists, number of laps, weather, etc. You also have access to the rewind feature (which I'll be the first to admit I used from time to time) that is plucked straight from Forza, so if you happen to mistakenly take a hairpin right at 150mph, you can rewind to a position that allows you to break in time.

Now in standard mode, the laws of physics are somewhat forgiving. While this won't allow you to distort them in some Matrix, "I know kung fu" fashion, it will keep your bike and your rider upright for a majority of the course. It will still brutally punish you though should you wander very far off the striped paint on the sides. Also, you can expect your fellow CPU riders to act accordingly aggressive dependent upon the difficulty you set it to. You can also tailor your race weekend with multiple practice sessions so you can get used to the track before qualifying, should you opt for it. You have the option though to just jump right into the race, but I will stress that having the practice sessions to get used to the corners and the speeds you need to be at in the entrance and exits makes the qualifying sessions that much more valuable when you can start at the head of the pack, rather than skipping everything and going straight into the race from last place.

In contrast, the pro career mode locks in what drivers aids you will be running on and turns the physics up to an unholy level of pain. This means you have to be on your game if you think you can compete at a quality level. While standard was more forgiving, pro mode will take the slightest challenge to physics and immediately toss it, forcing you to have a spectacular crash. Now, normally in standard mode you would just hit the rewind button and adapt so you don't have that problem again. However, in pro mode, no such rewind exists. This could pose a monumental problem should you crash late in the race itself. See, in the standard mode, you get to set the laps you want, etc, but not in pro mode. Nope, in pro mode you're locked into the full race amount, so it's not uncommon to have a race last over half an hour.

One massive benefit of this career mode is that you can start, should you feel brave enough, to begin competing within the actual MotoGP Cup, instead of having to work your way throughout all the previous tiers of racing. Once you move on from the Red Bull Rookie Racing Cup though, the game will open up and allow you to upgrade your bike through the completion of various research and development tasks that your crew will set for you at the beginning of a race. Completing these mini tasks will allow you to upgrade various components within your bike and also allow you to customize the ride of the bike even further.

While the gameplay mechanics have improved as these generations continue, sadly the weather of all things doesn't seem to play as dynamic a role as you would find in other games. In other racing titles, there's dynamic weather that impacts the control and handling, and in MotoGP 19, that doesn't seem to be the case. It's a shame because this game looks jaw dropping beautiful on the Xbox One X. When you have the Unreal engine pushing beautiful graphics at 30fps, it's easy to see that MotoGP 19 appears to finally have a winning formula on the console. I took some photos in the game and was honestly surprised at how amazing they looked given the limited camera control/options at your disposal.

With the career out of the way, there really isn't that much more to MotoGP 19 unfortunately. Of course, you have multiplayer modes where you can go in and manage the independent aspects of the race before beginning, but it really becomes self-explanatory which is similar in nature to MotoGP 19's quick race mode. There is one small caveat though, and that is MotoGP 19 does include some very historical races that you can compete in. Think of these as situational challenges much like you would find in other games of racing and sports, and once completed, you are graded on your performance and earn stars, unlocking new material within the game.

There were a few hiccups as well. While I did enjoy being able to select what events on a race weekend I took part in, I did not enjoy the loading times at all. The loading times felt a lot longer than they should be and became a setback. Also, while I loved the look of MotoGP 19, I didn't enjoy hearing it. This is thanks to the bike noises which, by the time you get into the E bike series, will have your ears bleeding. Not because of some non-authentic noise, but because the sound seems like it has 2 modes: Off and blasting full on.

Overall MotoGP 19 is a fantastic racer that delivers the quintessential motorbike racing experience in a way we as gamers have never experienced before. Despite this though, I do feel that $49.99 is a bit too high. Let me explain why as this pertains to how I value the content within the title itself. For me, MotoGP 19's multiplayer and quick race options don't really interest me. Its pro mode career is something that not only will leave me frustrated to the point of not playing the game, but also provides such an experience that it doesn't keep my desire to continue playing.

Where MotoGP 19 really shines is in the standard career mode and its historical challenges. So, for me, with only 2 parts of the game that stand out as a must have, I feel that $49.99 is too high a price to pay. I will say though, $29.99 and below makes this a pickup all day long, and twice on Sunday.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Sniper Elite V2 Remastered

Over the past 10 years, the Sniper Elite series of games have tried to establish a new level of production when it comes to being a one man army that's tasked with herculean efforts to stop a war. Originally, Sniper Elite V2 launched way back in 2012 on the Xbox 360, but now has been given the "Remastered" treatment in an attempt to bring this dated experience to be on par with what would arguably be considered the best release of the series so far, Sniper Elite V4. Having done the review for V4, I was anxious to dive in and see what was behind this new remaster that warranted a $39.99 price tag. Like a sniper, this remastered V2 has one shot to hit its mark. Let's see how things shape up.

For starters the plot behind V2 is essentially the same that you experience in every single other Sniper Elite game. That's not saying it's bad, considering this game was one of the first entries to do it, so being almost the original counts for something here. Sadly, though this game's story misses its target for one simple reason, the inability to vary the mission platforms. For instance, one mission you have to fight your way to a vantage point where you snipe the main bad guy and then have to run away to the extract location. Then the very next level, you do the same, and then again and again. You start to feel that the missions become all about shooting, but then again, you are a sniper, right? This mundane trudging through the various missions means that you have to get creative to stay interested, that's where the fun begins. Let me show you how.

Let's say you're at the top of a multi-level building and that there are hallways and stairs between you and your goal down below in the extract location. Maneuver your way behind a random guard (who provides some of the weirdest movement patterns I've ever seen) and silently take them down. Then I move the body to a doorway and set a booby trap on it with a land mine. I then move down the hall and place a trip mine at the end. Afterwards, I then turn to go down the stairs to the landing and put another trip mine at the bottom of the stairs. I then turn left again on the landing and go down and repeat the process. Now I have three trip mines placed and a booby-trapped guy above me that's by a doorway. Now, I fire off some rounds from my machine gun, which of course will trigger the enemies to come find me. This is where I run back up to the platform and fire off some more, this sends the bulk of those enemies near me to rush to my location. At this point they funnel their way into the trap, and it goes off. I take the body from the bottom of the stairs and bring it to the top of the stairs. This causes the next enemy to see a man down and rush to it.

The enemy then upon rushing to the top of the stairs will set off another trip mine which blows him up as well. Carrying the body to the top of the stairs from the original hallway I was in, I repeat the process until they all have fallen, and then I proceed to the next area and repeat the process until it's all done and work my way to the extraction point. You don't have to play it that way though. The beauty of these games is you can play how you wish. You could choose to just go through as stealthy as possible, or you could be like Rambo and go in guns blazing. However you decide to play Sniper Elite V2 is up to you, and that's always been a wonderful staple of the series. There are times though that you will have to fight, and that's when this game's mechanics start to take a long walk off a short cliff.

For example, there is a level where you start on a street that's seen the aftermath of a bombing run from above. The houses on either side of you are blown into mere shells of what they once were, and you have to navigate your way down the street and then turn the corner and continue onward until you reach the tank at the end. So, you start to take things slow and crouch walk through these homes, and that's when the game will automatically get you caught on invisible items that prevent you from walking. This doesn't sit well with me considering that when you're in combat, you have to be allowed full mobility because the battle is fluid and ever changing, and if you can't adapt, then it's not a question of if you will die, but rather, how quickly will it happen. There are other gameplay issues that unfortunately hinder this game, and sadly one of the main ones involve sniping and using the binoculars.

Since weapon customization isn't a factor, the game centers around you being able to use your binoculars to scout the land, pinpoint enemies, and you sniper scope to lay in the kill shot. I'm going to first start with the binoculars. Utilizing them isn't smooth because of the controller layout. The second problem with the binoculars/sniper scope is that if you try to adjust the magnification, you will find yourself fighting the overly sensitive controls, and therefore be left with only 2 forms of magnification; either no magnification or magnification so intense it's like you're deciphering the atomic structure of the enemy's uniform. These devices can magnify in between but you will spend a good amount of time trying to get them 'just right', and by then your target will have moved on and you'll have to start this process all over again.

You have the option to 'lock' in your magnification settings but there's a problem with that as well. Let's say you're on a sniper perch, and you go to zoom in all the way on another sniper you locate off in the distance, you mark him and your settings are set to keep the magnification. Now let's say you move from your location and you try to maneuver your way throughout the level when you come across another patrolling enemy that's unaware you're there. You find cover (obviously) and attempt to mark the new enemy with your binoculars, well your magnification is locked in from before when you were going for your sniper, so now your magnification is locked in atom mode and you'll have to fight with it to get back to where you want. The problem here is that the game will allow you to do that but only after you've gotten out of cover and exposed yourself. So, while you're fighting with the binoculars or scope, you're leaving yourself exposed and a very big target.

You can definitely feel how the system has progressed throughout the games and how the Sniper series has moved on in over a decade with refinements of the newer games become a much missed aspect of this title. This is disappointing because you feel that this is a missed opportunity to take the refinements of the newer games and apply them to make your older releases better, but sadly that didn't happen here. Instead, though, we get a beautiful makeover of the game, and when I say beautiful makeover, I mean a stunning graphical overhaul of the entire game. The environments look incredible compared to the original, and even the enemy models themselves look almost life like. What else got the updated graphical blessing? Well if you're a fan of the sniper shots that give you an X-Ray image of your target getting destroyed, then this game is for you.

There's nothing like firing a sniper round and hitting a grenade attached to a belt of an enemy, watching as their body turns their bones into a sticky messy paste (that's an achievement by the way), or counter sniping an enemy sniper by sending your bullet through the scope of the enemy to take out their eye and blow a massive hole out the back of their head through their eye socket. Or chain your kills by sending a round through an enemy's heart and have the round exit the enemy and enter his fellow soldier's chest cavity and blow out his heart as well. Yes, these killing sequences that you create will be the main reason you start getting creative with your dealing of the afterlife.

Sadly though, this isn't going to be enough to overcome Sniper Elite V2's shortcomings and certainly doesn't warrant the price tag associated with it. If you're a fan of the Sniper Elite series of games then this game is going to be one you want to have in your collection, though only when it goes on sale. Instead of thinking of this as a complete ground-up rebuild of the game, Sniper Elite V2 Remastered just got a brand-new plastic surgeon. So, while the game looks revitalized on the outside, on the inside it's still a 7-year-old game that maintains the internal faults.

Overall Score: 7.4 / 10 Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark

If you would have told me that a $45k Kickstarter game could grow into a game that would not just be a decent game, but one that future games would be judged upon, then I'd say you were lying. I've never been happier to be so wrong. If you're a fan of RPG tactics games (ala Final Fantasy Tactics), then let me introduce you to Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark. Developed by 6 Eyes Studio, Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is priced at $29.99 and attempts to deliver a deep RPG experience across 2.5D stages on a story that is filled with action, emotion, plot twists and so much more. I'm liking this game so much I'm breaking from what I normally do and am going to say "BUY THIS GAME NOW" if you're into these types of turn based RPG tactics games. Now that I've told you that you should buy Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark, let me tell you WHY you need to buy this game. In order to make a great tactics RPG style game, you need to have the correct type of components, and Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark tick all the proverbial boxes.

First off, the story is intriguing. Not the best story I've experienced, but at the same time the story itself is incredibly well thought out. Imagine a world that is ruled by a Council of Immortals who use justice and law to establish peace, and one of the many tools of the Council are the use of Arbiters. These individuals could be considered the authoritarian figures who do the heavy lifting in the field and maintain peace and order. Should crimes be committed, these Arbiters are sent to investigate and deliver culprits and suspects to various chapterhouses in towns to await trial and sentencing. When the time comes for an Immortal to step down (I don't know why anyone who is Immortal would want to step down from a rule of complete authority and power, but alas it's in the game, so we go with it) from the Council, each Immortal gets to select an Arbiter and brandish them with a special mark. These new "Marked" individuals then are set out on a pilgrimage to complete, and after that, will be judged upon who will take the newly vacated place as an Immortal on the Council.

These Marked though are above any and all laws. They can literally do anything that they want and cannot be stopped, as it's a crime to prevent the progress of any Marked, especially while they are on their pilgrimage. As we see today from our own governing bodies, corruption has a way of entering the Council in an attempt to gain more power and control. You play the role of one of the Arbiter's, and through your 40-50+ hour adventure, you'll be uncovering corruption, deciphering its source,solving if any member of the Council is involved, forming character bonds with other party members through events that feel like a nice way to break from the grinding (more on that in a bit) and provide greater detail as to "why" we should care about these individuals. The story itself is very impressive and easily has outshined even some larger AAA titles as well with regard to story development and execution. Box ticked.

One of the characteristics that Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark prides itself on are the classes. While we are used to the various classes such as wizard, thief, knight etc, Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark offers over 20 classes to choose from which produce over 200 skills at your disposal. Each class carries with it a unique skill tree that provides passive stats that you can unlock for your character, offensive/defensive abilities/spells (depending on the class) and counter attacks. Each character can switch to an unlocked class at any point and time, so I started getting really creative with some characters in terms of their abilities. For example, I created a group that was pure magic and they were devastating. Since this was more of turn based chess match, I wanted to prepare my team while allowing my opponents to move closer (putting them within range).

I started off by buffing my characters to give my party shields against physical and magical attacks, granted haste and all the while storing up my magic each round. My enemies would advance, and after about 2 rounds of my preparing, I literally had them in a kill zone. I had 6 magic wielding bad ***es that hit them with maximum damage spells that effected the 5 square area (think of a + symbol) and would be crushing hundreds of points of health. Outside of the basic spells of fire, water, earth and lightning, Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark also deals with Holy and Dark Magic. These two types can wield tremendous power if you structure your character properly. The right gear produces the right results and Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is no different.

Your character can equip a certain number of items, but it's up to you to decide how you outfit your characters. For example, you can have gold armor (heavy), a gold helmet(heavy), a gold shield (heavy), 2 handed hammer (brutal weapon), gauntlets (boost physical attack power), poison ring (blocks poison) and be all set to rampage the field of battle, but what if you removed the helmet, the armor and instead, equipped more accessories to boost your power. I experimented with this thought process with my group of hybrid magic users, and now they can go full Palpatine as I used wizard gloves to boost the spell power ability. This customization aspect is hands down one of this game's strongest points. You have full retail priced games that provide not even half the quality and quantity of content, yet charge double the price. Here's the fun thing though, you can build your team how you see fit. Box ticked.

Throughout the game, as your group begins to level themselves up and you go throughout the story, you can hire teammates from various towns and cities. These new hires will be at your level, so if you're characters are around level 20, then you can hire your next character at around level 20 also (again depends on your character). These characters can also mix their classes, so you can really be creative with the team and the character builds. You can only use a Main and Sub class, so remember, while being able to sling damaging spells may be cool, you have only 1 other tree you can draw abilities from at a time, so making sure you select proper abilities is crucial to success. But you can mix any passive abilities you've unlocked from any classes. So, let me explain it like this. You can have a knight main class, a wizard secondary class, with passive stat abilities from an assassin class along with another passive ability from a witch doctor class, and even a counter ability from a scoundrel class. This level of customization of over 20 classes puts Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark in a whole new level of entertainment. Box ticked.

You learn these abilities either in battle or sitting out. Yes you are only allowed to take up to 6 characters into battle at a time, so if you have 12 people in your "team", then those who aren't selected to battle will still get a portion of the AP (Ability Points) at the end of the match. This way your characters who do not fight won't be completely useless and can still level up their abilities considerably. This is because more classes are unlocked the deeper into every ability tree you go, and by doing it this way, Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark immediately makes going through every single class almost a requirement that you'll enjoy. This is thanks to the different abilities that unlock with each unique ability tree.

The reason this is so critical is because combat is the backbone of this tactical game. Should you be unlucky and have one of your members fall in battle, they will receive an "injury" and will suffer decreased stats. Should the individual be revived (even to full health), the character will still have an "injury" stat and should they fall again, the injury will stack and your character will now have to sit out for 2 entire battles before the injury is healed and your character stats are brought back to normal. To compensate for that, it's wise to have characters ready to go (or hire one) as backups so that these sit out periods don't feel much like a punishment. Still, this feature makes you pay attention and when you have classes like the Mender that can cast healing spells that can restore groups, you start to get the sense of the whole "strength by numbers" mentality. Box ticked.

In terms of gameplay, it's your basic turn-based structure where the individual gets the option to either move and then do an attack/ability/item, or do either attack/ability/item and then move. Every action that you do generates EXP and every 100 EXP you gain a level, so when you have teammates that need health and you heal them you could earn, for example, 17 EXP for that. Only actions that don't result in any net outcome (for example, healing someone with full health), or turns that are ended prematurely, will fail to generate EXP, otherwise, you will always gain at least 1 EXP per action. Now remember, the characters sitting out will NOT gain EXP, but WILL gain a portion of AP points at the end of the fight (for a while I had those mixed around). Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark also dives into crafting in a big way. Throughout your fights you'll come across chests, stage specific resources, end of fight resources, and even their version of a loot goblin-like-thing, and all of it provides resources that you can use to craft items and upgrade consumables.

In Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark, your battles start out with a pre-determined amount and quality of usable items, however, through crafting you can increase the quality and number that you have in battle. For example, you can upgrade a basic healing potion which you can use only 2 of, and as you progress through the stages, you can increase its use to 3 and even upgrade its potency to what is known as a heavy potion. These resources are highly sought after and will be where you completionists out there will love the grind for these. It will take some time, but I found myself literally spending hours upon hours of fun, grinding away at abilities while upgrading gear and tweaking various elements of my group till I found some methods that work wonderfully for me.

Another fun experiment I tried was I have massive physical power groups that all have a fleet of foot ability to increase walking distance, and they literally wait to get everyone near and send them right into the mix and attack with incredibly powerful physical abilities. The reason I would put them right into the fray was that should they be attacked, I had them equipped with a counter that dealt my main weapon as a physical attack counter on an adjacent tile and would deal another smashing attack should they receive damage. It was a brutal massacre that deserved its own History Channel special. Box ticked and ticked.

If there was going to be any gripe I had about the gameplay it would have to be the camera system with the sections of the game that were below others. What I mean by that is you could have an enemy standing in a grave, for instance, and a character standing in the square directly below him, and you won't be able to see the enemy in the grave because the character standing outside the grave will be blocking them. I think having a camera system where you can push a button and have the axis rotate could provide a solution to that while increasing the strategic value of the game, but that I'll put in the suggestion box below. While I do wish for an option for different camera angles than the fixed one provided, everything about the gameplay of Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is done to perfection. Box ticked.

There's more good news as well. Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is a beautiful game. The map itself is laid out into different areas, such different shops, guilds, numerous wild land encounters and even an Arena and Tournament sections. As you progress, you can patrol any wild area you've already completed and harvest more available resources, as well as unlock any chests you may have missed before. Occasionally you'll see a small square with an exclamation point inside it (!) which indicates that there's a side/story event that you can witness. Some of these events are time sensitive, so it's in your best interest to interact with these when they occur.

Every step of the way is done in a retro nostalgic feel. The stages feel unique in their construction and 8-bit execution and the artwork that adorns every square of these levels look defined, vibrant and is complimented by a soundtrack of synth goodness that delivers that classic RPG experience that we know and love. Fanfares, combat music, event music, overworld music; every note fits this genre and every pixel feels purposeful. In fact, I'll even say that the soundtrack of Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark can go toe to toe with Final Fantasy, and in some cases, surpass it. I can honestly say it's been too long since a tactics game looked this good and sounded this amazing. Box tick and another tick.

Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark got its birth as a Kickstarter game and delivers everything you want in a 2.5D tactics game to produce an experience that delivers such an enjoyable gaming experience that it surpasses a lot of bigger games at full retail pricing. Beautiful graphics, an incredible soundtrack, a decent story and exceptional gameplay and character development that holds no equal make Full Seal: Arbiter's Mark one of the best RPG tactics games you can ever play.

Want to know something else that's amazing? This entire masterpiece was crafted by only 2 people. Not multiple teams spread out across the globe and interconnected through a digital network. 2 people. For $29.99 Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is one of the best experiences you can have on the Xbox platform. Box ticked.

Suggestions: Adjust the camera to maybe allow for a rotation on the axis.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Vaporum

It's been seemingly years since I've had the chance to dive into a dungeon crawling adventure game. Lately I feel that this genre is in desperate need of some fresh blood, and Merge Games has decided to step up and deliver Vaporum from its PC format to the Xbox One platform. Filled with puzzles, enemies and dungeon exploration, Vaporum is poised to deliver a Bioshock-esque steampunk RPG adventure priced at $24.99. Yes, you read that right. Merge Games released a budget friendly, dungeon crawling RPG game that delivers a haunting steampunk environment for $25, and to say I'm excited for this is an understatement. Let's dive right into this and see what we can piece together of Vaporum.

Starting out similar to Bioshock, the story of Vaporum involves you taking control of a man who has no idea who he is, where he is, or more importantly, where everyone else is. This controllable character is who you'll use to navigate the Arx Vaporum. This is a spire like tower where each level constitutes a different map, different enemies, and hopefully provides insight as to the murky details that remain a mystery. This story is propagated by numerous reading materials and audio diaries that try to give more of a backstory behind the Arx Vaporum and its previous inhabitants. I found the overall design of the game itself to be a Bioshock meets Bruce Lee's Game of Death with traps, enemies and an ever growing and shifting layout between levels where the main character tries to discover more about himself and solve an overall mystery. Starting out, Vaporum isn't shy on delivering potential and possibilities for quality gaming.

Even though the character will climb through the Arx Vaporum tower, the story itself will not. This is because the narrative itself isn't very well constructed and/or executed. Yes, the main character does have a full voice script, but whether you're reading it or hearing it, the story must be built that actually makes the reader/gamer want to experience it. This is a tremendous setback because while the environment is set in this dystopian steampunk setting, the story can't match the quality of the environment of the Arx Vaporum. This, however, isn't the only major drawback against Vaporum. The controller gameplay is remarkably poor.

This, I'm willing to wager, is because Vaporum originally was launched on the PC, and when you start factoring in the differences between the mouse and keyboard interaction vs. the console controller input, it seems as though the transition hasn't been good to Vaporum. The gameplay mechanic is setup in a grid style movement system, but the controls feel both hyper-sensitive and clunky, but thankfully you will be able to manage time as needed, turning it into an almost turn based experience, and you'll need it. The combat is incredibly clunky and very challenging as well. This doesn't bode well for your character when you take into account that pushing to rotate the camera one direction will more than likely cause you to rotate two spaces and not face the direction you want to. This is especially bad when you're trying to navigate traps, environmental hazards and fight enemies simultaneously. The other gameplay controls as well feel cumbersome and clunky and all of this was quite honestly the knockout punch of Vaporum.

In Vaporum, instead of leveling up your character, you spend your time leveling up your rig. In the beginning you're going to select between 1 of 4 different rigs, each of which provide their own specialty and range, from your basic tank setup where you go looking for the fight, to traps where you try and navigate your enemies to their doom. These exo-suit rigs are now your lifeblood. Vaporum sports a basic grid inventory system and provides multiple skills that your character can develop throughout your adventure, but ultimately at the end, Vaporum has an uncanny focus on one principle; don't let your rig break down.

All your skills and items won't matter for anything if your rig becomes broken. All this means is that you're going to want to watch your repair kits and the damage you take in combat. While you may want to play a more ranged or crafty style of gameplay, the vast majority of the combat you'll encounter will be up close and rely on you either swinging wildly away with a melee item or shooting a firearm. Whatever the weapon though, get ready for a lot of close quarter combat, which means that there are some rigs that naturally put you behind the 8 ball when you're starting out.

While Vaporum does post some entertaining puzzles, they quickly become more of a change of pace tactic than actually something worthwhile. This sad reality combined with the previous disappointments and letdowns means that in all good conscious, I cannot recommend purchasing this game for $24.99 when you can get better dungeon crawlers for less money. When your game thrives on a quality story and entertaining gameplay mechanics, and both of those areas become lackluster and suffer, thus hindering the enjoyment, then it's time to move on. Vaporum may be set in a steampunk environment, but the game itself ran out of steam.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Tom Clancy's The Division 2

Years ago, Ubisoft unveiled a game that set new standards of sandbox gameplay. From exemplary combat and in-depth character customization, The Division released to critical acclaim throughout the gaming world, and now Ubisoft has released the next installment aptly titled Tom Clancy's The Division 2. Poised to set new standards and provide more of everything to the gaming community, The Division 2 just got a massive number of steroids shot into it, so let's dive right in as we see just what is going on in the streets of Washington D.C.

Yes, this time The Division 2 takes place right in the United States' capital, Washington D.C., and your base of operations is, of course, The White House. Keeping with the same theme of the original game, you're thrown right into the middle of the same type of attack but from the standpoint of the United States Government. Factions such as the Hyenas, True Suns and the Outlaws have taken hold over various outlets of the city, and it's up to you (because honestly who else would step in and help right?) to solve the city's woes and vanquish the foes and save the city from the brink of annihilation. Washington D.C. is broken up into various sections and each one of them has a designated character level range that should take notice of, since venturing into them too early will almost guarantee certain death.

Throughout Washington D.C. you'll come across various monuments and historical sites where civilians have taken up places of shelter, enemies have established control points (think of these as fast travel points to save in walking) and areas of resources that have been distributed for collection. What would such a game be without collectibles though right? In The Division 2, you'll notice that cell phone, echo and SHD collectibles return but also now you have to recover historical artifacts and paintings, of which there are quite a lot. When you think about the sheer size of the sandbox and the multiple vertical levels contained within, the total area that you have to search is actually quite immense. Ubisoft did a tremendous job incorporating Washington D.C. into the Division fold with wide and diverse environments.

In regard to the story though, there really isn't one. The overall concept is about saving the city and its people by killing bad guys, but sadly there isn't much of a plot that keeps you entertained. Let me explain why. From the beginning there's no real emotional connection to any character in the game. Understandably that reality is because it's a whole new game itself. However, any details relating to the characters comes from your ability to find things like echo recording devices that will help uncover more of a back story of some of the people you're working with. Sadly though, not you. The Division 2 does feel like they focused more on the environment and the player interaction with it, rather than any real plot of value, and you know what? That's what makes it perfect.

The Division 2's main purpose is to try and get you to band together as a group and play this game with your friends through multiplayer, and when you don't have such a strict narrative to follow, you allow the focus to be on whatever you want it to be. Don't want to play a story mission? Then go capture a control point, loot crate drops, hostage rescue mission, stop a public execution, stop a propaganda broadcast, collect resources, do a bounty hunt, complete a project or even do side missions that are separate from everything I just mentioned. This is easily The Division 2's greatest strength by a mile. The amount of content that constantly evolves and develops throughout your time spent is truly massive. Yes, the Dark Zone does exist again (this time it's divided into 3 sections), but the amount of continual content within the main sandbox will keep you locked in as the hours drift by and your days blur together.

This is due in part because the gameplay structure of The Division 2 is remarkably complex, but at the same time, just barely manageable. It's your basic cover system that we have experienced before, however at the same time, similar control glitches occur that can make the game very disorienting at times and even unplayable. Multiple times my character would try and climb down a ladder and would get stuck in the transition motion and be unable to bring up any menu or make any input. This caused me to have to restart my game completely. Other gameplay glitches include the mod section of your inventory. As you collect mods, you'll want to either sell or destroy some for resources. However, when you do that, it automatically locks you out from scrolling through your mods and instead goes section by section. To cope with this I would go into my mods section and press RT to make items my favorite and back out and continue the process (there's only a few you're really going to keep anyways), then press the Left stick in and bring up a menu which I can mark all as junk, and items that are favorited will not be marked as junk.

Another gameplay glitch comes as well as my character slides down the ladder. When my character climbs down a ladder (successfully) and it reaches the bottom, the GPS seems to know where the positioning of my character is within the world and all is well. However, should I slide down the ladder, upon impact the game doesn't know where the hell I am and instead sends my character walking in odd directions until I relinquish total control of the character and allow the game to sort itself out. Given how much of The Division 2 takes place on different levels of action, having issues traversing vertically isn't a good thing to have.

These are all types of glitches that were also apparent with the original game as well, so you get the sensation that the control scheme was carried over but only slightly tweaked (going into cover seems more responsive), but if the gameplay feels recycled, then what is actually new in The Division 2? The short answer is practically everything. One of the major reasons you'll play The Division 2 is because you love to grind for loot; it's nothing to be ashamed of, millions of others have the same symptoms. The gear in this game has changed in dramatic ways. First off, the whole "set" style returns, and as you collect more of the set you gain more bonus stats. However, this time there are actual "brands" of gear which give you unique and immediate benefit. Similar to the sets, the brands will give you more bonuses as well. Keep in mind though some of the brand bonuses require you to be wearing so many of that brand, so pay attention to your inventory because equipping that new gear may remove your bonus if you're not careful.

The gear can also be manipulated through the recalibration station. This station (which is unlocked at the White House through missions) allows you transfer a stat from one piece of gear or weapon to another. Now there are some limitations to this. First off, the item that you are pulling the stat off of will be destroyed (well you're not using it anyways, so it doesn't really matter). Another limitation is that you can only transfer the same "type" of power. So, you can't take something like a 3% chance of critical hit and replace it with +300 skill power or +1,000 health. This limitation prevents you from creating items the way you want to create them, but the limitations continue.

You can only recalibrate 1 stat EVER on an item. What this means is that you will be unable to EVER adjust a secondary stat on your item once it's been recalibrated. Then the last limitation is what makes this whole recalibration station a complete waste of time. The cap. Yes, you ARE capped as to how much you can transfer. Let me give you an example. I had a high-end chest piece which I wanted to recalibrate with a health stat which would in turn bring up all three of my character stats. I had a junked piece that had a stat bonus of +7,787 health and thought that this would be perfect to add. So, when I went to recalibrate, I see a message that states, "Capped at +1,987 Health". What? So, you can't alter other stats, the stats you want have caps on them, and you can't switch out other stat categories. So, what exactly is the point of this again? I'm sorry but this is one of the worst parts of the game because it was such an opportunity to allow you to tailor your gear how you wanted it, and now what is presented is a watered-down version of something that is supposed to resemble optimizing gear.

Another aspect that received the steroid treatment involve your skills. Now they can be customized with individual mods themselves that provide their own bonuses. Sounds good until you realize that you have to have your skill level at a certain point for the benefit to be active. With so many ways to develop your character, this directly forces you to focus on your skill level if you want to utilize them, and that I feel is another missed opportunity. You see, with your weapons, you can craft and fit various scopes, magazines, grips etc, and with your skills you don't have that luxury. I would rather want to construct items that improve my gear naturally, rather than rely on focusing some of my character's gear towards a skill level. I feel that you should be able to modify your skills just as you would a weapon because they are weapons themselves. The Division 2 attempts to rectify this situation by allowing you to unlock various versions of the same skill (so various versions of the turret for example), but the overall modification system for your skills seems lacking tremendous substance. While there are some dings and bullet holes though, The Division 2 is a game that keeps on giving.

This is because when you think you've completed everything and you've hit level 30, The Division 2 changes completely. The way you view your gear will change completely. New threats arrive. It's like you almost start over from the beginning. So, think of this time as your introduction to adulthood. This whole "shift" that the game goes through helps keep the PvE section fresh and full of challenging content that will keep you addicted for hours upon days, and during all of this you'll be loving what you look at.

This is due to the amazing graphics that permeate every aspect of The Division 2. The cut scenes look almost life like in their presentation (the actual "acting" could be done a bit better) and the environment looks like a realistic depiction of a nation's capital city trying to recover and survive after a horrible viral attack. I will admit there are definitely some recycled bits from before, but the amount of original graphic content is quite astonishing. While The Division 2 is a beautiful game to see, it's not such a beautiful game to hear. The soundtrack at times takes on this horrific style of what I would call death metal and it doesn't fit the mood of the game itself. Sadly, there isn't much in regard to any redeeming factor about the soundtrack, but the environmental sounds are astonishing. Hearing the coo of a dove, the weather crashing down with torrential rain and lightning, all of it helps you really transfer you right into the game itself. I actually turned off my music and have loved it ever since.

Now onto the Dark Zone. This area returns from the original and was one of the main reasons I quit playing the game. The Dark Zone is The Division 2's main PvPvE section and is also where the best loot in the game can be found. In the original game, players found a way to cheat their way into having overpowered weaponry that would kill you instantly. Thankfully this time Ubisoft has employed 3rd party software to severely cut back, if not eliminate all cheating. This was good, because as you would try to extract your collected gear, you would be instantly shot and killed and then your loot would be stolen and collected by others. It will be interesting to see how this battle between cheater and company will ultimately prevail, but my money is on the cheaters. If this turns out to actually work though, it'll be a blessing that keeps the game going for many years to come. Putting the Dark Zone aside, The Division 2 needed to deliver more content outside the Dark Zone, and they did exactly that.

The many teams that made The Division 2 put forth an incredible amount of work into making this sequel and it shows. Ubisoft decided to take what worked and keep it untouched, then increased the content for the main PvE section of the map and allow it to continuously update to provide more content for the gamers. Yes, there will be bugs and glitches but those can be sorted out (provided Ubisoft knows about and cares to fix them) and that doesn't take away from the crux of the game which is done to near perfection. Outside of some terrible soundtrack music and gameplay mechanic hiccups, The Division 2 is everything you hope a sequel should be. In today's world it's rare to see a sequel deliver a better experience than the original. The Division 2 does just that. So, to sum things up, buy the game. You can thank me later.

Suggestions: Really open up the recalibration station to gamers. Please get a better soundtrack.

Overall Score: 8.9 / 10 Pipe Push Paradise

When it comes to the world of puzzle games, the gaming world isn't really spoiled for choice. With the focus shifting into shooters, racers, fighters and other genres, the puzzle games tend to get overlooked. However, Digerati Distribution developed a puzzle game for the Xbox One called Pipe Push Paradise, which attempts to deliver a challenging plumbing experience. With a price tag of $10.99, you won't be pushing the wallet very hard, but is it worth the price? Let's find out!

The plot of Pipe Push Paradise is relatively simple; this island that you're a part of has apparently had a colossal plumbing problem. Every part of the island's plumbing became undone and it's up to, the island's premier (and only) plumber to fix it. The problem though is that he's been asleep for a long while, so the task of fixing the entire island's plumbing is up to you, his niece. I don't know why you're staying alone on an island with your Uncle (maybe punishment from your parents)? This concept makes up for 100% of the entire story, and so now that you know everything, you should know that this puzzle game may look cute, but sometimes looks can be deceiving.

This is because the gameplay of the pipe puzzles starts off with some easy and fairly manageable puzzles. This is done to get you used to the physics of the gameplay, and let me explain quickly why that's so important. Unlike other puzzle games, you can not rotate objects or alter them without taking a movement space. A movement space is what I like to call a part of the puzzle area that you have to work with. So let's say you want to flip a piece on one end; when you roll the piece, you actually will also move the piece forward (instead of rolling it in place and then moving it). This extra space means that you need to plan your positioning carefully if you wish to correctly solve the puzzles ahead.

And there's a lot of them as well. 47 puzzles that are designed to make you swear unholy allegiances to complete, break controllers in frustration, and give you the ultimate satisfaction upon completion of an incredibly hard challenge. This is thanks to what could be described as an incredibly steep learning curve. As you progress through the island's puzzles, you'll come across various island dwellers who literally mean nothing to the game at all. In fact, they are actually more useless than the terrain itself, but anyways... These people speak a garbled mess of noise, but provide no real benefit so again... Pointless.

Should you make a mistake in your puzzles (and we both know you will a LOT), there's a handy reset button to revert the puzzle back to it's original layout. Speaking of the gameplay, it's remarkably simple with buttons that allow you to go forward and backward through your steps of solving it (this came in handy when trying to figure out how to solve the harder puzzles). This gameplay will become essential when you start trying to solve puzzles in 2.5D by trying to rotate pipes to deal with overhead leaking.

There is a MASSIVE problem though; that your character moves at such a blinding speed (even when you use the D-Pad or sticks) that she will undoubtedly knock into pieces and operate in a hyper spastic way. This cripples the game and makes it not fun to play, because while the puzzles can be fun to accomplish, having to deal with a constant hyper-speed character that naturally causes gameplay issues within itself, is not something I care to spend my money on.

The graphics of Pipe Push Paradise are simplistic, as in child cutting shapes out of construction paper after nap time kind of simplistic. There's sadly nothing remotely beautiful about the island, and that's depressing because while Pipe Push Paradise is going for a more cartoon feel, I think they nailed their target audience in the 3-5 year range. However, I would have been far happier to ditch the pointless people who do nothing and instead increase the graphical assets. The same nightmare exists for the audio as well. It became so bad I turned everything off regarding sound because it literally drove me to knock back massive amounts of Advil to kill the headache it caused.

So as a quick recap, the movement controls that you deal with constantly are over sensitive, which making controlling your character through the pipe puzzles relatively difficult. There have been better graphics through Mario Paint and the sound was terrible in every aspect. However, the pipe puzzles in 2.5D were both frustrating yet delivered a tremendous amount of satisfaction upon completion. Should you spend your $10.99 on Pipe Push Paradise? Quite simply, no.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Stellaris: Console Edition

Space based adventure games have always been one that sparks a journey of mythical lands and incredible experiences. What if though, you could formulate your own journey? What if the incredible experiences are yours to create rather than scripted plotlines that follow in sequence? Enter the real time strategy game Stellaris: Console Edition, by Paradox Development Studio. Stellaris attempts to bring one of the most in-depth real time strategy experiences to the Xbox One and at a wallet friendly price point of $39.99 USD. Normally, I would insert some clever transitional phrase here, but let me just start out by saying if you're a fan of real time strategy games then this is a must have for you, and let me tell you why.

Loading the game up you're witness to some incredible cinematics and presented with a start screen that boasts some simplicity mixed with and incredible soundtrack that really helps set the mood up for this immense experience. Upon hitting Start, you'll be tasked with choosing your race to play as. For the social justice warriors of gaming, you'll be happy to know that there exists a vast and incredibly diverse number of races to select from and that each one is unique in its own way.

You could have one type of government be a democracy while others could be classified as military tyrants. While one race may be open to new species as a method of working together, another may be looking at them as targets that they can occupy for resources to fuel their own civilization. I found myself actually going through each individual option and checking out how some benefits of the passivist style governments, set them up with bonuses that adequately correspond to their own ethos, where as an enslaver style of ruling would grant bonuses to military power and be less "diplomatic" when it came to be interacting with other races in the universe.

After you've selected your race, you can go to customize the game as you wish. You can designate how many AI are playing in your level, their difficulty, how many star systems there are and much more. This type of tailored customization works wonderfully instead of the typical branded "easy, normal, hard" pre-configured motives. Once you have all that configured, kiss your foreseeable future goodbye, as the game starts up and your experience begins. I strongly recommend going through the tutorial and keep the hints on, as there is so much to discuss that you'll find that 90% of Stellaris: Console Edition is centered around menu management.

First, you'll find each border of the screen is a menu. The right side is what I'm calling your quick selection menu, where you can select individual items within your entire content. Selecting a science ship or construction ship is as easy as pushing Right on the D-Pad and then moving the cursor to the ship and press A. The bottom menu is your alert menu. This is where you will get notices about your completed research, any sort of scientific discovery, election results (if applicable, will discuss later), and any other point of interest that comes up pertaining to your game. The Left menu system acts as your reference point where you can review your completed logs (quests) and current ones that you have available. The top menu acts as your resource’s menu.

It's important to note that every one of these menus have multiple menus within them, and multiple menus within them that lead to yet, more menus. And that's just on the main screen edges, because every ship, building and planet that you can use has another menu that can lead to other menus and more menus after that. For instance, there are multiple types of scientific research that you can pursue, and each one of these three researches breaks down into 3 more possible research options. You can easily find yourself lost in tasks and spend a lot of time trying to figure out what, or more importantly, how, to do certain tasks, which is why tips should be always displayed until you feel comfortable with the enormous amount of content that you have to cycle through.

It also must be said that you have to also manage your citizens/slaves as well as explore other systems and enter into either diplomatic relations, or try to conquer them, or let them be their own sovereign species and act as an alliance, etc. This is where the depth of Stellaris rests. Not only are the customization options numerous to the point of almost madness, but the having to simultaneously tend to the needs of your people and see to their happiness means that this is like a steroidal version of The Sims at times.

The goal ultimately is to beat your adversary(ies) through the use of researching technology and expanding your civilization's boundaries into neighboring stellar systems. Each system is unique with their own mix of planets, moons, asteroids and much more. One really cool feature I loved was how the game notified me if there as a celestial event, such as a comet, and I was able to watch it as it traveled through space. These types of events really help bring the universe to life and I'm actually excited to witness other items such as black holes. Should you encounter a neutral planet (one that hasn't been occupied by the enemy), then it's up to you to turn the system into your fold. If, however, you come across enemy terrain, then any sort of confrontation could lead you to war.

When you're at war you'll be going up against other civilization(s) who are trying to either defend their own territory or expand into yours. To achieve victory in War, you'll have to decimate your opponent, and to do that you'll need to be building ships, researching technology, relying on allies and neighboring systems and much more. The formation of a technologically advanced army is crucial to winning a War. I found that it's best to start small with Stellaris in terms of your game creation, and once you overcome the 90-degree learning curve, you'll be in a much better position to go against multiple civilizations at once and utilize the old phrase, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

If you thought that was it for the depth of Stellaris, you'd be quite wrong. Stellaris though continues to go deeper. In peacetime through War, each race has their own sets of beliefs. How they perceive their own civilization, how they perceive other civilizations, etc. These beliefs bring about Edicts that affect the civilization. More Edicts can be learned over time and development, but these should be regarded because they can help shape the development of your entire race and possess unique trait bonuses. It goes without saying that Stellaris makes sure that there is just as much focus on intergalactic politics as there is in collecting resources or researching new technology.

This is one aspect that makes Stellaris one of the most in-depth RTS games you can find now on the Xbox One. Another aspect is the absolute brilliant graphic system that you find throughout every facet of Stellaris. It took some time to adapt to working in a pure 3D styled environment, but once I started to get familiar with the control scheme, it became far more manageable. I will say though that I can see why a keyboard and mouse for this game would be a massive benefit when compared to the controller. While I get the reality of the controller being the primary input device may not be the ideal situation, Paradox Development Studio did a fantastic job converting the user interface to fit the controller like a glove.

While the PC version came out in 2016, Stellaris: Console Edition delivers one of the most amazing individual experiences to be found on the Xbox One to date. Full customization and so much content that you will easily wonder where the last two weeks of your life went. Stellaris is a game that allows you to become a benevolent leader, interstellar overlord and everything in between, and tailors a graphically beautiful real time strategy experience that shouldn't be missed. For $39.99, Stellaris: Console Edition is one of the best bargain priced titles you can find to play.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Haunted Halloween '86

In the time I'm calling the golden era of gaming, children around the world flocked to their NES systems to engage the cartridge and set off of their adventure. Retrotainment Games set off on a task to help recreate that exact sensation. Priced at $9.99, Haunted Halloween '86 (The Curse of Possum Hollow) is designed to deliver the 8-Bit nostalgia that will hit us older gamers right in the feels and take us down a memory lane of Saturday morning cartoons with cereal, sunny days that turned into nights of playing outside and so much more.

I'm about to say something that is going to make some people very upset. I feel that a lot of gamers today are spoiled in gaming thanks to innovations that have evolved over the decades. Back in the 1980's gamers had a handful of lives, and even less chances to increase them throughout the entire game. If you failed? Then you got a game over and had to start all the way over from the beginning. Haunted Halloween '86 delivers the same twitch happy platforming experience that we have seen back in those golden ages of gaming.

There is a steep learning curve for this, and I know it sounds odd for me to say about some 8-Bit platformer, however, since you don't have analog support (big drawback for me), you'll have to get used to some very sensitive D-Pad action which will almost certainly be the difference between losing a life or getting through the level. This type of hair trigger jumping style is only complicated by the numerous types of enemies you'll face. However, it's up to you to figure out how enemies are dispatched.

The controls though of this game are incredibly simplistic. Just as before with the NES controller, you will only need to use the A and B buttons, as A is your jump and B is attack. To take advantage of the extra inputs on a more modern controller, gamers are given the ability to switch between fighters, each with have their own special abilities. To say that mastering this is easy would be a lie, so to help make things easier, Haunted Halloween '86 allows you to collect green cans that apparently act as lives. Some people have green mushrooms, some have green cans.

The story follows up the Haunted Halloween '85 tale and brings back the main character in a new adventure that happens to be very similar to their last. This time however, there are many... many differences... in many... ways. I never played Haunted Halloween '85 so I can't really compare the two plot lines, but if you and I are honest with one another, that's not why you're playing this game. You're playing it for the achievements.

Yes, that is the best thing, by a mile, about this game; the achievements. You can rack up 1000 Gamerscore in less than 15 minutes without any hassle. To be fair to this game, I did end up playing through it past the 1000 Gamerscore to give the plot a chance to entertain, and I can honestly say that it did deliver that nostalgic feeling that I was looking for, but not the quality I was expecting. I did enjoy the classic feeling, but even games released back in 1986 delivered better stories than this.

All throughout this review I've stated that this is an 8-Bit graphic layout, and both the visuals and audio pay significant homage to the time period. One of the hardest things to do would be to simulate shadowy areas, however, thanks to the graphical restrictions, you'll find yourself pausing while trying to distinguish what you can and cannot jump onto. Even the classic Super Mario Bros did their underground areas in a method that was easy to identify, but sadly not here.

While yes, you'll get a sense of a period of time when life was simpler and much better, the execution of Haunted Halloween '86 leaves little to be desired. While attempts are made to deliver that experience, the execution seems to be lacking intently. I would identify Haunted Halloween '86 as that one cartoon that was in the middle of your "Saturday Morning Cartoon" block that just didn't deliver that same "wow" factor as your favorites did. Remember, this is costing you $9.99 to experience this yourself, but is $9.99 worth 1000 Gamerscore boost in less than 15 minutes? That's a mystery you'll have to solve for yourself.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 ACE COMBAT 7: SKIES UNKNOWN

It has been over a decade since Bandai Namco allowed us to take to the skies and engage in non-stop air combat over fictional terrain set in a time of absolute war. Ace Combat 6 was Bandai Namco's attempt to bring about a quality flight/air combat simulator, and their Project Aces team excelled. Then as quickly as it appeared above the clouds, it vanished... for over 10 years. During this drought, the Ace Combat badge did resurface, but the thrill of the experience disappeared as it was put on hold for a more arcade type experience; however, the spiritual successor has been released, and once again we take to the skies in Ace Combat 7. Now grab your flight suit because it's time to earn your wings pilot.

As we taxi to the runway, Ace Combat 7 opens up to us and delivers a simplistic, yet beautifully designed layout. The options and menu are very simplistic, yet designed in a way that makes navigation through multiple options very manageable. You will make selections to play in the main campaign that consists of 20 missions (more on that here in a bit), multiplayer, go to the Microsoft store, game options and more. I started by going over the flight controls and found that if you're an Ace Combat veteran, then setting the flight controls to "advanced" allows for way more control over your aircraft. I also noted that there is an extensive flight control setup for those who should be lucky enough to have flight stick and throttle (I always wanted the old Ace Combat 6 flight stick bundle).

After going through the setup, it was nice to see that Bandai Namco and the Project Aces team kept a lot of the controls very similar to those of Ace Combat 6. The 'Y' button switches targets (though it should be pointed out that pressing 'Y' may not select the target immediately in front of you) through a sort of "list" of prioritized 'bogeys'. The B button is what you press if you want to unleash hell. The A button fires your guns. You can see where the rest of this is going, but I am very pleased to report that everything that was wonderful about the gameplay mechanics of Ace Combat 6 (AC6) made their return, but this time everything was tweaked to be better in every way.

If you've played AC6, then it should be no surprise that the same style of story follows here in Ace Combat 7. There's a war that breaks out between two rival nations and you are tasked with essentially bringing that war to an end. To do that, you'll have to essentially shoot everything down that you can. The story is hands down the weakest part of the game and provides little enjoyment except for the fact that you get to watch lengthy cinematics done in amazing quality and detail. Other than that, you fly and shoot things. It really doesn't get more simplistic than that. While I'm glad that the story does exist, the cinematics will sometimes go on for a long time, that your controller will actually turn off from non-use. I wish though the story was done in a manner that made more of an emotional connection, but sadly I wasn't involved in the writing process.

Trying to find innovation in any game is challenging; however, when you talk innovation in an air combat simulator, then you're going to have an even bigger challenge ahead. Ace Combat 7 put this challenge in their sights and blew it out of the sky thanks to one thing; weather. While you're flying, you'll notice things like rain, lightning, and even wind will make a dramatic impact on your aircraft. Lightning will temporarily short out your electronics (good strategy if you're looking to evade a lock on your tail), while you'll find that the wind will actually push your plane around so you will find yourself having to adjust your controls accordingly. This added realism was a much-welcomed blessing for this game, but what really took me by surprise was the new and innovative Aircraft Tree.

Think of the Aircraft Tree like your typical skill/character tree(s) that we find in most games today. This one, however, deals with planes, upgrades and weaponry on a colossal scale. Starting with an F-16, you will accumulate points/currency by each multiplayer mission you compete in, as well as each campaign mission you finish. This currency is used to unlock new aircraft, special weaponry and upgraded parts. YOU CAN NOT RESPEC YOUR POINTS USED, so be VERY careful as to how you decide to spend them. I find that it's best to plan by seeing what aircraft are on the path you initially want to take and then look for other upgrades that you wish to unlock at a later time.

When you purchase a new plane from the Aircraft Tree, you will automatically get one special weapon unlocked for that plane, but you will need to spend more currency to unlock the other weapons. For example, if you want to unlock the F-22A Raptor at the end of the tree, not only will you need to buy your way to it, but at the same time it will set you back 920,000 credits, and each special weapon you unlock can cost over 100,000 credits each one, so get ready to spend like crazy. This method allows you to feel like there are goals to reach and progress to be made while you grind away hours of your life flying in multiplayer.

Not only will you unlock new planes and ordinance, but you'll also unlock new parts which is another new innovation for the Ace Combat series. You'll be able to equip your plane with various parts that fit into the slots that impact different aspects of your aircraft. The first tab allows you to focus on things like maneuverability, stability and so forth. Your second tab relates to your armaments, and it's here you can tailor things like increased or standard missile homing, reload speed, etc. Your third and final tab deals with what I'm calling the technology aspect of your plane, by allowing you such options as enhanced deicing, decrease in enemy lock on and more.

Each plane has the same number of slots that you can use to equip these new parts (or as I call them "plane perks"), however, there are costs that are involved with each plane and part and that can impact what you face in multiplayer. You see, in multiplayer you can set up what types of planes you want to fly against. Not by type of plane, but rather by cost. Case in point, when you setup a multiplayer match, you can create your room with restrictions on aircraft cost, and there's options such as under 2000, unlimited and more, but here is how this works:

Let's say you join a room and its cost restriction is 2000 or less. An F/A-18 can cost a little over 1900, and each part that you put on the plane (not weapon but parts) costs between 20-50 credits, so you'll have to choose wisely if you want to maximize your aircraft under the 2000 limit. Or you can take a less expensive plane and load it up with tons of parts, so the decision is totally up to you on how you wish to approach multiplayer.

Graphically speaking, Ace Combat 7 is stellar. It takes everything from AC6 and enhances it in every way. The cut scenes are jaw dropping beautiful and the environments you fly in seem to be straight out of photographs. There was some screen tearing though, but it was incredibly minimal and didn't detract from the overall aesthetic of the game. There is one issue that I have to mention, and that is that I was hoping for a way to save some of the replays to watch later, or find some way to make clips of my flights, but the camera system was average at best in the replay sector and no such option exists to actually save your replays. A minor gripe, but when you're playing at such intense speeds, having to record your own manual clips can be a bit disorientating since you shift your focus to record some moment that went flying by you at 1000 mph... virtually of course.

Just as the graphics deliver an experience that makes your jaw drop, the audio surpasses any of the games that came before it and stands in a class on its own. Sure, the audio from the cockpit returns in its classic glory, but the actual soundtrack is what surprised me the most. Classical harmonies and a symphony of melodies bombarded my ears, while the tempo and direction of the music changed dramatically when the action became intense.

Without a doubt this IS the Ace Combat experience fans around the globe have waited over a decade for. Bandai Namco and Project Aces have done an incredible job delivering a truly remarkable flight combat experience that shouldn't be missed. With 20 story missions and a multiplayer that will leave you wondering where all those hours went, Ace Combat 7 deserves a medal of commendation for the execution of a near perfect flying gaming experience. If you're a fan of the Ace Combat series, or just flight games in general, then Ace Combat 7 should be on your radar to purchase.

Suggestions: Please do not wait over 10 years for another entry like this. This is the version of Ace Combat your fans want to enjoy, and feel free to make another one sooner than later.

Overall Score: 8.7 / 10 Asdivine Hearts II

Following up on the release of the classic RPG game, Asdivine Hearts, KEMCO has decided to roll the dice again and deliver the sequel, aptly named Asdivine Hearts II, for the price of $14.99. Now, the first one really won me over, so is it possible for lightning to strike twice with KEMCO delivering a game that is built upon the solid foundations of the original? Let's find out.

The original Asdivine Hearts was an amazing shot of nostalgic RPG gaming that offered a surprising amount of depth to it. Fittingly, KEMCO went the smart route, as they were of the the mindset that if it's not broken, don't fix it.

In this sequel, you will find much of the same that you have before, should you have played the first game, albeit this time with a slightly different twist. In the original, we learned that there was a clash between Light and Dark deities, however, in the sequel you will fight alongside both. It seems a bit confusing, but should I completely spoil the story of Asdivine Hearts? Believe when I say that there's a reason for the deity partners.

With regards to the actual story of Asdivine Hearts II, I have to say that this is where one of the biggest faults of the game resides. In the beginning of the game you have the option to observe an incredibly abridged description of the plot and story of the original Asdivine Hearts so you can get caught up to speed, however, while that provides somewhat of a backstory, it does very little to help set the stage for this adventure. Then, throughout the game, you're going to encounter the obligatory side quests, but the main quest feels watered down and almost forced this time around. Sure, all the quirky mannerisms of your characters return in their awkward, pseudo-erotic nature, but after going through the new story, it doesn't captivate me as the original did.

Your characters from before return, so there's some form of familiarity. Zack is apparently the only male in the story and is surrounded by women who fall in love with him, and throughout the game you'll be subject to some really subpar emotional writings based off how these characters trust Zack (which can be altered by giving gifts as well). You can essentially bribe women to fall for you, and a big way to do that is by giving said gifts. Hmmmm... any how, each character has within themselves a special ability to examine objects and items while venturing in the overworld. Some can read ancient inscriptions within stones, some can use a whip to bring the party across gaps to reach hidden areas and so on.

A classic RPG game, such as this, depends on the story to make it worthwhile and enjoyable, and with what I experienced, I do feel the game takes a hit here. Despite this, there is still quite a lot of redeemable qualities within Asdivine Hearts II, starting with the battle system. As you venture forth, you can have a support character that can do actions for you, such as using spells to defend fellow teammates, decrease the cost of spells for the main character, increase damage dealt to the enemy and more, so you get the idea. If you decide to utilize both your main and support in the same turn, you have the potential to do an incredibly powerful combined attack that is known as a union attack.

These attacks should be used sparingly though. In order to properly use one, you first must select a spell with your main character, as this will be the base for your attack. Next, you will want to see what support spells have a question mark next to them and select that. Should you do everything properly, you will see a tremendous magical spell (which is delivered in some amazing retro goodness which I'll touch on later) that deals an incredible amount of damage. Your attacks (of any type) build what is called the trust gauge, and it's from this front that you will utilize these immensely powerful attacks.

Visually, Asdivine Hearts II seems to be in the recycling business. Not only do the graphics feel identical to the previous release, but each house/cave/business/castle feels similar to every other one and looks completely identical too. What's even worse is that the game's enemies also are almost taken straight from the original game and only given new facelifts and colors. There is very little originality and thought into this area, and to me it indicates that not a lot of effort and innovation was utilized to create a unique environment. I will state however, that if you're looking for a pure trip of nostalgia, then Asdivine Hearts II delivers but for fans returning from the first game it will seem very limited in scope.

One of my favorite aspects from the first game makes its return, and that is the Rubix system. For those who haven't played the first, or read my review, the Rubix system is what allows you to develop your character's bonuses by socketing jewels. You start with a basic grid layout, and through your battles and collected chests, you will be able to socket various shaped jewels that will grant bonuses to your character's stats. Also, you can combine jewels to make more potent ones, or if you're lucky, utilize them as one of your new companions.

Not all jewels are made equally, and some do contain monsters within them that, should you use them, will actually fight alongside you, or can be called upon to access their own skills for a fight. How you decide to use these types of jewels will impact your battles greatly, so make sure you get accustomed to trying different arrangements with different characters to see what works best for you. Should you also feel the need to battle these monsters, you can use them within an arena in the game where the more difficult the battles, the bigger the prizes are.

All of this aside, I must make a note here that the control system of Asdivine Hearts is just as hyper sensitive as it was before. What that means is that your 8-way directional movement when walking doesn't always function properly, and you find that walking around becomes a challenge in and of itself. Not really the best thing to do when you spend 1/3 of your time reading, 1/3 fighting and the other 1/3 walking around. Then when you factor in the random enemy occurrences and you are left with the reality that your movement now is broken, and you will have to start it all over again.

Asdivine Hearts II tries to deliver a sequel, but the story isn't as captivating as the original, the graphics feel recycled and the movement feels jerky as opposed to fluid. While some attempt at innovation tries to bring about some wonderful new aspects to the game, sadly Asdivine Hearts II falls short of bringing an adventure that felt fresh and new. I wish I could recommend this game, but at $14.99 it breaks my heart.

Overall Score: 6.8 / 10 Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden

One of the best ways to get your game to stand out from the rest of the pack is to be innovative, and apply said innovations to multiple facets of the game itself. For many, many years we as consumers have faced the repetition of numerous styles of gaming that all have similar functions, but all of them delivering an experience that doesn't seems to always capture the gamer because of its "more of the same" approach. Funcom has released a game called Mutant Year Zero, developed by The Bearded Ladies and priced at $34.99. So, while technically considered in the range of budget retail and not indie, Funcom had their work cut out for them to deliver a product that not only was entertaining, but worth the price tag as well. Did they accomplish this? Let's take a look inside and see what is offered.

In Mutant Year Zero you have a post-apocalyptic world that is the aftermath of a tremendous global nuclear war. During this war, humanity has almost been completely obliterated, the surrounding environment, which is called the Zone, is a mixture of dilapidated areas of residential and corporate buildings, destroyed tunnels and multiple areas that are all impacted by the aftermath. From the destruction though comes a sliver of hope for humanity, as the last major city structure is built in the sky, called the Ark. Like the story about how Noah saved the animals, the Ark's purpose is to try and save humanity. To do that however, you need scrap materials so they can be collected and converted into useful items for people on the Ark. However, where there is hope and good intentions, there's also another flip side to the coin.

Down in the Zone, you'll come across Ghouls, which are humans who have survived the war but have been turned mad and are devout followers of the Ancients (what passes for humanity before the war). These Ghouls are under control by a company called Nova Sect who want to utilize the fabled powers of mutation that were discovered by the Ancients, and use that ability to power new weaponry to wipe out the Ark and everyone inside it. To prevent this from happening you'll be taking on the role of a Stalker, who was originally tasked with finding materials in the Zone to bring back to the Ark, but now has a more important mission. Right from the beginning you'll be introduced to Bormin and Dux (no not the Bloodsport Dux) who are two mutant Stalkers, whom will be your primary players. As you progress, you'll unlock more followers, each of which have their own special abilities and powers, but I'll get into that more here shortly. Eventually you'll have formed a team, and it's this team that needs to confront Nova Sect and find out more about the Ancients, and more importantly, how to save humanity.

As you traverse the Zone and get a feel for the interconnectivity of the areas, you'll also note that the characters have their own unique weapons in a fight. Dux for instance, has a silent crossbow, while Bormin uses some loud but devastating shotguns. I made the deliberate notion to point out what weapons are silent and which are not, because that will make a world of difference in your game. Let me explain why. Mutant Year Zero is a turn-based combat game, and should you arouse the suspicions and be caught by the ghouls and their machines, you'll draw the fire of every ghoul in the area that you're in, so learning how to be stealthy and quiet will exponentially increase your chances of survival. However, for the times that you have to go loud, make sure you drop your target as soon as possible and you cover your flank.

The gameplay of Mutant Year Zero is setup to be a grid system during combat. You can get close to enemies and then press 'X' to ambush them. This will essentially pause the game and freeze opponents in their tracks while you navigate to your position of choice before engaging the enemy. The game will also let you know if moving to a designated place will result in your character being detected, so you can get a feel for where you want to position your players. Now each character gets two turns, and it's up to you to decide how you want to spend those points. Reloading your weapon takes one of the turn points, as does walking, however, firing your weapon ends your turn, so you'll have to balance how you want to approach different scenarios and adapt accordingly.

If you have the walk selection highlighted, you can use the Left and Right Bumpers to switch between party members, but if you have your weapon selection highlighted, the Bumpers switch between different enemies. Depending on your position, you'll be able to get a percentage of what your weapon will hit, and obviously the closer to 100 then the more chance you'll have to hit the target. Now remember that this is based off of line of sight, so while a direct approach may be more efficient, you may have a better tactical advantage from a higher perch, so plan accordingly to your environment, your enemy position, the strength of your weapons, etc.

There is a lot to consider with regards to combat, and one aspect that I'm ever so thankful for is the auto save after combat. This is because Mutant Year Zero is almost pure tactical combat, and should your strategy fail, you can reload after your last combat encounter. So, let's say you have an area of 15 enemies, and about 6 to 8 of them are in places around the perimeter. Every time you take one of them out and do it silently, the rest of the enemies are not triggered AND you get an auto save. So should you decide to engage with the quietness and subtlety of an air siren, you can reload and the game will pick up right where you left off after making the last kill, which will allow you to rethink your strategy and hopefully work through it. I found that using silent weapons to dispatch the surrounding enemies of an area worked best, but when it came time to deal with the bulk of the forces, then grabbing yourself the biggest, loudest and most damaging weapons possible is going to be your best option. Sometimes you have to just bring the noise if you want to survive, and while a silenced pistol of damage 5 is good for low level enemies, a rail gun with a damage of 8 is far better.

Should you make it through combat alive, you'll start to level up your characters. The leveling system is done as a team, so one experience bar dictates all characters so there's no uneven leveling (even for members who aren't in your 3-person party). As you level up your mutants you'll gain points that you can spend on your character for passive skills, as well as minor and major mutations. These types of mutations require a cooldown to use, but not a cooldown in time, but in kills. So, for example, Skull Splitter, a minor mutation, may be able to grant you 100% critical chance, but you'll take a 25% hit in accuracy. This requires you to kill 3 enemies after you use it to reset the mutation for use. What this means is that, while some mutations may be worthwhile to use, I like to consider saving them for massive enemies like Tanks and other larger opponents.

Just as you have the ability to upgrade your character, you'll also have the ability to upgrade your weapons. This is done through scavenging for weapon parts and collecting loot drops from fallen enemies. While the main combat mechanics of the game take center stage, the parts in between the fighting bits revolve around you walking through the Zone searching for items such as scrap, weapon parts and even what is called Ancient Artifacts, such as a defibrillator or a telescope. The scrap allows you to buy items from the store in the Ark, and things can get expensive quickly, so make sure you stockpile your scrap and buy what you need when you need it (medpacks I'm looking at you). The Ancient Artifacts allows you to upgrade all your characters at the Ark with abilities such as an extra grenade slot, increase in hit percentage, 20% off the store so you can save more scrap, etc. These items are hidden away in the Zone, so you'll have to scavenge the area to find them.

The last little bit of upgrading on the Ark deals with your weapon upgrades. Here you'll be able to modify your weapon through 3 stages of power with each stage requires a set amount of weapon scrap. On top of the power level, you'll have the opportunity to equip items such as scopes that will grant weapons passive abilities such as increased critical chance, increased weapon range and more. The last little bit could be the most important, and that is your damage modifier. You'll come across numerous enemies within the Zone and it helps to have weapons that are equipped to deal with the particular types. For example, one damage modifier can grant you a 50% chance to burn your organic enemies, which is great when you start talking ghouls, but when you start battling robots, then not so much. For that you'll need shock weapons that will help disable them and can be a life saver. One gripe I had about this is that you can ONLY swap out items on your gear at the Ark, so if you find an item in the field, you won't be able to equip it until you get to the ark. A small flaw but can become annoying should you come across amazing pieces of gear and have to fast travel back to the Ark just to equip it.

Another little gripe involves the actual walking around and exploration of the Zone, as it is incredibly SLOW. Now I'm not asking for racing style speed, but I've seen snails move faster than the characters do. Maybe this has to do with making sure you don't inadvertently trigger enemies, but when you have large areas to explore, and it literally takes you minutes to walk from one exit to another because of the speed, the game loses some of its impact, and even though the dialog occurs while you're walking through the different areas of the Zone, it does very little to remove the monotony of slowly walking around and exploring a large area for scrap and items. To rectify this, you'll be able to fast travel to any point on the map (once you unlock it by travelling there on foot) which will save a tremendous amount of time, but at the same time, if you're missing some Ancient Artifact, then you'll have to go through each area anyways to look for them. So while fast travelling is a good thing, if you're wanting to collect scrap, upgrade your characters and more, then you're going to be forced into the long walks of boredom.

That's not to say that you'll be walking through an environment that looks horrible. In fact, the graphics of Mutant Year Zero are done very well with amazing lighting effects. The camera system is also sufficient and not over complicated or cumbersome. The character models are unique and detailed, but the real graphical power stems from the Zone itself. Another joy I found was that the music really fit the experience of the game in a manner that I was quite skeptical about. However, from the moment I started playing, the ambient audio and musical soundtrack were a treat from start to finish.

From an innovative way to incorporate on the fly tactical strategy into an action adventure game, to a simplistic yet robust upgrading system, Mutant Year Zero is one of the best experiences you can have on the Xbox platform. A few setbacks though can't diminish the tremendous amount of enjoyment I found trying one strategy, failing miserably, reloading the save, trying another strategy, failing miserably and repeating the process until I was successful. This feeling of accomplishment means that every battle of Mutant Year Zero means something, and thus a fantastic and challenging experience from start to end. Due to all this, it's easy to say that Mutant Year Zero is well worth the $34.99 price tag and should be on everyone's radar as a must have.

Overall Score: 8.3 / 10 Ashen

When someone tells me a game is along the lines of Dark Souls, I instantly picture myself spending an exorbitant amount of time dying and respawning in a seemingly endless cycle until a checkpoint or goal is reached/obtained. I personally am incredibly poor at games like this, so when I had the chance to dive into Ashen, I thought it would be best to begin the game with an open mind; and I'm ever so thankful that I did. When I saw that the price tag was $39.99, I was optimistically cautious that what we could be looking at is an amazing sleeper of a hit. Let's get right into it and find out what we have here in Ashen.

Ashen refers to a god-like entity of light. This light radiates from the Ashen and bestows upon the various kingdoms its radiance by which each culture adapts it to fit their needs. Ashen boils down to a generic 'save the light from the dark by killing the dark' experience that we've had before. I'm not going to spoil the plot because it's one you have to experience to enjoy. I will say though that you'll experience all of this in the opening segments, and be thrown right into the story where you'll learn about Ashen's core, the creation of bonds.

Ashen thrives upon you developing relationships with others that you meet. Individuals will help you along your way, but require a side quest in order to gain their favor. Throughout your questing you'll come across items that will fulfill side quests, and you can choose whether or not you wish to complete the quest and give the items to their designated people, or you can keep the item for yourself. Should you decide to relinquish your item, then they will provide you with various skills that you can utilize.

These bonds that you create are unique to every character you meet, so you will get to experience a number of diverse side quests that most of the time will boil down to just go somewhere, kill something, collect reward and repeat. As you complete your quests and grow your home base, Vagrant's Rest, you will find that more abilities will open up for your character in regard to crafting and upgrades. While you make your progress and tend to others, you will watch as your base begins to grow not just in population, but also in development. As you help others, it become startling how you see your base almost blossom in front of your eyes. Now remember, these quests are optional, but they do serve a critical purpose, and that is to teach you to work together.

Yes, you'll have an NPC character accompany you, however, that AI can be replaced by another human in a seamless drop in/out method. You'll rapidly become to realize that to access various areas of the map itself, you will be required to work as a team to traverse and explore the wilderness and caves. It must also be noted that if someone joins your game, they can go off on their own and completely leave your side as well. While this doesn't bode well to fostering good teamwork, remember that you will also be needed should the other person wishes to access areas that require cooperation. This harmonic balance is what will keep people working together and is a remarkable trait that is rarely found in gaming today.

Should you decide to go at Ashen solo, you will be granted your AI teammate, but their playstyle will forever be less than a human controlled character. There is a knock against the co-op though, as if you want to have a dedicated friend join up rather than a random player or an AI counterpart. To accomplish this, you must first go into settings, then after you adjust your settings, you then must enter a code which you have to give to your friend so they can link to your game and join you, then you are required to essentially stand in the same spot in the world. Should all of this work flawlessly, then your friend will be directly linked to your game. I don't know, but I thought a simple invite system that's found on almost every other game that allowed for co-op would be a lot more simplistic, because, should one step fail, then you have to do this all over again. Also, should you fast travel on the map or perish, then guess what you're going to be doing again? For a game so centered around developing bonds and cultivating friendships and teamwork, Ashen really puts a lot of confusing steps in place to do it.

Outside of the cumbersome steps needed to partner up with a friend, you'll quickly come to terms with the Right Stick and the B button, as you realize that a majority of the game involves combat, and the Right Stick allows you to lock onto an enemy, so you don't end up flailing your weapon around hitting nothing but air. Your B button is your infamous dodge move which will save your hide, provided you have enough stamina, and that is also another sad reality; that Ashen boils down to simple stamina management for its gameplay. Your Right Bumper gives you a light attack, Right Trigger gives you a hard attack, and each take away their own amount of stamina. Your dodging as well takes away stamina, and if you have to dodge twice you may not have enough left in the tank to engage your opponent right away. This technique of managing your dodging with your attacking, and stamina amount, will be of the upmost importance to master, especially when dealing with the game's bosses who can one shot you without a successful dodge.

After you perfect your mastery of the controls, you'll be able to enjoy the incredible lands of Ashen. Beautiful scenery blankets every unique area and adds an artistic flair to the realistic graphics we have come to know and expect. Caves and underground labyrinths feel enclosed and can be tricky to navigate, while the wide-open space of the world of Ashen can leave you vulnerable to unseen spear and arrow attacks from a distance, so I learned quickly to always be aware of your surrounding areas. I will say though, that one of the biggest surprises to me, by a mile, is the soundtrack. An acoustic wet dream of harmonies that play off the lands and your actions make every single moment of Ashen an incredible experience. After playing games since the early 80's, I would easily rate this within my top 10 gaming soundtracks of all time. While the tedious grinding of enemies after I expired would become mundane after doing it so many times, it allowed me to listen to more of the soundtrack, which was a perfect tonic to my depression over my failed gameplay.

There are some technical issues though that plagued Ashen. For instance, I would encounter some screen lag when multiple moving items were on the screen at one time. I also would experience game crashes should I spin the camera around too fast and for too long. I also encountered some more game crashes when I tried to do a trade with some of the NPC traders. Each one of these crashes involved me having to restart the game entirely. Thankfully though, all of my currency and items were still there when my character got back into the world. I must make note though, if you're a purist when it comes to achievements, brace yourselves because there are numerous 17-point achievements that you can obtain.

For a hack and slash game that adapts the traits of a Dark Souls, to focus on the formation and cultivation of bonds between characters, Ashen is a game that came out of nowhere to positively surprise me. Despite the technical glitches, the grinding and the dying, I found the game beautiful to behold, angelic to listen to, and a story that delivers a tremendous punch. A44 did a tremendous job developing a game that is worth every penny of the $39.99 asking price. It goes without saying that if you're a fan of adventure games, hack and slash games, or Souls type games, then Ashen needs to be on your must buy list.

Suggestions: do away with the 17 point achievements.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Darksiders III

One of the greatest sources of all story material relates to the eternal battle between Heaven and Hell, where Earth and humanity is caught in the middle. In the past, THQ (who is now THQ Nordic) has provided us such tales in the Darksiders series. With little to no advertisement, Darksiders descended upon the public, like the horseman that they are, and was so surprisingly good that it spawned its own cult following by being the literal definition of a sleeper hit. Dark times fell upon THQ and the company dissolved, and in doing so, caused uncertainty in the future of the Darksiders’ stories. While the stories were told for War and Death, there were two stories whose fate was now up in the air, until now.

News came of Darksiders being picked up, and with THQ Nordic now being at the helm of the IP, and it seemed like everything was green lit to be moving forward with the tale, all while everyone was clamoring over their Red Dead Redemption 2's, Call of Duty, Battlefield, etc. THQ Nordic casually released Darksiders III, and it literally picks up right where we left off from the previous two titles. This time though, the horseman you play isn't War or Death, but this time you tell Fury's story.

Fury is the female horseman who is quite literally the most impatient and conceited horseman we have experienced to date. While War was tormented, and Death seemed arrogant, Fury wants it all and wants it now. Should anything delay that, and Fury will annihilate anything preventing that from occurring. While the council deliberates and investigates War's actions, Fury's job is to track down the Seven Deadly Sins who have broken loose from the Council's grasp and return them to the council so that order may be restored to the precious balance so eagerly sought.

The story is what primarily made Darksiders such an iconic tale. Describing the balance between Heaven and Hell with humanity locked in the middle, and thankfully this story keeps to the same grounds. Each sin is represented in a manner that suits each representation: Wrath is a juggernaut of vengeance and power, Sloth is a lazy overweight character that would rather sacrifice his minions to do its work than exert force of his own and Lust is an enchantress of desire that will make you obtain everything you ever wanted for a price. There is one character that thankfully makes their return to the game, the merchant Vulgrim; a humble merchant of trinkets, consumables and artifacts for Fury.

Now the same principal background of obtaining new powers throughout the story also applies as well to this latest Darksiders entry. While you play a rider of the apocalypse, you are without the necessary powers to complete your mission. As Fury is tested, and passes, she will obtain new powers. Think of these new powers almost as elemental enhancements. The flame enchantment will allow her to a propelled jump to reach new heights, the lightning enchantment will allow her to perform a glide move at the height of her double jump and can make use of wind vents to help propel her into the air and cross greater distances. These new elemental powers are mapped to your A, B, X, and Y buttons, and can be called upon instantly with just a simple button combination such as LB + A. As Fury also eliminates enemies, she will be able to call upon 2 additional forms of attack. One of them is based off the selected element she is currently using, which is activated with LB+RT, and the other one is her wrath form where she becomes an unrelenting powerful force of pure aggression but only does Arcane damage (you’ll hear more about Arcane damage later), and it only lasts for a short while.

It goes without saying that these new abilities mean one thing. Going back to the beginning and finding new areas to explore that were once unreachable for you. This sense of grinding has been at the forefront of Darksiders since its inception, however, it's taken to a new extreme level in this latest release. One of the most notable downfalls has to be with their lurcher currency and how it's lost upon death. Let me give you an example.

Say you're wandering around and slaughtering enemies left and right for over an hour, but then you get caught and you end up dying. Now not only will you spawn at the last Vulgrim location, but your lurcher (currency) count will reset to 0, and as such, EVERY ENEMY you killed will also respawn. So, what I found myself doing is going back and re-farming from the beginning over and over again. The tediousness of this is indescribable, however, when you get back to the same place you died, you'll find a massive blue lurcher element that you can hit with your whip and reclaim all your lost currency that is now added onto your new total. While very time consuming, very profitable in the end. However, you're going to be dying quite a bit in the beginning, so maybe save this till later.

The reason you're going to be dying a lot is that Fury, even for being a Horseman of the Apocalypse, is incredibly weak. I don't know why. The Charred Council that helps control the balance, and who created the Horsemen, made them fragile and powerless for whatever reason. You'll be falling in love very rapidly with the RB which is your dodge button. Should you time it right, not only will you dodge the attack and receive no damage, but you'll also gain a window to unleash an arcane attack that can cause severe damage (pending you upgrade your skill; more on that later) but also open up a window of vulnerability against your opponent where you can chain together more attacks. However, while getting accustomed to the RB and it's timing of the enemy's attacks, you'll suffer a lot of damage and die quite frequently. You've been warned.

The gameplay itself is decent, however, there are some issues that plague it. One of the issues I found most annoying dealt with the lack of a mini map. This took a long, long time to get acclimated to because with no map of any sort to guide you, you find yourself wandering around levels like that Pulp Fiction meme trying to figure out where to go next. Another issue with the gameplay is the whole lock on feature never felt right. You can use the LT to lock onto an enemy and then use the RS to cycle through enemies attacking you, so you can select which one to focus on. Sounds great, however in doing so you can lose focus of the other 4 enemies coming at you and dealing damage to you. While the focus is great for a 1v1 engagement, it becomes irrelevant and damn near suicidal if you decide to use it in a group. Other drawbacks include pressing in the Right Stick to engage in an over the shoulder targeting mode, which is ok, but you lose your peripheral vision, so it becomes more focused. Again, this is great if you need it to go 1 on 1, but if you use it in a group setting, you're cutting off at least half your vision which will certainly lead to death.

As I was progressing through Darksiders, I did notice that music and soundtrack sadly was quite forgettable. There was though, one section of the game and that is when you get to the maker's building that has some absolutely incredible music. I found myself actually pausing there for a while just to listen to it. In case you were wondering, the maker is where Fury goes to upgrade her weapons and her enhancements. Each enhancement carries with it two properties. So, for example, one enhancement would be 1: Rejuvenate health per minute and 2: Increase lurcher count spawned by destroying objects. Now you can only select 1 path to upgrade the enchantment, but when you do the 4th upgrade in your path you'll find that both paths combine at the end to create a balanced enchantment. While the lurcher may be good for currency, health is always a blessing, so it's always best to prepare for the long term. Now as Fury progresses and acquires new powers, so too does she acquire new weapons. Outside of her whip you’ll find she will have spears, some form of fire nunchaku and much more. All of which can be upgraded.

As the maker is used for upgrading your equipment, Vulgrim the merchant is used for upgrading your character. Using the lurchers you collect you can feed them to Vulgrim who, after enough have been acquired, will grant you an ability point which you can use to upgrade one of three classes: Health (how much damage you can take), Strength (how much damage you deal) and Arcane (how much damage you do when going into arcane mode and perfectly dodging attacks). I found that it was in my best interest to focus on building my character's health and strength, but as I approached the later levels, upgrading the arcane stat has been incredibly valuable.

I must take a moment now because I have to say that the graphics of Darksiders III is something that not only pays homage to the style that we have become accustomed to throughout the series, but has provided moments of incredible beauty. There was a moment where I explored and found my way into a cave that was only lit with soft blue bioluminescence pods which looked like a blanket of blue stars in the night sky. There were enemies there that were a greenish tint that glowed like a blacklight, and the whole area was drop dead gorgeous. Each area has its own distinctive feel to it which gives it a very unique feeling as you move from level to level, but it's more than just complete a level and move on, as you are essentially exploring a world. Think of it as an origami piece that you unfold and discover one crease at a time until you unfold everything and see the final picture. While frustrating at first, the concept is wonderfully executed. Sadly, when it comes to the graphics, there were numerous times when the frame rate did drop significantly and there were other graphical hiccups that didn't occur at the most opportune times, but in the overall scheme of things, they were few and far between.

There was something though that was missing from the classic Darksiders games of the past, and that were the puzzles. While they do exist in Darksiders III, they are few and far between and much more simplistic than what came before them. This shifts the focus to be more about combat than puzzle solving, which can be OK should you favor more action; however, the game is about restoring balance, and yet Darksiders III seems heavily out of balance. Instead of thinking how to get a multi-step puzzle completed, it usually boils down to hack your way to a point, do something relatively simplistic and repeat until the puzzle is solved.

Overall my experience of Darksiders III has been one of a rollercoaster, full of highs and lows, which is to be expected since that seems par for the course. I have to tip my cap though to everyone involved in bringing Darksiders III to life, and if you have played War and Death's story, then you will be more than excited to know that Fury's narrative is every bit as incredible as you have come to expect. Darksiders, when it was released, became the definitive example of a sleeper hit, and like the Phoenix that arises from the ashes, Darksiders III has been resurrected in a fashion that lays the ground work for a tremendous conclusion to the series should we get Darksiders IV and the final chapter of the horsemen and the apocalypse. If you're a fan of hack and slash adventure games with an incredible story, then this should be on your list of must have games to purchase.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Chronus Arc

When you say to me that you have a retro RPG game that involves time manipulation, my mind instantly puts you up against the legendary game Chrono Trigger. When you name your game Chronus Arc, that almost guarantees you to be under the largest magnification possible. KEMCO has done a great job in delivering classic RPG games with a retro feel before, but now with so many releases, is it becoming more of a cookie cutter approach rather than a unique individual story that delivers an iconic experience? With a price tag of $14.99, KEMCO has high aspirations with this game, but let's see if it's worth it, because in reality, we can't rewind bad decisions.

Right off the bat I have to unfortunately knock this game. While a classic SNES JRPG styled game sounds amazing, the reality is that this game falls incredibly short on the one thing that it should excel at, and that's the story.

There are items called the Chronus fragments, and once every 10 years, the god Houra (creative naming...) essentially rewinds the time of existence, which in turn will repair broken items such as weapons and heirlooms. To do this you have to think of the past, as a copy that is temporarily overlaid into reality. While the foundation seems to have substance that would make Stephen Hawking excited, the delivery leaves it a watered-down experience at best.

You play the role of Loka, who is training under a sorcerer knight named Tech. You both set off and attempt to gather the Chronus fragments when all of a sudden you are ambushed, and before you know it, your master is gone and the Chronus fragments are missing. Now, here is where you think that the story is going to dive into some grand adventure, but unfortunately this is where I sadly crush your dreams by telling you that the experience is a little over 8 hours long and relatively meaningless.

Throughout the game's narrative, and what I'm calling a McAdventure, you are joined by some unoriginal characters that you develop absolutely no connection to for any reason. They join you for their own mysterious reasons that aren't well detailed, so their impact is relatively minimal to the overall narrative. So maybe the story isn't the best thing, but how is the gameplay? Classic JRPG's from the SNES days had great gameplay, but does Chronus Arc have it as well?

Short answer, no. Yes, the classic turn-based battle system returns in all its nostalgic glory; however, that's where the enjoyment ends, and the trudging begins. There is a total of four classes that you can choose from: cleric, sorcerer, warrior or assistant (yes that's an actual class), yhough later in the game you can unlock a special class, but should you feel compelled to achieve it, I'll let you enjoy uncovering it. Each class provides unique pros and cons to battle, but the real problem here stems from changing classes. Let's say you grind (I'll explain that later on) your characters up and learn some new abilities, but low and behold, when you switch your class you are reset back to level 1, but you do keep the skills and abilities you learned before, but your stats take a hit.

In order to do all of this though, you'll need to purchase a tome which costs a whopping 50 mana, which is the currency in Chronus Arc. You'll gain 1 mana for every 5 opponents killed, so grab some popcorn, because you'll be grinding for a VERY long time considering at most you can have 4 enemies on the screen per each individual battle. So, get ready to grind 250 enemies just to switch your class. But let's say you want to open up your character's own special class? That'll set you back 100 mana. This happens to go hand in hand with the game's internal quest system that forces you to find items which enemies drop in battle, so this is how the game justifies the long and drawn out grind of mediocrity. Oh, how I wish I was done now, but you need to know the whole truth.

So, you have your irrelevant characters and you're marching about doing pointless grinding for things that are relatively meaningless, and that's when it hits you: Chronus Arc's ridiculous brick wall of difficulty and XP. Chronus Arc starts you off with enemies that will naturally pose a challenge to your team, though you should be able to dispatch them with relative ease, but as you progress, the difficulty level takes a trajectory path that would have NASA cheer as it goes into orbit.

Me and my jolly band of misfits were walking around some woods, grinding enemies for quest completions by one-shotting enemies, and then we enter a cave about 2-character widths away when me and my team are instantly crushed in a single blow. The difficulty curve is beyond anything I've ever experienced in all my decades of gaming, and when compiled with a lackluster story, it really drains all the would-be life out of the game itself. Or so I thought.

The nail in the coffin belongs to the XP brick wall you'll face. As you grind by killing enemies, you'll naturally level up. As you level up, and you gain more material, you can obtain items that can give you up to 2x experience. However, the real issue comes when you hit level 30. This, for whatever reason, almost forces you into microtransactions just to proceed. Chronus Arc offers microtransactions to make elements and aspects of this game more manageable, and when you face the reality that not even a 3x experience boost means relatively anything, you start to feel like you got taken to the cleaners by the ShamWow guy; however, while you may be upset, there is actually a bright spot to Chronus Arc, and that would be the puzzles.

Chronus Arc fills its dungeons and caves with their version of puzzles. These puzzles are found in three basic forms including hitting switches, moving blocks/jars, or a combination of both. This is a fantastic break from the monotony of grinding enemies for materials or trying to learn whatever you can from the watered down back stories of your fellow team members. There is something that needs to be said though, and that is when you are manipulating a puzzle you HAVE TO, and let me repeat that, HAVE TO, work it out ahead of time in regards to how to reach the solution to the puzzle. The reason for this is that you can only push blocks and cannot pull them, so think of this is as basically managing a massive 1-way puzzle. Should you get stuck and need to reset, which will happen a lot, that's easy to do, but with proper planning you should find no difficulty with the puzzles.

Regrettably, Chronus Arc can easily be considered a cash grab by a company who believes in the quantity of games rather than the quality. Chronus Arc was first released in 2013, and unlike a good wine, it doesn't get better with age. It's unfortunate that an anemic story that had tremendous potential got overshadowed by numerous setbacks and problems which make the already short gameplay an even less entertaining experience. When you start factoring in the recycled audio that you'll hear constantly due to your need to 'grind', the desire to even finish the game feels like a waste of time.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 V-Rally 4

It's no secret that I'm in LOVE with rally racing, as I have followed the WRC for over 20 years like an addict. I regard it as some of, if not, THE most difficult driving in the world. While others take to tracks to pass each other on smooth tarmac, nothing will put hair on your chest faster than doing 90mph on a narrow gravel path where on one side you have a mountain face and the other side is a drop of a couple hundred feet. Recently I had a chance to review the latest V-Rally 4 game by developer Kylotonn and hoped that this would be a rally game that went toe to toe with such icons in the genre as DiRT. Given that the last V-Rally game was over 15 years ago, how does it stack up in today's world? Grab a helmet.

Shifting into first, we see that V-Rally 4 is quite anemic when it comes to its game modes. You have the V-Rally mode which is regarded as your campaign mode. Your other options are quick race mode and multiplayer. For the sake of this review I'm going to primarily focus on the V-Rally mode. Your campaign is actually broken up into various styles, and while it may seem to possess a wild bounty of options, in reality there are only two basic styles of racing; against the clock or against opponents. Your basic rally race will consist of you taking your car through fictional courses (more on this later) and trying to beat the time set by your opponents.

The hill climb rally function is the same thing, except you're literally going up a seemingly massive mountain side road with tons of hairpins and steep cliff drop-offs. Kylotonn has included a mode that is called the Extreme Khana, which is heavily focused on taking your car and drifting it like crazy throughout developed centers. Now, if we shift our focus to the other racing style we have two practices, Buggy and Rally Cross. These both involve you on a shortened track competing in lap-based races where the only difference between the two is that one involves Buggy vehicles and the other does not.

So, it's safe to say that Kylotonn has done a great job trying to incorporate a fresh new take on how rally racing should go. This concept is also found within the races themselves. They have opted to do away with the traditional WRC courses that we have come to expect. Instead, they have created fresh new courses placed all over the globe that are designed to keep your grip on your controller tight for hours and your body leaning into every single turn. This is mainly due to the fact that the game's driving physics are not the best to be found.

You do have an option to adjust your handling of your car before a race, but you don't get to experience it to decide if your changes will benefit you in any way until you get into the actual race itself. For its defense, you can customize a ton of settings within your car from suspension, brakes, and more, and through the game's upgrade system (more on that later) you can improve your car's handling ability to some extent. Make no mistake, V-Rally 4 delivers a driving experience comparable to using the Force while driving a car, and with little to no hand holding or any form of driver assistant or rewind feature, other than a repositioning button (for when you go flying off the track). The learning curve for V-Rally 4's gameplay is about as steep as the cliff you're going to drive off of.

What this means is that you will crash... a lot. You will come in last... a lot. You will become frustrated beyond belief. However, if you stick with it, there will come a time when your frustrations give way to your newly developed driving style, and you'll start to see improvement, and this is how V-Rally 4 will keep you hooked. However, there is a problem as well, because when you're trying to drive, your only form of a map comes from your co-driver who is supposed to give you notes on the upcoming sections of the track. You have no mini map, so the notes become absolutely essential, and sometimes your co-driver either delays in their instruction or they will get an attitude and dump a bunch of instructions in your lap to make you not only remember them all, but also force you figure them out as you're driving along in this poorly controlled vehicle.

These types of issues are massive dings in the game, but to help V-Rally gain some points back there is more to the career than just pick a race and go. Now you must manage your own team from multiple points and perspectives. First off, you'll be hiring an agent to help you unlock other courses to compete in around the world. This is where you'll also notice that as you progress there will be races that require you to pay a fee to get into to a race event. As you get a better agent, their cost to you per week goes up as well. This is a trend you'll see with the rest of your employees.

I say employees because you'll also be tasked to hire engineers to develop new additions and performance upgrades to your vehicle. You are also required to hire a maintenance crew. As you navigate your rally stages, your vehicle will become damaged, so it will be up to you to repair the car at your own expense. The better the mechanics you have, the more money they cost you to repair your car, but the cost to repair your car goes down. So, think of it as a balance of finances. You'll spend a certain amount of your accumulated cash per week on your entire staff and also must manage your expenses for your upgrades and repair work. Think of this aspect like being your own boss, but without all the paperwork, W-2 forms and HR harassment videos.

Now, there is one thing that V-Rally does and does very well, and that is make the stages of each course look BEAUTIFUL. This game does look jaw droppingly gorgeous, and even though the tracks are fictional, the scenery is quite amazing. From the multicolored flower filled fields in Japan, to Monument Valley’s rock structures that erupt from the sandy grounds, this is V-Rally's strong point, and it shows it well. However, this also means that the audio is beyond reprehensible. First off, the noises of the engines are flat and unrealistic in their delivery and performance, but while that is bad, nothing compares to the horrible music they have in the actual game itself. Imagine one bad hip-hop track (and I mean like phenomenally bad) that is stuck on an endless loop cycle. I personally wish there was as much effort put into the audio of the game as there was applied to the visual aspect, but I'm not Kylotonn.

The last gripe I have with the game is the lack of cars. While yes, rally racing doesn't have a lot of manufacturers, the number of cars that you can choose from is incredibly thin. Several reasons could be considered for this to be the case, such as not being able to get actual cars to render and model to just being lazy. But when you can't have a classic Subaru Vs. Mitsubishi rally rivalry, I'm already going to be docking it a point.

This type of stuff seems to be my biggest frustration with this game. Every time it takes a step forward in its production value, it seems like something happens resulting in the game taking two steps backwards, and you're left feeling a sense of disappointment. Limited car selection, poor audio, challenging driving mechanics that that feel like a blind folded staffer was the model, really hit this game hard. There seems to be more focus on trying to make the tracks look pretty rather than make a great driving experience, and this is why I would pass on the $59.99 price tag. Saying that breaks my heart, but in reality, V-Rally 4 maybe shouldn't have come back yet?

Overall Score: 7.2 / 10 Moonfall Ultimate

There are games that take you back to days of simpler times; where the action was always enjoyable and the experience made you yearn for more. Games like Golden Axe may be like Sanskrit to those who think a PS2 is an antique, but these action/RPG side scrolling games provided countless gamers from around the world incredible amounts of enjoyment, so much so that they have etched themselves into gaming lore. Fishcow Studio is now trying to make their mark by releasing Moonfall Ultimate for the Xbox One, so let's see how many boxes we can check off and find out if Moonfall Ultimate deserves a rightful place at the top of this prestigious category.

As we venture forth, it is worth noting that Moonfall Ultimate does NOT support online multiplayer, but does support local co-op, so if you have a friend (doubtful though) that wants to come over and take part in this hack and slash RPG adventure, then they are welcomed. I'm sorry, but I have to ding this game right off the bat for something like this. Having some form of lobby system or the ability to invite people to connect online is a trait found in other games of the same genre, so not including this feature seems a little apathetic.

In Moonfall Ultimate you get to pick to make your character one of three different classes:

1) Vanguard - Consider this your warrior/tank class. These characters can hit like a freight train and take a lot of damage, but that's about it. They do have some drawbacks though, as is to be expected.

2) Elementalist - Here are your magic wielders. These characters can sling powers of fire, ice, and more and can apply these magical traits to their own weapons as well. The downside? They can get damaged very easily, as in VERY easily. Range is going to be your friend.

3) Shadow - These characters are your trap laying assassins. They specialize in distractions that keep your enemies busy while you go in for the kill. While this is nice, they do require a lot of work to take enemies down so expect a very long fight.

Each one of these types of characters possess a skill tree that offer unique abilities that can either impact a single enemy or deliver an attack that affects an area. Points are earned through leveling up and can be assigned to the corresponding skills, provided that any prerequisite skill is already unlocked. The classes that are offered are poised to deliver a classic balanced experience, however, there are a few problems that lurk below the surface and that deals with the game play.

First, your character controls are incredibly poor. Using your stick to move your character, you get the feeling that they are in desperate need of decaf coffee, because the movements are ridiculously jarring. You will eventually become accustomed to the speed, but the learning curve is exponentially high and that is also thanks to the biggest problem, that being the unfair targeting system. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Enemies you will face can fire ranged attacks at you, and every shot they fire, even if they are above or below you on the screen, will directly fly right at your character. However, this Robin Hood like precision isn't bestowed upon your character at all, so your character will ultimately find the best method to hit someone is to run right in and swing your weapon. This reality though essentially makes the other classes other than Vanguard an almost waste of time. I strongly recommend that you tackle the game on easy difficulty until you can get the feel for the game mechanics, otherwise you're going to be learning the hard way why the Left Trigger block feature is going to be your best friend.

Now I've been talking about the gameplay mechanics a lot and they are fairly simplistic. Your skills are mapped to the face buttons such as X, Y, etc and your potions are the Right and Left Bumpers that identify with your health and mana gauges which are located in the top left corner. Your D-Pad acts as your interactive portal and will allow you to read scrolls, open chests, hit switches and so forth. Despite all of this, sadly the combat will almost always boil down to you swinging your weapon in close range combat.

There's another issue as well and that involves the storyline. It had potential to be tremendous, but sadly feels very underwhelming and pointless. It's your classic trope about several kingdoms are at peace but one, then this lonely kingdom harnesses the magical powers of a fallen space rock, causing all the other kingdoms make deals to use the technology, thus the Empire was born. Peace reigned for years, and then the king of the Empire died and that is when the other kingdoms started a civil war for dominance (think watered down Game of Thrones but without the hot women, well written plot, developed characters, etc. You get the picture).

Since going through this story can be relatively quick, you'll spend a lot of time trying to trudge through various side quests where you'll have to rescue someone or defeat some sub boss character, but thankfully you'll earn this shiny blue element gems which act as currency where you can trade them in for items, weapons and armor back at your camp. Think of these as necessary evils because the bulk of your experience and currency will be earned through them.

There is a bright spot though, and that is Moonfall Ultimate is a very beautiful game to look at. The artwork in each level looks like a piece of freshly painted backdrop from a master's canvas, and each character, including the enemies, are done in such detail that you'd be hard pressed to find another game in this genre that looks as good, if not better.

I wish I had better news readers, I really do, but regrettably Moonfall Ultimate is far from ultimate. It actually pains me to say this because I was looking forward to an incredible gaming experience, yet found nothing that came close. You would think that with such classic iconic titles of the past, and those that are still actively being utilized to this day (Diablo, I'm looking at you), that developing a solid gameplay action RPG game would almost be too easy to create.

Moonfall Ultimate had potential unlike very few other games had before it, but like an Elementalist whose out of mana, its quality went up in a puff of smoke. As I stated earlier, there are games that take you back to days of simpler times, yet sadly Moonfall Ultimate isn't one of them, where the action was always enjoyable and the experience made you yearn for more. For $12.49 you can purchase this or save a little more and get a high quality game such as Diablo 3. I think you know what the best route to take is going to be.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Hero Defense

I love tower defense games. I love the strategy that they bring to the gameplay that involves you having to manage your resources while trying to figure out, usually on the fly, the best methods to surviving the round and making it to the next. I like to think of tower defense games as those that constantly challenge the player through an ever-evolving adaptive combination of enemies and difficulty. Recently Headup Games has released a tower defense game called Hero Defense for the price of $29.99 ($23.99 on sale now) which offers a new twist that we never really have seen before; demon hunting. So, let's see if this game can survive to the end or if it gets overwhelmed and consumed by darkness, shall we?

The premise behind Hero Defense is quite simple. There is a main character whose father just happens to be the world's most powerful vampire, and it's up to him and a bunch of other people you'll be introduced to along the way, to eliminate the vampire and save humanity; hooray! When you begin the game will take you through a very, and I mean VERY, diluted walkthrough to get you acclimated to the game and how it handles, and right off the bat there's going to be a problem. The camera.

It's not abnormal for players of RTS, Tower Defense, RPG's or any game for that matter, to want to control the camera. In Hero Defense that's not entirely possible. You're allowed to pan the camera around on a flat 2D plane, but there are no controls for rotate or zoom (if there are, the game has them so hidden they are almost a figment of the imagination). This can be a tremendous annoyance when you gather that each level has its own unique feel to it, and the rotation that automatically kicks in (sorry, but you can't stop it from happening) when you drag your cursor to the side of the screen with your Right Stick, becomes so twisted that you have no other option but to be contempt with a frozen angle. Given that the game is focused almost entirely around the camera system, this is a massive hit right from the beginning.

As you start off you'll acquire new heroes to join your quest, each of which have their own independent, but useless story, of which there is literally no importance. Almost every level has a shack or two that carries with them some survivors that apparently think riding out the storm of the world's most dangerous vampire is a cool thing to do, and one of the sub-goals is to keep these people safe as enemies wander down their path. If you keep them safe they will be added to your "angry mob" which, when activated using the 'X' button, will send a horde of citizens with pitchforks and torches to travel down the path and attack any enemies they find in their wake. Should you use them to confront a boss character, there's a good chance a lot, if not all of them, will perish, but they will do their duty to help your cause. These angry mobs are limited in use, as you can only get them by saving civilians in the levels.

While this concept adds a level of humor and safety, this doesn't do anything to help drive the narrative, and in fact, does quite the opposite by literally taking the game and breaking it down into color matching. Let me explain. When you gain new characters to your party you'll see that each of them carries with them their own color (Red, Blue, Orange, Pink, Purple). Each one of these heroes has their own weapon style as well.

Red is best suited for heavy damage to an individual target, but through proper character development (which I'll talk about later) you can get him to be a mob killing machine. Blue offers you the ability to slow down enemies and support other players nearby with buffs that increase attack range and power. Orange fires pumpkin bombs (think Green Goblin) that are designed to do significant area of effect attacks. Next up, Pink wields a baseball bat and jumps down into the line of enemies and literally goes berserk, able to (once fully upgraded) go down a line of opponents and decimate them all. Finally, Purple has these boomerang type bladed weapons that can hit from very long range and is setup to wipe out entire mobs over time. These colors though, are important for one specific reason.

Each one of these colors corresponds to a weakness for the varying enemies, which you can tell by their square in the lineup at the top of the screen. You simply have to start matching whatever color is going to benefit you most and placing it in a position to provide your squad the best effect possible while being supported by the other characters. This philosophy plays in tandem with the levels themselves, as they contain certain regions that allow you to install power-up shrines that can either be generic in their bonuses (anyone standing on the power-up gets double damage, double range, double attack speed, etc.) or they can be character specific where ONLY that one character can receive the bonus while the others cannot. You will have to decide carefully because each one of these upgrades costs you gems which involves another part of the game; the currency.

Hero Defense is setup to where you earn gold throughout each level for the enemies you defeat, and when you acquire enough gold you can take that to your town's bank and exchange it for gems. Gems will allow you to buy things such as upgrade your character's weapons, runes (I'll talk about shortly) and upgrading the forge. Gems also act as a currency for purchasing power-up shrines throughout the levels, but like I said, you must plan wisely. Let's say you wish to make one shrine on a level a double damage spot. So, you hit the Left Trigger to pause the game and press X to bring up your builder wheel. You can cycle through the different shrine locations with the Right and Left Bumpers, but let's say you want to put a double damage shrine on one area and it costs 5 gems. When you do it again, it'll be 10, next will be 20 and then 40, so BE CAREFUL because if you do that and let's say you want to switch it out for double range, well you'll have to spend more gems again if you wish to put the double damage back. Oh, and there's no way to reset the count unless you start a brand-new game (something I learned about a bit late the hard way).

Earlier I mentioned that you have a bank where you can go and exchange gold for gems. You also can spend gold to upgrade your bank where you can spend less gold on the gem packs you buy. Each building in your town can be upgraded just like the bank, however, the forge (where you do your weapon upgrades) is only upgradable via gems. Each building can reach level 15 which is it's max, however, your town hall is currently glitched and is actually broken to the point where you won't even unlock the achievement for upgrading your entire town. This is also disappointing given that upgrading your town hall also upgrades your angry mob and their strength as well. Honestly though, it didn't matter since I never went to it anyways. You'll find that your time will be spent between the Academy (where you go to upgrade your characters), Forge (where you go to upgrade your weapons), and the Bank (where you go to get gems) while the rest of the time you will be grinding and farming away.

You've read about my mentioning of the weapon upgrades at the forge, and there's a bit more to it than that. In the forge you will house different tiers of runes. They start off in the generic grey category and move onto green, blue, purple and finally orange. These runes offer your character various traits to their weapons such as increased range, speed, extra projectiles, etc. Your character weapons start off with 1 row on top, which you can fill in with runes, and you'll notice that each one of these runes can be inserted into a numbered slot, with the final slot holding an infinity symbol. This means that as your character levels up throughout the gameplay via the 'Y' button, they will unlock these new rune traits on their weapons, and once you reach level 5 the remaining character upgrades will keep the rune traits in the infinity slot.

While the other colored runes offer all these bonuses, the real treat is when you get the orange runes banging away because they deal tremendous bonuses. Recently I touched on the whole angry mob situation with the game, well, there's an orange rune that allows you to summon a free angry mob, and if you put that rune into the infinity slot, every time you level up your character past level 5, you'll summon a free angry mob without it costing you anything! Other orange runes offer you chances to poison your enemies with your attacks or even launch specific hero abilities that send out attacks all over the screen. For example, your character's crossbow will fire at a rapid, machine gun rate and start sending arrows all over the screen dealing massive damage to any and all enemies! These orange runes are scarce (unless you buy them in the Forge's 150 gem rune packs), so make sure you figure out what works best and how best to apply them.

Hero Defense also offers a wealth of in depth character customization. Just above I mentioned the Academy, where you can take your individual characters and have them apply the skill points that are earned after the end of every completed level. Each level nets you 2 points and each skill are divided up into 5 tiers which cost between 1 and 5 points to activate. Other skills down the tree will ONLY be active when you fill the meter with the corresponding skill before it. So for example, you may not be able to throw double projectiles until you spend enough skill points to activate the first 3 spots in your previous skill. Not to worry though if you over spend in areas that you don't want to because you can always reset your points without any penalty to you in any form. I personally really enjoyed that, as it allowed me to play with the character development without fear of being punished.

Hero Defense is presented in a lighthearted, almost comical way, but the graphics and sound really become lost in the action of the oncoming waves of enemies, and you get the feeling that more attention could be given to those areas. At least each character sounds unique, but when you have no reason to care about them, then there really isn't any point to it. There is now a graphical glitch that can be EXTREMELY annoying which involves the enemies and their health. The graphical glitch happens when your enemies spawn, let's say in the top right corner. You'll see a bunch of health meters appear in the lower left-hand corner that appear to be floating around and drawing closer to the enemies as they proceed down their path. Once the enemies pass a certain point on the screen the health meters seem to gravitate now towards the top of the screen, essentially maintaining a set distance that varies between level, but is never on top of any enemy.

Being such a huge fan of tower defense games, I was giddy like a teenage girl at a Michael Jackson concert at the chance to play Hero Defense, but after running into all these glitches and problems without anything adding to the merit or value of why I should care about the story of the game itself, it literally left me deflated. I love this game, I really do, and I feel now empty inside that such a game has so many issues (the camera system being the worst hands down) that prohibit that enjoyment. Starting out I was set to give this game an easy 90 to 95 score, but as I kept playing the score kept going down and down to the point where I should start looking for other games to play. All of this remind you, is priced at $29.99 regularly, but even now while it's on sale there's no way I can justify purchasing this game even if you're a fan of tower defense games like myself. That is the biggest heartbreak since Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt split up.

Suggestions: Allow for user controlled camera system. Fix important sections of the game (Town Hall). Improve graphical glitches. Allow for cost of shrines to be by level not overall. Make a story worth engaging in.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Fernz Gate

Recently I had an opportunity to review an RPG game that was such a refreshing step back into the nostalgic times, a time where turn based 16-bit RPG games provided hours, days and even weeks worth of enjoyable content that made the days blur together. Thankfully I had another chance to do this, as KEMCO has released Fernz Gate for the Xbox One, and it delivers on a tremendous amount of classic quality that makes you almost feel like you stepped into a time warp. So, let's not waste any more time and find out if this game is worth the $14.99 price tag.

As we kick things off, it should be said that there is a very in-depth story to Fernz Gate. Maybe in-depth was a wrong choice of wording. Maybe instead, the words 'excessively deep' makes more sense. In the beginning of Fernz Gate you get to see the backstory of how the Overlord used his ability to steal mana from the people of the planet to take control and overthrow the Goddess of peace and love. Essentially this planet is a peaceful world where they don't take up arms in battle or war, and therefore, they are prime targets for evil to take advantage of. Needless to say, it's up to you and your growing band of heroes to fight through the demons to vanquish the Overlord and save the good people of the world.

To accomplish this, you play the role of Alex, who is a young man who mysteriously gets transported to this peaceful planet. It's here that Alex meets his first companion, Toril, a half-naked woman who uses razor sharp discs as her main weapon. One thing to note is that as you meet these people, there is a common thread that they are deliberately holding back so that your character can try to improve their stats. While noble in theory, I thought it lacked originality. I also said that 'excessively deep' would be a way to describe the story, which is because in between all the childish flirtations that we are accustomed to in Japanese games, the amount of unnecessary dialogue is absolutely tremendous. It gets to the point where you start feeling like God in Monty Python screaming "GET ON WITH IT" and it never happens. I'm not saying that the story itself is bad, just overly worded in a great many places.

As you will see, your world is broken up into various places to explore, each one providing you with a mini-map to help guide you where you need to be. It's fairly simplistic, but it helps when you're trying to think of where to enter a cave or how best to approach a wooded area. Each village offers you the chance to talk to its' residents and find out if there are any tasks for you to take part in. As you go through these, one thing stood out as entirely pointless and annoying, and that was the dialogue that was spoken between the characters.

One quest had me walk to an Inn about 20 feet away, talk to someone to get a book, and then walk back to the person 20 feet away to give it to them, and you could say they were a tad bit enthusiastic about this job I just did. That's when you realize that a lot of the missions you'll be taking part in will require you to do a lot of things for very lazy people. Not really the best way to spend your time, but in a peaceful world, there's not much to do that isn't peaceful to begin with.

You'll also find that as your characters become introduced into more and more supporting cast members, you'll see how each one has his/her/its own personality and attack style. This will become important, given that your party will actually be divided into both attacking and support characters. While you could technically go on the offense with all your characters, the ones designated for support will see a damage reduction, which essentially makes them worthless on the attack, but vital beyond measure in their support role. If you don't have a full party, that's OK, that is what the new buddy system is designed for. These buddies not only compliment the members of your current team, but will also level up and acquire new talents and abilities throughout their use.

This whole system regarding the team felt refreshing to me. Unlike certain RPG's that lock you in with characters, this new system allows you to customize and explore other options when it comes to combat. There is a downfall though, and that is you never really get the sensation that you'll need to care about any of them, thus giving them no real value to the story except for the fact that they will aid you in combat. There is another unexpected surprise though in Fernz Gate and that comes in the form of the Curios.

These devices have multiple uses and can be a great source for leveling up your characters quickly. Their first use is that they can control the frequency that you experience enemy encounters. So, when it feels like you've been walking for a long time and not hit anything, you now can set it up so that your battles occur more frequently. Their second function involves the types of enemies you face. You can increase the grouping of enemies, so you fight more of them, or you can use the gems you win in fights to summon box and jar enemies.

Box and Jar enemies are encounters that give you an opportunity to win amazing items and gear, so long as you survive long enough to defeat all the opponents. In the case of Jar enemies, when you strike them hard enough, you will typically spawn an enemy that pops up out of a jar. However, that enemy will hit you like a freight train, so be prepared to focus your efforts and eliminate it quickly. If you wish to destroy a jar in 1 hit, you will need to use a crowbar, and they will smash a jar in one-character turn. The Box enemies are the same except for the fact that they don't spawn enemies, but dramatically cut your damage, so while you may be used to dealing 20-40 damage early on per character, when you hit a Box enemy you'll do like 3-7 instead. Which you may feel is OK, except that each box has a tremendous amount of HP, so you'll be bashing away at it for quite a while. If you want to destroy a Box enemy in one-character move, you'll need to hit it with a hammer.

I should mention that while you're wailing away at these Box and Jar enemies, there will be other enemies that are on the screen that will attack you too, and should you target them and kill them, then the encounter is over and any Box and Jar enemies that you left alive will disappear, along with that their items they had for you. With each encounter costing 10 gems at first, you'll need to decide carefully just which ones you wish to go after, so you don't end up wasting your valuable currency.

The third use of the Curios is that they act as teleporting waypoints for your party. If you find yourself lost in a dungeon, or you don't want to walk all the way back to the beginning to get to the exit, you can use the Curios to teleport back to the opening of the area you were exploring. This way, if you want to grind an area for a long while and then teleport yourself out of there, you can, or if you want to just breeze through an area where you can limit your spawn rates and head on through easily. While you will encounter less enemies, you won't level up as quickly and, from what I've experienced, you'll have a harder time later on in the game.

All of these encounters come in a traditional turn-based gameplay that is complimented by some very solid retro sounding soundtracks. One aspect that was very pleasing to the ears was the lack of voiceover work. Outside of the occasional sound effect, you were treated to varying overworld music that sounds like it came straight out of the 1990's and was quite entertaining and enjoyable. This was also complimented by a tremendous work on the retro graphics that you find throughout every facet of Fernz Gate. From the trees and rocks of the world, to the character models marching in place, you get the sensation that the team behind this was focused on not creating a modern masterpiece, but creating a gaming experience that feels like it’s been lost to us for ages, and they do an incredible job with the details.

There is a learning curve when it comes to learning your abilities and how to incorporate mana use into your battles; however, once that is accomplished for one character and you understand it, the same principles apply to all characters, so any changes that may come along the way (recharge times, etc) can be easily managed so long as you pay attention. Another little gripe I have is that the entire world that you travel through isn't very big at all. While your quests will have you traveling to the same places repeatedly, you almost have to stack your side quests to minimize the trips you will have to take so you can save time.

Overall, I have to say that for $14.99, Fernz Gate delivers a quality retro RPG experience that shouldn't be missed by fans of the genre. While it may seem a bit shallow at first, Fernz Gate offers a wealth of bounty should you have the time to investigate its depths and acquire it. While you're doing that however, get ready for an fairly amazing experience that will take you straight back into the glory days of quality RPG gaming.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Team based games such as Left 4 Dead have been popular due to the simplicity of their goals. Developer Fatshark has been hard at work on the follow up to Vermintide, which is aptly named Vermintide 2. This team-based game attempts to focus on creating massive battles that require you to survive and conquer the levels with a group of characters in an online party. So, does Fatshark have a smash hit with Vermintide 2, or is the game more anemic with a feeble core? Choose your character and let’s begin.

The plot, for those who have never played Vermintide, it is about a land called Ubersreik, where your band of characters fought back the forces of Skaven, who ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity that many thought would last for generations. They were wrong. The heroes (your group of characters) end up being captured (somehow), and as you are navigating towards your doom, you realize that the Skaven armies have a new alliance with a powerful force, The Northmen of Chaos. These armored men bring with them their own unique abilities and challenges to the ones already found in the Skaven forces and have teamed together to bring destruction to Ubersreik.

This open-ended premise is the foundation for the numerous levels found within Vermintide 2 and act as a canvas by which the game’s four acts unfold. Each act contains within it numerous levels (over 10 each) which can be individually played and unlocked through the game’s various modes. This trend of packing in as much content as possible is a common thread you’ll find permeating every facet of Vermintide 2, and it couldn’t be better. In fact, I’ll call it now, that Vermintide 2 has some of the most content packed into a game and when you talk budget prices, easily taking the crown hands down, for every character has different equipment that can be dismantled into resources and forged into head splitting weaponry, body incinerating spells and so much more. It’s these characteristics that you’ll not only improve, but adapt as you level up your individual heroes, but that’s pending you have an internet connection.

Vermintide 2 does require an online connection to play online, however, you can play offline, but none of your accrued stats, levels, and character development will NOT transfer over. You can take your online character information into the offline mode to play with AI characters, but any progress you make will not transfer over to the online game mode. I can’t think of any reason what so ever that this mode would be good to use, except for if you have no internet connection of any sort (which means that you would also have to have a physical copy of the disc because you’d have to have an internet connection if you wished to download it in the first place.) Aside from the AI teammates to assist you, you’ll also be unable to unlock any of the bonuses you get when you level up. Again, this mode is the stripped down, diluted version of what Vermintide 2 is supposed to be and, if I’m honest, feels quite pointless.

Anyways, back to the game. So, you have your character that you chose, and if you bring up the menu you will see just how incredibly deep Vermintide 2 actually is. I thought that the preview was good, but this final product absolutely blew my mind. For starters, there are multiple versions of every character, and every character comes with certain bonuses as well as preferred weaponry. While melee weapons are your primary choice, you’ll have to pay attention to your ammo for your projectile weaponry, otherwise you could be finding yourself up a creek when the **** hits the fan, and what a moment that is.

The overall design of the levels is fairly linear, so you won’t be allowed so much exploration that you find yourself looking around like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. You’ll navigate down a predetermined stretch of environment and then you’ll come to a combat sequence where you’ll have to fight numerous enemies. These range from regular grunts that provide little to no challenge for your melee weapon, to heavily armored demon knights that wield gigantic battle axes and take a long fight to bring down. Then you have your ranged enemies that can lob poisonous fields from afar that cause tremendous area damage, magical enemies that can summon and raise the dead, to those that even are armed with what could easily be considered a flame chain gun that ignites a green pillar of fire in rapid succession that will melt your very core. After fighting these enemies you’ll head through another section of the map and fight some more. You’ll do this all the way to the end when you fight the boss of the level, and when that happens you’ll be glad you have your team at your side, as they are tremendous beasts that take a VERY LONG time to whittle down their health.

Upon completion of a level you’ll gain a loot box (not to worry), and depending on how you do and what secrets you find within the level will determine what type of loot box you get and obviously, the quality of loot that you receive also depends on the type of loot box you earn at the end. These can be items that you can equip or to destroy for resources so you can forge other gear, etc. Then when you’re done, your lobby heads back to the central loading area where you or any member in your group can select what level to do next and vote on it in democratic fashion of course. This whole rinse and repeat action will be your methodology for Vermintide 2, so be prepared for a lot of repetition in your life. To combat this, Fatshark includes challenges that you can play that range in varying degree of difficulty and pay out the rewards that correspond to the difficulty of the challenges.

All of this gory beauty comes wrapped in a presentation that is smooth as silk to run in 4K. From the dynamic changes that each character receives through their leveling system, the character models themselves, to the unique environments, everything is done with a painstaking level of quality that is rarely found within AAA titles today that cost twice as much. Then you have the sound which lends itself to sweeping, epic musical scores that highlight the drama and confrontational points including the bosses. But the real gem of the audio relies on the banter and discussions that the characters have with each other within the levels. Each personality is unique, and if you played the original, then you’ll be happy to know that the characters stay true to their core.

Right now, Vermintide 2 is on the Xbox marketplace and will cost you $29.99, and based off everything I've played, it’s worth every penny. If you love games that you play as a team to overcome levels and slay seemingly endless amounts of enemies while grinding for loot and experience, then Vermintide 2 is an absolute must purchase. Vermintide 2 provides quality work on all fronts, and the best thing is that you can really tell that Fatshark has done a great amount of work developing this game throughout its various stages to its final release.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition

Have you ever played a game that was trying to be a parody of another through near blatant theft, but in the process failed so miserably that you are left feeling more miserable than when you began playing? Welcome to Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition: The Card Warriors.

If this title seems a little familiar, it's adapted from the classic Street Fighter games. Developed by Headup Games, and priced at $6.39 on the Xbox Marketplace (at the time this review was submitted), this is a truly unique experience that sadly doesn't end well. Normally I go into talking about the game at this juncture, and point out different aspects of it and give merit where it might be due. Now however, I'm going to tell you why you should stay away from this game at all costs.

The opening sequence is a straight up adaptation of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo's opening. It involves a person with a deck of cards that is shooting them from one hand to another while the music and tension builds, and at the end, the "card warrior" throws the cards towards the screen in a charged up Hadouken fashion. The sad reality is that nothing I just explained to you ever happens, nor is anywhere to be found within the game. You start to wonder then, how do they do a tie in parody of Street Fighter 2 Turbo when the game itself is Blackjack? The answer is, they don't.

After the opening sequence you are treated to three menus where you can play single player combat (single player Blackjack), a challenge mode, and lastly a party mode. I'm going to give you a rundown of all three modes, so let's begin with the single player mode. This is where you will select from a variety of Blackjack players, none of whom have special powers. There's no real difference between the players, so pick whoever you want. After your selection you'll be shown a world map just like you would see in Street Fighter 2 Turbo, with the various country flags and a little airplane that travels from flag to flag. So far, it's sounding like an average homage, so let's keep moving forward.

You arrive at the Blackjack table, and based off your opponent, you will see various animations in the background. The table in Spain has a bull fight in the background, but the table in Columbia has people floating on rafts in a drug lords pool while cocaine residue and men with guns surround the table. These levels try to find the essence of what Street Fighter 2 has always had, but regrettably, fail on numerous accounts and in sometimes, incredible stereotypical fashion. These levels do absolutely nothing to improve the game or contribute anything at all. In Street Fighter 2 Turbo, the stages offered things such as breakable objects, or even interactive elements depending on the fighter chosen. Here though, the Right Bumper, which acts as your taunt button, is your only weapon, ever.

So, now you're at your opponents' table and it's time to fight, so you're thinking things like drink throwing, chip chucking or maybe tributes to Street Fighter such as hundred hand slap, fire balls, upper cuts or anything else found in ANY Street Fighter game, but you will be disappointed. Instead of beating your opponent senseless, your object is to have collected more money than your opponent at the end of 10 rounds (hands). Yes, that's correct, the game that is paying tribute to an iconic fighting game has no sort of contact of any kind. Instead of just playing against the opponent, you'll have to also contend with the dealer. A lot of people would say that dealers have unfair advantages being digitally programmed, but I'm of the mindset that I don't care if they are because there really isn't any point of playing this game to begin with. But let's soldier on, shall we?

Let's say you throw all your money in the first hand and lose; darn. When the fake Street Fighter announcer says "You Lose", you'll see a losing quote screen such as you would see in Street Fighter, and when the countdown begins for the continue, it appears ripped straight from the game itself. However, that is where the similarities end. So, for this example, let's say you hit continue and now you're back in the game and starting once again with $1000 in chips. Here is where I will show you how broken this game is. You bet the full $1000 again and this time you get two 10's which total twenty. The game offers you the ability to split your bet. Let me explain this.

When you have two of the same card in your hand, you can split your cards and get two new cards, one for each that you split. Now, if you had two 8's you could split them and get two more cards, one for each 8. The catch here is that in order to split your bet, you're required to bet the same amount again. So, let's say you bet $100 and you get two 8's. You split them, so you have to bet another $100 on the 2nd hand that you just created. So now that it's explained, back to our game.

In the example we bet $1000 which is all the money we have. We get two 10's and decide to split. Based off the example above, I would have to bet another $1000 for the hand that I just created. Problem is that I don't have the money, but the game doesn't care because it allows you to bet imaginary money. Yes, you can place a $1000 bet, and make back $3000 in winnings and take a total of $4000. I bet that you are asking, “you can win profit from money you don't have?” Yes, yes you can. Now let's say you do that but each hand you get a blackjack and your winnings increase by 1.5X per hand which starts to equal massive profits.

The other issue is that the single player mode is supposed to be where you combat your opponents at the card table; however, the game only gives you 10 hands. Yes, you are limited to ONLY 10 hands, and the object of the game is to have more money at the end than your opponent. There is no sort of fight or combative situation at all. In fact, this entirely takes the point out of dropping your opponent to $0 and therefore eliminates any and all reason for playing this game.

Let me give you another example. I started out and bet all my chips ($1000), I lost and had to continue, so I repeated the bet and lost, so I continued again. This time I bet the $1000 and won while my opponent only won $200. So, now I have $2000 and my opponent $1200.

My next bet I lower to $200 and keep it locked in for the duration while my opponent bets and loses hundreds of dollars, and then, when down to the last few hundred, the A.I. will gain a slight winning streak so as not to go broke. This method of conservation completely drains all the excitement that would come with fighting cards, but alas this method wins a majority of the games played, so if you're looking to snag those achievements for completing the game with certain characters, then think conservative once you have amassed your pile of chips. Now, you may be thinking that the sadness would be coming to an end relatively soon, and I'm sorry to disappoint you readers yet again.

What is the one thing that made games like Street Fighter an instant hit? That would be multiplayer, and in this game, it doesn't exist online. Yes, regrettably there is no online multiplayer, so if you want to partake in any sort of gaming action with friends, they better be over at your house to do so. In today's gaming age, why you wouldn't allow a social card game like Blackjack to have online multiplayer is truly a joke. So, to pay homage to a game that strived to connect people online to play together, developer Stage Clear Studios decided not to allow that to happen. This has to be the biggest downfall of the game itself.

Priced normally at $7.99, you get a game that normally centers around multiplayer experiences but offers none; that's supposed to follow proper gaming mechanics, but doesn't and claims to be an homage to one of the greatest fighting games in history, but it offers no combat. In short, Super Blackjack Battle II Turbo Edition is a game that suffers from an identity crisis and sadly fails on all fronts. What is the most disappointing to me about this is how all these problems could have been avoided had the developers taken a bit of time to figure out how to integrate these elements into the game and include online multiplayer connectivity. They say imitation is the best form of flattery; however, this offers nothing along those lines.

Suggestions: If you're going to pay homage to Street Fighter, please think about how you are going to incorporate combat into your game outside of giving you only 10 hands to do so. Also, remove the pointless emotion Right Bumper antics, as they do nothing, and instead incorporate various "individually tailored" attacks that should happen to the opponent when you beat them in a hand. Then also work on developing ONLINE MULTIPLAYER.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 Asdivine Hearts

Being regarded in gaming years as a dinosaur, I grew up on consoles now talked about in mythical tales. I was also introduced to a game called Final Fantasy, early in my gaming career, and it sparked a love for RPG games that hasn't wavered. I was captivated by the story mixed with action and what seemed to pass as hours were in reality days. It goes without saying that these types of older RPG games hold a tremendous significance to me. Developoer KEMCO has recently decided to release a game called Asdivine Hearts for the low cost of $14.99, and I'm excited to see if Asdivine Hearts can tick all the right boxes that come with great RPG experiences.

The first box of course in this list has to involve the story. What is the point of investing hours upon hours of your life, only to end up hating what you are playing? While the story isn't the quality of some of those older RPG games of when I started to game, it is quite entertaining. The crux of the narrative is that there are essences of both light and shadow, and over the years the influence of the shadow deity has grown stronger, to the point where it unbalances the power between light and shadow, casting the light down to the world Asdivine. Now, the quest before you ultimately is balancing the powers before all the world is cast into darkness for eternity, and to accomplish this, you'll need a party.

You have your main three characters: a male, a female and a cat. Yes, a cat. As you progress, you'll gather two more party members. Each member has their own weapon and attack preference (physical attack vs. magic), and while the characters in your party do have their own unique mannerisms and behavioral traits, the story can seem rather predictable at times. While that doesn't necessarily make it bad, the overall progression of the story itself seems to be mismanaged. This is not a deal breaker as the story is still very enjoyable.

Next up in our checklist, we have gameplay. Now, back in the day, the lands were vast, the mountains were tall and sprites were short. The same methodology is applied to Asdivine Hearts in spades. You will venture across a map that is, unfortunately, relatively small by comparison to other games it competes against; however, there is almost a direct nostalgic feel by walking through the overworld.

You can bring up the map using the 'X' button, and various points of interest, such as caves and towns, will be highlighted for you. You'll be able to see your destination as there will be a flashing square on the map where you need to go. Instantly I was taken back so many memories as the design elements of the overworld look almost identical to what I've experienced all those years ago.

There is however, a few issues that I have with the gameplay of Asdivine Hearts. Yes, this is a turn based classic RPG experience; however, the controls feel hyper sensitive, so any movement you make with your character is dramatically over accentuated. This means simple things like walking around an Inn, or even just a room, are incredibly frustrating. While the walking in the overworld isn't bad, when you start including things like chairs, tables, pottery, and many other things, you can really feel a hindrance. While there are issues with the movement, that's not the only thing I have a problem with.

When your party is full of characters (which will happen relatively close to the beginning), you'll be able to unlock certain "formations" for your party to form when in battle. These formations allow your party to have various bonuses and drawbacks based on how you decide to align them within the 3x3 grid. The issue I have here is that while you are provided a small list of formations in the beginning, you learn more as you progress, but the benefits and drawbacks make only a few worthwhile, and the rest of them seem rather pointless, especially since you can't change them in a battle when you would need it the most.

To make sure your group is fit for battle, you'll want to press the 'Y' button to bring up the menu. Here you can select from a wide variety of options. The equip menu allows you to switch and select different weaponry and armor for each of your members. There's also an item menu where you can access any and all consumables that you may have found in your journey. There is also a very, very important menu, and it's imperative that you become familiar with it. It's called the Jewel menu, which houses your Rubix, where you can insert the jewels you find. Let me explain why the latter is so important.

the Rubix is part of the gameplay that you will have to manage. This is essentially the key to unlocking various skills and spells for your characters, and it also offers a wealth of upgrading that will lead you to farm for gems like crazy. The Rubix is another grid styled square; however, this square gets populated by various gems you pick up along the way and/or purchase. These gems have with them not only traits, but shapes as well, and it's up to you to decide what you want, but also how to arrange all of the shapes so they fit the Rubix. Originally the Rubix starts off as a small one but can grow to a massive 5x5 setup. The beauty of this is that anyone can learn any magic that fits into the Rubix.

For example, there was a female character in my party that knew some light magic (so that would grow naturally for her as I progressed through the game), I inserted a shadow magic jewel into her Rubix and now she is learning both light and shadow spells. Leveling them up only requires one thing, and that's for you to fight and finish side quests. Each battle earns you XP and SP, and the amounts are applied to your gems, and each new level grants you a new learned skill. The more you progress the longer it takes to unlock everything, but by the time you hit level 50 you should be good to go.

Gems can also be synthesized to create new, more powerful and potent forms of gems, but the synthesis system is very convoluted and not well developed, so may I suggest save first, do your synthesis until you understand it, then reload your previous save and do it correctly. Otherwise you may wind up wasting valuable gems.

Without question, this Rubix system is the very heart of the game itself, but in order to find these legendary items, you will have to farm so many enemies that KEMCO should give you a straw hat and a tractor with purchase of the game. This is because while there is gold in the game, which you can use to buy items such as weapons and aids, and there is another form of currency that is rarer, as it's only found in the arena as prizes, as well as random boulders that will appear in random battles found with cavernous areas. You could say that when encountering a boulder, you will want to make it a primary focus of your team. You may have to dispatch an enemy in front of it, but whatever you do, do not kill all the enemies before breaking the boulder or you will not get the opportunity to gather this rare currency. Oh, remember you read just a few lines ago about how much you'll be farming, yes? Well if you want to purchase the final Rubix which is the big 5x5 beast, it will cost you 100 of this rare currency, and when you get between 1-3+ coins per boulder, you may be better off in the arena grinding away?

As your party grows and progresses, so do the relationships found within your party. While you are made to feel that there are impacts that are made with your actions, you don't necessarily have any sort of impact until you get to what the game calls "free time", and it's here that you can interact with your fellow party members and try to raise your favor level with them. The game even allows you to give gifts that you may come across on your travels, and each gift will grant a favor boost for a time period. I do wish there were more importance and focus given to the interaction value with the other members of your party, but there is not.

Another box that is on the list for great RPG's are the graphics. Yes, I know this game isn't rendered with all the latest in 3D modeling and hyper realism, but it's not supposed to be. Instead of fully rendered realistic characters, you are taken back to the days of the 16-bit glory. Vibrant colors and dynamic designs permeate every graphical facet of this game, and the nostalgia factor wraps the game in a tremendous retro bow. Sticking with the whole retro vibe, what surprised me even more is how Asdivine Hearts utilizes a classic synth soundtrack and sound effects. It literally is like looking at a glimpse of the past, and if you listen closely, you may even hear a remixed version of a legendary RPG tune from the past.

Even though Asdivine Hearts does have some flaws, it goes without a shadow of a doubt that it delivers a classic nostalgic RPG experience that is severely lacking in today's world. When we get so caught up in getting games that are bigger and better than the ones before it, we lose ourselves to what joys and wonderful experiences were found in games that didn't push the envelope. Asdivine Hearts delivers one of the best nostalgic experiences you can find on the Xbox platform today, and it is only priced at $14.99 on the Xbox Store. I'll say this, if you're a fan of the classic RPG games of the 80's and 90's, then Asdivine Hearts is an absolute must have for your library. It goes without saying that this game manages to tick all the right boxes to make a classic RPG experience.

Suggestions: Had the story been a tad larger and more involved, the gameplay not as twitchy, and easier gem management, it would have been almost perfect.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Crew 2, The

Racing games have one goal in min: pure enjoyment through a direct adrenaline injection engine that pumps deep in your heart. Tires smoking, RPMs slamming into the red, the back end of the car sliding back and forth so furiously you think the car is trying out for the Olympic slalom event; are all facets of what make a regular driving game into an exhilarating driving game. Instead of track racing though, there's a growing trend for racing games set in realistic environments.

It's been a long road traveled with many pitfalls and accomplishments, but what Ubisoft has done with the Crew 2 is nothing short of amazing. Buckle up because I'm about to tell you why The Crew 2 should have everyone at Playground Games, very, very worried.

As we launch from the lights, it must be noted that The Crew 2 is more of an arcade racer than simulation. You don't really need to worry about tire pressure, the correct racing line, or any of that. What you need to worry about is winning. It has to be said that The Crew 2 is set to go against the Forza Horizon games, and there are a bunch of similarities, but the differences could mean the deciding factor between finishing first and coming in dead last. I also must confess I was not a fan of the original Crew racing game and felt that not only did it lack substance, but it also was smaller than the ambitious marketing lines we were fed. This time around though, Ubisoft has gone to tremendous lengths to remedy that, but if I'm honest, it still has a long way to go.

The Crew 2 centers around you being the focus for what is called the LIVE events. Here you will go through four different disciplines to unlock all the expensive toys to play with. There is the street racing discipline that consists of actions such as drag racing, drifting, street racing and more. Then you have the off-road disciplines (which should be self-explanatory), all the way up to the professional racing discipline which consists of you taking to the skies in planes and hitting the water in some massive powerboat racing events.

All these events will earn you followers and in-game cash for you to purchase your next motorized toy. There is one drawback though, and that is your career is based ONLY on the number of fans that you have acquired, so you will be unable to go straight through any one type of discipline. I understand that Ubisoft developed it this way, so you are forced to experience all of the different styles, but doing this takes away from the freedom of choice that this game was founded upon, which makes it a bit hypocritical. You have the freedom to choose what we give you, not what is offered.

Now should you proceed through all the disciplines, you'll encounter what I'm calling the "boss race event", and each discipline has their own race with their own rewards. One reward is the Aston Martin Vulcan hypercar, and another is a Hovercraft, and so on. While I understand the whole ego behind these boss characters, I wish Ubisoft went a step further and gave them personalities that were as individual as their prizes. One boss came over the radio and said "You're not in the top 10 so you're a nobody. I don't talk to nobodies. See, this is me not talking to you." This head shaking stupidity is something the game can do without, but regrettably, you will find it all throughout the game itself.

Being that The Crew 2 is staged within the United States, you can take your rides and venture from the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles all the way to Miami or New York. This is the ambition that I touched about earlier. While it does take some time to venture from one location to another, I wish that Ubisoft actually did something like allow a realistic drive that took days, not minutes. I could see a company using a service like Google Maps to have the routes preloaded with you and your friends taking 5 days to a week to travel across country and see the lands. Instead though, we have something that can take less than 45 minutes. Now, I understand that games are made with resources, and to accomplish that would be an incredible strain on the game development itself, but Ubisoft has somehow almost perfected the ability to load a massive environment in a seamless transition.

Way back when I reviewed Ubisoft's game Steep, I was astounded at how they loaded this titanic mountain range that allowed smooth transitions between events and the ability to access every inch of the map at any one time. This trend has found its way into The Crew 2, and I couldn't be happier for that. I experimented with fast traveling to locations as well, and I'm very happy to say that the load times are faster in this game than in other AAA game, so you never really feel out of the action, which also includes the multiplayer.

Unfortunately, I have a small gripe about the multiplayer, that being that you can only have a small amount of people in your crew at any point in time. In other racing games you can have a long list if you wish, but in The Crew 2 you're restricted to 4 people or less. So, if you're in a party of 6 people and you all want to be in a crew together, you're s.o.l. and a couple of your friends are going to be left out.

As I stated earlier, The Crew 2 is an arcade racer, not a simulation racing game. This is oh so apparent when you are talking about the operating mechanics of any vehicle. Controlling slides that would tear a car apart as you drift around corners, jumping hundreds and hundreds of feet in the air in a boat without crushing it into oblivion, and being able to rapidly invert and fly in increased angles without tearing your plane apart all add to the extreme sensation (especially when you throw in the 'A' button for boost), but take away from the reality. However, in the end, it's about the sensationalism that The Crew 2 has nailed in spades. A few issues I do have to mention are the poor camera angles. While there are only a few choices to select from, the ones that are available don't allow you to truly explore and enjoy the environment around you, and let me say that this is quite a noteable setback, because the only way you can enjoy everything the environment has to offer is through the air and not on the roads.

The reason why I say this is a big deal is because The Crew 2 is absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. I'm running it on a top end Samsung 55" 4K TV and it literally is a work of art. The textures from the Grand Canyon, the Redwood Forrest and to the streets of New York City are done in such a painstakingly realistic approach that every inch of the map carries with it its own personality and identity, and if you can only view all this beauty from the air, then it detracts from the impact as you feel almost shunned for being in a car rather than a boat or a plane. The graphics play a major role as well, as the seasons change throughout the game. I say seasons because to say a freak snow storm isn't really applicable to the game, but wow does The Crew 2 react to weather.

Imagine driving along a highway and you're approaching a mountain pass. The day started off nice and sunny, but as you approach you witness a fog starting to move in that effects visibility. Your car still handles like a champ but what you can see is dramatically reduced. Instead of playing it safe, you throw caution to the wind, bury your foot in the gas pedal and head for the mountain. Now as you start to climb you watch the first few flakes of snow fall, and before you know it, the entire environment is blanketed in inches of snow. You think that it will pass momentarily, as you keep your foot hard pressed, watching as your tires carve your presence in the fallen snow. Engine screaming, snow flying all around you, and here comes an upcoming hairpin turn. Thinking you can drift around it you smash the 'X' button to start your handbrake turn in epic fashion as you wait for your YouTube moment of glory, only to find out that your tires have absolutely no grip, and you go sliding right off the mountain and begin the insurance paperwork as you start to invent your own flying car upon your descent.

Not only does The Crew 2 react dramatically to the weather, but your car does as well. If you're behind someone and are riding in their tracks you can gain more traction, as the snow has been cleared from the road by their tires; however, if you stray but an inch off the tracks, your driving experience becomes totally different. Oh, and did I mention all the traffic you will experience during this white-knuckle enjoyment? You may think twice about passing if you know that you're going to lose your traction and possibly go head to head with a box delivery truck as you slide wildly out of control. But like I said, while all this is going on it's going to look STUNNING. So, go on and crash and dare to live dangerously because any way you do it, The Crew 2 has you blanketed in incredible graphics.

The Crew 2 allows you to capture the beauty of the game by going into photo mode by hitting right on the d-pad. From here you can go through a recent timeline of your travels and freely move the camera about. Sadly though, The Crew 2 doesn't have as in-depth a system for photos as other games and doesn't provide the same effects either, but that doesn't mean what you take a picture of won't be gorgeous. Nothing like taking a couple of monster trucks in a half pipe and launching them into each other as a rainbow appears in the background to make you appreciate the beauty of The Crew 2. These pictures though do serve a purpose as you can unlock a photo album that grants you cash bonuses for completing certain tasks and taking a picture of it, but to do this you will have to unlock the off-road discipline first.

One aspect that personally holds a great deal of importance to my heart is painting. Having been painting cars since it was possible in another racing game, Ubisoft allows artists to dive into their creative mindset and play with 1000 layers of stickers, layers, and all sorts of graphics. Unfortunately, the artwork is suffering from the same anemic aspect that we find in the photo mode. The shapes are very limited in quantity and quality, and you're also going to miss any sort of gradient colors or patterns. While you can layer multiple shapes and graphics and adjust transparency, the workarounds still can't hold a flame to the painting mechanics found in other titles. One of the biggest drawbacks though is the constant connection issues that can really set you back when it comes to painting.

What I mean by that is I had spent over 3 hours tending to a paintjob on an Aston Martin and loved it. I was feeling hungry, so I left the paint as is with the layers on the bottom and everything. I went to the kitchen and made some food, and while this happened my controller turned off for inactivity. This caused the game to think that I wasn't around or going to play anymore so it reverted me back to the opening screen. I returned to realize that all my work that I had done on the car was erased. So, moral of the story, if you are going to leave any paint job for a few minutes, back out of the paint job so the game will internally save it, otherwise you'll be in the same anger pit I was when it happened.

There is one golden ticket that has The Crew 2 standing heads and shoulders above the rest, and that is involving the different types of vehicles found in the game. While other sandbox racing games that rhyme with Verizon have you drive around in just different types of automotive vehicles, The Crew 2 sends you off in planes and boats as well. You may be thinking that this is just a novelty, but you would be completely wrong. Thanks to the ingenious loading of all the vehicles in your disposal ahead of time, Ubisoft has allowed you to take to the skies or seas with the press of the Right Stick. Press it and you can see your other options for travel and move the stick to the vehicle you want, hold it for a few seconds and wham, you're now controlling your preferred mode of transportation. Let me give you an example.

Let's say you're tearing up the streets of Miami in your favorite exotic and you are about to hit a massive jump that will send you and your car hurdling through the air. You hit the jump and start to take flight, and while you're in the air you hit the Right Stick and select your plane. As your car is in the air you transform into your airplane and start traveling amongst the clouds. Turning to the Gulf of Mexico, you see the opening for the Mississippi River, and while in flight you press in your Right Stick again and select your boat. Then like a falling meteor you morph into your boat vehicle, free fall into the water, and start blasting your way up the mighty Mississippi. No other race game on any platform can do this. None. This type of freedom is the quintessential core of what these types of games should be about, and it goes without saying that Ubisoft has absolutely demolished any and all competitors in the arcade racing genre.

Sure, this type of freedom is incredible, but so are the upgrade features. With each vehicle comes a range of upgradable components. Each of these upgrades come in one of three ranges. Green components offer no additional benefit, blue components offer 1 additional benefit, and pink components offer 2 additional benefits. These benefits range from such things as increase boost replenishment while drifting to increased follower percentage and much, much more. Each of these components are also tailored to specific vehicles as well, so what you get for boats will differ from planes and cars. You can earn these upgrades by winning races or you can find them through hidden loot boxes.

The loot boxes are well off the beaten path, and when you are within range of one your mini-map will start to beep and pulse on the outside ring. As you get closer the beeps and pulses will get more frequent and soon you will have turned your car into a roaming metal detector. If you don't want to pick up the upgrade though by car, you can switch to your plane or boat and open up the box by holding the 'A' button, then the upgrade you get will apply to that particular style of vehicle. Be careful though, because depending on the type of car and class will result on what upgrades are shared between the other vehicles.

For example, if you have a street racing car that you have an upgrade for, any other street racing cars can also utilize that upgrade, but not a hypercar, or off-road car, etc. So, make sure you find what class of vehicle you want to upgrade before you start packing on the upgrades. I should also note that you can only hold so many upgrades, so make sure you destroy the older upgrades to make room for new ones, so you can continue to improve your vehicle.

While the graphics are close to masterpieces, The Crew 2 has tried to instill the same attention to detail when it comes to the sounds of the game as well. The soundtrack to The Crew 2 is undoubtedly large and provides with it a colossal list of tunes to listen to that cover a wide swath of audio elegance. Sadly though, not all of the tracks are enjoyable, and some are straight up headache inducing. To solve this, you have to do probably the most annoying thing in the game, and that's access your "tool box" by pressing the 'Y' button. Doing this will bring up a popup menu in the game where you then use the Right Stick to move up to the radio station and press the 'A' button to change the song till you find something you like to listen to, and then press the 'B' button to close the menu. And you're supposed to be able to do all of this while driving a car or boat or flying a plane? Right, that will end well. This is the most annoying aspect of The Crew 2 by a mile.

If Ubisoft allowed you to load a custom soundtrack that you could take from a Spotify playlist and didn't force you to detach yourself from the racing experience to switch music so you don't get a headache, then this would be a shining beacon of which other companies should take note of how to perform. But they didn't, so you have one of two choices. You can either listen to the ear bleeding noise or you can switch your music out which takes at least 5 seconds, and in doing so, taking you out of your driving experience for that amount of time. I can't begin to describe my level of hatred for the tool box, so going forward I hope that Ubisoft takes a long hard look at how to improve that feature and figure out a way to make things more streamlined and integrated.

I'll be the first to admit that I was not a fan of the original Crew racing game, but Ubisoft's team went to work and developed a racing game that is so addictive that it should be considered a controlled substance. Despite some flaws and hiccups along the way, The Crew 2 is poised to cement itself as the definitive arcade racing experience on any platform. As a person that has 10w30 pumping through my veins and a heart tied to a supercharger, The Crew 2 offers an unparalleled arcade racing experience that should be considered a must have purchase for anyone that loves an adrenaline rush brought upon by racing. Welcome to the best arcade racing game on the Xbox platform at this time, in my opinion, welcome to The Crew 2.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition

Tactics, strategy and thinking about the future engagements, these are the main qualities you need to play a proper RTS. These types of games are a visual chess game combined with resource monitoring, and for quite a while, there hasn't been too many that have been good, until now.

Developed by Kite Games, and coming in just over half off retail price ($39.99), Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition takes aim at delivering an incredibly in-depth RTS military experience that is based off real historical World War II encounters. I have to admit right off the bat that I'm very particular when it comes to RTS games, because developing a game that is more about tactics than just mindless shooting is incredibly challenging.

Sudden Strike 4 begins by almost overwhelming you with so much content at your fingertips. Don't worry too much about configuring the settings because the menu system is fairly sparse compared to the in-game ones. Placing a big importance on the "value per dollar of entertainment provided", it's clear that Kite Games starts off with a massive boom. Broken into not just the regular campaign missions, but also the expansion packs and the multiplayer options are truly remarkable. $39.99 does buy you an incredible amount of content, but you know what they say, "quality over quantity". I mean, what good is the amount of content if you don't want to play any of it?

The main campaign is broken up into numerous real life campaigns that occurred in World War II, from the Germans, Russians, to even the Allies. The map you will explore has the various missions, spanning from Russia all the way to France, and everything in between. While it may be tempting to just jump right in and start destroying the countryside, I cannot stress enough how important it is to go through the tutorial.

Sudden Strike 4 has some issues that plague its own game mechanics and that should automatically start to send up some red flags. For starters, you can press 'A' on a unit you wish to control, or you can hold 'A' down and use your Right Stick to control a circle radius that will expand and contract down to pre-determined sizes. Sounds nice right? Especially if there are large numbers of different units you wish to control at once. There are a few problems here though.

For starters, the circle expands in almost a blink of an eye, so trying to fine tune what you do, and do not want to select, is literally one of the most annoying things possible in any game I've ever played. I'm having to select individual units and place them in other spots on the map ust so I can try grouping them together without selecting 10 other troops. While we are on the topic of troops, you will learn (as you progress through the campaign) the various benefits and drawbacks of each different unit. Infantry have the ability to arm anti-tank and aircraft weaponry, take and hold various checkpoints by being placed within buildings and sneak up on enemies by going through woods and grassy fields. The downside? They are like tissue paper to any tank round, so unless you somehow manage to withstand a 120mm tank shell being fired from less than 20 yards away, you're going to be heading the clouds.

Your tanks, or heavy armored divisions, are powerful machines of war that can level buildings and become a front-line weapon of mass destruction. These weapons have an incredibly long range when the hatch is open (but you risk losing your tank commander if he's shot) and can decimate almost anything in their path. The downside to them? If your enemy gets behind them and shoots, they won't stand for very long, worse yet, if you are dealt critical damage you'll be prevented them from moving at all. To get these behemoths to move again, you'll need to use a repair vehicle to get the tank back on track (see what I did there?). Should your repair vehicle get destroyed however, you're on your own now. While you're working on getting your ground game secured, you'll also have to think about your air game as well.

Regrettably, your air support isn't as big of an option as the ground game and you are limited to military air bases that will be located off screen. This is a tremendous disappointment because of the versatility and importance that the planes provided in World War II. Yes, I realize that you can literally do bombing runs and eliminate anything on the ground, but then again, the enemy will have flak guns that will ground you permanently unless you destroy them on the land. Each one of these units becomes dependent on one another and here is where another fault resides.

Each unit has multiple actions which can be selected by pressing the Right Trigger to bring up the ability wheel. Here you can order specific commands that are tailored to the individual unit. The problem here though is that if you select a large group of varied units, like I stated earlier, then you will lose the ability to utilize the unit's particular ability until you individually select a unit.

While I understand it would be hard for a computer to remember the pre-loaded abilities of the varying units and have them all for you at your fingertips, I understand that it's possible for that to actually happen, therefore I see no need for this problem, but yet it exists. It's not Sudden Strike 4's fault though. The issue with creating a good, strategic RTS game is that it's difficult to implement the control scheme which is naturally beneficial towards keyboard and mouse users. Trying to find ways to integrate varying menus and commands with far limited numbers of input is, I believe, one of single greatest challenges with creating a game like this on a console. Very few have constructed something of quality, and sadly Sudden Strike 4 isn't one of them.

This is thanks to the mechanics of the troops themselves. Let me give you an example. I was trying to take over an enemy supply outpost as the German army, but there seemed to be a lot of houses in the center. I had my entire army selected and was rolling across the field in a certain formation. I got to the outskirts of the town and sent in my troops very slowly, only exposing a little bit at a time. The tanks hit the walls of the city and bust right through with the stealth of a subway train derailment at top speed.

Now, to place your units in a formation, you have to hold down the 'B' button (which is the button you use to confirm actions, not the 'A' button like is found almost everywhere else, but I digress) and press the Right Stick in any direction to direct your troops to line up in formation and face the designated direction.

It was very hard to know when you have to get behind tanks to go after weak points or flank anti-tank weaponry. The problem, however, is if you press and hold down the 'B' button within a confined space like a town or any inhabited areas, your vehicles can suffer brain damage and start running into each other, and even trying to form simple formations can seem like a herculean task of which no solution is present. Along with the 2 IQ point AI, comes the issue with the actual tutorial.

Going through the tutorial will not prepare you for everything you are about to face, and thankfully to compensate for this the game itself will occasionally pop up helpful displays that will show you information that will help you on your way, but only partially, because the rest you will have to figure out on your own. The lack of hand holding is fine, but get ready to repeat missions over and over again. But that's not really a bad thing when you look this good.

Sudden Strike 4 looks good, and I mean really, really good for an RTS game. The varying mission layouts are stunning compared to other games in the genre. While the infantry personnel are beyond generic (almost to the point where they are cartoons), the vehicles are remarkably detailed, the lighting effects are brilliantly done and the effects themselves are stunning. No matter the mission, it's going to look incredible.

However, the same can't be said for the voice over talent. To say it's an overacting festival is an understatement, but sadly it's outshined by, in my opinion, a tremendous soundtrack and very nice audio effects (explosions, gunfire, planes, etc.). This part of the audio makes going through all the different campaigns to experience the story from every standpoint, a somewhat enjoyable experience.

On top of all of the numerous campaigns, Sudden Strike 4 also delivers bonus content such as the Dunkirk missions, and it even provides historical videos that you can watch. While Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition does suffer from some some drawbacks, the overall foundation is very strong and is wrapped up in a gorgeous visual wrapper. For $39.99, if you enjoy RTS genre games, then Sudden Strike 4: European Battlefields Edition has to be on your radar as a game you have to take a look at.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Yet Another Zombie Defense HD

Now when it comes to gaming today, you can spend a few dollars and find an experience that surprises you to the point of inspiration, while on the flip side of the coin, there are times when you spend large amounts of dollars on a game that leaves you jilted and depressed. Normally, when I review a game, I approach it from a value versus fun ratio, and while it may seem scientific, it allows me to approach it from a consumer point of view.

Recently I reviewed another zombie killing game and this time... I get another zombie killing game to review. This one is aptly titled 'Yet Another Zombie Defense HD' and is developed by Awesome Games Studio. Priced at $4.99, or about the same price as a value meal at a fast food place, it doesn't hurt the wallet, so to speak. So, let's see if this game is worth the $5 bill they are charging, shall we?

There are three modes to tackle: Defense, Endless, and Deathmatch. While Endless is what you would expect in a traditional horde mode of wave after wave of enemies, and Deathmatch is something found in almost all shooters of some type, the bulk of the game will be played in the Defense mode where you and up to 3 other friends (online or locally) will construct some makeshift defenses to hold off the varying onslaught of zombies and demons when night eventually falls. As you kick off Defense mode, you'll have to select from one of four characters. These characters are pretty much stereotypical character models and don't affect anything story related since there isn't one.

After you pick your character you'll spawn by a lamppost, armed with a pistol that has unlimited ammo. From here you will face a small wave of zombies that will come at you from all sides, forcing you to use your pistol to drop them like a toilet seat. To do this you use the Right Stick to move your flashlight to point in the direction you’re going to fire, then you unload your weapon with Right Trigger. The Right and Left Bumpers switch between weapons, but I'll get into that more in a minute. Once the enemies are properly eliminated, your next goal will be to figure out how to wisely spend your newly found wealth. This is where your shop comes in handy.

Some items such as a chainsaw can cost around $500 or so, while a Tesla gun can run north of $20,000. But buying a weapon is only half the issue because now you must stock it with ammo, otherwise, what's the point of having a weapon you can't use? Ammo can cost $30 all the way up to $200 and more. While doing your best Neo from the Matrix impression, where you need lots of guns, one thing you can't forget is your makeshift base. As the nights progress the enemies get tougher. No longer will you have just undead mindless zombies to contend with, as demons from the depths of hell will rise up against you, and even the reaper itself will try to take your life.

To stave all of this off, and give you the best shot at survival, you'll have a chance to buy barriers and turrets. Barriers range from basic wooden ones to armored and even electrified ones. Of course, as you would expect, the price increases DRAMATICALLY between each cost. This also applies for the turrets, as there is an advanced one and a basic one. Each turret requires you to buy a firearm for it PLUS stock it with ammo (if you equip it with a shotgun and you use a shotgun on your character, then your gun turret will use YOUR ammo, so be ready).

As you kill enemies, they will drop items such as ammo for your weapons, mines, and even power-ups such as health, invisibility (which for some reason doesn't work as the enemies still attack me) and invincibility (this thankfully does work). The more items you collect from your fallen enemies the less you'll have to spend to replenish your supplies. Using a chainsaw as your primary weapon in the earlier stages is well advised so you can save some preliminary cash.

There is an issue that I have, but it is not with the game, but instead with the public who plays, let me explain why. Being that cash is by far the most valuable thing in the game, you have three choices where you can allow other people to buy whatever they want from the store and spend your money, or there can be a limit of your money and anything over that limit and they have to ask you (like asking your parents for more money to buy things) to use more, or they have to request that you buy the item so they can use it.

Being the kindhearted soul that I am, I trusted that people would have their own ideas as to how best to defend the base, so I originally let them all run wild with the cash. I figured, "Hey, it's their money too." And that worked out nice until this guy bought ALL SMG ammunition and drained my bank account. Then he leaves my game and I'm essentially screwed. I had no defenses, no nothing but a simple SMG and as much ammo as I could ever need. Granted, after that incident I quickly learned to hoard my money, but that got me thinking; why would you even think of offering other forms of cash management? There isn't much structure to the game other than shooting enemies, buying more guns and ammo and defenses and shoot more things after that. So why would you give the option for perfectly good strangers to come in and ruin your game? To this day I still can't figure it out.

As you progress you'll earn points to level up your character with things such as increased health (which you WILL need), increased movement speed (which again, you WILL need), pickup radius (which appeared broken even at max setting) and more things that really aren't important for any reason. Unfortunately, this eliminated any and all desire I had to level up my character.

What was the point in extra health when I can just barricade myself with some turrets and let the damage do the work for me? Work smarter, not harder, and that's why I'm struggling to find something worthwhile about the character development. Outside of something spectacular that I am somehow missing, you'd be better off playing Yet Another Zombie Defense HD on a train ride to work than on a console sitting at home.

Regrettably that is about as in-depth as this game gets, and if I'm honest, I was surprised at how shallow the game itself feels. They claim to have a 4K filter in the game, but that did very little to the visuals. You'll find that, as you play the game, there is very little enjoyment to be found, but Yet Another Zombie Defense HD relies squarely on one characteristic to help this game survive, and that is the replayability. With this game originally releasing on February 3, 2010, you can see that the years haven't been kind. With less content than a Chinese fortune cookie, and less entertaining as well, I'd personally save the $4.99 and spend it on something else, unless you just have to try the game, but you've been warned.

Overall Score: 5.5 / 10 Riddled Corpses EX

I'll say it: I love me some twin stick shooter action on Xbox. Over the years I think it's a genre that doesn't get a lot of attention, but after playing Riddled Corpses EX by COWCAT, I don't think that is going to be an issue anymore. Priced on sale for $10.79 (while the sale lasts) I have to say that this game took me by complete surprise. So much so that it almost caused me to be out of gaming commission, but more about that later. For now, though, let's dive into Riddled Corpses EX and you can see just why this game is worth every penny.

On the surface this game appears to be a classic 8/16bit hybrid game visually. Apparently, the story behind it revolves around a mad scientist (why can't there ever be any "good" mad scientists?) who attempts an experiment, and low and behold it fails. Actually, it didn't just fail though, this disaster of an experiment actually manages to resurrect an ancient sleeping demon of power who has the ability to summon his army of undead and a monstrous horde. What are the odds?

It's up to you and your ever-growing team of fighters to band together and not only stop the zombie apocalypse, but save all humanity as well. While the story is fairly straight forward, the real hook comes from the gameplay which is so addictive it may as well be deemed a narcotic.

You start off by selecting characters to play as, and you check them out you will see how each one will carry with them a special ability. Well, all apart from the first character who is all around useless and doesn't have a special ability. You will see how your characters are rated with many, many stats, that supposedly mean many, many things, and range from very high power but slow shooting and moving rate, to being lightning fast but barely doing any damage.

You'll pass on the first character, and instead you'll find yourself selecting others that come with abilities such as magnetism, 2x gold, and so forth. Gold will become your lifeblood as it costs you 9999 gold to unlock characters, as well as any turrets and additional machine guns. Normally on a given run you can expect to get about 1500(ish) amount of gold (if you use a 2x gold character), so welcome to the grind. You will end up playing levels over and over and over again because of two reasons: 1) you'll be terrible because your character is so weak, and 2) Riddled Corpses EX is ridiculously challenging with enemies and projectiles flying at you in 60fps glory.

To solve this inevitable problem, you will start leveling up your characters (which also takes a TON gold) and upgrading your machine guns (which takes A LOT of gold) but, as I pointed out above, when your take of gold is so low you have no choice but to grind and grind and grind. I chose to use a character that offered 2x gold instead of magnetism, so while I had to walk to the gold instead of it automatically coming to me, I got twice the gold in the end. I think I played the 1st level well over 50 times just to try and gain some form of strength to tackle the 2nd stage. I was grinding away so much that my right thumb actually became swollen, but that was after 8 hours straight playing, because this game is so addictive. Once you level up your three powered characters to level 20 you will unlock the last character (for purchase of 9999 gold) who has all the abilities of the previous characters.

Now, the overworld layout is designed in a traditional Ghosts n' Goblins fashion, as it consists of six areas which range in difficulty by increasing the number of enemies and projectiles on the screen at the same time. Things can get overwhelming very quickly, so you can utilize special power-ups, such as a stopwatch by pressing the Right Bumper that freezes everything on the screen for a limited amount of time, or you can use a group of dynamite sticks with Left Bumper that effectively clears your screen of enemies. The B button is used to deploy your turret while your Left Stick is used to move your character and the Right is to fire your weapon. This simplicity is yet another reason for the addictive quality of the game. You don't have to be worried about button pushes at the correct moment the frame of animation stops or split-second timing that leads to hours of frustration. Just pick up the controller and start killing everything you see.

Each of the levels are unique in the enemies spawned but also the atmosphere. You start your adventure in a city themed environment but transition into deserts and even underground laboratories. The enemies don't really change until you get to the last two stages when the game literally seems like it gives up and just throws everything you've experienced before from the previous level, just 100 times more of them. That's not to say though that this game has committed some graphical injustice because it hasn't.

All the enemies and levels are done in a beautiful retro 8/16-bit hybrid mashup of classic styles and are accompanied by a fantastic synth soundtrack straight from the MIDI worlds of yesteryear, but with a modern twist. One nostalgic thing that I found in the settings was you can switch the music back to the original track without all the modern processing and it literally became a movie montage soundtrack to laying waste to everything on screen and it was glorious.

So, even though Riddled Corpses EX seems like a shallow game, the replay value is off the charts and not seen in some big AAA titles that we pay $60+ for today. COWCAT has created a game that is so addictive it should almost be considered a controlled substance and that, for such an indie title, is something almost never seen in the gaming industry. Taking such a simple premise and focusing on just what makes the genre so entertaining, and hour draining, is exactly what COWCAT have done. For $10.79 (limited time sale) you can't find better deals for entertainment in today's world, and even when the price goes up, it will still be worth it.

Suggestions: Some online multiplayer with shared loot would be nice.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Battlezone Gold Edition

Back in 1980 I wasn't even 5 yet, however, I was already getting into gaming. The Atari system was running wild and one of their best games available was Battlezone. Taking the digital frontier by storm, you were tasked with piloting a combat tank against a seemingly unstoppable AI force, in an effort to save humanity. Now, almost 40 years later (yes you read that correctly), Rebellion has dusted off this classic gem and has refitted the game, bringing Battlezone into the modern age. So how does this new Battlezone game contend with its new modern kicks? What tricks does Rebellion have up its sleeves to entice us to keep playing this game? Why in the name of everything that is holy is the game priced at $34.99? All these questions and more will be answered as you read on!

The premise behind such glorified tank combat comes from the tried and true storyline where man invents AI, AI obviously turns evil (notice very few games ever have AI that isn't evil?) and begins to wipe out humanity which forces them underground. With the AI core resting deep in the heart of a volcano, it’s your task to make sure humans will see another day. It's up to you to pilot your tank and destroy the AI core. In order to accomplish this however you will need to fight your way through a literal army of enemy tanks, aircraft and turrets to deplete the power level of the AI army (which grows almost continuously) by destroying generators along the way (should you choose to do so). While the story is decent, it's not something that you need to concern yourself with because in Battlezone, the story is just there for an objective filler for you.

As you begin, you have your traditional fare of light, medium and heavy tanks at your disposal. Each one carries with it an advantage and disadvantage as well. Light tanks are quick but can be taken apart relatively easy while heavy tanks are, you guessed it, slow but hit like a runaway freight train. The same variety you have also applies to your enemies as well. You will have small little scout ships that can fire laser attacks that will damage you slightly, medium tanks that lob easily dodged cannon fire but take a few rounds to drop, and heavy tanks that can end your run with 2-3 shots top, also having shields you have to penetrate before blowing them up. This whole balancing system is central to the game and therefore critical that you rationalize the consequences of your choice.

While the number of tanks varies between 3 different weight classes, Rebellion has gone to great lengths to pack a tank's worth of upgrades and customizations within the game. For starters, you can customize the outside and cockpit with varying styles of camouflage, and while you start out with a lot, you'll quickly notice that there is so much more to unlock. While picking what your tank will look like, you can also look at your tank's stats will also notice that there is a long list of stats that you have the opportunity to upgrade. Speed, power, shields and ammo capacity can be upgraded, so it's in your best interest to kill everything that is shooting at you.

You get points for your upgrading system by completing missions and collecting resources from fallen enemies. While you may run out of ammo occasionally, you can collect dropped munitions resupplies from your foes which will refill all weapons you have on board. Don't be afraid though to spend some of your points on purchasing other lives. Sometimes the best offense is to have another tank ready to go should yours get destroyed. Without question, Rebellion has done a tremendous job packing in all the customization options at your disposal and is the very heart of Battlezone.

Earlier you read my writings about you having to destroy an AI core inside a volcano, and you're probably asking: "how do I get to a volcano?". Well the answer is you must navigate through a honeycomb map layout that is filled with side missions of multiple types, shield generators, enemy bases, supply outposts and even your nemesis. What is your nemesis? Well should you take your sweet time and allow the AI power to climb to a new level, a nemesis will be spawned. Think of these things like the ultimate tank killing machine that the AI spawns to end your life. These nemesis enemies should be avoided at all costs, but face one and you're in for one hell of a fight.

To soften up the AI core's defenses you will have to go after the corresponding shield generators. I almost forgot, while you're on your level you may see a white object indicator on your radar, so moving your tank near these white structures will provide you with different types of bonuses. You may see a point increase, lessen the enemy's defenses or even unlock new blueprints for some new firepower!

To move your tank towards these objectives and enemies, you have to use the Left Stick to move your tank forward, back, left and right, and the Right Stick to move your cannon up and down and rotate. By learning how to accurately maneuver the tank you choose, this will go a long way in preserving your life. The Left Trigger will act as a boost for your tank but, in doing so, will dramatically drain the shield of your tank. While the LT acts as a boost, the Right Trigger fires the weapon you selected with the X button. Should you have a weapon that needs a few seconds to lock on, then you must hold RT down until the targeting reticle goes green and then let go. Be aware of your surroundings though, you can lock on first, then dart behind a pillar to recover or hide for a few, and then pop out and launch your artillery at your target. When in combat you also need to be aware of combat tactics.

For example, should you notice your enemies shooting at you with lobbed fire or unguided rockets from a distance, then close the gap quickly and fire, fire, fire! This will have their rounds sail overhead while your shots hit and render the tank destroyed. Now on the flip side of the coin, if you have a heavy tank that will obliterate you up close, use your lock on weapons from a distance and don't stop firing while dodging the charged shots of a massive tank. Knowing how to adapt on a fluid and ever-changing battle will be vital in your survival.

While this can all seem complicated at first, the learning curve is fairly low so those who wish to jump right in can get a thrilling experience and quickly master the skills needed to win the game. Rebellion though did allow another nice bonus feature added into Battlezone, the ability to take on the game with up to 3 other players. So now you can have your own 4-person tank squad to go wrecking through the game which makes the game much easier to manage.

Remember, Battlezone used to be an Atari game back in 1980 and it involved black backgrounds with green outlined shapes that were supposed to pass as futuristic tanks. Now though, Battlezone is done in a 4K Classic Tron type feel (enemies are red, friendlies are blue) that looks stunning. Incredible digital frontiers that would have made Flynn himself tip his hat in admiration are your playgrounds throughout Battlezone. Coupled with .

Before I wrap this up, I want to take a moment to personally thank Rebellion for, what I think is, the best addition to their modern take on Battlezone, the original game. Yes folks, when you buy Battlezone you get not only this amazing and entertaining modern take on the classic, but also the classic itself. Having personally grown up with that Atari cartridge, it holds a special meaning to me. Having included it, as you have, has sent me on a personal journey of memories back when my father was alive, and I can't thank you enough.

For $34.99 you may be thinking that Battlezone is a bit overpriced, and you would be quite mistaken. When your customizable campaign length (short-medium-long) means you can have a campaign that takes you less than a few hours, or a campaign that spans actual days, Battlezone offers a lot of content and customization for everyone and that's the soul of this release, customization. From customizing your tank, to your campaign, to your multiplayer/single player experience, and so on, Battlezone offers you almost too many choices. However, that is the strength of the game and it works brilliantly. Battlezone is easily a must have purchase if you enjoy tank combat, arena combat, or are a fan of the classic Battlezone from 1980. While $34.99 is a steep price to pay for a remake of a 40-year-old game, Rebellion has made it worth every penny.

Overall Score: 8.3 / 10 State of Decay 2

For decades now, we as a society have been entranced by monsters, but probably none have garnered such a special place in our hearts as zombies. Countless books, TV shows, and movies clearly demonstrate that we love us some zombie action. Utilizing the Unreal 4 engine, developer Undead Labs has attempted to deliver a zombie survival horror game that feels like it should have its own A&E timeslot. Priced at $29.99, State of Decay 2 has a lot to live up to, but thankfully has a tremendous amount of content to source from, so let's see just how dead is undead. Now as you read this, know that I'm writing this as my communities are ongoing as we speak, and I'll fill you in on how they are holding up as the retail launch hits.

State of Decay 2 is setup in a manner that allows you to take control of a pair of people and each one has his/her own special abilities and traits. While some may specialize in mechanical work, others may be proficient in gardening, so who you choose to play as will ultimately help shape your experience. From there you will go through a tutorial where you will come to grips with the gameplay mechanics. This is quite simple as it's very similar to what we have experienced before (A for jump, B for dodge (hold crouch), X for attack and Y to interact/search). For a game of this nature, the overall feel of the controls varies between sluggish at times to oversensitive.

For example, if you're trying to dodge an attack and turn to strike your enemy, the controls feel like they hesitate, thus making the control feel sluggish. Now, let's say you want to refuel a car, you will have to position yourself in just the right spot, so you can fill it up. If you should stray, even a hair away in a different direction, you will either get an option to open the trunk of the car or ride in the back seat. This is when the game almost gives you too many choices and not enough room to make a decision accurately given the sluggish feeling. Once you get through the tutorial though, you're on your own. Just like popular TV zombie shows like The Walking Dead, State of Decay 2 forces you to make tough choices and ensure that not only do you survive, but that you do everything possible to rid the world of the blood plague by destroying what are called Plague Hearts. Sorry, but I won't spoil what it is or any details as they need to be experienced.

I just talked about making tough choices, and in one of my camps I thought I would do the noble thing and start bringing in everyone I could save as I thought there were strength in numbers. However, I was unaware as to the consequences of my choices till I realized the resource drain these members had on my outpost. State of Decay 2 essentially demands that you hunt through these massive sandbox levels for various resources such as food, medicine, ammo, construction materials and gas. These are the lifeblood resources that will either make or break you, and you can see a little display of a simple smiley face that can go from cheerful to hopeless and that will let you know something went went wrong.

So, for my first community I ended up not stockpiling enough resources as I just focused on people, and soon my food was in the negative, so even rationing it wouldn't work, and even with two level-2 gardens and two more food outposts, I still was running a negative food production. I chose to ignore this as I was interested in watching what the game did to my survivors. Well, I would get pop up messages that said that one of my camp members was starving, or that another member felt sick due to starvation. That is when I had a hard choice, I could go out and look for resources, or I could kick out people until I was back to a positive food production. Well, I didn't do either, as I let the people die from starvation and figured that the weak would die off while the strong held on to feast. While inhumane to the logical person, it worked. While people did mourn the passing of fellow members of the community, 20 min later the mourning ended and I was at a positive food production number and the morale was on the climb like nothing ever happened. Just goes to show you how fickle your community can be.

Outside of resources you also must maintain a relationship with the people. Other factions will ask for your help and you can decide to help them or not, but that will determine if they are friendly to you or hate you with upmost passion. I found that if you wait long enough, you can watch as the people in these other factions leave. While this prevents you from trading with them, it also prevents them from taking resources, so I was just fine with letting them go. I just talked about how fickle people can be in the game and my 2nd community had a guy who literally did nothing but complain about zombie infestations. Constantly on the radio about how no one respects him and that no one takes him seriously or cares about him, blah blah blah.

So, I say fine, I bring him along as a follower and select his quest to make him happy. I'm on my way walking and I clear out 2 other infestations, so I figured that would make him happy, nope. Instead, after the 2nd one was cleared out, he turns to me and says that he will go find others who really care about him and that I could go f*** off, and he abandoned my group. This is also a valuable time to tell you that if you equip items and weapons to your followers, and they leave you, then you will lose all those items forever.

Infestations are designated areas on your map where a congregation of zombies are present along with at least one screamer. A screamer is an armless zombie that doesn't walk fast, but it screams at such a high pitch that not only will it call in more zombies from nearby areas, but it can also resurrect fallen ones that haven't been executed. It goes without saying that these screamers are the primary targets and should be executed as quick as possible, but screamers aren't the only zombies to worry about. Bloaters are zombies that are naked overweight gas bags that run to as you and once close they explode in a poisonous cloud that can kill you. Should you hit one with your vehicle, stop the car immediately (B is handbrake) and get out as the car will fill with the gas and kill both you and your follower(s), should you have any. Feral zombies move lightning fast, hit like a brick and are savage on a primordial level. Put one of these down quick because if you're not careful, one of these can put you down in a matter of seconds. Last, but not least, is the Juggernaut. This colossus of a zombie is easily 8-9 feet high, about 500lbs and could be described as a pissed off freight train that won't stop until it breaks you in half. Even with a follower, I strongly recommend both of you hitting it with tremendous firepower and then swarm it from both sides with melee attacks until it drops.

To put things into perspective of just how powerful one of these beasts are, I was driving a military SUV at full speed and slammed head on into one and bounced off while the Juggernaut just said "ooof" and staggered a bit. I got another running start and the same thing happened only this time my SUV started to smoke because of the damage. That was precisely the same moment I heard a Feral zombie and it lunges at the driver’s side door and ends up ripping it off the car. What happened next? Ever see Monty Python and The Holy Grail? All that was missing were the coconuts.

To make sure you have all the equipment you need to fight off these gargantuan zombies you should make sure you have weapons that aren't broken. Just like managing your resources are important, so is making sure your weaponry won't let you down when you are out scavenging. Blades will dull over time and break, handguns will jam and not fire, but there is one trait to consider, the bolt action weapons. Guns such as bolt action rifles or revolvers will NOT, and I can't stress this enough, NOT break...ever. I found this out while one of my camps had my character trying to fight off a Juggernaut; not fun. This tidbit of knowledge will become invaluable as you progress, so please retain this tidbit of information. To fix and repair your broken and damaged items you will need to allocate one of your available spaces at your camp to a workbench. From there you will unlock the ability to repair items with the use of screw materials that you pick up throughout your searching.

As you progress and develop more of a reputation, you will earn star points that can be used in a multiple of ways. You can use these points that you earn to establish other outposts that provide things such as medical supplies, food, gas, ammunition and more which can be added to your base to bring in more resources. These can also be used to purchase new bases to move your growing community to that can provide room for expansion and growth. These reputation stars can also be utilized to call in favors on the radio such as support from online members to finding where certain resources are etc. These stars also can be used as currency when trading with other enclaves for various items they may have (pending they are friendly to you).

Now, you may think that with all these uses that you gain a ton of stars rapidly throughout your gameplay, but it's quite the opposite. For instance, in my 2nd community I am now sitting at 10 members which is WELL over my allotment for my home base, so I need to move; however, I managed to save up 1,000 points, so I can spend them on buying a water tower which will provide my base with water, but the largest encampment I've found so far is a mini-mall which can support 8 people (still 2 under my amount, but I can manage that) and that comes at the low cost of 3,500 points. While that is a lot when you only get +5 points for taking out a zombie or two, and +25 for taking down a Feral, Screamer, and/or Juggernaut, you will quickly come to the conclusion that doing quests will be the way to rapidly acquire the points you need.

This means you have to now manage your time as well, because your quest list is forever changing. When factions fall in and out of favor with you, so will their missions available to you and should they leave after being ignored for a while, then those missions are gone permanently and you're left with whatever you can find. This is where isolationism may or may not be the best thing for your group, so this will be a decision you will have to make on your own. I managed to find some of these camps by pressing the back button (next to the start button) whenever a request came in and I marked the targets. To reach these people I made sure I grabbed as many gas cans as I could carry, loaded them into the car along with repair kits (I learned from the Juggernaut), and I drove around, stopped at surveying points to unlock more of the map and went on a sort of "meet the neighbors" tour.

Now for a brief recap to sum things up as to what you will be required to manage:

1) Resources - Food, medicine, building supplies, ammo, gas.

2) Relationships - Foth with the members of your group and the community.

3) Time - People won't wait because they also must survive. Whether or not you're a part of that is up to you.

4) Storage - You can't carry everything all at once, so you will have to prioritize and come back for what you can't carry or pack in your vehicle.

Phew. State of Decay 2 does have a weak point that, in my opinion, kind of takes away from the majesty of the game, and that is the graphics. Sure, the developers use the Unreal 4 engine; however, the character models and environment are underwhelming and something that we can expect to see from an earlier generation Xbox game. I can understand that loading all those environmental assets takes a long time (thus long loading screens) at a higher resolution, so I'm guessing that this was a deliberate play to save on resources for the game management? Either way, the real winner for me though has to involve the sound effects and the music. While you hear the traditional guitar strumming and melodic atmospheric music, State of Decay 2 is made for a surround sound system.

For instance, when I slammed my vehicle into a Juggernaut and did nothing to it but piss it off, my damaged vehicle ran as fast as it's tires could carry it. However, there was smoke billowing out from under the wrecked hood, you heard the engine actually knocking and pinging like it was about to die. Then as I headed home one of the zombies attacked the vehicle and ripped my door off which caused a small fire to form under the hood because my car was getting destroyed. It's instances like this that highlight the attention to detail. I said sound effects were a treat, but not the voice acting, and that's because the voice acting is marginal at best and doesn't stand out even though the voices are unique. But go creeping through the woods at night with your tiny little flashlight and listen to all the zombies moaning and walking all around you and you'll see what I mean.

There are other little tweaks that sort of got to me as I was playing. For instance, when driving there seemed to be a constant thin horizontal line that would flash and flicker about halfway up the screen. While it did nothing but distract me, it was annoying as can be. Other quirks that set this game back were the raining zombies, yes raining zombies. When you set off driving sometimes you move faster than the game can process the nearby enemies, so they literally drop in from the sky like rain. I personally didn't mind so much until the game dropped a bloater very close that required me to drop it with some pistol fire, which then drew the attention of many other zombies in the area so my stealthy approach to scavenging just turned into a makeshift Rambo movie. I've chosen to guess this is because of the resource allocation limitations within the game itself.

Another gripe I have is the inability to pause the game. I never played the first version of State of Decay, but there apparently isn't any way to pause the game. I understand this is because you're loading yourself into a fluid environment that is constantly evolving, but with everything to manage, plus navigating to help others, having the ability to pause the game to go over what to do next would be helpful. To combat this I found that I didn't do any planning in the field and instead focused all my planning in the base. I do this because I've lost count how many times I've called up my map to see where I'm at and my resources are and was attacked by a zombie. This is one of many reasons it helps to bring a partner, especially if playing cooperatively with another person online, with you when you venture out.

While there are some aspects of State of Decay 2 that are subpar, it goes without saying that you get a phenomenal amount of content for only $29.99. I never got around to playing the original State of Decay, but I have to say this game has me hooked. While it can seem a bit overwhelming at times with everything to manage, there are games that cost twice as much and deliver half as much content. State of Decay 2 is now, in my honest opinion, the undisputed king of zombie survival horror games and the rest of the industry better take notice because Undead Labs didn't just raise the bar, they took it, caved in a zombie's head, then used the bar to lock the door and force the rest of the companies to fight for survival. While yes there are some faults to be found, the scales are overwhelmingly tipped in its favor. If you're a fan of The Walking Dead, zombies, survival horror games, open world action adventure games, then without question State of Decay 2 is a day one purchase.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse. Welcome dear reader to the review of Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs - Royal Edition for the Xbox platform. Developed by Pixelated Milk at a price of $24.99, Regalia is a crowdfunded JRPG that attempts to drain hours of your life and put a massive smile on your face while doing it. While JRPG games have been known for their long narratives, if the quality isn't good, then what is the point? So, should Regalia plant its flag in your Xbox's hard drive, or is the experience so horrible that it needs to be banished immediately from the kingdom of your games?

As you set off on your journey, you'll discover that you play the role of Kay, of House Loren, who is one of three children to the King of Ascalia. The kingdom had known peace for many years, until a dark time came upon the lands. With the king's health failing, Kay is instructed to lay claim to his royal birthright (which means his spoiled and entitled lifestyle and mannerism had to change immediately).

With a tantrum befitting a toddler, Kay tries first to shun his duty, but his two sisters (Ellie and Gwn) help convince him that he is just the right person to step in and bring peace back to the lands. However, in doing this they come across a shady businessman named Mr. Crucey, whom is trying to collect on a rather large debt that was owed to him by the royal family, a debt that was amassed throughout the years. This is when we learn of a massive quirk in the game that I will explain later.

That is the foundation for Regalia; however, there is more to this game than what is on the surface. For starters, one of the major focuses is building and restoring the lands. You have multiple buildings to build and upgrade, but doing so will reward you as these tasks unlock new perks for your character. The world of Regalia is laid out in a map with many circles, and each circle outside of your buildings act as a dungeon, and inside the dungeon you have numerous points of interest that can be one of three different experiences:

1. Save point - you can save here multiple times throughout your dungeon exploration. A save point can bring fallen members of your party back to life by sleeping but this can ONLY BE DONE ONCE. This is where strategy falls into place and I'll touch on that more later.

2. Choose your own adventure - If you're reading this and think an original Xbox is an antique then you may not remember these children's books that set you off on a quest that gave you the choice of your response. This mode gives you a scenario and from it you can select your response, which will end up in some kind of consequence (good or bad). These can sometimes be a battle or humorous stories and more. These encounters can also net you some very nice gear if you are so lucky.

3. Combat - very self-explanatory. This is a combat scenario where you and your party start out on a grid layout and you fight adversaries. There are special conditions such as "be the first to cause damage" that you can do throughout that will increase the chance of your end battle item. However, this is a lot more complex than it seems. For starters, the combat system is incredibly complex and even though it's a turn-based system, you will find yourself getting crushed A LOT. Think of this as an evolved version of a more violent game of chess. Strategy is important and given that you will do A LOT of fighting, here is how a traditional battle would work.

First you position your characters on the field in the designated zone. From there your characters take a turn if they want to. Your character can move and/or attack in any order, so you can be creative in how you play each fight. The game is based upon the skills of the people within your party. Each skill has a turn cooldown rating where 0 means it can be used every turn; and each skill has an Authority Point cost. Authority Points are crystals that are earned at the beginning of each round, and you get 1 per round, so you must plan for how you wish to spend your skills throughout your battle. Do you save your gems and go for a massive spell, summoning a fire demon, or do you go with a more conservative multiple medium skill attack? Regalia is all about strategy.

When you begin you'll also notice that your characters have no shields and that is because shields are distributed in a couple ways. One of them is to use our hero Kay to grant shields when it's his turn, or if your character doesn't move at all for their turn, they will automatically generate a small amount of shield. Winning these battles grants you resources you will need to build and upgrade your kingdom, which in turn will increase your ability to grow in your relationships with the other characters in the game.

As you now realize, your game consists of you forming a party, and it's through this party that you can develop relationships and friendships with all of those involved. The benefit from this is that you gain tremendous perks from increasing the Relationship Points between characters. Now, you will also have to be on your toes, so to speak, because some characters won't like your actions or choices so pay close attention and you should be fine.

I must pause for a moment because I must let you know just how beautiful Regalia is. The graphics are full of vivid and dynamic colors. The overall art style lends itself to be a fantastic JRPG game. The character development is very well executed and matches the quality given to the story of Regalia. What surprised me as well was the level of standards that Pixelated Milk gave to the sound. There isn't much in terms of dialogue or sound effects, which makes the soul focus on the soundtrack. With nowhere to hide any mistakes or flaws with the sound design, Regalia's approach to music hits all the right notes for a stellar experience. While there are some tremendous aspects to Regalia, there is always another side of the coin.

Now, while the overwhelming amount of content is done brilliantly, there are some issues that I have with Regalia that tarnish the crown. For starters let me talk to you about the loading screens. They aren't very long, but EVERYWHERE you go there's a loading screen, so while it's a blessing that the loading times are short, after a short amount of playing you'll notice that these loading times rapidly add up. While this can be a nuisance, this doesn't compare to the time constraint you face when playing Regalia. Let me explain this in more detail.

Remember earlier I talked about the debt collector? Well, you are given a certain number of kingdom tasks to complete within a set amount of time. If you happen to fail in finishing the required number of tasks within the time limit, the debt collector comes back and realizes that you have failed, and your game is over. You could have the best weapons, and the most amazing armor, but you can still fail in your time management and your game is over. Why is this such a big deal?

Let's say in this example you're given 30 in game days to complete a total of 5 kingdom tasks. When you navigate to any circular area outside of your main castle, you spend 1 day. When your character spends time with another character, that costs 1 day. Now let's say you enter a dungeon and you see a total of 9 nodes. That dungeon costs 9 days (1 day per node). Let's say you leave midway through the dungeon for whatever reason and you'll be charged the full 9 days, then you must come back and complete it, resulting in even more days spent. It's this type of playstyle that ends up squelching any desire to explore and, if we're honest, there isn't much (if any) exploration to do. Essentially Regalia has been reduced to nothing more than an interactive day planner that has multiple interactive events. But the plus side is that these events are challenging, but yet thankfully enjoyable.

So why should you part with your hard-earned money? Regalia is a great example of crowd funded games developing something that is tremendously fun to play. While other indie games try to be fun, they all take a knee to Regalia. For $24.99 you get an experience that is well over 50+ hours of fun and with the large amount of content weaved into a dynamic story that provides incredible challenges. You'll even find a few nods of respect to other tremendous games. When you look at the other releases that are out there on the Xbox platform, Regalia is truly a king amongst them.

Overall Score: 8.3 / 10 Enigmatis 3: The Shadow of Karkhala

While fierce competition continues to permeate multiple gaming genres, there's one company named Artifex Mundi that has quietly, yet definitively carved out their place as the premier and undeniable king of hidden object puzzle games. Known for the casual pace, beautiful graphics, and a focus on sound that is rarely heard from smaller titles, Artifex Mundi has released their final chapter of the Enigmatis series, promptly titled Enigmatis 3: The Shadow of Karkhala. Priced at $6.99, Artifex Mundi tries to close the door on this gripping tale of shadows and sorcery, demons and angels, heaven and hell. So how does this conclusion end? Let's see if we can't find a hidden gem or two inside.

For starters, when I turned on the game I was expecting some soothing music and a beautiful backdrop that acted as my main staging area, and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. There was this young person (whom I hadn't a clue who she was) just sitting there with her flute playing a melody that was captivating and yet harmonic to the soul. For a moment I actually felt like a snake caught in a charmer's sweet tune. Enigmatis 3 starts off with your ability to select your game in normal or hard mode. While doing this you'll see that there isn't one but two tales you can play through and each of them packed full of scenes and levels for you to search through, but you can't play the second one until the first is complete. This type of simplicity is what makes these games so enjoyable and that is shown throughout the entire game with how the game is setup to play.

Using Left and Right Stick, you get to maneuver your observation circle around various still scenes where you can interact with items using the A button, back out of scenes using the B button and examine items that can be expanded using the Y button in your inventory which can be opened by either Right or Left Trigger. Should you wish to use an item somewhere, that can be done via the X button. Now you shouldn't be concerned with ruining the game or locking yourself out of anything because this game, like its predecessors, is incredibly straight forward and will actually stop you from doing something that will prevent you from progressing so essentially there is literally no way you can ever do anything wrong, but it may take you a very long time to do things right.

Your D-pad acts in several ways. Up displays a hint for you (I didn't really ever need it), Right brings up your map and shows you all the places you can't go by placing a red X in the circle, and the areas that you have choices to make are marked with a "!" symbol. Down brings up your evidence menu and Left brings up your journal to show you what your current task(s) are.

This sense of simplicity is also found all throughout the story. In case you haven't played the other two before this, you play the role of a detective who has tracked a demonic preacher throughout the previous two games with the help of her partner. In order to uncover the trail that will lead you to the priest you will have to use your keen eyesight to uncover and discover a wealth of clues and items that will assist you along the way. Once on the right path, you will have to use your clues of evidence to put the pieces of this mystery together and try and figure out a solution. Along the way you will unearth many mysteries and questions, but remember, not everything is as it seems.

The graphics though are everything that it seems and more. Each scene is beautifully hand drawn and looks incredible on a 4k TV playing through an Xbox One X. From water to fire, grass to mountains, peaceful tranquility to hectic turmoil, every scene within the game looks stunning. There are though a few hiccups with the graphics. For starters, the character modeling when they talk is hilariously poor. I'm talking 1980's quality animation that hit the cutting room floor kind of bad. When you engage in someone who you see is talking to you, it appears as their mouth have only a few positions (open, closed, and crooked) and the game cycles through these static images as quickly as possible to try and simulate talking. While good in effort, it's poor in execution. I would actually have preferred to not have any voice acting and instead just text boxes that I could read and cycle through.

The sound though is where this game truly shines for me, as I loved the ambient atmospheric sounds throughout the various scenes. Each one is unique as the artwork that accompanies it and is a stunning companion to the experience. There are though some aspects that are not up to par. Earlier you read that I mentioned lackluster animation when it came to the people and their mouths, and sadly the same negative approach has to be taken to the voice acting as well. You get the feeling you're listening to C grade actors/actresses who want to be B grade, so they overemphasize almost everything to come off as better than they are. This is a massive negative tick but thankfully you won't have to talk to too many people throughout your adventure.

The final drawback though comes from the reality that Enigmatis 3 is not a long game at all. You can go through the game in about a day, and 2 if you wanted to get all the achievements, but despite all of this, it goes without saying that if you enjoyed the other hidden object puzzle games from Artifex Mundi, then Enigmatis 3: The Shadow of Karkhala should be on your radar as a must have game. I can think of many ways to spend $6.99 and not get as much enjoyment as you would find in this game. So take a bow Artifex Mundi, in your curtain call for the Enigmatis story line, you have found a true gem for the gaming world.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Train Sim World: Founder's Edition

From the evolution of civilizations, to the dreams of young children around the world, trains have always captivated our imagination with their power and purpose. There are many forms of train usage; from transportation of cargo to the transportation of people, trains and their purposes have evolved as well. Recently, Dovetail Games has released Train Sim: World Founders Edition for the price point of $29.99, and its goal is simple, as it aims to bring you the wonderment and magic that these powerful machines can produce into the virtual world of console gaming. Let's hop aboard and dive deeper into what could possibly be the best train simulation on the planet.

Simulation games have been done before, including a bunch of quality ones from Dovetail Games, so I was confident as to the level of quality I should expect. In terms of trains, people (including myself) can't help but think of the old steam trains where a couple people were in an the locomotive shoveling coal into a hot fire while watching the oil pressure and brakes. Modern trains are so much different, it's like you're stepping into a cockpit full of buttons, switches, levers, dials and all other kinds of interactive items. In this game you get the ability to control three different types of trains that range from mighty diesel engines to high speed modern beasts. Now, if this is beginning to feel a bit overwhelming, it's because it is.

Train Sim World: Founders Edition provides a beginning tutorial that will take you step by step into each train and give you a sense of how to operate it on a very basic level. Each train has its own cabin with its own layout and design, so you will have to get comfortable with more than just one style. Once you complete the tutorial, not only will you net yourself a 100-point achievement, but you'll be completely clueless as to how the rest of the game will operate. Outside of this beginning tutorial you have access to a Scenario and Services modes.

In Scenario Mode you are tasked with choosing your train adventure. Some scenarios range from 15 minutes while others be up to an hour, so be ready to devote some serious time when you pick your route. These different routes consist of stops and speed traps along the way, but sadly there are only 5 to choose from. The Services Mode is what you could consider to be a free roaming mode where you pick what train you want and the track, etc. It's here that you can also see an incredible amount of options for weather.

As you go through these two game modes, you'll rapidly realize that your training in the tutorial wasn't enough. While there are some pointers and hints to tell you what button or lever to push or pull or turn next, you only cover about 5% of all the dials, buttons and levers in the cabin. So, what the other ones do is something you must discover while you're sitting alone, in your cabin, watching life drift by you.

Why such a dreary description? That's because playing this game instilled in me a tremendous sense of solitude and loneliness. I would actually set down my controller at times and go to the kitchen to get a drink, or hit my PC to answer some emails, and when I came back the train would still be on its way to the station. It was an eye opener to me, because it was a perspective on a position that I never thought about. When you get locked into that virtual cabin it dawns on you that for hour after lonely hour you will sit and stare out of a window and control a throttle lever, all alone. However, if you prefer the tranquility of solitude then this aspect of the game will be a welcomed addition for you.

Now, this game strives to be lifelike, but it it comes up short in a few areas. First off would be the visuals. There is a tremendous amount of screen tearing whenever you move the camera angle, so essentially there is nothing but constant screen tearing throughout the entire game. Staying on the topic of the visuals, the character models are limited and repetitive, but not in an abundance that would make you feel like the area is populated, as out of 100 seats in the passenger cars, only 12 will be filled randomly throughout each one. There are other glitches with the graphics that detract from the experience too. For example, when you are a passenger and you move between cars, the first door opens relatively simply; however, the second door is imaginary as you can walk right through it.

Those aren't the only doors that you can fall through, as I found out when my character was exploring the cabin while the computer was driving. I got glitched out of a locked door and fell onto the tracks. The fall didn't kill my character, but I did have to run to the next station. Then when I did get to the station I could not jump on any ledge, so I had to backtrack a couple hundred yards and find a slope that I could walk towards and glitch upon so I could run to my train and try and keep my important schedule of stops.

That's when it hit me. This game is selling you artificial stress and responsibility. People play games to temporarily escape some of the realities of their daily life and this game gives them a synthetic version of reality. Coupled with a small NASA launch console to contend with that you don't know what does anything, constant screen tearing, and quite possibly one of the loneliest jobs in the world, you get a whole new respect for train operators. Just think, in a world where we, as a society, demand on-time service, now that wonderful stress and responsibility can be all yours, but you can turn the console off and walk away.

So, does Train Sim World: Founders Edition pull into the station of awesomeness or does it derail in spectacular fashion? A little of both actually, but one thing is for sure, and that is the question: "Should you buy this at $29.99?" Unfortunately I don't think so. That being said, this game has a distinct audience and it will find a few fans, but those that aren't into this kind of genre might just want to take the bus, instead of the train.

Overall Score: 6.5 / 10 Way of the Passive Fist

Remember back in the day when you and your friends gathered around an arcade machine and took turns plunking your quarters into the limitless abyss of an arcade cabinet? You'd do this to buy just a little more play time so your character could maneuver around the screen and beat up more enemies? Well, if you’re reading this on a smartphone, or your idea of ancient gaming system is an original Xbox, then this may just come as a surprise to you.

Back in the day, side scrolling action adventure games were an overwhelming genre that never relinquished their dominating hold of greatness. Everyone, and every IP, were getting caught into the mix, and soon we had mutants, barbarians and even the Simpsons and TMNT all chomping to get a piece of that 25 cent pie. Even though times have changed, the side scrolling action hasn’t. Priced at $14.99, developer Household Games Inc. has tried to reinvent the glory had by all those other success stories of the past with a game called Way of the Passive Fist.

First off, if you were expecting any story of any significant value in this game, you won't find that here. Your character’s name is the Wanderer, and given the their name, they are known for simply wandering. Where do they wander? Well, on a planet named Zircon V which used to be a vibrant and populous mining colony, but now for some reason, this planet’s dying star has turned the planet into a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is overrun by characters you think were cut from the movie Mad Max. This “story” (and I use that term very loosely) is fairly shallow. I know that’s not a nice thing to say, but there is very little to no redeeming factor to it. But that’s ok, because action games generally aren’t about plot-lines and stories, they’re about the ACTION! So let’s talk about your character’s weapons.

Oh, wait, he has none. I shouldn’t say that, he has actually two, the Y button is a 'basic' punch and RB is a super punch. Now, I should take a step back and explain a unique twist on the action game genre that the developer takes. Apparently the enemies are the main attackers and all your job is to do is to parry/dodge the attacks with the X button (parry) and B (dodge), and in doing so it drains the stamina meter above your enemies’ head. Once the enemy's stamina has been depleted, they will slouch over and you, then press the Y button to punch them and they disappear. What I’ve just explained is essentially what you can expect for gameplay, to simply parry and dodge throughout the entire game. Should you parry/dodge enough attacks in a row you’ll see a blue fiery ring around your character’s feet. This is when you can use your super punch.

I think I should mention a couple of points before we press on. First, your super punch CAN disappear should your combo reset for any reason, so when you get one make sure you use it so you don’t lose it. Second, let’s say you’re parrying attacks and you're already up to 12, your enemy comes in to attack, and you press the X button and your enemy slouches over, and then you accidentally press the X button again? Well, congratulations, your combo meter has officially reset, and should you have a super punch waiting to be used, you can kiss that goodbye as well. This officially makes the game ALL about button timing and literally NOTHING ELSE.

Throughout the game's 10 stages you’ll encounter a variety of enemies, and by variety I mean what appears to be a total of about 6-7 unique enemies, and the rest are just those that are 'skinned' a little differently, have a different weapon, etc. This to me seems like a 'cut-the-corners' kind of approach that shouldn’t have happened. While it could be an issue with money, time, or whatever, many may view it as is somewhat lazy development. You could have an enemy with a blue uniform on in one scene and in the next one they wear green and attack in a slightly different way. By different though I mean they punch you, but instead of 2 or 3 punches, you will get 4. Once you start to get a feel for the enemies and how they attack, you’ll quickly be able to adapt to the slight changes in the attack patterns.

Throughout the stages your character will level up and you’ll have access to checkpoints. Based off of how you decide to structure your play, you may need one, two, or all of these checkpoints, because heaven forbid you have to start all over from the start. There is an achievement for going through any stage and not activating a single checkpoint. Let me break that down to you. Should you decide to go through Stage 1 and not activate a single checkpoint, but get to the end of the chapter and get killed by the boss, you are sent all the way back to the beginning of the stage and you get to enjoy all the excitement all over again. This is yet another way that the fun and enjoyment of this game takes a big hit.

Now, all this fun I just described above is found throughout the story mode. Once you complete this, off you go to the arcade mode! Unfortunately, this mode is exactly what you’ve been going through in story mode but with limited lives and damage tweaks. It is nothing more, nothing less. Quite honestly, I can’t find a single reason that this mode should even exist since you can already tailor your story experience how you wish (within reason), but should you trudge through the story mode, Arcade mode is your prize.

There are other annoyances as well. The biggest one of what’s left has to be, hands down, the music. It’s quite awful. I may be a hyper picky critique of audio, but I had to turn the music off as it was so annoying it gave me a headache. What was supposed to be a throwback, a homage so to speak, to some of the classic arcade music of the day turned into a metal, electric synth/guitar riff that was stuck on a loop, and that loop sounded about as good as nails across a chalkboard.

Thankfully there is a ray of light for this game. The graphics do a wonderful job in bringing back the classic arcade style that we knew and loved decades ago. Even though the enemies are done in different colors and slightly different outfits, every minute of the game brought the classic feel of an 80's arcade cabinet right into my living room, and that is an experience that I missed tremendously and done very well indeed.

Oh, one more thing. There is though something that did catch my eye, and that are the game's achievements. They are the best part of the game itself. For example, if you play through ANY chapter twice in a row you get a 20-point achievement called Double Draggin’. Should you open up a container in a level and find the secret turtle soup healing item, you unlock the Turtles in Thyme achievement. These achievements pay respect to action games that came out decades before this, and that are still far superior.

So do I think $14.99 is a good price for Way of the Passive Fist? Regrettably, no. For $14.99 you get simplistic gameplay with an action mechanic that is poorly executed and rewards your persistence with the exact same thing all over again. At the end of the day, this game may find fans out there, but the overall experience is one that you should enter with extreme caution, give the weaknesses that brings down the game's overall fun factor.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Mercenary Kings: Reloaded Edition

Normally I’m quite fearful of a game that has its birth from a crowd funding platform such as Kickstarter. Numerous times the public is fed a rose colored fantasy only to be let down in one way or another. This time though, developer Tribute Games put forth a Kickstarter with a goal of only $75,000 and ended up grossing over $116,000, and the gauntlet, as they say, was officially thrown down. If you were a fan of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: The Game, then you should already have some hope as members of that team are the same ones that developed Mercenary Kings, and with an iconic source of reference such as Metal Slug, the challenge was accepted. Now, for $19.99 you can get this game, one that is coming up on being four years old. So the big question is: "It it worth spending $20 on a game that is somewhat old?"

With regards to any sort of backstory, I’ll sum things up as such. There’s an evil force named CLAW (yes, I’m thinking of Inspector Gadget as well) who has committed evil deeds such as kidnapping scientists, annihilating armies of good soldiers and even kicking a puppy or two (that last one I just threw in there because it sounds pretty evil). All hope has been forsaken, and there doesn’t appear to any light at the end of the tunnel. You find yourself saved from the brink of death, and there’s only one thing on your mind, and that is retaliation against CLAW.

In order to do this you have to battle your way through 113 levels (yes, that’s not a typo) that span the vast military ranks and end at General. Throughout these ranks your missions are split between saving hostages, gathering supplies, taking out critical targets and more. Sadly, there isn’t much in regard to varying stages as you will find that most of the time you’ll be traversing the same landscape, but just going to different areas of the large maps. When you tack on the reality that you are under a time limit to complete each mission, which can range between 5 to 30 minutes, you quickly come to the conclusion that exploration and discovery isn’t necessarily the best thing for you.

This is because the game’s levels are setup in a manner that they will require some replaying. For example, let’s say you have a mission where you have to rescue a scientist who has done many science things and you only have 12 minutes to do it. It seems pretty straightforward, and on the surface you would be correct; however, each level consists of a super-secret-special objective that you will have to stumble upon considering, well, it’s a secret. Then there are the speed runs to contend with as well. Beating a level may be one thing, but beating it under a certain time will require skill and cunning and enough luck to eclipse the sun. So, harking back to that previous example, instead of 12 minutes to complete the level, if you want to go for the fastest time, then you’ll have to do it in, let’s say 6 minutes. Doing so will place a shiny gold star (yea!) next to the level, which does nothing and is essentially there for bragging rights.

To fly through these numerous levels quickly it will require you to manage your character’s inventory. This is because Mercenary Kings is about how much weight your virtual character can hold. Carry too much and your character will lumber along very slowly, but carry next to nothing and your character will zip around the screen so fast that a certain coyote will probably mistake you for something else, or maybe not. So let’s start off by talking about the things that add weight.

Everything, and I mean everything, you find in the game adds weight. So for starters, your character can be equipped with up to two bionic modifications that you can craft (with required materials) and each one of them not only carries with it a bonus, but some also come with a drawback. For instance, one mod will have enemies drop a lot of common materials when they die, but the drawback is that these some enemies won’t drop rare items as much. On top of this, these modifications take up weight on your character, so as they say in the movies, choose wisely. Now, let us move onto your backpack.

Your backpack carries weight as well, and depending on the items you put in it, will quickly become the source of a lot of issues for your character’s mobility. The developers claim that your backpack can carry a total of 4 items: your weapon, two miscellaneous items, and a transmitter (used for calling in supply drops, etc). All of these items, apart from your transmitter, take up weight. Items such as C4, health kits, hand grenades, and more, all take up weight, but not as much weight as your weapon.

In Mercenary Kings, your weapon is 100% customizable. This means you start off with a base (in the beginning you get a pistol), which can be a handgun, assault rifle, shotgun, sniper, a ray gun and much more. Each gun can then be outfitted with different barrels, clips, sights, stocks and other accessories. While some weapons can be made to look incredible, such as a magnum handgun with a mini-gun barrel, others can look hilarious, such as the toilet gun, which literally looks like a white porcelain toilet bowl. You will need to pay close attention to the weight of your weapon because when it gets combined with your backpack's contents, and any/all bionic modifications, your character can really be sluggish and that can make a big difference in a gun fight, unless you have your knife.

While having all these gun choices and combinations are fun and festive, do not underestimate the power of the dark side of your knife. Sorry, got caught up there for a moment. Anyhow, your knife has a special ability in that it can deflect bullets. When I got the option to customize my knife I went straight for the most damage I could find for the smallest weight increase. While I passed over a wooden sword because I didn’t feel it was dangerous enough because it was wooden, I stumbled across an amazing tool of slicing and dicing, a pizza cutter. Now I was unstoppable. Enemies fired round after round and I swatted them away like they were nothing. With my trusty pizza cutter of deflection and death, and my toilet gun, I was ready to tackle anything.

It should be noted that everything in this game requires materials to construct, so again, you will be forced to play through many of the levels over and over again to obtain them, but I found a little trick. There is a bionic modification that I touched on earlier where, if you equip it, enemies will always drop common materials, but you will also be jinxed and the percentage of enemies dropping rare items will be a lot lower. There is also another bionic mod that will allow enemies an increased chance to drop rare items, but you won’t get you as much cash. Equipping those two modifications at the same time allowed my character to rapidly stockpile a plethora of materials that I needed to make my equipment.

When you begin playing you’ll navigate through your central base, which acts as the main hub for your operations. It's here is where you will be able to outfit your character and select the various missions. Once selected, you are transported by a helicopter named “Choppy” to drop you off into your mission. Before you decide to take off though, I would strongly recommend that you tackle the hunting grounds on the right hand side of your base so you can become familiar with the controls as they are a tad bit clunky and can be cumbersome at times.

Basic controls like A for jump and B for rolling are one thing, and X is your firing button, but RB is for reloading because Y is for your knife. There were a few issues I had with the reloading input and that stems from the gun you decide to build. For example, when you reload there is a bar where there are clear spots on the sides, and in the middle there are some yellow bars that enclose a green section. Should you time your reload by pressing RB a second time in the green section, then all the ammo that gets replenished will be granted a damage bonus. It’s important to note that as you change your gun components, the reload bar will change as well. This can be dangerous when you consider you could dramatically shrink your “green” reload area, or even slow down the reload time (the mini-gun reload time, for example, is 9 seconds long).

Thankfully, all this classic platforming is wrapped up in beautiful retro graphics with classic 16-bit sounds. There is a lot of humor spread throughout the various characters, so I strongly advise to chat with the other NPC’s throughout the base. While you can take on these levels in multiplayer and co-op modes, there is nothing that is overly challenging that would require a need to do so.

As I played I was pleasantly surprised with the number of homage to some of the classic games of the past such as Zelda and even Metal Gear, so if you’re looking to take a walk down memory lane with a crap load of guns and explosives, then Mercenary Kings should be on your radar. For $19.99 you are getting an overwhelming amount of content that should keep you and your trigger happy friends amused for quite a while.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Raining Blobs

One of the earliest types of games around were puzzle games. Simple to program, simple to design, and yet they still managed to provide hours, and sometimes even decades, of entertainment. Out of this extremely long pedigree comes an indie game called Raining Blobs from developer Black Shell Games.

Now, I'll let you in on a little secret; I'm a huge puzzle game fan. From Tetris to Puzzle Fighter, and all of the games in between, I find that their cerebral strain can be more entertaining to me than just blindly going around shooting and killing things. Priced at $9.99, I'm anxious to see just how well Black Shell Games did with this game.

When you start out, Raining Blobs takes you through a brief tutorial, which I skipped accidentally. This tutorial guides you as to how to make your matches, but more importantly, how to clear your colors. Since you may, or may not, do the error I did, here is how you operate the game. Using various buttons to rotate your 2 blob piece, you will find a section of the board and then drop said piece in that section (the best example I can think of is Dr. Mario). Now that you have your piece there you will start to build with similar colored blobs (or orbs, whatever...) and then you may see a piece that contains a star. Thinking at first that this is how you clear the color, you include it in the construction of your color, but upon placing it you realize that it doesn't go away. This is because now you need ANOTHER starred blob thingy to actually trigger the disappearance and score the orbs connected.

If it sounds like it's confusing, it's because it is. However, while the game mechanics are simplistic, how they are applied and managed is a totally different thing. This is thanks to Raining Blob's temporary surges in speed, and the fact that you're going to have to focus on not only what's coming next for your character, but your opponents as well. To help regulate the insanity, you will occasionally be dropped a blob that has a diamond attached to it. This piece of salvation will remove any color it touches, and while that's a good thing, I find it more useful to remove color pieces that aren't connected in a long network. This way when the obstructions are removed, the remaining similar colored blobs will connect forming an even more gigantic chain that will lead to incredibly high scores.

You can rack up high scores due to the fact that Raining Blobs treats you to a few game modes which aren't anything new or innovative, but you can play against the CPU or other humans if you so wish. Arcade mode sets the end level and tasks you to reach it, yet I never got close, though I'm sure with enough practice and time it could be accomplished. It is here is where I started to get a feel for the controls and how the game itself should be played.

Next is Tournament mode where I found another irrelevancy within the game, the characters themselves. Apparently, these retro anime styled girls seem to have a story or history to tell, yet none of it is worth reading or even caring about. There is one catch though, and that is these computer AI opponents are without a doubt, the most frustrating opponents I've encountered in quite some time.

In Tournament mode, when you make a match, you send other blobs to your opponent, and when their play area is full, you win. Sounds simple yes? Well, I was making matches after matches and sending blobs to my opponent who then ended up somehow miraculously converting them into a 50 blob chain that the computer then cleared, seemingly taking me out in one hit. This is also on the easiest difficult setting.

So naturally, I thought about turning up the difficulty. I haven't seen something get beat that hard since a Salvation Army drum. The computer would be making lightning fast moves that perplexed at first, then one pair of orbs would drop from above like a key and WHAM! Everything clears, massive combos are reached and my screen goes too full almost instantly. If you're going to try to up the difficulty, good luck.

Now, even though this will cause you to pull out whatever hair you have left, there is a mode called Puzzle that is actually quite cerebral. Instead of dealing with opponents who are incredibly difficult, this challenge pits you against the board, and it's your job to solve it with a single pair of blobs. With 100 puzzles to solve, this is where patience and thinking are better than wildly placing blobs everywhere you can think of.

While Raining Blobs tries to offer multiple game modes for variety, they try and keep your attention. To do this, Raining Blobs outfits the game with retro styled anime girls in skimpy outfits and places them in varying stages with pointless scenes and music that will leave you underwhelmed at every stage of the game. But that's the thing about Raining Blobs. It's not trying to be something it's not, and that's when the revelation of the game made sense to me.

Raining Blobs isn't trying to be some epic RPG game or some action packed shooter that's filled with beautiful content and a sweeping musical score. Instead, Raining Blobs is trying to be a throwback retro puzzle game on a modern platform that highlights some of the vintage puzzle atmospheres of the past. While I wish there were some tweaks, the overall style of the game itself is worth checking out, but not for $9.99. If the game ever gets to $4.99 on sale, and you like puzzle games (which don't have stupid odd point based achievements like some OTHER puzzle games have had) that involve anime girls in skimpy outfits getting blasted by blobs, then this is the game for you...blobmaster.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Deadbeat Heroes

One of the greatest challenges that any developer faces is how to keep gamers playing their game after the initial first impression has worn off. To do this, developers have many different options at their disposal, but one thing must remain true, whatever path they take, they must succeed. Now, enter the development team at Deadbeat Studios and their latest release, Deadbeat Heroes. Priced at $14.99, this little indie game's goal is to provide a comical point of view on super hero games that doesn't take itself too seriously. As you'll read throughout this review, that could be its saving grace.

Throughout my reviews of indie games, I try to approach them in an objective manner and relate their value compared to the price charged to see if it's worth your money. Deadbeat Heroes provides an overly generic storyline that doesn't do much in terms of originality or innovation, or quality if I'm honest. Apparently London is under attack by a group of shaded out evil villains who seemingly control an army of incredibly stupid and worthless henchmen that will serve to be your punching bags throughout the game. You are recruited by Captain Justice who, right from the beginning, shows the lighthearted, but terrible, humor that you can expect to permeate this game.

As you will quickly realize though, what starts out as entertaining transform into grueling work that amounts to very little entertainment and quite a lot of frustration and irritation. After your brief humorous introduction to Captain Justice, and your super hero lair, you'll notice a bunch of super hero clichés such as batman's red phone and more. You'll then be tasked with going to the gym so you can become acquainted with your skills and abilities. Upon completion, you'll rapidly become used to the simplistic game mechanics which can become a blessing so you're not trying to hit 5 buttons at once while rotating both sticks to perform a move. The X button is your attack button and the A button is your jump. The Y button does a taunt if your super meter is low but can also be used to unleash a turbo move when said meter is full.

There isn't much to be confused with in terms of the gameplay controls, and on the very first mission you will be thankful for this. The reason for this is because Deadbeat Heroes focuses solely on obtaining the highest score possible for that level and making sure that you qualify for the minimum accepted score. To accomplish this, you will need to chain together combos, make sure that all your hits hit once, and that you do not get hit at all. Sounds easy when you have the ability to wall run, double jump, and perform dive attacks from the air, but if you falter though, you will be introduced to Deadbeat Heroes' biggest downfall, the score removal.

That's right folks, if the minimum required score to pass a level is a C, and you unfortunately score a D, then you don't pass and move on. No, instead you will be forced to replay the level until you do get a C or higher in your score. Heaven forbid though you should die, because that's when Deadbeat Heroes takes a nosedive. Each chapter is divided into numerous levels, and should you make it all the way to level 3 and perish, then not only will any progress for level 3 be wiped away, but level 2 as well thus forcing you to replay level 2 just to access level 3 again and then, hopefully, you can move onto the next level. This forces you to replay levels again and again, and should you run out of lives, you'll have to start over from level 1. And what exactly will you be repeating?

You will be repeating the same linear level design and action sequences you face on every single level. You start off by going into an enclosed area and beating up all the bad guys, then you move onto the next path to the next room that is filled with more bad guys to beat up and then guess what? You move onto the next enclosed room filled with even more bad guys to beat up. This tediousness is one of the reasons why completing a level actually holds significant value since repeating this already repetitious pattern is enough to have anyone looking for a new game to play. When your character can take only 3 hits before dying, you will quickly come to terms with the challenge that waits before you.

Now, I've been beating the crap out of this game, review wise, but is there anything that's actually redeemable from Deadbeat Heroes? Well, the graphics have a nice cartoonish, cel-shaded feel which is enjoyable to experience. The art style is cool, but that's pretty much all there is. I would talk some about the music and sound effects, but quite honestly, I don't want to beat a dead horse, as again, they are nothing special. When you progress further into the game you start to acquire teammates that act, essentially, as disposable lives, and therefore you get some reprieve when it comes to dying so long as at least one hero remains alive, so that is another positive.

For $14.99 I really don't feel comfortable recommending that you pick up Deadbeat Heroes. While the humor is mediocre at best, I haven't witnessed so much failing since the new Star Wars movie (and yes, that is my opinion of that too). Deadbeat Heroes offers little in terms of gameplay enjoyment, meaningful quest experiences, absent replayability, and offers a militaristic dictatorship hold over progress and failure where you end your gaming experience more angry than overjoyed. This game would be a considerable pick up if it were priced at $4.99, but at $14.99 I can't recommend subjecting yourself through the forced aggravation that Deadbeat Heroes brings to the table.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 ELEX

For me, and yes, this is my opinion, I think that one of the greatest genres in gaming has to be open world RPG's. If developed just right the right mix of a fantastic story, incredible graphics, and a musical score that steals your heart, then an open world RPG can become one of the best gaming experiences you can have on a console system.

Now let's talk about Elex. Developed by Piranha Bytes, Elex's premise turned heads from the early stages of the game. They were set on developing a game that Action RPG fans would enjoy. So, has the dev-team managed to tick all the right boxes to become a fantastic, open world RPG experience, or has it been banished to the realm of mediocrity?

Throughout the beginning of the game, you're treated to a cinematic that explains the overall story. Think of this as a "previously on Elex" moment. You are on the planet Magalan and different factions have formed in the wake of a meteor strike. The first faction, the Albs, ingest Elex so that they are granted heightened powers and abilities at the expense of their emotions, which make them perfect killing machines. Clerics, the next faction, are known as Elex embracers who consider the material to be magical in power and use it to implement technology. The Berserkers are a faction who are on the opposite end of the advanced technology spectrum. Finally you have the Outlaws, a faction who are basically an over weaponized army that focuses on firepower and not Elex. The meteor strike has marked the discovery of Elex and has provided the planet with a new resource that all factions are now desperately fighting for control over.

In order to survive Elex (the game) you will need to complete quests, of which there is no shortage of, for each of the various factions. It almost seems like nothing would ever have gotten completed on the planet had you not been betrayed and left for dead, hmmmm. While the main quests will net you coin and XP, the bulk of Elex's adventure will fall within the realm of the side quests.

The side quests can be trivial quests all the way up to severely challenging. Not only will they provide you resources for completion, but more importantly, they will provide you with favor with the corresponding faction. This favor will help you as you begin to search out trainers to spend learning points on skills and abilities, but there's a problem here, and that they are outrageously priced, and once the first skill is learned, any subsequent skills will cost you a fortune. In other words, get ready to grind your hours away.

However, when dealing with these quests you'll be dealing with what I think is quite possibly Elex's biggest disappointment, the voice acting. To say it's bad is an understatment, as unfortunately it is really bad. Every single NPC you manage to talk to will have some form of digital apathy as there is hardly any emotional connection, and the what emotions that do show are overplayed to a massive stereotypical cliché that you will find yourself caring very little for these digital characters. In doing this though, Elex effectively drains all importance of the game away and leaves you with very little reason for exploring the rest of what it has to offer.

As you would expect, it will be up to you to decide what faction you want to play as, because the game will shape to your choices and lock you out of others. This aspect, if done right, will naturally generate incredible replay value thanks to incredible quality of support. Sadly, the execution of Elex's other elements pretty much result in making you want to finish even one play through tough to do and that's heartbreaking. Single player, open world RPG games can be incredible experiences. Fallout, for instance, or Elder Scrolls, provide numerous pathways that are enjoyable from all playthrough variants, but after playing Elex, you don't get that same sort of enjoyment. It's not because it was poorly developed, but because it felt more like a beta experience than a polished game ready for the public. Let me give you an example.

When the game starts off you find yourself betrayed by your fellow Albs and left for dead. The game starts you off on a quest to find out who betrayed you and why. You will encounter a Berserker who helps start you on your path. This is also where you're going to be exposed to the absolute beauty of the environment. While the character modeling is average at best, the environments are absolutely amazing. While it may be beautiful, it's also incredibly deadly. Stray from the path to explore and you'll wind up encountering enemies that will drop you in one single hit. While this will naturally change as your character levels up and advances, there will always seem to be a feeling that anytime you set off the beaten path, you better be cautious because within seconds you could die.

While the environment may be beautiful, sadly there are other areas of the graphics that aren't. As noted, character modeling and the facial expressions are absolutely dismal at best. When they talk you almost wish they wouldn't because of the poor animation. Sometimes when my character was talking it looked like they were drunk. Then you have the combat. You're going to be getting into a lot of it so it better be good right? Wrong. The attacks for your character are tied into RB and RT and both of them are horrible. This is thanks to another underdeveloped characteristic of Elex, the gameplay.

You'll find that horrible camera controls combined with a bad user interface, and then topped off with a sluggish movement control system, combine for a completely miserable experience. Some of the most challenging things you can do in Elex is control your own character's actions. Countless times you'll try to climb something, or talk to someone, or even attack something if you wish, and you'll find that you have better chance of using 'The Force'. You get the feeling that this is part of the game that, if had it had more development time, would have been incredible and that actually adds to the disappointment.

As I continued to play I had that "it all makes sense" moment. Elex needed more time to develop. Gamers have always heard the line from companies that "We need more time to polish the game," and Elex is a perfect example of what happens when there is no more time. It's like when you rush a game to meet a deadline and then the gaming public descends upon the developer like an army of Gordon Ramsays that are eager to tell them what they think of their raw game. The biggest disappointment that I have with Elex isn't the poor control system, or the colossally horrific voice acting, or the overpowered enemies, or the character modeling from the 1990's. No, my biggest disappointment is that all, and I mean ALL, of these issues could have been addressed and refined if given two things: more time and more money. I feel that Elex could have been one of the best open world RPG games we have seen in quite sometime had it had the time and funding to develop into something wonderful, not just passable.

Overall Score: 6.5 / 10 Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

What do you do when your previous game delivers a tremendous impact equal to bombing runs over London during WWII? Well, in the case of MachineGames and Bethesda Softworks, you bring the noise, but this time more of it, and release Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. This is no small task considering the ramifications and themes that permeate throughout the game and the current unrest and division we see here in the United States. While creating a game is challenging enough, Wolfenstein II aims to create yet another entire experience that is unique. Recently, the discussion on single player gaming has been called into question and Wolfenstein II just shows why single player gaming, if done right, is an experience that just can't be beat.

Should you play the first game? To answer your question, yes, you should play it as it is a game where the timeline of history is changed in WWII and the Nazis end up winning the war and taking over the United States of America. If, for some reason, you haven't played the first one, Wolfenstein II does a decent job showcasing a recap via one of those "last time on Wolfenstein" moments. During this sequence you're shown brief, and I do mean brief, images and clips that try and help you piece things together of what events led to your current situation. This is done because Wolfenstein II picks up almost the very moment after the cliffhanger ending of its predecessor. What this means for our hero Blazkowicz, is that General Engel is back and she has never stopped hunting you.

That's all I'm going to say about the story because it's one of pure mastery. This is thanks to many different factors. For one, the execution of the script by the talent is incredible. From the street savvy crews of the United States of America to the sadist actions and rantings of a pure psychopath, every main part of the story will leave you captivated.

However, the real meat is to experience the interactions that the NPC characters have with each other. Case in point, there is a level where you are in the Southern United States and you are trying to meet up with your contact. There is a small problem though, and that is that it takes place during a Nazi parade where some of the bystanders are members of the Ku Klux Klan. It is here and you overhear their uncensored discussion with each other and then with German officers. The dialogue is what people would classify as completely raw; however, it adds to the reality of what things would be like had things been different in WWII. I enjoyed going throughout the game's levels and witnessing the bizarre, and always entertaining, communication between the residents as they tell some fascinating stories.

This is the type of creation you need when developing an immersive storyline for a single player game. The dark rhetoric passages of the game's dialogue contribute to authenticity, but be forewarned, some of the topics may be disturbing to those who play. Topics such as child abuse, homophobia, incredibly intense scenes of extreme violence, racism and much more, are found in every moment of the main storyline progression. I'm actually quite thankful that Bethesda and MachineGames decided to make the game as authentic as it is.

Instead of cowering to the PC police, they throw a ton of hate material at you and say this is who is responsible for the situation in the game (Nazi's ruling of America), and in doing so they create a tremendous feeling of pride in your country. These are the same patriotic feelings we feel during certain occasions and instances such as 9/11. What this means to you dear gamer, is that in Wolfenstein II you can expect one of the most powerful stories you'll ever experience.

Of course in order to accomplish this you'll need to fight, and to do so requires a streamlined combat system that is typical in most first person shooters. What makes Wolfenstein II's system so great is that there literally isn't much there to work with. This is a blessing when you find yourself up to your neck in Nazi guards who are called in when an Officer trips and alarm and requests backup. Dual wielding your weapons can be extremely effective for the run and gun strategy instead of stealth, and can be activated or cancelled with one simple button press.

You can dual wield any weapon that isn't regarded as "heavy", but these non-heavy weapons have another benefit, as they all can be upgraded with upgrade kits that you can find hidden throughout the game's levels. There is a slight flaw here though in that the Right Bumper, if held down, will bring up a weapon selection HUD and using the Right Analog Stick will let you select what weapon you want. The problem here is that while you're saying 'time out' while you select your weapon, the enemy still is firing at you. This will lead to many untimely deaths and many restarts.

While upgrading your weapons gives you huge advantages, Wolfenstein II has internal challenges for your character to accomplish that will unlock perks and improve abilities that directly affect your character. Challenges such as kill X number of enemies by throwing a hatchet, or X amount of combat takedowns, or even X number of environmental kills. Completing these challenges will grant your character bonuses to his abilities and skills, and as you progress and keep increasing what mastery level these skills are, the bigger the bonus your character will receive. So sometimes it IS a good thing to have officers trip the alarm as you can boost your challenges quickly while you look around for all the collectibles.

And speaking of collectibles, there are A LOT of hidden items to find scattered amongst the game's levels. Each level is fairly linear in design, but the size of the levels is quite impressive, which also means you'll have to spend a lot of time searching if you want to find every single collectible. This is where one of my gripes of the game's design are. Wolfenstein II seems to take assets straight from games like Fallout and rehashes the design. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, it does feel a little cheap, sort of like the developers were cutting corners so they can focus on their character development.

I have to give MachineGames credit though, the character development and visual presentation of Wolfenstein II in 4K is incredible. I was playing this game on the Xbox One X with a 4K Samsung TV, and to say it's pretty is an understatement for the ages. The slightest nuances are highlighted in ways that other companies could only dream about producing. If you only care about graphics, then Wolfenstein II should already be on your must have list.

Sadly though, the same can't be said for the soundtrack and audio of the game. While the voice acting stands out as incredible, the overall ambience of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Throughout your adventure you keep hearing Blazkowicz giving an internal monologue of sorrow and depression, and this got on my nerves somewhat. There were slight bugs as well, such as sending a guard flying hundreds of feet into the air with a grenade while the destructible box beside him was untouched.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus brings gamers around the world and single player, first person shooter that delivers a fantastic storyline, beautiful graphics, and an experience that is hard to surpass on any platform. Bethesda and MachineGames have done a tremendous job in showcasing evil exists in the world, the fight that good people have to go through to prevent this evil from taking hold, and what happens when good people do absolutely nothing. This game is easily a contender for game of the year, with only a few shortcomings, and I expect to see Wolfenstein II make a serious case for why they deserve the crown.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Middle-Earth: Shadow of War

One of my favorite tales to read has been Lord of the Rings. The development, and more importantly the execution, of such literary text inspires imagination all over the globe. Due to this unfathomable love found world wide, it goes without saying that Lord of the Rings is one of the most protected and sacred works in human history. Back in 2014, Monolith Productions crafted a tale found in their a game called Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which introduced two characters, Talion, a ranger who wanted to live in peace with his family, and Celebrimbor, who was the one responsible for making the One Ring. Tensions during the development of the game were understandably high as any sort of blemish would result in catastrophically negative press. Shadow of Mordor launched to incredible praise and it earned countless "Game of the Year" awards, so if that challenge was so monumental, then how does a company follow such quality work?

Well, by releasing their latest tale of the Tolkien lore called Middle-Earth: Shadow of War. Monolith has taken it upon themselves to deliver another tale spawned of the legendary tales found at the other end of Tolkien's pen. While the artistic license may be offsetting to some, there is no doubt that Shadow of War delivers everything we loved about the previous release, with more development and production qualities than I've ever seen or thought possible. This is the entire crux of the game, and while I'll be touching on the highly volatile loot boxes later on, make no mistake that this story, set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, is one of the best stories I've experienced in a long, long time. Granted yes, we know already going into this that Talion doesn't beat Sauron (otherwise we wouldn't have The Lord of the Rings), so the best way to approach the story is with that understanding and see how the story unfolds.

We start to see some of the controversial story developments when Shelob, a massive spider from the movies and books, becomes a female that can interact with our main character. While she never assumes that form in any of the literature or movies, to say she doesn't have that ability to transform would be a colossal misconception. I personally thought that the application of a "human form" fit the character perfectly, as we got a chance to see how the web of events was spun (pun intended). This is just one of many incredible details that make the story of Shadow of War an incredible tale of love and loss. With regard to the story, I won't spoil it for you as this is a narrative that needs to be experienced firsthand, and it would be a crime to deny you that type of experience (I know I would be mad). The story is yet another one of the many new experiences you will have in Shadow of War, as we also find new lands to explore as well.

I will admit that some of the new areas aren't really involved with the lore of The Lord of the Rings, but while the first title seemed to focus on Mordor itself, the atmosphere changes with regards to Shadow of War's new areas. Tropical jungles full of lush foliage, massive cities of men that are under siege from an endless onslaught of Orcs, even murky swamplands, these are examples of the lands that await you throughout each level. Each area has been expanded into such large open world sandboxes that you can find yourself becoming lost in the midst of pure exploration. As in the first game, each area has towers that have been taken over by the Great Eye of Sauron, and it's up to you to reclaim the towers and lessen the grasp that the Dark Lord holds on the realms. Unlocking these towers also holds benefits as well, from fast travel points and more, they are useful.

Shadow of War will undoubtedly pit you against varying types of Orcs and Ogres; however, these grunts answer to captains,bodyguards, and war chiefs. While you may be fighting several dozens of these low level characters, it's not uncommon in the middle of the battle for a cut scene to commence that showcases a captain that has appeared in the fight and who wants to make a name for themselves by killing you in numerous gruesome ways. Each captain, bodyguard, and war chief has their own personality in which there is very little repetition in terms of individuality, so each experience feels incredibly unique, which is a massive challenge that Monolith Productions absolutely nailed perfectly.

Instead of randomly hoping that you can get the better of a captain or more, it helps by interrogating certain grunts who can provide information on the weaknesses you can exploit. These characters are marked, so it's fairly easy to distinguish them out of a horde of 20 or so characters. You have to be quick though because should you engage in combat, and not go directly for the intel, the Orc will start to run and your opportunity to gain that intel will vanish. Speaking of running....

The captains can run as well. For instance, if you are in a battle with a captain, the captain will flee if you use a pinning attack, and then it's a foot race to catch said captain before they vanish. Other tricks that captains, and other high end enemies hold, are the newly introduced "Death Defying" or "Tricky Escape" options. Should you be in a fight with a captain and bring it to its knees without killing it via an execution, you will receive one of three options. The first one will bring up a quick time event (QTE) where you press the correct button to send the captain to its grave, while the second option involves the captain getting back up in what is known as a "Death Defying" moment. The third option, which is the one that really irritates me, is where the captain will give a speech while downed then throw a smoke bomb and instantly disappear. All these fights utilize something that Monolith Productions has done a phenomenal job of implementing, and that is a fantastic control scheme.

Implementing such combat styles found in other games like the Batman Arkham series or the Assassin's Creed games, Monolith Productions was brilliant in utilizing a simplistic yet highly in depth control scheme that allows tremendous gameplay options with minimal button presses. When you're surrounded by tons of Orcs, and multiple captains, you'll be very thankful such a mechanic exists in the first place. This streamlined, yet efficient gameplay becomes such a benefit when you find yourself ambushed by a new captain, or by an old captain that you killed that was brought back to life (yes just because you kill a captain doesn't always mean they stay dead). Numerous times I was out exploring when I was instantly knocked to the ground from behind during an ambush attack and had to rely on the games combat mechanics to triumph over the captain.

These captains also adapt to your play style, so it's in your best interest to not only provide variety in your gameplay, but to put these captains down fast and without mercy. There is some benefit to getting killed by a captain though, as strange as this sounds. Should you meet your untimely demise at the end of an Orc sword or spear, the captain that killed you will be promoted, and now when you eliminate the newly promoted captain you will receive better gear. So, sometimes it may be in your best interest to accept the dark embrace of death if you wish to have better gear rewarded to you. While this may seem like a lot of fighting on your own, what would Shadow of War be without a little 'domination' that we saw from the first game?

That's right, in Shadow of War you can again dominate (control) grunts to fulfill many different tasks such as gather intel, set off alarms or traps, or even fight captains in an effort to promote the lowly grunt. This will come in handy when you're actually trying to destroy the various Orc controlled fortresses. As you can clearly see from the cover art of the game itself, your goal as you progress through the story is to build your army of subversive Orc captains and grunts. This unique system allows you to amass tremendous armies in an attempt to overtake the Overlord that resides within, and when you combine the use of beasts such as Drakes and Graugs (think Dragons and Rancor style beasts), Monolith Productions have given you all the ingredients to experience a truly epic event that we would expect to find in The Lord of the Rings lore.

Now, despite all this praise there are some irritants that reside within the game, but nothing that would be grounds for passing it by. There are some issues with the camera angle, and while you're fighting one enemy it's not uncommon for attacks to come from off the screen and hit your character. With this out of the way, which definitely not game breaking, let's talk about the loot boxes that yo can utilize in-game.

This feature has been picked apart by everyone under the sun, and in a negative light, but to me I don't regard the loot boxes as a negative thing since these are optional. Sure, it will take a long time to grind to get the same items you can purchase with real money without said grinding needed, but when you're playing a fantastic game like Shadow of War, that's not a bad thing at all. These boxes provide nothing of necessity that can't be obtained through just normal grinding, and they don't detract from the story, which is the cornerstone of Shadow of War's experience. I feel that the overwhelmingly negative focus of the loot boxes detracts from the sensational storytelling and incredible combat system. I would equate this to getting a Ferrari and then saying the car is worthless simply because the cup holder won't fit your drink.

As you progress through Shadow of War you will gain experience (XP), which you can use to develop Talion and his abilities. As is the case found in most single player adventure games, as you gain enough XP you will be able to improve your character's skills. In Shadow of War, each of these skills has three additional traits you can select from to turn Talion into a one-man army of death. You can only select one of the three extra traits though, so you should choose wisely.

As I progressed I found myself focusing on the remote poison grog skill. This allowed me to target a grog barrel with my bow and press the Y button to poison it from a distance. While this will take out whoever drinks from it, I upgraded the skill and selected the explosive trait, which meant that the Orc who drank from it would writhe in pain on the ground while poisoned and draw the attention of other Orcs who would come to check on him. These other Orcs would then be met with a massive poison cloud that came when the poisoned Orc exploded and spread the poison to any of the nearby Orcs. This tactic also works on captains as well, so if you find yourself with a whole bunch of enemies, and a whole bunch of grog barrels, find a high point, poison all the barrels, and wait and watch as you clear the entire encampment without engaging one enemy. I must admit, I got so caught up with going through the Nemesis system in the first area that I completed the area when my character was at level 15. Don't worry though as some skills won't be unlocked until you progress through the story.

While character progression is expected, this time around you can modify your gear as well. By completing item specific challenges you unlock upgrades for your weapons and gear. For example, you can use a quick throw to hit a poisoned enemy, and in doing so it will now grant you a percentage where critical strikes will poison an enemy. The challenges that upgrade your items go hand in hand with the new gem crafting system. Shadow of War provides three different colored gems: Red, Green, and White. By placing these gems into your gear sockets, you gain various perks such as life leech on hit, increased damage dealt, and XP boosts to name a few.

Shadow of War is yet another fantastic example of how to improve on something that was already incredible. Naturally the game looks gorgeous, with incredible details, character models, and environmental effects, and I can't wait to see what it looks like on the Xbox One X in 4K. The game allows you to pause, even in battle, and snap a screen shot using your free flying camera system, which is jaw droopingly beautiful. Graphics though aren't the only strong suit here as the audio is top notch. You will notice the tribal drums that beat for the Orcs, the horns of men blowing loudly into the air during war, and a symphonic score that sets the stage throughout every unique level in a way that is rarely seen on any medium to date.

Monolith Productions has an absolute sensational game in Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, and while there will be some detractors, the story, and game as a whole, is a masterpiece of craftsmanship that would make J.R.R. Tolkien proud. It has quality development that takes everything fans know and love from the first game, and improves and expands on it making Shadow of War a game that could easily hold contention for "Game of the Year". It is a must have purchase for anyone that enjoys quality gameplay mechanics, beautiful visuals, stellar sound, and a story that holds its own in a lore that is highly protected by its fans all across the globe. In the world of The Lord of the Rings, Monolith Productions has become the one developer to 'rule them all'.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition

Over the years I've had the opportunity to observe the history of the Kickstarter platform as it pertains to gaming. While it is rare for a game to not reach its funding goal and be released, it is far rarer to find a Kickstarter game that delivers an experience so incredible that you become lost in a webbing of wonderment and enchantment. Rewind quickly to 2015, Obsidian Entertainment (who are known for titles such as Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, South Park Stick of Truth, and many more) set out to raise funding through Kickstarter for a game they wanted to make called Project Eternity, which became the Pillars of Eternity game we have today.

They set themselves some lofty ideas and financial goals ($1.1 million); however, they never expected what would happen next. On October 16, 2012, just shy of 74,000 backers donated a whopping $3.98 million dollars and now the quest was on to deliver a truly incredible RPG experience, and in our opinion at XboxAddict they succeeded. Back in March 2015 Pillars of Eternity was launched, and since then additional content has been released on Windows, OS X, and Linux. Finally, Pillars of Eternity has recently been released on the Xbox One platform as a full retail game for a price of $49.99. So is it worth paying $10 less than full retail for game that is now about 2 1/2 years old?

If you're a fan of RPG games, then this title is worth its weight in gold. Games like this traditionally excel in the realm of mouse and keyboard control, and one of the biggest challenges is to figure out a graphical user interface that is both streamlined for efficiency and useful at the same time. In order to do attain this goal, the majority of the commands in Pillars of Eternity are spread amongst your LT and RT buttons. For instance, if you hold down the LT you can access your character leveling sections, inventory, any sort of quests you may have acquired along the way, and so much more. The inventory is setup so that each character has their own individual inventory system, but before you start thinking of making your teammates loot donkeys, you should know that if the person leaves your party for whatever reason, all the gear that is not only equipped on them, but also in their inventory, is now lost to you.

Pillars of Eternity is big on teamwork so when you have a group together you can use your LB and RB buttons to switch between characters, or you can press LB+RB together to select everyone in the group. Even though the game's mechanics transfer well to the console, Pillars of Eternity doesn't hold your hand. In fact, it provides very little guidance so you will spend a majority of the early parts of the game just getting familiar with the controls of both movement, character management, and combat.

When you find yourself in combat, which will happen a lot, you'll be thankful for the X button because it lets you pause the game at any time and issue individual orders, then once everything is worked out you can press the X button again to resume and watch the action unfold. In terms of character development, you get the same type of layout as seen before where new levels grant you brand new abilities to choose from and new powers to unlock. This is where you'll also spend your character points on various traits and doing so will also unlock new conversation options.

Given that you will now have access to new conversation options, this means you will also start to manage your reputation, as it will be affected by how you choose to handle situations. Even though this may seem a bit overwhelming at first, after the first few character levels you should start to get a feel for how the different areas of your character play off each other. Sadly though, this is an imperfect system as the sensitivity for what items you may be near may not be as responsive as other games. There were numerous times where I had to circle around just trying to loot one item. Despite the setbacks though, the control system is incredible.

Speaking of incredible, the attention to detail in terms of the story in the game amazing and masterfully written. Done in a classic text box, choose your own adventure, style of delivery, Pillars of Eternity sets you in the world of Eora and it's here that you will explore the wonders of the world. To compliment the well-developed story, Pillars of Eternity has a musical score that should not be ignored. A sonic needle in a noisy haystack of mediocrity, I found my ears becoming lost amidst the chords as I went through the various areas. While some tunes will serenade you with melodies of beautiful instruments, others will invoke a wide range of emotions such as fear, excitement, anxiety and more. Sure the voice acting can be quite good at times, but the musical score blanketed my ears with one sonic masterpiece after another.

The world of Eora is setup into varying stages of an over world map that allows you to select which region you're going to travel to. Sometimes you will have to take note of where you are in relation to your own surroundings so you remember what way to go for your objective. As you begin your adventure you will have to select from one of 11 classes, which range from barbarians and wizards to druids and ciphers. Each one of these bring with them their own strengths and weaknesses, so it goes without saying that finding the right corresponding accompanying characters can really make the difference between winning and losing.

After you go through your character development you'll have the choice to select abilities or spells which you can use right away. Take notice though, because some skills allow you to use them "x" amount of times during combat (meaning that after you are out of combat your skill amounts become refreshed) or you will only be able to use them "x" amount of times in between rests at campsites or inns. Planning on this should be high on your priority list so your party is fairly balanced.

The reason for the importance of the planning is because Pillars doesn't quite restrict you into realms you shouldn't go into. Nope, instead it lets you wander in like a lost child and in the process getting turned into paste. For instance, I was wandering around and I discovered a cave, nothing appeared out of the ordinary so I proceeded inside. I found some bodies lying around and as I went to loot them, a massive bear started charging out of nowhere and obliterated me in one shot. That's when I decided to gain some more levels before setting foot back in that cave.

If you die, like I did by that bear, on normal difficulty you get reset to the last auto save point, on the hardest difficulty your game is over completely. Now, had I'd known beforehand that death greeted me when I entered I wouldn't have ventured forth, but that is what Pillars of Eternity will do to you. It will present you with options, but it's up to you to decid what to do with said options.

There is however, one huge elephant in the room that needs to be addressed. Sadly, while all of this sounds fantastic, there's one overwhelmingly large negative that is going to be the bane of your existence, the loading times. On the console version I played the load times started out rather short; however, as I progressed and the game opened up, it was clear the game had problems trying to load everything as fast as possible. Loading times kept getting longer and longer and they were unavoidable at times, and in some cases they tripled the time it took to complete quests. Let me give you an example. Let's say you call up your map and select a town you want to travel to. Cue load times are around 45 seconds. Once completed it unveils a town of average size of which you can walk around. Now, let's say you find a building within the town that you want to enter. Cue another 45 second load screen. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this because eventually you'll have to leave the building and then travel to another area, and as you're aware, you're going to spend quite a lot of time loading. This can become quite painful when you take into account the number of actual areas you will be entering and exiting throughout the entire game and then tacking on the additional time per area.

Despite some bumps along the pathway, Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition is one of the deepest RPG games you can find now on the Xbox One platform. Strong character development mixes with a wonderful user interface to take you through an incredible story that, even though challenging at times, is absolutely fantastic. If you're a fan of RPG games then Pillars of Eternity has got to be on your must have list, and when you take into account the fact that you not only get the game itself, but also the two massive expansions, then you will easily draw out over 100 hours of gameplay for your $49.99, which makes Pillars of Eternity worth every penny. It truly is amazing what can happen when companies like Obsidian and the general public connect through a crowd funding portal like Kickstarter how a dev-team can produce a game that is nothing short of brilliant.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Project Cars 2

We have heard over the years from various game developers that they are "listening to the fan feedback" to improve their games. Well, most of the time that is a bold face lie given the same games can make the same mistakes repeatedly. However, that seems to not be the case at Slightly Mad Studios, as they have released their next installment in the Project Cars racing series, aptly titled Project Cars 2. The original game was a spectacular launching pad for the company, as it showed other racing game developers that a new kid was on the block and its time they took notice. Despite the flaws and shortcomings, Project Cars was a wake-up call. So, with the battle for racing supremacy well underway, how did Slightly Mad Studios listen to their fans? It's simple really, they have delivered one of, if not the best, simulation racing experience ever to be found on a console to date.

First off, this is simulation racing at its most pure essence. This was paramount for Slightly Mad Studios to perfect given that it is the soul of the entire game, and if the handling was imperfect or the delivery of the racing physics were off, then every mode would be affected and therefore suffer. This is not your instant rewind type of racing. Project Cars 2 is your apex hunting experience, and your sniper rifle are the cars found within. It's a game where driving errors are tolerated, but not rewarded. You have the option of turning on driver assists, and after a few hours of slamming constantly into the tire walls and spinning wildly off track, I did exactly that. I cannot express my admiration enough towards the developers for their painstakingly tiresome work of making some of the best driving physics I've ever experienced. Driving with no assists is truly for the hardcore.

Your car's handling is dependent on numerous factors such as tire temperature, track temperature, track design, weather and car damage to name a few, and all of these factors are calculated in real time. As these variables change so does your racing experience. In the beginning your tires are going to be cold, so you can expect to endure some slipping and sliding until they become warm enough to stick.

One setting that I must admit helped me a lot was the racing engineer, and it's a feature that is pretty well implemented. Activating this setting will allow the game to monitor how you drive during races and will suggest to you the type of tuning modifications you should consider to help your racing style. The amount of processing that happens in real time is mindboggling intense, and when you include the fact that Slightly Mad Studios allows you to tweak the gameplay input, what you have before you is one of the most advanced driving mechanics available in a game, period.

Now, in the original Project Cars game the number of cars and tracks seemed very thin. While some could argue that having over 700 cars is pointless since you'll only be driving less than a handful of them, it still has to be said that Slightly Mad Studios has increased the number of both tracks and cars in this game. Boasting over 150 cars over 120 tracks spread across 60 venues, Project Cars 2 seems to be loaded with tons of firepower.

You'll get behind the wheel of a lot of the cars too as you progress through Project Cars 2's career mode. The selection is wide from Indy Cars, touring cars, street cars, rally cars, LMP cars and vintage cars, there is a lot of selection of 4-wheeled beasts. This time around the career mode is incredibly deep. You'll be able to start almost wherever you wish, but if you want to make it into the top tiers you have to earn it. I found that starting off in the beginning tiers helped get me used to the gameplay mechanics, and after that I was like a kid in a candy store.

The sessions are broken up into three events. There is a beginning session, where you get to go out onto the track and learn the course. After that comes the qualifying session, where your fastest lap will determine your starting position, finally culminating with the race itself. While these sessions ranged between 15 and 30 minutes, I found myself spending the time racing in the qualifying sessions just to get pole position on races. As you progress throughout the game, and drive the various cars, you will start to earn affinity with the specific car companies, opening up new racing options for you, which you'll find in the Manufacturer Drivers racing list. The depth to which you can handle your career is quite extensive, but ultimately your best goal is going to be striving for racing performance on and off-road.

You'll need to become one with your car because you're about to experience one of the most incredible weather systems ever created for a racing game. While doing an actual event such as the 24 hour of Le Mans, you will see a plethora of varying environmental shifts that showcase just how incredible the game truly is. Rain can come in varying forms from a slight mist to sheets of hurricane force rain blowing sideways across the track. Water will collect on the track in real time too, but the track will dry itself after the storm passes due to the heat and friction from the cars driving on the track. While having day and night systems is almost mandatory now, having a full evolving weather system that dynamically impacts the experience is just one more reason why Project Cars 2 is a fantastic simulation racer.

While career mode is extensive, there are other modes for you to enjoy, which also include a custom race mode that allows you to pick any track you want and make any day/night/weather combination as well. If you want desert conditions in the mountains, or snow in the Middle East, the race tracks are your playground. To put this over the top, Slightly Mad Studios developed a multiplayer system for Project Cars 2 that plays right into the racing simulation as well, with the online championships and dedicated race announcer to help immerse you even more behind the wheel. While this is a fantastic addition to the game, and goes a long way to help establish Project Cars 2 as a serious simulation racing contender, I can't help but to say one thing: Project Cars 2 is a masterpiece of automotive artwork.

The car modeling, both on the outside and the inside, are done with jaw dropping beauty, but that isn't all; all the little details of your car and its interaction with the track and weather environment is spectacular. For example, you'll see the sun in the sky and the clouds above but you'll also notice the heat waves that rise from a blistering hot track. In contrast, on a wet and rainy day you will see the spray of water as it gets channeled through your tire treads. These are just a few examples of how Project Cars 2 delivers a graphical performance that is second to none, and should you pick up an Xbox One X later this year you will be able to run Project Cars 2 and experience all its wonderment in 4k resolution at 60FPS natively.

While Project Cars 2 looks heavenly, I'm pleased to say that the sounds of the game are some of the best I've ever heard. Have you ever accidentally turned your wipers on during a dry day and hear the rubber squeal against your window? You can hear that in Project Cars 2. Have you ever missed an apex and wildly slid into the gravel sections? You can hear the individual stones being kicked around, and if you're behind the person who went off the course, you can hear even if a stone flies your way and hits your car. Audible elements such as engines roaring, tires screeching, your race manager clamoring in your ear and the rain hitting your car are pieces of the score of the game itself. Sure, the menu music and the musical score of the game is good, but the real mastery of audio comes in the fine details that go overlooked when you're trying to hit the corner at 80 Mph while trying not to get overtaken.

A true racing masterpiece, Project Cars 2 takes a lot of the negatives from the first game and actually improves upon them in such a drastic and dynamic way that the transition is as different as night and day. Slightly Mad Studios has set themselves a lofty goal of making Project Cars 2 the best simulation racing game available on the Xbox platform, and I think that they have succeeded triumphantly. In fact, Project Cars 2 doesn't set the bar to a new standard, it single handedly renders any other simulation racing game obsolete. Slightly Mad Studios developed a colossal racing game, and that everything about it became bigger and better and more dynamic, and that game is called Project Cars 2.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Don't Knock Twice

What if movie company made a horror movie that no one went to see? What if a game developer then decided to make a game that ties into the this movie, again, that no one went to see in the theaters. Would people want to play it? It's an interesting question and something that makes you go "hmmmmm". Well, this very situation is what we have here with Don't Knock Twice from Wales Interactive Ltd. Based on the horror movie with the same name, Don't Knock Twice sets out to be a psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire game. However, we all know the abysmal history of games based on movies, so does that mean that Don't Knock Twice follows the same mantra? Well, how about we look inside and find out what this $9.99 indie game has to deliver, if anything.

From the beginning the game, it goes without saying that if you didn't see the movie you will not have a single clue of what's going on in the game. There's no loading cinematic or any clue what so ever to give you some background, who your character is, or generally anything pertaining to the story at all. Stevie Wonder has a better chance of telling you the color of your eyes than you do in deciphering the story in Don't Knock Twice. They should have at least summed up the movie's events, given that this game is based on it. What's even worse is when you finally start putting the pieces together, it becomes so bad that you just don't care anymore.

Normally I try to be objective as I can be, but I have to ask: "What has happened to the horror genre?" I know this is going to hurt people's feelings, but I feel that horror was better decades ago in the old Hitchcock and classic Stephen King era. They were known to be more 'mentally and psychologically focused with their suspense, however, you can't keep rehashing the same generic tactics and expect people to wet themselves over the horror you've tried to create. This leads to serious issues with Don't Knock Twice's story; there isn't one. Well, I shouldn't really say that because there actually is one, however it's hard to determine which is shorter, a total solar eclipse experience or this story. This mediocrity is brought upon by many other factors outside of the plot.

First, your character has limited movement abilities and most of them are irrelevant for a vast majority of the time. Sadly though, you find yourself navigating linear pathways of doors and getting caught within a repetition of actions. Walk to the only door that will open, move forward into next area and scour everything, find the only open door from there, move forward and repeat over and over again. What is incredibly disappointing is how the fright and suspense try to build upon you throughout the game, yet it never really delivers, thus turning the game into one big hunt for collectibles.

Thankfully, these collectibles shimmer in the dark, which is helpful. Why you ask? Well, because whenever you tend to enter a new area you can streamline your time spent within the game by going to the collectible, picking it up, examining it, and then going forward through the now newly opened door to whatever lays in wait for you. The item is probably a magazine or something... probably.

Sometimes you'll find that before accessing these doors you will need to experience something before they open. Case in point, I was out in a courtyard and walked around the area for over fifteen minutes trying to examine everything to get the door to unlock. When nothing happened, I finally started to look everywhere, including areas that just didn't seem like they had no relevance in the first place, and when I looked up I saw lights flickering in a window of a room, then magically the door unlocked. This is the type of nonsense you can expect from this game. I hate to sound so discouraging, but man, stuff like this is frustrating in a game of this nature.

Now the graphics are decent, but nothing to note, as they managed to "get the job done" and you can see, and decipher, what is going on as you play. The high point for me was the audio because it was at least tolerable to listen to, as you could hear the ambient sounds such as a fire crackling, the rain hitting all around you when you are outside, and so much more. I guess in many ways the overall presentation manages to convey what you are looking at, and listening to , in terms of the game's on screen action, it's just that it does not do anything that really stands out in this area.

Don't Knock Twice doesn't offer much more that would constitute any sort of positive reinforcement for picking this up for any reason what so ever, which is sad, as a good 'scare game' is something that can be fun, as Halloween is approaching. Even at the admission price of $9.99, it's unfortunate that I would have to say you should avoid this game entirely. It suffers tremendously from numerous faults and setbacks that prohibit a truly horrific experience. Regrettably, the only positive that I can see is that the game does offer a lot of easy achievements to obtain, so if you want a "cheevo" boost then this might be for you. Games based on movies never tend to work well, and unfortunately Don't Knock Twice is yet another example of why titles like these should be avoided. Forget knocking twice, just don't knock at all and go play something else.

Overall Score: 4.0 / 10 Path of Exile

Here at XboxAddict, we try to consider each and every game as a value for your money spent. As a reviewer, I understand that gamers have to make tough choices from time to time, and the last thing they want experience is a game that set them back lots of cash, only to find out that it is nothing but a colossal disappointment. Well, the team at Grinding Gear Games has just thrown down the proverbial gauntlet by providing their game, called Path of Exile, which is an almost identical clone of Diablo, for free. Yes, you read that correctly, it is 100% free to play. So, let's quit with the pleasantries and dive right in to this action RPG masterpiece.

If you are a gaming developer that wants to make a quality dungeon crawling action RPG game, then you have a plethora of quality content to sample from, but when you make something almost identical to one of the greatest dungeon crawlers of all time, Diablo, then you've already set yourself up for huge success. However, it takes more than just structure to make your game a hit. It takes the proper execution that will contribute to your hours, weeks, months, and yes, even years, to meld together into one massive time lapse of enjoyment. Now, there are a few dings and dents in the shiny armor of this game, but let's kick the review off with one of them so we can get it out of the way.

When you begin you will have your choice of 1 of 6 different character classes. Normally, when you are talking about an action RPG game, you try to find characters that fit your gameplay style, and in Path of Exile you not only have three characters that represent one of the core attributes of the game (strength, dexterity, intelligence), but you find three hybrid characters that share a balance of two of the main character properties, and not an overwhelming dominance of just one. There is also a secret character to unlock, but you'll have to play the game to find out who it is.

Each one of these characters, excluding the secret one, can evolve into one of 3 different classes. For instance, a Marauder, which is focused primarily on strength only, will have the option to evolve into either a Juggernaut, Berserker, or Chieftain class, each of which offers their own unique skills and benefits. This type of "end game" build is something to take into serious consideration given how you may like to play. One negative here though is that characters are name specific so you cannot make a character with a name someone else has already taken. This can lead to an extended time creating your character, as the game boasts a lot of players with many popular names already taken.

Each one of these characters supports what could easily be considered one of the largest, if not THE largest, skill trees ever seen in a game. A titanic web of various nodes that you can illuminate to grant you bonuses and skills lays before you. While you gain points for it by leveling up, you will also obtain points by completing side quests as well, so get ready for a lot of extra combat. These additional tasks are usually on your way to your main quest goals, so thankfully you'll be able to tackle some of these others to help your character level up organically. Sadly, you will not be able to fill the entire skill tree, so make sure that you think about your character and what build you want. You'll have to plan ahead, because to reallocate points is quite rare in the game. It's like the old phrase: measure twice and cut once. Think about your character and how you want to play the game and then see how the various parts of your skill tree assist and aid your character appropriately.

Once you're in the game and begin your journey, you'll notice that it is broken up into chapters, much like other games that are named Diablo. The story isn't much and the game does very little to hold your hand. The interface though is done well, with a character that can equip 2 slots for weapons, slots for a headpiece, chest piece, boots, gloves, belt, 2 rings and a pendant. Each one of these items can come with its own slot(s) too, allowing you to equip gems of varying color and skills. Outside of your initial weapon attack, these skills are going to be mapped to your A, B, X, and Y buttons, and you can stack a second set by utilizing the Right Trigger as the switch between pallets.

These skills are supported through not only the skill tree, but also with other gems. For instance, if you were to take a skill called Sunder, you could support it with gems such as "life on hit" which grants your character health whenever that skill strikes an enemy, so you can use that to supplement your health and mana potions which can be mapped to any of your D-Pad buttons. While this is deep, when you start to fathom the various classes of items and the fact that almost everything can be altered or changed, you can start to feel a bit overwhelmed by the game's size.

When you progress through the various acts and levels, you'll come across characters that offer you side quests to complete. These are essentially tasks that alter between a few variants. The quests grant you experience for your character and also begins to form a bond between your character and the various NPCs who offer them. Once you have done enough quests for these people, and you have built your relationship to level 3, you can start talking to these people about a hideout for your character, which can be like your own little getaway that you tailor to yourself.

As you are probably wondering, if this game is free then what costs money? That answer is: everything cosmetic. That is right folks, Path of Exile grants you the ability to spend obscene amounts of money to obtain skins and visual effects for everything from your boots and gloves to your weapon and even pets and hideout items. If you thought spending $60 on a Season Pass for a game was expensive, how about a cosmetic package for your character that costs $399? That isn't a typo, and I didn't forget to insert a period anywhere. While you can spend seemingly harmless amounts of real money, you don't have too, and that is a great gameplay feature, as it's 'not-pay-to-win', or in this case 'pay-to-excel-and-look-good'.

When all the in-game discoverable items were equipped, the spaces that were left open were numerous, which means you can go to great lengths to customize the appearance of your character into truly something memorable. I cannot stress how amazing the structure is setup. If you don't want to spend a single dime you don't have to; however, with the quality of the game at hand, spending money on these upgraded packs for your character is worth its weight in gold and goes to supporting a company that is giving you an incredible game for free.

I must admit though, there are some downfalls to this game. If you're playing a multiplayer game and someone else kills your enemy for you, you don't receive any experience. Your gems can level up thanks to the number of enemies killed, but your character won't gain any XP to level up. This issue also carries into the loot and how it's structured. In games like Diablo for instance, you get individualized loot and you can only share should you drop an item for someone else. In Path of Exile, it's a free for all. If you have someone who is just a straight up loot #*%@&, then expect to be fighting over gear for quite a while.

Another issue I have to mention is that, as of writing this review, if you want to sell/buy items on the trade board, you have to spend real money on the game. It seems like a cheap shot to make an entire feature of the game out of ones grasp unless you pay real money on a free game that already gave you so much. Granted, on the flip side, you could always go hunting for these types of items, but with the ability to gain more items of things you need for weapons and gear you want, then the barter system works wonders in a social setting. While the interaction itself leaves a lot of room for polish and fine tuning, the basic structure that is in place now can provide a good foundation to build upon.

The game itself is presented in the same top down camera style that you find in Diablo, and each of the areas is designed with its own unique atmosphere that seems to follow through several different iterations throughout the stages. This can be pretty disturbing, as you see some areas called prisons that have grates on the floors with arms and hands waving and clawing and grabbing at feet that cross their path. This coincides directly with the audio, because in the same level you get a Castlevania feel to the music that is only enhanced when you hear the screams coming from distant victims as their lives are being ended. On the contrary, when you first begin, you start out on the beaches and can hear the water and waves come crashing up on the shore and the birds chirping. Such dynamic contrasts make every area one amazing experience after another. Overall, the video and audio presentation is quite solid.

Without question, Path of Exile is a great, if not one of the greatest, values for dollar you can find on the Xbox platform at this very moment. Grinding Gear Games has demonstrated that you don't need to spend $60 and up on a game that is going to be shelved in a matter of weeks as you wait for more content to arrive. Despite a few hiccups, Path of Exiles is a pure joy to play, and with a quality microtransaction system in place (Editors Note: I know, who knew we'd say something like that), it's worth every single penny to play this game.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Eventide 2: Sorcerer's Mirror

Sometimes the best way to enjoy a game isn't to dive head first and on fire into a hail of gunfire and explosions, but rather to sit and enjoy the production value and relax. Artifex Mundi has been at the forefront of point and click adventure games on console and their latest release shows why they are one of the best in the business. Eventide 2: Sorcerer's Mirror is an adventure game that calls upon your ability to solve problems and possess a keen eye for detail. Priced at $9.99, Eventide 2 relies on the pedigree to push the sales, but is it worth paying that much for a simple point and click game?

Well there's more to Eventide 2 than what we see on the surface. While the protagonist Mary makes her return from the first Eventide, this time however, her niece Jenny is kidnapped by a wizard named Tvardovsky in an attempt to bring his immortal quest for love to a final end. While the premise and foundation lends itself to a short but entertaining tale, the main inclusion of moral choices is this game's primary innovation. These moral decisions were designed not only to impact the way your game plays out, but also to impact the final ending for your game as well. Unfortunately, it doesn't.

This sadly is a knock against the game because there is no justification for going through and witnessing the various other selections for choices. It gets worse too, because with point and click games the main focus needs to be some form of sequence that, when combined together, puts together a story that is meaningful for the tasks you just completed, and it feels like Eventide 2 sacrificed a chance or opportunity to tell a grand story so that they could bring you the illussion of meaningful moral choices. This would have been great had the choices made a significant impact or added fuel to the fire that is replayability, but on both points that's a big negative.

Navigating through the story is like wandering through different pieces of scenic artwork. Each scene is done with an artistic flair that adds a unique beauty that normally would be overlooked within a point and click game. Each scene is divided up into interactive areas where you can explore further, and in doing so, not only witness more beautiful artwork, but also discover any secrets that Eventide 2 may hold in store for you. While you're spellbound by the beauty of the various scenes, your ears will be serenaded by the melodic tunes of a comforting soundtrack. No reason for high intensity drum hits or over the top synth riffs, but instead a blood pressure reducing sequence of melodies and ambient effects that is a perfect marriage to the visual artwork of Eventide 2.

To direct your character through these scenes you'll need to get used to the gameplay mechanics that ultimately boil down into spamming one button while directing your observation portal over the screen with your analog stick. There is an inventory menu that you can access, however there's no real reason to do so unless you're confirming any ingredients you may need. Thankfully you'll receive some direction should an item be combinable with other items, and the manner in which that happens is fairly straight forward which is a major plus. However, there is a slight knock as well against Eventide 2 when it comes to the controls, as sometimes your observation portal won't register a clicked on item, even when the item appears to be well within the circle. This is especially apparent on items that are larger than the circle and can be frustrating trying to get the game to register them as found.

Overall, for $9.99 Artifex Mundi has put together a point and click adventure game that relies on its strengths of presentation, and now also innovation, to entice your wallet to open up and relinquish some of your cash. Despite some drawbacks, such as issues with gameplay and little no replay value, there are some incredibly enjoyable aspects to be found within should you have the patience to find it. Rarely will we see puzzle games such as this done with such level of quality and detail, so if you have an extra $9.99 burning a hole in your pocket and you want a quality puzzle game, then look no further than Eventide 2.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Oh Sir: The Insult Simulator

We all know that one person, whether it be a friend or family member, it doesn't matter, he or she is that one person in our lives that has a sense of humor that is beyond what many would call entertaining and actually becomes more cerebral insult humor staged at the right times. Monty Python, to me, is a legendary comedic production full of hamsters who smell like a bucket of vomit and who enjoyed Batman vs. Superman and secretly adores wearing women's clothing. And this is the type of creativity you can expect from Vile Monarch's new game, Oh Sir! The Insult Simulator, that comes out crushing the wallet at a titanic $3. So, what can you expect for this low entry price?

If you haven't watched any Monty Python you may be a bit reserved as to the humor found in this game, but before we get into that, let’s talk about the actual gameplay. When you start off you have a choice to learn how to insult, or you can insult someone online or go into a tournament. The tournament consists of a total of five different stages where each stage is a scenario that you will have to insult your way through, and the final stage of the tournament pits you up against the Almighty himself, God, in an epic showdown for the ages.

The challenge throughout the story is to get you used to forming sentences using correct grammar; however, the game doesn't allow for all the rules of the English language to be applied, so you will have to be careful and knowledgeable about what words can be applied given the rules they do indeed enact. They won't tell you the rules so you'll just have to figure them out as you go along.

Now, when you are forming the insults, not all insults have to be three pages in length in order to be effective. Let me explain. Take the insult: "Your mother smells like a lumberjack!" The insult itself is very short, but it contains bonus material for you to build on. Subjects such as "your mother" and "a lumberjack" are both content to build a combo. Ok, so that insult scores, let's say 8 points. Nothing game changing for sure; however, let's say the next round you sling the insult: "A lumberjack has a steaming romp with your mother!" This is a longer insult, despite the length, as it contains the two subjects you previously mentioned, and now this insult would be worth over 20 points. Let's say the third round comes and you make an insult: "Your mother was defeated by your sister and a lumberjack secretly adores an alien hamburger!" This insult is even longer and carries with it two subjects that already have a 2x combo attached to them, so this new insult would be worth well over 50 points.

Length isn't as always as important as content (who said size matters right), that is a key fact. This brings me to a point that threw this game off a bit for me. Instead of making a value point associated with each piece of the insult, the game claims that the developers have decided what points to award. It would have been handy to know ahead of time just how the grading goes in regards to the content of the insults themselves, but sadly that's a mystery that will be found next to the meaning of life (note: NEVER). However, the formation of these insults are fairly straight forward thanks to a simplistic gameplay mechanic built into the game.

You use the D-pad to select your part of the insult and a simple press of the A button to confirm it. When you're done forming your insult, press the B button to lock it in. On the bottom you're given 2 insults in your hand that you can use to play. If you don't like what you have you can press the X button once per round to sip your tea and get 2 new insults in your hand that you can play.

Sometimes simplicity is best and that can be found in the graphics of this game, which showcases your characters as 2D puppet-like figures in various comedic scenes that range from a pet store, a hunting accident, to even the gates of heaven. While the graphics are simplistic, one aspect I really enjoyed was the sound. I have to hand it to the developers because it's not easy trying to find someone to replace the iconic voice of Morgan Freeman, but yet when you hear it, you almost think it's him speaking. Overall, all the characters in this game have unique voices and that goes a long way to giving each of these characters their own style. I personally loved the nod to Lovecraft, who has this hypnotic tone in his voice, that I could see keeping people in a trance.

For $3 you can't really beat the cost of Oh Sir! The Insult Simulator. The developers have done a great job in something that originally took less than 3 days to make. This game is a must have if you're a fan of Monty Python, or love a game that brings about laughter and enjoyment, every time you play it. For less than a gallon of premium gas you can experience a game that will always be unique and always humorous. Just remember that an African swallow secretly adores your sister and enjoyed Batman V Superman and died for your sins. Or something like that.

Suggestions: Can I have a little peril?

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Aven Colony

I'm an avid fan of tactical sim-like games. I love trying to figure out strategies that not only set me up to beat the level and win the game, but also set me up to keep building and improving after I've moved on. Thankfully the team at Mothership Entertainment has released a game called Aven Colony, and while the $29.99 price tag may give you initial reason to pause, let me explain to you why this may be one of the best city-sim type games to come along in quite some time.

The overall premise is the same as any building game you can find out there. Pay attention to your resources, manage your population, think long term development and continue this line of thinking throughout every single level you play, and simply alter it to fit whatever terrain you're faced with in the level. While it may seem incredibly simplistic on the surface, underneath is a remarkably deep system that, despite some of its drawbacks, can provide a deep gameplay experience that spans many, many hours per level. This is where those who enjoy any sort of city simulation game will get lost for days and weeks at a time, and here's why.

For starters, you're given the opportunity to either go into a free build or can jump right into a campaign. During free build you can pick your level and setup the game however you see fit, so it's pretty self-explanatory. As for the campaign, it will set you against numerous levels, each of which have their own unique challenges to complete and certain "end points" that, when accomplished, signal the end of the level.

A little gripe of mine is that that when you beat a level and you feel accomplished and want to exit out, there's no way to select another mission until you completely exit the campaign and then select new game. A small gripe, but very disorienting when you want to go back to the mission selection, but instead you have to go all the way back to the very beginning.

When you play you have to be mindful of many things that you would find in a sim of a similar nature. You need citizens to reside in your colony, all of whom will require a few things to maintain their happiness. For starters, they will need the basics such as clean air, water and food, but as you progress you'll need to focus on entertainment, safety and well-being.

While these types of things are basic, as you progress through the game you'll unlock different laws and governance options to have at your disposal. For instance, when your citizen decides to take a job they have the ability to transfer to other jobs should they like the other career better (or you increase the desire to work at a different place). You'll have an ability to govern by making a rule that once citizens have a job they cannot switch out. You can even instigate an immigration ban that can't be challenged. Heck, to help your citizens improve their happiness you can even allow for improved gaming at home so that when the citizens are unemployed they can still be happy. This will come at a cost of raising the overall power consumption of the entire colony, but you have to make the citizens happy...right?

The reason for this is that after you've hit a certain point in your campaign level, your colony will vote to see if they want you to continue governing them. If you're a real jerk, you can decree mandatory overtime, increased taxes on everything, and even set in food and water rationing. You probably won't be re-elected, but if you've ever wanted to see a mass exodus, well, that's one way to get it done.

I do have some issues with this system for a few reasons though. The largest problem though, by a mile, is that the civilians haven't got a clue of what they want. Case in point, I built a residential outpost and an immigration center so I could start accepting more people into the colony. I decided to put a Nannite Processor plant next to the outpost (like literally right next to it.) and the people were upset. However, it's the reason they are upset that had me shaking my head.

They had to walk too far to work it. The outpost literally shared a wall with this processor plant and they said it was too far to walk. How does this make sense? I recycled the Nannite Processor plant and moved it one square away. Yes, I said one. Not halfway across the level, but one single square. In between them I put a tunnel, and guess what? They became happier citizens who say that they love working there because it's so close. Really? This is the way it is constantly.

I once flooded my colony with fans and air regulators and brought the overall quality of air to over 95%, yet according to my citizens, they hated the air quality. I even surrounded a police station with numerous residential areas and they complained of crime. Ever hear of the phrase "you can't please everyone"? Well, Aven Colony is a physical interpretation of that exact statement.

As for the mechanics of the game, they are fairly simple, but parts are overly sensitive and can be of some annoyance. You use left and right on the D-Pad to control time. You can pause it or have it accelerate to 8x the regular speed, which means less building time, but you have to think quicker and act faster to accommodate the actions. Once you have the form and function down for Aven Colony you should be able to have a 4x speed going relatively smoothly and without problems. You use the Right Trigger to bring up the radial menu for building and use the Left Stick to open up whatever building option you want, and press A to select. You then use the same Left Stick + A button to select the exact thing you want to build. You'll come to find out that this process can feel a bit awkward because the Left Stick feels overly sensitive thus becoming very hard to control.

Your Left Trigger will open up menus for you that act as outlets for your colony management. You can use the overlay menu to see what aspects need to be addressed, or the trade menu to barter for goods and services, and when you get far enough along, the expedition menu can be accessed, which takes you into a whole new aspect of Aven Colony.

One of the things that makes Aven Colony so deep has to be the characteristic that a vast majority of the buildings have multiple uses. Wind turbine fans can consume more power but can act as a fan to blow toxic gas emissions away from your buildings. Water pumps can be set to produce water only at various levels (to manage power consumption), and even research facilities can be used to not only improve your ships on their expeditions, but can also unlock methods to produce Nannites without any ore or metal fragments.

Switching gears, the music was a hidden gem, in my opinion, that I didn't expect to find. I'm not saying it's one of my top game soundtracks, but I never turned it down. There was an ominous, minimal structure to the opening of the music, and as I progressed there's only one sound that got on my nerves, which is the notification tone.

Every time there's a notification of any kind there's a chirp and a notification that you can access via the Y button. Immigration ship docks, chirp. Trade ship docks, chirp. Lightning strike, chirp. Low water, chirp. New mission, chirp. Mission complete, chirp. You get the idea. I tried to dismiss it but there's no way to calibrate it so you don't hear chirp, chirp, chirp, constantly.

While the music is good and can also report that so are the graphics of Aven Colony. Each area feels unique and offers up its own individual strengths and weaknesses that will determine how you play the game. The buildings become larger and more advanced and the graphics on the map showcase it in great detail.

One thing that I did have a problem with was trying to follow my civilians around. One of the aspects of Aven Colony that I found interesting is the ability to go down to what they call "tunnel view" where you can watch your citizens move around and interact with each other and the buildings. While this sounds rather entertaining, there is a massive problem with it; you are supposed to be able to click on one while in this camera mode but I never actually got it to work. There are ways though, through your management menu; however, the task became more of a chore to go out of my way to do it. So, while it was a creative idea, it never was utilized very much.

Despite some of the hiccups mentioned above, it goes without saying that Aven Colony is one of the premier city simulation games that you can find on the Xbox platform, and for $29.99 it should be a must buy for anyone who enjoys these types of games. There is a colossal amount of stuff to do, and a user interface that aids in creating content and playing experiences that will forever make you smile. Take a bow Mothership Entertainment because Aven Colony is truly an amazing experience.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Serial Cleaner

Back in the 70's life was much simpler. There was church on Sunday, organized crime was prevelant, and there were those that "cleaned up the mess" so to speak. Things were simple, and that's how Curve Digital likes it in their latest release, Serial Cleaner for the Xbox One. Priced at $14.99, you can imagine that Serial Cleaner is going to have to put on one quality show to warrant a higher price tag for a geometric puzzle game. Is this retro looking 'clean up game' worth it though?

I previously mentioned the word simple because that is what Serial Cleaner is. SIMPLE. Deceptively simple. As you would think, given the title of the game, you play the role of "The Cleaner" who lives with his family. He has a normal house in a normal suburban neighborhood and drives a red station wagon. Yep, you are definitely painted as the "normal kid"; however, all that changes once you get a phone call to 'clean' as we see the flip side of the coin. Each phone call represents a different job (level) that your cleaner skills is going to have to take care of. Now, to do that you will have to accomplish a few tasks.

First off, you have to dispose of numerous bodies that are scattered about the crime scene. Then, while you're doing that you will also have to look for various pieces of evidence, but you have to be careful, because when you remove a piece of evidence you will alert police who will be drawn to that area to search to see where the evidence is/has gone. While you're doing all of that you will also have to use your magical vacuum (seriously, like an ancient 1960's massive upright vacuum) to vacuum up a certain amount of blood (you are a cleaner after all). To make all of this worth your time, each job has a souvenir that you can collect and store in your trophy room at your home.

Here's the kicker though, you will have to do all of this while managing to avoid the 'cones of vision' that come from the patrolling police officers. To do this you have to hide in various outlets, and utilize the map to your advantage by triggering switches at correct times to shift the layout and design of the map in your favor. In order to see all these possible outlets and avenues you will have what is called 'cleaner vision' where you hold the LT and the map zooms out to give you an overview of the entire area.

In this view you will see where bodies are laying, the evidence is sitting, hiding spots, body disposal sites, and so much more. Sadly though, you cannot move while in this vision mode so it's best to plan your pathway well in advance, because should you get caught, the level will reset and all the bodies and evidence will be moved around thus taking your well thought out plan and tossing it right out the window. Once you have completed the tasks, which means you've cleaned the area, you hop in your station wagon and flee the scene.

Things seem simple enough though right? Nothing too challenging....well, you'd be wrong. As you start progressing through the levels the difficulty level ramps up. While the preliminary missions allow you to get you used to the fundamentals of the game itself, the real challenge is when Serial Cleaner expands the map size and increases the number of officers patrolling. I've lost count how many times I've had a great plan laid out I have executed it perfectly, but then on the last body, I hit a switch that activates one end, but opens another which draws the attention of a police officer who then comes and spots me, chases me down and I have to restart the level and my plan. This is incredibly frustrating, which is why I said Serial Cleaner is deceptively simple.

Now, if I'm honest, there isn't much in terms of replayability for Serial Cleaner, but to help that out Curve Digital has scattered numerous Easter eggs throughout the levels. If you take the time to explore the maps and levels there are hidden items that you come across that act as bonus missions you can play. These are are parodies of various movies such as Aliens and Star Wars. Personally, I think these levels alone are worth their own standalone game as the whole "hide and seek" aspect works wonders across a lot of iconic movies and genres.

I have to admit that I am not too particularly fond of the visual presentation of the game itself. I'm not a fan of the geometric layout and design, nor the music, but while I can play some different music through a different source, I can't do anything about the graphics. That's normally about the time when you start to realize the sad reality of Serial Cleaner. There's little replayability for a game that's based off one core aspect, and something like this unfortunately starts you off right behind the 8 ball. Couple this with mediocre music and a graphic style that is almost an insult to the 70's with its bland atmosphere, you understand that $14.99 seems to be too much to pay for a $4.99 game. Sadly, while not true organized crime, $14.99 for Serial Cleaner is feels like organized theft at this price.

Overall Score: 6.3 / 10 DeadCore

Puzzle platforming games don't seem to get the recognition that other genres get; however, there is undoubtedly tons of merit and value to be found should a game of this nature be executed properly. This was the belief that led developer Grip Games to release their latest puzzle platformer, DeadCore, on the Xbox One. Armed with guns that shoot, think of this game as the spawn of titles that have come before it, like Portal and Quake. There is one simple goal in DeadCore, make it to the top of the tower as quick as you can, and of course in one piece. It seems oh so simple right? However, is it worth the $7.99 price point to pick up a game that came out almost 4 years ago on PC? Let's hop to it and find out.

When you start off there are a few things you'll notice right from the beginning. First off, the game looks beautiful in the visual department. An entire swirling celestial atmosphere that is enveloping this seemingly colossal structure. And all of eye candy is joined in harmony by a minimalistic, almost "Tron" type soundtrack that settles nerves but also stages a false narrative by misleading you into realms of comfort when none really exists.

At the beginning of the game you are given some options, but I would strongly recommend checking out the settings before diving right into the story, which shouldn't really be called "story" as you just need to complete room after room of puzzles. Nevertheless, once you hit that button for story mode, get ready for the ride of your life, virtually speaking.

When you start you'll find yourself tumbling in a free fall decent, and when you land (I'm guessing in a super hero way) you'll be taking your first steps towards many, many failures. The game doesn't do much in terms of hand holding, so your controls may feel a bit off at first. For example, the default jump button for a lot of games is what, the A button? Maybe the B button? In DeadCore the jump button is LT. Yup, the LT button is your jump button where you can also press it twice for a double jump move; however, this is where you'll also be introduced to one of, if not the biggest hiccups of DeadCore, the gameplay.

Earlier I mentioned have elements of the games Portal and Quake feel like they are incorporated, and that is because these games offer a gameplay control setup that is very "floaty" and focused on speed. This is the same style of movement that you will find in DeadCore, which makes the narrow, rotating platforms that that you have to jump to seem half a mile away, almost impossible to hit. I say almost because since you're going to die A LOT, you'll eventually have a run where your twitch muscle movements will pay off and you will solve the puzzle and proceed on to the next one.

DeadCore is a game where you literally live the iconic Top Gun line "You don't have time to think up there, if you think, you're dead." This is thanks to the fact that the game places its own devices in your path to stop you from completing the puzzles. These items include things like turrets and thruster jets that propel you in the direction they are pointing.

Now, you may be thinking that with floaty controls on narrow and tiny platforms and surfaces, placing things like this to add more challenge would make the game impossible, and in some cases you would be right; however, DeadCore grants you items to use, such as your new best friend your laser rifle to help you. This gun will shoot at opposing obstacles and temporarily turn them 'off', which will allow you crucial time to make the critical jumps to life saving freedom, and DeadCore is a game where you'll need every spare moment you can find. So, as you can clearly see, the game is trying to create a puzzle platformer that is simple on the outside, yet extremely challenging when you get into it and that got me thinking.

DeadCore could have been better had the gameplay been more precise. There were countless times where I hit a vertical platform and had no idea where to go, so I ended up looking downward so I could see the area that I had to land on. Other times I would do what would normally be a simple jump and it would seem like I hung in the air for multiple seconds waiting to just land so I could continue on.

While games like Portal and Quake managed to incorporate a highly sensitive and floaty gameplay mechanics, this open puzzle world of DeadCore doesn't fit within this scope that much, if at all. And then when you factor in the fact that countless times you will be required to perform split second actions, you start to get the sense that this game is designed to set you up to fail and fail, and fail some more. While some may think of this drawback as relatively minor, sadly it isn't and here's why.

When your game is dependent upon trying to tirelessly get one's jumping and reflexes to be pinpoint accurate, you have to have a mechanic system in place to allow for those actions to happen, and sadly that isn't found here. So, when your entire structure is already flawed in terms of how the user interacts with your game environment, then every moment you experience DeadCore will lead you to the same, controller smashing frustration. And while yes, it does offer a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you complete a section, those moments are few and very far between, especially since you'll probably end up giving up well before then anyways.

The big question though: "Is DeadCore worth the $8 price tag?" In terms of value for dollar, not really. In terms of a challenging platforming puzzle game for fans of the genre, yes. DeadCore tries to draw its inspiration from other games; however, it lacks a solid gameplay structure, and therefore doesn't allow one to effectively interact with the game. You have to get the basics right before considering any extras and sadly DeadCore falls flat on its face here. While it may excel on a PC platform, trying to make the switch to consoles isn't always a successful transition as evidenced with DeadCore. Only die hard puzzle platform fans need apply here.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Air Guitar Warrior Gamepad Edition

For those that know me, you should know I loathe Kinect. I don't think there are many software applications that are a "must have", and in fact, I find the whole thing a tremendous amount of failed potential. Now, let's talk about Air Guitar Warrior: Gamepad Edition from Virtual Air Guitar Company (I mean honestly, what other company would make Air Guitar right?) Air Guitar Warrior: Gamepad Edition is priced at $14.99 and it was my job to take this one out for a spin to see if it's worth it. What did I find out? Quite a lot actually.

For starters, the game is laid out with music albums on the screen and your job is to side scroll throughout the various songs, and press either the A or X button to fire various types of shots from your guitar. Now, all guitars have the same firing modes, but different shots, so you will need to become familiar with what works best for you. You will run out of ammo, but switching firing styles (press X instead of A) will allow your ammo to recharge thus enabling you to keep on shooting. However, there's a problem with this concept right off the beginning, as there is there's no real scoring system.

The game grades you on how many enemies you shoot down and that somehow gives you a percentage at the end, for some reason, and I don't know why because it's meaningless. With every enemy you kill you'll earn pieces of experience that will add up and level up your character, provided you actually play this long enough to care why. As you level up though you will unlock new abilities that will happen with new button press combinations, but other than that, as you progress you'll unlock new air guitars and this is pretty much the entire point of the game.

Everything I just said above could be the entire review right there. That's because there is so little to this game that you have nothing to hide behind or distract gamers with if there should be an aspect or two that doesn't seem to turn out the way you want it.

The graphics behind every song give a unique feel until you realize that there is a lot of repetition built into the game, and then you see that even in terms of environments and enemies that there isn't much variety. Your "ride" (if you want to call it that) will change from sharks with lasers, to a robotic T-Rex and even a unicorn, but when you watch the same aliens, skulls, etc. side scroll their way onto the screen as you blast them into oblivion, repeating over and over again, it will leave you with little enjoyment, and that's when it hit me about this game. It's going through a sort of identity crisis.

The Kinect version at least allowed you to partake in the enjoyment of physically strumming to fire, but in an odd state of reality, the enjoyment was lost when going to the gamepad version and actually reducing the way the game is played. I know this will probably send shock waves through the gaming community, but this is a unicorn moment, as the Kinect version of Air Guitar Warrior gives you more enjoyment than a non-Kinect version of the same game. The lack of enjoyment of the 'Gamepad Edition' continues to spread into the music which (when you're making a game where the focus is music) doesn't make much sense. And that's when the lightbulb clicked.

There's no replay factor. Like almost none at all. You have your character and you go through the game's tunes that feel more of a marketing ploy for an artist or band, and then you move onto the next song. Depending on if you don't die, you'll move onto the next track, and even though the levels get crazy towards the end, there is a microscopic amount of replayability. There are achievements such as kill X number of monsters with ______ guitar which will require you to grind over and over and over again, but that's when whatever enjoyment that could be found within this game is snuffed out like a candle in the wind.

Should you plunk down $14.99 plus tax on the 'Gamepad Edition'? In simple terms, I would say no. There is little to no replay value, mediocre music, and if you already own the Kinect version then you already have the best version available. On the plus side though, if you don't have a Kinect, then consider yourself blessed as you won't have to waste money on Air Guitar Warrior: Gamepad Edition.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Golf Club 2, The

Now, I should make this clear, I am probably the worst golfer on the planet. I've hit drives that have curled and gone behind me, so yeah, sadly you can't stand anywhere and be safe with me. Despite this though, I love golf. I love the endless pursuit of perfect muscle memory and sensory adaptation on the fly to project a small ball numerous football fields in length into a cup no bigger than your fist.

In the past Microsoft had a game called Links which, in my opinion, was a fantastic golf game thanks to its attention to a more realistic approach. Sadly, that series is long gone and in its place we have games like the recently released The Golf Club 2, developed by HB Studios and published by Maximum Games, which aims to deliver a truly authentic golfing experience that is more on the side of simulation than arcade. Priced at $40, if the quality is there, The Golf Club 2 (TGC2) should make the big companies a little concerned. So, does TGC2 hit a hole in one, or does it reach the stroke limit and head to the clubhouse in shame?

I mentioned that TGC2 is more of a simulation than an arcade experience. Instead of arcade style golf games like EA's PGA Tour Series, where you can control the spin of the ball in mid-flight and you had landing zones and all other kinds of guidelines to help you (granted as the games progressed you could turn all that off), in TGC2 you get very, very little. This makes the entire game more realistic, but if the execution is subpar, then it really doesn't matter.

When you start off you're going to select which analog stick you wish to use for your swing, I personally chose LS because that's what I've always used. Now, the swing is measured in a few ways, and I'll use my LS choice in this example. You end up pulling back (down) and your golfer will start his/her backswing. At the top point of the backswing you will push the stick forward (up) and your golfer will proceed with their follow through. Now you just read that your swing is measured in a few ways and here they are.

Your backswing is measured by distance and tempo and can range from slow to perfect. Your follow through is also measured on the same guidelines, but both are also measured by how straight your motion on the backswing and follow through are. Should your thumb slide too far off to the side, your ball will sail wildly into deep rough causing you all kinds of trouble. Now, while we are talking about the swing mechanics, I have a few issues to point out.

The first one is that at times the game can suffer from graphical lag which can affect your input of your swing and your timing. This isn't good when you have a game based off of visual input. This can cause numerous shots where you wanted a lighter touch but end up crushing your approach shot to well off the green. This issue is especially annoying when you are putting. Dear Lord it can be horrible, as you think you can hit a soft 7 foot put, but you end up thrashing it 15-20 feet past the hole. The tutorial will help you get a rough feel for it, but thankfully there is a driving range, chipping area, and putting practice so you can go through various lies and shot types to get a sense of how the ball and club will react. I can't stress enough how important it is that you spend a lot of time here as you will need to get used to another aspect of your swing. The adjustments.

To help you a little bit, the game allows you to press the X button to change between normal shot, pitch, flop, punch, etc. However, that's only going to adjust the type of shot and the distance, for further adjustments you need to hold the LT. You can't alter the ball mid-flight like you can in other fantasy golf games, so by using the LT like this TGC2 offers you the ability to alter your shot. Upon pressing the LT, it opens up your shot modification menu and allows you adjust the loft (more or less) as well as your push or pull of the ball upon impact. This is tricky as your different angles will do different things to your ball.

For instance, let's say you have a club that hits 175 yards, and you decide to put maximum loft on the ball (which will naturally shorten the distance of the club), and just like in life you won't be able to see how much the increase in loft will affect your ball, so you'll have to do the famous try and try again until you understand about how much distance giving full loft takes away from your shot. These nuances will either make or break your round of virual golf, so expect to replay some courses many, many times as you now take into account wind, ball placement (does it rest on the side or angle of a hill or flat?) and other varying factors that will plague you throughout your rounds. It's as realistic as it can get for a console golf game.

Thankfully, you're going to be taking part in a short tutorial on the various types of shots, clubs, etc. Upon completion of this you can customize your character. There's much to adjust and customize as long as you have the virtual coin to do it. All of it is pure cosmetic so unless you want to go for the achievement of collecting over 100 items of clothing, hats, etc., you don't have to spend your coins here. The reason is you can also edit your current items and give them different colors, logos, and other distinct looks. After your stint customizing your player, it's time to get down to business. There are two main modes you'll choose from: play and career. Let's tackle the play mode first.

In the play mode you can select your course through a variety of course selection choices such as friend's favorites, your own favorites, to official courses and much, much more. Once you have selected the course you can edit gameplay it how you want such as tee locations and so on. Multiplayer is an option, but as of this time I hadn't played a round of it yet. Before you dive into a round you're given some options such as check out more courses by the creator, favorite this one, etc. However, there's one important option in the top right corner and that says "practice". Sometimes getting in a practice round so you know what you're about to get into is going to be beneficial so you're not blind out there. Each course also carries with it various challenges for select holes such as score under par on hole 7 with one putt or less. Completing these challenges will earn you coins and completing 200 challenges will earn you an achievement.

The other mode, your career mode, is where you can get your first taste of TGC2's offering called Societies. Your career society is different than your multiplayer one, however your career one is where you select varying amounts of events to construct an entire season. The more you level up your career society, the more events you can compete in within one season thus earning you more money, etc. There isn't to much to go on with regards to the seasons and leveling up your society clubhouse to hold more events because there really isn't a point outside of leveling up your golfer. You can also make your clubhouse more and more appealing at you go through the career mode. There are ghosts and rivals you can load into your game should you feel the need to have some form of direct competition, which includes the developers themselves, and it's safe to say that the latter know these courses very, very well.

One of the many aspects of golf has to be the scenery. The environment that includes these sweeping fairways, and ever lurking tall roughs, is incredible in TGC2, so good in fact that there are some graphics issues (one I already mentioned about the swing) where the environment will "pop" in elements such as trees and rocks, etc. that you didn't see before which causes moments of screen tearing. Another slight gripe would the loading times. In a golf game it seems like the most extensive item to load would be the surrounding environment, however, for some reason the times loading a tournament, and in between holes, is rather long and with no way to speed up the animation of your ball, sometimes you find yourself waiting... and waiting... and waiting. It might be something to do with the Unity graphics engine they are using, and I could only imagine what would happen with a better tools in this area.

Despite some graphic hiccups upon some good looking visuals, I'm sorry to say that the music, while tranquil and peaceful (as golf music should be) isn't memorable and the voice acting for the announcer leaves a lot to be desired as well. The clubs sound solid though, as each wood, iron, and specialty club sound different from one another, and hitting from different terrain (e.g. fairway, rough, sand trap, etc.) which is important in a game like this.

Now, I know it seems like I'm coming down on this game here and there, but despite some of the drawbacks, The Golf Club 2 is, right now, the elite golf experience on the Xbox platform. With EA having a tough time with their golf game, HB Studios simply crushed it with The Golf Club 2. It's going to seem frustrating, aggravating (especially putting), and at times it will test the durability of an Xbox Elite controller, but all of that stress, anguish, and turmoil melts away instantly when you unlock the achievement of getting a hole-in-one from over 250+ yards (I literally jumped up yelling and cheering when I hit it). Then it's back to normal and I ended up getting a bogey on the next hole. One thing is for certain, and that's The Golf Game 2 will take you on a ride of emotions. Is it worth $39.99 plus tax? Without a doubt it is.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Victor Vran: Overkill Edition

Normally when you consider a video game purchase you tend to gravitate to games that give you an incredible amount of value, including gameplay length. Games that end up ultimately draining weeks, months, and in some cases, years out of your life make sense, as you want to get the most value for dollar. Recently Haemimont Games released a two-year-old game called Victor Vran to the price tag of $40 USD. Now, normally I'd already see warning signs everywhere; however, this time is a bit different. Actually, it's a lot different and let me tell you why.

Victor Vran is an action RPG game that is similar in scope to Diablo, an iconic dungeon crawler, loot focused bonanza of a game that draws you in and never lets you go. So, already you can get a sense for where I'm going with this. Victor Vran has utilized some of the greatest aspects and characteristics of Diablo and implemented it into its own gameplay, which automatically makes its' foundation one of the best you'll find in the genre. Normally you would just get the base game; however, this release of Victor Vran (Overkill Edition) is where you actually get two DLC content packs as well. While I would strongly, and I repeat, strongly recommend that you consider tackling these areas only after your character becomes a high level, you get a feeling that already you get a lot of content for your $40 + tax. But is it any good?

Without any hesitation, yes. It's phenomenal actually. If you're taking a break from Diablo, or want an incredibly well put together dungeon crawler, look no further. Let's start off first with the story. Actually, I'll give you the note card version. You play the role of a hunter named Victor Vran who is a little more than he seems to be. You find yourself drawn to the town of Zagoravia as you find yourself looking for your lost friend who was also a hunter. Throughout your quest for your friend you will find many twists and turns, and as you uncover the map you're also going to be introduced to something called "The Voice". Think of this as a witty, little devil on your shoulder, type voice that uses fantastic writing to deliver a performance that was one of the biggest surprises to me. With me being a Star Wars fan and hearing the voice say "Victor... I have to tell you something.... I. AM. YOUR. FATHER.......NOOOOOOOO" and I was in bliss. These types of moments are what give the little nuances of the game it's life.

Another time "The Voice" mocked me for finding a chest that had a regular item in it. It said "Oh congratulations Victor, you've found some trash. Let's see if you can find 4 more chests of trash, ok? I'll even throw in a pie if you do." So, I set off and while finding more chests I kept hearing about this pie, and then on the 4th out of five chests found, I'm told "My pie isn't a lie." and a smile crept over my face. Was the pie there? Was it a lie? Play the game and find out!

These nuances within the game really help Victor Vran establish its own identity. When playing a dungeon crawler you really only have to follow one simple rule: Do what Diablo does, then just alter it in some ways. It's quite simple that way and that's essentially what you have here. So, when you have such similarities, finding ways to accent the differences is ever more important (cue legal department phone call).

Now, the biggest challenge outside of the camera for a good dungeon crawler, or any game for that matter, has to be the user interface. For the longest time there have been very few quality dungeon crawlers on console as they have mainly been PC only, but now developers have found ways to implement the input choices found for the players and have mapped them onto a controller that allows the game to be played on consoles. To make this successful you MUST, and I repeat, MUST, have a way to make the controls feel symmetrical yet sequential. Let me explain. For instance, in Victor Vran you can operate two demon powers, and carry two items. Each demon power is mapped to the triggers, so LT fires one and the RT fires the second, and when it comes to items you have left and right on the D-Pad, so the symmetry creates a balanced gameplay that frees up the face buttons to designated attacks. I almost forgot, you're also able to carry and use two weapons. Using the RB you can switch between your primary and secondary weapon and use the corresponding X, Y, and B buttons for your new attacks.

I mentioned demon powers above and that's only one part of your character's outfit. In fact, Victor Vran makes it a point to focus partly on your character's outfit. Opposite of your health bar (again, symmetry) is your Overdrive meter. When this gets filled you can use your demon powers. Filling your Overdrive meter can happen a couple of ways. You can gain Overdrive by attacking and killing enemies (there's plenty of them around), or you can wear a suit where you're granted about 80 points of Overdrive per second, but your attacks no longer produce it. After thinking that if I were methodical and patient, I could progress through each section of the map and have a full Overdrive meter whenever I accessed a new area. With this in mind I chose to take a suit that filled it automatically. One other bonus here is that if you take the other style suit, and you fill the meter but don't use it, then after a while it will all go away. There are suits to modify your Overdrive, but those are considered Legendary outfits which leads me to my next section, loot.

There's a ton of it. Throughout your grinding you'll easily generate pages and pages of inventory that can be used for a couple different purposes. First off is the gold. Items you sell will bring you cash, it's not a new concept, but the second reason for hoarding all this loot is incredibly unique and that is the Transmutation.

Weapons, Demon Powers, and Skill Cards can all be part of the Transmutation, which is Victor Vran's way of giving you a choice of how you want to play the game. Transmutation is when you have a singular base slot that is modified or created using ingredient slots. Let's say you have four regular weapons that aren't really anything special. You can assign 3 of them as ingredients in their slots and leave the base blank. When you Transmute them you will get another common weapon, but with different stats and traits. If you do this for 3 rare (yellow) weapons, you will be guaranteed a yellow weapon, but also have a chance to land a Legendary weapon instead. Let's say you want to increase the damage of an uncommon (green) weapon, you would have to use the weapon you wanted to increase the damage of as the singular base, then put 3 uncommon or better weapons below as ingredients (they don't have to be the same weapons), and if you wanted to increase a weapon's ability you would have to use corresponding recipes with demon powers.

This is a prime example, and just a fraction of the sheer depth that Victor Vran offers to its players. Sure, you could just cash out and take the money, however with tremendous opportunities with Transmutation, don't be surprised if you find yourself with tons of pages of weapons as you combine and manipulate some incredibly powerful and amazing ones. One interesting note to consider, Legendary weapons level up when you do, so get ready for evolutionary weaponry!

Presentation wise, the graphics and the sound are befitting a dungeon crawler and provide not only individual characteristics, but a quality that you can see in every little detail. Now, I know I've been fawning over this game now but I do have to admit that there are a couple issues with the game, and one of the biggest involves the dreaded enemy, the camera.

It can get a bit disorienting when trying to combine the map system in tandem with the camera system, and most of the time you find yourself trying to focus more on which direction to go, than on playing the game during these moments. And should you happen to go under a bridge, or in some form of enclosed area, the camera magically retracts to literally a few feet above which then takes you out of your ability to see, well, anything really. The second issue involves the game slowing to a crawl at times and locking up on quite a few occasions. A simple restart seems to fix it; however, one experience I had where my character was going down the stairs, the game froze, and then when I restarted the game, I waited over 6 minutes, just to get to the "Press any button" screen you see at the very beginning. After I pressed any button I had to wait to get to the main screen and that wait time was over 8 minutes. I decided to delete the game and restart, and that didn't work. Next up, deleting my save file and the game and installing again from fresh, and include a hard reboot and BAM! It was back to business as usual, but I lost everything.

For dungeon crawling, action RPG games that offer immense depth, 4-player multiplayer, and a high replay factor that isn't found on many multiplayer games, for the price of $19.99 is hands down the best value for dollar game you can find on the console right now. If you really want a big bang for your buck though, for $39.99 you get the Overkill Edition which gives you two DLC packs that are loaded with even more content on top of everything found in the original game. While Victor Vran isn't Diablo, and there were a few hiccups now and then, the experience you will have won't be any less enjoyable, and when you mix in the online experience with your friends, you'll wonder where the last few days of your life went, and then discover that it was claimed by Victor Vran, and you loved every moment of it.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Tango Fiesta

Ah yes, the summer is here. Full of sunshine, blue skies, kids on the street, maybe a slurpee in hand, oh, and there is a pile of Xbox One indie games that are designed to do one thing, take your money from your wallet. Recently, publisher Merge Games released a game called Tango Fiesta, and while priced in the mid-range of indie pricing ($9.99), this game tries to give you value for your money by making the most simplistic shooter while allowing you to carry as much explosives as you can, all mixed together with lighthearted humor that shows that the game doesn't take itself so seriously. But with that in mind, does that mean you shouldn't consider the choice to throw your $10 at it? Let's dive in shall we?

Ok, when I said simplistic, I was wrong. This game is colossally simplistic. Like so simplistic the tag line for this game could easily read Tango Fiesta: Just shoot everything. You have two choices in the game: Arcade or Story Mode. Arcade mode is just level after level of mindless killing while the game shows off an overwhelming number of explosions. Story mode is like Arcade mode, except you get a cheesy backstory that pertains to iconic action movies, but with a heavy dose of comedic satire. Tango Fiesta tries so hard to be a culmination of classic 80's and 90's action movies, ranging from Predator, Rambo and RoboCop, unfortunately it sadly doesn't do a good job in trying to pay homage to the source material. This is kind of unfortunate, as it seems like a missed chance here.

Whatever mode you pick you'll quickly grasp the concept that you have to kill everything. To do this you'll need to select from a group of characters such as Bionic Cop (RoboCop), John Strong (Arnold himself) and more. Each character offers different stats, but honestly Bionic Cop is the best as his stats are mostly maxed out except for speed. Tango Fiesta then takes your character and throws them into a random generated arena and lets you kill everything over and over again. This is thanks to a simplistic game mechanics that unfortunately suffer from incredible bugs.

First off, let's talk about the in-game movement. Using the left stick to move around is one thing; however, there are multiple items within the level itself that affect your movement and your battles. For example, let's say you're fighting a group of six enemies and between you and the group is a patch of grass. You try to shoot them and then you notice something strange. The grass stopped your bullet. Yes, your projectile was stopped by grass; however, your opponents' bullets go right through. Naturally this creates some disadvantage, but as you'll quickly notice, navigating the levels themselves are going to be the greatest obstacle you'll face.

With Tango Fiesta being a twin stick shooter, you would think that there would be an extensive range of fire with your controls, unfortunately you would be completely incorrect. In fact, the strict following of 8-axis fire is so severe that you'll find yourself deliberately trying to attack from either straight up or straight down, or from the direct left side or right side. There were even multiple times when I would try and throw a grenade, however, I noticed that the grenade would sometimes drop at my feet and explode, and there was no explanation for this.

Another knock on the gameplay has to come from the reloading method. See, if you hold down the right trigger and have your gun run out of ammo, you'll have to take your finger off the trigger while the game auto reloads and then place your finger back on to continue to fire. Since you have no knowledge of how close you are to an empty clip, you are almost thrown into situations blindly because your ammo counter is in microscopic text in the upper left corner. It's frustrating to say the least.

Now, normally I would talk about the graphics and sound, but I'm not going to. There's nothing to mention that is of any value to your time to read about. The tiny sprites try to over accentuate various aspects and characteristics of enemies and such, and the levels are generic in texture, tone and enjoyment. The sound is actually so bad that I turned it down except for one aspect of the game, the Gun Shop. Here you can unlock new weaponry for the right amount of in-game cash considering you fulfill the necessary requirements. The joy of this menu is that all the weaponry is presented to you in an Arnold impersonation voice and there is something about hearing "OOZI 9 Millimeter" in that voice that is eerily amusing.

While you can play Tango Fiesta as a single player game, sadly it only supports local 4-player co-op only. That's right folks, there may be millions of people on Xbox Live, but Tango Fiesta only allows for local co-op. I don't know why, I thought that we lived in a day and age where we wanted to connect to others outside of our couch? The only reason I can think of to justify the local play only is that back in the 80's that’s how we played our games. Had Tango Fiesta included online play with others, then it would have given it more hope and quite possibly sell better than it will as it stands now.

So, the big question is "Should you spend $9.99 plus tax on Tango Fiesta?" Well, gameplay mechanics are flawed, graphics and sound are passable at best, and there is a complete lack of online multiplayer; all of this makes not only the actual value low, but the replay value incredibly low as well. Given the sum of all of its' parts, there's no way I can recommend buying this game at that price. It's a shame because with such a wealth of content available to draw comedic inspiration from, Tango Fiesta just got terminated. If a sequel gets released though, and it fixes the issues of this game, I'll be back.

Overall Score: 4.5 / 10 RiME

We have all heard from people in the industry that gaming is an expression of art. Designers, artists and everyone involved collaborate on a digital canvas, producing their own piece of art. Tequila Works has taken this principle and have developed a new game called RiME. While some companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on making a game, Tequila Works has done something spectacularly well. What they've done is create a digital masterpiece of art. Let's take a look at what could make RiME a serious contender for game of the year.

Yes, you read that right, RiME is absolutely amazing. It tells a loose narrative where you must piece a world back together by navigating the various realms, all in an effort to discover your true destiny and what darkness haunts the lands. The story is just a watered down place holder; however, right from the beginning you'll be hit with the titanic beauty that is RiME.

RiME is one of the most beautiful games you will ever see, as it uses the Unreal Engine technology to produce some the most vibrant and bold images ever to grace our screens. When you start you'll see how the game essentially lets you discover it for yourself. This tactic could be misleading, though as the beauty you will find is amazing as you take extra time to uncover various hidden pathways that reveal unique relics and special secrets.

Throughout the various levels you will see parts of the overall experience that reside in a very large and open framework. When broken down though they are really very linear. Now, one of the biggest points going for RiME is the ability to create something with such depth and creativity while utilizing incredibly simple controls. The X button interacts with items, A button jumps, Y button activates your 'shout' and B lets you roll in the direction you move. Such basic controls, yet when put against the backdrop of a platforming adventure like RiME, is a stroke of pure brilliance. The challenge actually comes by you trying to figure things out since there is no hand holding. This takes us to the soul of this game, the puzzles.

Throughout the various levels, if you will, you'll come across many puzzles. Figuring these puzzles out will require some thought, but overall they aren't too challenging. Since there really isn't a run feature you'll find that most of the puzzles will take time simply because you have to find a way to get to them to solve them. Sadly though, what this ultimately boils down to is going through linear pathways to solve a puzzle that will unlock a new path to take, where at the end a puzzle it will need to be solved, rinse and repeat. So trying to figure out the path isn't as challenging as you would expect, and there is exploration, however, it's almost a pseudo open world concept. Essentially what I'm saying is that I'm being picky because I can't explore more of the game, but to compensate for that shortcoming RiME packs in one last piece of pure beauty, the soundtrack.

Hands down RiME is in my top 5 game soundtracks of all time, period. The orchestral composition, and the instruments used, weave a tapestry of audible harmony that will envelop you and submerge you deeper into the experience of RiME's beauty. Hearing the orchestra build and crescendo into a climax of masterful proportions. Navigating tombs and underwater palaces while being serenaded by sonic bliss is an experience you'll wholly enjoy.

These are just some of the examples of mastery you will hear throughout RiME. Not just the music, but every single piece of audible material is created with more attention to detail than we find in a lot of major blockbuster games, and from start to finish it is its own masterpiece to experience. Now it goes without saying that RiME seems to tick all the right boxes for being game of the year material, however, if we look closer, there are a few areas that have to be addressed.

First is the framerate. RiME is beautiful, but it slows down quite badley more often than not and the framerate becomes so unbearable that it takes you out of the beauty of this fluid artistic experience. RiME does use the Unreal Engine, but somehow the dev-team couldn't fine tune the graphics to keep up with the pace, and when a game is actually very slow, you wonder just what is going on with Tequila Works.

Another major issue is the initial loading time. I understand it has to load a few GB of data, however you could probably go get something to eat and still come back and it would still be loading. I think "The Hundred Year War" finished quicker... well probably. So, you have to wait an ungodly long period of time to load up a game that is so beautiful it slows its framerate down to the point where it severely impacts the overall experience somewhat. Oh, and earlier when I said that every single piece of audible material is beautiful, If forgot about one sound. The Y button 'shout' actually gets on your nerves, which doesn't go well considering how often you have to use it.

This got me slightly depressed, confused, and more all at once. I thought to myself, who would see the framerate issues and say yes that's a good idea, and let's do that? Could no one, absolutely no one figure out a way to improve the framerate that, if I'm honest, aren't so demanding? We're not talking hyper realism here. I am hoping for a patch to fix the framerate as it will let this artistic masterpiece shine even more.

I have a confession to make, after reviewing games for 9 years, I've never given a game a 10. Never. I always thought that gaming perfection was unobtainable simply because there is always room for improvement. Had the issues noted above not plagued RiME, this game would have been my first 10, and that was a sobering moment of just how big of an impact these issues can be. When you're talking about simplicity and doing more with less, then you have to make sure that everything, and I mean everything, you give to the gaming community has to be the best. That being said though, RiME is a gaming masterpiece that should be experienced, even with the hiccups I speak of. Creative puzzles, beautiful environments, spellbinding soundscapes, and at $29.99, Rime is right now one of the games to beat in 2017.

Suggestions: Improve framerate and loading time issues.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Portal Knights

Imagine. if you would, if Minecraft, Lego, and Diablo all went out one night, got obliterated at a bar, and had a wild hotel night. Nine months later you would have Portal Knights by 505 games. Originally out via Steam, lucky console owners finally get to enjoy the game at a price point of $19.99 + tax. Now, you're probably wondering how in God's name all of this ties together, and I think you're going to be pleasantly surprised. The question you should be asking though is: "Is Portal Knights a 3D sandbox RPG environment that will see unknown amounts of hours pass as they blur into days; or is it another clone of Minecraft trying to give you something similar but yet in the end, is still just a knockoff?"

505 Games have released some incredibly fun games in the past such as Rocket League, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Terraria to name a few, and now they have set their sights on delivering a quality 3D sandbox RPG game. Portal Knights tells an extremely loose tale of an evil that has divided numerous realms of varying characteristics and it is up to you to right the wrongs and vanquish the evil responsible.

Ok, now that the dramatic plot pitch is out of the way, that's about all you're going to have to go on when you play, so if you dive into this thinking you're going to experience some grand, meaningful adventure, you're going to be mistaken. If you go into this thinking you're going to play Lego characters set in multiple Minecraft styled realms, then you're going to be incredibly happy.

I reference Lego because as you start out you get to customize your character which looks like a hybrid Lego character with an oversized Lego styled head. Your character choices range from a Warrior (who specializes in melee attacks and has high strength), an Archer (a class who uses ranged weapons and bombs and focuses on dexterity), or a Mage (who is your magic wielder of the trio). Choose wisely because once you select your character the other options are locked out, including various items and weapons.

Once you've chosen your character it's time to customize them. I was surprised at the amount of depth to the character creation as there were numerous presets to form literally billions of combinations (yes, I said billions). If you like to spend time customizing your character, you'll lose a lot of hours here. Once completed you will get a choice to play either online or offline. If you play online, you can share in the fun with 4 people online, or two people local co-op if you decide not to go solo.

When you think you're done making choices, think again, because after you pick online or offline you get to choose between small worlds or large ones. To put things into perspective, a small world is incredibly compact and should be experienced first to get a feel for what you're about to get into. All the realms you experience will be randomly generated; however, your first level will take you through a small tutorial about quests, controls, and menus. For example, pressing LT on an enemy will give your character an enemy lock-on feature which can be annoying at times because the camera system isn't the best. Pressing LT again will disengage it and allow you to move the camera and focus on what you want. After that brief tutorial though, you're on your own. You'll quickly learn how to construct portals which will take you to other realms, and while in the menu one of the tabs is your overall map of the realms so you can see what you have joined and what can be coming up soon. This is also where the Minecraft feel is going to hit you like a freight train.

You'll come across simple 1x1 blocks as far as the eye can see and decorated with varying textures, different block types, and other interactive environmental objects like trees, grasses, gems, etc. that you can mine to create various items, potions, weapons, and more. To do this you will need to build a crafting station which will introduce you into the Portal Knights' crafting menu which is remarkably similar to Minecraft. However, unlike Minecraft, the focus of Portal Knights is to complete various quests that come with every realm. You're going to collect a lot of items you don't need to use, so be ready to dump a lot of items you don't need. Building chests will help increase your storage, but you will be fast travelling back to the realm you built it in to keep things organized. This is the biggest fundamental difference with Portal Knights as combat is the primary focus.

Now, when you begin you'll spend a lot of time leveling up, so the game itself will feel more of a chore than anything. Earning XP while helping other characters you meet within the different areas help level up your character and in turn give you skill points to use on various stats. When you hit milestone levels you'll be able to select various abilities such as sword proficiency and increased rate of healing so long as you stand still for 5 seconds or more.

This building really adds a depth that we see in some of the bigger action RPG games, and goes a long way to giving Portal Knights the credit it deserves. As you progress, not only will your character level up and grow, but you'll come across elements for upgraded weaponry which you will need when you go up against the bosses. This could be considered the central focus of their own world and they will beat you like you owe them money. This is when you're going to realize that in order to respawn you need gold, so make sure you have plenty on hand. You're also going to want to make sure you complete quests to gain new recipes for stronger items and better gear.

In terms of Portal Knights' graphics, I am a huge fan of the randomness as it takes me back to the Diablo days where every run would be different and that is exactly what you get here. The randomness ensures that each level is unique and has its own atmosphere. The characters you encounter throughout will speak in a minion-like gibberish and the colors throughout are nice and bold and go well with the overall art style.

The soundtrack is nice; however, it is incredibly repetitious, so while I wish there was more depth in the soundtrack, when you start going to different levels, you can feel that this was not on par with the rest of the game content. Let me be very clear though, I'm not saying the music is bad, I just wish there were more of it. It's hard though with all the randomness of the levels, I mean how do you ever do music as unique as the levels themselves?

So, is Portal Knights worth $19.99 + tax? Without a doubt, yes. There have been games that cost more than 3 times this but provide less engaging content. If you have a group of people joining in, then the fun just gets magnified by a factor of 10. 505 Games has delivered a content packed, quality action RPG with Portal Knights. It is a game that you can spend hundreds of hours playing and still have just as much fun as when you first set off. Sure, the game has issues, but the issues it has don't come close to outweighing the amount of joy found in the overall package.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Prey

Set the way back machine to 2006 and you'll come across an Xbox 360 game called Prey. It took its audience on a wild, psychological roller coaster ride, but it's execution resulted in a mixed reaction from the community, and for the longest time we heard whispers of a new Prey game in the works. As you can imagine, being over a decade since its initial offering there were many changes that took place over the course of the years, until now. Many moons have passed since Bethesda stepped in and acquired Prey, and the studio they tasked to bring it back to life was none other than Arkane Studios (the creators of Dishonored). After a while you get the sense that there was a chance for something special, but unfortunately so of this expectation was lost to the cosmos.

In a typical setting that we have seen multiple times over (space), you play the role of Morgan Yu who's a scientist that specializes in the development of Neuromods. These are devices that literally pierce your eye to give you new and enhanced abilities. Yes, stick this multi-needled gun device up to your eye, and pull the trigger and you get powers. So that's a very dark way of upgrading your character... Bioshock at least had a tonic. All this research takes place on board an orbiting station called Talos I. You proceed throughout the rounds of a normal day when something happens and you're fully exposed to an almost venom like symbiote species called the Typhon. Your world goes to black and you then awaken to a strange voice guiding you, which you are told is actually you, but more specifically a program of you that you created in a different time to assist you should the need ever arise.

Kind of confusing? Prey does a great job deploying a psychological ground game that drives your actions throughout the entire game; however, instead of developing this into something deep, expansive and intellectually puzzling, Prey seems to blend itself into more of an action shooter game. Your main priority becomes exploring a few areas of Talos until you kill everything, search everything, and then move onto the next unlocked area, all the while killing everything you can find in between. This is a huge let down because even though there's an element of duality and sacrifice woven into the plot threads, there's not really a driving force to keep the narrative at the mentally twisted level it needs to be. While the plot is a good story, there was definitely a missed opportunity here. If I could ask Arkane Studios one question it would be: "Would you kindly write a sequel that really took our minds on a mentally psychotic ride?"

Earlier you heard me mention the inclusion of duality and that is the cornerstone of Prey's entire storyline. When the crux of the story opens up to you, Prey decides to force you to deal with a moral system of choices. These choices determine what kind of person your character will become, but sadly these aren't plentiful enough in the game to warrant any significant level of depth. In fact, the majority of the mission work you do will feel like a very mundane chore and when you see how Prey decides to take the pieces and put them together, you feel underwhelmed and that to me was incredibly disappointing. You have an opportunity to take an IP that is over 10 years old, and re-imagine it in a dark, twisted, Tim Burton style manor and yet you make it a Disney Halloween Special instead.

To help set the stage for this grand performance, Talos I is set to deliver on many levels. First, the environments themselves tend to be more uniformed and less unique (given that it's a space station after all), but there are breathtaking images to view all throughout the station's windows of various stars, moons and planets. On top of that, you'll witness firsthand how Talos I tries to put a futuristic twist on classic elegance. In Prey, Talos I is supposed to be a premier outpost and you'll see a lot of that when you venture throughout the various parts of the map. However, given all of that, at the end of the day you're still in an orbiting space station and everything is going to have a familiar, uniformed, presentation and that I feel is another blown opportunity.

Since this game bears similar, yet very strong characteristics of Bioshock, I've heard of Talos I being referenced to as the Space version of Rapture and I can see why. However, the atmosphere of Rapture played right in tune with the plot, but in Prey you feel that it's more of an afterthought, if that. Now, despite that setback, it has to be mentioned that the ambient and atmospheric sounds and soundtrack of Prey are incredible. Listening to them on my Klipsch home theater system, and through some new headphones I am reviewing, I fell in love with the small little intricate parts that came together. You get this feeling when conflict arises and the strings and horns crescendo up to a climatic peak. On the other side of the coin though, Prey would then lull you into comfort again only to strike when you weren't ready. This tactic works wonderfully a couple of times at most, but seems to be frequent throughout the game making things a bit predictable as you progress.

This progress also has to deal with the progress of your character, as you have worked on developing a way to enhance your abilities, hence the Neuromods. However, by studying the alien Typhon themselves you can gain access to alien enhanced abilities. Now you may be asking, "Can I become a hybrid alien human with extreme powers?" and the answer is "yes you can". But as we all know, everything has a price to pay. In this instance should you decide to upgrade your character, and include alien traits, human devices, such as turrets, will now start to see you as a threat and target you. Rest easy because you can hack them to make them not target you, but you have to get in close to do this. While we are on the topic of mods and enhancements, I cannot stress how important it is for you to plan your path of upgrades ahead of time. I say this because the cost to upgrade your skills to the 2nd and 3rd levels dramatically increases like my health insurance cost. Make sure you plan ahead because a 'Jack of All Traits' is a master of none.

Now to acquire these powers you will be required to scan your Typhon enemies with your Psychoscope. Scanning the enemies while in a scoped view will allow you to work towards unlocking Typhon abilities and powers. The two primary Typhon enemies you will come across are Mimics and Phantoms. Mimics are a small spider like symbiote that have one distinct characteristic that makes them a deadly adversary, and that is that Mimics can replicate any object. So, let's say you are in an office area for the first time and you look around and see nothing out of the ordinary. This is what Mimics want you to think because in reality you could be in a room with half a dozen of them and you would never know. In order to make the detection process simpler you will have to use the acquired Psychoscope to scan the area, but when you do that you're going to be burdened with a little bit of tunnel vision, but it's a small price to pay for scouting out something that can spring from any object and attack you rapidly and ferociously.

The second are the Phantoms and they are what you would regard as human Typhon experiments gone horribly wrong. These walking abominations are either evolved Mimics or members of the Talos I crew that have been turned. These Phantoms take an absolute beating and are hard to bring down as they move faster than Mimics and hit much, much harder. In fact, one of the best strategies is to use your GLOO gun to temporarily freeze an enemy and then unload on them with your wrench (I would suggest using a firearm, however, ammo isn't plentiful unless you want to spend the resources to make it), or better yet, let a friendly turret tear them to pieces while you keep them in suspended motion. I bring this to your attention because you're going to be hard pressed to keep your suit in a manageable state throughout all these fights so repair kits are few and far between.

Thankfully, to help you keep track and store everything you need, you can expand on your inventory system which works on a grid style storage layout where items take 1 square and weapons can take 2, 3 or more. I brought up the whole upgrading abilities a while back, and upgrading your storage is one of those abilities. Also, with the suit repair kits you'll find, you will come across weapon upgrade kits which work ok, except if you want to start bringing the noise to the enemies, you'll need to spend quite a lot of Neuromods. In regards to the space of your storage, always (and I can't stress this enough) pay attention for where there is a recycle station. Here is where you can dump your crumpled pieces of paper, banana skin peels, used cigars, etc. and turn them into resources that you need to make certain blueprint plans such as med kits, shotgun ammo, and so much more. You'll be doing a lot of backtracking throughout Prey, so I strongly suggest that as you pass through areas again that you pay a short visit to the recycle stations to help keep available space in your inventory.

Prey, despite all the faults and setbacks I have noted, is actually a quality game from start to finish. It has plenty of content that will keep you air locked in for hours on end, and given the faults, you'll be spending so much time exploring that you may not even regard them as faults at all. After 10 years the gaming world was ready for another Prey, and Arkane Studios was up for the challenge and they succeeded more than they failed. Prey does deliver a sound introduction to an IP that has seen a troubled development process, and yes even though there are some drawbacks, there is a tremendous foundation for an incredible future. Do I think Prey could be game of the year? No. Do I think Arkane Studios could make Prey into an amazing gaming series? Yes.

Suggestions: Please work on that story for the sequel.

Overall Score: 8.7 / 10 Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom

Normally when people say to me "Kickstarter game", I admit I cringe a bit inside. When someone says "Kickstarter Indie action RPG game that will be coming to the Xbox One", I have my incredibly large salt shaker on standby. Developer Enigami set out to create such a game. This small developer took to the streets in an initial effort through Kickstarter to fund their game Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom. Priced at $29.99, this has me incredibly weary for multiple reasons. First, Enigami's goal was $100,000 and they managed to raise just shy of $140K. So, while not a tremendous overage, the big question remained was what type of game could Enigami come up with, with such incredibly limited funds. The answer to that shocked me completely.

If you're an action RPG fan that enjoys a lighthearted story that doesn't take itself too seriously then you could have one of the biggest sleeper titles you'll ever play on the Xbox platform. I know, that's a big statement, but this game literally blew me away, even with a few technical issues. Right from the title screen I was listening to the music and it started to captivate me. You get the sense that it will be a truly grand adventure, and it is.

The story is the heart and soul of this game, so the main plot is for you to discover; however, this game boasts such a depth of content that it could seem overwhelming at first, but after quite a learning curve you'll start to get the hang of things very quickly. Cutscenes and transitions are handled in a semi-cartoonish comic book style that gives the presentation a unique feel. But there's so much more.

The story is not laid out in a sequential order. Your choices and actions decide how the game unfolds and what side quests you may or may not receive. On top of that, you will have to build a relationship with your companions and if some do not like your choices, or how you handle a situation, you can bet that there will be a strain put upon that friendship as a result. This really makes the game feel like it tells you, the gamer's, own story and it is sensational. I even tried to see what happened when making other choices as I reloaded an older, separate save file to see what would happen.

This feature builds upon your character's dialogue responses. While cartoonish in nature, both in the actual dialogue and the input, there is a sophistication to this that is rarely found in gaming today. I was amazed by the depth and that is because Shiness provides an incredible wealth of content. Mixing physical and magical sources, outside of equipping your gear, you'll have different abilities/spells to master and each one does a variant of a certain type of elemental attack. As you progress you will unlock new abilities which will lead to newer abilities such as fighting combos, because that is pretty much the majority of what you do in the game, you fight.

The areas of the worlds are called Meteoras and you will find yourself traversing around these large expanses completing not only the main quest, but side quests as well. Each one of these levels, actually the entire game itself, is done up in a beautiful cel-shaded style that looks amazing. Every small detail is accentuated with a bright, crisp feeling that makes individuality among the characters and environment feel fresh. This graphical presentation is only made better by the incredible soundtrack that follows. Simplistic melodies and dynamic sounds help weave a sonic pattern of mastery that not only surprised me, but delivers an adventure soundtrack that would rival other action RPG games, and in some cases surpass them.

Make no mistake, while you're taking in the beauty of the world, don't just pay attention to the various enemies but also the wildlife. I mention this because the wildlife plays a major role in your game. By quietly trying to sneak up behind them, you can press the X button when prompted to steal an item from them which you can then use at various traders to sell, or even bargain with them, to produce new disciplines to master or spells to learn.

When you start out on your adventure you'll notice that when you encounter an enemy you can click the RS to target them and scan them for information. When you get within range (provided your enemy hasn't seen you) you can land a sneak attack, which at first is either a punch or a kick (X for punch, A for kick). Your Y button is used for parrying incoming attacks and spells and it will rapidly become your best friend. The parry move poses a challenge and that challenge is timing. Get the parry right and you will stop the enemy attack in its tracks, while stunning the them and allowing you to take no damage. It also frees you up to start your onslaught. Should you fail though and you're going to get crushed with damage. My strongest suggestion is to master parrying as soon as you possibly can. Get used to timing the attacks, because once you master that, blocking almost becomes irrelevant. The B button will block attacks; however, you will still incur some damage. Using B with the LS will cause you to roll in any direction and that technique should be mastered after parrying.

Fights occur in makeshift energy rings that change colors to indicate various elemental shifts that can be used. Blue = water, Green = earth, etc. These fights occur 1 versus 1 with any supporting fighters on the outside of the ring. Defeat an opponent and their supporting enemy will drop in. During the fight the LB will change between characters, however the input seems rather slow and cumbersome and doesn't happen all the time when you want it to. The same goes for the input when using healing items, or any items in the game really. If you want to use a healing blue apple for instance, pressing the LT brings up the menu and pressing up on the d-pad will allow your character to consume one and thus heal themselves.

The gameplay mechanics do have a very high learning curve, but outside of hunting down wildlife (there's an achievement to hunt down one of every type of creature in the game), you're going to be fighting and questing and doing quests where you have to fight (make sense?). So, get ready for a healthy dose of rinse and repeat, especially when you realize that enemies respawn after you've left an area for so long.

Beyond the 'input' issue I found, there are some other issues that ware worth mentioning, and one of them has haunted countless games for decades; that is the camera system. While you are in control of it, there are times when you're in a fight and the camera will swing wildly into a rock effectively making you blind to the fight at hand. While the camera system works wonderfully when you're exploring, unfortunately it doesn't work that well all the time. Another issue are the special Hyper attacks that seem to be relatively useless. These are the biggest gamble attacks and when they instruct you to use them wisely, you better do exactly that because if you should fail (which will happen a lot), you will be 100% exposed without a hope and a prayer of defending an attack. The thing is, it almost seems as though if the target is standing still and doing nothing, and your Hyper attack seems to do exactly the same thing, nothing.

Now in order to have supporting characters you'll need to form a party. As you progress through the game you'll find that your party grows, and once you reach three people the game will unlock its challenges. These are small in game modifiers that consist of challenges like "finish a fight in under a minute" or "get an S ranking in a fight", etc. Should you accomplish each challenge then you can snag yourself some rare loot, which is broken up into three different categories: technique, clothes, and magic. Each provide different bonuses and skills/abilities to learn. This is just more of the parts that equal the sum of the game and equate to an incredible gameplay experience, so as long as you remember to manage it, it is truly a masterpiece. It accomplishes so much more than what anyone previously thought possible.

Coming from a Kickstarter and only surpassing their goal by $40k when other games spend over 1,000x on production and fail spectacularly, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom is a remarkable game. It could very well be a top contender for indie game of the year, and at a price point of only $30 it seems to really be a bargain and a half. Not only has this restored some of my dissolved faith in Kickstarter video games, but in indie games as well. It goes to show that you don't need to spend millions of dollars to make a great game as developer Enigami managed to do it with $140K. If you're a fan of action RPG's that look and sound incredible while offering a colossal amount of content, even though there are a few hiccups now and then, stop reading this and go start downloading Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom now.

Suggestions: Careful with the camera system. Make sure that all aspects of combat function properly, this includes making sure boss fights don't continue to spam attacks that can't be parried.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Sexy Brutale, The

With puzzle games having been around for generations, murder mysteries have been a solid foundation since the classic board game Clue. Trying to piece together a psychological puzzle full of traps, methodology, and that hint of psychosis. Recently, developer Tequila Works released The Sexy Brutale and priced it at 1/3 of a standard retail game ($19.99 USD). To support that hefty price tag for an indie game, The Sexy Brutale is like the Masquerade ball from Phantom with a dash of Rocky Horror Picture Show and Groundhog Day all rolled into one. So without further ado let us don our masks and dive right in.

Before we begin you should have a little foundation as to what makes this game what it is. You play the role of a guest at a mansion hosting s special event for a night. There is mask wearing, excessive gambling, high stakes gaming, and all other sorts of decadent entertainment. Every wish you could want, every desire fulfilled, but not all is right.

There is a catastrophe and you are saved by a red colored lava woman with glasses (yes, I said that right). You then find out that there are other guests who need saving, and not only will you have to be their saviour, but you will also have to figure out who or what is behind all the murder and mayhem within the mansion. Now, normally this would require you to search for clues, and in order to do that you'll have to manage the puzzle genre's most recent manipulative trait, time.

Puzzle games have tried to become complex to the point of mind numbing agony, that is until an innovation from years ago comes waltzing into the party, and that is time manipulation. In this game you will have to navigate throughout the mansion and use time manipulation to save the rest of the party guests by getting them to remove their masks. Such an example would be found right from the start where you have to search the nearby rooms for a blank bullet to load into a gun which is going to be used at a certain time to kill a patron of the party. Once you save a fellow guest you claim their mask, and with it a new power that will aid you in the subsequent future by granting you some new abilities which you will need to save the other guests.

Now, the reason I mention time is that you will find yourself rewinding many, and I mean many times. This sort of repetitive action can become incredibly mundane, but that isn't the only problem. See when you develop a game that doesn't have much in terms of developmental content, you really have to make sure that the content you do provide is sound and solid and that isn't the case here.

I cannot begin to tell you how frustrated I got with such a simple act as opening a door. First off the input is incredibly laggy, so there were times when I would stand in front of said door, press the A button multiple times and after the 4th or 5th time, the door would finally open. This is a huge setback for The Sexy Brutale given that gameplay issues like this are something you'll be contending with throughout the game.

That's not to say though that this game doesn't have some very bright points. First, the plot is fantastic in a dark humorous way. The graphics and sound help deliver a very Tim Burton feel to the execution by tying it into more of a 1920's presentation. The lighting effects are very well done and the character models seem to fit the nuances of The Sexy Brutale.

Normally in a puzzle game when you get something wrong it's game over; however, thanks to the manipulation of time, should your guest expire, just rewind time and try a different path. This is what really got to me because it became less of a puzzle game and more of an explore rooms, reset clock, explore scenes that can be activated, reset clock, and so on, and in doing so without negative impact on you or your settings. You literally can be like Cher and turn back time as much as you want which made solving the puzzles less academic and more trial and error.

Now when I say you'll be exploring I hope you're ready to wander a lot because this multi-level mansion is enormous and filled with numerous rooms and people that will try to attack you should they spot you. What I did enjoy in this area was how there were unique qualities of certain rooms that gave them their own personal feel.

After my stint in the mansion I can say, without hesitation, that Tequila Works has developed a classy indie game that is full of sophistication, charm, witty plot lines and a dark side that would make Edgar Allen Poe happy. While the drawbacks cause the game to suffer somewhat, the overall experience will bring a smile to your face. If you're a fan of puzzle games The Sexy Brutale should be on your radar.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 SkyKeepers

It goes without saying that 2D platforming games have been around for decades. Giving your character a pathway where you jump and attack has always been a staple characteristic that has relied upon a story to deliver the symbiotic punch of entertainment. Recently, Sword Twin Studios released such a game called SkyKeepers on the Xbox One that is priced at $14.99. While on the average price range for an indie game, SkyKeepers tries to deliver a platforming experience that mixes parts of an ancient culture with an action packed story. Time to answer the all-important question: "Is SkyKeepers worth $14.99 + tax?"

I mentioned SkyKeepers delivers on an ancient culture, and it does. Starting as far back as thousands of years BC, the Austronesian tribal peoples developed centuries of art and culture, and by 400 AD they had started to call the islands of Hawaii home. This culture carried with it a mark of honor and respect and it's called the tatau. These magnificent works of art were worn on the body as signs of courage; however, the pain endured would be excruciating and when a tatau could take, in some instances, years to complete, this badge of honor was truly earned. Failure to finish the tatau process marked an individual with shame.

These sacred traditions are honored in the very beginning of SkyKeepers as the game opens up with the chief of the village Tangi going off on a hunt. His son wants to prove to his father that he is ready to become a man and receive his tatau. From this point on you control the son and SkyKeepers will take you on a simplistic walkthrough so you can get used to the controls.

During this 'introduction' you stumble upon your father Tangi who instructs you to run home. As you defy him, as all young kids do to their parents, he decides to put you through a test to determine if you are ready. Once the test is completed you'll head back to the village where you will tell the tattooist that you're ready. In order to get the ink needed you'll first need to harvest the leaves and the wood needed to acutally complete the tatau. Once all is done, a tragic experience occurs and the game instantly changes 180 degrees. It is here that the village falls into ruin and the story picks up years after that one fateful moment.

I'm deliberately omitting a section you'll experience in the beginning because if you do decide to spend the money to buy this game I don't want to ruin the any more of the plot for you. Ultimately, SkyKeepers boils down to chief Tangi coming to terms with what has happened and doing whatever he can to save his village, and if possible, himself as well.

You'll complete these tasks by venturing through different realms found in the game, and each realm has, within itself, multiple stages. Each stage is setup in your traditional block style mini map where white squares indicate pathways to other rooms. It is nothing innovative as we have seen elements of this structure type dating as far back as Metroid, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work wonderfully. While overly generic in terms of the structure of the levels themselves, each one is efficiently designed to provide a good challenge, and that is where I find some fault in the game.

Let's say you head out, like I did many, many times, and go through a level. In certain areas along the way you will find torches that you can light that act as checkpoints. Should you die before igniting one you will have to start over from the beginning. Now that normally would upset a lot of us, but thankfully the progress you make does save, sort of, and you can easily make your way back to where you originally expired. Should you not finish the level AFTER you hit a checkpoint, and do something like turn off the game or console, then you will have to start over from the beginning of the level with no progress saved at all.

As you progress through the levels you'll find that the gameplay mechanics are incredibly simplistic. The A button jumps, your X button attacks, and your Y button does a powered move that uses a meter that gets filled when you strike with the X button. Your B button does what is called a SkyWalk, which is a teleport shift of your character to certain access points on a level or even enemies themselves after you've hit your enemies with your X or Y attack. This incredibly generic gameplay works wonders for this style of platforming, because if you start to complicate and over think the gameplay mechanics then you will make it harder for your audience to enjoy the experience.

You will find that the combat element of the game resorts to a simplistic method of beat up enemies with the X button until you have enough for a special move with the Y button. Execute your special move and combine with the B button and you can dodge any type of incoming attack. Then it is rinse and repeat over and over again. The only issue I have here is that the combat gets ridiculously repetitive and instead of allowing you to move quickly from one area to another, the game essentially traps you into a room until you beat all the opponents, and then you can move on.

As you traverse the levels you'll acquire purple light orbs and shards, and it is by using these that you will rebuild the fallen village. It will take a lot of progress, but over time you'll be able to unlock new items and more. In order to do that though get ready for a titanic amount of hacking, slashing, and split second jumps that either mean heroic bravery or complete and total failure as a coward.

Given the simplicity, there really isn't much in the way of something that will really draw the audience into an experience that can sum up the whole game. Sadly, this also goes for the soundtrack which appears to just be a drum loop that you hear nonstop and it rarely ever changes. It got to the point where I just turned the volume down because I couldn't stand it anymore. I did however find the graphics to be very nice and a definite strong point to the game itself. I found that even though the concept never changed in terms of level design, each level and stage had its own unique feel.

So $14.99 buys you a game that has some issues in the areas of level design, soundtrack, repetitive combat, and an oversimplified gameplay system. But should you buy it? Absolutely and without question. If you enjoy a quality platformer then you will most-likely enjoy SkyKeepers. The frantic combat keeps you on the edge while the jumps and the gameplay will truly test you. While on the surface SkyKeepers may seem like a generic platformer, but Sword Twin Studios took the basic elements of great 2D platformers and adapted them to fit their narrative. So, while SkyKeepers may not be innovative, ground breaking or flawless, it's definitely a high quality 2D platformer for you to enjoy.

Overall Score: 7.3 / 10 Styx: Shards of Darkness

If you fancy a test of your nerves and creativity, then stealth games are a true test of your mettle. Such games rarely let you take a breath before you're thrown right into the next section of danger, all the while setting your nerves on edge with suspense. Recently, developer Cyanide released another entry to the popular smart mouthed, stealth series starring a Goblin named Styx, and this game is aptly titled Styx: Shards of Darkness. Now there are a bunch of boxes that need to be checked in order to claim that you have a quality stealth game on your hands, and the big question is does developer Cyanide tick all the right boxes?

If you have never played a Styx game before you're in for a treat. Well that is if you like a stealth game that doesn't take itself too seriously in the plot development or execution. Styx, for those who may not have heard, is an assassin/thief Goblin who seems to have a substance abuse problem for a potion drink called Amber.

Styx is contracted out through various missions, and mission types, where there are not only multiple pathways to complete each mission, but multiple options as to how you can eliminate your adversaries. This type of direction already lends itself to creating a smooth stealth experience, but then you take into account the "attitude" of Styx and you have a real memorable character. Even when you die, and you will a lot, Styx has some form of derogatory quip about you, or he may mock a scene from an iconic movie. Either way this type of humor is felt throughout the entire game and helps provide some levity even when under tremendous pressure.

Pressure is what you'll encounter throughout the entire game. The backstory is that Styx has decided to take up residency in a town called Thoben. It's here that the human residents are engaged in an active conflict called "The Green Plague", which ultimately is a battle between humans and goblins trying to cohabitate with one another leading to many failed outcomes. This won't stop you from pillaging various homes and buildings and relieving those righteous humans of the very valuables they so cherish, including their lives. Remember though, should you take the life of someone else, you must be a crafty goblin and hide the body before they are discovered and your cover is officially blown. Now, there is a twist towards the end of the first level and after that you feel like a powder keg has been lit and every level you complete gets you one inch closer to the big boom at the end.

As mentioned earlier, Styx: Shards of Darkness provides multiple 3D platforming levels for which you can chose multiple directions to reach your objective. Now, the one key thing you absolutely must have in a game like this is proper gameplay mechanics. Since stealth games pride themselves on giving you scenarios that require precise timing and judgement, this reason alone is why it's so important.

Sadly, I didn't find that Styx's gameplay was that on point or precise in this area. Granted there wasn't much in terms of hand holding as the game itself unfolds before you as you're thrust into a level right away. There were also some issues with the cover system, and transitioning out of it, that were a little disorienting, and when executing something simple such as swinging on a rope, I found that the mechanics involving this action felt unpolished.

Other little quirks that felt unpolished were the combat system should you be discovered. Pressing the X button when you're sneaking up on an enemy allows you to do a quick kill, however it won't be silent. To make it silent, instead of pressing the X button you have to HOLD the X button down. Now, should you go for the quiet kill, you'll notice that the animation sequence lasts for a few seconds to make sure that if you decide to engage in a silent kill there aren't any other enemies nearby that could be on patrol and see you as you're going through this motion (which for some reason still generates noise, but apparently not noises your enemies can hear?). If you're caught you're going to either have to run away and hide or face your opponents in combat. You'll have to time your X button to parry the enemies' attack or you can expect to be cut down in no time.

To counter this reality, you're given options as to how to eliminate your opponents. Instead of taking on a group head on, why not push an explosive barrel off a ledge above or cut a chandelier's chain and watch it drop on them. Better yet, if you have a bunch of enemies eating at a table, why not try poisoning their food? This creativity allows Styx: Shards of Darkness to be played a multiple of different ways and gives variety which helps keep the game feeling fresh as you look for new ways to eviscerate your targets. While I did appreciate the ability to either kill someone outright using my blade or use a different creative outlet, these are just a couple of examples of what you can expect.

Even though the gameplay might be imperfect, there is still a lot going for Styx: Shards of Darkness. One of the biggest improvements you will see resides within the new skill trees that you can upgrade. Branches such as Stealth, Kill, Perception, Cloning and Alchemy will give Styx a much needed advantage over his adversaries. There's many reasons to love this new skill tree setup.

First, you're not set in any sort of direct linear path so you can cake different paths should you choose to do so. Second, you can see how the development really improves from the previous game. Take for instance your clone. Styx used to be able to create a clone that was solely used as a distraction. Now, Styx can manipulate the clone to cause havoc, or even leave it as a quick warp point should you find yourself in danger and need a rapid exit. This type of development and improvement is a welcomed addition to the game and goes a long way to creating a more enjoyable gaming experience.

You'll be happy to know that the graphics of Styx Shards of Darkness are finely detailed and look very nice, adding to experience when playing. Now granted the environments seem a little "cookie cutter" but they lend themselves to the fantasy time period and that goes for all the characters themselves. While you're traversing you'll also notice things like Styx's dagger sheathe glowing to give you a visual indication that you're hidden. It's this environment that will have you praising your Right Stick, as clicking it will give you an overview of your immediate surroundings as it highlights what is friend, foe, interactive items, and collectibles.

To help solidify the atmosphere of the game, you're given what I'd like to call a brooding soundtrack. This isn't some high energy retro synth onslaught, but a very melancholic sweeping soundscape that ties everything together in a tremendous package.

Styx: Shards of Darkness offers more improvements upon it's original than most other sequels you'll find in gaming today. This is due to the painstaking process of finding out what needed improving, how to improve it, then executing it properly. If you are a fan of games that thrive on creativity and stealth, then Styx: Shards of Darkness should be on your gaming radar. While there are a few issues that plague the game, the overall gaming experience is one of quality and craftsmanship. Earlier I asked if developer Cyanide ticked all the boxes that make up a quality stealth title, and the answer to that is yes.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Verdun

When you want to make a game it helps if there are things that you can turn to for inspiration, guidance and even some assistance from time to time. Now, take the FPS genre in a World War I setting and you have such a gargantuan amount of material to draw from, so much so that you would think that you would use this to help make one incredibly enjoyable and authentic game. You could think that in this case, but you would be wrong. Verdun, developed by M2H & BlackMill Games, is priced at $19.99 + tax, and this game tries to place you into the trench warfare found in WWI during the battle of Verdun. Now $20 is an incredibly high price point to ask, so the big question that has to be answered is, is it worth it?

Unfortunately not. Normally I would save my opinions until the very end and layout a general overview that highlights the good and the bad points of the title, leaving you with my final opinions to base your own judgement upon. Not this time. No, this time I'm giving you the truth right up front because sadly this is going to become like war very quickly, and remember, war is hell. So, with that out of the way let me essentially point out the pitfalls that made this game have potential, but then ultimately leaves you feeling like you have just been virtually robbed blind.

For starters, the whole "training tutorial" is comprised of several slides depicting some very vague information. They pretty much cover the basis of trench warfare along with your "classes" and their progression system, but you will quickly see that this means absolutely nothing at all. They don't tell you much in terms of controlling your character, so I suggest you look at your options before jumping into the gameplay.

Each game is like a massive war fought over and over again. There are multiple squads of 4 with open slots, and you can only select your character by which empty slot available. You can be an NCO, rifleman, machine gunner or grenadier. If in a squad, rifleman, machine gunner and grenadier are all taken, you can only spawn in that squad as an NCO, so if you wanted to be something else then you're forced to pick a different squad. If no position you want is available, you're S.O.L. For this example of my nightmare I chose NCO. Now, there are two modes you can play, Online or Offline. I just jumped right into multiplayer to see what's what.

Right from the beginning I found that the graphics are something I would expect from the original Xbox system, laughably poor at best. The character modeling is elementary quality and the atmosphere and environment almost makes you wish they robbed other quality FPS games because you're starting to feel like the one whose money was stolen from. I can honestly say that there are no redeeming qualities in the graphics department what so ever.

The only highlight I found in any of the presentation is the military song that plays in the beginning of each level, yet that's because the sounds of Verdun are just as horrendous as the graphics. The weaponry sounds are unrealistic and the voice of the NCO signaling a charge made me cringe every time. This is what I experienced as soon as I jumped into my game so I thought, why don't I try going through my options and switch weapons, which was a mistake because as soon as I hit Y to switch weapons (which were my binoculars), I get shot and killed and was forced wait 30 seconds to spawn in again. 30 SECONDS.

I waited my lengthy 30 seconds and respawned in only to see on my screen an icon that looks like an upside down pyramid and it says "MOVE HERE", so I follow instructions and work my way to that point. On my way there I get a pop up message with a countdown clock that says "Get back in 'X' seconds or you will be killed for treason." At first I didn't listen to it and managed to get to the point that the game said to go to, the countdown clock wound down to 0 and I was instantly killed for treason.

Yes, I went and followed what the game told me to do and got killed. SO I WAIT ANOTHER 30 ****ING SECONDS ON RESPAWN. Sigh. OK, so I wait my 30 seconds while pondering the meaning of the existence of this game and I come to the conclusion that the warning message > in game move message. This brought my attention though to the mini map on the bottom left hand side.

Here you can see the dividing line that your soldiers fight over. If you can manage to hold the line, your team will advance, but they will also face tough opposition to take the next line, thus creating an ever shifting balance, and should, god forbid, you have an overwhelming force, you will be rewarded with penalties. Yes, the game will actually penalize you if you are on a team with more people than the other; more concerned with being fair than realistic. Do you think in real life that a squad of 10,000 troops would say "Oh we are only up against 1,000 enemy soldiers? Well then we should just kill off about 7,000 of our men and make it more of a fair fight." No, you would never hear of that because that notion beyond the comprehension of anyone with an IQ of 2, but that's what you have here.

So, now I'm back in the game and I switched out to my binoculars, which apparently fixate at only a specified range, and I can bring up an action menu with my Right Bumper that offers me two choices: move or artillery strike. I also see a small red icon that moves with my point of view and depending on the triggers pushed, will signal either a strike or a move order. The strike proved to be my most useful killing tool as just after I launched it I ended up getting killed (your field of view is dramatically narrowed to next to nothing in binocular view).

Again, I wait in the respawn of hell. Now I'm an even 3 kills and 3 deaths. I respawn again and proceed to try and kill someone with my pistol. I see an enemy soldier approaching and I decide to flank from his right side. I approach within feet from behind him, press the Left Trigger to bring up the sights and click the Left Stick to hold my breath. I say a prayer, pull the trigger, and hit absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. I unloaded 10 rounds and didn't kill the enemy at all. I didn't even see if any of my rounds hit him. The enemy turns around, fires once, kills me and I'M OFF TO RESPAWN AGAIN! Now my total k/d ratio stands at 3-4.

I respawn again and within 4 seconds I take another bullet to the knee and I have to respawn again. Mercifully the game ended so I decided to take my meager amount of xp earned and try to find other matches, but thanks to some incredibly bad server issues, I found myself being forced back into the same hellish nightmare I just escaped from. I forced myself for whatever sadistic reason, to continue playing the game and hopefully find some form entertainment or enjoyment that would allow me to at least see a very vague reason why someone would, in the name of all that is holy, charge $20 for it. I searched beyond the center of the universe for this answer and found nothing. That's when I thought I would cut my losses and try the offline mode.

This mode was just as frustrating. Are you kidding me? The AI team looked like they were sleeping during bootcamp in terms of military tactics. I saw one character literally run into a wall non-stop, then an enemy came over the wall in front of an AI soldier, and my soldier who was running into the wall did nothing. Not one thing. Then the enemy AI shot him once and killed him. That's when I started to think more about this and what it represents, and I got upset. I'm sorry, but this has to be insulting to the men and women, or their family members, that actually took part in WWI, or in any military engagement.

To see such a pathetic attempt to try and deliver an experience that honors the people who fought and died during that war and charge 1/3 the price of a full retail game is almost theft in my opinion, and the developers of this game need to be ashamed of themselves for such a disappointment.

I feel that after this tremendous disappointment, everyone who purchased this game deserves a refund. Men and women gave their lives in one of mankind's most pivotal moments in history and this crap is how these developers pay homage? And they charge $20 for it? The graphics are poor, the sound is unrealistic, the networking is pitiful, the controls are pathetic and yet you are asked to pay for this experience. Do yourself a favor, VerDON'T buy this game.

Overall Score: 3.0 / 10 WRC 6

For many of us, we use cars as tools in our lives. From making our daily commute to work, to running errands, we as humans spend an overwhelming amount of time in our cars. For the vast majority of drivers however, that's about as far as most of us take our relationship with cars. We see them as a tool and nothing more, however, what we may be unaware of is the amount of history and influence that the World Rally Championship has brought us. It's this level of importance and excitement that Kylotonn has tried to infuse into their latest entry into the world of Rally racing with WRC 6. So let's start our engine and see if we can make it to the end in one piece.

For those that may not have played their rally games, Kylotonn is on a quest to deliver the premier Rally experience. For those who may not know what the World Rally Championship is, imagine taking a car like a Ford Focus, give it a turbocharged 300bhp power core, studded tires, a human GPS passenger and tell it to drive along this gravel pathway along the side of a mountain while reaching speeds of over 100mph, and do not crash. That's the type of racing you can expect from just one location though, and the beautiful thing about the WRC is that it travels all over the world, from dodging wild animals that may be crossing the road in Africa, to dodging solid snow drifts over 7 foot high in some of the Scandinavia rallies, everything is included.

Now each of these races is set up in stages and your primary goal is literally get from point A to point B in the shortest amount of time. That time is then added to your time in the next stage and that total is added to the next race after that and so on. At the end of all the stages, the driver with the lowest time wins the Rally. So your primary goal is to beat the clock, and while that may sound simplistic, once you get to try and drive your car, you'll be rapidly singing a different tune. These cars almost glide over the ground in the hand of a master. While focusing on controlled slides, sweeping drifts, and tight hairpins, the car itself almost seems to be in a state of suspended animation, however like everything in life, when you start out you're going to be incredibly horrible. This is because the play control for WRC 6 is almost its very own hybrid style.

WRC 6 is not an arcade racer by any sense of the word, yet it's not a simulation either, so what we're left with is a game that is having a bit of an identity crisis. This saddens me because you can tell that Kylotonn has gone to great lengths just to deliver on the promises to take the feedback from the previous game to heart and come back with a release that should be the WRC experience we all wanted to have. One of the biggest gripes has to be the penalty system. See, when you go to view NASCAR as a fan you're partying it up under protection, however in World Rally Championship you're literally open and exposed and can get so close to vehicles you could high five the driver as they passed by. This type of experience is exhilarating to say the least, but this excitement also comes with danger as several spectators have been killed. Now how do you think a game like WRC 6 addresses your car, going 80mph into a crowd all because you forgot to slow down and apply your handbrake to make the corner?

They give you a 12 second time penalty. Yes, everything you do in the game that could result in you off the track for any reason will get you a penalty. Go slightly off the track and hold the X button to reset the car and it's a 2 second penalty. Should you go way off, the game will automatically reset your car and you will receive a penalty of 8-10 seconds. The only realistic penalty they offer is a 30 second one for puncturing a tire. This punishment delivery system will mean that you will be restarting races many, many times over, or settle for a 7-minute stage time. You'll find this out rapidly because WRC 6 throws you way into the deep end after it asks you the small questionnaire by putting you right into a rally stage, enabling you to figure out how the cars handle and how you should really think about handling the course. Before you go though you can watch as the person in front of you takes off which allows you to see what the course is like, but with over 3 minutes of viewing the ability to memorize every turn, dip, and obstacle is almost impossible. Despite this, I cannot stress enough, you will want to watch the car because of another gripe I have, your co-driver.

Driving in WRC has a driver, but also a co-driver whom reads out directions to you as you're thundering down the path at 70mph. These directions not only tell you what gear to be in, speed to take, but also what position and line to drive and so on. If you're new to Rally then the language will seem like some form of alien code. You'll hear things like "over crest, 3 tight left, don't cut into 4 narrows, caution rocks, into 5 tight right..." and again, all while you're flying down the track at 70mph. Now while this ticker of information comes flying at you along with all the rocks and trees and everything else, you'll find times where your co-driver says absolutely nothing for a few moments. It's like he suffers from a bout of sudden narcolepsy, so while you're trying to figure out how to drive the course, you almost have to use the Force when your co-driver decides to be quiet.

Now all of this you will experience before you get done with your first introduction to WRC 6. I strongly, and I mean borderline forceful, suggest you drive that introduction rally till you become one with the car and learn how the car handles and how you must approach the courses. After that education session, it's time to open up into the game of WRC 6. You'll have options to go into your main solo campaign, multiplayer, and some time attack challenges. In the solo campaign you'll find over 60 Rally stages that cover every combination of weather, visibility and type of terrain. As a special treat, WRC 6 also sports 11 Super Special Stages which Kylotonn claims to be a laser mapped 1-1 scale replicas. And you know what? They're right. I was stunned at this so I looked up the stages to verify, and my jaw hit the floor. As you progress you'll naturally be moving up in class and in cars which is good because not only do each of them handle and perform differently, they all look quite stunning as well.

This is because the graphics of WRC 6 really have moments where they shine. It's great to have an officially licensed FIA WRC game, so now you get all the real drivers which helps deliver an added punch of realism, and speaking of adding realism, the visual effects such as dust, fog, night time headlights, combined with physical damage to your actual car to encapsulate the entire visual package into one amazing experience. This is supported by the sounds of WRC 6 as well. You'll hear your exhaust "pop" during shifting, the rev of the engine, the tires straining to hold onto every inch of grip possible and even the gravel stones kicking up under your car ring true and through your speakers to help construct a violent, yet realistic sonic journey.

All this amazing Rally experience carries over into multiplayer and all the other race gametypes, including split screen, but you will notice some degrading graphics due to the halved screen size. Now sadly I cannot comment on any external wheel and pedal control system integration so I was unable to accurately test such feedback. I will say though when the dust settles, WRC 6 strives hard to dethrone another Rally game, and even though the effort is valiant, the issues that exist, especially pertaining to the gameplay, prevent it from overtaking it. However, if we see another improvement leap like what we have seen between WRC 5 and 6, I think we can start to see Kylotonn start knocking on the door of such companies such as Turn 10. If you're looking for a solid Rally racing experience, you can't do much better than WRC 6.

Suggestions: Tighten up the control system. Would love to see official WRC stages throughout the entire game.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands

For the longest time the Tom Clancy Ghost Recon series of games have been a source of both incredible enjoyment and tremendous frustration. This has always been part of the experience and while the more recent releases have shown an attempt to get things right, it always felt like something was missing. So, with Ghost Recon Wildlands, the latest game in the series, have Ubisoft finally worked out the finer details of how to improve upon this series, or have they published a game that would have Tom Clancy himself say it's fubar? Even with a few hiccups I think you may be quite surprised.

If you have never played a Ghost Recon game before you should know that your character is in charge of an elite squad of some of the top military soldiers that the U.S. has to offer. You are outfitted with advanced technology and weaponry and whisked away too distant, real world settings, where there are always numerous quests too complete and tons of enemies to kill. Upon saving the world you usually find yourself with little left to do, except play multiplayer, which can become tiresome as it doesn't hold the grasp of a gamer like other FPS or 3rd person shooters. This however, isn't the case anymore. Thanks to games like The Division, Ubisoft has really grown in leaps and bounds in terms of sandbox development and now they have directly applied what they've learned to the Ghost Recon series, and that's only one reason why you should be very, very excited.

Ghost Recon Wildlands puts you in the country of Bolivia. It has become overrun with corruption by a drug cartel. This cartel has its hands in every aspect and facet of Bolivia's operations, from bribing politicians, military, police and more, to silencing through intimidation and death, anyone who may raise a voice in opposition. While the revolution against the cartels has almost been suffocated, there is still hope that one day the fighters of the revolution will be able to stand against the military might of the cartel, but what they don't know is that one day soon their prayers will be answered. This hope is what keeps the country's citizens going while they have become enslaved as the cartel exploits them to produce the new main cash crop, cocaine. With a USA asset so deep undercover that he became the 2nd in command, his execution at the hands of the cartel raises questions and pisses off the U.S. government. This loss triggers the Ghost Recon team to drop in with a couple of goals in mind:

1. To empower and free the civilians from the control of the cartel.

2. Totally destroy the cartel and its network of affiliates.

The premise for the game is one that we have seen before in other games; however, the execution is what makes this game unique. For starters, when you first start your single player experience, if you press what I'm calling the back button, you can bring up a menu system where you can toggle between map, skill point assignment, loadout, and more. If you go to your map and press the LT to zoom out you will get a sense of just how big the game environment truly is. The map is divided up into sections (provinces) and each section has a series of missions and a number of collectibles to obtain to fully complete it.

While the map may be divided into sections, in this game you can go where ever you want right from the beginning. When I started out I spent about 8 hours alone exploring and just having fun with side missions and quests before I started off with the main story quest. The freedom to play how you want is incredible, but before you go bounding through the woods and fields and over the mountain tops, you should be aware of your factions.

There are three factions in Ghost Recon Wildlands, the Revolutionaries, the Cartel, and Unidad. While the first two are self-explanatory, the Unidad are considered to be military and will hunt you with extreme weaponry and ferocity. They will also attack Cartel members should any start shooting, so when you have a mix of both Unidad and Cartel fighters sometimes picking a fight between the two can produce some incredible, outpost clearing, fun. Now, similar to the police in Grand Theft Auto, the more Unidad soldiers you kill, the higher the Unidad patrol rating climbs which brings out other Unidad toys such as helicopters and military vehicles for you worry about. By the time the patrol rating is maxed you will be under such insurmountable onslaught that you may find it best to just run for your life. So while you're off killing Cartel members and rescuing more Revolutionaries, always keep a look out for Unidad, and if you have to engage, do it quietly so as to remain hidden. This can be accomplished thanks to your gear, or more importantly your drone and teammates.

I can't not stress enough how important your drone and team are to your existence. I suggest you hit the start menu and go to the tutorial option where you will learn about pressing up on the D-pad to engage your drone and down on the D-pad to engage your binoculars, etc. Earlier you read that I mentioned a menu where you can allocate skill points, and in that menu you can upgrade many elements from your drone, your squad, your own person, your weapon, and more. In order to accomplish this, you have to first collect the needed number of skill points which you can find at various outpost and enemy stations, as well as when you level your character up. Once you have the necessary skill points, you have to focus on your resources.

The revolution needs resources in order to fuel and fund their operation against the Cartel, so it's up to you to secure the resources. These range from fuel, food, medical supplies, and even communication resources, and all of them are vital to leveling up your character. Don't worry, if you should fail a mission another chance will respawn after you leave the area. Now when you have collected enough resources and have enough skill points you can upgrade the various elements which increase in value as you climb through the ranks and along the skill tree. Starting out I worked to focus on increasing my drone's battery, range and night vision. Then I focused on gaining the max number of Sync Shot options which gave me the ability to take out up to 4 enemies at once (3 if you don't shoot at one yourself). Let me explain to you why that made my life so much easier.

For starters I have to point out that your team AI isn't the best in the world, in fact it borderlines on silly at times, except for the Sync Shot. You scout an area for enemy targets, then after you have marked them automatically via your drone or binoculars, or even by weapon zoom, you can then designate up to 3 targets (4 is you shoot one) that you can have your 3 stooges eliminate. Once all the targets you selected have been lined up, just hold the A button down and like the London Bridge they all fall down. This can make overtaking any compound, even a Unidad one, much easier, so long as you use patience and tactical recon to see where the "stragglers" are that can be picked off. Normally this consists of sniper towers first, and then other random enemies that are away from others. However, all this prep can be helped if you just take the compound at night when people are sleeping. Then you can just walk up to one, grab them right out of their bed and knock out them out, and you won't wake a soul. Remember, when taking a compound, or any other enemy installation, silence is golden.

To do all of this however, you have to get used to the play controls, which can be a bit touchy to get used to. The LS and RS control your movement and direction of sight, and because the game is so open you won't have many issues with trying to position the camera into a good vantage point. Swapping weapons with the Y button is easy, and double tapping the Y button will switch out to your pistol. I did find a few issues with the play control such as times when the movement does feel clunky instead of fluid or when you go to hold the X button to tag resources you find in the field; you HAVE to be facing one part of the resources in order for you to successfully tag them. You can't approach from the sides and expect to tag them and it's things like this latter annoyance that is one of several minor detail issues that detract from the game itself. We got a similar taste of these gameplay issues in the Division, and it seems like they continue to plague this game as well.

I do have to point out though that the game is visually beautiful. Sitting on top of a mountain while you overlook a village next to a body of water while the sun is setting is absolutely hypnotic. The varying terrain and its corresponding vegetation and foliage, and how you can interact with it, is amazing. For example, a hovering helicopter hovering above overgrown grass, or how the water reacts to a helicopter flying low, is remarkably life like. The effects are truly a spectacular sight, however, the music and soundtrack to this game leave a lot, and I mean a very lot to be desired. While the gun noises and other sound effects are done moderately well, there's no real soundtrack that leaves you wanting to hear more of it. In fact, wherever I go I end up shooting all the radios and turning off all radios in the vehicles because I just don't want to hear that noise. I did though turn on some Apocalypse Now tunes and piloted my boat during the sunset and that moment felt absolutely amazing, and not one bit of audio came from the game. That's very disappointing.

There are a few more issues that need to be touched upon and one of those is your AI. Earlier you read that I thought your three squad teammates were like the 3 stooges at times and when you increase the difficulty you have hyper sensitive enemy AI, but your squad gains absolutely nothing in terms of performance increase. Plus, another thing that I never understood is how your squad mates, who have been in the service for years and are the tops in their field, find a challenge when taking on some tattooed cocaine thug wearing a tank top, sunglasses and an carrying an AK-47. These are targets that should naturally be dropped while at great distances, yet your team can literally walk right by them and nothing will happen, but if you peak your head right out of a clump of bushes it's like you set off some territory wide explosion that draws every enemy to your position at once. Other issues include minor bugs like your squad members not getting into vehicles you're controlling, or having them running around like they are looking into the sky, and while not game breaking they make the overall product seem unpolished at times. Nothing though, will prepare you for multiplayer.

Now, multiplayer is supposed to be the backbone of this game. You can jump in and out of any public game you wish, or you can have up to 3 friends together in a group. Now for the good news first. When you have 3 quality friends who work as a team and communicate, then you're truly getting the best that Ghost Recon Wildlands has to offer. Now for the bad news, that wonderful experience will happen very little of the time, especially if you're trying to play a public co-op session.

When you have other people in your squad their individual actions and outcomes will affect you as well. Let's say you want to infiltrate a base and go after some objective, and someone in your party decides to drive a car right in the middle of the base with horn blaring, well thanks to that guy you now have an entire armed base drawing guns immediately. On the plus side, another good point about the multiplayer aspect is how if you have a mission already completed and you join someone who is working on that mission, you will still earn XP and rewards from the mission, but your character progression will be halted until you move onto a mission you haven't done yet.

Another drawback of multiplayer is that you don't share resources. If you're in one building and your teammate finds resources in another building right next to you, then you have to go into that building just to collect the resources. This is an impact because you have to wait for everyone to make sure they get their medals or resources before you continue on, or you'll leave them behind. This is a natural drawback you will find when are trying to play a tactful, squad based shooter as there are more bad apples than good, so you'll naturally be playing more single player which then takes away the multiplayer experience.

Another drawback of the multiplayer experience is that if you have only one other teammate, then the other 2 squad members that you did have vanish. There is no AI to fill in any empty multiplayer slot, so unless you have 3 other friends to play with, you're going to have a depleted squad.

There are other glitches such as your multiplayer friends going invisible on your screen, or having car framerates slow and glitch to an almost complete stop, and all of these add up to bring about some blows to the body armor of Ghost Recon Wildlands. You have about as much of a chance to have a bug free multiplayer session as Stevie Wonder has of passing a vision test.

Another gripe I have is that there really isn't anything innovative about Ghost Recon Wildlands. You go through the different areas of the map and while you're uncovering it, you unlock various side quests and main missions within that area which help discover collectibles. Once I had uncovered the map section (my choice of transportation is helicopter), I would complete all the missions and gather the collectibles and then go on to the next section and repeat the same process. This can get tedious as there's no real difference in terms of missions, but if you think about it, there really isn't any other choice. It's a natural limitation that is found in such a narrow scope that it's impossible to break from. So essentially it's a type of game experience that naturally forces itself upon you.

I've deliberately left out micro-transactions discussion because outside of having an unnatural hatred for them, I think that if a company wants to include more content that can alter the gameplay to the consumer, then either include it upfront or in a DLC pass. But in the spirit of moving forward, after all that I can honestly say that Ghost Recon Wildlands is one incredibly enjoyable experience.

Despite the noted flaws and imperfections that permeate some facets of this game, I can easily see this title draining many months and moons from one's life, and you'll be smiling most of the way. If Ubisoft can improve on the quality that is Ghost Recon Wildlands, the future looks incredibly bright. That being said, our focus is on the current game, and overall it is one that can be very enjoyable, and if you find the right online players to play with, the game can be even better. Tom Clancy fans owe themselves the time to check this game out, as it is good enough to satisfy a gamer's craving for action, stealth, and a very large world to explore.

Suggestions: Polish the game's technical issues.
Improve some of the gameplay.

What is there is a great starting point and an addictive one, fixing the noted points can only make this a better game.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Ride 2

They say imitation is the best form of flattery, and if that is true then Ride 2 from Milestone S.r.l. has given some tremendous flattery. Ride 2 recently released on the Xbox One, and while the original had enough issues to give the game a flat tire, Ride 2 attempts to stay on track by incorporating some of the best qualities found in other top tier racing games. Now, you may be thinking that there hasn't been a good bike game developed for a long time and you would be right. This is due to the physics of multiple items in a 3-dimensional plane of existence instead of just one. So what does Ride 2 offer?

You just heard me mention about the challenges pertaining to creating a true motorcycle racing experience as opposed to a racing experience involving a car. This is primarily due to a few complex reasons. First off, the multiple breaking system used within the different corners offers varying degrees of control and function, and while some may claim it's similar to using the e-brake in a car it's not. While a car has a low center of gravity and a wide body to grip the road, a bike does not. This means that acceleration and control have to be fine-tuned using complex algorithms that have to take into account another problem, the rider. The rider IS (caps inserted for emphasis) the bike's center of gravity and it's not in a fixed position. If you want to do a proper motorcycle simulation you have to account for the way the bike will handle while shifting this center of gravity to different points on a bike which is something you don't have to worry about in a car. This is why I tend to think of a playing card. If you lay it flat on the table it has the same properties of a car, but turn it on its edge and that will give you a rough idea of a bike's properties.

This is why Ride 2 tries hard to incorporate the varying degrees of physics needed to make a quality virtual motorcycle racing experience. For the most part they succeed. With an ability to adjust the racing experience, you'll quickly come to experience everything I just mentioned should you be brave enough to switch the bike assists off and have to manage your own weight on the bike at all times. There is going to be a learning curve in regards how to handle a bike at high speeds and in cornering, and depending on how real of a simulation you wish to have, your chosen level will also determine how steep a learning curve you have ahead of you.

Case in point, I tried to do my entire first race in 1st gear, not on purpose of course. Yup, the light hit green and I floored it, which in turn caused my front end to lift, like ET going home, and within the first 50 feet I was already sliding along my backside and completely detached from my bike. I tried again and again, and admittedly it wasn't until my 5th retry or so that I figured out that the B button changed gears. That helped out tremendously....until I took my first corner.

This is when I realized that going 162 MPH into a sharp right hand turn was more of a fantasy I had in my head than something that was obtainable in this digital reality. I tried to lock my brakes but all that did was throw me like a lawn dart into a guardrail and over the side. It was here that I first discovered the magical LB button for rewind (just like you'll find in Forza) and after a while I finally got the hang of controlling the throttle response around corners and that's when things became very enjoyable, and less violent and abusive to my rider. And speaking of riders.

You get to create your rider from a small amount of pre-loaded variables. There isn't a great deal of customization and what is available is relatively pointless, so you'll essentially be here for only a few short minutes and then move onto your first race. You'll have the option right from the beginning to launch into the more linear campaign of single player style races, but there is also quick race, online racing and more. Being completely ignorant to the game's physics engine is where I decided to tackle the single player races first (this is where the story earlier above you just read of my colossal incompetence comes from) and it is also the same area I got to see just what Ride 2 brought to the table in terms of content along with quality.

For starters you'll see a plethora of options in terms of how many bikes are offered, how the races are structured, the customization limits applied to each bike, and so on. I selected my first bike and wanted to see what customization options it had so I pressed the X button and dove right into a "Forza-esque" upgrading system that I've seen for years. Intrigued by this I wanted to see how the tuning options related to a motorbike, and sure enough, in a similar fashion, I had the option to tune my front and rear brakes, suspension and more just in a similar fashion found in other games that rhyme with "Morza".

I had a limited number of bikes so I decided to go with some of the amateur races first (I had no choice since the other difficulties were locked until the previous races were completed). Each class contained about 6 races that varied from traditional 3-lap races to various mini games such as overtake 'X' number of riders for a gold medal. I went through the various pre-race options, and again I saw a heavy influence that was taken from other racing games. I was perplexed as to the amount of liberty taken at recreating various aspects and wanted to see how many more similarities there were, and I was shocked.

One of the biggest was the panning camera that you see cover a newly purchased bike. It almost follows an identical path to the camera system found in Forza games. This got me thinking though, why wouldn't you infuse similar elements into your game if you already know that what your basing it off of is an incredible racing simulation? Then the answer hit me, it's not about incorporating those elements into your game, but rather perfecting the content within the game itself that leads to the incorporation of such systems. Essentially what I'm trying to say is that just by incorporating elements from more successful games into your own game doesn't make it great. What makes it great is perfecting the content within the game itself. This can be easily seen in a games' graphics.

While Ride 2 tries to capture the Forza camera system, sadly the environments do not look nearly as impressive. To tell you the truth they feel tremendously dated. In one easy comparison, you'll instantly recognize Nurburgring in Germany. You note that a lot of the tracks are merely large tracks that are broken up into different sections, but all of it feels like it's something we could have seen back on the Xbox 360's early years. This is quite shocking since the install size of the game is over 31GB of space, the bike count is just over 170 and the load times are again quite lengthy. Just starting the game is quite long and in-between races you're looking and close to a minute of waiting. Unfortunately, this was not addressed in the almost 10GB patch that came with the game. Sound is not bat though, as you know you are racing a motorcycle, and you hear other ones, but that is all that caught my attention.

Despite the lackluster quality with some of its characteristics, Ride 2 still manages to provide a decent quality motorbike racing experience. With gameplay that is improved upon from the original, and many features taken from accomplished racing games and implemented within, you get the feeling that Ride 2 is a monumental step in the right direction for this series. If the original game was a reflection of this series' infancy stage, Ride 2 is easily where it starts to walk on it's own, and hopefully with Ride 3 we will see just what can happen when this game improves itself to the point where it can start to run.

Suggestions: Work on the following:

- shorter load times
- smarter AI
- better visuals
- deeper customization options

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Torment: Tides of Numenera

When I was growing up I had a fondness for the types of books that were written in a 'choose your own adventure' style. I loved how it gave you a choice in how you wanted to experience the story and the freedom to feel like you were writing your own journey. Because of my youth at the time, I didn't know at these types of stories involved multiple story arcs and conclusions, but the whole aspect has been found in some of the most successful video games ever made. Torment: Tides of Numenera, which is developed by inXile Entertainment, is one such title. Now, you may be asking who are they and why should you care. I will provide you with all the answers you seek, and more, because this could easily be one of the best sleeper hits ever found on the Xbox One platform.

Black Isle Studios developed a game way back in 1999 called Planescape: Torment, and what was brilliant about this game was that it relied heavily on story telling, but to make things smooth, Black Isle Studios did something absolutely brilliant, they modified the in-game engine found in Bioware's Baldur's Gate. This was a stroke of brilliance and it paid off. Now, many decades have passed and the successor to Planescape has finally been released and it's called Torment: Tides of Numenera. I have to touch on this because it's one story that has to be told and explains how it came to even exist.

Starting as a Kickstarter back in March of 2013, the game was originally supposed to launch in December of 2014, and it was delayed to February 28, 2017. While that number of years’ for a delay is impressive, Torment also set a record on Kickstarter as it was the highest funded video game of all time on the platform raking in a titanic 4 million dollars, meeting its original goal in only the first 6 hours of its inception on the Kickstarter platform. It was clear that the public wanted this game badly. Normally when we hear a game is being delayed we are fed the traditional corporate line about putting polish on it, or fine tuning this or that, but for a game like Torment, the sheer amount of content found within would take even the largest big name companies years to pull off, and when I say amount of content, I say that because this was one of the largest RPG's I've played in a long, long time.

When you first start off you'll have to decide what type of character you want to play as. You can play as a Glaive, Jack, or Nano. These are your traditional classes and after you've selected one you get to decide what type of abilities you have, and I must point out that Glaives are the only ones that can receive individualized weapon class training. While you can still use weapons in the other classes, the Glaives get the bonus to attack while the Nanos get the bonus to magic. The Jack class is stuck right in the middle and takes a little from both sides. This class is more focused on traps, and while ranged combat could be an option, they can easily hold their own toe to toe.

As you create your character you will also see three colored pools from which you can draw from to increase your abilities. These pools are Might/Strength, Speed, and Magic, and they are talents that you can draw from to make tasks easier. For example, if your character has to move a large object you can use some of your Might/Strength pool to make sure you move it without hurting your character. Using the LS, you move the slider to the right and you will see an increase in percentage chance for completing the task.

The trick here though is balance, because you will have to replenish your pools through the use of items or by resting, so be weary that while you may use your pools now, there may be instances lying around the corner that require the same pool. It's always good to save after you complete a task so that should you need to buy an item from a vendor to increase your depleted talent pools, you can do that, go back and then interact with that other task.

You also have skills to select from that you can increase your knowledge which in turn will grant your character bonuses for what you need to have done. For instance, spending some points on the ability to have a bonus added to your unlock skill will mean that chests, and other secrets, will be easier for you to open. Once you're done with your abilities and stats, your character is created and the story finally begins.

The history behind your character is rather convoluted. The focus of the story is your character, who is called a Castoff. There was once a man who was obsessed with leaving a legacy on the planet. To accomplish this feat this individual created a sort of biological shell shaped in the form of a person to which the individual could transfer his/her consciousness to the body so death would never claim them. This greed became self-indulging and growing, ever constant as this individual would stop at nothing to try and find ways to improve their biological vessel; however, this came at the expense of discarding husks (his former shell) as one would discard a useless tool. Over the lifetimes the individual came to be known as The Changing God.

While it was thought that these humanoid style chambers would just rot into nothingness, this was not the case as somehow the original consciousness grew and developed within the vessel. This constant drive to cheat the inevitable caused the awakening of an ancient evil called The Sorrow. This creature of evil and death is driven by one thing, and that is to maintain the balance between life and death. While this entity seeks out The Changing God, unfortunately it is also searching for all the biological husks that have been discarded over the many centuries, and this means you as well. This is a rough, and I do mean very rough, backbone of Torment's story. The reason it's so sparse is because from this small amount of information, it's up to you to continue and write the story you want to write. This is found right in the beginning of the game.

Remember when I mentioned the 'choose your own adventure' books? Well get ready to read because you will read many novels worth of text throughout Torment. Seriously, the amount of text you will read reminds me of classic RPG/adventure games where it was nothing but one text box after another. Now, you may be thinking I'm bringing this up in a negative light; however, it's one of the greatest strengths of Torment. The story work and pathway development are so strong that you really wish you could experience the entire game in one playthrough. This is because in Torment your actions not only permanently shape the interactions you may have with others in areas of the map, but your own companions as well. Some may like what you do and not, but while we have seen this type of quality in some triple 'A' RPG games, Torment takes this to a totally new level in multiple ways. Not only are your game experiences locked in, but so are your rewards and items as well.

Case in point, towards the very beginning you'll come across a group of treasure hunters or bandits, or whatever you want to call them. If you diffuse the interaction without any form of violence coming to bear, then you net 25 xp per person. However, if you fight and kill everyone, then you gain over 100 xp plus gained loot from the fallen bodies, all of which you can sell for cash.

One thing to note about confrontations, it's turn based. These moments allow your character to have a move action and a combat action per turn, and once they are done it moves onto the next character and so on. So sometimes being a pacifist, or talking your way out of things, could be bad for you and yet sometimes it can be very good.

Another example would be a small side quest I gained when I first got to the center of the first town. I saw a group of people standing around where I could see someone suffering. I talked to a person nearby who told me that they were part of a team and he escaped and that he had a "safe and foolproof" plan to get his captive friend freed. Now, hearing the details of the plan I countered his idea by letting him know I would talk to the crowd and get them unified. He thought that my option was a "hail mary" and he discarded had any potential for success. Sure enough I combed through the crowd and talked to the few available people and proceeded to provide them inspiration through my chat selection options, and after the last one was convinced, the crowd unified together and set the prisoner free.

Now, I could have gone the crazy plan route and had a totally different experience. This selective interaction is constant as the northern star and a major positive contribution to providing entertaining experiences that provide tremendous depth. All of this is observed in a three-quarter angled view that allows you to zoom in and out, and for the most part all looks quite beautiful. All the different areas have their own distinct feel and thankfully the game has the music and special effects to match, but that is all second chair to the story and plot delivery system.

All this beauty does come with a price. Granted the text is the primary aspect that you'll be dealing with in every area of the game, but every new region requires the game to load not only all the text, but all the possible story branches and decision events for that area at that time, and in turn connect it to the other areas that you may not be at yet or those that come from where your choices will make deep everlasting impacts on your gaming experience. Because of this the loading times are very long and while the game is mostly loading a seeming library's worth of text in every region, be prepared to do a lot of waiting and reading.

Other minor gripes include random freezes and crashes that occurred, but they were far and few between. I also found the movement control felt a bit sluggish while maneuvering my character around the map, but that's about it.

Torment: Tides of Numenera has a galactic size amount of content done in a method that allows players to write their own story, and while other games give an option or two, this game gives far more options. Sure, this may not have the HD graphic renderings that fans find on other big titles, but that doesn't mean that this experience falls short at all. Despite a few issues with the gameplay, loading times, and some random crashes, Torment Tides of Numenera provides one of the deepest and most entertaining RPG experiences you will find on the Xbox One. If you like turn based RPG games with more depth than a black hole in space, this game is a must have for you. What will your story say about you? Pick up a controller and find out.

Overall Score: 8.8 / 10 For Honor

When you get a major publisher like Ubisoft to put its might behind trying to perfect the ultimate "Rock, Paper, Scissor" experience, and you throw in the some of the biggest names in war, you get a rough idea of the foundation of For Honor. Recently released, For Honor is Ubisoft's attempt to innovate the hack and slash genre, because let's face it, that's all you do. Hack and Slash. So, is this simplistic button masher just another generic slasher with a pretty skin, or does For Honor provide depth that will entertain you for months on end and hone your blade work?

Upon starting For Honor you're presented with numerous options for finding and creating games. However, none of this matters until you create your first character and choose which faction of three you want to fight for. You can then customize your shield, which is a simple layer system with limited available options for icons, but never the less, you can get pretty crazy with your choices, and I ended up personally spending a lengthy bit of time trying to get my emblems just right. I did note however that there are some items that can be unlocked through Ubisoft's Club, but when I saw that some were 50 Club points, I said forget that. I could understand maybe an armor design that would fit the Assassin's Creed world, or some other cosmetic change to your weaponry such as items like Excalibur, but only offering shield customization icons seems pretty weak, and charging you for them is even weaker. A small gripe, but none the less a gripe.

Having selected my character, the game automatically throws you right into the training sequence where I strongly recommend that you spend some time to learn the small intricacies of the game itself. The Left Trigger will be your best friend because that will not only help you focus on an enemy so you don't get overwhelmed, but it will also allow you to use the Right Stick to decide which angle you are going to block from. There are three possible zones to defend: Top, Left, and Right. This upside down triangle is going to be your saving grace as you will have to keep the Left Trigger held down, but move the Right Stick to the proper section to make sure you block the incoming attack. Failure to do so will ultimately result in your character taking damage, so make sure you practice blocking or go play something else, because you won't last long.

Just as the blocking is broken down into three sections for defense, those same sections apply to your offense as well. Utilizing the Right Bumper for light attacks and the Right Trigger for heavy attacks, you will quickly learn that the right time to strike is right after a successful block. The key though is that if you try to follow up a block with a heavy attack, make sure that the opponent doesn't interrupt the slow, heavy swing and land some more hits, so balancing your offense is also a paramount key to victory. The training continues to teach you proper techniques for breaking the block of your opponent by pressing X, and then following up with a throw by pressing X again, then you're sent out on your own to stake your claim against the warriors around the world, that is if you can find a stable server connection, but we'll get to that later.

From here you can choose to dive right into multiplayer, which will lead to your demise incredibly quickly, or you can go through the game's campaign. The premise of For Honor is military might and pure dominance for supremacy over the field of battle, so what better way than to experience it through the eyes of the different factions so you gain a perspective of the entire war instead of one narrow aspect. This will take you through about 18 levels and will task you to run through large, linear levels, clearing checkpoints, all the while hacking down everyone that isn't your same faction. Once you get to the end, there's always some dramatic scene that involves a fight to the death and then it's onto the next level, or chapter, in the story.

As you begin, the actions you complete within the campaign help level up your character and develop your skills by unlocking abilities that can help you in your gravest hours. To help expedite the process you can select various difficulties which all provide a corresponding XP boost; however, take note that the hardest difficulty is called Realistic, and it's called that for a reason. You can always replay missions on harder difficulties to earn more XP, but another thing that will help rapidly level up your character is the completion of side objectives, such as breakable items and scanned viewpoints. Now, throughout the missions there are breakable objects (because you have to have breakable pots in a war game right?) and when you break them you can uncover various items that will help your character overall, and then we have the viewpoints to observe.

The viewpoints really feel out of place as it requires you to be looking at a various random spots, such as up on a wall or down a hall in a side room by a door, and then you'll hear a voice describe the visual entry you just scanned. This is also a bit disorienting when you have armies charging you, flaming arrows flying past your head, and/or swords clashing all around you, yet here you are looking at the wall of a castle. Another gripe I will make about the gameplay is that the final execution window is microscopic in size. Once you land a final blow to your enemy that is a heavy attack, you will queue up an execution window where you have about a split second to hit either X or Y to execute. Doing this will replenish some of your lost health as well.

It goes without saying that the gameplay is ridiculously simplistic in terms of what to do and how to control it, but thankfully that gives you less to mess up and can lead to a more enjoyable gaming experience. Sometimes you don't need 40 buttons and 300 analog stick moves to have a good time gaming. By keeping the control and campaign simple Ubisoft allows you to essentially train repeatedly to prepare you for the heart and soul of For Honor, the multiplayer.

The multiplayer mode is comprised of many aspects you'll see throughout the campaign. For instance, Dominion will put you right at home with AI allies and it's just kill everything that's against your team while finishing some objectives till you amass about 1,000 points, then rinse and repeat. The Skirmish and Elimination modes both have issues, but Skirmish is a basically a 4v4 deathmatch, whereas Elimination essentially is last man standing. Now the common fault that they both share is that there's no way to individually single out one game mode over another. So basically when you pick Deathmatch, you have a 50/50 shot as to what game mode you get to play.

The other two modes of multiplayer focus solely on human opponents and are subsequently titled Duel and Brawl. In Duel, it's just what the title says; It's you versus one other person. The winner is the one left standing. This is where you want to go if you want to prove your worth. No teammate to blame, no evasion, just the outright skill versus skill of opponents, or what I like to call, the purest combat. Brawl is similar to Duel except that instead of 1v1, it's 2v2. This mode can get intense when you start to mix and match different character styles and different move sets. Without question you will find both your hardest challenges here as well as your greatest sense of victory and domination.

Another major victory has to come with the graphics of For Honor, because they are strikingly detailed. Every detail in the environments to those found in your character is brought to life in a way that does a sensational job immersing you into the life of the warrior. Alongside the stunning graphics is a dynamic soundtrack and voice overs that remind me a lot of the opening voice of The Lord of the Rings movies. It's little touches like this that can turn a regular hack and slash game into a truly grand adventure full of wonderment and excitement.

While all this incredible joy is being showered all over, now sadly comes the time when the hammer drops and some ugly truths are revealed. It comes with tremendous displeasure to announce that microtransactions are a huge part of For Honor. If you want to purchase a new character for instance, you'll need to have about 500 scrap (which is primarily found by destroying the breakable objects), and when scavenging for scrap this will take you an insane amount of time, so you pretty much have to engage in microtransactions just to get the character and design you want. I'm sorry, but this is something I strongly oppose and feel is a major weakness in the armor of this game. You would think that would be the worst of it, but sadly it's not.

The multiplayer aspect of For Honor involves peer-to-peer networking and not everyone is sitting on an open NAT with a 1GB fiber optic line. In fact, you'll find a vast amount of moderate and closed NAT types (how they ever enjoy multiplayer experiences is beyond me), and when that happens, the multiplayer of For Honor seems to develop tremendous lag and latency problems, which logically, will impact and have a negative effect on your gameplay experience. This is severely disappointing due to the simple fact that For Honor's heart and soul resides within the multiplayer, and if this suffers such a negative impact, I think it won't be surprising to see a community up and vanish from the game itself. So, if this issue isn't addressed, then For Honor's sustaining community will vanish and what is a social game without the social aspect?

Overall, For Honor does a great job trying to find a new way of telling a very old and very familiar story. It accomplishes so much that it does provide an entertaining way to push you through the repetition of a hack and slash game. However, when you least expect it, you get impaled right through the heart by a broken multiplayer experience where the fragments of microtransactions and more splinter through the game, and while the blow isn't fatal now, if the connection issues aren't addressed, it will be.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Doodle God: Ultimate Edition

Have you ever seen a sporting legend that stayed in their profession for longer than they should have? Someone unwilling to succumb to the truth that they are now in the twilight of their time and should gracefully step out of the spotlight and enjoy life, yet they soldier on. Doodle God does the same thing, except it's not sporting or an a legend. In fact, JoyBits is charging $9.99 for something that is so simplistic a monkey could play it, and that's probably because they would be the only ones to pay $9.99 for this game. Listen, I know I'm supposed to have an open mind for all games, but Doodle God is 7 years old. Let me repeat that: Doodle God is 7 years old. $10 for a 7-year-old game? Hmm... That got me thinking...

What in the world was JoyBits thinking? OK, for starters the game itself is about you doing one thing over and over again, which is combining two items to make more items, so on and so forth. You play a version of God who must develop and populate a planet that is in front of you. Apparently you're armed with the elements of earth, wind, fire and water. From here you literally have to open one option on the left side, and one on the right side. From there you use the Left Stick and the Right Stick to select the two various items you want to combine. If you fail, and you will countless times, then the game will simply give you an error buzz, and you continue on. If successful though, you will see an uneventful animation of the two tiles colliding and producing a new and different tile. From this new tile, you get to recombine it with everything else ALL OVER AGAIN, to see if you can make one more tile.

That's it. That's essentially all you do, matching tile after tile in boring repetition to the point where I actually caught myself drifting off to sleep, because when you take all the bells and whistles outta this game, it literally boils down to selecting one menu on the left and side, then open every single menu on the right hand side, and go through the combination process of every tile in every single menu on the right hand side. The process is so monotonous that the game tries to give you side quests and missions to do such as "make ice" or "make a mushroom", and quests like "rescue a princess from a dragon." That last quest I mention requires you to start with a limited amount of menu selections, where you must do MORE combining to fill out the rest of your squares, thus raising your completion percentage at the top left corner, and once it reaches 100% then you're complete with the mission.

To break up the tediousness of doing nothing but combining, the game breaks it up by giving you more options to do nothing more but, you guessed it, combining. Now normally I'd go off and tell you more about the control scheme and what does what, but there's literally no point in doing so as the rest of the buttons are incredibly redundant and pointless. Case in point, there's the X button to give you a hint. That's fantastic. Or you can just start making every combination possible and you'll essentially make all the hints worthless, but there is a dedicated button should you require that unnecessary hint. Using the Left and Right Triggers open menus on both sides, and you'll press the A button a lot. Remember the old Xbox videos showing that the controllers are tested in a facility and they show the buttons being pressed over and over again in rapid succession? That's you when you're playing this $10 game.

The graphics do look decent on the Xbox One, but that's not saying much for a mobile game that's nearly a decade old. Of course it's going to look better, but sadly it doesn't do anything to help cure the boredom of endless mind numbing combining. There is music in the game, but I'm unsure why. All you'll hear is the haunting sound of the error "buzzer" when you miss a combination. There is an adult setting for the game, the reason being is that apparently during the text that you read there's cursing and other "adult" ideas such as making vodka.

I have to sadly dive back into the whole combining nature and tell you that in the first stage of your development there are just shy of 250 elements you must make through combinations. Let that number sink in, then think of all the menus and all the options, all the button presses, and all the errors with an accompanying sound. When you get finished with that there's new modes, and guess what you get to do there? Yet even MORE combining.

In my opinion, this game shouldn't be called Doodle God, it should be called "match boxes together in a mildly mentally challenged state of mind until you either get so bored you quit the game, fall asleep, or just go do something else that's more productive". I think that wouldn't quite fit in the title area though so I guess Doodle God it is then.

I'm sorry, normally I'd carry on about a game whether or not it's good or bad, but I think it's pretty obvious at this point. If this game is a penny over $4.99 it feels like theft, pure and simple, so imagine how we feel about the $10 price point. If you're that hard up for literally one of the most repetitive matching games you'll ever experience feel free to pick it up, but when you feel that overwhelming sadness for having wasted $10 on something that now is the cause of your severe case of the boredoms, don't say I didn't warn you.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Sniper Elite 4

Throughout the years, the Sniper Elite games have taken leaps and bounds in terms of progression as they have tried to deliver the most realistic sniping experiences you will ever play on a console. Having originally only played the first game, I felt that premise was good; however, the execution I found to be substantially lacking. Now though, throughout multiple years and multiple evolutions, Sniper Elite 4 has launched, and like a fine wine, this series has only gotten better with age. In fact, I can say right now that this is going to be one of the predominant sniper experiences that you can find on the Xbox One console at this moment. Now without further ado, let's take a peek inside Sniper Elite 4.

Right from the opening menu you're faced with a few options to get your sniper experience going. These range from single player campaign, multiplayer, co-operative, and shooting range. Wanting to see how the bullet physics evolved I first loaded up the shooting range. Here you can take a variety of rifles out to the range and see which one feels best for you. When you enter the range (as is the case with every mode in Sniper Elite 4) you will have the choice to select the difficulty. This difficulty determines just how the game itself will react with your sniping. Bullet physics mean almost everything in this game, but as I was starting out, I selected normal which included bullet physics (which does include drop) and more.

As soon as everything loaded up I could see a dramatic improvement in the graphics and I started to head to the armory. It was here I went through the different rifles and noted the pros and cons of each. Once I selected my rifle I headed across to the firing range where I had the chance to hit both stationary targets and moving ones from a distance of 10 meters to over 150. Now there are somethings I have to mention up front.

First, if you have an Elite controller, you will want to cancel out the trigger lock for both triggers and I'll tell you why; Sniper Elite 4 combines a 3 stage aiming system where the first stage is just firing from the hip and is very inaccurate except at very close range. The second stage is a shoulder fire and this is what we've come to expect from a 3rd person shooter, and then finally you have your zoomed in scope aiming where you are able to pick off individual organs of your enemies. Now, should you have your trigger lock engaged you will never be able to go into the final aiming system, so you'll be limiting yourself to either hip fire or shoulder fire.

During my time in the shooting range I spent a few moments getting acclimated to switching between the 2nd and 3rd stages of aiming and I noticed that the game seems to hesitate just a hair when switching between the two which gives you a sense that the game is "locking in" the point of view you wish to use. But just getting used to the aiming modes and bullet physics is only part of the education, as there's one last major factor you have to learn to manage, and that's your breathing.

On the bottom right hand side of your screen you'll see a meter filled by a blue line which represents your stamina or "breath." When you are looking through your aiming sights you will see that this meter shifts to become a large meter on the left hand side of the screen. You can press in the Left Stick to hold your breath which will bring up a bullet targeting reticle which will tell you when you pull the trigger and the bullet will go there.

Now, as you continue to hold your breath, the meter will grow and the bullet targeting will substantially get smaller to indicate a more accurate shot. This mode is only temporary because as the meter increases to the top, it will change from blue to flashing red. thus reset all together and you will have to wait for the 'cooldown' period before you can engage in a precise shot.

This meter doesn't just deplete upon holding your breath, but it also depletes upon your character sprinting, but thankfully freezes at current levels while climbing or hanging from a ledge. This means that should you be sprinting away to a higher vantage point, upon your arrival you could find yourself out of breath and having to wait a few moments before you can start to acquire your targets.

I left the shooting range and decided to check out the other modes. Now given that this was an early review copy I could not find others to participate in any multiplayer or co-operative games; however, after going through the various menus I was impressed to see such a solid structure for both platforms of gameplay. In co-operative missions you can do things like spotter/sniper co-op or even tackle the main campaign missions together which could lead to some absolutely amazing sniping crossfire action. You have the option in both gameplay modes to er find a game in action or create your own through a private lobby system.

Multiplayer includes various modes such as Team Deathmatch and more, and both gameplay modes allow you to customize the settings such as level, difficulty and more. Even though I was unable to experience these modes due to the game simply not being out yet, I got the sensation that there has been tremendous focus to ensure the stability and entertainment in these modes is maintained for all players.

With the inability to find both multiplayer and co-operative modes I switched my focus over to the main campaign of Sniper Elite 4. Taking place during Hitler's rise to power and the territorial onslaught that the Germans had with their allies, the Italians, it's up to you to try and help your own allied nations overcome the growing terror threat and reclaim strategic positions in the regions to help liberate the neighboring lands and crush the opposition.

While the premise is historical, it does boil down to one simple thing, a massive sandbox full of enemies to kill and objectives too complete. After the first mission you are given what I'm calling a loading area where you will find various allies who, when you talk with them, will give you optional side quests to achieve during your mission. Then once you have acquired all your intel from available sources, you will proceed to one area of the map to start your mission.

Once you arrive in your mission area, if you press the back button you will see an overview of the entire map itself. In my gameplay time, I would plan my points of attack, and quite often I would find myself advancing to a certain point on the map where I would back track (sometimes all the way back to the beginning) and consult my map on how to traverse down a secondary pathway that would lead me to where I came from, but from a different vantage point which allowed me to seemingly create a pinch from both sides.

It must be pointed out that the enemy AI in this game isn't the brightest, but what they lack in overall intelligence, they more than make up for in numbers. However, they are substantially intelligent though compared to other shooters. For example, in one mission I tried to take out someone's liver and I missed, so this person dropped to the ground but wasn't dead. Another soldier found him, picked him up over his shoulder, and walked him back to what he thought was a safe area, where he set the enemy down and knelt down and patched him up, resulting in my downed target up and walking around.

So granted yes, there is a heavy dose of fantasy (last time I checked a sniper rifle round to the chest back in those days was pretty fatal), but you'll find that the number one thing that will give you away is sound. Your sound can give you away, but it can also be your friend if you figure out how to use it to your advantage. To do this I armed myself with my trusty rock, whistle, and combat knife. You'll see why I chose to bring a knife to a gunfight.

During the last mission I played I killed over 132 enemies, 117 of those were from knife kills. The way I did this was sound management and playing off some of the stupidity of the AI. The mission placed me within a small town so there were lots of buildings, and the town was adjacent to a neighboring church. Upon starting the mission, I pressed in my Right Stick, which brought up my binoculars (you'll be doing that A LOT of this), and using the Right Trigger I marked my enemies on my HUD and mini map on the bottom right.

Now I could go in guns blazing and leave a wake of bodies, blood and bullets, but I wanted to experiment and see if it was possible to go through a level, such as this, firing as few shots as possible. To do this I had to stick to crouching in bushes to not be seen (which was pretty hilarious when I had an RPG strapped to my back that was sticking out about 3-4 feet above the top of the bushes that no one seemed to notice). From there I would equip my rock and while hidden in the bushes, I would angle my throw to direct only one enemy at a time to get closer to me. Once they were within range I would switch out to my whistle and call them over to the bush (honestly if I were hearing a bush whistle I'd empty a clip into the bush before I went in there, but that's just me), where I would pounce and do an instant melee kill on the enemy and the body would automatically hide in the bushes. Step one complete.

The enemy AI will say something along the lines of "There's someone missing", and for some reason they knew that this fellow soldier went missing in this one bush that I happen to be hiding in (don't ask me how they knew because I have no idea). This is where things get interesting because you will either have one lone soldier coming, or, because the soldier looking frantic will draw other soldiers near him to follow along), a small squad of soldiers (the max I ever had around me was about 8 at once) will come along. If it's a lone soldier, all you do is wait in the bushes and when they approach, use your knife and pile up the bodies in the bush.

It is here where I would use some strategy. By now a section of the patrol unit was missing and this alerts the guards in the surrounding areas and they will go to where the last known location was. But I like my bush (giggity). So, I would see a small group of about 4 enemies headed my direction. This is where I switch out to my trusty rock and throw one away from me in a perpendicular direction.

Now all 4 enemies hear the sound to their side and turn and shift focus in that direction. All 4 enemies then take off in pursuit towards that area. During this time, I press in the Left Bumper and bring up my weapon radial where I select a delayed S-mine, and it's here that I hold down the Right Bumper to rig the body with this booby trap as I pick up the body and set him away from my bush.

The 4 enemies haven't found anyone so they start to spread out, but I want them together so I arm my trusty rock and this time I throw it back to where they were originally. Now they all run back to where the sound was but this time in the road they see a body of their fallen soldier. Alarmed by this all 4 start running towards the trap laced body. Now normally upon reaching the body, the first soldier would normally get caught in the blast and maybe the second, however, since I selected a delayed version of my mine, it allowed the few short seconds to allow the other 3 soldiers to catch up only to be caught in the blast. So I've already killed 6 enemies with one mine and two knife attacks, and no shots fired.

There are other ways you can adapt your gameplay to the situation. For instance, later on in that same level I managed, through a lot of walking and observation, to find a back entrance into a compound. Standing upright and running by the ladder going up into the compound I had triggered a total of 5 enemies alerted (running upright = lots of noise), so they sent one unlucky guy to come down the ladder and check out the noise. Hiding back from the ladder I called the guy over and used my knife to take him down. From here I applied the booby trap method described earlier and managed to get three out of the remaining four soldiers.

The 4th soldier got scared and flew back up the ladder and took a defensive position focusing on the ladder itself. During this time, I decided to plant a mine at the bottom of the ladder and use my whistle to draw him in and sure enough, like a moth to a flame, as soon as his boots hit the ground he was a stain on the wall.

This type of environment manipulation plays a critical role in Sniper Elite 4 and will serve a vital role in keeping your presence very low. There are numerous types of soldiers such as regular infantry, snipers, radio beacon transmitters, officers and more, and each of them carry with them not only details about them, but possible items and weaponry as well. You can find this information out through the binoculars. When you tag an item or an enemy with the left trigger, if you leave it in focus you will start to compile information on that target. This is incredibly useful since, for example, if a soldier who uses a radio beacon sees any disturbance, or you, then they will call in for reinforcements and that's when your day goes from bad to worse, because those can consist of Panzer tanks and other military vehicles that aren't so fun to play with. Sniper Elite 4 is far more of a strategic gameplay experience than a mindless shooter.

So, we've established that this game is incredibly fun and an intense experience, however there are a few drawbacks that take a shot or two at the game itself. First have to be the graphics. Sniper Elite 4 is a beautiful game with incredible water and lighting effects, and physics that can be incredibly fun. Trucks for instance have about 3 timed explosion tiers: the first one which destroys the truck, then the engine explodes, then the cargo. One time I killed an enemy soldier by blowing up the truck and when his fellow soldier came to check on him the second explosion hit which caused the door to fire off and instantly kill the second infantryman.

However, if you find yourself rapidly trying to change your vantage point, or even run for that matter, you'll find tremendous amount of screen tearing and it's very disorienting. You almost find yourself deliberately playing the game at a slower pace that you would want just to prevent that from happening and it seems to hinder the fluidity of the game's combat. Now, this is a huge issue since acquiring targets requires you to adapt to your environment and conditions in combat and if you're being disoriented because the screen is tearing, then that's a pretty major flaw.

Another flaw comes in the gameplay. With only a few quick-select slots, but a massive selection available from the radial menu, you find that the quick-selection slots are pretty worthless since the game pauses during your radial selection. I know that the game is trying to make you prioritize what you want at your fingertips and how snipers only carry essential items; however, when you force a balance between items, traps, and weapons, you quickly realize that all of these items are essential yet there's no way to select a different set of "quick select" options, so back again you go to the radial menu. This again creates a disorienting pause effect in the gameplay, and while I used it at times to tactfully plan my next few moves, I felt again that this was a massive setback to the fluidity of the game. This is why I stuck with my rock and whistle and controlled the environment.

There are some other light RPG elements though found within the game that adds to the game's enjoyment. For instance, when you hit various levels of experience you can unlock various perks for your sniper, such as decreased fall damage, increased heart rate recovery and more. Plus, every weapon also comes with its own set upgrades that require some certain criteria to be met before it's unlocked. In my case I used my rifle and its criteria were:

- 1. - Total Kill Distance = 10Km. (Completing this upgraded my rifle's damage)

- 2. - 25 Environmental Explosion Kills. (Completing this upgraded my rifle's stability)

- 3. - 10 Liver Shots. (Completing this upgraded my rifle's zoom)

- 4. - Mastery: 25 Double Kills (This can only be completed once the first 3 criteria are completed. Upon completion you're awarded a mastery skin for your weapon and a nice achievement for mastering one weapon.)

Sniper Elite 4 has come a long way from its first initial iteration and the evolution between games is night and day. This current release has the largest maps you will ever find in a Sniper Elite game. The combat is done in an incredibly balancd Fight Vs. Flight manner, and despite the flaws in the graphics and some gameplay issues, the game is an incredibly enjoyable experience from start to finish. Every mission in the campaign has tons of collectibles to find so you'll be enjoying the exploration as you traverse all types of terrain at all points of day and night. While multiplayer wasn't available at the time, if it's execution is carried out with the same detailed precision as the game, then expect that to be a major source of hour draining fun. It goes without saying that Sniper Elite 4 set its mark high on delivering a fairly incredible experience, and despite the few faults, it has hit that mark dead center.

Suggestions: Please fix the screen tearing and provide some increase quick selection options for the user.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Pixel Heroes: Byte & Magic

Have you ever found yourself playing a game that was so addictive that you found yourself getting absorbed by the repetition? Well if you haven't, then meet Pixel Heroes: Byte and Magic from Headup Games. This game first came out back in October of 2014, and normally that would start to send up red flags as I tend to consider games like these to be cash grabs due to price points, age of their content, and more. This game though, priced at $9.99, has a crafty way to snag that crisp $10 bill from your wallet and we will get into that latter, but first, the game.

Right from the beginning you are enveloped by pixelated retro graphics that harken back before a time when those who would consider a PSone an antique were born. Now, I know that a lot of games have tried to embrace a retro vibe; however, quite a lot have gotten it wrong and I think it's because they used it for a scapegoat in development. Headup Games on the other hand actually flaunts it in your face and makes sure you realize that of course it's an easy scapegoat. There were times when my character got hit and they would comment, "even my blood is blocky!"

Before you adventure begins Pixel Heroes starts you off in a bar where you can tell the type of game you're about to get into as you read the humor in the character chat bubbles. It's here in the bar that the game will center its hub so to speak. This centralized area is where you can recruit up to three individual characters. Pixel Heroes relies on the whole "rock beats scissors" motive with certain elements and elemental weapons working well against specific types and so on.

Right from the beginning you'll be choosing your characters, which range from classes such as dwarves, knights and barbarians to herbalists (yes those kinds of herbs), witches, clerics, and more. Some will have high strength with physical attacks but weak with magic and vice versa. These are all tactics we are used to seeing in games; however, take note of strengths and weaknesses because you'll be back at the bar picking three more heroes again... and again... and again...

This is thanks to Pixel Heroes' uncanny ability to not only deliver a quality humorous experience, but the ability to openly mock and impersonate other people, movies, etc. as you wander through the paths to and from various dungeons. For instance, I was greeted by a black pixelated person wearing a black trench coat and black sunglasses who called himself Orpheous and offered me a choice to take a red pill, a blue pill, both, or I could ignore him.

Various choices you make will be either beneficial or detrimental to your party, and sometimes combat is the best choice because while you may risk taking damage, you'll also gain experience which you can use to level up, plus you can gain some gear while you're doing it. Should you ignore these events though, you'll head straight to your dungeon and start the 8 rooms that can either be a battle or test of character, and this is why I mentioned balance was so important.

You will come across chests in-game. These chests require certain levels of certain stats to open, so while one chest may require a high level of strength, another may require a high level of faith, and so on. Should your character fail in this task they will receive damage in the form of a trap that could essentially halve your full health instantly.

You may think that you're going to be ok because you have health potions, but I cannot stress enough how you need to save as many of these as you can early on because normally the only way to gain more is through combat. This is why I found a need to almost always run with a healer, as their skills will grant the ability needed to keep people alive without the need of a potion.

Now, back to the bar. So, you have your chosen three characters and the rest of the patrons at the bar leave and get all pissed off at you for not hiring them for whatever reason. After they depart in walks a pixelated crazy person wearing a sign that says the "End is Nigh!". This person foretells the doom lingering on the horizon, and after hearing his tale off your go into the village. Before you leave though, check out the band in the bar, simply called The Band.

This is where you accept your various quests. You can only select one quest at a time and the quest will take you to one of the dungeons on the map. The quests come from villagers with exclamation marks over their heads and are sold by the floating exclamation marks company who won't sell you any, but everyone else is fair game. Once you talk to a villager you'll get some sob tale of a book missing, or a ring that was lost, etc, and now you have to prepare yourself for the task ahead.

You start with 800 gold and when you see that 200 gold buys one low health potion, you quickly realize you're dead broke. There is a temple in the village where you can buy potions and resurrect your fallen heroes for a price should you need. Once your hero dies, they are dead and gone until either revived at the temple for cash or your entire party is wiped out and you're sent back to the bar to start over.

This quirky method of enforcing repetition through humor is something that dramatically helps stave off the mundane actions you will be repeating for as long as you play this. The gameplay is interesting as all heroes have weapons they can use, but they also have unique abilities which can either deal tremendous damage or aid your characters in a special way. Even the whole balance aspect can be found here, let me explain.

Let's say you get yourself a cleric, or other magic user, that has the ability to dispel any status effects (absolutely critical); however, you can gain these same immunities by equipping gear that makes you impervious to it. Do you use a character slot for a character to use that ability, or do you take your chances and try to gain equipment that will make you immune, thus allowing you to free up a character slot for something else? These are the balancing acts that will keep you going insane, but also enjoying every moment of the ride. When you do get into a fight, you'll notice it's strictly turn based. Not only is it turn based, but your 2nd turn can't involve the same character, so Pixel Heroes forces you to utilize at least two characters. Oh, and those abilities I told you about earlier, there's a cooldown period (in turns) in between uses, so use sparingly and as a last resort.

One gripe I do have is that the inventory is so small that you will quickly, and I mean very quickly, find yourself out of room, thus forcing you to trash a bunch of your gear. Because unlike Fallout 4, you can't move onto the next room if you are carrying any fraction of weight over 20. I wish there were merchants before bosses that allowed you to sell your unwanted items, but rest assured you'll be hating the inventory capacity almost after your 1st dungeon.

There are a lot of RPG elements built into this little indie game, but as I wasn't sure what to expect, and in the end I wound up actually enjoying this game quite a bit. I loved the roadside interactions and felt that the comical atmosphere made the game more enjoyable, and in the end that's one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, we play games in the first place, because we want to enjoy them. Sure, there are some faults with this game, it's a few years old, and the $10 price point may seem steep for the content you're getting. If you really enjoy retro styled pixelated games that cram RPG elements and humor into a mesmerizing mix that will result in you spending hours in trying to get everything just right, then this game is for you.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Siegecraft Commander

With all the different genres of gaming that exist in the world today, one of my favorite is tower defense games. I'm secretly addicted to the strategy aspect of trying to overcome your foe through mental preparation rather than an outright assault. Recently, Blowfish Studios released Siegecraft Commander for $19.99 and it offers a new spin on tower defense. They have combined the elements of that genre with an overall real-time strategy (RTS) core. So has Blowfish Studios created a RTS game worthy of its' price? I'm not so sure it has, let me tell you why.

To start things off, you have your choice of what game mode you want to play in the form of campaign and multiplayer, and that is it. When you choose campaign you can pick what side you want to play as. There are lizard type creatures or overpompous knights to choose from; however, none of the selections will net you any substantial benefit over the other, and neither provides any worthwhile content to care about. In essence you choose from two pointless sides in a meaningless struggle that is based on poor humor and bad writing, rather than perfecting a gameplay experience that is entertaining. For this instance of description though, I'll choose the overpompous knights.

The campaign itself is laid out like a book where each level tells its own interactive story in its own chapter of the book. While this idea is a novel one that fits the atmosphere of the game, you'll rapidly find that the levels serve to be your tutorial guide, but more than that, you'll find that the repetition of the campaign will get incredibly boring and tedious very, very quickly.

Without any sort of dynamic plot, or any substance to help drive a comedic storyline, there isn't much of anything to keep you playing the campaign outside of the numerous 100 point achievements that can be gained. Sure, you have a total of two stories to play through (one for each race), but with each one providing the same lackluster experience, you really can't fathom why you would want to subject yourself to that much mundane gameplay with so little meaningful experiences.

The object of Siegecraft Commander is simple, you build towers and construct forces in an effort to overrun and destroy your opponents’ towers and destroy the enemy Keep. While you build your towers you have the enemy AI working against you, so for all the progress you make in the level, the enemy AI will rebuild and send their forces after your towers. In our case, with the overpompous knights, I found myself throwing out Outposts like crazy.

I should clarify something first before moving on though. To construct a building, you first start with your own Keep, press the A button on it and it will bring up a radial wheel where you select what tower you wish to build. Structures like an Armory, which can lead to building airships, or a Garrison, which provides you the opportunity to build barracks to produce troops, are two such things you can build. Then there are also defenses that you can build such as mortars that can attack incoming enemy defenses, or a ballista that can shoot down oncoming enemy airships. While it's good to have these protections, they will re-arm themselves after a cooldown of about 30 seconds, so should they fire once and the enemy forces keep coming, it's up to you to defend your towers.

To do this, you must first become familiar with how to build, and that is a different topic all together. To build these objects after you select them, you will see a green crossbow above your Keep, from here you will draw back with your analog stick and then fire your crossbow. Then you will see a cannonball fire from the tower and with it you will see it drag a string of walls behind it. This is how your objects get built and how your walls connect all your objects together.

One downfall is that it's easy to block off your troops from an area if you're not careful. Thanks to the walls, any sort of land troops will have to be directed around them, which can create not only a lengthy game, since they move at a snail's pace, but it can really draw out. This excessive building of towers will eventually lead to the game grinding to a massive halt given that it's apparent that Siegecraft Commander can't handle a lot of consecutive towers on the map at one time. And speaking of the map...

On the map you will find points scattered throughout that contain either blue or yellow magic crystals. As stated earlier, you can follow a natural progression of the towers and everything they unlock; however, to unlock everything you will have to take control over both yellow and blue crystal points in order to produce everything you need, especially in the realm of magic. Magic can be costly to obtain but it can offer tremendous benefits in both cooldown times and magical shields and spells that not only provide protection for your towers, but also turn the tide of battle by attacking your enemy's towers with magic.

While all of this seems in depth, the whole building process itself is a total letdown and near disaster. Should you block your troops in, you cannot destroy your towers on your own, so you'll have to wait for the enemy to destroy them before the troops can be of any use.

While the multiplayer aspect of the game can allow for up to 4 people online, there never really seems to be a point to doing so. With all of that being said though, the game does have a decent visual look going for it. I'm not talking a phenomenal artistic rendition, but it's far better than some other indie games that have been released on the Xbox One. The sound on the other hand is insignificant to the point where I found myself actually generating overly stereotypical voices just to try and add some form of real humor and enjoyment to the game. That lasted for the first few levels and then I got bored trying to keep up with all the mediocrity and I stopped all together.

With everything taken into account, $19.99 feels like highway robbery for Siegecraft Commander. I know I normally break into some form of summary, but I had to just had to say this right off the get-go. The play controls are oversensitive, the building mechanics are poor at best, the game delivers no incentive to play past the first level, and it slows to a crawl should you build too many towers. I am honestly sorry to more negative than positive, but this is sadly our reality. If you're into RTS games then please wait till this is either free with the Games with Gold program, or wait till it's $4.99 if you absolutely have to have this game. Die hard Tower Defense fans need only apply here.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Shantae: Half-Genie Hero

Very few developers can make a platform game worth playing. While the overall design may seem simplistic, the real challenge is fine tuning all of the game's intricate aspects. Earlier this year WayForward released their game Shantae and the Pirate's Curse and now they're back. They have recently released Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, on the Xbox One, for the price of $19.99. Their previous release was met with great praise. So, has WayForward delivered another enjoyable platformer, or have any dreams of a quality game sunk before we take flight?

For those who haven't played the previous game, the series involves the adventures of a Half-Genie female who was hired to protect a town. In this adventure you are awoken, in a sort of dream realm, where you encounter a mysterious spirit who vaguely informs you of grave danger ahead, and only you have the power to prevent the future catastrophe from happening. Then it's gone, just as quickly as it appeared, and you find your character waking in her bed and trying to decide if what she experienced was real or not.

Heading into the town (in the game silly) you'll get a sense of the game's control and notice how simplistic, yet precise, some of the inputs are. Your character, Shantae, still has her infamous hair whip, and of course the dancing does return. Shantae uses her belly dancing skills for multiple reasons, such as transforming into various animals, each one providing special moves and abilities, and using magical spells designed to help her throughout each level. This time around though, there are a total of 12 different dances to learn, so with only seven stages you will find yourself replaying them over and over again should you wish to unlock everything Shantae: Half-Genie Hero has in store for you.

WayForward has managed to combine several elements of classic franchises into a method of platforming that provides countless hours of entertainment. This is thanks in no small part to the story. Normally you would think such repetition would be boring, and most of the time I'd agree with you, but Shantae: Half-Genie manages to add levity to the situation in multiple ways.

The humor injected into the storyline that prides itself in frivolity and whimsy instead of being dark, brooding and dramatic is one way the game adds this levity I speak of. Sure, there will be some serious elements, but overall the story is meant to be enjoyed with a smile on your face, and that is what you'll have. For example, in game you'll find yourself fighting Risky Boots and her pirates as she attacks you with her "Part Omni-Organic, Partially Titanic, Ocean-Optional Tinkerslug" or as Shantae calls it: POOP TOOT! Risky undoubtedly hates that name and thus a battle ensues. These types of comical moments can also be found throughout the levels themselves and go a long way to helping numb the boredom found replaying a level numerous times. Before I continue though, I have to address something about this game.

It looks beautiful. From the character modeling, the 2.5D painted backgrounds to the special effects and the animation, almost everything pertaining to the visual look of Shantae: Half-Genie Hero is a sight to behold. You almost get the feeling that you're playing a retro game, yet through the perspective of a modern day HD console platform, and you are in a sense. All the classic platformers that have staked their claim to greatness have done so by trying to deliver a visual experience to match the game you're playing, and this game does just that through HD.

The visuals are complimented by a varied soundtrack that actually quite surprised me, but sadly it wasn't quite memorable as the iconic platformers of old. Keep in mind though, I didn't say how the soundtrack surprised me. Sure, each individual land provides its own unique music, however none of it is very memorable to the point where you'd see...ahem, hear yourself humming the tune. It's more of a hodge-podge of electric synths and guitars fitted with a more Persian/Arabian personality.

There's a lot to like about Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, a humorous storyline, beautiful graphics, and gameplay control that is solid as a rock. Without a doubt, this game checks many of the boxes that make up a phenomenal platformer, but while it checks many of them, it doesn't check them all. For instance, there are familiar faces that you'll encounter throughout your journey, but there aren't as many new experiences as I had hoped there would be. When you also take into account that there is a fairly limited amount of levels and that you'll spend more time replaying levels to unlock everything, and some may believe that WayForward seems to come up a bit short when it comes to packing content into this game (Super Mario Bros had 8 main levels). That being said, this game is truly amazing though. To see how something that was born from crowd funding that has blossomed into a fantastic platformer series is pretty neat. Would I spend $19.99 to buy Shantae: Half-Genie Hero? Despite the faults, yes I would, and so should you.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Steel Rain X

Having been born in the late 70's I've had the pleasure of growing up throughout the different variants of gaming for over 30 years. There is one genre though that seems to stay as constant as the North Star, and that would be the side scrolling shooter games. Back in the day we had classics like R-Type that showed us what an alien onslaught looked like and how to upgrade our ship to do incredible things. These types of games were the foundation of what we know today. Developer Polarity Flow has released Steel Rain X on the Xbox One for the price of $9.99, and my biggest question to this would be does it do enough to revitalize the genre to warrant its' price tag?

The story of Steel Rain X is one we have seen countless times before. Humanity has collapsed and we must seek to the stars to ensure our survival. Along the journey, multiple frigates come into contact with an alien species named the Xenox (not to be confused with the copy company Xerox). Hopeful of peaceful contact, humans were caught off guard and out of the three Frigates that were dispatched only one survived the attack by the Xenox. This lone Frigate escaped to an isolated planet where scientists manage to find a way to adapt and utilize the enemy weaponry for human use. From here this weapon became an adaptable starship, and at the same time, humanity's last hope for survival. While this may sound intense for a story, the way it's laid out before you in the game itself is rather disappointingm but the plus side though is that these types of games never focus on their stories at all and instead focus on screen filling action, which I'm happy to say is the case here, despite a few hiccups along the way.

The controls take some getting used to. The Left Stick moves your ship around while the X, Y, and B buttons all correspond to your ship's firing formation, which are aptly named A, B, C. Your Right and Left Bumper, along with Left Trigger, all utilize power-ups that you collect throughout the mission or purchase from the store. Each firing mode offers its own identity in terms of firing pattern, strength, armor piercing abilities, and more. Throughout the missions, as you collect the various color upgrades, your ship and it's corresponding firing pattern will grow and intensify. Once you have the firing positions down though, you'll quickly find various colors will become your preferred choice.

Now that we've established that there will be a learning curve with the controls, let's talk about the learning curve with the real soul of Steel Rain X, the RPG elements. Imagine incorporating an element that would be reminiscent of Sim City in a side scrolling shoot 'em up game and that's what you have here. Once you beat the 3 stages on a planet you can send down a probe to colonize it (for a small fee of course). When the probe lands you will see the space open up to you and this is the land from which you will have to work with. Once colonized, you must first build housing for your civilians and then you will need power, so you will end up building a power plant. Once you have these two amenities you can start to look into developing other buildings such as a science lab, trade depot, manufacturing plant, and so much more. Through here you'll have to manage power consumption, resource development, and research progress.

There are a few tips I learned after playing for a while and that is start by focusing on building trade depots and science buildings. The reason for this is that Steel Rain X has a massive 3 column upgrade system that takes time to upgrade each node, and the more science buildings you have, the less time each upgrade takes. I managed to get one of the top tier nodes from 2 hours and 30 minutes down to just 12 minutes. But there is a problem that I found in the game, and that is the fact that the countdown timer is not accurate. Every second in the game is equivalent of 2 seconds in real life, so if you read that it takes 9 min to upgrade a node, expect 18 minutes of real time instead. There are a few other issues with the construction as well. Sometimes I would have 8/12 civilians assigned to a task, I'd build a trade depot which costs me 2 civilians, so now I'm at 10/12 assigned. I would destroy the trade depot and I would still show 10/12 assigned and some options that require more civilians were blanked out. This happened on more than one occasion and it appears that the game has a hard time even managing its own resources.

Another gripe that came into both the researching and the building menu is the pin point blue dot that is used as your selecting tool. This small dot is about the size of a point of a pen, really, it is, and it moves around the screen INCREDIBLY slow, so once you've found your dot, moving it to where you want is a chore on its own. The same goes for the research screen, however the background and the majority of the colors in this screen are the exact same color as this minuscule blue dot, so finding it is next to impossible, and once you find it, maneuvering the dot to select what you want to research is a straight up pain. I wish I could say that this is the end of it, but it's not. Not by a mile.

There are other options to pursue such as upgrades that you can purchase with coins, or building prototypes to help improve your ships, and even trading resources to buy Xenox materials for advanced weaponry. You can naturally setup your own self-sustaining system through proper building, but any and all upgrades will come only when you level up your cores, and even then you're forced into the research trees to gain access to the top tier upgrades. My issue here is trading. When you start trading you can select how much material you want; however, you cannot pick just 1 for whatever reason. You press right on the D-Pad and the numbers start to skyrocket almost instantly. I think the lowest I could ever select was 2, so plan on taking a very long time to try and fine tune just how much you want to trade. I found this process very tedious and worthless when I started to form camps that were self-sustaining.

After going through the various menus I dove into the campaign missions since my only other options were Arcade and Survival. It was here that I saw that the graphics of Steel Rain X weren’t groundbreaking beautiful, but they definitely weren’t a total disaster. Most of the time I found myself too caught up in dodging screen filling enemy fire to concentrate on the mediocre backgrounds or the decent model for the enemy ships and their variants. The sound though was nothing but a synth heavy techno blast of looped sounds that drove me up the wall. Listen, I get that they were looking for energy, but this was just way too much. I ended up turning the music down completely. It's a shame but sadly the graphics and sound don't do much to help this game along.

One aspect that I found well done was the difficulty slider that ranged from 1-10 which dramatically changed the entire feel and experience of Steel Rain X, and then if that weren't enough, the game offers up a Hardcore mode for that extra "oomph" when it comes to throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you. There were other touches as well that stood out, such as the ability to select either the main story missions, orbital patrol missions, side missions, your upgrades and more, all from the mission screen. This was a blessing because I didn't have to start switching in and out of many different menus and the mission screen acted as an almost secondary hub to the hangar.

A mixed bag of both good and bad, Steel Rain X tries to bring a new evolution into the world of shoot 'em up side scrolling games with its take on the RPG elements. Sadly, while the idea was well conceived, the execution could have been better. That being said, would I pay $9.99 for this? Of course I would. Like a kitten that is "not so cute" at birth, Steel Rain X is one of those games that you know is faulty and flawed, but it provides so much enjoyment that you can't help continue playing with it. For the price it's a fairly good value for money, and if you like shoot 'em up games then this title is most likely calling your name.

Overall Score: 7.4 / 10 Sky Force Anniversary

Growing up in arcades when I was younger, my quarters loved to find the machines that were classic top down scrolling shooters. I would waste hours upon hours shooting for top scores (editors note: pun intended), stacking quarters on the side for next game, etc. I had a chance to relive those glorious moments of my yesteryear with Sky Force Anniversary, out now on the Xbox One.

Originally released in 2004 by Infinite Dreams, Sky Force has seen numerous releases on numerous platforms throughout the years it has existed, and then in 2014 Sky Force Anniversary launched, and it too has seen release on various platforms.. Now almost 3 years later, this top down shooter comes to the Xbox One for the low price of $9.99. So after a decade, is there enough polish on this release to warrant a purchase?

Over the many, many years of gaming, top down shooters have always been sort of a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and when certain releases come out that are done incredibly well, they are herald as a resurrected force for many childhood memories. When Sky Force launched it received much praise for its quality work, and thankfully we see this here today as well with the "Anniversary" edition.

Sky Force Anniversary essentially boils down to you fighting a bad guy in a very big plane, but to get to him you'll need to tackle 9 levels of increasing intensity first. These games have really never been much about story and plot lines, but rather focused on screen filling action, a tense white knuckle grip on the joysticks, and the repeated smashing of the fire button. Thankfully Sky Force Anniversary does just that in spades. This is in part to the control layout which is very easy to pick up and play.

There is an opening sequence that will get you acclimated to Sky Force Anniversary's controls and mayhem. The Left Stick controls your ship while the Right Trigger fires your weaponry, and so on. This means that you don't have to split your focus between a screen filled with laser fire and a series of confusing and complicated menus. From there you'll see that the first level helps get you adjusted to the unending repetition that you will find throughout the rest of the game. Sky Force Anniversary is built around the premise that you shoot everything you can, then scroll forward and do it some more. You keep this simplistic pattern going until you come across an end boss, or the end area of the level, then you rinse and repeat. While some would say that this would be incredibly boring, I'd almost say that I agree with you; however, you soon realize that Sky Force Anniversary will hook you like a drug. Let me explain why.

See, most companies have issues creating a game that offers replayability, especially in this genre. This is why a lot of successful shooters are focused only on multiplayer, because you have to find a way to keep gamers playing even after they beat the main game. Sky Force Anniversary's hook is that it somewhat forces you to collect stars throughout your levels which act as your currency to spend on upgrading your ship. This means you can replay missions over and over again if they yield a high star output and you can then start building and crafting your ship and its upgrades into an incredible force of power. This feature plays right into the game's own trophy system where each level rewards you for certain things, like rescuing all the people in a level, destroying 100% of the enemies in a level, or even avoiding any damage in a level. While tasks that seem menial at first will quickly become very challenging should you decide not to upgrade your ship. However, in the middle of this, there is an issue or two to be dealt with.

One of the big issues with the upgrade system is the system itself. Let me give you an example. Let's say you want to put side guns on your craft (everyone loves more guns). Well that's great but it will set you back 900 stars to put them on. Then if you want to upgrade them you have to start paying in incremental increases of stars. The first upgrade will set you back 90, then 135, then 180, and so on, and by the time you get that stat maxed out, you will have sunk numerous hours just doing the same thing in tremendous repetition. When you factor all the upgrades themselves, and their initial start cost, and then upgrade cost, Sky Force Anniversary will have you hooked for weeks if you want to upgrade everything. But even though you'll be grinding harder than Miley Cyrus, you'll at least be having and enjoyable experience. This is thanks to the whole "Anniversary" touch.

As we've come to expect in today's world, when a company throws around the words like "Anniversary" you get the sensation that things might be improved upon. We saw inklings of this when games like Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary released, and Sky Force Anniversary is no different. There is a tremendous amount of visual improvement to where Sky Force is quite visually stunning. Even though there are only 9 levels, each one is done with a beautiful coat of paint and overhaul. This treatment also continues to every facet of the game, from the aircraft to weapon effects, all of which deserves high praise, for it truly is tremendous work. To accompany this graphical accomplishment Sky Force Anniversary sports an energetic, blood pumping, electronic, retro synth heavy soundtrack that will pulse throughout every mission and help keep the intensity driving.

For $9.99 there's no question that Sky Force Anniversary is a highly welcomed game on the Xbox platform. Infinite Dreams has done a great job providing quality entertainment that will literally make any extra time you thought you had disappear. Although I wish there were more variety within the game, overall Sky Force Anniversary is a must have game if you enjoy these classic top down shooters and it is a one of the better investments you can make for $9.99 on the Xbox One.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Furi

You awaken to find yourself locked in a prison and doomed to be tortured for all eternity. You struggle to break free only to realize that in order to gain your freedom you must press onward until you finally escape. This is the vague opening to Furi, an title developed by The Game Bakers. Priced at $19.99(USD), this indie game seems like a mix of Tron, Afro Samurai, and El Shaddai all rolled up into one intense and explosive boss fight after another. So can this indie title slash a hole in your wallet, or are there better places where you can spend your $20?

You should know that Furi is setup like a multi-staged boss fight. Similar to the very core that we've seen even from old movies such as The Game of Death, Furi begins with you imprisoned for some unknown reason and all you observe is your jailer reveling in their joy of torturing you repeatedly. You feel that all hope is lost when all of s sudden, out of nowhere comes a character dressed like they are straight out of an Alice in Wonderland movie on bad acid trip. Somehow he seems to free you, effortlessly, and also arms you with a sword that, when wielded in your hands, becomes a charged blade of pure energy. As you stagger slowly to your feet your told that you have to go and kill your Jailer, and that's when the game unfolds before you.

You learn that the prison you currently inhabit is but one of 12 prisons that have been put in place to prevent your escape. With that in mind, I should warn you that you should be prepare yourself to die, a lot. Furi is nothing more than a simplistic hack and slash game that has been stripped to its core to provide an incredibly frustrating experience, yet it is an incredibly rewarding one all at the same time. Each boss battle is setup in an identical manner. While the attacks vary in style, force, and other areas, the similarities equate to a simple test of your ability to press the right buttons at the right time. Oh, but it's not so simple. As you progress you'll rapidly become in love with your dodge ability, and if you want to have any chance at success you will have to learn how to parry, almost constantly.

Thanks to a very simplistic control scheme, Furi becomes more of a reflex exercise. You'll start out by walking incredibly slow between each encounter and during this time if you press the A button you will auto walk. This can cut down on the tediousness of each stroll as you can literally just set the controller down for your brief moment of Zen, but there are some instances where walking on your own can be a benefit. Granted it will take what seems like eternity to move at a snail's pace, but there are achievements that can be earned and an essentially meaningless dialogue to be heard, but once you've walked your way to the arena, it's time to fight.

Each boss fight begins with your character, and the opposing boss, having a health bar, and below this health bar you'll see small squares which I simply regard as lives. The rules are simple; attack the boss until their health bar is depleted and they will lose one of their 'life' squares. Once all the lives are gone the battle is over. Things seem simple on the outside, however, when you dive deeper into the game you'll see an exponential learning curve that will constantly alter and adapt to your current boss fight. What I mean by this is that your opponent at the time will change up attacks and expand their arsenal, so you must also adapt on the fly. For example, should you lose a life, you will start with full health on the boss stage you were just in, so if you die on the boss' 3rd life stage, then that's where you start again with both of you having full health. Given how many times your character will die; you'll be thankful for this.

Despite all the simplicity of the game, Furi looks beautiful. As I mentioned earlier, Furi looks like a hybrid of Tron, Afro Samurai, and El Shaddai all wrapped into one beautiful package. Each level is very well is done in its own unique beautiful way including those times when you find yourself making meaningful progress between fights. During these moments you'll also be treated to an electronic, energetic score that helps keep the energy up, where it needs to be, but yet it is not so overpowering or in your face. Granted the voice acting is far from entertaining, but the overall feel of both graphics and sound are true experiences in their own right.

So after all this, is Furi worth the $19.99 price tag? Sadly, I'm going to say no. When you break it down you're paying $19.99 to go on 12 boss fights and that's it. Nothing more, nothing less. 12 fights for 20 bucks. When you couple that with a tremendously lackluster story, some of the slowest walking in gaming history, and the sheer shallowness of Furi itself, I'd say a better price would be $14.99 tops, or a must buy at $9.99. If you're looking for a game that will give you ample frustration mixed with tremendous excitement, then Furi could be on your list. Don't get me wrong, Furi is a beautiful game to behold that can be a frustrating one to play, and it is a satisfying one to master, but the price of admission seems a bit too high for what you get as a whole package.

Overall Score: 7.7 / 10 Steep

Picture yourself riding in a helicopter through the Alps up to the summit of The Matterhorn. As you disembark from the helicopter you feel, and hear, the crunch of the fresh powdery snow beneath your boots. Your helicopter disperses and there you are, alone on the top of the mountain listening to the wind howl you feel your adrenaline start to pump. Off in the horizon you see the sun start to creep above the horizon and you watch as the mountains in the Alps twinkle like diamonds as their snow catches the sun's rays for the first time. You check your wingsuit one last time, say a quiet prayer, take a deep breath, and then you jump into the expansive world of Steep.

This is the world that Ubisoft Annecy have painstakingly worked to create, and like the mountain range itself, upon first look it can be a bit overwhelming. Sectioned off in a specific part of the Alps, Steep combines some of the most iconic mountains such as Mont Blanc, The Matterhorn, and more into one titanic snow filled sandbox. Priced at $59.99(USD), Steep prides itself on giving you full control over the mountain while delivering one exhilarating experience after another. However, Steep also aims to deliver an incredible simulation experience instead of an over the top arcade adventure. So, is Steep the winter wonderland playground you've always dreamed about or does fall like an avalanche speeding down the side of a mountain?

If you're expecting some form of story within Steep then you're going to be sadly disappointed. Steep is broken up into numerous events scattered throughout the mountain range, but first you must go through the tutorial which can be incredibly vague at times making you become part snowboarder and part Sherlock Holmes when it comes to figuring out what to do next. Events take place over four categories, which are snowboarding, skiing, wing suiting, and paragliding. Each of these events come with varying difficulties as well as tasks that you must complete to achieve either bronze, silver, or gold medals. There are some randomly scattered story missions that don't really pertain to any locked in plot structure; they almost feel like they are called "story" just to say that there are story elements within the game.

One thing you'll discover as you navigate through the tutorial is the simple fact that mission selection is one of the most complex and annoying tasks you will find in any game to date. To access the mountain overview you have to hold the B button down which will result in a spatial view of the Alps. Here you trudge through using a small disc selection tool that allows you to navigate all over the mountains and select items from your own trail to events and more. Again, this sounds good until you go through it and realize that it's aggravatingly slow and cumbersome. You would think that there would be a button you could press to bring up a list of available events that you've uncovered and that you could sort them by event type, difficulty and more, but you'd be wrong. Instead you start to almost feel like Ray Charles trying to navigate the mountains just to find one simple run to click on. I could easily see this being perfect for those who use a mouse on a PC, but on the Xbox One controller this is an incredible pain that will stay with you throughout your entire Steep experience.

Once you have a small understanding of how the mission system works you'll need to find more runs within the mountain range. In order to find various other locations on the mountain to unlock you must press LB to bring up your binoculars and then spend a ridiculous amount of time looking along the mountain range until you hear a chime and see a series of dark grey stripes which indicate a new event zone. Once you have found a location you have to zoom it into focus with your binoculars and pray that you're close enough to unlock it, but if not, then you'll have to find a way to get close enough. I found that an easy way to do this was, while you're in binocular mode, press the RS and create a user generated point of interest. I learned to do this after I found a zone but was too far away and I decided to paraglide towards it, but ended up forgetting where it was when I landed. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself so let's get back to the tutorial.

The tutorial is also a prime way to get you used to Steep's simulation and physics engines, which at times will make you want to smash your virtual snowboard in two, or cut your own lines on your paraglider. This is thanks to the g-forces that the game tries to judge and simulate on your rider, which sounds good in theory, but it fails miserably in execution. Numerous times I would be riding down the mountain and go over a small jump and my character would crash from the simulated g-force. There were even times when I went over a small patch of mountain that was smooth but not snow covered and instantly my g-force meter went off the charts and my character seemed to get hit with MAX G's as he seemingly collapsed and crashed down the mountain. Now, I can understand something like that should I be boarding down a mountain side at full speed and slam right into a tree, but a little textured patch shouldn't cause the same impact. I can comprehend why someone would think programming a g-force detection system would be a good idea, but I can also discern why something like this needs to be perfected in order to be of any use.

Steep does allow you to try to pull of some tricks; however, the physics engine is unpredictable at best and at its' worst it is name swearing bad. Everything seems tranquil and simplistic on the surface, but when you get into the depths of the controls you're in for a totally different ride. For example, if you want to jump you're required to hold down the RT to crouch and prepare for a jump, then when you hit a designated distance from the lip of the jump you're supposed to release the RT and your character, in theory, will take off from the powder and launch skyward into the air. This is singlehandedly the biggest problem with Steep, as the the area you need to release RT varies between jumps and there's no setting to select where you could have such zones included as part of your HUD. This would have solved a lot of problems, but since it's not included you essentially have to play a guessing game that ends in one of three ways. Either you miraculously hit your jump and soar through the air majestically, you time your jump early and go right into the jump itself crashing away, or the 3rd result is that you time your jump late and end up not jumping at all and just sort of fall over the ramp and crash into the mountain below.

Should you somehow make it into the air on a jump you can do tricks with the LS by pressing it left, right, up, or down. You will start to rotate or flip, but you have to make sure you time your release of the LS otherwise you'll go crashing into the snow below. Should you feel risky and decide to add a grab into the jump, just hit your LT or RT while in the air and you should grab the board, but as would be expected, you need to time your release otherwise, you guessed it, you crash. So, now that I've established the fact that jumping and doing tricks are about as easy to do as walking on water, and that the g-force meter is not well implemented, you can see the trend here. If you fail at almost anything you do then you'll end up a rolling ball of snow. Not really a shining beacon of enjoyment considering this is the game's primary function.

Steep is somewhat salvaged though thanks to the replay function it incorporates. Should you careen to your death you can just retry over and over and over again. Another bonus of this feature is that it's instant, so there isn't any loading that has to take place over and over again. I can honestly say that if it weren't for this feature I'd given up a long, long time ago. Get ready to repeat and retry more than you ever thought you could because even when you think you have the learning curve mastered Steep will always find a way to keep you on your toes and remind you that the mountain always wins.

Ubisoft Annecy has included seamless drop in and drop out multiplayer and surprisingly it works well. It works so flawlessly that during one play session I hit the replay function only to discover that at the beginning of my run someone else was standing literally on my head. While this is a nice concept, and I'm glad that it's included, I find that enjoying the mountains alone is perfect for me. And when I say enjoying the mountains that's because Steep is simply beautiful to look at and behold.

From standing on top of a mountain you can change the time of day with the d-pad, and every visual element is done with a masterful precision to detail. The lighting and snow effects are on a level never before experienced, and you can tell that this is where the bulk of the performance went to, and I'm actually thankful that they did this. Pulling up and stopping while on a snowboard and watching the powder spray and the small packets of snow trickle down from your landing area that carve out their own paths is incredibly life like.

Unfortunately the same can't be said for the soundtrack. Right from the opening screen the sound effects gives Steep an aura of majesty. It hits you that you're about to go one on one with a mountain that has claimed countless lives, so be ready. This ambience is incredible and then it all goes downhill when you hear the tunes that have been selected to play in-game. While the ambient soundscapes provide a wonderful backdrop, hearing the same tune repeated over again when you hit the replay function on any of the events drove me up the wall so much so that I ended turning the sound off.

Steep is a beautiful package that unfortunately, once opened, gives you more hassle and trouble than you may imagine. If you're thinking of trying to get gold medals on every challenge I wish you the best of luck because you're going to need it. While not most of the gameplay itself is far from perfect, Steep is the genesis of extreme snow experiences from Ubisoft Annecy. A revamped g-force system, tweaked physics engine, improved handling and better UI are some of the major things that hamper the gameplay experience. If they can make changes and improvements in these areas it could really bring Steep to a quality similar to those found in other simulation sports games. It's clear though that Ubisoft Annecy has potential to deliver an amazing gameplay experience, so I'm hopeful that we see more improvements from Steep in the future.

1. Revamp the g-force system.
2. Tweak your physics engine.
3. Improve the handling.
4. Please make a better UI.
5. Look into ironing out minor glitches and bugs.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Dwarves, The

Action RPG games, if done right, can provide countless hours of joy and entertainment. THQ Nordic has tossed its hat into this ring with their latest attempt called The Dwarves. Priced at just under $40 plus tax, The Dwarves walks a fine line between overpriced budget beater and something that feels like it needs a bit more time to iron out the kinks and make the game better. I thought to myself, "Oh we got Dwarves, Elves, and Orcs, so this should be at least decent given all the quality source material to use as inspiration." And then I played the game and realized that sometimes, even with a multi-billion dollar, award winning blueprint to inspire you, like the Dwarves themselves, that THQ Nordic struggled to deliver as I'd hoped. Let me explain.

Dwarves starts out as a classic Orc versus Dwarf battle for passage through the gates of Girdlegard. It's during this first battle that you come to grips with the game's control, and I'm sorry to say it isn't that impressive. On the bottom left of the screen you will see not only your health, but your power meter as well. This is the meter which you draw upon to activate your abilities. You'll learn quickly since there really is no tutorial that your X button will become your best friend. I almost married mine. The X button allows you to pause the game to input your commands, so right away you can see some real time strategy elements playing throughout the game. Then you have to use the D-pad to select your ability and it's here that you'll notice a required number of points that your skill deducts from your power meter. But the simplicity continues.

For example, your standard command input will go as follows. You use the Left Stick to navigate to your enemy, then when you are up close you press X to pause the time, then select which ability you want to use on the D-pad. You'll then press the A button to accept your command choice and press X to resume time in the game and watch your actions unfold. The B button acts as your cancel button should you need it, but one thing to consider is that friendly fire is on. So when you hit your leap ability to jump deep into the nest of Orcs, just remember should any fellow allies be within your landing, you will cause damage to them as well. There's no option for turning this off but thankfully your health can naturally regenerate over time, so long as you're not getting hit. The control scheme doesn't have an attack button because the Dwarves will automatically attack their enemies if they are within range, which is disorienting considering you almost have to stand still if you wish to deal any damage at all to your opponents.

With your regular melee attacks dealing only so much damage, Dwarves focuses on your ability to manage your power meter through your use of your abilities. These abilities can consist of a mighty swing of the Axe that clears the line of foes in front of you by knocking them back, or jumping into the fray by landing with a thud that causes damage to everyone in the surrounding area and knocks them down as well. These abilities all take a certain amount of power from your meter and thankfully you can recharge the meter by causing damage, killing an opponent, or just simply wait while it charges back up. When you start to gather your party together you can also use the Left and Right Bumpers to switch in between your other members and cue up any abilities they may have. Your Right Trigger and Stick control the camera and zoom of the game, but that's something I'll touch on here in a moment.

Now that you’re up to speed on the control mechanics, I have to say that it's unfortunate that the plot leaves a lot to be desired. The Alfar, who are essentially evil Elves, have teamed up with the Orcs and they forcibly assault the gates of Girdlegard, and after ages and ages of the door holding fast, it's opened. Now the Orc armies rage war over the various lands and their inhabitants. You play the role of Tungdil, who is a Dwarf but was raised up by humans. During this upbringing you were taught how to read and write, so even though you may be married to a forge, Tungdil loves to learn about everything. Early on you are sent out on a quest and throughout your journeys you come into contact with around 50 distinct characters. Over time you can build up your own team of up to 12 companions which will make fighting the ceaseless hordes of Orcs that much easier, however, being that this is based off the series of books by a German author named Markus Heitz, you get the sensation that the story seems rather drawn out.

The reason I say this is because when you play The Dwarves, you will easily notice how colossal the map truly is. All the areas to explore and places to travel will open up their secrets over time but you'll spend most of the time moving from point to point making choices. This is why I STRONGLY recommend you save a LOT. Sometimes choices you make may or may not have unintended consequences. Saving also helps should you encounter a battle you can't seem to pass and you need to reload and chose a different path choice. The game does Auto Save, however, not often enough and if you're not careful you could lose a lot of progress.

Now even though the map may be enormous, the visual representation of the lands and the characters themselves are done surprisingly well. That is until you decide to move the camera or the characters and the screen will start to tear. What really struck me by surprise was how the loading screens in the beginning few stages experienced a screen tear that had a yellow streak going from the top right corner to the bottom left corner (the loading screen is also rather lengthy I may add). Aside from the numerous screen tears, when the game switches into a cutscene you see some wonderfully detailed figures, however, the graphics engine can't handle it and it starts to almost look like stop motion animation than smooth and textured CG. I found in terms of the audio that I was pleasantly surprised with the music as the soundtrack seemed to catch my ear then hold my attention throughout the game itself. I also found myself enjoying the voice acting and while there were moments that felt overplayed, the overall voice acting was a solid win for this game.

Having devoted lots of hours into this game I can say that The Dwarves provides a lot of content, but not a lot of meaningful content. It is definitely a game that will drain hours upon hours of your life away, but I felt that the more I played it, the less I actually wanted to. The story never fully grasped me. When I think about it, I spent about 70% of my time moving between points on a map, about 20% of my time watching loading screens, 8% of the time exploring and fighting, and about 2% of the time I was watching cutscenes. At the end of the day I wish The Dwarves would have improved the story, fixed some of the visual mishaps, and improved the loading issues, because I was hoping I could score this higher, but given some of the hiccups with the game I think you can find better gaming out there for the price of this one. Only die-hard fans of the genre need apply.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Darksiders: Warmastered Edition

Since the birth of man there have been tales of Heaven and Hell and the battle that is supposedly waiting to commence. The now defunct publisher THQ originally started their tale of this conflict with the game series Darksiders. Released almost seven years ago, Darksiders was a game that took people by surprise and it became a sleeper hit that rapidly developed a large cult following. Even though it wasn't marketed with the same steamrolling style as Battlefield, Call of Duty, Mass Effect, Halo, or any other triple A games, an overwhelming majority of those who played it will say they absolutely loved it given it's original story and main protagonist. Former publisher THQ had a hit on their hands.

Now, after a tumultuous past few years, with the closing of THQ and the formation of THQ Nordic, we have seen the reintroduction of the Darksiders series on the Xbox One. Oddly enough the sequel, Darksiders II, was released before the original, but hopefully the added capital gained during this time will mean more amazing things for the future of this I.P. Being that I didn't do the original review I must confess that this will be my viewpoint in this writing. Clocking in at $19.99 THQ Nordic has already hit a massive goal and I'll get to that in a minute, but for now, on to the review.

For those who have never played Darksiders before it tells the tale of the fragile truce between Heaven and Hell and the Charred Council who preserve the balance and peace between realms. During this time a 3rd kingdom emerged, which was the kingdom of man. Eager to gain an advantage in the celestial struggle, both sides fight with humanity stuck in the middle to suffer. This is when the Charred Council stepped in and sealed a truce between the realms and solidified it with 7 seals, and if these seals were eventually broken they would summon forth the call of the riders of the apocalypse who would descend upon the Kingdom of Man and judge both Heaven and Hell accordingly.

That is the premise to Darksiders, and in this original installment you get to play as War. He is one of the four summoned riders of the apocalypse, but there is a problem. According to the Charred Council the seventh seal hasn't been broken and War has apparently acted on his own as he was sent to the Kingdom of Man. To atone for his sin War must lay siege to the 'Destroyer' who has already started attacking humanity. How could a rider be summoned if the seals weren’t broken? Why would a call come forth if the balance was still kept? Who would try to manipulate the riders of the apocalypse and for what reason? These are but some of the questions that will be answered in the story, which is why it should never be spoiled for fresh eyes. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

One of the reasons that Darksiders became such a hit is the gameplay mechanics. Using a straightforward but simplistic layout, Darksiders manages to bring a solid feel to the game experience. Sure, you have your basic hack and slash attacks, but the ability to switch from auto-locking onto an enemy to independently targeting the field in front of you, allowing you to freestyle hack at anything that moves near you, can all be done seamlessly with very little jarring between transitions, making abilities easy to use through your sub-menus. These powers not only require something called wrath to utilize, but look absolutely devastating, but I'll touch on that in a moment. The gameplay is enhanced by some light RPG elements where you can upgrade your move set, weapon damage, health, wrath, etc. Despite having to get used to the camera all over again, these elements combine to make Darksiders an enjoyable experience from beginning to end.

Now, Darksiders plays well, but one aspect that will stand out simply because of its quality is the voice acting. War comes off as a stoic judge of righteousness who will always get to the point in a conversation. However, throughout the game you will encounter demons and angels that help bring this whole story to life in a way that was absolutely incredible given the game is almost seven years old. Speaking of the audio, War's demon companion is voiced by the legend Mark Hamill who does his iconic Joker voice and it fits the demon, and his mannerisms, brilliantly. Now, this game wears the title Darksiders Warmastered Edition and that is because THQ Nordic has released Darksiders with one massive overhaul, which is in the graphics.

Running now at 1080p 60fps this classic adventure masterpiece simply looks stunning. While the original was wonderful, this is a remaster that can be seen as setting the standard for how upgrading graphics should be done. New textures seem to blanket this game and the character modeling artwork really shines through in the higher resolution. One thing that did sort of strike me as odd though is that while the characters and overall graphics got a major steroid injection, the buildings found throughout the game seem unchanged, and it is almost like they don't fit or belong in this 'remastered' Darksiders world. While this minor detail is a setback, the new special effects found in using War's powers more than compensates for it.

Earlier on I said that THQ Nordic already hit a massive goal. Releasing a game that is almost seven years old, with the only major work being a graphic overhaul, the price had better properly reflect this fact, and for the Darksiders: Warmastered Edition it does. Worried that some other companies have released less and charged more, THQ Nordic have priced this gem at a sweet spot to solidify it as a must have. Yes, I know there is absolutely no extra content of any kind, and that only the visuals have received a facelift while the audio and gameplay feel untouched. The thing is though, THQ Nordic probably stared at the original game and thought if it works so well why should we mess with it? Undoubtedly, this Darksiders remastered game is most likely the best $19.99 you can spend on the Xbox One at this moment as you'll get a lot of enjoyment out of a game that is solid all around.

Suggestions: A complete overhaul of all audio elements would be nice, but it is not particularly necessary.

Overall Score: 8.7 / 10 Watch Dogs 2

I'll say it, I loved the original Watch Dogs game. I know that this may start throwing some of you into an internet rage, but tough, it is what it is. Now Ubisoft has come out with its sequel, Watch Dogs 2, and not only has the location switched up, but so has the main character along with almost everything else. Now how can you change almost everything and expect to produce something of quality again? Does this new sequel pull off the "lulz" or should this be one to avoid?

As I just mentioned, I liked the original Watch Dogs game. I thought the story that was played out had merits of meaning and substance and centralized around a plot that had a beginning, middle, and end. In Watch Dogs 2 I don't get that same feeling. Gone are the meaningful nuances throughout the plot and instead replaced with a generic "I'm angry at the world" style hacktivism. Instead of something that would be fit for an intellectual audience it feels more like a student protest group gone wrong than a dedicated character trying to advance a goal through his objectives. This detachment from what we've expected from the original is light-hearted in tone, which is actually quite depressing considering the magnitude of the results your character tries to achieve.

Basically in a nut shell the ctOS 2.0 system is up and running and San Francisco is the next breeding ground for data mining citizens to influence their lives. We've seen similar actions just during this past election with Google and Facebook and their users. Google, at one point, completely omitted a candidate from a search and when you look at their parent company Alphabet, as their CEO wanted to be a big player in a major political campaign. You can easily see how Watch Dogs 2 takes cues from events that are occurring in real life, which does make for a fantastic pool of inspiration to draw from, but I never once got the sensation that I was in perilous danger. This is in part because no longer are you working as a lone entity, but you’re now part of a group. Now, you're a part of DedSec.

This is what took me a long time to try and adjust to. When you begin you bear witness to your group, or "crew", of fellow hacktivists, these dainty snowflakes are your typical cliché of upset, emotionally charged, young adolescents that would rather protest the destruction of a type of flower than get a meaningful education. This really set me back because I thought Aiden from the original Watch Dogs was a character of meaning and substance, and I didn't get that feeling of Marcus Holloway (your new main character). I don't think it was his light-hearted attitude that did it, but the fact that your group spends more time trying to offer ways of causing civil disruption and disobedience than actually trying to solve a problem. Let me give you an example.

Watch Dogs 2 would have you believe that exposing the personal files of a bank's CEO would be a justified action given what they saw as the exploitation of the bank's customer base through fees and rates. Of course it's their opinion. However, while everyone has a laugh and thinks everything is great now that these infants exposed a CEO, there's nothing, and I mean NOTHING, in terms of offering up a solution to what now becomes a massive problem for its citizens. This is when it dawned on me that this group is only a messenger. A group that is designed to deliver information to the masses that they may or may not be privy to. This is good, however, for a system like this to be effective at all there needs to be a contingency plan in place to take effect if and when it needs to be put into motion. I think little things like this tend to take away from Watch Dogs 2 and really does the game a great injustice.

The gameplay mechanics have been revamped and feel a bit more complex, which tends to make things a bit tricky when trying to maneuver through a crowded metropolitan city like San Francisco to just trying to find someone to hack. The cover system remains; however, the computer AI still feels as dumb as a rock. There were times when I would knock out an enemy and his fellow guard (standing about 15 feet away) wouldn't see anything. There is one new aspect though that stands out though, and that is your skill trees. This new leveling system is based on followers, because apparently gaining followers (for whatever reason) is one of the most important things in the game. Gaining followers will allow you to gain skill points and allow you to outfit Marcus with new gear and better abilities such as calling off a police helicopter or setting a rival gang out to help you clear a building to (my personal favorite), and even upgrading both your remote controlled drones. In order to gain followers and acquire the skill points you have to complete main and side missions which are found all throughout the streets of San Francisco.

This is a good thing because Watch Dogs 2 is a very pretty game. Such things as running a speed boat at full throttle under the Golden Gate Bridge while the sun was setting and casting a nice warm glow off the water demonstrates how Watch Dogs 2 is an impressive looking sandbox to play in. I wish though I could say the same for the soundtrack though. There are a lot of games that I've had the pleasure of listening to, however Watch Dogs 2 isn't one of them. In fact, I found the music so obnoxious that I actually turned the music volume down and I found myself enjoying the game more that way. These depressions though keep stacking up and that's when we come to one of the biggest setbacks of the game itself. There's currently no working multiplayer.

Yes, I know you thought there would be and you thought you and your friends could just jump into San Francisco and take over, but you're wrong. Ubisoft has decided to pull the plug on the whole multiplayer aspect for now due to the immense amount of problems and issues that arose from it at launch. I'm sorry but that takes away from a majority of the value. There's even an update that is supposed to take place 2016/11/19 and it offers a few fixes, namely the glitch where you would be able to see a female NPC's genitals, but no mention at all about restoring online play. As of 2016/11/22 Ubisoft says they are rolling out partial multiplayer (e.g. in-game Multiplayer App to join and hack into other players worlds), but as of the time of this writing we have not seen this implemented yet.

I was hopeful for Watch Dogs 2, and I know a lot of you will enjoy it tremendously; however, to this reviewer it feels like a cheap GTA knock off that adds in some juvenile characters with little to no emotional value and no multiplayer (as of yet). That doesn't mean that what is there is isn't somewhat enjoyable, because it is. While the game controls are a bit more complex, they still feel responsive, and while the plot and missions are almost meaningless, the fact that they take you through a beautiful city is worth every minute spent. Despite this mixed bag I can say that I foresee many, many hours trying to unlock everything Watch Dogs 2 is hiding behind its digital firewall because that is what you will want to do to get the most out of the game.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Xenoraid

For those who read this and think a PlayStation 2 is an antique gaming platform, bear with me one moment. One of the highlights I remember growing up, in what people know as "The Arcade Days", were the hours upon hours playing classic top down shooters. From the days of Galaga to now, these 2D scrolling shooters have been a warm blanket in the gaming genre. Not trying to be complex with a meaningful story, nor trying to be anything more than just enjoyable. Now developer 10tons has released a game called Xenoraid. Does this top down shooter hit its mark? Let's find out.

Earth has always wondered if they were alone in the universe, pondering the question if anyone or anything is out there. Well, in Xenoraid we finally get our answer. In true 'Independence Day' movie fashion, aliens begin to invade the Earth's space. We try to communicate with them (because that always works in the movies right?), only to find out that these aren't peaceful aliens, or stupid Star Wars Phantom Menace Trade Federation aliens, but they are rather the Samuel L. Jackson hostile anger management type. I've just now made the plot of the game more entertaining than it actually is; you're welcome. The game is set within a series of stages and each stage has up to 10 individual levels. You complete missions and earn coins for completion and can use this 'currency' to upgrade your ships, but there's a bit more to it than that.

You get a total of 4 different fighters to control which are mapped out and assigned to your four face buttons A, B, X, Y. The gameplay mechanics are incredibly simplistic as the Left Stick moves your ship and the Right Trigger fires your primary weapon, with the Left Trigger firing your secondary weapon. The beauty of this is that you are able to select and configure your loadouts how you want to, should you have the coins to purchase it. Upgrades to your primary and secondary weaponry, along with other ships, means you should be ready to spend a lot of coin (see what I did there). But if you think repairing your ships costs a lot of coins it’s not nearly as much as it costs to replenish a defeated ship.

From the beginning you're given a small amount of coins which you can either spend on your ships in terms of individual upgrades and purchases, or you can save them for bigger and better things. You won't have full access to all available perks at the beginning as you will have to unlock them as you complete missions.

The whole entire upgrade system is the reward hook and we all took the bait. It's the reason that you will want to continue the missions no matter how repetitive they may become. See, in most top down shooters the object of the game is to not get hurt, but in Xenoraid the object is to switch out ships to help dodge incoming fire. Have your guns overheated and the screen is filling with enemies quickly? Don't dodge their fire until you can shoot, swap out your fighters and continue the assault. Sadly, though there are issues here, being the control system, and even though it's very simplistic, is very, very soft. There are improvements you can buy to help with this over time, but for the most part it almost feels like you're using 'The Force'. Since you can only fire straight no matter what, you'll start to quickly adore the ship swap feature.

While the sluggish play control is a big setback I should also mention that the campaign cannot be completed in single player mode, but only local co-op. This is a major blow because incorporating an online multiplayer aspect would be incredibly beneficial as it would allow more people to play together thus increasing sales. Not incorporating an online multiplayer system effectively limits your audience. And that isn't just in the single player mode, but the survival mission mode as well. This mode is your only other option for gameplay and is essentially a Horde-like Mode, but in a 2D vertical scrolling shooting game. You're timed as to how many enemies you destroy, time spent alive, and other metrics; however, like the single player, co-op in this mode is local only. Those two things really set this game back a light-year.

Since this 2D vertical scrolling shooter isn't trying to be incredibly realistic, or even highly polished, it's graphics offer what I'll call a rustic charm that was found in these types of games throughout the years and decades before. It's certainly not going to win any artistic awards but at the same time it will provide much nostalgia for those that remember those "The Arcade Days". The soundtrack though is period perfect. That high intensity electronic music almost makes you wish you had quarters to put on the screen to indicate you got next game.

If you're a fan of the 2D vertical scrolling shooting games then Xenoraid will undoubtedly be a must buy for you. Priced now at under $10 this game should be on your radar. Yes, there are some hiccups along the way, such as no story, soft play control, and no online multiplayer connectivity, but the customization and build structure of the game lends itself to hours of enjoyment and fun.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Titanfall 2

Throughout the years EA has strived to publish games that give their audience an incredible gaming experience. Originally launched in 2014, Titanfall set standards that now most top tier first person shooters take inspiration from. With the first release becoming known as an innovative staple in the gaming community, how can Respawn and EA top this? By releasing Titanfall 2 and delivering yet another incredible gaming experience. They always say that if you learn from the mistakes you made then you will grow and develop as a person. So has Respawn learned from its mistakes of the original? I would have to say yes.

The first Titanfall was a purely multiplayer experience and sported a campaign that was essentially more multiplayer maps. It made the game feel as if it was only half finished. This time around Respawn has put a proper campaign into Titanfall 2, and even though it's short lived, the fact that it even exists at all is one instance where Respawn listened to its loudest critics, the gamers. It may not be perfect, but Respawn's primary goal seems to have shifted to include something that most gamers tended to overlook, that being depth. In the original Titanfall there was no emotional attachment to your Titan. You shot and killed people and bots over and over until your Titan was ready to be called in. When it dropped you used it till it was destroyed and then the process repeated. In Titanfall 2 one of the main goals has been to give you that sense of comradery. A bond that you form with your Titan that turns it into something more than a user controlled killing machine, but a friend and companion that just happens to be the size of a small house and packed with enough armaments to put a small crater in the planet.

Titanfall 2's plot begins with your character, Frontier Militia Rifleman Jack Cooper. This soldier has always had a dream of becoming a legendary Titan pilot with his own Titan by his side, so naturally he worked hard to put himself in a position to train for the very role he's always dreamed about (or he could have simply manipulated the system to promote his own selfish goals, but I'll be positive here). Jack finally gets a chance to do a pilot simulation with his instructor and it's here that you learn the subtleties of Titanfall 2's gameplay mechanics. Originally praised for having a gameplay that was as smooth as silk, Respawn went back to work and said how can we make it better. They decided to allow a bit more controller customization and even include an option to allow user controlled inputs from an Xbox Elite controller (another reason of many to own one). All the mechanics you know are back, and this time it feels like the controls have been tweaked a bit to near perfection. Wall running, that naturally happens when you a wall, feels like it takes longer for your character to drop naturally and this is thanks to the increased in speed while in this motion.

You can now cover more ground faster while traversing from wall to wall, and this makes taking on a Titan while you're on foot more of a fair fight. The ability to jump between buildings and gain and decrease your height all while running at a rapid pace means that pilots now have a distinct advantage when playing. Sure, they may not have cool weaponry that's the size of an 18 wheeler, but board a Titan and drop a couple satchel charges and boom, what Titan? You learn all of these skills while in training; however, just as you're about to finally call in your very own Titan, your pilot training simulation ends and you're thrusted back into reality's cold grasp as your squad is mobilized for an offensive fight on a planet called Typhon which has fallen under attack. This is where you get a convoluted story where you don't realize why this planet is being attacked or why you're once again fighting the IMC (Interstellar Manufacturing Corporation). However, once you arrive you realize that things have turned south and have done so in a big way.

Realizing that your team is under attack and that it appears to be an ambush, you barely survive only to watch a critical moment happen that then changes the game permanently. Watching your mentor of the pilot program die right before your eyes, you bear witness as he transfers control of his Titan BT-7274 to you, and now you are officially a Titanfall Pilot. Throughout the game you and your Titan will converse and it's up to you to select what option you want reply with. I have to admit, I wanted to see what all the experiences were so there were numerous times where I restarted the checkpoint just to select the other dialogue outcomes. I was quite surprised at how well this was written and delivered. You can really see a development of a relationship forming throughout the entire campaign, and while some of it is cold and factual, some of it is quite humorous. This whole sequence of events adds so much more depth to what was originally offered in terms of a campaign compared to the original Titanfall, and while there may be moments that leave you asking why and how, the delivery of such a campaign is one that should be well received with the gaming world.

It's rare to see a company actually listen to its customers, but Respawn did, and they also listened to other critiques as well. For instance, gamers thought that the multiplayer experience (which accounted for the entire game) of the original Titanfall actually decreased in enjoyment as there was very little, if anything, to keep going for that actually meant anything. Respawn has hit back with tons of new customizations, and the beautiful thing about this is that you get to experience all of them and try them out in the single player campaign. Yes, your Titan in the single player campaign can wield a massive sword that would make Cloud from Final Fantasy VII jealous. This type of customization means that when you go into your multiplayer experience you will have already tried out numerous loadouts and found one that works for you. The same also goes for your pilot's weapons, as you will have access to a wide, and I do mean wide, variety of weaponry for you to wield. Weapons such as your standard assault rifles and SMGs, to sniper rifles that fire 2 shots at a time, and even varying types of grenades, all of which will allow you find what works best for you while you prep for multiplayer.

Once you start to develop a familiarity with the loadout and weapon systems you'll start to gravitate to a few, and it's from there that you can start to develop your pilot and Titan for multiplayer. It's a multiplayer system that, in my opinion, is damn near perfect in a game. Realizing the statement "if it's not broken don't fix it", Respawn took to task a way of improving something that was great and have created something that will have a lasting impact on multiplayer games in the future. Some of the new items that help improve the multiplayer are tools like the grappling hook, which you can fire at buildings, or even Titans, to latch on and pull yourself towards. You may be saying "why would I want to get pulled towards an enemy Titan?", well because it gives you a chance to syphon off a power core of your enemy, drop a charge or two, jump off, grapple back to your Titan, and in midair detonating the charges while instantly transferring into your Titan where the health you have gotten from the enemy power core is immediately applied and you, then can continue to decimate enemy Titans.

This is just one of the ways you can incorporate your new tech toys in multiplayer, but one aspect that struck me as a bit odd is that the Titan customizable loadouts are now gone, and that feels like a step backwards to me. This really perplexes me; however, in its place you get to choose from 6 different Titans, but be warned that not all Titans are available at the beginning and you will have to play and grind your experience and credits to not only purchase new perks, accessories, and abilities, but also new Titans as well. You'll notice that each one of the six will carry with it not only their own unique style of weaponry, but also a unique core ability that can vary between Northstar, which allows you to hover in the air while raining a barrage of missile warheads at your opponents, to Ion, which has this massive Iron Man type chest blast of energy that decimates all. These unique cores are what keep Titanfall 2's multiplayer feeling more balanced than ever.

Speaking of multiplayer, you'll find game modes that you already know such as Last Titan Standing (5 person teams go head to head and the last Titan that is left alive wins), free-for-all (12 players in a confined area and they battle it out with Titans available, what could go wrong?), Attrition (basic 6 on 6 fight to the end), Capture the Flag (capture enemy flag and return it to base), pilot vs. pilot (which is an 8 on 8 fight that disables the ability to call in and use Titans), and Amped hardpoint (similar to games of conquest where you capture and hold an area, and once obtained it takes longer for the enemy to reclaim it for themselves). There is a new mode which called Bounty Hunt. In this mode you're tasked with not just shooting and killing every enemy you see, but fulfilling tasks and objectives that you have to earn cash for your team. Once you have acquired cash it's then up to you to get it to a stash where you can deposit it. Be careful though because should you get killed while in combat then you're going to lose some of that money.

These gameplay modes more than equate to a solid multiplayer experience that seems to never get old or tiring and that’s in part to the graphics which are absolutely stunning. Even though I have a 4K TV and play it on a day one launch Xbox One console, the game looks beautiful. All the detail that goes into the varying environments showcase the painstaking time Respawn took to make this game not only play masterfully, but look breathtaking. Spending the time exploring each level was wonderful and trying to find new ways to adapt to the level itself was a breath of fresh air. This is complimented by audio that makes you feel every trigger pull, every explosion, and without question, every single incoming Titanfall. The ambient noise helps establish each unique area and when you hear soldiers around you, and having a surround sound system really surpasses all expectations, especially once my Dolby Atmos system is finally finished, as I can't wait to experience something like this. Imagine having the sound field above you from an incoming Titanfall descend upon you and end with a colossal thud as a new crater has been formed from landing.

I actually have to look very hard to find something wrong with Titanfall 2 to knock it, and that's a wonderful thing. Normally gamers are force fed projects that developers produce without paying any attention to their audience, but not Respawn. Titanfall 2 is a near perfect example of what a quality developer can produce when it listens to the feedback of the community, as it delivers a stunning marriage of near perfect gameplay, near perfect multiplayer, and a story that is well...near perfect. I am very confident saying that Titanfall 2 is one of the best games you can play in 2016, period.

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Death God University

As indie games go, I try to review them from a 'value-per-dollar' perspective. Some shock me with their low price point and high replay value thanks to their quality. Still, quite a few others fall on the other side of that coin, offering up sub-par to horrifying experiences for a price that would be considered by all to be near theft. Developer DSK Green Ice Games recently released Death God University for the Xbox One and it's priced at $9.99. With a title like that, a game can't be all that bad right, or can it?

Death God University takes place where your character enrolls in, you guessed it, Death God University, where his main goal is to become a Death God Apprentice. He wakes up, puts a huge number of weapons in his backpack, and off to school he goes where he is greeted by the headmaster, the Devil. After surrendering his armament you take control of this character who must go to the classrooms to start his education.

In order get through school your character must complete the mission tasks that your Death God University instructors assign you, including such things as killing high profile people by making it look like they had an "accident". Other missions include stopping a man named Cannibal (who asks you if the lambs have stopped screaming) from selling "strange meat" in his food kiosk, to preventing Miley from literally twerking the planet to death (you confront her in a construction yard with a wrecking ball... seriously). The missions are clever play on words, but sadly all of them require you to do the same exact thing, go to each unlocked area and interact with the highlighted blue item(s) and then combine it with items in your inventory, play a mini game or two, and proceed to the mission ending.

Overall, I found that these missions grew boring fast, and even though there is some clever parody work at play here, there isn't enough uniqueness to keep one's attention, let alone enjoyment. You start to feel that it almost becomes a game where the developers try to blatantly show you how witty they can be instead of trying to create an enjoyable gaming experience. It's actually quite sad when you realize that there is more creativity in the mini games than in the ways to complete the missions themselves, and you start to feel that should be the other way around.

Death God University is broken up into several sections; however, your character is locked out of the areas that serve no use to him in completing his mission, so again you're restricted as to where you can and can't go. Then when you get to your designated area, you can interact ONLY with items that have a neon blue glow, but that is only after you wait over a minute for the level to load.

Once your level loads you'll be able to interact with maps (which allow you to select a different area to load and experience more long load times) or anything that would be deemed a mission item. You can talk to the random NPC's but 99% of the time they offer up worthless information. When you try to obtain mission items you have to be careful not to have people see you do so because theft is bad, and if you are seen the game will deduct from your final grade. This is the crux of the whole game.

When you have 4 areas to explore, don't forget that you're already looking at over 4 minutes of load times. Sound fun yet? It's peculiar why the load times are so long given that each environment isn't that large and the graphics aren't going to blow you away with incredible detail or quality, as Death God University feels like a world of deranged Vinyl POP characters brought to life. I did enjoy some of the musical score, but the sound effects were horrendous. The footsteps while your character 'ninja-runs' for no reason drove me almost literally insane. Outside of the occasional grunt or Halleluiah chant there's no voice acting, and based off the sound effects I'm glad that's the case. And it's not like the gameplay is extensive or complex by any sense of the word.

Your right analog stick controls your camera, while left moves your character, the A button interacts with objects and NPCs, X button brings up your crafting menu where you select your items, and you hit Y to craft. To say that the mechanics are simplified for Death God University is a tremendous understatement. There were times though that I did get stuck while trying to maneuver myself to my target without being detected from others, so while I was happy that I got the object, I had to quit out and restart which meant more incredibly long loading times. You can just hear the excitement coming from my words as I typed that, right?

After going through this game I can't justify spending the $9.99 + tax on it. I could even see this game being a struggle to buy at $4.99. Death God University offers up a weak story filled with repetitive missions that require repetitive actions that require very little problem or skill solving abilities. The game does offer up a somewhat enjoyable music score, but it's horrendous sound effects and graphics have a last generation feel to them. I wish I could tell you that this game was an enjoyable romp through some demented story land, but my enjoyment of Death God University flat lined and it's hard to recommend it to you.

Overall Score: 5.0 / 10 Mark McMorris Infinite Air

I have to admit, I'm a closet snowboard fan. I've never snowboarded in my life, yet since the days of 1080 on the Nintendo 64 I've been hooked. I loved virtually riding from massive jump to massive jump while threading between trees and watching the powder kick up. Recently HB Studios released Mark McMorris Infinite Air, and if you're wondering why the name HB Studios sounds familiar, it's because they created The Golf Club. Priced at $49.99, HB Studios has traded the links for a mountain, so let's see if this game is up to the challenge.

Starting off, Mark McMorris Infinite Air throws you right onto the mountain with a snowboard on your feet and away you go. Having never played this game, or even understood what controls do what, I found myself smashing buttons constantly and crashing nonstop. After some frustrating minutes had passed I pressed start, and low and behold I found a tutorial section and it seemed that all my prayers were answered. Or so I thought.

Given that this game claims to have their tricks based in the world of physics, I found that the tutorial is incredibly frustrating due to the steep learning curve. Some of the basic moves are ok, but when you're talking split second timing and multiple button presses do the same thing, you can really find yourself on the wrong end of a boulder or tree, fast. Having gone through the tutorial, I rapidly became aware to the fact that this is not an arcade style SSX game, but rather it leans towards a more simulation experience. Twists, spins, and grabs were fairly easy to learn, but once you started to try and attempt flips you soon found yourself swearing up a storm. The reason for that is thanks to Mark McMorris Infinite Air's physics and timing the game plays more like Skate due to leaning on more of a realistic feel.

Normally when you're playing an arcade style snowboard game there is usually a crouch or jump button that you leave pressed to not only gain speed but you release it whenever you want to gain full height. Not here. Any amount of time after 1 second will instantly deplete your available power for jumping, which means if you think you're going to hold down LT or RT, or both (buttons you use in tandem with the Right Stick) for an elongated period of time and get full height, you're mistaken. Think of it like a car's power curve. There is a certain apex of power that you must hit in order to achieve maximum speed or horsepower. The way I practiced this absolute vital piece of gameplay was to simply find a flat piece of land and just start jumping. I wasn't moving, I was just jumping and trying to practice how long I had to hold the triggers down to get maximum height.

Once you have attempted to get the mechanics down, it's time to dive into the game itself. The Circuits is this title's campaign section and it is split into six varying "tiers", and each one of them is broken up into four different events with each event having five objectives to complete to unlock new gear for your rider. You'll start with some pretty basic objectives, such as gain so many points, or land a trick worth so many points, etc., and throughout the events you'll experience the many different styles of Mark McMorris Infinite Air. But once you arrive at the end, you'll be racing against another pro, and should you win you unlock the new professional rider, and obviously at the end of it all you'll have Mark McMorris himself to challenge.

Now, I want to shift your focus to what I consider the highlight of Mark McMorris Infinite Air, and that is the World Editor feature. Think of this like a massive open world sandbox where you create your very own mountain to play on. This game packs a ton of features and items to place, and the cool thing is that you can edit this all from the air as you fly a helicopter around to make sure that your mountain is just how you want it. On top of sculpting your unique mountain like an artist, you also have in depth control over the objects within your world. Rotating, scaling, manipulating the tilt and height, and snapping them to the mountain to literally create every single angle you want to be in your world. This is without a doubt the best feature, and mode, in the game itself, and there are some AAA titles that don't offer this much creativity in their world editors. When you've got every flake and angle the way you want it, publish it and let riders all over the world explore and have fun on your own creation.

Now when you have a game that is supposed to be centralized on a scenic environment, Mark McMorris Infinite Air tries hard to deliver such an experience. The environments look very serene, and one thing that stood out a great deal were the lighting effects. Transitioning between heavy forests, where the light slips through the cracks, to a massive jump out in the middle of nowhere while the sun beams down hard as soon as you clear, is just some of the ways the dynamic lighting really makes the graphics shine. Now I did experience some frame rate issues when playing, but nothing that would be considered game breaking. And what about the audio you ask? I'm just going to come out and say it, that I'm not a fan at all of the soundtrack; however what I am a fan of are the sound effects and the ambient sounds of nature that you hear while you're riding. They added to the experience of cutting through the snow. I ended up turning the music off and just enjoying the mountain as it was.

Is Mark McMorris a quality snowboard game? Yes and no. I say yes because it's a dramatic step in the right direction, but I say no because the execution in some instances could use much more polish. It goes without saying though that Mark McMorris Infinite Air by HB Studios offers an incredible amount of replay value through its World Editor, but outside of that you will most likely struggle to find the same type of enjoyment in the other areas of this game.

Overall Score: 6.8 / 10 Reus

Having the almighty power of both creation and destruction in your hands has always been a sure fire recipe to bring about entertaining gameplay for days on end. Back in 2013 Abbey Games released a game called Reus, and now in the twilight of 2016, we finally see its release on the Xbox One. Since the 1980's we have craved the power and have spent days, weeks, and months creating expansive and detailed projects. Now though Abbey Games is asking you to pay $24.99, so is this indie game worth the big price point? Let's see.

On the surface it seems simplistic. Using the four different giants (Water, Earth, Forest, Swamp), it's up to you to create multiple habitable places where your civilization could grow and flourish by simple resource management. As you start spend more time playing, you realize that Reus has far more depth than you initially expected. You'll get a taste of this throughout the training missions, which I highly recommend, but then it'll be up to you to play through your "Eras" which can be timed, or you can even go into a free play style where its sole focus is on creativity which I used to help figure out some of the finer details which will become important. Your initial games are going to be for about 30 minutes a stretch, however, as you progress you'll be able to branch into both 60 and 120 minute Eras that will enable you to unlock more abilities, transmutations, and see more of Reus.

See, when you create your habitable areas you'll need to essentially become a resource manager. You will have to balance certain qualities such as food, technology, wealth, greed, happiness, and more. Thankfully you are able to pause the game and still issue commands to your giants, because of course, you have no control over your people. While each giant possesses their unique abilities, the method in which they interact with abilities from other giants is where REUS' real soul rests. For instance, let's say you have your forest giant plant some blueberries, then you have your ocean giant enhance the blueberries; they then become strawberries. Strawberries produce more food, but offer a bonus of +8 food if you place blueberries next to it. This process is called transmutation and it can be applied to every single resource in REUS which helps when your citizens start building projects that require certain amounts of a particular type of resource.

Now like in all civilizations, once you have wealth and extreme resources, your inhabitants become greedy, and depending on how big of a difference there is between available and used resources, your village could rise up and attack other villages you create to gain their sought after resources, thus wiping out the other village. Now you can stop this if you want, or you can let this play out, the choice is entirely yours. Just remember that your citizens know what your actions are, and while you have to manage their greed along with resources, you also don't want them focusing their anger on you for any reason. Villages will expand over time due to their happiness, which in turn will allow you to create more resources. Now if you wanted to, you can focus on using every single type of giant at once, but I found it much more convenient to hone in on one type of giant and use what abilities I have of the other giants to support its growth.

This way I became accustomed to how certain resources played off each other and how different transmutations in key locations can exponentially increase the amount of resources at your disposal. In fact, I would strongly also advise to play Reus with a pad and paper so that you can keep track of the 20 different minerals you can mine, 40 plants to harvest, and 40 animals to hunt. Each have their own symbiosis and transmutation, and trying to keep all of that information while managing your population is truly a daunting task. Now you heard me mention about completing the training missions, and the reason I highly suggest that is because REUS does very little to explain to you the controller layout along with how to select items, transmute them, etc.

Using the Right Stick to zoom in and out and rotate the planet while using the D-Pad to select various abilities and giants is just part of a complex gameplay management system that has you focusing on various side panels, such as the attributes on the right, and your people's stats on the left. That's not to say that REUS is a bad looking game by any means. Done up in a 2D side scrolling wheeled surface, the ease of navigation is thankfully smooth, which is critical when you start talking about developing areas for habitat. The colorful yet distinct artwork looks beautiful, and even the resources are as individual as the giants themselves, and when combined with a lighthearted soundtrack, Reus becomes a very enjoyable game for many, many hours.

Now as a fan of achievements I'm more than happy to report that going for some of these larger achievements is not only going to take me a lot of time, but be an incredible amount of fun. Reus offers gamers an incredibly deceptive and uniquely in-depth god strategy experience. However, Reus is a bit of a stretch for its $25 price tag, but easily worth $19.99 all day long, so keep an eye out for a sale. If you're a fan of a game that actually gets significantly harder the more experienced you become, then Reus is for you.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Necropolis

When you think of games that test your patience to the point where you can envision a controller flying through your television, games like Dark Souls instantly come to mind. Developer Harebrained Schemes plays upon the very mechanics of that title, one that literally pissed off gamers, yet at the same time made devout followers of those who adored it, and released a game called Necropolis. However, these developers decided to take things to a whole new level with Necropolis, but did they cross the infamous line in the sand? You decide.

Right from the beginning you're going to find that Necropolis is simple, like smash your head into a wall kind of simple. Get from point A to point B, kill everything in sight, and do not die. Let me repeat that that last point: do not die. Harebrained Schemes decided that Necropolis will have the same dungeon crawling adventure style that millions love. However, they were not done there because they thought it would be fun to incorporate similar death mechanics that you can find in Dark Souls. As you progress through each level you can find better weapons, items, and gear, but should you die you will start all the way back at the beginning of the entire game and lose everything.

This really helps to decrease the replay value for one simple reason, as almost everything in this game is either hidden from you or not explained at all. Case in point, take the story. There barely is one. Apparently you have to make it from the top of the pyramid that you're in to the bottom or center, and the game never really explains anything as to why or how. Thankfully you at least get a wall image that depicts the control scheme at the beginning, but the rest of the time the dialogue that transpires is more poor comedy and nonsense than anything useful. You almost start to wonder why developers would do such a thing.

Necropolis is a multiplayer game at heart but it can be played solo. Having an Xbox One Elite controller falling apart in my hands while I was playing, I have come to the conclusion that should you decide to play through it solo, some form of therapy is in order because you are setting yourself up for massive disappointment after massive disappointment,here's why; You have to balance the use of the brilliant lock on mechanism because normally the game will send room after room of enemies after you, and when you're locked on, you won't see attackers coming from behind. Then you'll have to balance your stamina, and everything takes stamina such as dodging, rolling, jumping, swinging your sword, and using your secondary weapon. All of these extras expend your stamina which you'll have to figure out because the game never explains that to you either. Oh, but there's more.

Nothing in terms of codex and secrets are explained either. You can navigate through the game and find a codex but you have absolutely no idea what it does or how it helps you in any way. And for some strange reason Necropolis actually finds all of this sadistic humor funny as it taunts and mocks you throughout the game. Not only does it do all of this, but when you go to reload after dying, normally you would see some form of in-game information that would give you some clue as to how to pass or handle certain areas but nope, not here. Instead you get snarky comments that pass off as intelligent, but in reality it's meaningless banter.

It goes without saying that playing in a group is almost a requirement if you feel that any progression is going to be made, but the dungeon randomization does seem to do the trick for solo play. However, you can rapidly find that the desire to replay the pyramid over and over again diminishes greatly thanks to the randomizer being pretty shallow. I did enjoy game's visual style though. I really felt a minimalistic sense on display here and the notches of color that are selectively shown really give Necropolis an almost back from the dead kind of feeling. The soundtrack though was like the plot; next to invisible.

Make no mistake, Necropolis is a very hard game, and should you be playing solo, it is a game that is shockingly and absolutely brutally hard as it tries it's best to keep you in the dungeon for all eternity. On top of this, being priced at $30 makes Necropolis a really hard sell simply because other games that have pioneered the type of gameplay mechanics found within have already been out, are cheaper, and more exciting to play. When you essentially blindfold your gaming audience and expect them to trudge through the game's levels, I struggle to think of a reason to plunk down the price of admission. If you're a fanatic for games like the Dark Souls series, then you may find your sadistic kicks in Necropolis, otherwise your money is better spent elsewhere.

Overall Score: 6.5 / 10 Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide

What would happen if a game developer took a fantasy world setting full of magic, steel, and gunpowder, and pitted several classes of characters sending them forth to exterminate the Skaven who threaten to destroy everything in existence? This is the type of question that developer Fatshark answered with their release Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide. Priced at $39.99 Fatshark has attempted to bring the PC hit to consoles and deliver a quality gaming experience. Have they done it? Let's find out.

Long ago it was prophesied that The End Times would bring about an apocalyptic series of events that would ultimately lead to the complete and total destruction of the Warhammer world. Think of this as another extinction level event of which nothing will be the same again (e.g. Marvel Civil War). However, in the face of such unending demise, a band of 5 warriors have bonded together in a last ditch effort to thwart the evil from becoming so and to rewrite history. Although this sounds like a great narrative, the plot lines and execution of the story is incredibly shallow. I do understand that it's not the type of game that would involve an immense depth to a plot, but if you're ultimately looking for a trigger testing hack and slash game, look no further. With such a wealth of information at hand for reference and/or inspiration, it's a shame that such a game just seems to focus on hacking and slashing everything and going from point A to a linear point B.

I cannot, in good conscience, go any further without discussing how blatant Fatshark has been in mirroring the game essence of Left 4 Dead. Vermintide almost literally seems to have copied every point from Left 4 Dead and just put a Warhammer skin on it. For starters, the whole co-op party system where the party leader can select between missions. And of course there is also 'their' version of a horde mode. Once in the selected level you'll be tasked to take your group from point A to point B yet you're not given a map because the levels are so linear you cannot get lost. The only exploration that exists is navigating through select homes and back alleys that you can search while you are making your way towards your task's end. But before you do any of this you have to select your character, and in Vermintide there are 5 different ones to select from.

The Waywatcher would be regarded as a wood elf who utilizes bows, daggers and swords. Your Bright Wizard is just that, a wizard, who can unleash fire from her staff, but is governed by her use of her magic which can unfortunately consume her, thus killing her. Next you have your Soldier class who is about as generic as they come and is proficient in the use of shotguns, swords, hammers, etc. Then the shortest hero to select from is your Dwarf Ranger, who is essentially Gimli from Lord of the Rings. He's a short dwarf with a shield who can run rampant on foes with his crossbow, hammer, and of course, an axe. Rounding off the character list you have your Witch Hunter. This character sports pistols and rapiers in battle, but they can also wield crossbows and larger melee weapons such as hammers. Completing missions with these characters will allow you to level them up and unlock new character development slots to bring your hero to a whole new level.

The tutorial is good to get your feet wet in terms of the control scheme. Controls are relatively simplistic given the variants of moves that come from a PC landscape, but yet they do not seem to quite feel as familiar as other first person shooter layouts. The Left Trigger is used for blocking and the Right for attacking. The Y button switches between ranged attacks and your melee weapon. The A button is assigned for jumping (barely gets your character off the ground), and X allows you to interact with objects. Finally, the d-pad is used for quick selection of potions, etc. Earlier I wrote that this was a trigger tester because after long hours of gameplay you will not only have a much stronger right index finger, but you'll find out how tough your controller triggers actually are.

This Left 4 Dead clone does hold some improvements as the game is broken up into several missions (a total of 16 in fact) that not only increase in difficulty, but also include 3 bonus missions to play as well. Naturally, at the end of each mission you're not only awarded XP to help level your character up, but you also get the opportunity to try for gear which can consist of weapons or trinkets which you can either wear or combine within a forge/shrine to produce better quality items. This helps increase the replay factor, which is good considering all you ever do is hack and kill everything over and over again.

Now as mentioned earlier, Vermintide is a co-op experience, however, if you don't have any friends online, or any that want to play this game, you can still select to host an open game where gamers can join your match, allowing you to have up to 3 AI bots or any combination of both. We all know that AI companionship in video games is not reliable at all, and while that's true for Vermintide, there's more problems lurking in the darkness. One of the problems is since you absolutely have to connect to Vermintide's online servers to play, should there be any interruption, either on your end or theirs, you won't be able to play anything.

Other connection issues arise as well. If you're in someone else's game and they decide that they no longer want to play and leave their game, you're instantly booted, not back to your own individual Inn, but to the game's main title screen. So essentially, once you join a host's game your connection to the servers becomes solely dependent upon them. In keeping with the whole connection theme, unless you're in a party chat, there is very little in-game communication. This seems weird as you're supposed to be playing a co-op game but it doesn't allow you to communicate with one another easily.

In terms of the visuals, it's a mixed bag. The cutscenes are done with great detail and you can see that a lot of work went into producing the world in which you play in; however, there are some shading issues and graphic abnormalities that are random but not unnoticed during actual gameplay. The sound effects and soundtrack to this game is honestly not the game's strongest point. The lackluster music and generic sound effects leave a lot to be desired, and the voice acting is tolerable, so when assessed as a whole the sound just gets it done in this game.

Warhammer: End Times - Vermintide, although not perfect as it has some issues, still manages to bring about a fresh and deeper evolution of the Left 4 Dead gameplay formula making for a somewhat enjoyable gaming experience. There is still content that is available on PC that isn't available yet on the Xbox One, but from the starting block it seems that developer Fatshark has done a pretty good job not just bringing a PC game to the consoles, but also in bringing some relative fun to gamers with this new game.

Overall Score: 7.5 / 10 Mafia III

Open world games (sandbox) have long been a staple of successful video games. The Mafia franchise, which falls within the sandbox video game genre, has always taken a far more mature approach to its narrative found, and the most recent entry into the series, Mafia 3, is no different. In fact, developer Hangar 13 tells you up front, with a warning spanning the entire screen, that what you're about to hear, play, and experience contains nudity, vulgar language, dramatic violence, and hate speech. They do this out of respect for those who lived through such hate and anger in a form of tribute to their times. Let's see though just how good Hangar 13 did as we head back in time to the late 1960's.

Mafia 3's greatest strength has to be its story. Set in a deep southern town called New Bordeaux, it is Hangar 13's attempt at a theoretical New Orleans, complete with all the character that you would expect given that the Vietnam War has just ended and segregation of people is present, and all of the emotions and consequences of such are in the minds of the populous. Here is a tale involving Lincoln Clay, the character who you control. He is an African American who originally enlisted in the Army and was sent over to Vietnam, but due to his excellent performance he was promoted into a Special Forces division. After coming back, you, as Lincoln, find that your father has crossed a mob boss and that certain gangs are trying to take over specific territories within New Bordeaux, and in the end you discover that they are all led by one deceitful "Son of a Bitch".

This entire tale is more than just your classic cliché of vigilante justice, as it is a direct element of racism and the mentality of a society as a whole. Examples of this include the crimes you commit. If you commit a crime in some upscale estate area, then expect the police to charge at you hard to nail you for a crime; however, do it in the slums or the swamp and you could literally get away with murder.

I enjoyed how the delivery of the story is setup to be like some form of documentary. Each mission seemed to carry with it a new mini-movie which was the documentary unfolding, and the use of media form that time era was a stroke of brilliance to tie it all into the time period the game takes place in. After the cutscenes the mission starts and you're on your way. Now, the ultimate goal of Mafia 3 is to reclaim the city and you have to start going through the criminal empire from the ground up.

There will be times when you shoot to kill, but other times it pays to have friends that are ambitious. Remember the phrase: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend"? Once you're on the path to reclaiming the city you will have to make choices in terms of support. Reclaiming these areas and showing support will allow you to unlock perks that can essentially help turn Lincoln into a bigger, more lethal killing machine. You will start to balance your time in between the areas that you reclaim because if you don't the gangs in the area will actually rise up against you. Not only does this change what perks are available for you to get when you progress, but it will also effect the ending you get in the game, which is a wonderful treat given the mostly linear storylines we experience today.

Mafia 3's gameplay is very straight forward. If you've played any 3rd person action game in the past, oh 20 years or so, then you're well familiar with the style. The A button leads you in and out of cover (sometimes though there were instances where I would "pop" out of cover for no reason), the left bumper switches weapons, left trigger aims, the right trigger fires, etc. So, there really isn't any kind of learning curve when it comes to learning the controls behind the game. This is a refreshing aspect, but throughout the game you will witness an ungodly amount of repetition within not only the gameplay, but the combat and mission structure as well. Once the city is totally opened up to you it is a time when Mafia 3 offers its best, but it's also when you realize that it may not be all it's cracked up to be.

For starters there's no fast travel, anywhere. If you have a mission that takes you across town and you complete it in less than a minute, congratulations, you can now haul your butt back across town so you can fetch your next quest. Even though the driving mechanics are enjoyable, and are more of an arcade style, it feels incredibly dull at times. Another gripe has to do with the visuals. While the cutscenes are fantastic the same cannot be said for the rest of the game. Sure it's authentic; however, numerous times my game's color would shift and change, and the open world modeling is definitely nothing like other top tier sandbox games such as Grand Theft Auto (come on, you know the comparison would happen). Physics also seem to take a break from time to time. For example, as I was driving my car I tapped the bumper of the car in front of me and I took to the skies with flight. I then ended up crashing down and my car was destroyed.

While there may be tons of bugs within Mafia 3, the soundtrack is pure gold. Set in the 1960's era, the entire soundtrack consists of iconic songs from back in that time period. Jimmy Hendricks, The Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more belt over the radio station, and that's when I had a revelation about this game. Lately some games have tried hard to give gamers more radio stations to listen to, and in the process give you more of a music choice, but what some of them fail to do is provide quality music. Case in point, listening to the soundtrack of the new Forza Horizon 3 makes me want to try to become my own Vincent Van Gogh, but Mafia 3's soundtrack makes me want to crack open a beer and crank up the volume.

Mafia 3 sets out to step into the ring and compete for your dollar just as hard as every other 3rd person sandbox game; however, while the story and its delivery is superb, there are a bunch of glitches that have yet to be patched that bring this title down a peg or two. With improved visuals, Mafia 3 could start to contend with bigger games from companies like Rockstar, but until that happens, combined with improved polish and testing for bugs, it just doesn't seem to be the case. I think that this is what disappointed me the most. I felt like what I was playing could be a top contender for a game of the year, but then as I got deeper into it I realized that there are too many nagging issues holding it back from that level.

Overall Score: 7.1 / 10 Bioshock: The Collection

Years ago gamers were swept away to an underwater city called Rapture in a game called Bioshock. It was here that player started their campaign to find out more about this psychological thriller, and in fact, there was so much demand that a second and third game were made. When these games first launched they took the world by storm. They combined beautiful graphics with a story that, although not directly connected, strived to deliver the same mental twists that gamers came to crave from the Bioshock brand. Recently 2K Games released Bioshock: The Collection at a full retail price $59.99. Now we all know that sometimes it's better to not try to mess with what already is an icon, but do they get it right?

If you haven't played any of the Bioshock games, then let me just start out by saying I don't care where you've been, just go out and buy this game. The plot of all the three games combined starts out strong, but towards the end tends to lack the punch that we experienced in the first game, but I refuse to spoil any of the story and strongly encourage you to experience this game with fresh eyes. You'll thank me later, trust me. What seems to be the whole stand out aspect of this collection is that now these three games render at 1080p and 60FPS, though the occasional dip in the framerate felt disorienting.

It felt smooth as silk stepping back into Rapture, and heading back to the steampunk city called "Columbia", like coming home after being away for numerous years. I was also surprised at how well the controls held up as it still provided a solid control layout that played right into the plasmid power vs. ammunition battle. Quick selecting with your bumper buttons, firing weapons with your triggers and smooth targeting motion/acquisition are qualities found in top FPS games, and you will find all of that, and more, within each game in this collection.

I do have to note that there is a large missing component with the content actually contained within this collection. Bioshock was such a success that the public damn near cried out for multiplayer, and the squeaky gear got the oil. Bioshock 2 included multiplayer gameplay that, for the time, was revolutionary for the series. However, in this latest release, even though the graphics have been upgraded, and many aspects of the series is included in the collection, there is no multiplayer at all, so half of the game itself is gone without explanation. So instead of three complete games it's more like two and a half. There is one thing for all you achievement hunters to take note though, there are over 4000 achievement points to be had packed within this collection. Now, for more good news, and that's all thanks to the fact that all the single player DLC from all the games is available to go right from the beginning.

There are new collectibles to find as well while you spend your days in the depths of the sea or the clouds in the sky. You'll find golden movie reels, and when collected you will be able to view some behind the scenes footage that discusses the creation of the game and all the aspects and story within it. If it's your first time playing the series I strongly advise against watching these until you have played through the entire story of all three titles as there are tons of spoiler information throughout. This is not the case however for the Bioshock Museum. Here you can view how art and modeling changes between versions of a character were made before fans were delivered the final product. All these insights help shed some light on the evolution of what we know as Bioshock.

It goes without saying that Bioshock: The Collection brings back all the wonder and amazement we found all those years ago, and it does so in wonderfully rendered 1080p and 60FPS for a high majority of the time. While Bioshock 2 is missing it's multiplayer, the collection as a whole provides all the single player DLC and over 4000 Achievement Points to help take the sting away. Bioshock: The Collection takes what we remembered about our time in Rapture, and the city in the sky "Columbia", and tugs on the heartstrings of our emotional attachment that started with the Big Daddy and the Little Sisters, and plays our soul like a Stradivarius. After all these years Bioshock: The Collection still provides one fantastic gaming moment after another. Now would you kindly go out and buy this game?

Suggestions: Please include the multiplayer for Bioshock 2, and please update and patch the drop in framerate drops that players will come across now and then.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Awesomenauts Assemble!

Years ago the Xbox 360 gaming world was treated to a fantastic 2D MOBA style platformer called Awesomenauts. The release was regarded with high praise around the world and now we have its pseudo sequel, Awesomenauts Assemble! I say pseudo sequel because this $9.99 gem doesn't have to do much, compared to the original, to make it stand out as a must have title on everyone's radar. So you might be wondering then, if it's just a modern console reboot of a great classic game, should I buy it?

For those not familiar with Awesomenauts Assemble!, it harkens you back to the days of your youth, assuming of course your youth was spent back in the 1980's and was full of over the top cartoons, stylish action shows, and a never ending feeling of awesomeness. You'll play as one of 26 outlaws, each with their own upgradable expansions and play style, and your sole function in this virtual life is to destroy your opponent's Solar tank. Solar, in the Awesomenauts' world, is their form of currency and it's what you use to upgrade your character, buying new methods of destruction, and so much more. So, while the story and plot is so thin it's almost translucent, the over the top action and style of the game prevent anything form effecting it negatively.

When you start out you'll notice that there are several game modes to select from. Each of these modes can incorporate up to 6 people, or AI bots should you desire, and they range from quick match and custom matches as well as training, that latter being where you can test out every single one of the 26 outlaws to see which one works best for your style of gameplay. I say your style because a lot of the characters are grouped into certain skill sets which give them distinct gameplay characteristics, making every one feel unique. Some will be weighted down with heavy armor and be your traditional tanks that draw the fire and damage allowing others the opportunity to strike, while some will be support and 'area of effect' fighters who attack sections instead of individuals. There is a wealth of diversity, so it would benefit you immensely to take a browse over the different fighters and see what works out best for you.

Awesomenauts Assemble! has done a fantastic job incorporating RPG elements within the game. Earlier I touched on a notion that you'll have to purchase new abilities through the store, and in order to do this you'll need Solar and experience. The way you obtain this is by going on a killing spree and taking out as much as you can, and in doing so you will gain Solar and XP to help upgrade your outlaw. It's also a good idea to take note of where the health orbs are because in the middle of battle, when both sides are injured, they can mean the difference between victory and defeat. That's because the action is so fast paced that you'll have to keep on your toes if you want to survive the upper and lower levels of the turret supported map. Speaking of maps...

Each one of them spawn helpful meaningless robots which not only attack opponents, but will act as shields if you stay behind them, letting them absorb the damage. This tactic is vital in trying to take out enemy turrets and bases. I did have an issue here though as the level selection consisted of only six levels. While each of them are done in a beautiful side scrolling nostalgic throwback style, I was hoping for a little more in this re-boot, but that doesn't mean what is provided is bad by any means. Each level and character is designed with distinct vibrant look that stands out boldly against the beautiful backgrounds. The other small gripe I have is that Awesomenauts Assemble! doesn't provide any other game modes other than destroy your opponents. With no variety in type, and on what level it's played upon, a sense of repetition when you start to play for long sessions doesn't seem to go away.

Combat is what the primary focus of Awesomenauts and it is what will be the driving force behind the RPG elements for each character. Each of the face buttons represents a possible action for your character and you can unlock more by not only leveling up your outlaw, but by spending Solar on them to buy new talents. To help you not feel so overwhelmed, purchasing options are fairly streamlined all throughout, so you never have to feel like you don't know what you're doing. To perfect your combat I strongly suggest training with the game's bots for a few matches so you can get the feel for the RPG balancing and the upgrade system. Once you have the feel for the game down, then try your hand at the online competition and start wrecking.

Awesomenauts Assemble! is a re-boot of a quality classic Xbox 360 Live Arcade game, and for $9.99 you should consider adding this to your digital library. It provides countless hours of addictive experiences wrapped up in a massive never ending explosion of fun and enjoyment. Although there are only six levels they are dynamic settings that allow you to still get an enjoyable experience in a game like this that is not often found on any console. Thankfully the developers offered up some balancing and other beneficial updates to the title that put the cherry on top of the cake making this one of the more smart purchases you can make on the Xbox One today.

Suggestions: More levels and game types please.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Pure Chess

Throughout my life one game that always holds a special place in my heart is Chess. I love the strategy aspect where both sides are equal and it comes down to ingenuity, tactics, and skill, instead of things like how much ammo you have. Chess is one of the oldest games on the planet and has long been herald as the game of kings. Now though, developer VooFoo Studios has released Pure Chess through the Xbox One in an attempt to capture a strong foothold in the chess gaming genre. At $12.49 + tax, is it worth paying this much for a game that originally came out on the PS3 back in April 2012? That's a big stretch.

Having praised VooFoo for their work in their Pure Pool game, it goes without saying that the development of this game shows incredible attention to detail and even a level of presentation never seen before. As you begin you will have numerous options, and for those who don't know what an em passant is or how to move your players, I suggest going through the built in training session where you will cover basic, intermediate, and advanced chess techniques. This will help get you comfortable with the pieces and the board, and should start to help you unlock some basic strategy.

Once you have this under your belt you're then presented with a multitude of options. One of them is a sequential mode for solving checkmates, however, every mode increases the number of moves and difficulty. For instance, you may be starting out by solving for mate in 1 move but then at the end, your mode will have you solving for mate in 5 moves where you have to start figuring out what your opponent will move and start thinking "moves ahead" to properly plan your attack. Each mode packs 20 challenges, so you're looking at 100 total challenges to solve which is quite a daunting task, but will go to great lengths to help you prepare for more experienced gameplay.

Pure Chess also offers up multiple tournaments that you can play in. These tournaments range from beginner to master and should be attempted in that order unless you feel like being made to feel like an idiot by the computer. The difficulty levels is where Pure Chess really shines. Providing not only a predesigned difficulty level through the tournament structure, but also allowing such difficulty customization for the single play system is absolutely brilliant. For the single player system, you get to go against either a computer AI or human should one be sitting beside you. Here you can select who plays on what color, the move timer, show highlighted moves, and so much more. This allows you to a lot of freedom in customizing your Pure Chess experience, but not even close to the customization of the pieces.

If you're not familiar with VooFoo games, they are known for their incredible visual representations as well as stunning music, and I'm overjoyed to say that you find both in this version. Yes, for a game that is now over 4 years old, it still shines like a beauty on the Xbox One. When you purchase the game you'll get multiple packs for piece designs, and the overwhelming majority of them are stunning to look at. Now you'll have a default view which provides you a nice layout angle of the board and its pieces, but you also have other views by pressing the Right Bumper and then using the Left Stick to select the individual piece, while using Right Stick to move the camera around in a full 360-degree field, also allowing you to use a zoom feature with the triggers. This adds a lot of depth to the graphical quality and is a very nice touch. From this mode if you press the Right Bumper again, you'll snap to a pure overhead view of the board, and pressing it again it will cycle itself back to the normal default view.

However, there are some issues when it comes to the pieces themselves within the pack. There are some very difficult ones to clearly see and distinguish, such as the clear crystal, as they are divided into a red crystal and a clear crystal. Playing as a red crystal (black) it's incredibly easy to lose track of where your opponent's clear pieces are, thus overlooking it and opening yourself up for a world of hurt. Another small gripe would be the lack of venues to play in, as there are only 3 to select from, and there are no extra venues included in any of the add-on packs included in the purchase.

Working in tandem with these stunning graphics is a soundtrack that literally surprised me and has rapidly become one of my all-time favorites. Giving you multiple genres of music to select from, my Klipsch system serenaded me with beautiful Jazz music that's full of wonderful piano, to a nature relaxation tune that made my blood pressure drop an easy 20 points. It's so good that I've even turned the game on and just left it on. Turned off the TV and went about my day and had this phenomenal music playing everywhere. If you think the graphics are good, the sound is even better.

There are some issues though with the multiplayer and that comes in the form of not forcing a move on your opponent. Normally when you play an opponent you have a set amount of time you can take before you have to move or forfeit. This aspect seems to be extinct from the game, so you can quite literally start a game, and your opponent could never move at all. This forces you to either sit there and wait until they decide to move, or quit and play something else which results in a loss for you and a win for your opponent. Now way back in the day, chess games that were played with others over long distances were done through correspondence where you would send a letter off with a move, and then you would get one in return. Sadly, what this means is that you could have a game that literally never ends because you can take as long as you want so you could take decades if you so desired. A way to resolve this would be to split the multiplayer up into a timed match and a lengthier correspondence match. Hopefully this will be addressed because it takes away from a great core of what could be an amazing game.

Now based off of all this, can we say that Pure Chess delivers an incredible chess experience? Without question. From the customization options, the stunning visual representations, and a soundtrack that is an audio dream, Pure Chess brings you an experience like never before. While the venues are extremely limited, nothing compares to the multiplayer issues that remove the move clock without any option to include it. That effectively eliminates one entire mode completely, and since Chess is mostly a multiplayer game, that's a major drawback. You would think after all this time VooFoo would have addressed it and corrected the issue, but apparently didn't manage to since its initial release 4 years ago. Because of this large oversight of essentially half the game, wait until this game gets around the $4.99 and pick it up.

Suggestions: Fix the multiplayer and this would have been a far higher rating.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 PAC-MAN Championship Edition 2

There are very few gaming icons that have survived so many generations with varying re-imaginings as Pac-Man. From the days of the classic quarter munching coin-op, Pac-Man has gone through many different shifts, not just in board layout but in dimensions as well. Bandai Namco has recently released the latest Pac-Man game called, coincidentally, Pac-Man Championship Edition 2, which is a sequel to, you guessed it, Pac-Man Championship Edition. This latest release is priced at $12.99 + tax and I'm sure will be pack full of bigger and ummm... better things.

The game has a few modes of play including Training (which I strongly insist to the point where it's almost a borderline demand), Score Attack, and Adventure mode. The training mode will get you used to the sheer speed and enemy physics that you will come across. This helps you get used to every aspect from bomb jumping, to ghost waking, to chain forming, and so on. Here you will also learn about "nudging" a ghost.

In almost all other variants of Pac-Man if you hit a ghost, you die. In Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 you can hit a ghost and they will bounce off of you and you can then move and avoid said ghost. Hit it again though and it will bounce you two away from each other; however, hit it a 3rd time in rapid succession and the ghost will fly up and off the board and land back down both enlarged and pissed off. Then it's a game of cat and mouse as you run like Neo from the Matrix to try and buy some time before the ghost calms down and you can "nudge" it again.

While you may think that 'ghost-bumping' seems out of place, you're right it is; however, when you are running short on time sometimes it is best to get a ghost mad at you so that as they fly off the board allowing you to slide underneath and then continue to eat pellets. Speaking of eating pellets, you don't need to be greedy. In previous games you had to eat all the pellets in order to move onto the next stage, but not here. At the bottom center of the screen you will see a handy meter, and as you eat more dots, the meter will rise until it gets to the end and spawns either a fruit, a power pellet, etc. Once eaten you will proceed to the next level and start the bar filling process all over again.

There's even a technique called a bomb jump where your Pac-Man can jump all the way back to the original starting point, which is coincidentally where the fruit or power-up spawns to end the level. While you have a limited number of these bomb jumps, you can always gain more, so it comes down to a fine balancing act. I usually found myself using the earlier stages to try and build up my bomb jump amount, doing so by eating all the dots on the level, and then the fruit, without dying.

One of the final aspects you'll train in are the boss battles. Here you will have a massive ghost that spawns behind you in your funky 2.5D future-retro hybrid stage and you have to clear so many stages within the time allotted in order to have Pac-Man break through and form many other 'Pac-Men' which you can use to take out the boss by breaking it down bit by bit. It's kind of gruesome if you think about it for a Pac-Man game, but it's also strangely satisfying. Now once you have the basics figured out and you can take to Score Attack.

Here you will start to notice a massive grid where your score on each level determines your letter grade, and obviously the higher the better. There are many techniques that you can use to make your score climb, one of them being quite simple; eating every pellet. Your multiplier grows and grows until you reach 500 points per pellet eaten. This is when your score literally starts to skyrocket. Another way to gain massive score bonuses is to create a chain of ghosts, and then at the end of the stage eat a power pellet and hunt down them down. Hit the first ghost and you’ll devour every following ghost in this trail. Combine this with the bonuses you get for lives retained, or bomb jumps not used, and your score will soar into the heavens.

Overall it’s simplistic and nothing too challenging so I like to call this mode 'advanced training' because you are graded after every performance, and Adventure mode has a requirement score needed in Score Attack. Once you hit Adventure mode though you'll be able to guide Pac-Man through six defined sets where each set consists of ten levels, and once you reach the final stage you have to face a boss battle.

All of this dot chomping goodness comes wrapped in a neon heavy dressing of transparency set in hyper speed. This increase in speed will have you looking far ahead and almost mapping a path in front of you so you can plan your route carefully. The mix of a hybrid future and retro is serenaded by an amped up techno mix that is rapidly becomes somewhat annoying despite its best efforts to help immerse you deeper into this new Pac-Man experience.

When it's all said and done, and the last pellet has been eaten, sadly I can't justify the $12.99 + tax for this game, even though it's not a bad game. Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 tries to be bigger and bolder then the first, but it just doesn't seem to provide the same type of quality execution. That's disappointing because I love how different companies interpret Pac-Man and I know this could have been done a whole lot better, especially since I enjoyed the first one so much.

Suggestions: A cheaper price of admission would make this game more tempting for people to buy.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Claire: Extended Cut

It's been said many times before but it's true, survival horror games are a dying genre (see what I did there?). You can see many examples where plot and character development are switched out for increased gore and over the top killing sequences, which many people now see as the staple for a horror game. Hailstorm Games recently released their own survival horror game called Claire: Extended Cut on the Xbox One. Now let's grab our flashlights and see if it is worth the $14.99 + tax price.

The game focuses around your main character, aptly named Claire. This emotionally distraught young woman seems to be battling her own emotional and internal demons while caring for her sick mother at a hospital. Right from the beginning, the story takes a twisted turn and immediately you think you're in for a wild psychological thrill ride that you'll never want to see end.

Seeing as you're taking care of your mother in a hospital, that is where you spend the majority of your time. Shortly after, everything goes upside down you'll be accompanied by your trusty dog Anubis, and it's up to you to venture through the possessed and slightly demonic hospital as Claire tries to unravel her past through her dreams. Along the way you will come across various strangers, each of which require a choice to be made as to how you can help them. Be forewarned though, each action carries with it a consequence, so choose wisely.

Unfortunately, the game seems to hit a point that leaves you full of questions with very little answers. This is one of the things that got under my skin because if we're honest, when we get really frightened it's because we have invested ourselves into the story. When you don't have that emotional connection to the audience, why even tell the story then? This is just one of several flaws that really set this game back in my eyes, and it's a shame because demonic hospitals are a horror cliché that, if done right, can be incredibly scary. Sadly, though this game wasn't done right.

This is in part due to the gameplay. While it's customizable as it allows you to select varying pre-loaded controls that are already mapped out, that doesn't stop the fact that the big problem with the gameplay is the guidance, or lack thereof. Claire: Extended Cut is laid out in a 2D map with a 2D side scrolling display, and that sounds fairly simplistic and straightforward; however, when you take into account that doors and passage ways are hard to decipher, you will find yourself constantly bringing up your map trying to figure out not only what direction you're going, but where you're trying get to next. This really detaches you from the game, breaking any sort of hold that it tried to have in the first place. Earlier you read about those strangers that you have to decide on how you help, and to do that sometimes you'll have to use items in your inventory which you can see are almost ripped straight from Resident Evil. While some items can be used to help others, they can also heal you and keep your sanity in check, so you'll need to make some hard decisions.

In the midst of all the terror within Claire: Extended Cut, the developers have decided to put puzzles within the game. These are presented with very little to no guidance, or clues as to how to solve them, but thankfully they weren't too difficult, and seeing as how Claire seems to be running from unkillable shadow monsters, time is literally the most important thing you have. Another gripe is the game is not that clear as to how to equip your flashlight or even just change its batteries. Since the game only tells you this one time only, you get the feeling that something so simple would have provided a great deal of assistance, especially coming from the basic lighter.

Even though Claire: Extended Cut is a pixelated 2D game, the graphics aren't that bad. If you enjoy a retro feel to the multitude of different areas within a hospital, then this game is right up your alley. Sadly though the soundtrack leaves a lot to be desired, but the sound effects really helped pull the game's sound through. When you are close to an enemy you'll hear your dog growl, your heartbeat pound, and the music will swell (which is what you would expect from any horror media); however, the music is what gets the big thumbs down. They could have stripped the soundtrack down to literally just ambient background noise and let your mind run wild with the various noises and it would have been far superior to what is there now. Thanks to the execution of the sound I'm actually quite thankful that there is no voice acting, just text input.

Should you plunk down $14.99 + tax for Claire: Extended Cut? Unfortunately dear readers, the answer is no. Claire: Extended Cut sadly takes an iconic horror setting and tries hard, but it fails to deliver a quality survival horror experience. Sure, there are some good points, but the negatives far outweigh any good you can find. This is truly a saddening because the potential was there, but the execution was not. A few slight improvements, should there be a sequel, would make a world of difference in making a sub-par survival horror game turn into a pants-wetting fright fest.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Dogos

There is a dying genre of gaming in the world today. Shoot 'em up (shump) games are far and few between, and quality shump games are even rarer. Developer OPQUAM have decided to step into the ring with Dogos, a top down shump style game for the low, low price of $11.99 + tax. Promising exciting and innovative gameplay, the real questions to be asked are: "Does it really provide that gameplay?" and "Is it worth the cost?"

Dogos starts you off on planet Earth where aliens named Dogos (who knew right?) have attacked, and thanks to apparently very quick setup times, they have fortified a total of 14 hybrid levels to challenge your shooting skills. Throughout the meaningless story you'll learn more about the Dogos, and your pilot, but if we're being honest here, that won't matter because you'll be too busy fixated on the actual levels themselves. Developer OPQUAM has decided to venture away from the whole "on rails" experience, as normally in a shump game your ship in set to naturally fly through a series of pre-loaded levels where it's impossible to do any sort of exploration. Well, not here.

Instead you're going to switch between a forced top down view where your sole focus is to essentially hang on for dear life and never stop firing. This mode is designed to transport you through long narrow passageways that would be normally mundane to fly through at increased speed, and they not only pay homage to the on the rails aspect, but they also save time and prevent Dogos from becoming boring. Once you manage to get through, Dogos abandons the whole "on rails" concept to focus on open level sandbox exploration where you have free control to fly forward, back, left, right, or wherever you want to go. Along with this you have free camera control movement as well, so the levels are a sort of hybrid mix of the two different game types.

The problem I had was with this was that Dogos always seemed to have a slight hiccup while the camera was shifting between the two modes, and should I be going from open world to rails, the game would immediately propel my craft faster than I would normally go. Sometimes when combined with the hiccup in the transfer my ship, I would go crashing head-on into the side of a canyon. Speaking of ships though...

They're more traditional here. You get two of them and each have their own distinct balances of weapons, shields, speed, etc., so it's not like you have a plethora of choices to see what works best for you. Each ship has varying armaments which include a single primary weapon that you fire with RT, and a ground weapon that you fire with LT. Both of these weapons can unlock more variants as you progress through the game and you can unlock weapons such as screen filling laser spreads and cluster bombs.

One issue that plagued me was a seemingly impossible way of hitting ground targets. My laser fire would knock out anything in the sky, but trying to hit a small moving tank with a missile was like trying to nail Jell-O to a wall. Since this hit detection is so poorly executed you will find yourself literally bashing the crap out of your LT, which not only will result in finger fatigue, but your left index finger will become super-humanly strong compared to your others.

On top of this weaponry you get special attacks as well that can consist of homing missiles, laser cannon, and so much more. To fire these, you have to first obtain them by collecting ammo for them from fallen enemies, then just press LB and watch as all the enemies on the screen become under attack. Very straightforward, which is good. I just wish I could say the same for the graphics and the music though, but they aren't up to par.

The top down segments almost feel like wasted time as they throw you through a winding narrow corridor where they litter the path with enemies and traps to kill you, only to have you emerge into a massive battle where you have missiles, tank rounds, and more coming at you like a massive tidal wave of enemy ammunition. Personally I'd rather see these sections shortened or removed to focus more on the sandbox exploration, because when you're flying through the corridor sections you can't enjoy the graphics around you the same way you can when you're exploring. The sound though is dreadful. I wasn't expecting any sort of sonic marvel, but the soundtrack is a high energy piece that gets drilled into your skull thanks to its repetition. I currently enjoy the game more if I turn my sound off, and that to me is never a good sign.

Dogos tries to do quite a lot, but in doing so it is sadly underwhelming in a lot of categories. It's like the old saying, a Jack of all trades is a Master of none, and that is what Dogos is a prime example of. Had there been more of a focus on the open sandbox exploration, and certainly better hit detection on the ground weaponry, Dogos could have been a lot better than it is.

Overall Score: 6.9 / 10 Witness, The

If we set the way back machine to 2008, we bear witness to Jonathan Blow and his creation called Braid; A puzzle solving game that involved time manipulation. Braid was a sensational hit, not just in the puzzle genre, but games in general. Now fast forward about 7 years ahead and we are privileged to have his next release called the Witness from developer Thekla Inc. Using similar puzzle layouts that we used to find in iconic puzzle games like Myst, The Witness offers the gamer a plethora of emotions ranging from euphoric excitement, to heart stopping rage, and a spectacular example of how less can actually be a whole lot more. Priced at $39.99 + tax, the Witness better deliver for that price. Does it? Grab your thinking caps and let's get exploring.

You have to understand something about the Witness, and that is the whole "story" concept is fundamentally different in almost every aspect than what we as gamers are used to. It's a far more cerebral experience and doesn't rely common plotlines like the world is ending, or mankind is on the brink of annihilation, etc. Instead you are given philosophical and theological quotes found on tiny (and I do mean tiny) voice recorders that are from famous historic people. These are found usually as you progress through the various puzzles, but while some will provide clues such as "crossing invisible lines", others will just flat out confuse. Even from the beginning you don't know who you are, where you are, how you got there, why you are there, and what you have to do next.

Instead you get a series of puzzles that, looking back on it, are some of the easiest to figure out in the game itself. Once you complete these then you will be able to solve a puzzle that will open a door to your new sandbox. This island that you're on is fully open to you and filled with puzzle after puzzle after puzzle. You also don't have to complete the entire series of puzzles either, as you can walk away from a puzzle to go find and explore more so don't feel frustrated if you can't solve a puzzle just yet, because through your exploration you'll come to understand the reasoning and logic behind some of the puzzles. Plus you just may learn the varying languages you need to solve them. I'm not talking languages such as French, Japanese, etc., but more of a symbolic language with varying colors and outlined patterns that provide you some form of insight as to just what you need to do.

This is key because I have lost count how many times I was left furious to the point of testing the breaking point of an elite controller, only then to figure out the language, and once again I feel like a dunce. That is The Witness' biggest and worst point all wrapped up into one. When you approach a puzzle in a series you will get the feel for how the puzzle operates within the first couple ones, however they do progress in difficulty, and sometimes will leave you so frustrated that it's best to just walk away and clear your mind. However, if you are struggling to complete a puzzle, and manage to do it, you're left feeling like you're one of the smartest people ever to walk the planet. That's until you go after your next puzzle and your euphoria is replaced by fury inspiring rage all over again. This emotional swing is surprising given the fact that the game's control system is one button.

Let me give you an example of the type of steps you'll need to go through to solve 1 out of over 500 puzzles. Picture a 6x5 grid of squares that require you to guide a light beam from an initial spawn point and move it in a certain pattern to solve it. Here are some of the 26 steps you need to do to solve just this one single puzzle out of a total of 5 puzzles:

Starting from the farthest left starting point move:

LEFT (x2)
RIGHT (x2)
LEFT (x2)
LEFT (x2)
and UP

When you originally approach one of these numerous puzzles you will have absolutely no idea what you are supposed to do or how to solve this. It’s here that you have to take notice of some form of environmental clue or factor that will allow you to solve not only this puzzle, but the remaining ones in the series. Now the game does have subtle ways of teaching you the languages of the various puzzles, so if you are having difficulty, sometime venturing to another area or solving a different puzzle will help you decipher the clues to learning the key to the previous one, allowing you to then go back and apply your new knowledge to the one that had you stumped before.

Outside of the grey matter stress test, it goes without saying that The Witness is also a beautiful game. There are varying sections of your playground island, each of which is designed differently and provides dynamic contrasts between each area, all of which are done in a very cel shaded-like style, full of bright colors and a multitude of shades. There are deserts, forests, castles, and more all waiting to be explored. Just walking around and exploring you will quickly start taking screen captures left and right because it's genuinely gorgeous, but you'll also notice that there is next to nothing in terms of a soundtrack which starts to develop an increasing feeling of exclusion.

The Witness is one of the most emotional roller coasters you will find in gaming today, and on top of that, it's one of the most cerebral and intellectually challenging games you will probably ever play. Completing this game will require the comprehensive ability to decipher keys which in turn will teach you solutions, and you will need to combine all of this together with the ability to adapt on the fly because every single puzzle is different.

Would I pay $39.99 + tax for this game? Regrettably no. Sadly, the game does do a good job at giving you a lesson in isolationism, and while that is unique, the game itself doesn't feel like one flowing cohesive experience with any sort of point. If this game was priced at $24.99 or below though, it would be a must buy every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas

When you have a game that is rapidly approaching its 3rd birthday (November 14, 2013) and was originally an iOS game, naturally you're not going to be expecting much in terms of quality. Now, when you also see that it's $14.99 on a current-gen console, you start questioning your own sanity. Xbox One owners get to dive into the adventure called Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas from Cornfox & Bros., but the big question that we have to ask ourselves: is Oceanhorn worth essentially $15 + tax when it's an iOS game that is almost 3 years old?

Normally I'd wait longer in my review to touch on anything to do with the sound; however, this game absolutely surprised me with the quality of the audio. I wondered why this was, and then his name popped up on the screen: Nobuo Uematsu. For those who don't know this name, I would regard him as one of the most influential musical composers in video game history. With a career that spans decades, Mr. Uematsu's work ranks in comparison to Beethoven. A master of music, you can hear his work right from the beginning. Every area carries with it a certain musical feeling that ranges from lighthearted and almost childlike fun, to a brooding and ominous soundtrack that is more foreboding. I can honestly say that when I first turned the game on I just set the controller down and listened for a while. Hearing the soundtrack combined with the crashing of the waves made the game unbelievably calming, which is deceptive given the story. If anything, the music alone is reason to buy this game.

The story is sadly nowhere near up to the quality of the music, but that does mean it's not any good. It's a story about survival of numerous races in an attempt to maintain peace, in a time where dark corruption has spawned numerous monsters bent on using dark power to destroy everything. Only one monster now remains, and that monster is Oceanhorn. Your father, knowing the danger that this one monster can cause, set out on a quest to destroy it, but never came back. Through your quest you will acquire magical skills and powerful weaponry, as well as meet interesting and somewhat mysterious people as you sail to various islands and try to figure out what Oceanhorn is, as well as the location and outcome of your father. While the story reads like a Hollywood suspense blockbuster, it is fairly generic, but that's not essentially a bad thing, and let me tell you why.

Oceanhorn has been strongly compared to numerous entries in the Zelda game series. In fact, some have gone so far as to say Oceanhorn is literally a carbon copy of some of them and that nothing feels unique to it since it seems to have diminished the amount of content in what you can do compared to a Zelda game. You hear phrases like "Legend of Ocean" and "Windhorn Waker", and that got me thinking; OK, first off I have to say that if there was ANY game that you would want to take inspiration from, it's a Zelda game. If you want a quality adventure game, there honestly isn't better source material out there. If one of my biggest gripes is that I'm too much like a Zelda game, I think that should be a huge compliment. I've lost count in how many times there have been modern adventure games that cost far more than this to make and they were a gargantuan failure. So, I guess I would say thank you to all those who would call this a Zelda clone.

Oceanhorn does a lot to make itself a quality gaming experience. One of the ways it goes about this is through the control system. Using the X button to swing your sword, and Right Trigger to raise your shield, your character is almost ready to go right from the very first level. As you progress you unlock spells that you can use with the Y button, and the A button is used as a dash/interact button. It goes without saying that Oceanhorn packs very simple gameplay mechanics which helps make this game very easy to just pick up, play, and enjoy. I did have some control issues in various areas that involved the mini map (which is essentially worthless), but overall the gameplay was definitely solid.

Using a very "Zelda-ish" feel for the graphics was a big stretch in artistic liberty, but in the end the results are pretty good. The islands themselves have unique qualities about them, which does well in helping to identify their own individual identity within the game. When you also take into account the individual music for each island, home, cave, and dungeon, you get the feeling that Oceanhorn is making a strong case for standing upon its own two feet.

Normally I'm not a fan of a 3-year-old mobile game that decides to release on the Xbox One, but I am a fan of Oceanhorn. The streamlined controls allow for fluid gameplay, the graphics pay fantastic homage to legendary source material, and the soundtrack is hands down in my top 5 Xbox Soundtracks of all time. In fact, one of the reasons for the score being lower then it could be is that I feel the songs are not long enough. I miss those sweeping soundscapes of harmonics and melodies, and while they are there, they're just too short. Yes, the story isn't that intriguing as some may want, but it's not that bad, and there is a sequel in development, and if this is their foundation to build upon I foresee nothing but some of the best quality gaming coming from Cornfox & Bros. I would venture to say that Ocearnhorn: Master of Uncharted Seas is without a doubt worth the $14.99 + tax, so go forth, purchase, download, and enjoy a solid gaming experience.

Suggestions: Other than focus on improving the story delivery and increasing the amount of activity you can do in the world, I would love to do a review of the soundtrack should one exist. Honestly readers, the soundtrack is a masterpiece.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Armello

When I was younger it seemed like anything we played with had our imaginations running wild. I remember the days fantasizing over majestic spells and epic battles in a strategic play that unfolded in our minds that we placed before us in reality. Priced at $19.99, Armello aims to deliver a virtual board game experience with heavy RPG elements in an environment home to many different animal factions. Yes, I said animal factions. Now, I understand that $19.99 is a lot to plunk down on a game that originally came out last year on PC, so is it worth that price today or is it showing signs of aging?

Starting things off, the storyline unfolds through the many different factions that are found in this game. Think of it like a story you would tell a person where you included the aspects and ideals of all the various races. Your kingdom is ruled by a Mad King who does nothing as a dark force called 'The Rot' starts to creep amongst the lands as it poisons and destroys all it touches. Throughout this story you will uncover side quests that will help grant your character different bonuses and treasures that can aid you, or even help turn a battle in your favor instantly. These side quests give you two options: you can either choose a safe ending, where you gain some bonuses, or you can select a riskier ending and hope to play the odds and win the bonus. Should you fail in the latter your character suffers damage and ends up losing their rewards.

In terms of content available, there is a ton of it for the single player, but the multiplayer aspect is absolutely brilliantly developed and a welcome breath of fresh air. Experiencing the different animal classes and their bonuses will allow you to play the game in a multitude of ways, which works wonders when trying to craft your individual strategy. You'll have to learn a lot if you want to overthrow the King and save the land. So how do you go about doing that? Essentially you navigate the different tiles while paying attention to their individual bonuses and hindrances that they provide, and then fight in combat when necessary; but there's so much more.

Armello focuses on cards. Everything is a card. Your followers are cards, your inventory items are cards, and most of these cost coins to use. You can earn coins and various followers can assist you with items that can be equipped and put in your inventory, which range from weapons and armor, to fake orders that you can use to divert enemies from your path. These cards differentiate in expense to use and the benefits to your character, and usually the higher the cost the bigger the benefit. Your character is assigned a certain number of AP (action points) which you can use to move, or play a card or two, leaving the choice in strategy entirely up to you. Once your round is done, holding the B button will end your turn.

When you talk about the frequent combat you will notice that your character will roll dice, and depending on your character's animal race, you will get a certain number of dice. Each race of animal has their own distinct bonus and there are even cards that can affect the number of dice you have and/or your opponents have as well, so keep that in mind for a tough fight. Each side represents a certain action, and after each side rolls their dice the action plays out, winner takes the position on the board. Armello does a great job with a tutorial system of various challenges along the same map, but from different animal factions so you can get a feel for the skills you'll need to master moving forward. I cannot stress enough how important it is to go through this, paying attention and observing the controls in the options menu as well. It goes without saying that Armello is easy to pick up and play, but tough to master.

The control system may sound complex and confusing, but the visuals and sound are done beautifully. The shifts from day to night and then to morning are done by creating a pallet of colors that not only are vibrant, but unique as well. While the majority of the game is dealt through text boxes, the board itself looks beautiful. The animations for interactions with others is also very smooth. In regards to the audio, particularly the music, wow did it ever surprise me. For many of the of the indie games that I review, I'm left with my ears bleeding and begging for me to stop, but that isn't the case here and I'm very thankful for it. Everything from the opening screen to the overworld environment, and even the battle sound effects, are done with great attention to detail and proper development which is a big plus in my book.

I can see why developer League of Geeks priced this game at $19.99, and after all that praise, I'm sure you're expecting me to say rush out and buy it, and I am. $19.99 may seem a bit too steep for a game style like this; however, given the overall presentation, and the gameplay that is contained in this indie title, the money you spend will be for a really good digital interactive board game, which is something you don't see too often.

Overall Score: 7.8 / 10 Turing Test, The

Can a computer ever hold a conversation with a human being and pass along useful information? How does a computer value the information they are exposed to versus how a a human does, and what is their perception of value? These are just a few questions that are the foundation for Bulkhead Interactive's latest game, The Turing Test. In a sort of 2001 A Space Odyssey meets Portal, The Turing Test sets you on a psychological path of intrigue and self-examination. Grab your spacesuit, because our adventure starts now.

The Turing Project starts out introducing Ava, who is apparently waking from cryostasis sleep aboard a space station that is orbiting Europa, which is one of the many moons of Jupiter. You're awoken because the crew that has traveled to the surface is encountering an emergency and they are in need of support and you are the one they can call upon. When you wake you're greeted by TOM, who is the game's advanced computer system. Think of TOM like the computer HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Throughout your adventure TOM and Ava's conversations tend to dwell on philosophical points of interest as well as choices of morality and life. I won't say any more about the plot because it's one to be experienced, and you as a gamer should not have the experience ruined.

The Turing Test is first and foremost a puzzle game. Various switches and power orbs must be manipulated in order to advance from room to room and progress the story. It's pretty straight forward, which is a benefit to the player. The controls consist of the LT and RT to grab and release orbs, via your repair tool, and the X button is used to grab and manipulate selectable objects, such as power conduit boxes and other items throughout the base. Finally, the Left Stick is used to walk while the Right Stick controls the camera. There isn't any training in terms of a walkthrough, but there isn't much in terms of controls that would lead one to be perplexed by what to do next, because that's the puzzles job.

Just like any other games of a similar nature, the object is to go from one room to another solving puzzles along the way. That is where a lot of the joy is found. There will be times when you are so perplexed by a puzzle that you think it's impossible, but if you calm yourself and think logically, then the answer may not be as hidden as you thought it to be. One thing I will make note of is that line of sight is critically important to solve many of the puzzles. Another tip that I learned is that the conduit boxes are actually more important than the regular orbs. The reason for this is that your repair tool can hold up to 3 orbs at a time and you can carry one box, so at any given time you can manage up to 4 different items at once. This is very handy and as you progress through the game you will see why the boxes are more important than the orbs.

Being that this is a game set in outer space you would think that the graphics of the game would be incredible, and for the most part you would be right. There is little to experience outside of the constant puzzle after puzzle between every room, but what is available is done very well. Going through the crew quarters and reading the journals left behind and seeing the pictures of children waiting at home, or a faithful golden retriever, helps establish a bond that enables you to sense something is broken in some way and it's up to you to figure out why and help. While the game looks very good, what really stands out in the area of the presentation is the sound.

The start screen itself just blew me away with its tranquil melodies and piano work. I honestly sat there for over 15 minutes just listening to the music on the start screen where I could actually feel my blood pressure dropping at least 15 points. It's incredibly calming and the wondrous thing about the music is that the same quality carries with you throughout the entire game. This is one of, if not the best, quality of the game, but it's not just the music that gets thumbs up. The voice acting is some of the best I've heard in a very long time and not something you would expect from a game that is 1/3 the cost of regular retail.

There are just a few drawbacks to this quality gaming experience that should be mentioned. For starters, the load times in between chapters are quite long. Being that the game doesn't have very many chapters this not only takes you out of the adventure somewhat, but it also highlights the fact that it's a short game on its own. I also discovered that in Chapter 1, whenever you complete a puzzle you go through a hallway full of scanners which are relatively pointless, then you're smoothly transitioned into the next puzzle room. After Chapter 1 though that all stops as you hit a blue loading wall where your character freezes, and a blue loading screen is superimposed on top of what you can see, and this happens after every single room, so any sort of fluidity is not only set back but sometimes removed completely. Not the best way to go considering the game is short and you experience this numerous times.

Priced at $20, The Turing Test is so much more than just a puzzle game, a platforming game, or anything like that. It's a voyage into the morality and the complex nature of the human psyche and its development, construction, and more importantly management of true artificial intelligence. This game is worth every penny, even with a few bumps in the road. If you're a fan of puzzles, and appreciate a fantastic story laid out in beautiful graphic detail that is complimented by a soundtrack and soundscape that is of the top tier quality, then The Turing Test is an absolute must buy for you.

Suggestions: Being able to purchase the soundtrack separately please?

Overall Score: 8.5 / 10 Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy

Continuing the growing trend of previously released PC games being ported onto the Xbox One and sold for a premium price seems to have no end in sight. Recently Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy came to release on Xbox One over a year after it was released on PC. Priced at a whopping $24.95, the developer, Slitherine, is determined to have you paying almost half of full retail price for this turn based space strategy game. Now the only question is, should you? Let's find out.

Before I go forward, I have to severely stress that you should take some time and go through the tutorial, and even though it doesn't do a great job teaching you because of trying to map everything in the PC UI to a console controller with limited inputs, it will be a godsend to you down the road. I would also recommend playing early missions over again so you can get the feel for the game itself. Since the game will not let you go back to earlier missions, what I did was quit out before I had won the mission so that way I would get another chance to help overcome this incredibly steep learning curve. Anyways, now that the public service announcement is made, back to the game.

I have to make a note first hand that this game is way deeper than any casual gamer may first assume. You're given a 3D plane as your mission sandbox with each adventure. From there, the lackluster story has you performing menial tasks and very light combat so you can start to get a feel for the "WeGo" battle mechanics that are in place. It's more than your traditional RTS, and in fact, it's quite innovative and does a phenomenal job in helping to overcome the fact that the story is better left unsaid, because as you play through it, there isn't much in terms of meaningful development to keep the gamers hooked. But there is very in depth combat. Let me give you an example. At the beginning of the missions you map out your ships that you're going to bring with you which include everything from smaller corvette style ships, to mammoth battleships.

The preliminary ships that you get to manage in the beginning are your little raider ships which accompany a corvette. While the raider class ships focus on utilizing maneuverability and front firing lasers, the corvette manages to incorporate long range targeting missiles, that when impacted, will cause damage to any surrounding ships, so watch out. Then as you progress you will naturally unlock bigger ships such as frigates which are equipped with a stun beam on the front to disorient oncoming enemies, but a lifesaving disruptor that will detonate any enemy missile that gets within range so that it doesn't impact your fleet. Remember, LIFE SAVING.

Lastly you'll work your way to the heavy hitters, the battleship and dreadnought. I'm talking the titanic ships that not only pack the largest and most incredibly devastating firepower, but can also transport small fleets of ships that can be used as a secondary weapon or defensive system. Each ship not only carries with it a certain value for reinforcements, but also has its own independent weapons system, shield management system, navigation system, and more. Once you have your fleet assembled and kitted out, it's time to head into battle. As your fleet arrives your combat mission begins, and it's up to you to fulfill the mission objectives which usually involve you killing every enemy in this 3D sandbox. Now you'll thrust yourself deep into the real job of this game; system management. This is where the bulk of your game activity comes from.

You'll start your missions by plotting your ship's navigation routes. You'll see a wide arc in front of your ship which indicates where your ship can travel. Now instead of just left, right, and forward, you have control within an almost pure 180-degree field, and on top of all that, you have the ability to traverse up or down different planes within the 3D space. So now you have selected where your fleet will move within your turn, you can go to your weapon systems on each individual starship and configure how you want them to fire; either through a more randomized auto fire (which you can customize the nature of this action), or a more powerful concentrated fire (be careful though because some ships can't hit an enemy that flies behind them). Now with your flight plan made and your weapon systems are selected, its time to press the Y button which brings up the menu and you select GO to commence your turn. You'll watch your ships fly towards your targets as they in turn fly towards you. That's when the battle begins and your management tasks grow even deeper.

Another aspect you can also control is how you manage your ship's energy. Do you throw more into your weapons and draw that extra needed power from the engines so your ship doesn't travel as far per turn but hits harder? Or do you pour more power into shields and take the energy from your weapon systems or engines? Speaking of shields, you'll also have to manage your numerous sides of shields as well. Instead of just one all-encompassing shield that you have to manage, you have front, rear, and side shields to manage, and should your left shield drop to 0, then your ship is naturally weak on that side. to remedy this, you'll either have to repair it by launching a repair bot that will fix your ship at the cost of immobilizing it for a turn or two, or you can divert individual power from other shielded areas to resupply power to your now demolished shield. Now this is a small example of the sheer depth that you have to manage every turn and with every ship. Once you've navigated your way through your 3D sandbox and killed all your targets, you'll get a mission complete and rewarded based off your performance. Then it's onto the next sad chapter in the mediocre story.

One of the many things that was improved and tweaked for the console release are the graphics, and thank the good lord that they were because this game has some beauty in it. While there are other games that provide better interstellar graphics and environments, Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy does a great job in delivering some very beautiful celestial visuals. The soundtrack to this game though was a bit watered down for my taste. While it's good in the fact that my ears weren't bleeding, it wasn't memorable in any way. That's surprising to me because you would think that a game set in space would provide some form of atmospheric harmonics that help set the mood and the tone, but I didn't see that to be the case here.

Star Hammer: The Vanguard Prophecy has a very, very deep learning curve, a gargantuan management system that has to be attended to in great detail with every turn, and a story that doesn't deliver an experience that makes you feel connected. I thought long and hard whether or not it justified its cost to gamers, and came to the conclusion that it didn't simply because of its high price point. I wish its price was set at $14.99, because that would be the perfect value for the content within. While the system and mechanics that are implemented are innovative, you get the feeling like there is so much packed into the game that your controller is about to burst and your console rupture trying to figure it out.

Overall Score: 7.6 / 10 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

When Eidos Montreal set out to create the Deus Ex world, it's fair to say that they never knew just how big it could, or would, eventually become. Their last entry was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which laid the ground work for their latest release Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. Human Revolution received high marks and much acclaim, but the big question is: "Does the sequel, Mankind Divided, live up to or exceed its predecessor?" In our opinion the short answer would basically be yes, but there's so much to talk about, so let's jump right in!

For those who haven't played Deus Ex: Human Revolution, let me help set the stage so that the current game isn't so confusing. You played as Adam Jensen who was a cop, and along with his ex, worked for an human augmentation company called Sarif Industries. Sarif Industries was attacked, and during this attack Adam was left for dead. Looking back on that decision I'm sure the enemy regretted it because Sarif spared no expense in turning Adam into a walking augmented tank capable of exceptional feats of strength, agility, cunning, and so much more. The story was a weave of backstabbing and betrayal, accruing to a point that was a defining moment in mankind's history; however, Adam was again left for dead and there were more questions raised than were answered, which opened the door for the current title, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

In the years following the "incident" (seriously you need to play Human Revolution), mankind was torn apart. Decisions were made as different political and military factions were being created, while general citizens were caught in the crossfire. Starting out in Prague, you will see the effects of the divisive nature of politics in today's world, as Mankind Divided shows us a very similar nature of distrust and over-zealousness when it comes to discrimination, abuse, and neglect of the people who chose to become augmented. In fact, the game goes so far as to show you just how this outcome has effected everyone in their own way.

For example, one scene that sits in my memory is one where you'll watch as an augmented person in a refugee internment camp as he sits up against a wall with his head down. Look closely and you will notice in their hand is a pocket secretary that reads some heartfelt sentiments to this person's mother. This person admits that they should have listened to her and that their life has been torn in shambles since they decided to become augmented, and that the pain and sorrow that has been building and growing has reached a point where he wishes she was there to hold him and tell him that he was forgiven. The reply from his mother was equally as touching as she said to her son that all was forgiven and that she would give anything to have her son back with her and that he should never give up hope, for there is always hope. Then you realize that he took his own life.

It's moments like this that we rarely get to see in many genres. The emotional attachments that are made through the decisions and the outcome, and results, are those that spurn the mentality of the environment. These touches are absolutely brilliant on behalf of Eidos Montreal and truly help define the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided experience. Adam Jensen is back, and this time he's got questions that need answers. But just like in Human Revolution, every time you think you have an answer, more questions appear. This is why the story of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is truly exceptional and has to be experienced for yourself. Of course there will be times when you're going to say "called it!" or "I could see that coming."; however, it's what you don't see that makes the story truly exceptional.

Navigating through this world is solely up to you, no matter how you wish to play. Personally I chose to go through Deus Ex: Mankind Divided in a non-lethal play style, the way I played Human Revolution. Sure, you can take customizable sniper rifles, shotguns, assault rifles, battle rifles, and more into battle, shoot and kill everything that moves, and press on from checkpoint to checkpoint; however, the real challenge is trying to avoid killing a single person, which includes bosses (good luck with that). For instance, I tried to infiltrate a level 3 bank that was filled with security guards, turrets, security cameras, laser grids, and so much more. I walked in on the second floor and had to go to the third floor. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, the entire third floor is a restricted area and your target is a secure computer system in an upper office guarded by a security camera, guards, and an internal encryption on the network that you'll have to hack. Ummmmmm, ok.

Now, having explored the the areas on second floor I could access, I ended up proceeding to the first floor where there were secure executive vaults, each one containing their own external security camera, laser grid, internal security camera with turret, and its own defense robot. This floor also contained a security office with 2 guards and multiple cameras. So, how did I make it to the top? Well, for starters I scavenged literally everywhere I could in Prague. I completed every side quest first, and using my hacking along with breaking & entering skills, I managed to acquire a key for one of the vaults down on the first floor. So I went down to the vault and after dealing with security I managed to go through the two cable ducts in the security server room and kept track of where each one led. Then, utilizing the ventilation system, I managed to work my way to the third floor and that's when things got tricky. I had to sneak my way into the bathroom to exploit a weakness in the wall that led to the other bathroom and more ventilation systems. From there I was just picking and choosing what, when, where, and how to strike and move since I was armed with a stun gun while my foes had combat rifles. Or like I said, you could go in there, lay waste to literally everything, and not worry about any restricted areas.

That's the beauty of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. The ability to choose how you want to experience the story is fantastic. From the extreme measures taken to not to kill anyone (the way I play it), a Terminator-Rambo style of brute force, or a mix of both; Deus Ex: Mankind Divided allows for true on the fly game adaptability and it's done brilliantly. Now, in order to manage all the hacking, shooting, and climbing, and anything else is left in the overall gameplay, you'll need to learn the controls and that's where Deus Ex: Mankind Divided also shines.

From the beginning you can choose what style of gameplay you want. You're offered very recognizable variants of traditional FPS control schemes to a control scheme that is very reminiscent of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, to one that has been developed just for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. All of these can be adjusted allowing you to find the one that feels just right for you. For my playthrough I selected the Mankind Divided option, not because it was the best one marketed at the selection screen, but I wanted to give this fresh game a fresh start and judge what they had developed specifically for this title.

For the most part I have to say that the control scheme is pretty easy to use. There is a bit of a learning curve that you will naturally go through as you progress during the game's prologue. For me personally, I found that the basic controls I preferred were pressing LS to enter and exit cover, pressing RS to bring up my quick inventory selection wheel where I would press the RT to use a health pack and LT to give my augments more juice. Since I never use my lethal weaponry I never really have to worry about selecting a weapon, but you'll notice that all your usable and consumable inventory options are displayed within this wheel.

As I played I ran into an issue that I noted early on, and it was while traversing through Prague and its buildings. I found that there were times where my character refused to jump as high, or grab a ledge, which caused me to fall off a building roof to my untimely death. These moments happened a little more than I'd like them to, and regretfully it made some of the game feel underdeveloped and rushed in that department, which if I'm honest, is a big department to have a fault with.

That's sadly not the only faults as well. Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a sensational display of graphics on the last generation systems; however, you don't really get the sense of ground breaking work in Mankind Divided. During some of the animated sequences, if there was any movement in the frame, I experienced screen tearing like crazy, which didn't really didn't help the experience at all. Not only that, but the animation for the characters talking is nowhere near what you would expect from a current generation game. The whole graphics interface almost feels like it was developed using technology for the Xbox 360. Thankfully though Michael McCann is back at the helm for the soundtrack, keeping with the last Deus Ex quality, which is absolutely incredible. The soundtrack to Deus Ex: Human Revolution personally ranks in my top 5 soundtracks of all time with Mankind Divided already within my top 10. The sound environments as a whole are also masterfully done and you can easily see the quality in the audio work that went into this game.

I would love to tell you more about this game, but as I'm sitting here typing this up I'm realizing that it's taking time away from digging deeper into what I may have missed. Without question Deus Ex: Mankind Divided deserves to be in the running for Game of the Year at this point. Yes, it has its drawbacks, but despite the faults and flaws you still have an absolutely brilliant game. From a masterfully designed plot with twists and turns, a musical score and audio environment that is one of the best you could hear, to an emotional development of the narrative content on a psychological level, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is one of the best games for 2016 so far.

Suggestions: A vinyl soundtrack where the vinyl is the color of Adam Jensen's glasses! :)

Overall Score: 9.0 / 10 Valentino Rossi: The Game

For those that may or may not know, I'm an avid racing fanatic and I honestly can't get enough. From F1, to WRC, to MotoGP, and GT, if it has an engine and tires, I'm interested. Over the years there has been a tremendous leap forward when it comes to the development of car racing on the Xbox platform, but sadly I haven't seen the same quality leap for motorcycle racing. Recently developer Milestone S.r.l has come out with Valentino Rossi: The Game, which not only hopes to revitalize the MotoGP racing genre, but also show gamers that you don't need a AAA budget to put together a quality racing title. Ambitious goals, but do they actually achieve them? Grab your helmet and keys because the ride is on.

Starting on your adventure you'll want to customize your rider. Some may overlook this feature and just skip right into the meat of racing, but customizing unlocks achievements down the road, so just spend a few minutes to go over the limited selection in front of you. Sure, you can switch up your nickname and number, but remember, the customization options are purely cosmetic so there's no real reason to spend any sort of in-game currency unless you really want to unlock a certain helmet, pair of boots, gloves, etc. Once you have completed your customization you're whisked away into the beginning of a lengthy career path, and that's when you start to notice how this game is rapidly growing into a quality racing simulator.

During the career mode you'll experience the race calendar along with various options such as email and the "feed" on the right hand side where the game tries it's best to compliment you on your racing. Other options are also available, but I found myself focused on getting through the career of races so the rest of the "fluff" that comes packaged in the career became irrelevant very rapidly. Starting off though, Valentino Rossi: The Game sticks you on a flat dirt track where you start to get a feel for the physics and handling of the game as you progress you work your way up to the powerful MotoGP bikes. I was actually very thankful for this because the more powerful virtual motorbikes stretch the new physics engine to the breaking point. I say new because it's new to the game; however, the physics engine itself feels dated and it isn't the the most responsive one I have experienced.

Outside of the career mode though, Valentino Rossi: The Game offers other game types such as split screen and online multiplayer, time trials, historic events within Valentino's career, and more. I tip my cap to the developers because it's clear that they want to give gamers a plethora of content to choose from instead of just giving a bare bones single player career, a bit of online content, then slap a full retail priced sticker on the box and say "here you go". While this is great on the surface, there are some issues that should be noted. For example, multiplayer matches are almost impossible to find in all my time trying. That being said, I think that once the bugs get ironed out, and the quality improves with a hopefully new title next year, we will see the market share grow for this genre of racing.

Now I have to admit I am not the best when it comes to controlling bikes at high speed; virtually speaking of course. Gone are the times of kicking on the E brake and power sliding through a corner, as now I'm faced with knees to the pavement and getting the angle of my lean just right so I don't go flying across the track flat on my back. Thankfully there are a multitude of options to adjust on the fly, which also includes your riding position to help you stay on your bike. Being that this is a simulator and not arcade racer, you can't expect to take a hairpin turn at 110 mph and expect to just bounce off the sides and be ok. Not only will you have to balance your throttle response, but you'll also have to focus on your body weight position and figuring how much to use front and rear brakes if you want to avoid becoming a stain on the tarmac. And yes, in other racing games there are far more options to adjust, but the fact that you even get some options to adjust is a positive. I do recommend that you take a few minutes to check out the control options and become familiar with not just the bike controls, but the car ones as well. Yes, you heard me correctly. Cars are now in Valentino Rossi: The Game.

This is where things get really interesting because normally it would just be a slag of GP bikes and a boring career and multiplayer matches that no one ever plays anyway, but not this title. You're given a chance to experience the thrill of drift and rally racing as well which is a nice change from straight motorbike races. These additions really help give this game more value by adding more content. The steering however could use some improvement in the handling aspect, so you may find yourself hitting the LB to instigate a rewind, because I guarantee you that the learning curve of this physics engine is up there, and not because of its realism, but because of its age. Sadly, the physics engine isn't the only aged beauty of this game, as that honor falls into the graphics department as well.

The key to a good racing experience is a fluid frame rate, unfortunately this isn't the case here. Valentino Rossi: The Game tries to be as smooth as glass, but the last generation graphics lag and drop the framerate to almost a still picture now and then. Hopefully there will be a patch that can smooth things out, but as of right now these instances can be quite frustrating as you find yourself in the middle of balancing for a turn and then the screen jutters and lags, only to lurch forward after skipping a few frames as it catches up to the animation where hopefully you're still in control of your bike. Normally at this point I would also address the quality of the soundtrack of the game, but it is incredibly flat and uninteresting, so let's move on. I understand the theory that the developers were going with; however, they had far better technology at their disposal. Even though it may have delayed the game while adjusting to the new technology, the game would have been far superior than what we are witnessing today.

I have to say that Valentino Rossi: The Game was quite a surprise for me. I went into this game with low expectations given the sad history of the downward spiral of quality MotoGP games as a whole, but I walked away having enjoyed it more than I expected. Sure, it has some noticeable issues now and then, but they don't always kill the game's fun factor. In the end, if you're a fan of motorbike bike racing, or the MotoGP series as a whole, then you're in for a fairly decent game, just don't expect a perfect racing experience.

Overall Score: 7.3 / 10 Breach and Clear: Deadline

The summer is winding down, and thankfully so are the mediocre games that have been flooding to the Xbox One. Trying to shoot its way out of this common scenario, Breach & Clear: Deadline breaks onto Microsoft's console for the price of $14.99. At the time of this review the developer, Mighty Rabbit Studios, had released a patch that was supposed to resolve a lot of the technical issues that were around at launch. Now, normally when we get information like this it gives us a hint about what we are about to get ourselves into, but I decided to dive head first and kick the door down on this game to see what's what.

Breach and Clear: Deadline is an action RPG with both real time and turn based gameplay. With the press of the LB you can switch between real time action or a turn based gameplay style, and right off the bat I can say that I was very happy about this option, even if the platform is incredibly straightforward. You control a group of four individuals and you can designate each of their classes. Each class carries with it variable stats, ratings, and skills, and it's your choice how you want to play, but remember, only a medic can revive your fallen teammates.

The game's story is simplistic, which was kind of disappointing. The crux of the narrative has you fighting through stage after sandbox stage in an attempt to save humanity. What are you saving humanity from? Well, you're defending the human race from a parasite worm that can apparently attach itself to your brain stem and mutate you into a mindless killing machine.

Breach and Clear: Deadline manages to spice up the simplistic narrative by adding in a few new fetch quests and side objectives for you to complete. In the end however, there isn't anything worthwhile that makes the story compelling for those who play, which made for a somewhat non-entertaining experience. This area is kind of a downfall, but when you take into account that this game wasn't intended to be very story intensive, then you can cut it some slack, because in the end there are quite a few things that this game has going for it, with its controls being one of them.

As stated earlier, using the LB allows you to switch between real time and turn based strategy. When you're in real time the RB will bring up a radial menu where you can have different items mapped out. These can range from your basic med kits to stat boosting items such as energy drinks and more. These can all be accessed on the fly and each character class has different options in their real time radial wheel, so selecting them not only is easy, but important when you think about what's at stake. Switching into the turn based mode however will unlock more options that will be at your disposal. Options such as find cover, switch weapon, and more, become unlocked and the game turns instantly into a tactical turn based experience.

In this mode you can select a wide variety of options if you want to operate one soldier at a time, or you can press the X button and proceed as a team and issue orders accordingly. This is where tactics come into play, as some classes also allow you to breach doorways, which will knock back enemies and injure anyone caught in the blast. When you're controlling your men individually, pressing left and right on the D-Pad will allow you to quickly select between your characters. From here you can point to a spot relative to their line of sight, and if you place your cursor behind an object, you will see a shield sign that indicates your character is moving behind cover. This allows two ways you can go about moving.

Normal movement in this mode is simple, as you place the cursor on where you want to move and simply press; however, you can also have your characters go into what is called "sweep mode". By holding down the A button you will allow your character(s) to move slower, but they will engage any enemy within their viewing range (which you can setup with the RS).

Breach and Clear: Deadline claims to have RPG elements, and while it definitely does have them, it's not as deep as you might expect or hope for. Throughout the missions, and in-game exploration, you will collect scrap. This is the game's form of currency, and at workbenches you can upgrade your weapons, gear, and more. Different stats can also be increased by means of upgrade slots. Now, it should be noted that Breach and Clear: Deadline consists of a common color scheme to determine the rarity of the items. When it comes to weapons the basic fields are Damage, Range, Accuracy, and Reload speed. These are the primary factors that will be altered when you either spend scrap to upgrade a weapon, equip them with modifications (such as under barrel grips and scopes), or you do both. It's not too much to take in, which is good because it allows you to spend more time killing everything else that you see.

Originally Breach and Clear: Deadline had some visual bugs and issues to contend with; however, throughout my experience I can safely report that outside of a few dodgy camera angles, there isn't that much that would be considered game breaking. There were some hiccups and glitches in terms of framerate drops, but all in all it was a fairly solid graphic experience post patch. The soundtrack on the other hand left a lot to be desired. Going for a minimalist approach would be a good thing, if the minimal audio content was actually good. There isn't anything that would make you set your controller down and take notice.

Without a doubt there are some very enjoyable elements in Breach and Clear: Deadline; however, there are a few things to note. The $14.99 price point is on the high side for a game that came out over a year ago on PC, and while it's not that long ago when you consider some other ID@Xbox games, it's still on the aged side. And sure, the game delivers some enjoyment, but that enjoyment comes with a simplistic story, tedious side quests, and dungeons that feel like the same level over and over again. At $14.99 I would say pass on this, however, should this drop in price to say $9.99 or below then pick it up for sure and bust down some doors.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Marvel Ultimate Alliance Bundle

One of the biggest trends we see in gaming in today's world is companies re-releasing older quality IP's at a discounted rate to the consumer on the most current gaming platforms. In doing this, it's typical fashion for the gaming world to receive a remade or enhanced copy of the game itself. Recently an old classic, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Alliance 2, were recently released for the Xbox One. Once on the cutting edge of what we could expect on the Xbox 360, these games received rave reviews, and the DLC made this entertaining experience even better. This release is priced at $39.99 + tax per game, or you can save $20 by getting a bundle at $59.99 + tax. Without a doubt that is a steep price tag, but is it worth it?

Before we dive in, I have to confess that I'm a huge Marvel fan. I bought both these games on the Xbox 360 and loved what they brought to the table back in the day. Well, for those who aren't familiar with these games, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2 are top down action RPG titles that enable you to select a team of 4 to venture forth on a storyline fit for the Marvel Universe itself. I don't want to say much about the story because it's one of the great features that make up the heart and soul of these games, but let's say it involves the end of mankind, an alliance of villains, and a whole lot of overacting. There is a problem in this package though, in that the DLC for Ultimate Alliance 1 is nowhere to be found, but yet for some weird reason Ultimate Alliance 2 has all the DLC included. Let me break that down really quickly.

$39.99 for Ultimate Alliance, a game that is almost a decade (10 years) old and that does not provide any DLC content. Or $39.99 for Ultimate Alliance 2 with all the DLC content provided. That's essentially what you're looking at here with these two games. Thankfully Activision has stated that the DLC will release for Ultimate Alliance as a free update, but details as to when are not much more than "coming soon". I'm sure this was a simple oversight, however, I would think that maybe adjusting the price point accordingly until the DLC is released would provide some assistance to helping mend some really broken fences with the gaming world. Will that happen? Who knows. Any who, let's press on shall we?

As I just mentioned these are action RPG games, and with a long extensive list of possible super heroes and villains, your selection of available powers and talents (which have to be unlocked by leveling up your character) is truly deep and provides incredible ways of using your character's skills. As you progress through the levels and break and destroy everything, you'll unlock coins to which you can spend learning and improving skills and abilities. It's fairly straight forward which is nice, but you will be farming for a very long time if you want to max out every ability possible.

When these games first launched almost a decade ago, the play control was very good despite some issues with the camera, and the same gameplay mechanics carries over to the Xbox One version, however it almost feels like this game received absolutely nothing in terms of tweaked or improved controls. Your RS operates your camera while the LS controls your character movement. You have a weak attack (A button) and a strong attack (B button) and utilizing the RT you can access abilities that are mapped to various face buttons. When you break it down, it's fairly simplistic controls. Now this doesn't mean it's a bad thing, however, it just means it's a lazy thing. Is it that time consuming and resource hungry to simply improve the responsiveness of the controls or maybe, just maybe, improve the camera system? I say this because you also feel that this game is also under powered when it comes to its graphics; and you know what? It is.

When the first Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Alliance 2 came out, they were a fantastic graphic release by combining amazing cinematic cut scenes that almost felt like you were watching some CGI Hollywood spectacle, and tremendous character models that seemed incredibly detailed and sporting their own individual personality. The sequel continued this trend, and together both of the Ultimate Alliance games became staples that developed a cult following. Thankfully all of this is included in this release, however, if you were expecting an HD remake, you're going to be sorely disappointed. I feel it's important though to make a note that the developers warned the gaming public ahead of time to not expect a remastered version, but rather "touched up" for the current generation systems. And this is where the crux of the problems resides.

What "touch up" were they talking about? It literally feels like I stepped back in time back to October 2006 and as if nothing was done to provide any significant benefit or improvement. However, they are asking $20 below original retail price, yet I could go to GameStop now and buy a used Xbox 360 copy for $9.99 of Ultimate Alliance; or I could spend $40 for this Xbox One version. The games would be almost 100% identical, and that's what confused me the most. After much deliberation I know what the real mistake of this release was. It was the cost.

Even though the developers told us not to expect really any enhancements with this release, they priced their game right out of the market, especially when they neglected to include the DLC. I can't deny that the games are good, however, there's too much going against it to say that a $40 price point is worthwhile for little to no improvements over the decade old original. I could see a price point of $9.99 and let these games sell all night long, but with everything factored in, this is a textbook case of a straight cash grab, even though the game itself is great. Save your money until they go on a big sale.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Dungeon Punks

Well, it's approaching the end of summer, and while some are getting ready to hit the books again Xbox has decided to release some more games they hope are top tier indie titles. One of these games comes by the way of Dungeon Punks from the folks at Hyper Awesome Entertainment. Priced at $14.99 it's only $5 less than other RPG indie games, but the question remains: "What comes with that semi-hefty price tag?"

Dungeon Punks is labeled as an action RPG that provides hours of fun and entertainment. It allows you to control parties of up to six fantasy characters as you set off on your quest for adventure and riches. What you just read is more in-depth than the entire story of Dungeon Punks. You spend your time jumping from job to job, all the while causing so much trouble and commotion that you are forced to flee to the next area in the game. With a heavy emphasis on humor, the execution of the story itself isn't entertaining or top quality, as it would rather focus itself on tongue and cheek chuckles rather than a substantial story that makes gamers want to find out more. Ultimately what this boils down to is a game that is a basic hack and slash side scrolling 2.5D title with what some might see as an anemic amount of RPG elements.

Starting out you select your character. While each one offers different spells and abilities, the entire crux of the whole character selection is based on deciding if you want to wield the steel or sling some spells, and all the while trying to balance out the bonuses and deductions that your character may have. For example, I decided to play as a Knight since it's the most balanced in terms of physical with a +10% to attack and -10% to defense. These RPG elements are fairly thin and stretch in very limited form to encompass both your weapons and shields. Each of those items come in your traditional RPG scaling, with white items being the weakest and yellow items being Rare. Along with some RPG elements there are some weapons that come with unique spells and abilities that be activated by pressing the X and A buttons together.

There isn't much to manage in terms of statistical categories, so think of this as very, very light RPG. After creating your character you begin your quest and find yourself on your airship, and it's from here that you can purchase/equip/sell items from the store or upgrade your spells. As you progress you'll unlock new characters to join your party, and at the back of the airship you can switch to whoever you want via the RB and LB while you're standing right below the character you want to control.

I was surprised to see that there is no Xbox Live connectivity. So, you and your legion on your friends list cannot play this game together, online that is. You can play together if you decide that social interaction is warranted and you hit up your friend’s couch for some local co-op. This type of thinking is about as useful as a screen door on the hull of a boat. In today's world you can't expect to slap together a game with only local multiplayer and not expect to get dinged for it. The developers though, have thought this through and instead of online teammates they fill your team with random AI controlled characters. While this can seem like a good idea, I'm sure all of us who are reading this understand why having human interaction is preferred over clumsy AI. Thankfully you can switch in-between characters on the fly by pressing the LB or RB. You're not told or shown this in any way, but that's because of the gameplay. And speaking of which...

It's simple in nature, yet since nothing is ever taught to you, let me help you out on some basics. First you have to hit start and go into settings and look for something to click on that turns movement by the analog stick ON. Don't ask me why they have it defaulted to only allow the D-Pad for movement. I personally think that the option to turn analog stick movement ON or OFF shouldn't even be an option, it should just naturally be included. You use the A button to swing your weapon, the Y button is assigned to use any consumable item you find in the level, and the X button and/or LS is combined with other buttons and assigned the task of unleashing your spells after you acquire mana. How do you do that? By beating the crap out of every enemy you find. After a few hits you'll get a pop up bubble of sorts that says mana charged and you then decide how you want to use it. As you progress, and you build your team up, you'll gain access to control new characters which will allow you to utilize new abilities and spells.

It's not all misery though for Dungeon Punks. The graphics are very clean and have a cartoonish feel to them, but the real bit of graphical joy comes from using some of the various spells and abilities. For example, there's an ability that the Werewolf (I'm calling him a clone of Saberwulf) has where he howls and multiple beams of energy strike down from above which target several enemies. These dynamic spells fill the screen with excitement, and thankfully you can utilize them quite frequently. Even though the graphics are decent, the sound is the surprising gem in this game. Every level and every moment is reprodced in a sonic surprise that is a delight to the ears and really makes playing Dungeon Punks an enjoyable experience.

Now comes the big question: "Is it worth the $14.99 + tax price tag?" I would pick it up in a heartbeat if it were $9.99, but currently I'm making the $14.99 price decision your call. I understand that there's no online multiplayer, and yes the campaign is short and not overly engaging; however, what Dungeon Punks does is make almost every moment of the game enjoyable, even with those issues I mention above. If you can rationalize that there is more to Dungeon Punks than the faults and flaws, you'll see that there is a quality job in paying homage to a classic gametype that hasn't seen much use in years.

Suggestions: Please release a patch or update that will allow for online connections via Xbox Live.

Overall Score: 8.0 / 10 Sword Coast Legends

Before the days of cartridges, discs, and digital downloads, and before the days when we picked up a controller to play a game, there was Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). It's an IP that harkens back to the days when dice were thrown (I still have mine all wrapped up in a velvet bag), Dungeon Masters quashed dreams, and we relied on our ability to roll necessary saves. Dungeons & Dragons paved the way. We are talking about creating fantasy worlds and legends decades before Bioware was even invented. Now Dungeons & Dragons is back on the Xbox One with the release of Sword Coast Legends, and while it's priced at the top end of the indie scale ($19.99), the developers Digital Extremes and n-Space are attempting to bring the lore of D&D back to life.

If you're thinking that this game is going to be your classic D&D then you're going to be disappointed. Sword Coast Legends suffers from what I would call a severe case of identity crisis. That's not to say things are bad, but to say that this is a pure D&D experience is a debunked myth. As you begin you're tasked to create your own character. Here you can select from a combined total of seven classes and six races, each bringing their own set of unique bonuses and proficiencies to the table. However, each character also has several skill trees from which to draw talents from and this is where the whole separation seems to begin as you start to think of this more like Dragon Age. Once you have your character selected and made the way you want, it's time to get into the real meat of this 17GB adventure.

In this behemoth of a game you are offered a few gametypes, though of course there is the massive single player story which can also be played cooperatively online or locally. This mode offers up a tale that not only is well written, but provides at least 40+ hours of content and will get you used to Sword Coast Legends. While the pacing of the story is good, the wealth of side quests will keep you busy, and the fact that this mode really does provide the best experience of the game, the issue that I have here exists not with the quality of the content, but the loading times associated with venturing between areas in the game. With seemingly over a minute in-between each loading sequence, you get the feeling that you could go catch some Pokemon while you wait for the game to load. You almost feel the game loads all 17GB of data every time you go to another area. It really becomes this game's biggest downfall, almost to the point where it becomes unbearable.

The other gametypes include your basic dungeon crawler where you go after loot, glory, and more loot. Then Sword Coast Legends tries to do something unique and allow you to step into the shoes of the Dungeon Master (DM) itself. This mode allows you to take up to four other people (totaling 5 in the lobby) and create a quest from which you have to decide if you want to be a fair DM, or one that is cursed by all and burned in effigy. This mode, while fun, has fairly limited resources at its disposal, and you use the resources called Threat to place traps, enemies, and more. When you take into account that the DM cannot alter the story and is forced, along with all the players, to take a direct route despite the choices made by the players, this mode can feel a bit restrained and under developed.

After you decide what mode you're going to want to play and dive into the game itself you'll be very happy to read the timed pop up instructional directions. Think of the gameplay mechanics mapped to the controller, where X, Y, and B are all mapped to abilities that you can learn from your skill trees, and the A button is for generic interaction/attacking. Then using Right Trigger, you can have a second set of four skills at your disposal, while using Left Trigger you can have a third similar blank set of four to work with. And finally, if you press in the Left and Right triggers you can bring up your consumable menu (time isn't halted in this mode) and have access to a whole new menu. This is how the developers have compacted the long list of skills available on the PC platform into a console controller. Pressing the back button will allow you to pause time where you can not only issue commands to your team (which you can also do on the fly using the D-Pad), but access inventory and much more. You will also want to familiarize yourself with the entire menu system altogether.

Being able to equip items to your other party members, as well as develop their skill trees, is all nice and fun, however you have to realize that in some menus the left stick can act as a selector which switch from left to right sides of the screens, while the Left and Righter Bumpers can be used in some screens to cycle through your heroes in your party. This is a clunky setup, and while I understand the reasoning for trying to literally cram everything in terms of gameplay into a controller layout instead of becoming innovative on the console roll out, I still can't excuse that. I can comprehend the resources needed by a company to essentially remake a game with a different UI; however, with a vast amount of resources that are already being used, the time is significantly lower in development and at a cost that is marginal, of which you could easily charge $39.99. Outside of the God awful loading times, this compact controller layout becomes incredibly frustrating.

While the negatives seem to keep piling up, there are a few bright spots as we wind our way home on this review. The graphics feel incredibly dated but this is either a deliberate art style or because this game released October 2015? Regardless of the reason, the graphics in Sword Coast Legends aren't anything you're going to find spectacular, but I have seen worse. Thankfully this mediocrity is broken up by the soundtrack. I'll never forget the first time I heard the soundtrack kick in. I had been listening to decent voice acting and sound effects like crazy, but then I heard this almost Celtic melody start to creep through my speakers and it literally haunted me. I absolutely fell in love with this and want to actually say thank you to everyone involved with the sound of Sword Coast Legends. However, amidst all this enjoyment I was also thoroughly let down. Not because of the quality of audio, but the sheer lack of times you hear it. It almost feels like 3-5 minutes pass in-between this wonderful music and every time it ends, you feel a little deader inside.

Normally I'm a very hard critic when it comes to games priced at $19.99 which are ported over from the PC, as I look at it as entertainment versus the value. As a quality Dungeon & Dragons game, I feel Sword Coast Legends falls short to what we have grown to expect from games such as Baldur's Gate; however, do I feel that this game is a quality gaming experience? Without a doubt, yes. That being said, if you're looking for a genuine Dungeons & Dragons experience, then there are better choices for you, but if you're looking for a quality 40+ hour single player experience along with co-op and multiplayer dungeon crawling options, look no further.

Suggestions: Please shorten the loading times. Also maybe look into innovating the UI in ways found from other games such as Diablo? And please, in the name of everything that is Holy on this planet, please release a soundtrack and make the soundtrack more frequent.

Overall Score: 7.0 / 10 Dad Beat Dads

One of the most popular concepts within gaming today is the concept of fighting. Be it a one versus one match or a free-for-all group brawl, fighting games have become a staple in the gaming world. Now enter Stellar Jay Studios and their latest game, Dad Beat Dads. Clearly from the title of the game you already know that this is probably some Freudian subliminal messaging, but I'm not here to play Maury to some developers and their tainted past, I'm here to review their game, so let's go and give it the old' one-two shall we?

And that's about as much humor and lighthearted attitude as I can muster. You see, Dad Beat Dads is priced at $5.99 and appears to be a comical low budget clone of Super Smash Bros. Now, with such a popular and successful game you would think that the developers would draw from the basics of the team fighting arena concept right? Wrong. First off, this game requires only local multiplayer, so no Xbox Live multiplayer for you; however, you can have AI bots, so I guess that's something good? In my opinion, in this day and age it's almost blasphemy to gamers if you don't allow online connectivity. Gone are the days where we would venture to our friend’s house and spend hours on the couch, floor, or chair, just to partake in gaming excitement.

I don't have to really worry about giving the story away because there isn't one. None. But what you do get are three different game modes to select from which are Corporate Ladder, Smash N' Grab, and Diaper Sniper.

Corporate Ladder is where you basically punch and smash your way upward through various levels as the screen scrolls upward, and you have to gather as many coins as you can while continuously jumping to higher platforms and beating the crap out of other dads. The winner is the one with the most coins when the timer runs out. It really doesn't get much simpler than that. Then comes Smash N' Grab.

Smash N' Grab is, in Disney terms, disturbing. It involves you punching and fighting other dads, causing them to drop their babies as you steal them and take their baby back through your Dad Door. You get 1 point for every baby you bring through your door, after of course you steal them by beating the crap out of other dads. Going through this I felt relieved to know that I'm not the most screwed up person out there. So I took it as a sign of personal growth and decided to move onto game mode number three which then made me almost want to stage an intervention with the developers.

Finally, nothing says fighting dads and fun like wrapping a big red brick in a diaper and hurling it towards other virtual dads in a knockout elimination style brawl, hence the mode name Diaper Sniper. 4 dads and 1 diaper fight it out, and as time progresses, more diapers are added which means that towards the end there's nothing but brick laden diapers flying everywhere. Provided you have some friends to come over and actually WANT to play this type of game. If you do, then I suggest you all gather at your nearest psychiatrist's office and schedule an immediate session.

You get to pick what dad you want, and you have the option to play a cute little acknowledgement mini-game where after you pick your character, you get to either beat or destroy something and then jump through a door and bam, you're ready to play the main game. If you don't want to play this mini-game you can head on into the settings and "flip a switch" so all you need to do is press A to progress. The choice is yours. When you get in the fight, the controls are simplistic; pretty much on the primate level. Your left and right sticks do very little outside of controlling the direction of your character and your other buttons do other things, but honestly there's not much else here to explain at all.

That is the entire game right there folks, and all for $5.99 plus tax. Not all is doom and gloom though, as there are some upsides to this game, if you can call them that. You get your basic stereotypical dad fighter categories, from construction workers to accountants, but then you get ones that are way out there such as a shark dad or a crocodile dad? Yes, you can pick your character to be a crocodile or shark who runs around the levels beating the crap out of other dads. Apparently there's a reason for a shark or crocodile dads punching and thieving and slinging diapers? I haven't got the foggiest clue.

The visual style is humorous and cartoonish which provides some levity and delay to the fact that you just blew $6 on this when you could have bought something else instead. If you are thinking that the soundtrack will inject some form of resurgence of entertainment back into this $5.99 title, you're going to get used to disappointment. If you're thinking of spending your money on this game, I urge you to take 10 deep breaths and think. Food to keep you alive costs less and tastes delicious. Dad Beat Dads is nothing but a psychological session of depression, but without any hope of recovery. I've never done this in a review before, but there literally isn't anything else worthwhile to say about this game, so you sane gamers out there should stay clear if you can.

Suggestions: At the very least include Xbox Live Multiplayer.

Overall Score: 3.5 / 10 Cast of the Seven Godsends - Redux

Continuing the trend of retro gaming, Raven Travel Studios has recently released Cast of the Seven Godsends on the Xbox One. Originally launched on the PC back in July 2015, Raven Travel Studios has attempted to capture the fun, enjoyment, and frustration of 2D side scrolling action set back in the 16 Bit era. With a heavy homage to some of the greatest 2D side scrolling games ever created, and priced at $6.99, I decided to take this game for a spin, which ended up becoming a bit of a crash.

On the outside, Cast of the Seven Godsends checks all the right boxes that would signify that this game will take you back into your glory years of gaming with its retro feel; or if you're a young person who thinks a PS2 is an antique, then this is a glimpse of what gaming was like before you were born. What we see on the surface is stellar 16-bit retro gaming graphics and magic spells flying all over the screen; things even start to seem a little rosy. It appears that Cast of the Seven Godsends is almost like playing a modern rendition of Ghost 'n Goblins or Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts that's been cross bred with games like Shinobi and Contra; however, when you actually experience it, it's a completely different story. And speaking of story...

You play the role of Kandar, who apparently is this king somewhere, and one night in his castle while just sort of hanging out with your wife and new born child, a bunch of demons appear alongside their demon lord and kidnap your child for use in some form of satanic ritual. Armed with determination and a need to punish your A button, you set off in pursuit, but you're not alone because you have the support of the Seven Gods (Ice, Fire, Wind, etc.). It's through these gods that you, as Kandar, will master devastating magic, and you'll need them because right from the beginning, Cast of the Seven Godsends doesn't play around.

Sporting a dynamic control scheme of only 2 buttons, you can only do two things: throw objects and jump (that seems a bit restrictive but who am I to judge a king?). You can throw projectiles, which range from axes, swords, daggers, maces, and more, above and below so your not completely hindered in this fight, but there are times you'll find instances where the controls seem to lag a hair or two behind the input, forcing you to almost have to predetermine your path and plan your route. This would be ok, but unfortunately there are hardly any places throughout the game that you can just stop and observe without being attacked. Just like in the golden era of gaming, you start off very meager for strength and armor, but you can obtain God-like suits that will grant you new abilities and attacks, both on the physical and magical side. Each suit can unleash a devastating attack or ability by holding down the A button until your character is charged up, then by releasing the button you'll annihilate your opponents.

The rules of the game are simple, survive and kill everything as you go from point A to point B. Along the way you will notice in-game checkpoints, which are fantastic because you will die a lot; however, they do not save your game. You will actually have to physically do that, and even then the game save does not include the checkpoint data. Basically what I'm saying is that if you lose a life, you're back at the checkpoint, but should you have to use a continue though, it's back to the beginning of the level you go. While I understand that is how the games in the past used to be, and that staying true to the style means developing it this way, that doesn't make it any less annoying or frustrating because it was still annoying and frustrating back then as well. This doesn't bode well given the control responsiveness issues mentioned earlier.

It's not all doom and gloom for Cast of the Seven Godsends though, because if you enjoy retro gaming graphics, this title has you covered in spades. Incredible static imagery backdrops blanket each level, and with a wide variety of enemies you can almost hear the 80's roaring back as you play. This is in part due to the heavy retro synth filled soundtrack that strives to partner along with the visuals to deliver a classic gaming experience, and boy does it ever. What I truly enjoyed the most about this was selecting what God power I wanted and then letting loose with a fully charged shot as some of the effects reminded me of those days back in the Shinobi era and more. While this is good, sadly it can't help the quality of execution from Cast of the Seven Godsends.

If you're into the controller breaking frustration of the classic Ghost 'n Goblins or Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts, then Cast of the Seven Godsends is right up your alley. This game will make you literally stress test an Xbox Elite Controller to the breaking point, but yet when you beat one of the mid bosses, or one of the massive level bosses, you're filled with such euphoria it's like you won the lotto. While the visuals are good and are complimented well with the music, the environments don't seem that well developed and the issues with the gameplay, even though the controls are quite simplified, hinder this game. You would think that this would have been addressed before launching on a console, but they sadly weren't. That being said, at the end of the day, for $6.99 you really can't go wrong as despite the flaws and insane difficulty, as Cast of the Seven Godsends provides a classic nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Overall Score: 6.0 / 10 Ethan: Meteor Hunter

Here at XboxAddict I take my role as a reviewer seriously. I think of myself as a guide, if you will, that honestly tells you if a game is worth your hard earned money. Seaven Studio has recently released their latest puzzle game titled Ethan: Meteor Hunter. Priced at $9.99, the 'official' PR spin is that it is a result of Super Meat Boy meeting Braid. They also claim that you may die repeatedly and enjoy it. Oh boy. Stating something like this is pretty risky, and while the $9.99 price point is nice for a quality puzzle game, the main question still remains: Does Ethan: Meteor Hunter warrant a purchase?

On the outside everything seems promising from the beginning. Ethan: Meteor Hunter boils down to a simple story where players learn that sometimes a war between neighbors can produce catastrophic results. You play as a rat named Ethan, and apparently your neighbor has just demolished your house. If that wasn't bad enough, cascading down from the sky are many meteors, one of which hits your recently destroyed home (I guess when it rains it pours). You emerge from the pile of rubble with the ability to manipulate objects and pause time (this would be the Braid influence). Fearing for his life, your neighbor takes off and now you are forced to jump, climb, and manipulate time in an attempt to venture through more than 50 puzzle levels to go after him. It's not a bad story by any means, but nothing that makes you sit back and take a deep breath as you absorb the plot. Of course none of this matters if you can't manage to control your character.

Using your sticks to move, and the A button to jump, overall the control is fairly responsive, which makes it a bit easier for you to get through the game as a whole. It's your job to guide Ethan through the puzzles in the levels, but the real innovation comes in the form of your ability to pause time. Here you can grab a hold of various items and objects within a predetermined space and manipulate them however you want, the catch is that you can't just pause time whenever you want.

You first have to find blue coins that grant you the ability to pause time, and only then can you use the power as many times as you have coins. There is a huge problem with this aspect, and that is when you grab your items within the puzzle space the controls are overly sensitive and you find yourself manipulating puzzles like you just had 6 shots of espresso and you haven't slept in a week. I do appreciate the ability to find numerous solutions for the various puzzles, and having that variety has saved me more times than I can recount, but this over exaggerated control scheme, while time is paused, is one of the game's flaws.

Another issue is that many times during my gameplay experience when I dropped out of the time pause mode I realized that I could not go back into it to solve the puzzles forcing me to restart, which is where the whole Super Meat Boy reference comes into play. You're going to die a lot. And I'm not just saying this to try and dissuade you from purchasing or playing it, you will die over and over and over again which is why you are given the whole Super Meat Boy reference that they provide.

Ethan: Meteor Hunter tries to keep you entertained by providng you numerous checkpoints that act as your 'instant respawn center'. The good thing about this is that you don't have to replay entire levels all over again if you die towards the end. The bad thing, however, is that to get to the end you will die many, many times from many, many things. Heck, the dev-team claims that you're actually going to enjoy killing Ethan over and over again, and I can tell you that I am a prime example of a contrasting opinion to that very statement. Is the misery over? I wish.

You should also know that the game was released as a PS3 title back in October 2013, so the game is technically a few months shy of 3 years in age. With this in mind, you might just be able to see where this is going in terms of the visuals. Braid actually looked amazing when it released, it won awards for its 2D retro gaming style graphics whereas Ethan: Meteor Hunter looks confused as a game. It's as though it wants to deliver some stunning artwork, yet it wants to be comical and lighthearted in it's over the top delivery, but it doesn't do that good