Categories
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Borderlands 3

Developer: Gearbox Software

Publisher:​ 2K Games

Genre​: FPS, RPG, Open world

Platforms​: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Rating​: M for Mature

Price​: $59.99

 

I started playing the Borderlands series with Borderlands 2 back in 2013. Up to that point I had mainly played games on console like the original Xbox, but Borderlands 2 I got on laptop. I played it there for a few months then began plans to make my first gaming PC; I wanted to see Borderlands 2 in all it’s HD glory on a high-end gaming rig. When I heard earlier this year that Borderlands 3 was coming out, I was almost giddy anticipation. I obnoxiously posted update after update in our game reviewer’s chat group. Needless to say, I was pumped for the game’s release.

Fighting with Mouthpiece

Content Guide

Borderlands 3 has a rating of M for Mature for gore, violence, sexual themes, and foul language. I consider the M rating on Borderlands 3 a hard M, not only because the of themes previously mentioned, but also because of the game’s cavalier attitude toward its violence and sexual themes. I am recommending Borderlands 3 only to adults eighteen and up. 

Violence and Gore: When I write about the violence in Borderlands 3, I’m not just thinking about the gun violence or the scenes of torture. The culture of the Borderlands has violence ingrained into it. Part of the premises of the plot is that Pandora, the main planet, is known for its extreme level of violence and brutality. Killing someone on Pandora can seem comical as the NPCs talk about killing rivals as if they just pests. The player will encounter bandits/cult members who will attack sight unseen. When the player shoots the bandits blood spray appears from them, but often when the player scores a critical hit the bandit’s upper torso will explode, raining body parts all over.

On top of the violence and gore, bandits often will shout violent taunts at the player while fighting. I have heard bandits shout phrases like, “I’m gonna floss my teeth… with your face!,” or, “I made finger pizza just for you!” Bandits also have dead victims strung up around their camps much like a Mad Max film. 

Sexual Themes: The sexual themes in Borderlands 3 appear as subtle as a freight train most of the time, though I have not seen any nudity. Characters like Mad Moxxi and Ellie both make very suggestive comments to the player’s character. Moxxi dresses provocatively in revealing outfits as she has since the first game in the series.

Foul Language: The dialogue in Borderlands 3 contains the f-word, s-word, and the a-word. Even though there is foul language, it’s not over done.

Review

Borderlands is one of the most imaginative and fun series that I have ever played, presenting players with over-the-top, and sometimes goofy, characters and plots. I am glad to see Borderlands 3 continuing the story I have come to love, this time throwing some space travel into the mix as the vaults that the players want to open are spread out across the galaxy. As with the previous games, the plot of the Borderlands 3 revolves around vault hunters—men and women who are basically deadly treasure hunters trying to open alien vaults. The previous games centered around the world of Pandora, the only place where the vaults were thought to exist. At the end of Borderlands 2 the vault hunters learned that there isn’t one or two vaults just on Pandora, but hundreds of vaults spread out throughout the galaxy. Instead of fighting against a corporation this time the vault hunters are up against the Children of the Vault, a cult lead by the Calypso twins who want the vaults for their own ends. 

Zane the vault hunter

Gameplay for this third installment takes what worked in the previous games and makes a ton of improvements. First, player movement gets a much needed boost of speed and a cool move added on. I went back to Borderlands 2 to make sure that I wasn’t just wowed by the new game. The vault hunters in this game move much faster and smoother than before. The second improvement comes from the addition of a slide move very similar to Apex Legends. One handy feature of sliding lets the player look around as they slide. I found it really fun to gun down the bad guys as I slid past their cover. 

Borderlands 3 makes some great improvements to skill trees of each vault hunter. The game introduces two new class types with Zane (Operative) and FL4K (Beastmaster). I know that some players might consider Moze a new class, but she’s very similar to Roland and Axton from the previous games. Instead of only getting one skill to equip like in previous games, Borderlands 3 gives each of the vault hunters three different skills. The skills also get their own skill trees with side skills that only unlock as you progress down the tree. There’s an interactive skill tree builder at the Borderlands 3 website that is fun to play with to get a feel for the game.

Fighting creatures

My favorite part of any Borderlands game has to be the guns, and it is here we find the biggest improvement of all. The different manufacturers of guns have been in the previous games, but the guns have not been as distinctive as they are in this one. I can tell what brand of gun is on the ground just by looking at it. When it comes to shooting, a Dahl assault rifle behaves very differently from an Atlas or Jacobs rifle; Dahl guns come with selector switches, Atlas guns have homing bullets, and Jacobs guns all look like they came right out of a western. Another improvement that not everyone may appreciate, but I certainly did, is that point of impact with the sights seemed spot on this time. Point of impact is a term used when talking about where the sights are in relationship to where the bullet hits. In Borderlands 2 I got frustrated because none of the guns have realistic point of impact, which means that aiming down the sights is no more effective than hip fire. Borderlands 3‘s guns are realistic and accurate, with the point of impact matching the point of aim.

Moze and her Iron Bear

Borderlands 3 looks and sounds great, which I expected because anything less would have seriously cut into the enjoyment of the game. The voice acting is wonderfully exaggerated and got me laughing many times. The sounds of the guns are as distinctive as the looks, which helps add to my enjoyment. As for the visuals, I really like the cel-shaded animation of the series, which has been updated for this game. Even though I really liked the look of the characters and environments, I had some real problems with the frame rate. I know that not everyone has the same PC setup and some of you may want to play Borderlands 3 on a console, but my difficulties with the frame rate don’t appear to be unique to my setup. According outlets like GamesRadar+, there appear to be frame rate issues across all platforms. The game maintains a playable 30 FPS (frames per second) most of the time but it’s not consistent. My hope is that there will be a patch to fix the problem in the future.

Fighting with Maliwan troopers

Borderlands 3 didn’t disappoint in any way other than being a little annoying with frame rate issues. I tried to keep from reading any reviews before writing my own, but I have heard some friends state this game is more of the same. I don’t disagree with the assessment that Borderlands 3 continues with more vault hunting, but the improvements still make the game more enjoyable than previous entries. I am still going to be replaying the old games, but that’s the fun of the Borderlands series; is it keeps me coming back time and time again.

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B07Q39DBJY] [amazon template=iframe image&asin=B07Q5CHX16]

Categories
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Switch

Review: Forager

Developer: HopFrog

Publisher: Humble Bundle

Genre: Open World, Survival, Adventure

Platforms: PC, Switch, PlayStation 4

Rating: E for Everyone 10+

Price: $19.99

In today’s gaming world, Minecraft is a household name. More knowledgeable players may be aware of Terraria or even the Rune Factory series. Terraria in particular was a perfect fit for me, until an update made the game’s UI nearly unplayable on the PS4 port. Now, years later, I had come to miss some crafting excellence. Upon first glance, Forager immediately reminded me of characteristics of these separate game franchises, among others. How well does it hold up on it’s own, let alone against these gaming giants? With that question in mind, let’s jump into our review of Forager on the Nintendo Switch!

Content Guide

Blood+Violence: Enemies will attack the player on sight, and defeating said enemies will result in a small, pixelated squirt of blood.

Fantasy Violence: There are several magical staves that cast spells against opponents.

Mild Humor: A certain quest requires the collection of fecal matter for a NPC obsessed with the stuff. Attacking certain characters result in jocularly horrified commentary.

Demons/Undead: Forager contains Demonic and Undead opponents. One certain item raises Skeletons for the player, A Necronomicon can also be obtained. 

 

Review

Forager has a variety of unlockable bonus materials outside the game, like this cute little comic.
Wilson? WIIIILSON!!!

Starting Forager‘s application, I was treated to a cute little Humble Bundle intro with creator commentary. The top menu screen came up, offering a chance to look at several options, including extra content and future plans for the game. Seeing as not much could be done with the other options yet, I had little choice but to start playing the game.                                                                                     

Once finally in the game, I found myself stranded on an island with naught but naught but a pickaxe, backpack, and some resources to hack at. Almost reflexively, I started digging. While I did so, small button commands and flashing notification signs began to pop up, directing my attention to different aspects the game presented. Taking a page from games in the past, there were little-to-no tutorials at all. From crafting my first furnace to making money, most everything was self taught, which was a nice change of pace from the hand-holding many modern games are guilty of.

Mine, Mine, MINE!

After crafting my first few items, I was quickly able to make money (literally) and buy my first piece of land. I was excited. Already I was so hooked into crafting my items that a new piece of land, with more resources, was thrilling. Imagine my disappointment, then, when the piece of land turned out to be just that: a tiny piece of land a third of the size of my tutorial island. This was the first time I was disappointed in the game, but I kept right on going. My Empire must have its industry!

Look at me. Look at me in my little. top. hat. I’m adorable.

Over the course of the game, lands progressively became more difficult to acquire, and stayed consistent in it’s random generation of size. Regardless of these challenges, however, it quickly became my goal to acquire all pieces of land in the game, and within each new piece was a new challenge to overcome and new loot to acquire. Since there is no story in Forager, leveling up and land possession became the scales in which I measured my progress.

Oh, The Places You’ll Go…

With the purchase of each new piece of land, there’s a chance to come across two main types of buildings; a Temple, or a Puzzle.

Each dungeon segment has it’s own boss.
This was the boss of the ice segment.

Reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda series, Temples are dungeon-esque levels which contain a mix of puzzles and enemies, a new weapon, and a boss battle. Being a lifetime Zelda fan, I really enjoyed these segments, but found them far, far too short.

Puzzles are scattered throughout the 49 segments of land in the game, but the most difficult (and my favorite) take place within towers. The fire-themed Puzzle tower has been the greatest puzzle challenge I’ve had in quite some time, and was intensely time-consuming for me to solve. My favorite tower, however, didn’t have a puzzle, but rather a series of riddles whose solutions required me to find certain items. For example, a riddle about water required me to find water and put it on the corresponding riddle. I love good riddles that I have to solve myself; they are an underrated puzzle mechanic that needs to be in more games.

However short they are, these obstacles are an excellent change of pace from the from the regular grind of crafting and leveling in regular gameplay, and are definitely a shining factor within Forager‘s experience. 

…And the People You’ll Meet!

One of Forager‘s largest sources of charm comes from its NPCs. With each offering their own “advice” and commentary, it was always a nice little nugget to find a new one when I bought a piece of land. Granted, they usually wanted something from me that I almost never had yet, but at least most of them were friendly about it.

One notable character is the Giant Beet. The Giant Beet is so sweet and it always compliments you and tells you something positive, which I probably took much more seriously than I should have (honestly though, how many games nowadays have such innocent positivity). Imagine my shock, then, when I accidentally attacked one of it’s neighboring beets, prompting the comment “I Still Love You!!” Aww.

Too bad one of the game’s achievements require you to kill it.

Aww… This beet is the sweetest beet.
Talking to him is a treat.
My Favorite Things

My favorite thing to do in Forager was to find the many easter eggs and pop culture references hidden throughout the game. From completing NPC quests to unlocking achievements, there are several skins and quotes from pop and gaming culture that were an absolute delight to find and understand.

I am the Knight…
Here to bring the art of Shovelry to my Empire!

For most of the game, I ended up using the Hollow Knight skin, which made my jaw drop upon first sight. Beyond that, there are also references to Overwatch, Shovel Knight, Terraria, The Legend of Zelda, and even Super Meat Boy.

I Hardly Even Touched Him!

Combat in Forager is incredibly easy. Since there are only a handful of different enemy types, none of which with any particularly difficult mechanics, combat interactions are always pretty short, regardless of weapon type. This made me wonder why there would be any need for weapon upgrades and variety, and combat actions. No enemy is moving fast enough to require dodge rolling, and though new swords kill enemies faster, they couldn’t hit me if I always moving. Since I made food such as cooked fish, it was even easier, as downing a few fish will restore any health lost as long as I wasn’t full. Over the course of the game I was given many opportunities to expand my health, but really never needed to.

I would love to have more enemies and difficult combat experiences in the future, should any of the teased installments be added to the game.

Just…Just Let Me See the Map. Please
Here you see a direct consequence of the funky map scrolling.
I could barely make out what the sign said!

As I had said before, a horrible UI update ruined my PS4 Terraria experience in the past. Like a nightmarish flashback, Forager gave me a similar experience at times as well. However, unlike the Terraria update, this is not too late to change!

There are two very egregious examples of gameplay irritation I am thinking of. The first is the lack of a good overworld map. Throughout the game I was always on the move, between gathering resources, to crafting, to making money. Because of this, I was often on the opposite side of my Empire than the next piece of land I was buying, or item I was crafting. The only option to see a decent map was to go to a menu section labeled “Buy Land” and check. However! Even when using this tab, the map window often would stop panning, depending on where I was located. For example, If I wanted to buy a Northern piece of land, but was in a Southern map piece, I could only see the pieces of land in the grid row underneath the the Northern piece of land, requiring me to move North a bit so my map could expand further. This drove me crazy, and was horribly inconvenient, especially when in a timed scenario.

The second red flag I experienced was with ranged weapon controls. When using, say, a bow, the button prompt requires the regular “action” input and uses the right stick to aim. Regular stuff. However, while the aim cursor is pointing left, if I let go of the aiming stick, the bow would fire right, while the aim cursor remained to my left. Due to the aforementioned ease of combat within Forager, this wasn’t too inconvenient, but it did render several weapons almost worthless for quick use in gameplay.

See where the aim marker is?
The arrow clearly did not get the memo.
The Best Forager Has To Offer

If I were to take all the game experiences that Forager gave me, bad and good, and boiled out the single strongest feature that puts it above the competition, the RPG elements would be it. The skill tree is Forager‘s best and most unique feature. From passive effects, like earning 20% more gold selling items, to active effects, such as earning more crafting materials, I was always excited to find out what my next levels could unlock. The system isn’t perfect for me, but that’s also a part of the system’s ingenuity: not everyone has my playstyle.

Mmm…It’s Missing Something
There are six additions teased for Forager‘s future. However, only two of them are named so far.

For a time, Forager presents plenty to do. Throughout my playthrough I made three personal goals: first, to buy all available properties; second, to see all that the skill tree had to offer; and lastly, to craft every item I could. Over time I found that the third goal became more and more out of reach, as the time sink became too heavy and resources too numerous. With 5 tiers of item crafting, the time, resources, and energy to make new items literally increased exponentially. Eventually I drew a line when a new item, the “obliterator,” wanted 100 of 3 different types of very difficult and rare materials.

Using those three goals, I believe I have been able to experience all that Forager has to offer me, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. However, there’s just something…missing. For example, there was a very limited  variety of weapon upgrades, and all of the perks are the same no matter the playthrough. Crafting items moved from very manageable to nearly impossible almost instantly, and there is next-to-no incentive for game completion besides the completion itself.

To put it flatly, I feel that the late-game experience strongly builds up to the upcoming update and patch releases, but until then, is missing a crucial step in gameplay. Seeing as Forager just officially came out in the middle of this year, I continue to have strong hopes for it’s expansion and potential.

There you have it, after 29 hours of playtime, I have little large complaint…
But have also done basically everything I cared to do.

Review copy generously provided by Humble Bundle

Categories
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Rage 2

Developer:  Avalanche Studios, id Software

Publisher: Bethesda Softworks

Genre​: FPS

Platforms​: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Rating​: M for Mature

Price​: $59.99

 

There are times when I want to play a game that doesn’t require a lot of brain power. I just want to sit down turn on my gaming music mix, and slay some bad guys. Rage 2 is a great game for a gaming session where you just want to turn your brain off and shoot some post-apocalyptic bad guys. Rage 2 excels with great gunplay and neat powers, but the game suffers from a lack of motivational plot. I don’t always need for a game to have a deep meaningful story; but I do need the game to motivate me toward the next objective. The characters and story of the Rage 2 really don’t give me a reason to care about them, but even so, the game is fun.

Content Guide

Rage 2 is rated M for Mature for violence mainly, but also for foul language and some suggestive, adult themes. The game takes place on post-apocalyptic future earth very reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road. The populace of this future earth is brutal and savage. I would not recommend this game to anyone under the age of 17 for the following reasons:

Violence—The violence of Rage 2 could be seen as over the top because most of it is gory and bloody. When you shoot enemies from a distance, there’s not much blood, but shoot them close up and they will sometimes explode into a bloody mess. It’s possible to chop off limbs with bullets, grenades, or boomerang weapons. When a player is in the Overdrive mode, all bullets will explode enemies as do the melee attacks with the butt of the gun.

Melee kill

Adult Themes—The post-apocalyptic land of Rage 2 is filled with people with disturbing sexual ideas. There is a location that hosts a game show called Mutant Bash TV where the player signs up for a deathmatch to kill a bunch of mutants. This show is run by an aging showgirl host who makes several inappropriate comments throughout. Several scantily clad, oiled men and women wearing large masks follow the showgirl host around every time they interact with the player. In between the matches, I got to see some of the NPCs hanging around the studio. I saw one man dressed in a BDSM costume pretending to chase another man who was on all fours pretending to be an animal.

Desdemonya Cold

Drug Use—I never saw any drug use by characters in the game, but there was an NPC who appeared to be shaking and talking to another NPC about drugs. In the swamp area of the map, marijuana plants grow everywhere. The plants seem to have been planted by the crash of an eco-pod in the area which can be found near fields of marijuana plants. Bars can be found in each of the towns where NPCs can be seen slumped over tables or the bar apparently drunk.

Marijuana plants

Review

In Rage 2, the player takes the role of a young man or woman named Walker, the last Ranger in the Wasteland. A meteor strike wrecked earth several years before Walker was born, creating the Wasteland, but humanity found a way to renew the planet by calling down Eco-pods that began to re-seed the planet. At the start of the game, Walker lives in one of the few strongholds in the Wasteland called Vineland. The game starts with an attack on Vineland by the Authority, a cybernetic army controlled by General Cross from the first Rage game. The player gets a standard tutorial level during the attack on Vineland where the game teaches the player the basic controls.

It frustrated me that the game spent a lot of time going over how to move, jump, and shoot and no time diving into the menus and the crafting. Rage 2 doesn’t break any new ground with the controls so if a player has played any FPS in the last five years they know all the controls. I didn’t fully understand that I could craft health items until about an hour into gameplay by mistakenly buying an upgrade at a store. I would have preferred that the game spent more time teaching me this instead of how to move.

Fighting bandits

Once I played through the tutorial level, I got access to the Ranger suit which Walker gets from a dead Ranger. There’s a gory scene when Walker pulls pieces of the dead Ranger out of the suit that he uses throughout the game. The Ranger suit gives the player access to powers like dash, double jump, slam, and overdrive. Most of the powers are not given to the player at the beginning of the game, but they can be obtained by finding Arks in the open world of the Wasteland. Arks contain the lost technology and weapons of the old world.

The variety of weapons in the game is limited. Unlike some other FPS games where the enemies drop weapons, the player obtains weapons only by finding them in Arks, and there are only eight guns to find in the entire game. Despite the limited inventory of the guns, they weapons handle really well, and the guns are fun to shoot. I enjoyed the shotgun which has a fun knockback feature so that when I hit an enemy with a shotgun blast, they would sometimes fly backward. I loved the revolver the most because it was like a flare gun. When a player shoots an enemy with the revolver, the rounds can be ignited inside the enemy causing them to the burst into flame.

John Marshall

Once the Wasteland opens up to the player, they get a truck and the nebulous goal of defeating General Cross and the Authority. The player meets three important people in the Wasteland: John Marshall, Loosum Hagar, and Dr. Antonin Kvasir, who help Walker towards defeating General Cross. Most of the missions that these three will send the player on are simple missions such as go to location X, shoot all the bandits there, then flip a switch to complete the mission. Along the way, the player will see question marks on the map or they may run into gas stations and roadblocks. Once the player finds these locations, it’s pretty much the same thing: kill all the bandits, maybe flip a switch or turn a wheel and you’re done. There are other things to find in the world such as Arks and the last known resting place of fallen Rangers, but again most of those locations have bandits that need to be killed before you can flip the switch to open the Ark or find the fallen Ranger.

There’s no loot to be collected, and as I stated before there are a limited number of guns to collect. The locations on the map are where players find resources for crafting items and for upgrading the Ranger powers. Players can learn to craft health shots, grenades, power boosts, and boomerangs called Wingsticks through purchasing perks from vendors.

The lackluster story and flat characters disappoint me most about Rage 2. I recognize that most FPS games follow the formula of go to location X kill everybody then push the button which will do Y so you can progress to Z— rinse and repeat. The reason that I state that missions seem simple has to do with the lackluster story; I didn’t care about the NPCs or their motivation which made the missions feel repetitive. What makes this problem worse is the disconcerting light-hearted tone of the pre-launch trailers.

Or this trailer which has some foul language:

After playing the game for several hours, I didn’t feel like the time of the game is very light-hearted. I killed hundreds of people and mutants by that point, and the game was not really giving me a reason to feel like this was some kind of fun romp. I felt like Rage 2 wanted me to take the plot seriously because NPCs maintain a very serious tone when they speak about the missions, but the pre-launch trailers made me expect a goofy game. It may be that Bethesda was trying to compete with the Borderlands franchise, but the incongruent tone of the game doesn’t match the hype.

Driving a tank

I will continue to play Rage 2 because the action and gunplay are awesome. I can overlook the lackluster story and confusing tone because I’m hooked on the action. It’s a game that I can turn on crank up the heavy metal music and play for a couple of hours. It’s also enjoyable because of the single player content which doesn’t require other players and an internet connection in order to enjoy. Rage 2 is a game that I have recommend to friends who aren’t interested in story or plot but who want pure action.

 

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B07D3MFTHL,B07DNB6D6L,B07D37KKQQ]

Categories
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Fade to Silence

Developer: Black Forest Games

Publisher: THQ Nordic

Genre: SurvivalOpen-World

Platform: PCXbox One (reviewed), Playstation 4

Rating: M (Mature)

Price: $49.99

Fade to Silence sees the unnamed protagonist waking up to a frozen, post-apocalyptic world that is ravaged by blizzards and nightmarish creatures with a penchant for stabbing humans. You’ll gather resources, build structures, recruit survivors, protect your camp, fight, and try to survive. Death isn’t always permanent, but the unrelenting cold and your enemies will always be there to welcome you back. Are you ready? 

Content Guide

Language: I thought there was little to no language, until I ran into a different survivor who, according to her bio, “curses like a sailor.” Many F’s and S’s followed. 

Violence: Monsters attack with stabbing, slashing, and impaling attacks. Blood spurts in small amounts, but no gore. Players can also die from starvation or freezing to death. 

Magic: The main character is resurrected upon death by what appears to be an evil spirit. Said spirit taunts you often in the game, especially when you try to do certain things. Players can “cleanse” areas with a QTE on a particular enemy. 

This is where you wake up when you die. Motel 6 it is not.

Review

In the first few minutes of Fade to Silence, you don’t learn the main protagonist’s name, or the name of the deep-throated spirit that resurrects him, or why he wants to resurrect the protagonist only to taunt him at every turn, even so far as to encourage him to lie down and die. All you really know is that the protagonist was dead, had a camp that is now in flames and shambles, has a daughter named Allie, and monsters that look halfway between the Demogorgon and the Thing are everywhere, along with evil-looking red tentacles. 

Outposts, easily spotted by the GIANT TENTACLES waving about out of towers, have minibosses and large amounts of resources in them.

This is a good example of how much of the game goes: you’re dropped in and left to explore the frozen wasteland with little direction after a couple introductory missions (Grab this shard; Gather 8 piles of firewood), and huge gaps in the plot or story are up to you to fill in as you go. Once in a while, I would get cutscenes in the form of dreams when the protagonist rested at camp, but not much was cleared up or explained beyond what I could have guessed already. Between the protagonist’s slow pace and limited inventory, the game started to feel like a slog, running back and forth on foot to the base camp where I could build and store items. As you clear out enemy camps and abandoned outposts, you can gain access to your stash from new locales, but so far I hadn’t unlocked the sled dogs, and with no fast travel that I could see I was actually happy once that I died so I wouldn’t need to walk back to camp. 

This is just the starting area. It would easily take you 10 minutes to walk it end-to-end.

Death is more of a minor inconvenience than anything else in Fade, as you resurrect back at your home base as many times as you’d like in Exploration mode. Survival mode is harsher, and only gives you four lives. Survival also has harsher environment and combat, and is the only way you can get achievements or access the skill trees. This feels unfair as the game itself encourages players wanting to enjoy the game at their own pace to go into Exploration mode, but then it takes part of the game and achievements away. Not every game needs to cater to all gamers and include easy or hard modes, but if you ship a game with a mode included, people shouldn’t be getting less of the game or looked down on for playing it, outside of something like DOOM‘s menus that tease players for choosing easy. You also only get one save slot, so if you want to check out both game modes on a whim, you’ll lose any progress from the former.

When you’re not avoiding death from monsters, the weather, or starvation, you’ll be hunting, gathering, building, crafting, recruiting, and exploring. There’s quite a lot to do in Fade, I just wish it wasn’t either so boring or so overwhelmingly oppressive. The first time you wander out into the snow, it feels like death could be around each corner. Many containers or chests trigger enemy spawns, and on survival mode, one enemy can be the death of you. Combat consists of light or heavy attacks, and that’s it, but on the plus side, there are slightly different animations based on what weapon you use. 

Heavy or light attack, combat roll, and stamina bar. Streets of Rage called, they want their mechanics back…

The audio for Fade is a bright point in the blizzard; many times I didn’t need to look at the UI to know what was happening. When he’s hungry the protagonist’s stomach will growl, when he’s cold he’ll audibly shiver, and when enemies are nearby you’ll hear their guttural noises to keep you on edge. I did find one time the game wouldn’t let me make camp because it thought an enemy was nearby, but I couldn’t find any enemies close to the protagonist. Other bugs I found included jagged edges and artifacts appearing along the far edges of the screen during cutscenes, NPCs (especially Allie) appearing near me randomly when they had been far away, not being able to interact or chop down trees when I was next to them, and one full crash to the console home. Luckily I had just hit a save point and didn’t lose any progress. 

Crafting!

Speaking of Allie, right from the start the interactions with her feel odd and forced, and the digital actors’ mouths and movements don’t seem to sync with what they were saying. Each interaction sounds more like a sitcom father and daughter moment instead of a bleak survival game where monsters are trying to kill you. In a cheerful voice, the protagonist would greet her with a, “Hey kiddo! How was your day?” And she’d reply, “Hi Dad! Did you find any survivors today?” Cue laugh track. 

The most confusing part for me, however, was the evil-sounding spirit. If he wanted me to die so much, why does he keep resurrecting me? And since he gets so mad when I make the protagonist “cleanse” an area, why even let me set foot near it? I feel like there was some potential for a strong RPG element where you could use the spirit’s powers to fight or cleanse areas at the expense of becoming corrupted, but instead it’s just a button-mashing QTE. 

The italics at the top are the caption of the spirit’s voice. He’s not terribly encouraging.

If you make a game with harvesting and building, you might run into a Minecraft comparison. If you make a game with a life/death cycle you might get compared to Dark Souls, and if you make a game with horrific spiny monsters you might get compared to Dead Space. But playing any of those games instead of Fade to Silence would be better time spent; this game is not better than those it imitates, unfortunately. 

Review code generously provided by Evolve PR.
Categories
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Just Cause 4 (Xbox One)

Developer: Avalanche Studios

Publisher: Square Enix

Genre: Action, Open-World

Platform: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4

Rating: Mature

Price: $60.00

In Just Cause 4, protagonist Rico Rodriguez takes his talents for toppling dictators down to the fictional South American country of Solis. There, he clashes with familiar cannon fodder enemy the Black Hand, and Oscar Espinosa, who enforces his rule with his private army and weather machines. These devices are new to the series, and Rico will now have to contend with wild tornadoes, lightning storms, and blizzards. Read on to see if the game is able to weather the storm, or if it’s just a cold front passing by.

Content Guide

Language: Rico frequently mutters, “S***” in-game and in-cutscene. Other NPCs say similar curses, and use the F-word in various fashions. If it was a movie, it would get a “R” rating on language alone.

Violence: Players can use all sorts of real-world-inspired and fantastical guns to kill, blow up, or destroy enemies and civilians. The game makes no mention of any issues or penalties for attacking innocent people. Also, players can use Rico’s grappling hook to attach anyone to other objects, or balloons, or soon-to-be-exploding gas tanks.

Review

The time I found the Wind Gun is indicative of my overall experience with Just Cause 4. I had just finished a lengthy mission at a car factory, when I came across a weapon cache containing the Wind Gun. Thinking it might not do much, I pointed it at a few boxes, which it blew out of sight with a satisfying, “Ffwoom!” I then gleefully ran around the factory, literally blowing away enemies, cars, metal shipping containers, and anything else not nailed down. A minute or two into my spree I ran out ammo, and looked around to find more. I couldn’t find any. I then looked in the menus for how to unlock the ability to call in the Wind Gun via supply drop, and found that there were two regions I had to unlock first, and a mission I had to do before I could unlock either of those. After jumping through those hoops, then the map told me I couldn’t unlock the last region until I did the final mission. All that extra work towards unlocking a gun I had just grown to like, but wouldn’t be able to get again until I’d finished the campaign.

I tried to think of a good metaphor for Just Cause 4, and the best I could come up with is it’s like playing the Saran Wrap ball game, but instead of good prizes each time, sometimes the prize is another escort mission, or more busy work, or you have to fly halfway across the island for the next mission. More than once in the middle of a mission I had to re-do objectives because the enemy had deployed signal jammers, or reset something, which just padded out the gameplay. JC4 has a lot of fun, but it’s also wrapped up in not-fun or confusing stuff. For instance, the decision to give Rico an AR lens to explain how he knows where things are and how far away was an unnecessary change. It took me around 5 hours to realize my waypoints would still tell me distance if I pushed and held down on the left stick. It worked great in Just Cause 3 to just set a waypoint and you’d know how far away you were; I’m not sure why they “upgraded” this.

Add balloons to remove obstacles, crash helicopters, or just make floating bombs.

As far as the base gameplay goes, if you played any of the recent games in the series it’s more of the same—some of the random pop-up missions seem to be lifted directly from Just Cause 3, with no change whatsoever (“Steal the VIP’s car and drive off a cliff” showed up often). The main missions in JC4 lead you to disabling Espinosa’s different weather machines, but the buildup is so involved it takes hours before you’ll get to see a runaway tornado or lightning storm in action. Truly, the mission where Rico follows the tornado into the city is a memorable and eye-candy-filled set piece, but it’s over far too fast. JC4 also deviates from its predecessors in that it really isn’t a fully “Open” World game. It drops you in a province and tasks you with building up your Chaos meter (similar to past games) to then unlock Squads of soldiers (wait, whut) to unlock new provinces and regions. You can’t unlock a new area that isn’t right next to your front line, and some areas can’t be unlocked until missions have been done inside them—which is frustrating since you can’t fast-travel to locked regions either. In past games you could go anywhere and unlock new gear and areas in any order you saw fit.

This mission was amazing. Unfortunately it was over just as quick.

Also, for you completionists: I got really confused in the first area where I went to cause trouble. After blowing up all the enemy structures (marked in red since Just Cause 2) I still only had 0.0% completion for that area. For some odd reason, they divorced blowing stuff up from the completion percentage for a given area. Now to 100% an area, you have to complete all the side missions there, whereas in games past side missions were only for unlocking gear or money. So since it doesn’t help you finish areas, blowing up stuff can start to feel like a grind as you push to get your Chaos bar filled. And instead of feeling like fun distractions, side missions feel tedious since they’re the only way to 100% an area. I started ignoring them and just focusing on unlocking new regions.

In case you were wondering, yes, you can still put a small passenger car into low-Earth orbit with booster rockets, and survive the fall back to the ground. And yet, if you bail from a car going 60 mph on the ground it explodes in a fireball…

My final gripe at JC4 is that it feels like a Bethesda or Rockstar game when it comes to bugs. Motorcycles bounce like they have some Flubber mod; passenger planes make odd, last-second vertical takeoffs; helicopters are broken or smoking on the platform from spawning; pedestrians walk endlessly into walls hoping to escape. In an open world game with so much code going on, odd things are bound to happen, but instead of coming off as charming as some bugs do, these just added to the narrative that this was a rushed and unpolished sequel.

Seeing broken and smoking vehicles is normal for a Just Cause game, but these ones spawned that way. I SWEAR, officer, I never touched that helicopter!

Even if you came into JC4 without ever playing a game in the series, you would take issue with it. Yes, they made some cool additions with the balloons and fantastical weapons like the Lightning gun or Wind Cannon. But they also simplified parts of it to the point of banality, while needlessly complicating others. For instance, who thought it was a good idea to move the booster/remote charge to the grappling hook, and get rid of grenades? Games that last this far into their series have a steep hill to climb, but I doubt anyone’s wish list for Just Cause 4 was, “More of exactly the same, but more tedious, and with a James Bond super-villain!”  My suggestion: Rent it, or better yet get Just Cause 3 and it’s DLC. You’ll have more fun and save about $40.