Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Review

Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition Review

If ever a game deserved a second chance, it’s Bulletstorm. Though the original debuted just six years ago, the game went largely unnoticed at the time. So now, Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition is bringing it back to life by revamping the visuals and adding new content.

On its face, Bulletstorm is an outrageously macho first-person shooter that careens through a gauntlet of linear corridors and over-the-top set pieces in a testosterone-induced frenzy. But beneath this bro-y veneer, it quietly shapeshifts into a clever, challenging puzzle game thanks to the addition of skillshots.

Rather than simply shooting everyone to death, Bulletstorm challenges you to off your enemies in increasingly imaginative and elaborate ways: kick them into fountains full of flesh-eating fish, lasso them into overgrown cacti, flatten them by bringing elevator cars down on their heads, and so on. There are well over 100 unique options in total, many of which indeed require serious skill to pull off.

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For your efforts, you’re rewarded with points–the more creative the kill, the higher the point value. These points can be redeemed for weapon and ability upgrades at pods that punctuate the game’s various sections, but the skillshots are plenty rewarding in and of themselves. Seeing the “new” tag pop up next to a skillshot name after something cool happens on screen evokes the same giddy excitement of nailing a “gap” in the old Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games. There’s a sense of discovery and accomplishment that’s refreshed with every new skillshot you uncover.

Skilled players can even check the skillshot menu and deliberately attempt to tick every box on the list, a challenge that transforms the entire game. Enemies are no longer threats as much as they are opportunities–each one could be the canvas for another skillshot masterwork. It’s an incredibly novel and gratifying hook, one that fundamentally elevates the standard shooter formula to something transcendently arcadey.

And this is all in addition to the fact that Bulletstorm stands as a strong shooter even without its point system. The core aiming and movement feel tight, and added mechanics like the “instinct leash”–which allows crass hero Grayson Hunt to grab enemies across great distances and yank them in closer–along with the Titanfall-esque slide-and-shoot maneuver keep the action feeling fast and dynamic.

Bulletstorm’s campaign also enjoys excellent pacing and variety. Recalling the gloriously ridiculous guns of ’90s shooters like Quake and Turok, weapons range from relatively standard to utterly outlandish: you can fire spinning drill bits into your foes, chase them with manually-guided sniper bullets, or just vaporize them with a quad-barrel shotgun. Your arsenal gradually grows as you progress, ensuring there are always new skillshots to try.

You also encounter new enemy types as you barrel through the campaign–some charge at you wielding explosives, others evade your leash with unexpected agility, but all offer some slight variation that helps keep the action from feeling too predictable. And of course, with every new environment come new hazards; it’s always fun figuring out that yes, you can kick enemies into that nearby turbine/chasm/hotdog cart.

Some elements of Bulletstorm’s campaign do feel stale, however. You’ll periodically encounter quick-time events, scripted set pieces, and on-rails shooter sections, and while none of these moments are bad, per se, they are design hallmarks of a game some years out of date. The campaign’s final chapters also become a bit of a predictable slog, diminishing your ability to be creative by hurling more and more obstacles at you.

Even with these highs and lows, the campaign holds up well–after all, its inventive skillshot system is a timeless idea. The story, on the other hand, remains an acquired taste. The script–which was almost certainly written entirely in all-caps–contains torrents of gratuitous swearing and some of the most painfully sophomoric humor ever to appear in a game. You may think you have an unlimited tolerance for dick jokes, but the only way to truly be sure is to play Bulletstorm.

3217167-20170405124914_1A quick look at Full Clip Edition’s video options on PC.

What’s especially weird about all the cartoonish machismo is the fact that it comes wrapped in a relatively serious storyline about war crimes, personal responsibility, and moving beyond self-loathing in order to help those you care about. That juxtaposition is jarring, but in a weird way, it works. It’s a bit like The Fast and the Furious: if you’re willing to turn off your brain and accept the fact that you’ve signed up for a spectacularly stupid thrillride, you might just enjoy yourself (even if you cringe a few times along the way).

While the contents of the story and campaign have not changed since the original release, the multiplayer and visuals have both been updated. Even in 2011, Bulletstorm was a good-looking game awash in color, each area soaked in brilliant hues, perhaps as a reaction to Epic’s notoriously brown shooter, Gears of War. It’s no surprise, then, that Full Clip Edition also looks excellent.

Though it can’t compete with the splendor of current-gen titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, it by no means looks out of place on modern hardware. The colors are as vibrant as ever, textures appear crisp and detailed (until you zoom the camera all the way in on an object, at least), draw distances prove impressive, and the frame rate holds solid on both PC and PS4. I encountered a small handful of glitches–mainly dead bodies ragdolling through walls–but overall, this is a technically sound update. PS4 Pro and PC players can even enjoy the game in 4K.

The updates to multiplayer are less impressive. Full Clip Edition adds six brand new maps to the solo, score-driven Echoes mode and also includes the four additional Echoes maps, three cooperative Anarchy mode maps, and an objective-driven version of Echoes called Ultimate Echoes that were added as DLC following Bulletstorm’s original release.

Echoes mode in general isn’t all that exciting since each map is just an isolated snippet of the campaign–your score can earn you a spot on a leaderboard, but the gameplay, down the very last enemy, remains identical to how the section played out in the campaign. Consequently, the mode provides a convenient option for those who want a streamlined experience, but it doesn’t add much to the overall package. Full Clip Edition’s six new maps don’t change that.

The cooperative horde mode Anarchy is a far more engaging option, especially since each round forces you to exceed a preset score threshold. Often the only way to achieve the requisite score in later rounds is to successfully perform team-based skillshots, a mechanic that sets Bulletstorm’s horde mode apart from the rest of the…er, horde. Maps prove especially important in Anarchy since unique environmental hazards frequently provide the highest score boosts, so Full Clip’s inclusion of the old DLC maps was a smart move.

Finally, Full Clip adds two major pieces of fan service: first a “new game plus” option called Overkill Mode, which enables all weapons and skillshots from the beginning of the campaign. Annoyingly, you must beat the campaign before unlocking Overkill–a move that will surely irk returning fans looking to dive right in–but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless.

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Hail to the king, baby!

More interestingly, fans who preordered Full Clip Edition (or who shell out an additional five dollars) can play through the entire campaign as the king himself, Duke Nukem. In practice, Duke’s character model replaces Hunt’s in every cutscene and longtime Duke voice actor Jon St. John reworks many of the original lines to better suit his character.

But the rest of the content, including the other character’s reactions and responses, remains unchanged. Your AI companion Ishi even uses Hunt’s name on several occasions. It is, of course, kind of hilarious to see and hear Duke in this new context, but his presence doesn’t meaningfully impact the story, let alone the gameplay.

For longtime fans, Full Clip Edition doesn’t offer much to be excited about. Additions like Overkill Mode and the upgraded visuals are certainly welcome, but fundamentally, this is the same game they already played in 2011. That said, the experience absolutely holds up: the skillshot system remains wildly fun and inventive, the weapons are still a gruesome joy, and the writing…well, it’s as distinctive as ever. If you missed Bulletstorm when it originally released–and based on sales numbers, you probably did–now’s the time to treat yourself to a clever if cringe-worthy blockbuster.

Atlas Reactor Review For PC

“Checkmate,” I typed in chat, just as the my beefy warrior hero Titus slammed down his broadsword and killed the two shooters before him. Victory and game over.

But “checkmate” is an apt enough word to use when playing this game. Atlas Reactor’s cast might be filled with the likes of robo-puppies and gun-toting fishmen rather than sword-swingers or wooden pawns, but watching a match feels much like watching the ancient game of chess. It retains this feeling even with a host of influences–a bit of XCOM here, a dash of League of Legends there–and a multiplayer focus that pits two teams of four players against each other. It maintains a near-perfect balance of match length, tactics, replayability, and flow of action, and comes off as something unique and fresh.

It’s also turn-based, a design choice that initially comes off a poor bedfellow for its PvP emphasis. But the greatness of Atlas Reactor is that it works, in part because there’s little waiting involved. Every player gets only 20 seconds to plan and position their next moves over a gridded map, and every player does this planning phase at the same time. The action winds up right as those 20 seconds wind down, and the moves play out on the map down lanes and conveniently placed walls. And then, tick-tock, it’s time to start again, and this dance plays on for either 20 total turns or until one side kills five players. And as if to prove that Atlas Reactor seriously has a thing for the number 20, most matches last no more than that many minutes, which comes as a blessing when things aren’t going well.

Even with the decent tutorial, it’s daunting for the first few matches. Once it kicks off, the action unfolds in a series of phases, all of which you have to account for with a library of five abilities within the space of 20 seconds. First, there’s the Prep phase, which sees your hero lay down traps (or shout to weaken opponents, as my warrior Titus does). Right after that comes the Dash phase, which lets you dart out of the way if you’re worried another player is about to unleash a big attack. That’s followed by the Attack phase proper, where you fire rocket launchers, unleash huge mechanical choppers, or swing greatswords depending on the hero. After all that comes the Movement phase, which lets your hero move to a new area in preparation for a new attack. Adding to the mix is a wide range of options for taking cover, power-ups for damage and health, three single-use “catalysts” for healing and short teleports, and a fog of war mechanic that lets you hide from enemies on specific tiles.

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Spelled out like that, it sounds comically unwieldy for the time allotted, but it makes sense in action. At least one of those abilities is an ultimate that can’t be used unless you’ve amassed enough energy, and distance limitations often rule out certain abilities. At least half the time, I’d say, I’d locked in my moves before the 20-second timer even ran out.

Much as in chess, a big chunk of the fun comes from guessing how the next turn plays out. I might have Titus ready to charge at an enemy player with low health on the other side of the map, but if he or she dashes away, I could end up swatting at air when I arrive. Or maybe there’s a weakened enemy who could last a bit longer by picking up that nearby health pack, but I could thwart his plans by nabbing it first. Some of the best moments come down to skillful gambling, such as betting that a couple of enemy players will dash into the catastrophic area-of-effect attack I’m about to unleash.

Communication by voice or chat interface naturally makes all this easier, although I’ve been in plenty of winning matches where the only words I see typed are “lol”s when massive attacks miss. Atlas Reactor is nice enough to make this process easier by automatically hooking you up with a Discord channel before each match if you choose, and voice chat does much to get the most out of those 20 seconds.

Could the game offer a bit more variety? Certainly. As it stands, it doesn’t take long to learn the tricks and secrets each of the few maps present, which may be a tiny part of the reason why many random players don’t bother with voice chat. And it’s a world I’d like to see more of. There’s even a story of sorts with lively, humorous cutscenes that’s largely currently locked behind the multi-week “seasons,” which unlock collectibles like banners and emblems. This is a lively, cel-shaded universe that echoes The Fifth Element and any number of other cyberpunk settings while a catchy soundtrack thumps its beats in the background, and its cast of “freelancers” look as though they could rub shoulders with the cast of Overwatch and fit right in.

There are 21 freelancers, with Juno and her twin-cannon harness being the last added for launch after months of beta. More will no doubt fill the ranks eventually, but I already admire how much the experience changes and renews itself when going from my favorite Titus to Celeste (who can steal power-ups with grappling hooks) or the cutesy Quark, who smothers friends with heals but blasts the bad guys with gamma rays. Nor is it mindless shooting–tactics figure in heavily, such as the way one freelancer can bounce laser blasts off walls and shift-clicks allow for precise maneuvers around traps. Even the progression system doesn’t let things get out of hand, as it merely focuses on mods for your abilities and catalysts, with extra taunts and skins tossed in for fun.

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And since Atlas Reactor espouses a buy-to-play model, you merely have to pay $30, and all this is yours. (After all the 20s, I’m surprised it’s not $20.) It’s a nice break from the sometimes-oppressive free-to-play model that’s defined Trion Worlds’ games lately, although if you’re not ready to plunk down cash, you can use the Free Mode that switches out different heroes each week. Smartly, as with so many other things about this game, those heroes are randomized by account rather than game-wide so that you’re not always seeing the same five pop up in matches. And if you ever want to jump in ranked or custom matches and open more loot crates so that it feels like more than a largely functional trial, just pay the 30 bucks.

A lot of what gets passed off as “innovation” in games these days is really better described as the successful alchemy of numerous existing styles, but rarely does this practice produce the kind of gold we find in Atlas Reactor. Sure, it could use a few more maps (and more are on the way), and its learning curve is just steep enough that it’s briefly tough to see the fun on the other side, but it achieves its aims with style and flair.

Shovel Knight: Specter Of Torment Review

Shovel Knight is defined by its likeness to games from the era of 8-bit consoles. It takes inspiration from games like Mega Man and Ducktales not only in its pixel- and pitch-perfect audiovisual aesthetic, but also in its mechanics–Shovel Knight is a resolutely unforgiving 2D platformer. Peril is almost always present on screen–be it a bottomless pit or a tough enemy that can quickly whittle down your health–making this a game that demands your undivided attention as much as it does your quick reflexes. Specter of Torment is the latest expansion to Shovel Knight, a prequel that’s available as a standalone campaign on Nintendo Switch or a free update to those who already own the main game, and it follows the titular Specter Knight as he sets out to gather an army for the series’ primary antagonist, The Enchantress.

Specter Knight’s default skillset is dramatically more varied than that of Shovel Knight, with a focus on the lightness and dexterity of his character, as opposed to Shovel Knight’s heavier, brute-force feel. Specter Knight has an innate ability to wall jump, mount ledges, and vertically scale walls for a short time. Most significantly, Specter has the ability to perform a mid-air scythe dash on enemies and certain environmental objects, an attack which sends him flying at an angle and is used for traversal as much as it is for offence.

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The execution of these moves is simple, requiring nothing more than a timely press of the attack or jump buttons, and together they make Specter feel like a powerfully agile character who is a joy to control. But with these abilities come more difficult challenges in Specter of Torment’s new platforming levels. Unlike Shovel Knight, whose stages gradually grew in difficulty and were gated in an overworld map style reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3, Specter of Torment presents you with the full selection of what I personally found to be equally-challenging stages and their accompanying boss fights, available to be tackled in any order in a structure more reminiscent of the Mega Man series.

Bottomless pits and other instant-death hazards feel more abundant in Specter of Torment, and proceeding forward almost always involves more than just careful jumping. Stages often require you to chain a series of movements together in order to keep Specter Knight airborne for extended periods of time over treacherous ground, and one fumbled execution could mean a complete do-over. You might climb the side of a wall to get you just enough height to wall-jump towards a series of swinging chandeliers, letting you scythe-dash into each one and eventually fling yourself across the room to mantle an opposing wall. Managing to reach a checkpoint after perfectly overcoming a series of obstacles without fumbles or fatalities is always a thrilling relief. The dexterous demands of performing these moves means that progress always feels satisfying and well-earned, even when it feels second-nature.

Each themed stage adds its own unique mechanical twists to the game’s platforming which need to be internalised too. There are some incredibly memorable ones such as scythe surfing, which sees Specter Knight ride his scythe like a skateboard and grind rails to move through stages at speed–but otherwise the majority will be familiar to those who have played the main Shovel Knight game, albeit with minor twists to better accommodate Specter’s abilities. This is unsurprising, given the game’s prequel nature and the appearance of many of the same characters and worlds, but the new level designs still feel more demanding.

Specter of Torment also features many of the same formidable level bosses as the original Shovel Knight, and although many of the battles with them seem a bit too similar to their previous appearances, some are altered significantly to make the most of Specter’s mobility, and can come as an enjoyable surprise to those familiar. The fight with Propeller Knight, for example, no longer takes place on a static platform, but in the midst of many tiny, cascading airships, requiring you to continually scramble upwards while dodging attacks.

The completion of each level allows you to purchase additional Curios, Specter of Torment’s unique version of Shovel Knight’s Relics, which allow for the use of special abilities at the cost of a consumable meter. Each Curio has its own distinct use to aid in the dispatching of enemies or to ease the burden of traversal. For example, the Hover Plume gives Specter Knight the ability to float in mid-air for a short duration, and Judgement Rush allows Specter to ignore pits and walls and teleport directly to an enemy. Each tool adds an interesting new facet to the way you can approach Specter of Torment’s levels, but the entirety of the game can be completed without using them. I found that relying on Curios diminished the sense of satisfaction that came from overcoming difficult obstacles using only Specter Knight’s base skillset, and tended to avoid them.

Much of what made the original Shovel Knight a success can also be found in Specter Knight. Level designs also cleverly act as intuitive tutorials, demonstrating the possibilities and limits of what you can and can’t do in particular stages without explicit explanation. Shovel Knight’s penchant for rewarding exploration is also still present. Secret paths and areas are strewn throughout the game’s stages and hub world. Some are obvious, but some can come as a small surprise to those who are willing to push the limits of the traversal abilities. The game’s checkpoint system–which allows you to actually destroy a checkpoint for monetary reward at the risk of having to re-traverse more of the level upon death–is still a clever mechanic. And Shovel Knight’s sense of humor and charm still manage to shine through, despite Specter of Torment’s more melancholic tone. Small moments like watching a reunited skeleton couple perform a waltz, playing with a cat, or simply enjoying the lighthearted dialog of NPCs provide nice moments of levity.

While it only took us a few hours in total to complete the game’s story mode, Specter of Torment felt well-paced and never unnecessarily short. The density of challenge contained within its individual stages meant that I was always entirely concentrated on the next obstacle, but Specter of Torment attempts to pace its demands on your mental state every few levels with short, interactive narrative interludes that serve as an enjoyable prequel to this prequel campaign. Specter of Torment also offers a new game plus option upon completion with a slightly more demanding health mechanic, and also offers a challenge mode which presents a variety of platforming and boss fight trials under strict restraints.

Specter of Torment is a finely-crafted 2D platformer that is satisfying in all respects. Simply controlling Specter Knight–flying through the air and slicing through enemies–is a joy in itself, and being able to push your ability to control these skills in overcoming the game’s cleverly-designed and challenging levels is always an exhilarating feeling. Specter of Torment is a focussed, polished, and satisfyingly challenging game that’s well worth experiencing whether or not you’ve had the pleasure of playing Shovel Knight.

Watch Dogs 2 Review For PC

Hackers are often portrayed as computer savants hunched over a keyboard, sucking down a Diet Coke, and writing script faster than the characters can appear on a dirty CRT. They’re performing sorceries a half-step removed from actual magic, exploiting people and systems without leaving the house.

Watch Dogs 2, an open world action adventure set in the San Francisco Bay Area, turns hacking into a full contact sport. Starting with the GTA template of a city, cars, guns, and ragdoll physics, you can also use a phone to remotely overload a circuit box and knock security guards comatose or hack underground pipes to blow up huge sections of the street. (Yes, you can hack pipes.) It rarely feels like you’re using technical expertise to give big, insidious tech companies the run around. Instead, you’re using brute force, whether by equipping a drone with shock mines to knock out your enemies or using a literal grenade launcher to ‘hack’ them to death by the dozen.

Even if you’re murdering people to steal data, Watch Dogs 2’s loose take on pop culture hacktivism assumes a more bizarre, self-aware direction for the series overall. There’s a lot of goofy open world fun to have in Watch Dogs 2, mostly as a byproduct of the chaos your abilities enable, and especially by combining abilities in the free roam co-op mode. But its stealth systems are undermined by hacking and combat abilities that feel too unwieldy and passive to be reliable, and as slapstick as it can be, relying on the same powers throughout a thirty hour runtime turns Watch Dogs 2’s best abilities boring far too soon.

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The biggest lesson Watch Dogs 2 learned from its predecessor is that we’re a bit tired of mopey, edgy videogame protagonists, which Aiden Pearce embodied completely. This time around, Marcus and his support cast in the hacker collective DedSec are likable, funny people, and it’s good to see a black lead in a big-budget game, where people of color are so often relegated to supporting roles. Marcus and his friends are upbeat and know how to laugh, and their energy goes a long way in making the worst parts of Watch Dogs 2 tolerable. I didn’t feel like I was best friends with the DedSec crew, but they were nice faces to return to after every mission. They’d clap me on the back, high five one another, toss some beers around, and get to planning the next attempt to stick it to The Man.

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Stick it to The Man we did, over and over again. The main missions typically task Marcus with extracting or sabotaging data from a heavily guarded building, most often an obvious stand-in for the known Silicon Valley giants (Google is Nudle, for instance). Simple AI guards patrol the arenas, and using two new RC drones—one wheeled and the other airborne—you can scout out the area, marking enemies and interactive tech.

Because you have hacker smarts, you’re able to use drones, security cameras, or Marcus to interface with CTOS, an operating system embedded into city infrastructure, which means you can remotely influence anything connected to the system, like traffic lights, robots, and those handy explosive pipes, just by looking at them and pressing a button. For instance, when you’re trying to climb a building to get a clear vantage point to hack a massive construction crane, you can rotate it and lower the platform on the end to scale the tallest buildings in the city. Drive a motorcycle onto that thing and take it off the highest point as an attempt to infiltrate a few outdoor enemy bases. It didn’t work for me, but I laughed at lot, and it was more interesting than shocking guards with circuit boxes or calling in mob hits to murder them all. The life of a hacker.

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To truly be stealthy, you’ll spend a lot of time controlling your drones. Snaking around most spaces are ventilation shafts just big enough for a small RC robot to roll through, but there’s never a sense I’m being stealthy or subverting the enemy threat when using vents. I’m infiltrating through the same obvious path that everyone else will, just going through the motions so I know where my objective is and where all the guards are. There’s no tension in mapping out an arena with drones since everything is always in its designed place. It’s busywork.

There were entire floors I’d scout with a drone, sneaking by unseen to download classified files or plant a virus, only to find that Marcus’ physical presence was required to tap some keys in the end. And so I’d essentially replay the whole level, but as Marcus, who is easily spotted unless he’s ‘in cover,’ meaning I’ve pushed him against a wall. I moved through the same rooms, the same guard paths, and to the same objective only to die from getting caught by a guard whose red outline was barely visible against a visually busy scene. Then it’s back to square one, scouting and setting up with the drone again.

If you do get spotted, Marcus’ toolset swings in a different direction with no impact on character. At your HQ, you can 3D print a complete arsenal, everything from a shotgun to a grenade launcher. It’s strange that lethal weapons are included at all, given the peaceful ends DedSec is shooting for, and Marcus doesn’t seem the type to murder. Shooting your way out of a situation isn’t much fun either. The cover system is serviceable, but with enemies that like to make a beeline for your position and no dodge roll to dance around them with, there isn’t much you can do once you’re flanked except run and shoot. Marcus is soft too, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed and torn up from any distance. Together, the hacking abilities are too passive to be as playful as Saints Row 4’s superhero sandbox and the shooting feels dated in comparison to GTA 5, which is over three years old. Without many ways to stack abilities or exploit the world and enemy AI beyond bullets and electrocution, Watch Dogs 2 is suspended somewhere in the middle, and gets tired over the course of 30-plus hours of play.

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I left my # in San Francisco

Watch Dogs 2 is not a short game. It’s bloated in the same way Ubisoft open worlds tend to be, with a massive list of side missions. Some are fairly involved and funny—in one, you hack Ubisoft’s office to leak a trailer for an unreleased game—but most want you to climb a building to tag a billboard or hack a CTOS service box for a quick scene that pokes fun at Silicon Valley bigwigs. There’s a whole series of mundane missions where you just hack ATM machines and mess with terrible people trying to withdraw money, which I’d be into if it wasn’t the same joke told six times via what amounts to a fetch quest. You can race your drones, drive San Franciscans around in a Crazy Taxi-esque series of challenges, and take selfies near famous landmarks to gain followers and upgrade your hacking skills. There’s a glut of stuff to do in the side missions, but none of it is particularly focused or exciting.

NPCs scream to one another about how good wine is over the familiar clank and whoosh of the city’s signature cable cars, just like the real thing.

As mundane as the main missions can feel, they at least take place in one of my favorite open worlds in recent memory. Watch Dogs 2 is set in a scaled down recreation of the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, Palo Alto, and a small chunk of the Marin Headlands. San Francisco is the primary location, and it feels like a real place. NPCs scream to one another about how good wine is over the familiar clank and whoosh of the city’s signature cable cars, just like the real thing—without the omnipresent poop smell, that is.

Huge sections of the city are missing, and as such feels a bit misrepresentative for someone that lives there, but as a big mashup of the wealthy and tourist-heavy bits it works as satirical backdrop for an endless stream of Silicon Valley jabs and dick jokes (some pretty good ones, too). Even so, the parts it recreates are captured with eerie realism. I could intuit where such famous landmarks might be located, and found them just based on my sense of direction. Most striking are the vistas. Head up a hill in the evening for a beautiful and fairly accurate skyline.

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Do it on a nice PC if you can. No short attention was given to the port, which features a huge selection of graphical options, including frilly features like a built in upscaling and downscaling tools that let you change pixel density independent of the window resolution and advanced shadow effects that make them blur the further they are from their caster. There are enough knobs and switches to make Watch Dogs 2 both run on an older rig without sacrificing too much detail, and push newer PCs to their breaking point. Further, the UI has been completely retooled to work with a keyboard and mouse. It doesn’t make driving as precise as it is with a controller, but I played the entire game that way without trouble. If you have a controller plugged in, you can seamlessly switch back and forth between them too. Each menu has a hotkey, and there are control options to tweak everything from steering sensitivity to how quickly the camera recenters on your vehicle after making a sharp turn. After the first game’s dodgy port, it’s clear Ubisoft didn’t want to repeat the same mistake.

Watch Dogs 2 never made me feel Hella Cyber, but when used to leverage as much chaos as possible in the open world, it can feel like playing GTA with a measured god mode enabled. Silly, strange things happen often, but only if you ignore the missions and mess around in the beautifully realized open world. That’s where Watch Dogs 2’s true enjoyment lies—not in its cheeky Hot Topic hacktivism story and frustrating, bland stealth scenarios, but in the nonsense you can pull off in a big sandbox with wacky toys and fast cars.

Microsoft Solitaire for iOS, a classic game that gets a fitting relaunch in the modern age

In my mind, I’ve always associated Solitaire and Minesweeper with Microsoft. I first played both games on my PC almost 20 years ago (oh boy, do I feel old now) and strangely enough, they were among the first games to get me hooked onto the PC.

Between sessions of Half-Life and Age of Empires, I’d take a break and mindlessly play Solitaire until I felt refreshed enough to start another round. It’s an odd ritual, I know, but gamers will understand.

The games moved with me as I changed PCs and operating systems. They were old friends. I can still remember the outrage with which I greeted the “modern” Minesweeper and Solitaire on Windows Vista and later, Windows 8.

I’ve since forgiven Microsoft for Solitaire, but Minesweeper still remains a pain point. It’s so slow.

Minesweeper-through-the-age Joy on the left, horror on the right

Time doesn’t stand still of course and the smartphone revolution came. I started spending more and more of my idle time with my smartphone. Inevitably, I started scrounging the various app stores for some worthy version of Solitaire.

I found many games, decent ones at that, but for whatever reason, they didn’t have that fluidity and feel of Microsoft’s Solitaire. It’s hard to explain, but the only word I can come up with is “refined”; there’s a refinement to Microsoft’s version of Solitaire that I find lacking in every other version I’ve tried.

The day, a few weeks ago, that Microsoft Solitaire finally made its way to mobile was an exciting one indeed. I downloaded it, played it, and then heaved a huge sigh of relief.

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I’m happy to report that Microsoft Solitaire for iOS and Android is every bit as good as the current Windows 10 version of the game.

You get the same features, the same UI and even the same animations. You also get the same ad-supported gameplay that I loathe though.

As with the PC version, the game includes Klondike, Spider Solitaire, FreeCell, Pyramid and TriPeaks. The Daily Challenges and Awards also make their way to the game.

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Gameplay is smooth and fluid and I’ve no complaints on that front. As an added bonus to mobile players, the game supports ‘single tap to move’, which, in Solitaire, will move cards around to the appropriate stack in a single tap.

I played the mobile version on an iPhone 6S Plus (gotta love that screen) and an ancient, first generation Moto G. Gameplay was fluid and smooth on both devices.

You do get the option to pay to get rid of apps, but Microsoft, in all its wisdom, decided that Solitaire needs micro-transactions and thus, charges a $1.99 (Rs 120 in India) monthly fee or $9.99 (Rs 620 in India) a year subscription to remove advertisements and boost the rate at which you earn gold.

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The game can still be played without spending a rupee and the ads are relatively few in number.

If, like me, you’re a fan of Microsoft Solitaire, give this one a whirl, it’s just as good as the PC version. Better still, it’s in your pocket now, and it’s free.

Even if you’re not a fan of the game, load it up on your grandma’s phone and watch her while away hours just playing the game.