Observer PC Reviews

Observer

After Blade Runner implanted itself into the minds of moviegoers back in 1982, elements of its cyberpunk world and story would echo throughout pop culture for decades to come. Despite writers, filmmakers and game designers telling stories in similar worlds with outstanding results, the familiar dark rainy streets, grimy neon lights, and cautionary tales of body augmentations remained seemingly steadfast. With that in mind, it’s a small revelation to see Polish studio Bloober Team take early cues from these influences and use them as a springboard to create something new and exciting with Observer.

Set in the year 2084, Observer tells the story of Daniel Lazarski (played by Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer), a detective who works the despair-ridden streets of Krakow under the direction of the leading corporation of the Fifth Polish Republic, Chiron. The world at large has gone to ruin. A digital plague killed thousands of augmented people and a colossal war wiped out any previous global superpowers. Thanks to this all-consuming conflict, Chiron rose from the ashes and became the leading authority and manufacturer of basically everything. Lazarski takes jobs from his contact at Chiron and using his body tech, is able to violently jack into the minds and memories of people (alive or dead) to track clues and solve crimes. Hence his official job title: Observer.

3273175-vlcsnap-2017-08-14-08h53m26s810

Lazarski gets called to a slum in the worst part of Krakow and this is where the majority of the game takes place. Citizens are divided into classes and this bleak Class C district is bursting at the seams with desperate, frightened people hiding in their rancid apartments and whose only escape from the absolute hell of their daily lives is drugs–chemical or technological.

Essentially a detective story, Observer almost immediately becomes more than the sum of its parts. Talking to residents, examining crime scenes and deciphering clues make up a lot of the gameplay here but it is all housed inside gorgeously detailed environments, the twisted memories of deranged strangers, and one of the most intriguing cyberpunk narratives in years. There’s a constant sense of the towering dark skyline of the city but you’re too focused on putting your hands in the muck to feel like you’re missing out on anything greater. The society that has been carved out in this apartment building is all that matters and it’s here that Observer starts to pull away from its influences and blaze its own unique trail.

Told from a first-person perspective, Lazarski slowly unravels events with his augmented technology by scanning crime scenes for either biological or electronic evidence (either of which can reveal different clues). He also makes use of his “Dream Eater” augmentation, which is designed to observe people’s minds. Throughout the course of the game, it is these extraordinary sequences that present the horrific story beats in psychedelic, surreal ways.

From terrifying nightmare worlds, low-tech video game holograms and game designs that border on mad genius, both you and Lazarski emerge from these sections mentally exhausted but also instantly compelled to push forward to find out what happens next. Exploration, discovery and human interaction drive the narrative forward. In these bloody crime scenes and filthy apartments, the ability to open a door inches at a time adds another sense of sweat-soaked tension. Being in the moment is all that matters and every movement you make, whether it’s scanning ID tags on illegal body mods or sneaking a look at the tenant list before the janitor comes back, pushes you deeper into Observer’s illusion.

Another key feature that helps this universe emerge fully formed is the outstanding sound design. Hallways creak as you stalk from door to door, listening to bizarre noises rising from each apartment. The crackle of terrified residents through speakers, broken video screens blasting static and the cacophony of rainstorms envelope you in an uncomfortable tale. Mixed with the truly disturbing sounds coming from somewhere in the basement and Arkadiusz Reikowski’s ominous industrial music and Observer’s clutches become almost impossible to escape.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of moments that are frustratingly jarring. More than once, you are forced to engage in some instant-fail cat-and-mouse sequences that really don’t fit with the rest of what Observer is trying to achieve. However, they are brief and are over within a few minutes. Problems like this are quickly forgotten when you’re lost in a discussion with a tenant telling you about his religious order which rejects body modifications or slowly discovering the oppressive extent of Chiron’s reach, from desktop computers to picture frames. Everything is covered in a film of grime. Random neon lights sputter in and out of life in the hallways and obsolete technology is bolted onto apartment doors making it clear that nobody of importance cares about this corner of the city.

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9Gallery image 10 No Caption Provided That’s why Observer succeeds as well as it does. Every scene adds a meaningful piece of the puzzle to a world and a story that you want to immediately know more about. It consistently presents surreal moments and surprises that would seem like, on paper, the work of lunatics. However, in this grimy and hopeless corner of Krakow, they feel completely at home. The writing for even the most fleeting of characters (even dead ones) feels genuine. Every person here, from crappy parents yelling at their kids while talking to you through a grimy video screen to abstract constructs of lost souls trapped in their own minds, has a convincing life of their own and that commitment to detail make Lazarski’s descent into this future hell, and his own personal demons, all that more compelling.

Cyberpunk is a reflection of where we’re headed as a society, an oddly alluring reality where we’ve allowed impressive technology into our lives at the cost of our humanity. This is a niche genre that needs new revisions and new pioneers so it can keep evolving as we inch closer to seeing its fictional warnings play out in real life, and Observer adds to the familiar parables in fascinating and unexpected ways. In that respect, and on so many other levels, Observer is a haunting and remarkable achievement.

Fortnite Early Access Review

Fortnite Early Access Review

GameSpot’s early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review’s publication.

Almost every moment of Fortnite is a chaotic mess–for better and for worse. It’s an action-packed shooter that knows how to encourage cooperation between team members. And, as a result, you’ll often build out hasty forts with friends to defend yourselves (and often some special MacGuffin tucked inside your base) from hordes of cartoonish beasts. That part is usually a thrill and highlights all the best pieces of what should be a solid formula: building bases with friends to defend against monsters. The reality of that is sullied far more often than it should be, however, by a staggering deluge of “content.”

Fortnite isn’t an easy game to describe. It staples together pieces of disparate genres into something new. It combines the construction elements and resource-gathering of Minecraft, the team-based shooting of Left 4 Dead and Gears of War, the quest design of a modern MMO, and the progression of any given free-to-play hit. It’s surprising that such divergent elements work together at all, but Fortnite definitely knows what it’s best at and tries to thrust you into ideal scenarios early.

3269157-preview_screenshot2_153277

Fortnite is quite content to keep its writing and tone lighthearted. Instead of any serious moves to address what’s going on, you get a solid stream of jokes. Its zombies look about as threatening as a Furby (i.e., a bit creepy in the right light but otherwise harmless). If you’re trying to bust down a wall, it’ll pop and flex with each strike as if ripped from old Looney Tunes skits, and many character you find will be some over-the-top caricature of a classic disaster/horror-movie trope. Your main companion, for example, is a finicky bot that only partially knows how to run your shelter. From there, you organize expeditions to gather other wacky folks to join your band, all while seeking out whimsical tech, such as sky lasers, to help cleanse the world of ghouls.

The early missions teach you the basics of defense and shooting. After that, you’re tossed in with three or four other players and told to hold up against wave after wave of foes. You’ll be running lots of instances with other players you won’t know–though you will need their help. Most missions are challenging, and tackling things on your own generally isn’t advised.

Tearing through zombies with others is so easy to get right, but it’s here that Fortnite sets itself apart. The shooting is sharp and tight, without feeling too “clean” or artificial. Constant communication with the squad can help you focus on problematic monsters worming their way through your defenses. You can have someone set a trap in a weakened area or have a friend buttress a wall as you gleefully charge out and bounce grenades off of zombified crania. Unfortunately for us all, after a few minutes that mode ends and you enter what amounts to advanced inventory management.

These missions with others are a means to several ends. They’re how you gain experience and progress your character. They’re how you gather the materials you’ll need to make new weapons and build out your base. They’re also where you rescue and then retrieve survivors. Together, all of these elements become the other main thrust of the game. You use each of these to build up your base’s power, which is essentially your level. As you gather recruits, you’ll make squads and strike teams, each adept at handling different tasks. Then you’ll send them on missions to get more resources to feed into other parts of the system. In turn, every element feeds back into every other. Leveling can help you unlock slots for more squads so that you can launch more missions to get more gear and experience so you can unlock more slots, and so on.

tải xuống (1)

On first pass, this is awesome. It’s a prime example of a game working itself around a few core ideas that conspire to give you a lot to do. In combat, this usually works out pretty well–there’s always something to manage or coordinate–but once you leave, it’s obvious how deeply the game is intertwined with itself. You have to dig into the less engaging parts like strike team management in order to keep up with quests and combat challenges. That’s nice for a breather, but it also contrasts with all the other systems, highlighting their weaknesses.

Fortnite is designed to be free-to-play, but for now, at least, it isn’t. That shouldn’t be as big of a deal as it is, but it’s impossible to get around. Much of the game is built to burn time. You have energy meters in the form of research that your pack of survivors conducts. These meters place limits on progression in that they’re a resource you must wait to accumulate. At the same time, they’re engineered to keep you coming back, since you can only store so many points before they need collecting. If you have substantive experience with mobile free-to-play games, you can see where this is going.

Fortnite loves giving you extra things to do and stats to pore over. There are stats for each of your different heroes, for the defenders, for the research team. There’s your personal inventory and progress that’s tied to your account. And then there are also levels for each of your characters–and you can get dozens of these folks. Each of them can be trained, outfitted, and upgraded and then placed into teams that you can align based on personality types for maximum statistical benefit.

It’s awesome to have that sense of progression tied not to you, but to your group as a whole. It makes this apocalypse feel survivable and gives you a constant sense of growth. The problem is that most of these activities aren’t interesting in and of themselves. Instead of fleshing out all these ideas, the game only gives you the option to crunch for better numbers. All of the base-building and combat elements are linked, too, so if you’re not keeping up one piece, the logistics of your operation will screech to a halt for lack of one or another resource. For completionists, that will certainly have an appeal, but others will drop the grind.

Content dominates in Fortnite. There’s so much to do–so many skills to unlock, heroes to find, quests to finish, and llamas to whack–that it can choke on itself at times. In the fleeting moments it feels focused, however, it makes a grand case for itself. There’s nothing quite like scrambling to coordinate with your team to build out some extra turrets as you all blast away in a last-ditch effort to save a mission. These moments, for now, simply don’t come as often as they need to. The good news, though, is that Fortnite’s issues are solvable. They’re a matter of balance and tuning and expanding upon on what’s there.

Pyre PS4 and PC Reviews

Pyre Reviews

Editor’s note: Pyre was designed and written by former GameSpot editor in chief, Greg Kasavin.

Competitors strive to win. Criminals yearn for freedom. These pursuits go hand in hand in Pyre, the latest game from Bastion and Transistor developer Supergiant Games. And like those games, Pyre enchants your eyes and ears with beauty at every turn. But this time around, its greatest feat is the unrelenting pull of its characters, a mix of passionate beings that fight for salvation, revenge, and revolution.

That isn’t to take away from Pyre’s unlikely mix of fantasy RPG elements and–of all things–sport. You are one of many exiles unjustly trapped in the purgatory-like Downside for crimes against the Commonwealth, but exiles that manage to win enough competitions known as “rites”–3v3 matches that incorporate elements of football and basketball–have a chance at redemption. Your journey to build a team of champions takes you across the Downside and back in search of challengers and new skills, with each match bringing you closer to understanding your allies’ and enemies’ motivations.

Your basic objective during a rite is to maintain possession of an orb while sprinting, dodging, and leaping towards your opponent’s goal on the opposite end of the court. Run it in, throw it in, or jump overhead into the goal to douse the opposing team’s pyre and reduce its energy. If a team’s pyre is depleted, they’ve lost the match. You only control one character at a time, and will frequently switch control among your triumvirate to jockey for position on the field, or to take advantage of the nine classes’ unique offensive and defensive maneuvers. When Pyre hits its stride, rites become fast-paced mind games that call upon your ability to turn on a dime and come up with new strategies under tense circumstances.

3263906-vlcsnap-2017-07-24-08h04m59s147

One rule in particular pushes you to consider all of your options when it comes to scoring against the other team. Should you physically carry the orb into their goal, the character who scores will have to sit out until the next goal. This can be negated, however: you need only throw the orb into the goal instead. Shooting the orb rather than carrying it comes with its own risks, as the shooter must charge up an arc according to the distance to the goal. In process, that player is vulnerable to attack from the other team. The penalty for being attacked is a temporary banishment from the court for a few seconds, which can leave your own goal open to attack. Weighing the pros and cons of shooting versus rushing is one of many negotiations you must make, often with little more than a second to make up your mind.

Pyre is worth playing for its exciting matches alone, but what makes it worthy of renown is how it leverages the tension of competition to tell a captivating story. Like Roman gladiators, the characters you bring into battle are ultimately competing for freedom. Lose these pivotal liberation rites, however, and kiss that chance goodbye. With a fixed number of liberation rites throughout the story, you have limited chances to help your friends. And while it can be heartbreaking to watch your opponent ascend rather than one of your party members, there are bigger stakes at play that weigh heavier as time goes on.

Your team operates under the tutelage of a revolutionary figure with plans to overthrow the corrupt Commonwealth–it will only work if you effectively liberate enough characters in your party to fight the good fight at the end of campaign. It behooves the cause, then, to put your best characters forward, but sending off champions is bittersweet as you have to say goodbye and carry on with less experienced characters. And no matter what, when the final rite passes, those who remain must relinquish hope and live out their remaining days in the Downside. Having control over who stays and who leaves (and when) allows you to shape the relationships and interactions that define your journey, and your outlook on the conflict at large.

3263950-vlcsnap-2017-07-24-08h06m57s663

Were it not for Pyre’s elegantly written characters, the consequences of your decisions wouldn’t carry nearly as much weight as they do. Every exile you meet bears a unique backstory and personality, and the nine that join your cause stir up emotions both in you and among each other. Hedwyn’s unrelenting optimism, for example, becomes all the more meaningful when you understand that it’s a coping mechanism for constant heartbreak. Pamitha, a cold and fearsome Harpy, seems less imposing and more fragile by the time you realize that her family ties complicate her position on your team. You feel proud when a rite is won and you’ve guided a dear friend to freedom, but failure and guilt are only a few mistakes away–a very real threat in the latter half of the game.

But win or lose, your journey continues. There are no game over screens, only bad endings if you rack up enough losses. Regardless of the outcome of an individual rite, your exiles earn experience towards enlightenment and get to choose between a small selection of special abilities as they level up. You can also acquire talismans to benefit individual characters or the team at large. Beyond who you take into rites, and who you converse with during your limited downtime, character progression and customization is yet another way that Pyre allows you to personalize your journey.

Although Pyre is designed to be replayed and supports that quite well through the power of choice, you thankfully aren’t required to restart the game in order to jump back into competition. A local versus mode gives you the chance to compete outside of the campaign, which is appreciated given that there are less than 30 matches throughout the story. With every character (including your various opponents) and item unlocked, versus mode also allows you to explore the full potential of the Pyre’s roster in ways the campaign doesn’t. The only catch to PvP is that rites are at their best when you’re on even footing with your opponent, and it only takes a few matches with less experienced players to highlight the conspicuous absence of online play.

3263922-vlcsnap-2017-07-24-08h07m37s665

Pyre’s competitive side is a wonderful surprise, both for how it introduces a brand new sport and for how it seamlessly connects to a narrative filled with heartfelt characters and tragic circumstances. But it’s all held aloft by relentlessly beautiful artwork and a masterful soundtrack packed with a diverse selection of genres and instrumentation. Every inch of the lush Downside, and every second of your journey, is a delight for the senses.

And thus it’s all too easy to fall in love with Pyre. It’s immediately attractive. Its songs dance in your head long after they debut. And before you know it, you find yourself driven to get better at rites and perform at the top of your game. Likewise, you can’t help but reflect on your partners in the Downside–those you trained, as well as those you neglected. Supergiant Games has created something special that lives on in your heart. And against great odds, it’s invented a sport that could have stood on its own without the story it’s attached to–but it’s so much better because it is.

Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age Review

Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age

The Final Fantasy series has always been about reinvention, and the twelfth incarnation embodies this to such an extreme, that you might catch yourself wondering if this is a really a game from the long-running RPG franchise at all. Not only is it deserving of the name, but it’s an RPG through and through, where monster hunting and exploration of spacious locales effectively feed into its stat-based progression within an ensemble cast of colorful personalities. Like its predecessors, Final Fantasy 12 puts its own spin on how chocobos, summons, and characters named Cid play into its epic journey. With its long awaited remaster ready for release, Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age puts its best foot forward with a wealth of improvements and changes, delivering a fresh experience even if you’ve memorized the path from The Phon Coast to The Tomb of Raithwall.

For those who thoroughly enjoyed the PS2 version of Final Fantasy 12, The Zodiac Age is not only a remaster, but also a remix. Keen eyes will notice subtle tweaks to enemy locations and even changes to the selection of merchant goods. Some of these modifications are in service to the character-enhancing License Board, which itself has been overhauled from the original game in order to give each party member more distinctive jobs and abilities. Along with the inclusion of a Japanese voice track and improved loading times, the option to toggle between the original and reorchestrated versions of Hitoshi Sakimoto’s exquisite soundtrack is a welcome feature. Lastly, the improved high definition visuals brings out a fetching painterly look to the characters’ faces. As a PlayStation 4 exclusive, The Zodiac Age stands out as a feature-rich rerelease on a platform with a bountiful selection of lesser remasters.

3258620-0000

Even if it were an untouched port, Final Fantasy 12 would stand out for its distinct handling of familiar elements. For instance, there’s a thriving society centered around hunting, a gig economy where skilled fighters of many races vanquish the game world’s most hostile creatures. Being recognized and awarded for taking down bounties effectively weaves a part of FF12’s story with any player motivation to complete the bestiary. Equally notable is the emphasis on thievery, which is also narratively tied to the resourceful nature of Vaan, one of the playable characters. You won’t go far if you relied solely on money from defeated monsters and treasure chests. Riches instead come from the sales of loot you acquire from the creatures you take down. Much like Final Fantasy 9’s Zidane, Vaan’s stealing skills helps players develop an appreciation for the series’ long line of talented but sometimes overlooked thieves.

Further driving the distinctiveness of Final Fantasy 12 is its setting of Ivalice, an established universe with its origins outside of the core series. And like other games based in Ivalice, specifically Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy Tactics, 12’s plot often feels like a middle chapter of a grander tale yet to be told. It’s so rich in backstory that keeping track of names and places during the initial hours can feel overwhelming, though the further you play, the easier it is to get a handle of the intricacies of the lore. What you really need to know at the start is two small kingdoms, Dalmasca and Nabradia, are caught in the crossfire of two larger warring empires, Rozarria and Archadia. Of the countless individuals affected by this period of upheaval, six characters–all of whom come from vastly different backgrounds– form your party, uniting for a common cause to de-escalate this continent-wide conflict.

Perpetuating this middle episode vibe are the playable characters themselves, who have been appropriately compared to the cast of Star Wars: A New Hope. As examples, Ashe is the captured princess and Basch is the former general in hiding. Balthier is the self-serving pirate with a price on his head and his partner, Fran, has been described as Sexy Chewbacca. Their intertwined backstories and resulting encounters allow for chemistry and conflict as the often engaging narrative unfolds.

3258631-0011

Reinforcing Final Fantasy 12’s timelessness, The Zodiac Age brings in an enhanced Gambit battle system, which itself felt ahead of its time upon its first release. By stringing together a prioritized series of if/then commands for each character, battles unfold with a semi-automated flow where you can vanquish beasts without pressing a button for minutes on end. The immensely user friendly interface fittingly looks and feels like a Fisher-Price styled introduction to programming, where each player-chosen behavior is simply assigned a specific target, whether it be an ally, themselves, or a single enemy.

No Caption Provided Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9Gallery image 10 One would think that the hands-free aspects of The Gambit System would deprive you of agency and engagement but it in fact creates the opposite result. Since you’re still responsible for every character’s actions, the thrill of seeing your handiwork unfold and emerging victorious never gets old. It allows for experimentation and risk-taking but The Gambit System truly shines when you stick to sensible and tried-and-true RPG battle tactics. Remember all those times you died in battle because you ignored a status ailment and thought you could get one last attack in instead? This system removes all manner of impulsiveness and for many, offers a glimpse of the RPG combatant one aspires to be, free of impetuous behaviors.

You don’t get your hands on this system in earnest until three hours in, which is one hour too many. Yet this onboarding period is notably improved over the original game thanks to the option to double or even quadruple the speed of play. This is just one of the many new features that makes The Zodiac Age ever more engrossing. In a game that features respawning enemies, every hostile area becomes more inviting. You’re motivated by growing your party’s stats at an accelerated pace even after you’ve explored every corner and opened every treasure chest in a given region.

While its enhancements do not translate into a brand new game for existing fans, The Zodiac Age is nonetheless invigorating. For an experience that can last over a hundred hours, the subtle tweaks therein go a long way in showcasing Final Fantasy 12’s grand trek in a new light. Its epic, lore-abundant story and its time-tested Gambit System should also appeal to those who missed out on the mainline series’ trip to Ivalice the first time around. And thanks in part to the new audio and speed options, The Zodiac Age is an ideal definitive edition: one that improves the game over its original version across the board.

Tekken 7 PC Reviews

Tekken 7 Reviews

The Tekken series has a long-standing reputation in arcades, but for many players it was the console ports that left a lasting impression. These versions often introduced offbeat, dramatic story campaigns, as well as more extensive additions such as delightfully odd beat-’em-up and sport modes. And in recent years, the goal of unlocking and customizing outfits for the game’s large cast rounded out the most rewarding objective of all: getting good. Tekken 7 keeps most of these traditions alive and once again delivers the tight, hard-hitting action for which the series is known. The game has some server-stability issues at launch, but it’s otherwise a great sequel that confidently claims its position among the best fighting games today.

Similar to other 3D Fighters like Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter, Tekken 7 focuses on utilizing space and lateral movement during combat. By and large this is a game of inches; most fighters punch, kick, and grapple up close to one another and there’s little margin for error. A moment of indecision or a sloppy move against a more skilled player can lead to a string of pummeling strikes and a hasty defeat, courtesy of the game’s long combo strings. Though Tekken 7 can be punishing, its fighting system isn’t as difficult to get into as it lets on. With an intuitive control scheme that assigns one button to each limb, you can learn how to attack and retaliate, step by step. The long-term trick is putting in the time to dissect and memorize your favorite character’s moveset to hone your reflexes and diversify your tactics.

The biggest complaint you can lob at Tekken 7 is that it doesn’t do a good job of explaining the intricacies of its mechanics, let alone how you should approach learning your character of choice. The move lists for each character often hover around 100 entries, serving as a mix of one-off special attacks and combos. Save for a few icons–which represent attack properties that the game also fails to thoroughly explain–lists are disorganized, with no categories or hierarchy to speak of. The best you can do is hop into training mode and shift from one move to the next. Thankfully, you can scroll through attack hints live, during practice, and without repeatedly entering menus.

3243190-vlcsnap-2017-06-05-16h31m37s509

None of this is to say that Tekken 7 is too deep, which would be a ridiculous complaint–the depth of its roster and fighting styles is to your benefit. The point is that new players will have very little help learning anything beyond the basics once they jump into battle. This is disappointing, given that other fighting games have demonstrated that the best way to retain new players is by giving them a fighting chance, and the lack of instruction is odd for Tekken, which only one game prior (Tekken Tag Tournament 2) gave players Fight Lab mode–a place to study how mechanics and different types of attacks can dictate the flow of a match.

But if this isn’t your first King of Iron Fist tournament and you’ve kept up with Tekken over its more than 20-year tenure, you’ll find that Tekken 7 delivers the same great combat you know and love with a hefty batch of new characters–and a few new mechanics. The game includes notable new supermoves that can be triggered when a character’s health is dangerously low, which is also the right time to unleash a rage drive–a powered-up standard combo attack. The most important new addition is the power crush attack attribute: Relevant attacks can absorb incoming hits mid-animation, allowing you to risk a little health to increase your chances of landing a critical blow, which injects Tekken’s otherwise familiar fights with a renewed element of surprise.

With more than 30 playable characters, Tekken 7 offers plenty of fighters and opponents to study. Impressively, nearly a quarter of the roster is brand new. The most conspicuous Tekken freshman must be Akuma, the red-haired bad guy of Street Fighter fame. The introduction of fireballs and hurricane kicks might seem like an odd fit for Tekken, but they don’t feel overpowered in light of the fact that every character comes with their own advantages. And when it comes to facing down Akuma’s projectiles specifically, they can be easily sidestepped given the game’s 3D movement. Street Fighter fans will appreciate how easy it is to fight as Akuma, since many of his traditional moves and inputs are present and accounted for. Even Street Fighter’s meter-based mechanics have been carried over for his Tekken debut.

Interestingly, Akuma also plays a pivotal role in the main story mode. Hailed as the final chapter in the series’ long-running story of martial-arts papa Heihachi Mishima and his quarrelling family, Tekken 7’s narrative will delight Tekken veterans, especially when the oft-referenced-but-never-before-seen Kazumi Mishima breaks onto the stage. The only major downfall here is the robotic and stale narrator, a reporter covering the Mishima family. His delivery is too shallow to take seriously and not witty enough to make his deadpan cadance funny. You may also notice that some fights seem arbitrarily difficult along the way, but thanks to the gift of shortcut commands for powerful attacks–a system referred to as Story Assist–they’re more of a temporary annoyance than a barrier.

Beyond the two to three hours spent on the main story, every character not present therein gets their own brief chapter, limited to a short text intro, a single fight, and a unique ending cutscene. Not all are created equal, but there are gems to find that are purposefully awkward and light-hearted–the perfect complement to Tekken’s pervasive melodrama. Fans of the alien samurai Yoshimitsu will, for example, appreciate how he’s initially humanized and made vulnerable, only to be subsequently kneed in the groin by the object of his affection.

Tekken 7 lives up to the series’ penchant for tongue-in-cheek shenanigans and generously gives you access to the series’ entire back catalog of cutscenes, from the very first Tekken’s low-res clips all the way to background movies made specifically for Japanese pachinko machines. There’s a lot of Tekken history to unlock, and the collection is a wonderful trip down memory lane.

Using Fight Money earned by playing the game’s various modes you can purchase both cutscenes and cosmetic items for characters. Tekken 7 offers a lot of basic variations of hairstyles or glasses to buy, and an equal amount of stranger outfits and accessories–including neon butterfly wings, a floating clownfish companion, and automatic rifles, to name a few. While you certainly don’t need to dress fighters up in ridiculous outfits, doing so will give you a new appreciation for how comfortable Tekken 7 is in its own skin. It’s a hardcore, demanding fighting game, but it’s also happy to be the butt of its own jokes.

3243217-vlcsnap-2017-06-05-16h29m58s824

Items–so-called “treasure”–can also be unlocked rather than purchased within the Treasure Battle mode, which puts you in a series of fights with increasing rewards and challenges. There’s also training mode and an arcade mode where you can practice your moves, but Treasure Battle is easily the most attractive way to spend your off-time in Tekken 7. If you’re going to practice before hopping online to fight, you might as well have something to show for it.

A few days after launch, Tekken 7’s online modes are experiencing a few issues across all platforms, and while these are mostly isolated to ranked matches, it’s not uncommon to lose connections in casual matches, either. It’s an issue that publisher Bandai Namco is aware of and plans to patch, but at the moment, it’s not always easy to get into a match unless you’re willing to hammer attempts for minutes on end. When you’re eventually able to get into a match, pray that it’s over a better-than-average connection; Tekken 7 becomes a slide show online under lesser conditions.

Notwithstanding that ranked matches are currently a crapshoot, Tekken 7 remains an easy game to recommend. Its diverse roster is packed with a wide range of personalities and fighting styles, bolstered by a raucous attitude that begs to be taken seriously while simultaneously mocking its more peculiar whims in the process. Tekken fans will find their next favorite game–one that’s the product of decade’s worth of refinement. And while some of this depth will be lost or out of reach for newcomers, there’s enough fun to be had outside of hardcore competition to keep players from all walks of gaming thoroughly entertained.

Upvote (60) Leave Blank

View Comments (139)

Cosmic Star Heroine PS4 Review

Cosmic Star Heroine Review

Cosmic Star Heroine makes a great first impression. Its introductory hours are all synths and saxes, flashy sci-fi espionage, and daring escapades lit by suffusions of neon and moonlight. There’s no mistaking it for some imported decades-old classic, but it still managed to give me flashbacks of loading up untranslated PC Engine games and gawking at the interstitial artwork.

Agent Alyssa L’Salle is a beret-wearing, bo-wielding covert ops specialist for the government who spends much of the game unraveling a large-scale conspiracy. Within minutes of being introduced, she’s defusing bombs, hacking computers, and getting into harrowing fights with flying drones while clambering up the side of a skyscraper. She’s almost cartoonishly cool and competent, as are her companions. It may seem a little over the top at first glance, but it’s part of what cements the game’s vibe as a pulpy, joyously unfettered throwback. Pop stars, tech experts, monk-like gunslingers, and literal dancing machines–Cosmic Star Heroine is far from shy about letting its cast shine every bit as brightly as its lead.

The game is also a little more than standard turn-based RPG fare. Each character’s abilities can only be used once, with the exception of a handful. While the majority can be restored by using a character’s recharging/guard move, certain powerful abilities, as well as equipped items, can only be used once per battle.

3225646-0012

Added to this are Style and Hyper Points. Style accumulates over time and offers a boost to allies and enemies alike, so the longer a battle takes, the more devastating each strike becomes. Hyper Points, meanwhile, are accumulated with each turn and are represented as little pips under a character’s health bar. Fill in the requisite number of pips and the character unlocks the damage-doubling Hyper Mode for their turn.

That’s a lot to take in at first, but the end result is that combat has an extra layer of strategy beyond what you might initially expect. If an enemy is weak to water, for instance, there’s a massive advantage to saving one of Alyssa’s water abilities until she’s in Hyper Mode to get the most out of it, especially if a few turns have already passed and she’s had a chance to accumulate some Style as well.

In general, this system encourages good habits and thoughtful fighting. This is especially true in Hyper Mode, which encourages you to be a lot more diligent about considering your entire repertoire of moves and making big, flashy strikes really count. At lower difficulty levels, these mechanics have little chance to shine, but since the difficulty can be adjusted at any point in the game, it’s easy to experiment and find the exact level of challenge that suits your play style.

3225648-0015

No matter what difficulty is selected, Cosmic Star Heroine clearly doesn’t want to be a grind. Alyssa moves from dystopian city to alien planet to swanky mob banquet with plenty of fighting in between–but plenty of direction and purpose, too. The handful of alternate paths, hidden areas, and optional bosses seldom take her too far from the action or distract too much from the core objective, and they typically yield high-quality gear for her or her companions.

As a result, you never feel like you’re dragging your heels in any one location for long–but it also makes the individual events feel oddly abbreviated at times. Plots sometimes pivot and settings shift before you get a good sense of either. If the game dealt purely in tropes, this wouldn’t matter, but Cosmic Star Heroine presents its own individual world, its own uniquely interesting characters, and its own blend of technology and the supernatural–and then provides you with almost no space to acclimate to any of it. Fast-paced action and intrigue can and should still allow for moments of downtime, flavor, or world-building. Even within the confines of short scenes, moments that could use a little time to breathe are awkwardly clipped. Hacking is instantaneous, as is subway transportation. These just happen, immediately and without fanfare–at its worst, it can feel like watching a movie at 1.5 times the normal speed.

This is true even when it comes to the writing, which usually strikes a decent balance with its cheesiness. But every now and then Cosmic Star Heroine offers up a joke dampened by its own preemptive flop sweat. The style of its tone-setting minimalistic animated cutscenes is another case of the usually great being undermined by the occasionally awkward. Three-dimensional rendered models of ships and structures are sometimes slipped in alongside the hand-drawn elements, which has the effect of cheapening and fracturing an otherwise cohesive visual style.

You will also find that Cosmic Star Heroine is peppered with slightly pettier annoyances as well. The biggest of these is the fact that there’s no option to load the game from the system menu, so any time you want to test a different strategy or replay a section on a different difficulty setting, you have to close and restart the game. And strangely, some boss fights instantly resolve themselves under certain difficulty settings, but not always. Sometimes, one or two of the enemies would simply flee and reduce the opposing team’s numbers, and sometimes a boss would simply concede before even a single turn passed.

The dialogue trigger also seems to be incredibly sensitive, so even if you take extra care to press the button as lightly as possible, you may end up trapped in a loop of the same few lines from an NPC, unintentionally triggering the same text three or four times before breaking loose–an unfortunate and regular occurrence.

With all of that said, Cosmic Star Heroine is still an enjoyable sci-fi RPG with a classical spirit. It’s shameless in its celebration of its inspirations, and the soundtrack goes a long way to sell every moment. Though it has more than its fair share of flaws, none of that stops this game from being exactly what it sets out to be.

Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World Review For 3DS

Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World Review

When Yoshi’s Woolly World came out on Wii U in 2015, its well-hidden collectibles seemed at odds with its often breezy platforming–most of the challenge was in finding its secrets, so opting to forgo them made some stages too basic. Updated for 3DS, the leisurely pace of Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World feels right at home on a handheld. It’s the superior of the two versions and still works best when you’re scavenging for collectibles, though it also has the same balance pitfalls.

Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World includes all 48 stages from the Wii U version and adds extras, including special Poochy levels and an updated version of the original’s easier Mellow Mode. The standard levels still play well, and the lack of a level timer or lives to lose makes more sense on 3DS, where stop-and-start use is more common. Effortlessly (and adorably) hopping through a single level when you only have a few minutes to spare is a little more satisfying than running through several at a time, and of course, stopping to track down even the most hidden of items when you have more time to spare is still just as rewarding.

Though some of the platforming may seem basic for veterans, there are levels that really stand out, like an early Egypt-themed level that expands puzzle-solving beyond collectibles and into the platforming. But Woolly World also has its fair share of levels that don’t require quick thinking or much work at all.

3189310-3123418-screen+shot+2016-09-01+at+15.29.37

Woolly World isn’t boring, though, thanks to its relaxed pace and charm. It’s a good source of laid-back fun in the midst of intense stress, and its lovingly executed yarn theme is adorable. There’s something delightful about Yarn Yoshi eating a yarn enemy and turning it into a yarn projectile–which would normally not be a particularly pleasant idea–or being able to gobble up yarn fire and repurpose it. Even though quite a few levels are a breeze, there’s at least something cute to zero in on.

Many Nintendo games strive for accessibility–providing challenges that the player can opt into, choosing just how difficult or deep they want the experience to be. Woolly World does that to an extent, but there’s often a noticeable disparity between casually running through a level and aiming for completion. There’s not really a middle lane of difficulty for more experienced players who want a challenge without having to seek out the most well-hidden items. Some of that is remedied by the move to 3DS, and some of it is made better by an expanded version of the original’s optional Mellow Mode.

Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World feels right at home on a handheld. It’s the superior of the two versions and still works best when you’re scavenging for collectibles.

Despite the name, Mellow Mode doesn’t necessarily make Woolly World unbearably easy–though it does keep it accessible for younger or more inexperienced players. Like in the original, switching to Mellow Mode gives Yoshi wings that allow you to float indefinitely, which of course makes it easier to survive (though it’s not guaranteed). On 3DS, Mellow Mode also comes with a few Poochy pups to help sniff out secrets. It essentially bridges the difficulty gap, making platforming and collecting more harmonious. And, since it can be switched on and off in the middle of a level, you can use it sparingly if you’re looking for just a little bit of an edge.

And you shouldn’t rely on Poochy too much, because Woolly World really wouldn’t be worth playing without the fun of searching for all its collectibles. There are five flowers and five spools of yarn on each level, and some are almost cruelly hidden. If you’re dedicated, you could potentially spend a lot more time in Yoshi’s yarn world, taking half an hour even on earlier levels to find everything. Getting them all unlocks much harder levels, as well as some adorable Yoshi skins–and it’s rewarding to figure out the tricks and maneuvers you need to find them.

For faster-paced platforming, Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World has a new addition starring its namesake. It’s an endless runner-style set of bonus levels, and while not punishing, mastering the timing of jumps and Poochy’s signature slide is a different kind of challenge. It’s a welcome change of pace and a valuable addition for the 3DS version, making up for the lack of multiplayer by providing a good single-player diversion.

That said, it’s not a reason to buy the 3DS version if you’ve already played the Wii U one, and the extras don’t really give it much of an edge when the best part of the experience was there all along.

Though the gulf between two very different difficulties is not fully fixed by its additions, from the updated Mellow Mode to the extra Poochy levels, Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World gives you what you put in–it can either be almost frustratingly hard for a determined collector or a good fit for someone who’s just looking for a fun, relaxing few hours of platforming.

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.

3007256-react_act_cargoship_1v1_01

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.

3007253-ar_act_rooftopgarden_group_1

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.

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.

Bs8jRmB5WELJMxu5tyHBYk-650-80

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.

Why-fi

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.

GBsgvm3eWj7hu8B3cWHpJ3-650-80

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.

AoELm3AqJCvXSoJmcxBdYQ-650-80

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.

uDtLqXFQk6bMqJbezAiNqH-650-80

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.