Red Dead Redemption 2 – Review

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Let’s be honest, a lot of other people liked this game better than I did.

The sequel that is a prequel, Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place in the time line before the story of the much revered Red Dead Redemption. The main story is based around the adventures of Arthur Morgan as we works as the second hand man of Dutch van der Linde. The Van der Linde gang finds itself on hard times and running from an attempted score in the town of Blackwater that went awry. Living much as nomads, the gang must keep moving to avoid the law and Pinkertons. As they move they must also try to make a living by either doing good or bad things.

Having only played less than five hours of the original Red Dead Redemption and without a nostalgia for that game this game was a new experience to me for the most part. There were things about this game that I really loved and enjoyed. Conversely, the things I dislike about the game I came to loathe and those things truly tainted my thoughts and feelings about the overall game.

Things I Liked…

The game is beautiful on a technical level. I played on a launch edition of the Xbox One and there were issues of draw-in of objects but all-in-all the game is still gorgeous. Everywhere you look there is something detailed and amazing. Look up to the sky and you could see the sun shining bright through the clouds or the twinkle of stars through a night-time drizzly haze. The draw-in issues were so minimal that it barely mattered to me but that was because everything else looked fantastic. The level of detail that the characters and environment had was astounding. Looking at a character and seeing their freckles or looking at a banister and seeing the grain of the wood gave the game a weight of realism. Then there are all the sounds. The clop of the horses, patter of the rain, clack of a gun’s hammer… all made the game more immersive. Then layer the music on top of it all, marvelous.

Cinematic camera???

Things I Disliked…

Of all the things the game did, I’m left with feeling that it just didn’t respect my time. The game is wide and deep in that there are many things to do and are robustly built. That turns out to be a blessing and a curse. When I was trying to get through the story, I felt constantly inundated by side story material that I didn’t necessarily want to do. I’d be trying to get to a town to do what I thought was a story mission only to get interrupted by riders approaching me then opening fire for reasons I never understand. What I did to trigger this, other than being at a place at a certain time, still eludes me. It felt as though there were just too many things to do and manage. Hunting, which I did little of… trapping(?) which I did none of(not sure this was a thing you can do or not)… strangers, there were so many I just lost interest… robberies, that I avoided doing… and the list goes on. It is great that they had all these in the game and did them well but it became overwhelming and frustrating while just trying to progress in the game. The limited fast travel system meant ride your horse most of the time to go anywhere which felt like a further misuse of time. Then there is the gun play that is horrible, frankly. It had what I can only describe as a wonk and wobble that I could find no control adjustment to make it feel much better than barely playable much less ok.

When It’s All Said and Done…

If I were asked to rate this game… three out of five stars. Let me explain. The environment and story of this game made me want to keep playing. I loved seeing the world and going through it. There were times I wish I had the time just to go around and look. I wanted to explore but I just don’t have the time. That’s not a problem with the game but it became a problem with my experience with it. As well as they developed everything you can do in this game it felt like a burden at times just to move forward and disappointing to not be able to play out scenarios they present you.

What makes the game for me is the story. Again, I didn’t play the first game significantly and don’t have that as an attachment. I found Arthur Morgan to be one of the most empathetic characters I have ever played. Going through the game, I found myself making decisions based on the thought in my head of ‘I just want things to work out for this guy and it be good’. All the time knowing it would not because of the foreshadowing presented I knew what his outcome would be.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

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2018 Game of the Year!

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2018 was a solid year for those of us that play video games. Looking back at 2017, however, I didn’t play as many new releases. There were some major releases that I had no interest in, like Black Ops 4, Battlefield V, Fallout 76, and many others, so I didn’t play them. I also spent a good part of the year playing older games, mostly XCOM and XCOM 2.

Most of the games I played this year I enjoyed. When I did enjoyed them I spent a good amount of time playing them. When I didn’t care for them I was done with them as soon as I hit a point of contentment. For those that I just didn’t like at all, their time was short lived in my gaming queue.

Let’s look at the games of 2018…

Missing: Life is Strange 2

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The prelude, The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit released back in June. Then the first episode of Life is Strange 2 released in September. Having played both of these and enjoying them I would love to put Life is Strange 2 on my GOTY list but I can’t. We don’t even have a release date for the second episode, much less episodes 3, 4, and 5. My hope is that they are polishing these episodes up but my fears are that they are making major changes because of the feedback from the first episode.

Hot Mess – Metal Gear: Survive

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Not only a bad Metal Gear game but also a bad survival game. I don’t play many, if any, survival games but this one just felt like there was always one too many mechanics punishing you and not allowing you to have any fun with the game. The fact that it uses the Metal Gear name and assets makes it feel incredulous. Konami seems to want to make money on people’s nostalgia with things like this game and pachinko machines rather than continuing the franchise properly. The most positive thing I can say about this game is that I only wasted $3 dollars renting it rather than buying it at full price.

Dishonorable Mention – Battletech

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Having not played a Battletech game for some years, I was happy to see this game come out… that was until I played it. The game play is solid and I even got in to the story somewhat. However, I could not get over the fact of the game’s inability to explain itself. After playing over 12 hours I could not get a grasp on what I was doing or how I was supposed to do it. For example, I would equip my mech with a machine gun but I never got a chance to use it. I know I had equipped ammo but was there something I was missing? Wrong chassis? Wrong power source? Was I too far from the target? Was I too close to the target? I don’t know. If there would have been a tutorial or some other in-game explanation of how everything worked I think I would have not only liked this game better but stuck with it longer.

What A Let Down – Shadow of the Tomb Raider

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The problem was not that the game was bad. In fact, I quite enjoyed it. The problem is that it felt like more of the first two games. The graphics were about the same and mechanically the game wasn’t much different than its predecessors. My biggest issue with the game was the story. Lara Croft continues to be a character that it is hard, if not impossible to empathize with. The player is supposed to feel bad that Lara is in such desperate times but when she becomes an all out blazing murderer it is hard to feel bad. With this being the third game of the series, it is even more of a mystery how you still can’t feel bad for Lara and she still isn’t a Tomb Raider.

Too Much, Cowboy – Red Dead Redemption 2

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The game is good but suffers under the weight of its own density. I loved the characters and environment. There a number of characters to meet and conversations to be had. At first it was great but then it felt overwhelming. Trying to manage what each of them were saying and where it fell into the world became daunting. When you add in all the inventory, crafting, and health systems, it quickly became a management-sim rather than a cowboy game. What got to me most was all the side missions and how they interrupted the main story. I would be trying to play through the story only to have a side mission come up and I could do nothing but complete it just to try to get back to the task at hand of playing the story. Don’t get me started on the gun play, it’s horrible. The things I liked about the game I really liked, the things I hated I really hated.

Fun with Holes – Donut County

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Short. Sweet. Fun as hell. It took only a few hours to play the entire game but I loved every minute of it. I even went back to replay a few of the chapters and chase some of the challenges. The humor was off mark intentionally but always funny and kept me laughing while I played.

Nearly the Best – Marvel’s Spider-Man

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This game does whatever a spider can. It looks great, even on an original PS4. It plays great, tons of fun just to swing around.  On top of all that the story holds up. I’m not saying it is an all time great story but for a video adaptation of comic it is good. Where Red Dead Redemption 2 drew me relentlessly to side content, this game allowed me to play it when or if I wanted. I found times I would mainline story quests and other times I would go from side quests to side quests but at my discretion, not the game’s.

The Very Best of 2018 – God of War

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I said it when I reviewed the game but I’ll say it again, I never thought that a God of War game would even be in a discussion of games in 2018 much less be great. Not only is it great, it’s my top game of 2018. Congratulations!

When this game was first announced I kind of wrote it off. I had played a few of the original games and wasn’t too impressed. The idea of bringing the series back had no appeal to me. However, as various outlets starting showing the game and talking about it I became interested. It looked much different than the previous games and boy is it ever! This game is a continuation of the story line but the environment and game play feel completely new. At first the game felt like the same button-smashy type of game God of War games always were but once I learned a few techniques, like dodging, blocking, and parrying, combat felt completely different. Add to that the depth of story this game hit. The blend of Greek and Norse mythology was not only clever but well composed. By the end of the story not only did I love this game I wanted a sequel.

In Closing…

There you have it, the game I never knew I wanted became the game I loved the best. I will say that it seems as though I missed a lot of games this year(Detroit: Become Human, Far Cry 5, Hitman 2, to name a few)  but there aren’t any  on this list that I feel compelled to play at this point and I’m comfortable making this list without them. Many others will probably have a different list than mine and I’m fine with that. I’m certain a lot of other people liked Red Dead Redemption 2 better than I did but that’s ok.

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – Review

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Unsurprising, that is about the best I can say for this game.

Lara Croft is once again on the trail of adventure. Trinity is still at large and trying to take over the world, again. This adventure takes Lara to South America to meet up with old and new friends and foes alike.

This is the third game in this reboot of the the series and unfortunately the story is just as mailed in as the first two. The setting may have changed but it is more of the same half-hearted and short-sheeted emotional misses that plagued the other games. Every attempt to make Lara empathetical falls short especially when she is then put into a scenario that the she must directly murder all in site.  Case in point, in the story a character close to Lara is reported dead and she then goes on a murderous rampage to avenge this person. Then when the person turns up alive the moment is summed up with a brief sigh and the game goes on. The emotional weight that should have been in this moment is poured onto the floor like water and trampled on giving no way to make Lara more relatable.

It is a shame that the story falls short when the game works well on a technical level. The environments are lush and beautiful even on an original PS4. Whether you are in the depths of the jungle or swimming underwater there is great detail in everything around you. The only issue on a technical level was that sometimes when trying to interact with an object as prompted it didn’t always work correctly. If you walk around a little bit and try again things would work.

The fact that this is the third entry of the series is what makes it disappointing. It seems that the first two games weren’t the building blocks they should have been. Shadow of the Tomb Raider comes off as a carbon copy of all the same issues that the first two games had. The aesthetics of the game do little to make up for the shortcomings of the characters. It’s fun to run around in the jungle and solve puzzles but in the end Lara Croft comes off a character that there is no reason to care about.  The attempts make a connection to Lara’s plight are poorly balanced against the moments when she mows down foes at will.

It’s an ok game but could have been much more. It was good enough that I got to over 80% completion but I also don’t feel any desire to replay this game again. This would be one of those games that if asked I would tell people it is worth playing but not buying, a great game to rent not to buy.

 

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tPaul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

Marvel’s Spider-Man – Review

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Like swinging? No, not the kind that involves other people. The kind that has you tethering yourself to buildings and flying through the air. Then there is a game you should play.

The story in Marvel’s Spider-Man is set in a stage where Spider-Man is already Spider-Man. The story doesn’t cover how or when he got his powers. In fact it is set in a time when he has already defeated several foes and incarcerated them in The Raft. It also picks up after Peter Parker and MJ Watson were a thing and they are currently separated. Parker finds himself in the employ of Otto Octavius and they a poised upon a true breakthrough in their research. Of course, as all hero stories go, things don’t go well.

The story portrayed in this game is possibly one of the best in a comic based video game or movie. Even if you are not familiar with the Spider-Man or DC comic lore, this story can be followed and enjoyed. There are the comic-like moments when you are fighting a twenty-foot mask but there are also the real-life moments when you have to make a terrible choice. Both of these moments had weight even though in different ways. The weave of heart, mayhem and resolution are well done. The struggle that Parker has with being himself, whether that be Peter or Spider-Man, is ever present but never over bearing.

Some of the best parts in the game, on a technical level, are the sights and sounds. Even running on an original PS4 this game plays and looks great. As you swing through the environment it never seems to lose detail. The game perhaps had frame rate issues less than five time throughout the entire play-through and most if not all of the drops came while transitioning into or out of a cut-scene. The sounds work both to compliment and add the game. When Spider-Man shoots a web it sounds good but on top of that all his quips have enough variety they don’t get old or over-used.

What doesn’t feel good in the game are some of the systems, mostly the combat and upgrade systems. The game borrows a lot from the Batman Arkham games but the combat doesn’t feel as good or precise. Batman is a bigger physically so his punches and kicks should have more weight but with Spider-Man’s enhanced strength it still felt like he was a light hitter. On top of that, punching and dodging felt to have a slip where they didn’t always work as intended. Perhaps more egregious is the fact that the equipment and suit upgrades are locked behind completing in world activities. What makes it so punishing is that certain upgrades require currency earned from different events, for example R&D quests reward Research Tokens but TaskMaster challenges  award Challenge Tokens. If the R&D quests have been completed but you want an upgrade that requires Challenge Tokens you simply don’t have access to them until you complete those challenges.

The game is very good but held back from being great. For myself the upgrade system being tied to activities was a huge negative. Many of the TaskMaster challenges were just ways to push the player’s skill at challenge that just aren’t useful in playing the game. Other tasks just felt like busy-time activities to stretch the game out. Add in the fact that many of the encounters lack any variance. It comes down to go to a place, beat up a bunch of guys, then beat a few more waves of guys. Enemy variety becomes cosmetic at times, for example a man in a business suit with blue whips versus a convict in a jump suit with red whips.

Even with that said, I did reach over 90% completion of this game just because it is so fun to play. My feeling is that the story and game play make the game but the systems and combat slips took away from enjoying the game more. Highly recommend the game but caution that it could have been better.

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tPaul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

It’s the Freakin’ Weekend! What are You Playing?

Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!

Brad is not back yet. Hang in there, bud.

As for myself, I’ve had a mixed work schedule of nightshifts and dayshifts. So if I start slurring my words don’t go thinking I was day drinking. It’s just a lack of sleep.

Image via steamcommunity.com

Remember when I said I needed a break from this game? Well, that didn’t last long. After buying the DLC I jumped right back into the game. I’m finding the new enemies even more daunting and relentless than the originals. It also reals like the game runs better in that the graphics are smoother but the game seems somehow even more glitchy. There are even more physic problems of walls apparently not being walls since enemies constantly shoot and run threw them.

Even with the technical issues, I’m in for another run through this game. They added a lot of content and things to do which makes it interesting to play again already.

I finished the campaign. It was ok. It felt like another mediocre Call of Duty campaign. Not too much to say about it other than that.

Image via store.steampowered.com

After putting hours into this campaign, I have absolutely no idea what is going on. The previous game’s campaign at least some cohesion to it that this one sorely lacks. There are so many jumps of who is working with or against who that I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be thinking. In a way it feels like different people wrote different parts of this game and never talked to each other then in the end somebody blindly stitched them together into this calico tapestry of a game.

If I’m not playing any games this weekend, I’ll be sleeping.

What about you, folks? Any gaming plans this weekend?

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

It’s the Freakin’ Weekend! What are You Playing?

Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!

Brad is still out and miss him. Let’s all wish him well.

Hopefully the holiday was good for all. It was way too hot in my part of the world to do much. It was probably above 90 by noon. I stayed indoors all day and listened to the fireworks since I didn’t even try to go outside to see them.

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I finished the game! XCOM 2 is finally in the finished pile! It was a long, arduous journey but I made it.  There were at least three separate occasions when I thought the game was over, expected to see the final cutscene, only to have it throw more at me to do. The final mission was likely the most stressful part of the game. No spoilers but if you get towards the end, make sure all your best soldiers are healed and available, just saying.

The War of the Chosen DLC was on sale in the PlayStation store and I purchased it. I will not be playing it for some time, however. That last mission took a lot out of my mental capacity as far as gaming goes and I’d like to play something different before diving into another play-through.

Image via store.steampowered.com

At about two hours long, this game was a nice little introduction to what is coming in Life is Strange 2. It is much like the other Life is Strange games not only with its graphics and controls but also the story. Since it is so short I won’t go into any details but would encourage anyone to play it. After all, it is very short and free.

What better way to step away from XCOM 2 than to play a Call of Duty campaign, right? I figured these two games will be nothing like each other and so far I’m right. I’ve never played CoD BLOPS since the original was first released and the third game is currently free on PSPlus so somehow my warped mind put together that I should pull my PS3 out of storage and play BLOPS 2. Yeah, I don’t get it either but that’s what I’m doing.

What about you, folks? Any gaming plans this weekend?

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.

It’s the Freakin’ Weekend! What are You Playing?

Friday! Video games! Let’s talk!

Brad is taking a break and I was super busy last week but this week… I’m here for ya. Hi, how are you? Come here often?

Leading into a mid-week holiday is a weird place to be. Holiday stuff on the weekend? Or just weekend stuff then holiday stuff on the actual holiday? Either way all good.

I’ll be doing some family stuff on Saturday which will be an all day affair. That means no video games until Sunday this weekend. Oh, the sadness.

If you follow anything I say or do, first of all – thank you, you’ll be familiar with the love/hate/hate/love relationship I am having with XCOM2. I’m probably about twenty hours into it and I just don’t know when it will end. Even though I’m enjoying the game and have hit a certain stride with the combat, the slowdown or lull in the story is starting to bring me down. It just isn’t developing anything story wise that feels meaningful. The game has become a circular pattern of go do a mission, get some more stuff, do one objective, get some more stuff, go do a mission and so forth. I really want to know what the end of the game is here. I’m not sure if I’ll want to buy the DLC for this game or not yet.

Not only can the game’s RNG be unforgiving the glitches don’t help. The game is over two years old and still has problems. I can live with the framerate drops since is a slower paced game but I hit a glitch that was uncomfortable. The NPC’s at my base failed to render and the only audio I had during missions was footsteps and gunshots. That feeling of abandonment hit me and I was sad. Yet, I persevered and successfully save scummed through a mission to restore these things but man, what a way to go about things. Maybe the game isn’t in the forefront, or never was, but it was very unsettling to play through this game this way. Still, I plan to continue putting time into it.

Image via store.steampowered.com

If, and I mean if, I get any additional time this weekend I want to check out The Awesome Adventures of Captain Sprit. With it being a lead into the next Life Is Strange game it certainly has my attention but given my obligations and plans for this weekend combined with Life Is Strange 2 not releasing until September this may get the old back burner treatment. However, I hate to do that because then I’ll either forget about it or just not play it and I don’t want that to happen.

What about you, folks? Any gaming plans this weekend?

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Paul Novak

Owner, Proprietor, Typer of Words, Gamer, Jester

A self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing on the western side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet.