Friday, 26 June 2015

Reduxing back to the Moscow Metro

Recently the Metro games on my PlayStation 4 were reduced on sale and so I jumped in and bought them in one pack. They are both the greatly enhanced Redux versions of the games. I will review them separately, but also give the package a summary.

Metro 2033 Redux



Platform tested: PlayStation 4

I reviewed Metro 2033 on the Xbox 360 way back in 2010. It was one of those games that I felt went over too quickly and left me, not disappointed, but wanting a little more. However it stuck with me as a great gaming memory and I have often looked back at some of it's claustrophobic and atmospheric moments down in the tunnels of the Moscow metro as being very unique and memorable.

Going back to 2033 in this Redux version has actually been a more positive experience than the first time around, even though I knew what was going to happen. What I have learned is that they have lifted the user interface and manues from Metro Last Night (which I have never played before the Redux version) and as such has given the gameplay a better flow and making inventory a more understandable affair. Managing weapons and ammo is simpler, and finding the equipment you need quickly easier. Such as the gas mask, filter swap and night vision goggles. These enhancements makes the gameplay far more enjoyable in stressing situations and are a nice upgrade to 2033.





The completely remade graphics and characters models brought over from the PC versions of Last Night, has lifted 2033 up to Last Night's PC graphical level, and as such the two games in this package look equally as good. It makes replaying 2033 Redux compared to last generations Xbox 360 version a significant and hugely enjoyable upgrade. The rock solid 60fps and 1080p graphics (that's 900p for Xbox One owners) makes the Redux version look and play like a completely new experience altogether. They haven't simply just ran the last generation game in higher resolution with a more fluid framerate, but completely redone all the textures and details, it's a complete remaster of very high quality.

For some strange reason I felt the ending of 2033 to be less abrupt than the first time I played it. Maybe I just took my time more during the playthrough this time. It's about soaking up some of that atmosphere and playing the game less aggressive than your typical shooter. I found I had much more money and ammo this time around as I took more time to scavenge bodies, rooms and dead ends. I believe I may have played it "wrong" the last time, much like any generic shooter game, which it really is not meant to be played.

Luckily the Redux version has an option to play it in it's original state; survival mode or spartan mode, the latter gives you much more ammo and focuses on being a more typical first person shooter. I really like that they give you this option, especially for people wanting a simpler playthrough. I do, however, strongly recommend survival mode; it's the way it was meant to be played, and sets it apart from other shooters. Just take your time and loot everything and you should be just fine! 





Metro 2033 offers a stealthy approach to the gameplay too, I found it slightly underplayed though. It's never really is introduced or reminded to the player as a worthy option, and often I ended up just fighting in large gunfights instead. This is why I have a feeling that 2033 feels a little less well portioned out as a game than what it could have been. The ideas are there, but they are just not clear to the player.

There are still some other issues that haven't been addressed in this version. While the AI has apparently been improved, I still find the creatures to be a little random in the way they run around and the enemy soldiers to be a little dumb. They simply aren't aggressive enough to attack you while in cover and as such I camped quite a bit during intense moments and waited for them to come along and be shot down by me. An option I really should not be allowed to do and forced to move out of.

The animation of the characters and their English voice overs are still bad. You can rectify some of this by switching to the Russian voices, though subtitles kills the immersion in my opinion and Germans speak Russian as well then. Speaking of the animations, it's kind of sad to see this visually pleasing game have such robotic and badly animated movements. It stands out even more than it did back in 2010.

All in all a great game, that I really recommend for people that enjoy a great post-apocalyptic setting and scary games. While it's not directly horror, it gives you a dark and chilling feeling throughout the game. The variation between fighting human soldiers and creatures is a welcome one that has been proven again and again to simply work in games, much like Half-Life and the first Far Cry. It forces the player to fight differently according to which enemies you face and takes you out of your comfort zone. 2033 may not be as well panned out in it's lifespan as the sequel and it can feel kind of short, but it really is worth playing before jumping on to the sequel.

Rating

★★★★

    + Plus points

    • Fantastic atmosphere and post-apocalyptic depiction.
    • Intense fire fights in harsh conditions are really cool and memorable.
    • Creepy and dark at times, making you feel very vulnerable.

    - Minus points

    • Stiff animations and mediocre voice overs that really feel aged.
    • Although fitting for the setting, the environments are repetitive.
    • Stealth elements are a little sketchy and often not worth it.


    Metro Last Night Redux




    Platform tested: PlayStation 4

    My playthrough of Last Night is my first one as I did not purchase the sequel back on the last generation. Very quickly I gather that this game addresses a lot of the issues of the first game. For instance it lets you try out a few powerful weapons from the get go and has you followed by a helpful sniper on your first mission. Easing you into the combat heavily armed before taking your privileges away. It then proceeds to learn you about the stealth elements the game offers. The way it teaches properly to play the Metro game in a stealthy manner compared to the first game is a clever move to make more people play it as such.

    Last Night feels more tightly scripted storywise too, it has more memorable characters and personalities. The story, while not essentially not as shocking as the first game, is better presented and more dramatic visualised. This is further reflected in the largely different areas you battle in. The surroundings and the objectives you have are more memorable and distinct this time around and they do an excellent job of varying the gameplay consistently to keep the player engaged and entertained.






    Sure, this game can get a little repetitive at times like any other, but it feels less so than the first game. The environments you traverse, although all of them depict a ruined Moscow after the atomic war, have a lot of visual variety in them. I appreciate that they have accomplished this, considering the depressive setting the game visualizes. Just like the first game the whole story feels like a long travel through a city devastated by nuclear war. Last Night adds diversity to the world the first game created and shows you many new sides to how the humans have survived and live on underground. I really like the visually strong shift from dark to bright levels too.

    Both games in this Redux pack handle the same when it comes to gameplay, however Last Night has an edge on the amount of weapons and customization for them. In 2033 there didn't seem to be that many weapon types, in Last night there's a better selection. Especially some of the more powerful sniper rifles are a nice welcome and a handy companion on the more open areas of the surface. Just like the first game there's a variety in weaponry that suits the game style you wish to play, be it guns blazing or stealthy kills with suppressors, air pressure or arrow weapons.






    Last Night may follow 2033 very close and it might just offer even more for the fans enjoyed in the first game, but it packages it up even better and as a game it's a stronger build and more consistent in gameplay quality than 2033. Though if you disliked 2033, I doubt you'll find this game any more appealing. Like I said earlier the story is presented better, but maybe lacks the wow effect only the first game can deliver as it introduced us to the whole setting and story of the Metro universe.

    As such both games work together extremely well. If there's a thing 2033 has an edge on it's the more creepy and scary feeling. It was more common to encounter I felt in 2033, while it very seldom does in Last Night.

    With it's longer lifespan, gameplay variation and better learning curve, Last Night really nails what this franchise is about in one game. I would still recommend playing the first game as it feels a little darker and spookier and a plot that really builds the fundaments of the whole scenario that this game continues, and is a fine introduction to this game. But judging for what medium this is, a video game, Last Night is the better one of the two.

    Rating

    ★★★★

      + Plus points

      • A more polished game with better layout and variation than 2033.
      • More varied tasks, areas and gunfights, more open outdoor areas.
      • A longer game, with a more gradual lifespan.

      - Minus points

      • Does repeat itself and the first games scenarios a little.
      • Once again the animations and voiceovers feel archaic.
      • If you didn't like the first game, well there's nothing to really pull you in here.


      Summary


      All in all these remasters are fantastic. The developer's technical achievement of completely revamping the graphics and running them in a rock solid 60fps framerate is noteworthy and overshadowed by more popular remasters. The fact that they pulled the first game up to the standards of the sequels PC counterpart and revamped the user inteface is something I really appreciate and it levels out the difference between the two games.

      The Metro games are somewhat unique in an otherwise very crowded genre and their atmosphere is excellent. They excel in the lighting department and depict some very memorable dark scenes with sunlight and flashlights lighting up foggy, dust particled air and casting incredible shadows everywhere. Buying the Metro Redux package with both games is real value for money and warmly recommended.

      Rating

      ★★★★

      Thursday, 18 June 2015

      Geometrical trench war in turquoise tomb tops from evolved dimensions

      Once again a round-up of smaller digital titles I've played. I liked how Xbox Live used to just call these titles "Arcade" titles. I guess that they have grown and become so advanced that the difference between these type of titles and the full release ones are kind of blurred out.

      Had fun playing them in various degrees. Check out my small reviews and come back for other game reviews soon!


      Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved



      Platform tested: Xbox One



      Geometry Wars first saw daylight as a mini-game inside your garage in Project Gotham Racing 2, way back in 2003 on the original Xbox. It reached it's full fame potential when it was released in an upgraded version on Xbox Live as an arcade game there on the Xbox 360 in 2005. Since then we have had a sequel and now the latest entry is here Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions. Mind you, I am reviewing this a while after the release, which was in November last year, the game has actually been upgraded to the Evolved version with a free update.

      My initial reaction to GW3 was that it was a wonderful new entry in the series, with lots of content, new types of more three dimensional levels, new enemy types etc. However, I felt the main adventure mode, which requires you to have a certain number of stars gained from each level to progress, was way to difficult to actually get far into the game. As such, I ended up getting stuck and not being able to try the next levels as it demanded I earned more stars from earlier levels. Luckily they changed that in the Evolved update and simply require you to earn one star from the level before it to unlock the next. I finally got to see all the levels this game had to offer.






      GW3 has retained it's trademark gameplay with twin stick shooting and colourful levels drawn in retro inspired Tron-like graphics. The music score is sublime as usual and really pumps up your adrenaline with techno inspired tracks that increase they're dramatic effects to further speed up the feeling of the game. Beating your highscore on a level, with tons of enemies crowding around your little ship while the electronics music keeps you in a trance while playing is an adrenaline rush that needs to be experienced by everyone once again.

      One can argue that GW3 brings little truly mind blowing to the table, and in a ll sense some of the 3D levels make it more tricky to control and actually lessens your visibility over the enemies, but I enjoyed the variation it gave the game. If you have never played any Geometry Wars games before, what better place than to start here! Especially considering it includes all the classic modes from the first and second game! Great value for money, pumping music, sharp controls and colourful graphics, Geometry Wars is still king of the small arcade experiences!

      Rating

      ★★★★

      + Plus points

      • Vibrant visuals with tons of effects and colours.
      • Amazing soundtrack. Like really amazing.
      • Lots of variety and modes.

      - Minus points

      • Some of the more 3D levels are confusing.
      • Death is often casued by a bad view of the surroundings.
      • Nothing ground breaking new.


      Valient Hearts: The Great War



      Platform tested: PlayStation 4

      There are a ton of World War 2 games, but somehow there are hardly any about the first world war, the Great War as it is known. Mainly due to the fact that trench warfare isn't really suited for games seeking to give players variation and cool new settings. At least in the first person shooter genre WW1 seems to be a difficult game to make a whole game around, without it being extremely tedious. Luckily Ubisoft opted to think out of the box and make something completely different with Valiant Hearts. A game that is a tribute to the many lives that were lost in the Great War.

      VH apparently uses the Rayman Legends engine, and as you may have guessed is a 2D game. It's artstyle depicts the colours you'd expect from photographs from this era. With it's fairly pale palette, with more natural shades of brown, grey, green and blue. The characters themselves have a cartoonish appearance with chubby, round bodies and tiny feet. The game may not have an artstyle for everyone, but I found it to have a very charming look. It gives a sense of being a moveable painting with it's wonderful backgrounds images.






      The game is divided into four main chapters with a few levels within these, the storyline follows couple that are a young German man and a French woman, who get pulled form each other when the war begins. The womans father must also fight in the war and becomes friends with an american soldier. The game also follows a young French woman working as a medic. All these lives are inter weaved through the storyline and meet each other through the years of the war.

      Valiant Hearts is more of a puzzle and adventure game than anything else, and features a fairly slow gameplay style. It's a refreshing game to play in a time crowded with hectic and fast action games. It gives me a certain nod back to the old point and click adventures on the PC, without being that genre exactly. By that, I mean the way it makes you solve puzzles with items you find. It requires you to look through the environments for items that may start a machine or similar to fix a certain problem in that hinders your progress in that level. Items may also unlock areas that were previously not reachable.

      I enjoyed learning the stories of all the main characters you play and I really liked the historical facts within the game. Every level unlocks small historical photographs with small bits of facts thrown in. Items you pick up also explain what they were used for and such in the era the war took place. I appreciate the game for comparing items of that time to the equivalent of today too, it's fun! At times I feel this game would be an excellent educational game for young generations to learn about this tragic and bloody war that changed world history forever and led to the even bigger tragedy that was WW2. It serves as a lovely little tribute!


      Rating

      ★★★★


      + Plus points

      • Interesting historical facts and pictures.
      • Fun puzzles to solve.
      • Strong story showing the brutal Great War from both sides.

      - Minus points

      • Gameplay is very limited.
      • On the repetitive side.
      • Slow paced and aimed at a fairly limited audience.

      Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris



      Platform tested: PlayStation 4

      My first encounter with the Tomb Raider spin-off series starring Lara Croft was The Guardian of Light back in 2011. I loved that game and gave it a very good review back in 2010. Understandably I was rather excited for the sequel; The Temple of Osiris. Even more so because the game now had support for up to four players rather than just two. I played the last game coop, so I got together with three others for this one.

      It becomes immediately clear that the pace of the game has changed. Levels are completed within far shorter times than the last game. The puzzles are simpler and the whole experience seems to be aimed at being more casual and faster paced action. This may be the fact that it aims on being for short multiplayer bursts that require less time to complete and as such are more suited for online play. For me it feels a little to close to a short handheld or mobile game style timespan. Good for on the go, but not necassary for a home console game.






      The gameplay from the previous game is maintained and indeed it was good then so why change it? I like the various abilities the "real life" characters have versus the reincarnated Egyptian ones. It helps with the variation as playing them feels distinctly different. The puzzles are adapted around their unique abilities too, requiring the player to have one of each. Singleplayer compensates this by letting you have an AI partner. Passing through the levels is the main drive for me in this game. However I found the loot you acquired through collecting points and opening chests that require a certain amount of points to be disappointing and fairly meaningless. Mainly consisting of various rings that give you hardly noticeable upgrades and a lot of the time an equivalent downgrade.

      I loathe the fact that points are collected individually, thus making the coop experience an annoying competitive affair. I do not want to experience how this is to play with randoms on the net, grabbing all the points and collectibles in front of your face. Weapons that are found are simply shared amongst the group, but I would rather have seen the points shared the same way and used to level up weapons and abilities on a grid like system.

      I found the overall experience of Temple of Osiris to be more chaotic than the previous game and left me with a more bitter taste than the fun original. Maybe the last game filled my need for another title in this spin-off series, but this just didn't live up to the first game for me. It's one of those games that worked the first time around and should have been left with that until something new and very clever popped in as a gameplay feature.


      Rating

      ★★★


      + Plus points

      • Four player support.
      • Looks sharp and good for this type of game.
      • Completing the actual levels and puzzles is still fun.

      - Minus points

      • Chaotic at times.
      • Feels less original and unique than the last game.
      • Loot is basically useless stuff and the points are not shared among players.