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Halo Infinite Multiplayer Review In Progress - I Need A Weapon

Mon, 11/22/2021 - 19:00

I could spend all day talking about what makes Halo Infinite great but not necessarily superb, but, when you're in the thick of it, the faults that create that distinction are hard to notice because it's just really fun. While playing, I found myself giggling with murderous glee after successfully wiping an enemy team all on my own; laughing as I nonchalantly chucked a fusion coil and accidentally splattered an unseen player; and roaring support for an ally as they successfully held the line long enough for our team to secure an objective and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The experience of playing Halo Infinite is joyful, and what more can you ask for when it comes to a free-to-play online multiplayer shooter?

But, to reiterate, Halo Infinite isn't without its flaws. Most notably, its challenge-based progression system feels unrewarding and keeps the game's coolest-looking cosmetics locked behind dozens of hours of an unfulfilling grind. But 343 Industries has stuck the landing on what matters the most, as Halo Infinite feels good. Firearms shoot with a nice punch, and your Spartan's movements are smooth. And although not every map at launch feels like they're going down in Halo's hall of fame as all-time favorites, there's a welcome variety to them, allowing the seven currently available game types to play out in wildly different ways depending on which map you're playing on.

Similar to Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians, the narrative basis for Halo Infinite's multiplayer is a Spartan training program. With both Master Chief and the UNSC Infinity marked as missing in action, and the threat of Cortana still at large, Spartan Commander Agryna leaves you behind at a secure facility that's tasked with training the next generation of Spartan IVs. It's up to you to work hard and grow stronger in preparation for the coming fight.

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Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One Review - Murder In The Mediterranean

Fri, 11/19/2021 - 22:29

The cobblestone streets of Victorian London are as synonymous with Sherlock Holmes as his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, particularly as they pertain to developer Frogwares’ long-running game series. The Ukrainian studio's latest entry, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, ditches both the dreary, smog-filled setting, and the good doctor, by presenting an origin story for the titular sleuth. It's a bold move that unshackles Chapter One from many of the familiar conventions of Arthur Conan Doyle's novels, allowing for some surprising and frankly absurd moments as you try to uncover the truth behind Sherlock's troubled childhood.

The fictional Mediterranean island of Cordona provides the new sun-swept backdrop for Sherlock's not-so-humble beginnings as a near-superpowered detective. The Londoner has returned to his idyllic childhood home to visit his mother's grave, but he soon learns that there may have been more to her death than he was initially told. This sets in motion a sprawling mystery that covers the breadth of the picturesque island, albeit one that struggles to latch on and retain your investment. The plethora of cases you're asked to investigate along the way are oftentimes fantastic and suitably intriguing--from solving a murder involving a rampaging elephant, to infiltrating a high society sex cult--but the central focus of uncovering what exactly happened to Sherlock's mother lacks the same captivation.

This is mostly due to the fact you're only privy to brief glimpses of Mrs. Holmes, resulting in her feeling less like a character and more like a contrived plot device. This makes it difficult to care about the details of her tragic fate either way, especially when there are more interesting story threads surrounding it. As a way to inform Sherlock's character development, the central mystery also falters in this regard, too. The young 20-something Sherlock is presented as a novice, yet his supernatural powers of deduction are still in full force from the very outset. He can surmise a character's entire backstory by glancing at the threads on their clothes or the bags under their eyes, so you never get the feeling that he's coming into his own and finding what works when he already begins the game as a fully formed super detective. He might not always be as aloof or refined as older incarnations of the character, but Chapter One never gives the impression that Sherlock was significantly different in his younger years, or that the events of the game informed his future self in any way--aside from what occurs in the final few scenes.

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Grand Theft Auto The Trilogy: Definitive Edition Review – Wasted

Thu, 11/18/2021 - 21:59

There is a strong argument to be made that Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas are the three most influential games of the 21st century. You can see their DNA floating around just about every open-world title made since and pretty much anyone making in-engine cutscenes owes a debt to Rockstar going fully Hollywood early on. There is an entire generation whose only exposure to various genres of music come from the soundtracks of these three games. Naturally, parts of them have aged better than others, but in the context of the early-to-mid 2000s, these games broke serious ground.

These are all facts set in stone by this point, of course. But it's worth seeing it all written down one more time so it's abundantly clear just how utterly bewildering it is that Rockstar let GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas get as absolutely mangled as they have been with these so-called Definitive Editions. Somehow, the studio that was so meticulous about making sure the poop leaving the back end of a horse was as lovingly rendered as a cowboy's sickly, grizzled face has approved a remaster bearing its name that turns its most iconic games into app store shovelware.

That isn't hyperbole, either. Having played virtually every major version of these games in some form over the years, it's glaringly obvious these remasters were built on the bones of the already-disfigured mobile ports of each game. As weak as those were, there were certain things you can forgive just by nature of the platform. Rampant bugs, stripped-down animations, frame rate instability? These are the prices you pay for portability. Those excuses vanish into thin air with the Definitive Editions having all the horsepower of current-gen consoles and PCs to utilize. Now, all the problems of the mobile ports have been blown up to 4K resolution. Now, the neglect feels less like a bug and more like a feature.

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Pokemon Brilliant Diamond / Shining Pearl Review-In-Progress

Wed, 11/17/2021 - 14:00

Even in the context of a series that regularly receives criticism for feeling formulaic, Pokemon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl are particularly familiar. As remakes of the fourth-gen titles Diamond and Pearl, these are homages to an era of Pokemon when the series was just starting to settle into a comfortable niche. Not only that, but these are extremely faithful remakes, right down to the visual style and classic combat mechanics. That makes the experience feel downright homey, if not a little deja vu-inducing.

Diamond and Pearl, and therefore Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, are from a simpler era of Pokemon, before full 3D became the norm. Instead, they harkened back to the series' roots as an overhead, sprite-based RPG. There would be clear delineation between a grass "tile" and a town "tile" and you would move from one to another as if on a checkerboard. You can see some of those roots at work in the remakes too. While your character has a full range of movement in the world and the geometry isn't terribly blocky, there are some obvious anachronisms--how NPCs always move at right angles, for example, or how floor tiles are sized to fit your character perfectly. It's only mildly distracting and, for the most part, is just charming.

Equally charming is the art style itself, especially in the overworld. While the more recent Sword and Shield have adopted a more lithe, elongated style that looks similar to the various Pokemon animated series, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl have translated the squat pixel art of the originals into an equally squat and adorable animated chibi style. Your character looks appropriately retro while simply exploring in the tall grass or walking around town, but the style looks especially great when the camera zooms in closer during dialogue sequences. At those points, the artwork really shines because you get to see the depth and vibrancy of the characters. They look almost like living vinyl dolls.

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Categories: Games

Inscryption Review - House of Cards

Mon, 11/15/2021 - 21:48

Inscryption is an outstanding deck-building card game--until it isn't. At around the halfway mark, the compelling, run-based structure of its core card battles and the intriguingly sinister atmosphere both transform into less interesting versions of themselves. In a sense, Inscryption falls victim to its own hype. So strong are its opening moves that you can't shake the disappointment that much of what follows is merely quite good.

The basics don't change. Throughout, Inscryption pits you against AI opponents in a series of card battles. Individual cards have attack and defense ratings and, often, a special ability. You play them, one at a time, into a slot on your row of the arena. Each turn, your played cards will either attack the opponent's played cards or, if the slot opposite is empty, land a direct hit on the opponent themselves, scoring for each point of damage inflicted. Battles are resolved when you or your opponent gain a five-point advantage in damage over the other, a state typically met within a handful of minutes.

The core card combat is solid. But what sets it apart from countless other similar deck-builders is how those basic card mechanics are recontextualized across three formats. As you progress through the three distinct acts of its story, Inscryption stops each time to overhaul its card battle system. In doing so, it's able to thoroughly explore different aspects and possible permutations of those basic mechanics. Such tweaks to the rules deliver new challenges that remain interesting, even if they're not an improvement. While the reconfigurations of Acts 2 and 3 over the back half of the game carry plenty of merit, the first iteration you encounter in Act 1 is ultimately the best.

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Bright Memory: Infinite Review - Finite Would Be More Appropriate

Thu, 11/11/2021 - 15:00

Beginning a review with a history lesson is usually a bit of a faux pas, but in this case it's integral to understanding what exactly Bright Memory: Infinite is. The original game--simply titled Bright Memory--gained some traction when it launched on Steam Early Access in 2019 for having flashy visuals that rivaled triple-A games in graphical fidelity, despite the fact that it was the work of a single developer. Zeng Xiancheng created Bright Memory in their spare time, and considering what a huge undertaking that is, it wasn't too surprising when the game clocked in at around 40 minutes in length. A sequel was due to follow, but these plans were scrapped when Xiancheng opted instead to remake the original game and expand on both its gameplay and story.

That's where Bright Memory: Infinite comes in, and it's a vastly different game from the 2019 original. Only tangential elements like character and organization names remain; the rest may as well be an entirely new project--which can only be a good thing. Gone are the Devil May Cry-esque style ratings and blatant allusions to Dark Souls. Instead, Bright Memory: Infinite feels less like a derivative fan game and more like something entirely its own; a frenetic FPS with satisfyingly punchy combat that mixes both gunplay and melee abilities into one audacious whole. It's still a fairly short experience with some glaring caveats, but the journey to its conclusion is more enjoyable than the original game.

The reworked story revolves around a strange phenomenon occurring in the skies around the world that has scientists baffled. You play as Shelia, an agent for the Supernatural Science Research Organisation, who's sent in to investigate. It doesn't take long for Shelia to discover that this strange phenomenon is also connected to some mysterious history between two interconnected worlds. If this sounds like complete nonsense, it's worth noting that the only way I know all of this is because I looked up the game's synopsis. Trying to glean any of this information from the opaque narrative is an impossible task. Whether this is intentional or due to something being lost in translation is unclear, but it's difficult to care about anything that's happening either way. Thankfully, keeping track of all this sci-fi gibberish isn't entirely necessary.

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Battlefield 2042 Review-In-Progress — Character Development

Thu, 11/11/2021 - 11:03

Sometimes, everything in Battlefield 2042 just clicks. Playing the new Hazard Zone mode, my squad entered the frightfully dangerous shipping yard on Manifest, a map defined by a big port. The stacks of shipping containers lining the sides of the area can create a lethal bottleneck, and as we approached the objective ahead, we spotted another squad converging on the location as well.

As the recon fighter Mackay, I pulled out my Batman-like grapple gun and zipped up to the top of the container stack--which suddenly turned the cover-less kill zone of an alley into a perfect ambush location. One of my teammates threw down deployable cover for the group below, giving them a good spot to avoid incoming fire where none previously existed. While my squad on the ground distracted the enemies, I crawled to the edge of the container above them and started picking the enemy squad off. Another teammate deployed a scanner that let them see nearby enemies through walls, putting a stop to the last opponent before they could flank our team. Working in concert, we wiped the enemy squad in seconds, before they even knew what they were dealing with.

Battlefield 2042 is at its most fun when it brings new ideas together with the franchise's traditional feel. And although many of its elements work well together-- there's not always harmony between the old and the new. Battlefield 2042 distinguishes itself from past games in the franchise by offering you the opportunity to play specific "specialists"--each with their own unique abilities and gadgets--rather than choosing from broader, more generic character classes. Not all of those specialists feel like they work in every match, though. Mackay is essential on Manifest, where he can take advantage of the map's verticality in a way other specialists can't, but he feels close to useless on Hourglass, where half the map is flat, open desert, and the other half is a cityscape littered with massive skyscrapers. Similarly, with high takeoff points, wingsuit-sporting Sundance is highly effective on Hourglass, but not especially helpful on Renewal, where there are far fewer places to take to the air.

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Age Of Empires IV Review - Resistance Is Feudal

Mon, 11/08/2021 - 19:45

There's a unique feeling of satisfaction that Age of Empires games have excelled at delivering over the years. That wonderfully fulfilling moment of seeing your strategy succeed at littering the battlefield with an entire army of deceased knights and peasants, all your hard work, micro-management, and scheming paying off as your forces march off to burn down the nearest town center. Age of Empires II mastered that triumphant moment of careful planning and unleashing a well-balanced army on your opponent, and it's that timeless feeling that Age of Empires IV seeks to capture while paying homage to its past.

While it does succeed at evoking nostalgic memories of unloading a heavily-armored Persian pachyderm war machine deep in the heart of enemy territory, Age of Empires IV doesn't make much of an effort to venture out of its comfort zone either. It's confident but familiar, relying on what works without blazing a new trail in the strategy genre.

Relic Entertainment and World's Edge's sequel to the long-running real-time strategy series thankfully skips some of the unnecessary complexity of Age of Empires III. Instead, they bring the game back to a successfully proven formula of managing limited resources, tactical scouting, and slowly transforming your hamlet from scrappy upstart into a world-conquering feudal superpower across several ages.

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Call Of Duty: Vanguard Review — Personnel Problems

Fri, 11/05/2021 - 01:00

Call of Duty games can sometimes contradict themselves. The franchise dictates that each new game has a specific feel--things like quick kill times and consistent approaches to movement and weapons, and campaigns that mix a large sense of scale with an individual intensity of battle. Call of Duty: Vanguard maintains all of these things, but it also strains under the formula. There are times when Call of Duty's underlying elements seem to hold it back, like in its single-player campaign. Other times, like with some of its multiplayer offerings, it takes useful steps forward in unifying ideas that push the series forward, albeit incrementally. Overall, though, the Call of Duty formula makes Vanguard feel uneven. It climbs to some excellent heights, but stumbles often along the way.

Vanguard returns to World War II but takes a fictionalized, exaggerated approach to the conflict. It puts you in the shoes of four veteran heroes as they come together to form the first modern special forces team. The story can be a bit cartoonish at times--it feels like Call of Duty's take on something like The Expendables, as it brings together a team of unkillable action heroes, but it's also fitting for a game where you single-handedly kill hundreds of enemies in each mission. These folks are the best of the best, and the story takes you through flashbacks for each one, establishing why they're the best, and then letting them work together to hijack a Nazi train and smash a Nazi base.

Your special forces team is heading to Berlin near the end of the war, hoping to gain intelligence about a secret program before the Nazis bury it ahead of the Red Army's approach. The team you play is matched by super-evil Nazis on the opposite side (Lord of the Rings' Dominic Monaghan as a wormy Nazi nerd is particularly fun to hate), and most of the game is framed as a series of interrogations after the bad guys capture the heroes. It's notable how much time Vanguard spends on cutscenes and character development, in fact. Creating memorable characters and leaning into storytelling is an area the franchise has often struggled with, and much of what makes the campaign fun is how hard Vanguard goes on building your team: it's all character, all the time. That helps keep the story from getting disjointed as it leaps around both the timeline of the war and the globe, dropping you in major battles so you can see how each character got to where you find them.

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Shin Megami Tensei V Review - The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Thu, 11/04/2021 - 14:00

Everybody has their bad days. One moment you're walking home from school, and the next thing you know, the class jackass has dragged you and your friends into the Biblical apocalypse while trying to create the next hit viral video. And then you wind up sharing a body with a supernatural warrior, trying to survive among the demonic forces roaming a ruined Tokyo long enough to figure out what the hell is going on.

At least, that's how things go in the world of Shin Megami Tensei V, the latest numbered incarnation in Atlus's long-running RPG series where, once again, Tokyo has found itself at the epicenter of a global demonic apocalypse. Naturally, you're the person who can change the fate of humans and demons alike. Will you fight with the forces of Heaven to spread holy Law across the land, embrace the might and freedom of the forces of Chaos, or walk a neutral path? No matter what choices you make, your journey won't be an easy one--but it will be very rewarding.

You begin Shin Megami Tensei V as a simple student, but it's not long before you're standing amongst a ruined Tokyo, watching angels spiriting away your buddies and being beset upon by supernatural beings. A strange demon offers you his power for protection, and you fuse with him, becoming the Nahobino--a human/demon hybrid with the potential to wield godlike powers. The keyword being "potential," since your life is now hell on earth, quite literally: Almost every single god or demon from humanity's collective belief systems is now running amok in what was once a bustling metropolis. As a result, you'll need to carefully pick your allies and call them to your aid--as well as manage your own abilities--in order to survive in vicious turn-based combat to become the almighty being you are meant to be.

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Forza Horizon 5 Review - It's About Four-Wheeled Family

Thu, 11/04/2021 - 07:01

For all the luxury cars that Forza Horizon 5 has to offer, the one I kept coming back to was an old Volkswagen Beetle, lovingly called a "Vocha" by the Mexican locals. It was a reward for a lengthy string of challenges, all taking liberties with what the recognizable but otherwise unremarkable car could be with the right love and care. More than that, it became a special car because of what it meant to one of the main characters in Forza Horizon 5's more personal story missions, letting her recount a love of racing that stemmed from her grandfather's adventures with this very vehicle. This single chapter encapsulates not only why the Horizon series has endured, but how developer Playground Games keeps thoughtfully iterating on it. It's not just about the familiar high-octane racing, it's also about the stories that people and their cars can tell, and what it means to those who continue that legacy.

These moments accentuate a more personal campaign that gives your created driver more of a voice than previous entries, increasing the conversations between its ensemble of racing-hungry characters while also giving plenty of opportunities for its new locale to be explored outside of the Horizon Festival. Forza Horizon 5 doesn't replace anything with this shift in focus, but instead delivers another stellar open-world racing experience that delicately balances arcade sensibilities with the series' simulation roots. Mexico is one of the best regions the series has visited thus far, too, offering a stunning backdrop to each race while also providing varied surfaces and landmarks to make each one feel special.

While the pristine countryside of Britain might have been a bit too sterile for the ridiculous nature of the globe-trotting Forza Festival, Mexico fits right in. Like the Australian outback in Forza Horizon 3, Playground Games turns the map into a tasting menu for all of the features the country has to offer, from densely-packed cities to barren sand dunes and sun-kissed coastlines. The transition from one hub to another feels natural as you zip around the map, but the visual variety that each one offers gives each corner of the map personality in a way that the series was missing in its last outing.

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Riders Republic Review - National Lark

Wed, 11/03/2021 - 20:22

Variety is Riders Republic's strength, not just in terms of the multitude of extreme sports on offer, but also in the sheer breadth and diversity of its environments. One minute you might be shredding down the treacherous slopes near Grand Teton national park's highest peak, while in the next you're paragliding above a 1,000ft tall rock formation as Les Ukuleles Girls' horrid cover of "Gangsta's Paradise" provides the soundtrack. There's so much to see and do, and no one would blame you for recoiling at the sight of another massive open-world Ubisoft game featuring a sprawling map littered with dozens and dozens of icons. Yet Riders Republic never feels as overwhelming as other open-world games. It's not quite as chill as Steep--developer Ubisoft Annecy's previous game--but it has a similarly hands-off style that rewards you for playing how you want to.

Whether that means challenging yourself, only partaking in certain events, or anything else in between--the choice is entirely up to you. Riders Republic consists of five careers: bike races, bike tricks, snow races, snow tricks, and air races. If you don't like any of these activities, you don't have to do them, and the game doesn't punish you for skipping them. You might not fancy strapping a rocket-powered wingsuit to your back and using it to skim cliff faces in the name of winning a race, and it doesn't matter; if you're only interested in hurtling through a verdant forest on a mountain bike, narrowly avoiding trees as you go, Riders Republic will still keep rewarding you with new events and unlocks in that specific corner of the game. This freedom permeates throughout every inch of the rest of the game, too, from each snow-covered slope to every oily gear chain.

In order to progress, you need to earn stars, with each event rewarding a single star just for completion, whether you finish in first or last place. This feels like a strange decision at first since it seemingly robs the game of any stakes or sense of competition. This casual approach might suit you, and that's fine, but for anyone who's after a challenge or an incentive to outperform the rest of the field, each event's optional objectives provide one, giving you another way to earn additional stars in the process. These objectives might ask you to win a race on the highest difficulty level, rack up a specific score during a trick event, or collect balloons scattered along the course. Some of these are relatively easy to achieve, while others are significantly harder and challenge your skill level. Whether you engage with them or not is, once again, up to you. There are enough events and stars to go around that you're going to progress and unlock more either way, so it all comes down to how you want to approach the moment-to-moment gameplay.

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Voice Of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars Review - Cards Against Humanity

Tue, 11/02/2021 - 19:03

Yoko Taro is a weirdo. Don't just take my word for it--the man himself has said as much with game development presentations on making "weird games for weird people"--and there's a certain level of subversion and existential terror that permeates everything he touches. This is certainly the case with Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars, a somewhat surprising game to make after the smash-hit success that was Nier: Automata. But this is Yoko Taro, and this choice is itself a subversion. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars takes the writer-director's signature style and adapts it for a role-playing game that retains just enough classic role-playing elements to keep it approachable.

Taro is listed as creative director in Voice of Cards' credits, and though he actually isn't listed as the game director--suggesting he may have taken a less hands-on approach to its creation--its narrative beats and visual style certainly have his influence all over them. You play as an aspiring adventurer joined by a ragtag group of would-be heroes hoping to slay a dangerous dragon, beat a stuck-up group of nobles looking to find the dragon first and get a substantial reward from the local queen. The text's font appears to be the same as in the Nier series, and longtime Taro collaborator Keiichi Okabe returned to compose its music, which is so Nier-y you'd think Voice of Cards was a surprise new entry in the series (it isn't, but I kept waiting for the reveal). The Nier music DLC you can buy is almost redundant, considering how similar it is to what's included in the standard version.

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Unpacking Review - The Things We Carry

Mon, 11/01/2021 - 17:00

Unpacking gave me the key to remembrance, unlocking corners of my mind where small memories that have subconsciously shaped me are tucked away.

One Christmas I gave both my grandmothers tiny ceramic angel bells with "Grandma" etched in blue ink. They probably cost five bucks each, purchased with my hard-earned allowance. These fell firmly into the category of sentimental and arguably tacky gifts that kids often give to parents and grandparents. They were nothing special then, but they are right above me on my desk shelf as I write this. When each of my grandmothers died--a decade apart--we found those insignificant angel bells prominently displayed in their homes. They went back to me as a keepsake, a reminder that even the smallest gestures of love can mean something big in time. Those angel bells, with progressively fading lettering, have been gently wrapped and kept safe throughout five moves. And no matter where I call home, the angels are next to each other, just a glance away.

Unpacking, a puzzle game of your own memories and psyche, taps into a wide range of emotions. It accomplishes this feat while managing to remain fun and relaxing, with soothing background music and a satisfying loop that gets more detail-oriented as life moves forward (or drags on).

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Mario Party Superstars Review - The Fault In Our Stars

Thu, 10/28/2021 - 14:00

My kids had a litany of questions during our first game of Mario Party Superstars. Where, my 12-year-old son asked, was Monty Mole, his favorite character from the last game? Why are there no minigames where you have to waggle the controllers around, my seven-year-old daughter asked? Why are there so few characters to choose from anyway? And why does everyone have the same dice block?

My kids have had a lot of experience with Super Mario Party (the previous game in the series, which was released on the Nintendo Switch in 2018), so these comparisons were inevitable. The newest entry, Mario Party Superstars, is a deliberate embrace of the Mario Party series' early days before motion control gimmicks and twists on its classic game mode became the norm. This is a game that delivers on the core Mario Party experience and is high on nostalgia, but my kids' questions highlighted the trade-off that comes with that approach. In embracing the old, Superstar loses a lot of tweaks and additions that have livened up recent Mario Party games, making Superstars as much of a step back as it is a throwback.

That step back doesn't necessarily mean Mario Party Superstars is a bad game, but it does feel like a dated one. If you've ever played a Mario Party game before, then Superstars will feel instantly familiar thanks to its stripped-back focus on the series' staples: dynamic, shifting boards, a huge selection of fun minigames, and more than a hint of tear-your-hair-out randomness that gives (almost) every game an anything-can-happen feel. Depending on your age, that familiarity may also extend to Superstars' selection of boards and minigames, many of which were taken from the very start of the Mario Party franchise back in the Nintendo 64 and GameCube days.

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Unsighted Review - Counting The Seconds

Wed, 10/27/2021 - 22:31

Borrowing ideas liberally from numerous inspirations can often lead to games that lack either an identity or a clear focus, and in the worst cases a bit of both. This isn't at all true for Unsighted, a pixelated, top-down metroidvania that combines its many familiar gameplay mechanics into a cohesive adventure that is regularly more than the sum of its parts. It's a remix that also blends gracefully with Unsighted's original ideas, adding the necessary tension to a time-sensitive mission that works both thematically and mechanically. Although it can falter in some areas, especially with its persistence to hold your hand in some regards, it's a tightly paced action game with sharp combat and inventive puzzles that are a delight to enjoy.

Unsighted puts you at the center of a civil war between humans and automatons, a sentient race of robots that gained their self-awareness via magical dust dispersed by a meteor that crashed into earth decades before. This meteor has since been closed off by the humans in a last-ditch effort to rob the automatons of their lives, eventually reducing them to base killing machines without emotion. This process, known as "going Unsighted," is something none of the automatons want and a fate you, playing as freedom-fighter automaton Alma, seek to stop for good.


This sets off a familiar hunt for a series of MacGuffins--in this case, powerful crystals--across an expansive map, each of which takes place in a distinctive biome with its own inventive dungeon. As you travel through the map, you'll encounter paths locked off by obstacles your current loadout can't overcome, encouraging you to find the tools you need to progress. It's a standard metroidvania trope that will feel immediately familiar, but combined with intricate dungeons, Unsighted breaks up the standard progression with entertaining pit stops and doesn't let you linger on any frustrating backtracking that is required.

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The Good Life Review - Country House

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 18:47

The Good Life is exceptionally silly in all the right ways. It's not just the absurd premise: Naomi Hayward is a young photojournalist from New York who has inexplicably run up a personal debt of £30,000,000 and is somehow trying to work it off by uncovering the secret of the sleepy English village of Rainy Woods, where the inhabitants transform into cats and dogs with the full moon.

Of course, that is part of it, but it's also more that The Good Life--part life sim and part detective RPG--takes a gleefully frivolous approach to its every aspect. From the oddball delights of its cast of characters to the increasingly preposterous demands of its relentless fetch quests, there's surprisingly little here that merits being taken seriously--even the central mystery. Naomi may constantly refer to Rainy Woods as a "goddamn hellhole," but she's quick to settle in and soon finds herself caught up in the nonsense, whether she's smashing through barrels on a cross-country pig ride or helping the local butcher perfect his meat pie recipe. With the stakes pitched low, The Good Life carries itself with a breezy, knockabout charm befitting its title.


Yet despite the abundance of infectious whimsy, there are significant caveats. The quaintly playful tone belies a quest structure that leans heavily into grind, as you scour the countryside for crafting materials and, at times, painfully rare drops. Unassuming tasks, like buying new shoes or making a salad, can require serious up-front investment. Fully exploring The Good Life's myriad systems is a lot of work and the rewards for doing so aren't always as satisfying as you might hope.

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New World Review In Progress: (Faction) War Never Changes

Tue, 10/26/2021 - 16:57

It's not everyday a new, big-budget MMORPG arrives, much less one developed by Amazon. In recent years, the MMO genre has largely been forgotten, with only new expansions for the biggest names in the genre to satisfy fans. But back in the mid-to-late 2000s, new MMOs felt like they were a dime a dozen, with game publishers all looking for a piece of the massive pie that Blizzard had carved out for itself starting with vanilla World of Warcraft in 2004.

It's fitting then that New World in many ways feels like it originated from that particular period of gaming history. Old-school in many of its sensibilities, New World is a social, player-versus-player-focused MMO the likes of which largely hasn't been seen since 2001's Dark Age of Camelot. Based on the more than 100 hours I've played so far, there is definitely some enjoyment to be had, particularly for those interested in PvP. Unfortunately, New World is also held back by a largely boring leveling experience and a few particularly annoying design choices that may turn off even the most dedicated MMORPG fans.

The setup of New World is simple: After creating a character, you wash up on the shores of a mysterious uncharted island somewhere in the Atlantic ocean called Aeternum. Turns out, people have been washing up there for thousands of years and are unable to return to their homelands thanks to a mysterious storm surrounding the island. People don't really die, or even age, in Aeternum, but that doesn't mean life is easy. Those who have lived on the island for ages run the risk of becoming soulless husks known as the Lost, or even worse, are in jeopardy of being brainwashed by an ancient evil spreading across the land known as the Corruption. It's up to players to rebuild and lead an order of guardians known as the Soulwardens if Aeternum is to stand a chance against the encroaching darkness. As you embark on your adventure to level 60, you'll gather crafting materials, fight monsters, equip new weapons and armor, complete quests, and level up your character.

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Categories: Games

Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy Review - Shot Through The Heart

Mon, 10/25/2021 - 14:00

I'm a big fan of the "found family" trope. There's something so heartwarming about watching complete strangers finding a place to belong by sticking with each other. It's the basic underlying principle of practically every superhero or vigilante team, including the Guardians of the Galaxy. Developer Eidos-Montréal's Guardians of the Galaxy builds off this premise to deliver an incredible story about what comes after the found family trope. In the game, the family has been found, its forging hinted at in conversations throughout the game's campaign. But as anyone who is a part of a family (found or otherwise) can tell you, forming connections with people isn't the hard part; it's the regular struggle to maintain those bonds that really takes effort. And that's at the heart of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, a game that says that a family, once found, is worth fighting for.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy picks up following the creation of the titular team, all of whom have some sort of history with one another. It plays out a lot like developer Insomniac Games' Marvel's Spider-Man in that way--the origin story has already occurred, and the player is now catching up on what the characters already know. Though I can see how this setup could confuse players who aren't familiar with Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax (if you don't know their backstories, you might be confused as to why Drax distrusts Gamora when he is the one who killed her father, for example), this setup ultimately works to the game's benefit. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy regularly moves beyond familiarity, digging into the wonderfully bizarre cosmic side of Marvel's universe, all of which is so absurdly alien.

And yet, it's all very human too, and that's why it works so well. These might not be the Guardians you're familiar with--heck, you might not be familiar with the team at all--but the issues that they're attempting to deal with and overcome are all deeply relatable. The same can be said for the increasingly strange assortment of allies and enemies the Guardians meet. You latch onto their issues and pay attention to them because they're the parts of the story that make the most sense from a human perspective. That, more than anything, captures the sensation of being Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, a human who finds himself regularly exploring a galaxy far removed from the goings-on of Earth, and yet, as an Earthling, is ideally suited for navigating these galactic issues because he can bring out the innate humanity of these aliens.

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Categories: Games

Resident Evil 4 VR Review - A Selection Of Good Things, Stranger

Fri, 10/22/2021 - 21:04

Remember Resident Evil 4's original GameCube case? The one that said "Only For" in the corner? It's hard to imagine now, considering the game has been ported every which way, to the Nokia phone and back. But despite its acclaimed status, all its ports, and the modest visual facelift it has received over the years, one thing remains woefully unchanged and firmly cements Resident Evil 4 in 2005 when it was originally released: those damned tank controls. Even the Wii Edition (the best port of the game, I must say) was shackled by its rigid movement. That is, until Resident Evil 4 VR, which presents the game in its best light since its original release.

Playing through the action-horror classic on the Oculus Quest 2 has given me a feeling I've wanted since first finishing RE4 16 years ago on the GameCube: the sense of experiencing it for the first time all over again. And that feeling is downright awesome.

From the ground up, the game has been meticulously recreated in Unreal Engine 4 in uncanny detail to fully function in VR, and the result is so impressive; it's nothing short of magic. From upscaled textures, to sound effects, and animations, RE4 can now be seen--quite literally--through an entirely new lens. Stepping into the shoes of protagonist and pretty boy Leon S. Kennedy on a mission to save the president's daughter has never felt cooler, nor has the horror representation of eastern Europe ever felt more frightening.

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Categories: Games