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Posted:
2015-02-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

PS4

6.9

MXGP: The Official Motocross Videogame was developed by Milestone SRI for the PlayStation 4. The motocross genre of sports games has always been fairly limited and under represented in the current age of videogames so it is nice to see someone else trying to make them happen. The game was released in 2014 and it serves as direct competition to the much more popular MotoGP franchise. This iteration of the MXGP franchise serves as yet another opportunity for the difficult world of motocross to catch on with the general public. Let's dive on in and see if Milestone did a good job trying to get this game to the masses.

Getting dirty on the track.

At some point in our lives we probably daydreamed about owning a dirt bike so that we could tear up the tracks and the fields behind our houses. At least that's how I felt, growing up in a little rural town. But bikes are expensive and I never really wanted to deal with potential breaking my leg by hitting something so I never got into it. Now a decade later I am getting the chance to stare down a digital recreation of that childhood dream. There are many reasons to consider picking up the game, and we'll get into those, but we'll first talk about how simply fun motocross is. For video game racing fans the world typically ends with titles like 'Forza' or hybrid games like 'Grand Theft Auto', where the vehicles actually take a backseat to the action of the story. The MotoGP series has been one of the most consistent producers of two wheeled racing, but they've never blown up the way these other titles have. MotoGP certainly has never really had competition for the relatively small market they are catering to. That is where MXGP may come in and do something special.

Earn your wheels.

MXGP takes a definite inspiration from the MotoGP series. Upon booting up the game you will be overloaded with a slew of different gameplay options. There are online and offline game modes that are meant to pull you in different directions. You can skip everything and jump right to online multiplayer or you can go through one of the many individual offline modes. There is a training section, a campaign mode, and the regular exhibition contests. The campaign mode is where you are likely to spend the majority of your time.

As a new rider, MXGP expects you to earn the respect of the other people on the course. The game forces you to grind out wins in order to build your reputation. The higher your reputation the better you will be seeded and the better your bike will become. As the game progresses, and you find your way flying up the rankings, you will be forced to compete hard for points during the season. Things never get easy for you though because there are always 21 other riders that are determined to blow by you and they'll do anything that it takes in order to do so.

We would be remiss if we simply glanced passed the online game modes. The online season mode is invigorating and a welcome addition to what has always been a relatively confined experience. In the online season mode you will be competing against the field during the season. You have to get in enough races to earn enough points to progress to the next level of motocross. It is similar in style to the FIFA series but completely different in terms of gameplay difficulty. The small niche of bikers that play games like MXGP are good and you will need to bring with you all of the skills that you learned in training.

How does the game handle?

Racing is a fun way to compete against friends, families and foes so it is important that the game feels tight. Nobody enjoys a floaty feeling racing simulator and once realism leaves the door so does our entertainment. Getting the physics of MX down was an important factor for Milestone to succeed on the next generation of consoles, and it seems like they did well enough. The weight of your bike plays a huge part in how you react as you furiously speed your way around the course. Keeping your bike level, controlling your turns, and avoiding going over the handles is of utmost importance. Knowing when, and how, to employ your brakes on hard turns is also something that needs to be learned. The actual bones of control are easy: you use the thumbsticks to move around and control your balance. But controlling yourself in a tight way, with no wasted movements, will take practice. The game, on the whole, is fluid and entertaining. You won't be complaining about getting cheated by bad controls.

How does the game present itself?

MXGP: The Official Motocross Videogame is a port for the PlayStation 4. Many people are already familiar with the title due to the time it spent on the last generation of consoles. With that being said, the game does not suffer for it. It was already a good looking piece of software when it was originally released and the upgrade to better hardware definitely served it well. You won't feel the mud hit you when you play it at 1080p, but you'll definitely feel immersed into the game. The riders are relatively detailed with their outfits and the courses are interestingly designed. Most of the detail goes into the bikes and the physics of controlling them. The game won't blow you away, but it never fails at looking good for what it is.

Motocross is an interesting sport because, on face value, it should be so much more popular. The sport is dangerous, fast paced, and customizable. You'll have riders with varying styles and or bikes and the way they compete can dramatically change the experience. Still, for those that DO love MX or want to try it out, this is the perfect place to start.

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Posted:
2015-03-08

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

7.4

"#IDARB" has been bringing people together in different ways since it premiered on the XBOX One last year. The hashtag/acronym title stands for 'It Draws a Red Box' and the experience is something reminiscent of the sort of game we'd invent as children. Other Ocean developed the game with the core idea behind it to be collaborative, creative, and chaotic sports that you could play with your friends. We hadn't ever heard of the title before we got our hands on it so we went in with an empty opinion and the motivation to see it through to the end, wherever it actually took us.

Not like anything else...

If we had to boil down "#IDARB" to a sentence it would be this: put the ball in the opposing goal at all costs. At its core this game really just stresses that simple gameplay element. You want to score points. In order to score points you need to avoid enemies. In order to avoid enemies you need to utilize the different platforms in the level. The farther back you are from the goal post, the higher your score will be if you actually somehow make the difficult shot. That's a pretty simple concept and one that shouldn't surprise anybody.

Only "#IDARB" exists on a 2D, platforming world. This 'sport' works in both horizontal and vertical styles and can be played by two big and opposing teams. You can play against the AI in offline mode by yourself but the heart of the game will only come out when you have a crowded room of your friends drunkenly, or soberly, screaming at the television because you just punched the ball out of their hands again.

At face value this isn't a particularly unique experience. There isn't anything here that hasn't been done before on some level. After all, 'Tecmo Bowl' has to lay claim to the original 2D sporting game, right? What IS special about this game is the fact that it is a collaborative effort by players who aren't typically looking for this kind of competition.

It's unique blend with social media also makes the game feel so much bigger than it actually is. There are specific hashtag codes (used on sites like Twitter) that gamers will use to broadcast their thoughts on the online game. The messages gets displayed across the bottom of the screen and, in its own lame way, this makes us feel like our competition is being broadcast on ESPN or something.

One of the more creative elements in the game, which also lends to the pure hectic nature of the 'sport', is the fact that we can custom design our own character elements. Nope, no uniforms for us thank you. Instead you can go into a 2D character creation tool and completely mock something up from scratch. This bit of creativity opens the door for clans to create similar outfits or for the troublemaker to make a character that looks absolutely and distractingly bizarre.

Along this same path of customization we found out that we could also create our own team banners to hang up in the background of the different 'arenas'. Things can get pretty unique quickly. We found ourselves often times laughing at the sheer incredulity of a team of clowns alley ooping over our panda/cat hybrid defenders. Seriously, this is the stuff that really weird dreams are made of.

Users can also dig into a superficial sound editor to add their own music to the game. Maybe we aren't good at programming songs, or maybe the editor is a bit bunk, but either way we found that the musical selections ranged from the weird to the un-listenable.

The essential action on the screen consists of some sort of weird basketball and soccer hybrid. The games begin with a descending clock and the emphasis to go, score, as quick as possible. In this sort of game you only helped yourself if you were willing to work together as a team. Mastering the alley oop is one of the most potent maneuvers that you can pull off in the game and it is the foundation of a competitive squad. Still, there is some fun in joining in as a rogue player. If you are good at dodging incoming opponents then you can duck, jump and climb your way to an easy 'score' on the other end.

The game features fundamentally non detailed 2D graphics and we aren't sure that this is a complaint. If the game became any more graphically advanced we are almost positive that there would be some charm lost in the process. No, we like the way that the game sticks to a short list of assets and art styles. The absurdity of it all really ramps up as a result.

The rest of the interface is pretty simple. You have your scores in the bottom right and left hand corners as well as a clock at the top. You race up and down the platforms in order to move the ball, sort of like a 2D version of Quidditch, as you get close to the opposing goal. On defense you are allowed to attack other players in order to steal the ball and run the opposite direction. Great scores are hit with instant replays and buzzer beaters will get the slow motion treatment when looking back.

Scoring in the game is complicated bordering on nonsensical, so it fits in with the rest of the experience. If you score from farther out then you will get more points. Likewise, if you manage to score off of a pass that also bounced off of a wall or something, your point total will really start climbing.

What we loved about "#IDARB" is that it was a competitive game meant for non competitive gamers. How absurd the whole title is lends itself to a friendly experience, even in the online matchmaking system. We rarely found ourselves truly upset with losing and instead were more eager to jump into the next game.

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Posted:
2015-07-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.7

Ori and the Blind Forest was developed by the people over at Moon Studios for the Xbox One and later released by Microsoft Game Studios. Masterfully blending a unique artstyle, a soaring soundtrack, and a riveting story - this sidescrolling adventure RPG quickly ascended the ranks to cult like status. We decided to pick up the game for our Xbox 1 in order to travel the world that Moon Studios so capably crafted. With blooming HD graphics and an amazing score, we were quickly enraptured by the game that displayed itself before us. Keep on reading to see if this is the kind of game you need to add to your library, though we are confident that it is.

To call Ori and the Blind Forest a simple Metroidvania knock off would do a disservice to the people who made the game and those who have already experienced it. So instead I will describe it as the magic of Disney meeting the power of a deftly crafted, tight, action RPG experience. Sound intriguing? Keep reading.

The story starts out with a beautiful and disastrous freak storm throwing down a creature named Orio from his home world, the branches of the greatest tree that the Forest of Nibel has to offer. Ori is stranded in the woods when he comes across a slightly humanoid, bear like creature named Naru. This creature nurses Ori back to health and instantly assumes the role of mother and protector. When Ori awakes he finds that Naru has become a surrogate parent. This seemingly innocuous beginning serve sonly to further entrench the drama that is approaching: the world of Nibel is in trouble. A darkness is approaching and Ori must once more become the guardian of light that Nibel needs.

Upon loading the game up I was instantly amazed by the beautiful score that overlayed the mystical and fantastic graphics. The art direction in Ori and the Blind Forest is borderline flawless. Each frame leaps to life with alacrity and a mysticism about it. Ori is a beautiful creature, full of light, and Naru is this gorgeously designed bear that imbues both stoic strength and motherly love. This isn’t just a side scrolling adventure. This is an experience that has been borderline unrivaled in recent years. Ori and the Blind Forest is an open book that comes to life in front of you. The hand drawn artwork adds so much depth and heart that sometimes I would catch myself just staring into the depth and texture that each scene offered us, and there were many scenes: icy caves, wooded glens, flower filled caverns, and giant volcanoes.

All that is to say that the graphics become second to both the tight gameplay and the stellar story. More than anything, Ori and the Blind Forest pulls you along with its anthemic soundtrack and intriguing story. It’s easy to see where the story is divided into three very separate acts: the fall, the death, and the redemption. Whose fall? Whose redemption? We shall let you find that out first hand, it’s a spoiler that will severely take away from your first enjoyment of the series. At its heart, what we can say, is that Ori and the Blind Forest is a coming of age tale that will be hard pressed to be topped by any artwork, in any medium.

But all of the above mentioned beauty doesn’t matter if the game is not technically proficient. Fortunately Ori and the Blind Forest exists within a medium that doesn’t demand too much for its gameplay elements. In the side scrolling action RPG world it is relatively easy to fall in line and deliver only the basics: movement, a few special attacks, and interesting puzzle sequences. Ori and the Blind Forest doesn’t let themselves get restricted.

As you play the game you will change between Ori and Naru and the two creatures play dramatically different from one another. Ori is fast, light on the wind, and capable of athletic sequences. Naru has to use logic and go at a slower, more methodical pace in order to progress. Ori himself can learn a dozen different maneuvers to use while in the game and each one builds on the move prior. Adventuring through the Forest of Nibel is no easy task, not without some practice, but once you get the hang of how to move within the space you will be traveling with ease.

If you are somehow laboring under the idea that this is an action-y sort of game, despite the heavy focus on story, then we should probably clarify further. While there are action elements, and tense sequences, the game does not rely on them to maintain your interest. In fact, combat itself is relatively rare. When fighting does begin it occurs in short bursts that serve to wake you up more than challenge you. Still, that does not mean that the game itself is simple or easy. Death is common place in the Blind Forest. You’ll probably die and restart a level a dozen times before getting through. But death isn’t punishment and it isn’t aggravating, either. You can use each experience to learn the sequences and improve your overall connection to the world.

We also enjoyed a simple addition to Ori that many games don’t do any more: Quicksave. Quicksave systems on console gaming is pretty rare, but it works wonderfully here. Gamers are able to dip in and out of the adventure at their convenience while also saving before difficult sequences. Hold the B button down for long enough and a marker will appear in order to create a save point. This allows you to engage in some flexibility with where you re-start. If you get past a super difficult cave make sure to make a save. Likewise, make one before going into the cave to begin with.

While Ori and the Blind Forest on the Xbox One isn’t flawless, there are some issues with collectables, it is one of the most refined games we have played in years.

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Posted:
2015-07-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

8.1

The Evil Within: The Assignment on the Xbox One is a continuation into the dirty and grimy world that The Evil Within created. Developed by Tango Gameworks and later published by Bethesda Softworks. The survival game puts you into the shoes of Juli Kidman and it pushes you to complete a two part story in which you will have to find answers through any means necessary. Having played the original Evil Within is mandatory going into this game so if you want to avoid spoilers, you should probably quit reading right about now. For those that have already played the initial game, and wish to learn more about this expansion, keep on reading. We picked up The Evil Within: The Assignment for the Xbox One.

So DLC tends to come in two main varieties. The first kind of DLC is simply aesthetic, a repurposing of pixels in order to sell more copies of their game. You’ll see this kind of DLC in the form of 'horse armor' or other item based variety. The second form is a story enhancement package. The Assignment is the first DLC product offered for The Evil Within and it serves as an expansion to the story of Detective Juli Kidman. Kidman should be familiar to you due to her appearance in the primary campaign, however she was not always present and frequently took a backseat. This DLC package gives title developer Shinji Mikami another chance to show off his universe through the eyes of another character within it.

The Assignment itself follows the tried and trued style that The Evil Within has made so popular in recent years. The Evil Within is an atmospheric game that pushes you to stick to the shadows, keep out of the way of your enemies, and maintain a constant cool head while on the run - you don’t want to panic when you run into some of the horrors within the game. So The Assignment has you treading those same gameplay elements. It is not revolutionary or particularly inventive, but it is familiar and sometimes that is all that we need.

The campaign mode for The Assignment runs at around four hour and the story itself occurs simultaneously as the primary campaign. So you will have events from the main game intertwining with this title, thus making it all feel a little more relevant. This was a cool way to keep the story’s tight and unfortunately it hasn’t been followed too much by other game developers. We have seen games like Dead Rising use this to great effect, but we digress. The primary story thread that you will follow details what Juli Kidman was up to whenever she would vanish during the main campaign. Many fans had theories as to her whereabouts and what she was doing, and this release serves to answer at least a few of those questions. As Kidman you will run into Sebastian and Joseph frequently, only from a different perspective - it’s a pretty neat feeling if you liked the main game.

SO the primary difference when coming into this game is that Kidman is a much more intelligent character than Sebastian. The story itself is still convoluted and reaching, but it becomes more palatable through her more capable eyes. She is much more enjoyable as a character, Sebastian was grating most of the time, and that may be due to Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter) and her spirited voice work. She never resorts to theatrics but she always remains genuine, even in those simple moments where lesser performers would make theatrical choices.

For a lot of reasons Kidman is not as strong as Sebastian, the primary one is the fact that she does not have a weapon for the majority of the campaign. Being unarmed makes you almost hyper aware of your surroundings and the creatures and enemies lurking within the darkness. Kidman is a stealth based character who has the ability to strategically lure enemies around with a few tricks. Kidman can throw items against the wall to create distractions, she can yell out to get the attention of other characters, and she is also great at taking cover. Kidman’s individual perks include an auto-heal factor and her ability to constantly be on the move without running out of her puff.

With that being said, there are still some issues when it comes to working through the campaign from a gameplay element. Despite how nifty her abilities are, the old school controls still definitely weigh pretty heavily upon us. As is the wont of third person strategy games, sometimes you start to feel like you are driving a tank instead of maneuvering an individual person. With Kidman’s role being so stealth based, a clunky movement mechanism could be the difference between living and dying. Unfortunately we ended up dying a few times as we accidentally revealed ourselves in certain situations due to the clunky controls. We also had issues using our specialized stealth attack, and that wore on our nerves as the game progressed - particularly against some big bosses later on.

But all of the issues of clunk fall to the way side once you realize just how thrilling the game is. Just about any respectable survival game will be fun due to the nature of the genre, with death lurking around every corner. The Assignment takes it one step forward by keeping a weapon out of your hands and making you rely solely on your wits. Due to this you feel a sense of pride whenever you actually succeed in what you are trying to do. It just isn’t the same when you can run into a room with your guns blazing and fight your way to the end.

With The Assignment being the first DLC release for The Evil Within we can already tell that the title is going to have some serious legs. This 3.5 hour excursion back into the game, with an interesting character, is just the flavor of DLC that we need.

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Posted:
2015-09-26

Darren_Summerell

Writer

PS4

7.5

Outlast is a first-person survival horror video game developed and published by Canadian company Red Barrels.

The survival horror genre has experienced quite the renaissance in the past decade or so after experiencing so much success in the early days of console gaming. On the PlayStation 1 and other consoles of the period we saw titles like 'Resident Evil' set the tone for years to come. And then the genre sort of fell out of vision and experienced a lull. Now, thanks in due part to games like 'The Evil Within' and 'Slender Man' we have a surge of similar titles on the market. One of those games is called Outlast and it was developed by the guys and girls over at Red Barrels. The game was created for current generation consoles only: the PS4, XB1, and the PC. We picked up a copy for our PS4 after realizing how limited the genre was at the moment. It felt nice to take a break from some of the more frantic shooter based games we had been playing. Still, Outlast was developed by a team we weren’t familiar with and we stepped into its world with trepidation.

Outlast is centered around Mount Massive Asylum and it is there that everything begins to go very, very sideways for a journalist by the name of Miles Upshur. The asylum is located in the mountains in Colorado, and is definitely dressed for the part of horror story setting place. We are given tertiary information about the place, though nothing too explicit, before being dumped into the game. What we find out is that it was formerly a home for the mentally ill before being bought by the Murkoff Corporation. You don’t need expanding upon them, but Murkoff is up to some pretty shady stuff in a pretty shady looking building. So it is up to us, the ever earnest journalist Miles, to find out what exactly is going on in there. We are given a tip from a source and go to visit, thus creating the foundation for the game.

Most of the time when we pick up a horror/survival game we are pretty committed to living by the tropes of the genre. We don’t need something completely unique in terms of story narrative to keep us hook because the genre itself insists certain paths be followed. While that still holds true, we did start to see some unique adjustments in Outlast that made the game much more enjoyable than it otherwise could have been. That isn’t to say that the title doesn’t lean heavily upon the ground tread well before it. There are still jump scares, loud noises, things in the shadows, and creepy, leering people. There is one particular moment that seems ripped straight from your most recent fill in the blank horror film that gave us quite a fright and ended up as one of our favorite moments. Let’s just say that the moment involved a headless body showing up when you least expect it. Well, we hope that you never truly expect to see a headless bodies...Anyways.

Outlast sets you up as Miles the journalist in a very realistic way. You don’t have the option to really defend yourself. This isn’t a game rife with combat and the point isn’t to fight your way out of sticky situations. The goal for you is to navigate throughout these situations in order to never let them get to the point of killing you. You don’t have weapons. You don’t know kung fu. You can’t really defend yourself. So this immediately sets up an air of paranoia as you try to work through a game that you know can kill you with ease. You begin to move more careful and cautious, trying to go unnoticed when you can and stick to the lit areas when the opportunity presents itself. Death comes quick and strangely satisfying and you only have to experience it once to hold the controller a little bit tighter.

As far as graphics are concerned, Outlast is about as mediocre as it comes. The game doesn’t push the PS4 hardware and those on the PC will surely roll their eyes at some of the lower quality textures. Still, like in horror films you are able to get away with a ton due to the nature of the genre. The game looks great when it sticks to the moody and dark asylum halls and for the most part there isn’t anything distractingly bad. It’s not PS4 quality, but it’s good enough to keep you fully immersed while you work your way through the twists and turns of the narrative, all while trying to avoid death.

Probably the most entertaining aspect of the game is the way that it incorporates darkness into the mechanics. Darkness permeates Asylum and it is therein that danger is truly lurking. Everywhere is dark and the only way you can escape is via flickering light in the ambient background or by using the infrared mode. Looking through this POV for your camera is almost more terrifying because it highlights what is out there in dark reds and light shades of green, making everything even more inhuman than it was prior. If you do decide to opt for the infrared you need to keep an eye on your battery. The closer your battery is to death the more important it is that you scrounge around for back up packs. There are batteries littered throughout the mansion (for some reason) and they will become your best friend. You don’t want to be without light in case something bumps into you in the dark..

A lot of what makes Outlast effective is the way that it incorporates a sort of ethereal aspect to the fear. You’ll see things in the corner of your eye only to spin around and see nothing. You’ll walk through a doorway only to have it slam shut behind you. Sometimes you feel like you are walking in circles. In any event, you’ll likely push through the shorter campaign mode (6 to 8 hours) with more than a few jumps. It’s not bad, but Outlast is far from a unique experience.

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Posted:
2015-03-21

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

7.1

'Project Cars' on the Xbox One is probably going to do more for the video game industry than anybody realizes. The racing simulator is being developed by Slightly Mad Studios in association with Bandcai Namco Entertainment. The title itself has a whole host of promises for fans of the genre and we're sure that they will probably deliver. What is special about the title, however, is not what is in the content. What is special is how the content is getting to the people. 'Project Cars' was only created due to the ability to raise money via crowdsourcing in a world that was without websites like 'Kickstarter' at the time.

Three years ago Slightly Mad Studios launched their first crowdsourcing campaign to try and raise money to make the car simulator of their dreams. Remember, this was before websites like Kickstarter made the process so easily accepted. This means that the guys at Slightly Mad Studios were going around, hat in hand, begging. From the perspective of a fan, that behavior is sort of puzzling from a company that has had some commercial success. But still. They did it. And after three years they've raised over $5 million dollars from their 85,000 investors. These investors were brought together via common interest onto a website that Slightly Mad Studios put together. Through this website the company was able to engage their fans one on one and really pull them along for the ride.

Through the release of behind the scenes footage, intimate exchanges on message boards with fans, and a shared interest we were finally able to see this game get made. Due for release in the next few months, 'Project Cars' will reach the shelves with a huge fanbase already backing the game. Andy Tudor, part of Slightly Mad, said that the engagement from their fans showed that "Gamers were eager and looking for something like this" even though crowdfunding wasn't a popular term at the time.

What the 'Project Cars' crew also got out of their very public crowdsourcing campaign was free word of mouth and free marketing. Over the span of the last three years the team at Slightly Mad have released countless screen shots, demo videos, and playable copies for their fans to interact with. YouTube, in fact, is filled to the brim with different users and professional drivers playing the game.

Looking past all of the marketing shtick we have to really analyze what 'Project Cars' is going to be about. Why are so many people getting ready to play this game? What makes it special in comparison to the numerous other titles that get released into the racing genre on a yearly basis?

Rather than cater itself to the various arcade like racers on the Xbox One, the guys at Slightly Mad Studios decided to build something more true to life: a realistic simulator. 'Project Cars' is an attempt to emulate the real life cars that get driven by professional racers every day. The developers wanted to make a game that could be used for true to life simulation purposes.

Not having to kowtow to traditional financiers, Slightly Mad Studios was able to do whatever they wanted with their game. As long as the fans signed off on the idea, it was put into motion. With the rise of virtual reality, namely in the form of the Occulis Rift, it was an obvious fit to get 'Project Cars' involved. Virtual reality headsets are becoming more and more accepted in the gaming world and tests have been done in order to incorporate the system into 'Project Cars'. Just imagine getting on the game and actually feeling like you are in the drivers seat. This would change the way we interact in racing games if it is done well. Imagine the illusion of speed and the heart pumping moments where you are head to head with an equally fast opponent.

The title was developed using the Madness engine and that means that the game will play as realistically as possible. This means that you need to think of context when you are deciding what vehicle you want to drive. Picking the proper car for the proper situations can lead to good results, while forcing the wrong car into a race will yield predictably bad results.

We love the idea of an immersive and realistic car simulator. We love driving and we love racing and we hate feeling cheated if we drive well. The developers included a range of difficulty options for gamers to customize how difficult the game is. Bumping the difficulty up will make you more responsible for certain things while you drive. Do you know how to shift? We hope so. Making the difficulty easier will stream line the actual handling of the car and make the experience more arcade like.

'Project Cars' on the Xbox One is a uniquely sandbox experience. What we mean by that is you have the ability to pick which direction you want your career to go. Pick your motorsport and then pick your car. Go through the motions of prepping for a race: qualifying runs, shakedowns, and end the end the actual race itself. Keep an eye out for the weather is acting and pay attention to lighting. Work well with your pit crew and reap the benefits of a tightly driven race.

Racing games tend to last quite awhile due to the re-playability of unpredictable races. Fortunately we don't have to rely on chaos to keep this game interesting. According to the numbers released by the developers there are over 50 different race tracks to experience. You'll see dirt tracks, circuit tracks, and everything in between. Along with these different tracks you will also have access to 70 different cars. We haven't heard much about DLC or online support outside of the fact that we know both are coming along.

'Project Cars' for the Xbox One is looking to change the way we experience our racing simulators. We can't wait to see how the game releases and just how much fun it brings to the table.

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Posted:
2015-03-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

6.2

'NBA Live 14' on the Xbox One is a basketball simulation video game developed by EA Tiburon and published by Activision on the next gen consoles.

The 'NBA Live' series, developed by EA Tiburon, has been considered one of the only legitimate points of competition for the revered 'NBA 2K' series that is released every year. So when the series went off the radar for a couple of years, presumably so the company could get themselves together for a new release, basketball video game fans were rightfully worried. Having competition keeps these sorts of games thriving. When 'Madden' lost its primary competition in the 'NFL 2K' series, the game went on to become a placid caricature of itself. That isn't to say it is bad, but that it didn't need to evolve upon itself. There was no competition. So when 'NBA Live 14' was announced for the Xbox One we were rightfully excited. Here was a chance for us to get on the hardwood via a different company. Here was a chance for something special.

We were so wrong.

With Kyrie Irving adorning the cover of the game (he would later go on to miss most of the season that year with an injury) we gleefully unwrapped the packing. Throwing the disc into our Xbox disc tray, we then ran back to our couch and turned up the volume. A few moments later we were being hit with an awesome looking rendered introduction video of our favorite basketball players hooping on the court. LeBron James looked amazing going to the rim, Irving spun into the lane for a crazy lay up, and Derrick Rose added his own two handed dunk. The music and animation brought us in and we thought for sure, for absolutely sure, that we were about to get something special. After three years of development this game was going to be pretty incredible. We were ready to pledge allegiance to the 'Live' franchise without even trying 'NBA 2K14'.

We opted to dive straight into exhibition game play so as to get a feel for how the game checked out. We wanted to know how the ball handled in our hands before we dove into the deeper game modes. A moment later we were in Madison Square Garden as the New York Knicks ready to take on the Miami Heat. The stadium looked pretty good and the players themselves looked awesome, but something was just flat about the presentation. We know that the 'Live' series has always taken a backseat to '2K' in that regard but we didn't expect it to be so... dull.

Once on the court the game came back to us quickly. Using the right trigger you could implement the 'revolutionary' new BounceTek dribble system. There were no tutorials put in place to teach us how to use this feature but we managed to find our way around it before too long. Using a good ball handler we were able to hit the BounceTek stick at the right time in order to do some pretty cool moves while attacking the basket.

The basic core of a strong basketball game is on hand for those that were looking for it. You can dribble, drive, dunk, and shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. Attacking the rim felt pretty good and dunks resonated in our hands. The animations and physics of the net oddly stole the show for us as every shot seemed unique once it got through the bucket.

We ended our exhibition at half time and decided to move on to something new. We didn't hate our first experience with the game but we definitely felt like something was a little bit off. Shaking that vibe we headed over to check out the different game modes available.

While 'NBA 2K' was winning over legions of fans for their wonderful MyCareer mode, the guys at EA Tiburon were developing their own answer with the 'Rising Star' mode. Rising Star is essentially a clone of the MyCareer mode and it is a poorly made one at that. Once you start into the game mode you get to do a few minor customizations of your created character before you are launched into the draft. You eventually land on a pro team where you are then graded for every action you communicate while out on the court. Perform well and gain points so that you can upgrade your stats. The skeleton of a fun game mode was here but it lacked the flash and depth of the MyCareer mode that most of us had fallen in love with. And that sort of defined the other game modes as well (Exhibition, Franchise). We saw what we should be enjoying, but there was never anything more complicated underneath.

Now that we were starting to realize how mediocre the game was we decided to head to the online mode. If there was once place where the developers could not ruin the experience, it would be on the internet. We quickly realized this was a mistake.

Trying to play online was akin to running through a pool full of honey. Everything pushed against you and before long you would be too frustrated to even try playing the game. Lag was constant and connecting with random people was almost impossible. Once you WERE in the game you would have to contend with cheap opponents and unrealistic decisions by the AI around you. We quickly put the online mode in the garbage and walked away from it.

While this review sounds pretty harsh we do have some kind words for the Live Season mode. This Live Season mode allows you to play alongside the current NBA season, updating as things happen in real life. it was a cool way to keep things fresh but we have a feeling that, as the next title gets ready to release, it will quit being maintained--thus dashing the one redeeming feature of the title.

'NBA Live 14' on the Xbox One ended up being one of the most disappointing games we played this year. Everything was in its corner for it to be a success, but nothing came together in the end. On the other hand 'NBA 2k14' ended up being our favorite sports game to be released.

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Posted:
2015-04-02

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

9.1

'Evolve' on the Xbox One was developed by the guys at Turtle Rock Studios for all of the major next generation consoles including the personal computer and the PlayStation 4. Published by 2K games and distributed by Take-Two Interactive, 'Evolve' launched to both critical and commercial success. The game was released in February of 2015 with the goal of being one of the best XB1 multiplayer experiences available. We got to get our hands on the XB1 version of the game and before long we found ourselves completely immersed in the world that Turtle Rock had developed. While the game definitely isn't for anyone, we found a lot to love about the title. Keep on reading to see if you would agree with our assessment.

'Evolve' takes place on the planet Shear, which is located in the far reaches of space. In this time period humanity has mastered interstellar travel and they are using the technology in order to colonize any inhabitable planets that they come across. The colonies that make it to Shear are considered to be the most valuable colonies in the 'Far Arm' of space, so humanity is appropriately freaked out when monsters come from nowhere in order to attack the colonists. These creatures range in size from diminutive all the way to monstrous, and they seem intent on satiating their blood lust. As the monsters press their advantage in destroying the colonies, a planet tamer named William Cabot is brought in to deal with the issue. Cabot is charged with killing the monsters while evacuating the colonists that are still alive. In order to do this job he needs to get together a harden group of warriors to help him. These warriors consist of war vets, expendables, legitimate psychopaths, and professionals of every trade. The story itself is rather simple to follow, somewhat like 'Jurassic Park' in space, but it is intriguing enough to get gamers on the edge of their seats in order to play.

'Evolve' is a game that will appeal to only a certain demographic of people. The fact that it is a rich looking, fascinating, multiplayer game will get many gamers on board. The fact that it is ONLY a multiplayer game will also push many people away. We chose to dive in and look at what was so fun about the various multiplayer modes that the game offered, and this is what we found out.

Hunt

This is the simplest and most straightforward of all the different game modes that 'Evolve' has on offer. In this mode the human players are split into two teams. You have the four player controlled Hunters and a fifth player controlled monster. The goal of the Hunters is to kill the monster before it can get to the central power relay in order to destroy it. In order for the monster to destroy the relay it must evolve into its third stage. Otherwise the monster can try and kill all human players in order to win that way.

Nest

In this mode strategy is put on the forefront. There are six different monster eggs randomly spawned all over the map. The player who controls the monster must protect them all for 18 minutes. The player controlled monster can opt to hatch any of its eggs in order to help defend the rest of the eggs. the Hunters either kill all of the eggs, or get defeated themselves. This mode involves a lot of tough choices while both teams scurry to get the leg up on one another.

Rescue

The colonists in the aforementioned story finally make an appearance in this game mode. In 'Rescue' all player controlled characters are once again split into teams: hunters and monsters. In this game mode colonists will be randomly placed all over the map. The hunters must locate, revive, and protect as many of them as possible while they try to escape. The monsters are out for blood and if they kill five colonists before the Hunters save five, then they win the game.

Defend

In this game mode Hunter characters will protect a refueling station from the incoming fully evolved monsters. The monster players will try to destroy the power generators while the Hunters try to protect them until they are fully powered.

As you can see, there are many ways to enjoy playing multiplayer in 'Evolve'. In fact, you can even decide how it is going to be for you when you play. You have the option to 'Quick Play' join games. This enables you to enjoy single matches without a commitment for longer matches. Or you can join in on the 'Evacuation' mode which creates a story mode out of a five map contest against other players. There are normally five player controlled characters total, but if you lack anybody you can appropriate computer controlled bots to fill out the rest of the team.

Looking past the multiplayer aspect of the game we can talk briefly about how it all controls. The game itself is a shooter and the combat is intensely in focus, due to the nature of the game. This is all meat and potatoes here, full of starch, and you aren't getting much more tha nwhat you see on the back cover. The game handles tightly and the weapons are a joy to fire. we liked breaking down the strategy behind being the lone monster, but it was always more fun to work as the Hunters due to the human teammates that you had.

The game itself looks pretty great, with most of the attention being paid to the character models of the different stages of the monsters. For a science fiction game we found it pretty grounded, without any fanciful or far reaching levels--which was interesting. Most of the action takes place in and around Shear.

While 'Evolve' on the Xbox One is a rather lean experience, lasting only as long as you want to play with your buddies, it is still a fun one. We enjoyed our time with the game and would suggest it to social gamers.

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Posted:
2015-03-19

Darren_Summerell

Writer

PS4

7.8

'Destiny' on the PlayStation 4 is a first-person shooter video game developed by Bungie and published by Activision. The game was released on the PlayStation 4 on September 9, 2014.

When 'Destiny' was first announced it had to deal with the fact that it would be obviously compared to the almost mythical 'Halo' franchise that developers Bungie made so popular. So knowing that this would be the case Bungie decided to go out of their way to try and mark a completely new experience. We grabbed the PS4 version of the game and decided to jump into this new world and IP by such a reputable company. While we weren't sold on the concept at first, it definitely grew on us as we played. Keep reading to find out if this game will be in your hands in the near future.

A flawed experimentation.

When 'Destiny' was announced we were burdened with almost incomprehensible expectations by readers all over the gaming world. 'Destiny' had to bank off of the 'Halo' franchise without ever catering to those fans. The developers at Bungie were being watched closely. Would they just rehash their old ideas in order to get another pay check? Fortunately moments after putting the game in, we were certain that we were in for a whole new ride.

The game takes place in the far and distant future. Humanity is coming off of the most prosperous time of all existence. After discovering a benevolent celestial being by the name of 'The Traveler', humanity is given the gift of knowledge and a golden age soon follows. From there humans spread out across the galaxy, far and wide, colonizing planets as they come across them. Then a vile darkness begins to spread, an enemy to 'The Traveler'. Soon humanity is pushed to the brink of extinction with the only survivors being those who were at Earth, under protection of 'The Traveler'. Now all of humanity lives inside of a single city named The Tower and it is there that we see our race begin to fight back, pushing against those great forces of darkness.

That is pretty much the gist of the story and all you need to know in order to operate proficiently in this new world. While the story teeters on the edge of melodrama, it still has enough of a hook to keep us interested. While much of the story has been rehashed from other mediums, we didn't pay it too much attention. A weak story has followed Bungie's work no matter where they have gone and we fully expected that to be the case here.

One of our biggest issues, and the most resonating gripe we've seen parroted around the internet, is that the game lacks a good character to latch onto. 'Halo' had Master Chief and the character quickly became an icon. There is nobody in 'Destiny' that we really cared about. Throughout the meandering story you get introduced to new characters only to see them dropped off the face of the Earth in the next section. We don't stand out as interesting characters in the game and even the enemies, easiest of all to make interesting, pass by in a bland way.

Fortunately 'Destiny' plays beautifully and that is where we found most of our joy coming from during our experimentation with the title. 'Destiny' itself works like a FPS mashed with some elements of the traditional RPG. A minute with the game will show you that the shooting, melee, and power controls are ripped straight out of the 'Halo' guide to efficiency. Everything controls naturally and it is easy to engage in strategic firefights. The action is fast paced and you are always looking for new ways to take out your opponent while never allowing them to get the drop on you.

In 'Destiny' you have the choice between three different classes: The Titan, Hunter, and Warlock. Each class comes geared with its own subclass and that subclass allows you to reach new heights in your customization. This is where we see the heaviest aspects of the RPG element glow through. Every class has their own special abilities and moves that are kept in check by a cool down mechanism that keeps you from spamming them. The three different classes we listed above are well designed and balanced. You can play each one of them and get a different experience each time.

'Destiny' puts a heavy emphasis on the world of PvE (Player versus Everything) and it is definitely pulling inspiration from some of the legendary MMOs of our time. You can travel to four different hubs (Earth, Venus, Mars, and the Moon) and from there you can explore different environments. These environments are filled to the brim with new enemies, side missions, loot caches, and collectable materials to either utilize or sell away from cash. You'll run across different players as you roll through these hubs and these instances help to breathe life to what, at times, feels like a solitary experience in a multiplayer world.

When you accept missions in these hubs you are put into an instanced (read: alone) world. There you will complete the mission by yourself, without any interference from other plays that are currently online. Complete the mission and you will eventually get bumped back out to the general instance. Party up with other players to tackle harder missions or go at them alone to test your skills.

'Destiny' puts a heavy emphasis on finding your own way through the leveling system. Each time that you level up you will see your base stats rise and you will also unlock new gear. Learn new skills with experience points and work on filling out your different subclasses. The more you are leveled up the more powerful you are able to be on the battlefield.

While we had definite reservations during our time with 'Destiny', we couldn't help but feel that the experience was rewarding us. The fast paced, action oriented gameplay worked well and we loved having other players in the same world as us. This isn't a unique experience, but it is definitely something to consider for those needing a console based MMO.

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Posted:
2015-03-27

Darren_Summerell

Writer

Xbox One

7.5

'Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires' on the Xbox One is action hack n' slash video game, the publishers at Tecmo Koei have been making a killing for years with their cult classic, 'Warriors' series. At the head of the hack n' slash genre has always been 'Dynasty Warriors'. Last year we finally got a chance to see 'Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires' make its Xbox One debut. Omega Force was once again at the helm of the development phase and we had a lot of good vibes coming into this title. The past couple of releases by Omega Force had been solid and we saw little reason as to why they couldn't work some magic here. What we found instead was a maddening case of inconsistencies. Some points of the game felt like the best 'Warriors' title we've played. Other segments made us want to put the controller down. Keep on reading to find out which side of the battle you will land on.

What instantly appealed to us about 'Dynasty Warriors 8' was the fact that the series was making the jump to the next generation of consoles. For years the series has tried to do too much without having the hardware available to knock it out of the park. We hated seeing the old games age poorly due to the fact that the engine couldn't keep pace with the scope of the product. So with the Xbox One hardware at their backing, we anticipated that Omega Force would be able to do exactly what they wanted with the game.

'Empires' is set in the same story as the other 'Dynasty Warriors' titles. You fall into the action in the middle of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms era of China. During this period, in the game and real life, great warriors took up arms across epic battlefields in order to take control of their destinies to cement the dynasties of the men they fought for. The game obviously ramps up the melodrama to the next level and the inclusion of almost supernatural abilities makes for a more entertaining gaming experience.

Where 'DW8' decides to swerve is in relation to the tertiary gameplay. At its core this title still has all of the legendary hack and slash elements that the other 'Warriors' games made so popular. But instead of just bloodying your sword through countless fighters across multiple levels, you have to fight with your mind a little bit too. There are moments where strategy will come in handy on the battlefield. More importantly, there are times when strategy will play a big part of what you do OUTSIDE of the battlefield to. In the game you now have the ability to make alliances, fortify resources, invade your neighbors, or defend your territories from invasion. There are a host of new strategic actions you can take in order to bolster the dynasty that you fight for, depending on which fighter you choose.

And boy are there fighters to choose from. In 'Empires' players now have the option to choose between one of any 83 playable characters. Each character has their own unique look, weapon, and maneuvers though some tend to blend together on the fringes. Once on the battle field you will be able to try the different characters out. You will see some fighters with dual blades, others with giant swords, and still others with long armed weapons. With over 500 different weapons in the game there are many different ways for you to take the combat portion of the game to the next level. The fact that you have so many fighters to choose from is pretty darn awesome. When you get bored of playing with one warrior go ahead and taste the same game from a new perspective with a different one.

When you boot up the title you will have the option to choose from five different levels of difficulty. The fact that you will be fighting through hundreds of enemies at a time should tell you how hard the game is even on easy mode. Ramping up the difficulty will give you a bit more longevity but it will come at the expense of frustration, as cheap shots will be thrown at you with fervor. So choose your difficulty wisely when you first start to play the game as it will primarily drive how you react to the whole experience.

One of our favorite new additions to this game was the RPG like elements. We briefly talked about how you can control your country and your armies, but the game goes even deeper than that. As you level up your army your hero becomes even stronger. Make your hero marry and he/she will eventually have children. As the years go by in the game the children will grow up and some of them will become generals in your military. This was a feature that nobody asked for and something we didn't even realize we would like until we had it. And we do like it.

As with all 'Dynasty Warriors' titles the problems are pretty much the same. Tecmo Koei again puts more on the plate than the XB1 can gracefully handle. Battles sometimes have stuttering action in the background. While the graphics are the best they've ever been, some of the textures on the masses of your enemies repeat themselves. While we don't need or want 500 unique character models, it would be nice to see a little bit of a variety in the armies that surround us on the battlefield.

The hack and slash element is as good as ever. It's delightful to slash our way through hordes of enemies. The added depth of the 'control hub' adds some much needed strategy to the game, but on the battlefield things aren't very different. We don't want a 'deep' experience out of 'DW8' but it would have been nice to see something special here.

At the end of the day 'Dynasty Warriors 8: Empires' gives Xbox One fans exactly what they'd expect. The game is fun and even addicting for awhile, before the repetition starts to aggravate.


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