28 May 2016

"Let us now try and get our little grey cells to work..."

Based on a Agatha Christie's novel of the same name, The ABC Murders pits famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot against an apparent serial killer who challenges Poirot for a deadly game of wits. As often is the case with Christie's novels, nothing isn't quite as it first seems like and The ABC Murders the game holds your attention tightly all the way to the unmasking of the culprit. Intrigue details, interrogations, observations, puzzles and jogging your little grey cells are all there, if rather rudimentarily presented but still strangely engaging.

The ABC Murders is audiovisually lacking for sure, with rather naive character models and stiff animations constantly interrupted by loading screens and the voice acting won't win any awards but these type of games are all but vanished by now. In 90's, the heyday of adventure and mystery games, ABC Murders would perhaps have drowned in the sea of mediocrity but these days it's its mediocrity which actually is refreshening. Any cerebral gamer should at least give the game a chance and who knows, maybe you'll be spiritually redeemed and seek out for games of similar ilk instead of the next big-budget movie-wannabe.

Verdict: visually maybe lacking but cerebrally engaging whodunnit

//Planeteer J

25 May 2016


I saw someone asking is there any reason to play Blizzard Entertainment's new team-based online FPS Overwatch, like are there any real rewards apart from cosmetics. Well, no. Loot boxes you gain (or buy via microtransactions) contain victory poses, skins, voice lines, player icons and graffiti tags, nothing to enhance character abilities or your playing.

So, is there any reason to play Overwatch then? Yes. And then some. Why? Just for the fun of it. Yes, you read it right: Just for the fun of it!

These days when video games try to be more than they really are, fancying themselves as movies or something else falling in the self-deceiving category of "bigger than life", Blizzard reminds us all why we fell in love with video games in the first place. It's not for elaborate stories, flashy cut scenes or anything of the same ilk. Just for the pure fun and the sheer playability evoking that fun.

Add nothing short of perfect art design and flawless technical execution to the mix and Overwatch becomes the funniest and the most satisfying online shooter you'll ever come by with truckloads of personality and variety.

Verdict: Supercalifragilistic!

//planeteer P

23 May 2016

Nathan is a bit tired

So, Uncharted 4. A perfect 10 game? At least according to the reviews. But as with many "perfect 10" games, the truth is not out there. It's in the game.

I enjoyed the original Uncharted trilogy. I have played each installment through more than once. Uncharted 4 just doesn't feel right. It's not a bad game. It's a mediocre, linear, tired and boring action adventure. There just isn't any heart in it.

First of all, I must question why Victor Sullivan wasn't worthy enough to be Nathan's sidekick anymore? Sure, he's featured here and there but still. Instead Bruce Straley and Neil Druckmann, the duo who smoked Uncharted creator Amy Hennig out of Naughty Dog offices, have summoned out of a thin air Nathan's big brother Sam who has been never so much as hinted of before. Why? To give Troy Baker a starring role. And he delivers yet another pretentious and uninspired performance. He's been like that ever since he became a voice acting star. He was good before, mind you.

Now that I mentioned bad performances, I must mention Laura Bailey specially. She's not a black woman and it's insulting she tries to sound like one. She fails. It's the tone of the voice that's missing and her ham acting surely doesn't help things.

Cutscenes. All seven hours of them. All rendered in consistently flat lighting and dull direction showing no visual sense just drag on and on. Pointless dialogue and dire performances through wooden character models straight out of the uncanny valley really aren't worth of airtime they get. It's evident Naughty Dog love their own work as nothing's been edited.

When you eventually start skipping cutscenes, you'll realize how little of actual game there is and how boring that little is. All scenes drag and the repetitive and hopelessly linear nature of gameplay can't stand it. Naughty Dog has tried to spirit up things by borrowing elements from Metal Gear Solid 5 (tagging enemies) and both from old Tomb Raider games (most of the puzzle mechanics) and the new Tomb Raider series (grappling hook and other movement enhancing mechanics) but instead they should have kept things exciting and have some professional as narrative director to cut all the unnecessary bits - which there are lots.

Uncharted 4 was also supposed to be a graphic showcase but visually it's flat and uninspiring. Apparently Naughty Dog's engine can't render dynamic light sources, unlike Frostbite 3 or AnvilNext. Uncharted 4 pales in comparison to some graphically more advanced games, like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed: Syndicate and Dragon Age Inquisition.

Spoilers: Nathan doesn't die. Nor Sam. It was just a marketing ploy, the title "Thief's end" and all that fuss about how it's hard to imagine Nathan Drake embarking on another journey ever after. Instead they create opportunities for dozens of sequels, starring either Nathan or Sam. Uncharted 4 isn't the end. It's only a beginning. But with Uncharted 4 getting perfect review scores, Naughty Dog surely aren't learning from its mistakes.

Verdict: Uncharted 4 makes a bad movie and a mediocre game.

//planeteer J

1 May 2016

Awkward Knight

I loaned Batman: Arkham Knight for Xbox One from the library so I decided to drop a few words about it. I have never been a fan of Rocksteady's critically-acclaimed Batman-series. I own both Asylum and City and have started playing them on several occasions but they haven't motivated me enough to spend any more time with them. I find them chunky and unintuitive to play.

Arkham Knight is no exception. It's clumsy, cumbersome and too somber for its own good. I get this feeling the game is playing me rather than I'm playing the game. The control scheme is overly complicated and indeed the game has to constantly remind of its functions on the screen, breaking any flow and immersion you wished for.

It's always raining in Gotham's eternal night.

Most of the time you really don't need to think about solutions to solve different situations as the game is always quick to tell you how to do it via showing necessary controls. You can turn off the hints but you can't turn off this HUD. Those occasions the batmobile is mandatorily called for get laughable proportions. Or how do you feel about platforming with the batmobile on rooftops? The same principle plagues the game throughout. It guides you by the hand and while you are seemingly free to roam, coining the game an open world experience can't hide its linear gameplay.

Batman: Arkham Knight further adamants the fact Arkham-series just isn't for me.

//Planeteer J