Doom (2016) Overview

•May 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/28/Doom_Cover.jpg

It certainly has been quite a while since there has been a new Doom. After more than ten years I really had some concerns about what kind of game the new Doom was going to be. It switched hands and probably got redesigned a few times so it could have potentially become a Duke Nukem Forever, or a Max Payne 3. Thankfully it ended up being the latter and not the former and it was quite a success.

The new Doom seems to have heavily borrowed a lot of elements from Wolfenstein TNO, so if you have played either TNO (The New Order) or TOB (The Old Blood) it will feel quite natural to you. It also borrowed some elements from the Quake series (Quake 3 and Quake 4) which are already in the same vein as other ID Tech games so that wasn’t a surprise at all. It looks like Doom 3 but it doesn’t really feel like it at all. The borrowed elements are quite welcome, but they turn doom into more of a fast-paced action game then the horror survival angle that Doom 3 went for. This Doom feels much more like the classic Doom 1 and 2 games in design. You start off a little bit slow and then it quickly starts getting crazy after a couple of levels.

Each of the missions has a set mission, goal, but every level each has its own special set of challenges and secrets that are optional side quests. These optional challenges will unlock weapon points that allow you to upgrade each of your guns which allows for added versatility and more power. Similar to TNO each of the weapons has a mod (actually 2 mods) that allow the gun to be used in two different kinds of ways depending on your playstyle. Some of the mods add more power to the weapon, some of the mods add scopes for long range, and some of the mods add an explosive or multi shot option.

All of the guns have 2 mods that need to be found and then the mod unlocks a couple of additional perks for that gun. You have to complete a particular set of requirements in order to unlock the perk. Luckily you can switch between the mods whenever you want as long as you have unlocked them. The mods are found scattered around the level and you can pick which weapon you want to unlock the mod for when you find a mod. There are enough mods to unlock all the weapons in the game but it is unlikely you will find all of the mods on your first playthrough. You don’t need to have them to beat the game but they usually make things a lot easier. In every level there were usually one or two mods to be found, the first one was usually pretty easy to find while the other ones could be pretty tricky.

In addition to the weapon mods there are also Armor mods, both of which are a welcome change. The armor mods allow you to upgrade 4 categories in your armor suit which each have their own special set of uses. One category gives you increased exploration perks and allows you to find hidden secrets more easily, another category gives you more perks when messing with powers, a third perk gives you environment resistance upgrades, and the final category increases your speed when doing certain things. These armor upgrades were scattered around the levels in the form of Protean keys that you found on special elite guards. Once again there are enough of these in the game in order for you to be able to fully unlock all of the upgrades but without the exploration perk fully unlocked most likely you won’t find all of the upgrades unless you are extremely good at treasure hunting.

Then there were a third set of upgrades that were scattered around the level which allowed you to further boost your health, armor, and ammo capacity to more or less double what the initial amount was, and they are permanent upgrades. These are glowing red balls of pure argent energy that your suit just seems to love. Like the others there are just enough of them to be able to upgrade all of the skills eventually.

If you are really having trouble locating the upgrades and items the final set of upgrades in the exploration pack set of the armor upgrades will reveal the location of most of the items that are scattered around the various levels and it will tick off what you have already unlocked but unfortunately it isn’t all that good for locating secrets.

There are powers that give temporary bonuses, in a kind of Quake 3/4 reminiscent style you will find them as floating orbs around some of the levels. The powers will be familiar to returning Doom and Quake fans like haste, and berserk mode but they cannot be unlocked they are just bonuses that appear in the levels and will help for the particular area that you are currently facing. Often one of the missions challenges will involve using one of these bonus power-ups, and you will complete certain areas faster or more easily by using the power-up suggested for it.

Lastly there are runes. The runes augment your abilities and unlock special bonuses that give passive boosts once you have completed the optional requirements for them. The runes are usually hidden around the levels and you have to complete a challenge in order to even unlock access to the rune. Once you have beaten the challenge the rune is unlocked in your rune circle and you can select it from the menu. At first you can only have one rune unlocked but eventually you can have up to three runes simultaneously active at any time. Each of the runes has a default set of bonuses, but once you have completed the prerequisite for that particular rune it will unlock a second level with a significantly improved always on passive bonus. Some of them enhance your agility, some of them increase the rates of certain items dropping, some increase your speed it’s a mixed bag really. I preferred increased ammo drop, speedy fatalities, and death be gone one time. Which ones you prefer and select depend greatly on your playstyle.

Once you have damaged an enemy enough they will enter a special flashing fatality mode. You can attack them with melee and you will execute a finishing move on them depending on what angle you are attacking them from. By doing this you will gain large amounts of health and often other bonuses as well. If you do not kill them while they are in this flashing mode they will recover and you will have to fight them again.

The story in the Doom games has never been very deep, and this one isn’t really an exception. Rather predictably someone has managed to open a portal into hell, hell has escaped and it’s basically up to you to stop the demons and close the portal again. There is less of an introduction than there was for Doom 3, this feels much more similar to Doom 1 or Doom 2.

The lore for this Doom is slightly deeper than previous Doom games and there is added information to unlock and further backstory to the Doom marine (particularly) once you arrive in Hell. Sadly the audiologs from Doom 3 didn’t make a reappearance but there is still plenty of things to read about once you have encountered them, and the additional data is discovered in the form of datalogs. You will learn some of the basic backstory to most of the levels and enemies that appear just by playing through the normal game but if you want to fully understand the lore behind that particular item you will have to further unlock datalogs that are found around the levels. There aren’t very many characters you will have to pay attention to so it’s pretty easy to understand the story behind this. Not like story was ever ID Tech’s forte either so I didn’t have high expectations in this department. The story for this Doom is simple and straightforward.

The graphics in this Doom certainly shine. They built off of the already pretty engine for Wolfenstein’s TOB and TNO, but took the look and feel of Doom 3 but gave it a TNO makeover and it looks fantastic. The game scales incredibly well on PC hardware, and maintained 60 FPS comfortably on a 970 gtx and a 3570K. The textures in the game perhaps weren’t quite as detailed as the ones in Wolfenstein were but they were certainly a huge improvement over any of the previous titles in the ID repertoire. I’ve played it on PS4 as well and I can’t honestly say that there is a gigantic difference between the PC settings and the console settings but there are certainly subtle differences, especially in the aftereffects. The recent ID games look extremely good without requiring that strong of hardware to run it on. I remember I ran TNO on my old 8800 GTX/Q6600 and that ran very acceptably, and while it certainly does look vastly better on the 970 it’s not like the Witcher or Crysis where the difference between Medium High and Ultra settings is incredibly obvious, it is rather subtle. I noticed it definitely used a lot more VRAM than any of the previous ID games, but it ran very smooth and fluid.

There is multiplayer in this Doom. It feels rather similar to the Quake 3 or Unreal Tournament. There are a bunch of different maps and modes but most of the content in the multiplayer is locked behind DLC. You have levels that you gain by killing enemies and there are team based maps. I played enough of it to unlock the basic multiplayer trophies but I didn’t play it for very long. It’s pretty neat that you can transform into certain demons and gain unique special abilities. You can also unlock custom pieces of armor for a specific set but the majority of these have to be bought in the DLC. You also unlock special powers for your character based on your level which can make it a bit unbalanced if you are playing against very high level opponents. It honestly doesn’t feel very different from Halo multiplayer or Unreal tournament.

There are plenty of secrets to be found scattered around Doom. You have the data logs which will provide more information for the majority of your enemies and it will also give you background information on the maps and characters. You also have the argent cells which boost your storage capabilities. You also have the keys you pick up off the elite guards which let you upgrade the suits powers. There are runes which increase your passive and active skills. Finally there are also secrets which contain weapons before you would normally get them, and also upgrades that might be useful to you at that particular point. Once you have beaten the game there really isn’t much in the way of post endgame unlockables but you can replay any level with your current set of upgrades and you can work at locating all the collectibles on the map. You do unlock the harder difficulties after beating the first game (nightmare and ultra-nightmare). I find it slightly amusing that they give you a trophy for beating the first level on ultra nightmare but no trophy for beating the entire game on ultra nightmare.

I wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t scrapped it and rebuilt the whole game when Bethesda took over, a friend of mine lamented that the original Doom 4 concepts got tossed out. I too am a little curious to see what the original idea might have looked like versus what the final product ended up being, but at the same time after 10 years hiatus I feel they could have done a lot worse, and I don’t mind the current finish. I remember back when the Doom 3 beta came out and that too ended up being very different than the final finished Doom 3…whether it changed for the better or for the worse I guess we will never find out although i’m very happy with Doom 4 as it is. There was a bit more action and it was faster pace than I was expecting Doom to be but it was a welcome change and they managed to incorporate the game-play pretty well. The scary jumpy factor seems to be pretty much gone (although try playing it on ultra nightmare and you might find yourself getting a feeling reminiscent of playing the original Doom 3 on nightmare mode). If you enjoy other Doom or Wolfenstein games then you will almost certainly enjoy this one.

 

 

Uncharted Golden Abyss Overview V2.0

•March 19, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I remember when the vita was released this was one of the first games to showcase the system. It was also one of the launch games. I bought the uncharted bundle and I bought it more or less just for Golden Abyss. I bought mine in early 2012. It was in Seoul and I didn’t really have access to internet at the time but I did see it in person. It was a gorgeous game then, and it is still stands up extremely well over 5 years later.  I did actually write a review for it when I first played it. That you can find here: Uncharted Review 1.0. I almost completely forgot about it however, and this one is based on my second playthrough that I finished this month. Let’s call it Overview 2.0

The gameplay is more or less what you would expect from an uncharted game. You have Drake who can hop, climb and shoot his way through almost any situation. It really is just like having a miniature portable version of Uncharted 1 honestly. The levels are lush and full of scenery. There are still a lot of enemies, but you don’t get the same kind of waves that you do in the PS3 counterparts. Aside from the touch controls and the gyro balance sensors the gameplay is exactly like the game play of Uncharted 1/2/3 on ps3. If you haven’t played any of the Uncharted series then I would say the gameplay is something like a cross between a Tomb Raider game/Indiana Jones game, and a Gears of War game. Uncharted borrows elements from all 3 of these. New to the series is the camera allows you to take pictures of most non-combat scenes. It gets stored in the journal and it also gets stored as a screenshot in the Vita which you can share the picture via email if you configure the Vita to use an email account.

The story in Golden Abyss is also pretty much what you would expect from any of the other uncharted games, there is the usual assortment of allies and enemies and Drake is once again in the middle of a jungle looking for clues and artifacts. Drake kind of gets roped into this one by Chase and Dante.I think it stands on its own and could be considered a full entry in the Uncharted saga. Dante and Chase are both fun characters, it really feels more like Drake is the sidekick this time around and Chase is the one driving the story. It still manages to be pretty entertaining and interesting though. Overall it kind of feels like a side spinoff coming from Uncharted 1.

I honestly didn’t expect that much from the Vita after owning its predecessor the PSP (I had a Peace Walker PSP-2000) but I was really impressed with the Vita when I saw it in person based almost purely on Uncharted Golden Abyss (which was being demoed instore at the time). It looks vastly better than a PS2 game, and it looks way better than a PSP game. It looks nearly as good as a PS3 game might but it doesn’t quite reach the same level. I would have said it has the background of a PS3 Uncharted game but the models themselves aren’t at the same level as Uncharted 2 but they might be almost comparable to Uncharted 1. They are certainly on par with other games on the PS3 system but they look fantastic thanks to the OLED screen.It is easy to just stop on one of the cliff levels and just look around, even objects in the far distance are animated and it looks really pretty.

The animations are pretty smooth. For the majority of the game it looks to be running at a pretty solid 30 fps but there are certain points when it obviously drops. Considering the output and the hardware, it’s still an impressive achievement that they got it to look that pretty but still run so smoothly most of the time. Some of the later levels lagged a bit or when there were a lot of enemies or there were big explosions on screen but it didn’t compromise the experience. The water looked amazing.

This is a brand new area for the uncharted series (although it wouldn’t surprise me if Uncharted 4 implemented a similar sort of system with the ps4 touch controller). The vita has both touchscreen on the front and it has a touch sensitive area on the back so it naturally lends itself to touching. You often have to use the touchscreen. A lot of things can be controlled with the buttons the same way you would control drake in the ps3 games, but the gyroscope definitely makes things a little bit trickier. If you enter aiming mode with a gun or the camera, the whole screen will be tilted with even the simplest of movements, and it can make precise aiming really difficult even though it was probably meant to help. The game has plenty of moments during cut scenes when it will suddenly without warning force you to make a tomb raider style catch or movement that will be really unexpected. It takes you out of the experience and more often than not you won’t see it coming and you will die and you will have to restart the entire cut scene. You can’t really turn it off either. It was a neat thing to implement but it is also a bit annoying without any hints or warnings (those final boss fights). The touch screen is also used to create charcoal rubbings of statues and clean dirt off of artifacts which is a cool idea that is a much better use of the touchscreen. It feels like they tried a little bit too hard to make you use the touchscreen controls. Most of the things they tried to implement work pretty well but without an option to turn them off they go from nifty to annoying.

There isn’t any multiplayer in Uncharted Golden Abyss.

Unlike the other uncharted games, there isn’t really any secret unlockables or fun filters. There aren’t any cheat codes for infinite ammo or change of costumes like there are in the other Uncharted games. Once you have found an artifact or a charcoal rubbing you can look at it anytime in the collections menu and Drake has something entertaining to say about it usually. The collectibles are arranged in a rather interesting mosaic and they are categorized by type time period (although many of the pieces will be scattered all over the game). You will have one mosaic that has pieces in it that cannot possibly be completed until you have beaten the game even though the mosaic is from the first chapter of the game. The game is rather helpful however, and if you click on a missing icon of a collectible it will give you a hint as to where to find it. The other Uncharted games don’t do that. The Mosaic time period is a combination of artifacts that have be found and dusted off, charcoal rubbings, and pictures that have to be taken at certain locations with the camera. There’s also a third subsection of collectibles that are gems or statues so there is actually a lot of things to collect but there aren’t really any rewards beyond trophies for getting them.

It’s a real shame that Sony only made a couple of dedicated exclusives for the vita that weren’t just portable ports of the PS3/PS4 counterparts. This is one of the few games that was not made by Sony/Naughty Dog but I would still say is good enough to be part of the core Uncharted game experience. It is really rare that the portable Sony consoles make an exclusive standalone to an existing series that can stand apart on its own and be classified as a critical part of the series. It was a wonderful way to show what the vita is truly capable of but unfortunately Sony hasn’t really taken advantage of the system and now it’s pretty clear they probably won’t.

Jurassic Park: The Game MiniR

•September 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Want to get explore Jurassic Park and get chased by dinosaurs? This is a Telltale adventure that drops you right into the middle of the first Jurassic adventure. The story is told in episodes and the regular detective mystery mechanics. You are graded and awarded a medal for completing every episode depending on how well you followed instructions. The game has the most QTE heavy events I’ve seen in a Telltale game. It feels more like Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain. If you want to feel like you are part of the Jurassic Park universe and think you are a clever girl, then check this out.

Jurassic Park The Game Overview

•May 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/jurassicpark/images/2/21/Jurassic-park-the-game-logo.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20130827205418

This is a telltale game that seems to take place during the events of the first movie. You control another set of characters who are also trapped on the island and are trying to find a way off / survive. There is a vet and his visiting daughter, a scientist, and a pair of mercenaries who have been sent to rescue people still stuck on the island. There are also two other characters who have been sent in to recover a certain can of shaving cream containing precious cargo. The game introduces them all separately but they meet up and have to work together to survive.

In a similar fashion to other telltale games, this game is split up into different chapters. Also similar is the method of interacting with the game. You click on an item of interest that is highlighted with an action key and the character will investigate it. Generally you will have to interact with the scenario and investigate certain items in a certain sequence in order to continue with the story. there is only one correct solution to a problem. if you get it wrong often the puzzle will reset, or nothing will happen, or sometimes you will be killed.

It is mostly trial and error although i have found that it will occasionally glitch. It only glitched for me once…and replaying that particular scenario fixed it. It was that scenario in the jungle where you had to steal the radio from Nima with the poison bite. I had clicked on so many actions the radio literally just disappeared and it was impossible to complete the scenario. No matter which chapter you pick you will get to play most if not all of the characters which is pretty neat. There was also a diverse selection of locations to pick from. aside from interacting with the environment the rest of the actions were carried out in the form of QTE events.

I think they really went overboard and forced too many events. They could appear at any time during a cutscene without warning , and if you missed one it often led to instant death. The scenarios graded you based on how many events you completed successfully. you were awarded gold, silver, or bronze medals for the scenario. Surprisingly there were no trophies for the chapter medals but most of the trophies relied on you getting the QTE event correct. For some reason the buttons were less sensitive on the controller but easier to follow and read, the controls on controller felt more natural. On PC the buttons were a bit harder to understand and string together but the buttons were much less sensitive and needed fewer taps to reach the required threshold.

The game graphics were not very impressive, if you have played any other Telltale game then you more or less know what to expect graphics wise. The story is quite enjoyable and pretty easy to follow. For a Jurassic Park fan this is a pretty good game that does a great job of making you feel immersed in that world. It is a fairly short but solid game. Aside from getting the gold medals there really isn’t much replay value. There is a set of bonus journals that get unlocked once you finish the game. It can be a real challenge recommending a good Jurassic Park game (the only other one I can honestly think of is Chaos Island but I really doubt that has aged well). If you can get past the rather annoying QTE then I would definitely recommend this one. It has very low hardware requirements and has an enjoyable story.

Bloodrayne 1 MiniR

•April 25, 2016 • Leave a Comment

If you are looking for a fun hack and slash game with a female heroine and high heels, this might be for you. There are plenty of guns to choose from, and quite a few fun ways to chop up enemies. The levels can be a little confusing (and sometimes a bit difficult) but overall it’s a short fun game. The game play can get incredibly repetitive though and sometimes figuring out where you are supposed to go can be complicated. If chopping up nazis, sucking blood and time hopping sounds like fun then check this out.

Diablo 3 Monk Legendary Armor

•April 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Here is the complete Monkey King Garb Legendary Armor set. (bonus ancient legendary daibo)

As they are now seasonal objective rewards they are a bit easier to get imho. A lot of people are looking for the rarer sets too. Those have to be farmed (for now).

This is the male model. I’ll add the female version of this later…

 

Bloodrayne Overview

•April 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

Bloodrayne 1 is a 3rd person game which is very much focused on hack and slash gameplay. The story is pretty straight forward and not very complicated. The premise is pretty cool though. The main character is a dhampir named Rayne who is a demon hunter. She works for Brimstone Society and is always on the lookout for her father.  The game starts off in one particular era but during the events of the game Rayne progresses through time and also visits different locations. It was pretty neat to see different time periods and multiple settings. There are many smaller levels that all fit under the subcategory of one particular setting.

Throughout the course of the game Rayne has a wide variety of guns to select from and use. She can dual wield most weapons (ala max payne) but the guns are not terribly accurate. The guns tend to lack ammunition as well. There are special weapons that are two handed and take up an entire slot of their own, but they are very powerful and do major damage. Since Rayne also has a permanent set of dual blades there will always be a weapon handy. Sometimes it can be very challenging if you try and take the melee approach to the situation but it’s doable. You will never truly be stuck in the game. I didn’t have much trouble with ammunition because I mostly used the blades and then used the target to regenerate health.

As Rayne is part vampire she can drain blood from enemies and then heal herself. She can suck blood from pretty much any enemy aside from the bosses. Once you have damaged an enemy Rayne can usually latch onto them and then suck them dry. It seems a little odd that Rayne can suck blood from monsters who have tainted or impure blood, but it seems she can do so with no penalty or damage.

In addition to the guns and blades Rayne also has a bunch of special powers which help makes things considerably easier.  She can see things in infrared and also has supernatural powers that allow her to speed up or slow down time as well as increased damage for limited amounts of time. Some of these powers drain the special power meter while others barely use it at all. Attacking enemies will recharge the special meter. Rayne upgrades her powers by collecting demon parts which she can ingest/interchange with her own parts which enhance her abilities. As the game progresses Rayne unlocks new powers and attacks but they are mostly combo based and they drain the special meter really fast. They do a lot of damage as well so it’s a fair tradeoff I guess.

I found it was often pretty confusing trying to figure out what to do or where you were supposed to go. It didn’t help that when you die you have to restart the entire level from scratch which is annoying. There are no checkpoints and you will sometimes die for absolutely no reason at all, like if you step in the wrong spot or you jump into the wrong area or you thought you could enter somewhere and you end up falling to your death.  In some of the later levels you are also allowed to backtrack which makes it that much more confusing because you are running around looking for something, but you aren’t entirely sure where it is and there’s no map.

Some of the sections (particularly in the final levels) can be ridiculously hard and unbalanced. As there is no level up system or anything xp based you don’t have to fight enemies and you can frequently just run past them if you want to.  It often makes things a lot faster and easier if you do. Other times you will be forced to fight and have to clear the level of enemies so you can’t just run past and ignore enemies. This happens a lot with areas of the levels where you have to hunt someone down. I notice the final levels being ridiculously unbalanced and hard returns to haunt you again in Bloodrayne 2 as well.

Amusingly Rayne can open most doors just by jumping onto them. Those must be some pretty powerful heels she’s wearing. Similar to other vampires, Rayne isn’t a fan of sunlight or water. She will take continued damage if she is exposed to either of the two. Rayne herself actually reminds me quite a lot of the main character from the Underworld series.

Rayne seems to hate humans and monsters alike and will happily chop up either. I guess she probably hates vampires more considering her feelings for Kagan.  The whole game does kind of have an Underworld feel to it.

Sadly the game really has very few secret areas, and pretty much no unlockables or bonus items that can be collected. There’s no new game plus or anything like that either. There are real time cutscenes instead of the CG/ingame ones that the later games in the series have. They can be a little cheesy but on the other hand they can also be pretty cool.

The hack & slash element to Bloodrayne gets repetitive really fast. If you don’t like it right of the bat then you most likely won’t like the rest of it as it doesn’t change much. There are different enemies and guns but the mechanics are still the same.

Bloodrayne is still a pretty fun game but I can definitely see how people might get bored with it fairly quickly. At times it felt extremely repetitive and could be a bit boring. Aside from the story there isn’t anything to collect. I guess some of the enjoyment is nostalgia based. Some of the bosses can be hard to beat because the game doesn’t give you any hints at all on how to defeat them and many of the bosses will take quite a few tries before you figure them out. (Particularly that stupid werewolf in the tower). The final boss was also incredibly overpowered. He was hard to beat quickly, and he got progressively stronger as time went by.

The game doesn’t handle widescreen natively as it’s a pretty old game, but it still looks pretty decent considering how old it is. Perhaps with some 3rd party mods it’s still possible to enable widescreen but it will probably make things distorted or stretched. It only supports 4:3 resolutions natively. The PC port has some rather snazzy advanced nvidia effects (perhaps the grandfather to the current Nvidia Gameworks) like advanced water reflections and enhanced fog/smoke effects look nice compared to the console counterparts. That being said, there is almost no controller support at all on the PC so if you choose to play it you will have to use the KB/M unless you want to go through setting up joy2key or something along those lines which will have its share of issues.

If you like vampire action games like Legacy of Kain, Vampire Masquerade/Bloodlines, Blade, or Underworld then this is definitely worth looking into. If you are set on having proper controller support you might want to look for some of the console counterparts. None of them have been remastered so they are probably quite cheap now. It’s also quite possible with the advancements in PCSX2 and Dolphin that the console versions might even look and handle considerably better than the pc port now (5x internal resolution upscale and all that). It definitely won’t run as well, but for some people it might be worth the tradeoff.