They say to avoid the pitfalls of the future, we must look to the past. At the very least for Ubisoft, this mantra could have been thought of a lot more in creating The Division. Like BioWare and Rockstar Games, the French-Canadian publisher has proved time and time again that they are near unbeatable when it comes to hatching up brilliant new IPs. Sadly, they are just as frustrating in what exactly these grand idea games add up to. Watch Dogs, Assassin's Creed, and now The Division are all the kinds of worlds I love to lose myself in. But I think we're at impasse. Entertainment is ever evolving, and that goes double for videogames. It's just not enough to make a game that is big and richly-detailed, only to then tie down players by saying "look at all this, but seriously just do this… pew pew pew!"
I've finished nearly every console Legend of Zelda game, and Link's adventure into the Twilight Realm, his partnership with Midna, and more makes Twilight Princess my second-favorite of the series. This HD version might not be as eye candy-worthy as Wind Waker HD was, but that really is a minor quibble for such an amazing experience. Ocarina of Time is still the Citizen Kane of video games, but for pure mood and soul Twilight Princess is unparalleled.
I'm still kind of let down that the core gameplay remains mainly unchanged over the years. Telltale is great with character choices and delivering a striking painterly color palate, but all of that can grind to a halt since the hacking and slashing gameplay feels repetitive, especially compared to last year's adventure breakout Life Is Strange. Telltale is still the king at what they do, making the active conversation in a game feel tense, urgent. I just hope that's enough for the remaining two episodes of The Walking Dead: Michonne.
Bottom line: If you dug the original this is probably right up your alley. As I said earlier, for parents I can see this being a preferable shooter for younger teens over Halo or CoD. There's a value in that for consumers. I just wish publisher EA and developer PopCap Games put their considerable resources and talent into a game that made me want to play a game with a fuller experience.
The iffy puzzles and tedious backtracking in Unravel sadly cannot be fixed by switching to an easy mode as the game doesn't offer any kind of "just play the story" mode. That's a shame since the world and likability of the lead hero make the kind of adventure I love to get lost in. The price of $19.99 is fair for a campaign that lasts just under seven hours and, if you want to get all the collectibles, can probably go up to ten. I'm not giving up on Unravel, though. I think with better controls, fairer puzzles, and more leniency with the string allotment, Unravel 2: Enter the House Cat could be a real winner.
Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider's first real DLC is quite a trip. The final confrontation with the Baba Yaga takes place in a large vertical spire that's harder to complete than many of the main campaign's boss stages. As expected, players will need to shoot, jump, climb, all of it, with only seconds to consider the best approach. It's an exhilarating finale that's made even better in the smaller moments that highlight how Lara Croft continues to grow as a character. Bring on the next DLC!
In a lot of ways, OxenFree is the first game in quite awhile that focuses on the art of audio and video to engage the player. Limbo comes to mind, a title that might be more expressionistic than this, but nonetheless both get under the skin. Also, like Limbo, OxenFree begs to be replayed beyond just the reward of multiple endings. What resonates most is that feeling of something that has passed by. Whether that's one's own nostalgia or solely heroine Alex, OxenFree won't be forgotten anytime soon.
Overall, Episode 4 is a strong outing for Minecraft: Story Mode. By the end of the two hours, I was ready to begin the final chapter. And yet, as good as this next-to-last episode is, including an emotional goodbye to one of the best characters, the bulk of the cast still don't leave much of an impression, which has been my main complaint in past reviews.
That's the lingering problem with Story Mode in general. There's only a "fun enough" feel to most of it. So while Episode 3 really nails the tension and thrills of coming face-to-face with the Minecraft-staple Enderman, I'm still not convinced this adventure adds up to much more than a mild diversion.
The Old Hunters aims to deepen the experience of the original by taking the good ideas in Bloodborne and expanding on them. And on those terms it's a success. Still, anyone that hoped for an easier time or more story, a reason to play will be disappointed, but I doubt anyone who has finished Bloodborne would still be thinking of those things. Then again, I sort of did, as a gamer that loves the Lovecraftian vibe FromSoftware supplies, but was tired of dying over and over. The bottom line is that any worthwhile DLC should be for fans first, right? If so, that's where The Old Hunters shines.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III continues the evolution that began in last year's Advanced Warfare. The current-generation of the mega popular war shooter series impresses with (some) freedom of choice and fun abilities. So much so that most of the time, the rather pedestrian visuals and unmemorable story won't be a deal breaker. Especially, when you consider all the extra content like a second zombie themed campaign.
Rise of the Tomb Raider took aim at perfecting not just its own series, but modern action games as well, which is an ambitious undertaking to say the least. The past decade has seen the genre jump, shoot, and blow stuff up real good with games like Resident Evil 4, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Dead Space. Each redefined what a well-balanced 15-hour experience could be by delivering a compelling narrative, tight gameplay, and outstanding world building. Rise of the Tomb Raider bests even those classics with a character that resonates like no other. Even if it took nearly twenty years for that to happen, this is an adventure worth replaying with a hero who's unforgettable.
The world of Minecraft alongside all the fun inside cracks at geekdom is the right fit for Telltale, but so far these first two episodes have failed to craft anything remotely as engaging as The Walking Dead or the excellent Tales From the Borderlands. Jesse, whether voiced by Patton Oswalt or Catherine Taber, remains a solid lead character as does his companions, but the Witherstorm premise and to a lesser degree the villainous Ivor are not compelling yet. Here's hoping that with more time to develop episode three, this story mode finally delivers.
As a series, Halo has been the one triple-A shooter that has fans for the story as well as the multiplayer. Depending on where you are on the spectrum between story and gameplay, you can take my grade up or down a half point. If you're looking for a frag-fest, plus all the enticements of the new Warzone mode, Halo 5 is a must-own. All the new abilities and maps are terrific. Those who care about the single-player campaign might not find the story to be as compelling but will appreciate the treatment of lore and production value. Either way, In the coming months, Halo 5: Guardians will undoubtedly have both supporters and detractors playing and commenting about it for years.
Seen as a whole, my twelve-hour playthrough of Life is Strange has been a memorable one. The highest compliment I can give is that I felt like I spend quality time with Max, and the rest of the citizens of Arcadia Bay. Time that I would never rewind, but plan to revisit for sure.
Will Story Mode pan out? Will it stand as one of Telltale's best? For now, the answer is… maybe. Episode One is a fun two hours with plenty of shout-outs to fans of the series while also a solid balance of gameplay and characters for those who've never combined flint, sticks, and a feather to create an arrow. As a "player choice via conversation" game, though, the plot so far is fairly standard.
Read Only Memories started out as a project for the inclusion of LGBT characters, but regardless of where one leans on the political spectrum, it's so much more than just a good-intentioned story of equality for all. You'll have the option by way of your answers to tailor your own issues of identity and throughout the game's ten-hour length you'll encounter plenty of gay and straight, trans- and cis-gendered people.