Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness or What a Shame

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , on August 22, 2016 by Rabidgames

Sometimes, games can feel like friends indeed. Some, you’ve known for decades, and some always stay close, some however, grow distant or disappear. And while Star Ocean: The Last Hope was the first sign that this friendship was changing, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness emphasises that sometimes, friendships can be hanging by a thread.

First of all, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness … wow, what a title, right? What poetry, how philosophical. Yet after finishing the game – wow, what a pompous, vain, almost flatulent title! It’s meaningless. Utterly devoid of meaning. Two words combined just because. True, some characters show more integrity than others, but faithlessness? If you look deep, you might find a hint of it somewhere, perhaps. But you could do so with each and every game. For instance, Trevor feels betrayed by Michael in GTA V, or just remember the end of Red Dead Redemption. See? But at the end of the day, it’s a meaningless title.

Sadly, the characters are entirely meaningless and forgettable, too. You have two guys with swords (this time, no teenagers at least), two girls with magic powers, one space dude with a cross-bow or a laser gun (yep, both, and no one seems to care) and a female martial artists fighter, and then, there’s a little girl hanging with you most of the time who is the key to the events of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. The problem – there is hardly any character development going on, and the bit that is happening is mostly happening in Private Actions, a series staple that has never felt that meaningless before: You have to circle the hubs to talk to your party members, and mostly, it’s small talk about trivial shit. Perhaps it’s an allegory on how small talk is a waste of time, but come on, it shouldn’t literally feel like you’re wasting your time in the game! Why do them, you ask? Well, after some random Private Actions, new roles can get unlocked. Hooray!

And then, the story of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is as hollow – there is exactly one nice twist that took Rabidgames by surprise around the middle of the game, but the rest of it is foreseeable, dull and often boring. It doesn’t help most of the cutscenes just is the characters talking in-game, with horrible lip-sync from the 90s and an adjustable camera that hardly captures any emotions or importance.

But hey, there are emotes you can unlock to comment on the things said. No one wanted it, and yet it’s there. 95% of all the cutscenes in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness are just fluff and too long, and guess what – there is no fucking way to skip them! Honestly, this game expects you to play it several times in different difficulties, but with these shitty cutscenes that last way too long too often, no fucking way!

So, we have a meaningless title, hollow characters, dumbed-down non-skippable cutscenes and a flat story – and the world design is as bad! There are around 10 maps you constantly have to run through back and fort, forth and back and back and forth. The amount of backtracking in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is utterly ridiculous! The maps are okay though, enemy variety is alright (they change as the story progresses), but graphically, some environments clearly look last-gen. And the handful of hubs aka towns are tiny and lifeless as well. Furthermore, there’s a huge in-game glossary you can read … or you could if it was any useful. (Hint: Assassin’s Creed is the prime example how in-game info can be provided in a humorous way.)

So far so bad. Thankfully, fighting in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is fun. It’s more Till the End of Time than The Last Hope, but that’s fine. Having up to 7 characters on-screen can be a bit hectic when there’s explosions and flashes all over the screen, but it’s still fun, the kind of fun battle system Star Ocean is known for.

Plus, there is some depth to customising and upgrading your characters’ equipment, levelling up roles and finding out which work well together will keep you busy for hours, and as in every other Star Ocean title, crafting and synthesising are well worth experimenting and satisfying. The game gives you plenty of room to find out many things for yourself, which is a nice change.

The playtime is also alright, albeit a bit short if you’re used to the 100+ hours of the past just for the main story. For RabidgamesStar Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness the clock showed 45 hours when the final boss fell, and there still the obligatory and pretty tough post-game dungeons to explore.

It’s clear by now there are a shitloads of cons and only a few pros when it comes to Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, but it’s still worth checking out if you have an itch for a JRPG; not for the story obviously, but for the gameplay, which keeps things interesting! But unless you’re big fan, don’t buy it for the full price, or you’ll be disappointed.

Rabidgames wonders: After completing the game, it just feels like this friend might get another chance – while times have changed and it falls flat in many regards, you can still see why you wanted to hang around with that friend in the first place. But after two disappointments, it’s now Last Chance Hotel for Star Ocean! Which is a sad thing to say if you once thought you’d love Star Ocean Till the End of Time …

 

No Man’s Sky or Infinite Worlds with Finite Wonders

Posted in Hands On with tags on August 12, 2016 by Rabidgames

After a long wait and much anticipation, the space faring survival exploration discovery crafting inventory management game No Man’s Sky has been released. Time to jump into a galaxy far, far away!

First of all, No Man’s Sky is fucking addictive! Imagine a line from A to B, which should take you 3 minutes. But in this game, it turns out to be 3 hours, on a focussed day! There’s much to be discovered, explored, catalogued and mined on the line, and oh so many glittering and twinkling things nearby, and also interesting silhouettes in the distance. But let’s face it, getting sidetracked is part of the fun in games like No Man’s Sky.

Second, the title is a lie! It’s all YOURS! It’s your universe to explore and play with. Barren and frozen moons, planets full of life with critters or weird dinosaurs wanting to have you as an exotic lunch, scorching deserts or radioactive swamps, there are tons of things you can find and name in your unique version of No Man’s Sky. True, while the number of planets is incredibly high, the forms of life start to look alike after the tenth planet so it remains to be seen if the game stays fresh after 50 planets – but then again, that’s what we’d expect from evolution, right?

Third, No Man’s Sky is perhaps the ultimate sandbox. You can follow the story or decide not to  to care about it, you can mine resources to get rich quickly or you can find alien artefacts to master the language of a mysterious race, you can try to get the biggest and baddest ship to rule the galaxy or you can spend hours to fully catalogue one planet. The choice is always yours. If for any reason however you need a dense story or structure in your games, No Man’s Sky might not be your cup of cosmic tea.

After perhaps 10 hours (or maybe 15), the centre of the galaxy is still far away, but it’s already clear No Man’s Sky has one enemy – time. Time flies by when you play the game, and it is time well spent on exotic planets. This game should be your game if you ever imagined how awesome it would be to fly to the stars, to discover planets and to just be an explorer in uncharted territories. And the fact that it’s all yours only makes the game even greater!

Rabidgames goes back to reaching for the stars. Over and out.

PES 2016 or Fuck Konami!

Posted in Gaming these days ... with tags , , , , , , on July 14, 2016 by Rabidgames

You know what is the dumbest thing you can do these days? Buying a game blindly! Rabidgames did this with UEFA Euro 2016 / PES 2016, and fucking hell, that was bloody damn stupid!

Why you ask? Konami’s “Euro Edition” of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 doesn’t include all stadiums, and not even all dresses are correct doesn’t feature the actual Euro squads. Right, Konami patches in some menus, some graphics, and that’s it. Fuck off, Konami!

Remember the FIFA World Cup games? You know, where you could play the qualifiers with the likes of Luxembourg or Vanuatu, where the current and actual tournament squads were patched in? Haha, forget it. PES 2016 is stuck in the playoff stage – you can try to play with Scotland or Denmark, even with the Netherlands (big team and such), but that’s it. No leading Luxembourg or San Marino to glory! It’s one hell of a lazy job, done by assholes who don’t give a shit.

Then again, why would you expect more from Konami? Their despicable handling of Metal Gear Solid and Kojima, their idiotic predictions about gaming and now this say it all – fuck the customer, rip him off, hope he’s bloody stupid to keep buying Konami’s cheap products. It’s safe to say Metal Gear Solid V was the last title from Konami worth buying.

But what about the gameplay? Well, after seeing only a few stadiums, the lack of the option to set the weather or the time of kickoff, the actual gameplay is still fun. Nothing special and not up to the lofty heights of PES 6, but still enjoyable. However, let’s face it, FIFA offers pretty much the same these days.

This lazy attempt of Konami does nothing to convince Rabidgames they care, on the contrary, that Euros travesty with zero care or passion just ensures that Konami is worth shit these days, and that they should simply go fuck off and die.

Rabidgames sighs: Oh Konami, once you were great. Remember when we could play with dinosaurs, or the legendary fake names such as “Slinslizel“? We used to love PES, Konami, but after years of getting rid of features, a generation starting without rain and now this shitty job, we’ll part ways now – sincerely, fuck you, Konami! Fuck you!

Dead Island or A Real Definitive Edition

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on June 14, 2016 by Rabidgames

Oh yes, Dead Island was one of Rabidgames’ guilty pleasures on last generation’s consoles. A pleasure because the hacking, slicing and maiming was very satisfying, but guilty because it was an unpolished game where potential was let down by bugs, freezes and the occasional crash. Or sometimes, you were stranded in an area too high level for you …

But the core gameplay – in both Dead Island and its successor Riptide (see Rabidgames’ opinion here) – was refreshing – and brutal. Cutting of limbs, smashing heads, throwin explosives around was all good fun. Add to that Dead Island’s Borderland-style RPG light mechanics and the loot, and you could have fun for hours.

In case you’ve never bought a Dead Island game but feel that the melee fights in Dying Light were too bland, check out the precise controls of Dead Island – make sure to change the controls to analog, and with a bit of practice, you can slash at a zombie’s head and the head might not just roll, but even fly.Tearing apart zombies this way is proper bloody and gory fun, and the joy when finding – and modding a powerful weapon feels even better than it did in Dying Light!

But should you buy this Definitive Edition when you had plenty of fun with the original games? Well, revisiting the world of Dead Island on the next generation is actually a journey worth travelling – not only are most of the bugs gone and the game runs on smooth 30 FPS, but Dying Light’s dynamic lighting system makes Dead Island shine even sunnier and more vibrant than the original!

So what’s new? Apart from including all DLC packs for both games, the new lighting system, a more stable running experience and a minimally streamlined and unified menu and UI in both Dead Island games, not much. There’s the hilarious One Punch mode; activate it when you start a new game, and one kick makes zombies fly dozens of meters! Obviously, trophies and challenges are disabled, but it’s fun nonetheless.

Then, there’s Dead Island Retro Revenge, a rather uninspired 2D sidescroll beat ’em up game that gets stale quickly if you’re not a fan of that genre. But it’s a bonus anyway, so whatever.

For once, we have a game that really deserves the “definitive” moniker. It feels like Dead Island is what Dead Island should have been in the first place – technically sound, Riptide included and stunning graphics make a good package for 20 pounds, that’s for sure. If you can’t get enough of the thrill of zombie killing and the idea of finding just another weapon sounds like a good way to spend an afternoon, Dead Island is your game.

Rabidgame smiles: Dead Island proves there is justification for remasters when the price and content are right. Now let’s just hope there will be more of it in the form of Dead Island 2!

 

Homefront: The Revolution or A Broken American Dream

Posted in Hands On with tags , on May 29, 2016 by Rabidgames

First of all, kudos to Eurogamer’s Homefront: The Revolution review subtitle “It’s always gunny in Philadelphia”. The perfect headline … although Paddy’s Pub hasn’t been found yet in this war-torn version of Philadelphia, which sounds like a strange omission.

So, Homefront 2 – well, it’s not the offical title per se, but whatever, so yes, the story is flatter than then Netherlands and the setpieces are just there – then again, after being spoilt by Uncharted 4, hardly any setpiece might be enjoyable. You have an invasion, the good American lads fight back the alien invaders, standard stuff. Here, the “Norks” (check what norks means in Australian English to have a laugh) are pretty much like portrayed like the nazis – mass-murdering, camp-building villains hidden behind full-face helmets so you actually never see their face. The heroes however, they’re all assholes, too – psychopaths, hypocrites, college bros, stereotypes.

Half in the story … fuck, there is hardly any story, so the trailers just set up expectations until you realise a 3 minute trailer has more story than the entire game! And then, the black and white portrayal worked perfectly fine in the last Wolfenstein, but sadly, The Revolution fails to either attach you to the heroes or to exaggerate the villains, and there is hardly any humour as well. There are some pretty violent scenes and atrocities to be discovered, but since you hardly build a connection to anything or anyone it’s just like “meh, let me keep playing”.

Enough philosophy … your question probably is rather how bad Homefront: The Revolution actually is, right? Technically, it is shit-awful! Framerate crashes, a 5 to 10 second freeze during each and every auto-save (at times you get shot during saves so the game seems to be only freezing for you), falling through the floor of the world (and failing missions that way), incorrect hitboxes not recognising headshots, side-missions not registering you doing stuff you’re told to do, and good luck trying to win the lottery of getting hold of an edge after jumping (and during the campaign, you have to jump and grab edges a few times). And that’s just the campaign of Homefront 2 – the co-op multiplayer is utterly broken (crashes, freezes, connection failures, lags, name it)!

Technical failures aside, the gameplay is quite repetitive, and the missions are more of the same; take out this, take over that, defend this, find out that expected plot twist. Taking over territory feels a bit like the Far Cry games; if you liked that aspect there, you’ll like it here as well – it varies between taking them over by force, by side missions and by a bit of platforming. But juggling between yellow and red zones can keep you entertained for quite a while. The red zones in Homefront: The Revolution are all about open warfare and regular fire fights in ruins, and you can get hunted down by massive enemy zeppelins. You can traverse these areas quicker with a motorbike, which must also be used to find ways to take over a few Strikepoints (just a fancy word for different kinds of outposts). These zones play like most shooters, and here you can also recruit up to 4 AI comrades for bigger firefights.

The yellow zones in Homefront 2 are more interesting – at first: You get spotted instantly (even if you turn your back to enemy soldiers, they can identify your ass it seems) and need to run for cover then because you can hardly fight off the hordes of Norks hunting you down. By taking over territory (same as in red zones), assassinating or blowing up targets (pretty damn cool) or helping civilians (rather boring) you start conquering the hearts of the population until they start an uprising – from that point, the enemies magically disappear from most areas. Narrative dissonances aside, by that point the yellow zones are boring, so there’s only fun to be had there for a limited time which is a shame because playing cat and mouse with the Norks, frantically trying to find a hiding space and then striking again is very fun.

The shooting in Homefront: The Revolution is wonky and feels very unpolished, even when compared to Uncharted 4. And yet, there is the underlying feeling that the game has some good potential, raising the question if there is still a place in today’s gaming universe for games such as Mercenaries, The Saboteur or Dead Island, just to name a few not quite AAA productions which still brought hours upon hours of fun after fighting through questionable technical issues and unusual or unintuitive gameplay decisions. In the past, we could have fun with these games

But what about Homefront 2? Well, 40 quid seems expensive for not finished game, so unless you’re a fan of guerilla warfare, better wait until the bugs are fixed. Once they are fixed, you get an almost AAA game … but released between Uncharted 4 and Overwatch, and thanks to the justified bad press because of the unfinished state of the game, well, not many people will buy the game now, that’s for sure. But if you’re a fan of open-worldish shooters, or if you like guerilla tactics, you should have Homefront on your watch list for gaming droughts. Yes, modifying your weapon on the spot can make for interesting choices in tight situations, the hit and run guerilla warfare can be fun – and let’s face it, any game where you can drive a RC car full of explosives can’t be that bad!

Rabidgames sighs: There’s a wrong time and a wrong place for games at times, and Homefront 2 was released at the wrong time in two regards: First, it’s not finished, that’s clear. Second, such a game cannot expect to beat any big guns, and that timing was awful. But at least the place is right – Philadelphia might not be that sunny here, but the ingredients are there. And when/if the time comes for the game to run fine, it might well deserve another chance. For the time being though, the sad truth is Homefron: The Revolution simply isn’t up to today’s standards, which means this revolution failed in its cradle. 

 

Uncharted 4 or A Confession from a Convert

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , on May 21, 2016 by Rabidgames

So, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is supposed to be the highlight and the swansong of the Uncharted saga. But how does it fare from the point of view of someone like Rabidgames, who hasn’t exactly been a fan of Naughty Dog in the past?

For starters, Rabidgames only finished Uncharted 2 and stopped a playthrough of Uncharted 3 due to acute boredom. After all, both games are linear corridors for sightseeing tours and repetitive as hell, mostly thanks to the obvious climbing and shoot-out sections and the tedious waves of enemies in shoot-outs. Furthermore, both the climbing nor shooting mechanics were clearly below the best in the respective genres, and the Uncharted trilogy barely asked for thinking (a few puzzles aside) or more than just basic gameplay demands. Plus, the story in Uncharted 2 turned absolute bonkers at the final boss and the banter between the protagonists was shallow and wannabe cool in most moments. In a nutshell, Uncharted used to be popcorn action – shallow but easy going fun.

Now, The Last of Us … we have a more difficult case here. While the story is better presented, the dialogues are way better and you quickly get invested in the story and the dark world, the gameplay is – again – repetitive, which hurts even more in a stealth game. Also, the fact the AI partners are not spotted by the fungal zombies pretty much ruined the immersion. Still, The Last of Us is a more ambitious game with deeper characterisation and more demanding gameplay, but Rabidgames can only play it in small doses.

So, what about Uncharted 4 then? Did Naughty Dog manage to combine the deeper characterisation and more mature atmosphere of The Last of Us with the well known Uncharted properties? Yes. And they improved Uncharted 4 in pretty much every aspect.

Let’s have a look at the story elements – Nate has settled with Elena and he’s given up on the Indiana life until his long-lost brother shows up to recruit Nate on another treasure hunt for – let’s say personal reasons. All of the above is experienced in the first couple of hours of Uncharted 4, and it makes you more attached to the characters than the previous 3 games in their entirety. The dynamic between the brothers, the dialogues, the backstory, the subtext, it’s all more mature now.

Technically, Uncharted 4 is also a true masterpiece. No issues so far, simply stunning visuals and a great sound, the tighter shooting mechanics and even the integration of driving Jeeps and boats all work without a hitch.

And in terms of gameplay, Uncharted 4 offers pretty much everything you could ask for. From improved climbing (including a grapple rope) to better shooting and a functioning stealth approach, from diving underwater calmly to a hectic Jeep chase through a city, from cinematic linear levels to wide open environments to explore, there is lots of diversity in Uncharted 4. Sure, the gameplay and the handful of puzzles are still not too demanding, but offering different routes in many levels and the refined elements taken the best of the two big Naughty Dog games manage to turn Uncharted 4 into a gamers’ delight.

And most importantly, the balance between frantiv shoot-outs, climbing on mostly ancient and sometimes crumbly buildings and some downtime leisurely driving around a boat or swimming underwater in peace is set up amazingly. Apart from GTA V, which also managed to create diverse gameplay moments along its story, no game can compete with Uncharted 4 in this regard.

At the end of the day and probably the series, Naughty Dog has managed to create and deliver one of the rare games where visuals, story and gameplay are combined close to perfection. Uncharted 4 is one of those rare games that are must-plays for every gamer.

Rabidgames acknowledges greatness: For the first time, Indiana Jones would take his head off to an Uncharted game. The more serious tone, the improved mechanics and the outstanding balance of Uncharted 4 could easily be condensed into what would be a great movie with awesome vistas and an engaging story. Congratulations, Naughty Dog, you managed to convert an unbeliever!

 

Shots fired: Battlefield 1, Call of Duty 0

Posted in Gaming these days ..., News with tags , , , , on May 8, 2016 by Rabidgames

Yes, it’s Activision vs EA, which means it’s better to go for the devil AND the deep blue sea before choosing one of them, but credit where credit is due – EA’s new Battlefield trailer won the internet, and the timing was impeccable!

So in case you’ve been hiding under a rock this week, here’s the new Call of Duty trailer to the upcoming futuristic Infinite Warfare (how original, right? Imagine the meeting where they came up with that name):

Now, why exactly there are only 230.000 likes but 750.000 dislikes, probably only the CODrones know. After all, Infinite Warfare seems to have proper space battles! Then again, the fans were crying for something not futuristic, because you have Titanfall, Battlefront (well, it might not be our future but who cares), Battleborn, Overwatch, the last couple of COD games, etc. set in the future. Too many futuristic shooting people in the face it seems. So the internet wasn’t happy about the new Call of Duty, let’s put it that way.

Ironically, the new Battlefield comes along now, and instead of following the trend to go back to the future, Dice goes back to the past, and to a fresh scenario even – World War 1, hence the game is named Battlefield 1. Well, that doesn’t really make sense as that war was neither the first war ever nor is this the first Battlefield game, but let’s not split hairs here.

Anyway, this trailer has a whopping 670.000 likes and mere 13.000 dislikes. How comes?

 

Well, Battlefield 1 looks cool, but so does the Infinite Warfare trailer, let’s be honest. Yes, riding horses, more focus on melee and flying iconic biplanes sounds and looks pretty damn cool, admittedly. And yes, World War 1 is a setting that hasn’t been done to death.

Most of it is because of that timing – both games have been in development for years, and the reveals have probably been planned months in advance, too … but that fucking timing, man! Just when gamers yell “stop the futuristic Call of Duty train”, Battlefield 1 invites you into the past.

But let’s face it – while this is some awesome free publicity for EA, both games will sell massively as always. Nothing will change. Both games will focus on the multiplayer, flying biplanes will probably not feel authentic, neither will the space battles, and the campaigns will be 5 hours short. EA isn’t the good guy now, and Activision are … well, neither. Fans arguing which milking machine is better feels like Chelsea and Manchester City fans arguing why their club is better, while the rest of the world knows they’re the villains anyway.

Rabidgames wonders: Well, actually both games look interesting, and yet, both games will have castrated campaigns because everyone is in those series for the multiplayer, so it’s just a tacked-on excuse to sell annual games in a new setting for the full price. Shame for the potential though.

 

 

 

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