Archive for the Hands On Category

World War Z or A Mindless Average Arcade Gallery

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on May 16, 2019 by Rabidgames

In terms of shooters, World War Z is the antithesis to The Division 2 – where Ubisoft’s game is a tactical cover shooter looter, World War Z is simply pulling the trigger until nothing rushes you any more. Which can work. But does it actually work? Sometimes. World War Z is a classic AA game – nothing is outstandingly good or bad, there is some charm to the game, but not enough to hide it lacks an identity.

The game is a 4 person co-op shooter – or you with 3 bots that do a basic job of shooting shit that moves, but fail to spread out or start a crossfire because you’re the pied piper leading them anywhere. And they neither heal themselves or each other nor do they man turrets or use heave guns. Anyway, if you play World War Z with others though, it can provide you with some hours of good, mindless fun. The gameplay cycle is what you’d expect: you shoot a lot. You can upgrade some stats. You shoot a lot. You do nothing but shooting, in fact The more you shoot with a weapon, the better the weapon gets. Sometimes, you set up defences. We’ve played it all before.

World War Z is quite a bit brutal – think exploding or hacked limbs – but not explicitly brutal as Mortal Kombat or Dead Island. Violence serves its purpose. The graphics and technical aspects are similar – okay but not great. As often comes with online-focussed games, especially those of the AA variety, World War Z is quite rough around the edges. Lags, buttons not working or inexplicable physics, it can all happen. It’s not game-breaking, but it’s also not exactly awesome, you know. To give the game some credit, things can be hilarious when it happens!

By the way, World War Z shares its name with the movie but barely has anything to do with it. It’s the kind of lazy name-dropping you can’t exactly explain. Same goes for the bare-bones plot and the locations: You play in Moscow, New York, Jerusalem, and Tokyo. It doesn’t really matter though, as doesn’t the story.

This kind of mediocrity can be seen in anything in World War Z; it’s a nice game to relax to while you mechanically shoot your way through hundreds and hundreds of zombies. There is no unique trick such as Dead Island’s precise analogue maiming and slashing or Left 4 Dead’s crisp gameplay. It’s not great but also not abysmally awful. Quite frankly, this is a game you should look for in the bargain bin. It’s seem wrong to shell out full price for World War Z, but if you want to relax with like-minded friends, it’s worth playing a round or two.

Rabidgames’ verdict: GO BUY the game if you need more zombies in your life, and if your friends feel the same.

DO NOT BUY the game if you expect something special. Or if you’re tired of zombies. Or if you prefer to play on your own.

Days Gone or An Idyllic Apocalypse Sandbox Adventure

Posted in Hands On, Played & Explained with tags , , , , on May 14, 2019 by Rabidgames

For many among us, the initial reactions to Days Gone probably were “another zombie game?” or perhaps “yet another open world game?” And true, at first glance, Days Gone is a bland mix of The Last of Us, Far Cry and maybe some hint of a Sons of Anarchy feeling. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you.

But once you dive into the as beautiful as disturbing open world of Days Gone, once you start exploring Oregon, you’ll quickly notice it’s a bit different. For starters, there is no point in killing each zombie, pardon freaker, you’ll see. Just going from A to B would be a challenge if you tried, especially as you need some rather limited resources when stumbling upon too many of those post-humans. Oh, and you definitely want to be close to your trusted bike – not only can it outrun all threats easily, which you can’t on foot (not often at least) – but it’s also your means to save the game (almost) any time.

Unfortunately, combat is rather Days Gone’s weak point – melee feels weighty and powerful with the right tool, but also a bit cumbersome. Guns feel powerless and weightless at first (get the Focus skill ASAP so you can slow down time while aiming – a lifesaver), and stealth is as average as stealth can get. So try to avoid fights – not just because more than 3 freakers can mean death, but also because it’s more fun evading and exploring than actually fighting. That being said, the fighting isn’t unbearably bad at least, so you’ll make do when you have to fight.

But here’s the thing where Days Gone is different – imagine you’re close to an enemy camp, and your task is to take the camp out. You fire at the guys with a silenced rifle, the enemy fires back loudly, only to attract freakers that overrun the camp with a bit of luck … it’s these situations that stand out in Days Gone – and the game is barely scripted (except for some main missions, of course) so anything can happen anytime! It’s pretty much Far Cry on speed!

The gameplay and missions are fairly repetitive, sure, but the game gives you plenty of freedom to tackle many missions your way – stealth or loud, melee or guns, the choice is often yours in Days Gone. Main missions are better paced and often feel unique enough, and they also come with some flashbacks and one nice revelation or two. Side missions however mostly consist of “get a door open”, “kill baddies” or “find nests and destroy them”. Some of the latter are surprisingly hard to find though, and doing them by night or by day is a bit different, too. The presentation of the main story and side stories as different, often inter-connected stories is a bit odd at first, but once you get used to it, it starts to make sense.

Sadly, Days Gone’s lost world means a bit of problems on the technical side, too. While the game runs far more stable than at launch, sometimes there is a noticeable lag when riding too fast for the game’s liking, which can result in a crash into a tree (now that brings back memories of trees and horses in Red Dead Redemption 2, although the physics aren’t as great). There are also extremely long loading times to the start menu and then again from the start menu into the game. And if you die. Last but not least, once you progress to the second map, you can expect some pretty annoying slowdowns and frame rate drops riding around – come on guys!

One point many reviews touched – and failed to explain – is the presentation of the story and the main character in Days Gone: civilisation is gone, and your role is being an outlaw biker. That means fuck being the nice guy. Being the nice guy would most likely get you killed in a hostile post-apocalyptic world anyway. And honestly, the protagonist being a loathsome piece of shit was fine in Sons of Anarchy, it was fine in Breaking Bad, fuck, we all enjoyed Trevor Philips, so what? Deacon is a cliché, his best buddy is one, enemies and allies alike are clichés, and so are women. Well, except that the second important woman you meet the game is a hard-ass leader of a group of survivor who won’t take shit from anyone. Which makes you wonder if some reviewers ever progressed to that point of the story …

You may not like a game presenting many characters as clichés, which is fine, but there’s nothing wrong with the portrayal of it – it’s not that Days Gone presents Deacon as a role model after all. After all, have you been shouting at Walter White he’s an unlikeable bastard all the time? Probably not. So why is it criticised here then?

Anyway, Days Gone is a game that really shines when it comes to atmosphere – driving around in a thunderstorm, nervously looking out for gas because you’re low, and then you drive into a trap by some assholes, which results in a firefight, which again results in a horde of dozens of freakers closing in on you. Fingers crossed the humans are between you and the horde …

It’s those moments of sandbox gameplay, freedom to ride around as you want and the need to always make sure you’re never low on resources (be it med-kits, tools to repair your bike or fuel) that elevate Days Gone out of the murky waters of open world mediocrity. It’s the virtual wind in your hair while you ride along some open road, it’s the balance between exploring a bit more and risking an empty tank or returning to a safe place, it’s the need to always look for exit routes, and it’s the open-ended nature of Days Gone that keeps the game fresh despite being repetitive.

In fact, the mix of depending on the bike for survival, the necessity of always having a way out and the grim depiction of Days Gone’s world make the game a worthwhile addition to any PS4 games collection – unless you abhor open worlds or need to identify with a protagonist, of course. Days Gone is surely not a blockbuster game that is easy to digest both conceptually as well as gameplay-wise like Uncharted 4 or God of War, it is rather one of those games where you need to take some time for a bit of slow story exposition (The Last of Us comes to mind, yes, it is finally mentioned again), open a nice cold beer and then you ride into the sunset, knowing the night won’t be peaceful but interesting.

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY the game if you don’t like sandboxes, a slow story or clichéd characters. WAIT for another patch if you’re concerned about technical issues.

GO BUY the game if you want to travel a lot on a bike through an often beautiful wasteland where anything can happen around the next corner. And it will.

 

Zanki Zero or A Unique Japanese Survival Experience

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on April 29, 2019 by Rabidgames

Zanki Zero: Last Beginning is one hell of a weird game: Part graphic novel, part first-person survival JRPG, and a big part of “what the hell?” throughout. It is entirely different but comes close to the strange atmosphere of the great weird cousin Nier: Automata, but while that is true, it is also misleading.

Where to start explaining Zanki Zero (let’s cut the Last Beginning part, shall we)? Well, first, the less you get know about the story without having played the game the better. Let’s say you, a cloned character wake up at an island and you’re grouped with 7 other mid-20s – all wacky characters following your usual JRPG fashion – who are told by two demented TV show hosts, a horny dumb boy and a talking sheep wary of its ass, that they’re the only survivors of some kind of apocalypse. Well, technically, they’re rather clones than really alive, and now their job is to explore drifting islands and complete the arcade machine that clones them so they can “rebuild humanity” … Still there?

 

 

A core mechanic is also a rather peculiar one: if you die in Zanki Zero, you get to clone another clone of the dead character via an arcade machine – if you scored enough points. You get points by defeating enemies, at first mere goats and pigs, if you play on normal or below at least. And here’s the thing – you’ll actually want to die a whole damn lot (well, at least one character always MUST survive to carry the metal belly buttons of your team back to the arcade machine) because afterwards you can clone your characters with so-called Shigabane, which makes the character stronger. Yes, Zanki Zero actually asks you to kill off your characters to make them stronger many times! And even better, you need to kill them off in different ways to get more bonuses!

The story is told via anime-style graphic novel screens and TV show segments. You gradually uncover the dark pasts of the 8 protagonists of Zanki Zero, and 7 of the stories revolve around the 7 mortal sins. But trust Rabidgames: again -the less you know the better, because there are lots of great twists in the story that make you wonder what the fuck is going on in this demented world?

The gameplay centres around first-person hacking and slashing (a bit later on you also get ranged weapons) where you best attack, fall back and wait for your next turn, looting everything you can find to craft more and sturdier stuff, and some light puzzles to solve. It starts easy but becomes more challenging, and Zanki Zero does the old trick of telling you that you’ll get more loot the higher the difficulty. It’s best to experiment with the difficulty until you find your balance, and that may or may not include changing it depending on what’s happening on-screen.

You also get skill points to develop your characters in a confusingly convoluted skill menu. They range from better HP or defence to access to higher-level crafting. The survival aspect involves HP, stamina, stress and bladder. Yes, bladder! Eat or drink too much in Zanki Zero, and you’ll piss yourself, resulting in a maximum stress level and terrible stats as a result of it (look at that for realism!). But don’t worry, you often find empty bottles you can pee into. No one is judging. Right? Right?

Zanki Zero has a big problem though – you can only save at designated save points. If you’re in the middle of a dungeon but you have to be somewhere in 5 minutes, well, tough luck. You can teleport to your base but then you’ll have to start the dungeon all over again. And usually, save points are only to be found every 30 to 45 minutes or so, and auto-saves occur rather randomly. This can be quite frustrating. The cutscenes can also reach Metal Gear Solid length – a long conversation followed by a TV show segment followed by 5 minutes of talking isn’t too rare an occurrence in Zanki Zero.

If you are looking for a game that is entirely different from the stuff you usually play, Zanki Zero is your game! It’s incredibly weird and becomes quite challenging after a while (except on 1* difficulty, of course), but it reliably drags you in to just play for “one more cutscene” or “one more dungeon floor” … In its own way, it is quite similar to Nier: Automata; it creates a unique atomosphere by mixing up gameplay systems and genres as well as cranking the strangeness up to 11, and both games hide some philosophy behind the weirdness

Zanki Zero may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like oddness and a fair share of scantily clad females and a butt load of double entendres, it may very well your favourite fix for quite a while – there is also a New Game+ mode where you can get even more rewards.

 

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY if you have no patience for long and ever-present cutscenes or weird isn’t your thing. DOWNLOAD THE DEMO if you are unsure whether the game might too fucking weird for you. This game surely ain’t for everybody.

DO BUY if you like a twisted story full of mind fucks and a somewhat different survival experience. Zanki Zero offers a fresh breath of unique ideas you won’t find in many games.

 

Outward or Unforgiving, Clunky and yet Fascinating – At Times

Posted in Hands On, Played & Explained with tags , , , on April 22, 2019 by Rabidgames

Imagine you get thrown into a game where you have exactly zero clue what’s going on. Imagine you can’t really die but you simply wake up somewhere. Imagine Piranha Bites (Gothic, Risen, Elex) create a world with their clunky combat system but take away each and every comfort; you can easily bleed or freeze to death, and fights can be over almost as quickly and as mercilessly as in Kingdom Come: Deliverance. That’s Outward in a nutshell.

But let’s start from the beginning. Your ship wrecks somehow, you’re on an island, you roam around … and quickly you notice how fucking ugly everything looks. Really, Outward is often an ugly game on the PS4 (seems to be a bug, but hasn’t been fixed yet)! It sometimes rather looks like a PS2 game, truth be told. Some levels look nice in the right light, sure, but that won’t happen too often. Speaking of light, what good is a torch or a lantern if it doesn’t illuminate your way properly at night? Good luck falling from a cliff because you can’t see it …

Anyway, once you die or sleep in the prologue part, you wake up in your house and you get sent on a quest to get some money or your house is gone. Skill-wise, you’re a nobody in Outward. You can’t really fight, no one likes you (well, not enough to pay your debts at least) etc. Well, thing is, you partially can’t fight because of the narrative, but for the most part, the fighting system is just awful or below average at the best of times. It’s like Gothic or Risen, just worse, more tedious, and even less fun. Outward rarely lets you feel comfortable, simply because it wants to be a survival RPG. Especially the first 5 hours are a big pain, which is rarely ever a good sign for a game.

 

Another problem Outward has is that its world is incredibly bland. From its landscapes (greenery, snow, desert, name it) to its systems to its enemies, you’ve seen it all before. And often better implemented with better lore. Speaking of lore, it also doesn’t help that the English subtitles often don’t match the audio. Sometimes, the audio is shortened, sometimes it’s entirely different. So it’s hard to immerse in the world from a story perspective when the fighting system is clunky and stuff such as crafting and skills are also just there, because they have to be there in a game like Outward.

Technically, the game also has issues. Graphics and audio issues aside, you sometimes happen to lose your inventory. Yes, the one thing that can outright kill you – or “only” ruin you in Outward – can happen here. It may get fixed soon, but who cares after having lost 5 hours of progress? Also, whenever you go to sleep in Outward, it makes you sleepy in real life, too. why? Because the loading screen is on-screen forever – for no apparent reason. And here’s the thing – you’ll sleep a lot to heal or to pass some time until the quest giver or target shows up. That’ll add up to a lot of time spent watching loading screens.

So, does Outward have any redeeming qualities? Well, it tells you the story of a nobody from a perspective of a nobody. It’s not entirely new, but still rather rare. The backpack system is also interesting: the bigger the backpack, the more you can carry – but the bigger the penalties, too. This gives Outward a somewhat strategic layer to balance loot and manoeuvrability. Same goes for the magic systems: you have runes you can combine for different effects. It’s a nice system once you get used to it, even if it feels a bit clunky, too.

Also, the map is just a map in Outward. No other indication on it related to your position. No hand-holding or icons. If you want to know where you are after waking up, well, consult the map, take a good look around and good luck. Hope you have some skills navigating your way around. It’s a nice little feature of Outward that enhances the adventure feeling, and this is actually a feature that more games should have.

At the end of the day, Outward is a game of missed chances: The bugs should have been fixed, the fighting system should have been fun and the game should have presented itself as a game that’s worth playing. At the current stage, Outward lacks too many things, especially in the bland beginning. There’s some fun to be had for those who can see past all of this, but there may not be many who feel that way if better games are released left and right.

Rabidgames’ verdict: GO BUY if you’re itching for a hardcore survival game where you are on your own without a friendly UI and if you don’t mind the rather generic and way too clunky nature of the game. WAIT if you want some bugs to be ironed out first.

DO NOT BUY if you want a flawless and  unique experience. This game lacks an identity of its own in many aspects, features terrible melee fights and it has quite a few technical issues on top of it. Close to full price seems a bit much for this experience.

 

Anthem vs The Division 2: Open Beta Face-Off

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2019 by Rabidgames

We don’t often see two massive, open-world(ish) titles pushing out open betas to try to convince people just before their respective launches in such a short time. While Anthem is more of a sci-fi game with futuristic tech and rather fantastic enemies, The Division 2 is a slightly futuristic-ish game with human enemies. And well, both are always-online loot shooters with a “games as a service system” so lets compare the shit out of them!

One thing – let’s not pretend an open beta is more than just a demo. If you really have to test your servers or your game that late in development, you’re fucked anyway.

It’s been a few days to let the open beta experience of The Division 2 sink in, so let’s get going now and see how both open betas fared!

Technical stuff

GRAPHICS: Anthem looked nice and impressive, whereas TD2 (let’s be lazy, shall we?) looked a step down from its predecessor. Both betas were plagued by pop-ups and other problems, but this point goes to Anthem because the world actually looks stunning at times.
Anthem-Division 1:0

SOUND: This is a tough one. Both games weren’t too convincing in the sound department, and both betas showed signs that there is still some work to do in both cases. However, TD2 had some serious issues with the weapon sounds. giving Anthem the edge here.
Anthem-Division 2:0

STABILITY: TD2 had issues in the closed beta, but so had Anthem. In Anthem’s open beta however, it was very common to either not be able to connect or to get thrown out of the game when connected, which happened on a very regular basis, making the game unplayable for tens of minutes at times. TD2 on the other hand, ran fine with very few connection issues and very few hiccups.
Anthem-Division 2:1

STARTING OUT: Anthem was cumbersome – Going from the hub veeeery slowly to the hangar area took a while, and going back to report and get the next objective was the same drag. Matchmaking was also rather weird and sometimes resulted with no results, wasting’everybody’s time. TD2 was more fluid from the get-go, and running inside hubs can help. Sadly, neither beta offered an easy drop in/drop out service, which seems odd in this day and age.
Anthem-Division 2:2

Beta Content

CUSTOMISATION: Both betas show not much in terms of character customisation. Anthem let us lightly customise the Javelin and our loadout, TD2 let us lightly customise our agent and the loadout, too. However, it felt easier to try out different builds in TD2 as you could do so on the spot instead of collecting orbs that were sent to the hub. All the cosmetic stuff you found to individualise your character was also more accessible than the convoluted way to change the colour of the Javelin (which also was lost when rebooting the Anthem beta the next time).
Anthem-Division 2:3

THE WORLD: We got to see most of the world of Anthem. It looked nice, yes, but also devoid of many landmarks or points of interest. You also had to actively look for activity beyond angering wildlife because it was pretty empty. TD2’s overgrown and green Washington DC was full of life, be it animals, friendly or hostile humans – there could be danger just around the corner all the time, so it’s easy to see who wins here.
Anthem-Division 2:4

WORLD BUILDING: The hub in Anthem felt static and sterile, filled with static NPCs, pointless dialogue choices and “not available in beta” signs instead of actual dialogues in most cases. Just like the rest of the world, it felt empty, even a bit trivial After you did missions, you came back and it was all the same. TD2 showed a world you rebuild and actively change. After all, you literally re-build the world in TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:5

MISSIONS: Anthem had some missions and one end-game mission. And free roam. TD2 had some main missions, lots of repeatable side missions, free roam was part of the world anyway, and also one end-game mission. While both are mostly go from A to B to kill C, Anthem was quite boring as it felt pretty generic, whereas TD2 offered more interesting levels that required some tactical planning. Being able to explore and discover seamlessly between missions and free roam is an easy win for TD2.
Anthem-Division 2:6

Gameplay

MOVEMENT: Obviously, flying around in a vertical world is cooler than walking and running around. You can fucking FLY!!!
Anthem-Division 3:6

SHOOTING: Technically, that’s a point for Destiny here. Shooting isn’t too great in either Anthem or TD2 compared to Destiny’s only strength. But between those two, TD2 actually had a more diverse cast of weapons at its disposal and shooting them felt slightly more “real” and satisfying.
Anthem-Division 3:7

ABILITIES: To be fair, Rabidgames has a weakness for the primer/detonator combat of Mass Effect that is also built into Anthem so that’s a strong point for the Bioware game. The abilities in TD2 felt a bit nerfed, making it harder to use them to our advantage. They’re not useless, but not as fun as the combos in Anthem.
Anthem-Division 4:7

GAMEPLAY VARIETY: Well, both are shooters. You aim, you shoot, boom, splash, splatter. But while enemies in Anthem are either weak or bullet sponges – and could be easily copied over from DestinyTD2 offer variety with its human and robot opponents. Firefights in Anthem’s open beta all played out the same in the categories grunts and bosses. You shoot until they fall, and sure, bosses eat 10,000 bullets for breakfast, resulting in extremely boring circle and shoot orgies while occasionally escaping super attacks. TD2’s fights were a bit harder – you needed to cover your flanks or you were wiped out. Also, a screen full of enemies, drones and remote-controlled bomb-cars in a narrow room was an intense feeling, and bosses there had visual armour you can shoot off to finish off the boss quicker.
Anthem-Division 4:8

THE LOOT: We got weapons and other goodies only after missions in Anthem, which didn’t felt satisfying. At all. And the selection was even less interesting than in Destiny! In TD2, you can play with new loot on the spot, which made playing around with builds and mods more fun. Of course, the endgames in both games will show how good loot really is, but for now, it seems you can do more with it in TD2 – from crafting weapons to donating it to friendly settlements, you shouldn’t sell all you have.
Anthem-Division 4:9

THE SYSTEMS: Now, this is a tough one judging from the beta. Both are RPGs that let you build, craft and customise the gear you like. Anthem pretty much has the mission -> rewards -> customisation loop, while TD2 has more – you upgrade your base and settlements, you open up checkpoints to control districts (where you then open up a door with loot). Plus, you get to see your changes in TD2’s world. In RPG terms, both are pretty light though – the dialogue choice in Anthem are a joke though, if you think who did it!
Anthem-Division 4:10

THE FINAL RESULT: Anthem 4, The Division 10

Rabidgames thinks: It is inexplicable why Bioware/EA chose an outdated version that was a technical nightmare to proudly show off Anthem. It also didn’t do much to tell anything worthwhile about what’s going on. The Division 2 however showed us how the game starts, what’s going on and how many of its systems work together. Substance over style sums it up nicely – Anthem had a nice world with cool flying, but that’s about it. The Division 2 offered lots of content to be experimented with.

It’s no surprise The Division 2 beats Anthem in the beta contest because of those factors, which shows EA either doesn’t get what a beta is these days or that Ubisoft is more confident enough to show us what they got up their sleeves. Or both.

That being said, expect Rabidgames to get Washington D.C. up and running in The Division 2 soon. Anthem must wait, also because the “final” game itself is far from final …

8 Reasons Why New Dawn Is Better Than Far Cry 5

Posted in Commentary, Hands On with tags , , , on March 4, 2019 by Rabidgames

You know, if it’s easy to see a game improving on its predecessor within just hours, it’s a good sign. And yes, Far Cry New Dawn might rather resemble an add-on than a stand-alone game, but it beats Far Cry 5 in many ways. Here are 8 reasons summed up quickly:

  1. No more abductions: Honestly, this bullshit was the biggest reason why Far Cry 5 sucked. The abductions were pointless, too often and how on earth the kidnappers could then, and only then, detect you everywhere on a map is beyond the laws of, well, everything. This shit is gone now. Thank fuck!
  2. More gameplay diversity: Far Cry 5 had quite some things to do, but it was mostly the same pace. New Dawn mixes this up quite a bit: Sure, there’s still stealth and shooting, but now there’s also racing to an extraction point when everyone is homing in on you at the end of the new Expeditions, and there are packages you need to race to to get some goodies.
  3. Crazier than ever: Yeah, Far Cry 5 had a bear and a cougar as guns for hire. Well, New Dawn has a boar and a sniper granny who’s “like a 1000 years old but can shoot a dick off a mosquito”. And all guns for hire now have more useful perks. Speaking of guns, guns are also crazier now. The ricocheting Saw Launcher clearly is a highlight!
  4. The landscape is more diverse: Sounds bizarre, but the downfall of civilisation has brought more greenery and colours to Hope County, and seeing the changes for yourself is a nice thing. And sad at times. And once more, Expeditions: They bring you to completely new areas.
  5. Exploration is spelt with a capital E: You can find lots of things in the world, and many loot is hidden behind an – often quite simplistic – puzzle. Some are a bit more elaborate and require some steps or just a bit of platforming though. One of the key innovations of New Dawn are the Expeditions; exploring gets you more loot, but you don’t want to alarm everyone before you grab the package you’re there for.
  6. The RPG elements add depth: Sure, there are just very light RPG elements, but they add some level of strategy to it – should you take out the one elite enemy first? How? You can use a perk for a Takedown. Or you level up your weapons. Should you even take him out? (Of course.) Sadly, once you’re in the late game, all of this doesn’t matter any more, but for a while, the danger posed by over-levelled human and especially animal enemies shrugging your bullets away before tearing you to pieces makes up for some entertainment new to Far Cry.
  7.  Crazy powers: Not to go to deep into spoiler territory, but at a certain point of New Dawn you’ll get new powers. It might not make much sense but who cares – all you need is a leap of faith! If you do crazy, you gotta do crazy right after all …
  8.  Proper end-game content: You can scrap and take over Outposts on the hardest setting as many times as you want. Same goes for Expeditions. As a reward, you can upgrade perks and guns virtually infinitely … If you’re the kind of guy who likes a challenge or wants to have a handgun that nukes everyone, New Dawn offers this kind of entertainment for you.

Rabidgames muses: Far Cry 5 went into a dark and twisted direction, which only partially worked. New Dawn chooses the Saints Row way out instead, and that makes for a better game.

Mass Effect + Destiny + A Hot Mess – Bioware Writing = Anthem

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , on February 3, 2019 by Rabidgames

First of all, Anthem is better than Rabidgames expected. The flying is pretty cool, and the good old Mass Effect primer/detonator combos are back. In its best moments, when there is some flow and your team works together well, it really feels like Mass Effect plus jetpack. And some guy split in three is interesting, well, unless you know Kingdom Hearts where one guy splits himself into 13.

Anyway, sometimes better than expected does not mean anywhere above the line of average. Anthem has some good sides, but the bad sides prevail. By a mile. Shooting bullet sponges has been bad since Destiny (and that was even worse in The Division, where seemingly human bosses survive 5 magazines of lead in their head), and Anthem is as just not food enough here. While you can mix and match flying/gliding and shooting after a bit of practice, it doesn’t make up for the shooting being two leagues below Destiny. You don’t have to like Destiny to admit that they absolutely nailed the shooting …

Furthermore, the gameplay loop is boring: Go there, shoot baddies, upload something, go somewhere else, rinse and repeat, oh look, a boss. Even if the shooting was top-notch (nope), and even if combos were as fluent and intuitive as in Mass Effect (again, nope), it would just be en par with Destiny … at most. But when you end up flying through a mostly empty world for 3 minutes, you get bored quicker than in other games where you walk for ten seconds between shoot-outs. Even worse, the cringe-worthy story told by NPCs that looked ancient 5 years ago … There is no excuse for something that bad from fucking Bioware! Dude gets artefact, smashes it, gets split into three, his worst and dumbest third escapes the city, you get him back, only for the game to freeze in the cutscene that explains it … well done, Bioware.

Speaking of freezing, lags, crashes, connection issues, frame-rate problems and the loss of sound – yes, Anthem has all of this and more. Guys, this is a demo, isn’t it? You want people to convince to buy the game. Instead, hardly anything works as intended. Even worse, Friday was kind of stable, Saturday was less, and hardly anything worked on Sunday. That’s quite poor.

Also, the story. Anthem is like Destiny there – some mysterious stranger, sorry, energy source that can somehow alter reality … Sure, we don’t need all the details now, but after Destiny, mysterious hints are suspicious of a shit show in the story department. Bad dialogues and boring mission design don’t help there either. Absolutely nothing of interest except the guy made threefold happens – so where’s the catch?

Given the utterly idiotic way PS4 gamers will be the last to see the game – and thereby maybe the luckier ones as they’ll know what they’re getting into – we might know soon if the final version of Anthem is indeed ready. But here’s the thing: if, and that’s a big IF, hell, a couple of big IFs, if the game fixes its technical issues, if the story develops into something decent and if Anthem ends up with good content, then it might be a game worth looking at. But the demo does not help – if you judge Anthem by it, it’s a broken mess that is nowhere near Destiny or Warframe.

Rabdigames shakes his weary head: A demo should make people buy the game. In this case, that won’t happen. An unfinished mess with barely any identity is not good enough even though the core gameplay looks somewhat promising. Any hope for Bioware is long gone anyway, but Anthem could be their swansong – after a long decline, it might be soon time EA takes Bioware out into the desert to an unmarked grave full of bodies. If the demo is a sign, Bioware better savours its sorry life as long as it lasts …

One Week with Red Dead Redemption 2’s Great World and Flawed Gameplay

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , , on November 3, 2018 by Rabidgames

We’ve been waiting a mighty long time for Red Dead Redemption 2, haven’t we? And sure enough, the wait was worth it. The world is breathtakingly amazing, supported by easily the most impressive graphics and lightning you can see on consoles. Many corners of the world hold sometimes dark, sometimes pretty bizarre secrets, and being in camp with the gang is pure magic. Play poker or joke around, get drunk and listen to obscene songs, get to know the quirks of each member and find the Reverend’s rather special bible, it’s those scenes together with the amazing voice overs that make Red Dead Redemption 2 stand out from the rest of the gaming world by miles. Many characters are fleshed out and feel almost properly human, everyone probably finds their favourite, and upgrading the camp makes folks happier (and contributing more to it) … and then you think “fuck, those are the guys I’ve killed in Red Dead Redemption” all those years ago …

And the world … fuck, the world is incredibly huge and diverse. From deep snow to arid deserts, from the wilderness to a big town heralding the end of the wilderness and the Wild West (though it is in the Eastern section of the map), Red Dead Redemption 2 is a master class in world building. You can go hunting wildlife all day if you feel like it, or just ride around the rolling hills of New Hanover and feel the virtual wind in your hair. Who knows what we’ll find – maybe even Bigfoot?

The greatest strength of Red Dead Redemption 2 is the underappreciated art of deceleration though. When relaxing in the camp or on horseback under the stars, it’s fine to just trot around slowly, or maybe to sit down and have a beer at the camp fire. There’s no rush to do the next mission, no immediate need to go anywhere in a hurry, it’s fine to just sit there for some minutes. Just like Life is Strange did so superbly, Red Dead Redemption 2 invites you to just waste time. Take in your surroundings, relax. Just ride into the sunset before making camp, because why on earth would an outlaw feel the need to be dictated by the fucking clock like modern men?

We’ve certainly heard all the praises in the last week. And it’s true, it’s all true. Well, most of it is. Because you see, Red Dead Redemption 2 is not perfect. In fact, when it comes to gameplay, there are quite some flaws. And no, we’re not talking about Arthur’s slow movement, that’s a design choice you may like or you may not like, but the game is suppsoed to be slower. But there are problems. The issues Red Dead Redemption 2 has are twofold: First, some mechanics are simply broken; some gang members, among them a certain John Marston and his family, will never(?) show up in your camp. At least you won’t see them for a mighty long time. that’s just wrong, but well, shit happens. A game of that scale is bound to have some technical hiccups.

But way worse, you can get wanted (and hunted) for some dumb idiot bumping into your horse. That’s called assault for whatever reason and you get shot to pieces if you’re unlucky. At other times, you have a bounty on your head but you talk to the sheriff who doesn’t care at all. It doesn’t even make sense. How on earth this fucking massive glitch could make it past QA is incredible. You see, the thing is not just that you’re hunted, the thing is you have to pay your fucking bounty at some point, and in the early stages of the game, even a rather meagre amount like $200 can break the bank easily.

And then, there are too many cumbersome and at times weirdly gameplay mechanics and systems that let Red Dead Redemption 2 down a bit; if you want to craft nice outfits, inventory upgrades or talismans, you need perfect pelts. Which means you need to find a certain animal and kill it with a headshot – with the appropriate weapon nonetheless. Problem is, if you’re in bad luck , a 3-star rated perfect animal simply won’t spawn. Tough luck, cowboy, keep on waiting.

Another problem of Rockstar in pretty much all of their game has been the mission design: And as you might expect by now, Red Dead Redemption 2 has too many linear and tightly scripted missions, which is simply bad for an open world game. Remember that stupid subway bike chase mission in GTA IV with the invincible enemy? You have to follow one path, there is one way to do the mission, no options, no choices, that’s it. Now, if you disguise this type of missions cleverly, no problem. But … Red Dead Redemption 2 isn’t even trying to sugar coat it; when you have some dude riding EXACTLY as fast as you are and you have to follow him on EXACTLY the same path for exactly 4 minutes (or about 4 minutes) with scripted events happening during the chase until yet another scripted scene happens – that’s just bad design. And lazy as fuck and boring as hell. And not fun at all.

And then we have fast travel. Yes, you can take a stage coach or a train in Red Dead Redemption 2, but that will leave your horse behind – and with that most of your weapons. So, you can do it for sightseeing, but gameplay-wise, meh. There is some fast travel hidden behind two pretty expensive camp updates, but this fast travel sucks big time, too. Why? Because you can only travel FROM your camp, but not back TO it. It’s beyond stupid. Sure, you can ride to a waypoint with the cinematic camera, which means you just watch, but come on!

And then there are the things that clash with Rockstar’s self-proclaimed sense of realism in the game (stuff like food, cleanliness, appropriate clothing and the like). Why the hell does Arthur have a Witcher/Assassin/Batman sense to highlight things around him or to follow tracks? No clue. Why does every vendor in Red Dead Redemption 2 sell you exactly the same stuff, no matter where? Not exactly realistic today, even less so for a game set in 1899. And worst of all, why the fuck do enemies spawn out of nowhere next to us? Come on, Rockstar, it’s 2018!

Now, that sure is a lot of complaints, ain’t it? Don’t get Rabidgames wrong though, Red Dead Redemption 2 is definitely an amazing game that nails some things like no other game out there does or ever has, but it’s not a perfect specimen. In fact, it is quite a problem when the major issues are basic gameplay mechanics or mundane things. Maybe it’s because of all the hype surrounding the game that we expected a perfect game, a master piece, gaming’s Citizen Kane, a step into the next generation. Anything less, just a good game, won’t cut it. We might be victims of our own expectations at times, true. Maybe the hype that makes reviewers hype certain games straight into the stratosphere is the thing that makes them overlook flaws and give virtually perfect scores to games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Skyrim (game-breaking bugs on the PS3, flat combat) or Breath of the Wild (glass weapons, empty world, no noteworthy narrative). Remember the amazingly good scores GTA IV got, a game that got ridiculed as bowling simulator for all the fucking times you had to meet your fucking cousin? Hype has the tendency to make us expect the best shit ever.

But when it comes to Red Dead Redemption 2, here’s the thing: Looking at the narrative, the characters, the world and all the interactions, Red Dead Redemption 2 might very well REALLY be gaming’s Citizen Kane, they might really be the best shit ever. The gameplay flaws might not even matter that much in the great scheme of things – when we talk about art, we talk about the vision after all. But that doesn’t mean we should fail to see the flaws in the execution. That doesn’t mean that Red Dead Redemption 2 should be seen as horrible or bad, but we should acknowledge that it can be great in some aspects and still lacking in others.

All of that being said, Red Dead Redemption 2 is still enjoyable, sure. But it is rather enjoyable when you minimise the gameplay experiences – if you just roam through the morning fog, if you sit down in camp, or if you’re exploring and find something, or someone very strange. The missions themselves are often rather a means to and end (progression) and ticking the boxes than something that feels as hand-crafted and detailed as the backdrop. It is still fun, but you always wonder what Red Dead Redemption 2 could have been with slicker gameplay and more creative missions.

Rabidgames appeases: Now hold on with the lynching, let’s make one thing clear: Red Dead Redemption 2 is an amazing game. It definitely is. There is a certain magic to many things in the game, including the organic way you receive quests and especially all the sick shit you find when just roaming and exploring the vast, beautiful world. If only the missions felt as organic …

Yes, Rockstar should be praised for the amazing effort to create a world that feels incredibly alive. But Rockstar also needs to be reminded that it’s one thing to nail the art aspect, but it still can make for an unsatisfying experience if the basic craftsmanship is lacking.

Dakar 18 or Dude, Where Do We Go Again?

Posted in Hands On with tags , on October 11, 2018 by Rabidgames

It doesn’t happen often that pretty much the only thing you want to write about a game is “what the hell is this?”, but Dakar 18 is such a game. It is geared towards such a niche group that even the tutorial is an obstacle designed to tell everyone else to fuck off.

Theoretically, Dakar 18 should be Rabidgames’ cup of tea though – a Rally Cross racing game where you roam the wilds and mostly sand dunes and deserts of South America. You need to pay attention to sand, mud, you can help fellow drivers, you can leave the car to strut around and wear a cowboy hat, you can repair your damaged car … you’ll lose precious time if you do any of the above, of course, but you can do it all.

But who in their right mind uses a non-skippable tutorial with very vague directions and poorly explained mechanics? Who thought that’d be a good idea? But … Dakar 18 is a pain in many ways. It gives you a strange tutorial where you will fail pressing the correct buttons as shown on-screen. It gives you an overload of information, sends you on the way in a non-skippable tutorial, and then leaves you alone in the tutorial. You’re in the desert, good luck finding anything. Oh, and if you reach the chequered flag too early, you get disqualified – only it wasn’t even clear where the finish line is!

So, after you’ve done the tutorial, the game asks you to do some more training. Phew. Seriously? So yeah, it’s safe to say Rabidgames isn’t hardcore enough for the Rally Dakar (set not in Dakar but in South America but that’s a story for another day). Also, you are driving a big massive truck, and if you hit a makeshift fence out of wood you withdraw because THIS causes too much damage? Come on, for fuck’s sake!

There are quite a few disciplines in Dakar 18 – cars, trucks, bikes, quads … And bikes and quads come without a co-driver to give you directions, so good luck. Speaking of directions, if you get lost, so does your co-driver. Not exactly useful that fellow after all, eh? Another weird thing is that the game feels rather arcadey for a simulation – there isn’t that much weight to the cars, and the physics feel a bit off as well (again, makeshift wooden fences). There might be a target group for this kind of game, but it might be as small as the amount of people caring much about the Rally Dakar …

Rabidgames’ Verdict: Do buy if you love hardcore rally games without useful instructions and you have a perfect sense of digital directions.

Don’t buy if you are not a rally pro. Or if you don’t have a perfect digital sense of directions. Otherwise, the game will leave frustrated. It is not aimed to casually cruise around sadly.

F1 2018 or A Micro-Evolutionary Status Quo

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on August 22, 2018 by Rabidgames

To be honest, most of F1 2018 could be summed up with one sentence. “An evolution of last year’s games with minor changes and improvements”. That wouldn’t be wrong for the most part. If you liked last year’s game, you will like this game. If you didn’t, chances are you won’t unless halo and interviews with the press are massive improvements in your mind.

First halo … It is dead-ugly in real life, and it is dead-ugly in the game. This is not the place to justify its mere existence or not, but aesthetically, it’s disgusting. But we’re stuck with it now, so what can we do?

The other big “new” addition (quotes because it’s technically just an old feature introduced again) to F1 2018 is interviews; in-between sessions, you can answer questions from the press. This can change the attitude of your team to you a little bit – but if you role-play Maldonado and crash your car left and right, it won’t do much anyway. Sadly, F1 2018 only goes baby steps there – you can’t be a total jerk or doodle on your mobile during interviews, and you can’t put the blame on the stewards and tell them to fuck off with their fucking arbitrary bullshit either. It’s all very tame and civil.

So yeah, the main thing of course is on the track. And on the track … well, F1 2018 is pretty much a lightly improved F1 2017 there. Sure, you can race in Hockenheim this year and there are more classic cars, but all in all, the pretty decent driving action and the relatively slick presentation (yes, looking at you, PES!) has remained the same. You can play the game as arcade or as simulation, you can play around with a million settings and sliders as much as you like, and F1 2018 will be responsive to all your changes. Oh, and if you like online racing against humans, the game will now pool you with racers with similar abilities. We’ll see how that works. It might have some merits, but imagine a full of grid of Maldonados and Grosjeans …

Sadly, the AI is also still hit and miss in F1 2018 – sometimes, it feels realistic, but sometimes, half the grid gets disqualified in a Monaco race. Sometimes, the AI drives hard but fair, but sometimes, they just hit you in the back in practice sessions because they expect a slower car to give way in a hairpin turn! It’s insane. But good news, you can enjoy quite some Destruction Derby fun in F1 2018 if you like … Have we mentioned Maldonado before?

Another odd thing in F1 2018 is that you can test out the tracks in time trial and your first “task” so to speak is to beat a “Default Ghost” … thing is, those ghosts are easily beatable in the dry, but if you choose wet conditions, you have to be perfect – they drive flawlessly in poring rain, which seems pretty odd considering how slow they are in dry conditions …

Sure, those small issues aside, F1 2018 is an optimised game in many regards, but as it often is with annual games, the optimisation doesn’t bring much change. It’s still the number one game for Formula 1 fans, and for both the hardcore simulation folks as well as the casual racing driver who wants to unwind or maybe learn the lay of the land ahead of the next F1 Grand Prix. But if you’re looking at real innovation, you’re looking at the wrong racing game.

Rabidgames’ verdict: Don’t buy if you prefer simple arcade racing or you still enjoy last year’s game, and you’re not looking for a game with only a few updates (and if you couldn’t care less about interviews).

Do buy if you’re a big massive F1 fan or if you want an up-to-date racing game with plenty of customization possibilities and an even deeper career mode. If you don’t mind the small updates.