Archive for the Hands On Category

Destiny 2 Beta … More of the Same, Less Story

Posted in Hands On, The Latest with tags , , on July 22, 2017 by Rabidgames

Remember the original Destiny Beta? Great gunplay, a bit to explore, a nice teaser for a story. Shame 99% of the story was in the beta though …

With the Destiny 2 Beta, we get even less story: The tower and the traveller are being attacked, you flee, you die. That’s it. Everything’s also very linear and it is exactly Destiny – not more, not less – the same three classes, great gunplay, alien bullet sponges, a few tweaks, but that’s it. No interesting cliffhanger at the end of the Beta, no really new elements, no exploration. Destiny 2 is playing its Beta safe – you get what you expect, but nothing more. Actually, it’s even a bit less without even a bit of exploration, without finding new loot and without levelling.

Sure, there’s also a Strike in a more open environment that has a cool boss encounter where you fall through the floor repeatedly. Well, that’s the interesting part, as the boss requires nothing but emptying magazine after magazine while you try to stay alive.

But story-wise, it seems Destiny 2 is either hiding a great story or there isn’t one. Judging from the first game, one should be rather cautious than expect an epic narrative. This bare-bones Beta with a bare-bones story string won’t convince anyone who got disappointed by the first game. Bungie wasted a good opportunity here, that’s for sure.

Rabidgames yawns: This Beta only shows that Destiny is still the same old – if that means good or bad, that’s for us to decide. Pre-ordering the game on the merit of the gameplay alone might work for fans, but Rabidgames rather waits for the reviews to see if Destiny 2 is more than endlessly running through the same environments slaughtering the same alien sponges without anything really happening – again.

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 or A Flat Open World of Bugged Potential

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , on May 16, 2017 by Rabidgames

Now, don’t get Rabidgames wrong – open worlds are fine. Perfectly fine if you like them, as we all know Rabidgames does. But when it comes to Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, the open world is uninspired and bland. And that’s far from the biggest problem the game has …

Technically, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is the equivalence of a train wreck. Loading the game takes up to 5 – yes, five – minutes Every time the game is booted up, it crashes. Every damn fucking time! Sometimes it freezes, sometimes you fall below the world, sometimes you want to enter your car but are teleported into the sky – in this instance, you might very well fall back down and die. Thankfully, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 loads quicker after you died, but when you’re unlucky enough to witness a crash or freeze 5 minutes after you watched the screen for 5 minutes, the next 5 minutes are a special kind of frustrating! Okay, some bugs are also funny …

Another hilarious issue in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is that enemies disappear when they’re away more than roughly 250 to 300 metres. You tag them, walk away to snipe them, and boom, they’re gone. Until you come within their range again. Now the most brilliant thing about this is there actually is a trophy for killing someone with a headshot from 500 metres away. Awesome!

And then, the characters … Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a prime example of what happens when all you do is adding some tough guys, a few sexy minxes and very evil enemies that speak Russian, because Russian enemies never go out of style, right? Giving away spoilers would almost mean giving away 50% of the lacklustre story, so let’s leave it at the simple point that the story is nothing to write home about.

And yet, despite all this, the gameplay isn’t too bad. Now, the name isn’t the only thing where Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 sounds a bit like the lost brother of Ghost Recon Wildlands … In both, you’re an American elite operative infiltrating enemy territory, and both give you a drone (although the one here moves horribly, always swinging about) and focus on stealth. That’s unfortunate, to say the least …

But whereas Wildlands is third person and all about your squad and synch shots, you’re mostly a lone wolf in the first person shooter Sniper Ghost Warrior 3. The story throws you into a bleak Georgia entangled in a civil war, and you snipe and shoot your way to missions that are actually not too bad, at least some of them.

Yes, it’s things you’ve seen before – recon, identify, take something or take out someone, but it can be fun. You also get side missions and you can explore the world, making grisly discoveries quite often. It’s just … the world in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 feels barren and empty. Barren is fine as it suits the mood, but empty is a problem – yes, you can follow question mark and investigate things, some of them even with an unexplained Witcher-style sense, but everything in the world is bland – the architecture, the design of the maps, no traffic on the roads, hardly any civilians around … It’s a shame as sometimes the game hits a nerve, but mostly you go from A to B and find maybe a point of interest inbetween that doesn’t tell a story but just gives you some stuff.

You also level up in Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 (pretty much like in Skyrim – kill from afar and you level up your sniping skills, get up close and you level up general fighting skills), you earn currency you can invest into new weapons, ammunition or gadgets, and there’s also crafting if you feel like it. Pretty soon, you can craft a lot already. For some reason, some sniper rifles are hidden in the game’s world as well. Why? Who knows, who cares, right?

But as mentioned before, if Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 crashes every hour or so, it takes away most of the fun. And that’s a big problem. Add to that if the game crashes while you need to get out of the radius of a mission, re-booting Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 brings you back to the start of the mission. Pretty frustrating, right? Yes, developer CI Games apologised by giving us the season pass for free, but how useful can more of a broken game be? Yes, broken! How else would you describe a game crashing every 60 minutes or so?

Rabidgames bugs out: In its current state, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is a broken mess hardly worth playing. If patched properly, it might be worth giving it a shot, but for the time being, frustration out-levels fun by some degree unfortunately. If you’re interested in the game, feel free to check regularly and buy once the worst bugs and glitches have been fixed. If they get fixed …

Dreamfall Chapters or A Multiverse Adventure

Posted in Hands On with tags , , on May 8, 2017 by Rabidgames

Set 200 years in the future and in a fantasy world in a parallel universe connected by Storytime, the world of dreams where all stories begin and end, and being the successor of the two The Longest Journey games (the last one now 10 years old), Dreamfall Chapters sounds complicated and IS complicated to get into.

The game gives a brief explanation of what happened before, but wikipedia gives you considerably more information, which is kind of helpful to understand what’s happening. With all this info now digested, let’s roll and let’s have a look at the two protagonists in their respective worlds.

As Zoe, you live in the pan-European city of Europolis, which has turned into a police state after an event called the Collapse, and is preparing for elections. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it? Anyway, as the talkative-almost-oversharing and quite sarcastic Zoe, you start out Dreamfall Chapters by living an ordinary life, bringing lunch to your investigative journalist boyfriend and finding out what use a “shitbot” is. The game’s words, by the way. Obviously, the story gets enriched by worldly and otherworldly conspiracies as it develops.

As for Kian, the fantasy world protagonist, his story starts darker and less humorous, and his adventure is also simply not that interesting. Yes, we witness his character development from blind faith to thinking in Dreamfall Chapters, but he is still not that interesting a character, and his story just has too much of the usual fantasy clichés such as “bad invaders want to prohibit magic” or “good guy who worked for evil empire now seeks redemption”.

Zoe’s dystopian story however is far more interesting. Be it the interesting stories of an impoverished Europe and a rich Africa, be it the European language (English with lots of words borrowed from other languages), be it the story of oppression and surveillance that at times resembles Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, or be it the same damn political struggle against extremism, all enriched by Zoe’s sarcastic thoughts. Her journal also helps you identifying with her, as she writes everything down rather the way it is, or at least appears to her.

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Xenophobia, xenophobia never changes.

In terms of gameplay, there is also a slight difference – Zoe usually asks more questions and her objectives are a bit more playful (at first at least), while Kian’s are more direct and often in old-fashioned point & click style. Most of the tasks are well-known and won’t take much time to figure them out – combine two objects, find someone or something and bring it somewhere, etc. Some objectives however are hard to meet – if the controls of Dreamfall Chapters ask you to go to a very specific point that and the action is triggered just there, not a millimetre to the left, well, that’s not too great now, is it? Different maps in the different worlds are a nice little touch tough.

Technically speaking, Dreamfall Chapters is pretty much the game you expect from a kickstarter experience and an episodic format (consoles thankfully get the more polished all-at-once experience); the animations are very wooden, the voice overs hardly reflect the environments nut are mostly still okay, the levels often lack details common in today’s games and the loading times are pretty long. On top of that, Dreamfall Chapters features a very outdated checkpoint system – not only can’t you save whenever YOU want, the game sometimes doesn’t save after important moments. Leave the game at your own peril or always pay attention to the save icon!

All of this being said, Dreamfall Chapters is still a game that has an entertaining story (it’s not Kian’s story that’s boring, plenty happens there, it’s the presentation of his character, especially in the beginning) with a few nice twists. The more cynical you are, the more you’ll probably enjoy the game, too. Make no mistakes, Dreamfall Chapters isn’t a happy game in either world. So, if you can deal with buying an indie game for the price of an AAA game and you have no objections to swearing a lot or to the outdated technical presentation, this interesting adventure waits to be played by you.

Rabidgames dreams: A bit more polishing, a bit more care for facial animations and voice overs, and Dreamfall Chapters could have been a thrilling adventure ride. It is still a decent enough game, but it’s difficult to get attached to at least some of the characters because of this. It is also a bit like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate again with the two different main characters, one of them bland. But look beyond that, and there’s an interwoven story across dimensions waiting, and who knows who’s awake or dreaming.

PuyoPuyo Tetris or Hardcore Puzzling with a JRPG Overtone

Posted in Hands On with tags , , on April 28, 2017 by Rabidgames

First off all, we all know Tetris. We all do, right? For most of us, it started on the GameBoy back in the day, right? Fewer of us know Puyo Puyo, also known as Puyo Pop the west, a kinda similar puzzle gaming series, but the focus there is to have four drops of the same colour together so they disappear. So what about we combine both? Sounds crazy, is a bit crazy, but Puyo Puyo Tetris manages to do it successfully … to a degree.

Why to a degree? Well, contrary to what everyone would have guessed, Puyo Puyo Tetris isn’t exactly a game you just play to relax – it is pretty brutal actually. Even on lower difficulties, you don’t have much time, and there are hardly any proper solo modes – you face a human or an AI opponent most of your time with the game.

If you’re new to either Puyo Puyo or Tetris (is that even possible?), there is a nice and handy tutorial, covering everything from the basics to the pro stuff. Afterwards, you can play one of the many solo or multiplayer modes, but you shouldn’t. Why? You’ll get your ass kicked, that’s why! Sure, you can play either or, but the most fun is to be had if both types change from time to time or if they are combined – yes, combined! And it can be pretty confusing to just jump into it.

Puyo Puyo Tetris also comes with a more or less hidden tutorial that introduces you to all the different possibilities, the Adventure mode. Imagine playing both games with the quirkiness and the craziness of JRPG dialogues and the accompanying upbeat soundtrack. Now, the big question is – will you survive listening hours of often high-pitched voices yelling at you while everything is colourful and on speed? If you think you recognise one of the voices, you’re right – JRPG veteran Erica Lindbeck is in here as well. While she is not as great here as when she was voicing Tales of Berseria’s crazy witch Magilou, it’s still a voice you’ll recognise (even more so when you played also Persona 5 and Nier: Automata, where she also appears).

Oh, and one more thing – Puyo Puyo Tetris’ Adventure mode is far from easy. Chances are you’ll need a few tries to clear some of the first 10 stages, and it can get frustrating at times. But if you fail at one stage, you’ll get the option to advance anyway … although that’d be cheating, wouldn’t it?

After mastering Adventure Mode (or at least after getting started there) and after unlocking some of the the game’s many customisation options, you should be ready to explore the depth of Puyo Puyo Tetris – there are many different modes, although sadly only a few are proper solo modes. If you like multiplayer action, you can play locally and online, and the crazy Party mode where items change the game really shines here.

Now, Puyo Puyo Tetris is a good game for puzzle fans, but there’s a small problem – the pricing. 20 quid for Puyo Puyo and Tetris feels maybe a bit too much, and that’s just the PS4 pricing – the game is even a tenner more for the Switch! Sure, there’s plenty of content and your brain goes crazy at times, but unless you need your puzzle fix right now, it won’t hurt to wait a bit.

Rabidgames is puzzled: This game offers quite some content, but it can also be very frustrating. It is odd that game that looks like a casual game is pretty hard, but if you can get past that and past the manic Adventure mode cutscene madness, the last puzzle to solve before getting the game is the inexplicably high price …

Wildlands’ DLC Narco Road is a Potholed Scam … With a Llama Bike!

Posted in Hands On, The Latest with tags , , , , on April 24, 2017 by Rabidgames

As you know, Rabidgames thinks Ghost Recon Wildlands is a great game with tons of stuff to do; it is entirely possible to only have completed 2 out of 21 provinces after playing the game for 23 hours. So you might think more can only be good, right?

Not in this case! The first DLC, Narco Road, is outright crap. It’s shit. You know, Wildlands has two weaknesses: The driving and flying mechanics. So what could go wrong if you base a DLC on both? Yep, pretty much everything.

Narco Road introduces you to driving around with monster trucks destroying shit in your way, and even some racing. Besides, you can drift or jump monster trucks or muscle cars, and you get a nice boost … But well, those driving mechanics, that were good enough for casually driving from A to B, or maybe hunting down cartel member C, now ask for precision and timing, without having been improved for Narco Road. It’s still doable, but it’s not fun. At all.

And then the flying … you have to fly around a lot in choppers or planes, including a set of side missions to dust coca plants, and there are even more SAM sites than before, making these side missions incredibly annoying. And again, they’re not fun at all.

What else is there? Some more bland side stuff, drifting, jumping or climbing mountains (yawn), side stuff where you race to a caged wild animal, kill enemies and secure the package by tagging it. Sounds pointless, is pointless. The best new side activity in Narco Road is finding a lost car somewhere on the map, using a photo to find its whereabouts. And it’s not even that great.

Even worse, Narco Road takes place in a few re-drawn and not exactly remarkable Western provinces, you have to start with a fresh level 20 character, you have less weapons at your disposal, and everything you can gather is just re-skinned weapons from Wildlands. Oh, and the strange story puts you undercover into Santa Blanca where you fight a rival cartel that doesn’t seem to exist in the main game …

Even worse, you’re on your own. No squad to help you, making fighting enemies tedious. Each damn mission takes much longer now, and once you’re dead, no AI revives you (weirdly enough, coop still works). Narco Road really does a damn impressive job to take the strengths of Wildlands – the massive, diverse map, the squad fighting, the weapon customisation – and then remove them.

Its only saving grace could well be the “Lorenzo Bike”, a llama bike shooting rainbow farts and making weird noises, but that’s surely not worth the price, right? In case you got Narco Road anyway (most likely because you bought the season pass as Narco Road sounded good on paper, didn’t it?), here’s how to find the llama bike around 2 miles south-east of the Sueno Mausoleum :

So unless you bought the season pass, avoid this pathetic DLC like the plague! It seems Ubisoft said “hey folks, what about some more outlandish stuff? You know, like Saints Row or GTA? Let’s just make sure to get it out quickly, and let’s re-use everything instead of making something new! Oh, and please, please let’s not integrate anything into the main game!” The result … Narco Road. Half-baked ideas and terrible execution will make sure this is a broken road not much travelled.

Rabidgames swears: Fucking hell! Ubisoft, we thought you’ve learned from your past DLC mistakes! But Narco Road is an awful piece of pointless DLC not worth the time or the money. What the fuck were you thinking publishing this mess?

Mass Effect Andromeda or Good Gameplay, Bad Bugs and Ugly Faces

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , , on April 1, 2017 by Rabidgames

First things first – Mass Effect Andromeda is not an unplayable mess as some corners of the internet might want to tell you. You can have fun while playing it. It is also no “SJW wet dream” or some other bullshit the alt-right trolls spout, it is just a game. However, the technical shortcomings, especially the ugly human faces (aliens are mostly fine) and the abysmal facial animations ARE bad. Really, really bad. And make no mistake, they’re inexcusable in 2017.

Besides the facial mess, there’s also badly written dialogues, at times terrible voice overs (a fucking female Krogan speaks exactly like a human … what happened here?) and the ridiculously boring exploring solar systems (where your ship travels to each of them for sometimes nothing at all but a description of a lifeless gas giant, and you don’t even get to probe Uranus) to complain about. And there are quite a few bugs and glitches in Andromeda, too, ranging from the animations even more fucked than usual to save bugs that can make you lose hours of progress if you don’t save regularly on different slots. Always do that!

So what the space-traveling fuck Bioware? And what the fuck EA? Did you really think you could just release this mess without getting any criticism? Andromeda was in the making for 5 fucking years, and lifeless androids representing humans and lame writing about tired faces are the result? If EA follows this road of releasing seemingly unfinished and definitely unpolished games, the future of gaming surely is going to look like a galaxy after a reaper sweep.

But all this aside – which is no easy task, but let’s look into it nonentheless – Andromeda is actually well worth the time. Once you struggled past the average and slightly boring tutorial and the Mass Effect 1 Citadel-style Nexus introduction, the game comes alive (upon your return to the Nexus, it really feels alive, while the first time, it feels barren and a bit bland). Although wait – the first hours are a chore, and then the game gets better? Who comes up with this, especially considering we had the EA Access trial of Andromeda on the One, resulting in quite a bit of the flak the game is getting now. Shouldn’t the first hours be full of gripping entertainment and the most polished content?

Anyway, once you are on Eos, your first planet to pathfind your way into your new job acquired tragically in typical Bioware fashion, you’ll notice a similarity with Dragon Age Inquisition: A massive open area waits for you to be explored. But don’t fret because that’s actually where Andromeda comes alive- while Inquisition’s areas felt and quite frankly were static (not much ever changed no matter what you did), you terraform entire planets in Andromeda via main missions that involve puzzles and nicely built levels that are a joy to go through, you establish outposts and repel enemy forces, and you get a feeling of satisfaction from all of it, not just by numbers, but also by making the planets look more hospitable. You also get to visit different planets, and while they are mostly cliché – sand desert world, ice world, jungle world – they look great and there’s plenty of things to discover and of course shoot in the face.

Fighting is still a mixed bag of tricks though – on the one hand, no power wheel means there’s hardly any tactics left in Andromeda – unless sending your squad somewhere is deemed a tactic. Building combos with team mates depends on luck and you hoping it works, so most of the time, you do it all yourself. Then again, jumping and the fact most battles can be fought in large areas enable you to fight enemies from atop buildings, making sure that annoying super-strong brute can’t reach you – at all. Cheap? Yes. Fun? Oh yeah! Changing profiles mid-battle allows you to switch from Engineer to Adept quickly so you can adapt if you prepare. But be careful – focussing on one role makes this role extremely powerful, so choose wisely – a jack of all trades will be worse than a Biotic God! But it can’t hurt to at least develop two sets of skills so you’re prepared for every situation.

Where Andromeda excels though is by offering you a lot of side content that will make your life easier – if you want. Crafting a strong weapon that shoots lightning or shotguns firing exploding bullets? Or you just gather what you find, sell it and buy weapons. What’s not to like? Furthermore, by raising your AVP level (pretty much a colonisation tracker) you can thaw more colonists, giving you bonuses. You do this by … well, playing Andromeda one way or another. You also get materials by exploring systems (boring) and driving around on planets (cool) with your Nomad, a Mako 2.0 but without a turret gun for some reason.

Oh, and the multiplayer of Andromeda is also great fun. In a nutshell, it feels like a harder version of Mass Effect 3, which is pretty much what fans have been asking for. This time though, you don’t need to play it to raise numbers, you simply get loot for your campaign, which is great. If you don’t feel like playing multiplayer (though it is fun), you can play strike missions either on an in-game terminal or on your smart phone, and you get the same rewards. Or you do both and get more! This is exactly how you should build a game – around different ways to reach the same goal, letting the player choose what to do.

So, should you buy Andromeda? Well, probably not yet if you’re not a big fan. To be honest, the gameplay is fine, the game picks up pace after 10 hours, yes, but still, all the technical shit is irritating. But here’s the thing – if you can deal with the bugs, if you can deal with the animations and the dumbed-down combat, your reward is you’re one of the first to explore a new galaxy!

Word of advice about the tone of Andromeda though – the darkness and impending doom of the first Mass Effect trilogy are gone. It makes sense though. You have a motley crew of young adventurers whose task is to explore. Sure, the stakes are high, but these folks are still more light-hearted and … well, cringeworthy at times. That being said, when Andromeda is aware of its silly dialogues, it works. Some of the writing is so bad it becomes great again, pretty much lie a B-movie. Sadly, it doesn’t always work. So watch a few videos with dialogues early in the game to see if you stomach it. And then, you have an A.I. cracking jokes …

Because in this one regard, Andromeda is still a Bioware game: You can spend hours just talking to everyone. The game can easily be played with a few quests to level up and fight on one planet, an hour of talking, a bit of exploration and a few skirmishes on another planet, crafting a few weapons and reading some emails, and so on. After ten hours or so, Andromeda hands you the reins to exploring a new galaxy of hopes, dreams … and silly faces.

Rabidgames wonders: Andromeda can be viewed as a case of “don’t judge a game by its cover”, or rather by its first impressions. There is beauty to be found behind the ugly faces and the bugs, yet it all depends on if you’re willing to take the risk of getting annoyed by the different writing and the weak opening hours. But one thing’s for sure – for a game that could very well make or break Bioware, Andromeda is simply not good enough. It is a decent albeit unpolished game, fair enough, but it is one of the worst Bioware games, too.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands or The Perfect Narcos Sandbox – With a Blight

Posted in Hands On with tags , , , , on March 18, 2017 by Rabidgames

After two betas, we can now finally roam all of Bolivia in Ghost Recon: Wildlands – and it is a massive country! And the beauty of it is not just the size and diversity of the map or the dozens of weapons and attachments, it’s the fact that Wildlands is a true, proper sandbox, probably one of the best in recent years!

Whether you want to play co-op or solo, whether you want to go in stealthy or very loud, whether you like long fire fights or sync shots, whether you want to even go in along or just rain mortar fire upon your enemies, whether you want a crisp challenge or just drive around to explore, whether you recon with a binocular, your drone or your weapon, all of this and more is entirely up to you.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands comes very, very close to great sandbox legends such as Just Cause 2 or the first Mercenaries, and the more Rabidgames plays, the more it feels like a mix of these two games. Add a pinch of Far Cry fuck-ups when things go wrong (enemy patrols can show up at very inopportune times), and perhaps there are also traces of pinch of Phantom Pain’s DNA in here (gathering resources or tagging enemies as well as how you should approach enemy bases).

A word of warning though – like in Just Cause 2, you pretty much do the same couple of missions over and over again, and approaching an occupied city, base or building changes only depending on the size and weaponry of your enemies. It’s entirely up to you and your creativity how to approach it. Even if you play the game solo, all the scenarios above and more are possible. Most missions allow various approaches. Even stopping an enemy convoy can be tackled in many ways – grab an armoured APC and let your guys fire away, ram the vehicles with a truck, or simply lay mines or C4 on the streets.

In a nutshell, Wildlands is a massive sandbox that gives you plenty of freedom to do things your way. For some, the mission variety might seem lacking – “go there, kill that, abduct him, destroy this” don’t vary too often, sure. But that’s not the point. The point of Wildlands is to write your own stories as you tackle your objectives.

So far, so good. But while Wildlands is great fun, it is blighted by one big issue – motherfucking micro-transaction! True, it might be mostly cosmetics, but what the flying fuck? Why is the only leather jacket hidden behind a fucking pay-wall? Couple that with the 30 quid season pass, and it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Come on Ubisoft, for fuck’s sake! Look at Horizon Zero Dawn, or look at Nier: Automata: There are no fucking piece of shit pay-walls, folks! You buy the game, you get all of it! Please, for the love of gaming, stop this shite already!

Apart from that monetary blight, the single radio channel looping its 5 or so pieces too quickly and a few technical hick-ups, Wildlands is a fucking brilliant sandbox. So brilliant that it has been the biggest launch seller so far this year, beating both Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda! It seems this is a sandbox for everyone. And while the game might be rough around the edges, it can also look amazing.

wildlands1

Rabidgames recons: If it wasn’t for the disgusting practices of locking away stuff behind a fucking pay-wall, Wildlands would leave only a sweet taste in the mouth of sandbox fans. But the sour taste of mindless monetisation is lingering on despite the many positives. It is a shame, but the shame there is entirely on Ubisoft!