Archive for the Hands On Category

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 …

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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.

The Crew 2 Open Beta or The Structureless and the Aimless

Posted in Commentary, Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , on June 26, 2018 by Rabidgames

The Crew 2 is going to be a strange game … sure, the first The Crew hardly had any memorable story, but this game has you driving to get followers while mysteriously being able to transform your vehicle to car/boat/plane instantly without any explanation ever except for “it’s for a TV show”. Seriously? Sure, the premise might be too much suspension for disbelief from the get-go for some, but let’s try to talk about the game, shall we? After all, fuck it, it’s a game!

Well, first, the world. It is a 1:1 rehash of the first game. Still there’s no Memphis, no Portland, no Boston … and no one knows why. Shame. The map looks better though. No surprise since you can fly, right? Speaking about flying in The Crew 2 … it feels weird. It is arcadey, sure, but sometimes you bounce back from hitting a tree! Ouch. Hitting a bigger obstacle will reset the plane, as will leaving the map. Flying itself is fun if you want to discover the landscape, but if you want to do that, you can also zoom into the map to see everything without having to change camera angles constantly. If you want to grind, you can constantly gain followers by flying around and doing stunts, too.

Boat racing … sorry, it is shitawfully boring. It’s a pretty much useless addition to The Crew 2 … for navigating the map, it’s useless as you can’t traverse much, and you can see the same and more via plane. The racing is also very boring. It’s just not fun. Car racing is mostly the same from the original The Crew. It is split up more, sure, but it doesn’t look or feel differently.

Progression works with followers won and ranks unlocked. You also earn money to buy new vehicles in new disciplines, which in turn need to be unlocked by progressing in ranks. And cars cost a lot of money. Sounds not exactly fun? You’re right, it’s not exactly fun. The Crew 2 seems to be an eternal grindfest.

Yes, the story in original game was rather on the shit side of things, but hey, there was some structure to the game at least. The only structure in The Crew 2 is that if you start a discipline, you get introduced to some future boss. And then you randomly choose races or challenges and win them. Over and over again. Oh, you can also search for live packs that give you random upgrades for your car (you can also get upgrades by winning certain races or challenges). A welcome change from racing are photo opportunities, where you are tasked to make a photo of some wildlife. Interestingly enough, you can get lots of followers and cash for making a photo.

Oh, and the voice-acting and the dialogues are atrocious. Utterly atrocious. You know when you hear someone is looking for “badassdom” in racers … The Crew 2 is a sandbox game in a very pure form – here are your tools, now play. No story, no explanation, no meaning, just racing. On the same map it shares with its predecessor. Sure, there is some addictive element to progress just a bit more, and if you’re inclined to play with others, this always-online game might be your cup of tea.

At the end of the day, the verdict is very negative. And yet, there are some addictive elements to The Crew 2, and the easy-going racing against others, against time are quite entertaining. And the good thing about the lack of structure is that you gain followers, money and parts by not even doing some serious racing, just by wasting some time. Which can be a nice thing after a long working day, you know … but it’s also an experience that can wait for a price reduction.

Rabidgames is bored: 30 minutes in, the game gets boring already. Races all feel to similar at the beginning, and there is no urgency to anything, or incentive to do something just now. Sorry, recycling a map and adding some half-implentend and unexplained features isn’t enough to justify a full-price purchase. Not this time, Ubi!

Vampyr or Undeath is Strange

Posted in Hands On, The Latest with tags , , , on June 15, 2018 by Rabidgames

After Life is Strange, the expectations were high.Would Dontnod’s take on vampires follow Max’ and Chloe’s adventures, or would it rather be like Remember Me, a game with good intentions and great design, but ultimately remembered for being a bit mediocre because of the weird combat and some strange puzzles? Long story short, Vampyr is a bit of both. And there are some nice easter-eggs and trophies in there as well to remind you of the developer’s heritage …

Vampyr has the long yet intriguing dialogues of Life is Strange, and it also has a similar yet considerably darker atmosphere. But the fighting also feels a bit disjointed from the rest of the game sadly. More on that later, but let’s just making the fighting optional certainly wouldn’t have Vampyr a worse game. Anyway, most of the time, you’ll talk to people and try to find clues that serve two purposes: First, you unlock hints that might be useful later, and second, the more hints you unlock and the healthier a NPC is, the more XP you get for drinking their crimson wine. Each NPC has a story to tell, and it is interesting to get to know more about them – if they survive long enough.

But the consequences … fuck. They are brutal. Let’s just say one decision can doom an entire district. For good. And worst, Rabidgames meant well! Vampyr doesn’t bother to give you any indication how to achieve a good or bad outcome, so prepare to restart the game and playing up to 10 hours if you mess this up and you can’t live with the consequences. Or save the game on a USB stick frequently … just asking for a friend, you know … Like said before, Vampyr is not shy to kill off everyone in a district if you don’t keep everyone, especially the so-called “pillars”, important NPCs in an area, alive. Alive and healthy, so you’ll spend time talking to them and keeping them healthy by brewing medicine – a lot!

Vampyr is a game that can be played fundamentally different. The main thing is that you get lots of XP and thereby an easy game if you “embrace” NPCs – embracing being the best euphemism for drinking their blood like Russians devour alcohol! If you do this, you quickly unlock the powerful skills of Vampyr – but it comes at a steep price – every living person gone brings a district closer to chaos.

Now, let’s talk about combat. While there are some fights you sadly have to fight, you can evade many. Now, the combat in Vampyr isn’t necessarily bad, but it takes up too much room in a game about choices. Way too much room. So, you can mix and match your weapons and abilities, which works for different playstyles. You can stun and suck blood, you can shoot your guns (although you don’t have many bullets at your disposal), you can use blood or shadow “magic”, there’s plenty of choice to be had. If only the fighting was fun … It feels a bit like Dark Souls though – more a chore on the way to your target than something to enjoy.

And then, there are boss battles. If you choose to be a “good vampire”, well, you’re fucked. There is a special boss fight around the middle of the game where you can easily get killed with 2 hits in this case. It’s fucking stupid. This is a case of Deus Ex: Human Revolution all over again – why bother playing non-violently when it boils down to brute force after all?

Even worse, the loading times. Vampyr takes forever to load, and if you die, prepare to watch the screen for at least a minute, at least on the base PS4. And you wonder why – the graphics are nice, but not spectacular. The physics also don’t justify it, and neither does the size of this Victorian London. So why does it take so long? Oh, and once every full moon, the game also crashes during fights.

So, where does this take us? Well, Vampyr is unfortunately a hybrid of great adventure moments and tedious combat, the latter heavily weighing down the former. And if you choose to be a good doctor, well fuck you very much, Vampyr becomes ten, okay, five times harder. The idea is alright, but especially the addition of way too many sub-bosses takes away from the great atmosphere. Another issue is the backtracking – there is no fast-travel so you’ll walk back and forth (with optional fighting, of course) quite a lot, often a couple of times the same way in a given chapter.

But despite all the shortcomings, Vampyr is a fascinating game. It is not as captivating as Life is Strange was, but it can mesmerise you when you investigate a scene or listen to all the dialogues and come to your conclusion, and if you get a decision wrong, you feel the same kind of pain you felt when you made that agonising last decision in Life is Strange. The game definitely has a soul. Whether that’s enough for you, well, that depends how thirsty you are for a vampire game.

Rabidgames ponders in the dark: It’s not that Vampyr does a great many things wrong. A few technical hiccups aside, it’s only the tedious combat that keeps the game, and the fun, down. And yet, it is hard to put the controller down once the story continues, once you’ve found out another secret of a NPC – and once you got over the fact you doomed 12 people because you meant well!

Agony or Gameplay from Hell

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , on June 5, 2018 by Rabidgames

First of all, DO NOT watch any gameplay from Agony at work. Even if you sometimes watch video game videos there. Just don’t. Unless you want to explain the sight of strangely shaped heads with teeth above bloodied breasts to you co-workers of course – and that’s one of the more harmless visuals …

 Agony. A horror survival game in hell. A developer that promised to make no compromises. Sounds good. But then, there were compromises. Developer Madmind Studio self-censored the game, even more than they said they would, and then miraculously released a video containing exactly the deleted scenes, which involve pornography and a demon dick raping a succubus. Yes, very fucking explicit scenes. Honestly, fuck discussing if that’s art or not, this kind of click-bait and “look how edgy we are” marketing is gross or pathetic. Or both, depending on your point of view. Oddly enough, apples with a “hole” have made it into the game …

It surely should not create a shitstorm among gamers, because talking about censoring bits of a game where there is still shitloads of violence, gore and sex on your screen is moot when it is a miracle all the content that is in is actually allowed on-screen in puritanical countries like the US or in countries like Germany, where even a ridiculously harmless game like Syphon Filter once had to have enemies bleeding green blood …

So controversy and violent porn scenes aside, how does Agony fare? Ugh. First, what happened to the graphics? You know, the trailers and past presentations showed a nice-looking game. Now, hell looks like a game released 5 years ago, and flesh rather looks like plastic in many areas. It’s also pretty dark – so dark that you sometimes can’t even stare at the wonders of hell because it is too damn dark! And yes, animations and NPC would look odd next to Skyrim! Then, there are problems with screen tearing and FPS slowdowns, as well as demons teleporting 2 meters next to you. Or you can’t progress for some reason until you restart the game …

But hey, maybe the gameplay can save Agony? Nope. The controls are not as responsive as they should, the character moves too slow, the puzzles are merely “find a heart and bring it there”, the stealth is similar but worse than Alien: Isolation, and the fighting small enemies but run away from big ones is also frustrating because of the technical issues or boring because the demons that quickly dismember you can appear everywhere (see above). It can also happen that you can be stuck in a hiding spot because the demon next to you keeps running into a wall … Or random stuff like this glitch or whatever it may be:

But there’s one good gameplay idea at least: If you die, you have a bit of time to fly (in spirit form) into another body, possess it and continue your journey. However, if you fail to do so, you’re dead. And here comes the idiotic save system of Agony into play: You have to use a mirror-thing to be able to save there, which in turn means you’ll return there (up to three times only though). And the game does an awful shitty job with placing them smartly. Sometimes, there are two within two minutes, and sometimes, you can’t find a single fucking mirror-thing for 30 minutes – until you get killed. But it’s fun to lose 30 minutes of progress over and over, isn’t it? Then again, the demon sometimes stands literally next to you kneeling and walks away again. Huh?

All of these factors combined turn Agony from a promising survival game to a game where you wonder if the game engine can even survive the game. Sadly though, the tiresome gameplay and the irksome bugs are so annoying, progressing is such a pain, that it is easy to overlook that the designers actually did quite a good job with their portrayal of hell in Agony. Some areas feel like hell, and you’re slowly crouching along when a demon is close by while you hear damned babies or mad adults cry. Some scenes also leave that slightly curious yet definitely uncomfortable feeling in your stomach, which is a sign a horror game does something right.

So no, it’s not that Agony couldn’t get anything right at all. Maybe it’s for masochists who loved to die a million times in Dark Souls, and now don’t mind terrible controls. Maybe it will be better once it’s patched properly. But while one can say this road to hell was paved with good intentions, the lacklustre execution means you grow tired of this incarnation of hell very quickly.

Rabidgames laments: Shame. Great potential, but the self-inflicted controversy about censorship, the unfinished state and the incredibly boring gameplay ruin this vacation to the depths of hell. A hell where you suffer the shortcomings of the game more than you suffer hell itself. Or to sum it up: The name says it all.