Archive for the Played & Explained Category

6 Reasons the Ghost Recon Breakpoint Beta was a Disappointment

Posted in Commentary, Played & Explained with tags , , , on September 13, 2019 by Rabidgames

If you’re like Rabidgames and you loved Ghost Recon Wildlands and you looked forward to finally jumping into the Beta of the successor Breakpoint, chances are the Beta leaves you numb and wondering what happened there.

1) There are no AI team mates – yet(?)

Running around with the AI, positioning them, lining up sync shots, laughing at them getting stuck – that was the bread and butter of Wildlands for yours truly. For some inexplicable idiotic reason, Ubisoft first decided there shouldn’t be AI team mates in Breakpoint, but then woke up and ensured us to add them … post-launch. But without them, the Breakpoint Beta is fucking boring. It feels like Just Cause on Valium or Metal Gear Solid without the iconic villains – just more of the same open world shooter experience. No AI, no buy.

2) Breakpoint will be always-online

For no fucking reason whatsoever. This isn’t The Division where everything was built from scratch around co-op in tight places (and even there always-online is a questionable choice). This is a very different game with a considerably bigger world and stealth. Imagine playing with some gung-ho shit brain who spoils your plan or wanders off to watch a fucking sunset at the other end of the map. The decision to make Breakpoint always-online seems like a rushed marketing decision, not like a gameplay idea.

3) The world feels shallow

Sure, we only see some regions in the beta but what we see reminds too much of Just Cause 3’s nothern region – mostly emptiness with some enemy structures. There are hardly any towns or villages, just ruins and outposts. A bit boring.

4) Movement feels incredibly clunky

What happened there? It feels like GTA IV all over again, where you had to anticipate movement. Imagine you have to stop 2 seconds so your character stops where you want them to stop. Of course, bikes and cars still handle weirdly in Breakpoint, too.

5) It’s a potential grind-mill money trap

Imagine taking the Division trinity core gameplay mechanics of levels, loot & missions and making you grind for shit in Breakpoint. It works in The Division, sure, but The Division has always been designed as a looter shooter RPG. Ghost Recon hasn’t. Those changes disrupt the core gameplay loop.

6) Level gating kills the sandbox experience

The beauty of Wildlands was that you could start the game, and after 30 minutes or so, you could just go anywhere on the map. Anywhere. Some missions were hard, yes. Some outposts were too hard, too, sure. But 99% of the map waited to be explored without any immortal beings shrugging off your bullets as if they were rain drops. Breakpoint might change that. Not only via the swarms attacking anything that wants to go somewhere “they” don’t want  you to go (that actually are a pretty cool element), but also by making sure your Lv.1 Nomad dies after a Lv.666 Shitdrone blows fart drops in your general direction.

Rabidgames shakes his weary head: Why, Ubisoft? You had a winning system. But then you threw it away. changing a sandbox into a grindbox sucks.

Now, that’s not to say it’s all bad. The camouflage and injury mechanics are pretty neat, being hunted by drones and Ghosts across the map can be fun, the story is grittier and less a shallow patriotic tale about the good US intervening in a bad foreign land, and exploring a live volcano in the full game sounds pretty promising. But there are too many buts in the game right now to recommend buying it. Shame.

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Redeemer or Just About Halfway There

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , on September 6, 2019 by Rabidgames

Redeemer’s Enhanced Edition is a weird thing: We’re talking about a game that can’t decide what it wants to be – Diablo clone, beat ’em up or twin stick shooter, all ingredients are there. But all feel halfassed.

To be fair, Redeemer is not bad per se. But it also doesn’t excel in anything. Yes, some finishers are quite brutal, but you only sometimes see them up close. Most of the time, the camera is far away. The story also starts out nicely with an interesting intro, but then you just run around and slaughter without anything happening for the next 20 minutes. Of course, Redeemer also has a progression system, but guess what, that has also been implemented half-heartedly.

Once you played some levels and maimed, stabbed, executed and shot 100 enemies, you either keep doing the same and see the monotonous gameplay as a lesson in meditation or finding your zen in violence or whatever, or you think whatever, put Redeemer away and play something with more identity. It’s probably a easy choice for most of us.

Rabidgames’ verdict: GO BUY if you can’t get enough of isometric game with gratuitous splashes of blood and violence.

DO NOT BUY if you don’t feel like playing a game that is trying quite a few things but doesn’t excel in anything really.

F1 2019 or When More of the Same can be Just Good Enough

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , on July 18, 2019 by Rabidgames

Sometimes, an annual game can still be worth getting when there are mostly just small changes to the formula. F1 2019 might well be such a game, especially seeing how fucking boring the real Formula 1 has become. Sure, F1 2019 has some questionable penalties from the stewards, but nothing as arbitrary as the real thing …

The first thing you notice in F1 2019 is the graphical upgrade – especially races at dusk (or dawn) look stunning now. And sure, part of it might be the XBox One X’s enhanced capabilities, but the game runs a bit smoother than last year’s, too. And the lighting looks great on all platforms, especially if you drive around a circuit at night!

Then, you can play either an entire season in the F2 or you can start your career there (for now, there’s the 2018 grid, but the updated drivers of this year will follow in a free update later this year). Well, as for your career, the game is still called F1 2019 so you only drive in that series for a couple of races before being promoted to Formula 1 together with a friend and a not so friendly rival. Another new feature there is that drivers actually swap seats. It’s rather unlikely you’ll see Hamilton in a Williams, Leclerc in a Mercedes or Vettel not crashing his car, but hey, it adds some dynamics to the game so we’ll take it.

Of course, F1 2019 comes with a ton of classic cars again, and as before, it’s great fun to try them and compare them to the modern-day DRS monsters. The official real-life F1 HUD makes the game look a little bit more authentic, which is of course welcome.If you like esports,  gives you a nice package, too: You can customise your driver and your car design pretty freely, there are weekly events and also leagues now. If that interests you, check it out. Also, it often ends in pure chaos, as one would expect.

Sadly, some of the problems from last year are still in F1 2019: the interviews are often more miss than hit, some penalties seem a bit harsh, the AI is braindead on easy but smells your overtaking strategies on higher difficulties from miles away to easily block you, he story is a bit too clichéd and voice overs don’t always deliver. It can be quite annoying, yes, but never ends up being game-changingly frustrating.

At the chequered flag, none of the small issues matter now: F1 2019 is the latest step of the evolution of the series. It sits comfortably on the arcade-side of simulations or the simulation-side of arcade-racing games, it gives you tons of options and settings and optimisations if you want them, and the often tiny tweaks and additions just elevate it a bit more – without raising it to a new level.

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY if you have no interest in Formula 1, racing games or a mix of arcade and simulation racing. Especially for arcade-racers, this game might quickly become too overwhelming and too hard to get into.

THINK ABOUT BUYING if you already have last year’s F1 game. If you have no interest in the tweaks or the F2 roster, you might want to wait until later.

GO BUY if you love or loved Formula 1 or if you like to micromanage your career step by step. Or get if you’re bored with the incredibly boring Mercedes dominance. Just be careful of Vettel’s Ferrari behind you …

A Plague Tale: Innocence or Uninspired Gameplay Plaguing A Great Story

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , on June 5, 2019 by Rabidgames

First impressions can be wrong. It may look like it, but thankfully, A Plague Tale: Innocence is neither a Telltale copy-paste game nor a walking simulator (nothing against those, mind you). Instead, the game with yet another weird title is a stealth/puzzle adventure with bits of fighting. And that’s good. Set in 14th century France, protagonist Amicia and her little brother Hugo, who has a mysterious illness in his blood, must escape the heinous inquisition and rats. Tons of supernatural rats.

Unfortunately, we also see the rare case where too much gameplay can hinder a good story. In A Plague Tale: Innocence, this happens once in a while. While the puzzle parts are fine, the stealth parts are usually dragged-out games of hide and seek. Which gets boring quickly. Couple that with the weird idea that Amicia early on learns to kill enemies by hitting baddies in the head, which shocks her at first. If that mechanic would be utilised once or twice, fine. But she’ll leave with a three-figure body count if you feel like handling stuff violently, which honestly feels out of place.

And there’s another issue. See, you’re usually out there with Amicia and Hugo in A Plague Tale: Innocence, and you meet some friends on your adventure. All can help you at times. That’s cool. Not so cool are at two rather long parts where you’re on your own, and all you do is evade or kill (depending on the level). Couple that with the fragile Amicia versus towering guards mechanics where being spotted means death, it’s a boring game of trial and error. Same goes for the quite frankly ridiculous final boss. Whenever A Plague Tale: Innocence turns into an action game, it feels wonky, weird and quite uncomfortable in its own skin.

Thankfully though, there are many sections where you solve puzzles with your friends, where you just walk around and talk (and look for crafting resources), and the cut scenes that show how Amicia and her once estranged brother truly become family are really well done. You also get to know some other kids along the way, and A Plague Tale: Innocence does a great job of bringing them closer to Amicia and you.

The star in A Plague Tale: Innocence is the atmosphere though. Regularly, there are two colour palettes: During the day, you often walk through a lush and colourful landscape, and at night, you long for some light, not only because it will keep you safe from the thousands and thousands of hungry rats you see on screen, but also because the game gives you the illusion of safety there.

fields

Sometimes bright and lush …

A Plague Tale: Innocence also has a nice flow most of the times: Some levels start with walking to the action, a bit of stealth is followed by the puzzles of “create a path of light so the rats won’t devour you”, and then you have some cutscenes. You also see everything from lush forests to battlefields with hundreds of corpses, caves and castles. A Plague Tale: Innocence brings you to many places. And the journey of the siblings also works as a narrative. The supernatural conclusion also works most of the time. It’s only at the final boss where it’s all just a bit too fucking ridiculous.

battlefield

… sometimes dead and dark.

In some ways, A Plague Tale: Innocence resembles the first Life is Strange. A tale of friendship coupled with supernatural events, the end of the world looms, and you have the key to solve the problem. Sure, there are no choices and the gameplay isn’t that unique, but A Plague Tale: Innocence is also the kind of game you might just like despite it being the kind of game you usually don’t like. And if you’re like Rabidgames, you can easily forgive the problems in the gameplay department because the narrative and the atmosphere in A Plague Tale: Innocence are just simply great!

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY the game if you don’t like linear experiences or handholding kids. Or if you like stealth games with tight and elaborate controls. If you’re afraid of rats, well, avoid the game at all costs.

GO BUY if you like a great narrative and a great atmosphere. This game offers both.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Fire Pro Wrestling World or Now This is Wrestling!

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Played & Explained with tags , , , on October 23, 2018 by Rabidgames

Tired of the annual WWE games? Tired of decade-old animations and terrible hair? Tired of the heroes of yesteryears shitting on everybody else? Don’t fret! Finally, Fire Pro Wrestling has come to the PS4!

Fire Pro Wrestling World is completely different from the WWE 2K games in pretty much every aspect though. It starts with the 2D graphics, continues with the emphasis on position and timing and ends with an emphasis on match ratings. There is also a very looong career mode called “Fighting Road” (after 5 hours, you might just be around 5-8% in) where you learn the ropes and meet all the famous NJPW greats. And yes, it can get quite whacky.

There are quite a few modes available, from single to tag team to battle royal matches, and there’s also weirder ones such as barbed wire, landmine matches and even MMA style clashes, including one kind where you can only strike. Of course, you can also create your own wrestler in Fire Pro Wrestling World. Yes, it looks and feels weird at first, but you can build incredibly crazy wrestlers and add them to your rosters. The move list is also huge, and each move can be assigned as a finisher. Sadly though, the title creation option is pretty basic.

Another unique thing to Fire Pro is the AI. You can manipulate the logic of a wrestler so that he/she behaves like you want him/her to, or, if you create a CM Punk, that he behaves exactly like CM Punk would. Understanding and then applying the logic system is, as is everything in Fire Pro, a long process though.

But, and here’s the main difference to Yukes’ WWE 2K games, Fire Pro is a series where it is fun to just watch the matches. Thanks to the logic system, watching Ric Flair fight Sting looks pretty similar to their classic fights, provided their logic is correctly applied. And that’s where the emphasis on match ratings comes into play. The more varied the match, the more the momentum changes, the more dramatic kick-outs, the better the rating will be.

One thing should be noted though – Fire Pro Wrestling World has a huge learning cliff once you start out. It goes without saying that you should start with the tutorial if you’re new to the series. Because if you don’t you’ll feel utterly lost. Previous wrestling game or beat ’em up knowledge is essentially useless.

Even a simple thing as a grapple will be mystery. Why? Well, in Fire Pro, you grapple automatically and press the button at a very specific time. Otherwise, your move will be countered. If you hit the strong grapple button while your opponent is fit, you’ll get countered. Actually, there are many tutorials out there like the following one that explain the game mechanics nicely.

So, where does that leave us? Fire Pro Wrestling World is a game that rewards patience and those who see wrestling as a form of art. It doesn’t always matter if you win or lose, what matters is that you do it in style. Fire Pro has been known to go down a different route when it comes to wrestling, in World is not different in this regard. Even better, once the Promoter DLC is out, you will be able to book and simulate, or promote, your very own wrestling league, compete with others and put all the things you’ve learnt to test. Until then, Fire Pro Wrestling World is still a game that can be immensely fun to learn and master.

Rabidgames’ verdict: DO NOT BUY the game when you have no interest or patience to learn a new way to wrestle from scratch. Or any interest in wrestling.

GO BUY the game when you love wrestling, a challenge and eventually very rewarding gameplay.