Archive for Uncharted

Horizon Zero Dawn or Beauty close to Perfection

Posted in Gaming these days ..., Hands On with tags , , , , on March 8, 2017 by Rabidgames

Horizon Zero Dawn is a masterpiece. Without question. Rarely has a game looked so beautiful, has the gameplay been so addictive, or has the setting been so intriguing.

And even more importantly, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t only shine with the grand things like graphics or gameplay mechanics, the finer details like the vantage points that show doors to the past or the names of contemporary daily items like coins or watches highlight the attention to detail that has gone into the game.

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Darkness and fog also look good in Horizon Zero Dawn.

Probably the only thing holding Horizon Zero Dawn back from GOTY awards aplenty might be the fact that is by no means a casual game – sneaking isn’t too hard, but fighting enemies openly is lethal even on normal – and that is a one-on-one fight against tough bosses, with conveniently forgetting there are also weaker enemies around! You cannot really fight casually often, but the mechanics open up once you realise there’s always another way to fight – the ropecaster might well be the unsung hero of Horizon Zero Dawn – binding enemies for a short time gives you exactly the room to breathe you need, and traps are always Aloy’s best friend.

When comparing Horizon Zero Dawn with other system sellers like Uncharted 4 or Zelda – Breath of the Wild, it becomes clear that the other two games pretty much combine elements from all over the gaming world and combine them to fun-filled experience. Broken down into the single parts, there don’t seem to be that special (except for the nature physics in Zelda – that sounds great). True, the same can be said for many things in Horizon Zero Dawn – stealth, crafting, climbing or fighting humans with a bow is nothing new.

But it is fighting robots where Horizon Zero Dawn requires a unique way of thinking – all the tools and traps at our disposal, only The Witcher 3 and Geralt’s arsenal of potions and venoms is comparable here, but both games handle things way differently; The Witcher’s mechanics are rather based on a (thankfully) easier Dark Souls system, while the clue to downing the massive beasts is tearing apart different components, especially the combustible ones first, or laying traps, or pinning them to the ground. Even breaking line of sight and then playing hide & seek works! Or why not hacking one robot and sending it to weaken the others? And then there are many different robots – from deer to birds to fire breathing monsters and the mostly invisible Stalkers, Horizon Zero Dawn doesn’t hold back in throwing various opponents at us, and eliminating them effectively requires creativity, a bit of patience and sometimes also luck.

And then the graphics … you don’t have to be a graphics whore to gaze in awe at the screen at times. Be it snow, desert, ruins or dense forests, it all looks amazing. And seeing the sun rise over ruins or snowy summits is truly a sight to behold! One thing is for sure, the photo mode in Horizon Zero Dawn is a great addition, as you can edit your screenshots easily. Especially dusk or dawn look breathtaking if you happen to be there at the right place (the right time is not needed, as you can forward or rewind time for your picture).

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Dawn and the horizon.

But gameplay and graphics only complement the beauty of Horizon Zero Dawn; it’s the curiosity and individualism of the protagonist Aloy in a superstitious and fearful world, it’s the eerily overgrown ruins of civilisation, the contrast between nature and machine, and humans caught in the middle, the different tribes all lost in different way. All the while you only find fragments about the past, Aloy’s past is one of the biggest mysteries of the game. And the pacing is also almost perfect – from the start of Horizon Zero Dawn to the Proving, you’re introduced to the world from the eyes of an outsider (literally), making a good introduction into the world. And the plot only thickens from there on.

Horizon Zero Dawn also delivers the best sets of side quests since The Witcher 3 – while there are usually not many options to finish it, there’s often a bit of lore and a bit of drama included. Even taking over bandit camps comes with the help of a mysterious stranger …

Oh, don’t listen to the right-wing trolls claiming Horizon Zero Dawn has a feminist agenda and is a “SJW nightmare”, or whatever bullshits these morons are spouting. At least in the first 20 hours, neither men nor women are depicted as either good or evil; instead, everything is depicted in a darkish grey. So don’t listen to the alt-right political trolls poisoning gaming forums these day please!

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A Tallneck in its habitat.

Rabidgames cannot stop playing: Horizon Zero Dawn is surely one of the best looking games ever – both in terms of aesthetics and pure graphical technical terms. But beyond visuals and the great gameplay, it also tells a fascinating story about a future full of mysteries and wonders. It is a very ambitious game, and it might well go down into history as one of the best games – unless the machines take over soon …

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Uncharted 4 or A Confession from a Convert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tomb Raider or Less Cleavage, More Gameplay

Posted in Played & Explained with tags , , , , on March 26, 2013 by Rabidgames

Reboots are en vogue these days. If you’re stuck with a story or a protagonist, rewind and restart. In Tomb Raider’s case, it’s been a damn good idea. Lara Croft isn’t just a mere sexualised dual-wielding triple jumping doll with gravity-defying massive knockers anymore, she is a young and naive student on her quest to archaeological glory. At least for 45 minutes. After a rough start, she has survived getting impaled, getting shot, falling and more falling, wolf attacks … and there’s more pain to come.

Sadly, the transition from naive student to cold-blooded huntress happens a bit too fast in the new Tomb Raider. One minute she is close to puking her guts out after shooting some bad guy’s brain into tiny pieces, the next she’s on her way mowing down squads of baddies. Later on, it gets outright ridiculous when she takes down a whole army (literally) within mere minutes! Alright, even though this sounds crazy let’s not forget the new Tomb Raider isn’t as outlandish as the franchise used to be (no, there’s no T Rex), but still, don’t expect more than solid B movie entertainment. It is solid; the story is engaging although not surprising – think of Indiana Jones and you’re pretty close to it. But it works. The story about her team stranded, an insane cult worshipping a long dead queen and hte mysteries of this isolated place is enough to get the plot going. Characters … well, let’s say it’s obvious who dies and who lives, and if you want to know more about them, you have to look for documents scattered all over the island.

Tomb Raider’s island is amazing. Thanks to the pretty and smooth graphics, it is more welcoming and more diverse than Far Cry 3’s jungles, and there’s much hidden in each and every corner – be it in the jungle, in caves, in old ruins or in a rather miserable shanty town, you’ll never get tired of looking at it. Yes; an island full of mysteries, some “others”, relics, it is more than a subtle hint to Lost. Inexplicably, there is no hatch (that award goes to Just Cause 2).

And now for the surprise: Lara is the little sister of Batman, and no, she has virtually nothing to do with Nathan Drake. Forget about comparing Tomb Raider to Uncharted – apart from both games being action adventures and containing gun fights, they don’t have much in common. Arkham Asylum is the godfather of the new Tomb Raider!

DNA tests? Here we go:

  • Lara’s instinct = Batman’s detective mode
  • backtracking (new gadgets open new paths)
  • melee system, especially counter moves
  • Lara’s rope arrows = Batman’s rope gadget
  • destroying barriers feels the same
  • documents = tapes
  • the level up system
  • stealth works similar – if it is an option

Let’s be honest here – Arkham Asylum is an amazing game, and it’s a decent blueprint to use. Mind you, Tomb Raider is more than a mere copy – it is darker, grittier and definitely bloodier. Both games have one thing in common though: The focus on gameplay and fun in diversity. And the mix between action/fighting and adventure/exploring is close to perfection in both games. There are many different items to collect (from interesting or useful to chore) so even after completing the story, you might want to go back and continue collecting some more stuff.

Surprisingly, the gun fights in Tomb Raider are more challenging than in many other shooters: Forget about leisurely eliminating enemies from cover! Molotovs, dynamite, melee fighters and more make it impossible to just sit there waiting for heads to pop out. In Tomb Raider, you have to be proactive and quick if you don’t want to get overwhelmed. The only annoying enemies are those carrying shields (at least before the grenade launcher upgrade): Lara’s stupid dodging before rolling makes fighting them a chore. By the way, why can Lara use grenades with a rifle, but she can’t use them without it?

Of course, Rabidgames has to nitpick once more: QTE. Come on! While the first couple of QTE in Tomb Raider might serve as a way for inexperienced Lara to learn how to fight and survive from an artistic point of view, getting rid of the final boss via QTE is nothing short of fucking lazy! It’s a disgrace. What happened to the art of smart boss fights? Extinct? Superfluous? Not streamlined enough for this generation?

Another disappointment in Tomb Raider is the lack of actual tomb raiding: There are only 7 tombs (plus one preorder DLC one) to be raided – and each one is just one puzzle per room. Erm, why exactly is the game called Tomb Raider now? Shouldn’t it be called “Lara Croft: The Beginning” or “Lara Croft Rises” … Anyway, Tomb Raider is one of those action adventures spelled ACTION adventures – although the fighting/puzzle ratio is still higher than in Uncharted 2.

Oh, the multiplayer. Fuck it. Rabidgames doesn’t give a fuck. Tomb Raider does not need a fucking multiplayer, and supposedly, it ain’t great anyway. Those wasted resources would have helped in enhancing the adventure part. Oh, and Square Enix, one word about your DLC policy: Fuck off! Lots of rather tiny stuff for day one. Weapons, characters etc. And for the singleplayer, we get some extra skins. Remember when skins got unlocked by playing the fucking game? Good old days long gone it seems …

Rabidgames nods: Well, the usual nitpicking aside, Tomb Raider is a pleasant surprise. Even though there is not much originality in there, it still feels refreshing, and that’s something which ain’t easy to achieve. The easy-going gameplay and a sombre atmosphere go well together, and after finishing Lara’s first adventure, we are craving for more. No, not a boob job, you perv!

The New Tomb Raider or Poaching in Uncharted Territory?

Posted in News with tags , , on February 26, 2013 by Rabidgames

Sometimes, life’s ironic. Remember when folks used to say that the Uncharted series drew inspiration from Tomb Raider? It seems the tables have turned, or rather, they’re about to turn pretty soon …

Yes, Rabidgames has pre-ordered the new Tomb Raider game, which features a younger and improved yet somehow distinctly reduced student/heroine. The isometric platformer Lara Croft and The Guardian of Light aside, it’ll be his first purchase of a Tomb Raider game. Now, if you remember, Rabidgames did not exactly fancy Uncharted 2 – too linear, too constrained, nothing more but an enjoyable yet shallow popcorn-action game. So why pre-ordering a game that steals back some inspiration from Uncharted?

If you take a look at the reviews, it becomes clearer: Yes, the new Tomb Raider tends to offer linear paths and action-ladden climbing stunts, too. However, it also features exploration in its calmer moments. Judging from the reviews, lots of exploration, most of them likely having something to do with, pardon the pun, raiding a tomb or two …

There’s also a decent RPG system, upgradeable weapons, gory kill animations (fairly shared between Lara and the enemies) and unfortunately and a possible dealbreaker, quite an abundance of those loathsome QTEs, especially in the beginning phases of Tomb Raider. Let’s hope it is just to illustrate that Lara has to learn to survive step by step (translated as button per button), and then, it’s game on. By the way, dear dev teams around the globe: Have a look at The Witcher 2, look closer and LEARN: It is possible to make QTEs purely optional, so please, fucking DO IT! Thanks.

Speaking of reviews, this hilarious video review from no other than Conan O’Brian is definitely … original:

Rabidgames hopes: It’s about time we get a solid game in 2013! Lara’s reboot might lack in gravity-defying size of boobs, but hopefully the size of the game will make up for it. If Tomb Raider turns out to be another digital medium of disappointed aspirations, it can still be sold to make way for Bioshock Infinite. And if that one bombs as well, all hope in gaming is lost anyway …