Showing posts with label video game review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label video game review. Show all posts

Mortal Kombat X: Predator review

Predator, the fighter I was rooting for back when it wasn't certain who would appear in the Kombat Pack (sorry, Spawn fans), has finally stepped into Mortal Kombat X's bloody world. Given the fact the alien's a skilled combatant who's loaded with all kinds of weaponry, it's really should come as no surprise that Predator makes a solid addition to NetherRealm Studios' evergrowing MK universe.
Now if we could get a Xenomorph in the game...
Predator's three variations are Warrior (brutal close combat), Hunter (healing and the ability to set traps), and Hish-qu-ten (gains use of the signature shoulder cannon). While these obviously benefit three different gameplay styles, one surprising thing is Predator doesn't have unique combos for any of the variations. On the plus side, that means there's less to memorize and the character is "easier" to master since each of the three variations have the same melee attacks and combos - it's just a matter of how you'll work in the different new special moves to make your opponent suffer even more. But on the down side, that's kind of disappointing. How great would it have been to use the Predator's impressive strength in new ways for the Warrior variation? Or the Plasma Caster at point blank range to conclude a harsh combo with the Hish-qu-ten variation? Or what if the Hunter variation had a combo that ends with trapping your enemy in a net, leaving them temporarily open for an extra combo? There's so much potential here - the Predator is heavily armed, after all - so to have no unique combos is a bit of a letdown.

Even though Predator's lacking unique melee attacks across his three variations, the special moves shared by all three are still satisfying. Obviously, Predator has the ability to cloak - no real surprise that was picked as a move or what it does - but Scimitar Stab is ferocious and exactly what you'd want to see from a Predator. With the ability to lunge forward pretty far, the Predator impales his enemy with his wrist blade, slowly lifts them up and abruptly throws them away. It's savage, it's swift, and it has the Predator doing his memorable noise. All in all, that one never gets old. While it doesn't have as much fan service as the wrist blade toss, Smart-Disc is a hugely effective special move. Instead of throwing the disc directly across the screen, the Predator tosses the bladed weapon into the air. From there, it waits for a moment or two before launching after its target. If the Predator is knocked around, the weapon falls. Otherwise, it seeks out and stuns its target. This is probably the biggest and most creative surprise for the character. I fully expected the Smart-disc to be incorporated, but I assumed it would be a relatively standard throw. Well played, NetherRealm.

The combos he does have are pretty simple yet still good fun. I'm glad the Combi-stick is utilized to give the extraterrestrial a little more reach and his one very easy combo with the pointy melee weapony is appropriately cool and effective. It's really easy to juggle with the Predator and all of his listed combos are easy to execute. Best of all, they all feel true to the character. From the way the Predator walks towards his enemy to the handling of his attacks, it's obvious NetherRealm put a lot of love into bringing the iconic movie character to life in to the video game. You can also tell NetherRealm had a good time naming Predator's combos. From "ugly mother" to "CONTAAAAACT," the names are likely going to make any fan of the movie(s) smile while looking through the move list for the first time - I sure did. Oh, and his throw is beyond cruel. The way he uses his wrist blade is relentless.
At least "Carl Weathers" has a fair shot at winning this time around.
Warrior - my favorite variation - is simplistic and focuses on an aggressive tactics. With the mask removed, this is the Predator when he's ready for some vicious hand-to-hand combat. This one's all about blunt damage and giving your enemy no room to breathe. Meanwhile, the Hish-qu-ten variation - which equips the shoulder cannon - can be used by clever players at just the right moment, but honestly, it's clear this is what the spammers will adore. This variation only gives Predator the ability to fire forward, downwards (you can alter the range by holding the direction) and upwards. You can also aim with the laser sight and fire whenever you're ready. In the right hands, this can serve as a game-changer. In the wrong hands, it'll be obnoxious. Thankfully, you've learned how to counter spammers at this point, right? Last but not least, the Hunter variation takes the most talent to use well, so if you're an especially skilled and tactical player, this could be your go-to variation. The ability to lay traps is guaranteed to manipulate your enemy's movement and if they do step on the trap, they're left vulnerable. Plus, the ability to generate some extra health - especially while your foe is stuck in a trap - doesn't hurt.
If only the Predator mimicked Dutch's "stick around" line after stabbing someone.
Just like with Jason Voorhees - another movie character who doesn't speak English - Predator's intros don't offer a lot of variety. As a fan of the alien hunter, seeing the Predator roar and get ready for a fight is consistently awesome, but the way characters react to this new fighter isn't all that entertaining -  based on what I've seen so far, that is.

I'm left with really mixed feelings on the ending. On one hand, the development is huge for the Predator and it gets my mind racing with all of the ridiculous and over-the-top possibilities. On the other hand, it seems somewhat out-of-character and I'm guessing an honorable Predator wouldn't want to make things too easy for himself. Yeah, the Predator has technology that makes a fight unfair for its opponent, but they often relish a challenge, too. This development seems to imply the Predator will never have a proper fight again; he'll have no problem obliterating all of his prey with ease. I would have liked to see the ending go in a different direction, but it's still an amusing twist.
I ain't got time for pacifism. 
Even though Predator's first fatality is solid (as if stabbing someone in the gut isn't enough, he then slices off the top part of their head with the Smart-disc), it's pretty swift. Yes, it's a fine way to humiliate your friends and it's cheerworthy the first time around, but when we're waiting this long to play as a character, you can't help but expect more. The Predator's generic win sequence is more satisfying (it includes the signature spine rip and then adding the skull to his trophy room). Thankfully, the second fatality is much, much better. Using his should cannon - and we get a glimpse of his vision as he locks on - the Predator systematically blasts apart his enemy. That one offers a little more fan service, feels more brutal, and it definitely feels like a fatality that holds up to all of the other combatants' ridiculously over-the-top finishers.

When it was announced Predator would be included in the Kombat Pack, it's ridiculous just how excited I was. Seriously, I wrote about it at least twice. My expectations were way up there for the deadly extraterrestrial and overall, I think NetherRealm Studios has handled the Predator very well. The animations, sound effects, basic attacks and combos all feel true to the character. You can really tell the developer picked the Predator as an extra fighter because they're fans of the character - this was a passion project for them, not just a fighter that's getting tossed in there mainly because fans demanded it. I mean, just look at what happens if you pick "Carl Weathers" Jax and "Commando" Johnny Cage! Would I have liked more unique moves with each variation and a more jaw-dropping first fatality? Yes. Do I think everything else about the character is excellent and all kinds of fun? Absolutely. NetherRealm Studios, you've made this Predator fan very happy.

Predator is currently available for download if you have the Kombat Pack. For everyone else, he'll go on sale July 14.

Batman: Arkham Knight review

"You have failed this city," said no one ever to Batman because he's Batman.
"Be the Batman." Rocksteady Studios' marketing campaign for its third - and allegedly final - Batman game recognizes just how much people loved being the Dark Knight in the other Arkham games. From the jaw-droppingly badass combat to the sheer awe experienced while gliding around an immersive Gotham City, the developer knows fans love stepping in the Caped Crusader's dark boots. Rocksteady also knows fans have incredibly high expectations for their latest project since the previous installments raised the bar for comic book video games. Thankfully, Batman: Arkham Knight is epic, appropriately moving, and full of fun.

The game's story really leaves an impression when it's focusing on delving deep into Batman's mind. Sure, this has been the focus countless times before and we all know the basics about who the Dark Knight is and what made him undergo such a drastic change, but that doesn't stop Rocksteady Studios from giving us brilliant and creative insight into the iconic hero. For example, when we're reminded of the death of Batman's parents yet again (for the gazillionth time), the scene swiftly goes in a different direction instead of trying to find new ways to make it emotionally powerful. The ending of Arkham City should be a big deal and thankfully it isn't ignored or just glossed over. The adventure's easily at its strongest when it focuses on Batman's psyche and how that event has not only impacted him, but also how others view him. Luckily for us, focusing on Batman's mentality is pretty frequent and there's some unforgettable sequences as the main story gets closer and closer to its end. 
Spoiler alert: unfortunately, the Arkham Knight isn't Condiment King.
While I am impressed by the amount of love Scarecrow receives - I sincerely thought he'd be a secondary villain who's cast aside halfway through - the whole mystery surrounding the Arkham Knight is telegraphed pretty heavily. When Batman does finally discover who's behind the mask, it isn't nearly as compelling as it could have been and there isn't any major follow-up. There was a lot of potential there and once the reveal is made, it feels like one of the weaker points of the story. I wouldn't say it's bad, but it just isn't nearly as gripping or moving as it could have been. Also, for such a narrative-driven franchise, it is disappointing the final ending is so sudden and leaves so many questions. The desire to make gamers speculate is perfectly fine (I have 3 theories), but for that to be the final end (presumably) is a bummer. Perhaps that'll be fleshed out in the DLC, but having to pay extra money to fully appreciate an ending seems like a greedy decision. That said, considering the handling of Batman and a few other points (which I won't spoil, obviously), there's much more to this story than the identity of the Arkham Knight. All in all, I believe the story's strengths outweigh the material that's just okay.

Overall, the voice acting is solid. Hearing Kevin Conroy as the Dark Knight and Tara Strong as Harley Quinn is going to make any Batman fan feel all kinds of happy on the inside. There's plenty of dialogue that's pure fan service, too. Some of it is a little heavy-handed, but I'll admit it still made me smile. Despite having some bratty dialogue, Troy Baker's performance as the Arkham Knight does an effective job making you understand the characters blend of hatred, sadness, and confidence. John Noble's perfect as Scarecrow, delivering lines that match the villain's eerie appearance and his dark mission. Aside from a few of Poison Ivy's lines (and can someone please get her a new outfit?), it felt like a fair amount of characters have their chance to steal some of the spotlight and some have the opportunity to effectively land powerful material - a few bits of dialogue with Jim Gordon (Jonathan Banks) and Tim Drake (Matthew Mercer) immediately comes to mind. I have no shame in admitting I was shocked and emotionally moved at least twice during the journey as well. I'd love to elaborate about the few parts that left me stunned, but since it's an enormous spoiler, I'll just have to bite my tongue. 

The following is a little spoilery (discusses a character who hasn't appeared in trailers), so skip this paragraph if you don't want any spoilers! Seriously, scroll down. Okay, I'll assume they're gone. So, for everyone else, I just want to say Mark Hamill's performance as the Joker manages to still be completely chilling and captivating. As someone who thought the franchise gave him a too much attention, I'm really impressed by the way the Clown Prince of Crime is handled in this one. I of course won't say how he plays a role, but it's a great way to enhance our emotional connection to Batman and it provides a little more twisted and clever humor. Speaking of humor, I absolutely love the conversations random criminals have as you explore the city. There's some seriously funny dialogue in there, especially after completing the main story.
Dual team takedowns aren't common but they're worth the wait.
Whether it's through secondary missions or the main story, there's a whole lot of characters from Batman's mythos in here. From characters who lack depth yet provide entertaining challenges (Firefly, the pyromaniac who loves to be repetitive about burning the city) to Man-Bat's tragic tale, it truly feels like a crowded and fleshed-out city. Catwoman, who's limited to being Riddler's hostage for a very long period of time, even jokes that she's there just to serve as Bruce's motivation. While not all of the characters are incorporated well (Poison Ivy's story makes sense, but it's a bit too out there for my taste), the opportunity to play as some of them or interact with others in the city is still satisfying. To top it off, there's even a fan-favorite brought in once the conflict with Scarecrow and Arkham Knight is completed! At the time of writing this, I haven't fought the villain yet and his dialogue does sometimes feel out of character (they don't seem as confident and intimidating as they should be), but I hear when you do face them, it's with the Batmobile. If true, that's a real shame because there's already so much vehicle combat and this individual has the chance to offer a difficult boss battle that requires a variety of melee attacks, gadgets, and stealth. Yes, the vehicle fight could be fun - there's one boss battle with the Batmobile that had me feeling an overwhelming sense of urgency and it was a nice change of pace - but using this villain for a tank vs. tank scenario seems like a complete waste of the character's talents.
To no one's surprise, controlling Batman in combat and stealth segments is such a rush. His melee abilities remain badass, fluid, and easy to use. Now there's something called "Fear Takedown" and using it honestly never gets old. They want you to feel like you're Batman and this is the perfect addition to making you feel like you're a gifted, imposing, and swift vigilante. Gadgets remain a joy to utilize in combat and they come in handy since enemies now have medics - characters capable of reviving downed enemies and even giving the recovered foes electric charges. Just like in the previous games, few things in the adventure are more satisfying than stalking criminals and having them walk right into your traps. Thanks to a few cameos, there's also the addition of dual team takedowns. When fighting alongside Catwoman, Nightwing, Robin, or even the Batmobile, Batman can join forces with his ally (or vehicle) to dish out an attack that'll immediately incapacitate the fiend - there's even one boss fight which relies on this. 

While there are several boss battles to enjoy and you can tell when you're nearing the end because the game will throw larger and larger hordes of enemies at you, I'm glad the final run of the main mission decides to focus purely on story and character instead of a potentially repetitive boss battle. There's plenty of combat to find and there's plenty more when the story with Scarecrow and Arkham Knight reaches its end, so the decision to deliver an imaginative way to sell the story is hugely appreciated. It really is a great way to really capitalize on all of the buildup.
Now just $50,000 per month. 0% APR for up to 5 days, too!
Seeing as the Batmobile is the franchise's big new feature, the vehicle obviously plays a pretty substantial role. As expected, speeding through the elaborate city is exciting and surprisingly enough, it's used to make some puzzles even more interesting. The combat mechanics are solid and they do give the game more variety, but when the regular melee combat, predator scenarios, and detective elements are all so good, I can't help but feel like they went a little overboard with the amount of times you need to fight waves of tank drones. As entertaining as obliterating overwhelming amounts of enemy vehicles may be, using Batman to glide below the cloudy skies or stalk henchmen is way more thrilling.

The visuals are stunning. They did a tremendous job creating a fitting atmosphere for Gotham and I've yet to get tired of staring at all that the city has to offer as I perch on a rooftop or race to my next objective. There's just so much variety sprinkled throughout the city and the framerate never took a noticeable drop (while using a PS4). It really is impressive just how much attention went into crafting this place and filling it with easter eggs. There are so many times I found myself simply rotating the camera around Batman so I could admire the view. 

The score plays an equally big part in pulling you into this fictional city. It's downright epic at times - sometimes even overshadowing what's going on - and there's one track that felt beautiful and tragic at the same time. I believe the first time it plays is when Batman's doing something especially heroic and putting himself in a fatal situation. Even though you know he's not going to die that early in the game (totally not a spoiler), it still manages to give the scene so much more weight.

Since I pre-ordered my copy for the Playstation 4, I had immediate access to the Harley Quinn, Red Hood, and Scarecrow missions. Harley Quinn's is the most elaborate mission and it includes exploring, predator sequences, melee fighting, and a boss battle. I didn't keep track of the time, but it was likely 10-15 minutes long at most. Playing as Quinn is pretty fun, especially since she has the ability to go into a frenzy which increases her speed and allows her to knock people out with one swift and oh-so-harsh combo. She may be lighthearted, but her extra vision mode reminds you just how frightening and unpredictable she can be. I imagine fans of a certain Robin won't be too pleased with the mission's outcome, though! 

As for Red Hood, the former Robin has 3 challenges: a direct brawl, a predator scenario, and a boss battle (Black Mask). The ability to use his twin pistols is a blast - totally unintentional pun - and his snarky responses are amusing, so this Jason Todd fan (I just lost some of you, didn't I?) is very pleased. Just like with Quinn, his content only took about 10-15 minutes, but their fighting styles are noticeably different. 

The Scarecrow missions are just 3 races followed by boss battles (while you're still in the Batmobile). Each race takes roughly a few minutes (assuming you aren't a total disaster at driving) and the boss sequence is just a few more. While the scenery and challenges a giant Scarecrow throws your way are cool, nothing is really done to make each race feel different than the other one. The only noticeable variation is the track. Aside from that, it's the same obstacles and the fight against the giant Scarecrow never undergoes significant changes. Unless you really love driving, it's unfortunately repetitive and doesn't seem to be as creative as it could have been. 
I believe I can Batman. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
It's a shame there isn't much replay value with the DLC - why can't I use Harley Quinn or Red Hood in other challenges? - but if you really love these characters and can afford it, then it's worth experiencing. Based on this, I can only assume Batgirl's upcoming story mission will also be 10-15 minutes long. Considering her role in the game, I'm very motivated to see her beat up a ton of bad guys. Here's hoping the extra content in the season pass justifies the whopping $40 price tag. I'm hoping it includes more combat and predator challenges, because as far as I can tell, there's only 4 of each (and they have pre-assigned characters!) yet there's at least 12 Batmobile challenges. Not cool.

Look, I'll be complete honest here: I've got a bit of Bat bias going on. Not only is he one of my favorite DC heroes, but I really, really enjoyed Rocksteady's Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. If you didn't spend a bunch of hours having a good time with those games or don't care all that much for the Dark Knight's world, then this one obviously just isn't for you - the fan service will be lost on you and feeling unstoppable in a Batmobile isn't going to suddenly win you over. However, if you even kind of consider yourself a Batman fan and like the previous games - even just a little bit - then I absolutely recommend playing Arkham Knight. It's a must-buy if you loved the previous games and a rental for casual fans. Sure, a key story element didn't blow me away and that feels like a missed opportunity, but this game is one hell of a ride. Whether you want to think that's a terrible Batmobile pun is entirely up to you.

For the "too long; didn't read" crowd:
+Fighting and exploring as Batman.
+A ton of focus on Batman's psyche.
+The graphics and the way Gotham is brought to life.
+Lots of fan service.
+Voice acting.
+Scarecrow's role.
+Plenty of content.
+Epic score.
+/- Batmobile's fun but plays too big of a role.
-Arkham Knight's story.
-Only 4 combat and 4 predator challenges. Characters pre-assigned, too.
-Final ending leaves way too many questions.
4.5/5


Mortal Kombat X: Jason Voorhees review

Today, Mortal Kombat X's first Kombat Pack combatant, Jason Voorhess, is available for anyone and everyone to purchase. Back when it was announced the iconic killer would be the first character in the DLC pack, there was a whole lot of negativity. Many were upset it wasn't Spawn being selected, but a lot of people expressed concern over the murderer's move list. "How can a guy with a machete bring anything awesome to Mortal Kombat X, a game that's full of crazy powers?" Some degree of skepticism is understandable, but if NetherRealm Studios is adding a character, the odds are pretty good they believe it's because they can give the character some entertaining moves. Thankfully, they didn't disappoint and Jason Voorhees feels like a solid addition to the roster.

Just like everyone else, the classic movie character has 3 variations. His are slasher, unstoppable, and relentless. My top choice is slasher, a variation that allows Jason to use his signature machete for melee attacks with better range, vicious combos, and a few special moves. Two of the combos -- brooding and machete launch -- are very easy to pull-off and leave your opponent open to additional combos. With Jason, it's very easy landing a combo that could do around 24%, and I say that as someone who really isn't all that good at the game. Two of his special moves, bloodshed and psycho slash, are just downright brutal. The third unique one for this variation, machete toss, just gives the dude a ranged attack as he throws his bladed weapon. It's not a particularly fast or original ranged attack, but it has proven to be useful.
The lumbering guy also has a boost called "killing machine," which is also available in the relentless variation. That move gives you a temporary "armor" that allows you to go unfazed by all of your opponent's attacks. The only downside is you can't jump and at the end of the boost, Jason is left vulnerable for a second or two. So, if you're going to use that boost, make sure you know what you're doing, otherwise you'll end up totally open to attacks. All in all, slasher is definitely the "easiest" variation to use and unleashing combos with that machete is a blast. It may be a "simple" weapon compared to the options other characters have, but NetherRealm Studios made sure using that sharp weapon is a really good time. If you like Sub-Zero's cryomancer variation or Scorpion's ninjutsu variation, then slasher is definitely something you'll want to use.

Relentless seems to be the most advanced variation, one that'll be very useful in the hands of especially good gamers. You know how fodder in movies always attempt to run from killers and totally fail at it? The special move "pursuit" is inspired by that. For around five seconds, your opponent's controls will be inverted and they can't dash or run. If you use this in combination with lake mist, a "teleport" Jason gains in this variation so he can sneak up behind his opponent, then it's pretty obvious a truly skilled player can humiliate their enemy. In this variation, Jason is also "damned," meaning his damage increases as his health gets lower.
Seeing as Jason doesn't have his machete for melee attacks in this variation and the final one, unstoppable, he has plenty of other oh-so-harsh moves to dish out. For special moves, we have back breaker, choke, and tight squeeze. And yes, they're all as savage as they sound. You'd think we'd be used to shocking displays of violence in this game by now, but these are still delightfully cruel. For combos, Jason has two very easy ones called camp killer and final friday. They do 15% and 17% damage -- which seems great for such an easy to land set of attacks --  and man, they're wicked. Seeing this slow and strong killer grab, crush and toss his enemies is a real joy, and I say that as someone who isn't a big follower of Jason's movies. All variations also have a dash attack called temple punch, a basic way for him to close the gap pretty quickly.

The final variation, unstoppable, could be a game changer in the hands of a tactical player or even when a match appears to be a coin toss. This is where Jason can temporarily boost his damage via punishment or slowly regain health via rise. Using the health regen and then using time consuming moves like throws really helps out and, assuming you can juggle, the damage boost can prove to be really helpful. However, what makes this variation really standout is a little feature called resurrection. If you lose the round, Jason will get back up and whatever is in your super meter will be used to replenish his health. This can only occur once per round. So, if it seems like you might lose in a close fight and you believe an enhanced or X-Ray attack is too risky, this feature could be hugely beneficial.
Jason's fun to use, but it is a little disappointing more time wasn't spent on unique dialogue in the match intros. Obviously, Jason doesn't talk, but there isn't much variety here. There's a few amusing ones here and there (Cage and Ferra/Torr), but based on my experience, it seems like everyone only has one line about the character and some are as simple as, "Who are you?" Sure, it makes sense they wouldn't know who he is, but it would have been great to see them use this chance to really make each character's personality shine. Thankfully, Jason's X-Ray attack and brutalities are every bit as jaw-dropping and over-the-top as you'd want them to be. His X-Ray attack, the horror, puts his machete to good use and his enemy's spine is shown no mercy whatsoever. This X-Ray can also be used for a brutality. After Jason damages the person's neck, he has no problem lopping it right off. There's also ridiculously amusing entertaining ones like breaking someone in half with his knee or slicing them apart with his blade. And best of all? They're all unlocked right away. Oh, and his ending is definitely fitting for the character.

As for his fatalities, the one called "Kill for Mother" is easily the most memorable. Fans of horror movies will love how it's handled because it's clearly pulling a ton of inspiration from classic slasher flicks. From a quick close-up shot of the machete to the victim's shocked reaction to the sound effects, it's a blatant nod to the dude's history and it's surprisingly cinematic. Plus, slowly slashing someone apart is a pretty effective way to make sure they're down for the count, right?
His other one, sleeping bag killer, feels like a missed opportunity. As you can tell by the title, he grabs the person by their ankle and then begins to violently smash them over and over. On paper, it sounds gruesome and oh-so-perfect for Mortal Kombat X. But the execution? It's just, well, weird. When Jason smashes his enemy and then drags them, a limb just snaps off during each drag. The implication is he's smashing them with such great force and then pulling them extremely hard, but having the limbs just effortlessly tear off like that feels odd. Having him brutally smash someone multiple times, to the point of them doing that horrifying gargling noise, would have been more effective. Or it would have been really cool if it was environment based and they had him drag the person to a solid object in a stage and then he smashes them against the object over and over again. There aren't that many stages, so this wouldn't have been too big of a task.

If you plan on playing Mortal Kombat X for months and months to come, then yeah, I'd say Voorhees is definitely worthy of your $4.99. His variations can be enjoyed by both casual and competitive gamers and the studio definitely put Jason's strengths to good use. It's too bad one of his fatalities isn't all that stunning and he may not have the most original move list around, but the masked murderer definitely fits right in.