Tag Archives: PC

Replay – Cities: Skylines

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There’s no serious way I can make Cities: Skylines sound sexy and I’ve tried at least six different drafts of this. It lacks the explosive action of popular games like PlayerUnknown’sBattlegroundsOverwatch, or anything that involves murdering people. Cities: Skylines is the complete antithesis of games like that: it’s slow, very mellow and about procedural growth. I’d forgive you if this is where you started tuning out but if you can, bear with me.

It probably explains a lot I smoke a decent amount of weed before zoning out for the next four hours in what is surely a bizarre stupor to any bystanders. There is no decipherable action to let you know you’re doing right aside from numbers being green, happy sounding noises, no angry looking icons floating above buildings, and the bright green smiley face at the bottom of the HUD telling me I’m doing a-ok. That’s not to say there aren’t frustrating moments. After all, nothing like spending an hour trying to revive a city imploded by my own lack of foresight.

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Skylines is without argument the best SimCity-esque game on the market today, beating out even the originator itself, SimCity. Of which was deeply shamed back in 2013 so badly EA had to do a LOT of damage control and probably won’t be heard from ever again. The goal is very simple: develop your provided property into a growing town and supervisor its development and growth into a full-blown city. However actually doing this is another, as unlike in SimCity 4 (the last decent SimCity), it’s pretty possible to fail making a town from the very start.

This is a supremely menu driven game, and many of your questions you’ll come across during your time building cities will often be answered looking for data within the myriad of menus, though perhaps not so obviously. Skylines asks the player to think ahead in terms of how to proceed, because while not impossible, it’s hard and damaging to your city to try and re-build segments after they’ve already started growing independently.

Your endgame is to create as large as city as possible, anyway you want so long as it is financially sustainable. This means watching your budget, finding ways to squeeze just a little more money from your properties without pissing off your constituents, and giving your city time to develop organically by letting its simulations run a bit. You’ll want to throw stadiums around and grow as fast as possible, however too fast growth can also mean your artificial population bubble will burst hard when the weight of the city collapses upon itself because you didn’t let its population catch-up to your rapid growth.

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Unlike the aforementioned SimCity, the world of Skylines feels organic and alive. Your citizens, each and every one, can be selected, followed and studied. They are born, they grow, they work, they die. They also unfortunately move into cities at the exact same age, causing what’s known in the Cities: Skylines community as a “death wave” if you grow a huge chunk of your city at the same time. Good luck keeping your cemeteries open.

Perhaps the biggest complaint against Cities: Skylines is the developer’s tendency to create weak DLC and charge premium prices. I don’t have any of the paid-DLC installed (there are bits of free DLC that are quite a bit of fun), but I can say I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. It’s also hard for me to justify spending $12.99 USD to include natural disasters, a feature I find myself asking why the fuck would I pay so much for. Seems like something basic that should’ve been included from the onset.

You could spend $5.99 USD to supplement the free Match Day DLC (which gives you the ability to place a large-scale football stadium in your city) with four actual recreations of real football stadiums such as FC Barcelona, Chelsea, PSG, and Juventus. Again, you might’ve missed where I said this $5.99 DLC just has four stadiums. This is the type of crap I was talking about.

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Look, again, none of this sounds sexy, like, at all. Cities: Skylines is meant for a particular audience: one tired of random violence and into methodical, zen-like construction. I enjoy the steady grind of slowly letting a city build its economy up itself. There is a sense of peace and focus I’ve never quite experienced with other games. Sure, it’s easy to zone out but the game also calls for a measure of attention to make sure your growing city doesn’t decay from within so easily. There is no end, just the infinite potential of growth and seeing what kind of civil creator you are. Or at least until you misappropriate the city’s funds.

 

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Preview – Agony (PC, PS4, XOne)

The product of Kickstarter, developed by MadMind Studio and to be published by PlayWay, it’s clear from the onset this is an indie project. Once you fire up the trailer, though, that thought immediately goes out the window.

Like, what the fuck was that? Look, if that didn’t rustle your jimmies then I don’t know what the hell your problem is. Get it? Hell? Oh shit, I can do this all day.

What stands out most about Agony is how horribly good it looks. It’s showing off the beautiful (maybe grotesque in this case?) shine the new-ish Unreal 4 engine possesses.

Played in first-person, so far the concept is navigating puzzles while occasionally possessing demons to keep eventually find a way free from this. The trailers have painted Agony in similar ranks to Outlast, which is fine company to be in.

Currently there is no release date for the game outside of a vague Q4 2017 listing. Regardless, this one is worth keeping on your radar. Or if nothing else, now is a good time to get those much needed upgrades to make games like this really pop. This is probably also not a good game for people who do psychedelics. Just saying.

Like seriously, what the fuck?

Review – Strike Vector EX (PC)

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Strike Vector EX is about one thing and one thing only: high-speed dog fights. Flashy, bright, colorful, dizzying dog fights. EX offers a basic, but addictive package with a decent single-player campaign and addictive online modes. Technically while EX is a re-release, with the original version released in 2014 to mixed reviews, I’m reviewing it on its own merit. EX feels like an amalgamation of Ace Combat and Star Fox Zero, which is a compliment.

Piloting your vector (those fancy jets) involves two modes: stationary and fast. This probably sounds obvious and stupid, but the ability to stop on a dime and make impossibly fast turns is a huge element to this game. You can also zoom in when stopped at snipe at enemies, but obviously in a game like this staying still for too long is you begging to be shot down.

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There’s a pretty reasonable amount of content here, from a cheesy, but fairly meaty single-player that’ll help you hone your skills, to the real jewel: the multiplayer. You can include bots if you’d like (they’ll join your matches by default if not enough humans are around which will happen unfortunately more often than I’d like), but the real joy is being locked in a tense fight with other human pilots thirsting for your blood.

The customization options available are relatively shallow. You have your choice from a small number of weapons ranging from the conventional gatling gun to the more irritating homing cluster missiles. You can also separate yourself from others by coloring individual elements your ship (head/body/wings) with a wide array of colors, most needing to be unlocked through play.

The modes are pretty standard: death match, team death match, capture the flag, demolition (two teams must destroy each other’s bases target by target),  bounty hunter (accrue more points than other plays by collecting coins or killing players), and king of the hill where two teams compete for the designated territory. While not genre defining, they’re good modes for a game built on a pick-up-and-play premise.

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The thing about Strike Vector EX is that as it is, there’s a lot of good in it that justifies its very soft price tag ($11.99 USD). While there aren’t a whole lot of flashy modes and baubles to distract, it’s core gameplay is more than solid and can get addictive. It’s fast, easy to grasp, and more importantly makes me feel like I’m really involved in a high-speed mecha dog fight. At the time of writing the online community is quite shallow, but the game is also young. I’m optimistic more will see the light of this very shooter.

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Review – Fire! Explosions! Knocking Bitches Out! Mad Max

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Mad Max is a game that should’ve been made long ago. The films are cult legends, even the shitty one with Tina Turner. Fury Road reinvigorated the franchise and brought it back into public consciousness despite the game missing the film’s release by months (though landed alongside the DVD release). Open world games have grown in sophistication, opening up possibilities. Mad Max is about driving hard, being mad and fighting crazy people. As open world titles go this game a no brainer. So why hasn’t it gotten the love it deserves? As fun as Mad Max can be, it doesn’t feel like it’s gotten much TLC.

Let’s be straight about this though: the Mad Max franchise isn’t about intellectual discovery or a deep narrative. It’s about watching angry, psychotic people committing mass vehicular manslaughter as an unhinged Mel Gibson stomps the desert. The game pretty much reflects this down to the letter, minus Mel Gibson. Instead Max is voiced by a man I swore was Kano from the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie (it’s not unfortunately, for the record). Avalanche Studios did a great job making the world look very gritty and real. This is where the Photo Editor is a blast to mess with, as you creator your own Road Warrior-styled shots that look great.

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Much of Mad Max’s gameplay has been cribbed from other games, sort of like how Darksiders played out. Combat is taken directly from the Batman Arkham series; it’s free-roaming, systematic base-blowing up/wire-shooting antics was provided by Just Cause (which was also developed by Max’s creators), and a fun photo editor as last seen in Shadow of Mordor. The whole package comes together alright but doesn’t feel wholly fleshed out. Combat feels sluggish and without fluidity. I get Max isn’t Batman. You’re a banged up wastelander, but combat still doesn’t feel responsive. It’s also easy to simply blast on the offensive and roll away, versus trying to take on crowds of people with a stunted counter system.

The game forces you into on-foot confrontations more than it should. Car combat is the star of the game, hands down. Fighting off four cars while blaring down the wastes is a blast, ramming into each other at high speed is exciting. Especially when you start tooling around with your grappling hooks and pulling drivers right out of their cars, or ripping their wheels off. Fighting fisticuffs? Not as great as you’d think.

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On-foot controls feel sluggish and awkward, but have a satisfying sound to knocking someone out. While Max is always equipped with a shotgun (and a sniper rifle in the Magnum Opus), gunplay is super weak and awkward to control. Not to metion ammo is in short supply (both on the field and how much you can carry), so for the most part you’ll need to rely on Max’s fists to solve most of your out-of-the-car problems.

Outside of base-busting, committing public service by picking up scraps and playing through the story there aren’t much else in the way of distractions. There are desert legend quests given by specific NPCs that challenge you to hit certain jumps and kill small groups of enemies, but the biggest side missions are death runs. It’s what it sounds like: races designed with car combat in mind. To get to the point, they’ll likely be the last things you choose to do since they are largely frustrating races.

Mad Max is a lot of fun buried under a lot of repetition. Base busting, or just rolling in with your car and picking fights to clear outposts, is a lot of fun. Max is a bad ass and isn’t intimidated by jackasses painted white. After some upgrades Max is a force to be reckoned with both in and out of his car. Enhanced shotgun kills that freak your opponents out, prolonged rage mode to crush opponents quicker, crushing knockout blows are waiting. Granted you have the patience to keep engaging in the same fetch activities over and over and over.

Mandatory Score: 6/10

Fans of the films will get a kick out of taking to the wastelands Road Warrior style. It’s also a fun, post-apocalyptic distraction until Fallout 4 ships out in November. However there are plenty of other action games out there, so it’s hard for me to recommend Mad Max at full price. Much like the films this isn’t one of those games you need to look deep into. Instead it asks you to accept it at superficial value and just roll with it. If you can get past its short comings, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Especially since this is the first time proper fans have gotten the chance to be in the (very unlucky) shoes of Max.

Personal Score: 7/10

For the all the negativity I’ve had throughout this review, I really like this game because I like the source material. The game does a good job of putting me into the mindset that makes the movies so much fun. It’s not about a strong narrative, because there isn’t one. It isn’t about anything else exception knocking people out, starting fires, blowing things up and running goons over. It’s a game I can come home from work to play that doesn’t require me to focus hard. Just sit back, crack open a beer, and enjoy.

Summer Fun 2015 Pt.2

The dog days of summer have lingered for a while now leaving the city feeling muggy as shit. This is the type of humidity that feels as if you’re swimming through air, your underwear drowning. Then again it’s also nice to see the sun since I’ll miss it come late September. (American) Football season is upon us meaning another year of intense TV watching, panic filled smartphone glancing, and the unyielding and personally crushing disappointment that is fantasy football. However there are still a few weeks till regular season begins and I’ve got time on my hands with some days off from work. In that time the new Dragon Ball Z movie came and went recently, feel free to peruse my not-quite a review here. And since the film put me in a Dragon Ball mood, I figured it was a good time to dig back into a game I’ve saved since February.

Game 2: Dragon Ball Xenoverse (PC, PS3/4, X360/ONE)

Lots of Kamehameha Waves

Released: February 24, 2015

So what is it? The most recent installment in a long line of hyper-mediocre Dragon Ball Z games. Like Dynasty Warriors, it’s fan base will believe anything to keep their addiction going. How does one even reach hyper-mediocrity? It’s an interesting phenomenon but one that happens to franchises that drown in its own sea of shameless cash-ins. Many of the DBZ games have either been bizarre amalgamations of lesser fighters (the Budokai series stands as brighter gems of the bunch) or weird RPG projects. This game falls into the later category.  Dimps went in a different direction with Battle of Z which mixed simple beat-em up combat with a hefty coat of flashy graphics. While Metacritic doesn’t have many kind things to say about it, it still filled a void in mimicking the frenetic action of the anime. Xenoverse carries Battle of Z’s simplicity and puts expands it to an online world. Better yet, one experienced through the eyes of your own custom character.

What if I don’t watch Dragonball Z? Then you will most definitely not give a flying fuck about this.

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So why the hell should I play this? Truthfully this is a package intended only for the DBZ faithful. The type who have subjected themselves to too much psychological abuse by knowingly paying for shitty games. In a way it’s akin to developing stockholm syndrome. “If I buy enough of these, at least one of them has to be amazing, right? Maybe then they’ll finally let me go?” Some sad shit, truly. I’m here to argue Dragon Ball Xenoverse is the best to date in a franchise which seldom does anything different. It’s also like proudly proclaiming your the tallest midget, if that makes sense.

So let’s pretend your an ardent DBZ fan. You may be asking why you should even bother with this? I’m with you on that you shouldn’t pay full price ($59.99) for this one. However Xenoverse has managed to find a compromise between providing the non-stop flashy beams with signature attacks of the show while keeping combat simple and quick. The roster is fairly big with 50 characters, some alternate versions of the same character, so you can set up your own dream mash-ups very easily.

Moreover the biggest appeal to Xenoverse is the idea you can create your own fighter for the first time in franchise history. Xenoverse’s story weaves in and out Z’s story lines and tasks your custom fighter with protecting the official timeline at the behest of Trunks and the Supreme Kai of Time. In ture DBZ movie history, the story is lame but there’s entertainment in finally seeing something different in a DBZ game for once. Besides, the true point of Xenoverse is to provide a platform for everyone to show off their own Gokus. In a game where five unique races are now available (Saiyans, Earthlings, Buus, Frieza Race and Namekian) each with their own unique buffs and hundreds of fancy, colorful moves to perform every soul is inevitably drawn to making some kind of bootleg Goku. Yes, you can go Super Saiyan. No, you can’t go Super Saiyan 3 or 4.

Playing  the game’s various quests online is where this all works and survives by. Offline missions are extremely tedious and some are downright annoying without at least another person’s help. Especially early in the game when you are still developing your new fighter and want to level up on the quick. Each time you level up you allocate points to either boosting the energy bar, health, stamina bar and general speed. These points are also buffed by certain race bonuses, like the Saiyan’s general boosts to everything but mostly physical attack, or the Namekians’ ability to regenerate health independently.

Mandatory Goku Look-Alike

At higher levels the game because a series of bit-sized fights rarely going on longer than seven minutes with either crushing victory or hilariously embarrassing failures. Every mission is limited to 15 minutes and early experiences will likely see time-outs. High level missions become massive seizures in the making. The lock-on targeting is mandatory at all times since it’s very easy to lose track of the action without it. Online fights between players are also somewhat broken thanks to the abuse of Female Earthling types: characters too small and hard to hit with most normal attacks, but also benefit from a constant supply of refilling energy which fuels the fuck you beams. However when playing with more open minded players, it’s fun to settle fantasy fights with strangers in a really dumb flying brawler. Who would win in a fight: Broly or Yamcha? The possibilities are truly endless!

Sadly the world isn’t influenced at all by these crazy energy beams being thrown around. When firing off a 100X Kamehameha Wave at a building, you’d expect it to stop existing instead of leaving a quarter sized dent in the building which vanishes after three seconds. This is something no Dragon Ball Z game has managed to capture yet: a sense of scale and destruction all these heavyweights cause when they fight. I hope maybe Dimps (or anyone else) is given time, money, sleep, food or whatever is required to make this happen should Xenoverse get a sequel. We want to see the world shake when Beerus is throwing giant spheres of energy into the ground.

With all that said, it’s not a great game. It’s a decent game for the single-minded. It’s not even one I can recommend to people who don’t own Dragon Ball figures somewhere in their house. If, though, you’ve already sullied yourself playing past games, Xenoverse is the closest the franchise has come to replicating the frenetic fights of the anime. Fans looking for deeper experiences might as well keep playing Budokai 3 or drawing shitty fan-fiction. As much negativity I’ve pumped into this article, Xenoverse still puts a dumb-ass grin on my face to spam Kamehameha beams at people after coming back home drunk.

Concentrated ANgeR

Mandatory Score: 6/10

Summer Fun 2015 Pt.1

It’s beautiful outside. The sun is shining, the sky is as blue as the lake is when it’s calm, and there’s a gentle breeze hitting my skin. For Chicago this weather is particularly rare. Summer lasts typically around three months before we re-enter the cold phase and the second-half of Chicago’s “summer” begins. Instead I’m nursing a headache that won’t quit and a fear of light that gives me the feeling of needles to my eyes.

Now that all the AAA titles have been released (Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3, Mortal Kombat X) and now face the summer drought, now seems like just a good a time as any to go through the ole’ backlog. The game I convinced myself to buy but immediately lost the will to finish. Because let’s face it, is there not a Steam user out there who isn’t knee deep in 30+ games that you bought for less than five bucks? It’s truly a wonderful time we live in for gaming.

I tried this project last summer and got through about ten games, before I caved and craved the sun once more. Not to mention I never pegged down what the fuck I was even going to do with all that shit I wrote. So I’m trying it again this year, but I’m going to continue to find something I can use to turn this into a full-fledged piece. Summer just began, it’s the beginning of July, so let’s see how many games I can get through and how far my patience will take me. I invite you dig through your own backlogs and find new reason to fear the sun like the stregori on The Strain.

Game 1: Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine


Released: April 23, 2013 | PC, Xbox 360, MAC, LNX

What is it? Monaco is a game about navigating mazes. You pick from eight pixelated thieves who sneak into fortified buildings and steal sweet loot. Each character is built with different abilities: the locksmith cracks locks and safes very quickly, but the Cleaner is much quicker and better adept at fighting and disposing of security. It’s fun to return to a map and find a new way to solve the maze using someone like the Redhead who can manipulate single security guards and order them to provide a path for her.

The visuals are kind of conflicting as everything is pixilated but there is a lot going on at any time. Small footprints might suddenly be seen if a security guard is approaching, same with you when running. Truth be told despite seeming kinda minimalist, this shit is also a little complicated. However the game’s use of neon colors and bright lighting against a gray backdrop make everything pop and work.  I felt tension while trying to navigate a burning ship while a helicopter above searches with the aid of foot patrols. The flash of colors when your alert a compound instill a sense of dread I didn’t think I’d be experiencing from something like this.

There doesn’t seem to be much of an active community behind Monaco, leaving it’s online components unfortunately dusty. The madness of four people coordinating a job is something I’ll sadly have to think about rather than experience. It ran a speed run competition last year but its developers have moved onto a new project. Still it survives thanks to Workshop support and a continued influx of custom maps. Many of these created maps are very imaginative (like escaping a UFO) and still give Monaco a breath of life. It’s also routinely on sale during Steam’s various deals, so it wouldn’t hurt to give this indie title a whirl. It may have only been two years since release, but in gaming two years might as well be 10 years ago, but Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine is a game that will age gracefully. Unfortunately I’m not sure many will remember it.

Score: 7/10