enfrdeitptrues

FPS

  • Far Cry 5 (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Far Cry 5
    Developed by: Ubisoft
    Published by: Ubisoft
    Release date: March 27, 2018
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: FPS
    Number of Players: Up to two online
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
    Price: $59.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Signo Vir for gifting me this game to review!

    Each of the Far Cry games takes place in a different part of the world and has a unique nemesis that needs to be removed from power. Far Cry 5 takes place in the fictional Hope County in Montana which has been overrun by a gun toting, drug pushing, Christian-like cult called Eden’s Gate. Many of the members were abducted and then drugged and/or brainwashed. Some people join this cult voluntarily, but the majority don’t. In fact, many hopefuls are literally thrown off a cliff if deemed to be “weak.” Active members are called “peggies” by the locals that have yet to be converted.

    Joining Eden’s Gate is a four-step process. You first have to be marked by them and brought to their premises. Avoiding capture is impossible and is required for progressing the game’s story. The second step is cleansing which is similar to baptism but I’m quite sure that my pastor didn’t hold me underwater that long and one dunk was sufficient. Confession is a bit different in Eden’s Gate and makes telling your sins to some random priest in a confessional sound like a vacation. In Eden’s Gate your sin is identified (via torture) for you (mine was wrath) and tattooed on your body. Atonement is accomplished by cutting off the tattooed skin and stapling it to a church beam. This is a very gruesome and bloody process. Even though much of the terminology is the same in Christian circles, the way this cult goes about it is very un-biblical. Baptism, confession, and salvation should be joyous and voluntary events, not bloody and forced upon.

    The game begins with a squad of body-armored law enforcement agents flying into the headquarters of Eden’s Gate with an arrest warrant for the founder, Joseph Seed who goes by “The Father.” Your character can be male or female and is referred to as deputy or rook throughout the game. Not surprisingly, the arrest goes sideways and your squad gets separated and brought to different branches of Eden’s Gate.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Interesting story with multiple endings; lots of quests to complete; beautiful visuals and wonderful voice acting
    Weak Points: Micro-transactions; some parachute glitches
    Moral Warnings: Christians represented in a negative light; strong language and blaspheming; crude and sexual dialogue; intense violence and bloodshed; gruesome acts described and shown; alcohol and drug use 

    There are three regions that you get to focus on and each has a different ringleader that needs to be crossed off of the Seed family photo. Faith, Jacob, and John Seed must all be eliminated before you can take down Joseph and end Eden’s Gate once and for all. After getting cleaned up and rescued by a resistance member named Dutch, you get to decide which region you would like to explore and/or take down first. Completing regions is done by earning enough resistance points to get the attention of the ringleader and confronting them. Before the final confrontation, there are a couple of unavoidable rendezvous in between.

    Earning resistance points can be done in various ways. Killing VIP members and destroying shrines and other valuable property is one way. Rescuing civilians being forced into Eden’s Gate is another option. Reclaiming bases is an advantageous method for the resistance to regain access to resources and abilities that the cult took away from them. Once a base is flying an American flag again, you can visit shops there to purchase ammo, guns, and transportation. Money is earned by selling animal pelts, collectibles, completing missions, or by retrieving assets left behind in stashes. Be sure to loot any enemy corpses for cash and materials for crafting. Micro-transactions are available if you want to quickly customize your guns and vehicles/planes/helicopters/boats.

    Besides buying gear and accepting story missions at bases, you can also stop by the arcade. The arcade has a map editor and mini-games that can be enjoyed solo or with friends. The ability to join a friend’s world is pretty nice too.

    If multiplayer is not your thing, the AI companions are competent and can usually hold their own in battle without needing resuscitation very often. It should go without saying that some characters are more reliable than others. There are human and animal companions and each one has their own quirks and commentary. Pairing them together (after you unlock that perk in the tech tree) often yields some hilarious but sometimes repetitive dialogue. As cool as it is to have a dog, cougar, or bear fighting alongside of you, a plane or helicopter flying companion is necessary for some air battles.

    Far Cry 5
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 92%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 33%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 7/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 2.5/10

    As you unlock achievements you’ll earn perk points which can allow you to activate abilities in the tech tree. I recommend going for the multiple companions, repair torch, and additional holsters (carry more weapons) first. There are so many helpful perks that it’s really hard to choose. Increasing your health and weapon efficiency are good options too. If an AI companion gets killed they can respawn after a set amount of time. There are perks to reduce the cool down period for each companion.

    The characters, environment, and maps look astounding. The Dunia Engine is pretty powerful and everything looks very believable and life-like. Every time I looked over at whatever game my husband was playing, it paled in comparison. The level of detail goes both ways as things can look pretty beautiful, or very gruesome. There’s a ton of blood and gore and each of the ringleaders will give a short speech as they go to meet their Maker and they can be thankful that their tattered and bloodied human body is being left behind.

    Sometimes the violence isn’t visual, but mental. There are some vividly descriptive stories and my imagination was painting some pretty grotesque pictures. For example, one of the characters recounts how they prayed about and ultimately decided that it was God’s will for them to kill their newborn child. The process of ending their firstborn’s life was recounted step by step. The language isn’t always violence centered as there is some pretty crude and sexual dialogue from the companions and other characters in the game. Adelaide is a divorced woman who is very happy with her new lover, well at least with some parts of him as he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. Her commentary on yoga positions with him and other bedroom activities are a bit awkward at times.

    Other than a birth scene that shows a brand new baby girl (that wasn’t murdered), there are no children to be found. That’s probably a good thing since all of the adults have foul mouths that drop a cuss word or blaspheme in every sentence. As taverns are liberated the locals tend to party by drinking the night away. Last but not least, there is a drug called Bliss that is grown and processed locally. Several quests involve destroying the fields and processing plants used for creating it.

    With many quests to complete, multiplayer games to join, and weekly tournaments, there’s plenty to do in Far Cry 5. I completed the story quest in twenty-four hours. In that time I only ran into a couple of glitches. In the beginning Steam wouldn’t show me as out of the game until I exited Uplay. The other glitch I encountered a couple of times was dying by deploying my parachute on a really short jump. In the end, Far Cry 5 is a very mature, but enjoyable game. As a gun owning Christian I aligned with the resistance more than the cult and was happy to see that not all of the Christians were portrayed as loonies as many of the other/normal people wore cross necklaces.

  • Far Cry Instincts


    Developed By: Ubisoft Montreal/Crytek Studios
    Published By: Ubisoft
    Release Year: 2005
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence and Strong Language
    For: Microsoft Xbox

    *You're Jack Carver, stranded on a remote tropical island. A legion of elite mercenaries equipped with a military stockpile is rapidly closing in. Outmanned and outgunned, your survival won't come easy. Only with skill, instincts and ingenuity can you conquer the enemy and make it out alive. *From IGN.com Far Cry Instincts is the second game in the Far Cry first person shooter series set on a tropical island that started on the PC and made it\'s way to Xbox. It kept the same basic gameplay aspects of the PC game but added new dimensions by giving Jack Carver (the user-controlled character) new powers called "Feral Instincts." Throughout the game, Jack will be able to run insane speeds, leap over caverns, track the scent of his enemies and terrorize the opposition with a deadly melee attack. All of these add up to one intense shooter with many twists and turns...

    Game Play: 18/20

    Right from the get-go, Far Cry Instincts pulls no punches in terms of game play. The first person shooter aspect is certainly well integrated into the tropical theme and even though the scenery looks light and calm, the game is anything but. The game begins with a cut scene of Jack Carver\'s boat being gunned down by a helicopter, you then swim to the island and begin training. You go through the basic button placement and movement training and continue on gradually to weapon training. The training commences in such a way that it advances the storyline while you learn to play. After training you begin to realize the intensity of the predator vs. prey-type of game play Far Cry Instincts sets up. You can move quietly through the dense jungle to avoid detection, you can set traps and lure your enemies towards them, and you can even roll onto your back to shoot your enemies through the floorboards of docks and cabins. As for the enemies, you will mainly be hunting down mercenaries set on the island to guard an experiment going on by a mad scientist who seems to be bent on filling the world with mutant creatures, some of which you will be fighting later on in the game. You will fight on the beach, in the jungle, in the dense rain forest (at night), in caves, in mines, research facilities etc... All of these add to the variety and drag you into the game. The targeting reticule is rather large, but adds to the arcade-feel of the shootouts, and don\'t worry, there are major shootouts. You are armed with the regular variety of weapons (pistols, assault rifles, sniper rifles, rocket launchers etc...) but they are all wonderfully detailed and have a great feel to them. The game also carries a hefty online/split-screen/system-link multiplayer portion that includes the usual deathmatch/capture the flag (or steal the sample in this case), but also includes a predator mode where one player is given all the predator powers and the opposing team must reach the other side of the map to activate a beacon. With the predator following their scent and unleashing brutal clawing attacks, it may be difficult, but it\'s definitely fun. It should also be noted that the game includes an extremely expansive map-maker program that allows the player to make a fully customizable map for all the multiplayer modes, this is absolutely incredible and the best map-making feature in an FPS I\'ve seen so far.

    Graphics: 9/10

    Some of the best the Xbox has to offer. The foliage is incredible and the water effects are nothing short of stunning. It brings a smile to my face to see the painstaking detail in every corner of the Far Cry Instincts island. For example: When you break the surface of the water, your eyes will still have water in them and the screen will appear blurry for a few seconds. It\'s in details like this that make the graphics truly spectacular. Although the graphics are astounding there are a few minor problems, most notably is the pop-in. For the first hour of the game I found it to be a little distracting, even irritating, but considering the scope and detail of this Xbox game, it is understandable. The framerate stays at a steady 30fps even in the heated battles. Another problem is the blood, which I also find a little distracting. The problem is that there\'s too much on bullet impact. When you shoot someone there\'s an explosion of clumped red balls that looks like the poor guy was shot with an artillery shell. It\'s just a little too much, but when you\'re shooting at more than one guy you don\'t stand around long enough to notice.

    Sound: 10/10

    No complaints here at all. The ambient sounds are incredible and add to the tropical "paradise" feel of the game. I have my Xbox hooked up to a 5.1 surround sound system so hearing the mercenaries talk a few feet away and brushing through the ferns and bushes sounds perfect. The gun sounds are great, but that\'s expected for an FPS of this quality. Also later on in the game you will encounter strange creatures which exude all the sounds that you\'d think a mutant creature would. One noteworthy area is the sound of feet walking across wooden planks. It sounds like a small facet of the sound category, but it is so realistic that it amazed me whenever I ran across docks or in island cabanas. Jack\'s heavy breathing while running was also very realistic.

    Stability: 5/5

    I have not encountered any bugs during my time with Far Cry Instincts. From the single-player story mode to the map-making feature, the game was completely bug-free.

    Controls/Interface: 4/5

    The controls were pretty spot-on for an FPS. One problem did have was controlling vehicles. Since you supposedly have one hand on the wheel (or handlebar) and your other hand is holding a gun, it\'s easy to go off center and start driving in a slightly different direction. It\'s also hard to shoot while you drive as I found the bullets warp to the right a little and never seem to hit my target properly even if the reticule is showing a hit. The menus and HUD were all perfectly accessible and the load times weren\'t as bad as some reviews made them out to be, though they did take you out from the action once in a while (a good thing maybe?).

    Violence: 2/10

    -Killing people in self-defense (-4) -Blood sprays on the walls and everywhere else (-2.5) -Body parts can be visually unattached (-1.5) OK, this is where it gets sketchy. This game is violent. Although you are killing these mercenaries and creatures in self-defense, it doesn\'t make it any less impacting. You hear the mercenaries screams as they are riddled with bullets and they\'re blood sprays (or kind of globs) into the air. Although the blood doesn\'t stay in normal combat, there are areas of the game in which creatures have just attacked small bands of mercs and there\'s blood everywhere. On their faces, on the ground, splattered on walls and rocks. Also during these times there are often legs detached and torsos spread over boulders with their mouths agape. Some of these scenes can be extremely graphic and disturbing even though you did not commit these violent acts yourself. Also with your melee attacks: At first you have a knife which you use to silently sneak up behind a merc and stab him in the back with extremely bloody results, and later on you have a brutal slash attack in which the merc goes flying while he lets loose a girlish scream also with bloody results.

    Language: 5/10

    -Swear words found in an R-rated movie are used in the game (-5) -God\'s name in vein is used throughout the game (-5) Why Ubisoft why?! This seems to be the growing trend in videogames lately, I\'d be hard-pressed to find a game of this calibur without a single curse in it. Unfortunately for Far Cry Instincts it\'s not a single curse, it\'s many. Jack drops the F-Bomb at least a dozen times throughout the course of the game and it\'s not only in cutscenes either, it\'s during firefights so you can\'t skip it. He mainly uses it if an alarm is set or his new feral instincts act up. All in all there are at least two dozen "F" words, a dozen "S" words, many uses of "G--D---" and a smattering of mild profanities. These are mainly said by Jack and random mercenaries who scream profanities during heated battles. (I could only take off 5 marks for those two categories, but I thought I needed to mention the misuses of God\'s name).

    Sexual Content: 10/10

    I can fortunately say that the game\'s saving grace in the appropriateness section is it\'s lack of sexual content. There is a woman in the game that Jack transported to the island and she appears to be wearing a bikini, but she is only seen briefly and there are no extreme details to make out (it looks like she\'s wearing an open jacket too that covers her body).

    The occult/supernatural: 10/10

    There appears to be no occultic and/or supernatural elements to this game. The mad scientists conducted experiments to create mutant creatures, so they are not demons or any magical beasts. The feral instincts are also just an experiment so they contain no magical significance.

    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10

    There are really no regular authority figures present to rebel against. The mercenaries are just that, mercenaries. They are all protecting a mad scientist and his experiments, and you are killing them in self-defense as you try to survive through this ordeal.

    Totals:

    Game Play: 18/20 Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 10/10 Stability: 5/5 Controls/Interface: 4/5 46/50 Violence: 2/10 Language: 5/10 Sexual Content: 10/10 Occult/Supernatural: 10/10 Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 10/10 37/50

    Overall 83%

    I would highly recommend this intense first person shooter to mature players. The appropriateness score may be a little higher than, well, appropriate, but all in all it is an extremely well made shooter that is also extremely mature.

  • Far Cry New Dawn (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Far Cry New Dawn
    Developed by: Ubisoft
    Published by: Ubisoft
    Release date: February 15, 2019
    Available on: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: FPS
    Number of players: Up to two player cooperatively online
    ESRB Rating: Mature for blood, intense violence, mild sexual themes, strong language, alcohol
    Price: $39.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Far Cry New Dawn takes place after the world was nuked in Far Cry 5. Many have survived the apocalypse and have tried to rebuild their lives in the desolate wasteland. As their small community started to thrive, it was quickly attacked by the villainous twins (Mickey and Lou), and their gang of highwaymen. The gangs robs and steals anything or any place of value without discrimination. Not everyone goes down without a fight though. There are several key people you’ll need to recruit to join the resistance to take down the twins once and for all.

    The game starts with your character who can take on the male or female “body type” on a train with other potential fighters heading to a community called Prosperity. The train full of hopefuls is de-railed and attacked by highwaymen and you become the sole survivor.

    One of the first weapons you’ll be given is a pair of scissors which you can use to stab enemies in close proximity. The stealthy takedowns are very effective and extremely bloody. Once an enemy is downed, you can loot their corpse for crafting materials, ammo, and weapons. At workbenches you can craft your own weapons and ammo. Thankfully, some throwables like knives and Molotov cocktails can be crafted anywhere on the fly.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun continuation of the Far Cry 5 storyline, nice to see returning characters; lots of weapons to craft and vehicles to fly and drive; funny dialogue; excellent graphics
    Weak Points: Micro-transactions; not enough content/gameplay to justify the $40 price tag
    Moral Warnings: Unavoidable violence with lots of blood and gore; strong language and sexual references; partial nudity; drug and alcohol use; distorted views of Christianity; blaspheming

    Like Far Cry 5, you can have an AI ally fight alongside of you, or have an online friend join in your game. The banter from some of the AI companions is rather humorous and I must admit that Hurk cracked me up with his off-color comments and innuendos. Profanity is prevalent throughout the game and every other sentence seems to have an f-bomb in it. If you have young kids nearby, you’ll want to wear headphones.

    The story has three parts and it progresses every time you upgrade Prosperity. In order to level up the home base, you will need to recruit the required number of specialists and upgrade a certain amount of workstations. The workstations offer different services and abilities and it’s hard to choose which ones to prioritize. The expedition ability unlocks challenging side quests, but also grants the ability to fast travel across the map. Maximum health bonuses provided by the infirmary shouldn’t be overlooked either. If you’re looking for more firepower, you’ll want to upgrade the workbench. Vehicles are made possible by building up the garage facilities.

    In order to upgrade anything, you’ll need to acquire ethanol which is a rare commodity these days. The best way to get ethanol is to liberate outposts overrun with highwaymen. If you can take it over without having the alarm tripped, you’ll get even more of the precious liquid. Once the outpost is under your control, you can keep it or salvage it to let it fall back into the enemy’s hands for even more ethanol. Reclaiming an outpost the second time will be harder as there are two alarms and more foes to deal with. The third time will have elite forces and they don’t mess around. The generous reward makes the challenge worthwhile.

    Elite soldiers and bosses are quite challenging and can withstand a lot of damage (including rockets) before going down for a dirt nap.  You’ll definitely want to craft better guns than beginner ones before tackling a level three outpost or the final boss.  Boosting your health at the infirmary beforehand is a good idea too.

    Far Cry New Dawn
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 88%
    Gameplay - 15/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 37%
    Violence - 1.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

    Like the previous game, there are several stashes that have some pretty good loot if you can figure out how to get to it. There is often a note or two nearby with a hint. The additional perk point magazines come in handy for upgrading your character. I enjoy the benefits of repairing vehicles and looting safes as well as the ability to carry more weapons. Increased lung capacity comes in handy for the specialist who needs you to retrieve her misplaced “herbs”.

    Along with the drug and alcohol consumption, there are lots of moral issues with this title. As I mentioned earlier, the violence is pretty intense and there is a lot of unavoidable bloodshed. The language is pretty brutal and there is a decent amount of blaspheming to zero out the language score from us. The New Eden religious cult plays a big role in this title’s story and their religious views are interesting to say the least. In order to reach them you’ll have to cross a river filled with toxic and hallucinating mist. While there are many references to sex, I haven’t seen it happening in the game. I have seen characters prancing around in their underwear though.

    Visually, New Dawn looks amazing and the level of detail is phenomenal in this game. For a post-apocalyptic world, there are still lots of breathtaking sites. Many of the same characters are still around, but older now. It was great to see them back in action and the voice acting for them is top notch as well. In some areas and radio stations have background music. It’s either oldies tunes or rap music with a lot of cussing in it. I prefer the oldies music.

    I enjoyed my time in New Dawn and spent roughly ten hours playing this title. The 50% sale price I paid was fair and I don’t feel that the $40 asking price is justified. While some can argue it’s a glorified DLC expansion, I think that the story and production quality is worth paying for. Just not $40.

  • Freeman: Guerrilla Warfare (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Freeman: Guerrilla Warfare
    Developed By: KK Game Studio
    Published By: KK Game Studio
    Released: Oct 4, 2019
    Available On: PC
    Genre: First-person shooter/ Real-time strategy
    Number of Players: Single-player
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thanks to KK Game Studio for the review code!

    Gunshots ring out across the rolling hills of Cherniv as two factions clash in a minor skirmish; a routine event in the blood-soaked nation. But for you, it is a rare opportunity. You and your makeshift militia dive into the fray, surprising the enemy with a shower of bullets, sending them scrambling. Expecting this, you have ordered a squad to circle around and trap the terrorists in a pincer attack. Though your guerillas are poorly equipped, untrained, and untested, your strategies carry the day. You scavenge what you can from the bodies, one step closer to evening the odds that are stacked against you. That is, if you don't lose it all in the next fight.

    Freeman: Guerilla Warfare is clearly a riff on the cult classic Mount and Blade: Warband, imported into a destabilized modern day setting, but that's no knock against it. The ‘strategy view’ of the game, where representations of your army move around on top of an abstract map, is nearly identical in form and function to TaleWorld’s 2010 release. Despite the major difference in setting, and the decade between them, this foundation is certainly a fit for Freeman.

    You travel from town to town, completing tasks, buying and selling goods, and recruiting soldiers to your cause, while avoiding dangerous enemies and pursuing vulnerable targets.

    Freeman: Guerrilla Warfare
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Tense strategy that puts you directly into the fray
    Weak Points: Bland gunplay mechanics, unrealistic armor
    Moral Warnings: Large-scale violence, war profiteering, and some language

    The real innovation, however, comes in battle, Though the randomly generated landscapes might remind you of Mount and Blade, nearly every other aspect of the real-time skirmishes is appropriately revolutionary for a game that places you in the role of a rebel.

    Reflective of modern warfare, the opposing factions will not charge dumbly towards each other. The battle is often won or lost before the first shot is fired, based on positioning and the element of surprise, The combatants may not engage each other for a few minutes, and these moments are every bit as tense as the ensuing firefights, as every hill you crest could leave you in the enemy sights.

    The gunplay is competent, lying somewhere between the bland realism of games like ARMA 3 and the simple point and shoot of Call of Duty. It doesn’t get in the way, but it won’t often satisfy either. Most of my engagements were from a distance, with both sides taking potshots from behind cover. Leaning out from behind a tree to fire at a brown dot on the horizon just isn’t mechanically interesting, but it does put you in the thick of combat, a perspective which changes your strategic calculations.

    You have complete control over your forces, with the option to switch at any time from first-person to a real-time strategy view and give commands to each of the squads you’ve deployed. As a result, I feel more responsible for my soldiers than I ever did in Mount and Blade. They die because I sent them into an ambush, not because the AI did.

    For a game that emphasizes being out-manned and out-gunned, Freeman can sometimes fail to deliver on the underdog fantasy. Despite your strategy, better-equipped enemies become like juggernauts, who take everything you throw at them and then saw through your ranks with ease. In our world, guerilla fighters frequently take on the best equipped armies with outdated weaponry and a fraction of the funding. And while an actual helmet might deflect a bullet or two, no armor can hold up to sustained fire.

    A defeat in battle can leave you back at square one, in terms of economics and manpower, so it can be quite frustrating when you end up in an unfair fight.

    Freeman: Guerrilla Warfare
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 4/10
    Sound - 4/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 70%
    Violence - 4/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    This is mitigated somewhat as you progress, as you can take over towns, collect taxes, and assign your followers to manage your territory or even lead armies of their own, under your authority. It becomes easier to bounce back from a devastating loss, which might’ve taken hours earlier in the game.

    You’ve probably already caught on, but this game contains plenty of morally objectionable material. It is far from gory, but the violence is all too real, with the inhumanity of war on full display. I have recruited countless ordinary villagers to my cause, only to inevitably lose them in battle. My enemies are no different, just people sucked out of their normal lives by the currents of violence.

    The goal of the game is ostensibly to reunify Cherniv and bring peace to its people, but in the meantime, you are presented with the option to benefit from the chaos. You can raid villages and rob supply convoys; the only limitation to your oppression of the people is your own strength.

    Additionally, characters will swear in their dialogues, and you can dress your character or your soldiers in skimpy civilian clothes.

    As it finally receives its full release, Freeman: Guerilla Warfare represents a definite success story for early access games. Developer KK games was able to get some additional cash flow while continuing to develop and polish a game that certainly must have been a labor of love for them.

    Many Early Access games meander through their development, adding features to placate fans without ever mastering their own core experiences. This results in a game that never feels like a complete game, the software equivalent of a pampered man-child who struggles to stand on his own two feet. Freeman: Guerilla Warfare, however, had a clear focus from the beginning and applied just enough polish to make it truly shine. Forget that it was Early Access, this is a release you don’t want to miss.

    -Dylan Sitterly

  • Half Life: Blue Shift

     

    System Requirements
    Operating System: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP Minimum Intel Penitum? 233 or AMD K6-2 32 MB RAM 400 MB HD Space 2x CD ROM Drive SVGA, high-color (16-bit) Win-compatible Soundcard 32-bit Internet service provider with 28.8+ modem or LAN
    Preferred Intel Penitum? 233 or AMD K6-2 48 MB RAM 3D Accelerator card (OpenGL or Direct 3D

    What makes Blue Shift different from the other Half-Life games? You get put into a position where it\'s you against the aliens AND the military. Now, that\'s what I call fun. You get access to areas not available in the other two games, and there are better graphics thanks to the Blue Shift: High Definition Pack. Included with Blue Shift, there is Opposing Force. Having included Opposing Force, Blue Shift gives a whole new definition to online, network gaming. From a Christian perspective, it\'s really good. The game has some swears, but it can easily be disabled from the options menu. There\'s the blood and gore too, most of it can be disabled in the Options menu also. This is one of the best games, I have ever played. Blue Shift can play all of the Half-Life mods (includes over hundreds, plus more are still being made).

    Interesting Tidbit:

    Half-Life: Blue Shift\' is composed of scientific terms. Half-Life is the time in which an element decays. Blue Shift is when a star is moving faster towards a closer point on the magnetic spectrum.

    Overall: 88%

  • Half Life: Counter Strike

     

    ***Overview***

    Any high school in America has a group of people who love video games and talk about them obsessively. Counter strike is one of those rare games that many, not just geeky computer people, rant about. Counter Strike is a mod, a modification to a large game and in this case, Half-Life. The game is totally online (no subscription fee) and pits Counter_terrorists against terrorists.

    ***Graphics***

    The graphics of Half Life: Counter Strike are, well, bad. This game was first created in 1998 so, the graphics are dated. Be sure to look for the blockly blood effects and the boring character models. I give it a C+.

    ***Sounds***

    To make up for the terrible graphics, Counter Strike boasts amazing sounds. To be truly successful in Counter Strike, you need to open your ears to 3d sound effects so you can locate nearby terrorists. Characters also let out a moan of pain when shot, which does add some realism to the field. I give it a B.

    ***Controls***

    This section is going to be really short. If you have played other first person shooters, you will be at home. Be prepared to be awful the first few times you log on to a server though. Some people have \'Skillz\'. I give it an A.

    ***Offensive Content***

    Though the game completely revolves around the fact your team wins when the other team is destroyed. Blood flies in large amounts; especially when a bullet grazes a player\'s head. Because this is an online title, many players swear and use fowl words. I give it a C+.

    ***Underview***

    Overall, Counter Strike is a fun, fast- paced, online gun blaze that has more replay factor than could be imagined. I award Counter Strike a 90 out of 100!

  • Half Life: Opposing Force

     

    System Requirements
    Operating System: Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows XP Minimum Intel Pentium? 233 or AMD K6-2 32 MB RAM 400 MB HD Space 2x CD ROM Drive SVGA, high-color (16-bit) Win-compatible Soundcard 32-bit Internet service provider with 28.8+ modem or LAN
    Preferred Intel Pentium? 233 or AMD K6-2 48 MB RAM 3D Accelerator card (OpenGL or Direct 3D)

    \'Opposing Force\', the first expansion for \'Half-Life\' has new creatures, new weapons, new areas of the Black Mesa Facility, and the same heart pumping, adrenaline action as the original. This game continues and expands on what made Half-Life great. \'Opposing Force\' comes in a stand-alone package, or you get it automatically when you buy \'Blue Shift\', the 2nd expansion pack. I highly recommend getting the \'Blue Shift\' package. You get the 2 expansion packs PLUS the High-Definition Pack. This pack updates all creatures and weapons (from the entire Half-Life Series) with higher polygon counts to make them look better than ever.

    Story

    This time around, you are Adrian Shephard, one of the marines sent in to find Gordon Freeman. Your mission takes a different turn when the facility is suddenly overtaken by aliens. You have a new mission. Get out alive. In your mission, you will make your way through areas of Black Mesa not in the previous game. You will encounter brand new creatures. And obtain some new and quite powerful weapons. You will also have some puzzles to solve.

    Gameplay

    If you\'ve played Half-Life and liked it, you will certainly like Opposing Force. The game has expanded on what made Half-Life so good. You are still winding your way through the Black Mesa facility, fighting against some fairly strange looking creatures. You\'ll be using your MP-5 with grenade launcher quite a bit, but will find a new set of weapons (some alien-oriented) to use. I found the new weapons and creatures to be a nice addition. It\'s a first person shooter, but, what has made the series so great is the way they make you feel a part of the environment. The sounds. The sights. You feel like you are really there. You will come across puzzles on your journey. The puzzles range from fairly simple, to more complex. They are typically of the \'how do I open a door\' or \'how do I get from point A to point B\' variety. Remember the Barnacles from Half-Life? They are the aliens with the long tongue hanging from the ceilings? This time around, you will find a helpful item in the game that\'s a Barnacle you can use. I won\'t give away its use, but it is needed to solve some of the puzzles.

    Graphics

    I have only played this using the High-Definition pack (explained above), so I don\'t know what the regular graphics look like. The graphics are somewhat dated but I am still very impressed with them. The pulsating and rippling look of the creatures continues to amaze me. Several times you will have co-operative missions with other Marines. These guys look pretty good too. By 2002 standards, the lighting effects and faces probably have the most dated look. Water effects are very limited. Because of these, the graphics rating is knocked down a bit. But overall, the graphics are very pleasing and believable.

    Sound

    The sound is a mixed-bag. I really enjoy hearing the sound of a creature around the corner before actually spotting it. Your character\'s sounds are also very well done (the sounds of your footsteps, reloading of weapons, and the firing of weapons). Where the sound can sometimes be a problem is when a character is talking to you. Sometimes the voice was too quiet or it was getting masked out by another sound in the room. The sound of a door closing could make me miss a key word or phrase someone was saying. I would have to go back to my last save point and re-listen to what was said.

    Stability

    The game ran great on WinXP. Only once did I have a problem. I had a save point that kept crashing on me when I\'d reload. This happened about three times in a row. I finally rebooted my machine and never had another problem.

    InterfaceThe interface is quite simple and easy to use. There is a heads-up display (HUD) with all you need to know (health and ammo, essentially).

    Christian Perspective

    The game involves a lot of shooting and killing (both aliens and humans). There is also blood splatter when you make a hit. The blood can be easily turned off in the Parental Controls option. I should note, I don\'t actually consider the game to be a strictly all-shooter game. The game is full of puzzles which are sometimes tough enough to give you a good gratifying feeling when you have figured them out. Unfortunately, the language does get quite rough at times. More so than either Half-Life or Blue Shift.

    Longevity

    The game has a lot of life. There are user-created levels you can download as well as a multi-player aspect.

    Final Analysis

    No doubt the game has some terrific game play. The graphics are a bit dated, but still hold up well. I was disappointed to hear some fairly strong language this time around. The heavy violence may be an issue for some. With the ability to turn off the blood, the game becomes much cleaner. I know there are much more violent games available, but some of the scenes are still a bit gruesome.

    Final Ratings

    Game play: A+ Graphics: B+ Sound: A- Stability: A Interface: A Christian Perspective: D

    Overall: 90%

  • Half-Life (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Half-Life
    Developed By: Valve
    Published By: Sierra Studios/Valve
    Released: November 8, 1998
    Available On: Windows, PlayStation 2, macOS, Linux
    Genre: FPS, Horror, Sci-Fi, Adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Animated Blood, Animated Violence
    Number of Players: 1 offline, 20+ online
    Price: $9.99

    What can I say about this game that hasn't been said before? If you've somehow been on the Internet and haven't heard of Half-Life yet, I applaud your ability to not hear of one of the most popular shooters of all time. For the uneducated, Half-Life is a game made by Valve, released in 1998. However, it is so, so much more.

    Based off a modified version of the Quake engine, which Valve then called GoldSrc, Half-Life was another revolutionary shooter to come out of the '90s. Because it was based on the Quake engine, it had the same beautifully smooth and buttery fast-paced gameplay. As you play through Half-Life, you'll discover that this game encourages daredevil-like speed. Even 20 years after it launched, Half-Life's gameplay is still the template for FPS games. The movement is crisp and almost lag free. The guns are balanced with good hit registration and damage. Not to mention, Half-Life's AI was light years beyond what they had at the time. The enemies don't feel aged, and respond about 2/3 as well as what we have today. Half-Life's gameplay, in my opinion, has aged better than any game in history. Certainly better than other old popular games like GoldenEye.

    And just like its gameplay, Half-Life revolutionized gaming with its stunning 3D graphics. And although they aren't the prettiest nowadays, Half-Life set the bar on intuitive textures, and models with their horrific aliens and monsters.

    The sound of the game hasn't aged [i]horribly[/i]. Playing with my headphones that, I'll admit, aren't the greatest (not a $200 pair) but can hear really good quality, the game is missing high frequencies, or they sound very dampened. The panning is still great, and you can tell where sounds are coming from. The ominous (and sometimes loud sounds) most certainly add to the atmosphere of this game. It can make it feel empty or packed with action. While the bit-crushed and lower quality sounds are a bit dated, they certainly aren't horrible like some other old games can be, with a very present terrible quality.

    The music in this game also is pretty good. While some of the instruments may sound dated or compressed, the melodies are awesome and the music goes great with adding tension or additional feeling to the ambience of this game.

    Now onto the actual story. Half-Life follows the life of Gordon Freeman (not to be confused by his uncle from marriage Morgan). Gordon Freeman works at the Black Mesa Research Facility in Arizona. Black Mesa is a giant testing ground filled with creatures, robots, scientists and more. As a graduate in theoretical physics, Gordon specializes in the scientifically unseen. Aliens, time travel, things that no one should mess with.

    Half-Life
    Science going to far
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great gameplay, level design and character AI
    Weak Points: Graphics have aged not as well, and the movement speed/controls can be finicky at times
    Moral Warnings: Moderate/borderline severe language (S***, D***, A**, blasphemy), strong violence and bloody gore, light references to cigars/alcohol

    When a mysterious object appears in Black Mesa that nobody knows anything about, the obvious answer is to experiment with it! Because they're scientists! When the experiment goes wrong, because, as we all know, all experiments fail in games, a rift between Earth and an alien planet is opened. Gordon now has to find his way out of Black Mesa while battling aliens, monsters, soldiers and even the world around him.

    In addition to the graphics and gameplay, Half-Life boasts a huge world full of challenges and enemies at every turn, with ingenious level design (we'll come back to it) and an array of guns. Such as, but not limited to, a shotgun, a pistol, a crossbow, an RPG, grenades, and more. And with Half-Life 2's invention of the Source engine, the gravity gun and more, Half-Life is the franchise that kept on giving.

    Half-Life's level design is also as good as its gameplay. With great design choices, Half-Life encouraged players to either run through it at full speed, or take their time to catch their breath, or maybe look at their surroundings. Half-Life's levels were huge and had great ideas such as radioactive waste, pits, low-gravity sections and more. The amazing thing this game did for me, was be able to create a sort of perfect labyrinth of technology and science and tear it apart. It was because of these revolutionary things that made Half-Life an amazing FPS and something that raised the bar for the future of gaming. Now, on to the cons.

    While most things aged well, the graphics did not. While they aren't horrible today, they still look like a game from the '90s. Blocky environments, fuzzy textures, lacking detail and washed out colors. Overall, they aren't bad, but they certainly have aged the worst out of this game. The gameplay is also hit or miss. While it is good and still holds alright today, some things about it can be specifically annoying, such as friction and movement speed. The level design is good but sometimes the placement of characters or enemies can lead to things being not so obvious or overly challenging.

    Half-Life
    Great environments, but poor graphics
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 80%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 81%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 6/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 5.5/10
    This game displays the consequences of evil and/or messing with the occult. (+3 pts) 

    Half-Life does have some moral issues. While the killing of aliens/monsters could be written off, the killing of human soldiers cannot. This game could have simply made them aliens or something else. I understand they wanted to portray a government cleanup, but it doesn't justify it. The game also allows you to kill innocent scientists, or let them go to their deaths.

    While very few main characters in the game (if any) swear or use crude language, the soldiers you encounter in the game can drop almost all language except an F-bomb. In addition, sometimes characters or enemies can be blown up, and depending on the character, they may be blown into graphic chunks of 5-10 pieces of flesh. When killed, all characters' bodies hit the floor and don't disappear for a short time.

    The aliens in this game can be seen as scary, and this game does have a horror side to it, so it isn't for the easily frightened people. However, if you can handle horror/dread decently, this game won't scare you. Some characters can have cigars, and there are some references to beer.

    In closing, Half-Life was and still is a staple of Fast-Paced FPS Adventure games, with amazing graphics for its time, great gameplay and AI, and perfect level design, despite its moral and aging issues.

    - God's Gaming's Contempt, signing off.

  • Half-Life 2

    Minimum System Configuration

    1.2 GHz Processor 256MB RAM DirectX 7 capable graphics card Windows 2000/XP/ME/98 Mouse Keyboard Internet Connection

    Preferred System Configuration

    2.4 GHz Processor 512MB RAM DirectX 9 capable graphics card Windows 2000/XP/ME/98 Mouse Keyboard Internet Connection

    After years of waiting, the loyal Valve fans\' dreams have finally come true. Despite the agonizing delays, the insidious but ingenious beta leak, and the Valve-VU legal disputes, the beast has awoken. Be afraid, Halo 2, be very afraid. One of the major fears, as with all well-known titles (especially this year), was that it would not live up to the hype. After the disappointments of Halo 2 and Doom 3, my heart was warmed, and my faith in games revitalized when I entered the first chapter of Half-Life 2. The environment was alive.

    People walked about, actually going somewhere (as opposed to games such as Deus Ex where the cities were populated with individuals that apparently thought sitting in the same chair of the same bar for hours on end and staring blankly into space was a good idea), the air filled with sounds of combine radio chatter, Dr. Breen\'s constant stream of propaganda, and wind howling through the roof of the train station, and objects fell over and bumped each other in a realistic manner (as opposed to the physics of games such as Doom 3, where everything seemed to be made of a futuristic rubber that repulsed everything it touched). The very air felt breathable; never before did I experience such beautiful realism in a game. Before we go on, I hereby assure you I will not provide any spoilers to the game beyond what you could view in the videos released by Valve or gather from the game\'s bio. In fact a large amount of what you see in the binks didn\'t make the final cut, so prepared.

    Story

    After being in limbo for 10 years, Gordon Freeman is awakened by the mysterious G-man and dropped into an eastern European city nicknamed ?City-17?. It seems the world has been taken over by a race of extra-dimensional aliens known to humans as the Combine. Your role in the human rebellion is that of a messiah, the last bastion of hope against complete subversion of the human race. The plot becomes more twisted and desperate as time goes on, as the remaining vestige of resistance struggle to find a way to free themselves from the bondage of the Combine and their human puppet leader, Dr. Breen. As for the rest of the story, Half-Life 2 does an excellent job. Not everyone liked the ending, but overall plot provides a great impetus to continue playing the game. You constantly meet up with allies who provide direction, supplies, and support, so you never feel lost or abandoned.

    Game play

    The game play changes many old concepts from Half-Life, while introducing some new exciting ones. Most of the weapons made it back, repolished and somewhat modified. In fact there are very few new weapons; most of the new stuff is related to the new gameplay concepts. The movement speed in Half-Life 2 is slower and more realistic than that of the original, but there is a sprint option which draws energy off a rechargeable power source. Breathing underwater lasts longer but also uses the battery, as well as the flashlight. Another new game play element is the vehicles. Yes, this isn\'t really new to the industry, but I\'ve never seen vehicles used so well in a single-player game (even Halo). They are responsive, fairly easy to control, and great fun.

    The vehicle levels seem to be made perfectly; the large landscapes have many optional pit stops and many challenges and puzzles spicing up what would be monotonous driving in most games. You can command squads of human resistance later in the game. The humans aren\'t the smartest, but can help when the going gets tough. They have some nifty abilities, such as giving you ammo when you\'re running low, they can pick up better weapons if they stumble across them, can jump and move most places you can, and the medic rebels can heal you and the others. One note about the NPCs; many critics complained that the allies tended to get in your way in tight areas, I never had this problem. A little push and they quickly stepped aside.

    As Gabe Newell stated in one of the E3 demonstrations, not all allies in game are human. You can command a race of Starship Trooper-like aliens with pheromones. I won\'t go into this too much to keep from ruining it for you, but I\'ll just say it\'s really really cool. The physics, as to be expected, are the best so far. The thing that surprised me was how much it was a part of the game, everything is rendered with physics, from cars to wooden bridges to pieces of scrapwood. You can pick up and throw smaller items, but the real fun comes with the famous Gravity Gun, commonly known as the manipulator. It allows one to pick up and hold up large objects as a shield, then launch them at a very high velocity...a deadly weapon.

    Thus just about anything not tied down is a potential weapon, and Half-Life 2 is replete with objects just waiting to be smacked into your enemies faces. One last concept that I couldn\'t tell if it was a bad thing or not, is the ammo/enemy health equivalency. In Half-Life, enemies were tough to kill, and you could carry large amounts of ammunition. In Half-Life 2, the focus seems to be more on lots of low-hp enemies, and limited ammo capacity. This might annoy the die-hard Half-Life fans, but it was still an interesting idea; even on hard it was fairly easy to dispose of most enemies (barring the ones requiring heavy firepower).

    Graphics

    The eye candy is beautiful. Every aspect of the graphics is delicately and painstakingly crafted, many of them are more a work of art than a game. Some scenes inspired me as much as the real world. The shaders and effects were on level with the industry. The models are very very well done-not photo realistic-but definitely the best so far. The texturing is sometimes low-resolution, but this may be to help the framerate. Incidentally, the framerate is quite high; even on my 9600 pro it ran at 40-50 FPS. There\'s a set of custom drivers out there made specifically for the Source engine, I suggest you try it if you\'re getting low framerates.

    The NPCs\' faces and body language are simply amazing. The characters, from the close friends and co-protagonists, to the citizens and rebels you, meet, fight alongside, and yet never see again, all act like real people. You can look into their eyes and see their emotion-from cold fear to exhilaration in a firefight- and the rest of their body follows suit. Unfortunately, one part of the graphics is severely lacking. The shadowing effects aren\'t very good, many shadow bugs can be seen throughout the game. Given the beauty of the rest of the game, this small bug can be easily looked over, but it can be a severe problem in multiplayer, where the shadows sometimes will betray your location (this can be dire in Counter-Strike: Source).

    Sound & Music

    The ambient sound is one thing I love, everything from the Combine radio, to the airboat hitting the water is well done. The Source engine, like its predecessor, has an excellent doppler simulation, which means echo and reverb is applied to every corner of the game. The rest of the game\'s sounds are on par, some of the guns sound kind of wimpy, but that\'s to be expected in a Half-Life game. The voice-acting is superb, which goes very nicely with the incredible character animation. The music disappointed me slightly. It borrowed a lot of tracks from the original game, and the new ones where very short. They weren\'t bad, but I expected more from such a epic game. The music style is mostly electronica/rave/techno, with a little industrial thrown in.

    Flaws

    Now for the criticisms. There are a few things in Half-Life 2, not mentioning the shadowing, that stole from the rest of the game\'s perfection. The artificial intelligence (AI) wasn\'t thoroughly impressive. The higher-ranking Combine will tend to hide behind objects, but the lesser Combine and aliens will mostly charge you blindly, even on higher difficulty levels. Steam, the distribution system for all Valve\'s games, has received praise as a great answer to the problems of patching and publisher greed, but also with anger at the unreliability and numerous difficulties some users have had. Even though Half-Life 2 is a single-player game, you MUST have an internet connection to register it on Steam. This is probably to prevent piracy, but poses a problem to those with no internet connection. So be warned, no internet, no Half-Life 2.

    As stated above, Steam is not the most stable piece of software around, and many users have had to fight to get the game to run, especially when using the store-bought copy. The nice thing about using Steam is its built in server and friend system for multi-player games and mods. You can also purchase any Valve game and download it online, no going out to buy it from the store. I opted for this and got Half-Life 2 completely online. It worked fine for the most part; just don\'t quit Steam or shut off the computer when it\'s downloading or you might be stuck with corrupt files and have to re-download a lot of stuff.

    Appropriateness

    In terms of objectional content, there is a little to be aware of. This is of course a first person shooter, so if you are against fighting and killing, obviously you\'re in the wrong department. There is gore, particularly related to the alien race known as headcrabs (small face-hugger like creatures which latch on one\'s head and control the host, turning them into zombies). You can cut zombies in half, burn them (eliciting gut-wrenching screams). There is a fair amount of ?scenery gore?, such as burnt, mangled, and hanging corpses. The characters do swear, just about every major word is used except the f-bomb (which is amusingly hinted at in one part of the dialogue). Apart from that the game is quite clean, no sexual innuendos (except for Dr. Breen ranting about reproduction and human instinct in an early part of the game). Beware of the M rating, I certainly wouldn\'t give this game to preteens.

    Conclusion

    All in all, Half-Life 2 has proved to be a game of great worth, capable of beating all its competitors with a great story, excellent gameplay, amazing graphics, and most of all, a stable engine for which many free mods will be created in the near future.

  • Half-Life 2: Episode 1

    System Requirements Windows 98/Me/2000/XP 1.2GHz (2.4GHz Recommended) 256MB RAM (512MB recommended) 4.5GB HDD DX7 level graphics (DX9 recommended) Internet connection required Half-Life 2:Episode 1 is the first in a trilogy of the aftermath of Half-Life 2. At the end of Half-Life 2, City 17 is quite unstable as the reactor is about to blow up. Your mission in this Episode is to evacuate City 17 as soon as possible. Of course there will be many enemies and obstacles to get in your way. You resume the role of Gordon Freeman and Alyx for the majority of the time will accompany you. Although she’s not invincible she will do most of the shooting if you let her. You will get to solve many obstacles on your own though. Many other characters from the previous game(s) will be there as well (Dog, Barney, Dr Breen, G-Man).

    What’s included with Episode 1?

    Half-Life 2: Episode 1 is a stand alone title; you don’t need Half-Life 2 to play it. So for $20 or less you get about seven hours of single player game time, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source and Half-Life 2 Deathmatch online game modes. When you beat Episode 1, you get to see a teaser trailer for Episode 2, which I must say looks great; I really look forward to getting that!

    Any new weapons or enemies?

    There really isn’t anything new when it comes to weapons or enemies in this game. You have the Combine shooting and sniping you as well as zombies, head crabs, Ant Lions, and some boss variants attacking you as well. You don’t get your trusty crow bar until halfway through the game, but you do start off with the gravity gun. You’ll collect guns, grenades, and rockets along the way as well.

    Graphics

    The graphics are still some of the best on the market. The character models look extremely life-like. The maps are gorgeous but a little bland given the devastation in the area; it’s not exactly a tropical paradise like Far-Cry. The enemy models are gory and scary looking. The object manipulation and gravity is very realistic, and the physics engine is superb. All in all the graphics will not disappoint if your system can handle it.

    Sound

    The voice acting is great in this game, and every character has a unique voice. Each weapon has it’s own sound effect. When manipulating objects the noises are very realistic. When entering certain areas techno music kicks in, often catching me off guard. It usually indicates something big is about to happen. I didn’t notice any light and fluffy background music.

    Appropriateness

    This game has lots of blood and gore though most of it is in self-defense. -4 for violence -2.5 for blood spray -2.5 for gruesome details There is language and blasphemy too. PG13 language –4 Using God’s name in vein –5 On a positive note there is no sexual content other than Dr. Breen broadcasting that people should procreate to save the human race. Nothing is seen or heard anywhere. Alyx is dressed modestly, which is good. I didn’t see any occult references just aliens and combines. There is no gross humor, just a bad joke from Alyx calling combines with head crabs on them Zombines.

    Final Thoughts

    This game is really fun if you don’t mind the violence and language. The boss battles are pretty challenging. The game play is pretty short but to compensate that the price is $20 or less and they throw in a couple of online game modes. It’s a pretty good deal if you want to get Half-Life 2 action at half the price.

    Final Ratings

    Game Play 17/20 Graphics 10/10 Sound 9/10 Controls 5/5 Stability 5/5 Appropriateness 32/50

    Final Score 78%

  • Half-Life 2:Episode 2

    System Requirements:
    Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
    1.7GHz (3GHz Recommended)
    512MB RAM (1GB recommended)
    DX8 level graphics (DX9 recommended)
    Internet connection required

    Half-Life 2:Episode 2 is the second in a trilogy telling the story of the aftermath of Half-Life 2. There’s a portal being opened up by the enemy and Alyx (from the previous games) has the data needed to close it. The enemy is aware of this and will try its utmost to eliminate you and Alyx. You resume the role of Gordon Freeman with Alyx close by for the majority of the time. Although she’s not invincible, she’s very handy to have around. You still get to solve many obstacles on your own though. Many other characters from the previous games will be there as well (Dog, Dr. Kleiner, Dr. Magnusson, G-Man).

    Game Play

    The majority of the game is a first person shooter and your objective is to bring this data safely to a lab to stop the portal and save the planet. Although the lab is not very far, there will be many traps and roadblocks to make it difficult for you. Fortunately there are refugee bases and weapon caches to aide you. You won't be walking around and blasting guns ALL the time, there are some car driving scenes to offer some game play variety. As you progress in the game your car will get upgraded a couple times. You'll be fighting against aliens, big bugs, and combine soldiers. There are some tough bosses to defeat as well. The story is good and will engulf you, and the ending will trigger emotions. The game play itself is pretty linear, but action packed. There's little room and not much time for exploring. You'll be using your trusty gravity gun to help you get past obstacles and to manipulate the environment around you.

    What’s included with Episode 2?


    Half-Life 2: Episode 2 is a stand-alone title; you don’t need Half-Life 2 to play it. It's highly recommended that you play Half-life 2 and Episode 1 to understand the continuing storyline. So for $30 or less you get about seven hours of single player action. The best way to get Episode 2 is with the Orange Box, as you get Team Fortress 2 along with “giftable” copies of Half-Life 2 and Episode 1 if you already own them.

    Are there new weapons or enemies?

    There are some new enemies, vehicles, and weapons in this game. Hunters are a formidable foe and in groups they are extremely tough. In the ending levels you’ll be given a great new way to destroy striders but you’ll also have many of them to destroy, so it won’t be an easy task. You get to drive and race in a “new” vehicle as well; it is mission critical, so don’t let it get destroyed.

    Achievements

    As you play this game you can unlock various achievements. I’m not sure of the rewards other than adding enhanced game play and bragging rights. Some of the achievements include running over X number of enemies with the car, killing a combine with his own grenade, propelling yourself as a rocket, beating dog in a race and more. Some of the achievements will be met through the storyline but many of them you’ll really have to work for.

    Graphics


    The graphics are still some of the best on the market. The character models look extremely life-like. The maps are gorgeous and the scenery is very pretty in the wooded levels. There are some caves and caverns to explore too. The enemy models are gory and scary looking. The object manipulation and gravity effect is very realistic, and the physics engine is superb. All in all, the graphics will not disappoint if your system can handle it.

    Sound

    The voice acting is great in this game, and every character has a unique voice. Each weapon has its own sound effect. When manipulating objects the noises are very realistic. When entering certain areas techno music kicks in, often catching me off guard. It usually indicates something big is about to happen. I didn’t notice any light and fluffy background music.

    Appropriateness

    This game has lots of blood and gore though most of it is in self-defense.
    -4 for violence
    -2.5 for blood spray
    -2.5 for gruesome details

    There is language and blasphemy too.
    PG13 language –4
    Using God’s name in vain –5

    On a positive note there is no sexual content other than Alyx’s dad wanting grandkids from you and Alyx. Alyx is dressed modestly, which is good. I didn’t see any occult references, just aliens and combines.

    Stability

    I ran into a very annoying glitch that affects ATI users. There must be a bad texture that causes the game to crash to desktop when seen by the player. I experienced this with multiple drivers and the only way I was able to get past it was to walk backwards looking another direction. I hope this gets patched soon as it’s very frustrating.

    Final Thoughts

    This game is really fun if you don’t mind the violence and language. The final battles are pretty challenging. The game play is pretty short but it’s a good deal if you get the Orange Box bundle. ATI users be warned and save early and often after you escape the guardian.

    Final Ratings
    Game Play 17/20
    Graphics 10/10
    Sound 9/10
    Controls 5/5
    Stability 3/5

    Appropriateness 32/50
    Final Score 76%
     

     

  • HYPERGUN (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    HYPERGUN
    Developed By: NVYVE® Studios
    Published By: NVYVE® Studios
    Released: August 23, 2018 (Steam), Autumn 2018 (Consoles)
    Available On: PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Genre: First-Person Shooter, Rouge-lite
    ESRB Rating: Not Rated (yet)
    Number of Players: 1
    Price: $14.99

    Thank you NVYVE® Studios for sending us this game to review.

    What would you do if your job gave the business you worked for the task of saving the world? Personally, I would silently resign as that is too much pressure on my shoulders. ‘HYPERGUN’ plays around that situation where you play as an intern named Dewey Owens working for Devtech Labs. Your assignment is to go into the simulation and test out various components to create the titular HYPERGUN: a weapon that will theoretically save humanity from the upcoming alien invasion.

    ‘HYPERGUN’ is a mixture of an FPS and a rogue-lite, and starts out with the character exiting an elevator, where you are free to explore the office. The office acts as a hub where you can view the various enemies, see what attachments you have collected over the simulations, buy more attachments with hyper coins (which I will go into later), and see the statistics. The statistics detail how many runs were attempted or completed, various combat statistics with each of the classes, and the top 5 HYPERGUNS in rating of DPS. The office also contains various logs, and sticky notes that delve into the office life, the monumental task they were assigned as well as what the employees think about Dewey. I feel it is a very nice and stylized menu that gives off a nice amount of pizzazz, and breathes life into the world.

    The main room is the Simulation Chamber, where you choose one of the four classes with various passive and active abilities to go into the simulation and tackle six levels, with randomly generated arenas to fight in that will eventually lead to the boss of the level. You start off with Dewey Owens, who wields a sub-machine gun and abilities revolve around movement and suppressing fire. The other characters have to be unlocked, which include Dirk Smith the security guard, Gilligan Gold the company’s lawyer, and Sue Sharp the human resources manager. Each class have their own unique HYPERGUN, as well as different amounts of health, speed, and shield capacity. Each of their abilities are also based upon their occupation, which did get a good laugh out of me, such as Dewey throwing hot coffee at the enemies and generally being a nervous wreck, or Dirk being able to use surveillance cameras to see enemies through walls.

    HYPERGUN
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice aesthetics; solid level design; good humor.
    Weak Points: Large difficulty spike against the fourth boss; game is blatantly balanced around Dewey; very grindy compared to other rouge-lites. 
    Moral Warnings: Mild language like ‘d*mn’ and ‘hell’ contained in the logbooks; fantasy violence against alien lifeforms.

    As you start the simulation, each room (with the exception of the one you start in which is always a small hallway), is randomly generated. The only other rooms that will always appear in a level are the map room, the store, and the boss room. There are other rooms like the treasure room which sometimes requires a key and challenge rooms that are optional, but always yield four rewards of some kind if completed. Loot, if dropped, is also randomly generated. The loot can vary from health and shield pickups, bits, which act as the in-game currency for the levels, hyper coins, which are the currency for unlocking classes and attachments, secondary weapons, and the attachments for your weapon that can give off various effects such as increased fire rate, bullet velocity, speed, jump height, and even health. Some attachments can also decrease these values too so be informed of which weapon you pick up. Almost all of the attachments alter the appearance of the gun so in the end, you end up with this Frankenstein Monster of a weapon. Every arena that is cleared also has a warp point that you can access from the map menu. It’s a very convenient mechanic that future rouge-lites should take note of.

    Hyper coins are another type of currency used in the office hub that allows you to unlock classes, alternate abilities/perks of the classes, as well as more attachments to collect through the simulation. It is a fairly unique (at least compared to the rouge-lites that I have played) concept, as many rouge-lites have additional drops or items obtained from completing certain tasks such as beating the game or finding a secret room. This concept does allow anyone of any skill level to eventually unlock everything, but it also makes the game feel grindy as the amount of hyper coins per play-through can vary greatly. To me, it feels like a lame way to artificially lengthen the game, especially when each class is worth 50 coins, eight unlockable abilities that cost 20 coins each, and over 50 unlockable attachments that can range from 5 to 20 coins.

    I really dig the level design of the arenas as they all give you various amounts of freedom to move around in them, as well as the futuristic aesthetic that reminds me of games such as Far Cry: Blood Dragon. The levels start off rather simple, but with each level completed adds more obstacles such as fire turrets, explosive barrels, and fire pits. You can even use these hazards to your advantage against the enemies. Even as the enemies swarm you, there is always a way to maneuver around them. Most levels also have vantage points where you can jump to and from that also lets you redirect enemy moment to your liking. Not once have I died in the game due to the design of the arenas. Each completed play-through can last from an hour to two hours.

    HYPERGUN
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 64%
    Gameplay - 11/20
    Graphics - 7/10
    Sound - 6/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 89%
    Violence - 6.5/10
    Language - 8/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    As the setting is futuristic, the music is mostly based on electronic dance music. It fits the scenery very well, but most of the music in the game didn’t really stick out to me, except for the boss and final boss music. I found those to both be amazing and they’ve gotten stuck in my head quite often. Sound effects are rather goofy, and soft. Even though enemy attacks are indicated by distinct sounds, they don’t sound very good and lack a dynamic feel. The graphics are rather nice, and the alien design is also freaky, but good. Seems to be heavily based on the Doom series as one of the later enemies greatly resembles the Revenant for Doom II.

    'HYPERGUN' is rather stable and runs smoothly for the most part, and the controls are responsive, but I did encounter some issues when playing as well. There is a rather annoying glitch that if you collect a weapon and warp at the same time, your gun will turn invisible for the rest of the simulation. There is also another annoying glitch that makes you unable to buy attachments from the hub store unless you restart the game. Sometimes enemies can get stuck on the terrain, or even 'invisible terrain.' During the third boss that takes place in a massive arena, certain secondary weapons can cause the game to lag massively, to the point where it runs in the single digits. Ragdoll physics for some aliens when killed also flail around in a humorous manner; Secretly, I hope they keep this one in.

    A rather large difficulty spike in the fourth boss also happens due to the boss' poor design. It is a mob based boss where enemies continuously spawn while you have to constantly move around and destroy these four pillars before you can attack the core. Each pillar that is destroyed also temporarily gives a large stat boost to every enemy in the arena that lets them move much faster, as well as increased damage. On top of that, there are also various fields that randomly appear that can do various things such as drain your ammo, slow your movement, or do damage-over-time to you. I’ve always hated mob-based bosses as they are an example of lazy game design and do not test a player's skill. Whenever I die in the game, it is almost always to the fourth boss and basically whenever I beat that boss, I would generally beat the game as well. I dread fighting the boss every time I get up to it as if you don’t happen to have the right amount of drops, you will most likely lose. The developers did push out an update to make the boss slightly easier (such as the pillars now reach the floor so you’re not forced to look up as you have to dodge enemies and fields on the ground) but it is still a fundamentally flawed boss.

    HYPERGUN is also very much balanced around the play style of Dewey, which is strange because stat wise, he’s suppose to be the worst character. It never appeared to me how poorly balanced the game was until I got to the third boss with every character and just how ill-prepared Dirk and Gilligan are with dealing with said boss without the right secondary weapons. In later updates, I sincerely hope the game becomes more balanced around the other characters.

    Morally, there isn’t too much to pick at with 'HYPERGUN'. There is some language like “dam” and “hell” said within the logs, but the logs are purely optional to read. In many cases, the player won’t even see it. There is violence, but it all takes place in a simulation and it’s not graphic. Enemies glow red when hit and simply dematerialize when killed.

    I see the ambition contained within 'HYPERGUN'. There are quite a few things that I very much like about the game, but there are also many annoyances that prevent me from truly enjoying 'HYPERGUN'; some can be patched, but a lot are issues and complaints that simply can’t be patched out without an extensive overhaul to the mechanics. The aesthetics and humor are great, but the game being too RNG based to have a successful completion, none of the other characters feeling as fun to play as Dewey, and the most of the weapons lacking that ‘oomph’ make me have mixed feelings overall. It is safe for most people to play, but I’m not even sure if most people will want to play it as there are better FPS games, better rouge-lites, and possibly even better games of the combination of genres to play (the developers also seem to be rather unresponsive to certain people as I've tried to contact them multiple times to no avail). If you do decide to pick up this game as a lover of rouge-lites, you’ll get a few dozen hours of enjoyment for the $15 spent.

    -Cinque Pierre

  • Impulsion (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Impsulsion
    Developed By: Driving Force Games
    Published By: Dear Villagers
    Released: July 19, 2018
    Available On: Windows 7 and 10
    Genre: FPS, Platformer, Action
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: Singleplayer
    Price: $12.99

    Thank you Driving Force Games and Dear Villagers for sending us your game to review!

    It’s hard to make your mark as an independent game developer. You’ve got no notoriety. Your labor of love will likely cost way more hours than the money you do get. People inevitably compare you to the bigger companies with the deeper pockets. It’s an uphill battle. However, there are significant advantages. Without a huge staff, there’s no pressure to rely on cash cows to sign paychecks. No expectation means less chance to disappoint. Best of all, you’re free to design as you please. In fact, most innovative ideas in recent years came from the independent market, so when going that route, developers must deal with a unique set of opportunities and limits. The creators of Impulsion likely experienced the ups and downs. Still, as I’ve observed with many games, limits can force one to be clever.

    In Impulsion, you play as a robotic unit. You’ve been activated by a sentient artificial intelligence named Archie for aptitude testing. Your mind is soon uploaded into a virtual space and given two forcefield guns. All you gotta do, according to Archie, is complete all twenty-five obstacle courses. Mind your step though. Archie may speak optimistically to you, but it’s obvious he’s seen more than enough incompetence to think you’re not any different. These levels are booby-trapped to the gills. Laser fields, ray guns, water pits, and way more are poised to punish failures like you, so you’ll need to push your agility and marksmanship to the max. Oh, and you’ll be timed too. Sooooo . . . . run, run, run.

    Impulsion
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Excellent level design; Satisfying controls; Fun gameplay
    Weak Points: Difficulty can be frustrating; Repetitive voice-lines
    Moral Warnings: Mild Explosions

    had a very Portal-esque vibe from Impulsion even before I loaded it. Playing the role of test subject in a facility whilst using two modes of gunfire under the supervision of a computer that loves roasting you sounds more than a little familiar. Thus, Impulsion got dangerously close to becoming a Portal knockoff. Good thing then that the creators strayed far enough from the beaten path to impress me. For one thing, there’s no portal gun. You’re packing two forcefield guns this round. The blue gun on your right generates forcefields that make you jump higher, move faster, and is virtually effective on all surfaces. It’s mate, the red gun, creates fields that while only effective on red tiles will slow you down and let you jump twice. Another major difference between Impulsion and Portal is in the gameplay’s very nature. Instead of pushing buttons and opening doors via physics and wormholes, you’re racing to dodge lasers and hurtle pits at great heights for that ultimate speed record. Impulsion will grade your performance at the finish line. It’ll do you one better too if you’re incomparably fantastic. Each level’s top records are displayed for everyone to see. I doubt speed records will matter much to most people though. Because, in my case, I was just content and happy to win at all. The first few levels aren’t bad, but as soon as you pass the noob courses, prepare to die - a lot. The kind of dexterity required from your fingers here skirt the edges of inhuman. It’s high-octane, so there’s no ‘small feat’ in just finishing all twenty-five levels. However! (big however here), I LOVED IT! Yes, Impulsion is extremely hard. Yes, it takes significant practice, but once you’ve mastered it, the intense challenge becomes exhilarating. I felt like a superhero, soaring and leaping between crushing walls with ease and dismissing lasers and chasms like they’re nothing. It runs purely on the principles of high risk, high reward.

    You can adjust the controls to accommodate your play-style. I, however, stuck with the original setup. You move forward, back, left, and right with the ‘W’, ‘S’, ‘D’, and ‘A’ keys. Jump with the space bar, and since this is technically a first-person shooter, you aim with your mouse. Right click to fire the blue gun. Left click to shoot the red gun. Now, with only twenty-five levels, I hoped Impulsion would push its base mechanics to their full potential, and I am pleased to say I was far from disappointed. First, they made the super smart decision to not only let the fields manipulate you but also the objects around you. You’re even capable of neutralizing some traps entirely if you’re smart. For example, laser fire can be significantly slowed with a red field. Or rotating walls can be thrown out of sync with a speed altering blue field, creating a wider opening. Second, each level succeeds at continually challenging your use of the guns. You’re constantly re-thinking your approach. New techniques are revealed to you as you progress without an ounce of handholding, and it’s fantastic! Sure, I’ve already mentioned the levels are hard - hand sweatingly hard. I died at least six hundred and forty six times. (Yes, the game counted.) Still, I’d always reach the end feeling awesome for getting through it with a new trick. A good design is nice. A design that can expand without fundamentally changing itself is excellent!

    Impulsion
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 90%
    Gameplay - 19/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 100%
    Violence - 10/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Everything looks very slick in the testing space. Most areas may amount to a thin hallway, but with some splashes of techno color, it never looks dull. In keeping with popular cyberpunk styles, the walls are tiled with Tron-esque lines that glow when covered by a forcefield, which I thought was a particularly neat idea. The large laser fields burn bright golds and blues. Platforms glow and are easy to see. It’s a generally pleasing and functional aesthetic. I enjoyed the dubstep techno soundtracks too. It really put my heart in a fast-paced mode. Sound effects did well too. Although, I felt like the pitter-patter of my robot feet didn’t sound quite in sync whenever I sped through a blue field. As for Archie’s voice acting, I thought he sounded good. He sported an interested but not really interested balance and mixed it with a little British styled wit. Is he as memorable a character as Portal’s GlaDos? Eh, I wouldn’t go that far, but he still did a good job. My one major complaint with Impulsion, though, was the kill quotes. Not the quotes themselves but how I was forced to hear one of a handful of dialogue lines every single time I died, and when you die as often as this, it gets irritatingly grating. Seriously, if I have to listen to how I’d be bested by a vacuum cleaner one more stinkin’ time, I’m gonna lose it.

    Impulsion was one of the nicest videogame surprises I’ve seen in a while. Okay. it wasn’t ‘nice’ per se. I got roasted, basted, fried and dunked a lot, but I never felt cheated. My failures were my own. Except for the final level (which purposely had no checkpoints) it was seldom unfair. Which meant, that when I won, I really really won. That’s a great feeling! Impulsion also includes a couple of extra modes that, while not really changing the gameplay, do offer a little extra goal variations. The game got better the further I played too. That’s because there was not a single thing morally wrong with it. There were no nasty words. The only violence that ever occurred only happened to me, and that only amounted to a bitty explosion. So, as long as you’re not afraid of fire, Impulsion is 100% family friendly! Add in the well implemented mechanics and superbly laid out levels and you will find Impulsion is an indie gem worth having in your Steam library. Unless you’re easily discouraged or this type of game is not your cup of tea, Impulsion is a clever little game for high spirited puzzle solvers of all ages. Games like these are in too short of supply.

  • Insurgency: Sandstorm (PC)

     

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    Game Info:

    Insurgency: Sandstorm
    Developed by: New World Interactive
    Published by: Focus Home Interactive
    Release date: December 12, 2018
    Available on: Windows (console versions coming in 2019)
    Genre: First-Person Shooter
    Number of players: Up to 32 online
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $29.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Focus Home Interactive for sending us this game to review!

    Insurgency: Sandstorm is the sequel to the popular 2014 FPS, Insurgency, which sold over five million copies. The original game is built on the Source engine while the sequel is powered by Unreal 4. Both games look great and if you already own the first one, you can get a 10% off loyalty discount on the sequel.

    Although I own the first game, I haven’t played it so I can’t really compare the two. According to the Steam store page, everything is bigger and better in the sequel. Like the first entry, Insurgency: Sandstorm is a team-based tactical FPS that has a lot of close quarter combat scenarios. Your goal in most missions is to capture and secure enemy bases, destroy weapon caches, and annihilate them if possible.

    The tutorial will teach you the basics of movement and weapon usage against some bots, but most of your interactions will be with humans.  In COOP you’ll team up with online players to take down a group of AI enemies. Versus mode has you fight in a 16 v. 16 match against humans.  The ranked competitive matches are 5 v. 5 humans fighting for the top spot through ten matches. 

    Insurgency: Sandstorm
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun and fast-paced gameplay; active online community
    Weak Points: Some of the maps are unbalanced, making it nigh impossible to get past well-placed snipers; some players have experienced crashes and performance issues (I haven’t); graphical glitches
    Moral Warnings: Lots of in-game swearing and blaspheming; online players provide even more foul language and racist remarks; gruesome violence

    Before each mission, you get to select your role and there’s a limited number of slots for each one. The commander can call in fire support with the help of an observer. The observer is radio support and has to be close to the commander to be effective. As the name suggests, the rifleman is good with assault and battle rifles. I usually played as a breacher who specializes in shotguns, SMGs, and SBRs. The gunner prefers to use large deployable machine guns. The demolitions soldier is an expert at making explosions with rocket and grenade launchers. An advisor uses exotic weapons and trains the local forces. The marksman uses sniper rifles and long-range scopes.

    The game takes place in the Middle East and you can play as security or insurgent forces. The desert-themed maps are pretty well detailed and have lots of places to set up a sniper’s nest. I like how you can go through buildings to avoid open roads and areas. Not all of the maps are balanced as a well-placed sniper can take out a whole incoming troop before they are able to take cover.

    When completing a mission your character will earn experience and can level up. Gaining levels will unlock various cosmetic upgrades like tattoos, gloves, pants, shirts, headgear and so forth. Female soldiers are available for the security team, but the insurgents only have their males do the fighting.

    Insurgency: Sandstorm
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 17/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 66%
    Violence - 3/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    While I was customizing my character, some of the changes I made to their appearance weren’t available in the character screen, but did show up in battle. There are also several reports of other graphical glitches including invisible hands and other appendages in game. Thankfully, this title ran fine on my 2080Ti, but other gamers have experienced performance issues. I did not see any slowdowns or crashes.

    Like many first-person shooters, violence is a given. You’ll see puddles of blood and dismembered bodies lying around. If your gun is out of ammo, you’ll have to resort to defending yourself with a knife. The language is harsh during the tutorial with the Lord’s name being used in vain and sh*t and f*ck being said a lot. It gets even worse when playing online as I regularly heard racist and vulgar words. This is not a game for children to be playing!

    If you enjoyed the first Insurgency game or Counter-Strike, you may enjoy this title. Be warned that it’s very violent and has a lot of blaspheming and foul language. If you plan on playing this game near children, please use headphones! A free update was recently released that added more weapons and a new game mode, arcade. There are also over 500,000 players so the developers and community are pretty active.

  • Jesus Strikes Back 2: The Resurrection (PC) (Preview)

     

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    Game Info:

    Jesus Strikes Back 2: The Resurrection
    Developed by: 2GenPro
    Published by: 2GenPro
    Release date: April 16, 2020
    Available on: macOS, Windows
    Genre: FPS
    Number of players: Single-player
    ESRB: Not rated
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you 2GenPro for sending us an Early Access preview code!

    I must confess that I have not played the original game, Jesus Strikes Back. I was made aware of the sequel by a reader who took offense of its blatant killing of homosexuals. The premise is that the world has turned corrupt and is predominately homosexual. It has to be purged. You can do the cleansing as Jesus Christ, Trump, Hitler, Mussolini, Putin, Napoleon, Boris Johnson, or Pepe the frog.

    Along with gay frogs, you can attack various forms of wildlife which many of them are glitched out and floating in the air. There are many different kinds of hostile humans to defend yourself against. Some of them are described as autistic while others are labeled as militant. The suicide bombers are best taken out with a gun before they get too close and detonate. Single or two-handed melee weapons work fine against the angry demonkrats, feminists, illegal aliens, vegans, and zombies.

    Once killed, you can eventually loot the corpses. It’s challenging to find some of the bodies and when you do it’s hard to trigger the dialog box to loot them. The loot varies in usefulness and vulgarity. Food to replenish health and stamina are useful, along with ammo and shekels as spending money. Other items are rather raunchy including butt plugs, c*ck rings, pubes, dildos, used condoms and tampons. Despite being gross, they’re worth picking up since they can be sold for a decent price. Thankfully, the vulgar items are text based with descriptions and no visuals.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny (though often inappropriate) humor
    Weak Points: Game crashes and various glitches; dated visuals
    Moral Warnings: You get to indiscriminately kill demonkrats, feminists, homosexuals, illegal aliens, suicide bombers, vegans, and zombies; blood is shown; every curse word possible is used; blaspheming (you can play as Jesus Christ); many NPCs are only dressed swimsuits/underwear; crude and vulgar humor, drug and alcohol references

    Weapons and armor are plentiful and change your character’s appearance when equipped. In the beginning, Jesus Christ starts off with a crown of thorns, holy robe, and worn out sandals. After taking on some side missions, I earned enough shekels to purchase a motorcycle helmet, gloves, and iron armor for better protection. Horses are available to purchase and they range in color, durability, and speed. Battles are best done unmounted so calling the horse back to you with the F key is handy.

    Leveling up is done Elder Scrolls style, where you level up attributes by using them more. For example, as you use single-handed weapons more, that skill will increase. The more you run, the more endurance you will have, and so forth.

    I wasn’t impressed with the user interface and visuals on my first game stream. The developers have listened and addressed some of my complaints. As an Early Access title, bugs and glitches are to be expected, and I’m sure many of them will be addressed by the 2020 Holiday launch date they’re aiming for.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 66%
    Gameplay: 15/20
    Graphics: 6/10
    Sound: 6/10
    Stability: 2/5
    Controls: 4/5

    Morality Score - 29%
    Violence: 2.5/10
    Language: 0/10
    Sexual Content: 2.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural: 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: 2.5/10

    Be sure to save early and often, as there are many deadly glitches that can end your game unexpectedly. On a rescue quest, I met and untied my target only to get unexpectedly launched into the air and killed. The next time I launched the game the NPC was much further away. I have also completed quests, but didn’t get credit for it. Another issue I noticed is that I have to re-equip my weapons every time I load my save.

    The textures are dated and many of the NPCs look the same. When I first played, the world was very bland. It has since gotten better with more buildings and an option to adjust its population in the game menu. Many of the sound clips are low quality, but the sound effects are quite good.

    Although it’s a bit buggy in its current state, the humor and satire are in full effect in this title. If you don’t mind offensive humor this game will deliver it in spades. With the foul language, gore, and lack of clothing, this game should not be played around kids. If you’re looking for beautiful visuals and an engaging story, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

  • Left 4 Dead 2 (PC)

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    Game Info:

    Left 4 Dead 2 (PC)
    Developer/Publisher: Valve/Valve
    Release Date: November 17, 2009
    Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Language
    Available On: Xbox 360, PC/Mac (version reviewed)
    Genre: FPS
    Number of Players: 1 Campaign (offline) ; 4 Cooperative, 8 Competitive (online)
    MSRP: $20 PC/Mac version (Steam); $30 Xbox 360 version

    Minimum System Requirements:

    (PC)

    Supported OS: Windows® 7 / Vista / Vista64 / XP
    Processor: Pentium 4 3.0GHz
    Memory: 1 GB for XP / 2GB for Vista
    Graphics: DirectX 9 compatible video card with 128 MB, Shader model 2.0. ATI X800, NVidia 6600 or better
    Hard Drive: At least 7.5 GB of free space
    Sound Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

    (Mac)

    OS: MacOS X 10.6.4 or higher (Snow Leopard Graphics Update required)
    Processor: Dual core Intel processor, 2GHz or better
    Video Card: ATI Radeon 2400 or higher / NVIDIA 8600M or higher
    Not supported: OS X 10.5.x, ATI X1600 or X1900 graphics, NVIDIA GeForce 7 graphics or Intel graphics.

     

    When Valve announced that Left 4 Dead 2 was arriving just a year after the first game launched, people met the news with boycotts and frustration. Fears of the sequel being nothing more than a full-priced expansion pack were expressed and even yours truly was unsure if the game would change enough. Rest assured though, Valve has brought a lot to the table so that the experience offered here is more than just a lazy cash-in.

    Before jumping into the review, it’s necessary to explain what kind of content can be expected in the title, mainly because Left 4 Dead 2 ramps up the violence found in the first game exponentially. A new damage model sees Infected being dismembered, disemboweled, and decapitated in various and realistic ways: blood splatters across walls, on the player’s screen, and drenches melee weapons. Gunshots wound Infected differently depending on both their caliber and location. Shotguns can blast holes clean through an enemy’s torso, magnum handguns maim limbs, and assault rifles expose muscle and bone. Bladed melee weapons can cause large gashes and reveal guts and intestine depending on where they land, and the chainsaw in particular slices up enemies into large chunks. By no means my first violent videogame, the first few hours playing had me cringing at how gnarly some of the gore could be. There is an option in the settings to tone down the gore so only heads could be removed, but blood is still present as are corpses.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Better challenge; enjoyable melee weapons; varied modes, maps, and weapons; improved animation and effects; free DLC and community campaigns
    Weak Points: Lackluster teammate AI; not radically different from the first game; Versus could use more balancing
    Moral Warnings: Excessive blood and dismemberment; swearing and blaspheming throughout (“s--t“, “GD--n”, etc.)

     

    Swearing is also prevalent as well. Phrases that are found in most PG-13 movies are in the game, including “s—t”, several crude words, and blaspheming. While not as over the top compared to other M-rated games, the swearing is noticeable mainly when the group is under severe attack. I should mention that a special Infected, the Witch, wears barely anything, and the Spitter has visible underwear, but neither carries sexual overtones.

    Think you can stomach all that? Then welcome to Left 4 Dead 2, sequel to Valve’s co-op first-person shooter (FPS) that sees four brand new survivors making their way through hordes of Infected in a new locale: the Southern United States. No longer confined to just urban environments, the new group will make their way through bayous, swamps, a Louisiana-style French Quarter, and more. The four survivors this time around consist of Rochelle, Coach, Nick, and my personal favorite, Ellis, all of whom complement each other very well personality-wise. You’ll grow to have your own favorite as you play, because these characters are so likeable.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

     

    Game Score: 92%

    Gameplay 18/20

    Graphics 9/10

    Sound 10/10

    Stability 4/5

    Controls/Interface 5/5

    Appropriateness Score: 63%

    Violence 2/10

    Language 1/10

    Sexual Content 8.5/10 

    Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

     

    Occult/Supernatural 10/10

    If you’re new to the series, the basic goal of Left 4 Dead 2 is for you and your three fellow players (or somewhat competent AI bots if playing alone) to battle your way through masses of Infected to reach a safe house. Safe houses allow you to catch your breath and restock on supplies like ammo and health packs before you set out for the next leg of your campaign. A campaign is made up of five levels and by making it to a safe house, you’ll move onto the next level. Certain levels require that you and your team hold out at an area and fend off enemies for a certain time. These “finales” are big events that culminate in large swarms of Infected attacking while you complete predefined objectives. One mission has you actively collecting gas cans to fill a getaway car; another has you hold out while transport arrives. The finales this time around are much more engaging and offer a fair amount of challenge compared to the first game. Those on the PC can play the campaign with bots, online friends, or with complete strangers; the entire matchmaking process has, in my experience, been smooth and other players were found rather quickly.

    So what’s an Infected? It’s a “zombie” more akin to those found in 28 Days Later than in work like Romero\'s Dawn of the Dead. You won’t find any zombies shuffling towards you here though. When the Infected notice you, they’ll sprint in your direction, even climbing and hurdling over obstacles or leaning into turns to reach you faster. While they are relatively weak, they make up for it with numbers. And by numbers, I’m talking over a thousand to two-thousand dead by the time a campaign’s finished. But it’s not just the normal Infected you have to worry about; there are also special Infected. The standard Boomer, Smoker, and Hunter all return, but with them come a few new faces. The Charger, who can tackle one player and knock back the rest as he rushes by; the Spitter, which utilizes a powerful room-clearing acid attack; and the Jockey, a pint-sized mutant who latches onto a survivor and pulls them away from the team into a group of Infected. Also returning from the first game are the Witch (who you shouldn\'t mess with), and the Tank (who you\'ll love to hate).

    To help speed these Infected and the meaner special varieties into the afterlife, your arsenal now includes a plethora of new toys, some of which include melee options. Expect to see a katana, fire axe, crowbar (thanks, Valve), frying pan, and even a cricket bat lying around. The melee choices replace the standard pistol, but the trade-off in hearing Infected go splat and mowing your way through a crowd in a few swipes make it worth it. Military weapons like the AK-47 and SCAR show up in the campaigns, as does new Incendiary and Explosive ammo. Those disappointed in Left 4 Dead’s paltry weapon selection will find a lot of options here.

    Much like the first game, Valve has an AI “Director” in place who will either ramp up or tone down the amount of pressure your team is under depending on how you well you play. If you’re getting a lot of friendly-fire and someone’s dying, the game will ease up on the Infected and give you enough space and trickle in enemies. If you’re doing well, expect more enemies, special Infected attacks, and fewer supplies in the environment. The Director will also mix up where enemies and supplies spawn every time you play, which makes this one of the series strengths. You can blast through all the campaigns in about a day or two, but playing through a second time will always give you a different experience. This, coupled with the game\'s various modes and difficulties, offers a lot of bang for your buck with replayability.

     

    So besides Campaign, what other modes does the game come with? There’s Versus, which is basically a Campaign with four players trying to reach the end while four enemy players take turns as the special Infected whose main goal is to incapacitate and kill the other team. After each level, the teams are switched with the survivors now playing as Infected and vice versa. The team with the highest score (determined by how far the teams actually go distance-wise) wins.

    There’s Realism, a Campaign mode that offers a more realistic experience to those wanting a harder challenge. Infected are harder to take down, require more shots, and Witches can one-shot a player. No player outlines are visible, so if you get dragged away by a Smoker into an alley, it is likely your team won’t hear or see you until it’s too late. Versus Realism is also available to those looking to really test their mettle.

    The two other modes include Survival, which is a time-based last stand where the main goal is to outlast the clock on a certain section of a level. Scavenge is the other mode, which plays a lot like Versus but requires one team to grab gas cans to fill up a generator. The team with the most cans after three rounds wins. I personally enjoy this mode the most since it’s a quick competitive game that takes about ten minutes compared to the forty-five minutes with Versus. Valve has recently been offering quick updates for Left 4 Dead 2 called Mutations. Every week the Mutation mode will have a certain restriction that radically changes the game, whether it’s melee-only in the Campaign, or all of the special Infected in Versus are Tanks.

    The game visuals have gotten a fine upgrade, in more ways than one. Several campaigns take place all throughout the day, character models and special Infected are more detailed, and enemies are more diverse. The most impressive change would be the gore and animations. Infected have multiple layers for their damage model, this means different attacks will reveal muscle, bone, and more gore. Valve added a large number of different wounds, so you may see the spine of an enemy from a shotgun blast, one Infected looking down to see intestine fall out of his own body from a rifle shot, and yet another hitting you with one arm because the other was removed in a gunfight. Like previously stated, the effects can be over the top, but they are an excellent move towards realism. Weather effects have also been added, which suffice it to say makes the Hard Rain campaign absolutely stunning.

    When making sense of this fictional world, Valve has left a few bread crumbs along the way that help tie up the story.  Safe rooms will usually have messages and notes scrawled across the walls, almost as if it’s a public journal. The messages both relay personal information to friends and family about where their loved ones are heading to next; others share a person’s view on the situation (some fairly humorous).

    Contrasted with the first game, the characters and campaign have a much stronger continuity this time around. The characters are total strangers who bond over time or generalize the special Infected in the first moments of the game before settling on a name (e.g. “tongue guy” and then “Smoker”). It’s nice to see Valve allowing the group to evolve as one plays, as well as having a logical progression throughout the campaign. Where Left 4 Dead put the survivors in a random situation and had them escape, Left 4 Dead 2 takes a note from Half-Life 2 and connects the story piece by piece. The hotel roof you start on leads to a shopping mall, mall to the highway, etc.; it’s mostly a seamless experience that involves the Southern culture and locales to various degrees.

    Left 4 Dead 2 is what the first Left 4 Dead should’ve been: a tight and well executed package that offers a challenging spin on the zombie genre. Fans of the first L4D should make the switch to the sequel if they haven’t already; the additions to the core game are not that radical, but they are welcomed and feel fresh enough to warrant a purchase. And now with the recent content updates (including support for Mac), you’re getting extra value for free. Xbox 360 players still have to pay for The Passing/Sacrifice, however.

    Again, this game easily earns its M-rating, and I cannot recommend it to younger teens or those who object to this kind of content. It is a blood bath, especially when using melee weapons, and the language can be a bit excessive at times. For those looking for a tame co-operative game, this is definitely not it. But for folks who are used to such content in their games, Left 4 Dead 2 is a solid and rather original FPS choice. I\'ve enjoyed it immensely and I’m sure you would too regardless of which version you pick up.

    -- Jonathan “Keero” Harling

     

     

  • MOTHERGUNSHIP (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    MOTHERGUNSHIP
    Developed By: Grip Digital, Terrible Posture Games
    Published By: Grip Digital
    Release Date: July 17, 2018
    Available On: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
    Genre: Action; First-Person Shooter; Rogue-like
    Number of Players: 1
    ESRB Rating: Teen for Fantasy Violence
    MSRP: $24.99
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Grip Digital for sending us this game to review!

    Four years ago, Terrible Posture Games made a little First-Person Shooter (FPS) called Tower of Guns that gathered a small but loyal following. The premise of that game was to enjoy a short, quick session of player vs. environment (PvE), where you shoot down lots and lots of enemy robots, while doing your best to stay alive. Level and enemy layouts were random, which lends itself well to lots of replayability. That team is now back with the spiritual follow-up, MOTHERGUNSHIP.

    Rather than just lots and lots of enemies to blow up (though there is that), there is now a crafting and leveling element, which makes you gradually gain power as you not only gain experience, but also new and better weapons. As you complete missions, you can take with you whatever you find, and add it to the ship’s inventory. You can then choose a limited number of items in that list to take with you when you start another mission. There are several at a time to choose from; there is always a story mission, as well as a few other side missions which can help you gain experience or weapons if you need them.

    MOTHERGUNSHIP
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Fun shooting action; lots of bullets to dodge; levels are unpredictable; humorous dialog; graphics are great
    Weak Points: No difficulty level selection; failure loop is easy to get stuck in; levels are too random at times
    Moral Warnings:Lots of shooting and blowing up robots (and you die a lot); AI robots are the butt of lots of insults

    I’ve generally enjoyed my time with MOTHERGUNSHIP, and the basics of combat and shooting is really well done, and feels great. I also find it funny that you can collect the ability to jump many, many times over – a simple double jump is not enough. One time, I collected seventeen jumps! That was nearly unlimited in practical use, and was fun when trying to avoid bad guys, or lava and such. Unfortunately, I have not gotten so lucky again since that run.

    There are two major problems with this game. First, is the random number generator (RNG). The levels and drops are truly random – and sometimes, that leads to lots of jump upgrades, but no healths. Or lots of shops in the level, but no coins to buy new weapons. Or lots of coins, but no shops to buy them. Or lots of enemies – and no chance of survival with the crappy weapons you might have started the level with.

    If the RNG is particularly tough on you, you may find yourself on a losing streak, which then limits or eliminates all weapons from your inventory, which can lead to a losing spiral and you get weaker and weaker without good weapons. They try to alleviate this by giving you weapon testing levels, but I still found myself losing to even the easiest level one weapon testing levels. While you do gain experience (which allows you to make permanent upgrades when you level), it is not difficult to get stuck in what amounts to a weapon drain loop as you continuously lose. No amount of excellence in shooting or neat ideas can make up for a negative feedback loop.

    MOTHERGUNSHIP
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 74%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 8/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 93%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 9/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Thankfully, the game itself is fun. No two levels are exactly alike, though the environments do start to feel repetitive after a while, despite technically always being unique. Beating a level is quite a chore, and a relief when it happens – but it happened far to rarely for me. I suppose you could argue I need to ‘git gud’ - and to an extent, that is true. But if beating the campaign is not accessible for most, then perhaps it should be reexamined, especially when this happens in the first few hours of gameplay. A selectable difficulty level could be another approach to solving this problem, as those who seek the difficulty will be pleased. Either way, the second or third mission should never be a steep difficulty wall, no matter what game this is.

    And that’s really my problem with MOTHERGUNSHIP. I want to like it, and it’s not that I don’t - but at the end of the day I don’t want to play a game where I don’t feel like I am making any progress. I am okay with challenging games, if the gameplay itself is really compelling, or playing it makes me a better player, and I can somehow learn from my mistakes. But here, you will never play the same level twice, and what killed you last time may be totally different from what does it next time. With no levels I can learn to conquer, or with too few tools to earn to take on the level again renewed, it’s just no longer fun, nor is there a compelling reason to keep going.

    I really want to like MOTHERGUNSHIP. It has a fun premise, rock-solid gameplay and shooting mechanics, and great ideas. It also really helps a lot that the developers avoided putting in curse words, which made me very happy. (The AI is brunt to a lot of jokes, but computers don’t have feelings, right?) Only robots (or you) die. So I want to give this game a chance. Thankfully, it seems that the developers are looking into player feedback, and do intend on patching the game to improve the sometimes terrible RNG, and hopefully other issues. They have already promised co-op to come, and more content as well. Once they make it so a level can usually be completed by most competent players, then I imagine I will also enjoy it very much. Until then, I’m going to pass.

  • Offensive Combat: Redux! (PC)

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Offensive Combat: Redux!
    Developed by: Three Gates AB
    Published by: Three Gates AB
    Release date: August 18, 2017
    Available on: Windows
    Genre: FPS
    Number of players: Up to sixteen online
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence and crude humor
    Price: $19.99

    Thank you Three Gates AB for sending us this game to review!

    Offensive Combat was a browser based free to play first person shooter. Since I don’t play games on Facebook, I have no experience with the original title. It has since been abandoned and much of its community was heartbroken. Offensive Combat: Redux! has enhanced the visuals and changed the business model by making the game playable without spending any additional money outside of its $19.99 asking price.

    Offensive Combat: Redux! is a solid first person shooter that offers your typical Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Capture the Flag game modes. With the in-game currency you can customize your character’s appearance with a plethora of options to choose from. Some of the selections include a banana, panda, alien, rooster, or even a "Donald Drumpf" mask. You begin the game with a decent amount of starting money, but you can earn more by simply shooting your opponents in game. Weapon upgrades can be done in a similar fashion.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Funny pwning system; excellent map design; lots of options to customize your character and upgrade your weapons; no microtransactions
    Weak Points: No LAN play and not many people playing it online; only six maps and many of them are too big for the sparse number of players
    Moral Warnings: Plenty of violence but no blood or gore; farting noises and crude hand gestures

    Though killing your opponents in a first person shooter is typical, players are rewarded more for "pwning" their victims afterward. Not only are the intimidating gestures funny, they can randomly drop character customization items. Some of the pwning gestures include armpit tooting or squatting and farting on the recently departed. Some more crude options like tea bagging or using a wanker hand gesture are possible as well. The mooning animation merely consists of waving your character's butt around while remaining covered. 

    At the end of a ten minute round, the player’s pwn, kill, and death counts are tallied up for a final score. Pwns are worth the most since they are risky to do. The gestures take between three and five seconds to complete and your character is vulnerable while performing them.

    Each of the six maps have various power-ups scattered on them. Health is not needed since players regain health automatically if they are not shot at for a few seconds. Damage and speed multipliers are usually available though. Armor is handy to find and equip as well. An unnamed powerful gun is available on most maps. Out of habit, I call it a Redeemer and the heavenly music that plays while equipping it makes the name fit.

    Offensive Combat: Redux!
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 82%
    Gameplay - 16/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 79%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 6.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    There is plenty of map variety and they are all designed exceptionally well. Each map has plenty of places to hide, snipe, and duck for cover. Many of the maps are huge too which is great when you have ten or more people online. Sadly, I rarely encountered more than four. Searching for one or two players on a gigantic map isn’t very fun. The mini map on the upper left hand side is helpful for locating power-ups and players.

    Due to the lack of players, I was only able to play the regular Deathmatch mode. I have not seen any active Capture the Flag or Team Deathmatch games to join. If you’re by yourself, you can play against the bots which are pretty competent, but you cannot adjust their difficulty at all. There is also a shooting range and a map exploration mode. This game would be great for LAN parties, but I don’t see any options for setting up private or local only matches.

    The developers have plans for adding more maps, pwns, and character customizations. Despite the title, this game isn't as offensive as other titles that we have reviewed. I don’t know what future DLC will contain though. Violence is a given, but there isn’t any blood or gore to be seen. Some of the guns are electricity based and kill via electrocution.

    The promise of updates is good but the lack of players is very discouraging. Because of that, I would recommend holding off on this game unless it goes on sale. My kids find this title hilarious but $20 is a bit much for them to spend and not be able to enjoy it fully.

  • Overwatch (PC)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Overwatch
    Game Title: Overwatch
    Developed By: Blizzard
    Published By: Blizzard
    Released: May 24, 2016
    Available On: Windows, Xbox One, and Playstation 4
    Genre: Class-Based First Person Shooter
    ESRB Rating: Teen
    Number of Players: Twelve
    Price: $40.00

    [*note* Overwatch is strictly an online game and as of now is incompatible with Mac computers. It runs on Blizzard servers. Having a free Blizzard account is required.]

    Who has not heard of Overwatch? Ever since its release, Blizzard Studios’ latest golden egg has taken the gaming community by storm. Its unorthodox advertisement campaign generated overwhelming hype. Its launch topped records, and it completely swept the competition at the 2016 gaming awards, snagging the coveted ‘Game of the Year’ title in several competitions. If that weren’t enough, Overwatch is also changing the face of professional esports as we speak with their new Overwatch League. However, we Christians know that something’s popularity and innovation doesn’t always mean it’s endorsable. Overwatch could be positive beacon, or a vice in high quality clothing.

    So how is Overwatch’s storymode? Well, there currently isn’t one. The game just gives you what you need, ala a snappy tutorial, then turns you loose, but fear not, my fellow lore lovers. That’s not to say there is no story at all. Overwatch’s backstory is mostly expressed through their advertisement. You heard me right: their advertisement. The Blizzard staff must have really really really wanted the attention, because they basically founded a whole animation studio for it. They put together a series of high quality mini-movies to establish Overwatch’s setting, and they’re fantastically memorable. They even fooled me into thinking they were planning a film. Who knows? Maybe a full-fledged Overwatch movie will come later down the road. Whether you’re interested in buying Overwatch or not, I highly recommend you check these shorts out. You’ll be plenty entertained.

    However, if you want the story super quick, here it is. Overwatch is set in an unspecified future earth. Four decades ago, a man vs. machine war called the ‘Omnic Crisis’ ravaged the world over, but then a new task force named Overwatch gathered the world’s most extraordinary individuals. Together, they succeeded in ending the conflict and maintained global peace long after. Omnics (Robots) and humans set aside their differences, until only the terrorists, known as Talon, were the last public scourge, but sadly, this golden age didn’t last. Overwatch fell victim to scrutiny. Internal politics and rumors of corruption mounted, until the nations demanded their dissolve. Overwatch agents were unceremoniously scattered. Some were killed. Others disappeared entirely, but now, they need to make a comeback. A second Omnic Crisis is looming ahead. The world needs those soldiers, scientists, and oddities to return. Whether they’re former Overwatch agents, Talon operatives, or new blood, fresh off the hero block, everyone will play a part in shaping the earth’s future. This is the lore that compiles Overwatch’s amazing backdrop. It doesn’t get in the game’s way, yet this universe is rich, interesting, and compelling to those who seek to understand it.

    Overwatch
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Superb Gameplay; Fantastic Characters; A Thriving Community; Annual Updates/Events
    Weak Points: Difficult for Newcomers
    Moral Warnings: Mild Language; Minimal Blood; One Lesbian Character; Potentially Rude Teammates

    I’ll give it to you straight. Overwatch’s presentation is spectacular! I particularly appreciate the game’s aversion for the gritty, grey decor so common in post/pre-war stories. Its bright and optimistic tone is a welcome subversion of that trope. There’s a Pixar quality to their character designs. They’re cartoony yet sophisticated and so easily identifiable you can tell who you’re looking at no matter how far away they are. The actors deliver their lines beautifully too. The occasional interactions are believable and often funny. As for the settings, Overwatch’s arenas span multiple countries from Japan to Mexico. They’re colorful, cultural, and sprinkled with a dash of sci-fi. More impressively, the designers arranged every bridge, corridor, and stairway to setup situations for players to work with or work around. The musical arrangements also befit the different cultures and often adds an exciting percussive dubstep to the mix. Not to mention, the main theme itself is a pulse pounding masterpiece equal to gaming’s finest. Its triumphant revere is too inspiring not to sweep me off my competitive feet.

    Games like Team Fortress 2 may have popularized the Class-Based Shooter genre, but Overwatch perfected it. Now, gameplay and mechanics here are so tightly connected, it’s near impossible for me to discuss them separately, so instead, I’ll walk you through an Overwatch match step by step then express my thoughts. Let’s first look at how these matches are set up. Twelve online players are first split into two teams of six, and their goal will depend on the type of map the game selects. These maps are categorized as Assault, Escort, Hybrid, and Control, but we’ll go over those more closely in a bit. After the map is established, it’s up to teammates to pick characters that best serve their agenda as one functioning unit. Four roles compose a well rounded team: Offense to dismantle, Defense to counter, Tank to charge ahead, and Support to keep the others going. Remember, though, that a character can only be used by one teammate at a time, but you can switch your avatar with a currently unused one mid-match. Once the teams are set, the game shall begin.

    As mentioned, the map types determine the match objective. Assault, Escort, and Hybrid maps are pretty similar. At least two rounds are played, so each team is given a chance to play both the Offensive side and the Defensive side. The attacking team is allotted a set time to complete their goal, but the defenders must try their darnedest to stop them. In Assault, Offensive teams must capture two marked out areas one at a time. In Escort, they’re tasked with moving a vehicle, called a payload, from point A to point B, and Hybrid blends the previous maps’ elements by requiring the payload be captured before it can be escorted. Attacking teams are awarded points based on their success. Highest scoring team wins, but if there’s a tie, additional rounds are added using what extra time was left in each team’s time bank. Control maps, on the other hand, are a different kind of animal. There are no specified sides. Teams fight head to head over a marked out area. The team that shoves their opponents off the point gains ‘control’, and their tally will climb from 0% to 100% so long as they maintain the point. First team to reach 100% wins that round. Best two out of three rounds wins the match. However, the overtime bar can upend all odds. Once time runs out or a team counter hits 99%, a burning gold bar appears. So long as one Offensive member stays on the capture point/payload or the losing team has one man on the ‘control’ point, the bar will stay full. If not, it empties fast, and once it does, the match is over. It’s do or die time for all in the final seconds.

    That basically summarizes Overwatch’s structure, but what’s it like to be in the action? First of all, it’s a first person shooter, meaning you look where you shoot, and your mouse/joystick does the aiming. Your experience also depends on your character choices. We’ll talk about how they differ soon, but they share common features. Your basic inputs include a primary fire, ammo reload, and a melee move. Some avatars also come with a passive/extra ability and/or a secondary fire too. However, your side and ultimate moves are the main attraction. Each avatar gets two side moves unique to them, but you have to wait a few seconds between uses. The ultimate move, though, has to be charged either over time, by scoring kills, healing allies, etc. These extremely useful abilities take practice in order to learn and master in all their applications, but it’s well worth it. (There’s a training arena. Use it. You’ll thank me.) ‘Okay,’ you’re probably thinking, ‘That’s all fine and dandy, but what keys/buttons should I push?’ Well, that’s the best part, my friend. Your controls are completely customizable. Any ability can be programmed to any button, mouse click, or key. It doesn’t matter if you’re a keyboard purist or controller commando. You can tweak anything to fit what’s comfortable for you, right down to the tracking speed. To Overwatch, the sky’s the limit on giving you a smooth ride.

    Overwatch
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 100%
    Gameplay - 20/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 80%
    Violence - 7.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 5.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    Let’s take a closer peek at those characters. Up until I played Overwatch, I’ve never seen a game this driven by its cast both in lore and mechanics. They’re a memorable bunch from a genius ape with a craving for peanut butter to (arguably the coolest words ever put together) a cyborg ninja. However, you can’t know just how unique these knights and knaves are until you use them. No two characters behave exactly the same. Gamers of all types (Hit-and-runners, campers, harassers, etc.) will find their natural fit in at least one of them. In fact, their variances fit types within types. Consider Overwatch’s snipers. Currently, there’s Widowmaker, Hanzo, and Ana. Widowmaker is a classic sniper. She’s poor for close combat but can pick off distant targets with one headshot. Hanzo is a very mobile archer able to handle crowds, and Ana shoots medicines, poisons, and sleep darts to heal, buff, and mess up anyone she aims at. That’s three distinct ways to be a sniper right there, yet these characters transcend their labels by sheer utility. Take Soldier 76 for example (think old and grumpy Captain America). He’s an effective Offense character with a pack capable of healing teammates similar to a Support. Alternatively, Support character, Brigitte (the iron squire), heals her teammates per strike she lands, yet she’s got a survivability comparable to Tanks. Do you need an Offense and a Support? Support and a Tank? You can be both.

    All the topics we’ve covered amounts to one grand experience, and there’s more than one way to experience it. Quick play mode, competitive mode, custom mode, and the mini-games in arcade mode pull out all the stops in this fun buffet. Overwatch has plenty in itself, but what makes it truly special is the social factor. This is a team game with a capital ‘T’. Showboaters, you will not - I repeat - will not get far in this game, and talent’s got nothing to do with it. Why? Well, unless your brain is asleep, I’ll make it plain. No single character can carry the load. You’re always equal parts valuable and vulnerable no matter who you pick. You need your team, and your team needs you. Serve your unit’s needs as they are needed. That’s what matters. This might mean swapping avatars mid-match; letting someone else main your ‘main’, or filling an empty role you’re less comfortable with. Communication and situational awareness is key. Be flexible. Listen. Strategize. The players themselves, both who you’re playing with and against, dictate the challenge. Odds are you won’t taste victory the same way twice. Good thing then Overwatch rewards participants according to performance, not just on wins and losses. All players receive medals based on their kill count, assisted kill count, damage they blocked, healing they did, time spent on the point/payload - just about anything relevant to their role(s). The players also vote between the top scorers to decide who’s awarded the commendation card. However, Play of the Game is the grand prize. The game picks the player who accomplished the biggest feat of the match. It could be for stringing a bunch of kills, performing a difficult move, rescuing their team, or outright turning the battle’s tide. The winning player’s moment is then featured in full display for all to see and is set to Overwatch’s epic victory song. Sure you’re given new outfits, game currency, voicelines, and emotes to customize your avatars with, but to win Play of the Game? That’s the most thrilling of game rewards I ever experienced. Period.

    As you can tell, I can gush about Overwatch for a long while, but in terms of appropriateness, I must put my eagerness aside to concede to a few failings. Granted, most of these failings are sparse, but they exist nonetheless. Most obvious pitfalls involve words and outfits. Language in Overwatch doesn’t get much worse than ‘da*n’, ‘a*s’, and ‘he*l’, but one or two foreign exclamations translates to ‘sh*t’. Thank goodness none of the verbal dirt is said much. Most females are modestly covered albeit in sometimes form fitting suits. However, for our worst outfit offenders we have Widowmaker on cleavage, Symmetra for high hip exposure, and the cybernetic cowboy, McCree, wears a minted belt buckle with the acronym ‘BAMF’ (Bad A** Mother F****r). However, you can curb these problems by winning conservative attire for them. Violence in Overwatch is hecticly flashy. Reds do streak out from hit opponents, but if you blink, you’ll miss it. Dead characters disappear quickly too for re-spawning. As for character specific problems, McCree is a smoker. (Come on, man. That’s three strikes in a row.) Omnic monk, Zenyatta, has a Hindu vibe going on. He even poses with extra arms and all sometimes, although he doesn’t actually say much about the belief system. However, Overwatch’s biggest blemish, hides in plain sight. Their time skipping mascot, Tracer, is written as a Lesbian with a girlfriend. That yuck nugget nearly spoiled the whole deal for me, but I’ll give credit to Blizzard for having the courtesy not to rub it in my face. This poor writing choice isn’t paraded around in the game like most ‘relevant-hungry’ companies would do. In fact, I’d be completely unaware of it had not an online comic spilled the beans. It’s thus sandwiched in extra materials no one has to read. It also goes without saying that a social game always carries the human factor. You might meet crude players with no sense of decency. You are given options to report and block abusive players, though. You’ll find the Overwatch staff takes bad behavior very seriously. Good for them.

    I’d also like to add that Overwatch has a lootbox system. Lootboxes randomly awards gamers those costumes, voicelines, and emotes I’ve mentioned. They’re given to players for gaining levels, completing arcade mode challenges, or for free during special events. Players can also win gold to buy specific items they’d like, but players also have the option to buy lootboxes with real world money and hope its got what their looking for. If anyone is asking, yes. It’s true the government has been investigating the ‘lootbox’ mechanic lately. Some argue this gaming element is a form of gambling or a ‘pay-to-win’ trap for gullible, under-aged kids. First of all, in Overwatch’s defense, their lootbox prizes are purely cosmetic. They neither help nor hurt gameplay, so I’d hardly call it a ‘pay-to-win’ trap. However, whether you’d count it as gambling or not, it’d be prudent for parents to ensure no funny business goes on with their wallets, should they decide to buy this game for their child. Little gamers should be watched carefully.

    Overwatch is stellar. I can’t describe its superb craftsmanship enough. Even when I was on losing streaks, I always walked away with something to smile about. Just know this; joining Overwatch means joining a thriving community. Director Jeff Kaplin and his team continually update the game and send personal videos to keep you informed on any changes they install or upcoming content. Since the game’s launch, they’ve added new outfits, new maps, new characters, and hold seasonal events, most of which are themed after holidays (including Halloween, Chinese New Year, and a more Santa/winter themed Christmas). Plus, their Overwatch League is a professionalized esport venue that’s quite fun to follow. You could say Overwatch is the gift that keeps on giving for one single payment. The only gameplay criticism I have is its chaotic matches may overwhelm a newcomer, but after some practice, I’m sure they’ll get the hang of it just as I did. However, I won’t say the game is clean. In fact, I wouldn’t encourage parents to give this one to little ‘Timmy’. The game has the moral problems I’ve described and lootboxes they could ‘sneak’ buy. Not to mention that despite the Overwatch staff’s noble efforts to discourage crude behavior, no system can control who you’ll run into online. As for any older gamers reading this, I’d suggest you pray and read your Bible a while before doing anything. Really consider Overwatch’s pitfalls and how it might spiritually effect you. Watch over your heart before you let Overwatch get too deep into yours.

  • Pantropy (PC) (Preview)

     

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Pantropy
    Developed By: Brain Stone GmbH
    Published By: Brain Stone GmbH
    Released: January 31, 2019
    Available On: Windows
    Genre: First-person shooter; open world; sci-fi
    ESRB Rating: None
    Number of Players: 64 online at a time; no offline mode
    Price: $19.99 on Steam

    Thank you Brain Stone GmbH for sending us this game to review!

    Pantropy is a sci-fi first-person shooter with a very open-world environment. Its entire design revolves around the game’s multiplayer aspect, which is a shame because I couldn’t do anything, really, due to the fact that no one was online in any of the several servers I checked. There is also no visible single-player whatsoever, meaning the player has to join a server. Some servers are locked with a password, which is good because Pantropy would therefore be capable of private servers.

    When Pantropy is loading, it gives a warning to not click randomly because the game might then crash because of it. This is understandable due to the fact that it is in early access. However, when I was playing the game, it crashed on me twice; once when I was simply exploring. It started to lag, and then it stopped entirely. Said lag was warned about in the menu, but the fact that a lag caused it to crash is annoying, to say the least.

    Once you pick a server, and the world starts loading, Pantropy gives you gameplay tips, as well as helpful pointers that explain some of the mechanics of the game. Oddly enough, some worlds take longer to load than others, even though they’re practically identical to each other. When the world finishes loading, the player is given the choice of choosing between two factions: Andell Biotech and Itokawa Corp. After this, they’re greeted with a long read that tells them where and how they should begin to set themselves up. Said reading has a few typos, as well as some in-game text blocks seen all throughout Pantropy. 

    Pantropy
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Stunning graphics; lots of servers, most of which are official; tons of stuff to do with friends; Discord server for support (lots of members too)
    Weak Points: Completely deserted; the top posts in the Steam forum are asking if Pantropy is dead; no updates since March; has a tendency to crash; not a sign of animal life anywhere; while graphics are good, worlds are identical throughout the servers
    Moral Warnings: Killing people for “research data;” examining carcasses for the same thing; shooting lasers and guns in all-out war against the other faction; (however, killing a member of one’s own faction has consequences); suicide option in server menu; data can be sold on the game's black market

    When online, or when picking a server, you can’t tell how many people are currently online. The only way to tell if someone joins is if it says that [username] joined the game via the chat. One of the few things that you can do with only yourself is mine different ores with the pickaxe you are provided with, as well as craft. The crafting system is somewhat intuitive; it looks at your materials and tells you what can be crafted, but you’ll have to scroll through all of the recipes to find what you want to craft. Also, the best crafting only happens when you’re at the research base.

    As this game is structured around the interface of a first-person shooter, you can kill players residing in the other faction. Doing this allows you to obtain player data, which can be sold for lots of money at Pantropy’s black market. You can also observe the carcasses of dead creatures for research data, but I haven’t found any animal life in any of the Pantropy servers I went to. If you kill your own faction member, however, the game will punish you. (How you will be punished is unknown, because I was able to glean this information from the provided tips. Like I said before, nobody was online whatsoever, so I wasn’t able to test any of this.)

    The graphics of Pantropy are stunning, but there are a few things off about them. Once, when I walked into a lab, there was grass and foliage covering the floor, even though it wasn’t dirt, and looked to be brand new metal of some sort. As I looked around the lab, I found that there was tree branches going through solid walls, and jutting through odd places as well.

    The player also has the ability to build a base to keep all of their valuables in. It’s encouraged but not required to raid others’ bases, but said bases cannot be raided if the owner is offline.

    As I was playing, I found that notifications would slide in and be visible during gameplay. When I paused and slid it away, it would click out of the window, only to reveal that the window has a Unity icon. The pause menu itself has three buttons: Options, Disconnect, and Suicide (in red). One of the options allows you to adjust your controls, which can also be done in the pre-startup menu that Pantropy provides. Said menu also allows you to change the graphics quality, as well as the resolution and which monitor it will be displayed on.

    Pantropy
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 63%
    Gameplay - 7/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 3.5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 10/10
    Sexual Content - 10/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8.5/10

    The physics are also a little odd. When you fall, there is no fall damage whatsoever. When you walk in water, you walk normally, and there is no oxygen meter to show that you are holding your breath. The character’s walk is somewhat slow, but you can hold Shift to run.

    The sound quality is one of the better parts of Pantropy; it’s quiet, but still hearable, and won’t damage your ears at 100% volume. The background music present is somewhat fitting to the theme, but it seems like the same few orchestral tracks over and over again. The music itself somewhat reminds me of John Williams' music, which was probably the intended effect.

    Sadly, Pantropy is all but deserted and abandoned. There wasn’t a single person on, and the most recent topics in the Steam forums all ask if Pantropy is dead, and most answers are saying yes. However, Pantropy does have an official Discord server with almost three thousand members, with quite a few members online at any given time. (Usually, none of them are playing Pantropy.)

    Overall, Pantropy seems like it has a very good concept, but the fact that no one plays it anymore robs it of so much of the potential that it has.

    - Kittycathead

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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