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Watch Dogs {Review}

Overall Score: 9.1

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Genre: Open World Action Adventure
Released: May 2014
Played on: PS4
Play time: 50+ hours

There is something special about seeing that first next gen game in action. This generation Watch Dogs had the distinction of being the first next gen game shown at E3 and it blew most our minds with its incredible graphics and interesting gameplay ideas. In the years that followed Watch Dogs was mired in controversy mostly over the clearly fake graphics that ubisoft were using to show off the game. The downgrades kept coming, then a delay and all of a sudden that first next gen title was not even a launch game and did not look next gen at all. Given the history of first attempts at new hardware usually being a simplistic take, Watch Dogs lost much of its luster. Against all odds though the final product turns out to be the best first game attempt in a new franchise Ubisoft has had in years. To me this is one of the best open world games I have ever played.

Watch Dogs takes place in modern day Chicago where the entire city is under the surveillance of a security company with a system called the CToS.  You play as Aiden Pierce, a man whose motives are never really explained to start with we just know he is a hacker who does jobs to make money. Something goes wrong, he pisses off the wrong people and his niece ends up dead when an attempt at his life goes wrong. Now Aiden becomes the Vigilante; he fights crime and tries to figure out who killed his niece. It all sounds way more exciting than it actually is as the story is one of the weakest aspects of the game. All the elements for a good drama are there but the characters are sort of flat, the writing is plain and it never goes past general cliches. ))

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Sony E3 2014 Conference Discussion

Join us as we watch the Sony E3 2014 Conference!
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You can join us in the forums where we have a dedicated Sony thread is established or join in on other E3 dedicated threads with all sorts of discussion regarding E3 is taking place. You can also hang out in the E3 2014 Discussion instant chat room. (located at the bottom part of the screen where it says “Chat”>

Sony E3 2014 Presser
(Full Conference)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoDh93QuPeo

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Microsoft 2014 E3 Conference Discussion

Join us as we watch the Microsoft 2014 E3 Conference!
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You can join us in the forums where we have a dedicated Microsoft thread is established or join in on other E3 dedicated threads with all sorts of discussion regarding E3 is taking place. You can also hang out in the E3 2014 Discussion instant chat room. (located at the bottom part of the screen where it says “Chat”>

Microsoft 2014 E3 Presser
(Full Conference)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsV4E0JUlsw

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Wolfenstein The New Order {Review}

Overall Score: 7.6

Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Machine Games
Genre: First-person Shooter
Released: May 2014
Played on: PS4
Play time: 10 hours

Wolfenstein was the first ever first person shooter, which means there was a time when it was a cutting edge franchise. Fast forward twenty years later and Wolfenstein struggles to find an identity, seemingly coping elements from all other popular first person shooter. Wolfenstein The New Order is what I like to call a Frankenstein game, one where you can clearly see parts of other games all stitched together to make some “new” monster of a game. That is not necessarily a bad thing, every once and a while multiple elements can come together and form a fun gameplay experience, which is the case with The New Order.

The first impression of Wolfenstein comes with your character, BJ  Blaskowitz, on a plane watching a heavily scripted battle which makes it feel like this will be a  Call of Duty like experience. You are told exactly what to do as excessive explosions and death defying acts occur all around you. Once the initial sequence is over you are given a gun and you begin exploring the core gameplay. Cover plays a major part, there is an entire button dedicated to allowing you to peak out of cover; so much for classic Wolfenstein action of old. Weapon fire feels well enough but my first reaction was that it was missing some power but at least shooting works as it should as enemies react correctly to weapon fire. After killing a few Nazi’s you are introduced to the perk system which in principle works better than in execution. ))

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Valiant Hearts: The Great War

http://youtu.be/TNmxLje9wes

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a story about normal people brought together in a dark situation. Throughout the game four people – and one very loyal dog – will come together in ways none of them ever expected. From the German soldier Karl, who’s just trying to get back to his wife and child, to Anna, the Belgian veterinarian with a knack for healing, each of their destinies are intertwined.

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Valiant Hearts: The Great War is, at its core, a 2D puzzle platforming adventure game, but each of the characters has his or her own set of unique mechanics to match who they are as people. Their gameplay styles are meant to help tell their stories – whether they are out for bloody revenge or want to help those around them, or even if they just want to survive and make it home in one piece.

The team behind Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends and Beyond Good & Evil are bringing a brand-new kind of experience to gamers. See the first World War through a different lens in this side-scrolling 2D adventure puzzle game built on the UbiArt Framework. Valiant Hearts: The Great War will be available digitally for the Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4 and PC on June 25 for $14.99.


Would you like to be featured on FREEDOM // Speaks! Have a video game you want to review or an editorial you wish to write about the gaming culture? Simply register for a FREEDOM account and start today!

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Murdered: Soul Suspect [New Trailer]

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Sony released a new trailer today for Murdered: Soul Suspect which is available for the PS4, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC. You play a murdered Salem cop named Ronan O’Connor who is looking to settle the score with the one who murdered him. Of course, Ronan is not without his own personal faults as the summary indicates, he too, has a questionable history that will be taken into consideration. Apparently, Ronan is stuck in a type of purgatory called “Dusk” trying to piece together the mystery by interrogate Salem’s dead and manipulating the thoughts and actions of the living detectives on the case. Ronan will also need to deal with demonic spirits wanting to partake in devouring his soul.

An interesting sounding concept, Murdered: Soul Suspect has been under the radar but will be a welcome addition to the murder-mystery thriller genre that is so sparse in video games today. Murdered: Soul Suspect will be released June 3, 2014 and if you reserve it you will be given access to the digital strategy map.

View the NEW trailer released below… ))

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Nintendo’s Maturity: Why I Both Agree and Disagree with Mr. Shapiro

This was a very interesting article brought to my attention by a fellow gamer and it posits an interesting theory regarding Nintendo and their supposedly “mature” software.

Entitled “Mario Kart 8 Proves Nintendo Is The Game Maker For Grown-Ups”, the entire article can be found here:

Mario Kart 8 Proves Nintendo Is The Game Maker For Grown-ups

Before I begin, I want to take a moment to state that Jordan Shapiro seems like a very nice fellow and I don’t begrudge him his views nor do I want, in any way, to piss on the happiness he claims the most recent Mario Kart has given him and his family. I took the opportunity to read some of his other articles and he seems like a genuinely smart and knowledgeable enthusiast and much of what he discusses in his other editorials are not only great reads but offer some very cogent points and I would recommend them to anyone who has even a passing interest in the more nuanced aspects of this medium, especially as it pertains to issues such as education, child development, etc.

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That understood, I do take serious umbrage at his assertion that Mario Kart 8 is the most mature game of the year (thus far) and that Nintendo is a company that develops and publishes the most mature software. To clarify, it isn’t so much that I disagree with the notion that Nintendo’s output can be considered mature but rather that in forging his arguments for the express purpose of defending Nintendo he discounts, dismisses and unfairly clumps together other games that are likewise mature endeavors, something which comes off as incredibly shortsighted.

He prefaces his article by alluding to the widespread hatred of Nintendo that has become a persistent fixture within gaming enthusiast communities but, oddly, claims he doesn’t understand where this derision comes from: ))

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Talk Games & Culture With An Awesome Video Game Community!

Do you have an absurdly strong opinion about video games and its culture and would like to share it with an awesome video game community? Do you think that what you have to contribute will benefit an ever-growing community of video gaming enthusiasts? Do you simply just like to watch others debate/argue discuss the nuances of video games?

How about expanding your social circle with some quality folk? Ya know… the type you can actually reasonably get along with? Do you find yourself seeking solace with others that have a morbid sense of humor and a vast vocabulary? (that can be a deadly combination) More aptly, are you a human being that enjoys video games? ))

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Deadly Premonition {Review}

Overall Score: 4.7

Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Access Games
Genre: Action/Adventure
Released: February 2010
Played on: X360
Play time: 20 hours

The cult classic in movies usually applies to a movie that is not widely popular but has great recognition within the hardcore movie connoisseur. Some are cult classics simply because they are so bad that they can be enjoyed in some twisted form of entertainment. Can a video game achieve that same kind of status? It is a very different kind of medium; it is not passive, it is not over in less than two hours. The player needs to put much effort into playing something that is “bad” in order to get through the whole experience. Deadly Premonition is the best example of a cult classic “so bad it is good” kind of game, but I personally cannot understand how anyone can give the gameplay a pass just cause the cutscenes are so stupidly awesome. Make no mistake about it, this game is terrible; but it has so much charm and is the antithesis of the big budget gaming we have been overwhelmed with lately that I can see why people enjoy it.

Deadly Premonition is a very odd action/adventure title that takes elements of games like Resident Evil 4, Yakuza and open world titles. It looks and plays like a long lost Dreamcast game except games back in the Dreamcast days had an excuse for being very rough and for having crazy gameplay ideas that don’t really work well. They were still exploring 3D gaming back then. Games like Blue Stinger were a genuine attempt at making a unique game for that time, and honestly it is way better than this game (seriously just play that if you are looking for some weird horror game). Deadly Premonition is not from that era, there is no excuse for a game in 2010 to play like crap. And wow does this game play like crap. The RE4 style shooting segments are terrible with awful slow aiming. Nothing about shooting feels right, a machine gun has the feel of a pea shooter. There is driving where steering the car feels like controlling a slippery drunken fish while on a street made of butter. ))

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Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes {Review}

Overall Score: 8.9

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Production
Genre: Action/Adventure
Released: March 2014
Played on: PS4
Play time: 30 hours

Unless you lived under a cardboard box for the last few months you know of the controversy over the length of Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes. Many felt Konami was charging $30 for what is essentially a demo. The anger became louder when it became clear that the main mission could be finished in under two hours. Ground Zeroes created an interesting debate about length, value and price; one that I think has no clear cut answer. The purpose of this review is not to get into the length debate and whether its worth your money, I believe you can figure that out on your own. This is a review of the game itself, one that I feel is one of the best of this year.

Metal Gear Ground Zeroes can be described as a small map that allows the player to play around in with various missions and trials to complete. It is a preview of the gameplay that can be expected from the full MGSV and what a preview it is. Within seconds in becomes apparent that this Metal Gear has gone under major changes, most all for the better. Big Boss moves with a fluidity that no previous Snake has; he can easily sprint over objects, jump across rooftops, dive, spin, and hide behind over.  Cover can be a little tricky as there is no cover button, Boss will simply hug a wall when you get close which could lead to moments where you stick against a wall when you want to get moving or vice versa. Not a big deal but one that hopefully gets looked at for MGSV. ))

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The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds {Review}

Overall Score: 9.3

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
GenreAction/Adventure
Released: Nov 2013
Played on: 3DS
Play time: 30 hours

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds is the spiritual sequel to the masterpiece A Link to the Past so it was natural for this game to garner tons of attention. It is a traditional 2D Zelda, not one of the stranger ones like Phantom Hourglass, which means you control Link with buttons and it plays just like ALTTP did many years ago. A Link Between Worlds promised to feel traditional but introduce major changes to the formula, to which many rejoiced and completely bought into the idea that this Zelda is very different. In reality this is the most traditional Zelda game in years, playing it extremely safe while cutting all the fat to make this the best paced Zelda game in over a decade.

Of the promised changes to the formula none are greater than the items being bought rather than found in dungeons. There is now a central store where you can rent or buy an item, if rented the item will be returned when you die, meaning eventually you will want to pay full price to keep the item in hand. It is possible to have nearly all items a few hours in allowing incredible freedom, right? Yes and no, the first three dungeons follow a set path. There are still items that are acquired as the game goes on and many objects hidden in the game world require those items, meaning that feeling of “how do I reach that” is still in tact. Each dungeon has an item that is the focus, so instead of finding that item in the dungeon you are required to have it on you when you enter. So while on paper it sounds like a major change, in practice it still feels like every other Zelda game. ))

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Dark Souls 2 {Review}

Overall Score: 9.2

PublisherNamco-Bandai
DeveloperFROM Software
GenreAction RPG
ReleasedMarch 2014
Played onPlaystation 3
Play time90 hours
 

The third entry into any franchise is always a tricky one. History is littered with part 3′s that are worse than their predecessor. It becomes a tough balancing act to stay true to what people want from the series and try something new to keep things fresh. I believe Dark Souls 2 falls into the third game trap, it is the “worst” Souls game but it doesn’t fall all that far and remains one amazing gaming experience you cannot get from any other franchise.

The DNA of Souls remains exactly the same. You will enter a world with little to no direction and die your way to victory. The game remains as brutal as ever as any enemy can easily kill you if you do not pay attention. The game world holds many traps and devious sections designed to kill you at every turn. Combat is still extremely methodical rewarding smart defense and players who stay level headed. I am not going to spend this review describing what kind of game it is you should know by now, basically everything that worked before still works. ))

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Amazon’s Top 5 Best Selling Video Games: March 2014

March has zoomed past us and now it is time to highlight the best selling video games of the month. This is no NPD but due to the volume of sales Amazon does produce it does give us a small sampling of how a game is performing at retail. Below are the top five best-selling games for each system.

Top 5 Best Selling Video Games On Amazon… ))
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Crowd-Sourcing Less Ethical than Free-To-Play? *UPDATED*

…Well, if you use a dodgy analytical model, I suppose it is!

This is in reaction to an article summary on GamesIndustry.Biz of a presentation that occurred during GDC last week, called “Is Your Business Model Evil? The Moral Maze of the New Games Business,” by Ben Cousins.

Link is here: Is crowdsourcing less ethical than free-to-play?

My reaction to it all is that there are several fundamental problems at play:

1. Trying to describe an entire funding method in and of itself as ‘more ethical’ or ‘less ethical’ in a strict sense. 

Sure, you could talk about expected ranges of ethics, but I don’t think that this type of analysis is particularly useful.  What would be more useful is talking about specific cases of games/approaches.

For example, one could compare various specific MMORPGs, some of which are subscription model with paid entry, some of which are subscription with free entry, and some which are free-to-play. Depending on things like marketing, demographics, pricing models, and whether the free-to-play games are essentially ‘pay-to-progress’ games, you would find more nuanced/interesting results.

2. Problems with the questions/analysis in general.

First and foremost, any time you are going to go into a topic that borders on a philosophical discussion of games (e.g. Ethics), you really need to lead off the discussion by talking about what do you mean by the key, operative terms. In this case, I’m not sure what Cousins means by ‘Ethical,’ given the nature of some of this questions, or what it means for a model to be ‘more ethical’ than another. Perhaps this was not included in the article, but I would have to watch the archive of his presentation to see if he ever goes so far as to define his terms/concept up front.

One problem I saw was that based on how one were to interpret the questions, some of them could pertain to ALL games depending on the interpretation, such as: ))

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The Real Problem With Contemporary Video Game Reviews

Video game reviews have become a much larger part of the gaming culture than I think anyone ever anticipated. Every impending release is foreshadowed with forums overflowing with anticipatory buzz about potential reviews and passionate discussion when those editorials finally drop, often inciting more contentious debate than the games themselves.

The proliferation of online media, namely enthusiast sites, has greatly expanded the number of voices who now toss their opinions into the larger morass while places such as Metacritic offer a type of shorthand that allows all these distinct opinions to be organized and aggregated into a singular homogenized numerical score.

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And I’m not necessarily against such aggregation. It is admittedly convenient to see an overall, concise ranking and be able to use this in determining how a singular game fares critically. There is also something admittedly fascinating about contrasting the collective scores of one game directly with another, if only to demonstrate just how subjective all of gaming criticism really is.

Yet I have also, in reading hundreds of reviews per year, discovered that the biggest problem with game criticism isn’t so much about individual critics and their pervading philosophies and styles but rather a more simple issue, which is that critics are often wildly inconsistent and illogical, even within the subjective context of their own personal metrics. ))

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The “Bill Murray” FREEDOM Activity Awards

FREEDOM Activity

09.01.13 – 03.24.14

It’s been six months since FREEDOM // Community Gaming Collective has been live online. While it is still in beta, this has not stopped the awesome community from delivering some stellar reviews, fantastic editorials and intriguing opinion pieces. We are going to take a moment to recognize some of the most active members, groups, COMsites and overall contributions in our very first Bill Murray FREEDOM Activity Awards!

You most likely have missed some great pieces and here you can see some highlights of the ones that have garnered either the most attention, controversy or uplifting pieces. You will also see who has been the most active and most vocal in the forums as well as see which groups are falling short and need to pick it up to be taken seriously around here.

If this goes over well, we might even start doing this once every 3 months or even one a month if there is a growth in the community. In the future, these recognitions might even come with game codes, swag or both.

So, without further ado… ))

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Final Fantasy XIII-2 {Review}

Overall Score: 8.8

Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Square-Enix
Genre: RPG
Released: February 2012
Played on: Playstation 3
Play time: 40 hours

Final Fantasy XIII I feel gets way too much negativity. I understand that it was not a traditional Final Fantasy game but I feel that is the point of this series, to keep surprising us. The biggest complaint levied against XIII is it’s linear approach, often times leaving the player no option but to keep moving forward. That is what held back XIII for me as well, so when the sequel was announced to have far more exploration I was excited.

XIII-2 is a time traveling RPG adventure, one we have not seen since the Chrono series. This is easily one of the most unique methods of exploring a game and it made jumping to the next location extremely exciting. Anything with time travel excites me so getting to see the history of the XIII universe play out was a great thrill. The time traveling is done through a fancy menu system where you enter gates which lead to new locations and times. As you explore you open more gates which lead to new times or locations. You never know where you will end up until you take the plunge into the gate creating this awesome sense of unknown. ))

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Titanfall Community Game Night!

RESERVE YOUR SEAT HERE!

Titanfall Community Game Night Extravaganza!

This event is over.

Follow JURADAI on Xbox Live to join the party.

Are you looking to level your pilot up? How about customizing your Titan and battle it out with some fun teammates in a strategic match of Last Titan Standing? Or, maybe you just want to play online with a cool group of people. Well, the FREEDOM members are getting together tonight for a Titanfall extravaganza!

Come join us in the many different modes we will be playing. Experience the satisfaction of taking a base in Hardpoint Domination or snapping the neck of an opponent while your auto-pilot Titan racks up some grunt kills in Attrition. Coordinate with us as we strategically play against other pilots in Last Titan Standing matches.

Come and play with a fun group of people! Join us tonight for some Titanfall.

*This event will be streamed.*
View Streaming Page

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The Last Console Generation?

Right off the bat let me say there is no way I think this is the last console generation but I feel this is the last time we will see anything that resembles the console generations we are used to. We have just fully entered the next generation and you can see the seeds of change taking place already. There are signs everywhere of an industry that is unable to sustain itself in its current model. So let us take a look at why these changes will take place.

First the obvious, mainly that for the first generation the console industry will shrink. Every generation has been growing in revenue with the last one being the pinnacle of the consoles reign. Three totally healthy systems and record sales that generated more revenue than movies and music industries combined.  Well this next generation will clearly be a different story as we already know the Wii U is an utter failure and the Xbox One has had a rocky start.  An absolute ton of money was injected into the game industry through a massive influx of casual gamers because of the Wii last gen. It is the main reason we saw record sales, granted Nintendo almost alone reaped the benefits but it still raised the profits of the industry as a whole. Any time you hear “console industry sales were down X% compared to last gen” the main reason why that is so is because the casual gamers are gone.  ))

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Blackguards {Review}

8 OUT OF 10 (GREAT)

Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Daedalic Entertainment
Genre: Turn-based strategy/Role-playing
Released: January 2014
Played on: PC
Play time: 65 hours

Blackguards is a turn-based strategy game with deep RPG elements based on the popular German pen and paper RPG The Dark Eye. You assume the role of your own custom character who is accused of killing the princess in the opening cinematic. Your only choice is to run away, assemble a cast of shady characters such as the suave mage Zurbaran, the feisty dwarf Naurim and the tribal warrior Takate. The storytelling and the characters are solid, but they really don’t stand out in any significant way, for the most part it really feels like a poor man’s BioWare story.

What makes Blackguards truly shine are its great combat system and wonderful game world. The combat system is hex based and may at first remind you of fantasy turn-based strategy games such as Heroes of Might and Magic or King’s Bounty. In reality, it’s more like a combination of Disciples III and Neverwinter Nights, a heavy mixture of classic turn-based strategy and role-playing philosophy. The fantastic thing about the combat system is that every single battlefield is completely unique. Not only are they all different from a visual standpoint, but they are all set up differently as well. Sometimes you’re surrounded, sometimes you have multiple goals, sometimes you have to defend something. You can also use the environment to your advantage. Cut the rope to make the heavy wooden chandelier fall on your foes or burn down the walkway spiderwebs causing deadly poisonous spiders fall to their doom. ))

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Outlast {Review}

Overall Score: 7.8

Publisher: Red Barrels
Developer: Red Barrels
Genre: Horror
Released: September 2013
Played on: Playstation 4
Play time: 7 hours

You slowly walk your way down the dimly lit blood stained hallway. Guts are scattered all over, you shiver at what kind of monster could have done this to another human. You reach the door you were searching for and slowly open it. A grunt is heard from the pitch black room within, what is it? You use the night vision on your camera to see into the void, only objects a few feet in front of you are visible. With only one way forward you step into the unknown knowing you are not alone. Where is he? where is the killer? You hear footsteps to your right, you don’t see anything. Your heart rate gets faster and faster, someone is getting closer, where?! You turn and an insane inmate is starring you right in the face! You run as fast as you can, over a table, into another room, under a bed. Did he see you enter, please don’t look under the bed. You see feet in front of the bed, they stop; seconds feel like hours… he bends down and finds you. Next thing you see is a knife entering your torso.

That is one of the more tame scenarios found throughout Outlast, a first person true horror game where the player has no offensive capabilities.  Outlast was made with one thing in mind, to capture the feeling of being hunted, of being in constant fear for your life.  Our protagonist, Miles, is a journalist looking for a story at an insane asylum. Armed with only his video camera he enters the asylum and of course gets trapped inside. Oh and all the guards have been brutally murdered and their blood fills all corridors which are now teaming with insane killers.  Have fun! ))

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