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Bayonetta 2 {Review}

“The one thing that cannot be argued is that Bayonetta never played as well as this, every improvement went into making the best aspect of the series better, the combat.”
  • Developer: Platinum Games
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Genre: Action
  • Released: Oct 2014
  • Played on: WiiU
  • Play time: +50 hours

Every once and a while a quality game that sells poorly actually  gets a sequel and it feels like a gift from the game gods. Nintendo, for reasons still unknown, decided to fund a sequel to one of the best action games ever made, Bayonetta, and all action game fans rejoiced for good reason. The sequel does not push any new boundaries, it basically plays it as safe as possible while refining the excellent combat system to near perfection.

Those familiar with the first game will be right at home as the controls are nearly identical, the combat system is the same and the structure of the game is unchanged. Every new addition serves to enhance the lightning fast combat system and remove all the frustrating elements from the previous game. Like the first game, attacks are split between arms and legs with basic combos coming from alternating the two. Depending on what weapons you use on each limbs you can have a variety of attack types from slower close distance attacks to fast long distance ones. Certain combo chains end with a wicked weave attack which is basically a large attack that can stun or launch an enemy. Tying the combat system together is the dodge button which is your only defense; players can continue a combo chain if they hold down the buttons rather than tapping them quickly while dodging in a move called dodge offset. Dodging at the last moment before being attacked activates witch time, a sort of matrix like bullet time slow down that allows the player a small window to do damage. This balance between offense and defense is the core of the Bayonetta combat mechanics and they have never felt better than they do now. ))

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Games Journalism Is Dead And Games Media Killed It [Part 1]

“Who’s fault is it? I don’t think anyone really knows but if games media and its journalist are to serve on any level of relevancy to the games industry then they need to get original…”

I have been an avid gaming enthusiast for over 30 years. I have bought and played thousands of games over the course of my tenure in this avocation. The library of games that I have owned physically and digitally in my lifetime number in the tens of thousands and span over a plethora of different genres and tastes. I have always had an infinity to all types of video games and digital interactive experiences and have learned to enjoy the differing ways in which they approach this medium regardless of whether they are focused on gameplay, story or even just simple old-school fun.

When I was younger, way before the birth of the Internet, the only way to know what was coming out on your preferred gaming platform was through magazines. There were no “Let’s Plays” or “Quick Looks” and rarely would you see any commercials of a game. If you did not have a magazine subscription, or a friend with one, then your only other option was to visit your local video game store and look at the cover of the box and hope that the screen shots provided on the artwork were a truthful representation of what was in the game. The latter scenario was a deadly game of Russian Roulette and one, that if I were actually truly playing it at the time, would have tasted the wispy layer of metallic gun powder on my palate only briefly before my abrupt demise. ))

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Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor {Review}

“Shadow of Mordor is a safe game. It takes most of its gameplay systems from other popular games, blends them together and adds a neat hook.”
  • Developer: Monolith Productions, Inc.
  • Publisher: WB Games
  • Genre: Action-Adventure
  • Released: Sep 2014
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: +30 hours

Imagine you acquire the rights to one of the biggest movie properties and decide to make a game based on it. Rather than using the best aspects of the licence you instead place the game in the most unappealing location with none of the characters people know or any of the music from the films. That is the case for Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor, the good news is the game is rather good as it borrows from two great franchises, the Arkham games and the Assassin’s Creed games.

In Mordor you play as fake aragorn as you avenge the death of your family with the help of an elf ghost on a quest to murder everything in Mordor. It is super violent, bloody and dark in tone, just like the movies…. wait the movies are not like that. It never feels like this game takes place within the LOTR universe created in the films. I respect that they want to tell an original story but they failed to connect the game to the movie license in any way. Not once did I have the feeling of “wow I feel like I am in this world I love” instead it feels like random goblin killing. ))

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Staring into the Abyss: Why “Hatred” Might be a Needed Dose of Introspection

“One of the most fascinating aspects of violence in the media, at least from my own perspective, is that it does not, in any viable way, reflect the reality of true violence or human loss…”

Firstly, let’s give credit where credit is due:

The developers of the upcoming videogame Hatred released a short trailer for their impeding isometric shooter, the thrust of which is that the player assumes the role of a sociopathic gunman whose only apparent goal is to inflict as much carnage and misery as possible on his fellow human beings. The brief trailer went viral rapidly and has already garnered the attention and predictable outrage of various press sites, both gaming and non-gaming alike.

http://youtu.be/ytdEYapPXdY

Clearly, Polish developer Destructive Creations is looking to court controversy, knowing that such press will facilitate loads of free exposure and advertisement and in that they have clearly accomplished their goal. I do find it a bit amusing that several sites reporting on this game, while freely espousing their own moral umbrage, seem entirely oblivious of how readily they are actually advertising a product that would otherwise be largely ignored.

Not that I necessarily blame them for their outrage as the premise is clearly disturbing and those who are predicting some manner of backlash aimed at the medium as a whole might be correct that this type of endeavor could tarnish an industry already entrenched in controversy. Still, looking at the trailer and watching the random snippets of overt violence, I couldn’t help but take away two very profound truths:

  • I’ve seen and done considerably worse in other videogames that I’ve played. Yes this game is violent but trust me what I state there are games far, far worse that possess a violent quotient that eclipses anything shown in Hatred thus far.
  • I am somewhat interested in playing this game. ))

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Destiny {Review}

“Destiny is the most fun I have had with an online title since Phantasy Star Online.”
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Publisher: Activision
  • Genre: Role-Playing/First-Person Shooter
  • Released: Sep 2014
  • Played on: PS4
  • Play time: +100 hours

Few games have the expectations put on them that Destiny had. After leaving the Halo franchise behind, Bungie signed a ten year deal with Activision to make the next mega franchise in gaming. The first details on Destiny promised a gigantic universe to explore with groundbreaking co-op play. Somewhere along development content was cut and the vision was narrowed into the game we have today. Destiny delivers in the gameplay department but falls far short in most every other area.

I will attempt to make this review be as positive as I can because I really do enjoy playing Destiny despite it’s many issues, so we begin with the stellar gameplay. The Halo DNA flows through Destiny, movement and shooting has the same responsiveness Halo fans would come to expect. Being a MMO hybrid Destiny gives players multiple classes to choose from each with their own special powers. Players have specialized grenades, supers that have a variety of effects some being stage clearing blasts and most have some form of movement skill like floating or double jumps. These powers mixed with the already fantastic precision shooting Bungie is known for makes Destiny the most fun first person shooter to control that I have ever experienced.

Maneuverability is a huge component to the combat, for me this is important as I am not a fan of shooters where escaping is not an option. All classes offer some power that can get you high in the air to quickly move away from cover or rise up and over enemies. One power allows you to basically do a short teleport jump completely disorienting your enemy (works great in PvP). This is not a game where the only defense you have is to hide behind an object, Destiny gives you the powers to evade death in many ways which makes combat more thrilling. ))

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The Fall {Review}

“If you’re looking for a dark science fiction story wrapped in a sound action adventure design structure, you really can’t go wrong with The Fall.”
  • Developer: Over The Moon :: Website
  • Publisher: Self-published
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Released: May 2014
  • Played on: PC
  • Play time: 5 hours

The Fall is a 2D side-scrolling action adventure game in which you play as A.R.I.D., the artificial intelligence on-board a high-tech combat suit. After crashing on an unknown planet, A.R.I.D.’s program activates in order to save the unconscious human pilot within the suit. After a short traversal through a cave, players will find themselves in a facility owned by Domesticon, a corporation that designs and manufactures robots for domestic use. However, it is clear from the start that something went horribly wrong here as the human employees are nowhere to be found. The only sentient entity is the mainframe AI who has apparently heavily modified its personality subroutines during the long years of solitude. Also, there’s the malevolent robot known as the Caretaker watching A.R.I.D.’s every step under unclear motives. ))

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The Bureau – X-COM Declassified {Review}

“A zero budget game shows the big boys how it’s done.”
  • Developer: 2K Marin
  • Publisher: 2K Games
  • Genre: Tactical Shooter
  • Released: August 2013
  • Played on: Playstation 3
  • Play time: 16 hours

THE GOOD:

Fun, fast, flexible action strategy gameplay – Arsenal of guns and powers is fun to play with and mix up – Strong cast of believable, well executed characters – Immersive 1960s scenario.

THE BAD:

A few notable friendly AI blunders – a couple of minor plot holes.

———–

Should we ever need evidence that great games can come out of development hell, The Bureau – X-COM Declassified could be the poster child. Entering development in 2006 and then delayed, scrapped, rebuilt, cancelled among the rage and disdain of X-COM fans who never really didn’t seem to want an X-COM action game, The Bureau seemed destined to end up as a vaporware, its budget having vanished in between the many redrafts, but it eventually made it onto store shelves in 2013 and to me was one of the best surprises of the year. Though it would be all too easy to dismiss this game as nothing but a Mass Effect clone, which it is, there’s much more here than initially meets the eye.

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Mark Of The Ninja {Review}

  • Developer: Klei Entertainment
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Genre: Stealth / Action
  • Released: October 2012
  • Played on: PC
  • Play time: 14 hours

Mark of the Ninja is a 2D side-scrolling stealth game from Canadian developer Klei, makers of Eets, Shank and Don’t Starve. To put it simply, Mark of the Ninja is a 2D mash-up of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Ninja Gaiden. However, unlike those two, it is a stealth game through and through. It is a true ninja game. Ninjas weren’t open field warriors, they prowled in the shadows only striking on completely unaware enemies in total silence. And this game will make you feel like a true ninja.

This is achieved through great level design and fluid mechanics which facilitate experimentation and don’t penalize you for slight mistakes. Instead, the game grants you the tools and abilities to recover and vanish from sight once again to try a different approach. This design philosophy is crucial as it so effectively bypasses the trial-and-error tedium that plagues stealth game so often. There are almost always multiple ways to tackle each situation. You can try to distract the guards with your assortment of gear, you can take out the lights, or you can simply try an alternate route through the level. Every level can be completed without killing anyone or even without being seen at all. On the flip side, you can choose to slaughter absolutely everyone. This freedom of choice and emphasis on player experimentation makes Mark of the Ninja truly engaging and rewarding. However, there aren’t any notable set-pieces or particular design variety, even the range of enemy types is slim )).

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Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn {Review}

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: MMORPG
Released: March 2014
Played on: PS4
Play time: 180 hours

FFXIV A Realm Reborn is the second attempt by Square at FFXIV, the first ending in a massive failure. So much so they trashed the game completely and almost started from scratch creating ARR which got favorable reviews. It is also one of the most console accessible MMOs out there. Tie that with the Final Fantasy brand and FFXIV became the first modern MMO I have ever played.

Since this is my first MMO in years (only played SW Galaxies before) this review is going to be a review on the genre as a whole as much as it is for FFXIV. I can’t judge FFXIV on how good an MMO it is since I have no other games to judge off of. From what I read though FFXIV follows the patterns started by WoW closely so it should not be that different an experience.

The reason I wanted to play is mainly the large open world and that promise of being able to create your own character and build it in this massive world based community. Those first few hours exploring the gorgeous worlds created by Square is magical. Choosing which class you will start off in feels like a momentous decision, this is who you will be for many hours to come. From warriors to mages to cooks and even fighting monks, the classes in FFXIV are quite varied. There is a great armor switching system which allows you to nearly instantly change classes (with certain restrictions in dungeons) with the push of a button, this makes mastering multiple classes easy. ))

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P.T. {Review}

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Kojima Production
Genre: Horror
Released: August 2014
Played on: PS4
Play time: 12 hours

In this day and age having something that truly surprises the masses is rare. This is especially true with gaming where we know months to years in advance when a game is coming. Nearly every game convention has been covered, the mystery of games of old is mostly gone. Out of nowhere this past Tuesday during the Sony game conference they showed a short trailer of a scary playable demo for a new game from a new studio called P.T. They said it was playable now on the PS Store, that was all that was said. So like many others I decided to try it out, I love horror games so why not. What we got is one of the most magical gaming experiences of the year and absolutely one of the scariest.

In case you don’t know yet, it turns out that P.T. was a playable teaser for a brand new Silent Hill game developed by Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro. This is a dream match up and is exactly what Silent Hill needs. It is crazy that Kojima was able to release a playable teaser and no one knew what it was. There were no leaks, it was something the community had to work together to figure out to see the final reveal of what game you were playing. This is a brilliant marketing tactic, but most importantly the actual teaser is amazing on its own right. ))

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Shadowrun Returns {Review}

Publisher: Self-published
Developer: Harebrained Schemes
Genre: Role-playing / Turn-based strategy
Released: July 2013
Played on: PC
Play time: 13 hours

The world is familiar yet so different. Bright lights of an urban metropolis help make the shadows even darker. These dark areas are occupied by all sorts of seedy people. None more elusive than shadowrunners, operatives offering their services to the highest bidders. Mostly it’s just multinational corporations trying to steal valuable technology or information from each other. But there are also those who have more personal agendas. Whoever they are and whatever they set out to do, they get the job done. And that’s the role you’re able to play in Shadowrun Returns. In the process you’ll get to experience a unique cyberpunk setting where technology meets magic. It really feels interesting from the outset and makes you wonder why there aren’t more cyberpunk games around. ))

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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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