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Found 18 results

  1. Harrison Lee

    Review: Vampyr

    Developer: Dontnod Entertainment Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC Release Date: June 5, 2018 ESRB: M for Mature Note: This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game Playing Vampyr feels a lot like cracking open a three-quarters full piñata. The exterior is attractive and inviting, so you grab the nearest baseball bat and go to town. The candy spills out and you quickly devour it all before realizing something’s amiss. There’s less candy inside than what the tag on the piñata promised. The candy you’ve consumed then begins to turn a bit sour, and you’re left wanting something a bit more satisfying. Vampyr comes really close to being something awesome but falls prey to its own ambition. Vampyr’s anti-hero, Dr. Jonathan Reid, is dead. Or, at least, he was dead before being mysteriously resurrected amidst a pile of corpses. Reid wakes up with one heck of a hangover and a sudden craving for blood, along with some creepy narration from an unknown party. He’s immediately pursued by vampire hunters through the seedy underbelly of London, taking refuge at the local Pembroke Hospital under the auspices of a former medical colleague. Reid’s mission is to locate the person that brought him back from the dead and added his vampiric tastes. Whether he does so by curing or burning London to the ground is your choice. The first thing you’ll notice is how oppressive post-World War I London feels. The city is gripped by the plague of Spanish flu, and people are dying by the bucketfuls. Mass graves are everywhere, and crimson liquid coats the streets. Amidst this carnage, a darker power calls to Reid and his compatriots. Something is turning ordinary people into feral, bloodthirsty beasts. You can feel that fear and tension in the constant darkness and sheets of fog that swirl around London’s dirty back-alleys. The developers at Dontnod certainly nailed the look and feel of an early 20th-century city embroiled in chaos. Reid begins his search through the various districts of London, each with its own cast of characters and issues to deal with. The good (or bad) doctor can choose to pursue side-quests or rescue people in need, working to stabilize the health of the district. Characters with ailments can also be treated with medicinal elixirs created through the game’s simple crafting system. Interacting with and healing patients around each district will improve the overall health of the region. More importantly, Reid’s knowledge and treatment of each patient adds to the experience pool gained from Vampyr’s central gameplay conceit, “embracing”. Almost every named character Reid meets can be drained of blood for valuable experience, which players use to level up Reid’s combat abilities. Special abilities, health buffs, and combat techniques can only be accessed through large quantities of blood, so “embracing” offers a tantalizing path towards rapidly making the game’s combat easier. Unfortunately, killing an NPC badly damages the overall health of a district and will block off any quests related to that character. Your choices may also alter certain plot beats as you go along, in addition to any major decisions you make outside of killing characters. The point of the mechanic is to make you feel like a predator profiling its hapless prey, and the game greatly succeeds at this portrayal of villainy. Vampyr’s structure of choice is fascinating, but once you start digging around, you quickly discover it’s not nearly as developed as it looks. For one thing, I found certain decisions were a bit too vague in description, so I ended up screwing over half a district because the choice text wasn’t explicit. I don’t mind ambiguity or anything, but losing quest or “embracing” options feels a bit punishing. It’s also not clear why killing off someone like a gang member or a hustler would actually harm a district’s health, but such is the case in Vampyr. London is also prone to being a bit lifeless. I know the game’s plot suggests that citizens clear the streets due to the plague, but the game should then find other ways to reward exploration. Instead, I often ran into unproductive dead-ends or hollow building fronts that looked interesting from the outside, but only served as window dressing. The somewhat open-world often struggled with this, lacking ways to fill the play-space with engaging content. The well-acted dialogue with citizens provided some interesting tidbits of lore and hints for other characters, but it didn’t feel deep enough to mask the lack of things to do. Vampyr’s combat system also has a few issues. It’s a simpler version of Bloodborne or Dark Souls, with a lock-on targeting system, punishing damage, a slower, more methodical approach. Unfortunately, the targeting system is a bit wonky and often locks on to guys who aren’t the central threats. Reid’s attacks also require a good deal of close range combat, and the hit detection was occasionally spotty. Fights against tougher enemies and bosses often felt very similar to one another, requiring lots of dodging, healing, and quick strikes before dancing away. The action looks great but feels repetitive in practice. If you choose not to kill anyone like I did, the difficulty of combat noticeably increases, but not enough to lead to more than a few extra deaths here and there. I reviewed Vampyr on the Xbox One X, and despite the console’s added horsepower, the game did not run particularly well. It looked to be locked at 30 frames per second, with significant slowdown and framerate drops at random intervals. Vampyr isn’t exactly a technical marvel, so I was a bit surprised at the lesser optimization. The dialogue, as indicated previously, is generally well-acted. The music also suits the ambiance well and adds to the darkened atmosphere of London. The general feeling I came away with was that Vampyr was a neat experiment that came short of accomplishing its objective. There’s a strong framework for a fantastic action-RPG here, but technical limitations and a lack of content variety hamstrings the game. With further development and polish, the Vampyr franchise could be a cult classic. As it is, however, we’re left with an interesting but deeply flawed title that will probably resonate with a limited audience. Pros Strong, oppressive ambiance A great concept of choice that really emphasizes your predatory nature Lots of engaging dialogue to dig through Cons Combat is relatively lackluster Quite a few technical issues throughout Game world lacks development Overall Score: 6.5 (out of 10) Decent Vampyr is a great concept with middling execution. The skeleton of the game provides hope for a brighter future, but the appeal of this particular title is likely limited to a select few. Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
  2. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Contrast

    Developer: Compulsion Games Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 Release Date: November 15, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen A download code was provided by the publisher for this review At one point, the PlayStation 4 was set to bring Driveclub to PS Plus members after they hooked their new system up. However, that ended up not being the case, and instead PS4 owners were granted two titles - Contrast and Resogun. Contrast is not a PS4 exclusive, and can in fact be found on multiple platforms. In any case, the PS Plus promotion served Compulsion Games with an incredible opportunity to show their game to millions. Does Contrast prove itself to be deserving of such attention? As unfortunate as it is to say - no, Contrast is not a particularly good game. But that ignores all the obvious dedication that went into creating the product. You see, the periphery of the game is quite nice. Here we have the story of a young girl named Didi who is living through some very turbulent times with her parents. Living with her mother, she has two men in her life. One is her “real” father, while the other is currently trying to win back the mother. With all this taking place in the ”20s, there“s a distinct vibe about it too. Gangsters, magicians, and cabaret are all intertwined, creating an unique atmosphere. Gameplay itself is handled via a mix of 2D and 3D platforming. Although the story revolves primarily around Didi and her family, you play as someone else - someone named Dawn that only young Didi can see. This woman has the special ability to exist not only in the main dimension, but also go into shadows. For example, if machinery is casting a large shadow along the wall, she can go up to the wall and then walk atop said shadows. It is this mix between planes that sets the stage for a variety of puzzles. Often, the player needs to make changes to the real environment so they can platform across the shadows. Sometimes, all you have to do is leap across pre-existing shadows, though. On other occasions, you“re required to bring objects in and out of the shadow side with you in order to trigger solutions. All in all, it is a pretty simple concept that works, although most puzzles aren“t challenging. When they are, it can take some trial and error to get through. Puzzle sequences aren“t usually too exciting, although there are some moments that stand out as really innovative. It“s a shame that this couldn“t have been the case more often. Unfortunately, for all that Contrast does right in setting the scene, it just isn“t polished. For one, the narrative feels like it begins at a slow pace, only to suddenly unleash copious hints and a reveal on you in the last chapter. The game seems to take most anywhere from 2-4 hours, although for me it was closer to the 4-5 range. This was not for my complete lack of puzzle skill (although it felt like it at times) but due to butting heads with tons of glitches. It must be noted that not all players experience issues during their playthrough. My experience on the PS4 was not this lucky. There were multiple times when attempting to go into the shadows would somehow fling my character across the room. Often, I found myself stuck in the game“s walls and objects. This could usually be fixed by hammering the jump button or boost enough, but that in turn often made me inadvertently fling Dawn into an abyss, or at least to an area that wasn“t where I intended to be. The amount of times I saw the main character go into a default 3D modeling pose with arms outstretched was sky high, and that“s not something you“re really supposed to see in any game. Of course, these aren“t game breaking as much as they are annoying. There was one incident that did require restarting from the previous save. It happened to be in the middle of the last puzzle of the game and, of course, the save takes you back to the start. Having fought with Contrast many times leading up to that point, it was hard to get motivated to play through the whole puzzle sequence again. Thankfully, the proper trigger occurred the second time around, but this is just the tip of the glitch iceberg. Others have reported ways of skipping past puzzles entirely, or warping into new areas and cutscenes. Elements like these can be utilized for speed runners, but average gamers are likely to be annoyed by frequent problems. Compulsion Games have committed toward patching the game (which they admit launched with more serious glitches than they had hoped). PC players will be the first to receive patches, with them filtering out toward consoles soon afterward. At the time of this review being written - a week after launch - there is currently no patch available to address glitches. If there were no glitches, would it be a more presentable game? Certainly, but Contrast simply doesn“t compel even if it was played in more ideal circumstances. Didi is a smart kid who provides an interesting protagonist, but her world is not particularly charming. It feels dull rather than creative (even with the ”20s perspective and shadows!). The story itself is unique in the game medium but even then doesn“t get players tremendously interested in the lives of each character. The game plainly references famous films, but without any real concept of how to create something great itself. This is perhaps the greatest tragedy of Contrast - it simply isn“t interesting. Pros: + Story concept is unique, focusing on a young girl and the struggles of her family + Lovely soundtrack + It is "free" for most PS4 owners Cons: - Glitches and bugs all over the place severely hindered my enjoyment - Story feels ham-fisted and trite, then ends suddenly - Puzzles barely evolve from the original concept and are rarely fun - A few standout moments show that Compulsion Games had the ability to do so much better Overall Score: 3.0 (out of 10) Poor Contrast is the kind of game that normally would be free to sink into obscurity. However, being the forerunner of PS Plus titles on PS4, it will instead be remembered by many players for its poor showmanship.
  3. Marcus Estrada

    Review: Final Exam

    Developer: Mighty Rocket Studio Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Platform: PC (Steam), PS3, Xbox 360 Release Date: November 5, 2013 ESRB: T for Teen This review is based on the PC version of the game A download code was provided by the publisher for this review Have you ever heard of a, well, obscure series by the name of ObsCure? Revolving around horrors tormenting a cast of teenagers, the series was always a bit more ham-fisted than frightening. All the same, it drew in a following. This collective audience was pretty mad when Final Exam was revealed. At the time, it was being specifically titled as the next ObsCure game and was no longer a survival horror title. Instead, it was a beat ”em up! As such, the name was changed and development continued in this direction. Now that Final Exam is out we can see just how it stacks up. It all begins with a group of characters who are on their way to a high school reunion. Instead of showing up and finding all their old friends, they“re greeted by green oozing and bubbling monsters instead. Players assume the role of one of the high school stereotype characters (jock, nerd, etc) and set forth destroying all the baddies in their path. To what ends? Well, the story isn“t very in depth, but there is a reason to it all revealed in the last few chapters. The real meat of Final Exam comes in the beat ”em up gameplay. In either single player, local multiplayer, or online multiplayer, you“ll be fighting copious amounts of enemies. However, it“s not your typical beat ”em up. Each stage has a series of missions that must be completed. Sometimes this requires breaking specific objects while others task you with moving items to a different area. Regardless of what you“re tasked with, there will be multitudes of enemies regularly swarming around to slow the pace. This is the main reason that playing the game alone is not suggested. Unless you“ve already beaten it and leveled all up, there“s a lot of effort exerted to kill even average enemies. Each can take a tremendous beatdown before giving up and there always seem to be more monsters ready to arrive. Having two to four partners in game makes completing missions far more manageable. Instead of doing tasks and stopping periodically to fight, you can switch off between who gets monster duty. Fighting continuously is a pretty dull task which makes Final Exam“s implementation of character upgrades and skills worthwhile. At the end of each mission, players gain points that they can use to spend on upgrading traits or unlocking new abilities. These special skills require the related bar to be filled during play, but the meter fills up pretty quickly. Once some new specials and skills have been unlocked, it makes containing enemy swarms a bit more manageable. Just a bit, though, as monsters still soak up a lot of hits. So, get used to their presence. For being a beat ”em up, you would expect Final Exam to have a variety of enemies to encounter. Unfortunately, there are about five in all, with them mostly being split into the camp of neon green bipeds or quadrupeds. There is one main boss type who is encountered at multiple junctions but that“s all. This sad shame in variety of creature types is really weird. They“re not zombies, after all, so why aren“t there more distinct creatures to encounter? The more you play, the easier it is to realize its shortcomings. While the game has lovely graphics, different specials for each character, a couple weapon types, and a full range of multiplayer options, the gameplay itself just isn“t that compelling. It might be fun to run through once with a group of friends, but that takes 2-4 hours. After that, there“s little reason to return to Final Exam. Pros: + Co-op modes (local and online) work flawlessly and there are many people playing + Interesting cartoon aesthetic gives game distinct look + Missions change up gameplay Cons: - Fighting enemies is dull until you“ve unlocked a host of abilities (and even then…) - Monsters are sponges for damage and are always arriving at the most inopportune times - Lack of compelling reasons to replay Overall Score: 5.0 (out of 10) Average Final Exam should have studied the beat ”em up genre further to craft a more engaging experience.
  4. http://store.steampowered.com/sale/FocusWeekend Looks like Steam is at it again! This time, almost all of Focus Home Interactive's catalog of games is on sale for 50-75% off. There's some pretty good stuff in there, including: Farming Simulator 2013 - $27.99 $9.51 Cities XL Platinum - $29.99 $10.20 Magrunner: Dark Pulse - $19.99 $9.99 The Testament of Sherlock Holmes - $29.99 $10.19 ...and more. Both Magrunner and Testament of Sherlock Holmes were reviewed very positively by our own Marcus Estrada and Harrison Lee; check out their reviews if you're interested.
  5. Contrast is a game that you might not be familiar with, but it managed to have a successful Greenlight campaign a while back. Thanks to interested gamers, it was known the title would come to Steam, but it also drew the attention of a publisher. Focus Home Interactive have partnered with developer Compulsion Games to help the game see launch on PSN and XBLA as well as PC. Unfortunately, with these new platforms, a delay is in order. No date is given for the current release of Contrast other than around the "end of 2013". What is Contrast anyway? The title is a 2D platformer which has players shifting between the real and shadow world. It also appears to inhabit a 1920s-styled time frame which is not often seen in games. Here's Contrast's official teaser if you're still unsure about it: http://youtu.be/iY0p9rqaIPA
  6. Marcus Estrada

    Mars War Logs Travels Onto Steam

    Here's a game that has been relatively under the radar before launch. Mars War Logs is a cyberpunk RPG with an emphasis on real-time melee combat and quests. Sure, the RPG genre isn't exactly lacking quality titles, but it would be hard to deny that Mars War Logs seems unique. The game was developed by Spiders Studio who have previously ported titles such as The Testament of Sherlock Holmes to consoles, but also developed their own titles as well. These games include Faery: Legend of Avalon and Of Orcs and Men. Mars War Logs is currently available on PC via Steam. Console fans shouldn't fret however as the game is set to launch on 360 and PS3 shortly. Unfortunately, there's no specific date for the console debut but Focus Home Interactive says it will be "very soon". Take a look at the trailer to get a feel for the world of Mars War Logs: http://youtu.be/CdQvnySbTog
  7. Horror game fans know all about ObsCure and its sequel, ObsCure: The Aftermath. Inspired by classic teen slasher movies, you're in control of students in frightening settings. This reboot from Mighty Rocket Studio and Focus Home Interactive gives us that same premise, but with completely different gameplay. Described as a "pure, action-rich 2.5D side-scroller", you can play as one of four students. Combat in Obscure puts emphasis on combos, follow-up attacks, and score-multipliers. As you get higher and higher scores, your character will level up their skills and abilities as well as unlock new weapons. Obscure will also offer local and online multiplayer. Team up with up to four other players to complete your objectives and survive! http://youtu.be/5y_GK2YJNtU And don't worry about this game completely deviating from the original ObsCure games. Some of the original developers have been hard at work on Obscure, and the game will also include Leafmore High School and previous characters from the series! Look forward to Obscure this spring 2013 on PSN, Xbox LIVE, and PC.
  8. Leah

    Obscure - 3

    From the album: Obscure Screenshots

    © Focus Home Interactive

  9. Leah

    Obscure - 2

    From the album: Obscure Screenshots

    © Focus Home Interactive

  10. Leah

    Obscure - 1

    From the album: Obscure Screenshots

    © Focus Home Interactive

  11. Harrison Lee

    Review: The Testament of Sherlock Holmes

    Developer: Frogware Publisher: Focus Home Interactive (PC) Atlus (console versions) Platform: PC, XBOX 360, PS3 Release Date: September 25, 2012 ESRB: M for Mature This review is based on the PC version of the game London, 1898. The scenery is bright, sunny, yet overcast from the grime and filth of the streets of Whitechapel. The famed Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson patrol alleyways, hunting for an opium den. Finding the downtrodden location, Holmes and Watson investigate for evidence of a mind-altering poison. While they don't find many clues, they do find two crooks related to the tangled web of conspiracy and murder. Without hesitation, Sherlock draws his pistol and prepares to brain one of the bad guys in cold blood. Wait, is this really the Sherlock Holmes, about to commit murder? In The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, you'll find yourself asking many similar questions. Holmes regularly resorts to unorthodox and questionable methods to obtain the information and items he needs. Breaking and entering a judge's house are among the less-savory practices Sherlock has seemingly fallen into. Investigating Holmes's character and his ulterior motivations is just one of the many facets to Frogware's ambitious adventure-detective game. Testament is the sixth entry in the venerable line of SH games and is Frogware's largest yet. Players can freely explore the locations across London available at any time during their investigations. Testament has also been built on a brand new game engine, allowing for better visuals and environments than was possible in previous games. But do all of these changes make for a compelling experience? I won't lie; Testament is quite a difficult game. While it can be completed on the Normal difficulty in around 10-12 hours, I only managed to accomplish this with a few cheats. Since this is an adventure game, you can expect quite a few puzzles to pop up. Some of them are quite obvious but still fun to solve. Others will have you scratching your head for 10-15 minutes before the solution finally hits you. And then there are the puzzles that need a manual for explaining how on earth you're supposed to solve them. I ran into plenty of situations where I simply had no idea what to do. While I don't consider myself a slouch in the brain-teaser department, Testament regularly made me feel stupid for the number of puzzles I struggled with. In many ways, this is actually a good thing, because it makes the reward of solving a puzzle that much greater. At other times, this can seriously frustrate when you have three such puzzles in the same room. The other side of Sherlock Holmes's sixth romp is the investigation part. This was easily my favorite element, as I could sleuth around and make keen observations about my environment that actually mattered during puzzle segments. A box of alcohol, for example, might come in handy when Sherlock needs to distract a guard. Sherlock (and whatever characters you control) also has an inventory where he can combine items to make ropes, ladders, and more. The same inventory menu also leads to a dialogue transcript, deduction notebook, and character switch feature. Yes, you will play as other people (well, a dog too), including Watson. It's functionally the same as playing Holmes, albeit with different dialogue. Searching rooms for text-based clues also reveals much of the intriguing, complex narrative. The well-written journal entries, letters, and book pages all help to develop a certain mystique about Sherlock. Is he really a good detective, or the greatest criminal mastermind to have ever lived? You'll definitely want to see the conclusion to this dark chapter of Holmes's life as the writing is absolutely stellar. Whoever penned this plot did a great job of making it feel like classic Doyle. It's a creative and involving story that's paced quite well, especially considering this is a slow-moving adventure game. Every scrap of information recovered during investigations supplements the plot perfectly, and no major story threads are left unanswered. The gameplay elements work in conjunction with the excellent narrative to make Testament a gripping experience for hardcore SH fans and newcomers alike. While the story and gameplay are both great, Testament doesn't fare so well on the technical side of things. The visuals are a great step-up from previous entries, but the animations aren't that great. Watching a man's eyebrows randomly raise during a conversation is quite amusing. The lip-syncing is also hit or miss. I must praise just how good the environments can look, though. The district of Whitechapel is appropriately dirty and the attention to detail is quite good, considering that this was likely made on a smaller budget. The voice-acting, while decent, can grate on one's nerves. I liked the voice-overs for Holmes, but sorely wanted to hit the mute button on Watson at times. Some of the other voices are a little hammy, but it never bothered me enough to be more than a distraction. In fact, I felt immersed enough to ignore the sometimes-stiff line deliveries because the dialogue was so interesting and content-rich. Testament definitely holds your attention regardless of who's saying what. There are plenty of interesting backstories that are often revealed through dialogue with side NPCs and central plot figures. In my playthrough, I did encounter one or two glitches. The most prevalent was the random control switch when I played in first-person. I also had the ability to change to point-and-click and third-person view. At unspecified times, my interact key would also become my walk key in first-person, similar to point-and-click mode. While moving, I couldn't interact with any clues or doors. While this was easily solved by pausing and unpausing the game, I had to do it quite frequently. Hopefully a patch can resolve this annoying control issue. If none of these presentation issues concern you and you're an adventure games fan, then there should be no reason why you don't pick up The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. Many of the puzzles, while head-crackingly difficult, are rewarding to solve and come with achievements. Coupled with solid gameplay mechanics and a strong story, Testament is a great entry into any Sherlock Holmes's fans library. It's dark, mature, and perfect for those who want to delve deeper into the life of the famed detective. Pros: + A superbly-written narrative + Lots of puzzles and investigations + Immersive and dark plotline + Strong visuals from the new engine Cons; - Some of the voice-acting is weak - Animations are somewhat rough - Puzzles can be incredibly difficult Overall Score: 8 (out of 10) Great An adventure fan's delight! Sherlock Holmes fans won't be disappointed.
  12. Mystery fans will be glad to know that Sherlock Holmes' next adventure, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, now has a release date: September 20th for Europe, and September 25th for North America. The story in The Testament of Sherlock Holmes is being touted as the great detective's darkest case in his career as increasing evidence from police investigations point to Holmes as the main suspect in a case involving lies, double-crossings, and fraud. You'll examine crime scenes, find clues, follow trails, and interrogate suspects in order to get to the bottom of the case and find out who is behind everything. If you enjoy investigation games, you're definitely going to want to keep your eye on this one. The mystery begins in just a month's time on Xbox 360, PS3, and PC. To find out more about the game, check out the E3 trailer and most recent screenshots below: