Category Archives: Playstation Reviews

Mirror’s Edge – Review

Electronic Arts’ Mirror’s Edge was certainly groundbreaking at the time of its release back in 2008; offering an extremely unique three-dimensional platforming experience which pioneered first-person parkour game-play, impacting games for years to come. However, although Mirror’s Edge may have been a breath of fresh air when it released almost 11 years ago into a market with zero first-person parkour games, does it still hold up when compared to the likes of modern parkour experiences like Titanfall and Dying Light?

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Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that it was not game-play alone that made Mirror’s Edge so groundbreaking. Mirror’s Edge boasts an impressively unique art direction, especially for its time. For many the 2000’s is a time remembered by its countless brown and muddy looking FPSs. Mirror’s Edge however, defies this trend. Aesthetically, Mirror’s Edge is the antithesis of muddy, offering a crisp and clean pristine white cityscape dotted with the occasional vibrant primary colour. While at the time of its release its running requirements were quite taxing, it is no challenge for even the most modest of modern PCs. Setting graphics settings to the highest possible settings and selecting the very best anti-aliasing mode is definitely recommended. With everything set to max, Mirror’s Edge is nothing short of stunning and its iconic visual flair absolutely still stands out from the crowd today.

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This visual style is not only beautiful but also extremely practical. The white aesthetic of the city allows for greater focus when running, yet not being so minimalist as to not allow for the occasional beautiful vista when you stop to breathe. The colour red is also extremely significant as it is rarely found natively in the world. Instead, it is used for “runner vision”, a kind of inherent intuition which colours ledges or surfaces bright red to help funnel you in the directions you need to go.

This is extremely useful, and definitely helps to reduce the number of times you will stop dead in your tracks trying to desperately work out where to go. This still happens however, and a little more often than it probably should. This is a particularly prevalent problem in the later interior missions, which involve a lot of verticality, often requiring you to make blind leaps of faith to ledges you can’t quite see. There is also the option to hold left alt to forcefully point your cone of vision in the direction of the level’s end point this however, is not as useful as it would appear. Knowing the location of the exit of a level is completely pointless when you still can’t find the ledge which will facilitate you getting there. Having your control taken away so violently also breaks immersion, I would only recommend resorting to this option if you really are massively stuck (although looking up a walk-through would be just as immersion breaking, and certainly more useful).

Mirror’s Edge is divided into levels, separated generally by cut-scenes, and levels often take place on rooftops in vastly different areas of the city. The game still manages however, to have a profound sense of geography. The city in Mirror’s Edge is cleaved in two by a river. Two extremely tall and distinctive buildings are cleverly situated at either side of this river (these can be seen in the last picture). This allows you to always gage vaguely your location in the city, and helps you piece together the journey between the previous location and your current one – which is not often shown in cut-scenes. By the end of Mirror’s Edge, you’ll probably be able to navigate the white city better than your hometown.

Mirror’s Edge also boasts a unique and very fitting score, which makes a great companion to rooftop running and helps bring the cut-scenes to life. Visually however, the cut-scenes are divisive. They have a very cartoonised hand-drawn style, and are quite contrary to the extremely clean look of the actual game-play. Personally, I am a big fan of the cut-scenes and believe that the hand-drawn look is certainly better than anything that could have been 3D animated with the technology limitations at the time.

Unfortunately, the story told by these cut-scenes is extremely lacklustre. With plain characters following a basic conspiracy type plot-line with all the predictable story beats and the obvious eventual twist.

Mirror’s Edge also feature rather pathetic combat sections. Combat in Mirror’s Edge is simply completely un-enjoyable. Whether guards manage to land a hit on you or not seems utterly random. Luckily all combat is avoidable, although due to the random nature of hit-detection your guaranteed to die at least a few times as you attempt to escape. Admittedly it was novel at first to disarm a few lightly-armed officers on a rooftop, later portions of the game which force you into tight indoor environments jam-packed with trigger happy machine-gun toting guards were anything but.

Stealth could also be considered an option, although it is so inconsistent as to be downright annoying. Guards have no cones of vision, you get too close and they become aggressive and open fire – triggering the arrival of more guards from around the level. You can allegedly disarm unsuspecting guards form behind, although I never managed this as they were always four clips into a barrage of fire by the time I got anywhere close.

The first five or so hours of Mirror’s Edge are incredible; a freedom-filled rooftop race around a stunning city. The game just becomes too bogged-down in its boring story, eventually devolving into awful combat sections and restrictive building interiors. Despite all this, for me, Mirror’s Edge definitely still holds up today. Whilst no other parkour game has managed to better it, they have managed to make its few flaws just a little bit more apparent.

Hitman: Sniper Challenge – Review

Hitman: Sniper Challenge is an unusual entry in the Hitman series, and one that many people don’t even know exists. Despite being given away as part of the many pre-order bonuses for the incredibly divisive fifth entry to the series Hitman: Absolution, I’ll save my opinions on that game for another time, Sniper Challenge is a surprisingly robust experience and certainly worth a play.

Hitman: Sniper Challenge came entirely stand alone from Hitman: Absolution. If digitally bought on Steam, it has its own little tab in your game library page (similarly it had its own icon with download purchases on consoles) and when purchased physically, came as a special disk with its own box complete with specific cover art. This not only facilitated the clean menu aesthetic found in both Hitman: Absolution and Hitman: Sniper Challenge, but also makes the whole experience feel more like its own thing instead of just feeling like a mode for Hitman: Absolution (which I suspect it would have done if merely placed on the menu of that game).

Gameplay wise, Sniper Challenge is very different from the previous entries in the series; and even very different from the game it accompanied, Hitman: Absolution. Instead of surreptitiously sneaking into secured sectors whilst donning disguises at the drop of a hat (or more accurately, the drop of a guard NPC’s body), Sniper Challenge is (as the name would suggest) focused on sniping. This gives the game a more relaxed feel, fitting of a pre-order bonus – it is, after all, just the entrée for the full game of Hitman: Absolution.

Image result for Hitman sniper challengeThe physics, which is the predominant feature of all sniping games, is very solid. Bullets have drop over distance and a fair bit of travel time. Although, not entirely realistic (this is certainly not the sniping experience of found in an ultra-realistic game like ARMA III) the arcade type feel is fun and gives shooting just enough skill to feel satisfying but not overly frustrating.

One of the key features of a Hitman game is its locations: extravagant parties, lavish buildings and bustling highly public events. In this regard, Sniper Challenge is certainly lacking. It is completely excusable, as a pre-order bonus, for the game to have one map there is, however, no reason for said map to be so boring. An annual company party in Chicago hardly compares to an international fashion show at a French Palace, an Italian vineyard turned drug factory or even the shady underbelly of Hong Kong. Still, despite its small scale, the essence of a good Hitman map is there.

The mission takes place over a rigid 15 minute timescale (counted in the bottom left of the screen) with events set to happen at certain times, such as the deployment of guards or the target taking a phone call. This allows a true Hitman fan to approach the level similarly to how they would a level in a previous game – with meticulous planning. The inclusion of a timer on the UI is also handy, in Hitman: Blood Money I’d often find myself having to jot down the times things happened on a map by pen and paper with a stop-clock.

Speaking of the mission, Hitman: Sniper Challenge has what is probably the best pre-mission briefing in the series so far. Beautifully rendered, voice acted and timed to a very fitting score; the pre-mission cut-scene gets my blood pumping every time. If you are at all a Hitman fan, and missed your opportunity to play this game on release (and don’t intend on tracking down a key on shady sites) I would completely recommend watching the cut-scene on YouTube. It perfectly encapsulates all things Hitman and is like a little love-letter to the series. Ironically, I’m sure if Hitman: Absolution had been approached in the same kind of way as Sniper Challenge it would have been far better received by series fans.

What Sniper Challenge really lacks is replayability. Yes, there are numerous easter-eggs which can be unlocked for a score modifier and a fair few number of sniper upgrades up for grabs there is little else in the way of incentive to come back for more. Despite this lack of replayability however, it’s a very nice addition to your library (certainly a must-have for any self-purporting Hitman fan) and I do still find myself occasionally booting it up for just a couple of minutes more of sniper fun.

Don’t Knock Twice – Review

Don’t knock twice is a first person horror game by developer Wales Interactive for PC, Xbox one, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It appears to be loosely based of a film of the same and, although more poorly than the film, tells roughly the same story.

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Graphically, Don’t Knock Twice is very impressive. Each individual room of the grand mansion in which the game takes place seems lovingly detailed and is very genuine. The texture work is also impressive and even the Switch version, which appears to have had a slight graphically downgrade, is still fairly good looking.

Unfortunately, the impressive visuals are about the only thing Don’t Knock Twice has going for it and is, at its core, an incredibly uninspired and boring experience. The “horror” aspect of Don’t Knock Twice is incredibly underutilised. Although the story that the game attempts to tell is genuinely quite terrifying it is told through a series of notes or newspaper articles which you may or may be bothered enough to read.

The only other horror aspect of the game are the few incredibly predictable and very average jumpscares, each of which seriously battles against unintentional comedy – and often fails. Having scares with this level of poor execution is to be expected of a crappy Steam Greenlight title cobbled together in an hour or so by a team of IT students for their summer project not a full disc release game.

The game’s audio design is poor and the music is at times quite unpleasant to listen to. Each “scary” moment is accompanied by a mad slamming of piano keys which just obliterates any genuinely tense or scary atmosphere the game had built up.

What a “terrifying” painting.

On the subject of obliterating the game’s atmosphere, what was the deal with paintings in this game? Each room or corridor was practically filled with portraits. After looking at a painting and turning around the painting would change. Figures in it would become zombified or covered in blood. This was at best mildly disconcerting but after you discover that, with the exception of one right at the beginning of the game which opted to fly off the wall instead, literally every single painting does this, it becomes hilarious.

When I deliberately turned my back on a painting and turned around to see it change, the effect was reminiscent of a mother hiding behind her hands to amuse her child in a game of hide and seek. It was almost beyond belief how resoundingly not scary almost every aspect of Don’t Knock Twice manages to be.

The few puzzles the game has to offer were quite interesting and the bathroom steam puzzle was particularly good. Unfortunately, they are very easy to solve and the genuine interest and enjoyment the puzzles managed to create are completely undermined by the general awfulness of the rest of the game.

The plot, which seems to be a skimmed down version of the film’s plot, was so generic and predictable that within about five minutes of playing I had predicted almost exactly how it would end and nailed the ending “twist”. The predictability of the plot isn’t exactly helped by the game’s incredibly short runtime, which gave the story little to no time to develop.

Those first five minutes I played encompassed almost 10% of the game’s total runtime and easily 100% of what it had to offer.

Forget about knocking twice. I wouldn’t recommend even knocking once.

Ride To Hell Retribution – Review

 

The title “worst game ever made” gets thrown around a lot these days. Unlike classics such as Atari’s E.T, Superman on the Nintendo 64 and Big Rigs Over the Road that have all in turn been coined as the worst games ever, most modern contenders, like Duke Nukem: Forever merely just wallow in mediocrity.

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Ride To Hell (1%)? Retribution

This all changed when the 2013 title Ride To Hell Retribution reinvigorated the “bad game” genre. Dragged out of a fiery hell chasm by developers Eutechnyx and published by Deep Silver, Ride To Hell Retribution is awe-inspiringly bad.

The story follows Jake Conway, a Vietnam war veteran who looks like hes been hit in the face by a shovel one too many times, on his courageous and daring quest to bring the murderous biker gang that killed his brother to justice. The game begins with an impromptu turret section (the developers having apparently just stepped out of a time machine to 2010) and a series of random disconnecting events occurring at the same time. A motorbike race, a brawl, helicopter jumps and a man talking blankly at the screen all fade on and off screen with no context creating an almost trippy fever-dream like effect.

A nonsensical intro transitions into an ever more confusing driving sequence. This sequence is where the game’s core fighting mechanic rears it’s ugly head. A series of quick time events. Its like that one infamously bad bar-fight mission in Hitman Absolution. It’s as if that tumour from Hitman dropped off and evolved. Evolved into the horrible mutated mass that is Ride To Hell.

The Hitman barfight

Ride To Hell‘s voice acting is legendarily poor, sounding like it was recorded with a tin can and string instead of a microphone. The music is repetitive and bland. Sound effects are dull or sometimes just missing. For a game marketed by it’s motorbikes the single monotone “whirrrr” that poses as an engine noise, and gently bores into you skull, is inexcusable.

The bikes handle like they’re on an ice rink and the physics are nonsensical; a light bump on any surface causes the screen to fade to black and respawn you in the centre of the road. This occurs very often and sometimes for seemingly no reason although rather ironically, didn’t help at the multiple occasions where I fell through the floor into the great blue void of nothing.

As the title suggests, Ride To Hell is indeed a hellish experience.

Finally, Ride To Hell features some of the most hilariously broken logic ever found in gaming. Confronted with an electric fence, most people would consider maybe walking around it, cutting through it or even driving a car through it (I mean, this is a driving game right?). Well logic is not Jake Conway’s forte. Jake Conway drives 20 minutes out of his way to the power station, yes the power station, and blows it up.

This isn’t by all means everything. There so much more untouched muck in this manure-pile of a game. The gun play is terrible, the final boss fight is anticlimactic and the list goes on. Ride To Hell Retribution is an incredible experience. A textbook display of how to not make a videogame, Ride To Hell Retribution is the gaming equivalent of a freak show and definitely worth your time and money.

 

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number – Review

Violent, gory and generally repugnant, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number showcases the very worst gaming has to offer. And that’s what makes it so good.

The LSD fueled cover art of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong number

Ever since the introduction of video-game age rating systems and censorship of games like Mortal combat and Manhunt, deemed to be a bad influence on children, more and more games have been challenging the status quo; gradually nudging the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable. The original Hotline Miami was as much an orgy of intense arcade style fun as it was a parody of senseless modern video-game violence.

Hotline Miami‘s outlandish determination to push boundaries is amplified tenfold in the sequel, which is longer, even more violent and even more grotesque than its predecessor. The psychedelic visuals and pulsating soundtrack come together seamlessly to form what is an aesthetically quirky and memorable game.

Quirky Visuals. Image Credit – nuuvem.com

With a story as confusing as it’s visuals, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong number‘s lore is one you might want to do some reading on. Confusion was inevitable though, as the introduction of 13 new protagonists, each with their own unique stories which intertwine into a complex overarching narrative, paired with the game’s constant jumping back-and-forth in time and overall cryptic presentation was surely going to create some confusion.

Not only do the new protagonists bring their own stories, they also bring new gameplay features. Each protagonist feels incredibly unique and the mask system which felt lacking in Hotline Miami has been greatly improved, each new character having their own masks and each masks having a genuine effect on gameplay. In Hotline Miami many masks felt completely arbitrary, granting effects like translating the game into French, the masks in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number alter the elements of the core gameplay itself, such as allowing dual wielding or even in one case, letting you play as two characters at the same time.

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Duel Personalities: Hotline Miami 2’s Alex and Ash

The new masks and gameplay features keep the game refreshingly new and over its whopping 12 hour long campaign you will never find yourself becoming bored. The maps are well made and each one feels very different from the last. The maps are bigger than those in the original, some spanning out over three or so screens. One or two are a little overly difficult but from day one the Hotline Miami series has been known its difficulty. One weapon, hardly any ammunition, tens of enemies and one hit deaths. The rush gained from finishing a level in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is immense and only amplified by the new increased difficulty.

Some small quality of life changes have also been made to the Hotline Miami formula. The nauseous screen shaking and seizure inducing colour changes that crippled the first game have been greatly reduced, leading to a more comfortable experience. Unfortunately, due to the new level sizes some AI does seem a little more glitchy than the original, but this is by no means a deal breaker, and can even be a great asset at times. Shamelessly defeating a level by standing behind a door and insta-knocking out anyone who comes in can be an all too viable way to pass some of the hardest parts of the game.

Painting the town red

In short, the very long Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is a sublime experience from start to finish and with Steam Workshop support you will want to keep coming back. Despite a few small bumps, it is an improvement on the already great Hotline Miami and is a definite must have for the hardest of gamers.