Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel Review: I. presage flower — The Holy Grail War We Deserve

As a viewer who watched Fate/Zero first, I formed an affinity to the title. Each iteration of Fate/stay night has disappointed me to some degree. The Holy Grail War from Fate/Zero was on such an epic scale, filled with proper mages. Fate/stay night’s Holy Grail War always felt very amateurish in comparison. The supporting cast also was also rather boring, and I always liked Kiritsugu more than Shirou. Even though some of these things have not changed for me, make no mistake — this is the Holy Grail War that Fate/stay night always promised. It rivals Fate/Zero in its scale and epic nature. It’s also just as interesting and just as intriguing as the former, despite being a film, and the first part of a trilogy at that.

Heaven's Feel Review

Kinoko Nasu has engrossed me in his universe for the better part of 12 years (I started with Kara no Kyoukai). It is only now that I’m able to see the splendor of Fate/stay night that so many have been raving about for years. This is not like any previous iteration of Fate/stay night though. It is both more brutal and many characters die earlier in this route than previous ones. Like, within 30 minutes or so.

Kiritsugu, How Can I Become a Hero of Justice?

Heaven's Feel Review

Heaven’s Feel: I. presage flower begins with some very touching flashbacks between Emiya Shirou and Sakura Matou, starting with how they first met. One of the strongest aspects of this film is its ability to balance its characters and action. It doesn’t re-tread over old ground, so one should be familiar with the Fate series before watching the film. Sakura comes off as extremely bland in every other iteration of Fate/stay night, but this version of Sakura has some depth. You see from the very beginning that there is something incredibly tragic about this young girl. We may not have the answers yet, but it’s there. There are some beautiful scenes between her and Shirou, and I can’t imagine these character-driven scenes not foreshadowing some tragedy that has yet to come, as is alluded to in the film’s marketing.

Every Hero Needs a Villain

Heaven's Feel Review

Some of the film’s strongest scenes are between Kotomine Kirei and Shirou. It’s obvious they are setting the two up for an epic confrontation, ala Kiritsugu and Kirei. Shirou learning the truth about Kiritsugu from Kirei and Saber was one of the most emotional moments in the entire film (for me). There are some very subtle moments in the film that are easy to miss. When Illya says “there’s no way a Servant would remember”, as she looks on at Saber, it’s hard not to have flashbacks of Fate/Zero and wonder what is going through Saber’s mind.

Heaven's Feel Review

Zouken is much more prevalent in the film than I would have ever expected, coming out into the forefront, causing me to feel like this is the true successor to Fate/Zero. He appears to be the true villain of the film, and every scene he’s in is electric. Yet there’s more going on than meets the eye, and Zouken isn’t controlling all the players as we’re led to believe. There’s a wild card that will be expanded upon in the next film.

The Holy Grail War We Deserve

Heaven's Feel Review

This is the Holy Grail War I’ve been waiting for. For years. Fate/Zero was great, but this may be even better. And it’s not because the animation is better because it’s a film. The scale is on one larger than we’ve ever seen before. The stakes are higher. We seem to get answers about mysterious happenings that are going on that we never get in the other routes (mysterious deaths, “gas leaks”, etc.). The fight between Lancer and Assassin truly shines as one of the best battles we’ve ever seen between two servants. It’s not even just the fights though. The stakes are incredibly high, and we know there’s some greater evil at play.

Heaven's Feel Review

What is amazing is this is just the beginning of the Holy Grail War. We still have two more films to go, and as this film runs at exactly two hours long, that would give us four more hours of material. That’s more than enough for a satisfactory and epic conclusion beyond even Fate/Zero.

Yuki Kajiura’s Back

Heaven's Feel Review

I was saddened to see that Kajiura didn’t return to score Unlimited Blade Works, but her work here in Heaven’s Feel is superb. It’s not simply a re-tread of Fate/Zero tracks as well, although you’ll hear a few familiar motifs. In fact, the music was almost un-Kajiura-like, which impressed me a great deal. Her ability to adapt her style to fit the needs of the story are incredible. The score is both somber yet epic, making sure we feel the full gravity of this Grail War without forgetting the characters. The score was incredible and it’s wonderful to have Yuki Kajiura back after her incredible job with Fate/Zero.

The Best is Yet to Come

Heaven's Feel Review

Given how the film ended, the best is yet to come. There are still so many mysteries to uncover. While this film focused on Shirou and Sakura, while also giving characters like Rin, Saber, Kirei, and Zouken moments to shine, some characters felt forgotten. Archer didn’t have much to do and Illya appeared only briefly. One can only imagine that their roles will become much larger in the next film as the stakes rise even more.

Fate/stay night Heaven’s Feel: I. presage flower isn’t just a great adaptation of the first part of the Heaven’s Feel route, it’s an amazing film in its own right. While it will be hard for newcomers to jump right in due to the fact that the film skips over several events we’ve seen animated time and time again, it’s the best adaptation of Fate ever put to screen, and this is only the first chapter.

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Wolfenstein II Review (PlayStation 4)

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus has been a game that has been mired in controversy. From its marketing slogans to its marketing strategy, this alternate-history epic was politicized by a lot of people. Regardless of any of that though, at the game’s heart, it’s something else entirely. It’s not some commentary on current events, although the fact that we can compare and contrast the two is scary in its own right. The game does take a few things to the extreme, but its narrative and its heart are the two things that are always at the forefront, not “killing fascists.” This is how every great story is told and Wolfenstein II is no different.

With that out of the way, it is very graphic, and killing Nazis is incredibly satisfying. Wolfenstein II’s gameplay and narrative shine, even though sometimes its dialogue is a bit over the top, to create a thrilling experience.

A Nazi America

Wolfenstein II Review
A chilling vision of fascist America..

In the 1940s, instead of defeating the Nazi’s, the United States of America surrendered to them. Enter William Blazkowicz, our hero. Left mangled and crippled from the events of the previous game, he has been recovered by the Nazis and has miraculously survived, though the cost is high. Even with the “power-up” he receives early in the game which allows him to regain his strength, he still doesn’t have much time left. This leaves his relationship with Anya strained, as he is afraid to get close to her because of his imminent death along with the impending birth of his children. It’s a very emotional tale and William narrates his point of view, always letting the player know what he is both thinking and feeling.

Wolfenstein II Review
The game’s true heart.

The look at a future Nazi occupation of America is chilling though. While it’s a great backdrop for the story of the game, filled with memorable characters and plenty of Nazi killing, it’s not what the game is about. The game is about a ragtag team of survivors from all walks of life simply trying to survive, which is what every great story is about (Star Wars anyone!?). The marketing was genius, but this small but simple fact is what makes the game so incredibly powerful.

A Guilty Pleasure

Wolfenstein II Review

Let’s be honest: going around slaughtering Nazi’s in horrific fashion is a lot of fun. Maybe even a little too much fun. Facing off against Nazi’s and their superpowered mechs, William Blazkowicz has plenty of tools at his disposal, be it dual-wielding SMGs, utilizing an ax, or using other guns or even grenades.

One thing I appreciated most about this game is the fact that it’s not your typical first-person shooter; each level is massive in scale and encourages exploration. You can find plenty of collectibles and even upgrade points for your weapons (these are not handed to you through XP). Perks aren’t unlocked by spending XP points either; they are unlocked by utilizing a certain said action so many times. So, for example, with stealth kills: if you get so many stealth kills, you unlock a level of that perk. Then you can continue to max it out the more times you utilize that action. The system works very well and feels much more rewarding compared to today’s first-person shooter games.

Wolfenstein II Review

Wolfenstein II Review
One thing you can find throughout the game is beautiful concept art, like this piece, which encourages exploration.

This could have something to do with the fact that there is no multiplayer in Wolfenstein II; it is a completely single-player experience. Anything less would have taken away from the game, and I applaud Machine Games for their commitment to excellence here. They didn’t compromise their vision, and the end result was a splendid game.

Fun and Difficulty Factor

Wolfenstein II Review
Riding on a Nazi Pazerhund is probably the most enjoyable mission in the entire game, and most satisfying.

While its tone can be rather grim at times, Wolfenstein II is a really fun game. That being said, it can also be a very difficult game depending on how you decide to play it. Even the medium difficulty gave me trouble at times. If you simply go into every area guns-blazing and alert the Nazi commanders who sound the alarms, you’re in for a world of trouble. The best way to go about it, at least in the early going, is to stealthily find the Nazi commanders and kill them before they can alert their subordinates to your presence. A silenced pistol or an ax to the back should do the trick, but the areas are so large it’s very easy to become detected. That’s all part of the fun though, isn’t it?

Even when the story is grim, there are some light moments which will make you laugh. It really is a story about family; all the Nazi killing is simply an incredibly interesting backdrop in order to showcase these characters. They work in tandem splendidly. William Blazkowicz’s finest moments don’t even occur when he’s killing Nazis, but you’ll have to discover that moment for yourself.

Technically, the game runs great (and looks great) on the PlayStation 4, but we did find one hiccup: the sound cut out in one level a few times. Thankfully this is the only technical issue we ran into though.

A Fun, Albeit Over-the-Top Adventure

Wolfenstein II is a fantastic game filled with memorable characters and superb gameplay. That being said, it can be rather over-the-top at times with its dialogue, Grace can be really annoying, and the missions on Eva’s Hammer can be rather tedious. It is a fascinating narrative though with a likable protagonist, William Blazkowicz, who strives to do what’s right. These characters are merely fighting for their survival, and in a way, that’s what every great story is about: people who are fighting constantly in order to move forward.

The game can be difficult, but with two different paths to be taken by the initial choice in the game, along with so many collectibles and sidequests to be found, the game has so much replayability compared to most first-person shooters. This is probably because it is only single player, which one has to applaud Machine Games for. They didn’t use multiplayer as a cash-in, which would have detracted from the experience. They stayed true to their vision of excellence

Wolfenstein II is also a lot of fun, which is really what matters most. It may have some faults, but that doesn’t detract from its wonderful narrative or superb level design.

William Blazkowicz is one of the greatest protagonists in modern-day video game history.

Call of Duty WWII Review – Band of Brothers (Xbox One)

I was skeptical coming into Call of Duty: WWII. The previous installments in the series (in my opinion since after Modern Warfare 2) were a complete disappointment. The move into the future was a mistake. Call of Duty: WWII rectifies this. One of my favorite series’ of all time is Band of Brothers. I couldn’t help but feel like I was playing Band of Brothers as a video game. The campaign is breathtaking. It re-invents the Call of Duty wheel and presents a narrative that is both gripping and scary considering the dark times we’re currently living in. The 1940s were a different time and the world was facing the greatest evil this planet has ever known. WWII presents this in chilling fashion with a Band of Brothers.

A Band of Brothers

call of duty wwii review

Call of Duty: WWII has one of the best campaigns that the series has ever offered. While I believe Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2 are two of the best, WWII actually has some moments that depart from the typical Call of Duty mold. You even get to play a mission as a French woman while liberating Paris, Rousseau, in a stealth mission where you have no weapon to begin with. I never experienced something like this in a Call of Duty campaign and it was exhilarating. The battles are spectacles, and the first mission, where you invade Normandy via boat, actually touched me on an emotional level. These men sacrificed so much to save us from Nazi rule. There is a big where you have to go through trenches and destroy several Nazi bunkers that felt like it was taken straight out of Band of Brothers, which is no knock. While Band of Brothers is the greatest historical series based on World War II, Call of Duty: WWII is the best interactive experience based on the most dire war the world has ever known.

call of duty wwii review

The campaign has 12 missions, and there is a certain amount of replayability to the game as well. There are collectibles to find riddled throughout the maps and also heroic events you can accomplish throughout your journey. While I played the game on Regular difficulty for review purposes, I am excited to go through it again on Hardened or Veteran modes, like I did with Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2.

I also have to mention the characters. They are fantastic. You play as “Red” Daniels, a member of the US 1st Infantry Division. His camaraderie with his fellow soldiers is what makes the game so special, especially with Zussman. This was a different era. In the beginning of the campaign Zussman is stabbed, but returns to duty promptly. He clearly is in no shape to fight, and is challenged on it, but his determination to serve is simply that strong. This is very realistic too. Soldiers in World War II would leave hospitals pre-maturely in order to return to their units to fight. It was a different era and Call of Duty: WWII reflects this perfectly. You can even have the option of shooting German prisoners of war. This was portrayed in Band of Brothers and did happen, although it was not a common occurrence. The amount of realism in this game is astounding.

The game also changes up how health replenishes in the campaign, which I think is a great change for the series. Now, your fellow soldiers provide you with med packs, ammo, and grenades, as well as smoke to signal mortar attacks. Playing through D-Day, the liberation of Paris, The Battle of the Bulge, and crossing the Rhine, making your way into Germany, is gripping. This may be the best Call of Duty campaign of all time, and definitely the best World War II-based campaign ever put to an interactive form of entertainment.

Multiplayer

Call of Duty: WWII multiplayer switches things up. You can choose from five different divisions, each with their own perks. These “classes” are Infantry, Airborne, Armored, Mountain, and Expeditionary. While your character levels up, more guns and whatnot become available to you, but weapons level up not based on your rank but how much you use the weapon. You can set up five different load outs for your character.

WWII also gives you a central hub called “Headquarters”, where you can take on contracts, challengers, and pick up a payroll (in-game currency). A character, Major Howard, has orders that renew every day or so which provide you with rewards, such as supply drops and additional XP. It’s a little more complicated than the days of just choosing a game mode and going with it, but, it is incredibly immersive and makes for a more realistic experience.

There are nine different multiplayer game modes: Team Deathmatch, War (a brand new mode which is a ton of fun), Domination, Search and Destroy, Kill Confirmed, Gridiron, Free-for-all, Hardpoint (essentially Headquarters), and Capture the Flag. Hardpoint and War are probably my favorite, but they are all great. The only thing that’s difficult is finding a loadout that is right for you when starting out. It takes a while to unlock some of the better weapons, although this is typical in all Call of Duty games, so I can’t really complain. War is a brand new game mode developed in conjunction with Raven Software. It’s narrative and objective-driven, placing you in some of the most iconic World War II locations. It is fantastic and a great addition to an already amazing lineup of multiplayer game modes.

Nazi Zombies also make a return! They are as ferocious as ever as you fight against hordes from the Zombie apocalypse. The mode even has its own storyline, believe it or not. Players can even choose classes in order to support one another, such as a Medic, Offense, Support, and Control. It’s a lot of fun and for a game full of PvP multiplayer, it’s great to see some co-operative multiplayer as well.

Game of the Year?

If Breath of the Wild hadn’t come out this year, this very well may be my Game of the Year. It is definitely the best first-person shooter to come out in the last five years, at least, and the best Call of Duty game since Modern Warfare 2. Activision was so smart to go back to the series’ roots with Call of Duty: WWII. The game is an interactive version of Band of Brothers and I’m not even thinking about the multiplayer, which is amazing in its own right. This may be the best Call of Duty campaign and while right now there are a few technical glitches with the servers in multiplayer, that will not deduct from our score because we are sure it will be rectified, as this was one of the biggest launches of the year.

Over 70 years ago the world faced the greatest evil it has ever known. This game reminds us of that. Yes it is entertainment, but it’s a beautiful narrative that is a piece of art. Call of Duty: WWII is not a political statement and nor should it be. But it reminds us how the world was on the verge of annihilation because of one man’s hatred and lust for global domination. This story is one of heroics from everyday men who believed in fighting for freedom and sacrificed everything to do so.

Sledgehammer Games and Activision did an incredible job at honoring their memory and telling their story in such a tasteful and accurate manner. It is definitely a contender for GOTY and is easily one of the top five games to come out in 2017.

Thank you to Activision for providing VGCultureHQ with a copy of Call of Duty: WWII for review purposes.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review (PS4)

South Park: The Fractured But Whole is Ubisoft’s follow-up to their 2014 hit South Park: The Stick of Truth. While The Stick of Truth drew from South Park’s Game of Thrones episode arc, The Fractured But Whole draws from the series’ superhero parody arc, which spans multiple seasons. The first game was so good that you may wonder, could Ubisoft, Matt Stone, and Trey Parker hit gold yet a second time? The answer is a resounding yes. The Stick of Truth was Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s first time writing and developing a video game. The game went through multiple re-writes and was delayed on a number of occasions. While The Fractured But Whole was delayed a year, that seems to have paid off quite nicely.

Editor’s Note: Due to glitches experienced after this review was published, the review has been re-scored appropriately. It is still the magical fun-filled experiences, and patches may fix the issues, but we had no choice but the re-score the game based on these technical issues.
Morgan

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

The video game format gives South Park a certain amount of freedom that television limits. The Fractured But Whole is the ultimate South Park experience. It is, quite frankly, the greatest South Park “episode” of all time.

Civil War

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

The Fractured But Whole picks up right where The Stick of Truth left off. In that sense, it’s a literal sequel. As so often as kids do, they simply decide to stop playing as wizards and start playing superheroes. As opposed to being based on Game of Thrones like The Stick of Truth was, The Fractured But Whole is a parody of the Marvel superhero franchise. The “Coon and Friends” episodes of South Park are arguably some of the best and most popular episodes in the show’s entire run. The game blatantly parodies Marvel’s Civil War. While Civil War was hit-and-miss, The Fractured But Whole is a home run.

south park the fractured but whole review

Coon and Friends become split over how to structure the Coon and Friends superhero franchise which they are going to fund by winning $100 by finding missing cats. Several heroes break off and create the Freedom Pals, including Stan, Timmy, Token, and others. The story starts here, but as always with South Park, nothing is what it seems. Things seriously become crazy as the story unfolds. This is the best South Park story put to any form of media. One of the coolest parts about the game is that it includes material up to South Park season 20. Yes, PC Principal and even Memberberries are present in the game. Member? I member.

south park the fractured but whole review

You reprise the role of The New Kid (referred to as Douchebag in Stick of Truth and Butthole in The Fractured but Whole), whose ungodly farting power once again plays a large role in the game. Initially, you have the chance to choose from one of three classes which forms the base of your powers. When you get further in the game though, you get to choose a second class and combine it with powers from the first. Utilizing the app on your phone, you can mix and match your powers. You can also visit Cartman at any time to change your classes.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

You also unlock “buddy powers” as you progress through the adventure which allows you to solve puzzles. These abilities vary and can be performed by summoning another hero to your aid. The game is very exploration-heavy and it is very satisfying once everything comes together and you’re able to solve puzzles or reach areas that earlier in the game were inaccessible.

An Interactive Cartoon

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

The Fractured But Whole reminds me a lot of The Wind Waker from the Zelda series. Not because the two are similar in content, but because both are interactive cartoons. The Fractured But Whole emulates South Park’s visuals to a tee. The game is the ultimate South Park experience. What is so great about the series is that it is an equal-opportunity offender. South Park offends everyone; in fact, it sets out to do just that. It’s not necessarily making a political or social statement, it’s just showing us how ridiculous the world we live in is. That’s one of the reasons why people love it so much. The other reason is because, in the end, it’s a story about 10-year-olds being 10-year-olds. The best episodes of South Park are the stories of kids just being kids.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

The Fractured But Whole is a mix of this. At its core, it’s a story of kids being kids and playing superheroes. It sets out to offend though from the moment you start the game. If you choose to play the game on the highest difficulty, your character is black. The harder you make the game, the more “colored” your character will be. In one sense it’s a hilarious commentary on the current state of race relations in this country, but at the same time, it is horrendously offensive. I love it. There’s also a lap dance mini-game that is completely inappropriate and would never be allowed on television, but, they’re able to do it in a video game. Again, offensive and disgusting, but hilarious in its own way.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

You also get to choose your gender in the game and choose whether you are “transgender” or “cisgender.” If you choose cisgender Mr. Mackey calls your parents to alert them, tells you that you can return to him at any time to change your mind, and that you “have options”as if something like that is a choice. Yes, it is a social commentary on the topic, which can get heated, but The Fractured But Whole talks about it in such a way that makes it funny and removes politics from the equation and inserts common sense. At some point in the game, you can also return to PC Principal and change your race, similar to your gender.

It’s on!

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

Ubisoft took over development of the game from Obsidian, who developed The Stick of Truth. They improved upon the first game in every way. The combat is simple, yet at the same time, it’s a lot of fun and the most improved aspect of The Fractured But Whole. The fact that they are now incorporating superheroes and superpowers gave them more to work with as well. With each battle, you can choose three of your allies to accompany you into battle. Because characters are so diversified, it’s important to choose characters with powers who complement your superhero.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

Another gameplay addition to the game is Coonstagram, which is accessible through your mobile phone. Gaining followers will also gain allies. There are some characters that will only become your follower if you complete certain tasks for them. Coonstagram is a great addition to the game, and it’s interesting to see everyone in the game always on their mobile phones. It’s a great commentary on today’s society. Everyone is always on their phones. In fact, my brother gets so upset about it that it has become his rule that no one can be on their phone during dinner. Of course, not even our parents listen, but it is a good rule of thumb. South Park, once again, hits the nail on the head with their commentary.

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

South Park The Fractured But Whole Review

The Bottom Line

south park the fractured but whole review

South Park: The Fractured But Whole is not only the best South Park game ever made but the best South Park experience put to media. It is a step up from The Stick of Truth on every level. It also draws from the Mysterion arc from the series, the best arc in South Park history. Ubisoft was already a top-notch developer, but with Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and now The Fractured But Whole, they have put themselves on the map as one of the elite third-party developers in the industry. The year isn’t even over yet either.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole takes the best elements of the show and improves upon them in an interactive format. It’s easily one of the best games of the year, and a must-play game for everyone.

Taking over from Obsidian, Ubisoft improved upon every aspect of the game’s predecessor. South Park’s delay was actually a good thing because the game was actually able to incorporate more of the series’ material. The battle system is fun, the class system is diversified and gives the game plenty of replayability, Coonstagram is addictive, and the puzzles are interesting and require critical thinking. The game does make social commentary, as does the show, but it does it without being political. It’s an equal-opportunity-offender, which is why so many people love South Park.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole takes the best elements of the show and improves upon them in an interactive format. It’s easily one of the best games of the year, and a must-play game for everyone.

Thank you to Ubisoft for providing VG Culture HQ a review copy of The Fractured But Whole for review purposes.

Dead Rising 4 Review — The Circle is Now Complete

Frank West is back for the latest installment in Capcom’s popular Dead Rising franchise. The wisecracks, hilarity, and endless supply of zombies are still there, but the question remains if Dead Rising 4 lives up to the franchise’s name or merely drags it through the mud, again. A big deal was made of this game at E3, with Frank West even appearing in person at E3 (!) and our impressions from our short demo of the game were promising. The question remains though, did we find that it lived up to this promise in our Dead Rising 4 review?

Dead Rising 4 Review — Story

Dead Rising 4 is a breath of fresh air in the survival horror genre. The game doesn’t take its self too seriously, as evidenced by the main character Frank West, who is sarcastic, cocky, and constantly making hilarious wisecracks. The story takes place 16 years after the original zombie outbreak at Williamette, bringing the story full circle. Frank is now a renowned journalist for his coverage of the outbreak, but when he attempted to expose those responsible, he was shut down. Everything is about getting the story and Frank has some unresolved issues pertaining to this point. Now a professor, Frank teams up with his protégée Vick to get to the bottom of what is going on in Williamette, Colorado.

The Christmas theme is a nice touch, especially with its December release. The fact that the outbreak took place on Black Friday makes it all the more hilarious. There’s a hidden depth to the story though and a true mystery at hand which balances out the witty banter and ridiculousness of aspects of the story. The humor is a nice change of pace though for a zombie-centric game, contrasting nicely to The Walking Dead which is so grim.

Dead Rising 4 Review — Gameplay

The most satisfying part of Dead Rising 4 is taking on a horde of zombies and mowing them down. There are so many different weapons that you can wield/pick up, with three categories: melee, thrown, and ranged. Each has their own strengths and some of the weapons are ridiculous, in a good way, going along with the general theme of the game. There are also vehicles you can use to plow through zombies. The game is very much a hack-and-slash title, but when fighting against hordes of zombies, that is not a bad thing. To put it simply, the game is a ton of fun.

What I found most enjoyable was finding a spot with a ton of zombies laying in wait, throwing a Molotov cocktail, and then making my way through with a blaze sword and wiping them all out. It’s just cool. There are some minor glitches in the game, like zombies being stuck inside of counters and whatnot, but this is so minimal that to me it doesn’t really hold much significance. What’s also really awesome is that everyone’s experience while playing the game will be different because everyone has different styles of play and strategies. There are so many weapons to choose from.

There is also a basic skill tree where you can upgrade Frank’s abilities, such as his brawling, fortitude, shooting, and survival skills with skill points. It is rather basic, but, it works along with the leveling system. As Frank is an investigative journalist, he has a knack for taking pictures, and this is a lot of fun. There is a detective aspect to this and Frank’s camera is like something out of Batman when investigating a scene. Taking selfies with hordes of zombies in the background with Frank’s cheesy smile is priceless.

The game also has an open-world aspect complete with a map, giving the player more freedom than previous titles.

Dead Rising 4 Review — Atmosphere/Visuals and Multiplayer

One of the places where Dead Rising 4 really shines is in its atmosphere. It takes place during the holidays. The music is festive and eerily vibes well, ironically, with the grotesqueness of bashing in the brains of thousands of zombies. There’s a kind of humor to it, that again, is really the heart of the game. The town of Williamette is lit up with Christmas decorations and is beautiful, minus the zombie infestation. The game looks great and the re-imagined Williamette is everything fans could ask for and more. The fact that a good portion of it takes place in a shopping mall is so fitting, filled with holiday cheer. It is the perfect holiday game, literally.

There is also a multiplayer mode. The game is really a single-player experience, but the multiplayer mode is a nice touch. It allows you to play with three friends in a co-op mode outside of the main story and complete objectives. While it may be a disappointment there is no co-op campaign, the multiplayer doesn’t feel forced and is executed well.

Dead Rising 4 Review — Going Back to the Beginning

Dead Rising 4 really does go back to the series’ roots. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a really fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. As fun is something that Video Game Culture HQ values a great deal, we thoroughly enjoyed this game. The atmosphere and setting of the game is so fitting considering its holiday release, and it contrasts nicely to the ridiculousness of the whole thing. The game is a breath of fresh air in the zombie genre. It brings the series full circle, and as Darth Vader once said, “The circle is now complete.”

This couldn’t be more true in this case.

Thank you to Microsoft Studios for providing Video Game Culture HQ a review copy of Dead Rising 4.

Batman The Telltale Series Review — The Essence of Batman

Note: While we reviewed the first two episodes of the series, due to circumstances out of our control our review for the last three episodes are late. We will instead have our Batman The Telltale Series Review as a whole.

Telltale Games took a real gamble with Batman The Telltale Series. They changed the mythos so dramatically, yet at the same time they made it their own. Some chances paid off. Others didn’t work. Regardless, they are to be commended for their effort in bringing the Dark Knight to life, which is not an easy feat to live up to.

Batman The Telltale Series Review — The Bat or Bruce Wayne?

Telltale Games strove to feature Bruce Wayne in 50% of the scenes in the game and Batman in 50% of the game. To this effect, they succeeded with flying colors. Some episodes featured Batman or Bruce Wayne to a higher degree than others, but overall, they struck that balance. Each episode featured a penultimate choice as to whether wear the mask of Bruce Wayne or Batman. The game is a true character study of who is the true identity of this character: Bruce Wayne or Batman? I know I’m inclined to say that Bruce is the mask and Batman is his true nature, and my choices reflected that. There is one sequence in particular where you spar with the game’s villain. You can chose to remove your mask and the nature of who Bruce Wayne is is brought into question.

Batman The Telltale Series Review — Mythos

Telltale took a lot of chances with the Batman mythos in this game. They completely changed the nature of Bruce’s father, which to me almost nullified his entire reason for becoming Batman. It is a nice twist and still works, but by that same token it makes me question Bruce’s motivation after learning the truth. Harvey Dent’s character went from sane to homicidle in a matter of moments and there wasn’t as much development there as was needed. “John Doe” was one of the highlights of the series, although he only had two appearances. It certainly sets up season two. Selina Kyle stuck to her roots. Vicki Vale was changed dramatically, and this was a huge risk, but it worked really well. Telltale turned the Batman mythos into its own, which is a good thing.

Batman The Telltale Series Review — Choices

Telltale’s games are ultimately about choice. They involve moral dilemmas and emotional puzzles unlike anything found in modern gaming. Throughout the series, you are given some incredibly difficult choices to make. In retrospect I wish some of mine would have been different — but that’s the beautiful thing about it. I had to live with the consequences of my actions. I became so engrossed in the character of Batman, someone I can relate and empathize with, that I couldn’t look back. None of these choices are easy. Some are also dependent on your view of the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Again, who is the true mask? Batman or Bruce Wayne? I believe Bruce is the true mask and so my choices reflected that. Telltale weaved a masterful tale of a man hell bent on saving Gotham, despite the fact that most of the city despises him.

Batman The Telltale Series Review — Gameplay

The combat isn’t difficult in Batman The Telltale Series, but it is fun. Your meter builds up, and when it is full you can pull off a finishing move. While dying is not a common occurrence, this is okay. That’s not what this game is about. The highlight to me was the detective sequences. Batman is the greatest detective in the world with a genius intellect, and this really shines in the episodes of the game. I loved exploring each area, linking clues together, and even simulating how to take multiple enemies out before entering an area. The game both shows Batman’s brute force and his genius intellect, which is the essence of the character.

There were a lot of chances taken in Batman The Telltale Series. Most of them paid off. Telltale made the Batman mythos their own, pulling from 80 years or so of material. Most of it worked. Some fell short, but this was a steep hill to climb and they did a superb job. The story closed in perfect fashion, but it also set up season two rather nicely with our favorite “John Doe” sipping on a martini. Things will only get better from here.

Thank you Telltale Games for providing VG Culture HQ with a review copy of Batman The Telltale Series

Forza Horizon 3 Review (Xbox One)

Welcome to Australia where the largest car festival in the world takes place, and it is your role as director of the Horizon Festival to make this event the biggest and the best yet. Forza Horizon 3 is Playground Games’ third installment in their successful Forza Horizon series, and it’s their greatest achievement yet. What’s so impressive about what Playground Games has managed to accomplish is the sheer scope of Horizon 3. I’ve never played a Forza Horizon game before, I admit, but from car customization to the many different types of activities you can partake in to the customization of your festival and much, much, more, we found in our Forza Horizon 3 review that the game has something for everyone.

Forza Horizon 3 Review — Graphics/Presentation/Controls

Mines Hooning in Forza Horizon 3

The presentation in Forza Horizon 3 is superb. The menus are intuitive, the maps are easy to read, and the navigation system is a really nice touch. The game even has a feature where it can call you by your name (if it’s on the list), which really personalizes the whole experience. There are a wide array of cars to choose from, many from your favorite manufacturer, and even more that are unlockable later. You can create your own paint jobs or use existing designs, further personalizing the experience. You can also use credits that you gain by completing events to continuously upgrade the components in your car and make it fit your racing style.

The controls are tight, but every car controls differently because of their strengths and weaknesses with regards to handling, speed, acceleration, braking, etc. It can take some time to find the right combination for you, so the controls may be difficult at first. Once you find the right mixture though, the game really comes together.

It also must be noted that Forza Horizon 3 is one of the most beautiful games on the market right now. The diversity in the landscape of the game only exacerbates this, as you can be found racing on the beach, downtown, throughout the rainforest, and in the Australian Outback. This diversity makes the game stand out and as an open-world racing game allows for so much exploration.

Forza Horizon 3 Review — The Festival

Festival Night in Forza Horizon 3

The Horizon Festival is the largest car festival in the world and it is your job, as director, to bring as many fans to the event as possible to make this the biggest Horizon yet. You can do this by completing challenges, recruiting reputable racers to the festival by racing them head-to-head, showing off your skills in PR stunts, and much, much more. There is so much to do in Forza Horizon 3 that it’s a bit overwhelming.

The game is completely open-world so you drive around finding and completing events, even coming across a few secrets on the way. It’s a really cool approach to a racing game which I haven’t seen before, albeit I don’t play the genre that much. The events are diverse too; you aren’t pigeonholed into just racing and there’s a certain level of freedom of choice. The PR stunts are a lot of fun, although some are a bit crazy, and the challenges can be difficult, but they’re also a lot of fun.

forza-horizon-3-jungle

As you bring more fans to the Horizon Festival, you are able to expand into different areas outside of Byron Bay, your starting point. This takes you to the city, the Australian outback, and beyond. Each festival area has its own set of events (and secrets!) and the real fun is exploring and finding what’s out there. Setting up each location for your festival, signing record labels, and customizing events (you can do this!) allows you to truly make the festival your own. Hell, even the game calls you by your actual name!

You unlock new cars as you expand the festival and one of the great things about Forza Horizon 3 is that you can have just as much fun playing by yourself as with a friend, or a group of friends. It’s so cool to be able to just chill around and explore the game world with friends. This can either be a fun and laid back experience or incredibly competitive; how you play is up to you.

Forza Horizon 3 Review — The Ultimate Racing Game

Aussie Cars in Forza Horizon 3

One thing we found time and time again throughout our Forza Horizon 3 review is that it’s a total party. It’s the celebration to celebrate all racing games, and this just so happens to create the ultimate racing game. Forza Horizon 3 is not only the best racing game in the Forza franchise, but it’s the best racing game of all-time. It controls great, the experience is personalized, it’s addictive, and it’s a full-on party. The game has something for everyone. I’m not a huge car person but I still cannot manage to put Horizon down, and that’s a part of the game’s charm.

It’s a blast from beginning to finish and is a game that every Xbox One owner needs to play.

 

 

Thank You to Microsoft for Providing Video Game Culture HQ with a Copy of Forza Horizon 3 for Review Purposes.