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Shadow Warrior (2013)
Better than I expected
You are the top hit-man for the Zilla Corporation. Demons start invading Earth. It is up to you to retrieve the powerful Nobitsura Kage, a sword. Barely anything happens. There's almost no real plot here. There is backstory, and it is revealed almost entirely in exposition dumps. However, it is actually interesting. It involves half a dozen Ancients, including the ruler of the Shadow Realm where this starts, and the hordes are coming from. You know what happened almost right from the start. As you learn more, you come to understand why everyone did what they specifically did, and what it was like for them. And this has an ending, closure. There are elements that are clearly just setup for the next one. Which is happening, since this did well. Because if not, we wouldn't. But they don't take over here, and everything that matters is gone into. It could be less confusing, more engaging, less self-indulgent and told more fluidly. Cutscenes are in-engine POV and simple yet vivid animation of ancient scrolls. You are Lo Wang(Liebrecht, arrogant) and you're unwillingly partnered with Hoji(Dobrenko, eager). Both speak sarcasm fluently, and refuse to shut up. That gets old almost immediately. The latter was banished, with no memory of why. You need a guide, he can't interact with anything on this world. Not many are named, and you don't really wish there were more.
This took me 12 and a half hours. I experienced essentially all the content in minutes. It's repetitive and shallow. And also incredibly enjoyable. You will, as I did, spend almost all of this time using your katana to chop individual limbs off. They may live, and come at you, even crawling, zombie-style! You can thus take away their dominant hand, and thus their weapon and/or shield. This is tremendously easy and you can sleepwalk through it. Point in the right direction and click Attack a lot. You are hardly ever forced to use anything else. The rest of your arsenal is fine. Akimbo SMGs. Multi-barrel shotgun. Remote detonation sticky charge crossbow. Fire-bombing flamethrower. Laser pointer guided rocket launcher. That these are not as fun as they sound is an area where this fails.
Another reason you stay close-range in this is the Powers. Hold up Defense. Trap a handful of them. Shockwave. Heal at will. Actually, there are a lot of options for that kind of thing. Send out an arc of energy. Got a problem? Take a Stab at it. To unlock and upgrade those requires points, and this hands those out to you like candy. Well, outside of the Money for the weapons. Don't waste those. You might think you can't, going by the other two. It does kill the pace to deal with these, when, really, it could have just given you a quick multiple choice thing at those times. Yes, tapping a direction and then clicking and/or holding and releasing either mouse 1 or 2 can be awkward, and some find it straining on the wrists. I can't say: the damage is done, I've had mild carpal tunnel for years, and so never play for very long in one sitting.
This is visually impressive. While the graphics vary, they're never less than great, and can be excellent. This has beautiful sights, such as the breathtaking vistas. All designs are varied. Yes, the enemies largely use melee against you, and are almost exclusively humanoid. Still, they all look distinctly differently. Some partially glow green. Orange or yellow that burns. Not grey, bland or forgettable. Some can block, teleport, turn invisible, take you on from range, even fly. Rarely are you forced to sheathe your tool. Sometimes at glitches that prevent them from closing in on you. There are a few humans, shooting or fencing.
Tasks are straight-forward, and, as all else interactive in this, lack variety. Key-hunt and press buttons to turn bridges, raise and/or lower cranes, activate elevators, etc. Physics are at times slow to respond, with a fraction of a second of a delay. That's sadly enough to take us out of it. There are a handful of minor jumping puzzles, and nothing else of that type. This is enormously smooth. You can toss infinite Shurikens. They're not that effective. I mean, they do almost nothing to hurt. And they auto-aim, ricochet and the like. So they don't go straight when you want to use them like that, for setting off explosive environment hazards. Anything that looks like it could go off... vehicle, obviously gas tanks, etc. They use up Stamina. Almost nothing else does. Really, only Sprint, or for shorter and not merely Forward, Dash. Those are very useful. Keep away from danger. That includes facing the huge, 100s of metres tall boss fights. Those do get bogged down in tedium and grinding, as mini ones do, as well.
This isn't going to get you to come back. You can get and do almost anything you want on just one playthrough. It does help that there are 4 difficulty settings, with one additional you get upon completion. There's also a New Game + mode where you get to keep all you earned. And what you were just given for participating. You can save anytime, except for maybe right in the thick of it. Just get a few seconds between you and the dozens of them that you will often face down. There are cute nods to its source with textures and audio for the at times ill-hidden secrets. Arcade machines with titles by the developers or publishers. Levels are too open, leading to annoying backtracking, finding lots of dead ends. Good thing the door you need to take will always very clearly glow. You only have an issue whenever you can't see that, or it isn't about finding and going through it.
Constant violence: present. I recommend this to any fan of FPS'. 90's ones as well as modern ones that are throwbacks to those. 6/10
Killing Floor (2009)
Because "Murder Room" was too on-the-nose
London. Yup, with accents, slang and currency. A Biotech corporation conducts experiments that deform, mutate, and monsterfy people. They start spreading, and the gov't assembles any cop and such into a series of small teams to try to solve the issue. It's no secret why you're here. So they frontload that. This has over 33 weapons(not counting the pay-to-win DLC, which I have not purchased). The fire ones are obscenely enjoyable. You won't believe how far you can throw that flame. Bodies charring and coming apart. Regardless of what type you prefer, this has several for that one, including some of the most beloved, and they're all worth using. SCARMK17, HSG-1, M99 AMR, M32, etc. The Doom inspiration is clearly evident, and the only area this doesn't live up to it is in how bland and basic the enemy design is. They can hurt ya real bad, they look largely human, size difference is negligible and most can't even hit you from far away.
The obvious rival here is Left 4 Dead 2. I've already covered the creatures. Its chainsaw is more fun and "seems" less loud. The gibbing and melee is more satisfying. There's a sense of getting to where you're going, doing something to save someone. The dynamic pacing. Greater production values. Then, this is more tactical. More options, if only by a little, of what to carry and use. Sharing is required. This is tougher. Contagion-style welding, while far from the heights that reaches in spite of this being where it originates, can be vital here. It and healing can be done quickly and then it'll recharge. You can go back and forth, keeping subjects at a high rating. Heck, there are SMGs and ARs with darts to fix up your allies. Carry 3 at a time, and you can use each in quick succession. Zeds that face a door they can't open will tend to go elsewhere, meaning you're not slowing them down as much as redirecting them.
Earning money is how you better your arsenal. Unfortunately, that becomes a Catch-22. With what you start out, you can't take out that many, and thus don't make that much. Though the idea is that everyone shares, it often just doesn't work out like that. Why not automatically do that? Maybe you should open up with at least a little better stuff. Or give more ways to collect dosh. The modding community completely embraced this. There are 1.852 separate items as I type this. Personally, I had problems. I intended to do all maps first, and didn't realize the 50 subscription limit... since it does not tell you about it, I learned about it from the Steam boards. I got to try 92 of the 855, and then wasn't able to get anything new, left with just those. Joining someone with anything you don't have means it'll try to download, without telling you how much there is in total.
You will have to defeat the boss, The Patriarch. He's cybernetically enhanced with a M134 on one arm, and has... altered himself. He can turn invisible, and if not burning, can quickly get close or far away. Not a nice person, this one. To even reach him, you will have to get through the waves. 4, 7, 10, or a custom amount. On average, half an hour. Think Counter-Strike. A series of TDM sessions, that's this in a nutshell. You can always tell how many are left to take out. It gets to be 180 or so! Between these you visit the trader's, who then moves, preventing camping which I honestly didn't experience often in general. You can resell at a good rate, refill ammo, get body armor. And yes, this does raise questions. How are you getting cash? Implicitly looting bodies? What does she need it for? Why not hand out the arms for free?
This comes with more than the one mode. Objective is like an action-adventure. You find keys, locate goals, etc. There's actually kind of plot during this. You're in the specific area, there's a single character who communicates with you. Usually, he's looking for your help, and he'll guide you around, getting you to finish things he started and couldn't. The idea is that you have different tasks, split up, cover each other, etc. There's Gun Game, where you for every kill get the next, yeah. Starting with the pistols. And once you reach the top one, you've won. And since they're not equally easy to make things dead with, it changes how you go about it. Very addictive. It's also the only way to have AI allies, since otherwise, offline solo play is, well, just that. Only you. All by yourself.
The 6 of you will have 7 Perks to choose from. Each player takes on the responsibility of theirs, and you will have to eliminate one of them. They cover the different ways to play this well. Rising through the levels will require grinding. Do a certain action 30 times. Then 100. This will make some quit. I know it's because there are less than 10 to climb. RPGs tend to fare better when it's a gradual thing. And when you get things along the way. You don't "get anything" here. It refines the skills associated, that's all. Releasing a polished UT2K04 mod 2 years after Unreal Engine 3 came out meant this would immediately be dated. Saving on the licensing fee is all well and good, but graphics do matter to a lot, including the target audience of this. The sound effects can be pretty meh. If you find this gets repetitive, that is not going to change. It can seem to lack variety. Not for everyone. There are quite a few servers, and with filters, you'll have an easy time zeroing in on one.
There is constant brutal, gory violence in this. I recommend this to any fan of the classic id Software titles. 6/10
Beyond Good & Evil (2003)
Somewhere in the middle
The year is 2435. Not Earth. The planet Hillys. The peaceful population is under sustained attack by the alien Domz. Forcefields help, although only if you can pay your bill on time. The Alpha Section troops are always showing up too late. The media claim otherwise, asking the pertinent question: what do you do when faced with authorities who let awful things happen, when reporters refuse to spread that fact, and physical harm coming to you and your loved ones? There is a conspiracy going on, and you have to uncover it. As a photographer, you will document it. You're not Rambo, setting explosives and destroying entire bases. You're Jade(Forrest, determined). And you'll be sneaking in, snapping shots, and let the people know what's going on. Admittedly, the more you understand what's going on, the less sense it makes, and the ending is a clichéd, twist-laden mess. Still, there is some good drama there. This does realize that kids can handle that, and scary material, as well. Some will find it too child-friendly. It helps that there's so much substance here.
You almost always work with a companion. Cooperation and friendship are among the values this promotes. You can go places they can't and vice versa. The reasonable puzzles require you to work together you won't get far without utilizing each others considerable talents. I do wish that there wasn't a pause between you telling them to help and them doing so. It can mess up the timing, when, really, this is something that could have easily been avoided. In addition, you gain the ability to throw discs great distances, and this can be used as an attack whether your presence is known or not, and activate those of the countless switches that are far off. You'll take pictures of all animal life. Including, if you have nerves of steel, those about to smack you with something. Every species once, and you'll be paid well. The rarer, the better. As long as they're of high quality: not too far away, etc. And it does aid you in ensuring that, telling you exactly what failed, and giving an indicator of when it's right, and when it's not, what's wrong about it. This includes the humanoid ones that you live among. You're encouraged to recognize that they look, sound and sometimes behave different from you, yet also that they're helpful, competent and, like you, they belong.
This mixes different types of addictive action-adventure gameplay well, each is fun, well-done, gradually increases in challenge and appropriate in amount. Don't get me wrong, the difficulty can be uneven, and spikes at bosses. The climax will seem impossible until you get the hang of it. While the accessible nature of this, and its easy-to-learn controls, do sometimes lead it to feel too simple, they make great use of all of these elements to keep throwing different situations at you that you can maneuver via your skills and tools. The minigames and racing can be annoying, yes. They can also be ignored, provided you do well enough elsewhere. The latter especially feels right out of a licensed title, much like the terrible third person camera. Ironically, when it locks your view and forces you to adapt the directional keys since they change with it, it's at its best. When you have to turn it yourself, it will try your patience. The platforming has you climbing and jumping ledges.
The stealth is line-of-sight based. You're waiting for soldiers to turn and/or move away, so you can pass unseen, behind them, blocking their view with crates on conveyor belts and the like. Them spotting you first due to poor design choices are the only real problem with this aspect. It's tremendously satisfying to clear an area, to finally be able to defeat the guards by breaking their air supply sending this previously very real threat pathetically floating off, etc. The only settings being factories and caves, particularly the former, do end up a tad boring. Some of these culminate in you running away, avoiding the dangers behind you, very thrilling.
Combat has been called the weakest element, pointing to how light it is. Hardly. I find the unreliable dodge function to be its biggest fault... not sending you in the right distance, direction, sometimes not launching you at all. It's a minimal version of that of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, based on the same engine. You'll be somersaulting between foes that are a bit apart from each other and you, can easily switch which one you're facing and hitting, and you have a radial charge. This is also where you not being alone, in this singleplayer piece, comes in very handy. With help, you can instakill, even using evil robots to disable electrical barriers in your path.
Your hovercraft will take you almost anywhere you can go in this, and when you've earned it, your interstellar spaceship will close that last gap. Fire at anything in front of you, either rapidly at the center of the screen, or hold down to automatically target. It does allow friendly fire, for some reason. And it tends to go for things that aren't close before the ones that are, which makes regenerating mine fields, further worsened by the seafaring vessels bouncy nature, an irritant. This can seem too open, given that the map does not list major areas of interest. You have to online for that, which shouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately you can't play on after completion, which would have fit the otherwise partial similarity to Grand Theft Auto, and given it replay value. Honestly, I do think I'll return to this. It took me 11 and a half hours, and I did not go for every collectible.
There is mild violence in this. I recommend it to any fan of the genres it covers, young and old alike. It will make you think, care, and it did not deserve to bomb. 6/10
X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
A mix of "seen done better before" and "who would wanna watch this"
The ancient Apocalypse returns and wants to destroy the world. For companions, he recruits those of the emo teens who don't already go to the School for the Gifted and provide annoying angsty melodrama. Bryan Singer recreates some of his most beloved moments from the series with less effort, and sticks in bits he was previously forced to cut. Like X3 and First Class(which happened 20 years ago. Ignore that no one looks to have aged by anywhere near that much), the main threat and the team are two separate plot lines fighting for attention. Then they smash together at the end.
Some claim this has a lot of action. Not at all. There's almost none, outside of the climax, which isn't that impressive, or memorable, in spite of what the director has done in the past. Civil War does, you could watch that again. But there we do have Roland Emmerich style destruction, which this is oddly callous towards. We're going backwards. Young versions of characters, most of which were already wasted. At least give us new ones. Or do them well. Comic relief is hit and miss.
There is a ton of death, with blood and brutal gore on corpses, and a little strong language in this. I recommend this to anyone needing reminding just how wildly the quality of this film franchise fluctuates. 5/10
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016)
They want to what now? We already gave them the right to vote!
New neighbors, gender-swap, bigger stakes, less characterization. Someone took the script for the first one, went Search and Replace, set to bold every gag, deleted the riffing, added feminism which it occasionally forgets its position on albeit it remains a vocal advocate, and this is what we got. Far funnier and more consistently hilarious. Not as good of a film, but that was never the goal with these two...soon to be three...? This makes a call that greatly benefits it: the setting is simply no longer the real world. Consequences are a thing of the past. Bones don't break, cops don't show, and so on. This allows them to be as crazy as the trailers suggest, in spite of about half of the footage in there not being in the final cut.
The girls get to dish it out, now even more so. Stupidity has grown rapidly. Teddy(Ephron, who remains one of the best parts) is in the middle. You know how he was pretty psychopathic before? Well, this time, he has the full meltdown. It practically opens the film. He just wants to be valued! And he totally knows stuff! Not much, but some, and it's remarkably specific! This does suffer from the writers, all 5 of them, clearly not quite knowing, well, women. Why they didn't have them grab a pen... well, there's that sexism again. Thus, there's a lot of stereotyping going on there, and not a lot of depth. The climax is genuinely a fizzling out. Resolution is forced, albeit it is at least there...that's one of the first things this admits.
There is constant strong language, some sexuality, and a little violence in this. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys raunchy comedies. 7/10
Dead Space (2008)
Engineer Isaac Clarke(yes, named after the two amazing authors) and his small crew respond to its SOS, and get stranded on a large, abandoned mining ship, the Ishimura. A planet-cracker. It's mostly broken. Warranty's out, so it's up to you to fix it. Along the way, you piece together what on ...well, not Earth, happened. And your girlfriend was stationed there! Will she be in a refrigerator by the time you find her? Is the story ever going to get interesting or surprise you? And did EA forget who they were when they made this? No bugs, new IP, taking risks... I guess there really is a first time for everything.
Wearing its inspirations on its sleeve, this also manages to add to them. If you had told me this took Event Horizon's floating orb, jumped mediums, and made it several times bigger, *then* had you *walk on its surface*, I could have told you that would make it infinitely more compelling. The attention to detail and scope are breathtaking. Watching an intricate machine so vast it could crush you and not pause for a second run from what is clearly an unsafe distance because it's the only way to proceed never fails to send a chill down your spine. In spite of samey corridors, areas in this tend to have deeply memorable, even creative, level design. They look distinct and each have a theme their own. The medical section with its OR full of failed attempts to save those attacked. Engineering with a huge centrifuge you have to activate then avoid being smooshed by... of course. Cargo with sharp, mechanical designs.
Unfortunately that's about it for the positives, and in spite of their value, it is often obscured by the rest. The single most important aspect must always be gameplay. Because if you took that one element away, it's not a VG. And this fails in that aspect, on account of a series of misguided, albeit clearly well-meaning decisions. The developers studied horror films and went out of their way to recreate what works. But it's so action-driven, more gory than terrifying, it feels not unlike watching The Thing by fast-forwarding through anything that doesn't have violence. There's no contrasting, no soothing periods inbetween. It's all at cranked volume. It's almost exclusively jump-scares. Where they come out gets to be predictable.
The way you move, and orient yourself, are the most immediate way you interact with the world, including one built from the ground up. And that's where they made their biggest mistake. The controls are awkward and never get to feel like second nature. And this is probably the worst TPP angle I've encountered. He takes up half the screen. At best, it's a struggle. When you're swarmed by creatures, trying to find your way, and/or unsure of what to do to proceed, it's more than enough to talk you out of sticking with this. I would never have gotten far in this if not for my stubborn refusal to give up on these.
Enemies are all Necromorphs. Reanimated human corpses. Forget targeting the body. They can take a ton of punishment there. You have to cut them apart. One limb at a time. And even when you do that, some will simply split off into smaller beings. There's tremendous variety in size, movement, speed, how they assault you, etc. If this didn't end up as one of the gimmicks, if it didn't end up rote, and especially if fending them all off didn't get frustrating and boring, this would be an amazing aspect.
The weapons are rather unique and, as a nice touch: they're improvised from mining tools. Energy, "cutting", sawing. But some are not that useful, such as due to being good for pumping lead into what you point it at, which, as stated before, does not get you very far. Others are overpowered, and are part of why the difficulty in this jumps back and forth between too easy and more irritating than, technically speaking, challenging. The melee is stilted and rarely useful. Except for when you're forced to mash Use, taking you completely out of it, culminating in it smashing what was trying to tear through you. You end up watching as if someone else, waiting for it to let you continue. This is true of a lot of deaths, as well. This, along with the prevalence of "go to the tram", breaks how this "doesn't pause".
There is no traditional HUD in this. It's all holographic projections, and displays on the back of your suit. It goes a long way in making you forget this isn't real life. But then it takes a full second to check things. The 3D map is a mess on account of handling long hallways, elevator shafts and the like, "to scale". It baffles me that they did this. Certain things have no hotkey. And you'll sound like you're dying long before that is the case. TK leads to several cool, fun actions. It and the Stasis letting you slow down objects are wasted on basic and repetitive puzzles.
Zero Gravity is used well. In these portions, you can walk on, as well as jump to and from, nearly any surface that isn't outright dangerous to step on. Some rooms have you going completely from right side up, through up the side, to on the ceiling. And this all happens in complete, limitless silence. Except for your mandatory humming of The Blue Danube. The camera being slow and reluctant to "follow", correct for your new angle, mars this. Why it doesn't indicate it, I don't know. Aliens Versus Predator 2 does, and is over half a decade prior to this.
There is a lot of disturbing content and some strong language in this in this. I recommend this only to the very forgiving, who find the mix of these elements otherwise largely not original, that have been done better elsewhere. 4/10
Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Whoever loses... the audience wins
The amount of collateral damage leads the UN to pass the Sokovia Accords. Accountability for The Avengers. This leads to a split down the middle of the team, for reasons political as well as personal. Can they trust the government? This time? Which matters most: Security vs. civil liberties? Which side is right? Who's to say? Well, who will emerge victorious? Will they be able to all work together ever again? And just how far might they go, for their point of view, against those they've fought beside, some for several years? This joins the select, short list of the very best of the whole franchise, with the two team outings and Cap's second movie. Marvel... this expanding universe, just, keep the pictures coming. We'll keep going to them. As long as they're this compelling we will. Do note that this expects you to be well-versed in these. Of course, you can just take in Age of Ultron, and you'll be completely prepared for this.
If the Russos needed to prove that they could take over from Whedon, then this film should settle the matter. Every character is well-represented, in every respect. They make the juggling act look easy. And yes, they have a sense of humor in there, and it fits. Do expect less quipping. Even Tony(Downey Jr., reaching a new level of loss), as pointed out in this, is subdued in this aspect. And the first MCU all-out, heroes taking each other, not the villains, on... so many potential match-ups, exploring interpersonal relationships, power dynamics, trust, and this just plain delivers. Oh, and, are you even remotely into Spider-Man? Watch this, even if that's the one element you're interested in. He's not in it much, of course, but he's spot-on every second of it, he gets a lot of the best moments, and it's just such a sheer joy to see, sixth live action appearance, and Feige's first shot at it, they completely understand him and bring the panels to life. No one could have convinced me that I'd be eager for the third continuity in less than a decade.
There is some dark, disturbing and violent content in this. I recommend this to any fan of modern spy thrillers. 10/10
The book is better
A reboot is pitched. It doesn't go well. Sadly, the idea is better than many that are green-lit, produced and released.
Among the cameos we have poor Clint Howard mugging away, as we're... "treated"? to fart jokes and similarly dumb material. The "joke" goes on for entirely too long. Pippi reimagined as a comic book hero: hey, there might be some material there! She does have super-strength... but then this also gives her regular guns for some reason. And almost immediately, this veers off into directions that make you wonder why they picked this property for the parody, when they could have gone with anything else, or nothing at all.
This debuted on "funny or die", a site I do what I can to steer clear of since I find that when it doesn't fall into the former, it does deserve the latter. Hey, at least they realized when they titled it. The only reason I watched this was because I try to give a watch to anything Milla Jovovich is in. Casting her in this is of course going off her action heroine roles. And her appearance here partly works: she pulls off those ridiculous pigtails, the red haircolor, heck, until she replaces it with black leather, the dorky outfit wasn't bad on her. She fares well.
There is some mild violence in this. I recommend this only to those who refuse to believe it exists unless they see it. 3/10
Duke Nukem II (1993)
Therefore you are
It is the near future of 1998. Duke Nukem is doing an interview about your new autobiography Why I'm So Great. The evil humanoid space-suit wearing alien species the Rigelatins plan to enslave Earth, and they kidnap him. Their leader is no Dr. Proton with him gone, we're want for a villain with distinct face, personality and continuous presence. They're going to use his brain to plot the attack for their armies. It'll hurt. They'd kill him, but their religion specifically prohibits preventing pain. Look, he does know a lot, OK? He's super-pumped *all* of his muscles. He breaks free to save the world, again. You are thus no longer in the decimated cities, rather, you're soaring the sky - from one type of cool sci-fi to another. I base this on the PC version, not Game Boy Color version, that I understand is completely different from this and that I have not tried. I am going to be comparing this to the original throughout.
This remains colorful and seriously addictive. There's always a card that you need to collect to access past the force fields and/or a key that must be obtained to get past locked doors. A cloaking device makes him temporarily invincible and disables the super force fields. Nope, dunno why a cloaking field would do that. You can save after any area, with F2 and then Enter. You can even give name them! There are 8 slots. It heals you back to full at the end of one. Why change how to do it? A Help feature. This adds Restart Beacons, instead of going back to the start. Can't store to them, they're only for on this playthrough. And it may keep how much life you have, and go back to that when you die! So don't suicide to get full if you didn't have it! This is looser, more fun and less stiff. There are simple jumping puzzles, climbing ladders, operating elevators(hold down for how far you want to go), using teleporters, hovering over blowing fans and climbing hand-over-hand across pipes or girders that allow for creative level design, which they take great advantage of. You'll need to do some memorization - you can often always go anywhere, points of no return are banned. This doesn't mean that you're in mazes... well, not all the time. They increase in challenge gradually and it's all about timing, speed, reflexes and eye-to-hand-coordination. This has 3 difficulty settings, and is challenging on easiest, which is what I beat it on, in 6 hours. You can cheat, but it'll set your points to zero... it says, I didn't do so. There is no fall damage unless you land in something that hurts you. You're never stunned. There is some insta-death, don't touch it if it looks dangerous. Sometimes this is the "ground", so careful if you can't see where you'll land.
This hardly ever cheaply throws things at you to make you do things over, instead relying on your skill, and your ability to roll with sudden occurrences. Say, is something falling out of the sky? Has it recently? No to both? Then it for sure will soon. Unless your location is inside. What will it be? Wait and see, and be ready for it! Of course, a lot of things, the first time you see 'em, you're not sure whether to touch and/or use, kill and/or avoid, or something you'll just pass through. Rarely do a lot of these show up at once, they're introduced over time. You open boxes for their contents. Note that the red ones may have dynamite! Hey, you get about half a second to get away, and their reach is relatively short! And they don't only damage you... or even things you're there for. They go boom outwards, meaning that their creamy nougat center is safe. They do get to be ridiculously common, worse as it goes on. It's really the only harmful element in this where they go to the well too many times. There are irritating white flashes from especially big explosions, those are too common. Some may contain the letters of your name, which don't only serve to teaching basic spelling: it will give you 10.000 points, which... oh well it is better than nothing. Near the very end, this does get obnoxious. Not everything in your way can be killed or the like, some of these things, you can merely avoid. Occasionally you'll get to use a jet-powered flying board, like that of Jazz Jackrabbit but way more badass! You fly it at your own pace including incredibly fast, any direction, and it has an unlimited swift, destructive raygun. You can even leave it temporarily, for, say, climbing.
You can now pick up weapons along the way. There are four types of such: His regular default gun which is the only to not have limited ammo, the flamethrower (which can go through walls and launch him in the air), the laser (which can go through anything, whether you want it to or not, and doesn't kill just anyone with a single shot) and the powerful rocket launcher(with incredibly small blast radius. What it fires are red, white and blue. How do they blow stuff up? America). He can also get a rapid fire powerup, for any of aforementioned. Look/shoot upwards, down if hanging by hands crouch then fire. The controls are smooth, responsive, and them changing from the situation is intuitive: you never fail to press the right thing. SFX are better. Before, there being no music gets to be deafeningly silent. In this, you've got midi: quite good, catchy. If you buy this on GOG.com, which I did and you should, you can listen to it separately, and it also comes with a hint sheet and the manual.
There is a lot of mild violence in this. I recommend this to any fan of run and gun platform games, especially from this era. 8/10
Mafia II (2010)
Sleeps with the fishes
You are Vito(Pasqualone, does what he can with the dull material), and you refuse to become your father: breaking his back working on the dock, drinking himself to death. The man did leave his family $2000 in debt, which you have to repay. While this is your initial reason for joining the mob, the luxury it allows soon becomes all you care about. There's no remorse for any of the awful things you have to do... people like this do, and did, exist, that doesn't mean we want to spend much time in their head. There's exactly one character that isn't a tiring cardboard cutout, and that's your buddy Joe(Costanzo, likable). He's thankfully the one you spend the most time with. And yet no option to play this co-op, much less MP. Betrayal, murder, smuggling. There are twists. Still, you don't want to see what happens next in this. You're given no reason to care, it's never compelling, and once you reach the ending, which is so many different shades of lame, you wonder why you even got into this at all.
This has truly cinematic cutscenes, carefully "filmed" and cut. There are some very Scorsese mobster movie montages. Luckily a lot of them can be skipped, because some get long, and sometimes even when it ends, you're not doing anything interesting. This is not set during the prohibition and Depression. Rather, it's after, during WWII, and in the 50's. It tells you when time has passed, which is good, because nobody ages in this. This is sometimes romanticized, other times tragic, with a lot of ugly details. It is bloody, and there is lots of casual strong language. The F-words and such feel out of place, and there are ones that are far more recent. "It should sound like modern language, so we 'know what they mean'"? The rest of this isn't, not even only that aspect. The authenticity is thorough. It immerses you in the period setting. That does remain the main shortcoming of these: it'll never be GTA. No boats, helicopters, bikes, RPGs, etc. Here, the city itself has almost nothing for you to do in the many too similar areas, you can barely explore since you're never "off work", and you're even given what you might work for. Why get so close and then refuse to compete?
A lot about this is more fun and less frustrating than the first one. However, it also gets rid of almost everything that made it great. It ends up tremendously bland and unimpressive. There are more and bigger types of guns, including extremely rare addictive use of an MG 42. None of them are useless. The shotgun is not weak, albeit it almost ends up like a rifle. That's practically the only one you won't just get by picking up what those you kill drop. You thus never truly worry about ammo. They almost might as well not have bothered with stores for them. And why does it say "bring a piece", as if I had a choice in the matter? At least you're not forced to start with only a single pistol, and no way to choose otherwise. And in the age of "1 primary and a secondary", this lets you carry, and even hide, each of them at the same time! You can take apart some wood and glass, as well as tires... this comes up so rarely that you wonder why they put it in at all. Because they could? Grenades and molotovs remain. Stunlocking is gone. 3 body shots or one to the head will get the job done. This adds a cover mechanic, and befitting the rest of this, it's just average. Duck a lot since they don't tend to flank. And watch for friendlies deciding to run in front. The melee is back, though fists only, no longer bat/knife/crowbar/brass knuckles/etc. It's now detailed: you hit light or hard. There are brutal finishers and a grab: these are prompted, as you couldn't otherwise tell. You can taunt. And there's a dodge, which requires no timing: just hold it. You can counter. This badly needs a block-break. There's not a lot of fighting. But considering how limited and samey it is, there is too much of it, relatively speaking.
There are far less cars in this, as in, 30-40 compared to basically 100, meanwhile, it does away with almost all the useless ones. Handling is decent. You can store 10 in your clearly-too-small-for-that garages, always one where you live, all of which share the same ones. No, that makes no sense, and breaks the realism the rest of this works so hard to create and maintain. There are 4 vehicle angles, including front bumper or left wheel, and a 360 degree free camera, which is the one you have when on foot. Missions lack the creativity of setup of the previous one, and all run together into a grey mass of meh. You're rarely doing something fun. You may start, and end, any given one by going between the 3rd floor and the outside of not only your own, no, also your buddy's apartment, driving to and from, instead of just, you know, getting to the point already. Lockpicking is done via a tumbler. You have to set three pins, one at a time, and messing up one costs you any you'd already done. You push it up and release it, grabbing it when it glows green. Beware of gravity! It is the only mini-game/QTE, so in places that could hold those, you're instead standing, pressing Use, and, maybe, if you behave, you'll get to take a few steps in a pre-determined direction. Yippee. Please restrain me I'm so excited about this.
In addition to what I've already mentioned, there is a lot of casual sexuality and nudity in this. I recommend this only to the select few who want the original game done worse as long as it's more accessible. 4/10