I’ve been a HUGE fan of beat-em-up games for a very long time. While I liked fighting games at the arcades such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, they never had quite the long-term appeal that beat-em-ups did. While I never really played them at the arcades, I still clearly remember when my friend Justin got Final Fight for his Super Nintendo. We stayed up so late playing it! I loved the levels, variety of enemies, the number of attacks and throws possible, everything about it.
It wasn’t until I’d had my Sega Genesis for quite awhile before I discovered the Streets of Rage series. Primarily playing the second one, I remember that it easily equaled Final Fight, if not surpass it. I think like the Genesis compared to the Super Nintendo, Streets of Rage just seemed to have a bit more edge to it.
After a VERY LONG hiatus, wherein I complained to both myself and online on the lack of a new beat-em-ups, I began to hear rumblings of a new Streets of Rage! I tampered my enthusiasm, dismissed rumors, and remained in my past-game-grump. But before long teaser videos and a trailer emerged, confirming that a new Streets of Rage was coming! The previews of the artwork were stunning, the animation smooth, and even the hints of music instantly shoved me back to the 90s. Was it too good to be true?
After playing the game for several months, I can happily say that Streets of Rage 4 is not only a worthy sequel, it’s one of the best beat-em-ups period! Licensed by Sega to publisher Dotemu, the game was co-developed by Lizardcube and Guard Crush Games. The game runs on a modified engine from Guard Crush Game’s tongue-in-cheek beat-em-up (wow such dashes) Streets of Fury.
A far cry from that game’s look, Streets of Rage 4 is exactly what’s been needed in this genre. With a returning cast of characters, along with a few new ones, players will take on new enemies in new locations, all the while collecting familiar weapons, health, and power-ups. I highly recommend this game not only for fans of Streets of Rage and beat-em-ups, but for anyone who enjoys action games and is looking for something that can be played and enjoyed in a variable length of time, whether it’s simply to beat a single level or to sit down for a marathon session and go through the entire game.
After the release of Resident Evil 7, Capcom had a bit of success and renewed enthusiasm on their hands. Their new engine made the game look great, and the move to first-person was generally a success. While everyone was happy to have an all-new entry in the series, there was apparently enough demand after the Resident Evil 1 remake to do the same for the second game, along with a forthcoming remake of teh third entry. Unlike 1 remake’s traditional third-person perspective and 7’s first-person perspective, for Resident Evil 2 they decided on an over-the-shoulder view, and I think it really works well. I do wish the remake for 1 was in first-person, as that would really immerse the player in the atmosphere of the mansion.
By default the game begins with the player as Leon Kennedy (who more people may know from the fourth game), driving to Raccoon City to begin his new job on their police force. Stopping at a convenience store on the way, shit hits the fan and he escapes with Claire (whose brother happens to be Chris Redfield) and heads to the city.
Split off from Claire, Leon makes his way to the police station, a retrofitted museum. Armed only with a pistol, Leon starts exploring the station, soon finding a shotgun to help fight the enemies. First there are zombies to contend with, and then a “licker” is found crawling the wall and ceiling. While it’s possible to sneak by these blind enemies, if you’re running from other zombies or the Tyrant then the lickers will almost certainly get you.
Oh yeah, the Tyrant, aka “Mr. Stompy-stomp”. He is without doubt the scariest enemy in the game, not only just because he’s basically invincible. I think it really is due to the sound of his footsteps as he gets closer, and the fact he is ALWAYS roaming around. While he moves slightly slower than the player can run, he does speed up if within close distance. Besides running, he will also home in on you when you inevitably have to shoot a zombie in your way.
Eventually Leon makes his way to the parking garage, the sewer, and the Umbrella labs. Along the way are several more fun weapons and enemies, along with another character, Ada Wong. You get to play with her for a short while, armed with a pistol and a handy electronic hacking tool.
After completing Leon’s portion of the game, we start over again, this time as Claire. Split off from Leon, she also makes her way to the police station, this time near the back where the helicopter has already crashed. Early on Claire has 2 pistols: a weak pea-shooter with little ammo and a hip-shot .45 revolver that’s slow to reload. Thankfully it’s not long before she gets a grenade launcher(!) and an uzi(!!). Going through the station, the Tyrant also makes an earlier entrance, which helps to keep the tension going despite Claire’s impressive arsenal.
Eventually Claire makes it out of the police station, also through the parking garage, and makes her way to the orphanage to save Sherry. For a short while you actually play as Sherry, trying to escape the orphanage and avoiding Chief Irons. Before she’s inevitably caught, however, William busts in and kills him. Claire arrives at the orphanage, saving Sherry and takes her through the sewers, to the train car, and finally the lab.
Upon defeating the mutated William and saving Sherry once and for all, Claire meets Leon on the train and escapes the self-destructing lab.
Similar to the first Resident Evil, the best part of RE2 is the initial environment (in this case the police station) and playing as Leon. Exploring this new environment, finding clues about what happened, and those little items and treasure that open new doors and areas never seems to get old.
Everything that comes after isn’t necessarily bad. Claire’s campaign is also fun to play, and the different weapons do help, but I certainly wish Claire was forced away from the police station to a different and unique location to play through, such as an apartment complex, mall, etc.
Overall I had a lot of fun with the Resident Evil 2 remake, and I’m curious to see how well the third one does!
After far too long of a wait the next episode of Life is Strange 2 is out, and my wife and I played this over a couple of evenings. As usual for an episode in this game, this one continued to leave me disappointed, confused, and not really looking forward to the next (and final) episode.
Sean wakes up from an apparent coma in the hospital, his left eye removed and leaving him in pain. An FBI agent wants to know where his still-missing brother is, while a helpful nurse tries to lift his spirits. Through the dialogue options Sean can be either halfway-helpful or confrontational with both.
Escaping by way of a hot-wired car, Sean drives east to Nevada. Stopping for the night off the road for sleep, he’s awakened by racist white men (one wasn’t enough Dontnod?), forcing Sean to sing in Spanish while going through the car’s contents. Thankfully the scene is short and far less distressing than it could be (seriously, if this wasn’t a game it would be borderline unwatch-/readable). After driving off the car soon runs out of gas (way to plan ahead Sean), forcing Sean to continue on foot.
Nearly dying of exposure and thirst, the one helpful white guy in the game, a trucker, offers Sean a lift (seriously, I was so relieved that he turned out to be a decent person). Sean finally arrives in Nevada at the church where Jacob once lived. Daniel has been taken in by the stereotypical crazy Christian leader, and Sean doesn’t seem too phased by this. Even when Sean shows up, Daniel doesn’t immediately go with him; he prefers to stay!
In a surprise to no-one, Sean and Daniel’s mother turns up, and it’s as anti-climactic as it could possibly be. Did she have secret powers like Daniel? Nope. Is she a secret spy/agent/criminal packing enough firepower and lack of morals to storm the church to rescue her son and redeem herself to both of her sons? Lol nope. She’s aimless, boring, unsure of anything, and is the walking epitome of “show, don’t tell” gone wrong.
Coordinating with Joseph, Sean and her mom go to the church to rescue a reluctant Daniel. After clicking through more uninspired dialogue Daniel finally agrees to leave, but not without his “powers” lashing out again, causing a fire to start which eventually consumes the entire building. This is the last part of the episode, as the three re-united family members drive south to the Mexican border.
When I had a PS3 I didn’t play Indigo Prophecy or Heavy Rain, but when I heard about Until Dawn, an interactive horror story/movie for the PS4, I finally took the plunge. This was one of the few games I played and finished long before watching Markiplier play it, and I enjoyed watching his play-through just as much as when I played it.
In Until Dawn a group of teenagers meet up at a remote lodge in the mountains (see they’re already screwed) one year after a similar meet-up resulted in the deaths of Josh’s two sisters (that should be another alarm bell going off!), whose family owns and used to live in the lodge (where the parents are now, who knows!). As soon as the teens meet old tensions, memories, and petty rivalries flare up; it’s hard to feel there’s any genuine friendship or romance, which does detract from an otherwise quite solid and engaging story.
The game uses a mix of in-game cutscenes as well as letting the player control the current “star of the scene”. Sometimes the in-game cutscenes come about pretty frequently and interrupt gameplay, which can be annoying. During some of these scenes, the player will need to make a quick decision such as which way to go, or to choose a safer or riskier route. At other times while the character is running or climbing a random button will pop up, and if the player doesn’t press it quick enough something will happen, which can affect the current character’s story as well as further story ramifications. There are also points where the character will need to use a weapon to hit a specific spot in a short amount of time, and whether it hits affects the storyline as well.
One interesting concept shown to the player early on is that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all, to let events transpire without any interference or influence. This does factor in later on as a few characters’ survival actually depends on this. It’s a neat twist, and it can actually be hard to remember at which points to actually do nothing.
In between sections of the game, the player will be in the office of a therapist, who will ask the player to describe their feelings, choose between images, or other methods to judge the player’s (and the unknown-until-the-end character’s) reactions. With each visit the office evolves (or breaks down, depending on the view) and leaves the player wondering just what is going on with this supposed therapist. It adds an interesting layer on top of the game’s story, but it does pull the player out of the action and main story of the game somewhat often, so I’m not sure just how necessary it is. If it’s meant to be a game-within-the-game, or some sort of meta the “real” game is actually the game-within-this-game, well again it doesn’t add a whole lot and the game would flow much smoother without it. At the end of each session, the player is presented with a “Previously on Until Dawn” video montage, which doesn’t make any sense if the game has been going for awhile, and instead of a helpful reminder or catch-up becomes an annoying repeat of recent game scenes.
Ultimately I enjoyed Until Dawn very much, and I really wish there were more games like it; not necessarily horror, but at least with a story of intrigue and second-guessing as time goes on. The graphics and gameplay were exactly what I wanted in a current-gen game, but some more prominent music and sound effects would have really helped. I liked the split-second decisions and aiming moments, mainly because they weren’t over-used. I hope to play Detroit: Become Human in the near future, and I look forward to Supermassive’s The Dark Pictures: Man of Medan.
Was it really 4 months previously that I played the first episode? Dontnod took quite awhile to release the next episode, and for as slow and little plot progress this episode has, I have to wonder.
Taking place right after the first episode, Daniel is lifting rocks and other objects like it’s no big deal now, and Sean is pushing him to keep “training” and refining this supposedly new power (I’m not entirely convinced during episode 1 was the first time Daniel has discovered and used his power). Having left Seattle, the brothers head towards their grandparents in Oregon after Daniel becomes ill, likely due to the winter cold and an abandoned house providing little relief.
At their grandparents house Sean and Daniel try to learn more about their mother, but they don’t get much information, even after getting into their mother’s childhood room. While at the house they see the neighbor boy Chris (yep, this is where Captain Spirit ties in) fall from his treehouse, and Daniel uses his power to save him. Unfortunately Chris believes he is the one with the power, which will play into the ending of this episode. During their stay Sean and Daniel go to a Christmas market, where they meet train-hoppers Finn and Cassidy (which will factor into Episode 3).
Near the end of the episode Sean and Daniel discover a letter from their mother, expressing her desire to meet her children. After an argument with their grandparents, Sean and Daniel have to escape when the police arrive at the house. In an unexplained twist Claire distracts the police so they can escape, and Chris’ actions factor in here. I won’t give away what can happen, but I hope no matter what it will be addressed by the end of the game.
The episode ends with Sean and Daniel getting onto a train going south, with an outstanding closing track by First Aid kit (which I wrote about here). It was hard to judge how I felt about this episode. Looking back, not very much happens, and besides a few key interaction it’s still just Sean and Daniel. I suppose that’s the point of the game (and the first one was mostly Max and Chloe), but for some reason here it just gets too repetitive. I think it’s because the brothers never have any time apart, and it’s mostly back-and-forth bickering and whining about tough times.
For still unknown reasons, Sean is encouraging Daniel to train and use his powers. Even more obvious in this episode is how whiny Daniel is. Yes, we get he’s a little kid who’s been through a lot. But why he’s allowed to work on a pot farm along with Sean (yeah, I know) I’m not sure. Even more incredulous is that they somehow met up again with Finn and Cassidy!
Sean and Daniel, along with Finn, Cassidy, and several others have a nice campsite in California. We’ll learn later on that nearby is where Big Joe lives, pot dealer Merrill’s second-in-command and oversees the workers. When not working they hang out here, around the kitchen table, campfire, or down at the lake. Daniel becomes jealous of Sean spending more time with them rather than him.
One day at work Merrill calls everyone (except for Daniel) into his office, where he is evidently going to pay them). But before he does Big Joe comes in holding Daniel, claiming he was sneaking into Merrill’s office. As punishment Merrill doesn’t pay any of them, and fires Sean. When Merrill also tells Big Joe to punish Daniel, he must use his power, which the others witness. They swear to keep it a secret, but at a farewell party that night Finn keeps trying to convince Sean they can use Daniel’s power to get back at Merrill.
Near the end this episode ramps up the music and drama, but yet again it’s simply the result of Daniel freaking out and using his power in an uncontrollable manner. Finn talks Sean into breaking into the safe for the money, and Sean and Cassidy try to intercept them before they get caught by Merrill and/or Big Joe. Merrill does catch them, pointing his shotgun at them and telling them to get on their knees. Daniel unleashes his power and destroys the house, as well as knocking everyone around, some quite violently. The last shot is a still-unconscious Sean with a shard of glass in an eye.
I’m still not sure what to think of Daniel, Sean, and all of the characters. Even after 3 episodes I just don’t know if I care what’s happened to any of them. This is a staggering contrast to the first Life is Strange, or even Before the Storm. Sometimes I have to wonder if this is actually the same developers. Was Dontnod so keen to capitalize on the success of the first game they rushed to bring something similar out, using the same series title? There’s two more episodes to go, and I hope we get a lot more insight into Sean and Daniel’s mother, and perhaps even callbacks to previous characters, namely Layla, Brody, and Chris. I’m not sure if they’ll indeed end up in Mexico, or perhaps will return to Seattle. Perhaps for the latter, the truth of the officer’s actions will surface, leading to Sean and Daniel no longer considered fugitives.