Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4 – 2018)

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In Red Dead Redemption 2, players assume control of Arthur Morgan – the ornery, unofficial right-hand man to Dutch Van Der Linde (players may remember Dutch from his prominent role in Red Dead Redemption – and, yes – this is a prequel, taking place in between Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Revolver). As Arthur, players will assist Dutch and the gang in various heists and will eventually decide if they wish to be pure evil or become a wild west version of Robin Hood. Along the way, there will be lots of backstabbing, betrayal, and bloodshed no matter which path you choose.

If you’re familiar at all with Red Dead Redemption – you’ll be right at home. If not, then don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities in-game for you to practice different skills and controls. And, if like me you’re familiar with the rest of the Red Dead games – there’s enough changes to keep things fresh and exciting. As Dutch would say – “Don’t worry.”

The game is massive – and that’s not even including Red Dead Redemption 2‘s online mode – which essentially makes the game endlessly replayable. There’s at least 60+ hours of content in the main story alone, with lots of side quests and exploration to do aside from the main story.

Though the game’s online mode is still a bit buggy and the economy is somewhat broken – the online play is still in beta, and it’s said that Rockstar is ironing out a lot of the problems already. Even with the bugs and the broken currency, I’ve still had a blast online getting mercilessly murdered by fellow players for simply walking in their relative vicinity. However, where RDR2 really shines is its story mode  – an epic western which meanders over miles of in-game terrain. Even though we all know what happens to Dutch and the gang via the story we experienced in the original Red Dead Redemption – we don’t necessarily know what happens to Arthur Morgan, which is great because it keeps an element of surprise within the story we already expect, enabling Rockstar to deliver a western tale with much more emotional weight than you’d think, truly delivering on all fronts.

The graphics are amazing, the score is amazing, the gameplay is addictive, and the characters and setting are compelling. The amount of detail that went into this game is unbelievable. Play it, and you surely won’t regret it (unless you hate westerns or open world games for some reason). This is pretty much a perfect game in my eyes.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

 

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Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (2009)

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest (2009)

Release Date: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Tor Books
Author: Cherie Priest

I just recently started writing and reading steampunk so after Tim Powers’ novel, The Anubis Gates, this was the novel I chose to tackle next.

Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, is a steampunk adventure set in the 1800’s in a semi-fictitious Seattle. There are two main characters; a mother and her son, their names being Briar and Ezekial Wilkes. Briar’s former husband, Leviticus Blue, was commissioned by Russian prospectors to create an invention that would be capable of drilling through Alaska’s thick ice in search of gold. On a test run, the machine that was created (called Boneshaker due to the fact that it produced bone-shaking rumbles as it was running) tore open the earth and unknowingly released a toxic gas that was later named The Blight and turned normal folks into zombie-like creatures called Rotters.

Fast forward to when Ezekial is a teenager and wants to clear his father’s name of any wrongdoing. He goes into the now-walled portion of the city the blight was emanating from in search of any clues as to his father’s innocence and meets lots of crazy steampunk characters on the way.

The enduring image that will stay with me of this world is that of a dirty dish sponge, yellowed and decaying on the rim of the sink as it’s forgotten and sitting in a corner while a new one is used. That dirty sponge would be the Seattle of this story; largely ignored by the Federal government as the Civil War rages on. A large portion of the city has fallen underground after Boneshaker knocked out entire city blocks by crumbling its foundations in its maiden voyage. A wall surrounds this devastation as the blight gas continues to seep from the cracks in the earth, coating everything in a yellow-brown, coffee-stained color. People live underground, struggling daily just to survive.

Cherie Priest was consistently good at one thing during the entire novel, and that was imagery. While being a novel set in a world of darkness and suffering, Cherie’s tone was fairly light and she had an underlying current of hope in her prose and her characters which carried through to the end.

I liked the novel and look forward to reading the other books in Priest’s series, but I hope the next ones are a bit more character-oriented and I also want to see way more steampunk aesthetic aside from just the goggles and airships.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Check out an excerpt of Boneshaker for free HERE

Audiobook Excerpt For Boneshaker

Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (2010 – Wii)

Tatsunoko vs Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars (2010)

Release Date: December 11, 2008
Developer: Eighting
Publisher: Capcom

I finally got my hands on my cousin’s Wii (insert joke here) and was the most excited about this game.

Fighting games are one of my favorite things to play, even though I’m not the best at them (except for Killer Instinct (SNES). I was pretty darn good at that one). Marvel vs Capcom is one of my favorite series and I do love me some Gatchaman (an anime superhero team from Tatsunoku) so I really had some high hopes for it.

My hopes didn’t die, at least not completely.

Originally only released in Japan due to a fall in popularity of fighting games a few years back, there was finally enough interest garnered by the community that they decided to give it a shot over here and it was a Wii exclusive and ended up being commercially successful.

The fighting system is simplistic (three buttons) and easily-accessible to noobs like myself. The graphics were decent, even though this was their first shot at rendering fully in 3D. The characters and their animations were really neat, as can be expected from these newer incarnations of the Capcom vs series.

The one thing that prevented this game from being really great was that there is no real storyline or story mode. There is an arcade mode, but there’s not a ton of replayability in that.

It’s a really fun game to play with your friends, locally, or the online variety (it has a decent online mode) but for Forever-Alone gamers like myself, the fun doesn’t last forever.

It’s definitely worth playing if you’re a fan of Tatsunoko, though, because there aren’t that many games featuring their characters. (And who doesn’t want to play as Jun, The Swan at least once? She’s hawt!)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer for Tatsunoko VS Capcom: Ultimate All Stars

Saints Row: The Third (2011 – X-Box 360)

Saints Row: The Third (2011)

Release Date: November 15, 2011
Developer: Volition, Inc.
Publisher: THQ

I couldn’t resist trying this game.

The story takes place in the fictional city of Steelport and you are in control of a gang called the Third Street Saints, eventually rising to the very top. The style of game play is open-ended (and similar to Grand Theft Auto), with a major story arc but lots of things you can do on your own as you battle for control against other gangs in the city and eventually, a militaristic gang-suppression squad called STAG.

I am not a huge fan of the entire series (due to ignorance, not any other reason), having never really played the first two games. Seeing the trailers for Saints Row: The Third, though, inspired me to buy it the same day it came out (though I didn’t make it in time to pre-order, so I didn’t get the cool Professor Genki stuff). I was not disappointed.

I am a spastic gamer, and when I first bought it, it ended up sitting on my shelf collecting dust for a year because, hey, I’m a busy man. I’d created a couple characters (really nice system for that, by the way) and it was fun but I hadn’t really gotten into the game until recently, with THQ being sold off.

It didn’t take me too long to beat the main story arc. It was probably only something like 30 hours, if that. (I take my time)

The graphics were all really nice, the animation was pretty awesome, and the story line was fun (Lots of sex and drugs and violence, though, so don’t let your kiddos play). I didn’t have any expectations of it other than it would be fun, similar to how I think when I go see an action flick.

It’s definitely one of the better titles I’ve played and I will be playing through again at least once or twice more now that I’ve beaten it to unlock everything and get the achievements.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Gameplay Trailer for Saints Row: The Third