Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4 – 2018)

red-dead-redemption-23

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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Marvel Heroes (PC – 2013)

In Marvel Heroes, players take control of one of several starting characters (Punisher, Colossus, Captain America, Black Widow, Storm, Human Torch, Hawkeye…among others, with the roster changing all the time) and embark on a mission to stop the nefarious Doctor Doom from his plans to use the Cosmic Cube for his own evil purposes.

If you’ve ever played a game like Diablo II, then you’ve essentially already played Marvel Heroes. This game isn’t innovative, but it doesn’t really seek to be – which is somewhat of a shame due to the Marvel property being so popular right now. However, for the casual gamer, this game will be great fun.

I had originally planned on boycotting this game when I found out that there was no character creation system and instead, as a player, you’d pick a character like Spider-Man or Colossus (whom I am using at the moment) and would be running around on-screen with potentially dozens of other players using the same character as you. However, in reality, it often doesn’t play out that way. The reason for this is due to there being (at the moment) 20+ characters (somewhere around 28, I believe) – all of whom have multiple costumes and other custom appearance options available to the player to make their particular Colossus or Spider-Man or Thor stand out. So even if two or more characters are using Colossus, there’s a good chance that most of them will have individualized aesthetics. Still not as good as being able to create your own character, which is what Champions Online excels at (Note: Champions Online was originally supposed to be a Marvel game) and even DC Universe Online is pretty decent at.

As it is, Marvel Heroes, despite not being innovative and despite being somewhat repetitive (as games in this genre sometimes are) is a decent action MMORPG. It’s best to play with friends for the fun factor, but there isn’t a large difficulty curve and it’s FREE (you can still pay for characters and costumes with real-life money but it’s not necessary to play the full version of the game – you can still buy characters and costumes with in-game currency that you earn, but it takes a long time), meaning that it’s not a huge investment and you’re likely to get at least some enjoyment out of it and the best thing about it is, well…it’s FREE. The only real thing that kept me from giving this four stars is the fact that you can’t pick any hero to begin with, and you can’t create your own hero.

Check it out, team up with your favorite characters and whup some bad-guy arse. The developers are constantly adding new characters to the mix, so gameplay isn’t likely to get too stale anytime soon.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Pokemon Black (Nintendo DS – 2011)

Pokemon Black (Nintendo DS - 2011)

Pokemon Black (was) is a refreshing entry into the Pokemon’s fifth generation of games. As the player-character “Hilbert/Hilda” (depending on your sex), you embark on a quest to collect all the Pokemon you come across, while at the same time defending yourself against Team Plasma and their Pokemon “liberation” efforts.

We’ve all played Pokemon before, right? Well, I used to love playing it back when the original came out. There was just one small problem, however – I didn’t own a Gameboy. I would play it at my friend’s house when I visited and we weren’t doing anything else, but since there could be only one save file…I kept getting to the same point, over and over again every time I played the game, before I’d have to shut it off. Well….all these years later I finally decided to get a Nintendo DS I found on the cheap in a little hole-in-the-wall store here in Portland, Maine. I got Pokemon White for my girlfriend and picked up the Black version for myself.

Back when this game first came out a couple of years ago, it was the first entry into the Pokemon franchise to sport individual, game-color-specific, in-game areas; In the White version there is a wild area called White Forest, while in the Black version there is a bustling city called Black City. Add to this the first time in a Pokemon game having changing weather and seasons as well as 150+ new Pokemon – and you got yourselves a jump-start to the tried-and-true formula of the franchise….which isn’t a bad thing.

The graphics are great for a DS game and I think the series has come a long way. With new connectivity options and new playable areas for each version, as well as upgrades to the battle system like three-way battles – I think that there are countless hours of replayability options. If I could only have one game for the Nintendo DS, I wouldn’t mind just having Pokemon Black.

Now, if I could just get my girlfriend to catch up so I can trade with her! (I need to get a Zekrom!)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Call Of Duty: Ghosts (PS3 – 2013)

Call Of Duty: Ghosts (PS3 - 2013)

In Call of Duty: Ghosts, players take control of Logan Walker (most of the time, anyway) in a world where the United States has been reduced to a third-world power after an attack by a satellite super weapon called Odin destroyed much of the infrastructure of the former government and economy. In a last ditch effort to survive, a legendary unit of special forces members with the code name Ghosts have banded together to try to take back control from their oppressors. As Logan, you are joined by your dog Riley, older brother David and father Elias ten years after the attacks and operate in secret, hoping to win the war once and for all.

I’ve long been a fan of this game series, but while most of the time I’ve been sort of excited once a new installment has come out, I kind of felt like stopping after Black Ops II due to lack of innovation and the multiplayer feeling unbalanced. To my surprise, there were some pleasant twists to this tenth entry in the series, at least enough to keep me playing for now.

First of all, the story mode was pretty engaging. It’s smooth, if short, and feels like you’re watching an action flick most of the way through. There are some nice cinematic “I am awesome” moments that make you truly feel that you’re accomplishing something great. The innovative side of using Riley, the dog, to silently dispatch enemies (in a pleasing, visceral way) in lieu of sneaking around by yourself constantly is a nice touch – but it wasn’t as innovative as I think it could’ve been. I think it would’ve been awesome if you could do co-op in story mode with one player as Logan and the other as either David or Riley depending on needs. Missed opportunity! One other bad thing is that the developers copy/pasted the ending from Modern Warfare 2 onto the beginning mission of Ghosts (which can be seen HERE), which is reason to give this title pause; What are we really buying when we get this game? A recycled money-grabbing installment of the same old thing?

Aside from the story mode (and the lifting from MW2) there ARE a couple of reasons to play this game – Extinction Mode, which is sort of like survival mode but you fight against aliens with a customizable load out and also is co-op (sort of like Zombies mode from the Treyarch games).

On top of that, there is the normal multiplayer mode that most people will no doubt get the game for, although some of the maps are too large for normal death matches and others feel too similar to others we’ve done before.

Infected Mode is a nice touch, with one random player spawning with an infection and “turning” other players until everyone is infected.

Squad Mode, too, is fun in that you get to build up a squad which will autonomously battle without you and you can see how they measure up on the leaderboards.

In my opinion, this installment could have been a lot better but what we have is an okay shooter with enough touches to entertain for another year or so before the next installment comes out. It’s far from perfect, but it’s still fun.

JOE Rating: ★★★

The Last of Us (PS3 – 2013)

The Last of Us (PS3 - 2013)

It’s twenty years after a zombie-like pandemic broke out across the globe. As Joel, a survivor living in a Boston-area quarantine camp, you have experienced the loss of everything you know and loved in your past life. As a survivor, you’re in a constant struggle for resources and when your dealings land you with an opportunity to smuggle a young girl, who may have the key within her to saving humanity to a band of freedom fighters calling themselves the Fireflies,  you find yourself in a dangerous and intense quest across the continent as you evade roving bands of human scavengers intent on murdering you and taking your possessions and also evading the clickers….humans who’ve been infected with the spores that have turned them into zombie-like creatures which use sonar to hunt their prey.

The opening of this game packs a punch like no other I’ve seen in recent memory. The writing is superb, the graphics are great, the gameplay is seamless most of the time and moves back and forth between gameplay and cutscenes effortlessly.

The enemies are cunning and terrifying. Not since I originally played Fatal Frame or Silent Hill have I been this unsettled within the atmosphere of a video game.

Play this, play this, play this. It’s like The Road mixed with Resident Evil.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Gotham City Impostors (2012 – PS3)

Gotham City Impostors (2012 - PS3)

Release Date: February 7, 2012
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Monolith Productions

Taking on the role of either one of the Bats (a gang of do-gooders who dress up in outfits reminiscent of Batman’s own costume) or the Jokerz (a gang of psychos donning makeup and outfits to look like the Joker, Batman’s nemesis) you wield weapons in this first-person shooter set in the background of the DC Universe.

The game is fairly cheap, and you can download a free demo that you can play for an hour before deciding whether or not you want to buy it. The hour is divided up between actual game time, and not just while you’re in menus, though. Don’t worry, an hour is more than enough time to tell if you like this game.

You can customize your own character’s outfit after level 8, or you can just use one of the pre-set characters (there are different classes like Sniper or Medic, etc) and there are plenty of options to choose from that you can either unlock or buy from the Playstation Store.

The weapons aren’t very diverse but there are some cool ones, like a cannon that fires a face-biting parrot which reduces other players’ vision and other wacky weapons, or you can get up close and personal with a something as simple-yet-effective as a katana.

The levels, aside from a couple, are fairly easy to traverse…especially with the aid of the many different types of mobility options you have (like glider wings which catch air drafts from vents to propel you, or grappling hooks which carry you across the level or to rooftops).

One thing I don’t like is that there aren’t a ton of people playing it so sometimes you’ll have problems depending on the time of day, with finding people. I also noticed the spotty connections which never happen with my other games.

The weapons could have used a little more punch, too, because sometimes even if you lay a great ambush (bear traps) and you are ready for your opponent, and you fire shot after shot into their faces, they still kill you.

Give it a shot, especially if you like Batman and/or games like Black Ops.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For Gotham City Impostors

Assassin’s Creed III (2012 – PS3)

Assassin's Creed III (2012 - PS3)

Release Date: October 30, 2012
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Publisher: Ubisoft

In Assassin’s Creed III, players assume the role of Connor Kenway, a Native American brought up in hard times and trained to be an assassin during the 1700’s. Throughout the game, you will experience historical battles such as the Battle of Breed’s (Bunker) Hill and the Battle of North Bridge where the shot heard ’round the world occurred in Concord, Mass. You will also experience other historical events such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride.

You will be able to enjoy roaming historically and visually accurate (for the most part) portrayals of Boston, New York, Concord and Lexington. (Though, I couldn’t find The Old Manse while I was near the Old North Bridge, in the game).

Despite a lot of historical things, the game also, of course, is historical fiction and they take liberties (ha, no pun intended) with some of the events in order to facilitate their own sci-fi-themed storyline…which also takes place simultaneously in a near-future where you are a modern day assassin looking back via the Animus. (A device which makes this sort of “time travel” possible)

The game is immensely fun and I really enjoy traipsing over the rooftops of Boston, seeing as I know the area fairly well. The time period is also not done very much in games nowadays, and so it’s nice to see a playable, non-boring representation of combat from that era. (Can we maybe do one during Civil War times, PLEASE?!)

The multiplayer modes are super-fun as well, but a lot of the novelty is lost on many folks who just want to run around and avoid the challenge of trying to blend in with the crowd. This doesn’t happen in every game, but it happened in enough of the matches that it sort of made me move onto other multiplayer gaming options, though I still re-play the hell out of the story.

The best part of the game, in my opinion, are the naval battles you can take part in with your ship (once you complete the missions to get it). It’s really well-done and very fun.

There haven’t been a ton of glitches, (at least, I hear, compared to the Wii U version) but I did run into a cart that was half in the ground (vertically) so the driver was facing the sky, but with no horses.

If you liked the previous Assassin’s Creed games, you’ll like this too…and you’ll especially like it if you’re a history buff, or have been to Boston. It’s really fun to be able to walk around the Freedom Trail in-game.

Check it out!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Game Trailer For Assassin’s Creed III