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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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: ★★★

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 – 2013)

Grand Theft Auto V (PS3 - 2013)

Los Santos: A city that never sleeps, filled with botox, gangbangers and money. Lots and lots of money. As either Michael (A former wise-guy-turned informant), Franklin (A hustler looking to make some fat stacks and a better life) or Trevor (a violent psychopath with a meandering scale of justice and morality), you find yourself thrust into the biggest heists of your careers which could make or break you, depending on the roads you take.

Having played all the previous incarnations of the GTA series (Vice City being my favorite and San Andreas being my least favorite) I was pretty excited about playing this and bought it a day or two after it came out.

The story mode is great. A lot of missions are gun-n-run, but that was obviously expected. The graphics definitely got an overhaul, most noticeably with some of the environmental stuff. (Check out videos of the water graphics if you haven’t played the game yet).

The police seem to swarm faster and angrier in V than they did in previous incarnations – sometimes I find myself in a harrowing flight from death by trigger-happy police for the most minor infractions while they burst through parked vehicles with their armored vans and fire willy-nilly into the crowds trying to murder me in cold blood.

As in previous GTA games, there are a ton of mini-games. I haven’t tried them all out yet, but they are all kind of nifty to try at least once from what I’ve seen. As Michael, I played tennis with my wife for a good half hour of real time and it was fun. One of the most controversial mini-games, of course, is when you’re at the strip club and you’re trying to touch the strippers giving you a private lap dance without getting kicked out of the club. (FYI – might not want to play this particular mini-game in front of sensitive folks or children because the strippers are topless and it’s a first-person strip-club experience. Yup….big ol’ digital boobies on your massive flat-screen television. If your grandmother didn’t think your life was fail before, she will now).

GTA V Online launched already, of course, and it has been riddled with lots and lots of problems. At first, I just couldn’t get on and then after that, I could get on but my character wouldn’t save and I couldn’t rob stores or do missions so those of us on the map just ran around killing each other with sheer boredom. After that, they finally got the game at least somewhat functioning so now I can join missions and complete robberies, but the kinks aren’t all worked out yet and there are still griefers out there so watch yourself if you go on. I had a whole squad of them following me around, trying to kill me for at least an hour.

Without even taking GTA: Online into consideration, I’d give the game the score below. They packed so much into the game that it will honestly give you hours and hours of enjoyment. The sheer amount of variety earns this game a five star from moi, despite its faults, which are minor against the entirety of the game experience. Add to that the extra depth of the online mode once they get the kinks out, and it’s just a mind-numbing amount of time one could spend playing it.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Eagle VS Shark (2007)

Eagle VS Shark (2007)

Lily (Loren Taylor) is a socially awkward girl who has a crush on Jarrod (Jemaine Clement), who is equally socially awkward but thinks of himself as a Renaissance Man. Jarrod reveals to her that he is going to confront a bully who tormented him in grade school, and so the two of them return to Jarrod’s hometown where Lily meets his family and sees how Jarrod is trying to live up to the legacy of his amazing-but-dead brother, Gordon (Taika Waititi).

I had been wanting to see this for the longest time, because I love almost anything that Jemaine Clement is in. (Gentlemen Broncos was the only one I didn’t really like as much as some others) I was not disappointed.

The film is New Zealand’s mostly successful answer to Napoleon Dynamite. Though not set in the midwest, with all its quirks and interesting characters, New Zealand can definitely hold its own in the zaniness department.

Jemaine Clement is in top form here, playing the loser-who-thinks-he’s-awesome role that he’s so good at playing. Loren Taylor plays a really good wallflower, but she gives her character depth so she’s not just a one-note song.

The film is filled with lots of quotable lines and moments that had me laughing. There was lots of awkward humor, which was great, and Jemaine and Loren really played well off one another.

If you like Napoleon Dynamite at all, then this is going to be right up your alley. Check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up (2009 – Wii)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up (2009)

Release Date: September 22, 2009
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Ubisoft

In this game, you can take control of any of the TMNT foursome (Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo or Raphael) or some of their allies (April or Casey Jones). In story mode, Splinter decides to have a tournament with the winner being able to pick something from his private treasure stash. As you move ahead in the tournament, however, Shredder (as usual) shows up to put a damper on things.

This game essentially ends up being a Smash Brothers knock-off. While it’s fun to play it, you begin to just start wishing you were playing Smash Brothers instead.

There isn’t a ton of variety in the move sets and when I used different characters, I didn’t really get a feel that any of them were terribly different other than aesthetics.

The cut scenes aren’t even animated, which they could have definitely done more with. It was a perfect opportunity to tie it in to the TMNT movie with the same artwork style. (I have the review for that movie here if you want to read it)

The levels don’t seem to have a lot of punch other than the interactive environments that hurt your characters, and that was a neat addition.

Overall, the game was okay but it wasn’t good enough to be better than Smash Brothers or different enough to make me want to play it instead.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Game Trailer For Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up

 

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