Video Game Review: Fallout 4 (PlayStation 4)

Having loved Bethesda’s work on FalloutFallout: New Vegas and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I have been chomping at the bit to play Fallout 4 for awhile. Although, when it comes to video games that consume mass amounts of time to play, it can sometimes take me a few years before I can devote that much time to them. Life is a busy bitch when you get older.

So by the time I was ready to jump into this game, I was able to get the expanded “Game of the Year” edition and for rather cheap. That’s one big benefit I have by buying video games a few years too late.

Anyway, the enthusiasm I had for this series sort of went away as I started playing this. Let me clarify that I mostly like the game but after giving this a go for the first few days, I just felt like I was playing a game I’ve already played.

Sure, Fallout 4 takes place in a new location but it feels incredibly similar to Fallout 3. It’s in a northwestern American town that is surrounded by lots of patriotic shit. This one takes place in Boston, Fallout 3 took place in Washington, D.C. But this one does feature Fenway Park as a major location in the game, which was pretty cool being that I’m a big baseball fan, especially in regards to the history and culture of the sport.

But the map just wasn’t very exciting and didn’t feel like a new experience, really. Sure, there are some cool places and things that are fairly unique for this game but exploring the world map just didn’t seem as fun as it did in Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas. The only part of the world map that was exciting was the nuclear zone, as it was friggin’ ominous as hell, dark, dreary, desolate, full of tough as balls monsters and cool secrets. Plus, you need a hazmat suit before you even try to venture off into this part of the map.

My biggest complaint about the game, however, is its difficulty from the get go. Hell, one of your first few missions makes you have to fight a damn deathclaw when you’ve really got no experience or perks to speak of. It’s not an unbeatable situation but I had to expose a flaw in the games design in order to sort of cheat my way through the feat. Plus, in that same mission, you acquire power armor. It just makes everything seem very topsy turvy when compared to how the other two games played out.

Also, there are raiders and super mutants literally everywhere. Exploring the map is really damn difficult, early on. I found this to be a major annoyance, as I tend to like exploring my surroundings in these types of games. I think that it’s done to make exploring more pocketed to what your actual experience level is at. However, that seems odd as you also have to travel to Diamond City pretty early on in the game and it’s a hell of a real trek for just starting out and having to fight or evade groups of raiders and super mutants.

Needless to say, I had some frustrations with the game and it wasn’t very fun, as a low experienced player. So then I noticed that Bethesda allows you to use mods on the console versions of this game. So I tried a few out, not that I wanted to cheat but I just wanted to enjoy the game and have my battles with swarms of raiders and ghouls to feel a bit more balanced.

The mods made the game fun enough for me to not want to outright quit it after about ten hours. Although, the game should work and be balanced enough on its own. Everything felt lopsided early on and that wasn’t a problem I experienced with other Bethesda games before this.

Additionally, all the “dungeons” in the game feel very repetitive and not as imaginative as the dungeons from Skyrim or New Vegas. Those games had some great interior locations whereas Fallout 4 just seems like a lot of the same. Some places are interesting but a lot of the maps suck and are more like traveling through a knotted up snake than something more natural feeling. Also, a lot of these interior mazes make you have to backtrack through them, unlike Skyrim, which would typically reward you with a secret exit once you worked your way through these places.

In regards to the settlement building addition to the game, I’m not really a fan of it. I think that’s because it wasn’t a component in other Bethesda games and it just feels like something to waste my time and distract me from actual ass kicking gameplay.

The story in this game is also lacking. I was engaged by the main narrative in the other three Bethesda games but I just didn’t care about the story here. A lot of the missions were fun but I got more enjoyment from side quests than main quests. In fact, getting back on track with the main quest felt like a real chore.

Another issue, is that the graphics are improved but this doesn’t necessarily feel like a next gen game. I guess I’d have to fire up Fallout 3 again to really notice the difference but Fallout 4 doesn’t feel like a big enough leap forward in that regard. I haven’t played the older Fallout games since 2012 or so but the mechanics in this one felt clunkier than they needed to be. The controls felt more complex and it took a period of adjustment for me to get used to them but they never feel natural to me.

The only real positive is that this seems less buggy overall than previous Fallout games. Both of them felt littered with bugs that caused me to have to save often. Stuff like getting stuck in terrain and lots of freezing. This Fallout is better in that regard. I never got stuck in a rock and the game only froze up on me once.

I expected this to be at least a 9 out of 10 based off of my experience with other Bethesda games. It really disappointed, even though it was fun to play after getting some mods. But ultimately, I still quit after a few weeks because the mods eventually caused bugs and I didn’t want to go back to a really old save and play through some of the mundane missions again.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas.

Video Game Review: Star Wars: Bounty Hunter (PlayStation 2)

I used to play the shit out of this game over 15 years ago when it came out on the Nintendo Gamecube around the same time as Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. This time around, I played the PS2 version, as it was available for download on my PS4.

I’ve wanted to revisit this for quite some time, as it was one of my favorite Star Wars games of all-time and is far superior to the film it was tied to in both story and execution.

Surprisingly, despite the wonky controls, this has held up pretty damn well. Plus, once you play it for a bit, the control issues are less apparent and you adjust to it. Still, the camera is a pain in the ass, as is manually aiming. Thank the maker for the auto aim feature though, which makes running and gunning in this game a pretty f’n fun experience even by modern standards.

Now I have some issues with a few early levels in this but by the time you get to the prison asteroid in chapter three, the maps for this game become a lot of fun. Plus, these environments are pretty damn challenging.

I think that the only weak thing in the game is the boss fights. They aren’t very creative and most just consist of running and gunning and just not getting hit by lasers and missiles.

The real highlight of this game though is the sixth and final chapter where Jango Fett faces off with the Bando Gora cult and their leader, former Jedi Komari Vosa. This part of the game was really creative and I wish that we could see more of this cult and Vosa in other Star Wars stories. Sadly, none of it has really been revisited and it probably won’t be now that Disney is just making up their own canon and ignoring stuff like this game.

Star Wars: Bounty Hunter is severely underappreciated out of all the Star Wars video games throughout history. When I hear people talk fondly about Shadows of the EmpireDark Forces or the SNES games, I have to throw my two cents in about this solid game.

This isn’t perfect but it is still engaging, challenging and a blast to play 17 years later.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other Star Wars games that were tied to the Prequel Trilogy but I’d say that this was the best of them.

Video Game Review: Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 4)

I know, I know… I’m really late to the dance on this one but if it’s any consolation, I intended to play this game for a dozen years before picking it up.

I’m kind of glad that I did wait though, as I was able to play the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was rebuilt for that console from the ground up. Having seen comparisons of the original PS2, remastered PS3 and the rebuilt PS4 versions, I’m glad that I had the best possible incarnation of this game to play through.

That being said, as absolutely fabulous as this is, and I’ll get to the why in a second, it did have one thing working against it, that being PlayStation 2 era clunky controls. Now it wasn’t enough to hinder the experience and I’m sure it is completely accurate to the controls of the first version of this game but having just come off of Red Dead Redemption II, riding a horse in this was like a giant step back.

Also, some of the jumping and grabbing mechanics were wonky and shooting arrows is damn difficult when compared to more modern games. The boss fight with the sand worm was tough because of the controls and really nothing else. I feel like they could have vastly improved this but I also get why they didn’t. Just as I get why they didn’t change the subtitle font from Papyrus to something less cringe for a 2018 game. In 2005, Papyrus wasn’t quite the design faux pas that it is now but it does take something away from the absolutely gorgeous design of this game.

But putting the negatives behind, I can’t speak enough on how great this game is. It is stupendous, excellent and an incredible experience. I wish it was a longer game but you also get so much out of it that you don’t feel cheated in that regard.

Shadow of the Colossus takes place in a giant, vast kingdom where nothing other than a few birds, lizards and fish live. The empty world is haunting but it is also effective, as when you do get to your destinations, you are almost always blown away by the scale of things.

The game is really just sixteen boss fights. Plus, each one is a puzzle to solve. Each Colossus needs to be defeated but the way in which you must take them down is very diverse and incredibly creative. And just about every battle is a good challenge, requiring skill, patience, timing and a good amount of trial and error in trying to figure out how to damage them. I’ll admit that a few of them were a real bitch to figure out but none of them were so hard that I didn’t enjoy the process.

Above everything else, the one thing that this game does exceptionally well is how it creates a very unique atmosphere. The game features action and danger but it is almost peaceful and calming to play. It’s really hard to describe and can really only be experienced through actual play. But this does get a full recommend from me.

But being completely honest, I wasn’t sure what to think about it for the first hour or so. I really had to get the feel for the game and absorb what it was offering. It was so different than anything else I’ve played and I’ve been playing video games for almost 40 years. But the more you play this, the more it draws you in. By the time I was midway through the game, I was in love with it.

This is a masterpiece in regards to its design and its ambiance. It’s clever, creative and stunning to look at, especially in it’s PS4 form.

If it wasn’t for the control issues I had at key parts within the boss fights, I’d have to give this a perfect score. However, I can’t ignore those issues, as there were two boss fights that frustrated me only because the mechanics added an extra level of difficulty that didn’t need to be there.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: man, it’s really hard to think of anything. This is such a unique game but I guess anything good within the fantasy action RPG category.

Video Game Review: Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor (PlayStation 4)

After recently revisiting all of the Peter Jackson film adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work, I was reminded how much I liked the old Return of the King game for Gamecube. So I saw that this was at least somewhat similar, in that it was pretty much a hack and slash game where you take on dozens of orcs at once. I figured that for $19 I’d give it a shot and well, it won “Game of the Year”, even though everything seems to get that accolade nowadays.

I don’t think I would have been as happy with this if I had paid full price when it came out but for less than twenty bucks, it’s definitely worth the value.

If you are a fan of the Batman: Arkham or Assassin’s Creed video game series, than this should probably be a lot of fun fore you. Now it isn’t as rich and dynamic as those other games but it has similarities in how the action works. The fighting style is very much like it is in the Batman games and you can interact with the environment parkour style like Assassin’s Creed.

I like the graphics and the fluid gameplay. Plus, running around Middle-Earth like a sword wielding maniac is a really good time. I like the Nemesis System within the game and that there is a lot of fun one can have with that cool feature.

However, things do get repetitive pretty quickly in a similar fashion to the first Assassin’s Creed. But as the game progresses and you get stronger, the challenge does become better and some of the more powerful orcs can be a real pain in the ass. So I do like how the game evolves as you play it longer and longer.

I don’t like that the game only has two main maps that you can explore though. They also aren’t very big and each time I got to a new map, I unlocked all of the areas pretty damn quickly. Like ten-to-fifteen minutes quickly.

This feels like a game that really needed to be expanded on and if I just stuck to the story and didn’t get distracted running around killing thousands or orcs, I could have blown through it in an afternoon or two.

But my complaints are why I would’ve been disappointed if I had paid full price. Again, for $19 (or less), it’s worth the money.

I’ll pick up the sequel soon, as it is also rather cheap now. I hope that one at least expands on things in new ways and isn’t just a simple rehash with new maps.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: it’s sequel Shadow of War, as well as the Batman: Arkham game series and the Assassin’s Creed games.

Video Game Review: Red Dead Redemption II (PlayStation 4)

Perfection is a hard thing to achieve but Rockstar Games did it in 2010 with Red Dead Redemption. But then they did it a second time with this long awaited sequel.

And maybe I see this as better than it is due to my undying love for the last entry in this series but this is a more refined version of the game we got and it’s damn fun!

There wasn’t a lot to complain about with the first Red Dead Redemption. I thought the story was terrific, the game play was exciting and the mechanics, which can make or break a game, were very good. Red Dead Redemption II takes what worked and fine tunes it, making it better and much more fluid.

Additionally, this game adds a lot of new stuff to the mix. There are a ton of side quests and random encounters but you get to sell stolen valuables to fences, hunt down a large amount of legendary animals, catch legendary fish and chase down a lot of bounties. While some of these things existed in the predecessor, there seems to be more here and they’re less cookie cutter.

It’s also cool that this game’s map is massive. You do get to return to two of the previous areas from the first game but not until you get through the main story. Once you do, you see that the size of the map of the first game is very small in comparison to the world you’ve been traveling in in this game. Also, there is a secret area that has its own map when you’re in Chapter 5 of the story. I don’t want to spoil it, so I’ll leave it at that.

In this game, you also need to take care of yourself and your horse. Make sure you’re both well fed. I liked this aspect of the game, even if I screwed up and didn’t eat too often because I was looking for action and popping open a can of beans, every so often, just got in the way of my robbery sprees.

If I had to point out some negatives I’d say that I miss the inclusion of the area based off of Mexico. That was my favorite place in the previous game and it is sorely missed. However, the new secret area sort of makes up for it but the sad thing is that you can’t return to the secret map once you leave it in the story.

Also, the game is long. Really, long. I was completely immersed in the story but you get to points where you just want to get towards the next big narrative step or the resolution. I’m not saying that there are bad or even boring missions but a few parts seemed to drag just for the sake of trying to beef up the story’s length and not necessarily it’s depth.

Regardless of that, however, the ending is pretty damn satisfying once you play through the final mission of the second epilogue. And this game ends in a great spot for you to go back and pick up the previous one again.

I don’t buy new games as often as I used to but this was pre-ordered a while ago and I anticipated the moment where I could finally slide this game into my PS4.

In the end, this did not disappoint and I’m still playing it, even though I’m done with the main story. I’m a completeist with games I love and all the extra bits I’m still working on are just as fun as the main game itself.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the first Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Revolver, the original game.

Video Game: X-Men (Arcade)

Kids of the ’90s know this game. Well, assuming that they had a video arcade near them and were into the X-Men at the height of their ’90s popularity.

This game was originally presented in a double-wide arcade cabinet with two screens and room for six players at the same time. I used to love playing this and I always hoped for a version of it that I could play at home. But it wasn’t until about ten years ago that this was ported and released for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Store.

The home version isn’t as exciting, as I don’t have six people to play this with or even six controls but playing through it on my own or with a friend or two is still quite a lot of fun.

This is a standard 2D, side scrolling, beat’em up game. Those were super popular back in the late ’80s and early ’90s with games like Double DragonFinal Fight, the arcade version of Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesStreets of Rage, the sister game to this one: Captain American and the Avengers, as well as a slew of others. I loved this genre of video games and could never get enough of them. In 2018, I wish side scrolling beat’em ups still populated the marketplace.

For the time, this had solid graphics, great sound, easy gameplay and it was addicting as hell. You didn’t care how many quarters it took, it was hard to leave the arcade without beating this on a playthrough each visit.

The game came out around the same time as the popular X-Men cartoon series. It wasn’t based on that, however. The game was actually designed after the pilot episode of a failed X-Men animated series from a few years earlier. Now that pilot was popular when it VHS, I rented it a lot, but the game sort of exists as an expansion to what probably would have been a solid cartoon series.

You have six playable X-Men characters in this: Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Dazzler. Professor X and Kitty Pryde also show up. The villains also have an impressive roster with Magneto, Mystique, Juggernaut, Emma Frost, Nimrod, Pyro, the Blob and Wendigo. It would’ve been nice to have Sabretooth though.

I still enjoy the hell out of this game and play through it on my PS3 about once a year. Nowadays, it doesn’t cost quarters and I can run through it in about a half an hour.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Captain America and the Avengers arcade game, Spider-Man for Sega Genesis and Maximum Carnage.

Video Game Review: Black Tiger (Arcade)

I’ll be honest, I barely remembered Black Tiger but once playing it in a Capcom classic arcade pack, it came back to me. I then remembered that this game was a huge pain in the ass but at least you could always continue at a spot pretty close to where you died. It was at least more forgiving in that regard than Ghosts & Goblins.

I was also reminded that this game was very similar to Data East’s Karnov, which I loved. Playing this now, it’s still a pretty fun game but I still love Karnov more.

This game isn’t super hard but once you get to the higher level bosses, it really becomes a pain in the ass. The amount of continues I used was astronomical and I would’ve probably spent a paycheck playing through this and beating it in the arcade.

I love the look, feel and sound of the game but the mechanics are pretty clunky. In fact, what made a lot of the boss battles hard were the controls.

It was also difficult trying to figure out what to buy in the store. This has a sort of RPG style to how you buy and use items in the game but I didn’t know what half the icons were supposed to be and I felt that they could have been clearer on store items.

For a seasoned gamer and someone who is much more versed in this game, it can probably be blown through in under a half hour. Hell, there’s a speed run below that took less than 11 minutes. For me, it took several hours and probably a hundred continues to get through this.

But that’s also what I miss about gaming in the ’80s; shit was actually hard. You had to really work for it and develop a unique skill set for every game.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Karnov, Altered Beast, the Ghosts & Goblins series and the Golden Axe series.