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: 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: Dragon Warrior (NES)

The original Dragon Warrior or Dragon Quest was the first legit role-playing game that I ever played as a child. I played this before I touched any of the Final Fantasy games and just after I had conquered the original Zelda, which was more of an action RPG.

My childhood best friend and I spent a lot of time on this but we weren’t in a rush. We loved the experience of playing through this and not having the Internet around to walk us through the tough bits. We spent months on this after school but eventually we got to the end and beat the big bad. We actually saved the game in a way that we could both have a shot at fighting the final boss.

Dragon Warrior was such a great experience that I got RPG fever and had to play through its sequels, as well as the Final Fantasy games that came out for the original Nintendo and the Game Boy.

Whenever I play any RPG, I can’t stop myself from comparing it to my experience playing this game. The only other game in the genre that made me feel like this was Final Fantasy VII for the original PlayStation, almost ten years later.

Dragon Warrior was an imaginative game that gave me the Dungeons & Dragons experience that I missed out on because my uber religious mother wouldn’t let me play the “Devil’s Game” with my cousins in the ’80s.

Having just played through this masterpiece again, I was transported back to the late ’80s and felt the excitement and emotion that this gave me back then. Truth be told, I have to fire this up every few years, just to bask in its awesomeness and perfection.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The other Dragon Warrior a.k.a. Dragon Quest games for the original NES, as well as the NES Final Fantasy games.

Video Game Review: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

The Legend of Zelda is, in my opinion, the greatest video game ever made. So when Zelda II came out, I was f’n ecstatic.

When I fired it up, however, it was similar but then all of a sudden, it wasn’t.

You wandered an overworld but the mechanics were different and more like that of a standard RPG. However, when you got hit by a creature, instead of going into a standard RPG battle mode, you entered a side scrolling action world. Part of me was confused and part of me was excited as hell!

In retrospect, Zelda II isn’t the masterpiece that Zelda I is. But it is a phenomenal game that might not have been what anyone was expecting from a Zelda sequel but in a lot of ways, was a better playing experience than just giving fans a rehash of what they already experienced.

Not everyone shares my sentiment. A lot of people hated this game because it wan’t what they wanted. Also, this game was tremendously f’n hard, the deeper you went. I couldn’t beat it way back in the day but once I got into my mid-’20s, I really chipped away at it and finally beat the thing. As a kid, I could get to the final boss but it always ended in me getting my ass kicked… hard.

Anyway, this game has a vast world, secret areas and really cool mechanics. It was extremely well thought out and meticulously designed.

love the boss battles in this game. Each is pretty unique and a lot of fun. While the bosses of the first game are more iconic and would be the ones that would go on to be in future sequels, this game was still highly creative in doesn’t come with a dull boss or really, a dull moment.

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is, by far, one of the best video games of its era. It has aged really well, for those of us who still like their games 8-bit. I fire this thing up almost yearly.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: The Legend of ZeldaDragon Warrior, Final Fantasy.

Video Game Review: Fallout: New Vegas (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

Fallout 4 is finally out. I haven’t played it yet. But I did want to talk about the previous console Fallout installments before getting to the new game.

Fallout: New Vegas was the unnumbered sequel to Fallout 3. But as has become the trend, direct sequels aren’t usually numbered anymore, at least until the next console or generation of games. While this usually leads to confusion over what the chronology of games is in certain series, Fallout has only done this once. It certainly isn’t anywhere near as confusing as the clusterfuck that is the Assassin’s Creed series.

This game came out exactly two years after Fallout 3 and it plays exactly the same. It is an amazing game and pretty close to the masterpiece level of its predecessor but there just isn’t enough new stuff to set it apart and the story is less interesting. Also, the Wasteland seems more vast but the geography makes it more diverse. But even with that environmental diversity, it just feels like it is retreading the same formula.

The exchange of metropolitan D.C. for Las Vegas isn’t that exciting either. Sure, Vegas has a totally different vibe but it is much smaller than D.C. was and the casinos don’t serve much purpose, as they are simply aimless mazes with no real function other than a few plot points.

There are new creatures added to the mix of this game, as it is in a different region of the United States. However, most of them are more annoying than exciting when engaged. The damn mutant wasps are just a nuisance. I’d rather smash giant scorpions and blast on radioactive crab people and mutant bears.

Had this come out before Fallout 3, it would probably have been heralded as one of the best games of all-time but it came out after and just didn’t live up to the Fallout 3 experience.

I also had issues getting the DLC content to work. I played through one of them but there was a glitch preventing me from accessing the second and third ones, which is never fun after you pay for them. No patch seemed to fix the problem and that just adds to the other technical issues I faced with this game. I’d often times get stuck in the ground or a rock surface, the game would freeze, it would lag or I’d lose companions and never be able to find them again.

Even with all the negative points I’m making, this is still a thoroughly enjoyable game. It just isn’t as great as Fallout 3 but perfection is hard to replicate, even when you’ve created the formula already.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Fallout 3 and Fallout 4.

Video Game Review: Fallout 3 (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2015.

Fallout 4 is finally out. I haven’t played it yet. But I did want to talk about the previous console Fallout installments before getting to the new game.

Fallout 3 was a masterpiece. It is also my favorite game of the series up to that generation.

The world was vast. In fact, it was the most vast world I had ever played in, up to that time. The graphics were solid, the game play was incredible and the story was pretty good. The game also introduced me to the magical world of DLC content and produced some of the best DLC content of all-time.

The reason I like this game better than its follow up, Fallout: New Vegas, is because it just seemed grittier, more dangerous and a lot more interesting. It also took place in Washington D.C. You could walk through the Capitol Building, the museums, access the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. The final battle of the game took place around the Jefferson Memorial. There was also a massive aircraft carrier that was converted into a city.

The game also featured D.C.’s subway systems and sewer, which were full of ghouls (essentially radioactive zombies) and other terrors. The city streets were overrun by raiders (savage human gangs) and super mutants (giant hulking beasts with heavy armor and big guns). The Wasteland, the area outside of the city, was a vast desert with all kinds of danger and monsters.

Fallout 3 came chock full of side quests that made the game pretty much endless. You could play this thing for well over 100 hours and still find new things to do. It never got boring, it never got stale and I still fire it up on a regular basis and storm the wasteland looking for action.

This game was the precursor to what Skyrim became. It took a formula successful from the Elder Scrolls series and repackaged it in a more modern setting. It was nothing like Fallout and Fallout 2 before it and it benefited from the change.

The VATS combat system was unique and a cool new way to experience a fight in a video game.

The greatest thing of all, were the humongous super mutants called “Behemoths”. Battling one of those is one of the greatest experience you can have in a video game. It was like one man versus King Kong. But a sick, twisted, yellow, hairless King Kong.

Hunting Deathclaws in caverns was also a huge thrill. It was more frightening than most horror games and this isn’t really a standard horror game. It is a post-apocalyptic action game with a lot of scary threats that will make your survival a real challenge.

Fallout 3 is pretty close to a perfect game. There really isn’t much that one could do to improve upon it with the technology and capabilities of its time. Well, except for the bugginess and lag that I experienced on the PS3 version. My friends who played this on Xbox said that it ran smoothly, all the time.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4.

Video Game Review: The Legend of Zelda (NES)

There have been a lot of games in the Zelda franchise. Most of them have been pretty great. This however, is a review of the very first game in the series, which is still my favorite and is actually, still to this day, one of the greatest, if not the greatest video game of all-time.

It is a bird’s-eye-view game and 8-bit, as it came out on the original Nintendo way back in 1987 (1986 in Japan). It features Link and his quest to rescue Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. To do so, he must acquire all the pieces of the mystical Triforce. Each piece is hidden away in a different dungeon and requires the player to have to beat a boss before collecting it.

Back in the summer of 1987 I was eight years-old. That didn’t stop my friend Kenny and I from dedicating our entire summer to conquering this epic game. At the time, this was the most epic interactive experience either of us had ever encountered. In fact, when we would get stumped, one of us would have to beg our parents to allow us to call the Nintendo Hotline at 99 cents per minute because strategy guides and the Internet did not exist at that time. After about three months, we stormed into the evil warlord Ganon’s throne room and cut him down – rescuing the princess and reuniting both Triforces (after having to reconstruct one of them throughout the game).

I have never had as much fun playing a video game as I did the first time I played through this masterpiece. Final Fantasy VII is a very close second though.

Maybe my interpretation of this game relies heavily on the deep feeling of nostalgia that I experience whenever I think about The Legend of Zelda. However, the fact of the matter is, no other game has had the ability to generate a sense of nostalgia as strongly as this one does. I still pick this game up and play through it once a year. It brings me back to that place and it still feels like a great adventure. The only difference now is that I can beat the game in two hours, as opposed to three months.

This game really showed the potential that the video game medium had. At the time, everything was quick and pretty much beatable within a half hour. This introduced gamers to what the future of gaming would bring. It was the first game that I know of that had the ability to save your progress. That alone, to my eight year-old mind, was pretty profound.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: Zelda II: The Adventure of LinkDragon Warrior, Final Fantasy.