Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Archive for the ‘PS3’ Category

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review


The original Hotline Miami is still a massive indie hit that has a colourful over the top retro look to it with a fantastic soundtrack to accompany it. The goal of each level was simple: kill every enemy on screen by any means necessary. Although that comes across as a very basic concept the game is very difficult and you will find yourself restarting constantly until you finally figure out the magical formula to dispatch all the bad guys in the level. I was hooked to this game instantly when I first played it, and was pretty excited to hear a sequel was on the way.

hm2_3I first got a peek at Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number last year at EGX Rezzed 2014. It was being demoed on the Vita and PS4 and allowed you to play two levels from the game. What appealed to me at the time was the game was notoriously difficult from the get go, almost requiring you to have played the first game to have any chance of clearing each level. Getting hands on with the full game that is certainly not the case now. The game opens with a pretty simple to follow tutorial, then the rest is up to you. Controls are very similar to a twin stick shooter only you really have to make every hit count in this game. You will be switching between melee weapons and guns regularly, and you’ll have to change your tactics constantly as not every single enemy can be taken down with the same weapon. Every enemy you face can be taken down in a single hit, but just keep in mind your own character is equally fragile. It’s basically you versus a house full of enemies and as you take each baddie down you will be greeted with the most gory of pixelated graphics you have every seen in a retro inspired game, and its kinda awesome.  On normal mode the game allows you to auto lock onto the nearest target which makes taking down enemies a lot easier. If you brave the game on hard this ability is disabled and you have to rely on your own skill with the controls to pull through.

At its core the game is basically more of the same with relatively short levels, but you will be restarting them constantly trying to figure out your own magical formula to beat each area. Heres a quick overview of how a level usually went for me: enter the door got stabbed by the first guy, RESTART, enter door hit the guy shot by someone in the distance, RESTART, “ah ha I got that guys gun, oh wait here comes three guys in a row, damn I’m out of ammo”, dead, RESTART, “Finally taken everyone down, wait theres a dog oh fu-“, RESTART. You get the idea. Nothing quite beats that feeling though when you finally conquer a level after having restarted it several times.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number_20150311151429

If I had a friend playing this game with me I could totally see this being a water cooler discussion on how you managed to get past certain areas. The boss battles in particular bring across that head scratching moment and since I played this game pretty much on release there was no help online at the time (though that would of course have changed now). It really reminded me of those nostalgic days before the internet where you really had no help in figuring out how to get through the game.

hm2_1The sequel does try to bring some changes to the formula. First off, the game is now heavily story focused. In the previous game you just picked up the phone and did a level; a little story was peppered in but the game was very quick to get to the action. This time around you will be reading a lot of text from various characters. It provides that depth some people may be looking for, those who wanted to know what the hell was going on in the first game but if you do just want to get to the killing you can skip these sections. The story contains a lot of twists and it’s really not worth spoiling in a review.  In Hotline Miami 2 you will play as various characters looking at the dark story from different angles. Sometimes you will get to choose between a handful of masked maniacs who each have different perks (e.g. a chainsaw or dual wielding machine guns), sometimes you will play a soldier in the jungle and you have to commit to a specific weapon of choice. This makes the game feel more linear. While it is good to provide the player with a unique challenge, fans of the first game where you had access to various perks in the forms of masks in the majority of the levels might find the new design to the game more limited. It doesn’t stop how much fun the game is and you can still finish the level in any way you choose.

 A large criticism I have to the game was it felt like there was a lot of cheap deaths from enemies off screen. Guns play a big role in this game and your fragile sprite can only take a single bullet. So it was particularly aggravating to go through levels where I was being shot by an offscreen baddie that was out of my line of sight. The game does allow you to pan the camera around to survey your surroundings but even then it might not be enough to see that bugger in the distance. It feels this time around you really need to learn the level and enemy positions rather than just winging it. I guess the reason for this design is to force you out of your comfort zone and take chances.

The retro inspired graphics are colourful and frankly excellent. They haven’t changed at all from the first game and they never needed to. Just like the first game you have a fantastic soundtrack to accompany your killing spree which is worthy of putting on your mp3 player and playing those 80s techno beats while you drive down those fine Miami streets in the setting sun with your shades on. Sorry got carried away there. If you don’t have that luxury you can enjoy this soundtrack outside the game whatever you decide to do.


Overall, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is fast, frantic killing fun. I always admire a developer who tries to bring something new to the table to mix things up for a sequel. To breathe some fresh air into the series as opposed to playing it safe and bringing more of the same. Some changes will sit well with fans of the first and some won’t, but this doesn’t change the fact that the game is still great fun and an excellent buy for gamers looking for tons of replay value in their game. I played this game on both PS3 and Vita, both versions are absolutely fine but the PC version does have the addition of a level editor which I can see as being a fantastic resource for people looking for even more Hotline Miami action.  Especially given that this game is the last in the series, future content is going to be left in the hands of the fans to continue.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (review policy)

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is available on PC (including Mac and Linux), Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Vita for an MSRP of $14.99 and it is cross-buy on Playstation platforms (buying one version releases all versions).  This title was purchased by the reviewer and a press copy was not provided.

Written by jamalais

March 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Hotline Miami Review

with one comment


Getting that “retro feel” in modern games is a particular challenge that few actually nail.  Sometimes the aesthetics are spot on, but at the expense of gameplay, which can feel sluggish or imprecise and the developer often sites authenticity for retro consoles or some other excuse.  Many times the soundtrack is fantastic but it’s the only notable aspect of the game.  By process of elimination there are those titles that get the gameplay down but at the expense of aesthetics and story a la Retro City Rampage.  That’s why Hotline Miami seems such an achievement because it looks like a 16-bit top-down game, plays like a twin stick shooter from the 90s (Smash TV anyone?), and manages to pull off the unreliable narrator concept that usually falls flat.  On top of that, it has a fantastic soundtrack that Dennis Wedin composed for the game and stands as the first thing you experience upon booting it up and the most notable part of the experience.  All the elements are there and the result is an unforgetable title from start to finish.

hotline_miami_1Like the movies of David Lynch that developer Jonathan Soderstrom took inspiration from, you have no idea what is going on right from the beginning and it never gets all that clear.  The facts are this: you are never named, you wear a letterman jacket and a mask, it’s 1989, and random voicemails are coming in with tasks for you to accomplish.  Most of these tasks involve you breaking into a house (you are encouraged to kill everyone inside) and performing a specific task, which is usually fetching an item.  Along the way you will come in contact with three other masked individuals – Richard (rooster mask), Don Juan (horse mask), and Rasmus (owl mask) – that will interact with you in various unique ways.  Beyond that telling any more about the plot would be both confusing and spoiler-heavy so I’ll leave it there.

hotline_miami_2Each scenario has you breaking into a house and while apparently it’s possible to not engage these enemies, I chose to take out every single threat on the premises.  This proves to be quite the challenge and stay away if you don’t like the concept of having to memorize a level and dying over and over again, but in keeping faithful to the retro style I was right at home.  Hotline Miami is violent video game, in fact despite the 16-bit style graphics it may be the bloodiest and most messed up title I’ve ever played, rivaling the likes of Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto.  It works for this type of game, though, because the retro style graphics desensitize you a bit to the graphic violence on screen and the top-down perspective allows you to see the results of your carnage.  It all feels like a bad trip where you are on a confused mission of death and destruction all while not knowing a thing about your purpose.  As you traverse level to level – or rather house to house – that odd phenomenon of more information making you even more confused happens and at least for me pushed me to keep going.  I should also note that since each level is a short isolated mission that you will replay continually until overcoming it, this game was probably most comfortable on the Vita, although I first got addicted to and completed it on PC.

hotline_miami_3I think the least said about Hotline Miami the better so as not to spoil what the game has to offer in terms of plot, gameplay, and even the fun twists that happen.  It’s got a great aesthetic, spot-on graphics, an incredible soundtrack, its controls are so sharp that any death will undeniably be your fault, and it messes with your head.  That’s what I want out of my indie darlings, of which this is an ideal example.  If you haven’t experience Hotline Miami for yourself and you like the retro feel or just plain great experiences from any era, this is a must play provided you can get past the brutality.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (review policy)

Hotline Miami is currently available on the PC (including Mac and Linux ports), Playsation 3, Playstation 4, and Vita for an MSRP of $9.99.  Purchasing this title on any of the three Sony platforms also makes it available on all others (cross-buy).  This title was completed in approximately 6 hours with an additional two hours for extra content.  A total of almost 20 hours has been played on multiple completions with different platforms.  The game appears to perform the same on all platforms, however gamepad support seems weakest on PC.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

The Evil Within Review

with 2 comments


The Evil Within is the stuff nightmares are made of.  I’m not being dramatic, almost everything in this game will cater to the popular nightmares that plague humanity – in my case that happens to be clowns – and throws them right in your face.  That’s not to say it is a scary game, because unlike other contemporaries the goal of The Evil Within is to disturb you and create tension rather than grab you with a quick jump scare (although it can’t resist the urge to do that as well at times).  Bundled altogether it creates the closest representation of a haunted house without forgetting that it’s also a video game and therefore can make death a reality for all parties involved.  This would be a fantastic reality for the definitive horror experience if it weren’t for the abundance of setbacks that range from visuals, to AI, and even creep into gameplay that no matter how big a fan you are just cannot be ignored.



The first thing you will notice is that the screen resolution is narrowed.  Specifically the game has an odd resolution with full 1920 length and reduced height, which has black letterbox bars that extend to the entire screen of 1920×1080 (1080p).  This is a significant amount of real estate that surpasses traditional letterboxing and can be off-putting at first.  Whether the resolution is truly an artistic choice like Bethesda has claimed or if the game just couldn’t run at full 1080p (this is the case with all versions, including PC), I have to admit it becomes irrelevant fast because it wasn’t really noticeable once I had been playing for a few minutes.  Not only is the screen smaller, but the framerate is sub-par even by a console game’s standards, which tries to maintain 30 frames per second (fps) but dips down into the mid and even lower 20s depending on the situation.  With already flawed controls – more on that later – the inconsistency in fps might have come off as just another obstacle to success but in truth I had little problem with it.  Ironic as it seems, I never saw significant dips when a horde of enemies or sudden aggressive circumstance arrived so it really had little effect on my enjoyment.  All in all, whether it be aesthetics or lack of optimization, the biggest gripes I’ve heard about this game from screenshots were forgotten concerns a mere fifteen minutes in.

Normally I don’t talk about other games in reviews because I think that each game is a work unto its own and every work borrows from another, but the roots of The Evil Within and the couple of experiences it borrows from are too ingrained in its DNA to not draw such connections.  It is the creation of Shinji Mikami, who is best known for the creation of the Resident Evil series and is directly responsible for the decisions that led to the released versions of 1, 2, and 4, which juggle around as the fan favorites for the series.  Since the release of Resident Evil 4 Mikami has danced between a few titles and developers, but he always ends up back at his roots in horror games.  While Resident Evil decided to go more action based in its sequels, Mikami has kept the vision of the action/horror hybrid he demonstrated in alive through 2011’s Shadows of the Damned where he teamed up with Suda 51 to create what was then boasted as the potential Resident Evil 4 sequel that never was.  Both the critical and sales reception of that title proved that the quirky nature of Suda’s vision seemed to clash with the tension horror of Mikami and it was anything but the Resident Evil 4 follow up fans wanted.  That all changed when Mikami’s studio, Tango Gameworks, announced The Evil Within to be the true spiritual successor to his work and at its core you would be hard pressed to argue that this game is not a true Resident Evil 4 follow up.


Knowing that’s where the roots to The Evil Within lie brings with it not only the great parts of the 2005 revamp, but also the dated and flawed gameplay that it represents today.  Right out of the gate this title’s flaws get revealed and never hesitate to remind you they exist.  Detective Castellanos, our lead, moves clumsily about in the rain at the game’s opening moments, which had me worried right off the bat at my ability to run, aim, and shoot with such floaty inaccurate controls.  It takes a few chapters, but when the gunplay begins to ramp up and with scarce ammo as a major liability, you can’t help but want to blame the controls for the pathetic misses at point blank range.  In fact, late in the game when you are forced into an arena atmosphere with many enemies and little ammo, it feels like a puzzle figuring out how to distribute your resources to effectively take everyone out.  It was pretty laughable as my wife watched me run around in circles like an idiot for fifteen minutes while a herd chased me, not in any danger of dying but also having no resources to handle my pursuers.  Mikami’s previous titles always had a melee option to get you out of these tough situations, especially because any enemy can drop coveted rounds, but in The Evil Within your melee deals a negligible amount of damage.  Even if you upgrade it, going to fists against any enemy leaves you doling out pointless damage while also allowing the enemy to get in a couple blows themselves with surprising strength.  In fact, most of the upgrade system in this game makes little difference in the overall experience save for the few items based on running and healing, both defensive maneuvers.  In short, ration your ammo, this is a survival horror game after all.


Before you ever dawn a true weapon The Evil Within will introduce you to the game’s stealth mechanic.  For a majority of the game avoiding detection or methodically eliminating everyone in the room is as much an option as charging in guns blazing.  Your first encounter with this game’s twisted reality and subsequent enemies is more of an obstacle course where you can get acquainted with how to sneak up to or past foes.  It’s nothing complicated and for the most part the illusion of when enemies can and cannot see you remains consistent.  This is where The Evil Within attempts to pull off its best The Last of Us impression and it doesn’t do a good job.  Castellanos moves painfully slow in stealth mode to the point that sneaking up on an enemy, even if you mimic its moves from the moment it turns its back to you, can be a stressful encounter.  Once you get close enough the game will display an icon allowing you to perform a stealth kill, but if for some reason that prompt doesn’t show – and at times it won’t – or that enemy turns around suddenly you could be in for a world of trouble.  Thankfully it’s not instant death but the enemies have a knack for being able to pinpoint your exact location for quite some time after one of them initially sees you.  There are bottles in the environment that I figured would be helpful like they were in The Last of Us, but the mechanic almost seems broken at the onset.  Later in the game your bottle diversion is much more effective and this is most likely due to the openness of the environments early on compared to the closed tight conditions of the endgame.  Sneaking around also allows you to avoid traps and even disarm them for ammo, but again the minigame where you have to stop a needle in a small space has an odd delay that often ends with you blown to bits.  I also thought it was a huge wasted opportunity that the enemies can’t trigger the traps themselves, although you can definitely trigger them with bullets to make for environmental landmines if you see fit.  Clearly Tango checked all the boxes when trying to emulate The Last of Us but like most aspects of this game they didn’t sweat the details enough to give it that polished feel.

Despite many of this game’s weaker points, it is one hell of a ride.  Whether it’s sneaking past psychotic chainsaw-wielding butchers, disarming a booby trap connected to a meat grinder, or taking on an unnamable creature in a parking garage, this game wears its horror badge proudly.  Everything about the art direction, enemy design, and of course enough viscera to fill an ocean is meant to unease and intimidate.  While they may all initially look the same, your enemies do progress and have the same variety that Resident Evil 4 did before it, where each new section of the game had its own distinct enemy.  These standard foes will be a bit of an annoyance, but they are nothing compared the few, but impressive bosses you will encounter.  Each monstrosity that comes from The Evil Within will play upon horror tropes that are varied and create the game’s largest moments of tension.  As much as I’d like to gush about some of my favorites, I feel it’s inappropriate to give them away.  One well documented boss is The Keeper, but he’s better described under his nickname, Boxhead, due to the massive safe he wears on his head as protection.  While discovering how to take out each distinct boss may be a bit annoying, the fact that I was grinding my teeth on edge while I figured out the somewhat basic method of dispelling them to be of the best in my horror gaming.  This game is disturbing, disgusting, anxiety-filled, and I loved traversing through it.


That said, it does wear out its welcome.  In a trend I’ve seen far too often these days,The Evil Within does feel like it was padded.  You will find inconsistencies in the levels with one action-packed chapter followed by a dull repeat of mechanics without even a boss battle to wrap things up.  That would be fine if the gameplay was diverse, but it’s during these seemingly padded chapters that The Evil Within loves to demonstrate its ability to be repetitive and boring or utterly cheap with quick “Gotcha!” deaths.  Sure, it’s cute once in a while, but after the 10th time on a part that requires memorization to best or that would have been a breeze if what to do was clear, you feel cheated, and did I mention the lengthy load times?  I’m also torn on the constant throwbacks to Mikami’s Resident Evil roots that make this game almost feel like a re-imagined hodgepodge of those initial games.  Any large fan of the series will see right through these nods but after a while it seemed to strip the unique nature expected of a new intellectual property (IP).  I mean come on, it even has an unlockable machine gun, RPG, and statues of the characters unlock upon completion.


When you put it all together, the duality of good and bad that has remained consistent throughout this review makes it a difficult game to give a final verdict to.  The Evil Within nails the high end goal that Mikami started way back in 1987 with Sweet Home and finally made a true haunted house simulation that looks and feels every bit as twisted as it should be.  With this extreme attention to detail and tone, it’s surprising that the core of the game and the mechanics that surround it weren’t given equal effort.  It’s programmed sloppy, it plays sloppy, and it unfolds sloppy.  For fans of Mikami’s past work or anyone who’s looking for that new horror experience, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to play at least the first handful of hours with this game.  Hang on to that love and fandom, though, because you are going to need to grind through to the eventual conclusion that seems just as determined at making you quit out of frustration as it does encourage you to reach the end.  After having overcome the game’s final challenge, realizing what holes in the plot remained, and reflected on the last 15-20 hours of gameplay, I came to the conclusion that The Evil Within was a blast of a ride first time through, but unlike most of Mikami’s previous work it’s many flaws prevent me from wanting to delve back into it again.

Final Score: 3 out of 5   (review policy)

This review originally appeared on All Games but was permitted to be re-posted on other sites owned by the writer.  A review copy from the publisher was not provided, it was purchased by the reviewer.  It was played for a total of approximately 20 hours and the campaign was completed in full.  The Evil Within is available on the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC for $59.99 with identical content, display resolution (as opposed to native resolution), and performance (ie: framerate) on all platforms; however native resolution, visuals, and textures can differ between them.  

Written by Fred Rojas

February 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

Life is Strange Review

leave a comment »


Episode 1: Chrysalis

Adventure games have always been a bit of a split for me.  I was never good at them, never completed many of them, and thus I wanted to write them off as worthless but what they did for storytelling is undeniable.  TellTale somewhat switched up the definition of what goes into an adventure game, but try as they may I was hindered by either losing investment in the story or just not valuing these games any more than my current frustration with trying to beat Grim Fandango Remastered because I had never played before.  I guess the biggest problem for me was the balance is never quite there.  In a point-and-click adventure game there’s too much emphasis on puzzle solving and figuring out the developer whereas the TellTale games traditionally have too little and stand as nothing more than slightly interactive movies (that always seem to end in the same place regardless of those decisions).  Life is Strange stands out because developer Dontnod (known previously for the great action title Remember Me) acknowledges the reality that you are a player interacting with an environment, but also allows you to relate to the person on screen so distinctly that you get the best of both worlds.

The life of the high school teen...

The life of the high school teen…

I think the least said about the plot the better for a game like this, but the basic premise revolves around a just turned 18-year-old girl named Maxine (Max) Caulfield who is currently enrolled in an art academy in Oregon.  Both the academy and the town (Arcadia Bay) are significant because Max grew up in that town and when her family relocated to Seattle five years ago she apparently abandoned that life for reasons unknown at the start of the game.  Her main interest is in photography – the main draw as to why she would return to Arcadia Bay and attend a school she doesn’t seem too fond of save for her photography class – and while she does come off as a bit of a loner, I was glad to see that she is aware of most of her limited number of classmates.  Early into the game Max discovers that she has the ability to reverse time and uses it to protect someone, which later gives way to a slew of problems.  The story develops with the player being able to interact as much or as little as they please with the environment and the people in it as the story naturally progresses.  The game proves that it’s not just putting the episodic format to waste by creating branching storylines that don’t evolve much in this first iteration, foreshadowing the future, and creating an overall conflict that will no doubt take the entire five episodes to reconcile.

Interact with anything of interest, you never know what you might find

Interact with anything of interest, you never know what you might find

Life is Strange initially captures you for how effortlessly it captures the world it creates.  Those late teenage years are awkward for everyone and the way important issues are brushed off and pointless interests becomes the focus of the universe for these students reminds me of the days when I was in that same position.  There’s no beating you over the head with any specific character and the range of individuals you can get to know, or completely ignore, is placed with skill like a series of figures on a bookshelf that can be appreciated if the onlooker so chooses.  One of my biggest gripes for all adventure games is that I am being forced into difficult decisions without knowing the immediate outcome and then I have to live with them.  This may be the way real life works, but in video games it takes control away from the player and may force you down a path you never intended to take and thus don’t invest in.  Life is Strange allows you to see the immediate effects of any of the game’s handful of major binary decisions and then make your choice, but it’s clear that the consequences of these actions are tucked away to be thrown in your face later.  Now I know there are some that would sneer at this transparency, which is justified, but the the game doesn’t stop you from committing to a decision without considering the consequences and save for a few puzzles you are never forced to rewind time and consider a decision.  In short, it’s the true Choose Your Own Adventure video game, complete with the freedom read the first page of each decision.

Chloe, Max's former best friend, is an part of episode 1

Chloe, Max’s former best friend, is an integral part of episode 1

With only one episode in and a release date of March 2015 for the second, Life is Strange looks like it will take the greater part of this year to fully progress, but from this initial outing I’m invested in full.  Much like its previous title, Dontnod has taken aspects that we all appreciate from a handful of games and combined them together into a stronger cohesive whole.  Here’s hoping that the adventures of Max stay as strong through each of the five episodes as it did for the first.  My confidence is further heightened by the fact that this first episode was riddled with a lot more drama than action, meaning that there’s no need to outdo itself in the future.  As for now, it’s one hell of a pilot.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy)  – This first episode was played through twice by the reviewer.  The first time was thorough and took around 3 hours to complete, the second took under 2 hours but was streamlined.

Given that this game is episodic, this review will continue to build upon itself per episode.  Posts of each episode will go on the main page individually but this link will stand as the comprehensive review for all episodes.  Each episode will be given its own score initially, but the comprehensive review will have an overall score that will update with each episode (and may not necessarily reflect an average of the scores as this is not the method to scoring).  This game was purchased by the reviewer and played on PC, however it is available on Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC (including Steam), Xbox One, and Playstation 4 at a price of $4.99 for Episode One and $19.99 for the entire five episode run.  It is assumed that episodes will be available individually for $4.99 each.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm

Remember Me Review

leave a comment »

remember_me_boxRemember Me is not a sum of its parts.  That’s an important factor to keep in mind as you progress through this game, and frankly, is quite counter to a majority of experiences out there.  This title is trying to tell a complex story in the world of interactive fiction, which has been tried before with varying results, and manages to keep its focus on the big picture instead of being bogged down by the limitations of a video game.  As I played through it was fascinating to me how I wanted to keep note of the little gripes and problems I was seeing instead of paying attention to what was going on.  This is the one large hurdle, or caveat if you choose to view it as such, that separates whether you will enjoy Remember Me or pitch it to the wayside as a product of the end of this cycle.  Keep in mind it is by no means perfect, or even groundbreaking, but it offers a story and world that are unique and manages to maintain suitable gameplay that makes progressing the plot intriguing.

Remember Me is the pinnacle of a cyberpunk story – it takes place in 2084, memories are shared experiences in a social network, the city of Paris has been renamed to Neo-Paris – so everything will feel a bit familiar for fans of the genre.  A corporation named Memorise has established technology and networks that allow you to extract, share, and sell memories, which has gotten so popular it controls a majority of the population.  As with any cyberpunk story, whenever there’s a large controlling corporation there is always an underground group set on bringing it down, in Remember Me they are called “Errorists”.  You control female protagonist Nilin, who in the prequel chapter awakens in a Memorise facility for memory erasure.  This is not circumstantial, Nilin was a clear target given her alliance with the Errorists and the fact that she can steal and alter other people’s memories.  With the help of Errorist leader Edge, Nilin works her way through the roughest and nicest neighborhoods of Neo-Paris in an attempt to take down Memorise.  It’s good to see a story that revolves around the tangible world, which is often ignored or background in cyberpunk.  While the setup may be relatively standard, I found the overall plot and especially the final hours, to be a unique twist that rarely happens, particularly in video games.

remember_me_2Gameplay varies, switching between different styles and formats, but essentially it’s a brawler and platformer with mini-games sprinkled in from time to time.  It will be tempting to compare gameplay to several games – Remember Me is acutely aware of what was popular this generation – but contextually it shares nothing more with the titles you could reference so I don’t feel there’s a point.  Brawling is a timing-based system of combos and dodging – the unique aspect in this game being the ability to add a perk to each hit of a combo allowing you to modify battle to your play style.  In addition you receive special attacks that assist in taking down specific types or certain combinations of enemies, which is the brunt of the diversity in combat.  After an episode or two the battles flow in such a way that they are not only manageable but also satisfying displays of your abilities.  Platforming is hindered a bit by the disconnect between Nilin’s pathetic static jump and her impressive leaps when aiming for a specific ledge or platform.  Throughout the campaign you will leap gaps, shimmy across platforms, scale large exteriors, and climb about with relative ease.  Instead of the popular glowing ledge Remember Me provides contextual arrows to guide where you can go next but it’s unnecessary because Nilin will most often not allow you to jump to somewhere she can’t grab on to.  I’ve heard claims of stealth in the game, but save for a few “dodge the robot’s line of sight” instances, there’s none to speak of.  At times you will be able to remix someone’s memory, which is mostly watching a cutscene with the ability to control speed and direction of playback while searching for little areas that you can change to impact the memory.  As a result a simple fight between lovers can result in a murder or a basic medical procedure can end horribly, but only in that character’s mind because you aren’t actually changing history.  There’s only one result the game wants you to get, but I was amused that making changes to the wrong outcome still allows you to see what could potentially happen despite the game forcing you to go back and choose the correct path.  Most episodes end with a boss battle that harkens back to the days of puzzle bosses that require you to try various tactics and pattern recognition.  I personally enjoyed the boss battles and found them to be an appropriate change in scope and battle, but the final matches do end up being quite derivative.


Developer Dontnod is an independent studio from France that includes art director Aleksi Briclot, best known for his art in Magic: The Gathering, and science fiction writer Alain Damasio (although all of his books are in French) as predominant members of the studio.  It shows.  The world created in Remember Me is vibrant with that bright neon exterior hiding a cold and heartless mechanical nucleus.  Neo-Paris has depth, a layout, neighborhoods, and a is an established world from the start.  Not only that but the graphics looked great, even on the 360, with a consistent framerate no matter what was happening.  Unlike many other 3rd person action platformers, this game is as linear as it comes with few opportunities to explore or even wonder off the beaten path.  I know this may seem like a discredit to the created city, and perhaps it is, but the direct progression of the episodes allows the story to stay on point and the player to remain focused, albeit at the expense of the hard work put in behind the scenes.  I also felt the world was a bit scant in terms of population.  You will encounter an occasional citizen or street vendor, but they don’t directly interact with you and all of the homes and apartments you find yourself in will be void of human life whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night.  Sure, Dontnod threw in a bunch of random housekeeping or maintenance cyborgs as placeholders within the environment, but I found those to be as remarkable as the random furniture in the room.  The back third of the game also involves many areas that look identical and granted the plot justifies the setting but I was hoping to see more of the dazzling atmosphere that is introduced in the first half of the game.

remember_me_3Remember Me not only has a series of technical missteps but also some conscious decisions that break immersion so distinctly I’m surprised they were left in.  For starters the load times, even installed on my Xbox 360, were extremely long.  Given that most of the times I had to reload were sudden action scenes that required you to know what was coming next to react or cheap deaths because Nilin didn’t register you were leaping to a ledge instead of her simple hop, it was aggravating.  I still don’t understand why games today have those intense action scenes completely focused around twitch reactions and then force you into specific routes or curveball counterintuitive inputs, it’s annoying and reminds me I’m playing a video game.  Thankfully these sequences are few and far between here.  Since Remember Me is so linear and scripted, there were a few times in the campaign where contextual events like a door opening or ledge dropping simply didn’t happen and I was forced to reload a checkpoint.  I’m not sure how widespread this was (I played a retail copy pre-release and there were no online updates during this time), but with the long load times and general confusion it was a rare but unpleasant occurrence.  Furthermore the dialogue is somewhat lacking, with most conversations being monologues or banter between Nilin and Edge, but hidden within this dialogue are often major plot points.  If you’re not paying attention, which can be somewhat difficult while you’re running around and trying to figure out where to go next, you may miss large reveals in the story.  They continue to be reinforced, but no one likes to piece the story together contextually.

Remember Me is trying to tell a complex interactive story without sacrificing the gameplay that so often falls to the wayside in games of this type.  I can already tell that several factors are working against it: it’s a title that comes late in the generation, it’s only single player, the campaign is around 12 hours long, it’s riddled with “take it or leave it” mechanics, and it doesn’t do anything all that new.  Still, I feel that this project was handled with enough care to justify the packaging it comes in – not all single player games should be $60 but the production value appears to justify the cost.  I can see where this is going to be popular among the crowd that latches to cyberpunk or deep single player experiences, something definitely lacking in today’s gamespace, but I fear that the typical turn-and-burn gamer will find nothing compelling about it.  Still, if you want to play a game that centralizes around the story and unfolds with decent gameplay and a few eyebrow raising mechanics, Remember Me is sure to satisfy.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

This review was originally written on The B-Team Podcast web site but the writer retained all rights to re-publish this review.  Keep in mind that all comments are based on the first week of release.  A review copy was provided by Capcom for the Xbox 360.  Later in time the writer replayed this title on PS3 and noticed no inherit differences.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 12, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in PC/Mac, PS3, Reviews, Xbox 360

Tagged with , ,

Resident Evil HD Remaster Under 3 Hour Speedrun

leave a comment »


Completing a longer game in a speedrun can be not only an accomplishment but also quite rewarding.  In the case of Resident Evil, completing the game in a speedrun is literally built into the programming with the expectation that after you’ve explored the game a couple of times you will jump right into it.  The recent Resident Evil HD Remaster came out and while I found the game quite difficult in my recent playthrough and it took me over 11 hours to complete, I dared leap into an under 3 hour speedrun (albeit with the gracious help of a guide from GameFAQs).  I also decided to capture it and offer voiceover so that you can not only enjoy watching a speedrun, but see what is done and why to somewhat bend the timeline of the game to be as short as it is.  I’ve embedded the first video below and you can see the entire playlist here.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 2, 2015 at 11:00 am

Mini Podcast: The Legacy of Shinobi

leave a comment »


For this week’s mini podcast Fred tackles the Sega franchise Shinobi, and more specifically the Joe Musashi games from the earliest years of the franchise.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe: RSS iTunes Google Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

January 31, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Resident Evil HD Remaster Review

leave a comment »


Fred’s Take

After long last it appears that Resident Evil, specifically the Gamecube remake from 2002, is making a widespread appearance on modern consoles complete with increased resolution, performance, and controls.  This is significant because the number of people who owned a Gamecube was relatively small and the Wii port had such a limited print run it was a bit difficult to find.  Not only that, but at 12 years old, the game itself has plenty of dated setbacks that most gamers I talk to refuse to put up with.  Thankfully this new version is digital only (no need to hunt down copies), adapted for today, and relatively inexpensive ($19.99 on all platforms).  With all the tweaks made to this game it is so close to being worth the money I can’t see any fan of horror games or the original series not wanting to pick up this new version.  Besides, it’s January, what else is coming out?

If you played the original to death – and pretty much anyone who owned the game back in 1996 did as we waited two whole years for the sequel – it’s a pretty rudimentary journey at this point.  You know where everything is, you probably know most of the tricks, you don’t need to save often, and your completion time will be somewhere in the 3-6 hour mark.  On the other hand, the limited release of this game and the cumbersome systems it can be found on means that you probably aren’t that familiar with it.  This is no graphical coat of paint over the original design, it’s a brand new experience.  The mansion’s layout has been changed, most of the puzzles are different, there are new enemies, and everything is scattered in completely different places.  That doesn’t mean that experts of the original can’t jump in and easily conquer this title from start to finish, but it’s going to take you some time.  Even more impressive is the fact that despite me completing the original at least once a year since it released, this version was able to get some tense and great jump scare moments out of me along the way.  It’s a new Resident Evil and it’s worth replaying.

Suppose you already picked up and played the Gamecube original (or the more rare Wii version), then there may be a bit less that this version has to offer.  Instead of 480p/widescreen (widescreen was only in the Wii version), you do have the benefit of 720p/1080p depending on the version you pick up.  Like many of Capcom’s Resident Evil HD versions before it, this version varies in the benefits of the new resolution from looking incredibly crisp and on par with today’s games and looking like a blurry stretched mess of an upscale.  Lighting is probably the most obvious and appreciated upgrade, Resident Evil is a better game with dynamic lighting and shadows.  Capcom was picky in what it remade and didn’t for this version and the inconsistency shows no matter how well versed you are at visuals.  That said, it’s still as gorgeous a game as it ever was and I didn’t see much of an issue – it looks much better than any other version I’ve ever played.  When you start to break down the differences between the 720p and 1080p versions, however, that’s where the lines begin to blur much more.  In short, just get the version that helps you sleep at night.  Having touched the fully upgraded PC version and compared it to the 720p PS3 version, I see little or no reason to own both, they are essentially the same game, even visually.  There is also a control option that plays a bit more like today’s shooters, but as I attempted a play with them I found myself hiding back into the hole of the classic tank controls.  This may not be the case for you, but to me it appears that Resident Evil is truly only Resident Evil with those tank style controls.  It makes sense, once we had a first person perspective mode Metal Gear Solid just didn’t seem right in The Twin Snakes, am I right?

This game is hard.  Not impossible and I’m not going to compare it in any way to a certain set of games by From Software, but if you are careless about your surroundings and enemies it will cost you.  This often comes in the form of dying after you had gone on a 30-60 minute run and had to re-start a portion all over.  Not only that, but with the new items and locations throughout this game it can be harder to figure out what you’re looking for or what to do next to progress without consulting a guide – which I admit I had to do twice during the campaign and it made me roll my eyes both times I saw the solution.  Pixel hunting and finding that item on the shelf isn’t so bad with the original because I know exactly where everything is and what to do, but that’s not the case with this one and you may be searching for like an hour to find a power cell that’s tucked away in a corner somewhere.  All of these items result in a much longer play of the game.  It appears Jam beat it in 7 hours whereas I was more around the 11 hour mark – although to be fair I only died 2 or 3 times because I was constantly backtracking and saving like a scaredy-cat.  So play however works best for you.  I also noticed that with the difficulty ramp of the Jill campaign, which is the easier of the two and my personal recommendation for you to start with, I am very eager to jump right back in and tackle the Chris campaign.  That’s not normal for me with Resident Evil on the PS1.


In the end this is a way to bring those exclusive Nintendo titles over to mainstream consoles and share them with the masses.  I’m not sure how popular this version will be, but Capcom has made it as cheap and easy to find as it can within reason – those Wii U complainers will probably be reminded that the Wii version works on their console.  If you’ve never played this version or wish to revisit it after all these years, the price and availability makes one of my favorite games of all time come back to life.  Thank you Capcom.

Final Score: 5 out of 5 (review policy and guidelines)

If you wish to see this game in action, feel free to check out our quick look.

Jam’s Take

Once again you have stepped into the world of survival horror, good luck.

remake_jamAs you may be aware I have been a Resident Evil fan from day one. Originally I rented the Playstation original from Blockbuster, I genuinely found the experience to be quite scary and difficult. Yes, the graphics on that version haven’t exactly aged well but the game itself still holds up as a solid but difficult survival horror game. I think I warmed more to Resident Evil 2 in the earlier days because it was a lot easier. Over time though I began to appreciate Resident Evil a lot more.

Resident Evil then received a very impressive remake on the Gamecube. This for some of us was the reason we purchased a GameCube. I remember playing this game late into the night and actually falling off my chair at some of the jump scares. Since Nintendo had a deal with Capcom at the time this version of Resident Evil would remain an exclusive title to Nintendo consoles. But of course time passes and Capcom needs money especially with increased financial pressure on the company. It was no surprise that we would eventually see Resident Evil finally get a release on other consoles including the PC.

remake_4Last year a new remastered version has been released and being the Resident Evil fanboy that I am, I was’nt whiling to wait a month for the digital only release in my own territory. So I imported  a physical copy for PS3 all the way from Hong Kong. Though this version is Biohazard, (the original Japanese title of the game). This review very much represents the digital releases.

Even though I have played the Resident Evil Remake multiple times on the Gamecube and even the Wii version it still felt utterly fantastic booting this game up again and playing through. The opening cutscene remains untouched in terms of graphical quality, but, once you head into that familiar Spencer mansion I was surprised how good the graphics looked compared to the Gamecube version.  The game runs at 30fps on the last gen consoles and looks fantastic. Character models look great and the pre rendered backgrounds look even more detailed than before, it feels like there is less of a fog on the screen. Then again I am now playing the game on a flat screen TV whereas before I was still using a CRT. I found myself just wandering around appreciating the environments as a Zombie was lowly slumping toward me.

remake_1The entire Resident Evil remake campaign remains unchanged. The developers have now offered a easy mode which is available right from the beginning of the game (before I think it was only available when you died multiple times on standard difficulty). The biggest inclusion to the package is the altered controls. Don’t panic if you want to play the game in its original vanilla form with the tank controls you can still do that. To appeal to a new audience the developers have offered an alternative control scheme. Unlike before where you would have to hold down a button to run  pushing on the left analogue stick will make Jill or Chris run in whatever direction you want. These controls really simplify the experience but it kinda takes the tension away. I personally avoided this because I am so used to the original controls, it just felt right that way.

Since the Gamecube lacked online support the HD Remaster has included online leader boards so you can see how ridiculously fast other people have finished the game. You can also compare your scores to your friends. Of course with this being on next gen systems the game also has trophy/achievements included.

remake_5Resident Evil is a survival horror game. Health items and ammo are limited and it’s greatly discouraged to kill every enemy. You have limited inventory space to carry items, so you have to choose your equipment wisely. You get to chose one of two characters Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield. You are members of S.T.A.R.S (Special Tactics And Rescue Squad) hired to investigate some suspicious murders in the mountains. Of course you end up finding a mansion where hell breaks loose and your only goal to to escape. If you want an easier game you’ll pick Jill, but it is encouraged to play both campaigns as the stories play out completely different. As you explore the mansion you will come across Zombies as well as other nasty creatures. In between surviving those experiences there are also puzzles to solve some of which by failing could lead to your death. If that wasn’t enough the game throws a fair few boss battles at you. Should you enter a specific room under prepared this may also lead to a cheap death. Dying is a common place in this game the first time through, it’ll probably take you around 7 hours. Once you have memorized the correct pattern and route you will soon find yourself speeding through once you know what to expect. Nothing beats that first time experience though. You can save but it is limited to the amount of ink ribbons you have in your inventory. I came across a problem here with my copy the game took a very long time to save the game. Whether this is a problem with the import copy or my own PS3 console I’m not sure but looking at footage online it didn’t appear others were having this issue.

Unlike the original game on Playstation the remake does make a lot of changes to the game. For starters unless you get lucky and blow the head clean off a zombie the bodies don’t disappear. In fact if you don’t dispose of them properly they return again from the dead as the more threatening Crimson Heads which can kill in just a few hits. As well as that it is not uncommon for Zombies to bust down doors and follow you into other rooms practically forcing you to fight them.

My favourite part about the remake by far is how it surprises those that have even played the Playstation game to death. Certain memorable scenes will not play out the way you remember them. The puzzles in the game have also been re-worked so even though you may remember what you need to do, the solution now plays out completely different.


All the audio has been rerecorded for the game in Japanese and English depending on your preference. Since this is the remake there are no infamous ‘Jill Sandwich,’ lines which I kinda miss from the game. The voice acting and script is actually fine in the game. The use of sound in this game is excellent. Your footsteps will change as you run from carpet to marble floor. Lightening will occasionally fire off as you run past windows and on many occasions you’ll feel like you heard something in the dark distance but will just dread investigating further.

Resident Evil HD Remaster is a great horror title. Fans of the series will find reason to buy this again despite it being the same experience on the Gamecube (and Wii). The game still looks incredible and was a joy to playthrough again even though I am very familiar with the experience. Despite the inclusion of a simple control scheme and easier mode this probably still won’t appeal to the mass gamers. If the original Resident Evil games were not your cup of tea this new update will hardly convince you to have another go. If your new to the series and love horror games this however is a must buy.

Final Score: 5 out of 5

Now lets have a moments silence for the S.T.A.R.S members we lost during this game.

Resident Evil HD Remaster will be available tomorrow, January 20, on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC for $19.99.  This release is digital only.  The 360/PS3 version runs at native 720p 30 frames per second (720p30fps) and the Playstation 4/XB1/PC version runs at native 1080p 60 frames per second (1080p60fps).  Content is identical in both versions.  The reviewers purchased advanced box copies from Asia, where the game released back in November, for this review.  If you’re interested in this version, visit  This site and review have no ties to the Play-Asia web site.

Written by Fred Rojas

January 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

Now & Then: God of War 1 and 2

with 2 comments


God of War feels like a series that just exploded in popularity but has now been lost in the gaming community abyss. Last year the God of War Collection (featuring the first two games in the series) was released to the Playstation Vita to such a poor reception that a lot of friends were generally surprised it was actually released. Then again the same group of friends were gob smacked that Borderlands 2 also came out on the Vita. Now, it could be argued that this lack of enthusiasm may be due to the lack of interest in the Playstation Vita. But forgotten or not, I’ve played through both God of War games so it’s time to see how they hold up today.

gowhydraI was originally a massive fan of the very first God of War game on PS2. When I was first introduced to the game by a friend I got so into it we played through the entire game together in one single sitting, something that I rarely do with a video game. We spent a lot of the experience just gob smacked by how the PS2 was able to include great graphics and set pieces. Of course a lot of the great visuals are attributed to a fixed camera control and the set pieces being controlled entirely by quick time events (a feature I’m glad has started to disappear in the gaming industry). The game felt like a breath of fresh air. Although the game did not introduce a completely original experience it seemed to take elements that worked with other games like an anti hero storyline, hack and slash gameplay and upgrading your character with orbs. The game was not perfect, even for the time people criticised some of the challenging sections in the game most notably the infamous Hades area where you had to get pass various traps and obstacles. If you were hit just once you died instantly, leading to some massive gamer rage grinding your enjoyable experience to a complete halt. What made God of War stand out at the time was the epic adventure, where you travel into areas no man can supposedly enter (and the game clearly displays this by having dead bodies littered everywhere). You really felt like you were on this impossible quest. Every time you beat a gigantic boss or got pass a deadly trap you really felt a sense of achievement. The bosses were also enormous like the infamous hydra, a fantastic way to open the game and a design feature that seemed to carry over to all future games in the series as well. The game was well received by critics and gamers so it pretty much guaranteed a sequel. The developers seemed confident of this as well as the message “Kratos will return,” appears once the credits have finished at the end of the experience.

gow2It was no surprise that I was anticipating God of War 2 on PS2 even though it was released very late in the life cycle. The game was very much the same experience as the first just with a new story and new weapons (although I never used these I always stuck with the blades). You were once again tasked with another impossible quest. For some reason I found this experience quite bland. Although there were small changes to the gameplay, with new magic spells and new outrageous set pieces. For example, flying on a griffin then jumping onto an enemy one, cutting its wings off and leaping back onto your own. However, it really just felt like more of the same. I think what really disappointed me was the ending, which for the time did what we called a “Halo 2” where it ends on a crappy cliffhanger. I don’t know why but for the time this sort of ending really pissed me off and lead me to avoid God of War 3 on PS3 for quite some time, just because I was acting childish about it. This didn’t stop God of War 2 receiving massive critical praise and selling very well despite its late release.

gow2_vsRevisiting the first game on the Vita was quite a pleasant experience. The in game graphics having been polished up look fantastic on the OLED screen. The game visually looks surprisingly similar to the HD version on the PS3. A notable problem is the cutscenes in the game have not been given the same graphical upgrade. In the original game the cutscenes merged very well with the in game graphics so it almost looked the same. In the HD versions the cutscenes look blurry and worse than the in game graphics. Consequently taking you out of the immersion of the game. This same problem is present in the second game as well. Of course since the poor Vita lacks the extra buttons on a PS2 controller it does mean buttons have been mapped to the touch screen. But you may be pleased to hear they really don’t effect the experience. The back touch pad is only used to open chests, save and interact with objects of interest. The front screen maps two additional abilities which work very well. After playing the God of War games on PSP its refreshing to have the game use two analogue sticks again, something very few PSVita games require with it’s limited library. I was quite surprised that I still got stuck occasionally. God of War likes to throw the odd puzzle section at you and some of them are head scratchers. The rage quit moments are still just as awful to play through if not worse on a portable. One area in particular (the trials of Hades to be specific) has a section where you have to navigate across balance beams and it requires pin point precision, getting touched by a moving blade or falling leads to an instant death. I spent ages here, almost to the extent that I almost quit the game for good. It’s these dreadful sections why most people get put off the series.

gow2_bridgeUpon playing God of War 2 I actually enjoyed it a lot more the second time. Unlike the first game, I haven’t replayed the second game since the PS2. So I was able to enjoy the game for what it was. Though the game still has those moments where you just want to throw the portable across the room (the worst here being the section where the bridge is collapsing and you have to swing to escape). I guess I got more into the story this time through. The first game plays out like a greek tragedy, the second game is basically Kratos being an ass and wanting things his own way (this solidified his anti hero status with the series moving forward). God of War 2 unlike the first has a new game plus feature and just like the last time I played the game on the PS2, I started playing the game again with all my abilities unlocked and just lost interest really quick. The game just lacks any form of challenge in new game plus and is only worth playing if you want to unlock everything. A surprising omission from God of War 2 on the Vita is the game lacks any trophy support, though I understand trophies serve no purpose but for bragging points, it was weird that I unlocked trophies in the first game but not the second. Also trophy support is so common in games nowadays its hard to ignore when it isn’t present.

gow_sagaI really would only recommend God of War on the Vita if you feel you must absolutely have the game on the go. Since the majority of my gaming is done on the go I tend to warm to games like this, but I’m very aware I’m in the minority. If you want the most God of War in HD for your buck the best buy by far is the five game collection called God of War Saga, which is only available in America (it includes all three core games and the two PSP games) – however, if you have a PS3 you can play any region game regardless of where you live, the game is still available very cheap to this day.  Overall, God of War is one of those series to me that I still think out did itself on the first game and ever since then just hasn’t really evolved It hasn’t stopped me buying each iteration but let’s just say my expectations of the new game in development are not high.

Written by jamalais

January 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Ready, Aim, Fire!

leave a comment »


This week Fred and Jam tackle the wonderful world of light gun shooters.  What started as a mere carnival game evolved into one of the more interactive – and for some of us fun – genres that has not withstood the test of time.  With the advent of newer screens, the technology that made light guns possible is now ruined by delays of no more than a fraction of a second.  In this episode we discuss the history, technology behind, and our fondest memories of the games that utilized the light gun peripheral.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe: RSS iTunes Google Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 197 other followers