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Seasons After Fall Review

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There is an undeniable attraction to Seasons After Fall.  In what I can best describe as a painting come to life, the striking graphical style draws your attention and the playful orchestral soundtrack keeps you interested.  The game presents a simple premise: a fox, a forest, and magic.  It’s a compelling argument, even before the first true moments of gameplay.  Things aren’t always as they seem with this title, however, as it doesn’t quite play as good as it looks.  Your tolerance to design quirks aside, the value of this title lands solely on the premise that it delivers on what I think games should do: take you to another world.

Seasons After Fall originally premiered on PC last fall during a time that seemed more riddled with open exploration puzzle platformers – I refuse to refer to this title as a “MetroidVania” – including Ori and the Blind Forest and Unravel.  Despite looking similar to these other titles, they are very distinct from one another, but somehow always seemed to be lumped together.  Seasons After Fall now comes to consoles in a direct port, but it’s successfully separated from these familiar looking games.  It’s a true puzzle platformer, best proven by the lack of combat in the game.  Yes, there’s absolutely no fighting, attacking, running from enemies, no enemies at all, and no boss battles.  Nope, this title is as a pacifist as they come.  There’s also no penalty for dying, if you can even call it that since falling into the rare pit results in you simply being brought back to the ledge you jumped off.  Despite these facts, don’t write off Seasons After Fall as a mindless stroll in the woods, because the challenge is in solving the puzzles and as the game progresses there’s a decent incline in difficulty.  It’s at this point you’ll either like how this title attempts to challenge you or hate it.  I might even say it’s impossible to describe your time with Seasons After Fall without mentioning at least a few moments where you are utterly stuck with no idea what to do.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

Outlast 2 Review

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Outlast 2 is a truly unsettling game.  No matter what you are doing at any one moment, there is sure to be something unpleasant about the situation, even when it’s more game design than content.  The follow-up to Red Barrels’ 2013 take on the horror genre demonstrates what you want out of a sequel by taking everything up a notch.  Along your path you will be jarred, challenged, see things you wish you hadn’t, and even feel helpless.  It also improves upon the flaws of the original and provides countless visuals that I fear may have made me more desensitized to brutal violence than ever before.  If you want controversial topics, this game has it in stride from the inhuman, to unthinkable tortures, and even a strong anti-religious undertone.   Then again, making you flinch is the entire point, isn’t it?

If Outlast was a haunted house, Outlast 2 is the spook walk.  The setting changes drastically, moving away from the confines of a lowly asylum and into Arizona’s Sonoran desert, where a married couple are investigating the mysterious murder of a young pregnant woman.  Things quickly escalate when their helicopter crashes and the wife, Lynn, goes missing and you take control of husband Jacob in search of her.  Where the original Outlast tended to use confined spaces to build tension, Outlast 2 thrives in large, open environments where you could find anything among the foliage from intense danger to nothing at all.  It truly becomes more of a stealth title than anything else and dare I say reminded me more of the first half of Call of Cthulhu Dark Corners of the Earth than anything else.  Rarely do you see the same scare or scenario play out, which is a welcome change from the redundancies I experienced in the original and kept me far more in focus.  The storyline baits you to keep moving forward more than anything else and your handy camera is no longer simply night vision but also a journal that documents the plot points along the way, which can be reviewed at any time.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 24, 2017 at 2:00 pm

Perspective of a Retro Gamer: Resident Evil 7

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This series is basically a review of a modern game but with the context of a retro gamer visiting the present.  As such it does not contain a review score and often speaks to concepts and franchises from the past.  This article is spoiler free outside of what is revealed in trailers and public demos, which is why the screen shots are so vague.

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Resident Evil has had a rocky journey over the last five years, up to and including the “Beginning Hour” demo for this very title.  The comparison to P.T., Hideo Kojima’s “playable trailer” for Silent Hills that has since been canceled by Konami, is unmistakable.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want my Silent Hill getting mixed into my Resident Evil, the two should remain mutually exclusive.  Couple that with the recent missteps of Resident Evil 6, my personal distaste for Revelations 2, and whatever goal Umbrella Corps. had, it wasn’t looking good.  I for one was also a bit worried about the hodgepodge of features thrown at this title including support for 4K resolution, PS4 Pro support, Playstation VR support, and HDR support on all platforms.  To my shock and awe, every bad indicator going into the release was without merit as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demonstrates a return to form I have not felt since the remake of the original on GameCube in 2002.

resident_evil_7_eerieSet in an old farm house in Louisiana, you play as main protagonist Ethan in search of your girlfriend Mia, who went missing years ago.  Those that played through the “Beginning Hour” demo, especially if you caught the final “midnight edition” will find the opening scenes to be familiar but clearly re-engineered.  I like this touch and I feel it was necessary for how many times Capcom made us play that thing in hopes to figuring out what was with the dummy finger and several other mysteries from the last six months.  While it’s interesting to play through – not to mention the reward you receive for completing it with the good ending and the on-edge “kitchen” demo on Playstation VR – none of this is required if you’re just jumping into the main game.  It reminds me why I’ve always appreciated the original work Capcom did on the Resident Evil series.  Whether it was “arrange mode” in the original, the way the mansion was reworked in the remake, or even the drastic differences between the shack in the demo and the main game of Resident Evil 7, you won’t be able to guess what’s coming.  After that opening sequence you will descend into a literal house of horrors and beyond that kept me on the edge of my seat and thoroughly creeped out for a majority of the game’s 8-12 hour campaign.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Sleeping Dogs Definitive Edition Review

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2016s Game Club selection may as well be renamed “Jam’s gaming bucket list” as the vast majority of the games we have played this year are titles I’ve been wanting to play for sometime but just haven’t got around to. I could use the easy excuse where I say I’m too lazy or too busy but I choose to go with the excuse that I was on a long and arduous quest to find twelve jade statues in order to prevent the end of the world by new year. Fortunately for myself and humanity I completed that quest, surprisingly in Sleeping Dogs as well and I’m able to finish off 2016 with my review of the game. All in a days work I guess.

sleeping_dogs_definitive_edition_1Sleeping Dogs is an open world game set in Hong Kong where you play as Wei Shen an undercover cop who is attempting to take down the Triads from the inside. Of course its not that easy for Wei. He soon becomes close with the gangs leading you as the player to question who Wei is truly loyal to. While the story is certainly serviceable and well acted by the voice cast I never felt completely invested. There are some emotional moments in the plot with key characters but the ultimate pay off seemed somewhat lackluster. With the game ending open ended and setting up for a sequel, is disappointing since United Front Games has now closed and the chances of seeing this sequel are very slim.

As with most sandbox games there is a mix of various gameplay styles. Sleeping Dogs main stand out feature is the hand to hand fighting system. Wei Shen is well versed in martial arts as is every bad guy in this game who you’ll usually take on in large groups. You can attack and counter in a system very similar to the infamous Batman Arkham games, although Sleeping Dogs appears to have its own rhythm to its fighting system. I found that you had to be very careful with your button presses to begin with. Once you got the games own rhythm down, I was quite capable even with the odds stacked largely against me, once I got to this stage I felt like Bruce Lee (insert broken table). You can also grapple enemies and maneuver them to create devastating environmental kills such as impaling guys on sword fish or smashing someone’s head into a urinal which reminds me of a fond scene from the film True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Written by jamalais

January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Technomancer Review

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The Technomancer reminds me of one of those relationships before I got married.  It’s dynamic and I enjoyed it, but ultimately I got to this point where I knew our time would have to end.  Much like those relationships, it probably lasted a bit longer than it should have, but that doesn’t mean that it was a waste of time.  Far from it.  Regardless of your opinion of nitpicks like whether or not the faces compete with modern powerhouse franchises or exactly what genre it should be labeled as, The Technomancer is offering a throwback to the complete package of RPG we saw often last generation.  That wouldn’t have made it stand out were it not for the fact that a title like this is somewhat rare these days.  Sure, everything is going open world, but releases of RPGs that heavily integrate decision and story are somewhat scarce and especially if you’re looking for sci-fi or cyberpunk.  So despite its flaws and not necessarily being able to keep up with its more established peers, The Technomancer is a worthwhile experience.

technomancer_1I’m guessing not many played developer Spiders’ first title Mars: War Logs, which you may be surprised to know is now available on PC and even Xbox One thanks to 360 backward compatibility (also on PS3).  It really is the early version of what would eventually become this title and established the lore of human colonization on Mars and the core of what the technomancers are.  That title was short, the combat was harshly integrated (especially for gamepads), and while I liked what it was doing I couldn’t get too invested.  Having played Mars: War Logs did allow me to appreciate how far Spiders has come in its sophomore effort on the concept, but it’s in no way necessary as a buffer for this title.  Newcomers and veterans alike will be introduced to Zachariah, a graduating technomancer that is coming to terms with his newfound powers and prepared to utilize them in an effort to keep the peace and eventually find a way back to Earth.  He’s not unique, many technomancers work for Abundance, a mega-corp that provides security on Mars and all technomancers are to guard the order’s secrets in an attempt to discover a way back home to Earth.  Beyond that you are free to hit the ground running in an open-world chock full of icons that represent main and side quests.  Along the way you will inevitably face combat, both in and out of hub locations, where your action fighting skills will be tested from start to finish.  I’ll return to the combat in a minute, but it’s important to note that the separation between non-combat zones and combat zones is blurred here, which I don’t often see in the modern world of RPGs that includes MMOs.  It may not be much of a change, but it struck me as somewhat unique.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

Hard Reset Redux Review

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There’s this constant complaint heard all too often by the PC gaming crowd: why don’t more PC games come to consoles?  The reality is some combination between controls, marketability, and code development, but I always like to say, “it’s just more of a PC game.”  That wasn’t always the case though, as we’ve seen in the past with the original first person shooters like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D that seemed to have mass appeal beyond the keyboard and mouse.  Hard Reset felt like it was airlifted out of that time period in the way it played and handled game design and it made more sense that developer Flying Wild Hog’s first effort come to console gamers.  Now the updated Hard Reset Redux seeks to ask how interested console gamers really are.  It has updated controls for gamepads, it has seemingly enhanced graphics (although PC players may disagree), and it has a re-balanced campaign all for the sake of the console gamer.  This is a tailor-made conversion from the world of PC and if you’re wondering if it was all worth it the answer is a resounding, absolutely.

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Written by Fred Rojas

June 20, 2016 at 11:00 am

Dishonored Play Diary

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Trying something new here.  Dishonored is a game I (Fred) have not been able to play properly and the first video in this series shows why.  As a result, I’m trying to be more laid back and complete the title without worrying about perfect stealth and perfect pacifism.  Instead of a “Let’s Play” I’ve decided to do a new type of series called a “Play Diary” and here’s what these will be.  This video series currently only has one video, but will update as it grows.  No new posting will be created for each video.  If you want updates, I recommend subscribing to Fred’s channel.

Let’s Play videos are tough because the person playing them has to constantly be speaking to an audience, it stifles gameplay, and it’s a bunch of work to get live.  A longplay is easy because you just capture and upload, but only a handful of people watch it.  We’ve noticed that the commentary gets more views, but that people watch them for short periods, whereas a longplay is only seen by a smaller group but they watch often to entirety.  The Play Diary starts with a full length “quick look” of an hour or two with commentary followed by update videos that are about 5-15 minutes that cover several hours of gameplay and commentary.  In addition, the entire longplay is uploaded as a playlist for those that want to see the full playthrough.  Hopefully this is a more user friendly way for everyone to see what they want.  This will not completely replace my “Let’s Play” videos because certain rare games will want to be viewed from start to finish.  The video below is the playlist for the diary and the longplay playlist can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLlLaoX7aLm9_32Aqpog3OgW2ZenWg_mV8

Written by Fred Rojas

June 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

Doom Retrospective

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As I said in a previous article regarding Wolfenstein 3D, “Wolfenstein 3D did it first and Doom did it best.”  The same team, id Software, created both games so it’s less of a competition and more of an evolution.  While I agree that all games are a team effort, the technology that runs these games can sometimes be credited to one person.  In the case of Doom that one person is none other than John D. Carmack.  By this point most of us are aware of John Carmack and what he’s contributed to video games as a whole, but back in 1992 he was the guy creating a new engine for a new game.  That engine was called the Doom Engine.  Carmack claims the name Doom came from the movie The Color of Money in which Tom Cruise describes a custom pool cue as “doom” when questioned as to what’s in his case.  It was created to enhance the first person shooter to include different heights, distances, and even sound effects in stereo for a more realistic type of game.  In truth the hardware of the time couldn’t handle rendering a 3D world so the game is actually all on a flat plane in the code, which is why rooms never overlap and you can shoot a guy on a ledge by just aiming at the wall beneath him.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but in 1993 I hardly noticed.  Doom had positional breathing of mutant men, lighting effects (including dark rooms), a hybrid cyberpunk and distopian Hell setting, and a ton of violence.  It was the rock star of the video game world.

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Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster Review

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You know, I was actually really looking forward to playing through Resident Evil 0 HD Remaster. I thought to myself, “sure I’ll be part of the problem and buy this game I already own,” and the fact that the physical copy also came with Resident Evil Remake (in glorious HD) only sweetened the deal. I am a Resident Evil fan and I am not ashamed to a admit it.  Has time been good to Resident Evil 0? This review will explore how the game stacks up on today’s consoles.

resident_evil_zero_n64_prototypeThe background of this game is something that has always fascinated me mostly surrounding its release and how things in gaming were back then. Originally pitched for the N64 and getting as far as a prototype being made for the train segment of the game, this was Nintendo inviting Capcom to team up for the first time since those cool Mega Man games and Disney titles on the NES/SNES. In an offered deal, the two companies had planned for a Resident Evil game that will come out nowhere else. Well this invitation did intrigue Capcom and especially sat well with Shinji Mikami (the creator of the series). Capcom would go on to develop three exclusive Resident Evil games for the Gamecube as well as release three other cannon titles on the platform as well. The exclusives were Resident Evil Remake and Resident Evil 4, arguably two titles that became incredibly memorable, and inbetween this we saw the release of Resident Evil 0 (Zero). This game really was Capcom’s last hurrah of the pre-rendered background style game with a fixed camera and those tank controls which we all just love to joke about today. It was also the last game in the series where you could get mad about a key taking up an entire slot in our inventory. After this game things changed dramatically with Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 0 was released at a time were people were a little burned out on the traditional style of the series (and it had been in development almost 5 years when it came out) so although it received decent reviews, it is often considered a low point.

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Written by jamalais

February 25, 2016 at 11:00 am

Legend of Kay Anniversary Review

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legend_of_kay_ann_logoNote: This review originally appeared on the B-Team Podcast site and has an agreement with the owner of the review, Fred Rojas, to post on Gaming History 101 as well and visa versa.

Typically any game being remade in HD comes with the acceptance that it was already a prominent title, which accounts for the ongoing debate as to whether or not to re-purchase it. That’s why Legend of Kay Anniversary strikes me as such an interesting decision because almost no one played the original on PS2 in 2005 or even the port to DS in 2010. Granted, when you complete the Anniversary edition the phrase “We’ll be back!” is at the end of the credits so I can only guess an upcoming sequel is the reasoning for this beautiful HD remake. Having now played the game to completion I have to admit that Nordic was smart to purchase it from Capcom and this partial Zelda clone does make for a lengthy and impressive campaign. When it originally released, Legend of Kay garnered quite positive reviews and I’m pleased to say that the game is just as great now as it presumably was when it released, only now it has received one hell of a face lift.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 6, 2015 at 11:00 am