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Battlefield 5 Review – On The Front Lines

Chaos and scale have always been the foundation of the Battlefield franchise, and Battlefield V is no different. Squads of soldiers relentlessly push towards objectives with either sheer force or improvised tactics while gunfire and explosions ring throughout the beautiful, but war-torn landscapes. It’s an overwhelming sensory experience and a fine execution of a familiar formula–if you play the better modes.

Battlefield V goes back to where the franchise began by using World War II’s European theater as the backdrop for first-person shooting and vehicular combat in large multiplayer matches. It’s not too dissimilar to Battlefield 1, where every weapon has a distinct weight and impact that comes through vividly in both sight and sound. The core conceits of Battlefield remain mostly untouched, but small tweaks have been made to the formula, most of which are welcome.

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Ground troops are even more deadly this time around, with a revamped ballistics model (random bullet deviation is gone) that results in reduced time-to-kill for skilled players; floundering in open areas is now more dangerous than ever. Navigating the maps’ messy terrain has a smooth, intuitive feel whether you’re mantling obstacles or scrambling for cover. All players regardless of class can revive squadmates, which highly encourages sticking together and alleviates the disappointment of dying without a medic around. Since it takes a few precious seconds to perform a revive and is limited to squadmates, it doesn’t negate the importance of the Medic class’ instant revive. The ability to spot enemies is now exclusive to the sniper-focused Recon class by using the manual spotting scope or having the subclass perk to reveal enemies you fire upon.

As impactful as Attrition sounds, it’s not so overbearing as to drastically shake up Battlefield’s core, though it does make going rogue less viable.

Class roles and teamwork are further emphasized by the Attrition system, which encompasses the changes made to resource scarcity and scavenging and affects nearly every aspect of the game. The fact you’re not given much ammo at spawn makes the Support class’s ability to dole out ammo pouches clutch when you survive multiple firefights, while the Assault class has a perk that grants more ammo upon scavenging dead players. Surviving with the game’s health system, which is partially auto-regenerating, relies on having a medkit on hand, which can only be distributed by Medics. As impactful as Attrition sounds, it’s not so overbearing as to drastically shake up Battlefield’s core, though it does make going rogue less viable.

Another new mechanic introduced in Battlefield V is Fortifications, which consists of building predetermined structures within the environment–like sandbag walls, barbed wire coils, and Czech hedgehogs. There are no resources tied to your ability to construct them, though the Support class builds faster than other classes and can prop up things like stationary gun and supply crates in certain spots. Overall, fortifications feels a bit tacked on and inconsequential in some cases, but there’s no denying their effectiveness in the right situation. Something as simple as improvised sandbags for a little cover can go a long way by turning a sitting duck into a well-positioned defender who can better hold down an objective when every other building’s been reduced to rubble.

The narrative dress-up is a nice touch, but the real reason Grand Operations works is because it keeps up the momentum from round to round and packages a variety of game modes into one long match, encouraging you to see it through.

Above all else, Battlefield V truly shines in Grand Operations, a series of three consecutive matches (or rounds) intertwined by brief narrative bits inspired by WWII events. Each round, presented as one in-game day in the same theater of war, is a specific game mode, and teams can earn reinforcement bonuses for certain rounds depending on the outcome of the previous one. The narrative dress-up is a nice touch, but the real reason Grand Operations works is because it keeps up the momentum from round to round and packages a variety of game modes into one long match, encouraging you to see it through.

The success of Grand Operations should be primarily accredited to the more focused, well-executed modes like Airborne, Frontlines, and Breakthrough. Frontlines in particular plays out like a tug-of-war; teams fight over varied objectives in sequential order within defined sections of a map, depending on the phase of the match. Teams will struggle to hold capture points in sequence to push the other back, and other phases may be demolition-style attack/defend skirmishes. The opportunity to push back a phase also makes it so you can regain ground if your back is against the wall; by the same token, you can’t get too comfortable with a lead.

These game types aren’t entirely new; Frontlines was seen in Battlefield 1 DLC and borrows elements from Rush and Conquest, and Grand Operations is a variation–albeit improved–on the original Operations in Battlefield 1. However, the tools and mechanics built around Battlefield V along with how map dynamics shift at each phase make them an absolute thrill to play. It accentuates the best features of the map roster, and also makes the moment to moment firefights distinct since they’re concentrated across different sections. The structure of modes like Frontlines naturally ushers a team’s attention to a handful of clear objectives at a time and provides a method to the madness, creating a satisfying push-and-pull where success feels earned.

As great as Grand Operations is, the series staple of Conquest has become the weakest link. This traditional mode has devolved into a match-long carousel of flag captures, easy kills, and cheap deaths. Maps like Twisted Steel and Arras function well enough for Conquest, but that leaves a majority of the eight available maps lacking. Narvik, Fjell 652, and Devastation feel too condensed and disjointed for the high player count and mechanics of Conquest; the action hardly ever stops, but cramming everyone together in compact, circular maps means you’re often caught from behind or flanked by enemies that simply stumbled upon that fruitful opportunity. It goes both ways, as you’ll frequently find yourself catching enemy squads with their backs turned because you lucked into a certain spawn and ran off in the right direction.

The success of Grand Operations should be primarily accredited to the more focused, well-executed modes like Airborne, Frontlines, and Breakthrough.

Battlefield V is also rough in spots. A few bugs are forgivable, like wild ragdoll physics, but some are more problematic. On rare occasions, the map goes blank when enlarging it, or health packs just don’t work. Very rarely would you have to revive a squadmate by a door, but when this happens, you’re likely to only get the prompt to interact with the door, leaving your friend to die. Thankfully, these issues are not enough to overshadow the game’s best parts.

Regardless of your preferred mode of play, you’ll be earning XP for a number of separate progression paths. There’s overall rank, class rank, individual weapon rank, and for good measure, each tank and plane has its own rank as well. There isn’t a whole lot to unlock for weapons given the WWII setting, but leveling up weapon proficiencies lets you customize them to your play style, like choosing greater hip-fire accuracy, faster reload, quicker aim-down-sights, or less recoil in ADS. Various weapons and pieces of equipment (such as the spawning beacon for Recon or the anti-tank grenade for Assault) unlock as you rank up classes. It’s a fairly sensible system, though the same can’t be said about vehicle progression. Vehicles are tough to come by in Battlefield V as it is and since each one ranks separately, it takes an extra-concerted effort to level them up. There are some useful perks to obtain for vehicles that can provide a slight advantage, but it can be a struggle to acquire them.

The structure of modes like Frontlines naturally ushers a team’s attention to a handful of clear objectives at a time and provides a method to the madness, creating a satisfying push-and-pull where success feels earned.

Aside from weapon skins, you’ll customize each class’s appearance for both Allies and Axis. It’s the cosmetic aspect where you can fit yourself with different parts of uniforms, though it doesn’t bear much fruit since this is a first-person game that moves so fast, even your enemies won’t really notice the ‘rare’ uniform you’re wearing. Cosmetic customization is also how Company Coins comes into play, the in-game currency that you earn through completing challenges (daily orders or assignments) or completing matches. Most cosmetics can be acquired with Company Coins, which can be a grind to earn. You should note that unlocking weapon and vehicle perks are also tied to Company Coins, but at least they are relatively low-cost. There are no microtransactions at the moment, but they are said to coming in the future, and for cosmetics only.

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Battlefield V isn’t solely a multiplayer endeavor. War Stories returns as the single-player component that attempts to present a brutal conflict with a more earnest tone. The campaign highlights lesser-known parts of WWII, like the Norwegian resistance, and the Senegalese Tirailleurs who fought for the French Army amid racial discrimination. The effort is admirable, especially when it comes to the Tirailleur campaign as it sheds light on piece of history that has nearly been forgotten; the scale of Battlefield comes through and the story speaks to the horrors of war. Nordlys boils down to a mix of stealth and combat that casts you as a one-person army that’s enjoyable at times, but doesn’t go beyond lone-wolf skirmishes–at least it showcases some of the game’s best setpieces. And the Under No Flag campaign for the English side is an eye-rolling series of tedious missions that goes for a lighthearted note; it doesn’t stick the landing, however. War Stories has its moments but is all over the place in terms of design, tone, and style.

The effort is admirable, especially when it comes to the Tirailleur campaign as it sheds light on piece of history that has nearly been forgotten.

Currently, Battlefield V still has features to implement as part of its game-as-a-service approach (designated Tides of War), but there’s enough to chew on for now given the quality of the better modes. It’s an exciting prospect that there’s more to come at no additional cost, but you can’t help but feel that the launch package could’ve been a bit more dense considering there’s only eight maps. Additional modes (including co-op), new maps, another Grand Operations mission, and the Firestorm battle royale mode will be rolling out intermittently between now and March 2019. All that could make for the most feature-rich game in the series; unfortunately, we won’t be able to evaluate those parts of the game until they arrive.

The Battlefield series has a winning formula that Battlefield V doesn’t deviate far from, at least for now. Conquest and the map roster don’t mesh well together, however, Grand Operations–and the other modes within it–steal the show and foster some of the greatest moments the franchise has offered. You might be surprised by the impact of the slight changes made for this entry, especially when you’re deep into pushing or defending objectives in Frontlines alongside teammates fulfilling their roles. That’s when Battlefield V is at its best.

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Hitman 2 Review – You Can Stop Hitting Me Now

Hitman 2 is out now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The game’s first Elusive Target, the first part of IO’s free post-launch support plans, releases next week and features actor Sean Bean as an MI5 agent gone rogue named Mark Faba. Read on for our full review, originally published on November 8.

Hitman is a game about killing people. Well, killing specific people and trying not to kill other people unless you really have to. But it’s also a game about exploring large, real-world-inspired spaces, learning about how they operate, finding multiple solutions to problems, and using that knowledge to improvise and manipulate the environment to hit the people you’re hunting. The episodic nature of the Hitman refresh in 2016 saw IO Interactive release one level every month–a contentious move at the time, but one that helped accentuate the potential in each mission. Hitman 2 ditches the episodic model and adds a few new minor mechanics, but the loop of continuously replaying a single location, slowly uncovering the wealth of possibilities, and being able to effectively draw upon that knowledge in new challenges is where Hitman is strongest.

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Hitman 2 takes you to six new locales, and each poses unique situations to overcome as you attempt to assassinate your targets. Mumbai is a standout with its densely populated streets and labyrinths of tenement buildings–a great environment that makes the most of a new Assassin’s Creed-style crowd blending mechanic, allowing you to disappear into big groups of people. A mission in Miami, Florida takes place at an active raceway, a loud and vibrant stage that feels like a theme park with its swaths of attendees, distinct zones, and a concealed backstage underbelly.

These levels are overwhelming in the best way possible, and it’s exciting to begin peeling away the layers of these large, intricate areas–exploring the spaces, discovering routes, finding tools and disguises, and figuring out the best places to utilize them. If you’re familiar with Hitman, you know that each stage and its AI inhabitants run on routines like clockwork, making Hitman a game that rewards social stealth and patience. Eavesdropping, tailing, and passive observation are good first steps to success. Even the Whittleton Creek stage, a small, sparsely populated suburban block in Vermont, feels like a mindmap of interconnected causality when you begin to dig deeper. Having the curiosity to uncover how things operate within levels, stumbling upon minor plotlines and amusing flavor dialog along the way, is interesting in its own right.

Hitman does make an upfront effort to help focus your scope and give you some momentum toward your objectives, though thankfully your initiative is still necessary to solve some predicaments. Stumbling across a Mission Story (previously known as Opportunities) might lead you to a machine you can sabotage, for example, but you need to find the tool to do so and work out the best method of either distracting or dispatching the people around it.

Mission Stories are a great first step, but Hitman becomes its best when you start to internalize the stages and uncover the more obscure ways things can unfold in subsequent playthroughs, be it through pursuing alternative Mission Stories, Challenges that ask you to perform specific tasks, or your own improvisation. There are few fail states other than your own death, and there are so many approaches and tools at your disposal that the path to victory can be as creative and elegant or as bumbling and messy as it needs to be. Completing a stage typically takes a long time, and there will be plenty of moments when a guard catches you doing something you shouldn’t be doing and calls for backup. Unhinged gunfights still feel as futile as ever, but when things get out of control there’s almost always the opportunity to escape to a less hostile part of the level, swap your disguises, and come up with an alternative “make do” approach. In fact, Hitman is sometimes more exciting when your initial plans fail.

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The only problem with being presented with such a staggering array of interactions is that the limitations of the sandbox will eventually reveal themselves if you push the wrong way. For example, while you can stash bodies in dumpsters and closets, I was disappointed to discover I couldn’t stash them in one of many vacant portable toilets. While Agent 47 can leap tall fences and shimmy across daringly high ledges, he seemingly can’t muster the courage to drop down from certain first-floor balconies. Guard AI behavior is stern but generous–if you’re found trespassing in a restricted area they’ll give you a chance to find the exit before reacting, but sometimes it’s too generous. I was amused to see a target’s personal bodyguard decide to go home for the day after his employer “accidentally” fell off a building, even though I was the only other person in the room.

Hitman 2 continues to embrace a trial-and-error playstyle in its campaign. The levels are long, but autosaves are generous and manual saving is encouraged, which gives you the freedom to experiment with different ways of approaching a problem. And the closer you get to bending the systems in just the right way–trying to narrowly squeeze past a guard’s sightline from different directions, or using coins and cheeseburgers to divert someone’s attention–the more thrilling it feels, no matter how goofy it actually looks. Hitman 2’s interstitial cinematics are as grim and dramatic as a British espionage drama, and it’s hard not to let yourself buy into the clinical overarching conspiracy. But in the field, the series’ tongue-in-cheek absurdity happily remains with ridiculous costumes, unlikely weapons, and Agent 47’s self-aware deadpan acting, which perfectly accompanies any bumbling improvisation. Both exist distinctly, don’t really compliment or detract one another, but are still enjoyable in their own right.

Hitman 2 also boasts a few significant modes outside of its campaign, including Sniper Assassin, which adapts the design seen in the Hitman: Sniper smartphone game and tasks you with taking out a series of targets from a single vantage point using only a scoped rifle. It’s a straightforward but enjoyable, low-stakes mode that allows for a surprising amount of creative freedom, and it can be played in two-player online co-op. But Hitman 2’s most enticing bonus, at least if you own the previous Hitman, is the ability to download the original stages into Hitman 2, which gives you feature-complete versions of them with the addition of new mechanics like functional mirrors (which enemies can spot you in) and the briefcase (which lets you conceal and transport tools discreetly), among other things. These legacy stages are wonderful to revisit under a new light.

It should also be mentioned that one of the most compelling elements of the 2016 Hitman was the continuous, free live content updates that occurred after the game’s launch. Escalation Missions, where you’re given specific conditional challenges of increasing difficulty, and Elusive Targets, limited-time events where you have only one chance to take out unique assassination targets, added tense trials that tested both your knowledge of levels and improvisational skills. IO Interactive has announced that these familiar features will be making a return, along with free content updates to Sniper Assassin and Ghost Mode. We obviously can’t judge the quality of this content at launch, but it’s surely something to look forward to.

The addition of other minor mechanical changes–like concussive weapons, a picture-in-picture enemy activity alert, and visible security camera sightlines–help to improve Hitman 2 overall as a dense and accessible stealth assassination game. But the new locations are the real stars, impressive and inventive sandboxes ripe for picking apart with exciting experiments. Hitman is about experiencing the anticipation of seeing whether a plan will work when you try it for the first time. It’s about feeling the tension of briskly walking away from a bad situation, hoping you can lose the suspicious guards. It’s the satisfaction of knowing the machinations of a level so well that when a target moves into a particular place at a particular time, you have the perfect way to intervene. Hitman 2 is a familiar experience, but in the Hitman world, familiarity is an incredible strength.

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Battlefield 5 Review In Progress – On The Front Lines

Editor’s note: We are waiting to finalize this review until we are able to test Battlefield V’s server stability with more players and see if certain bugs persist after initial patches upon release. While the free Tides of War updates for Battlefield V are scheduled through March 2019, we are evaluating the game based on what is currently available as of its November 2018 launch. Look out for our final review in the coming soon.

Chaos and scale have always been the foundation of the Battlefield franchise, and Battlefield V is no different. Squads of soldiers relentlessly push towards objectives with either sheer force or improvised tactics while gunfire and explosions ring throughout the beautiful, but war-torn landscapes. It’s an overwhelming sensory experience and a fine execution of a familiar formula–if you play the right modes.

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Battlefield V goes back to where the franchise began by using World War II’s European theater as the backdrop for first-person shooting and vehicular combat in large multiplayer matches. It’s not too dissimilar to Battlefield 1, where every weapon has a distinct weight and impact that comes through vividly in both sight and sound. The core conceits of Battlefield remain mostly untouched, but small tweaks have been made to the formula, most of which are welcome.

Ground troops are even more deadly this time around, with a revamped ballistics model (random bullet deviation is gone) that results in reduced time-to-kill for skilled players; floundering in open areas is now more dangerous than ever. Navigating the maps’ messy terrain has a smooth, intuitive feel whether you’re mantling obstacles or scrambling for cover. All players regardless of class can revive squadmates and highly encourages sticking together and alleviates the disappointment of dying without a medic around. Since it takes a few precious seconds to perform a revive and is limited to squadmates, it doesn’t negate the importance of the Medic class’ instant revive. The ability to spot enemies is now exclusive to the sniper-focused Recon class by using the manual spotting scope or having the subclass perk to reveal enemies you fire upon.

As impactful as Attrition sounds, it’s not so overbearing as to drastically shake up Battlefield’s core, though it does make going rogue less viable.

Class roles and teamwork are further emphasized by the Attrition system, which encompasses the changes made to resource scarcity and scavenging and affects nearly every aspect of the game. The fact you’re not given much ammo at spawn makes the Support class’s ability to dole out ammo pouches clutch when you survive multiple firefights, while the Assault class has a perk that grants more ammo upon scavenging dead players. Surviving with the game’s health system, which is partially auto-regenerating, relies on having a medkit on hand, which can only be distributed by Medics. As impactful as Attrition sounds, it’s not so overbearing as to drastically shake up Battlefield’s core, though it does make going rogue less viable.

Another new mechanic introduced in Battlefield V is Fortifications, which consists of building predetermined structures–like sandbag walls, barbed wire coils, and Czech hedgehogs–within the environment. There are no resources tied to your ability to construct them, though the Support class builds much faster than other classes and can prop up a stationary gun in certain spots. Overall, building fortifications feels a bit tacked on and inconsequential given the pace of some modes, but there’s no denying their effectiveness in the right situations. Something as simple as improvised sandbags for a little cover can go a long way by turning a sitting duck into a well-positioned defender who can better hold down an objective when every other building’s been reduced to rubble.

The narrative dress-up is a nice touch, but the real reason Grand Operations works is because it keeps up the momentum from round to round and packages a variety of the game modes into one long match, encouraging you to see it through.

Above all else, Battlefield V truly shines in Grand Operations, a series of three consecutive matches (or rounds) intertwined by brief narrative bits inspired by WWII events. Each round, presented as one in-game day in the same theater of war, is a specific game mode, and teams can earn reinforcement bonuses for certain rounds depending on the outcome of the previous one. The narrative dress-up is a nice touch, but the real reason Grand Operations works is because it keeps up the momentum from round to round and packages a variety of the game modes into one long match, encouraging you to see it through.

The success of Grand Operations should be primarily accredited to the more focused, well-executed modes like Airborne, Frontlines, and Breakthrough. Frontlines in particular plays out like a tug-of-war; teams fight over varied objectives in sequential order within defined sections of a map, depending on the phase of the match. Teams will struggle to hold capture points in sequence to push the other back, and other phases may be demolition-style attack/defend skirmishes. The opportunity to push back a phase also makes it so you can regain ground if your back is against the wall; by the same token, you can’t get too comfortable with a lead.

These game types aren’t entirely new; Frontlines was seen in Battlefield 1 DLC and borrows elements from Rush and Conquest, and Grand Operations is a variation–albeit improved–on the original Operations in Battlefield 1. However, the tools and mechanics built around Battlefield V along with how map dynamics shift at each phase make them an absolute thrill to play. It accentuates the best features of the map roster, and also makes the moment to moment firefights distinct since they’re concentrated across different sections. The structure of modes like Frontlines naturally ushers a team’s attention to a handful of clear objectives at a time and provides a method to the madness, creating a satisfying push-and-pull where success feels earned.

As great as Grand Operations is, the series staple of Conquest has become the weakest link. This traditional mode has devolved into a match-long carousel of flag captures, easy kills, and cheap deaths. Maps like Twisted Steel and Arras function well enough for Conquest, but that leaves a majority of the eight available maps lacking. Narvik, Fjell 652, and Devastation feel too condensed for the high player count and mechanics of Conquest; the action hardly ever stops, but cramming everyone together in compact, circular maps means you’re often caught from behind or flanked by enemies that simply stumbled upon that fruitful opportunity. It goes both ways, as you’ll frequently find yourself catching enemy squads with their backs turned because you lucked into a certain spawn and ran off in the right direction.

The success of Grand Operations should be primarily accredited to the more focused, well-executed modes like Airborne, Frontlines, and Breakthrough.

Battlefield V is also rough in spots. A few bugs are forgivable, like wild ragdoll physics, but some are more problematic. On rare occasions, the map goes blank when enlarging it, or health packs just don’t work. Very rarely would you have to revive a squadmate by a door, but when this happens, you’re likely to only get the prompt to interact with the door, leaving your friend to die. Thankfully, these issues are not enough to overshadow the game’s best parts.

Regardless of your preferred mode of play, you’ll be earning XP for a number of separate progression paths. There’s overall rank, class rank, individual weapon rank, and for good measure, each tank and plane has its own rank as well. There isn’t a whole lot to unlock for weapons given the WWII setting, but leveling up weapon proficiencies lets you customize them to your play style, like choosing greater hip-fire accuracy, faster reload, quicker aim-down-sights, or less recoil in ADS. Various weapons and pieces of equipment (such as the spawning beacon for Recon or the anti-tank grenade for Assault) unlock as you rank up classes. It’s a fairly sensible system, though the same can’t be said about vehicle progression. Vehicles are tough to come by in Battlefield V as it is and since each one ranks separately, it takes an extra-concerted effort to level them up. There are some useful perks to obtain for vehicles that can provide a slight disadvantage, but it can be a struggle to acquire them.

The structure of modes like Frontlines naturally ushers a team’s attention to a handful of clear objectives at a time and provides a method to the madness, creating a satisfying push-and-pull where success feels earned.

Aside from weapon skins, you’ll customize each class’s appearance for both Allies and Axis. It’s the cosmetic aspect where you can fit yourself with different parts of uniforms, though it doesn’t bear much fruit since this is a first-person game that moves so fast, even your enemies won’t really notice the ‘rare’ uniform you’re wearing. Cosmetic customization is also how Company Coins, the in-game currency that you earn through completing challenges (daily orders or assignments) or completing matches, comes into play. Most cosmetics can be bought with Company Coins, which can be a grind to earn. You should note that unlocking weapon and vehicle perks are also tied to Company Coins, but at least they are relatively low-cost. There are no microtransactions at the moment, but they are said to coming in the future, and for cosmetics only.

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Battlefield V isn’t solely a multiplayer endeavor. War Stories returns as the single-player component that attempts to present a brutal conflict with a more earnest tone. The campaign highlights lesser-known parts of WWII, like the Norwegian resistance, and the Senegalese Tirailleurs who fought for the French Army amid racial discrimination. The effort is admirable, especially when it comes to the Tirailleur campaign as it sheds light on piece of history that has nearly been forgotten; the scale of Battlefield comes through in and the story speaks to the horrors of war. However, the campaign doesn’t quite stick the landing in the end. Nordlys boils down to a mix of stealth and combat that casts you as a one-person army that’s enjoyable at times, but doesn’t go beyond lone-wolf skirmishes–at least it showcases some of the game’s best setpieces. And the Under No Flag campaign for the English side is an eye-rolling series of tedious missions that goes for a lighthearted note that doesn’t work. War Stories has its moments but is all over the place in tone and style.

The effort is admirable, especially when it comes to the Tirailleur campaign as it sheds light on piece of history that has nearly been forgotten.

Currently, Battlefield V still has features to implement as part of its game-as-a-service approach (designated Tides of War), but there’s enough to chew on for now given the quality of the better modes. It’s an exciting prospect that there’s more to come at no additional cost, but you can’t help but feel that the launch package could’ve been a bit more dense considering there’s only eight maps. Additional modes (including co-op), new maps, another Grand Operations mission, and the Firestorm battle royale mode will be rolling out intermittently between now and March 2019. All that could make for the most feature-rich game in the series; unfortunately, we won’t be able to evaluate those parts of the game until they arrive.

The Battlefield series has a winning formula that Battlefield V doesn’t deviate far from, at least for now. Conquest and the map roster don’t mesh well together, however, Grand Operations– and the other modes within it–steal the show and foster some of the greatest moments the franchise has offered. You might be surprised by the impact of the slight changes made for Battlefield V, especially when you’re deep into pushing objectives in Frontlines alongside teammates fulfilling their roles. That’s when Battlefield is at its best.

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Pokemon Let's Go Pikachu And Let's Go Eevee Review

Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are gorgeous–albeit lean–reimaginings of one of the series’ most beloved adventures. While some features fans have come to expect are missing–like abilities, breeding, and held items–Let’s Go has an admirable amount of depth for a game aimed at a younger audience that has never played a Pokemon RPG. Both games may not have the same lasting appeal as previous entries, but revisiting Kanto and catching some of the series’ most iconic creatures makes the journey worthwhile.

Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee take you back to Kanto, the home of Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow. Not much has changed structurally, but the previously 8-bit region has been realized in vibrant detail. Revisiting some of the series’ most memorable locations like Viridian Forest and Saffron City on a big screen is an absolute joy. Areas that were once composed of lines and simple shapes are now colorful forests and detailed cities. Pokemon both big and small roam the wilds, giving personality to the region–you can watch a tiny Horsea speed through the waves or a massive Onix slink through a dark cave. The catchy original soundtrack has also been remastered, and it sounds better than ever.

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Those familiar with the originals or their remakes, FireRed and LeafGreen, should have no trouble navigating the world. After you’re introduced to your partner Pokemon (Pikachu or Eevee depending on the version you choose) you set out on an adventure to collect Gym badges, defeat the Elite Four, and put an end to Team Rocket. While there are a few surprises, the layout of the region and your progression through it is nearly identical to the originals. Fortunately, Let’s Go sheds some of Red, Blue, and Yellow’s more archaic designs. For example, HMs–“hidden moves” that allowed you to get past certain obstacles–are replaced with “Secret Techniques” that fulfill the same purpose without taking up one of a Pokemon’s move slots. As a result, you can focus on team composition and complementary move sets instead of figuring out how to divvy up HMs between your party Pokemon.

Let’s Go also does a much better job at guiding you through the world and story. After you made your way through Rock Tunnel in the originals, you had little direction through Lavender, Celadon, Fuschia, and Saffron and could do certain Gym battles and events out of order. It was easy to miss key items and wind up fighting Pokemon much stronger than your own, which led to frustrating backtracking with little idea of what to do next. While you still can complete certain beats out of order, Let’s Go ensures you don’t miss anything crucial. For example, after you beat Erika in Celadon City, a character gives you a key item that will let you enter Saffron City. Previously, you had to buy a drink from an inconspicuous vending machine on the roof of the department store and give it to a city guard, and if you failed to do so, you wouldn’t be able to fight the sixth Gym Leader.

One of Let’s Go’s most fundamental changes is how you catch Pokemon. Instead of the random encounters and wild Pokemon battles of previous mainline games, Let’s Go adopts Pokemon Go’s catching mechanics. Pokemon roam the wilds in real time, and you have to walk into one to initiate catching it. Then, rather than battling it to whittle down its health, you just have to throw a Poke Ball at it, and the timing and accuracy of your throw increases your chances of a successful catch.

The new catching mechanics are a welcome change to the formula that breaks up the pace of traditional trainer and Gym battles. Although catching wild Pokemon doesn’t require as much strategy as it did before, the act of catching is far more engaging. You don’t need to worry about accidentally defeating and therefore failing to catch a rare or one-time Pokemon, and if there’s a Pokemon you don’t want to catch, you simply avoid it. The absence of random encounters also makes traversing caves a lot less tedious. Yes, that means you can even avoid Zubats.

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Let’s Go encourages you to catch Pokemon more so than any other mainline Pokemon game, and it’s better for it. Sure, catching every single species has always been the overarching goal, but I’ve never felt more inclined to complete my Pokedex. Catching Pokemon is the most efficient way to level up; with each successful catch your entire team is awarded a generous dose of experience. This alleviates the need to spend significant amounts of time grinding and makes it easier to experiment with different party compositions.

Let’s Go also introduces Catch Combos, which occur when you catch the same species of Pokemon multiple times in a row. As you build your combo, your chances of running into rare and powerful Pokemon increase. You can even find Pokemon you typically wouldn’t find in the wild. Catching repeat Pokemon is both useful and satisfying–it’s great knowing that luck is not the only factor involved when trying to catch a rare Pokemon, and it’s very hard to stop when you’re deep into a combo, knowing something good could spawn.

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However, the new catching mechanics don’t come without issues. The Joy-Con motion controls are inaccurate at best and unpredictable at worst. Over the course of my journey, I never found a reliable way to throw a Poke Ball to the right or left. In most cases, I would just wait for the wild Pokemon to return to the center of the screen before throwing a Poke Ball, and even then, the ball wouldn’t always go where I wanted it to.

The Poke Ball Plus controller, an optional Poke Ball-shaped accessory, is a bit more precise, but because there are only two physical buttons on the controller, navigating menus and interacting with the world can be a pain. As novel as it is to see Kanto on a big screen, handheld mode is the best way to catch wild Pokemon. You can either use the Switch’s gyroscope sensor or the left control stick to line up a throw. It’s far more precise than the other methods, but you do have to consider the Pokemon’s size and distance.

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Despite changes that make the Pokemon experience more accessible than ever, Let’s Go is surprisingly deep. It does an excellent job at easing new players into some of the more complex mechanics without being bogged down by tutorials. Each Pokemon still has six base stats and one of 25 natures, and the game seamlessly presents all that information to you. For example, whenever you switch Pokemon during a battle, you are shown its stats. You can get through the entire game without paying attention to a Pokemon’s stats, but it’s helpful to see that information presented clearly and often. Early on, you even get the ability to “judge” a Pokemon, which lets you see its base stats (also called IVs). While this may not be super useful for beginners, it’s presented in a way that’s easy to understand and it gives veterans the opportunity to check for Pokemon with good stats early on.

Unfortunately, those invested in the competitive side won’t have as much to sink their teeth into. The absence of abilities, held items, and breeding limits the potential for highly competitive play. You can farm for Pokemon with higher stats through the aforementioned catch combos, but even if you do manage to catch a Pokemon with the stats you want, you won’t have much to do with it. The online features are limited, and there’s no matchmaking or ranked battles where you can test your skill.

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The trading features are also limited. The Global Trade System is nonexistent, and there is no Wonder Trading; you can trade and battle online and locally with friends, and that’s about it. The barebones trading features may be disappointing at first, but given the smaller roster of Pokemon, I never felt that I needed the GTS or Wonder Trade to complete the Pokedex. This is also true for the Pokemon Go-compatible Go Park, which allows you to transfer any first-generation Pokemon you have in Go to Let’s Go.It’s a useful feature–especially if you are having trouble getting version-exclusive Pokemon–but you can easily complete the Pokedex without it.

Without the competitive mechanics fans are accustomed to and the limited Pokedex, it can be difficult to come back to Let’s Go after the credits roll. While there certainly are reasons to revisit Kanto once you have finished the game, like completing the Pokedex and grinding for Pokemon with perfect stats, the pull isn’t quite as strong. There aren’t many surprises and what’s there isn’t all that enticing. The last thing I need to try is the Pokemon Go connectivity, which isn’t available as of this writing.

Despite changes that make the Pokemon experience more accessible than ever, Let’s Go is surprisingly deep.

Despite these concessions, Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee are delightful reimaginings of the series’ origins and a deep RPG in their own right. It makes a lot of smart improvements on the original Red, Blue and Yellow while holding on to what made them so special in the first place. Fans of the series might be let down by the lack of features they’ve come to expect, but Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee take the Pokemon formula in some exciting new directions.

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