Oddworld: Soulstorm Review

Oddworld: Soulstorm has been a long time coming. A direct sequel to Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty, Soulstorm is a loosely drawn reimagining of the second Oddworld game, Abe’s Exoddus. Soulstorm looks shiny and PS5-new, with beautifully detailed characters and vast sweeping landscapes in its backgrounds, but it has an old soul. Soulstorm’s stealthy platforming feels like a throwback: It’s unlike any game I’ve played in a long time, and that’s refreshing. But with old-school gameplay, Soulstorm retains some archaic design choices that feel outdated in 2021. The pain from those choices is accentuated by the game’s many serious technical issues, which can blow even the most carefully played sequences at the drop of a hat. Soulstorm has a lot of heart, but its poor tuning makes it a bit of a slog.

Like its predecessors, Soulstorm puts you in control of Abe, a now free slave with the ability to take control of his former captors using a special chant. Each level strings together a gauntlet of side-scrolling stealth-platforming puzzles. As Abe, you’ll sneak across each stage, jumping across platforms to dodge traps while avoiding conflict as much as possible. All the while, you’re searching for your fellow Mudokons, Abe’s species of lanky green Oddworlders, most of whom are still slaves in factories and mines. Staying out of harm’s way requires careful planning and timing. Like many stealth games, you’re carefully monitoring guard movements and vision cones to find the perfect moment to move from one hiding spot to the next, or to dispatch a guard. There’s a tense, nail-biting thrill to maneuvering your way into and out of danger.

Though stealth factors into most areas, there are also a fair number of pure platforming sequences. Dodging flamethrowers, buzzsaws, spikes, and other dangers is also often a matter of getting the timing right. Soulstorm’s best platforming sequences feel more puzzle-like than a reflex test, balancing time pressure and a need to methodically feel your way through whatever lethal obstacles it throws your way.

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Star Wars: Republic Commando Remastered Review

First released in 2005, Star Wars: Republic Commando acted as many a young Star Wars fan’s initial introduction to the concept that the clone troopers of the prequel trilogy are human beings–creating unique identities for the seemingly identical soldiers. Republic Commando has a strong legacy among Star Wars fans–despite the game’s removal from the official canon, it remains a key part of the Star Wars universe, especially when it comes to video game entries.

Handled by Aspyr Media, Star Wars: Republic Commando Remastered brings the original 2005 Xbox and PC game to PS4 and Switch with enhanced HD graphics and modernized controls, though the multiplayer is absent. Otherwise, it’s the same game. And though the flaws in its gameplay are only more noticeable now 16 years later, this remaster manages to still deliver a compelling story of four specialized commandos engaging in a variety of combat missions across the Clone Wars.

Squad Up

In Republic Commando, you play as RC-1138 aka “Boss,” commanding sergeant of a specialized commando unit trained to take on missions that require a greater level of skill and cognitive ability than standard clone troopers possess. Your unit, Delta Squad, is also composed of sarcastic demolitions expert RC-1262 aka “Scorch,” by-the-books hacker and technical analyst RC-1140 aka “Fixer,” and morbidly grim sniper RC-1207 aka “Sev.” The game takes place over several locations, beginning with an assignment on Geonosis at the end of Attack of the Clones and concluding on Kashyyyk just prior to the events of Revenge of the Sith.

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Balan Wonderworld Review – Costume Drama

In the center of Balan Wonderworld’s hub area lies the construction site of a clock tower. Complete the 12 worlds–the entry points to which are arranged at random around the tower like dial markings on a jumbled clock face–and the clock tower rises further into the sky; an elaborate contraption that stands as a monument to your hours played. Despite a thematic preoccupation with telling the time, Balan Wonderworld feels like something of an anachronism, a throwback 3D platformer whose occasional charms arrive too late.

Balan Wonderworld makes a terrible first impression. It’s a 3D platformer where the primary act of running around the levels feels sloppy. Swapping character costumes to employ new abilities is the key novelty, but the initial batch of costumes fail to inspire, and instead add the sorts of abilities you’d take for granted in any other platformer. Completing the early game doldrums, you’re dropped into levels without context nor any attempt to explain your goals.

The clumsy controls and character movement are the most persistent problem. There’s a weird dissonance in the way it feels like you’re moving too slowly while the choppiness of the simplistic animation gives the illusion of moving too quickly. Your character will float slightly above the ground even when standing on a flat surface. Jumping and judging distance feels sloppy and imprecise, mostly thanks to a stickiness of movement but also because, from time to time, the useful ground shadows cast by yourself and other objects will simply disappear. To put it kindly, mistiming or failing to land a jump doesn’t always feel like it’s your own fault.

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Outriders Review In Progress

Outriders is a game that isn’t defined by big new ideas, but rather a variety of familiar elements mixed together in experimental ways. It’s a role-playing game with loot-shooter elements; it’s a serious, dark sci-fi outing with a big dose of goofiness and humor; it’s a cover shooter that demands you rush out and smash enemies with your ludicrously lethal magic powers. Whether this mixture works for you will determine how much you’ll enjoy exploring the war-torn planet of Enoch and the last desperate vestige of humanity clinging to life there.

Outriders blends well-known video game elements into something new and challenging, and while it takes itself seriously, it isn’t self-serious. The world of Enoch seems huge and strange, and while the game is literally about the last gasp of the human race that has ripped itself apart, its heavy themes are always lightened up by a general blockbuster goofiness and characters defined by their gallows humor. Your place within it is as an accidental superbeing with space magic powers, and you’re mostly just annoyed that irritating people are wasting your time with their gopher chores. It’s a fun, self-aware fit.

Though Outriders looks like a live game of the loot-shooter persuasion, it’s actually much more Mass Effect 3 than Destiny 2–like Mass Effect, RPG progression and cover-shooting are more the engine of the game than chasing the next new gun. Outriders is, in fact, a cover-shooter RPG with a hearty dose of gear progression, leaning heavily into an epic story told with tons of dialogue, cutscenes, character interactions, and collectible lore.

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Monster Hunter Rise Review – Standing Tall

The locations you explore in Monster Hunter Rise have already felt the delicate touch of humanity’s hand. Traditional Japanese torii can be found weaving through mountainside paths, leading to sacred shrines, while decaying temples have been reclaimed by nature as local plant life envelops the aging architecture. Signs of human life can even be found at the base of a raging volcano and in the midst of a flooded forest, where a Mesoamerican-style pyramid dominates the landscape.

If 2018’s Monster Hunter World was all about unearthing a new continent as an intrepid frontiersman, then Rise is a triumphant return to the Old World with valuable lessons learned. An enhanced port of the 3DS title Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate may have already graced the Nintendo Switch, but Rise is the first game in the series built from the ground up for Nintendo’s latest console. As such, Rise closely follows in the footsteps of World while reneging on some of its changes and introducing plenty of new impactful ideas that excellently shift the focus towards the series’ heart-pumping action.

The core Monster Hunter gameplay loop has remained relatively unchanged as you hunt down gargantuan monsters, harvest their materials to craft new weapons and armor, and tackle increasingly tougher foes. World coalesced both the single and multiplayer parts of the experience into one cohesive whole, but Rise reverts back to the old ways by splitting them into disparate Village and Hub quests. Village quests can only be played alone, while Hub quests can still be tackled solo but are designed with multiple players in mind. This isn’t the most welcome setup for newcomers since it isn’t immediately clear which quests progress the story, nor is there any indication of whether or not you should be alternating between both paths. The impact this structure has on the game isn’t as substantial as it initially seems, though. Hunting the same monster multiple times has always been a part of Monster Hunter’s DNA, so repeating the same mission as both a Village and Hub quest is something you would typically seek out anyway.

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