Doom Eternal Review – Intelligent Inferno

Id Software’s return to Doom in 2016 was a phenomenal update of the franchise’s classic shooter formula. It was fast and intense, full of huge monsters and scorching metal tracks, modernizing the feel of the 1990s original while adding some new-school flourishes. Where Doom 2016 brought the original Doom into the present, Doom Eternal feels like a big step forward in making the franchise something new: It’s a master class in demon dismemberment after the introductory course to ripping and tearing of four years ago. Like its predecessor, Doom Eternal makes you feel like a monster-shredding badass–not just because you’re the strongest Doom Slayer, but because you’re also the smartest.

Doom Eternal is all about effectively using the huge amount of murder tools at your disposal. Health, armor, and ammo pickups are at a minimum in Eternal’s many combat arenas, and the game instead requires you to earn these by massacring monsters in a variety of different ways. Stagger an enemy and you can tear them apart with a brutal glory kill, which refills your health; douse a demon with the new flamethrower and they’ll start to spout armor pickups; or cut them in half with the chainsaw to grab some much-needed ammo.

In order to stay alive, you can’t just run around blasting madly, expecting to tear through everything in your path; you have to run around blasting rationally to keep yourself at fighting strength. Keeping all your numbers up means continually rotating through your glory, chainsaw, and flamethrower kills while also making sure you’re using the right gun for a particular job. Many of the toughest enemies now have weak points that allow you to snipe off their most lethal weapons, and you’ll need to assess threats and knock them out quickly.

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Corruption 2029 Review – Lost Soul

In the banal future-war fiction that serves as set dressing for the battlefields of Corruption 2029, soldiers are remote-controlled living machines. These humanoid husks are devoid of humanity, mechanized units designed to be disposable as they fight the second American civil war. Both sides sport bland three-letter initials, the NAC (New American Council) and the UPA (United Peoples of America), their full names reading like soulless corporate think-tanks, their motives as opaque as they are forgettable. Actual people are seemingly absent in this conflict. Lifelessness permeates the entire experience, sapping all interest in what is otherwise an accomplished tactical combat game.

In this sense, Corruption 2029 is a disappointing step backward from the developer’s debut title, 2018’s Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden, a game that elevated the XCOM formula primarily through a charismatic cast of characters. The mechanics of combat work in essentially the same way they did in Mutant Year Zero with similarly distinguished results. You control a squad of three units (and occasionally a fourth unit you might acquire mid-mission) and you’re able to explore the map in real-time until the enemy spots you or, preferably, you trigger an ambush. Once the fight’s underway, you and the engaged enemies alternate between ducking behind cover, firing your weapons, lobbing grenades, and deploying special abilities in turn-based combat.

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The tactical combat is a triumph of clarity. The UI conveys all the pertinent information flawlessly, leaving you reassured that each move you make is going to play out with a high degree of certainty and few unintended consequences. When deciding where to move, for example, you can hover over each accessible square on the grid and see your exact chance to hit every enemy in range with the weapon you have equipped. Swap that weapon and all the percentages update. Clear icons inform you that the destination is in low cover or high cover and if an enemy is currently flanking that position. Having these details reliably presented on-screen is a constant benefit to the decision-making process and goes a long way to ensure success in each combat encounter is determined by preparation and smart choices rather than an unexpected fluke.

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Half-Life: Alyx Review – Full-Life Consequences

Naturally, monumental expectations accompany the first Half-Life game in 13 years, and for the iconic franchise’s return to come in the form of a VR exclusive is undoubtedly bold. But at each step of the way, Half-Life: Alyx proves that almost everything the franchise did best is elevated by VR: the environmental puzzles that require a keen eye, the threat of a headcrab jumping for your face, the cryptic storytelling. The series’ staples are as great as ever here, and in its most powerful moments, Half-Life: Alyx confidently shows you why it couldn’t have been done any other way.

What’s a day in the life of Alyx Vance? In true Half-Life form, the entire game goes from morning to night in a single shot of first-person action in which you, as Alyx, trek through the undergrounds and abandoned zones of City 17. At first, it’s to save your dad Eli Vance from the clutches of the Combine. However, you’re subsequently led to uncover the nature of that massive floating structure that hovers over City 17, referred to as the Vault. With a cheeky sidekick Russell in your ear, and a trusty, prophetic Vortigaunt who comes in clutch, Alyx is more than prepared. A basic premise for sure, but the journey is thrilling, and the payoff is immense.

There’s a newfound intimacy captured in doing the things that Half-Life always asked of you. Because it’s a VR game, the way you look at and process your surroundings fundamentally changes, thus making the solutions to environmental puzzles more of a personal accomplishment than before. Simply finding the right objects to progress was fine with a keyboard and mouse, but when it’s your own hands turning valves, moving junk to find critical items, pulling levers, or hitting switches while turning your head to see the results of your actions, these become enticing gameplay mechanics rather than means for breaking up the pace. Without waypoints or objective markers to guide you, subtle visual cues and calculated level design lead you to the solutions, and progress feels earned because of that.

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MLB The Show 20 Review – Bases Loaded

MLB The Show 20 suddenly finds itself in an unprecedented position. The COVID-19 coronavirus has disrupted sports across the globe, and baseball is no different, as Opening Day of the 2020 Major League Baseball season was recently postponed for at least the next two months–and even that seems optimistic. It’s an unfathomable turn of events, yet it also means Sony San Diego’s latest baseball sim is now one of the only ways to experience the 2020 season of America’s favorite pastime. It’s a good job, then, that MLB 20 maintains the series’ consistently high quality. Refinements to fielding and hitting may only be incremental this year, but they add more depth to what is still one of the most compelling sports games on the market, while new additions and modes off the field increase the game’s variety as you chart a course towards World Series glory.

Fielding and defense received a lot of love in last year’s game, so MLB 20 adds a few more wrinkles without rocking the boat too much. The distinction between Gold Glove caliber outfielders and mere mortals is now slightly more pronounced, particularly when the CPU is in control. The best outfielders in the game are much more dialed in this year, reacting to the ball off the bat with authentic accuracy and a dependable first-step. On the flip side, the square peg you’ve lodged into the round hole in left field might struggle when it comes to reading the flight of the ball, committing a fair few errors over the course of a season as balls careen off the edge of his glove instead of nesting in its palm.

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There’s also a new Extreme Catch Indicator that identifies those bloop singles and hard-sinking line drives that are right on the edge of being catchable. If you have a player like Minnesota Twins center fielder Byron Buxton patrolling the outfield, you might take a chance and attempt a risky diving catch on one of these tough-to-reach balls, knowing full well that he’s skilled enough to pull off a spectacular grab. With an average defender hustling towards the ball, however, you might prefer to play it safe and get yourself in position to gather the ball after it bounces. Surrendering a single is a much more positive outcome than laying out for a catch and completely missing the ball, resulting in a triple for the fortunate hitter.

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Call Of Duty Warzone Review – Cash Rules Everything Around Me

The latest Call of Duty from Infinity Ward shipped without an answer to Black Ops 4’s Blackout, but it has since been supplemented by Warzone–a completely standalone battle royale built off of the backbone of Modern Warfare. Not only is it a smarter way to ensure it’s not tied to each annual release in the series, but Warzone gives the series its own identity within the competitive genre.

It might not be apparent at first, though, especially when you take into consideration how much Warzone borrows from other popular battle royale games. It incorporates a ping system similar to the one in Apex Legends, letting you tag enemy positions, points of interest, and loot for teammates at the press of a button (albeit mapped to a button that’s harder to reach quickly, mitigating some of its convenience). It plays out on a massive map akin to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, where large swathes of open land are ripe for snipers while dense suburbs make for exhilarating and chaotic close-quarters skirmishes. And like the ones in Fortnite, color-coded chests overflowing with loot are easy to hunt down when you are within earshot of their signature emanating jingle.

None of these competitors are defined solely by the elements Warzone borrows from them, and Warzone isn’t defined by the sum of their parts. Instead, Warzone uses them to establish a solid foundation for its own distinct elements. It starts with a larger player count than the aforementioned battle royale games, with Warzone currently supporting up to 150 players per match, with modes for three-person squads or solo play. Having so many players active at once keeps you constantly on alert, but also increases the odds that you’ll at least have some action (and likely a handful of kills) each match. This makes even some of the least successful drops feel worthwhile–even if your entire match lasts only a handful of minutes, you’ll likely get some valuable time in with some weapons, better preparing you for another fight in the next match.

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