Valorant Review – An Adrenaline Spike

Think Counter-Strike with hero elements. That’s the elevator pitch for Valorant, Riot Games’ debut on the competitive first-person shooter scene. I say that not to disparage Valorant, though. In fact, that’s what I love most about it, especially since it executes on the formula extremely well. Valorant thrives because of tight, tactical gameplay and a mix of character-based abilities that provide a necessary strategic layer. Although it’s a slim package with limited features and barren presentation, Valorant has the potential to be great.

The core mode of Valorant revolves around five-on-five matches in a best of 25 rounds with two teams of attackers and defenders of bomb sites, switching sides about halfway through. The stakes are high as everyone gets only one life per round, and the focus on precise gunplay with low time-to-kill leaves little margin for error. Teams must account for buying guns, armor, and ability charges based on money allocated (depending on performance) on a per-round basis. In turn, each round maintains a high level of intensity as the tide of advantage can shift at any moment.

Agents introduce an essential X-factor to the mix with their unique abilities as well. While it’s easy to compare them to heroes/classes from other games, Valorant’s Agent abilities function more like gear in a loadout. Two are subject to limited uses per round (but thankfully carry over even if you’re killed) while a default ability subject to cooldown or replenish upon kills. Knowing how and when to execute these abilities, including Ultimates that can come in clutch, is key especially for highly competitive matches.

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Valorant Review – For Your Tactical Consideration

Think Counter-Strike with hero elements. That’s the elevator pitch for Valorant, Riot Games’ debut on the competitive first-person shooter scene. I say that not to disparage Valorant, though. In fact, that’s what I love most about it, especially since it executes on the formula extremely well. Valorant thrives because of tight, tactical gameplay and a mix of character-based abilities that provide a necessary strategic layer. Although it’s a slim package with limited features and barren presentation, Valorant has the potential to be great.

The core mode of Valorant revolves around five-on-five matches in a best of 25 rounds with two teams of attackers and defenders of bomb sites, switching sides about halfway through. The stakes are high as everyone gets only one life per round, and the focus on precise gunplay with low time-to-kill leaves little margin for error. Teams must account for buying guns, armor, and ability charges based on money allocated (depending on performance) on a per-round basis. In turn, each round maintains a high level of intensity as the tide of advantage can shift at any moment.

Agents introduce an essential X-factor to the mix with their unique abilities as well. While it’s easy to compare them to heroes/classes from other games, Valorant’s Agent abilities function more like gear in a loadout. Two are subject to limited uses per round (but thankfully carry over even if you’re killed) while a default ability subject to cooldown or replenish upon kills. Knowing how and when to execute these abilities, including Ultimates that can come in clutch, is key especially for highly competitive matches.

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Skelattack Review – Bone-Dry

Lacking meat on its bones, Skelattack has disjointed pieces and parts that add up to create an awkward, though heartwarming, side-scrolling platformer. You can see snippets of a precise platformer in Skelattack, but they are too sporadic and underutilized to really make you sweat. In a game centered on a human invasion of the afterlife, there sure aren’t very many enemies, and most of them remain in place or move like molasses, emulating the dead far more than the warm-blooded humans they’re supposed to be. Skelattack’s identity crisis is further fueled by its far too brief length, which prevents any of its solid ideas from coming into their own.

Starring a chipper skeleton named Skully and his lovable bat-pal Imber, Skelattack tells the story of a peculiarly joyous world of the dead, dubbed Aftervale, that’s suddenly invaded by the wretched humans who seek immortality.

Developed by Ukuza, Skelattack is the debut title in Konami’s new push to publish games made by Western studios. And while your mind likely jumps to Castlevania when you think Konami, Skelattack doesn’t evoke the labyrinthine design of the publisher’s influential franchise. Instead, what you get is a linear world with few instances where you’re able to go off the beaten path to uncover hidden chests with upgrades or currency. The world is separated into a handful of different areas, each with its own obstacles to pass and enemies to either avoid or eliminate. All of them wind up feeling rather similar in practice, since Skelattack doesn’t really build on its mechanics over time.

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The Last Of Us Part 2 Review (No Spoilers)

Editor’s note: Due to embargo restrictions around spoilers, parts of this review are intentionally vague. We’ve done our best to explain certain parts of the game and our critique without discussing any story spoilers; however, if you want to understand the full context of some of our analysis here, we’ll have another review up when The Last of Us Part II is officially out that discusses the story in greater detail and further explains our thoughts. This review will have the same score and will just serve as a deeper, more detailed analysis for those who want to read more.

At the beginning of The Last of Us Part II, you get a glimpse of Ellie’s life in idyllic Jackson, Wyoming. If it weren’t for the walls surrounding the town, you could almost forget that the world is crawling with infectious monsters that would kill everyone in sight; its main road, blanketed in snow, is a charming row of old buildings with decks for sidewalks, more Old West town than post-apocalypse settlement. Its residents grow food, care for horses, tend bars, and even have dances and movie nights. Four years after Joel saved (kidnapped?) Ellie from the Firefly hospital, this is the life he wanted for her.

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The Last of Us Part II grapples with Joel’s decision not through Joel, but through Ellie. This life is clearly not enough for her; she’s distant and brooding, obviously conflicted about something. She’s changed a lot. And when everything falls apart and she sets out in search of vengeance, you see her pain in its rawest, most brutal form. It’s a devastating, gruesome story of revenge in which the purpose of violence gets muddied by its intensity. But as a character study, The Last of Us Part II is beautiful and haunting, and I found myself completely overwhelmed by the emotional weight of it.

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Project Warlock Review – Wizard’s First Doom

Before you’re even 100% certain of what you’re doing or who you are in Project Warlock, you’re put in a room with a magical throwing knife, a staff that shoots lightning, and a couple of pissed-off spiders who aren’t there to thank you for playing their game. Within 10 seconds of starting, I’m back in high school, in 1998, installing any old creaky Doom WAD a friend tells me about over AIM for the hell of it, without a single blessed clue what needs doing except that anything that isn’t me must die.

That’s really the main draw of Project Warlock, a game that wears its ’90s FPS inspirations loudly and proudly. Despite a few interstitial cards between areas, there’s no deep story or motivation or pageantry to be found here. It’s just you and your arsenal of magical and military weaponry vs the supernatural hordes. At any given moment, it’s paying deep homage to Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, Heretic, Quake, Duke Nukem–the list goes on. The question, however, is what exactly does Project Warlock bring to the table that’s unique? The answer is, ultimately, not a whole lot, but what it does, it certainly does well enough.

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The style clash between all the game’s wild, anachronistic elements certainly counts for something. This is a game where you can take out lurching cyborgs with a crossbow, wield laser rifles against abominable snowmen, and kill Lovecraftian horrorbeasts with a submachine gun. That mix makes for a smirking, free-wheeling sort of game where every problem has a brute-force solution from somewhere in the annals of history or legend. If a shotgun can’t fix all your problems in this game, a fiery magic spell probably will, and vice versa. There isn’t necessarily a wrong approach for many of Project Warlock’s challenges. As long as you know which button pulls the trigger and which one opens doors, you’re generally fine. And no matter which weapon you wield–from magic staffs to double-barrelled shotguns to sticks of dynamite–the vast majority of your arsenal packs an absolute wallop when it hits.

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