Call Of Duty: Vanguard Review — Personnel Problems

Call of Duty games can sometimes contradict themselves. The franchise dictates that each new game has a specific feel–things like quick kill times and consistent approaches to movement and weapons, and campaigns that mix a large sense of scale with an individual intensity of battle. Call of Duty: Vanguard maintains all of these things, but it also strains under the formula. There are times when Call of Duty’s underlying elements seem to hold it back, like in its single-player campaign. Other times, like with some of its multiplayer offerings, it takes useful steps forward in unifying ideas that push the series forward, albeit incrementally. Overall, though, the Call of Duty formula makes Vanguard feel uneven. It climbs to some excellent heights, but stumbles often along the way.

Vanguard returns to World War II but takes a fictionalized, exaggerated approach to the conflict. It puts you in the shoes of four veteran heroes as they come together to form the first modern special forces team. The story can be a bit cartoonish at times–it feels like Call of Duty’s take on something like The Expendables, as it brings together a team of unkillable action heroes, but it’s also fitting for a game where you single-handedly kill hundreds of enemies in each mission. These folks are the best of the best, and the story takes you through flashbacks for each one, establishing why they’re the best, and then letting them work together to hijack a Nazi train and smash a Nazi base.

Your special forces team is heading to Berlin near the end of the war, hoping to gain intelligence about a secret program before the Nazis bury it ahead of the Red Army’s approach. The team you play is matched by super-evil Nazis on the opposite side (Lord of the Rings’ Dominic Monaghan as a wormy Nazi nerd is particularly fun to hate), and most of the game is framed as a series of interrogations after the bad guys capture the heroes. It’s notable how much time Vanguard spends on cutscenes and character development, in fact. Creating memorable characters and leaning into storytelling is an area the franchise has often struggled with, and much of what makes the campaign fun is how hard Vanguard goes on building your team: it’s all character, all the time. That helps keep the story from getting disjointed as it leaps around both the timeline of the war and the globe, dropping you in major battles so you can see how each character got to where you find them.

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Shin Megami Tensei V Review – The End of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Everybody has their bad days. One moment you’re walking home from school, and the next thing you know, the class jackass has dragged you and your friends into the Biblical apocalypse while trying to create the next hit viral video. And then you wind up sharing a body with a supernatural warrior, trying to survive among the demonic forces roaming a ruined Tokyo long enough to figure out what the hell is going on.

At least, that’s how things go in the world of Shin Megami Tensei V, the latest numbered incarnation in Atlus’s long-running RPG series where, once again, Tokyo has found itself at the epicenter of a global demonic apocalypse. Naturally, you’re the person who can change the fate of humans and demons alike. Will you fight with the forces of Heaven to spread holy Law across the land, embrace the might and freedom of the forces of Chaos, or walk a neutral path? No matter what choices you make, your journey won’t be an easy one–but it will be very rewarding.

You begin Shin Megami Tensei V as a simple student, but it’s not long before you’re standing amongst a ruined Tokyo, watching angels spiriting away your buddies and being beset upon by supernatural beings. A strange demon offers you his power for protection, and you fuse with him, becoming the Nahobino–a human/demon hybrid with the potential to wield godlike powers. The keyword being “potential,” since your life is now hell on earth, quite literally: Almost every single god or demon from humanity’s collective belief systems is now running amok in what was once a bustling metropolis. As a result, you’ll need to carefully pick your allies and call them to your aid–as well as manage your own abilities–in order to survive in vicious turn-based combat to become the almighty being you are meant to be.

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Forza Horizon 5 Review – It’s About Four-Wheeled Family

For all the luxury cars that Forza Horizon 5 has to offer, the one I kept coming back to was an old Volkswagen Beetle, lovingly called a “Vocho” by the Mexican locals. It was a reward for a lengthy string of challenges, all taking liberties with what the recognizable but otherwise unremarkable car could be with the right love and care. More than that, it became a special car because of what it meant to one of the main characters in Forza Horizon 5’s more personal story missions, letting her recount a love of racing that stemmed from her grandfather’s adventures with this very vehicle. This single chapter encapsulates not only why the Horizon series has endured, but how developer Playground Games keeps thoughtfully iterating on it. It’s not just about the familiar high-octane racing, it’s also about the stories that people and their cars can tell, and what it means to those who continue that legacy.

These moments accentuate a more personal campaign that gives your created driver more of a voice than previous entries, increasing the conversations between its ensemble of racing-hungry characters while also giving plenty of opportunities for its new locale to be explored outside of the Horizon Festival. Forza Horizon 5 doesn’t replace anything with this shift in focus, but instead delivers another stellar open-world racing experience that delicately balances arcade sensibilities with the series’ simulation roots. Mexico is one of the best regions the series has visited thus far, too, offering a stunning backdrop to each race while also providing varied surfaces and landmarks to make each one feel special.

While the pristine countryside of Britain might have been a bit too sterile for the ridiculous nature of the globe-trotting Forza Festival, Mexico fits right in. Like the Australian outback in Forza Horizon 3, Playground Games turns the map into a tasting menu for all of the features the country has to offer, from densely-packed cities to barren sand dunes and sun-kissed coastlines. The transition from one hub to another feels natural as you zip around the map, but the visual variety that each one offers gives each corner of the map personality in a way that the series was missing in its last outing.

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Riders Republic Review – National Lark

Variety is Riders Republic’s strength, not just in terms of the multitude of extreme sports on offer, but also in the sheer breadth and diversity of its environments. One minute you might be shredding down the treacherous slopes near Grand Teton national park’s highest peak, while in the next you’re paragliding above a 1,000ft tall rock formation as Les Ukuleles Girls’ horrid cover of “Gangsta’s Paradise” provides the soundtrack. There’s so much to see and do, and no one would blame you for recoiling at the sight of another massive open-world Ubisoft game featuring a sprawling map littered with dozens and dozens of icons. Yet Riders Republic never feels as overwhelming as other open-world games. It’s not quite as chill as Steep–developer Ubisoft Annecy’s previous game–but it has a similarly hands-off style that rewards you for playing how you want to.

Whether that means challenging yourself, only partaking in certain events, or anything else in between–the choice is entirely up to you. Riders Republic consists of five careers: bike races, bike tricks, snow races, snow tricks, and air races. If you don’t like any of these activities, you don’t have to do them, and the game doesn’t punish you for skipping them. You might not fancy strapping a rocket-powered wingsuit to your back and using it to skim cliff faces in the name of winning a race, and it doesn’t matter; if you’re only interested in hurtling through a verdant forest on a mountain bike, narrowly avoiding trees as you go, Riders Republic will still keep rewarding you with new events and unlocks in that specific corner of the game. This freedom permeates throughout every inch of the rest of the game, too, from each snow-covered slope to every oily gear chain.

In order to progress, you need to earn stars, with each event rewarding a single star just for completion, whether you finish in first or last place. This feels like a strange decision at first since it seemingly robs the game of any stakes or sense of competition. This casual approach might suit you, and that’s fine, but for anyone who’s after a challenge or an incentive to outperform the rest of the field, each event’s optional objectives provide one, giving you another way to earn additional stars in the process. These objectives might ask you to win a race on the highest difficulty level, rack up a specific score during a trick event, or collect balloons scattered along the course. Some of these are relatively easy to achieve, while others are significantly harder and challenge your skill level. Whether you engage with them or not is, once again, up to you. There are enough events and stars to go around that you’re going to progress and unlock more either way, so it all comes down to how you want to approach the moment-to-moment gameplay.

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Voice Of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars Review – Cards Against Humanity

Yoko Taro is a weirdo. Don’t just take my word for it–the man himself has said as much with game development presentations on making “weird games for weird people“–and there’s a certain level of subversion and existential terror that permeates everything he touches. This is certainly the case with Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars, a somewhat surprising game to make after the smash-hit success that was Nier: Automata. But this is Yoko Taro, and this choice is itself a subversion. Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars takes the writer-director’s signature style and adapts it for a role-playing game that retains just enough classic role-playing elements to keep it approachable.

Taro is listed as creative director in Voice of Cards’ credits, and though he actually isn’t listed as the game director–suggesting he may have taken a less hands-on approach to its creation–its narrative beats and visual style certainly have his influence all over them. You play as an aspiring adventurer joined by a ragtag group of would-be heroes hoping to slay a dangerous dragon, beat a stuck-up group of nobles looking to find the dragon first and get a substantial reward from the local queen. The text’s font appears to be the same as in the Nier series, and longtime Taro collaborator Keiichi Okabe returned to compose its music, which is so Nier-y you’d think Voice of Cards was a surprise new entry in the series (it isn’t, but I kept waiting for the reveal). The Nier music DLC you can buy is almost redundant, considering how similar it is to what’s included in the standard version.

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