Mattallica's Top 10 Games of 2014

Oh, Game of the Year. To make things easier this year I tried to keep track of every new game I played (71 as of right now) and update my top 10 throughout the year. It helped in some cases so I didn’t forget about games I loved at the start of the year but also reminded me of so many games I enjoyed that just couldn’t make the cut.

I’ve tried to keep this brief and not worry about the specific order too much. Just as long as number one really was my favorite of the year and the rest all great games. I should note that I only just got a Wii U so there’s a few games I haven’t had time to judge effectively yet. Though Smash Bros and Captain Toad are probably the only Wii U games released this year which stood a chance. Let’s get straight to it.

Honorable Mentions: Fibbage, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Outlast (PS4), The Unfinished Swan (PS4), Octodad: Dadliest Catch (PS4).

10 - Rayman Legends (PS4)

I got a PS4 in February this year and started playing many of the early titles I missed. Loved Resogun, really liked Knack, Killzone was fun and I enjoyed AC: Black Flag at the time. But Rayman Legends was the first game of the system that I really felt strongly for. After the recent New Super Mario Bros games that underwhelmed me I really wondered if I could still love 2D platformers without nostalgia involved. Rayman Legends does so many things I’d never seen before and was an absolute delight.

Visually stunning, controls perfectly and very rewarding; Legends is just an all round joy to behold. My personal highlight was the rhythm levels that are just outstandingly well made but also the boss levels are so well constructed. The amount of content will keep you occupied for so long and it isn’t open world filler but just tons of fantastic new levels. I’ve never been that much of a fan of Rayman but after Legends I am proud to say I am.

9 - BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2 (X360)

A DLC release is one of my favorite games of the year, and won’t be the last on the list. BioShock Infinite has already firmly established itself in my all time top 10 but last year’s DLC definitely was a disappointment. Then the news of Irrational closing blew up just before the release and I really feared the worst. I still played it having already purchased the Season Pass and was so surprised with how it turned out. Gameplay is probably what was the most interesting as it plays like a cross between BioShock 1 and Infinite and ends up being something very unique to the series.

The story is very ambitious like previous entries and does a solid job of trying to link up the BioShock universe even further than the events of Infinite’s finale. Overall it was a fantastic swansong to one of my favorite franchises and a great goodbye to Ken Levine’s involvement. I’m sure we’ll see more BioShock in the future as that’s the way business works but BioShock as we know and love it is gone and this was a great final chapter in the story.

8 - The Last of Us: Left Behind (PS3)

TLoU: Left Behind is a special kind of DLC. It pretty much is the absolute perfect way to do it. The original game could not have been better received by critics and players alike and Naughty Dog had almost no reason to make more before a full sequel. But they did and instead of it being an easy cash grab, they added even more to the story and helped create even more layers to already some of the most complex and real video game characters in the history of the medium.

Taking place in two distinctive periods, whilst I enjoyed the combat areas it was the other period that involved zero combat as we know it that really left an impact on me. It cleverly uses the same mechanics from the game that were used to fight infected and replace the situation with two girls having fun with each other. It’s very powerful juxtapositioned with the main game and just another sign that Naughty Dog might be the best in the business today.

7 - Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

Hands down one of the best handheld games I’ve ever played. And I don’t even like golf but the gameplay in this game is just fantastic. Easy to pick up but hard to master, tons of content, wide variety of courses and challenges, a surprisingly solid online infrastructure. Only part about the whole game I don’t like is the confusing menu system.

It’s so good that it has pretty much turned my 3DS XL into a Mario Golf machine where I don't ever wanna take the cartridge out as it’s always my go to game when I have some free time and wanna play something that is easy to pick up. Easily the best Mario sports title after a rough few recent titles like the terrible Mario Tennis Open.

6 - Watch Dogs (PS4)

Watch Dogs is my first choice of marmite games that really seem to have divided opinions this year. And I loved it. I’m not sure what everyone else was expecting but I got what I wanted. A great open world game with a fantastic twist in the form of hacking that makes a really familiar genre feel fresh. One of the only games this year I felt compelled to 100% and get the platinum trophy.

During the PS2 era I absolutely loved the GTA Clones that were so prevalent at the time. The Getaway, True Crime: Streets of LA and Driv3r I adored. And this game strangely reminded me of these titles after the release of GTA V last year. Open world crime games are my favorite genre and this delivered exactly what I wanted when I played it. I really look forward to a sequel which I don’t say very often.

5 - The Wolf Among Us (X360)

I, like many people, didn’t play any Telltale games before The Walking Dead Season 1 mainly due to only having a Xbox 360 at the time. TWD ended up being my game of the year so I was looking forward to what they did next. I knew nothing of Fables but played The Wolf Among Us anyway and was blown away.

The series isn't perfect, there’s definitely bigger lulls between the highs and the lows but I definitely think the highs are the biggest Telltale have produced so far. So many of the characters are fantastic and brilliantly voiced. Bigby being the best of the bunch. I didn’t think I would enjoy a Telltale series more than TWD but at this point I would prefer another series of TWAU than anything else they are making, however unlikely that is to happen.

4 - P.T (PS4)

P.T is absolutely incredible, outstanding, perfect piece of work. In the days of knowing so much before any game releases, not knowing anything other than a title and a few screens before randomly appearing on the PSN store, this was by far the most refreshing thing I played all year. I adore horror more than anything and I am constantly disappointed with it’s current state in film and games. Just thinking about the last two numbered Resident Evil games makes me physically depressed.

P.T is without a doubt the scariest thing I’ve played in my life. Much has been said about what makes the game so scary but ultimately it’s a perfect storm of just doing everything right. Then after such a horrifyingly beautiful experience we get the reveal that Kojima is making a new Silent Hill game. Whatever Silent Hills turns out to be when it’s finally released in 2-3 years, P.T will go down as one of the greatest experiences the medium has ever seen.

3 - Destiny (PS4)

Destiny is the most frustrating game for me to put on the list. I agree with many criticisms of the game like it’s lack of story and repetition, but I definitely think what it does best is constantly underplayed. Destiny has without a doubt the best shooting mechanics of any FPS I have ever played. Just shooting stuff is so god damn fun and the reason I’ve played the game for over 250 hours, more than any other game this year.

More than anything I think it’s the weapon design that has kept me playing for so long. They all feel unique and even feel different after upgrading them. I love collecting different exotics (15 at the time of writing) and seeing which ones are my favorite (Vex Mythoclast and Icebreaker). Plus doing the Vault of Glass raid and going from complete noob to expert over the course of multiple weeks is the most rewarding experience I’ve had in a game for years. Last generation I fell in love with Gears of War in 2006 and it was my shooter for the next 7 years. I hope Destiny is the same for this current generation.

2 - The Evil Within (PS4)

I had very high hopes for this game. Everything they were saying was music to my ears. The director of the best two horror games of all time returning to the genre. The words ‘spiritual successor’ being thrown around regarding my 2nd favorite game of all time. Limited edition pre ordered, all that was left was to actually play it. I know some crazy people were somehow disappointed but I loved almost every second.

The fact it somehow captured the spirit of RE4 in certain sequences just blew me away but I like that it strays away from that game also and becomes it’s own thing. It’s way more crazy and over the top, resembling more Silent Hill at times with amazing boss battles and enemy design throughout. The big open areas you explore that reminded me of RE4 were probably my favorite part of the game as most horror titles these days lean more on small enclosed spaces. The story was way better than I expected and whilst it is told is small chunks on purpose I’m really looking forward to playing it again in the future with better understanding.

Horror had a terrible year in film and I’m so surprised that in games it’s had a mini resurgence. With Resident Evil Remake HD, RE: Revelations 2 and Silent Hills on the horizon, perhaps the one thing I’ll take from 2014 more than anything regarding games is that it was the year I finally got excited for console horror games once again.

1 - South Park: The Stick of Truth (PS3)

In so many ways, South Park: The Stick of Truth is a dream come true. Growing up with the show since I was a young teen, seeing the movie come out and be hilarious, playing the early games and enjoying them despite their faults, occasionally falling out of touch with the show for brief periods before an episode gets me hooked once again, I could never have imagined playing a game like this. Obviously due to Trey and Matt’s heavy involvement it’s just the most loyal and I think best use of a license ever in gaming. To laugh at a game consistently over it’s entire duration is completely unheard of and the fan service is unrivalled.

The overall look of the game is just perfect as it is identical to the show and being able to see where everything in the town is situated for the first time makes a hardcore fan like myself just happy to walk around and see everything. Then there’s the amount of incredible settings and situations that happen in the game, that clearly took so much work to make that you only see once in service of a joke shows such an amazing level of dedication from the developer. One sequence in particular might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever experienced in a videogame. I feel so privileged to have grown up with the show and experienced this game after all these years; as games that carry so many personal feelings don’t come along very often. I enjoyed so many games this year, but none filled me with more joy than South Park: The Stick of Truth.

2014 was a strange year for games. It was never going to be able to follow such an unbelievable year for me personally which saw the release of 3 games that are already in my all time top 20 list. Many big releases disappointed or were completely broken, many anticipated titles were delayed to 2015, but we still ended up with a ton of great games. I thoroughly enjoyed all 10 games on my list and with it being such a weird year, it has definitely made reading top 10 lists more interesting than usual as it’s been such a diverse year. I hope 2015 delivers an equally diverse range of games but really hope the big players with the big franchises really hit home next year. Uncharted 4 yes please!

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Horror Comes Home

When Shinji Mikami was revealed to be working within the horror genre once again it got a lot of people excited. And rightly so. The man has worked on arguably the two greatest horror games of all time as the director of both Resident Evil Remake, and my personal favorite, Resident Evil 4. Which brings us to his latest project, The Evil Within. Trying to bring big budget console survival horror back to the top after a rough few years to say the least seems to be an almost impossible task. But somehow, against all odds, he has done it again.

The game will feel very familiar if you’ve played previous Mikami horror games. After a rough start to the game that plays like a 3rd person Outlast involving running and hiding from enemies, as soon as you get a gun and experience your first proper combat arena the game resembles Resident Evil 4 so much that I felt like I had already played it before in some strange way. If ever the words “spiritual successor” are needed it is now. With also a few elements of Silent Hill thrown in to create an experience old school survival horror fans will adore.

You are thrown into the experience rather quickly and I’m sure it is by design to confuse the player just like our protagonist is at the early events. The story slowly unravels as we discover Sebastian’s backstory and the recent terrible events that have surrounded Krimson City. Surprisingly the game has also one of the best methods of telling the story through collectibles I have ever seen. By reading newspaper articles and seeing missing person posters I was able to learn about the characters without being bogged down in long cutscenes which leaves more time to experience the true horror on display. I would have liked slightly more explanation of events in the end but I thought the less is more approach worked really well in this situation.

Speaking of true horror, The Evil Within is a truly twisted and disturbing game. I wouldn’t necessarily call it flat out scary as it does not rely on jump scares but rather just sets an extremely creepy tone and keeps a hold of you throughout it’s entire duration. And I much prefer this approach. Level design and environments are super impressive and you encounter all manner of different areas to be frightened in. Sewers, crumbling skyscrapers even creepy villages with chainsaw waving lunatics to avoid. Sound familiar?

Enemy design is also fantastic, with the majority of enemies you encounter programmed very similarly to the Ganado from Resident Evil 4. There’s also plenty of original enemies that are guaranteed to become fan favorites over the years including the extremely disturbing Laura and the already famous The Keeper aka Boxhead.

Boss battles in the game are very varied and well executed. Some can be very difficult, even when you know the strategy you need to employ, just pulling it off correctly is a struggle. I like that the difficulty is raised in these situations as it really makes them stand out and what’s the point of a boss if it isn’t difficult. There are a few sections that slightly frustrated me involving enemies that can instantly kill you with one attempt. Having to keep seeing the loading screen which can take 5-10 seconds can kill the momentum and tension sometimes but this was a small minority of my time with the game that otherwise progressed perfectly.

Controls are pretty tight and almost some of the best I’ve used in the genre. I didn’t feel like I was fighting against them which is an improvement over most horror games. I did struggle early on with aiming my guns as the reticle likes to move quite a bit. But once I upgraded my guns to have better stability and I got used to the way enemies would attack, it felt better as I went along. Probably my biggest gripe with the game was the camera as it sometimes went in strange places and with it being so close to the back of your character it can be hard to sometimes find the right direction to head in.

The weapon upgrades I just mentioned are just some of the whole host of upgrades available to you. You can also get more health, carry more ammo, run for a longer time and countless other extremely helpful upgrades via collecting green fluid either left by dead enemies or found in vials scattered everywhere. This system suits the game so well and slowly makes you feel stronger, though not too powerful as the enemies get progressively harder also.

Another form of collecting is parts that can be found or scavenged by successfully destroying enemy traps designed to hurt you. Once collected, these parts can be converted into creating different bolt types for your crossbow, by far the game’s best weapon and almost essential for some enemy encounters. I personally loved the explosive bolt but the freeze bolt can be very fun to use also. When crafting or selecting your weapons the game world slows down but doesn’t stop, thus making trying to craft certain items whilst fighting particularly hard enemies an incredibly tense spot to be in.

Perhaps one of the most unique parts of the game is it’s use of fire, in particular being able to burn enemies with matches you find. You can burn any downed enemy or body you find which creates a very interesting dynamic to the combat. If you enter a room with a few seemingly dead bodies you can either chose to burn them or leave them. With matches limited you won’t want to burn everything you see but ignoring them also can come back to haunt you as they have a habit of suddenly coming alive if you chose to leave them. Most satisfying is when fighting a group of enemies together, shooting one so they fall down then running over and setting fire to them so the fire takes down multiple enemies with just one match. A very useful strategy in a game where ammo can be very hard to come by at times.

Part of the amazing atmosphere the game creates can be credited to it’s exceptional sound design. Hearing an enemy snarling before even seeing them is so effective and the sounds in general are so horrible it will stick with you for a while after playing. If you play with headphones on; good luck. At times I found myself not exhaling for minutes at a time due to holding my breath as I slowly creep down a long hallway, unaware of an enemy’s location but can hear them watching me from the shadows.

I already mentioned how much this game borrows/pays homage to Resident Evil 4 in particular, but that isn’t the only horror title it draws inspiration from. The amount of nods to previous horror games like when you first encounter an enemy from behind and it slowly turns around to reveal itself as well as other less obvious homages is outstanding. The Evil Within knows it’s roots and is happy to share this with you at all turns. As a huge fan of the genre myself, I really appreciated this.

My first time playing the game it took me 15 hours to beat which is about the perfect length for this kind of experience. Of course it will be much shorter in the future now I know what I’m doing and with a new game plus as well as other difficulties unlocked after my first completion, I will definitely play this game many times over the next few years.

From it’s first reveal I had a good feeling about this game. I thought at it’s worst I would still enjoy a return to a more old school style of game and hoped at best it would be a game I really enjoyed despite it’s flaws. After playing The Evil Within I believe it turned out even better than I could have expected. It’s flaws are very minimal and overall it’s probably the best console survival horror experience since Resident Evil 4. All horror fans owe themselves to play this game as it’s so rare we get something like this and I really hope it is the true kickstart the genre has needed for years. Even if it isn’t, The Evil Within is destined to be a modern horror classic.

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The Walking Dead Season 2 Finale: The End of the Line

No Going Back is an apt title for the Season 2 finale of Telltale’s The Walking Dead. With the last episode being the worst in the entire series, there was a lot riding on this finale for me. Season 3 had already been announced and I was beginning to question whether I was still on board after loving the first season but having growing frustrations over the last few episodes. No Going Back is certainly the best episode of the season, and has some of the best moments we’ve ever been forced to endure and participate in.

Action sequences and zombie encounters are really limited and I really enjoyed the change of pace. Usually the more dialogue heavy episodes can become rather boring, and while some early scenes were slightly drawn out, the final few scenes had so much drama that I really didn’t need to dodge some zombie bites to keep me interested.

One of the few action sequences involves the group crossing a frozen lake slowly to reach the other side. You immediately know it is going to go wrong but you still find yourself holding your breath, slowly walking, in hope to not break the ice below. The scene is very well done and builds to a real heart breaking moment which actually really worked even though I thought I was over these sort of moments. I hope the series can recreate this on a more consistent basis going forward.

It was really nice to see a different side of the characters during the campfire scene as we start to see them actually relax and make jokes with each other. Seeing the characters poke fun at Luke and Jane after their “encounter” from last episode was great to see as it is how a group of friends would react in that situation. Seeing their more human side you can relate to rather than just the constant battle for survival goes a long way in making the supporting cast more than just zombie food but fully fleshed out characters.

One interaction I thought really worked in this episode was that between Kenny and Arvo. The age of Arvo meant he was young enough to still be deemed a kid by some but also old enough, in a world where you have to grow up fast, that he could still be punished for his actions. It is classic Telltale; putting you right in the middle of a dilemma and forced to pick sides or stay out of it. I wanted to give Arvo the benefit of the doubt but as his actions became increasingly dangerous to the group I immediately switched to Kenny’s way of thinking and wanted nothing more to do with the boy.

One small criticism which surprised me playing this episode was how some dialogue choices felt really flat, especially from Clementine. The voice acting throughout is usually so incredible and I’ve never had an issue before; but there were a few times when my selected option was just said with no meaning or gravitas. Especially when the situation called for it. This could be a problem of having to record so many different dialogue options that some ‘first takes’ may slip through the cracks occasionally but it did slightly kill the momentum from what is usually some of the best VO in the medium.

Things slowly progressed along to where you know it will end up, and you also know you will be forced to make a incredibly important decision. It is in that impending doom that really makes what happens on screen really uncomfortable. The final moments can really be played out in so many ways and all of them are so well done that I’m glad I went through and redone them a few times to see the different outcomes. Even if in the end I still am satisfied with my first choice in the situation.

Of course without spoiling anything I found the way the ending was approached to be very fascinating and extremely ambitious by Telltale. This is possibly the biggest divergent of paths we’ve ever seen and your choices in the final moments completely changes where and who you ultimately end up with. Of course certain actions at the start of Season 3 can easily pull everyone back to a similar track but I really like how players will truly have their own ending to this chapter in the story. This is what makes these games great and we really have lacked it during the season but its great to see it back when it matters.

One thing I noticed is whether we have had an episode yet when not one of your group dies? Usually we meet new people and others die in every episode which is what made me start to not care about anyone’s fate as they all end up in the same place. I would love to see Telltale have the nerve to maybe try a few episodes in a row where no one of the group is killed off. It would certainly go a long way to solving my criticism of a too disposable cast and make the deaths all that more shocking.

I’m not entirely sure where the series will go from here. I already have a few theories but I may get to them another time before The Walking Dead: Season 3 drops. My concerns haven’t completely evaporated involving the almost too disposable cast and invincible protagonist, but I definitely feel more inclined to continue the story than I was after Episode 4. The big moments felt as strong as those of the series’ past; and one emotional moment in particular was phenomenally well done that I am still thinking about it many hours on. We know that the series will continue for at least another five episodes and I really hope Clementine’s story continues to progress as we really are seeing one of the great video game protagonists on our screens.

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The Second Coming of Console Survival Horror

One of the most surprising aspects of this year’s Gamescom was how well the survival horror genre is currently doing on the new consoles. Specifically Sony seem to be very invested in the genre currently for PlayStation 4 with Until Dawn being a exclusive title previously for PS3 with Move support, now fully upgraded and looking way more big budget while still be positioned at the horror crowd.

The Evil Within is just around the corner and announced recently is the enhanced Resident Evil remake coming early next year. Then of course one of the biggest stories to come from the show was P.T which ended up being a clever way to introduce a new Silent Hill game by Hideo Kojima called Silent Hills. So where does this revival of sorts come from? Hasn’t horror been dead on the consoles for a while now? Let’s look back at some notable titles from the past and whether or not this current trend is a surprise or not.

Horror games have been around for a very long time but survival horror arguably did not establish itself until Resident Evil was released on PlayStation in 1996. The game spawned two fantastic sequels on the same console and really kick-started the genre as we know it today. The Clock Tower series also enjoyed success in the aftermath as well as Alone in the Dark and the first Silent Hill. This generation may have started what we know think of as console survival horror but it’s peak was still to come.

On PlayStation 2/GameCube we were treated to some of the best survival horror games ever seen on consoles. Resident Evil 4 and REmake were both released as well as multiple Silent Hill and Fatal Frame games. With many other Japanese horror games, this era was a high point for the genre and really set the benchmark in what we would grow to expect from future titles.

The next generation however was a mixed bag. Highlights were Alan Wake, Condemned and the first Dead Space but unfortunately it will be remembered more for a change in direction for some franchises. Dead Space quickly became something else by it’s third iteration, Silent Hill released it’s worst two entries to the date and then there’s the change in direction for Resident Evil.

While Resident Evil 4 was a dramatic change in terms of controls, it was Resident Evil 5 that completely changed the tone of the series. Ultimately it was a good game but really moved the series into a direction more in line with the films and paved the way for the next entry. The less I say about Resident Evil 6 the better before I get angry but overall I think it summed up where the genre was headed. The success of big budget action games like Call of Duty really made developers scared to take a chance on a slower, more atmospheric title in favor of explosions and car chases.

I was convinced this would be where the genre would continue to head going into PlayStation 4/Xbox One but that seems to not be the case so far. Of course we are only talking about console survival horror as the genre has been kept alive elsewhere; on the PC in the form of indie titles. Slender, Outlast, Amnesia and countless others have really reinvented what we expect from the genre with an emphasis on environment and mood over gameplay.

Which brings us to this current wave of survival horror we seem to be at the start of. Why have developers seemingly changed their tune and want to create these games that many deem outdated? Perhaps looking at each individual title rather than them as a whole will help understand. The Resident Evil remake seems to be a reaction to the negative response Resident Evil 6 received by it’s loyal fan base. The best way they could get the fans back on their side was by releasing it’s most loved entry once again, and could also serve as a test from Capcom to see how well it is received before releasing the next new installment.

Silent Hill has been in a bad place for a while now and I thought it would never return to it’s best so this one is more surprising. I believe it stems mainly from Kojima personally wanted to make a game in the series for a while and with the trust Konami have in him at this point they probably had zero objections to any idea that gets people talking after years of stagnation. Hopefully his unique style will suit the strange world of Silent Hill perfectly.

Calling this slew of new announcements a comeback for survival horror on consoles may be slightly premature for several reasons. Firstly these games could potentially turn out terrible and permanently kill the two biggest franchises as well as the return of Shinji Mikami be a huge disappointment resulting in the final nail in the coffin for the genre for good. Also even if these games are all fantastic and suddenly big budget AAA survival horror becomes a viable product once again, horror may never have been dead but just in a bad place after a few mixed releases. We’ll know more this time next year but for now it’s just nice to actually be excited for big horror titles once again.

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Whistleblower DLC – A Tense But Underwhelming Return

After Outlast arrived earlier this year on PS4 (previously a PC exclusive released last year), it certainly made it’s presence known. Due to being free on PS+, and not many games to play on the new system, many gamers tried it out not knowing what to expect. And boy did they get a shock. Those who stuck around long enough found a very solid horror title that was very interesting in the way it presented itself and ultimately a great game. You may have thought you wouldn’t go back to Mount Massive ever again, but now there’s new DLC that could change. Or perhaps you’re best not to go back on that promise.

One of the main reasons for this DLC is to tie up the story from the previous game. You play as Waylon Park, the whistleblower who originally sent an email to Miles Upshur in the main game that triggered this whole series of events. We learn why Waylon was at Mount Massive and why he sent his email in the first place. It is nice how everything ties together but I wasn’t that interested in the story to begin with so expanding upon this was interesting but ultimately not why enjoyed playing Outlast.

The length of the DLC is pretty long considering the length of the original game was around five hours and this will take around two hours to finish, longer if you were to collect all documents and recordings. It is a good length as the pace never slows down as you move to new areas very swiftly and push the story forward throughout most of your time.

Price however could be an issue when you consider the short length. Due to the recent PS4 release being free on PS+, I didn’t mind paying for the DLC as the overall cost for both the main game and this DLC seems worthwhile. But if you bought the game and now this DLC you could feel slightly short changed considering most people will only want to play through the whole thing once.

The violence in Whistleblower does not cut any corners and somehow manages to even top the main game in the amount of craziness on display. Patients are seen performing increasingly disgusting acts, enemies do more than just torture or kill this time and a few scenarios involving our protagonist made me feel rather sick. This was probably the best part of the entire DLC and the only aspect of the experience that managed to match that of it’s main counterpart.

During the first half of the campaign there is a single enemy that keeps pursuing you from area to area. He’s very well designed and pretty damn scary with a buzz saw for a weapon, the sound will send shivers down your spine before you even know where he is. It definitely had a strong Nemesis (Resident Evil 3) vibe as an unstoppable force continues to stalk you over and over again. I was disappointed that this wasn’t carried on throughout the whole DLC but was very cool while it lasted.

The limited gameplay did become an issue the further I progressed as I become slightly bored with the way enemy scenarios play out. Options are either run or hide and most of the time involve me running around some rooms in a big circle to get an enemy further enough away from a door so I can enter it and get to the next section. It does become really stale after already playing most of the main game this way also.

A recurring problem I had during my time was getting lost as to where I was supposed to be going exactly. With it’s extremely dark setting, its so easy to miss an opening in a wall and most easy to miss is when you must climb to access a vent. I didn’t have this problem whatsoever with the main game but found myself on a few occasions having to backtrack through multiple areas before finally spotting the tiny area I had missed. This along with the recurring feeling that comes with enemy encounters made getting through the asylum far more tedious than it was previously.

Most of my concerns unfortunately come from just playing the game for too much at this point. The main game and DLC equates to around seven hours of playing and the things that I loved to begin with start to become more frustrating as the game progresses. The jump scares that were great to begin with become so predictable in the way they play out that you really know when to expect them. Bar one or two occasions, they just fell completely flat for me.

I was a huge fan of Outlast when I played it for the first time on PS4 this year. I thought writing it off as just a series of jump scares was underselling the game and really was one of my favorite horror games for a long time. Unfortunately Whistleblower doesn’t really replicate these feelings too well. While still tense, the limited gameplay and predictable sequences made me more bored than scared. I’m hoping a full sequel can really add more to the experience than this DLC which doesn’t change up anything from the main game, bringing all of it’s faults and wearing thin the best parts originally. Considering how great so many DLC releases have been recently, this definitely isn’t one you absolutely need to spend your time on.

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The Wolf Among Us Episode 3: A Crooked Mile - The Clock is Ticking…

After just a two month wait since Episode 2 was released, Telltale have kept their promise of releasing the episodes quicker after the initial four month wait since the series started. With the events of the previous episode still fresh, the impact of this episode is greater than ever before. What initially started as a whodunit for a murder is now becoming something that could have impact on the entirety of Fabletown itself. Trust is becoming something that is almost impossible to give to someone and the truth is even harder to find. Bigby’s gaming debut is one of the most interesting and underrated stories I have ever played.

An interesting new element in this episode is that of an actual ticking clock that is added to show the race against time Bigby faces in tracking down his suspect. While it is simply an illusion (you can take as long as you want), it does have an effect on the way I played the game. I definitely didn’t have the same level of patience when interviewing people like I usually would. I would become frustrated quickly knowing they were wasting my time and I went straight into threatening people as I couldn’t afford to hear all their usual lies before they told me what I wanted to know.

Telltale really seems to have mastered what makes a great protagonist. With the first season of The Walking Dead we met Lee, a troubled man with a cloudy past but simple intentions. As long as Clementine was OK, everything else wasn’t important. This bond made the player care for the actions of both characters which also lead into Season 2 where we play as Clementine. Now we must fight for ourselves for the first time whilst using the lessons that Lee taught us to survive.

We this in mind I think Bigby is my favorite of them all. He, like the other two I mentioned, has simple intentions at his core; to protect Fabletown. But as we dig further with every episode we are seeing there is way more going on behind those yellow eyes of his. He has been handed a job that maybe he isn’t the best qualified for and may not be able to achieve. The most interesting part of the episode is when Snow White asks whether Bigby is enjoying all the carnage, that he thrives of it. What’s most worrying is that I think she may be right.

The episode introduces quite a few new characters, all of which are once again fantastically well presented and voiced. A problem I have with The Walking Dead is how disposable 90% of the characters feel but this is the complete opposite in The Wolf Among Us. The only issue is that not all characters will get enough screen time as there are over twelve interesting ones to choose from but I would rather this than a bunch that I couldn’t care less about.

Not only does the episode introduce new characters but also mentions others which we seem destined to meet in the future. This anticipation is very clever from Telltale as we know where we are going to end up, but how, when and why is still a complete mystery. This level of storytelling is very subtle but extremely effective and is yet another example of why Telltale are one of the best there is in this field.

The story perfectly blurs the lines between good and bad, black or white so that almost every character ends up looking rather grey. I really am starting to wonder if I can trust anyone (including myself) as it is becoming more clear that more is going on than simply a murder investigation. The world is murkier than ever and I don’t think even the best sheriff could fix the problems that faces this community. Foreseeing a “happy” ending at this point is about as ridiculous as Georgie not swearing at Bigby.

Ultimately, it feels harder and harder to think of new things to say when it comes to this series without spoiling anything. I already love the story, characters, visuals, soundtrack and that shouldn’t be changing anytime soon. This episode ran fine which has been a problem in the past so it’s nice to see Telltale must have been looking to improve this for sometime.

This series doesn’t seem to be getting the same amount of attention that The Walking Dead does probably due to not having the same name recognition but in terms of quality it should absolutely be played by fans of the series or adventure games in general. Even though I love what Telltale are doing with The Walking Dead, I find myself more invested in The Wolf Among Us right now and look forward to the last two episodes of this series more than any other episodic content around right now.

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The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 3: In Harm’s Way - Will You Be A Witness?

The one consistent element that Telltale have unequivocally nailed recently is pacing. Their episodes have started slow, reminding you of prior events and establishing both characters and situations. While still delivering on action and plot development, the episodes seem to gather pace as time goes on until ultimately the finale leaves you with one final punch to the gut. In Harm’s Way may be the best example of this to date with it’s closing moments staying with me until way after the credits had rolled.

An issue I have pondered in the past with this series is that of it’s disposable use of characters outside of Clementine. It is great that no one is safe as it really keeps with the context of the universe, however I do find this unpredictability can be a double edged sword. Most of the time characters can be killed before I can even connect with them and it doesn’t have the impact it desired.

Another aspect of this is that potentially great characters are killed off before they are even given the chance to be great. Ultimately this series rests of Clementine and our care for her but it is a shame that no other character will potentially be given the same chance for players to be invested in. Outside of Clementine, there really isn’t much else to care about in this world. And I guess that bleak realization is kind of the point of all this.

An interesting aspect is how different members of the group treat Clementine. Whilst most treat her older than she is due to her experiences, others still like to treat her as a kid and not someone who can fight alongside the adults of the group. One of the newer dynamics is Clementine caring for Sarah, reminiscent of how Lee cared for Clementine previously. Even though they are similar ages, Clementine is way more acclimatized to the world and is really becoming an almost mother figure to Sarah. I am intrigued to see how this develops in the future but worried at the same time.

During the middle of the episode the action and plot do seem to slightly drag and take a while to progress. The main drive and motivation for the characters has been set up nicely, we know the direction we must head in, but then that conclusion is not brought forward as quickly as you would like. I think this is perhaps due to wanting the length to be longer so the story is stretched and therefore doesn’t flow as easily as it should. It wasn’t a huge issue as things did pick up eventually but a change in direction or twist during this middle lull would have made things even better.

Choices have always been one of the biggest draws of this series with seemingly impossible decisions thrown at the player at an alarmingly rate. Usually it pertains to choosing a person to agree with in an argument or even worse, save their life. But in this latest episode one of the more unique choices is presented to you. Something horrible is going to happen, we can’t prevent it, we simply have the option to witness it or not.

It is in this simple choice that perhaps the most fascinating dilemma that Telltale has ever delivered is achieved. I chose to witness it (this may have happened regardless) and that choice is something I will have to deal with for a very long time. What Clementine witnesses is extreme even by her standards and I really have to wonder what long term effect this will have on her mental state. It could perhaps be the catalyst for a very bleak future.

The actual gameplay is becoming thinner and thinner as the episodes progress which is something I quite frankly embrace. There’s not many games you can play one handed but during most dialogue sequences I find myself just holding the controller for when I need to choose a reply option and really just enjoying the story without having to worry about being able to beat a boss or anything else skill based. It’s becoming closer to a TV show than ever before and while many want some gameplay in their games, what Telltale do deliver is more than enough to keep me entertained throughout.

While I have enjoyed the previous episodes more and this one does somewhat lack the amount of thrilling moments I have grown to expect, there is still enough to quench my appetite after waiting for a new episode. It’s final moments are some of the best the series has ever produced and that alone was worth playing for. Clementine is growing older in front of our eyes and things don’t ever look to be getting any better. Events of this episode could potentially shape her future in a awful way and it is this sort of long term character and story development that only Telltale can produce. I eagerly anticipate the next episode with caution as I worry that things are only heading in one direction.

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The Wolf Among Us Episode 4: In Sheep’s Clothing - The End is Nigh

In Sheep’s Clothing is very much a middling episode. Most of the episode is either referencing past events, mainly the shocking finale of the last episode and the repercussions of these actions, or setting up it’s conclusion in the next. This is where the episode fails to impact memorably outside of one or two moments and does slightly fall short of previous episodes.

Episode 2 had the same problem after focusing on the aftermath of Episode 1 whilst setting up the next very well. It’s hard for every episode to stand out when you have to set up a long term story arc and when the season ends I think it’s best episodes will be the alternating ones i.e 1, 3 and 5. I don’t mind this and the calm before the storm certainly serves a purpose. After a much shorter wait than previously I didn’t feel let down, even if it’s the least enjoyable episode of the season so far.

Speaking of the repercussions of the previous episode, the opening scene involving Bigby dealing with his injuries after his encounter with Bloody Mary is unbelievably gruesome. While The Walking Dead will always be known as Telltale’s bloodiest game, this scene could easily have been the cause of a run in with walkers. Definitely a scene not for the faint-hearted and the type of shocking gameplay I’ve grown to expect from the developer.

By far the best moment for me came when introducing another new character in the form of The Jersey Devil. Immediately after meeting him it becomes clear he isn’t someone Bigby will be befriending anytime soon and the insuring fight was fantastically put together. It felt great teaming up with the Woodsman and this action sequence stood out even more in an episode that was definitely lacking in that department.

Some of the interactions did feel very weak and overall not very important in the grand scheme of things. In particular the scene at Beauty and Beast’s apartment felt very strange as it barely added to their character’s arc and did more harm than good in establishing their role within Fabletown. Other characters such as Bluebeard featured in such a small insignificant role, I’m curious if most of these characters are going to get a proper conclusion when the final episode’s credits roll.

I liked the new dynamic that is slowly being established that is starting to question the authority of Fabletown and if they do actually help its citizens or not. I’m sure this is going to be discussed even further in the finale but I find it interesting that perhaps the ‘bad guys’ of this all actually have good intentions at heart. They want to help and provide to each and every Fable, not just the ones fortunate or rich enough to afford Glamors like the authority does at this moment. This was also present when you are tasked with deciding if certain Fables are allowed to stay here or whether they get sent to the farm. These difficult decisions feel real in the circumstances and leave me feeling more bad than good in most situations.

The game continues to be incredibly stylish and one of the best sounding games I’ve played. It’s electronic soundtrack helps to build the tension during a tense conversation and hypes me as I’m playing so I feel closer to the way Bigby is feeling than any other Telltale protagonist. It’s hard to relate to a little girl surviving in a zombie apocalypse, but an angry guy having to deal with difficult people? Yeah, I can relate to that.

In the context of the season, In Sheep’s Clothing is a solid addition. Individually it falls short of previous entries, but ultimately I believe it serves it’s main purpose; setting up an incredible finale. The entire season has had many twists and turns and as this season ramps up to it’s conclusion, I hope we get answers for many of the questions we’ve found ourselves asking throughout the series. The Wolf Among Us so far has been a brilliant episodic series and a strong final episode could cement it as Telltale’s best to date.

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Watch Dogs - Ubisoft’s Big Hacking Adventure Is Here

Hype can be a strange thing. On one hand, hype is exactly what every developer wants when they show off a brand new IP. People start talking about the game and become increasingly excited to play it and expect something that will blow them away. On the other hand, hype can create completely unrealistic expectations and in the end disappoint the consumer after waiting for such a long time.

Watch Dogs was always going to receive some backlash after it was so well received at E3 2012 and after numerous delays and graphical downgrade rumors, it had seemed the Watch Dogs bubble may have burst. After playing the game for countless hours and having more realistic expectations, Watch Dogs was everything I had hoped it would be when I first saw it revealed. It may not be the crazy, ground breaking next generation experience some had hoped, but it is a fantastic open world game with enough unique elements that fans of the genre should not hesitate to play.

Watch Dogs tells a simple story of revenge after our protagonist, Aiden Pierce, suffers a horrible tragedy. A failed robbery leads to the death of his niece instead of him and he seeks to track down and make the people responsible pay for these actions. By no means the next great video game story, it certainly served a purpose and compared to others within the genre I found it to be interesting enough to keep me invested until it’s conclusion.

I liked Aiden as a protagonist even if he was a little dull at times and sometimes came across as quite robotic. The supporting cast was a mixed bag. Clara was interesting enough but the main enemies felt a little underdeveloped as they didn’t get much screen time for me to care enough about finding and killing them. Going forward I’m not sure I’m attached enough to any of them to care if any feature in future installments. This game’s draw is definitely it’s setting and premise over it’s actual plot and characters.

It’s in this setting and premise that things start to get very interesting indeed. Our own personal privacy is something that is becoming more and more of an issue recently with the rise of cameras and news of agencies like the NSA spying on people. While the game doesn’t directly address any of these issues, it certainly raises the questions and fears that many of us have and I hope this is focused on more as the franchise continues.

Gameplay feels fun and never became frustrating or felt strange in any situation. Gun play is solid when forced to use it but I always preferred using brains over brawn in most situations and cover controls work great. Driving does feel floaty to begin with and takes some getting used to but after a few hours it felt totally fine and what you would expect from this genre.

One of the more refreshing and surprising aspects of the gameplay I found was how well stealth can be implemented in most situations. Sure, there are still plenty of gunfights and car chases but in most combat scenarios I found myself being able to manipulate the environment via hacking and dodging enemies while stealthily executing them all without being seen. I have always loved stealth games but rarely find the mechanics work that well but in this instance I had zero problems. This wasn’t an aspect I expected from this game and was probably what I enjoyed most from the experience.

Watch Dogs did give me a very strong “GTA clone” vibe that was very prevalent during the PS2 era with titles such as True Crime and Driv3R trying to emulate the incredible success of Grand Theft Auto. This is a good thing as I loved all those games and this felt like a modern version of those kind of titles. It has enough new elements to make it stand out but also borrows heavily from the game that started the genre and in the end created my favorite “GTA clone” for many, many years.

However, don’t take that as a criticism. This game has many elements that makes it different to GTA such as it’s fantastic use of stealth that I already mentioned. By far this game’s biggest hook is of course the hacking. I loved how powerful I felt when either destroying a pursuing cop car with a road block or creating an explosion to kill a nearby enemy. Guiding my viewpoint through cameras to access new areas felt new and interesting and overall I feel the way hacking is used is excellent. The individual character profiling could have maybe been more useful but after over 30 hours of play time so far, I still enjoy all the little perks that make this game unique in a very familiar genre.

One of the big things talked about when Watch Dogs was first revealed was it’s always connected world and how players can enter and exit each other’s games seamlessly for hacking and other benefits. Unfortunately this promise is not delivered as the online offering is just a few short modes and ultimately I found myself playing on my own 99% of the time. I don’t mind as I prefer this experience be a single player one but given how important this element seemed to the developer, it’s definitely something that could be improved going forward.

As you would expect from a Ubisoft open world game, there is a ton of content for you to consume outside of the main story. There are numerous collectibles, unlockable songs, extra weapons and cars to unlock; enough to keep you playing for easily over 40 hours. Some of the side missions feel slightly boring but others like the Gang Hideouts are a lot of fun that sometimes require tactics as to how to best approach the enemies. Privacy Invasions are also another cool concept where you hack someone’s camera and see a personal conversation or act. Not all of them are interesting but a few definitely made me laugh seeing what people do behind closed doors.

Chicago looks great, even if it doesn’t feel like a completely alive and fleshed out world. It is a nice backdrop to the action, but none of the vistas will blow you away anytime soon. Getting across the map via fast travel is quick and overall the game runs great. I didn’t experience any glitches or hiccups during my entire time with the game, and that’s something I don’t think I’ve said too often playing open world games.

Watch Dogs, in a lot of ways, is a sum of many parts. Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell have both influenced the gameplay, as well as every open world crime game before it and while it doesn’t do any individual element amazingly well, the overall package is certainly an impressive one. Hacking, the game’s unique selling point does however feel fresh and is enough of a new element that stops Watch Dogs from ever feeling like just another action game. It could do with having it’s own identity more and hopefully as the franchise moves forward this will happen. I really enjoyed the game and would definitely be down for more hacking based, open world craziness with a few of the small oddities fixed to create something very impressive indeed. Until then, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in this very strong first entry.

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The Wolf Among Us Episode 5: Cry Wolf - The Bloody Conclusion Arrives

Cry Wolf, the finale to Telltale games’ impressive The Wolf Among Us has a lot to live up to. Finales already have a level of expectation anyway but when a series is focused around trying to figure out mysteries and get answers, if these answers aren’t delivered in the end it’s easy to feel cheated. Cry Wolf thankfully gives us those answers in dramatic and satisfying ways, whilst still leaving a few questions that leave you wanting more. Take a deep breath before playing as this finale could be Telltale’s best work to date.

The episode begins directly where the last ended almost prematurely with the first face to face confrontation between Bigby and The Crooked Man. While I still think this scene would have been better suited to end the previous episode rather than starting this one, it still served up an incredibly tense and at times unnerving situation to deal with. Trying to stay assertive while also aware that I was incredibly outnumbered felt great and how things panned out set up the rest of the episode very well.

What followed was perhaps my favorite action sequence that I have every played in any Telltale game. The quick time events felt important and dramatic while the onscreen action continued to escalate; I struggled to keep up with it all which I believed was it’s intention. Sometime the action does feel quite small, usually contained within one small space. So it was great to see something take place over a vast area (nearly all of Fabletown) and another sign that Telltale are still thinking of new ways to impress within a familiar formula.

Sandwiched between two action sequences was a more somber moment where we arrived back at the Pudding & Pie and learned more about the unravelling mystery. Georgie and Vivian try to justify their parts in it all which continues to muddy the water in who really are the bad guys in all this. I mentioned in my previous review that the dynamic developing regarding who really is looking at for the best for the people of Fabletown is even more present here and really creates a more fleshed out story than just simple characters and plot. The Crooked Man in particular plays on this a lot towards the end of the episode and really makes you question what your motivation has been throughout the entire series.

In such a fantastic episode it would usually be hard to pick one moment that stands out but without a doubt the fight between Bigby and Bloody Mary stands above almost anything I’ve played in this genre so far. Great boss fights need two things: originality and creativity and this one ticks those boxes so amazingly well. It’s rare that while playing a game I am continually shouting things like “THIS IS AWESOME” but during this fight I couldn’t help myself as the action continued to escalate to a point that I never saw coming. It’s seriously worth playing the entire series just for this moment alone. Bravo to everyone involved in crafting such an incredible sequence.

This moment really felt worthy enough to be a ‘final boss’ in most games and from this point things are way more stripped down but still carry a huge amount of weight and consequence as to how this story will finally be concluded. The Crooked Man as I mentioned likes to turn the mirror on Bigby and Snow White and really makes everyone ponder; are the answers we really want not to the questions we are asking?

It’s final moments play out like a epilogue to all the events and by no means feel like a victory. It stays with the tone of the game throughout in that no one was really going to get the conclusion they wanted and ultimately life in Fabletown is never gonna be the way they all hope it will be. Some questions are left unanswered but it feels more natural rather than just leaving certain things unresolved just so they can be in a sequel. Whether the series continues we will have to wait and see but that either way won’t affect this episode. And that’s exactly what you want from a finale.

Overall, The Wolf Among Us has been an outstanding series. It’s clear that it’s middle episodes were the weakest (2 & 4) but the majority have been excellent and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it throughout. While not having the same name recognition as Telltale’s fantastic The Walking Dead series, I hope that doesn’t deter people from playing as it would be a tragedy for this series to go under the radar. If you haven’t played it already, now that all five episodes are out there hasn’t been a better time to start. So what are you waiting for?

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