Battlefield 4 PC Review.

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Is Battlefield 4 simply Battlefield 3 with a new coat of paint? At first sight the answer might appear to be yes, yet in this latest iteration of DICE's ever popular combined arms multiplayer shooter, it's obvious that the Swedish developer have gone with the well trusted belief that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's not to say Battlefield 4 is without innovation, it's just many of these noticeable changes are small when compared with the bigger picture.

There's still explosions a-plenty, there's still fighter jets crashing into building in a spectacular display of wondrous destruction and there's still those moments that slap you in the face and reminds you that hell, Battlefield can be one truly epic experience. However the free-form, often unpredictable nature of Battlefield's multiplayer is in contrast to the tight linear gameplay of it's single player campaign. Though short, 4's campaign is most certainly an improvement over DICE's previous attempts to provide a fun challenge for the single player. Though when compared to those previous attempts, that's probably not saying a great deal. Set mostly in China, the campaign sets you up as the squad leader of a group of typical soldier stereotypes to rescue some sensitive data amidst what appears to be China heading towards civil war. Now I'll admit that I've forgotten pretty much everything about what was happening in its short 4-5 hour campaign (guess it was that memorable) but DICE have made some adjustments to make it at the very least a more satisfying few hours, something that I can't say for most of theses military campaigns we get these days.

Battlefield 4's single player campaign is an improvement over previous attempts, but it's still as generic and forgetful despite some interesting in additions.
Battlefield 4's single player campaign is an improvement over previous attempts, but it's still as generic and forgetful despite some interesting in additions.

From a new points system which works in conjunction with a worldwide (and friends-based) leaderboards to the added ability to now choose which weaponry and gadgets you can take into each level. Yes this isn't anything radically game changing to the way the campaign plays out, but on a personal note I appreciated the fact that Battlefield was a little more forgiving in how I could tackle a situation, especially at points when the game world opens up a little and you're not simply playing another corridor shooter. Don't get me wrong, this campaign is still your typical shooting gallery, though the added points system does add a least a degree of substance to your actions and the Battlelog, which returns in full force here does a good job of comparing your performance against that of your friends and the world. As squad leader you're also given the ability to scan the battlefield, highlighting possible threads and objectives as well as a very light and somewhat insignificant squad command system which adds little to the game. So it's a shame that despite these welcomed new additions, the story is so forgetful and unmemorable. It as a few moments worthy of checking out, but once you've seen one overly scripted moment, you've seen them all and they fail to excite to the same degree.

So, what about that multiplayer? After all it's what you came to Battlefield 4 right? Well rest assured, multiplayer remains the real reason you went and picked up a copy of Battlefield 4. Still as exciting, as unpredictable and as challenging as it ever was multiplayer as seem a few new upgrades that helps it stand above it's predecessor. Fundamentally it's the same Battlefield you know and love, providing unscripted moments that make it such a fun multiplayer mode to play. However it's the small changes that seem more significant and well appreciated here, from the cleaner user interface which does a better job of one, not taking over too much of the screen and two, actually providing useful and detailed information. Battlepacks are a new addition to, these are basically packs of instant unlocks that are earned at specific levels, giving new players the boost they might require against tougher more experienced players. These unlocks vary from new gun gadgets (iron-sights, etc) to weapons skins and timed experience boosts. Thankfully if these early days are to go by, the battlepacks don't appear to be affecting gameplay in a negative way and the fact that it's currently 'not' pay to win is a positive thing, especially as all battlepacks are free to earn and free to open. DICE have learnt a thing or two when it comes to map design to, though they don't all work out as well as I'd hoped.

Multiplayer remains the star of the show, with small changes that make it an even better experience for all levels of player experience.
Multiplayer remains the star of the show, with small changes that make it an even better experience for all levels of player experience.

Of Battlefield 4's ten maps available at launch, the vast majority of them are a blast to play and an improvement over the launch maps we saw in Battlefield 3. This is mostly due to DICE realizing how to best set up a map for a specific mode, many of which return from BF3. Conquest, Rush, Team and Squad Deathmatch are all here, including a new mode titled Obliteration which as two teams battle it out for bombs which spawned at random locations and each team must kill and cause absolute destruction with the aim of obtaining the bomb and dropping it off at a specific location to arm and destroy that objective. Obliteration is a fun frantic mode, yet it feels designed with consoles in mind though don't hold that against it. The maps are varied enough to, from the boat dominated Paracel Storm to Siege of Shanghai, which was seen in great detail in the beta. There a nice mix of maps that combine well in a variant of gameplay styles, though they're not all winners, in particular Operation Locker which appears to be Operation Metro 2.0. Still it's the chaos and teamplay that makes Battlefield multiplayer still as enjoyable as it ever was and for the most part Battlefield 4 feels like DICE have learnt a lesson or two when it comes to making the gameplay experience as fun and easy to pick up and play as possible, including the fact that many must have vehicle unlocks are now available from level one, a small but appreciated improvement for those who might have gotten fed up of being taken down with seconds of jumping in an helicopter because were without flares.

Running on DICE's upgraded Frostbite 3 engine, there's no denying that Battlefield 4 is one hell of a great looking and sounding game.
Running on DICE's upgraded Frostbite 3 engine, there's no denying that Battlefield 4 is one hell of a great looking and sounding game.

We can't go on without talking about Frostbite 3, the latest version of DICE's heavily in use graphics engine. Having played on the PC, at ultra settings there's no denying that Battlefield 4 is one of the best looking games currently available. From it's wonderful use of lighting (which finally includes the fact that they've gotten rid of the blue tint that covered so much of Battlefield 3) to the stunning sound design, Frostbite 3 impresses from the get-go. Whilst I have encountered a few too many bugs for my liking in both multiplayer and singleplayer, once I was able to find temporary fixes Battlefield 4 ran like a charm on a HD 7970 Ghz edition. It's worth noting that multiplayer in specific is being affected by a number of serious bugs, which one would hope DICE fixes in good time. Servers have suffered multiple crashes and I've come across a number of texture issues in multiplayer matches to, so it's been far from a free from troubles launch despite the beta. But even with that in mind, it's not difficult to be taken in mind the way Battlefield 4 both plays and looks. The much talked about Levolution offers it's fair share of dynamism to the maps, but from a personal point of view the feature feels a little flat once you've seen the tower in Shanghai fall for the fifth or sixth time. Though one memorable moment was had when the dam on the Lacang Dam map collapsed killing me as I stood right underneath, I guess that was one of those epic moments DICE have been talking about so much in their marketing.

Once the dust has settled and flood levels steadied, Battlefield 4 is still a blast to play in a multiplayer setting. Improvements have been made, though go in knowing that these changes don't drastically make Battlefield a different game. If you've never been taken in by it's crazy jet flying through a tunnel moments, or numerous epic moments you see scattered throughout YouTube, than BF4 won't go changing your mind. But if you're one of the many who can't quite help but stop and take in all the dynamic chaos, knowing that none of it is exactly scripted and that it's all created by players, than you'll find much to love about Battlefield 4. Gameplay still feels as solid as ever and it's obvious DICE have learnt a thing or two from Battlefield 3. Even the single player campaign, whilst still average at best feels like an improvement over previous attempts and while some will still choose to ignore this single player mode entirely, rest assured that there's fun to be had if you do decide to give it a go. Battlefield 4 isn't anything radically different, yet it feels like a culmination of what made past Battlefield games so great with a mixture of additions that only makes Battlefield even more memorable and fun.

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Battlefield 4 PC Review.

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Is Battlefield 4 simply Battlefield 3 with a new coat of paint? At first sight the answer might appear to be yes, yet in this latest iteration of DICE's ever popular combined arms multiplayer shooter, it's obvious that the Swedish developer have gone with the well trusted belief that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. That's not to say Battlefield 4 is without innovation, it's just many of these noticeable changes are small when compared with the bigger picture.

There's still explosions a-plenty, there's still fighter jets crashing into building in a spectacular display of wondrous destruction and there's still those moments that slap you in the face and reminds you that hell, Battlefield can be one truly epic experience. However the free-form, often unpredictable nature of Battlefield's multiplayer is in contrast to the tight linear gameplay of it's single player campaign. Though short, 4's campaign is most certainly an improvement over DICE's previous attempts to provide a fun challenge for the single player. Though when compared to those previous attempts, that's probably not saying a great deal. Set mostly in China, the campaign sets you up as the squad leader of a group of typical soldier stereotypes to rescue some sensitive data amidst what appears to be China heading towards civil war. Now I'll admit that I've forgotten pretty much everything about what was happening in its short 4-5 hour campaign (guess it was that memorable) but DICE have made some adjustments to make it at the very least a more satisfying few hours, something that I can't say for most of theses military campaigns we get these days.

Battlefield 4's single player campaign is an improvement over previous attempts, but it's still as generic and forgetful despite some interesting in additions.
Battlefield 4's single player campaign is an improvement over previous attempts, but it's still as generic and forgetful despite some interesting in additions.

From a new points system which works in conjunction with a worldwide (and friends-based) leaderboards to the added ability to now choose which weaponry and gadgets you can take into each level. Yes this isn't anything radically game changing to the way the campaign plays out, but on a personal note I appreciated the fact that Battlefield was a little more forgiving in how I could tackle a situation, especially at points when the game world opens up a little and you're not simply playing another corridor shooter. Don't get me wrong, this campaign is still your typical shooting gallery, though the added points system does add a least a degree of substance to your actions and the Battlelog, which returns in full force here does a good job of comparing your performance against that of your friends and the world. As squad leader you're also given the ability to scan the battlefield, highlighting possible threads and objectives as well as a very light and somewhat insignificant squad command system which adds little to the game. So it's a shame that despite these welcomed new additions, the story is so forgetful and unmemorable. It as a few moments worthy of checking out, but once you've seen one overly scripted moment, you've seen them all and they fail to excite to the same degree.

So, what about that multiplayer? After all it's what you came to Battlefield 4 right? Well rest assured, multiplayer remains the real reason you went and picked up a copy of Battlefield 4. Still as exciting, as unpredictable and as challenging as it ever was multiplayer as seem a few new upgrades that helps it stand above it's predecessor. Fundamentally it's the same Battlefield you know and love, providing unscripted moments that make it such a fun multiplayer mode to play. However it's the small changes that seem more significant and well appreciated here, from the cleaner user interface which does a better job of one, not taking over too much of the screen and two, actually providing useful and detailed information. Battlepacks are a new addition to, these are basically packs of instant unlocks that are earned at specific levels, giving new players the boost they might require against tougher more experienced players. These unlocks vary from new gun gadgets (iron-sights, etc) to weapons skins and timed experience boosts. Thankfully if these early days are to go by, the battlepacks don't appear to be affecting gameplay in a negative way and the fact that it's currently 'not' pay to win is a positive thing, especially as all battlepacks are free to earn and free to open. DICE have learnt a thing or two when it comes to map design to, though they don't all work out as well as I'd hoped.

Multiplayer remains the star of the show, with small changes that make it an even better experience for all levels of player experience.
Multiplayer remains the star of the show, with small changes that make it an even better experience for all levels of player experience.

Of Battlefield 4's ten maps available at launch, the vast majority of them are a blast to play and an improvement over the launch maps we saw in Battlefield 3. This is mostly due to DICE realizing how to best set up a map for a specific mode, many of which return from BF3. Conquest, Rush, Team and Squad Deathmatch are all here, including a new mode titled Obliteration which as two teams battle it out for bombs which spawned at random locations and each team must kill and cause absolute destruction with the aim of obtaining the bomb and dropping it off at a specific location to arm and destroy that objective. Obliteration is a fun frantic mode, yet it feels designed with consoles in mind though don't hold that against it. The maps are varied enough to, from the boat dominated Paracel Storm to Siege of Shanghai, which was seen in great detail in the beta. There a nice mix of maps that combine well in a variant of gameplay styles, though they're not all winners, in particular Operation Locker which appears to be Operation Metro 2.0. Still it's the chaos and teamplay that makes Battlefield multiplayer still as enjoyable as it ever was and for the most part Battlefield 4 feels like DICE have learnt a lesson or two when it comes to making the gameplay experience as fun and easy to pick up and play as possible, including the fact that many must have vehicle unlocks are now available from level one, a small but appreciated improvement for those who might have gotten fed up of being taken down with seconds of jumping in an helicopter because were without flares.

Running on DICE's upgraded Frostbite 3 engine, there's no denying that Battlefield 4 is one hell of a great looking and sounding game.
Running on DICE's upgraded Frostbite 3 engine, there's no denying that Battlefield 4 is one hell of a great looking and sounding game.

We can't go on without talking about Frostbite 3, the latest version of DICE's heavily in use graphics engine. Having played on the PC, at ultra settings there's no denying that Battlefield 4 is one of the best looking games currently available. From it's wonderful use of lighting (which finally includes the fact that they've gotten rid of the blue tint that covered so much of Battlefield 3) to the stunning sound design, Frostbite 3 impresses from the get-go. Whilst I have encountered a few too many bugs for my liking in both multiplayer and singleplayer, once I was able to find temporary fixes Battlefield 4 ran like a charm on a HD 7970 Ghz edition. It's worth noting that multiplayer in specific is being affected by a number of serious bugs, which one would hope DICE fixes in good time. Servers have suffered multiple crashes and I've come across a number of texture issues in multiplayer matches to, so it's been far from a free from troubles launch despite the beta. But even with that in mind, it's not difficult to be taken in mind the way Battlefield 4 both plays and looks. The much talked about Levolution offers it's fair share of dynamism to the maps, but from a personal point of view the feature feels a little flat once you've seen the tower in Shanghai fall for the fifth or sixth time. Though one memorable moment was had when the dam on the Lacang Dam map collapsed killing me as I stood right underneath, I guess that was one of those epic moments DICE have been talking about so much in their marketing.

Once the dust has settled and flood levels steadied, Battlefield 4 is still a blast to play in a multiplayer setting. Improvements have been made, though go in knowing that these changes don't drastically make Battlefield a different game. If you've never been taken in by it's crazy jet flying through a tunnel moments, or numerous epic moments you see scattered throughout YouTube, than BF4 won't go changing your mind. But if you're one of the many who can't quite help but stop and take in all the dynamic chaos, knowing that none of it is exactly scripted and that it's all created by players, than you'll find much to love about Battlefield 4. Gameplay still feels as solid as ever and it's obvious DICE have learnt a thing or two from Battlefield 3. Even the single player campaign, whilst still average at best feels like an improvement over previous attempts and while some will still choose to ignore this single player mode entirely, rest assured that there's fun to be had if you do decide to give it a go. Battlefield 4 isn't anything radically different, yet it feels like a culmination of what made past Battlefield games so great with a mixture of additions that only makes Battlefield even more memorable and fun.

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Poker Night 2 Review.

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Telltale Games' Poker Night 2 is the sequel to their 2010 poker release featuring a cast of colorful characters from video games, animation and more. Combining these personalities with the widely popular card game of poker might seem like the perfect combination, yet it proved otherwise with Poker at the Inventory. Whilst it wasn't a bad game of poker, it most certainly wasn't one of the best. Those with poker knowledge picked at it's flaws in regards with A.I and a great deal more. So can Telltale's second attempt smooth out the deck of cards and give poker fans the game they've always wanted.

Brock, Claptrap, GLaDOS, Ash and Sam.. an happy family.
Brock, Claptrap, GLaDOS, Ash and Sam.. an happy family.

Four new familiar characters make an appearance for Poker Night 2, those being Sam (from Sam and Max), Ash Williams (from the Evil Dead series), Brock Samson (from Venture Bros.) and that chatty robot Claptrap (from the Borderlands franchise), oh and we mustn't forget Portal 2's GLaDOS as the dealer. Generally speaking it's an interesting cast who, with the help of some solid writing provide a reasonable amount of amusing dialogue scattered throughout the rounds of poker you'll play. Speaking of poker, the game features both Texas Hold'em and Omaha variations for you to enjoy. I'm not a poker expert (I'm more of an absolute newbie) so I can't speak technically for how well Poker Night 2 handles the more in depth areas of the game, yet from my perspective I found the poker to be less enjoyable than some previous experiences of virtual poker I'd played.

While poker might have been side activities in the likes of Red Dead Redemption, I'd argue that Rockstar Games did a better job of explaining the game of poker in a more structured way. There is a slideshow styled tutorial that attempts to explain the basics of the game, but I found this lacking. From my point of view, the view of someone new to the game I was disappointed with the teaching tools available. After all, not everyone knows the game of poker inside and out. Of course eventually you get an understanding of the hands and the rules at play, but if you don't exactly know what you're doing then you'll have a more difficult time of it at first. Even with an understanding however, I wouldn't say Poker Night 2 provides a particularly great game of poker as it's clear even for me that the A.I still remains unnaturally inconsistent and flawed.

Poker Night 2 certainly as character, just a shame the poker itself isn't as entertaining.
Poker Night 2 certainly as character, just a shame the poker itself isn't as entertaining.

From a presentation point of view, Telltale Games have done a solid job in giving the game personality. Chatter between the characters is often witty, humorous and filled with references that fans will get a kick out of it, there's particularly moments that provided a chuckle. However it's inevitable that this chatter would repeat itself and it starts repeating itself a little too often, causing frustration as I waited for Claptrap to make the same card jokes for the thirtieth time. Thankfully you can skip some of the bigger stories the characters have to tell, but it's a shame you can't skip more of the dialogue entirely. It's nice to have this cast to face off against, but when they start to get in the way of the actual game you have to wonder how useful their additions are.

There are a range of unlockables both in-game and within both Gearbox Software's Borderlands 2 and Valve's Team Fortress 2 for you to earn. It's a nice touch and an added reason to attempt the tougher objectives thrown at you as you look to earn another opportunity to win one of the four character specific prizes, which is where you'll earn those extra goodies. Of course there's unlockable decks, felts and chips to purchase with tokens so there's certainly a reason for you to invest some time playing poker with Brock, Sam, Claptrap and Ash. Well, that is if you're somehow invested in Team Fortress 2 and or Borderlands 2.

So I'm left somewhat flattened and disappointed in Poker Night 2. It doesn't exactly play an offensively poor game of poker, it's just not particularly fun or challenging and that's coming from somehow new to the game. When it does offer a challenge it feels somewhat unfair, leaving you angry rather than more determined to become a better player. I'll admit my experiences with virtual poker is limited, yet even I can see flaws in Telltale Games design here. There's a great deal of personality and moments to like as the cast interact with you and each other, but even that loses it's spark a few hours in once you heard the same joke for the fiftieth time. With better forms of virtual poker out there, I'd argue that you might be better served enjoying a few rounds in the wilds of Red Dead Redemption or even the jungles of Far Cry 3, because while they might be side activities, they make poker both approachable and fun.

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Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep Review.

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Like magical swords, walking skeletons, giant fire breathing dragons… like magical fantasy? If you answered yes, than Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep might just be for you. The latest piece of downloadable content for Gearbox Software's loot filled shooter Borderlands 2, it's also the last piece of content made available for free for those with the season pass. Looking back over what's been released as part of this season pass, it's been solid if unspectacular. Yet make no doubt about it, with Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep Gearbox are ending the show with a show-stopper.

IT'S A CRUMPOCOLYPSE FOOL!!!
IT'S A CRUMPOCOLYPSE FOOL!!!

Set in the magical land of Tiny Tina's mind, the thirteen year old psychopath, Assault on Dragon Keep is based around a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It's a simple setup that allows the developers to stretch both their imaginations and provide all manner of crazy situations without having to provide some deep back story for why you're shooting a bunch of dwarfs who for some reason or another have the same resemblance of Salvador. It's this freedom that makes Assault on Dragon Keep so much fun. After all Tiny Tina's mind is all over the place, so expect to face giant rock golems, tiny skeletons and walking trees as you go on your quest to take down an handsome sorcerer who has captured the queen of this fantasy world.

It's still Borderlands, no doubt about that so you're still spending a great majority of your time shooting creatures in the face. Though the variation in enemy types this time around give the game a more pleasurable challenge and whilst Gearbox have rarely been tightly controlling of what sort of crazy things can occur in the world of Pandora, this fantasy setting allows them to really go all out crazy with you facing some truly challenging opponents. It's still about the loot and in this regard there's a few new toys for you to play with, including a pretty kick-ass sword firing shotgun which I used for the majority of this content. Though it had me regretting my lack of investment in upgrading my shotgun ammo capacity, I just didn't find much use for shotguns in most of Borderlands 2.

Even Sir Reginald Von Bartlesby got dressed for the occasion.
Even Sir Reginald Von Bartlesby got dressed for the occasion.

Look, let's get one thing out of the way here. I know not everyone can stand Tiny Tina, while I'm personally a fan of the outlandish thirteen year old with her very quotable lines and all out bats**t mad attitude, there are those who simply can't stand her. Considering this piece of content is indeed named after her, you can expect your fair share of Tiny Tina. That said, if you simply decide not to play Assault on Dragon Keep for that exact reason, you'll be missing out on the best downloadable content yet released for Borderlands 2 and one of the best I've played this year. Just something to keep in mind. If you're a fan of Tiny Tina, then you're in for a crumpet-filled treat.

As always Borderlands 2 looks outstanding and Assault on Dragon Keep shows off some great art design throughout. Despite the hundred-plus hours I've invest in playing, Borderlands 2 is a game that continues to impress me with a great use of lighting, environment expanse and detail that simply looks fantastic, especially on the PC. There's some great enemy designs which you'll face and Gearbox have even provided a few extra challenges when going against some of these opponents, for example a resurrecting skeleton which proves impossible to kill until you realize you have to pull a magical sword out of his back to finish him off. Unlike some of the previous downloadable content packs, Dragon Keep offers a greater degree of variation to, and does a great job of continually introducing new things for you discover and see. The main story won't take you long to complete, a couple of hours at most. But there's still a satisfying amount of side-quests for you to complete once you've wrapped up the vault hunters heroic attempts to rescue the captured queen.

The all mighty powerful wizard... Claptrap?
The all mighty powerful wizard... Claptrap?

Humor in Borderlands 2 as often felt forced or been pushed to the point where it's simply isn't funny anymore. Thankfully Gearbox Software have clearly learnt a few lessons for Dragon Keep, because it's easily some of the best written humor in the entirety of the game. There are some really well thought out jokes here, many of which feel like they were aimed at fans who have come to know each and every character and some of which are clearly inspired by some popular games and TV shows. Plus I can't go on without mentioning that it all wraps up in a surprisingly touching way, who the hell would've guessed a game of dungeons and dragons could be so emotional. You just can't help but think it was all created with love and that the developers most probably had a blast making it.

Overall I can't recommend Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep enough. It's comfortably the best content Gearbox have released for this fun and frantic shooter and it'll be interesting to see where they take it from here, with more downloadable content having been confirmed for release. For now though, the season pass ends with the best yet and I'd recommend any Borderlands fan to give this one a go, hell even if you might have fallen out of love with the game, it's still some of the best downloadable content released this year so it's still worth serious consideration.

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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review.

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I like being surprised, I go into each year in the hope another uniquely stunning game might remind me of how wonderful and emotionally touching video games can be. We are surrounded by the norm, and don't get me wrong, I have nothing against the norm. I like a good first-person shooter like the next guy, but over the past couple of years I've realized that the game that truly stick with me are the games that tug at my heartstrings, gives me goosebumps and makes me appreciate just how magical video games can be.

Brothers continually surprises with it's imagery and artistic style. Not to mention the deep tale it weaves.
Brothers continually surprises with it's imagery and artistic style. Not to mention the deep tale it weaves.

Introducing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Developed by Starbreeze Studios in collaboration with Swedish filmmaker Josef Fares, it tells the tale of two brothers attempts to help save their sick and poorly father. Thus begins an adventure that continually surprises despite it's short length of a few hours. From the beautiful artistic design to the small details scattered throughout, not to mention the wonderful use of the games main mechanics, Brothers is certainly memorable and provides a tale that packs so much in such a short amount of time.

Mechanically speaking Brothers is a simple game, but one that can be a little tricky to get your head around. You take control of each of the two brothers using the left and right analog sticks, so you're basically controlling big brother and little brother at the very same time. This can be a somewhat difficult thing to get use to at first, though Brothers rarely puts you in a position where precision is ultimately required so it's not a big deal. Starbreeze have used these mechanics in some real ingenious ways to, especially in regards to many of the games main puzzles, which rarely outstay their welcome. It all results in an adventure that continually provides some smart and well thought out puzzles that only add to the overall story being told.

Controlling both brothers can be tricky at first, but it's used in some wonderful ways in regards to the puzzles.
Controlling both brothers can be tricky at first, but it's used in some wonderful ways in regards to the puzzles.

Visually Brothers is a strikingly beautiful game, from the wonderful clean artistic designs of the environments to the imagery you'll witness as you go on your travels into spectacular and dangerous lands. Without going into spoils, Brothers strikes you as a game that's been developed with love and care, nothing feels out of place and you'll certainly find yourself stopping and taking a seat on a bench to witness the spectacular views it as to offer. This visual design is matched by it's outstanding sound design, with the inhabitants of the lands you travel speaking a made up language that's able to communicate emotion scenes well without sounding disconnected. Special mention must also be paid to the game's soundtrack, which is one of the best I've heard this year.

It's worth noting that I did come across some issues related to the PC version of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which are fixable but still a shame and doesn't make the best first impression when it crashes on you two or three times in a row. But like I said, a fix is possible and hopefully the developers will be quick to fix this issue that seems to be affecting some PC users but not all. All that said, these issues did little to spoil my overall enjoyment of this fine puzzle adventure game. It's most certainly one of the most memorable games to hit this year and whilst some will find it's tale a little too short, those that appreciate this sort of game must give this one a go. Brothers uses what it has to offer wonderfully well, from the well thought out puzzles that take full advantage of the mechanics, to the sublime artistic and audio design. It all results in one of the most memorable games this year and a must play in my book.

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Borderlands 2: A 100+ Hours Later.

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As of writing this, I have invested a good 128 hours into Borderlands 2. Due to this I thought it would be a good idea to type down some of my long term impressions and thoughts related to Gearbox Software's loot driven shooter. Right now I'm deep within the second play-through, known as the True Vault Hunter Mode. It's interesting to revisit Borderlands 2 every so often, it's a game I've been playing on and off depending on the release calendar and when I'm hungry to see a million damage numbers bounce off enemies in a beautiful display of chaos. I guess what I'm trying to say here, is that after 100+ hours of shooting guys, creatures and robots in their sensitive critical spots I'm still loving how Borderlands 2 plays.

128 hours later and I'm still having a blast exploring Pandora.
128 hours later and I'm still having a blast exploring Pandora.

Like many, I purchased the season pass at the same time I originally purchased Borderlands 2 and for the most part I've been pretty satisfied with what I've received content wise. Nowadays, it's always wise to be a tad cautious with season passes, mainly due to the fact that all too often they tend to suck. However I don't believe that as been the case with Borderlands 2. Keep in mind I'm saying that without having yet experienced the latest and final downloadable pack 'Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon's Keep' (which I might get around to reviewing). So it's certainly worth checking out the season pass if you're looking for even more content. Speaking of which, Borderlands 2 isn't exactly short on content anyway. Especially considering that 100+ hours of gameplay has been mainly spent playing Axton the Commander rather than anyone else. I still in fact intend to play through the game with many of the other characters available, so I dare guess at what my final play time might be.

How I feel about Borderlands 2 hasn't changed a great deal since I started playing. It's still a fun and frantic shooter driven by a loot mechanic that works wonders to keep the experience feeling as fresh and new as it needs to. Yes there are niggling issues related to how the game is sometimes played out, yes playing through the same quests can be a little tedious (especially considering how poor and flat a few of the quests are) yet as long as the combat feels fairly challenging and you still have a hunger for loot, loot and yet more loot, Borderlands 2 will keep your attention for many months to come. It's a sequel which as almost entirely fixed many of the issues I had with the 2009 original, with combat that feels a lot more fluid and dynamic, and a loot system that provides a greater variety of weapons. So yes, it certainly helps that it's a much better game overall.

Borderlands 2 still as the ability to surprise you with how beautiful the world of Pandora can look.
Borderlands 2 still as the ability to surprise you with how beautiful the world of Pandora can look.

That might be exactly why I'm still playing Borderlands 2, because it offers a quick burst of satisfaction in half an hour blast sessions yet still [provides a great deal of depth and forward motion that can easily suck you in hours. I still think there are a few flat spots with regards to how some of the side-quests are laid out and having to revisit some sections of the world time and time again can be infuriating especially if they don't provide satisfactory gameplay. However once again I feel a need to emphasize how well Borderlands 2 as held up over those 100+ hours. It's a game which understands itself surprisingly well, and whilst there's always areas to improve and build upon, it makes me super excited to see what the franchise might offer in the years to come, on much more powerful hardware.

Borderlands 2 is an easy one to recommend, I'm sure you have already guessed that I'm rather fond of it. I don't take that lightly I might add, as I'm generally someone who finds it hard to invest any considerable length of time into a single game unless it's say FIFA or the Formula One games. Whilst I still appreciate games that require I invest dozens of hours and more, I know I tend to change moods all to quickly and if a game hasn't offered me enough reason to keep on playing, I tend to move on. This is a trait I actually don't like about myself as someone who plays video games on a daily basis. But I've come to the conclusion that it has helped me weed out the games that I simply can't play, no matter how praised or epic they may seem. For example, no matter how stunning Skyrim might be, I have tried and tried again to make myself comfortable with combat yet it's the exact thing that has stopped me from playing. I just don't enjoy playing it, so why should I bother no matter how amazing the game might appear.

"I believe I can fly!"

It's possible Borderlands 2 is a one off, I hope not but I'm realistic. I think I'm still trying to figure out what type of gamer I am. After 100+ hours I have realized a few truths about how and why I play the games I play and like a many of us who adore this hobby, I'm often in it for the quick satisfaction. Maybe once I was able to wait 50+ hours to gain the satisfaction of playing a great game, no matter how rough and tumble the ride might have been. But I think those days are gone. Maybe it's having too much choice available to us (damn you Valve and your Steam sales) or maybe it's simply a sign of growing up and appreciating your personal time more. I honestly don't know. What I do know is that I'll most likely be playing Borderlands 2 in a years time, because it scratches every itch I have and offers gameplay that satisfies my most basic needs as a game.

It's easy to recommend Borderlands 2. It might not be for everyone but I truly believe it's one of those rare games which you can revisit time and time again. Don't get me wrong I still appreciate the emotional roller coasters or the stunners which make you contemplate video games as a medium (I'm looking at you Journey and Bioshock: Infinite) but sometimes we just want to shoot things in the face and see numbers bounce of in a foray of splendor that's worthy of any firework display. Call me simple minded, it doesn't bother me because I understand that Borderlands 2 as at least helped me understand my psyche as someone who plays video games are a regular basis.

Conclusions, play Borderlands 2. Who knows, you might actually enjoy yourself.

Thanks for reading.

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Spelunky Review (PC).

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The high definition upgrade to the much loved randomly generated platformer finally hit the PC on August the 8th, having been available on consoles for a good while now. Bringing with it an exclusive mode and it's usual amount of infuriating anger as you attempt to make your way through the ever more challenging levels. For those unfamiliar with Spelunky, we shall take a quick history level.

Death is a constant companion in Spelunky, but it always feels fair and is most always a result of your own making.
Death is a constant companion in Spelunky, but it always feels fair and is most always a result of your own making.

Originally released as freeware by designer Derek Yu in 2008, Spelunky is a challenging platformer which features randomly generated levels so no two games are the exact same. Did I mention it's a roguelike to, so once you suffer the cold grips of death's hands you lose everything. This is what makes Spelunky both infuriating and engrossing, like all roguelikes it's all about that one play through, so caution and patience is advised. Spelunky features a specific set of traps, items and enemies per setting, so it's possible to learn all the tricks so you don't go making the same mistakes twice. That said it's all too easy to want to rush forward blindly, which all too often results in you falling upon some unsuspected spikes or shot to death with arrows. Caution and care is the most recommended approach to playing through Spelunky.

It's colorful charming artistic style is almost in contrast to how tough and unforgiving Spelunky can be. Yet it's tough in a way that never feels unfair or attempts to cheat you. Death is almost always caused by your own over eagerness or simple stupidity. Oh and all those traps, spikes and methods of eventual death also affects other creatures in a level, so those sharp nasty spikes are just as likely to kill a spider as they are you. This makes Spelunky feel fair, giving you more reasons to chastise yourself for getting killed for the 50th time because you didn't make the effort to look down to see what was below. This all results in a platformer that continually unveils new surprises along the way, new items to discover and new traps to die violently by.

There's so much to discover in Spelunky, even kissing booths. who'da guessed!
There's so much to discover in Spelunky, even kissing booths. who'da guessed!

The Steam release of Spelunky brings along with it an exclusive new mode called the daily challenge. As the name suggests this is a mode where every Spelunky player will face the same set of levels and are judged by how far they can reach and what they can achieve along the way. These daily challenges can only be tackled once so fail at your first attempt and that's all you get. Whilst it's good to see developer Mossmouth add a little something special to the highly anticipated PC release of Spelunky, the mode itself feels a little flat. Your scores are compared to every other Spelunky challenger through leaderboards and that's it. While it's difficult to say how it would've been possible to make this mode more worthwhile, at the end of the day the daily challenges are a nice if somewhat pointless addition to Spelunky on PC.

If you've never experienced the infuriating yet splendid challenge that lies ahead in Spelunky, then I highly recommend you give this a go. At the very least check out the freeware version to see if it's your cup of tea. But if precise, fun and unpredictable platforming is your sort of thing, than you'll find Spelunky an absolute pleasure. It's fair in all the right ways and requires you to learn from your many mistakes. Combined with it's charming visuals and a catchy soundtrack, Spelunky will take up a great deal of your time. Like I said previously, it would have been nice if the daily challenges mode turned out to be something more substantial but there's still a lot to discover, find and kill that makes a purchase of Spelunky more than worthwhile. Whatever platform you choose to purchase it on.

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My Life and Times in Dota 2.

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So I've been tackling with the idea of reviewing Valve's Dota 2 for a while now, though it being a free to play game I'm never quite sure if that's suitable. So instead of writing up a typical review, I've decided to simply type down some of my thoughts related to Valve popular Moba. It seems somewhat fitting to do so coming off the back of the International 3, Dota 2's third annual big money competition. So let's begin.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena's or Moba's for short, have become insanely popular over the past few years. Starting as a simple Warcraft 3 mod the genre has risen to become one of the worlds most played eSports and attracts millions of viewers from all corners of the world. It all started with Defense of the Ancients, the original Warcraft 3 mod and whose sequel was finally released after a lengthy beta period. Developed by Valve, with the help of one of the original Dota developers IceFrog, it's fair to say that Dota 2 appears in good hands. Whilst free to play, Valve have decided to take a more open approach to the often troubled implementation of free to play mechanics. Instead of having players pay for heroes, Valve have opened up the entire 100+ hero pool for you to play, experience and most likely get your ass kicked by. Instead, Valve have made many community made cosmetic items available to purchase, which have no affect on actual gameplay.

Dota 2 as an high learning curve, but one that can be so rewarding if you spend the time to learn all it as to offer.
Dota 2 as an high learning curve, but one that can be so rewarding if you spend the time to learn all it as to offer.

First of all, this is a refreshing change to the usual free to play formula. In Dota 2 there are no items that can help you win matches or make you a better player, no it's all about the cosmetic touches. This made me feel less dirty for actually investing money on some chest keys, in the hope I might finally get that awesome Sven sword I've wanted (and which sadly still eludes me). Also a nice touch is the ability to share some of these items with fellow players. Whilst clothing items cannot be shared (only traded), items such as UI Skins and voice packs can be shared with your fellow players in a single match. So what Valve have done here is a refreshing change to the norm and one I can only hope other developers take inspiration from.

Let's get one thing straight, Dota 2 is one hell of a difficult game where simply understanding the very basics and small nuances can take 50+ hours to get to grips with. Be prepared for some real frustrating lows and some joyous highs, and for Dota 2 to take over your life. Last hits, denials and jungling are just three of the many challenging mechanics at work in a match of Dota 2. It can be intimidating for a newbie, which I still am. Valve have attempted to make a new players introduction to Dota 2 less severe with a tutorial campaign which tries to introduce you to the basics. Trouble is, what the tutorials teach you is the 'absolute' basics and you'll soon discover there's a whole world of complications within a single game of Dota 2 that you must learn the hard way. So be prepared to read quite a few of the useful guides found online to make this introduction a little less painful. For many, Dota 2's high learning curve will turn many new players away before truly gaining an appreciation for what makes Dota 2 such a splendid game and while the tutorial is a first attempt to alleviate this difficulty curve, it's not enough and one can only hope Valve have plans to build upon the tutorials in the future.

Matches last on average 30 to 50 minutes in length, though this can vary depending on player skill or the competitiveness of the match. Rarely did I participate or witness matches that went over the hour mark, though in Dota 2, anything is possible. So as you might have guessed, Dota 2 isn't exactly a quick jump and jump out sort of game. Plus abandoning online matches is real a no-no and will most likely see you reported using Valve's well implemented feedback system, which doesn't just allow you to report naughty players, but also reward the helpful, kind and fun members of the community. Dota 2 is all about the team work, don't work as a team and you're almost guaranteed to lose, it's simple as that I'm afraid. If working as a team isn't exactly your thing, then stay away. Having put in 70+ hours of game time into Dota 2 (which is tiny compared to many) it's easy to see how beneficial it is to communicate as a team. Yes there's the typical in-game chat to help you organize, but nothing beat audio communication. I notice that when I'd play with a friend with constant audio, it was considerably easier to use our heroes abilities to the fullest and was a whole lot more fun. It's worth keeping this in mind, especially if you're looking to play online with mainly random players.

Dota 2's spectating tools are fantastic, providing easy to use access to all the Dota you'd ever want.
Dota 2's spectating tools are fantastic, providing easy to use access to all the Dota you'd ever want.

I can't talk about Dota 2 without mentioning it's gold standard of spectator tools. Valve have developed an easy to use, functional set of tools within the client that makes it so easy to watch, experience and comment on any match that might be taking place. With the recent International 3 competition having taken place, it was fun to start up the client, jump into a live match and have a selection of audio commentaries provide a play to play update on what the hell was going on, because Dota 2 can be a difficult game to follow when you don't quite understand how it all works. Professional play can be so difficult to the slower pace you get use to when you start playing, but it's still a lot of fun to watch all the pretty lights and chaos that will inevitably take place. These tools work fantastically well and whilst Valve had teamed up with Twitch to stream the event the traditional way, I found is so useful to be able to jump into a match through the client and watch specific heroes for tips and trick, it's possible to learn a lot.

It's difficult to say if I'll be playing Dota 2 for the long-term. I've certainly had fun but right now I can't say that a love of Valve's Moba will ever exceed my need to spend my time playing more traditional single player games. That said, it's easy to recommend this splendid game, as long as you keep in mind that the difficulty curve is high. It's one of those games where one moment you're left wondering why the hell you're playing it after a heavy and humiliating 40+ minute defeat and the next thinking it's the best thing since sliced bread after finally taking down that ancient base you've just spend a good part of an hour grinding at. My time with Dota 2 as given me a new appreciation and an understanding of why Moba's have risen to such fame over the past few years. There are certainly downsides to investing your time into such a genre, for one it will take you weeks, months or even years to master, but one can understand why the professional players you see on stage at events such as the International 3 do it. It's not just about money or fame, it's because they love these games with a passion and that's something you can never look down your nose at. Isn't that why we play video games in the first place?

Thanks for reading.

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Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Review.

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Blood Dragons aren't the only unique thing in this Far Cry 3 expansion (of sorts). Developed independently at Ubisoft, Blood Dragon is an interesting new take on the idea of addition content for an established game, because whilst Blood Dragon base's itself off the core mechanics of Ubisoft's popular Island shooter, in most other ways it's a very different beast. It's an interesting experiment if nothing else and something I'd like to see other developers consider in the future, and the fact that you don't require the Far Cry 3 base game to play is a smart move on Ubisoft's part.

Our 2007 was so much more boring looking.
Our 2007 was so much more boring looking.

You are Sergeant Rex "Power" Cult, placed in the retro dystopian future of the year 2007. As you can most probably imagine, this makes Blood Dragon a considerably different looking game cosmetically, and for the most part that works in it's favor to appear both eye catching and at times memorable. Set on a smaller land mass to that of the base game, Blood Dragon borrows heavily from the gameplay mechanics of Far Cry 3. You'll still be scoping out areas to locate enemies before venturing down guns blazing or stealthily taking down evil dudes with the help of your trusty 20-sided dice (which replaces the rock) for distraction. You're still freeing up occupied bases, though this time with the help of some vicious blood dragons, who can be both a blessing and a curse in combat, as they're just as likely to help you clear out enemies as they are to blast red powerful killer lasers at your face. So, Blood Dragon certainly plays like Far Cry 3, but visually it's in a whole different timeline, literally.

Breaking news: Bows are still awesome.
Breaking news: Bows are still awesome.

Bright neon lights scatter the entirety of the land mass of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. It's certainly striking to the eye though visually it can become a little disorientating as a great deal of the world looks a little identical and whilst I'm all for neon clad clothing (who isn't), they do tend to go overboard. That said, there's something truly frightening about seeing a shark with menacing neon eyes and teeth swimming towards you, who wouldn't be scared by that. Enemies don't vary a great deal as Rex Cult attempts to bring down Sloan, a former Cyber Commando gone rogue. You still have a variety of enemy types, some of which offer a decent if not impossible challenge and there's a fun selection of weaponry to go killing dudes with, many of which can be upgraded by taking on side missions unlocked via the liberation of enemy bases. On that note, there's only really two side activities to take part in, saving scientists who are captured by Sloan's troops and killing creatures with a specific weapon. After the liberation of the thirteen bases, you can imagine that these side activities get repetitive rather fast.

Still, the combat is as solid and as entertaining as it was in Far Cry 3 and I personally became attached to the rather unstealthy looking blue neon bow when taking on missions that required me to be a little more careful and a little less guns-a-blazing. As previously mentioned, on the standard difficulty Blood Dragon is somewhat of a pushover, even when the enemy calls in reinforcements, making the use of stealthy tactics less important. Towards the end I simply found myself going into bases without stealth in mind as I cleared the bases one by one. Blood Dragon isn't a particularly long game either, though I might argue that it's last as long as it needs to. The VHS 80's and 90's era humor is pulled off well for the most part and there are some great lines scattered throughout. I was especially enamored with the cartoon cut-scenes that tell most of blood Dragon's story, which feature some of the games most amusing moments.

The only good blood dragon is a dead blood dragon, amiright!
The only good blood dragon is a dead blood dragon, amiright!

Blood Dragon features the voice work of the one and only Michael Biehn to, whose gruff voice fits well with the Rex Cult character, though some of the dialogue is a little to 'please just read this of the page Michael' and comes off a little dry. Though the vast majority of voice work is solid enough. Worthy of mention is Blood Dragons great soundtrack with some memorable tracks by Power Glove and there's even some great 80's like tunes here and there. The soundtrack offers an interesting mix of the typical 80's/90's action cartoons and some mellow almost Blade Runner light pieces and they're all pretty fantastic, helping sell this dystopian world.

Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is an interesting experiment, though I doubt the developers would call it that. It's interesting because it's an alternative take on gameplay fundamentals that are familiar to us from other shooters and of course the Far Cry 3 base game. The idea of creating alternative universes based around a specific game engine and mechanics excites me and I'd like to see other developers take note. That said Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon isn't exactly content filled and what is to be found within tends to get repetitive quickly, even within the seven or eight hours it took to complete the liberation of all bases and finish off the main story line (though I didn't collect all collectibles scattered throughout the island). However there's still a great shooter here and it plays and sounds great, if you found yourself turned off by specific issues with Far Cry 3 than Blood Dragon might offer an experience uniquely different enough to make it worth you time to check out.

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Saints Row: The Third Review.

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Saints Row: The Third is dumb fun, what more can I say. It's a pleasant reminder of why you fell in love with video games in the first place, because they were fun. In an age where we often take games a tad too seriously, it's refreshing to see a developer create a world for you to simply have fun in. Yes there's a funny story nestled within, yes there's a point to all the crazy violence you create along the way, but it doesn't matter, because Saints Row: The Third only cares that you're having fun throughout and there's something heart-warming about that.

This screenshot pretty much explains what Saints Row: The Third is all about.
This screenshot pretty much explains what Saints Row: The Third is all about.

The third game in the Saints Row franchise (as the name suggest), Saints Row: The Third no longer feels like a poor-mans GTA, instead of copying and pasting many of the fundamental mechanics of Rockstar Games successful open world franchise, developer Volition Software decided to go in the opposite direction, taking notes more from San Andreas than GTA 4. Instead of some serious gritty tale of man's survival in a violent and destructive world, Volition gives you a dildo and ask you to swing to your hearts content. That's sort of the point to this third Saints Row game, it never takes itself seriously and embraces stupidity, for the better by somehow carving out it's own niche.

The Saints, the iconic gang which you are a direct member of, are now famous stars, who have reached the big time with their very own clothing shops and energy drinks, basically put when you're stopped in the middle of a bank robbery and asked for an autograph you know you've made it to the big time. This gives Volition a suitable excuse for all the crazy messed up things you do throughout Saints Row: The Third's main story. Though this being an open world game, you can of course venture into many of the numerous other activities available to you, which are scattered throughout the world. Some of these extra activities return from past Saints Row games, for example the insurance fraud mini-game, though there's decent selection of fun side-activities which can earn you extra cash. As for Saints Row's main storyline, it's one of gangs killing gangs, fights in cyber worlds, tigers in cars and so much more, it's stupid fun which is well complimented by some great writing throughout. They don't quite pull off every joke, but I found myself laughing throughout.

Witty writing and some memorable voice performances help sell Saints Row's humor.
Witty writing and some memorable voice performances help sell Saints Row's humor.

At one point you're basically given a VTOL jet, just given it to play with... that alone gives you some idea of what this game's all about. It doesn't care about consistency really, at the core of the experience is fun and whilst there are areas of the game which tend to frustrate (many of which involved combat) there's still a lot here to have go crazy with. There is a fun selection of weapons are your disposal to, from the simple pistol and shotgun to the cyber-blaster and apoca-fist, there all there to create massive destruction and it's all an absolute blast. But with all these weapons, don't go thinking Saints Row: The Third is an easy game, whilst certainly not a massive challenge I found combat especially to be a well-balanced experience, not until I'd spent a great amount of cash in upgrades did I feel the combat become a little too easy. How do you earn all that cash? Well by purchasing businesses, property and completing missions, which then gets added to a hourly city income. In fact it's possible to upgrade your character to the degree that combat is a walk in the part, though that's not until you reach the higher levels.

Maybe it was a case of playing a game at just the right time, but coming off the back of say something like Naughty Dog's The Last of Us, Saints Row: The Third was like a refreshing cold drink. Something which doesn't quite compare to Naughty Dog's masterful zombie thriller, but still as a place in my heart because it's pure fun that doesn't take intense concentration and doesn't require you to think before you jump out of that helicopter that's on fire. It's simply a refreshing change that's helped thanks to some great writing, some memorable voice performances and a few real great levels. It's not perfect, there's some obvious rough edges both visually and in design and yes, the way the game introduces you to the side activities gets old real fast, but once you can get past all that you'll find an engaging, stupid, insanely fun experience like nothing before it. So if you can your video games a little less serious, I'm confident you'll find a great deal to laugh at and enjoy with Saints Row: The Third.

God, this game is so stupid. But you got to love it.
God, this game is so stupid. But you got to love it.

So as you can most probably tell, I ended up rather fond of Saints Row: The Third. Don't get me wrong, it's not a perfect open world experience. Whilst the PC version runs perfectly and easily looks like the best version of the game, on consoles the performance is a little hit and miss, with the frame-rate dropping considerably in spots and while there's a lot to eventually like about the story, it's a slow starter and for many it might not be enough to stick with. My advice, stay with it and you'll quickly understand why this is one of the more memorable open world games of recent years. Throughout my time with Saints Row: The Third, I was continually reminded of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, because whilst GTA as never quite lost it's willingness to be stupid and less serious from time to time, I feel much of what made GTA so memorable was lost with Grand Theft Auto 4. Saints Row: The Third understands why we fell in love with GTA 3 in the first place, because we got to do stupid stuff whenever we wanted and at the end of the day that's what makes Saints Row: The Third so easy to recommend, because it reminds you why you fell in love with this genre of games in the first place.

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