Tag Archive: video games


Square Enix released the results of their fiscal year that ran from April 1, 2016, until March 31, 2017, today. Despite finishing in the black and reporting record net sales—with 20% growth year over year largely attributed to the releases of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Final Fantasy XV—the company also officially filed an “extraordinary loss” on March 31, 2017 of 4.9 billion yen ($43 million US dollars). In a separate statement, Square Enix detailed this loss came in the form of a “withdrawal from the business of” IO Interactive, the Danish developer behind the Hitman and Kane & Lynch series of games. Simply put, Square Enix is getting rid of them, not quite Agent 47 style, though.

IO Interactive began in its current form back in 1998 and released their first game, Hitman: Codename 47, with publisher Eidos Interactive in 2000. In 2003, IO became a subsidiary of Eidos, who were then in turn acquired by Square Enix in 2009.

“To maximize player satisfaction as well as market potential going forward, we are focusing our resources and energies on key franchises and studios,” Square Enix said in the press release. “As a result of this, the Company started discussions with potential new investors and is currently in negotiations to secure this investment. Whilst there can be no guarantees that the negotiations will be concluded successfully, they are being explored since this is in the best interest of our shareholders, the studio, and the industry as a whole.”

With all signs from IO Interactive up to now pointing to the first season of the episodic Hitman experiment being a success, this development might explain why they’ve been quiet since announcing season two was already in development back in November 2016. If they were on the verge of changing owners/publishers, they would want to stay quiet for as long as possible for legal reasons. Square Enix’s press release also points out they’ve been shopping IO since March 31, and the language of the release makes it sound like they’ve got some potential buyers, at least for the moment. If negotiations can be worked out, IO Interactive should, theoretically, end up no worse for wear.

Should negotiations fall through, however, Square Enix will likely shut the studio down. In that case, I would imagine Square Enix would retain the rights to IO’s IP, like Hitman, and could then sell those off individually to potential buyers, assign them to another studio, or let them languish until the time is right to potentially bring them back. Of course, even should negotiations that successfully save IO occur, there’s always the chance Square Enix tries to retain some of those key IP.

In terms of what spurred all this, we have no specifics on how profitable Hitman was for Square Enix. Although it seems to have had a solid install base with the first episode, it is hard to tell how many people carried through for the entire season, and we have no sales numbers on the full season disc release that occurred in January. This development, however, leads us to believe the game clearly underperformed, and likely did not sell as well as IO’s previous game, Hitman: Absolution, which sold over three million units in its first five months back from the end of 2012 through early 2013.

If we were to speculate on potential candidates to be IO’s new parent company, there’s definitely a few—particularly if the IP can be secured along with the studio. Surely the Hitman brand would be a great asset in most publisher portfolios. European publishers THQ Nordic and Deep Silver have both made it a habit of snatching up unwanted studios and IP in recent years, and their relatively close proximity to IO’s Copenhagen headquarters could make them very enticing. Someone like EA could also look at Hitman’s episodic nature and the potential for microtransactions and start licking their chops.

There could also be first-party interest for such a well-known brand. Square Enix has worked closely with Sony for many years, but the smart bet if first-parties got involved might be Microsoft. A second episodic season of Hitman would be a great steal away from Sony, could easily offer cross-play with PC, and serve as a potential exclusive reveal at E3 2017 for a company desperate for software this year—although that would assume Microsoft and Square Enix were actually close to an agreement considering we’re only a month away from the event. But the buzz potential that could surround the first episode of a new Hitman season launching alongside Microsoft’s new Game Pass program sure would be enticing.

Be sure to keep coming back to EGM for more as this story develops, and hopefully IO Interactive doesn’t end up like so many NPCs that have crossed Agent 47’s path. In the meantime, feel free to check out my review of the full first (and maybe only) season of the episodic Hitman.

My last review left a bad taste in my mouth, as I had been dying for a puzzle-driven adventure yet had been sorely disappointed. I needed something fast to help forget about that experience and move on—and then a voice started whispering in my ear that I should play Pinstripe. After doing a little research I was willing to give it a shot, and boy, was I glad I did.

Pinstripe puts players in the shoes of a disgraced ex-minister named Ted. When Ted’s three-year-old daughter, Bo, is kidnapped by a shady figure named Mr. Pinstripe, Ted will literally have to travel to hell and back to save her. And, maybe he’ll redeem himself in the process.

I’m amazed at how often one-man Indie devs blow me away, and Thomas Brush should be commended for being the latest to do so. Serving as designer, programmer, artist, writer, and composer, Brush has crafted a beautiful world with a touching story about life and loss, guilt and grief, repercussions and redemptions. Ted’s story is a moving one, because even in Brush’s fantastical version of hell, he finds a way to tell a relatable story about one man’s mistakes and how they have come back to haunt him in a quite literal way. It’s poignant in its simplicity, but maintains just enough mystery revolving around Ted and his past to keep you pushing forward to the end.

Part of what helps that story is the world Ted finds himself in. From the moment you start playing Pinstripe, you’ll be amazed how it visually blends gloom with serenity, begging you to explore its world, but also providing a creeping sense of dread as you never know what new obstacle Ted will have to overcome next. The only thing that tops the arresting art style used here is the voice acting of all the characters. Although the world is sparsely populated, each new inhabitant you come across reflects the dichotomy of the world around Ted, with many toeing a line between being chipper yet sad, hopeful yet defeated.

Where Pinstripe falters a bit, however, is in its gameplay. Many of the puzzles are really quite simple; while some will provide that satisfying “a-ha!” moment when you solve them, most are relatively straightforward, and shouldn’t require a lot of brainpower. There’s also the issue that some late-game obstacles will force you to backtrack to the beginning of the game just for the sake of gathering collectibles that were unobtainable at the start. Although the hell Ted finds himself in isn’t a very large world, this retracing of steps felt forced, like Brush was trying to cram in some sort of metroidvania element that really wasn’t necessary. Instead, it made it feel like he was trying to forcibly lengthen an experience that still only amounted to about a three-hour romp in the end.

Also, for an ex-minister, Ted sure gets around well. Although there isn’t a ton of platforming to be had, there are some occasions where you’ll have to use momentum to swing platforms around and Ted will have to perform some quick, crafty jumps to get to where he needs to go on his quest to save Bo. There’s even the occasional enemy that Ted will have to bop on the head with a jump in order to progress. Enemies that can’t be jumped on can be taken out by Bo’s slingshot, an item Ted finds very early on his journey, but combat as a whole is limited to only a few sections of the game—and the slingshot is mostly another tool to overcome the game’s puzzles. Combat was clearly not a major focus for Pinstripe, which makes sense given our protagonist’s religious background; this is primarily a puzzle-adventure game through and through.

This all seems pretty straightforward for this type of game, but Pinstripe had one more surprise for me at the end of my initial playthrough, and that was a shot of replayability rarely found in this genre. Typically, once you beat the puzzles in a game like this, there’s little to draw you back to it again. Pinstripe, however, makes new items and secrets available for you to collect and find only after your first playthrough of the game. This was a nice way to get me to repeat an adventure I had moved pretty quickly through the first time, and added a nice extra layer of depth to the experience.

Pinstripe was a Herculean effort by one man, and it provided one of the more interesting worlds and better stories I’ve played in quite some time. The drawback it seems of this passion project, however, comes in its length and its simplicity. Even though everything wrapped up neatly in the end, and I think the story was perfectly told, I would’ve loved if the world of Pinstripe had even more depth and characters to it, and if the complexity of the puzzles were greater. That said, you would be missing out if you passed up this narrative experience, even if the game lacks any real challenge for anyone familiar with this genre.

Publisher: Atmos Games • Developer: Atmos Games • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 04.25.17
7.5
What it lacks in length and complexity, Pinstripe makes up for in narrative. It’s a compelling story set in a beautiful world full of interesting characters, and that alone should be worth a look for most—even if there’s really not much challenge to this puzzle-adventure game.
The Good An interesting world driven by a moving story.
The Bad A bit on the short and simple side.
The Ugly The thought that hell doesn’t have to be all fire and brimstone in order to be torturous to someone.
Pinstripe is a Steam exclusive, available on PC, Mac, and Linux. Primary version reviewed was for Mac. Review code was provided by Atmos Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

You’d be hard-pressed to convince me that I didn’t grow up in a golden age of cartoons, as there was always animation inspired by video games, movies, comic books, and action figures to be found. Shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario Bros., Batman: The Animated Series, Spider-Man, GI Joe, Transformers, and more would serve as constant imagination fuel, but often only in half-hour increments at a time. Because of this, there was a clear king of the animated landscape: the Disney Afternoon block. Not only was the animation and antics top-notch, but we also got shows for two solid hours. Four different cartoons crammed back-to-back, and we didn’t have to wait until Saturday morning for it—we got it daily. Since a lot of animation at the time took inspiration from other media, it should come as no surprise that the osmosis worked both ways, and it wasn’t long before Capcom was working with Disney to crank out games based on the Afternoon shows. Those days of my childhood are long gone, and those cartoons can no longer be found on TV. But the games—the games are back.

The Disney Afternoon Collection takes six of the most beloved NES-era side-scrolling video games inspired by the Disney Afternoon block, polishes them up real nice, and presents them to us in a single package. DuckTales, DuckTales 2, Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers, Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers 2, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck all make triumphant returns on modern day consoles with an assortment of bells and whistles, including an HD coat of paint or the option to stick an old-school CRT TV grain filter over everything.

Each one of the six games is basically a side-scroller with minor variations thrown in. For example, DuckTales is primarily a platformer and TaleSpin a shooter, while Darkwing Duck is both. Whatever the case may be, I always consider myself a bit of a savant when it comes to these old-school games, and if you’re like me, you’ll be thrilled to know that all the challenge and difficulty that these titles were known for back in the day remains largely intact. Enemies will respawn when you walk off screen and then back, collapsing platforms still only give you the narrowest windows for success, and health recovery items are as hard to find as health bar extenders. But, if you’re also like me, you’re big enough to admit when you’re a little rusty, and everything might not be exactly in the same spot mentally as it was nearly 30 years ago.

Luckily, in case you’ve never played these games before, or you just need that gentle nudge in the right direction until your timing comes back, there’s a brand new “rewind” feature. By tapping a bumper button, you can reverse time and save yourself from a perilous pitfall, sharp spikes, or bouncing baddie that just won’t get out of your way. Each game also has a single save state, so you can save mid-playthrough if you need to turn the game off for some reason. Of course, both of these remove a lot of the original challenge, thereby shortening each of the six games to an under two-hour experience should you resort to using those options. And I will say, removing the challenge of these games is like sucking the life out of the games themselves, since it’s not exactly like you got a ton of story back in the days of the NES. The choice of how you play is entirely up to you, though, and that is always appreciated.

If you want your initial playthrough to be about re-learning the games without the temptation of using these tools, Time Attack mode removes all potential assists. Here, all that’s changed is the addition of a clock, pushing you and your reflexes back to the 80s and taunting you with leaderboards to see just how skilled you are. If replaying the entire game sounds like a bit of a time sink, there’s then the Boss Rush mode, which also removes assists and touts leaderboards while catapulting you right into (arguably) the most memorable parts of each level. It’s still so satisfying beating that damn Moon Rat in DuckTales.

There are a few other downsides to the rewind feature beyond the lessening of the challenge, however. Sometimes, if you don’t hold it down for long enough, or if you use it in short bursts in quick succession, the entire game you’re playing will slow down (because it’s trying to catch up to the changes you’re making, but you’re making them too quickly). I actually had Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers 2 completely freeze up on me while rewinding during the final boss against Robot Fat Cat, because I was micromanaging the battle in preparation for my Boss Rush run (which I was going to do afterwards while the boss fights were fresh in my mind). So, that is definitely something to keep an eye out for.

If you are at all a Disney nerd, the biggest addition The Disney Afternoon Collection might bring isn’t even in any of the six games. Instead, it’s the Museum mode, where design documents, box art, never-before-seen concept art, and all the music for each game is available for you to check out at your convenience. Seeing the access Capcom had to the Disney vault, and now finally being able to share in some of that, is really something special.

Whatever served as imagination fuel for you as a kid tends to turn to nostalgia fuel as an adult—kind of like how dinosaur bones turn into oil. It’s clear that a huge part of the appeal of The Disney Afternoon Collection for a gamer such as myself is that I get the chance to relive a large part of my gaming childhood with this assortment of games, and even get to play some of them for the first time (I missed out on the sequels originally because I had already switched to the SNES by then). Besides a few hiccups with the rewind feature and the occasional crash, this is a great way to relive the past or to use it as an introduction to a new generation of Disney fans—as long as they can appreciate the 8-bit “vintage” look.

Publisher: Capcom • Developer: Digital Eclipse • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 04.18.17
7.5
It’s pure nostalgia, but if you loved these games as a kid, there’s just enough new features to bring you back to it again—and they hold up well enough if you have someone you’d like to introduce these games to for the first time
The Good New optional rewind features and save states serve as nice crutches while you shake the rust off.
The Bad Occasional crashes and lag caused by liberal use of the rewind feature.
The Ugly Your realization of how skewed time was as a child, when you find out none of these cartoons made it more than 100 episodes (DuckTales’ 100th was its final, while no others made it that far).
The Disney Afternoon Collection is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Capcom for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

It’s never easy to try to find a foothold in an established field like racing simulators. Despite entering a market already dominated by Forza and Gran Turismo, however, the original Project CARS was able to not only compete from a technical perspective in terms of the racing experience it provides, but offered up a unique enough take on how you would approach races to carve out a slice for itself amongst gearheads. Building on that initial success, Slightly Mad Studios went to work on a sequel, and after my hands-on last week at CXC Simulations here in Los Angeles, Project CARS 2 is primed to move into the pole position of this genre.

It needs to be prefaced that my time with the game will likely not be quite indicative of the final experience most people will have, since I got to try the game out via Oculus VR on a $50,000 simulation rig that CXC offers to professional racers to prepare before big races. (That was the beauty of this demo, however.) Already loaded and ready to go for us was one of the brand new tracks featured in Project CARS 2, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, just days ahead of the actual race itself was to be held. While being jostled around as if I was taking hairpin turns at breakneck speeds was definitely new, the immersion I felt from the VR was even more intense, showing off the meticulous detail Slightly Mad has given to this new track.

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I also got to run the course in two different cars—the Acura NSX GT3 and the Dallara Honda Indycar—and moving from one car to the other was a tremendous extreme. It was hard enough learning a brand new track in VR (although I was able to adapt after a few laps), but the Acura’s top speed paled in comparison to when I sat in the driver’s seat of the Indycar, as turns came up faster and I had to be far more cognizant of my shifting as I reached higher speeds more quickly. But while new tracks and cars are always expected with any racing sequel, it was the last machine I hopped in that was particularly exciting.

Projects CARS 2 unveiled Rallycross mode to us for the first time. Yes, the off-road sprint-oriented series of races will debut this go around in Project CARS 2, and that means not only even more new cars and tracks, but new paths for your career drivers to take and brand new surfaces to drive on. Gravel and dirt will combine with asphalt on these tracks just like in real life, and although Rallycross tracks are smaller that most other tracks, the shifting terrain combined with how differently the cars handle will provide entirely new challenges for players to overcome—and I can speak from some limited experience.

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If going from the Acura to the Indycar was night and day, going into a rally-fitted Honda Civic Coupe was like going from April to August. Drifting at high speeds is a must here, and as unintuitive as it may be, taking corners almost sideways can actually be beneficial (and even preferred) in order to best position yourself for the next straightaway. But knowing how to take those turns is only the beginning, as your car will handle completely differently on dirt than gravel or asphalt—and it’s extremely easy to spin out if you’re not careful or underestimate the ground beneath your wheels.

When you combine this new mode with the realistic tire degradation and fine vehicle tuning of the first game, you’re starting to get into the grittiest of details that will have you almost smelling the engine grease on your hands. Adding Rallycross on top of new tracks and cars is a huge boon for Project CARS 2, and if Slightly Mad gives this mode as much attention as they gave everything from the first Project CARS, then this racing series will have more than earned its place at the table alongside Gran Turismo and Forza—and may even be in position to get ready to overtake them.

Before getting into video games, I always thought sports would be the ultimate end goal of my media career—who knew you could make money playing and writing about video games—because all I ever wanted as a kid was to get into every game at Yankees Stadium for free. Obviously, my career took a different turn, but I still have an undying love for baseball (and still think I’m better than 90% of the play-by-play broadcasters out there). So, it is with renewed joy every spring that the baseball season gets underway, and with it my two loves of video games and baseball come together with the annual release of MLB The Show—and this year’s entry into the series is enough to have both gamers and sabermetricians alike excited.

MLB The Show 17 is a year where it feels like everything has come together for the franchise on the PS4. Whereas last year was a big focus on new modes and really expanding the series’ repertoire, this year was refining everything into a mold as perfectly cast as a Cooperstown plaque. While graphical improvements, ball physicals, and fielding animation improvements may not sound as exciting as brand new modes, they lend themselves to help make this the most realistic experience the series has yet provided for baseball fans. And, all it took was one full game in Franchise mode for me to be immediately blown away.

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My New York Yankees were opening up the season at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays, and I was locked in a 0-0 tie in the fourth inning. Yankees second baseman Starlin Castro was stepping to the plate with one out when I ripped a changeup I was a little out in front of down towards third base. Evan Longoria made a dive to stop it. In previous years, this ball would often have been shot on a straight line, likely into Longoria’s glove—but right after the first hop about halfway between home plate and third base, the ball was clearly curving. In fact, it had curved in a way I had never seen before in a game, bouncing between Longoria’s outstretched glove and the bag, and into the Trop’s exposed bullpen area. A satisfied smirk crossed my face when the umpire pointed that the ball was fair. As my time with The Show 17 continued, I would have more moments like this, both on ground balls on the infield and fly balls down the line. I bring this up specifically because it provided a sense of realism—of true simulation—that I had never seen before from a baseball game.

Of course, just because the ball moves how it might in a real game now doesn’t mean it’s uncatchable. At the time of my writing this review, I’ve come a long way from that first game, and am well into the dog days of summer with both my Franchise and Road to the Show created player. Since then I’ve fielded dozens, if not hundreds, of ground balls, and a new tweak to throwing runners out on the basepaths is that you can now pre-load your throw by selecting the base before actually catching the ball. This allows not only for a more fluid and natural looking animation from when your player catches the ball to when they release it, but prevents a lot of the cheap infield hits that plagued previous entries in the series due to that extra delay caused by not being able to throw until obtaining possession of the ball.

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Besides the smoother animations this year, new character faces and models—coupled with three brand new presentation packages—provide a sleeker look to The Show as well. MLB Network now lends its entire graphics package, including all sorts of hit-tracking effects and replays, to The Show alongside two more “regional” looking setups for those games that aren’t necessarily game of the week caliber matchups or for those minor-league days in RTTS. Matt Vasgersian returns to do play-by-play (he’s one of those 10% who are better than me) with brand new lines, but is now joined by three-time gold glove winning second baseman Harold Reynolds and 18-year journeyman relief pitcher Dan Plesac from the MLB Network team. The commentary has been something I’ve been able to come down on for quite some time for The Show, but the addition of Reynolds and Plesac, along with their situational banter, really kept things fresh for far longer than normal this year on the announcer side of things.

Now, when playing The Show, I admit I am usually one of those control freaks who loves playing every single game from start to finish. Yet, even I admit a 162-game regular season can be a bit of a grind. And, in an attempt to mimic other sports games out on the market such as Madden that have added similar options in recent years, there are two new additions to Franchise to help speed up that process. One is called Critical Situations, and allows you to simulate large sections of a team’s schedule with The Show dropping you into individual games during moments that can decide the outcome. It’s a great way to circumvent that summer grind, and really move from game to game quickly. My only issue with this option thus far is that most of those moments seem to come sometime in the ninth inning, which takes a little bit of the impact out of the situation if you always know what’s coming.

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If you still want a touch more control when simming, there’s also the new Quick Manage and Player Lock options. Player lock has you follow key moments for an individual in the game and provides an experience similar to RTTS where you only follow your created player. Your chosen player’s fielding opportunities and at-bats are all you play. Meanwhile, Quick Manage gives you a more top-down approach, similar to just managing a game. You decide when to hit, bunt, steal, hit & run, pitch to a hitter, pitch for contact, pitch around them, change pitchers, and more. Every major decision can be done batter to batter from both sides of the ball, but unlike a straight CPU sim, you can drop in whenever you want. I found myself dropping in a lot because one negative I discovered with this option is that the AI is lacking, often stranding runners on third with nobody out, or failing to get them over in appropriate situations, even when calling for more situational hitting. Also, I’d love if I could more easily see match-up numbers, like how opponents do hitting against lefties or righties, from the main screen in this mode without having to navigate lots of menus or jump into the game to decide what substitutions I should make. It would help with the flow—and again plays into my micromanaging style—but I found this Quick Manage as a whole the best way for me to get through my season at a much more decent clip.

The other major offline mode for MLB The Show 17 is, of course, Road to the Show. In another attempt by The Show to mimic its sports game contemporaries out there, RTTS this year has focused on adding a stronger narrative direction while maintaining much of the gameplay from years past, streamlined by a cleaner user interface. This story, where an omnipresent narrator talks over new cutscenes that feature sit-downs with your manager and coaches in the clubhouse, along with branching dialogue paths that can dictate the future of your career and what your team thinks of you, is meant to help give a more human feel to what has become in years past a methodical grind to the top of baseball-dom. It’s not nearly as in depth as what is seen in NBA 2K or even what FIFA added last year, but it does add a lot of personality to the mode, and I hope this serves as the foundation for something deeper in later years. I found myself wanting to interact with my coaches more, and even looking for boosts or rewards of some sort stemming from my answers, so hopefully this is just the first step in taking an already great mode to a new level.

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The final staple of The Show’s repertoire is its online modes. The card-collecting Diamond Dynasty mode returns, and is addictive as ever if you get as involved with collectibles as I do. The single-player Conquest section of this suite, which features three-inning games with you using a team you build from those collected cards, also returns largely unchanged if fantasy match-ups are more your thing. There’s then online seasons and the returning Battle Royal mode that is basically baseball’s version of Madden and NHL’s Draft Champions, where you draft a fantasy team before taking on random opponents. The biggest issue with MLB The Show 17, however, is one that has plagued the series for years now: the fact that, at least thus far in the first week since launch, the online issues are ever-present. Although connecting with people seems to have resolved itself over the past few days, tremendous lag and online glitches are still constant. Balls getting stuck against the wall, players not leaving the batter’s box on hits (and subsequently being thrown out at first on shots into the gaps), and lag to where you can barely even see the ball, leave the online play again wanting.

Luckily, as I’ve lain out, there’s plenty to do offline, but it’s still disappointing that online play remains The Show’s bugaboo. And, while I focused primarily on the improvements to the series’ staple modes, there is one new mode that can also provide some local play if you’re looking for a throwback and still need that human competition. It’s honestly a bit of a throwaway mode really, but it’s a nice nod to cover athlete and new MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., and the early baseball games Griffey championed back in the NES, SNES, and N64 days. Retro mode, which features an 8-bit filter if you so choose, touts old-school sound effects and UI, and even two-button gameplay that out R.B.I. Baseball’s R.B.I. Baseball. After years of so many more complex button schemes, I admit it might’ve been the hardest thing to get used to in this year’s version of The Show—but it’s a nice little bonus for those of us old enough to remember the “good ol’ days”, although Junior’s weird, deadpan commentary on some plays and between innings was definitely not necessary.

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MLB The Show 17 is easily the pinnacle for the series thus far. It continues to add depth to its staple modes, and find new ways to increase the realism of its simulation experience. The narrative addition to RTTS could lay the foundation for even more exciting and immersive things in the future, while online play continues to nag the series at launch—but, with so much depth of play in the offline experience, some might not even notice. If you love baseball as much as I do, you’ll no doubt love MLB The Show 17, too.

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment • Developer: SIE San Diego Studio • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 03.28.17
9.0
MLB The Show 17 sets a new pinnacle for the franchise. It creates more depth for its tent pole modes and polishes everything else to a terrific gleam. Some online issues and glitches still continue to plague the series at launch, but you might get so engrossed in Franchise or RTTS that you won’t even notice until they’re fixed.
The Good New ball physics, quick manage mode, and the RTTS narrator are great additions to The Show’s best modes.
The Bad Consistent server and online issues. Again.
The Ugly How the heck did we ever see anything back in the 8-bit days?
MLB The Show 17 is a PS4 exclusive. Review code was provided by Sony for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

“And it’s another ambush.” This innocuous, almost throw-away line of dialogue near the end of a side mission on the ice planet Voeld was one of the most compelling moments in my time with Mass Effect: Andromeda. Not because the situation or even the line itself was particularly thrilling, but because the exasperation with which the line was delivered was exactly how I had felt for about the first 30 hours of the 65 it took me to finish the campaign. The seeming self-awareness by Ryder was the first time I found myself able to finally relate to the new hero of one of gaming’s most beloved series, and yet succinctly summed up one of the main reasons why I was not enjoying myself.

Mass Effect: Andromeda is of course the fourth main game in BioWare’s epic space-faring RPG franchise. This latest chapter technically begins between the original Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, where a former N7 named Alec Ryder and his children sign up for a program known as the Andromeda Initiative, a space-exploration mission that sends them—and nearly 100,000 others from select races—off towards the Heleus cluster in the Andromeda galaxy while frozen in cryo-stasis upon special ships aptly called Arks. The journey is set to take just over 600 years, and the hope upon arrival is they will be able to colonize “golden worlds,” planets that appear hospitable for life from the Milky Way. Taking control of one of Alec’s fraternal twin children (male or female), you soon realize that the worlds you had hoped to forge a future on are no longer golden, and the ill-timed death of your father makes you inadvertently the tip of a new spear that must be forged if civilization is to thrive on this new frontier.

This task of finding and terraforming new worlds is one of your two major objectives in Andromeda as the newly designated “Pathfinder” for the Initiative—and I quickly grew to despise it. Ryder must make five planets viable for life to live on, but the process is the same each and every time: activation of ancient technology on each world to expedite the terraforming process while completing mundane tasks for people on or wanting to go to the planet. It’s bad enough the worlds can be boiled down to “ice world,” “jungle world,” “sandy desert world,” “rocky desert world,” and “hive of scum and villainy.” Combine them with monotonous, circuitous fetch quests that have you bouncing around the galaxy and suffering through long, unskippable interstellar travel scenes before getting just a couple of lines of dialogue and a green check mark in your menu, or being sent to an outpost to kill all the bad guys, and I honestly almost wanted the Initiative to fail. They’re the most transparent and dull quests an RPG can provide, especially with minimal main story involvement, and it all just felt like a mechanism to bloat the game’s length from the 30-35 hours it could’ve been—which would have fallen in line with previous games in the series—to the 65-75 hours you’ll likely need to do everything now, should you choose to do so like I did. If ever there was an argument that bigger isn’t necessarily better, Andromeda makes it.

The other major issue with this task is that it makes the universe feel like a knockoff of what the original trilogy had provided, as your job is just building this galaxy up to original Mass Effect levels.  When I landed on the Citadel in the original Mass Effect, the alien races and the scope of everything blew me away. When you land on the Nexus (wannabe Citadel) in Andromeda via the Tempest (wannabe Normandy), many alien races like the drell, quarians, elcor, hanar, and volus—to name just a few—have all been cut. Only the krogan, turians, salarians, asari, and, of course, humans, have supposedly made the trip from the Milky Way. To replace nearly a dozen other species from the original trilogy, all we get are the new enemies (the kett), one new ally (the angarans), and the references to a long dead race whose technology plagues Andromeda (the remnant). In a game that felt like it was trying to sell itself on exploration and new experiences, it’s depressing how little there was in Andromeda to genuinely explore and get excited about, since it all felt so familiar and barebones. BioWare should have streamlined the side quests, not the Heleus cluster.

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Luckily, your other main objective in the Andromeda galaxy will feel a lot more familiar, and is a lot more fun. Along your viability journey, you’ll come across the aforementioned kett, a ruthless alien race bent on conquering every species in the known universe. While not focused on all-out destruction like the reapers were in the original trilogy, the kett are interested in assimilation, and they are very curious in everyone who just appeared from the Milky Way. This conflict makes up the majority of the game’s story beats, and the missions associated with stopping the kett not only provide more variety than the viability ones, but are heavily grounded in the dialogue and character development we’ve come to expect from a BioWare game. The leader of the kett, the Archon, is the epitome of the ruthlessness that embodies his people, and my only complaint on that front is I wish there was more of him—and more length to this storyline in general—as he worked from the shadows most of the game.

Speaking of characters, it wouldn’t be Mass Effect without a ragtag group of aliens and humans coming together to represent the diversity this fictional galaxy is supposed to be all about. I was a little shocked that the group just seems to be thrown together rather quickly and haphazardly—you’ll have your entire squad by the start of the second planet—but I couldn’t help but develop strong emotions towards each and every one of them. In fact, the long chains of events that culminate in their loyalty missions might have been my favorite objectives in the game. And, because all of the characters don’t know the fate of the Milky Way since they left after the original Mass Effect, it is interesting to see them wonder about what might’ve happened, how old prejudices like those between salarians and krogans are still running strong here in Andromeda, and how they sort through the mysteries and baggage they brought with them which often prompted them to leave everything they knew behind in the first place.

What strengthens these relationships the most, though, is dialogue. Although some of the dialogue—and the acting in general—is hit or miss, more options than the Paragon/Renegade choices of the original trilogy have been offered to help provide a better, more rounded Ryder than Shepard. Some answers are more professional, while others more emotional. Some are guarded; others show a softer side to Ryder, and in turn, possibly your teammates. It’s a welcome bit of nuance for one of the series’ core mechanics. There’s even an opportunity within some cutscenes—almost like a Telltale game—where pressing a trigger button will have Ryder act impulsively, which could profoundly affect relationships down the line.

Of course, you’re not just talking in Mass Effect: Andromeda. The third-person shooter gameplay from the main trilogy returns with some tweaks to them. A new cover mechanic has been added that really doesn’t work as well as it should—most of the time, you’ll hug a corner you didn’t mean to, and even then you’re often still at least partially exposed. And, credit to the AI here, if you do stay in cover for too long, the enemy will quickly try to flank you. So, your best bet is to keep moving. A new jetpack that gives you some pure jumping ability has also been added that allows you to float when aiming, but really, flying above all your cover just makes you a prime target.

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The jetpack also introduces some teeth-grindingly frustrating platforming sections to the game. Exploring the ancient ruins you need to navigate in order to turn on each planet’s terraforming machines is a torturous exercise in futility. Adding jumping to a game with an emphasis on exploration makes sense, but it lacks the finesse necessary to keep the mechanic—and vertical navigation in general—from becoming nothing but a chore. Ryder never sticks a landing after a long jump, often times leading to him tumbling off an edge, and it is very difficult to judge distance here because the camera is positioned far too closely to your character. It’s perfect for a third-person shooter, not a third-person platformer.

The last major addition to gameplay is that four of the five planets you need to make viable require you to traverse them in the Nomad, the new version of the original Mass Effect’s Mako. Simply put, the Nomad sucks. You need to change gears to climb even the slightest incline on every planet, it lacks any sort of weaponry—which would have made the more bad guy-ridden planets a lot more fun instead of constantly having to leave the vehicle to shoot people—and even when you are able to climb up a mountain that should be accessible, you’ll find blue neon walls appear to signify the edge of the world, forcing you to take the long way around every mountain. Driving was almost as much of a chore as jumping.

As you complete missions, explore the landscape, and take out kett and remnant, you’ll level up like in any RPG. Much like the more nuanced dialogue options, there are many ways to make Ryder truly unique to you here in Andromeda. Dozens of power options fall under combat, technology, or biotics, with three non-passive choices being able to be carried into battle at a time (though they can be switched out on the fly via the menu screen if a situation should change). By spending points in each category, you’ll also unlock profiles, which give boosts depending on your playstyle. For example, the Soldier profile is exclusively combat tree-heavy in its bonuses, while others mix and match two of the three trees in its bonuses, with one profile skewing to all three. I preferred the Vanguard personally, which was a mix of combat and technology.

For as easy as leveling up is, though, the new crafting system is as much of a chore as a lot of the other systems added to this game. You can’t craft on the fly, having to either find a tucked-away research & development console somewhere on a planet, or return to your ship, which always takes back off into space for some reason whenever you return to it. I really don’t know why you can’t just go into the ship without it leaving dock and triggering the same annoying cutscene—trying to cover up the game’s awful loading times, perhaps. Collecting resources is easy enough, but building and equipping items is so bothersome I only touched the R&D consoles when I absolutely, positively had to make a change or craft a quest item.

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While on the subject of load times, now is also perfect to talk about how broken Mass Effect: Andromeda is from a technical aspect. Animation has never been a BioWare strong suit, but there were many instances while I was playing that the animation was busted or weird on another level. I’ve seen three different Drack (your krogan ally) walk into the galley on the Tempest at once; I’ve seen PeeBee (asari ally) blink out of existence in the middle of a conversation; I’ve seen the Nomad spawn in places it shouldn’t, like inside buildings; I’ve fallen through the world on fast travel points, and had Ryder randomly give speeches from cutscenes in missions that I completed hours prior. I’ve seen some shit in this game, and that’s not even including the long load times, the awful draw distance, and the instances where the game literally comes to a complete halt if you drive too fast in the Nomad as the planets you are driving on struggle to load into your game. This game is going to be getting patches for a long time.

Besides the campaign (which comprises the overwhelming bulk of Andromeda) there is also a multiplayer component. Andromeda basically borrows the wave-based, horde-like multiplayer from Mass Effect 3 and updates it with new maps, new enemies, and some new objectives. There’s also dozens of new loadouts available that can be unlocked, but I personally would rather just be given a couple characters that can be more deeply customized than all these starting templates that need to be unlocked. There are also microtransactions to purchase credits to unlock items, but going that route is wholly unnecessary. (Of course, I think the multiplayer part of Mass Effect is unnecessary to begin with, though.)

Fighting seven waves of enemies with friends to obtain items—some of which can be carried over to the campaign, like credits and crafting materials—loses its luster very quickly to me. That’s especially the case now that the single-player campaign allows you to send CPU “Strike Teams” to do the missions instead, getting you all the gear you want without the time commitment of having to find friends to play with and stepping away from the story. Managing these teams from a console on the Tempest was a lot more fun and a lot less time consuming than the multiplayer, but if wave-based survival with some objectives is your thing, there are also a lot worse choices out there than what Andromeda provides. Also, I had no issues connecting or finding people to play with, so that’s a plus at least.

Mass Effect: Andromeda isn’t a bad game—but it is far from what we expect from the series. Poorly written fetch-quests, a dead universe that requires the player to bring any semblance of life to it, and more glitches than can be found tolerable in a game like this horribly mar the experience. There is a strong foundation of characters and story that is being laid down here, which gives me hope for the future, but this new chapter of the Mass Effect saga is a high price to pay in order to reinvest in a universe so many of us had come to love.

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Publisher: Electronic Arts • Developer: BioWare Montreal • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 03.21.17
6.0
There is a strong core of characters and story bedrock laid down in Mass Effect: Andromeda, but between questionable design choices, boring missions, and glitches galore, it’s hard not to view BioWare’s journey to a brand new galaxy as anything less than mission failure.
The Good The main story and new cast of characters are often as compelling as those left behind in the Milky Way.
The Bad Lots of busy work fetch-quests, a sense of everything being too familiar for being 600 light years away, and bugs—so many bugs.
The Ugly I fell harder for PeeBee than I expected.
Mass Effect: Andromeda is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by EA for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

There had been a Bomberman game on every Nintendo system ever until that streak finally broke with the Wii U. Looking to make sure that mistake wasn’t repeated, Konami surprised everyone when they announced that their first Bomberman game and the first game we’ve seen from the series in seven years—Konami acquired original Bomberman creators Hudson Soft in 2012 and then never used the IP—would be a Switch launch title. As someone who played more than a few entries in the series on several different Nintendo consoles, this was an exciting surprise, made all the better by a game that actually delivers a decent-quality maze-busting experience.

Super Bomberman R opens up on Planet Bomber, where the original white Bomberman is admonishing his seven siblings for ignoring their demolition training duties. As they all go around the room making their excuses, a man named Buggler announces himself to the world and challenges team Bomberman outright with his own team of five Dastardly Bombers—who promptly begin wreaking havoc at different outposts all over the galaxy. The Bombermen must now fight their way through the Dastardly Bombers to get to Buggler and end his reign of terror.

Even when Bomberman moved away from his arcade roots and started trying to add real story elements with Mega Bomberman in the Sega Genesis days, it was never really a game driven by its plot—it was more like we now had an excuse as to why we would go around willy-nilly blowing up every brick wall and balloon enemy we found. Similarly, Super Bomberman R’s story isn’t its strong suit. It tries to go for a Saturday-morning cartoon vibe, with each cutscene touting over-the-top comedic dialogue, but it’s clearly just there to loosely tie the entire adventure together. For old-school fans, you’ll appreciate how it pays homage to the Bomberman games of the past, at least in terms of modernizing the stories of characters like Buggler (Bagular in the old games) and the Dastardly Bombers. If you’re not a die-hard Bomberman fan, you’ll still be able to follow along, although you likely won’t care nearly as much as those of us who have some history with these characters.

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Where Super Bomberman R shines is in its gameplay, which again blends the earliest adventures of Bomberman with some of his later 3D escapades. Most of the campaign is spread out across five worlds with 10 stages each. The first eight of these stages are your classic Bomberman fare, as a cavalcade of breakable and non-breakable blocks create mazes of varying complexity that are littered with enemies that can one-hit kill our hero. Each world has its own theme, but after just a couple stages on each planet, the aesthetics become a tad dull. Every world is also designed in 3D, but the locked isometric camera gives off those old-school puzzler vibes fans of the series likely first fell in love with.

Most of these stages require you to eliminate all your enemies—the most common task for Bomberman over the years. Adding a new wrinkle, however, are stages that feature survival objectives, escort missions, finding hidden keys, or stepping on a series of hidden switches. This variety helps keep gameplay that can become repetitive fresh, especially when you’re still relatively underpowered and need to find all the classic bomb, blast, and movement power-ups the series has always featured.

The last two stages of each world are where the game gets really fun, harkening back to more recent titles in the series. First, you have to take on a Dastardly Bomber in single combat, trying to trick them into blowing themselves up if you can’t find the perfect way to do it with your own bombs, or maybe a combination of the two (several times I would use an enemy’s bomb against them to pin them in a corner and secure victory). If you can defeat them in single combat, then the Dastardly Bomber transforms into a massive map-filling mechanical monstrosity. For example, Golem Bomber becomes Fort Walker, a giant robotic turtle where you have to blow up each of its four legs before blasting away at its head. Meanwhile, Plasma Bomber becomes Judge Gwinbee, a flying mech with machine guns that you have to blow up as it flies by. These moments made whatever grind the rest of the campaign might dish out more than worth it, and truly put your skills to the test.

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And trust me, your skills will be tested, because you will die. A lot. It’s still surprising how often you might lose track of how big your bomb blast is, forget about an enemy around the corner, or just accidentally barricade yourself between two bombs and watch as your life counter drops by one. The chaos only increases if playing the campaign in 2-player co-op due to friendly fire. Easier difficulties offer more lives, but no matter what setting you play on, the system by which you receive more continues is more mind-boggling than any maze the game throws at you.

Super Bomberman R features an in-game currency (no microtransactions) that rewards you with coins for beating Dastardly Bombers in the campaign or by winning multiplayer matches. This currency system can be used to purchase cosmetic items for your Bombermen, new maps, and unfortunately, also campaign continues. This weird interchanging of the currency means that if I ran out of lives and didn’t have enough coins saved up because I bought Black Bomberman this sweet top hat, I’d lose my entire progress on a level and have to start at stage one again, no matter my position. Lower difficulties see the price of continues drop, but it’s a weird way to have to game the system, often forcing you to choose between multiplayer goodies and beating the main game and creating an unfortunate grind.

Even with this odd currency situation, the greatest strength of Super Bomberman R—like many Bomberman games—remains the multiplayer component, and it’s only been enhanced further with the Switch. Up to eight Joy-Cons can be connected to a Switch for some truly frantic local action, or four Switches can link with two Joy-Cons each, again resulting in the same scenario. Even if you don’t have a full complement of local players, you can always play online. While there have been reports of connectivity issues at launch, I can attest that at least during my personal time online over the past few days, I had no problem connecting with other players. Either way, the multiplayer action that the series is known for remains, and there is no more fulfilling feeling than trapping your buddy in a corner with explosives—and no more harrowing feeling than when the same thing is done to you in turn.

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If you can’t get the full complement of eight players either way, you can also add bots to the multiplayer fun. However, I’d advise against it. The bot AI can’t be adjusted, and they are almost always set to master level it seems, knowing just how far away they need to stand from your bombs or the perfect way to trap you almost every time. The best multiplayer fun in Bomberman is against friends anyway, and that remains true here in Super Bomberman R.

Super Bomberman R might not pack the punch of one of Bomberman’s bombs when you think of console launch titles, but it’s still a quality experience. The campaign can be a bit of a grind, but has enough surprises and enjoyable moments to keep pulling you through—especially if playing co-op with a friend. And, like many Bomberman titles of the past, the local multiplayer experience with friends is almost second-to-none—that is if the game doesn’t blow up your friendships as much as you do brick walls. A few questionable choices like the in-game currency definitely add an unwanted grinding element to everything, but any fan of old-school Bomberman should be more than pleased with this long-awaited return.

Publisher: Konami • Developer: Hexadrive • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 03.03.17
7.5
The in-game currency decision was a head scratcher, as it adds an unwelcome grinding element to much of the gameplay. If you can look past that, then there’s a decent campaign and the same addictive multiplayer Bomberman is known for sitting at this launch title’s explosive core.
The Good A surprising amount of content, with 8-player multiplayer and a campaign that lasts for more than 50 levels.
The Bad Level design and gameplay can get repetitive after a while; in-game currency system.
The Ugly Accidentally trapping yourself between two bombs and then there are those few seconds where you’re just waiting for your inevitable end.
Super Bomberman R is a Switch exclusive. Review code was provided by Konami for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Great ideas are born all the time in the video game industry, but not all of them reach fruition—and fewer still achieve their fullest potential. It seems Ubisoft’s For Honor, at least at this moment in time, falls into the latter category of a game that just isn’t where it needs to be. After conquering the campaign and playing well over 100 multiplayer matches over the past week since it’s launch, I’m sorry to say that For Honor just seems to be another in what is becoming Ubisoft’s calling card of the past several years: a tremendous idea that falls short due to lackluster or questionable technical execution.

For Honor puts players in a fantasy world that mashes up regions and time periods, placing three of the world’s greatest factions of warriors together on one limited landmass. Samurai, Knights, and Vikings fight in perpetual war over scarce resources in this fictitious world, unwittingly serving as pawns in the plans of Apollyon, a particularly ruthless black knight who feels that only in war can people maximize their abilities.

The campaign takes you through each of the three faction camps as you begin to piece together Apollyon’s plot. There are 18 chapters (six for each group), and all told the campaign shouldn’t take more than 4-6 hours to finish. There’s some replayability here, with collectibles and multiple difficulty levels (including the hardest “Realistic” difficulty that completely removes your HUD), but not much else. It’s also a bit on the repetitive side, with occasional surprises to keep you pushing forward, but what serves as the brightest spot for the campaign is that it is an excellent teaching tool. As a de facto proving ground, it gives you plenty of opportunities to test strategies and learn more advanced combos with particular classes against the computer before you take those skills into the online world.

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One glaring flaw with the campaign, though, is the fact that if one of its major purposes is as a way to familiarize yourself with the game’s 12 distinct characters and it’s unique combat system in a safer offline setting, then it should give you an opportunity to play as all of the character choices. Only eight of the 12 are featured in the campaign, with the Berseker (Vikings), Conqueror (Knights), Shugoki (Samurai), and Nobushi (Samurai) being exempt.

Though, it could argue that some of these class styles are covered in other chapters. For example, the Vikings’ Warlord—who does get his own chapter—is classed as a heavy, which Shugoki and Conqueror also both fall under. However, there are enough differences between each choice and their playstyles that not being able to figure out how to fit playable sections for all 12 characters into 18 chapters—especially when many campaign chapters have all the characters in them already as NPCs—is bothersome. For example, the Nobushi has probably the most range of any character in the game (plus some attacks that can poison an enemy), while the Shugoki is the only character that can actually absorb a hit without flinching—but you need to experiment in multiplayer to find all that out. You can play the online modes against AI to get some experience with characters, and I admit that For Honor’s bots are some of the most intelligent you’re likely to find in any online game, but I believe that wrapping your training around a story and a tutorial increases your retention of learned skills, as opposed to just button mashing against a bot that falls into predictable patterns.

A big reason why it’s particularly frustrating having to learn characters in multiplayer, instead of more ideally just honing and mastering your skills against humans, is For Honor’s aforementioned combat system. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic system, but it has a steep learning curve and can be incredibly complex at times. The core of For Honor is three-way directional blocking/attacking. If you are swinging from the left, and your foe blocks in that direction, nothing happens; if they leave themselves open, you do damage. It looks like a simple third-person hack ‘n’ slash mechanic, but once you get past this, you’ll find there’s more to this game—and, again, each character’s specific nuances only diversify and add wonderful depth to the gameplay. Throws, stuns, parries, specials, and unblockable attacks all must be learned if you’re to have any success in campaign or online. The beauty of it, though, is how all of this plays off that initial mechanic, which requires you to lock onto an opponent in one-on-one “honorable” combat while trying to predict their movements.

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Combat is like a miniature chess game, with strategies forming and coming undone in an instant as your strikes hit, miss, or are blocked by your mark. Even positioning on the field, with one-hit kill obstacles like spikes or ledges, play into the combat, requiring you take in far more information than just which direction your opponent is blocking. I honestly couldn’t get enough of it all, and found my adrenaline pumping during the thrill of combat, screaming into my headset as cowards ran away from my Raider’s axe. (Of course, it also makes it frustrating to learn on the fly when your K/D may be on the line.)

There are some flaws to combat, though. While the game is surprisingly well balanced—with a smart player able to overcome most any other character’s strengths and exploit their weaknesses—there are those infuriating moments when it looks like the game’s physics or hit detection isn’t where it needs to be. A perfect example is when trying to throw someone off a ledge; a great way to overcome situations where you are outnumbered. Sometimes, a character will barely clip the edge of a rock or wall, and slam up against it as if a full support was there, saving the person from going over the edge and potentially falling to their doom. Or, you’ll get situations where a thrown body lands with half of it not on solid ground. You’d expect the body to slide off the edge—since that’d be the natural result—but instead the character just stands up as if their body had been fully supported. It reminds me of the original Super Mario Bros. way back in the day; as long as you had just one pixel of edge, Mario would never fall off. It’s not nearly as charming here, and definitely breaks immersion and draws my ire.

The crux of For Honor, though, is of course the multiplayer, which I’ve touched on briefly already a couple of times. The first thing everyone has to take part in is the War of the Factions. Similar to what was seen in Mortal Kombat X’s Faction War, as soon as you start the game, you choose one of the three factions to align yourself with for the entirety of a season (this doesn’t limit what characters you can play as, to be clear). By playing online you’ll earn war assets, and the better you perform, the more assets you’ll receive. Unlike MKX, you’ll get to personally assign where your assets go as you try to move the front lines of a never-ending assault against the other two factions on a satellite view of the game’s map. The faction that has procured the most land at the end of the season will receive special in-game bonuses. You can also change your faction mid-season, but at the penalty of lost rewards at the end of the season. Surprisingly, it’s one of the more addictive features of For Honor, as it gives players a sense of actually taking part in a living, breathing conflict.

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Then there are five different game modes under three different umbrellas. In Deathmatch, you’ll find the 4v4 single-life-to-live Elimination mode and the point-based Skirmish mode, where you can respawn until the opposing team reaches 1000 points (where points are awarded on a variety of factors, but killing human opponents always racks up the biggest points). Then there are the Duels, offering up 1v1 matchups and 2v2 Brawls, and which I personally recommend you start off with since they’re a great way to hone you skills. Finally, there is the 4v4 Dominion mode, which combines the point scoring of Skirmish with capturing zones like you’d see in a Domination mode for other games.

Although there are only a few maps, sections of each one are cordoned off depending on the mode you’re playing, and each map has multiple times of day available to offer some visual variety. The game is also graphically stunning as a whole; the detail of each character and the world around you is absolutely breathtaking, and makes you feel at times like you’re in a real medieval fantasy. For Honor’s customization is also something that should be lauded. While each character’s face is a given, you can change the sex of most characters (some are permanent female or male), earn ornaments, victory poses, and executions, and each character’s weapons and armor, piece by piece, can be changed out or given new paint and pattern schemes. It’s just enough personalization to make you stand out on the battlefield while making sure you still come across as your character class. Of course, it needs to be mentioned that a lot of items are locked away behind certain achievements or the game’s “steel” currency, but many of these can be bypassed by buying resources through microtransactions. This isn’t necessary, since you can easily grind for a lot of items, and most of them are cosmetic anyway, but that’s entirely up to you.

Despite the issues I’ve already laid out, when For Honor works, it works supremely well. When For Honor doesn’t work, though, it’s one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had to date with an Ubisoft game. While the campaign was mostly issue-free, there have been tremendous connectability issues with the game since launch. In fact, part of the reason I’m so late with this review is that I tried to see if these issues would work themselves out or if we’d get a patch of some kind. Even as recent as last night, however, I was still seeing matches drop and disconnect on a regular basis—if I could even connect in the first place. As I stated at the start of the review, over the past week I’ve played and finished well over 100 matches—there was probably another 200 times, though, where the match would never connect or drop midway through.

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If this weren’t bad enough, because For Honor doesn’t have dedicated servers, not only does the game suffer frequently from lag, but every time someone else drops, the entire game freezes up, as it often has to re-instance. Half the time, it is unable to, and boots the remaining players back to the multiplayer lobby. I don’t understand how, after launching so many games in a row with shoddy or broken netcode before this, Ubisoft has yet another game—one that is so multiplayer heavy in particular and has had so many betas—come out in this condition. It’s absolutely unforgivable to launch in such a sorry state, and Ubisoft should be embarrassed.

For Honor could’ve been one of the best games of this young calendar year; instead, it’s riddled with issues, particularly on the technical side, which hold it back. It might still bounce back and become the game it has the potential to be thanks to its solid gameplay core—but if you were looking for something to play right now, I’d tell you to take a wait-and-see approach with For Honor in hopes the bugs, in particular the connectivity ones, end up getting worked out.

Publisher: Ubisoft • Developer: Ubisoft Montreal • ESRB: M – Mature • Release Date: 02.14.17
7.0
An inventive premise and surprisingly deep combat system sits at the core of what could’ve been a great game—if so many technical issues didn’t surround it and detract so much from the whole of the experience.
The Good The inventive new combat system takes some getting used to, but rewards players who put the time in with it.
The Bad A litany of technical issues and questionable decisions keeps it from reaching its fullest potential.
The Ugly This is now a thing and I can’t stop watching it: For Honor—Call on Me
For Honor is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for Xbox One. Review code was provided by Ubisoft for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

I got to guest host on Nerd Alert this week with Kim Horcher. We talked about myriad topics, including the newest love interest in Mass Effect: Andromeda!

The third annual PlayStation Experience took place this past weekend, and this year was the biggest and best yet for Sony’s year-end celebration. More announcements than ever before were made at the show—but more than that, the show floor had more games than ever before, too. I was able to go hands-on with nearly two-dozen titles while at the show, and I’ve whittled those experiences down to the 10 best games that I think you should be chomping at the bit for.

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Developer: Metalhead Software
Publisher: Metalhead Software
Super Mega Baseball 2

The original Super Mega Baseball was the kind of arcade-y experience that baseball games started out as back in the day. Due to its initial December release back in 2014, it might not have gotten the love it deserved, but it was good enough to easily cement its status as a cult classic. Clearly, the love was heard loud and clear from the folks over at Metalhead Software, as they’re now working on a sequel planned for 2017. Super Mega Baseball 2 features more stadiums, more players, and more modes than the original, while still bringing over its 1-4 player couch co-op/versus play. Its controls remain easy to pick up but difficult to master, as your pitchers have every possible pitch imaginable, and knowing when to swing for power—and getting the timing right—or swing for contact is critical to success. If you love baseball, and are looking for an alternative to the more serious simulation that is The Show, Super Mega Baseball 2 is all set to knock it out of the park again.

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Developer: Yager Development
Publisher: Grey Box
Dreadnought

We’ve been hearing about Dreadnought for a while now, and on the precipice of its 2017 release, we got the awesome news that it’s also coming to PlayStation 4. For those unfamiliar with the game, you take control of one of a series of massive starships, waging space war against those who would stand against you. Each ship has different statistics based on their size, speed, and armaments, and playing what best suits your style—and what can best help your team win—will be critical, as the planning stages are just as important here as the actual combat itself.

My one worry with the PS4 announcement was how the controls (based around a mouse/keyboard) would transition to a controller. Luckily, the team found a way to do it. The PS4 controller’s touchpad is utilized when choosing to divert extra power to shields, engines, or guns, picking up the slack of the lack of buttons on the controller face. And, after playing a couple matches this way, I found using a controller to be just as intuitive—if not more so—than the PC controls. Now, it’s just a matter of time before we can get access to the beta and become captains of our own starships.

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Developer: PlayTonic Games
Publisher: Team17
Yooka-Laylee

If you loved the original Banjo-Kazooie games, then Yooka-Laylee is not only a love letter and spiritual successor to them, but to all the platformers of the N64 era. During my PSX demo, I was introduced to a massive world chock full of collectibles, puzzles, and colorful characters that shared the British tongue-in-cheek, fourth-wall breaking humor that made us all smile a little wider back in the ‘90s. The single area I saw required Yooka and Laylee to change the seasons in order to collect every single Pagie they could as they try to save all the world’s literature from nefarious forces. Besides the seasonal puzzles, Yooka the chameleon can also eat special berries that changed his attributes. For example, one makes him turn to stone in order to withstand high winds, while another allows him to spit ice and freeze platforms. Laylee the bat also gets in on the action, shooting out a sonic scream that can wake up sleeping totems and reveal new platforms to hop across. Simply put, the gamut of gameplay on display here—from shooting to platforming to puzzle solving—made me feel like a kid again in all the best ways.

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Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Pyre

I love games. Always have, always will. Being a games journalist for nearly a decade now, however, means I love them differently. I appreciate them, but it’s rare I ever get outwardly excited anymore. There is an exception to every rule, of course, and I admit I absolutely mark out for anything Supergiant Games makes. So, when they officially announced that Pyre would have a local versus multiplayer mode at PSX (something we speculated when we first saw the game earlier in the year), and I got to play it? I went bonkers. And, it turned out, with good reason, because it seems Supergiant has taken the time and care they always apply to their worlds and their narratives, and have successfully done the same with multiplayer.

Much like the main game, Pyre’s multiplayer has two teams of three face off as you try to get a special orb into your opponent’s base—like a game of celestial basketball. The strategy and intensity that emerges from playing another human, however, takes the gameplay to an entirely new level. It’s difficult to predict these things, but I could easily see Pyre turning into a couch versus phenomenon. Supergiant told me at the show they’re trying to get online to work, but would rather no online than broken online. I think that’s entirely the way to go, because even as is, this game is primed to be a slam dunk.

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Developer: Sloclap
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Absolver

Following E3 2016, I had heard from fellow EGMer Matt Buchholtz how amazing Absolver was. After finally getting to try it out at PSX, I don’t think Matt gave the game nearly enough credit. On the surface, Absolver is an arena fighter where your character moves through a world, taking on opponents, growing stronger, and learning new moves in the process. Dig just a little deeper, however, and you find a game that celebrates fighting as an art form, a complicated dance of fists and feet and force that when perfectly flowing together creates a performance unparalleled elsewhere. This is where Absolver makes itself special.

Its visuals are already beautiful; the character designs remind me fittingly a bit of the dancer from Bound. But when you start to understand the timing of moves, your fighter’s four different stances, how you can properly chain moves together, and even customize your own combos from dozens of moves, there’s a level of detail here rarely seen in any fighting game—and which has me equally excited for both the campaign and its versus modes.

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Developer: Whitemoon Dreams
Publisher: Sony
Starblood Arena

When I saw Starblood Arena announced at the PSX 2016 showcase, the first thing that came to mind was how it would it compare to RIGS—another game involving players shooting each other while piloting mechs that was, to me, PlayStation VR’s best launch title. After playing it, Starblood Arena might be even better.

Right off the bat, Starblood Arena provides a cast of colorful characters and mechs of different shapes, sizes, and stats to differentiate itself from other early VR shooters (and inject some personality into the game). It also provides a full six axes of motion, meaning your mechs are constantly flying through the air and that threats can come from any angle. What Starblood Arena also does smartly is provide standard FPS controls with the two sticks on a controller, and then have finer aiming done by moving your head. This not only gives most gamers a control scheme they’ll be familiar with, but also reduces nausea-inducing situations down to nothing for most. Although I only took on bots in the limited demo—19:1 K/D by the way—the game features deathmatch and other standard shooter-fare modes. If Starblood Arena can build a solid player base, it could be the next great multiplayer game for PS VR.

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Developer: Lightbulb Club
Publisher: Lightbulb Club
Games of Glory

The PS4 has been offering some interesting free-to-play fare recently, starting with the announcement that Gung Ho’s Let It Die was launching right there at PSX 2016 for everyone. Another F2P game that’s coming exclusively to the PS4 is Games of Glory, which could prove to be immensely popular among the multiplayer crowd. Combining MOBA elements with a Guardian mode, Games of Glory splits six players up into two three-person teams. Your team must attempt to win a best-of-9 series by holding the center of a map and keeping your designated captain alive for the entirely of a round. Who fills the role of captain always rotates between rounds, so every player could potentially be the captain three times. Each character has moves and roles similar to what you would see in your typical MOBA, including tanks, DPS, healers, and so on. Coming up with a strategy and combination of players to overcome your opponents isn’t easy, but it sure can be fun. Although only a few characters and only the one mode were available for play at PSX, some variety here could easily see Games of Glory catch on with its ease of play.

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Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Sony
What Remains of Edith Finch

I saw What Remains of Edith Finch a couple of years ago at E3, and have been waiting to find out the final, sordid history of the Finch family tree with bated breath ever since. Players are tasked with exploring the Finch family home, where whenever someone in the family meets with a tragic end, their bedroom is sealed off. By discovering new rooms, you also discover new tragedies and tales as you try to uncover the secret of the Finch legacy. With a release finally coming supposedly right around the corner, I played through one of the shorter stories on the tree, that of a twin brother who wanted to fly in the worst way—and got his wish.

What Remains of Edith Finch is the next step in interactive storytelling, providing players with fantastical experiences that also find ways to tug on heartstrings. The two stories I played through on two separate occasions took me places I never thought games might go, but when the game is finally done and we play through this entire collection of short tales, I think we’ll all be happy they did.

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Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: Prideful Sloth
Yonder: The Cloud Chaser Chronicles

Imagine a Legend of Zelda game minus the enemies, and you’ll have a pretty rough idea of what to expect from Yonder: The Cloud Chaser Chronicles. Here, you play a boy or girl who, after waking up in a mysterious world, sets out both to figure out how they got there and help purge a mysterious force that is consuming the land. To do that, you’ll have to find fairy-like creatures on your journey that can help you purge the encroaching darkness. Along the way, you’ll also be able to build your own farm, befriend a variety of animals, collect resources, or go on quests for nearby villagers to earn the tools needed to open up more of the world. You can fish, chop wood, mine stone, and more to gather resources, which—when combined with your farming aspect—gives the game a bit of an open-world Harvest Moon feel as well. I admit, normally I prefer a bit more conflict in games of this ilk, but I’m curious as to where the story could go. As a change of pace, the peaceful open-world quests of Yonder might be just what we need as gamers.

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Developer: Exploding Tuba
Publisher: Exploding Tuba
Divide

The twin-stick shooter is a pretty common video game staple; rarely has it ever been tied to a complex narrative, however. Enter: Divide. It’s a science-fiction action/adventure game that will demand every second of your attention. Every bit of information needs to be taken with a grain of salt as you work your way through a futuristic dystopia in search of your missing daughter.

What makes Divide even more interesting is its control scheme, which uses none of the PS4 controller’s face buttons. Instead, everything is mapped to triggers and the control sticks. Whether hacking a terminal to open a door, or aiming down the sights of your gun when in confrontations with soldiers or security bots, you’ll have to master this simple control scheme to work your way out of some complex jams as you dive deeper into the story.  Much like the story itself, Divide may look simple at first glance, but when you start to get past the surface, there is so much more to discover.