system Index A-C
Alien Isolation
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (2014)
Reviewed: 2015/4/9
Rating: Mature (blood, strong language, violence)

screenshotThe original Alien movie became a cinematic masterpiece for the way it conveyed the sheer terror of being stalked by a horrific creature. Alien Isolation tries to tap into that feeling and nails it. If you don't think Alien Isolation is scary you're not doing it right. Play this in the dark with no one else around, preferably with surround sound. I normally enjoy scary games but Isolation pushed me way out of my comfort zone. The intro and load screens feature grainy, VHS-quality footage of space ships, and the effect is as creepy as it is nostalgic. You play as Amanda Ripley, the daughter of Sigourney Weaver's character in the films. As I roamed the deserted space freighter I was in awe of the circa-1979 space architecture. The monochrome computer screens and mechanical contraptions make today's touchscreens seem mundane. The corridors are remarkably eerie due to erratic lighting and steam from pressure valves. The pulse-pounding music is punctuated by sudden, jolting noises. You're equipped with a handy movement tracker that "spins up" through your controller's speaker, and it sounds remarkable. This device not only alerts you to life forms but also keeps you headed the right direction. When you hear the alien's approaching footsteps, be prepared to duck into a nearby locker. This game is seriously nerve wracking! Your blood will run cold at the sight of the creature's clammy skin and slithery movements. The first time I was able to observe it from a safe place I was awestruck. You can't kill it so you must be resourceful, collecting items to create survival equipment like medical kits, flares, and noise makers. I tend to be jaded when it comes to crafting and stealth, but these elements are a natural fit. As much as I admire Alien Isolation, a few flaws compromise the fun factor. Objectives can be confusing and I don't recall having to restore so much power and find so many key cards since Resident Evil 1! But my biggest beef is with the manual save system. You can make a ton of progress, watch a cut-scene, finish a mission, earn a trophy, sit through a load screen, and then die only to have to do it all over again! At the very least it could auto-save during cut-scenes, especially since many dump you into emergency situations. Still, Alien Isolation is one heart-stopping adventure that needs to be experienced first-hand. It may not be the best scary game I've ever played but it is no doubt the most terrifying. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Resident Evil Director's Cut (Playstation)
Alien Trilogy (Playstation)
Silent Hill (Playstation)
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Playstation 4)
Enemy Zero (Saturn)

Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubisoft (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/6/29
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood, sexual themes, strong language, use of alcohol, violence)

screenshotSet in the golden age of piracy (18th century), Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is a sprawling adventure that might be too ambitious for its own good. Playing the role of an undercover rogue pirate (with golden locks and perfect white teeth) you'll outfit a ship, hire a crew, visit bustling ports, and engage in epic sea battles. The designers clearly did their homework to nail down the atmosphere and historic details. As you walk through streets teeming with soldiers, wenches, and drunken pirates, you can actually listen in on their conversations. The graphics are sharp but only the ability to see great distances sets this apart from a PS3 title. Perching on a church steeple gives you an awesome view. When you're steering a ship on the open water it feels like you have a lot of weight behind you, and the waves look fantastic. I love the way the crew sings at sea. Black Flag looks fantastic on paper but is far less than the sum of its parts. The gameplay is an uneasy mix of arcade action and role-playing. I truly detest the control scheme, or should I say, the lack of one! There's no manual or even an in-game list of controls. Instead Black Flag relies on "context sensitive" controls, where button combinations do one thing one minute and something else the next. It seems like difficult actions are effortless and simple actions are frustratingly difficult. You can't even walk down a street without your pirate trying to grab every ladder and perch himself on every barrel like a monkey. The top corner prompts you with suggested actions, but these are often unhelpful or even inappropriate. The missions aren't particularly fun or satisfying. You spend of a lot of time sneaking around, collecting items, or chasing people all over town. But the worst aspect of the game are the modern-day sequences that reveal the whole experience to be nothing more than an experiment in virtual reality. Wow, way to take you out of the moment! Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag has loads of content and great production values, but I just couldn't get into it. I felt like I was just going through the motions and never really having fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Pirates: The Legend of Black Kat (Playstation 2)
Pirates Gold (Genesis)
Flag Capture (Atari 2600)
Sid Meier's Pirates (Xbox)
Pirates (NES)

Assault Suit Leynos
Grade: D-
Publisher: Rising Star (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/1/16
Rating: Everyone 10+ (fantasy violence, language, mild blood)

screenshotAnd the award for worst video game title goes to... When I realized Assault Suit Leynos was a remake of Target Earth (Genesis, 1990) I had mixed feelings. I support the idea of resurrecting an old Genesis title, but couldn't they have picked one I actually liked?! Leynos certainly looks like a 16-bit shooter with its text-driven cut-scenes, catchy electronic music, and 2D action. The voices are Japanese which makes the game feel authentic. Sadly, the dialog drones on and on, prompting me to press buttons like a madman to page through it all. The first stage involves trudging a small green mech across a dusty planet surface, eliminating marching green robots and flying ships. The overlapping graphics can be disconcerting and I hate to say it, but my friend mentioned it looks like a Flash game. If you're looking for a fast action you're going to be bitterly disappointed. You primary weapons lets you unleash rapid-fire shots but it overheats with irritating regularity. The escort missions are as plodding as you might expect, and the flying stages are a mess, with arrows directing you all over the place (sometimes off the screen where you can't even go). The frequent boss encounters require you master the aiming controls and effectively use your shield. The scoring system is bizarre. Instead of a high score the game maintains a cumulative score which increases your rank and unlocks items. I thought the "classic" mode was going to emulate the Genesis version, but it only emulates the difficulty of that version. Fans of the genre will dig Assault Suit Leynos but casual gamers should think twice before picking up this budget title. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Target Earth (Genesis)
Battle Engine Aquila (Xbox)
Star Fox Assault (GameCube)
Encounter at L5 (Atari 2600)
Mario Tennis Aces (Nintendo Switch)

Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1
Grade: B
Publisher: AtGames (2016)
Reviewed: 2016/12/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAtari Flashback Classics Vol. 1 brings you nine arcade games and 41 Atari 2600 titles from the golden age of gaming - the early 1980's. I can vouch for the arcade emulation of Centipede and Millipede, since I own the machines! The analog stick isn't as precise as a trak-ball, but it might just be the next best thing. Other arcade titles of note are Space Duel (great with two players), Liberator (underrated Missile Command spinoff), and Warlords (wish I had four controllers). Pong is a bust; your paddle can't reach the upper or lower part of the screen! Didn't anybody play-test this? Rounding out the arcade lineup are vector-graphic titles Tempest (nice), Black Widow (hmm), and Lunar Lander (ugh). Vibrant cabinet art fills the edges of the screen, and it looks spectacular. It's possible to use the touch-pad for certain games, but the analog stick is much better. The Atari 2600 games are an eclectic hodgepodge with only a handful of well-known titles like Yars Revenge, Centipede, and Combat. I assume AtGames failed to secure the licensing for big names like Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Frogger, Defender, and Donkey Kong. Too bad! I couldn't help but notice an overabundance of sports titles including my old favorite "Trashcan" Football. Circus Atari is really hard to play without a real paddle controller. Retro gamers will be interested in unreleased prototypes Stunt Cycle, Tempest, Combat Two, and Save Mary. Three Swordquest games are included but without their comic books they feel incomplete. And how am I supposed to play Star Raiders without a keypad controller? The 2600 emulation is not as tight as the arcade stuff. In Combat I witnessed several shots pass right through a tank. While playing Bowling (a game that inexplicably mesmerized my cat Claire) the sound of the ball rolling down the lane is harsh. Be sure to disable those unsightly "scan lines" which makes all the games look ugly by default. With those off these oldies look better than ever! So sharp and clean! Manuals for all 2600 games are accessible via the menus but the resolution is lousy when you zoom in close. When flipping switches on the virtual 2600 console you get english descriptions like "Tank, guided missiles, easy maze". I like that a lot! High scores are saved for the arcade games but not for the 2600 games. If you have Playstation Plus there are online options as well. It's an imperfect collection but all things considered Atari Flashback Classics Vol 1. offers enough bang for the buck. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 (Nintendo DS)
Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 2 (Playstation 4)
Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2 (Nintendo DS)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)
Atari Anniversary Edition Redux (Playstation)

Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 2
Grade: B
Publisher: AtGames (2016)
Reviewed: 2016/12/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotA mirror image of Vol. 1, Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 2 is an odd mix of early-80's games that seems to favor more obscure titles. Of the nine arcade games only Asteroids and Missile Command stand out as bonafide classics. Still, Asteroids plays like a dream and you can really hear that bass kick in when you engage your thrusters! While playing Missile Command it occurred to me that as a kid I would have freaked out over the idea of playing this at home on a big screen. Other arcade games include Asteroids Deluxe, Major Havoc, Sprint, Super Breakout, Crystal Castles, and Red Baron. I don't recall having played the first person vector-graphics shooter Red Baron before, but it's awful. Crystal Castles is great once you adjust the overly-sensitive analog settings. The 41-game Atari 2600 selection is all over the map. Adventure is a genuine classic but the horizontal line artifacts are so distracting! Do yourself a favor and immediately shut off the "scan lines" via the option menu. Other standout 2600 titles are Asteroids, Maze Craze, Haunted House, Night Driver, Super Breakout, and Video Pinball. The emulation is quite good except for the occasional missing sound or collision glitch. The analog-control games aren't quite as fun without the original paddle controllers but they're definitely more challenging! Expect an abundance of throwaway titles like Basic Math, Star Ship, Stellar Track, and Code Breaker. Rarities include Off the Wall, Sentinel, and Atari Video Cube. Return to Haunted House is a new-ish home brew. It occurred to me that dividing this collection in half was a clever marketing gimmick to make these look like more of a bargain. I think it worked! Some bonus features or historical information would have been nice, but if you have any appreciation for the classics both Atari Flashback volumes are money well spent. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Atari Greatest Hits Volume 2 (Nintendo DS)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)
Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1 (Playstation 4)
Atari Greatest Hits Volume 1 (Nintendo DS)
Atari Anniversary Edition Redux (Playstation)

Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 3
Grade: C
Publisher: Atari (2018)
Reviewed: 2019/4/30

screenshotThe first two Atari Flashback volumes seemed to split the cream of the crop between them, so for this third volume Atari had to dig a little deeper into the archive. I wouldn't characterize it as "scraping the bottom of the barrel" however. Arcade fans will appreciate the rare, obscure titles from the 1970s - many rendered in black and white. Avalanche is like an early Kaboom! (Atari 2600, 1982) with stacked "paddles" catching snowballs. That building, rumbling avalanche sound is alarming! Fire Truck is an interesting coop game where two players try to steer an unwieldy vehicle. Canyon Bomber may not look as good as its colorful Atari 2600 cousin, but it has more depth with point values on the blocks. Football, Baseball, Soccer, and Basketball offer simple head-to-head action, but with no instructions they might be hard to figure out. Destroyer is a simple depth-charge-dropping game with an overlay to add some color. Dominoes plays just like Surround (Atari 2600, 1977) except when you "crash" it sets off a domino chain reaction. In Pool Shark you don't shoot the cue ball but instead slide it around the table, knocking balls into the holes. I always wanted to do that as a kid but the grownups would never let me. If you don't pull the chute soon enough in Sky Diver an ambulance comes to haul away your twitching body. The cheesiness of Maze Invaders and bad controls of Monte Carlo remind you they can't all be winners. The Atari 2600 selection is dominated by homebrews and M-Network (Mattel) games. Armor Ambush and Frogs and Flies are a good time, but Astroblast is hard to play without a paddle controller. Homebrew titles include Holey Moley, Frog Pond, and Sword Fight. Adventure II and Yars Return reinvigorate the originals with fun new screen layouts. Having Atari 5200 games looks good on paper, especially considering they were hamstrung by those miserable 5200 controllers. Centipede and Missile Command are terrific but Millipede and Asteroids are weak translations. For games that require a keypad like Star Raiders, the left side of the screen is lined with buttons. I was excited to see Realsports Baseball until I realized that without a real keypad you can't properly play against a human. Not to mention the game is riddled with visual glitches and off-kilter sound effects. Atari Flashback Volume 3 is a mixed bag overall, but collectors will value the rare titles, as well as the ability to complete the trilogy. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 2 (Playstation 4)
Atari Flashback Classics Vol. 1 (Playstation 4)
Kaboom! (Atari XEGS)
Space Invaders (Super Nintendo)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Atari Collection 1 (Playstation)

Batman: Arkham Knight
Grade: C+
Publisher: Warner Bros. (2015)
Reviewed: 2015/9/9
Rating: Mature (blood, language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotThe three Arkham titles that graced the Xbox 360 were so astonishingly good they left little room for improvement. Batman Arkham Knight reprises the familiar formula with a mind-bending storyline, first-rate visuals, and remarkably sophisticated gameplay. The graphics are superb but not substantially better than the previous games. This chapter takes place in a raging thunderstorm, and I love the driving rain and how it beads on Batman's suit. The gothic scenery is incredibly detailed yet I never felt a burning desire to explore. The basic gameplay is unchanged except there's more of everything. More moves, more gadgets, more characters, and more profanity (ugh). One drawback is the control scheme has become so overloaded that the game almost constantly prompts you for the next button combination. The combat is so frenetic it looks like a parody of itself. Batman looks ridiculous as he hops between enemies like a flea. You hardly feel in control as you mash buttons while watching him go buck-wild. And despite advancements you still can't knock enemies off ledges. The criminal investigation scenes provide a nice change of pace as you recreate details of the crime in remarkable detail. But none of that is new. The big new addition is the ability to drive the Batmobile, but it kind of sucks. The car slides wildly around the narrow, winding streets, bouncing like a pinball and smashing everything. The game leads you around by the nose with gaudy flashing arrows on the road. Bad guys making their getaway make a lot of sharp turns so it's hard to keep them in your sights, much less build up much speed. Used in many unlikely situations, the Batmobile is like a Swiss army knife. It fires weapons remotely, pulls down walls with its wench, and even transforms into a tank! In one stage you must navigate it over a series of precarious elevated platforms, and it's painful. The tank battles seem cool at first, but after a dozen times it's just tiresome. Batman Arkham Knight isn't a bad game but it's hard to imagine why it was delayed so long. Those new to the series will be impressed, but this franchise has long passed the point of diminishing return. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Batman: Arkham City (Xbox 360)
Lego Batman (Xbox 360)
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Xbox 360)
Batman Gotham City Racer (Playstation)
Batman and Robin (Playstation)

new Blair Witch
Grade: C
Publisher: Bloober Team (2020)
Reviewed: 2020/11/21
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotI have to give this first-person adventure credit for embodying the Blair Witch mythos better than I ever thought possible. It captures every single element from the films, from getting lost in the woods to mysterious symbols to cryptic video tape footage. I was instantly taken in by the game's lifelike graphics, simple controls, and intriguing storyline. You play a cop named Ellis who has joined the search for a lost boy in the woods of western Maryland. The gray, twisted forest looks creepy as hell, and although your path is often linear it rarely feels that way. Blair Witch conveys that feeling of being desperately lost with only fleeting communication with the outside world. Giving you a dog was a brilliant move, as he not only keeps you headed in the right direction but also locates subtle clues in the scenery. The further you progress the more you feel as if you're losing your grip on reality. Eventually you'll encounter freaky creatures, some of which can be warded off with your flashlight a la Alan Wake (Xbox 360, 2010). The atmosphere is intense thanks to alarming "music" and unsettling sound effects. Pausing video tapes on camcorders to alter reality is a neat trick, but that grainy video makes it hard to tell what you're watching. There are some fun puzzles, including one that lets you ride a train car in complete darkness between camps and a sawmill. Unfortunately the game goes off the rails in its second half, as you find yourself needlessly moving in circles or feeling your way through perpetual darkness and fog. Blurry vision will have you wrestling with the camera trying to figure out which way is up. Blair Witch may be the biggest mind-[expletive] since Eternal Darkness (GameCube, 2002). The designers clearly overextended each scene, which is especially evident when the house turns out to be an endless maze. The fact that Ellis has PTSD would have been fine had they just hinted at it. Instead the designers beat you over the head with it like a French Baguette, constantly flashing back to war scenes which really takes you out of the moment. If this was a film, it would need an editor in the worst way. Dragging things out tends to dissipate the terror and replace it with boredom. By the time I reached the end I was exhausted. I can't imagine going through this ordeal again just to see a different ending. That said, die-hard Blair Witch fans can bump up the grade by a letter because for all its faults this game truly does capture the spirit of the film. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Blair Witch Project, The (Atari 2600)
Alan Wake (Xbox 360)
Nightmare Creatures (Playstation)
Silent Hill (Playstation)
Silent Hill 2 (Playstation 2)

Bloodborne
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (2015)
Reviewed: 2015/11/11
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotProbably the most anticipated Playstation 4 game to date, Bloodborne looks like a work of art. Its decrepit towns boast amazing gothic architecture with soaring spires and blood red sunsets. Each stone building, horse-drawn carriage, and cast iron gate is meticulously detailed and properly aged. As you explore the wet, misty streets, creeps lurk in shadowy corners, waiting to lunge out. You encounter grotesque lanky figures that often gather to form lynch mobs. There are hooded maniacs with pitchforks, masked men with torches, mangy werewolves, and shotgun-toting goons wearing top hats. Had its gameplay been half as good as its graphics, Bloodborne would be an instant classic. Instead it's a nightmare. The interface is user-hostile and the complete lack of instructions is mystifying. The control scheme is so counter-intuitive it requires a substantial time investment just to learn basic concepts like equipping a weapon or throwing an object. The upgrade system makes no sense and the "gesture" controls are incomprehensible. Your character's movements are skittish and the controls are touchy. Close camera angles provide plenty of scare opportunities but you never know when someone is about to clock you over the head. There are smashable crates and barrels all over the place, but why are they all empty?! The combat is clumsy. Unless you're targeting something your shotgun fires directly into the ground. The collision detection is atrocious. You can't shoot through a fence yet the mobs can easily swing their weapons right through it. You attack with wide, sweeping combinations that leave you in a vulnerable state. That's a problem, because unlike your foes which sustain multiple deep gashes, one good hit does you in. Upon death you're treated to a lengthy loading screen, followed by the realization that you need to completely restart that long, treacherous stretch you've been toiling through. I must have attempted Central Yharnam 100 times, employing every tactic imaginable. Did anyone test this game? Why does it place creatures in your path that you're not nearly powerful enough to handle? There's a difference between hard and flat-out unfair. The lack of a difficulty select or pause feature is an unfortunate side effect of the game's unnecessary online functionality. Bloodborne should have been a game for the ages but it's a disappointment for the ages. It's a shame because I suspect there are some extraordinary sights and sounds here that will largely go unseen. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Bloodborne (Alternate Review) (Guest Review) (Playstation 4)
Nightmare Creatures (Nintendo 64)
Nightmare Creatures (Playstation)
Iron & Blood: Warriors of Ravenloft (Playstation)
Castlevania (NES)

Bloodborne (Alternate Review)
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sony (2015)
Reviewed: 2019/1/9
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, violence)

screenshotReview contributed by DaHeckIzDat of the RPG Crew and edited by the VGC.
As the Critic's review clearly illustrates, Bloodborne is one of the most polarizing games on the market. Made by FromSoftware as a spinoff of sorts to the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne feels familiar yet contains enough surprises to stand on its own. You play a nameless citizen arriving at the Victorian city of Yharnam to seek a cure for your disease. After waking from surgery you discover that everyone in town has turned into monsters, and you've inexplicably been anointed the "new hunter" to deal with them. You must slay your way through Yharnam, find out what's going on, and put an end to it. Bloodborne is an action-RPG built on the same mechanics as Dark Souls, meaning every attack and dodge drains your stamina bar. The lack of shields means evasion is your primary defense, making Bloodborne's combat much faster than Dark Souls. You're not defenseless though, as you can now equip a gun to your left hand. Knock back enemies with shotgun fire, and then move it for a melee attack. Whenever you get hit you have a chance to immediately regain health with a well-timed counter. Almost every weapon has two "forms"; one for fast and weak attacks and one for slow but stronger attacks. Collectible outfits mainly consist of leather trench coats and tricorn hats, reminiscent of Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing movie. You begin by fighting mobs of angry villagers and stray dogs, but the enemies become more grotesque as you progress, with giant insects, snake-filled corpses, and fire-breathing werewolves. The Lovecraftian-style bosses are hard to describe! Bloodborne's presentation is what really steals the spotlight. Yharnam is one of the most beautifully crafted worlds I've ever seen, with soaring cathedrals and gothic architecture everywhere. This game practically bleeds Halloween! The one downside is that certain levels like the Cathedral District and Forbidden Woods are so heavily decorated that they obscure where you're supposed to go next. I'm used to Souls-style games not holding my hand but the design could have been better. Newbies may lament the lack of armor and shields, but Dark Souls fans should feel right at home in this addictive gothic adventure. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Van Helsing (Xbox)
Dark Souls 2 (Guest Review) (Playstation 3)
Dark Souls 3 (Guest Review) (Playstation 4)
Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin (Guest Review) (Playstation 4)
Salt and Sanctuary (Guest Review) (Playstation 4)

Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Grade: B
Publisher: Activision (2015)
Reviewed: 2016/4/26
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotEach year I reluctantly review the latest Call of Duty and despite being jaded as hell this first-person shooting series always elevates my blood pressure to unhealthy levels. The Black Ops games set the high water mark for Call of Duty in past years, but now they've pretty much blended in with the Modern Warfare games. Black Ops III is set in the year 2065, so you're not only contending with high-tech weaponry but also Terminator-style robots! Your first mission ends with one of these robots tearing off your limbs. The military takes what's left of you and fills in the rest with cybernetics, turning you into a half-robot killing machine. The first few missions employ virtual reality to help you get acquainted with your cool new "cyber abilities". You can hack into flying drones and take control of them. You can unleash "nanobots" to swarm enemies. You can make robots spontaneously combust. The intensity runs high as you shoot your way through a train in the snow, forge through a city during hurricane, and escape a flooding underground research facility. The gunfights can be confusing, especially when you have robots fighting on both sides! I noticed a lot of female screams as I mowed down enemy soldiers. Some may characterize this as "progress" but to me it's off-putting. My favorite parts of the game are when you control a turret on a jeep or boat, blowing up everything in sight while on a high-speed thrill ride. The campaign mode in Black Ops III is so convoluted it makes that new Terminator Genisys movie seems downright sensible. Of course many gamers are only in this for the online multiplayer anyway. I gave that a whirl but found myself out of my league, pitted against players with superior firepower and armor. I did find it interesting to listen in on several Asian guys discussing the action, possibly on the other side of the world! If Asian dudes aren't your thing there's an offline multiplayer that lets you battle friends via split-screen. You can even play solo against an army of CPU-controlled bots! If that's not enough there's a slew of bonus games including Bioshock-inspired Zombie mode and Smash TV-inspired "Dead Ops 2" overhead shooter (complete with pixelated cut-scenes). These bonus modes aren't especially fun but it sure was nice of Activision to include them. The Call of Duty formula may be running on fumes, but the sheer amount of play value in Black Ops III is off the charts. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Playstation 4)
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360)

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Grade: C+
Publisher: Activision (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/1/16
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language, suggestive themes)

screenshotFor twelve consecutive years Activision has released new Call of Duty titles, leaving one final frontier: space! Infinite Warfare takes Modern Warfare and injects it with a heavy dose of Star Wars. One minute you're taking cover in a conventional gun battle in a crumbling port city and minutes later you're buzzing galactic cruisers in space. The futuristic theme gives the game an epic flavor with missions whisking you from one exotic planet to the next. I couldn't really tell you what the story is about, but the enemy is led by Jon Snow from Game of Thrones. As jaded as I am of Call of Duty, the white-knuckle campaign still gets my blood pumping. Advanced weaponry includes rifles that unleash lighting and spider-like grenades that climb on enemies. There's a special grenade that suspends gravity in a limited area, letting you to pick off floating soldiers like fish in a barrel. During land battles you can call in airstrikes to inflict widespread damage or hack enemy robots to turn them against their own side. Robots and mechs serve on your side as well, including a friendly robot soldier named Ethan who serves up comic relief with his human-like responses ("You're making me blush sir!") Infinite Warfare is action-packed but it suffers the same issues as previous entries, notably a convoluted storyline and difficulty telling the good guys from bad. Some action sequences seem to be on autopilot, yet you won't dare let go of the controls. Sadly the new space battles and the zero-gravity gunfights are the least enjoyable parts of the game. I also detected a glaring lack of controller vibration - especially when my ship was clearly being jostled on the screen. The split-screen mode multiplayer mode is enjoyable but limited to two players. I guess Activision lost the technology to split the screen four ways. Still, as a person who avoids human interaction, it's nice to be able to play a 6-on-6 deathmatch with bots. Infinite Warfare has its share of thrills but I found it hard to get excited about this. The developers tried to shoot for the stars but it feels like they were grasping at straws. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Playstation 4)
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Xbox One)
Call of Duty: Ghosts (Xbox One)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Xbox 360)
Call of Duty 2 (Xbox 360)

Carmageddon: Max Damage
Grade: F
Publisher: Stainless Games (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/8/19
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, sexual themes, strong language, violence)

screenshotMy experience with Carmageddon 64 (Nintendo 64, 2000) was so painful I'm still in therapy. This PS4 make-over manages to retain all the sheer awfulness, only this time in high-definition. Carmageddon is a crash-up-derby-style racer in post-apocalyptic environments. The fact that the game requires no installation seems great until you realize each stage takes forever to load! The "races" are a confusing mess. It's rarely evident where you're supposed to go and those concrete barriers strewn about aren't helping! The steering controls are horrific and you get stuck so often there's a button dedicated to resetting you back on the road. It's tough to get back on track yourself when a dozen CPU cars are just plowing into you. Once I got hit so hard my car flew 100 feet straight into the air. How is that even possible? When I started seeing "wrong checkpoint" messages I just said to hell with it and started ramming everybody else. Destroying other cars is a far more entertaining way to win, but the weapon system is needlessly confusing. The third way to win is by running over all the pedestrians (including elderly folks and people in wheelchairs) but with 700+ people in every level that would take forever! The one redeeming feature of the game is the visual treat of hammering your car back into shape by holding in the triangle button. Carmageddon is a bunch of off-the-wall concepts that never really gel into anything worthwhile. The lack of split-screen is just further indication of the lack of effort put into this game. The language is so bad I wouldn't recommend it for kids, and the game is so bad I wouldn't recommend it for adults. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Carmageddon 64 (Nintendo 64)
Destruction Derby Raw (Playstation)
Wave Race Blue Storm (GameCube)
APB (Lynx)
Stunt Racer 64 (Nintendo 64)

Corpse Killer 25th Anniversary Edition
Grade: D+
Publisher: Limited Run Games (2019w)
Reviewed: 2020/2/29

screenshotCorpse Killer was originally released for early CD systems such as the Sega CD and 3DO, and it never got much respect back in 1994. In retrospect its more cheesy elements make it all the more fascinating today. The original versions of Corpse Killer were constrained by limited resolution and color palettes, but here you get crisp, colorful, full-screen video. In some ways the enhanced visuals work against the game, exposing its bad acting, laughable effects, and rock-bottom production values. Winston the Rastafarian does a good job playing the Jamaican guide but the female journalist Julie might as well be reading off a cue card. Vincent Schiavelli has a great time hamming it up as the mad doctor villain. The simple gameplay involves moving a crosshair around the screen, shooting zombies that shamble (and float) in from graveyard, swamp, and village scenery. Some of these creeps look downright goofy, as if the director recruited a bunch of his drinking buddies to lend a hand. You can use the trigger to speed up the cursor and not having to reload is refreshing. It's a shame there's no light gun support. Back in the day I recall the zombies meeting their demise in a fountain of blood but here there's just a light red spray. The highlight of the game is shooting special glowing zombies, causing all the others on the screen to instantly pop like balloons. I love that. There are also stage select screens and the ability to toggle weapons. I enjoyed the tropical scenery which incorporates interesting locations like a galleon, graveyard, and a deserted old fort. Corpse Killer may seem shallow at first but to make progress you'll need to learn its subtle nuances. Bonus content includes video clips and a 34-page behind-the-scenes booklet. I'm not going to pretend Corpse Killer is a classic, but this slice of the 1990's FMV scene is pretty entertaining. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Corpse Killer (3DO)
Corpse Killer: Graveyard Edition (Saturn)
Corpse Killer (Sega CD)
Corpse Killer (CD) (Sega 32X)
JagZombies (CD) (Jaguar)


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