Publisher: 2K Sports (2013)
I'm glad 2K put some effort into their first PS4 game, even if the improvements are mainly cosmetic. After a lengthy installation process you're treated to a game that looks like a TNT television broadcast. The player models are amazing, with facial expressions that look convincing even up close. Players behave just like their real life counterparts, except they hustle a lot more on the court (zing!
). NBA 2K14 contains all the subtle nuances of the real game. Players tip rebounds, lose their balance, dive out of bounds, draw technical fouls, help each other up, and sometimes even flop (and then complain about no foul). When you successfully orchestrate a fast-break culminating with a slam dunk, it's exhilarating! The game comes with a manual, and I will applaud 2K Sports for that. The control scheme (that spans six pages) is not for the faint of heart however. Steel Battalion
(Xbox, 2002) wasn't this complicated! The right stick lets you perform some elaborate moves, but it's hard to grasp. After jump-shots, helpful grades are displayed for your timing and shot quality. One area that needs work is the passing. Passes tend to be weak and by the time the ball gets there the player is no longer in good position. The television style graphics are slick, with amazing arena exterior shots and even on-court interviews with Doris Burke. The killer soundtrack includes popular tracks like "Radioactive" (Imagine Dragons) and "Can't Hold Us" (Macklemore). The two-man commentary keeps on top of the action and sometimes even references the previous game! The only thing missing is Ernie Johnson, Sir Charles and company at the anchor desk during half-time. And oh yeah - they need to get some cheerleaders into this game. I did notice a few glitches, including players that occasionally freak out and audio that cuts off. The lack of a season mode is a shame, although the "My GM" mode can serve the same purpose if you can sift through all the junk (scouting, negotiating deals, etc). Unfortunately my season file mysteriously disappeared after a month (*sad face*
). NBA 2K14 is a good-looking start for the Playstation 4, but I think we need to set our standards a little higher this generation. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Sports (2014)
Rating: Everyone (mild lyrics)
I really wish 2K Sports would hire me on as a consultant. I could have easily pointed out a number of glaring flaws in NBA 2K15. The first time you turn it on you're forced to play a full game
of the Spurs versus Heat with audio consisting solely of music. Was this part of the licensing deal with Beats? The new emphasis on music is annoying and frankly I resent having to dial down the music volume in the settings menu before every single game
. Otherwise this is the most innovative NBA 2K game in some time. The franchise is long known for its sharp, television-style presentation, and this year ups the ante with pre-game intros by Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O'Neal. The sport desk looks a little sparse but Shaq tends to say some funny things, so listen in. On the court the degree of detail is remarkable. The crowd waves "big head" signs and cheerleaders dance during timeouts. The cheerleaders look shapely but always wear the same outfits and perform the same dance. The two-man commentary is insightful and Doris Burke reports from the sidelines. And get this: you actually see
Doris interviewing players and coaches! The players on court look true to life with appropriate facial expressions and tattoos. Anthony Davis' unibrow is bigger and more disturbing than ever. Player movement on the court is extremely fluid but as a consequence your actions feel delayed. It would be nice to block a shot due to good reflexes instead of anticipation. The control scheme includes a new "shot meter" that looks good on paper but proves to be pretty worthless. Several serious issues cropped up while playing local multiplayer. For some reason my friends and I could not
switch players! Worse yet, it was really hard to identify selected players due to those transparent, indistinct markers. Finally, 2K still can't grasp the concept of a consistent user interface, making menu navigation a confusing mess. Sometimes you need to press X to advance, sometimes O, and sometimes square (or worst of all, the right stick
). NBA 2K15 is incredible on a visual level, yet manages to falter in new and imaginative ways. The game serves its purpose but is less satisfying than it should have been. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Sports (2015)
NBA 2K16 features a new career mode created by Spike Lee entitled "Livin' Da Dream". It kicks off with live video including Spike himself and it's disappointing to see it transition to computer-generated characters. Creating a player is your first order of business, and taking the defaults left me with the goofiest-looking redneck I've ever seen. It's hilarious watching him in cut-scenes joke around his stereotypical black family and friends. I guess Spike Lee was supposed to provide streetwise credibility, but I wish he could program because NBA 2K16 is bug central
. Whenever I boot up the game it prompts me to edit my character (why?!) and then forgets any changes I make. Several times during career mode an alert appeared on the screen: "UPDATE REQUIRED! Return to main menu to apply update to dismiss this message." Wait what?!
There's no such option on the main menu and updates are supposed to be applied automatically. Career takes you through high school and college, and between games you sit through inconsequential cut-scenes and endless "loading... saving... loading... " cycles. I tried to quit during a college game and was informed "quit is not available until a stoppage in play." Really? 2K doesn't have the technology to quit a game in progress?! Career mode is a total bust but the season mode is fun. When it comes to television-style presentation 2K Sports has the formula down. Flashy graphics and upbeat music get you pumped for each game, and while it's loading you're treated to a pre-game show with Ernie Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kenny Smith. The guys are informative but look like stiff wax figures. Can't we just watch the actual video of these guys instead? I mean, they had to act out the dialogue anyway, right? And the same goes for the cheerleaders! On the court the sweaty, tattoo-laden players look amazing and perform as they do in real life. The action is fluid and it's always satisfying to complete a transition with a breakaway jam. Defending is tough however and once the CPU shakes you he often has a clear path to the hoop. There are a lot of minor annoyances. The camera is pulled in too tight and you can barely make out the icons due to their tiny font. Player reactions are somewhat delayed so it's nearly impossible to get off a quick shot with a tick or two left on the clock. Once I got a shot clock violation after the shot clock had been turned off
. Some irritations can be addressed via the settings menu, like the automatic time-outs (ugh) and ear-splitting referee whistles. Between periods you'll enjoy a player profile interview, and the half and postgame shows are impressive. NBA 2K16 has all the bells and whistles you could want, but I'm starting to wonder if 2K Sports understands the concept of quality control. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Sports (2016)
NBA 2K is in danger of becoming the Madden of basketball - if it's not already there. 2K17 has the realism down pat with all the polish of a television presentation. The problem is, it's a heck of a lot like last year and just as buggy. I like the simplified main menu which offers a refreshing change from the obnoxious "wall of tiles" favored by other sport game publishers (*cough*EA*cough). Each event is introduced by Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O'Neil at the sports desk. I love these guys but their stiff character models are looking a little dated. David Aldridge handles the sideline reporting duties. I noticed a heck of a lot of ads throughout this game, but they're the ones you'd see at a real game (Kia, Gatorade, etc) so I guess it's okay. The action on the court looks fantastic and at a glance you'd think you were watching TV. 2K Sports included every subtle animation you could think of like dribbles getting away, roll-in inbound passes, and guys jawing with each other after a foul. The facial expressions look hilarious at times. On defense it's pretty easy to poke the ball away so you can be semi-aggressive. The controls are not for the squeamish, with the help menus listing hundreds of plays. Seasoned basketball fans will appreciate the subtle nuances but casual players will hate
NBA 2K17. Beside its inherent complexity, the game has some serious deficiencies. It's hard to hit the lead man on breakaways, and even when you get the ball to him a defender magically seems to catch up. Likewise when you get the ball under the hoop your player suddenly becomes sluggish as he breaks into his offensive animation. One unwanted new feature is listening in on coaches yelling at their players during timeouts. They all have the same voice and sound like a bunch of whiney bastards. The automatic timeouts and intentional fouls really slow the pace shouldn't be on by default. And then there are the bugs. It was bad enough when I couldn't break out of a timeout, or when my player couldn't inbound the ball, but when the game crashed hard that was the last straw. Even the new "blacktop" court options disappoint. Instead of gritty urban locations you get a pristine blue court with stands of spectators obstructing the background. NBA 2K17 will suffice for basketball fans, but that's just because it's the only game in town. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2014)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild violence)
As the first hockey title for the PS4, NHL 15 is undeniably good-looking. The television-style presentation boasts NBC Sports graphics along with that rousing, familiar music. A quick video clip of the home team's town is shown - a nice touch that's long overdue. Using real commentator video to introduce each game seems impressive until you remember that was actually a feature dating back to 1990's hockey games. The players look real and the arenas absolutely sparkle. Individualized fans don funny hats like an octopus or Stanley Cup. I even saw one holding a sign up to a player in the penalty box. Other than those minor flourishes NHL 15 is pretty much by the book. The overhead angle is default, but there's something to be said for the side/broadcast view which offers a wider angle and looks more like a televised game. The body checks come off a little soft, but there are some cool finesse plays including backhanded goals. It can be hard to tell if you have the puck, and it's not readily apparent when a goal is scored due to delayed commentator reaction and lack of goal lights. Controversial calls are sent "upstairs" for review, but this feature is implemented in a clumsy, confusing manner - not unlike Madden. The spirited commentator is always talking about teams "recoiling", whatever that means. The default dual-thumbstick controls feel natural if you're heading "up" the screen, but awkward when headed downward (in two-player mode) or sideways (broadcast view). Simplified NHL 94 controls are available, but I couldn't get off a quick shot using those. NHL 15 is at its best when playing a friend head-to-head, where expletives fly and trash talk reigns supreme. The menu system could be better organized and more responsive. Where is the [expletive] season mode?
The GM mode is the closest thing, but I hate
having to deal with superfluous garbage like salary caps (ugh
), scouting assignments (gah
), and endless load screens (zzz...
). NHL 15 leverages the visual pizzazz of a next-gen title but can't shake the mediocrity of the last-gen games. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2015)
It's becoming clear why EA doesn't include old 16-bit hockey games as bonus modes in their new NHL titles. They don't want those classic games to upstage the new one, which is exactly what would happen
. That said, NHL 16 looks pretty sweet. Actual video clips effectively convey the cities and venues, although they could look more "wintry". It's nice to see commentators introduce each game but they aren't very insightful. The rinks look photo-realistic thanks to a keen attention to detail like scraped glass and boards that look thoroughly worn. I just wish modern sports games had some sense of fun. Where are the Green Men of Vancouver? NHL 16 offers a wide selection of modes, including a season mode that was missing from last year. On the rink player markers float above
the players, and it seems easier to thread the needle in front of the goal because the goalie doesn't automatically gobble everything up. I'm not a huge fan of EA's dual-stick control scheme. Squeezing the trigger causes a pass arrow to appear, but the puck often goes in an unwanted direction. The CPU doesn't have this problem, whipping the puck around between players with pinpoint accuracy as you flail around helplessly on defense. Poke checks are effective for knocking the puck loose, but the body checks have minimal impact - even in arcade mode. On offense slap shots are scorching but follow-up shots tend to be weak and ineffective. The CPU is way too hard on the default pro level, and sometimes I think the game was programmed to allow more goals in the waning seconds. Difficult and complex, NHL 16 is a no-nonsense hockey title aimed mainly at hardcore fans. The ghost of NHL '94
(Genesis, 1993) continues to haunt the franchise. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Need For Speed Rivals
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2013)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild violence)
On paper this is pretty much the game of my dreams. Rivals offers high-speed arcade thrills, gorgeous scenery, variable weather, and even the ability to toggle between the roles of racer and cop! Fictional Redview County offers all the natural beauty of California including snowy mountains, dusty deserts, rural farmland, and scenic coastlines. Shortcuts abound along with opportunities to catch considerable air. The game progresses via a series of missions with multiple objectives like beating a time trial, winning a race, or using "pursuit tech" on other racers. Rivals is loaded with good ideas. There's a cool "pursuit meter" that shrinks as you lose the cops, and it's pretty sweet how you can drive through gas stations at full speed to magically repair your vehicle. I love how you can hear police talking over their radios about how you're endangering the public and how roadblocks are being set up. The races and high-speed pursuits are exciting, but the controls could be tighter. There's a pronounced lag that lends to oversteering, and worse - head-on collisions! Fortunately the game places you right back on track after a wreck - no matter how devastating it was. This eases the difficulty but makes winning a race (or evading pursuit) less satisfying. The missions are relatively short, but the racing really takes a back seat to the pursuit. Sometimes you just want to race but you're too busy trying to shake the cops. When playing the side of the law, other cops lend support but tend to get in the way. A map and GPS lets you plot a course to any destination, but I'd like to see more visible indicators on the actual road. In terms of graphics, Rivals is attractive but not spectacular. Compared to Need For Speed: Most Wanted
(Xbox 360, 2005), there isn't much more detail, although the framerate and use of color is much improved. Rivals looks most impressive during a snowstorm or thunderstorm, but these moments are fleeting. You can begin each mission at selectable locations, but I always winded up on the same roads. Some missions have a "grinding" feel to them. The save system is confusing; you never know if your progress has been recorded. In one instance the game went completely belly-up and kicked me back to the PS4 dashboard! Despite making a nice first impression, the more I played this game the more disinterested I became. Need For Speed Rivals feels like less than the sum of its parts. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Limited Run Games (2017)
(Sega CD, 1992) remains one of the most controversial video games of all time, but it wasn't intended to be that way. A groundbreaking CD title, it was the first to allow interaction with real characters in actual video footage. The game quickly found itself in hot water during the 1993 congressional hearings on video game violence, where it was falsely accused of advocating violence towards women. Along with Mortal Kombat
(Genesis, 1992), Night Trap inadvertently gave birth to the original video game ratings system. Like most other full-motion video (FMV) titles of its time, Night Trap never garnered much respect as a game. Its story involves a group of girls having a slumber party in a lake house hosted by a family who begin to exhibit vampire-like qualities. Switching on-the-fly between eight security cameras, you can actually follow the characters from room to room as the story unfolds. As shambling black "augers" infiltrate the house, you must activate traps to dispatch them and protect the girls. Switching between cameras and trapping creeps is undeniably fun. It feels good to catapult an auger off the roof or drop him through a trap door. And that edgy guitar music really adds to the atmosphere. When it comes to pure novelty value, Night Trap is off the charts with 80's culture, music, and fashion on full display. One big draw of this 25th anniversary edition is its clear video. The original release was constrained by low resolution and a limited color palette, giving the footage a pixelated, grainy look. This newly remastered version isn't high definition (the original 35mm film was lost) but it is DVD quality. I noticed a lot of new details like the boat next to the driveway. The game has an extended intro I had never seen before, and there's also a new "enhanced mode". This mode features animated room icons, allowing you to detect activity without even switching cameras. This makes the game easier but it's still remarkably tough to make progress. I feel like the developers missed a lot of opportunities. It would be nice if you could play through the entire game without worrying about your squad leader suddenly pulling the plug when you fall behind. Then you could enjoy the whole story and play for points. Like the original, when the game abruptly ends it doesn't even display your score. And how about an option to turn off those annoying trap color codes? There is a new "survival mode" focused on trapping goons in quick rounds for high score, but without a story it's not compelling. It does however give you a chance to check out some previously-unused footage. I had a few of my younger friends try Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition and was surprised how much they enjoyed it. Brent called it "the second best game he's played on the PS4" next to Rocket League
(Psyonix, 2016). When I showed him the included documentaries with footage of the congressional hearings, he looked on in disbelief ("is this real?!
") I would have done a few things differently with this Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition, but it's still a remarkable trip back in time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Codemasters (2018)
Rating: Everyone 10+
I normally love arcade racers with unbridled speed, photorealistic graphics, and devastating wrecks, but I couldn't get into Onrush. The game offers a series of off-road races over hills, through shallow lakes, and around oversized satellite dishes. The sense of speed is exhilarating as you soar off ramps into lush green valleys. You can use turbo much of the time, and when you engage overdrive you scream past everybody else. But instead of fun it feels mostly mind-numbing. Most of the time I don't know what the [expletive] is going on. This partly stems from the confusing "team" format. A meter on top of the screen suggests a tug-of-war type contest, but I don't really know how that works. While racing through each course you'll see colorful icons and electric arcs between cars, but none seem to be of any consequence. Gray "zombie" cars and motorcycles materialize in your path, serving as cannon fodder you can easily smash to build your meter. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. Sometimes the game says "Victory" but then begins another round. I appreciate the photorealistic visuals and sensation of speed, but the music is grating and the psychedelic effects are annoying. I hate when that "wreck cam" kicks in - so boring. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I wreck - I never lose. The programmers clearly knew their way around the kitchen but this game's sense of progression is non-existent. Onrush is just too much - like a perfect slice of wedding cake that's too sweet to enjoy. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
Pac-Man Championship Edition 2
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2016)
This latest Pac-Man iteration crosses the line of "extreme" and teeters on the brink of "uncontrollable mess". As someone who cut his teeth of the original
Pac-Man (arcade, 1981) Championship Edition 2 (CE2) feels alien to me. It retains the classic sights and sounds but its spastic gameplay left me in a daze. CE2 runs at turbo speed but tosses out far too many well-established rules. You can now bump into ghosts
without dying! That's right - ghosts don't become hostile unless you bump into them a few times
. Getting the best score in five minutes is your goal. Clearing the maze is no longer your primary objective. Eating dots fills a meter which causes fruit or a power-pill to appear. Eating a piece of fruit inexplicably whisks you off to a new maze. Mazes are peppered with hollow green "sleeping ghosts", and by passing close
to them they awake to form "ghost trains". After eating a power pill you can consume the whole string of ghosts for big points and flashy effects. Instead of being completely filled with dots, the mazes have contrived dot trails which offer the optimal path for scoring points while avoiding collisions. Trying to following these paths is not easy because Pac-Man runs like Usain Bolt and the controls are touchy. Whether using the digital pad or analog stick you're constantly missing turns or getting caught on corners. Using a joystick helps. While pursuing the spastic ghosts it felt like it was pure luck whenever I caught one. Other new features include portals that hop you around the screen and a jump button that instantly returns you to your starting position (that's called "cheating" where I come from). The main "score attack mode" features dozens of game variations each with slightly tweaked rules and its own high score. But since you're rarely playing the same variation twice, playing for score doesn't hold much appeal. All these variations seem the same; I wish they just had decided on one instead. The flashy effects and pumping electronic music have a mesmerizing effect, but Pac-Man Championship Edition 2 never comes close to the playability or addictiveness of the original. Note: As a bonus the disc also contains arcade-perfect versions of Galaga, Dig Dug, and Pac-Man. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Farsight Studios (2013)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes)
I love pinball (I own two tables) but the machines are big, loud, and expensive. Pinball Arcade gives you 22 tables on a single disc. That's about $50,000 worth of games for forty bucks! The shiny, photo-realistic tables are downright mesmerizing with their beautiful art work, flashing lights, elevated lanes, and animated gadgets. Pinball is a vertically-oriented game, so a wide screen isn't the ideal viewing angle. Pinball Arcade tries to make the best of a bad situation by using a low camera set near the flippers. Yes, it's hard to discern targets on the far end of the table, but the camera will travel up the table if the ball lingers near the top. The digital display (score) is usually positioned in unused space on the left. The audio consists of catchy music, voices, and distinctive sound effects. Unfortunately these are not crystal clear and it can be hard to make out some of the voice samples. The controls are responsive enough, but feel a little "heavy" during multi-ball rounds when things get really frantic. The physics is dead on and the balls even reflect their surroundings. The game selection includes Medieval Mayhem, Black Knight, Star Trek (Next Generation), Cirqus Voltaire, Bride of Pinbot, Taxi, Tales of Arabian Nights, Harley Davidson, Attack From Mars, The Black Hole, and No Good Gofers. Several oldies from the 1970's are represented like Gorgon, Genie, and Big Shot. Horror-themed tables include Elvira, Scared Stiff, Twilight Zone, Monster Bash, and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Tables with a creepy carnival vibe include Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Funhouse, and Theater of Magic. So much ingenuity and creativity went into these intricately-crafted tables. The hologram in Creature from the Black Lagoon looks amazing, and The Black Hole features a trippy "reverse-gravity" sub-table. I only wish there was a way to peruse these tables freely. High scores are saved locally
with initials (thank God you don't need to be on-line). Quick games plus high scores equal unlimited replay value. My friends consider this their favorite PS4 game by far. The locked "seasons" on the main menu reflect future DLC releases, but considering the amount of content on this disc, it's hard to hold that against it. Pinball Arcade is pretty awesome, and it's nice to see a low profile title like this available on disc. Now the only question is, how are you going to spend that extra 50 grand that's burning a hole in your pocket? © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Pinball Arcade Season 2
Publisher: FarSight Technologies (2017)
Rating: Everyone 10+ (alcohol reference, fantasy violence, mild blood, mild language, suggestive themes)
(PS4, 2013) was among my favorite early PS4 titles, and Season 2 serves up no less than 20 more recreated classic tables!
Nothing can ever match the tactile experience of playing real pinball, but this might be the next best thing, and you can't beat the value. The first table that caught my eye was Haunted House - a game I've wanted to try for decades! It turned out to be less creepy than I hoped, but its "reverse gravity" basement sub-table is amazing. Terminator 2 is probably the most well-known table in this collection. Instead of a plunger you shoot the ball out of a gun! Several sci-fi themed games are included, with Pinbot standing out with its brilliant design and creepy robotic voice. If you're in the mood for adventure there's Arabian Nights and the jungle-themed El Dorado. Most of the remaining tables are more obscure, like Dr. Dude, Cactus Canyon, and Cue Ball Wizard. I found Cue Ball Wizard and the F1-themed Victory to be highly repetitive. I appreciate how each table includes a menu with its history, sales flyer, and custom balls (if you're into that kind of thing). One thing missing is the ability to freely peruse the table. Your view is generally fixed from the end of the table, and it's hard to make out the cool gadgets at the far end. The flipper controls feel great but I always forget I can nudge the table with the left stick. High scores are saved locally, separate from the online leaderboards. The developers have a genuine love for pinball and are on a mission to preserve these classics. They even included a glossy manual! Pinball Arcade Season 2 didn't rock my world like the first entry, but for pinball lovers this collection offers hours upon hours of enjoyment. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: MLB Advanced Media (2018)
I've played my share of realistic baseball games over the years, and it can be difficult to stay awake for a full nine innings. RBI Baseball 18 is a throwback to the old arcade-style baseball games with simple controls and brisk pacing. You know how some modern baseball games include a fast mode? Well in this case the whole damn game
is a fast mode. You can squeeze an entire 9-inning contest into about 30 minutes! No waiting for long foul balls or tossing the ball back to the pitcher here. Only the half-inning load screens slow things down, and I have no idea why they are needed. The game itself is pick-up-and-play. You know it's old-school when you can slide the pitcher side-to-side and move the hitter freely around the batter's box. The pitcher-batter screen features a high vantage point which makes it a little hard to judge the height of the pitch, but it's not hard to put the ball into play. Tossing the ball around the diamond is a cinch and turning double plays is a pleasure. The graphics and audio are best described as "good enough". There's not much razzle dazzle but there are nice touches like power hitters flicking their bat after belting a home run. I have to admit there are a lot of unnatural animations in the field, as well as AI hiccups that border on comical. I think that explains the lack of an instant replay! At Camden Yards every night is T-shirt night as the whole crowd is wearing the same orange shirt. The shy announcer is mainly limited to single words like "foul", "safe", and "whoops!" (during errors). RBI Baseball has all the MLB teams and stadiums, along with quick-play, franchise, and home run derby modes. I actually enjoyed the menu music, finding it far less abrasive than MLB The Show. Certain critics might be quick to dismiss a game like RBI Baseball 18 due to its lack of features and polish, but sometimes less is more and sometimes those imperfections add charm. I just think it's fun. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
RBI Baseball 2016
Publisher: MLB Advanced Media (2016)
After suffering through the excessive bloat of MLB The Show 16
(Sony, 2016), this budget title is a breath of fresh air. I can actually tolerate playing a full nine inning game, as it takes less than a half hour. RBI Baseball 2016 the spiritual successor to the 16-bit RBI Baseball games of the 1990's, and it looks the part. Don't expect cutting edge graphics here - or players in the dugout for that matter! No, this is an arcade-style game where all the players look pretty much the same. Sometimes when you switch pitchers the only thing that changes on the screen is the name! In fairness, Oriole reliever Darren O'Day does retain his sidearm delivery, so there is some attention to detail. Actually the stadiums look surprisingly good, especially at night with the lights casting a misty glow. The game's no-hassle main menu includes season, versus, and online modes. What makes RBI Baseball appealing is its breakneck pace. You can fire one pitch right after the next, never having to wait for on-screen prompts or the catcher to return the ball. Even most foul balls are quickly abbreviated with all players magically reset. The simple controls barely use half the buttons, and they feel good. Like any respectable old-school baseball title you can slide your pitcher side-to-side on the mound and likewise the batter slides around the batter's box. While pitching you can effectively "steer" your pitch on its way to the plate. When the ball is hit you get a nice high-angle view of the field. Flagging down pop flies is challenging but satisfying. RBI Baseball 2016 was originally only available online, and frankly it still has that "download-only smell". It's kind of hard to put the ball in play because the pitches come in so fast! If they were trying to simulate the difficulty of hitting a big league pitch, they nailed it. I noticed minor glitches here and there - sometimes to hilarious effect. This makes the lack of an instant replay all the more regrettable. I like how balls tend to curl down the line, but do they always
need to curl? Between half innings the game pauses for an annoying few seconds as you stare at some kind of plaid pattern. What is it doing?
RBI Baseball 2016 could use some fine tuning but if you're willing to trade realism for fun, this is just what the doctor ordered. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Raiden V: Director's Cut
Publisher: UFO Interactive (2017)
When I reviewed the Xbox One Japanese import of Raiden V I was thrilled at the idea of playing an old-school vertical shooter on a state-of-the-art console. I couldn't resist going back for this director's cut which includes a soundtrack CD. Raiden V is a real throwback. As you guide a ship over cities, forests, and rock formations you'll blast tanks on the ground and planes that swirl into formations. The graphics aren't terribly impressive. I'd say they look about PS3 quality but the camera is pulled so far back it's hard to make out much detail in the environments. The tiny missiles are hard to track but the collision detection is forgiving so your tiny red ship can "thread the needle" with ease. The game itself only consumes the middle third of the screen, with the sides decorated with superfluous colorful screens and indicators. I have to admit I like having all those things around because they look so cool. The difficult is very reasonable compared to most "bullet hell" shooters. There are some really elaborate weapons to choose from, but imaginative doesn't always amount to fun. I hate that pink energy stream that twists and turns around the screen. I feel like it's doing all the work for you. You have a limited supply of bombs along with "cheer attacks" which have more meaning if you're playing online. Raiden V has a soaring musical score and jarring explosion sound effects. Your commanders can be heard chatting on your radio, and while their casual conversations add a bit of levity, they are hard to hear over the explosions. The story mode saves your high score locally, displays it on the top right. There's also a stage select. I was expecting a bit more razzle dazzle but Raiden V should keep old-school shooter fans happy for a while. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 34BigThings (2016)
With a love for futuristic racers like Wipeout: Omega Collection
(Sony, 2017) I was chomping at the bit to give Redout a test drive. In the months before its release I heard rumors about online requirements, but these were false. The box even states "online play optional" and I wish more games were as forthcoming. Redout is quite offline-friendly, with self-contained career, arcade, and split-screen modes. I just wish this high-speed racer was a little more fun
. It puts you on a series of rollercoaster-like tracks with corkscrews, loops, and ramps. The sense of speed is decent, the frame rate smooth, and the controls robust. In addition to normal steering controls you use the right stick to strafe and adjust your pitch. Apply the brakes around tight turns because scraping the walls too much will compromise your hull integrity. In other words, you'll blow up. The tracks are just the right length (about a minute per lap) and upbeat electronic music sets the tone nicely. The career mode offers a variety of challenges including time trials and elimination races. Each track has a different look but frankly I found them to be really boring! Maybe it's because you're so close to the ground, but you really can't take in the scenery. Heck, you can barely follow the track ahead. The turbo boost creates a "wind sheer" effect but it doesn't seem like you're moving any faster. I rarely see other vehicles on the track so I don't even feel like I'm racing. I made steady progress in the career mode but didn't feel like I was working towards anything. The split-screen mode is kind of dull because it lacks a sense of speed. I wanted to like Redout but with each play I found myself growing increasingly disinterested. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
Publisher: Capcom (2017)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)
The first hour of Resident Evil 7 is extraordinary. Searching for your long lost girlfriend in a remote Louisiana bayou, you find yourself trapped in a derelict house where you are held prisoner and brutally tortured by a demented family. Upon escaping you find yourself hunted by the individual family members. Sound like fun? More like disturbing. The new first-person perspective puts you right smack in your own personal nightmare. RE7 is clearly influenced by a laundry list of horror flicks including Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blair Witch Project, and Evil Dead 2. The fact that everything looks so realistic truly immerses you in a world of decay and squalor, with all sorts of makeshift rooms and passageways. It's like being in a virtual haunted house, with lighting so effective even your own shadow
will make you jump. The surround sound audio effects are equally unsettling, and they scared the hell
out of my cat Willow. RE7 oozes with atmosphere, particularly in its dark, marshy outdoor areas. One drawback to its cinematic approach is that the action feels contrived. It's a pretty helpless feeling as you're being swarmed by insects and stalked by family members impervious to attack. They usually come barging in when you least expect it, much like Nemesis in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis
(PS1, 1999). It was almost a relief when I encountered a slime monster I could actually kill
. The game gradually reverts to the classic Resident Evil conventions, reprising well-worn cliches like turning cranks, locating a lost generator fuse, and collecting keys of various shapes. I like how pressing the touch pad brings up the map. When you feel stuck you're probably just one item away from unlocking a new area. RE7 falters badly in terms of an inventory system, which somehow manages to be inferior to the one in the original Resident Evil
(PS1, 1996)! The items are so tiny you can't make them out, and the interface for manipulating them is clumsy and confusing. During one boss encounter I couldn't grab a chainsaw because my inventory was full (a common occurrence). Why can't I drop my shotgun? Why can't I combine my bullets with the handgun? The action doesn't pause while accessing your inventory, so I was getting slaughtered
while juggling items. Likewise the antiquated save system encourages you to constantly backtrack to the nearest tape recorder. You'd expect fast loading from a game with a mandatory install, yet this has got the longest load times I've ever experienced in my entire life! Resident Evil 7 is not for the faint of heart. It may be the scariest Resident Evil, but it's also the most painful. Bump up the grade by a letter around Halloween. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Retro City Rampage DX
Publisher: VBlank Entertainment (2016)
With a name like Retro City Rampage I expected an homage to the old side-scrolling beat-em-up River City Ransom
(NES, 1988). But I got more - a lot
more! This game feels like a parody of classic video games. Which ones? All
of them I think! Off the cuff I noticed references to Duck Hunt
(NES, 1984), Frogger
(Atari 2600, 1982), Super Mario Bros.
(NES, 1985), Robotron 2084
(Atari 5200, 1983), Metal Gear
(NES, 1989), Paperboy
(NES, 1988), Sonic the Hedgehog
(Genesis, 1991), and Mortal Kombat
(Genesis, 1993). Classic elements are reflected in the characters, dialog, mini-games, and tongue-in-cheek cutscenes. The scenes at the start of the game are so rapid-fire you'll struggle just to keep up! Retro City Rampage settles into a sandbox adventure formula like the original Grand Theft Auto
(PS1, 1991) with a time-travel story plot inspired by Back to the Future. The purposely-pixelated graphics feature tiny characters, but even at its low resolution the humor comes through. You can carjack any vehicle, and as you speed around town you'll bump into pixelated pedestrians and sending them flying. Frankly it's hard to navigate the streets and not
cause mayhem. You can also run around on foot and even enter many establishments. The problem with Retro City Rampage is that it's not particularly fun to play. You'll repo cars, settle debts, and steal computer codes, but most of the time you're just running errands. Fetch quests have you traveling from one end of town to the other and it gets tiresome. Multiple arrows around the perimeter of the screen point to new missions but they are hard to follow. Even the mini-games inspired by classics like Frogger or Paperboy fail to register on the fun meter. The frenetic electronic music isn't particularly catchy but it does perfectly reproduce that distinctive NES sound. This is a hard game to review. The concept is brilliant and the classic references serve to highlight just how comically absurd
the old games were. There's even an NES-style instruction manual. Retro City Rampage is more a novelty item than a game, but if you're a retro gamer it's bound to make you smile if not laugh out loud. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Psyonix (2016)
Don't be fooled by its budget price; Rocket League is one of the best video games of this generation. From the title I expected some kind of stunt racer, but this is a smash-up-derby soccer game! You drive vehicles around an enclosed arena while trying to knock a giant ball into your opponent's goal. I've seen the concept attempted before as mini-games in racing titles, but Rocket League executes the formula to perfection. This arcade-style extravaganza supports up to four players via local split-screen!
That's a rarity in this modern age where most games are designed to be played solely online. And the action is so smooth!
Naturally, you can also play online where you'll find a very active community. Rocket League's action is fast and chaotic but there's plenty of room for technique. Much like indoor soccer you'll want to work the boards and try to center shots for teammates. You can ride up walls, boost, jump, and flip into the air. When you get good at "heading" you can deflect the ball in mid-air. The five-minute matches are so exciting I find myself contorting my body to finesse the ball into the goal. The sense of speed is fantastic and the fact that I didn't feel the need to tweak the default camera is a testament to the game's quality. The arenas feature some interesting scenery including industrial, aquarium, and metropolis themes. An addictive season mode lets you customize the action to your heart's content. In addition to "soccar" there's a "snow day" hockey mode with iced-over arenas including one with a Christmas theme! Playing with a puck is a little easier because it doesn't bounce around as much. I'll pass on the basketball variations however which are just entirely too hard. I find it odd how there's no music during competition, especially since the electronic dance music that plays over the menus is so good! My other qualm is the coarse difficulty scale; three difficulties are not enough. But these are minor quibbles considering how inherently fun Rocket League is. And how many other PS4 games can you just toss into your console when your buddies come over and have a great time? © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
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