I was happy to see a beautiful Autumn-themed course complete with scenic bridges, ponds, and stately clubhouses. Once you get the hang of it PGA's gameplay feels natural and at times practically effortless. Holding L1 lets you "shape" you shot, applying draw, fade, or loft. The directional pad lets you shuffle through clubs or shot types. The lovely graphics feature lifelike spectators lining the course but they inexplicably don't flinch when an errant shot comes their way. There are few lulls in the action and loading between holes is negligible. You can play a round in well under a half hour!
The commentary is understated and polite. So what's the problem? Well 2K's blood-sucking lawyers must have put in some serious overtime to draft two of the longest EULAs I've ever been forced to scroll through. 90% of the game requires you to be online with no stats retained for local play. I had to download a huge patch just to play the career mode. That patch failed to fix my shot percentage of the bottom of the screen which is almost completely cut off.
Setting up a two-player local match is a hassle and you're stuck with names like "VideoGameCritic1 (Guest)". That's a shame because the game itself is rock solid. Striking a nice balance of realism and playability, time flies while playing this. It's heavy reliance on the internet is a bummer but PGA Tour 2K21 is probably the best new golf game I've played in 20 years. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
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 follow 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.
This remake retains the spirit of the original, placing you in a magical realm where giant centipedes burrow through the desert and armored dragons battle flying airships. Panzer Dragoon owes much of its shooting mechanics to Star Fox (SNES, 1993) and Star Wars Arcade (Sega 32X, 1995). You view your dragon from behind as it flies in a predetermined course. You can adjust your position on the screen to avoid obstacles and dodge shots.
It takes a while to get a feel for the controls. There's no tutorial and that's a problem because if you just start fiddling with buttons the camera goes haywire. X is to shoot and O lets you to lock onto multiple targets, releasing a barrage of missiles that never seem to miss. I love the metallic "ting" sound of a lock-on, and it's satisfying to watch a swarm of missiles obliterate their targets.
It's a good strategy to first lock onto as many targets as you can, and after unleashing missiles immediately go nuts with your fire button to obliterate inbound projectiles. The problem is, this technique is hard on the wrist. Why isn't there a rapid-fire button? Upon taking a hit, you hear what sounds like a huge can of Pepsi opening from your controller speaker.
Two other buttons let you rotate left or right in 90-degree increments. These are necessary because enemies fly all around you and you'll need to keep them in view to shoot them down. It's kind of a clunky system. With thumbstick technology you'd expect to be able to freely rotate 360 degrees.
Enemies tend to assume the forms of giant mutant insects, birds, or crabs. There are some massive bosses that change form as their armored exterior falls away. Unfortunately the bosses are so time-consuming that fighting them grows tiresome.
Panzer Dragoon features beautifully artistic visuals and smooth animation. The aquatic ruins of the first stage are magnificent. I love how gracefully the columns collapse into the blue waters. Other standout stages include a lush mountain forest and a golden city at sunset. The orchestrated score lends weight to a story that I could not follow to save my life.
There's a statistics screen and bonus modes to unlock, but the lack of an arcade mode is disappointing. The replay value just isn't there. Apparently the designers chose to remain very faithful to the original game for better or worse. Panzer Dragoon Remake should be pleasing to fans but feels like a lost opportunity. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
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.
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.
R-Type Final 2 begins with an immersive first-person take-off sequence which is fun to watch the first time. The game itself has everything shooter fans crave, with mysterious space environments, crisp explosions, and astounding firepower. In the first stage you creep through the wreckage of a destroyed space station, and it's pretty awe-inspiring. Unfortunately subsequent stages aren't nearly as compelling.
By default you have a rapid-fire blaster and a charge weapon. You'll gather power-ups early and often, including a satellite that serves as both a shield and auxiliary fire. Between experimenting with various weapons and positioning this satellite around the screen, the possibilities are endless. Play your cards right and most enemy ships are obliterated before they can even come into view. Novice players will grab every shiny new weapon icon that comes along, but that can be a mistake.
Your ship is large and not very maneuverable, making it easy to run out of real estate or paint yourself into a corner. There's quite a bit of trial and error as you painstakingly discover which areas of the screen are "safe" during boss encounters. Upon death the screen freezes momentarily which is supposed to be for dramatic effect but looks more like a glitch. The boss explosions are somewhat lame; more pop than bang.
R-Type Final 2 lacks the spontaneity of classic shooters but learning its patterns can be fun too. Its soundtrack has a dramatic, almost operatic quality. High scores are recorded for both the overall game and per stage. I enjoyed playing R-Type Final 2 but it's slow, methodical pace tends to keep a lid on the excitement. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
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.
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 is a real throwback. As you guide a small 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 difficulty 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.
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.
The premise has a team of soldiers descending upon a sprawling old mansion loaded with traps, puzzles, and shambling zombies. This game just oozes with atmosphere. The antiquated furniture looks properly deteriorated. Shadows dance across walls. Overgrown outdoor areas are shrouded in fog. Even the knotty wooden doors look creepy.
You can play as Chris Redfield or Jill Valentine, and I regretted choosing Chris as he can only carry a paltry six items. Heck, two of those slots are taken by ink ribbons (to save) and a weapon. In fairness, this adds more strategy as you must carefully weigh what's worth carrying at a given time.
Despite its impressive HD makeover Resident Evil plays essentially the same. Camera angles are fixed, abruptly changing as you run through each room. This heightens the sense of claustrophobia and suspense, but can also be disconcerting and wreak havoc with the controls. It's too easy to accidentally head back the way you just came, especially during high-pressure situations. Unlike the slow-moving zombies of the original game, these guys will lunge at you before you can even react.
The excellent audio effects are subtle, like the sound of boots walking over a marble floor or damp carpet. It's easy to get stuck in the early-going but once things open up this game is absolutely gripping. Rooms on the map are color-coded to indicate if they still contain points of interest, which is extremely helpful. I love how defensive items (like the dagger) are used automatically when needed. Resident Evil may be the great-grandaddy of survival horror but it still stands as one of the very best. Note: Reviewed from the Resident Evil Origins collection. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
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.
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 more 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 touchpad 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.
Village starts like Resident Evil 4 (GameCube, 2005) as you stumble upon a decimated old village with few survivors. It's supposed to be an old European town so why do the inhabitants sound American? The scope of this game is sprawling. Beyond the village is a castle, old mansion, mineshaft, docks, and factory.
You play as Ethan Winters who is out to save his daughter but this dude really gets put through the ringer. He gets half of his hand cut off, is impaled through the chest, gets hung on a wall by meat hooks, and has his head bashed through the floor. And you thought you had a bad day.
The game offers a nice variety of combat, exploration, puzzle-solving, and good old-fashioned running for your life. As you scour rooms for keys, fuses, and cranks, the sound of growling ghouls had me jumping at the sight of my own shadow. That giant vampire-witch-lady really scared the living [expletive] out of me. What a great character. When she ducks into your room it's time to get moving.
The photorealistic visuals are stunning, with everything looking convincingly aged, weathered, and decrepit. Interior areas tend to be claustrophobic but the outdoors areas project a certain beauty with snow on the ground, overcast skies, and torches casting an eerie yellow glow. The soundtrack is understated but when those quick violin notes kick in your blood will run cold.
Complaints? Well remember what a pain those old Resident Evil inventory systems were? I didn't think Capcom could come up with anything worse but I underestimated them. I also dislike how when you "press X to examine", your inventory screen pops up before you even know what you're looking at. The village layout has an annoying maze configuration. You save progress via typewriters, but they are well-placed and frequent checkpoints ensure you won't have to repeat much.
My main issue with Village is its overwrought, overly-long ending. Or should I say endings. This game has more endings than Lord of the Rings for crying out loud. They just go on and on, and I can only roll my eyes for so long. By the time the unnecessary post-credit scene appeared I had completely lost interest.
Overall Resident Evil Village is a great Halloween game and a terrific value. If you're afraid of something it's probably in this game: witches, vampires, graveyards, werewolves, zombies, windmills, dolls, demonic babies - you name it. Village borrows from so much from previous Resident Evil games it kind of feels like Resident Evil Greatest Hits. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
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 send 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.
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 do 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.
Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com