Playstation 4 Reviews N-O

NBA 2K14
Grade: B-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/2/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI'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.

1 to 4 players 

NBA 2K15
Grade: C
Publisher: 2K Sports (2014)
Reviewed: 2015/1/7
Rating: Everyone (mild lyrics)

screenshotI really wish 2K Sports would hire me on as a consultant. I could have easily pointed out a number of glaring flaws with 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 sports 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.

1 to 4 players 

NBA 2K16
Grade: C-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2015)
Reviewed: 2016/2/13
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNBA 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 the main menu to apply an 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 post game 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.

1 to 4 players 

NBA 2K17
Grade: C-
Publisher: 2K Sports (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/3/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNBA 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'Neal 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.

1 to 4 players 

NCAA Football 21
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2021)
Reviewed: 2021/4/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOnce a powerhouse franchise, EA was forced to vacate their college football license in 2014 after being sued for unauthorized use of player likenesses. In the intervening years NCAA Football 14 (Xbox 360, 2013) has become a collector's item of sorts. So how is it that EA can resume production? All the players are now wearing masks! It's a brilliant ruse in which EA appears to be advocating personal responsibility while letting themselves off the legal hook!

NCAA College Football 21 is very similar to NCAA Football 14. In fact, if you squint at the fine print on the title screen, it actually says NCAA Football 2014. Somebody missed a search-and-replace! But don't go thinking the good old days are back just yet. Shortly after this game was greenlit several last-minute court injunctions were handed down, forcing EA to scale it back considerably.

First and foremost, EA could only reach licensing agreements with eight schools, and we aren't exactly talking about powerhouses here. Nope, you'll be hitting the gridiron with the likes of Delta State's Fighting Okra, Williams College Purple Cows, and the Long Reach Dirtbags (yes, these are real - look 'em up). I opted to build my program around the Saint Louis Billikens despite having no idea what the [expletive] a Billiken is. In a less-than-reassuring press release EA stated that several additional teams would later be made available via DLC including - fingers crossed - the Evergreen State Geoducks!

I appreciate realism in a sports game but this time EA went too far. The sparse crowds are understandable in this COVID era, but after painstakingly setting up a season the game informed me that my first four games were cancelled due to an outbreak. Was that really necessary?! And while I'm all for physically distancing in real life, there's no place for it on the football field. The fact that the referees enforce this rule is a complete joke.

Normally the create-a-player feature lets you work around the limitations of a sports game but this one is glitchy. When I would change my players' skin tone it inexplicably set his pants to the same color, so now it looks like my entire team is running around bare-assed! It's unintentionally funny but in all seriousness EA has a disaster on their hands the magnitude of a Star Wars: Battlefront II (Electronic Arts, 2018). Instead of providing a much-needed escape during these trying times, NCAA Football 21 is just making life much, much worse. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

NHL 15
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2014)
Reviewed: 2015/2/6
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild violence)


screenshotAs the first hockey title for the PS4, NHL 15 is an undeniably good-looking game. Its 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 it 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.

1 to 4 players 

NHL 16
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2015)
Reviewed: 2016/1/31
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt'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 ones, 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 a better 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.

1 or 2 players 

Need For Speed Rivals
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/3/2
Rating: Everyone 10+ (mild violence)

screenshotOn 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.

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1 player 

Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition
Grade: B+

screenshotNight Trap (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 trapdoor. 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 was able to notice a lot of subtle details for the first time like a boat next to the driveway.

This game offers an extended intro I had never seen before, and there's also a new "enhanced mode". This new 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.

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1 player 

Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Grade: C+
Publisher: Young Horses (2014)
Reviewed: 2020/12/6
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotReview contributed by DaHeckIzDat of the RPG Crew and edited by the VGC.
Originally designed to be played using a mouse, Octodad: Dadliest Catch is one game I never expected to experience on a console. You play the role of a creature trying to keep his human wife and children from discovering that he's actually an octopus, all the while on the run from a psychotic sushi chef.

The game is a strange physics puzzler/platformer hybrid. The controls are intentionally wonky and it's hilarious to witness Octodad clumsily flop around and knock things over while attempting to perform the simplest tasks. Having no bones means he can twist and stretch in any direction, making something as mundane as walking look entertaining.

The writing is funny too, with Octodad gurgling hilarious answers to his hyperactive children and oblivious wife. The game takes you through a typical day of household chores, grocery shopping, and finally a family trip to the aquarium. Dadliest Catch can be beaten in three or four hours which feels just about right.

The game shines when it's encouraging you to do things as chaotically as possible, like pouring milk or grabbing groceries off shelves. I was annoyed when expected to win an arcade basketball game, until I realized I could cheat by climbing inside of the machine! The charm does begin to wane in later stages, where untying knots, climbing ladders, and sneaking past guards proves more aggravating than fun. Making a mess is half the appeal so why is the game punishing me for it? Octodad: Dadliest Catch is an odd duck but it's more than worth the price for a few hours of silly fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Onrush
Grade: D-
Publisher: Codemasters (2018)
Reviewed: 2020/3/15
Rating: Everyone 10+

screenshotI normally love arcade racers with unbridled speed, photorealistic graphics, and devastating wrecks, but I just couldn't get into Onrush. I tried. 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 can 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. It's 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.


new Outlast
Grade: A-
Publisher: Red Barrels (2014)
Reviewed: 2021/10/19
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language)

screenshotReview contributed by DaHeckIzDat.
Amnesia may have kicked off the run-and-hide horror game trend, but Outlast perfected it. You play a reporter investigating rumors of inhumane experiments at an asylum, only to discover the inmates have taken over the place. Trapped inside with only your video camera, you must survive long enough to uncover the truth and hopefully live to tell the tale.

Outlast plays almost identically to Amnesia, except your camera substitutes for the lantern. As you venture deep into the facility your camera's night vision mode comes to your aid when the lights are out, which they almost always are. With no means to defend yourself, encountering a disfigured psycho means your only choice is to get the hell out.

Inmates give chase but if you're able to break their line of sight by hiding in a locker or under a bed, they will give up and leave. I will admit the game became less scary when I realized I could sometimes lose them by running circles around a table like a Scooby Doo cartoon.

As with Amnesia, light is a valuable resource that you'll want to conserve. I'm not a fan of games where your screen goes completely black, but fortunately there are enough batteries lying around that this is a rare occurrance.

You'll have the pleasure of getting close and personal with several of the hospital’s residents, including a hulking brute with no nose, a doctor with a penchant for dismemberment, and a pair of naked, smooth-talking finger slashers. The sight of these two freaks approaching is the stuff of nightmares.

There isn't much depth to the story but it's more than sufficient enough for a thrill ride like this - at least until it goes completely bonkers near the end. Outlast is the kind of game horror buffs should seek out, especially around Halloween. It improves upon the Amnesia formula so well that you'll find yourself sleeping with the lights on - if at all. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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