Xbox One Reviews A-D

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Grade: A-
Publisher: Activision (2014)
Reviewed: 2015/1/24
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, drug reference, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotJust when I thought I was sick of Call of Duty games, Advanced Warfare came along and refused to release hold of my Xbox One. The series is known for bringing war to video games but this latest entry brings video games to war!

Set in the near future, the plot centers around a renegade technology company called Atlas that produces high-tech weaponry with no government affiliation. It's run by a shady character played by Kevin Spacey, an actor well-known for portraying ruthless, powerful figures. He really has the gravitas to keep you tuned into the dramatic cut-scenes. Speaking of cut-scenes, the character models are so lifelike you need to look extra close to make sure you're not watching actual video!

Playing the role of a soldier employed by Atlas, you're equipped with an exoskeleton that gives you the ability to hover, double jump (!), and climb metal walls like Spider-Man. Futuristic weapons include smart grenades that home in on enemies and "threat" grenades that "paint" enemies red. There are holograms, hoverbikes, drone swarms, and mechanical house flies that scout out locations. Diverse missions take you to war zones around the globe including Korea, Nigeria, Greece, Iraq, and scariest of all... Detroit! The scenery is spectacular and I can't imagine how many people were involved in fleshing out these expansive, elaborate worlds.

The missions are short enough to hold your attention (well under an hour) yet packed with more than a few twists and turns. You'll find yourself in pulse-pounding predicaments, like standing on a speeding bus while trying to shoot down a chopper with a missile launcher! This game will make you forget to blink! Some missions are more tedious (read: stealth) but each has a different theme. The crisp sound effects are amazing and vibration is also used to good effect.

The campaign is a blast but I wish it indicated when it was saving your progress. The local multiplayer modes are terrific aside from that annoying "system hacked" attack that obscures your vision. I should also mention that the Xbox One pairs controllers with profiles, which makes setting up a local match a headache (who designed this console?!). And was Advanced Warfare really the best name Activision could come up with?! It's easily confused with previous Call of Duty titles like Modern Warfare. Was "Future Warfare" taken? It's too bad, because unlike what its generic title would imply, Advanced Warfare is not just more of the same. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Call of Duty: Ghosts
Grade: C
Publisher: Activision (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/8/5
Rating: Mature (blood, drug reference, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotLike past Call of Duty titles, Ghosts delivers realistic first-person shooting with varied missions and action-packed scenarios. What the game fails to deliver is a next-generation playing experience. As with most current cross-platform titles, I might as well be playing this on my Xbox 360.

Ghosts does immediately grab your attention with its opening mission set in outer space. A laser-equipped satellite is being hijacked, and if you think the idea of a shootout in space sounds like fun, you would be right. This end-of-your-seat sequence has a cinematic flair similar to the film Gravity.

When the laser strikes the earth it leaves cities like Los Angeles in crumbling ruins with buildings standing precariously along gaping chasms. If that's not bad enough, a federation formed in South America is invading the USA. The freshness of the story quickly wears off however as the game settles into familiar Call of Duty territory.

You'll defend beaches, creep through foliage, take cover behind barricades, and shoot down helicopters with rocket launchers. The campaign mode is engaging enough, and I like how you're never doing the same thing twice. Unfortunately it's also so linear that you often wonder if you're having any impact or are just along for the ride.

The auto-aim makes it easy to pick off enemies, but it's hard to run from grenades, so get used to tossing them back! One new addition is an attack dog named Riley who can be controlled via a mounted camera. Like the drones in Killzone: Shadow Fall (Playstation 4, 2013), Riley can scout out new areas and maul unsuspecting foes.

For such a mature franchise, Ghosts feels undercooked. There's no auto-save during the missions, which I had to learn the hard way. Towards the end of one mission the game went completely belly-up and dumped me back into the Xbox dashboard! My friends and I noticed there are fewer local multiplayer (split-screen) modes than previous Call of Duty titles which doesn't bode well for the future.

The campaign has no local coop, and the split-screen modes are limited to two players. A new "extinction mode" lets you fend off increasingly intense waves of aliens. It's supposed to be like the Horde mode in Gears of War 2 (Xbox 360, 2008) but there's one big difference: it absolutely sucks. Call of Duty: Ghosts has its share of white-knuckle thrills, but it has the look of a franchise in decline. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Dead Rising 3
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2013)
Reviewed: 2014/10/26
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, sexual content, strong language, use of alcohol)

screenshotIn the spirit of the classic George Romero "Living Dead" zombie films, Dead Rising 3 conveys that same sense of desperation you experience when a zombie epidemic strikes your town. In its unnerving opening sequence you find yourself in a pitch-dark containment facility surrounded by cages bursting at the seams with growling, hissing, screeching undead about to break loose. Eventually your team up with a band of survivors and seek cover in a garage. From there you'll embark on a series of frantic missions with the goal of getting an airplane into working condition.

As with previous Dead Rising games, you can use any object as a weapon, from a chainsaw to a guitar to a freakin' watermelon. Blueprints let you combine items into super weapons like an electrified hammer or a rake of swords. Dismembering and bludgeoning zombies is easy and fun. Yes, as progressive as our society purports to be, zombie bashing remains quite acceptable. Slow and easy to shake off, you can charge into a mob and often emerge no worse for wear.

One awesome aspect of the game is the vehicles. Whether you're driving an SUV, motorcycle, or steamroller (!), plowing through the undead hordes is crazy fun. I also like the game's sense of progression. The storyline may be linear but events unfold in an organic way and there are oodles of optional side quests. Dead Rising 3 lacks the suspense like a zombie film but I did jump out of my seat a few times. The town is an interesting place to explore, and I appreciate the diversity of zombies in various states of decay.

My main beef is with the controls. When multiple items are close together, it's hard to pick up the right one, and sometimes the buttons feel unresponsive. The mechanism for switching weapons is clumsy, and since it doesn't pause the action you'll take damage while fumbling through your inventory. The camera behaves itself when driving forward, but once you put the gear in reverse, it's all over the place. In addition to occasional autosaves, you can save your progress at latrines.

Dead Rising 3 doesn't take itself too seriously, sometimes to its detriment. When I accidentally put on that giant Lego head, I couldn't get it off, and it took me forever to find something a little less ridiculous to replace it with. As you can imagine, that really took the edge off the cut-scenes! I wouldn't regard Dead Rising 3 a must-have game, but it's one of the stronger titles for the Xbox One. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Dead Rising 4
Grade: B-
Publisher: Capcom (2016)
Reviewed: 2018/12/30
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotHow does Dead Rising 4 distinguish itself in a sea of zombie games? It's a Christmas title! If you don't believe me just listen to that holiday music and look at the decorated tree on the title screen. This is every bit as Christmas as Die Hard!

Dead Rising 4 puts you in the role of a wisecracking photographer who finds himself in the throes of a zombie apocalypse in the small town of Willamette. There's a lot to see and do. The mall is a fun place to hang out, especially in the area that looks like Medieval Times. In downtown you can have a blast plowing through mobs with a snow-plow. When exploring on foot the scenery is loaded with items, most of which can be used as weapons. Sure there are traditional weapons like swords and machine guns, but you can also swing a lamp or vacuum cleaner. My personal favorite is the high-powered leaf blower!

Capcom has dumbed down the weapon crafting, but not dumb enough for this critic! When I had to combine a handgun and computer I couldn't figure out why the laptop wouldn't work. Usually the two items you need are in close vicinity to the weapon blueprint. You can also outfit yourself with outrageous costumes, and somehow I ended up looking like the guy from Ghouls 'N Ghosts (Genesis, 1989). This made the ensuing cut-scenes look ridiculous.

A helpful yellow arrow on your map guides you to your next objective and there are always multiple routes and side quests. Occasionally the game enters a Batman-style "investigation mode" where you need to mess around with various cameras and vision modes to obtain clues. Dead Rising 4 is at its best when you need to scrounge for items to overcome adversity. Need to defeat that woman with the flaming sword? Maybe this rocket-propelled grenade launcher will help!

My main complaint has to do with unnecessarily overcomplicated controls. The Xbox One controller has plenty of buttons; why must we hold in certain buttons to perform for basic functions? There were times when I was holding a bomb but for the life of me could not figure out how to throw the damn thing. So I beat somebody over the head with it instead! Inventory management is a nightmare as well. When did Capcom forget how to make games? Despite its horrible controls Dead Rising 4 serves up a captivating blend of gratuitous gore and Christmas cheer. If you're up for some holiday-themed zombie action, you will appreciate Dead Rising 4's brand of seasonally-correct violence. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Dead or Alive Backgammon
Grade: B
Publisher: Koei (2016)
Reviewed: 2016/4/1
Rating: Mature

screenshotThe game of Backgammon was invented 5000 years ago, which is exactly how long we've been waiting for a high definition version of the wildly unpopular board game. Atari's super-low-def Backgammon (Atari 2600, 1979) is just not gonna cut it in 2016. Dice, chips, and triangles are objects that must be appreciated in HD.

Persistent rumors that 2K Sports would release an "extreme" Backgammon title never came to fruition, so it's a good thing Koei stepped up with this Xbox One exclusive. The board and pieces look photo-realistic, but it's the smoking-hot babes that really steal the show. That's right, your opponents are scantily clad ladies in various states of undress. Some might find this element to be of questionable taste, but in fact it's vital to maintain continuity with previous Dead or Alive games.

The girls may be hot, but being the objective reviewer I was able to look past their physical attributes and appreciate them for their intelligence (artificial notwithstanding). Kasumi is a well-endowed player who will try to distract you with seductive poses. Christie has some kind of dominatrix thing happening and Tina has an amazing rack. When these hotties celebrate victory, you'll get a physics lesson you'll never forget. I find myself losing this game a lot.

I'm really glad the sexist video game industry is finally doing something about the lack of female characters in video games. It's a problem that needed to be undressed - I mean addressed! And to think - I was never even a checkers fan until now. Checkers... backgammon... whatever! Oh and by the way, the widely-circulated "nude code" for this game turned out to be a complete hoax. I'd love to know what pervert fabricated that lie, because I was up till 3AM trying to get it to work. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Doom
Grade: B+
Publisher: ZeniMax Media (2016)
Reviewed: 2016/5/31
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotAs a fan of the original Doom (PS1, 1995) I was stoked over this shiny new remake. It's a shame we had to get off on the wrong foot. After a painful install process and issues with my account, I was suffering from a serious case of buyer's remorse. It's bad enough having to go online to install a game from disc, but an online requirement for the single-player campaign?!

Unimpressive at first, Doom borrows familiar elements from Halo, Rage, Dead Space, and most other first-person shooters of recent years. You run around the rocky Mars landscape blasting shambling zombies and fireball-tossing imps that dart all over the place. I wasn't expecting such a frantic pace, but I like the "shoot it til it's dead" simplicity. You walk over ammo to pick it up and collect key cards to open new areas. You move at one speed, and that's "running!"

As its atmosphere grew increasingly hellish I warmed up to Doom. It's fun to acquire classic weapons like the plasma gun, rocket launcher, and double-barreled shotgun. The first time you use the chainsaw and BFG-9000 are certifiable wow moments. I was fascinated by the high-definition incarnations of memorable foes like Barons of Hell, Pinkies, and Cacodemons. It's satisfying to blast them into meaty chunks as you sprint through their splattering guts. "Glory kills" are easy-to-perform finishing moves that let you do crazy stuff like beat a demon with its own arm or snatch out its heart and stuff it down its throat.

Selecting a weapon using the right button and right stick can be a bit clumsy however. Also, I don't like how certain weapons (like the chainsaw) are accessed via buttons instead. Each area of the game is a chaotic run-and-gun battle and the action is relentless! Just when you think the mayhem has finally subsided two more Barons of Hell get tossed into the mix. There's a surprising amount of platform jumping but at least it's forgiving thanks to a double-jump move. The vertigo-inducing tower stage is a little extreme but I will admit my heart was racing when I finally reached the top.

A 3D map is available but it's so densely layered it can be hard to understand. The music is industrial guitar with some post-apocalyptic vocals sprinkled in. The unsung hero of the game may be the silky smooth framerate. Some first-person shooters make me woozy after extended play, yet I could play Doom all day. This new Doom lacks the brooding mystique of the original but it's nothing if not visceral. It's also not bug-free (I got lodged in the scenery) although I hear the PC version is much worse. The online requirement royally sucks but as a game Doom ranks near the top of the Xbox One food chain. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.



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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Amazon.com, Xbox Marketplace, GameSpot, Gematsu, Moby Games