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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Xbox One Reviews O-R

Ori and the Blind Forest
Grade: D
Publisher: Microsoft (2015)
Posted: 2020/2/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotOri and the Blind Forest begins with a tear-jerking intro sequence I really could have done without. You're a small white bunny-like creature that can climb, somersault, and fire colorful heat-seeking missiles a la Panzer Dragoon (Saturn, 1995). This firepower is the one notable aspect of an otherwise tedious, repetitive platformer.

The natural scenery and tranquil soundtrack are pleasant but unremarkable. Lurking in each area are spiders, slugs, and blob monsters that toss explosives your way. The platforming is made difficult by the preponderance of prickly plants that tend to blend into their surroundings. You'll typically find them at the bottom of any pit you happen to fall into. Ori is the type of game where you'll need to repeat a difficult section 20 times until you get it perfect, getting pelted or crushed with each failed attempt. I know of only one person who thrives on this kind of sadistic gameplay and he will go unnamed, Brent!

Ori moves with fluid grace but the controls are more soft than exact. When hopping between narrow ledges I often miss the mark and then have to frantically overcompensate. And all those portals that deposit you in random places? What are the odds they'll place you over spikes? Better than average! Collecting various "cells" affects your life, energy, and abilities.

But what really annoys me is the save system. With few exceptions you need to create your own save points - using cells of course. It sounds innovative on paper but sucks in real life. Once you will get lost in Ori's magical world you'll forget to save, only to later realize you just lost a load of progress. After learning that painful lesson you'll want to plant save points like they're going out of style, but that's not very fun. Ori and the Blind Forest is good-natured and artistic, but it's also difficult to play and harder to enjoy. For a superior platforming experience I would recommend Hollow Knight (Switch, 2019) instead. Late note: Brent is no longer returning my calls. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Quantum Break
Grade: B-
Publisher: Microsoft (2016)
Posted: 2021/6/16
Rating: Mature (blood, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotDeveloped by the people who brought you Alan Wake (Xbox 360, 2010), Quantum Break is a AAA title with amazing production values. Playing a man named Jack Joyce you visit a friend on a college campus in the middle of the night to see some secret experiment in a physics lab. It turns out to be a time machine and wouldn't you know - the damn thing goes haywire. As an army of corporate soldiers descends upon the campus you find yourself able to subdue them with newly-acquired "time powers".

The "time rift" accident causes frame rate stutters, random freeze-ups, and artifacts to randomly appear around the screen. In other words Quantum Break is a lot like my other Xbox One games. Are they about time travel too? Between dramatic cut-scenes you'll engage in shootouts and platform jumping, both of which require use of your time-bending powers. You can do stuff like "rewind" the past, freeze enemies, create shields, or zip past motionless guards. While cool, I feel like I've seen all of these in previous games dating all the way back to Max Payne (Xbox, 2001).

Much of the platform challenges take place in environments with large objects crashing down around you, like ships on a dry dock. These white-knuckle sequences test both your reflexes and problem-solving skills as you must employ specific powers at just the right time. Checkpoints abound so if you mess up it's not too painful. The shootouts are highly entertaining although they feel surprisingly conventional.

Quantum Break's production values are so good you almost buy into its story. The game encourages you to examine your surroundings but all these low-winded emails and documents put me to sleep! The characters are modeled after real actors and you're bound to recognize a few - particularly if you've seen The Wire. Periodically the game segues into live-action "episodes" featuring the real actors! That's different.

While ostensibly a single-player offline adventure, you'll need to be fully connected to play this. Not just to download and install about 50GB of "updates" but also to enable the streaming of the episodes. That's right - they aren't on the disc. Microsoft's utter disdain for offline play is disheartening.

Quantum Break has its moments but the story doesn't make much sense and the controls gradually become inordinately complex. The episodic shows may be original in concept but their integration is not seamless and I had network problems trying to stream them. Quantum Break boasts amazing audio, dazzling effects and some beautiful scenic views. Over time however this ambitious project feels as if it's becoming crushed under the burden of its own weight. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Raiden V (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Moss (2016)
Posted: 2016/12/4

screenshotAs a rabid fan of the series since the Raiden (Turbografx-16, 1991) I had to own this, even if it meant ponying up big bucks for an expensive import. I don't regret my decision, although the lengthy install process placed a few doubts in my mind. Why would a vertical shooter require hours to install? When I finally reached Raiden V's main menu I was apprehensive to see the default "story mode". Say... what?

Raiden has always been a frantic arcade experience so the notion of a storyline felt ill-conceived. Sure enough this mode spewed a ton of inconsequential tiny text to my screen which I could hardly make out. That's one big knock on this game - everything is so tiny! It's as if the developers expected everyone to be playing it on a 100-inch 4K television! The playfield only takes up the middle third of the screen, and your ship is puny.

That said, the shooting action is mesmerizing. It feels like classic Raiden as you obliterate incoming ships with your incredible rapid-fire arsenal. I love the unconventional weapons like lasers that twist around like electric snakes. The difficulty is far more reasonable than your garden variety "bullet hell" shooter. Destroyed enemies release yellow shards you're supposed to collect, but they tend to blend into the bright, ever-changing backgrounds.

The side panels depict a variety of graphs and indicators which are unnecessary but certainly look cool. A man and woman exchange banter throughout the game, and while you can safely mute this a few lines are pretty funny ("That information is beyond your rank! But... I'm not good at keeping secrets... so I'll tell you").

I wish I understood the combat system better; a tutorial mode is badly needed. Apparently there's a "cheer" system that lets you call for or send out help. It feels like a ham-fisted way to justify online functionality, and I don't like it. That said, the game plays exceptionally well offline (especially for an Xbox One title), saving your local high scores along with the date. The stages branch and there's even a stage select. Raiden V is the kind of game shooter fans dream of. It isn't exactly what I was expecting but in many ways it's far better. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Rare Replay
Grade: B-
Publisher: Microsoft (2015)
Posted: 2015/9/17
Rating: Mature (blood, language, mature humor, use of alcohol and tobacco, violence

screenshotClassic game compilations have become scarce in this age of digital downloads so we need to embrace collections like Rare Replay. This is a hell of a lot of gaming for the money. Rare Replay's opening musical number and menu interface is strangely reminiscent of a vaudeville stage act.

The first few titles were originally released for the ZX Spectrum - a computer practically unknown in the States. These charming, blocky titles tend to be shooters or dungeon crawlers. They include Jetpac, Lunar Jetman, Atic Atac, Sabre Wolf, Underwurlde, Knight Lore, and Gunfright. It's actually quite impressive how they manage to create the illusion of 3D scenery with such low resolution.

The next set of games appeared on the NES, including Battletoads, Slalom, Cobra Triangle, Solar Jetman, RC Pro Am (1 & 2), and Snake, Rattle, and Roll. Digger T. Rock is an awkward but fun Dig Dug/Boulderdash hybrid. One arcade game included from this era is Battletoads Arcade which offers some raucous two-player action.

Next up is a slew of quality Nintendo 64 titles including Killer Instinct Gold, Blast Corps, Banjo Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Banjo Tooie, and Conker's Bad Fur Day. The single Xbox entry is Grabbed By Ghoulies - an adventure that looks and plays far better than I remember. Rounding out the collection are several Xbox 360 titles: Kameo, Perfect Dark Zero, Viva Pinata (both versions), Jetpac Refueled, and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.

Sadly, the 360 games are tied to your Xbox Live account, so if you don't go online you can't save your progress. For all games, the scores for the "snapshot challenges" are saved but not regular high scores. Bogus. Several games (including Killer Instinct and Conker's Bad Fur Day) can only be acquired via an update. It's disturbing when content advertised on the box is not contained on the disc.

The lack of SNES titles (like Donkey Kong Country) is glaring, but the games you get have never looked better and the emulation is dead on. Extras include a collection of short documentaries. Rare Replay is a treasure trove of classic games offering history, nostalgia, and a lot of fun. Even Microsoft couldn't screw this up. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Red Dead Redemption II
Grade: B+
Publisher: Rockstar (2018)
Posted: 2018/12/12
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, drugs and alcohol)

screenshotFive years in the making, Red Dead Redemption II is every bit the epic sequel you'd expect from Rockstar, the publisher of all those crazy Grand Theft Auto games. In this realistic period piece you play a turn-of-the century cowboy in a roving band of outlaws, looking for the last "big hit" so he can finally settle down.

During the opening sequence the gang finds themselves exiled in snowy mountains that look magnificent. The scenery soon gives way to greener pastures and rolling hills teeming with wildlife. The primary storyline is fairly linear but there are plenty of challenges to keep you busy. Although many incidents are preordained (like your wagon wheel falling off) there are definitely some sophisticated decision branching algorithms at work. The dialog is rich, and I like how conversations reference events earlier in the game.

A selection of missions is available at any given time like robbing a train, tracking down deadbeats, or killing a giant bear. The story gradually fleshes out a number of characters, their stories skillfully weaved into the main narrative. Traveling across the wilderness can be time consuming, but the scenery is awe-inspiring at times and I love the variable time-of-day and weather conditions. Your character's mannerisms are uncanny as he scratches his face or ducks under a branch.

Though technically impressive, I ran into a few issues in the early going. The install process took forever and it didn't take long to realize a massive update was required just to keep the game playable. The controls are clumsy at times, especially those unwieldy "item wheels". Sometimes when trying to perform an innocent action (like talk) I'd accidentally pull out my gun instead. That will cause a guy to shoot at you, so naturally you need to kill him, and next thing you know you have the whole damn town bearing down on you!

The micromanagement element can be a little much, as you're expected to regularly eat, rest, and even shave your beard. You even need to clean and feed your horse. Several tiny status icons adorn the bottom left but I could barely make them out. That said, Red Dead Redemption II plays like an interactive movie, offering a big country to explore and lots of people to rob. Now if you'll excuse me gentlemen, I have to go feed my horse. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Resident Evil: Revelations 2
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2015)
Posted: 2017/11/7
Rating: Mature (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotThe original Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS, 2012) was a fun spin-off so I figured I'd give its sequel a whirl. During the obligatory install process the game informed me a big fat update was needed, so I immediately went offline to avoid that junk.

Revelations 2 begins with a lengthy intro explaining how a company called TerraSave was formed to save the world from the horrors of biological warfare. During a TerraSave office party Claire Redfield exchanges smalltalk with the newest member of the company - some potty-mouthed teenage girl named Moira! After both are kidnapped the real action finally begins... or so I thought. What is the deal with this choppy framerate? Why can't I control my character? Guess I needed that "patch" after all. The Xbox One is super high-maintenance!

Fortunately Revelations 2 eventually managed to redeem itself with some choice survival horror gameplay. It doesn't exactly ease you in as Claire and Moira find themselves in a prison crawling with monsters and whirling-blade traps. The tension runs high as you dash through a maze of doors with shambling creeps on your tail. Moira may not seem very useful at first but her flashlight locates shiny items and her crowbar weapon never runs out of ammo.

Expect all the typical Resident Evil tropes including dark corridors, corrugated metal, and doors locked from the other side. The puzzles are typical too. You need a cog to open the door but you have to activate a machine to get the cog and you have to turn on the power to activate the machine (you can stop rolling your eyes now).

The game is designed for coop play with different stages taking you through the same locations with different pairs of characters. It may seem lame at first but different characters can access different areas. There's a local split-screen option that actually works pretty well if you can set it up. Passing items between characters is a bit awkward but otherwise the controls are practically effortless. I hate to advocate a game that was essentially broken out of the box, but Resident Evil Revelations 2 is the most fun I've had with my Xbox One in quite some time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Grade: A-
Publisher: Square Enix (2015)
Posted: 2016/1/16
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, strong language)

screenshotThis cinematic adventure blurs the line between video game and film, interweaving dramatic cut-scenes, white-knuckle action, and striking cinematography. Rise of the Tomb Raider begins with a perilous mountain trek that will leave you breathless. Later you'll visit a watery Syrian tomb, trudge through snowy Siberian, and explore a lost city hidden under a glacier. Lara looks more realistic than ever thanks to natural mannerisms like periodically pulling back her hair. The storyline is compelling and the facial expressions during the emotionally-charged cutscenes are remarkable.

Lara is so nimble that scaling treacherous ice-encrusted cliffs and crumbling ruins feels nearly effortless. The jumping and climbing are less intense than Tomb Raider games of old, but I sure don't miss the frustration. There are a lot of convenient ramps and strategically-placed zip lines that are fun to ride. The new crafting system kind of sucks, and I grew weary of scouring each area for mushrooms, plants, and other minor items.

Pressing in the right stick highlights items of interest hidden in the scenery, along with your objective marker which looks like a ray of light. Ice picks are your best friend, allowing you to scale ice walls, break through crumbling rock, pry open chests, and perform one-button takedowns on unsuspecting baddies. There's a surprising amount of stealth and gun battles in this game. If you can thin out the herd ahead of time, there's usually enough ammo to polish off the rest. In addition to exploding red barrels, there are exploding red jars you'll want to light up.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is exciting, addictive, and when you face the bear in the cave, it's downright terrifying. The main storyline offers its share of twists and turns, and there are plenty of optional tombs and side-quests as well. I encountered a few bugs but these are mitigated by the fact that the game saves your progress so frequently.

Its gameplay draws obvious parallels to Sony's Uncharted series, but Rise of the Tomb Raider is darker, devoid of humor, and downright grim. It seems as if the designers were bending over backwards to earn a Mature (17+) rating. The language includes plenty of F-bombs and there's an eye-gouging scene I could barely watch. What the hell? There is no good reason a Tomb Raider game should be rated any higher than Teen. Developer Crystal Dynamics is taking things way too seriously. That said, this is still probably the best game I've played on my Xbox One. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Rory McIlroy PGA Tour
Grade: D+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2015)
Posted: 2015/8/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotLike most EA sports titles Rory McIlroy PGA Tour spares no expense. It's got a PGA license, real golfers, professional commentators, orchestrated music, and beautiful visuals. It's also a bloated beast. I'm glad I didn't pop in the disc when a friend was over because Rory takes forever to get started.

After an endless installation process and obligatory updates you're forced to play as Rory McIlroy in a series of learning situations. Annoying and unnecessary, this is an unwelcome trend I'm seeing in a lot of newer sports games. The agony is further dragged out with interspersed clips of Rory giving insight into each situation. Once that's finally done there are more tutorials to teach you about the three available control schemes. The analog swing is the default, but it's inexplicably controlled using the left stick! I'm glad you can switch that because it's a boneheaded design move. A classic three-press meter is also available.

The main menu interface is a bear. Setting up a multiplayer match is counter-intuitive with critical options buried in the layers. I was unable to configure a second controller for a friend, so we had to share one controller. Upon undertaking a pro career the intro video kept playing over and over until I shut the system down and restarted the game. Why does my custom golfer have those big EA patches all over his shirt? I hate EA!

Once you actually begin playing golf the game is enjoyable. I liked the course selection although the Battlefield 4 "fantasy" course is not nearly as fun as you would expect. The television presentation looks professional and the screen is uncluttered. The feeling of smacking the ball off the tee is satisfying but lining up your shot can be a pain in the ass. You don't always get a good angle and adjusting the camera is a nightmare. The greens are poorly defined, often blending in with the rough.

The pacing is brisk due to short ball rolls but do we really need to see a golfer reaction after every shot? On the green you'll see the message "reading green" before it renders the projected path of the ball. This algorithm is so slow it's ridiculous! The best aspect of the game is the two-man commentary team. "Wow, he got robbed Frank." "It's like kissing your mother-in-law." "There's no crying in golf, Rich." Despite some bright spots Rory McIlroy PGA Tour is substandard and only serious PGA fans will be willing to put up with the aggravation. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Ryse: Son of Rome
Grade: D
Publisher: Microsoft (2014)
Posted: 2014/7/15
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, sexual content, strong language)

screenshotThis highly-anticipated Xbox One exclusive proves that looks aren't everything. It's been a while since I've played a proper gladiator title, with Shadow of Rome (PS2, 2005) coming to mind. That said, Ryse (which I insist on calling "rinse" for some reason) is pretty much what I expected. It's a linear hack-n-slash adventure with combos, counters, and fatalities. The combat system is almost exactly like Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360, 2009), letting you quickly block one foe and strike the next.

The storyline follows the life of a Roman centurion played by Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers. The detail in the cut-scenes is impressive. The voice acting and facial expressions are so convincing, it's obvious real actors were used. In addition to hand-to-hand combat, you can occasionally command troops using button (or voice) commands to volley arrows or fire catapults. As you accumulate "valor" you can upgrade your abilities, but be careful while navigating the upgrade screens. If you run out of valor you may be dumped into a screen that lets you pay with real money. If this is how modern games work, remind me to never give Microsoft my credit card!

I love the way Ryse looks with its majestic towers and scenic aqueducts, but it can't match the pure spectacle of God of War 3 (PS3, 2010). The ability to toss spears and move in formation (to block raining arrows) is neat, but most of the game is tedious swordplay. It seems like I was always fighting the fat barbarian who looks like John Goodman. I must have impaled that guy 100 times for crying out loud! The action becomes painfully repetitive as you face the same band of savages over and over. You finish off every foe with a color-coded fatality, and a little restraint could have made these a lot more satisfying.

Despite its state-of-the-art "Cryengine" technology, Ryse is hampered by old-school issues like invisible walls, enemies that get stuck on the scenery, and your inability to strike multiple foes. After a while I felt like I was playing the game just to see the stages, and not because I was having fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

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