OXCGN’s Saint’s Row IV: Gat Out of Hell Review


(Editor Note: Daniel Geikowski, wrote this review for us with a promotional copy provided by Deep Silver) Saints Row is a franchise that identifies itself with the term “ridiculous.” The first was a GTA knock-off. The second embraced a little more silliness. Volition found their niche with The Third. Finally, IV took the game to superhero-proportions by giving the player super powers. To put it simply, this is not a serious series, and it’s one of the funniest games out there.

Volition and Deep Silver have ported Saints Row IV and its new expansion Gat Out of Hell to next-gen consoles, and quite honestly, I’m not entirely sure it warrants your purchase.

For a full review of IV, please check out our original review. This review will award a score for each ported title individually, and the package as a whole. The version being reviewed is the Xbox One.

Saint’s Row IV

Saints Row IV casts the player in a role signifying the ultimate ascendance of the Saints: the President of the United States. The game starts out comical enough, but the proverbial things hit the fan when aliens invade and cause massive destruction. The President gets thrown into a simulation of Earth where he attains superpowers, and must ultimately defeat the alien menace to avenge Earth and humanity.

In this Re-Elected edition of the game, the base game includes all previously released DLC (missions, weapons, items, etc.). For its price tag, it provides value, and still holds up as a genuinely fun game. While the game does not contain very many technical issues like Gat Out of Hell, it still does not run at a constant framerate and ultimately comes off as unimpressive for a game on current generation consoles.

If you have never played the game before and have interest in the franchise, whether as a returning fan or a new one, I would ultimately say that it provides value for its entry fee. However, as of the time of review, the framerate issues are not justifiable (especially for a game that runs better on PCs with worse specs than the consoles) – especially when you can get the game cheaper on Steam.

7.5/10

Gat out of Hell

Ever since the original, Johnny Gat has been a series staple and a personal favorite of mine. Rude, sarcastic, and always witty, Johnny brings comic relief to a game that is arguably entirely based on comic relief – and that’s a feat.

Gat Out of Hell sees the player from IV, the President of the United States, sucked into hell via Ouija board. As it would turn out, Satan himself was impressed with the destruction and chaos caused by the President in his term, and wishes to wed the President to his daughter Jezebel. Johnny Gat, of course, takes it upon himself to follow the President into hell to – wait for it – assassinate the dark lord and free his friend.

The expansion revolves around causing enough chaos in hell to attract Satan’s attention, and you have many tools at your disposal to accomplish this goal. The usual activities return with hell-themed renditions; for example, the activity focusing on insurance fraud has you playing as one of the grim denizens of hell, and you must throw yourself in front of cars to rack up not dollars, but years off of your “sentence” in hell.  You also have missions to accomplish, which largely center around recruiting various people throughout real and franchise history to join your team, such as William Shakespeare, Blackbeard, and The Twins (latter being from the franchise) to piss off Satan.

Satan

You also have powers like in Saints Row IV, but these are more focused on a hell-like vision. Johnny Gat has wings and can fly, and his powers are generally focused on summoning demonic imps, doing super stomps, and things of the like. Unfortunately, while it sounds great on paper, the execution was not so entertaining. Navigating with the wings is very clunky, and God help you (pun) if you need to jump a small distance – it’s no easy task. You also cannot sprint. The game wants you to fly around and explore, but all of the activities and mission starts are generally on the ground… defeating the purpose. I hated running around on the ground. Also, at one point you get a chair with a machine gun on it and you roam around like something out of Garry’s Mod.

This brings me to my biggest criticism of Gat out of Hell: it just feels like an idea that sounded awesome on paper, but simply didn’t follow through in execution. When I first booted up the game, I was seriously confused because, as one would expect from an interpretation of hell, I expected everything to start attacking me. Nope. The strange skeleton-like denizens of hell just mind their own business. The only people posing any threat to the player are Satan’s demons, which are like the police in the game.

Johnny as a character felt off. It reminded me of Gears of War: Judgment, in that the character was more of a distant representation of someone you thought you knew from previous games that you would come to understand better, but whose performance and delivery ultimately fizzle.

Johnny Gat

The game itself was just not visually appealing. While I understand that hell can only have so much visual variety with this vein of interpretation, the game itself just looks bland. Buildings are all the same shade of greys and browns, every “citizen” of hell looks the same, and at the end of it all, it just feels not funny or scary – it feels weird, and not in a good or entertaining way.

On top of this criticism, the game is a genuinely bad port. The game jumps from around 20 to 60 FPS constantly. Even with enabling the optional v-sync in the options menu, I can’t see any visual change – and I’ve played the PC version back in 2013. The game lacks anti-aliasing and looks very dated. Saints Row IV on PC was a very optimized game; my current PC, which is probably around the power of the current gen consoles (maybe a little less), runs the game better than this.

In effect, you really aren’t getting your money’s worth in this situation. The expansion will only run you a few hours, and I could only recommend it to a die-hard fan of the series that wants to see the story continued. Maybe these issues will be alleviated with a day-one patch, but that’s what we said with Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Assassin’s Creed: Unity. At this point in time, it’s a very poor rendition of the title that would only benefit someone who has never played the game before and does not own a capable gaming PC.

5/10

SUMMARY

At the end of the day, there is a pretty solid amount of content awaiting players who pick up the physical package. When grouping both together as a package, you get more value than purchasing either game individually – but take them on their own, and there’s not really much to recommend, especially with the technical issues. Maybe these issues were specific to the Xbox One, but there is no excuse for this.

Combined score (Physical package)

6.5/10

Review conducted with version supplied by the Deep Silver.

OXCGN’s Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star Review


Ar Nosurge was a new experience for me. It would be a lie to say it wasn’t a unique and interesting title, yet more often than I would like, it was difficult to connect with. Ar Nosurge continues the story of ‘Ciel Nosurge,’ a PSVita exclusive; also unfortunately exclusive to Japan. Ciel Nosurge introduces a lot of the lore and back story of the planet Ra Ciel, setting of Ar Nosurge, and throughout the game, this disconnect from the context of what I am actually doing proved a significant turn off. This game, however, brings something new to the JRPG playing field with an interesting combat system and unprecedented depth in character development. With tons of anime tropes and shout outs, this game would make any JRPG enthusiast squeal (though the excessive skin shown on barely 12 year old girls just does not go well with me, but that is another story.)

 As I mentioned, Ar Nosurge is the sequel to a game not available outside of Japan. I did not know this going into it, and well into the game while still suffering from what-the-hell-is-going-on syndrome, discovered this unwelcome fact. After reading up on Ciel Nosurge, things made a little more sense but I still felt completely disconnected to the story. This left me with a pretty shallow view of what was going on, and little motivation to find out more. Ra Ciel is a planet in turmoil, divided across the Humans, and the alien Sharl, who use Songs and Music as a magical source, an ability contracted by some humans. Constant conflict between the races is being ignited further by an aggressive cult of Humans that worship the Sharl. Beyond this, the story is a little vague:

Why does this cult want to destroy Humanity? Reasons.

Why are my characters the ones who must save the world? Because.

What am I even doing here? Things.

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Where Ar Nosurge redeems itself in storytelling lies within the characters. The depth and extent to which the characters are explored is something quite unique about the series. Going into your character’s minds, literally, through Genometrics allows a unique insight into the thoughts and overall psyche of each character. Their relationships (though cheesy and occasionally overbearing) are engaging and interacting with your characters on this almost metaphysical level is an uncanny but welcome bonding experience.

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Gameplay in Ar Nosurge is as complex as the deeply explored minds of its characters. With 5 major, lore-driven gameplay mechanics, it is as easy to become as lost in a menu as it is in the story, and not the good kind of lost. Starting with exploration, it plays as any other RPG would: wander around different maps collecting items, talking to characters, and interacting with your companions. However, in Ar Nosurge, one should take the word “exploration” with a grain of salt, as the maps and paths through the scenes of the story felt very linear and guided. Sure, you could travel to any map at any time, but each section was effectively a corridor with some rooms sticking off the side that led nowhere in particular. As a more traditional RPG fan: Elder Scrolls, Sacred, Divinity, etc., I am unsure if this is typical for a JRPG, but dropping the ‘J’ it was a little underwhelming.

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Ar Nosurge’s combat system is certainly a unique take on traditional turn-based fighting. It is completely normal to annihilate 7 waves of enemies in one turn. Yeah. Combat works based on a set of four moves, mapped to the controller’s face buttons, and each carries a different action point value. However, if you combo moves in the right order, you can completely regenerate your action points and start all over again in the same turn. In the tougher battles, it takes some fairly decent strategizing to plan out when to attack and when to end your turn with a guard. It does not really go beyond “fairly decent” strategy, but it takes a long time for wiping out entire waves in one move to become less than satisfying. Battle encounters come with an obnoxious warning system while exploring; it is not the right game to require a warning for its battles. Starting off with full health and action points leaves little consequence for encountering a battle “at the wrong moment.” There is not really a wrong moment.

Ar-nosurge-Review-22.09.-01jpgAside from wiping out the entire encounter by yourself on combos, your travelling companion comes with her Song Magic, which you can charge over the course of an encounter and then unleash at any time. The longer you charge the more damage your song magic does, and there weren’t many instances where this did not finish the encounter. In short, it is an overpowered finisher. Even in boss battles, song magic and action point regeneration combos sapped any real challenge from combat. Regardless, the fast-paced total annihilation of mass amounts of enemies brings back the Dynasty Warriors satisfaction of mass destruction. It is a relatively welcome change from more archetypal JRPG turn-based combat.

The last three gameplay mechanics are where the anime really starts to show, at least for me. Plus, it is hard to deny the glowing anime beacon that is this:

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Above is ‘Synthesis’, a mode wherein you can use ingredients you have found, along with recipes you have unlocked, to create different items and poultices to improve song magic, weapons, and any number of stats. It would be a better system without the intrusive musical numbers performed by three characters, two of which just do not suit the scenario. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous.

Another ridiculous, if slightly less so, mechanic is ‘Purification,’ where your characters get in stereotypically revealing swimwear and bathe together, engaging in deep, personal conversation and getting to know each other more. Honestly, the innuendo is endless. As well as improving character relationships, you can install Genometrica Crystals you have collected to increase your characters’ powers. These two systems would be a little more bearable if they were not both accompanied by such unnecessary fanfare. It is humourous once; maybe twice.

Genometrics Nay

Finally is Genometrics, the interesting part. Genometrics is the process by which a person gifted with song magic, the story’s heroines, can bind their heart to another individual. This other person “Dives” into the heroine’s soulspace to help them unlock their powers by exploring and influencing the raw personality of them; leaning them towards introverted, extroverted, masochistic, or sadistic tendencies. Genometrics plays like a manga-graphic novel, in which you more or less follow a pre-written story through, but can stop and make some choose-your-own-adventure-esque decisions to influence their heart and unlock new songs and crystals. As well as gaining access to new magic and power-ups, you gain incredibly insight into the different characters and explore, literally, deep into their minds and souls. In an almost beautiful mechanic that explores characters in a way not seen in any other game.

Pros:

  • Combat is fast paced and satisfying.
  • Characters are extremely in-depth and well written.
  • Genometrics is a totally unique and welcome exploration of the characters.

Cons:

  • Combat is not very challenging due to song magic.
  • Story is lost of context due to region-exclusive prequel.
  • Story is vague and ultimately pointless.
  • Purification and Synthesis are plagued by unnecessary anime fanfare.

TL;DR

Ar Nosurge is an interesting step in a new direction for JRPGs. It has brought a new evolution to the genre that if adopted by other series’ or developers could bring out a JRPG renaissance. The story is lost to the region exclusive prequel and is ultimately pointless; the true story lies in the development and growth of each of the characters, and that is Ar Nosurge’s redeeming quality. Fast-paced and satisfying combat coupled with interesting skill and statistic development, though plagued with unnecessary additions and lack of challenge, still leave behind a unique, playable experience. If you are a JRPG enthusiast, you will love Ar Nosurge. If you are a character buff, who looks for personal development over the major story, you will also love it. If you are just an RPG fan looking for something a little different, you have right to be wary, and would be better off coercing your JRPG fan friend into buying it, and then borrowing it.

6/10

Ar Nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star was provided to OXCGN staff for reviewing purposes.

OXCGN’s Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor Review


It’s easy for developers to take successful mechanics from other games and incorporate them into their own, and this is mostly what Shadow of Mordor is, combining the parkour free-running of Assassin’s Creed, mixed with Batman Arkham’s combat and adding an intricate hierarchical system in a Tolkein world that will consume you for days and days.

It really doesn’t feel like a Lord of the Rings game, rather it just takes the setting – orcs, Gollum and some lore – to create an average story to pull you through the game. Basically, you’re living on the Black Wall when orcs invade your home and gruesomely murder your family right before your eyes. You’re the last to be killed off, but your soul becomes trapped with an Elf and as one being you return to the world to diminish Sauron’s forces and break your curse. It was hard to become invested in the story, with an exception of a few flashbacks, when the cut scenes were so dry, dull and fairly short – not going into enough depth to grab your attention. Most of this is all excusable, though, because of the amazing gameplay mechanics that shine an innovative light onto video games.

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Combat works in two forms: stealth or slicing and dicing, where you can attack with your bow, sword or dagger. During stealth you perform all the usual sneaky assassinations present in Assassin’s Creed, including ledge kills, haystack deaths, air assassinations or the simple backstab. On the other hand whilst fighting with a sword you are encouraged to swing your weapon around the place, jumping over enemies and countering quite often. This countering system is very forgiving, working nearly every time. In the middle of your sword slashing, you can still perform a counter perfectly as long as you tap the corresponding button in time.

Along the way you’ll gain experience and unlock many moves and abilities giving you a variety of ways to take out your targets. I especially enjoyed ‘shadow strike’: where you aimed at your enemy and are transported right next to them to deliver a killing blow.

All of the combat feels swift and polished, leaving most mistakes your own fault, although sometimes the game can feel unfair. Stealth mechanics felt a bit clunky, similar to earlier Assassin’s Creed games, and a lot of the time when I would be attempting to jump across roofs, my character instead jumped straight down to the ground with a thump. Also, just navigating my character whilst climbing felt like a bit of a challenge at times, and more often that not didn’t go the way I intended.

The only element that is fresh, new, and quite incredible is the hierarchy system of Sauron’s forces. Whenever the protagonist kills an enemy in most games we’re rewarded with experience and a chance to become stronger. In Shadow of Mordor this system is still present – but the enemies can do the exact same thing. If they kill you they gain power, challenge others and move up the ranks with the goal to become a warchief. High stakes are now present in every single fight, and you’ll see yourself constantly trying different battle tactics just so some low level orc doesn’t get a lucky killer blow.

Uruk Nemesis System

Throughout the world you may come across many opportunities to gain intel on captains or war chiefs, and this is absolutly essential whilst hunting these opponents. With intel you can learn enemy’s strengths and weaknesses, giving you a complete advantage on the battle field. Some are completely immune to certain attacks, others terrified of things such as fire or wild beasts. Having this intel makes the game more exciting but, at times, it feels like some of these characters are overpowered. It wasn’t hard to find a war chief who was completely immune to every combat attack (even stealth hits) and instead find your only weapon would to be fire barrels that may or may not be present where your opponent lies.

There is one way to get around this though, which is an interesting concept as you progress in the game called ‘Branding’. This system allows you to take complete control of orcs and order them to do your bidding. The most satisfying part of the game for me was when I branded my own captain, raised his power to the limit through challenges and fights, and got him to take out a war chief that was impossible for me to even hit. Seeing my obedient orc trample that war chief to the ground gave me an amazing sense of accomplishment, and left me in utter awe that this is what games can do now and how our enemies can mature and change just like our character.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an incredible game, and the only thing I could nitpick on is that sometimes there are repetitive environments with no outstanding landmarks. Other than that, there is an immense amount of joy in this and you will easily be glued to the screen – strategically planning your attacks on every captain. Shadow of Mordor borrows from a lot of games but introducing a refreshing, intricate hierarchy system makes it stand out being one of the best games of 2014.

Pros:

+ Innovative and amazing hierarchy system

+ Intelligent enemies

+ Smooth combat

Cons:

– Simplistic and dull story

– Repetitive Environments

TL;DR

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is an incredible game, borrowing from the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Batman Arkham, and combining it into a satisfying Tolkien world. It may have a simple narrative but with an intricate hierarchy system and an abundance of clever, unique enemies, Shadow of Mordor will keep you occupied for hours.

8.5/10

Review copy was not provided. This was a release copy as purchased by reviewer.

OXCGN’s Watchdogs Bad Blood Review


If you’re ready to hack your way through the streets of Chicago once again then get ready to experience Watchdogs Bad Blood, the first DLC for this open world game. You’ll be racing across streets, sniping opponents, hacking cameras equipped with their own weapons and stealthily taking out enemies with your new RC.

Set after the events of Watchdogs, Raymond “T-Bone” Kenney is doing his last job, hacking away in a heavily guarded building and escaping when the alarms are set off. Once he safely makes it back to his hideout he receives a phone call from his old friend, Tobias Frewer, of which he hadn’t had contact with for years. Basically Tobias is in trouble and being the nice person that you are, you decide to help him using your hacking skills one more time till you leave Chicago and begin your new life.

The story in this DLC suffers just like the main game, it gets interesting as it’s coming to the end. It is made up of three acts with 10 missions and it wasn’t until the last three or four missions where I actually became invested in the story. If the drama in the third act was present throughout the whole DLC, it would’ve made for a better story and it desperately needs that when you have a character like T-Bone leading it. T-Bone is just as dull as Aiden Pearce, failing to have any sort of personality. He felt like such a boring character and with his clothing and lifestyle I expected someone quirky. It felt like the writers were trying to make him comedic with his actions and dialogue, but every joke sadly fell flat. It also didn’t help that some of his voice acting felt stiff and forced especially as he talked to Tobias on the phone or responded to radio broadcasts.

The gameplay is pretty much the same as the main game, hacking through buildings, sneakily killing off guards with explosions until they’re all taken out. It is as swift and smooth as in Watchdogs and oh so satisfying when you can avoid combat completely. Once again I used the silence pistol to take out enemies as T-Bone has an amazing aim that fails to sway even the tiniest bit. You’ll be able to execute perfect, silent headshots once again.

There are a couple of features added to the game including a stealthy RC. There are a handful of opportunities where T-Bone can deploy an RC that can maneuver through vents and sneak past enemies. It can be used to hack other objects and unlock doors as well as stun your enemies when they step in your way. The RC was easy to control and added some new puzzles with your limited first person view. It was satisfying creating distractions for guards as you stay undetected.

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Another addition is guns attached to cameras so you could shoot safely in a dark, hidden place. These made for some tense moments as you frantically switch from camera to camera, picking off enemies from every direction and hoping that no one will reach T-Bone and sneakily shoot him in the back. These additions are quite exciting and feel like a sense of what we might see in the sequel.

I appreciated that there weren’t many car chases that resulted in a cheap death and instead we had some truly hard missions. The game got incredibly challenging, especially in the last act, but it was a satisfying difficulty encouraging you to change your style and take advantage of all the abilities you have. They force you to move change cover constantly as you are overwhelmed by the amount of enemies enclosed in such small places.

Bad Blood introduces interesting features that meld into Watchdogs perfectly, giving a larger variety to the game, but the failing narrative clouds the enjoyment to be had. T-Bone is a lifeless character that would’ve been more interesting on mute. There is still a lot to enjoy in this DLC and with a good, solid couple of hours to play fans of Watchdogs can get a lot out of this.

Pros:

+ Guns on cameras!

+ Challenging but not unfair

+ Solid missions

Cons:

– The story takes too long to kick in

– T-Bone is a dull protagonist

TL;DR

Watchdogs Bad Blood is a solid DLC that introduces new features including a stealthy RC and armed cameras that give variety to the missions. It has a good level of difficulty, with lots of challenging missions as you reach the end. This DLC suffers in narrative with a story that takes too long to build drama and an ordinary main but there is still a lot to enjoy and it’s exciting to see what new things Ubisoft can add to the series.

7/10

This review was conducted by a promo code provided by Ubisoft Australia.

OXCGN’s Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution Review


It was a Naruto video game that made me become a fan of the series. I remember completing this Nintendo DS game to be left with a huge cliffhanger that bugged me for weeks and weeks. This led me to fuel my Naruto appetite by reading the manga and watching the anime so as a fan I generally enjoy most Naruto games but the only condition is that it has to be based on the original story of the manga and sadly Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution doesn’t deliver. Instead you witness a generic “let’s all fight to find the strongest” story that slowly bores you as you fight though rounds and rounds of opponents.

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimte Ninja Storm Revolution is a fighter that throws some RPG elements into the mix. In the main story mode, Ninja World Tournament, you proceed through D rank to S rank matches till you find out who the ultimate ninja is. Each battle has you facing three other ninjas at the same time, fighting for battle orbs that drop from characters when hit. As you go up ranks these fights slowly get more challenging adding extra obstacles and opponents. Rails will appear allowing you to skate on and deal devastating damage, special orbs can be collected that gives you the chance to “awaken” and become stronger and character obstacles emerge and deal damage to whomever is in their way. You can also play battle challenges that add conditions to the matches.

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In each fight there is multiple characters to play as and fight against that all have their unique jutsus and fighting styles. Each combat move correlates with the manga and anime, which is a nice touch for fans. Every character also has their own unique “Ultimate Justu” that is performed through beautifully crafted cut scenes. It is a bit hard when first working out how to fight, as there is no interactive tutorial. Instead you read through many screens of text but when you start getting used to performing combos the combat becomes quite fun. The only problem with fights was there would be that some characters feel too overpowered and quickly I could pick out those characters that would get me an easy win.

In-between battles the game encourages you to explore the game’s setting, Festival Island, where you can unlock characters for the tournament and earn money through jobs. These side missions range from fighting matches, completing quizzes, collecting items for others and playing rock, paper, scissors. These RPG elements become quite dull and repetitive and since your character seems to run around the place with an incredibly slow pace, I avoided these missions unless I desperately wanted a certain character in my tournament team.

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The game offers more variety with its two other modes, Mecha Naruto Story and Ninja Escapades. I enjoyed Ninja Escapades a lot as it followed the backstory of the Akatsuki through unaired cut scenes alongside a couple of fights. You get to play as a variety of the Akastuki characters whilst Obito is recruiting members to achieve his idea of world peace. This mode has great dialogue and an intriguing story that is more than what the World Ninja Tournament offers. I only wish this was the main story mode and had a longer duration.

The Mecha Naruto Story was completely the opposite and was a horror to sit through. Basically Naruto stumbles along a robotic version of himself and alongside Hinata, fights though a tournament to obtain a crystal to regain Mecha Naruto’s memory. This story was filled with horrible dialogue that was repetitive and dumb and forced you to stumble across the Hidden Leaf Village to complete jobs. It also felt like it was trying to teach you a lesson about striving to be yourself and not worry about what others think, but it saturated this message throughout the whole story. I’m sure children playing the game would realise quite quickly what the game was trying to say and think that’s totally lame.

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Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revolution works perfectly fine but with too dull a story and tiresome side missions it ‘s a drag to play. The only thing I would recommend in this game is the Ninja Escapades but less than two hours of content is not worth the premium price. If you aren’t invested into the manga or anime you probably won’t find any joy in this game and if you are a fan you’ll be very disappointed.

Pros:

+ Ninja Escapades is fun and has a great story

+ Lots of variety in characters

Cons:

-Main story is dull and cliché

-RPG elements are boring and not worth completing

-Over powered characters

-Mecha Naruto is horrible!!

TL;DR

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Revoultion is a good fighter that has a horrible story and RPG elements which clouds the enjoyment. There is joy to be had during Ninja Escapades, a series of animated cut scenes and fights that follow the Akatsuki, but the main story mode is repetitive and cliché. It’s not as great as other Naruto games and is a disappointment for the fans. I would recommend skipping this installment and going back to the Naruto games that follow the manga’s story.

6/10

This review was conducted by a promo copy provided by Bandai Namco Australia.

OXCGN’s Tales of Xillia 2 Review


I haven’t played a Japanese role-playing game for a while, spending countless amount of hours struggling to complete them so playing Tales of Xillia 2 was a great experience, allowing me to get caught up in a interesting world and its characters.

It starts off a year after the last game setting you off with a new character in a changing world. You play as Ludger, a young apparently voiceless newbie chef whose life turns upside down after coming into contact with a young girl named Elle who has a stopwatch similar to one that Ludger receives, and together they get tangled up in a terrorist attack on a train that your mysterious brother is somehow involved in. After this incident, Ludger and Elle are terribly injured and your healers decide to force you into debt to pay off your medical bills. You are then pushed into two plots: paying off your debt and the mysteries of these watches.

As usual for a JPRG the story can get somewhat confusing, and as a newbie to the series it was quite helpful having a codex to refer back to whenever the plot felt too complicated – at times new characters would be introduced and everyone in the game seemed to know them while I was there, feeling clueless, wondering who the heck these people are. Despite lacking some Xillia knowledge it was easy to get swept away into the narrative, absorbing the world as it is – on the edge of chaos.

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The story is presented in multiple chapters, making the game feel episodic. The only problem with this lay out is that in-between each chapter you are forced to do side missions to pay off part of your debt to progress to a new area. This isn’t much of a pain when you find character missions, as they give you a chance to learn more about your sidekicks and expand on the game’s plot, but when you have to do countless amount of jobs where the objective is to defeat this many monsters or collect particular items it becomes tedious quite fast. With each chapter having a short length as well it felt like I spent more time running around doing lame side missions when all I wanted to do is jump back into the plot.

The narrative is shown through multiple ways: random pieces of dialogue as you walk around, text based conversations where there are images showing each characters emotion, average cut scenes that are the main form for passing on the story and beautifully anime-styled cut scenes which, although few and far between, are an absolute delight to watch. During most cut scenes you sometimes have the choice between Ludger’s dialogue, picking between two answers. I enjoyed feeling like I had some part of the story and helped shape it as it progressed.

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Each scene had sometimes awkward, simple dialogue, as what usually happens when translating from another language to English, and is presented by a solid voice cast that encapsulates their characters perfectly. The only voice that sounded off was Elle’s. She was most of the time quite a pain to listen to with her screechy nagging which is super hard to tolerate. The best character by far though was the adorable, chubby cat Rollo who somehow managed to always be a part of the adventure.

These characters explore a beautifully crafted world, with multiple areas which all have a unique look to them. They are filled with some variety of enemies but you will see some enemy models mimicked with a new coat of paint. As you explore these areas, you are given the choice to participate in combat, which is refreshing. It’s nice to know you won’t be forced to fight these enemies and you can just progress to a new area or go searching for items.

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When jumping into combat though, it is quite fun. You mostly mash buttons as your character hits enemies and have the choice to switch between weapons – guns, swords or a hammer, although there didn’t feel like a difference between each piece of equipment, and majority of the time I found myself using the blades as they are the easiest to use. During battle you also have the choice to change your allies behavior (either working together or going solo), use special moves and activate your watch for super, strong Ludger time.

As you fight and gain experience you jump up levels, though the system to upgrade abilities is confusing and makes you feel like you have little control. You upgrade your abilities through a thing called Allium Orb. Pretty much you assign an orb to your character that has its own unique abilities, as you progress these abilities are unlocked and then you equip these skills for battles. This system of leveling up is hard to keep track of and annoying to fiddle around: I just didn’t want to bother playing around with this upgrading system – especially when I felt like I wasn’t seeing results.

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The difficulty curve through the game didn’t feel like it changed much, making most battles quite simple. It seemed to jump as soon as you had to defeat a story boss though, which was vexing. I’d rather not grind for hours to win against one guy and then be subjected to fighting super weak enemies, and this happens quite a lot during the game. Being bombarded by average opponents also meant that I didn’t feel like I got to make most out of the combat system. It seems complicated and there are many things to switch and change, but I didn’t have any need to.

JRPG’s are not common to play and Tales of Xillia 2 is a good one if you’re looking for that. It has a good story filled with a strong cast, interesting combat and beautiful artwork but there is nothing that amazes me. It’s overall a good game, and works great, although there isn’t one aspect of the game that grabs me and makes me say you should play it for this!

Pros:

+ A fun, intricate combat system

+ Good story explored with solid characters in a variety of ways

+ Rollo the cat!!

Cons:

– Confusing leveling up system

– Bad difficulty curve

– Nothing particularly amazing

TL;DR

Tales of Xillia 2 is a great JRPG with an intriguing story and a stunning world. You will get tangled up for hours with enjoyable combat and interesting characters, though I recommend playing the first one to add more to your gaming experience and to fill in the blanks about characters and the events before this game. The only thing is this game doesn’t have anything that stands out to make it amazing: it has great combat, story and art that merge into a great, though not outstanding, game.

7.5/10

This review was conducted by a promo copy provided by Bandai Namco Australia. 

OXCGN’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review


The Amazing Spider-Man 2 shoots players back into the webslinger’s suit to experience the same old web-slinging action that we have known since the Spider-Man 2 era; but somehow, this game sadly feels like a step backward. Awkward controls seem to interfere with what could be a graceful web-slinging experience, and repetitive thug fights grow stale quickly.

Spider-Man 2 places gamers into a world based similarly-but-not-quite on the movie. Peter Parker likes to have long-drawn out conversations full of cheesy jokes and one-liners, that will surely have you rolling your eyes after Spiderman’s first interrogation sequence.

Players also get to relive the Uncle Ben scene again – in-case you weren’t sick of it already.

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The story mode spends most of its time introducing players to the random villains and heroes known in the Spider-Man universe – which leads the main thrust of the narrative to quickly get lost. Additionally, there is way too much time spent performing Peter Parker missions, where players are forced to walk and take investigative photos of objects and other things within the game world that instantly becomes boring.

The only nice surprise is to see Stan Lee receive a large feature in the game as Peter’s go-to comic book guy.

I must confess: I did enjoy the quick time sequences that featured during the game. It’s refreshing to have them back after game developers got over the fad, and there really are some cool sequences that really make you feel like the web-slinger himself.

Graphically, on the PS3 the game looks fairly awful: The open city is full of jagged edges and blurry textures. Loading times are also worth mentioning – the game will take so long to load you may consider taking a nap. This is particularly frustrating when you’re waiting for something to load and it turns out to be a tiny room; leading you into another load sequence within minutes.

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If you are a next-gen console owner, you’re probably bored waiting for that next big release – you may have already considered purchasing this game. Taking into consideration the game’s low purchase price, it does offer some value for money, but is destined for the bargain bin for those still on the fence.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 delivers exactly what you would expect going in. And with that in mind I think gamers who’ve enjoyed the past iterations of Spiderman or those tired of waiting for the next big release should consider The Amazing Spider-Man 2. 

Pros:

+ Quick time events are quite refreshing

+ Stan Lee cameo

Cons:

– Horrid loading times

– For a PS3 release so late in its cycle, graphically the game is poor.

TL;DR

6.5/10

OXCGN’s Murdered: Soul Suspect Review


I ain’t afraid of no ghost

Square-Enix, along with Airtight Games bring us their latest creation titled Murdered: Soul Suspect. Our story takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, were we are given a brief rundown on a serial killer that’s on the loose, being called the Bell killer, who has been haunting the Sale for quite some time, mainly targeting young girls.

Murdered: Soul Suspect has a great narrative with some compelling story telling and some great voice work, although some characters do seem to fall into stereotypes. The story definitely keeps you going, despite the game being someone short, clocking in at about 8 – 10 hours for the main story.

We then meet our main protagonist, Ronan O’Connor, who has a checkered past and a lot of body tattoos to show for it. Ronan, who we see for the first time being thrown out of a second story window by said serial killer. Ronan has his life flash before his eyes, summing up the major moments, like growing up as a street thief, meeting his love interest, Julia, who he marries, and even joining the police force. However, his life takes a a dive as his wife dies with no explanations given.

Murdered Soul Suspect Ronan
Meet our bullet riddled ghost detective, Ronan O’Connor.

This is where our adventure with Ronan starts, after reuniting with your wife in the afterlife, you are quickly sent back to the real world, as you are not yet ready to pass on, and in order to ‘cross the bridge’ he must complete whatever is unfinished business is, which is to solve his own murder.

You’ll quickly find that Murdered: Soul Suspect sets its own limitations on you early, as you’ll only be able to enter buildings when someone opens a door for you, making your exploration pretty much non-existent, outside of exploring Salem, and even then, it’s a relatively small sandbox for you to play in.

The game plays on the rich history of Salem,  specifically the era of the witch hunting trials. However, the use of it feels wasted, as most of the time ghostly apparitions of Salem’s past will appear simply to block your path, stopping you from going in a different direction other than the one the game wants you to go, taking away any means of exploration.

The atmosphere in Salem feels like an empty void, with a serious lack of population, and when people are around, they’re mostly lifeless, just standing or sitting around, doing the same robotic movements, with barely anything to say. You can interact with them, and very rarely will you need to possess them to continue the story. When you first start, you’ll probably try possessing every living person in sight, but they usually don’t have anything to offer other than two lines of dialogue that’s just filler.

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No wonder they haven’t caught the Bell killer, all these cops are too busy playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution (A vastly superiors Square-Enix game).

The ghost population seem more life-like than the living people (although that has a lot to do with the fact that you can interact with them), you come across various ghosts in Salem, which you are able to interact with. Some ghosts either don’t accept that they’re dead, or don’t act the slightest bit surprised or upset to know that they are dead, which seemed really puzzling. The ghostly population of Salem will give you clues to help you move onto your next objective, otherwise they will tell your their own problems and Ronan will offer to help, unusually hunting down clues and assembling the right ones to solve their murder. Unfortunately, these side missions don’t lead to anything and have no impact on the story other than those completionists out there.

Speaking of compleitionists, scattered across Salem are ghostly, some more well hidden than others, and usually refer to Salem’s past, but again, these have no impact on the story whatsoever and are really just a distraction. Those of whom do collect all these times in a certain area are treated to a short story involving said items, but ultimately it’s just a voice track with a still image, feels kind of half hearted.

The arsenal of abilities that Ronan has will slowly improve throughout the story, but realistically it’s only there to further the narrative and don’t have any other significant use. Most of the time you’ll just come to a scene and start looking for items or clues, which require you to just run around and find each clue individually, the game will keep track of how many clues you’ve found and how many there are in total, but finding all the clues doesn’t actually make the case any easier to solve, because most of them are dead simple to begin with. You’ll then have to piece together the relevant information you have to determine what happened at the crime scene just makes you feel like you’re running around doing busy work to figure out the obvious truth.

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Ronan, staring down at his own lifeless body.

Whether it’s your own mistake or the what the game is conveying isn’t obvious, sometimes when solving a puzzle, you may make a mistake. However, there don’t seem to be any repercussions throughout the game when the wrong choice is picked, the game simply informs you that’s wrong and lets you pick yet another answer until you get the right one, which really takes away all challenge of the game, at one point, I  simply picked randomly which clue I wanted to use until I got them all right, simply because it had no repercussions as to how many times I got it wrong, and it has no overall effect to the story or its ending.

Although you might be dead, that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe, as demon roam around Salem, looking on souls to feast on, yours included. This is actually where the game shines, in its means of combat. You must sneak directly behind them to kill them if you wish to continue onto the next area. However, sometimes these demons will go you first, and running away doesn’t always help, and you may have to teleport between the ghost soul residue scattered around the area. The unfortunate side of this is this style of gameplay is severely under utilised throughout the game, considering it’s really the only way you can die.

Murdered Soul Suspect Demon
OK, maybe I am afraid of that ghost.

Pros:

+ Fantastic narrative that’ll keep you playing till the very end

+ Soul sucking demons really set an eerie feel, and the combat system to counter or hide from them works well

+ Voice cast and acting is great, despite some of the characters being a little bland

Cons:

– The tiny sandbox that is Salem is dull and uninteresting, full of people that have no relevance to the narrative and are just there so it doesn’t look desolate (even though it still does)

– The game has no real challenge, you can make as many mistakes as you like and you’ll always get another chance

– Despite some characters having great voice talent, their actual characters can be rather bland and stereotypical, some don’t even seem surprised that they’re dead.

TL;DR

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a great concept and the story will keep you playing, but has its short comings. With a 8 – 10 hour main mission, completely pointless choices, uninteresting side missions, lifeless people and the environments surrounding them, and little reason to have multiple play-throughs, you’ll complete the game and put it back on your shelf. With the mechanics and abilities that Ronan has in game, this could have had so much more potential, but ultimately a lot of it was under-utilised and game suffers for it.

6.5/10

© Yvan Zivkovic 2014

Review conducted with a promotional copy provided by Namco Bandai Australia.