Friday, December 30, 2016

Hitman Season 1 Review + Thoughts

So I managed to squeeze in Hitman for the last week in December but it missed being in my Favorite 20 Games list because of that. So I'm going to give it its own review because it deserves it.

This is a return to form for the series. This brand new Hitman is essentially the old Hitman with lots of improvements and refinements to the gameplay. Every mission was really fun and engaging. It's amazing how many different ways you can take out targets and the amount of disguises and tools at your disposal are mindboggling. Each map has so many optional pathways and entrances to check out that you probably won't see everything your first time through unless you invest a lot of time into exploring every nook and cranny. I found myself really taking the time to study the maps and keep an eye out for those set objectives called Opportunities. They give you a good challenge and give players a goal to follow which is nice. While the AI for NPCs are pretty good, it's all still very gamey where you can mess with the AI quite easily. It's a bit old school in that way and can make some really fun goofy things happen as a result. I liked that random NPCs would be suspicious depending on what disguises you wear or where you're trespassing. The way it works adds so much tension to the missions which was a delight.

I also love the look of this game. It's a very nice looking game with some fantastic art direction. The decor and interior design for the buildings like the mansion in Paris and the hospital in Hokkaido are simply gorgeous. I was gawking at how pretty everything was. Also, lots of shops in Marrakesh are just full of random chachkies and other little details that make exploring a lot of fun. The devs put a lot of love and care into the set dressing for the maps and should be commended. Every map is a work of art and feels and looks like a real place you can go to.

The layout and building architectures were also really great. There aren't any random dead end rooms or stairs that lead to no where. Everything makes sense and is logical. Too many games put little effort into designing real buildings and Hitman is an exception. I was really impressed with the amount of work put into the layout of the maps too. I also need to point out that some maps have an insane amount of NPCs. The crowds look very impressive and add a lot to making the world feel alive. Paris and Marrakesh in particular are quite the showpiece in terms of just scale. But I think maps like Sapienza and Hokkaido did a splendid job in placing NPCs in certain locations that make sense with who they are and what they do. If you need a disguise from a certain NPC, you will know where to look once you scouted the area. Good stuff.

The ambient audio is also very nice. Everything from the music playing in the Paris fashion show to the random work noise in Colorado was also well done. But it wasn't all good. My major gripe with the presentation was the VO from random NPCs. They're just awful. While the VO from the main characters like Burnwood and the villain sound amazing, the random NPCs all sound like shitty American douchebags with some British exceptions. Every location has the exact same VAs which I found annoying. While I had no issues with some places like Paris and Sapienza where it's not unusual for mercs from other countries to be there, it was stupid annoying to hear these voices in maps like Marrakesh. Even the local people there all had the same English VO. It killed my immersion constantly and I'm wondering why they didn't give them accents or hire people who can speak the native language there to do the ambient chatter. I also found that I recognized the same half dozen or so voices from these NPCs and sometimes they pasted these voices onto some NPCs that don't even match them like there was an old guy and he sounded like the same douchey millenial guy in another map. I can understand putting some hammy performances into the game to keep it light but it totally destroys the work they did making the rest of the world so believable. I hope Season 2 addresses these issues with better VO at least. Most of them sound like the devs doing the VO themselves. I want each location to feel distinct and the bad English VO didn't help.

Overall, I really enjoyed the game a lot. I liked the story and where it's going. I plan on replaying the missions for the objectives and I want to try out the other modes, limited time special events and Elusive Targets. It's a game with a lot of legs. This is a really fun game that really rewards methodical players with patience. I can't wait to see what other maps they come up with in Season 2. Definitely worth playing. Welcome back, 47.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

LiK's 20 Favorite Games of 2016

Once again, I wasn't able to play every major title this year due to lack of time. There were just way too many games that came out this year that I wanted to play but haven't had a chance to (for games like Steins;Gate 0, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia 3 etc). So there will be a bunch of games missing from this list. But I did play plenty and I'm going to list 20 games I enjoyed along with some of my thoughts. I didn't do any reviews for these games this is the perfect time for it. Don't worry, there are no spoilers. I will probably do a follow-up early next year for games I've played after this post. I want to continue to recommend titles I like without waiting until the end of the year. Okay, let's go!

Overwatch (PS4) -  Competitive Season 1 (67), 2 (Diamond), 3 (Diamond)

This was one of my most played games this year. It lives up to the hype and popularity.  Overwatch is a lot of fun and easy to get into. All the heroes are fun to play with and the maps are simple to learn. The real challenge comes with learning to be a team to win. Depending on your teammates and skill level, it can make you love or hate this game. But I've enjoyed it and will continue to play it from time to time. I've enjoyed this game so much that I spent a ridiculous amount of money on the loot boxes. I won't say how much I spent but it's ridiculous. I look forward to the future updates and I really hope Blizzard will consider adding in some permanent PVE content. This game still has a lot of potential for more awesome modes.

Tip: Play whoever the fuck you want! One thing I've learned from playing this since launch is that you need to choose heroes you like and excel at to enjoy the game. Don't follow the "meta" or let randoms pressure you into picking a hero you don't like. Play and have fun but don't quit matches especially in Competitive. That's just being an asshole. :)

Destiny: Rise of Iron (PS4) - Completed

Yea, I don't know why this game keeps popping up in my lists either but this may be the last time. I decided to pick up this expansion after quitting the game for a year. I became fed up with the changes to the weapon balance and I was starting to find myself unhappy with how competitive some people in the community got because of Trials of Osiris. I like to have fun with my shooters. Anyway, it took a bit of time to get back into it but once I figured out all the new systems and changes it was like home again. There's something incredibly relaxing and addictive about this game. I found the story mode to be lacking just like with the other expansions but the new raid was pretty fun and fairly short compared to previous raids. The main reason I found myself coming back is because of MP and the community. I've been playing with a lot of the same people since launch. Made some online buddies as a result and it was almost always fun playing with them. I also do fairly well in PVP and the core shooting is still fun and satisfying especially when you're doing well. This was the only other online shooter to pull me away from Overwatch this year.

I'm not gonna lie, but I think this game is running on fumes and will most likely die next year with my community. I think once I complete the raid in Hard Mode and get the last trophy, I will finally delete this game and wait for Destiny 2. It was fun for the past 3 years but I think it's time to move on.

DOOM (PS4) - Completed

Who knew that this would be good? What a breath of fresh air of nostalgia. Even though I wasn't a big fan of the old DOOM series, this new iteration was still amazing to me. The gameplay is fast and furious. You feel like a badass throughout the campaign. The weapons are fun and the levels were paced pretty well with some fun boss fights. The bits of the story was also well done. There was just enough to make you care about what was going on. The level design was okay. It wasn't the best but I did like that it never lasted too long. I only felt it dragged a bit later in the game. The soundtrack also added a lot to the game. It's pretty awesome shooting whenever the music plays. The music its own character. I didn't bother with the MP but the SP was great.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (PS4)  - Completed

Yea yea, we know CoD campaigns are usually good to great but IW really changed things up and surprised me. Not only did I really like the space setting but I also liked how much more intelligent and down to the earth the characters were. I really liked the crew and they were memorable. I enjoyed the optional sidequests that expanded the gameplay and stories. While I found the villains to be completely flat, the good guys were people I cared about. They were diverse and interesting. I wish there were more scenes with them that fleshed them out. This entry made me believe that when CoD dies, the devs can make a new action-adventure game and I would be satisfied with it. This is definitely my favorite CoD campaign in the series by far. It's super polished and you could tell there was a ton of manpower put into it. I enjoyed the new weapons and gadgets and the dog fights were really fun. I didn't think I would enjoy all the flying missions so much. It was really well done. I haven't bothered with MP or Zombie mode. Maybe in the future.

Titanfall 2 (PS4) - Completed

Just like with DOOM and CoD: IW, this campaign is worth playing. Do you see a trend? This was another fun campaign with some good characters. The gameplay was a lot of fun and some levels had very clever platforming segments. I think Respawn has mastered the art of parkour/shooting. Other games do it half-assed while Respawn has created and embraced it fully. It felt really good to play. The different Titans were also really fun ride around in. While not as polished as the shooters above, it was still very enjoyable with a satisfying ending. I hope Respawn seriously considers continuing this franchise and give us more story-related content. I didn't check out the MP here either. Will check it out in the future as well.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered (PS4) - Completed/Platinumed

I wasn't sure if I should put an old game in this list but the Remaster was so well done that I couldn't ignore it. This is more like a complete overhaul of the graphics more than anything. It's simply gorgeous and looks like a brand new game. I couldn't believe the amount of work that went into this. I found myself constantly staring at how detailed everything looked. What a difference. The game still plays very much like the original. Same levels, story AI etc. There are some changes but nothing I remember that stands out. The iconic moments still shine and all the parts that frustrated me are still there especially if you played on Veteran mode. Woof. Anyway, the campaign is still great and very memorable for a reason. The devs did an admirable job with this remake and should be commended. I haven't bothered with the MP at all since I played it to death back in the day but I'm sure fans and newcomers will like it. I hope they sell this separately because I feel like people's distaste for Infinite Warfare's setting is preventing more players from checking this out since it's exclusively bundled with IW. Please check it out when you can.

Dragon Quest Builders (PS4) - Completed

I honestly didn't think I would like this game. I was never a fan of Minecraft and just glancing at it made it seem that way. Thankfully, it's nothing like it. DQB was a lot of fun. Not only does it have a pretty good story that ties into the first game, but it also features a lot of good characters. While a lot of the writing is fairly simple and tropey, I still enjoyed it overall. The gameplay was also pretty fun. The combat sucked but building out your town for the residents was satisfying. The scope of the game was fairly limited and I really hated certain parts of the UI/building mechanics. Examples: Why couldn't we rotate objects while we're holding the item? Why can't we easily move completed structures? Why can't we easily travel around discovered locations on the map without an item to go back to town or using some marker? All these little things made the game much more tedious than it needed to be so I hope they improve upon these aspects in a future installment. The foundation for this game was solid. I'm hoping they can expand upon what they did and I hope they improve it for future possible sequels. This needs to be a franchise.

World of Final Fantasy (PS4) - Achieved True Ending

This was truly a pleasant surprise. While I had expected it to be a fun romp, I had no idea how invested I got into the world and characters. I really enjoyed the humor and moments. Some of them made me laugh out loud which was unexpected. I thought the main characters were a bit dumb in the beginning but as the game progressed, you start to warm up to them. They did a good job developing them over the course of the game. All the FF characters you meet were fleshed out and some of them were even more likeable than their real counterparts. Yea, I actually liked Squall and Lightning in this game! The game had good humor and some really touching moments. It was really well done. My main complaint is that some dungeons dragged especially later in the game and the combat is a bit slow. I found myself constantly pressing the fast forward through the animations. The game has a great look and the soundtrack is one of the best this year. Both the original and remixes were well done. I also need to mention that this game has one of the best ending credits in all my years of gaming. It was amazing and well worth seeing. Definitely one of the best RPGs I played this year.

Note: I tried playing in English and while it was good and very similar to the original JPN dub, I found myself enjoying the JPN dub much more. The mannerisms and lips synced up better to the original dub so I went JPN for the entire playthrough and it was great.

Final Fantasy XV (PS4) - Completed/Platinumed

TEN YEARS! Anyway, this was worth the wait. While the game's story and plot had some issues, the characters themselves were great. I do highly recommend watching Brotherhood and Kingsglaive before playing this game. The Brotherhood anime gives you some much needed insight into the origin of the bros and Kingsglaive gives more background into the events before the game starts and some of the lore. I enjoyed Brotherhood way more than Kingsglaive. The slice of life aspect was better done than the politcal/action-heavy stuff. Overall, I enjoyed my time with it. I enjoyed the combat and I liked doing most of the sidequests. The first half of the game was much better than the second but it's a solid package overall. I ended up caring about the bros and they were very likeable. Most of the supporting characters were also good and I really liked the main villain. The game had some pretty epic moments and some nice quiet moments during their road trip. FFXV also has one of the best endings in the mainline series. I felt it ended really well even though the final chapter could've been more fleshed out. Missed opprutunity. Anyway, don't forget to check out post-game content like the optional/secret dungeons if you missed them. They're worth checking out. I liked the game enough that I will happily replay it in NG+ in the future once the story content patches are out. I'm also interested in the DLC if they get good reviews. I also need to mention that the soundtrack was amazing. This might be one of the best FF OSTs period.

Note: Just like with WoFF, I played entirely in JPN. Unlike WoFF, the English dub for FFXV is atrocious and I couldn't stand it. I actually recommend playing in any other language other than English because most of the performances were just that bad.

Uncharted 4 (PS4) - Completed/Platinumed

Ah, the final game with Nathan Drake. I decided to replay the original trilogy in the remaster collection in preparation and it was worth it. I think this game continued the story pretty well even without Amy Hennig's involvement. The story was good and I liked the banter between Drake and the various supporting characters. This also had the best villain in the series. The ending was super satisfying and was a proper goodbye to Drake and his crew. It was really well done. The gameplay was also improved over the original trilogy. There was a good balance between exploration, shooting and puzzles. The stealth mechanics were surprisingly good as well. You could totally go through some areas without killing anyone if you're committed. This also might be one of the most gorgeous games to come out this year. It's truly a technical marvel. I was constantly impressed with how good this game looked. The amount of detail in some areas is just insane. I found myself constantly stopping to stare at every vista and room. I played the MP a bit and it was fun but it's not a mode I'm invested in. I'm looking forward to the Uncharted spin-off coming out next year!

The Last Guardian (PS4) - Completed

Another long awaited game and I have mixed feelings about this one. I'll mention the positives first. This game features the same amazingly ethereal world that we've come to know and love from Ueda. It felt a lot like Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.The art direction is gorgeous and the music and audio made the world really immersive. The main star is Trico though. He/she is absolutely adorable and so damn precious. He/she animated beautifully and is so lifelike it's scary. You could barely see any breaks in the animations. Everything is so seamless. I bet they took the most time animating this creature because of how good it looks. The way the feathers are constantly flapping in the wind is also impressive. The Boy's animations are also really well done for the most part and very cute. There are times where it's a bit janky but those times are few and uncommon. The experience was pretty amazing especially near the end and I found it incredibly touching. The bond you experience with Trico is extremely natural and anyone with a pet will be able to relate. There were some really clever puzzles along with some really bad ones. Thankfully, there were more good than bad overall. I felt some puzzles could've been axed because they felt like padding to a game. The game does feel a bit too long for its own good but some may disagree.

The main issue I had with the game was the camera. It's AWFUL. I was fighting it the whole time and sometimes it would black out in narrow spaces or get too close to Trico. It's very floaty and a chore to deal with especially in some precarious platforming sections which caused some stupid deaths. I wish they made it control like most cameras in other games these days. I was also frustrated with the UI. The constant button prompts were obnoxious. Why couldn't we turn them off? This would be annoying during replays. I hope they patch that option in in the future. Framerate was also an issue since I was playing on base PS4. Heard it's better on the Pro but I wouldn't know. It actually gave me eyestrain early in the game but I adjusted over time. Overall, I'm glad this game finally came out and I'm glad I was able to play it even with the issues I mentioned. It's unlike anything else you will play this year.

Dark Souls III (PS4) - Completed/Platinumed

The supposed final entry in the Souls series from Miyazaki ended on a pretty satisfying note. The game was fun and still very challenging in spots. Some of the bosses were brutal especially the optional ones in those hidden areas. I really liked that it was a direct sequel to the first one and brought back certain areas and enemies for fans of the series. While some areas and NPC quests could've been done better, I think it was a pretty solid game overall. It had the lore of the original with a lot of the gameplay refinements from Dark Souls II and Bloodborne. This entry also had my favorite final boss fight in the Dark Souls trilogy. Fantastic arena, music and the boss itself was challenging depending on your build. My major gripe is trying to summon for coop was a pain in the ass. I had a pretty easy time in DkS2 but this game had some really annoying issues. I haven't checked out the DLC yet but I will soon.

Quantum Break (Xbox One) - Completed

I really enjoyed this game. The shooting, time powers and story were decent. It had a pretty interesting premise and the presentation was good. The live-action TV stuff was unnecessary but at least they tried to flesh out the supporting cast with them. Not the best writing or acting but it wasn't as bad as I expected. I felt some levels could've had more polish and some parts of the story felt rushed. I also wish there were more enemy variety but I found the ones in the game consistently fun to fight against. I liked what Remedy was going for. It was ambitious but going multimedia with any game is a risk. It's a shame that I'll probably never see DLC or a sequel to this title. There's a lot of potential for an improved game which we'll never get. Shame.

INSIDE (Xbox One) - Completed

Wow, what an amazing piece of art. That's what I would consider it. The visuals, audio, gameplay etc were all perfectly done. It was seamless. The controls were perfect and felt right. I was super impressed with how polished it was. The platforming was good and the puzzles were oddly intuitive. The game doesn't tell you what to do at all and yet I was able to figure out mechanics all on my own. I never got truly stuck like I did with their previous game, Limbo. The climax was amazing. My only gripe was I never really understood what was going on in the story and the ending was a bit abrupt. But still, this was an amazing game and experience overall.

Oxenfree (Xbox One) - Completed

Bought this on a whim and it was a delight. Really enjoyed the dialogue and characters. It has an air of mystery and the revelations were pretty cool. Some of the puzzles were also fun to solve. It's a bit short and I wish certain parts were more fleshed out. The ending I got was a bit mindblowing. I really liked the art style and music too. There were a bunch of extra content added to the game later and I haven't checked them out yet. I will def do a replay in the future.

Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice (3DS) - Completed

Hell yea, the sixth entry in one of my all time fave franchises finally arrived and it didn't disappoint. The story was really good and all the new characters were great. I enjoyed all the new twists and revelations. Some of them were insane. The graphics were improved a lot and had some exquisite 3D animations. The soundtrack is also excellent with a lot of new awesome remixes and original tracks. The localization was also very good and much improved over AA: Dual Destinies. My major gripe was that there was one case that didn't fit in with the overall narrative at all. It felt like it should've been a standalone DLC. It ruined the momentum of the story and was nothing more than an excuse to give one of the main characters their own case to solve. I also felt the final case should've been split into two separate cases because it's super long and there was clearly a a part where the first part ended. Once again, I feel like the bits of English dub I heard were bad. They sounded stiff and most of the voices don't match the characters. I'm not sure who's in charge of the VO direction but it's pretty terrible just like with Dual Destinies. Anyway, this is a great continuation of the series and I look forward to the next entry. I haven't played any of the DLC yet but I will soon.

FYI, make sure you played the original Phoenix Wright trilogy, Apollo Justice and Dual Destinies before jumping into this. It's a direct sequel with lots of callbacks and carries over many hanging plot threads from the previous games.

Zero Time Dilemma (VITA) - Completed/Platinumed

I was super excited to hear about this game's announcement a while back. While this may be the weakest entry in the series, it was still good overall. There were some pretty great twists and some of the moments were quite touching particularly for one group of characters. I think they did a pretty admirable job trying to tie up a lot of loose ends and connect this game to the previous ones. Some of these moments were done better than others. I liked most of the characters except for one whom I found to be an absolute dick. Hated that guy to death. I also have to admit that I found a few returning to characters to be way less likeable than before and I wasn't a fan of how they were handled. Other fans may agree with me. I enjoyed most of the puzzles since they were way less difficult than the ones in previous games. I think only one or two puzzles truly stumped me. The game overall had some problems with both the plot and characters but I think anyone who played the previous Zero Escape games will need to play this just to see how it ends. I'm glad this game exists even if the results weren't as satisfying as the previous entries.

Batman: The Telltale Series Season 1 (PS4) - Completed/Platinumed

WOW, what an amazing story. This might be one of the best Bruce Wayne/Batman stories period. The risks they took was unexpected. Some changes to some longtime characters were really well done. I was constantly wondering what would happen next. There were some genuinely great twists and surprises throughout every episode. The character development was great and the overall story was very well paced. I marathoned the entire season in one go and didn't notice any weird pacing issues at all. Not an easy thing to do especially for an episodic game. The action was also super well directed and exciting to play and watch. This game definitely earns the M rating because the gore and violence is brutal in spots. There were also some very disturbing things that happened. They definitely made this for adults.

My major gripes with the game are primarily the technical issues. I almost didn't want to list it here because of them but the story was so strong that I had to keep it. The game basically crashed on me 1-2 times per ep (except for the first ep) which was quite infuriating because it would just happen randomly. The other issues included some really bad framerate stuttering, slowdowns and some janky animations during scene transitions. It was quite a shame because it not only pulled me outta the story a few times but it also affected the quicktime button gameplay. Seriously guys, you need to build a brand new engine that doesn't run like crap. It's 2016 and even open world games with a ton more things taking up resources can run better than this. I heard PC version ran better and I may consider replaying it on PC in the future before Season 2 comes out.

Dead Rising 4 (Xbox One) - Completed

I loved Dead Rising 3 so I was pretty excited for the next entry featuring Frank West's return. While DR purists will not like what they took out from the original games, I didn't mind it at all. I enjoyed the freeflowing combat and the more linear campaign. This is a much leaner and tighter game without the timers. I was having so much fun that I beat it in a single session. It wasn't as long as previous games due to me mainlining most of it while doing some side activities along the way. I just couldn't be bothered to try and collect everything the first go. Maybe I'll do it in NG+ in the future. The dialogue and writing for this game is hilarious and very well voiced. The new VA who does Frank West did an amazing job. I laughed at so many conversations that I wish there were more throughout the story. I didn't find the story here as epic and crazy as DR3 but it was decent and tied well into the previous entries. I also missed not having Psychopaths in the game because they added a lot of creepiness and horror to the series. DR4 is more funny than scary. I played and completed it during Christmas Day and it was perfect since the game is set mostly during this holiday. The Chistmas music in the menus was a very nice touch. Wish you could play them during in the open world. The ending was fairly satisfying although a bit short.

I encountered some minor glitches and jank but that was to be expected. The weirdest one was the VO disappeared during cutscenes and gameplay while all other audio was still working.  I had to quit and restart the game to fix it so if you encounter this weird bug, make sure to do that. Overall, super fun game with some fun weapons and vehicles.

SUPERHOT (PC) - Completed

I backed this game on Kickstarter way back and it didn't disappoint. What a strange game with a weird story. The puzzle-like gameplay using bullet time as a gimmick worked really well. Things move when you move so you need to be aware of who to attack and when to avoid enemy attacks. It's hard to describe so I recommend you check out some gameplay online to see how clever it really is. I really liked how creative some of the levels were in the campaign. There's also a bunch of challenges for anyone who wants more from it. It's a pretty short game but well worth checking out. I'm hoping there's an expansion or a sequel that will continue to refine what they made because it's pretty novel.

And one more as a bonus...Most Disappointing Game of 2016!

Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright (3DS) - Completed

Yes, I had to mention this. I had such high hopes for this crossover especially with Takumi's involvement but I was pretty disappointed with the story/plot. I didn't really care for the majority of the new characters and the overall mystery was kinda lame. I also didn't like how they did the exploration/investigation sections either. It's basically a Layton game with many of the same bland puzzles we've come to expect from Level 5. I was hoping for the same VN-style humor and interactions from the Ace Attorney games but no, you only get tidbits of dialogue from clicking random shit on screen and they weren't very funny. The trials were the other half of the gameplay and I was frankly bored by them. Unlike the proper AA games, the trials here constantly shifted their rules and the multiple witnesses were a chore to question. I was pretty much forcing myself to finish it because I wanted to see how it ended. Well, the ending was interesting and revealed something I think fans of both franchises would be happy about. It was unexpected. The English dub was also very good overall as expected and I was impressed with the 2D animated cutscenes. It made me wish this was just an anime film instead. But overall, I couldn't get how disappointed I was with this title. Meh.

Thanks for reading. 2016 was a pretty awful year for me both personally and professionally. I absolutely hated most of what happened in the world as well. Here's hoping 2017 is a much much better year. I think we've had enough of an emotional beating already.