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Franchise Wars: Episode 2 – Reckless Reboots

When it comes to video game franchises only a trilogy can provoke both the same en-mass mutiny from fans and blank indifference from prospective new gamers as a reboot can.

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Tomb Raider

With a growing katamari ball of impossible-to-please fans, developers and their devil incarnate CEO execs are consistently reviving brutally sodomised franchises mere years after they have been sapped of all life and originality, only for them to repeat the same mistakes again and again. It seems that for every product the media industry gets right (The Dark Knight Trilogy) there are several excretions (The Not-So-Amazing Spider-Man) and for the more perceptive audience member the line between plain exploitation and genuine care for a multimedia brand’s worldwide sentiment has never been finer.

An important aspect in assessing the potential success of any reboot is the length of time between one game and another. It is this very facet of time that differentiates it from the annual, and whilst shorter time lapses risk treading the oversaturated familiar, longer passes promote uncultivable expectation. Earlier this year the gaming community scored an important win over publisher Capcom regarding a franchise that popularised the survival-action genre on the PS2. What was most surprising is that the publisher had already seemed to have lost their bid to successfully reboot the series before the game was even released. Here is the story of the Reckless Reboot.

DMC: Developers May Cry

An impatiently refreshed browser. Idle thumb twiddling. A nervous silence. Then a strained sigh. It seemed like an awfully long five-year wait, thought the gamer as he glanced at the peeling Devil May Cry 3 poster that clung to the wall in all its sun-stained and corner torn glory… Today marked the day of the Ninja Theory DMC reboot reveal… Capcom had done the series proud, barring a few difficulty issues… I’ll just hit F5 again… and… wait… something’s happening… it’s loaded… it’s… it’s… No… There must be some mistake… What… What is that? Dante? Dante what have they done to you? FML you’re a westernised, swaggering, metrosexual, One Direction reject, nudist, super-douche? Ugh… Too many negative superlatives to consider… Brain overloading… Must go to the forums to voice this aesthetic betrayal!

The reboot is the most precocious part of franchise ideology. Its rules and reasons for change are not always as clear-cut as a developer simply wishing to renew flagging sales. Devil May Cry 4 for example shifted a respectable number of units, pleased fans despite being a step down from its predecessor, but still managed a tidy profit on release. Thus for a sequel it had not even reached amber on the franchise-needs-resuscitating scale.

For Capcom, the revenue was inconsequential. However, who would know that handing over the reigns to British developers Ninja Theory would lead to such mass forum ridicule and a cruel meta-score that would lambast Capcom for its entrepreneurial greed? Well, I sort of did. As with annualist franchises, the very notion of a reboot provokes a level of back-and-forth psychological turmoil and agonising anticipation within any video-game fan. Reboot by all definitions of the word undergoes a significant lexical change within the gamer’s mind. The very mutter of the word signals perpetual change, and irrevocable change equates to a negative scepticism and immeasurable fear that every beloved element will be replaced, smoothed out and desecrated to make room for a wider audience.

Such scepticism is sadly not unfounded.

Fundamentally the majority of gamers would like their reboots to arrive in time capsules where the only difference between the game and its predecessor are minor graphical and gameplay tweaks. Aspects of gaming that are routinely shoved forward by console corporations if developers wish to see their franchise continue on anything but an orphanage’s Dreamcast in Romania. This, of course, is a rarity but it does not deter fans from revisiting the franchise’s previous title in preparation to gauge its rebooted successor. Time and again we see this in the video game charts, most recently with GTAIV, which jumped up the bestseller list before Amazon swiftly raised the price to capitalise and punish our ravenous impatience for GTAV. For developers this spells doom (FFVI style) from the offset, because fans are already re-establishing a comparison piece to what ‘should’ be a fresh take on a series (it’s a reboot not a sequel). Naturally the reboot quite often fails to bare our favoured fruit before it is even played, as we see the wrong elements take centre-stage and the finer details supportive of a new concept that only the developers are pushing for with their dazzling trailers. On last weeks episode I spoke about the internet providing gamers with a very loud voice, but what I didn’t get into was the double-edged Soul Calibur that comes with that.

Developers in this era of gaming are listening to too many people – more often than not, the wrong crowd – and this democratic gaming séance approach results in bizarre concoctions like DMC where the publisher supervised its developers to make sure their reboot was different. Just not so different that it would call the very branding of the project into question. This cowardly one foot in the door approach simply exasperated the self-fulfilling prophecy  that it is impossible for developers to appease all existing fans whilst attracting a new audience. Such a feat remains in contention because involving gamers (and existing fans) only heightens their sense of ownership as well as including a false sense of involvement in the development process. Disappointment is inevitable (we still miss Team Silent terribly). With such consumer participation welcomed by publishers, there are no real quality control barriers, and developers are more likely to become overzealous with already half-baked design ideas if a gamer mentions anything relatively similar. Consequently the fallout from DMC was all too predictable.

IGN: Incurable Gamer Nostalgia

Indeed over-informing gamers creates a cyclone of negative internet press which makes all discussions of whether a game is any good or not completely void. And although critics manage to present the merits of the reboot through respectable analysis and scoring, the damage to reputation has already been done, and the results more unsalvageable than an EA conference defending micro transactions. The upfront nature of Capcom certified that DMC wasn’t our franchise anymore. It wasn’t theirs (a new audience). It wasn’t anybodies. Somewhere between the Capcom dictatorship, the talented (yet overeager) development team, and the market research group whose mantra is that all 14 year old boys want is a-typical frat philosophy, the project lost focus: crashing into an internet-age iceberg from fans simply being too involved and knowing too much. About the badly coordinated project The root of all of this DMC gamer anarchy and hate is actually rather plain and simple when you establish the origins that repeatedly gauge its reception. Nostalgia.

Nostalgia is the biggest threat to developers and modern franchises. Nostalgia in gamers breeds rapidly, stewing inside of the franchise fans cranium, causing over analysis and picks away at reboot hope with romanticized sentiment and excuses cherish the bygone days of dodgy controls. We first imagine the great possibilities: where previous game designer involvement is automatically a cause to sigh with relief. Phew, ‘the franchise change is at least in good hands’ we say, but this is often followed with doubt and true scepticism when other details surface like when development teams exponentially expand and outsource. Consequently the reboot stew gradually boils over, and the more information there is revealed through social media and audience interaction the more it is unintentionally added to the nostalgic gamers noggin. This only proceeds to leave an increasingly sour taste in ones mouth, and not often helped when CEO execs speak for the developers themselves in lengthy corporate babble. We know the video game industry is there to make money, and this reminding every five seconds through interviews and more often than not poor choices of words to describe the consumer is highly disconcerting for gamers worldwide. Bizarrely, developers are yet to cotton on to this aspect of gamer psychology, and instead medicate self-diagnosed nostalgic and new brand of retro gamers with large doses of HD Collections and Definitive Editions from their franchises.

Definitive HD Limited Greatest Hits Collectors Edition

Indeed the forthcoming Final Fantasy X (and its unwanted birth entrail X-2) HD remake will only proceed to rub more salt in to the JRPG franchise fans wounds because it serves only to remind of what once was. That players are generally more excited about reliving the past (with merely the addition of trophy updates and slight graphical tweaks over the brand new FFXV) should be setting off alarm bells and vicious random encounters all over the video game industry. But money is an all too distracting scent from the bigger picture. Sony has been the worst culprit in this reselling. They have pounded their back catalogue of Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, Zone of the Enders and the numerous Metal Gear Solid collections down our unprepared throats in such a haphazard and reckless manner (the Silent Hill HD abominations) that we have become bloated and sore from all the greedy franchise fan service foreplay. The consequence of this is that some gamers are less inclined to fork out for over-expensive AAA titles that overplay their hand through impressive marketing (Dead Island) and visuals (Final Fantasy XIII), but religiously fail to excite with gameplay or as original IPs when eventually released. Our faith and trust in the industry has evaporated, and the gaming community is now a shepherd-less flock, no longer chasing the fresh pastures laid out by developers. Pastures which always turn out to hold the same dull textures and tastes as the last.

These reheated/microwave meal classics may demonstrate to gamers how far we have technically progressed, but they are simultaneously striking the dangerous nostalgic chord of what we have lost from that era where franchises were not all produced with mass appeal (I’m looking at you Mass Effect 2 *spit*). The publishers mindset is that we’ll prefer the graphical and aesthetical improvements of a reboot over its predecessors before we’ve played it, but this is merely a high risk strategy just to see what fans will bite and pre-order an unfinished product. Franchise reboots of late are completely failing to serve a niche market for this reason. A market that would grant them instant profit (the recent Payday 2 is a great recent example) if for one second they stopped chasing every unintelligently conceived notion of what is making Call of Duty successful (its not wall cover I’ll tell you that now).

However, time is not the only factor in the nostalgia market. Impossible expectations may have been the downfall of the franchise at the beginning of the 7th console generation but it is the iOS and indie era that have the potential to bring back a new depth to the gaming industries target marketing through a string of short, low-budget yet interesting titles (Limbo, The Room etc). That, and the tempting of casual gamers who have decided they’d rather play Broken Sword on their iPads than have to leave the sofa to flail around on Wii Fit. Such nostalgic success on new tech has resulted in the series being rebooted through Kickstarter with very strong support from fans. Fans whose point-and-click niche market has struggled since the early 2000s and with decent releases being few and far between as genre support dwindled.

Reclaiming Rayman

For being a decidedly low-budget yet visually striking game the 2011 Rayman Origins reboot performed moderately well, with publishers Ubisoft turning their backs on its 3D progression and taking note of what actually made the original platforming adventure such a charming classic. For Rayman, nostalgia was tapped into in moderation to deepen the reboots depth rather than emulate the original in its entirety. Ubisoft Montpellier respected the franchises niche enough to focus its resources on ingenious level design and creativity after the series had spent the best part of the last decade making those god-awful and never-ending rabbit defecations on the Wii. It is a lesson that many more developers could learn if only they were prepared to revisit the dusty business models that saw spending less as actually being beneficial to the profit margins. These reboots provide hope to the genre fans that are tearing their hair out in anticipation for a game from their franchise which doesn’t sellout through the unnecessary shoe-horning of deformed content stolen from other genres. The consequence of stretching yourself too thin (the recent Tomb Raider’s rather crumbly gameplay features) to provide patchy mass appeal may gain generally positive opinions, but it will never make a game a mainstay on the Bestsellers list. Rayman Origins demonstrated the positives to multi platform gaming for smaller development teams by making a profit on tech without having to push its boundaries or break the bank for its development. Retro gaming interest has if anything only continued to rise with the current console generation, and would be a great market for more developers to engage with.

Above all the reboot is a franchise minefield. Developers dare not stray too far from what once was, but displacement and/or similarity succumbs to nostalgia. Nostalgia means fan disappointment which in turn translates to failure to meet sale projections, and a small profit thus cremates the franchise for a few years before its corpse is dug up again. It is with increased expectation through fan involvement, the westernisation of video games, new tech changes, over staffed and outsourcing development teams and a lack of communication, focus and patience that has more likely than not pulverized one of your favourite franchises. Getting out of this gaming rut will be arduous and require numerous success stories for developers to even begin noticing new patterns, let alone changing their business models. Until then, lap up those HD collections, buy those PSOne classics and XBLA games that cater exclusively to you, the gamer, and try to distance yourself from developers the next time you’re asked a question regarding the future of your franchise. The AAA results at present will only misconstrue your answer by being an overproduced and psychologically demeaning mess that will cloud your enjoyment of the result, and prevent you from enjoying anything positive that it does offer.

In personal retrospect of DMC, unwarranted mass appeal walked hand in hand with greed to produce a reasonable title, but the acronym alone allegorically signalled the amount you’d actually find of the original series through its pretty yet ultimately unwanted aesthetic.

The reboot mutiny has only just begun. Join the revolution, and for gods sake buy Rayman Legends.

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Is the Resident Evil 3 remake worth playing?

Resident Evil 3 is the latest game from Capcom to get an RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2?

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Resident Evil 3 remake
Capcom / Thumbsticks

Resident Evil 3 is the latest survival horror game from Capcom to get a top-to-bottom RE Engine remake. How does it compare to the original, and does it top last year’s acclaimed RE2 remake? Here’s what reviewers are saying.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was reviewed positively on its 1999 release, but a consensus grew over time that it was too short and too action-oriented. Naturally enough, it appears the same critique applies to the remake. Most reviewers agree that it’s a handsome and thrilling game, but the underlying experience isn’t as refined as Resident Evil 2. There’s certainly a wider variance of opinion this time around.

The package is fleshed out with an intriguing asynchronous multiplayer mode called Resident Evil: Resistance. First impressions are promising, but the jury is still out on its merits due to some technical issues and a lack of pre-release players.

Here is our pick of the game’s main campaign reviews.

Resident Evil 3 remake review round-up

Kotaku

Resident Evil 3 is a better modernization than last year’s fantastic Resident Evil 2 remake. Where that game was still puzzling out a change in format and occasionally struggled to forge an identity, Resident Evil 3 proceeds with wonderful confidence. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but Resident Evil 3 knows what it wants to be.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

USGamer

Resident Evil 3 finally repositions its place as not just a true sequel to Resident Evil 2, but as a bridge to Resident Evil 4, both in action and plot. While it streamlines the formula of Resident Evil 2 into something more linear, it’s still the best way to dodge through Raccoon City with Jill and Carlos, even with Nemesis always on your tail and the occasional clunkiness here and there.”

3.5/5 – Review by Caty McCarthy

GameSpot

“As a remake, Resident Evil 3 not only falls short of honoring its source, but it also doesn’t quite stick the landing as a standalone horror experience. Even without taking into account the original game, or its predecessor, RE3 struggles to keep up with its pace amid a clashing of elements from survival horror and standard action.”

6/10 – Review by Alessandro Fillari

Polygon

“There’s no doubt that the things that made the Resident Evil 2 remake great are present in Resident Evil 3. Capcom’s latest remake is a beautiful game, bearing the same sharp design and streamlining of last year’s game. But much of it feels like a lesser repeat of what was so impressive in Resident Evil 2.”

Not scored – Review by Michael McWhertor

TechRadar

“Resident Evil 3 has rightfully earned its place as one of the best horror games on the market. While Resident Evil 2 Remake may be seen as the golden child, the Resident Evil 3 remake is faster-paced, more action-packed, graphically superior, and forces you to face your fears head-on – whether you want to or not.”

4.5/5 – Review by Vic Hood

PC Gamer

“Resident Evil is best when you’re lost in a complex, labyrinthine space, forced to make a mental map as you play, unlocking more of the sprawl by solving puzzles and finding keys. But Resident Evil 3 has none of this, and is actually stiflingly linear. You’re frequently funnelled down a prescribed path to the next cutscene, and it doesn’t help that the story is lean to the point of nonexistence, with one-dimensional characters and a narrative through-line so flimsy I kept forgetting what I was doing or why.”

58/100 – Review by Andy Kelly

Eurogamer

“Downtown Raccoon City is, unfortunately, not the expansive, multi-layered stalk-fest I’d hoped it would be. There are no alternate endings to chase, no story-altering choices to make, no new game plus mode. The source material is – and I think this is the perceived wisdom – simply not as good as the original Resident Evil 2. But I can’t shake the feeling the Resident Evil 3 remake was rushed – as its original was. Now that’s an unfortunate parallel.”

Not scoredReview by Wesley Yin-Poole


Title: Resident Evil 3
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Release date: April 3, 2020
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One


Visit our new releases section for more on this week’s new Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One games.

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Is Half-Life: Alyx worth playing?

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

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Valve

After a 13-year gap, Valve return to City 17 and the battle against the Combine in the new action-adventure VR game, Half-Life: Alyx. Here’s our review round-up.

When Half-Life: Alyx was announced, there was an expectation that Valve would create a landmark in virtual reality gaming. That expectation ignores the progress achieved by many other developers in recent years, but the prospect of a return to City 17 was long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated.

In the event, Half-Life: Alyx isn’t quite as groundbreaking as its predecessors, but it does present a refined, polished AAA VR experience.

Half-Life: Alyx has received praise across the board. The game’s narrative, puzzle-centric gameplay, and stomach-churning Headcrab encounters are all highlights. After a long wait, it appears that the Valve people love is back. Here’s our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Half-Life: Alyx review round-up

Kotaku

“Half-Life is a different beast in VR. It is more stressful and intense than its non-VR predecessors. It can be downright exhausting—sometimes for extremely laudable reasons and other times for deeply frustrating ones. Alyx reveals what VR games can be, but perhaps also what they should try to avoid for fear of overwhelming or frustrating players.”

No score – Review by Nathan Grayson

USGamer

“If Half-Life: Alyx is a success, I think there’ll also be a strong argument for more Half-Life needing to stick with VR moving forward. This game will reach a limited audience at launch, surely. There are some limitations in scope that may rankle, such as a small set of (upgradable!) weapons. Some people may dislike it purely because they don’t like VR. But having played through Half-Life and Half-Life 2 numerous times, along with some of the best FPS campaigns released in their wake (Titanfall 2, 2016’s Doom, Halo: Reach), I think that Half-Life: Alyx stands as proof that Half-Life’s continued evolution can’t look like those of other shooter series.”

4.5/5 – Review by Matthew Olson

Eurogamer

“The controls are as clear-headed as the narrative. Playing room-scale or simply standing with a more confined space, you can choose one of four movement options, two of which work brilliantly as teleport jobs while the other two offer continuous movement guided by either the hand or the head and seemed to me pretty clumsy and nausea-inducing. Whatever movement you choose, one hand generally holds a weapon or gadget – switching them is as easy as pressing a button and waving your arm up and down – while the other is always free for interacting with the environment, opening doors, grabbing ammo clips from your backpack and ramming them home, priming grenades before lobbing them.”

RecommendedReview by Christian Donlan

Polygon

“(But) Half-Life is back, and Valve has finally released another AAA single-player game, something many of us doubted the company ever would, or even could, do again. The impossible has already been achieved, and the fact that it’s happening in VR only makes it more novel. Valve has succeeded at just about every goal it must have had for this project. The only thing left is whether hardcore fans will be willing to buy, and use, a virtual reality headset in order to learn what happens next in the world of Half-Life.”

RecommendedReview by Ben Kuchera

IGN

“Back when VR first became a real thing and we all started spitballing which game worlds we’d most like to be fully immersed in, Half-Life topped my list (tied with BioShock). It took a few years, but Half-Life: Alyx has more than realized that potential. With it, Valve has set a new bar for VR in interactivity, detail, and level design, showing what can happen when a world-class developer goes all-in on the new frontier of technology.”

10/10 – Review by Dan Stapleton

RockPaperShotgun

“For better and worse, HL: Alyx feels at times like a beat-by-beat recreation of Half-Life 2, with that Vault taking the place of the Citadel. More excitingly, and perhaps more surprisingly, many of the game’s best elements feel like they’re drawn from the original Half-Life. Half-Life 1 was much more of a horror game than its sequel, trapping you inside the B-movie nightmare of a research facility overrun by monsters from another dimension, and eventually sending you to that dimension, Xen.”

Not scored – Review by Graham Smith

The Verge

“While it’s about as long as the landmark Half-Life 2, with my game clocking in at 15 hours, it doesn’t feel as big or as narratively and mechanically fresh. It advances the series’s main plot, but it doesn’t come close to resolving it.

But if you keep these admittedly big reservations in mind, Alyx is a worthy addition to the Half-Life universe. It’s not just a good VR game; it’s a good video game, period.”

Not scored – Review by Adi Robertson

UploadVR

“If you’re prepared to pantomime, Alyx holds some of the most active and immersive combat you can experience in VR. In its tougher battles I’d find myself huddled on the floor, opening car doors to fire through the gaps in driver seats, instinctively flinching at the hammer of gunfire above and then poking out remaining shards in a shattered window to access a stray ammo clip with the flick of my Gravity Gloves before fumbling a hasty reload.”

5/5Review by James Feltham

Other publications

  • Gamespot – 9/10
  • GamesRadar – 4.5/5
  • Shacknews – 9/10
  • VGC – 5/5

Title: Half-Life: Alyx
Developer: Valve
Publisher: Valve
Release date: March 23, 2020
Platform: Windows


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Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons worth playing?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Nintendo

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the season’s big Nintendo Switch exclusive. Does it offer the respite from the real world many of us are seeking right now? Is it worth playing? Here’s our review roundup.

The timeliness of this week’s two big video game releases has provoked much conversation. Each game offers some small solace from the world outside but in uniquely different ways. At one end of the scale, Doom Eternal lets players vent their frustrations in a (mostly) satisfying parade of things to shoot. At the other, Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers an escape. A chance to isolate on a deserted island that can be grown into a community of (mostly) happy villagers.

Nintendo’s latest Switch exclusive evolves on its predecessors in small but significant ways. New crafting and terraforming mechanics allow the experience to be even more personal than usual. The extra power of the Switch makes this the most beautiful game in the series yet. And Nintendo’s commitment to supporting the game through future events means it should be a reassuringly lengthy escape from reality.

The critical response to Animal Crossing: New Horizons is nearly unanimous in praise. Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons review round-up

Eurogamer

“Is this a gritty reboot for Animal Crossing? As unpalatable as that might sound, it kind of is – and it definitely works. There’s a more grounded logic at play here, to those first few weeks at least. Your first pieces of furniture will likely be made from naked wood chopped from the very trees around you (though rest assured you’ll soon enough get the option to lend them a lick of paint or apply a fresh design with a customisation kit – another new feature for New Horizons). Elsewhere there’s a stronger throughline thoughtfully imposed on a game whose aimlessness has always been one of its biggest strengths, and once you’ve flipped your first few houses and invited a couple of animals to stay the sense of ownership over your surroundings is unparalleled in the series.”

Essential – Review by Martin Robinson

Ars Technica

AC:NH‘s first great success is in threading the needle between that classic mantra of patience and giving addicted players more to do when they want (without charging them more money). Like in prior installments, the game starts with players moving into a sparsely populated village—in this case, a remote island—and being informally tasked with helping the village develop. That impetus is doubly emphasized by AC:NH‘s island gimmick because your new home is billed as a getaway to an uninhabited island.”

Not scored – Review by Sam Machkovech

Nintendo Life

“In all seriousness, the presentation in every sense here is all but flawless. It’s one of the prettiest games on the Switch, so when you couple that with atmospheric lighting, a crisp 1080p docked resolution running at 30fps, sound design that hangs like honey in our ears, and undoubtedly the finest museum in video game history, this is nothing short of an audio-visual dream. Handheld play unsurprisingly feels extremely natural given the series’ history, but docked is where you’ll get to see the shiniest of the pretty things in the quality most deserving.”

10/10 – Review by Alex Olney

IGN

“The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Super Mario each found new life on the Nintendo Switch, and following those games in kind is Animal Crossing: New Horizons: An expanded, polished, next-generation reboot of a classic Nintendo game. Perhaps most importantly, like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is full of surprises. I cannot wait to see what’s to come: Seeing cool custom islands from the community, special events, season changes.”

9/10 – Review by Samuel Claiborn

GamesRadar

“This is an Animal Crossing game through and through, and although that comes with some time-based frustrations, that urge to just spend ‘five more minutes’ on your island deepens with every passing day. As your island evolves and starts to drip-feed fresh things to discover and see, you’ll have the urge to check up on your toe bean-boasting critters on a daily basis more than ever before. Animal Crossing: New Horizons has perfected the gameplay loop the series is famed for, and somehow manages to keep its steady pace relevant in a world where there are plenty of genre rivals.”

4.5/5 – Review by Sam Loveridge

Vice

New Horizons is asking you to create a society from scratch, to build a community out of a deserted island, but making a community isn’t dependent on how many trees you cut or weeds you pull. Community in New Horizons is built in the same ways it is built in the real world: by talking to your neighbors, and listening to them in return.”

Not scored – Review by Gita Jackson

Polygon

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a respite from the current state of the world. I find my general anxiety slowly subside as I run through my town, water my plants, and build furniture for the sassy chicken gentleman living down by the beach. It’s exactly what I need right now.

There are moments when I look up from a long session and realize that I’ve been ignoring everything around me. Then I take a look around at what actually is going on around me, and realize that maybe I’d better stay in my island paradise for a little while longer”

Recommended – Review by Russ Frushtick

Other publications

  • Destructoid – 8.5/10
  • Game Informer – 9/10
  • GameSpot – 8/10
  • Videogamer – 9/10
  • USGamer – 4.5/5

Title: Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Release date: March 20, 2020
Platform: Nintendo Switch


Visit our new releases section for more on this week’s new video games.

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Is Nioh 2 worth playing?

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

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Nioh 2
Team Ninja

Team Ninja’s Nioh 2 is another deadly slice of action RPG adventure for the PlayStation 4, but does the game improve on the acclaimed original?

Nioh 2 continues Team Ninja’s strong run with another rough diamond of a game. Its combat is universally acclaimed, requiring finesse, expertise, and resilience. The Dark Souls comparisons loom large, of course, but, like its predecessor, Nioh 2 manages to carve out a distinct identity.

Many critics also agree on the game’s flaws, believing that Team Ninja has perhaps added too much content into the mix. A plethora of gruelling side missions, and some less than memorable locations, take the shine off an otherwise top-notch action experience.

Here is our pick of the game’s best reviews.

Nioh 2 review round-up

GameRadar

Nioh 2 very much doubles down on the vision of the first game. It tells another story of feudal Japanese warlords, samurai and demons. It again sticks close to From’s Dark Souls structure, with added loot and frenetic combat that recalls Team Ninja’s own classic Ninja Gaiden series. And it’s still huge, with long, meandering main missions bolstered by optional sub-missions that often reuse parts of the same maps.”

4.5 – Review by Jon Bailes

Polygon

Nioh 2 is Ninja Gaiden mixed with Dark Souls and Sekiro and drowned in an ocean of complexity. Every enemy is a threat, if I’m anything less than deliberate. I don’t feel skilled when I succeed. I feel smart. And I guess I like feeling smart.”

Not scored – Review by Dave Tach

GameSpot

Nioh 2‘s definitive feature is its challenge. With core mechanics refined from the bones of Dark Souls, Nioh 2 boils down to a series of battles and duels in all kinds of situations. These battles demand intense precision: Not only are your attacks and skills limited by a stamina meter–called Ki–but any extra attack or mistimed movement will leave you exposed, often to an attack that will cost you a substantial amount of health. Like other Souls-like games, there is a painful pleasure in mastering whatever opponents the game throws your way.”

8/10 – Review by Mike Epstein

Kotaku

Nioh 2 has some glaring flaws in spite of the fantastic combat and challenging encounters. Chief among them is level design that turns most of the game into a blurry slog. The Sengoku period is packed with battles and sieges, but Nioh 2 delays on embracing a more magical presentation until the latter half of the game. As a result, there are strings of levels that are either muddy battlefields, crumbling towns, or dilapidated castles.”

Not scored – Review by Heather Alexandra

IGN

“It took me about 55 hours to beat Nioh 2, and while every single hour of gameplay was challenging, none of the main missions ever felt insurmountable or made me think that I needed to grind in order to overcome them. However, some of the sub-missions definitely skirted a little too close to the line between difficult and unfair.”

9/10 – Review by Mitchell Saltzman

Eurogamer

“In Dark Souls, the world is an interlocking, eldritch conundrum. In Nioh 2, it’s a series of fiendish puzzle boxes. Engrossing and oppressive, for sure, but not that startling or intriguing. Nioh 2 is a work of immense skill and scale, but Team Ninja’s next project needs to be more about changing things than adding them. After all, no amount of equipment buffs can protect you against the element of surprise.”

Recommended – Review by Edwin Evans-Thirlwell

Destructoid

“If there’s one point I want to get across above all others, it’s this: Nioh 2 isn’t as revelatory as the first game, but that shouldn’t be held as a mark against it – at least not this time. Team Ninja was right to iterate and expand carefully. Nioh got so much right on the first go.”

9/10 – Review by Jordan Devore

Other publications

  • Game Informer – 8.5/10
  • Metro – 9/10
  • USGamer – 3.5/5
  • Atomic – 82/100
  • ShackNews – 8/10

Title: Nioh 2
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo / Sony Interactive Entertainment
Released: March 13, 2020
Platform: PlayStation 4


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Is Ori and the Will of the Wisps worth playing?

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latest game from Moon Studios. It’s the follow-up to Ori and the Blind Forest, but is it as good?

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Moon Studios

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the latest Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive from Moon Studios. It’s the follow-up to the 2015’s acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest, but is it as good? We dip our toe in critical waters to find out. 

Creating a sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest was never going to be an easy task for Moon Studios, but based on the overwhelmingly positive critical response for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, it appears the studio has once again struck gold.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps refines and expands on what made the first game so special with a delicate and affecting story, a glorious, imaginative world to explore, and some spectacular boss battles.

Here’s our pick of the game’s reviews.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps review round-up

Mashable

“When everything lines up so perfectly like it does in Will of the Wisps, it’s hard to pull away. It’s an experience that’s probably familiar to those who’ve played some of the legendary games that make up the 2D platforming pantheon — games like Super Metroid, Celeste, Hollow Knight, and Super Meat Boy.”

Not scored – Review by Kellen Beck

PC Gamer

“I prefer Ori and the Blind Forest for its compactness and simplicity, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is also worth playing to the end. It trips over its complexity at times, and really doesn’t need so much combat, but it’s gorgeous, funny, and the triple-jumping could go on forever without getting old.”

81/100 – Review by Tyler Wilde

Polygon

Ori and the Will of the Wisps offers a gorgeous world to explore and a varied, creative series of abilities and tasks that guide my exploration and help me see more of this wonderful place. It expands my options in combat and offers me more to do, and mostly benefits from that added complexity, while losing some of its focus in the process.”

 Not scored – Review by Andrew King

GameSpot

“Ori’s suite of acrobatic moves makes delving into new areas a thrilling treat. Exploration becomes especially engaging as you unlock more abilities and become increasingly adept. Some of them are lifted directly from the first game, which can be disappointing next to the excitement of discovering a shiny new ability. Still, those old standbys still work well and make the improvisational leaps and bounds feel as great as ever.”

8/10 – Review by Steve Watts

VentureBeat

“As a huge fan of Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps is everything that I could have wanted from a sequel. It’s a longer adventure with fantastic additions, especially the incredible boss fights. The ending sequence will go down as one of the best in gaming history. The occasional technical problems can be annoying, but I’d put up with five times as many bugs to play through this masterpiece.”

98/100 – Review by Mike Minotti

Videogamer

“I would place Ori and the Will of the Wisps in the small catalogue of games, tucked into a sunny corner of my mind, from which I would make prescriptions for anyone with rainy spirits. The solution, when life stands no chance of imitating its art, is merely to jump back in.”

9/10 – Review by Josh Wise

IGN

“In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Moon Studios has taken an excellent foundation and made even more out of it. Its many new elements expand on and add to the first game’s fun without bogging it down or becoming overcomplicated. And that’s really the best praise you can give a sequel – it stays true to the spirit of the original, doubles down on what made it great, and gives you more stake in the world and options to navigate it.”

9/10 – Review by Brandin Tyrell

Other publications

  • TheSixthAxis – 100
  • GameInformer – 95
  • VGC – 100
  • Twinfinite – 90

Title: Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Developer: Moon Studios
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Release date: March 11, 2020
Platform: Xbox One, PC (Available via Xbox Game Pass)


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