LTTP: Returnal

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I liked Housemarque’s tight arcade gems like Super Stardust HD and Resogun, but Returnal gave me pause after seeing its hefty $89.99 asking price and the incongruent make up of the gameplay and aesthetics. I couldn’t reconcile the serious tone and visuals with the arcade style third person shooting mechanics. It wasn’t my jam at full price, but I kept hearing good things. I also heard they fixed some of its major criticisms (suspend cycle) and considering I was a fan of roguelikes such as Hades, I felt I had no excuse to try it once I subscribed to PlayStation Plus Extra.

After finishing the first act and nearly finishing the second, I was done sinking time into it. I don’t mind dying and having to start a cycle anew, but the game was so devoid of entertaining personalities that I dreaded having to see the same biomes again and again. Unless it was a very quick death, I often just shut the game down to go play something else after each attempt. 

Early on, I would look forward to pushing forward to see new biomes, enemies, and bosses. I was even a little bit intrigued by the story. However, by the time the second act came around, each new enemy quickly bored me. Each new weapon wore out its welcome. And I found whatever Selene was going through to be largely uninteresting.

If Hades got everything right, I felt Returnal got everything wrong. 

Verdict:
I didn’t like it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Marvel’s Spider-man: Miles Morales [PS5]

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loved 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-man game by Insomniac Games; it was easily the best Spider-man game to date and one of my favorite games in recent memory. Having said that, I didn’t have the desire to jump in and revisit New York City in 2020’s Marvel’s Spider-man: Miles Morales. Sure I enjoyed Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse and the 2018 game, but after hearing how familiar it was to the first game by Insomniac, I felt the need to create more distance. 

After nearly three years , a subscription service launch, and a pretty attractive sale, I decided to finally play the “standalone expansion”. Unsurprisingly, it was both familiar and enjoyable. I found Insomniac did well to channel the vibe of Into the Spider-verse while creating their own take on Miles Morales. I was pleasantly surprised with their own take of The Tinkerer. 

The entire setup of having Miles take care of New York while Peter was out vacationing with Mary Jane was cute. We got a little bit of Miles and Peter which gave me a glimpse of what Spider-man 2 could look like before it was Miles’ game. Many of his moves felt familiar to Peter’s, but the Venom bioelectric powers made Miles very distinctive. He felt more powerful and stealthy thanks to his bioelectric powers and the ability to just turn invisible. I found myself not utilizing many of the web gadgetry or web related moves much at all due to the Venom moves.

The strength of this game was still the main story thread and the swinging. I like the idea that Spider-man takes a vacation and leaves it to the backup that is Miles Morales. The new Peter Parker was indeed Tom Holland-esque, but it’s honestly been so long that you could have kept change from me and I wouldn’t have bat an eye. I was pleased with the brisk pace of the main story. They set everything up well enough to the point where the main antagonist was a believable and worthy adversary to Miles. I had no idea Insomniac Games did their own spin on the Tinkerer character until I checked the wikis. An excellent job!

The technical and graphical feats was equally commendable. I played the game on the 40FPS mode and it looked and ran great. The ray traced reflections held up well during gameplay, but even with that little nicety, it was clear that this was a PlayStation 4 game at its core. The city and nearly anyone who wasn’t the core cast were noticeably a step down in detail and quality.

Spider-man: Miles Morales was a good way to revisit 2018’s Spider-man without having to replay the exact same game. Some would argue that you’re doing just that with Miles Morales, but I think that’s a bit too refutative. It had the same open world weaknesses, but it also had the same strengths with it spectacular set pieces and compelling story. It’s a strong PlayStation 5 launch game and if you didn’t play it yet, it’s also a very strong PlayStation Plus Extra title; it’s a good time no matter when you end up playing it.

Verdict:
I liked it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Resident Evil 3 [PS5]

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Resident Evil 3 Remake felt like an expansion to Resident Evil 2 Remake which made the original $79.99 asking price a tough one to stomach. On its own, Resident Evil 3 Remake can be seen as “too short” and “too straightforward”, but I bought it for less than half the asking price and as a standalone expansion, it was fine. There wasn’t much exploration and its hook, Nemesis, was more of an ongoing gag than something to be feared.

The return of Jill Valentine was the highlight of the game; it was good to see her back in action. She held her own and didn’t take nonsense from the other characters which fed to the mystique as a “super cop” and veteran of zombie fighting. 

Carlos actually felt like a soldier equipped to handle a zombie apocalypse which made his segments more of a cakewalk than I was expecting. However, it wasn’t a foreign feeling as the RE2 Remake’s alternate character sections felt similar. I just wished they didn’t have to lean into “finding the cure” trope again.

The predecessor was a lengthy adventure, but it was padded retreading familiar territory twice.  RE3 Remake intertwined with the timeline of RE3 Remake, which meant visiting familiar territory for a third time, but thankfully the vast majority of the game was new. 

Jill and Carlos felt more nimble thanks to their newfound ability to dodge attacks. They also discovered knives that didn’t shatter through the course of a 6 hour adventure. Those two gameplay tweaks along with the muscle memory developed by playing RE2 Remake made for a breezy feeling game. There were spots of uneasiness, but I have to admit, RE3 Remake felt like a romp compared to my first run through the RE2 Remake.

I enjoyed my time in Raccoon City again; especially for the very modest price of admission nowadays. It’s a well made modern Capcom developed Resident Evil game which wasn’t something we could count on not so long ago. It may not be as meaty or impactful as its predecessor, but it’s still worth checking out Jill Valentine being a super cop.

Verdict
I liked it

Ratings Guide

LTTP: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) [PS5]

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Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a defining moment for first person shooters; single player and multiplayer shooters wouldn’t be the same after this seminal game launched. It effectively kicked off the annual Call of Duty franchise we know today. It was so iconic that Activision-Blizzard decided to remaster the game in 2016 and reboot it in 2019. The reboot managed to reinvigorate the franchise’s multiplayer and successfully launch a battle royale in Warzone, but the campaign didn’t hit the memorable marks that I was hoping for.

I have to admit that I actually finished the campaign months ago and completed two other games before realizing that I didn’t jot down my thoughts on what I played. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s campaign leaned in on its blockbuster Hollywood depiction of war with unrealistic outcomes the nuance of a sledgehammer wielding gorilla.

This Call of Duty: Modern Warfare campaign tried to be more subtle and nuanced, but it still comes off clumsy and, frankly, forgettable. They tried to play between the lines of morality and deeper character motivations, but it didn’t manage to strike a memorable note. Who are the bad guys? How are people radicalized? Playing as a small child to save their brother from a superhuman invader by attacking and hiding three times doesn’t help me understand the situation any better. 

I played the game on the PlayStation 5 in 2022, and it’s still holds up quite well. The presentation and feel of the game was a step above of any other Call of Duty title to date; probably only outdone by its 2022 sequel, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. 

Bombastic spectacles were still present, but they were less ridiculous and entertaining than those found in the original Modern Warfare. They were trying to highlight the complications of identifying the enemy in this reinvented Modern Warfare title where battlelines are blurred and battlefields are much smaller in scale. Breach and clears were a punctuation point in the 2007 game, while it was — annoyingly — the point in the 2019 game. Creeping through buildings, to clear them out room by room is not my idea of a good time. Perhaps they were trying to convey that fact, in which case, they succeeded.

I was very curious what Infinity Ward would bring to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Choosing to reboot a beloved game was a very deliberate act to stir up excitement in a very long running franchise. I understand why they though it was a good idea to update Modern Warfare and actually have it reflect what warfare means in the 2020s. However, I think it’s trying to take itself seriously and created an even bigger tonal gulf between the campaign and multiplayer halves of the game. It’s ridiculous, but not in a good way.

Verdict:
I didn’t like it

Ratings Guide

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