Apex Legends Review

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PLAYERUNKNOWN’S Battlegrounds looked intriguing albeit too janky for my liking. 

Fortnite didn’t tickle my fancy either. 

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII’s Blackout caught my attention but didn’t manage to hold it beyond 3 matches. 

It turns out I was waiting for Respawn Entertainment and their take on the battle royale genre. Apparently, I wanted classes, teamwork, polish, and mobility options. And now that I have all those things in Apex Legends, I cannot put it down.  

It’s the first free to play non-mobile game that I sank both time and money into. I didn’t need the battle pass and what it offered but I felt obligated to pay for the excellent game they hot dropped onto the world.  

Call of Duty: Black Ops III introduced Specialists with abilities reminiscent of other hero shooters like Overwatch. These Specialist abilities were impactful but they didn’t turn the tide of battle like Overwatch’s. Apex Legends’ calls their heroes Legends but they’re essentially Specialists. Certain abilities like Lifeline’s healing bot or Caustic’s debilitating gas traps were useful in specific scenarios but they couldn’t guarantee a win. The same could be said with the Ultimate abilities which will require a bit of an adjustment period for anyone who’s used to Overwatch’s bangers. 

The level of polish and refinement on various aspects of the battle royale experience made Apex Legends very comfortable to play. I wasn’t awkwardly fiddling with menus to manage inventory or equipment. I felt everything was just a simple press away and the entire experience felt frictionless.  

The game wasn’t much of a looker on PC let alone a PlayStation 4 Pro. Performance was also generally sufficient with only the occasional dip below 60 FPS. I wanted better on both fronts but battle royales require a lot of horsepower and that these consoles just aren’t up to snuff. 

Polish, class abilities, and proficient technical chops can only get you so far, so what did Apex Legends do to get its hooks into me? The feel. It feels good to play and it that’s very important. I like the engagement distances in Apex Legends. This game plays at my kind of range. Most firefights take place in the mid to close range with the occasional long range affair to keep people on their toes.  

The brilliant “ping” system enabled a rudimentary but crucial communication between teammates. I feel like it should be in every multiplayer game from here on out because it’s so easy and effective to highlight enemies, suggest destinations and highlight loot. Voice communication is still superior but it is also greatly enhanced with the inclusion of the ping system.   

Apex Legends will likely end up being my most played game this year. Part of it is the battle royale hooks, but I feel a lot of it is the quality fundamentals. I have no idea how they will fare against Fortnite or other games in the genre but I’m firmly behind Respawn’s take on it.  

Ratings Guide

Verdict: 
I love it 

LTTP: Statik

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I bought Tarsier Studios’ Statik on the strength of its demo. I thought it was extremely clever how they transformed the DualShock 4 controller into a puzzle box for me to manipulate and figure out. I enjoyed the Portal inspired aesthetic as well. The demo set very high and positive expectations for which the full game did not live up to.  

While the demo showcased a brilliant use of the controller, it did omit one of the more annoying uses from the full game. Using the DualShock 4 controller as wand substitute was awkward and cumbersome. It’s not as accurate or as comfortable as it needs to be. Statik would have benefitted by not including those awful puzzle piece assembly intermissions.  

Portal comparisons ran rampant throughout my time with the game. It’s unfair to compare every game set in a sterile lab environment to Valve’s puzzle platformer but I am and Statik compared favorably. The inspiration was clear but it felt like they merely borrowed the Portal aesthetic as a vehicle to deliver their clever handheld puzzles.  

I genuinely enjoyed all the puzzles. The solutions were often felt out by fiddling with buttons and switches while observing the surrounding environment for clues. A few were tricky to piece together but overall, they were easier than the ones found in Valve’s Aperture Science centers.  

The motivation to finish the puzzles was to discover why I was stuck in this place trying to solve puzzles. I wasn’t expecting a tremendous pay off and I was right to do so.  

I was drawn to Statik for its puzzles and I ended up only enjoying it for its puzzles. On the plus side, it’s ¾ of what this game has to offer. The puzzles are engaging and rewarding to solve. The dressing and everything else surrounding it did not match the quality of said puzzles but it shouldn’t discourage those who enjoy a bit of puzzle solving in VR.  

Verdict: 
It was okay 

Ratings Guide

Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII PS4 Review

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I took a two year break on Call of Duty multiplayer. I enjoyed Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III and didn’t see the need to play Infinity Ward’s take on that formula. As much as I enjoyed Sledgehammer Games work with Advanced Warfare, I just didn’t find the idea of revisiting World War 2 appealing. Now I’m back into the thick of it with Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII. 

I normally would split these Call of Duty reviews into multiplayer and campaign reviews but I don’t have to for this year’s installment. Black Ops IIII doesn’t have a campaign and while it’s a bit of a bummer, my confidence in Treyarch to deliver a fantastic campaign was shaken after their last outing.  

Black Ops IIII was multiplayer centric but it still has three pillars including classic multiplayer shenanigans the series is known for. I spent most of my time with in this mode which feels good to play. It’s reminiscent of Black Ops III’s multiplayer sans wall running. The “story justification” for the regression was that this game takes place before Black Ops III. If I cared enough about the story, I could go into the Specialist missions and play through some matches with A.I bots to unlock cutscenes.  

I have little to no interest in that. I also have very little interest in the Zombies mode and the brand new Blackout mode. I’ve tried Zombie modes for years now and I just don’t enjoy them. I tried Treyarch’s Blackout mode but I just don’t think I like battle royale games regardless of how it plays. I just don’t like how these modes have relatively long match times compared to the traditional multiplayer.  

I keep coming back to the multiplayer trying to improve and learning to love Nuketown after all this time. (I find it okay now) The regular shuffle and mixing of featured playlists kept multiplayer relatively fresh. I personally love the Kill Confirmed and Team Deathmatch Mercenary playlists when I’m playing solo.  

I found the spawning and maps in this game solid. The number of times that I’ve spawn into an instant death is so few and far between now. The maps seem varied and flowed very well. Scorestreaks did not dominate their overwhelming firepower unless a match was already completely lopsided. In fact, the number of close matches that I’ve experienced in the Mercenary playlists should be a mark of pride for Treyarch’s matchmaking.  

The introduction of manual healing added much needed nuance to the flow of Call of Duty combat. Couple that with the slight bump in health, firefights feel like it’s more than just who shot first. Tactical retreats have never been this viable before. After I’m wounded, I can now flea heal up quickly and not need to spend time waiting for my life to eventually regenerate. Knowing that a person can be doing the same, I can rush them down and catch them mid-heal. That is if they didn’t choose to use the faster heal equipment. Making healing a tactical decision was brilliant.  

Here’s an unpleasant realization that struck me immediately after my first match: Black Ops IIII was an ugly game. I found this game’s visuals stylistically and technically ugly. I felt every single asset (except for the guns) sported some very muddy textures and some of the most lame character designs to date. I think the guns are the only things that I didn’t have issue with. On top of the built-in shortcomings, users are putting together some of the most garish and gross design combinations on these character models. This is such a far cry from the relative realism of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I don’t blame Treyarch for enabling personalization (it probably leads to people spending money) but it just kills any semblance of narrative cohesion.  

The audio mixing seems to require headphones to appreciate because on my surround sound system, it is very poor. Unless it’s a gunshot hitting something, I cannot distinguish what’s going on. Even more disappointing? Black Ops IIII’s menu music which is probably the weakest selection to date for Treyarch. I miss Adrenaline (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGLYpYoXkWw) and Ignition (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5NxjraldwE). 

Unlock weapons, build classes, string a series of scores together to unleash annoyances, rinse, and repeat. On paper, this loop was like any other Call of Duty title but this one is thematically relevant to my interests. Treyarch created a very refined version of their Black Ops formula. They’ve given people what they want in a variety of ways and while I may not partake with the Zombies or Blackout modes, the multiplayer itself was more than enough to justify the price of admission for my brother and I. It’s good to be back. 

Verdict:
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

Dragon Ball FighterZ PS4 Review

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Dragon Ball Z has never looked as consistently good as it did in Dragon Ball FighterZ. This was the game of my dreams. Ever since Capcom’s X-men vs Street Fighter, I dreamt of a Dragon Ball Z fighting game in that mold. All I wanted was for Capcom to be given a chance to bring the popular anime franchise and give it the Marvel vs. treatment. I wanted giant beam fireballs, air combos, and all the over-the-top action in a well playing game. It turns out that Arc System Works (not Capcom) would be the ones to fulfill my dreams 20 years later.  

I was more than happy to shell out the dough for the base game, the season pass, and just get right into the thick of things. I spent countless hours trying different characters, progressing through all the in-game combo trials, and even dabbled in a fair bit of competitive play and main story mission. In the end, I realized I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun engaging with the game’s different modes. I enjoyed the fighting but everything else surrounding it was dragging it down. 

I started sinking serious time into the combo trials where I was given a series of combos to pull off. Dragon Ball FighterZ was the first game I ever managed to complete all the trials for. Some were tough and required a couple of hours of practice but I eventually managed to eke past them all. I found these combos interesting to execute and impressive to watch unfold. It was nice to feel I could graduate from the friendly auto-combos to their real combos with relative ease. 

Having grasped some basics of the game, I decided to try the online. Unfortunately, the online experience was just like every other online fighting game experience I have ever played. I couldn’t translate much of what I learned into the multiplayer due to inconsistent network performance or terrible matchmaking. Even if I managed to get into a high quality match, it would be a fleeting moment that was few and far between. The amount of time that it took find me a match ran into the minutes. There were moments where I spent more time waiting than playing. I tried getting into lobbies but I would either be outmatched ability-wise or we have poor network connection qualities. Just a poor experience all around. 

I turned my attention to the single player offerings which featured a simple arcade mode (without any fun endings) and a story mode which was padded out with far too many filler fights. I grew tired of fighting stupid clones and just wanted to get into the meat of the somewhat decent story. The cutscenes featured the antics and voices from the show and it certainly showcased Akira Toriyama’s art in a very positive light. I honestly think this game surpasses the show with its consistency with quality.  

20 years ago I wished for a Dragon Ball Z fighting game in the same vein of Capcom’s Marvel vs. games and, for better or for worse, I got exactly what I wished for. I can live my wildest DBZ fantasy match ups with Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo and all their iconic foes. Pulling off their trademark ki blasts, beams, combos, and other high flying moves would have blown my adolescent mind. However, I can’t help but think that I should have wished for a little more.  

Verdict: 
I liked it 

Ratings Guide

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