Premieres 5


CrossCode

This is a very well designed game that had two major issues; One, the story takes extraordinarily long to start, and two, every gaming element overstays its welcome to the point where it just drags. These two issues aside this is a real passion product and an excellent game and I’d easily recommend giving it a chance (especially since it has a demo, and is on PC and console both).
Total Story Score: +9
Total Gameplay Score: +8
Cheats: Yes (walkthrough for some puzzles)
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 27 Hours
Time Reviewed: 10-24-2020
*Coffee Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Doodad placement and usage
  • Expressions / Animations for dialogue
  • NPCs as set dressing (walking around, talking with each other, hanging out)
  • The escape from the instanced tower sequence and related cutscenes
  • Attention to detail in people, doodads, and spritework
  • World building scenes about instant matter, the water, and the kid throwing around Lea
  • Good supporting cast: Emilie is adorable, Evo-Lukas is supportive, Apollo is surprisingly awesome
  • Lea is adorable. Just adorable.
  • The main plot (when it finally gets going) is quite engaging and the Outro fulfills a lot of cool elements of the game to-date and the final suicide of Gautham was very well done
  • Aggregate: The reveal about our AI nature and the silent scenes that followed // Apollo’s narration while in the party // Side quests and story quality thereof

Story Negatives:

  • The first 12 or so hours of the game did not handle its time well. After that point it tightens up considerably, but the first 12 are a sufficient slog with no real meat to them such that I remained de-invested the entire rest of the game, and I imagine there are people who would never play past that mark to get to the good stuff. From a story perspective this is mostly about nothing really happening

Gameplay Positives:

  • Tutorial. Plot relevant, smooth and quick, gets across all the basics, and most importantly of all it’s completely skippable (in fact you can turn off all helpers and tutorials going forwards)
  • Spritework is fantastic, some of the better modern spritework I’ve seen
  • Attention to detail in visual design is apparent everywhere
  • Options and Assist Mode are good, built in, and varied
  • Risk/reward for Rank aka do you keep going to get better drops or quit to regen
  • Good fast travel (find, unlock, instant from anywhere out of combat)
  • Dominance of yellow enemies in overworld (aka no mandatory trash)
  • Zelda-style puzzle design is good stuff, with interesting puzzles with multiple solutions
  • The game goes out of its way to ensure that you don’t fall behind in power progression; You can do side quests which give plenty of xp, money, and gear… You can just go grind and up your Rank… or you can avoid both and skill your way through mandatory enemies and bosses and the xp you gain is a lot because…
  • …the xp gain from enemies is relative to their enemy vs. yours, meaning lots of xp for being under-leveled, and diminishing returns on leveling in a circle
  • Boss fights are fun and interesting
  • The shock dungeon was actually really fun and awesome to do, easily my favorite dungeon at that point
  • The snail boss fight by itself was actually really awesome
  • The final boss fight was quite fun, varied, and enjoyable
  • Decent new game + options but…
  • Aggregate: Good chat log, even showing animations // Percentile healing items which means they’re always useful // There’s some legitimately good songs in this one, but Yoyo Syndrome is in effect
  • Aggregate: The Patience quest is probably the best quest in the game (have to count rock hits, inconsistent timing, interrupts and same sound effects, and party members troll you) // The enemy variety is great, hampered only by its repetition // The charge up to the Tower was actually awesome, just overstayed its welcome

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Awkwardness of shortcut menu and lack of hotkeying to bypass
  • Early side quests cause issues by being boring on both axis, meaning players might be discouraged from doing them
  • There’s a bit of Dragon Age 2 Syndrome going on with several aspects of the game. It’s good stuff, but it does feel a bit dragged on
  • A second negative for DA2 Syndrome, even in the Outro (good ideas that just overstay their welcome)
  • The mandatory stealth section in the tower (binary difficulty, lack of checkpoints, awkward controls)
  • Just traversing from Point A to Point B is irritating since in many (if not all) cases it involves navigating or doing puzzles, especially on the overworld
  • The perspective issue with the ‘multiple heights’ terrain causes issues constantly
  • The first 12 or so hours of the game did not handle its time well. After that point it tightens up considerably, but the first 12 are a sufficient slog with no real meat to them such that I remained de-invested the entire rest of the game, and I imagine there are people who would never play past that mark to get to the good stuff
  • …the fact that you have to buy New Game + options with points is just awful

The Outer Worlds

To start, this game has severe issues. I would not recommend getting it unless you’re sure you can stomach it (literally, as it can cause headaches and nausea) or have the ability to mod it (such as on PC). Once you’re past that hurdle, this game is great. Excellent story, characters, quest design, and some fantastic elements throughout. Hugely recommended… past the first hurdle.
Total Story Score: +22
Total Gameplay Score: +4
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 5 Days // 42 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-2-2020
*Coffee Game*

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Intro: Establishes good characters, great dialogue, premise, allows a lot of options, and is properly horrifying
  • Corporate Horror. Just… Corporate Horror. Wow
  • The amazingly well-crafted nightmare horror of the hyper-specialized Byzantium is just amazing
  • Dialogue is exceptionally well written and makes each character feel fleshed out and interesting
  • Dialogue choices are varied and awesome and help sell the flavor and slice of character you play
  • Voice acting is awesome and really adds to the nuance and vibe of each character
  • Brickwork is quite good, and notably varied from locale to locale
  • Doodad utilization is excellent and helps sell many areas
  • Banter between party members and random NPCs is great
  • Parvati’s quest chain is one of the most adorable things I’ve seen lately and immensely satisfying to get right
  • Max’s quest chain
  • Humor? Humor.
  • Tone is great, with lots of shifting in and out of horror and humor
  • Text logs add some great flavor and world building
  • Great supporting cast, especially Reed Tobson, Zora, Sanjar, Chairman Clarke, and Adjutant Akande
  • The Edgewater solution arc were some good quests
  • The Groundbreaker recruit Ellie quest, and the Groundbreaker bounty quest
  • The surprisingly long Grimm’s poster quest chain is one of the more memorable and enjoyable ones in the game
  • Roseway’s quests, satellite insane man who didn’t want to murder, Zora and the Iconoclasts
  • MSI’s arcs and Sanjar
  • Nyoka’s quest chain, the Chairman’s presentation
  • Chemicals choice? Central (hollywood quest)
  • The Hope dungeon (the Hope… learning about the hunger problem, the cannibalism civil war, and the final fate of the captain and navigator who saved us all)

Story Negatives:

  • Gorgon DLC’s story really fell flat. They kept playing up the horror despite it being relatively mild compared to the rest of the game, it felt like a strange path to get through the arc, and the final choice fell flat since neither person we can work with is worth a damn and forces us to kill their troops just to talk to them and… I don’t know, nothing was interesting about the entire arc

Gameplay Positives:

  • The Intro does a lot to establish the function of the BRPG format; Quest design, multiple paths, plenty of experience opportunities, and a lot of low-requirement skill checks to get you used to doing so (and reward you for it)
  • Perks as mutators instead of just stat increases
  • Flaw system! Stuff you do leads to Flaws ‘unlocking’ which you can then (optionally) pick up in order to gain a Perk Point, giving you a lot of player choice in how you set yourself up
  • Companion AI! For the first time in a BRPG I actually feel like the companion legitimately contributes
  • Enemies can cower, flee, etc. rather than perma aggro (there’s even perks for it)
  • All-Roads-Lead-To-Rome quest design
  • Branching quest design (multiple outcomes for multiple quest arcs)
  • Side quest ping pong design (run into a quest, which takes you to Place or Person X, which has another quest for you, which takes you to…)
  • Shroud, talk your way to restore if caught, three charges, great mechanic
  • Dialogue options design (hard to describe but there’s some really good actual design into dialogue paths and trees, optional skill and attribute checks, and paths to progression)
  • Good fast travel (unlock as you go, instant and from anywhere)
  • Multiple automatic slots for both quicksaves and auto-saves
  • Aside from the DLC, the pacing of quests, dungeon design, and encounters is quite good
  • The multiple paths and options of the Hope dungeon are actually quite good
  • Aggregate: Decent survival mode option // Chat log in dialogue // Ease and smoothness of looting // Party members add stat bonuses to your skills // Point of No Return warning
  • Aggregate: Actual detection mechanics // Partial positive for percentile potions // Can kill everyone, which isn’t a plus by itself, but baking in options to either continue (main quests) or fail (side quests) because of NPC death is some good design

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The FOV wobble while sprinting is awful
  • The fact that you can’t auto-move without sprinting is awful
  • Dialogue depth of field
  • The camera is just oddly weird, in ways I can’t quite describe… similarly there’s some weirdness to the mouse which, thanks to INI editing can be removed but by default is just awful
  • Inability to bring party members at once, leading to loss of banter, conversation, etc. (usual problem)
  • The fact that it plays a cutscene every single freaking time you do a party member ability, with no option to toggle it off or not, and with only a little variety in the cutscene in question, is just bleh
  • Gorgon DLC (formulaic, boring quest design and excessive combat focus)
  • Gorgon DLC (pacing)
  • The engine is not well optimized and the game plays badly and just adds a lot of weird jank to standard gameplay
  • Endgame and Gorgon both have way, way too much health/armor which just bores up both sections (made worse by the final dungeon feeling thrown together and anti-climactic after the Hope dungeon)
  • Final boss fight has a neat mechanic to effectively skip it, but the fight itself is arguably boring and has no real variety to its gimmicks
  • Aggregate: Lazy difficulty settings (HP and damage) // Inventory interface has a few problems, including mouse-over delay and the pop-up covering up text // When sorting inventory it doesn’t update the icons indicating what’s equipped on whom

Yakuza Kiwami

If you’re even a little bit a fan of beat ’em ups or the Yakuza series (or Shenmue) then I’d highly recommend playing this. The gameplay axis has several substantial flaws that consistently bring it down (several of which seem like leftovers of the original PS2 game) but the core combat is quite fun and the overall story is enjoyable and engaging.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +1
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 33 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-6-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Proper Remake Positive
  • The initial scene with Majima and Kiryu establishes a lot very quickly and efficiently; Kiryu’s stalwart, iron wall nature… Majima’s mask of crazy, and that slip of respect (which is mutual)
  • Doodad utilization
  • City design and visual aesthetic are great
  • NPCs as set dressing to flesh out and add to the terrain, make it more lively
  • Camera usage in cutscenes is surprisingly good, with good angles and movement and focus
  • Kiryu is so delightfully good it’s hard to even properly explain. He’s the closest thing to The Mario we have in a setting that somehow supports it
  • Cutscene animations and motion capture
  • Nishiki is a surprisingly interesting character (owing a lot to 0 admittedly, but the added scenes help really sell the sad, pathetic, core-less soul that he became)
  • Haruka is just adorable and amazing and awesome and well introduced and emphasized
  • Nishiki flashbacks are very well presented and executed and really help set things up, in addition to just being good showcasing of the politics involved
  • Majima’s quests and scenes were quite good, and almost always worth a laugh (plus the occasional ‘drop the mask’ moment), such as Hobo Juice, Sewer Grate, and of course Pocket Circuit
  • Good support cast: Rina // Date // Shinji // Florist // Kazuki // Yuya
  • Aggregate: Florist’s son and the Yakuza’s daughter // Nishiki’s first in-person confrontation with Kiryu // Some side quests
  • Aggregate: Majima date scene is just… amazing // Zombie Majima was even better

Story Negatives:

  • Jingu and the big, drawn out scene where he rants not only feel mis-placed but honestly his removal actually improves the story
  • Aggregate: Opening cinematic spoils things // The Shangri-La quest arc is weirdly drawn out and dull in an otherwise strong story // Several issues with pacing

Gameplay Positives:

  • Proper Remake Positive
  • Good save design (tons of save slots, built in auto saves, multiple auto save slots, and very very quick and smooth to save)
  • City design and layout, as well as density of content
  • Rush style and the avoidance tech and increased run speed for repositioning (and just moving around in combat sections) // Brawler style and reach and flexibility // Beast style and tanking, unflinching
  • Pocket Circuit Racer (pre-battle strategy; Figuring out the best combos of parts for the course, ability to do test runs, and custom track editor
  • The Majima fights are probably the best ones in the game, with actual difficulty, adaptive (and increasing) AI, and multiple forms he takes to fight
  • Stance swapping, cross comboing, and eventual kit
  • The Nishiki final boss fight was very fun. Huge variety of attacks, lots of possible counters, and awesome thematic significance
  • General positive for emphasis on proper difficulty (most of the time), timing of attacks and parrying, paying attention, and general skill cap
  • Good New Game +
  • Aggregate: Bowling (aiming, power, spin, good physics emulation, generally the best bowling video game I’ve ever played) // Usable terrain and item / weapon specific heat attacks // Encounter design (nearby interactables, number of enemies, wideness of terrain) // Pool is surprisingly fun and well designed

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The ‘save the puppy’ quest commits several sins: It’s unmarked, the items necessary are only available in specific shops, nothing happens while you’re doing it, and it’s mandatory main plot
  • The Kiwami system feels off. It actively punishes using heat moves, involves the same animation each time, and more or less mandates spending the xp into the right moves (with no in game indication thereof) or else face the boss regening and/or going into screw you mode
  • Entirely too easy and possible to permanently skip dialogue on accident simply by roaming around
  • The colosseum is honestly just awful. The enemies have too much health, the amount of points you get is too low so it’s grindy, the gimmicks of the fights are too little
  • The Majima Everywhere leveling system is honestly just way too grindy. You get so little from each encounter that it takes what are otherwise awesome fights and makes them a chore
  • Being knocked down and having to mash to get up never stops getting more irritating, given how much you have to mash and how much it just destroys the flow of combat
  • The Outro has severe doldrums problems. First there’s the long, dull fight with Shimano, then the Mob fight, then fighting the same three knife/gun guys (and miniboss) for like 10 solid minutes…
  • The lead up long fight to Jingu is long, boring, and irritating and made much worse by…
  • …the absolute bullcrap of fighting two high health gun guys while fighting him (gun and grenade) all of which involve constant knockdown spam and then the guys you just defeated get right back up again
  • Aggregate: Boss fight issues (Shimano who was boring and had way too much health // Gun Guy who was irritating, had no reload phase, spammed dodge, and was just generally irritating to fight) // Adventure game logic in some quests (Chapter 8 especially)

Just Cause 4

While I’ve played and seen worse, this is not a good game. I’d only recommend this on super sale, to just screw around and have fun with the random elements of the game. The missions and story are best ignored or forgotten.
Total Story Score: -5
Total Gameplay Score: -5
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 20 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-10-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Aggregate: Some passable supporting cast such as Sargento and Javi // Cesar was pretty amusing, especially in… // …the Tornado series of missions, which had some good spectacle and culminated in the ‘is that a USB?’ moment

Story Negatives:

  • The introductory cutscene with mira and her cousin is every single level of bad. The storyboarding, camera usage, first-pass dialogue, inconsistent tone, and just bad bleh
  • Bad storyboarding and cinematography
  • Bad directing and dialogue
  • The big reveal scene about the Agency and Rico’s parents should be one of the biggest scenes in the franchise to-date and it falls utterly flat for all the reasons the cutscenes in this game fail
  • Improper balance of silly and serious
  • The Outro ends on an unearned to be continued with all the issues with the other story cutscenes all crammed into one, no impact, no emotion, no investment

Gameplay Positives:

  • Really good checkpoint design in missions
  • Grappling hook navigation and getting around is fun and plenty of options (including vehicles, hitching a ride on a piece of debris, or just flying)
  • Grappling hook mechanics and what they allow (while not doing as well as previous games, you can still do plenty with just grappling which is still fun)
  • Random radiant shenanigans (hard to explain but sometimes random things just happen and they’re just silly and fun)
  • The fact that you can unlock tons of drops in vehicles and equipment both and just drop it on the fly with very low cooldown
  • The sound FX and explosions are actually quite cool and satisfying, very important for a game like this
  • Aggregate: Reasonable music now and again, plus… // Yoshi Drums on some missions // Decent fast travel system // The Weather system is a bit too threadbare, but it’s good when it’s there

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Forced tutorialization and badly scripted missions
  • Bad raspberry jam
  • Irritating to lose wanted level
  • Lack of minimap/radar/etc leading to blind feeling, combined with…
  • …bad color design, leading to issues with the HUD
  • Interface design is just awful, with weird and improperly rebindable button usage and non intuitive selection, canceling out, etc. plus difficulty seeing what is where in said interface
  • Overworld and map design is not great, and lack of good density prevents there from being really anything interesting to do outside of missions and objectives
  • Lack of mission variety which just makes going through events kind of a chore
  • Number of hard crashes: 9. Nine hard crashes!
  • Many small but constant irritations with gameplay. Jank, controls, vehicle physics, loading issues, aiming problems, restructured controls, etc.
  • The Outro is just another bog standard mission with nothing new or interesting, generic music, and a fight against the same trash you’ve been fighting the entire game as the ‘final boss’
  • Aggregate: Small font design as per usual // Unskippable cutscenes // Lighting and bloom are legitimately awful

Spellforce 3

A good attempt that admittedly falls pretty flat on the gameplay axis, but is nonetheless something I highly encourage people to try out for the story. Just put the difficulty down to minimum and don’t use ranged units.
Total Story Score: +14
Total Gameplay Score: -3
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 4 Days // 39 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-18-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Voice acting is quite good, not just for Geralt (ha ha) but for most of the characters
  • Second positive for both quality and quantity of VA
  • Doodad usage and placement are excellent, with lots and lots of good detail in the terrain
  • Bestiary and background lore as a way to flesh out the world
  • Visuals are quite impressive and the game is legitimately good looking
  • NPC set dressing is quite good given the size of the town and out-door areas
  • The entire Orc quest arc with Gor and the idiot who was effectively stuck continuing to ruin the Firewielder tribes because of bad promises and being politically backed into a corner… good stuff
  • The Elven quest involving the two Scryers (one of whom seems unreasonable but ends up supporting you more) and fixing the corruption and assisting the local Crown Royals so that they may or may not support you against the Bane… good stuff
  • Helping the Iskanders and refugees fleeing to Everlight while dealing with monsters and our old General friend (‘Geralt’) while simultaneously being helped by our old friend who joined the Purity (Bertrand)… good stuff
  • The big twist surrounding ourself and our mother was quite well done… the ‘reveal’ about us being destined and special was the mask for the real reveal, about the nature of the Bloodburn and the tragedy of how so much pain and suffering and death has been caused by something so innocent and unintentional
  • The game manages a decent tone of unpleasantness in storytelling without going overboard, helped by…
  • …good consequences and internal continuity
  • Yria is a surprisingly enjoyable character, probably the most stable and grounded character despite being an elven mage. Her backstory is just painful in its grounded simplicity
  • Gor is helped by his voice actor of course, but he is easily my favorite character in the game Rohan?
  • Katras has relatively little screen time but his excellent voice actor and consistent presentation of the honest, insistent mercenary is great
  • Good supporting cast (Raith, Karles (the traumatized mage), Ianna)
  • Aggregate: Isgrimm is almost entertaining in how disconnected he is // Humor (pulp romance novel narration, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ quest, Berghol the Bodacious, etc.)

Story Negatives:

  • Limiting party size and usual issues (especially bad since several party members will add critical information to specific quests)
  • The game’s a big dialogue heavy, which is fine but does lead to some odd pacing, exposition, and empty text issues. This is fine by itself but the dialogue is just… off frequently in ways I find hard to describe without just giving examples
  • The Outro really stumbled, hard. Sudden attempts at feeling, unnecessary attempts at screwing over the player, Angar dying in a cutscene for no reason (and never being mentioned again), and the whole thing feeling exceptionally deflating

Gameplay Positives:

  • Good auto and quick saves (multiple slots, frequently done, quick and easy)
  • Can keep building, working, etc. while managing the RPG elements (inventory, leveling, dialogue)
  • Aggregate: Dialogue coloration and hotkeys // Respec potions which are readily available // Hero building (3 active skills, 3 items, and related tactical considerations) // Different heroes respond during orders randomly // Warning of crossing point of no return

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Unacceptably buggy launch
  • Visibility issues are a near constant problem. It’s hard to explain but I have trouble seeing where the terrain is, which buildings are where, units and their (tiny) health bars, and general UI problems. This is partially fixed by changing the graphics options but only partially
  • The walk speed isn’t the slowest I’ve seen but it’s pretty slow, and given how much back and forth you tend to do it gets old. It makes sense for the RTS sections (limited response time as a part of tactics) but for the RPG segments it literally means just doing nothing for minutes at a time. I’ve actually spent some of this Run alt-tabbed getting work done while walking from point A to point B
  • Imbalancing issues (melee focus thanks to damage type and buffs/heals being PBAoE)
  • The final mission is honestly pretty bad, especially for a final mission. You’re given forces but not allowed to use them (mini dungeons), there’s padding (you have to walk across long stretches of nothing multiple times because of how the quest scripting is designed), the music is just sort of generically bland
  • Aggregate: Font size and scaling issues (text overlapping itself, tiny font, etc.) // Ease of permanently skipping dialogue accidentally // Inconsistent usage of music combined with audio balancing issues

Halo Combat Evolved

This game definitely shows its age in many ways, something the remaster did not help with. That being said it’s also easy to see why this launched so much interest in the franchise, studio, and the XBox in general. If you haven’t picked this up to play through I’d easily recommend it.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 13 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-20-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • The Intro does a lot to establish and setup the stakes and setting very quickly and efficiently and also gets across several points about Chief and the crew naturally and through gameplay
  • There’s a decent amount of world building (again, mostly in gameplay) that helps to give ideas of how the Covenant and UNSC operate, as well as the greater significance of the Halo (Grunts, ship names, etc.)
  • Banter between Grunts and Marines is great
  • The build up and reveal of the Flood was some good, enjoyable suspense
  • Guildy Spark 343 is surprisingly interesting and sympathetic of a character for how much of an antagonist they are
  • The presentation of the Terminal cutscenes themselves are actually pretty good, despite their issues, and serve as good external continuity

Story Negatives:

  • The Terminal cutscenes have serious issues. Ignoring the pacing and interruption issues of how they’re jammed awkwardly into the game, there’s also the fact that they torpedo the entire build up and pay off of the Flood

Gameplay Positives:

  • The sound effects in general are good, but especially on the guns which are so important for an FPS
  • The Skulls as toggleable mutators are a great feature
  • Graphics toggle deserves special mention considering you can toggle it on the fly between original and remastered graphics
  • Gun design is quite good. While there’s only 8 guns, each one is clearly distinct from each other in what type of gameplay they’re designed for and how they are to be used
  • Proper Co-op
  • Proper campaign co-op
  • AI design (reactive, changes based on difficulty, clearly well designed)
  • Flood vs. Covenant makes some good variance in combat (further added by the Sentinels later on), and the variety in how they are vulnerable to what and how they attack you helps keep things fresh

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The checkpoint design is actively bad. Ignoring the infrequency of checkpoints, which is its own problem, there’s also the fact that checkpoints won’t trigger while the player is ‘actively in combat’
  • Co-op mandatory friendly fire (also in missions, but it impacts co-op more)
  • The Library. The entire mission feels like it should be an increased tension build up but it isn’t as the entire thing feels irritating more than anything else. The areas are repetitive, it contains no less than 4 hold the line sections, it’s easy to skip dialogue accidentally, the areas drag on for too long, and given the aforementioned checkpoint issue it’s very easy to lose lots of progress if you don’t know how to break the system
  • The excessive backtracking and padding of the Two Betrayals mission was sloggy and actively ruined the otherwise decent pacing of the game
  • Aggregate: Inconsistent and intermittent usage of music // Latency issues in co-op (unacceptable in a modern FPS game) // General irritations with options not being available on the fly, combined with lack of saving, meaning restarting entire missions to fiddle with settings

Halo 2

This game is hard to judge alongside the first one because it is both better and worse. Several things have been noticeably touched up, but several others feel more irritating to deal with. The mission design has improved, but there are still frustration points. Enemy design is top notch, AI is still good, guns are still good. The story has improved drastically, actually developing real characters and digging deep into the Covenant. Much recommended for any fans of good sci fi stories or FPS’s in general.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +3
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 2 Days // 10 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-21-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Intro trial for the Arbiter and the hooks and insight into setting and the Covenant
  • The opening cutscene is brilliant. Distinct lighting styles for both the Arbiter and Chief, contrast between the reward the Chief is receiving vs the branding the Arbiter receives, the underlying current that both find the ceremony distasteful and would rather perform their duty, and generally brilliant camera usage and editing
  • Covenant politics are fascinating and engaging the moment they show up
  • Prophet culture (inverse naming, fake faces)
  • Voice acting is quite good across the board
  • Camera and lighting cinematography in cutscenes
  • Brickwork and visual design
  • Brilliant motion capture and animation
  • The cutscene reveal of the Gravemind; Implications (spite and survival are its motive) and the direct contrast of mentalities (Penitent vs. Regret, Chief vs. Arbiter), and the Big G (voice pattern, dialogue presentation)
  • Good supporting cast (Miranda Keyes, Sergeant Johnson, Lord Hood, Tartarus)
  • Truth, Regret, and Mercy are all absolutely fascinating in how they are totally not their names and how they backbite even each other
  • The Arbiter is fascinating, R’tas and his journey from rival to ally is great, and though we see little of him the snippet of the Gravemind is properly terrifying
  • Ridiculous, silly fun in cutscenes and story beats
  • Terminals serve as some interesting world building and off camera storytelling, even though…

Story Negatives:

  • Intro Halo 5 teaser movie (mis-placed, and spoilery)
  • …the Terminals are still a bit spoilery, badly written from a dialogue perspective, and cause some other related issues

Gameplay Positives:

  • Skulls as mutators are awesome as before
  • Graphics toggle, even while in cutscenes!
  • Proper Co-op
  • Proper campaign co-op
  • Metropolis mission (variety of vehicles, gun options, terrain, AIs as assistants, nice ‘boss fight’ with the mining crawler)
  • Gravemind mission (great intro, nice design for freeing the marines, the background visuals, the enemies fighting each other, the varied terrain)
  • The gun design feels a bit lacking compared to the first game but is still quite good, in both variety, function, and viscerality
  • The enemy AI design remains excellent and the hallmark of encounters
  • With one exception (Brutes) the enemy design is nice and varied, with each enemy having their own ups and downs as well as methods built into them to contest them
  • The Great Journey (good vehicle usage, release prisoners to assist, nice enemy encounter construction, the ‘escort section’ of Backseat Driver)
  • The music is good and, unlike the first game, is better utilized

Gameplay Negatives:

  • The checkpoint problem remains, as with the first game (weird, often odd, checkpoint placement which mandates being out of combat to ‘trigger’ properly)
  • The checkpoint system is so problematic that it actually makes other aspects of the game worse
  • Mandatory friendly fire in co-op and latency issues
  • The Gravemind mission (that damned room which just has tons of enemies that can one shot you, no way to progress but to kill, not good enemy drops, and a great music track which also causes issues because you hear the same point over and over again)
  • The removal of the healthbar plus how slow it is to refill the shield without replacing it with anything (such as killing enemies to refill) sort of hurts the flow, especially given the aforementioned checkpoint problem
  • Aggregate: General irritation with unavailability to change options without leaving a mission entirely // Lack of in game subtitles
  • Aggregate: Sacred Icon mission // Quarantine Zone mission
  • Aggregate: Missable dialogue // Multiple hard crashes (3 throughout)

Halo 3

The gameplay has been polished substantially, resulting in a far more enjoyable experience over 1 or 2. That being said the story takes a noticeable step backwards, which is a bit of a shame. Still very fun to play, especially with a friend (4 player co-op for the win!)
Total Story Score: 5
Total Gameplay Score: +10
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-23-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Banter between units is great
  • Terminals, hooks, and backstory building (Mantle, Gravemind, plan)
  • While they don’t have a large amount of screen time, R’Tas, Johnson, Cortana, and Chief have good moments which make a decent cast
  • Cutscene music direction is quite excellent
  • The plot has good individual moments that really sell things (the charge on the crater, the arisal of the new halo ring)
  • Several missions properly pace themselves in terms of tone and atmosphere

Story Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Several plot points fell apart, to wit: Johnson’s death felt unearned and unsatisfying, Keyes’ death while it served a purpose nonetheless felt improperly presented, the Truth was badly presented (and arguably badly written)

Gameplay Positives:

  • Proper co-op
  • Proper campaign co-op
  • Skulls as mutators
  • Enemy AI is, as per usual for the franchise, quite good
  • Ally AI is improved, to the point where they’re worth a damn
  • Gun design remains enjoyable
  • Enemy variety is excellent and, honestly, much improved over the previous game
  • Music is good but…
  • …for once the music direction is actually quite good and consistent, finally breaking the Half Life problem
  • The Storm (mission)
  • The Ark (mission)
  • Arena design is substantially better than in previous games
  • The Scarab walker fights were quite fun
  • Pacing and variety of missions

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Mandatory friendly fire in co-op mode
  • Checkpoint problems, as per usual for the series
  • The death issue remains, as per the previous game (it’s entirely too easy to die very quickly, which ignoring the checkpoint issue also makes the overall game have issues since there’s no real mechanics in place to negate it such as dodging, blocking, healing, killing to regen, etc. It’s worth noting that co-op effectively negates this, but obviously this is still an issue in single player)
  • Aggregate: No subtitles in gameplay // General irritation with unavailability to change options without leaving mission entirely // Forced changing weapons between missions, despite logic or player option // Buggy last mission

Halo 3 ODST

Since you’d probably get this anyways with the MCC it’s worth a playthrough. There’s some legitimately good ideas here and it’s a good experimental game, though I feel the characters are a bit lacking and the gameplay is a bit dull, but on the plus side it’s the Halo game that irritated me the least to play.
Total Story Score: +5
Total Gameplay Score: +6
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-24-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Voice acting is quite good
  • Atmosphere is something the game oozes throughout, especially the ‘overworld’ sections
  • Audio logs and the story they tell has some issues but is very well presented and does a great job of showcasing individual reactions to the end of the world
  • Jonas, Mike, Vergil, and Stephen are a great supporting cast. Oh… and Johnson
  • Sadie’s story has some bumps but she’s a good character and her story is one of the most engaging parts of the plot
  • Music is used quite well to set the tone

Story Negatives:

  • There is a difficult to describe disconnect in the narrative. It feels like it should be either more serious, more silly, or both and somewhat fails at specific scenes which just sort of lags it a bit

Gameplay Positives:

  • Proper co-op
  • Proper campaign co-op
  • Skulls as mutators
  • Gun design is still good
  • Enemy AI remains quite good
  • Enemy variety remains good
  • Music is quite good
  • There were several good and enjoyable missions

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Mandatory friendly fire in co-op mode
  • Aggregate: There’s a bit of a padding issue in the pacing with regards to the ‘overworld’ // The raspberry jam isn’t the worst I’ve seen but it’s not good, especially when combined with… // …the low health beeping, which again isn’t terrible but is still bad

Halo Reach

This is easily my favorite game in the series so far. The gameplay is polished to a beautiful shine, with great level design, enemies, encounters, AI, guns, mission variety, and the wonderful melancholy Bungie is so good at. Hugely recommended.
Total Story Score: +13
Total Gameplay Score: +20
*Sushi Game*
Cheats: No
Total Play Time: 1 Days // 7 Hours
Time Reviewed: 11-25-2020

Spoiler Pluses and Minuses +

Story Positives:

  • Motion capture and animation are top notch
  • Music direction is excellent and greatly enhances the tone and scenes
  • The general feel and vibe of the entire campaign of being on the back foot and never really recovering
  • Doodad placement is the best in the series to date
  • Lighting is surprisingly good and well presented
  • Camera work is similarly excellent and really helps accent the cutscenes
  • Sound design is surprisingly good, not just in general but for special sequences such as when there’s no atmosphere
  • Visual variety (city, drylands, frozen cave, burning structures, etc.)
  • The reveal of the super carrier
  • The fall from orbit, destruction of the super carrier, and the fleet coming in
  • The failed evacuation efforts for the city
  • Overall tone and mood of the game is beautifully melancholy
  • The ending. Hail the victorious dead

Story Negatives:

Gameplay Positives:

  • Proper co-op
  • Proper campaign co-op
  • Winter Contingency does a great job of setting the tone and pacing
  • ONI Sword Base was well laid out with good vehicle sections
  • On The Tip Of The Spear was just fun, with lots of great unit variety and drop design complimenting encounter design
  • Long Night of Solace had some awesome vehicle sections, great setpiece design inside the Covenant ship, and great sound design
  • Exodus was brutal and beautifully constructed. You start off damaged and with nothing, work your way up to Brutes, and end up fighting to save civilians… and mostly failing
  • New Alexandria and running around to do the semi randomly generated missions, which succeeds not only at varied gameplay but manages the ODST ‘overworld’ section but better
  • The Package had a really well designed arena, with regular waves of enemies that could be dealt with a number of waves, actual checkpoints and pause points, the ability to take enemy vehicles, and of course the turrets which you can ‘restore’ and are properly HUD labelled
  • The space saber section
  • The music is arguably the best it’s been in the series so far and…
  • …is actually properly utilized to emphasize scene and enjoyment
  • Encounter design is some of the best the series has had, with obvious thought and design put into each area
  • Enemy AI remains excellent and…
  • …the enemy designs and variety are some of the best things we’ve seen
  • Gun design and…
  • …gun variety are the best in the series so far
  • Terrain design actually serves function to work for mission design
  • Equipment is nice and fun, well labelled, and adds good kit
  • The final Lone Wolf sequence is nicely brilliant and fully optional
  • Mission pacing is as good as it was in Halo 3

Gameplay Negatives:

  • Aggregate: Mandatory friendly fire in co-op // No subtitles in gameplay // The final mission is simply too long and, as a consequence, it loses the impact and enjoyment of the mission