Video Game Review: Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell

Details: Originally released in 2015. This is a stand alone game independent from Saints Row IV. I purchased the game for PC through Steam for $3.74. I spent about four hours playing the game.

Gat Out of Hell is standalone downloadable content for Saints Row IV, similar to how Freedom Cry was standalone DLC for Assassin’s Creed IV. That means you don’t need Saints Row IV to play this game, but it continues the story and looks the same technically.

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Video Game Review: Saints Row IV: Game of the Century Edition

Details: Originally released in 2013. I purchased the Game of the Century Edition (has all DLC) for PC through Steam for around $5.00. I spent about twenty-two hours playing the game, beating it and going through the two story dlc’s.

Saints Row IV does not feel like a sequel to Saints Row III. It uses the same engine and reuses a lot of the same assets, making the game visually redundant. Saints Row IV instead feels like downloadable content for Saints Row III or, at best, an expansion for the prior game.

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Video Game Review: Batman: The Telltale Series

Details: Released in 2016. Spent nine hours playing through all five episodes for an average of a little under two hours per episode. Purchased for $6.25 through Steam.

Batman: The Telltale Series is an adventure game from Telltale studios that retells some classic Batman tales as well as a whole new story. This game makes significant changes to the Batman mythos and also keeps some things the same. As a big fan of all things Batman, I enjoyed this game and the story it told.

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Video Game Review: Borderlands 2: Game of the Year Edition

Details: Originally released in 2012. I purchased the Game of the Year Edition (doesn’t include all DLC) on Steam for PC for $8.80. I then purchased all five Headhunter DLC’s (all extra story content are in the Game of the Year Edition and the Headhunter DLC’s) for around $4.50 and the Ultimate Vault Hunter Pack 2 for another $2.50. In total, that’s about $16.00. I spent about seventy-five hours playing through the game.

I’ve got a lot of mixed feelings on Borderlands 2. Sometimes, the game is really fun. More times than necessary though, this game is freaking boring. So much so that I’m not sure I’m going to ever play a Borderlands game again. I haven’t played Borderlands 1 or the Pre-Sequel and I know there’s no Borderlands 3, but that’s probably in the pipeline.

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Video Game Review: Back to the Future: The Game

Details: Released in 2010. Played it on the PC. Purchased for about four dollars. Five episodes in total that took about two hours each to beat.

When you hear the name Telltale Games (and know a little about video games) you think about games like the Walking Dead. You think about games with branching plot lines, meaningful choices that change major plot points in the game and cause alternate endings. Back to the Future: The Game is not one of those games. You need to remember that this game predates The Walking Dead game. Back to the Future: The Game is a very traditional adventure game that follows a single, linear plot line. Fortunately, that plot line is decent.

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Video Game Review: Heroes of the Storm

Details: Released in 2015. For PC only. Requires an internet connection. Don’t know how many hours I’ve played since Blizzard doesn’t show that information. My player profile is level sixteen.

I’ve played games in the genre of Heroes of the Storm for a long time. I first started over a decade ago with the first Dota game which was just a used map settings map in Warcraft III. The next game I tried out was League of Legends. I went into this game hoping for something new, some new twist on the mechanics established in Dota. What I found was an inferior clone of Dota. While League of Legends was still better than Heroes of Newerth (which was almost an exact clone of Dota), League of Legends introduced some new ideas, relabeled some existing ideas, and took out a lot of the mechanics established in Dota. In League of Legends, I did not find a new experience nor did I find progress. I found a money-grubbing Dota clone with less strategy, less complexity, and what was overall a lesser game.

Now, years later, I’ve replayed League of Legends and, though there’s some progress, League of Legends still strikes me as an inferior game to what is now known as Dota 2. Furthermore, it fails to push the genre into new territory and offer an improvement or at least a distinction from what Dota is. However, where League of Legends fails, Heroes of the Storm succeeds. Heroes of the Storm is a sufficiently different experience so as to fill a need in this genre of video games that is not filled by any other game.

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Video Game Review: League of Legends

Details: Released in 2009 but is updated and patched periodically. For the PC. Free to play, though it will take time or real money to unlock everything. Don’t know how many hours I’ve played, but I’m level thirty and I’ve unlocked around twenty heroes. They don’t display hours played.

I’ve played League of Legends before and I decided to return to it to refresh my memory. In general, it’s a similar game to Dota 2. However, if you’ve invested the requisite hundred hours in either game, the two games are obviously different. This review will mostly be a comparison between the two games.

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Video Game Review: Grand Theft Auto Online

Details: I’m not sure how many hours I’ve played of the Online part, but total time spent including with the single player is about one hundred and fifty hours. At least fifty of those hours were spent in the Online part. Played on the PC. I purchased Grand Theft Auto V a while ago for $35.00. Grand Theft Auto Online came with it. A lot of additional content has been released since the game came out. It’s unclear if more content updates will be released.

I wrote a review for the single player portion of this game a while ago and I’ve finally played enough of the online component to give an opinion.

Grand Theft Auto Online is an online multiplayer game where players can inhabit and play in Los Santos (the fictional city from the single player) with others over the internet. It comes with Grand Theft Auto V.

Grand Theft Auto Online is essentially a free to play game. It is largely funded by micro transactions. They sell in-game, virtual hats and clothes and cars and boats for in-game money. You can buy in game money with real money from their website or your local video game retailer in the form of Shark Cards.

The good part about this is that after the release of the game, Grand Theft Auto Online has released pretty consistent content updates since and they are all free for everyone who owns a copy of Grand Theft Auto V. Usually, subsequent content updates are marketed as downloadable content and given a price. That’s not the case here. The downside is that all the really cool items that you’d really like to own (e.g. a fast car or a new property) cost a fortune. The game is situated to be fun enough to keep playing, but annoying enough to tempt players into spending real money on in-game currency. This gives the game that shitty, Candy Crush-esque feel. It’s a long, time-consuming grind to achieve any kind of progress in the game. An additional negative is the rampant hacking/cheating present which further impedes enjoyment of the game.

There are a lot of things to do in Grand Theft Auto Online, but most of it is derivative of everything in the single player and short-lived (after playing most things once, you’ll never want to play it again). The only things that I think are worth mentioning are the races, the heists, and the free roaming.

Racing in a Grand Theft Auto game is almost common sense and being able to race other players is fun. With the addition of stunts and a battle mode with rockets and other power ups, the game feels a lot more like Mario Kart than a traditional Grand Theft Auto game.

I loved the Heists in this game, but it was disappointing that there are only five and that it looks unlikely more will ever be added. Each heists generally consists of a few setup missions and then the heist itself, which is a big, multi-part mission where each player will be required to cooperate and perform a distinct function in order to complete. The best and worst part of these missions is that cooperation is essential, which is very difficult to find when you’re playing with some random players over the internet who don’t give a shit about each other.

The best part of this game is that it realizes a dream that Grand Theft Auto fans have had for a long time: we get to inhabit the same city with other players. We can help each other, hurt each other (usually hurt), drive, shoot, or just screw around, all within a persistent virtual world. It’s just fun to be in a virtual world that allows you to do whatever you want while others play in that world with you.

Overall, GTA Online is a fun little distraction that can be fun for hours if you let it. The biggest flaw and best feature of GTA Online is that many of the most fun aspects of the game require a preexisting group of friends who own a copy of the game and will play with you. Otherwise, GTA Online is kind of short-lived and will get boring fast. As a standalone game, GTA Online isn’t great. As an online game bundled together with the Grant Theft Auto V single player, the game is great. I don’t recommend buying Grand Theft Auto V for the Online component alone. I do recommend the purchase if you want to enjoy the single player and already have a group of friends who own Grand Theft Auto V and want to play GTA Online with you.

Score: 6.8/10

Video Game Review: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Details: Released in 2014. I purchased the Game of the Year Edition (comes with all downloadable content) for the PC for $6.99. The main game took me about nineteen hours to beat. The Lord of the Hunt DLC took about two hours to beat. The Bright Lord DLC took about three hours to beat.

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a Lord of the Rings story that takes place before the movies. It concerns how the Ring was forged and who forged it.

Gameplay is a combination of the Batman Arkham series and Assassin’s Creed. Combat is similar to the free flow combat established in the Arkham Series. Stealth is also similar. There are towers to discover and lots of collectibles like from Assassin’s Creed.

What differentiates this game from the Batman games and Assassin’s Creed are two things: the Nemesis system and the branding system. The Nemesis system is a persistent enemy system where enemy bosses hold positions in the enemy army and remember encounters with you. For instance, say you come up against an enemy boss (he will have a name and an introduction). You fight him, but lose and die. That enemy boss will now become stronger, perhaps being promoted, and will remember you the next time you cross paths. He will even insult your death the last time. It’s not revolutionary, but it is really fun and gives you an incentive to get revenge on these guys. On the other hand, let’s say you’re someone who never loses their fights. In that case, it’s still fun to go around killing lieutenants, captains, and everyone else up the persistent hierarchy of the enemy army.

Even with the nemesis system, I found the game somewhat boring however. That changed about halfway through the game when the Branding system unlocked. The Branding system is essentially mind control. Halfway through the game you unlock the ability to mind control enemy units and make them fight for you. This mechanic also extends to enemy bosses. The result is that you can effectively take over the entire enemy army by branding all the enemy officers. This was really fun and I wish there was more of this in the game and more systems related to this, like taking over territory or something similar.

Voice acting is fine. The music was fine and what you’d expect from a game in the fantasy genre. Visuals were surprisingly good for a game a few years old. Animations looked good.

The art direction needed work. Most of the game takes place in Mordor, which means a lot of gray to look at. Halfway through you get to place with more vegetation, which meant lots of green to look at. It is still a fairly unappealing landscape to look at however. There are no cities, details, or anything that would add color to the environment and immersion. It’s all just a big area filled with nothing but enemies to fight. I can understand why most people would  be okay with that though since the game is mostly about killing orcs.

The DLC was fun, but I wouldn’t buy it individually. There are a lot of skins and other DLC, but only two that add story. Lord of the Hunt adds story and mostly concerns animals and riding and hunting them. The Bright Lord adds story and deals largely with the Branding system and allows you to control orcs and territory.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and recommend it if you liked the combat from the Batman Arkham series, like climbing towers and collecting things from the Assassin’s Creed series, like Lord of the Rings, and can get the game for under ten dollars.

Score: 6.8/10