Video Game Review: Bully: Scholarship Edition

Details: Was originally released in 2006. I played it on PC with an Xbox 360 controller. I bought it off Steam for about $5. Played for about twenty hours. Made by Rockstar Games.

Most of the time, playing this game felt like a chore. This is a really old game.

Firstly, the visuals are actually not bad. This game originally came out for the PS2, which was a freaking long time ago. Luckily they up resolution-ed the game and gave it a 1080p resolution, so it looked fine on my screen. It is definitely dated though.

Gameplay was the most painful part of this game. It is essentially a combination of mini-games. In general, you run around like in a Grand Theft Auto game, more like Grand Theft Auto III and less like Grand Theft Auto V. Some of the mini games involve timed button presses, like in rhythm games. There’s also trivia and some other tracing varieties. There’s a lot of mini-games, but they aren’t very deep or substantial. The difficulty is also pretty easy, easier than a Grand Theft Auto game at least.

My biggest annoyances were that the game broke two cardinal rules of video games. The game operates on a timer that goes in real-time. At certain times you need to do certain things and there is generally a time limit on a lot of missions. The other violation is the inclusion of missions where you need protect someone controlled by shitty artificial intelligence. That means that the computer controlled character will run off and get killed regardless of what you do sometimes. There are a lot of other shitty things about this game. You should just keep in mind that this game is old and a lot of the gameplay used in this game has been removed from most modern games because developers realized how not fun they were.

The music for this game was fantastic. I was surprised how many good, original tracks there were.

The voice acting and performances were as good as any other Rockstar game, which is to say they were great. I was surprised to see that motion capture was used in this game despite how old it is. That motion capture really comes through and adds to the performances surprisingly, even though the character models are old looking.

There are some bugs. The game crashed on me lots of times throughout my play through.

The story was okay. The premise is this: Jimmy Hopkins is sent to one of the craziest boarding schools and must do his best to survive in this strange new environment. I did feel a sense of satisfaction after seeing the ending. However, there were lots of times where I wanted to quit the game. I mainly pushed on because I like finishing games. The story was not strong enough to compel me to keep playing.

While not a bad game, I would not recommend it to most people. The game is so old and outdated that I’d rather recommend something more recent. I can see how some people might enjoy it though. If it looks interesting to you, then you should probably go on YouTube and watch some gameplay videos before making the purchase.

Score: 4/10

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Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed Unity

Details: Played on PC for about twenty six hours. Beat the game and the Dead Kings DLC (downloadable content).

When Assassin’s Creed Unity was first released, it entered the market to great controversy. Many people found the game unplayable with crippling glitches throughout the game. It’s been almost two years since it’s original release and I decided to give it a try.

Luckily, I experienced almost no bugs/glitches throughout the game. Whatever bugs were present at release seem to be patched out or I just got lucky. As for the actual substance of the game… there’s much to be said.

There are numerous aspects of the Assassin’s Creed franchise that I look forward to and expect to see when I purchase one of these games. Firstly, I expect and enjoy the cinematic nature of the series. Playing these games often feels like you’re playing a movie and the performances combined with the motion capture definitely give the game that movie feel. Here, the graphics were great. The cut scenes were also fantastic.

Secondly, I play these games for the historical aspect. Each Assassin’s Creed game takes place in a historically significant time period. Additionally, you not only get to walk through detailed slices of history, the story interweaves with historical events and you get to meet historical figures like Benjamin Franklin or Napoleon Bonaparte. In Unity however, while there are certainly important figures and events present, I feel like they weren’t included enough in the main story. I would have liked to see more involvement of historically significant people. The problem might have been with the time period as well. There just aren’t that many big battles during the French revolution, at least not like the big wars between countries. Most of the missions that take place in historical events just involve walking through a crowd to get to an assassination target. I wish there was more  variety.

Gameplay however, has never really been the Assassin’s Creed franchise’s strong suit and that is certainly true here. Generally, the Assassin’s Creed franchise plays like it part Hitman/Splinter Cell with the stealth, some parkour and platforming, a little Batman detective mode, and some of the Grand Theft Auto feeling of an open world with no aspect of any of these gameplay elements being particularly great. They are just tolerable. I usually describe Assassin’s Creed as historical Batman.

Also, the story of a game like this normally acts as an incentive to get through the missions (ideally the missions are fun, too). Aside from the main story arc, all the side missions are repetitive and do not come with plot points or accompanying cut scenes. The result is that all the quests and missions outside of the main plot line are pretty boring and unsatisfying. Without a narrative reward, you don’t feel any real progression whenever you beat these side quests or chase random collectibles.

Edit: After playing through the game some more I’ve found that there are some story driven side quests involving characters from the main quests. These are interesting, but still boring in that the same mission structures remain (i.e. kill X person, investigate Y area). I’ll increase the score by .1 accordingly.

Additionally, there is no new gameplay mechanic that allows Unity to stand out. In prior games, there is usually some additional mechanic on top of the old run around and kill things gameplay. For example, Black Flag had the ship and sailing and Assassin’s Creed had the hunting (not as fun as the sailing). Unity has nothing new, just the same old things we’ve seen every game.

Oh, and the Nostradamus quests sucked. If you’re going to do something like looking for unmarked objects in a massive open world, at least color an area so we have some clue where to look. What a stupid idea.

The investigation missions were fun, although they needed to be fleshed out a little more. Maybe made a little more cinematic. I’m a sucker for mysteries.

Score: 6.4/10 It was fun, but was it worth sixty dollars? Fuck no. I bought it for substantially less so I don’t feel too bad. Definitely a fun game if you don’t feel the need to collect everything. If you do… maybe skip it because it is filled to the brim with inconsequential filler.

Video Game Review: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PC)

Just some considerations: played the game for about twenty-something hours, no downloadable content, beat the game and then some. Didn’t play multiplayer because didn’t care for that.

Story

The story is great, actually one of the more compelling stories in the Assassin’s Creed franchise. When I play an Assassin’s Creed game, I’m looking for a compelling adventure story that takes place in a setting that is visually accurate to history but loosely based on actual events. This game is definitely that.

The protagonist — like many in that time period I imagine — tries to find a better life by becoming a pirate. Less realistically he is friends with all the well known pirates of that era. It’s a forgivable offense however, since all these characters are represented well and are charismatic in their own right.

Of course the war between Assassins and Templar is largely featured in the story, but they are kind of ancillary. The main story focuses on the protagonist, his experiences as a pirate, and his experience in noteworthy moments in the time period.

The ending somehow managed to choke me up a little.

Gameplay

The combat is standard Assassin’s Creed formula; stand around, wait for someone to attack, counter, then kill. It’s pretty boring and a glaringly substandard combat system when compared to games like Batman: Arkham City and Shadow of Mordor. It’s really boring and kind of sucks you out of the experience.

Sneaking and assassinating is okay, but I wish it was further polished to something of the level of Splinter Cell. Not necessarily at that level, but a little more detailed. It’s satisfactory though.

Parkour is fun, but still needs tweaking. It’s really annoying when your running and magnetically float towards something you did not want to run towards or jump to. It’s mostly tolerable.

The most awesome part of this game is the sailing and sea battles. Man, this part shines. It’s hard to think of other games where you can sail around while your crew sings sea shanties and you ship just rolls over the waves. Seas battles are not complex, but still really fun. Fighting a sea battle when a storm hits is really chaotic, but still really fun.

There are a couple of mini games. There’s a hunting mini game, which I really enjoyed. The music during these hunting portions is exactly right, perfectly expressing the tension of hunting a great white shark in a tiny boat. Another mini game concerns sending ships on trade runs. There some minor animation, but it’s really an excel spread sheet game that mostly deals with numbers. It’s all right.

Graphics

This game came out a few years ago, but the game holds up wonderfully. There’s just no other feeling like sailing the open ocean, passing by islands and other ships, watching the sun rise and set and the weather change. The water looks fantastic. The game looks fantastic.

Sound

The music is incredible, exactly embodying the time period. Loved it.

Conclusion

Loved the game, the weakest parts of the game are the traditional gameplay from past Assassin’s Creed games. The story is great. Visuals and audios are great. Additionally, I skipped as much of the present day stuff as I could. I just did not care. I wanted to play as a pirate and that’s what I did.

Score: 7.4

Video Game Review: Splinter Cell: Conviction (2010)

Details: Played it on PC. Not sure how long it took me because Uplay doesn’t display play time. Felt like it should be around ten hours though.

Fun game considering that it came out four years ago. Graphics still hold up. Gameplay still fun, if a little shallow. Especially considering modern advances in stealth gameplay mechanics. The voice acting is solid. Music was great. In regards to length, I finished the game in two sittings. You could easily finish it in one sitting.

Score: 7/10 Good game with a nice political thriller story. Some nice set pieces. Wish the gameplay was a little deeper.