Third Person Shooter

  • 007: Everything or Nothing
    Published by: EA Games
    Developed by: EA Games
    ESRB Rating: T for Violence, Suggestive Themes
    For: Gamecube, Xbox, PS2, GBA
    Version Reviewed: Gamecube
    The first: third-person Bond game, with a new one coming out November 1, 2005

    The last actual Bond game, called Nightfire, was a solid foray into an already overloaded genre that Sir James Bond helped revolutionize in the form of Rare?s N64 classic, GoldenEye 007. It was the last original story that would actually work, save for this game, which plays out just like a movie. The next game in the Bond universe stripped the third-person elements away, relying solely on basic first person shooting that tried very hard to imitate Halo. The game?s main selling point was the idea that you could be a villain?a nondescript, generic villain with no face or voice, but a villain nonetheless. What?s really sad is that all Bond villains are really cool and devious: Alec Trevelyan, the baddie from GoldenEye; Auric Goldfinger, the man with the Midas Touch; Jaws, a hulking brute with teeth made of steel; and more than thirty years? worth of other villains. It was a rich history, and a legacy that could have made for ingenious gaming. However, the execution fell flat because of the lack of heart, as it has in many recent EA games, such as Need For Speed Underground 2 (which was a great game, but was trying too hard), and Marvel Nemesis (which also had a great license, but failed to deliver on many fronts? mostly depth).

    Yet Everything or Nothing, the game that preceded Rogue Agent, was a great title. It was a game that had few flaws, and was the ultimate Bond experience to date. With intense shootouts, fast car and motorcycle chases, great animation and graphics, as well as a heaping of excellent storytelling, Everything or Nothing throws the player in the shoes of James Bond with great results.

    Game Play: 18/20

    James Bond is responsible for some of my favorite action games in recent years. And while I did enjoy his exploits on the N64, with The World Is Not Enough being one of my all-time favorite multiplayer games, I found that the pacing and execution of this game to be near perfect, much moreso than any of the shooter games. With the first current-gen Bond game, Agent Under Fire, EA introduced a brand new element called Bond Moments. Essentially (if you have never played a current Bond game), Bond Moments reward the player with points if they perform an action that Bond might. For example, jumping over rubble on a makeshift ramp, or turning on steam vents so that soldiers can?t see you. Some are quite obvious, and others are well hidden, designed to make the player explore the levels, or buy a strategy guide. EA brings this back in fine form here, with perhaps more Moments than ever?sliding under a tanker on your motorcycle during a highway chase, for example.

    Being a third-person game, EA had to incorporate elements of other third-person games, while avoiding the awful mistakes of the PS1 bomb Tomorrow Never Dies (the very first third-person Bond game). They took basic stealth elements from Splinter Cell, racing mechanics from the Need For Speed series, and the intense shooting action of Dead to Rights while innovating in their own right. Manual aim for the player, and something called Bond Sense, which slows down time, much like in Enter the Matrix, so that players can select inventory without pausing the game, or getting injured. Well, that works for the most part. It?s a little clunky, and a little odd, but the ideas are right?all it needs is a little polishing. Not bad for such a well polished game. All of the right elements for a triple-A shooter are there, and EA delivers marvelously.

    On the same note, the other major game play mechanic is the vehicle segments. With cars ranging from the Porsche 911 Turbo to the Triumph Daytona 500 motorcycle, to a helicopter, all of the elements of fast paced chases are there. One of the first you?ll encounter is against a quickly moving train, which you have to get under before it gets on a bridge that you will fly off of. All the while, terrorists are shooting at you from motorcycles, SUVs, helicopters, and the train itself. The game is incredibly quick at these points, and only breaks away from spectacular explosions and collisions. It?s really very well done, and a joy to play.

    The one problem I have with the game is the co-op element. Supposedly existing parallel to the main game, co-op urges you to complete short segments of one level until you get to a boss. But the game here is so unbalanced that it just gets frustrating. I have a friend that doesn?t get mad easily who got enraged at the difficulty of this game. The worst part is that in order to unlock multiplayer deathmatch, you?ve got to beat the first level of co-op, which is nigh impossible. Overall, however, the game is well done, and well balanced. It does get remarkably tough in some spots, but the sheer ingenuity of the game itself, and the atmosphere the game generates, are such that to stop playing is a mistake.

    Graphics: 10/10

    The graphics here are so well done, so well produced, and so well animated, that it is near unbelievable that they were developed using tools from a year ago. Much of the game looks like the games that are supposed to push the system?s limits, rivaling such games as Metroid Prime 2, Halo 2, and even Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory on the Xbox. EA digitally scanned all of the actor?s faces, including Pierce Brosnan, Willem Dafoe, and Judi Dench, and then just animated them in a completely believeable and lifelike fashion.

    In addition to that, the character models are smooth and polished. Interaction and collision detection are impeccable. Punch Jaws in the face, and watch little details, like Bond shaking the pain off his hand and grimacing in pain. Flourishes like this are rife in this adventure. It all adds to the uniquely cinematic experience that is presented in the game.

    Sound: 8/10

    When you boot the game up, after an introduction level, you are forced to sit through R&B singer Mya?s rendition of the game?s theme, Everything or Nothing. It?s pretty bad. But after the excruciating pain of that unskippable introductory sequence, all of the familiar Bond sounds are there. Like the James Bond Theme. And all the gunshots, explosions, and yells that James Bond is associated with.

    In addition to this, all of the actors that modeled for the game, like the aforementioned Pierce Brosnan, Willem Dafoe, and Judi Dench, plus model Heidi Klum, singer Mya, and actor/model Shannon Elizabeth, plus John Cleese as Q, all appear, and, for the most part, give good performances. Some of it is melodramatic, and that?s to be expected. Brosnan, Dafoe, Dench, and Cleese all give the best voice work, which is realistic since they are all actors. Overall, the star-studded cast only adds to the cinematic value of this game.

    Stability: 5/5

    There were absolutely no bugs, exploits, or glitches that I experienced while playing this game. This only serves as a testament to Everything or Nothing?s polished game experience.

    Controls: 5/5

    While the controls take a minute to get used to, they are extremely intuitive, and become second nature within the first five minutes of the game. The great thing about the controls is that, while you do drive many different vehicles, the control systems are essentially the same for all of the vehicles in the game, with minor differences, like the controlling of elevation in the helicopter, or the ability to perform a wheelie or stoppie on the motorcycles.

    In terms of interface, Everything or Nothing couldn?t become more refined. Everything is accessed through the main menu, which has probably four options. And it?s all incredibly intuitive.


    -Violence: This game involves killing people in self-defense (-4 pts.), and has no blood or gore ?(0 pts.) Overall: 6/10
    -Language: There is no foul language in this game (-0 pts.) However, sexual jokes are made a couple of times as double entendre, which doesn?t exactly add to the family factor of this title. (-2 pts.) Overall: 8/10
    Sexual Content/Nudity: A couple of the female characters wear clothing that accentuates their sexuality, and could be viewed as sexy or provocative (-1.5 pts.) There is no sex in the game (-0 pts.) Overall: 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural: Everything or Nothing does not feature any occult or supernatural references. (-0 pts.) Since the game is grounded in a very real setting (i.e., magic does not occur in everyday life) magic is not used by the player or any of the enemies (-0 pts.) Overall: 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical: There are no issues with authority in Everything or Nothing. (-0 pts.) It is also worth noting that there is no gross humor, prejudice, or anything that goes against traditional family values in this game. (-0 pts.) Overall: 10/10

    Bonus Points: Everything or Nothing shows the consequences of being evil and trying to take over the world (and just, you know, being evil in general) (+3 pts.)

    Overall Score: 91.5/100


  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
    Developed by: Spike Chunsoft
    Published by: NIS America
    Release date: June 27, 2017
    Available on: PC, PS4 (Reviewed), PS Vita
    Genre: Third-Person Shooter, Visual Novel
    Number of players: 1
    ESRB Rating: M for Blood, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Violence
    Price: $29.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thanks to NIS America for providing us with a review copy!

    Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is a bit of an odd duck. Chronologically it takes place between Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. The main playable characters are the sister of Trigger Happy Havoc’s protagonist and a returning character from Trigger Happy Havoc. However the biggest shift of all is that the game is less of a visual novel mystery story like other Danganronpa games are, and is instead a third-person shooter. Capping this all off, the PS4 version reviewed here is actually a slightly updated port of the original PlayStation Vita version. Sounds kind of wild, right?

    Before you get too far into this review, you should know that it is recommended that you play the first two Danganronpa games before playing this one, even though it takes place before the second game. The game spoils major elements of the first game, and includes characters from the second game that could minorly spoil parts of that game. I will try to keep this as spoiler free as possible, but some not-so-minor spoilers of Trigger Happy Havoc are required to talk about the game. Further, the story mostly relies on knowledge of the other Danganronpa games, so if you are considering making this your entry into the series, I would advise against it.

    In the game you take control of Komaru Naegi, the younger sister of Makoto Naegi, the protagonist of Trigger Happy Havoc. Komaru is also joined by Makoto’s classmate Toko Fukawa, and her serial killer alter-ego, Genocide Jack. The unlikely duo are trapped in Towa City, which is currently undergoing something of a revolution. Five children, the self-styled Warriors of Hope, have taken over the city with the help of other children in the city. Assisting in this takeover is a robotic army of Monokumas, who mercilessly slaughter all the adults in sight.

    So where does the gameplay come in? Early on, Komaru is given a hacking gun to dispatch enemies. The hacking gun is shaped like a bullhorn, and fires projectiles made of some sort of computer code that are capable of disabling the robotic Monokumas. The projectiles use the same name as evidence in other Danganronpa games: Truth Bullets. These Truth Bullets are selected using the D-Pad (or by pressing square to bring up a menu and selecting them from the menu using the D-Pad), and while you only have a few types early on, you get progressively more throughout the game until you have all eight of them.

    Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

    Strong Points: Great story and characters, Monoku-man challenges are fun.
    Weak Points: Awful camera control, subpar controls, technical limitations are apparent.
    Moral Warnings: Some sexual references, language, lots of violence, and minor supernatural references.

    But the hacking gun is not the only weapon at your disposal. Toko’s Genocide Jack form is invincible and capable of wreaking melee-attack havoc with her scissors, as well as being able to pull off special moves. These special moves use a gauge called the Lust Gauge, and can deal fatal damage to most enemy types. The different types of special moves affect either a single target or up to five, and they deplete the gauge differently. Killing enemies with normal attacks will replenish the gauge. One important thing to note here is that the Genocide Jack form cannot be used indefinitely. Toko uses a stun gun to switch to her Genocide Jack form, and if the batteries run out of the stun gun, you will be forced to take control of Komaru again. On the easiest difficulty the batteries will recharge over time while not in Genocide Jack form, but on higher difficulties you will need to collect battery pickups to recharge the ability to use Genocide Jack.

    On that note, items are abundant in this game, but not always in ways that you want. With the exception of a few types of non-combat Truth Bullets, each type of Truth Bullet has its own ammunition type that must be collected as a pickup. In addition, you have health pickups which restore Komaru’s health, and the aforementioned battery pickups for Genocide Jack. All of these types of pickups can be found as drops from enemies, or by using the “Move” Truth Bullet on specific vending machines in the game. Then you have the Monocoins, which you can use to purchase upgrades (more on those in a second). These are only dropped from enemies, given as rewards at the end of each chapter, and occasionally given as rewards for challenges in the game. Next up are skill books, which give you bonuses and abilities provided you have the skill points for them. These are only found on the ground as shining objects. Finally, you have what I will just dub as “readables.” Readables are pickups that do not have a mechanical impact on the game, but provide all sorts of background information about the game world. These include notes left by people, diaries of the Warriors of Hope, and even some books (which will trigger amusing conversations between Toko and Komaru). As with skill books, these are only found as shining objects on the ground.

    Progression in Ultra Despair Girls is a bit strange. Komaru and Toko share skill points and active skills, of which some will benefit Toko, some will benefit Komaru, and some will benefit both. The skills cost a certain number of skill points to equip, which is determined by your level. You level up by killing Monokumas, and while it is a functional progression system, it almost feels like it exists to pay tribute to the progression systems in prior Danganronpa games and not to encourage any real sense of progression. I never had to worry about not having enough skill points to equip the skills I had, nor did I ever feel like I had to pick and choose certain skills to optimize my build (outside of omitting a few skills, such as reduced aiming speed and auto-locking to the closest target). Both Komaru and Toko have limited forms of progression that are exclusive to them, and both of them cost Monocoins. Komaru can apply “Bling Bullets” to her Truth Bullets to enhance the effects of them, while Toko has a selection of straightforward upgrades to things like attack speed, battery efficiency, and the size of her Lust Gauge.

    I’m sure the most pressing question on your mind right now is “is the game fun?” Well, I don’t wish to be the bearer of bad news, but I personally did not find it to be much fun. The main issue comes down to what I can best describe as “gamefeel.” The game just doesn’t control as smoothly as I would like. The camera is among the worst in third person games I’ve played, and I felt like I was constantly fighting with it. There is no aim sensitivity option in the options menu, and the most control you have is the choice between “Automatic” camera and “Manual” camera. Automatic camera follows the active character, but it only starts to move its position while the character is in motion. So if you do a snap turnaround, the camera will not start to rotate until you start moving in that direction (or you press the re-center camera button). Manual camera is hampered by the ludicrously low aim sensitivity and the inability to change that sensitivity. Selecting the Truth Bullets is also a trying process. The eight truth bullets are bound to the eight possible directions a D-Pad can go. But I found that selecting the bullets on the diagonal positions was tricky business, and the imprecise nature of getting that combination pressed got me killed on more than one occasion.

    Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 68%
    Gameplay - 9/20
    Graphics - 9/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 3/5
    Controls - 3/5

    Morality Score - 38%
    Violence - 0/10
    Language - 3/10
    Sexual Content - 3/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 7/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

    The one saving grace to the gameplay is a thing called the Monoku-man challenges. These are areas that contain an entry, a sealed exit, and enemies all over the place. The condition is usually just to kill all the enemies to unlock the exit, but sometimes more puzzle elements come into play. For example, one challenge involves using an electric Truth Bullet to shock all of the enemies with one shot. Usually the puzzle elements are optional and only provide a little extra challenge, but the task of figuring out the best way to clear the room was a welcome change from the generic and bland third-person shooter elements that otherwise pepper the game.

    So the gameplay is not that great. But what about the story and characters? That’s where Danganronpa games have generally shone in the past. And I am happy to report that the story and characters are indeed great in this game. The story starts off slow, but builds to a very compelling conclusion by the end. The characters also start out seeming rather thin, but have unexpected depth to them that really made them interesting over time. In fact, this game has elevated Toko from being an annoyance in Trigger Happy Havoc to one of my favorite characters in the franchise. For that reason alone, I would say this game is worth playing for fans of Danganronpa, but I would urge some caution in paying full price for it, as it is not worth $30 in my opinion.

    The art direction is, as with other Danganronpa games, bright and vivid. Despite being a third-person shooter, the game retains some of the visual novel roots of Danganronpa games. Sections of the game are done with sprites and text boxes, and they retain the signature style and attention to detail that Danganronpa is known for. Other parts of the story are done with anime-style cutscenes, which are also of high quality. The remaining story cutscenes and the main game consists of 3D models. The transition into 3D works reasonably well, with most characters retaining the same style that their sprites have. If I have one complaint to level against the 3D work in this game, it is that the shaders do not quite create the same style that the 2D work has, and it looks a little bit dated which is perhaps due to the game originating on the Vita.

    Masafumi Takada composed the score for this game, and once again, he delivers a fantastic and rousing soundtrack. A few returning themes are here, and the new songs are just great. The new songs vary in style from jazzy lounge tracks to more upbeat and guitar driven tracks. The voice acting in the game is also pretty solid, with the characters who return from other Danganronpa games retaining their voice actors. I played primarily in the Japanese dub, which has excellent performances by most characters.

    On that note, setting Japanese voices is a surprisingly obtuse endeavor, requiring you to pick it from a somewhat non-obvious triangle button prompt on the difficulty select screen. Previous and future Danganronpa games had an option that was a separate screen from the difficulty select. Further, selecting Japanese means that the title card and text in the movies is in Japanese, which is a little bit annoying compared with prior DR games. Some of this text is translated, some of it is not. The most egregious example of not translating the text is in the opening title cutscene, which contains character names rendered only in Japanese. Lastly, the only way to get any subtitles during the cutscenes is to play with Japanese voices, as the game does not have a subtitles option of any sort.

    Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

    The game is not without some technical limitations that serve to hamper the experience. Load times are just often long enough to frustrate, and the amount of loading screens encountered in the game definitely betrays the fact that this was a Vita port. The game loads for different sections of the map, and in between every cutscene segment. Finally, I encountered an actual crash in the game while fighting the final boss in the game. I was attempting to use a special move with Genocide Jack, and when the attack began, the game crashed. When I restarted the game, I had to load from my previous save game, which was about half an hour prior and involved skipping several cutscenes and making dialog choices. I decided not to attempt the special move again during the final boss, and was able to complete it without issues.

    It wouldn’t be a Danganronpa game if it wasn’t full of some objectionable content, and there’s a lot to talk about here. Language is relatively standard fare for Danganronpa. Toko says the S-word several times, a few other characters drop the F-word a couple of times. Both B-words are used, as well as A** and D*** several times each. Drug content is super sparse in this game; the only thing that stood out to me was one character who is seen holding a cigar in their mouth. The game has some interesting ethical moral content, in that children kill their parents, but they are brainwashed into doing it. The game also talks a lot about the importance of hope, and the main character makes a difficult choice which is a bit sacrificial for her, but is intended to prevent a lot of suffering for other people.

    Sexual content is notably lighter here than in Danganronpa V3, but there is still a lot to talk about. Toko fantasizes about being intimate with someone, though these fantasies are drawn with a super exaggerated cartoon style and contain a note in the upper left corner of the screen saying “Attention: Toko’s Fantasy.” No nudity is shown. One character makes reference to wieners and sends Toko into a rant about how it's indecent to say that while saying it many times. One minigame involves Komaru being groped by mechanical arms, and you have to fight off the arms to progress. The instigator even makes a remark about how this is the opposite of child porn, so it's ok for a video game. A female character falls in such a position that her skirt is lifted, allowing us to see her panties. She also flashes her panties at the camera a few times, usually to the disgust of the main characters. One of the Warriors of Hope, a former child actress, is implied to have been sexually assaulted by people she worked with while growing up. Toko at one point puns Komaru’s name with a term for semen. Some fights involve either Komaru or the person she is fighting getting slowly stripped down to their underwear as the fight wears on.

    Supernatural content is not a super common thing in Danganronpa, but there is some to discuss here. Komaru makes references to seeing ghosts, and at one point apparently gets possessed by a ghost who reveals information to her, and she worries that she will be cursed by the ghost. Toko thinks she is hallucinating, but the information later turns out to be accurate. Another character creates a magical circle for use in a ritual, but the exact nature of the ritual is not revealed.

    I suppose you can’t have Danganronpa without lots of violent content. Violence here includes copious amounts of blood, shots of some people getting hanged, crucified, impaled, blown up, torn to shreds, and more. One scene involves a torture chamber, though not much is seen beyond blood on the ground around the torture instruments. Another scene shows a hypothetical situation where heads of children are blown up by masks they are wearing. A late-game scene involves the characters needing to use the head of a corpse to open a retinal-scan door, though the head itself is not shown.

    Ultra Despair Girls is not really what I would call a “good” game. The combat systems are wonky, and the camera control is downright awful. The story and characters are well worth playing the game for, but I have a hard time recommending this game on that basis to anyone but the most dedicated of Danganronpa fans because the story hinges on knowledge of other Danganronpa games. When you take into account the technical issues, I have a hard time even recommending it to fans at the list price of $30. If you can find it a lesser price, and are willing to look past the objectionable content, then the story and characters do tell a compelling tale in spite of the gameplay.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Dirge of Cerebus: Final Fantasy VII
    Developed by: Monolithsoft
    Published by: Square Enix
    Release Date: August 15, 2006
    Available on: PS2
    Number of players: Single-player
    Genre: Third-person Shooter
    ESRB Rating: Teen for violence, language, tobacco use
    Price: $10 on LeapTrade

    Cloud is Final Fantasy VII's iconic hero, known for his huge sword and being a man of few words.  Vincent Valentine played a minor role in Final Fantasy VII, but that's about to change in Dirge of Cerebus.  In this game we learn about Vincent's past and how he must save the world from Shinra once again.  

    Many characters from Final Fantasy VII make an appearance including Cid, Barret, and Yuffie.  Caith Sith is a playable character for one level that requires stealth reconnaissance.  The rest of the time is spent with Vincent wielding his handguns from a third person perspective.  You can change to a first person mode which is almost too easy with the auto targeting.  When you do melee attacks, the game will revert back to a third person perspective.   Since some of the enemies have strong defenses, melee attacks are not uncommon.

    Most of your enemies will consist of Deep Ground soldiers (elite Shinra soldiers) and snipers.  There are some robots, giant bugs and hyena like creatures too.   Many of the bosses are airships but there are some Materia enhanced warriors willing to fight you too.  The bosses are surprisingly tough, but they usually have a weakness or a predictable pattern.  One chain gun wielding boss decided to pick a fight with me while being surrounded by explosive barrels.  After shooting those barrels, he was quickly dispatched.  The environment can work to your favor, so pay attention.


    Strong Points: Excellent story telling of the relationship between Vincent Valentine and Lucrecia
    Weak Points: Other than the movies, the visuals are bland and the gameplay is so-so
    Moral Warnings: Plenty of violence, low cut feminine outfits, and Cid still has his sailor's tongue

    There wasn't a whole lot of room for exploration as many paths were conveniently obstructed by debris or locked doors.  Many paths are temporarily blocked by electronic gates that become unlocked after you find its key card.  Sometimes the key cards are just accross the map, but they are usually dropped by a tougher than normal enemy. 

    Besides finding key cards, there are various optional objectives like locating data discs and rescuing civilians and friendly World Regenesis Organization (WRO) soldiers along the way.  At the end of every level you are scored on various attributes like accuracy and by how many objectives you have successfully completed.  You can put your score into experience (recommended) or convert it to gil (money).  Before starting the next level you are given an option to buy healing potions, ammunition and weapon upgrades.  

    Jukeboxes can be found in almost every level and they serve as storefronts.  I don't think they play music though.  Since I emulated this game on my PC, my audio experience is a bit marred by the stuttering in the cut scenes.  The voice acting was good and I did enjoy the final boss music even though it was in Japanese.

    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 70%
    Gameplay - 12/20
    Graphics - 6/10
    Sound - 7/10
    Stability - 5/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 77%
    Violence - 4.5/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 8.5/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 8.5/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The movies look amazing and were on par in quality to Advent Children.  Given the release dates of the movie and this game, they were probably done at the same time and by the same studio.  The character models look good and were probably cutting edge for the PS2 back then.  The rest of the game world was a bit bland and unimpressive.  Granted, the dreary colors may have something to do with the planet being out of balance and in danger again.   

    The game play is a bit on the average side as well. You have to shoot your way past enemy soldiers, fight a boss, rinse, and repeat.  The unfolding story and beautiful movies make it worth while in the end.  In order to understand the characters and back story of this game you have to be familiar with Final Fantasy VII.   

    Cid has his usual quirks like smoking and cussing up a storm.  Of course, violence is a given and Vincent Valentine makes revolvers look cool.  Lastly, like many games these days, the females have less clothing than their male counterparts.  If you don't mind those issues or average gameplay, Dirge of Cerebus does have a good story to tell.  You just have to be patient to get through it all.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Watch Dogs 2
    Developed by: Ubisoft 
    Published by: Ubisoft
    Release date: November 15, 2016
    Available on:  PS4, Windows, Xbox One
    Number of players: Single-player with multiplayer capabilities
    Genre: Third person open world action/adventure
    ESRB Rating: Mature for Blood, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Drugs
    Price: $59.99
    (Amazon Affiliate Link)

    Thank you Ubisoft for sending us this game to review!

    Following Chicago’s footsteps, California implements the latest ctOS (Central Operating System) that connects everyone to everything via facial recognition and unregulated data collection.  A hacker named Marcus is digitally smeared and Watch Dogs 2 begins with him breaking into a data warehouse to clean his record of crimes that he didn’t commit.  Watching his every move is an elite hacker group called DedSec that will let him into their group if he can clear his name.

    Watch Dogs 2 is an visually impressive open world game that lets you explore and do whatever missions you want, whenever you want to.    The first mission is to buy Marcus a new pair of pants since his are misplaced after a party.  Since I didn’t want to go too far in magenta boxers, I was happy to discover the quick travel feature that warped Marcus to the nearest clothes store to customize his attire.  Other ways to travel include walking, running, or "borrowing" vehicles and boats. 

    Besides clothes, Marcus can buy 3D printed weaponry and hacking gadgets.  Ammunition can be purchased at the pawn store, which is also a great place to unload questionably acquired items.  Money can be earned by becoming a taxi for hire, uncovering money stashes, or by wiring it to your account from people’s cellphones.  

    Watch Dogs 2

    Strong Points: All the thrills of hacking without needing a computer science degree; stunning visuals; great voice acting and character development
    Weak Points: Timed puzzles; multiplayer is cool, but it can be distracting at times to have people hop onto my game and start downloading my data while I’m in the middle of a mission; the game crashed on me once
    Moral Warnings: Breaking the law and stealing from others is required to progress in this game; lethal and non-lethal violence; all sorts of language and blaspheming; drinking and drug use; religion is shown in a negative light; sexual references and nudity; LGBT characters

    Hacking cameras and people’s cellphones is done by simply selecting and activating them.  Cameras allow you to remotely open doors and unlock computers if you have the access key.  The password/access key is often carried by a person who is easily identified by using the Nethack mode.  In this mode, you can see the threat levels of NPCs and can follow nodes to make sure they are all connected to complete the circuits required to unlock doors.  Often times you’ll have to rotate sections of the circuits to align them.  Usually there isn’t a time limit, but some of these circuit puzzles are timed and are very nerve-wracking.

    The Nethack mode also lets you access signals from enemy hackers which trigger various side quests.  One of my favorite side quests was checking an ATM exploit and messing with people’s banking experiences.  The bank customers got pretty upset when they involuntarily donated to a charity, received their withdrawal in foreign currency, or had their account and all the money in it removed from the bank’s system.  Not surprisingly, many colorful words and blaspheming statements are uttered throughout this game.  

    There are plenty of laws broken in this title as you’re trying to restore privacy and free will back to the people.  Violence is unavoidable, but non-lethal measures can be taken to knock out enemies instead of killing them. Many confrontations can be avoided by deploying your remote controlled jumper/car instead of hacking things in person.  Despite avoiding violent situations, some deaths are messy and unavoidable.  Many missions are revenge based as DedSec makes enemies with gangs, corrupt cops, and a cult religious organization.

    During my gameplay sexual situations are alluded to, but nothing was explicitly shown other than a couple of dogs going at it in a park.  When Watch Dogs 2 was first released, it was possible to see genitalia of the characters, but that ability has since been patched out.  Despite the patch, I did spot a completely topless female at a desert party that included drug and alcohol consumption.

    Watch Dogs 2
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 94%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 10/10
    Sound - 10/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 5/5

    Morality Score - 25%
    Violence - 2.5/10
    Language - 0/10
    Sexual Content - 0/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 0/10

    The graphics in this game are incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed the high resolution texture pack option.  To take advantage of the texture pack you'll need a beefy computer.  This game did crash on me once, but I was not able to reproduce it or confirm that it was heat related.  While I haven’t been to California, the level of detail in the various counties is breathtaking.  Even some of the gay friendly towns are represented with rainbow streets and one of the main story missions takes place in a gay bar.  One of your informants used to be a male and still looks very masculine despite having a gender re-assignment operation.  

    Religion is shown in a negative light as DedSec helps rescue a beloved actor from a cult that seems quite similar to Scientology.  The holy relics that few followers are worthy to see are discovered to be fake by Marcus and are exposed as such online.  In another side quest, a Christian church gets graffitied to spread awareness of DedSec.

    There are lots of quests and even after completing the game you can go back and find more stuff to do.  Between the numerous single-player quests and multiplayer connectivity Watch Dogs 2 has a lot to offer and it’s much more fun than the original title that inspired it.  Both games have significant moral issues to consider before playing them and neither of them should be played around younger children.  



    Game Info:

    Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars 
    Developed By: Konami Digital Entertainment/Cygames, Inc.
    Published By: Konami Digital Entertainment
    Release Date: September 4, 2018 (Windows, PS4), October 30, 2012 (Xbox 360, PS3), March 10, 2003 (PS2)
    Available On: Windows (VR Supported, not required), PS4 (PS VR Supported, not required), PS3, Xbox 360, PS2
    Genre: Third-person Shooter, Hack and Slash
    Number of Players: 1-2
    ESRB Rating: T for Blood, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence
    MSRP: $29.99 (Steam, PS4)
    (Humble Store Link)

    Thank you Konami for sending us this game to review!

    I played very few console games in the PlayStation 2 era, as I was mostly into PC gaming at that time. I got back into consoles a bit later, and I did end up getting both a PS2 and a GameCube, but my PS2 library is rather limited, and I never got into the more obscure titles. I had heard from one of my brothers about this really cool series called Zone of the Enders, and I kept it in the back of my mind as one to check out if I ever got the chance. Sadly, I never did, until now, with the latest PC/PS4 remaster. Being given this opportunity, I made sure to take it!

    I have long loved both the Western and the Japanese approaches to giant robots/mecha. I have equal love and affection for Western classics like MechWarrior and BattleTech, as well as Japanese classics like Macross and Gundam. This game, as well as the cutscenes, are so incredibly anime and Japanese that they should be proud. This feels like it could be right out of an anime, and in some ways it is – and I love it.

    Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner starts off with an extremely long cutscene. It’s fully animated and looks great, but it’s quite long. Once this completes, you finally do see the main menu. It’s from here that you can choose to switch to VR mode, which can be a bit frustrating, since starting the game from the SteamVR menu doesn’t always do what you want it to. If you are lucky, you will see the game in the desktop theater mode on your headset, which you can then control and so on. I was not so lucky; I had to get past the intro on my desktop, and have one of my kids enter VR mode for me once I got the headset on. Once I was in, it worked great. (Non-VR mode had no obvious problems.)

    The game starts when Dingo, who is piloting a mining mech, stumbles upon a strange package that happens to have the Orbital Frame (what they call combat-ready mechs in this universe) Jehuty inside. As (bad) luck would have it, another group shows up and wants to take it from him almost immediately, destroying his mining mech in the process. Not being one to let another just take what he found, he fights back, and keeps it. Of course, that is far from the end of the story. He pursues those who he believes to be bad actors, and gets captured, which then leads to him getting shot – and almost killed, except for the quick work of another who hopes to use his skill in Jehuty to further another goal.

    Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars

    Strong Points: Really fun gameplay with giant robots; VR mode works fairly well once you get it working; looks pretty good for a remaster; lots of fun
    Weak Points: VR mode is a pain to access, as it’s not a ‘normal’ Steam VR title, and doesn’t support motion controls; transitions between cutscenes and the in-game action are strange in VR mode; NO AUTOSAVES!!!
    Moral Warnings: Blood and death present, as you and your enemies fight for keeps; minor curse words, like ‘d*mn’ and ‘h*ll’; ESRB notes mild suggestive themes, with a billboard of models wearing bikinis, but I did not catch that

    The story takes several twists and turns, and is voice acted with anime cutscenes the entire time. It’s reasonably high quality, though there is some evidence that this was clearly localized way back in 2003, as the general quality of the translation has some ‘huh?’ moments (and things have greatly improved since then). Despite those moments, I was generally able to follow along pretty well, and enjoyed what I played.

    The action is a lot of fun, as you are in Jehuty, who can shoot both distant shots as well as move in for in-their-face melee action. Enemies die more quickly up close, but you can also do a lot of damage if you can hit them with a charged shot, which hits hard, but leaves you very vulnerable, as you have to sit still while powering up the shot. A single stray bullet interrupts the charging, also. There are also some alternate weapons, or the very powerful grab. Most of the weapons are situational rather than powerful (though there are exceptions), and use sub energy to use, as do your charged shots. Later sub weapons are very powerful, though. I usually stuck with grab, as you can literally pick up weaker enemies, and throw them into other ones, quickly clearing out an area. I found mastering the grab critical in doing well.

    The graphics are a stylized 3D, third-person action game, where you see your Orbital Frame (OF) in front of you, as well as your enemies, and you can see what actions it is taking in response to your button presses. The graphics themselves look very nice, though far from cutting edge. They have style, which is more than enough.

    In VR, the cockpit view is really neat. You sit in your seat, and look out of the window of Jehuty. You can see much of what’s around you, and if you look back, you see the seat you are in. I highly recommend having a comfortable chair when you are piloting in VR. In order to compensate for the missing third-person view, they did something pretty interesting. In the lower right of your view, you can see a mini version of yourself, that looks like a holographic projection, along with the location rings, health and energy bars, and all of the stuff you would otherwise be missing in cockpit view alone. The Vive’s display is not quite as clear as my 1440p IPS monitor, so you do lose some detail, but I was amazed with how much fun it is to pilot a mech in VR. Since you don’t have motion controls, some immersion is lost – but it’s still really fun to play.

    Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars
    Score Breakdown:
    Higher is better
    (10/10 is perfect)

    Game Score - 86%
    Gameplay - 18/20
    Graphics - 8/10
    Sound - 9/10
    Stability - 4/5
    Controls - 4/5

    Morality Score - 84%
    Violence - 6/10
    Language - 7/10
    Sexual Content - 9/10
    Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
    Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

    The downside to playing in VR is that the cutscenes, which are many, are rendered in a rectangular theater-like view, while being in the cockpit is a first-person view. It works, if you expect it, but it is a bit strange at first. It’s probably the biggest evidence that the game was a retrofit, rather than a full-on conversion. Nevertheless, I’m glad they added it – it’s still fun to get to watch baddies get blasted in VR, even though I don’t (yet) own a VR headset that is as clear as my monitors. That, and few VR games are more than little tech demos, so it’s nice to have the option to play a full game this way. There is also a very easy mode designed specifically for VR, since it takes more concentration to fight enemies with a large health bar in VR. Thankfully, I had no motion sickness issues whatsoever in VR in this title.

    My biggest complaint, and the only reason I have not completed this game yet, is because of an oversight on my part. You see, I have an admission to make: I have gotten used to modern game design, with fancy cloud saves, and autosaves. The last time I played this game, I got a bit past the half-way point – I put in a good four to five hours, and got past some really tough bosses. Then, I went to quit. I reloaded an hour later, and discovered...


    That’s right, I lost about four hours of play time. I had saved once earlier, during a level, and that was the only save data I had – in the second half of level one. I was on the final part of level five. (There are about ten levels, if the walkthrough I checked out is to be believed.) I had incorrectly assumed that it would save my progress, in the beginning of the level I was currently on. This is not so. So, rather than throw all of that time away, and with a busy Christmas season approaching, I had to just go ahead and write this review, rather than start all over. When you do play, please don’t be like me – save early and often, using the Save Menu.

    From an appropriateness standpoint, I think the T rating is just fine. There is some blood, mostly in cutscenes. There is death, as the war is very much real, and you are trying to make Earth and Mars better places. There is violence, in the form of shooting and the blades your fancy mechs are equipped with. The words ‘d*mn’ and ‘h*ll’ are used. The ESRB notes a billboard with bikini-clad women on it, that I did not notice. I believe there are hints of romance as well, though I was not able to confirm this (I noted it in a walkthrough).

    Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars is a really fun action game set in a universe with lots of giant robots everywhere that you get to be a part of destroying. Honestly, I had a blast with it. I only wish that I was able to see it through to the end; I hope to have a chance to do that soon. (If this review drastically changes, I’ll update it if needed.) The VR mode is a nice touch as well, which I hope to revisit as VR headsets improve. Honestly, if you think high-speed giant robot combat sounds like fun, I can’t think of a compelling reason not to recommend this title. It’s a lot of fun. Just save early and often!

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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