GAME REVIEW: Hitman 2016: Episode 1 (PC)

Background

The Hitman Franchise is perhaps one of the oldest stealth games in the genre, not as old or well known in comparison to its rivals Metal Gear franchise or Thief. The Hitman series however hits a certain sweet spot in the market. As in previous Hitman games, you need to plan and act in an effective timely manner. When a plan is successful and no one notices you feel like a true Hitman. A hitman above hitmen. As such I look forward to this new entry into the series, focusing less on the story side of the franchise (which had arguably been one of its weaker elements) but instead fusing the sandbox style gameplay of Hitman: Blood Money but with the Hitman: Absolution game Mechanics; Hitman sense, cover mechanics and general a modern overhaul of the general feeling of controlling Agent 47. As such, although I am happy with the game that has been given to us so far I am somewhat concerned that some of the minor features have been overlooked, such as releasing the game in an episodic nature instead of a full game.

Story

Hitman 2016 so far has a limited story, as it mostly follows Agent 47’s exploits post events of Absolution. However, we get to see him in his early days which function as a tutorial to the game and a way to understand how this games plays differently to others. As such, so far we don’t have anything in terms of the grand scheme but the games feel less focused on story and more so on mechanics, which serve the game better. Instead of trying to have a ‘Taken’ feel or an excuse to explain why Agent 47 is going from Russia to Japan. The game simply says, Agent 47’s target and that they are in this location and off he goes. This how the game implies with Agent 47 being at the peak of his career.

Mechanics

The most notable mechanic to be added is the games way of making guards more lethal having a more realistic approach to disguises. As in Hitman: Absolution, any person in the same disguise as you could recognise that you were in disguise. This has been balanced so only certain people within the disguise can notice you; this would mean it is far easier to remain disguise then in past version in the game. Guards will now pick up and remove any weapons you leave lying around. This could prove to be useful if you want to smuggle certain items in or if you want a guard bringing a bomb to your target allowing you to kill them and make a mess just long enough you can sneak out.

The last major change that I would like to mention is that of contacts mode. Contacts mode allows people to pick and choose targets. Sometimes they request the targets are killed with certain disguise or weapons. Perhaps some of the funniest have been killing characters who you heard talking in the main mission only for you to put a bomb down, have them pick it up and watch it explode… However, the main flaw I have with game is that contracts feel more like side-missions for fans by fans but with no real purpose other than to polish your skill. Perhaps including a skill tree, or allowing for a money system would give people incentive to take contracts as right now there’s really only three missions, two of which are just tutorials. As such there is a limited replayability, perhaps borrowing from one of the newest games being made Yandere Simulator, the idea of including a system that makes a certain element of the game less of task to handle easier. Perhaps adding an incentive that you will be given x amount of points which you could use to make disguise better, hiding weapons easier or allowing for more starting equipment? Having such an option will have provided fans of the series more reason to revist the maps and learn more on how the character and the game world reacts and interacts with each other.

Sound Design

The sound design in done in way that makes the game more realistic than before, as overhearing conversation feels natural and that it can often lead to different ways to approach and take out your target. However, the music feels somewhat limited. Hitman games often have amazing soundtracks whereas in this game the soundtrack does a good job of portraying feeling and emotion but not in way that is unique to the Hitman Franchise. As often, you’re seen as reaper like figure, one that often kills those who are corrupt or at least by society’s standards “bad” so you would often hear Ava Maria. As such I am rather surprised I have yet to hear one of the most iconic soundtracks to the franchise but perhaps this is something to be added in a different point in the games release schedule.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the game at launch is good and seems to be one that will be polished and improved as each new entry is added. As such I look forward to perhaps reviewing the game in full when all content is released or at least within a years time when the game first year of content will likely be completed. I nevertheless, grow concerned that perhaps the games need more polish despite how large the sandbox is often the crowds don’t respond in the way you think they would.

Score

Because of the mode of release, the review is seen as still in progress and as such it seems improper to give it a full score until more content is added

GAME REVIEW: Resident Evil Zero (PC HD-Remastered)

Background

Resident Evil Zero for the PC is a HD-Remaster of Resident Evil Zero which was a horror game from the Resident Evil Franchise that was released back in January 2002. However, unlike more recent entires in the franchise such as Resident evil 5 or 6, which have more action packed content. Resident Evil Zero instead focuses on the survival horror aspect of the genre. Each encounter feels tense and with you having to ration bullets while spending much of your time in the iconic Spencer Mansion. This is due to the fact this game takes place sometime before the events of the first game which had a HD-Remaster back January 2015. As such, much of the games events play in a dramatic, ironic manner, with the idea of planning the doomed Bravo Squad in the events that would inspire a franchise. However, the game is a HD-Remaster of a previous HD-Remaster, as such graphically at times it feels dated but the updated visuals and smoothness feel impressive. The game takes what makes horror important; the loneliness, the ugliness of the monsters and the feeling of dread. Nothing is worse than going into a boss battle with nothing but the bare essentials to fight your enemy.

Story

The events of Resident Evil Zero focus as a way of explaining elements of fluff that are left unanswered in resident evil 1. Such as how did Rebecca Chambers survive despite being a rookie in the team, what caused the zombie outbreak in Spencer mansion in the first place. However, the main point of the story in the game is focused on Rebecca Chambers and a new character Billy Coen. As they attempt to survive and understand what exactly caused the zombie outbreak, which if I were to go into would be a spoiler that I believe would somewhat ruin the experience of the game. As with horror games the fear of the unknown is perhaps the greatest fear to be had. As such, even though you can swap between Rebecca and Billy with ease you are not able to play cooperativity. This I think is a good idea, as it helps build tension in the game as you have to depend on yourself and considering at several points in the game you have to use a certain character it would be a burden to make this a cooperativity game. This leads me to my discussion of the mechanics of the game.

Mechanics

The main mechanics in the game that separate Resident Evil Zero from other entires in the franchise, is that the game has a tank controller style of combat and fixed camera placements needed to aim then shoot. As such I found it best to use a controller as whenever I used the keyboard it would seem to become a burden and even harder to think, plan and play. Perhaps this is more of an issue of the games port as the game’s first release was made with the idea of controllers in mind. However, even then the game takes some time getting used to considering how different this style of gameplay to other more recent entires to the franchise. Furthermore, with the regards to the fixed camera placements, they can be both spooky and annoying as you may hear a zombie moans just beyond the camera so you can’t shoot the creature but it could also prove annoying in boss battles were you may not be able to shoot at a boss weak point due to the poor placement of a camera.

The other major mechanic to mention is the ability to swap and change characters at points in the game which allows you help co-ordinate and attack enemies. This can be useful and annoying at times. As you could for example give your weapons to Rebecca only to find out she is going to become unplayable meaning you’re going to have possibly fight a number of enemies with barley any allies. Or worse during a boss encounter Rebecca may become pre-occupied in a boss grip and the best tool you have is a knife…

The last major addition is the Wesker mode which lets you replace Billy with Alber Wesker who has a more powerful attack and is more for fan-service for those who finish the game. As such it’s a rather nice little gift but nothing that really adds to the game as a whole.

Sound Design

The sound design is an interesting subject area, as the game’s music and soundtrack builds the element of fear and dread. However, the voice acting work at times can feel rather jarring and out of place. I’m not sure if this is due to the game’s initial translation or attempt to rush the game out. Nevertheless, at times the dialogue spoken feels cheesy which if the developers of the game were aiming have succeed. If that is not the case then I am at a loss as to why there is such a difference in the ability of the characters to speak without sounding like they are reading from a script…

Conclusion

The game succeeds in being a HD-Remaster of the game, at least in the basics of the port. Have a controller. If you don’t have a controller then you will struggle; you can still play the game with some difficulty. This notwithstanding, the jarring dialogue and the dated fixed camera angels and tank controls at times feel like a limitation and less an attempt to get harken back to the good old days of horror. As such I would give this game a 7 out of 10. As there are points in this game that I felt scared for myself but much of the time I was confused by how weird the dialogue sounded or by my inability to shoot a zombie despite being with 3 feet from them.

Score

7 out of 10

 

Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen

Game Review: Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen (PC)

Background

Dragon’s Dogma is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated games of the previous generation, as the game attempts to mix elements of Dark Souls, Monster Hunter and The Elder Scrolls into a new IP (intellectual property) from Capcom. The game that I played on the PlayStation 3 so many years ago was a fun and bizarre adventure, with the usage of the pawn system and the ability to climb monsters and strike at weak points. When the chance to play a possibly improved and polished version of this game for PC came, I was more than happy to play the review copy. As such, I can say with joy that this game feels better than the initial PS3 port of the game. The issue of long loading screens and jagged movements has been resolved and improved to the point that it no longer feels like a chore to resolve item management. However, minor issues get annoying after a while – slightly dated graphics and the fact that your pawns still constantly say the most random of things with their non-stop chatter in particular.

Story

The lore of the game is complex but pretty much boils down to one issue: the issue of fate. The game argues that your job as the ‘arisen’ is to take back your heart that was stolen by a dragon – not the Skyrim kind of dragon that dies after a few hits but the Desolation of Smaug kind. This is an event that regularly occurs in the game’s lore so when you eventually meet that big firebreathing lizard (after your first encounter where he literally steals your heart), you are given choices and options. Capcom do an amazing game post-dragon first since they seem to take a large inspiration from the manga Berserk, which similarly deals with issues of fate and giant creatures that need slaying (sadly I think the Berserk armour easter egg has not been ported into the PC port of the game). It is hard to discuss the Dragon’s Dogma lore without going too deep into spoilers and the story is what kept me going: the idea of finding out what was out there, finding new enemies to fight and fearing the day and night cycle.

Mechanics

The mechanics in the game are interesting developments in the RPG (role playing game) genre as a whole, as you have a new and interesting take on the class system in which you can change class rather easily to better suit the pawns and your play style (called vocation in game). For example, if you wanted to play less like a berserker and more into range you can do that. There are also different sub classes that mix two classes into a one, so you could be a mystic knight (a classic paladin) who has the ability to use heavy weapons and armour but with a few spells in your back pocket should you need them. My favourite was having an advance vocation and becoming a warrior with two handed tanks aimed and designed to cut away the most amount of health to large enemies. Plus, playing Forces (a berserk soundtrack) while running around as the warrior class felt snug like a shoe.

The other major mechanic is the beast fighting element in which you are able to climb up on creatures, such as Hydras and Griffons, and attack them while they try to throw you off. This may sound like nothing new, but in the heat of the moment with the music score blaring and your pawns all trying to help with range weapons and your character holding on by the tips of their fingers hoping they don’t get thrown off: it truly is one of the best moment to experience. Something that I think games like The Elder Scrolls Skyrim fail to achieve is the idea of how big and grand an enemy is: in Dragon’s Dogma you feel and fear the presence of these grand creatures whereas in games such as Skyrim you just hit them in the ankle a few times with a heavy weapon and poof they’re dead.

The next major element, which I have mentioned several times already, is the pawn system. This is perhaps one of the most interesting elements of the Dragon’s Dogma systems as a pawn is a NPC (non playable character) that you create early in the game to help be a support role for whatever class you pick. However, you also get two additional pawns from other players if your game is connected online or from the developers if your game is offline. This then allows them to learn about new enemies and dangers as well how to fight them allowing other players to hear advice from the monsters you fought when they return to their owners. This can also work for your pawn as well and sometimes you can receive gifts and items.

The last major mechanic I woud like to mention is the day and night cycle, as often in RPG games the day and night cycle has no major importance to the game. However, in Dragon’s Dogma you get to see why this is a Capcom game when it’s night time as the game becomes less of an Arthurian legend and more like Dark Souls where every kind of ghost, undead or anything that poses a challenge can appear. I remember when I got lost and ended up going to one of the hardest areas in the game due to being lost at night, leading me to having to run away with little more than a cloth on my back and a rusted sword.

Sound Design

The sound design, and most notably the soundtrack, is amazingly well done, as it helps create immersion and the feeling of grandness that the art style of this game shows. A new feature introduced in Dark Arisen, Bitterblack Isle, reflects this as the music becomes darker and more gothic, with each encounter feeling like a boss battle struggle. The final boss music for the Bitterblack Isle is a wondrous and beautiful song that is fitting for the struggle you have to encounter and makes you feel sorry for the final boss (not when he is trying to turn you into a paste).

Conclusion

The only major flaws I can suggest is that the pawn systems seem to be an idea that could be tweaked with a few minor changes. For one, I wish there was an option to stop recycled dialogue from occurring since hearing the same thing over and over again tends to get tiresome. Lastly, it would be an interesting idea to include more multiplayer – it would be interesting to see the different ways players could team up to take down bosses with experienced players giving advice on enemies and locations to newcomers to the franchise. As such I would give this game an 8 out of 10 due to the fact that Capcom have a great job porting this game onto the PC and I look forward to new places to explore and new enemies to fight in future works within this franchise.

Score

8 out of 10