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The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 4, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Sports
  • Similar Games: NBA 2K Series
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP3,190

Annual games like NBA2K are inexplicably tough to review. On one hand, it remains the best basketball sim game out there, no question about it. On the other hand, it’s still the (same) best basketball sim game out there. It may sound weird, but hear me out.

The NBA 2K experience offers the most solid basketball experience year in year out. They look great, sound great, and most importantly, play great. The player models are near accurate, the detail in the shoes will please sneakerheads, and even the court and ring announcers add to the overall great experience of the game.

NBA2K has come a long way from its humble roots, and every year the step up in production and marketing is just amazing. On these merits alone, the game is considered a must buy because basketball fans are getting the closest thing they can get to their favorite sport, while newcomers can expose themselves to the best game that the genre has to offer.

But even with the change in tag line or cover athlete, it’s really just the same game over again, which is both a good and bad thing.

What more can you add to an already solid base? The sport does not drastically change per season except for new faces in each roster. As developers, what exactly do you do? What do you work on to actually have something of significance every year?

The Long Shadow

To partly answer the question, one thing you spice up is MyCareer.

I absolutely loved the MyCareer storyline back in 2K20. I think many would agree that the 2K20 iteration was one of the better ones in recent years. The performances, the writing, the actors… everything about made it a joy to play, and being produced by LeBron James’ SpringHill Entertainment, you can really see the step up in quality from previous years.

As someone who loves sneakers, it had a lot of wow moments for me seeing all the heat the characters were wearing, even featuring Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God line among others.

I can’t say the same for 2K21, entitled “The Long Shadow”.

MyCareer this year tells the story of Junior, who is the son of a well-known and loved basketball player trying to carve out his own path to greatness. The premise showed promise, but the execution was rather disappointing. In a way, 2K21 was trying to get out of the shadow of a great storyline that was 2K20, but unlike Junior making his way to the NBA, this falls short of doing just that.

It had all the ingredients of a W – a great cast headlined by Jesse Williams and Dijmon Hounsou, officially licensed Collegiate programs like the UCLA Bruins and Florida Gators, even celebrity appearances by cover athletes Damian Lillard and Zion Williamson.

Sadly, it did little to get me attached to Junior. I felt no connection or tug, and it didn’t help that some of the writing was a bit cringey. There’s even a simple love story shoved in there where they get into a fight in their dorm and you’re given a choice to walk out or make amends. It all feels out of place and with everything considered, you’ve got a MyCareer storyline you’d probably like to skip just get to the NBA Draft.

And you know what? The game actually gives you that option.

It’s also a bit weird that draft team, the Boston Celtics in my case (the Lakers and Warriors weren’t interested), get the top 2 picks in the draft, somehow teaming me up with the number 1 pick, Hendrixx Cobb. NBA teams would kill for the number 1 AND 2 pick but somehow, a team I chose to work out with, just gets both picks. For a game that prides itself in realism and its sim elements, this felt a little whack.

Shot Meter Fiasco

One of the biggest updates to 2K21 was the addition of a Shot Meter, which 2K promised to be second nature after a few runs down the court.

I turned it off.

Before you toss the git gud memes this way, know that within the first few days of releasing the game, even Damian Lillard was shooting bricks, prompting a hotfix from the developers. While that’s not indicative of how tough the new shot aiming system works, you know there’s something off when your cover athlete complains about it.

Instead of your shot being timing based, once you pull down on your right analog stick, a shot meter will appear and you’ll have to slightly flick the stick again left or right to “aim” it. As you can imagine, it would take getting used to because it feels very unnatural to perform a second motion after pulling down on the stick, adding an unnecessary layer of difficulty that veterans of the game may want to try out but will probably disregard. At some point, even shooters like Curry will start missing shots if you’re even slightly off center (slightly early or slightly late release), but while that’s supposed to happen in reality, it can be unforgiving in this context.

I understand that some people may like it, even love it, but in my experience, I went back to what I was familiar with and stuck with it. I’m pretty sure many of you will too. 2K have recently pushed a fix and will let players choose which system to use as soon as they log in.

What’s great though is that the game gives you the option to go back to how it was last year, which could be what most players would default to just because of familiarity. You can also choose to only apply the meter to shots, layups or both. In case you hate both the shot aiming and the timing system, you can opt to use the real shooting percentages of the players.

If you choose to use Pro Stick aiming though, the right stick can then be used to perform various dribble moves, like holding the stick up to do one of the new and improved signature size-ups from players like Harden and Durant.

The long grind

VC, in-game currency, can be earned to use on various things – player customization items, stat points, and much more. Playing through MyCareer, the development of your player will depend on your performance, as well as the amount of VC you get. Slog your way to the draft and your salary per game will give you 400 500-ish, being a lottery pick will obviously get you more. Each action you do during the game is also rewarded with VC, so it literally pays to actually do good in games. There are various streams of VC in the game but somehow, it doesn’t feel enough. Of course, it feels the same every year, as improving your character will take a while to get him to superstar levels, but given that you earn anywhere from 600-1000 or a bit more per game and at a certain point stat upgrades will cost 1000 per tick, it’s going to take a long time and many, many minutes spent.

That’s where the Mamba Forever Edition of the game comes in, which gives you a huge stash of VC to kickstart your career. Microtransactions in the game are generally negligible if you don’t mind the grind, but the amount of things to spend VC on is off the charts – haircuts, kicks, stat points, and so on. Even across game modes. It gets overwhelming, which makes it hard to feel that you actually make progress after a game. Again, I know its been mostly the same for the past few years, but its definitely still a consideration this year.

Badges also make a return this year, which has a simplified progression system compared to previous years. Depending on your actions on court, you’ll be accumulating points that will allow you to unlock badge slots that lets you equip a number of improvements to your skill set. My player this year was a power forward who specialized in rebounds defense, so as I played through games and gathered rebounds and blocks, my Defense and Rebound badge slots were unlocked the fastest. I was able to equip badges that would let me box out my defender more effectively and even give me an easier time to worm my way through box outs on me. There’s quite the selection, and the nice thing about this is that you definitely feel the impact in the game, which makes the badge system one of the better implemented systems in the series.

Bubble trouble

Throughout the games in MyCareer, I’ve noticed that the AI can be a bit wonky. Some games, they can be perfect teammates, passing the ball during the proper time, taking good shots, moving the ball around. Some games, they can be complete rookies. One thing I particularly hate is that they milk the clock a lot, even when we’re down by a couple of points in the winding seconds of the ball game.

Other instances when the AI felt really inconsistent was when I was setting up screens for my point guard. As a Power Forward, I specialize in pick and rolls and post moves and in most games, the AI never adapts to certain exploits. Even in higher difficulties, this would allow the defender to switch during the screen, giving my player a mismatch over the opposing point guard for an easy 2 points. Sometimes? They NEVER switch.

The AI in 2K21 feels more frustrating rather than difficult.

Apart from MyCareer and a neighborhood location update that takes you to the beach, there isn’t anything of note for the other modes, at least not big enough to consider talking about this year. The addition of the WNBA also feels like an afterthought, placing them there but not really giving them the avenue to shine.

One glaring thing that 2K has overlooked here is that MyCareer progress won’t have cross-progression capability. 2K has announced that MyTeam progress will carry over, but have made no such statements to MyCareer and your player. This is rather mind-boggling since MyCareer is one of the most played modes in the game and if you’ve had the misfortune of already spending on microtransactions, then you’re kind of on the short end of the stick here since you’ll have to do all of that again come the next-gen consoles.

All of this considered, NBA 2K21 is still the best basketball sim game out there but it seems that the years of it being uncontested has made it look a bit stale, with minor updates that don’t shake up the game enough to merit a full priced release.

What we liked:

  • Solid gameplay and mechanics
  • Best basketball game out there
  • NBA Player models are more accurate than ever
  • Tons of ways to customize the look and moves of your player

What we didn’t like:

  • MyCareer storyline is not as good as the previous year
  • Shot Aiming mechanic is tough to get the hang of
  • VC distribution feels a bit too stingy

Verdict:

At the end of the day, NBA2K21 is more of the same, similar to its brothers the year before and before and before. MyCareer is usually the one big differentiator every year but the lackluster storyline could not stand up to the previous iteration from 2K20.

Don’t get us wrong, the NBA2K series is the best basketball sim game out there. It is a great game for fans of the sport and even for newbies who want to try it out. With solid basketball physics and mechanics, there isn’t any game out there that can hold a candle to the series. That said, for vets who are on the fence about picking up a full priced game only to find mostly roster changes, a lackluster MyCareer storyline, and a couple of tweaks here and there, 2K21 could be a tough sell.

NBA2K21 was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 4, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Similar Games: Destiny, The Division
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP2,795

For a highly anticipated title, the Marvel’s Avengers Beta didn’t exactly receive the warmest of welcomes. It was by no means a terrible game that should be snapped out of existence, but it also wasn’t “Endgame” levels of epic as many people were hoping it would be.

The Beta felt like a tedious grind due to the uninspired level designs and combat objectives, and the graphical fidelity of the game suffered from low quality textures from the most unlikely of places. Let’s not even talk about the amount of camera shake that was enough to make one nauseous.

Nonetheless, the game was able to showcase some pretty good dialogue and voice acting like Kamala Khan’s enthusiasm as a hardcore Avengers fan, and Bruce Banner’s calm but depressed demeanor due to the events of A-Day. The writing and storytelling proved to be a strong point, even with a few cringey lines here and there.

After a somewhat average Beta experience, you’ll be glad to know that the final launch version of the game caught us by surprise in a good way, but the overall experience has quite a number of things that need more assembly.

In our last episode…

So just for a refresher, Marvel’s Avengers is a completely new story and universe separate from the iconic Marvel Cinematic Universe we are all familiar with, hence the cast here looking slightly different.

The Avengers are celebrating the launch of their new helicarrier, the Chimera, running on a new power source called Terrigen. And like any comic book story, things don’t go smoothly due to a sudden terrorist attack led by Taskmaster.

In the aftermath of the battle, the Golden Gate Bridge is destroyed, normal humans turned into power infused beings due to exposure to Terrigen, Captain America is gone, and A-Day has become the day super heroes were outlawed, resulting in the break up of the Avengers and the rise of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) as the new protectors of humanity.

Five years later, A.I.M. presence has spread significantly across the United States, rounding up all these Terrigen exposed beings, now called Inhumans, to cure them of their disease. Enter Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, an enthusiastic Avengers fan that was present during the events of A-Day and herself one of these Inhumans. And it’s her escape from A.I.M. that kickstarts this adventure of bringing back together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and discovering the truth of what happened on A-Day.

A story with heart

Now right off the bat, story and dialogue is one of the better points of Marvel’s Avengers. Obviously, the plot didn’t make a lot of sense in the Beta since the campaign was jumping from one scene to the next. In this final release, we uncover a complete single-player campaign, and it really makes us wonder why this part of the game wasn’t marketed as much, because the campaign was fantastic.

The Avengers have fallen on hard times and it’s because of a fan’s faith in them that they’re able to pick themselves up and once again band together to save the day.

It was actually very engaging to play through the main story campaign despite some predictability because of the dialogue and the interactions between the characters. From the prologue showing Kamala attending A-Day and meeting each of her favorite Avengers in person, to listening to the Avengers not hiding exactly how much they find Tony Stark annoying, the exchange between characters was well portrayed and easily a highlight of the game.

The voice cast may not be exactly the iconic actors we know and love from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but you cannot discount the talent of the cast which includes Troy Baker, Nolan North, and Laura Bailey among others. If anything, Tony Stark’s character in the game was portrayed to be too much of a joker and one-liner machine that seemed a little off-putting, but nothing to totally derail from the overall experience.

Thor is his usual godly self, Banner is the soft spoken scientist, Natasha is all business… Of course, Captain America is the ever noble boy scout always keeping the team together and the voice of reason, particularly when Tony goes too far with his jokes. Of course, leave it to Tony Stark to always come up with a comeback.

Kamala Khan in particular was an interesting character to follow in the story, considering that she can be representative of any Avengers fan in general. Kamala’s enthusiasm is infectious and her sometimes rebellious streak is what actually made her and Iron Man get along pretty well after their initial meeting. You can definitely see her inner fan always seeping out in her spoken lines, sometimes a bit to the annoyance of Black Widow. She is a well-written heroine and while not as well known as the others, is a very relatable personality that many will learn to love and appreciate throughout the game.

If there’s anything that is a little disappointing, it’s that the main campaign wraps up itself anywhere from 10-15 hours. For a “Game as a service” title, it is quite impressive that the single player campaign can still take the spotlight. Each Avenger was given enough time to shine in terms of gameplay and story, and by the end of the main campaign, you will likely be familiar with the role of each character, finding a favorite.

Groundhog Day

Coming from the beta, its good to know that the devs have been listening to the feedback from the players. We’ve had our share of complaints that have been addressed – the addition of a camera shake toggle and the addition of a wide camera angle among others.

If you’re playing alone, the companion AI is more than capable of taking care of themselves in an encounter. They will be definitely fighting and defeating enemies like they supposed to and should you get knocked down, they will do their best to go and revive you. During our playthrough, it was rare that we got knocked out because our companion AI didn’t revive us on time.

Each Avenger has the same set of general attacks but the team at Crystal Dynamics have done quite well to differentiate their playstyles from each other, giving them defining traits like flight for Thor and Iron Man, wall grapples and long jumps by the Hulk, wall running by Captain America, and “swinging” traversal options for both Black Widow and Ms. Marvel.

In terms of offense, each Avenger has melee and long range attacks. They each also have their Support, Assault, and Ultimate abilities that can be used after a cooldown period.  And all of these are diversified among the Avengers, making sure at least that no two fighting styles are the same. Thor’s Mjolnir, for example, can be thrown at enemies and it can pin a certain number of them down leaving enemies defenseless until Thor recalls it. On the other hand, Captain America’s Ultimate Ability, Brooklyn Brawler, is not a damaging super move in itself but it temporarily grants Cap a boost in damage and gives access to new Light Attacks, fitting, considering his exceptional combat prowess.

The Skills Trees for each Avenger, while similar in structure, is also diverse and fitting of each character’s fighting style. Skills Points will expand the moves you can do, like adding a strong finisher to your Light Attacks or, in Iron Man’s case, a burst of repulsor that blows away nearby surrounding enemies. There is also the matter of changeable moves like Iron Man being able to switch from lasers to missiles, and Black Widow being able to use either automatic or semi-automatic pistols.

It is this diversity in moves and fighting styles that helped make the game less monotonous in terms of combat. You’ll also be able to mix up these moves, allowing you to form your own combos to use against A.I.M. and the different villains in the game.

Enemies in the game will mainly be A.I.M. and their army of soldiers, synthoids, and robots that range from the basic grunts to more formidable foes. Compared to the Beta, there’s a bit more variety in the final game but at the end of the day, save for a few handful of bosses and some familiar villains, the selection is not as wide as we’d like it to be, leading to some monotony towards the later parts of the game.

The parry and dodge system helped make combat a bit more strategic, elevating it to more than just a button mash fest. Enemy attacks will often be accompanied by a colored glow, with blue and yellow meaning the attack can be parried, or red which means they’re unblockable and can only be dodged. If anything, it actually feels like the Freeflow system that you may have seen in other superhero games like the Batman Arkham series. It is not, however, as rhythmic compared to that with how chaotic it can be on the battlefield.

RPG-rind

If there’s anything that Marvel’s Avengers can be compared to, it’s very much like a traditional Role-Playing Game minus a vast open world to explore. The RPG DNA is noticeable because of the presence of a level-up system, status ailments, and wide variety of gears to equip. Just don’t expect to freely go around as missions are tackled mainly from the game’s War Tables.

The endgame loop of Marvel’s Avengers revolves around repeating missions that reward you with gear, ever increasing in power level, which is the criteria that measures your overall capability to take on tougher assignments.

Gear, along with other stuff in the game, is divided into rarity tiers, with better gear having more attributes and powerful effects. The amount of gear you’ll be able to collect can be overwhelming and you may probably spend more time optimizing and just dismantling every other gear in your inventory instead of actually playing, which says a lot about how gear attributes really work, as they’re not as effective or noticeable to actually take notice of, except for the Pym Particle effect which was our favorite.

A missed opportunity for personalization is that the gear you pick up doesn’t really affect your Avenger’s appearance. Cosmetics, on the other hand, do, but it would have been nice to have that option to see your character wear different sets of armor, similar to titles like Destiny.

An alternative way of obtaining gear is from Factions, which provide you with some assignments in exchange for rewards and reputation, allowing you access to powerful gear. It’s a nice touch that the assignments, while lacking in variety, can be accomplished simply by going through missions and not by going out of the way. Sometimes, you’ll just accept all assignments at once without even looking at the conditions for success, and after a couple of missions, they’ll be ticked off from your list.

As far as mission structures go, what we experienced during the Beta is pretty much the same here. Mission objectives have you going from point A to B, beating up heaps of enemies along the way. As to what you do in the end, it’s not as diverse either. You will be either defending objective points from A.I.M. troops or destroying certain objects or defeating all enemies in a room to complete your missions. Transitions also felt repetitive as it was a matter of your Strike team gathering in a room, you accessing a terminal, and waiting to get to the next area of your mission.

Luckily, a few icebreakers in between missions are optional objectives that JARVIS will inform you of. These can range from unlocking safehouses with better gear, or saving captured Inhumans from Quarantine Cells. It’s good to know that some safe houses will require a bit of work to open, like finding certain buttons to step on or hitting switches from long range. They’re not the most well thought out “side missions”, but at least they provided a little bit of variety to the otherwise straightforward missions.

There are also Iconic Missions, which serve as optional quests in the game. Iconic Mission will each have a side story focusing on a certain Avenger, whether it be Bruce Banner looking into A.I.M. research on his Gamma technology or Thor investigating an emerging cult of fanatical Asgard worshipers.

The Iconic Missions were a decent distraction from the main campaign, though there were some factors that made them more tedious than usual. First, some of the missions in these side quests have relatively high power levels so if you haven’t been grinding, expect to restart a lot, unless you’re very confident in your dodge and parry skills.

Also, unlocking the next mission in the chain may require you to fulfill certain conditions first. In Thor’s case, to get to the second mission, one of two requirements has you dealing 50,000 worth of damage using his Ultimate Ability, Bifrost, which takes quite a bit to do.

Having to lock missions behind certain conditions before advancing was a little frustrating. If it wasn’t for the curiosity of finding out what happened in the end, these sidequests wouldn’t actually be worth doing, and even then, some of the story bits felt ho hum.

Didn’t we destroy this place last time?

One thing about games like Marvel’s Avengers is the amount of repetition you’ll have to go through. Whether to farm resources or grind for equipment, you’ll be doing stuff a lot of times over to get yourself ready for the endgame. Sadly, it doesn’t make it pleasing enough to make the grind worthwhile.

While there are a quite a number of missions and dungeons you’ll have to go through, there isn’t enough variety to ease the tedium. Facilities and labs looked just slightly different from each other and at the end of it all, feels just a little too similar to our liking. There was also quite a bit of frame drops even when using the performance mode over resolution, which is not a good sign.

It was also a little frustrating as to how, on certain cutscenes, the game actually skipped, both the dialogue and audio. There was one instance where the game completely froze and we had to restart. For a launch title, the amount of times our game crashed was absurd, and although issues like this may be patched out soon after, it left a bit of a bad taste in our mouth.

There was also a noticeable lack of memorable music from the game’s soundtrack. There’s quite a number of orchestral music here and there, though none really stuck. If anything what you may enjoy are the sound effects because they were satisfying to listen to, like when Thor’s Mjolnir hits and the build-up of Iron Man’s repulsors. There is a saving grace, however, in the form of some licensed music, but we’ll keep that to your discovery.

For the long time Marvel Fans, there are some Easter Eggs and appearances in the game that will get your attention. It was already revealed from way back, so despite his absence in main campaign, Clint Barton aka Hawkeye will be in the game as he has a dedicated door in the Avengers’ quarters in the Chimera. There are also collectibles in the form of comics. Not to mention audio recordings of the Avengers hearings where they defend themselves from what happened on A-Day. It’s a decent form of world building in this case. And there will be more stories to be told, which of course brings us to the reminder that this is a game as a service, and can only get better in time.

What we liked:

  • Engaging campaign
  • Diverse fighting styles
  • Witty and funny dialogue
  • Easter Eggs for fans
  • Fun Multiplayer that really encourages teamwork

What we didn’t like:

  • Tedious and monotonous grinding
  • Really bad case of low quality textures in some scenes
  • Absurd amount of bugs
  • Loading times

Verdict:

We wanted to like and love the game. Marvel’s Avengers was a highly anticipated title that was supposed to be the premiere Avengers game that should have done the source material proud. While the game was able to improve some of its aspects in terms of gameplay and combat, unfortunately, it’s still far from being considered polished and final on account of lingering issues. A lot of issues.

The thing about Marvel’s Avengers is that it will be a great game, eventually. Crystal Dynamics have shown that they listen to feedback and have acted upon making the game better from beta to launch. Down the line, maybe 4, 5, 6 months from now, the game could be spectacular. The only issue is that will there still be a community that long down the road?

Don’t get us wrong, the game is fun when it all comes together but between the bugs, crashes, and the tedium, it’s hard to find the fun.

Coming from our beta impressions, Marvel’s Avengers shifts the bar a bit towards being the game people may want to play but doesn’t completely fall into the level of a must have title on Day 1. Hopefully, future content will be satisfying enough for players to find it worth coming back to this universe featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

Marvel’s Avengers was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro through a review code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: September 4, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Sports
  • Similar Games: Skate
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP1,995

If you couldn’t tell from our demo impressions, we were absolutely floored at how good the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater remaster turned out to be. From the updated visuals to perfectly capturing the accuracy of the controls, Tony Hawk was primed for a glorious comeback, and it would remiss to say that Vicarious Visions really nailed the landing on this one.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (THPS1+2, for short) takes the first 2 games from Neversoft and gives it more than just a facelift, modernizing the game all while keeping the heart and soul of what made it a classic among the 90’s gamers. It has been a long time coming for a decent Skateboarding game and it’s about time the younger audience gets introduced to the man, and the game, responsible for it all.

In with the old

THPS1+2 is not a complicated game to understand. You’re given a wide roster of skaters to choose from, a diverse selection of tracks each with collectibles and challenges to overcome, and 2 minutes to strut your stuff. It sounds simple enough for the uninitiated to jump into, but can also be something you can sink tens and hundreds of hours on, trying to pull off that million dollar string.

The remaster gets so many things right, but also because the original formula was fantastic enough to begin with.

The original cast of oldies like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, and Chad Muska are reinforced by the new kings and queens of the sport like Nyjah Huston and Lizzie Armanto, with the veterans looking rather flaky and old, which is a nice touch of detail. Each skater can have their looks customized, all while having their own set of trademark moves. Likewise, you can choose to create your own legend through a fairly decent character creator system, giving you a wide array of clothes, decks, wheels, and much more.

Further reinforcing the nostalgia trip is the soundtrack for the game, which totals to over 50 tracks from artists like Rage Against the Machine, Sublime, Goldfinger, Machine Gun Kelly, and much more. The selection is wide, but is a solid fit for the game that certainly benefits from the riffs and beats.

For lack of a better term, all the levels in this game are exact recreations of the original, just snazzier looking. There’s a certain level of detail to it, and while it doesn’t compare to photorealistic games like Ghost of Tsushima or The Last of Us Part II, THPS1+2 looks really great and a title worthy of being in this current generation.

All those S K A T E letters and secret tapes are exactly where you remember them to be, to the point that even looking at 20 year old guides will help you out in completing all the collectibles per level. There are also stat points to collect per level, which will let you improve certain aspects of your skater – whether you prefer to go faster, master all the rail grinds, or even achieve inhuman hang time. All of these, multiplied by each of the skaters, will certainly lead to replay

Most importantly, the remaster faithfully captures the responsive controls and the tight skating mechanics from 20 years ago. Skating feels good and responds even better, and the intuitive trick system will leave old hands like mine with a pain that not many titles can produce.

How do you do, fellow kids?

All of this talk about a game from the 90’s may be music to the ears of people like me, who are relatively older than a lot of gamers out there, but THPS1+2 is accessible even to the newer, younger audience as well as first-time skaters.

Players can activate certain mods that would allow for skating newbies to enjoy without being penalized too much. They can be switched on and off at any time, so purists and hardcore skaters wouldn’t be worried about the game being easier.

While the game isn’t particularly hard to enjoy, mastering it is a different story. It will definitely take you a bit of time to pull of tricks that consist of 5 or more moves but the tracks and courses are well designed that all levels of “pro-ness” involved can appreciate. New skaters may find the bigger levels overwhelming at first, so the warehouse is actually a perfect level to get acquainted with the ins and outs of the game. The warehouse is so iconic, in fact, that Tony Hawk himself, creaky bones and all, took and owned the course. He probably didn’t get the secret tape at the top, we’re guessing.

Some levels are also updated to represent the current situation, like a school notice about learning from home and the “new normal” to the mall level being an abandoned level that looks like something straight out of The Last of Us expansion. You can even use a mask as a custom facial hair option! These are such nice touches that make this more than just a lazy remaster.

Vicarious Visions did such a great job at merging the old with the new, reaching out to fans of the classic but still opening up the game to new gamers who may not know half of these 40 year old skaters. It was enough to do a 1:1, and a lot of people would have been happy, but going the extra mile is really just the cherry on top.

The same could be said with the soundtrack, with 37 new songs, more than half of which I don’t know even existed but sound equally as rocking as Guerilla Radio or Superman.

Due to the technology at hand today, THPS1+2 also features online multiplayer and even a create-a-park mode where you can share your creation as well as test out other courses created by the community, giving the title insane replayability if you’re looking to burn hours into this game.

All of this packaged in a 4K 60fps game with impressive loading times and you’ve got an extremely enticing title that, while 20 years old, can still find its place in the current generation of games.

What we liked:

  • Responsive and intuitive controls
  • Fast loading times
  • Very clean 4K 60fps performance
  • It’s just $39.99

What we didn’t like:

  • Having to go through the privacy policy pages on startup
  • Menus could be streamlined a bit better

Verdict:

There really isn’t much to be said about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 except that it is worth every penny. One of the easiest verdicts we’ve had to give, the game is a textbook example of how great remasters are done and how, with the proper care and respect to the property, nostalgia can be captured properly.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a code provided by the publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: May 19, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Action adventure
  • Similar Games: Mafia, Grand Theft Auto
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP995 each

Mafia is an action-adventure series with elements of an open world set in the USA, during early time periods like the 1940’s and 1960’s. Well-known for its narrative centered on organized crime and a wide array of interesting characters, the series gave birth to a trio of games that scratched the itch for a story based experience unlike what other similar titles offered.

Mafia II released in August 2010 and Mafia III coming out six years later on October 2016 following high expectations from the first, and arguably the best of the series. They were decent efforts, but frankly not at par with what Thomas “Tommy” Angelo had given players. The series was defined by the amazing storytelling and take on the mafia genre, and now for gamers who missed their initial releases years ago, the opportunity to experience Mafia is here as both games have been remastered for the current generation.

With the release of Mafia II and III definitive editions, we take a look at how these titles hold up years after their initial release.

The story thus far…

Mafia II is the story of Vito Scaletta, an Italian immigrant who came to America during the 1940’s with his family, seeking the American dream. From a small time thief to a discharged WWII soldier, Vito is introduced to the world of organized crime and you will share his adventure as he works his way through the ranks of the mafia, with lots of twists and turns along the way, to get a taste of a better life.

Vito Scaletta’s story unfolds in a fictional depiction of New York City, here called Empire Bay, during the 1940’s when World War II is still ongoing. Radio propaganda encourages its citizens to support the troops, and the trending fashion is trenchcoats and fedoras. Not to mention it’s also a time when organized crime is a lucrative business and Crime families each rule a part of Empire Bay.

Mafia III, on the other hand, takes us to the 1960s and into the shoes of Lincoln Clay, who comes home to the New Orleans inspired New Bordeaux. It was also a time when racial tension was at an all-time high and not all Nationalities occupying the same territories didn’t see each other as equals yet.

While Mafia III is told from the point of view of a new character, is it still set in the same universe of Mafia II. Like Vito, Lincoln is also a veteran, only this time of the Vietnam War, where through some unfortunate events, is struck by tragedy and set on a path of revenge against the Italian Mafia that rules New Bordeaux. A very clever feature too is that Mafia III is told documentary style where characters involved recount their encounters with Lincoln Clay and recall the events of Mafia III, complete with interviews and stock footages.

An Offer You Can Refuse

Sporting some remastered graphics, Mafia II and III has that polished look, but somehow still feels that they belong to the previous generation. That graphics aren’t… bad, per se, but they look outdated, considering how other remasters have done a much better job at modernizing some titles. There is noticeable improvement though when switching from part II to III as the facial animations are more pronounced, and the lip synching is smoother. Definitive, however, doesn’t mean a perfect remaster. Unfortunately, both games suffer from a few hiccups.

Mafia II suffers from slight freezing, both in audio and gameplay in some points. It may be just almost half a second of freezing but it’s still unbelievable to see that in a supposed remastered game. When driving as well, items like signs may just pop up as you approach them, not to mention slight screen tearing in some parts. Compared to this, Mafia III didn’t have as much issues in terms of graphics and gameplay, and it feels slightly improved compared to its predecessor actually, save for one head scratching issue.

For some reason, the controls have been switched in some areas of Mafia III. In the case of the PS4, button prompts like cover and melee attacks which the game shows as the O button, is actually mapped to X. This made for very frustrating moments in the game, where you thought you were going to dispatch an enemy from your hiding spot, only to accidently stand up because you pressed the wrong button. It’s not easy to just reverse your mindset because certain button prompts like opening doors are still mapped correctly. What made it even more frustrating is that there are no preset button configurations in the options menu to rectify this. Having to just deal with the mixed up button mapping, it didn’t make playing Mafia III an exactly pleasant experience at first.

Small nitpick, most definitely, but it’s things like these that add up to make it seem like a so-so remaster.

Light on the Sandbox

Mafia is listed as an action-adventure series and while these games are not downright open world sandbox games, though there are actually some sandbox elements featured.

Mafia II and III thrusts you into a sandbox style city where you are free to go anywhere, triggering the main story by going to certain points of the city. In getting around Empire Bay and New Bordeaux, you can traverse by foot or drive cars, and stealing one is definitely an option. Mafia II, in particular has a mechanic where you can quietly pick locks to steal a car. Of course in both games you can go for the less subtle approach and just break the window, just like any gangster would do.

It was definitely right to list Mafia as an action-adventure series, despite the sandbox elements, because the games do not exactly utilize their cities fully and they suffer for it, Mafia II in particular.

Empire City is definitely a faithful representation of the times, and you cannot talk about Mafia II (and definitely III) without mentioning the amazing and fitting soundtrack the developers chose when you tune in to the different radio stations as you drive around the city. This, however, felt like the only incentive to manually drive around going from one mission objective to another.

Aside from picking up wanted posters and magazines as collectibles throughout the city, there is basically no other motivation to explore Empire city that you’re just compelled to go through the game’s main storyline. There are some side activities you can do like buying a hotdog from a random cart or shop for clothes in the different areas, but in the case of the latter all the stores basically have the same line-up of jackets and suits, save for varying colors. You could interact with payphones scattered around, but like buying hotdogs, it’s not exactly something you want to pass the time with. It’s a shame because Empire City could have been a fantastic opportunity to put the Mafia in Mafia II.

Activities like taking on rival organizations, and maybe collecting protection money from local businesses could have been added to make you feel like someone working for the mob. Unfortunately, such activities don’t exist and the closest you can fulfill that mafia fantasy is just playing the main storyline.

Mafia III was somehow able to improve on its predecessor’s shortcomings. Compared to Mafia II, firstly, when setting waypoints, prompts that will tell you what direction to go will occasionally appear. Not to mention a counter indicating how near you are to your objective is now present. These weren’t in Mafia II at all.

In terms of diversifying the gameplay a bit, Mafia III now offered different districts that you can take over in Lincoln’s quest to take down the Italian Mafia. This consists of destroying the mob’s source of income by taking over different businesses or taking out key targets, culminating in a showdown with that district’s boss.

You are then free to assign that district to one of three underbosses that you meet along the way, one which may be very familiar to fans of Mafia II. There is a level of choice here as Lincoln’s story can unfold differently depending on who you favor as you take over New Bordeaux, resulting in bonds broken and new enemies to fight. There are even added activities like wiretapping different areas to have more access to enemy activities. The fresh take however stops there, as the mission structure to take over each district don’t exactly vary and by perhaps the third or fourth area to conquer, you may already find it an unpleasant grind.

Like Mafia II’s Empire Bay, New Bordeaux also feels underutilized in this sense. Actually, there’s no doubt some care was taken into crafting both games’s cities, with NPCs going about their business pretty realistically. It just still felt empty on account of a lack of things to do, especially in the case of Mafia II. The incentive of driving around just to hear the awesome soundtrack the developers put together for both games can only go so far. Not to mention there’s not much use for all the dirty money you earn save for guns and clothes.

Say Hello To My Little Friend

Mission structures too don’t exactly break the mold. As one who works for organized crime, your tasks consists of driving to certain locations, or engaging in gunfights and taking out assigned targets. The gunfights are pretty solid with firearms like handguns and shotgun faithfully recreated in terms of their damage and area of effect. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the enemy AI. They can be pretty dumb, standing in the open sometimes, even on the hardest difficulty.

Mafia III, in particular, puts the spotlight on some crappy AI, and it’s almost laughable to see goons hide behind cover and just often walk towards you shooting, leaving them open for you to melee attack them from your cover spot, only to rinse and repeat if another one gets closer.

The one-on-one fights leaves something to be desired. It really felt clunky and limited as all you do are dodge, punch, and execute a finisher. There’s some effort to mix in some strategy by adding counters, but overall you can get through most fights just timing your light punches right and doing the finisher. In other words, don’t expect deep melee combat in Mafia.

Needs More Mafia

Despite the amazing story, cinematics, voice acting, and characters, it’s very hard to recommend Mafia II and III, both as the so-called Definitive Editions they claim to be, and as titles worth trying out in today’s gaming landscape.

Putting on a “Definitive Edition” tag and polishing the graphics doesn’t absolve any title of shoddy gameplay and both Mafia II and III had a great opportunity to fix these up. Sadly, it comes off as a sort of lazy remaster, bringing along with it some technical hiccups that put a wrench in the experience.

What makes this quite disappointing is that both titles have engaging storylines, well done cinematics, and even superb soundtracks, but the buck stops there, as almost everything falls short that it’s almost a crime to have almost nothing to do save for collectibles, or the added missions that come with each game.

What we liked:

  • Both Mafia titles feature compelling storylines
  • Great soundtrack
  • Well done cinematics

What we didn’t like:

  • Not enough mission variants
  • Side activities are very limited
  • Technical problems like stuttering and visual glitches

Verdict:

The Definitive Editions for Mafia II and III seem like remasters done for the sake of, and while the base games were decent on their own, this could have been an opportunity to do right by them with some quality of life updates here and there.

It’s a shame, considering the well-crafted story the Mafia series has created, especially if you’re fans of the crime thriller genre, since Vito’s and Lincoln’s stories are tales worth knowing after all. We’d recommend to wait it out a bit, especially with the far more superior remake that Mafia: Definitive Edition will be bringing to the table later this month.

Mafia II and III Definitive Edition was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: August 28, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Sports
  • Similar Games: Previous Captain Tsubasa titles
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP2,595

Coming from a country that is not primarily known for its love of Soccer, or Football as some would call it, Captain Tsubasa was largely unknown to me. While I’ve heard of it, I haven’t had the pleasure of watching it yet, which is surprising to some of my friends, greeting me with a “You haven’t watched Captain Tsubasa yet? Lol” everytime I mention the game.

Anyways, Captain Tsubasa is an anime that follows Tsubasa Ozora, a really (really REALLY) good Soccer youngster who sets out to win the National championships for a 3rd time in a row, and along the journey, he faces off against other schools, each with their ace player who in turn have unbelievable abilities as well. If it sounds like a cliche sports anime, that’s because it is, and it is with this premise that the single player campaign of the game takes place in.

The main draw of Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is spread out through its 2 campaign modes – Taking Tsubasa through the national tournament and taking your “New Hero” to basically be the next big Soccer superstar, complete with your custom character and all.

One thing about the narrative of the campaign is that it is based on the anime, and so like Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, the events of the campaign are pretty much set in stone, with the main (and probably the only) difference being the final scores of the matches you will be playing.

We’ll get to how the “Soccer” part of the game actually works later, so we’ll talk about the anime part first.

Playable anime episodes

Bandai Namco have proven that they can produce good looking anime games. Save for some outliers *coughJumpForcecough*, it’s hard to find fault when they transfer an anime property into a game, presentation-wise. The art is close to accurate, the game is fully voiced and the voice acting is great, even the animations are on point. Bandai Namco knows its anime games and they pay a huge amount of respect to the source material, which is what you’ll be getting with Captain Tsubasa.

Even without extensive knowledge about the show, it was easy for me to see how well done the characters are, looking mostly like their counterparts from the anime, from the looks to their costumes and even to their moves, which is something fans will appreciate. It was also easy for me to follow the story beats, and while the storytelling could have been improved due to some of the sequences being dull, the narrative was not hard to understand at all.

Possibly the most ridiculous shot of all.

Tsubasa employs a lot of his ridiculous trademark moves in the game, like his ever famous Drive Shot. Each of his ace opponents also have their own set of unique moves like the Tachibana Twins’ Skylab Hurricane and Kojiro Hyuga’s Tiger Shot. All of these trademark moves are faithfully captured and are definitely highlights during matches everytime they are performed. They are all sorts of crazy, but that’s what the anime and the game is all about, unabashed fun.

The tournament matches have their specific “anime moment” to them, which is basically a scene from the anime that is recreated in the game. In the match against Hanawa, the Tachibana Twins will perform both the Triangle Shot and the Skylab Hurricane, which will lead to a sure goal, automatically putting you at a disadvantage. In another instance, Hikaru Matsuyama and his Eagle Shot / Northern Country Shot will also score an automatic goal, which you’ll have to overcome. These scenes add some bit of challenge to the game and will be a treat to the eyes for fans and even newcomers to the franchise.

Tsubasa against the Otomo Quartet.

None of these are particularly hard to pull off, as you’ll only have to charge the Square button to a certain point to pull them off, which is indicated on the meter above the head of your controlled character. The controls are quite simple to use and while there are some complicated moves and more advanced passing techniques to learn, you can enjoy the game with just a few buttons and moves, which lends itself well to the arcade style gameplay.

In some parts of the anime (I would assume), Tsubasa would get slightly injured but would continue playing despite the condition. One touch I particularly liked in the game was that during this injury, Tsubasa would “feel” it as well – lose spirit faster, be more ineffective during tackles, and so on. It’s a nice touch, and shows how much of the source material is being followed.

As mentioned earlier, Captain Tsubasa is similar to Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot in this sense, where there is really only one way to go in the story and if you know about the anime, there you already know how things are going to turn out, prompting you to turn into that Leo DiCaprio pointing meme. While Dragon Ball Z has already been remade and retold to death, Captain Tsubasa has the unique privilege of being introduced to a wider audience who probably does not know about the anime since the last Captain Tsubasa game was back in 2010 for the Nintendo DS. It proves to be a great way to be exposed to the lore of Tsubasa and even for someone like me who has not watched the anime, it definitely intrigued me enough to do some research and watch a few episodes, specifically that episode where Tsubasa counters the Tachibana Twins in mid-air. That s*** was craaaaaaazy.

Jump off the goalpost why don’t you.

Might as well have been Rugby

The ridiculousness of it all extends to the Soccer part of the game as well. Anything goes as there are no yellow or red cards here, so feel free to tackle your opponents to death as they will do the same to you. Ace defenders like Hiroshi Jito can block special shots with his body without flinching, and star goalkeepers like Ken Wakashimazu defends the goal with some highly acrobatic one-handed saves. It’s all a spectacle and we’ve got front row seats.

If you’re expecting gameplay like FIFA or PES, you’ve come to the wrong place. At certain points in the game, formations and positions don’t even matter because it’ll all boil down to you zig-zagging past 2 or 3 defenders and pulling off your special move, rinse and repeat.

Putting the ball in between the goalposts is not complicated at all, as you only need to aim in the general direction of the goal to pull off a shot, but the main mechanic in scoring a goal lies in the spirit meter of the goalkeeper. At full spirit, even Tsubasa’s Drive Shot will not make it through, but every shot you make towards the goal will slowly bring that spirit meter down until eventually, a goal. There’s hardly any strategy here and scoring a goal mostly boils down to a battle of “who can bring down the meter first”, which is kind of ridiculous. The three times we’ve seen a goal on a mostly full meter was with Kojiro Hyuga’s Tiger Shot, but it has never worked with anyone else.

Of course, being a Captain Tsubasa game, this is exactly what you’ve come to expect. No (okay, SOME) semblance of simulation, just pure and fun arcade type Soccer which is fun, but gets bogged down by some clunky basics like sprinting and passing. You can change up tactics in a match, swap out players, switch positions, and so on. Do note though that we got to finish the campaign and then some by not changing any setting, which makes us believe that most of these is for show, or reserved for at least the highest of difficulty settings.

Create your own mullet superstar

The other campaign mode, entitled “New Hero”, takes you on a similar journey, but this time using a different team. This mode will have you create a custom character, level him up through gameplay, improving statistics based on in-game performance, and learning moves from different players to create the ultimate player.

Character customization has some semblance of depth. There is quite a number of hairstyles and jerseys and cleats to choose from, but none of them look especially satisfying or “cool” as some would put it, but this is also partly because of the style from which Captain Tsubasa is based from, where mullets and buck teeth are more than common occurrences.

There’s a loose storyline behind it too, but this mode generally ties in with spending in-game currency on player cards that will determine who you can gain special moves from, a form of gacha mechanic shoved into the game for good measure.

Yellow cards

While Captain Tsubasa: Rise of the Champions is a fun and serviceable game, there are quite a number of issues that stick out like a sore thumb. The AI, especially your own teammates, can be infuriating at times, especially during long ball opportunities where they would run away from the ball instead of towards it. Your opponents are none the wiser, as they would fall to the same defensive tactics over and over again, sometimes leading to them not even getting a shot off at the goal in some games.

Some of the more advanced techniques are quite tricky to pull off, and for an arcade style game, it doesn’t feel right to have those things there. Throughout the campaign, I’ve never been able to pull off touch passes and passes that lead directly to power shots just because they feel so unnatural to do that I found myself just dribbling, crossing, and shooting the ball for the most part. It has worked for me through both campaigns, so the need to pick those advance techniques up didn’t really feel necessary.

For soccer players, these guys run out of spirit (stamina) way too easily, only allowing maybe a third of the field before they need to recharge again. This makes it especially hard to score when you want to, as getting close to the goal without any reserve “mana” to pull off a shot will just result in a turnover.

What we liked:

  • Faithful to the source material
  • Ridiculously exaggerated moves
  • Voice acting and presentation

What we didn’t like:

  • Scoring can be simplified into an almost fail-proof repeatable routine
  • AI can be improved
  • Repetitive gameplay

Verdict:

For what it set out to do, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions does it pretty well. It delivers the anime storyline straight into a playable game that’s ridiculous and fun, but also frustrating at certain times. Fans of the series will definitely get a kick out of this, especially with how faithful the game is to the source material, but players who are looking for a polished soccer experience will need to look elsewhere.

If you aren’t a fan of the anime or simply do not know anything about it like me, the game doesn’t have enough pull to be enjoyed by someone wanting more out of it. There is a lot to love about the characters and the anime moments, but the charm will most likely stop there. It is serviceable, but for the same price, there are other more worthwhile anime and / or soccer experiences out there that can scratch the itch for you.

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of the Champion was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a review code provided by the publisher.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: August 28, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Racing
  • Similar Games: Grid, Forza
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP2,395

Project Cars 3 is an interesting proposition. On one hand you have a very accessible arcade-like racing game that newcomers and newbie racers such as myself would appreciate. On the other, a racing simulator that doesn’t really… “simulate” well enough to be advertised as such. The CARS in the title means Community Assisted Racing Simulation after all, but this latest installment sort of feels anything but that. It may be hard to understand, but we’re here to talk about that and more in our review of Project Cars 3.

Project Cars 3 may come as a shock to fans of previous installments. Project Cars 2 was widely regarded as a good / great racing sim that had tons of content and impressive details that was demanded of a racing simulator. In this regard, fans and veterans of the previous game may feel slightly jilted at the change in direction, but Project Cars 3 is a fun ride that will appeal to a much wider audience, simulation enthusiasts included (slightly).

Work your way to the top

Project Cars 3 (PC3) introduces a very straightforward single-player campaign – no story, no celebrities, no drama. Just you, your car, and your goal to be the best driver out there. Somehow, its a refreshing change of pace compared to other similar racing titles.

You work your way up the ladder by qualifying for the next series (referred to in-game as Road E, Road D, Road C, and so on), take on races, tick of race objectives to open up more tracks (full list here), earn money and experience points to buy upgrades, and so on. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s not too hard to understand, and most players will appreciate the no-frills simplicity to it.

Race objectives are goals that you’ll have to hit during each race and the more you hit, you’ll be able to unlock more races and challenges. These objectives range from performing good corner turns, more complicated ones like performing X overtakes over Y time, and even simple ones such as winning the race. Its a fair indication of skill and will be what allows you to move to the next level in the campaign and take on tougher challenges…

Or you can simply buy your way through to the next series, and while it isn’t recommended, at least you have options if you’re seemingly stuck trying to get that last objective you need before you can proceed.

Project Arcade

Overall, the driving is easy to execute and understand such that beginners will be able to pick up the controller and jump into a race right away. There are numerous assist toggles that you can either turn on or off, like brake assist or steering assist, and each setting that you toggle will reward you with an increase or decrease in the experience points multiplier that directly affects how much XP you’ll get after a race.

There is also a setting that allows markers during a race that will tell you the most effective racing line you should be taking, as indicated by floating signs, which I found to be much less distracting than how other racing titles would do it, literally marking the road with the line you have to take.

All of this results to great vehicle handling and Project Cars really hits the mark on this one. Steering is responsive and driving doesn’t feel as hard or as daunting as racing simulators, and you’ll only really be caught in a hot mess if you totally whiff braking or turning. This change alone makes the game more fun to play than its predecessor, but of course this also comes with PC3 turning into more of an arcade racer over being a sim, which it was known for.

Races are generally short but offer certain variables like weather conditions that will add an extra layer of difficulty to the tracks. Some races will shift weather conditions 1 or 2 laps in, forcing you to change strategy to adapt to the conditions. I can’t count how many races I’ve lost due to the rains appearing on the final lap which is frustrating, but of course also part of the journey to becoming the best driver.

Graphically, the game looks great but you can definitely tell that the tracks and car models are just a notch lower than your higher profile racing games like Gran Turismo and Forza. During races, some parts of the terrain show low quality textures but not enough to really matter in the grand scheme of things. That said, crashes and bumps have little impact on the car visually and while you’ll notice some scrapes and, at most, your front lip hanging over one side, it really doesn’t affect the way you drive.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Photo Mode, while sufficient, can be greatly improved. For a game that can offer fantastic screenshot capabilities, the Photo Mode doesn’t offer too much other than the basic implementation.

The game also offers a Resolution or Frame Rate mode for the PS4 Pro and we did notice a few frame dips during heavy portions of the race (slow corners with car pile-ups, rain, etc), enough to be noticeable, so the improved Frame Rate mode is definitely the way to play the game.

No garage too small

One area that PC3 excels at is customization, and it does offer an impressive list of parts and cars to choose from. There are over 200 licensed cars (the most in the series) from the most iconic brands like Jaguar, AMG, McLaren, Lotus, and Lamborghini, just to name a few (full list here). Each car is accurately detailed and represented that car enthusiasts would get a kick just by browsing through the whole selection.

As a driver just beginning his journey, you’re locked behind some of the more basic cars first but as you level up, you will gain access to more powerful vehicles like the full fledged racing cars and hypercars. It does make sense, narratively, and it’s not like you’ll have enough cash off the bat to purchase that Bugatti Chiron you’ve been window shopping.

There is also an impressive list of parts to customize your car with, and these are divided into actual upgrades and cosmetics. Cosmetic tinkering is where you’ll spend a lot of time on, choosing from various color palettes, tire designs, rims, decals, and many more. They don’t add horsepower to your car, but you can at least lose a race and look cool with your neon yellow ride while doing so.

Upgrades directly affect the power of your car, which is necessary to qualify for the higher race tiers. One thing about the PC3 upgrade system is that you can actually stick with your car for a longer time than you normally would, which is a good or bad thing depending on the way you look at it. You can take your default Honda or Mitsubishi and upgrade it all the way to the top which is great since the tougher races really rely on vehicle familiarity but with over 200 cars to choose from, it would also be great to switch cars often, which the game doesn’t let you do as much. We’ll explain in a bit.

It’s quite irritating though that if you upgrade to a certain part (for example, better tires) and you need to go back because that upgrade puts you over the horsepower limit of a series, you’ll need to pay a small amount rather than just switching back. Small nitpick, but irritating nonetheless.

Roadblocks abound

While PC3 has a number of things going for it, the game also suffers from a list that fails to hit the mark. The user interface of the game feels particularly clunky and getting to certain parts of the menu takes more “clicks” than I would have wanted it to. Some parts of the car customization, in particular, has options that you don’t even see right away until a few more button presses in, which is kind of annoying.

The UI also feels like something straight out of a mobile game, with a lot of left to right sliders and trigger button taps. This isn’t necessarily bad in a sense, especially when you think about some of the mechanics of the game feel like mobile game mechanics, like paying currency to unlock a preset slot or paying to unlock the next race or series.

The game also employs Player levels and Vehicle levels. Both levels will increase naturally as you race and will offer the players rewards. Increasing your player level will unlock more cars to choose from and increasing your vehicle level will give you a bigger discount when purchasing upgrades, which is great, but also forces you to remain in your car rather than wanting to try out other vehicles. Its a very contradictory design decision that limits players instead of encouraging them to try out the other cars.

Speaking of contradictory design decisions, certain race types like hot laps (I hate hot laps) are particularly unforgiving, since running off course or bumping into a barrier will invalidate your lap time, which is what these race types are based on. Unless you drive a perfectly clean race, you’ll be forced to repeat them a lot, more than you’d like to, quite the opposite of making the game more accessible.

What we liked:

  • Cars are accurately represented with attention to detail
  • Hefty list of cars and customization options
  • Controls and car handling are easy to learn
  • Fun enough to entice racing newbies

What we didn’t like:

  • Contradictory design decisions
  • One too many level systems
  • Clunky UI
  • Basic photo mode

Verdict:

Project Cars 3 fall under that perfect definition of “You’ll love / hate the game IF…” Racing sim fans and even fans of the series will feel a bit dismayed but it certainly hits the objective of appealing to a wider audience base.

It is important to note that Project Cars 3, despite its arcade-y form, is still a fun racing game. It isn’t the most polished racer out there not is it the sim that fans of the series have come to love but at its core, it is entertaining and easy to immerse yourself in. Between the impressive list of cars to choose from and the lengthy single player campaign, there is a lot to do in the game which culminates in the online multiplayer that pits you against the best racers in the community.

Project Cars 3 was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a code provided by the Publishers.

While the Mafia II and III releases back in May were remasters, what immediately sets Mafia: Definitive Edition apart is the simple fact that it is a remake. With the game being rebuilt from the ground up, Mafia: Definitive Edition will feature an updated script, expanded stories, and new features that fans of the series can look forward to.

The release is about a month away, September 25, but getting to play an early preview of the game thus far gives us confidence that Hangar 13 have something special going on here. From the first 5 minutes to the last chapter that we’ve had the privilege of playing, it shows that the remake was done with passion and love for the series, successfully bringing back this 2002 classic back to life and is on track to be a remake done right.

Defining Moments

Filled with an intriguing and cinematic storyline with immersive gameplay, the original Mafia is a memorable title from the previous decade. Illusion Softworks (then), the developers of the original game, introduced various features to the limited open-world genre, which was then dominated by titles like Grand Theft Auto III. Mafia managed to capture an audience that was longing for a richer and grander experience of the criminal underworld.

Fast forward to 2020, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a total repackage of the classic game. While there isn’t any significant change in the plot, the script was rewritten to make it more accurate during the time of the game’s setting. Most of the casts in the original game also returned to reprise their role, including Marec Vasut as Thomas “Tommy” Angelo.

Perhaps the most obvious change can be attributed to how the Definitive Edition looks and feels. While it is to be expected, given the technology at hand today, the transition from 2002 to 2020 is impressive, from the new textures and models to the smoothness in character animations. Each turn of Tommy is motion captured well, and it is impressive to see him move gracefully along the streets of Lost Heaven, the game’s version of 1930 Chicago.

Every part of the city is picturesque. You can pause the game any time and take a screenshot of any scene. It looks good during the day, and it is at its finest at night. I was preoccupied with the progress of my story during my preview playthrough, so I was limited by taking photos while inside my shiny vintage car. The game does not have any photo mode features, but I hope that they will consider so in the future.

Accessible Remake

Mafia: Definitive Edition is a title that is accessible, even to PC gamers. While it will run on consoles with very little hitches due to its boot up and forget nature, the PC requirements are also quite modest, as the minimum requirements to run the game would not push gamers to upgrade. The game will run theoretically with the following specs:

  • CPU: Intel i5-2500K or AMD FX-8120
  • RAM: 6 GB
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • VIDEO CARD: 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 or 2GB AMD Radeon HD7870
  • PIXEL SHADER: 5.0
  • VERTEX SHADER: 5.0
  • SOUND CARD: DirectX Compatible
  • FREE DISK SPACE: 50 GB
  • DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 2048 MB

Source

If you want to smoothly play the game, 2K’s recommended specs are not too demanding either:

  • CPU: Intel i7-3770 or AMD FX 8350
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • OS: Windows 8.1 64-bit
  • VIDEO CARD: 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 or 4GB AMD Radeon R9 290X
  • PIXEL SHADER: 5.0
  • VERTEX SHADER: 5.0
  • SOUND CARD: DirectX Compatible
  • FREE DISK SPACE: 50 GB
  • DEDICATED VIDEO RAM: 4 GB

Source

While this is the case, you’ll need to tweak your settings a bit to get picture-perfect screenshots. For benchmarking, I played the preview version of the game and benchmarked it in various graphics settings: High, Optimal, Medium and Low. For reference, here’s the specs of our gaming PC:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-Core Processor
  • RAM: 32 GB
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit (Version 1909)
  • VIDEO CARD: NVIDIA RTX 2080 Super

The game shines at high settings with very minor FPS jank. As I scour through the display settings, I am presented with presets that allow me to tweak specific elements of the game that range from geometry detail, vegetation, decals, direct/indirect lighting, shadow, reflection, volumetric effects, and antialiasing.

Average FPS (represented with white bar) is at 65.2 at one of the busiest corners of the game and 59.6 while driving around St. Michael Cathedral.

The best preset that is automatically calibrated for your system is the optimal setting. This preset gave me the best performance without a sacrifice in quality.

While this is the case, the performance of both medium and low presets does not affect the overall experience. Quality is relative per system, so whatever data you are seeing may not be reflective of your experience on your own system.

Mafia: Redemption

Mafia: Definitive Edition is looking to be like the remake we deserve, with 2K and Hangar 13 seemingly hitting the right notes to produce a game that’s worthy of praise. Of course, being an early preview, it is too early to speak of our final verdict for the game, but having played a total of six chapters of the game gives me reason to believe that it is the Mafia we deserved to have but didn’t get until now, a fulfillment of a vision that is now within reach.

Some may perceive this game as a proper redemption of the seemingly flawed remaster of Mafia 2 and 3 and while that may be correct to a certain degree, I see this as a redemption of itself from the shackles of technological irrelevance. Mafia: Definitive Edition is largely unforgettable due to its story and reliving it with current-gen graphics simply cements its place as a must play.

Mafia: Definitive Edition is scheduled to release on September 25 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Mafia: Definitive Edition was previewed on an early access PC build through a code provided by the Publishers.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: August 18, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Similar Games: Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Sekiro
  • Price: Estimated SRP PHP1,499

Unforgiving enemies? Check. Menacing and difficult boss battles? Yes. Resources that you farm and lose if you die twice? Definitely. An assortment of armor and weapons to use? Yup. A dark fantasy in a dangerous setting? You got it.

The list goes on but in summary, Mortal Shell ticks the essential boxes in a Souls game checklist. But who would have thought a few tweaks to the formula along with a few fresh mechanics can result in a pretty new experience? We surely didn’t and that’s why we were pleasantly surprised at how this Souls-like inspired title isn’t your typical clone.

The arrows turn, the swords repel

In Mortal Shell, you are a Foundling – a walking faceless body mass that can run, dodge, and use a weapon. Foundling, meet your Husk Shell, one of the many you will encounter throughout the game. Pretty weird premise, but it is something that revolves around the central mechanic of the game, which we will get to later.

It won’t take you too long to see the similarities that Mortal Shell has with its Souls-like counterparts. The world you’re thrust into is as dark and dreary as they come. All kinds of monstrosities roam the land, and there’s almost no safe place. One thing the game does well is to portray this with conviction. The visuals are detailed and while there are a few places with questionable low quality textures that stick out like a sore thumb, overall the visual aspect of it is definitely something you would consider as a current generation title.

The different NPCs you also meet have their distinct look and personalities, all of which are well voiced, each telling you their stories and their roles in the world they inhabit with you. Some will offer assistance be it as save points, progression, or to sell you items. There are even mundane things like being able to pet a cat (Yes, there’s a cat). And these are still just the NPCs, because it’s the skins you’ll be wearing that put the Shell in Mortal Shell.

May nothing pierce this Mortal Shell

As mentioned, there will be different bodies, or Shells, that you can find in the game and once you do, the Foundling can step into their shoes… literally. You don’t just take the armor and clothing of these corpses you find, you become them. There are no parameters to level up here in Mortal Shell because each of the Shells you find in the game already encompasses a particular build.

These shells cover typical class archetypes – Harros the Vassal is your standard balanced Shell with equal HP and Stamina while Solomon the Scholar has a bigger Resolve meter, Mortal Shell’s equivalent to mana and used for Parrying and Riposte abilities. You also have Tiel the Acolyte who prioritizes speed and Eredrim the Venerable, the classic tank shell.

The Shell system is a really interesting take on the Souls genre where the resources you farm (in this case, ‘Tar’ and ‘Glimpses’) won’t go into levelling up parameters like Agility or HP but instead will be needed to unlock each Shell’s unique abilities, along with being the currency for buying items. It’s a new addition that works well and feels well thought of, and not just slapped on just for the sake of.

Since these Shells are classes on their own, each has a unique design that is really aesthetically pleasing and succeeds in distinguishing each Shell from the other. Eredrim, for example, really gives off the feeling of being a royal tank with the decorative armor he wears. On the other hand, Tiel sports that swift and dodgy assassin vibe with his Skull face and light clothing.

Even more interesting is that each Shell has a story behind it. These were once living people after all, and wearing a particular Shell when talking to certain NPCs may trigger unique dialogues. Not to mention unlocking individual Shell abilities will trigger a quote by that particular Shell, giving you some idea of the kind person they were before their demise.

You won’t know until you try

A unique feature that Mortal Shell employs is what’s called the Familiarity mechanic. As you pick up items scattered throughout the world for the first time, you are not told what effects they hold. In order to find out, you’ll have to use them, just like any other random item you find.

Items have a Familiarity meter and each usage raises this. The more times you use an item, the more information given, eventually revealing fully what the item does and increasing its potency. It definitely gives off a sense of mystery and thrill, having to discover what’s the use of the item you picked up, and it encourages using every item to see what they do.

One very fun item in Mortal Shell are lutes. Yes, the musical instruments. Souls games generally have very haunting music, very fitting for their settings. Mortal Shell isn’t any different. Actually, there wasn’t a lot of music as far as the setting goes, just the haunting sounds of beasts and spirits roaming the land.

What broke the mold however, are the lutes. With maximum Familiarity, certain Lutes can be used on the field but what makes them fun are the catchy tunes the Foundling can play on them. You definitely start sounding badly on low Familiarity but use them continuously and you will hear the music get better and the lute music get more polished. And they’re catchy to boot!

In a dark, depressing setting, it was just relaxing to have the Foundling just sit down and jam on his lute. Toss a coin to your… Shell?

The finest cutlery

There’s definitely a Shell that will cater to different play styles and of course, along with a body to inhibit, you’ll need weapons, although Mortal Shell has a pretty average selection of it. While not the most extensive array of tools, less weapons to choose from means more time to get acquainted with each one.

The usual culprits are present – a 2 handed sword, a mace, a heavy sword…. but Mortal Shell gives a fresh take on some weapon types as well, like the hammer and chisel along with the Ballistazooka.

The WHAT?!

The Ballistazooka is a crossbow/rocket launcher hybrid that’s as awesome as its name. It fires a finite number of bolts and deals a lot of damage from afar. Best part about it is that it can be used regardless of what Shell you’re wearing. The reloading animation is especially fun to watch.

Upgrading each weapon was a pretty straightforward affair as It was really fun experimenting with each type since it was just a small number of weapons to choose from. I appreciate the design decision to keep things simple but focused, which works well with the overall meta of the game.

Metapod, use Harden!

Harden is another mechanic unique to Mortal Shell, one that adds an extra layer of strategy during fights. Think Metapod from Pokemon and you’ll get an idea of what Harden is all about.

The Foundling has the ability turn to make itself hard as stone, able to withstand one attack before the effect wears off. There is a cooldown time so it can’t be used continuously, and in between managing your Harden charges and your resolve for parries, the combat in Mortal Shell takes on a more cerebral form over the usual “roll your way to victory” technique prevalent in other similar games.

Harden is pretty much a Parry move on its own as some enemy attacks will bounce off your hardened skin, leaving them open to a counterattack. It can also be a last minute lifesaver should you fail to land an attack. The versatility of Harden makes it a valuable tool in fights as long as you know when to use it, working around its cooldown duration.

Nothing like an out of body experience

Staying true to its Souls-like roots, Mortal Shell is one tough cookie. From bandits, to spirits, to armored warriors, to lunatics that can throw their heads at you, there’s a variety out there with different attack styles and patterns to familiarize yourself with. Surprisingly, for its difficulty, Mortal Shell is actually quite forgiving because of very helpful mechanics that can ease your suffering during playthrough.

With the Shell system, getting beaten won’t mean an instant restart as you will actually be ejected from your worn Shell first and you will be given one chance to return to it with fully restored Health, similar to Sekiro. Mortal Shell is a game where you can actually say enemies hit so hard that they send you flying out of your body.

In addition to that, should you return to your Shell and die a second time, not only is your previous Shell still there in the last position you left it in, but it also serves as an extra life because touching it will also fully restore your Health.

This doesn’t make the game completely easy but these are very helpful mechanics to have in a Souls game. They also make sense narratively, considering the Foundling’s nature as a body-possessing entity.

A Few Bumps Along The Way

For all the praise we’ve been giving, Mortal Shell definitely has its share of issues. While it introduced a lot of mechanics that made life easier, there were also some features that caught us by surprise. For one thing, changing equipment like weapons and Shells require using an item. Not to mention Fast Traveling in between areas requires you to fully upgrade one Shell before purchasing an item that lets you fast travel. This means there’s no bonfires or lanterns to light up, that would normally give you teleport points for easy travel.

Load times were also pretty lengthy, either when restarting from a defeat or moving to a different area. Compared to other Souls games, it was just longer than usual, and really breaks the momentum of the game.

Also present are a number of glitches in the game, ranging from getting stuck in a certain area that you had to get killed on purpose to restart to enemies just standing in place even if you were standing in front of them. These weren’t enough to ruin the game though and can probably be fixed by a small update in the future.

As with any 3rd person action RPGs, the camera can also be your worst enemy. Camera angles can get finicky especially in narrow corridors, which resulted in quite a number of deaths that we didn’t bother to count because we couldn’t properly tune in on the action.

And then there’s the enemy AI. While they can be generally relentless, it’s really hard to ignore that the AI can be a bit dumb sometimes. They can walk into their own traps, and will sometimes attack in place when you’re in their line of sight, even if you’re not within reach.

Done Already?

You may also be surprised to know that for a Souls game, this isn’t a lengthy epic. On average, and this includes restarts and taking your time grinding for Tar and Glimpses, it may take around 12 hours to finish. On a regular playthrough, you can expect it to float somewhere around 8-10 hours.

If anything, the size of the world is not that vast but is still big enough to explore. In fact, you may not even find the need to use fast travel, highlighting the lack of the feature which we mentioned earlier. Although short, there is replay value in upgrading weapons and Shells you didn’t get to use, which provides enough variety to merit another run.

Contrary to game length, Mortal Shell didn’t feel short at all as exploring the vast locales brought us to pretty varied settings like dark forests and icy caverns. It felt… sufficient, like we didn’t feel the need to visit more. One thing that could be improved though is the level design, as there was a noticeable lack of optional areas for possible side quests. There are a few sprinkled here and there, but not quite enough.

What we liked:

  • Solid combat
  • Unique new mechanics like Shells and Harden
  • Stylish Shell designs
  • The lute!

What we didn’t like:

  • Long load times
  • Occasionally dumb enemy AI
  • Needing items to change equipment
  • Bad camera angles

Verdict:

Mortal Shell is a straightforward dark fantasy that’s fun to play because of the unique mechanics like the Shell system. It may have its flaws and though requiring items to change equipment isn’t something we’re fond of, it still doesn’t deter from having a good time.

The story itself is something of an enigma. You’re never clearly told what’s going on and it will be up to you to piece together the narrative based on everything you encounter in Mortal Shell. Even after we finished the game, the plot was still hard to figure out, but at least the combat is fun and engaging.

We really have to give kudos to Cold Symmetry for their unique take on the Souls genre. And with the scope of the game, its $29.99 price tag (about PHP1,500) is perfect for a decently sized dark fantasy Souls game. All this for less than 10 GB of space on your hard drive. Mortal Shell is definitely a Shell with a soul in it and worth checking out, especially if Souls games are your thing.

Mortal Shell was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a code provided by the Publishers.

A New Horizon

It was 3 years ago when I first laid my eyes on Horizon Zero Dawn. 3 years later, after playing through a huge portion of the game, I have to admit that I haven’t gotten the chance to finish it. It is neither I am stuck in a difficult mission nor I’m fed up with the immense open world scenario that I’m put into. I got so focused on playing with its photo mode because the game is just too beautiful to look at. Yes, you can imagine me mashing the PS4 share button, and transfer some of my photos to my external drive so I can view it on my PC.

Horizon Zero Dawn is one of those games that will definitely age beautifully. It pushed the boundaries of how capable the PlayStation 4 Pro is, and it became a benchmark of open-world games; all thanks to Guerilla Games’ Decima Engine.

The said engine, which was later used by Kojima Productions for Death Stranding, showcases technological innovation in-game physics, rendering, and artificial intelligence. Digital Foundry published an in-depth tech analysis of Horizon Zero Dawn, which gives an extensive explanation of how it works. The TL;DR of the matter is that everything about it has something to do with rendering the high definition elements of the game at the right time and at the right place, provided that the system supports it.

For many years, Guerilla Games optimized the engine for the PlayStation 4. Titles like Killzone Shadow Fall, Until Dawn, and Death Stranding are some of the games that run on Decima. These games look gorgeous up to 4K resolution with HDR imaging compatibility.

Launch, Hype and Port?

The debut of Decima engine on the PC thru Death Stranding came to everyone’s surprise because it is not PlayStation’s usual practice to fully port a PS4-title to the PC. Eventually, the announcement of Horizon Zero Dawn to the PC gave the impression that this is going to be the new norm for PlayStation – launch, hype and port.

However, in a statement by Helmen Hulst, Head of PlayStation’s Worldwide Studios, he clarified that this is not the case, moving forward. “And to maybe put a few minds at ease, releasing one first-party AAA title to PC doesn’t necessarily mean that every game now will come to PC. In my mind, Horizon Zero Dawn was just a great fit in this particular instance. We don’t have plans for day and date [PC releases], and we remain 100% committed to dedicated hardware,” Hulst said.

Regardless of this being the new norm or not, I take this as a “love letter” of PlayStation to all gamers. The availability of titles like Death Stranding and Horizon Zero Dawn broke the wall that separates consoles and PC gamers.

Can it push the limit of a decked-out PC?

Horizon Zero Dawn’s recommended system requirements on PC is relatively high. Technically, if you’ve been “nursing” a decked-out system that you built about 3 years ago, it will definitely still be able to play this game in its original quality.

Minimum
OS: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i5-2500k or AMD FX 6300
RAM: 8GB
GPU: Geforce GTX 780 3GB or AMD Radeon R9 290 4GB
DirectX: Version 12
HDD: 100GB free space

Recommended
OS: Windows 10
CPU: Intel Core i7-4770k or Ryzen 5 1500X
RAM: 16GB
GPU: Geforce GTX 1060 6GB or AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB
Direct X: Version 12
HDD: 100GB free space

I played this game on my PC with the following specifications:

CPU: Ryzen 3900X
RAM: 32GB
GPU: Geforce RTX 2080 Super
SSD: 512GB Seagate BarraCuda 510
Cooler: ASUS ROG Ryujin 240
Motherboard: TUF Gaming X570-Wifi
Monitor (HDR) : TUF Gaming VG27AQL1A

The game’s graphics setting presets is pretty wide that range from “Favors Quality” to “Ultimate”. It’s interesting for Guerilla Games to provide options that break away from the usual “Low”, “Medium” and “High” performance tiers.

It’s refreshing to see this game to also have options for FOV, FPS Limit, Render Scale and V-Sync. I immediately scaled up my FOV and render scale to 100 because I was confident that my PC can handle it. I am using a monitor that can go beyond 170Hz so I naturally turned off adaptive performance FPS and switched the FPS limit to Unlimited for the rest of my benchmark. (The game can support up to 120FPS.)

Before I show you the benchmark data that I compiled, here’s a quick rundown of the methodology that I used. I will first present artificial benchmark data, based on the in-game benchmarking tool.

  1. Average FPS
  2. Min FPS
  3. Max FPS
  4. Score

I will then present more comprehensive data using CapFrameX with summary values of the following:

  1. FPS
  2. FPS Comparison chart per preset
  3. Frametime

After presenting these data, I will give you my summary and verdict on how this game played on my PC. This should be able to help you estimate how it might perform on your own system. If you wish to have a more thorough explanation of the details, we’ll have another run of benchmarks and publish it on our sister-website, Gadget Pilipinas.

In-Game Benchmark

Game Performance – CapFrameX

The data is based on a 60-second walk along the crowded pathways on the way to Matriarch’s Lodge. Data is captured using CapFrameX in various graphics presets at 100% render scale. The default render scale at boot is 70%, but I wanted to achieve better visual fidelity and quality so I cranked it up to maximum. All apps are ignored except for HZD during the benchmark.

FPS Performance Comparison per Graphics Preset  – 1440p and 1080p

FPS with Stuttering Data per Graphics Preset  – 1440p

FPS with Stuttering Data per Graphics Preset  – 1080p

Frametime – 1440p

Frametime – 1080p

Summary

At Ultimate Quality (1440p), the game is definitely playable with an average of 44.3 frames per second. Gameplay was smooth at 99.67% of the time. At 1080p with the same graphics preset, the game’s average FPS is 54.9%, which is almost double the locked FPS on the PlayStation 4. The story is going to be different if I play this game in 4K at Ultimate Quality.

Frametime stutters are minimal on my system and this shows how the game (and its engine) is highly optimized for the PC.

The game is GPU intensive. At ultimate setting (1440p), GPU load reached 99% while CPU load only capped at 63%. This is attributed to the Render Scale that is set at 100% during benchmark. If you’re planning to stream this game on a single PC, you may want to switch to x264 as your processor might still have breathing space for encoding your game for streaming purposes. You can also experiment in bringing down the render scale to 50-70%.

Should you buy it?!

Yes

Horizon Zero Dawn for PC is a breath of fresh air for those who played this game on PS4. With new graphics options available on this version, it offers new gameplay experience to anyone who played this game via console.

If you have a PC with a set of hardware that falls within the recommended specs, now is your time to experience this game that helped define the power of PS4. I highly recommend that you buy and keep this game regardless if you got the chance to play this on the console or not.

Horizon Zero Dawn: Complete Edition is now available via Steam or Epic Games for PhP995.95 and $22.99 respectively.

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that the game probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point, we suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future, unless you want to intentionally hurt yourself. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: July 9, 2020
  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: RPG
  • Similar Games: The Legend of Zelda III: A Link to the Past
  • Price: Estimated PHP995

Retro gaming will always have a place in the modern landscape. For those who grew up during the 8-bit era or even earlier, the appeal of retro type games is no surprise, having experienced them first-hand. Despite the technical limitations of the time, some titles have made their mark in gaming history eventually becoming iconic classics whether it be in terms of gameplay, story, or a combination of both. Enter developer Radical Fish who knows the importance of the past as well and shows it with their release of the PC, and now console, Role-Playing Game CrossCode.

As advertised, CrossCode is a retro inspired Role-Playing Game and it’s very clear from the moment you see it. The bright pixelated art style and graphics, the fixed top view angle, the blocky terrains and towns. All of it will remind you of the NES and SNES era RPGs like the original Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda.

CrossCode is set in the distant future, where you are a player inside CrossWorlds, a massive MMO Role-Playing Game where the story takes place. Without giving anything away, as the main character Lea, you will embark on a journey of discovery throughout CrossWorlds meeting different characters, exploring everything the game-within-a-game has to offer, and uncovering the mysteries that may very well go beyond the game.

If this all sounds familiar, then you’ve probably seen shows with similar premises of being inside a game. Shows like Sword Art Online and .hack will likely come to mind. Of course story is only half of what CrossCode has to offer.

Learn the ways of the Spheromancer, Grasshopper

The gameplay of CrossCode is, in short, amazing. Having started with RPGs like The Legend of Zelda III, Final Fantasy III/VI, and Chrono Trigger on the SNES, I was expecting something similar, and I did get what I expected and a whole lot more. The initial impression would be that it’s a retro gameplay overhaul.

First off, the combat is really fast paced. It’s an action RPG so no turn-based mechanics anywhere here. As a Spheromancer (one of the classes in CrossWorlds) Lea has access to both close combat and ranged moves. She can get in close doing melee attacks or fire projectiles from a distance. Blocking is relegated to one of your shoulder buttons, there is a short dodge to move away from enemy attacks that you can execute using the PS4 controller’s analog, and the same analog is used to aim your Spheromancer Balls at enemies.

It was all pretty foreign at first on account of analog sticks not being available before, so to use it for aiming and dodging in a retro style RPG was a different feeling, but it certainly fit well and it should be second nature to you within minutes.

Lea will be able to level up and learn different Arts courtesy of the game’s Circuit System. It wouldn’t be wrong to say this is CrossCode’s version of Final Fantasy X’s Sphere grid because it is, only a bit simpler. You earn Circuit Points (CP) in combat and you use this to move around Lea’s Circuit Grid increasing attributes like HP and melee/ranged damage, and learning different Combat Arts based around Dash, Guard, Melee, and Throw.

The game is fairly generous when it comes to CPs but you will really need to choose wisely in what parameters to level up Lea in. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that said Circuit Grid will expand to accommodate Elements like Fire and Ice as you progress through the game, since elements are a staple of any RPG after all. It gets pretty deep, so RPG fans will definitely get a kick out of the system.

What I did find unique is that when presented with a decision to choose between 2 different Arts in a certain parameter, you’re actually able to swap between either and it won’t cost any CPs to swap. In other words, there is a bit of preference involved. For example in terms of Melee Arts do you prefer the Sphere Saw path which is a powerful attack in one direction or the Spin Cut path which is a less powerful spinning attack that can hit multiple enemies surrounding you?

Combat mechanics are fairly deep for something that’s considered retro but nonetheless a welcome feature as it keeps the fighting fast and fun. And you’ll need to get good as the foes and bosses you fight in the game don’t play around. Some fodder can be dispatched with a constant barrage of attacks, easy. Others though are not pushovers, and these are just grunts. Some will have weaknesses and hitting these will cause them to go into a Break state and it’s only here that you can deal massive damage.

Bosses you fight will also test you similarly, only these bad boys hit way harder and need a lot of trial and error to beat. It’s still a matter of finding patterns to memorize, weaknesses to exploit, and finding the right tools for the job , or in this case the right Arts to use. Not to mention fast reflexes and timing are a must. And each boss you fight just gets progressively more challenging.

To compliment your stats, in true RPG fashion, stores are available in the towns of the different areas in CrossWorlds where you can buy items, armor, and weapons. Not only that, but there are also trading posts where you can exchange goods. And these trading posts sometimes have some useful gear you don’t see in the stores so you’ll be really motivated to trade.

There is also a sense of aggressiveness the game encourages because in combat, there is a rank system where your rank increases relative to the number of enemies you defeat. And the higher the rank, the better rewards you get. We say aggressive because after every fight, there is a cooldown timer represented by blue borders that will return you to the lowest rank when they disappear. So to stay in the coveted S Rank, you got to keep on the offensive constantly finding enemies on the map to beat.

We should also mention that one of CrossCode’s really great features is your HP regenerates after every fight if you opt to take a breather instead of chasing after that S Rank. The other is that majority of enemies in the field will NOT attack you unless you attack them first. It made exploring a tad bit easier if you’re not in the mood to fight. Not all though will be just as passive and there will still be enemies that will attack you first. These two were really convenient features along with the ability to save the game anywhere. And that’s not all. The game also offers fast travel options provided you found the teleportation areas in the map.

Don’t think you’ll be doing all this alone too. CrossCode may be a single-player game but you will be able to partner up with certain characters you meet to help you in combat. You AI allies are fairly competent and you’re able to customize their behavior according to their targets and aggressiveness. If anything, it’s a little disappointing that Lea is your only playable character. Spheromancer isn’t the only class in CrossWorlds and trying out others like Emilie’s punch specializing Pentafist class would’ve been interesting.

So basically in CrossCode, combat is all about getting strong and being smart. And speaking of smart, your intellect and wits won’t be used just to dispatch your enemies.

Is this game CrossWorlds or PuzzleWorlds?

It really wouldn’t be too far off to call CrossCode a puzzle game disguised as an RPG, though at its core it’s definitely a Role-Playing Game and you do normally find puzzles in RPGs. In the case of CrossCode, the number of puzzles you will find in this game is just astounding, and definitely challenging.

Now puzzles to advance inside dungeons are a given, and they are definitely an exercise for the brain that will require almost everything you can think of whether it be timing, memorization, or trial and error. What can be a bit overwhelming if you’re a completionist is that similar puzzles can be found just travelling around CrossWorlds.

There is no jump button, but walking towards certain terrains will make Lea auto jump, whether it be a short elevation or jumping short distances to other platforms. The moment I realized this could happen I already knew I was in for a whole heap of puzzles as throughout CrossWorld’s different areas there are certain items that seem out of reach at first until you realize that exploring and finding paths you can jump to will let you reach otherwise unreachable areas.

Not only chests with items, but exploring and finding places you can jump to will also net you time saving shortcuts. And you’ll also need to think outside the box here as finding said hidden paths will sometimes involve you moving in between different parts of a map. Not to mention with a few new upgrades later, newer paths will open.

In other words, throughout CrossCode you’ll be constantly presented, may we even say bombarded, with puzzles to solve and though majority are just optional, for those who can’t ignore a challenge it’ll mean almost not running out of things to do. Albeit it can be a bit exhausting. And remember, you can’t avoid fighting enemies as you need to level up and get stronger too.

I am… whatever these quests ask me to be

Towns are also your source of side quests in CrossCode. Sure you can find certain NPCs with “!” their heads as you go around but the hub in the different towns should help you find where they are.

These will net you pretty neat rewards and experience points needed to get stronger. NPCs will have all heaps of things for you to do. If you don’t mind those usual quests of go do this, find that, go here, defeat this enemy, deliver x item to this place, etc. then maybe the tediousness and kind of boring grind won’t really get to you.

Now fortunately, if some of these mechanics overwhelm you, CrossCode offers accessibility options where you can adjust the game’s puzzle and combat difficulty…to a certain extent. CrossCode is definitely not an easy game, and it’s so-called “default” difficulty setting offers puzzles and enemies that can maybe cause you to tear your hair off. So there’s no harm in making the game a bit more bearable, like making some puzzle timings easier for example. If challenge is your thing though, then leaving the game in its default setting is the way to go. And there’s really nothing like the feeling of solving a difficult conundrum on your own.

Next Level Retro

CrossCode definitely gets points in presentation as it shows what a next-generation retro game can look like. Sure everything is clearly pixelated, there’s lots of repeat animations, and it’s easy to spot similar NPC sprites everywhere, but that’s the point of a retro RPG and simply put Radical Fish went beyond expectations. It’s especially a nice touch that you’ll see other NPC CrossWorlds players moving around towns and battle areas that it gives off the illusion of a constantly active online player community.

Character sprites and massive bosses move smoothly in-game and the portraits during conversations are very expressive. You’ll know this is true when you see all the faces Lea makes. It’s also neat how the developers try to give characters you meet a bit of a personality through the writing. And to think this is retro so no voice-overs.

You can clearly see Lea’s friend Emilie, for example, is French from all the French words in her dialogue that you can almost hear her accent. Not to mention hear her real world talk. CrossWorld is still an MMORPG after all, though a highly advanced futuristic one at that, so the players you meet are still real people with mundane real life issues.

There’s also an annoying loudmouth you meet early on that counts as a mini boss fight that you don’t need to win to progress. But let’s just say that when you meet this certain character, you will WANT to grind to oblivion and beat said character to the ground for the sheer satisfaction of it. You can’t help it. In any online RPG you’ll meet all sorts of player types.

Music in CrossCode is also something worth noting. Set in a distant future, you can definitely feel it from the music in this game when some of the game’s combat music starts up. There’s even a different track from when you reach the highest rank in combat and its fast pace really sets the tone for wanting to find more enemies to defeat. Not all tracks stand out though. Some are just the normal variety like town BGMs, but they do the job of setting the mood.

This all feels a bit too familiar…

Now with everything good going for it, CrossCode isn’t exactly the pinnacle of gaming. The story can be considered nothing new especially if you’ve seen other trapped-in-a-game type shows, so you might be able to predict somewhat how the plot goes. That shouldn’t stop you though from pressing on and finding out for yourself.

The characters too were fine but didn’t really feel all too memorable. It felt like checking boxes of what character archetypes did the developers want to put in CrossCode. The dialogue though was at times funny. They just don’t stick in your mind for too long. If anything, what you’ll likely remember are the faces Lea makes.

Some of the side quests too don’t really feel worth doing. They can get really tedious and can become the boring kind of grind, especially when some quest objectives tend to repeat. We did say only some as certain quests do pit you against strong foes so challenge seekers may find something worthwhile. Either way, the bottom line is at least you get items and experience points for your trouble. It may very well the only reason to tackle these side quests, save for maybe the drive to complete everything.

What we liked:

  • Smooth classic retro graphics
  • Deep combat
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Accessibility options for different players

What we didn’t like:

  • Average and predictable story
  • Generic characters
  • Tedious and repetitive side quests
  • Only one playable character class

Verdict: Buy it!

So in the end despite some gripes with story, characters, and quests, CrossCode is still actually worth getting on account of what else it has to offer players.  We want to be clear that the story and characters aren’t exactly bad, they’re just not exactly groundbreaking. But that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing CrossCode as the combat and puzzles make it worth the journey. And we have to mention this is available for $19.99 or roughly PHP995 so for a game heavy on gameplay and a beautiful retro look to boot, that’s really not a bad deal all things considered.

CrossCode is available via Digital download but for physical boxed version collectors, it is available also from the Inin Games Website.

CrossCode was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro via a code provided by the publishers.