Welcome to Gaming Respawn’s latest group feature: Better Late Than Never. Some of us here at Gaming Respawn have been reviewing games for some time, others for a somewhat shorter amount of time. Regardless of how long we’ve been reviewing the video games that we so very much enjoy playing, many of us don’t always get the chance to review every game we like, whether it’s because the games in question are quite old and predated Gaming Respawn (we’re only about 3 years old now, awwww) or other outlets that weren’t available at the time, or because we didn’t play some of these games until way after they originally released, or perhaps because someone else claimed the opportunity to review certain games before anyone else could (I’ll fight anyone who dares to try to take away my claim to review the upcoming Spider-Man). Well, a few of us here with some extra time on our hands (and others who actually managed to tear themselves away from the World Cup for a bit) have joined forces to share special mini-reviews of video games we wished we could have properly reviewed but never really got the chance to do so. You know how the old saying goes: “Better Late Than Never”. Kicking us off is the mastermind of this topic and Gaming Respawn’s resident technical manager, Will Worrall.
Shadow Warrior (2013)
I am fortunate to both be old enough to have played the original Shadow Warrior when it came out, well, at least the Shareware version, and yet young enough to realize that a lot of the 2.5D shooters of the era have not aged particularly well. Much like Duke Nukem, the humour is a bit dated, and the graphics don’t manage to hold up as well as even games like Doom or Hexen: Beyond Heretic. Nevertheless, Shadow Warrior occupied a special place in the hearts of many as the vaguely offensive FPS of our childhood or adolescence that was something of a secret pleasure that we played in secret so our parents didn’t ground us.
So, Shadow Warrior 2013 is a remake of the 1997 game of the same name and features Lo Wang (hehe, wang) on his adventure to kill his boss and create some sort of demonic sword thing for reasons that are pretty hard to grasp. The game apes the classic FPS style of the 90s, meaning that you move as fast as a block of ice on a larger, even more slippery block of ice, and you somehow manage to store 10-odd weapons up your own arse. Weirdly, you also have access to so many powers that you end up forgetting about most of them for 80% of the game, except the healing power, obviously. That power makes the game so easy that you might as well just watch the ending on YouTube.
The gunplay is pretty fun, for the most part, but gets repetitive quickly, especially when you’ve been locked into a combat arena for the 9th time in the same level. Another, more unfortunate, throwback from the old days is the prevalence of key finding puzzles that are just plain annoying, especially once all the enemies are gone and you have to spend 10 minutes plodding around an empty map looking for the one random spot with a keycard in it to open the next door. On top of that, the combat rating system just feels completely random, and the stupid decision to split your upgrades across 3 different currency systems adds so much pointless busywork to make things even more repetitive. Finally, they really should have just had less money and more ammo in the overworld instead of trying to get you to buy ammo from the menu between every single fight, it’s just a pointless feature that means you have to waste money on ammo instead of upgrades or spend most of your fights swinging at ranged enemies with your sword.
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
When I think of video games that had so much potential for becoming great series but ended up fading away into oblivion instead, Midway’s Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy is normally the first game I think of that falls into that sad category. Psi-Ops released in 2004 during the PS2 (and Xbox) era, and while it didn’t achieve the same level of mass recognition as other game series that had hit their peak at the time, like Devil May Cry, Prince of Persia, Onimusha, God of War, Metal Gear Solid, etc., it was still a sleeper hit, meaning that those relatively few people who did play the game really enjoyed it, myself included.
The story for Psi-Ops is, quite frankly, the weakest part of the game, though I wouldn’t say it was outright bad either, especially not when it featured such interesting and colorful characters. Main character Nick Scryer has his memory erased so he can infiltrate the terrorist organization known as The Movement and stop their evil plan to rule the world. As Scryer regains his memory at certain points throughout the campaign, he also gradually regains access to his psychic abilities, and the way these abilities were implemented into the game was done perfectly. Scryer’s first and most versatile ability, Telekinesis, allows him to levitate mid-sized objects like crates, barrels, ball fountains, and enemies and toss them around willy-nilly into walls, hazards, and other enemies, much like my nephews do with the toys I buy them with my hard-earned cash for their birthdays and Christmas. Scryer can even stand on top of larger objects like floor panels and other flat debris and, using Telekinesis to levitate them, he can effectively float across normally inaccessible areas. Working his Telekinesis in conjunction with his other powers, as well as firearms like a silenced pistol, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles, Scryer becomes a true powerhouse.
Speaking of, Scryer’s other powers are Remote Viewing (go out of body to surveille enemy patrol patterns and find unreachable clues behind locked doors), Mind Drain (drain mental energy from enemies to refill his PSI meter and make enemies’ heads explode), Mind Control (take direct control over an enemy to solve puzzles and attack other enemies), Pyrokinesis (throw a wave of fire that can ignite environmental objects and hazards and flush enemies out from behind cover), and Aura View (allows Scryer to view otherwise invisible messages, hazards, and enemies), and all these powers work very well together. Rarely has it been this fun to unleash superpowered havoc upon those foolish enough to stand against you, with only certain game series featuring superpowered main characters, like Infamous and Prototype, coming anywhere close. Seriously, some of the stuff you can do in this game is just so damn satisfying. From throwing enemies into incinerators, taking control of an enemy and making him shoot his comrades or kill himself by jumping off a guard tower and going “splat”, or setting an enemy on fire and then throwing him into other enemies to set them ablaze, this game was just a blast to play.
The main highlight of Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy would have to be the boss battles, all of which are against rogue psi-agents that each specialize in one particular psychic ability, and defeating them requires smart use of Scryer’s different powers (because simply shooting them sure as hell doesn’t work). The first boss, for example, specializes in Mind Control and can use his abilities to send multiple enemies at Scryer and even reverse the controls for moving Scryer around. The second boss specializes in Telekinesis and can toss around objects much larger than those Scryer can levitate, like train cars and shipping containers. The third boss, who specializes in illusions, is one of the more unique enemies. Before you even battle her directly, you have to go through an area that is under the effects of her illusion powers, and in this area a number of undead, gun-wielding soldiers are sent after Scryer in waves, and even worse, they cannot be killed by gunshots or even the Telekinesis power. Only through a mission hint that simply read “Free their minds” was I able to figure out that the only way to kill them was by destroying their heads, which in turn could only be done by first knocking them down with Telekinesis and then using Mind Drain on them (using a shotgun at close range could also work, but ammunition in this game was rather limited).
It really is unfair that Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy ended on a cliffhanger (it seriously said “To Be Continued”), only for it to never get a sequel, and it will likely never get a remake either. Hell, I’d even take a re-release of the original game on PSN, but that doesn’t look to be in the cards either. Dammit. Midway really did a fantastic job of structuring the psychic abilities in Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy so that they meshed perfectly with the enemies and the game world. Even the game’s accompanying theme song, “With My Mind”, composed by metal band Cold, still goes down as one of my favorite metal songs to this day.
(video courtesy of AbsoluteVideoGames)
A kickass game during a kickass era of gaming.
Final Fantasy Type-0
With a franchise as expansive as Final Fantasy, it’s more or less guaranteed that you’re going to get some spin-off games of varying quality. While Final Fantasy Type-0 is far from the most obscure spin-off title under Square Enix’s umbrella (that award sits with ‘Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon’), it still stands out as something of an odd duckling. Despite all that, I kind of hold Type-0 as an experimental title that long-time fans of the franchise should give a chance.
Type-0 features real-time combat that puts an emphasis on patience and timing, notably allowing the player to cut down even hardy enemies almost instantly if their moments of vulnerability are exploited. This is balanced out by the fact that the player characters are likewise pretty squishy, and it doesn’t take too many mistakes before being brought low. This creates a system of combat that feels quick, punchy, and satisfying as heck to master. In addition, the game features over fourteen playable characters, each with a noticeably distinct playstyle, allowing the player to carve out their own strategies. Add in an intriguing setting and a continent-spanning storyline, and you’ve got the makings of a great game.
Unfortunately, the game struggles under the weight of a couple of problems that really hold it back. While the actual meat of the gameplay is smooth and satisfying, there’s a lot of fluff surrounding it: Each individual combat scenario has optional challenges that are clunky to even activate, the huge roster means that you need to dedicate at least some time to grinding to keep everyone up to speed, and for some reason the game includes several RTS sections that are more frustrating than fun. Likewise, while the setting and storyline clearly have a lot of love put into them, it’s also clear the game doesn’t exactly have a lot of room to let the ideas breathe. Much of the story is delivered by a narrator in an odd ‘History Channel’ kind of style, and the third act twist comes so far out of nowhere that it can give a person whiplash.
I’ve no delusions in my mind: Final Fantasy Type-0 is definitely not the strongest title in the franchise, and it’s sometimes difficult to see its good points through the problems surrounding the game. If I had to put it into a number, it would probably only reach about a 7 out of 10. But despite everything, it’s a very strong 7 out of 10. It stands out as a spin-off game that took a lot of risks and experimented quite a bit with the usual staples of the Final Fantasy series, including being among the first to try a real-time combat system many years before Final Fantasy XV implemented it into the mainline series.
If you can look past its rougher edges, Final Fantasy Type-0 is a game that has a lot to offer and often doesn’t see the love that it maybe deserves.
Streets of Rage 2
The side-scrolling beat-em-up genre was rife in the 90s. Games everywhere required you to walk along the screen beating up bad guys to a pulp. It was mindless fun. Especially those games that were more generous with their movesets. Streets of Rage was not only a classic of this genre, but it helped define the console it was exclusive to. The Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis, if you’re situated across the pond) may not have been a technical powerhouse, but its library was more than enough to keep it in the competition.
The second game of the Streets of Rage trilogy was my personal favorite for many reasons, first of which was the diverse characters. Brawler Axel and femme fatale Blaze returned from the series’ debut; however, kickboxer Alex was replaced by not one but two newbies. Skate was, as his name suggests, a kid on skates. He was able to climb on enemies’ shoulders and pummel them whilst they still stood upright. He was fantastic fun to play as, but slightly ahead of him is Max. Max is a hugely muscular character that was slow, but his ferocious wrestling moves made him incredibly fun to control. He was unable to flip over enemies when he grabbed them due to his size, but if you were skilled enough to master how to grab from behind, you were able to use his devastating atomic drop move that killed most grunts instantly.
Streets of Rage 2 was also home to one of the best soundtracks of the era. The pumping techno beats provided a perfect overture while you were whooping serious ass. Every gamer familiar with the Sega Mega Drive knows the Stage 1 music from Streets of Rage 2, it’s iconic in every sense.
The levels were fun too, ranging from dingy back alleys, shady night clubs, construction sites and a final encounter at the top of a skyscraper office block. The range was staggering and provided enough variety to keep the game interesting, as with different levels came different enemies.
Streets of Rage 2 is and will remain one of my fondest memories of gaming.
I’ve been playing UFC games since way back on the PS2 with UFC Takeout. MMA is a hard game to get right with so many parts to it, from the striking to the wrestling to the grappling on the ground. Over the years they have gotten better, but it’s still not quite right yet. EA’s UFC 3 is a great attempt, and it almost hits all the right points.
In the newest installment from EA, they have overhauled the striking, and it feels amazing. The fighters’ movements now feel fluid. You can now strike while moving, and the animations look great. It’s a shame that EA haven’t done the same with the grappling. It’s still a case of moving the analogue sticks to change your fighter’s position on the ground, and when it comes to submissions, it still feels like pot luck. The game never really tells you why you failed to defend a submission attempt. While stamina has always been a factor in UFC games, you really have to be mindful now. If you throw too many punches without watching your stamina bar, you’ll run out of gas and be prone to a knockout. A nice touch they have added this year is if you block enough leg kicks, your opponent will end up damaging their own leg.
I have mixed feelings on the career mode. While it is fun starting at the bottom in a small promotion and working your way up to become a UFC champion, the journey can get rather repetitive. Each fight nets you only so many points that you can spend each week to prepare for your next fight. Unfortunately, this means that in order to gain more points, you’ll have to do such things like do workouts in order to increase your stats, spar to increase your health, choose what promo you do to hype the next fight, or choose to learn a new move. This gets very tedious after a while.
EA have added a few other extras this time around, like stand and bang (basically turns the fight into a kickboxing match, for those who don’t like the grappling) or just a straight up jiu-jitsu match.
Overall, it’s good to see EA making improvements to the series, and the striking feels great. Let’s just hope they redo the grappling in the next game.
Metro: Last Light
After another showing at E3, the Metro series is back on everyone’s radar, and it is time to look at the previous game in the series that came out in 2013, which was Metro: Last Light. When I picked it up, I was blown away by how amazing the story and the world was. Achieving this with a smaller budget than most AAA titles is an incredible feat. The changes they made to the stealth system from Metro 2033 was night and day, and the gunplay was superb. The way Metro: Last Light’s story took many twists and turns throughout made for an incredible ride, and the way it was meant to be played was 100% in the ranger difficulty mode. This was paid DLC in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, but in the Redux version released on the current generation of consoles in 2014, this difficulty mode is included. Ranger mode removes the HUD from the screen, makes ammo and health kits very scarce and the enemies, both irradiated and human, do almost one-hit kills to your hero.
The game was not without its faults, however. There is a mission that takes you to the theatre district of the metro but jumps you with a nude scene out of nowhere. There is also the occasion where you should be spotted whilst sneaking, but the AI turns a blind eye to you, even if you leave a body out in the open. The throwing knife is also too potent at times as you can launch it from quite a distance and still get your own one-hit kill. It will be exciting to see where the team at 4A Games take the series in February next year. Before that though, you should really check out this gem that went under the radar in the aforementioned Metro Redux collection which includes Last Light and the original game, Metro 2033, which is rough at points but well worth your time.
The problems with being the second child. When the original To the Moon came out, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the long legs the little pixel story would have. Going from a cult classic to practically a Steam must-have over the years, the game garnered the popularity it rightfully deserved. It’s a shame, then, that last year’s semi-sequel, Finding Paradise, didn’t find that same fanfare.
Maybe the long wait had dulled people’s anticipation, or maybe it was just overshadowed by other releases. Either way, Finding Paradise went largely unseen by many and even myself last December. And that’s a real shame because Finding Paradise is a narrative completely deserving of its predecessor. Through its 5-hour campaign, it’s as funny as the first, just as well told and just as emotionally moving. In an original review I had started but never finished for the game, I said, “There is a real catharsis to Finding Paradise’s final message that left me feeling far more positive and optimistic about my own life and decisions.” Finding Paradise sets out to be a complete deconstruction of the narrative framework of the entire series, acting as almost the antithesis to the original’s idea. I found myself so enamored with the 2017 roster of games, like Nier: Automata, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and even Finding Paradise’s main theme composer’s own game, Rakuen, that I let Finding Paradise get overshadowed. It’s a narrative just as deserving as the previously mentioned games and will have you cleaning out a box of tissues by its end credits.
.hack//G.U. Last Recode
Back in 2006 when I saw .hack//G.U. Volume One, I noticed the cover art and the screenshots from the game on the back, and I thought it was a good looking game. When I played it, I was right – I enjoyed the story and the gameplay. So when .hack//G.U. Last Recode was released, I knew that I had to get this remastered collection and enjoy the series once again.
For those who aren’t familiar with the story of .hack//G.U., here’s a brief rundown: You play as Haseo, who plays an online RPG called The World. He was part of a guild called the Twilight Brigade until his friend and comrade, Shino, was PKed (Player Killed) by someone whom everyone called Tri-Edge. In the real world, Shino fell into a coma, and Haseo promised to track down Tri-Edge and kill him in order to bring Shino back out of her coma (everybody whom Tri-Edge has PKed in The World has ended up in a coma in the real world with no way of waking up). As time passes, Haseo ends up becoming a PKK (Player Killer Killer) known as The Terror of Death. However, despite how powerful he becomes, he ends up getting PKed himself, with his character resetting to level 1, and that’s where the first volume, Rebirth, begins as he starts his journey to find out who Tri-Edge really is and how to stop him once and for all.
What draws me to .hack//G.U. Last Recode are the new remastered graphics that make the games look better than ever and bring new life to them, making them all the more beautiful. Also, not only do you get the entire trilogy in one disc, there’s also a new fourth volume that finally concludes this series, which makes Last Recode the only true version of the series worth playing. However, there is one thing about the games that can come across as a turnoff to some because of the old school/outdated gameplay formula where a player does a mission and then has to logout to view emails so they can get new clues to make the game scenarios and story continue. But like with other games, you have to take the good with the bad; it’s not that big of an issue if you are looking for a good RPG to play with a fantastic story, especially if you somehow missed out on the original PlayStation 2 titles. If so, then this is a good collection to play, even if you are a fan of the series and want to revisit the games to see how the series finally ends. This is one of those stories that shouldn’t be missed, and it’s why I recommend .hack//G.U. Last Recode.
Resident Evil HD Remaster
Well, what can I say about the remastered version of Resident Evil, or the REmaster, if you will? The easiest way to say this is not only is it one of the greatest video games of all time, still to this day it is the prime example and best remaster of any game, period. How can I claim such a thing? Easy! When the REmaster was released on the current gen a couple years ago, you know what Capcom had to change? “Not a lot” is the answer. Sure, everything was upscaled to look more like a modern game, but the controls and atmosphere weren’t touched as they didn’t need to be touched. Of all the modern horror games released on the current gen, a game released back in 2002, which itself is a remake of the original game released in 1996, is still the best available. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a fantastic entry in the Resident Evil franchise, but it still comes up short compared to the REmaster.
So, what exactly makes it so good, I hear you ask? Well, if you’re asking, that means you haven’t played it, so shame on you!! I kid, of course, but let’s get back to it. Firstly, the atmosphere. A good survival horror makes you feel on edge all the time. Res does that. The tension and feeling you’re being threatened in this game is so strong that when you hear the save room music, it really is a relief! The enemy variety also makes Res the best. It’s a perfect mixture of your normal base enemies, some stronger foes and bosses. The REmaster also added one of the most fearsome base enemies you can encounter: Crimson Heads!
The story also makes Res just the best ever. It has enough Hollywood twists and turns to keep you engaged and shocked rather than overdoing it like some other modern horror games have done over the years.
It’s hard to justify in less than 400 words just why the REmaster is one of the greatest games ever, so all I can say is simply this: Play it and find out for yourself just why this game is an absolute 10/10.
Check out Gaming Respawn’s list of favorite video game voice actors HERE.
Take a look at 7 of the strangest video games ever released right HERE.
After that, check out these 5 movies and movie series that would make awesome video games over YONDER.