assassins creed III remastered review
April 22nd, 2019 by Kurt "Chet" Christel

Despite what some online comparisons indicate, the remaster is the superior version of the game.

Let’s preface this one differently. I was a big Assassin’s Creed fan but AC3 greatly reduced my love for it. And Unity murdered it. When I played that game all those years ago, I was disappointed on all fronts. I was also setting really high expectations that could not be reached. And I wanted to beat the game before the real life “December 21, 2012” end of the word scenario so I rushed through all of it. Hated the difficulty, the setting was underused, Connor wasn’t a good protagonist, and lots of bugs and grievances with the detection settings for NPCs.

Well, I either completely sucked back then, or Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is a much better experience. This re-release comes with a remaster of Liberation HD (a remaster of a remaster?) as well. This remaster came out March 29, 2019 and either is free with your Assassin’s Creed Odyssey season pass or in the store for $40. The season pass for Odyssey costs $40 so you have almost no reason to not have that marvel of a game and its DLC packs. So, is it worth a revisit after so many years? Or perhaps, for those who haven’t played it, a decent entry?

GRAPHICS: 2/2

There will be a video on this in the near future but this title is the subject to a bit of controversy. If you look for graphical comparisons on Youtube, you will see that some of them imply it to be superior, yet others imply that it is worse. Whether it is misrepresenting the game on purpose or not, this review is from the “Xbox One X” version of the game, so the most graphically powerful console release. I can personally confirm that the release is highly superior in the graphical department. With the exception of a handful of faces, you’re getting better looks across the entire board. You have better color with HDR, lively landscapes, and incredible textures.

STORY: 1/2

You can’t really change an entire story in a remaster, can you? What you CAN do is try to engage your player more this time around. AC3 tells the story of… Haytham Kenway? Yes, the game pulls a reverse Metal Gear Solid 2. A sizeable chunk of the game has you playing as a character who is completely absent from all of the marketing materials. After a while, you do finally get to Connor or Kanien’kehá:ka (don’t try to pronounce it, just give up). The problem with this character is the game gives him a very rich setup due to the events of the first hours of gameplay. Yet at every turn, Connor manages to remain as dull as humanly possible. More on that in audio.

The other issue is that the setting doesn’t really do a good job at expressing the ins and outs of the Revolutionary War. Sure, there’s a lot of text you can read, but in terms of the game on its own, you basically just jump in and out of several world-famous events. Funnier is that it implies that Connor was at the front of all of them. Paul Revere? Connor? Boston Massacre? Connor. Boston Tea Party? Connor. The freaking battle at Chesapeake Bay? Connor.

Really stretching the believability, but then again this series more firmly expresses itself as alternate history. This makes the second time around a lot more enjoyable. Not to mention, I personally was able to focus more on a lot of content I had to pass on because I was so eager to finish.

AUDIO: 1/2

It’s not every day you come across a voice actor who is a direct descendant of American indigenous tribes with a fine understanding of their languages, but here we are. Noah Watts, of the Blackfeet nation, voices our protagonist Connor. He speaks English and… not English. #OnlyTheFacts | Now, as said before, Connor is a dry and wooden protagonist. This is really not the fault of the actor. The dialog given for his character contains little in the way of flair or emotion. He speaks very directly at all times. He comes in two flavors, deliberate and agitated. That’s it. The rest of the cast wasn’t too great either. As for SFX? They’re mediocre. Nothing wrong about them but nothing to grab your attention.

I must make it painstakingly clear though, this game has one of the GREATEST original scores in the entire Assassins Creed franchise. That genuinely made the game a good experience overall. Quite emotional too, making up for some of the acting.

GAMEPLAY: 2/2

So, at the time it came out, AC3 had a bit of a difficult learning curve. A lot of the combat mechanics, controls, and gameplay style of the game change in the transition from the Ezio trilogy to III. However, coming directly off of AC: Odyssey, the game is retroactively easier to come to grips with. If anything, the game feels more limited. No dedicated stealth mode button. Combat is the old style of “counter-attack kills” that were prominent in most of the series. The simplicity of the game in comparison to the new game actually made it feel a bit more streamlined. It was almost arcade-like to play this game after every game we’ve had since.

It also seems as thought a lot of changes streamline the overall experience. Some redundancies were eliminated. Enemy detection appeared to be slower. The ship combat was easier to handle. Every step of the way, quality of life improvements are there, on every front. Oh, and the load times, those are some short load times. Especially for fast traveling and desynchronizing.

FUN: 2/2

The fact that I took my time to play through more of the game is a very big deal. This time around, I bothered to unlock all the fast travel locations in the underground. It was a bit grindy, but manageable. The silly “homestead” missions actually felt like they were worth the time. That is despite the fact that the “convoy” system of the game was an absolute waste of time and needlessly complicated. I did all the district liberations and recruited all 6 support assassins. I did several of the optional naval battles. Not everything could be helped. The almanac pages are still dumb, as are all of the other fetch items the game throws at you. But I must stress that above all else, I had a much, MUCH better time playing this game again. I was supposed to be playing other games, yet I kept coming back to this re-release time and time once more.

Assassin’s Creed III Remastered is a huge improvement on the original iteration. Between the streamlining of gameplay elements, the simplicity, and the visual quality? This is a good remaster that has been released at exactly the right moment. If it has been a while since you last played, give it another shot. If you’ve never played it, also give it a shot. And ignore the real world plot, it’s still crap.

SCORE: 8/10

If I find time, I would like to play the Tyranny of King Washington DLC as well as Liberation, but that will have to wait.



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September 26th, 2018 by Vega Montanez

Running an emulator counts as remastered now?

Recognized as a cult classic, Shenmue is a revenge story jam-packed with side missions, mini-games, and incredibly outrageous people. Originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 1991 and 2001, this action adventure game series set a new high point for what games could achieve. The remaster aims to give old fans a chance to receive the adventure and newcomers a better way to play. Shenmue 1 & 2 HD Remastered released August 21, 2018 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC in hopes of capturing the essence of its legacy.

GRAPHICS: 1/2

Yes its true the game looks better than it once did. However it doesn’t look amazing. This port looks like it should have been released years ago on PS3 and Xbox 360. Colors are a bit more vibrant but overall it looks and feels a lot like the Dreamcast version. For some people that might be exactly what they expect from a remaster. Others may be expecting a current generation version of an old game they loved. Unfortunately, this is the double edged sword of remasters. The biggest improvements are from a technical stand point but because Shenmue was so ahead of its time (and expensive to make) even those improvements fall flat. They are the type of improvements only visible to the people inspecting the game for them. The game doesn’t look bad, especially not for the price tag, it just feels less like a remaster and more like a Dreamcast emulator running on a new generation console.

STORY: 1/2

The story of Shenmue is a well crafted experience held back only by technical limitations of the hardware from when it originally released. The HD Remaster served as an opportunity to make corrections to the pacing and delivery. Sega didn’t take advantage of that opportunity. Again, a note of the double edged sword that is drawn whenever a classic is brought to the upgrade table. Old fans will no doubt enjoy every second of reminiscing Ryo’s revenge story while new comers may need some assistance pushing through its quirks. A strange man named Lan Di kills Ryo’s father to steal an ancient mirror. Ryo goes on a manhunt to kill Lan Di and learns the legacy behind the mirror stolen and its counterpart/twin mirror.

AUDIO: 0/2

The voice acting is terrible. Sorry, not sorry. It had to be said. That was an issue in the original version. It seems to have also been carried over along with the tank controls (more on that late). Other sounds in the game are nearly non existent. This is literally the quietest world of all time despite all the NPCs seemingly engaging in conversation all the time. It’s just eerily quiet. Shenmue 2 does a better job of being more audible but still feels terrifyingly lacking. The only good thing about the audio is that the original Japanese voiceover is included as an option as well, this way there is something to listen to. Which is really good if you don’t understand Japanese because then you can’t tell if it’s good or bad acting. Other than that, it’s just really punchy, low quality recordings being fired at you all the time.

GAMEPLAY: 1/2

On one hand the gameplay is absolutely phenomenal considering when the original game released. On the other hand, it’s 2018. Tank controls are not acceptable. They make maneuvering the world considerably difficult and uncomfortable. Sega should have (pretty much sums up this whole review) given this remaster a little more love. Unlike Capcom’s Resident Evil remaster, this game held on to all the things that show its age. Sloppy camera, bad controls, and awkward conversations flows. Some dialogue interactions just stop in the middle of discussion. This prompts the player to engage the NPC again to get the rest of what they were saying. The best part of the gameplay is still the fighting mechanics. Modeled after the Sega classic Virtua Fighter, Shenmue gives Ryo so much flexibility and control in fights. All that control is quickly taken away because unlike Virtua Fighter, these fights take place in areas not designed for fighting so the camera issues show their ugly face again. Forklift racing is still pretty dope though.

FUN: 1/2

Reliving this old game as a new game shows how far games have really come. It was fun in a nostalgic way to revisit the world of Shenmue. Sadly, it was not fun in a “this is 2018 and this is a fun game to play” way. The control, camera, and audio issues cause more frustration to the average gamer than the excitement of the story brings. It was painful to feel the excitement and joy slowly fade away as so many things that should have been improved just smacked the fun out the game.

Perhaps, for some extremely dedicated fans out in the world returning to the world of Shenmue was the most fun thing they could have done all year. For many others, this game is a reminder that a lot of what made some classic games great were the boundaries they were breaking at the time. Shenmue 1 & 2 are the Eminem of video games. Maybe no one will ever accomplish as much in a pound for pound equivalent level of what they did. But it’s hard to argue that nothing better exists.

Sometimes we get what we wish for and it disappoints. Shenmue 1 & 2 are classic games that were better off remaining untouched classics. Sega made an attempt at bringing these games to the future, only to find that maybe they were best left as the found memories they were. Many of the things that made the game incredible at the time are now things that have been done significantly better by other games. Perhaps a better remaster treatment was necessary. Perhaps there are super fans of the game who appreciate the game playing exactly as it did so long ago. As a game for here and now, unfortunately this doesn’t stand the test of time.

SCORE: 4/10




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January 15th, 2018 by Vega Montanez

Ports, Sequels, and Books!

This week in gaming was expectedly slow on the news spectrum, you know with CES happening at the same time and all, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t dig up all the coolest stuff I could find. Big news in the sports category and for anyone who happens to be a football fan and like the Patriots last week had some good news for them too. Also, the power went out at the most recognized electronics convention. Irony. That was a great tangent so here’s your recap:

1. Big buys may lead to big careers.

As we continue to move into a world where the video games industry is looked at as a thriving and optimal business, it’s exciting to see some of the big steps some major companies are making. This week’s big example, and award, goes to Twitch for purchasing the exclusive streaming rights to Overwatch for $90 million. That’s a boatload of cash. Literally, you could fill a boat with that much money. This should open a lot of doors for a lot of amazing people in the game industry. In other Overwatch news, the Overwatch league companion app was just released on the App stores for iOS and Android devices. Ball’s in your court now buddy, you ready to make this your job?

2. 2nd Generation VR is on the horizon.

Or here depending on your point of view. See what I did there? Yeah, you like that. Anyway, at CES 2018 HTC pulled out the big guns. Introducing the HTC Vive Pro and the Vive Wireless adapter. These new products in the lineup aim to improve your experience with higher resolution, frame rates, and more importantly the removal of wires. The resolution is said to be a 78% improvement over the still on-the-market HTC Vive. What’s even more impressive than that, honestly, is that the Vive Wireless Adapter will work with either model. This means if you have an existing Vive you don’t have to shell out for a brand new headset unless you really want the upgraded screen resolution. No official release date exists for either of these new devices, but HTC did say to expect the Vive Wireless Adapter by third quarter 2018. But really, who knows what that means.

3. Atari brings old stuff in new boxes to 2018.

I’m assuming someone or a group of someones decided to email Atari and the letter went something like this: “Dear Mr. or Mrs. Sir or Ma’am, I am a huge fan of both air hockey and pong. My love for both of these games is so intense that it has caused me emotional distress trying to decide between the two. Please fix my problem or I will go online and ruin you with one post. Try me. Sincerely, Someone no one would ever take a serious suggestion from if it weren’t for the current social climate and corporate toxicity. P.S. I also like pinball but only for the sound effects, so add those in as well.” So now we have Atari’s pong cabinet. I know this is supposed to be informative things about video game news, but I really don’t want to give any more attention to Pong.

4. Haven’t taken a friendly fire at anything Xbox related in a while.

No, seriously, this one is just a rib shot at my incredible comrades who love their Xbox so you can skip this if you don’t care about Halo, Dashboard updates, or Player Unknown Battle Grounds. First jab: 343 drops heavy hints that Halo 6 is not coming to a console near you this year. They did say that there will be other exciting surprises though but don’t hold your breath, we’re still waiting on Crackdown. Second jab: the latest dashboard update is actually pretty cool. It includes the addition of Do Not Disturb mode, new guide functionality, and more inactivity shutdown options. Oh wait, none of that is actually that cool. I mean if going DND is awesome. Final jab: The PUBG Xbox launch was awful, but the updates are coming in steady in hopes of making it a better world. The most recent update includes slight increases in frame rates and a number of crash-inducing issues have been addressed. Note: an undisclosed number of crashes were fixed but not all. {Editors Note: It’s fine, Halo 5 was a great shame anyway. What Xbox really needs it to resurrect Scalebound.}

5. Last generation Assassins go Rogue.

Ubisoft has decided to finally bless its fans who moved on to the new generation of consoles with a remastered version of Assassin’s Creed Rogue. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to play through a story a lot of fans might have missed due to the awkward console generation shift. If you didn’t know, Assassin’s Creed Rogue is set in 18th century North America and follows an Assassin who eventually becomes a Templar. Most reviews criticized the game for lack of story depth and direction, but I wouldn’t know because I haven’t had a chance to play it. Maybe I will though now that it’s available on my favorite console. See what happens when you keep up Ubisoft, now just bring an AC game to Switch and you win. {Editor’s Note: Black Flag/Rogue bundled together on Switch, make it happen Nintendo/Ubisoft!}

6. Another cross-franchise fighting game approaches!

Blaze Blue Cross Tag Battle will be released on June 5th, 2018. That’s all you really wanted. Don’t pretend to care about the rest of the details I worked so hard to find. Don’t pretend to care that the game will feature a 20 character roster with special appearances from favorites from series like BlazBlue, Under Night In-Birth, Persona 4, and RWBY. Don’t pretend to care that the game will be available on PS4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. No Xbox, which doesn’t fully make sense because an Xbox is essentially just a fancy not fancy PC. Either way, I’m personally extremely excited about the endless possibilities and of course the plotline, considering all these series are extremely plot heavy. You don’t care though, you just wanted to know that Blaz Blue Cross Tag Battle is coming out on June 5th, 2018.

7. Varric Tethras becomes a published author!

Fear not gamers, in a world where people have no idea whats gonna happen next because leadership isn’t exactly A1, a fictional character from a video game just inked a deal with Dark Horse Books and Penguin Random House. That’s right, if you’re familiar with the name you’re probably soiling yourself in excitement already. For those unfamiliar, well let’s get you all caught up. A long long time ago (back in 2011) a great game (general public opinion I would say it was ok) was released named Dragon Age 2, by the magicians who were in charge of Bioware. {Editor’s Note: Past tense?} In this historic game, there is an adventurous dwarf who you know writes novels in his spare time. He just nailed a deal to publish his most popular piece of fictional fiction entitled “Hard in Hightown” (don’t you dare make a sex joke!) in the real world. So now you to can purchase a fiction novel written by a fictional character with reference to a fictional world. That’s how bad the world we live in currently feels. We are going to extreme levels to escape it. Thanks for pointing that out Varric. Go Varric.




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September 14th, 2017 by Vega Montanez

Ya-kuza, He-Kuza, She-Kuza

Yakuza.

The name brings fear into the hearts of many. This historical hallmark of crime syndicates is the centerpiece of this game. Yakuza Kiwami is the latest title in the popular franchise, but also serves as a remake of the original PS2 game. Released worldwide on August 29, 2017, the remake not only sports updated visuals but also updated gaming mechanics. Developed and published by Sega, Yakuza Kiwami tells the story of a mafia member trying to change the entire system in which the Yakuza work.

GRAPHICS: 2/2

One of the most powerful components of Yakuza was its graphical fidelity. Even moreso even on PS2, it looked more stunning than 90% of the games on the market. Yakuza Kiwami keesp the long running series’ history of incredible graphics alive and well. As an official remake it is great to see that no time was wasted and no corners were cut when it came to making sure Tokyo was depicted excellently. Shops in the background pop with just enough vibrancy to coexist with the forefront objects. Emotions can truly be seen in the faces of every character including the useless NPCs on the streets. Cutscenes transition to gameplay incredibly smoothly. Once again Yakuza steps into the market ring and comes out in the top 10%.

STORY: 2/2

Loyalty is one of the most elusive human traits of all time. The Yakuza plot explores this concept at the most extreme levels. The protagonist of the story Kazuma Kiryu takes blame for a murder committed by a close friend. After being curiously expelled from the family and spending 10 years in prison (released on parole for good behavior), Kazuma returns to an all new family that sees him as a threat. One of the strongest selling points of this story is the way that all the side characters feel just as important as the leads. Every conversation held between any set of characters is complimentary to the character development and plot advancement. Very few objectives in the game can be completed without having conversations with multiple side characters and NPCs. The missions that can be completed have bonus rewards or story details that can be found in unnecessary dialogue. A story about what it means to be a loyal member of one of the most deadly organized criminal organizations of all time, this games sits very high on a pedestal of great storytelling.

AUDIO: 1/2

As an American gamer with interest in Japanese storytelling, the lack of American voiceovers is off-putting for some and perfect for others. The subtitle translation is nearly flawless however. The sound of the city is slightly lacking and in many points can feel lacking and hollow. When the ambience gets it right though, it gets it perfect. The chatting of people on the street corners about the fight that just took place really fills in the liveliness of the world. Overall the sound is nothing to be blown away by but also nothing to shake a finger at in shame.

GAMEPLAY: 2/2

One thing that has to be addressed is that most Japanese game developers have an obsession with trying to fit in every possible gameplay mechanic in one. Yakuza as a series is no exception. Yakuza Kiwami has taken the original and packed it with all the flavor from the newer games. Mini games are abundant throughout the city, with some even being major components of the narrative. And of course not mentioning the fighting game mechanics would be completely foolish. 4 fighting styles that can be upgraded, and maximized individually, adds a flair to gameplay that is lacking in most other modern day RPGs. Along side the fighting style, ways to go about traveling the city have to be acknowledged as well. One particular mechanic is the inclusion of the follow button. During missions where the player has to blindly follow some other character in the game, holding the R2 button will take care of all the work. There isn’t anything completely out of the ordinary, which can partly be attributed to it being a remake, but Yakuza Kiwami excels excellently at executing the normal exceptionally.

FUN: 1/2

An overwhelming level of RPG elements take the Yakuza games very far from being the Japanese version go Grand Theft Auto. With a slew of different gameplay styles, the complexity of the game may be discouraging to many. Those who find themselves deeply ingrained in the story will enjoy exploring everything it has to offer. The fun factor in this particular series comes from the amount of depth to the Japanese culture that can be explored. as a pick up and play for a few minutes probably not the best option as it is hard to really get anything out of that. However, the game is fun enough to make the 3-4 hours of gameplay required per sitting to get anything done more than worth it.

Yakuza Kiwami has set the standard extremely high for the remake world. Updated visuals put a brand new spark into the entry of an amazing series. Well balanced gameplay and outrageous unique elements keep the game exciting and fun during every session. The most powerful element of the game however is absolutely the story it tells. Loyalty, conviction, self development, and growth are all just a few of the topics that the narrative covers. If Yakuza Kiwami is the beginning of a strong gaming season, it opened the gate with a strong forward kick.

[SCORE: 8/10]

 




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August 6th, 2017 by Wayne "Big Gorgeous" Henrique

Crashing into the past!

 

Nostalgia will continue to keep selling and selling and selling until we finally tell it to stop. Hard Mode Gamers got a chance to play the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy and feel strongs feelings about it.




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