April 6th, 2019 by Kurt "Chet" Christel
In Soviet Russia, train rides YOU!
The Metro series of videogames are all based on a series of novels by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. The book was originally released in 2005 and the videogame adaptation, Metro 2033 was released in 2010. Metro Last Light followed that up in 2013, and now we have Metro Exodus. It was developed by 4A Games and published by Deep Silver. In this entry in the game, you leave the traditionally claustrophobic tunnels of the Moscow metro for the great outdoors. Your quest is simple, find a place to start a new settlement. It is a lot harder than it sounds. Many things go awry on your journey. This series is a mix between an FPS and survival horror, where you have to be more conservative with your ammo and resources, don’t have regenerating health, and have a lot of gadgets to fiddle around with. So, what’s the deal with this 3rd entry?
This review is based on the Xbox One X Enhanced version of the game.
On a technical level, the graphics are fantastic. You’re looking at some absolutely great lighting with a full night and day cycle that feels real. The contrast between the spacious open skies and the darkness of the tunnels is large. Animations are top notch, which is a big bonus for this game. There are a lot of in-engine scripted sections where people do a LOT of talking (more on that later). From just a purely visual perspective, everything looks as real as they can get. If I really had to go nitpicking, I would say that there are two locations in the game that look dull because they look so real. Yes. As in, the big open desert wasteland map was a big open desert wasteland. The snowy lake area is just a bunch of bright-ass snow. But I’m really reaching here, these visuals are off the hook.
This is also gonna sound more like a criticism than an accolade, but there is too much story in this game. The script for this game had to be massive, because every single character you encounter has a lot to say. Every enemy encounter is loaded with stuff. There’s a lot of stealth in the game so you have plenty of opportunities to eavesdrop on everyone. And those are just random encounters. The setpiece locations themselves are filled to the brim with story as well. They make an absolute masterpiece of world building based on what you see and hear. All of that is before I talk about the Train scenes. Good lord, there is a lot of dialogue on that train. The train serves as an exposition/character buffer between locations, and is rather amazing. You get to learn all about EVERYONE on this journey with you, and there are many tales to be told.
There is one scene on the train where you’re in the control car with 3 different pairs of people. And they are all in different corners of the head end, talking to each other.
Some may take issue with these bits. For one, the train sections are really LONG exposition dumps. 30 solid minutes of people talking to each other. I haven’t seen this much discussion in a half hour since the opening “speech” in Old World Blues from Fallout: New Vegas. Honestly, this game has a very slow pace. The talking is a great bit of respite after a stressful mission. The other point, which is a bit more annoying is that people very frequently talk over each other. But, this isn’t a bug, it’s intentional. There is one scene on the train where you’re in the control car with 3 different pairs of people. And they are all in different corners of the head end, talking to each other. You would have to replay these scenes multiple times to hear everyone properly. I personally didn’t think this was a problem either. It added to the realism.
Finally, the over-arching plot itself isn’t really much of a traditional story. The entire point of the game is simply finding a place to settle outside of the Metro. The hardships you encounter along the way compose the parts of this story, but every stop is more like an intrusion than a narrative. You walk into a weird cult, you reason with the cult, you leave. You encounter some… crazed survivalists in a bunker, and then you leave. Trying not to spoil here. It’s just a big series of literally crashing into the middle of other people’s stories that have nothing to do with you. Once again, I find this aspect refreshing. Not everything has to be about saving the world.
The OST was tolerable, but altogether not to outstanding. For all of the interesting monsters, their noises and growls don’t have the same impact they did in prior titles. There’s some faux-zombies in this title, and they sound like zombies. The guns are interesting but also don’t sound all that interesting. Most important is the voice acting. Despite being FULL of lore and story, the English voice cast still sound like a bunch of Americans faking a Russian accent. It’s charming in a way, but still objectively not too great. Many say to play the game with Russian audio on instead, but that would involve far too much reading. It is still competently put together and has its moments.
This game is hardcore, even on the easiest setting. You cannot expect to just run and shoot your way through the campaign. You will burn through resources and crafting tools so fast. I believe there could be a point where you can legitimately run entirely out of resources and have to start the chapter over, probably.
The gameplay loop is quite engaging. Each major stage after every train scene is a wide open map. Pleasantly, they aren’t gigantic, but actually very decently sized play areas with plenty to explore. It’s not easy to get from point A to point B. You can make waypoints, but the locations aren’t as simple as the map makes them out to be. You spend your time with a lot of gadgets on you, and you’ll need all of them. You have a lighter, the map, a backpack, headlight, battery charger, and a wrist gadget just to name a few. Your backpack serves as a mobile crafting station but you can’t craft the best gear on it. It’s good for getting you out of a bind if you have low health and know health packs. Your health doesn’t regenerate in this one, so you gotta take care of yourself.
Even if you have a lot of ammo, it will still get you killed if you charge in guns blazing. Stealth is almost mandatory when you deal with human enemies.
Combat is slow and deliberate too. Even if you have a lot of ammo, it will still get you killed if you charge in guns blazing. Stealth is almost mandatory when you deal with human enemies. As for monsters? Well… good luck. You’ll need it. Here’s a testament to the immersion of the gameplay. After I finished this game, I started playing Far Cry New Dawn. There were many times where I found myself pushing buttons that are supposed to bring out my lighter or flashlight. I kept forgetting I wasn’t playing Metro anymore. That’s right, the game is so engaging it will actively ruin other FPS’s for you. Maybe play a fighting game afterwards.
The fun you can have in this game is widely subjective to your tastes. I got what I wanted out of this. A tough as nails survival horror game masquerading as an FPS. I’ve had friends tell me they absolutely hate the game and get annoyed by it the whole way through. And there’s people who loved it. And people who liked it but didn’t think it was Metro enough. That’s my opinion, it’s good but at the same time it does seem a bit out of its element compared to the other titles. There’s that, and the game has its fair share of some truly frustrating moments. Despite this, I pressed on and on, even when the game got maddeningly hard.
Pick this up if you like horror and shooters. Just keep in mind that its a very nuanced experience.
Posted in Reviews Tagged with: exodus, fallout new vegas, fps, horror, last light, metro, metro 2033, metro exodus, opinion, rating, review, survival horror, train, trains
July 18th, 2017 by Vega Montanez
Agrarian Acreage or Mild Blands?
Expanding on the success of one of the longest running video game franchises of all time, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands takes the tactical squad based shooter to new levels. Developed by Ubisoft Paris and published by the franchise power house Ubisoft, home of successful franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, and Rainbow Six. Wildlands was released on March 7th, 2017. It is a third person squad-based tactical shooter action story experience laced with the modern day lure of seamless integrated online multiplayer and set in a vast open world, designed to replicate the beautiful country of Bolivia (Latinos Unite!), Wildlands targets the bar with orders to kill on sight.
Ubisoft has a history of publishing games that were originally advertised as being the next step in graphical prowess but ultimately come out as standard products representative of the current generation. Wildlands is no exception. Make no mistake, despite the flawed (and common) marketing tactic, GRW is beautiful. By including the entire country of Bolivia, the team has managed to provide a lush nature filled environment which resonates very well with the desire to go sight seeing. There are the typical minor flaws in consistency of the engine being able to recognize that things can not go through other things without causing damage. Blades of grass can frequently be seen going through characters instead of bending around them, but at no point does this take away from the overall experience. Although the people of Bolivia have plenty of reason to feel offended by this game’s representation of their country, they should absolutely feel flattered by the careful detail put into recreating its beauty.
The opening video in Wildlands tells the captivating story of the Santa Blanca Cartel and its leader “El Sueno”. However due to its open world setting it ultimately falls short of being an incredible narrative. The story is interesting but it ends up being presented in a very convoluted way due to the excessive amount of player freedom and the very distracting side missions. Normally regarded as a limitation, the game could benefit from an invisible wall. The story is told through the arch of dismantling the Santa Blanca cartel operations piece by piece by collecting intel throughout the map. It provide clues or damage reputations of every head honcho throughout the organization. The problems in storytelling rise quickly as you traverse the country into areas that are under management by different ring leaders. In those areas, the story-based intel start getting all mixed up. Once the full story behind any one cartel member is collected it becomes very clear that the story is deep and would be better told if it managed to keep the player constricted to one area and target at a time (kind of like the original Crackdown). El Sueno had a vivid dream that was fully worth exploring but was overshadowed by the size of his operation.
On one side. Ghost Recon: Wildlands fails immensely at providing an interesting audio experience yet on the other it excels in ways very few games ever have. It comes down to the bilingual approach to this world. The conversations in English are boring, bland, and terribly scripted. When not operating in complete silence or pointing out a spotted target, the squad exchanges ridiculous, terribly timed dialogue about their favorite foods, unrealistic insults, and directionless conversations which never seems to connect to the world around them. The communication often feels so unnatural that at times it can be very distracting and lead to wonder about how long this supposed shadow unit has actually been working together. On the flip side, the Spanish dialogue is excellent. Everything from the talk show radio host, to the propaganda, to the rare conversation between villagers or cartel soldiers, to the narcissistic monologues over the airwaves by El Sueno himself feel completely authentic. Unless of course, the player does not speak or understand Spanish. Unfortunately, the many people who fall into that category are missing an entire genuinely important part of the game. Otherwise, hooray gun noises and boom booms.
With a vast open world, Ghost Recon: Wildlands redefines what it means to be a squad-based third person shooter. Although the open world hurts the story, it does wonders for the gameplay. The change of structure allowed the developing team to include a wide array of side missions, good vehicle control schemes, travel possibilities, and of course the beloved “do it your way” approach to every mission. Some side missions can be failed with no retry option! The Ghost Recon franchise has always been well recognized for its fluid third person shooter mechanics and Wildlands is no exception. Every thing from cover based shooting to squad commands and controls would make Uncharted and Gears of War fans blush while providing a great way to scratch a painful itch for the SOCOM fans of old. At every button press it is evident that gameplay was a top priority throughout the entire development cycle.
Open world? Check. Tight gameplay mechanics? Present. Endless hours of incredible fun, intertwined within a decent plot line, excellent use of side missions, and a beautiful environment to explore? Absolutely. In true Ubisoft nature they have once again commanded the creation of a gigantic open world that offers players of any archetype something to enjoy. Every mission can be tackled in a variety of ways that suit every play style, yet the game’s narrative is loosely guided enough to never force any two players to pursue the exact same paths. The approach may still need some fine-tuning for the players seeking a Hollywood-tier story-driven experience. Mapping out the best approach to overtaking an enemy base is equally as fun whether the plan is executed flawlessly or falls apart disastrously. And playing co-op online with reliable partners makes the experience timeless.
Squad based tactical shooters are often a good experience, but rarely do they deliver at the level that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands manages to. It is very clear that, outside of the issues with telling it’s story, the development team put in every effort to make this game fun, fluid, and exciting. Ubisoft hardly fails to provide experiences that raise the bar on multiple levels and their expertise in crafting incredible open worlds for players to explore continues to show. Every game bearing the Tom Clancy moniker successfully captures a strong following of dependable fans and Wildlands has everything it needs to continue the trend.
Posted in Reviews Tagged with: gamers, gaming, ghost, ghost recon wildlands, hard, mode, rating, recon, review, score, tom clancy, ubisoft, video game, video games, wildlands