Video Game Review – Gears of War 4

Nath sometimes reviews games for us. This is one of those times. He’s been playing Gears of War 4 on Xbox One.

We currently live in a world where all films in the cinema are currently superhero movies (not complaining about that), sequels that people thought were overdue but really should’ve stayed locked away and remakes of films that probably didn’t need remaking. It seems like the video game industry is going that way too. We’ve had Doom (or Doom 4), Uncharted 4 and soon the Final Fantasy 7 remake. The next game to come into this endless sequel cycle is Gears of War 4.

Before I get into the review, I would like to say that I am a massive Gears of War fan. I truly believe it is one of the greatest game series ever created, maybe even the greatest. The gameplay is fantastic, the voice acting is top notch and the storyline is engaging. I have also played Horde a lot as well, even managing to complete the 50 waves with a great team of four (Editors note from Adam – I was one of those four!). When Gears 4 was announced I was excited but I didn’t feel like the game needed a sequel as it could potentially ruin one of my favourite series. However, with it being an Xbox One exclusive and a Gears game, I went into it with an open mind.

Please be aware this review has spoilers.

The game begins with First Minister Jinn commemorating the 25th anniversary of the victory against the Locust. During that time, an elderly Hoffman recounts the battles he faced during that time, including the end of the Pendulum Wars, E-Day and a battle at Anvil Gate at the end of Gears 3. You play a squad member in each memory as a tutorial which is a great start to the game. There are new weapons to play with and new gameplay to enjoy too, which I will explain later.

Once this is done, you meet J.D., Del, Kait and Oscar. J.D. and Del were once part of the COG but had deserted, a crime punishable by imprisonment. They now lead a raid party to help Kait’s mother, a leader of an outsider village. Their aim is to steal a Fabricator, basically a box of tricks to give power to the village. During the raid, they come across a new enemy called DB, also known as killer robots and these come in all shapes and sizes.

After stealing your box of tricks, you head back to the village which gets attacked again by the robots and you use the fabricator to build defenses in order to hold the base. After a successful defense, people start disappearing from the village, including Oscar and Kait’s mother.

You decide to meet up with your father (Spoiler Alert) Marcus Fenix. Marcus, now an old man, is bitter that his son joined the COG and even more annoyed that he has deserted it and put himself in grave danger. Nonetheless, he agrees to help the group as he fears the “Swarm” may be another version of the Locust. He takes them to a mine where the locust bodies were dumped to see if they can get a clue, but all they have done is opened a big can of worms. A mighty big can of worms.

It is truly a fantastic campaign. The gameplay isn’t too different from the Gears of old, however there are some added extras. You can now vault over obstacles and if there is an enemy behind it, you have the opportunity to stun the enemy in order to execute them. My favourite feature is the pull-over. If you are one side of the wall and there is an enemy on the other side, you can pull him over the wall and stab them. This however, can only be done on Drones.

The new enemies mainly consist of DB’s and the Swarm. DB’s are basically killer robots. They range from small ball-like exploding robots to unmanned armed helicopters. They are supposed to be Peacekeepers, but it seems someone has upgraded them to kill instead.

The Swarm are the new locust-type enemies. Drones are similar to grubs, however there are some interesting new enemies. Particular favourites are Pouncers, basically large dog like creature that has the ability to throw quills from its tail. It has the ability to pounce on you and maul you to death unless you can shake it off or someone shoots it off.

There is also another enemy called the Snatcher, clue is in the name here. It is a large enemy with a tail with the ability to take you down with one shot, a sort of sniper tail. Doesn’t sound too bad, however if your team doesn’t revive you, he will snatch you and the team have to shoot you out of it’s stomach or he will literally run off with you.

The weapons are mostly the same, but there are some interesting new ones too. Overkill is basically a shotgun that fires 2 shots for 1 bullet, making it very powerful. My favourite is the Buzzkill, basically a large cannon that fires circular saws at the enemy. If you miss, they bounce off walls and take out what you may have missed.

There is only one thing that lets the game down, which is the friendly AI. I play the game a bit gung-ho, I will likely charge and shoot at the enemy. There isn’t an issue when fighting normal enemies, however when fighting the Snatcher, I did get hit by that tail. Normally the team will try and revive you but when the Snatcher sees a downed enemy it runs towards it like me towards a bucket of chicken and eats you whole. Now if there are no enemies about, the team will shoot you out, but if there are other enemies, your team ignores you and lets you to be carried off to your impending doom. It is very annoying, it happened so many times during one particular moment.

Horde 3.0 is the newest version of Horde available in this game. Again, it is not too dissimilar to old Horde, but instead of set areas where you can place things like in Gears 3, you have a Fabricator that allows you to place barriers and turrets wherever you want. It means you can choose where you want to setup camp, although I am yet to find the best place to hide in each level. To spend money, you have to collect it from the kills you make and place that into the Fabricator in order to spend it.

There also classes for Horde in order to diversify the team. They are split between Soldier, Heavy, Sniper, Scout and Engineer. They come with different load-outs and bonuses for your game ahead. So far I have only made it to wave 20, so Horde does seem a lot more difficult now, mind you I am playing with people online instead of my friends who are good players (Editors note – except Alex and Tian).

In conclusion, the new Gears franchise has a decent start and to make things better, it comes with all the previous Gears games so I can replay the first series again. I think it is much better than the Halo franchise that has resurfaced too. The Coalition have done a fantastic job taking this on and they should be commended for it. Overall it receives 9 Buzzkills to the face out of 10. Some slight improvements are still needed but it is a fantastic start.

Nath

You can pick up Gears of War 4 through our handy-dandy Amazon link here, and we get a little taste from your purchase!

I Want to Be the Very Best – Pokémon Go Launch

 

Nath sometimes writes for the site. This is one of those times.

Unless you have been living under a Geodude for the last few weeks, you may have heard that Pokémon Go has been released across the majority of the world. The app has taken the world by storm, it is now one of the most downloaded apps in history and is currently on 10.8% of android devices. However, does the app live up to the hype? Hopefully this review will give you some clarity.

The Premise

The start of the game is similar to the Pokémon games of old. This time  it is Professor Willow who offers you a choice of 3 Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle. The 3 Pokémon appear on your mobile phone screen and you tap the one you want to start off with. There is a hidden Easter Egg where if you walk away from these 3, you can catch a Pikachu instead. I went for a Charmander in this scenario as I have always started with one. To catch him, your phone camera turns on and you can view the Pokémon via your screen.

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Once you have caught your first Pokémon, you will then have to visit Pokéstops in order to obtain items and experience. This means the app is forcing you to go outside in order to explore certain points of interests around your home town. I managed to visit one and swipe to obtain a few extra Pokéballs, then a Rattata turned up nearby. So like an eager Pokémon trainer, I went to catch my first Pokémon. To do this you simply point your camera at the Pokémon and swipe the screen to throw the Pokéball at the Pokémon. Doing so, earns you EXP, stardust (used to level up Pokémon) and candy (this allows you to level up or evolve your Pokémon)

Levelling up Pokémon is done by either giving it a mixture of stardust and that Pokémon’s candy in order to increase it’s combat power, or giving it a load more candy to evolve it. Increasing combat power doesn’t give you experience, but evolving them does, so the key would be to evolve the weaker Pokémon and level up the stronger ones to make them stronger.

Once you have a strong enough team, you can then head out and start taking down gyms. Before you do this, you have to choose a team to be on: Team Instinct, Team Mystic or Team Valor. There isn’t a benefit to choosing a certain team over another, so I chose Team Valor. Once you are at a gym, you can then battle your Pokémon. This is done by tapping the phone to use your Pokémon’s normal move to build up power for it’s special move. You can also swipe to dodge the rival Pokémon’s attack. If you win and take the gym down, you place your own Pokémon there to defend it.

Additional Features

There also many features of the game which I thoroughly enjoy, mainly the egg hatching, as the only way to hatch eggs is by walking the distance that is needed to hatch them. There are 3 egg distances, 2km, 5km and 10km. The 2km ones are for fairly common Pokémon whereas the 10km are for the more rare kind. I have managed to hatch 2 5km eggs and 1 2km egg. The 5km eggs produced a Staryu and a Paras and the 2km egg produced a Magikarp. I don’t have a 10km at present, but it will be egg number 1 when I do get one. It also seems that location doesn’t restrict you to what type of Pokémon you can catch. I once caught a Goldeen in the middle of a field, with no rivers, lakes, sea or puddles around me.

I suppose the best feature is how well the online community have responded in regards to the app. There are numerous pictures online of funny encounters with Pokémon, my personal favourite being one with a Magikarp in a frying pan. Twitter has gone mad with PokémonGo fans as well, lots of people sharing what they’ve caught, the hilarious names they’ve been given and the problems people have faced.

Media view

It has also been noticed by the media too, there have been many horror stories related to PokémonGo. You may have seen the news story about the girl who stumbled across a dead body whilst searching for Pokémon. I really hope that doesn’t matter to me. My favourite story is the Pokémon Challenge issued by Twitter users. This is a series of challenges that trainers must to do to cross it off a checklist. There is no prize, only pride but the first challenge was to place a Pokélure (a lure for Pokémon to come to) at a hospital. I did wonder why until I realised what they were trying to accomplish. Unfortunately there are children who are ill and cannot leave hospital for days, maybe even weeks or months at a time. So the whole point of the lure was to bring Pokémon to the hospitals so they can continue playing. I was genuinely touched by this story and it was fantastic to see how well the online community has taken to this game.

I did see a story recently where one user walked into an open road and got hit by a car. The girl blamed the app for this, however it clearly states that when the app is loading to be aware of your surroundings.

Problems

There are of course some issues with game. The servers have gone down a fair bit since release which has angered the community. The excuse mainly being that the developers didn’t think it would be so popular. I’m sorry but this is a terrible excuse, people like me in their late 20’s have wanted to catch Pokémon in the real world since the games first came out on the original Gameboy. The servers are back up and running which is great, but you do wonder what is going to happen when other countries get hold of the app.

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Another issue is the battery life. Most smartphones use up a lot of battery anyway but this app is the ultimate battery drainer. You can turn on battery saver mode in the game and put your phone in stamina mode (Android users only) but it still drains. You will need to invest in a power bar if you plan on going on an adventure for a large amount of time.

There are also some questionable Pokéstops and Gym locations. One stop nearby to me is the Royal Mail Sorting Office. I mean seriously, it is not a point of interest but if it does get me a few potions then I can let it slide. There are some Pokéstops in rough areas of the USA and teenagers are already getting their smartphones stolen by wandering into those area. There is also a Gym right outside someones house and he is getting very aggravated that people seem to be loitering outside.

The biggest problem is crime caused by the game. There have been a lot of reports of trespassing on other peoples properties in order to catch rare Pokémon, as well as a lot of people using the app whilst driving to essentially drive-by stops, gyms and catch Pokémon. It is only a matter of time before we see a news article saying that someone has crashed their car trying to catch a Dratini or something and this needs to be taken into serious consideration.

Conclusion

That being said, I have now been playing the game for almost a week and I have to say it is fantastic to be a Pokémon addict again. I have assembled a strong team and have started to dominate gyms around where I live, much to the annoyance of certain kids who have shouted at me to leave the gyms alone. I have also caught one of the rarest Pokémon in the game (Aerodactyl) and have evolved many other Pokémon in order to complete my Pokédex. The app, even though as a bit clunky to begin with, will forever go down as one of the most popular apps ever created, bringing together a fantastic online community. I have to say a massive congratulations to Niantic for creating such a fantastic app and for attempting to resolve server issues as quickly as possible. I will give the app 9 towns full of Rattatas out of 10. There are a few things that need sorting out still and features that need fixing. Server crashes happen quite a lot at the moment and this does need resolving as it’s not just me that is getting irate about it. That being said, this is something that can be resolved hopefully in the long run. Also this is the first 151 Pokémon available, there are still many more to be added into the game. I am loving this game and I’m sure that I will be continue to play for this many years to come.

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Stardew Valley: Farming Crack Simulator

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A more chilled out stream this week where we play my latest addiction; Stardew Valley. Stardew is a farming game from a one man team with influences from other crack-addict gamings such as Harvest Moon. It’s utterly delightful and I can’t stop playing. If you’re weak of will and empty of pocket, maybe skip this one…

~Kii

Final Fantasy XIV: Sproutling Adventures

Hey all! I return! With streaming! Most Fridays you can find me on my Twitch Channel gaming. Currently I’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy XIV (You may have wondered where I’ve been for the past six months. The answer is, in Eorzea) so I’ve rolled a new character for you all to watch me bumble through a class I’ve never played!

I’ve also uploaded the streams to Youtube, sadly the first one is missing but I’ll fill you in. I hit things with arrows until I was level 10. There ya go, all caught up.

Enjoy! and I’ll see you all next week ♥ ~Kii