Days Gone Review: A Cliche Open-World Zombie Love Story

Days Gone follows every post-apocalypse cue in the book. It does combat, level design, and bike riding well but struggles to overcome a basic story.

Zombies are everywhere. Yes, of course, they’re everywhere in Sony Bend’s open-world game Days Gone, but they’re also everywhere in our apocalypse-obsessed culture. On TV there’s the immensely popular Walking Dead and its admittedly less popular spinoff Fear the Walking Dead. Jim Jarmusch’s star-studded zombie film The Dead Don’t Die will release in theaters this June. And the undead can already be seen in a plethora of video games (Left 4 Dead and the recently released World War Z to give just two examples). In a crowded field, Days Gone establishes itself with the AAA world building and hours of content one would expect, but is supported by a story so lackluster, it’s hard to stay engaged and keep fighting.

Though the devs may insist that Days Gone doesn’t have any zombies, the so-called “freakers” sure follow all the tropes of the recently-risen-from-the-grave. There’s the rotting skin, the hunger for human flesh, and the tendency to prefer dark places and large groups. How exactly the virus spread and what they are called by bikers and their compatriots are semantics. The only cliche missing from the game is “friend-bitten-and-doesn’t-want-to-turn,” but it’s easy to miss it anyways as players will likely skip through the several hours of cutscenes that feel right at home in your least favorite season of your favorite zombie show.

Related: Days Gone is 30 Hours Long, With 6 Hours of Cutscenes

Days Gone‘s biggest hurdle was trying to find a name for itself, so it doubled down by adding the preface “biker” to the “-open world game” tag. The story follows Deacon St. John, a man who wears the cut of the Mongrels MC, an Oregon-based motorcycle gang. It’s been two years since the zombie- sorry, “freaker” apocalypse and Deacon has all but given up hope finding his wife, Sarah.

In the first of many cutscenes peppered throughout the game, the player witnesses Deacon put the injured Sarah on a helicopter, staying behind in an infested city with his ride-or-die pal, Boozer. Through context, we discover that the helicopter crashed and Sarah perished, and Deacon blames himself. Now he wanders the wastelands of a ruined world searching for freakers to kill and a way to put meaning back into his life. The “dead-wife” trope isn’t really buoyed by anything substantive; there’s glimmers of a past that might come back to haunt Deacon, and colorful characters light up the otherwise bleak world, but they’re little more than dressing to Deacon’s main goal.

Deacon is a drifter (a fact the game will never let you forget), wandering from camp to camp in the Pacific Northwest. Early on, players encounter Copeland, a free-radio loving leader of a small group of survivors, and Tucker, who runs a “work-camp” to the west, though more camps are introduced in the later game. Missions mostly consist of running errands for either party, such as rescuing hostages from other gangs, clearing marauder outposts, and carrying out bounties. These missions are all expertly designed, and though the majority are only optional, should be played. Whether the player is zooming past the tall pines, chasing down a rogue biker, or sneaking into a freaker-infested day-spa, discovering your preferred play-style and mastering the mechanics of Days Gone is a joy. Luckily, completing a mission not only rewards the player with satisfaction (and credits to spend at the corresponding camp),  but also increases their “trust” in you. The higher the player’s trust rating, the more gear is available for purchase.

And Days Gone has gear in spades. Aside from upgrading weapons to take down literal hordes of freakers, there are also bike upgrades to make your hot rod, hotter. Nitro is the most cartoonish and most immediately useful, giving players that extra burst of speed to close the distance to an enemy or widen it from a hundred or so flesh-eating foes. Weapons include traditional shotguns, low-level pistols, and expensive heavy-duty machine guns. But even as you obtain the highest level of gear, the main selling-point of the game never gets easy: wiping out hordes is a challenge that will keep players invested in the infestation long after the campaign is complete.

From the beginning, Sony Bend made it a point to showcase Days Gone‘s incredible environments and beautiful weather system. Your surroundings can change on a dime, as clouds brew overhead and rain begins to fall, or the mountainous terrain gets its first bit of snow. But interrupting that tranquility are thousands of freakers, grouped together in a “horde.” These are by far the toughest enemies in the game despite there being loads of mutated boss freakers, like infected bears and giant “breakers.” Sure, they go down in a few body shots, but they can easily overwhelm Deacon and take his health from 100 to 0 in a second flat. It’s a tricky business of planning your attack, making sure you have enough supplies and the right weapons, and kiting the horde through choke points, taking out 20 or so at a time. The average horde appears to have around several hundred members, so it can take a while to burn ’em down, but finally besting a horde is immensely satisfying.

When Deacon isn’t dealing with fighting freakers, he’s battling other survivors. There are plenty of drifter gangs that are not distinguishable from your own  groups (begging the question, why exactly do they have to die so gruesomely?) but the Rippers really make a name for themselves. The Rest in Peace (RIP) gang are a group of survivors that worship the freakers and are covered head to toe in scars. Their outposts are adorned with spikes and human carcasses. These enemies are a bit more unique and less morally ambiguous than your average “just-trying-to-survive” marauder. Their general vibe is very Mad Max, which happens to be a game in which Days Gone shares many similarities.

Days Gone is set in the third-person, just like your average PS4 exclusive shooter (read: Uncharted). Aiming and firing is a highlight; it’s easy enough to snap to the head for a much-needed headshot, but doesn’t feel cheap or bot-like. Especially with the addition of “Focus” a defacto “DeadEye” from Red Dead Redemption, that allows players to slow down time when aiming, firefights are difficult not because it’s hard to land precise hits, but more because health can deplete fast and the cover system is underwhelming. Deacon can duck behind crates or fences, peeking up when the enemy reloads, but there’s a lack of precision to the movement; he doesn’t flush to the wall, just hides near it. This is a more traditionally first-person mechanic that doesn’t work quite as well in the 3rd.

Driving Deacon’s “hog” around is freeing. Not only does it allow the player to escape most encounters, but the rush of passing by lingering freaker clusters or scenic waterfalls never gets old. Though a player may occasionally run out of fuel and not be anywhere near a gas station or randomly-found gas can, more often than not, the road is where you’ll find great moments of play: encounters with survivors, freakers, or enemies. They can be passed by or provide a welcome detour to the long journey on the road.

But through all its content, Days Gone seems to only borrow from well-established titles, without providing much in terms of nuance or innovation. Take its crafting system, straight out of The Last of Us. Deacon can make a bit more than Joel, pipe bombs for instance, but design remains the same. Players pick up (or loot from bodies) crafting materials like rags, nails, sterilizer, etc., and use these to instantly pop a survival item into existence. They can also upgrade melee weapons to be less degradable and more powerful, adding a saw blade to a bat or wire to a 2X4. The UI is well-made, but like a lot of Days Gone, it’s all been done before.

One small thing that Days Gone does really well is the menu, allowing players to access upgradable skills, the map, objectives, and inventory with a single swipe on the PS4 controller pad. It’s a nice touch and really streamlines the importance of checking in on how many credits Deacon might have at the time, what side missions can still be accessed, and how far away a horde might be. The “Story” section itself does a superb job of showing how much of the story is complete and at what percentage completion awards like vehicle skins and crafting recipes are given. Skills as well come with a fun twist: there’s Melee, Ranged, and Survival categories, each with different tiers. Each tier contains three purchasable skills (with xp) but only two are needed to access the next tier. This makes for a fun meta-game of choosing the most useful skills (or those most attuned to your playstyle). The polish here might have been used across the rest of the game.

Days Gone requires a lot of processing power, with massive amounts of enemies on screen at once and detailed textured environments that change from day to night. Unfortunately on the base PS4, this means there is a lot of loading lag. Frames will drop to an unplayable sub-20 a second or textures will fail to load completely leading to game-breaking glitches. The first horde I fought got stuck on the edge of a cliff and were unable to move, making them easy target practice. A mission towards the finale skipped over a major fight because Deacon’s bike fell through what looked to be a sturdy bridge. Nothing a few patches can’t fix, but it doesn’t erase the main issue: players shouldn’t need a PS4 Pro to run a PS4 game.

Days Gone nails the tone and theme of a zombie game and sticks to its guns. “Surviving ain’t living” is a phrase uttered by Boozer, the heart and soul of the game. But these messages and great high-concept questions are handled about as deftly as you might expect from a person named Boozer. It’s all show with none of the punch that The Last of Us had. Deacon is generally unlikable, killing plenty of non-freakers in a very Nathan Drake-like fashion. He is so overly committed to his biker-shtick even after the world has ended that his motives feel sort of goofy and dated. He rabbles incessantly about “not killing unarmed women,” while others talk about how “chivalry isn’t dead.” This macho-man perspective sort of puts a damper on some of the more interesting side-narratives. It’s disappointing that the protagonist is a practical Rick Grimes that gives an “impassioned” speech about why there are no black members in his biker gang in a confusingly unnecessary and poorly-written flashback.

The game features so many disjointed story moments, where the player sits and watch Deacon interact, then is put in control to move him about 20ft, then watches another cutscene. It gives the appearance of the game being unfinished, where either less or more interactivity might have solved this issue (and cut down on loading screens). Additionally, the ludonarrative dissonance of Deacon and others appearing more “civilized” than other groups, then mowing down hundreds of relatively innocent humans is hard to look past. The acting is pretty good across the board, but Deacon’s constant yelling on nearly every line deliver gets old fast. On a whole, the story is so rote and tired, that by the end, players might just want in to end.

And that’s a shame because Days Gone has a lot of well-crafted moments. Most missions are satisfyingly tough and leave a lot of room for play-style flexibility. Side storylines pack a bit of emotional punch and shift the viewpoint a bit further from “whitest dude in Oregon.” Battling hordes and riding the ol’ bike through broken roads and dirt paths provide both the greatest challenge and the most relaxing experience. Everything that is done well is done very well, but this game feels less made by a group of passionate devs and more like it was made by an algorithm. Zombies, check, crafting, check, gritty veneer, and so on. So even while painstakingly taking out every horde, there’s nothing to fall back on; no friends with whom Deacon can share his glory. The world and story of Days Gone are lonely, but if an open-world Last of Us meets Son of Anarchy sounds like your thing, then it might be worth the slog to kill some freakers.

More: Days Gone Dev Insists Freakers Are Not Zombies

Days Gone is out on April 26th on the Playstation 4 for $59.99. Screen Rant was provided with a digital copy for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-25 05:04:54

Ty Sheedlo

Cuphead Switch Review: Old Timey Fun & Challenge On A Small Screen

Cuphead and Mugman haven’t lost a step in their move to Switch. The game remains an immensely enjoyable and challenging romp at home or on the go.

Cuphead earned praise and mild infamy in 2017 for its faithful homage to 1930’s animation and its polished but challenging gameplay. That high quality hasn’t diminished in its move to the Switch. The Nintendo faithful will find to plenty to love (and loathe) about Studio MDHR’s deceptively tough platformer; a game that’s much more than a pretty face.

If this is your first rodeo, Cuphead and his pal Mugman wind up in hot water after an ill-fated night of gambling leads to a forced deal with the Devil. The duo must collect the soul contracts of the dark lord’s other debtors or face eternal servitude. Cuphead’s old-school art regularly turns heads and for good reason: it looks fantastic and unlike anything else out there. Animations look gorgeous. Smaller touches like the flickering film grain and muffled sound bites further sell the idea that you’re playing a cartoon from yesteryear. A varied and boisterous jazz soundtrack, one of the best in recent years, bolsters the incredible presentation.

Related: Katana ZERO Review – Mesmerizing Swordplay Dripping with Style

Cuphead’s run-and-gun side-scrolling gameplay takes inspiration from classics such as Contra and Mega Man. Finger-gunning down foes and nailing the snappy parry move feels as smooth as it did on Xbox and PC.  The game never skips a beat while playing in handheld mode as well. In fact, the smaller screen’s lower resolution actually compliments the vintage presentation. Super crisp resolution didn’t exist 80 years ago, after all. The only drawback of playing undocked comes from the hardware side. Expect a sore thumb after holding down the Joy-Con’s tiny fire button during longer sessions.  

A rogue’s gallery of elaborate boss battles act as the game’s centerpiece and remain among of the most imaginative in gaming. From a sweets-loving princess who chucks her own head to pugilist frogs that merge into a giant slot machine, no two bosses are alike. Watching them take on even wackier forms throughout the fight is both exciting and terrifying. That’s because, despite their whimsical veneer, overcoming bosses demands a high level of timing, precision, and, most of all, patience. Make no mistake: Cuphead is a very hard game. But no matter how crushing the loss, nothing ever feels cheap. Boss patterns are relatively easy to decipher, so you can always tell where you went wrong. The steep difficulty only makes each victory feel like a well-earned accomplishment. If you have a friend that’s up to the challenge, conquering foes in co-op play can be a raucous blast.

Sweetening the bitter spoonfuls of defeat is a wonderful progress meter that illustrates exactly how far players progressed during a fight. Seeing that a boss was only a shot or two away from falling can be equal parts inspiring and infuriating. Regardless, it’s a powerful motivator to keep trying as you literally see yourself getting better with each attempt.

Boss battles may be fantastic but the handful of traditional platforming stages remain the weakest part of package. Though adequate, there’s something less tolerable about enduring a hard, drawn-out side scrolling stage than a single large-scale fight. Run-and-gun stages aren’t worthless, however. They house coins used to purchase a myriad of helpful upgrades. Spread shots, teleport dashes, and special abilities like brief invincibility are among the fun and invaluable enhancements.

New features for Switch include the option to play the entire adventure as Mugman. The Luigi to Cuphead’s Mario had formerly been restricted to Player 2 in co-op. Mugman plays identically to his buddy so the choice is purely preferential, but it’s a welcomed change nonetheless. Beautifully animated cutscenes replace the original static scenes to further enhance the cartoon nostalgia. A range of additional language options helps in the accessibility department.

Whether you’re rage quitting at home or on the bus, Cuphead remains one of the most exhilarating indie titles out there. It may be tough, but the highs of toppling foe after zany foe feels amazing, and the tight gameplay makes every victory seem achievable. The much-lauded art direction hasn’t gotten old and really has to be seen in action to believe. Sadly, the only thing missing from this version is a wrist strap to prevent players from hurling their Switches after one too many losses to Mr. King Dice.

More: Mortal Kombat 11 Review: The Best Fighting Game in Years

Cuphead is out now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. Screen Rant was provided with a Switch download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-25 02:04:27

Marcus Stewart

Series: Your Story Universe Review – Live in The Movies (For A Price)

Series: Your Story Universe might let players participate as characters in their favorite movie and TV shows, but the good choices will cost them.

In Series: Your Story Universe, players have the chance to live out their wildest dreams in their favorite movies and TV shows. From The Breakfast Club to Saved By The Bell, players can jump into their favorite fictional worlds and become a character within them. It’s just too bad that to continue playing, as well as to make certain decisions, it’s going to cost them some real-world cash.

To begin Series, players must choose which world they want to play. The choices include a variety of movies and TV shows from the NBC/Universal library, including The Breakfast Club, Law & Order, Bridesmaids, Saved by the Bell, Xena, Vanderpump Rules and Sixteen Candles. After a story is selected, players can choose to customize their characters, choosing between genders, as well as choosing from a variety of hair color and styles, facial features, eye color and size and more. Once character creation is complete, the game alerts the player that clothing can make or break a scene, so characters are then prompted to choose their outfits. Then the story begins, and players find themselves dropped into the world of their chosen story. For example, The Breakfast Club begins with the main character doing something that lands that character in detention with the rest of the characters from that movie.

Related: SteamWorld Quest Review: A Genuinely Joyful Card-based RPG

This is where the fun supposedly begins. Imagine being in detention with Claire, Andrew, Brian, Bender and Allison, with Vice Principal Vernon breathing down their necks. Gameplay involves reacting to what the other characters say and do, with dialogue that comes straight out of the movie. But what makes Series so interesting is that as the player progresses through various chapters, the situations go beyond the films and into brand new territory. For example, in The Breakfast Club, after detention, the main character gets invited to a house party.

However, this is also where Series begins to fail. These new stories that go outside of the original movies and TV shows aren’t always well-written. There are also times when characters seem to act out of character. Sometimes, the dialogue is just dull, and getting through it to get to the next choice often feels cumbersome.

It gets even more annoying when players are faced with choices, and one is a “premium” choice. That means that this particular choice (which is more than likely the one most players would want to make) costs gems. And the gems run out quickly so that players are forced to either make the choice they didn’t want to make or fork over real-world money to buy gems. The game also requires players to have tickets to play future episodes/chapters, and those seem to run out quickly. One hundred gems and 14 tickets run around $5, which should allow players to make a total of approximately four premium choices.

To say the game is a money grab is putting it lightly. Although players can earn gems and tickets through gameplay, they can’t collect them fast enough to keep playing. So although the premise behind Series is a promising one, in the end, it’s all about how much money players want to invest in a game that probably isn’t worth it.

More: Heaven’s Vault Review: Too Much of a Good Thing

Series: Your Story Universe releases on the App Store and Google Play on April 25, 2019. Screen Rant was provided with a download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-25 01:04:40

Robin Burks

God’s Trigger Review: A Pulpy, Enjoyable Shooter

God’s Trigger is an outrageous and chaotic top-down shooter with a robust co-operative mode and plenty enough action to cover up its clunkier moments.

The apocalypse has always been a great source of inspiration for video games. Whether the Biblical destruction of Darksiders or the dark world of The Last of Us, the end of the world has come in many shapes and sizes. The latest game to dive into this theme is God’s Trigger from developer One More Level.

In God’s Trigger, the apocalypse is on the brink of being set off. Enter an angel named Harry and a demon named Judy, who must form an awkward alliance to stop Hell from literally breaking loose, heading after the four horsemen in the process. Along the way, all sorts of bloody hijinks ensue as the pair cut a violent path through enemy hordes.

Related: Overwhelm Review: A Brutally Difficult Retro Sidescrolling Shooter

The most obvious comparison to make for God’s Trigger is Hotline Miami. The Dennaton Games titles also had a top-down viewpoint and buckets of gore, but tonally the two properties are very different. When it comes to Hotline Miami, this boiled down to that sheen of a video nasty, with both games drenched in 1980s neon as much as claret.

God’s Trigger is much more light-hearted. With tongue firmly planted in its cheek, God’s Trigger is knowing with its over-the-top violence, revelling in its outrageous tone with a light-hearted attitude. This comic book styling follows through to its overall art direction, relishing in the opportunity to offer up a pulp quality akin to beloved railgun shooter House of the Dead: Overkill.

The Hotline Miami similarity is most apparent within its gameplay, though. God’s Trigger also dives into the viewpoint seen in arcade classics like Smash TV, as players go from room to room hunting down enemies with ruthless efficiency. This means utilizing the angel and devil duo’s abilities and weapons scavenged from goons to clear maps of unwitting minions.

The levels themselves are maze-like, occasionally offering alternate pathways at times that suit different playstyles. Those after a stealthy approach, which offers additional experience at the expense of acquiring weapons or keeping up a speedy pace, may choose a series of rooms where enemies can be picked off individually, whereas those after a full-on attack will find areas that suit them better.

Both Judy the demon and Harry the angel also have their specialities. The two characters have different attacks and various magic skills that can be used, whether turning invisible, confusing groups of enemies, or turning one enemy unit against the others to thin out numbers. In single-player mode, this character swap mechanic adds a dose of ingenuity to gameplay, with players thinking on their feet as to which character suits which moment better.

This isn’t just an arbitrary choice of character for any given moment, either. Akin to Shadows: Awakening, both Harry and Judy are needed at certain moments. This could be using Judy’s ability to ghost through grates, or Harry’s power to get through certain walls. Since both characters level up separately, it’s also important to use both in a fairly equal amount to make sure their skill sets are boosted throughout the game.

Although a required swap between these two playable characters may feel like a chore, in reality the fun gameplay is enough to stop players from feeling that this mechanic is too forced. Equally, God’s Trigger makes the decision to include a checkpoint system rather than make the player start the mission over from scratch with each one-hit death – something that players may appreciate given the occasional lengthy level with tricky sections to navigate.

Although the character swap method in single player works well, it’s fair to say that God’s Trigger is best enjoyed in local co-op. This multiplayer mode is a genuine treat, with one player taking the role of Harry and the other as Judy, causing chaos in tandem. God’s Trigger is decent enough in single player, but those users who have a friend on the couch next to them will find a much more enjoyable experience.

When it comes down to it, God’s Trigger works very well. Its occasional awkward moments with gameplay are eased by the fun of different powers and a quick checkpoint system, and its cheesy story and tone are infectious in their enthusiasm. Those after a good dose of simple fun could do a lot worse than turning to God’s Trigger for some help.

More: Katana ZERO Review: Mesmerizing Swordplay Dripping with Style

God’s Trigger is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-22 08:04:41

Rob Gordon

World War Z Review: The Heir Apparent To Left 4 Dead

World War Z’s mix of swarming zombies, exciting level design, and satisfying shooting make for the best co-op experience this side of Left 4 Dead!

The video game adaptation of the World War Z universe is here, and it’s one of the best licensed titles in recent memory. World War Z is not a timely game. The movie on which it’s loosely based came out in 2013, and the long-gestating film sequel was recently cancelled. Like any good zombie, however, World War Z simply refuses to stay dead.

While its aesthetic is inspired by the film version of World War Z, this game is clearly inspired by Left 4 Dead, Valve’s long-abandoned co-op zombie FPS series. Like that cult favorite shooter, World War Z emphasizes four-player cooperative multiplayer with a slight narrative hook and endless waves of zombies to shoot. The twist here comes with the game’s zombie enemies: the film version of World War Z was controversial for its take on reanimated humans as an insect-like swarm of monsters who flow through their environment like a tidal wave of death.

Related: World War Z: Best Tips, Tricks, & Hints To Know Before Playing

Developer Saber Interactive cut their teeth on visceral shooters like TimeShift and Inversion, so it’s no surprise that the moment-to-moment combat in World War Z is a gory and satisfying spectacle, with tight controls and a wide variety of weapons, nearly all of which earn XP and can be upgraded multiple times. individual zombies, and even sizable groups are little threat to a skilled player, but the game’s truly massive herds require teamwork to survive.

Each of the game’s eleven levels (split up across four anthologized episodes) feature numerous instances where players are stranded in a large area, tasked with defending against a swarm of the undead. With only a few seconds to loot the area for defenses like gun turrets and barbed wire fences, a team must work together in order to survive, or they will be torn apart. In a group with random strangers, the game can seem unnecessarily difficult, but teaming up with friends (or people with headsets) reveals just how rewarding teamwork can be. A coordinated group can hold the line against a stampede of hundreds of zombies; there’s nothing more satisfying than lining up in front of a veritable wall of flesh, unloading thousands of bullets to stem the tide of impending doom.

Each episode is set in a different location around the world, from the streets of New York City to a top secret Russian military base. The four episodes each star a different set of characters, which keeps the repetitive dialogue from becoming too stale. Levels have a great flow, organically transitioning from tight corridor shooting to arena defense sections and tough objectives which require players to scour an area for a set number of supply crates to deliver to a central location. It’s not mind-blowing or particularly lengthy, but World War Z is highly replayable thanks to a degree of randomization with regards to weapon and enemy placement; the roulette makes swarm defense sections particularly enjoyable on replay.

Progression is found via weapon upgrades and character classes. There are six classes to choose from, though they are differentiated more by the special item they carry into battle (grenades, molotov cocktails, explosive ammo drops) than by any fundamental differences in how they play. That being said, things really start to open up after upgrading a class past level ten, where they begin to become a bit more distinct in their passive abilities. Everything, from weapon upgrades to class perks, costs credits, which are earned for completing missions. Progression can seem a bit slow, but the curve is surprisingly natural, since it’s always enticing to try beating a level on a higher difficulty to earn more credits and buy stronger guns and better perks.

The core gameplay of World War Z is so strong, it’s easy to forgive some strange design decisions, like the limited mobility options. Characters can climb over some waist-high objects, but not others. It’s cool to stand on top of a car or van while shooting dozens of advancing zombies, but there’s little rhyme or reason as to which cars can be climbed and which cannot. There’s also a noticeable lack of a dodge function, which would be really useful when dealing with charging “bull” zombies, or just do buy a second of respite when trying to escape a torrent of zombies. On top of this, the movement speed generally feels just a bit too slow, which can be somewhat annoying at times. Then again, it does discourage “lone wolf” players from venturing too far away from their teammates.

Less forgivable are the numerous bugs and crashes. World War Z is dangerously close to having too much jank. It’s still early days for World War Z, and patches have been released which address some of the issues, but we still encountered an unfortunate frequency of bugs and crashes in our time with the game. One particularly nasty crash erased the last several matches of accumulated XP and perk upgrades. On day one, it was practically impossible to connect to the online servers, but that issue seems to have been completely rectified, at least on PlayStation 4. There are also smaller bugs which hinder the game, like getting grabbed by a zombie and warping to the wrong side of an impassible barrier, or inside a wall.

While four-player co-op, or PvZ, is at the core of World War Z, the game also features a more traditional multiplayer suite, dubbed PvPvZ. Essentially, it’s a standard assortment of 4v4 versus modes with addition WWZ’s unique zombies. A smattering of undead populate each of the small maps, but the matches are frequently broken up by a sudden onslaught of infected. Unfortunately, the game’s aforementioned issues with mobility are much more pronounced in a PvP setting, which never manages to rise above the level of a fleeting distraction.

The console versions of World War Z run at a fairly steady 30 frames per second, and many enemies animate at 15 frames per second when the action really heats up. Enabling the default motion blur setting smooths over this issue somewhat, though it’s still glaringly noticeable at times. There’s also a lack of environmental destruction and enemies sometimes disappear awkwardly upon death. To be honest, though, it’s surprising more corners weren’t cut in World War Z‘s presentation. It’s hard to overstate the pure spectacle of having 500 zombies on screen at once, and the rest of the game isn’t too shabby, either. The environments are picturesque (especially the New York and Tokyo levels) and character models are detailed, even the zombies, who get literally blown to bits as a barrage of gunfire sends them flying in a display of glorious ragdoll physics. Sometimes, the simplest pleasures are the most satisfying.

At its core, World War Z is dumb, jolly fun. With only eleven levels, it will wear out its welcome pretty quickly for those uninterested in the admittedly extensive progression systems and higher difficulty modes. For players with a dedicated group of friends, however, World War Z is a prime destination for friendly multiplayer excitement, especially if Saber Interactive follows through on their tease of additional episodes coming in the future.

It’s easy to compare the game to Left 4 Dead, but even that game’s impressive zombie swarms can’t compete with the jaw-dropping sight of World War Z‘s enemies. Plus, it’s been ten years since the release of Left 4 Dead 2, so it’s only natural for a new game to come along and fill the void left by Valve. World War Z abides.

More: Left 4 Dead Devs Making New Co-Op Zombie Game Back 4 Blood

World War Z is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-22 07:04:39

Zak Wojnar

Jupiter & Mars Review: Tapping on the Glass, At Best

Tigertron’s eco-themed PS VR game debut Jupiter & Mars doesn’t feel overly polemic or dull, but decidedly underwhelming all the same.

Earth Day 2019 has a punctual video game counterpart this year, with Tigertron’s first PlayStation 4 release, the dolphin adventure Jupiter & Mars. The basis for the game is certainly admirable — a timely underwater fantasy taking place in a pressing future where the sea-level has risen dramatically, swallowing up recognizable landmasses and landmarks to scoot past — but there are a slew of problems and niggles that may inevitably cause players to balk at its price-tag. Its underwater VR exploration on a console wins it a few points, but the core gameplay should have taken enough time to come up for air.

Players take control of Jupiter the dolphin, with her partner Mars swimming around the periphery and interacting with objects at the click of a button. Both dolphins (as well as most of the sea-flora and fauna) are painted like party-goers at a late night blacklight-soaked rave, with streaks of glowing neon tattooed along their skin. It’s occasionally attractive, but its reasoning is also somewhat confusing — is this representative of their suffering mutation from a nuclear fallout? Some kind of visionary appreciation of life that is key to a dolphin’s perspective? — and overall does not come off as particularly special. That’s because plenty of games adopt this visual aesthetic, and it would have been nice to see Jupiter & Mars approach its common application in a way that was more grounded or meaningful. It just seems like a neat trick that makes the sad inevitability of global warming look like a warehouse party.

Related: Heaven’s Vault Review: Too Much of a Good Thing

The soundtrack in the first area doesn’t help matters, with an absolutely grating looping track that could have accompanied a cheesy Coachella trailer. This might be to the taste of player, and young people may even grow fond of it, but it became unbearable after five minutes. Luckily, the soundtrack for the rest of the game opens up to explore other moods and genres, all of which fit the patient exploration better than that first one.

There’s a lean towards other broader visual design aspects here like those find in Rez or Child of Eden, but it doesn’t combine well with such minimally-detailed textures. Animals, plant life, and sonar-pinged level geometry shifts into vector-graphic-like luminescent outlines, risking the echolocation mechanic to diverge into a kind of “detective vision fatigue,” familiar to players of Arkham Asylum who spent most of their time looking at everything like a T-800 Terminator. When things aren’t being echo-located, most objects and surfaces employ simplistic or even muddy textures; for the absolute worst example of this, simply swim up to the surface, where you’re treated to mountain ranges that would not look out of place in a Test Drive game from the 90s. At least the skyboxes are quite beautiful, and look particularly lovely when viewed from underwater, melting past the surface.

The game offers up a clutch of different options (and that’s in and out of VR gameplay, more on this detail later), but it’s strange that they aren’t combined in a way that seems player-first. Moving your headset around to look and tilting your head to the side to directly turn feels fine in that goofy-but-it’s-VR way, but what’s confusing is that you can’t also use the DualShock 4’s analog sticks as a backup method of control as well. No, instead, players are forced to select one and only one control scheme at a time, swapping them out for each other in the pause menu. This is in comparison to other VR games like The Exorcist: Legion VR or FromSoftware’s Déraciné, which essentially grant players every potential motion control option at once, and it feels like an ease-of-use convenience that should never be treated as a subtractive feature.

Jupiter & Mars is most certainly a PSVR game, but in an interesting reach for accessibility, specifically loading up the VR component is not required. Putting on the headset does introduce plenty of visual jaggies, making spiky dangerous areas look an absolute fright, but players can opt to play through the game more traditionally (and with cleaner graphics). There is something nice about zooming around in the water and looking and listening for interesting pings to investigate, but slow turn controls can make large areas quite confusing to navigate and pick clean. Still, it should be mentioned that the option to take a VR breather and keep playing is a welcome one and, while it wouldn’t work for many other games, here it’s a boon.

Now, a note should be made about the organizations which Jupiter & Mars supports, and Tigertron claims that a portion of the game’s proceeds will benefit “ocean causes,” though which specific ones or what percentage will go towards these is unclear. SeaLegacy and The Ocean Foundation are their direct partners for the game, and videos and information can be gleaned behind menus; this is reminiscent of the War Child DLC for 11-11 Memories Retold, and some references to the two organizations can be found in-game as well. It’s not overly-done and the eco-themes are fairly, well, surface-level overall, with Jupiter jostling plastic waste off of animals to rescue them in most scenarios. It would have been nice to see some more in-depth application of these themes, especially with the lofty goals and credo in the thesis and setting of Jupiter & Mars.

There hasn’t been a mention of Ecco The Dolphin in this review, but that’s on purpose; Ecco’s strengths were its exciting movement, supernatural aspects, and haunting and mysterious underwater exploration. Jupiter & Mars is much, much more sedate, and doesn’t seem to take enough risks in its approach or sense of freedom in its open-world traversal. One of the first things most players will do is swim quickly up to the surface, expecting that triumphant and cinematic dolphin spin-jump to give them a bout of VR indigestion, but Jupiter merely smacks directly into the peak of the sea-level and immediately stops. There’s enough content in Jupiter & Mars to take up a lazy Sunday’s time, but it could have been so much more.

More: Falcon Age Review: A Beautiful Friendship

Jupiter & Mars releases for PlayStation 4 and PSVR on April 23, 2019. Screen Rant was provided a PS4 code for review.

2019-04-22 07:04:05

Leo Faierman

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy Review: Third Time’s The Charm

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is making a souped-up return to form on consoles everywhere. Now’s the perfect time to get busy in court!

As the name suggests, the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is a bundle of three games in Capcom’s long-standing franchise about being a lawyer who enthusiastically disagrees with everyone all the time. If you weren’t able to deduce that at first glance, then you might just want to forgo these titles completely.

Much like being a practicing lawyer, the Phoenix Wright games involve little to no guesswork or intuitive leaps that can’t be explained. This trilogy is firmly grounded in detective work, courtroom etiquette, and a hardcore puzzle background. The piece de resistance, however, is the wacky and wild veneer that it wears with aplomb.

Related: It’s Time To Start Trusting Capcom Again

The Ace Attorney trilogy is a collection of the first three mainline games in the expansive series: the original Ace Attorney, the divisive Justice For All, and Trials and Tribulations. The titles have been given a visual overhaul which gives them a very current feel in terms of the quality of the graphics. While there are a number of other Phoenix Wright games out there which may be well more known now after enjoying some popularity on consoles like the 3DS, this bundle is definitely the last word when it comes to content and getting the most well-rounded experience.

The games play out very much like the cross-section of a point and click adventure game and a visual novel. Add one part anime tropes, and shake well to mix. This is potentially most noticeable in Trials and Tribulations, which is as mechanically polished and coherent as any finale should be. The central conceit in basically any Phoenix Wright game is simple: you’re the namesake lawyer, and your job is to MacGyver your way out of some of the world’s most absurd legal situations.

Forget what you know about the law from watching Suits or any other dramatization where court appears to be about two, wildly attractive opponents exchanging clever words in measured voices. Phoenix Wright is chaos, and you have to embrace it if you really want to enjoy it.

Ever wanted to solve a case that went from identity theft to blackmail to multiple homicides all in the space of one day in court? Ever thought to yourself, “Gee, NCIS would be so much more interesting if someone on the force was a spirit medium”? The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy has answers to both the above and more. It’s hard to top a murder case as your cold open, but if there’s one thing that these Capcom titles are good at doing it’s an admirable job at trying to consistently up the ante.

One should note that making sense of Phoenix Wright’s overarching narrative is difficult when it spans multiple games in the trilogy and most of it is garnered through interacting with these elaborate cases that have dramatic twists. Each title is split up into a number of seemingly unconnected cases that lead up to a shocking climax and a reveal that links them all. Given that the subject matter and the crimes are often vastly disparate, it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that getting to the end of what a Phoenix Wright game is trying to tell you often involves a major suspension of belief.

Luckily, you’ll likely find yourself too wrapped up in the brightly-colored minutiae of the courtroom experience to actually wonder whether or not solving a case about a masked jester actually advances Phoenix Wright’s personal plotline in any way. After each game’s tutorial, you’re left largely to your own devices as case after bizarre case gets thrown your way. There’s a familiar pattern to the proceedings in each of the episodes making up their own segment of the game: you investigate, proceed to trial, and get thrown a curveball, and repeat till your client’s found Not Guilty.

An investigation is a mix of talking to suspects, key figures, and collecting evidence from a crime scene. Note: none of these are things that you do as a practicing lawyer. You’ll have the chance to tighten the screws on people from Justice For All onwards which introduces an interrogatory system known as Psyche-Locks, allowing you to target the core of what someone may be hiding from you before you head to court. However, once you’re in front of the judge, some of the more recognizable Phoenix Wright clichés come into play.

If you’ve been on the internet in the last decade, you’re probably familiar with Phoenix Wright’s famous pose – one arm extended, finger pointed at someone invisible rival, and “Objection” emblazoned across the screen. You’re going to see this sight a hell of a lot in across these three games, whether it’s coming from the player or from the prosecution, so you better get used to it. The courtroom procedure can be boiled down to two distinct parts: cross-examining, and presenting evidence. No points for guessing which of the two involves a healthy degree of objecting.

As mentioned above, the court system used in Phoenix Wright is a beast of what seems to be America (based on the game’s bastardized fantasy location) and Japan’s various formalities with a hearty helping of irreverence. No matter how inaccurate, the back and forth in the courtroom is frankly electrifying even though it’s punctuated by long swathes of the player pouring over the mountain of evidence at hand and wondering how best to nail the true culprit.

You’ll get the opportunity for said nailing during the cross-examination phase: after the game’s given you a pass at a person’s monologue, allowing you to formulate some initial thoughts about guilt and about what their weak points might be. As they deliver their testimony again, you can either choose to press them for further detail or to object heartily.

Be warned, though. More often than not, you’ll be asked to back up your misgivings with some evidence and failing to do so will dock you points with the judge. Lose enough of these, evidenced by a health bar at the top of the screen, and you’re cooked. Being kicked back an hour or so because of a courtroom fumble can be frustrating, so it’s good that the PS4 version allows you to save pretty much at any point in the game; solving the latest murder puzzle is only a reload away.

Surviving in this courtroom about being attentive, alert, and quick to trust your gut when you smell a rat. Sure, you may have your fair share of misfires early on, but that’s also part of the charm of Phoenix Wright – it examines so many fallible characters through a humorous and humanistic lens and treats your own failings the same way, which stops you from being discouraged.

That being said, it can be exceedingly hard to keep track of what you’ve presented and what the various stories are, especially when characters make repeated appearances across episodes and the complexity of information becomes incredibly daunting in each game’s final case. It can be hard to follow for even veterans, so don’t be ashamed if you find yourself resorting to a guide – there’s no right way to play this game, so long as the culprit is caught.

All in all, it’s really in the way that the sum of all of Phoenix Wright’s parts comes together for a campy, thrilling time. The individual mechanics are serviceable enough on their own, but it’s within the wider tapestry of the zany plot, the off-the-wall characters, and the way that the game turns everything you know about cases you’re just about to close on its head which keep things fresh in a franchise that’s about two decades old. Those who have been Ace Attorney fans won’t regret picking this up again, and if you’re a virgin to the series then this is one of the best introductions you’re ever going to get.

Next: 10 Best Video Game Movies Of All Time

The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4. Screen Rant was provided with a PlayStation 4 code for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-22 02:04:03

Ginny Woo

Hell Is Other Demons Review: The Neon Demon

Hell is Other Demons mixes fast-paced action against a demonic horde with a gorgeous neon aesthetic but its graphics and bugs cause gameplay issues.

Hell is Other Demons is a retro fast-paced action game for Mac, PC, and Nintendo Switch that involves playing as a lone demon facing off against the hordes of the underworld in small areas while also surviving against the harsh environment and trying to avoid swarms of bullets.

The best part about Hell is Other Demons is its visual design, with the underworld being realized using a pixel art style that combines bright neon colors with dark and gloomy backgrounds. The demonic hordes are also made using this same style, with tiny demons that wouldn’t look out of place in an NES game, to huge boss monsters that dominate most of the screen. Hell is Other Demons is one of the best-looking retro aesthetic games of all-time.

Related: Yoshi’s Crafted World Review: Hard As Cardboard

The music in Hell is Other Demons is also a treat, with brooding synthwave tracks (created by Rémi Gallego of The Algorithm) accompanying each level, which adds to the atmosphere of being trapped in an 8-bit underworld.

The 2D side-scroller gameplay of Hell is Other Demons involves selecting a loadout of equipment (which act as passive buffs) and weapons before being thrown into a small area and having to survive against waves of enemies. Hell is Other Demons is a bullet hell shooter where attacks can come from all sides.

There are two main gameplay modes in Hell is Other Demons – Arcade and Campaign. Arcade mode is an endless procedurally generated mode where the player can choose from multiple characters (after unlocking them) and must survive for as long as possible while using random equipment and weapons earned from battle.

The Campaign mode in Hell is Other Demons is light on the story, as you go through a world map made up of short levels that involve fighting hordes of enemies in small arenas. The Campaign mode isn’t very long, but there is a lot of content packed into what is there. The player can earn extra points by finishing a stage without taking a hit, without using an Ultimate weapon (which are activated by power-ups dropped by the enemy), or by not using weapons at all and defeating enemies by stomping on their head, Mario style.

The graphics of Hell is Other Demons are actually one of the biggest issues with the game in relation to the gameplay, as many of the visual effects in the game (your bullets, the enemies bullets, explosions) use the same color scheme, regardless of the level, which can make it very difficult to differentiate between things that can harm you and things that can’t. The fact that there is often a lot of effects going off at once and that each level is so small means that it’s very easy to die and not see what caused it, as an enemy bullet can blend in with the explosion of another enemy as it croaks. These issues are magnified when playing in handheld/tabletop mode on the Nintendo Switch, as the smaller screen makes it even harder to tell things apart.

The small size of the arenas is also a problem, as there isn’t much room for the enemy to spawn and it’s easy for the player to dash right into an enemy as it’s appearing, giving no time to dodge out of the way. The game could also have benefited from longer invincibility frames after being hit, as it’s easy for the player to die from a flurry of blasts without being given a chance to move out of the way. It’s possible to extend the invincibility frames using items, but you can only have so many of them equipped in each battle.

Hell is Other Demons also suffers from technical issues at launch, with slowdown and dropped frames cropping up in levels when things get too busy. There are also a few bugs that force a stage reset, as the item a boss monster is meant to drop didn’t spawn, as well as minor bugs where the player or the enemy would fall through the bottom of the stage.

There are great ideas presented in Hell is Other Demons that are hamstrung by some design flaws and technical issues, the latter of which will ideally be fixed in updates. There is a lot to enjoy in Hell is Other Demons for fans of fast-paced action games and for those with a love of 8-bit retro aesthetics, but the difficulty of the game might be off-putting to those looking for a fair challenge, rather than having to play Where’s Waldo? with the enemy’s bullets.

Next: Katana ZERO Review – Mesmerizing Swordplay Dripping with Style

Hell is Other Demons is available for Mac, PC, and Nintendo Switch on April 18, 2019. A digital code for the Nintendo Switch version of the game was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-19 12:04:02

Scott Baird

One Finger Death Punch 2 Review: An Excellent Brawler That Sticks

One Finger Death Punch 2 is a deceptively simple brawler with charm and style to spare. It’s easy to start, but rewardingly difficult to master.

A massive improvement on the original in terms of quality, variety, and polish, Silver Dollar Games’ One Finger Death Punch 2 is a captivating indie brawler that never takes itself too seriously. It shares the deceptively simple premise of its predecessor, in which the player is tasked with killing multitudes of on-screen stick figures using only two inputs to chain over-the-top martial arts combos. However, once it sucks players in with its charm and cartoonishly gratuitous violence, the true challenge and depth of the game is slowly revealed. Playing like the lovechild of Mortal Kombat and arcade rhythm games, One Finger Death Punch 2 is as addictive as it is rewarding.

After a fairly brief but effective series of tutorial levels, One Finger Death Punch 2 looses players upon its main offerings, a remarkably lengthy campaign that mounts in difficulty and variety and Survival, an endless mode that encourages players to climb the leaderboards on a mountain of stick figure corpses. Using either the left and right arrow keys or left and right mouse buttons, a player-controlled stick figure must kill all enemy combatants as they appear on-screen, with the color of these foes indicating what types of enemies they are and how they need to be dispatched. By the time multiple enemy types, weapons, and special abilities have been introduced, it quickly becomes clear that One Finger Death Punch 2 has an fairly high skill ceiling, but it balances its potential difficulty with a handy speed modifier that can scale the game’s pace automatically or manually.

Related: Mechstermination Force Review – A Retro Game in Rare Form

When it all comes together – and the game ensures that this happens frequently – playing One Finger Death Punch 2 feels like reanimating a Chuck Norris joke in glorious fashion. Absurdities such as a loaded gun suddenly appearing in the player character’s hand after catching a bullet bare-handed, wielding a large garden planter like a makeshift club, or spontaneously launching into a perpetual spin-kick become commonplace only a few hours into a playthrough. Comical and self-aware to its very core, booting up One Finger Death Punch 2 feels akin to stepping back into the internet era of Flash games dominated by Newgrounds and Kongregate. That said, some of Silver Dollar’s choices come off as dated, with the announcer’s distastefully poor attempt at a Chinese accent sounding flagrantly out-of-place. Additionally, the exclusively linear movement granted in the campaign’s level select screen works well enough for a first playthrough but is annoyingly restrictive when backtracking, and levels lack any visual or textual identification after their initial completion.

Embracing its tongue-in-cheek identity and combining it with strong arcade influence, even the game’s main menu features two stick figures duking it out while waiting for player input, and after a few more seconds of inactivity an arcadey “demo mode” showcasing gameplay footage will begin playing. One Finger Death Punch 2 is chaos and nostalgia incarnate, and players will be hard-pressed to find another title that allows them to seamlessly transition from unleashing an oversized can of kung fu upon enemies to slaughtering more of them with a Star Wars-inspired “power sword” than Anakin Skywalker in a temple full of younglings. Furthermore, fans of retro arcade fighters like the original Street Fighter games will fall in love with the game’s huge and varied soundtrack, which is replete with fast-paced power melodies that are liable to take some back to the days they spent dropping quarters into a cabinet between gulps of Pepsi Clear.

The game’s appeal isn’t restricted to on-screen insanity and pop culture references, though. Despite its seemingly crude use of stick figures, One Finger Death Punch 2 is a well-polished brawler experience that oozes style. This is primarily thanks to the manner in which it tirelessly juggles a sizable collection of fluid animations, keeping the experience from feeling stale even when the relatively one-dimensional gameplay should have otherwise worn on the player. Cycled in and out at random, these animations expertly craft the illusion that the player character has a unique response to every individual attacker out of dozens. Combined with well-sequenced configurations of weapons and enemy types, cinematic finishers and duels, and more, One Finger Death Punch 2 guarantees that no two campaign levels play exactly the same, and enduring players who reach a new tier of the Survival tower are always in for new surprises.

One Finger Death Punch 2 likes to remind struggling players to not button-mash, as the combat system requires players to prioritize precision even at overwhelming speeds if they want to complete each level with a five-star rating or top the Survival leaderboards. Thankfully, the game can be as relaxing or as hectic as players desire, and even the most casual player should be able to complete the campaign. However, those seeking a challenge should prepare for punishment at higher speeds, but the reward of completing a tough multi-level stage or especially tricky Survival segment after repeated failure is pure catharsis. Misses will quickly become the bane of One Finger Death Punch 2 players’ collective existence, which makes it slightly frustrating when some misses feel cheapened due to the occasional extension of the player’s range, being too hard to predict and sometimes disappearing just as a button has already been pressed. Overall, though, success almost never feels completely out of reach in One Finger Death Punch 2, and it does a commendable job of making the player feel clever in their combat mastery when throwing all-new enemies at them with the confidence that they’ll be able to adapt on the fly.

Finally, the game’s replayability is furthered by a bevvy of upgradeable abilities that can players can respec at no additional cost and a few extra modes hidden away in a the “More” menu. There’s a local co-op Survival tower, a hilarious version of single player Survival with an added catch of a black cat named Luca blocking a major portion of the screen, a training mode, and Gauntlet, which faces players with a randomly ordered board of increasingly difficult levels and provides them the choice of which to tackle next. Small, personal touches like the so-called No Luca No (as well a hidden jump scare that triggers after sitting idle in the menus for too long) are reminders of Silver Dollar Games’ indie size and charm, but that status does not absolve the developer of all criticism. Game-breaking bugs are highly uncommon in One Finger Death Punch 2 but do occur on once in a blue moon. Also, some enemy types are too close in color to others’, which could have been worked around by introducing unique visual elements for each type beyond color-coding – this would be an important change to make from an accessibility stand point, as well, since sight-impaired gamers will likely struggle with the game a bit more than able ones.

One Finger Death Punch 2 is a brawler with a lot of heart, a great sense of humor, and an astonishing amount of depth and content for its relatively low price tag. Those who opt to give it a try will likely at once find themselves entranced by its compelling gameplay, discovering an odd sense of calm in stylishly plowing through swathes of stick figures that wish to do them harm. Of course, it’s not without its flaws, and the gameplay may appear shallow to those who can’t or won’t dive beyond the surface, but players that do will likely agree that One Finger Death Punch 2 is a cut above the rest in 2019’s indie gaming scene.

Next: Pitfall Planet Review – A Pleasant Enough Excursion

One Finger Death Punch 2 will be available on PC on April 15. Screen Rant was a Steam key for review.

2019-04-15 11:04:58

Phillip Tinner

Generation Zero Review: Superb Graphics, Repetitive Gameplay

Avalanche’s Generation Zero boasts an interesting concept and stunning graphics, but it’s far too repetitive and buggy to be worth the ride.

Generation Zero imagines an alternate 1980s Sweden where killer machines invade and players must strategically find a way to survive and push back against the robot threat. This is a premise filled to the brim with possibility and one that a studio like Avalanche should have no problem knocking out of the park. Unfortunately, while Generation Zero brings Sweden to life with superbly detailed graphics and an awesome, ’80s-centric soundtrack, it’s filled with far too many bugs and repetitive missions and combat to sustain such massively detailed world for more than a few hours.

Generation Zero starts players off like most RPG titles by tasking them with creating their own unique character and then dropping them into the middle of Sweden after a brief wall of text explaining the alternate history of this world. These first moments in the game are tense, exciting, and a little disorienting (thanks in large part to the first-person perspective). The scavenging system introduced early on, which consists of looting for guns, ammo, health packs and assorted clothing – which can boost a player’s overall defense in certain areas – points to something akin to a survival game, but Generation Zero never really capitalizes on this.

Related: Dangerous Driving Review: Race, Crash, Repeat

For instance, the tutorial system for combat suggests that players use flares and other items to strategically blind robot enemies and then use guns to finish them off. On paper this would be an intuitive combat system that offers up an endless amount of distinct combat situations that force players to think and utilize tactical thinking. In reality, the combat in Generation Zero is a buggy, unfinished mess.

There are times when flares simply do not work as intended and the machines will ignore them and attack the player anyway. Shooting is erratic and a slight pull of the thumb stick often results in your character aiming in the complete wrong direction. There’s a great disconnect from what the game seemingly wants from players and what can actually be achieved.

Even if the mechanics worked as they should, combat in Generation Zero is unbalanced and kind of a slog. Robots charge with incredible speed and deal ridiculous amounts of damage. Every battle is reduced to all-out fire fights and the combat gameplay issues are compounded later in game when newer, more difficult types of robots are introduced but the strategy stays the same thanks once again to a buggy, broken system. Playing with friends or random people online (Generation Zero allows up to four players to team up) can circumvent this somewhat, but that’s only when the online matchmaking actually functions correctly (which is not often). There’s a sense throughout that the game never should have left its beta phase.

It’s not all bad. The graphics and world of Generation Zero are absolutely stunning and there’s a real aura surrounding it that suggests players are actually inhabiting a world overrun by human-killing robots. From finding homes and buildings previously containing a ragtag group of survivors to encountering the fallen corpses of the recently killed surrounded by defeated machines, Avalanche has created a terrifying, luscious Sweden to explore and survive in. The soundtrack really helps sell this, as well as the ’80s time period that Generation Zero occupies. Electronic, Stranger Things-like tones permeate the game, adding to the foreboding mood of the experience.

While quests all seem to boil down to fetch this, meet these people here, etc. they aren’t restrictive. There’s plenty of incentive to travel the world and find your own adventures. It’s this sense of freedom and role playing that will likely inspire the most replay value for players, especially those in groups of friends. And if that gets boring, there’s always the actual quests, of which there are a vast amount. They’re not always fun and Generation Zero doesn’t seem all that interested in telling a cohesive story, but they’re never as disastrous as the title’s broken mechanics.

Generation Zero is a game with a ton of potential. In fact, given a proper major update or two, it could legitimately be fun and another win for Avalanche following the incredibly entertaining Just Cause 4. In its current state, it’s a mixed bag of a survival action game, with tedious combat and buggy mechanics that detract from what it’s trying to ultimately accomplish. It’s gorgeous to look at, the soundtrack is infectious and the map is well-designed but that’s simply not enough to sustain a large title like this for very long. Players might be better off waiting for some much-needed improvements down the road before spending their hard-earned cash on a game that really could have used another round of fine tuning before release.

More: Overwhelm Review: A Brutally Difficult Retro Sidescrolling Shooter

Generation Zero is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for $39.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.

2019-04-15 10:04:18

Corey Hoffmeyer