World of Warships: Legends Review – Naval Combat vs. Microtransactions

Wargaming’s World of Warships: Legends features a lot of fast-paced and tense naval combat, but its emphasis on microtransactions is aggravating.

World of Warships: Legends is the latest in the “World of” series by developer Wargaming and, like previous games in the free-to-play franchise, it’s a big win. From big, tense naval ship battles to illustrious and smartly designed maps in which to wage war, World of Warships: Legends has plenty to offer nearly every kind of gamer and potentially dozens of hours worth of fun. There are imperfections, some of which have plagued other titles in the series (especially World of Tanks) but none that aren’t present in other “freemium” games like it.

World of Warships: Legends brings the popular PC game to console, not as a port, but as a new game built from the sea floor up. Like the original, Legends puts players in their very own naval warships but in slightly smaller battles of nine versus nine (both with real players and A.I. controlled bots). Like World of Tanks, these battles can be slow to start with, focusing more on team positioning and strategy in the early parts. But once things pick up, there’s a ton of possibility for fast-paced action and suspense. These battles end with either all enemy (or team) ships destroyed or all the bases captured. This means that players must pay attention to how many enemies and allies are remaining as well as how many bases have been captured, ensuring that strategical play is paramount to success.

Related: World of Warships: Legends Preview, Release Date, And Patch Notes

With that in mind, World of Warships: Legends offers three main naval ships to choose from: destroyers, cruisers and battleships (whereas the PC version has five with submarines and carriers). They all have their own strengths and weaknesses (destroyers have low health counts but they’re extremely deadly when it comes to offensive attack) that make them perfectly balanced. And again, strategy really comes into play here, as you can’t just go charging in head on with a destroyer and expect to be successful. Players who aren’t all that into strategy or who didn’t enjoy that aspect of World of Tanks probably will fare no better here either.

Strategy aside, the gameplay in World of Warships: Legends is tremendously polished, especially as both a free-to-play title and a sort-of-port/sort-of-rebuild version of the game for consoles. While the PC version has more variety in ships and modes, the console version is a lot more streamlined, fast-paced, and controlling naval ships is much more fluid as to make the transition from keyboard and mouse to controller more tenable. This was the right move and both ship movement and combat are very easy mechanics to pick up, even if it will take some time for most players to master.

Still, there are the same pitfalls in World of Warships: Legends that have plagued other games in the series, the most notable among them being the game’s cash shop. Not only are the prices more than a little outrageous, but it’s invasive as well. Obviously, as a free-to-play title, Wargaming has to make money somehow, but the rate at which the game reminds you that there’s a premium cash shop is nearly mobile game-esque. Luckily, however, most ships can be purchased without having to spend a dime, but like most free-to-play games, it will take a lot of time and effort.

World of Warships: Legends is a triumphantly tense and fast-paced naval combat game, continuing the World of‘s winning formula of offering highly polished and supremely fun free-to-play titles for console gamers. Despite its limited game modes, there is so much variety in ship and map selection (as well as strategical approach) that it doesn’t wear out its welcome quickly. The premium cash shop is annoying and overly in-your-face, but luckily World of Warships: Legends never actually requires players to purchase anything. All-in-all, this is a game that will launch all torpedoes at your free time, and most will be happy to watch it sink.

More: Our Preview Experience With World of Warships: Legends

World of Warships: Legends is out now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as a free-to-play title. Screen Rant used an Xbox One version of the game for the purposes of this review.

2019-10-01 03:10:15

Corey Hoffmeyer

Rebel Cops PC Review: Well-Made And Very Difficult | Screen Rant

Rebel Cops is a well-made, but difficult turn-based strategy game like XCOM that encourages players to arrest, rather than kill, their opponents.

Rebel Cops is a spinoff title in the This is the Police franchise and the third game from developer Weappy. Unlike the series’ two previous entries however, Rebel Cops exchanges police management and crime investigation for a more straightforward turn-based action experience based on the strategy mode found in This is the Police 2, bringing to mind similar unforgiving grid-based tactical shooters like those of the XCOM series.

Rebel Cops sees the player directing teams of up to six underground police officers (and an additional sniper) who have holed up in the woods after their town, Ripton, was taken over by a Russian gangster. The entire mood of the game, from the text to the music to the art style, feels reminiscent of 70’s era crime dramas, as the outnumbered titular Rebel Cops attempt to retake control of their rural town one area at a time just like some of the best bad action movies.

Related: 10 Best Buddy Cop Movies Ever, Ranked

The game has less missions than one might expect, optional side locations included, but nearly every level can take over an hour to complete, even when holding down the game’s handy “speed up gameplay” button. Play areas in Rebel Cops are massive, sprawling locations, filled with secret loot items, dozens of enemies, and opportunities to get discovered around every corner. Many levels also include additional optional tasks that can affect the way Ripton citizens feel about the player’s underground police force, which in turn impacts item cost and weapon availability in the game’s store.

Rebel Cops wants the player to engage with the game in very determined, patient manner, even though at any moment – unless a current mission’s requirements prohibit it – a player can open fire upon their enemies, likely killing them outright if they have a clean line of sight. There are no hit points in Rebel Cops, save for the two-shot protection offered by expensive body armor, and a simple shot to the hand will end an officer or enemy unless it is treated quickly. However, both the game and the town of Ripton itself would rather officers arrest their opponents, not kill them, unless they have no other choice.

Given that more experience and Rebel Points (more on those later) are earned when enemies are handcuffed rather than shot, players are encouraged to take a non-violent approach whenever possible. In the larger levels this becomes a necessity, as a single wrong step or loud noise can see the player being surrounded by swarms of enemies, and any gun fired without a silencer can draw the attention of everyone in the immediate vicinity. Thankfully, Rebel Cops offers a few concessions in the face of these overwhelming odds.

The first helpful thing Rebel Cops does is give a warning whenever an officer is about to move into an enemy’s line of sight. This is something which will only occur if the currently selected character is nearby another officer, further encouraging players to move slowly and keep their teams together, something which is made much harder to accomplish by taking on the aforementioned side missions, which see assigned characters starting at opposite ends of the map.

The second trick players have up their sleeves has to do with Rebel Points, which are earned by arresting criminals and completing tasks. Using these points a player can give sweeping, party-wide orders such as putting every officer into an Overwatch mode or giving the entire team an extra action point for that turn. Proper use of Rebel Points can mean the difference between life and death, but they are accumulated very slowly and the buffs can become quite expensive, so they must be used sparingly.

On its default setting, Rebel Cops employs a stilted save system which limits the amount of times a player can save the game per level. Considering the size of the levels and the amount of time it takes to finish each one, this is a baffling inclusion. Thankfully, it can be easily disabled in the main pause menu on the off chance a player would like to take a break during, say, a two hour-long mansion siege. While in the pause menu, players may also want to go ahead and adjust the volume sliders for character voice and VFX, which are mixed far higher than they should be, especially considering how good the game’s music is.

While not as deep an experience as This is the Police 2Rebel Cops accomplishes what it sets out to do with determination and confidence. The game is quite difficult and tables can turn in an instant, so newcomers to the turn-based strategy genre may want to begin the game in Relaxed Mode before stepping into the shoes of a hardened police officer. Although it would be nice for the title itself to have been a bit longer and the missions a bit shorter, fans of strategy games like XCOM will find a lot to enjoy in the dangerous town of Ripton.

Next: Untitled Goose Game Review: Wacky Waterfowl

Rebel Cops is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. A PC key was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.

2019-10-01 03:10:05

Christopher Teuton

WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship Review: A Rewarding Rally Racer

WRC 8 is a fantastic spectacle of a racing game, with great attention to detail and improved physics.

WRC 8 FIA World Rally Championship is the latest installment in a long-running series of rally games from developer KTC Racing and publisher Bigben Interactive. The World Rally Championship games are more realistic affairs with plenty of cars to choose from, realistic physics, and numerous stages to tackle an amalgam of challenges across. Based on one of the “most difficult and unpredictable motorsport competitions in the world,” it makes sense that WRC is an attractive prospect for fans of the Dirt or Gran Turismo series. WRC 8 is a solid improvement over the previous installment and a worthy contender when it comes to realistic racers on console and otherwise.

Sports fans will be pleased to know there’s a wide amount of real-world cars to choose from in, which is obviously one of, if not the biggest, draws for the entire thing. From entry-level vehicles to tougher, more powerful rides, an entire spectrum of rally cars are represented here, all customizable to each individual player’s liking. They’re also painstakingly detailed, with a tremendous amount of care having been paid to each individual ride’s look and feel. Paying for the rights to represent a dizzying amount of cars was obviously the right move here, and any rally fan will be thrilled to see all the vehicles in play.

Related: NASCAR Heat 4 Review: A Thrillingly Realistic Racing Game

WRC 8 does include all three official series: the Junior WRC, WRC 2, and the main WRC. Each stage becomes a more challenging endeavor, which even the most seasoned racers may eventually find issue with. There’s a lot to take in, too: a gorgeous new dynamic weather system that makes for some hazardous and difficult driving conditions, for one. There’s even a level that requires players to buckle up and jump into a car on its last legs in the middle of a storm to push it to the end of a race. It’s harsh, unforgiving, and even terrifying – and to have it so early on, it’s a great reminder of what players are up against when jumping into a game this realistic.

This game thrives on throwing curveballs, from twisty tracks set late at night to misty-eyed mornings that will have players reaching for a cup of coffee out of habit. The environments may change, but the challenge doesn’t. Rally cars will soak up dirt like a sponge, whatever the weather conditions are during a certain race will take a toll on them, and even the environment will “rub off” on the vehicles. And it’s not all for the sake of cosmetic changes. These elements will affect rally car visibility, handling, and reliability. This is why players need to keep all their wits about them when behind the wheel.

Everything is made possible, however, by out-of-this-world physics. This year’s game engine features excellent, satisfying handling for each car, but for those who prefer to put their own spin on things, there are an unbelievable amount of ways to customize how a car feels. This is great news for anyone who’d like to play with a racing wheel, which this title was practically made for. Jumping behind the stationary wheel feels like a dream, because it offers the most flexible control possible with a racing title like this one. If one is available, it’s recommended to use it any day over the typical Xbox One controller.

Beyond simply racing through various challenges, players can tackle the Season mode to take the game in large chunks, or pursue Career mode with the ultimate goal of becoming a successful driver. Others are involved as well: an entire crew that must be paid, morale kept in the green, and mood stable. There’s even the manufacturer to keep in mind, and without them, as well as the staff who repair vehicles. It’s a massive undertaking to micromanage every bit of the Career mode, but for players who live for this kind of customization, it’s a special kind of boon.

There’s more to WRC 8 than simply flying solo, however. Of course it comes with a full suite of online multiplayer tools, though competitors have already made it their business to all but master their craft. Still, if playing around with Career mode or simply trying to hone skills isn’t something players are interested in endlessly pursuing, there are great online options to fall back on, with a bustling lobby at this point. Given that there are so few direct competitors to WRC 8, hopefully things remain this way.

WRC 8 is not a game for novice racers, which may be a turn-off for some. But for those who live for the thrill of the unknown as it relates to hitting the road and tearing up the track, it’s a stupendous celebration of vehicular matter.

Next: GRID Preview – Test Your Racing Skills Against 400 AI Drivers

WRC 8 is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC  now. A digital Xbox One code was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.

2019-09-25 06:09:19

Brittany Vincent

Borderlands 3 Review: The Ultimate FPS/RPG Hybrid | Screen Rant

Seven years after the last proper Borderlands adventure, this latest entry in the saga proves Gearbox is as committed to FPS action as RPG mechanics.

Back in 2009, Gearbox first unleashed Borderlands upon an unsuspecting public. An unprecedented mix of Diablo-style RPG progression, frantic co-op FPS action, and a cel-shaded art style best described as “Mad Max as a Saturday morning cartoon on LSD.” The game was a critical and commercial success, and expansions, sequels, and spinoffs turned the scrappy genre mashup into one of 2K Games most venerated franchises.

Seven years after Borderlands 2 (and five years after the frequently overlooked The Pre-Sequel), a new numbered sequel is finally here, though the game itself has been unfairly overshadowed by the numerous controversies involving behind-the-scenes antics going down at Gearbox. In the months leading up to release, Borderlands 3 earned memetic status for its background drama, including 2K Games’ refusal to send out review copies to most outlets until the day of release. A narrative was being painted, in large part by the creators themselves, and it wasn’t shaping up to be a pretty picture.

Related: Which Borderlands 3 Character Should You Choose?

In hindsight, it’s disappointing that Gearbox found themselves so frequently in proverbial hot water, since Randy Pitchford would have been much better off allowing Borderlands 3 to speak for itself. The final result is a triumph in iterative game design, with numerous quality-of-life improvements over its predecessors, stellar production values, and a cast of colorful and creatively versatile playable characters. The promise of Borderlands has always been the marriage of first person shooting and role playing progression, and Borderlands 3 finally brings the former up to date with the latter without watering down any of the complex RPG elements that give the series its long-term depth.

As in every game in the series, Borderlands 3 stars a quartet of Vault Hunters, freelance mercenaries who aim to shoot their way to fortune and glory over the course of a 30 hour story mode, before doing it all again in New Game Plus, known here as True Vault Hunter Mode. Again, like in the past, these Hunters invariably find themselves caught up in the corporate espionage between the massive (and massively unhinged) titans of industry. The new antagonists in Borderlands 3, twin Sirens Tyree and Troy, don’t hold up to the legendary Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2, but they certainly have their moments, but their “Streamer/Influencer” shtick can grow tiresome at times, much as it does for real life streamers and influencers. Many characters return from past Borderlands games, including Rhys and Vaughn from Telltale’s acclaimed Tales from the Borderlands, but most of these returning champions are distilled to their base personalities, serving more as one-liner fodder and jolly cameos than adding anything truly meaningful to the plot.

The story gains momentum and improves as the adventure continues, but the writing ranges from laugh-out-loud hilarious at its best to eye-rolling and cringe-inducing at its worst. At the very least, Borderlands 3 tries to be funny at nearly every turn, and there is virtue in that ambition. Even simple side quests are given a layer of added flavor via the inclusion of jokes, quirks, and other assorted silliness.

The core gameplay loop of Borderlands 3 should feel familiar to fans of the series. Either alone or with up to three co-op friends, Vault Hunters must complete missions, kill monsters and psychotic bandits, and level up to improve their skills, customizing their character to fit their play style. The secret sauce of Borderlands, so to speak, has always been the sublime combination of RPG and FPS. Essentially, it’s like Doom meets Diablo, though the shooting has often been criticized for feeling slow and a bit clunky, especially in solo play. This time around, the team at Gearbox has made a considerable effort to improve the core shooting and movement. Borderlands is still as much of an RPG as it’s ever been, but the moment-to-moment gameplay has finally caught up to the other side of the experience. Vault Hunters can now climb objects and mantle over waist-high objects, and gunplay has been tuned to keep combat flowing at a more kinetic pace. Borderlands 3 finally feels like a legitimate shooter, but at no cost to the RPG elements so beloved by hardcore fans.

The aesthetic of Borderlands 3 is as colorful as ever. It doesn’t look leaps and bounds better than The Handsome Collection on PlayStation 4, but the subtle differences are nonetheless evident in motion. Animations are less robotic than before, and enemies can be knocked off their feet by shotgun blasts, adding extra dynamics to gun battles, and additional utility to the shotguns themselves. Lighting, in particular, is hugely improved, giving explosive kills an extra punch. These improvements come courtesy of the switch to Unreal Engine 4, though they come at a cost. On PlayStation 4 Pro, there are two modes: a “high performance” mode that targets 60 FPS, and a “high resolution” mode that targets 30. Neither of these modes hit their target frame rates, but the resolution mode is nearly unplayable at most times, leaving the performance mode (which is always above 30 FPS, but rarely ever a full 60) the only truly viable option. Base PS4 users are stuck with a 30 FPS mode, but at least it sticks much more closely to its target.

Split screen play returns in Borderlands 3, but it only supports two players per console. After being spoiled by glorious four-player local play in the PS4 ports of the older games, it’s a shame to see the number of players halved. At least local sessions can still play online with others. Still, considering the numerous visual improvements made to the game over its predecessors, it’s an understandable concession. Unfortunately, local play on PS4 Pro, even on the performance mode, is far from optimal, to the point where it negatively impacts gameplay. Trying to snipe a bandit at 100 meters is exceedingly difficult when the frame rate frequently drops to the mid teens or below.

The problem hurts Borderlands 3 especially bad because it’s a game best played with friends. If one aims to play Borderlands 3 with friends, playing online is the best option. The more bullet-spongy enemies are easier to take down with a friend or three, and the ability to revive allies is a game-changer, especially in boss fights that can become more frustrating than fun when tackled alone. A team of Vault Hunters working together can handle almost any situation. There are few joys more satisfying than having one player provide covering fire with a Jakobs sniper rifle while another player runs deep into the fray with a Cryo weapon, freezing enemies so the sniper can line up unimpeded headshots. There aren’t many co-op games that truly fulfill their objective of allowing players to bounce off each other, using skills to enhance the team and conquer the enemy, but Borderlands 3 absolutely nails it.

In the lead up to Borderlands 3, there was concern this sequel would be mildly iterative, essentially more of the same fans had already enjoyed with the older Borderlands games. At the end of the day, Borderlands remains a singular experience without peer. It doesn’t feel like The Division, Destiny, or even Shadow Warrior 2, fellow entries in the so-called “looter shooter” genre. Seven years have passed since the last numbered entry in the series, but Borderlands hasn’t lost any of its luster. Borderlands 3 does not reinvent the wheel, and it’s not competing with those aforementioned games. It’s running its own race. Borderlands 3 doesn’t make leaps to modernize the franchise, but the multitude of tiny improvements go a long way towards making Borderlands 3 the absolute best experience it can possibly be.

More: The Best Borderlands 3 Tips & Tricks Guide

Borderlands 3 is out now on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A PlayStation 4 digital code was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review. Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.

2019-09-25 06:09:03

Zak Wojnar

Untitled Goose Game Review: Wacky Waterfowl | Screen Rant

Untitled Goose Game is an endearing and enjoyable combination of stealth, slapstick, and sandbox, but it ends before it gets the chance to truly spread its wings.

Geese are naturally funny animals. The way they waddle. The way they honk. The way they chase off humans who get too close. Out of all the waterfowl, geese are arguably the funniest. They are also criminally underrepresented in the world of video games, but Untitled Goose Game is here to address that. This stealth-puzzle-comedy game stars a powerful white goose and includes all the honking, flapping and pecking that you can handle. Surprisingly, though, Untitled Goose Game is very reminiscent of Hitman in its design. The goose’s solitary quest to mess with the peaceful inhabitants of a village is a clever arrangement of stealth puzzles and physical gags, but it’s over so soon that it just feels like an elaborate proof of concept in the end.

Untitled Goose Game was developed by Melbourne-based indie team House House and published by Panic, with government assistance from the Australian state of Victoria. The setup is simple, but rife with possibilities: you play as a horrible goose in a small, picturesque village full of quaint, peaceful people. When I say “horrible goose,” I mean that this goose’s reason for being is to torment the villagers by tricking them, scaring them, stealing their stuff, making them hurt themselves, and more. This dratted goose waddles through the village, encountering ever more people going about their daily routines and discovering new ways to bamboozle them. Once the goose has adequately ruined a person or group’s morning, the next area of the village opens up and the goose goes on to cause even more mishaps.

Related: The Sojourn Review – A Puzzling Situation

The goose has four basic abilities: running, flapping, honking, and grabbing stuff with its beak. This might sound like an extremely limited toolkit, but using these tools creatively is the central conceit of Untitled Goose Game. Aside from the obvious comic effects that these avian talents have, they’re a delightful way of manipulating the AI to fulfill the game’s objectives. Here’s where the Hitman comparison comes in: each smartly-designed area has a “target” (or “targets”) that you’re meant to harass by solving equally clever and varied stealth puzzles. Making a gardener hammer his thumb (by sneaking up behind him and honking) or stealing a boy’s glasses (by pecking apart his shoelaces and making him fall) are just a couple examples of how the game hybridizes puzzle-solving with slapstick comedy to great effect.

The other major element of Untitled Goose Game‘s appeal is in its presentation. The game’s aesthetic reflects the kind of humor and charm of a Katamari game, with its cartoonish effects and its vibrant, bold graphics. It’s always fun to see what the next area looks like and find out how the minimalist art style captures another bit of quiet village life (until the goose shows up). Outstanding sound design also plays a big part, especially the game’s adaptive music. A jaunty piano tune rises and falls in intensity along with the goose’s actions, which is the perfect accompaniment to get an extra chuckle out of you as you chase someone down or run away with their property.

Untitled Goose Game may be full of gleeful antics, but the biggest disappointment is that it doesn’t last for very long. If you’re expecting to become the honking scourge of an entire town, you should rein in your hopes; the game involves just a handful of relatively linear areas. A single playthrough only lasts about two or three hours at the most, and the player will see most of what the game has to offer in that time. To its credit, the game does add an expanded list of objectives to complete after finishing it the first time, providing at least a little replay value. But a joke always becomes less funny the more you hear it, and Untitled Goose Game is no different – once you know what to do and have already done it, repeating the gag is much less enjoyable.

Untitled Goose Game feels like the start of something great, but just the start. It’s certainly worth the asking price for those who plan to play it with friends or record it for viewers, but it’s pretty lean as a single-player experience. Still, with this much heart and humor, Untitled Goose Game deserves to succeed and hopefully spawn a more robust sequel. Maybe that sequel will even be titled!

Next: Blasphemous Review – Beautiful Souls

Untitled Goose Game is available now on Nintendo Switch and the Epic Games Store for $19.99. A Switch code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.

2019-09-25 05:09:16

Connor Trinske

NHL 20 Review: Smooth As Ice | Screen Rant

NHL 20 delivers fast, fluid, and frequent action on the ice, offering the best core gameplay mechanics seen on this console generation.

NHL 20 offers players the most progressive slide forward in terms of core gameplay mechanics that the current console generation has seen, but did EA Sports do enough to build from the solid platform that the core mechanics provide? After checking out this year’s take featuring the likes of the new Eliminator game modes, an updated franchise experience, and deking our way through the online action, we can firmly attest that NHL 20 represents the best of what the franchise offers on the current console generation – though some game modes seem to have been left on the bench.

When NHL 19 announced that the series was going to switch over to the Real Player Motion engine that powers the likes of the FIFA franchise, there were always going to be growing pains. Now that the NHL developers have had time to acclimate to the engine however, they seem to have struck a fine chord between realistic player and puck physics and an intuitive stick control system. NHL 20 is perhaps the most fluid-feeling NHL game of all-time, with the in-game skate, deke, and checking mechanics all working together relatively flawlessly. Given that this is the groundwork the entirety of the game is built off of, this was a major aspect to get right – and that’s exactly what the developers have done.

Related: The Top 50 Players In NHL 20 Unveiled By EA

The theme of borrowing what worked in FIFA extends into HUT, which now features Squad Battles – an single-player experience which allows HUT players to test their squads against celebrity-inspired lineups in offline competition to win points. Ultimate Team now features over 400 hockey icons that players can potentially win in card packs, with the trading card-inspired game mode providing as addictive as ever – which is exactly why EA Sports is keen to invest so much into it.

In stark contrast, the EA SHL and Be A Pro modes have been left almost entirely untouched, with the developers having largely focused on the more-popular World of CHEL instead. Ones and Threes proved to be wildly popular recent additions to the franchise, with EA Sports now updating both modes with battle royale-inspired versions that provide plenty of high-stakes gameplay in a relatively short time frame. The end result is the same Ones and Threes gameplay that fans already liked, but with an optional short tournament elimination system that makes the latter stages feel like a cup final. EA Sports is continuing to compliment World of Chel with weekly cosmetic rewards, and has expanded on last year’s series-first outdoor rink with a selection of new outdoor variants that range from a farmland rink in Saskatchewan-inspired prairies to the Rideau Canal.

Speaking of visuals, gamers will see a jarringly different strategy to how the game presents itself: gone are the NBC television mechanics and the long-time commentary team of Mike Emerick and Eddie Olczyk. The duo have been replaced by radio personality James Cybulski and former hockey pro Ray Ferarro, with NHL creative director William Ho explaining that having local Vancouver-based talent allows the studio to update commentary lines on a more regular basis. Given that this is their first year of action, some of the commentary feels repetitive at the moment – though hopefully regular audio updates will make this less noticeable as the year goes on. All-in-all, the new visuals come across just as smoothly as the game’s physics engine, and the result is finely-tuned production value that comes in spades.

Fans of Franchise Mode will be happy to hear that EA Sports has invested in some new game-changing elements, which include the likes of line chemistry, coaching staff mechanics, an all-new conversation system, and a new scouting system that combine to provide a fresh coat of paint to a game mode that, despite NHL 19 adding a few bells and whistles, hasn’t seen a large focus like World of Chel. For gamers who enjoy seeing their draft picks blossom into the next Auston Matthews or help their favorite team hoist the Stanley Cup, it’s great to see Franchise Mode get some much-needed love.

Much like the ice that the in-game players ply their trade on, NHL 20 has a stunning amount of polish. The game sets a high quality tone with a physics engine that makes even the most basic actions feel fluid and authentic, and it builds on that feeling with plenty of fun gameplay experiences: whether one chooses to hop into World of Chel and dab after slamming home a slap shot in Ones, break the Leafs’ playoff curse in Franchise Mode, or simply best their friend for bragging rights in a quick game, NHL 20 is the real deal: this is one of the franchise’s best efforts in years. EA Sports may never have blessed it with a storyline mode while leaving the likes of Be A Pro or EA SHL largely untouched, but gamers eager for smooth action likely won’t mind at all.

Next: FIFA 20 Review – Silky Smooth Soccer Skills

NHL 20 is available now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with an Xbox One key for this review.

2019-09-23 06:09:20

John Jacques

Bus Simulator 18 Review: Not Worth the Ticket Price | Screen Rant

Bus Simulator 18 features above average driving mechanics and immersiveness, but is a near-complete failure on a technical and overall fun level.

Playing Bus Simulator 18 is mostly an exercise in frustration and disappointment. While the gameplay itself is solid enough, featuring above average bus driving mechanics and a system that immerses players in its particular world, there are just far too many bugs and technical issues. Developed by Stillalive Studios and first released on PC last year, Bus Simulator 18 has finally come to consoles, though the end result is something that players will probably wish the studio had spent a lot more time fine tuning and doing proper bug testing instead of rushing its release.

Like in previous iterations of the long-running simulator series, Bus Simulator 18 puts players in the position of both driver of their very own bus as well as the one in charge of their own company. The ultimate goal is to grow said company with money, which is earned from delivering passengers safely to their next destination. On the flip side, players will lose money if they drive erratically, run red lights or damage property or their bus. Eventually, players will be able to add new buses with other drivers and really see their company grow. It’s this level of immersiveness that lends the game some early respectability, almost enough to overcome some early nearly-game-breaking bugs, including install and frame rate issues. But the game’s cracks are vast and impossible to ignore for long.

Related: Another Review of Bus Simulator

Right from Bus Simulator 18‘s opening moments, which introduce players to a tutorial designed to instruct newbies on how to operate a bus properly, the Xbox One version of the game’s technical issues make an early appearance. Overwhelming lag and frame rate drops immediately make traversing the map nearly impossible. These issues pass eventually but it’s such an alarmingly jarring first impression that it might be enough to turn away certain players, especially mixed in with the title’s infuriating loading times. All of these issues compounded on top of each other doesn’t really spell good things for the rest of the game and, surely enough, they are issues that happen consistently throughout.

Bugs and technical glitches aside, Bus Simulator 18 simply doesn’t sustain the fun for very long. In fact, the title can be downright difficult to keep up with after awhile. Getting from one bus stop to another is timed by a clock on the screen that counts down as you drive, which at first adds a fun wrinkle to the game. But the other cars’ A.I. is so dreadfully bad that it’s nearly impossible to make it to the next destination in time. While this won’t fail the game, it does cut into profits earned, which would be fine if it were a fair system populated with smart and adaptive artificial intelligence. As it is, cars stop in the middle of intersections for no reason, pedestrians randomly stop walking in the middle of a crosswalk, and dozens of other little occurrences frequent the experience and are absolutely head-scratch-worthy.

The driving mechanics in Bus Simulator 18 are really the game’s main saving grace, at least when the rest of the title is running smoothly. There’s a detailed but not unpleasant learning curve to how the bus operates, what prerequisites need to be met before the bus can be moved, and to using every facet of the bus’s functions to ensure maximum time saved and money earned. It’s here where a good game starts to bleed through and that the title lives up to its simulator-promising name. It’s just simply not enough to make up for everything else that Bus Simulator 18 gets so disappointingly wrong.

Bus Simulator 18 is a highly flawed simulator game loaded technical problems, buggy A.I., and a lack of fun. The driving itself and its sense of immersion are both big positives, but they’re never quite enough to overcome the flaws. Still, for super fans of the series who desperately need their fix of bus simulation, it might be enough for them to overlook the bad. For everyone else, this is a ride that’s simply not worth the ticket price.

More: All-New Microsoft Flight Simulator Coming to PC

Bus Simulator 18 is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for $39.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.

2019-09-23 05:09:47

Corey Hoffmeyer

Space Cows Review: One Small Step for Cow | Screen Rant

Space Cows is one of the most mediocre twin-stick shooters on the Nintendo Switch.

Space Cows is about as dry as they come when compared to the plethora of other twin-stick shooters already available on the Nintendo Switch. The actual gameplay mechanics found throughout are fine, it’s all the design choices surrounding them that work to hurt the game more than help it. Space Cows does have a few moments of fun, but arbitrary difficulty, dry humor, and weaker controls than the competition make this a game that’s not really worth playing.

There’s a story to be found but it never gets any meaningful focus. It also doesn’t have to. The game takes place in space, there are cows, a bunch of aliens that need to be shot and a protagonist who flies around each stage naked. At first, the game gives off the impression that it’s made for kids. Players will quickly realize that’s not the case. There are a ton of fart noises placed throughout, so much so that it can actually become quite maddening after short periods of play. Space Cows is obviously self-aware but how anyone who had a hand in crafting this title believed that an over-reliance on farts would be funny is mind-boggling.

Related: All The Switch Indie Games Revealed By Nintendo’s Spring Showcase

Space Cows is a really difficult game with a harsh checkpoint system. Levels are linear and lengthy. There’s little room for exploration so players will just be tasked with going from room to room and taking out enemies. This is also where the game can become monotonous as there’s little to no enemy variation until the latter half of the game. Even then though there still isn’t a whole lot. The linear nature of the game makes it so challenges do feel more doable as the player continues to go at them. There is only one checkpoint found in each level so death could result in the loss of a ton of progress.

On that note, Space Cows doesn’t include a lot of levels so this feels more like an arbitrary attempt at adding length to the game. As opposed to feeling triumph, most of the time finishing a level offered a sense of relief that definitely wasn’t fun most of the time. The game isn’t generous when it comes to health either so players will have to really try and get used to the floaty mechanics and abilities. Shooting is slow and overcoming enemies can require some pretty accurate shots. Nothing ever feels rushed or chaotic, and yet, the game can still feel really difficult. Thankfully the abilities work to make things a little bit easier on the player.

Three abilities are given to the player right off the bat and each of them can be strategically used to progress within the game. Dashing allows the player to have some invincibility for a short period of time. Slow-motion is pretty self-explanatory and doesn’t provide too many benefits outside of some more strategic movement. Lastly, there’s a combo bar that, once filled, gives the player a buff that lets them shoot stronger and faster bullets. Having access to every ability early gives the game a chance to counteract some of its difficulty as players can learn to utilize each skill to their benefit. In this regard, the game actually works pretty well, even if it lacks a sense of growth. Most other games in the genre offer roguelike elements that help add refreshing new mechanics on top of what’s given right at the start. Space Cows doesn’t do that and it’s a worse game for it. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the gameplay it’s just the linear levels and reoccurring enemies that push things to get old very fast.

As far as level design goes, Space Cows is fine. The linear levels have a couple of standout moments where players get locked in a room filled with obstacles and enemies. Boss battles are also quite challenging and pretty rewarding to overcome. Most of the levels are also filled with collectibles in the form of cows. To acquire them, the player will have to complete a brief minigame that feels totally out of place in a twin-stick shooter. All of these minigames are essentially browser games that really just act only to pad the game’s short runtime. They’re each simple enough where the game doesn’t have to do much to explain how they work to the player. The game also encourages players to tackle them since they offer some bonus HP.

There are plenty of far better twin-stick shooters on the Nintendo Switch. Space Cows is a game that can just get by due to the fact that its core gameplay and a few standout moments are acceptable enough. The title should mostly appeal to those trying to have as many fresh twin-stick experiences as they can. For everyone else though, this title is definitely not worth investing time into. It’s unfunny and hovers somewhere in between totally mediocre and completely terrible.

More: The Worst & Best Nintendo Games Of All Time According To Metacritic

Space Cows is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC. A Nintendo Switch code was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.

2019-09-23 05:09:09

Jordan Boyd

Later Alligator Review: Bite-sized and Beautiful | Screen Rant

Later Alligator will love you, but inevitably leave you wanting more.

Few would be able to resist the robust charms of Later Alligator, a new adventure game packed with humor, absurdity, and no shortage of reptilian puns. While developer Pillow Fight’s previous work seems to have been primarily situated in the visual novel genre, their newest game detours into a kind of Professor Layton-like, a straightforward point-and-click adventure punctuated by one-off mini-games and hunts for collectibles. The entire experience is bite-sized and beautiful, and while some players may bemoan the relative scarcity of content, you can’t stay mad when being serenaded by an animated alligator playing a mandolin.

Alligator New York City is an urban, noir-tinged environment populated entirely by alligator people (and possibly a few ghosts). Interestingly, the game is played from a kind of first-person perspective, and determining who exactly the main controllable character is or what they are doing here is a persistent mystery that hovers on the periphery. Regardless, they have come at the whim of Pat the Alligator, an adorable nebbish convinced that their family is plotting some nefarious scheme. Pat tasks you with reaching out to each of them to determine if a sinister plot is indeed afoot, and otherwise retaining your services as protector. You’re then off to wander a few different areas in ANYC to question the locals and get up and personal with family gossip.

Related: L.A. Noire 2 Updates – Will Rockstar Make A Sequel?

Later Alligator is entirely hand-drawn and animated in spellbinding fashion. Most of the backgrounds are drawn in shades of gray (which helps the gator denizens stand out), and while the level of detail is always fairly minimalistic, every character is a flurry of vibrant personality. While there isn’t any voice acting to be found, all of the dialogue text is amusing when it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s all bolstered by brilliant art design and characterful reactions. A single conversation can elicit a half dozen or more different character animations, which floods each interaction with whimsical energy. It’s sometimes altogether saddening when you realize that you’ve exhausted a single character’s span of dialogue, only because it means a given character cannot be engaged with them further.

The humor is generally lighthearted but perceptive, relying on puns and banter as well as insightful social observations. For instance, Pat’s father stands chuckling by his trusty grill as a fountain of dad-jokes, but also interjects them with solemn self-aware qualifications that somehow make them even funnier. Or the “Eat-Mergency” stand in the park, which combines fast food with a themed commentary on the sorry state of health insurance. So, there’s some pointed teeth to the humor, but it’s generally light, accessible, and enjoyable, based purely on the very high writing standard.

The minigame portions are, expectantly, hit or miss. The game’s trailer boasts “over 25 minigames,” which is an extremely generous take, as quite a few of the games are essentially luck-based or silly busywork. The first one you will probably “play” is a three-card monty game with Slick Mickey outside Pat’s hotel and is essentially impossible to lose. Will you laugh when you play it, anyway? Most certainly, but some players might see this and some comparably shallow minigames as little more than padding.

Still, much like Professor Layton or Puzzle Agent, there is also magic to the sheer diversity of encountering multiple types of games that never really overlap with each other. In one instance you might be spotting the differences between a work of art and a forgery, and later on you’re protecting a sleeping baby gator’s crib from ghosts. As a matter of fact, both of these specific minigames are considerably more involved than others, and a higher percentage of these types would have been welcome, but there remains a pleasantly anarchic, box-of-chocolates quality to what the next family member might be tasking you with this time.

However, not quite everything in the game feels fully-baked. There’s some weird under-explored thread about insects, whether as something alligators eat or possibly as a type of fuel for the trolley? There’s also a low-hanging-fruit ongoing joke of putting “Alligator” in front of proper names which confirms the game’s goofy fictional universe (as in “Alligator Long Island” or the “YACA” instead of the YMCA), but then other situations will inconsistently reference real-world things nakedly, like the restaurant Sizzler or the internet handle “Gandalf Da Bey.” Usually, the inherent absurdist energy does justify anything getting tossed into the blender for a laugh but, in such a short game, minor worldbuilding inconsistencies as these seem more noticeable.

These are all admittedly nits being picked, and the rambunctious atmosphere and hilarious irreverence makes playing Later Alligator a constant joy. A given playthrough should only take about an hour and a half, but there are a few things to go back for in pursuit of the complete ending. There’s even something of a time mechanic, where playing mini-games and traveling to different areas ticks down a clock, but it’s manageable and unobtrusive unless you really get in the weeds, which is doubtful.

There’s also a swinging and addictive soundtrack, which does as much heavy lifting as the writing and visual design. Almost every screen in the game contains its own bespoke theme, and there are little exclamations and murmurs in the audio mix that add even more color and life to certain characters. An upcoming announcement for a physical soundtrack release seems thankfully unavoidable.

Later Alligator is the perfect Sunday afternoon game, many miles away from considerably more epic and demanding time-sinks, and most any player will want to return to its world to fully rinse the breadth of content to be found. Pillow Fight has made a real gem, and their outstanding creative instincts and sense of humor can be found in every clickable corner of the modest little world they’ve crafted. Overall, Later Alligator will love you, but inevitably leave you wanting more.

More: The 10 Best Film Noir Movies Of All-Time

Later Alligator is out now on PC/Steam with a suggested retail price of $17.99 (a limited-time launch-event sale reduces that down to $14.75). A digital PC copy was provided to Screen Rant for purposes of review.

2019-09-23 05:09:00

Leo Faierman

eFootball PES 2020 PS4 Review | Screen Rant

PES 2020 is the most realistic and mechanically sound game in the franchise yet.

eFootball PES 2020 is Konami’s best chance yet at cementing its long-running soccer series as a legitimate FIFA contender. Impressive new partnerships around UEFA Euro 2020 have made the game feel like a big deal, as is the addition of an exclusivity deal with Juventus that makes PES 2020 the only place fans of that club can play as their favorite team this year. It’s a remarkable turnaround for the franchise and one that felt very preventable from its competition, but that’s neither here nor there – now it’s about whether or not PES 2020 can capitalize on its sudden good fortune.

The answer to that question varies depending on the gameplay element fans are examining, but for the most part, the game succeeds in putting its best foot forward as a legitimate alternative to the erstwhile FIFAPES 2020 is to FIFA what amateur wrestling is to the WWE – it swaps out a lot of the flashy elements and over-dramatic storytelling for a solid technical base that will wow those who have a keen knowledge of the sport but potentially bore those who are looking for more arcade-style soccer. PES 2020 is the most realistic and mechanically sound game in the franchise yet, however, and that’s high praise for a series that has staked a claim to those characteristics throughout its history as its most obvious selling points.

Related: FIFA Loot Boxes Aren’t Gambling According to UK Commission

The first thing fans will notice about PES 2020 is the introduction of the Stadium camera angle, an addition that works wonders for the aesthetic and feel that the series has always aimed for. Stadium essentially faithfully recreates a soccer broadcast in-game, trading close-ups of players for a wider view of the pitch and the stadium. The latter element is the key here – PES 2020 has some of the most gorgeous, detailed stadiums in the business, and they’re at their best and brightest when viewed in the camera mode named after them. The universal appeal of Manchester United’s Old Trafford or, naturally, Juventus’ Allianz Stadium are on full display in this mode and, although it seems perhaps superficial to suggest it is a key selling point, it really bears playing to fully understand.

The next big change to PES 2020 – aside from the name change, which emphasizes a focus on esports and clunky titles – is the one that comes to Master League. PES has always lacked in the career mode department, offering very rote interpretations of soccer stardom. While the career mode for players continues to feel like much less than it could be, the Master League mode is a wonderful touch on managerial duty, one that encompasses the whole wide world of soccer in entertaining ways. That mode has been supplemented with cutscenes this year, some of which feature dialogue options. It’s not a lot, and it certainly doesn’t rival its chief competitor in terms of telling a compelling story, but it’s a lovely addition that really adds a human touch to a mode that can too often break down into statistical breakdowns and number crunches for the most efficient lineups.

Master League isn’t flawless, however. It recycles a lot of player models as the years progress, leading to weird doppelganger scenarios where it feels like stars from a decade ago are just playing wearing a fake moustache and a name pulled out of a random generator. The mode would benefit from randomizing character models, too, even if it means some of the future generation look like a six-year-old went wild in the character creation settings (which are pretty detailed in PES 2020). Likewise, it would be nice if choice actually mattered much in Master League – over several years of club management, it mostly amounted to whether or not the manager wanted to be cocky or humble.

Fans don’t really flock to PES games for the cinematics, though. PES 2020 delivers where it matters most, offering up the most realistic slice of footie this side of joining the roster of a training team. One of the big selling points of this year’s offering is its continued attention paid towards complex or nuanced game mechanics that will always give a more studious, talented player the edge. Here, that manifests as a Finesse system that gives players the most one-on-one control in a soccer title ever. There’s also a heavier focus on players’ getting their angles right on passing and shooting that can lead to frustration, but it’s all done in the name of creating the most true-to-form recreation of soccer possible. Player error is, after all, part of the real sport’s appeal – the dizzying highs of perfect passing spelled by the crushing lows of an own goal or a terrible mistake. Those are, without a doubt, very present within PES 2020.

PES 2020 also slows down its take on soccer this year after fans complained about the last offering trending too much toward the quick and flashy pace of other franchises. That’s a much better fit for PES 2020, which is more enjoyable despite being noticeably slower. There’s more room to maneuver and get passes right, which is key thanks to the way angles come into play at basically all times, and it mimics the rising crescendo of a perfect attack beautifully. Those who admire soccer for its ability to pain beautiful pictures featuring pristine passes and player movement will be right at home watching PES 2020 – and playing it, of course – and it’s a testament to the realism of the product that it can sometimes feel like a perfect recreation of professional soccer.

If there’s a major shortcoming, though, it’s in PES 2020‘s online offering. Matchday brings very little to the table that isn’t already done better in FIFA, and the other online modes feel bare bones compared to the more robust offerings of other sports simulators. It’s by no means bad – it’s just unexciting, especially with the rebrand. eFootball PES 2020 got its ridiculous name because Konami really wanted to lean into the fact it’s the best platform in soccer sims for esports competitions, and the online systems don’t really feel like that’s the case from a presentation standpoint. Here is where, if the single-player campaigns were going to remain devoid of flash and rely on substance, a bit of glitz should have been applied. Some sparkle would’ve done wonders for online, and it’s a missed opportunity.

Overall, PES 2020 still lacks some of the more dynamic elements of other sports franchises, especially a compelling single-player mode that tells a unique story. While that wasn’t always an important requirement, it’s almost 2020 now – nearly every sports series has something like a career mode/film hybrid, and PES 2020 doesn’t. Somehow, though, it feels like that’s not going to matter for hardcore soccer fans. When players take to the pitch, no matter what mode they’re playing, they’re getting the best on-field soccer video game experience in the world at this moment. That’ll speak volumes, the kind that no amount of talented actors, writers, and cutscene animators can drown out – the kind that reverberates like a stadium of fans holding their breath, waiting for the next beautiful moment. That’s PES 2020, and it’s the closest developers have ever come to translating the complicated language of soccer into a video game simulation.

Next: Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 Review – A Smooth Football Experience

PES 2020 is available now for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Screen Rant was provided with a digital PS4 code for the purposes of this review.

2019-09-14 02:09:25

Cody Gravelle