Tag Archives: Video Game

Ratchet & Clank Makes Qwarktastic Debut

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In 2002, Insomniac Games and the Sony Playstation 2 brought us the story of a Lombax and a robot that would save the universe.

Fourteen years later, Ratchet and Clank not only have an army of hit games under their belt, but are making their feature film debut both on the big screen and at home on the Playstation Network.

The movie follows a plot similar to the first game with a few storylines from subsequent games tied in to add more elements.

Ratchet dreams of being a Space Ranger but is stuck in a monotonous life as a spaceship mechanic until a defective robot he names Clank crash lands on Ratchet’s home planet Veldin.

Although he’s already been turned down to join the Space Rangers by his hero Captain Quark, Ratchet is convinced by Clank’s inside information to warn the team of an imminent attack by the evil Chairman Drek and mad scientist Dr. Nefarious.

After discovering more details of Drek and company’s evil plan, our two heroes join the Space Rangers on a galaxy saving quest filled with weapons, gadgets and hijinx that remind us why we fell in love with the franchise in the first place.

In addition to the big names cast (Paul Giamatti, Rosario Dawson, John Goodman and Sylvester Stallone), one of the finer points of Ratchet & Clank is the inclusion of nearly every main voice actor from the original games. James Arnold Taylor, David Kaye, Jim Ward and Armin Shimerman do a wonderful job reprising their roles, bringing smiles to nostalgic faces and life to their characters ways only they can.

We also see many weapons featured throughout the series’ tremendous catalog of games. One of the highlights is the appearance of the Sheepinator while one of the lowlights is the R.Y.N.O.’s (Rip You a New One) cameo as it’s destructive power never materializes to the big screen.

Another issue is that despite being a key factor of the series and gameplay, none of the weapons evolve and if they do, the audience is never informed of it.

Although Ratchet & Clank’s cinematic debut holds its own as a standalone film, there are tiny nods to the franchise that aren’t present in the final cut. Having said that, a solid story that stays true to the source material, delightful humor, playful visuals and an excellent cast is more than a fan of the beloved franchise could ever hope for.

Warhammer End Times: Vermintide

Warhammer End Times: Vermintide is a new FPS from developer Fatshark, who are perhaps best known for their Medieval combat game, War of the Roses.

The game takes place in the Warhammer fantasy universe (the lesser-well known sibling of the futuristic Warhammer 40k), both tabletop games from developer Games Workshop. While perhaps not everyone’s favorite Games Workshop IP, Warhammer fantasy still brings rich lore and fun gameplay mechanics to the table. Unlike Warhammer 40k, however, Warhammer fantasy has traditionally not translated as well to the electronic medium.

Vermintide heavily pays homage to Left 4 Dead, with four adventurers fighting through swarms of Skaven- evil humanoid rats with a hatred for mankind in place of zombies. Much like L4D, there are several “special” enemies that have different abilities than the average Skaven.

This is where Vermintide begins to fall short, with the unique Skaven being almost complete rip-offs of L4D enemies. For example, there is an enemy called the Packmaster which hooks players and drags them off (much like the Smoker from L4D), and a Hunter-esque enemy called the Gutter Runner, which leaps onto the player and pins them down while stabbing them. Vermintide even features a direct rip-off of L4D’s tank enemy called the Rat Ogre. Other than the unique Skaven that clearly rip-off L4D, Vermintide’s standard enemies are just plain boring. Hordes of rats run at you much the same way the standard infected in L4D do, with no regards to their own personal safety. That would be fine if every level didn’t include these same enemies either standing around doing nothing or blindly rushing at you like crazy Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday. After a while, players will find it almost becomes a chore simply cutting through the same enemies over and over again.

Vermintide’s other big problem is the optimization. Sudden frame rate drops, random bugs and crashes plague Vermintide at random intervals. Even the best machines it seems have sudden frame drops for no apparent reason.

Other than optimization issues, Vermintide’s bugs can make the game range from absolutely hilarious at times to down right frustrating. Many of these bugs happen when one of the game’s special enemies attacks and include players being launched into the sky where their allies can’t save them, or pulled through walls by the Packmaster’s hook. Enemies sometimes even seem to spawn out of nowhere and/or teleport with no explanation as to how. Certain levels also contain easily exploitable designs, making the threat of certain enemies (such as the Rat Ogre) completely moot.

Vermintide’s loot system (while innovative) also fall short. Players may customize their chosen hero with different equipment from weapons to trinkets which add special abilities. At the end of each level, a number of dice are rolled to determine which piece of loot the player receives for winning with higher dice rolls netting the player rarer and more powerful items. These dice rolls can be augmented with pick-ups throughout the level, which add more dice that have a better chance at higher rolls.

Unfortunately because it is completely random, even with the best dice there is no guarantee the player will receive a rare item. This can be very frustrating,  as pretty much the only way to beat higher difficulty levels and ultimately receive rarer loot is to outfit yourself with rare items.

Combat can also be very tedious. Each character is equipped with both a ranged and melee weapon and while some of the weapons are fairly unique, the fighting itself is very straightforward and standard.

For a game whose primary focus is close-quarters combat, Vermintide’s melee combat is just plain boring, usually turning into button mashing as you cut down hordes of enemies. There are no combos and only two different types of attacks – regular “light” hits and heavier “sweeping” hits for crowd control (performed by holding down the attack button briefly). There’s also a block button, but enemies can break your block after just a few hits (more or less depending on the enemy), rendering blocks mostly useless.

One aspect in which Vermintide does well is the playable characters. There are five heroes to choose from, each of which brings a unique gameplay style and a role that they fulfill within the group.

The Soldier for example, uses mostly large melee weapons and powerful muskets/blunderbusses, makes for a great heavy hitter and also can use his huge sweeping attacks for crowd control. The Witch Hunter is almost a hybrid class with a good balance of quick melee and ranged attacks. The Elf Archer is pretty standard, providing ranged support with the quick-firing bow while also able to provide quick melee strikes. The Dwarf Ranger makes a great tank, as his default weapon is an ax/shield combo allowing him to form a living wall in the small corridors and alleyways the players often traverse. Rounding out the list is the Battlemage, who is perhaps the most unique hero of all. While having a fairly week melee attack, the Battlemage can use powerful and fast ranged spells to utterly blow away hordes of Skaven. The Battlemage can also charge up her ranged spell and fire an explosive shard that deals massive damage.

Unfortunately, where Vermintide goes right is not enough to redeem the entire experience. This very well could have been a great game. It has all the right elements: unique characters, a great IP to work with, an innovative loot system, and tons of replayability. Unfortunately, it falls short in far too many of these areas to make it the next big thing. Vermintide becomes far too grindy and predictable after only a short period of play. Perhaps with some time, developer Fatshark will add content to the game such as new levels and enemies that will make the experience more interesting but until then, Vermintide remains just another mediocre FPS.

Warframe (PC) Review

Warframe is a cooperative free-to-play third person shooter/RPG with the feel of an old-school dungeon crawler.

The game takes place in the far future where the Solar System is overrun with several different races vying for power. You play as a Tenno, essentially the last remnants of humanity that use different armors (aptly named warframes) to do battle with the warlike Grineer – the technologically advanced Corpus, and the biological Infestation. After being awakened by a woman known as Lotus from a cryogenic sleep, you find yourself struggling to regain your lost power while trying to survive the war-torn solar system.

The main objective of Warframe is to get loot (a lot of it) and level it up. Missions are designed with maximum re-playability in mind, with no two levels being exactly the same. Warframe uses a procedure generated level design based on various tile sets, much like the dungeons of Diablo or Path of Exile. This is good because you will be playing the same levels a lot.  Certain rare resources are best acquired by fighting specific bosses, leading to many replays of specific boss battles in order to farm said resources. While it is possible to buy new weapons, Warframes, keys and other items for real money, it’s not required. Pretty much everything in the game can be unlocked by grinding, save for cosmetic upgrades and more inventory slots.

Coop multiplayer is really where the fun is at in Warframe. Up to four players can fight together in a variety of different mission types from straight-up exterminations to spy missions that require some twitch-based puzzle skills. Players can also form clans and build “dojos”, which are essentially giant space stations for clan members to meet. In the dojo, clan members can duel, trade items, research various items and weapons, or just hang out. Other than dueling, players can also enter PVP areas and fight in teams against other clans.

Movement in Warframe is perhaps one of the best aspects of the game. Your Tenno can run, jump, climb up walls, slide, and perform various other ninja maneuvers. The wall running and jumping isn’t just for show, as many levels require some platforming to advance. The combat is also extremely fluid; switching from ranged to melee is very streamlined, and there are many different weapons to choose from. Each weapon (as well as your warframe) can be leveled up and modded to make them more powerful. Mods can also be combined in different ways to make weapons even more devastating than normal.

In addition to its gameplay, Warframe has a rich lore and aesthetic that is unlike any other game out today. The concept of space-traveling ninjas in the far future is a very odd combination, but it works great. As you progress through the game, you learn more of the back story of each warframe, but also of each enemy type you encounter. The fact that it takes place in our own solar system (albeit well after humanity has largely gone extinct) makes for a new take on the whole post-apocalyptic/scifi genre. This isn’t a world where humanity is barely getting by in a barren wasteland. The Tenno are more of a shadow organization, barely a blip on the radar in this future where aliens rule the solar system, fighting each other for power. You are not here to “reclaim Earth” or help restart the human race in any way, but merely to survive in the chaos our solar system has fallen into.

While there are many great aspects of Warframe, it does have a few downfalls. It is still being actively developed, and so there are some crazy (often hilarious) glitches that happen occasionally. It is also extremely grindy. You can spend hours trying to get one resource without finding any. Having said that, developer Digital Extremes have really gone above and beyond to improve the game from what it once was, adding new maps, enemies, events, and greatly improving the user interface. While not perfect, it is certainly much more polished than it was a year ago, and new content (free content that is) is constantly being implemented.

Overall, while not the greatest game out today, Warframe is certainly very fun. It can get a bit tedious after a while, but if you can find some friends to play with, that definitely helps cut down the boredom caused by grinding for resources. If you are looking to play a game similar to Destiny but only have a PC, than look no further than Warframe. In many ways, Warframe does right the things that Destiny failed on, and while it may not be quite as vast as Destiny, Warframe certainly offers hours of enjoyment to any RPG/dungeon crawler fan.