Game Review: Uncharted 4

“Greatness from small beginnings…”

I spent the week before the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, replaying the original trilogy. I must have played these games at least a half dozen times each by now and I can’t help but be in awe of them yet again. The Uncharted series are arguably  among the greatest games ever created.

Nathan Drake’s adventures are like being part of an Indiana Jones film that goes on for 15 hours. These are beautiful, well written games, filled with characters who you immediately fall in love with and root for. This series always has it’s small share of minor annoyances…and after playing all of them consecutively, I can say that the first Uncharted can be a bit jerky control wise, sometimes making finding cover a chore. Uncharted 2 is rather flawless and EASILY my favorite of the series, with some of the most amazing action set pieces and well balanced gameplay. Uncharted 3 while smooth playing and filled with great moments, is very clunky in the shooting aspect of things, with a rigid cross-hair that you never quite get used to, making combat a genuine chore. These are very minor grievances however, as the pros of this magnificent series far outweigh the cons, making Uncharted an absolute delight to revisit over and over.

Which brings us to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End…Naughty Dogs final adventure with Nathan Drake. And what an adventure it is.

Let’s just get the most noticeable aspect of this game out of the way first, it is absolutely breathtaking visually. Never have I seen visuals on any platform that come close to the level of detail and beauty on display here. This is one gorgeous video game. The sheer amount of time it must have taken to bring this creation to life is unfathomable. This is truly the first “next gen” game to truly showcase what is possible with the power of the Playstation 4. Lush jungles, sandy beaches, ancient castles, all stunningly created and interactive. On more than one occasion, I would stop just to take in the scenery around me and marvel at it’s beauty. It’s that gorgeous.

Uncharted 4 is also the best the series has ever played. Never before has taking cover, shooting and scaling walls felt this good. Some minor button placement changes took a little adjusting, but after a while it truly felt how this series should have played this entire time. New elements such as the grappling hook and sliding down steep hills are a welcome addition and handle wonderfully as well.

My only real problem with Uncharted 4, is a bit hard to put into words without coming across as too critical…and that’s with the pacing. This adventure (like all Uncharted games) is very story driven, but there were times where I felt I was doing a bit too much cut scene watching and not enough playing, a first in this series. Action set pieces, while spectacular as always, do feel a bit few and far between here. There are also some gameplay elements that feel repetitive and tedious…I mean, how many times do I really need to push a crate? I felt myself being taken out of the game quite a few times due to some very oddly placed elements. I also feel that the story being told here, while engaging, well written and furthering the story of young Nathan Drake is kind of a wimpy Macguffin for a final adventure. Nathans brother Sam is a great addition and the chemistry is really great. I also enjoyed the villainous Nadine, who is an absolute badass. Also returning are Sully (who has less of a part to play here) and Elena, who now married to Drake brings a whole other level of complexity and understanding to their already great relationship.

Beautiful, perfectly controlled, wonderfully acted and as marvelous a game as they come, Uncharted 4 stalls a bit here and there, but a bittersweet, yet satisfying ending really wrap things up nicely for this now decade old series.

As much as it makes me sad that there will not be another Uncharted game to look forward to, I am feverishly waiting to see what developer Naughty Dog creates next. After the success of Uncharted and The Last of Us, they have proven they understand that gaming is a medium that can transcend a narrative driven experience in ways that books and cinema cannot.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune 4/5
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 5/5
Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception 3.5/5
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 4.5/5

-Sock Talk Jon-

Sock Talk Podcast Episode 54: We Found God…With An Underage Kid

Logo


Episode Runtime:
2:09:48
Episode Summary:

Welcome back to Sock Talk! This week Phil Healy and Jon Caron, the producers of the documentary  “My Name Is Jonah” go one on one and tackle everything from the evolution of video games, to the evolution of mankind. One of our more thoughtful episodes, this one runs the full gamut.

Music intro and outro: Provided by Timothy Fife

Phil Healy Website: I Hunger Productions
Jon Caron Website: Asylum Studios Photography + Design

Game Review: Lords of the Fallen

Diet Dark Souls





There is definitely no mistaking the similarity between Lords of the Fallen and the Demons/Dark Souls games, it’s very much a take on that innovative and challenging Souls style gameplay which has made many a gamer want to break their controller in frustration. But, in a good way.

Lords of the Fallen is a very difficult game to review, because for everything it does right, there is something extremely important it does wrong. Let’s start with the most simple, cosmetics. Playing through this game on Xbox One, it looks like someone smeared Vaseline over the screen…this game is blurry. Like, you can tell there is a good looking game underneath the haze, but it never seems to lift…I know Lords of the Fallen is also on PC, but the graphics boost there seems to come with a price that’s also prevalent on the consoles; bugs and crashes.

On my first playthrough  I experienced a random freeze screen game crash that I had to reload on. No big deal, sometimes that happens…later on, I was battling a boss and we killed each other at the same time, this caused me to restart at my checkpoint (which I expected) but when I got back to the boss, it was still dead…but had it’s life bar back. After hacking away at its lifeless corpse and taking down it’s life bar to zero again, nothing happened…and when I reset, it started me at that same checkpoint and the same process started. It got stuck in a bug loop and I lost a whole game and had to start all over again. This is completely unacceptable. However, the strengths of this game are so credible that it was more than enough for me to start my game all over again without any hesitation.

Now, dark, muddy visuals and debilitating crashes are certainly noteworthy problems, but the things this game does get right, are wonderful. Demons/Dark Souls are amazingly difficult games and Lords of the Fallen provides a hefty challenge as well, but it also offers something to alleviate the frustration and offer a nice balance that the Souls games don’t…random loot drops. Lords of the Fallen has a GREAT loot system and it’s exactly what I think has been missing from the Souls game since their debut. Finally a comprehensible system of weaponry makes its way to this style of game. It’s fantastic. Do I want to go light armor and be more quick with my attacks? Or do I go full on tank and sacrifice that mobility for serious damage? I love this aspect of the game so much and this freedom of customization makes it an incredibly rewarding experience. I also really love the weight that you can actually feel on your character when you’re a bulked up tank versus the lightness and speed you have as say a rogue. This requires strategy when timing your attacks in combat an absolute must.

Lords of the Fallen also provides an incredibly eery atmosphere, this is due to the excellent level design and the sparse, (but well used) haunting soundtrack. Sometimes less is more, and just like with the Souls games, Lords opts for a less obtrusive presentation and instead lets the dreariness of the setting draw you in and keep you on edge.

I can’t help but feel like Lords of the Fallen is a game that wasn’t quite finished when it was released…that the developers were so stressed out about making their deadline, that they never got the chance to fix some really glaring omissions. It’s so finely polished in some aspects and cripplingly broken in others. I genuinely hope that over the next few weeks, developer Deck13 Interactive takes the time to address the (seemingly universal) criticisms that lie with the game over a few patches. As it stands, Lords of the Fallen should be a really great game, but due to some serious fundamental problems that can’t be overlooked, it is instead a frustratingly good one.

PROS: Loot system, soundtrack, Demons/Dark Souls inspired gameplay with more of an emphasis on combat

CONS: Blurry visuals, bugs, game crashes

OVERALL: 6/10

-Sock Talk Jon-

E3: Rise of the Machines

e3-2013

So, it’s upon us. Another console war.  Once again, Microsoft and Sony (not Nintendo, as clearly the Wii U is garbage) are going toe to toe for our hard earned dollars and Sock Talk hosts Phil and Jon are asking the important questions and getting to the issue!

Phil:  Point: Xbox 1 is fancy great!
Jon:  I dunno…I just don’t care…If Nintendo has taught me anything the past 15 years, it’s not to get excited about new systems until time has proven otherwise. Are you drinking the kool-aid?
Phil:  Point: Why bother listening to the past? Come join the future. Get absorbed into the cloud…
Jon:  Ohhhh yeah…that’s the other thing (with the new consoles)…not OWNING what you’re paying for.
Phil:  Owning? Pffft, listen, physical media is dead
Jon:  Pay for intangible things! Do it! Now! Apparently with Xbox One, if I wanted to bring a game over to play at your house, we could do that. ONCE. Then it wont work on your system again. That’s nonsense. I can’t understand why anyone would embrace something like this.
Phil:  If you label a friend as a family member that might be a way around that do you think that’s their answer to that?
Jon:  I think its just an even bigger step in the invasion of privacy…much like the always online, monitoring everything, mandatory Kinect device…that’s some creepy shit
Phil:  Sure, and who knows about data-mining, but, like it was mentioned in an article we posted on our page, that would be hellish for Xbox to try to get involved in. I was having a discussion with my wife this weekend about privacy and how it’s gone in a couple respects. Your image is out there. We all have to get used to it. It’s a manner of how we want to deal with it. No more secrets
Jon:  SURE.  But I think it’s more a matter of what you CHOOSE  to put out there though.
Phil:  No. More. Secrets
Jon:  I’m gay. About the idea of Xbox One!
Phil:  That’s neither a secret or alarming. So, you’re happy?
Jon:  Indeed. But no. I have such mixed feelings about this stupid console war…Maybe after 27 years of gaming, it’s time to hang up the controllers.
Phil:  Really? Well, the actual graphics and game play look astounding and it’s to be another great leap in  the gaming world.
Jon:  Maybe…
Phil:  There are still older systems. That’s the thing that seems to get lost.
Jon:  I don’t like them telling me how I’ll be enjoying these new systems.
Phil:  You don’t have to move onto this next platform
Jon:  Oh absolutely. I’m still an advocate of the golden age of gaming.
Phil:  Online gaming, like flash games, are even more prevalent than ever too
Jon:  Online gaming is ridiculous…and full of micro transactions that people willingly pay like idiots…But the same can be said for console gaming…paying actual money to dress up your avatar…so dumb.
Phil:  But online gaming with stuff like free Mario (NES style) with Simon Belmont or other character mods is what I’m referring to
Jon:  Ahhhh…I guess…a keyboard or a touchscreen is no substitute for a controller though. But admittedly some of those games are fun, but are also so uncontrollable its maddening.
Phil:  You can get a USB pluggable/huggable controller I think, but I agree with you on principal, or principle, and my former principal.

So there you have it. I don’t think we need to state the obvious choice here. You know what you have to do, now get out there and give (COMPANY X) all your money!!! DO IT NOW!!!