I can only imagine the excitement the team of developers at Insomniac must have felt when they were given the chance to create Spider-Man’s next adventure. It must have been as much as, if not greater than, the thrill fans experienced when seeing the game’s very first trailer.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is a culmination of three and a half years’ worth of coming up with a whole new universe and building solid gameplay around it. Any hardcore fan can agree that a Spider-Man game’s story has to be handled as well as its web-swinging mechanics — which Insomniac wholeheartedly understands.
I was fortunate enough to play the first three hours of the latest Spider-Man, which is exclusive to the PS4, in an invite-only demo session last month. It was barely enough to fully immerse myself into the newly formed world built by legit Spidey fans, but from what I was able to gather, early impressions are mostly positive.
BOOM! That’s exactly how the game starts. You, the player, are instantly thrust into Spider-Man’s world, filled with action, romance, and constant multitasking. This being an open-world title, there’s so much happening at once, but not without a proper introduction.
Your very first task as the neighborhood’s friendly red-and-blue superhero is to swing all the way to a crime scene using — you guessed it — web. Insomniac made it a point to dedicate so much effort into making web swinging feel like you’re truly in Spidey’s suit. I must say, they pretty much nailed it.
All it takes is some timing on the R2 button, and you’re off. It can be a little clumsy at first (I often swung into buildings and unintentionally landed on taxis), but the game will never make you look stupid. Spider-Man himself makes every flight and landing feel graceful, no matter how noobish you are. The animations are as fluid as the graphics itself, and I’d say web swinging is the early favorite for the game’s best gameplay mechanic.
Like how you’d try to climb every mountain and tree in Breath of the Wild because you can, you’ll potentially spend hours roaming the streets of New York City using only your web and desire to be your childhood hero. Even better: There’s no fast travel to checkpoints in this open world. This encourages you to swing from one building to another and absorb what the lively city has to offer.
But as much fun as this travel mechanic is, the real action starts once you get into battle mode, which is a joy in itself.
Not an origin story
The Peter Parker you control isn’t a newbie superhero; this version of the classic character is already a seasoned veteran, and has the skills on top of all the gizmos he’s blessed with. In other words: No Uncle Ben dying on you and doing the “With great power…” rant in the beginning. You go straight to punching baddies and bringing them to justice in the very first act.
To be totally honest, this was the aspect of the game I was most worried about. Spider-Man games have traditionally been weak in the fighting department, often relying on style over substance. Marvel’s Spider-Man is somewhere in the middle in this regard, but at least for the first three hours of gameplay, there’s enough depth to keep you coming back for more.
It’s pretty simple: You press square to punch or kick, triangle to control opponents with your web, circle to dodge, and R1 to activate one of your gadget’s special skills. Stringing combos together adds to your Focus bar, which in turn provides you with useful abilities such as healing. However, even if regenerating health is at your disposal, you’re better off dodging the hell out of every enemy attack.
Spidey doesn’t have a ton of health to work with, at least at the start. The game has a Bayonetta or DMC vibe wherein you’re rewarded more for pulling off perfect dodges and counter-attacking than kicking ass straight up. Spider senses are around to give you visual cues when to dodge, then it’s up to you how to capitalize on the opening.
A couple of hours in, I thoroughly enjoyed the combat system. It’s straightforward and doesn’t require you to analyze much; at the same time, there’s enough variety to make each fight scene feel unique. But again, this is in the early game, and I can imagine it getting stale midway through the plot unless more gimmicks turn up.
The complexity of Spider-Man
After an hour of going through what feels like a long, story-driven tutorial session, you get thrown into Marvel’s interpretation of New York City. Even though the developers call this an open-world game, don’t mistake this for a GTA or Witcher clone. NPC interaction is shallow; you can only say hi, and if you accidentally attack bystanders, they’ll barely flinch.
That’s not a bad thing, though, because the game delivers a bunch of other things to find and do. On top of the side missions that are mildly related to the main storyline, you can collect items needed to upgrade your arsenal and save citizens from low-level baddies. All these allow you to level up — yes, like in an RPG — to learn new abilities through a skill tree (just like in an RPG).
And those aren’t the only RPG-like elements. Opening the in-game menu reveals the city-wide map, your suits, gadgets, the aforementioned skill tree, missions, stuff you’ve collected, benchmarks for stats, characters you’ve met, and complete moves list. That’s a lot, and I didn’t even mention the sub-menus yet. But, perhaps the most interesting section to check out is Spider-Man’s suits. I’d rather not spoil which ones I earned, although I can say I unlocked five in the first three hours alone.
Is there enough to hang on to?
All that’s left to talk about based on my brief hands-on experience is the story, which I can’t delve too much into. As mentioned earlier, you get to enter the mind of a veteran Peter Parker who’s 23 years of age and has been doing this superhero thing for eight years already. Sounds like there’s a lot of established plot points early on, but that’s far from the truth.
The thing is, this isn’t based on any comic storyline or the Marvel Cinematic Universe — everything you see and play here is unique to this game alone. Because of that, finding out who’s involved in the plot and how they relate to Peter can potentially spoil some key points. What I can say is that Peter works in a lab, wherein you the player get to solve puzzles as part of Peter’s research, and Mary Jane is the primary love interest.
The trailers have already revealed tons of friends and foes, and I barely scratched the surface during my short time with the game. When I asked the team behind Marvel’s Spider-Man how they plan to cram so many characters in a single title and avoid the mistakes of past Spider-Man movies, they simply said the trick is in pacing.
It certainly looks like the developers know how to plan out a game as fast-paced as this. The early excitement and depth are there from the very start, and I could tell that there’s so much more in store for the remaining 90 percent of the game.
Is it good enough to sell consoles? Maybe, but critical and commercial success do seem to be on its horizon.
Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! review: Catching ’em all once again
Isn’t Eevee absolutely adorable?
Countless times, my friends have jokingly asked, “Where’s Mario?” My name — Luigi — has unwittingly cursed me into a lifetime of jokes associated with Mario’s green-suited brother. Ironically, my favorite Nintendo franchise isn’t even remotely related to the Super Mario Brothers series. Since childhood, the prestige has always gone to the Pokémon franchise.
During my Game Boy days, I played through the classics of the Pokémon franchise. Sadly, that streak ended with Pokémon Emerald, immediately before the arrival of the first Nintendo DS. Since then, the franchise’s Generation 4 ushered in a period of silence.
Thankfully, Pokémon’s decline was halted by the arrival of the mobile game, Pokémon GO. The pioneering AR game brought back a wave of nostalgia. Despite the initial popularity, the game’s novelty was short-lived, failing to measure up with the classic games. Of course, the game wasn’t from Nintendo.
Now, Nintendo has finally taken over the franchise’s modern renaissance. Weeks ago, Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! launched for the Nintendo Switch, promising a new world for the new generation. Besides ushering a generation, the nostalgic series revitalizes the old and creates a new ecosystem.
Right on the tin, both games advertise a return to Kanto, home of the first Pokémon. Pikachu and Eevee are remasters of the original Pokémon Yellow. In the original, Pikachu replaced the traditional trio of Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. Likewise, Pikachu and Eevee replaces the starter Pokémon based on the version you purchase.
Likewise, both games share the same story elements with Pokémon Yellow: Team Rocket’s antics, Lavender Town’s eerie story, Mewtwo’s appearance. Of course, because of the times, Nintendo updated some minor elements for a modern audience. For example, in-game television sets come with Nintendo Switch units. Characters talk about Alolan Pokémon, smartphone technology, and most importantly, Pokémon GO.
Cuter, cuddlier, livelier
After Pokémon GO’s initial wave of novelty, the franchise’s fans chided the game for depersonalizing their favorite creatures. In GO, Pokémon became collectibles, valuing quantity over quality. Completely contrasted to this, Pikachu and Eevee added a thick layer of personality to all 151 original Pokémon.
Mostly, this dynamic personality applies to your chosen partner, Pikachu or Eevee. Like Yellow, your partner Pokémon follows you around. However, instead of just a few pixelated frames, both have their own new sets of animations and moves. For example, Pikachu hangs out on your shoulder as you walk. Eevee perches atop your head. In combat, both have exclusive move sets. Eevee, for example, uses Veevee Volley, an extremely strong Normal move that activates only occasionally. Cutely, you can interact with both partners outside of combat, petting them or playing patty-cake using the Switch’s touchscreen.
Additionally, you can take a Pokémon out of its Poké Ball, acting as a secondary companion. Also, their animation depends on their build. Mew floats ahead of you. Kangaskhan carries you in its pouch. Charizard flies and carries you on its back. It creates a much more dynamic world compared to the original games.
Speaking of, wild Pokémon encounters are no longer completely random. Instead, you can see the wild Pokémon wandering around, letting you choose which to catch. Catching them is also different. Instead of going into combat, the games adapt the same system as Pokémon GO, using catch rings and berries.
Creating a Pokémon ecosystem
Along with the games, Nintendo also launched a new controller, the Poké Ball Plus, specifically made for the new Pokémon games. Unfortunately, the optional controller, shaped like a Poké Ball, is pricey, costing US$ 49.99 on its own. The bundle — the game plus the ball — costs US$ 99.99, reducing the price by 10 bucks. That said, why should you buy a Poké Ball Plus?
Firstly, the ball comes with a free Mew. Traditionally, this mythical Pokémon was obtainable only through Nintendo-exclusive events or hacks. The Ball finally provides an easily accessible way to obtain one of the franchise’s most elusive Pokémon.
Secondly, it creates a new experience for the franchise. While it has only two buttons, you can use the ball in a throwing motion to catch Pokémon. Instead of just pressing A, the new mechanic simulates the feeling of actually throwing a Poké Ball. It’s unique and strangely gratifying. Additionally, you can take a Pokémon (housed inside the Poké Ball) with you on your daily commute. As you walk, it gets experience, similar to GO’s buddy system.
Thirdly, the ball acts as a Pokémon GO Plus, connecting the Switch games with GO’s world. To those who still play GO, the Poké Ball is a welcome arsenal, especially in crowded cityscapes. Similarly, you can transfer Pokémon from GO to Switch, making it easier to fill a Pokédex.
Finally, the Poké Ball Plus is a clear indication of the Pokémon franchise’s future. Next year, Nintendo will launch a fresher addition to the franchise, marking the console’s first full-fledged Pokémon game. By then, the future game will fully integrate the Ball into its mechanics, making the controller a worthy investment.
With Pikachu and Eevee, the Pokémon franchise heralds a new generation for both old and beginning players. For old players, they create a refreshed wave of nostalgia. For beginning players, both games are a good start to the new generation.
GadgetMatch Awards: Best Video Games of 2018
The tough ten plus honorable mentions
2018 wasn’t a good year for anyone’s wallets, and here are thirteen reasons why! Yes, thirteen because we felt having only ten games wouldn’t be enough to encapsulate what a year 2018 has been.
Here they are in no particular order, starting with…
Fortnite: Battle Royale
Fortnite: Battle Royale made huge waves in 2018, both as a game and cultural phenomenon. The game’s popularity skyrocketed through its use of familiar dance crazes, character skins, and creative challenges and features. Apart from intense build battles and storm-chasing fun, Epic Games has done an incredible job of bringing the game into mainstream media. Who else remembers that one time you could play as Thanos and score a Victory Royale?
Spyro: Reignited Trilogy
The latest PlayStation classic to receive a remaster took a while to arrive due to added fine tuning. Nonetheless, Spyro: Reignited Trilogy featured the lovable purple dragon and his adventures through the Dragon Worlds in HD perfection. From charging at enemies to completing speedway levels and collecting gems, it is a great introduction to the basics of video game platforming. You even have a chance to play Spyro’s friends in Spyro: Year of the Dragon for more head-bashing action. The game is slated for a Nintendo Switch release some time next year, so be sure to watch out for that.
Pokémon Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee!
The Pokémon gaming franchise finally got a Switch game, and it’s taken the world by storm. Whichever game you pick gives you the same enhanced experience in the Kanto region, from catching your first Pokémon to beating Team Rocket. A lot of the game’s mechanics are totally different from the past games, like simpler catching and leveling up systems, plus two-versus-one Pokémon battles. Add its integration with Pokémon GO into the mix, and completing your Pokédex doesn’t get any easier.
The Tough Ten
Detroit: Become Human
Detroit: Become Human goes for the old-school third-person adventure aesthetic, but allows you to control the narrative. Quantum Dream’s most successful game features three robot characters, each with their own set of challenges and decisions that ultimately control the story. It puts you in the center of all the storytelling, heightening the level of emotional instability with each decision you make. While you can finish the whole game in about 10 hours, it will lengthen or shorten depending on how much you want to explore.
Although, the game doesn’t come without its own shortcomings. Some storylines get pretty boring or have less action than others, plus dialogues tend to break the whole “show, don’t tell” aspect. Despite some plot holes and bland dialogues, the game still achieves the heart-wrenching emotion it wants to evoke.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
To some degree, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey serves as a good historical look into ancient Greece. Set during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, it brings together the elements of warfare and fantastic Greek scenery that immediately descend into chaos. Gameplay is pegged as a decent mix of good and bad, although some things just made the game a little less enjoyable.
Combat is more of the same compared to previous titles, but the addition of naval battles is a welcomed change. Moreso, getting through the main story is an enjoyable task, even if there were times when things just felt painstakingly long. Overall, it’s a great open-world game hinging on rich graphical work.
Monster Hunter: World
Capcom made the interesting move of shifting its latest title, Monster Hunter: World to more powerful consoles, and it paid off well. The game feels so different visually, while retaining the structure of familiar gameplay that fans enjoyed over the years. Through these changes, it made itself more accessible to a wider audience — particularly, newcomers to the franchise.
The storyline in itself feels a bit lacking, but the game more than makes up for it through the series of endless challenges and upgrades along the way. Because mechanics are simplified, getting through it all doesn’t feel like a total drag. And with more side quests to finish, it simply keeps you coming back and playing them all.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
If you have a list of the top fighting games ever, this game would be there, if not the top one. An easy to learn control system matched with some intense graphics highlight key upsides for Dragon Ball FighterZ. Add 24 of the Dragon Ball series’ unique fighters, each with their own easy-to-learn move sets, and you have a recipe for success.
Of course, the game also received some fair criticism towards several game features — particularly online gameplay. Even queuing up for online gameplay seems to be a literal slug-fest at times. Not to mention, there are moments when players are mismatched with higher-level, more skilled players instead of their equal. For what it’s worth, it’s a great fighting experience from start to finish, and a good fighting game for beginners.
Marvel’s Spider-Man wasn’t intended to reflect any of the plots you knew as a kid, and that’s a good thing. A superhero game that provides new insights into the character of Peter Parker is always a delight to have. Yet, what most people rave about is the fact that you get to be Spider-Man; one that allows you to swing from building to building effortlessly. It’s that element of kiddie-nostalgia that makes the game great.
Despite the fluid gameplay the game possesses, it serves up a decent plot for both Parker and his Spider-Man persona. The stories in between shape up at the right pace, giving much more attention to how Parker relates with the different villains. Although, it really doesn’t help much that side quests stemming from them get repetitive. Nonetheless, it brings forth an original experience of Spider-Man, especially for the young-at-heart.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
2018 became the year battle royale games took things over the top. But outside PUBG and Fortnite, your options for consoles are very limited. Enter Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, or at least their version of battle royale in Blackout. It retains the core of the battle royale mechanic, using the franchise’s set of weaponry and Specialists at your disposal.
Don’t let a battle royale mode stop you from exploring every other multiplayer mode in the game, however. Multiplayer and Zombies offer the same hard-hitting, gunslinging action the series has been known for. The removal of key features such as automatic health regeneration made the game a little more challenging than before. Some people rip the game for the lack of a solo campaign, but it still incorporated its essence through tutorials. With limited selections for maps yet a wide range of characters and weapons, Black Ops 4 shows its versatility at the core.
God of War
I’m sorry, but the old Kratos can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Because the people over at the Santa Monica Studios resurrected him anew in a reimagined God of War. It’s set in a whole new world even with Kratos as the main guy driving the plot. Of course, shades of red will always appear when he is around, but the focus of the game isn’t so much on Kratos as an almighty being.
This game brings forth a new dimension in Kratos’ character arc: that of a father figure. Not only that, throughout the journey he has to deal with a son that feels estranged to him. We all know just how bloodthirsty he can get, but this game reveals a deeper side to an otherwise violent figure. It’s the kind of tension that breeds emotion, along with incredible music and a camera that sticks to Kratos 24/7. It’s a whole new flavor for a legacy title in video games!
Independent game developer Matt Makes Games struck gold with Celeste. The quick-action platformer provides an inspiring plot, while orchestrating great audio and visual presentations. Playing as Madeline, a young woman battling depression and anxiety by climbing the Celeste Mountain, you are taken to worlds filled with challenges, secrets, obstacles, and supernatural events.
Beneath all of these elements lies the real challenge of timely jumps and insane platforming through each level. Every stage adds a fair spike of difficulty, and also comes with more elements to aid the player in accomplishing them. With enough patience and practice, these levels are doable at best.
Through simple controls and a rich yet emotional storyline, Celeste makes 8-bit-themed games feel like a sight to behold. Rightfully so, for the Best Independent Game by The Game Awards 2018.
Far Cry 5
The real secret to a great video game franchise is to keep things in an open world. Far Cry 5 was able to achieve that, while keeping itself entertaining and full of details to explore. There’s even several game features that make you carve out your own adventure, separate from the storyline. Add onto that an intense first-person shooter angle and cooperative play to complement the open world, and chaos ensues.
The strongest aspect of Far Cry 5 goes for the more political and religious route. Players often come across cultist leaders and personalities of a backwash Montana. Although the game doesn’t necessarily push any strong political ideologies, it still manages to show how backwash a society can get under a blind following. But, it doesn’t fully put the game over the top.
It deserves recognition for its use of the open-world setup, and a decent story with a powerful ending. But, it leaves you wondering if there’s a tad bit more that could have been done.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption 2 simply takes us back into a fictional America with a real-life Westernized movement. Picture the time of policemen as outlaws, seeking criminal gangs in the Old West despite devastating losses on their end. A 60-hour narrative of on-the-run bandits turn the open world into a chaotic scene of Cops and Robbers. This time, however, you’re the cop in a world filled with desperate robbers.
Rockstar Games presented a beautiful visual masterpiece, all down to the very last detail. From the high mountains to the lowly swamps, the game allows you to explore the entire open world even while a story is going on — and with good reason, too (mostly for side quests here and there). The game doesn’t even require you to finish it in a quick manner, which is all you need to take in the gorgeous visuals.
For what it’s truly worth, RDR2 gives back the fun in going through a slow adventure within the storyline. Take the time to relax and enjoy the view, before heading back to the stressful realities ahead!
Crash Team Racing remaster announced for multiple consoles
Move over, Mario Kart. There’s a new racing game in town!
Yes, you read that right! PlayStation’s lovable bandicoot returns to the race track for another hard-hitting, kart-smashing racing game! Announced earlier during The Game Awards 2018, Sony Interactive and Activision will release a remaster of Crash Team Racing (CTR) for major consoles next year.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled will feature the same elements and gameplay from the 1999 original, worked from the ground up. Beenox, the studio behind Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 spearheaded the HD remaster, retaining the core game modes the original CTR provided. The game will feature the main cast of Crash and Coco Bandicoot, Dr. Neo Cortex, Tiny Tiger, N. Gin, Dingodile, Polar, and Pura. Not only that, but the remastered CTR will also feature both offline and online play, something that deviates from the original.
The announcement came from a segment during The Game Awards 2018 in Los Angeles. A Crash Bandicoot mascot unveiled the trailer by presenting a crate that contained a trophy inside that you can find in the original CTR. This confirmed rumors from earlier this week.
Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled will come out on June 21, 2019 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Next year marks Crash Team Racing‘s 20th anniversary, and what a way to celebrate it through the remaster.
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Isn't Eevee absolutely adorable?
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