Gaming

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Review — Expanding on Excellence

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was the perfect send-off to the blockbuster franchise’s hero Nathan Drake, and would’ve been the best conclusion to the series. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy tries to make the case for even more Uncharted.

Originally planned as exclusive DLC for 2016’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy has been released as a stand-alone expansion, complete with a physical disc release for just US$ 40. As a nice gesture to loyal fans who got Uncharted 4’s version of a season pass (originally priced at US$ 25), Lost Legacy is available to download for free. It also comes with the entire multiplayer feature from Uncharted 4, while adding a new co-op survival mode.

AAA production at budget value

Like its predecessor, Lost Legacy looks absolutely gorgeous. The many breathtaking screenshots are proof that money was no concern in creating hyper-realistic urban and jungle environments.

The animation is as lifelike. As it was in Uncharted 4, Lost Legacy excels at infusing humanity into its characters through the smallest of motions. The brief upward curve at the corner of one’s lips, the downcast eyes during a tough conversation, the quick head-tilting and hand-waving to show disbelief and disagreement; it all adds up to make the cast convincingly human.

Leading ladies

Speaking of the cast, you play as Chloe Frazer, treasure hunter and former partner in crime (and romance) of Nathan Drake. Fans should recognize her from her supporting roles in Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. She was noticeably absent in the last entry. Here, she comfortably slips into the spotlight as lead protagonist, brandishing a familiar roguish charm that is simultaneously cooler and warmer than franchise face Nate.

Alongside the thief with a heart of gold is badass merc Nadine Ross. She was the secondary antagonist in Uncharted 4, but she finds herself in Lost Legacy having to work with an associate of the two brothers that led to her ruin. She’s a no-nonsense, get-things-done type who is quick to anger when crossed.

Together, they seek the Tusk of Ganesh, a legendary artifact tucked away in the Western Ghats of India. A rebel group, led by intellectual strongman Asav, is also on the hunt for this relic to consolidate power and create conflict. Chloe and Nadine must then set aside their differences to find the Tusk before Asav and his murderous men do, fulfilling personal goals on the way to preventing a civil war and the deaths of millions of innocents.

Positive performances

 

The odd couple dynamic isn’t anything original, and the plot plays out like a conventional summer action flick. It’s that signature snappy Naughty Dog dialogue grounded with quiet moments and elevated by authentic voice acting that make this story feel fresh. Having it unfold through the eyes of presumably amoral individuals in Chloe and Nadine also makes their decisions to act nobly more satisfying than Nathan Drake’s heroic deeds. Not to downplay Nate’s accomplishments, but there was never any doubt that he’d eventually do the right thing. But for two fairly simple side characters with a history of checking out when things get too tough, it’s a lot more interesting to see how they react under pressure.

Another thing worth noting is that the two leads are women and the three major players are people of color. The past four games all had white main characters, most of which were dudes. While Chloe and Nadine are both voiced by Caucasian women and this isn’t a numbered entry in the series, it’s still a step in the right direction towards diversity in representation for big-budget titles. Naughty Dog is an industry leader, and it’s encouraging to have a renowned studio put out a game of this caliber with the heroes as black and brown-skinned females who aren’t sexualized.

Familiar, fine-tuned foundations

It’s no surprise though that the actual gameplay doesn’t break much ground. Every mechanical element from Uncharted 4 is carried over here. You’re swinging with a grappling hook, winching trees and doors to your jeep for leverage, mounting craggy walls with a piton, sliding down watery and/or muddy slopes, marking enemies with your weapon, and smoothly transitioning in and out of sneaking and gunfighting.

The puzzles are a bit more elaborate. A lot of them require sliding pieces around, but they’re presented in a variety of ways that they don’t get monotonous or frustrating. There’s a new lockpicking mini-game to get more powerful weapons and collectibles, too. It feels more like an afterthought, however, with how rare you actually need to engage in it.

There is one chapter that builds on the design of a standout section in Uncharted 4. Like the beginning part of Madagascar in that entry, you have the freedom to go wherever in this huge picturesque landscape to clear out important enemy fortifications in any order. The difference is you have more incentive to actually explore this time, evoking that open-world feeling akin to Skyrim or GTA where neat rewards or challenges await you.

Scaling gigantic ancient architecture and commando-ing your way through frenetic set pieces with state-of-the-art graphical fidelity continues to be an attraction. Only a handful of games out now look as good, and maybe only Horizon Zero Dawn matches these last two Uncharted games in scope through raw technical power.

A perfectly paced and priced package

While I didn’t mind how it took me about 18 hours to finish Uncharted 4, its slow beginning put me off from continuing with a replay. I can see myself going through all of Lost Legacy again because of its more evenly spread out moments of downtime and adrenaline. It also helps that I beat it in under eight hours, and that’s with a decent amount of time spent exploring and taking plenty of screenshots… which leads me to the strongest argument for getting this game.

Yep, that’s Chloe Frazer, star of Uncharted: Lost Legacy, making the (dum)best faces. It’s the single greatest addition to the robust Photo Mode that was in Uncharted 4. You can pause the action at literally any moment and have Chloe sneer in disgust, wink with smug delight, or do a duck face, among other lovely facial expressions. I don’t usually touch photo modes in games, but I took full advantage of this ingenious feature to great comic enjoyment.

It’s that sense of fun packed into a breezy, balanced adventure that I greatly enjoyed. Lost Legacy diving into the diverse set of people in this universe makes me want to play yet another one of these games. At this cheaper price that doesn’t sacrifice production values, more Uncharted (without Nathan Drake) doesn’t sound like a bad idea after all.

SEE ALSO: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End review

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9 Best Gaming Smartphones (Q4 2018)

Game on!

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Before 2018 ends, let’s have our final Best Gaming Smartphones list for the year! A number of great smartphones came out recently, making this list the most exciting.

Without further ado, here are our top gaming phones:

Apple iPhone XR

Replacing the iPhone XS Max is the iPhone XR. Both 2018 iPhones were announced on the same day, but the XR was made available a bit later. It’s using the same powerful A12 Bionic chip but has a lower-resolution display which is not bad for gaming. With fewer pixels to render, it can run games smoother. Plus, iOS is known to have a better selection of mobile games compared to Android.

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone XR review: By Android users

ASUS ROG Phone

When we first saw the ROG Phone during Computex 2018, we knew it would be the best Android gaming phone. ASUS took their time to release it, but we can finally buy the ROG Phone plus all of its accessories, which are kind of overkill for mobile gaming. It’s rocking an overclocked and liquid-cooled Snapdragon 845 chip, 90Hz AMOLED display, stereo speakers, and RGB lighting. What more do you need from a gaming phone?

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Phone review: A true gaming phone done right?

Honor Play

From its name, you’d already know that it’s meant for playing games. The Honor Play is currently one of the cheapest flagship-grade smartphones you could buy. It’s just as cheap as midrange phones, but its specs are in the same league as its more expensive cousins like the Huawei P20. With a Kirin 970 processor and 6GB of memory, you’re sure to play well on this phone. GPU Turbo gives the phone extra oomph, too!

SEE ALSO: Honor Play Review: The budget flagship

Huawei Mate 20 X

The Mate 20 X is Huawei’s most powerful phone and it’s designed to be used for gaming. Huawei went a little over the top when they compared it to the Nintendo Switch, but it’s almost as big as Nintendo’s due to its 7.2-inch display. It does come with a gaming accessory and is equipped with an impressive cooling system. It can also last long on a single charge with its 5000mAh battery.

SEE ALSO: Huawei Mate 20 X Unboxing and Hands-on

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus updated its flagship model and made it even better. The upgrade to the OnePlus 6T from the OnePlus 6 is just incremental, but if you’re about to buy one, you should get the former already. It’s still powered by a Snapdragon 845 chip, but now has a smaller display notch to get you more immersed in the action. It’s also one of the cheapest flagship phones.

SEE MORE: OnePlus 6T Hands-on: Still a flagship killer?

Pocophone F1

The Pocophone F1 is probably the best smartphone to come out lately. It’s a game changer in the midrange segment, although the Honor Play should also have some credit. I consider the Pocophone F1 to be Xiaomi’s gift to its fans. It’s a blazingly fast phone thanks to the best-in-class Snapdragon 845 processor and the special liquid-cooling system. You can play all you want and the phone will not heat up, or at least not easily.

SEE ALSO: Pocophone F1 Review: It’s all about the performance

Razer Phone 2

The Razer Phone 2 may not look any different from its predecessor, but it has the latest specs a gaming phone should have. Razer’s gaming smartphone has the fastest display refresh rate on the list at 120Hz, placing it on par with desktop gaming monitors. Complemented with a triple-headed snake logo that lights up in 16.8 million colors, Razer fans will love to have this in their collection.

SEE ALSO: Razer Phone 2 review: Gaming and nothing else

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The top-of-the-line Galaxy Note 9 comes with the latest specifications — may it be the Snapdragon or Exynos variant. It has a large and beautiful display with curved edges that’ll make gaming more immersive. Additionally, the phone doesn’t have a notch that gets in the way. It’s also the only one on this list to have a built-in stylus, making it ideal for games that have too many small icons.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review

Xiaomi Mi Mix 3

If you want a gaming phone that’s truly borderless, get the Mi Mix 3. The availability of the phone is still pretty limited to China, but it’ll go global soon. Like with any other premium phone on the list, Xiaomi’s latest Mix has a flagship Snapdragon 845 processor and up to 10GB of memory. Its battery capacity is on the small side, though.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 review: Xiaomi got everything right, almost

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Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! review: Catching ’em all once again

Isn’t Eevee absolutely adorable?

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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.

Generation 1.2 

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.

SEE ALSO: Pokémon: Let’s Go gets its own Nintendo Switch bundles

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GadgetMatch Awards: Best Video Games of 2018

The tough ten plus honorable mentions

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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…

Honorable Mentions

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

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!

Celeste

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!

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