Survival Horror Games  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | GameSkinny.com Survival Horror Games  RSS Feed on GameSkinny.com https://www.gameskinny.com/ en Launch Media Network The Callisto Protocol Review: Dead Weight https://www.gameskinny.com/pzoxp/the-callisto-protocol-review-dead-weight https://www.gameskinny.com/pzoxp/the-callisto-protocol-review-dead-weight Tue, 06 Dec 2022 14:48:10 -0500 Bryn Gelbart

When something new evokes our memories and nostalgia from a particular source, it puts unreasonable expectations on that new thing's shoulders. I don't want to burden The Callisto Protocol with the weight of being a continuation of the Dead Space franchise.

In many ways, the latest space horror game from ex-EA Creative Director Glen Schofield, now CEO at developer Striking Distance Studios, is at least trying out as many new ideas as it's ripping off. Unfortunately, The Callisto Protocol lacks the follow-through to execute any of its ideas in any particularly interesting ways. 

In The Callisto Protocol, you play as Jacob Lee, a space-trucker-type who gets mixed up in a prison break on Jupiter's moon of Callisto. In this third-person action horror title, you spend most of your time trying to escape while uncovering the shallow mysteries of a biophage outbreak.

It's all boilerplate stuff. The story itself is a means to put you in a creepy environment full of monsters who want to destroy you in the goriest ways imaginable. Through this lens, The Callisto Protocol shares a beating, bloody heart with Dead Space, where many elements of the presentation and UI also take strong influence from Schofield's earlier title. But The Callisto Protocol makes its mission statement clear from the first encounter. This is a game about intense and punishing melee combat. 

In my experience, this led to a frustrating and confusing first couple of hours with the game (which only averages about 10 hours or so in total). In spending time with the unique combat mechanics, however, I found there to be a satisfying and intentional flow to the encounters. 

Dodging and blocking in The Callisto Protocol is simple. As long as you are holding down the left stick in a direction when an enemy attacks, you will dodge (or block if you hold the stick back toward you) the attack, regardless of direction or timing. To avoid successive attacks, you must push the stick in the opposite direction, which creates a defensive circus of ducking and weaving. 

It is a cinematic take on close-quarters combat that leaves the monsters open for counterattacks from your firearms, where a reticle will appear after a quick combo, allowing you to take them down quickly. This action feels good, and the kills are satisfying. On paper, this Punch-Out!! style combat could be great for some epic duel-style encounters. 

The problem with The Callisto Protocol's combat is twofold. The entire melee system is built around facing just one enemy at a time. In the later chapters, things get messy and chaotic when facing rooms full of enemies. The second issue is that not much changes. The tactics you learn in the first encounter are about as complex as the melee combat gets.

The Callisto Protocol also features a handful of guns that are mostly useful in tandem with these melee combos. Once you get to the game's back half, you have a standard Resident Evil loadout of a handful of shotguns, pistols, and a machine gun. Some additions to the basic combat include ridiculously easy one-hit takedown stealth sections and enemies that require you quickly take them down lest they transform and grow more powerful. None of these variations on the core gameplay feel welcome; by the end, each repetitive task wears thin.

Repetition is the Achilles heel of The Callisto Protocol. From dozens of identical combat encounters to a seemingly endless amount of shimmying through narrow crevices, everything The Callisto Protocol does, it makes sure to repeat. The most egregious example is a late-game boss that, after you defeat it once, appears three more times in the span of the game's final hours. 

This boss — a frustrating one in the first place — is just one of many small flaws that hamper The Callisto Protocol. Inconsistent checkpoints run amok. Occasionally, being stuck on a section and repeatedly loading a checkpoint led to item pickups disappearing entirely, shifting the difficulty further from my favor. This was, thankfully, the only major game-breaking glitch encountered in my playthrough, though a GameSkinny editor ran into issues that wouldn't allow him to use health packs or switch weapons in one boss fight. 

The UI, as well, is clunky and difficult to navigate, taking from Dead Space but making it worse. The camera is so zoomed in on protagonist Jacob Lee that there is a level of clunky claustrophobia that permeates the entire game. Plenty of times, when you pick up items from the ground, you are just mashing the pickup button because you can't see what you are picking up. Which, of course, leads to more time doing inventory management in the terrible menus.

I found myself switching between the game's medium and easy difficulties throughout my time with The Callisto Protocol, and frankly, I often forgot which setting the game was turned to. It felt that aside from letting you take a few more hits, the difficulty options do very little to fix the spikes in balancing that plague the game. Despite that, there is a solid number of accessibility options on offer, a surprising positive in a game that actively feels untested by any human players in parts. 

The other positives can all be credited to The Callisto Protocol's atmosphere. The game is quite possibly the most technically impressive game I've seen run on a Series X. Graphics mode in 4K highlights the absolutely stunning lighting and visual effects. Turning on performance mode ensures a smooth 60 FPS, and the game will still be gorgeous, albeit in a lower resolution. 

The art direction in The Callisto Protocol isn't doing anything groundbreaking. The enemy designs don't make much of an impression. Still, I can't help but admit the atmosphere and production values drove me through the game more than any of its narrative or systems. Black Iron prison might not have been the most interesting place to explore, but it was a damn good-looking one.  

The Callisto Protocol Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Technically gorgeous graphics. 
  • Fundamentals of combat are great for one-on-one encounters.

Cons

  • Combat breaks under the weight of multiple enemies and boss fights. 
  • Gameplay is repetitive and doesn't evolve in any significant ways.
  • A cliche story told in a boring setting.
  • Plagued by little bits of bad design like inconsistent checkpoints and unbalanced difficulty settings.

Visually, The Callisto Protocol is one of the only games for the PS5 and Xbox Series X that feels like a next-generation game. But that ambition has clearly come at a cost. For all its bells and whistles, The Callisto Protocol isn't doing much of anything new with its story or design. It's not just Dead Space imitator, but it does manage to take a lot of the ideas from earlier action horror games and execute them half as well. 

Alongside myriad factors and the fact that New Game Plus and Hardcore modes — staple features of the genre — aren't coming until next year is evidence that The Callisto Protocol should have been given more time to have a smoother, fully-featured launch.

[Note: Krafton provided the copy of The Callisto Protocol used for this review.]

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Signalis Review: Signifier, Signified, Horrifier, Horrified https://www.gameskinny.com/xs9e3/signalis-review-signifier-signified-horrifier-horrified https://www.gameskinny.com/xs9e3/signalis-review-signifier-signified-horrifier-horrified Tue, 08 Nov 2022 14:46:01 -0500 Daniel Solomon

Wake up, the game tells you as a means of a preamble as you boot up Signalis for the first time. 

Elster, protagonist and synthetic humanoid technician, opens her eyes as she rises from stasis, and it’s for you to fumble through the darkness of a ruined ship to see where you are and why. Things quickly go from bad to worse as she navigates this familiar, uncanny dystopian hellscape, where time may or may not be linear, and the line between dream and reality is blurred from the off. 

Fans of classic horror (and/or the first season of True Detective) will no doubt clock the copy of Robert W. Chambers The King in Yellow, which makes an appearance as you take your first steps into the facility following Signalis' brief prologue. This real-world bit of intertextuality plays well with the game's themes of loss, memory, madness, and the uncanny. Literature buffs, too, will surely take great joy in spotting the myriad ways that references to the work surface throughout Signalis.

Each of the game’s main areas plays out in the quintessential, old-school survival horror mode of managing your limited offensive and healing resources as you navigate a labyrinth full of interconnected puzzles to continue. Signalis really nails the tactile feel of its early survival horror influences, too. 

Items can be turned over in your hands to find further clues, and many of the game’s puzzles are environmental – finding valves and fuses to open passageways leading to more puzzles. It all feels like a big, horrifying escape room, much in the way Resident Evil 1 accomplishes the same.

And most of the puzzles err on the right side of difficult, rewarding further exploration with key contextual information for things that don’t make immediate sense when first seen. Some even require note-taking (or screenshots, though the Xbox UI was the bane of my life for these) as you discover complex solutions to problems on the other side of the map. There are a few moments that do stray into the obtuse and almost Byzantine, though they are thankfully few. 

You’ll constantly be wrestling with your restricted inventory, however; key items are not separated out from the pool and will take up one of your six precious slots when you leave a safe room with them. Later puzzles can require multiple solutions, forcing you into forgoing some healing items or extra ammo, which both succeeds in ramping up the tension and serves to infuriate a little. Though, it's unlike, say, Resident Evil, where bigger items take up more room; your shotgun is, for the purposes of your inventory, the same size as a key, equipped or otherwise. 

The influence of early classics like Silent Hill doesn’t end there. While Signalis mercifully has done away with the infamous tank control scheme, combat is a decidedly slow affair, with limited movement while aiming down sights and, no surprises, a scarcity of ammunition. The twist on this is that enemies do not necessarily remain dead unless you have the means to off them for good. 

Some mid-game weapons introduce a strategic element to this, as you can choose a handful of monsters to permanently retire – though that choice can come with a cost. Are you better placed trying to clear a section entirely, making your safe rooms safer, or keeping the heavy hitters off the field permanently? What about the ammo that you don’t have room in your inventory to bring back – will the enemies stay down long enough for you to make a return trip to your storage? 

Signalis really nails down the overall vibe of classic survival horror; it’s a vision of a promised future as seen from the tail end of the 90s. It's a clear love letter to all things 32-bit, though brought kicking and screaming into the 21st century with some superb lighting effects and world design.

Artists 1000 Eyes and Cicada Sirens have also delivered one of the greatest soundtracks in recent memory. It swings between a minimalist beauty and being absolutely horrible in the best kind of way, and it deserves being listened to on the Signalis soundtrack Bandcamp page, even if you have no intention of playing the game.

Signalis Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Superb writing, pacing, and plot.
  • Almost pitch-perfect entry into the PS1-era horror canon
  • Broadly, the atmosphere, but specifically, that soundtrack. 

Cons

  • Some puzzles are a little too wonky.
  • Very restrictive inventory capacity.

Signalis does a lot of heavy lifting, bringing 90’s genre tropes into the cold light of the present, and it does enough to modernize them to both feel contemporary and timeless, almost to the point that playing Signalis is analogous to how you remember such games as Resident Evil and Silent Hill. While the latter may have aged somewhat now, this is old-school survival horror rendered preeminently. 

While it’d be remiss of me to discuss some of the specifics that truly elevate Signalis, particularly in terms of the story and its experimental delivery, you can believe that developers rose-engine have made good on their promise. They’ve delivered a top-tier game that marries cosmic horror with altogether more grounded points of conflict. Signalis is a vital experience for anyone who fondly remembers being terrified of vague pixel arrangements of early survival horror games.

[Note: The GamePass version of Signalis was used for this review.]

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Resident Evil Re:Verse Review — If I Could Turn Back Time https://www.gameskinny.com/zksyo/resident-evil-reverse-review-if-i-could-turn-back-time https://www.gameskinny.com/zksyo/resident-evil-reverse-review-if-i-could-turn-back-time Tue, 01 Nov 2022 17:59:02 -0400 Daniel Solomon

I love Resident Evil. Perhaps a little too much. I even find merit in the series’ many wonky attempts at multiplayer. Resident Evil 6 can be an absolute blast in co-op if you have a friend willing to sit through all 20-odd hours of it with you. Resident Evil Re:Verse, however, is not one of those attempts I’ll be returning to despite my near-infinite goodwill for the series. 

Resident Evil Re: Verse stems from a sound concept: a competitive multiplayer shooter based on the franchises’ iconic characters and locations — all with a twist. When you die, you resurrect as a zombie and have another go at your opponents. The monster you revive as is random, and they come in tiers, determined by the amount of T-Virus elixirs you collect while still human. There are some heavy hitters here, but they don't hit very hard. 

The combat feels weightless and floaty. Gone is the series’ trademark hefty gunplay, which has been refined to some of the best-in-class for survival horror across recent entries. What shambles out of the darkness is instead an approximation of the mechanics in the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes, with the same over-the-shoulder perspective and slowed movement while aiming. Because of that, everything feels uncannily incorrect. 

The characters offer some variety in playstyle between them, but only insomuch as their fixed loadouts differ. Leon has a shotgun, Ada her trademark crossbow, and the others an assembly of pistols and semi-automatics with familiar names. Each has a pair of unique abilities, too, which are often a kind of buff or an attack. 

You’ve long had to play intentionally while aiming down the sights in a Resident Evil title, but the cursor here just zips about wildly with a mind of its own. It’s imprecise to the point of sheer frustration, and it made me question whether I actually liked the gunplay at all. After once again booting up Village for a test — cue the Principal Skinner meme — it is, in fact, Re:Verse that's wrong. 

It’s no better as the undead, either. You’ll first flail about with an assault rifle as Chris Redfield, then flail about trying to punch people as a Bioweapon. What should be the real strength of the game is janky and half-baked. 

The two headliners are the Super Tyrant and Nemesis. Each feels fairly similar to play, and save for their respective abilities of various big punches vs a rocket launcher and some tentacles, they're of the same size and speed, relying on melee attacks while waiting for their abilities to cool down. They're not even all that different visually at a glance. 

While the Bioweapon characters have definitively more damage output than their human counterparts, the disparity is offset by a constantly draining health bar, meaning no one can reign supreme indefinitely. And it makes sense in an attempt to balance the game, providing you don't get stunlocked into a corner, which is easily done by pretty much any of the characters spamming a standard attack or a few rockets. 

There are no atmospheric changes when the big bads show up, either. There are no music cues, nor is there a change in lighting. It's simply another player out there somewhere stumbling around trying to make sense of it all. And while it's reasonable given the game's pace, the sum of these errors strips any tension out of the experience.

It's a surreal thing to see characters that haunted you in previous games reduced to buffoons. 

The absence of content, too, is so stark as to compare it to a void. At launch, there are only six playable human characters, five monsters, two maps, and one game mode. One. There’s no promised team deathmatch or anything beyond a free-for-all either in Resi 2's RPD station or the Baker’s house from Resident Evil 7

There’s nothing to the stages beyond fan service, the novelty of which falls away almost immediately. Where things could have been interesting — for example, letting you play as members of the Baker family on their homestead or introducing more of William’s G Stage variants for the RPD station — you get the same beige offering at both locations. All the pickups are the same across the stages, too, and there are no interactive environmental elements at play to break up the monotony between them. 

Having a battle pass for such a mess, regardless of a promised roadmap, is unfathomable. I can say with some confidence that it will be a road less traveled; only a few days after launch, even with crossplay enabled, it took me around a minute to join a match, and only five other people are required to start one.

Steam Charts paint a more damning picture, one where the total player count a mere four days post-launch is around the 250 mark, with an all-time peak of 2,000. Compare that to Village’s own peak of 15,000 for the launch of the Gold Edition. Even players who own the game seemingly aren’t interested, and more power to them. 

You have to wonder why we got this over a co-op addition to mercenaries mode, which by all accounts, people actually like. 

Resident Evil Re:Verse Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • The two stages are well-realized, and it's fun to see them outside of their original context. 
  • The matches themselves are mercifully short.

Cons

  • The characters handle like steering melting butter around a frying pan.
  • You'll see everything the game has to offer in about 15 minutes. 
  • And honestly, pretty much everything else. 

Had Re:Verse simply been a curiosity accessed from the in-game menu in Village, it would have still been met with a resounding sigh and swiftly forgotten. But following a seemingly pointless 18-month delay, shoehorned microtransactions, and a shockingly sparse amount of content, this low-stakes imitation of the classic series should have been left on the cutting room floor. 

It all adds up to a feeling akin to watching a young local band fail at covering a classic song. You almost want to applaud them for trying. Almost. 

[Note: The version of Re:Verse included in the reviewer's purchased version of Resident Evil: Village was used for this review.]

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Saturnalia Review: Fear Itself https://www.gameskinny.com/3520t/saturnalia-review-fear-itself https://www.gameskinny.com/3520t/saturnalia-review-fear-itself Sat, 29 Oct 2022 13:22:44 -0400 Will Borger

It starts on the title screen. The fear. A woman whispers in a language I don’t understand. Strange sounds move around her voice. I haven’t even started playing Saturnalia, and I’m already unsettled. It’s at this point I know this game is going to be something special.

Jointly developed by Santa Ragione and Big Trouble Game Studio, Saturnalia is a unique take on the survival horror genre, mixing roguelike elements with incredible art design and an ambitious narrative to create a game that’s quite unique – even if it may not seem that way at first.

Saturnalia is set in Sardinia, a culturally rich region of Italy known for its unique folklore, which features in the plot. The story takes place in the fictional mining town of Gravoi. Initially, we follow Anita, a geologist who has spent the last year surveying the mine to see if it can be reopened at the behest of a prospective buyer. Unfortunately, reopening the mine has awakened… something that begins to stalk the town. I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil anything; you really should go in with as little information as possible.

Over time, you’ll unlock more characters, ultimately ending up with four in total. Each has a different ability. As a geologist, Anita has a map of the mine and can memorize the way to any point in town you’ve previously visited. Paul is a photojournalist with a camera who can take pictures of clues and stun the creature stalking the town with the camera’s flash. Sergio has a satellite phone – Saturnalia takes place in 1989 – and can call for backup from the other characters from almost anywhere. Claudia, small and thin, can squeeze through gaps other characters can’t.

Each character also has their own story driving them forward. Anita has been having an affair with a married man and has to decide whether to leave the town or stay and try to start a family. Paul is returning to the town to learn more about his late parents. Sergio is a former drug addict who left the town years ago after the end of a relationship with an older man and has come back for closure. Claudia is the daughter of a local bar owner dealing with the strange circumstances surrounding her aunt’s suicide.

Characters progress their stories independently of one another, so it’s possible to complete the game with any combination of them done – or any combination of characters alive. There are multiple endings depending on who lives and what you accomplish. You’ll want to do them all, but two things stand in your way: the town itself, and the creature chasing you.

The creature is terrifying. Its approach is accompanied by a rattling sound, like the loudest version of the world’s angriest rain catcher. It’s terrifying the first time you hear it and loses none of its power as the game progresses. As it gets closer, the sound becomes louder and louder, and when it's close, you can see its silhouette in the dark.

It’s scary to see the creature, but worse to hear it because you don’t know where it is. You only know that it’s near you, and it’s coming. You cannot fight it; your only options are to run and hope you lose it, or hide.

Being found doesn’t mean death – at least, not right away. You’ll immediately switch to another character, and have a limited amount of time to save the one that got grabbed. Fail to do so, and they’re gone. And this is where the town comes into play. Gravoi is a claustrophobic, sprawling place, stacked upon itself and full of dead ends, side streets, and confusing pathways. Navigating it feels like stepping into a labyrinth, no matter how many times you’ve walked it.

In the dark, it's foreboding and challenging. You can only see a few feet in front of you without lighting a match, one of several limited resources you have to manage. Some things help – maps dot several of the street corners, and you can light bonfires scattered throughout the town for light and landmarks – but every match, and the coins it takes to buy them and other resources, is almost always spent in the mines, where light is precious and rare.

This feeling of helplessness and being limited weighs on you as time wears on and resources become scarcer and scarcer. Every match spent walking across the map, every trip to acquire another resource, is anxiety-inducing because you’re not only spending resources but risking another encounter with the creature.

You can team up with other characters and travel together for access to everyone’s special abilities, but doing so makes more noise, as does opening doors and doing just about everything else. And the more noise you make, the more you risk attracting the creature. You have to constantly weigh the risk of traveling alone and running into an obstacle your current character can’t deal with, and increasing the risk of attracting the creature. Both can be frustrating and set you back, but which trade-off is worth it is up to you.

As you progress, each trip becomes a test of endurance. You’ll want to follow up on the clues you find, but is another trip to the mines or the church worth the potential outcome? I often found myself having to work up the courage to attempt to see everyone’s story through. Worse still, memorizing the town’s layout means nothing; losing every character completely resets the town’s layout. Thankfully, you’ll keep any clues – handily sorted into an interactable mission screen and connected by lines to show how they’re related – and story progress if find yourself so unlucky.

The whole thing is wrapped up in beautiful art. Everything looks like it was hand-sketched. Heavy lines outline the characters and buildings, merging with the deep darkness of the night and the neon-pink fog that covers much of the town. The visual design – a mix of inspiration from Giallo films, theatre, stop-motion animation, and roto-scoping – achieves an arthouse style that feels effortlessly cinematic, and the excellent sound design, which draws on ancient music and sounds, makes Saturnalia an audio and visual joy, even at its most terrifying.

Saturnalia also deserves praise for its accessibility options. You can control almost every facet of it, from whether or not the village resets on death to how aggressive the creature is in hunting you, or whether or not you have infinite matches or an auto-walk to location system. You can even enable permadeath. This allows players to customize the settings to their liking individually or via a series of presets. 

Saturnalia Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Stylish visual and sound design.
  • Compelling story and characters.
  • Accessibility options allow you to manage difficulty and scares.

Cons

  • The odd audio or visual bug.
  • Navigating the town can be frustrating.
  • It might be too scary for some.

Saturnalia isn’t a long game; you can complete the whole thing in a dozen hours, and often fewer, depending on how you play, but it’s a memorable experience nonetheless. It uses horror in smart ways to explore social topics – the town’s isolation, resistance to change and to outsiders, and the ugly social beliefs that those things inform.

Those facets combine perfectly to make a game that isn’t just horrifying because of the monsters that stalk us in the night. It’s horrifying because of the monsters we make, too – and the things we’re capable of becoming.

[Note: Santa Ragione provided the copy of Saturnalia used for this review.]

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Resident Evil Village: Winters' Expansion Review — A Little More of Everything https://www.gameskinny.com/5z95j/resident-evil-village-winters-expansion-review-a-little-more-of-everything https://www.gameskinny.com/5z95j/resident-evil-village-winters-expansion-review-a-little-more-of-everything Mon, 24 Oct 2022 13:15:25 -0400 Thomas Wilde

The Winters' Expansion DLC is less of a second helping of Resident Evil Village and more like a cherry on top. There's nothing here that's actually bad, and if you're a Village fanatic, it's just the excuse you needed to justify revisiting the game. At the same time, there's nothing here that strikes me as crucial, particularly in comparison to the breadth and depth of DLC that Resident Evil 7 received.

I'm aware that this is a hot take — it seems like most of the Internet only needed to hear "playable Lady Dimitrescu" before they slammed the pre-order button — but frankly, I expected more out of this DLC than it was prepared to offer.

It's probably best to start this off with a spoiler warning. I can't imagine too many people who haven't already beaten Village are interested in reading about its DLC. Just the same, it's difficult to discuss the Winters' Expansion without spoiling the conclusion of Village.

This is primarily due to Shadows of Rose, a short single-player campaign that serves as an epilogue to both Village and the Winters family storyline in Resident Evil.

Set 16 years after the conclusion of Village, SoR stars Ethan and Mia's daughter Rose. Now a teenager, she's grown up as an outcast due to the side effects of the powers she inherited from her parents.

In an attempt to remove those powers, Rose participates in an experiment with a sample of Miranda's mutated mold. This inadvertently drops her into a bizarre dream world within the mold, which is built out of the memories of people who died while in contact with it.

Put another way: it's a three- to four-hour recycled-content bonus level. Rose's trip through the "strata" of the mold's memory sends her through various environments you'll recognize from Village, such as Castle Dimitrescu. You'll use a couple of the same weapons, meet a couple of the same characters, and answer a couple of lingering questions from Village's original ending.

Full disclosure: my press preview of Shadows of Rose glitched out during a critical moment in what I assume to be the final boss encounter, so this is effectively a review in progress in that regard. I wasn't able to clear the whole game.

Even so, it's easily the highlight of the Winters' Expansion. There's less of an emphasis on combat in Shadows of Rose, with a limited arsenal and few available resources, which makes it feel closer to a classic survival horror game than Village or either of the recent remakes.

It also does a lot with what it has. The reused environments in Shadows of Rose aren't a simple cut-and-paste job, but instead are visibly falling into ruin as they're consumed by Miranda's mold. The most common enemy is also brand-new and features one of the most gruesome attack animations in the history of the Resident Evil franchise. I am not exaggerating when I say I would actually be happier if the zombies in SoR just bit out my throat.

My major criticism of SoR is primarily tonal. It doesn't really show or tell why Rose is so determined to get rid of her powers, and it's easily 70 minutes before even a weak justification arises. It doesn't mesh with Rose's depiction in Village's ending, where she's scary enough that her handler won't talk to her without ranged support, or with the gameplay, where she mostly relies on guns like almost every other Resident Evil protagonist.

It's also got one of the biggest plot un-twists in recent video game history, where you will absolutely figure out one of SoR's primary mysteries a solid two hours before Rose does. You have access to more information than Rose — it's not like she played Village — but it's still annoying to sit through a cutscene that asks you to pretend you don't know what you know.

Another feature in the Winters' Expansion lets you replay the main game in either the original first-person view or in a third-person perspective in the same style as recent games like 2020's Resident Evil 3 remake. Preanimated scenes are still shown from the first-person perspective, but playable segments all stick you directly behind him.

Frankly, it doesn't add much to the overall Village experience. Playing the game in third-person serves to reinforce the degree to which the overall experience is built around a first-person view. Some scares don't land, some sections actually block your vision in crucial moments, and a couple of moments simply don't work as well.

So much of Village is set in deliberately cramped, cluttered environments that seeing them from a different perspective feels like a handicap.

It's a good step for accessibility. I know a couple of people who would have played Village by now, but get motion-sick in first-person perspective games. I usually don't, but I have to admit there are a few parts of both RE7 and Village that tested me on that, particularly when Ethan is knocked prone or the camera shakes violently. It's nice to have options.

Finally, the DLC adds three new playable characters to Village's version of the long-running Mercenaries minigame: Chris Redfield, Karl Heisenberg, and, pause for applause, Lady Dimitrescu.

Chris Redfield enters the fray with his full set of gear from the main game, so he's heavily armed from the start for free. While Chris can't block like Ethan, he can punch the hell out of enemies instead.

Heisenberg primarily relies on his hammer for powerful melee attacks and can magnetically fire scrap metal at distant targets. With a few upgrades, he's effectively a charge character, where you can hold down the fire button to power up his projectiles or deliver a short-ranged ground slam.

Dimitrescu is mostly here for meme value. She's taller than every other character, so she towers over most enemies, and it takes a lot to make her stagger. As she inflicts damage with her claws, Dimitrescu builds a meter called Thrill for more powerful attacks.

The best part is that one of her attacks is the ability to throw her vanity mirror, which does as much damage on impact as a hand grenade. Dimitrescu is running around the Mercenaries maps with a theoretically infinite amount of combat furniture strapped to her back, and frankly, I couldn't be happier about it.

All three characters effectively address my biggest problem with the default Mercenaries. Ethan has to start from scratch on every map, which means he suffers through at least one level in each round with his knife and default pistol. By the time you've got a good arsenal going, the map's over.

All three new characters bring enough unique mechanics to the table that they're more entertaining to play than Ethan ever was, which does a lot to address the flaws of Village's take on Mercenaries.

Resident Evil Village: Winter's Expansion Review — The Bottom Line

Pros:

  • One of the creepiest levels in any Resident Evil game to date.
  • Chris makes learning Mercenaries easier.
  • I giggle like an idiot whenever I crush a zombie with Dimitrescu's vanity mirror.

Cons:

  • There isn't a lot going on here.
  • Third-person view doesn't add much to Village's main campaign.
  • If you don't like Mercenaries, this is about four hours of new stuff here.

Taken as a whole, the Winters' Expansion is a little insubstantial, with a new gameplay perspective, a short additional single-player campaign, and a few new characters to choose from. It's a great extra add-on for Village's Gold Edition, but on its own, it's not much.

Shadows of Rose is a memorable, short run, however, especially if you're invested in Village's bizarre storyline. It's a must-see for horror fans, particularly its middle segment. The new characters in Mercenaries are interesting, varied, and occasionally hilarious, but it's still Village's spin on Mercenaries, which is the least entertaining version of the minigame. Finally, the third-person mode for Village feels like a hindrance at best.

The Winters' Expansion does add some value to Resident Evil Village, but it's not worth picking up on its own unless you're a Mercenaries (or Dimitrescu) fanatic. If you hadn't checked out Village at all yet, though, then the Winters' Expansion is a great excuse to pick up the forthcoming Gold Edition of the game.

[Note: Capcom provided the copy of Winter's Expansion used for this review.]

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Scorn Review: My Work is Not Yet Done https://www.gameskinny.com/cs0se/scorn-review-my-work-is-not-yet-done https://www.gameskinny.com/cs0se/scorn-review-my-work-is-not-yet-done Fri, 14 Oct 2022 17:58:12 -0400 Daniel Solomon

You come in reeling from the main menu, having just opted to start a new game, and watch the title art unfold as you tear yourself from the writhing mess in which you find yourself embroiled. Haunted by visions, the passing of time, or perhaps both, you awake somewhere, and it is your lot to now march stoically unto progress or death. Before long, you find yourself pulling out an umbilical cord, and this game's intent is immediately clear – you’re to receive no help here.

And this stark message tells you all you need to know going into Scorn; you will get no commands or directives, the systems and controls will not be explained, and there will be no conveniently exposition-heavy conversations either now nor towards the game’s climax. Nothing is even named. There is, in fact, not a single word present outside of the game’s menus, written or spoken.

My advice? Memorize the control scheme in the pause menu from the off, and try each command whenever the next esoteric grotesquerie finds its way into your possession. Don’t be like me and realize you have an approximation of an inventory screen as you’re nearing the end. Though this, of course, is told in the game’s own language of viscera and must first be deciphered.

There is a minimal HUD here, too – it surfaces when absolutely vital to do so, displaying a few key details, such as your remaining health, before scurrying away to leave your eyeline of Scorn’s world unbroken. It’s all the better for it, too, as you’ll be dying to see every last inch of this immaculately detailed living gallery that Ebb has created.

The Giger counter on Google Trends must be absolutely off the charts right now – Scorn’s promo art is even served as a top result for a search of the Swiss artist, evocatively name-dropped in press release and review alike, alongside Zdzisław Beksiński’s otherworldly visions. And it is absolutely a marriage of these artistic approaches – perhaps owing a little to earlier surrealists such as Alfred Kubin, too – and has been realized and executed par excellence.

The level of detail on display is astonishing, to be perfectly honest – there’s not a wasted pixel across Scorn’s handful of biomes, spanning a multitude of dank, labyrinthine buildings peppered with the occasional bit of out-of-doors. Each component part of the decaying, biomechanical world is highly stylized and often recognizably of-Earth despite its distinct capital-A Alien flavor. A window’s shutters can look like the chitin of a beetle’s shell, spines appear to hold up the ceiling in places, and there’s a glut of more, shall we say, explicit references, as well.

Sex, birth, life, and death loom large here, and these themes feed into the design ethos of both environment and equipment. Weapons thrust and pulse, and you’ll insert your limbs and digits into a huge number of fleshy holes that serve as switches or input devices for machinery before the credits roll. Despite the narrative silence, a subtle game this is not. But for all of its experimental leanings and bucking of established forms and conventions in the medium, Scorn is still very much a game, and ultimately, unfortunately, to its detriment.

While Scorn is billed as a horror title, it’s far more a ponderous and mood-led piece than most other examples of the genre. There is palpable tension and atmosphere in spades, but Scorn is not a scary experience as such. You may well squirm from the numerous gratuitous displays of gore or body horror, but there are no definitive nope moments, such as the likes of Mr. X’s first appearance in Resident Evil 2 or most of Outlast. And I feel that a good part of this is due to the lack of any real threat for most of the game.

Which is to say, while the handful of enemy types are pretty lethal, with even the smallest of foes capable of wrecking you quite quickly if you let them, they are also pretty darn stupid. They’re damage sponges, too, but all it takes to dispatch them is positioning and a little cover, of which there is plenty everywhere.

Ultimately, there’s very little recourse for them. Even the toughest fights of the game are rendered fairly inert by kiting around a pillar. And if there isn’t a pillar, simply turn and run the other way; odds are, when you return to the room, they’ll have left. You could also just press straight past them, as most won’t pursue you for any real distance.

The combat itself is a fairly bog-standard, first-person survival horror affair, and nothing to write home about – all scarce ammo supplies and slow movement. Paired with the AI’s shortfalls, however, it quickly becomes a thrill-less chore. Mercifully, there isn’t that much of it to be done, and less still that is obligatory.

The other major grievance here is the signposting around some of the game’s puzzles. Across my six-hour playthrough, a quarter of that was trying to navigate the prologue’s first puzzle, which, it turned out, had not rendered the indicator on the solution and instead left me staring at a series of identical options with nothing but trial and error between me and actually getting into the game proper.

While I believe this has been addressed in a day-one patch, and it didn’t affect everyone in the pre-release build to begin with, the opening section is still punishingly obtuse. This could be a real sticking point for players, particularly as Scorn is on Games Pass, and a good chunk of the player base will not feel obliged to continue if it infuriates rather than pleases that early on.

Act I is far and away the worst offender for this, though. It’d be a real shame for people to miss out on Scorn’s union of aesthetics, environmental narrative, and the solutions to the problems that arise as you trudge ever towards your uncertain destination, which it does succeed in evoking most of the time.

Scorn Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Possibly one of the greatest realizations of an artistic vision seen in a video game.
  • Remarkable world design.

 

Cons

  • Janky, unsatisfying combat.
  • Some puzzles are torturously ill-signposted.
  • The plot is perhaps a little too vague.

 

Scorn occupies a strange, fringe space in a wider survey of video games, sitting halfway between something of a survival horror game and  not in pejorative terms  a walking simulator. Instead of being repulsive, the distorted and blood-strewn world draws players in. Rather than trying to get from A to B ASAFP, as you may in a more traditional horror game, you’ll find yourself losing a lot of time just poking around the labyrinth and drinking it in.

It’s lamentable that the game itself around this fantastical world serves to mar your presence in it somewhat. Some tweaks to how the puzzles are laid out, and admittedly some much more considered efforts around the combat – which, in its current state, is fairly non-threatening and easily cheesable – could elevate Scorn to the horror pantheon across mediums.

It’s still an easy recommendation if just for the art, which I’m sure it will be remembered for. But the full picture is one of a frustratingly imperfect piece of art; Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair for what it could have been.

[Note: Ebb software provided the copy of Scorn used for this review.]

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The Quarry Review: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger https://www.gameskinny.com/ui6fx/the-quarry-review-what-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-stronger https://www.gameskinny.com/ui6fx/the-quarry-review-what-doesnt-kill-you-makes-you-stronger Fri, 17 Jun 2022 10:26:00 -0400 Michael Feghali

Supermassive Games has already built a reputation for itself as the creator of immersive cinematic horror games with the release of the award-winning cult classic Until Dawn back in 2015. Now, the studio has developed The Quarry as a spiritual successor, where you take on the role of teenage camp counselors forced to face the horrors of Hackett's Quarry.

The game takes obvious inspiration from slasher movies such as Scream and Friday the 13th to bring forward a compelling narrative in a movie-like package. 

The Quarry Review — What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

The game kicks with a creepy prologue before shifting to two months after those events, just as the camp counselors are packing their bags and getting ready to leave Hackett's Quarry. Unfortunately, things happen, and they will have to spend an extra night at camp. While some of the teen counselors are thrilled by the prospect, others, like camp leader Chris Hackett, are frustrated and spooked out.

Throughout The Quarry, you'll take turns playing as each of the nine camp counselors as they attempt to solve the mystery of Hackett's Quarry. There is a wide range of personality types in typical horror movie fashion: the dumb jock, narcissistic diva, and brooding loner make appearances. While some characters undergo major developments as the story progresses, others remain as annoying as they are at the start.

This, in part, is because the councilors are separated into groups of two or three, where they can build deeper relationships and express themselves freely — or not. The choice is mostly up to you.

The Quarry has some scary moments, but not always. However, it does a good job of keeping you at the edge of your seat at all times. At Hackett's Quarry, the danger is all around you and nobody is truly safe. You're purposely kept guessing at the true threat until the final few chapters.

Apart from the thrilling prologue, the first two chapters drag. Thankfully, the story picks up steam rather quickly, and you’ll get to experience the most intense sequences towards the second half of the game.

Those familiar with titles from Supermassive Games should have an idea of the core gameplay mechanics in The Quarry. The experience is filled with quick-time events (QTEs), button-mashing sequences, and scenes where you must hold your breath while hiding. In general, these are easy to complete by just following the on-screen prompts. Whether it’s flicking the analog stick in a certain direction or repeatedly pressing the same button, there isn’t much technical skill involved here. 

Instead, the difficulty lies in making tough decisions that may come back to haunt you  literally. Both Hackett’s Quarry and its inhabitants are absolutely brutal, and any mistake could be your last. In some instances, there are no second chances, and making one choice will instantly result in a character’s gruesome death. It's a reminder that your choices have severe consequences that can permanently affect your playthrough.

To make things slightly more forgiving, the developers have included a Death Rewind system where you have three chances to save characters from dying. These essentially act as do-overs and take you back to before the character in question is killed in order to rewrite their fate.

The Death Rewind system unlocks after your first completion of The Quarry or by purchasing the deluxe edition of the game. At times, the choices can be somewhat vague, resulting in undesirable outcomes, making this system a welcomed one that can help save certain characters you initially sent to the grave.

The moment-to-moment gameplay essentially doesn't matter in a game like this, as most of the action happens during scripted cutscenes anyways. So, walking too slow or taking your time to explore dark spooky rooms will never result in death.

This helps encourage players to interact with every object and explore every room they can to collect clues and Tarot Cards. (At the end of each chapter, you’ll present any tarot cards you've found to a creepy old woman who gives you the chance to see into the future for a few seconds.) 

For some reason, the movement speed is unbearably sluggish, which makes walking around feel like a chore. It's irritating in a game where exploration is rewarded with clues that help piece the story together. While pressing the "run" button does alleviate this issue slightly, all of the characters are still pretty slow, especially when going up or down stairs.

With all the long interactive cutscenes, The Quarry is actually closer to being a movie than an actual videogame. In fact, it features a Movie Mode that lets you sit back, grab a bowl of popcorn, and watch the story unfold on its own. However, I don’t believe the story is strong enough to warrant simply watching a 10-hour "series" or "movie" after completing the game.

According to the developers, The Quarry has 186 unique ending variations, making subsequent playthroughs a worthwhile experience. Yes, the mystery aspect will lose its luster after your first completion, but it can be fun messing around with choices and paths you may have missed.

Arguably the most glaring issue with The Quarry has to be the ending. In a game filled with intense and anxiety-inducing moments, it was quite disappointing not to have a dramatic conclusion to the otherwise excellent story (aside from the first two chapters after the prologue).

Instead, you're presented with an abrupt and premature ending followed by an equally underwhelming epilogue/credits scene. There's no real closure, something the game so desperately needs. Even having something similar to Until Dawn's police interrogation scenes would have sufficed.

Visually, The Quarry looks fantastic with well-detailed character models and facial animations that bring its characters to life. The game features a star-studded cast including legendary horror actors David Arquette, Ted Raimi, and Lance Henriksen. Even newcomers to the genre such as Brenda Song and Ariel Winter bring stellar performances.

The lighting effects also allow you to appreciate the gorgeous yet spooky environments without revealing what lurks in the shadows. However, the water animations, especially in the camp's lake, leave a lot to be desired. When the game excels graphicly in other areas, it is difficult to ignore how blatantly subpar the water animations are.

The Quarry Review— The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Strong mystery elements that lead to an intriguing story.
  • Stellar visuals and solid performances from the cast.

Cons

  • Unsatisfying ending and final sequence.
  • Easy gameplay and unthreatening QTEs.
  • Slight performance issues.

The Quarry isn't exactly the scariest game out there, but horror game aficionados will find plenty to enjoy here thanks to its high-stakes gameplay and fantastic performances from its all-star cast. If that doesn't sound like your type of game, it becomes difficult to justify paying full price for a 10-hour experience.

The game certainly doesn't attempt to reinvent the wheel, but still manages to provide players with a unique and rich interactive experience on par with that of Until Dawn.

[Note: 2K Games provided the copy of The Quarry used for this review.]

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New Resident Evil 4 Remake Footage Shows a Glimpse at Gameplay https://www.gameskinny.com/0a2di/new-resident-evil-4-remake-footage-shows-a-glimpse-at-gameplay https://www.gameskinny.com/0a2di/new-resident-evil-4-remake-footage-shows-a-glimpse-at-gameplay Tue, 14 Jun 2022 13:48:15 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Capcom shared a new look at the Resident Evil 4 remake during their recent Summer Games Fest 2022 showcase. The first bit is the same trailer the developer already showed when the remake was revealed during Sony's State of Play on June 2, reaffirming the March 24, 2023 release date. However, some of the footage highlights new gameplay not shown during the State of Play. 

Resident Evil 4 Director Yasuhiro Anpo and RE4 Producer Yoshiaki Hirabayashi confirmed that this is a reimagining of the original release. While the development wants to stay as true to that version of Resident Evil 4 as possible, they also want to update the game to modern standards, in similar ways Capcom has done with the Resident Evil 2 and RE3 remakes.

The developers have reworked the look and design of the Ganado, making them more monstrous to convey the themes of madness and terror better. Like the other series remakes and the mainline originals, the RE4 remake will be in third-person and have an over-the-shoulder perspective. 

The gameplay, which can be seen around 2:06 in this video, shows Leon in a dark forest, making his way through mist and fog toward an open iron gate in a stone wall. He raises his sidearm to point at something before the scene fades and shows him crouching under a fallen tree, heading toward a decrepit house.

And that's about it. It's short and doesn't show too much, but it's something! Resident Evil 4 will launch on PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC, and Capcom has said it is working on PSVR2 content for the game, as well. 

The extended, if ironically brief, glimpse comes alongside news of Resident Evil Village DLC and Gold Edition, the release of new-gen updates for three RE games, and a release date for Resident Evil RE:Verse.

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Resident Evil RE:Verse Coming This October https://www.gameskinny.com/o0v5u/resident-evil-reverse-coming-this-october https://www.gameskinny.com/o0v5u/resident-evil-reverse-coming-this-october Tue, 14 Jun 2022 10:31:03 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Those hoping for new info on Resident Evil Re:Verse finally got some as part of Capcom's 2022 Summer Games Fest presentation. The multiplayer title for PC, PlayStation, and Xbox platforms now has a release date: October 28, 2022. It was announced back in early 2021. Capcom notes that those who purchased Resident Evil Village will get the game for free. 

Outside of its launch date, there's still quite a bit to learn about Re:Verse. We know it will pit players against each other in deathmatch-style battles as iconic Resident Evil characters, such as Leon S. Kennedy, Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, Ada Wong, Jack Baker, and mercenaries.

As we've noted before, there will also be monsters, such as Nemesis. Fallen players will turn into various monsters and be able to attack other players, as well.  

Per Capcom:

In Resident Evil Re:Verse you can test your skills against other players in four to six-person survival horror revenge matches. Play as beloved characters from the Resident Evil series and turn the tides of battle with powerful bioweapons.

Take part in 5-minute Deathmatches, where the player with the most points wins! Use the weapons and items you find to take down even more powerful enemies!

Resident Evil Re:Verse has seen a few delays since it was announced, and it held one beta period in 2021. There's currently no word on if another beta will be held ahead of launch. 

Capcom also announced a few other pieces of Resident Evil news at the showcase. Resident Evil: Village DLC is on the way. The developer showed off some new footage of the Resident Evil 4 remake. And three Resident Evil titles received free new-gen updates, out now. 

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Resident Evil Village DLC Winters' Expansion, Gold Edition Announced https://www.gameskinny.com/fr04i/resident-evil-village-dlc-winters-expansion-gold-edition-announced https://www.gameskinny.com/fr04i/resident-evil-village-dlc-winters-expansion-gold-edition-announced Tue, 14 Jun 2022 10:00:51 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Resident Evil Village will finally be receiving its promised DLC — and sooner rather than later. Capcom announced during its recent showcase as part of Summer Games Fest 2022 that Winters' Expansion would release on October 28, 2022, for all platforms. The developer confirmed that the expansion would be available by itself and as part of a bundle, Resident Evil Village Gold Edition

Winters' Expansion includes a brand-new story arc set 16 years after the events of Resident Evil Village. Called Shadows of Rose, it follows Ethan's daughter, Rose Winters, as she seeks out the secrets behind her powers — and perhaps a way to get rid of them. It sees the return of Castle Dimitrescu and a few familiar characters. 

Alongside the new story bits, Winters' Expansion includes a third-person mode for Resident Evil Village, which allows you to play the entire game from the classic Resident Evil perspective (Shadows of Rose is entirely in third-person mode).

Finally, the DLC brings new areas and characters to Mercenaries. Called The Mercenaries: Additional Orders, the content adds Chris Redfield, Heisenberg, and Lady Dimitrescu to the list of playable characters. 

The news comes with the announcement of three Resident Evil titles receiving new-gen upgrades, new footage for the upcoming Resident Evil 4 remake, and the release date of RE: Verse.

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Three Resident Evil Games Receive New-Gen Updates https://www.gameskinny.com/ow8qx/three-resident-evil-games-receive-new-gen-updates https://www.gameskinny.com/ow8qx/three-resident-evil-games-receive-new-gen-updates Tue, 14 Jun 2022 09:40:38 -0400 Jonathan Moore

Capcom announced as part of its recent showcase that Resident Evil 7 and the remakes for Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 would be receiving new-gen updates. Those updates are available now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X|S, and they're free for those who already own any of the games. Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 retail for $39.99, while Resident Evil 7 is $19.99.  

All versions now support 4K resolution, increased framerates, and ray tracing. Each game takes advantage of the faster loading times provided by the PS5 and Series X|S, and the PlayStation 5 versions support 3D audio, as well as haptic feedback and adaptive triggers via the DualSense. 

The news comes alongside the announcement of Resident Evil Village Gold Edition and the Winters' Expansion coming in October 2022, adding a new story arc, third-person mode, and new content to Mercenaries. Capcom also showed off new footage for the Resident Evil 4 remake, coming in 2023, and provided an update on RE:Verse

 

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Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Preview — Survival Horror From the Ancient Times https://www.gameskinny.com/oat0q/daymare-1994-sandcastle-preview-survival-horror-from-the-ancient-times https://www.gameskinny.com/oat0q/daymare-1994-sandcastle-preview-survival-horror-from-the-ancient-times Tue, 22 Feb 2022 11:26:31 -0500 Jason D'Aprile

Since the original Resident Evil hit the PlayStation way back in 1996, we’ve seen a lot of games try to capture the magic of Capcom’s survival horror classic. Some have had much better luck than others, but the passing years haven’t diminished the urges of new game developers to pay homage to the king of gaming horror. Daymare, from Invader Studios and Leonardo Interactive, is unabashedly following in Capcom’s bloody boot prints.

There’s a pretty good chance you missed the Daymare: 1998. It had a fairly low-key release on PC (2019) and consoles (2020). Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is a prequel to that game, so it seems like a reasonable starting point for newcomers. Due out later this year, we took some time to check out an early preview demo for the sharp-looking take on survival horror.

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle Preview — Survival Horror from the Ancient Times

Right from the start, Daymare: 1994 instantly feels very familiar. Controls are thankfully not quite as irksome as the ancient tank-like play of the original Resident Evil and the camera is a bit more user-friendly, but otherwise, this definitely looks, feels, and plays like a revamped lost artifact of the PS2 era. That’s the point, however, not a criticism. 

The graphics are sharp and detailed but have a distinct sort of style that harkens back to the PS2. It’s not cutting edge by any means, but things look decent. The gameplay leans heavily on mixing up combat and puzzles, with plenty of scrounging for ammo and other supplies amidst the rather maze-like maps in the demo. 

Daymare: 1994 puts players into the boots of special agent Dalila Reyes. Reyes works for H.A.D.E.S., which is short for the Hexacore Advanced Division for Extraction and Search. You can tell she works for them based on the weird backpack she wears that advertises the logo with an alarmingly bright blue neon light. So, clearly it’s not that secret of an organization. 

Reyes finds herself stuck with the task of exploring the “most advanced experimental research center in the U.S.”, where bad things have clearly happened as such bad things are wont to do in secret science places. It’s the usual B-movie setup that powers most games of this sort, and the facility thus far seems a fine place for a horror show. Full of dim corridors and passages, large industrial rooms, and weird glowing science things, the location seems like an ideal place for lumbering zombies and hideous toothsome aberrations. 

To help deal with such problems, Agent Reyes has an interesting freeze thrower (hence the glowy blue backpack) that is used to both slow down monsters and solve puzzles. She can use it to put out fires in her way and, in one example, freeze overheating reactor pipes to open a blast door. It’s fun to use on the zombies we encountered as well, since completely freezing them lets you deal a crushing ice-making final blow.

Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle — Coming Attractions

Taken on its merits, Daymare: 1994 Sandcastle is shaping up to put on a pretty good show for those in need of a new horror fix. Capcom isn’t likely to be pumping anything but re-re-releases of older Resident Evil for a while, so we appreciate others stepping in to fill the survival-horror void.

The demo looks fine and shows off some interesting monsters, locales, and puzzles. Our time with the demo was hampered by weirdly glitchy and unresponsive controls, however. Camera and aiming controls in particular were unworkably sluggish at times, making both combat and one particular puzzle frustrating. 

That said, this is just an early demo of a very unfinished game. We’d expect the controls to get cleaned up by release sometime later this year. Be sure to check out the free demo yourself during Steam Next Fest, available now.

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Dying Light 2 Authority Pack DLC Available Now on All Platforms https://www.gameskinny.com/2jt8o/dying-light-2-authority-pack-dlc-available-now-on-all-platforms https://www.gameskinny.com/2jt8o/dying-light-2-authority-pack-dlc-available-now-on-all-platforms Mon, 14 Feb 2022 18:38:43 -0500 Jonathan Moore

There's already a ton of loot to get your hands on in Dying Light 2. From valuables to weapons, crafting materials and gear, every corner of Villedor has something for tenacious explorers to find. The new Authority Pack DLC adds to that glut of loot with a PK-themed set.

Releasing in three parts, the first portion is available now for free. It includes three pieces of gear: the Intimidating Jacket, the Intimidating Cargo Pants, and the Intimidating High-tops.

You can download the complimentary DLC pack by going to the Dying Light 2 game hub or store page on your respective platform. 

According to Techland, two more parts coming this week.

Additional pieces of gear — the Intimidating Gauntlets, the Intimidating Windbreaker, and the Intimidating Leather Guards — are set to arrive on February 16.

Finally, the two-handed Authority hammer weapon will release on February 18.

The Authority pack is just the beginning of Techland's 5-year plan for Dying Light 2. The Ronin DLC is coming soon, and the developer has already released a roadmap of the content fans can expect to get their hands on over the coming months.

The first set of new challenges will arrive sometime in March, with events coming in April, more challenges in May, and the first story DLC in June. 

New enemies, weapons, and story bits will be added in the months following those. While it won't take fans 500 hours to see everything Dying Light 2 has to offer this close to launch, it very well may be the case in 2027. At least if Techland has anything to say about it.

Dying Light 2 is out now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Series X|S. If you're looking for some support while exploring the dangerous streets and rooftops of Old Villedor and the Central Loop, be sure to check out our Dying Light 2 guides hub, where we have tips, tricks, and walkthroughs to help you stay human.

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Techland Confirms Dying Light 2 Free Next-Gen Upgrade https://www.gameskinny.com/o4ts0/techland-confirms-dying-light-2-free-next-gen-upgrade https://www.gameskinny.com/o4ts0/techland-confirms-dying-light-2-free-next-gen-upgrade Fri, 21 Jan 2022 13:54:33 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Dying Light 2 will support free upgrades on next-gen consoles, Techland confirmed in a new announcement. The Wrocław, Poland, developer also shed some more light on how Dying Light 2 co-op will work and said you can play the entire game in co-op, minus the prologue. That includes the ending missions, important choices, and everything in between.

Anyone who owns Dying Light 2 on PlayStation 4 can upgrade to the PS5 version for free. It supports Smart Delivery on Xbox, which means Xbox One players can upgrade to the Xbox Series X|S version for free as well.

Cross-platform play won't arrive at launch, but PC players on the Epic Games Store and Steam will be able to join up on day one. 

Dying Light 2 co-op lets teams of up to four players tackle every mission and side quest in The City, but it's more than just a bit of together time while smashing zombies. Team members can make important decisions shaping the story's outcome through a vote, though the session leader has the last word.

All your character progress and equipment carry over as well, so you won't be starting each session from scratch, so to speak.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human releases February 4 for PlayStation 4 and PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and PC. The Switch cloud version has been delayed until later in the year, however. Check out our hands-on impressions of a slice of the game, and stay tuned for more as we approach release. 

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Techland Shows Off Dying Light 2 Graphics Comparison and Co-Op Play https://www.gameskinny.com/488c6/techland-shows-off-dying-light-2-graphics-comparison-and-co-op-play https://www.gameskinny.com/488c6/techland-shows-off-dying-light-2-graphics-comparison-and-co-op-play Sat, 15 Jan 2022 13:08:19 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Techland showed off a brief Dying Light 2 graphics comparison in the final episode of Dying 2 Know, alongside a short glimpse at Dying Light 2 co-op play.

The Dying Light 2 comparison shows the game running on PlayStation 4, Xbox One X, PlayStation 5, and then Xbox Series X, and the results are pretty much what you’d expect. Dying Light 2 on PS4 looks solid and seems to run smoothly, and the most notable part of it is just how much more colorful Dying Light 2 looks in general compared to its 50 shades of brown predecessor. Those colors and textures shine just a bit more on Xbox One X.

PlayStation 5 gives them an even bigger boost with more detail and polish, as you’d expect. However, it looks like Dying Light 2 continues the trend of third-party titles looking just a bit better on the Xbox Series X version, where everything looks slightly crisper.

The preview didn’t show Dying Light 2 running via cloud on Nintendo Switch.

If you and your friends are playing Dying Light 2 on the same platform, you can join up for some co-op play as well. The glimpse Techland showed was brief but involved strategically fanning your party members out to deal with hordes and stay alive longer.

Dying Light 2 launches February 4 on PC via Steam, PS4 and PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch via the cloud. If you can't wait to see more of it until then, check out the launch trailer below.

 

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New Dying Light 2 Trailer Shows Extended Look at Gameplay https://www.gameskinny.com/yf4fx/new-dying-light-2-trailer-shows-extended-look-at-gameplay https://www.gameskinny.com/yf4fx/new-dying-light-2-trailer-shows-extended-look-at-gameplay Thu, 02 Dec 2021 18:30:52 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Techland debuted an extensive new look at Dying Light 2 gameplay with a new trailer, including the entirety of the quest A Place to Call Home. It's a mix of familiar Dying Light staples, including parkour and running for dear life when the infected are around, but there's plenty new to see as well.

One of the standout differences between Dying Light 2 and its predecessor is just how colorful the city is. Dying Light was 50 shades of brown in many ways, especially on Nintendo Switch, but the city in Dying Light 2 is bursting with color.

Neon lights shine in the darkness after a successful operation restores power to the city, trees dot the rooftop landscape, and we can even spy some flowers blooming at the end of the civilization.

Then there's the combat. A Place to Call Home's main objective is the usual "travel to place A and accomplish task B," but you encounter more than just zombies along the way. There's plenty of them, but during the day, you can run past them easily enough. The real danger is the human faction you fight along the way.

We knew from earlier announcements and our hands-on time with the game that Dying Light 2 makes movement essential in combat, and the new trailer shows just how true that is. The protagonist leaps over foes, squashes them as he lands, and even grapples them closer to get the upper hand.

In short, there's a lot going on in Dying Light 2 on many levels. Now the game has gone gold, we won't have to wait much longer to experience it either. Dying Light 2 releases on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on February 4, 2022, and a cloud version for Nintendo Switch launches the same day. Check out our interview with Narrative Director Piotr Szymanek to see how the real Dark Ages inspires Dying Light 2.

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Dying Light 2 Developer Interview: How Real History Shapes the Post Apocalypse https://www.gameskinny.com/pia0r/dying-light-2-developer-interview-how-real-history-shapes-the-post-apocalypse https://www.gameskinny.com/pia0r/dying-light-2-developer-interview-how-real-history-shapes-the-post-apocalypse Thu, 18 Nov 2021 15:38:05 -0500 Justin Koreis

Dying Light 2: Stay Human shows every indication of massively improving on the already very solid original. Its tighter controls, greater verticality, and satisfying action weren’t lost on us in our hands-on preview. But it was improvements to the narrative and the fleshed-out characters that really stood out. It is fortuitous, then, that we had the chance to sit down with Piotr Szymanek, Narrative Director for Dying Light 2, and discuss what's in store. 

Dying Light 2, Szymanek tells me, takes place 20 years after the original. Humanity is living in a new Dark Ages. Civilization, as we know it, has collapsed, and people are trying to build a new civilization from scratch.

“There is no London, there is no Rome, there is no Paris anymore. Everything that is still on the planet is very, very small Survivor camps. And Pilgrims are responsible for the contact between those survivors.” 

You play as Aiden Caldwell, one of these Pilgrims. These are the people that make the dangerous trek from settlement to settlement, connecting the disparate communities found in Dying Light 2. These are hardened people, often ex-criminals, who don’t fit in with other Survivors. Szymanek describes them as “pretty brave, and pretty desperate”. Aiden is searching for his sister, and comes to the city of Villador to find answers.  

“At the beginning of the pandemic, people found many infected inside (Villador), so they built walls surrounding the city from the outer world. But what was from the beginning the curse of the city, because the infection was found there, eventually saved the city and its inhabitants.” 

Being ground zero gave those in Villador a chance to study the virus before the world collapsed. They developed the biomarker, which suppresses the effects of the zombie-like infection, allowing them some level of control over the disease. Everyone in the city is infected, but only some have turned into the monsters crawling the streets.

“The people," Szymanek says, “are still just infected, but fighting the infection every day. That’s why ‘Still Human’ is our subtitle for the game. Because it’s always the struggle to stay human.” 

The Living, the Dead, and the Living-Dead 

This idea of people trying to simply live their lives in this new Dark Age is deep in the DNA of Dying Light 2.

“Humankind has always struggled with very big and sometimes hard moments. But what we as a species have in common is that we can live in every extreme condition.”

Szymanek looked to real examples from human history for inspiration. The fall of Rome, the collapse of ancient Greece, eras where the most sophisticated civilizations collapsed. Actual periods of societal decay provided a blueprint for what may happen.  

“What happened back then, was not like, you know, the whole civilization just wiped out and medieval times were built on nothing. They used what the Roman Empire established, but they used it in a different way. That's exactly what people in Villador were doing. They're rebuilding the civilization on the scratches of the last one.” 

According to Szymanek, everyday items like refrigerators and televisions that no longer function still have uses. It's why weapons are makeshift, and crafting is haphazard.

One early mission has you helping a would-be craftsman make a simple electric fence to control livestock. The results aren’t quite what he had in mind, but what he makes can be repurposed into a helpful weapon mod. The world-building informs the game systems in a very deliberate way. 

Deep Characters in a Dark World 

“When we were creating characters, we’re always asking ourselves, 'What was this guy or this woman doing before the pandemic, before it all went to hell?'”

The original Dying Light was well regarded, but NPC’s had a tendency to blend together. Making fleshed-out people, with their own lives and motivations, was a focus for this sequel.

Szymanek gives me an example of a boy you can encounter, looking for his lost dog. The boy is a serious canine enthusiast, and, as kids tend to, wears his enthusiasm on his sleeve.

“The reference to him was, for example, Tim from Jurassic Park, who was like crazy into dinos. So, we have this boy who is crazy about dogs. And he's constantly talking to the player about some interesting stuff about dogs all the time. So, yeah, every time in with each character, we are asking ourselves, 'Who he was, what he wants, what's his journey? What will be his character's arc?'” 

Choices Matter in Dying Light 2 

Advancing the narrative and world-building also means reinforcing the importance of choices. There are different factions with competing interests, and it’s up to you as Aiden to decide who to support and when. These decisions alter the path of the story and are reflected in the city. According to Szymanek, there are three types of choices players make.

“First, the most important choices in the game will influence the finale, the end game itself. It will influence with whom will you end the story, how the city will look like when they end the story.”

These are largely the choices in the core narrative. Think about the big decisions you make in something like Mass Effect. Different playthroughs will have branching stories and different endings depending on what you choose.

“The second one is obviously inside the quests. So for example, if the NPC will be your ally or not, or you will get rewarded for what you've done or not.”

I saw that first hand in my preview. Dialogue choices can make you friends and enemies. People living in the world may come to you for help, or threaten your life over limited supplies.

The third type is the City Alignment system. There are key buildings and zones to capture. Once you do capture them, you must decide which city faction gets control. In the first region, for example, you can choose between the paramilitary Peacekeepers or the more cooperative and community-focused Bazaarians.

“Peacekeepers are using completely different kinds of survival than Bazaarians do, and there will be more patrols in the city. So there will be fewer infected. But when you will give the same structure to Bazaarians, you will find more zip lines, you will find more equipment to do the parkour.”

Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a game of great promise. Leaning into its world-building and well-developed characters may be just what the series needs to take a step forward and join the iconoclasts of the post-apocalypse genre.

The way choices affect the story is intriguing. Whether developer Techland can deliver on these promising elements remains to be seen, but we will find out when Dying Lights 2: Stay Human releases for Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch Cloud Games, and PC on February 4, 2022. 

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Dying Light 2: Stay Human Preview — The New Dark Age https://www.gameskinny.com/y5jrd/dying-light-2-stay-human-preview-the-new-dark-age https://www.gameskinny.com/y5jrd/dying-light-2-stay-human-preview-the-new-dark-age Tue, 16 Nov 2021 15:21:00 -0500 Justin Koreis

I had a dangerous choice to make. It was the middle of the night, and the city streets of Dying Light 2, largely subdued during the day, were now teeming with aggressive Infected. I needed to find shelter, a place to hole up and await the relative safety of daylight.

But the danger of night also presents opportunity. There, enclosed by a chain-link fence, was a Revenant, a badly mutated Infected that is both deadly and durable. Bringing it down, no easy task, would net a large amount of experience and unlock containers holding potentially high-level weapons and crafting components.

The risk to my life, though, was immense. Throwing caution to the wind, I climbed the fence and drew my weapon, crudely crafted from a broken street sign, and the Revenant turned to face me.

Dying Light 2: Stay Human Preview  The New Dark Age

Dying Light 2: Stay Human is a game about choice. I learned this lesson well in a recent hands-on preview hosted by developer Techland. The world has advanced 20 years past the initial zombie apocalypse in the original Dying Light. What remains of humankind is trying to live in the harsh, post society reality.

What remains of civilization is fractured into factions, and it is up to you to take sides, choose allies, allocate resources, and make decisions that permanently alter the world around you.  

With this setup in mind, I began my adventure in the fictional city of Harran. Aiden Caldwell, the protagonist of Dying Light 2, is on a mission to find his missing sister. I start by talking to the Survivors, a group of people trying to rebuild a cooperative community. They may be able to help, but first, they need something from me.

Sophie is one of the Survivor leaders, and Barney, her brother, is missing. Dialogue choices allow me to push back on the potential busy work, but I elect to play nice and agree to help with the search.

Dying Light 2 continues the first-person parkour-based gameplay of its predecessor. I climb from car to car, avoiding the slowly shambling Infected as I move toward my objective. Nearing the end of a street, I climb atop a low building and begin leaping from roof to roof while the decaying, zombified population shuffle below, unaware of my traversal above.

The action is fast and fluid, noticeably more responsive than the first Dying Light. The city is also much more vertical. While much of the action previously takes the form of hopping from cars and fences, like a zombie-themed game of “The Floor is Lava,” now I’m ascending multi-story buildings, using lights poles as stepping stones to cross streets. 

Eventually, I come to what appears to be a former department store, the last known whereabouts of the missing person. It’s daylight outside but pitch black within. The Infected avoid the light, so the odds are quite good that there will be a sizable number of them inside.  

I could come back at night when the streets are busier and the interior is likely to be deserted, but I decide to take my chances. I crawl into a low opening and am greeted with seemingly dozens of Infected. I pull out my weapon, a curved blade bolted to a short pole, and begin to cut through the masses. 

It is clear that I am going to be quickly overwhelmed. In my desperation, I spy a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Climbing it grants me access to the second story and a reprieve from most of the Infected. A few, however, are talented climbers themselves and give chase. Cornered, I stand my ground.

Stand and Fight

Combat in Stay Human is very similar to the original Dying Light. I swing my blade in wide arcs, chipping away at the health bars of the Infected. I can block most incoming attacks and use quick dodges to circle my foes. Swinging a makeshift weapon about is intentionally crude, and the bloody affair sprays the walls in crimson as I whittle down my adversaries, lopping off limbs and heads as I go.

Enemies have a stagger gauge; depleting that with rapid attacks enables you to springboard off them and strike down devastating blows from the air. I found the interaction between parkour and combat almost seamless and very enjoyable.  

Eventually, I reduce all the infected to quivering masses of gore, and I rescue Barney. Barney has a bit of an attitude, a far cry from his sunnier and more cooperative sister. Indeed, throughout my entire multi-hour preview, I find NPC’s tend to have strong identities and are distinct, well-acted characters. It's a massive improvement over the largely generic cast in the previous entry of the series.

I continue following the story threads and press through sections of the main campaign. I won’t spoil anything, but narrative-relevant objectives offer compelling reasons to press forward. Missions had me sprinting across rooftops, sneaking and assassinating members of rival factions, and at one point racing from a collapsing windmill in a frenetic parkour puzzle that had my heart pounding.

Dying Light 2 is so far a carefully paced mix of flowing movement, brutal combat, puzzle-solving, and explosive set pieces.

Choose Your Own Adventure

The city is a massive sandbox, an open area in which to play. I frequently went off the beaten path to find weapon parts to scavenge or discover new side quests. There are key structures that can be captured, similar to outposts from the Far Cry series. And there are optional bosses, like my aforementioned Revenant friend.

Battling these monstrous enemies is extremely challenging. The size of the Revenant belies the speed of its powerful leaping attack. It has powerful melee attacks, an AoE toxic mist, and a thrown projectile.

I opted for a close-range strategy, using quick steps to close distance and land attacks with a lead pipe. I would quickly dart back or to the side to avoid the answering blows. It worked well until the Revenant summoned an infected hoard. Suddenly, my avenues of dodging and weaving were cut off.  

I spied a red propane tank. Recognizing the international video game code for explosives, I grabbed the container, lit it, and threw it. The ensuing explosion cleared half of the surrounding mob and took a good chunk of the Revenant's health for good measure. The satisfaction was short-lived, however, as multiple beastly screams rang out in the night. The infected are attached to sound, a key detail I forgot. A larger mob bore down on me, more aggressive than the first.

It took time, but my hit-and-run tactics won the day. Killing the Revenant opened the hatch on a sealed building, granting access to some new equipment. Gear now includes six distinct classes of armor, including shirts, pants, bracers, etc. There is a Borderlands-like randomization of stat modifiers on the gear, a significant step to further RPG-ify Dying Light 2. 

In my time with Dying Light 2, I saw many interesting things. Different districts of the city have their own stories, characters, and factions. I searched for explosives, investigated murders, and even sailed through the skies on a hang glider. One minute I was leaping from a rooftop and crushing the head of an infected walker to break my fall; the next, I was carefully weighing dialogue choices, hoping to make allies or avoid conflicts.  

As my time with Dying Light 2 came to an end, I found myself wanting more. Improvements to storytelling, combat, and movement have me intrigued. There is a lot that could go wrong between now and its February 4 release, but if the Dying Light 2: Stay Human preview is indicative of the final product, this could be the next great franchise unfolding before our eyes 

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Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water Review: The Return of Creepy Photographic Horror https://www.gameskinny.com/zfndq/fatal-frame-maiden-of-black-water-review-the-return-of-creepy-photographic-horror https://www.gameskinny.com/zfndq/fatal-frame-maiden-of-black-water-review-the-return-of-creepy-photographic-horror Mon, 01 Nov 2021 10:44:23 -0400 Jason D'Aprile

For 20 years, Fatal Frame has been something of an outlying series in the J-Horror gaming world. It is distinctly different from Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and other mainstays of the PlayStation 2-era. Its focus on slower-paced exploration through spooky haunted places with only an antique camera as protection from angry spirits still feels unique.

Fatal Frame Maiden of Blackwater isn't the first outing for the restless maiden spirits hinted at in the title; this survival horror game was originally released in 2015 on the Wii U, though it’s probably still a new experience for most. While there are enhancements in the visuals, resolution, and other areas with this new release, Fatal Frame still looks and feels very much like its predecessors. 

Fatal Frame Maiden of Black Water Review: The Return of Creepy Photographic Horror

The series, as a whole, hasn’t been seen in a long while for those of us in the West. Prior to Maiden of Black Water, no Fatal Frame games have been released here since 2005. So, there’s a whole generation that conceivably hasn’t heard of the series at all. And this makes it a perfect time to jump in.

Intertwining the stories of three different characters, Maiden of Black Water is centered around the dark forests, waters, caves, rocky paths, and shrines of Mt. Hikami, Japan. Once a revered spot, a violent twist in its history has turned the place into the stuff of nightmares. Mt. Hikami is haunted by countless suicides, gruesome murders, and people who just go missing.

Much of the game centers on Yuri Kozukata, a young woman gifted (or cursed) with exceptionally strong sensitivities to the supernatural world. She finds herself drawn into a mystery involving missing girls.

Ren Hojo’s story mixes heavily in Yuri’s. He’s a man driven to find the source of bizarre nightmares. The third character, a young woman named Miu, comes into the story later, but all of them inevitably end up taking the same paths to unravel the mysteries and horrors of the mountain.

While there are some minor differences between the three characters in terms of controls and abilities, Maiden of Blackwater largely plays the same no matter what character or chapter you’re in. Its third-person exploration across maze-like maps takes you through a variety of indoor and outdoor locations. Things to investigate and items to pick up are all over the place, but so are dangers.

Those dangers are, inevitably, of the supernatural sort. Fatal Frame is fixated on ghosts as opposed to the physical dangers of zombies and vampires, and the only way to combat these spirits is with the Camera Obscura. This antique camera lets you suck up a ghost’s energy with well-placed shots. It also lets you see otherwise invisible things. 

There are times when the camera is used to focus on a certain spot to reveal hidden objects, which is simple enough. Other tasks require you find a spot shown in a photo and recreate the shot. These puzzles can be irksome and frustrating, since finding the exact sweet spot can be an annoying bout of trial and error that feels almost random.

The camera combat is terrific, though. You’ll find an array of film types that have different reloading speeds and damage modifiers, in addition to actual add-ons for the camera that let you do extra damage among other perks. Whenever you take a shot of a ghost, its face highlighted, you’ll do damage and that damage, in turn, will force the ghost to lose more spirit energy. 

This energy floats around the ghost, and the more energy you can capture in a shot, the more damage you’ll inflict. Do enough damage and the ghost will be exorcised. Of course, the ghosts aren’t taking this lying down. They’ll try to charge, attack, and drag you down into the abyss. Thankfully, there is a dodge ability and overall, on normal difficulty level, Fatal Frame is more about creating an intense atmosphere than killing you. 

That atmosphere is, despite the age of the game, amazingly thick. Fatal Frame’s story manages to throw in nearly every J-Horror trope you can think of. There’s the suicide forest, creepy ghost children, even creepier haunted dolls, angry shrine maiden ghosts who apparently float through the afterlife wearing sheer white gowns with plummeting V-necks that barely contain their ghostly assets.

Two of the main characters fall squarely into the Japanese schoolgirl camp, complete with highly questionable fashion choices given the situation they’re in and a focus on getting their clothing soaked. It would be pretty easy to pick out questionably sexist story elements here as well, but the overall effect is a game that does a great job of creating a hell of a horror-movie ride.

Being cinematic is a huge part of Fatal Frame’s appeal. It loves to use film and home video filters to terrific effect. Memories are seen through grainy VHS-like sequences. The color schemes have a lovely old-time photography bent and the interplay of light and dark throughout makes everything beautifully eerie and unnerving. 

The ghosts look fantastic. Eerie visages in mostly black and white that flow through the air and architecture with menacing and often tragic intent. There are a variety of spirits to encounter, not all of them violent, and capturing their final moments on film can be surprisingly poignant and intense. 

The overall soundtrack is great too, with an excellent score and terrific ambient effects that amp up the creep factor. The voice acting and dialogue are solid as well. The story itself is frequently relayed through found journals and books and while the writing overall is sparse, it helps create a fascinating and grim back story.

The controls are somewhere in between the old-style tank controls of the original Resident Evil and more modern third-person games. As a result, there are some oddities. Interacting with things can be clumsy since the camera has a tendency to spastically flip around the character. Running and following are weird too. 

At times, you’ll have to hold one button to see and follow a spirit and you just automatically walk the path while the button is held down. Running also causes the character to be on some halfway auto-pilot and feels especially clumsy. During both actions, it’s simply clunky to turn, stop, or look at anything else.

Objects of interest are highlighted with either white or red (for threats) arrows on the sides of the screen, which theoretically point in the direction of something. They’re unreliable and erratic markers though, leading to particular confusion when trying to track the teleporting ghostly entities.

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Amazing horror atmosphere thanks to beautiful use of cinematography, film and video filter effects, and beautifully-rendered ghosts
  • Photography-centered gameplay and combat still feel unique and engaging
  • Excellent overall story that throws in a myriad of J-Horror movie tropes effectively

Cons

  • Photo recreation puzzles are especially cumbersome
  • Controls and camera can be clumsy
  • Some real questionable fashion choices (and associated camera angles and cliches) for the women characters

Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water is a welcome return of an obscure, yet memorable PS2-era series. This revamp of the Wii U version still feels firmly rooted in the past, but it makes such superb use of atmospheric visual and audio effects that the overall experience is a unique take on horror games. It’s well worth giving this remake a second chance.

[Note: Koei Tecmo provided the copy of Fatal Frame Maiden of Blackwater used for this review.]

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Back 4 Blood Review: A Horde of Problems https://www.gameskinny.com/3io5r/back-4-blood-review-a-horde-of-problems https://www.gameskinny.com/3io5r/back-4-blood-review-a-horde-of-problems Tue, 12 Oct 2021 14:08:24 -0400 Mark Delaney

As the progenitor of a genre, returning to one's roots must have felt both exciting and daunting for Turtle Rock Studios. The team's intent to re-establish itself as the standard-bearer of the horde shooter would be no small feat after years of like-minded imitators.

Sadly, Back 4 Blood doesn't just fail to fill Left 4 Dead's shoes. It surprisingly doesn't contend with even some of the many horde shooters we've seen since the team's last foray into the genre in 2009.

The bones of the game are strong, but the flesh of what makes this genre fun has been torn from Back 4 Blood like it's come upon a horde in the post-apocalypse.

Back 4 Blood isn't exactly the Left 4 Dead threequel we never got. It doesn't really try to be, despite Turtle Rock's self-referential choice of name. Both its issues and its merits spring from things old or new to the genre, so while not everything it goes for is a miss, it also strangely whiffs on aspects of horde shooters that this same studio perfected over 10 years ago.

Back 4 Blood Review: A Horde of Problems

At first glance, Back 4 Blood is like so many other games before it, though that's not immediately disqualifying. I love this genre and will always take another good entry to it. This just isn't that.

Players load into co-op with up to three other players. They select their weapons and fight off undead, called Ridden in this universe, in between safe rooms as they scrounge up ammo and complete objectives, ideally with all allies still standing by the end. 

Instead of several evenly-sized campaigns, Back 4 Blood is split into acts and chapters of one long story. Those acts can be tough to follow because only quickplay queues are able to matchmake in short order.

Trying to load into specific missions to continue the story as it's told, or even to host private online lobbies, is a laborious, sometimes hopeless process unless you have a full group of four players. Short of that, it seems the game doesn't want to or otherwise cannot let you matchmake with others.

Once you get into a match, your results may vary drastically, and among a litany of issues, chief among them is improper pacing driven by an AI director that feels less authorial and more random and chaotic.

Somehow, the underlying tech must be worse today than it was in 2008, because Back 4 Blood's AI director is faulty to the point of frustration. The most common issue is being spammed by mutations (think special infected), which take so much damage and have such small windows of vulnerability that one or two of them would be a good and familiar challenge.

But Back 4 Blood routinely unleashes what feels like a clown car of these mini-bosses. Strangely, other levels are dead-quiet and suffer from the totally opposite problem. 

There's no strategy to be formed when the onslaught gives no room to breathe or even move. Vice versa, there's no fun to be had when a would-be challenging finale forgets to throw more than a handful of enemies your way.

Above all else, it's pacing that sets the good horde shooters apart from the lesser ones. With Back 4 Blood, Turtle Rock struggles to consistently clear the bar it set years ago, even as others have cleared it in the interim.

Suppose you get a good level or even a string of levels. It happens, and when it does, the game shows glimpses of brilliance. Guns are as varied as anything in the genre, with tiered loot that can be bought between levels within a safe room.

There you can also buy other supplies like ammo, grenades, and perks for the team. This makes scavenging for copper, the in-game currency, so important, which in turn provides a great risk-reward balance. How much do you explore every crevasse when the horde is bearing down on you?

Shooting feels really good too, and a very granular aim assist function means if it feels off to you, you'll be able to tweak it until you find your precise preference. I've enjoyed my time with all the usual classes of firearms on offer in Back 4 Blood, and the game makes choosing your exact loadout a fun challenge with overlapping inventory slots that only allow for so many tools.

In the game's best new layer, a card system provides a rogueish element to the game, but it's done in such a way that even naysayers of the trend may well enjoy it. By playing online and earning Supply Points with each successful mission, you can unlock new cards and cosmetics to customize your hero and their perks.

The cards are awesome, allowing for smart players to offset weaknesses, combine strengths, and build together as one collective with their team, layering new buffs level after level on each new run. Building a melee-heavy, super-stamina survivor who heals everyone often and quickly has been one of my favorite parts of the game (when it's working).

The cosmetics, meanwhile, are pretty lacking. This is often the case for games out of the gate, so I hope options will be more robust in time. But at launch, there are a lot of bland palette swaps. Among the cooler options, some are so unreachable that they may as well not exist. Beat every level on Nightmare? With this AI? No thanks.

I love the new characters. They've grown on me almost as much as Louis, Bill, and the rest, but B4B tries hard to keep me from making them my own, which in 2021 is blatantly going in the wrong direction.

Back 4 Blood crashes a lot too, and in a first for me, it even fails to load sometimes. My Xbox gives me a never-before-seen error message sometimes when I go to play Back 4 Blood. When I immediately try another game instead, it boots right up.

Even when it's not crashing, the game can be buggy. Joining in-progress matches can mean running around without any weapons (or even hands) for a few seconds. One time I joined and took over as Doc, but her AI counterpart was still there too. Back 5 Blood?

Annoyingly, the game's solo campaign, which would solve at least one of the major issues with the game, does not allow for Supply Points to be earned, thus you can't unlock new cards or cosmetics (or even achievements/trophies, if those matter to you). I'd maybe still see bugs and pacing issues, but at least I could get into a game and play the specific level I wanted to play. But Turtle Rock prevents this too.

When pacing, bugs, and matchmaking woes aren't getting in the way, Back 4 Blood really is as fun as its elevator pitch would imply. But every time I'd see those flashes of brilliance, one of those intrusive issues would spring back into my face, reminding me that this game, despite its delay, probably launched too soon. 

Back 4 Blood Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Solid gunplay and tons of loadout customization
  • Flashes of brilliance

Cons

  • Pacing issues result in hectic peaks and boring valleys with little in the goldilocks zone
  • Bugs in the form of game crashes, spawning without weapons, and even duplicate characters
  • Matchmaking woes seemingly prevent private lobbies and make it hard to play specific levels
  • Solo campaign cuts out critical content like custom decks and Supply Points

Back 4 Blood has been one of the most perplexing review playthroughs of my career. Through the alpha and beta periods, I always had this thought that once the obvious issues were ironed out, it would be awesome. But B4B launches with many of those issues today and even reveals others I didn't see before.

I tend to forgive bugs pretty easily. I'd even overlook some of the matchmaking issues if other parts were stronger. But the lack of proper pacing is unfathomable to me.

I don't know if it's the underlying tech of different engines or the years apart and likely staff changes that came with them, but I didn't foresee this studio forgetting how to make this sort of game, and the poor pacing says it somehow did. Above all, that's where Back 4 Blood fails to live up to its still standard-bearing predecessor.

[Note: Turtle Rock Studios provided the copy of Back 4 Blood used for this review.]

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