VIDEO GAME REVIEW: FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE GAME

Friday the 13th: The Game
Friday the 13th: The Game

By Nick Durham

After what felt like an eternity of waiting, the eagerly anticipated Friday the 13th: The Game has finally been unleashed upon the masses. Developed by Illfonic and published by Gun Media, Friday the 13th: The Game was originally being developed as an independent title called Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp before Gun Media managed to acquire the Friday the 13th license and have a successful Kickstarter campaign as well. After seeing numerous screenshots, test footage, and hearing tons upon tons of hype; does the game deliver the goods and manage to be as entertaining and visceral as we’ve all collectively hoped it would be? Well quite frankly, yes and no. 

Played through a third person perspective, Friday the 13th: The Game is a survival horror, multiplayer scramble to hide, survive, and escape Camp Crystal Lake from our favorite hockey-mask wearing slasher. If playing as one of the camp counselors, it’s up to you to run and hide, and be resourceful as well. This ranges from setting traps for Jason, finding weapons to combat him (and run), repair the cabin phone to call the police, as well as repair a car and boat in order to escape. If you play as Jason however, your sole mission is to kill all the horny, dope smoking teenagers you come across. Jason has special abilities, including stalking, shifting (AKA, managing to appear out of nowhere), and sensing out where the counselors are hiding. 

I will say first and foremost that after being able to spend enough time playing as both the various counselors (who thus far all seem to control and play the same) and as Jason Voorhees, I can honestly say that I’ve had more fun playing as the counselors believe it or not. Surviving and managing your resources is much more enjoyable than playing as Jason, which is a major disappointment. The first few times I played as him, I realized how much of an absolute fucking chore it can be in terms of the way Jason controls and stalks around. Maybe I need some more time with him to fully grasp it, but after a variety of sessions playing as him, I can safely say I’m not impressed.

Now as for the rest of Friday the 13th: The Game, it manages to be both pretty fun and insanely frustrating. I downloaded it at launch for my PS4, and saying it took forever to actually be able to get on to the servers and play a match is saying it lightly. This wasn’t much of a surprise considering video games are meant to be defective at launch it seems these days, but the fact that this continued for a while afterwards is almost inexcusable. Not to mention the fact the game itself is loaded with glitches, bugs, and lag time across the board. Although there is plenty of fan service thrown into this game (the various Jason looks, Thom Matthews as Tommy Jarvis, Kane Hodder providing motion capture work), too much of this game just feels flat out incomplete to justify laying down 40 fucking dollars for it.

Apparently eventually there is going to be a single player mode of Friday the 13th: The Game to be released at some point, which would be nice considering that the multiplayer-only aspect of the game thus far only has so much lasting appeal, and like I said, it isn’t really worth laying down 40 bucks for that alone. With that being said, maybe when that mode gets added, and maybe if some other aspects get tuned up, this game could be something really, really special. Until then, it sadly isn’t. Still, it has enough fun elements to be worth checking out, just don’t expect anything spectacular out of it.

Rating: 3/5

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: SLAIN: BACK FROM HELL

By Nick Durham

Do you like metal? Do you like gothic-themed gorefests? Do you like being frustrated to the point where you will throw your controller against the wall and literally shit your pants in defiance of the fucking difficult atrocity before you? If you answered yes to any of the above, than Slain: Back From Hell is the game for you. A 2-D side-scrolling romp where you take down hordes of monsters and undead, Slain: Back From Hell has an interesting history behind it. Originally released simply as Slain!, the game was hideously buggy and lackluster to say it lightly. Developer Wolf Brew Games ended up pulling the downloadable game away, and the whole thing was overhauled and relaunched as what you see before you. Did any of the so-called improvements end up making any kind of difference? Well yes they did, but not nearly enough in some of the departments where the game really needed them.

Slain: Back From Hell puts you in the shoes of Bathoryn, a sword-wielding warrior. Your mission is to take down waves of monstrous beasts and some fairly massive bosses here and there as well. There’s some magic elements as well in addition to the sword slashing combat, as well as some typical platforming elements as well, akin to classic Castlevania games of yesterday. There’s basically nothing featured here you haven’t seen plenty of times before in games like this, but holy shit at least it looks very, very pretty. There’s some really neat graphical effects here done with the game’s pixel art, and it’s quite the sight to behold. I should also mention that the game’s metal-tinged music is worth the price of admission here alone. Composed by former Celtic Frost bassist Curt Victor Bryant, this music is fucking phenomenal. 

The biggest drawback of Slain: Back From Hell is that the game is unforgivably difficult. Like seriously, this game is so fucking hard it’ll drive you mad. Now normally I don’t mind hard retro-themed games like this because I’m a professional and grew up on this kind of shit, but Slain: Back From Hell is just plain fucking unfair. There’s so many cheap deaths and the game’s checkpoint system is practically a joke. Not to mention the fact that the game’s combat controls feel like there should have been more in terms of dodging enemy attacks and the like. The unrefined controls combined with the unfair difficulty really make this game much more of a chore than it has to be, and that is a damn shame considering the rest of the package is so close to being flat out brilliance.

All in all, Slain: Back From Hell is a disappointing horror-themed side scroller that looks great and features a beautiful metal soundtrack. It’s worth checking out if you can download it at a good price, just go into it expecting an infuriating experience that will probably leave you broken inside, and with a broken controller. It’s available on the Playstation 4 (which is the version I’ve played), Xbox One, PC, and now the Playstation Vita as well, though I’ve heard that version of the game features an extremely choppy frame-rate and a few other glitches to boot. My advice is to stick with either console version or the PC version instead.

Rating: 3/5

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: RESIDENT EVIL 7

By Nick Durham

Hard to believe that the Resident Evil franchise has been around for over 20 years now isn’t it? In that time what started as a video game series evolved into countless other media, whether it be the now long-running live-action film series, comic books, novels, toys, and more. In that time frame, the video game series all this sprouted from has seen numerous sequels and spin-offs across a variety of consoles and platforms. The main numbered series of games has reached a bit of stale note however in the past few years, with the last truly great game in the franchise being Resident Evil 4 from 2005. Resident Evil 5 and 6 were more concerned with action-oriented gameplay than true survival horror elements, and besides being littered with bugs, glitches, and other annoyances; were chores to play through. We did get the Resident Evil: Revelations spin-offs, which were relatively fun on their own, but they didn’t reach those lofty heights that longtime fans of the series were yearning for…until now.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard isn’t just a glorious return to form for the staggering series, it’s a landmark entry in the franchise that makes it feel every bit as fresh that Resident Evil 4 did over a decade ago. Like that game, Resident Evil 7 changes the main gameplay itself, this time around dropping the third-person, over the shoulder gameplay of the past few entries, in favor of a first person perspective. Now this isn’t the first time Capcom has tinkered with giving the series an FPS treatment (and the less said about 2000’s Resident Evil: Survivor on the original Playstation, the better), but unlike back then, this is exactly what the series, and what we as fans and gamers, have been waiting for.

The storyline of Resident Evil 7 ditches long recurring characters like Chris, Jill, Leon, Wesker, and more in favor of giving us something new. Instead, it focuses on a man named Ethan who receives a message from his thought to be deceased wife Mia. Ethan is led to a run down plantation in Louisiana where he encounters the family that reside there, and it doesn’t take much to figure out that there is something seriously wrong with them. This is confounded by the fact that there are regenerating enemies and other horrors lurking in this house; along with some flat out terrifying secrets for you to uncover.

The biggest strength of Resident Evil 7 is that it is in first person view. This in itself ratchets up the scare and “holy shit” factor all the way through the roof, even though cheap jump scares are surprisingly minimal. Being in this view makes the game’s horror elements feel absolutely primal and insanely freaky. It may sound like a promotional line for the game, but if you don’t jump playing this fucking thing, you should probably check your pulse. The environment you navigate through help make this game even more freaky, with claustrophobic areas that are incredibly well designed. The tense atmosphere, combined with the brutal, gory violence and increasing sense of dread throughout the proceedings are what survival horror video games should be, and this game succeeds mightily. I should also mention the game’s boss battles range between being pretty damn epic, and pretty damn frustrating, so that at least continues the old Resident Evil tradition.

Graphically speaking, Resident Evil 7 is a sight to behold. The game’s sounds are creepy and it controls pretty well for the most part. From a gameplay perspective, Resident Evil 7 is practically flawless, with the only faults lying within the game’s story. As the story progresses, things take an insane turn, and you’ll either be all in along for the ride, or you’ll completely tune out because of the sheer ridiculousness. That aside, it doesn’t change the fact that this game is fucking terrifying to put it lightly. There’s a couple different endings depending on your decisions and such, which adds to the replay-ability, and that’s a pretty nice touch. There’s also a playable VR Mode for the PS4 version of the game available now out of the box, while there will be a future mode available for the Xbox One and PC versions sometime down the road. I didn’t play this version because I’m poor and don’t own a VR headset, but I’d imagine that in itself is a terrifying experience all the same. 

All in all, Resident Evil 7 is an absolute must own for fans of the series. Once again, Capcom has managed to reinvent the franchise with a new, bold take on it, and it succeeds wonderfully. Let’s just hope that the next installments of the franchise don’t take this formula and beat it into the ground with staleness, which often tends to be their forte with the Resident Evil games. Oh well, pick this fucker up and scare the shit out of yourself; you deserve it.

Rating: 5/5

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: AXIOM VERGE

By Nick Durham

In my youth, one of the video games I used to often find myself going back to was the original Metroid on the Nintendo Entertainment System. There was so much to do in terms of exploration and secrets and for an 8-bit game, it was pretty damn creepy. This formula would end up living on for years with various Metroid sequels and spin-offs, and even be adopted by Konami’s Castlevania series from the classic Castlevania: Symphony of the Night onwards through a majority of their franchise. Because of this, this genre of gameplay would be dubbed “Metroidvania” by fans, and has helped birth other games throughout the decades; albeit they’ve often been too few and far between. Axiom Verge, from independent developer Thomas Happ Games, is probably the best Metroidvania-type game to be released in the past few years. We’ll be taking a look at the Wii-U version here.

 

The story of Axiom Verge revolves around a scientist named Trace. After an explosion in his lab, Trace awakens to find himself in a foreboding alien world where he has been tasked with helping the local populace in destroying a madman that is hellbent on obliterating all civilization. That’s all I want to say about the story, because there are so many twists and turns throughout the proceedings that this will keep you playing alone. If you finish the game with a high completion rate, you’ll see an additional ending. This alone ups the replay value and encourages even more exploration in a game that is all about exploring and survival.

 

The gameplay of Axiom Verge mixes the previously mentioned elements of Metroid and Castlevania and even sprinkles a little bit of Contra and Blaster Master in here as well. There’s side-scrolling shooter mechanics mixed in with the constant exploration and backtracking. The alien enemies you encounter range from easy to blast to pieces to being absurdly difficult to put down, but thankfully there are a ton of items, power ups, and gun upgrades to find along the way. The game offers a handful of enjoyable boss fights as well, even though they’re fairly formulaic in terms of memorizing patterns and exploiting said patterns to take down the bosses. If you’re a veteran gamer from the 8/16-bit eras, you’ll have little to no issues getting through this game.

 

Graphically speaking the environments of Axiom Verge look to be inspired from H.R. Giger and are creepy as hell. In fact, the atmosphere of Axiom Verge is one of horrific dread to say it lightly. You never know what’s around a corner and graphically speaking the whole thing looks pretty damn spooky and dark. The game’s music however is the best feature about Axiom Verge; a blend of synth and ambient sounds really help set the creepy tone of the game. The controls are good and there’s a lot of replayability here in terms of split endings and fully exploring the game’s large map. There’s even a speedrun game mode which encourages you to get through the game as fast as you can with as high of a completion rate as possible. I’m not trying this mode because I will undoubtedly fail miserably.

 

It goes without saying that if you grew up with Metroid, Castlevania, or other games of this type, you should go download Axiom Verge. It’s available on the Wii-U, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Playstation Vita, and PC. For its budget price it offers a very rewarding experience and enough replayability to make you come back to it. Download it, turn off the lights, and strap yourself in for a super dark and creepy adventure.

 

Rating: 4.5/5

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: DOOM (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

doom132

By Nick Durham

I don’t play many first person shooters. I know they’ve been all the rage for the past decade or so, but it’s a genre I grew out of as I left my teenage years behind. In my youth, I played the shit out of classic FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake, and of course, Doom. Doom more than any FPS franchise holds a special place in my heart, mostly because it was the first game of its type that I actually played to completion. I thought it was so awesome back then; the moody graphics and music, the demonic enemies, and the fact that you were literally descending into Hell itself. What was there not to love about it?

 

As the years (and decades) followed, we’d get some sequels and expansions here and there, all of which were quite enjoyable in their own right. But now here we are in 2016, and that big mother fucker of FPS games is back. The new Doom is a wonderful experience, and that’s saying it lightly. Mixing original Doom elements with some rebooted aspects, the story of Doom revolves around the standard research facility on Mars being overrun by demons from Hell. Our nameless hero (always referred to by gamers as Doomguy, but here’s he’s the Doom Slayer…that’s metal as fuck) is put back in action to combat them, and holy fucking hell does he. The combat and shooting elements are so chaotic and nerve-wracking I can’t really put it into words. Mowing down the denizens of Hell is so fun and satisfying, and combined with the rollicking heavy metal soundtrack, you’re going to have a great time.

 

Graphically speaking the game looks amazing. The level of detail on the grotesque beasts you’ll face is a work of art. The game controls tight and the classic weapons you remember have received various upgrades and are an extreme delight to use. The game’s environments are dark and combined with the monstrous enemies can be downright terrifying to navigate through. There’s a healthy amount of upgrades as well, so the gameplay always feels rewarding as you keep moving on through the game.

 

If there’s any drawbacks to Doom, it’s that the game’s multiplayer modes leave a little bit to be desired. Now like I said, I don’t play FPS games too much these days, but these kind of games rely on their multiplayer for replayability. While there is a decent selection of modes and such, it doesn’t feel quite as impactful as the game’s single-player campaign. That being said, some of the single-player’s mission objectives get repetitive. That isn’t really that much of a drawback, considering in every Doom game to come out before you were always pulling switches and finding keys for locked doors, etc. One really cool thing featured here is a Snap Map, which is pretty much a tool to edit and create your own maps to play and share with other players. This adds a lot to the overall package.

 

To wrap things up, Doom is truly a great time. It isn’t perfect and you may not love it as much as I do, but then again, I’m a Doom guy through and through. It’s available now for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One; and it deserves your time and attention. Now stop reading this, pick this up, and go straight to Hell.

 

Rating: 4.5/5