PS4 Review – Shadow of the Tomb Raider

PS4 Review – Shadow of the Tomb Raider

When Lara Croft came back on the scene in 2013 in the Tomb Riader reboot it took the gaming world by storm.

We got to see a venerable young girl marooned on an island, and the events that started to shape her into the Tomb Raiding woman she became.

It was a title about growth, about survival and about family. You felt like you had to protect her, keep her safe.

Well 5 years later, and now Lara is a full grown woman, and no longer needs protecting, if anything she may need a bit of counseling to help her get over the murdering predator she has become.

Now before I get into the review, there is one thing I did that made Shadow an infinitely better game. The developer added in something I have never seen in a game before.

3 levels of difficulty sliders.

You have one for combat, one for environment and one for puzzles.

What these do if pretty slick. The environmental slide will turn off hints of when to press X button or whatever, but more importantly it turns off the traversal highlights present in so many of today’s games.

Gone are the white painted lines along the path you need to climb. Instead you have to logically look over the area you are in and find the path to travel. This adds way more fun and challenge to the game.

On top of that the puzzle slider turns of Lara’s dialog to help you along. There are no tips for how to solve environmental puzzles, no hand holding at all. Which is a welcome change as well, as it seems most modern adventure games pretty much let you turn on autopilot and just go through the motions.

Sadly though Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a mixed bag.

On the surface, you have one of the best adventure games ever made with the new difficulty mode. But below that you have a bit of a technical mess with a terribly disjointed and at times nonsensical story.

The combat here is completely geared towards stealth and bow use. So much so tha tthe gun combat feels terrible. The aiming is slow, the bullets do not do enough damage, and the ammo is almost non-existent in the game.

You can totally tell the developers wanted you to sneak around and snipe people with the bow, but someone higher up insisted they put in other weapons.

When you play the game like they force you to do, it is damn good, but as with all stealthy games, make one mistake and all hell breaks loose, and in this case, you almost always die due to bad combat mechanics.

The stealth thankfully is very good though. You can cover yourself in mud to hid in the bushes better and not be seen by infra-red googled enemies.

You can punch from trees like a panther, or string up your enemies in tress like a spider.

It is a great system when it works.

The real mess though comes with the story, or really how it is presented. I will give you a non-spoiler idea of one terrible spot.

After a level you meet up with your 2 companions just as a helicopter is leaving damaged, Lara comments she is going to chase after it. She turns to run down the mountainside, and just as she does, as lava and mudslide come crashing down the mountain behind her. She rushes through a village that is getting wiped out, coming to a crashing conclusion as she dives off a waterfall. Where he friend from the top of the mountain picks her up in a boat.

Well…. Your “friend” that you ran away from 10kms away would have been covered in lava and mud as the slide was 5 ft behind you when you set chase to the chopper. And somehow, he magically teleports down to a boat.

It is as if Edios had these great action set pieces they wanted to show off, but had no clue how to include them organically.

Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider did a great job of this, but then again those games were much more solo. This title keeps you friend in tow for a lot of the game, him showing up at the end of tombs and villages to add some humanity to Lara.

But in reality he is this magical pawn that can jump anyone on the chessboard and never get hurt, just to further the plot.

All things taken into account, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was a good game, but it had the potential of being a truly great game.

The puzzles and traversal were the best I have seen this generation, but the story presentation and technical issues mar an otherwise perfect title.

An unfortunate 7/10. A must play for fans of the series, but newcomers may be let down by the jarring stroy and the odd plot devices.

PS4 Review – Knack 2

PS4 Review – Knack 2

So when the PS4 launched in 2013 one of the little looked over gems was Knack. In true new console form, there is always one or two games that are a new IP, and seem to show off the new tech, all the while being thoroughly mediocre.

Knack however bucked that norm and turned out to be a bit of a cult classic. Looking like a Pixar movie certainly helped.

And while the game never sold stellar, it did however sell enough to warrant a sequel.

Enter Knack 2, a bigger, bolder and better title all around.

Now to jump in to Knack 2 you really should check out the first one, as the game assumes you know all about Knack and his merry band of human companions. So the story may seem a little jarring to a newcomer as there is no introductions to characters or origins to Knack.

At the core of Knack 2 it a brawler meets platformed, but with a twist.

Knack can take on little pieces of ancient rocks and such and grow bigger and bigger, from the size of a small dog, to a 30ft tall behemoth.

This allows for some really robust game-play changes throughout.

The levels do not all start small and end big as it is directly tied to the pickups you are given, so some levels they may push for a titan like battle with a massive Knack, and others keeping him tiny and having to stealthily sneak through levels.

In addition to this, you have various types of “coating” cor Knack, from metal which will make you super strong, to prismatic glass which makes you die in a single hit, but able to pass through laser grids.

You can really tell this is a passion project for the creators, as there is a lot of little detail and a whole lot of love in how Knack is presented.

The platforming side of things is sadly where the game can fall a little flat.

Level traversal can be a little less than stellar, especially the larger Knack gets, ge can slip off of platforms, miss entirely sometimes, just a few minor annoyances that should have been smoothed out.

Some of these can me mitigated a bit by the skills you unlock, one being the ability to not die when you miss a jump, instead it just pops you back up to the last platform you jumped from.

It seems like this was the devs way of acknowledging the issue, without fixing it.

A decent 7/10 and all in all Knack is a great family game that you can play with the kids via couch co-op if you like.

PS4 Review – Marvel’s Spider-Man – really does whatever a spider can, and more!!

PS4 Review – Marvel’s Spider-Man – really does whatever a spider can, and more!!

So my second most anticipated game for this year behind God of War was Spider-man.

2 years ago we saw the debut at E3 of a CGI trailer. It looked amazing, but usually the CG stuff does, it is damn hard to get a gauge of how a game will be from that initial tease.

Hence why I think so many developers are now showing off in-game footage 1st and foremost, so we all have a rough idea what is being show is real.

So fast forward to last years E3 where we finally got to see Spidey in action, and it looked amazing. Jaws dropped in the auditorium, yet we still held on with a little skepticism, as we have all been burned by companies like Ubisoft before.

But this year, 2018 E3, that was when the curtain truly got pulled back and we had our first real taste of a close to finished product that made all us fanboys drool.

Well the day is finally upon us, and I can tell you up front, after having just hit a Platinum on the game, it 100% lives up to the hype.

I can;t recall a time in recent memory where a game lived up to the hype Spider-Man has built up.

Front to back, this game is nearly perfect.

The story is fantastic, with lots of little unexpected twists and turns. Some are predictable, but it is hard not to be when you have so many years of comic history and movies behind it.

Yet through all that Insomniac still made a very solid entry to the Spiderverse.

The only gripe I can offer about the story is the pacing. for the first 80% of the game, the pace is rather leisurely, you complete missions at your own pace, and that holds true start to finish. But the game goes from just a friendly neighborhood spider doing his thing, to a bullet train in no time.

The final act is 100% action, back to back boss fights.

This is after about 25 hours of build up.

So it just felt a little jarring after the way the rest of the game played out.

When Spider-man really shines though is in the game design. The city traversal is top notch, from web swinging to wall running, the game is just fun. And that is a key element here.

We have had a lot of open world games, that by the 40hr mark you are absolutely sick of running on rooftops or diving into haystacks.

Spider-man never loses that feeling of wonder though, There is just something cathartic about swinging around the city mindlessly. Stopping to take down the occasional thug squad.

As the game progresses you get more and more swing abilities as well, from doing fancy flips in the air for bonus xp. To the ability to drop from the sky like a bomb on a group of enemies.

The only part that falls apart a little is in the later part of the game when you unlock the challenges.

2 of these types of challenges will have you racing after a drone or chasing down bombs in a limited time frame. Completing them requires little effort for a Bronze medal, but if you are trying to unlock all your gadget abilities and suit add-ons, then you need to hit gold on every one of the 14 challenges.

This becomes an issue due to the traversal mechanics.

Because you have to go as fast as possible, the system starts to show its flaws. That nice leisurely swinging, now becomes a frantic button mash, with Spider-man gabbing onto things you do not want.

Like swinging into a wall and now he is crawling up it. Totally breaking the flow, and blowing your chance at a gold medal.

Now the good news is, you only need enough challenge tokens unlock all his suits to get the Platinum trophy, so you can pretty much get bronze on all of the chase challenges, and still end up with enough tokens from the other 2 types, a combat and a stealth challenge.

Those are still timed and tough, but without much effort I was able to get gold on most of them, giving me enough medals to get all the suits, plus some left over to upgrade some gadgets.

Lastly we have the graphics and sound.

The sound is Spider-man is outstanding. The entire theater was filled with New York, from sirens whining in the distance to the bustling crowds. Every little detail fills your room with a Atmos setup. Helicopters whirring overhead, to thugs tossing taunts, I don;t know that I have heard a better sounding game in terms of environmental ambient noise.

When closing your eyes, you would be hard pressed to not know you wern’t in NYC.

The graphical side of things were a sight to behold as well in glorious 4k/HDR.

While I had to adjust my normal HDR levels a bit due to the overall darkness in the game, it was all in all one of the better looking HDR presentations so far.

They really knew how to milk the power of the PS4 Pro to its fullest.

Aside from the HDR, the game overall looked amazing. The trees swaying in the wind in Central Park, the towering video screens in Times Square. All of it looked outstanding.

Another cool little feature Insomniac added in was interior building details.

Most games will show lights and such in building that give you an idea the city is at least awake at night.

BUt here, Insomniac actually added in 3d looking images into windows. So you could see furniture, sinks, offices, you name it.

Now it was all a clever trick as they were all just flat 2d images, but they felt deep, like you were peering into people private spaces. This is just another little nuance that added to the realism in the game, gave it a sense of reality we do not often see.

All in all Spider-man is a masterpiece, you can see the love and care that went into making it in every little detail.

So hats off to Insomniac for a brilliant job, and here’s to hoping we don’t have too long to wait until Spider-Man 2 swings onto our consoles.

A web-tastic 9/10 and a high recommendation for anyone who loves open world games, or NYC.

One last thing, this is hands down the best costume in the game: