Sunday, November 26, 2017

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger (PC) Review

After the disaster that was Call of Juarez: The Cartel, I thought that this series is gone for good. It would be difficult for a game to redeem itself after a game like that. I was very surprised when they announced yet another game and this time around, they went back to the roots, with the game set in the Wild West.

Gunslinger is one of the most fun FPS games I have played. The last western FPS game I played was way back in 2005 called Outlaws. Great game, but western games never caught my attention since. Gunslinger looked very interesting, and when Humble Bundle offered this game for $1 as a part of Humble Ubisoft Bundle, there was no reason to not pick it up.

We are back in the Wild West once again...

The story is told in the form of flashbacks, as recalled by the main character Silas Green during his days as a bounty hunter, to a group of patrons at a bar. This has allowed for some creative gameplay techniques, because at times, the story is questioned by the patrons, and the game rewinds as the narrative changes.As the story is told, the environment also changes in real time to reflect the details being recounted.

You get to fight against historical figures in the campaign, such as Billy the Kid etc., as Silas recalls his encounters with them. Silas does not let the truth get in the way of a good story, and it leads to some funny dialogue.

A Star Wars reference...?

I felt the reason this game is so entertaining is because the developers did not take the story too seriously. It felt as if they wanted to create a game that was fun to play, first and foremost. It s weird weird saying that because you would think fun gameplay would the main motive behind all games, but I don't often get the impression when playing modern AAA games.

Shooting is so satisfying in this game. There are three classes of weapons, revolvers, rifles and shotguns. Based on your preference, you can pick any weapon to specialize. There is an RPG aspect to this. The selection is limited, but the shooting is excellent. I personally liked the rifle and revolvers the most. It is possible to dual wield revolvers, and its a lot of fun to dual wield in bullet time mode.

Speaking of which, bullet time works as a combination of slow motion time and x-ray vision. Using this is a lot of fun, they did not try to innovate on this too much by adding QTEs (which do exist), they kept it fairly simple, and as a result, when it is activated in a tough situation, it is very useful, while being stylish.

A note about QTEs in the game, I don't mind the way they are implemented. The game prompts the player to press a button in some situations, but it can be ignored. The game does not punish the player for not engaging in QTEs, for the most part. Ideally, I would like for them to not exist at all, but as it stands, its not as bad as Battlefield 3.

I have not used shotguns a whole lot, but when I did, they have a lot of impact, and fun to use, unlike the last game I played - Spec Ops: The Line.

Enemies range from natives to other outlaws, and the combat is always entertaining and frantic.

The developers did a fantastic job with the atmosphere. The art style has a comic book feel to it, reminds of the cel-shaded game, XIII. The intros to some of the characters are very well done, and this is one of those games where I did not mind watching the cut scenes. The visuals are beautiful. Its not all set in a desert, you travel through ghost towns, lush green forests, swamps, canyons etc. The level design is beautiful. For the most part every chapter has its own setting, and they are expertly created.

Audio deserves a special mention here. Voice acting, music, gunshots, and  atmospheric sounds are excellent. The term immersion is overused in gaming media, but that perfectly describes the audio. It captures the Wild West theme perfectly and adds to the immersion.

This maybe the first time I played a game set in Wyoming...

However, all is not perfect with the game. There is one aspect I did not enjoy, and that is the duels. The mechanics are vague, and although the game does try to educate the player on how the system works, I still had trouble getting used to it. The part that I hated the most about the duels is how the reticle does not obey player input. It feels as if the input lag is increased, and the dip is decreased. I found this system to be very irritating and unnecessary. I hope they scrap this feature in future titles.

I enjoyed this game a lot, and now I want to play the Call of Juarez, and Bound in Blood. Its unbelievable that I got this game for $1. It took me about 6 hours to finish the campaign in Normal mode. I am not sure its worth the $14.99 price tag, but I would definitely recommend this for the current price of $7.49.

On 11/26/2017, the game is on sale for $7.49


+ Wild West setting
+ Excellent gunplay
+ Beautiful visuals
+ Audio
+ Story

- Duels

Verdict - Excellent game, buy it for under $10.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Spec Ops: The Line (PC) Review

Spec Ops: The Line is a 3rd person shooter developed by Yager Development. It was released in 2012. I remember watching a review about how this game was better than most of the military shooters released at the time, so I was interested in playing this game for the longest time. I never got to play it at launch, and having just finished it, I am glad I didn't buy it at the time.

It is not a terrible game. Its functional, and thoroughly boring. There is nothing original about the gameplay. I understand that this is supposed to be a narrative driven game, but that does not prevent the game from being boring because of generic the gameplay. Gears of War is a much better cover shooter, and that came out years ago.

Upside down American Flag is a sign of distress. Here is a link to US Flag Code -

The game is built using Unreal 2 engine, and it handles a lot like Mass Effect. What this means is, the game does not have jump, and shooting involves diving behind cover and peaking out, and taking shots at enemies. Just about every single encounter turns into this. Like most console ports at the time, the controls are not optimized for the PC. Spacebar is used for both sprinting and taking cover. I did not enjoy this in Mass Effect, and I did not enjoy this in Spec Ops.

The gunplay is weak, and the weapon variety doesn't add much to the game because other than ammo capacity, all rifles felt the same. I understand that they cannot stray too much from reality because of the military setting, but that is no excuse of the weak weapon handling. The reason I did not like the weapon handling is probably because I am playing this game in 2017, and as a Battlefield player, I find most other shooters to be not as good as Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4.

The game tries to incorporate squad play, but the system is not very fleshed out, and I felt it was awkward to use. There are few instances where giving orders to your squad is useful, but overall it is possible to play most of the game without ever giving any squad orders. The much talked about environment interaction is basically shooting some objects during combat to take out enemies, such as shooting a window to cause a sand slide etc. Do not expect Red Faction like environment destruction.

The main selling point  of this game was the story. I am playing this game 5 years after its release, and having played other games which attempted something similar, I could see the twist coming well in advance. Like Modern Warfare 2, there is one section in the game that this game is going to be remembered for, and I could see that coming as well. That said, the story itself is not too bad, but I think there are some instances where they left things to interpretation and this doesn't provide closure. Also, the suspension of disbelief required is a little too much for me. The main character and his two friends take on what looks like the entire US army, get thrown off buildings, survive a massive truck crash, and a chopper crash with no broken bones...

It is difficult to achieve the level of engagement they were asking for, because they want to tell a story that is grounded in reality, but the gameplay just does not lend itself to that.

I purchased this game as a part of a Humble Bundle for $1, and for that price, I am not disappointed, but I really would not recommend paying any money for this game because it has no replay value, and there are so many great games out there for cheap.


+ Decent graphics

- Over hyped story
- Extremely linear
- Weak gunplay
- Controls not optimized for PC

Veridct - Not recommended.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grand Theft Auto 4 (PC) Review

I know I am about 8 years late to the GTA 4 PC party. When I first saw this game announced for the PC, I was very happy. The game looked great in the trailers but I couldn’t buy it at launch because it was too expensive. I picked this up for $7.50 during a steam sale, therefore I am not terriblly unhappy for what I got, but if I paid $60 at launch, I would be very upset.

Where do I even begin describing the problems with this game. Let’s start with the awful GFWL.

GFWL is by far the worst DRM I’ve ever come across, and GTA 4 has fallen victim to it. To begin with, save games are tied to a GFWL profile - even if it's an offline profile. So if you ever need to take a backup of the save games, restoring them would not be possible without restoring the offline profile as well. If you forget this very important step, the game will not recognize the save files, and you are forced to start the game from the beginning. The only workaround is to use x live less patch.

However, using the x live less made some of the mods not work correctly, but that is a small trade off compared to starting the game all over again.

At this point, I want to remind people that games purchased from the Windows 10 Store might have the same issues...but that’s a different topic for another day.

GFWL is the worst. Shame on Microsoft for this anti-consumer garbage. Never forget.

In addition to GFWL issues, GTA 4 is a bad PC port. When I started the game for the first time, it defaulted to 640x480 because apparently my 980 isn't good enough for this 8 year old game. I had to use a workaround for the game to not lock my resolution to 640x480. Not a good start.

Graphics menu

The save system is really bad because there are no mission checkpoints. Failing a mission will mean starting over, but starting over means, all the armor and health are not restored, instead they will be at the same level as they were when the mission failed.

During long missions, you are constantly fighting the game’s weird design choices, bad controls, and one mistake could mean either restarting the mission or loading a previous save point. This is tedious to say the least.

Sadly, there are people who think this is not a joke, and that stock market really is a gamble...

The final mission is particularly awful. It is one of those drawn out missions which starts off with a car chase, followed by a shootout, then by a timed chase bike chase, followed by a chopper chase, followed by a foot chase. Make one mistake, and the enemy gets away, and you have to start ALL over again.

As if this isn’t bad enough, this mission has a game breaking bug. At point in the mission, there is a QTE (quick time event), where you have mash to the spacebar for the character to climb into a chopper, but this QTE will never work if your game is running at over 30FPS! I have failed this particular section four times before doing an online search, which revealed this problem. I had to use FRAPS, and start a recording which restricted my framerate to 30FPS, and then I was able to get past this section.

In conclusion, while the story is good, and characters are interesting, the PC port is a technical mess. I would recommend skipping this game entirely, but if you simply must play this game, try to get it for under $10. Anything more than that, is simply not worth it in my opinion.

Veridct - Wait for a deep discount

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing Review (PC)

The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a Diablo inspired action RPG developed by NeocoreGames. The game is set in Eastern Europe where magic and science fiction coexist. You get to play as the son of Van Helsing from the original Dracula novel.

In this game, you find yourself in Borgova, which is plagued by monsters and it is your job to hunt them down, and free the land. This quest will take you through several areas like swamp forests, mines, sewers and elaborate futuristic steampunk cities. There is a lot of variety in level settings.

You also get a ghost companion, Lady Katarina. There is some banter between the main character and the companion which can be funny at times, but most of the times, its just cliches. I felt that some of the abilities for the companion were either not very well developed or not well explained. For example, I have never seen the  companion use a melee weapon, yet you could equip the companion with one. I am not sure why...

That said, having a companion is very useful, not just during combat, but for doing tedious tasks such as selling items. Just like in Torchlight, it is possible to add items to the inventory of the companion and send her off to town to sell them.

Inventory of Van Helsing and Lady Katrina

The gameplay got very tedious towards the end of the game. In the beginning, there is a learning curve, and its fun experimenting with different abilities, but halfway through the game, it becomes very stale, because there is not much else to discover in terms of abilities, and the loot becomes pointless because I already have the best weapons. By the end of the game, I had over 700,000 gold, and there was nothing to spend it on. This would have been fine if the combat didn't get so repetitive.

Combat generally involves a large mob of enemies rushing your position. Not necessarily a bad thing, but more often than not, the mobs are very unfair. Often times I found myself overpowered, and no combination of abilities and weapons allowed me to defeat the mobs. It is possible that I could have made a mistake in points allocation, but I felt as if these sections are created to be unfair. In addition to this, the game has these narrow levels with tall obstacles (such as pillars) which obstruct the view and it can combat more frustrating in certain situations.

At times there are 20 enemies all firing at the same time, and there is no way to retaliate except pick off a couple of enemies, die, respawn and retry. This is not fun for me, and its not good design in my opinion.

The game does not seem to take the story very seriously, its laced with anachronistic references, intended to be humorous, I am sure, but it got old, and unlike Diablo, there are no memorable characters to be found here, except for the main character and the companion. This is a bit of shame because the game had a lot of potential, but just did not capitalize on it. I am sure the humorous take on the vampires and mad scientists might appeal to some, but I was hoping for something different.

Is that a Witcher reference?

I purchased this game as part of Humble Jumbo Bundle on August 20, 2014 for $1. I got this game along with others as a part of this bundle, and for that price, you can't really go wrong. Would I recommend this game? Well, if you can pick it for a $1, sure. Otherwise, not really. Its not a terrible game, but there is nothing original here, and there are better games out there worthy of time investment.


- Uninteresting loot
- Silly story
- Weak voice acting
- Graphics didn't age well
- Not enough content
- Repetitive combat

Verdict - There are better games out there.