Friday, December 29, 2023

Call of Juarez (PC) Review

Released in 2006, Call of Juarez is an FPS set in the Wild West. I should have loved this game, but I didn't.

Considering the game was released 17 years ago, the visuals still hold up. Compared to most of the gray and brown shooters released around this time, this game stands out with colorful visuals. They successfully portrayed Mexico in a way that avoids the visual style of a Breaking Bad episode.

The story follows two characters, Billy Candle and Rev. Ray McCall, one seeking treasure and the other redemption. Techland explored the idea of finding redemption in the Wild West long before Rockstar. However, the story is not quite as interesting, and the voice acting can be amateurish at times.

Shooting is clunky and the weapon degradation does not help at all. McCall is more fun to play because you get to use guns, but the downside is that between episodes, you don't get to preserve weapons. There is no ADS when using pistols, and at times, you have to engage enemies at a distance. There are a lot of post-processing effects that obscure visibility, and fighting enemies with pistols at a distance is a frustrating experience.

But by far the most annoying mechanics are the melee combat and duels. I can forgive the awkward melee combat but detest the duels. I remember playing the demo way back in the day and hating it. That hasn't changed 17 years later.

There is very little player agency during duels. The mouse has a mind of its own. The game runs at over 200FPS on my machine, and I get the feeling that made things worse. I restricted the frame rate to 60 using RTSS, and I think it made the experience marginally better. In my opinion, it's incredibly bad game design to lock a player into a specific situation and impose very narrow criteria for success.

Billy leans more towards stealth, and using a bow is fun. However, the worst part about playing as Billy is the platform sections. First-person games around this time were not smooth enough to attempt first-person platforming. To say these sections are awkward and boring would be an understatement.

The game's default control scheme is a little weird. Horse sprint is mapped to Caps Lock on default. Why not use Shift? Who thought this was a good idea?

The disappointing part is that this could have been a timeless classic, but needlessly poor design choices prevent this game from reaching its potential.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Darkness II (PC) Review

I have not played The Darkness I because it was never released on the PC. Not having played the first game should not stop someone from playing this game. Just watch a YouTube video about the story of the first game, and you will be all caught up on the story. I should also mention that I knew nothing about the comics before playing this game.

A direct sequel to the first game, in The Darkness II, you resume the role of Jackie who is possessed by Darkness, which gives the player control of the demon and its underling.

From a technical perspective, I played this game in 2023 on i7-6700k, Nvidia 1080Ti at 2560x1440. Since this is a console port, it doesn't work well when the game is running at a very high framerate. Enabling VSync, should take care of these issues. This means that the game is going to run at a steady 60FPS, and while this is not ideal, I didn't mind it too much considering how old the game is.

The story doesn't pull any punches. From dialogue to gameplay, this is a game meant for mature audiences.

Combat is the real highlight here. In the right situations, when everything works, it is a lot of fun. Darkness abilities are a lot of fun to use, and using objects in the level to attack enemies is very well done. The one big complaint I had was the visual overload at times. The gameplay involves sticking to shadows, which gives you access to dark powers. Oftentimes in combat enemies will use light beams and these are blinding. They should have toned down the effects. I am willing to bet its not as bad when viewing this on a TV, but on a monitor it becomes really annoying and induces headaches.

In addition to this, the weapon system is clunky as well. You use Q and E to interact with objects. Pressing E allows you to eat hearts, which replenish your health. E is also used to swap weapons on the ground. When there are a lot of enemies and objects on the ground, you have to be careful about pressing E, or else you end up switching weapons without meaning to. It is aggravating in the heat of the battle and can get you killed. This could have been easily solved by automatically getting health from enemies, and without needing to go through the animation.

I got this game in a Humble Bundle for $1 (along with some other games). I got my money's worth. It takes about 6 hours to finish it, and its fun. I would not recommend paying the absurd non sale price of $29.99. If you can find it for around ~$3, and if you enjoy action games, go for it.

Verdict - Buy on deep discount.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Mirror's Edge Catalyst (PC) Review

The best parkour game I ever played, with a very forgettable story

I played and enjoyed Mirror's Edge back in 2009. It always puzzled me why DICE took so long to give us a sequel.

When Mirror's Edge Catalyst first came out, the reviews were mixedand it was not available on Steam until June 2020. I recently picked it up on Steam for $1.99. Mirror's Edge Catalyst brings the free-running action from the first game, and makes almost everything better.

This game shines on the PC, taking full advantage of the hardware capabilities. Optimization on PC deserves a special mention. The graphics are crisp, and the performance is smooth. I played the game at 3440x1440 on my 3080Ti, and the performance was flawless.

DICE did a fantastic job with the open world. The vibrant and minimalist architecture with striking colors, creates a visually stunning environment. I don't think I have seen a this kind of world design in any other game.

I remember combat in the first game being quite bad. Thankfully, combat in this game is much better. I wouldn't call it great, but its not the mess it was in the first game.

Unfortunately, the narrative falls short of the game's visually stunning world. The story in Mirror's Edge Catalyst is boring and fails to create a compelling reason for players to care about the main character's journey. I got bored within the first 10 minutes, and I couldn't tell you what the story was about, because I quit caring.

The cringe-worthy dialogue makes things worse. Characters often deliver lines that feel forced and artificial, breaking the immersion and detracting from the overall experience. Thw world is very immersive, the story and dialogue are exactly the opposite. While the focus on parkour and action is evident, a stronger narrative could have elevated the game beyond its visual appeal. Thankfully, you can skip cut-scenes.

Navigating the rooftops of the city is a lot of fun. PC controls are intuitive and responsive. The keyboard and mouse setup feels natural, allowing for precise movements during intense parkour sequences. For the most part. There are situations where platforming can be challenging, but overall, I loved the parkour, and this speaks for the great PC optimization.

In conclusion, Mirror's Edge Catalyst on PC is one hell of a game, especially for the price I paid for it. The visuals are stunning and parkour is smooth and polished. The story is boring, and the dialogue is cringe. Just based on principle double DRM is always wrong, and EA App is terrible as ever. I thoroughly recommend this game.