Category: Games

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: A Review

It is not often that a brand new open world action game series is unveiled, and subsequently takes the gaming community by storm. But that seems to be what happened in 2016 with a new game by Electronic Arts titled Tom Clancy’s The Division. The sequel to the best selling game has been released and having played it for a while, I thought I would give it a review. Note: There may be spoilers for the game with this review.

The Story

The basis of the Division series is an interesting one, at least to me it is interesting. To quote Wikipedia:

On Black Friday 2015, a smallpox epidemic, transmitted by a virus planted on banknotes, sweeps through New York City. The disease, known as “Green Poison” or “The Dollar Flu”, causes widespread chaos, and Manhattan is placed under quarantine. The U.S. Government activates sleeper agents in the population who operate for the Strategic Homeland Division, or simply “the Division”, to assist emergency responders, now called the Joint Task Force (JTF), in restoring order. In Brooklyn, the protagonist, a Division agent, assists the JTF before planning to depart for the Quarantine zone with fellow agent Faye Lau.

In the first game you are a Division agent tasked with finding the source of the epidemic. During your travails you need to clear out different factions whom are trying to exploit the chaos and take control of New York City. The Division 2 takes place seven months after the release of the Green Poison from the first game. This time the game is focused on Washington, D.C.

Seven months after the Green Poison outbreak, several Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) agents are defending a civilian settlement from a bandit attack when the SHD Network, the system controlling their advanced technology and communications, suddenly shuts down and they receive a Division distress call from Washington D.C. The player’s Agent makes their way to the city where the Division and the remains of the local Joint Task Force have set up their base of operations in the White House. After defeating an attack on the White House shortly after arriving in the city, the Agent is briefed on the general situation by Manny Ortega, the Division controller for D.C.

There is a lot more to the story, but you will have to play the game to learn more.

Similarities

As with any game series, many aspects of each game will be familiar. This is the case with the Division series as well. As with the first game you are a Division agent who needs to clear out factions attempting to take over Washington D.C. The game mechanics are that you need to complete missions as well as side missions to clear out the factions and take back sections of the city. Throughout the game the enemies you face various levels of enemies.

Each section has a variety of side missions, including Control Point takeovers, target training, hostage rescue, and more.

Just as with the first game, within each area there is a Safe House that must be located. Safe Houses allow you to restock your ammo, health, and armor. Located in each Safe House is your stash, where you can put equipment that you cannot carry but might want to hold on to while storing away the items you may want later.

With both of the Division games you level up your character by completing missions, side missions, finding loot, and eliminating the enemy. Some enemies will drop items upon their death. These items can include weapons, ammo, or crafting materials.

Differences

While the two games are similar in many ways, there are also some differences that create a slightly different game play with the Division 2.

As you progress through the game you earn experience points, gain Strategic Homeland Division (SHD) tech points to gain skills. Skills allow you to employ different items to assist in your quest. These were present in the original Division, but they have been changed around.

With the first game there were three broad categories, Medical, Tech, and Security skills. Now with the Division 2, there are no categories, but there are different options within each skill that can be used. You can equip two skills. Each of these skills can be one of 8 different types of skills. Instead of being a category, these are objects. These objects are:

  • Drone
  • Firefly
  • Hive
  • Launcher
  • Pulse
  • Seeker Mine
  • Shield
  • Turret

There are variants of each of these skills that have different assets. You can select the ones that best match your play style. These unlock as as you play through the game and collect SHD tech.

Specializations

Once you have reached level 30, you will have the option of adding a “Signature Weapon”. A specialty is an additional weapon that will help you in missions. A Signature Weapon is a double-edged sword. With a Specialty, each weapon is extremely powerful, more powerful than standard weapons even with mods. However, with that extra power, your ammunition is quite limited. So it is best to use the Specialized weapon only when it is most needed.

There are three different Specializations to choose from, and each has its own weapon. The Specializations are:

  • Demolitionist has a grenade launcher
  • Sharpshooter has a powerful rifle
  • Survivalist has a crossbow with explosive bolts

Each of the specializations has its own attribute tree that can be unlocked. . You can only employ one specialization at a time, however you can easily swap between them at the Quartermaster within the Base of Operations.

You earn additional specialization points by finishing some missions, after you have completed level 30. You can use these points to unlock different attributes for each specialization.

There is an area of game play that also exists in the Division 2, the Dark Zone. Let us look at that one separately.

The Dark Zone

The Dark Zone is one of the areas of the first Division game that really excited players. The Dark Zone is a separate area than the main game play map. The Dark Zone is a mix of Player vs. Player (PvP), and Player vs. Enemy (PvE). Within the Dark Zone of the Division 2, you try to capture landmarks that are being held by hostile enemies.

Unlike with the first game, there is not a single solitary Dark Zone. Instead there are actually three of them. East, South, and West. Each of them have a minimum level you need before entering each Dark Zone. Each of the zones has a different type of play style.

Just like with the first game, some items that are dropped are “contaminated”. This means that they must be extracted via helicopter. If items are successfully extracted they are delivered to your stash.

There has been a slight addition to the Dark Zone, there are no exploration missions. These are missions that help you explore each of the Dark Zone areas. These provide a way to level up in the Dark Zone.

There are 50 levels for a user in the Dark Zone. This progression occurs much faster than in the main game, and it can help you earn perks that will help in the main game.

One of the differences with the Dark Zone in the Division 2 is the way that you learn about the Dark Zone. With the Division 2, there is a quick walkthrough that helps you explore each of the areas. This allows you to get familiar with the zones and provides you an easy way to gain levels.

Rogue Agents

One of the areas of the Division that some players enjoy is the aspect of “going rogue”. In the first game this was done by attacking other players, stealing their extracted loot, or by other nefarious methods. This could occur both in the primary world or within the Dark Zone. While it occurred in the main mission area, it was definitely more prevalent in the Dark Zone.

There is still the ability to go rogue, if you desire, particularly in the Dark Zone, but it is not something that I have seen as much of as in the first game. I am not sure why this is the case. It could be because there are not as many players, or it could be because going Rogue is not as interesting as in the last game.

Downsides

There have been some changes that are not necessarily for the better, at least in my opinion. The biggest of these is the way that the world tiers work in the Division 2. Once you level up to a World Tier there is no way to go back to a lower tier. You can only go up in tier. This makes it a bit more difficult should you want to do some scavenging or to complete projects.

It is still possible to do the side missions and projects, but significantly harder once you go up a tier due to the increased difficulty.

Even though there have been some changes to the game overall, they are not all downsides. With that through all of my playing I have compiled some tips that might be helpful for any Division Agent.

Tips

There are a few tips that I have learned by playing the game.

Tip 1: While most missions can be done on a solo basis, some missions cannot be completed by yourself. Do not hesitate to use match making to get additional agents involved to help with a mission. You may only be in the group for the one mission, but they can be quite helpful in completing it.

Tip 2: When taking over control points, be sure to make sure you are well stocked with ammo. Some control points will not be easy to take over. Be sure to make sure there are some allies in the area trying to take over the control point in case you die and need to get back to the control point. The allies will keep the enemies busy while you get back. At some control points there are stationary guns. These will definitely utilize these as well.

Tip 3: Use grenades near clustered enemies. If your grenade is powerful enough you could take out a group of enemies with just one grenade. This can save on ammunition should you be running low.

Tip 4: Use Fast Travel. You can fast travel between safe houses, control points, the base of operations, and settlements.

Tip 5: Do as much exploration as you want before you tackle the last mission, which is the Level 30 Stronghold on the east side of the map. Once you complete this, you will be entered into Tier 1, which as mentioned earlier, you cannot undo once done.

Tip 6: Be prepared for anything when going into the Dark Zone.

Tip 7: Use the shooting range to test out different weapons, mods, and difficulties. This will be helpful in finding out what works best with which type of enemy.

Tip 8: Make sure to listen to the audio collectibles, they fill in some of the story.

Closing Thoughts

There is a lot to do within Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. The sequel takes the best parts of the first game and expand upon them. The new Dark Zone exploration missions are nice additions. While there is still player vs. player available, it does not seem to be as prevalent as it was in the first game.

The inclusion of “Signature Weapons” adds to the game play in some interesting ways. Using one of the Signature Weapon can be a game changer at a crucial point.

If you enjoy in-depth games, you cannot go wrong with The Division 2. There are hours upon hours of game play, even after you have finished the main missions of the game, there is still more to do. If you include all of this with the expansions on the horizon, it is not likely that you will have nothing to do in the game. If you enjoyed playing the first Division game, then there it is quite likely that you will enjoy the second one.

There are multiple versions of the game, Standard, Gold, Ultimate, and Gold Steelbook editions. The first three are available physically or digitally, with the Steelbook edition only being available physically. You can buy The Division 2 today for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.

2017 Games Ranking

One of my areas of interest is video games. I do own a number of consoles. The list of consoles that I own includes:

  • Xbox One
  • Playstation 4
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Wii U
  • Playstation 3
  • Wii
  • Xbox 360

I do not generally use all of these. In fact, the only ones that I use on a regular basis are the first four listed. The Playstation 3 is effectively a Blu-ray player at this point.

My go to gaming console is the Xbox One. I do not buy that many games throughout the year. In fact, I generally only end up buying at most six a year. During 2017 I ended up buying more games than normal due to the Nintendo Switch being released. As a matter of fact, I only played eleven different games this year. I thought I would provide a ranking of the games that I have played throughout the year.

  1. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
  2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Xbox One)
  3. PCalc (iOS)
  4. LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 Deluxe (Xbox One)
  5. Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)
  6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo Switch)
  7. Typeshift (iOS)
  8. Call of Duty: WWII (Xbox One)
  9. Lego City Undercover (Xbox One)
  10. Super Bomberman R (Nintendo Switch)
  11. Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

The ranking that provided above is for many reasons. I will attempt to briefly give reasons for my rankings.

1. Super Mario Odyssey

Super Mario Odyssey is the best game that I have played this year. It worked flawlessly on the Nintendo Switch. It combined the best elements of classic 2D Super Mario as well as Nintendo 64 Mario, and it did this all to provide a great story and fun game play. There were only a couple of sections that I found that I could not accomplish. The new game play mechanics of using the hat did add a nice touch to the game. I hope Nintendo continues using the mechanic in another game in the future. I did not get all of the Moons, but that is okay with me.

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2. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (Xbox One)

I have been of a fan of the Wolfenstein series since I first played Wolfenstein 3D back in the MS-DOS days. I have probably purchased more copies of Wolfenstein 3D than I care to admit. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was not universally loved, like Super Mario, but I enjoyed the story and the game play. You play as BJ Blazkowicz in a continuation of the story in the 2014 reboot, Wolfenstein: The New Order. The gameplay of Wolfenstein II was fun and some new mechanics added a nice touch to a first person shooter. I ran into some issues, which is why it ended up as second in my list and not number one.

To me the Wolfenstein Series, along with Duke Nukem and Doom, will always hold a special place and as long as there is another game in the Wolfenstein universe released, I will likely end up buying it.

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3. PCalc (iOS)

I do not play as many new iOS games as others do. On iOS I generally tend to stick to a couple of games, Solitaire and Tetris. PCalc is not a game, on its face. However, there is a full fledged game within the app. PCalc’s author James Thomson has been working on versions of PCalc for 25 years now. Every time a new feature in iOS is added, James attempts to include it within PCalc, if it makes sense.

Within iOS 11, Apple added a bunch of new frameworks that would allow developers to add augmented reality within their apps. James has done just this. You can play a racing game, complete with track and even achievements. With the inclusion of the game in the “About” screen, I consider it a game. If you have an Apple TV, PCalc TV is the way to really play the game. Plus, besides the game, you get a fully fledged calculator and you definitely need one on the iPad.

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4. Lego Marvel Superheroes 2

Besides video games I love legos. As a kid, I loved playing with legos. As much as I love legos, Lego sets are a bit expensive and therefore I do not buy as many as I would like; plus I do not have the space for a bunch of sets. Now, if you combine Video games and Legos, it is a no brainer for me to get those. The strangest aspect to this purchase was that I am not a Comic book fan and do not really care to see most Comic-based movies. Therefore, I do not know about most of the characters that are included in these games. However, even with all of this, I did enjoy the Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 game.

The story was interesting and did make for a different gameplay. Despite my love for lego and video games, there was not really enough new to warrant having it go higher than it’s current ranking. One of the things I try to do with Lego games is get 100% on them. However, the Lego Superhero games do not allow me to do this. The fact that it is a Lego game, is why it edged out the next game.

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5. Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Unlike the Wolfenstein series, the Zelda franchise is not one that I generally partake in. The biggest reason that I ended up playing some of Zelda is that when I got my Nintendo Switch back in March there were not many games out, particularly since Mario Kart was not going to be released until April. Therefore, in order to be able to play something I picked up a copy of Zelda.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a visually stunning game. The story really does allow you to become immersed within the world and urges you on. The open world nature of the game provides a way for you to be able to go and explore wherever you want. Eventually though, it did not hold enough appeal for me to continue playing it. For those that love Zelda, it is a great game to play and is one that you should go out and play.

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6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

One of the things that is not easy to do is differentiate racing games. Racing games all have a common game mechanic, end up in first. It is not easy to make your game stand out, however for Nintendo it is a bit easier. This is due to having a large breadth of characters. Mario Kart has been the go to Nintendo racing game, not only for the iconic characters, but because of the very

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not a brand new Mario Kart game, since it was available for the Nintendo Wii U, but the Nintendo Switch provided a boost to sales of the game. Mario Kart 8 is a traditional Mario Kart game complete with classic tracks as well as new ones. If you have played any Mario Kart games, Mario Kart 8 is one you should play as well.

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7. Typeshift (iOS)

There are only two iOS games on my list this year, and this is the second of them; Typeshift. TypeShift is a word puzzle game that provides you with a set of characters and the object of the game is make words using all of the characters. The catch is that the characters appear in vertical lines and have to shift each line to create the words.

While my explanation may not make a lot of sense, once you begin playing you will catch on quickly. Typeshift has become one of the games that I play daily, besides Tetris Premium and Solitaire by Mobilityware.

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8. Call of Duty: WWII (Xbox One)

You may be able to tel that my primary gaming genre is the first person shooter. One of the most popular franchises is the Call of Duty series. The Call of Duty series started off as a World War II series, but eventually turned to more modern and even futuristic storylines. Call of Duty: WWII brings the franchise back to its roots with World War II, but with modern mechanics.

For me, first person shooters are the single player stories, which is the antithesis of the focus of the series for many gamers. Much like Wolfenstein II, some players did not like the single player story, but I did not mind it. It was not the best story, but you do play as a number of different characters in different scenarios which was a nice adaptation for the series.

I have only played a couple dozen online matches for Call of Duty: WWII and it is not likely that I will play many more. The online matches offer no real differentiation from pervious games and is one of the big reasons that it is number 7 on my list. If you enjoy the Call of Duty series and were hoping for it to go back to its roots, this is one that you might enjoy.

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9. Lego City Undercover (Xbox One)

This is the second Lego video game that I have played this year, however it not the first time that I have played the game. Lego City Undercover originally came out in 2013 on the Wii U. When it was released on the Wii U it heavily relied upon the Wii U game pad for interaction. Without a game pad this time, interactions had to be adjusted.

I enjoyed playing through the game again and unlike Lego Marvel Superheroes 2, I did get 100% on this one. Because I had played it did not rank up as high as other games, but that does not diminish from how fun it is. If you take the vast open world nature of Grand Theft Auto or Zelda and place it within a world of Lego characters you will get Lego City Undercover. Lego City Undercover contains hours of fun and will keep you occupied for a long time.

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10. Super Bomberman R (Nintendo Switch)

With it being the debut year for the Nintendo Switch there are a number of games that are being released for the console. One of those games is a remake of a classic Nintendo franchise, Bomberman. Super Bomberman R is a rebooted Bomberman game. I never really played any of the previous Bomberman games, but I enjoyed the story mode on this one. There are 50 levels to play through where you have to complete puzzles to defeat the robot enemies. As with most games, there are some levels that are tougher than others, but overall it is a good puzzle game that will keep you entertained. There is an online multiplayer component, but I have not played online

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11. Puyo Puyo Tetris (Nintendo Switch)

The last game in my list for this year is Puyo Puyo Tetris. Puyo Puyo Tetris takes two franchises, Puyo Puyo and Tetris and intersperses gameplay of both games into one. I originally purchased this game because it was a Tetris game. However, I was quite disappointed with the game overall. I am sure if you were a fan of Puyo Puyo as well as Tetris you would enjoy it. However, for me, it was not anything that I enjoyed.

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Final Thoughts

Those are all of the game that I have played this year. The list may not be very long but I have played all of these games for more than a cursory amount of time. The one thing that I did not expect was to have two iOS games on my list, since my iOS devices are generally where I play most of my super casual games. Typically PCalc would not be included, but everything that James has done with the app, particularly with iOS 11, warrants its inclusion. It is not likely that I will play most of these games much in 2018, excluding maybe TypeShift and PCalc. I will likely go through Wolfenstein II again once the next one is released. I may dabble in Mario Kart and Super Mario Odyssey again, but once I finish a game I typically do not go back to it.

Depending on what games are released in 2018, as well as reaction to the list, I may do another list next year.

Watch Dogs 2: A Review

In June of 2012, at their E3 conference, Ubisoft unveiled a brand new intellectual property. This one was a twist on the genre of open-world games. The game, was Watch Dogs, also seen as WATCH_DOGS. The game was a commercial success with over 10 million copies being sold in 2014. With the game being successful, Ubisoft has produced a sequel, Watch Dogs 2; which is the focus of this review. Given the high level of similarities, with regards to the mechanics, between Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2, let us start there.

A bit of backstory for Watch Dogs is needed. Due to a blackout in the Northeastern United States, the Blume Corporation builds a new Central Operating System (ctOS), that provides a way to have everything connected.

Chicago

The open world of Watch Dogs is based on a fictionalized version of Chicago. The game allowed variety of neighborhoods that ranged from run-down areas to the most affluent. The game included iconic sights within Chicago. Some of these included the EL, the Sears Tower, and even Buckingham Fountain.

Within Watch Dogs, you play as “The Vigilante” also known as Aiden Pierce. Aiden was seen during a robbery of a Hotel, and since he ended up leaving during that robbery, a bounty is put on him. The hit man is instructed to take out his family, if necessary.

The hitman manages to accidentally kill Aiden Pearce’s niece Lena, so he is out to get revenge. That is where Watch Dogs starts.

Gameplay

Almost everything in Watch Dogs was “hackable”, meaning that you can use your phone to hack other individuals. When you did this, you could intercept a variety of things. These may include: money, chats, or even phone calls. The money would be the most helpful, but reading chat conversations or listening to phone calls could provide an entertaining insight into each pedestrian as they innocently go about their lives.

Similarly, this means that there are some objects within the world that are “hackable”. Some examples include cell phones, cars, city infrastructure, doors, and a number of other items.

With many first person shooter games, you are limited to the actions that you can perform. The same is true with Watch Dogs, but part of the gameplay of Watch Dogs that defines the Watch Dogs games is the fact that besides being an open-world, it is also a puzzle game.

In the first Watch Dogs there was an aspect to the game where you had to turn items to be able to activate other items. As an example, you would start with a power unit with lines In Watch Dogs, this was so prevalent that the “Peephole” achievement. These puzzles continue in Watch Dogs 2, however they are not nearly as common.

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 takes the success of Watch Dogs, and adds to it. In Watch Dogs 2, you play as Marcus Holloway, an Oakland-based hacker trying to get into Dedsec. In order to be initiated, Marcus, also known as Retr0, must go on a mission. This is the opening mission.

Technology

Watch Dogs introduced the original mechanism of using a cell phone to hack individuals. With the advancement of only a couple of years, Watch Dogs 2 has been able to add a few new mechanisms.

Watch Dogs 2 uses some of the technology is RC. The RC Car can jump, taunt and even drop weapons against enemies. The same can be said for the Drone. The Drone is needed for some levels, as well as some collectables.

One of the technologies that have become more ubiquitous since the original Watch Dogs is 3D Printing. In Watch Dogs, you could go into a gun shop to purchase weapons. However, with Watch Dogs 2, you can now use a 3D printer to print out, and even adorn, your weapon of choice. You can even do some side missions to be able to get different paint jobs for your weapons.

Another aspect to technology that has become quite common is the act of taking a selfie, or self-picture. This is doable within Watch Dogs 2, as is explained below.

San Francisco

One of the side missions of almost any game is to collect things. In Watch Dogs, there was the “Peephole” achievement, mentioned above, where you would use hacking to peek into what others were doing to get an even richer sense of the gaming universe.

Watch Dogs 2 does have a similar side mission, but this is to get pictures of some of the iconic tourist sights in San Francisco. One of the twists with this, you can use the front-facing camera on your in-game phone to take pictures of yourself. Just like social media sites in life, characters will comment, in-game, on the pictures that you take.

The game world is not just confined to San Francisco, but encompasses the surrounding area. Some of these are Silicon Valley, Marin County, and Oakland. When you look at the map, it may seem small, but it really is not that small.

The scenery of San Francisco is spot on. Having never been there myself, it would seem like it is an accurate replication of what the San Francisco area is like. People who live in the Bay Area, or have visited enough, can verify or refute that statement.

Game Play

As mentioned above, Watch Dogs 2 implements many of the same mechanisms as in Watch Dogs. You are still able to hack phones, cameras, cars, and city infrastructure. However, the mechanisms are expanded upon. For instance, there are now two additional items to help you in the game. The first is as remote control car. An RC car was introduced in the Watch Dogs expansion, Bad Blood. However, it plays an even more prominent role in Watch Dogs 2.

In Watch Dogs 2, the RC car is necessary, not only for being able to get to through certain missions, but also in order to avoid detection. There is another mechanism, a drone. The drone is used for simliar tasks. However, it can come in even handier than the RC car can.

Just like in Watch Dogs, you come across additional characters that will either help or hinder you along the way. A number of these individuals are hackers, and assist in some ways. While others are those out stop you.

Control Scheme

The control scheme for Watch Dogs 2 is different than it was for Watch Dogs. After playing through Watch Dogs 2, and then going back and playing the first couple of missions of Watch Dogs again, it took some re-orientation to get back into using the proper controls. It is a minor thing, but something to be aware of.

Final Thoughts

After playing through the entire game. Some may think that the storyline is entirely implausible. Some aspects of it appear to be impractical. However, one thing that Watch Dogs 2 does, is make its own social commentary about not just humans, but also on technology and society as a whole.

Overall, Watch Dogs 2 is an improvement over Watch Dogs. The game play is good and the story, even with some quibbles, is pretty good. There is more to do in the game, from ATV racing, drone racing, or even grabbing bags of cash. There is plenty for all users to enjoy within the game. If you enjoy open-world games, and in particular, if you enjoyed Watch Dogs, then Watch Dogs 2 is worth getting.

Where would I like to see them go next? Maybe England, because ctOS is already, if not super close, to becoming a reality. Everything is being monitored there, so it would make for a possible candidate for future expansion.

Watch Dogs 2 is available on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC. Links below are to purchase the title from Amazon.

  Xbox One Playstation PC
Standard Disc Download Disc Download Download
Deluxe Download Disc Download Download
Gold Disc Download Disc Download Download

A Review of Mafia III

Note: There may be some spoilers, nothing explicit, but some aspects of the game will be revealed. If you do not mind, continue reading.

I have just finished the game Mafia III. While I do not normally do reviews of games, I thought that I would for this one.

There is one thing that modern media has learned is that making sequels are usually a good bet. One of the downsides to sequels is that they are not always good. As a matter of fact, it is often that the second in a trilogy is bad. There are exceptions to this general rule, but they are few and far between.

One place where this is the case is the Mafia series of games. The latest installment, Mafia III. The original Mafia game came out in 2002. The sequel came out in 2010. The original Mafia game followed Tommy Angelo as he made his way up through the Mafia in Lost Heaven. The time period for Mafia is the 1930s.

Mafia II followed a new character, Vito Scaletta, as he traverses through the 1940s and early 1950s mafia scene in Empire Bay with his best friend Joe Barbaro. As one might expect, Vito makes his way up through the ranks of the Mafia holding onto Empire Bay.

Mafia III takes this trope and puts a slightly different twist on it. In Mafia III you are Lincoln Clay, newly arrived home from his tour in Vietnam, he comes back to find that the life he knew, and those he cares about, are all in trouble. Lincoln takes it upon himself to make sure everything gets back to normal. In order to do make this happen, he must take on those that are running, and thus crippling, New Bordeaux.

Features

Throughout the game you will see cutscenes, some of these are in the same time frame as the game that you play through, while others are past this time. All of thes cut scenes add to overall story and add some depth to different characters throughout the game, as well as the overall story as a whole.

Combat

As one might expect with an open-world first person shooter, combat is a primary mechanism in the game. This is one aspect that has been greatly improved over the previous Mafia games. You are provided with a variety of weapons to choose from. During the game, I ended up using two weapons for a vast majority of the time.

Assistance

You are able to get assistance from others within the game. This is a key aspect of the game, and the assistance they provide is greatly needed. Use them as you will.

Collectibles

Many games have an aspect where you can collect different items. Mafia III is no different. There are six total types of collectibles, with a significant number of a few of them. The collectibles do not add anything to the story itself, but they are a set of nice side missions to go ahead and complete.

The Good

There are many things that are great about Mafia III. The story lines makes sense. The world is completely open and you are able to perform the missions in any order you choose, which is a nice touch. This means that the game is not one that is on rails.

There is a significant amount of attention to detail that is paid with the game. This ranges not only from the moon bouncing off of the cars, but also to the vibration of the controller changing when your drive over different surfaces.

The scenery of the game is spectacular. As you play the game, you can tell that the artists designed the game to be as realistic as possible iven the constraints that they were under.

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The sound in the game is done quite well. There are little touches that add to the experience. The game is done in stereo, meaning that if voices are to the left of you, you hear it in the left headphone; it is the same for the right. This applies not only to characters, but also to cars. For instance, the rear right tire on a car I was driving popped and I was driving only on the rim. The sparking and grinding of that tire was only audible in the right headphone. It is nice touches like these that make the game that much more enjoyable.

Crazy Flips

With a game that spans a vast distance, it is necessary to have vehicles to get from one place to another. Mafia III has a variety of cars that can help you get o your destination. While driving, it nigh impossible to drive perfectly and never hit anything. However, when you do go ahead and hit something you may be able to do some spectacular flips, which adds some fun into the game.

Epic Fails

Here are a few of my own epic fails throughout the game.

The Bad

All games have issues, particularly when they are first released. Due to the way that manufacturing and shipping works, games generally also have day-one updates. Mafia III is no exception. Below is a list of the issues that I encountered while playing the game. Some make the game play worse than others do.

Freezing

When I was playing, the game would just randomly freeze. Now, this is not necessarily bad, because it would catch up, but it was quite annoying; particularly if I was in a sticky situation and it froze.

Similarly, the game would outright crash. Several times, this lead to me losing progress in the game. A few times the game crashed when it was saving. The game states when you start it up, not to quit the game or turn off the console while it is saving. I am glad that it did not cause any issues. However, one can perceive a lack of caring from the developer, not necessarily due to the crashes, but due to the lack of fixing of the bugs, even a couple of weeks after the game was released.

Sound

Besides the crashes, there are times when resuming a game that there would be absolutely no sound. In some cases it’s not an issue, but if you are trying to go through a cutscene, there would be no sound, making it rather difficult to understand what was going on, if you did not enable captions. Strangely, when this occurred, it also meant that the vibrations that should occur did not, meaning that there was no force feedback.

I was able to determine this was the game and not the entire system because if I went through the system it would have sound all throughout the user interface.

Car Failures

mafia-iii-car-glitch

 

While we can expect games to be perfect, we all know that it not possible for all games to be perfected. In Mafia III there are some spectacular failures of cars throughout the game, at least as I experienced them.

Side Mission Failures

The biggest issues that I encountered while playing the game was actually when I attempted to do some side missions, but they experienced glitches. This is not just once or twice, but consistently. For one set of side missions I was not able to perform them. Below is an example of some of the side mission issues that I ran across.

Missing Weapons

At one point throughout the game, I managed to lose access to an explosive, without any way of getting this back. Quitting the game and logging back in did not show the explosive, yet, it said that my inventory of that explosive was full.

mafia-iii-missing-weapon

Duplicate Characters

There were a couple of times when I finished side missions that I ran into a glitch where some characters were appearing twice. This happened more than once. Here are a couple of examples.

mafia-iii-duplicate-character-02

mafia-iii-duplicate-character-01

 

Improvements

No game is ever perfect. Despite all that is good with Mafia III there are some things that can be improved. The items below that can be improved do not fall into the “bad” items above.

The biggest area for improvement, as I see, is stealth mode. Being able to use stealth is great, however there is only one option for stealth. After a while, this can become quite repetitive. It would be nice to have a couple of different options for stealth mode.

Tips

I do have some tips for playing the game. Beware though, that some of these may be spoilers, and I have tried to remain as spoiler free as possible up to this point. If you want to view the tips, click here. Otherwise, you can skip to the conclusion.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Mafia III is a great game, despite the flaws in the game itself. The artwork, sound, and gameplay are all done very well. The tiny touches of the light, with the changes when going over different materials all add to the experience.

The issues with the game are ones that badly need to be addressed and are mentioned above. The constant freezing and quitting being the two most egregious issues.

The game will provide you will plenty to do and give you hours of hours of game play, even with all of the issues. If you are a fan of open world first person shooters, then Mafia III is definitely a game that you should check out.

Firewatch: A Spoiler-Free Review

I have been gaming for quite a long time now. Since my teens I have primarily been focusing on playing First Person Shooters. The series that I tend to play include Call of Duty, Battlefield, Duke Nukem, and Wolfenstein, among others.

Along with the first person shooter genre, I have also played other genres of games. As I have written on this site and others, I have reviewed a few of the Lego-based video games, and will likely review another one in the future, once it is released. Beside these, I also enjoy puzzlers like Portal and Portal 2.

But I am not here to review a game within those categories, but instead, FireWatch. FireWatch is developed by Campo Santo and Panic Software.

Cost and Requirements

Firewatch is $19.99 and is available from Steam for PC and Macs, as well as for the Playstation 4. The requirements for the game include a Geforce 450 with 1GB of memory, 6GB of RAM and 4GB of storage space. On the Mac side it requires a 2011 Mac, running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion or later, with a discrete graphics card with 1GB of RAM. The discrete graphics card is a requirement.

I bought the game for the Playstation 4, because I knew that my 2011 iMac would not be able to handle the game due to the video card requirement. My 2015 MacBook Pro might have been able to handle it, but I do not normally play games on my MacBook Pro, so the Playstation 4 it was.

The Story

The game is a first person mystery game. You are Henry, and you have come out to Wyoming to get away from life. You are equipped with a very limited number of items, the primary one being a radio. On the other end of the radio is a woman named Delilah, who is your boss. Throughout the game, additional items are provided, but the best of all, none of them are weapons. I will not give away anything that happens.

It is not a long game, it took me approximately four hours to complete the game. I finished the story, but did not inspect every single area possible. You can explore many different areas of the game. Since there are no weapons, it makes the game a bit simpler and appealing to a broader range of users.

Visuals

The game is very visually appealing. The graphics are stunning and I love the scenery and the views. The game takes place at different times throughout the day, so you can see different scenes. Ones that include sunrise, daylight, sunset and even at night. The variety of times that you play, works very well with the story and only enhances and heightens the emotionality of the game.

Screenshot from Firewatch

Issues

While playing the game there were several times that I experienced stuttering audio. It was not that there was stuttering, but the stuttering made the audio completely un-listenable. I had subtitles on, so I was able to follow along. Given that the game is only about three weeks old, I’m sure the issue will be fixed, but it still made it difficult to hear the game. That was it in terms of issues. Only the audio was an issue.

Final Thoughts

Even though Firewatch is a short game, it is a fantastic game. From the moment that you start the game until the end, the game plays on your emotions. If you do not feel something while playing the game, it may be best to re-evaluate your life. The game goes very deep. I do not think a game has really made me think this much since I played The Last of Us. I finished the game about two hours ago and I am already thinking that I need to replay the game.

The one thing I would like to see is the game become available for the Xbox One. It is my preferred platform, but even playing on the Playstation 4, it was a great game. If it ever does become available for the Xbox One, I will likely end up buying it there too.

If you enjoy games that make you think, I would absolutely recommend getting Firewatch. It will be well worth the price. If I had to sum it up in six words: “Buy it and play it today.”