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Game Play Games Review

A Review of Watch Dogs: Legion

There are a variety of different types of games available. Some of these are puzzle games, others are action games, and some are classic card games. Bringing any game to market, no matter how big or small, is a major undertaking. Sometimes the game becomes a hit, sometimes it flops.

When you have a hit, there is a possibility that it will allow further games. In some cases, the entire story is a one-off and does not warrant a sequel, but sometimes you get a new series of games. No matter if it is a new intellectual property or another game in an existing franchise every game has a lifecycle to it. It goes from concept, to prototype, to active development, to actual release, or maintenance.

If a game sells well enough there may be a sequel, once you have at least two games you have a franchise. The first game in a series was released in 2014 called Watch Dogs. Watch Dogs was highly anticipated titled and I think it lived up to the hype. 

Watch_Dogs

In Watch Dogs, you play as Aiden Pearce, a brilliant hacker and former thug, whose criminal past led to a violent family tragedy. Now on the hunt for those who hurt your family, you’ll be able to monitor and hack all who surround you by manipulating everything connected to the city’s network. Access omnipresent security cameras, download personal information to locate a target, control traffic lights and public transportation to stop the enemy… and more.

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs was not the last in the series. In 2016 the sequel, Watch Dogs 2, was released. In Watch Dogs 2, it’s 2016, ctOS 2.0, an advanced operating system networking city infrastructure, was implemented in several US cities to create a safer, more efficient metropolis. Play as Marcus Holloway, a brilliant young hacker living in the birthplace of the tech revolution, the San Francisco Bay Area. Team up with Dedsec, a notorious group of hackers, and expose the hidden dangers of ctOS 2.0, which, in the hands of corrupt corporations, is being wrongfully used to monitor and manipulate citizens on a massive scale.

I wrote up a review of Watch Dogs 2 in 2016, so be sure to check that out. Now, four years after the release of Watch Dogs 2 comes the third in the series, Watch Dogs: Legion, which is the topic of this review and provides some twists from what was in Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2.

Watch Dogs: Legion

Watch Dogs: Legion goes across the pond from the United States and places you in London, England. “London’s facing its downfall courtesy of state surveillance, private military, and organized crime. Recruit a well-rounded resistance to overthrow the wankers ruining this once-great city. The fate of London lies with you.”

Basic Story

The game starts off with you playing as Dolton Wolfe who is working with London’s branch of DedSec. DedSec finds that there are explosives set to go off at multiple places in London, including the Houses of Parliament. Wolfe tries to disable the bombs that are set to go off, Guy Fawkes style, and discovers that those trying to set off the bombs are part of a group calling themselves “Zero Day”.

Due to these bombs, the British government allows a company called Albion to take over and restore order to the streets of London. DedSec are being blamed and held responsible for the bombings, and therefore they are being targeted. It is your job to rebuild DedSec and help the city rise up against Albion, the criminals, and the government, and take back the streets of London.

Team

Team in Watch Dogs: Legion

When you start a Watch Dogs: Legion, you are able to pick your character from a selection of characters. Along with this you also get to choose a mask. The mask is what the character will don when they are either in a restricted area or in a fight. 

The original Watch Dogs game allowed you to hack anybody to obtain information about them and steal their money. This was not nearly as prevalent in Watch Dogs 2, but has made its way back to Watch Dogs: Legion, but with a twist. Instead of hacking someone to steal their money, you hack someone to see if they might be useful for your team. Each individual that you hack has some abilities, some may be good for your team, while others may not be as useful.

For instance, a character that I had allowed uniform access to Albion sites. This is great, except he would get hiccups, so this made him a bit more noticeable by others. Similarly, there are some characters who have gambling addictions and may randomly gamble ETO. ETO is money in Watch Dogs: Legion. Yet, other characters may be public figures so they will be noticed in public. There are even characters who will randomly die. I am not sure what happens if you have perma-death enabled, because I did not play with perma-death enabled, but more on that in a minute.

List of potential recruits in Watch Dogs Legion

Along with being able to find people throughout the city, some may be recommended recruits. When someone is recommended it is because you may be able to use them in an upcoming mission, or they may have one aspect that can help the team overall. This may be something like faster healing or reduced jail time.

Because you are able to recruit just about anyone, no two people will ever be able to play the exact same game. Yes, the missions may be the same, but the experiences will never be the exact same between two people due to the variety of teams, the team’s talents, and the approach they take to the game overall. There is one setting that was mentioned earlier that may change your game play experience, and that is a setting called “perma-death”.

Perma-Death

When you start the game you have a choice to make besides which character to choose. You have to choose whether or not enable a feature called “perma-death”. When enabled “perma-death” will cause any of your team members who are killed to be dead, permanently. This means that the player cannot be revived and cannot be played again. Once enabled, this cannot be disabled. similarly, once you have chosen to disable it, it cannot be re-enabled later.

Enabling perma-death can add an interesting twist on the game, but since you are able to recruit anybody, you can always recruit additional individuals should one of your characters die. I did not enable perma-death when I played through the game, but if I go through and play again at some point in the future, I may enable it.

Game Mechanics

Watch Dogs Legion has many similarities to the previous games in the series. One aspect of game play that continues within the game is needing to unlock areas by turning electrical lines. This has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Watch Dogs series and it continues in Watch Dogs: Legion. Although, it is not nearly as prevalent as in the previous games, but they still are present.

One detail that you might not think about for a game is the driving. Not that a developer would not take into account such a large aspect of a game, they would, but there has been careful attention paid to driving within Watch Dogs: Legion. Each different type of vehicle has its own driving and handling characteristics. Here is an example of driving a car.

For instance, a motorcycle handles differently than a luxury car, which handles different than the iconic double-decker bus (yes, you can drive one), and all of these handles differently than an Albion police car does. This attention to detail is a nice touch and choosing the right car may be able to to get you out of a sticky situation. Next, let us turn to a large aspect of the game, hacking.

Hacking

The biggest aspect to the Watch Dogs series is the idea of “hacking”. What you are hacking depends on the game. The original Watch Dogs game had the ability to hack people for their money, you could hack cameras, cars, and many other elements. The same held true in Watch Dogs 2. However, in Watch Dogs: Legion you are able to hack a lot more within London. You can hack people to recruit them, as mentioned above, however you can also hack other items.

These items include barriers, cars, and drones. There are a variety of different types of drones. The different types include:

  • Cargo Drones
  • ctOS Drones
  • Delivery Drones
  • Chase Drones
  • Riot Drones

You can perform a number of tasks on drones, including disabling them, hacking them, or betraying them. Disabling a drone will temporarily stop it from working. Hacking a drone allows you to take over the drone, which can be useful in some situations. When you betray a drone, it will autonomously operate on your behalf. This last option is not available for all drones, but only for those with weapons.

Along with the drones, you are also able to hack cars, causing them to go in a specific direction or just to crash so they are out of your way.

Hacking is still a major part of the game play, but it is not necessarily the primary means of completing the game. This may not be 100% true, because after a while having to hack things just became second nature again and faded into the background and just became habit.

Side Quests

Watch Dogs Legion has a main story line. Along with this, you can perform some side missions in order to obtain more items. These may be used to recruit team members or just to fill in the overall story line. 

When you hack a person to see if they might be a good fit for your team, you can save their information to recruit them later. When you recruit a person, you will have to perform a task for them before they will join your team. Some of these tasks are easier than others. Try not to fail when doing these, because the characters may hate you and then you can no longer recruit them. Luckily, since you can recruit just about anybody, you can find another similar character and recruit them instead.

There is one mission within the game that I would totally play an entire set of puzzles that were just flying the mini-drones through different levels.

Collectibles

Many games have different collectibles, and Watch Dogs Legion is no different. There are a few different types of collectibles. These include:

  • Paste ups
  • Relics
  • Text files
  • Audio files
  • Tech Points
  • ETO
  • Masks

Some of these are out in the open, while others require a bit more  ore ingenuity to figure out. Some of these items are also only available while within a mission.  None of these items are needed to complete the game, but obtaining some of them, like ETO and Tech Points will allow you to purchase items. Getting things like relics, text files, and audio files will help fill out the entire story. If you collect a relic, text file, or audio file, you can look at it in the menu.

Here is a video of what performing a “Paste Up” looks like. You can also see me do something stupid at the end of the video.

Tips

After you play a game you may find ways that you could have improved your game play. Now that I have finished the game, I have some tips for those who have not yet played it.

Tip 1: Early in the game, use auto drive. One of the things that you can do is grab a car and almost every vehicle has the ability to automatically take you to your destination. I recommend doing this early on so you can become accustomed to not only the layout of the city. Furthermore, when you drive in London, you drive on the left side of the road, not the right side. Therefore, auto drive may help you acclimate to driving on the left side oft the road and learn the rules of the road.

Tip 2: Recruit an Albion character. This will make things a lot easier during the game, particularly since many of the areas that you need to go into can be done stealthily with an Albion character.

Tip 3: Use stealth as much as possible. There are a number of tasks that do not require you to go all “run and gun” and instead, might be better completed by either hacking cameras or using a spider. Use these as much as possible.

Tip 4: Similar to using stealth, also use melee attacks as much as possible. Doing this may allow you to subdue an enemy without other enemies being alerted.  Here is a melee video as an example.

Tip 5: There is a mission where you must chase a van, get a tough vehicle, like an Albion Hummer and use that to tip the van. It will make completing the job significantly easier. Also, use the drones that attack during that mission to your advantage.

Tip 6: If the game says “you are no longer online”, quit the game and restart. Anything you do will not be saved and you will be wasting your time.

The last tip brings us to the next section, issues that I ran into while playing.

Problems with the Game

No modern software, let alone a large game, is 100% bug free. Bugs are to be expected. Even so, I ran into some pretty severe problems with the game while playing it.

The first issue that I experienced was the game randomly crashing. The game would just randomly freeze and crash. 

Of course, when a game crashed progress that I would have made would not be saved. Sometimes, this was just a minor annoyance, but more often than not, it was a bigger issue.

The biggest issue I ran across was that the game would not save my progress. I do not mean that I would die and would have to go back. What I mean is that I would do a lot of work in the game and the game would crash.

The biggest one of these was when I was working on the last main mission, literally at the end of the game, and the game froze. Not only did it not save that mission, I lost SIX MISSIONS worth of progress. I had to redo six missions to get back to where I was.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE. Losing progress for a single mission, or one leg of a mission, is one thing. But having to redo multiple missions is just hostile. Ubisoft needs to have more robust saving system where the game is saved locally and then uploaded to their servers. If this is how it actually works, then it is absolutely broken. If not, then this is how it should work.

Besides the pervasive not saving progress issue, I also ran across some other bugs. For instance, I took down a person who had an access card, but they fell into a column. When this happened, I could not hack the access code, therefore I could not access the area that the card opened up. As proof, here is a photo of the character in the column.

Bug in Watch Dogs: Legion where a character is stuck in a column.

Another example of that is this video where I tossed a spiderbot onto a building and it got stuck.

Another bug that I ran into, literally, is where I tried to turn the corner on the balcony of a building and the only thing that happened is that I was stopped. It was like a barrier extended beyond where it should. Here is the video showing what I experienced.

Here is another bug that I ran across, a missing person that I was supposed to rescue. I was able to rescue them, but it is still odd to not have the character show at all. Here is the video for that.

These last few items were minor annoyances and did not really affect game play all that much. The inability to get the access card did cause me to have to leave the area completely and come back to that spot later on. As you can see from the video, I was able to get around the invisible barrier, but it still should not have been there.

Closing Thoughts

When the original Watch Dogs game as first announced, I was immediately intrigued. Not only because of the unique hacking of the game, which was the primary draw, but also because it was based in Chicago. 

When Watch Dogs 2 was announced and released, I knew it was a game I would instantly buy and play, because it continued the same type of game. When I heard that Watch Dogs: Legion was going to be set in London, I knew I would going to buy it, but I was a bit apprehensive because I was unsure about how the “recruit anybody” mechanism would work. 

The game is really good. The fact that it is based in London is what really grabbed me. I have only ever visited London once, but I really want to to back. Maybe one day. The Watch Dogs series of games are some of my favorites, not only for the story lines, but for the actual game play. 

If you enjoyed the original Watch Dogs or Watch Dogs 2, I would absolutely recommend you pick up Watch Dogs: Legion. The new recruitment within the game is a nice twist on standard game play, as is the ability to do just about anything within the game.

Even though there are issues with the game, like the crashing and lost progress, the game is still worth playing and an enjoyable game. All of this is before the first expansions for the game are available, so even just for the core game, it is one that you should look into getting.

Here is a group of photos taken from within the game.

A picture taken of the moon in Watch Dogs: Legion
A picture taken of the moon.
The Millennium Wheel in Watch Dogs: Legion
The Millennium Wheel
The Parliament Building with Big Ben in Watch Dogs: Legion
Tower Hill in Watch Dogs: Legion
Tower Hill
The Tower Bridge in Watch Dogs: Legion
The Tower Bridge
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Game Play Review Video

Mafia Series: Definitive Editions: A Review

There has been a trend in the recent years where it seems like new intellectual property titles have not been as numerous as in days past, or maybe it just seems that way. The modern computer-gaming era is now around 40 years old. 

One thing in life that is quite powerful is nostalgia, and gaming nostalgia is one of the most powerful pulls. 

With so much gaming history, there has been a variety of series that have started on one platform but have made their way to another. Similarly, there are a number of platform-specific games that have been re-issued for a later generation of the same console. Sometimes, there are games that are re-issued even for the same console generation.

I have lost count of the number of times that I have purchased versions of some games. The list that I have lost track of are Wolfenstein 3D, Doom I, Doom II, and Duke Nukem 3D. I would not be surprised if I have purchased versions of all of these games for PC, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. I know I have purchased multiple copies of Wolfenstein 3D just for the PC. 

There is one series that fits all three of these instances, at least for some users, and that series is the Mafia series. 

A Brief History of the Mafia Series

The first Mafia game was originally released in 2002 for Microsoft Windows and was ported to both the Playstation 2 and the the original Xbox in 2004. I originally played Mafia on the PC.

The sequel, Mafia II, was released in 2010 for the console successors, Playstation 3 and  Xbox 360, as well as Windows, and this time on OS X. I played this one on the Xbox 360, and due to backward compatibility it is also available on the Xbox One, in its original Xbox 360 gameplay.

The third in the series, Mafia III, was released in 2016 for the current console generation, the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, as well as Windows. I wrote a review of Mafia III back in 2016. You can read that review at https://www.waynedixon.com/2016/10/30/a-review-of-mafia-iii/.

Reissuing Games

One trend within the gaming industry is that when a game is initially released, it may be just the core game. However, as time progresses additional add-ons are released. After some time, a game may be re-issued. Often, these re-issues include all of the add-ons and purchases.

Typically, when games are re-issued, the story and gameplay do not change. However, that is not necessarily the case with the Mafia series.

Definitive Editions

Each of the three Mafia games now has a version called the “Definitive Edition”. The Definitive Edition, in this context, is more than just a re-issuing of the game. The “Definitive Edition”, in this context, means that this is what the developers want to be considered the canonical version. 

Definitive editions, and reissues in general, offer players not only an upgraded visual experience, but also an opportunity to get additional gamer score because all of the achievements are new, except in the case of Mafia III. Since Mafia III was released on the Xbox One, the core game is the same, therefore the Mafia III game is the same.

Now, onto the reviews, starting with the first in the series, Mafia. These reviews will be shorter than the full review I did for Mafia III in 2016.


Mafia: Definitive Edition

If you played the original Mafia and you play the Definitive Edition, you will definitely notice some differences in the game. Not just in terms of graphics, because they have been rendered in 4K, but in the actual story.  The changes are not that noticeable, but they are there.

Because this is a “definitive edition”, it comes as no surprise that the developers decided to change the story a bit. I am not sure if the changes are good or bad, but they are what they are. I will not spoil the changes, but know that they are there.

I can tell that the developers spent significant time on this game. How can I tell, because I did not have any issues with the game. I do not recall any glitches. No lost audio, no game crashes, or anything like that. Which cannot be said for the other games, but more on that in those sections.

The Story

Mafia is set in the 1930s in a fictional city called Lost Heaven, which is somewhat modeled off of Chicago. This is easily noticed with the “L” trains throughout the city. And no, they are not “El” for elevated trains. They are the “L” trains. But that is a separate rant.

As mentioned earlier, you play as Tommy Angelo, a cab driver just trying to earn a living. One night, while taking a break you run across two mafia members, Paulie and Sam, who compel his assistance with escaping. After a successful escape, Tommy begins working with Paulie and Sam’s boss, Mr. Salieri, and everything escalates from there.

Not everything goes well for Tommy though, he starts to do some side jobs, and not all of them sanctioned by the Don. This makes for an interesting story line.

Side Missions

There are many common aspects to a variety of games. One of these items is the idea of side missions. Side missions are not ones that are required to get through the main storyline. One of the side missions that is available within Mafia is the accumulation of cars. These cars can be obtained by finding ringing phone booths throughout Lost Heaven and performing the tasks given to you.

Game Play

Mafia: Definitive Edition changes some aspects of the original game. Most notably, the combat tactics are rebuilt and more like the more modern Mafia III game. This will be helpful for more modern gamers. If you want to relive the original, you can play with the “Classic Difficulty”. This will make the game much more like the original.

Here is a video of a car within the game, called the Crazy Horse, doing a jump onto the roof of a building.

Unique Gameplay Mechanics

Mafia is a game that comprises a lot of driving. Sometimes you need to grab a car. In most games there are only two options, the car is already open, or you smash a window. Mafia, and Mafia II, have a different mechanic; that ability to One of the gameplay mechanics in Mafia is the ability to pick locks on cars.

The type of lock depends on the type of car, but the mechanic is all the same. You have to pick each of the lock tumblers. The fancier the car, the more tumblers there are to pick. As is the case, you may get caught by the police and then trouble can begin.

There is a game mode, called “Classic Difficulty” that will allow you to play as the original gameplay. What this means for the police is that they will actually pull you over for everything. This includes speeding, running through lights, hitting pedestrians, hitting cars, and almost any other infraction you can think of.

This can make for some interesting gameplay. In the Definitive Edition, you can select how much you want the police to pay attention.

Closing Thoughts on Mafia: Definitive Edition

Mafia: Definitive Edition stays very true to the original Mafia. Some bits of the story have been changed, but those changes do not detract from the overall game. The uniqueness of the lock picking is a nice touch and does offer a unique aspect to the game.

The upscaling of the graphics to 4K does allow the game to fit nicely into today’s modern systems. Given that the game is such a faithful representation of the original, many modern gamers may become annoyed with the more antiquated combat tactics and some of the game play may be a bit “old” in their minds, but only if they play the “Classic Difficulty” mode.

Next, let us move onto the sequel, Mafia II.


Mafia II: Definitive Edition

Mafia II was originally released in 2010 and is set in the 1940s and 1950s, not long after the setting of Mafia. Instead of being in Lost Heaven, this game takes place in Empire Bay. And you do not play as Tommy Angelo, instead you play as Vito Scaletta.

The game starts off in Italy during World War II. During this first level you learn how to play the game, use guns, maneuver, and other aspects. Once you have completed this level, you then have Vito returning home on furlough where he learns that his family is having some issues, specifically that his late father left his family in debt to a loan shark. Now, Vito must help his family repay the debts.

Vito talks to his childhood friend Joe who helps him get some additional cash by getting him in connection with Mike Bruski, who needs particular cars. Eventually, this escalates and Vito begins working with someone Joe knows, Henry, who is part of the Clemente crime family.

The work Vito does with Joe and Henry does get him enough to repay his father’s debts, but it only escalates from there.

Side Missions

Mafia II, just like its predecessor, contains the ability to do side missions. The side missions allowed in the game include the ability to deliver cars. Depending on the car, and its destination, you can quickly earn cash. This can be done at almost any time, with some caveats, but only once they are unlocked for you.

One type of side mission that is often available for games is collectibles. Mafia II is no different. You can collect a couple of different collectible things that you can attempt to get. The first of these is a set of playboy magazines. These are scattered throughout Lost Heaven, and some can only be obtained during missions.

The second collectible is Wanted Posters. These are scattered throughout Lost Heaven and are more easily found while roaming around Lost Heaven. There are 189 of these in the definitive edition. This is up from 159 that were included in the standard game.

Some Interesting Experiences

Here are tow examples of some interesting game play. The first one is a car driving along a wall, with the second being a cool explosion.

Game Play Issues

While I was playing the Mafia II: Definitive Edition I had significant issues. The game would constantly crash, resulting in lost progress. Furthermore, audio would just randomly not work, or characters would not trigger their cutscenes. This is quite disappointing given that the game was re-built from the ground up.

Here is an example of one of the many glitches I experienced while playing.

Included Content

The original release of Mafia II had some additional downloadable content released after the original game. The content included the following:

  • The Betrayal of Jimmy
  • Jimmy’s Vendetta
  • Joe’s Adventures

All three of these are included in the Definitive Edition of Mafia II. Just as is the case with the first Mafia game, Mafia II: Definitive Edition does provide the ability to get additional gamer score, so if you like to get additional score for a game you already know, you cannot go wrong.

Closing Thoughts on Mafia II: Definitive Edition

Mafia II: Definitive Edition is a decent rebuild of the original. Even though it does have significant bugs, it is still worth playing if you have not done so. The storyline is interesting and it does allow you a bit more freedom to do things without being too nagging about the next mission. If you want to get some achievements, then the collectibles will definitely help in this, but be prepared for a slog to find all of the Wanted Posters.

Now, onto Mafia III: Definitive Edition.


Mafia III: Definitive Edition

As mentioned earlier, I already wrote up a review of Mafia III, which you can read at https://www.waynedixon.com/2016/10/30/a-review-of-mafia-iii/. The Definitive Edition of Mafia III does not modify the story like the other two games. However, it is expanded a bit. This expansion is done through the downloadable content, and with the definitive edition it is all in a single package. The base game is the exact same as the one released in 2016, including some of the same problems.

Included Content

As is the case with Mafia II, Mafia III: Definitive Edition is more than just the base game. In fact it includes the following content, in addition to the base game:

  • Family Kick-Back (Gun Pack)
  • Judge, Jury & Executioner Weapons Pack (Gun Pack)
  • Faster, Baby! (Additional missions)
  • Stones Unturned (Additional missions)
  • Sign of the Times (Additional missions)

I will admit then when I was playing through the Definitive Edition I thought the game was taking a lot longer than the first time through, and it was. The reason for this is that these additional missions are available where they were not at first. These additional mission packs are nice additions and fit right into the overall narrative quite well.

Game Play Issues

While some of the issues that I experienced during my time playing have been fixed, there are still some issues, even  four years later. To me, this is unacceptable. The developer has had four years to fix these issues, but obviously they have not. Just today, as I write this, I had a hard crash of the game where I did a jump off of a ramp, landed, and the game just crashed.

The biggest issues that I have experienced include game crashes, severe slow downs, to the point where the controls stop responding properly. I have also experienced instances where cars get stuck and cannot be moved no matter what. There is even this video where I am driving along and just randomly hit an invisible barrier, when there is not one on the screen. 

One issue that seems to be new is that while driving the car will just randomly stop responding to pressing the accelerator. It will just stop dead in the middle of the road and it will not respond at all. I am not sure what is happening in these instances, but it has occurred more than once.

The last issue that I have experienced is that some non-playable characters, who are with you on a job, will just randomly get out of the car. This happened more than once and I was baffled both times.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, the Definitive Editions of the Mafia series are pretty good games, even though a couple of them are full of crashes and weird glitches. If you have played any of them before, and enjoyed them these versions will not only bring you back to when you played them previously.

If you have never played any of the Mafia series, I recommend getting the Trilogy and playing all of them. It is cheaper to get all three of them in the trilogy than it is to purchase them each individually. The entire trilogy is $60, which comes to $20 per game and overall that is a pretty good value. You can view a lot more media at the developer’s website, mafiagame.com.

Categories
Game Play Games Review Video

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.

mafia-iii-art-02

mafia-iii-art-01

mafia-iii-art-03

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Game Play Review Video

Lego Dimensions: A Review

There are many different things that can bring back memories of childhood. What will evoke the memories depends on when you are born. For those who were born during the 1980’s, and later, one of the things that have been consistent is video games.

Children of the 1980’s grew up on the original Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and Playstation. Sure, we also enjoyed the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Saturn, and for a few, Sega CD. We embraced the Game Cube, Playstation, Playstation 2, Xbox, and all of their subsequent successors.

Along with video games, children of the 1980’s and 90’s also enjoyed building things with Legos. That is not to say that previous generations did not enjoy them as well, because they did. Now, if you take Video Games and Lego, you hit a couple of buttons of a segment of the population.

I have previously written a review of “Lego City: Undercover” over at The Tech Scoop. Well, There is another Lego Video game that I will review, Lego Dimensions.

What is Lego Dimensions?

Lego Dimensions is at its heart a video game that involves Lego Characters. As mentioned above, this triggers all sorts of good vibes for some gamers. With this, Lego Dimensions adds a new dynamic to the Lego video games that have come before.

With traditional Lego video games, a player can quickly switch players by simply hitting a button to do so. In order to get more in-game characters, players will simply need to spend the studs that they collect while in-game.

With Lego Dimensions, this dynamic has changed. Instead of purchasing characters all in-game, you are able to bring new characters into the game through the Game Toy Pad, which is included within the Starter Kit.

Game Toy Pad

The Game Toy Pad is a mechanism that is required in order to play Lego Dimensions. The Pad is included in the LEGO Dimensions Starter Pack.

The Pad is broken into three distinct sections, and has spots for up to seven simultaneous characters and vehicles. As a character, or vehicle, is needed, the player can swap in the necessary item.

Adding Characters and Vehicles

Adding Characters and Vehicles is one of the downsides to the game. While there is a mechanism called “Hire a Hero”, which is where you pay studs to hire a character, it is not an inexpensive in-game endeavor, and it is not available at any time. For each story-level and open world, the cost progresses from 25,000 up to 250,000, depending on the number of heroes that you have hired. When you hire a hero, they only last for thirty seconds.

In order to be able to play as a character you are required to purchase the physical item. Each character has its own abilities, which add to the game.

The Starter Pack includes Gandalf, from Lord of the Rings, Wyldstyle from the Lego Movie, and Batman.

There are three different types of expansions; Level Packs, Team Packs, and Fun Packs. Let us look at each of these in turn.

Level Pack

There are currently Four Level Packs. Level Packs unlock the ability to travel to add another level to the Game. These are:

Each of these comes with a character, and a companion vehicle. In the case of Portal, a Weighted Companion Cube.

With each the Level Pack, you are able to unlock the corresponding dimension to travel through and play.

There are two future Level Packs. The Ghostbusters level will be released on January 19th, 2016. While the Midway Retro Gamer level will be released on March 15th, 2016.

Team Packs

Team Packs are similar to level packs, but come with two characters and vehicles in one pack. There are currently four Team Packs, three of which are available now, and one being released in the future.

  • Scooby Doo, which has both Shaggy and Scooby.
  • The Jurassic World Team Pack has Owen, and an ACU Trooper included.
  • The Ninjago pack has Cole and Kai from the animated series Ninjago.
  • DC Comics pack has the Joker and Harley. This will be released on January 19th, 2016.

Fun Packs

Fun Packs are as their name describes, fun. There are a myriad of characters that add some fun to the game. There are eighteen available now, with eight more on the way. As a note, Fun Packs only include one character, so each of the Fun Packs below are individual.

Available Now

January 2016

March 2016

May 2016

One of the nice touches when you add characters is that they can interact and they sometimes make comments to each other. A good exampe is when Scooby says “Ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra ra…Batman”, or when Wonder Woman quips, “Homer, somebody told me that you’re a big fan of mine”.

It does make it a better experience. Yet, even with the better experience in order to purchase EVERYTHING for a system, the retail cost for the starter kit, four team packs, four level packs, and twenty six characters would come out to approximately $770. That is a lot for Legos.

However, what TTGames, creators of the Lego series, has stated is that current Lego Dimensions charcters and team packs should work on future versions of the game.

Game Play

There are many different things to do in order to complete any Lego video game. These include, but are not limited to, single player, mini puzzles, quests, getting gold bricks, and collecting studs.

The Lego Dimensions single player allows you to take the primary three characters, Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle and put them through a series of different worlds. These include The Simpsons, Portal, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Scooby Do, and more. The entire single player campaign can be done using just the standard three characters.

With standard Lego video games, once you finish the single player you are able to enter in “Free Play” mode. This mode allows you to switch characters at will. With Lego Dimensions, with the way that you are able to swap in characters at any time, there is no “Free Play Mode”. Instead, you can effectively play all of the levels as “Free Play”.

There are three distinct areas to Game Pad. Having this arrangement allows for different types of interactions to occur within the game. These range from having characters use fire, electricity, or wind elements to selecting the proper colors to solve a puzzle, or even escaping from Evil Bosses. The sections provide a new interaction level to the game.

Playable Areas

As mentioned above you can progress through the story mode which will is playable with only the three built-in characters. There are four goals within each level. For each of these goals that are completed, you will receive a Gold Brick.

The first goal is to finish the level. The second goal is to get all of the Minikits. These are collectible items that all relate to the level you are in. The third goal is to reach a number of collectible studs. Once you reach this level, which is different for each level, you will reach “Rule Breaker” status. The final goal is to rescue

Besides the story mode levels, there is another playable area, the Open Worlds.

Open Worlds

The second playable area is the Open Worlds. There are a total of fourteen open worlds, as of right now. In order to access any of these worlds, a character from that world must be on the Game Pad. With the three included with the Starter Pack, you are able to access “Lord of the Rings”, “Lego Movie”, and “DC Comics World”.

Within each of these worlds you will be tasked with gathering Gold Bricks, Studs, assisting chracters with quests, and building areas to expand each of the worlds.

Each open world will take a bit of time to complete. I would say at minimum of four hours per world, but likely longer. Within each world is a Red Brick, which can assist you in your travels. Some of the Red Bricks will just provide fun extras, while others will truly be helpful.

Each open world also includes races on land, under water, and in the air. The worlds also require a player to assist characters with bad characters, finish puzzles, and use your character’s abilities to get all of the Gold Bricks.

Every world has a different number of buildable areas, level for “Rule Breaker” in the world, and Gold Bricks to obtain. You will not be able to complete every aspect to any world until all of the characters are released.

Achievements/Trophies

Traditional Lego video games have achievements for completing different actions within the game. Lego Dimensions is no different, with one exception. With traditional Lego games, you are able to get an achievement for completing 100% of the game. Due to the immense amount of money that would be needed to complete every aspect of the game, there is no 100% achievement for Lego Dimensions.

Despite this, there are 50 achievements worth 1300 points that can be obtained throughout the game, and level packs. A complete list can be found at XboxAchievements.com.

Many of these you will simply obtain while playing through the game. Others, however, you will have to look out for and do yourself.

Bugs

I purchased Lego Dimensions during Thanksgiving weekend has been playing it, almost exclusively, since then. In order to collect the “Gold Bricks” in the game, you have to figure out puzzles or complete tasks for other some non-playable characters.

When I started playing, the hint mechanism stated to look for the “flashing red dots” to help solve a puzzle or quest. I could never see this flashing red dots. That was, until an update fixed the bug.

This was not the only fixed bug that I have encountered. Another bug was that the game would not always detect the Pad, so I had to unplug and plug back in the game pad in order for it to recognize it. That too was fixed.

Even with these fixed bugs, there is still a bug that I have encountered. This one is still occuring. For the level packs, one of the open world Gold Bricks that you can get requires you to collect all of the “Minikits” in the corresponding level. For example, there is a story-mode level called “Meltdown in Sector 7G”. Once you collect all of the Minikits in this level, you can unlock an event within the Simpsons Open World.

The bug that I am seeing is that this event is not being unlocked, despite having all of the minikits for the level, as evidenced with the two screenshots below.

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It did eventually unlock, but only after I got all of the Minikits in “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer” level as well.

Feature Request

I know the idea behind Lego Dimensions is to generate revenue by providing all of the Level, Team, and Fun Packs, but it can be out of reach for some. If there was one feature request I could make it would be provide a version of the game that allows people to buy just the Starter Pack, and play the game without having to purchase all of the extra items. These could be in-game purchases, or digital expansion packs. Even though the players might lose some of the new interactions with the Game Pad, it would allow for a broader audience to be reached.

Tips

There are two tips that I will provide that I have found make the game easier in general.

The first is to buy the DC Wonder Woman Fun Pack. She has the ability to fly, dive, and is invincible. For the younger kids, this will make things that much easier on them.

The second tip is to save up one million studs, locate the Red Brick in the “Lord of the Rings World”. You will need a vehicle, like the Batmobile, to be able to chase down the Red Brick. This is the “Dwarf’s Bounty” extra, which will provide 2x the studs, which will allow upgrades, and “Rule Breaker” to be completed quicker.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Lego Dimensions is a good Lego video game. Multiple open worlds, as well as the various tasks to do in the single player levels, will provide hours upon hours of playability. The major downside to the game is the cost to reach 100%. It may not be a goal that everyone strives for, since there is no record for the achievement if a player does reach that goal.

Lego Dimensions is the start to a new type of Lego-based video game. With a plethora of characters, no two games will be the same. Even with the bugs that occurred when the game was first released, it has become quite solid and well worth the investment. If you are a parent, it is probably something you should think about beforehand, because the cost of the level packs and characters can quickly become an expense. Even so, with a small investment of $150 (including the starter pack), the game can provide enough fun for everybody.

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Game Play Video

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Reveal Trailer

The first trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has been released. The game is slated to be released on November 4th, 2014.