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    Gears of War 4 Collector’s EditionGuide Book Review

    October 24th, 2016

    Gears of War 4With Gears of War 4’s development in the hands of a new developer, many long-time fans weren’t quite sure what to expect. As it turns out, The Coalition do an admirable job of taking a loved franchise into a new chapter. As a run and gun shooter, Gears of War 4 probably isn’t the type of game that most people would think needs a guide book. The campaign is fairly short, though a decent length for its genre, and the real longevity of the game is expected to be its multiplayer-offering. Luckily, Prima Games knows better.

    Along with a new development team, Gears of War 4 also has a few new gameplay elements. The new enemies, weapons, and reinterpretations of everything we loved in the earlier games, actually require a bit of explanation, which the book does well. There is also some special attention to the requisite Gears of War co-op. Of course, completionists will need even more help. If you want to get every collectible, in Gears of War 4, you’re going to need some help. This guide actually does a pretty good job of getting you towards that goal. That being said, nearly half of the book’s content is appropriately geared toward multi-player.

    Both the Standard and Collector’s Edition guide books are about 300 pages, with the Collector’s Edition sporting a multi-textured hard cover. The hardcover version is well bound with a fairly good quality paper. That paper choice, does seem to have some negative effect on the image printing though. All of the in-game shots really lack detail, and the color matching is a bit off. That’s really sad considering how good the game itself actually looks. Luckily that doesn’t apply to the rest of the book’s artwork.

    If you’re sitting on the fence about whether you should by the Standard or Collector’s Edition version of the guide. I’d recommend going with Collector’s Edition. First of all, Prima’s Gears of War 4 Collector’s Edition Guide is a gorgeous looking book, and an elegant gift for any Gears of War fan. The included, heavy duty COG tags are a nice touch as well. If that’s not enough, there is downloadable content for the game itself, and the e-guides are included not only for the new game, but the first three games in the series too. A couple of tracks from the Gears of War 4 soundtrack, composed by Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi are also available on Prima’s website.



    BioShock: The Collection Standard Edition Guide Book Review

    October 2nd, 2016

    BioShock: The Collection2K’s BioShock trilogy is easily one of the most revered series in gaming, and to say that the remastered collection was highly anticipated, is an understatement. Personally, I have been a fan of the games since the beginning, and have played through the games multiple times. Considering how many games I play a year, that is a feat unto itself. Regardless, these three games hold a special place in my heart, and I couldn’t help but to dive into Rapture once again.

    I do own the original guides, Collector’s Edition versions for the last two BioShock games, but am happy that Prima has released a book for the entire collection, with BioShock: The Collection Standard Edition Guide. That saves me from having to dig out the old books, from who knows where, and it also, saves me the eyesore of a stack of books on coffee table. Prima’s new omnibus does cover the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC versions of the remastered BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite, along with coverage of all DLC releases, and some brand-new content.

    For a 560 page video game guide, Prima’s BioShock: The Collection Standard Edition Guide is a pretty solid offering. Particularly in comparison to their recent guide for the Complete Edition of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. In the BioShock: The Collection guide, all the pictures, maps, and artwork are well-represented. That’s not to say that there aren’t some omissions, or that the maps are terribly precise. There are certainly a few occasions were a more in-depth explanation would be helpful, particularly considering how connected the narrative elements are, along with their corresponding achievements and trophies.

    Essentially, the BioShock: The Collection Standard Edition Guide is broken into the three individual games. Each of those three sections are then broken down into a foreward, or introduction section, followed by a walkthrough, some sort of appendix, and then an extras section, where DLC and extra-game challenges are covered. The BioShock: Infinite section does contain an interesting foreward from Ken Levine, and that iconic art from the game can also be found peppered throughout Prima’s BioShock: The Collection guide.

    While it might have been nice to have all of this in a hardback book, Prima’s BioShock: The Collection Standard Edition Guide is a more than suitable companion for a return to Rapture. While it’s probably not the best tool to use as a walkthrough, it is a great reference book, and something that someone who’s played through these games before might use for an occasional refresher. There is of course additional game information that can be found on the included e-guide.


    The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition Collector’s Guide Book Review

    September 12th, 2016

    The Witcher 3: Wild HuntThe open-world, action role-playing game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, with its numerous “Game of the Year” awards, is without a doubt an epic adventure. Sadly, with the release of the “Complete Edition,” CD Projekt Red made save files from the original The Witcher 3 release incompatible with the new game. This means that no matter how far along you were in the game, you’re going to need to start over again. By itself, this is almost enough reason to spring for Prima’s new The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition Collector’s Guide book.

    With over a hundreds of hours of gameplay, you’d expect a pretty thick guide book, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition Collector’s Guide easily exceeds those expectations. At over 800 pages, this by far the most voluminous guide I’ve ever seen from Prima. Thankfully, it’s side-tabbed, so finding the appropriate section is a little easier. The volume does come at a price, however. The pages are awfully thin, which has an unintended side effect of also altering the printing quality, which in addition to the small print, might disappoint some.

    After a short introduction to the characters, the book spends about 50 pages illustrating how to survive as a Witcher, complete with detailed ability trees. Before taking on the walkthrough, another 50 pages are spent on the Gwent card-based mini-game. It’s not really my cup of tea, but now that I have a little more information about it, at my fingertips, it might become a little more important to me. Knowing where the better cards are, definitely makes the mini-game more accessible.

    The next 400+ pages are all walkthroughs, from the main quest and, of course, the expansions, to Gwent quests and scavenger hunts. It’s all in there. There aren’t many maps in the actual walkthroughs, and the images are typically small and fairly low quality, but there is plenty of information needed to get through them all. The maps are actually all relegated to their own section, the 70 pages after the walkthroughs, and while having them both places might have been, nice, being able to look up specific maps is preferable to having to find them in various questlines.

    The final hundred pages of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition Collector’s Guide are your typical role-playing game appendices and compendiums, a bestiary, achievement/trophy list and more. There are also a couple of nice lithographs included with the hardback book, and a code for Prima’s e-guide, which strangely contains a digital art book.

    Overall, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition Collector’s Guide is a useful guide. It’s even more so for those that would like to zip through a few quests they completed on an earlier playthrough. While the pages are awfully thin, and the printing suffers because of it, the cover itself is actually pretty nice, and the binding has been done well. Just don’t flip through it too fast. Use those side markings. As well designed as this book is, it can really serve you well.


    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Limited Edition GuideBook Review

    September 12th, 2016

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Limited Edition Guide Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is easily one of the most anticipated games of 2016, and even if it doesn’t offer quite the scope of its predecessor, it’s still a deep game that can you busy for a long time. Eidos’ highly-stylistic, cyberpunk, action role-playing, stealth video game offers a number of side-missions that can significantly add to the game’s playing time. Set a few years after the events in Human Revolution, Mankind Divided presents a compelling storyline that draws plenty of parallels with the divisive political climate of our own time. To help players sort through it all, Prima has created a Limited Edition Guide for the game.

    Prima’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Limited Edition Guide is really a nice looking book and there is a good amount of information to be found in its nearly 300 pages. Utility, however is not among its strong points. The campaign isn’t covered until the second half of the book, and while there is plenty of great information about the game in the first hundred or so pages, it’s not something that’s easy to use as reference manual. Luckily, an e-guide is concluded, that is better organized, and offers more information about both, the primary missions and the side quests.

    If you love Deus Ex, and want to read all about the new game, this Limited Edition Guide is a great book. If you’re looking for better information about what you need to do in the game, the included e-guide is a much better option. Finding information about the side missions is much more difficult than it should be with the physical version, and the maps only depict small portions of the gameplay area. It really seems that the guide book was written to be read, which by itself is fine. The problem is that it’s not terribly helpful while actually playing Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.

    As a fan of the Deus Ex videogame series, I’m happy to own this book, despite its compositional issues. It is well-bound hardcover book, with an appropriately designed multi-surface cover. The included lithograph is an incredible piece of art. I only wish it was bigger. Speaking of size, the actual game is fairly short, so it’s no surprise that the walkthrough sections are such a small portion of the content. There is however, an interesting behind the scenes section, where the game makers discuss its development, along with a small concept art section. That is no doubt borrowed from “The Art of Deus Ex Universe,” a book offered separately.


    Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Collector’s Edition Guide Review

    July 14th, 2016

    Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Square Enix and Tri Ace’s science fiction-fantasy port from the PlayStation 3 to the PlayStation 4 might not have received universal acclaim, but Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is one of the few JRPGs to make it onto the newest home console generation. Despite an action-based combat system, the game’s overall presentation is a throwback to the Japanese role-playing games of the past, and the big storylines with slow development are tough for an instant gratification generation raised on twitch based game mechanics.

    Regardless of the game’s overall reception Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness will hold a special place in many a gamer’s heart. That means hundreds of hours on and around the planet of Faykreed, and if you’re going to spend that much time on a game, the hardcover guide book is probably your best option. If the page count is any indication of the amount of content there is in this game, the 320 pages that this guide comes in at, implies a huge amount. As a matter of fact, the main campaign’s walkthrough takes up less than half of the book.

    The rest of Prima’s Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Collector’s Edition Guide covers the side missions, along with a bestiary, item list, and a complete guide to the shops and crafting system, in the game. The Personal Actions and relationship information is however a little vague, and probably my biggest complaint with the book. It does however, go into depth about the Maze of Tribulations, at the end of the game, and includes detailed maps, strategy tips, and all of the available rewards. A download code for the mobile-friendly e-guide is also included, along with two Collector’s Edition exclusive 8X10 lithographs.

    First and foremost, the Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness Collector’s Edition Guide is a great looking book. The starscape background with the game’s logo super-imposed on the matte-finish cover is stunning. Besides looking nice, the book is actually pretty easy to use. There are plenty of illustrations, both screen captures and illustrations, and the maps, and descriptions are detailed without making the pages appear too busy. The book is also well bound, and should last a good long time. If you’re going to play this game, and use a guide book, the Collector’s Edition Guide is definitely what I’d recommend, even if the relationships could have been handled a little better.

    A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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    Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Standard Edition Guide Review

    July 14th, 2016

    Lego Star Wars: The Force AwakensLego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the latest in what seems now, like a never-ending string of Lego video game adaptations. Ironically, it was Lego Star Wars that got this whole ball rolling, with its lego-ization of the Star Wars prequels. With that in mind, it makes sense that TT Games would take the occasion of a new Lego Star Wars game to add a couple of significant gameplay modifications to their otherwise slowly evolving formula. In my opinion, this is one of the best Lego games in a while.

    As you probably know, if there’s a game out there Prima probably has a guide book for it, and Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no exception. In the old days, games were a lot more linear than they are now, even these family-targeted Lego games, and a quick glance at the internet was all took on the rare occasion you got stuck anywhere. Now, even the linear games have more open areas, and to unlock all of the characters takes a certain amount diligence. Not to advocate lazy parenting, but for moms and dads, this book can be lifesaver, unless of course you’re looking for an excuse to help your kids “get through a level” or two.

    Regardless of why you might need to reference this guide book, the Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens Signature Edition Guide covers all of the bases, for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo3DS, Wii U, and PC. The meat of the almost 300 pages is taken up by the walkthrough. It’s got enough pictures to help the detailed text that will make sure that you don’t miss anything. If that’s not enough, there are also well-labeled maps that also show collectible locations, as well as important objectives. The new “multi-build” and “blaster battle” mechanics are explained, and there is even a collectible checklist at the back of the book.

    In the past, game guides were really hit or miss. Some were almost essential, while others were so unwieldly that there was no point even looking at them. To me, it seems like Prima has really gotten a handle on its formatting, and I haven’t seen a “bad one” in quite a while. Regardless, with all of its collectibles and unlockables, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be a tough game to get everything you want out of. Besides, a hundred-plus hour roleplaying game, it is exactly the type of game that needs a guide book. A code is even included for a downloadable e-guide, that’s designed to be mobile friendly. Between the two, any help you might need in Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens can be within an arm’s reach.

    A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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    Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End Collector’s Edition Guide Review

    May 27th, 2016

    Uncharted 4“Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” is the final chapter Naughty Dog’s series about the life and times of Nathan Drake. It is also arguably the biggest PlayStation 4 exclusive to date. The long running action-adventure series made its debut on the PS3, and all three releases on the console were top sellers. The new game is already the fastest selling first-party game for the PlayStation 4, and will likely set even more sales records for Sony’s home console. To help with the new action-adventure game, Prima has released two versions of their guide book.

    Uncharted 4 A Thief’s End Collector’s Edition Guide “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” takes a slightly different tone than previous entries. This is in large part due to a change in creative directors. Neil Druckmann, of “The Last of Us” fame has put his stamp on the new game. Prima has also tied their “Uncharted 4 Collector’s Edition Guide” to the “Last of Us” by including a small keepsake. Where “The Last of Us’” “Collector’s Edition Guide” book included a Firefly keychain, this book includes a silver variant of the Pirate Sigil Coin. This important artifact from Nathan Drake’s latest adventure, is exclusive to the Collector’s Edition Guide.

    While the prior “Uncharted” games ran the player through some pretty narrow corridors, “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End” features more wide-open areas, allowing for a great deal more exploration. This is where the guide book is most useful. Known, for its collectibles, the “Uncharted” series and “Uncharted 4” have a lot of treasures to find. In the new game, those treasures can be used to unlock in game features, for a second playthrough, as well as the more typical gallery screens and models. Both the hardback Collector’s Edition and standard guide do a great job showing where these can all be found. They are all shown in the course of the walkthrough, as well as an index at the end of the book.

    Except for the choice between hardback and a softcover, and the collectible pirate coin, Prima’s “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Collector’s Edition” and the “Standard Edition Strategy Guide” cover all of the same material. From the detailed maps to the collectibles guide, the book provides both detailed traversal routes, and shows every collectible treasure, trophy, weapon, journal entry, and conversation opportunity. The book presents most of the information in the course of a step-by-step walkthrough, that leads you through the entire adventure, providing stealthy alternatives to earn special Trophies for sneakiness.

    Besides guiding you through the single-player campaign, Prima’s “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Guide” offers thorough enemy and weapon data, multiplayer coverage, treasure and trophy checklists, and character profiles. Purchasing either guide book also entitles you to code to access the eGuide, the web based version of the complete guide, which can be handy while you’re knee deep in action, on your couch. The book is just over 300 pages long, and well put together. As far as guide books go, I really have no complaints. Everything you need to know is easily accessible and well represented.


    The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition PlayStation 4 Review

    March 13th, 2016

    The Witch and the Hundred Knight, Revival EditionNot to be left out of this console generation’s remastering trend, NIS America has cleaned up one of their more accessible titles for the PlayStation 4. The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition has been updated with new textures, lighting, and models, and the frame rate has been upgraded from 30 to 60 frames per second. Some new content has also been added, but for the most part, the Revival Edition is the same journey for revenge that was a couple of years ago. With that in mind, much of this review is the same as the original game’s.

    As a hack and slash game, the basic mechanics are similar to Diablo III, but NIS has added a lot of wrinkles to the formula in The Witch and the Hundred Knight. You might argue there is too much thrown into the game, with multiple weapons equipped simultaneously. The aesthetics are of course the first difference anyone will notice.  The colorful anime art style, borrows a lot from their flagship franchise Disgaea, along with the whole “evil” side perspective. Though the camera is adjustable, those vivid backgrounds are likely to get in your way on more than one occasion. The music is surprisingly good, but the dialogue is hit or miss and even in the Revival Edition, there are unvoiced portions of the game.

    There are literally too many gameplay mechanics to list in this review and while the game does introduce a few of them in the beginning, there are many more that are either poor explained or not mentioned at all.  Luckily there are hints during the load screen, but they are actually more clues than useful information unto themselves. One example of this is the weapon system.  The knight can simultaneously equip five weapons, but the game never exactly tells you that. It does mention that if you equip all of them in a certain order, that there is a combat bonus.

    The Witch and the Hundred Knight, Revival EditionIn The Witch and the Hundred Knight , the witch is Metallia, a homicidal psychopath bent on escape and revenge. That makes you, the player, The Hundred Knight, and it’s your job in The Witch and the Hundred Knight to expand the swamp and thus her reach, murder and maim her enemies, and then watch her dole out particularly evil punishments to those she feels “really deserve it.” New to the Revival Edition is The Tower of Illusion which allows you to offer up your favorite weapons to battle foes whose strength is determined by the strength of the sacrificed weapon. While this new area will of course enable you to acquire powerful new loot, by collecting concentrated mana, you can actually summon and play as the witch, Metallia.

    Despite the game’s tendency to make you feel a little icky, The Witch and the Hundred Knight at times can be a pretty fun game. It does offer a uniquely different sort of narrative for the genre and while some of the combat wrinkles border on overkill, it’s not that tough of a game to get into. The overall gameplay is unlikely to be that memorable, but Metallia’s strings of profanities and the extreme punishment she doles out are the stuff nightmares are made off. If you’re looking for an HD hack and slash import, The Witch and the Hundred Knight: Revival Edition might be worth your consideration.

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    The Deadly Tower of Monsters PlayStation 4 Review

    January 27th, 2016

    The Deadly Tower of Monsters, PlayStation 4, video gameAtlus and Ace Team’s “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” isn’t their first stab at a humorous narrative in their games, but it is probably the most overt. The new third-person isometric-viewpoint action/adventure game isn’t exactly groundbreaking, as far as its gameplay is concerned, but the typical dual-stick action is supplemented with some role playing game elements. Of course the real reason to play “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” is its homage to the b-movies of yesteryear, framed in a unique-to-gaming, mockumentary style.

    “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” game is presented as a rerelease of an eponymous classic b-movie, complete with director’s commentary on either a VHS or DVD format. The game’s video options actually let you decide to whether play with, or without the film-grain. Despite the visual cleverness, it seems there is some issue as to what time period the developers are channeling. The official website claims “the movie” is from the nineteen-seventies, though “Godzilla,” “Flash Gordon” and the other space operas, along with our fascination with the “Atomic Age” were actually from the nineteen-fifties.

    Film history aside, “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” is a competent action game. There aren’t any real puzzles to solve like the ones in the “Lara Croft” games, but the combat is satisfying, and there are a few different gameplay mechanics employed. The melee and missile weapons all work well, and the ability to change a character’s load out is a nice option too. The enemies are varied, and the whole tower concept, along with the limited jet pack mechanic helps to set the game apart from the competition.

    The Deadly Tower of Monsters, PlayStation 4, video gameOf course it’s really that Christopher Guest-like mockumentary approach to the narrative in “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” that really makes the game. The director’s commentary is even delivered in imitation of Fred Willard’s typical movie commentator role, misogyny included. Though the top-down camera makes noticing all of it difficult, the enemies, props and set pieces are all revealed as typical primitive stagecraft. The strings can be seen on the flying creatures, but the intentionally stilted animations of other creatures are a little more difficult to discern.

    The director’s commentary is the main source of entertainment throughout the handful hours it takes to play through “The Deadly Tower of Monsters.” The gameplay, for its part doesn’t get in the way, though there were a few times that I did get stuck in an environment and had to reload the save file. Blaming player deaths on the wrong piece of film is an example of how the narrative is perfectly tailored to the game, but beyond that integrated narrative “The Deadly Tower of Monsters” is a fairly standard action adventure jaunt.

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    Resident Evil Zero PlayStation 4 Review

    January 27th, 2016

    Article first published as PlayStation 4 Review: ‘Resident Evil Zero’ on Blogcritics.

    Resident Evil Zero, HD, Remaster, Capcom, Video gameWith Resident Evil Zero, Capcom has finally released the final part of what is now offered as the Resident Evil: Origins Collections. Despite serving as a Resident Evil origins story, Resident Evil Zero was actually the last of the “original” games. Originally released for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, the game followed the original trilogy and Code Veronica. Despite, its significant additions, Resident Evil Zero was the final entry of the main series to use the classic Resident Evil gameplay formula, including the infamous tank controls.

    That somewhat awkward, retro control scheme is still present in the Capcom’s new HD version of Resident Evil Zero, though an updated one is also available. Of course there are benefits to those original “tank” controls, like the ability to back away from onscreen enemies. Also included in those pregame options, is the ability to change the aspect ratio from the original 4:3 to a 16:9 widescreen format, though the new display also has its drawbacks. In widescreen mode, the camera is zoomed in and cropped, which makes it a little more difficult to effectively search the environments.

    Speaking of environments, that’s where this HD remake of Resident Evil Zero really shines. The new environments are breathtakingly beautiful, and really go a long way to making this release look like a new game. The character models have also been updated, though they’re still fairly low polygon assets, compared to modern games. Unfortunately, the cutscenes haven’t been redone. Instead, Capcom has added a blur to the original full motion video sequences, to mask the relatively rudimentary presentation. Sadly, these dated clips, in the HD version are what really betrays the game’s age.

    As a matter of fact, the cutscenes also highlight what was wrong with Resident Evil Zero in the first place. While there were significant changes to the gameplay, everything around that seems to be cobbled together, with arbitrary new material which only has the requirement of not straying too far from existing Resident Evil canon. This leads to a narrative that induces head shaking, and is thankfully mostly forgettable. The series has never been known for the quality of its writing, but Resident Evil Zero’s story of Rebecca Chambers and Billy Coen is an undisputed low point.

    Resident Evil Zero, HD, Remaster, Capcom, Video gameResident Evil Zero changes up the original Resident Evil formula by forcing players to control both main characters, and Albert Wesker in the unlockable “Wesker Mode.” By the way, those characters also have slightly different abilities. This allowed the developers to design new, more complex types of puzzles without relying on creating random, obscure solutions. Tied into the dual character system, the way inventory is handled was also changed by Capcom, adding another aspect to the puzzle solving. While it sounds dynamic, the actual application of it all results in quite a bit of backtracking and overall frustration.

    It’s always tough to score a videogame remake or remaster, and Resident Evil Zero is no exception. On one hand, the Resident Evil franchise is a video game icon, and those that love the games, particularly the originals, will find Resident Evil Zero an essential chapter. With significantly updated visuals, longtime fans will probably appreciate Capcom’s effort immensely. Unfortunately, everyone else will compare the title poorly to similarly priced new releases. I find myself somewhere in the middle. While I am a longtime Resident Evil, and survival-horror fan, and even appreciate the title’s overall significance, Resident Evil Zero certainly isn’t the first chapter that I’d recommend.

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