Review | God of War Ragnarök

“Why did you want to do this mission with me, father?” Atreus asks after one of the many optional tasks. Kratos growls a bit, but doesn't dare to show the back of his tongue. It's Mimir, the severed head full of funny stories, who finally breaks the silence: "He just wants to spend some more time with you." It is also a perfect metaphor for God of War Ragnarök.

Because yes, the successor to the 2018 reboot essentially feels like more of the same. But that God of War was so good that spending more time in this world is absolutely no punishment. If you really don’t want to know anything about the game, read this one sentence before closing this page: anyone who enjoyed the previous game will be completely satisfied with Ragnarök.

But Mimir’s quote also applies in another way, namely because of the emotional underlay. Ragnarök focuses almost all his arrows on the story and the development of the relationships between characters. Scenes seem to have been written on purpose to make you cry, and dammit, they work damn well too.

God of War Ragnarök starts in the same place as the first part, namely at home. Kratos and Atreus have been hiding for a few years because everyone is out to get them. Freya is angry that they killed her son Baldur, Thor is angry that his sons did not survive and supreme god Odin is angry because… well, because Ragnarök is coming, the prophesied end of the world.

Atreus is tired of waiting and eager to discover who he is and what part he plays in all the prophecies. Shouldn’t he be saving the world, or at least helping with something? What follows is an immersive adventure in which everyone learns something about themselves. Can you break free from prophecies and expectations to become who you want to be? Are you in charge of your own destiny?

In this grand pantheon of quarrels between gods, everything feels very personal. Kratos is no longer as he used to be on a murderous crusade to kill all the gods, but is willing to talk things through and avoid violence, if this keeps his son safe. The growth that Kratos is experiencing as a human being is enormous, sometimes even unbelievably large. Not that he is now whining endless monologues, but the Kratos who only wants to drink blood is definitely a thing of the past.

The focus is on personal interests and motivations, which impressively seeps through even in the side missions. The game again has a number of open hub worlds, in which you can explore somewhat freely. Ragnarök isn’t an open world game all of a sudden, but just like in 2018’s God of War, there are optional areas where you can find additional content if you feel like it.

You’ll be triggered more than ever to sink your teeth into it, as you’ll be rewarded with bits of story and emotional moments surrounding the main characters. For example, in the dwarf kingdom of Svartalfheim, Mimir asks you to dismantle construction sites, because in the past he helped Odin turn the dwarfs into slaves of sorts. He wants to correct his mistakes from the past, which adds an extra layer to this fairly simple job.

In any case, the many characters are the biggest plus of the game. Returning favorites such as Mimir and the dwarfs Brok and Sindri, as well as new friends from the gods realm impress. The acting is top notch, with Danielle Bisutti as the highlight. Her broken Freya swings between limitless anger and heartbreaking grief, and is a joy to watch.

In addition, the portrayal of Odin is a bold choice that turns out fantastic. Between large and taciturn muscle masses like Kratos and Thor, Richard Schiff plays the supreme god as some sort of mob boss who relies more on his brain than on sheer strength. It makes him an endlessly intriguing antagonist who is always two steps ahead of you.

This story is again brilliantly portrayed by fabulous camera work, where no cuts are ever made in scenes. Everything is one take, which makes the adventures of Kratos and Atreus even more personal. You really feel like you are staying by their side and going out together. It also provides the necessary calmness, because the camera rests on faces for a long time. When there is an Important Conversation, you get all the nuances on the faces of the actors.

This time, the camera gets a little more space to capture other storylines as well. Ragnarök has a lot of creative tricks in store to portray the whole in a surprising way and to let everything melt together perfectly. Director Eric Williams deserves a big compliment for his sometimes daring, but certainly successful choices in the script.

You might notice that this action-adventure review isn’t about action for 12 paragraphs. This game relies so much on the story that the developers themselves sometimes almost forget that there is still a fight to be made. Quick, throw another group of meaningless enemies at the player! You are regularly confronted with small fights, just because the previous fight was so long ago.

That sometimes breaks the pace of the game, especially if it starts to feel like a must. Some battles and environments are even exactly the same as in the previous game. “Hey, remember this great enemy? Well, there it is again!” Fortunately, the total amount of different enemies has increased, making the game more varied in the end.

It shouldn’t spoil the fun too much, especially because the combat is so very good and tight. Little has actually changed since the previous game, but that’s not a bad thing at all in this case. The ax and double chain swords feel great as ever. You have total control over Kratos and all his moves, the controls never get in your way and the combos flow effortlessly from your fingertips.

New additions to your arsenal are welcome, but not a major revolution. For example, you can now charge your weapon before starting a combo for an extra dose of ice or fire. Later in the game you can choose to focus more on long-range combat, but hey, who wants that when you’ve got your hands on those iconic melee weapons?

You also have little time to get bored of the combat, because the game contains more epic moments and battles than before. Although Ragnarök, like his predecessor, has a slow start, the journey is more than ever filled with memorable confrontations.

Despite the above criticisms, God of War Ragnarök is a beautiful game that feels epic and grand in everything. The game is finished to perfection, all animations and details are correct and bugs are hardly or not present at all. The worlds are breathtaking at times, full of small details that bring the game all the way to life. We might have liked to see a bit more of some environments, because not all areas can be explored at your leisure.

But you really can’t complain about a lack of content here. The story rages across your screen in about twenty hours, but if you also want to explore all optional missions, you will certainly lose twice that, and maybe even more.

According to the developers, this God of War series will not be a trilogy and Ragnarök is the closing of this story. Strangely enough, it does feel like a trilogy. The game is so packed with surprising story moments that it feels like you’ve played two entire games in one. As if the studio had planned the story of a trilogy, but crammed the last two parts into one fantastic package.

Lesser gods would collapse under their own weight in such a case, but with Ragnarök that is absolutely not the case. The game is overcrowded, in the most positive way. It brilliantly weaves together all of its storylines and grandiose action, never having you huffing and puffing at the clock. After thirty hours of playing, we just want to spend more time in this world. Fortunately, there is still plenty to do.

God of War Ragnarök is available for PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 4. For this review, the game was tested on a PlayStation 5.

Score:

9,5

+ Combat remains excellent.
+ Beautifully beautiful and compelling.
+ Phenomenal and emotional acting.
+ Great story, creatively portrayed

– Puzzles slow things down.
– A bit too linear at times.


Review | A Plague Tale: Requiem

After the excellent A Plague Tale: Innocence and Microsoft Flight Simulator, Asobo Studio has proven that this still relatively unknown studio is not only extremely versatile, but also terribly talented. With A Plague Tale: Requiem, the French developer once again exceeds expectations and demonstrates that it has much more to offer.

Six months after the events of A Plague Tale: Innocence, Amicia and Hugo are still looking for a way to get the Macula curse out of Hugo. Their journey takes them to Mediterranean Provence, an area at the southeastern tip of France. Everything seems like a piece of cake, until sister and brother once again have to flee from the rats that seem to follow them everywhere.

The focus in Requiem is more on older sister Amicia. She has since embraced her role as Hugo’s protector and made peace with the fact that their world and lives will never be the same again. Amicia is ready to fight. Against the world, against fate and also against herself.

That fighting spirit is not only expressed in her emotions, but also in her behavior and thus the gameplay. Where A Plague Tale: Innocence mainly revolved around sneaking around and avoiding confrontations, Amicia hits back hard this time. The young lady strangles unsuspecting soldiers with her slingshot, throws them off her with a knife stab and, as icing on the cake, this time she is equipped with a crossbow with which she effortlessly pierces enemies.

That doesn’t mean that A Plague Tale: Requiem has suddenly become an action game. Knives are disposable, but can also be used to break open chests with upgrade materials, so you have to consider how you want to use them. While your crossbow is very useful in a tight situation, arrows are scarce and reloading is slow. And no matter how fierce you play, a single blow from the enemy can be fatal. So you still need to be on your guard.

Still, the game encourages diverse playstyles by giving Amicia new abilities depending on how she handles stressful situations. If you use an aggressive playing style, Amicia will also become more combative. If you are mainly a prowler, her footsteps become more silent. The effective use of alchemy to eliminate enemies is also a path that Amicia can take.

The game offers enough freedom to try out those different play styles. While you still have to get from A to B, there’s plenty of ground to explore in between and there are multiple ways to get to your destination. Being spotted is no longer a guaranteed game over, not only because Amicia bites off her easier, but also because you have a lot more space at your disposal to get away and try a different approach.

If you do get caught, you will automatically restart with the most recently created autosave. There’s no shortage of checkpoints, but it’s frustrating that you can’t save yourself. A poorly timed checkpoint sometimes meant we had to listen to the same dialogues over and over, or craft ammo every time we rebooted. It not only ruins the enjoyable pace of the game, but also the fun. Fortunately, these moments are rare.

Your companions, such as Hugo and the young alchemist Lucas, are also an important part of Requiem. Each ally has its own specialty that matches one of three playing styles, allowing you to explore all possibilities naturally. Hugo is no longer the helpless babysitter, but makes himself useful by sending the rats directly at his enemies. In addition, the new additions to the cast are interesting, outspoken characters with enough depth. They contribute not only during confrontations, but also as the much-needed emotional support for Amicia and Hugo.

Like its predecessor, A Plague Tale: Requiem is a two-faced game. There are peaceful moments, such as when you pet a goat with Hugo for the first time, play fairground games or simply admire the sunny Provençal countryside. These hopeful moments are full of wonder, but are always temporary. As long as the Macula is still running through Hugo’s blood, it’s only a matter of time before the rats spit through the paving stones and devour all the life around them. Then A Plague Tale shows its other, repulsive side.

Whether it’s a bustling market or the pulsating heart of a rat’s nest, the sublime graphics and ditto soundtrack always come together to create an atmospheric whole. The even light of A Plague Tale: Innocence gives way to more dramatic lighting, while Unreal Engine 5 does a great job of realistic rock formations and dense forests. Olivier Derivière completes the overall picture with a chilling soundtrack full of atmospheric violin playing that is sometimes so intense that you feel the strings into your bones.

Once they show up, the rats are another not to be underestimated hurricane of pitch-black violence that spreads death and destruction everywhere it goes. Thanks to the power of the current generation of consoles, they are even more impressive, appearing in the tens of thousands at the same time. Like a deadly tsunami, they engulf settlements, leaving behind only bones, rubble and gnawed bodies. They pose the most serious threat in the game, as every touch has a deadly effect. You are only safe in the light, where the rodents cannot reach.

Confrontations with soldiers are therefore interspersed with more puzzle-like pieces in which you have to fight your way between swarms of rats without being eaten. Sometimes you have to take both into account at the same time. It’s not a bad idea then to use the rats to your advantage, although the moaning of soldiers being eaten alive doesn’t quickly leave your memory, or Amicia’s. Needless killing often also results in disapproving comments from your companions. Amicia’s innocence, however, is long lost.

A Plague Tale: Requiem is not a pleasant game in its darkest moments. Asobo does not shy away from presenting you the most sinister scenes. Each time, Amicia and Hugo’s hopes for a peaceful life are painfully taken away. Amicia’s anger at the world is infectious, her despair understandable. You want to hurt the world again and at the same time a question of conscience is gnawing at your head. Is saving Hugo’s life worth the death of thousands of innocents? Morality is an important theme to explore, but the game eventually struggles to find a satisfying answer. Still, we can appreciate the bold choices that have been made and we are very curious what the future of A Plague Tale looks like next. If Asobo Studio keeps up with this level, things can be nothing but rosy.

A Plague Tale: Requiem will be available October 18 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, PC, and Nintendo Switch (Cloud version). For this review, the game was played on PlayStation 5.

Score:

9,0

+ Chilling soundtrack
+ Strong story and characters
+ More choice
+ Stunning graphics,

– Unreliable checkpoint system


Review | Ghostwire: Tokyo

With Ghostwire: Tokyo, developer Tango Gameworks takes a completely different approach. With The Evil Within, the studio remained faithful to the previous work of founder Shinji Mikami, who earned his spurs with survival horror games such as Resident Evil. Ghostwire: Tokyo still has the necessary horror influences, but is much more action-oriented and also trades the stereotypical abandoned mansions for the beating heart of Tokyo: Shibuya. That works out well.

At the beginning of the game we see how a mysterious fog suddenly makes everyone in the famous district disappear. The normally insanely busy intersection in front of the train station in Shibuya in the blink of an eye changes into a ghostly scene, where only a few piles of clothing left behind are silent witnesses of the disaster that just happened.

There is still screaming music from the shops and all the billboards are still brightly lit, but there is no longer any shoppers to lure in. Yet the district turns out to be anything but deserted when not much later all kinds of ghosts and demons parade through the streets. Slenderman-esque businessmen, headless schoolchildren, those The Ring-esque girls; the entire nightmare cast is present.

The only survivor is you: Akito. He is fortunate that just before the fog rolled in, he was possessed by the ghost of KK, a deceased ghost hunter. Not only does this help Akito survive the fog, it also gives him supernatural powers. With a swift movement of the hand, he fires gusts of wind as if they were bullets. Armed with their combined forces and knowledge, Akito and KK set out to find out exactly what happened.

Shibuya definitely plays a starring role in this. The city looks really beautiful, partly due to the high-quality ray tracing. The game has several graphics options, including multiple options with ray tracing. I chose to play the game for the most part in Quality Mode, in which the game runs at ‘only’ 30 fps, but makes up for it with the high resolution and beautiful ray tracing. Those who prefer to play at 60 fps can exchange ray tracing for a stable 60 fps. There is also an intermediate option that allows ray tracing with a higher, but slightly more unstable frame rate and slightly lower resolution. In short: there is something for everyone.

Despite its original angles, Ghostwire still falls for a well-known pitfall: after a while the stretch is a bit out. The narrative passages, which usually take place in closed environments, are considerably stronger towards the end than the open world. After all, in the closed environments there are boss fights and a lot of paranormal activities are played that completely turn the environments upside down.

In the open world, which at first is so beautiful to explore, the endless confrontations with ghosts at some point become a routine job. You pop some fireworks from your fingers, pull the core out of your enemies in a spectacular way, and can continue again. Three blocks away, the same scenario awaits you.

It also doesn’t help that you unlocked all your powers quite early in the game. New skills can still be unlocked via a standard skill tree, but they mainly make your existing powers slightly stronger. Visually nothing changes and you don’t have to press any other buttons.

It’s a shame that Ghostwire already loses its powder in the first half of the game, because the game really has tons of originality to offer. For example, it was nice that you hear KK’s voice not only through all your speakers, but also through your controller. Normally I’m not a fan of audio through the controller, but in this case it makes KK’s voice completely ‘surround’ you, as if it were really a voice in your head. The controller’s speaker is also used to pick up some sort of noise when ghosts are around, which gives a pretty eerie feeling every time.
In any case, the audio is of a high level. Attacks from enemies, for example, really fly right past your head, but also while exploring Shibuya you can place a dog’s barking or a cat’s meowing quite well in space. Why is that important? Well, Shibuya’s animals can help you in many ways. Plus, you can pet and feed them! That alone is reason enough to go after animal sounds.

I can still fill paragraphs with fantastic details from Ghostwire: Tokyo, or anecdotal side missions that you find in the city, but I especially recommend that you discover all of that yourself. Tango Gameworks shows with verve that they can not only make gore horror, but can also pick your brain with paranormal horror. They can also create a beautiful game world. Making that game world fascinating to the end is only an improvement for their next game.

Conclusion:
Ghostwire: Tokyo is bursting with originality and also looks great. Still, that can’t prevent that typical open-world game routine creeps in towards the end of the game.

Ghostwire: Tokyo will be available on March 25 for PlayStation 5 and PC. For this review, the game was played on the PS5.

Score:

9,0

+ Very intriguing and unique setting
+ Top notch audio
+ Shibuya is beautifully crafted
+ Original combat system

– Very repetitive towards the end of the game.


Review | Horizon Forbidden West

Even in places in the game world where hardly anyone goes, Aloy is recognized in Horizon Forbidden West. The first thing she hears? “If it isn't the Savior of Meridian!” Well, Aloy saved the world in Horizon Zero Dawn and the world has not gone unnoticed. Yet it is almost as if everyone has collectively forgotten that the world's greatest hero is simply called Aloy.

In any case, the Amsterdam Guerrilla Games is not. The studio celebrates its best character in Forbidden West as sequels rarely do. Aloy is the heart and soul of this game. It’s heartwarming to meet her old friends, remember adventures from the first part, and see how everyone in the world has heard about Aloy’s exploits. No one doubts her ability.

Aloy herself thinks otherwise. Uncomfortably and hesitantly, she waves the compliments away in Forbidden West. Savior of Meridian? “Just call me Aloy.” She says it over and over. That aversion has little to do with a latent impostor syndrome. Aloy doesn’t feel like a heroine because she knows what’s to come. In Zero Dawn she learned who she really is and what her role is in the game world. The real work has yet to begin.

The beginning of Forbidden West elaborates on the events of the previous part. After that, the game starts to juggle more and more jargon. That’s one of Horizon’s strengths – the world derives its depth from it. At the same time, that makes the story inaccessible. If you’ve never played Zero Dawn or have forgotten much of the story, I recommend checking out this refresher on YouTube.

Zero Dawn’s story was good, but it only really spurred on after a big reveal halfway through the game. Forbidden West goes wild earlier, but still takes a hefty run-up. The game starts in a defined area, similar to Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. The first few hours are a bit of a pull, but once in the West, the game gets going right away.

A certain tribe then throws the bat in the henhouse and it is probably up to Aloy to knit everything to a good end. Unsurprisingly, Forbidden West is about much more than clans and their plotlines, which are once again bursting with political twists and animosity. Still, I did not expect that there was still so much to tell about this game world.

Guerrilla Games has been far from open-handed in Horizon Zero Dawn. Forbidden West has plenty of surprises in store.

Partly because of all those twists, this game has a wonderful flow. You really fly through the story. The loaded main missions continue to deepen the world in new ways, while stories within side missions are often worthwhile too. Some side missions even pick up on the overarching storyline and introduce characters who will play a role later on.

The motion capturing of those characters is also sublime. People gesture happily and have recognizable manners. The facial animations are also very well done. The contrast with some plastic left off Zero Dawn is truly colossal. Certain characters have gotten a little more attention than the minor roles, but overall the animation and voice work is top notch.

The actors have had enough source material, because Forbidden West is bursting with dialogue. Sometimes you are listening for minutes. Despite the aforementioned excess of jargon, the writing is sharp and at times even surprisingly funny. You will not be laughing in your living room, but the humor is well dosed and different ’types’ within the cast are used well.

The story deserves all the praise and, together with the game world, is continuously intriguing. Playing a hunter-gatherer in a post-post-apocalyptic world makes the Horizon series completely unique. That is also ironic in a way, because the open world activities themselves are slightly less unique. Forbidden West is sort of a compilation album of everything you know from open world games.

You have the towers from Assassin’s Creed, the outposts from Far Cry, the question marks from The Witcher, the glider from Zelda: you know it by now. The structure of the game world is the same as in Zero Dawn. It’s not like Forbidden West is suddenly mimicking the freedom of Breath of the Wild. No, you are still going through question marks on the map or scrolling through missions in a menu. “You know” is not an overstatement in that sense.

That is by no means a criticism, let that be clear. While Zero Dawn could have been a linear game according to some critics, Forbidden West benefits a lot from the variety of an open world. That’s because there are more diverse activities that are actually fun to do. The side missions in particular have improved enormously. They introduce entertaining scenarios and some unique environments.

For example, mild platform puzzles regularly play a role during side missions. Aloy can now climb mountain walls, a bit like Breath of the Wild, but only in the case of certain rocks. Sequences like this are really, really fun. The Cauldron Caves are certainly platform highlights. Those almost Ratchet & Clank-esque levels are bursting with spectacular running and flying action.

A little less impressive about the platforming is the erratic controls. Aloy sometimes forgets to extend a reaching hand prior to a jump. Several times I swore back to the beginning of a platform section. It turns out that you have to wait until Aloy extends that hand. That takes some getting used to.

Speaking of which: I also had to get used to the mounts in this game. On the one hand they go fast and that is great, but too often you are braked because you get stuck behind a rock or a protruding branch. In addition, it is difficult to estimate which rivers you can or cannot cross, depending on how deep they are.

This is inconvenient, but also manageable over time. You get used to it. You have to, because the game world is so vast that sometimes you can’t do without your mount, especially if you can’t fasttravel for a while. The Forbidden West is huge. You travel a lot of lonely miles to get everywhere.

This game world is bursting with different types of environments and one by one they are indescribably beautiful. The distant vistas and exposure form a sort of scenic tandem. I fell silent for a moment as the morning sun rose over the mountains for the first time to paint the landscape red.

What steals the show in particular is the art design. In the environment where the game starts, that’s not too bad, because everything takes place in a small canyon. But gosh, once you get to the West, the sequel unfolds in ways I can barely explain. How this game blends old (modern technology) and new (a world full of indigenous tribes) is spectacular from start to finish.

One minute you’ll be amazed at the tribes and their authentic cities; fifteen minutes later, you’re gazing at a half-collapsed space center, fighter jets overgrown by moss and colossal carcasses of machines that blend into the mountain landscape. So consistent, so unique, so much detail: this is an absolute masterclass in art design, also underwater.

The pop-in is minimal and the frame rate constant, at least on the PlayStation 5. It is recommended to play the game at the highest frame rate (60). The resolution is then lower, but you don’t notice that much, probably partly due to post-processing. Of course you can play the game with all the bells and whistles at the highest resolution, but then you have to take into account a frame rate that does not exceed 30.

And that’s inconvenient, because the recognizable and satisfying action can certainly be very hectic against big opponents. In addition, Aloy’s knee slide deserves an honorable mention. Aloy can slide on her knees on the ground for many meters – even longer when going downhill. While she is sliding, you can adjust her very accurately, for example around corners. It’s a small mechanic, but oh my gosh, it feels good.

Horizon Forbidden West introduces more such adjustments that feel good right away, but don’t seem significant in themselves. Take the fine checkpoints, more extensive skill trees, nicer upgrades for your weapons or the smooth fasttravel. The critic will then say: With such adjustments, Forbidden West does not change the rules of the open world genre.

Correct. In fact, Forbidden West doesn’t do that anyway, not even compared to other Sony games.

Ghost of Tsushima includes more subtle tricks to guide you through the game world, such as the wind showing the way and animals showing you where to go. Forbidden West is a more traditional open world game, one that relies on quest markers and menus with commands like its predecessor. You are not guided through the world ‘automatically’. Exploring mainly means going into question marks on the map.

It doesn’t matter at all. It’s obvious that Guerrilla Games wants to bet with Forbidden West on everything that makes Horizon Zero Dawn fun and unique. The result is a very trimmed sequel where you rarely do anything you don’t feel like doing. Forbidden West is captivating to follow, fun to play and beautiful to watch across the board. And to think that this gaming year has practically yet to begin.

Horizon Forbidden West is available on February 18 on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. We played the game on a PlayStation 5.

Conclusion:  Better, smoother, better written, phenomenal art design, a consistent story, more surprises and better main and side missions: Horizon Forbidden West is better than its already sublime predecessor Horizon Zero Dawn on almost every front. Big kudos to Guerilla games, homegrown pride!

Score:

9,5

+ Beautiful game world with sublime art design
+ Entertaining and varied missions
+ Story full of revelations and surprises

– Minor cosmetic flaws
– Platforms don’t always run smoothly.


Review | Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition

The cultural significance of Grand Theft Auto 3, Vice City and San Andreas needs no explanation. Few game series ever managed to leave their mark on a genre like GTA at the time of the PlayStation 2. A reissue to make these classics easily playable on modern hardware is not a bad idea at all - if only with a view to the preserving cultural heritage. Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, however, has nothing to do with preserving cultural heritage.

We can be brief about the games themselves. In all honesty, in 2021 there is little fun to be had in GTA 3. The city looks bare, the missions mean nothing and cars don’t drive as smooth as we’re used to in GTA V. Yet the first part in the trilogy is still intriguing. Especially in combination with Vice City and San Andreas.

After all, those two games have withstood the test of time much better. When you play the games in succession, you increasingly see the contours of a modern open world game. The missions become more extensive, the characters start to talk more and more, and especially the game worlds are undergoing an enormous evolution. The streets of Liberty City are still empty and gray, but Los Santos has a unique vibe. A vibe that changes when you swap the city for the countryside, or later chug past the casinos of Las Venturas.

But it really doesn’t matter how good or fun the games themselves are. Anyone who has actively experienced the games knows exactly what to expect. The potential for nostalgia is great, especially when iconic music by Nena, Toto, Dr. Dre of Guns N’ Roses reverberates from the speakers. Those unfamiliar with the games might want to play GTA: The Trilogy out of curiosity to see why these museum pieces made such a splash two decades ago. In either case, it’s more important to look at how Rockstar has handled the source material. And that’s not too good.

For the re-release, the classic games have been rebuilt in a new engine. The original code has been partly reused, to give the games the original look and feel. Improved lighting and numerous small quality-of-life adjustments also reduce the culture shock. For example, your minimap automatically shows how to drive and it is easier to switch weapons or radios, thanks to selection wheels that we know from GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2, among others. The controls have also been modernized, including a freely moving camera. No idea if that was the deciding factor, but even infamous missions like Demolition Man (Vice City) and Wrong Side of the Tracks (San Andreas) weren’t nearly as frustrating as in our collective memories.

Many fans feared the iconic music in this reissue. There are indeed a few songs missing. In fact, it’s missing some pretty iconic songs, including Billie Jean and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ by Michael Jackson in GTA Vice City), as well as 2Pac’s I Don’t Give a F*ck and Hellraiser by Ozzy Osbourne in San Andreas. That is of course a shame if you just like those few songs, but with so many songs and radio stations there is enough left to create nice 80s and 90s atmospheres. Moreover, the endless chatter of the disc jockeys and the countless commercials and jingles have been preserved. So much for some good news.

The GTA Trilogy technically rattles on all sides. That starts with the fact that you have to choose between a Fidelity and Performance mode. We’re not dealing here with cutting-edge games that squeeze the most out of your hardware; these are three games that were already playable on twenty-year-old hardware. The fact that the three games are still plagued by frame drops and pop-in even on an Xbox Series X is therefore in no way justified.

But the trouble doesn’t stop there. Many graphics models have been artificially ‘enhanced’ to still look somewhat acceptable in a modern resolution. Some objects have clearly been given attention; you can see a surprising amount of detail in Tommy Vercetti’s colorful Hawaii blouse. But the way arm hair has subsequently been applied to his plastic-looking forearms is unintentionally comical.

Worst of all is the ‘renewed’ rain. A terrible effect has been applied, causing rain to distort the entire image as a kind of bright noise. Strangely enough, the rain stops spontaneously when you enter a tunnel, even outside the tunnel. To make matters worse, this effect is not applied ‘over’ water. If you see a lake or the sea in the distance, there is a ‘hole’ in the rain. It’s impossible that the developers missed all this, because the entire opening scene of GTA 3 is not to be seen because of this disfigured effect.

These once iconic games are now graphic monsters of Frankenstein, where old animations, jacked up resolutions, new lighting and completely failed effects come together unsightly. Even if the technique doesn’t falter, a lot of magic is lost. If you look out from Mount Chiliad, the highest point in San Andreas, you will see the complete map. Technically clever, but so sterile and without atmosphere. Hazy effects or air vibrations are not only there to mask imperfections, they are also there to add atmosphere. That was forgotten for a while with this Trilogy.

Sometimes it all works. The Strip in Las Venturas, for example, looks brilliant under the right conditions. The contrast between the dark starry sky and the bright neon lights bouncing off your car is something we could only dream of in 2004. An optimistic dreamer can squeeze a bit of nostalgia out of this Trilogy now and then, but nothing more than that. If this is how we should definitely remember the GTA Trilogy, the reputation of three legendary games has been tarnished for good.

Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition is available now for PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Series X and S, PC and Nintendo Switch. For this review, the games were played on PlayStation 5.

Score:

5,5

+ Plenty of quality-of-life improvements
+ iI you squint and drift off to the music you can feel a touch of nostalgia
+ Improved controls and camera, ,

 

– Loses a lot of atmosphere due to ‘clean’ look
– A lot of Frame drops
– Have to choose between Fidelity and Performance modes
– Disfigured rain effects


Review | Guardians of the Galaxy

The most important thing in a superhero game is that you feel like one of the superheroes, become them. But what actually defines the Guardians of the Galaxy? The team's heroes don't have Spider-Man's iconic superpowers, nor weapons that rival Captain America's shield or Thor's hammer in terms of recognizability. Basically they're just a bunch of noisy fools listening to good but old music. The characters themselves are the most important. Fortunately, developer Eidos Montréal has a lot of eye for that and tell their story as it's suposed too.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a completely new adaptation of the well-known heroes and that gives Eidos the chance to build something of his own. So forget what you know from the comic books and try not to think of Chris Pratt by the name ‘Star-Lord’. Eidos opts for the same approach as Insomniac used for the successful Marvel’s Spider-Man from 2018. The game is bursting with well-known characters, but all with a slightly different background than you would expect.

For example, main character Peter Quill takes his name ‘Star-Lord’ this time from a fictional metal band from the 80s. Eidos even recorded original music to bring this band to life. Unique backgrounds have also been devised for the other Guardians. For example, Gamora has a completely different, but still complicated relationship with her family than in other media.

That blank canvas is the catalyst of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Eidos tells the background stories of your companions in an almost BioWare-like way. While the game doesn’t have side missions to win the loyalty of your crew members, it does encourage you to take a walk on your starship between chapters and chat with everyone. The more you’ve been through together, the more the characters trust each other and the more they dare to tell about themselves. Even Groot manages to grow into more than just a funny side note with his three-word vocabulary.

That Eidos manages to put so much humanity in the characters is not only clever because we are dealing here with a talking raccoon, a walking tree and two green aliens. Guardians of the Galaxy is also written very funny. Eidos stays away from cheap slapstick and lame adolescent jokes: the humor is sharp, balanced and rarely if ever gets through. The jokes fit the characters perfectly, so the humor complements the story, rather than unnerves it.

In fact, it’s the humor that makes the dynamics between the characters so brilliant. Drax and Rocket in particular are constantly stealing the show. The extremely serious Drax and foul-mouthed Rocket are the perfect opposites and give the cast a lot of color. That’s crucial to the tone of the game, because it puts more than just a cast of famous Marvel names with a weighty backstory. A group of space friends forms that you’ll want to fight for. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy can really compete in that area with Mass Effect 2 and the legendary sci-fi series Firefly. Not a bad list to be in.

By the way, if you don’t want to go through fire for your companions, that’s possible to a certain extent. You not only experience Eidos’ variant of the Guardians, you also write it yourself. When the characters chat among themselves, you can choose whether and how Peter Quill joins the conversation. Bullying your buddies or applying a little self-mockery is all possible, just like in a real group of friends. There are also choices that influence the story. Although Eidos doesn’t go as far as BioWare with Mass Effect 2, the feeling that you also have something to crumble in the milk helps to make a connection with your new space friends.

Despite the choices and the interaction with your teammates, Guardians of the Galaxy is a linear action game. The hero team travels from one planet to another in a fixed order, which serves the story. That also means there’s no useless padding between locations, or endless backtracking.

Although Guardians of the Galaxy does not excel in extreme details or lifelike animations, the environments look very nice. One planet is even more colorful and alien than the next. Even more beautiful are the interiors of spaceships, which are full of nonsensical sci-fi lights that splash wonderfully off the screen thanks to the extreme lighting effects, especially if you’re playing on an HDR screen. That is even without raytracing, because that will only be added later on the (next-gen) consoles.

With the great dynamics between the characters as the main draw and beautiful environments that accompany the story, it can sometimes feel like the gameplay is lagging a bit. There is quite a bit of variety in the game. One minute you’ll be piloting your spaceship in action-packed on-rails scenes, other times you’ll have to platform that often require teaming up with other Guardians to progress, or scan the environment with Star-Lord’s signature visor looking for hints.

Furthermore, Guardians of the Galaxy is mainly a fairly straight forward action game, in which you constantly beat up clumps of bad guys or bombard them with your blasters. Your fellow Guardians join in happily and have a variety of special attacks that you control. For example, you can have Rocket fire a grenade, or have Groot secure enemies with his tree roots. The unique character traits of each character are therefore also reflected in this.

All those different characters mating makes Guardians of the Galaxy very chaotic. That fits very well with a game like this, but it also makes it difficult to use the various special powers of Star-Lord and the other heroes tactically. For example, certain enemies have a weakness for specific attacks, but in practice it is difficult to target attacks on the right enemy. Blindly hitting the buttons is often a lot more pragmatic. Fortunately, that’s what the difficulty level is for: Guardians of the Galaxy clearly puts casual fun above unforgivable challenge. The gameplay is also mainly in service of the story and that is actually fine.

If you do end up in a tight spot, then Peter Quill has a nice extra in store. He can give his teammates a pep talk and crank up the music on his Walkman for that extra bit of power. Imagine you’re fighting a crowd of aliens and suddenly an 80s banger like Hit me With Your Best Shot, White Wedding or Never Gonna Give You Up blasts through your speakers. Then you shoot everyone to the gallemies with just a little more fun.

The Walkman is a great declaration of love for James Gunn’s version of the Guardians of the Galaxy, but to be honest it doesn’t always work as well in a game as it does in a movie. Because you have to charge a ‘Huddle Up’ (the special power with which you activate the walkman) first, it often happens that the music only starts playing at the end of a mat game. It also stops as soon as the last enemy is defeated, with the result that a song is often cut off before the first guitar strings vibrate well and good. That’s a bit of an anticlimax.

At such moments, it becomes apparent that the script of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is written better than the code. The game does have some rough edges. For example, it happened a few times that the walkman did not play music. No, that turned out not to be the prelude to a minigame in which you have to rewind the tape with a pencil. Restarting the game turned out to be the solution. Furthermore, Star-Lord once got stuck in a wall, and when we needed Groot to form a bridge, the big friendly giant appeared to have disappeared without a trace.

They are the anecdotal examples that might happen to someone else, or not at all. These bugs don’t weigh very heavily either, since with a simple restart you’re back in the action. More regrettable are the moments when you miss bits of dialogue. Guardians of the Galaxy is masterfully written, but lacks the meticulous direction of games like God of War or The Last of Us: Part 2 to ensure players get everything perfectly. With just a little more polishing, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy really had a shot at the title of Game of the Year. Now it’s definitely the funniest game of the year.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will be available on October 26 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and S, and PC. The game is also playable via the cloud on the Nintendo Switch. For this review, the game was played on a PlayStation 5.

Score:

9,0

+ Nice soundtrack
+ Very funny and good written
+ Well-known characters presented surprisingly complete
+ Beautiful environments

– Dialogues and music are sometimes cut off
– Small bugs


Review | Deathloop

What if every day were the same? Of course that would quickly become boring. But what if every day were the same on an island full of heavily armed idiots who only party and beast because there are no consequences anymore? Then you get something that is anything but boring. Then you get Deathloop.

The concept of Deathloop is simple: the island of Blackreef is engulfed in a time loop for an unknown reason. Everyone wakes up every morning to do the exact same thing, no matter what happened the previous day. Although the city’s residents are aware of the time loop and thus drink, party and stunt as if tomorrow does not exist, no one has memories of what happened the previous day. Except Colt and Julianna. As a player, you start out as Colt, who finds out that he can break the time loop by killing a number of specific targets within one day. But if you die yourself, the day starts all over again.

Does that make Deathloop a roguelite? Not quite. So don’t be put off by the idea of ​​’permadeath’. In Deathloop, to begin with, you have not one, but three lives per time loop. If you really do die, you usually retain a lot of progression and sometimes even weapons, upgrades and supernatural powers, such as the ability to teleport. On the other hand, even if you don’t die, the time loop just restarts when the virtual day is over.

The time loop is therefore more than a simple game mechanic. It’s a fundamental part of the game. The ultimate goal is to kill all targets within one run, but that’s easier said than done. Blackreef is subdivided into four areas and the day is also divided into four parts of the day. You can only visit one area per day part, and your actions also influence the rest of the day. If Hitman is chess, then Deathloop is chess on four boards at once.

A simple example, there is a fireworks factory that is destroyed by a fire every afternoon. Unless you interrupt the power supply to the factory in the morning, so that the fire can never take place. But beware, the fireworks factory will burn down again the next day if you don’t intervene again that day. Knowledge is therefore your greatest weapon. Little by little you puzzle together what to do and what not to get all the targets in exactly the right place, so that you can kill them all in one day.

Because of that setup, dying is rarely frustrating, even if you might lose a super cool weapon. Deathloop isn’t about trial & error, it’s about learning more and more about the game world. You discover a new shortcut, overheard an interesting conversation and now learned something about a target, or managed to ‘Infuse’ a weapon with the interdimensional stuff Residue so that you have it in your arsenal the next day to sit. And if you don’t have enough Residue, at least you now know where and when you can find that weapon again. Every run you make progress in one way or another. The time loop isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing that makes you smarter and stronger. While everyone starts the same routine over and over, you are the only one who knows what will happen and how you can influence the course of events.

Or at least, almost alone. In addition to being Colt, you can also play as Julianna, the only other person who remembers things. While Colt is trying to break the time loop, Julianna tries to defend the time loop. When you play as Julianna, you invade other players’ game. Your only goal then is to annoy the other player. The fun part is that you have no idea how heavily armed or experienced that other player is. Besides, Colt has three lives, but Julianna only has one. So you are at a disadvantage and have to work smarter. For example, you can disguise yourself as a regular NPC to be less noticeable. After some practice, the undersigned even managed to imitate walking routes of an NPC, after all, the NPCs do exactly the same every day. The unsuspecting Colt looked up badly when he thought he was stalking a stupid NPC and was suddenly treated to a shot of hail from close range. But beware, Juliannas from all over the world regularly invade your game.

It is a bit questionable how much stretch there is in the ‘multiplayer’ of Deathloop. As Colt you really do finish the game at some point, while as Julianna you can basically go on indefinitely. So over time, more people will want to play as Julianna than as Colt and of course that’s not possible. As a Colt, you can also disable multiplayer so other players can’t invade your game. By the way, you are not rid of Julianna, because if you go offline, a computer-controlled nemesis will regularly disrupt your game. That battle between Colt and Julianna is simply a fundamental part of Deathloop.

The titular time loop and everything around it is undoubtedly Deathloop’s main achievement, but it’s certainly not the only thing that makes the game so intriguing. After all, Arkane Studios wouldn’t be Arkane Studios if the game world in itself wasn’t incredibly interesting to explore. The world of Deathloop is bizarrely detailed. The 60s aesthetic with organically shaped furniture and washed out colors blends perfectly with a touch of retrofuturism, but that clearly wasn’t unique enough for Arkane.

The island itself is a crazy collection of eccentric locations. Even if you have a number of time loops on it, the environment continues to excite and there are always new things to discover. On top of old military bunkers and concrete complexes, luxurious villas, dance clubs and an arcade hall. There is a kind of open air fair where it is a surprise with every building what is behind the front door, and a castle has been converted into a real life shooting game. Blackreef is a kind of anarchic amusement park and Arkane Studios knows how to convincingly create every attraction.

Arkane even manages to convey the feel of each weapon through the adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller. With the clunky machine gun aptly named Pepper Mil, for example, you feel the recoil in the trigger with each individual bullet. Together with the absurdly fine and genuinely funny voiceover, this is yet another example of a carefully worked out detail with which Arkane Studios goes beyond itself.

Yet we get the feeling that the game world could have been just a little more beautiful. On the PlayStation 5 you unfortunately have to choose between stable 60 fps, ray tracing at 30 fps, or some sort of in-between with nicer graphics without ray tracing and a more unstable frame rate. Because timing and reflex are so essential for a silent killer, in our opinion Performance Mode is the only serious option in practice, but then you miss some graphical bells and whistles.

The only other point of criticism is the somewhat saltless ending, about which we can say little without spoiling it. So we will not go into that further. You could say that the journey there is more exciting than the destination. But hey, by the time you get to that destination, you’ll have found more than enough reasons to include Deathloop in your Game of the Year shortlist.

Deathloop is now available for PlayStation 5 and PC. For this review, we played the game on PlayStation 5.

Score:

8,5

+ Admirably detailed game world
+ Tantalizing until the end
+ Very strong voice acting
+ Excellent balance

– The multiplayer part can dry up quickly
– Game’s ending leaves little impression


Review | Outriders

Congratulations! In Outriders, we finally managed to kill Earth for good. Fortunately, a bunch of bright minds quickly found a new habitable planet: Enoch. A fresh start for humanity? Of course not! In about thirty years, everyone will be killing each other again. So for you as an Outrider there is plenty of cannon fodder.

Outriders is mainly about shooting, shooting and shooting again. Shooting gives you new weapons and equipment so that you can, well, shoot better. We are indeed dealing with a purebred looter shooter here. The big advantage is that you not only have shooting irons, but also supernatural super powers.

At the start of the game, as Outrider exploring this new planet, you will be exposed to The Anomaly. Most people who come into contact with this die a gruesome death, but you turn into an Altered. Depending on which class you choose, you can suddenly summon fire, teleport, or conjure up turrets and other weaponry out of nowhere. For this review I mainly played as a Pyromancer.

A whole range of skills can be unlocked for each class, of which you always have three under the buttons at the same time. Nice is that Outriders really encourages you to use your skills frequently, instead of keeping them on hand for a dire situation. For example, for damage you cause with your skills, you get health points back. So it is not the intention to stay behind carefully, but rather to throw in the beech.

In addition, you can add mods to your weapons and equipment. For example, such a mod allows you to use a certain skill multiple times, do extra damage when an enemy is frozen, or let lightning strike when you fire a weapon. Once you get a feel for this system, you can create great combinations. For example, at one point I had a weapon that set enemies on fire, while another mod allowed me to deal extra damage to enemies on fire. As a result, that weapon automatically caused excessive damage from that combination.

To make it even more fun, co-op lets you tune your classes, weapons, skills, and mods a little bit together. If your buddy can freeze enemies, you can use another mod that deals extra damage against frozen enemies, or specialize in a different element for more variety on the screen. Fire, ice and a vomit-like substance that causes rotting quickly fly harmoniously across the screen, complementing each other in spectacular fashion.

Outriders creates his own graceful dance of shooting and using super powers, but certain enemies form an interlude. Captains and other prominent enemies are temporarily immune after a number of attacks and also sprinkle super powers themselves. In the beginning these kinds of enemies force you to improvise in an interesting way, but when the end of the story is in sight there are also some frustratingly difficult bullet sponges in between. Fortunately, you can lower the difficulty of the game world at any time – and up again after defeating a tough enemy. That way you can continue with the story.

That story isn’t going to win a Pulitzer Prize, by the way. A search for a mysterious signal leads the Outrider through muddy war zones where various human factions are engaged in trench warfare, as well as untouched alien jungles and desolate wasteland. Along the way, pick up a Mass Effect-esque ensemble of characters to experience a deliciously bad B-movie, full of cliché plot twists and ditto dialogues.

The story knows how to offer sufficient red thread between the blasts. Around three-quarters of the game, it falls a bit too much into an Avatar decoction, but the game recovers well towards the end as long as you expect pulp. The game rarely takes itself seriously and it is precisely that lightness that looks good. Plus, developer People Can Fly manages to do something BioWare couldn’t do with Anthem or even Bungie with Destiny: deliver a complete game. Outriders have a distinct head and tail. Even the endgame is building to an end. Outriders is not a promise to the future, with loose threads that have to be filled in in an expansion: it is a game that delivers now and is fun now.

At least in multiplayer mode. Outriders was really made as a co-op game. In co-op, you can resuscitate yourself once per confrontation (after that you need the help of friends), while you are dead on your own. It makes the game exponentially more difficult. That can be compensated by playing at lower World Tiers (read: difficulty levels), but then you earn less cool weapons and equipment while that is a bit of the whole goal. You also have to be online to play, even on your own. So if the servers have a breakdown, as was often the case during the first days after launch, you’re out of luck.

Outriders got off to a rough start to say the least, leaving servers unreachable in the first days since launch. This has been largely resolved, but not quite yet. There is still regular disconnection, after which the game on Xbox immediately shuts down completely. You will never be able to join again, so all players have to restart the game. But even after a (re) startup, it is anything but obvious that you can easily start a party. Invites don’t arrive, connections fail… playing together takes more effort and patience than it should. That is more than a week and a half after launch – and certainly with a game that relies so much on the cooperative element – very bad.

In addition, Outriders has the necessary bugs. Graphic oddities, such as spastic facial movements, inadvertently add hilarity, while asynchronous audio spoils some cutscenes a bit. More problematic is a certain bug that causes some players to lose their entire inventory. Worryingly, People Can Fly still hasn’t fixed this bug. The developer is aware of it, so it may be resolved by the time you read this, but it may not be. Fortunately, it has not yet happened to us.

Such a technical mistake is striking, because Outriders scores more than satisfactory otherwise. Especially on the new generation of game consoles Outriders runs pleasantly, even when we deploy all kinds of super powers with several players at the same time. The high frame rate and resolution (locked 60 frames per second with dynamic 4k) really benefit the fast action, and the virtually absent loading times keep the pace nice. Outriders is not particularly beautiful, but graphically above all functional: in this case we prefer a high and especially stable frame rate over realistic details.

The result is unadulterated action that you can easily get addicted to. Always being able to squeeze the most out of your weapons and powers with the best mods, and then unlock even better weapons, powers and mods, and then always look for new ways to make life miserable for the enemy.

Score:

8,0

+ Fully adaptable to your playing style
+ High framerate benefits the game
+ Skills make you feel powerful
+ Flexible difficulty

– Technically fickle with even potential gamebreaking bugs
– Unstable servers at moment of release


Review | It Takes Two

In many games, a co-op mode is no more than an extra addition to the single player campaign. Josef Fares and his team at Hazelight Studios wanted to create a game built entirely around a co-op experience. Make it a romantic comedy and you get It Takes Two.

Collaboration is central in this 3D puzzle platformer. There is no other way, because you cannot play the game alone and you really need each other. That should not only benefit the relationship between you and your fellow player, but also that of main characters Cody and May.

The arguing couple is on the verge of divorce and is trying to find the right way to tell their daughter. Daughter is in tears when she finds out and unknowingly transforms her parents into dolls. In order to regain control of their lives and get back to their real bodies, May and Cody must relearn how to work together by overcoming all kinds of obstacles.

They are guided in this by Dr. Hakim, a relationship advice book that has come to life. He gives Cody and May advice. The absurd character is nicely exaggerated by Fares himself and appears at exactly the right moments. Fortunately, this gimmick never gets boring.

Cody and May feel lifelike because of their playful and recognizable acting. The pair quarrel at many times, but also realize that they really need to work together to improve their situation. This is not only noticeable in the cutscenes; also while playing they make a well-placed comment to each other here and there. Sometimes even a compliment can be off!

After turning into dolls, Cody and May are still close to their home, trying to contact their daughter. That is easier said than done, because as dolls they have shrunk considerably and their environment has been enlarged. The places where the pair end up are versatile, bombastic and hilarious. From a wasp’s nest in the garden to the broken cuckoo clock in the living room, every location is transformed into a fantasy world that wouldn’t look out of place in an average Pixar movie. Recognizable environments are supplemented with objects that have come to life and appropriate obstacles, assignments and items. Due to the use of warm colors and cartoon-like animation, the game feels very atmospheric. In this way, the house and the relationship between the two characters are simultaneously revived.

What is particularly striking in the levels is the level of detail: there is something to see everywhere and with the vast majority of objects that can be found in the environment, you can do something. Daughter Rose’s messy room is a goldmine of nostalgic toys, such as magnetic drawing boards and kaleidoscopes. This high degree of interaction really draws you into the game. The differences between the levels – both in terms of setting and gameplay – are so great that it is often reminiscent of the creative flow of ideas in Super Mario Galaxy. Fortunately, in each world, you get just enough time to get a taste of the concept before moving on to the next crazy idea.

A puzzle platformer is nothing without puzzles and luckily It Takes Two also knows how to provide them. The puzzles are of variable difficulty, but can almost always be solved through teamwork. In most cases that means that you have to help each other by creating a way or opening a bridge, so that the other person can do that for you later.

With special power-ups that you get in some levels, you can help each other on their way. For example, in one of the levels one has a honey cannon and the other a match gun to explode the honey. Timing and cooperation are then crucial to detonate the right object. These power-ups can often be used in a different way and you also need each other for that. For example, the honey can be used to weigh objects and the matches to move pulleys.

Most gadgets are only in your possession for a short time. Because the gameplay mechanics of these gadgets remain largely the same, you quickly get used to the new items. It is a shame that Hazelight has not added special features for the controls in the PlayStation 5 version of the game, because the use of the gadgets in particular would be even better with the adaptive triggers of the DualSense controller.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like working together, but you prefer to work together. Once in a while you will come across a minigame where you can compete against your comrade. The friendly games are simple but effective because they shake up the game for a while. The minigames feel like a special kind of collectibles and it is always a surprise what kind of battle you enter into with each other. You can play a variant of curling, knock each other flat in a game of live Whack-a-Mole or run an obstacle race with explosives on your back. Here too, there is no lack of variety.

When you step into the world of It Takes Two, you can tell from everything that the game has been put together with a lot of love and fun. Story and gameplay go hand and hand and the game is strong in its genre. The co-op way of playing fits in very well with that. After all: together you are stronger.

Score:

9,0

+ Detailed and versatile game world
+ Only one copy needed thanks to Friend’s Pass
+ Fun characters and strong dialogue
+ Smooth gameplay

– The boss battles are sometimes very fast.
– Unique DualSense options go unused.

It Takes Two will be released on March 26 for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X and S. The game has been tested on a PlayStation 4 pro.


Review | Hitman III

In 2016, IO Interactive changed the Hitman formula considerably. In large, open and self-contained levels, it is up to the player to track down and knock down a number of targets. Whether you do that with a bullet through the head, by poisoning a drink, or by making it look like an accident, doesn't matter. It's a setup that can hardly surprise almost five years later, but still stimulates creativity.

In essence, Hitman 3 differs very little from its predecessors. As Agent 47, you’ll traverse six levels in search of your fatal victims, who you can assassinate in many ways. Hitman has to rely mainly on the structure of the levels and fortunately this part is very good.

This is how Dubai excels because it gives that unadulterated experience of hiding yourself in plain sight. A decadent party of a very wealthy Arab in the world’s tallest skyscraper is the perfect scenario to listen in as you mingle with the mob. You look for opportunities and the right time to strike, without anyone realizing that you exist at all. The underground disco in Berlin also gives you this sensation, with the added twist that your targets are also chasing you there. This creates an exciting and funny cat and mouse game, in the midst of raving revelers.

A personal favorite, however, is the Dartmoor level. While you’re there to commit a murder, a detective arrives to investigate the suspicious death of a housemate earlier that day. That offers countless possibilities for the more creative assassin, but it would be a shame to reveal too much. Let’s just say Hitman 3 really pays off when you replay levels and test alternative approaches.

Some later levels sacrifice some creativity in order to tie the story together. In any case, Hitman 3 puts a little more emphasis on the story, with movie-like openings and intros. Cleverly enough, you can always skip those intros when replaying. For example, the Dubai level first opens with a Mission Impossible-like infiltration in which you hang on the outside of the skyscraper, but you can also start right away in the lobby for the next session or even start as a catering employee.

It is precisely these kinds of alternative scenarios that make Hitman so much fun to replay and discover what’s possible. From a “realistic” bill to an absurd attack: every level is home to everything. They actually get more fun the more you have seen the level. Because if you suddenly see on your way to the exit that there was also the possibility to blow up your target with an explosive golf ball, then you naturally want to find that golf ball next time.

Hitman 3 does not make a lot of news at the same time. Even the main flaw of the previous parts remains, you actually always have to be online to play, otherwise your progress will not be tracked. You do not unlock new weapons, gadgets, costumes and starting points in the level, while Hitman is all about that.

It is also noticeable that the cutscenes are very compressed for unclear reasons, and are therefore bursting with artifacts. Well, you will not play Hitman 3 primarily because of the story, but it is a shame. Although the game runs fine on both generation consoles, there are some minor bugs and flaws in the gameplay. Occasionally we could not complete a certain action because it did not appear that we had to press a button. In addition, when reloading, it happened a few times – in different levels – that well hidden bodies were immediately found.

Half a decade later, the formula is also showing more and more cracks. Bodyguards react mediocre when they find their employer dead and unceremoniously dispose of the body. There is no manhunt or lockdown. And in the previously acclaimed Dartmoor level, the experience is a bit bursting when the investigation is still being pretended to be in full swing, when in reality the mystery has been solved long and wide, and something else may have already happened to keep you busy.

IO Interactive certainly manages to get the most out of it one last time, and also to close the story of the World of Assassination trilogy. It is high time that Agent 47 worked in a different way again, and IO Interactive reinvented the formula. Until then, we would like to play Hitman 3 again. And again. And again. Until we’ve really seen every scenario.

Score:

8,0

+ Rewards exploration and creativity
+ replaying makes each level more and more interesting
+ Very diverse levels
+ Beautifull settings and details

– Almost obliged to always be online
– Some small bugs here and there