Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review: Killing Nazis never felt so good

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus released in a very unusually bright spotlight. Already regarded as a highly-anticipated holiday title, Bethesda’s game posed a scary resemblance to real-life developments happening in America. The emergence of “Alt-Right” believers and Ku Klux Klan followers brought the crazy “what-if” scenario of if the Nazis had won World War II in the world of Wolfenstein to the forefront. The idea of fighting against such atrocities and exterminating Nazis in The New Colossus already seemed like a wonderful idea, but now there’s a heightened sense of satisfaction in killing Nazis.

The New Colossus continues the story of protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz following the events of the first game, The New Order. Don’t worry if you haven’t played the first entry, because New Colossus presents an informative video at the beginning to get you caught up. Wolfenstein’s campaign runs for about ten hours depending on which difficulty you select. There are five different difficulty selections, and while it might seem there isn’t much difference between them based on their descriptions, think again. I learned the hard way that there is a considerable spike in difficulty even between the two easiest ones.

Once you’ve figured out which difficulty suits you best, the actual game is fantastic. The gameplay reminded me a bit like DOOM (not surprising, as DOOM is a Bethesda product as well) with a nice variety of weaponry and fast-paced movement. The different types of weaponry range from simple pistol-type guns to full blown lasers. Most of the weapons can be upgraded through kits found throughout the game that can provide enhancements such as silent gunfire, faster reload, or larger magazine clips. While most of the action is heavily fast-paced, certain areas tend to be easier by taking a stealthier approach. Wolfenstein 2 has perk lists that keep track of the different types of kills you perform: stealth, explosive, environmental, heavy, and dual-wield. Each perk presents a permanent bonus for Blazkowicz that helps him take down Nazis.

It’s hard to give criticism toward a “what-if” situation, but certain technological advances in a bizarro 1961 are a bit too far-fetched to believe sometimes. Flying drones, laser guns, and giant robotic fire-breathing dogs are just the tip of the iceberg. Maybe the Nazis prioritized different scientific areas when they won the war to further their grip on the free world? Who knows? From a video game standpoint, it makes for a kickass experience. From a historical perspective, however, I’m sure there would be an endless list of questions to answer.

Blazkowicz might not be the most engaging of characters, but his team of Nazi-killers more than make up for it. Whether it be his wife Anya Oliwa, former Black Revolutionary Front member Grace Walker, or Nazi-turned-freedom fighter Sigrun Engel, each supporting character deservedly feels needed in aiding the fight against the Nazis. In between missions, Blazkowicz can interact with other people and explore the submarine headquarters that they are stationed in. Standing by and listening to them talk to each other was an unexpected joy. New Colossus does a decent job developing characters during the normal progression of the game, but the more meaningful and deep connections can only be discovered through a player’s own exploration in the base.

Although much of Wolfenstein 2’s secrets are discovered through thorough exploration in the game’s submarine hub world, I long for more linear games. As I mentioned earlier about being similar to DOOM, I would’ve enjoyed if Bethesda created Wolfenstein more in that aspect as something that pushed you forward and didn’t have much options of side activities. The endgame content is a nice treat for more hardcore players and fans, but having to spend time running around (a much larger than originally thought) submarine to encounter new experiences is tedious. It might be the fact that so many games released nowadays contain some sort of sandbox-element to them that for once I’d like a more linear experience.

Even without the craziness of reality, Bethesda’s Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus is another gem among the treasure trove of what 2017 has had to offer. Yes, the frighteningly close similarities between alternate 1961 and real life 2017 are striking, but there’s an underlying joy in it all. Channeling your frustrations of the world into slaughtering virtual Nazis and white supremacists might be the best remedy. From a gaming angle, the gun-play is one of the fastest FPS I’ve played which creates many hectic situations. The variety of weaponry and different ways to kill people add a funny, creative way to dispose your enemy. Wolfenstein’s characters, Blazkowicz to a certain extent, push the story forward in a compelling way; if only there was more in your face development and not hidden among side conversations. Finding concept art throughout the levels and seeing how the Bethesda team designed them was also very interesting to look at, and I wish more developers would follow suit. Regardless of if you’re a Wolfenstein fan or a newbie like I was, New Colossus is a wild ride that should absolutely be ridden.

Final Score: 8.5/10

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Super Mario Odyssey Review: Another gem for Nintendo and fans

Nintendo’s iconic plumber has not only been a staple in the company’s illustrious history, but in video game lore as a whole. The adventures of Mario battling the King Koopa Bowser in trying to save his beloved Princess Peach has spanned over three decades and numerous gaming platforms. Mario’s latest quest has him sailing the open skies upon the airship Odyssey, hoping to rescue Peach before being forced to wed Bowser.

Super Mario Odyssey kicks off with Mario already battling Bowser on his pirate airship. The King Koopa gets the upper hand on Mario, as the plumber is thrown off the ship and lands in the Cap Kingdom. Mario comes across sentient hats, and one of them named Cappy offers his assistance in stopping Bowser. We learn that Bowser has not only taken Peach as prisoner, but also Cappy’s sister, Tiara.

Cappy’s abilities in assisting Mario are quite interesting. Other than using the hat to smash objects or jump on for an added boost, Mario is able to temporarily take control of most living things by way of Cappy. By throwing the hat onto other things, such as Goombas, Bullet Bills, or even frogs, Mario’s “soul” gets sucked into them and he takes control. Certain puzzles are only solvable if Mario uses this ability, so be sure to properly assess your surroundings in a kingdom.

Speaking of puzzles, the main objective in Odyssey is finding Power Moons. These moons are scattered throughout the 14 initial kingdoms. Starting from the Cap Kingdom, Mario must amass a certain amount of Power Moons in order to fuel the Odyssey to make the voyage to the next kingdom. The minimum number of moons needed to successfully complete Odyssey’s campaign is 120, but there’s a grand total of 999 moons to collect. By that count, Odyssey’s campaign only accounts to roughly 12 percent of what the whole game has to offer, meaning there’s a whole lot of endgame content.

Each kingdom that Mario and Cappy land on has an unique monetary system besides the standard gold coins. This other system comes in the form of varying purple coins that take a region-specific shape depending on the kingdom. Collecting these purple coins allow you to purchase cosmetic outfits for Mario (that are also region-specific) and other statues or stickers of the kingdom to decorate the inside of the Odyssey. There are exactly 100 purple coins sprinkled throughout each kingdom.

The beauty of Super Mario Odyssey resides in the little things. I never thought I would have so much fun collecting the cosmetic outfits for Mario, and expressing pure joy seeing him perform his own little fashion show. Other than the various clothing options, Odyssey adds certain things that you’d need a keen eye to notice. For instance, when you don’t move the controller Mario decides it’s the perfect time to relax and take a nap. A bird will land on his nose, but it will always be a different bird depending on the kingdom you’re in. Also, whenever Mario finds a Power Moon, he changes his hand gesture that’s reminiscent of past 3D Mario games like Sunshine, Mario 64, and Galaxy. The following tweet thread goes more in-depth with the many small details Nintendo put into Odyssey.

Knowing how important the history of Mario is to Nintendo and players alike, Odyssey takes a giant leap into the nostalgia territory, and crushes it. There are certain puzzles throughout the game that has Mario “deforming” from his normal 3D-self into his old 8-bit appearance. Seeing how flawless the transition is between the two is absolutely impressive to behold. It amazes me every time I go into a green tube and emerge flat against the wall, running through that small portion like the early SNES days.

The most interesting kingdom, and I’m sure many already assumed it would be from trailers, is the Metro Kingdom, better known as New Donk City. This entire kingdom is nothing Mario has ever experienced, seeing real-life, normal-sized human beings! It begs to wonder if Mario is simply a short person or something entirely different. Anyway, New Donk City is a tremendous kingdom for Mario to explore and the end of that kingdom in the campaign presents a very special moment for hardcore Mario fans.

Nintendo continues to have an unprecedented year. The success of the Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild earlier in the year would’ve been remarkable for any company, but sandwiching Super Mario Odyssey at the end of 2017 is the absolute cheery on top. The immense joy I felt playing Odyssey is something I haven’t experienced in a long time. While the main campaign was shockingly short, the endgame content is where this game takes off. The plot of saving Peach before she marries Bowser was a bit too whimsical for me, but it did feel nice to play through a lighthearted game. This is the prettiest game on the Switch thus far, the music of each kingdom is memorable, and the nostalgia feels hit home hard. Super Mario Odyssey is a game that fans will keep coming back to, if not for the desire to collect all the Power Moons, but to simply experience the happiness that Mario continues to bring us.

Final Score: 9.75/10

The Evil Within 2 Review: Out of the frying pan and into the fire

In 2014, Bethesda and Tango Gameworks released an unexpected smash-hit in The Evil Within. Playing as Detective Sebastian Castellanos, you ventured through Beacon Mental Hospital investigating the scene of a mass murder. During your investigation, Castellanos, along with his partners Joseph Oda and Juli Kidman, confront a mysterious man known as Ruvik. Throughout the course of the game, Castellanos pieces together what happened at Beacon through Ruvik’s memories, and later, discovers that he was actually inside of Ruvik’s mind the entire time through a system called “STEM”.

As convoluted as that summary of the first game sounds, playing through the actual game might be more confusing. The sequel does an excellent job conveying a more structured plot, where not only did I know exactly what was happening, but I also cared about the characters. Castellanos returns in the second installment as a beaten down, depressed alcoholic who’s lost everything since the end of the first game. His daughter, Lily, was killed in a fire and Castellanos blames himself for not being able to save her. His wife, Myra, tried to convince the former detective that their daughter was still alive, being held captive by a mysterious agency known as Mobius. Obviously, Castellanos doesn’t believe her and Myra goes off on her own to search for Lily.

The Evil Within 2 picks up with Castellanos looking down at the end of a bottle. He’s approached by his former partner Kidman, and she tells Castellanos that Lily is still alive and she needs him to help rescue her. It’s revealed that Lily is being used by Mobius (Myra was right!) as some sort of Core for their STEM project and she’s essentially gone missing. So, just like in the first game, Castellanos heads back into the STEM virtually reality world, but this time, it’s personal.

With most horror-genre games, it’s a bit difficult to effectively please everyone. The first entry presented terrifying creatures, bone-chilling bosses, and a setting in Beacon that made me have nightmares. The only thing that it was missing was a coherent story. In its successor, Bethesda was able to improve the story and nail down the exposition, but completely scaled back on the overall horror that made the first one so good. Unlike the first entry, there weren’t any notable boss fights. Ironically, the most notable boss fight comes during the second half of the game against three enemies that will look frighteningly familiar to past players.

Although Bethesda and Tango Gameworks do a better job creating a story with more depth and character development, there still remains one huge question mark for me: what exactly is STEM? I understand that it’s some sort of artificial, virtual reality built in someone’s head it seems like, but why is it so important to Mobius? It’s said throughout the game how whoever controls the Core (Lily) would have immense power at their fingertips. Hopefully the presumed third entry will dive more into the creation of STEM and why exactly it’s such a hot commodity.

The Evil Within 2 switches up the setting from the tightly-confined, disturbingly scary mental hospital to a more open, somewhat quaint town in Union. Exploration becomes an important tool here, as there are many areas to search around Union. Playing on easy let me freely roam the town without a huge fear of dying, but it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The common enemies resembled zombies, while certain advanced baddies could shoot acid bombs at you. There was a good enough variety of enemies throughout the course of the game that let you be a bit creative in how to kill them, but the standard “aim and fire” tactic is still the most effective.

A major difference from the first game is the inclusion of side missions. Like I stated before, exploration is just as important in this game as staying alive. Scattered across the map are Resonance Points, which are small fragments of memories that fill in small plot holes. Discovering the points will reward Castellanos with anything from ammo to Green Gel (used to apply upgrades). Other times, you might not be so lucky as some of the points would alert enemies to that location. Much of the game will have you running through the streets of Union, so if you miss any of the points you’re more than likely able to still find them. There’s plenty of running back and forth from areas you’ve visited before, so don’t feel too upset if you initially miss something.

The upgrade system from the first entry returns with nurse Tatiana guiding you. Green Gel is the currency for upgrades, with Red Gel being the item used to bypass certain locks for other enhancements later on in the game. Castellanos can upgrade things such as health and stamina, being more quiet while crouching, and increasing your ability to dodge deadly attacks. Other than those upgrades, you can also increase your weapons individually at work tables. I focused on upgrading the handgun and shotgun, as you could go through the entire game not increasing a single attribute for any other gun and still survive. Besides the handgun and shotgun, everything else is used more situational.

The Evil Within 2 is a quality sequel to a surprisingly, yet exceedingly terrifying adventure. Although it takes a step-back in the scare department, the second installment does a phenomenal job in portraying a coherent story where you care about the characters well-being. The development of the characters, especially Castellanos, was one of the major elements and themes in the game’s plot; a much-needed relief compared to constant terror. The enemies and boss fights were overall forgettable, and don’t match up with the horrors of its predecessor. Castellanos’s second adventure into STEM concluded on a somewhat happy note, but left the door open for what should be a third, and final, installment.

Final Score: 8.25/10

Cuphead Review: Dying hasn’t looked this pretty

When I first saw the trailer reveal for Cuphead, it instantly connected with me. Seeing the old 1930s cartoon art design mixed with classic platforming mechanics was something I didn’t know I wanted, but desperately needed.

Weeks before Cuphead released, I began reading previews that said Studio MDHR’s indie was difficult. Like Dark Souls, but more friendly-looking. Having never played Dark Souls, but briefly experienced those types of games with my few hours of Bloodborne, I was a bit hesitant to get on board. However, the memorizing art style was too much to resist, as well as wanting to blow off the dust from my Xbox.

If you’ve never experienced what a true love-hate relationship is, then you need to play Cuphead. Right from the beginning, I suffered at least a dozen deaths trying to fight the first boss. As you make your way through the islands collecting souls for the Devil, (yes, things get dark very fast) the contracts you must fulfill become more difficult and more complex. One fight you’re taking on two boxing toads, and the next you’re flying an airplane battling a Medusa-esque sea monster. Not only are each encounters different, but the enemies rarely do the same routine during each brawl. Every boss fight and run-n’-gun level presents their own unique challenge, and Cuphead must be properly equipped to take them on.

Cuphead, also the name of the title character, is able to unlock various attacks and special abilities. While that type of customization is  welcomed, it’s an unfortunate inconvenience not being able to restructure your layout during a level. In order to do so, you must head back to the actual map of the island to switch things up.

The default button layout was a rather interesting decision by Studio MDHR, to say the least. For some unknown reason, someone over there thought it was a good idea to have the shoot button as X. After having played through about 200 deaths and not knowing you could rearrange the buttons, I got used to having the shoot button kitty-corner to the jump button. It might be beneficial to switch shooting to the right trigger to get a more familiar feel to it, but using X has been relatively fine with me.

Cuphead’s biggest challenge comes in the way of not knowing where you are in a fight until you die and see the progress made, and most of the upgrades. During every encounter thus far, and I’m halfway through the third isle, you never know when the boss is close to dying. Not having that precious piece of information makes every attempt that much more intense and when you fail, which you will, and see that you were an inch from victory is a feeling you won’t shake until you do succeed.

Certain upgrades are obtained after completing the various mausoleum levels found throughout the isles, while others are bought at Porkrind’s Shop. Porkrind has clearly seen better days with his eye patch (pun intended), and most of his upgrades have too. The only absolute must-have upgrades are the Spread (weapon) and Smoke Bomb (invisible dash). The Spread is essentially the standard Peashooter you start with, but in a triple spread with increased damage. Only downside is the Spread option is the lack of distance, so it’s best suited for close combat. The Smoke Bomb should be one of, if not, the first purchase you make. Initially, Cuphead can perform a slight dash in order to evade enemies. This skill allows him to briefly turn invisible in a puff of smoke and reappear a few feet in the given direction to 100 percent avoid damage. Other upgrades that I’ve used for more situational battles were the Lobber (slowly lobs balls) and Roundabout (boomerang projectiles that’ll fly backwards if they don’t make contact at first).

For a game that costs only $20, Cuphead might be one of the best values this year. Yes, the insane level of difficulty could turn the average gamer off, but the sheer satisfaction of finally defeating a boss after countless attempts has never tasted sweeter. The art design in of itself is a good enough reason to purchase this game. Studio MDHR could’ve done a better job with the default button layout, but did give the player maximum customization with being able to rearrange the buttons to their play style. And although the majority of the upgrades aren’t necessary (don’t get the extra heart life, because it’ll lower your overall attack power), there are still a few that will make your time in Cuphead a little more forgiving. In terms of exclusivity, 2017 hasn’t been kind to Xbox gamers, but luckily, Cuphead reigns supreme for loyal Microsoft supporters.

Final Score: 9/10

*Disclaimer: This review is based off roughly 80% completion of the game. I hope to one day make it to 100% without breaking any of my controllers.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Review: Compelling story, but little annoyances hold it back

Nintendo has plenty of revered franchises: Super Mario, Metroid, Pokémon, hell, even Animal Crossing is well-liked. But no other franchise has garnished the type of respect and admiration that The Legend of Zelda has in its existence. With 19 titles spanning across numerous Nintendo systems, gamers have battled against countless evils on their quests to save the kingdom of Hyrule and Princess Zelda. Due to so many entries and seeing other properties evolve with the times, Nintendo properly gave the franchise a much-needed breath of fresh air (pun intended) in the latest entry, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Before I begin pouring my thoughts about this game, I would like to mention that while there have been 19 titles, I have only played one Zelda game. I know, it’s blasphemy. Luckily, that one game was arguably the greatest game of all-time in Ocarina of Time. Now that we’ve addressed that elephant in the room, let’s dig into what makes and breaks Breath of the Wild.

First and foremost, the story was amazing. Waking up in the Resurrection Shrine and discovering that Ganon had essentially defeated Link and the other four Champions of Hyrule was a shot to the gut. To make matters worse this is all happened 100 years ago. As I made my way through Hyrule, many inhabitants loved to remind Link how he failed to defeat Ganon a century ago. Initially, I felt this weight of disappointment knowing that I had failed everyone. People all across Hyrule have had to suffer 100 years of Ganon’s evil and Zelda has been in Hyrule Castle fighting the good fight, all while Link slept. Nevertheless, that feeling of disappointment turned into determination. I was determined to save everyone in Hyrule, to save the princess, and to defeat Ganon. At the end of the day that’s exactly what Breath of the Wild is: a story of redemption.

The Legend of Zelda franchise have all been role-playing games; Link goes out into the world, finds weapons and pieces of armor that gradually increase over the course of his adventure to save the day. Breath of the Wild takes that formula and cranks it up a bit. The popular genre nowadays is open-world. Developers are creating worlds that allow players to explore freely and not be restricted to a linear experience. Open-world games aren’t for everyone; some games may seem a bit intimidating and intense. I’m generally a fan of them, but this was an instance where I felt a bit overwhelmed.

After you leave the Great Plateau, you’ll make your way to Kakariko Village to speak with Impa. She tells Link what’s transpired 100 years ago and what he must do to save Hyrule and the princess. Impa explains how there are four Divine Beasts being controlled by Ganon. These Divine Beasts were colossal machines that were intended to be used against Ganon, piloted by the four Champions of Hyrule. Before the beasts could engage Ganon in battle, his calamity killed the Champions and took control, wrecking havoc with the beasts throughout Hyrule. Impa instructs Link to seek out each Divine Beast and restore them from the calamity infection to help in the final battle against Ganon. There is no “correct” order of Divine Beasts to restore, so you can pick whichever order you’d like (I went Zora’s Domain, Rito Village, Gerudo Town, and Goron City).

Exploration throughout Hyrule is where Breath of the Wild shines, but fails. At the beginning, the map is blacked out until Link activates Towers across the kingdom to reveal sections of Hyrule. Unlocking the sections doesn’t necessarily mean you can fast travel to other areas (you can only fast travel to Shrines and Towers), but it’s a nice sense of accomplishment to fully unlock the map by the end of the game. Along the way, Link comes across many cooking pots in Hyrule. This where you can combine various materials to produce health-regeneration food items and elixirs to buff stats or provide resistance toward certain weather elements. Breath of the Wild does a horrible job explaining how exactly to create elixirs. Most times I found myself compiling random items together to see if I got lucky; it never worked. Sometimes you may come across a book of recipes or someone will tell you how to cook a certain item, but the overall cooking experience was very frustrating.

Many people tend to compare Breath of the Wild with Sony’s exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn, because both games are “in the wild” and feature two characters that happen to wield a bow and arrow. The big difference between the two, other than that they are nothing alike to begin with, is free climbing in Breath of the Wild. Link has the natural ability to climb near any surface in Hyrule, any explorer’s dream. There are some restrictions: if it rains Link will slip, and Link is unable to climb the walls in Shrines. Link will also slip and fall if his stamina wheel runs out. I understand the notion behind the stamina wheel, to try and bring realism to the game, but why? Yes, you can increase the duration of the wheel (at the expense of possibly gaining a heart), but it feels like Nintendo is being sticklers about it. If you’re going to let players free-climb nearly any surface, then let them. You got the realism when it rains and Link slips, which happened to me many times, so why continue to put handcuffs on the players?

Going back to what I said before, The Legend of Zelda games are role-playing games where Link finds weapons, shields, and armor. This might be the first game I’ve ever played where weapons and shields break and disappear when fighting enemies. Again, just like the stamina wheel, I understand the attempt at realism. But at what cost? The only way players can acquire weapons is from picking them up after defeating an enemy. If you don’t have a weapon, then Link has to resort to most likely using bombs from the Sheikah Slate. Not that using the bombs aren’t effective, but why include a mechanic in the game that destroys the players weapons when fighting enemies but have the main method of obtaining weapons be through enemies (weapons can be found in chests). I’d be more receptive to this mechanic if Link was able to purchase weapons, but the only thing that can be purchased are arrows. The only weapon that cannot break is the Master Sword, but there’s a catch. While the Master Sword cannot break, it can “power down”. Once the Master Sword powers down, it’ll take 10 minutes to recharge. However, if you complete the Trial of the Sword DLC the Master Sword will stay powered up forever.

In a year that’s been blessed with high-quality games, Breath of the Wild deservedly has a seat at the table. Link’s journey on the road to redemption is an epic one. Essentially coming back from the dead 100 years later to defeat Ganon might go down as Link’s greatest triumph. While I still believe Ocarina of Time is the best game in the franchise, Breath of the Wild gave it a run for its money. If not for little annoyances that stunted my gaming experience, such as, the stamina wheel, weapon degradation, and lack of cooking instructions, this game would be high on my list of the all-time greats. Regardless, Nintendo has added a quality title to its treasure trove and delivered yet another compelling tale in this storied franchise.

Final Score: 8.75/10

Destiny 2 Review: Incredible improvements, still a ways to go

Three years ago, Bungie introduced an interesting, but somewhat empty, world in Destiny. Players were tasked with defending mankind against enemies such as the Vex, Fallen, and Hive on various planets in the solar system. Over the lifespan of Destiny, the developer addressed these concerns and added appealing new content, starting with The Taken King. Many had high hopes for Destiny 2, but still felt the need to have some reservations about the sequel so they wouldn’t get burned again. Luckily, Bungie has continued to learn from their early mistakes and Destiny 2 is in a much better starting point than its predecessor.

The biggest improvement, and quite possibly the most important, is the campaign. There were countless times during the first game’s campaign when I questioned what exactly I was doing and how this helped the overall story. Why did the Traveler select humankind to guard? How did the Vex, Fallen, and Hive come to our solar system? Why do they hate humanity? Granted, some of these questions might have been answered via Grimoire cards. These cards were meant to provide more in-depth background lore about Destiny, but the problem was that they only appeared on a specific website. Destiny 2 does a phenomenal job of constructing a very fluid and engaging story that makes you actually care about what’s going on.

One major factor in establishing an engaging plot is the villain. Destiny 2’s big baddie, Dominus Ghaul, is the Cabal leader of the Red Legion, hell-bent on obtaining the light powers of the mysterious Traveler. Ghaul believes the Traveler picked incorrectly in bestowing its powers on the human race, and is determined to change its mind. The opening mission, the same mission from the beta, shows Ghaul and the Red Legion utterly destroy the Guardians’ Tower and securing the Traveler. This leaves the Guardians powerless, weak, and virtually unable to mount a counter attack. Not to mention, Ghaul has a Death Star-type weapon aimed directly at the Sun with means to wipe out the entire human race.

The second major factor that complimented the storytelling is the soundtrack. The music from the Tower siege up to the final showdown against the Cabal leader is absolutely engrossing. Not once did the music feel out of place or unnecessary; on the contrary, the sound selection felt perfect for every given scene throughout the campaign. Tremendous credit to the sound team at Bungie for further enriching the experience.

Bungie’s sequel does not do away with all of its faults. An important cut scene in the campaign showed the Speaker possibly being killed by Ghaul’s mentor, the Consul. The Consul was worried that Ghaul was becoming soft after he had insinuated that the Traveler must be reasoned with and not to take the light by force, as originally planned. Subsequently, Ghaul seemingly crushes the Consul’s skull. The main issue here is, we don’t know for sure if the Speaker is dead because they fall to the ground semi off screen. Not exactly sure why Bungie would showcase it like that, especially because the Speaker is a pretty important supporting character. If the Speaker is indeed dead, I wish Bungie would’ve given him a more impactful sendoff.

Once the campaign has been completed, the end game offers plenty of activities for players (much of the side activities, otherwise known as Adventures and Public Events, can be done side-by-side of the main campaign). The downside though? Much of the end game activities are simply not worth doing. During my run of the campaign, I completed a lot of the available Adventures that increased my Titan’s levels exponentially. Players have two different levels: overall level and their power level. There’s a cap of 20 for the overall level and roughly 300-305 for the power level. Around 265-270, it becomes extremely difficult for players to gain additional power level. Currently, the only ways to obtain more advanced gear and weapons is to either get lucky during loot drops in Public Events, completing the Leviathan raid and the Trials of the Nine Crucible mode, or waiting for the milestones to reset every week. The milestones are typically easier to achieve powerful gear, they either revolve around completing Public Events on a certain planet or participating in Crucible.  After those milestones, however, it becomes a bit more difficult to raise your power level. Exotic Engram drops are extremely rare and odds are that the gear or weapon you decrypt from it won’t be useful to you. One solution to this is to infuse different pieces of gear together to increase the level of it, but even that is a bit more challenging than what it seems. Trying to secure loot from the Trials of the Nine mode and the Leviathan raid are equally as challenging. In order to participate in either Crucible mode or raid, you must have a Fireteam of four and six respectively. You cannot simply go into matchmaking and randomly hook up with another Fireteam. This can be very frustrating for players that don’t have any friends who play Destiny, effectively restricting them from playing through important end game content.

Other than the Trials of the Nine Crucible mode, normal quick play and competitive Crucible modes have returned. While I fully expect Iron Banner to return, the Crucible mode where the players’ guns and armor stats take effect, there isn’t much incentive in playing Crucible. While Destiny 2 does incentivize the player in completing Crucible modes through milestones, after those are finished it’s hard to return until the milestones reset. I imagine players can get engram drops, but that’s the same possible reward for completing Public Events. Maybe if Bungie incorporated some sort of ranking system with the competitive Crucible mode alongside the milestones that would make it a bit more appealing, but in its current state I don’t see any reason to spend much time in it.

If there’s one word that I would use to describe Destiny’s existence it would be “evolution”. Bungie did an amazing job of listening to criticism early on with the first game and has built off that criticism to deliver a solid sequel. The storytelling and soundtrack are a major improvement from the first entry. Destiny 2’s biggest fault is the sudden plateau at power level 265-270, especially because it’s relatively easy to reach that milestone. The insistence of completing the Leviathan raid and Trials of the Nine is expected, but the necessity of being a part of a Fireteam is a major downer. Hopefully Bungie increases the level cap, allows solo players to join up with random Fireteams, and ushers in more compelling and rewarding end game content. Otherwise, Destiny 2 might fall into another case of redundancy that vanilla Destiny fell victim to until the release of The Taken King.

Final Score: 8.25/10

Disclaimer: I have not yet participated in the Leviathan raid and Trials of the Nine Crucible mode. Score may change after completion.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Review: Racing to the top

Ever since the Nintendo Switch was announced, there was one game I was most looking forward to playing. Surprisingly, it was not The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Don’t get me wrong, with so many people already crowning Breath of the Wild as Game of the Year, I was very interested in trying it out myself, but the allure of Mario Kart will always have a firm grip on me.

My girlfriend, Blanca Garcia, got the first real crack at the game on our way to Vegas, as she spent a good amount of time on the raceways. After she made her first difficult decision of character selection, ultimately siding with the cosmic Princess Rosalina, the real fun began.

We were overwhelmed with the high level of vehicle customization. You can choose between different kart types, wheels and paragliders (first time I’ve ever seen these). An important aspect to constructing your kart, something that would have been great to know in a tutorial, was that each kart, wheel and paraglider has its own stat attribute increase and decrease. By clicking the “+” or “-” buttons, an attribute menu pops up where you can see the different categories being affected: speed, acceleration, weight, handling, and traction.

In addition to not knowing about the attributes, the game didn’t really explain Smart Steering, tilt turning and auto acceleration. While the turning and auto acceleration are self-explanatory, the Smart Steering was something that was brand new to us. Having the option on enables you to stick to the track without fear of falling off, however, it will not allow you to go anywhere but forward. If you spot a shortcut a second too late, you can’t turn around and go back.

Once we learned most of the tracks, there’s a whopping 48 race course divided into 12 cups, we decided to turn off Smart Steering. The difference in racing with and without Smart Steering is tremendous; utilizing the break mechanic and knowing how to drift is detrimental to your success. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is not forgiving when playing on 200CC without Smart Steering, so only attempt this if you’re confident in your racing abilities or if you love flying off the sides of the courses. It’s a new dynamic that I haven’t experienced in a Mario Kart game, but it’s definitely something that brings me back to the game.

One of the more frustrating parts of the game is the lack of item distribution. Blanca and I have put in close to 20 hours into the game, and I think out of both of us we’ve only had a couple stars, one Bullet Bill and a handful of blue shells. It doesn’t make much sense to be in ninth-place and get a double fun box, only to be disappointed with a green shell and a bundle of bananas. I’m not entirely sure if the increased level of CC dictates item distribution, but it’s mind-numbing when the CPU is dropping lightnings and red shells while we’re left with the garbage.

Another minor feature in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe that I was unfamiliar with is unlocking the cosmetic items. During the race, drivers can collect Mario coins throughout the courses and finish with a max of ten. These coins are used toward an overhead-type wallet that unlocks different vehicle cosmetic parts for further customization.

When playing couch co-op, Blanca and I only used the Joy-Cons with the Switch propped up on a table. We’re still figuring out many of the Switch features and how to exactly connect the Pro Controller along with the Joy-Cons on the actual TV. While playing with one Joy-Con apiece on a 6.2 inch screen is fun, the possibility of playing with full controller functionality on a 40 inch screen is tantalizing.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a must-own title for any and all Switch users. The roller coaster of emotion from a race that sees you go from first-place to seventh-place and back again in the matter of seconds is an adrenaline rush you won’t find elsewhere. Mario Kart 64 will forever be my favorite iteration in the franchise, but the Switch version is making a serious run for the top spot. The desire to win gold in each of the cups, the remastered designs of past Mario Kart race courses and the seemingly never-ending quest to unlock all the cosmetic items will keep us coming back to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for a long time to come.

Final Score: 9.25/10

Blanca Garcia contributed to this review.