[Review] ‘Fallout 76’ is an Online Adventure With Great Potential, But Lacks Narrative Depth

 Is the wasteland a little too quiet these days? Is the end of the world better with a few friends around? Find out in our Fallout 76 review.

When diving into Fallout 76, it’s important to let go of certain expectations. While it’s essential to keep in mind the entries that have come before, Fallout 76 is a unique installment in the series. If you go in looking for the karma decisions and dramatic narrative of past games, you may be disappointed; however, if you come in seeking a variety of quests and a big world to explore, the game has you covered. Fallout 76 takes some time to get used to, but if you’re patient, there is a lot to enjoy.

Taking off into Appalachia with a couple of friends allows players to create their own adventures in a largely familiar Fallout mold. The game includes a variety of events and quests to keep groups entertained, pitting them against a wide selection of grotesque, and intimidating enemies. One of the more prominent Fallout qualities that the game drops is that of a karma system; player choices and morality are more of a free-for-all given that this is an open-world multiplayer experience. There isn’t somewhat of a larger narrative at work, but like previous Fallout games, sometimes you may want to take on some side quests instead.

The start of the game sends you on a number of fetch quests as you learn the ropes. Upon listening to a Holotape, your first goal is to head towards a location, only to pick up another Holotape and head towards another area, and so on, and so on. These fetch quests go on for some time, eventually leading to more interesting and varied missions. There was a mission where I went into a mine to clear them of infected creatures. The environment was a great change in pace while also bringing a boost in challenge. That mission promised that the more I continued to play, the more there would be to discover.

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It is possible to play Fallout 76 by yourself, but doing so makes the game a somewhat isolating experience. Part of this isolation comes from the fact that the world feels lacking without NPCs (minus some robots you come across). It’s jarring that there aren’t any as they make for one of the best components of any Fallout title, bringing life and character to the game world.

Speaking of the game world, Fallout 76 takes place in West Virginia, making for the most beautiful locale a Fallout game has ever had. Walking about the immense forests of Appalachia is truly wonderful. The land offers a diversity of locales that keep things fresh; from the various towns, to the bewitching wilderness and dank mines, the game’s world provides many spaces to tread and seek treasures. Fallout 76 does a solid job providing environmental storytelling. As you’re walking by one place, you may see a few corpses holding each other on the side of a road; it’s one of the many morbid sights that will catch your attention, getting you to wonder what those individuals may have been thinking in their last moments.

As mentioned early, Fallout 76 does include a larger narrative, but by no means is it as dramatic as past entries. Essentially you leave your vault to look for your overseer and roam about from there; there and then an interesting plot moment may come up, but narratively,  Fallout 76 lacks the emotion and thrills compared to past titles.

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That said, Fallout 76 has a stronger emphasis on survival compared to previous Fallout games. Whereas past titles kept track of your radiation levels and any potential issues you may have, Fallout 76 also keeps track of your hunger and thirst. When these cravings are not satisfied, your ability to use action points is impacted. Helping with your survival is that of the C.A.M.P., a portable device that allows you to build a base. In this regard Fallout 76 is a lot like Fallout 4; in making your base, you can set up turrets, create a means to cook food, and build structures as your heart desires.

What makes survival more intriguing is that of the real-time gameplay; say you’re in the midst of trying to craft some weapons or healing materials, if an enemy shows up, they can attack you no matter what. Simple acts like pulling up your Pip-Boy don’t pause the game anymore; actions are real time, so you have to be more careful in where and when you decide to manage inventory.

The game also has more of a need for crafting materials. The world is full of different items you can come across and scrap, allowing you to build new armor and weapons along the way. I found this to be more simple than I expected, for you really can pick up almost anything you see, scrap it, and have more room to carry items.

Combat is pretty standard with the only significant changes being that of V.A.T.S. Rather than having the enemies move at crawling speeds, V.A.T.S. has enemies moving much faster, providing the player a locked on approach to attacking. In this shift it felt that V.A.T.S. had lost a good deal of its accuracy; I came to realize that I would have a much better chance of landing critical shots without using it. The RPG leveling system isn’t as dynamic as Fallout 4, but it’s easier to manage; building a deck of the stats and perks that matter to you make for an enjoyable means to customize your character, all while building upon your chances of survival.

Concerning bugs, fans of Bethesda have come to expect issues with game’s upon release; however, in my hours of playing Fallout 76, I dealt with very few problems. Even with some moments of lag and pop up textures, I’m glad to say playing was, by and large, a relatively smooth ride.

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Fallout 76 may come off as somewhat of a jarring experience for long time players of the series (especially those not use to multiplayer or online gameplay). The lack of NPCs makes the world feel a little too empty, and the beginning requires slugging through some boring quests before things get a little more interesting. For longtime fans of the series it requires some understanding and acceptance; for those who have played games of similar ilk, it merely requires some patience. However, as one continues to progress in the bombed out remains of Appalachia, they will find themselves enchanted by the scenery and the promise of fun yet to come.

Whether you play with friends or by yourself, Fallout 76 is the beginning of a fascinating direction for the series. Having Fallout be an open world online game makes lots of sense, for the core element of the series is that of exploration in a post-apocalyptic world. I think in time, as Bethesda continues to build upon the game, we will see Fallout 76 become a stronger entry in the series, as well as a worthy online role-playing adventure.

Fallout 76 Review copy bought by the reviewer on PS4.

Fallout 76 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

Watch the Notorious House From ‘The Amityville Horror’ Get Recreated in ‘Far Cry 5’.

Far Cry 5‘s level editing tool has helped shape some fantastic homages to other games, and of course, movies. Recreations of horror sets, buildings and the like have emerged since the game’s release earlier this year, including tributes to The Evil Dead‘s cabin, Jurassic Park, and Resident Evil 2‘s Raccoon City.

The latest recreation comes from Reddit user duncsmaps and he’s shown how he made the notorious house that is the inspiration for The Amityville Horror.

He posted an image of his work on Reddit, created in the PS4 version of Far Cry 5, and linked to a video of him making the house bit by bit with a short explanation.

”For those wondering, this scene was created in the Far Cry 5 map editor on PS4 and took 2 hours. If you’re interested in how it was put together, you can check out this short video I made where I take the scene apart piece by piece but in reverse to make myself look like a speed-building demon”

It’s always pleasing to see horror-inspired mods and creations in video games. Over the years games such as Minecraft, LittleBig Planet, and of course, Far Cry 5 have provided great tools with which to express that, and next year’s Dreams by LittleBig Planet developer Media Molecule could open up the door for even more horror homages with its mindblowing level of creative assets.

Far Cry 5 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

[Editorial] Outlast 2’s Vague and Frustrating Story is Actually its Hidden Strength

Outlast 2 was created to make you feel like a rat in a maze, without any knowledge of what’s on the outside. When stripped of context like this, it’s genuinely difficult to discern if that statement is meant as praise or as criticism, because either option is entirely plausible.   

On the one hand, an overbearing sense of disorientation is integral to great survival-horror, as the genre thrives upon disempowering its players. Yet at the same time, vowing to make your audience feel like a bewildered rodent is hardly the most enticing pitch in the world. Nor does it really scream ‘“Fun’’, which is ostensibly the core appeal of any video-game.

The ‘’Rat in a Maze’’ quote is intriguing for precisely this reason, because it did not come from a journalist or a reviewer. Instead, it can be attributed to Outlast 2’s very own PR team. That’s right, Red Barrel Studio intentionally likened their product to an inhumane science-experiment and then tried to use that off-putting comparison as a legitimate selling point!

They really pushed the idea too, insisting at every juncture that the game was going to be a distressing ordeal for everyone concerned. Among other things, their marketing promised that we’d experience: dizzying confusion; crippling isolation; and even a sudden onset of incontinence! Golly! Where do we sign up?

Normally you’d have to take these promotional gambits with a pinch of salt. But in this case there’s no hyperbole to account for. Outlast 2 will absolutely make you feel like a rat-in-a-maze, what with its unfathomable lore, perplexing storytelling and confounding ending. Make no mistake, however, this lack of clarity is not a failing on the game’s part. On the contrary, it was a very conscious decision and a genius one to boot.

As with classics like Silent Hill 2 or Bloodborne, the fact that the player can never be 100% sure of what is going on here really adds to the immersion, putting you directly in the shoes of your clueless protagonist. For a quick summary, Outlast 2 pits you against Temple Gate, a zealous community that is ruled with an iron fist by one Sullivan Knoth. A former radio preacher, this devout Christian allegedly intercepted the voice of God over his broadcasting equipment and was inspired to produce a deranged trilogy-capper for the bible.

His resultant gospel is weirdly fixated on reproductive organs, ejaculate and anything else that is remotely associated with fornication. Oh, and it also endorses infanticide and genital mutilation as a means of curbing sin. So you know, typical light reading!

Suffice it to say, Knoth is a tad unhinged and has somehow convinced his flock that he is the ‘’New Ezekiel’’, a divine prophet capable of derailing Armageddon and slaying the Antichrist. To accomplish this, he intends to rape all his female parishioners (irrespective of their age), in the hope that he will inseminate one of them with the Archfiend’s progeny and then kill it whilst it’s still a defenseless newborn.

Exacerbating things even further, you soon begin to wonder if maybe he’s onto something with all this end-of-the-world business. After all, you too are being plagued with the same haunting visions as everyone else, witnessing hordes of locusts, demons and other apocalyptic omens.

Believe it or not, that synopsis is heavily simplified and omits some of the more cryptic aspects of the plot – like the jarring reality shifts, the splinter faction of devil-worshiping ‘’Heretics’’ and the part about your wife’s Immaculate Conception. Still, the fact that this story is so hard to condense speaks volumes about the commendable ambition that the developers channeled into this one. They could have easily settled for something more straightforward and conventional, but thankfully chose to aim a little higher and crafted an intricate narrative that is suitably enigmatic and challenging.

On that note, Outlast 2 frequently demands that the audience read-between-the-lines and puzzle things out for themselves. It’s reminiscent of the Dark Souls approach to storytelling,  wherein clunky exposition dumps and intrusive cut-scenes are jettisoned in favor of more subtle methods. For example, several key details here are relegated to collectible documents, some of which are integral to your overall understanding of events and character motivations.

With that in mind, if you don’t take the time to rigorously scour every corner of the game world and investigate levels properly, then you’ll be denied vital pieces of information. In fact, if you neglect to read one very specific letter, then you’ll miss a major plot twist that completely alters your interpretation of the ending. So much can be gleaned from this particular document (including explanations for plot-holes, closure for lingering questions and clarification about whether there’s a supernatural element at play) that it’s basically the most important MacGuffin in the entire game.

To conceal such massive implications within an optional extra is an unbelievably ballsy move. But it makes perfect sense, because without delving into spoiler territory (it’s a joy to uncover all of this stuff for yourself) the twist only works if the characters themselves remain completely ignorant of it. You see, Outlast 2 is all about what happens when people try to impose meaning onto that which they cannot comprehend.

In order to fully articulate this theme, the game deliberately thrusts you into a baffling situation, making you question what you’re seeing. Therefore, an obvious explanation cannot be delivered without undermining the whole point of the story. Moreover, the choice to hide answers within collectibles allows Red Barrel to discreetly supply intel to more vigilant players, whilst still preserving the sense of mystery for everyone else.

Alas, whilst this secret depth was certainly rewarding for those who did cotton on to it, the intricacies slipped past most gamers, who accordingly lambasted Outlast 2 for not having enough substance and for failing to provide a satisfying conclusion. It’s a shame that the game’s reputation has been forever damaged by this hasty judgment because it really does deserve more recognition for its daring creative choices.

Specifically, it ought to be praised for its bold decision to withhold narrative exposition from the player, unless they go looking for it. Then again, that’s the risk the team took when they decided to make their story so ambiguous all for the sake of immersion.

It may have been too subtle for its own but it cannot be denied that Outlast 2 succeeded in what it initially set out to achieve. Over the course of its obtuse campaign, you really do come to identify with the protagonist. Indeed, you are truly a ‘rat in a maze’.

Watch This ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ Supercut of Violence Set to the Tune of…the Can-Can?

Red Dead Redemption 2 is storming the sales charts and has gained an insanely high amount of praise from critics (even if it’s been a rather more mixed affair for fans) and it’s high profile presence means there’s plenty of material wrung out of it in the forms of video clips, memes, and more.

One such example is J3unny’s supercut of protagonist Arthur Morgan punching, shooting, drinking, and dancing his way through the Old West with Jacques Offenbach’s “Infernal Galop” (aka the Can-Can song) played over the footage.

Very minor spoilers ahead for Red Dead Redemption 2.

It’s an entertaining two-minute showcase, and it’s also probably the quickest many Red Dead Redemption 2 players have seen the game move.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is out now on PS4 and Xbox One. Musical numbers optional.

The Anxiety of Attachment: Parental Horror in Video Games

Story Spoilers for The Last of Us and God of War ahead.

The Last of Us, released way back in 2013, is one of the most successful survival-horror games of all time. However, the way in which it deals with horror isn’t quite like other zombie-apocalypse titles. While it may be true that Naughty Dog’s game features its fair share of jump-scares, the most effective way in which the horror works is to do with the relationship between Ellie and Joel. In the same way, 2018’s God of War, while not being a horror game in terms of genre, manages to do the same thing in relation to Kratos and Atreus.

The Last of Us sets up family horror from the get-go. From Sarah’s death at the start, to Joel attempting to refrain from getting involved with Ellie, the suspense in the game builds in direct proportion to the development of Joel as a paternal figure. This is initially paralleled with the horror setting, but it gradually becomes the main source of horror. Sure, the Bloaters might make you jump, and there are parts that genuinely gave me goosebumps, but the main source of fear lies in fearing for Ellie.

Joel’s contextual background hardens him to the extent that he is unwilling to play a paternal role ever again after having lost his daughter to a cruel twist of fate when the infection went airborne. He’d rather endure the pain of being alone in the world than risk the pain associated with losing someone else. However, as his relationship with Ellie develops, the anxiety of attachment sets in. This draws out Joel’s repressed paternal instincts, which are vicariously experienced by the player controlling him.

The suspense created by tying their relationship to a world of horror and uncertainty culminates in Ellie’s abduction by David, who is the leader of a group of cannibalistic survivors. While Ellie manages to eventually incapacitate David, the ensuing cutscene is utterly tragic. Joel finds her, hunched over David’s dead body, stabbing it over and over again. Despite Ellie escaping his evil clutches, the trauma she feels is felt by the player in the way that a parent feels for their child. After having seen what Ellie had to endure, Joel becomes more protective than ever – something that’s proven by the events that unfold as The Last of Us spirals towards its end.

In God of War, although Atreus is rarely in immediate danger, his ambiguous sickness that manifests itself sporadically throughout the game eventually takes full hold of his faculties. In order to save him, the player must venture to the depth of Helheim, or the underworld. Although there is no time limit, the suspense created in Freya’s hut as she attempts to heal him sends the player hurtling through the Bifrost to Helheim. Helheim itself is perhaps the area that is most semblant of horror in God of War, but it’s the reason as to why Kratos is there that makes it even more terrifying. In order to save his son, he must travel to the world of the dead; a task that makes no promise of a return journey.  

Atreus is healed, but in the same way that Joel becomes more and more protective over Ellie as The Last of Us progresses, so too does the relationship between Kratos and Atreus grow as the game’s trajectory unfolds. The first installment of a trilogy, God of War never truly puts Atreus’ life at risk aside from this one moment; however, the murals in Jotunheim warn Kratos of a future filled with despair for father and son alike. Even the parts of the story that haven’t been written yet are imbued with the fear of the unknown derived from the relationship between Kratos and his son.

The horror in these games is therefore much more emotionally-charged than an archetypal zombie story. For instance, Richard Matheson’s infamous novel, I Am Legend, may feature some incredibly heavy scenes like the death of Robert’s dog. This is tragic, but nothing truly compares to experiencing the pain of Ellie, who you have grown to care for as a part of your family. Nothing truly compares to playing as Kratos as he journeys through the depths of Helheim, desperate to save his dying son. You fear for Ellie as if she is your daughter, Atreus as if he is your son; Joel and Ellie, Kratos and Atreus. The parental roles in these two games are intrinsically tied to their depiction of horror.

Where 2018’s God of War Could Have Been Set. 

While these games may intentionally present the very plausible idea that the link between parent and child is fragile and is susceptible to being severed, they also draw attention to the fact that strength can be drawn from known vulnerability. It is because the link is so fragile that Joel and Kratos are so desperate to protect it in the first place, as they are the only barrier between an enemy and that very link. Bloaters and Valkyries may prove to be formidable foes, but they’ll crumble to ashes when faced with the wrath of a parent protecting their child.

It is the known horror of losing a child that empowers these protagonists; a tragic fate, really, because in a world of terror, they must never forget to be afraid, lest they drop their guard and lose the one thing that they truly care about. In order to remain strong, they must enter states of perpetual horror, at all times knowing the darkness that envelopes them, threatening to steal their loved ones away from right under their noses. Parental horror is a U-shaped double-edged sword of horror and reality; in order to make sure that neither blade is pointed toward their child, a parent must ensure that they are at all times enduring the pain of both. It is this alone that allows them to be strong.

Coder Restores Massive ‘Bloodborne’ Boss Cut from the Game

To go along with the “is it?” Easter Egg found in Déraciné that could possibly be hinting at Bloodborne 2, a coder has made an interesting discovery in the original Bloodborne: A boss that was cut entirely from the game!

To go along with the previously-unused content found in the game, a Youtuber by the name of Lance McDonald has found a giant Snake Ball boss that never made it into the final version of the game. This is different than the standard Snake Ball and Great Snake Ball enemies found in the Forbidden Woods, as it’s massive. It’s in fact larger than Vicar Amelia.

Judging from the fact that when the boss is stunned, snakes that were featured in the Shadow of Yharman boss fight appear indicate that this cut boss was originally supposed to be used in place of the Shadow of Yharman. You can read more on the boss from Eurogamer’s article, or better yet, check out McDonald’s video below.

[Game Preview] ‘The Church in the Darkness’ Worships at the Altar of Stealth and Suspense

Thomas Wilde investigates a religious cult in 1970’s South America in his hands-on preview of stealth action game The Church in the Darkness.

Usually, when a creepy eschatological cult shows up in a video game, it’s with a total lack of subtlety. They’re sacrificing people to demons, worshipping an elder god, or are all at least half tentacles by volume. The most low-key depiction of a cult that I can think of offhand, up to this point, is in Outlast 2 and you’re still forced to wade through a pile of their victims within the first fifteen minutes.

The Church in the Darkness, by comparison, is more about suspense and the slow build. Its director, Richard Rouse III (lead designer on the recently-rereleased The Suffering), told me at PAX West earlier this year, that it isn’t a game about the supernatural at all. It’s just about people, caught in a bad situation that’s slowly beginning to get worse.

It’s set in an isolated corner of South America in the late 1970s. Isaac (John Patrick Lowrie) and Rebecca Walker (Ellen McLain), the leaders of a populous cult that calls itself the Collective Justice Mission, have decided to ditch the United States and its society in favor of building their own village from scratch. The result is “Freedom Town,” a sprawling agrarian complex by the side of a river, miles from civilization. The Walkers preach that America is a fallen society, out to destroy those who think as they do, and it’s taught their flock that the best thing to do is shoot strangers on sight.

You play as Vic, a variable-gender, variable-race ex-cop whose nephew, Alex, joined the cult two years ago. Six months after the move to Freedom Town, Alex hasn’t written or called, and at your sister’s request, you track the cult down to find out what’s happened to Alex.

Church is a very stripped-down, lo-fi stealth/action game, where your resources are at a premium and almost everyone you run into is willing to shoot on sight. You have the option to go lethal and solve all your problems with violence, but there are a lot more cult members than bullets, and the game is built around multiple endings and manipulability. You may decide to wipe out the cult on general principle, but it’s not going to be easy, it’s definitely not going to do Alex any good, and it’s definitely going to cause problems when you end up having to get information out of the Walkers.

The first few minutes of the game are fairly typical stealth-action stuff, although it’s in such a low-tech, mundane location that it’s interesting again. You aren’t some high-tech assassin or soldier, fighting terrorists with top-of-the-line gadgets and drones. It’s 1977 in the middle of nowhere, so you have to muddle through with thrown rocks, improvised disguises, and the occasional chokehold.

There’s a certain paranoid thrill to the game once you get into Freedom Town proper. The guards are everywhere, they shoot on sight, and there aren’t any conspicuous holes in their patrol routines for you to exploit. Everywhere you go, you’re just one step ahead of being spotted and having to run for your life, while you frantically search for information and supplies.

Every idle document you run across, as well as the constant barrage of preaching and scripture over Freedom Town’s PA system, slowly paints a picture. The Collective Justice Mission may like to pretend that it’s a bunch of peace-loving hippies who’ve voluntarily withdrawn from society, but they’ve also armed half the cultists and charged them to stand watch over the other half. The Walkers are citing scripture and are nominally Christian, but at the same time, none of the cult’s iconography looks quite right. There’s obviously something wrong here, but there’s some ambiguity about what that something might be. Maybe the cult’s shaking itself apart due to personal pressures, or maybe it’s heading towards another Jonestown moment and you’ve got a front row seat.

The moment that’s going to stick with me for a while came on the PAX West show floor, when Rouse was playing the game and talking about its design. I’d begun to think that it was a little too “momcore” for me, to use John Rogers’s term. The cult was clearly up to no good, and we’d been given a quest to find inconvertible proof thereof, but for the first few minutes, it looked like the game was mostly about choking out angry hippies.

Then, at the same time as Isaac and Rebecca began to play a cheerful folk song about the values of prayer and hard work, sounding for all the world like an elderly couple on public radio, we stumbled across a clearing where the cultists were stoning someone to death. Whoever it was, they were wrapped in a sheet, tied to a post, and had been there for a while, in an area designated for the purpose. It was an effective, sharp little shock.

Back at PAX West, part of the news about The Church in the Darkness was that it had found a publisher, Fellow Traveler. Right now, you can put down US$30 to pick up the “True Believer Special Edition,” which gives you access to the game’s short alpha demo in advance of its official release, which is what I’ve been playing.

What’s interesting to me about The Church in the Darkness is that it’s explicitly a game about suspense, rather than terror or horror. There aren’t any shoggoths in the basement or rednecks with weaponized farm tools; in fact, the biggest monster in the game as it stands is potentially you, if you decide to murder your way through Freedom Town. It’s a stripped-down, back-to-basics slow-build stealth game without a single chainsaw massacre to be found, with just enough of a creepy atmosphere that I’m interested in seeing where it goes next.

Publisher: Fellow Traveler
Developer: Paranoid Productions

The Church in the Darkness PC alpha code provided by the publisher.

The Church in the Darkness will release on PC, PS4, and Xbox One in 2019.

[Review] ‘Hitman 2’ is a Stone Cold Killer

Is Agent 47 the coolest contract killer around? How satisfying is it to knock out goons with a fish? Find out in our Hitman 2 review.

IO Interactive have built on the bones of Hitman 2016 and in so many ways, what it has produced in Hitman 2 is a very traditional idea of a sequel. The same great parts, but more of it, and a few new treats sprinkled into the mix.

To be playing Hitman 2 after all that has transpired since the previous game’s release feels like something of a blessing. A chopping and changing content model eventually settled on an episodic structure that split fans, Square-Enix dumped developer IO Interactive after it sold less than it’d expected, but it did let IO go independent and retain the rights to Hitman. That was crucial, as it allowed Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment to pick up publishing duties for this sequel, and Hitman gets to live another day.

2016’s Hitman was an experimental soft reboot of the assassination series. It took the better parts of the divisive Hitman Absolution and joined it to the more traditional sandboxes of death that had made Hitman Blood Money such a beloved entry. There’s no great overhaul for Hitman 2 because there wasn’t much to change about its structure. Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the whole game is available day one this time.

Here we get six new locations, all varying in size and scope. Each comes with its story-based objectives, which are great for learning the ropes, and a multitude of paths to take to those objectives. As ever, the end goal of any mission is to kill your target and in a Hitman game, the delight and challenge is in finding the most inventive ways to make it look like an accident but still allowing you to improvise and be messy if things turn sour (and they will).

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The locations contain an admirable number of moving parts that help and hinder Agent 47 in his path to the kill. in Hitman 2‘s opening level, you arrive at a remote beach and have to infiltrate a rather swanky looking house, which is the only building for miles. This mission acts as a tutorial for players old and new, noting the basic controls and rules where appropriate whilst showing this sequels new level of accessibility with a much-improved version of its ‘Opportunities’.

47 can now hide in tall grass and shrubbery, and this level shows that off quickly when you’re crouched unseen in tall grass as 47’s handler Diana suggests he take out the security camera with a well-placed shot. Not being seen effects your score and ranking for a mission so it makes sense to prevent digital proof of your visit becoming known. In Hitman tradition it’s not the only solution. You can, when you get inside the house and find the correct room, erase the video footage altogether, or you could simply sneak around and under the cameras. Hitman 2 is full of little choices like this, and it once again shows how much variety there is in any given playthrough.

The opening level is the smallest in scale of the six, and arguably the weakest on a first time play. The others are huge, sprawling worlds, filled with an exquisite range of opportunities, side stories, and improvisation. Any good Hitman should offer boundless replayability and that’s absolutely the case for Hitman 2. This is game where a fish is just as valid as a weapon as a silenced pistol (though throwing a big wet fish at an unsuspecting NPC is definitely more hilarious) and each map provides plenty of interesting tools, including a lot of costume and identity changes for our bald assassin to slip into.

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On the surface, the likes of Santa Fortuna’s jungle village and the bustling streets of Mumbai seem straightforward, if almost overwhelming, but there’s so much to find in each area beyond the obvious. Mumbai, in particular, is a mixture of Hitman’s Sapienza and Marrakech levels, creating the labyrinthine quality of the former and the crowd level of the latter. It’s easy to slip by unnoticed through a crowd (Hitman 2 allows 47 to remain hidden in crowds, a godsend), but it’s also harder to get targets alone as there’s almost always a pair of eyes on you. It captures the thrill of the series at its peak. Figuring out these puzzles of death without turning it into a bloodbath is still among the most satisfying feelings in all of video games, and that Hitman 2 provides so many is a credit to IO Interactive’s dedication to the craft.

Hitman 2 is more consistent in its level quality than its predecessor. Every Hitman needs a standout though, a stage that draws the strengths of the series together into a classic level. While Mumbai is really good, it’s Vermont that steals the show. Taking place in a leafy suburb in the midst of an electoral campaign. There’s so much going on in an area that may not be as bustling as some of the stages, but it comes across as more of a lived-in place. Oh, and it’s jam-packed with fun little details and chances for Hitman’s signature dark comedy with its kills. To say more would spoil a level that is easily up there with the best IO Interactive has made for the series.

As with Hitman 2016, IO Interactive isn’t satisfied with just provided a selection of replayable sandboxes, there’s plenty more time investment to be found in Hitman 2, even more so than its predecessor. Contracts (user-created hits), Challenges, and Elusive Targets (limited time hits) all return, and two new modes join the fray that add a lot to the package.

Sniper Assassin is a sort of a standalone hi-score puzzle game where 47 can only take out targets with his high-powered sniper rifle. It reminds me very much of the arcade game Silent Scope and is a fun change of pace that ca be played in co-op.

The breakout star though is Ghost mode, a competitive 1v1 online multiplayer where both players have the same targets in their own versions of the same map. You must off five targets one after the other, and when one player makes a hit, the other has a short time period to off the same target in their world. Failure to do so awards the other player a point. You can also lose points by killing non-targets, so it’s a really tense battle of patience and quick-thinking. Do you make an improvised attempt to kill your target quickly when your opponent has beaten you to it on their side? It means you could cause chaos in your world that makes the next target a lot harder to reach, while your opponent saunters to it. IO Interactive didn’t have to add multiplayer to Hitman 2, but by making it fit the game’s core ideas, it’s created a refreshing experience. It’s just on the Miami map for now, but it’ll be exciting to see it transition to the maps new and old.

Old maps? Owners of Hitman 2016 can download the Legacy pack for Hitman 2 for free, and remarkably this adds every single level and mission from that game, and gives them a polish up with Hitman 2’s new mechanics. It’s a smart idea, and means that Hitman 2 can continue to grow and retain its legacy. It does, however, show up a deficiency in Hitman 2.

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The cutscenes between story missions are no longer fully animated. Instead, we get a bunch of fancy stills with voiceovers. Now, cutscenes are not the draw in Hitman anyway, the levels are God, and all Hitman has ever needed for a story is a bit of background on the targets, and some in-level information. Hitman 2 insists upon continuing the 2016 story, which was light to begin with. The old cutscenes show up unaltered, and just make the new look stills feel a bit daft. The story itself is okay, but not really necessary. It’s definitely the low point of Hitman 2.

There are other minor quibbles. The game engine struggles with density at times, stuttering the frame rate. Nothing major, but noticeable all the same. Occasionally the facade of a living world slips hard when automated processes get interrupted at odd times. Hitman 2 isn’t going for realism though, so it’s not as immersion breaking as it could be.

While Hitman 2 is, in many ways, more of an upgrade to the previous game than a full-blooded sequel, it’s crammed full of interesting interaction and now its topped off with a genuinely excellent multiplayer in the form of Ghost Mode and legacy content, it’s the best Hitman package ever put together.

PS4 Hitman 2 review code provided by the publisher

Hitman 2 is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC as a Gold and Collector’s Edition. Standard Edition is out November 13.

 

Latest Trailer For ‘Man of Medan’ Unveils Its ‘Twilight Zone’ Style Curator

Until Dawn creators, Supermassive Games has released the latest trailer for Man of Medan, the first its horror game series The Dark Pictures Anthology, and it brings a Twilight Zone-esque host known as the curator.

The curator is played by Pip Torrens (Preacher, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and he ‘hosts’ the anthology of games where QTE action and supernatural occurrences go hand in hand. Shawn Ashmore of X-Men and Quantum Break fame also appears to be starring.

Man of Medan focuses on the story of SS Ourang Medan ghost ship as a group of young people set out to explore its wreckage with predictably dire consequences.

Man of Medan is out in 2019 and will be published by Bandai Namco.

 

‘Call of Cthulhu’ is Phantasmagorically Fantastic

Cthulhu

Madness is everywhere in Focus Interactive and Cyanide Studio’s latest H.P. Lovecraft mythos-based Call of Cthulhu. The psychological, investigational, RPG steeps itself deeply in the world of Lovecraft, complete with Easter-eggs, winks and all the cosmic terror you can handle. Much more based on the physical pen and paper RPG, Call of Cthulhu takes the […]

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