Friday, 8 April 2016

HITMAN™ Review: Close to Perfection!

I don't think that Hitman Absolution was a bad game. I don't hate it at all and I actually thoroughly enjoyed it but linear story progression and non sandbox missions really hurt the game in my opinion. The new Hitman game is fixing pretty much EVERYTHING that Absolution came up short on, giving us a true Hitman experience we have longed for ever since the masterpiece of the series, Blood Money.

Before I review the game, I would like to share something. I am not competitive player and I don't do achievements in games to compete with other people. I do them because it gives me many interesting options to play the game. It also significantly increases the time I spend playing the game. I worked really hard on Hitman achievements and I realised that I became the very first person on TrueSteamAchievements to reach 100% achievement completion in HITMAN™. This made me extremely happy for some reason so I'd like this to be recorded on my blog. Here is the screenshot:


After I got that out of the way let's get back to reviewing the game :P Does the new Hitman have shortcomings? Of course it does, especially in AI department and I'll talk about them but first I have to talk about all the other things that Hitman got it right!

Sandbox

Sandbox levels are back! To me and from what I've seen during my conversations with other Hitman fans, to many others, Hitman is not about just assassinating your target. It's about preparation, the planning. It is about how you approach the problem and which solution you want to apply to get rid of it. Sandbox levels give you so many options to choose from that one can't help but feel overwhelmed with joy at the complexity of levels.

With the sandbox being back, this also means that there are now ridiculous numbers of ways to kill your target. I will give credit where it's due, Absolution also provided many options but as the levels were limited in size, the assassination options were also limited compared to the current game.


Disguises

Disguises finally work properly. Currently there are only a couple of disguises that give you full access to almost all areas (some are still restricted). But the most important thing is how well the generic disguises work. In Absolution, let's say you wore a Swat disguise (I won't even mention wearing a helmet here and how ridiculous that you still get recognised), anyone who also wear the same Swat disguise would recognise you almost instantly at higher difficulties. Entering a police station with my police disguise and the whole room going hostile on me in a matter of second will always haunt my dreams.

The new Hitman games fixes that but don't worry, you never ever get a free pass at all times. There will be some guards here and there that will still recognise you. There has to be some supervisor who actually knows the faces of all their employees right? So if you wore a Waiter disguise, not all but some of the waiters will still detect you and warn the authorities if you aren't careful. Levels are full of rooms with varying security clearances so if you want to go with disguise option without sneaking around, you will actually have to change disguises quite a lot :) While I admit that there is a huge improvement, disguises are still not working perfectly by any means and I will talk about why later when I list the negatives. :)


General Gameplay

When I first started playing the game, I was baffled by the omission of difficulty settings. Even after finishing the prologue the game never asked me which difficulty I wanted to play in. But the more I played the more I realised that the game is already challenging enough. But there are also Escalation Contracts that get more difficult as you pass a level. Each Escalation Contracts have 5 levels, they all take place in the same location and they give you certain conditions to fulfill before allowing you to complete the mission. As you pass each level, you will be faced with new conditions that you also must complete on top of the previous conditions. On the highest level, you will be given 5 requirements and you must complete all of them. You can't plan your approach in Escalation Contracts and they also don't have checkpoints, auto saves and manual saves. If you fail an Escalation contract, you have to start at the beginning of the level you are currently on, if you want to increase your overall ranking after finishing all 5 levels, you can reset this progress and start from 1 if you desire.

Speaking of manual saves, the game has manual save options. You can choose 8 slots to manually save your game on top of 8 additional slots for auto saves. These two are separated in the menu and you must choose whether you want to load a manual or an auto save first before you load the particular save file you want.

When it comes to stealth games, it's the little tiny itty bitty details that draw the line between getting detected or remaining in stealth. For example Absolution didn't give its players the option to manually close doors, they only closed by themselves after a couple of seconds. New Hitman game allows you to manually close the doors without having to wait and while this might seem like an insignificant detail to some of you who might not be too into the stealth genre, I can assure you that I have already made use of this function more than a dozen times in my playthrough and it really makes a big impact.

Another tiny detail is that in previous games you could pacify a guard and the leftover gun wouldn't make much of a difference, but now Hitman allows you to use these guns as a mean to distract guards. When a guard finds a gun on the floor, they will pick it up and take it to a place where there is a weapon cache giving you all the time you need to make your next move. If you want to collect these weapons after a guard transfers them, all you need to do is find the weapon cache and all the weapons will be waiting for you there.

Markers can be disabled.
Before each mission the game allows you to plan how you want to approach. In planning section you can choose different starting points, ask for agency pick up to smuggle items that might otherwise not be found in that level. You can also choose what kind of items you want in your starting inventory. However, planning inventory is fairly limited, in a good way, by forcing you to choose only one utility item. Absolution gave you the power to freely unlock doors without requiring an item for it but Hitman needs you to either find the key or use a lockpicking tool to unlock doors. If you want to get this lockpicking tool, this means you have to say goodbye to other items like coins that will help you distract guards, or more destructive items like proximity mines or remote explosives. But this is strictly about the starting inventory in planning stages. You can freely pick up all these items that are scattered around the mission area with the exception of lockpicking tool.

In order to unlock more options in planning stage, you need to earn mastery levels in a given mission. These levels can be earned by successfully completing challenges in a particular mission. There are tons of challenges that need you to kill a target in a particular way or discovering items around the mission area etc. And there are the usual challenges like finishing a mission using your suit only, using all disguises and of course last but not least the most prestigious one: no detection/no body found/only kill targets/all bodies hidden/suit only. As you complete these challenges and raise your mastery, max 20, you will unlock additional planning options such as starting the level in a kitchen disguised as a chef or on the 2nd floor disguised as a crew member etc.

There is a new gameplay element in Hitman 2016 and it's called Opportunities. During each mission you will be given a set of opportunities to take out your targets. Once you select an opportunity, the game will provide you with markers to follow. However if you want to make things a little more difficult, it is possible to disable all these markers from the game. Fulfilling these opportunities require a number of conditions to be met. For example in order to set up an interview and blow up your target with a camcorder, you first need to find the camcorder, then a remote explosive device and then place this device inside the camcorder and so on.


Negatives

My general complaints will be about the AI as I believe it still needs a lot of work. In The Final Test mission, I used the disguise of a KGB Officer who has white hair and beard, I should also mention that this was the only KGB Officer in that level. Despite his body being found (left him out in the open on purpose as I was testing AI reactions), everyone in the level still saluted and acted like I was him.

I faced another odd problem with AI in Paris mission when security guards searched me before giving me access to the next area. I tested this function numerous times and I came to the conclusion that it needs some work. It's obvious that if you are carrying a gun in your inventory, guards will turn hostile but this applies to other items like wrenches and screwdrivers too. However, oddly enough the guards let you go if you are carrying a RAT POISON!

Sadly there isn't a difficulty option. Yes, Escalation contracts prove to be challenging up to a point; however, once you do those contracts over and over again you learn the ideal way to approach them, whereas doing this on a harder difficulty would make things even more exciting!

Mission completion should be disabled if you are being chased at a very close proximity. In a particular mission I still managed to complete it while there was a guard aiming a gun at me from only 2-3 steps ahead. Now this should not be possible!

Graphics are not as well optimised for PC as they should have. Game basically becomes unplayable on Ultra graphics settings on my system. My system can easily handle Ultra graphics and 2k resolution on Tom Clancy's The Division... So, for a system that handles The Division graphics with ease to struggle a lot with Hitman graphics screams poor optimisation to me.

Conclusion

I am aware that there is currently a lot of hatred towards this game due to it being episodic. While these concerns are totally legit, the game is not "half-baked" by any means. Yes there are only 3 missions but only 1 mission alone had me play the game for at least 15 hours and somehow I still find new rooms I haven't discovered before!

In its current form, Hitman will not truly satisfy those who don't like to replay games or do the same mission over and over again (however many different approaches there might be), but I am reviewing this game in my own eyes and as a Stealth obsessed maniac, this game episodic or not has me totally addicted to it! For now I'm giving the game 9 out of 10. If the AI issues I mentioned are addressed in upcoming episodes, I will happily change it to 10!!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Who Got Lucilled by Negan in The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale?

I've taken another extended break from blogging it looks like but watching The Walking Dead Season 6 finale made me want to write a little bit about it and share my own theory regarding the cliffhanger.

Now before you keep reading there are obviously spoilers about The Walking Dead Season 6 Finale, dubbed "Last Day on Earth". So if you haven't watched the finale yet I suggest staying away, although the show is known to kill major characters in season finales and death is pretty expected so I guess there is no spoiler in that but who the victim will be!


First of all before sharing my theory about who got killed by Negan, I want to talk about the man of the hour himself! I really enjoyed Jeffrey Dean Morgan's portrayal of Negan. Now I haven't read the comics except for a couple of pages so while I agree that Jeffrey's body type doesn't match Negan's, which has been criticised by the comic fans, I still think he did a fantastic job. He truly made me feel terrorised, disgusted, scared and also at the same time utterly amazed, thrilled and positively stunned. I will definitely disagree with his language choice though. For a show that displays overwhelming amounts of blood, gore and violence to censor a couple of "Fucks" or "Dicks" only to opt for "Piss" is unbelievable to me. But it was announced that we'll get Negan's truly colourful language in The Walking Dead BluRay version so it is not a lost cause by any means. The show is being shot in two versions; yhr first one is "tamed and polite" Negan who sounds even nicer than me and the second version being included in BluRay will be the ultimate "full Negan experience". So I can't wait for that. I'd like to commend Jeffrey Dean Morgan once again for his brilliance with the role.

That being said let's talk about who his victim was in the finale. Spoiler from comics is incoming, when Negan is introduced in the comics, it's Glenn who ends up having a fatal date with Negan's beloved companion Lucille (I'm talking about his barbed wire baseball bat if you aren't aware...). But we know the show doesn't fully follow comics, nor should it. In the show it was Denise who died to an arrow on train tracks a couple of episodes ago; however, in comics the character who died there was actually Abraham. So it's already obvious that the showrunners don't want to truly stay loyal to comic material either. I agree with them on this because it's good to keep people guessing and surprise them once in a while.

Which brings me to my theory. Now we already know that The Walking Dead loves focusing on a particular character before killing them off. They've always done that so far. If you see some side or a newly introduced character who talks a lot, you can be sure that you will have to say goodbye to them very soon. Let's take a very brief look at who the previous episodes focused on: Abraham. Abraham has been a major focus for a number of episodes now especially with Maggie's pregnancy making him realise that he also wants to build a family and become a father.


The very last scene of The Walking Dead Season Finale was Negan saying"Look at that! Taking it like a champ!" when he was surprised that the person he was beating on managed to raise their head back up after his first blow. Now who would have this kind of strength? Maggie? The woman is almost dying from her pregnancy so no. Daryl? He's already wounded from getting shot, he can barely keep his chin up. Glenn? Don't make me laugh. Michonne? I seriously doubt that. I won't even talk about the other "potential victims" cause even the idea sounds utterly atrocious. Also let's not forget that Negan keeps a harem of women so it's highly unlikely that any female character was a victim. That leaves us: Abraham. 

Negan wants the group to know that he is THE BOSS. If we take a look at our group's reactions as he speaks, this can give us possible clues. Even Rick was trembling in shock and terror (best acting from Andrew Lincoln so far, huge respect to him!), everyone looked scared to death except... Yes, Abraham. He didn't even blink twice as Negan was playing eeny-meeny-miny-moe to choose his victim. Negan doesn't want to kill the group but he also will not want a potential rebel who can't even be intimidated by him given the circumstances.  


In final words; all of these little hints made me come up with this theory that I believe it was Abraham who got killed by Negan in the The Walking Dead season 6 finale. Whereas a close friend of mine, who doesn't read comics but is hugely spoiled by his comic reader friends, still supports the Glenn theory. We have a bet going on, so let's see who wins. The winner will get some cheap game from Steam :P

Now the wait starts :/

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Message Quest Review: Sorry, I'm too Lazy to Write One!

I can't stress enough that I love Indie games. Actually in the last few months I found myself having much more fun while playing Indie games rather than AAA games. One of the examples of these games that really entertained me is Message Quest, which was gifted to me by a very dear friend of mine.

Can you spot the Splinter Cell reference?
Message Quest is a stained-glass point and click adventure game about possibly the laziest guy in the world being forced to work by his boss. Sounds so heinous and evil right? Why would anyone EVER wake up someone from their deep sleep in their warm and cozy bed just to force them into work? That's exactly why we can't have nice things!

Well, as horrible as this sounds I'm glad our lazy herald is being forced into delivering a message to a hero that is supposed to save the kingdom; otherwise we wouldn't have this beautifully designed game full of great humour. Sadly the game is quite short and puzzles are fairly easy; however, it provides an experience that should be tasted by anyone who likes point and click adventure games.

Beat your own Laziness in an epic boss fight!
How many games are there that let you play with a lazy kid who ends up in a boss fight with his own laziness!?!? Message Quest literally requires you to beat your own laziness in a boss battle! This should definitely give you the energy and the motivation you need to start running after those lifelong dreams of yours! :)

Apart from boss battles, there are a number of different puzzles in the game. However, the game is quite short with a lifespan of about 2 hours max. Thus the puzzles are also fairly limited in terms of variation and difficulty. In order to progress into the story, players will need to complete full pictures by assembling broken glasses, form bridges by using pieces whose ends need to fit together and find hidden objects which honestly are not so hidden in the first place. 

A bridge puzzle.
Message Quest is a very gorgeous looking but albeit short adventure game with very easy achievements and puzzles that will definitely provide its players with a rather entertaining time thanks to its beautiful art design, hilarious story, unique humour and exhilarating boss battles. This is one of those indie games that truly deserves your attention!

Friday, 4 March 2016

Hitman Go: Definitive Edition Review

Hitman Go is an award winning turn-based puzzle video game developed by Square Enix Montréal and published by Square Enix. Hitman Go was first released on mobile platforms. However, the game, on 23 February 2016, became available on Steam, PS4 and PS Vita under the name of Definitive Edition, bringing updated graphics, trading cards and achievements.

However, players should note that there are no new levels with Definitive Edition. It's basically a mobile game being integrated into PC with only upgraded graphics, so if you played the game on mobile already and are not interested in achievements or trading cards, there is absolutely nothing new for you that should warrant a purchase. 


After I got that out of the way, let's take a closer look at the game.

Hitman Go uses turn based strategy in its puzzles. The players drag Agent 47 to a particular side to pass a turn during when the enemies also take their turn. Some guards are static while the others follow a path. You can't pass a turn by remaining in the same location which makes it a bit tricky at times to remain undetected. 

Hitman Go has 7 levels. 2 of them are inspired by Hitman Blood Money and Hitman Silent Assassin. Each of these 7 levels have their sublevels. A usual level has 14 sublevel while two that are inspired by previous Hitman games, have only 8 sublevels. 

Each level present their own challenges, new game mechanics, new types of enemies and side objectives. If you want to simply complete the campaign without any bonus objectives Hitman Go is a game that will be finished in roughly 4-5 hours. However if you decide to go for side objectives, which I strongly suggest that you do, its life span will be increased considerably.


There aren't a wide variety of side objectives though. Players are usually tasked with collecting a briefcase, not killing anyone, killing everyone, not killing dogs, performing a speed kill. And the most challenging of them all: X Turns or Fewer. Based on the level you are currently playing, you will even be required to finish it under 5 turns.

Hitman Go has such a simplistic design but it deceives the player into thinking that it is a simple game. It is actually very challenging and despite not allowing many different routes to take, it at least manages to keep things fresh by adding a wide range of guards that require different tactics to overcome and different game mechanics. In some levels you'll have to make use of secret passages to bypass guards, in some of the others you will have access to the most iconic Hitman weapon, Silverballers. Some levels have statues that can be used to either kill guards or block a guard's path. Some missions have sniper rifles available that will let you take down a target of your choosing without getting caught. Also let's not forget disguises! In short, there is a lot to utilise in order to successfully complete the mission.

Hitman Go artwork is amazing. I'm a big fan of its level design and graphics. The game gives me the feeling that I finally have the dollhouse I never had a chance to own during my childhood. I should note that some levels will include civilians that are there to add an extra detail to the level design. When I first came across one of them, I tried to stay away thinking I could fail if they saw me. But after experimenting with it I realised that really is not the case. In other words the characters that don't stand on lines will not pay any attention to you, so you are safe from them. 


So far I had nothing but positive things to say about Hitman Go. However, the game is not without its flaws and shortcomings.

One of the biggest flaw in Hitman Go is the camera angles. For a turn based puzzle game to not allow its players to freely change the camera view is something I can't wrap my head around. You can turn camera only to a certain degree but once you stop holding the left mouse button, the camera goes back to its original position. During levels when you need to assassinate a specific target, the camera zooms once you get close to your target disabling you from seeing the whole board. Some levels give you multiple targets so once you assassinate one you need to move to the next but you can't see the board so you don't know if you are actually safe to move.

Second minus for Hitman Go is the control scheme. It is understandable that the game has drag and drop controls on mobile platforms but unfortunately on PC, there is no other control options. You must drag and drop with your mouse which can be tricky as the same thing also needs to be done to change camera angle. I am not ashamed to admit that on numerous occasions I had to restart the level because I moved Agent 47 to a wrong location while I was trying to change the camera view. Additional control settings like keyboard or point and click would have had a warm welcome but presently these are not available.


Now comes my biggest complaint: There is not enough room for alternative ways to complete levels and most importantly it is impossible to finish the game with 0 kills (excluding assassination targets). Unfortunately some levels are impossible to complete without getting your hands bloody which is something unacceptable for a stealth purist like me! Previous Hitman games always provided the chance to finish the game by killing noone but your key targets. I know Hitman Go is not the same game as previous Hitman games; yet, I believe it could have easily added such mechanic to provide an alternative strategy to beat levels.

In summary, Hitman Go is a brilliant and challenging turn based puzzle game that sadly doesn't give a lot of room for players to get creative. Its flaws such as mandatory drag-drop controls and fixed camera angles are neither game breaking, nor should they stop you from enjoying the game.

Now I'm patiently waiting for Lara Croft Go!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a unique adventure game developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by 505 Games. It follows the story of two brothers going on an epic adventure to find the Water of Life to cure their ill father.

In order to find the Water of Life, our brothers are given a map of a tree that holds this cure. The brothers must find the tree by questioning the locals about its whereabouts. Not all locals can be directly questioned though. Some of them require you to complete little puzzles in order to extract the information. For example earlier in the game the path is closed and the person to open this gate is asleep so you need to find a way to wake him up first. Unfortunately the game doesn't give you enough room to get lost though for there is only one path.

On our journey we travel to some stunning looking places and meet some magical creatures that will either help us or try to hunt us down. The artwork is stunning and I absolutely adored the level design. The graphics are simply beautiful!

I called the game unique in the opening paragraph because it has a very distinctive control scheme. You can play as both of the brothers at the same time using the analog sticks on your controller. The left analog stick controls the older brother while the right analog stick controls the younger one. You must get used to these controls to overcome the puzzles because they require flawless coordination. For example as the older brother, you must carry the younger brother while you swim because the younger brother can't. 

This control scheme can get pretty confusing especially for controller beginners like yours truly. I first tried to play the game with a keyboard but believe me, it's impossible to do it as a single player so I made it my goal to replay the game after I recently obtained a controller. As a controller newbie I must admit that it took me a bit of getting used to. Good news; though, is that the game doesn't let the brothers fall off cliffs; if that wasn't the case, I'd have easily had hundreds of deaths.


My main problem with Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is how short and easy it was. It is a fantastic game but unfortunately its journey comes to a brutal and emotional end in merely 2-3 hours. Achievements are on the way and there aren't many locations to discover so even if you are hunting for achievements like I did, you'll easily finish the game after 3.5 hours max! 

The puzzles that you will come across are fairly easy and you won't have any problems figuring them out in a short amount of time. "Boss" battles are not challenging at all but they all require perfect coordination from the two brothers.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an emotional game. Especially towards the end you start to feel such a heavy burden. The game does a great job of making the player feel for the main characters. Despite the shortcomings I mentioned above, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game everyone should experience. It could be short and easy but the emotional ride it takes the players on is something that really is worth experiencing.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Hitman Go Trigger Happy Achievement Guide

Hitman Go: Definitive Edition has 26 achievements. This guide will help you obtain Trigger Happy (Kill 100 enemies using the Silverballers) achievement. I also posted guides for Creepy CrawlerNow You See MeFlashmobSale: B2G1 and Controlled Demolition achievements.

Unfortunately there aren't many opportunities to finish this achievement during your natural story progression. Missions that feature the iconic Hitman weapon Silverballers are rather few so it is one of those grindy achievements. However, fear not because it is actually very easy!


I farmed level 3-8 for this achievement. In only 2 turns you can get 2 kills, then you restart the level and repeat until the achievement unlocks. There are other opportunities to get more kills but in order to make it happen you need to pass a lot of turns to bring these enemies together which is nothing but a time waster. Level 3-8 has a second set of Silverballers but again in order to get extra 2 kills from this level, you need to play for at least 5-6 turns. During when you could have already got 6 kills by simply restarting and moving left twice! :P





Hitman Go Sale: B2G1 Achievement Guide

Hitman Go: Definitive Edition has 26 achievements. This guide will help you get Sale: B2G1 (Kill 100 Pair (Grey) enemies) achievement. I've already posted guides for Creepy Crawler, Now You See Me, Flashmob, Trigger Happy and Controlled Demolition achievements.

Opportunity to kill Grey enemies are scarce but I still urge you to go for this achievement after you complete the game.

Level 3-5 is by far the best chapter to kill Grey enemies. You can get 4 kills per playthrough.


Sale: B2G1: Right - up - left - throw can to the left - right - up - up - left - throw can to the left - right - down - left - use secret door - left - left - throw can to the right - right - up - down - down - down - left

Restart the level and repeat until the achievement unlocks.


More Hitman Go achievement guides are coming up.