Category Archives: Review

Review: Xbox One X is the Gamer’s Dream Come True

When the Xbox One (X1) was released in 2013, I did not expect much from the lower to mid-tier level hardware components. Compared to what was available on the market, the X1 was designed with a somewhat lackluster CPU and GPU. Moreover, it was equipped with a measly 8GB of RAM.

I was not disappointed though, since internal hardware in consoles had not quite kept up with higher-powered components available for PCs. Consoles were designed with a lower monetary barrier to attract customers.

Gamers who wanted to experience games with cutting-edge visual effects and higher resolution could invest in the latest and greatest hardware components for a beefy PC.

It came as a surprise then, that Project Scorpio, officially named, Xbox One X (Scorpio), is actually a powerful machine on the higher end of the spectrum. Run by an overclocked CPU, more powerful GPU, and 12GB of much faster RAM, Scorpio is indeed a worthy successor.

Quite honestly, I was skeptical when Microsoft announced that Scorpio would be able to perform at a whopping 6 TFLOPS, far surpassing the X1’s 1.31 TFLOPS. Even after Digital Foundry released their previews of Scorpio’s hardware, I took it with a grain of salt. I just had to see it for myself.

After using my Scorpio for the past three weeks, I am a believer. In fact, I am so incredibly impressed at how games look on Scorpio, I no longer see any reason to play games on my high-end PC, except when using my Oculus Rift.

Even if a multiplatform game costs less on PC (which is most often the case for older titles), I will probably opt to buy it on Xbox. Not only will the game look nearly as good on PC (in some cases, better due to HDR), but I’ll also enjoy the benefits of Xbox Live and Achievements.

Some developers have “enhanced” their titles to take full advantage of Scorpio’s horsepower. This may mean higher resolutions, more visual effects, higher or more stable FPS, and HDR. Even games that have not been given the “enhanced” treatment can look better on Scorpio.

It must be a true joy as a developer to see all of your work being fully appreciated as it was intended. Scorpio brings out the best of every game.

In addition to the visual upgrades that Scorpio offers, games generally load faster, so there’s less downtime in between levels and games. Let’s not forget that like the Xbox One S, Scorpio comes equipped with a 4K Blu-Ray player.

The console’s case itself is tiny, yet dense. It is dwarfed by my original One X. Scorpio even includes the power supply inside of the console unit. It truly is an engineering marvel.

Scorpio retails for $499, and it is worth every penny. Even if you do not have a 4K TV, games will look dramatically better when played on Scorpio.

The Xbox One X represents the fulfillment of the promise that Microsoft made when it launched the first Xbox One four years ago. It also perhaps represents a shift in priorities at Microsoft. Instead of cutting corners with hardware, it pushed the envelope.

Many, including Microsoft, have said that the Xbox One X is not a next generation console. Microsoft has actually stated that the concept of generations is perhaps even over, but for all intents and purposes, the Xbox One X is a de facto next gen Xbox.

This review was not sponsored by Microsoft in any way.

Initial Impressions: Assassin’s Creed: Origins

After playing through the first hour of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, from what I’ve seen so far, Ubisoft has made substantial changes to the familiar Assassin’s Creed gameplay, representing a deeper, more engrossing game than prior titles in the franchise.

The skill tree is reminiscent of the skill progression options in two other Ubisoft titles, Far Cry and Watch Dogs, giving the player the choice on how to develop Bayek’s abilities. Whether it is through stealth, weapons, or resiliency, players can allocate earned experience points into different characteristics and skills. What this means is Bayek isn’t a full-fledged Assassin from the outset. In fact, there is barely a hint in the first hour of gameplay that this is an Assassin’s Creed game.

Also new to the series is an actual inventory system. Bayek can equip various outfits, which are reflected visually, but he can also equip other pieces of equipment that modify his stats. A breastplate will add defense, for example. Bayek’s inventory also includes a mount (i.e., camel or horse), which he can summon, much like Geralt can in the Witcher.

Combat is also vastly different from other Assassin’s Creed titles. You might see some resemblance to The Witcher 3, in fact. Bayek wields a shield that can be used to block and parry attacks. He can also equip various types of weapons, like a sword, blunt weapon, or a spear. Lastly, Bayek can use a bow to attack enemies from a distance.

Aside from the new combat mechanics, Ancient Egypt is a remarkable setting for the game. Compared to other eras that the franchise has been set in, Ancient Egypt is perhaps most enigmatic. Ubisoft elicited the expertise from historians and archaeologists to allow gamers to experience what it might have been like to live during the time of Ptolemy XIII, Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar.

Strolling through the dirt roads, it is as if you can feel the hot wind on your face, smell the charred food cooking over an open fire, and hear all of the sounds of a long-gone civilization. It is a true wonder to imaging living through that ancient time and place.

I am looking forward to seeing the story and characters develop, and to just explore this ancient land brought back to life.

This story is based on a review code provided by the publisher.



Review: Batman: Arkham VR (Oculus Rift)

WB’s Batman: Arkham Asylum franchise has redefined what it was like to play a Batman video game, beginning with its first Arkham game, published in 2009. Incredible graphics, fluid combat, engaging investigative gameplay, and a dark and captivating story have been the hallmarks of the series.

In 2016, Batman: Arkham VR was released for the Playstation VR platform, and on April 25, 2017, the critically-acclaimed VR title was released on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.

Despite a couple of shortcomings, Batman VR succeeds in putting the gamer into the boots of the Dark Knight. As Batman, you have access to some key gadgets, including a scanner, the Batclaw, and of course, the Batarang. However, it’s the game’s environments that truly make you feel present in an Arkham game.

Batman VR will take you deep into the heart of the Batcave, through Gotham’s dark alleys, to the rooftops, and into the halls of Arkham Asylum. Each scene is meticulously detailed, with plenty of Easter Eggs for hardcore Batman fans to spot. There are also excellent cameo appearances from characters in the series.

In the Batcave, you get to view beautifully-rendered models of various characters and artifacts, all of which are incredibly detailed. You’ll notice that nearly every aspect of the game is highly polished. There are, unfortunately, a couple of shortcomings however.

There is an odd transition when you go from one level to the next. Instead of a loading screen, or perhaps a cinematic cutscene, the Oculus lenses go completely black, and you get an audio-only cue of the Batmobile or the Batwing’s engine. After a few seconds, you’re suddenly standing in the middle of a room or a street, depending on the level. It’s a jarring experience. The decision to essentially blindfold the player between levels is inexplicable.

Another issue Batman VR has is the lack of any combat. The entire game is devoid of the action that the video game series is known for. As Batman, you do get to use the Batarang, but never in a fight.

All of that being said, Batman VR succeeds tremendously in what it does offer. Aside from the aforementioned issues, you truly feel immersed in the world. And although the game is short (there are Riddler challenges to discover after completing the game’s main campaign), it manages to tell a complete story – one that you will want to experience multiple times.

Priced at just $19.99, Batman: Arkham VR is highly recommended. For more information on this title, click onto the official website:

LTTP: Wolfenstein: A New Order

In 1992, id Software released Wolfenstein 3D, a ground-breaking game that had PC gamers enraptured by its high levels of violence and fast-paced action. The franchise’s sixth title, Wolfenstein: The New Order, was released 22 years later in May 2014.

Wolfenstein: The New Order was well-reviewed and critically-acclaimed, but I was probably too busy playing Titanfall, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Mario Kart 8, and Watch Dogs to bother with what I thought was just another mindless shooter. I eventually bought the game when it went on sale later that year during Black Friday (for $20, I couldn’t resist). But instead of popping the disc into my Xbox, the game went right into the ever-growing pile of games in my backlog. It remained in that shameful pile for over two years.

A few weeks ago, I made a half-hearted joke about how my New Year’s resolution is to play through my backlog (which happens to include Fallout 4 and GTA V), and a friend mentioned that he loved Wolfenstein. I figured that it would be one of the quicker games to get through, considering it isn’t an RPG, and I was in the mood for just a quick gaming session, so I finally freed the game disc from it’s plastic-wrapped prison.

The cutscenes were the first big surprise for me. Sure, I had heard that Wolfenstein was good, but no one told me just how stylized, contemporary, and hip the cinematic direction was. As the story progressed, I was just stunned at how the main character, B.J. Blazkowicz, and supporting cast were all incredibly memorable and compelling. I have to give tremendous credit to writers Jens Matthies and Tommy Tordsson Björk for bringing these characters to life with real emotion.

The setting isn’t just a side note either. While the game tells a tale of science fiction, it uses the alternate history setting to speak of the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust and of the sacrifices remarkable men and women during the real history of World War II. This brevity makes each level and mission that much more engaging and important. I couldn’t wait to see where the story would go after completing each level.

To be sure, the gameplay is repetitive, but it wasn’t terrible. I did enjoy the stealth-like options to playing the game. Sneaking up behind Nazis and insta-killing them with a single thrown knife or a takedown is more fun than just dual-wielding automatic shotguns and mowing them down all the time. Ultimately however, the gameplay really only feels like busywork for the player. Thankfully, Blazkowicz’ inner monologue and radio communications with other characters keep the levels from being completely mindless.

Viewing history through Wolfenstein’s sci-fi lens did not diminish the writers’ intent to depict during that horrific time in human history. Through allegories, the game was able to successfully portray the brevity of what the Jewish people suffered through and lost, and the heroic accomplishments that everyday people achieved against all odds, perhaps more than any other first-person shooter based on WWII. This connection to history made playing through Wolfenstein a journey to remember and cherish.