Monday, September 18, 2023


Somehow I managed to live away from the Fallout series… until now. At some point I tried Fallout 1 (the one with the top-down camera) on Steam and died almost right away, then abandoned it. Not sure how, I got a copy of Fallout 3 (the first one in 3D, I believe). I tried it 2-3 times and barely made it beyond the tutorial zone. Again, I let it rot on a shelf. It was only a month ago when I decided to give closure to this and finish it. And somehow ended up loving it

To be clear, the main issue I had with the start of the game is the training on a series of numeric UI features that have little impact in what you´re doing at the time. The UX onboarding is improvable, and the game lacks leading: You´re basically left to find your own challenges early on, when you need handholding the most

Aside from that, the menus are simplistic (bordering programmer art), and the game is plagued with bugs, some tolerable some not – It crashed no less than 4 times, forcing me to reboot the console. And the main campaign feels rushed, it´s about 12 not-particularly-long quests. There is A LOT of content in the game only available linked to specific conditions, you wander around, or you are at a particular point in time at a particular location. It´s fairly easy to miss stuff. Also, the game has not “watercooler” content aside from 2-3 moments. However, most of the quests and challenges are low-quality/template-based so you´re probably not missing much. Even worse, most weapons are unsatisfactory, and the inventory management can be as frustrating as in any pure RPG (which is A LOT)

On the plus side, I haven´t been obsessed with a game in years, and Fallout 3 definitively got me there. I am an overly-anal player when it comes to RPGs, and I try to be 100% ready for any circumstance at any given time. That means I spent a lot of time curating my inventory, analysing my stats and saving every 100 meters just in case. The game mechanics promote slow progression: Lots of pickup options, micro-exploration, inventory management and cryptic world traversing – which means you´re constantly checking the pipboy map. My gameplay experience was overwhelmingly pivoting between the UI menu and the save/load options

All in all, a perfect environment for obsessive players. I did a platinum run, meaning I played for the trophies, only doing what it was needed to get them all. I succeeded but got a feeling I didn´t explore the world at my own pace, nor I made the decisions I would´ve normally done if free of that approach

I really appreciated some details that made the game feel fresh: NPCs can be permanently killed and your future options will change based on that. You can even nuke a whole town full of quests, and they will be moved to other locations (most of them). If an NPC tells you “I´m going to another city” they don´t just de-spawn and show up in that city next time you go there: They actually go walking to the new place, and you can accompany them all the way if you want

I also liked very much characters and factions: They were interesting fabulations of what type of peoples would populate a post-atomic Washington. It was worth just to make NPCs talk and find out their motivations and backgrounds. Some of them even have fixed routes around the world, and you can find them on the road while “doing their chores”. Vendors have a fixed budget for buying stuff from you, like they had a real internal economy

Leaving aside the green tint – which was ubiquitous some years ago – there is also some praising for the world visuals, as well as the cartoony pipboy elements and the melancholic music. The world makes sense, and you get to discover why it came to be and endless secrets while playing

One interesting thing of the game is a number of risky decisions they made, which are normally avoided by designers since some players *might* not like: Your team mates can die permanently (my dog was killed by scavengers!), weapons decay with use, NPCs have a daily calendar and can be unavailable depending on the time, or simply the fact that when you do the final mission… the game literally ends! If you missed something you need to either load a savegame or start a new one. Traversing is often frustrating because there is no easy way to get where you want - Most destinations are part of an map puzzle, and sometimes you need to check internet guides to find out how to get there. These are things Ubisoft games will never do, because research shows a percentage of players don´t like them. But betting on them gives your game a unique feeling, a special sauce that market-driven companies will never have

All these decisions create a unique experience. Fallout is not a great game by its individual elements – which are often questionable – but because the whole they create. And that makes it special

Thursday, August 3, 2023

DOOM - 2016 (PS4)

In my “best games of all times” list, Doom is in the top 3. Doom 3 (2004) was a disappointment – it pivoted towards the survival/horror instead of shooting fun (I actually abandoned it until I found a community mod allowing to attach a flashlight to the weapons). Then came Doom 4 (2016) or simply “Doom” (not sure why they reused the name, it´s confusing to me)

I think they nailed the basic gameplay core: Shoot demons, keep on the move to avoid damage and use your weapons and powerups as much as the ammo allows. There is a decent amount of monster variations, but maybe lacking some more bosses (they resolved some levels with above-than-average encounters reusing regular mobs)

They added some depth to combat with several upgrade layers: Weapon mods (I rarely used them tbh), character (the real deal), runes (minor improvements on actions, more or less useful depending on your playstyle). On top of those there were level challenges, which reward upgrade points. Altogether a bit confusing, if you ask me. I see a honest intention to provide combat options, but they have so many similar systems working simultaneously that it takes some time to digest. Still, you eventually get it and likely adapt your playthrough to them

I wasn´t impressed by the level design. It works as a series of combat arenas, connected with tunnels for – I presume – performance reasons. Add some basic platforming here and there, secrets and there you go. Classic Doom was a cornerstone in level architecture and graphic innovation. Doom 2016 works fine, and that´s it

So many secrets, by the way! Not surprised, it´s on Doom´s DNA (I will consider the original game the pioneer of adding secrets to levels). It´s a completionist paradise. They also made a good decision to let you know where they are in the level if you find the map. But – I think - you can´t always backtrack so you have to re-play the level anyway

Menus and UI are serviceable, but I felt a bit overloaded with info. Maybe they were designed with PC in mind. I tried a bit the multiplayer and seemed fun. Nothing you haven´t seen before, but playable and what is more important there is a decent editor you can use to create your own levels

I started playing the game, got to 30-40% and abandoned it for years. It was just now that I decided to finish it… to free up console hard drive space. All in all it was a good experience, but the story is not particularly engaging – no Doom is particularly heavy on that aspect – and the level design feels a bit repetitive. Still, when you start playing to keep moving onto another monster pack, then another… and that´s a good sign

Tuesday, June 27, 2023


I found This is the Zodiac speaking browsing across discount games in a Playstation store sale. Didn´t know it existed before that. What called my attention was the use of the name of a real serial killer (The Zodiac murdered 5 people between 1968-69 and was never arrested). That is uncommon in videogames. Digging into it, it's a reconstruction of two of his real-life attacks, as part of the game´s main plot about a journalist obsessed with those crimes

What I found interesting is that there is an existing sub-genre for similar works in TV and movies. It´s called True crime, and it´s fairly popular (just some months ago Netflix ran Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer story with great results). But there are no similar products in videogames. Why?

Probably because in the VG industry we still have genres to discover, mostly those falling outside of the “family market”, which is the preferred environment for the big consoles (Playstation, Microsoft and definitively Nintendo). There are rarely any political games, no true crime or anything involving real people, and barely any erotism

I believe we play too safe in videogames. We tend to pivot around existing genres and rarely venture away from them. That´s why I found interesting This is the Zodiac speaking: They took a shot. It was made by a small group of Polish developers, and it´s plagued by small issues: Some obvious visual bugs that even affect gameplay, control issues (it was obviously developed for PC/mouse, it´s difficult to aim precisely with a console pad), some achievements could not be completed and the killer sections could use a better user experience

But still, they tried something new, and I value that. You definitively feel it´s unique, and that´s something that rarely happens nowadays. We need more of that

Monday, June 26, 2023


Yet another game I completed last month and forgot to write a review. AC Liberation came on the same package than AC3+DLC, I wouldn´t have bought it separately but since it basically came for free I thought why not. Luckily, I enjoyed it better than its “big brother”. The game was originally developed for PS Vita, and it´s noticeably simpler and less demanding than a big console AC: Objectives are straightforward, secondary objectives are fairly easy to achieve and overall the game experience is less “polluted” with side activities, unrelated to the assassin´s fantasy

Overall it felt as an easy and satisfying game. Most developers forget the value of making products you can actually complete without too much trouble. Specially for “series” titles, since that inclines you to buy the next one. Liberation has some novelties, being the most notorious an outfit mechanic that splits world activities depending on what you´re wearing (mixed feelings about the results, but overall it´s good to try) and a new city, in this case New Orleans (equally non-impressive as AC3) with the additions of the swampy Bayou and Chichen Itza (weird location tbh and also underused, but /shrug/)

The story is as inconsequential as it´s common in the AC series. The main twist is that you play as a black woman, but otherwise it´s the same “Templars are bad because of reasons, so you´re entitled to kill hundreds of human beings to stop them but that doesn´t make you evil at all”. I welcomed the possibility of fighting Spaniards – me being one – but their barks were strangely European when they should sound more American-Spanish speakers

In sum, it was a nice experience but not memorable. But thumbs up for easy games, I even went for the platinum! 

Friday, June 23, 2023


Ok, so I forgot to add this game to the list, although I finished it more than a month ago. It was a good deal, I got AC3 plus The tyranny of king Washington DLC AND AC Liberation at a discount. Black Flag was also on sale, so I bought it as well. To be honest, maybe it was more Assassin´s Creed in one take that I actually could deal with. Years ago I got AC Unity and Syndicate copies, but they´ve been waiting on the shelf since… because I play AC chronologically. With this purchase I was just trying to fill the gap quick, so I could jump to the latter. I didn´t expect Liberation and a DLC to be on the same package, but what the hell

But let´s focus on AC3. Mixed feelings, mostly. It´s one (if not the most) NOT loved Assassin´s Creeds. After playing it, I understand why. To start with, the game world (XVIII century US colonies) is not visually striking. Basically wooden houses and forests. Not precisely what you would say “I want to be there”. Think about previous or later titles: Rome, Istambul, Paris, London… Second, the historical time is somehow limited in its impact on potential audiences. It will surely resonate on the US audiences, not so sure in the rest of the world

On top of that, the game feels less responsive to the controls than previous titles: You press the stick to go in one direction and goes into a slightly different one, it´s not easy to chain parkour jumps, while moving around the city very often the character feels irresponsive and the game takes you in a direction completely different… Inherited from the Ezio series, this AC has a lot of side missions that don´t necessarily fit into the assassin fantasy (village recruitment / management, ship missions, hunting…), so many times the game experience is blurry. The story is very uneven (weird decisions, strange alliances, things that happen because the script says so) and the protagonist is consistently angry, often behaving like an asshole for no real purpose. It´s kinda difficult to empathize with him. It was also plagued with bugs, crashes and blockers, a number of times I had to restart the game because I was stuck, or the UI prevented me to achieve the current objective. Really frustrating

I honestly finished it out of stubbornness, but it´s still a great deal of content if you have the patience to overcome all obstacles. AC games are normally comforting in the sense they´re not difficult to complete, and they offer so many things to do that it´s relaxing to get yourself lost in the world and let the hours pass by. It’s just that AC3 makes it harder than it needs to be (or other games of the series did)

Monday, June 19, 2023



One of my guilty pleasures are Bud Spencer and Terence Hill movies. Particularly Watch out, we´re mad! and the Trinity ones (I wonder if they would work with today's audiences). They are part of my childhood, and I will always have a little corner of my heart for them

Some years ago a small Italian dev team ran a kickstarter to buy the IP rights to make this game, and eventually released this Beat’em up. I liked the idea and if I would´ve known of the campaign I would´ve certainly contributed. However, I´m not a fan of that genre and full price didn´t help either. But recently I learned it was on an 80% discount, and I thought “it is time”

So last week I finished the game. It´s not long, probably 3 hours if you´re skilled in that type of games (it took a bit more than 4h to me). For the most part, it is a good game: The spirit of those movies is well-reflected, they re-use a lot of scenarios and character types from them, and a beat’em up is the logical genre choice. The 8 bit visuals also fit well in a nostalgia product such as this, and the actors’ trademark fighting styles are replicated into the player actions nicely - most punching animations are taken directly from the movies. Even the music soundtrack is made by the same composers!

On the minus side it´s not a particularly refined / complex game. Combat options are the same from beginning to end, most enemies are cloned archetypes across all levels, and although minigames pepper the playthrough, it feels a bit repetitive overall

Still, the game achieves its goal of transporting you to the physical comedy/optimistic mood/good guys vs bad guys/just have fun spirit of those 70s movies. Since there is a sequel coming on, it sounds like I´m not the only one who thinks that way :D

Wednesday, April 5, 2023


The sexy brutale combines two excellent starting points: The "groundhog day" (you relive the same day over and over, meaning you can do anything you want knowing the world will be eventually reset) and the Abbey of crime (the NPCs are driven by a timeline, and they roam the world according to their schedules, independently from the player's decisions). Both are interesting enough - even separately - to lay the foundations of a great game

And for some reason, The sexy brutale is not. Certainly not bad, but it didn´t reach the fun state for me. My main issue was that I didn´t have enough info about what was happening in distant rooms, and also I wasn´t clear on what my goal was at any given time. You do get the name of who you`re supposed to watch over, but it wasn´t clear what they were doing, where and what should I do

Also, the story is a bit over the top. It combines a murder mystery night - much like any Agatha Christie novel - with fantasy, superpowers and ghosts. And it´s not that easy to follow, specially if you consider that players that want to avoid internet walkthroughs will likely wander around for long periods of time, making them forget of the overall plot. I ended up enjoying it because I did use a walkthrough, and so I kinda grasped the story better

On the plus side, the art direction is cute and distinctive. Chasing photo-realism is not the ultimate challenge for an artist in my opinion. Creating a new style is. The sexy brutale is not the first cartoony game around, but it stood up for me in its visual approach. And I respect the risk they took, not so many companies try to do something different nowadays

Do I recommend it? Sure, but only for players that don´t mind feeling lost, and are actually encouraged by that. Or you enjoy whodunits, cartoon games or indies that felt a bit short on their ambitions