Shadowy Traces of an Admirable Effort

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Welcome to Salem, Massachusetts. Airtight Games virtual interpretation of the real world location, which is notorious for its supernatural folklore and infamous witch trials. The player finds themselves in the shoes of Ronan O’Connor, a misunderstood felon turned brazen detective who plays by his own rules. An abrupt run-in with the local serial killer culminates with Ronan departing the world of the living. Hence our investigation into our very own murder begins.

Ronan travels across several distinct locations ranging from the local police station, to a psychiatric hospital and even a demon-infested church. Generally these environments are very compact but they are also quite detailed. So whilst there isn’t an awful lot of scenery to poke about in, the developers have made a respectable effort at crafting a rich atmosphere with plenty of affairs to stick your nose in and drizzling heaps of trinkets to hoard. These areas are tied together by a cumbersome town hub, populated by a plethora of night-dwelling folk who strangely seem to all have your recent murder on their mind. It would appear that news spreads quickly in Salem.

Murdered: Soul Suspect suffers from several bugs and glitches, the worst of which caused the game to crash on three separate occasions during a single playthrough. This is one of several events that trigger a reoccurring impression that Murdered: Soul Suspect had a lot of potential that was unrealised to due to exhausted resources. One of the most horrifying facets of Murdered: Soul Suspect is its combat. The combat mechanics can only be described clumsy, tedious and quite frankly, tripe.

One of the strongest aspects to the game lay with its side quests. Between key objectives Ronan has the opportunity to solve the mysteries pertaining to the deaths of various lost souls in Salem. It was fascinating to investigate the secrets surrounding the demise of these people and help them pass on to the afterlife. These side quests are few and far between, which is unfortunate as they add a great deal of depth and enjoyment. The plot is serviceable as is the manner which it is told and what little soundtrack that exists is entirely forgettable. Ronan himself is so-so, but some of his dialogue is toe-curling, which admittedly isn’t half as bad as his insufferable nuisance of a sidekick.

Airtight Games had more ideas and passion than you could shake a stick at. They also lacked the resources and to some extent the skill to capitalize upon those qualities. This leaves Murdered: Soul Suspect in a state of limbo. The player is constantly tantalized with what could have been, only to be dragged back to earth and reminded that this is the best you’re going to get. Whilst there are certainly better titles to spend your hard earned cash on. Murdered: Soul Suspect is a unique experience that is worthy of a discounted purchase, particularly among the more adventurous gamers.

Have you played Murdered: Soul Suspect? What did you think of it?

-@BradBraddington

2014 in retrospect //@BradBraddington

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2014 has come to an end. So what better way to introduce the New Year than recounting my video games experiences from the past 12 months. I feel it would be most fitting to begin with my most anticipated game from 2014, Dark Souls 2.
I was a late starter with the Souls franchise, my first delve into the franchise began with Demons Souls in 2013. I found myself sucked into the vivid world of Boletaria, the engrossing lore, the phenomenal soundtrack and of course Maiden Astraea who gave me one of my most beloved moments in gaming. The highly anticipated release of Dark Souls 2 came in March. I would spend the following week entirely absorbed by Dark Souls 2 and ultimately I found myself returning to the real world battle hardened and with a feeling of glowing gratification. I recall being astonished at the beautiful sun soaked cliffs and forgotten shacks of Majula. I was satisfied with the tweaks to the character stats to avoid previously impractical stats such as resistance and in general Dark Souls 2 provided more of the unforgiving but ultimately rewarding gameplay that I had come to expect from the talent at From Software. On the other hand I felt that the level design of Dark Souls 2 lacked the originality and genius of previous iterations. This trend continued with the boss fights as well. It is no secret that many of the boss fights were re-hashed and in some cases almost directly ripped from Dark Souls, it left the overall product feeling rushed and soulless at times. Dark Souls 2 was by no means a blunder but I could not shake the feeling that it could have been more.
Shinji Mikami’s The Evil Within. Those five words filled me with a manic eagerness that lingered with me right up to launch day. Which was only logical as Resident Evil 4 is my most beloved game of all time and the similarities between the two were undeniable. Much was promised, the return of survival horror by the godfather of the genre himself was just one such promise. Following the chaotic and explosive finale I slumped back from the edge of my seat with mixed sentiments. I found the gunplay to be a joy to handle, the atmosphere was genuinely nerve-racking and the game world and its repulsive inhabitants were designed wonderfully. The Evil Within was certainly not without its flaws. The stealth sections felt half-baked and I found the black borders to be very tiresome and redundant. My biggest gripe however was how paper-thin and dull the characters of The Evil Within were. This issue only accentuated the rather lackadaisical storytelling. The term ‘Diamond in the Rough’ fits The Evil Within perfectly, a terrific title hindered by some glaring snags.
The first season of the Walking Dead championed as my Game of the Year 2012. Telltale Games delivered an unforgettable tale of survival and sacrifice and in turn it was only natural that I had extremely high expectations for the second season. I was thrilled by Telltale’s decision to use Clementine as a leading role. I found her to be an adorable yet mature and intelligent character who I found myself emotionally invested in much like her makeshift guardian Lee Everett from the first season of The Walking Dead. Even under the lofty expectations that I, critics and fans worldwide had set, the team at Telltale Games flourished and delivered a superb tale with fantastic characters. From the gripping rhetoric between the characters to the harrowing scenarios that would each leave young Clementine more desensitized than before, The Walking Dead: Season 2 delivered an unforgettable journey marred only by the occasional graphic and audio bugs and as such I award it my Game of the Year 2014.
I would like to finish with a quick observation of some other great titles I had the chance to play last year. P.T was the brilliantly out-of-nowhere teaser for Silent Hills. The Silent Hill franchise has been on a dishearteningly mediocre streak since Silent Hill: Origins but I was absolutely astonished by what Kojima Productions delivered. P.T offers a truly terrifying experience with phenomenal visuals and simply ingenious game mechanics. If you have not yet played it, please do so as soon as possible. Continuing on the Kojima hype train, I also had the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Although disappointingly short, Ground Zeroes treated me to some superb visuals and stealth gameplay not to mention more of the engrossing storytelling and characters I have come to expect from the Metal Gear Solid franchise. I have only just begun playing Aliens: Isolation. Early impressions consist of panicked screams and muffled sobbing, review to follow soon. Last but certainly not least. Hatsune Miku Project Diva f 2nd was a sweet Christmas gift from my lovely lady friend. It has since taken over both our lives and I don’t know how much longer our thumbs or our controllers will survive.
So what was your game of the year 2014?
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed, and please come back again soon.

@BradBraddington

A beautiful tale about nothing in particular #Tales of Xillia

I believe last time I spoke about this title was months ago when I was not too far into the game. I remember liking it but wishing it would have been more exciting … . Fast forward 4 months, and I have made a good chunk of progress but I swear it feels like the game is neverending. I don’t really have anything new to add but I still wanted to talk about it mainly because I feel like I should love it but I just cannot commit.

The game does almost everything right and when I try and make my mind up on what exactly it is that it’s lacking I struggle. The level design is stunning. Every town, dungeon or any other place has got its on distinctive style and feel to it. The environments, the architecture, even the smallest elements like the icons in the menu pages, are crafted with some serious dose of effort and attention to detail making exploration a dream come true. What is more, there is plenty of good reasons to replay the game since you are given countless side quests to complete, extra dungeons to explore plus two equally main protagonists what offeres two different paths you can take. The gameplay is dynamic, very dynamic in fact, the battles are frequent and the bosses especially in the later chapteres of the game are quite challenging.

For a title that is so well made and polished up in all of the above-mentioned aspects I would expect the story to be on a comparable level or just better than average. So it is rather unfortunante that this is the only element that would need some serious beefing up. Both the plot and the characters feel rather familiar and predictable, on the whole it’s just not that fascinating. I have got nothing against recycling old formulas for the most part as long as they offer something new along the way. Tales of Xillia sadly does not and for that reason it feels tedious to watch.

My point is I always expect something extra special in terms of storytelling and Tales of Xillia is painfully lacking in that department which is a shame because it’s pretty advanced and complex in the other aspects. The packaging is great but the content is not as shiny.