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The Best E3 2016 Round-Up of All Time

It’s no secret that the Electronic Entertainment Expo is the grandest and most decadent circle jerk in the videogame industry. The annual phenomenon known as E3 is notorious for a cavalcade of reasons. 

  1. Corporate press conferences noise polluted with marketing buzz words spewed unironically from suits utterly out of touch with their audience.
  2. The showroom floor packed with expensive one-of-a-kind props and elaborate sets that have nothing to do with the actual quality of games.
  3. Flashy reveal trailers that surprise and excite the inner fanboy within the hearts of manchildren. (also poor indicators of final game quality)

It’s an entertainment industry finally blowing its load all over its own smiling face after months of edging, before grabbing a towel and returning to tepid normalcy. It’s a pretty big load, though. Lots of news. Lots of hype. Lots of cringe. It’s what makes E3 so spesh. These are the 10 Most Important Takeaways from E3 2016. (List is in no particular order, except the number one spot, for obvious reasons)

  1. God of War – Demigod decides to dadimage

Despite the climactic finale of God of War 3, it would appear Sony’s investors aren’t ready to let the angry Greek’s money train pull into station. In God of War, Sony Santa Monica is now finally doing that stupid thing that people have talked about for forever now – Norse mythology. The change isn’t exclusive to the setting, either. Nearly every aspect of the game has been changed to suit modern gamer focus testing. No chain blades. No cinematic camera. No TC Carson to voice Kratos (easily the most egregious change). Instead, our anti-hero now wields an axe and babysits his young son, clearly riding on the coattails of Joel and Ellie’s dynamic from The Last of Us. Nearly every bone in my body is telling me to run, to just accept that God of War ended and that this is just banking off the title and familiar character to sell copies (cough Ghostbusters reboot cough), but there is one saving grace. And that is Cory Barlog. The director behind God of War 2 has returned to work on this project. Though the game still looks like a step in every wrong direction possible, knowing Barlog is steering the ship gives me enough hope to elevate this unnecessary sequel from a complete write-off to a position of cautious optimism. Who knows, maybe the game will be great and I’ll eat crow for having doubted it. But probably not. This game looks wack.

9. Battlefield 1 – make The Great War fun again

After blowing Activision’s prized Call of Duty series out of the water when both released their reveal trailers earlier this year, EA only has to make sure it doesn’t do something impossibly stupid (like holding back the entire French army as DLC) to pop their over-inflated hype balloon. If they can manage that, the execs and shareholders are sure to have cocaine parties every weekend. Because the game does seem pretty sweet. I mean, what more perfect irony for a meaningless and shitty war than to turn it into a game for 13-year-olds to say shitty things to one another during meaningless rounds of CTF…  The graphics are sharp, maps will have varying weather, destructible environments are back, and the WWI setting is a much needed change from the neon purple clown camo and whip-naenae whatever-the-fuck emotes in CoD. But it is EA. Which means we’ll be ripped off by DLC and microtransactions. Hopefully they release a full game at launch, unlike what they did with Star Wars: Battlefront. I ain’t having that shit.

8. Fallout 4 – Don’t make me hate you, please

Bethesda showed off the goods again this E3. Dishonored 2 and the Prey reboot both caught my interest with their intriguing worlds and mysterious tones. But both of those games are still in the tank right now, with not much to pick apart. Todd Howard did divulge on what to expect from his studio however. And that was… kind of lame. Fallout 4 will be receiving its final DLC expansion, Nuka World, later this year -making for a total of 2.5 worthwhile add-ons. This, plus more contraptions for settlement building, like elevators and conveyor belts. “Disappointment” is a word that springs to mind. Also, “Rage.” “Fuck” and “You,” as well. After Fallout 3 and New Vegas’s precedent of 5 expansions per game, hearing that all that DLC season pass money culminated into the weakest offering to date, it’s hard not to be upset. Nobody asked for settlement building. Nobody wanted this watered down game. But that’s what we got. And for some reason (easy money), we’re also getting a re-release of Skyrim. Thank Buddha for mods.

  1. Project Scorpio and Playstation Neo – uhh…

With the rumors of new Xbox and Playstation consoles confirmed, the biggest question mark in the industry just became the biggest exclamation point, too. This is because despite what Xbox execs and the like will tell you, it’s unlikely (not impossible, but improbable) that these new consoles will comfortably exist alongside their current iterations. Developers will have to make games work across one or two more platforms than they already are. Either they put more focus on cutting edge tech, or they stick to the current player base with millions more potential customers. Are the current gen systems dead in the water? What will be major selling points to differentiate the consoles? 4K resolution? More RAM? Will it matter? These are questions that need answers. Meanwhile, that feces-feathered goose that occasionally squats out a golden egg, Nintendo, still has nothing to show except for more Zelda. Show the NX, damnit! I’m so tired of seeing your faces on the milk carton, every E3.

6. Injustice 2 – DC comics Dress-up

Ed Boon and his eyebrows brought a demo of  Mortal Kombat Lite 2 to E3 this year, with a new customization feature to boot. Injustice 2 includes a Gear system that affects gameplay as well as allows players to gussy up their heroes as they see fit. Unlocking new loot is already addicting as is, but the best part is how players have the ability to make a character’s uniform look how they think it should look. This is an incredibly welcome change when considering some of the design choices made in the original game were less than perfect. Just look at this egg:imageLiterally as intimidating as a limbless panda. With the new Gear system however-Yeah. You heard that noise? That noise that sounded like a damp rag just hit the floor? Well that was the sound of every Batman nerd in the world collectively dropping their panties. I’m excited to see how much customization there is across all characters. Boon wants a huge roster of fighters, and of the six confirmed, three are new to the series. Supergirl, Gorilla Grodd, and Atrocitus all look like great additions, but now comes the speculation. Will we see Darkseid playable this time around? Can I have a Penguin that looks like Danny DeVito? I’m personally rooting for a playable Starfire and Beast Boy, but even if they don’t make the initial cut, WB and Netherrealm Studios are cranking out plenty of DLC fighters after the 2017 launch, so this game will be huge when all is said and done.

5. Watch Dogs 2 – The Ubisoft dilemma

Lying to the public is Ubisoft’s calling card. E3 trailers for their games are all but completely irrelevant at this point, due to how consistently disingenuous they’ve been in recent years. Watch Dogs, Rainbow Six: Siege, and The Division have all had their E3 demos exposed as flat-out misrepresentations of their final retail versions. So it really hurts seeing so much potential in Watch Dogs 2. I want to be excited about hacking everything in Silicon Valley as a parkour master, but I also don’t want to be hurt again. I’m tired of the lies – the empty promise that things will change. And no, Michael Fassbender in your Assassin’s Creed movie won’t win me over. We’ll have to wait and see. Maybe in a few months I’ll be okay again, but until then, the South Park game is about all I’m ready to commit to. (Seriously, The Fractured but Whole has the potential to be the best superhero game this year.) Goodbye, Ubisoft.

4. Indie games – Like hipsters, but less awful

Microsoft isn’t new to great independent games. On 360, Braid, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, and Fez all started as Xbox exclusives. The keyword there is “started.” The same logic should apply to this next batch of indies. Cuphead has drawn a lot of well-deserved attention for its 1930’s cartoon-inspired art style. Everything in the world is animated with a bounce or sway to it, and the gameplay is largely centered around devilishly hard boss fights that border on bullet hell. On the opposite end of the color spectrum, Inside’s bleak greys drown players in the spiritual sequel to Playdead’s Limbo. Again, players will explore a morbid and deadly world of darkness and mystery as a small boy. This game has released since E3, but I’m holding off my judgement until I can get my hands on a PS4 version. Lastly, We Happy Few is a 3D first-person game set in an eerie, 1960s-esque dystopia where everyone is Brady Bunch happy, wears white face paint, and are forced to take a drug called “Joy.” In the demo, the player character doesn’t take their medicine and is subsequently targeted by an Orwellian police force. This is EXACTLY the type of thing I want from indie developers. More ambitious worlds and risk-taking stories? Yes, please. It’s just a shame Playstation gamers are going to have to wait even longer for these titles. In the meantime, Double Fine’s Headlander will be on PS4. Published by Adult Swim (and thankfully not left to Tim Schafer’s Kickstarter habits), the game is about a head. A head that can attach itself to robots to control those robots. The 2D game will feature Metroid-like level progression and Double Fine’s sense of humor, for better or worse.

3. Gravity Rush 2 – I hate Skylanders.One of the biggest letdowns at E3 happened during Sony’s press conference. We all saw the shadow of Crash Bandicoot on the stage. We all had our hairs stand up in anticipation. But before you could even say “my body is ready, I am lubed, take me, take me now,” it all came crashing down. Sony’s big Crash announcement was that the familiar face would be slapped onto Activision’s next Skylanders bowel movement. The HD remasters aren’t worth getting excited over, either. There’s nothing exciting about playing games we could play for 20 years now. And whoever decided to throw in a trailer for the upcoming Lego game should really consider throwing themselves down a well. Sony’s press conference did not include even one mention of Gravity Rush 2 – a Playstation brand EXCLUSIVE that has more originality and charm than either of those bird shits combined. Why was this shafted? Is it because it isn’t marketed to dumb children with shitty taste, perhaps? Or because it was made by developers who don’t secretly wish a shooter came into the office and ended their lives? Who knows. What we do know is that it’s a beautiful sequel to a well-reviewed game. The main character has super powers and the game world looks stunning! But that isn’t the kind of game Sony wanted us to see, apparently. And quite frankly, I’m not sure I’ll get this haunting image washed from my brain any time soon.

 Thanks, Obama.

2. Virtual Reality – Real Gimmicky

A couple years ago, the hype surrounding the Oculus Rift made it seem like the futuristic technology of the future would finally come to the present times. Well, VR is here now, and it’s expensive as hell, makes you look stupid, and few games actually implement it well – so of course we got to see a ton of it at E3. No, John Carmack, I really couldn’t give a rat’s tits about “living and breathing in a Minecraft world.” At $400+ dollars a piece, no co-op in mind, and games featuring obvious limitations on character movement, this trend will die just like motion control and 3D TVs. The only legitimate reason for these things to exist is to see Dashie scream while playing VR horror games. Playstation is the console brand currently advocating the hardest for it, but nothing outside of the X-Wing simulator they showed off had the “wow” factor something like this needs in order to sell. I’ll wait another decade for technology to catch up before I take this seriously. Until then, I’m gonna keep that $400 in my wallet.

  1. Spider-Man, the hero E3 deserved 

I’m a shameless Spider-Man fanboy. The Tobey Maguire movies were my childhood fantasies on the big screen, and the videogames let me recreate what I read in the comics. So it should come as no surprise that the biggest E3 moment for me was seeing the trailer for Insomniac’s Playstation-exclusive Spider-Man game. Can you say “system seller?” Insomniac seems like a less obvious choice  for making a superhero game than Sucker Punch studios (devs of the Infamous series), but the tone in the trailer felt like they perfectly captured the feel of Spidey heroics. The cinematic trailer showed off some scripted action, including a part where Spider-Man ran on the tables of a cafe before bursting out its window. I’m curious to see if the final game will feature such detailed interiors. Aside from that note, I actually like the new suit, though I hope more costumes are unlockable in the game. Overall, this is my most anticipated game coming out of E3 2016. I had almost begun to think E3 would have no true stand-out game for me this year, but Spider-Man came to the rescue, as usual.

Counterspy – Review

Before saying anything actually of critical value, I just need to ask: Why does this appetizer small indie game have a 20 minute update? It couldn’t have been any sort of actual patch work, right? Because that update was way too large to be just glitch and bug prevention. Was it just the actual game put into patch form even after the game had supposedly been downloaded and installed? Anyway, it was a relatively minor quibble. Just push that to the back of your head alongside the other forgotten thoughts, “huh, this chicken I’m eating probably died in the dark, slathered in its own excrement” and “If this plane went down right now, this oxygen mask isn’t going to do anything.” Transitioning lube smooth into the actual warm, moist substance of Counterspy, I’ll start off by saying that this game is fun. (<Pulitzer prize winning segue right there) You play as a spy working for the neutrally aligned C.O.U.N.T.E.R. agency, performing covert operations of military espionage on both the Socialist (USSR) and Imperialist (USA) nations, infiltrating their bases to steal launch plans, in order to prevent nuclear armageddon. Counterspy employs 2.5D gameplay, a very jazz trumpet-heavy, mood-setting soundtrack, fluid gameplay that’s easy to comprehend, a decent amount of variety in its randomly generated levels, and lots and lots of style. I applaud the unique choice in aesthetics. The art style is comprised largely of bold, polygonal 50’s and 60’s design. Rooms are often massive multi-tiered chambers with grandiose flags and missiles on display in the background, emphasizing the inflated egos and hubris of each nation. It’s not surprising that the game looks great considering the fact that Dynamighty, although technically an independent developer, is comprised of former members of Pixar and LucasArts. Hence, the reason why you’ll occasionally get the  feeling you’re playing in the world of The Incredibles. The vibe often verges into the realm of stereotype, but the game executes nearly perfectly the cool, James Bond feel of being a spy at the height of the Cold War.Counterspy, like other indie games I’ve reviewed on this site (Spelunky, Titan Attacks), is light on story. To be honest, Counterspy’s wafer thin plot is a little anemic. It would be untrue (a dirty, stinkin’ lie!), and rather dismissive, to say Counterspy doesn’t have anything to say about patriotism, conflicting ideologies, and the arms race, but these themes are generally found in-game. The extent of the story in Counterspy is literally comprised of 4 or 5 instances of text blurbs between yourself, the nameless Spider-Man Noir lookalike, and C.O.U.N.T.E.R HQ. More often than not, these  are little more than the game’s way of saying, “good job; keep going; you’re getting closer.”  The game is also extremely short, relying mostly on your own desire to continue playing on all three of the game’s difficulties. Gameplay transitions between 2D stealth and 3D shooting galleries. You traverse levels in a side scrolling fashion, but levels have z-axis depth to them, as well. If a room has too many guards to get away with simple neck snaps, then going into cover will switch the perspective of the game and allow you to shoot to your violent heart’s content.Before embarking on any mission in Counterspy, it’s important to properly equip yourself for the job. Cash can be acquired by completing missions and finding intel within lockers. You’ll then be able to spend this cash on ammunition in addition to new weapons and formulas; blueprints for which are found in special safes hidden in the levels. Weapons are relatively straightforward – as you progress, you will have the opportunity to purchase more powerful and unique firearms to take on the increasingly difficult levels. Any new game will start with an initial purchase of the suppressed Diplomatic Pistol, but eventually you’ll have access to some more exciting armaments such as the golden Luger that can one-shot tough enemies (appropriately named the Golden Girl), a launcher that fires globules of explosive gel, and a dart gun that can turn a soldier against his comrades. Similarly, Formulas are abilities that can be purchased but only once per mission.  Endurance can boost your ability to sustain gunfire, Persuasion lowers the starting alertness level (DEFCON), Silent Running does the obvious, etc. The player is only allowed to have three of these gameplay modifiers in play at once, though. This restriction sounds annoying, but in the end, it keeps the game from losing its challenge, since it is entirely possible to eventually have more than enough money to fully load your favorite guns as well as purchase more than three formulas.Counterspy is marred by a small handful of imperfections. The most likely one to negatively affect gameplay is the game’s random level generator. 95% of the time, it manages to create an engaging and unique mission for you. The other 5% is when it sometimes creates rooms that will be absolutely infested with guards that notice you the second you enter. However, these roaches don’t scatter, they fire assault rifles at you and your cover is blown. Being forced into unintentional scenarios like this is exactly what you don’t want in a stealth game. I also had plenty of great times <sarcasm> trying to make out where the hell security cameras were pointed at. I’m not really sure if it was a conscious design decision to have the advanced cameras emit a hard-to-distinguish, faint orange color that can’t be told apart from the white floors, or if it was just a questionable choice in color. Perhaps it’s just my eyes that got bothered by it, (you know, because i rinse them in lye), but getting unnecessary Defcon level rises was reason enough for me to always allocate camera destruction in one of my formula slots. Furthermore, the O button is used for both rolling and getting to cover. If you’ve played a 3rd person shooter, you know where this is going. Trying to roll out of cover is an impossibility for the spy. Like some sort of weeaboo and his waifu anime girl poster, he can’t seem to find it within himself to stop sniffing the wall. It ruined the smooth flow of my ninja-like spy and eventually just had to give up on the idea of rolling around cover. Finally, the ending is abrupt. There’s a short cutscene with no dialogue whatsoever, that was more or less the picture book version of a mission accomplished. The game has a little bit of a “well, that happened” feeling upon completion. Then again, the developers were looking to make a fun, downloadable game and not The Last of Us, so it’s to be expected.Overall, Counterspy is a fine option to blow away a lazy Sunday. It’s not a deep well, but it’s far from shallow. The lack of more unique rooms to slink through eventually gives way to the feeling of repetition despite the rogue like level assortment. At its goal of creating an enjoyable, cartoony Cold War stealth game, Dynamighty did succeed. But, I would add the caveat that this is a game you’re going to want to pick up for $0, while it’s free on PSN. I had a good time with Counterspy, but it’s really not a game I would spend more than a few bucks on. If there were any sort of special recommendation I could make, it would be to definitely get it if you’re a PS Vita owner. The game’s mechanics and pick-up-and-play quality make it a perfect fit for mobile players. “Timewaster” can often be a bad, unhealthy descriptor for a game like World of Warcraft or League of Legends, but in Counterspy’s case, it’s exactly the right niche.Obligatory Number at the End: 8/10

Lone Survivor – Review

So somewhere towards the end of last year, on a whim, I downloaded a game I found for cheap on a PSN sale. As with most indie games, I didn’t hear much pre-release buzz about it. Post-release, I think I might’ve heard someone somewhere say that they liked it, but aside from that in-passing nod of approval, and the creepy trailer I watched right before clicking “Buy,” I had little to nothing to go on. And that intrigued the hell out of me. Especially since “side-scrolling horror game” sounded so strange. Like the phrase “financially-irresponsible goat,” or “eco-friendly oil corporation,” it’s comprised of two ideas that sort of just make your brain go “wait, that’s not right… stop touching me there, can I please just go home now?” And here I am today to tell all you fine and not-so-fine people that this is a game that you should definitely let touch you. Just do it. In the dark. Preferably with no pants on, because this game will make you shit yourself constantly. And in the best way too. Jasper Byrne, creator of Lone Survivor, clearly put a lot of dedication into crafting this story of one man’s struggle with sanity and isolation. From the ever-present creepiness that lingers throughout the game’s environments, to the fear-inducing sight of the game’s shambling, twitching “Thinmen”,  Lone Survivor provides dread on the level of any good 3D horror game. The plot is so wrapped in ambiguous mysteries and open-ended threads that for the majority of the game, you’ll be kept curious as to what has happened to this world and this nameless man. Towards the end, it does wrap up in a somewhat predictable way, but the journey provided more than enough thrills to make up for the somewhat expected destination.As soon as the game starts, the game goes over “the ritual,” of turning out the lights before playing and adjusting the audio for the most spoopity spooks possible. I enjoyed that dedication to the experience, and I also enjoyed the curveball it threw with the opening monologue. (By the way, this game’s dialogue is all text, so I HOPE you’re literate) The protagonist begins with “My name is…” and I assumed it would let me RPG it up and put a name of my choice in, but he instead finishes with “not important anymore.” Which is interesting for two reasons. One, the game isn’t exactly called Lone Survivor because there’s so many friendly NPC’s around to talk and trade with, so a name isn’t really necessary. Secondly, the game’s story is told more or less in second person. For the next 5 to 6 hours, you’ll live vicariously through him. The plot kept my interest, but for some, the way the game relies almost entirely on cryptic notes, moments, and items to tell the story like a jigsaw puzzle that’s still missing a few pieces, (which ultimately lead to some theory digging online), could be a little too disjointed for some players. I enjoyed the sense of only knowing what little I could put together on my own. However, this means the game sacrifices having a distinct narrative identity apart from what ever the player can get out of it. Considering the fact that there’s multiple endings as well, that are affected by your ability to manage resources and whether or not you were violent in your problem solving, means that some players will REALLY not get anything from this. Which is a shame. However, the experience of going through that first hole in the wall, or when you reach the end of the town, or go to Chie’s Place, or any of the multitude of times you are face to face with a thinman, is ample scare value for your dollar. The game starts you off with next to nothing  in your apartment. You’ll soon realize it’s the only place you can actually find respite from the monstrosities that roam the halls and streets. Little is explained to the player either. The “hand-holding” complaint many gamers have of modern games is not present. In fact, maybe more could have been told. I was carrying canned food in my inventory for the longest time, wondering when the hell I would find the can opener, only to realize that it was in an early room I had not checked thoroughly because there was a spastic, white noise-emitting flesh eater the first time I went. If I wouldn’t have been allowed back there, it would have been pretty much a shit to the face for the game to have let me starve like that. But more so, the game would have benefited from an explanation regarding the pills you find. There are Red, Green, and Blue pills. I ingested many in order to try and discern what effect they had. The Red pill, I was able to piece together was a combat or health buff of some sort. But the blue and green ones remained an enigma. Little did I know at the time that they actually were used in conjunction with the bed in your room (where you go to save your game), in order to have one of two dream sequences. An ominous man with a box on his head waits for you in the first dream, and an on-stage interview with a man in blue is in the other. These figures ask questions of you that you cannot rightly answer, before you wake up and find that you have bullets (blue dream) in your backpack. Yep. I guess it’s just an obvious gaming trope that when you find an unnamed pill, that you ought to take it so you can sleep/save in order to have the recurring dream sequence that gives you the resources you were desperately lacking. Totally obvious. It was also totally obvious that my attempts at experimentation with them at the beginning of the game pretty much screwed me out of any chance of the “best” ending. But hey, at least the game gives you an infinite supply of pills, meaning that you are never screwed should you run out batteries for your flashlight. When exploring the world of Lone Survivor, you’re often doing so to accomplish standard videogame goals. Find key. Find object that will work like key. Get power on. Get the things in order to get the other thing. There’s also some hidden side quests that perceptive players can find and subsequently complete, but nothing is really mind blowing objective-wise. There’s a nice side quest related to getting a cat as a pet. The cat doesn’t necessarily do much to alter anything, but  in this eerie game, the moments of mild tranquility between all the harrowing encounters with death are appreciated. You can shoot your way out of those situations, or go non-lethal through the use of flares or good ol’-fashioned sneaking. Personally, I went with the extermination route because there’s a good amount of backtracking in this game, and the unsettling nature of the bizarre zombies was not something I wanted to put up with in areas I’d be crossing through multiple times. Plus, bullets were no concern once I finally figured out the blue pill’s purpose. There are mirrors throughout the game which act as fast travel points back to the safety of your own apartment. The game remains tough but fair in this way. You can’t save anywhere, but it gives you the opportunities. Seeing as you can die from a few thinmen swipes, saving is crucial. There’s no one to blame but yourself when you decide to not save before exploring areas you know will be full of freaks and end up losing 30 minutes of progress. Learn from your old man’s mistakes, kids. Save often. One would think that when a game is just a bunch of blatantly retro pixels, it would lack the capability to capture terror. This game proves that notion wrong. Similar to the way a blurry sepia-toned picture of children in old Halloween costumes or of a man in an Easter bunny outfit is sometimes more fear-inducing than the latest and greatest special effects Hollywood could use in a big-budget film, so to does this indie game trounce traditional AAA. Dead Space is freaky, yes. But after a while, it really does become just a dimly lit shooter. All the weapon and armor upgrades start to butt heads with the design team’s horrific monsters. Resident Evil games lately have all but severed ties to their genre roots, and the Silent Hill sequels have played like ass for a while now too. If you’d like some relatively inexpensive scares that actually required some modicum of effort and respect for game players on behalf of the developer [read: NOT Five Nights at Freddy’s], then this is a good suggestion. It’s ACTUALLY a game. No wandering in the woods waiting for a still Slenderman rendering to show up and send you to the game over screen. No mindlessly opening and closing doors literally just waiting to have an insipid 2-second jump scare of an animatronic you can’t defend yourself from to happen. This is a genuine horror game made by someone who obviously was passionate about the games that influenced him, and wanted to create a quality experience. The game’s excellent sound and music will chill and surprise you. The persistent dread of trying to stay alive will terrify you and warp your mind. The story, or lack there of, might not impress those who don’t like to be confused or those who often think things with symbolism are being “pseudo-intellectual,” but there are worse ways to spend your little money. So, should you play Lone Survivor? Yes. The answer is yes. Pants are optional, but Lone Survivor is yet another welcome addition to the greats of independent game development. Obligatory Number at the End: 8.75/10

Titan Attacks! – Review

Not to be confused with the similarly titled anime, Titan Attacks does not feature even one skinless, giant person. WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT! This game gets a 0/8. Remove this from the PS Store at once! What a lousy cabal of hack frauds they have working  at Puppy Games. All we get from Titan Attacks is a 100 wave romp through Space Invaders for the ADD audience. (Ok, I’m turning the sarcasm off now) Titan Attacks is not ashamed of where it drew its inspirations from, and it does so tastefully. In a world where so many “new” ideas don’t know where the line between homage and rip-off is, this game does a fine job of making something flashy and new out of an old concept. Though technically not a true, licensed Space Invaders game, Titan Attacks has a lot of retro flavoring that does a better job of capturing the old-school, tank commander feeling than the official Space Invaders HD title. (though I did enjoy the slick, modern vibe that game had too) Titan Attacks is incredibly simple to play and won’t require you to invest any more than a few hours of your life to complete. It’s not much of an entree, but does an admirable enough job to at least merit a couple packs of your favorite flavor of Pop Tart.As soon as the game starts, the aesthetics speak volumes about the kind of game you’re in for. It has that indie game 8-bit thing sort of going on, because well, why the hell wouldn’t it? The obvious connections to two button arcade games warrants a befitting style. From the pixelated saucers and lazer blasts, to the vector asteroids, the game could easily be mistaken for something played with a joystick. The game isn’t even played in wide screen, opting for 4:3 to complete the look. The progressive electronic soundtrack isn’t chiptune as one might expect, instead relying on a quick tempo beat to keep players engaged. It’s nothing too special, but does compound the techno, extraterrestrial style the game is going for. Overall, there’s generally pleasing sights and sounds to be found here.Titan Attack’s core gameplay never changes. You move from left to right, smash on one button to shoot upwards, and then press another button every so often to use smart bombs. It’s exactly the sort of thing one would expect from a new age Space Invaders. The game starts you out with a dinky little box that can maybe shoot once every other second, but once you can spend some of the money earned by shooting alien goons out of the air, the game begins to amp up. The store menu is accessed automatically after every wave of the game. It’s here where you can purchase shields, bombs, upgrades to rate of fire and damage, as well as equip auxiliary weapons. The catch is that shields (which are essentially hit points) and smartbombs (screen clearers) do not regenerate in any way during the game. You might get lucky and earn a few by doing well in some of the game’s shooting range bonus rounds, but for the most part, getting rekt by the increasingly difficult waves means having to fork over what you might have been saving up to attach another gun to your tank. In this way, the game both rewards good play and keeps things from getting too easy too fast. Players who know what they’re doing can earn more money by collecting the parachuting aliens that sometimes eject from their ships, as well as by picking up money drops. This becomes the key to future success, as the levels do evolve into softcore, bullet hell later in the game.Titan Attacks features five, 20-level worlds, each with new enemy types and gameplay variations in addition to simply new, pretty looking back drops. The story is all completely told through the text at the end of these worlds, and even then, much of the story is left to the imagination of the gamer. Why are the aliens attacking? When does this take place? Who thought one tank would be sufficient enough to quell a hostile invasion and eventually win an entire war? These sorts of questions never get answered, but they don’t need to be, either. The game recognizes what it is, and instead builds a universe in which the player puts together the pieces on their own. The slowly demolished cityscapes, on the moon and Mars as well no less, implies human civilization has reached interplanetary colonization. I enjoy that sort of subtlety. Traveling from Earth to the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and eventually Titan itself, the player is tasked with new challenges. The Moon will introduce incoming asteroids, and the Mars enemies will fly around in Galaga-esque patterns. These sorts of call backs to other arcade cabinets were a nice touch. (For those that don’t know what those are, put down the Call of Duty, you cheeky scrublord, and go play an arcade game)For all it does right, Titan Attacks is not without its fair share of drawbacks. The five bosses are an area of missed opportunity. They appear at the end of each world, and could have offered a challenge similar to the way other bullet hell shooters do, using intricate patterns of fire from which the player must dodge, but as they are now, are really just bigger normal enemies. The difficulty they present is akin to Mortal Kombat’s Shao Kahn. The big baddies will have a bigger health bar, and will be able to shoot four shots as well as mines. Bullet sponges are generally a lackluster way to go when it comes to boss battles, and these were no exception. Also, the game is too short. There is nothing to do after beating the campaign other than to do it again and try to get a higher score on the leaderboards. Titan Attacks would have benefited from some sort of Infinite Mode unlocked after the main campaign. The game doesn’t have too much replay value once you get all the trophies for it. My final and strangest complaint: I’ve never played a game this naturally loud before. The game’s volume is unbalanced, and makes listening to the sound effect of the rocket launcher firing just a terrible mess. (Get that upgrade last to save your precious listening holes) On HD televisions, turning the volume really low made the game sound normal, but even when I brought the volume to zero on an SD TV, the game was still louder than it needed to be. Beware of Titan Attack’s weird audio problems.Overall, I felt like my 3-4 hours with Titan Attacks was well spent. The game is definitely a one-and-done title if playing this on your PS3 or PS4, as it is more well-suited to the lighter consumption. playing on the Vita is your best bet if you have the option. If not, the console versions won’t disappoint either. Just be aware that Titan Attacks will tide you over only for a few hours. One ought to seek further nourishment elsewhere, lest ye starve to death trying to suck the marrow from this game’s bones.

Obligatory Number at the End: 7.75