Member Game Reviews 2024

You've had a month to finish some new games, so let's get some reviews!

To get us started, I'm doing an unconventional re-look at Forza Motorsport, which I did a review of and then deleted late last year:

Forza Motorsport​


This game is probably the most vivid example of a lynch mob mentality among players of any game I've ever seen. I decided to analyze the situation and see what happened.

First of all, let's start with the composition of user reviews. When a game has "Overwhelmingly Positive" user reviews, there is rarely one defining factor that causes the reviews to be so positive. The same can't be said for reviews that are mostly negative. Generally speaking, you have one predominant issue that many people point out. This frequently balloons into quite a few "everything is wrong" sorts of reviews (which is unlikely for most games), and, no matter whether positive or negative, there are always a few people so angry and disconnected from reality that you wonder if they played the same game.

I actually gathered a bunch of examples from all of these that I was going to post here, but decided that would be rude. People can have their opinions, and I'm a poor person to select to speak about other people writing dumb things. I do it all the time. Sometimes my emotions about a game take over, and I write a scathing review that I later become embarrassed about. It happens. I understand what it's like to be disappointed about a game, and so my review here isn't really criticizing anyone. It's just pointing out what happened. But let's get to the point...

The two things that are mentioned most in negative reviews are that the developer lied about the game being "built from the ground up" and bugs/optimization problems. To quickly speak to the latter, bugs on PC are sometimes related to specific systems, as sometimes are optimization problems. For this reason, I can only speak of my experience, but wouldn't consider my experience to be representative of the entire community. For me, after over 100 hours on Game Pass, but only a couple of hours on Steam, I haven't noticed any significant bugs. There have been a couple of small things here or there, but definitely nothing that impacted my overall experience. As for optimization, my experience is that the game is optimized at this point about the same as FH5. Take it or leave it. Your experiences on your system will likely vary. As for occasional connection issues, there has never been a Forza game without them, so nothing to see here.

The big issue, which was the inspiration for this review, is really the phrase "built from the ground up", and the truth is that, while Turn10 did utter those words on multiple occasions, they were always related to something specific. Turn10 never, that I can recall or find, stated that the entire game was "built from the ground up", only that large parts of it were; for instance, the AI, the physics and locations. and, most important to our discussion, the materials and shaders used for car model finishes. This is extremely important because the lynch mob mentality started when YouTubers and folks on reddit noticed that the game was using, in some cases, old car models. This quickly ballooned into Turn10 lying about building the game from the ground up, but they never actually said all the models were new. They said the materials and shaders were new (to simplify, materials in game development are paint). But it didn't matter what Turn10 actually said. As is usually the case, no one actually cared if this was accurate. They were just mad.

Just as a side note on this. There are over 500 cars in the game, and while most of them were built from scratch, a number of them used older models. With that many cars, my personal opinion is that having a few older models is not exactly equivalent to treason. But if you feel they all should have been brand new, I won't argue with you. That would have been nice.

Another thing that I would like to mention is the much maligned singleplayer campaign. Many seem to hate it, but they never go into detail about what you are getting. For starters, there is no story, just a series of championships to participate in, just as in other Motorsport games and nearly every racing sim. That can be good or bad depending on the player. There are 4 permanent major series and 2 additional series, one special and one that changes every so often like the weekly challenges. So at any given time there are 6 series and usually at least one new one. I can't say this will always be the format, as these things tend to change. Each one of these series has 4 championships of either 5 or 6 races. I didn't count how many had 5 and how many had six, so to be pessimistic, let's just say they all have 5. So you have 24 championships of 5 races, so the singleplayer career has 120 races. Only you can decide whether this format or quantity is enough for you if you are primarily a singleplayer person, but each of those races will last about 15 minutes, so that's 30 hours if you do nothing but those races one after another, never decorating your cars, never running any custom races or multiplayer or never start a race over (guilty), etc. And this also ignores the new series that are always being added.

Edit: As I was writing this, they released a patch that got rid of the CaRPG aspect of the game, so this paragraph is no longer relevant, but I'll leave it here anyway. One final bone of contention is the CARPG style of leveling and improving your cars. I understand why people who want to do nothing but race would dislike it. That's fine. It's a grind. Actually, I didn't think I would like it at all, but now I think it adds character and strategy to each championship.

So there you go. Those are my largely rambling thoughts on the game and why it is rated so low. By the way, professional reviews and Xbox players seem to disagree pretty significantly. Even PC Game pass players seem to like the game okay. The bottom line is that this game is not nearly as bad as the Steam and metacritic user reviews would lead you to believe. In fact, I think it's quite good.

ETA related thread Member Game Reviews 2023
 
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Subnautica​


This game had been on my wishlist for quite a while when I got it as a present for Christmas and it did not disappoint. It has some of the best exploration gameplay of any game I've played with an absolutely beautiful world. The survival mechanics mean that exploration doesn't just reward you with new sights, but also with new resources and blueprints, giving you the tools to explore further and deeper. The game does a great job at giving you an open world but guiding you through it in such a way that you almost always know which direction you're supposed to be going in.

The game also does a great job at managing the tension you feel when exploring unknown areas. You have limited visibility and predators can come from any direction, so I naturally found myself sticking to rocks and floor of the ocean to feel a little bit safer. The design of the various caves you can find in the beginning is also great, with many branching paths, showing you how easy it can be to get lost in an unknown cave system.
Even better, your controls subtly change when in a cave or a shipwreck. Normally your character stays upright, but once you get into a cave or a wreck it's no longer clear which side is up and it's suddenly really easy to get turned around.

Lastly, the story and world-building is great as well. I really liked reading the entries for every piece of flora and fauna you could scan underwater and I found the story quite intriguing.

There were a couple of things I disliked about the game though. The main one is that I didn't like how much of the last part of the game was spent in caves. It makes sense, because the main way the game limits where you can explore is by limiting how deep you can dive, but I personally got tired of being stuck in a cave. Especially the last cave was far less interesting to explore than any of the areas before it.
This was only made worse with the fact that the Seamoth, the little submarine, doesn't work at that depth, so you need to use the Prawn suit, which is a mech suit that sinks to the bottom and is pretty awkward to get around in.

Another problem that cropped up in the caves was that they had no resources for making water, forcing me to make temporary bases just so I could build water filtration systems and then waiting until those did their job. Alternatively I could've gone back up to the surface and stocked up on water first, but that would've been quite a hassle as well.

The last problem I had was that I eventually discovered most predators did fairly little damage and/or could pretty easily be avoided or outran, especially with some upgrades. This turned them from feeling like an actual threat to more of a nuisance, which made the game a lot less tense. The game gives you a bunch of tools to distract predators, but I only used one of those tools once.

There were a couple of other things that could have been improved, like how it would've been nice if the fabricator could have worked with the contents of nearby lockers, but those didn't really impact my enjoyment of the game as a whole.

All in all I would recommend the game to anyone who enjoys exploration in games. Most of the negatives happened in the late game, but I completed the game only a couple of hours after I started to get bothered by those, so it wasn't too bad.
 

McStabStab

Community Contributor
Wrote this Jan 7th, haven't played much since but am keeping abreast of the updates. Not recommended in its current state:

Cities: Skylines 2​

“If you dislike the simulation, this game just might not be for you.”
-Mariina Hallikainen, CEO Colossal Order

Well, I love the first C:S. Bought almost all of the content DLC. Decided to support C:S2 despite the comment above with faith that improvements are coming.

The state of the game now? It’s… fine. Cities grow and expand quickly, the new unlock system is interesting, and there’s a lot of services and assets that come with the vanilla version that had to be acquired with DLC or mods in the first game. Assets are much more versatile, and you can tell the groundwork for a great simulation is there.

What’s not-so-fine?

Visually: Assets that clip through the environment (onramps that appear to dip under the grass, pedestrian bridges with giant concrete walls that cims ghost through, limited variety of aesthetic items like trees and props. Optimization needs some work, it gets choppy when things get busy on my mid-range system (i7-7700k, RTX 3070).

Functionally: Some vanilla assets are set up goofy eg some intersections have slower speed limits for the highway segment than the on/offramps so cims take the ramps instead of the straight path. Cims will disobey traffic settings eg. no left turn, turn anyway. Import fees will jump up without warning if you have a deficit in something like furniture. All of a sudden your budget board is upside-down and no advisor to give you a heads up. Its difficult to track issues in your city without constantly checking all the info panels.

Overall it just needs more time in the oven. The simulation IS for me, it just needs to be finished.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
Cyberpunk 2077

Great game, but there was a lot of stupid running around, especially at the very end.

The bad:
  • As near as I can tell, there's no difference between killing enemies and knocking them out as far as gameplay is concerned. Even the 'cyberpsycho' missions that the game specifically tells you must be done with non-lethal means seem to give full credit for blasting away at them.
  • One of my pet peevs (that's very common in all storytelling methods that I've ever seen): the means make a mockery of the ends. The Animals stole your car? OK, I'll go in and slaughter everyone to get your car back.
  • Gig rewards are nuts. Early in the game, the money you get for a gig makes sense. However, the rewards don't scale. Halfway through the game, the guns enemies are dropping dwarf the reward your fixer pays for completing the gig. Many gigs will give you a bigger reward if you can get through it without anyone being alerted, but that bonus becomes a joke very quickly. {Level scaling was added after the game came out and likely screwed this up.}
  • There are some neat skills in the game, but not nearly enough for a game of this size. The high end skills, at least for my character, were highly situational at best. Consequently, my skill points went unspent for a big portion of the game. Even when I did spend them, I didn't play any different afterward. (Props to the 'relic' skills in Phantom Pain, though. Those were good ones.)
  • The ending was somewhat satisfying, but there were some weird issues with it. For instance, a character that gave me her weapon as a reward earlier in the game suddenly had her weapon back. When the ending scene showed V in third person, there was no lip syncing at all when she spoke. After all the high-quality gameplay I've been getting over the course of the game, it was really jarring for it to suddenly get so janky.
  • Even after patching, many of the cars drive like the back half of the car weighs under 100lbs.
  • Startup is a bother. There's no skipping the startup junk (e.g. epilepsy warning, copyrights). Even when that gets done, you have to press space to get to the main menu for no reason I can fathom.
  • CDProjekt difficulty spikes are back. Witcher 3 got them under control, but a few of the bosses in this game were serious killers for me, at least for my builds at the time. The final boss seemed to be, until I found an easy-but-really-boring way to defeat him/her/it. Meanwhile, the rest of the game becomes too easy once you get some basic skills/hacks.
The good:
  • CDProjekt made some good stories again. Not as good as in Witcher 3, IMHO, but still high quality most of the time. Phantom Liberty's stories were even better than the main game's.
  • Other than the final couple of hours, the game was pretty solid. I got caught in the geometry once or twice and had a few crashes outside of photo mode, but that's awfully good for 180 hours of gaming!
  • Excellent save system. Saves happen so quickly, I'm not even sure if I've done them or not! The game keeps track of several quicksaves and autosaves, plus you can (usually) manually save outside of combat. Loading time for a save is reasonable.
  • Good value. There's a LOT of game here. Cyberpunk + Phantom Liberty is on sale right now for $53.60.
  • So much to WEAR! That's kinda odd for a game you play mostly in first person, but I see it a lot in photomode.
  • While cars don't drive so well, motorcycles do work very well. It took some practice dealing with the mini-map and exit ramps, but by the end I enjoyed driving around enough that I would often forgo fast travel.
  • World building was well done, at least if you were willing to read the little texts scattered around the world.
The awesome:
  • Night City! Holy frak!! How did they even DO all of that!? Miles of back alleys, highways on top of highways on top of streets, and detailed stores all over the place! Night City is easily the most impressive city I've seen in gaming.
  • Mostly excellent photo mode. They let you pick between first person and a rotating camera, do depth of field properly, mess with lighting, and more. For some reason they lock the camera so it can zoom in or out very far and don't give a free camera option, but mods can take care of that (and a lot more).
  • The graphics and art direction... soooo shiny!!
Oh, I should mention choices, because they are a little strange. There are a lot of choices in this game which don't really seem to matter. However, there are a LOT of choices in this game! If you count up the number of choices that make a real difference, I think you'll get a pretty good number.
 

McStabStab

Community Contributor
  • There are some neat skills in the game, but not nearly enough for a game of this size. The high end skills, at least for my character, were highly situational at best. Consequently, my skill points went unspent for a big portion of the game. Even when I did spend them, I didn't play any different afterward. (Props to the 'relic' skills in Phantom Pain, though. Those were good ones.)
I'm assuming here you mean Phantom Liberty?

Great review overall. It's interesting to read your review and see how far the game has come through fresh eyes. It sounds like a good 50% of things that were included in my negative review seem to be improved by now (I pre-ordered). Thank you for sharing and love the write-up!
 
Review of Foundry

Foundry is a new first person factory game that wears its inspiration on its sleeve. If you figure that means they copied Satisfactory, the biggest and most successful first person factory game out there, you are wrong. No, they copied Factorio, a top-down 2D factory game.

Now don't misunderstand. Factorio is a great factory game. Both Satisfactory and Factorio have seen huge success and sold millions of copies and are much beloved by their fan bases, but each of these games does something that the makers of Foundry didn't do, which is take their games' perspectives into consideration when designing their games.

For instance, in Factorio, resource nodes are finite, while in Satisfactory they are infinite. In Factorio, when your resource node runs out, you simply move your screen little, and you'll find another resource node that you need, and for a long time you don't even have to do that. You can just move your mining equipment within the same large resource node. But in Foundry when your resource node runs dry, the whole node is gone, and now you have to go on a tedious expedition to try to find another one, which isn't easy because the scale and visibility of the nodes is completely inappropriate for a first person game. Where in Satisfactory the nodes are always punctuated by a large tower of the resource you need, in Foundry the resources are flat against the ground, as they are in Factorio. You basically have to walk across them to find them. And just the fact that you have to move your factory at all is annoying as hell in a first person game, so Satisfactory doesn't make you do it (you may build 10 or more iron factories, but they all stay useful throughout the game). But in Foundry, you have to keep destroying and rebuilding factories until the very end of the game when you unlock a tech that finally makes the nodes infinite.

As another example of not taking your perspective into consideration, the building blocks and machines are way too small in Foundry. You feel like you are trying to build things with children's blocks, which is particularly annoying since the items are expensive to make. In Satisfactory, building blocks are appropriately large and cheap. You can grab a couple stacks of iron and build a 1200 meter bridge. In Foundry you have to take that iron, build intermediate parts and then you end up with a 20 by 20 square's worth of material. And those squares are small.

There are many other examples of not taking your perspective into consideration here, but let's just leave it with that they made all the same mistakes that Techtonica made.

None of this makes Foundry a bad game. You can definitely get some pleasure out of it, but it could have been so much more if they had just sat down and thought about what changes to Factorio they needed to make in consideration of using a first person perspective. Since they apparently didn't do that, I can only partially recommend the game, as Satisfactory players in particular will grow quickly frustrated with it.
 
Jun 11, 2024
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CONTROL

There are moments when one wants to run away, hide, and forget about everything around them. When existence becomes more important than life. These moments are usually quite short, the common sense quickly winning over and returning one to normality. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is nothing to be proud of. Just part of human nature.


For Jesse Faden such a moment lasted longer than usual. When we meet her, it is during a pivotal moment in her life. After a long existence on the periphery of her fears and constant running from herself, she decides to face the call she had felt since childhood. Whatever that photo projector unleashed way back when. She understood that fear needed to be conquered, or at least reigned in, while she went to look for her brother. Perhaps, it’s him who’s calling her? The poster has to be torn from the wall and what’s behind it has to be revealed.

At first glance, Control seems like just another third-person shooter with some strange enemies and confusing events. The character flies around and throws furniture at walls with her superpowers… You almost start thinking this is the newest addition to the list of games, where the creators had an extremely particular idea in mind. At least that’s what I thought before playing the game. I shouldn’t have. It was a mistake.

Control is a focused, clear product, overflowing with personality, and it is unmatched in what it does. Which is telling us about the Federal Bureau of Control. About the world behind that poster on the wall. When you look behind the poster and see a gaping hole waiting to absorb you whole, to end your existence, your first instinct is to put the poster back and pretend nothing happened. To live on, as if everything’s alright. But it’s too late. Your soul has tasted mystery and tempering your curiosity now will prove impossible.

Technically, the game is competent. Everything works as intended. In an artistic sense, one of the first noticeable things is the absence of bright colours. That’s part of this game’s beauty. In a gameplay sense, you are exploring the Bureau and eliminating invaders, which, frankly, doesn’t get old, because the protagonist has very satisfying abilities and the gunplay is quite impressive. Narratively, this is a sad story, familiar to most, but with some significant differences. Yes, the story is the weakest part of the game. It’s messy. It asks a lot of questions and answers close to none. At times, it is so strange as to become impossible to follow. But, frankly, I wasn’t bothered by it. From the first moment you understand this world and immerse yourself in its atmosphere, you stop expecting answers. You give up on the river’s flow and let it carry you forward. Eventually, it even seems like getting a well-explained concrete answer to a question would be an insult to the intricacy of this world.

Years after a horrific accident that happened to both of them when they were kids, a sister is looking for her brother. But she’s not stapling missing person posters, rather she comes to a building no one else can see. A building that stood in the city centre for years. Thousands of people go past this building every single day. A building that doesn’t exist. A building that exists.

After this short introduction, we gain control over Jesse and Control starts. A large square room with a logo resembling most other American agencies on the floor. Grey concrete walls. A lack of illumination. A lack of colour. All this will be with us throughout. But there will be something else, too. Something inconspicuous, almost invisible. A faint red glow from around the corner.

The first ability Jesse gets is telekinesis. She can pull anything towards her (and eventually, anyone) and launch it forward with tremendous force. It was a revelation for me, the way this ability felt and sounded because I have never seen anything similar in games. This ability’s visuals and audio are extremely detailed, and yet somehow also understated. The subtle visual curve on the approaching object, the sound of it getting closer before rapidly stopping near Jesse, is impressive every time. The feeling of using this ability, for me, is comparable to the feeling of recalling the Leviathan Axe in God of War (2018).

But that’s just the beginning. That’s not nearly everything, as it turns out. You can pull pieces of concrete from nearby walls and create a shield before yourself. You can launch that shield and break some enemies’ spines. The shield is a basic ability, one you expect to see in a gameplay sense. After the telekinesis, it doesn’t evoke the same feelings, but its usefulness cannot be argued with. In the more difficult battles (the SHUM cabinet, for example), and especially in open spaces, you will be hard-pressed to survive without it.

The way forward gets even stranger, as Jesse learns to mind control some of her enemies. When they are weak and wounded, they become vulnerable and can be made to switch sides. Not voluntarily, of course. During my first playthrough, this ability was my favourite to use in combat because there was something deeply satisfying in making the enemies fight each other.

With all of that said, I have to mention the main thing about Control and that’s aesthetics. It is a supremely stylish game with a rich artistic identity. It’s pleasant to play and even more pleasant to just look at. The combination of brutal architecture with a limited gamma of colours creates the effect of constant half-being in this liminal space. Every moment is a mystery and a worry. One of the walls could shift and the room would disappear. The dream will end, you’ll wake up and realise there was never any poster on the wall.

The main criticism I have is the reward and upgrade system. Too many upgrades are “+3% damage” and there are not enough meaningful interesting rewards, that would influence the gameplay. That’s the reality. I don’t think many would argue otherwise. It seems like the Remedy designers were looking for a way to ground the whole experience somewhat, to add something “known and familiar”. Gamers like numbers and upgrades. Right?

But the problem is that here, in this game, it feels as if a genius theatre actor had been made to shout all his lines incessantly because old Gary over in the far row is hard of hearing. As if a beautiful stork had its wings cut, so it doesn’t fly away when the kids from the school trip arrive to gawk at it. As if a world-famous chef’s meal included last year’s pickles. The system Control has works and is effective, at that, but it ruins the magic. Makes something special into something ordinary. It rips you from being immersed in the world and shoves you face-first into a neon sign that says “VIDEOGAME”. And you just managed to forget it was one.

When I play Control, I get transported into another dimension, a world, parallel to our own. Here, the fantastical is normal, and the unbelievable - fantastical. Here, you can talk to dead people via the phone, and a fridge kills you when you aren’t looking at it. The feelings that Control evokes in me are wholly unique, no other game is capable of the same. There are undoubtedly criticisms, nothing is perfect. Anything created by humans is a human creation, after all. All I want to say is, this particular creation is my personal favourite.
 

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