A Bad Moms Christmas Review

The first Bad Moms managed to greatly exceed box office expectations last year, and despite its cookie-cutter premise and execution it turned out to still be an enjoyable time at the movies. Most of that was thanks to the strong chemistry between its three leads, Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and a standout Kathryn Hahn, with the three women cast as the titular bad moms looking for some kind of escape from their chaotic daily routines. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that a sequel was fast-tracked, or that it’s been packaged as both a follow-up to the first and a Christmas-themed comedy.

For what it’s worth too, the film’s holiday setting does help to give it a slightly different energy than the first. But like many other sequels that have come before it, A Bad Moms Christmas makes the classic mistake of thinking the addition of several new characters and subplots is the same thing as building off of the first film’s story in any meaningful way. While those new additions come in the form of talented veteran stars like Christine Baranski, Cheryl Hines, Susan Sarandon, and Peter Gallagher, the film’s decision to shift the focus away from the relationship of its original three women to their tattered bonds with their even worse mothers results in a disappointingly uneven and scattershot comedy.

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Zotac GeForce GTX 1070 Ti AMP! Extreme Review

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Just when you thought Nvidia had laid all its Pascal GPUs on the table, along comes one final GPU – the GTX 1070 Ti. This card has been rumored for awhile, and though some internet commenters claim it’s aimed at the mining market I think it’s designed to smack down the Radeon RX Vega 56. It just didn’t sit well with Nvidia that the Vega 56 was so close in performance to its GTX 1070, so Nvidia wanted to deliver a new slice of silicon that would leave no doubt which GPU is superior.

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The Walking Dead #173 Review

The Walking Dead has more or less circled back around to where it was in the aftermath of “All Out War.” Once again, things are looking up for humanity as our heroes shift focus from the immediate battle for survival to their ongoing effort to rebuild civilization. The tone is more optimistic, even as it becomes clear there are new threats lurking on the horizon. That status quo is still compelling, though it does begin to raise the question of how much the series has actually accomplished with arcs like “The Whisperer War.” Does the narrative really need to be quite so cyclical?

That problem is exemplified by the return of Beta and the Whisperers in this issue. As promising as these villains were starting out, they didn’t really live up to that potential in “The Whisperer War.” It seemed that Robert Kikrkman and Charlie Adlard might have the opportunity to change that with Beta’s sudden return in issue #172. Sadly, that doesn’t pan out. The initial confrontation between Jesus and Beta offers a welcome dose of dramatic tension (especially in light of last month’s breezy, unencumbered chapter), but the payoff is lacking. That encounter eventually transitions from one of violent tension to unexpected comedy. At this point, it doesn’t seem as though the Whisperers will ever become the villains they could have been, especially as the focus shifts firmly towards the next big bump in the road.

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Captain America #695 Review

Whatever your thoughts on Captain America in the wake of Secret Empire, there’s one thing all fans should be able to agree on – having Mark Waid and Chris Samnee on board the core Captain America series is a very good thing. Waid and Samnee have established themselves as one of the greatest creative teams working in comics today. And if Captain America #695 is any indication, we’ve got the makings of another modern classic on our hands.

There are a number of comparisons to be drawn between this new arc, “Home of the Brave,” and the infamous “Superman: Grounded” storyline. In both cases, you have an iconic hero at a psychological low and dealing with a major blow to their reputation. Just as Superman did, Cap’s method of dealing with his problems is to hit the road and get back in touch with the ordinary, everyday Americans he’s charged himself with defending. It was a good pitch when writer J. Michael Straczynski attempted it back in 2010, but one that “Grounded” failed to properly utilize.

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Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review

Everything that made Wolfenstein: The New Order an excellent single-player first-person shooter is dialed up for round two. With a cast of instantly likeable heroes and bone-chilling villains giving emotional context to its bloody uprising against high-tech Nazis, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus has come to play.

It really is incredible how well this story works, considering how absurd its sci-fi version of 1961 is and how wildly the tone shifts from scene to scene. One moment it’s ultra-serious and delivering a sickening dose of venomous racism, abuse, and cold-blooded cruelty. Not that we needed another reason to want to overthrow an alternate-reality Third Reich who won World War 2 and conquered the world, but it’s hugely effective in getting the blood boiling. And yet, the next moment it’ll transition to scenes of laugh-out-loud comedy before pivoting back to BJ Blazkowicz dealing with his own mortality as he withers away from the wounds he received at the end of The New Order.

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Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus Review

Above all else, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus takes a very hard stance on the righteousness of killing Nazis. It never falters, not once asking whether violent resistance is the wrong way to fight back against oppression–and the game is stronger for it. The series’ tongue-in-cheek attitude provides a respite from both the horrors of the Reich and the frustration of throwing yourself against its all-powerful war machine. And despite some heavy-handed moments that feel like missteps in its message, satisfying Nazi-killing action bolsters its completely bonkers storyline in a way that only Wolfenstein can achieve.

The New Colossus picks up right after the events of The New Order, and unsurprisingly, our hero Blazkowicz is in bad shape. Following the explosion during the fight with Deathshead, BJ’s insides are falling out, and the crew of the Kreisau Circle does their best to put him back together again. General Engel tracks them down five months later, and as her troops storm the resistance’s stolen U-boat (Eva’s Hammer, your base of operations), Blazkowicz wakes up to shoot more Nazis.

This first mission sets the tone for the rest of The New Colossus. Bound to a wheelchair, his organs failing, Blazkowicz feels oddly vulnerable. You shoot with one hand and slowly wheel yourself through Eva’s Hammer’s corridors with the other. The odds seem impossible. But overcoming them is gratifying in a way that simply killing all the Nazis can’t match. Even after the Da’at Yichud armor from The New Order gives Blazkowicz his mobility back, his labored breathing reveals a man who is running out of fuel–and time.

On top of that, the game is just generally difficult. You’ll probably die often. Defeating a giant fire-breathing robot dog doesn’t seem feasible at first, but it is with the right combination of weapons, strafing, taking cover, and scrounging for health and ammo while on the run. Part of that struggle is finding a combat style that works for you and sticking with it, whether it’s a guns-blazing or more tactical approach. Some particularly punishing fights or an disadvantageous autosave can be frustrating, but most levels end just before that frustration can turn to anger.

Most missions are broken up into rooms with one or two commanders who are capable of calling for reinforcements. You can choose to just shoot your way through waves of enemies, or you can try to take out the commanders quietly before addressing the rest of the room. Things escalate quickly when heavy enemies show up, since it’s difficult to take them out quietly. Enemy variety and multiple paths through any given area mean you’ll be rewarded with a thrilling fight regardless of how you decide to tackle it.

You’ll also be rewarded with more power. Successfully executing a certain number of stealth takedowns, for example, unlocks a perk that increases your movement speed while crouched. And using upgrade parts you can occasionally find lying around to, say, put a silencer on your pistol will further improve your stealth ability. But you’re afforded the flexibility to decide mid-mission that stealth is not going to work and change tactics. As a result, every encounter is incredibly tense, since you never know when you’re going to need to take it slow or book it to safety as bullets fly by.

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The far-future technology of the Nazi regime is both exhilarating to partake in and a grotesque display of their ruthless subjugation of all corners of the world. High-powered laser weapons are exciting to use, but the armored machine-men who drop them are a reminder of human experimentation during and after the war. Anything is possible in Wolfenstein, and that’s a direct result of immense human suffering.

Most environments in The New Colossus showcase the brutal, industrial truth of the Reich, like the twisted remains of a post-nuke New York City. But there are also appearances to be kept up, and the Roswell level in particular provides the rest of the picture. You arrive in Roswell during a parade, and the sunny, idyllic streets are peppered with Nazi officers and Klansmen in their full regalia. Well-dressed citizens speak in German as they celebrate–or pretend to celebrate–the Nazi takeover, propaganda books and posters in view. It’s unnerving and threatening to see the way the occupied, but not destroyed, cities operate under Nazi rule, as well as to see and overhear people willfully ignoring the atrocities around them.

Aside from being a much-needed break from fighting, the story cutscenes are beautifully directed and take advantage of the game’s fantastic cast of characters. The Roswell parade section, for example, ends with an Inglorious Basterds-esque interaction with a commandant that is at once funny and upsetting, a careful balance that The New Colossus strikes throughout. Some gameplay-to-cutscene-to-gameplay transitions are a little jarring, but it’s easy to get swept back up in the combat or the story right away.

The story cutscenes are beautifully directed and take advantage of the game’s fantastic cast of characters.

Proper cutscenes as well as idle chitchat on the Evas Hammer reveal intimate details about even minor characters. Each person on the U-boat has their own story of oppression and marginalization, from the Black Panthers to General Engel’s anti-Nazi daughter, Sigrun. But they’re also just people; some are depressed, some are angry, some are horny, and nearly all of them will have their own conversations on the U-boat that you can listen in on whenever you want. You can watch as everyone shuns Sigrun at lunch (perhaps rightfully so) and listen as New York resistance fighters discuss the nuclear tragedy. Even when the story goes completely off the rails–in an absolutely jaw-dropping way–there’s still room to explore their individual dynamics. It’s a small thing, but it keeps you invested in the crew and their cause.

There are times when The New Colossus overreaches for poignancy, and as a result it states its themes too overtly instead of letting them stand alone. Shows of American patriotism, like a particular monologue about liberty and freedom, feel misguided after flashbacks that show the rampant racism in the America of BJ’s childhood. The idea that America had problems before the Nazis showed up is there, and it’s powerful, but it’s obscured by seemingly conflicting ideas.

And while arguments over the purpose of the war and inspirational speeches about fighting against impossible odds show the breadth and depth of the resistance movement, for the most part these are things you can discern just from playing normally. Of course you should keep fighting against the Nazis, even when it seems pointless; after all, overcoming their unstoppable might mission after mission is satisfying enough on its own to keep you going.

The New Colossus never lets you forget who and why you’re fighting. Nazi brutality is on full display, from the blown-out, irradiated remains of Manhattan to each of the resistance members, who all carry mental scars if not physical ones. You’re never given a chance between cutscenes, missions, and even downtime on the U-boat to lose sight of the Reich’s cruelty. Wolfenstein’s tense gameplay elevates this further by giving you the power to truly resist–and come out of each battle ready for another fight.

Golf Story Review

Golf Story is zany, unexpectedly funny, and mechanically sound. Those descriptors aren’t overly exciting on their own, but then again, the same could be said of what constitutes contemporary RPGs; you fetch things, hit other things, and generally do the bidding of others while your heroism goes ignored. Golf Story is essentially an RPG based on mundane, real-world concerns dialed up to the nth degree, and it’s that relatability that makes it much more charming than it sounds on paper.

It’s a not-so-sneaky homage to titles like Mario Golf considering its central conceit: absolutely everything can be solved with a combination of golf clubs, golf balls, and dogged persistence. That’s where the player-character enters–a man who’s lost half his life to a soul-sucking wife and the general indifference of others–and the fun begins. This is your typical redemption story, but instead of saving the world, you’re trying to simply restore order to your otherwise bleak existence in memory of your father. It’s a small-scale situation, but the the stakes feel enormous.

There's no way this could go wrong, right?
There’s no way this could go wrong, right?

It’s immediately clear that while golf is (quite literally) the name of the game, it’s not the be-all and end-all of this affair. Just like any RPG, you’ll encounter towns of people who need your help, which usually gets old pretty fast. However, Sidebar Games has managed to keep the pall of boredom away by injecting some local humour into the proceedings. For those lucky enough to be putting their feet up in Australia or New Zealand as they read this, good on ya. The jokes, sly nudges, and the meat pies that are prevalent throughout Golf Story are definitely charming signifiers that people Down Under will be familiar with. While you don’t necessarily need to have watched Kangaroo Jack to get a laugh out of “mate” being used as an insult, those comedic touches will mean that little bit more to those already familiar with the vernacular.

Every quest-giver is, in some timeline or other, a verifiable idiot. It feels just like helping out the usual flood of gormless peasants, but there’s a lot more to it than bringing hungry villagers some cheese. Ever wanted to be a single mother’s hero by hitting her son in the face with a golf ball? You’re in luck. Ever wanted to command an entire legion of turtles who exist solely to help you get a hole-in-one? What about raising an army of the dead to defeat a grand wizard? Golf Story takes the traditional plausibility rulebook and throws it entirely out the window, and it’s better for doing so. Golf is unlikely to be considered a high-adrenaline sport by the general public, but throwing in quests that are equal parts mid-life crisis and downright diabolical certainly gets you more mileage out of your drive.

Speaking of driving, there’s a lot of it. Most golf games make you play through courses of increasing difficulty as part of your journey to being the very best, and this is no exception. You’ll spend a lot of time on the golf course, doing some combination of driving, chipping, putting, and internally screaming. It’d be a lie to say that there weren’t some holes that had the potential to try the very limits of human patience, but luckily, those were generally spaced out well enough to not be a deterrent. Swings work on a three-click system: pick your club, pick your power, and pick your precision level. It’s a no brainer as to what the best way to play is: toggle your precision indicator until it shows the distance pay-off that you’re looking for, and make sure that you hit it.

There are other factors to consider too like wind speed, slope, and roaming wildlife who will take any opportunity to get their grubby little hands on your balls. Hitting an elusive albatross (three shots under par, not the giant bird) is really only possible if you manage all the above factors successfully, but you won’t be punished for muddling your way through the nine-hole courses and enjoying the scenery if that’s your cup of tea. Putting seems to be an exercise in futility, since it’s difficult to decipher the slope of the green, but nothing’s stopping you from swapping clubs and chipping your ball straight into the hole once it’s on there, so go hard or go home. If you feel like the story isn’t to your liking, then Quick Play mode allows you to subject yourself to round after round of golf on your favourite course, cutting out the middleman. You can change the default conditions of various courses to make things more challenging, and the best part of it is, you can do all of this with a mate for some local friendly competition.

However, there’s a lot of other things to do in Golf Story, and once you master the basics of hitting a ball, you’ll be free to focus on the other things that make it so charming. The game has an arsenal of gaming and pop culture references that it relies on, and recognising each is rewarding in its own way. Without giving too much away, the fact that you’re tasked with solving a supernatural murder mystery in one breath and launched into a Pacman-esque gathering quest the next would keep most on their toes. It’s a credit that the pacing doesn’t suffer from the inclusion of these in-jokes, often taking the form of mini-games, and if you ever get sick of playing golf, you always have these side quests and bad puns to fall back on.

There are some glitches and bugs that make their presence known every now and again, but encountering something of the game-breaking variety is rare. You may find yourself interacting with new areas and being stuck in a background music loop as the player character becomes unresponsive, or more interestingly, you could find yourself in the dark space between one room and the next, unable to leave until you path through the same doorway multiple times. However, Golf Story’s little issues don’t make it a write-off.

It can take a little while for the narrative to ramp up in Golf Story and for you to feel like you’ve really cultivated the skills of a champion, but based on the sheer scope of what the game delivers, there’s likely something for everyone to enjoy whether their shtick is mini-golfing or terrorising delinquents with frisbees. It has successfully captured the trappings of yesteryear’s RPGs, and the witticisms and idiosyncrasies of the characters you encounter are a great palate cleanser between rounds. Switch has had a swathe of indies hit its eShop recently, but if you’re looking for something that’ll give you satisfaction in terms of an interesting story and a rewarding mechanic, then Golf Story is certainly par for the course.

Elex Review

As a big, open-world RPG, Elex shows great ambition. The world of Magalan is a fractured yet beautiful place, having spent the last 150 years recovering from the devastating impact of a comet. It’s not your typical post-apocalyptic world, showing the signs of rejuvenation that makes exploring its heavily scarred, mountainous surface an enticing and occasionally captivating proposition. But despite this, a disjointed story, unresponsive controls, and frustrating combat mechanics consistently suck the life out of Elex, making its 30-hour campaign too arduous to recommend.

You play as Jax, a widely feared former Commander within the Alb faction, the game’s main antagonists. Albs are known for their addiction to Elex, an element that has permeated through the planet since the impact of the comet, which makes them both immensely strong and emotionally void; the perfect soldiers. Driven by their dedication to their leader, The Hybrid, and his directive to gain control of all the Elex in the world, they begin an aggressive reclamation of the planet, waging war on the other factions and building giant Converters to rip the Elex from the ground.

The Alb Directive demands the punishment of death for failing a mission, and when Jax is deemed to have failed, he is put down, albeit unsuccessfully, by another Alb commander who leaves him for dead. Having woken up some time later–a fact that is poorly communicated through the course of the intro–with his armor stolen and the residual Elex gone from his body, Jax begins his search for a new place in the world. The Alb’s savagery is a gripping premise of its own accord, but it never really lives up to the potential of its setup.

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Where Jax goes from here is entirely up to you, though you are given a little direction by way of Duras, a Berserker warrior who leads you to Goliet, the main Berserker settlement. Peaceful settlements dot Magalan, as do raider camps, mutants and other assorted creatures who have been transformed into ghastly beasts by the Elex that has ravaged the land.

You can learn unique abilities from each faction, like casting magic or suggestive mind control through dialogue, once you’ve proven your worth. The Berserkers retreat to nature, transmuting Elex into Mana for magic and using it to revitalise the scorched planet, while the religiously bound and technologically advanced Clerics utilise Elex-powered technology built upon remnants of the old-world. The lawless Outlaws live off the scrap of the desert, while all three factions live under the threat of the Albs’ aggression. Appeasing their needs is no easy feat, though, largely due to the balance of difficulty in the game’s opening chapters.

Starting on the 2nd hardest of the four difficulty levels, it didn’t take me long to wind it back to normal, and then to easy. But regardless of difficulty level I felt hopelessly underpowered, even against enemies that appear early on, so much so that the only way I felt I could make significant progress was to run from as many encounters as I could. However, avoiding combat doesn’t help in the missions where you’re forced to fight.

Feeling under levelled in an RPG isn’t the problem here, rather it’s that there’s no real way around it. Any time I would find a newer, stronger weapon, I’d try to equip it only to be denied by my lack of certain skills. There are five main attributes you can pour your skill points into, and most weapons require you be at a minimum level with at least two of those attributes.

Upgrading weapons feels equally trivial, as doing so also affects their stat requirements and can put them well beyond your character’s capabilities, rendering it a pointless pursuit. This becomes less of a problem in the late game, but it wasn’t until around 20 hours into Elex that I felt marginally comfortable jumping into a standard, open-world encounter.

Even then, there are still some real issues with the game’s controls and combat that present themselves early; something Elex never truly recovers from. Melee combat feels cumbersome, with Jax’s quickest attack requiring a hefty wind up before the swing. The auto-targeting function doesn’t differentiate between friend or foe, and when combined with poor hit detection and slow animations, it causes all manner of problems when fighting next to groups of friendlies. Ranged combat is a little better, but similarly suffers from some problems with hit detection.

Most frustrating is when you successfully hit an enemy with either a melee or ranged attack and it does no damage whatsoever, at least until you’ve hit it three or four times. Initially I thought this had something to do with my stamina meter being drained, but that just stops you from attacking in the first place. I never did work out the precise reason why this happens, but it’s stunningly frustrating as it makes nearly every engagement feel horribly unbalanced, overshadowing Elex’s better qualities.

While character models and faces leave something to be desired, much of the environmental art is incredible. Separated into distinct regions, Magalan is gorgeous. From the green, flora draped lands of Edan and the canyon laced deserts of Tavar, to the volcanic region of Ignadon, the layout of its heavily cracked and damaged surface feels superbly hand-crafted. The details can lead to occasional frame rate drops, especially with lots of characters onscreen, but it’s hard to deny Elex’s wonderful art design. The addition of a jetpack to help you traverse mountainous regions, despite feeling a little clumsy, is also a nice touch.

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Some of the inter-factional rivalries are interesting on the surface, with politics between clan leaders and in-fighting providing a bit of fun through dialogue and faction missions, but the overarching narrative rarely proves to go anywhere significant. Some of these missions touch on thought-provoking themes, like the idea that, despite being of the same faction, one person’s morality doesn’t always equate to another’s. Despite the interaction of different factions being a running theme through many of the game’s quests, Elex doesn’t have much more to say on the topic.

The main story quests aren’t quite as interesting, and are riddled with bugs in their presentation. Jax’s back story is slowly pieced together through memories presented as cutscenes during moments of exposition, though the transitions between these are jarring at best, with some cutscenes occasionally not playing at all. Numerous times did I come out of a cutscene only to find the world tearing itself apart and my character falling through the floor, either crashing the game or requiring a full restart and forcing me to replay the same section over again in the hopes that it wouldn’t fall apart.

Elex’s world is no doubt enticing, but the good moments are heavily dispersed among some rough technical problems and odd designs that only serve to frustrate. The game offers an incredibly designed world and the basis of a compelling RPG that disappointingly fails to live up to its potential in almost every way. For a game that relies heavily on its combat for progression, it feels overwhelmingly geared against you, and with the added technical issues and lack of a compelling story to tell, Elex takes the wind out of its own sails at nearly every turn.

WWE 2K18 Review

Spectacle and showmanship are as vital to professional wrestling as its storylines and in-ring action. Fans will fondly remember a Superstar’s distinctive mannerisms, or the pageantry of a glorious entrance, just as much as a five-star match. WWE 2K18 takes this aspect to heart with a substantial leap in visual fidelity–further complementing developers Yuke’s and Visual Concepts’ adherence to wrestling authenticity. However, the game’s cosmetic advancements fail to cover up stagnant gameplay mired in technical issues.

WWE’s superlative lighting, character models, and motion captured animations bring each star of the squared circle to life with startling accuracy. And while there are some disparities between the poor saps at the bottom of the card and those at the very top, the gap isn’t as significant as it has been in previous years, with entrances remaining a dazzling highlight. Small details, like stretch marks and surgery scars, also contribute to WWE 2K18’s graphical showcase. Muscles are defined and flex when a Superstar heaves an opponent over their shoulders, veins bulge under the strain of submissions, and even Finn Balor’s demon paint gradually peels off over the course of a match. As a visual representation of the product we see on TV each week, it’s definitely impressive, and this devotion to realism extends to the gameplay, too. This is nothing new, of course, and if you haven’t enjoyed the series’ methodical pacing and restrictive over-reliance on counters in the past, WWE 2K18 is unlikely to change your mind. This is essentially the same game as it was last year, with a few incremental additions edging the needle closer to the authenticity the series strives for.

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Hot tags have been modified to be a more natural, momentum-injecting part of tag team matches, and a new carry system gives you more options on offence, allowing you to forcefully haul your opponent around the arena and execute a variety of context-sensitive actions with ease. This is particularly enjoyable if you’re playing as a giant like Braun Strowman, since you can hoist smaller opponents over your head and launch them directly out of the ring–which is certainly impactful in Battle Royales and the Royal Rumble. Speaking of which, eight-person matches are also new this year, adding an element of chaos to any over-the-top-rope shenanigans. The only downside is that so many Superstars duking it out at the same time has a negative impact on the game’s frame rate, with the slowdown enough to disrupt your timing on counters.

This isn’t WWE 2K18’s only technical issue either. While the AI is passable at best and dim-witted at worst, there are also myriad glitches spread throughout its various match types and game modes. From Superstars getting trapped inside inanimate objects and being teleported around the arena; referees not counting pins in eight-person tag matches; the Royal Rumble completely breaking due to Superstars failing to appear when their number is called; or the way the Elimination Chamber acts as a proverbial cooking pot for a concoction of ludicrous glitches, WWE 2K18 is a messy experience. Sure, a number of these mishaps are funny, but there are others that actively ruin the experience on a larger scale, whether it’s the game crashing every single time there’s a promo in Universe mode, or the way MyCareer struggles to keep track of your allies and rivals, even forcing you to wrestle yourself in championship title matches. This series has always suffered from its fair share of glitches, but they’re especially egregious and plentiful this year.

Meanwhile, MyCareer still tasks you with creating a character and climbing the ranks of the WWE, however, there’s still no option to create anything but a male wrestler, which is disheartening. Some light RPG elements do at least attempt to spruce up the action in-between matches, and you’re now free to explore the backstage areas, chatting to your fellow Superstars and picking up side quests that will further your alignment as either a face or heel, unlocking specific perks for each. The aforementioned glitches create problems here, however, as you might be asked to cut a promo on Enzo Amore, only to call out Cesaro instead, and then be told backstage that Dean Ambrose knew your plan. It’s a mess, and a struggle to keep track of. These backstage segments are overly lethargic due to the regularity and length of their loading times, which mean you’ll often spend more time watching the game than playing it.

This series has always suffered from its fair share of glitches, but they’re especially egregious and plentiful this year.

Beyond these issues, the writing in MyCareer remains its biggest problem. Even if you excuse the juvenile insults and complete lack of voice acting, there’s nothing here that carries any weight or interest. The writing lacks character and individuality, so it doesn’t matter who you speak to backstage. Bray Wyatt might be an occultist hillbilly with an anomalous promo style, but he’ll still speak with the same verbiage as Seth Rollins, who will in turn sound just like John Cena. And this carries over into the promos, too. These work much the same as they did last year, tasking you with picking from a number of dialogue options, and then trying to maintain a cohesive tone throughout to achieve a high score. The dialogue options aren’t quite as vague as they were before, so it’s easier to craft a coherent promo, but the terrible writing and silent pantomiming rob these moments of any impact. Last year, the promo system felt like a flawed first draft with room to grow, but there’s been very little progression one year later.

MyCareer’s online counterpart, Road to Glory, fares much better than its single-player brethren. By following the real-life WWE calendar, it allows you to take your created character online to compete against others in daily match types in order to earn enough stars to qualify for pay-per-view events. This adds some purpose and impetus to online brawls, and the netcode this year is surprisingly good, with smooth matches and no noticeable input delay, even when you bump it up to a fatal-fourway.

It’s fun seeing everybody else’s created Superstars, but customisation in MyCareer is disappointingly limited by the inclusion of loot boxes. There are no microtransactions in WWE 2K18, so 2K isn’t trying to urge you to part with more cash. But, honestly, that just makes this approach all the more baffling. The vast majority of customisation options, from hairstyles and T-shirts, to wrestling tights and even the vast repertoire of moves, are locked behind these loot boxes. You earn virtual currency throughout the game, and Road to Glory also has weekly loot boxes to unlock, but you’re still at the whim of a randomised draw. If you want a specific beard or a finishing move, you’re just going to have to hope luck falls on your side.

Fortunately, the creation suite outside of MyCareer is as exhaustive as ever, with everything unlocked from the get-go. You can tinker with every single facet of a Superstar’s design and create new title belts, custom matches, and arenas, and download other users’ creations to, say, fill out the NXT roster with the likes of Adam Cole, Drew Galloway, and Kairi Sane.

WWE 2K18’s in-ring combat is fundamentally flawed, and will be as divisive as it often is. Yet there’s no denying the inherent joy derived from performing your favorite Superstar’s signature moves. Whether it’s cracking your opponent over the head with AJ Styles’ Phenomenal Forearm, or pounding the life out of Asuka’s latest victim, there are moments of pure pro wrestling enjoyment to be found here. It’s just compounded by too many frustrating issues, disruptive glitches, and a dearth of engaging single-player modes. This series has remained stagnant for far too long, and WWE 2K18 doesn’t change things.

Fire Emblem Warriors Review

Fire Emblem Warriors brings heroes from the revered Fire Emblem strategy series and drops them onto the chaotic battlefields developer Omega Force’s Warriors games are known for. These knights, paladins, and mages are a natural fit for medieval clashes against swarms of hapless enemies, but their influence on the Warriors formula is otherwise fleeting. However fun it can be in short spurts, Fire Emblem Warriors feels like plenty of other Warriors games before it: a simple joy plagued by repetitive and shallow encounters.

Like more recent Fire Emblem games, you’re introduced to a new pair of protagonists–Lianna and Rowan. Sibling heirs to the Aytolis Kingdom, their land comes under threat with the appearance of an evil dragon and thousands of otherworldly fiends who’ve slipped through a rift in space and time. In a similar fashion, characters from various Fire Emblem timelines (The Blazing Blade, Shadow Dragon, Awakening, Fates, and Echoes) come to Lianna and Rowan’s rescue. It’s a thin narrative that leads to plenty of awkward exchanges and cliche events. And though this may be par for the course for the Warriors series, Fire Emblem games are typically heralded for their captivating stories and deep characters, so it’s hard not to be a little disappointed to see very little of that transition over to this experimental outing.

If you’re at all familiar with the Warriors games, then you already know what to expect as Fire Emblem Warriors follows the formula very closely: Playing as one of the many available heroes, you venture onto the battlefield and slay hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies during a single mission through hard-hitting yet simple-to-execute combo attacks.

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Attacks and combos are input via a two-button system for light and heavy attacks, and you have access to a flashy special ability once your damage meter is full. The weapon triangle system pulled from Fire Emblem dictates how effective one character is against another depending on their default weapon, but weighing the advantages of individual face-offs slows the rapid and enjoyable pace of combat. Likewise, the pair up system, where you do your best to create a bond between two characters, doesn’t make this game significantly different from other Warriors spin-offs.

Apart from feeling somewhat shallow, Fire Emblem Warriors plays smoothly, and it’s enjoyable to watch favorites like Chrom, Marth, and Lyndis break free from their turn-based ways to slay massive swarms of low-level enemies in real time. Sadly, not every beloved Fire Emblem character made the cut, with notable protagonists like Alm, Eliwood, Ike, and Roy missing in action.

Given the potential impact Fire Emblem’s demanding nature could have had on the Warriors series’ straightforward hack-and-slash engagements, the diminished classic mode is another source of disappointment.

In keeping with Fire Emblem tradition, you have the option between casual and classic game modes, though the rules work differently, eschewing classic permadeath for something a little less punishing. During a casual playthrough, fallen allies are easily revived at certain checkpoints; however, they can also be revived on the classic difficulty provided you have enough gold and other relevant items. In other words, no character is ever truly dead. It’s also rare that you ever need to worry in the first place, as you’re free to switch between any one of the up to four characters you can take on a mission, allowing you to quickly control and heal allies that may be on the verge of death. Given the potential impact Fire Emblem’s demanding nature could have had on the Warriors series’ straightforward hack-and-slash engagements, the diminished classic mode is another source of disappointment.

The same can be said for your AI partners, who are nearly incapable of autonomy, even when given a direct purpose such as attacking or defending a chosen person or location. They rarely take the most efficient route following your order, and often end up simply standing in place once they reach their destination. With such unreliable partners, you’re ultimately left to do everything yourself as missions unfold.

And because Fire Emblem Warriors is a Warriors game, there are hundreds of enemies on-screen at once. The frame rate takes a notable hit from time to time, almost chugging as the game attempts to render both the enemies you’ve defeated and their replacements spawning into battle. The same issue occurs when characters are introduced during missions in short, voiced cutscenes, causing the game to throttle down to stop-motion like speeds. These performance issues don’t hinder your ability to succeed, but they are obtrusive enough to be annoying.

Fire Emblem Warriors doesn’t radically change the formula of the two-decade-old Warriors franchise, nor is it concerned with attempting to do so. At best, it’s a decent vehicle for Fire Emblem’s characters, a chance to flex their muscles in a new venue without the limitations of turn-based combat holding their abilities back. There are signs of potential left unrealized, and the thought of what a Warriors game with truly dramatic character relationships and permadeath could have been lingers. For now that remains out of reach as Fire Emblem Warriors is yet another collaboration where Omega Force’s tendencies dominate the finished product.