Another month, another awesome set of user reviews in. Thanks to everyone who submitted reviews for entry in our Critical Hit competition, and keep them coming – remember, every review that gets published will earn its author at least 25p in credit!
It's time for another round of voting. We've picked out a shortlist of ten, and you can vote for your favourites below. Once again, we've made the voting blind to try and avoid personality campaigning and make this as much of a process predicated upon merit as possible, no author has been featured twice, and all of the reviews have been reprinted below so you can read through them before making your decisions.
Let voting commence!
1. GTA V
Grand Theft Auto V is a really good game that I enjoyed the best of the series. Being the same sort of genre as the others (an open world do-basically-whatever-you-want-simulator), it does many of the same things the other games did, but in my opinion this game has a really good fleshed out story in comparison to the others, and overall it just feels like you have more freedom. The story is divided between three men, and most of the time during the game (outside of mission-specific stuff) you can freely switch between them. Each one of them has some skill they're better at, but you can level up your skills by doing actions like walking or driving fast.
Each character also has their own unique sort of power, for example Franklin can slow down time while driving for better handling in tight situations, while Trevor takes much less damage in combat with his power. This helps give each character their own specialties that you might want to use them for, and gives you more motivation to not just use the same character.
What really sets this game apart from the others is heists in my opinion. You can go online and do some with your friends, or do the story mode ones. They're kind of similar in structure to what you might be used to if you played Payday 2 -- you have to set up everything yourself before doing the actual heist (so for example stealing vehicles for later use during the heist or going to a specific spot before the heist starts). In my opinion the heists are actually just as well thought out or better, too.
There's also the usual other interesting stuff to do on the side, like taxi cab driving for money, a fully fleshed out golfing minigame, a yoga minigame, the strip club and street prostitutes, and more.
There's a minor problem of loading taking a while, but I have to say I'm impressed that I haven't run into anything I could really call a bug while playing the game.
Overall, it's a great game, and worth it even not on sale.
2. Hotline Miami
Hotline Miami, was firstly released on October 23, 2012, and it's basically the equivalent of the movie Edge of Tomorrow, and for those of you who haven't seen the movie, it's about restarting your game all over again until you can finish the level (bad movie advertisement).
Hotline Miami, is a difficult but fair game, with an awesome soundtrack and great level design, it also surprisingly features an interesting story which keeps the player hitting that restart button. I finished the game in about 5 and a half hours and I was pleasantly surprised on how good the game is; despite the final boss fight which was poorly executed, I have nothing to say against this game, if you don't mind dying again and again, do yourself a favour and buy this great top-down game, you won't regret it.
3. Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor
If you are one of those people who want a GOTY edition right now...here it is on a silver platter. You will have to pay significantly more, but its here. This is one of the best games of 2014, and dare I say even one of the best season passes for a game of 2014. That's right its the best of everything. The base game feels like a refined version of Arkham City if that makes any sense at all. The combat feels fresh and similar, while the addition of a nemesis system feels only unique. This system makes every enemy in the game (and I mean EVERY enemy) a threat. If any enemy kills you, it will be promoted and remember your fight. You might even kill an enemy by stabbing him in the eye and find him later with an eye patch looking for vengeance. The story takes place between the Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy. Not much else to say except Sauron is up to his same old self as usual trying to rule all of Middle Earth. You play this game for the tight combat and the ever growing enemy AI!
The season pass improves on this foundation by offering you new quests, runes, missions, challenges, and skins. The lord of the hunt sees you returning to an old friend from the base game to hunt down legendary new creatures and to help you hone some of your own skills. Not the best of the two packs, but definitely worth checking out. The second is the meat of the pack which sees you playing as your partner Calebrimbor before the events of the base game. You wield the one ring and fight Sauron at the end in an epic battle for Middle Earth. Very little negatives to be found in this sleeper hit of 2014. If you still have not picked it up and want to know what all the talk is about, play it for yourself. If you want to save your money, just wait until the GOTY edition releases. Either way this content is a must play for any LOTR fan.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Ahh, The Elder Scrolls, a famous AAA title in our time and rightfully so! It's chock-full of content, I mean absolutely astounding amounts, you can sink days into this beast and most of the world will still be unexplored. The music and setting are wonderful, both capture perfectly what it had to, presenting a believable northern province in the middle of a rebellion AND the awakening of ancient dragons. The combat is rather bare bones in my opinion, but its variety keeps things interesting. There are so many tales and stories in this world, even after a few years I still remember some (the Magic Academy storyline being my fav, seriously go there, if you haven't already). Not only the world's incredibly large, as there are multiple choices to most quests and some RNG here and there, every single adventure will be different, giving this title inconceivable amount of content.
It is not without flaws however, the sheer size of this adventure guarantees they couldn't hammer out every single bug there is. You will likely come across graphical glitches, flying mammals, faulty quest marks maybe even quests you can't complete. To not finish the review of a sour note, I must admit the modding community is truly amazing and definitely worth checking out, just beware that some mods require DLC content installed along with the game! Now if you excuse me, i'll be fighting Thomas, the fire breathing tank engine...
5. Final Fantasy VIII
As with the re-release of Final Fantasy VII for the PC, little has changed from the original, which is now, what, over 15 years old?
There's plenty good to be stated about that fact, for, if you're like me in that you've found that there are few titles that have been released in the intervening years that exhibit the qualities you liked about it, you wouldn't hesitate to pick up an even moderately improved version (particularly if you've been made unable to play the original) at a fair price with widescreen support, cheats, achievements, and cloud saves.
The same complaints apply to this re-release. The 3-D models are improved, but the backgrounds are low resolution and make for a strange mix of sharp and muddy. It looks better than 7, but there has been no effort to really augment the product and it's difficult to condone. The soundtrack is in the same punchless midi that everyone's complained about in 7, worse than the original PlayStation tracks. Control is bad unless you use a controller (use a controller). There's no additional content to the main game (there's Chocobo World, originally a Pocketstation game which ties to the game in an optional way, here and launchable from the splash screen when booting the game).
The story here is rich and intricate, with much room for speculation, even if the tropes to begin it are, indeed, tropes. Characters are rich, if underexplored, as is the world as a whole. The battle system is different and, in my opinion, flawed. In it you draw magic from the environment and your enemies and assign the spells to attributes like speed and strength through junctioning. While an interesting mechanic that limits the number of spells at your disposal and might give you pause when you consider using one that bolsters an important stat, spells are too easy to come by and the junction system is too easily exploited and leads to all characters being essentially the same. There is challenge to be found though, should you know where to look (or handicap yourself, but I don't believe you should have to do that), but I felt it on too few occasions and they were some serious peaks compared to the rest of the encounters.
Minimal updates to presentation (with music quality lowered).
Highly interesting story and characters, particularly if you love to consider what is left unsaid about events, motivations, etc... Great speculation material.
Hard to play without a controller.
Battle system is easily exploited and tedious for such a long game (~30-40 hours).
I really enjoyed it for the thinking it made me do, but the amount of fun is diminished by the lacking presentation and the gameplay ease."
6. Bioshock Infinite
I like this game. But I cannot give it good scores that they gave at Metacritic. The game has a very interesting style and atmosphere. There are many connections to racism and real world politics. There is much colour and strong feelings. The story is still the best thing that this game captured me. Full of surprises and an exciting plot. I could call it some kind of psychological thriller. This game made me cry (I'm strong man;D).
Still, the gameplay experience with first-person shooting had some juicy spells and utilities which were very casual. Enemies are usually stupid and too aggressive. Ok, most of enemies are fundamentalists who are facing the ""False Shepherd"" who is getting their lamb out of the paradise. But still I was disappointed with the gameplay basics. There is nothing new with the gameplay mechanics. It could be that I'm a perfectionist. But if this game is at sale with a juicy price and you need some reason to have intense feelings and crying, get this game without hesitating!
The one thing I love about this game is the beautiful hand-drawn backgrounds that quite literally fly onto the screen as you move around.
That's honestly all I love. Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad game at all. The music is good, the voice over story-teller fits well, the game is simple enough to follow and play... but it just doesn't hook me. I find I play a level (and enjoy it), and then switch off and go play something else. 2 days later I come back and play another level. Very much a (good-looking) time-filler in my opinion! Level-size is just about right to complete while your wife/girlfriend is in the shower :)
8. Dying Light
Do you know that awesome feeling when a game surprises you? Me too. Some developers (like the Alien: Isolation developing team) have done their job successfully and made me enjoy every single moment of playing their game. That feeling, dear people, is one of the coolest ones you can find (especially if you didn't expect the game to be great).
Surprisingly, Dying Light ended up as a good game. Actually, we can talk about it as a spiritual successor to Dead Island, a game that always looked like a not really interesting open-world version of Left 4 Dead. The truth is, Techland has added some parkour elements taken from Mirror's Edge to Dying Light.
Then, I decided to give it a try, and, believe it or not, the game is a good combination of those Left 4 Dead, Mirror's Edge and Dead Island elements, but some games like Dark Souls as well. Dying Light is actually a first person survival horror game which mainly focuses on zombies and some ""parkour moving"" with a really great dynamic day-night ""relationship"".
Zombies are pretty slow, ""stupid"" and not really dangerous. Well, that's so when it's day only. When the night comes, well, you better run for your life because ""zombie parkour"" is around, and zombies, that can be stopped only with UV lights, are about to attack.
The funny thing is, it took me a while to survive the first night after trying to escape an attack for a couple of times. Later, I realized there are some ""circles"" on the mini-map which indicate the zombies and their view radius.
You'll be able to find some really cool and epic zombies, but only when it's night. As mentioned above, don't expect much ""horror fun"" at days. Though, don't underestimate them and make no noise or their brothers and sisters are gonna take you down.
What I have to mention whenever I talk about Dying Light, is that parkour. All these things (like the epic zombies and the night fun) would be pointless if parkour was badly done. Luckily, in our case, it ain't. Parkour, in my personal opinion, is the best part of the game. You'll be able to jump from one place to another without much effort and it's rarely gonna happen that a small brick will prevent you from reaching the goal (like it can happen in Assassin's Creed).
Beside the great game menu and the map, which has been developed nicely, the game features modding tools. Techland seems to like the idea of seeing community-made content for their game, which I have to give a big PLUS. The developer tools (a.k.a modding tools) are for now pretty poor with options and possibilities, but soon, I am sure they're gonna be much better.
Overall, Dying Light is a great and fun game that you can play even online. However, there are some cons which definitely shouldn't have occurred. The story as well as all the characters don't make much sense and should have been re-done before the developing started. There are many quests that seem pretty uninspired to me. Boss fights, well, need an improvement as they look pretty ""boring"" for now.
From my view point, this game is definitely worth a try. Go for it if you like zombies, night and parkour.
9. Valiant Hearts
Can a video game be fun, emotional, and educational all at once? The short answer is 'of course' but it's a tough combination to pull off. Enter Valiant Hearts, a narrative-first, 2D puzzle game set in the oft overlooked First World War.
Let's start with aspects that provide most of the ""fun"". The mechanics are a smooth blend of point and click style puzzles and physics or action based puzzling. There shouldn't be any puzzles that cause undue frustration and for the most part the solutions are fairly apparent for anyone who's been around the video game block once or twice. In other games the relatively low challenge level of the puzzles would probably be a detriment but, at least personally, in Valiant Hearts the puzzles were there to simply add contrast and tension to the story. There was even a small section in the final third of the game where the complexity of the puzzles started to draw too much attention away from the story, opening some chinks in the immersion.
The hand-painted artwork is very well done, especially some of the character designs, but is easy to overlook because the setting doesn't allow for much color and variety. The animation style is simple but an effective use of parallax backgrounds give the scenes plenty of motion and depth. A simple but hauntingly beautiful soundtrack is used effectively and actually provides some needed levity during the driving sections.
Unsurprisingly the emotional punch is brought mostly by the story. I say ""mostly"" because it was actually some background NPCs that delivered one of the bigger blows personally. With that said, the story is no lightweight, as is to be expected from a game dealing with the travesty that is The Great War. You play four, really five, characters whose personal stories weave back and forth in an implausible but satisfying manner. In fact that's probably a good way to describe the entire plot. While it's clear that the story is a work of fiction and contains some obvious embellishments, it manages to remain grounded through its presentation and focus on the personal side of war. The decision to not focus on nations and figure heads is terrific and gives the frantic and unexpected ending the gravity it deserves.
Now to complete the tri-fecta we have the educational aspects. Despite loving pretty much all of the rest of the game this was probably my favorite part. In the U.S. at least, WWI is almost criminally overlooked in most educational curriculums, probably due to our late entry to the war and no fighting happening on our soil, so the chance to learn more in a game setting was exciting. Valiant Hearts accomplishes this in a couple of ways. First off they use real places, real battles, and an accurate depiction of the players involved (it likely would never have occurred to me that the Canadians were heavily involved let alone how instrumental they were at times). For me though the more intriguing tidbits came from the short historical background info, complete with real photos, provided in each level and the collectible system. Scattered through each level are a number of items relevant to the level and war in general. When you find an item you can open a page that provides a little insight to the nature of the item and life during WWI in general. The combination of dramatized but immersive story and real life accounts allows for greater impact than either could provide alone and there in lies the beauty of using games for education. I really hope that the developers can find a way to give some other overlooked conflicts the Valiant Hearts treatment.
As promised, that's fun, emotion, and education in one game shaped package. Usually when making recommendations there are caveats like, ""probably best for fans of genre X"" or ""Feel free to pass this up if you don't enjoy Y"" but Valiant Hearts has no such caveats. I really feel that there is something here for everyone. Even if you know all the WWI facts already or don't typically enjoy puzzle games (there is a hint system for you folks by the way), simply being reminded that wars are fought by humans, on both sides, is something we all could benefit from.
10. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Do I recommend Oblivion to you? Yes. Of course there are some things to keep in mind.
First let me just say some really great things about this game. Overall I do think this game stands its ground even with the release of Skyrim. This game has some really memorable side quests (some of which leave you in awe). You could absolutely lose yourself in the many side quests Oblivion has to offer. I will give you an example of one of my favorite side quests(I won't spoil anything).
You are given the task of finding a young girl and you are told that she was heading to a certain town. When you get to this town you find that everyone there is very distant and the town itself is rather empty. If you ask about the girl, people get very annoyed and even tell you to stop talking nonsense and to leave if you didn't want trouble... This made me very suspicious because when I went into the local tavern and into one of the rooms I rented out for the night you find an item that belongs to this girl. So now you know she has been here and ....I'll let you figure out the crazy things that ensue afterwards.
The shivering isles dlc is a great add on and it seriously adds many hours to the game. It is however very difficult at times(at least for me). The beauty of pc games is that you can just type the good old (tgm-toggle god mode) and go through a level if you really wish to ( I do recommend trying to actually beat the missions manually).
One of the biggest negatives is the fact that enemies scale to your level. Yes that may sound counter intuitive but it really is a draw. As you level up the oblivion gates become really difficult. And if you go high enough they can become downright unfair. It is definitely wise to go through as many of the gates you can at a lower level so that you can have an easier time with them. However, if you know this ahead of time I can't see this being too much of an issue.
I would absolutely get this game if I were you. It isn't as pretty as skyrim but it definitely is worth playing.
P.S The dark brotherhood missions in this game are way better than the ones in skyrim(I love the mission in the ""mansion"" esque place...so cool)
Critical Hit: June 2015 – Vote For The Best Review
Voting will close at 23:59 BST on June 23rd. Here's how the prizes will break down:
1st Place: £30 of Green Man Gaming credit
2nd Place: £20 of Green Man Gaming credit
3rd Place: £10 of Green Man Gaming credit
4th Place: £5 of Green Man Gaming credit
5th Place: £5 of Green Man Gaming credit
Best of luck to everybody!