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NEWS (LAST 200)
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: 15%
Power lines may help quell a 70-year-old...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: San Francisco...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Nobel winner ...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Macron: US mo...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Nureyev – t...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: £28bn
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Chris Rea gig is c...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Dennis, Minnie and...
11/12/2017: FRONT PAGE: Festive fruit!...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: 41%
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Shift towards...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Schools to close a...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Meat industry head...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: ‘Clifford rewrot...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Welcome the robots...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Charles’s corona...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: More hospital beds...
11/12/2017: FRONT PAGE: Hopes raised for...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Partridge’s Litt...
11/12/2017: FRONT PAGE: City swat United...
11/12/2017: NEWS: Johnson peels back lay...
11/12/2017: FRONT PAGE: This charming pa...
11/12/2017: NEWS: Satire on the art worl...
11/12/2017: NEWS: Star Wars returns: ‘...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Economic crime uni...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Head of top NHS tr...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Carl Sargeant’s ...
Waikato DHB told to make changes after l...
Man tries to climb glass partition in co...
11/12/2017: WEATHER: Country Diary...
11/12/2017: OBITUARIES: Other lives...
Military assessment: Major report warns ...
11/12/2017: PUZZLES & CROSSWORD: Guardia...
11/12/2017: WEATHER: Pollutionwatch...
Woman photographs ghost in abandon Wales...
11/12/2017: WEATHER: Starwatch
11/12/2017: OBITUARIES: Birthdays
11/12/2017: MEDIA: The going gets tough,...
11/12/2017: OBITUARIES: Frank Holder...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Universities ‘ha...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Loneliness is ‘a...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: UK falls again in ...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Portrait of Prince...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Families mourn pai...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Wales second in th...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Labour could move ...
11/12/2017: THE CRITICS: Dichterliebe as...
11/12/2017: MEDIA: Breaking through the ...
11/12/2017: THE CRITICS: Jonny Hawkins b...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: ‘We lit the...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: May’s deal does ...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Labour would pay f...
11/12/2017: NATIONAL: Britain betrayed u...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Qatar’s art...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: 50%
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Senator refus...
11/12/2017: INTERNATIONAL: Polls apart...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: US creditor throw...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: The futures start...
11/12/2017: JOURNAL: We can’t go on ea...
11/12/2017: OPINION: This inquiry must s...
11/12/2017: OPINION: The Hastings pier e...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: Business wary on ...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: Analysis Borrow t...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: £43m
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: House prices to s...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: Speed up action o...
11/12/2017: FINANCIAL: Energy firms say ...
11/12/2017: MEDIA: Taking back control: ...
11/12/2017: FRONT PAGE: Fresh doubts ove...
11/12/2017: LETTERS: Family carers must ...
11/12/2017: OPINION: Brexit’s promised...
11/12/2017: OPINION: Britain must champi...
11/12/2017: LETTERS: Portugal shows way ...
11/12/2017: LETTERS: Recalling Coventry...
11/12/2017: THE CRITICS: Hiss, boo – f...
11/12/2017: LETTERS: High cost of wrecki...
11/12/2017: LETTERS: Prince George, a sm...
11/12/2017: LETTERS: Does Tim have four ...
11/12/2017: FRONT PAGE: Max Clifford, di...
Melbourne installs security warning syst...
Josh Homme: Queens of the Stone Age fron...
Live: PM Jacinda Ardern post Cabinet pre...
Auckland DHB investigates suspected meni...
South Korea imposes new sanctions on Nor...
Venezuelas ruling socialist party sweeps...
$1m of meth imported into the South Isla...
The Latest: Early returns say socialists...
Bitcoin futures surge past $17,000 on la...
Olly Murs is nearly naked as he frolics...
China, Taiwan spar over Chinese diplomat...
Trumps foreign policy driven by campaign...
With foes abstaining, Venezuela mayoral ...
The British snowbomb according to Harry ...
Franklin Rd stabbing: Police appeal for ...
Huge blaze tore through the Elmwood Eque...
Im A Celeb fans express fury at Iain Lee...
Police issue alert after violent and dan...
Barfoot & Thompson real estate agent Dee...
Stephen Glover: Left making Grenfell tru...
UK Weather: Snow causes 11-car pileup in...
Birmingham burglars threatened to hurt n...
Plane crash on Molokai kills 2 people...
Why showjumper Nick Skelton is the talk ...
Well move the Bank of England to Birming...
Someone in the UK really likes the Bee M...
Plastic recycling shambles at one in fou...
Ban pension cold-calls now, demand MPs...
Dentures linked to higher risk of weak j...
New Zealand Space Teddys mission ends 21...
Hilda Ogden actress’s ashes have been ...
Russian football thugs will be free to a...
Pioneering black journalist Simeon Booke...
California fires, moving north, force Sa...
British gran is first to get new breast ...
Very realistic portrait of Prince Philip...
Mays vow as she hails new sense of optim...
Ecclesiastical: One in four men lose the...
Brexiteers are like Alan Partridge, sugg...
Twincredible! Mumpreneur of the Year...
Passengers on Jet2 flight injured in lor...
New curbs on the Press would help crimin...
Invisibility cloaks will exist within 10...
EHRC launches pointless Grenfell review...
Quirky food trends to look out for in 20...
Kensington council boss wont attend Gren...
Asking prices for houses fall by £8,000...
Almost 200,000 troops face unacceptable ...
Two more arrests over Croydon 50-hour ho...
British Life Photography Awards announce...
Flat white uses less milk than latte but...
England is just 18th in the world for re...
The chemicals sprayed on your fruit and ...
University heads get an inflation-bustin...
Kiwi cartographers Nobody Lives Here map...
All lanes blocked on Aucklands Southern ...
Im A Celeb: Georgia Toffolo crowned Quee...
Ed Sheeran says he loves Jeremy Corbyn...
Gay porn actor accused of trashing adult...
With foes abstaining, Venezuela mayoral ...
Milly Dowler killer Levi Bellfield may c...
British boxing champion chosen to repres...
Two killed as plane crashes into house i...
UK Weather: Birmingham shuts all its sch...
Chinas top paper says Australian media r...
Ferry carrying 300 people runs aground i...
With foes absent, Venezuela local vote t...
One dead, two more injured following cra...
Uber heads to court in fight for London ...
New Zealand Space Teddy takes off into t...
The Latest: Trump robocall urges voters ...
AP sources say doctors believe Eagles st...
Children, 7 and 9, launch toy astronaut ...
Government 'failing' Grenfell ...
APNewsBreak: Files show birth of Papua i...
Aucklanders being asked to spend more ta...
Inflation tracker: Will you feel the pin...
Swept away
Ban pension cold-calling now, MPs demand...
The 3am epiphany
UK has a new highest mountain
Celtic should have had four or five in d...
What not to say to men who can’t have ...
3am epiphany
Stefano Tresca: Fight your battles on a ...
Young women on sexual harassment in the ...
How a 3am epiphany changed my life...
Business leaders urge ministers to stead...
Mt Hope installed as UKs highest peak...
Brexit: Theresa May claims new sense of ...
The A-Team that hunts missing planes...
Fishermen call for swift Brexit transiti...
New road and River Ness crossing to open...
We are coming for you message on abuse...
PMI: Output growth eases to eight-month ...
Galloway national park fight stepped up...
The Scots who fought in the battle for J...
Who are the poor Americans?
Regions divided over Christmas costs...
Basingstoke photographer Laura Donohoe s...
North Korean soldiers have worms and are...
Nobel Peace Prize winner: End of mankind...
Three arrested for Molotov cocktail atta...
Officials see weapons threat as North Ko...
Bacteria discovery in Antarctica prompts...
The Latest: Democrat Jones quotes Shelby...
UK police hold training exercise to prep...
Burkini ban: Geneva says women must bare...
Unicef: Kids at risk of bedroom culture...
Nazanin hails light at the end of the tu...
UK has a new highest mountain after Brit...
New Zealander missing for three days on ...
Waikato DHB told to make changes after l...
Male motorcyclist dies after colliding w...
British Airways sacks three cabin crew o...
10/12/2017: WORLD: At last, it’s the r...
10/12/2017: BUSINESS: FOUNDER AND SUCCES...
10/12/2017: BUSINESS: Axe-wielding Asda ...
Britains May hails new optimism in Brexi...

REVIEWS & PREVIEWS (LAST 60)
LG V30 Review
Destiny 2: Curse Of Osiris Review In Pro...
Many LAUSD schools will still be shut do...
Sony Alpha a9 Review
2017 Roundup: $1200-2000 ILCs: crop-sens...
Godox Ving V860 II flash review
2017 Roundup: $1200-2000 ILCs: full-fram...
Nikon D7500 Review
Leica TL2 First impressions review...
Fujifilm X-A3 Review
Blackmagic Video Assist 4K review
Canon EOS 6D Mark II Review
Peak Designs Leash shoulder and Cuff wri...
Olympus OM-D E-M10 III Review
Canon EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D Review...
Review: Affinity Photo 1.5.2 for desktop...
2017 Roundup: Enthusiast Long Zoom Camer...
LG G6 Review
2017 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Camer...
Hardcover Advice
Paperback Nonfiction
Paperback Mass-Market Fiction
Paperback Trade Fiction
Hardcover Nonfiction
Hardcover Fiction
Panasonic Lumix DC-GX850/GX800 review...
2017 Roundup: Interchangeable Lens Camer...
Canon EOS M6 Review
2017 Roundup: Semi-Pro Interchangeable L...
2017 Roundup: Consumer Long Zoom Compact...
Sigma sd Quattro H Review
OnePlus 5 camera review
Gudsen Moza Air gimbal review
Nikon D850 Review
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras under $2...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras under $1...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras under $1...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for vide...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for peop...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for spor...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras over $20...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for pare...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for land...
Sony Alpha a7R III Review
LG V30 camera review
Editors’ Choice: 7 New Books We Recomm...
2017 Buying Guide: Best consumer drones...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras under $5...
Fujifilm X-E3 Review
Canon EOS M100 Review
Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 First impressions ...
Affinity Photo for iPad Review
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV Review...
DJI Spark Review: Small but mighty...
2017 Buying Guide: Best fixed prime lens...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for stud...
2017 Buying Guide: Best enthusiast long ...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for trav...
2017 Buying Guide: Best cameras for begi...
2017 Buying Guide: Best pocketable enthu...


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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Fri, 24 Nov 2017 14:00:00 Z)

If you simply ran out of things to do in vanilla Destiny 2, its first DLC expansion, Curse of Osiris, adds a few new activities for you to take on. For the most part, though, there isn't enough to the expansion yet to justify coming back. My opinion is still in flux since I haven't played the Raid Lair yet, but so far, the story missions, Strikes, new Crucible maps, and Adventures feel like more of the same, despite the DLC's new settings and stories.

Curse of Osiris picks up right after the end of the base game's campaign, as far as your level goes. You could go directly from the end of the Red War story to Curse of Osiris' campaign, which requires a power level of 200 to 220, without having to grind much in between. For newcomers or PC players who've had less time with the game, it's a comfortable bridge for leveling up between the lower-level vanilla content and the high-level endgame activities like the Nightfall. (Those endgame activities are a different story, though. We'll get to that in a bit.)

As a result, though, Curse of Osiris' story missions feel like filler. The campaign sets up an enormous undertaking against the Vex, with infinite timelines and computer simulations and the mysterious Warlock Osiris mixed up in it all. But with a two-or-so-hour runtime, the missions rush through the interesting concepts and usher you into a simple final battle that is essentially scripted. It's also not enough time to fully understand Osiris as a character, which is disappointing considering he's only ever been mentioned in Destiny lore before now. The beautifully designed and varied Infinite Forest, a Vex creation designed to simulate timelines and their infinite permutations, is the most interesting addition in the expansion--but even then, the story doesn't task you with exploring it, instead shepherding you through areas to find codes and things that smarter NPCs can use to pinpoint your next destination for you.

Other than the Infinite Forest, the new destination, Mercury, is simply uninteresting to explore. It's a small circular map with one new Public Event to try out, a new vendor, and a handful of chests and Lost Sectors. The foundation of exploration established in the base game is still good here--having a variety of options to choose from does make things feel less repetitive--but it feels like busywork with little to do at the highest level. That extends to the new Strikes, which are almost direct copies of two of the story missions, nothing more than another way to kill time.

The biggest problem with Curse of Osiris is that it locks the hardest activities, including the Prestige Nightfall and the Prestige Raid, behind its new power level cap of 335. The recommended power for those activities is 330, which you can't reach if you don't have the Curse of Osiris DLC. So if you don't get the DLC, you suddenly don't have access to something you used to be able to do. It's also frustrating if you do get Curse of Osiris, because the higher level requirement doesn't fundamentally change these activities.

New Heroic Adventures add Nightfall-style modifiers to the Adventures on Mercury, but those missions aren't begging to be replayed. The main incentive to do it at all is to unlock the Lost Prophecy quest from the NPC Brother Vance, which eventually unlocks the Forge. From there, you can craft Legendary Vex weapons. But for anyone besides the most dedicated players, there's no compelling reason to do all this unless you want to redo old missions on harder difficulties in order to get loot to use when you do them again.

Excellent gunplay isn't enough to sustain an expansion that adds little outside of busywork.

While some of the new loot is worth collecting--my favorite of the ones I've found is a Legendary automatic scout rifle--you'll likely get a lot of duplicates before you get anything you actually want to use. Because the main reward for everything you do is shiny new loot, the frustratingly high drop rate of duplicates makes grinding more disappointing than satisfying. The gunplay feels as great as ever, though, so it can be fun to experiment with new weapons, but it's not enough to sustain an expansion that adds little outside of extra ways to occupy your time.

That being said, I still need more time to try out Lost Prophecies and the Forge as well as the Raid Lair when it launches. If they provide more of an endgame and have more of a purpose than just padding out the same kind of stuff, I'll be more inclined to return to Destiny 2 than I am currently.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:18:00 -0800)
Jonathan Lethem reviews Kevin Young’s “Bunk,” a new book that traces the American fondness for plagiarists, hoaxes and, yes, fake news. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 14 Nov 2017 10:00:23 GMT )
Caroline Fraser talks about “Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder,” and Tiya Miles discusses “The Dawn of Detroit.” Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 21 Nov 2017 23:21:31 GMT )
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Sunday Review (Tue, 21 Nov 2017 23:19:18 GMT )
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Mon, 16 Oct 2017 14:52:00 Z)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Wed, 05 Jul 2017 17:11:00 Z)
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Source: Depreview - All Reviews & Previews (Sun, 04 Jun 2017 10:00:00 Z)
Top 5 at a Glance
1. THE CONFESSION, by John Grisham
2. WORTH DYING FOR, by Lee Child
3. AMERICAN ASSASSIN, by Vince Flynn
4. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson
5. SIDE JOBS, by Jim Butcher Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:20:56 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. LIFE, by Keith Richards with James Fox
2. BROKE, by Glenn Beck and Kevin Balfe
3. EARTH (THE BOOK), by Jon Stewart and others
4. THE LAST BOY, by Jane Leavy
5. AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN, VOL. 1, by Mark Twain Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:24:49 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson
2. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson
3. THE FINKLER QUESTION, by Howard Jacobson
4. LITTLE BEE, by Chris Cleave
5. CUTTING FOR STONE, by Abraham Verghese Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:25:44 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. THE LOST SYMBOL, by Dan Brown
2. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson
3. THE RECKLESS BRIDE, by Stephanie Laurens
4. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson
5. 61 HOURS, by Lee Child Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:26:35 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. EAT, PRAY, LOVE, by Elizabeth Gilbert
2. INSIDE OF A DOG, by Alexandra Horowitz
3. STONES INTO SCHOOLS, by Greg Mortenson
4. THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls
5. THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:27:40 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. BAREFOOT CONTESSA: HOW EASY IS THAT?, by Ina Garten
2. DOUBLE DELICIOUS, by Jessica Seinfeld
3. THE TATTOO CHRONICLES, by Kat Von D with Sandra Bark
4. DELIVERING HAPPINESS, by Tony Hsieh
5. BOBBY FLAY'S THROWDOWN!, by Bobby Flay with Stephanie Banyas and Miriam Garron Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 16:14:42 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, by Gary Chapman
2. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE EXPECTING, by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel
3. CRAZY LOVE, by Francis Chan with Danae Yankoski
4. THE LOVE DARE, by Stephen and Alex Kendrick with Lawrence Kimbrough
5. RADICAL, by David Platt Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:34:57 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. SCAREDY-CAT, SPLAT!, written and illustrated by Rob Scotton
2. LLAMA LLAMA HOLIDAY DRAMA, written and illustrated by Anna Dewdney
3. FABULOUS FASHION BOUTIQUE, by Jane O’Connor
4. KNUFFLE BUNNY FREE, written and illustrated by Mo Willems
5. HEADS, written and illustrated by Matthew Van Fleet Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 16:16:30 GMT )
Top 5 at a Glance
1. SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE, by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis
2. Y: THE LAST MAN - DELUXE EDITION, BOOK 4, by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
3. THE WALKING DEAD, BOOK 6, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
4. THE EXILE: AN OUTLANDER GRAPHIC NOVEL, by Diana Gabaldon and Hoang Nguyen
5. THE ADVENTURES OF OOK AND GLUK, by George Beard and Harold Hutchins Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Fri, 05 Nov 2010 01:18:07 GMT )
Rankings are based on October figures. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers (Sat, 06 Nov 2010 05:22:46 GMT )
Rankings are based on October figures. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers ( Sat, 06 Nov 2010 05:27:10 GMT )
Keith Richards’s autobiography, “Life,” hits the hardcover nonfiction list at No. 1, unsurprisingly. Read More

Source: The New York Times - Best Sellers ( Fri, 05 Nov 2010 15:46:40 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Stay home.
Although there is at least one earlier, less sexual, usage of the slang term "the d-train," referring to having a generalized bad experience, lately the expression has become more synonymous with the penis. That's because pop culture always needs...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 09 May 2015 01:33:01 GMT )
1.0 stars out of 5: Pursue a ticket to a different movie.
Allow me to mangle Tolstoy for a minute, and say that each good comedy is good in its own way, but that all bad comedies are alike. There's variation, of course, but they all limp along on sad, weak legs and confused direction. They're airless...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 08 May 2015 21:06:08 GMT )
3.5 stars out of 5: Much Avenge About More Things
They're building a giant machine now, a machine made of movies. To participate in the machine's agenda of taking your money, it will not help to begin by looking at this perpetual motion installment and working backwards, trying to catch up. You...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 01 May 2015 00:39:50 GMT )
1.5 stars out of 5: History written by the winners.
First-time director Russell Crowe has stepped in it, probably without meaning to. But it's happening all the same. His film, entirely devoted to an exploration of the aftermath of a key, nation-defining battle in Australian war history -- the...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:26:41 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Proustian mush
It begins with a shot of the Earth from space, and omniscient narration. (The voice of Hugh Ross, narrator of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, whose low-key, somewhat conspiratorial, post-sincere, NPR reporter tone turns...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:25:37 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: A little much.
The past few years have seen a marked rise in the number of Christian-themed films getting wide theatrical distribution, but to call it a "new wave" of faith-based cinema is probably inappropriate. That designation is usually reserved for a...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 24 Apr 2015 23:27:52 GMT )
0.5 stars out of 5: BOO-RING
It's hard out here for a ghost. Always having to think up new ways to scare suburban people in movies. You make the kids' toys come alive and play creepy music, and all the other ghosts hold up signs with straight 1.5s across the board. You're...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Sat, 23 May 2015 09:29:13 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: You can fly. Eventually.
In your initial visit to Tomorrowland, you're not really there at all. That's what scientifically-named Casey Newton (The Longest Ride's Britt Robertson) discovers when she first goes there by touching a tiny, metal, "T"-emblazoned pin. She takes...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 22 May 2015 05:11:54 GMT )
2.5 stars out of 5: Songs about butts.
Pitch Perfect 2 begins with a crazy, performance-based, wardrobe malfunction, one that, in the film's words, exposes the "down under" region of one of the a cappella Bellas. For this accidental offense they are mocked, chastised, and stripped of...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:04:29 GMT )
5.0 stars out of 5: Death to the patriarchy.
"Who killed the world?" yells a minor character in Mad Max: Fury Road. This outburst comes after an earlier moment where camera pauses on the question painted on a cave wall. And since it's one of only a couple dozen complete and comprehensible...
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Source: Movies.com - Dave White Reviews (Fri, 15 May 2015 05:05:45 GMT )

For the third time this season, the Ducks are without top defenseman Hampus Lindholm.

The puck-moving blueliner suffered an upper-body injury and traveled back to Southern California. The Ducks are in Las Vegas tonight for a contest against the Golden Knights.

“It’ll be something that hopefully...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 5 Dec 2017 18:40:00 PST )
Live: Lil Kim driven to give till it hurts: The hip-hop diva's ambitious if erratic show was almost too much for the compact confines of Key Club. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 14 Jun 2012 17:51:14 -0700 )
LMFAO's Redfoo and Sky Blu stay in character and play debauchery for laughs and fun at Staples Center as part of Sorry for Party Rocking Tour. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Wed, 06 Jun 2012 18:34:01 -0700 )
The Beach Boys reunited June 2, 2012, at the Hollywood Bowl for the band's first tour together in more than two decades. A review for the Los Angeles Times. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 03 Jun 2012 13:21:26 -0700 )
If you closed your eyes during the sold-out Santigold concert at Club Nokia Friday night -- especially at any point in the first half -- it’d have been easy to feel like you were at one of the Hollywood Bowl’s annual flashback concerts featuring ‘80s British bands. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 13:49:57 -0700 )
Van Halen returned to Los Angeles to perform to a hometown crowd at the Staples Center, where band members David Lee Roth, and Eddie, Alex, and Wolfgang Van Halen performed during their "Different Kind of Truth" reunion tour. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts says the performance was often lackluster. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sat, 02 Jun 2012 12:49:42 -0700 )
The New Zealand band the Clean has been around a long time but still packs energy, especially when it performs ‘Tally Ho.’ Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Thu, 31 May 2012 14:57:42 -0700 )
On day two of UCLA's annual JazzReggae Festival, Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, Collie Buddz, Alison Hinds and others showcased the many sounds of the Caribbean, from soca and reggae to reggaeton and lovers rock. Times pop music critic Randall Roberts offers an overview of the day. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Tue, 29 May 2012 12:25:57 -0700 )

Here’s what it has come to for the Lakers and their turnover problems: They are now doing drills so basic it reminds some players of their high school practices.

And still they can’t solve it.

“If I had the magic wand that’d be the one thing I would fix that would give us the best chance of getting...

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Source: Los Angeles Times - Restaurant Reviews (Tue, 5 Dec 2017 18:45:00 PST )
Power 106 FM kept its annual summer hip-hop show, Powerhouse, old school and relatively orthodox, with rappers Snoop Dogg, T.I. and Young Jeezy leading a show that was light on the dance-oriented pop hits that dominate the airwaves. The Times' August Brown reviews. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews (Sun, 24 Jun 2012 17:40:41 -0700 )
Nickelback has no official connection to the big-screen version of “Rock of Ages,” but on Friday night at Staples Center, it was hard not to think of the just-opened movie musical -- a flashy-trashy dramatization of the 1980s hard-rock scene... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 19:36:33 -0700 )
Now in its fifth year, Make Music Pasadena celebrates music at its most casual and community-focused, and has grown from a festival that once largely featured intimate, acoustic appearances in storefronts to one that can draw artists with national appeal. Boasting 149 performances and pop-up stages on Old Town's Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District's Madison Avenue, Make Music Pasadena is a large-scale event done on a budget. Ninety-nine percent of the artists appearing do not get paid, say organizers, and headliners such as electronic artist Grimes and peppy local rockers Grouplove were expected to bring at least 20,000 people to downtown Pasadena. Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Pop Concert Reviews ( Sun, 17 Jun 2012 17:39:47 -0700 )

If novelty’s your thing — and hell, even if it isn’t — then you should probably buy a ticket to “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” a veritable feast of images you don’t see every day: heads being divested of faces, necks and limbs getting crushed under foot, Vince Vaughn giving a master class in self-restraint.

... Read More

Source: Los Angeles Times - Movie Reviews (Thu, 5 Oct 2017 09:20:00 PDT )

When a game series runs as long as Etrian Odyssey has, you usually start to see some sweeping changes and reinventions to its formula. But Etrian Odyssey has never really been about keeping with the latest gaming trends--after all, its core conceit of exploring a 3D labyrinth that you must carefully map out harkens back to the very earliest days of PC role-playing games. Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth continues in that tradition: It offers a big, challenging old-school-style adventure that has been carefully iterated on and improved over the past decade, with various enhancements and refinements bolstering a formula that doesn't need any dramatic changes to stay relevant.

Beyond the Myth plops you down in the continent of Arcania, which is home to a Yggdrasil tree whose mighty branches grow all the way up into the heavens. Surrounding (and within) this great tree is a sprawling labyrinth, with many a myth spun about what lies at the top. Adventurers from across the land come to the kingdom of Iorys, which has just recently permitted exploration of the great tree for the first time. You construct and take control of a guild of adventurers. But many hazards await you on your climb--twisting mazes, unexpected surprises, and myriad monsters, including especially bloodthirsty beasts known as FOEs.

Like previous Etrian Odyssey games, Beyond the Myth focuses on exploration and atmosphere over storytelling. It lets you create a team of adventurers to your liking before setting you free to explore the gigantic labyrinth, with little in the way of extraneous banter (beyond some expository text and events every so often). Your characters don't have much in the way of personality besides what you imagine, and the handful of non-player characters that you encounter outside of town aren't terribly chatty.

In a lot of ways, it feels like a tabletop RPG campaign, with a game master chiming in every so often to describe a character or elaborate on lore, while leaving much to your own interpretation. But Beyond the Myth has a fair bit of voice acting for NPCs and the narrator, as well as battle cries for your created characters. While this sounds like a potentially good thing, the voice acting at large ranges from forgettable to aggravating, ultimately doing more harm than good. Sometimes things are better left to the imagination.

Before you begin your long, treacherous climb, you must assemble a guild from several different classes of characters, ranging from variations on standard RPG classes like Fencer, Pugilist, and Warlock to more esoteric classes like the Necromancer (who can conjure up wraiths as additional party members on a whim) and the Shaman (who wields dual buffing/healing abilities). As you level up, you can put points into character skills as you see fit, to create a truly customized party. Once you get some ways into the game, you'll be able to hyper-specialize characters using Legendary Titles--a new system that effectively replaces the dual-classing system of previous games by allowing you to hyper-focus characters into a particular role (for example, your Dragoons can be unmovable, party-protecting tanks or hard-to-kill damage dealers). The option to hyper-specialize and micromanage your party to your heart's content has always been a strong point of the series, and Beyond the Myth continues that tradition.

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A brand-new element added to the character management mix is the choice of races. There are four races of characters, each with distinct stat growth patterns and unique skills: the humanoid Earthlians, rabbit-eared Therians, elf-like Celestrians, and cute-and-tiny Brouni. Each race has unique skills (also powered with skill points), such as elemental resistance debuffs, and passive restoration skills. While this opens up some neat possibilities for additional min-maxing of stats to create superpowered adventurers, it's also kind of a pain to manage at times; not only do you want a nice, balanced mix of party members that work well together, you also want to make sure you have the correct race skills to make your crew run like a well-oiled machine in combat. Sometimes remembering who has which race skills available can get messy.

Once you've made a party, it's time to start the long, arduous hike up that big tree. A common element across Etrian Odyssey games are the grid-based, first-person 3D dungeons that you need to thoroughly explore and manually map out using the 3DS's bottom screen. This isn't an optional thing; you will need to make maps, or else find yourself terribly lost in a sprawling labyrinth of flora and fauna. Fortunately, you have a lot of mapping tools and markers available to you and a new automap feature that will save you from having to manually draw walls (a tremendous time-saver that I recommend turning on immediately). Don't expect automap to do everything for you, though; you'll still want to mark points of interest, hidden passages, and other potential hazards.

Speaking of hazards, the labyrinth houses plenty of them, mostly in the form of monsters that inhabit each successively more demanding floor. From the moment a member of your fledgling party gets one-shotted by a rabid flying squirrel on the first floor in your starting expedition, you know you're in for some grueling fights.

The combination of careful, quiet exploration punctuated by fierce combat is what makes Beyond the Myth so much fun.

Fortunately, a variety of improvements makes combat a lot more enjoyable. For starters, the "enemy radar" in the dungeons is more accurate, allowing you to know almost exactly when you can expect an encounter to pop up (and prepare if you need to). It's also possible to check enemy data mid-fight, meaning that you don't have to memorize a bunch of weaknesses and details over the course of the game. Finally, a "Basic" difficulty setting makes the game slightly more merciful, altering stats and damage by a small amount in your favor and increasing experience gains. Thankfully, you can turn it on and off at a whim.

The combination of careful, quiet exploration punctuated by fierce combat is what makes Beyond the Myth so much fun. Seeing your meticulously planned party finally take down a fearsome FOE that's been giving you trouble for hours is immensely satisfying, while little text-based side events that litter the dungeons as you explore are enjoyable in a different but no-less-engaging way. By focusing instead on small improvements to systems and ideas that already worked well, Etrian Odyssey 5 is a long and challenging RPG that sucks you in and leaves you determined to see what lies above.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Sat, 11 Nov 2017 18:00:00 -0800)

Neither sequels nor remakes, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon take a mostly simple approach to updating 2016's Sun and Moon. Much of the previous games has been left untouched--the story once again takes place on the tropical island region of Alola and focuses on the Island Challenge, which differs slightly from the series' typical Gym Badge-based progression. But some key story details have changed, keeping things surprising for returning players even if the story itself is basic RPG fare. Most notably, there are small quality-of-life improvements and charming touches that make an already enjoyable Pokemon game a more endearing experience regardless of your skill level.

The original Sun and Moon brought new Pokemon, a break from the Gym formula, and a number of updates that make the seventh generation (Ultra Sun and Moon included) the most approachable and prettiest Pokemon games yet. With an overwhelming roster of monsters to catch, Sun and Moon's UI improvements made it easier to battle without an encyclopedic knowledge of every Pokemon, as well as train your prize fighters for the competitive metagame. But if you fell somewhere between newcomer and meta player, a mediocre story and pacing issues may have been disappointing.

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Ultra Sun and Moon immediately streamline the originals' slow start. As a newcomer to Alola, you quickly get your first Pokemon and are initiated into the Island Challenge, a series of trials that Alolan Pokemon trainers undergo to prove themselves. Instead of meeting all the characters and going through a few cutscenes before picking your starter Pokemon, this time around you get to pick a starter right away and then go through the introductory story beats. The result is an opening that doesn't hold your hand in the same way it did before--though it still has the obligatory Pokemon-catching tutorial, among others--and lets you wander more freely, a welcome change for both returning and new players.

Even before the first trial, you'll have the opportunity to catch some pretty good Pokemon covering a variety of types and needs, including Pichu, Gastly, and Rockruff, meaning you can build a useful team early on without going too far out of your way. And you won't have to spend much, if any, time grinding to make it through the Island Challenge as long as you battle any trainers you encounter on your journey.

Some of the trials are slightly different this time, like the one where you have to find a series of ingredients to make a stew, which adds a more puzzle-like element to stave off the fetch quest feel. Most notably, though, the battles against the powerful Totem Pokemon seem a little more sophisticated; the ally Pokemon that join these extra-powerful opponents in battle will sometimes use doubles support moves like Sunny Day to throw a wrench in your plans, and the added challenge is more satisfying to overcome.

Other than the trial tweaks, the next 15 or so hours--roughly the first three islands--are essentially the same as Sun and Moon, but new, small details break up the stretches of repetition. Your Rotom Pokedex asks you questions and makes adorable faces as you get to know it (though it can be a little too chatty at times). You'll occasionally find a Pokemon in the world that just wants to play with you, and you can do things like play peek-a-boo and even walk through a meadow of playful Pikachu. There are also more side quests to take on, and though they're rather small requests like catching a specific Pokemon or finding a few Pokemon that are hiding in a particular area, they reward thorough exploration and provide fun distractions in between trials. Talking to everyone, too, has its benefits; there are tons of new silly and cute interactions to be had that add even more personality to Alola and its inhabitants.

While all of the best parts of Sun and Moon are present and accounted for and things in general get off to a quicker start, Ultra Sun and Moon's story remains underwhelming. And with the introduction of a new sort-of-antagonist in the robotic, mysterious Ultra Recon Squad duo, there's almost too much going on--especially since there's already two antagonist groups in Alola as is. By the time you've confronted Team Skull and are immediately thrown into a confrontation at the returning Aether Paradise, you'll probably wish you could just get back to your Island Challenge and become the Champion already.

Though they aren't very different from their predecessors, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon make enough changes to stand apart as the definitive version of the seventh generation games. An overly complicated story is offset by charming details that bring even more life to the most vibrant Pokemon region to date, and small fixes iron out the shakier parts of the original journey. If you make it through Alola a second (or even first) time, you'll be rewarded with a fun-filled and uplifting Pokemon adventure with its own share of spoilery surprises in store.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 14 Nov 2017 06:00:00 -0800)

Rocket League was a phenomenon when it debuted in 2015, and two years later it shows no signs of slowing down. The unorthodox sports game is a mix of soccer and vehicular acrobatics that's immediately engaging, but a high skill ceiling ensures that you can put hundreds of hours into Rocket League online and continue to improve your control over car and ball alike. In our original review, editor Miguel Concepcion said "the promising concept of combining two wonderful things--cars and soccer--is equally magnificent in execution." It's unique, it's complex, and now that it's on the Nintendo Switch, it's wonderfully portable.

Rocket League makes the leap to handheld courtesy of developer Panic Button, the same team responsible for the respectable Switch port of Doom. And similar to that conversion, Rocket League's visuals have been somewhat stripped down to maintain a steady frame rate under the Switch's hardware limitations. The impact of the downgraded visuals can be seen in jagged edges and fluctuating texture resolutions, but unlike a game that relies on a world to set the stage for characters and narrative events, Rocket League's Switch scars are easily overlooked. The only time they can interfere is when playing handheld, where choppy models make it difficult to differentiate between objects in the foreground and background on Switch's small display. This, thankfully, is rarely an issue.

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When you're focused on a handful of other drivers and protecting your goal from a fast-moving ball, jaggies are the least of your concerns. And when subconsciously calculating your trajectory as you ramp up onto a wall and blast your rockets for a last-minute boost to slam a ball into the back of a goal from mid-air, you probably aren't focused on a blurry texture here or there. Rocket League on Switch isn't always a pretty game, but that doesn't stop if from being every bit as exciting and competitive as it is on other platforms. As someone who has spent upwards of 200 hours with Rocket League on PS4, I was pleased to find that jumping into matches on Switch was just as easy as before, in terms of both matchmaking and controlling my car on the field--thanks in part to the rock-solid frame rate.

The game's Nintendo-exclusive rides and their series-appropriate sound effects are small if charming touches that make the Switch version feel slightly more special than it otherwise would have. But the big new feature is local splitscreen play on the go. Relative to the constraints of playing on a small screen, it works as well as you'd hope, to say nothing of the surprising effectiveness of controlling your car with a mere single joycon. Small and short a few buttons, they still cover almost every input on traditional controller setups. The one notable exception is the lack of a second analog stick for camera control when you aren't locked onto the ball.

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Switch players can engage in cross-network play with Rocket League's Xbox One and PC community. As evidenced during our pre-launch tests, this system works without a hitch, and matches are readily available. The one minor caveat when it comes to playing online with others is that creating custom messages mid-match is less convenient than usual. This is because toggling chat brings up a window that takes up the entire screen, leaving you without the usual live feed that runs in the background in other versions of the game. You do have the option of connecting a USB keyboard if you want to type out messages while your Switch is docked, which can help speed up the process.

Save for its presentation, Rocket League on Switch is every bit the game it is elsewhere, and when you factor in its newfound portability, it's also the most versatile. That alone makes it attractive to regular Rocket League competitors.

For people new to the game, they have a lot to look forward to regardless, as it's one of the most fascinating sports games in memory. Nevermind if you don't like soccer or couldn't care less about the growing esports community. Rocket League is a unique game that redefines the concept of what a sports game can be, and Psyonix continues to support it with new content on a regular basis. It's been around for a while, but now that it's on Switch, there's no better time to give it a shot.

Editor's note: for a more in-depth analysis of Rocket League, check out our original review from July, 2015.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Tue, 14 Nov 2017 17:00:00 -0800)

The original Hand of Fate succeeded largely on the strength of its concept. It combined the rules of a roguelike with a deck-building card game to create something unique, and the devious, ever-present Dealer made the whole thing feel like a single-player Dungeons & Dragons experience where the Dungeon Master was actively trying to stop you. It was a great idea, but had some major issues that held it back from reaching its full potential. It was a good game crying out for a great follow-up; thankfully, Hand of Fate 2 has delivered just that.

In each of the sequel's 22 missions, you select several encounter and equipment cards from your personal deck. These are then mixed in with the Dealer's deck to form the card base you're playing with. The cards are scattered onto a table face-down, although the shape and structure they form changes on a mission-by-mission basis. As you move across the table turning over one card at a time (usually either looking for or moving towards a specific card), you're issued challenges that might or might not help you achieve the mission's goal. The outcomes of several situations are dictated by games of chance and skill--rolling dice, perfectly timing a button press to an on-screen pendulum, stopping a spinning wheel at the right time--and there are various stats you need to follow and maintain, as your character can run out of money or starve to death. There are also several cards that throw you into combat, at which point the game briefly turns into a third-person action experience until all your enemies are downed (or you die, failing the mission).

While in the first game you were constantly on the hunt for the boss card, in Hand of Fate 2 there's far more variety in objectives, and the game is better for it. You usually still have to find and kill a boss, but each mission now has its own gimmick. These can include challenging you to work out which character of three is plotting a murder, or tasking you with escorting an innocent potato farmer. Each mission has a strong sense of identity and purpose, and many of them are clever.

However, while the game gives you plenty of opportunities to escape bad situations or reasons to rethink your deck if your current plan isn't working, the start-over-if-you-die structure can sometimes be excessively frustrating in certain scenarios. A prime example is the Justice mission, in which you travel around the 28 cards laid out on the table, gathering resources and dodging enemies through games of chance, continually traveling back to your base card to use said resources to strengthen your fort. It's tremendous fun, but less so when you're killed an hour into it, right at the end of one of the many, many intense battles you've been made to fight. It's hard to pull yourself back into retrying a mission when these things happen. It also took me many attempts to beat the Strength mission, which starts you at low health and takes away your ability to heal by eating food. In a typical roguelike, where heavy randomisation makes the game feel different each time you enter, this wouldn't seem like a big deal. But the individual missions in Hand of Fate 2 often ask you to fight the same battles repeatedly, and replaying the more difficult ones over and over is a strain. Thankfully, until you reach the very end, you'll have multiple unfinished missions unlocked at any given point; if one is giving you grief you can usually jump into another.

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Hand of Fate 2's combat has gone through an overhaul. It discards the ineffective camera, clunky controls, and unclear parry cues for a system that feels much closer to the Batman: Arkham Asylum fighting system that so clearly inspired it. It's not a unique system, and the game lacks variety in both enemies and tactical possibilities, but it's now much more satisfying to take on a group of enemies. Parry and dodge cues are clear, and managing the timing of your attacks and moves requires active attention.

You can equip different weapons before battle, which are divided into three classes (heavy, two-handed, and one-handed), and what to equip largely depends on your opponent. Thieves, for instance, are weak against blade attacks, which do little damage but let you attack multiple times in quick succession, while several different kinds of guard are easier to fight if you're carrying a one-handed sword and a shield. However, the more hectic battles can still be hard to read, and the quality of the fights may vary depending on which equipment you've managed to source during your journey--if you aren't able to find or buy useful weapons, it can turn into a slog. Luck plays a big part in Hand of Fate 2, and while you can manufacture better luck with a good deck, there's always the somewhat frustrating possibility that random chance will strike you down.

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In most missions you're joined by one of four unlockable companions who provide buffs during combat and specialize in improving your odds of victory in some specific circumstances. The mighty Colbjorn, for instance, can offer an extra die for you to roll should you need it in certain scenarios. These companions also add to the already rich incidental storytelling of the game. Playing through each mission, uncovering cards, and watching as conflicts and allegiances twist and shift depending on the story you're pursuing at any given point gives you a strong sense of the game's world, even if it's largely confined to text. The Dealer, who is once again voiced by Anthony Skordi, is a treasure of a character, repeatedly referencing events from the first game and hinting at the dark secrets he keeps stored somewhere within his robes. He's not an antagonist in the same way he was in the original game, and ultimately feels like a deeper, more mysterious character.

The moments of frustration in Hand of Fate 2 are worth enduring for the sweetness of its adventures, and getting to know the different cards and learning to build a deck that is perfectly suited for the mission you're entering is satisfying. Hand of Fate 2 is a realization of the first game's promise, and it's exciting to play a game that blends seemingly unrelated elements together so well.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 15 Nov 2017 07:00:00 -0800)

GT Sport may look and feel like Gran Turismo, but it's a very different beast under the hood. In place of an extensive single player campaign and an exhaustive car roster, developer Polyphony Digital have established a professionally sanctioned esport-focused racing platform under the watchful eye of The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. There's no denying that GT Sport hits a few bumps along the way, and struggles somewhat under the weight of Gran Turismo's legacy. But when viewed as something new, GT Sport accomplishes nearly everything it sets out to do. It offers a wonderfully detailed and responsive driving experience along with arguably the cleanest and most competitive online racing on a console to date.

The renewed focus comes at a cost, with GT Sport offering a meager 160 cars (far less if you discount variants) and 40 courses based on 17 distinct tracks. And because your progress, earnings, and reputation are linked to your competitive profile, GT Sport requires an internet connection for most of its content--single player included. The only exception are one-off races in arcade mode, but your rewards there won't be saved unless you keep the game running until servers are back online. It’s one huge caveat, and while maintenance and outage periods have been minimal post-release, losing access to most of GT Sport isn't unheard of.

Despite the relatively small selection of cars, each one is beautifully rendered with an incredible attention to detail. And while GT Sport's tracks lack dynamic lighting and weather effects, each real-world track has been laser scanned to an impressive degree of accuracy. Marry these qualities with the improved tire and suspension models, beefy engine tones and screaming tire sounds, and GT Sport makes a strong impression behind the wheel.

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Online races are your ultimate goal, and come in a few different forms. While you can create a private lobby to race with friends, most of the action happens in the organized daily races. Daily races occur at set times--usually every 5 to 10 minutes, though this can change--and come in three options, each with varying rules and regulations. Place well and you’ll see your Driver Rating improve, which defines the skill of the drivers you’ll be placed into future races with. If you place poorly you’ll naturally see your driver rating drop, and be forced race with less capable and confident drivers.

Ranking highly isn't everything, and will mean nothing if you fail to race cleanly along the way. The overarching system monitoring everything you do is called the Sportsmanship Rating, which counts all incidents you’re involved in, regardless of fault. Shown as a rank of A through to F, put a wheel wrong by touching another car, leaving the track or, unfortunately, being rammed, and you’ll lose some of your sportsmanship rating. Drive a few clean laps and you’ll recover what’s lost eventually, though it’s clear the no-fault system is a sore point, causing needless annoyance at losing SR on top of having a race ruined.

On the same foot, though, it appears to be working. Although turn 1 tends to be a bit of a nightmare, once things are underway races are generally as clean as you’d hope for. Cars recovering from spins or looking like they’re going to crash will ghost, letting you drive right through them, though this can be a bit sketchy at times as you can’t really tell when a car will solidify. Thankfully there are plenty of assists like ABS and traction control to help racers who might struggle, which can also be turned off for the hardcore or those with wheel and pedal setups. These support systems are a boon beginners who may be intimidated by GT Sport's demanding races but nonetheless want a taste of competition.

Outside of the daily events are the officially sanctioned championship events, which in practice are run similarly to daily races, but with a few core differences. Each round runs five races at pre-scheduled times roughly once a month, and like the daily races there's a small window of time for you to sign up. The main difference is that you can only sign up and compete in a round once, so if you have a bad run in the first of the five scheduled races for that round, you don’t get another chance to improve your results. While intimidating, this also adds a palpable sense of tension to the beginning stages of each race.

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The number of points you can earn per race is worked out using a few variables, but is mostly down to your driver rating; the higher your rating, the more potential championship points you can earn per race. Your final points tally is accumulated from your three best finishes, ensuring that a bad race or having to miss one because of other commitments won’t put you out of contention. In general, the level of competition is extremely cutthroat, making race wins--especially in the official championship races--very difficult to come by.

That said, there is plenty of satisfaction to gain from merely finishing races. Personal achievements aside, every race rewards you with in-game credits, mileage points--another in-game currency used to upgrade cars or purchase paint decals, wheel rims and the like to customize your car with--and experience points that raise your driver level. You’re given a new car for each driver level you attain, up to and including level 20, and the Daily Workout bonus also gives you a new car after driving only 40 kilometers (just under 25 miles) in a day, so it doesn’t take long to amass a personal car collection.

Where you fall on GT Sport will mirror how you feel about racing games in general. If you’re looking for a highly focused console racing sim, GT Sport is excellent, but don’t come looking for a robust "Gran Turismo" experience.

Given the focus on online races, the single-player campaign is more an elaborate training tool than any campaign from a prior GT game, geared to prepare you for the jump to racing online. Its three modes--Driving School, Mission Challenge and Circuit Experience--each cover a specific aspect of racing, be that the car handling, knowing the circuits or knowing how to race with other cars without running them off the road. In clear Gran Turismo tradition, hit the bronze target time for the exercise and you can move on. But although this is a good measure of your performance, a more detailed, visual breakdown of your runs would go a long way towards making these lessons more effective at making you a better racer. Accompanying YouTube videos give you an impression of how it’s done, but something that gives more feedback would be more welcome. Arcade mode is the closest you’ll get to the traditional style of campaign, letting you pick your car and track combo then race offline against the AI, who do a good job of racing cleanly but with a measured sense of aggression too.

Ultimately, where you fall on GT Sport will mirror how you feel about racing games in general. If you’re looking for a highly focused console racing sim, GT Sport is excellent, but don’t come looking for a robust "Gran Turismo" experience. You won’t find it. Casual fans will feel the pinch of the scaled-down offering and the intimidating push towards racing online. But for sim-racers with a competitive spirit, it’s easy to look past the smaller car and track roster and appreciate the incredibly detailed and responsive driving model, which is better than anything the series has offered before.


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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 15 Nov 2017 09:00:00 -0800)

As an ode to the ever expanding Marvel universe, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is practically without peer. The characters you'll play, the locations you'll visit, and the references you'll come across span the length and breadth of the comic juggernaut's history in comics, TV, and film, extending to the genesis of Marvel as Timely Comics way back in the forgotten mists of time (the 1930s). In fact, outside of the exclusion of X-Men and Fantastic Four characters (for some undisclosed and surely byzantine legal rights reasons), this game is the most Marvel any Marvel game has been so far.

It's also pretty much the most Lego game any Lego game has been so far, which is to say all of the charm and wit and ease of play of this long-running series is here, but also all of its little faults and idiosyncrasies. Outside of the dizzying array of heroes and villains you'll (eventually) be able to play, Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 adds little to the franchise in terms of innovation or transformation. There is only more, but more doesn't necessarily mean better.

What's here, though, remains appealing, particularly if you have some kiddos to share the experience with. The aforementioned charm and wit of the Lego formula is becoming predictable and creaky after almost two dozen entries, but manages to retain that sense of simple joy inherent in seeing Lego-fied versions of some of your favorite pop culture characters bash around in a brightly colored world, quipping their cute little quips all the while. Seeing a Lego Ms. Marvel embiggening while geeking out that she's fighting alongside Spider-Man is simply delightful, as is seeing teleporting Inhuman dog Lockjaw flopping onto his back for a belly rub.

The game is filled with little charm bombs like this, but if you read that previous sentence and came away with questions like "Who or what is a Ms. Marvel?" and "There are dogs in video games, now?", then perhaps some of this appeal will be lost on you. Needless to say, your familiarity with all things Marvel will impact just how cute you think all of this is. And the cuts here run very deep. From the inclusion of cowboy characters from old Timely/Marvel series like Kid Colt and Arizona Annie, to more recent characters like Spider-Man Noir from the Noir Universe (this Spidey uses guns, guys!), Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 seems tailor-made for the Marvel super fan.

That's not to say those whose Marvel knowledge comes only from the recent big budget films (but who did see the last Thor movie and thought the rock guy was pretty funny) will be left clueless amidst a series of complex comic references. The game anchors it's main narrative on the cinematic versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy, with Star Lord, Rocket, Groot (both baby and full-grown), et al racing to Earth to help stop megalomaniac-from-the-future Kang the Conqueror from doing his thing (ie, conquering). It's a doomed quest, as Kang quickly achieves his raison d'etre, ripping the fabric of the time-space continuum and creating Chronopolis, a mish-mash of worlds from different time periods and Marvel realities.

From here, it's up to the heroes of the Marvel universe to band together and stop Kang. The gameplay here will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played a Lego game in recent years; it's bash bash bash on enemies and the environment using simple combat mechanics, before solving various environmental puzzles that may or may not involve bashing things some more (or alternatively using a specific character's special abilities to progress). To its credit, the many characters in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 do sport some interesting abilities, so much so that you can for the most part look past the cookie-cutter nature of most of them and find individual heroes with unique skills. The combat, though, remains stakes-free. There are no "lives", and dying simply means regenerating in the same spot not even seconds later. Dark Souls this is not.

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But that ease-of-use has always been the main appeal of the Lego games, especially for parents. As is usual with this series, the entire game can be played in co-op, and it's fun to partner with a developing gamer through these relatively stress-free adventures. The puzzles here can sometimes get a little obtuse, but that's exactly why it's a great shared experience. Your little ones can have fun running around and mashing buttons playing as the Invincible Iron Man, while you do the legwork of figuring out how to actually progress through a level.

There's also an impressive amount of things to do in Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2. Apart from the hundreds of available characters (most you'll have to unlock) and the approximately dozen hours of the main campaign to work through, the "world" of Chronopolis is also expansive, functioning as an open world where your heroes can find little sidequests, missions, racing events, and other activities when you're not chasing the main storyline.

Of course, these other activities aren't all enormous fun, but if you're a Marvel nut or a completionist (or both), then this game's basic cheerful gameplay and demeanour will make all of those extra pursuits worthwhile. Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is reverential to its source material, even if the game that surrounds that adoration is starting to sag somewhat. After all these years, the Lego formula is still a winner--but only barely.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 15 Nov 2017 16:09:00 -0800)

Very few sports struggle to survive the transition from real-life to video game like cricket does. Cricket is perceived as slow and long; some might even call it a little bit boring. Cricket video games have often suffered similar problems, often weighed down by cumbersome, complex controls and glacial pacing when compared to the likes of a FIFA or a Madden. Ashes Cricket suffers some of these inherent problems as well as a few of its own making, but also manages to capture the heart of the game in a way that few have achieved before. Despite some poor presentation and a handful of bugs, fans of the sport will find Ashes Cricket a good way to enjoy the virtual sound of leather on willow.

For those of you not from Commonwealth nations, The Ashes is the name of a series of five, day-long matches held between Australia and England that has been going on for well over a hundred years, and serves as this game's flagship mode, with fully licenced men’s and women’s squads from both nations. If a full test series seems a little intimidating, there’s no shortage of other variants to play. Casual matches are quick and easy to set up, allowing you to get into a Test, 50 over, or 20 over match with total ease. You can go online and play a match with some mates, jump into the nets for some training, or if you want something completely different, you can create your own match type in the match editor, which lets you change up almost every facet of the game to your heart's content. You can even create your own stadium, defining everything from the grandstands and the pavilion, down to the individual roads that lead into the grounds. While I can’t imagine everyone getting a kick out of being able to make their own stadium, it’s great to see this level of customisation offered out of the box.

But when it comes to playing the Ashes series, the emphasis is on the licensed Australian and English teams, who all match their real world likenesses. However, it's on this visual level where Ashes Cricket's flaws start to show. Players lack any kind of nuanced facial animations, so they tend to maintain a steely, thousand-yard stare at all times. Animation quality varies throughout; while core actions like batting, bowling, and some field movements look top notch and smooth, transitions between animations can be problematic. On more than one occasion I had a batsman run out because they took too long to turn around and get their bat back over the crease, something which I had no control over at the time because they were on the opposite end of the wicket. Losing a key player in a moment like this can be not only hugely frustrating, but it can change the face of a match as well. This can also be a problem in the field, where slow animations when chasing down the ball can leave you begging for a little more effort from your players.

Lack of a full license means all the other national teams--any country that’s not Australia or England--as well as club and state teams are sadly filled up with fantasy players instead of their real-life counterparts. However, through the player and team editor modes, the community is encouraged to create their own squads, and this is backed up by the inclusion of a Get Best button which automatically downloads all the highest rated community made players for that team. It’s not as ideal as having fully licensed squads, but it’s one way to creatively circumvent the problem.

The worst part of the lacklustre presentation is the in-game commentary. It is irredeemably bad, to the point where I can only recommend turning it off and saving yourself the pain. When they aren’t busy making incomplete calls, they are making entirely incorrect ones, all while sounding bored out of their minds. What makes everything even worse is the fact that the team is voiced by professional, real-world commentators.

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Thankfully, the act of playing the sport in Ashes Cricket is enjoyable. The full career mode lets you create a brand new player and skill them up through the ranks, from club and state/county level cricket all the way up to fighting for international selection. Playing and performing well in matches will reward you with SP, which is spent on raising your player’s skills, and in turn, helps raise your player’s profile and chances of selection for the national team. It’s one of the most engaging game modes thanks to its depth, modelling the full, real-world club/county cricket structure.

How you engage with career matches is also completely up to you. You can choose to take control of the full squad or just your player for each match, which significantly changes how a match plays out based on whether you’re a batter, bowler, or an all-rounder. While controlling a full squad gives you complete control, playing as a single player feels much more focused. A batter will rarely, if ever, have to worry about bowling, so you can elect to skip the fielding portion of the game entirely, taking control only when your player comes onto the pitch to bat their innings. Letting players focus on specific parts of the game works well as a way of keeping play progression moving along steadily, without getting bogged down by the sport's arduous match lengths.

And while the game’s worst moments make an appearance on the field, the parts that do work both feel good and capture the moment-to-moment nature of the sport that makes it so alluring. Controls for batting, bowling, and fielding feel intuitive, save some slight inconsistencies, with two distinct control variations available to pick from: standard or classic. While the standard controls rely more on timing your button presses when batting and bowling, the classic variety instead relies on use of the two thumbsticks to control the action. Classic controls feel just right for batting, giving you the most flexibility, whereas for bowling the standard controls felt more intuitive. You can mix up control styles however you please, but ultimately it doesn’t matter which you choose, because smashing a bowler to the boundary or taking a batsman’s stumps out of the ground with a swinging fastball feels nothing short of fantastic in either mode. Appealing for a wicket is left to the player to handle, though, and the game doesn’t do a great job of communicating this. Caught behinds, lbw’s and run outs all require an appeal and while I enjoyed being able to control this, more automated help could be offered for novice players in this regard.

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A lot of the field work is handled semi-automatically, with the closest fielder chasing down the ball on their own, and the player then choosing which end of the wicket to throw the ball too. But the speed and trajectory with which the ball is flung back to the wicket feels inconsistent as sometimes the ball will come back hard and fast, other times it’ll be a harmless lob, despite nailing similar timings on the throw.

But the most enjoyable part of Ashes Cricket is when the ball is smashed towards one of your fielders and time slows down to a crawl, triggering a sequence where you need to quickly move a cursor into a circle then hit the corresponding button to safely take the catch. It puts the emphasis on the tension of the moment instead of relying on an automated fielder. Get it right and you’ll take the catch, but get it wrong and it could cost you dearly. It’s a shame this mechanic doesn’t trigger for catches that go straight down the fielder’s throats, as I like the idea of the player being responsible for the outcomes, but mostly because it looks and feels really good when you get it right.

Ashes Cricket has definitely got its issues; bad commentary, some rough presentation, only two licensed teams and a few bugs. But ultimately they can be shaken off, because the feeling of enjoyment I get when I’m playing Ashes Cricket is palpable. I haven’t played or watched the sport in over 10 years, but sitting down to play here feels intuitive and familiar in a way that’s surprisingly comforting. The batting, bowling and fielding all feel better than they have in any other cricket game before, and the sheer variety of game types and customisation offered makes Ashes Cricket, in spite of its issues, a sports game worthy of your time.


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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Wed, 15 Nov 2017 18:00:00 -0800)

Six years after its release, Skyrim still manages to be relevant. Between the 2016 remaster, the upcoming VR version, and now a Switch port, it's hard to forget about The Elder Scrolls V, and that's a testament to how absorbing an RPG it is. With the addition of instant portability on Switch, it's even harder to put this high quality port down.

Skyrim is one of the best Switch ports currently available, though it's not too surprising considering the game's age. It runs smoothly with a rock-solid frame rate both in smaller spaces and in the overworld. Text can be a little small when playing in handheld mode, though it still performs and plays as well as it does docked and with a Pro Controller. The newly introduced motion controls are all optional as well; wagging a Joy-Con will swing melee weapons, and you can use motion to fine-tune your aim with your bow. Skyrim does retain the glitches it has always been known (and loved) for, though, including bizarre NPC pathing problems. In our 10 hours testing the game, we didn't find any new bugs, so it's just the silly weirdness you might remember.

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The main addition on Switch is Amiibo compatibility, which nets you extra treasure and works well within the existing game. Amiibo use is nested in the magic menu under powers, and you have to cast it the way you would any other power before tapping the Amiibo to the NFC reader. Like in Breath of the Wild, using an Amiibo isn't a guarantee of good loot--in this case, Zelda Amiibo give you a chance to get Link's Breath of the Wild tunic, the Master Sword, and the Hylian Shield, though you might get a chest filled with arrows, random weapons and armor, or an assortment of meats instead. You can use each Amiibo once per day, but we were able to get all the cool gear in one day using a few Zelda Amiibo around the office. As a bonus, the gear is better than any of the early-game weapons and armor you can get, and you can easily sell off the other loot you don't want.

The quality of the port aside, Skyrim has certainly aged since it first released in 2011. On top of the jankiness of movement and NPC interaction, there are a few outdated things that might be hard to contend with. Most glaringly, the oft-maligned sword-and-shield combat is still underwhelming, since it never felt great to clumsily swing a sword around to begin with. Certain recurring dialogue that has ascended to meme status can be grating, too, provided you've heard it enough. There's also no mod support currently, so if you're used to the user-created quality-of-life mods available on PC and other console versions, it can be weird to go back to regular old Skyrim, even if you still find its quirks and more old-fashioned aspects charming.

Skyrim is one of the best Switch ports currently available.

But everything great about Skyrim is preserved here as well. Pursue whatever it is you want to--whether it's just completing the main story or stealing as much cheese as you can carry--and you're all but guaranteed to find interesting stories along the way. Progressing through its still very deep skill tree is a huge but satisfying endeavor in figuring out exactly how you want to play (though magic- and archery-based combat specializations are preferable). There’s so much to do in Skyrim that it’s likely you haven’t done it all yet, and because it's now portable, you can pick it up and play for shorter bursts that can easily turn into hours.

The original version of Skyrim is still an immense, engrossing RPG, and the quality, number, and variety of its quests makes it as easy to become lost in its world as ever. With the addition of Zelda-themed gear that's actually useful--and the fact that you can play anywhere--the Switch version of Skyrim is a great excuse to revisit a much-loved RPG.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 16 Nov 2017 03:01:00 -0800)

With each passing year, Sports Interactive iterates on the long-standing fundamentals of its Football Manager series. A slight tweak here and there: applying some ease of use adjustments, or tinkering with the 3D match engine--like a manager moving pieces around a whiteboard. Some of these tweaks might not become evident until you've spent hundreds of hours entrenched in the virtual dugout, while others may only affect those eccentric enough to deploy a tactic featuring a Raumdeuter. In Football Manager 2018, minor refinements are similarly sprinkled throughout; but, crucially, there's also a significant new addition, and other impactful overhauls, that are palpable from the get-go, profoundly changing the way you manage and interact with your team on a daily basis.

The first of these is a new module called Dynamics that focuses on the topsy-turvy world of player morale. The concept of squad happiness has existed in Football Manager since the early days, but the cause and effect of your actions was previously hidden behind an algorithm we weren't privy to, which made managing your player's mood a case of pure guesswork and gradually learning through repetition. That all changes in FM 2018, as each interaction with your squad now has a clear, defined outcome that helps keep your chosen group of expensive primadonnas in check. A detailed hierarchy displaying your team leaders and most influential players advises you on who not to annoy; social groups determine which individuals sit around the breakfast table with each other based on parameters like their shared nationality and how long they've been at the club; and myriad other menus track your player's individual mood, their confidence in you, and the consequences all of these variables has on team chemistry.

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A harmonious squad generally leads to better results on the pitch, with the team's collective mental state contributing to the quality of their positioning, vision, and reactions during the course of a match--making it imperative for you to maintain your team's high spirits if you have any notions of success. Football is a results-based business after all, and player power is definitely a factor in FM 2018. If the squad is displeased with how you're doing on match days, or how you're handling their various personalities off the pitch, you're liable to find yourself unemployed. Thankfully, with the addition of a hierarchy and social groups, there's a surfeit of valuable information guiding your decision making that helps you understand how to handle different types of player.

If a rugged team leader comes into your office complaining about a lack of playing time, you're going to have to weigh up the risks of introducing him to the starting line-up when he might be off form, or face incurring a potential player revolt if you turn him down and piss him off. Conversely, if a player on the lower rungs of the hierarchy comes to see you with the same issue, telling him he'll have to remain patient is less likely to upset even a small portion of the dressing room, and may not bother anyone at all. Admittedly, conversing with players in FM still lacks the subtlety of believable human interactions, but with all of this new information on hand, player reactions appear more logical than ever, and keeping influential players onside will ensure there are fewer unhappy players knocking on your door. It's a fun, personable new module to toy with, and it emboldens Football Manager's recent focus on the human side of the beautiful game.

Meanwhile, an overhauled medical centre places an increased emphasis on Sports Scientists, with each one providing you with crucial information on how and why your players are suffering from injuries, and how you can counteract their pulled hamstrings and twisted ankles from occurring too frequently. If there's a busy period coming up where you've got, say, three matches in seven days, you'll be advised on which players are most at risk of sustaining injuries from the wear and tear of successive action. It forces you to be more proactive with your training schedules and player selection, as you're encouraged to adjust the intensity of training sessions on a week-by-week basis, and intelligently rotate your team in an attempt to keep your squad healthy without sacrificing results, (which also ties into Dynamics and how you can maintain squad harmony through frugal management of your team's playing time).

The 3D match engine does continue its steady progression after a poor showing in FM 2016--and the same can be said of this series as a whole.

Dynamics also factors into FM 2018's improved scouting system. When it comes to finding new players, you're now able to set a scouting budget: spend more and you'll cast your net wider; spend less and you can rely purely on the existing knowledge of your scouts. However much you spend, the process of unearthing new talent is slow. Your scouts will gradually build a picture of the type of player you're looking at, represented by a rating out of 100 that covers their attributes and also the type of personality they are. A player might be good enough from the statistical side of things, but will they gel with your squad? Maybe they don't fit into any social groups, or maybe they carry too much influence and will risk upsetting the balance of your dressing room. These are the types of things you have to consider when signing a new player, and it makes each transfer window much more engaging.

AI logic has been modified, too, ensuring other teams are smarter at handing their transfer business. You're unlikely to see the likes of PSG spending ludicrous amounts of money to stockpile talent they're only going to leave rotting on the bench--as has been the case in previous years. Transfer fees and budgets have also skyrocketed to reflect these astronomical times, with teams (particularly in the Premier League) holding out for more money for even the most marginal of talents.

When it comes to assembling your team on the pitch, the tactical interface is relatively unchanged. There are new player roles like the Carrilero and Mezzala, and more player instructions--such as the opportunity to direct your central midfielders into wider areas--that give you more options when it comes to establishing your team's playing style. But it's disappointing that this aspect of Football Manager hasn't seen any substantial developments. Building your tactical plan is still far too rigid and restrictive, and would benefit from giving you more control over how your team functions, particularly during specific phases of play. The current tactical interface is serviceable, and there's now a plethora of useful analysis that pinpoints the strengths and weaknesses of your setup, but a more robust system would elevate this aspect of the series in a crucial way.

Once you emerge out of the tunnel, the 3D match engine is at least better at demonstrating how each team follows your tactical setup. Any adjustments you make mid-match are immediately tangible, and players have enhanced intelligence all over the pitch. You'll see strikers timing their runs behind the defensive line, players opening up their bodies to curl Thierry Henry-esque finishes into the bottom corner, and midfielders will generally play a more expansive brand of football--if you let them. There are still baffling moments where players will inexplicably stop dead in their tracks, which is particularly troublesome in defence. And goalkeepers are still inconsistent--one moment they're saving everything that's thrown at them, the next they're palming a daisycutter into their own net. It's certainly not perfect, then, but the 3D match engine does continue its steady progression after a poor showing in FM 2016--and the same can be said of this series as a whole.

For a game that's so consuming you might not even realise the sun's gone down, it feels almost irresponsible to proclaim that giving you more things to do is a resounding positive. Yet the way these new and overhauled systems coalesce with Football Manager's deep and emotional fundamentals is fantastic. The series' propensity for telling emergent stories has only increased with this emphasis on player personalities and morale, and it bleeds into every other facet of Football Manager 2018's design, from transfers and injuries, to team selection and tactical considerations. These are changes that tilt the simulation closer to reality with captivating aplomb, and ensure that the armchair managers among us are kept busy for another whirlwind 12 months of 40-yard screamers and cup final heartbreak.

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Source: GameSpot - Reviews (Thu, 16 Nov 2017 06:00:00 -0800)


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