Gaming With A Disability: Too Fast, Too Furious

The games industry contains a broad spectrum of games that will appeal to a wide range of people, if you like puzzles that’s fine, shooters? More choice than you’ll ever need, narrative games? Taken some major steps forward and there are some gems out there. But for some people the games they can play are limited by factors outside their control.

I, like many gamers out there have a disability, whilst it predominately effects my mobility it has knock on effects with regards to my dexterity and coordination. Thus I’ve faced some games that have pushed me very close to the limits of what I can physically do (more on that later) but I’ve always overcome it, so what’s making me write this now?

Staring Into The Horizon

I have recently been playing the eagerly awaited, open world RPG set in a futuristic setting, Horizon Zero Dawn. At the time of writing I’ve spent about 10 hours in the game, and to be honest I can’t decide how I feel about it. The setting visuals and main story are all pretty interesting, however it falls down in other areas. It suffers terribly from the problem RPGs have in the early hours of your character being too weak, I have other problems with it too, which I may write about at a future date. So what does this all have to do with disability? Well the thing I dislike most about Horizon Zero Dawn is its combat, to explain why I need to tell a bit of a story.

To me, perhaps my greatest gaming achievement is completing the story mode of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. This is because it is a game that tested my gaming ability to its maximum. The Witcher is probably the closest I’ll come to playing a Dark Souls game. Before fans of both series point on the differences between the two games, let me explain. Both games have a combat system where the point is that you can’t just charge in and defeat bosses and tough enemies, you have to manage stamina, dodges and numerous other systems. Thus it requires a great deal of coordination, timing and spatial awareness. I feel the reason I was eventually able to overcome the later stages of The Witcher is that the majority of enemies are quite slow, with predictable attack patterns that you defeat by learning these patterns, long story short, speed is key. However my feeling with Horizon is that enemies are just a little bit too fast for me, I don’t have the reactions to defeat major enemies. This is further exacerbated by the fact that in the combat you’re having to use normally 3 buttons to fire a weapon. This can often require complex positioning of your fingers that I struggle with not so much because of a lack of skill, but because my fingers physically struggle to do that. I am hopeful that my skills will adapt as was the case with The Witcher, but I have a slight worry that my enjoyment of what could be a great game could be hampered by my condition.

The State of the Industry

This raises other questions about what can the games industry to do to better improve experiences for disabled games. Thus it becomes useful to look at some of the things games have done to aid or in some cases to the detriment of disabled gamers

Just Cause 2

Without spoiling the story (though there frankly isn’t much of one) the final fight of that game at one point requires you to input a sequence of 6-7 of the face buttons on your controller in order to progress and defeat the boss. This is perhaps one of the toughest things I’ve had to do. Simply because the stress of a boss fight is likely to make anyone slightly panicked and more prone to mistakes. However that is somewhat amplified in my case, furthermore my limited dexterity would often lead to my fingers slipping onto the wrong button causing me to fail. If this was slightly slowed down this wouldn’t be a major issue. Basically due consideration should be made to as broad a range of gamers as possible.


Peggle contains a very minor tool to aid players that might require it in a game of this type, at the very least it shows that some developers do consider a broad spectrum of gamers. Peggle requires you to hit blue and orange pegs with a ball to score points. Interestingly if you look in the game’s settings you’ll find a setting dubbed ‘colourblind mode’. This will change the games colours to more high contrast version allowing those who struggle to differentiate colours to better tell the different colours apart. I am actually partially colourblind, I was able to play Peggle in its normal mode with no real issue. Yet upon discovering this setting, I’ve kept it activated ever since as I found a very useful addition to my experience. Tools such as this mirror the ‘accessibility’ tools that have been built into computers for a number of years to aid people with disabilities, tools for high contrast colours or reading out text as well as the PC gamer’s bane Sticky keys.

So could games developers mirror this? I think in theory yes, tools could be created that would limit certain features that some gamers may struggle with i.e. remove some QTEs that require rapid button mashing that some people can struggle with. The key thing with this however would be how it’s presented, the worst option would be dubbing such tool ‘easy mode’ or similar. Doing this would likely make gamers such as myself feel rather inferior being forced to play the game on ‘easy’ because they physically cannot do it normally. The way around this would likely be to add such tools into the settings pages that in the majority of games contain options such as inversion of the y axis. So as to not draw unnecessary presence to their inclusion that could dishearten some gamers.

Switching It Up

Looking forward, I find the idea of the Nintendo Switch and disabled gamers an interesting prospect. I owned a Nintendo Wii, but immensely struggled with games that required the Wii Remote and Nunchuk such as Super Mario Galaxy. When a game requires me to use both hands in such a regard I often want to move my hands independently to find a comfortable position. However the fact the two Wii controllers were still tethered by a cable, meant that the amount of independent movement possible is limited. However the two Joy Con controllers of the Nintendo Switch are completely wireless and can be used one in each hand, allowing for a greater freedom of movement. Furthermore whilst their small size has concerned many, as I have quite small hands the Joy Cons would likely fit comfortably in my hand. Hopefully this would allow me to play games in a style that works for me, not hampered by my condition in any way. This is a possible application of the Nintendo Switch that very few people have commented on, quite simply because few people consider it as it doesn’t affect them directly. I have yet to play on a Switch but I have hopeful that its inherent flexibility in play styles will have a tangible benefit for gamers like myself.           

If you enjoyed this you can follow me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog I’m also the host of the Gamers Without Borders podcast (@GWBPod) which is available on iTunes


The Nintendo Switch, 3DS and Me

After an unexpectedly long hiatus (more on that at the end), I am back to writing, this time around my thoughts on the recently announced Nintendo Switch and how it has unexpectedly led me to rediscover just how good my 3DS can be.

I think it is safe to say that for anyone who considers gaming a hobby of theirs a new console launch is a very special time. The weeks and months of speculation building up to the announcement tends to get people excited even if they have little intention of buying the console. None encapsulates this better than the Nintendo Switch. Everyone knew the Wii U had not really met expectations and Nintendo was beginning work on a rumoured console-handheld hybrid dubbed simply ‘NX’. The rumours went on for months, when rather unexpectedly the console was announced as the Nintendo Switch in a brief event last October promising more information and the ability to try the console in January. I am likely not the first person to suggest this, however I would not be surprised if Nintendo had never planned to make the announcement they did in October. Instead their hand was forced by a surprising number of leaks from the normally pretty water tight Nintendo which meant it was better to publically announce the console early than risk a full blown leak.

So January 13th came and with it the big presentation, I personally did not watch it live owing to it being on at a soul crushingly early 4am. But I awoke the next morning eager to find out what the most innovative of the three big console makers was doing next. First and foremost the rumours were true, the Nintendo Switch was a hybrid console, the ‘Switch’ itself is a large tablet screen with controllers which can be attached to the sides or used separately allowing for ‘portability’. The console also comes with a dock that you plug into your TV, slot the Switch into its dock to see whatever game you were playing on the tablet appear up-resed on the TV. To many people it appeared to be the true culmination of what the Wii U began with its somewhat limited off TV play feature. So first impressions were good, the general concept was intriguing and Nintendo was doing its best to make its marketing as clear as possible (more on that later though). Furthermore as people from outside Nintendo got their hands on one for the first time, many people’s concerns were laid to rest, the screen was crisp and vibrant despite 720p resolution and crucially the transition from dock to tablet and vice versa was near enough seamless.

But for the sake of some sense of balance I will now touch on a few on the ‘missteps’ I feel Nintendo made with the Switch. First and foremost the launch line-up. Now do not get me wrong the games announced for this first year are extensive and varied. However if you buy a Switch on day 1 you only have around 5 games to choose from, with the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild likely being most people’s choice. Whilst I am no businessman it would seem to make a lot more sense to wait and release the Switch during the Christmas period, with better sales and a broader selection of games. Speaking of games (again) the decision to not bundle the game 1-2 Switch with the console baffled many, myself included as it is a mini-game collection basically playing the Wii Sports role for the Switch. Furthermore the pricing structure for the games seems questionable in places, I am looking at you ARMS. Next we have something of the elephant in the room, online service. As many will know Nintendo has always been a little behind in terms of online infrastructure compared to Sony and Microsoft. Though when Nintendo announced an online subscription service similar to PlayStation Network and Xbox Live people wondered if they had turned a corner. But as with many things Nintendo, the idea was there, but they were let down by the execution. For example it has been announced that the Switch will allow voice chat and the ability to have group chats, friends lists etc, kind of expected nowadays but we will take it. Oh but wait this is done via a mobile app and not by the Switch itself… Yet more bafflingly if rumours are to be believed while Nintendo will offer a free NES/SNES game to subscribers each month like PS Plus or Games With Gold, you only get to play the game for a month then it is removed. So close yet so far eh Nintendo? Lastly I want to touch on the aspect that caused perhaps the most controversy, the price. The Switch was announced at £280/$300, this is without a game included. As many were quick to point out you can buy a PS4 bundled with games for less than this, so why buy a less powerful alternative? On this point, I would direct you all to read an article by Chris Scullion about how Nintendo should be marketing the Switch as a handheld not a home console. strong language). As for my views I will not dispute it is a lot of money, especially when you factor in the cost of the additional hardware. But if the price really bothers you that much, firstly no one is forcing you to buy one and secondly just wait. If you aren’t desperate for one at launch, wait and it will likely go down in price and begin to be bundled with a game, thus limiting the financial impact slightly.  

Overall, once the dust had settled, my feelings on the Switch could be summed up as: “That’s a really interesting concept, taking your games anywhere, I might not buy one straight away but it’s a consideration for the future” Following this thought however, that little rational voice in my head made two very important points:

  1. You don’t do much long distancing traveling, you are never far from your PS4, what’s the point of a more portable console?

This realisation coupled with the fact that I had hit a bit of a wall in my current console games, caused me to brush off my 3DS for the first time in a while. The only real use it had over the past year or so was acting as a controller to allow me to play Super Smash Bros for Wii U. But now it was time to use it as a console in anger once again. I attempted to carry on playing Ocarina of Time 3D, then remembered why I stopped playing. (Look the game might be utterly amazing, but I just can’t get into it, the gyro controls especially) I’ve had slightly better luck at replaying A Link Between Worlds, though it’s taken some adjustment to get back into a Zelda and handheld mind-set, but I’m enjoying that a great deal. More interestingly however is that I have recently purchased Terraria for the 3DS. Now I owned this game on PS3 and enjoyed it immensely, it was the perfect time sink, great for listening to podcasts and such. I am hopeful that provided the controls work effectively the 3DS could be the perfect platform to play Terraria. Long story short, if I do end up going through some sort of 3DS resurgence I would not be surprised if the next Nintendo console I got was not a Switch but actually a New 3DS, but time will tell.

Now on to the last aspect of this article: ‘me’. Firstly an apology for not having written anything for this site in over 7 months. It was my intent to write more regularly, however I got caught in a situation whereby when I had more time to write I was lacking inspiration, whereas now I have a few ideas for articles but struggle to find the free time to write them. In short, life gets in the way. My podcast Gamers Without Borders has continued though, although in more recent times has had to move away from weekly episodes once again owing to my schedule, but I intend to continue with both that and this site, it will just occur on a more ‘as and when’ basis.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this piece and I hope to be back soon!



Just Cause 3 Short Form Review

Having enjoyed the previous instalment in this franchise, despite its rough edges I was looking forward to playing Just Cause 3. Hoping it would be ‘GTA V but where you can blow everything up’. It comes close to this, it is certainly a graphical improvement over its predecessor but still perhaps lacks the extent of visual polish compared to GTA V and I should mention I’m referring to the PS3 version of GTA. As with previous games, there is a plot of sorts and story missions, namely ‘Agency’ agent Rico Rodriquez must topple yet another ruthless dictator. Thankfully I think the developers know people don’t come to Just Cause expecting a rich story, instead focusing on refining gameplay.

An interesting new addition to the series are the so-called ‘Gear MODS’. These are changes to your core equipment and weapons, such as grenades that explode on contact and remote bombs that are also rocket boosters. You can see the developers put these in to allow the player to do even more ridiculous things within the game’s world. A big problem with this however is that these MODS are only unlocked by completing the entirely optional side missions. I understand why this was done, it means that players who don’t bother with side content are not penalised in the main missions. But precisely because of this I felt no incentive to seek out the side missions to unlock more MODS. I feel that perhaps a better route would have been that a small proportion of the MODS are naturally unlocked through story missions. This would then make you wonder what else you are missing and drive you to complete side missions.

Just Cause 3 certainly remains an open world; it takes a long while to get from one end of the map to the other, with quite a few things sprinkled in your way to slow you down. Despite this I have two problems with it, one more serious than the other. We’ll start with the less bad news, to me for an open world game the world just doesn’t feel alive. In other games your actions in the wider world feel like they have an impact but in Just Cause 3 you don’t get that feeling. The second, bigger problem is that of repetition. The game’s map is split into 13 provinces, within those are numerous settlements that Rico must ‘liberate’ AKA destroy all the government marked property. Some missions are locked, meaning you must have liberated a particular number of settlements before it’s accessible but you can complete the story with most of the map still not liberated. The issue here is that liberating areas is neither interesting nor challenging. But the worst thing is that with a few tweaks it could have been made far better. Namely if the game world was a bit more dynamic. To explain, ‘oppressed’ areas will contain objects like fuel tanks and radars that must be destroyed, once done you can liberate an area. However I think it would be better if doing this had a tangible impact. Such as destroying fuel tanks cuts the local police’s fuel supply meaning less cars will pursue you as your ‘heat’ level increases (think GTA’s ‘wanted’ system). Or less radar makes it harder for aerial units to track you. The likes of The Witcher and Fallout have systems like this already so it’s clearly a possibility.

I began this review by talking about this game’s predecessor’s ‘rough edges’, while I do not like bringing up areas of games where they are lacking polish I feel for Just Cause 3 I must. In my around 20 hours of playtime the game has functioned pretty smoothly for the majority of the time. However during one session a glitch was triggered that led to all the textures being incredibly low resolution and none of the game world was solid. Though this was quickly solved by restarting the game, I was struck that such a major glitch went unnoticed. The biggest ‘rough edge’ however is the frame rate. This is a topic that I don’t often talk about because it doesn’t bother me, I don’t care if a game isn’t running at a constant 60 frames per second. Basically if I can’t notice it I don’t care about it. But when the game freezes completely even I will sit up and notice it. Throughout my playtime I’d noticed minor drops in framerate but these were always when lots was occurring on screen at the same time, when you’d expect any game to suffer. But more strikingly however the game would drop to basically 0 fps when there wasn’t much going on, on screen. I’m no game designer so I’m not going to hypothesise about possible causes. The bottom line is, it was a problem that affected both my enjoyment and ability to play the game

To end things off on a more positive note I want to talk about the improved driving mechanics of Just Cause 3. This was one of my biggest complaints with Just Cause 2, cars weren’t fast enough to make them a viable means of transport across the map and the few faster cars that did exist were almost completely uncontrollable. Thankfully for the sequel they’ve increased both the range of available vehicles and the frequency with which you’ll see them so you are rarely left stranded. This doesn’t mean that the driving is a perfect simulation along the lines of Gran Turismo. The physics are still a little ‘wonky’ meaning that the slightest clip of rock sends you into a crazy 360 degree corkscrew. But in actual fact this doesn’t bother me, it seems like a deliberate decision on the part of the developers to remind you that this game doesn’t take itself too seriously and just wants you to have fun playing.


Just Cause 3 is a definite improvement over the previous instalment in the series, giving you a bigger world to explore and more to do. While it is still lacking the technical polish of some of the bigger AAA titles, this is at its heart a fun little game to lose a good few hours in.

+Looks better

+Improved driving mechanics

+Plenty of side missions and extra content available



-Poor frame rate in places


I hope you enjoyed this shorter and slightly altered format for my reviews. You can find me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog. You can also find my weekly gaming podcast Gamers Without Borders at or you can also find us on iTunes.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End Review

DISCLAIMER: While I always strive to make my reviews as spoiler free as possible, this review will contain some vague references to the plot and discuss gameplay mechanics. Secondly this article will contain some in game screenshots, these are just landscape images to act as mechanism to break up the text and illustrate the game’s graphical prowess. But as everyone’s spoiler sensitivities are different, you have been warned

DISCLAIMER #2: Though this game contains a multiplayer element, due to my lack of experience with this mode and the fact that the game is single player focused, the multiplayer aspect will not be discussed here.

As one of the most critically acclaimed games series the previous generation, Uncharted finally made its way to PlayStation 4. But the big question is: can Naughty Dog repeat its previous successes and pull off something brilliant one last time and give Nathan Drake the farewell he deserves?

Ahoy Mateys!

This instalment of the franchise seesand friends on the trail of the treasure of legendary pirate Henry Avery. The player will travel to multiple different locations around the world, allowing the game to showcase perhaps its greatest feature: the visuals. This is by far and away one of the best looking games of the current generation. In comparison to the story of previous games this feels a lot more grounded, it feels like the franchise has grown up a bit. The lighter side of things hasn’t disappeared entirely, the dialogue especially between characters still has that humorous side to it. Nonetheless you can see a subtle shift in tone, in all honesty I feel it was the direction the game needed to go. I have no problem with the suspension of disbelief that many games require, however it’s nice to see a franchise like this become a bit more sensible. In the name of vagueness all I will say is that this game deals with some serious themes and this is not the sort of game where you should ignore the cut scenes and when you reach the end you should come out with a great deal of satisfaction. In particular the epilogue ties everything up in a near perfect manner and despite my love for the series I hope it stops here or they risk devaluing the reputation that the series and developers built over the last decade.

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Uncharted™ 4: A Thief’s End_20160529124757

Uncharted 2.0

Referring to this game as ‘Uncharted 2.0’ may seem clichéd and unimaginative, yet I think it is a somewhat apt description. In a number of areas the first three games are incredibly similar to each other, however this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many developers after creating one successful game then feel that for the sequel they must completely reinvent the games formula and often lose sight of what made the original great. Naughty Dog however did not do this, they knew they had created a very well-polished game that was pushing the console to its limits and thus fans were happy to get a similar experience in the sequels with just some minor tweaks. But when it comes to Uncharted 4 it seems like this is everything that the developers wanted to make in an Uncharted sequel but simply couldn’t due to hardware limitations. All areas, combat, AI, set pieces have seen a major improvement versus the original games. This is mixed with some brand new inclusions, chief among which is the grappling hook. Tomb Raider comparisons aside, it is a versatile tool with numerous uses. It allows for more complex platforming puzzles which is what the series is best known for. Furthermore it has combat uses, allowing you to quickly traverse the combat areas and catch enemies by surprise. These changes allow for the game to go in slightly different directions with its platforming allowing it to improve upon an already very polished gameplay aspect.

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Uncharted™ 4: A Thief’s End_20160529115358

Lights, Camera, Lots of Action

The Uncharted franchise has always considered itself as something of a Hollywood blockbuster disguised as a videogame with huge action set pieces. This was as aspect of these games loved by many and I am happy to say, comes back in a big way for this fourth instalment. One of its most striking moments is the opening title sequence which is incredibly reminiscent of the title sequence of the  James Bond film. As with all these games they’re action packed and frenetic but thankfully they don’t fall into the trap of just oversaturating you with action and instead balance it with some slower and more poignant moments. Yet it never feels like you have to get through ‘boring bits’ before you can return to the action. They are a welcome respite from all the action. The inclusion of much more open vehicle sections is another great change of pace. Thankfully these vehicles control very well, responsive with the correct amount of weight. If nothing us the vehicle sections give you a chance to step back and appreciate the stunning environments. Lastly I won’t go into detail here, but the game opens by chucking you straight into the action and in my opinion is superior to the much loved train opening from Uncharted 2. Not least because it doesn’t make the mistake of making you play an identical sequence twice at different points in the game as Uncharted 2 did.

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Uncharted™ 4: A Thief’s End_20160528132729

Who Are You?

To say the Uncharted  series didn’t always make character development a focus, is slightly harsh and inaccurate. The approach was just slightly different, it just gave some basic ideas that allowed us to imprint on the character of Nathan Drake making him enjoyable to play as. Contrast this to the approach to Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot, much of her arc focused on the idea of “A Survivor is Born”. You the player see her adapt and grow over the course of the game as she is forced to come to terms with her experiences. I’d argue that Naughty Dog have looked at this idea and taken some inspiration, that’s not to say the character of Nathan Drake has changed though. He’s still the wise-cracking adventurer we all love but now there’s just another dimension to him. In Uncharted 4  we see a conflicted man torn between the allure of adventure and the family he’s taken so long to find. Yes it sounds clichéd as I write it , but it’s nice to see the character having grown up somewhat. This was a push the series needed or it ran the risk of the characters seeming two-dimensional, especially in contrast to Naughty Dog’s previous game The Last of Us.

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The Name’s Croft, No Wait Ezio, No Definitely Drake

The previous instalment in the Uncharted  series came out all the way back in 2011, 5 years is a lifetime when it comes to game development. I wondered when the game was first announced would the developers take cues from games like Tomb Raider or would they stay isolated believing their approach to be superior. The short answer is that they’ve opted for the latter in quite a big way, even beyond the aforementioned deeper character depth. There’s more button mashing than I recall and a love of sliding down hills that feels like it’s straight from 2013’s Tomb Raider, and the inclusion of the grappling hook is another big Tomb Raider nod. But it goes further , the stealth system has expanded to include some very Assassin’s Creed-esque elements such as hiding in tall grasses to perform stealth kills. There’s even an enemy marking system that feels straight out of Metal Gear Solid. In all honesty these inclusions make me feel conflicted. I understand the need to innovate of course, if this game had turned out to be little more than Uncharted 3 HD  then sure people would play it but it may not have gained the praise that it has. Nevertheless these features do improve gameplay, giving it a much needed improvement in the depths of the mechanics. But to my mind at times it feels like the game has had a bit of an identity crisis and for better or worse has perhaps strayed from the Uncharted path.

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Nobody’s Perfect

To anyone reading this, it might come across as a little one-note constant praise and nothing bad to say about it. However I do have some minor issues with the game that I will group into one segment. My biggest issue stems from the game’s stealth elements, stealth has always been present in the series but it was always secondary. If you got detected you could always fight your way out, but this time around it feels like they’ve inverted the relationship between the shooting and stealth. In a number of the big areas full of enemies it is often geared towards stealth, with large amounts of tall grass to hide in and dialogue hints from allies. To many this may not be a drawback, but in my opinion it once again feels slightly out of place here. This stealth emphasis is seemingly linked to the improved AI in this game. In the original 3  games the AI was somewhat limited, often just moving between 2 or 3  pieces of cover meaning that you could survive most firefights by staying in one place. This time around however enemies are much smarter and outflank you meaning you have to constantly be on the move. Whilst this does give firefights a frenetic element, most of the time I found if you got detected you be surrounded and killed within moments. Thus the only way to survive is to try and learn where enemies will come from and intercept them and make sure you hit as many headshots as possible. This meant frequent deaths which in turn hindered the fast pacing that the game wants to create.

My next complaint is more minor, namely a subtle change in the melee combat. In the original games you would attack by pressing square and you could counter incoming attacks by pressing triangle. This time around however instead of being able to directly counter attacks, triangle is now used to escape when an enemy has you in a hold. Whilst this might seem immensely minor I found myself going into melee segments expecting to be able to counter and struggling to adjust to the change. Speaking of the melee combat, personally I felt that the beginning few hours of the game featured a few too many scripted fight sequences. You’ll find it’s impossible to respond to certain attacks purely because the sequence is supposed to go a particular way.

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I’m very happy to say the Naughty Dog pulled off what was a very ambitious goal, they’ve improved in every way one of the defining franchises of the last generation. This has perhaps been the best gaming experience I’ve had in a number of years; nonetheless I think Naughty Dog should close the book on Uncharted series once and for all. Just end it on a massive high and don’t fall victim to the endless sequels that have destroyed the reputation of many AAA series. The epilogue will perhaps divide fans but personally if left me with a smile on my face and a sense of satisfaction that the series has ended at the right time. This feels like the peak of the franchise and thanks to The Nathan Drake Collection if you’ve yet to experience the franchise at all then you can see it at its best.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End  takes an already stellar franchise and improves all aspects of the game, Naughty Dog has crafted yet another must-own masterpiece for any existing fans as well any fans of the action adventure genre.

+ Deep and engaging story

+ Absolutely gorgeous visually

+ Perfected existing gameplay mechanics as well as bringing in new features

-Loses its way in places


Congratulations for reaching the end of this review. I’ve been away for a while, but I’ve got some more time on my hands so I’ll hopefully get more content out. But the biggest announcement since my last article is I’m very proud to announce I’ve started my own podcast. It’s called Gamers Without Borders, you can find it here: we’re also on iTunes.



Life Is Strange: Reflections and Discussion

This article will be a little different to most of my others. As I hinted at during my Life is Strange review I felt there were lots of aspects to that game that I couldn’t discuss in the spoiler free context of my review. So here I will take an in depth look at some of my key experiences and interesting questions that remain after playing this truly excellent game

DISCLAIMER: The following article contains major spoilers for Life is Strange, do not read this if you are planning on playing this game. If you want more information on the game, I’d recommend looking into my aforementioned spoiler free review.

(Find it here:

Kate- A Turning Point

Whilst I was about an episode and a half into Life is Strange, I was still wondering if the game was for me, it was clear it would deal with serious topics and contained incredibly well written characters. But I still had my reservations, I didn’t feel that invested. But little did I know that was about to change completely. Now the final part of the story in episode 2 revolves around Max’s attempt to stop Kate Marsh from jumping off the roof of Blackwell. Now sadly in my first play through of the game, I failed this and sadly Kate jumped to her death. I was certainly struck by this and felt a great deal of guilt regarding my actions. But as the episode progressed I began to wonder if Kate’s death was a scripted moment in the game, designed to always occur no matter what the player does. You may say that’s ridiculous in a game all about player choice, why would it take away a major choice from the player? But actually if you look a bit deeper it doesn’t seem quite so crazy and would fit the themes of the game. First and foremost being a very obvious example of how Max’s (and by extension the player’s) actions can have massive consequences. Secondly that despite her newfound power Max simply cannot save everyone. Either way as I was coming to the end of episode 2 I was beginning to come to terms with the events of that episode, then a get delivered an emotional punch to the stomach. When reviewing my choices for the previous episode the game informs me “You failed to save Kate”. I was so taken aback by this revolution I literally switched off my PS4 and sat as the realisation hit me about what I had done. Situations like this prove just have well-constructed the game’s characters and story is. In the likes of Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, you’ll kill countless hundred if not thousands of people. Why are people not effected in the same way? Those characters are deliberately designed to be little more than bundles of pixels with which the player forms no real attachment. So perhaps there’s a little bit more to it than the clichéd ‘video games desensitize you to violence/emotion’ argument.

Chloe’s Relationship With Rachel

This is an interesting area of discussion for the simple reason that we never see Rachel and Chloe directly interact we only hear about her through Chloe. But most significantly the game never explicitly states their relationship was a romantic one, but it certainly throws a great deal of evidence in the direction of that suggestion. The language Chloe uses to describe her throughout the game implies perhaps more than friendship “she was my angel”. Lastly consider the scene showing Chloe discovering Rachel’s body, she is utterly utterly destroyed. Admittedly it’s impossible to know how one would react to discovering a close friend had died, but yet again the strength of her response, to me at least, points to something a little more complicated.



Chloe’s Relationship With Max

Chloe and Max’s relationship is perhaps the most interesting as it is what the game revolves around. But even more so than with Rachel the game throws huge amounts of contradictory information so it is impossible to pin down weather they are merely good friends or perhaps lovers. I’ll shall now consider some of the evidence for both sides of the argument.

Good Friends

-Chloe clearly states she finds Mr Jefferson attractive, admittedly this merely could imply Chloe is bisexual, leaving the door open for a romantic relationship with Max

-Chloe’s response if you elect NOT to kiss her when given the choice- her reaction is much more normal, whereas if you do kiss her so is incredibly taken aback. However the latter may not mean she didn’t want it to occur merely that she never expected Max to do it


-The language in the exchange between Chloe and Max before the player makes the final choice, again the language and feeling involved her seems to go a little beyond good friends “You are my number one priority now” “You are all that matters to me” “Don’t say that.. I won’t trade you”

– (Credit to this theory goes to the Almost Better Than Silence Podcast, they’ll be a link at the end) During Max’s nightmare sequence in episode 5 Max imagines Chloe in a relationship with numerous characters, Warren, Victoria and others (once again raising questions about Chloe’s sexual orientation) If we take this to be a nightmare then clearly we are being shown Max’s fears. Thus I raise this question, does Max fear Chloe being in a relationship with someone else because she wants that relationship?

-Max’s lack of commitment to Warren/The limit to which the player can ‘romance’ Warren- The game makes it very clear from the start that Warren has feelings for Max that Max doesn’t share, the evidence is numerous. When pushed on the issue by Chloe, Max’s response is merely that he’s ‘nice’ and little more. Furthermore Max is puzzled as to why Warren would wish to keep a photo of him and Max. Lastly even if the player chooses the positive options with regards to Warren (ignoring the final choice for the moment) then all this develops into is the option to kiss Warren during their final meeting. But firstly there seems to be little passion here on Max’s part and seems more done out of pity/ because they were about to possibly die. Secondly it is possible to not even have the option to do this, depending on earlier choices made. All this also means we are given no concrete answer regarding Max’s sexual orientation either.

You well may be wondering, why is the game so ambiguous about the relationship between the game’s central characters? Well honestly, I think the answer to the question is told to us numerous times, in the opening paragraph of each episode: We are told this is a game about player choice. That’s exactly what the game is doing here, it’s given us the choice to perceive their relationship as we want. Honestly I think this was a very smart move by the developers, with such deep and relatable characters involved, to force Max and Chloe to be one or the other would be very likely to anger and upset people.

Alternate Timeline Chloe- A Personal Connection

The end of episode 3 and continuing into episode 4 Max discovers the terrible consequences her powers can cause. After unexpectedly being thrown back in time many years, she resolves to save Chloe’s biological father William from dying in a car accident. She succeeds in doing this, but is shocked to discover in this alternate timeline that Chloe herself was in a car accident leaving her paralysed and confined to wheelchair. This was undoubtedly a shocking and thought provoking period of the game for all players. But for me personally it hit home that bit more, for those who don’t already know this I too use a wheelchair. Whilst I am nowhere near as seriously affected as Chloe, my mobility is still limited and I rely on a wheelchair in my day to day life. Going through this part of the game really made me reflect on my own life and looking back I’m staggered that the writers found areas I related to. Firstly, like it or not and people will never directly admit this, but people look at me differently. Not just for the obvious reasons but because my situation naturally raises questions, and they often feel too uncomfortable to ask. (I’d like to say here, if you do ever meet me, don’t feel uncomfortable, come say hi! for me personally I’m happy to answer any question you like. I won’t be insulted by it, you just have to ask.) Secondly there really are times when life can suck, little things get at you and it can be tough at times but honestly I just feel it’s part of the hand I’ve been dealt and it’s my job to deal with it. So in this case Life is Strange deserves special praise for two reasons, first it dared to go quite deeply into a subject that most video games wouldn’t go near. Secondly it has changed how I view video games, never before has a game made me reflect on this aspect of my life before. Hence why I’ve never felt the need to reveal it until now. As cliché as it may sounds I often use video games as a sort of escapism. If I’m having a rough day I’ll stick Uncharted in my PlayStation so for a little while I can be the dashing action hero that saves the world and gets the girl. Trust me, anyone that knows me even slightly knows my life is not anything close to that. (See, making light of my situation is a key way to get through stuff)



Max’s Nightmare- The Power of Emotional Storylines

Episode 5 finds Max on a journey through the many realities she has created through her choices and decisions and perhaps even a journey through her own subconscious. This segment has no official title but the fandom has come to referring to it as ‘Max’s nightmare’ and given the dark and twisted nature of it, it’s not hard to see why. But enough context, why am I discussing this? Well the segment contains a rather aggravating stealth segment and I spent more time there than normal as I believed you had to spend a great deal of time collecting the bottles scattered around. The truth is you don’t really, it merely unlocks an achievement. Long story short, despite the dark and emotional nature of episode 5 I was getting really rather frustrated with this one section and I was feeling pretty angry. But as soon as the segment ended, Life as Strange delivered a masterstroke, as soon as I entered the lighthouse I jumped to the other end of the emotional spectrum, once again the game had got me right in the heart. Those scenes are truly harrowing perhaps most of all the twisted messages that appear on your phone. Most chilling of all, if you chose to help Chloe die in episode 4, you’ll be informed by Chloe’s mother that she has proof of what you did and that there’s no reality in which you can hide. Needless to say here began one of my defining gaming experiences, as I shall now explain


The Final Choice 

The game’s final choice is startlingly simple:

Sacrifice Chloe


Sacrifice Arcadia Bay

Look at the language used here, it would seem more logical to use the word ‘save’. So why not do so? Personally I think it’s all about connotations, the word save has a much more positive feel to it, but the developers clearly didn’t want us to tackle this terrible decision and feel positive about it. A subtle thing, but it makes all the difference, this game gets in your head.

Anyway next I’ll take you through my reasons for picking the first of those two options:

-Logic: Chloe is just one person, whilst the population of Arcadia Bay is never stated we can estimate it to be tens if not hundreds of people

-A Perfect Week: During Max and Chloe’s final interaction, Chloe talks of how perfect the last week had been. If you allow Chloe to die then those moments can never be spoilt. However given that the other option has Chloe and Max driving into the sunset. Imagine this, they drive off and then their relationship collapses. We’ll never know if this would happen, but it’s certainly an interesting thought

-It fits thematically: The game repeatedly tells us that our actions have consequences. I somewhat feel that but saving Chloe you are essentially saying your actions have consequences unless Chloe is involved that is. Thus limiting th emotional impact of previous choices in retrospect

The end of episode 4 presents the cliff-hanger of Chloe shot dead and Max now unconscious. After getting over the shock of this reveal I began to rather cynically think ‘Oh dear they are going to deus ex machina a way to keep Chloe alive and give everyone a happy ending. But importantly the game sidesteps this convention. Even if you choose to save Chloe, this is far from a happy ending you’ve doomed a large number of people to death. But these aren’t just any people, like I mentioned earlier the residents of Arcadia Bay are not one dimensional collections of polygons. They are people that you create a strong emotional bond with and you’ll genuinely mourn their deaths. It is because of these facts and an incredibly poignant set of final scenes that meant for the first time I can remember: a video game had me in floods of tears.


My experience with Life is Strange will not be leaving me anytime soon (my recent tweets will attest to that) and frankly I’m a better person for playing it. Not only would I recommended playing the game but try and play it in the shortest span of time possible. When the game first came out there was a wait of months between episodes meaning it’s tough to keep up and be as emotionally invested. Whereas I got through the game in about four days and it meant everything was fresh in my mind and those big scenes had the emotional impact they should have

If you have enjoyed reading this piece, I’d let to point you in the direction of a couple of podcasts, if you want even more Life is Strange related content.

First is the previously mentioned Almost Better Than Silence podcast, they had an entire episode dedicated to an in depth discussion of Life is Strange.

Find it here:

Secondly my good friends over at the One Track Gamers podcast, were very lucky to recently interview the fantastic Hannah Telle, none other than the voice of Max Caulfield herself. She is able to give some very interesting and personal insights into working on the game.

Find it here:

As always you can find me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog

Life Is Strange Review (Spoiler Free)

Disclaimer: Given the story centric nature of this game, I will be keeping my views as spoiler free as possible. At most vague references to the plot may be made. As everyone’s sensitivity to spoilers is different, you have been warned.

Whilst looking for a new game to play, many people pointed me in the direction of Life is Strange. I was very aware of the game and heard positive comments about it. However I was unsure if the game was for me. But I put my unease behind me, mainly thanks to the limited edition, containing the entire season having just been released and very reasonably priced too.

Anyway, the game follows photography student Max Caulfield who after a certain ‘event’ discovers that she has the ability to rewind time. Over the course of the next 5 episodes you begin to discover the consequences of changing past, present and future. Now whilst that may seem cliché and vague, I’m reluctant to go into any greater depth to avoid giving anything away. The plot itself may not seem like much, but it uses this premise to delve into themes that video games as a genre normally wouldn’t touch and that is part of this game’s charm and last impact. One of the best way the rewind mechanic is deployed is to allow Max to navigate the best case scenario in social situations. This is an example of the game’s mechanics fitting the setting and characters perfectly. Let’s be honest if you gave this power to an 18 year old, their first instinct would not be to change history for the better but is likely they would be used for such selfish reasons

Its other headline feature is that much like the Telltale games, Life is Strange centres around choices the player makes throughout, that as the game reminds you, can affect the past and future. The game will clearly call back to your previous choices and thankfully not too heavy handed about it and avoids basically winking to the camera. The combination of the choice and rewind mechanics allows it to avoid a major pitfall of the decision based game. In most games, the only way to see all possible options to play out would be to replay the game multiple times which is time consuming. But Life is Strange’s rewind allows you in most cases to view all possible consequences before making your decision. Furthermore Life is Strange allows you to view the choices you made through your play through when you have finished. Thus if you did wish to replay the game to see what you missed, it would easier to make sure you make the alternative decision.

Due to the game originally being an episodic, digital only game, the physical collection is classed as the limited edition, containing an art book and soundtrack. The latter of those is the more significant factor. The soundtrack is a mix of existing music and original music created for the game. I elected to listen to the soundtrack when I was around a fifth of the war through, so I had yet to hear all the music in the game and in context. Despite this omission and the fact I’m not a hugely musical personal, I was struck that every song seemed to just ‘fit’, both in the world and the characters. In addition let me say this, once you’ve finished the game, some of those songs take on a whole new dimension.

Its biggest shortfall is that if you take the word ‘game’ to refer to purely gameplay mechanics, then Life is Strange is not a great game. On multiple occasions it deploys some of the least liked mechanics in video games, the fetch quest and insta-fail stealth segments. Whilst the mechanics are grating, a slight redeeming feature is it sets it apart from games like Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain predates Life is Strange by a number of years and also deals with more mature and darker themes. But many argue that aren’t games in the traditional sense and closer to interactive films. I would say that Life is Strange is enough of a game to earn that title.

The first episode in particular drew a large amount of criticism for the extent that slang is present in the dialogue. This isn’t necessarily a huge surprise given the age of the characters involved and the setting the game is going for. It is something of a shame given how great and well written some of the other dialogue in that game. But it didn’t bother me as much as other people and it reached a point where it just became funny as you thought, no one actually speaks like this do they?

Before coming into this game, the consensus I’d heard was basically, episode 1 was a struggle but get through it and it gets better. I don’t agree quite with that, episode 1 is probably the weakest episode, it’s not bad and the reason is it probably the weakest is that it has to set the characters up, thus the plot doesn’t advance a huge amount. Seemingly another case of ‘first episode syndrome’.

It may not seem like it, the game does possess a solid amount of replay value. It’s true the twists and emotional moments certainly won’t have the same impact as first time around. However unless you examine every little thing in your first play through, you will have missed things not to mention seeing how alternate options for key choices play out. Thanks to how well constructed the world and these characters are, you’ll find yourself wanting to know everything about them.


Due to the depth of Life is Strange and the fact I’ve had to keep this review quite vague. I’m considering a follow up article which will be a much more in depth retrospective look at my experience with the game that will contain spoilers.

Life is Strange, with its somewhat inconsistent gameplay mechanics as well as struggles at times to be a ‘game’ in the traditional sense. But the underlying fact is that misses the point of Life is Strange. The story, characters and themes that game deals with set it far away from the mainstream off games.

+ Deep and mature story

+ Very well fleshed out characters, with great performances by the actors/actresses

+ Great soundtrack

-Mechanically lacking in some areas

90/100 (100/100 for story alone)


Thanks for taking the time to read this, just a small note to say I’m currently trying something new linked to the site: live streaming. I am currently live streaming Life is Strange on Youtube around once a week. Here I’ll have a bit more of an in-depth discussion about the game, so I’d recommend only watching the stream if you’ve already finished the game.

To keep up to date with new articles and to find out when I’ll be live streaming, follow me on Twitter @AnotherGmgBlog

Assassins Creed: Syndicate Review

After last year’s entry Unity was derided for its glitch-laden launch, can a romp through Victorian London help put this much-loved series back where it belongs?

It has been a while but at last I’m back. Firstly you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce by the title of this review that I’m finally in possession of a current gen console meaning I’m no longer woefully behind the times. Anyway enough of this introduction, lets jump to it.

It’s Assassins Creed, But Not As We Know It

I don’t consider myself an AC veteran, but I’m not exactly new to the party, I’ve played to completion AC: IV Black Flag and I’ve watched a great deal of AC 2 gameplay. The point is I’d like to think I know what to expect with the series. So imagine my surprise when I repeatedly came across elements and systems that one would normally find in RPGs, AC is supposed to be action-stealth what is happening? To elaborate, completing actions and missions within Syndicate earns you XP which you then spend on different skills which in turn allow you to level up. Furthermore there’s even a crafting system, with materials to be found in chests spread around the game. Now I won’t lie my first response to this was the rather standard, what is this doing in this sort of game? However as I progressed I became more of a fan of these elements, it gave the game as a whole more depth allowing you to tweak your character’s skills to suit your style. In addition it gave some incentive to do the side missions as they too give XP. Previously this being an element of AC games that many people found tedious and just an example of padding a game. Now I’m not saying it’ll make you want to collect every chest in the game but nonetheless a step in the right direction.

Two Can Play At That Game

In a first for the series, there is now two playable characters (there’s actually a third but I won’t spoil that here). Throughout the game you follow twin brother and sister Jacob and Evie Frye. Yes you read that correctly an AC game with a female protagonist. Now this is a bigger step forward than it seems, players have often wanted a female assassin and Ubisoft have seemingly dodged the issue. They then made things a hundred times worse by saying the reason there was no female protagonist in Unity, was that female characters are too complex to animate and implement in the game. This response wasn’t met well with many experts pointing out that what Ubisoft said wasn’t strictly true as any female character would likely share animations with their male counterpart. Anyway learning the error of their ways Ubisoft created Evie, however they haven’t wholly solved the problem. While one can explore the overworld as whichever character they like, however when it comes to story missions in only around a quarter of them can you actually play as Evie in the rest you have to play as Jacob. While this is a step forward of sorts, I feel Ubisoft rather missed a trick by underusing Evie as she is one of the better AC protagonists of recent years. In many of the games the protagonist is driven by an immensely clichéd idea, such as the Batman-esque ‘avenging the death of their family’ seen in AC 2 and Unity. Or even Edward Kenway in Black Flag whose core motivation is seemingly money. Jacob seemingly does fall into this trap as he is seemingly motivated by the death of his father, a fact which the game feels it must remind us every 5 minutes. Whereas Evie possesses a touch more depth being presented as an academic of sorts who still wishes to stop the Templars but with a more measured approached compared to her more reckless brother. The game very much acknowledges this fact, which Jacob being more geared to combat, while Evie is more stealthy, it goes as to far as to limit some of the later available skills to just one of the characters. In an ideal world it would have been nice to give the player complete freedom on how to set up and upgrade each character, but at the very least it means there are two styles of approach to master.

London Bridge is Burning Down

As previously mentioned this entry in the series takes place in London in the mid to late 1800s, otherwise known as the Victorian era. Now this could be down to a combination of my love of this time period and it being my first experience of current gen graphics. But as cliché as it sounds it felt like Ubisoft had created a city that truly felt alive and busy, the streets packed with people and horse drawn carriages. The attention to detail is somewhat breath-taking, I was taken aback while scaling Big Ben at just how accurate it seemed. A staple of the AC series that returns in Syndicate is the presence of virtual versions of real life figures. However instead of them acting as the villain of the story, the likes of Charles Dickens and Karl Marx are there just to give side missions, although Queen Victorian and others do appear in the story itself. There is actually a reason for this, Ubisoft explained they were reluctant to place a real life figure as the villain as the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these figures are still alive today and did not wish to cause offence. Thus in their place the villain is played by the entirely fictional Templar, Crawford Starrick. The quality of the world was another motivating factor in my desire to actually go and explore and complete side missions in much the way Black Flag did. The size and scale of Victorian London compared to previously explored areas in AC led Ubisoft to introduce a new item and mechanic into the game, a rope launcher. In essence a grappling hook that also acts as a zip line allowing you to quickly scale up and across buildings and reach your targets. Now when this concept was first revealed many people weren’t happy, arguing that the parkour and climbing was a core part of the AC series which was being removed. This is a perfectly valid argument and in some ways I agree with it. But when you actually start playing you realise it was a very necessary inclusion, due to the scale of the landscape. It gets to a point that if you deliberately attempt to get from A to B by climbing manually it would take so long that you’d get bored and the flow of the game would be gone. In short this inclusion hasn’t ruined a key part of the game as many feared it would, there are still countless opportunities to climb and it’s still very enjoyable.

Tell Me A Story

After this many entries in the series I think it’s safe to assume you aren’t playing AC for its story. They are broadly similar, you’re target is a senior Templar but you must get through their lieutenants first. Within that will be a sub-plot involving the mythical Pieces of Eden. In addition you have the modern day elements, there is a general consensus that these have always been a weak element since the end of the Desmond Myles arc in AC. Syndicate doesn’t offer anything great in this area, but thankfully they are just brief and infrequent cut scenes as opposed to the tedious walking around Abstergo seen in Black Flag. Moving on to the story missions, as with most AC games they aren’t massively varied the likes of tail then assassinate or steal this item. There are a few that attempt to use some of the new features such as escort missions involving the horse drawn carriages. One big plus in this area is that the terrible eavesdropping missions that I remember from Black Flag have been done away with, which get a major thumbs up from me.

If It’s Broke, Fix It.

In the very beginning of this I alluded to the now infamous launch of Unity, which was riddled with glitches and bugs. This ranged from somewhat terrifying but harmless visual glitches where character’s skin wouldn’t appear but their eyes and mouths would, to actually game breaking glitches. Now I would argue it’s unfair to expect a game to be a 100% glitch free simply owing to how complex modern games are, however in the case of Syndicate I felt it needed to be mentioned. If I was writing this review just a couple of days ago, all I would say is that while playing I’ve experienced some visual glitches, like characters getting stuck. In addition to some slightly more frustrating glitches that led me to restart missions, such as one instance where the game believed I had one target left to kill but the target location was in the ground and thus inaccessible. Nothing game breaking just a little annoying, however I am currently at the game’s final mission. When I attempted to finish that mission the game would crash as soon as it tried to boot, now the reason for this actually turned out to be a PSN outage. Yes modern video games are stupid enough that they basically can’t work without an internet connection, but that’s a discussion for another day. So on the day I am writing this I was happy to hear that PSN was back up, the game seemingly booted perfectly but as soon as I attempt to continue my game after a few seconds the whole thing freezes, multiple attempts, no luck. So I’ve been left unable to finish the game currently, I will be watching for any patches in the coming days. You may argue as a reviewer things like glitches shouldn’t weigh too heavily on my opinion of a game, but given that in this case it is currently impossible to finish and give me closure it’s a tough fact to ignore.

Many people have attributed the glitches of recent AC games to the fact Ubisoft now releases a new game every year, fans are now becoming more and more away this seemingly isn’t enough time to develop it and hence we are seeing a drop in overall quality. In the last couple of days it would seem that Ubisoft is conceding this fact. They announced that the next main series AC game, currently titled Empire will not be out until 2017 and specifically sighted the reason for this being so that the game is of the best possible quality. It would appear that Ubisoft has finally realised the way to keep fans loyal to a series is to release a well-made, polished game every few years and not a rushed and broken game year in and year out.

So the question is, where does the AC series stand after Syndicate? Well in all honesty it does little to the core Assassins Creed formula, it is at least a little more than just Unity with a Victorian London skin. If you’re an Assassin’s fan I’d still recommend picking it up as it’s pretty polished with just the odd crack. If you’re new to series, I’d give it a try, even if it is to merely see what current gen consoles can do. Furthermore if like me you don’t consider yourself a huge stealth fan, I always consider AC as being hybrid-stealth. Meaning that you can be stealthy but in most cases being detected isn’t an instant fail, instead you can fight your way out if you’re good enough. Let’s just hope that extra year of polish on Empire will make all the difference.

Syndicate doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s an enjoyable adventure through Victorian London, if you’re an action-stealth fan, you can’t go wrong with this.

SCORE: 75/100

+ Victorian London looks stunning

+ Evie Frye is a great protagonist

+ Side missions finally feel more worthwhile

+ Greater depth thanks to RPG mechanics

-Does little to the core formula

-Story is somewhat bland and unexciting