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PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS [PUBG] REVIEW

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NUANCED SURVIVAL EXPERIENCE AND FUN, ACTION-PACKED COMBAT. ‘used the words i could’

Even though PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is still in Early Access, it’s already a groundbreaking online shooter. Each game starts the same way, but its remarkable ability to feel like a fresh new adventure every round has kept me coming back for hours on end. It manages to approach the Battle Royale-style death match made popular by games like DayZ with relative simplicity, without sacrificing the essence of the hardcore survival sim, creating a tight, focused, and no-frills experience that places it leagues above the competition.

Battlegrounds wastes no time putting you right in the middle of the action, as up to 100 players join a server and pick their moment to jump out of a plane and parachute onto a large 8×8 km island. Even this first act is a critical decision and must be part of your strategy: jumping early lets you hit the ground first, giving you a jump on the competition, but may also place you farther from the center of the arena where the fighting must inevitably funnel towards. Jumping late might give you some distance from other players, giving you some early breathing room before entering the fray. Jumping right into the center, especially in large cities where most players drop, will place you right in the middle of the action.

The tension mounts during the descent as you get a good look at the swarm of players in your vicinity, but things really pick up the moment you hit the ground, as everybody scrambles for weapons and gear and the killing begins right from the get-go. Backpacks for holding more items, a handful of protective gear like helmets and police vests, healing items, melee weapons, and a good mix of firearms are in good supply.

Item distribution is randomized, but you can’t count on finding a good gun early keeping you safe. It isn’t out of the ordinary for someone with only a pistol to take down someone with a fully loaded SCAR-L assault rifle, since good gear is only half the battle – the other half is wit. As players outsmart each other in deadly games of cat and mouse, those still standing are forced into ever-closer proximity within the confines of a deadly, ever-shrinking force-field until just one is left alive. Victory is an exhilarating reward, matched only by the suspense that emerges from the battle to achieve it. But even if you die early, jumping into a new game is always quick and easy. (Kill cams are wisely omitted to avoid cheating, but you do have the option of entering spectate mode for surviving teammates.)

Early Access Verdict

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has taken the genre popularized by games like DayZ and boiled it down to only its best parts, making for quick and accessible rounds of pure, hassle-free survival-based action. Even though it’s as rough around the edges as the early access label implies, it’s absolutely worth playing right now. We’ll continue to play as it gets closer to a full launch, and revisit this review with updated thoughts once it’s out of early access.

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FORTNITE REVIEW

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For the first 10 hours of Fortnite, I didn’t have to build a fort to succeed. We shot down every zombie husk within seconds of them spawning, eliminating the need for any of the traps that Fortnite lets you craft and place on its maps. Instead, everyone would wander the map on their lonesome, completing quests that few—if any—shared in an effort to expedite the time until our next reward and crawl through the story missions towards something resembling a challenge.

When a hulking bruiser enemy busted through our walls for the first time, I felt relieved. Finally, I needed to build a decent fort, and finally, I would have to work with my team to plan and overcome a genuine threat. But we quickly killed the monster, repaired the walls, set out new traps, and coasted through the rest of the match. It would be another five hours of coasting and building useless monuments to the sky before I felt threatened again. And when it does start to get difficult, success is gated through a constant squeeze on your persistent resources required to build forts and traps, a frustrating byproduct of the messy, time-wasting progression systems.

Fortnite uses a cute, albeit shallow narrative backdrop as its excuse for building big towers of wood and stone and steel. Some recurring characters including a jokester robot and a longhaired rocksmith (whose van you weather-balloon into the sky every other mission) mark your progress with commentary on the state of humanity against the big purple clouds in the sky. They can be genuinely funny, but, like all the best parts of Fortnite, the dialogue feels like a low priority, often playing over the menu’s distracting visual noise and the post-match ritual of watching chests spill out, pinatas explode, and XP meters fill themselves several times over to accompanying carnival ambience.

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Cuphead Review

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Everything you’ve heard about Cuphead is true. It is a difficult side-scrolling shooter with relentless boss battles that demand rapid-fire actions and reactions. Think for too long, and you won’t stand a chance against the game’s toughest enemies. Battles may only last three minutes at most, but they feel far longer when you know that you can only absorb three hits before you have to start from scratch. When you are navigating your way around bullets, smaller enemies, and pitfalls, while simultaneously trying to damage your primary target, toppling Cuphead’s imposing bosses is both a monumental and rewarding task.

But difficult battles only tell half of the story. Cuphead’s 1930s cartoon aesthetic is endlessly charming, popping with color and expression unlike anything seen at this scale in a video game before. The sheer variety of characters and settings yields consistent delight as you go from one stage to the next, with everything bearing the telltale signs of grainy ’30s film and rudimentary production techniques. Cel-shading means something to a lot of people, but Cuphead truly re-creates the look of hand-drawn cel animation.

A world map sets the stage for your adventure. As a Cup-thing who gambled with the devil, you now must go around collecting debts from the devil’s other acquaintances–the game’s bosses. Outside of one-on-one fights, you also have a few opportunities to run and gun through less-imposing platforming stages. These help break up the action and give you a chance to collect coins that can be cashed in for “weapons” and passive buffs. Coins are in short supply and can only be collected once, so farming to gain an advantage is out of the question. These stages don’t compare to Cuphead’s main attractions, but they add valuable substance nonetheless.

The mix of ammunition for your hand gun–character fire from their fingers–includes the likes of a spread shot, a charge blast, and a boomerang round. There are six in all, and each comes with a secondary attack that’s tied to a meter that fills when you successfully land shots on enemies. You can also earn meter by parrying pink projectiles and enemies, a task that requires you to jump towards an enemy and then tap jump again at just the right moment before impact. These range from a fireball and a ring of damaging gems to a burst of bulky, short-range arrows. Finally, you have a super art, which can only be fired when your entire meter is full, as opposed to spending one section of that meter to fire your weapon’s secondary attack. The one catch here is that when your meter is full, you can’t perform a secondary attack–you are inconveniently forced to unleash your super art, which isn’t always desirable.

Given that you are able to equip two weapons at once, the variety of loadouts you can equip before a fight allows for flexibility on your part. While you may benefit by bringing a specific set of arms into some boss battles–say, using tracer rounds to pick off minor enemies swarming overhead–you can still carry whatever you wish into battle so long as you have the confidence and knowledge meet the challenge ahead.

Learning the bosses’ attack pattern is oftentimes half the battle, and it’s typical to run through a fight multiple times until you see everything that might get thrown your way. Every boss fight consists of multiple stages or forms. Bosses will change shape, position, and behavior with each new phase. And within an individual phase, you may see as many as four different attacks, though you aren’t always guaranteed to see them all during subsequent fights. When bosses begin to mix multiple attacks at once, the potential for various deadly combos keeps you on your toes no matter how familiar you are with the fight in question.

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