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I'm a Dad in my 30s just trying to keep track of and keep up with video games. I have loved games as long as I can remember and strongly believe that 1991 to 2011 will go down in history as the golden age of this medium.

I enjoy reading and writing reviews. I have also put together some lists.

Strong advocate for buying physical copies of videogames.

5/4.5 Stars = All time great
4 Stars = Must play
3/3.5 Stars = Good game
2/2.5 Stars = average or meh
1.5 Stars or lower = awful

How I rate games in my written reviews:

9-9.9 = One of the best ever
8-8.9 = Must play/own
7-7.9 = Really good game
6-6.9 = Decent game
5-5.9 = Mediocre
4-4.9 = Subpar
3-3.9 = Bad
2.9 or lower = Let's just say I hope to never review something that falls here.

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Recently Reviewed See More

The Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle is a fantastic package that comes with two of the best action games available and is a must have for Platinum fans. I have thoroughly enjoyed revisiting both games through this remastered double pack and have put up reviews for both.

For Bayonetta I wrote that it is one of the greatest games of all time with a few niggles and gave it a 9.5/10. I gave Vanquish an 8.4/10 and said that despite some issues it is still a fun, must play action game. Each of these games is a must buy on their own, so a nice package that has both is one of the best things a PS4 or PS5 owner can buy. And this is a nice package. It comes in a beautiful steel case with artwork from both games, that has a cardboard slip cover on top with all of the game info you need and its own nice art too. Both games are on a single disc but they are separate games. They are installed individually and come with their own trophies, which is great. Unfortunately no manual, which is the norm now, it just has a little insert with health, safety and customer service info. Given that this is a 10th anniversary release maybe a little booklet with some developer interviews and art would have been cool. The other thing that needs a lot of praise is how good of a deal this is. This bundle was the same price as the recent physical Metroid Prime remaster. It was less than what the upcoming Paper Mario and Luigi’s Mansion remasters are going to be. Its price point is the same as or less than most other remasters and it contains two games with a steel case. The industry needs to learn from this.

It is two must play action games, in a nice package and at a good price. The Bayonetta and Vanquish 10th Anniversary Bundle is something that should be sitting on just about every PS4 or PS5 owner’s shelf (it’s available for Xbox too). I’m pleased to say that (at the time of posting this) it is still easy to find and has not gone up in price, in fact I found copies that are less than launch price, so go grab a copy if you’re interested, especially if you’ve never these games.

I think this now takes me past 5000 words for this bundle/games, so a big thank you to anyone that read everything.

Vanquish is an over the top, silly, action packed, Sci-Fi, third person shooter, directed by Shinji Mikami, that seems like a response to the stop and pop, waist high cover based, third person shooters of it’s time. So it should be an absolute winner and the type of game I’m going to love and it mostly is. However, Vanquish is a bit underwhelming in some ways and has a few flaws too that keep it from being everything it could be.

Vanquish is somewhat comparable to those lovable 80s and early 90s American action films and it is also a very videogame-y videogame. But for something with this kind of vibe it can be unexpectedly bland. Where’s the personality, the charm, the charisma, the style, the camp? Okay maybe I’ve started off a little too harsh here. It does have its charm and is a bit cool. It is likable and excessive. I like the characters and the way they talk. I like that the main character, Sam, smokes as much as he can and it’s used in gameplay too. The game isn’t really short on crazy moments; it opens with San Francisco getting micro waved from space. There’s one instant when Sam say’s ‘this is like a videogame’ and the tutorial includes a bit about how you can’t jump in just because you’ve read the manual. It’s got something and is fun, but after Resident Evil 4, God Hand and Platinum’s other game Bayonetta this just doesn’t compare and it feels a little bit more flat than it should be.

This can be seen in the games visuals that are a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand I think Sam’s Augmented Reaction Suit looks great and so does the BLADE system, which is a transforming weapon that can change into three different currently ‘held’ weapons. Sam looks awesome in motion too. Boosting around, flying out cover and how he melee attacks was really well done. Slow motion is excellent looking as well and I need to give a special mention to the grenade throws. The fantastic animation is helped by good sound effects too. I think the robot enemies look pretty good and some of the characters like the villain, Victor, the Lieutenant Colonel Robert Burns, who you often fight alongside, and your assisting character, Elena, get good enough character designs. Along the way you’ll see some nice views and a real highlight of the game is that it is set in what is essentially a cylinder floating in space, so when you look off in the distance the environments curve up and go above you. There are some really cool action sequences in cut scenes and the action during gameplay is the right kind of visually hectic. Vanquish has nailed the most important visual aspects for a game like this and the performance too.

On the other hand this world and the levels can be kind of uninspired. The places you move through are forgettable and blur into each other in your mind at least up until act 3, or maybe act 4 in particular, but this is only a 5 act long game. There’s a lot of bland looking space marine dudes running about and just a lot of ‘okay’ looking stuff. Plenty of the cut scenes have over the top action which is great but the way it is framed often isn’t. The camera likes to move a lot, often having that shaky hand held technique and there are times with lots of quick cuts and zooms. I know what they were going for but I don’t like it, I prefer to see action clearly, in all its glory. I guess they were maybe inspired by Hollywood at the time, in that post Jason Bourne, Transformers era. I wasn’t a fan and think later scenes in the game that focus on Sam in action work better. There is some level of deliberately being bad going in this game as it is aiming for a dumb American action movie, mixed with a Japanese developer’s style, kind of aesthetic and mood. Perhaps there’s a reason why this is focused on what truly counts in a game like this though.

Vanquish is about some Russian bad guys taking over a giant American space cylinder colony, that has a giant microwave gun on it. The Russians use it to wipe out San Francisco and then threaten New York next. America doesn’t surrender, they send in space marines and Sam from DARPA also gets sent in, with his fancy battle suit, and a special mission to rescue a Doctor. It’s simple, a bit of fun and gives you reasons to do a whole lot of shooting. Unfortunately though it’s not very good or interesting or fleshed out, even if there are some bits of info dropped in loading screens, and you’ll probably figure out the reveals/twists before they come. The characters are definitely action game/movie characters but they are fun to watch. I particularly liked the dialogue and dynamic between Sam and Burns. There are some well known voice actors here like Gideon Emery, Steve Blum and Kari Wahlgren and they deliver lines just as you’d want them to for a game like this. The music is fine too but not much stood out to me. The game ends really abruptly and feels like there should have been another hour or two or more likely a sequel that we never got. It’s quite a short game and feels short, with the last two acts in a five act game going by much quicker than the previous three acts. Overall I just don’t have much interest in re-watching the cut scenes or going through the non gameplay moments of this game again. Maybe there is a reason, beyond just time and budget constraints, for this purity, simplicity, focus and short run time. Maybe everything is done (or not done) to service the gameplay; the fun, fast paced, action packed, very re-playable, reason that you’re actually here, gameplay.

Vanquish is a third person cover shooter that doesn’t want you in cover playing it like a cover shooter. It’s about speed and movement and what happens when you’re not in cover. If you play this game like a normal cover shooter you will probably come away from the game feeling dissatisfied and I’m not even sure if this would be that viable on harder difficulties, so get out of cover and get into it (not that I’m saying you should always be out of cover). You have a boost knee slide to rocket around the battlefield, to flank or get behind enemies. You have a dodge roll and you can use it as much as you need. There’s a good variety of weapons at your disposal and it’s enjoyable to mess around with all of them. The weapons upgrade in an interesting way too, that you need to learn to work with. They upgrade by picking up more of the same fully stocked weapon you have, and some random upgrade drops, but if you die the upgrades drop back down a bit. Added to this is the ability to heal injured Marines fighting along with you for more weapon drops. Sam can go into Augmented Reaction mode (slow mo) to kill multiple enemies quickly with accurate shots, to get in quick heavy amounts of damage, to shoot rockets out the air and to move around the bullets slowly ripping by. The slow mo also activates when you take a bunch of damage too so you have a chance to save your arse. You can do really cool melee attacks, that vary based on the weapon you have equipped, and do good damage but leave you vulnerable. Which leads to how energy is done in this game; the boost, slow mo, melee and health all share a pool. So you have to balance things while still being aggressive. Something else that needs a quick mention is how well Platinum usually does difficulty. Vanquish is both accessible and not short on challenge. You can choose the easier modes or normal depending on what you’re comfortable with and have fun. Then there is Hard, God Hard and challenges for the challenge seekers and those looking for depth will find it.

Vanquish works really well and the elements of its gameplay come together to create something special. Reading my brief description you can probably already guess this is about risk/reward. The joy of Vanquish comes from playing on the edge. The line between being an unstoppable force on the battlefield and dying or being forced to cower in cover is small. The other thing that is so enjoyable is learning to play and diving into these simple mechanics to discover the depth here. When you play Vanquish you should mess around with it, have fun and get creative. See what you can pull off and then try to link that stuff together so you can get into a very cool looking and feeling flow. It doesn’t matter if you die a lot for while and don’t let this stop, frustrate or worry you. Vanquish isn’t about just getting through it and seeing the story. It’s a videogame with a capital V. So get into it and ‘play.’ Leap over cover and trigger slow mo in the air and rain down bullets on the robots trying to hide. Boost dodge your way through the chaos. Throw a grenade into a pack off enemies but use slow mo to shoot your own grenade in the air when it’s right above them. Boost slide melee attack into an enemy and then trigger slow mo in the air off this and use the sniper rifle to hit an enemy in the distance that thought they were safe. Jump into cover when you need a reprieve and take a ciggy break then watch as Sam flicks the cigarette away which distracts the enemies, creating the perfect window to jump back into the glorious action. Experiment and see what can be done, then look up what others have found and add it to your arsenal. And I almost forgot to mention there are some entertaining set pieces and a tasteful use of quick time events. Simple, fun, brilliant, that’s Vanquish during combat.

Outside of combat there’s not a whole lot going on and I have to mention some negatives after all that gushing. It doesn’t have good downtime sections or anything else to break up the combat and maybe help with pacing. There are some gold statues to find and shoot. It has these little, unskippable forced walking and listening sections. Don’t worry though; they aren’t bad compared to other games and they are brief. Speaking of wasting time, you are often waiting for stuff like doors and what felt like a whole lot of elevators. When not in fights it really mostly just boils down to moving though linear spaces or waiting. Also a lot of stuff in the combat sections has been a bit tired for a long time now in both first and third person shooters; like being on a turret or getting through an area with a silenced sniper rifle but at least it’s trying to throw in some variation. I wish the rating system was a little clearer and better too. But again I must say this game is aiming for a pure simplicity.

This was my first time going back to Vanquish since I first played it around the time it launched on PS3. I have thoroughly enjoyed coming back to it and realised I should have done so sooner. Vanquish isn’t perfect and it might be a little underwhelming or undercooked. But its simplicity, focus and shortness are its strength too. It is so fun, highly re-playable and rewarding. Maybe Vanquish doesn’t need skill trees, unlockables, a more open or interesting world, or a good story because it is too busy just being kick arse. Vanquish is a must play action game and one that should be learned from, I highly recommend it.

8.4/10

After wrapping up Bayonetta and before starting the next game I just had to come back to Wanted: Dead. I love it and wanted to try it out again now that it has been updated.

At first I needed to re-adjust to this game, as I kept hitting the wrong buttons for dodge and reload and was playing kind of awkwardly, but after a bit of time it was clicking again. Quickly sprinting and rolling around as Hannah Stone while ripping, shooting and parrying your way through enemies is so much fun. The charm and characters of this game are still great too. So what’s new or different?

First of all are the fixes and improvements. I played through the game on PS5, on normal difficulty. Then I got the itch to keep playing this again and did Hard and Japanese Hard, which takes me up to 8 play throughs now. I had fewer issues and no crashes but there were still performance problems, particularly during Kowloon Street. So it’s a smoother experience but still needs a little more work and of course this game still has its bit of jank.

There is a big change to difficulty. The first ninja now has three Stimpacks right in front of him and all the tougher enemies drop them too. I don’t know how I feel about this. The game already has an easy mode, which is now easier to access. It feels like the game lost its edge a bit and like the creators have compromised their vision. It seems a bit late too, all the reviews are out and the game has been on shelves for over a year. Is this really going to pull in more people? I almost managed a no death run first go despite not playing it since last year and not trying for it. During the last chapter there were just a lot health drops that I was leaving behind. The game just feels quite a bit easier. At first I thought no problem normal difficulty has been made more accessible, which is fine, but new players will be missing something. However these changes were made to hard and Japanese hard as well. Holy crap why did they lower the difficulty of the entire game? Now if I want to play the game as the developers originally intended and how I enjoyed it I need to not install the update, which means playing a buggier version that likes to crash. It’s still an incredibly fun game and I know many will prefer it now but it has really lost something. I liked that it demanded you learn how to play, it was rewarding and the journey to getting better was one of Wanted: Dead’s highlights. I liked that you had to be on your game or get punished. I liked the tension and palm sweats the difficulty and checkpoint system created. I liked that it made you learn to get through strings of encounters rather than just one encounter at a time with heaps of health or checkpoints in between. I want more people to play Wanted: Dead so maybe this is going to be good in the long run but I don’t like that it’s been toned down either, it does negatively impact the experience and there was no reason to change the higher difficulties. Surely there was a better way to get new people on board.

They added player stats so you can track your progress for some trophies. The severance pays trophy has been fixed as well and I unlocked it. I’m never getting that Platinum trophy though because of how damn hard it is to do really well at the mini games, seriously why is the ramen game harder than beating the game on Japanese Hard mode? They also added the ability to toggle in and out of cover with a button press. I’m not a fan of it and changed it back straight away. I want to move around quickly in this game and snapping in and out of cover just feels better.

I’d love to see more improvements and content added to this game like an even harder difficulty that changes up enemy placement, a boss run mode, chapter select and a ranking system. As much as I’m really happy this game got an update, it feels like two steps forward and one step back, when the game needed to be taken four steps forward.

The reviews and how they have almost certainly impacted this game’s sales and how it will be remembered by many (if remembered at all) really sucks. Some of the bad reviews I have read gave me God Hand 3/10 flashbacks, hopefully this game get’s some of the recognition I think it deserves one day. Overall Wanted: Dead is an amazing, addictive game. It’s hard to describe just how good this game feels. I’ve played it 8 times now and have it down to about 2 hours and no deaths, if I’m careful, and I’m still keen on playing it more. It’s just such a special game and I think if I were to review it again now I’d put it in the 8 out of 10 range, which for me makes it a must own and play game.

I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a bit more discussion around the story, world and characters too but I guess not many people played it. I feel bad about how much I initially glossed over and didn’t think about it. It’s actually really good. This world is really cool, I love the characters and I’m really hoping for a sequel.




STOP READING HERE IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS




It’s a cyber punk, alternate version of our world, set in Hong Kong but with a very international cast of characters. Meat is rare and there seems to be clear separation of the different classes of people. It is about a corporation convincing the public that they have made synths (= working class) but really they haven’t. The corporation literally owns people, has their own security force and seems to have a lot of control over politics and the police. Then there is the whole ending with the reveals and the anime cut scenes. I didn’t expect the game to hit this much and have a story this good after that opening diner cut scene. I was just expecting stylish, irreverent fun. There’s so many interesting deliberate choices as well, like the voice actors, only one karaoke song and it’s 99 Luftballons, Stone’s police car is a Maserati from the early 90s and there is one random Nems song. There’s just too much to list. I have so many questions as well, like how did this game even get made? Why is the technology the way it is in this world? Why are there live action cooking segments? Will Hannah/Emma find peace and/or resolution?