Andrew Passafiume

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There’s something calming about driving in video games. This is especially true of open-world driving games, many of which allow you to explore and learn more about the world you are (virtually) inhabiting. I do enjoy driving in Grand Theft Auto and the like, but it’s not the same. The original Forza Horizon and its recently released sequel are more my speed. It provides a similar feeling as sailing, but the sense of speed and (sometimes) laid back atmosphere the Forza Horizon games provide manage to scratch a different itch.

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Few films have inspired a generation of action-focused science fiction, both in games and other movies, more than James Cameron’s Aliens. While the titles inspired by Aliens are generally excellent, the ones based directly on that property haven’t fared as well. This is where Creative Assembly’s Alien: Isolation comes in. Based entirely on the original horror film that spawned the franchise, Isolation is a subtler take on its source material and, as a result, manages to make more of an impact.

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Like with any licensed property, games based on Lord of the Rings, and Middle-earth as a whole, have been mixed. There are certainly a few stand-outs, but there are just as many (if not more so) poorly made cash-grabs. With such a rich lineage from which to borrow, the potential for an excellent game in this universe seemed untapped. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Monolith’s take on the series, is different, taking a license in exciting directions rarely seen from larger studios.

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A recent trend in the industry, specifically in action games, has been masterfully blending action and stealth to make for an excellent combo. Titles like Crysis, Metro: Last Light and even Dishonored have managed to make both play styles feel just right. No matter what your preference is, you’ll most likely find something to like about these titles. The recently released Wolfenstein: The New Order might be the best example, providing you with only a few options but polishing those options up to a mirror sheen. READ MORE

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Sherlock Holmes, the eccentric detective and one of the most iconic fictional characters, has seen a number of attempts at franchises based on his escapades, but few stand out as worthwhile. Frogwares’ series of titles is the most recent, delivering a more authentic Sherlock Holmes experience. Most of these titles are riddled with problems, and although each game has gotten better than the last, it was typically hard to recommend them. Understand my surprise when the newest game, Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, exceeds all expectations. READ MORE

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After stepping away from Halo’s immense shadow, Bungie is back with a brand new franchise that isn’t too dissimilar from the series that made it the studio you know today. Destiny, an online-only first-person shooter (with some light RPG/MMO elements), is attempting to take the lessons learned from Halo and bring them to a genre hybrid that, at first glance, seems epic in scale. What you get out of Destiny will be different depending on what you are looking for, but whatever it is will undoubtedly be bundled with the feeling of lost potential.

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Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the second season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

I wrote about the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead a little more than a year ago, covering exactly why the choices in that game matter despite how little impact they might have on the overall story. It was a near-perfect execution of choice in games, simply because it didn’t throw in your face how “important” or “world-changing” your decisions were. Often, it would simply ignore them right before your very eyes. Despite that, those decisions still lingered, and turned just another zombie story into something unique.

It ultimately created a sense of trust between the writers and those who experience that story. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead: Season Two violates that trust in the worst ways possible.

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When you think about classic Square franchises, what comes to mind? Final Fantasy would be your immediate reaction, but there’s also Mana, Kingdom Hearts, the Chrono games and even Front Mission. One I feel is rarely discussed is SaGa, a series I consider one of Square’s best (or at least its boldest). Let’s talk about what makes the series so groundbreaking despite how little attention it is paid by those fondly remembering the days of Square’s past, focusing on my favorite of the bunch, SaGa Frontier.

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Stealth games have gone through somewhat of a renaissance as of late, augmenting traditionally rigid mechanics you associate with the genre for something more forgiving. This is a way to introduce the genre to new players without alienating the veterans, and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. CounterSpy continues this new traditional in style, with randomly generated side-scrolling levels and a focus on maintaining the balance between pure stealth and action. READ MORE

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As I mention in my review of the new indie title Hohokum, I prefer games with structure versus those that tend to let you roam free, learning as you go. Hohokum’s aimless approach was both its greatest strength and weakness, yet it made me realize I appreciate similar titles and their approach to that design. It’s not the best example of this approach to game design, but it had me thinking about those design philosophies and how important they are to gaming as a whole.

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