Death of the Critic

The Backlog

The Backlog - Luftrausers

Written by: Tom Blaich

Luftrausers_Banner


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I’m a big fan of many of the titles that Devolver Digital has published over the years. They all seem to have a certain sense of “style” to them.
Luftrausers is, of course, no exception to this. What appears to be a relatively simple game at the surface hides a surprisingly complex system of upgrades that can fundamentally change the way you play. You take control of a tiny place faced with a big problem - jets, fighters, missiles, boats, subs, oh my. They all stand in the way of your ultimate goal, getting a lot of points as quickly as possible.

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The Backlog - Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

Written by: Tom Blaich

Borderlands_The_Pre_Sequel_Banner


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I loved the first Borderlands. It came out at the perfect time for me to sink dozens of hours into that strange little world. I probably played through it four or five times with different characters and friends. I wrung every drop of enjoyment that I could out of it, and I had fun the entire time. I can remember how excited I was for the second game when it came out, and that night I rushed home with friends to play it as soon as it launched. But something was different. Some of the magic that used to be there was lost for me. I still played it through twice, but towards the end it started to feel more like an obligation as opposed to me actually wanting to play it more. The world started to feel empty and the characters started to annoy me. The gameplay was still the same solid base, and it carried the game for me for a long time, but eventually I put it down, and I haven’t looked back since.

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The Backlog - Battlefield: Hardline

Written by: Tom Blaich

Battlefield_Hardline_Banner


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

With Battlefield 1 already in players hands, I thought it was only appropriate to go back to the oft-maligned and forgotten Battlefield: Hardline. The game that a franchise desperately wants you to forget. It was the 2015 attempt at annualizing the franchise, and unfortunately, a cops and robbers themed game released at a time where players weren’t looking at police as heroes. This coupled with some confusing design decisions that made Hardline feel unlike many Battlefield titles of the past, combined to quickly push this game out of players minds. I picked up a copy early this year, and it fell to the bottom of a stack of games a mile long. Until now.

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The Backlog - Kill the Bad Guy

Written by: Tom Blaich

Kill_the_Bad_Guy_Banner


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Sometimes games try to be cary about their actual themes. They try to abstract them behind layers of gameplay and story that you have to dig through to find the “real meaning”. Kill the Bad Guy is not that game. It wears what it is proudly on its sleeve, a shallow, timing based physics puzzler all about satisfying those 2AM revenge fantasies on serial killers, psychopaths, and general assholes who make the world worse off. And when it is just this, it can be an enjoyable, if morbid, good time.

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The Backlog - Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Written by: Tom Blaich

Shadow_of_Mordor_Header


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

There are a few games that I am really sad to still have sitting in my backlog, games that I felt that I needed to play and I never got the chance. Shadow of Mordor has been a part of this shame pile since it came out. Finally a good Lord of the Rings game, which is something that I’ve been missing for a long time. It took elements from so many other games that were successful and crammed it all together and somehow it worked. From the “Batman combat” to the Ubisoft tower climbing in a nice open world. But what really sealed the deal was the “Nemesis System” and its possibilities in the future of games.

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The Backlog - Receiver

Written by: Tom Blaich

Receiver_Header


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

It turns out that guns are more complex than video games make them out to be. You don’t just hold down the giggle switch until all the bullets kill all the bad guys. There are a few more steps to remember.
Receiver tries to capture some of this complexity by putting you in control of every aspect of your handgun. You search a dark building scattered with lethal flying drones and automatic turrets that are ready to do their devastating duty on your flimsy body. Luckily, your enemies are as fragile as you are, and you have to survive while finding tapes that can tell you more about the reality that you have found yourself trapped in.

Every time you spawn in, you are given one of a few different handguns and a pocketful of bullets. Maybe you’ll even get a flashlight, if you are lucky, but don’t count on it. You could find yourself with a Glock 18, 4 fully loaded magazines, and a flashlight, or you could have a revolver with half a cylinder of empty shells and six usable bullets. It quickly becomes a game of managing what you have, balancing your few available rounds between whichever magazines you are lucky enough to start with or find. There is no ammo counter, or indicator of how many rounds you have left. You have to remember how many shots you have fired, how many fit in one magazine, and how many rounds you have to reload with.

It’s easy to find yourself in a situation that will get you killed because you aren’t prepared. You forgot to take the safety off, and you die. Your hammer isn’t cocked, and your gun can’t be fired. You only have two rounds left in your magazine but three enemies are coming at you. There isn’t a quick reload here, and it comes down to finger dexterity to see if you can survive. It makes each room into a nailbiting-ly tense experience. You don’t know what is around the next corner, but you know it can kill you in a split second.

You are fragile as hell. If you are so much as touched by an enemy, you are about to die. You might have a few seconds while you are bleeding out, but you won’t survive. It is brutal, and it changes every encounter from something normal into a life or death situation. All of a sudden the shot you are about to take is way more difficult. The possibility of death lurking around the corner compels you to panic. You’ll die countless times as you try to learn the world and it’s mechanics, and there is something amazing about the first time you manage to operate the gun without using the help menu in the corner fo the screen. The learning curve is practically a vertical line, but there is something intriguing about the way that the game plays.

The fundamental idea is solid, and the simple environment can be beneficial as it contains no distractions, just the few things you need to notice to survive. It is like a proof of concept that this can work, I just wish that there was a little bit of variety in the world. What would it be like if you were dropped in a forest full of monsters with a hunting rifle, or in the streets of a war torn city with an M4? I loved the idea, but I found myself enjoying the idea more than the execution sometimes. There are marked improvements that could be made to the graphics, voice-acting, level design, enemy variety, and more. But the core, the fundamental idea is as solid as I’ve seen. With some amount of polish and experimentation it could be great.

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Tommy_Tom

Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.



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The Backlog - Payday 2: The Heist

Written by: Tom Blaich

PAYDAY2


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I fell down a deep, dark hole this last week. For some reason, I found myself sitting down with
Payday 2: The Heist. I probably should have been spending more time with my family, but instead I held “F” a lot as I picked open safety deposit boxes and got kicked out of matches for being inexperienced. There is a lot that I like about the game, but there is also a deep, dark hole at the center that I really, really hate.

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The Backlog - DOOM

Written by: Tom Blaich

DOOM_Super_Shotgun


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I really wish I had played
DOOM closer to when it came out. I had picked up a copy for my brother for Christmas and after getting a chance to try it out with my family, much to my mother’s horror, I knew I had to pick it up. In many ways, it is one of the best shooters that I’ve played in a long time. You shoot a lot of things in DOOM. It looks really cool, and it feels really good, and that’s kind of it. In the purest sense of the word, it is a game; you kill demons to unlock upgrades to kill demon faster.

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The Backlog - Peggle 2

Written by: Tom Blaich

Peggle_2_Success


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

There is something about the
Peggle games that I have always loved. They are so simple, yet so amazingly satisfying and fun to play. The games have character in the purest sense of the word. And a few years back, I bought Peggle 2 on the day that it was launched. But somehow it quickly fell to the bottom of a very long stack of games that I’ve been trying to work through. It has been installed since then, just waiting for me to come back and finish what I started.

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The Backlog - Wolfenstein: The New Order

Written By: CJ Streetman

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It’s way too easy to fall way too far behind on games. They simply ask for too much of your time and money to be able to keep up with all the ones that look interesting. Thankfully, almost entirely due to online sales, eventually you’re able to get most games for a five dollar bill and an afternoon of free time.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is about 10 hours of ups and downs.

I’ve been wanting to play
Wolfenstein: The New Order since its initial release, and as many complaints as I’ve had about the experience, I genuinely enjoyed my time with the game.

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The Backlog - Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

Written by: Tom Blaich

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I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

In many ways,
Geometry Wars 2 was a perfect game. Just enough content, quick and responsive gameplay, loads of challenge, and enough replayability to last a lifetime. So I was more than a little confused when they announced that they were making a sequel and adding a campaign. It seemed like a game that didn’t necessarily need to be made, a decision based purely off of marketing and predicted sales numbers on a graph over any real push from fans. I bought it when it was released, but after a few quick levels, I put it down and promptly forgot about it completely.

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The Backlog - Crimson Dragon

Written by: Tom Blaich

Crimson_Dragon


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

The launch of the Xbox One was a rather forgettable one. Really the only title that has managed to stand the test of time was
Dead Rising 3, and everything else was left by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean that the other titles released then ceased to exist. Crimson Dragon is a simple game, and in that simplicity, there is some fun to be found. However, unlike more memorable downloadable titles, it fails to grab that crucial X factor that keeps you coming back for more.

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The Backlog - Dead Rising 4

Written by: Tom Blaich

Smash


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Zombies might be a bit overdone the days, but the Dead Rising series has always brought its own unique look and feel to the genre. They are dumb, but in the best sense of the word, and no other game quite matches the amount of action on screen at one time. When you boil them down, they are essentially Musou games, where you run around and slap zombies with increasingly ridiculous weapons. In this sense, Dead Rising 4 definitely delivers. While it does tone down the number of weapons from 3, it has a world that is big and fun to run around in, and the return of Frank West brings the franchise back to its roots, in more ways than one.

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The Backlog - Super Time Force

Written by: Tom Blaich

STF_Screenshot_4


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Sometimes all a game has is a good idea, and the one behind Super Time Force is unquestionably good. It is a side scrolling, bullet hell shooter a la Contra, but they remixed classic concept by letting you rewind time and use previous versions of your character (think ghosts from a racing game) to help you progress. Admittedly, this concept is hard to comprehend without seeing it in action. It lets you rewind time to try a challenge over and over again, each time becoming easier by virtue of having additional help from your ghosts.

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The Backlog - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Written By: CJ Streetman

Uncharted-4_drake-close-up


It’s way too easy to fall way too far behind on games. They simply ask for too much of your time and money to be able to keep up with all the ones that look interesting. Thankfully, almost entirely due to online sales, eventually you’re able to get most games for a five dollar bill and an afternoon of free time.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the best entry in the already great Uncharted series.

In nearly every way,
Uncharted 4 improves upon the previous iterations; the combat feels better and makes you feel more like an action hero than ever, the “stealth” works, which is miles above the last few games, the puzzles are by and large very intuitive, almost never becoming frustrating, and the story is very compelling even though it misses the hint of the supernatural that all the previous games had.

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The Backlog - Sleeping Dogs

Written by: Tom Blaich

Sleeping_Dogs


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I’ve made my feelings known about open-world games before, but I just can’t stop playing them. It has been a few years since Sleeping Dogs came out, which still surprises me given the troubled lineage of the title. It was warmly received, finally giving a GTA-style open-world game a satisfying combat system. It made the game fun to play in a way that few open-world titles manage to be. By making combat fun, it made the inherent experience of playing the game better.

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The Backlog - Homefront: The Revolution

Written by: Tom Blaich

Homefront_header


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

The first
Homefront was forgotten rather quickly, another in a long line of generic modern shooters that everyone forgot about. I, like many others, thought that it would be a forgotten piece of video game history, a curiosity that somehow got made. So, when it was revived as a semi-open world, first-person shooter, I was baffled, to say the least.

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The Backlog - NOT A HERO

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Devolver Digital has had a pretty outstanding publishing record, at least in my opinion. They tend to attach themselves to some rather interesting titles, and that was what initially drew me towards
NOT A HERO. And I’m glad that I decided to check it out. Read More…
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The Backlog - Devil Daggers

Written by: Tom Blaich

devil_daggers


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

When I talk about games, the idea of complexity frequently comes up. The complexity of a game’s systems or story or characters often directly correlates to the level of quality that we assign to that game. As consumers, we want a game that we can sink our teeth into, pour dozens of hours of our time into as we get to know the characters and slowly master the systems. Then we can just leave it by the wayside while we find the next open world RPG to obsess over for a few months. It is why we love games like
Dark Souls, ARMA, Counter-Strike, and DOTA.

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The Backlog - Risk of Rain

Written by: Tom Blaich

miner_new


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

With the announcement of the now 3D sequel, there is no time like the present to jump back into Risk of Rain, Happo’s side-scrolling roguelike. You take control of one of a cast of high-powered characters, each with their own special attributes, from the simple Commando, to the quick and lethal Huntress, or the careful Sniper. And while it is technically a roguelike, the levels themselves follow a predictable format. Every one of the first four levels is a choice between two separate maps, each with two, slightly different, versions. So if you play half a dozen games or so, you’ve seen all of the level variety that there is to see.

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The Backlog – S.T.A.L.K.E.R. : Clear Sky

Written by: Tom Blaich

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I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

There always been a big deal made out of hard games. To play and beat one was to somehow prove that you are better than more “normal” players, who somehow couldn’t handle the difficulty. The oft derided “casual” gamers speak to this phenomenon. Every time that someone picks up a copy of
Dark Souls, a forum user somewhere tells you to “git gud”. But often the games that we idolize for their difficulty really aren’t that hard. S.T.A.L.K.E.R is.

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The Backlog - FTL

Written by: Tom Blaich

FTL_screenshot1


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

For some reason, it seems that I can't bring myself to stop playing roguelike/lite games, even though my criticism of them remains the same every time I lay a new one.
FTL has been out for several years now, and while it does bring a slightly different style to the genre, it does so in a shell that can feel almost punishingly random, even after dozens of tries. It is a game about time management, a game about the agony of unknown decisions, a game about hoping for the best all wrapped up in a skin of a procedurally generated roguelike/lite space game.

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