Blog Archive

Friday, 25 September 2020

Rocket League Goes Free To Play And Passes 1 Million Concurrent Players

Rocket League

Rocket League was one of those indie games that snuck up on us and become a huge sensation. It managed to hit a staggering 75 million players and 5 billion matches played earlier this year, and last year the game's developer was purchased by Epic Games. Things are changing in a big way now, and it seems those changes agree with the game judging by the player count.

If you weren't aware, Rocket League went free to play as of yesterday, and dropped the need for PS Plus on PS4 and Nintendo Service Online for Switch. As revealed by Co-studio Head Corey Davis, it also helped the game meet a new milestone by passing over 1 million concurrent players. Seems like free agrees with ol' Rocket League.

Rocket League is available now on all major platforms and also just recently came to the Epic Games Store, which will now be its permanent home on PC. If you add the game to your library there you can also net a $10 coupon to use for the next month.

 


Microsoft Flight Simulator Focuses On Japan In Next Free Update

microsoft flight simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator saw its grand return this year, and the game is quite something. Despite some technical issues that Microsoft and Asobo Studio are hard at work trying to fix up, it is an astonishing game to just fly around the virtual world and check out the landmarks. But the world is a big place and the initial game isn't quite filled up with everything there is to see, as you might imagine, and later this month some of those gaps will get filled in.

Announced at TGS 2020 the next major update for Flight Simulator will focus on Japan. It'll bring 6 city updates, 6 new airports, historical locations and a lot more. There's a trailer that shows off some of what to expect, and it is as glorious as you'd expect. Check it out.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is available now on PC and is set to come to Xbox consoles at a later time. The Japan update will come for free on September 29th.


The New Microsoft Store Overhaul Is Now Available To Everyone On Xbox

New Microsoft Store on Xbox

We are now less than two months away from a new generation of consoles launching. It's a strange feeling, especially in 2020, a year that can probably be defined as flaming garbage and not many would object to it. When new systems comes, of course, it means new tech, new games and new looks for old things. One of those is the new Microsoft store, which now everyone on Xbox can enjoy.

Last month, Xbox Insiders got the first look at the store's overhaul, of which you can read about more here. The storefront is said to run a lot faster than the old store and gives quite the redesign to its look. It'll also makes things like wish listing games and checking for sales much easier and snappier. You can read the full details via the official announcement here.

The update should be live now across all Xbox One systems. It'll also be what you'll be looking out when you pick up either a Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S (or both, if that's your thing) on November 10th.


Assassin's Creed Rogue Retrospective – 6 Years Later

The transition from the seventh console generation to the eighth was a rough one for Assassin's Creed. Ubisoft's flagship franchise had been flying high through most of the lifecycle of the Xbox 360 and PS3, and though it had certainly had its ups and downs, its adventures through Renaissance Italy, 16th century Rome, and the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean had ensured it a place in the pages of gaming history.

2014, however, proved to be the most turbulent year for Assassin's Creed. It was the year that Ubisoft saw it fit to release two mainline Assassin's Creed games together, and both, to various extents, were deemed failures for various reasons. And while at the time criticisms for both were more than fair, six years later, as we prepare to enter another new console generation with an Assassin's Creed series that is almost unrecognizable from what it used to be, both games deserve a second look- especially Rogue.

assassins creed rogue

The issue with Rogue was, first and foremost, that it was very much a B-tier game- and Ubisoft made no attempts to hide that. Unity was their flagship release that year, as a game that was ushering Assassin's Creed into a bold new future for console gaming, with its technical advancements and a look and feel quite different from its predecessors. Rogue, on the other hand, was very much a continuation of what Assassin's Creed had been doing for a couple of years before it. And that, more than anything else, was why Rogue suffered so much.

Where Unity sought to wow players with its new parkour system, large crowds, and its co-op missions, Rogue wanted to appeal to fans of the naval combat and exploration of Assassin's Creed 3 and Black Flag. Where Unity entered a new era – quite literally – with a story set during the French Revolution, Rogue sought to tread the familiar waters of Colonial America. Where Unity continued the series' forward march with deeper progression mechanics and a tweaked combat system, Rogue was content with employing the same larger mechanics that were seen in Black Flag. Where Unity gave us a completely new present-day storyline and a brand new cast of characters, Rogue once more made use of the first person modern-day sections of Black Flag, while roping in various familiar faces from previous games throughout its main storyline. And most important, while Unity was available exclusively on next-gen consoles, Rogue was made available just on the ageing PS3 and Xbox 360.

In light of all of that, it's not hard to see why Assassin's Creed Rogue got swept under the currents. While Unity grabbed all the headlines – many of them for all the wrong reasons – Rogue became the "lost" Assassin's Creed game, the one mainline game in the series' history that got pushed to the sidelines as if it were just a spinoff release. It was very much a victim of circumstances- which is unfair, because it was definitely a game that deserved way more attention that it got at the time it came out.

assassins creed rogue

Assassin's Creed Rogue is perhaps the most different game in a series that has often been criticized for sticking to a single formula too closely (especially back in 2014). From its narrative premise to its mission design, Rogue takes risks. It focuses squarely on the millennia-old conflict of Assassins and Templars like most games in the series do, but it quite literally turns the tables in its portrayal of protagonist Shay Cormac, a fledgling Assassin who becomes disillusioned with the Brotherhood and turns into a Templar instead.

Rogue doesn't handle that fascinating premise as well as it could have. Certainly, it can be quite clunky in execution at times, and some of the larger story beats that should have had a massive impact feel a lot tamer than they should- but for the most part, Shay's transformation from young Assassin to Master Templar is still fascinating to see. His personal conflict with his former friends and allies, seeing him being forced to view things in different ways, watching him interact with and form closer bonds with his new comrades- it all makes for a storyline that deserves a special place in Assassin's Creed series.

And what's most interesting is that it goes all-in on that. In its own take on the Assassins vs Templars conflict, it doesn't try to make excuses for the former, and doesn't hurriedly try to make Shay switch sides once more just so it can assure players that Assassins are still very much the good guys. And yes, once more, the execution of those ideas can be very clunky at times- but it deserves props for doing something literally no other game in the series has attempted.

assassins creed rogue

In fact, for a fan of the Assassin's Creed franchise – especially one who's invested in its convoluted lore and larger narrative – Rogue is pretty much unmissable. While its modern-day story is still kind of a mess, its main story is full of connections to other games in the series. Thanks to its placement in the series' chronology, its setting and narrative premise, and its cast of characters, it simultaneously ties in with multiple games in the series quite effectively.

Thanks to being set before Connor Kenway stepped onto the stage and making use of characters like Achilles and Haytham Kenway, it sets up the events of Assassin's Creed 3 very well, and lends new context to many of its characters. Through its usage of characters such as Adéwalé, it follows up on the story of Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag, and ties off some of its loose ends. And thanks to events and scenes that are best left unspoiled – especially an excellent ending that'll leave your jaw on the floor – it also very effectively leads directly into Assassin's Creed Unity.

Even from a gameplay perspective, there's a lot to love about Rogue. Like it storytelling, the game is not without issues in this area, but on the whole, there's more than enough to keep players engaged. Its mission structure really benefits from having players play as an Assassin-turned-Templar, with quite a few missions that are designed around preventing assassinations rather than causing them. Its side activities are the typical collectathon affair that Assassin's Creed games have always been notorious for, but there's something addictive about running around New York and sailing around the ocean and rivers to find shanties, collect Animus fragments, loot convoys, sink enemy ships, and dismantle gang headquarters.

assassins creed rogue

In fact, going back to play Assassin's Creed Rogue in 2020 is probably a lot more enjoyable than it would have been to play it when it launched in 2014 for one very simple reason. When Rogue came out, the Assassin's Creed series and its formula was being milked dry. People were understandably getting tired of it, and Rogue itself didn't do much to evolve that formula or breathe new life into it. But now, in a time when Assassin's Creed has almost completely shed its old identity, Rogue is an excellent reminder of how fun that old formula could be. Flawed, yes- but also incredibly, addictively enjoyable.


Tech Analysis: How Are Xbox Series X And PS5 SoCs Manufactured?

With the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X slated to arrive soon, a lot of you out there are likely looking to make a significant upgrade. The massively enhanced capabilities of both consoles, in terms of CPU and GPU capabilities is largely because of the hardware they leverage. Both consoles are built around semi-custom AMD SoCs, combining Zen 2 CPU cores and RDNA2 GPUs for a true generational leap. But how exactly is this silicon manufactured? SoCs aren't just a component that gets slotted into your PlayStation or Xbox on the assembly line. There's a considerable amount of thought, effort, and work that goes into building each chip. Let's take a deep dive and explore how console silicon is manufactured.

Who actually manufactures console silicon? It's not as straightforward as you'd think

Before we go into the how of manufacturing let's start with the who. Who makes the SoCs at the heart of every PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and Series S that rolls off the manufacturing line? The console manufacturers aren't responsible. Neither Sony nor Microsoft are in the semiconductor fabrication business. Both of these are AMD parts, so you would logically surmise that AMD manufactures the chips. But that's not quite true either. AMD used to have its own silicon foundry until about 8 years ago, when it completely divested from GlobalFoundries. AMD is what's called a "fabless" silicon manufacturer. No, that's not fabulous with a couple typos. Fabless manufacturers don't actually manufacture anything themselves. Fabless manufacturers like AMD, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, and Apple design chipsets.

They do the engineering legwork to build chips that hit performance, price, and efficiency targets. They then contract manufacturing responsibilities to a silicon foundry. TSMC is AMD's foundry of choice and, as the name (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) suggests, they're headquartered in Taiwan with foundries across the world. TSMC is the world's third-largest foundry. The largest two, Intel and Samsung, have fully integrated supply chains. Samsung, in particular, does everything from building silicon to putting it into its own phones.

AMD's semi-custom console chips are among the largest volume orders that TSMC handles: Over 150 million PlayStation 4 and Xbox One units have been sold over the past 7 years. That's a lot of AMD chips that TSMC's manufactured. But before TSMC can get around to building a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X SoC, the design process needs to be taken care of by, you guessed it, AMD.

Semi-custom chip designs: using the old in new ways

xbox scorpio ps4 pro

The APUs powering both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are semicustom chips. Both manufacturers have a history of bandying that word around. But what exactly does it mean?

Designing a completely custom SoC is an immense undertaking. It can cost hundreds of millions of dollars or even more. You're talking about designing a new CPU core, a new GPU, I/O connectivity, and even the substrate that holds everything together. As a result, few SoC manufacturers actually design fully custom chips, end to end. Apple does this and NVIDIA's obscure Tegra X1 Denver is another example, but fully-custom SoCs are the exception, not the rule.

Semi-custom SoCs take existing chip designs and integrate them in new ways. This is what we see with the SoC on the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. Both of these parts leverage AMD's Zen 2 CPU design and its RDNA2 GPU. Zen 2 has already been used in shipping products, namely AMD's Ryzen 3000 series consumer CPUs and their EPYC Rome server lineup. RDNA2, strictly speaking, hasn't made it to a shipping product yet. But AMD's RX 6000 "Big Navi" GPU, which is set for an October 2020 reveal, might pip the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X as the first shipping RDNA2 part.

Unlike with CPUs and GPUs, a SoC is a standalone system on a chip, with everything integrated together on a single die: the GPU, CPU, substrate, I/O, and memory all packed together. Because there are fewer moving parts, it's often more cost-effective to have TSMC build a SoC for you, rather than a separate CPU and GPU.

The console manufacturers play a big role at this point in deciding on the kind of SoC they want built. A number of factors come into play here. Die size — the size of each SoC chip — directly correlates to cost per unit. Larger dies can accomodate bigger CPU and GPU designs, which means more power. However, this also translates to higher thermals and more power consumption. AMD's design team works with console manufacturer requirements in mind to come up with semi-custom console SoC designs that match the console maker's expectations in terms of performance, cost, die size, and power requirements.

The foundry manufactures the chips: like printing documents, except way more complex

Once the design is locked down, the fabless manufacturer works with the foundry (TSMC in this case) to actually get the chips made. SoC manufacturing is a lot like printing, except infinitely more complex. AMD shares their circuit design for the SoC  with TSMC. And, then, using a process called photolithography, the foundry etches that design, with billions of transistors onto a wafer of silicon. Doping, a process by which impurities that change the conductivity of silicon, is used to create microscopic zones of unipolarity, that build into logic gates, and then into transistors. The foundry takes an incredibly integrate circuit design, down to transistors that are nanometers across, and prints it on the silicon using lithography. Developing lithographic techniques is very expensive. Moreover, yields aren't 100 percent – not every die makes it through with all components fully function. Together, these and other factors influence the cost of each PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X SoC.

Conclusion: Putting the chip in the console

ps5 xbox series x

The SoC, the beating heart of the console that does all the work, is made by TSMC. Microsoft and Sony stick SoC chips into console chassis and assemble the other components, including storage and the cooling solution. Put it all together and you get a ninth-gen console.


DOOM Eternal Coming to Xbox Game Pass for Console on October 1st

As hinted yesterday by Microsoft, id Software's DOOM Eternal is coming to Xbox Game Pass. It will be available on October 1st for console players while PC subscribers can play it "later" in 2020. Regardless of whether this is the result of Microsoft acquiring Bethesda or a pre-planned deal, it's still great value.

DOOM Eternal continues from the previous game with the Doom Slayer battling the Legions of Hell. Along with ripping apart various demons on Earth, the Slayer will also run afoul of the Maykrs. The combat is significantly expanded on DOOM (2016) with specific weaknesses for each enemy, the addition of new mechanics like the Blood Punch and more intricate levels.

DOOM Eternal is currently available for Xbox One, PS4, PC and Google Stadia. It will also be coming to Xbox Series X and PS5 later with free upgrades for Xbox One and PS4 players. The first major story expansion, The Ancient Gods – Part One, is also slated to release on October 20th. Stay tuned for more details on that in the coming weeks.


Final Fantasy 16 in Development for 4 Years, Coming Sooner Than Expected – Rumor

Final Fantasy 16

When Final Fantasy 16 was revealed during Sony's recent PS5 showcase, several fans were taken aback. Not just because of its announcement or console exclusivity (which is reportedly timed) but because of how "complete" it looked. It's likely because the game has reportedly been in development for longer than one may think.

Bloomberg's Jason Schreier spoke to various individuals and revealed on the Triple Click podcast (around the 9:55 mark) that Final Fantasy 16 has been in development for four years. Schreier also said that it's coming out sooner than expected. This doesn't necessarily narrow down the release window (which hasn't even been provided) but it does indicate that there won't be a 10 year development cycle like Final Fantasy 15.

Final Fantasy 16 is currently slated to launch for PS5. Producer Naoki Yoshida, known for his work on Final Fantasy 14, said that the next big information reveal would be coming in 2021. Stay tuned in the meantime for more details.


NieR: Automata Crosses 4.85 Million in Worldwide Shipments and Digital Sales

Nier Automata

PlatinumGames' NieR: Automata continues to see healthy sales. On Square Enix's TGS 2020 Online showcase (which you can see below), it confirmed that total worldwide shipments and digital sales have passed 4.85 million. This is up from the 4.5 million digital sales and shipments reported in March.

First released in March 2017, NieR: Automata launched for PS4 and then PC. It's set in the future where humanity has been nearly wiped out and resides on the Moon while aliens and their Machines have overrun Earth. The plot follows androids 2B and 9S as they conduct missions, attempting to unseat Machines while learning more about them.

After garnering exceptional critical acclaim, NieR: Automata would come to Xbox One in June 2018. It received a Game of the YoRHa Edition in February 2019 which collected the base game and its DLC (currently 50 percent off for both PS4 and PC via Steam). While a sequel doesn't seem to be in the works, Square Enix did confirm that NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139 would be releasing in April 2021. Stay tuned for more details on that in the coming months.


Mafia: Definitive Edition Review – Welcome to the Family, Son

2002's Mafia holds a special place in the hearts of fans to this day, but the series' track record since then has been inconsistent at best. Mafia 2 and were both disappointing in their own ways and both failed to touch the heights of the first game, while their recent re-releases didn't do much to change the general consensus on them either. The announcement that the first game in the series would be getting a full ground-up remake came as a welcome surprise, but given this inconsistent track record, there were many who were skeptical about how it would turn out. Thankfully, and appropriately enough, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a return to form for the franchise.

Set in the fictional city of Lost Heaven during the 1930s, Mafia: Definitive Edition tells the story of cabbie-turned-monster Tommy Angelo. With his cab parked on a street corner one night while he's taking a break, Tommy has a chance encounter with two Italian-American gangsters, members of the Salieri crime family. What ensues is a chase through the city amidst a barrage of gunfire, and what that, in turn, leads to is a life Tommy never predicted, or even wanted.

"Mafia: Definitive Edition is a return to form for the franchise."

Seeing Tommy descend deeper and deeper into a life of crime while grappling with his own internal conflicts and sense of right and wrong was what made the original Mafia as good as it was, so it's great news that that remains the remake's biggest strength. Hangar 13 have polished up the story and script in smart ways- the writing is crisp and sharper, the cutscenes are superbly directed, and performances from actors are typically excellent, making for believable characters who feel like actual people. Mafia: Definitive Edition doesn't make any drastic changes to the story, but the few changes that it does make are all smart alterations and fit very well within the larger flow of the narrative. It helps that the game is excellent at capturing that Godfather-esque Italian mafiaso vibe perfectly, which is fitting enough for a game called Mafia.

The city of Lost Heaven is also a great setting, just as it was in the original game. A smorgasbord of 1930s New York and Chicago, Lost Heaven is teeming with atmosphere, from the news broadcasts and music you hear on the radio to the streets, vehicles, and buildings you see out in the open to even the smaller details, like the overcoats and hats the civilians don. Like the original Mafia, though the remake takes place in an open world setting, it isn't an open world game. Mafia: Definitive Edition adheres to a chapter-based structure, with each chapter beginning right as the previous one ends, so there isn't much to be said about the game's open world or free roaming elements. You can jump into the Free Ride mode if you want, and there are collectibles to hunt down both in and out of it, but though they're a nice touch, they're nothing to write home about.

The biggest leap the remake has made over the original game is, of course, in the visuals department. Running on an updated version of the Mafia 3 engine, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a great-looking game. Lost Heaven is full of details that contribute significantly to the city's aforementioned atmosphere and sense of place, the character models look excellent and move and animate in realistic ways, down to the smallest of twitches, and gunfire and explosions look exactly as, well, explosive as they should.

mafia definitive edition

"The biggest leap the remake has made over the original game is, of course, in the visuals department. Running on an updated version of the Mafia 3 engine, Mafia: Definitive Edition is a great-looking game."

There are some technical issues that have to be mentioned though. On top of some relatively minor issues occasional frame rate drops and distant texture pop-in, Mafia: Definitive Edition also occasionally suffers from some glitches that are harder to ignore. A couple of times, these impeded my progress in missions through no fault of my own, forcing me to restart from a previous checkpoint, while I also saw the game crash entirely once through my playthrough. One time the audio also cut out completely in the middle of a mission, forcing me to reboot the game. Mafia: Definitive Edition's technical state is still miles better than what I remember of Mafia 3 at launch, but it still needs a little bit of polishing. Hopefully, patches will be coming down the line.

The driving and shooting mechanics have also been overhauled completely, bringing them closer to what we saw in Mafia 3, which makes sense, considering that this is a remake of a nearly two decade-old game. Driving around the city is a lot of fun, with a solid selection of vehicles included in the game (including motorcycles, which were not featured in the original release). Lost Heaven's design has also been tweaked a bit to include more shortcuts and alleyways to drive through, and combined with the solid driving and handling mechanics, the act of getting from point A to point B feels more engaging this time around than it did in the original.

My thoughts on the shooting mechanics are more mixed. The one thing I like without reservations is the fact that combat in Mafia: Definitive Edition actually puts up a bit of a challenge. Enemies have surprisingly strong aim, which means you cannot spend too much time outside of cover during combat. There's no regenerating health either, and you have to smartly be on the lookout for first aid kits, a la Mafia 3. Meanwhile, ammo isn't endless, and while it definitely isn't scant, you still have to make sure that every bullet you shoot finds its target.

mafia definitive edition

"Unless you play with the aim assist turned up to high, aiming your reticle at enemies feels like wading through knee-deep mud."

The problem arises with the actual shooting. Like Mafia 3, aiming in Mafia: Definitive Edition is too sluggish. Unless you play with the aim assist turned up to high, aiming your reticle at enemies feels like wading through knee-deep mud, and in the time that it takes to do that, you can take a lot of shots yourself, instantly depleting your health to critical levels. You can always turn your controller's sensitivity up, and while that certainly made things marginally better for me, the problem never completely went away. Another issue that I feel like I need to bring up is weapon variety- you have your Tommy Guns, shotguns, and pistols, but by and large, there isn't an awful lot of weapon variety in Mafia: Definitive Edition, which feels a little disappointing.

Taken as a whole though, Mafia: Definitive Edition is definitely a win for Mafia, 2K Games, and Hangar 13. It is a worthy remake that does justice to the only unequivocally good game in the series, and the best, most consistent package the Mafia series has delivered since 2002. It's not devoid of issues, and I wouldn't say it stands toe-to-toe with the best remakes we've seen this generation, like Resident Evil 2 or Shadow of the Colossus, but it's a solid effort that fans of the original game will surely appreciate. It's not an offer that you can't refuse, but it's one that you shouldn't.

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.


Serious Sam 4 Review – A Welcome Encounter

For all the spin-offs throughout the years, from rogue-lites to a VR game, Serious Sam 4 is the first true sequel in the franchise. It's been nine years since the prequel to the time-traveling original. Has the Serious One aged with the times or remained a relic like so many of the artifacts that he's been chasing?

Right off the bat, the story sees Sam and his squad of the Earth Defense Force's Alien Artifact Acquisition division venturing to Rome. Word has gotten out about an alien artifact that could lead to greater things so naturally, AAA is on the case. It's not long before the convoy is attacked and Sam is thrown into the thick of things yet again, mowing down Mental's hordes by the thousands in the name of humanity.

Serious Sam 4

"For as likable as the story and characters can be though, they likely won't resonate with FPS fans expecting a deeper narrative."

You're not necessarily picking up a Serious Sam game for the story. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the narrative adapts the big-budget, action movie blockbuster formula. It's got all the tropes you would expect – Sam punching out his superior officer, frantic escapes from burning lava, one-liners upon one-liners, the enemy commander that cowardly mocks our hero, a somber guitar that plays during quieter moments to remind us of what's lost, the list goes on. None of it is fairly original or top of the shelf, mind you. But in the context of what Croteam is going for, it works, which is saying something considering the utter ridiculousness of it all.

AAA is full of motley personalities, from the firebrand pilot Hellfire and the rambunctious Rodriguez to the contemplative Jones and nerdy Kenny. I found myself chuckling at their corny exchanges while also appreciating the more serious (no pun intended) moments. Are they the best written characters I've ever come across? Hell no. Does their dialogue become annoying at times and bizarrely repeat at others? Absolutely. Nevertheless, I felt a sense of camaraderie with this pack of action movie stereotypes.

Sam is his usual wise-cracking self, making jokes while threatening to continue fighting even if all the ammo in the world ran out because – and I'm paraphrasing here – "My fists don't need bullets." That being said, there's some nice character depth that makes him more human, especially in how he cares for his squad. Again, it's all standard action movie fare but it's done well enough for those who can get into it.

For as likable as the story and characters can be though, they likely won't resonate with FPS fans expecting a deeper narrative. The same goes for the mission design in the campaign – for all intents and purposes, each mission is about going from one point to another, killing waves and waves of enemy aliens. Serious Sam 4 is pretty old-school in this regard – killing all of the enemies in an area will unlock the gate to the next area and sometimes, you'll need to hunt for keys. There's not a whole lot of variety in the kinds of objectives you'll tackle.

"Serious Sam has always been about throwing vast numbers of semi-mindless hordes at you, and the sheer number of them meshes well with the types of enemies on offer."

That being said, Croteam does a great job of mixing things up. Though combat takes place in wide open areas, as is the Serious Sam tradition, the various enemies and their placements feel well thought-out. This extends to the side objectives as well. Some of them have unique little stories, which can be as simple as signing a soldier's gun or shutting down a portal machine, but they can also provide new weapons like Black Hole Grenades, unique gadgets (including one that bestows Bullet Time), new weapons like the Assault Rifle and Tactical Nuke, and even attachments.

Even if you choose to ignore the side objectives, there's still plenty to like about the core gun play. Serious Sam has always been about throwing vast numbers of semi-mindless hordes at you, and the sheer number of them meshes well with the types of enemies on offer. The freakish Processed may be easy to dispose of from afar but throw in some charging Kleer, various Gnaar, a Werebull or three, and some Beheaded Kamikaze, and suddenly you're running, circle-strafing, jumping, and quickly switching between weapons.

Some encounters might see you taking down Octanian Snipers or Arachnoids from a safe distance while others introduce ignited Space Mummies that throw fireballs. Even the boss fights are pretty well done, adding a few wrinkles on top of the traditional "shoot it in the face and/or weak point till its dead" mechanic. It also doesn't hurt that despite predominantly taking place in and around Rome, there are all kinds of interesting vistas to explore, including the cityscape, coliseums, ruins and a lava-ridden landscape.

Weapons feel appropriately powerful and responsive, whether it's the pump-action shotgun or grenade launcher. The attachments also feel great, like the shotgun's grenade launcher or the grenade launcher's cluster bomb. It all makes you feel like a bad-ass while still creating an air of danger thanks to the sheer number of swarming enemies. Not every new mechanic feels like an instant win though. There are now Melee Finishers a la DOOM and they can be upgraded to restore health or take down bigger enemies. The problem is that they can only be initiated from the enemy's front. Dodged a Processed and want to execute a Finisher from behind? You can't. In fact, you have to be perfectly in front of it for a Finisher.

"While it won't dethrone the likes of DOOM Eternal or even Metro Exodus in terms of sheer fidelity and detail, it's still a good looking game."

This becomes an even bigger issue when dealing with foes like the Kleer since the window to finish them is small. Sam isn't impervious during the actual Finisher animation either so having to attack perfectly from the front is an additional detriment in many cases. This same issue plagues the new ability to ride Werebulls. Once the skill is unlocked, simply hit E to mount a Werebull…at least in theory. You have to do it from the front, which is a tall task when it's charging you down for massive damage. Even backed into corner and literally jumping on a Werebull didn't offer the prompt to ride it.

The other skills are fairly straightforward, from faster reload speed and dual-wielding weapons to using sign posts and other objects as melee weapons. Hunting down Artifacts of Might allocates skill points with each skill only requiring one point. You're free to mix and match, and reassigning skills can be done freely at any time.

In terms of presentation, Serious Sam 4 is good overall, barring some issues here and there. Rome looks aesthetically pleasing, while all of the aliens are sharper and more suitably menacing than ever. The attention to detail is also well done, whether you're traipsing through ruins or wandering through forests. Of course, you sometimes have to stop and admire the sheer number of enemies running, screaming and galloping towards you. While it won't dethrone the likes of DOOM Eternal or even Metro Exodus in terms of sheer fidelity and detail, it's still a good looking game.

Sound quality is a slight notch below the visuals, especially when it comes to some enemy sounds (which sound old-school by default), but it's still executed well overall. The voice-acting is decent, which helps when Sam is throwing out a litany of crab puns. The music isn't too varied but has some good pieces – like the heavy metal track that plays while battling a Witch-Bride for the first time. Other tracks are good at setting the atmosphere while more fast-paced tunes will fade in when the action heats up.

"Overall, Serious Sam 4 is no masterpiece but its combination of blockbuster movie action with non-stop shooting action is still pretty fun."

In the Settings menu, there are options for anti-aliasing and resolution but you can't really fiddle with texture quality, foliage density or some other finer details. Instead, there's an option to set CPU Usage and GPU Usage from Lowest to Ultra while also choosing a target framerate. It took some time to settle on a decent setting, which – given my setup of an Intel Core i5-4400 at 3.10 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and a GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB VRAM – consisted of Medium settings at 900p resolution. It wasn't perfect, which makes sense when looking at the system requirements, but it offered some nice performance.

Unfortunately, there are a number of different bugs and glitches, from oddly fluctuating textures in cutscenes (which, by the way, have some strangely lifeless eyes on the character models) to subtitles and entire lines of dialogue cutting out. Another issue saw the music following a major battle abruptly stopping instead of fading out. Audio issues didn't occur that frequently and there weren't any crashes or major performance issues. The AI was a bit iffy though with enemies sometimes running into walls or, more rarely, ignoring my presence after killing their friends. These will likely be addressed pretty quickly and while not heavily dragging down the experience, they do dull its sheen a bit.

Overall, Serious Sam 4 is no masterpiece but its combination of blockbuster movie action with non-stop shooting action is still pretty fun. Even if the story is generally forgettable or the mission design feels one-note, Croteam has managed a seriously impressive revival for its cult classic shooter.

This game was reviewed on PC.


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