分類彙整:Reviews

eFootball PES 2020 Review – Fine Margins

Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Release:
Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on:
Xbox One, PC

It’s halfway through my first season as manager of the club in PES 2020’s Master League franchise mode and everything is going swimmingly – we’re top of the league and leaders of our group in the European cup. At the beginning of the season I made a promise to our board that we could win both competitions, and we are well on our way.

Then, towards the end of the January transfer window, Paris Saint-Germain swoop in and pay the release clause of one of my best players. I hurriedly propose a new contract to him in the hopes of rebuffing the poachers, but his head has already been turned and he’s out the door. Our domestic and continental campaigns continue nonetheless, but the loss of our star particularly hurts because I hadn’t arranged a suitable replacement.

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This is one of the scenarios in the mode, along with choosing season objectives and press conference answers, that plays out in new cutscenes without spoken dialog. The intrinsic value of something enigmatic like the pressure of an upcoming derby or the team selection is hard to measure, but it captures a hard-to-quantify quality that this often-sterile mode has lacked. Similarly, it’s nice to finally see realistic transfer amounts although the A.I. still doesn’t know how to manage rosters during the transfer windows. This is emblematic of the title as a whole, a game whose charms and flaws are both apparent.

PES 2020’s gameplay changes can also be very noticeable (I play on Top Player difficulty) even if they don’t seem monumental on paper. Players’ physicality gives gameplay a measure of grit; even if a defender is in a good position they can be held off so a shot or pass can be completed. This, along with defense in general requiring more discerning timing, introduces tension and excitement around the box. Fouls still aren’t consistently fair and collision sometimes fails, but I like the defending overall.

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Timing is also important in passing and shooting, creating windows that separate the delicious from the merely ambitious. Some players have an inspire rating that causes teammates to make runs because they know your player has the ability to get them the ball – that’s if you pick your head up and see their movement. There’s also a difference between getting your body correctly set up to put the ball accurately on net and just swinging your leg at it and sending it into the stands. A less-than-ideal pass or one to the wrong teammate may slow your counterattack just enough to let the opposition gather its forces. Your striker may snatch at a chance that would have been a sure goal if you just took an extra second to get composed.

Relative to gameplay and Master League, PES 2020’s online and MyClub aspects stand out less. Fantasy collection mode MyClub is still generous in how it gives fans starting out a chance at acquiring decent players, and I anticipate the title’s post-launch outlay of agents and ways of accumulating GP, the in-game currency, to be the same as last year. Overall, online play is still at the mercy of players’ connection, Konami’s infrastructure, and the limited matchmaking model – which is to say it’s not very different – but at least you can see your opponent’s connection strength before diving into a match.

PES 2020’s small details create moments that bring into focus the fine margins that determine the results of many soccer games. When compared to the game’s similarities to last year it seems like minutia, but these are the things that elevate it from previous efforts and make PES 2020 look and feel correct. It’s a better game, even if it’s not evolved in every way. It’s like when a manager expresses how pleased they are of the team after a draw: You know they wanted the outright win, but they are also satisfied with the team’s overall performance. PES 2020 can be a familiar experience, but that shouldn’t blind you to its finer moments.

Score: 8

Summary: Konami’s latest entry in the soccer series adds more official licenses and drama to its Master League mode, but it’s the action on the pitch where the game makes its mark.

Concept: Add small but noticeable touches to mainly gameplay and the Master League mode to create an experience that is both familiar and new

Graphics: The Master League cutscenes show both how good the models are but also how hard it is to capture realistic facial expressions

Sound: The crowd swells, but it doesn’t add to the overall matchday atmosphere. There needs to be more vocal away support and back-and-forth between supporters

Playability: The new way of controlling the ball with just the right analog is simple and useful

Entertainment: PES 2020 creates a vibrant drama on and off the pitch through small details that can make a big difference

Replay: Moderately High

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NBA 2K20 Review – A Game Of Runs

Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Visual Concepts
Release:
Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also on:
PlayStation 4, Switch, PC

The NBA 2K franchise has gotten so large that it services niche fanbases as much as it tries to appeal to the masses. Some players grind out progress and chase the badge meta of MyCareer, others rebuild the NBA as they see fit in MyLeague, and then there’s the never-ending card collecting of MyTeam. All are rightfully NBA 2K fans and deserve to get joy from their favorite basketball title.

This, however, puts developer Visual Concepts in a tough position because if you try going in different directions at once you risk going nowhere at all. This is nothing new for the franchise, which has not only become the preeminent basketball title, but some argue the best sports title period. Visual Concepts has responded in recent years to this pressure by adding new features to many of its modes. NBA 2K20 does this like its predecessors, but as much as it tries to carry the franchise forward, it is burdened by the past.

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A prime example of this is MyCareer, which lets players loose in the open world-ish Neighborhood area to grind their player up the ladder. NBA 2K20 tweaks how you make your MyPlayer, letting gamers choose their hard attribute caps within templates of preset strengths and weaknesses. Your abilities are broken out into the finishing, shooting, playmaking, and defense/rebounding buckets, which also house the all-important badges that confer bonuses.

Grinding to increase your attributes through the VC currency (earned throughout the game and buyable with real money) is a central part of the experience, and although you can create multiple builds, each one starts over at 60 OVR and any VC you’ve earned cannot be re-allocated to the new build. This exposes the illusion of freedom of having different builds in the first place, and given how important having the appropriate attribute levels, badges, and even physical features are in multiplayer, you must choose carefully.

The mode’s grind itself is exacerbated by an infrastructure that needs updating. You still have to wait in real-time for MyPark games and training stations, and there is no matchmaking in the mode. This significantly dampens my incentive to take my lumps against players who may have paid real money for VC to expedite progress.

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Thankfully MyCareer also lets players grow through NBA games against the A.I., providing a different outlet for your character. This is bolstered by cutscenes along the way, including the well-done Prelude story put together by Lebron James’ SpringHill Entertainment that advocates players embracing what agency they have in power structures that preferred they didn’t.

MyGM also surfaces the needs of players via the conversation system, but it drags down the mode. The action-point system driving what you can do in a day isn’t interesting when you have to spend it constantly chit chatting with players to hold inane, repetitive conversations about waffles just to keep up their morale. You also have to constantly fend off their requests for minutes. Unlocking GM abilities like training and scouting is understandable, but I don’t like that it’s tied to objectives that might not make sense like signing lots of veteran players at the behest of the team owner. The actual skill tree itself, which is a part of the entire process, is okay but nothing special.

MyLeague is similar to MyGM in many respects, but without the action-point system, and reveals many of the series’ strengths, such as the ability to customize the league in myriad ways via rules, rosters, and the teams themselves (including adding historic ones), as well as the analytics at your disposal. These are the kind of franchise options that few sports games deliver. The series adds the WNBA for the first time, although this is just for a single playable season and in Play Now.

NBA 2K20 also comes through in the gameplay department, allowing individual expression within a team dynamic. Pulling off fancy dribble moves isn’t hard, but passing the ball around, running plays, and putting it all together at the right times to generate space to sink shots is a deep, satisfying path to consistent scoring. Although the low post area can be a jumble of animations, the game adapts well to your commands with branching animations that give you the flexibility while driving to the basket to reroute your path or pass the ball at the last second to an open teammate.

Playing defense is just as important, and I appreciate the fine line between success and failure in contesting shots and the physicality of trying to get in front of the better players so they don’t just blow by – although I haven’t mastered the timing of boxing out and rebounding.

At launch the game has had problems, such as MyCareer players not being awarded earned progress, and MyTeam single-player Triple Threat challenges not being accessible (at least MyTeam’s overall progression isn’t bad). These kinds of hiccups are usual for Visual Concepts, and partly prove that the NBA 2K series – as strong as it is in some areas – needs to keep working. 

Score: 8.5

Summary: The gameplay heart of the series is well intact, although some of the choices developer Visual Concepts makes with parts of the modes aren’t the best.

Concept: Keep delivering on the gameplay front and the overall strength of its League structure while inadvertently reinforcing how MyPark needs significant changes

Graphics: A nitpick of an otherwise gorgeous game: Sweat only comes in one flow – heavy-duty

Sound: I love having multiple commentary teams, and I appreciate that they callout substitutions during timeouts

Playability: The controls easily accommodate a surprising amount of actions, letting you concentrate on what’s actually going on instead

Entertainment: There’s a lot to chew on in this game, good and not as good, but thankfully the gameplay delivers

Replay: Moderately High

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Asus ROG Phone II review

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NASCAR Heat 4 Review – Pit Stop Adjustments

Publisher: 704Games
Developer: Monster Games
Release:
Rating: Everyone
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on:
Xbox One, PC

This year’s additions to NASCAR Heat are perhaps the most subtle for the franchise so far. Still, the title’s gameplay, career mode, and online suite are sufficient and compelling, making NASCAR Heat 4 the strongest title in the series to date – even if its flaws make it more admirable than excellent.

The best addition to the game is the host of sliders that change both your car and those of any A.I. racers. These cover aspects like tire wear, pack spacing, ability by the A.I. to recover from contact, as well as those addressing the overall difficulty of the experience. The effect on the track is more exciting racing due to a host of factors created by those sliders, from more drafting partners to the overall nerfing of the A.I. drivers, resulting in more interesting currents during the race such as realistic A.I. lap times that create pit strategies during long green flag runs or surprise cautions.

NASCAR Heat 4 has better pack spread, whether that’s stretching out the overall field or having A.I. cars choosing different lines on the track. That being said, I question the viability of those different lines on the tracks. It’s good that some A.I. cars take a high line at times, but either through their setups or driving ability, they aren’t faster overall and they don’t stick with these lines consistently. This means you’ll still get freight trained from below because that’s the default fast line for the A.I.

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As far as the game’s A.I. has come, more work is needed. The localized rubber banding causes cars to catch up and pass you, but then settle in and slow down in front of you. Also, the A.I. lap times do indeed reflect tire wear, but they don’t drive like they actually have worn tires.

Online racing has its own problems. Not only is it missing features like matchmaking, grief protection, or leagues, it still hasn’t instituted practice/qualifying sessions. It also doesn’t offer settings available in other parts of the game that could aid the experience such as restricting the effects of car collisions.

The game’s career mode is improved, although it’s not drastically different from last year. It can take longer to save money for your racing organization due to more differentiated contract payouts – but not too much longer. Similarly, I like juggling different cars chassis that are best suited for specific track types as well as employee specialization; resource management is tougher but not excruciating.

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One of the areas that needs work is the friends and rivalries system. Someone praising or shaking their fist at you often doesn’t match up with what actually happened on the track. However, no matter what there’s always a draft partner available, which goes to show how surface the whole rivalry system is in general.

NASCAR Heat 4’s A.I. is a work in progress, the career mode is adequate, and the online suite is behind the times. Nevertheless, it’s the best offering to date even if it’s not totally dialed in, forcing you to get up on that steering wheel and dig deep for your spot on the track.

Score: 7.25

Summary: The series’ latest from developer Monster Games makes some tweaks to improve the on-the-track experience.

Concept: Give players more control over the title’s gameplay and career options in an attempt to make the game as a whole more realistic

Graphics: The PS4 version again has framerate problems. Thankfully the PC edition does not

Sound: Hearing the shaking and rattling of your car in cockpit cam is pretty cool. Overall, the new sound for the cars is good

Playability: The numerous slider options governing both your car and the A.I. ones offers enough flexibility to accommodate a range of players

Entertainment: Despite its limitations, NASCAR Heat 4 contains enough improvements to make it attractive

Replay: Moderately High

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Redmi K20 Pro vs. OnePlus 7

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Borderlands 3 Review – Sticking To Its Guns

Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Release:
Reviewed on: PC
Also on:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One

A lot has changed in the FPS game scene since 2012, when the last numbered entry of Borderlands arrived in our gaming machines. In all the ways that matter, the sequel hews closely to the blueprint established in that well-loved release, exploding forth onto our screens with a bevy of wild weaponry, asinine humor, and bloody battles.  The formula feels dated. But with some updates to UI and gameplay, and a huge adventure across a variety of destinations, it’s easy to embrace the insanity once again, even if – in the back of your head – you know it all feels just a bit too familiar.

Players once again jump into the role of one of four unique vault hunters, each with engaging gimmicks that set their playstyles apart. From the brawling melee charges of the latest Siren to the mech-powered sustained assaults of the Gunner, each character offers a range of build options, and theory-crafting your way to a powerful murder machine is especially compelling after several dozen hours of play and earned skill points. Most of those playstyles borrow liberally from earlier games or other franchises entirely, so most powersets will feel like an old pair of shoes to genre faithful – easy to slip into, but with few surprises.

Across an especially lengthy campaign, Borderlands 3 skewers internet and corporate culture in equal measures, satirizing the inherent narcissism and selfishness of both with the series’ trademark sophomoric wit. The humor is certainly hit and miss, but the writers seem to have adopted the philosophy that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take; the chatter is nearly constant. Storytelling feels more epic this time as the heroes jet between planets. Previous games in the franchise have sometimes felt too tied to a particular environment, and this new installment combats that stale sensation with several well-realized locales, from an idyllic monastery to a corporate megacity. The variety is a welcome diversion, and keeps the visual palette pleasing.

Guns are once again the real stars of the show, with an unreal assortment of firearms that feature just as much gameplay variety as visual uniqueness. I enjoy the varied options at hand, and the solid gunplay across the board ensures engagement for many hours. From assault rifles that launch blasts of radiation to a pistol that shoots rockets, there’s no end of experimentation to be had. If anything, the plethora of options can feel overwhelming and slow down the otherwise frenzied pace of play as you simply try to figure out what is worth keeping or selling – a problem exacerbated by cumbersome inventory management and too few sell spots. It doesn’t help that weapons only sometimes conform to their expected archetypes. When a pistol is sometimes a better long-range option than a sniper, how best to judge an item’s utility at a glance?

Sliding under gaps and mantling over obstacles contribute to the fast flow of exploration, and I appreciate the sense of speed and mobility. Combat is frenetic but simplistic, especially in the early hours, as waves of enemies spawn repeatedly to be mown down. Later hours offer more interesting mixes of foes, but suffer from a different problem; many bad guys are extreme bullet sponges, extending fights in a way that feels unnecessary in an already meaty campaign playthrough. Several bosses are especially guilty of this sin, and can make for a miserable slog, especially played solo, where endless circle strafing quickly loses its appeal.

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Like its predecessors, Borderlands 3 is at its best when played cooperatively with up to four players online. As more vault hunters enter the fray, the visual phantasmagoria of color and explosions is amusing and strangely delightful. The game supports easy drop-in play, and options for independent level scaling and difficulty, smoothing out the hurdles facing players in different places in the game.

If the “bang” you want for your buck is simply a wealth of content and a lot to do, Gearbox has you covered. Beyond the potential for trying out different characters and builds through the lengthy sweep of the narrative, the post-game experience opens up a range of challenge options, tiers of  mayhem-infused encounters to climb through, and rank increases to shoot for as you dive back into the action. I welcome the commitment to endgame engagement. However, I must add that in my own playthrough, I felt the core loop of combat wore out its welcome well before the credits rolled, especially since the highest available initial difficulty (normal) rarely mounted a meaningful challenge.

Borderlands 3 is a love letter to its fans and a celebration of the style of play it first popularized. Filled with characters from previous installments, and unapologetic in its silly humor and bombastic action, it’s an amusing ride that seems hesitant to innovate. If more of what you loved before is your chief desire, Gearbox has granted that wish through a game of impressive scope that charts some very safe territory.   

Borderlands 3 is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Those versions feature 2-Player local split-screen cooperative play.

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Score: 8

Summary: Gearbox treads familiar ground in this lengthy adventure, tossing out jokes and guns with equally wild abandon.

Concept: Return to the bleak but humorous Borderlands for a lengthy adventure that rarely sees your finger leave the trigger

Graphics: The familiar style is intact and attractive, but you could be excused for feeling that little has changed in the years since the last game

Sound: Over-the-top voice work (including some celebrity surprises) vacillates between genuinely funny and irritating prattle

Playability: Smart changes to mobility, solid gunplay, and a well-crafted set of new abilities make the game accessible to a broad range of players – if you’re willing to invest a lot of time

Entertainment: An old formula executed well, Borderlands 3 rarely takes chances or strays from expectation

Replay: Moderately High

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River City Girls Review – Trading Punches

Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release:
Rating: Everyone 10+
Reviewed on: Switch
Also on:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC

During the glory days of arcades, the brawler genre was king. Practically every virtual street was packed with goons and bosses waiting for beatdowns, and players were all too happy to oblige. The River City series was an innovator of this era, incorporating elements of RPG-style progression and open-world exploration. Though River City Girls still has those things, it lacks the same experimental spirit that gave rise to them in the first place. This installment sticks close to its precursors’ classic formula, but that unwavering faithfulness is both a success and a liability.

River City Girls delivers an old-school brawler experience. You walk through various districts in River City, punching and kicking through crowds of enemies. When you defeat them, you earn XP that gradually makes you more powerful, and money you exchange for new items and better moves. Ideally, you’re doing all of this with a (local-only) co-op buddy by your side; being able to revive each other is a boon when the action gets hectic, especially during the challenging boss fights.

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The fundamental concept is still appealing after all these years, and River City Girls has the basics covered. What initially seems to be a simple “light attack or heavy attack” combat system evolves into a satisfying arsenal of moves that allows you to prioritize threats, manage the crowds, and even recruit foes to come in for assist attacks. I also enjoy the wide variety of objects scattered about; you can wield crates, baseballs, fish, and even downed enemies as weapons to smack anyone who gets in your way. Combined with responsive controls and absolutely gorgeous sprites and animation, the action has several bright spots of spectacle and mayhem. But those shining moments aren’t enough to make up for the game’s missteps.

Almost everything apart from the combat mechanics has an element of arbitrary punishment. For example, when you’re buying a new move, you can’t try it out or even see what category of attack it is. Are you buying a heavy attack, a grab, or a special? That lack of information makes it impossible to get excited about saving up for your next purchase, and considering the high cost of some of these maneuvers, spending money on a mystery attack that you barely use is a major letdown. The pace of progression also disappointed me; you regularly unlock new abilities (both automatically and for purchase) as you level in the opening hours, but then your exciting options plateau in the second half.

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Several other baffling annoyances make River City Girls hard to enjoy, like the hefty monetary penalty for dying, and the need to level your characters separately. Let’s say you’ve reached level 10 as Misako and reach one of the tough bosses, which definitely feel tuned specifically for two players. You can’t just have a friend join as Kyoko and contribute equally; characters have separate funds and XP, so Kyoko will be starting from square one unless she’s been leveled up previously. And because you lose so much money when you’re defeated, repeated failed attempts drain your bank account quickly. The best way to preserve your wealth is to buy a bunch of accessories (which provide minor bonuses) or items to zero out your account before challenging fights. However, you also can’t see what effects these objects have before you buy them.

I’ve loved brawlers for years, and spent what seemed like a fortune on them when I was young. River City Girls feels like one of those games designed to eat your quarters, complete with the joys and frustrations that entails. I love pounding bad guys with an array of cool attacks and inventive weapons, even if I feel robbed by cheap tricks. River City Girls’ chaotic battles are entertaining, but they’re surrounded by an array of decisions that add more inconvenience than challenge.

Score: 7

Summary: River City Girls’ chaotic battles are entertaining, but they’re surrounded by an array of decisions that add more inconvenience than challenge.

Concept: Rescue your boyfriends with punches, kicks, and improvised weapons as you wander the ever-violent streets of River City

Graphics: Beautiful character art, backgrounds, and animations make every screen a pleasure to behold

Sound: The music is fantastic, with contributions from several talented artists. The voice performers also do a good job, though the writing tries too hard (and fails) to be funny

Playability: Combat starts simple, but your options expand to give you a variety of satisfying ways to take down foes

Entertainment: The basic fun of fighting is counterbalanced by some punishing design that makes it hard to get fully invested in the action

Replay: Moderate

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Samsung Galaxy A90 5G hands-on review

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LG G8X ThinQ first look

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Sony Xperia 5 hands-on review

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