Tag Archives: First Person

The Station review

The Station may be a short game but its story is well-told, its puzzles well-themed to the environment, and the visuals, sound effects and music do a great job in immersing you. However, is that enough to tempt you with its £11.99 price point?

The developers boast in The Station’s store page that “the best stories are shown not told” and there’s certainly a sense of that with this title. There’s a huge amount of environmental storytelling in every room and corridor you visit, making exploring the space station setting an intriguing endeavour.

You are a specialist sent to uncover why communication was lost to a space station orbiting and spying on an alien civilisation. This discovery of aliens has reshaped your world and provided countless scientific discoveries. However, the aliens are fighting a civil war on their planet, and so present a potential threat, deterring you from making yourselves known and engaging with them. Instead, a stealth space station has been deployed to spy and study them, with a small three member crew. Now communication has been lost it’s your job to uncover what went wrong and how compromised the station is.

Uncovering the fate of the crew involves you exploring each room of the space station and solving simple puzzles to gain access to new areas. There’s nothing too taxing here, it’s all very logical and appropriate to the situation you find yourself in, which helps greatly with immersing you in the story and setting. Furthermore, practically everything can be interacted with, making it a playground of objects you can examine and fling about. Fortunately, despite this you’re unlikely to be led astray with useless items, instead the important things are obvious enough visually, and explained well enough with your mission tracker, to keep you on the critical path.

And indeed, if you stick entirely to the critical path, The Station offers a mere couple of hours of content before you reach it’s rather predictable but still satisfying end. It’s a very short story with an interesting tale but one you’re likely to guess within the first fifteen minutes. However, there’s more to discover that helps bolster the story with additional titbits of information, should you go looking for it.

There are lockers to be found that can be opened with a little searching and puzzle solving, as well as plenty of computer terminals to snoop through. Meanwhile, the aforementioned visual storytelling of each room is particularly strong, with notes, stains, books and other objects painting a vivid picture of what life was like on the space station for the three person crew. There’s an intriguing set of stories for each member, granting you a better understanding of their personalities and motivations. And indeed, these character are well-rounded individuals; learning about them builds a bond with them, making the story and the ending feel more significant.

Excellent visuals and sound also help to bring the space station to life. It’s mostly dark, a cliché lighting model for space stations that have suffered a failure of some kind, however, other light sources help give an identity to each room, with subtle hues to denote the different personalities of the crew and neon lighting acting as a theme through the common areas. Music is rarely used, and when it is used it’s short and brilliantly effective. It all comes together to give the space station a superbly immersive atmosphere.

Indeed, ‘immersive’ is the word I keep coming back to. The Station does an excellent job in capturing your attention, and while its short runtime is disappointing it does feel appropriate to the story it wishes to tell. If then you’re looking for a bit of a palette cleanse; a walking simulator in a sci-fi setting, with light puzzle elements and an intriguing story, then The Station is just the title for you.

Thanks to Xbox and The Station Game for supporting TiX

Prey Opening Hour trailer released

The highly anticipated reboot of Prey is due out in a mere few days, May 5, and to whet your appetite that little bit more is a new trailer.

The trailer promotes the Opening Hour demo, available now on Xbox One. This will allow you to check out the first hour (or more, depending on how you play) of Morgan Yu’s first day on the job. Before Prey’s May 5 release, kick off your journey through Talos I and fight the alien invasion that’s threatening all of humanity.

Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide review

Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide immerses you in the Warhammer fantasy universe, arms you with melee and ranged weaponry, and unleashes the human sized rat force known as the Skaven on you and your party of adventurers. And with dozens of the vermin swarming you whilst blades, magic, arrows, grenades and bullets fill the air alongside the screams of battle and the cries of death, you’ll be forgiven for thinking this is Left 4 Dead with a different skin. It is, in fact, a great deal more than that.

Well, not a huge amount more than that. Vermintide shares more than a passing resemblance to Valve’s zombies slaying action titles. The core gameplay-loop is the same: you and up to three others venture off into a relatively linear level towards an objective whilst a variety of different Skaven foes flood your screen and try to murder you. The Skaven even have special units that neatly compare to the likes of Left 4 Dead’s, such as the hulking Rat Ogre that can absorb and dish out huge damage, the Poison Wind Globadier who chucks poison grenades your way, and the Gutter Runner who pounces on you and slashes away at your torso, plus several more.

Players also respawn further within a level if they are felled, and items can be picked up to help heal or buff you and your party, as well as offensive options such as bombs and grenades. Furthermore, an omnipresent AI director oversees the summoning of the Skaven horde in order to make your playthrough more dynamic and scalable. Indeed, it’s very much plays like Left 4 Dead. However, this is certainly not a bad thing.

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Vermintide is fast paced and intense, with dozens of enemies filling the screen forcing you and your party to wildly swing, bash and shoot to try and clear a path forwards. Meanwhile, teamwork is crucial in dealing with the number of foes and the aforementioned special units that mean to separate you from your friends and pick you off whilst you’re vulnerable. Vermintide is the best parts of Left 4 Dead, all packed up in a faithful, intriguing and beautiful Warhammer package.

Stunning visuals brings the city streets, sewers, forests and harbours to life, with character models for your adventurers and the Skaven looking tremendously detailed. Moreover, this visual fidelity doesn’t compromises the fast pace, regardless of the action unfolding around you. You’re party of four, swinging melee weapons or firing off projectiles against dozens of humanoid rats remarkable remains smooth and fast throughout.

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The rest of the presentation is also superb, with a fantastically thematic score accompanying your dance of slaughter, not at all listenable outside of the game but wonderfully fitting for the action and world whilst you’re immersed within it. Furthermore, the clash of steal, the swish of arrows, the roar of fire, and the boom of firearms all sound excellent amongst the equally terrific Skaven and party member voices. Vocal cues from the Skaven and your party aid you in preparing for upcoming battles, or point you in the right direction if you get lost, but are used sparingly enough not to grate or become superfluous. Additionally, the little elements of lore you glean from short snippets of dialogue between your party point to the larger world of the Warhammer universe subtlety but rewardingly for fans.

You can embark on a large selection of missions across multiple different locations either alone and supported by AI teammates, or via online coop with up to three other players. You choose a hero from a selection of five: a Dwarf Ranger with axe and crossbow; an Elven Waywatcher with dual daggers and bow; a Witch Hunter with rapier and pistols; a Bright Wizard with flaming mace and fire magic; and an Empire Soldier with great sword and pistol. You then gather within an inn, consult a map to choose your mission and are then briefed by the barman. It’s terrifically atmospheric. Moreover, the starting weapons can be swapped out for several more to modify your characters significantly.

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Securing new weapons requires an element of skill and equally luck. Once you complete a level, depending on how well you do, you’ll be given dice to throw. The more dice that land showing a face, the rarer your weapon loot will be. However, the weapons available during this dice game are random, sometimes not providing new weapons for the characters you prefer and potentially lumbering you with junk. Fortunately, you can combine unwanted weapons to form new ones or upgrade favourites at the forge, helping to alleviate the frustration of tackling a level and not receiving anything useful.

This random loot system certainly can compromise your fun. The levels are hugely challenging and conquering one only to receive junk can be disheartening. Furthermore, if you fail a level you receive nothing. The friendly AI is often responsible for such failures, unfortunately. Occasionally they’ll get stuck on scenery or fail to figure out the terrain to progress forward. Meanwhile, at times they’ll completely ignore that fact you’ve been downed and require medical assistance and you’ll die surrounded by the dumbfounded AI. Bringing friends along for the fight certainly helps, but the challenge remains stiff whether you’re backed up with AI or human comrades.

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Warhammer: The End Times – Vermintide is great fun to play, with its hugely satisfying combat and its excellent feedback as enemies are knocked around and sliced apart, to the visually stunning environments, as well as the character and enemy models, which truly bring the Warhammer world to life. It’s difficult, and the loot system’s random element can get a little frustrating, but the gameplay-loop is easily compelling enough to keep you coming back for more Skaven blood.

Thanks to Xbox and Fatshark for supporting TiX

Firewatch review

Watching out for smoke and fires in the wilderness of Wyoming might not sound like the most exciting game, but when trouble lures you from the safety of your watch tower, things take a turn for the interesting…

It’s a lonely life up in the watch tower, your only company is a lady called Delilah – who chats to you over the radio – so what would drive a person to take a job of such solitude? The game begins with the lead character, Henry, en route to his new place of work. Flashback scenes let you read about his past allowing you to fill in the blanks with multiple-choice answers. It’s a great touch, making Henry’s past feel personal to you.

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Armed with a map, compass and backpack, you venture out to explore the area of the Wyoming wilderness that you’ve been assigned. Several supply caches are spread across the area containing various items. Primarily they are a source of information that you note down on your map. As you explore you talk to Delilah about what you discover – often she pries into your past and why you took the job.

These often touching moments shape their relationship – it’s a great relationship too. Starting slowly as strangers you experience how the two bond over the radio as their conversations become playful and almost intimate. As you explore the wilderness, the simple life of a lookout turns quite sinister, which made me question Henry’s relationship with the mysterious Delilah. It’s your own perception of this – and the story – that will ultimately decide how you perceive the ending, which is a bit hit-and-miss.

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During the game Delilah asks Henry to perform several tasks, which aren’t too complex or cheapened with a clumsy mini game – the game is focused firmly on the relationship you build over the radio and the experience of exploring the world with your new friend. The world is crafted neatly, hiding areas until such a time that the story reveals them to you. Stop for a minute and you will realise that it leads you by the hand using smoke and mirrors to hide the fact it’s actually quite a linear path.

The art of the game is painted in a watercolour wash, creating sinister shapes, which heighten tension and contrast with the soothing colours of the game’s palette. Unfortunately, there are some minor graphic glitches, such as grass clumps that pop in, which was rather annoying, but overall, the environment looks like a painting in an art gallery. It’s a bit of a shame there wasn’t more life in the world, however. Beyond some scripted encounters there is a lack of wildlife – odd that a national park should be so devoid of life – and bar one or two encounters, you won’t meet anybody wondering through the wilderness.

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If you’re a fan of walking sims then there’s a real kick to be had from Firewatch. The story and relationship of Henry and Delilah reeled me in, while the change in perception of my environment played on my own fears – what was once a safe area soon became a place that I was afraid to venture out in – convinced there was someone behind me.

The ending can seem rather flat if you just sit back and accept what is being served to you, but there are lots to speculate about with plenty of plot holes, that I assume are intentional to make you question the story should you spot them. Some may feel short changed by the ending though; it builds well into a state of flurry only to just stop. For me, nothing is as it seems and I still question the events that I experienced.

Once you’ve finished the story there’s a director’s cut version to experience, complete with scavenger hunt, bonus secrets and extra information about the game. There’s also a day/night free roam to explore loaded with even more secrets to discover.

If you like a good story then Firewatch is well worth checking out – it’s one of the better walking simulators that I have played, even if the ending is a little hit-and-miss.

Thanks to Campo Santo and KOEI TECMO for supporting TiX

Dead Island Definitive Collection review

Punching, kicking, striking and stabbing zombies on an island paradise is an attractive concept, and even with Techland refining this experience for Dying Light, their original outing with Dead Island still holds some appeal. However, it’s still a victim of bugs and other issues, making it less enticing than it could be.

The island itself is the most appealing part of Dead Island, and it looks great with its Definitive Collection polish. The increased anti-aliasing has smoothed out the majority of the jagged edges, meanwhile the new lighting engine and vibrant colour pallet makes everything looks stunningly bright, wet, decayed and shiny. It’s a great looking title on the face of it. Unfortunately, character models are less convincing. Whilst the zombies look menacing and gruesome, the NPCs look more detailed but still wooden and emotionless. Their lack of lip sync certainly doesn’t help, with characters flapping their mouths when they speak to no rhythm or accuracy. Furthermore, a new motion blur effect completely pulls you out of the experience.

Fortunately the majority of Dead Island is spent exploring the island and engaging zombies in melee combat, and this still proves thoroughly entertaining. Finding health pickups to keep you going and gathering materials to craft make-shift weapons, or using whatever you happen to find lying around as an immediate weapon, offers a satisfying feeling of desperation, exploration and varied combat. Weapons will break with relative ease, forcing you to use whatever you can find in order to survive, and this encourages you to experiment with what you pick up, preventing the combat from ever feeling stale.

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Additionally, the quests on offer are also varied and interesting. The main missions steer you towards ensuring the survival of you and the uninfected denizens of the island, pointing you towards more survivors that need rescuing, provisions that need securing, and locations that need to be made safe. The side missions vary wildly, from emotional journeys where an NPC will ask you to put their infected family out of their misery, to requests for you to find personal items. Moreover, you can approach these missions at your own pace, concentrating on side missions over the main ones, or ignoring all of it to explore the island yourself. It’s terrifically open once the prologue is over and it’s easy to get caught up in your own emergent story.

Unfortunately, as enjoyable as the core experience can be, and as lovely as the new visuals are, old issues are still present under the surface. Bugs that cause zombies to float in the air or fall through the ground are fairly frequent, as are moments where you get stuck in doorways and geometry. The vehicles are still unresponsive and the first-person platforming is clumsy. It simply hasn’t received the gameplay tweaks it really needed.

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Riptide, Dead Island’s standalone expansion, is also included with the Definitive Collection, adding a few new perks and weapons, but ultimately offering more of the same in a different but far too similar environment. Bringing your Dead Island character over to Riptide is now easier than ever, but the expansion’s re-tread of the original’s experience makes it feel rather tedious. The Definitive Collection also includes Dead Island Retro Revenge, however, it’s currently locked until August.

Being able to play cooperatively with up to 3 additional players is still a great feature, and one that helps elevate any of the issues present. Here is certainly where Dead Island shines, and it’s supremely enjoyable slaying zombies and completing missions as a crew as opposed to alone.

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Dead Island Definitive Collection provides a great looking zombie slaying title, but one with many of the same flaws of the original. Engaging zombies in melee combat is still entertaining and the bursts of adrenaline you get when zombies attack from all angles and you barely have a chance to ready your weapon is frighteningly fun. However, Dying Light does it all better, making this a difficult recommendation overall.

Thanks to Xbox and Deep Silver for supporting TiX

Dead Island Definitive Collection is out now

Techland’s Dead Island and Dead Island Riptide, published by Deep Silver, are now out for Xbox One. Furthermore, buy the Definitive Collection and you’ll get both aforementioned titles and the new Dead Island Retro Revenge for free.

These remastered versions include all previously released DLC, and are running on Techland’s next generation engine, affording them higher quality textures, a new and improved lighting system, physically based shading, image enhancement through anti-aliasing, improved game models and geometry, motion blur and ambient occlusion effects, and an updated user interface.

Furthermore, the classic four player online coop experience returns, alongside the fan favourite PC mod One Punch Mode.

You can check out the launch trailer below:

Dead Island Retro Revenge isn’t released until August but will feature classic side-scrolling/endless runner action, melee-based combat, leaderboards, power-ups, super attacks and a combo system.

Author Chris Brookmyre takes players inside Bedlam

We recently reviewed genre-hoping FPS Bedlam and was blown away by the unique storytelling tied so intimately into the experience. It’s an odd and clever game that doesn’t always tap into the fun we so often associate with games but instead purposely builds on frustration and unfairness in order to share its story. It’s terrific and awful at the same time, and a nightmare to try and describe, but fortunately Chris Brookmyre, author of both the Bedlam book and the accompanying game, has a new behind-the-scenes video where he takes viewers on a short tour through some of the worlds seen in Bedlam, explaining his thought processes and giving extra details on the creation of the game.

If the video wasn’t enough to tempt you into playing, why not give our review a read.

Bedlam: The Game review

Bedlam The Game is a peculiar title, one where its missteps as a game are more forgivable because many of them are intentional, and one where the overall story is more important than the minute to minute experience. As such it’s a difficult game to recommend to the majority but a superb representation of the book it’s based on, whether it’s the kind of experience for you or not depends entirely on what you want from playing a game, which is a fascinating question in its own right.

Indeed Bedlam: The Game is based on Bedlam the book, written by Christopher Brookmyre, a novel full of razor-sharp commentary on videogame culture and design wrapped in a fascinating story about AI and player immersion. As a companion to the book it’s brilliant, capturing the same dark, humorous tone and immersing you in a believable facsimile of retro games experienced through the mechanics of a first-person shooter.

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Playing as experienced gamer and programmer, Heather Quinn, you initially find yourself in a 90s shooter reminiscent of Quake II. Before long you’re hopping between game-worlds and experiencing parodies of Medal of Honor, Pac-Man, Halo and generic RPGs, all through the perspective and gameplay of a first-person shooter, as you try to find out why you’re stuck in this digital world and how you can escape. It’s a terrific tale told wonderfully through excellent voice acting and a thematically accurate script, but the mechanics themselves are dire.

Weapons are inaccurate and lack impact, the AI is aggressive but utterly stupid, the textures are muddy and lack detail, music and sound effects are indelicately implemented, checkpoints are infrequent and the frame rate regularly chugs when the enemy count increases. It’s a poor offering of game mechanics and production quality that reeks of amateurish and lazy design. But indeed that’s the point. Bedlam: The Game means to torture you with poor checkpoints, ugly aesthetics and predictable AI; what you’re experiencing isn’t the game itself but more the game within the game.

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It’s the moments between each game-world where you’re playing the real game, the rest is a purposely built arena for you to experience the retro design elements of the very game it’s parodying. Between the game-worlds are fractured platforming sections with images and email messages you can find that help fill in more of the story, meanwhile other characters contact you via audio chat to explain and drive the narrative forwards. The true object of the game is for you to exploit each game-world with the first-person mechanics you’re stuck with, bringing weapons from other game-worlds with you to carve out slight advantages and making liberal use of the save function in the menu screen to brute-force your way through the increasingly challenging enemy encounters.

Unfortunately this is not immediately evident, partly because the story would otherwise be ruined if all its tricks were revealed at once, so the experience can feel more torturous than is should for large parts of the game. This is less of a problem within the initial game-world; the fictional game of Starfire plays precisely how you remember the likes of Quake II playing, with a highly familiar sci-fi setting and the traditional slow projectiles, but once you jump over to the Medal of Honor parody, Death or Glory, the challenge jumps significantly and the nostalgic fun you were having is quickly replaced by frustration. This is intentional, of course, but you don’t really find that out until later, leaving the driving force that keeps you playing up to the narrative.

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Fortunately it’s a great story that’s excellently paced, and as frustrating as Bedlam: The Game can get it’s all part of the experience it means to immerse you in. That is accepted for the framerate issues, which can cause some unfair deaths, especially near the end of the game. There’s also a lack of a quick save button, which proves to be a crucial tool. It’s still a fairly quick process to jump into the pause menu and save but this reveals a PC bias that never translated to console.

Bedlam: The Game is a terrific story wrapped in an intentionally bad game, and as such it proves to be an absolutely brilliant companion to the book it’s based on. In fact, thanks to the perspective of a different character in the game it helps compliment the book superbly, but this does mean it’s not the most enjoyable game to play. The nostalgic moments in the odd game-world will strike a nice chord with fans of the original titles they’re based on, and the Pac-Man inspired level is very clever, but you’re unlikely to find much fun here. But perhaps we can play a game in order to experience emotions and situations that are something other than fun. Through play and interaction we can experience these things in a more personal way, and for that Bedlam: The Game should be applauded, and if you’re open to that idea then should absolutely try this title out.

Thanks to Xbox and RedBedlam for their support 

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Dishonored Definitive Edition review

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I consider myself fortunate to have been able to play Dishonored before release at Eurogamer 2012, and upon release, to review in October of the same year. So when Bethesda announced the release of the Definitive Edition on current gen I was interested to see what they would do to improve on the release.

For those of you who missed Dishonored in the last generation, you undertake the role of Corvo Attano, Lord Protector and chief bodyguard of the Empress of Dunwall, Jessamine Kaldwin. Returning unsuccessfully from a mission to the Free Isles, to seek political aid and insight into a mysterious plague that is ravaging the citizens of Dunwall, you are embroiled in the assassination of the Empress and the kidnap of her daughter, Emily Kaldwin.

Captured by the Empress’ spy-master, Hiram Burrows, you are quickly taken to the prison of Coldridge, where you are held and interrogated for six months. On the eve of your execution, Burrows, now the Lord Regent, and Campbell, the High Overseer, leader of the chief religious faction in Dunwall, reveal that your early return had interrupted their plans to overthrow the sovereign and situate her daughter on the throne as a puppet monarch.

Returning to your cell, you are slipped a note from a group known as the Loyalists, who believe that you are innocent and correctly presume the murder of the Empress is the work of the former spy-master. Escaping the prison you find yourself in a rundown pub owned by the leader of the Loyalists, Admiral Havelock, who requests your aid in removing the corrupt government and recovering the future Empress Emily from their grasp.

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Following your exploits is The Outsider (a supernatural being whose worship is outlawed by the Overseers) who offers you his aid in seeking your vengeance against those who have wronged you. During this meeting you are given your first taste of the powers The Outsider can bestow, when he grants you the ability to “Blink” from one point to another. Each of your spectral abilities require Runes to unlock and upgrade and adrenaline to use.

Combining these abilities with the array of weapons and devices you have available makes for an interesting and unique approach to each of the areas and enemies in the game. The options are there, and cater to your playstyle, be it primarily stealth, aggressively combative or a mixture of the two.

The Chaos system Arkane have created is a simple but elegant mechanic. Your choices throughout the story have an impact on the city of Dunwall as it suffers from the mysterious plague. Killing enemies will adversely attract more rats and certain side quests, such as sabotaging an illegal plague tonic distillery for rewards, will leave the less wealthy citizens more open to the infection and may introduce to future levels more “weepers”, the citizens infected beyond the point of no return. Although it only has two settings, low chaos and high chaos, which level you are on affects how others treat you. You may find that some of the quest NPCs will no longer assist you if you are too wanton in your destructiveness, and may even go out of their way to alert your presence to the guards.

Dishonored is a hugely enjoyable and accomplished game and how you wish to make your way through the story is the biggest choice you will make. Will you live up to your role as Lord Protector and remove the corrupt government who is destroying the city from the inside, and try to remove the plague threat that is decimating Dunwall? Or will you spurn the people who have branded you a traitor and cut a swathe through Dunwall to exact your revenge, leaving them to rot in the plague infested streets you leave in your wake? it is entirely up to you.

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It is worth noting, this is not an enhanced release in the standard definition. Although there is a distinct improvement in the lighting used within the game, and a greater fidelity to the textures overall with sharper visuals and more vibrant colours, the improvements are discernible but not overwhelming. At the end of the day this appears to be a timely port to coincide with their E3 show and the announcement of a sequel rather than a planned redesign of the title.

Neither of the previous niggles I found when reviewing the title back in 2012 have been addressed in this release. Enemy AI can still break the immersion when it fails, (on occasion), to respond to your actions or the assembled corpses littering the environment, and the somewhat fiddly aiming of Blink can still slow down the pacing of the game making you feel clumsy and imprecise, rather than the agile master assassin.

It is worth mentioning the cost as well. For those of us who already have a digital copy of the game, Bethesda confirmed that we would be entitled to pick up the definitive edition at half price, but even to pick it up now without this discount is as little as £25. With the inclusion of all the DLC packs along with the main game, it has to be said that, regardless if you have played the game before or not, this is an extremely good price point for this title.

If you did miss out on this title in the last gen, now is the time to pick up what I consider an influential and must play title from the last generation. If you were on the fence in the last gen, it is unlikely that you will find much to appeal to you here.

Thanks to Xbox and Arkane Studios for supporting TiX

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