• Hidden Agenda (2017)

    Hidden Agenda is an interactive game for Playstation 4 that requests the additional use of a mobile device or tablet. You will need to download an additional free PlayLink application to be able to play the game. You won't be using the regular controller. The game is based upon quick time events and so-called ripple effects where specific choices can determine different outcomes of the game. The game can be played by up to six people who have to collaborate to make what they think could be the right choices. In addition to this, certain players will receive additional tasks known as hidden agendas. They will have to influence decisions in order to make certain things happen and gain points. Other players can try to uncover the player with a hidden agenda. Basically, Hidden Agenda is like a mixture of a board game for multiple players and a movie where the players watch the story unfold and only react to some quick time events and make choices. There almost isn't any gameplay.

    Hidden Agenda tries to come around with a few fresh ideas but the overall execution is below average. First of all, it took me hours to download the app. I needed to create a Google Account, had to update my Playstation and it took me twenty minutes just to download the application and another ten minutes to make it work because both the Playstation and the Hidden Agenda application need to be connected on the same WiFi hotspot. Just getting this game started was frustrating. Supermassive Games should at least have given single players the opportunity to use the regular Dualshock controller.

    Another big issue are the games' numerous glitches. The cut scenes are often abrupt and harm the game's fluidity. The player spends too much time looking at black screens or other graphic failures in between scenes. After having played the entire game twice, it happened already twice that the game was interrupted due to major glitches and I had to replay certain passages. It's hard to accept that such a short game that involved so many programmers has so many glitches.

    Another serious problem is the game's length. Depending on your choices, it takes between eighty and one hundred twenty minutes to play the game. I knew this game was going to be shorter than a regular game, but playing this game for about eighty minutes is shorter than playing any elaborate board game I could possibly think of.

    The game's only saving grace is the complex story with its multiple choices but once again, Hidden Agenda is far from perfection here. You can't save the game and go back to modify your choices, even though the game is subdivided into three parts as well as an introduction and a conclusion. It's possible to stop the game and continue playing the rest of the game at a later moment but you can't replay specific chapters. In addition to this, the story doesn't always make sense. In one case, an important witness pointed out the job the actual murderer might have but instead of investigating this lead, the characters of the game focused on a completely different possibility which led to an unfinished open ending that wasn't quite satisfying.

    Even though I enjoyed the game for its main idea, there are too many problems about it, including a complicated application, numerous graphic glitches and the very short length. Ironically, the credits at the end of the game are so long that they make for about ten percent of the entire game which isn't even the case for short movies. My suggestion is to avoid this game and watch a great crime flick instead or play a board game with your friends. Supermassive Games tried to innovate gameplay but ended up failing miserably.

    Detailed rating:

    Atmosphere: 7/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 6/10

    Game flow: 3/10

    Graphics: 7/10

    Length: 4/10

    Long-term fun factor: 4/10

    Sound: 6/10

    Soundtrack: 6/10

    Story: 8/10 

    Total score: 58 /100

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  • Alekhine's Gun (2016)

    Alekhine's Gun is a third-person stealth action video game developed and published by Maximum Games. It is the third entry in the Death to Spies franchise but can be played independently from the first two games. The story follows a KGB agent recruited by the FBI from the Second World War to the sixties. The interesting but not quite original Cold War scenario leads the protagonist to Cuba, Germany and the United States of America among others.

    On the positive side, the plot is interesting enough even though it isn't much surprising for those interested in spy cinema and literature. The game features eleven levels that add diversified locations. The entire game has the vibe of an old spy flick which gives it a certain charm. There are numerous ways to assassinate specific targets. The challenge level is quite elevated and probably slightly more interesting than similar stealth action games.

    On the negative side, the graphics look stiff and old but not in an atmospheric or charming way. They remind me of the first entries in franchises such as No One Lives Forever and Splinter Cell about twenty years ago. The movements of the characters are often wooden which becomes frustrating after a while. The sound departement also has a certain vintage touch and the voice actors are portraying the characters with heavily exaggerated dialects that are at times unintentionally funny.

    In the end, you can grab this game for twenty bucks or less if you like old school stealth action video games. If you are looking for a spectacular shooter with a gripping story, you will be disappointed by Alekhine's Gun. Playing the game was fun while it lasted but I wouldn't revisit it anytime soon. 

    Detailed rating:

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 8/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 7/10

    Graphics: 3/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 6/10

    Sound: 6/10

    Soundtrack: 6/10

    Story: 7/10 

    Total score: 65 /100

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  • Hitman (2017)

    Hitman is stealth video game developed by IO Interactive and published by Square Enix. It's the sixth entry in the Hitman franchise. The game consists of six episodes and is also described as the first season of this franchise reboot.

    The six episodes follow contract killer Agent 47 who has to eliminate targets all around the world from a fashion show in Paris over the dusty streets of Marrakesh to a private hospital in Hokkaido. While the locations are stunning and diversified, the different missions are sometimes repetitive and tedious. Potential bonus episodes and online content can't hide the fact that the game is missing a coherent flow which decreases the long-term factor significantly. Instead of playing the entire first season all at once, it's recommanded to play one episode in its entirety and to take a break of a few weeks to rediscover Hitman's universe again.

    Just like the other entries of the franchise and even the two movies, the new Hitman reboots has massive ups and downs. If you want to play single coherent stealth video game episodes, Hitman can occasionally provide some solid entertainment. If you are however looking for a game with an intriguing story that connects the different episodes and original twists, you will have to look elsewhere. In the end, the new Hitman reboot is only for long-time fans of the franchise.

    Detailed rating:

    Atmosphere: 8/10

    Challenge level: 8/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 6/10

    Graphics: 8/10

    Length: 7/10

    Long-term fun factor: 6/10

    Sound: 7/10

    Soundtrack: 7/10

    Story: 6/10 

    Total score: 70 /100

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  • Life is Strange (2015) 

    Life is Strange is a graphic adventure video game split into five episodes. The game was developed by Dontnod Entertainment and published by Square Enix, one of my favorite video game developer companies. The game follows the story of twelfth grade student Maxine Caulfield who returns to the hometown she left five years earlier. She soon realizes that the prestigeous Blackwell Academy isn't as great as its reputation and witnesses bullying, drug addiction and even murder. Maxine Caulfield realizes that she has the capacity to reverse time and she uses her power to try and save people around her. However, she soon realizes that her actions create a dangerous rift in the space-time continuum which leads to showdown when Maxine must take the most difficult decision ever.

    This game convinces on many different levels. It has a very strong and mysterious atmosphere that is only increased by the smooth, slow and precise flow that quickens up the pace towards the dramatic end. Another strong element are the versatile, profound and diversified characters. It's easy to identify with the calm, intellectual and unique Maxine as well as with her unstable, rebellious and outgoing friend Chloe. They are both very authentic characters that complement each other perfectly. Finally, the story reminding of television series like Portlandia and Twin Peaks is addicting from start to finish and gets particularly sinister during the last two episodes.

    Life is Strange is not only a great game for teenage girls but for anyone who cares about artistics designs, mysterious plots and profound characters and doesn't mind a game that takes its time to unfold. The spin-off Life is Strange: Before the Storm is being released right now and focuses on Chloe's life rather than Maxine's life. Life is Strange 2 will be released in 2018 and will feature new locations and a new set of characters. Since the original game convinced me on nearly all levels, I'm looking forward to try out both the spin-off and the second instalment.

    Detailed rating:

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 7/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 8/10

    Length: 9/10

    Long-term fun factor: 9/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 9/10 

    Total score: 83 /100

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  • Until Dawn (2015)

    Until Dawn is a survival horror video game developed dy Supermassive Games and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. This game is one of the greatest games I have played in a very long time and might even be my favorite game of all times.

    The game follows eight young adults who spend a weekend in a cabin in the Canadian woods one year after two of their friends died there under mysterious circumstances. Soon, the eight friends sense that they aren't alone on that strange mountain somewhere in Alberta. Step by step, they uncover the numerous stunning mysteries of this abandoned place and their lives are soon in danger. Telling you anything more would take away from the brilliant plot that goes back to classical thrillers and horror stories somewhere between Agatha Christie and Stephen King.

    Until Dawn convinces on numerous levels. First of all, the atmosphere of this game is gloomy, mysterious and uneasy from start to finish.

    The challenge level is extremely elevated because there are many different possibilities related to the possible outcome of the story.

    The controls are quite tough and add to the challenge level since you have to press the right buttons in a short amount of time to take the right decision and save someone's life.

    The game flow is quite fluid from start to finish but I personally prefer the first half of the game that is strictly related to a sinister tale of revenge while the second part has a more supernatural twists which means that we almost get two games in one.

    The graphics are stunning and add to the game's gloomy atmosphere. Especially the winter landscapes look quite realistic.

    The game doesn't only have a reasonable length somewhere between eight and ten hours but can also be played over and over again because the decisions taken by the gamer have significant impacts in the future and playing the game again by taking different decisions will change the entire outcome of the game.

    It's the kind of game that never gets boring and can be played over and over again which explains the elevated long-term fun factor.

    The sound effects are creepy and intense. Make sure to play this game in the dark with an elevated volume to get fully absorbed by it.

    The soundtrack helps creating an immersive and intense atmosphere.

    The story isn't exactly new but perfectly executed.

    To keep it short, if you are a young adult and like clever thrillers and gloomy horror stories, there is no way you can get around Until Dawn. The spin-off Until Dawn: Rush of Blood doesn't have anything to do with the brilliant original game presented here. However, a prequel entitled The Inpatient, which takes place in the same locations as the original game but sixty years prior to the events portrayed in Until Dawn, is going to be released in November 2017. There is no doubt that I'm going to purchase this prequel. If it's only nearly as good as Until Dawn, it's going to be a contender for game of the year.

    Detailed rating:

    Atmosphere: 10/10

    Challenge level: 9/10

    Controls: 7/10

    Game flow: 8/10

    Graphics: 9/10

    Length: 9/10

    Long-term fun factor: 10/10

    Sound: 8/10

    Soundtrack: 8/10

    Story: 9/10 

    Total score: 87 /100

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