PS+ Serves Up an Emotional Story Alongside Shooters, Top-Down Side Dishes In June
Credit where credit’s due to Sony: over the past months, they’ve really ensured that there isn’t a current theme to be found connecting the games offered through their PS+ subscription service. And in recent months, they’ve even managed to include one semi-large release in their offerings, though the rest of ‘em stick to smaller independent releases of many different types. If variety is the spice of life, there’s plenty of flavor to relish in June’s games on offer, ranging from a horde-mode shooter and an interactive adventure to a pair of entirely different top-down games. Whether the flavors are satisfying will, of course, depend on the individual, especially when the games vary in critical reception the way these do. Let’s take a closer look.
Killing Floor 2
Ah, the horde mode. It’s become so popular and prevalent as an add-on component of single-player games that even those franchises heavily driven by narrative, such as Mass Effect, have incorporated it into their universe … and have done so with immense success. That leaves little room for games strictly focused on horde mode to thrive, and it’s got to have quite a number of novel things at work to draw attention away from those competitors if it does. Killing Floor 2 comes exceptionally close to doing so, offering a concept in which a slew of biologically-warped beings known as Zeds, created by an outbreak from a bigwig experiment firm, rush toward the player and his teammates in dangerous waves. A slew of guns, over a dozen intricate maps, and graphics responsive to the chaos amount to thrilling gameplay experience, though it’s hampered by repetitiveness and an absence of narrative.
Life is Strange
Oddly enough, the other PS4 game offered this month can be seen as the exact opposite to the pure multiplayer-focused game. Life is Strange is best labeled an interactive adventure instead of a standard videogame, telling the story of Max, a high-school student and photography wiz, who discovers that she has the ability to rewind time and impact events around her. This comes in handy as she prevents the accidental shooting of her childhood friend, Chloe, sparking Max to use her newly-discovered ability to alter other monumental events, thus creating several different alternate realities. Choices made in terms of dialogue and investigating the surroundings can impact the course of the story, but not to such a significant degree as to meddle with the thematic path of Max’s fantastical experiences, which touches on deepening relationships and profound emotions generated between the well-drawn characters. This is a gem, folks.
If artistic polish, a compelling narrative, and a direct feed into nostalgia were all a game needed to succeed, then Atlus’ Abyss Odyssey would be nothing but a triumph. Beautifully intricate and earthy art nouveau visuals accentuate Metroidvania-style platform level design, as a cluster of heroes scour the lands for a warlock whose volatile dreams are seeping into the reality of 1800s Chile. Fighting-game controls interweave with the level design in creation of what should be a brisk and alluring combination of elements, but the game’s critics haven’t agreed upon the success of Abyss Odyssey’s fusion of ideas, some citing sluggish responsiveness and a lack of variety in combat situations.
WRC 5: World Rally Championship
Any racing game hoping to be released on consoles, especially on PlayStation, will have to works its way into a dense pack of competitors, both well-oiled machines leading the race and others that, well, just sort of clunk along in the back. WRC 5: World Rally Championship has the polish and horsepower to be a contender, boasting slick realistic graphics and well-tuned controls replicating the 2015 World Rally Championship season. Critics and fans didn’t seem to feel that was enough, though, citing lackluster physics and a lack of depth beyond what’s on the surface, an understandable concern considering other racing games strive for lots of options and versatility of modes. Instead, this one kinda disappears in the middle of the pack.
With a heavy soundtrack and vivid colors, Neon Chrome essentially embodies how a top-down, dual-stick version of Far Cry: Blood Dragon might look and feel. The key difference lies in the game’s roguelike design, where levels are randomly generated across several floors of buildings. That might add some variety, but the same-same functionality of the shooting and level design left players wanting more, and a lack of a substantive story doesn’t really help matters. That said, Neon Chrome does have a distinctive style and a quick pace to its encounters, which should make pick-up-and-play sessions worthwhile enough to give it a shot.
If you want a top-down experience that’s a little bit calmer and novel in execution, then Spy Chameleon has just what you’re looking for. A unique spin on the stealth game, this mission becomes a puzzle experience where the main character, obviously a chameleon, must change colors and evade obstacles while working their way through 75 different levels. Praise has been heaped upon the novelty of its premise and the plain charm of its visual language, and the trial-and-error nature of the gameplay seems to hit the sweet spot between frustration, fun, and ultimate reward.