Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A NEGATIVE Batch Of Brew

Playing Oddworld: Soulstorm is as arduous as Abe’s quest to liberate his Mudoken brethren from slavery. Each step is a supreme test of patience as you methodically guide your followers through challenging hazards, sweating over the fact that one slip-up could unravel all your effort. If you enjoy putting up with that old-school challenge, you might love this journey. However, if you’re a newcomer or a fan that believes this style of platformer hasn’t aged very well, turn back now. Soulstorm doesn’t do enough to modernize the series’ tedious gameplay, and a litany of severe technical hiccups spoil Abe’s attempted comeback. A reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, Soulstorm’s gameplay remains largely the same: you recruit and guide followers through 2D platforming stages littered with dangers. As charming as the classic Oddworld games are, they can be frustratingly difficult and that hasn’t changed much in Soulstorm. Most Slig enemies and other hazards mow Abe down instantly, and I was infuriated by how little wiggle room I had to correct course when things went sideways. Abe drops so fast that it makes the health meter seem like a cruel tease. While playing Soulstorm, I often felt like I was walking on eggshells because of that high price of failure, retracing every step, re-recruiting every Mudokon, and carefully guiding them through a gauntlet of foes is soul-crushing when it all falls apart in seconds. Dying to unexpected perils, like being suddenly gunned down by off-screen enemies, feels cheap and happens way too often. A crafting system serves as Soulstorm’s biggest addition, but it doesn’t feel necessary. You must repeatedly gather the same ingredients every time you die (by searching lockers, trash cans, and fallen foes), which wore me down in a hurry after repeatedly replaying certain sections. The crafted tools themselves, like proximity mines, smoke screens, even a flamethrower, do add a welcomed element of flexibility and improvisation to gameplay. Dropping smoke screens to create hiding spots anywhere is nice, but I wished I didn’t have to make these items myself and grew tired of digging around the same spots over and over.   Even when Soulstorm’s difficulty eases up, the gameplay is bland. The action feels largely the same from previous games in the series, and that formula doesn’t evolve significantly beyond the first few hours. Even the more interesting sequences, like facing down a giant mech aboard a speeding train, are far too punishing to be fun. I’m glad that Abe controls better now (he even has a double jump), but the controls still have a mushy unresponsiveness that makes entertaining actions, like possessing Sligs, feel like a hassle. The controls also lead to additional deaths because Abe doesn’t act as swiftly as you need him to, especially during the ill-fitting, overly demanding combat arenas that pit you against waves of baddies while you try to protect fleeing Mudokens. Soulstorm would be a tough recommendation for anyone outside of diehard fans if it performed flawlessly, but I encountered several progress-sabotaging bugs (even after installing the big day-one patch) that should scare off even those players. When I died, Mudokens sometimes failed to respawn alongside me even though my tally indicated they were still alive and under my command. That meant I lost out on turning in followers that I’d spent ages trying to safely liberate, which negatively affected my overall quarma – a vital metric in determining which of the four endings you get.  Abe occasionally gets stuck in environmental geometry, forcing a restart. At one point, I fell into an infinite loop. One escape portal permanently vanished once I reached it, forcing me to abandon followers. A gun in a late-game turret sequence failed to shoot despite working fine in previous segments. After multiple restarts, I randomly discovered that clicking the right stick “fixed” the weapon for some reason, allowing it to fire. I spent over an hour trying to lead a large group of followers through a particularly challenging area, but once I opened the exit door an invisible wall prevented me from moving forward. I was forced to restart this entire, lengthy sequence twice before the exit worked properly. Soulstorm’s gameplay pushed my patience to its limits, but these bugs sent me over the edge and made me nervous every time I started a new level. “What on Earth is going to screw me over this time?” I regularly asked myself. Soulstorm’s faults are a shame because its narrative and presentation brought a smile to my face. Abe and his pals are goofy, delightful underdogs I couldn’t help but root for. The enjoyable story is packed with heart, and the cutscenes look great. I wanted to welcome Abe into a new generation of gaming with open arms, but Soulstorm fails to make a case for why its brand of cinematic platforming works today. In fact, Soulstorm only reaffirmed that Abe’s past adventures are best viewed with rose-colored glasses.
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    PlayStation Plus games for April: Days Gone, Oddworld: Soulstorm, and Zombie Army 4: Dead War

    Welcome back one of PlayStation’s heroes turned unlikely revolutionary, withstand the worst an unforgiving wilderness can throw at you and repel an undead armageddon with April’s PlayStation Plus lineup! Lead Mudokons to freedom in Oddworld: Soulstorm. Devise techniques to survive Freaker hordes in Days Gone. Gear up and give zombies hell with your squad in Zombie Army 4: Dead War. The stakes are high whatever adventure you choose to play first. All three games will be available to download from Tuesday, April 6 – Monday, May 3. Let’s take a closer look at the choices that await you next month. Play Video Oddworld: Soulstorm* | PS5** Oddworld’s Abe returns in this action adventure platformer set directly after the events of 2014’s Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty. Having undergone a transformation from clueless cog in a mega-corporate machine to unlikely hero and beacon of hope, Abe must now save his fellow Mudokons by any means necessary. As you recruit more followers, stick to stealth and puzzle solve to survive or scavenge goods and craft an arsenal to liberate your friends. In Oddworld: Soulstorm, you will begin to understand the power of many will be needed to solve problems that the individual alone cannot. Play Video Days Gone | PS4 Ride into a desperate, dog-eat-dog open world of the Pacific Northwest as drifter and bounty hunter, Deacon St. John. Risk the threats of the broken road on the back of your trusty bike as you face swarms of mindless feral Freakers – and equally terrifying humans. Unpredictable weather and different times of day and night can cause incredible danger and shocking surprises… and everything wants you dead. Devise your strategies as you customise weapons and skills, craft traps and upgrade your bike as you try and survive the unforgiving wilderness.  Play Video Zombie Army 4: Dead War | PS4 Hitler’s hordes are back for more in this spine-chilling shooter from the makers of Sniper Elite 4. Abominable occult enemies, epic weapons and a harrowing new campaign for 1-4 players*** await in 1940s Europe, as you fight to save humankind from undead Armageddon. Continue the alternate history of Zombie Army Trilogy in huge new levels, and uncover a sinister plan that takes the Survivor Brigade across Italy and beyond.  *Oddworld: Soulstorm not available in South Korea; launch date for South Korea is still under exploration and will be announced at a later date.**PS5 console only; PlayStation Plus benefit not applicable for Oddworld: Soulstorm on PS4.***Internet connection and PlayStation Plus required for online multiplayer modes. PlayStation Plus is an ongoing subscription with recurring fees until cancelled. Age restrictions apply. See here for full terms & conditions.

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