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Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (Video Game)

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Resident Evil 7Developed and Published by Capcom Co., Ltd.

Available on Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed), and PC

Rated M for Mature


We like to imagine that we would recognize a game changer when we see it. That the first time we booted up Doom, we could tell the future of shooters was a long and lustrous one. That Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare would spawn a generation of military shooters. That StarCraft would foster an entire industry of e-sports. That League of Legends would take the niche MOBA market and turn it into the premier competitive gaming scene. That Resident Evil would spawn a genre of “survival horror.” Or that Resident Evil 4 would come along and reinvent that same genre into “action horror.” Now, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is here, once again remapping the course of horror gaming.

Take a moment to re-read that. “Really Ted? Remapping the course of horror gaming? Pah, this must be one of those Hyperbolic reviews/a review of Blair Witch.” I can understand your skepticism. I’m also the kind of cynic that regards unguarded praise with suspicion. I have thought very long and hard about my words. I’ve played through a few times, analyzed the elements, tested my suspicions, found new elements, and tested those as well. After all of that, calling Resident Evil 7: Biohazard anything but monumental would be dishonest. This game redefines what to expect from survival horror from here on out.

It’s an astonishing accomplishment given how low RE5 and RE6 set the bar. I know some people out there are fans of RE5, and I can forgive that. To me, all that 5 & 6 showed was that they took the wrong message from Resident Evil 4. People didn’t love Resident Evil 4 because it had more explosions, they loved it because it was a fantastic game. The style was more “arcadey,” but every element functioned in cohesion to make that work. Challenging encounters rewarded you with loot, which could be used to upgrade your ever expanding arsenal to face increasingly menacing foes. Set piece moments like the lava dungeon made little sense, but ultimately were designed to be enjoyable. Sounds basic, but the variety, perpetual challenge, and smoothness of the game brought all of the elements together perfectly.

Then, RE5 and RE6 turned the series into a Michael Bay film. Gone was the interconnected world, now you kill a boss and cutscene your way to the next set piece. There were so many simple things that went neglected. And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous RE6 skill system. It’s like they wanted to see how far away from the philosophy of “simple, yet engaging” they could get.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Oh, right, survival horror games are supposed to be scary!

I gave Resident Evil: Revelations 2 a near perfect score, which in retrospect should have been just a tad lower. Revelations 2 was incredible for what it was. My metric for judging it was heavily based on its near endlessly replayable “Raid” mode, and the budget price of just $25. It perfected the newer combat system, and finally brought meaning to the co-op feature they have been trying to make work since RE5. From that lens, I stand by my score. It’s just unfortunate that ultimately I have but one metric to use, since Resident Evil 7 is an entirely different beast.

Now before I get into the meat of things, Capcom has specifically asked I not discuss certain elements for spoiler reasons. I’m sure this will please/disappoint many of you. Since they were so nice to get me the game weeks in advance (and since some assholes have decided to just post the ending online), I’m going to be a good Ted and follow their rules. It honestly kind of sucks, since so much of what makes Resident Evil 7 are the set piece moments that I would love to nerd hard over. Their reasoning is of course that they don’t want me ruining key parts for you, which I begrudgingly agree with. I normally don’t care about spoiling shit, but I can make an exception for the game I’m calling one of the best of the genre.

So without any spoilers, you play as Ethan, a regular type dude. After three years missing, your wife Mia sends you an email asking you to come get her from a house in the rural town of Dulvey, Louisiana. Ever loyal and loving, Ethan embarks on a journey to save his wife. Little does he know, this rustic southern homestead belongs to the murderous Baker family. After some intro stuff that I can’t talk about, we’re introduced to our host over a grotesque feast they’ve prepared in Ethan’s honor.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Eh, “honor,” “horror,” close enough.

It doesn’t take long for Resident Evil 7 to hit full swing. Right away the pressing urgency of escape is apparent. Jack Baker, father of the family, walks the halls looking to make you into an Ethan sandwich. After snagging a key from behind his back, you crawl your way to your first safe room. Then… more stuff happens that I can’t really talk about (such as a boss fight), and the game begins in earnest. The amount of terrifying moments, difficult battles, and plot intrigue that happen in this first hour is staggering. Without spoiling anything, you will fight two different bosses a total of four times before you even get to the basic enemies.

The main hall is where you get that this really is a Resident Evil game. Just like the classic titles, a number of branching paths call you to different objectives. Some cursory exploration will reveal that many of these doors are locked, requiring different symboled keys or a number of puzzle pieces to open. Hmm… sounds familiar. What’s immediately different about Resident Evil 7 is that the Baker residence feels like an actual house. I mean sure, you can question why they had locks installed that require three pieces of a statue to open. Regardless, this looks and feels like a genuine home. Each room feels real, like a regular family once lived here in comfort. It’s the puzzle elements that feel foreign. Doors requiring a scorpion or snake key are marked so with a crudely affixed dead scorpion or snake. The lock itself looks like it was forced over a previous, less insidious lock. The peaceful home is always just visible beneath the new malicious design.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

*Resident Eviling Intensifies*

Most of the game takes place on this property. That isn’t to say that there isn’t variety. There’s the main house, the basement, the old house, the greenhouse, the backyard, the slaughterhouse, and a number of other interstitial areas along the way. Overall the map size is close to the original Resident Evil. It’s very small compared to the sprawling maps of later series installments, but it’s packed with far more purpose. Every single inch of Resident Evil 7 demands exploring. Aside from the normal hidden ammo/health herbs are a number of collectible documents, ancient coins, and bobbleheads that I’m sure will unlock something when I find them all. You can consume an item that will temporarily highlight items of interest, but mostly you’re on your own to hunt around.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

You can use the coins you find to purchase some permanent upgrades. On harder difficulties, they serve a much bigger role.

Speaking of ammo, it would be reasonable to assume from the demo that there isn’t really combat in Resident Evil 7. While certainly not the action orgy of previous Resident Evil games, Resident Evil 7 has its fair share of lead slinging. Your most numerous enemy will be the “Molded,” walking black masses that must be decapitated or dismembered. There are around half a dozen different varieties of molded, ranging from the standard model to massive lumbering bosses. Depending on what weapon you choose, the hardest to handle will either by the faster crawling ones or the more robust shielded ones.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

What they lack in immortality they make up for in being icky.

Far more menacing, your main nemeses are the “Family.” They also fall under the “can’t talk about it” clause, but this seemingly normal group harbors a dark secret. Outside of their major boss fights, the Family will pursue you through the halls of the various locations. This is normally the kind of shit I don’t like in my horror games. I’m all for having to avoid enemies too powerful for my current arsenal, but I hate having to stare at a wall while I wait for the sound of footsteps to fade out of earshot. Luckily, Resident Evil 7 reaches a happy middle ground. If you are caught, you can either run away or fight. Fighting will consume ammo, but pump enough rounds into them and they will be disabled for some time. You can’t kill them, but at least you don’t feel useless.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

JUST FALL DOWN PLEASE!

Solving puzzles also takes an interesting layered approach. Old school fans rejoice, because this is classic Resident Evil. Items take precious inventory slots, and you will have to use your brain to figure out how they work. Find a key, and you’ll have to remember where it should go. There are no objective markers leading you along the map, even on the easiest difficulty. None of it is Sierra game logic hard to figure out, but RE7 will not hold your hand.

A prime example of this cerebral puzzle design are the video tapes. Along the way, you’ll collect a few VHS tapes recorded by other characters. Playing the tapes allows you to play through a level from their perspective. They offer no immediate reward for completion, but give you insight into key elements of upcoming challenges. Are they necessary to beat the game? No. Do they expand the world and give you a unique way to figure out the puzzles? Absolutely.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

For a second I was complaining about, “who still uses VHS in 2017!?” But then I realized I was shooting mold monsters in the face with a shotgun and calmed down.

Hey Ted, I played through the game and didn’t have any problems with the puzzles/combat! What gives?” This leads me to the point that gives Resident Evil 7 that extra push into greatness: difficulty actually changes the game. When I first played, I chose the “easy” difficulty. I just wanted to get through the game, see what there was to see, and publish my review. It took me about eight hours. Having enjoyed it a whole lot, I started my “madhouse” difficulty run. Without spoiling anything, the game had changed significantly. Jack, previously a temporary bump in the road, was now pursuing me relentlessly. Item locations had changed, and major objectives had switched around completely. Any game can increase the difficulty by making enemies hit harder. Actually reshaping the puzzles to make you come at them from a different, more difficult angle is fucking incredible.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Huh, this wasn’t in this room before…

What matters most about Resident Evil 7 is the same thing that mattered about Resident Evil 4: how it comes together as a whole. This is a much more scaled back affair. You aren’t trying to save the world from bio-terrorists, you’re trying to get out of a spooky house with your wife. You won’t roundhouse kick your way to victory. From reloading your gun to pouring healing formula on your arm, everything feels personal and visceral. Explosions are kept to a minimum. If 5 and 6 were directed by Michael Bay, RE7 is a Jeremy Saulnier film. The elements that break the immersion are few, and muted enough to never feel obtrusive. The entire game was designed around this more contained style, and it delivers perfectly.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Also, the house is SUPER spooky.

I can’t think of a single element I would change about Resident Evil 7. It’s funny, because I can see what parts I’d normally take issue with. Why is there no weapon upgrade system? Why do keys not get deleted when I’ve used them up? Why are there not more boss fights? Why are there not more enemy types? This is what I mean when I say that Resident Evil 7 is a game changer. These are the complaints I would have had of any game before this point. If Resident Evil 7 had a tacked on weapon merchant or a prompt to delete extra items, it would detract from the feel. This game made me throw out my rubric and write up a whole new one.

As an end note, RE7 advertising itself as a virtual reality compatible game for the PS4 shouldn’t scare you off. I played it without any VR headset. In fact, Capcom specifically asked me not to. This was a game designed as a game first, and VR compatible second.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Though the VR is really, really effective at some parts…

I want to end this review with a message to my fellow Resident Evil fans. I know that everyone will have their own reason for hating/agreeing with my review, but ultimately it’s the die hard horror junkies like me that I care about. My first exposure to the series was when I was 12 with the GameCube Resident Evil remake. That makes me a newer fan than some of you, but from there I hunted down 2, 3: Nemesis, 0, and Code: Veronica X. I bought Outbreak and Outbreak 2 for my friends, and shot through both Chronicles games. I used to end my days in high school with three hour Resident Evil: Deadly Silence runs just to see if I could beat my time. I love Resident Evil. But my love isn’t blind. I want Resident Evil to be good.

I’d be lying if I said that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is the game I’ve been waiting for. It’s closer to the truth to say that I didn’t even know what to be waiting for. But now I have played it. This is the kind of visionary direction that made me fall in love all those years ago. This is the quality and craft I’ve been missing for a decade. This is Resident Evil. This will spawn a new wave of survival horror, and I can’t wait.

BUY IT ON Playstation 4, Xbox One, or PC NOW!

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Tribeca 2018: The Dark Review – Atmospheric Zombie Horror Done Different

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Starring Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols

Written by Justin P. Lange

Directed by Justin P. Lange


The zombie subgenre often goes through waves where it focuses on one aspect that changes the status quo before overdoing it completely. Romero’s slow shuffling zombies were the norm until we got fast moving zombies with Return of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later. There was even a period where we had smarter zombies, like in Fido and Warm Bodies. Now it seems like we’re about to enter an era where the undead are meant to elicit emotion, making us feel for those who have no feelings themselves. Such is the case with Justin P. Lange’s The Dark.

The film follows Mina (Alexander), a young woman who was murdered and stalks the forest that saw her demise. Anytime some unfortunate soul enters her area, they are quickly dispatched and become her feast. But when she stumbles across a young boy named Alex (Nichols) in the back of a car who shows signs of clear and horrifying abuse, she can’t bring herself to do away with him. Rather, she becomes his protector while trying to protect her own little world. As police and locals search for Alex to help bring him home, their own growing relationship seems to be changing Mina in ways she never thought possible.

Stylishly shot by cinematographer Klemens Hufnagl (The Eremites, Macondo), The Dark lives and breathes along with the forest in which it spends the majority of its time. The film feels very natural, as though no artificial lighting was used and we are brought into the world in which these characters live. Steel blue washes over the screen as dusk turns into night while light and dark contrast during the day. The only visuals that didn’t play well were Mina’s undead look and Alex’s scarred eyes, which were both distracting but possible to be overlooked.

Both Alexander and Nichols performed well enough, although the film spent too much time on the first two acts of their story, their combative phase and then the period where they build trust, leaving them scrambling at the end to show that they not only trust but are reliant upon each other. Alex finds trust in Mina after his horrific ordeal while Mina’s choice to protect and guide him sees her humanity slowly coming back.

Where the film goes awry is that it doesn’t know how to convey its message. We learn that Mina’s death was the result of a sexual assault by her mother’s boyfriend, who can barely look Mina in the eyes, turns violent. Alex’s captor is also a man of violence but that’s mixed with weakness and timidity. This is a theme throughout the movie, where the adults are wicked and/or self-serving and it’s only these teenagers, who certainly have endured a fair share of suffering, can be seen as worthy of empathy and understanding.

Also present and enough to stay in the back of my mind while watching The Dark were the strange and inconsistent ways it handled time. We learn that Mina’s death was several years, possibly more than a decade, prior to where we see her now. But when presented with an iPhone, she first doesn’t know that it has a history of previously made calls and then, without anyone explaining it, she knows exactly how to use it. Meanwhile, Alex’s scars on his eyes, which the movie hints were done by his kidnapper, suggest that he’s been held captive for months if not longer but the the opening of the movie suggests that it’s been a few weeks, at most. While not overly distracting, these are certainly issues that pop out.

These faults aside, The Dark is still effective and emotionally charged. With enough kills to satisfy the bloodthirsty, it will certainly have an audience who love films about the undead but are craving something with a different taste.

  • The Dark
3.0

Summary

Poignant and original, The Dark is not without its flaws. But it sure does know that horror doesn’t have to be solely of the flesh. It can just as easily be horror of the heart.

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Sinfonia Erotica Blu-ray Review – Jess Franco Meets The Marquis De Sade In This Romanticized Roughie

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Starring Lina Romay, Armando Borges, Aida Gouveia, Mel Rodrigo

Directed by Jesus Franco

Distributed by Severin Films


After going my whole life without ever seeing a Jess Franco film, Severin Films is slowly forcing me to appreciate the man’s work. Previously, I had only ever seen Franco’s gargantuan output as an exercise in quantity over quality, which it arguably still is, but viewing the two recent “lost” pictures Severin just released has brought about a new appraisal. Franco’s films may have been done on the cheap, but the man clearly had vision, ambition, and brought as much production value to his films as budgetarily possible. He also brought controversy and damnation, since many of his works seem heavily focused on nudity and all manner of depravity. Even by today’s standard, when you can see virtually anything sexual on the internet, Franco’s level of lasciviousness is mildly shocking, if only because certain acts are typically verboten on the silver screen.

Sinfonia Erotica (1980) plays like it was trying to keep up with Tinto Brass’ Caligula (1979), only swap out Roman decadence for the posh trappings of a chateau in the French countryside. Franco remakes his own 1973 film Pleasure for Three here, though without having seen that picture I can’t say what he’s done differently. The storyline comes from the writings of the Marquis de Sade, whose writings were infamously erotic and dripping with all manner of sin. Franco brings as much of the page to screen as possible, leaving little to suggestion. Homosexuality, a “Devil’s threeway”, oral sex between all parties, rape, manual stimulation… all graphically presented in a way that is between Skinemax and actual pornography. But is there anything more to this threadbare feature than a storyline skeleton on which everyone can hang their clothes before getting down?

Kinda. The general plot here is the return of Miss Martine (Lina Romay) to the palatial estate she shared with her husband, Marques Armando de Bressac (Armando Borges), a notorious hedonist. Upon arrival, Martine is not greeted by her husband because he’s off gallivanting with Flor (Mel Rodrigo), his younger male lover. During one of their trysts in the fields they come across Wanda (Aida Gouveia), an unconscious nun who is about to be rudely introduced to some bad habits. After Marques and Flor molest the barely coherent woman, she develops a craving for their brand of unorthodox lust. Martine, meanwhile, is struggling not only with the fact her husband is essentially ignoring her after returning from a lengthy absence but that he now plans to enlist Flor and Wanda to help kill her. Of course, none of these machinations or revelations will stop any of these pleasure seekers from continuing to drown in the Devil’s work and writhe in passion.

While I can’t say this is a good movie, I do give Franco credit in a few areas. For one, I find it commendable that he’s chosen to redo an earlier film of his in the hope of making something grander. It shows maturity as an artist as well as a refusal to allow a perceived past failure to remain stagnant. Secondly, his location scouting ability is really something because one constant I have noticed across the three Franco films I’ve seen thus far is the man loves to shoot at places that seem like they’d be out of his budget range. The mansion and its impressive grounds are the ideal setting for this posh perversion picture, allowing Sinfonia Erotica to feel less like the Eurosleaze it is. Likewise, costuming and production design are a notch above what viewers might expect from such a ribald title.

In terms of horror, aside from watching two men rape an incoherent nun the only murder comes during the climax. The deaths are quick and simple, with no lingering shots or impressive effects work. Violence is wholly secondary to sex here.

The real coup here is that Severin Films is able to present this film in HD at all, sourcing their release from a newly unearthed 35mm exhibition print found in a crawlspace in Spain. Although scanned in a 4K the disc opens with a disclaimer discussing the provenance of available materials and suggesting viewers cut a little slack when watching something that might not have otherwise seen the light of day. That said the 1.66:1 1080p image isn’t awful by any means. Soft shots are frequent, film grain is often heavy and sometimes clumpy, and colors are lacking punch. Still, given what Severin was working with the picture does look reasonably cleaned up, though white flecks and damage are still visible, and the overall image is acceptably presented. Plus, like I’ve said many times before some films just look better when they stay rough around the edges and this is definitely one such example.

No dub is available, leaving the only audio option as a Spanish DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track. This is a simple track with minimal sound design. Dialogue is understandable enough, though for most viewers this won’t matter since the subs are doing all the work. There is some hissing but it remains a minor issue. The score, composed by Franco, has a classical romantic feel, heavy on the piano and adding an air of regality to the proceedings. Subtitles are available in English.

“Jess Franco on First Wife Nicole Guettard” is an interview with the director in his later years (the year isn’t stated) discussing his working and personal relationship with the woman he divorced in the late ‘70s.

“Stephen Thrower on Sinfonia Erotica” is a typically informative featurette wherein Thrower discusses the period in Franco’s career during which he made this film, as well as covering various edits and title changes.

Special Features:

  • Jess Franco On First Wife Nicole Guettard – Interview With Director Jess Franco
  • Stephen Thrower On Sinfonia Erotica – Interview With The Author Of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jesus Franco’
  • Sinfonia Erotica
  • Special Features
1.8

Summary

This is probably the sort of film that appeals to only the most fervent of Francophiles out there but the work Severin Films has done to bring it home is commendable and the results, while far from earthshaking, are impressive given the difficulty level. As for the film, it’s an interesting exercise in debauchery and not much more.

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Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review – Rat Exterminator Simulator 2018

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Vermintide 2Developed and Published by Fatshark

Available on PC through Steam (Coming to Xbox One and PS4)

Rated M for Mature


On the scale of cathartic guilt-free wanton slaughter, rat-men belong up there with zombies, Nazis, and cops in a Rockstar game. No matter how many limbs fly off, skulls get crushed in, and whispered wishes to see their families one last time before the cold embrace of death whisks them away, you’re pretty much free to do whatever without any of the self-conscious pangs that usually come along with murder. If Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide taught us anything, it’s that this unrestrained dealing of death is made all the more enjoyable when the victims are slightly adorable, in a gross ratty way. Now Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is here to deliver on more of the same, but with Chaos. Nurgle Chaos in fact, who are kind of like zombies and Nazis. So now that the gang’s all here, time to feel good about some ultraviolence.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Vermintide tells the story of the heroic Ubersreik Five (…or Four, whatever). An ensemble of fantasy tropes, you’ve got the racist snarky elf, the cheerful and outgoing dwarf, the shrill and sneering Witch Hunter, the maniacal and bloodthirsty Bright Wizard, and Markus Kruber. The team is brought together by plot for the purpose of rat slaying, and together with three of your friends you’ll murder your way to saving the world (but not really, because canonically speaking the whole world is fucked anyways). The series is an FPS in the vein of Left 4 Dead, but with a much heavier focus on melee combat. You’ll also have to unlock new gear like in Call of Duty, but unlike Call of Duty the class you play and loadout you pick actually matters.

Vermintide 2

Mama shoulda taught you not to bring a bow to a Rat Ogre fight.

Once you pick your favorite fantasy trope and prefered loadout, Vermintide 2 drops you into your selected level to complete a series of challenges and hopefully score some fat loot. In terms of simple playability, the maps are all as diverse as they are entertaining. The objectives are varied (sometimes you’ll be hunting for keys, sometimes surviving waves of foes, etc.), but always the same in that particular level. The level design is certainly geared more towards being a “game” than a living breathing world, and that’s fine. Games should be games, and if putting a random fence or broken bridge here or there to direct me towards my objective helps me slaughter rats I’m all for it. The overall effect is that the more you learn the level, the easier time you’ll have overcoming the endless hordes.

Now if this all sounds a lot like Left 4 Dead… well it is very similar. The major difference is the aforementioned focus on melee combat. While Left 4 Dead 2 used melee as an optional replacement for your sidearm, melee is the bread and butter for most characters in Vermintide 2. In service of that, the melee combat system is far more robust. You’ll have to learn to alternate between heavy and light attacks, block, dodge, and even what body parts to hit. On top of that, weapons have certain properties like armor piercing and high stagger. Even more on top of that, certain attacks have different applications of those properties. If you have a halberd, you’ll have to learn the difference between your sweeping attacks and your piercing jab attacks. The elf and Bright Wizard are more ranged focused, but the basic principles of knowing what your attacks do and which moves pierce armor still apply.

Vermintide 2

Oh shiiiiiii-

This is all just the basic overview of what Vermintide 2 is, but that’s basically all you need to know to have a good time. The game gets far more complex, but there’s a very primal satisfaction to be had in chopping your way through hordes of rats. In terms of just jumping in and having fun, the game is incredibly accessible. Anyone can understand the concept of pushing the attack button to remove heads from shoulders. Delving into the game’s complexity beyond that is really up to you.

Vermintide 2

I have come to grasp the fundamentals of the flail/rat face relationship

If you do delve into it, you’ll find a hidden layer of challenge and reward that sets Vermintide 2 far above the competition. First off are the hidden tomes and grimoires. In every level there are three tomes and two grimoires hidden somewhere. These spots can be incredibly difficult to suss out, requiring excessive collectible hunting motivation to find them on your own. This can be a bit of a challenge when there’s an endless horde of rats nipping at your heels. In reality, you’ll probably just Google the locations and memorize them before the start of each map. Just knowing where they are isn’t all there is to it. Some are quite difficult to reach even if you know where they are, hidden behind jumping puzzles that are a bitch and a half. If you do pick them up, they will make your journey even harder. Tomes replace your potion slot—meaning that you cannot take a potion with you, not that you cannot ever heal again—and grimoires reduce your entire team’s max HP by 33% each. Collecting these prizes means more loot, but make sure your team knows their shit before you try one of these difficult challenge runs.

Now this is all stuff that was also in Vermintide. More of the same can be good when it’s well done, and Vermintide 2 is certainly well done. What makes Vermintide 2 a cut above the original is the new leveling system. Each character now levels individually, unlocking new traits and classes. There are 30 levels of traits to unlock, and two extra “careers” for each of the five characters. Each character levels individually, but loot boxes can be carried over between characters to make the grind a little easier. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of grind.

As a veteran of vanilla WoW, grind isn’t a dirty word to me. What matters is that the grind is leading towards something worth the time and effort. For Vermintide 2, that largely comes in the form of the different careers. More than just a visual change, careers can radically alter how your character plays. I’ve put the most time into Markus “Vanilla Ice Cream on a Waffle Cone” Kruber, as I like melee bruisers and I’ll be damned if I play a dwarf. Upon reaching level 7, I unlocked the Huntsman class and the character switched into a ranged damage role with strong melee backup. Reach level 14, and you’ll become a Man at Arms, an even tankier melee dude with a dash attack. Each career has its own skill tree, and certain weapons that only it can use.

Vermintide 2

So while I won’t see many people grinding all five of the crew to level 30, there is a lot of value to your repeated runs. The permanent progression that the leveling offers is a great way to add reward on top of the gear drops. The downside to this is that it’s far more difficult to hop between classes. While gear was certainly a factor in your success in Vermintide, you could still pretty easily jump into a character you only had a few pieces of gear for and do reasonably well. As your strength is now determined by your level, it’s not so simple in Vermintide 2.

This is a good segway into my biggest overall criticism with the game: playing with random scrubs is unbearable. If I had the choice between sleeping in an Arizona bar dumpster during the summer and trudging through all of the levels with random people, then I’d be using garbage bags as a pillow. Between having to know the locations of the tomes/grimoires and knowing how to actually be good at the game, finding a proficient four man team comprised of random people is like watching the last white rhino get hit by a shooting star. Even in my three man team, we’d quickly write off the fourth random player as more of a liability. The AI is decent enough at shooting stuff, but won’t pick up any of the collectible goodies without some inconsistent trickery. So you can either waste your time in subpar games, or get a solid group without other life commitments. And given the amount of grind that’s in this game, finding that consistently is the four-leaf clover wreath left on the rhino’s grave.

Vermintide 2

Pictured: Most of my teammates, before asking why I didn’t back them up.

It’s a pretty major gripe in terms of my own personal enjoyment, but even in my most frothing moments of scrub-induced rage I couldn’t exactly fault the game for just being what it is. And what it is is excellent. A huge cut above other cooperate shooters, the edition of new chaos units and the leveling system makes Vermintide 2 replace Left 4 Dead as the industry standard. Cleaving hordes of skittering rats has never been so fun, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Here is where the review should end, but wait, there’s more! You can’t talk about Vermintide without mentioning the exceptional developer support. The original game was still cranking out patches, updates, and DLC years after its release. With Vermintide 2, Fatshark has already been on top of releasing a slew of balance changes, updates, fixes, and more. It’s only been a month since release (yes I know, this review is late), and they are on their third major quality of life improvement patch. As a game it was already excellent, but that kind of community interaction and developer support truly makes the game exceptional. It’s a game you should definitely buy, and a company you should be happy to support.

  • Game
4.5

Summary

Ridiculously fun combat and near infinite replayability combine to form the perfect rat-smashing package. The best co-op shooter on the market. The only downside is that there isn’t a really good way to play without a solid team. Get your friends together and waste away the weeks.

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