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Review: ‘NASCAR Heat 2’

nascarheat2There was a series of events during the running of the Daytona 500 in my “NASCAR Heat 2” season mode that pretty much boils down my experiences with the game in a nutshell.

As the laps ticked down in the final stage, I had methodically worked my way up through the field when practically every AI-controlled car decided to come to pit road under green at the same time — something that never, ever happens in an actual NASCAR race.

As one could imagine, this caused a massive pile-up. As I veered off the track and onto the infield grass in hopes of avoiding the carnage, my eyes were drawn to a car flipping over and over and over again down the track. It was the No. 33 of Jeffrey Earnhardt, and it was the kind of crash that any driver would simply be happy to walk away from in one piece.

Yet Earnhardt didn’t walk away. Or even get out of his car. Nope, he stayed strapped into his ride and went on to race the final 15 laps, finishing on the lead lap, just outside the top 10.

All I could do was put down my controller and shake my head.

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Review: ‘Batman: The Enemy Within’ Episode 1

batman_ep1

The announcement last month of a second season for Telltale’s Batman series was certainly a welcome one. The first five-episode arc of “Batman: A Telltale Series” was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I was hopeful Telltale would give us another opportunity to don the cowl and become the Caped Crusader once more.

And if the first episode of “Batman: The Enemy Within” is any indication, this season appears poised to surpass the original both in terms of quality and surprises.

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Review: ‘Battlefield 1’

battlefield1

While other first-person shooters continue to push into the near-future and beyond, developer DICE has taken a step back with its “Battlefield” franchise. Back in time, that is.

Set during the first World War, “Battlefield 1” stands out from the crowd by offering a more grounded shooting experience that draws heavily from the source material with era-specific weapons, vehicles and settings. Indeed, playing “Battlefield 1” is an adrenaline-fueled history lesson that manages to pay reverence to the tens of thousands who fought and died during that brutal conflict while still providing an intense gaming experience.

This is especially true during the campaign, which plays out in a series of stand-alone missions centered around specific characters and their respective stories. Each of these bite-sized adventures also help serve as an introduction to the skills you’ll need to be successful in the game’s multiplayer modes. Whether you’re taking on the role of a hotshot fighter pilot, driving a tank through the German lines or facing insurmountable odds as a member of the Harlem Hellfighters, the single-player portion of “Battlefield 1” is both a learning tool and a painful reminder of the horrors of war.

While the campaign certainly deserves your attention, the real star here is the vast multiplayer suite.

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Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is nearly upon us, but fans looking to experience America’s Pastime on the digital diamond needn’t wait any longer.

Whether you’re looking for a no-frills pick up and play title, an insanely deep text-based sim or a highly detailed virtual recreation of the sport, there’s a video game for that. Here’s a look at this year’s offerings, peanuts and Cracker Jack not included:

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Review: ‘Layers of Fear’

layers of fear

When it comes to horror games, I have no problem dealing with hordes of zombies or twisted creatures ripped straight from someone’s nightmares. It’s the unseen terrors, those things that go bump in the night and lurk in the dark corners of the mind, that make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

And that’s exactly the kind of horror you’ll find in “Layers of Fear,” the recent release from independent development studio Bloober Team.

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twd michonne

Telltale Games has already shown it knows how to tell a compelling original story within Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” universe. But what about crafting a game around a well-established and beloved character?

If the debut episode of “The Walking Dead: Michonne” is any indication, the developer is up to the challenge.

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Review — ‘Dying Light: The Following’

I thoroughly enjoyed Techland’s “Dying Light” when it released early last year. You can see how much I liked it by checking out my review.

What I liked most about “Dying Light” wasn’t its parkour-style movement system, though that was definitely cool. It wasn’t the story or the seemingly endless weapon crafting options. No, what I liked most about the parkour-infused survival-horror romp was the high tension created once the sun went down and the zombie threat ramped up.

The game’s first major DLC expansion, the recently released “The Following,” changes things up quite a bit by introducing a large new area to explore and, more significantly, bringing vehicles into the mix. I was initially concerned that the inclusion of vehicles would eliminate those tense moments that made “Dying Light” so memorable. Let’s face it, zombies aren’t that scary when you’re running them over in your souped-up buggy.

But all it took was one ill-timed trip into the countryside to put my fears to rest.

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Review: ‘Gravity Rush Remastered’

Just because a gaming system fails to find an audience doesn’t necessarily mean the platform lacks quality software. The PlayStation Vita is a perfect example.

Sony’s powerful handheld may have struggled to gain a foothold in the crowded mobile market, but it was home to several very good games. Unfortunately many of those titles went unnoticed by the majority of gamers who didn’t own a Vita.

Now Sony is giving one of these games a second chance.

“Gravity Rush,” which first launched on the Vita in 2012, makes the move to PlayStation 4 today with the release of “Gravity Rush Remastered.” Developed by Bluepoint Games (SCE Studios Japan created the original), the port features enhanced high-definition graphics, an improved frame-rate and the same great gravity-defying gameplay that made the original such a unique experience.

gravityrushPlayers control Kat, a young girl with a missing memory and the ability to manipulate gravity. The gameplay possibilities that come with her special talents elevate “Gravity Rush Remastered” above most traditional action-platformers. Whether it’s turning a floor into a wall or bending gravity in order to gain a fresh perspective during combat, Kat’s abilities make her a powerful protagonist. The story is equally engaging, as Kat proves to be as personable as she is powerful.

“Gravity Rush Remastered” is a terrific addition to the PS4 library and well worth a look even if you’ve already experienced the original on Vita. It’s also a fine opportunity to get familiar with the characters and gameplay before the full-blown sequel arrives on PS4 later this year.

“Gravity Rush Remastered”

Developer: Bluepoint Games

Publisher: SCEA

Available for: PlayStation 4

Rating: T for teen

Score: 8.0/10