Plugged In

Review: ‘NASCAR Heat 3’

When you think of team sports, NASCAR probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But while the driver may be the face of the franchise, getting all of the TV time and sponsorship deals, there’s a reason they are quick to acknowledge the “boys back at the shop” when they celebrate in Victory Lane — there is a small army of engineers, fabricators and engine builders who put in hours of thankless work in order to give the driver a car capable of winning on Sundays.

In “NASCAR Heat 3,” the latest offering from Monster Games and 704 Games, the idea of racing as a team sport is explored in the revamped Career Mode.

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Review: ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Not only does this phrase serve as the core tenet for everyone’s favorite web-slinging super hero, it also applies to the developers at Insomniac Games, who were tasked with the challenge of bringing Spider-Man to life.

And having completed “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” I can safely say that Insomniac has done right by the beloved character and his fans. Indeed, Uncle Ben would be proud.

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Review: ‘Madden NFL 19’

For years, fans of EA Sports’ “Madden NFL” series have been clamoring for significant updates to the game’s Franchise Mode. The mode, in which users take control of their favorite NFL team and guide the franchise through multiple seasons, has long been a favorite of hardcore fans, but has seen little love from developers who seemingly focused their efforts on building up Madden Ultimate Team, the collectible card mode that has continued to grow in popularity in recent years.

In “Madden NFL 19,” the wait is finally over for franchise fans.

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve already reached the midway point of 2018. The first half of the year has been filled with a number of high-profile releases, with the likes of “God of War” and “Detroit: Become Human” arriving on PlayStation 4, “State of Decay 2” landing on Xbox One and “Far Cry 5” dropping on multiple platforms.

As is usually the case, the frequency of Triple-A releases slows during the summer months, setting the stage for the end-of-year holiday rush, which this year features what could be the best collection of games we’ve seen in some time, with highly anticipated titles like “Red Dead Redemption 2,” Call of Duty: Black Ops 4″ and “Fallout 76” set to arrive before the calendar turns to 2019.

With a lull in the action, this seems like a good time to take a look back at some of the games I’ve been enjoying so far in 2018:

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Review: ‘The Evil Within 2’

Way back in 2014, “Resident Evil” director Shinji Mikami and his Tango Gameworks studio set the bar for modern survival-horror games with “The Evil Within.” Now three years later, Tango has delivered a sequel that maintains the creepy vibe of Mikami’s vision while offering more of what made the original game such an unforgettable experience.

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Review: ‘NBA 2K18’

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As the start of the 2017-18 NBA season approaches, there are plenty of question marks around the league.

How will Kyrie Irving fare in Boston?

Can the Cavaliers remain dominant in the Eastern Conference without Irving?

Will the Big 3 of Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony be enough to lift Oklahoma City into contention in the Western Conference?

Is this the year New Orleans or Minnesota take the next step and challenge for playoff berths?

Despite the unknowns, there are a couple of sure things this season — LeBron James is the best player in the league, the road to the NBA championship goes through Golden State and “NBA 2K18” is the best basketball sim on the market.

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Review: ‘Destiny 2’

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As a solo player in a multiplayer world, it can often be difficult to find enjoyment in games that, frankly, weren’t created with me in mind.

The original “Destiny” is one such example of this, an online shared-world shooter that served up its best content to players who teamed together while offering only an uninteresting and brief campaign to those seeking a more solitary experience.

The fact that the game was developed by Bungie — a studio which made its name by creating a shooter franchise, “Halo,” that successfully appealed to both solo players and multiplayer fans, alike — made the shortcomings of “Destiny” all the more glaring. I wasn’t looking for a “Halo” clone, but I was hoping for a game I could enjoy without the need to team up with a bunch of random players.

And that’s exactly what Bungie delivered this time around with “Destiny 2.”

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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

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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’

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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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