Video games in Review: Red Dead Redemption 2 *Some spoilers*

Red Dead Redemption II is the follow-up to 2010’s “Red Dead Redemption”, a western game based somewhat on the “Grand theft Auto” open-world, “sandbox” game style. Like with those games, your characters are primarily criminals (although ones with at least some redeeming traits), although in “Red Dead”‘s case, the games are set at the end of the Wild West era, as the westward expansion of modern civilization and Industry starts to threaten their roguish, rugged lifestyle…and forces them to make some tough decisions.

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Although it’s “II”, the second game is a prequel to the first game, with RDR’s main hero, John Marston, a member of the Dutch Van Der Linde gang. Once a group of somewhat Robin Hoodish outlaws, the gang has fallen on hard times following a botched Ferry robbery, with it’s leader-Dutch-aiming to make one last big score so the gang can retire on some tropical island somewhere. However, their plans continue to go awry, not only due to a rival gang messing around and the Pinkerton detective agency constantly on their trail after a train robbery; but also due to Dutch starting to lose his grip on reality. Despite their constant movement and Dutch’s promises of escape to paradise, time is running out for the gang-in more ways than one.

 

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For the first three quarters of the game, the player assumes the role of Arthur Morgan, Dutch’s right hand man. Although no angel, Arthur-along with fellow lieutenant Hosea Matthews-tries to serve as Dutch’s consciousness (Like in other games, the player can choose to do good or bad things; this in turn effects their ‘honor’ rating and influences some of the cutscenes and ending). However, soon after realizing Dutch is becoming unstable (and also listening too much to new member, the unprincipled Micah Bell), and faced with his own mortality, Arthur tries to do what good he can and save what’s left of their gang before it’s too late-including John, his girlfriend Abigail, and their son Jack. After he’s gone, John tries to leave his outlaw past behind, start a proper family and live an honest life as a rancher in the game’s final chapters, although there’s still some unfinished business. This all leads up of course to the events of the first game.

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Although the main story missions are fairly linear (and don’t always involve shooting-there are later missions which involve farming and building, for example), the player can do a great deal of activities in this open world, such as fishing, hunting, crafting (Which sort of feed into each other) watching shows and short movies,buying, selling, and upgrading weapons, horses, and items. There’s also various gambling games-Poker, dominoes, even five finger fillet. Arthur’s own appearance is heavily customizable. Like in the Witcher series, Arthur (and later John) has hair and beard growth, which can be cut or fashioned at a barber; likewise, there’s also a great deal out outfits to choose from, from rugged mountain gear to “city folk” looks. Arthur’s weight also can fluctuate based on what he eats (This can affect your stamina and health in game as well). Like in GTA though, there’s a ‘law’ system in place, even if you accidentally run over somebody with a horse unintentionally, and like in GTA, it could take a while to shake off the authorities. This also leads to a bounty being posted on you, which can lead to hunters ambushing you. However, the bounty can be paid off at the post office.

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Along with Arthur, Dutch, Micah and the Marstons, perhaps the most important character is Sadie Adler, who is in both parts of the game’s story. She becomes a widow early in the game and is taken in by the gang, but soon develops a vengeful and violent side when it comes to getting revenge on the O’ Driscolls, which she later hones into a bounty hunting career. However, she’s got a soft side too, remaining loyal to Arthur and later a supportive friend of John’s.

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The game also has some memorable NPCS, many of whom don’t even have a quest line. The most memorable perhaps is Nigel, a lost englishman who is constantly, and frantically, searching for his friend Gavin. He’s already become a meme.

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Like it’s predecessor, GTA, and to an extent L.A Noire, there’s a similar combat system, which often utilizes a wheeled menu, which admitting, can be a little annoying at times if you accidentally choose the wrong item.

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There’s also the “Dead Eye” system, which slows down combat, turns the screen amber, and, as it’s upgraded, also points out weak points of enemies. In addition of course to guns, there’s also dynamite, molotovs, knives and fists to be used, and lassos if you want to take certain characters alive.

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Apart from the Pinkertons, authorities and the O Driscoll rival gang, there are other dangers to our characters-other gangs, including strange savage mountain clans, murderers, mobsters, and even a monster or two. Plus while most of the animals such as deer and rabbits might seem docile,  there’s bears and gators out there too.

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The game’s got a nice soundtrack too, with of course your usual atmospheric music but also some nice new lyrical songs as well…and naturally, multiple saloons feature some classic piano tunes.

it’s also got some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve seen in games as well. The character models are pretty much on par with most modern current gen games, almost as good as Uncharted 4’s IMO.

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The voice acting is also incredible, with some voices returning from the earlier games, but a fine performance from Roger Clark as Arthur (Who won a game award) who exudes not only toughness but compassion, frustration, and often bewilderment with the actions of some strange folk.

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Overall, Red Dead Redemption II, despite some minor gameplay issues, is a fun, long and very immersive game, and one of the best games of 2018.

 

 

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Doctor Who History-Resolution of the Dalek

 

9th century England. A large battle takes place, where some form of creature is defeated, and then cut into three pieces and buried around the world. Including Sheffeld, with guardians guarding two of the pieces throughout the century, although the English one is unfortunately killed before he can properly bury the final piece.

 

Today, archaeologists Lin and Mitch discover the skeleton of the man in the sewers, and some other kind of weird object that they put in a bag.

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However, the thing in the bag awakes, and uses teloportation to re-merge with the rest of it in the sewers.

The creature’s teleportations are detected by the TARDIS and the Doctor and co investigate. Lin reports seeing a squid-like monster on the wall, which suddenly vanishes but leaves a slime trail.

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The Doctor analyzes the slime using the TARDIS, and is dismayed to find out that an old enemy is about….it’s a Dalek, in it’s mutant form.

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Worse, it’s attached itself to Lin’s back, and is controlling her mind in order to rebuild it’s casing and contact the rest of the Daleks in space. The Lin/Dalek kills two policeman, a UNIT archive guard and a farmer in order to achieve this goal.

 

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Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, Ryan’s estranged father Aaron shows up, complicating things. He’s also trying to sell microwaves.

 

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While Graham talks it out with Ryan’s father, the Doctor and co track the Dalek to the warehouse, where it has let Lin go but has now created a makeshift casing.

 

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After the usual stare-down confrontation between the two mortal enemies, the Dalek escapes, and then attacks the military, heading to the GCHQ (Global communications headquarters) to attempt to contact it’s kin.

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After picking up Graham and Ryan’s father, the Doctor uses Aaron’s disassembled microwave to destroy the Dalek casing.

 

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The mutant however survives and attaches itself to Aaron, demanding to be taken to the fleet. The Doctor however decides to let it out near a supernova, whose gravitational pull sucks it-and nearly Aaron-into it. Fortunately, Ryan is able to save his father. With Aaron and Ryan on the road to reconciliation, and the archaeologists now safe (and also about to date), the Doctor heads out for further adventures in time and space.

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Doctor Who-Witches and Dreamscapes

The Doctor and co. arrive in the early 17th century, during the height of witch panic in England. They’re unable to save a “witch” from being drowned by the cruel Becka Savage.

 

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Posing as “Witchhunters” using the psychic paper, the Doctor and co. also meet King James, who is in the area (played by actor Alan Cumming)

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However, the Doctor, teaming up with the “witches’s” granddaughter Willa, finds something weird about the drowned witches , a weird mud substance is possessing them and turning them into a sort of zombie.

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Of course this paranormal activity causes James and Becka to assume the Doctor is a witch herself. However, due to her alien attributes and some tricks from Harry Houdini, she manages to avoid being drowned.

 

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We soon learn that the mud infected Becka as well when she chopped down a tree, and the Witch trials were her attempts to be cured. The Mud is in fact alien war criminals known as the Morax, and now they want to rule the Earth by posessing King James as well. James then kills the Becka/Morax monster. King James reassures the Doctor that all knowledge of this will be erased. Graham also tells King James not to do any more trials, quoting not only the book of Ezekiel, but also Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp fiction.

 

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The Doctor then return to present day Norway, where they discover a Blind girl all alone. Her mother has died and her father has vanished. Investigating, the Doctor and co. discover a portal.

 

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The portal initially leads to the Anti-zone, a dark world with a weird “tour guide” named Ribbons and pirahnish moths, who also proceed to eventually eat Ribbons.

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On the other side of the mirror, they discover a world where not only is Henne’s mother alive, but also Grace, Graham’s wife.

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However, it’s all revealed that it’s just a lonely alien called the Solitract stuck in a parallel universe and who just wants some companionship, so it took the form of the dead wives. The deception is revealed especially when “Grace” shows no concern for her grandson Ryan.

After the parallel world collapses, the Doctor has a brief conversation with the Solitract-which has assumed the form of a frog-before leaving herself.

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Next, the Doctor and co. follow distress signals sent from Raskoor Al Kolos, where there are a lot of damaged spaceships, including the crew of one vessel.

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Turns out the murderer of Grace and the 13th Doctor’s first opponent, Tzim-Sha, or “Tim Shaw” is still alive and has enslaved an alien race, using their mental powers to shrink planets-and now he wants to shrink the Earth too.

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Graham also wants revenge on Sha for Grace’s death, although the Doctor warns him that’s a bad idea. Eventually, she convinces the Ux to help her, Graham decides to just shoot Tzim Sha in the foot and with Ryan’s help, freezes him and destroys his weapons. The planets he shrunk are also restored to their proper space.

 

 

 

 

Doctor Who History-Conundrums and paradoxes

The Doctor and co. are digging for some junk when they trigger a sonic mine. They’re taken onboard a medical ship, with some other patients, including Eve, a space general with a heart problem,  and Yoss, an alien pregnant man.

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Unfortunately, the ship eventually gets an extra passenger, a Pting, a monster who eats energy. If he eats the power source, the ship’s in trouble. What’s worse, if they reach a medical space station with the contamination onboard, the ship will be destroyed.

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Eve manages to pilot the ship to safety while the Doctor gives the Pting an explosive device to feast on before jettisoning it into space. Unfortunately, the experience kills Eve.

 

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Graham and Ryan however manage to help deliver Yoss’s son.

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The Doctor and co’s next trip takes them to Yaz’s past, as she’s curious about a broken watch her grandmother has. Patching into the telepathic circuits of the TARDIS, they’re taken to the Punjab, 1947, in the time just before the Partition of India.

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However, Yaz is shocked to find that her grandmother is going to get married to a man who *isn’t* her grandfather!

 

..and what’s worse, there’s weird bat-like aliens around who have appeared to have killed the wedding priest, and Prem recalls killed his brother in World War II.

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The Doctor assumes that these aliens killed the priest and are out for Prem for some reason. However, she eventually finds out that these aliens, although once villains, are now those who watch over those who die. The real murderer of the priest was Prem’s other brother, Manish, who opposes the wedding.

The wedding does take place, but then Manish arrives with Indian Nationalists.

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The Doctor is once again, forced to let history take it’s course despite the injustice being commited, as Prem is gunned down and the aliens observe. Later on, Yaz’s grandmother would marry her grandfather and moved to Sheffeld.

 

In a somewhat more light-hearted adventure, the Doctor receives a package from Kerblam, a mostly robot-operated shopping service. It’s a Fez, something commonly used by her eleventh incarnation. But it also contains a cry for help.

 

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When the Doctor investigates the warehouse with her companions, it turns out the distress signal was sent by Kerblam’s AI, as somebody is messing with the robots and the packages, which have explosive bubble wrap.

 

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This unfortunately kills Kira, one of the workers who the group has befriended.

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Turns out the culprit is Charlie, another worker who wanted to get the robots blamed for the customer deaths as a result, as he wants Kerblam to not be replaced by automation (He didn’t mean for Kira to die though). Ultimately, the Doctor manages to have the tainted “teammate” robots all open the packaging, destroying most of them and their deadly cargo-as well as Charlie. Ironically, this helps Charlie get his wish of Kerblam having a new human workforce.

 

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Doctor Who History-Rosa and back to Sheffield

Attempting to bring Graham, Ryan, and Yaz back to 21st century Sheffeld, the TARDIS instead arrives in Montgomery Alabama, at the beginning of a pivotal moment in civil rights history. The day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus. Although pleased to meet her, the Doctor has evidence that somebody is trying to interfere with the pivotal event, judging by the Atron (Time Travel) energy in the area.

 

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She’s right. The group eventually encounters a man named Krasko, who is from the same basic time as Captain Jack and River Song, where humans have developed cheap time travel devices called vortex manipulators (He’s also a criminal from River’s own prison, Stormcage). He wants to change this moment in history.

 

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The group are able to eventually stop him with his own vortex manipulator, and also stick around with Rosa to make sure events go the same way.

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The group then returns to Sheffeld, presumably so the companions can return to their normal lives. Yaz also invites the Doctor and Graham to meet her family, but all is not well. Yaz’s neighbor has been killed by a giant spider, and one showed up at Graham’s house as well. They team up with a local scientist-a colleague of the dead neighbor-who discovers there’s weird spider activity going on in Sheffeld.

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It all centers on a new hotel, one that Yaz’s mother used to work at, and one run by Real estate tycoon Mr. Robertson (Played by Chris Noth of Law & Order and Sex and The City fame). Turns out, the Spiders have mutated due to giant size due to a mix of toxic waste and genetic experimentation.

 

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Eventually the Doctor and group are able to lure the Spiders to a panic room by playing dubstep .

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….except for the mother Spider, which is having respiratory problems due to getting too big. Robertson decides to just kill the thing with his gun, something that really angers the Doctor.

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Eventually, although they are now free to return to their own lives, the group decide that they want to travel with the Doctor instead. Cue the hands!

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Doctor Who History-Something old, something new, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

The Doctor and her companions are stuck in space after the Doctor’s attempt to teleport to the TARDIS, but thankfully, are rescued in the nick of time before they freeze to death, they are both separately teleported above two ships: Graham and Ryan wind up on the ship of Anstrom, a woman; while the Doctor and Yaz wind up with a guy, Epzo.

They’re both making their way to the planet Desolation, and are the last remaining members of a space race, the Rally of the 12 galaxies. The final step, given to them on the planet, is to find the Ghost Monument at the end of the race, a mysterious object. The winner gets cash and a way off planet, the loser gets stuck.

Of course, this mysterious object, the Doctor notices, is in fact, her TARDIS, which is still rebuilding itself after her regeneration. So naturally, the Doctor and co. are keen to get there too.

 

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There’s a bit of a boat ride in which we learn about Epzo and Angstrom’s pasts, and Graham and Ryan continue to face their grief about Grace’s death.

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Along the way, they discover the reason for the planet being desolate-the Stenza-represented by Tim Shaw in the last story-destroyed it, although they left behind a few things.

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First, their sniperbots, which the Doctor and co. have to fight off….

Image result for Sniperbot Doctor whoand second, the scientists themselves left behind the deadly “remnants”, sentient cloth, who taunt the Doctor, referring to the mysterious “Timeless child”. However, the Doctor is able to torch them with the help of Epzo’s cigar.

 

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Reaching the end, Epzo and Angstrom agree it’s a tie and are teleported off world. However, the TARDIS is nowhere to be found. However, the Doctor hears the brief groan of the engines, and uses her sonic screwdriver to stabilize the TARDIS, which is in another new configuration.

 

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With minor changes to the outside. The lantern and signs have been slightly reworked…

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But inside, the console room now has a heavily crystalline structure, especially the time rotor.

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It now, in addition to travelling through all of space and time, also dispenses custard cookies.

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Video Games in Review: PS4 Spider-Man

Sony and Marvel’s Spider-Man is an exclusive title for the PS4 released earlier this fall, to great reviews. It’s far from the first Spider-Man game, of course-a series which has spawned some great games in the past (The ps1’s two games of course, and the much celebrated Spider-Man 2 movie-based game) as well as some more iffy ones. It’s also Marvel’s first major console release based entirely on their heroes in a while (There was the crossover game Marvel vs. Capcom infinite, however).

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Like most games these days, Spider-Man has an open world-although a familiar one, Manhattan, which of course has many of the existing landmarks-Times Square, the Empire State building, central park but also some unique buildings as well, such as Avengers tower and of course the many Oscorp facilities. Like many other open world games, there’s of course multiple easter eggs, challenges, side missions, skill trees, towers that reveal more of the map’s visibility etc. and unlockable suits and upgrades (unfortunately, Spider-Man’s black costume-the one closely associated with 80’s Spider-Man and later Venom-is not yet available, although there are plenty of others, including Spider-Man’s Marvel cinematic universe looks.

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The game’s use of combat and gadgets is a bit like the Batman arkham series, although Spider-Man’s webswinging is much more smoother and free than Batman’s grappling, and pretty much a number of the gadgets are based on Spider-Man’s webbing (with a few exceptions). Also, while fast travel is an option in the game (Which leads to some funny scenes of Spider-man taking the subway trains), Spidey’s web swinging is fast and efficient way of getting around as well-and far more scenic.

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The game also has a number of logic puzzles, although these can be skipped.

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One thing that might disappoint gamers is that some of the game’s largest action sequences are somewhat dependent on “QTES” (Quicktime events)-where one has to press a button quickly in order for a certain action to happen, and there isn’t much freedom of movement. However, it doesn’t happen that often and the rest of the gameplay more than makes up for it.

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The game also has a fun photo mode where Spidey can be posed. There’s also side missions where Spider-Man can photograph landmarks, although he’s not doing it for the Bugle….(more on that later).

 

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Naturally of course, the game has Spidey’s witty banter.

 

The game-set in it’s own Spider-Man “Universe” of sorts-draws inspiration from a number of Spider-Man sources. Like most of the games and current comics, Spider-Man has been established in the city for nearly a decade, although certain parts of his ‘world’ have yet to form. The main plotline is sort of heavily based on the “Brand New Day” storyline from the comics, which largely revamped Spider-Man after his marriage and revealed identity was wiped away in order to save Aunt May (Long-and controversial-story there).

 

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Brand New Day attempted to give Spider-Man fresh new villains, allies, and even girlfriends. One of them was Martin Li-who, outwardly is a philanthropist and runs the FEAST center, a homeless shelter where Aunt May volunteers (May here, like in most recent Spider-Man adaptations and the “Ultimate” comics, is portrayed here as middle aged as opposed to her regular comic incarnation, who is often seen as quite elderly and frail, although that’s also been modified a bit in recent years)

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Li however is also Mr. Negative, a gangster who has “negative ” powers to influence others, and runs a gang known as the demons.

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This particular Spider-Man also works well with the Police force, with his main ally being Yuri Watanabe, another “Brand new Day” character. Although comics Yuri eventually becomes a vigilante herself, while Spidey’s relationship with her here is a bit more like his relationship with the late Jean Dewolff in the comics, except maybe a bit more harmonious (although Yuri does find him a bit annoying).

 

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In something that seems a bit borrowed from the movie Spider-Man 2. Peter is working under a seemingly benign Otto Octavius as his lab assistant and protege (although they have a much closer relationship here than in that film) instead of his usual Daily Bugle photographer job (Peter quit the bugle after J Jonah Jameson started attacking Spider-Man; something he still does via podcast in one of the game’s fun easter eggs). Of course this all works out as much as you’d expect….

 

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Li and Octavius also have a bone to pick with Norman Osborn-here, not yet the Green Goblin, but actually mayor of NYC. Naturally of course he has some deep, dark secrets.

 

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Other members of spider-man’s rogues gallery also have part to play-the game begins with Spider-Man taking down the Kingpin (which also unfortunately leads to a power vacuum for Li to take control of the criminal underworld).

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and of course the Sinister six (with Li among it’s number, as well as another character I won’t spoil.)

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Shocker and the Taskmaster also have small roles in the game as well.

Of course there are several other allies apart from Yuri and Aunt May. Mary Jane is in the game, although she’s more the “girl next door” type seen in the Raimi films (well, to start at least) and the Ultimate comics…

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…rather than the supermodel/party girl from the mainstream comics.

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In fact, she’s actually a reporter for the bugle, quite different from many of her other incarnations.

The game also has Miles Morales, who first appeared as the second Ultimate Spider-Man, but in 2015 became part of the regular Marvel Universe after the Secret Wars event, and is now popular enough he’s getting his own starring role in an animated movie.

 

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Both characters are playable for short sections of the game-mostly involving stealth, as in this game, they don’t have super powers (…yet).

Overall, Spider-Man PS4 is a fantastic game, one that’s sure to please fans and gamers alike, and the best Marvel game in quite a while.