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Reviews

Whilst certain ‘other shooters’ go for the annual release model, the Battlefield series have often scheduled their games a couple of years apart. Not only should this encourage making games that provide an extended lifespan, but also afford enough opportunities for newly implemented ideas when the time comes around to releasing another. Hardline brings about a lot of alterations, the question being, can Battlefield retain its classic multiplayer offerings after doling out some fairly radical changes?

We’ll start with the singleplayer. Instead of playing as generic military grunt 4 and solving the worlds’ war problems with more…war, Battlefield Hardline has completely switched things up by emulating your favourite cop’s and robber’s drama. Meet Nicholas Mendoza, a stereotypical cop who lives up to his cliché name by doing things solely by the book, despite how many hand-outs he’s offered along the way. Mendoza’s the kinda guy you can rely on when the local drug war escalates to one of explosive proportions, one who’ll keep his head when others are literally losing theirs around him.

Embroiled in a world of dirty cops, double crosses and of course, exploring the local swamps in a fan boat, you’ll find that each of the games’ ten levels pays more than just a passing homage to shows like The Wire and The Shield. Presented in a televised, episodic format, each time you decide to pop on the campaign, you’ll have a ‘previously on…’ section which attempts to serve as a little refresher from where you last left off. To add to this, each episode usually follows the format of its respective show too, where you’ll often start off with a slow section, complete with background and filler, before ending on a bang.

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In previous Battlefield games, being stealthy was usually a precursor to all hell breaking loose; especially when there’s no real incentive to keep it quiet. Hardline encourages it however. Even though you can of course blast your way through the levels with no regard for something as menial as collateral damage, you’re rewarded for being the good guy. The game couldn’t give a monkey about your ability to line up multiple headshots; instead it’ll applaud using your police issue kit to take down perps alive and disgruntled. Included in your arsenal is a scanner, of which you can use to tag enemies, alarms and secrets; all of which you earn points for doing so. Alongside this, you carry your trusty badge which you can point at up to three ne’er-do-wells and get them to surrender whilst you handcuff them. The challenge being that you’ll have to keep a gun trained on them whilst moving in, or risk one of them acting out and kicking things off.

There are good and bad points to the singleplayer portion. One of the main criticisms I have is that it’s entirely singleplayer; which makes little sense as you’ll go through a large portion of the game alongside your forgettable AI controlled partner. It would have been nice to have a little co-op action in there so you could clear rooms effectively and flank enemies to get the jump on them, but never mind. More problems arise due to the game solely rewarding you for stealth. It’s a great moment when you’ve cleared a room or two in pristine fashion only for a couple of rogue criminals (you were unaware of) to spot you and turn the rest of the level into a tense firefight. Instead of thinking great, that was just like that bit in such and such, you just think, I’ll reload the checkpoint so I get more rewards for doing it ‘properly’. In terms of the narrative aspects of the game, there’s ultimately a fine line between being either engrossed or embarrassed in both the plot and the way it’s presented; with unfortunately, some of the script bordering on cringe worthy at times.

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Despite a radically different singleplayer experience on offer, inevitably most people’s interests will lie with Hardline’s multiplayer offerings. Having always been a contender to Activision’s shooter, I’ve felt Battlefield will often draw in a different crowd due to its slower, more deliberate style of play. That seems to be changing a little this year with Hardline adopting a much more fluid and quicker pace. Maps are generally smaller and much more infantry focused; the inclusion of the new game modes reflects this. On top of the ever viable Conquest mode and the increasingly popular Team Deathmatch type, Hardline brings: Hotwire, Heist, Blood Money, Crossfire and Rescue into the mix. A combination of small team tactics with no respawns, high speed vehicle shenanigans and as ever, teamwork will all be necessary to compete in these modes. Each offers something different and what some people enjoy will be no doubt the bane of others.

Weapons in general seem to kill quicker than in previous entries, yet the game still doesn’t rely upon the reactions of a new-born fly in order to succeed. In fact, playing to the strengths of your selected class will often see you raking in the points regardless of whether you end up killing anyone or not. Especially useful considering Battlefields gracious system of the amount of damage dealt to determine who ‘earns’ the kill, certainly something I’d love to see implemented in other shooters. Much like other Battlefield games, the ‘create a class’ screen, despite being drastically improved, is still overly complicated and seemingly obtuse for the sake of it.

Unlocking gear has had a work around this time too. Similar to the way the first Call of Duty: Black Ops worked, you earn money during matches for anything and everything; which can then be spent on weapons, gear and attachments. Certain items are locked from the offset, for example weapon attachments can only be purchased once you’ve earned X amount kills with it and so on. It’s a good system that allows you to get what you want quicker. If you’ve found an optical sight you like better than others, you’ll likely be able to equip it on the majority of your guns without any trauma besides remembering its name.

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There are a few irritants however, not solely aimed at Hardline in particular, but rather things that are consistent amongst all Battlefield games. Firstly being each faction’s unique weapons, it’s tedious having to adjust to the cop’s version of the carbine for example, when the opposing robber’s version seems categorically better, despite costing around the same amount. In my opinion, all guns should be available to each side, and the player should get to choose when to use them instead of the game arbitrarily deciding which team to put you on. More frustration occurs when you can’t preview what a certain optical sight looks like, or determine how a heavy barrel will affect your gun without going into a game and being a detriment to your team. Granted, they don’t cost a lot to procure, but there are many different configurations for each weapon that can drastically alter its performance. A firing range option akin to Advanced Warfare’s would be an elegant solution and surely not too much bother to implement considering there was something similar in Battlefield 4. My final quibble involves the ‘kill-cam’. It does me little good to see an enemy jumping about in 3rd person when the maps are this large. I’d rather it showed me vaguely where they were on the map or adopted Call of Duty’s first person perspective style.

Battlefield’s always been a bit of a looker, and in terms of character models and facial capturing, it’s no surprise here. The environments aren’t at their best, nor do they seem as destructible as in previous games; however this can be justified to an extent online when there are 63 other people on the map. Sound quality is as punchy as it always is and weapons sound believable yet distinct.

Despite being carried on Visceral Games’ shoulders in this iteration, make no mistake; this is the Battlefield experience you’ll know and love. The singleplayer shows promise but is let down a little in execution; whereas the multiplayer is smooth, tactical and more importantly, fun. The lack of a campaign co-op is a little disappointing, but then again, the action is where it always has been, online.

If you love your planet, and I’m sure you do, you owe it to yourself to enlist into ‘Super Earths’ Helldivers programme. A coop, twin thumbstick shooter from the sadistically team killing folks at Arrowhead, Helldivers will test your patience, your skill and of course your planetary patriotism.

If you can get through the game’s opening cutscene without either fawning over Starship Troopers or at the very least, bursting into laughter, then this is likely a fair warning for you. As demonstrated by the overly elaborate recruitment campaign, Helldivers takes few things seriously; and who could expect any different from the people who bestowed upon us the carnage that was Magicka? In terms of narrative, the game gets off to weak, if not still hilarious start. Super Earth, as it’s now known as in the future, is ruled by a ‘managed democracy’ and finds itself in the middle of a galactic battle against three hostile species.

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It’s never this well organised…

Fighting a war on several fronts is never going to be easy, just ask you know who; this is reflected in the game via a synchronised global effort. In an attempt to create a variable sense of struggle and conflict, each faction will need to be pushed back into their own territory and eventually invaded themselves. Conversely, this can also happen in reverse too; not keeping up the aggressive pace will eventually see everyone having to band together and repel the occupying forces. For now it’s unclear as to how this will affect players in the long term, but already it’s nice to have a common overall goal for the community.

Over-arching objectives and intentionally hammy plotlines aside however; it’s the gameplay that’s likely to hold your attention. With room for couch coop alongside online support too, the methodically paced combat comes into its own as soon as another person joins your plight. The game’s tutorial does a fair old job of explaining the basics, such as how to shoot, move and get down whilst also (not so subtly) hinting at the possibility of death and how often to expect it. Everything will kill you in Helldivers, friendly fire is one thing to contend with, but there’s more… Calling in an ammo resupply atop an unsuspecting player will reduce them to pulp, an airdropped turret will differentiate between neither friend nor foe, and even the extraction shuttle won’t think twice about landing on your face should you be daft enough to stand beneath it.

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Ah the bridge, the place where you spin in circles

Helldivers is hard, make no mistake about it, it’s a very challenging game. Whilst the early levels can easily be completed by oneself via employing stealthy tactics and keeping a watchful eye on the mini map for enemy patrols, the game will soon ramp up the difficulty. Each planet plays host to a specific set of enemies, whether it be the swarming, melee oriented bugs, the augmented cyborgs or the clairvoyant aliens, fighting each type demands a new set of tactics. Armoured enemies, ideally, need to be perpendicular to your gunfire to maximise damage and reduce the chances of deflected shots. Also certain ‘Stratagems’ perform better against different targets too, napalm style strikes work better on fleshier enemies than they do reinforced ones for example.

Aside from the standard weapons you deploy with, consisting of a primary and a pistol, you also get to choose four Stratagems to take into battle. Whilst they’re not crucial to the success of a mission, they’re there to help. As with everything else, they’re unlocked via level progression and completing select sets of missions. Deployable in game via a surprisingly tricky (when under pressure) d-pad combination, you can call in ammo supplies, bombing runs, turrets and many other helpful tools to aid you at any point. Balanced by a cooldown timer, and of course the threat of viciously maiming your team mates, they can often spell the difference between success and failure in a mission. Whether you prefer the stealthy or ‘loud’ approach, choosing where to deploy before starting a game matters significantly. You can choose to drop in right next to the objective at the risk of instantly alerting enemies that are likely lurking beside it, or you can go for the conservative approach and take a leisurely stroll in the hope you’ll stumble across some research-gaining pickups or some extra ammo along the way.

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This is honestly, fairly calm

In terms of keeping players interested for the long haul, Arrowhead seem to have tried their best with unlockable kit, customisation options, a main level to rank up and of course the overall community goal to help contribute to. There are just a few things that let it down slightly, the largest culprit for me, being how quickly it starts to drag when you play alone. The difficulty is woefully unbalanced and the lack of hilarity from drop pods landing on teammates soon starts to kick in. To further impound this, mission objectives are distressingly repetitive. Within the first hour or so, you’ll have seen the majority of variation on offer, accelerating the notion that you shouldn’t be playing this by yourself.

At a glance, Helldivers can unfortunately often look quite bland, especially during the quieter moments. The environments are mostly a generic pastel shade and the enemy designs are nothing original to say the least. When it all inevitably kicks off however, it can get quite colourful and diverse, even if it does become chaotically difficult to differentiate between enemies at times.

Helldivers is not a game for those who like to go it alone, it’s also best played with a group of friends who aren’t partial to flipping out at the first sign of ‘accidental’ friendly fire. When not taken too seriously, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, even if it’s often at someone else’s expense. The variation in mission design will get dull quickly, but hopefully the carrot-on-a-stick mentality of unlocking new gear and upgrades should ensure Super Earth’s survival for a little while longer. Just remember accidents can and will happen…

Advanced Warfare was a bold move for the series; whilst fans will have certainly adjusted to its game changing mechanics by now, it was certainly something to split opinion. Curiously however, the first, of a series of four, map packs seems instead to focus on pleasing everyone. Four new maps of various sizes and playstyles (no re-makes yet) a new assault rifle, and of course bringing back the ol’ zombies. Have they played it too safe by trying to cater for everyone, or will it still retain the uniqueness that’s helped resuscitate the waning franchise?

Urban is this year’s Nuketown. It’ll likely be voted for by anyone with a penchant for shotguns and those possessing nippy reaction times. Certainly the smallest map of the game and a far cry from some of the maps in last year’s Call of Duty Ghosts. Urban’s quasi-futuristic design fits in place well with the general aesthetic feel of the main games’ campaign; with its blue hues helping to echo the police theme it’s based upon. The outer portions of the map’s square-like design are inevitably going to be the ‘safer’ way to traverse your way around; however balconies, ledges and windows ensure that you’re never too far from being spotted. The maze like barriers of which adorn the map promise tense gun battles with people funnelling through like rats, attempting to not give away their position by overusing the exo movement. Once confrontation starts however, battles quickly elevate and a game of vertical cat and mouse begins. Due to the, sometimes frankly horrific, nature of the spawns in modes such as Free For All and Team Deathmatch, it’s best to approach this map in the knowledge that you’ll likely die, a lot.

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Perfect recruitment banner placement

Drift is this packs’ resident snow variant; featuring a fairly predictable map-specific score streak too, I won’t spoil it, but I’m fairly certain you can guess what happens! A medium sized map, Drift plays best in objective type modes when you’ve got a fairly decent idea of where the enemies are going to be spawning from. A carousel resides as the focus of the maps large open area and can of course be used as a dizzying piece of cover for those with the stomach to take it on. The other side of the map plays host to some potentially long range gunfights. An elevated position is the ideal spot for snipers with a twitchy trigger, with the locations downside being the various routes of entry inside. A well-coordinated team could easily hold this power position and dominate the enemy with streaks.

Sideshow is the penultimate map here, and also one for any coulrophobics to be wary of. Set in and around a decidedly creepy abandoned inn, Sideshow displays how two opposing playstyles can actually come together and not be irritating. For those into ‘playing cautiously’, rooftops and long lines of sight will create perfect opportunities to set up a few tents and sit pretty. Those averse to sitting still for any many of seconds however, can equip the almighty ASM1 and flank to great effect. Sideshow, on any other Call of Duty game would be a horrendous mess of spawn trapping and sniping, yet due to the exo movement however, it’s actually great fun to play. With the ability to traverse the entire map in seconds, getting up behind people and disrupting their inattentional blindness is a rarely matched feeling.

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I don’t know why people might have a problem with clowns…

Core is probably the weakest of the bunch in my mind; as a fairly large map, non-objective type game modes can play out in a somewhat leisurely pace. Long, winding flank routes and short, tight tunnels provide some variety in gunplay but you’re likely to be better off bringing an assault rifle and adapting to each situation as they come. Domination and Hardpoint could well be the saviours of this map and playing a roaming, harassment type role should serve you well. Set in the Gobi desert, amidst the ruins of a nuclear plant, Core is ultimately a little bland in general. The snippets of technology dotted about, however striking and interesting as they might seem, ultimately pale into the wash of sand.

AE4 is the name of the standard variant of your new toy in this pack; although if you’d previously purchased the season pass, you’ll have had access to it for quite some time already. Described as a directed energy assault rifle, it functions as you might expect. As is the case with Advanced Warfare, there are also several variants to unlock via getting lucky with the supply drops too, but the basic premise and utility is the same. It comes with its own optical sight (although others can be attached) and like all good energy weapons, you essentially have infinite ammo; with the downside being the overheating issues. But, provided you’re not too trigger happy and you remain accurate, it can certainly hold its own with the majority of other guns on the game.

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Good luck

Exo Zombies is likely to be one of the greater draws for some in this DLC pack, and rightly so too. Whereas the games’ standard co-op multiplayer was functional enough, it never quite hooked the zombie faithful, however that could soon change. The unfortunate four who happen to be around during what can only be described as an enormous cock up on Atlas’s side, must use the environment, weapons, care packages and more to survive as long as possible in typical zombie fashion. Keeping in line with the excellent performance of Kevin Spacey in the game’s campaign, we’re spared no expense here either. John Malkovich, Bill Paxton, Jon Bernthal and Rose McGowan are our celebrity foursome and are as suitably hilarious and enthralling as you might imagine. Ditching the crazed and convoluted zombie storyline of Treyarchs fame, we’re instead given a brief outline of their plight and roles during a cutscene at the start.

It’s (mostly) business as usual with the zombies, starting out at lower rounds they’ll take no more than a few bashes to the head, but progress past wave 15 or so and things really start to kick off. As ever with a zombie’s mode, it’s all about restoring the power as quickly as possible; never is that truer than here, especially seeing as you don’t start the game with your exo suit. Feeling strangely naked and mashing jump to no boosting avail, you’ll eventually start to make some progress. Once things (and oneself) are up and running, you’ll find many tweaks to the formula. The 3D printer is your new mystery box; weapons can be bought off the wall and upgraded at stations. Upgrades to your exo-suit can be purchased; care packages can be picked up outside and zombies get tougher alongside gaining new abilities to match and counter your own.

In all, the Havoc DLC pack seems to have something for everyone, the maps are varied between size, playstyle and appearance, it adds a new weapon (plus the potential for variants) and also includes a new zombie’s mode too. The maps, for the most part, should fit any game type well and the AE4 seems to be well balanced too. Exo Zombies will likely draw a crowd, in part due to its fan favoured theme, but also due to its own unique form of exo movement. The Havoc pack helps to freshen up the experience once more, and is a great start to this year’s season of DLC.

The Dragon Ball franchise is often regarded as highly influential, not only by the series veterans who’ve followed its meteoric rise across the globe, but also the newcomers to manga and anime who, without its severe popularity, might never have explored those avenues. In the past, as exciting and as over the top as they can be, Dragon Ball games have largely felt all too familiar with each other, let’s hope its first venture onto the newest generation of consoles can spice things up a little.

In a hope to freshen up the series of games that, unfortunately, can’t delve into new canon story arcs, developers’ Dimps have chosen to incorporate the ol’ fan favourite time travel mechanic. Instead of repeating classic storylines from the past ad nauseam, instances in time have been altered in order to create some seriously fan-salivating moments. Whilst the plot itself will neither truly excite nor disappoint fans, it’s the clear attention to fan-fiction that will prevail; thinking of the game as more of a sequence of ‘what if’ moments will largely set the tone for what you’ll be playing. The inevitable downside being that, once more, newcomers to the series will likely not appreciate, or even vaguely understand the source material here.

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One of the subtler screenshots

New in this iteration, is the inclusion of a loose, if not terribly addictive set of RPG mechanics to tinker with. Starting out, you’ll create a character from a fairly diverse set of races including Saiyans, Majins and others; with each race also possessing bespoke abilities that are reflected in the show. That’s not where it ends either, you’ll also have to pick between either a male or female combatant, the male being physically stronger, in comparison to the females’ higher agility. Once you’ve finally plastered on an outfit and of course, chosen the most outrageously overt hairstyle, it’s pretty much time to explore the city of Toki-Toki.

In a style oddly reminiscent of Destiny’s Tower, Toki-Toki is where the MMO style (yes that’s right, MMO) hub is located. From here you can strut about, adorned in all but the commonest of clothing options, hoping people will notice your, not entirely unique pose. Clearly aimed around a centric community atmosphere, you can form up groups, request help from others, and even start a ruckus with a stranger, the usual stuff really. Whilst it seems to be the way games are going in this generation, they do still require a little work in terms of fluidity and streamlining. The separation between having an eye watering, airborne battle, complete with more anime effects than you can physically comprehend, before trotting about casually on your way to the shop is jarring to say the least. I suppose everyone has to have some downtime, but the pedestrian pacing can often be too much, especially when a simple menu would often suffice.

On top of the starting levels of customisation, Dragon Ball XenoVerse has plenty of loot tricks up its ghee too. On your way through the games’ many, many quests, there are quite literally hundreds of skills and pieces of equipment to unlock and acquire, not only satiating many a hoarders needs but also attempting to ensure each character can have a fairly versatile and distinct feel from one another.

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Your guess is as good as mine…

It wouldn’t be a Dragon Ball game without completely over the top battles; needless to say, this one doesn’t disappoint either. Whilst the combat might seem a tad too familiar to veterans of the series, there’s still a lot to appreciate. Fighting still takes place in enormous, dense and rich 3D arenas ripe for exciting brawls. Alongside the myriad of moves at your whim, there’s also a smattering of destructibility to the environments too, perhaps not as much as I’d like, but enough to echo moments of the show when they do occur. Attempting to once more add to the veritable spectacle are the 3 vs 3 fights where you would expect all hell to break loose. Unfortunately, they’re more frustrating than epic as your AI controlled ‘teammates’ will just nonchalantly sit back and relax whilst you’re getting beaten from all angles. It doesn’t help that the targeting system largely shows its true colours here either, often being the cause of many a cock up.

Once more, in terms of fighting, people new to the series will struggle to keep up for quite some time. There is a tutorial, but as is the trend with pretty much every fighting game, it’s of little help. Grasping the basics should, and will certainly inspire some to explore further into chaining attacks and such, but the true newcomer will likely be either spamming basic attacks or getting beaten up relentlessly. When eventually you do end up playing with some modicum of skill, the fights can genuinely become as epic as some of the franchises most well renowned moments. Patience and experimentation are usually their own rewards with fighting games; this is no different.

Whilst there is fantastic roster of nearly 50 fighters to choose from, I felt that my own unique(ish) creation was always my go-to character. Levelling up and unlocking both abilities and game altering items was by far my greatest draw. Others who’re much better versed in the lore of the series than I will likely relish the opportunities of certain matchups and scenarios, but I’m always partial to a little levelling! Content is certainly one area where the game simply doesn’t let up, as described earlier there’s no shortage of missions, unlockables and playable characters to whet ones appetite. Add to this, the sheer amount of fan service included and devotees of the Dragon Ball universe are bound to be happy.

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Chillin’ with Krillin

Dragon Ball XenoVerse is probably the nearest you’re likely to have come so far, to playing an interactive version of the show. It simply looks fantastic. The outrageous special moves and detailing of each and every character really help draw you in to the game. Vibrant and bright colours splash everywhere and are a treat in comparison to the many variants of brown and grey on offer elsewhere. The only slight let down sadly being the city of Toki-Toki, without much interaction on offer besides a smattering of shops and quests, for a hub, it seems a little too sparse and barren for somewhere to truly savour and enjoy.

There’s no doubt about it, XenoVerse has been imagined, designed and tailored for the fans. It’s got a plot that they won’t instantly know the outcome of; it’s got set pieces with a variety of ‘what if’ situations and a decent RPG base. The unfortunate downside to this is that newcomers won’t have a clue what’s going on for the most part. The story will make no sense and the tutorial’s lacking anything beyond basic actions. If you can get past that however, there’s no shortage of content to sink your teeth into.

The Warriors series has never really been something that catches my imagination. Even between Dynasty and Samurai flavours the ability to run around slaying a ridiculous amount of enemies has never been enough to excite me. Don’t get me wrong, taking on wave after wave of nameless foes has it’s appeal but I always feel like Samurai (and Dynasty) Warriors chucks everything else out the window to make room. There’s only so much button mashing I can take and that’s one thing you can guarantee a Samurai Warrior title will have enough of.

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In fact on my very first outing I was presented with a good few hundred enemies that made no attempt at all to fight me or even a vague sense that they would evade my attacks. Sure they ran towards me but all I had to do was press the same button over and over as I watched the combo numbers climb. On occasion I moved the thumbstick to orient my character but literally no extra effort is required. The very second I realised the tides of slightly animated scarecrows posed no threat at all I was bored. But I pushed through to get onto bigger and greater things.

But it just never happens. There really isn’t anything just around the corner. Missions play out as a series of you pressing the same button until you win. On occasion you might find the need to press a different button to do a special attack but more often than not I just used them to break the tedium. Bosses play out as little more than slightly challenging versions of their straw counterparts, especially early game.

There are combos and abilities that make it worth while levelling and thinking about a character to an extent but without more complicated gameplay the only reason to do so is from self motivation. There is definitely a place for it but I constantly had the thought in the back of my head that it was all pointless. Truth be told there is a combo system and character variations for those who look for them but for me the combat is too simplistic to warrant any real investment.

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On the face of it there seems to be plenty of missions in Samurai Warriors too. There is a campaign for each of the 50 or so characters which is impressive and does provide loads to do. At least in terms of time spent on the game. The problem is that they’re all largely the same. A ridiculous pop-up will appear for each character and explain what’s happening while characters talk mindlessly during your combat. There’s nothing even close to depth in the story and each campaign soon follows the path of the combat and becomes mindless.

It’s fine to have this amount of content, in fact it’s commendable, but it’s not enough to stretch gameplay out just for the sake of it. If there’s little there to start with dragging out the same repetitive gameplay really isn’t likely to add much to a game. The main problem I had was that despite the amount of content I was bored well before the gameplay had run out.

Chronicles mode allows you to make you’re own character with a modest set of customization tools. There is a more persistent upgrading system in chronicles and on your travels you will have the opportunity to equip yourself with better equipment. However I still wasn’t thrilled by the missions. It’s certainly more engaging knowing that you have your own character but ultimately the gameplay still failed to engage me. Soon I was back to playing the same mission repeatedly.

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The visuals are nothing special although there’s nothing particularly awful either. Characters are well detailed and look respectable even though they don’t hold up too well on closer inspection. For me Samurai Warriors’ biggest sin are the environments. There’s a decent amount of colour splashed about but the quality of the textures is low, although HD, and often areas aren’t interesting enough to capture the imagination. Samurai Warriors 4 certainly doesn’t look bad but it’s a long way from looking good.

Samurai Warriors 4 has this absolute reliance on quantity over quality. Rather than a complicated combat system that allows for some skill or character investment there are thousands of enemies. Which would be cool if there was actually something to do other than pressing the same button over and over again. Chronicles mode adds some customization and makes missions a little more interesting until you realise you’re again just pointlessly wading through enemy after enemy.

As an incremental update there isn’t much on offer that improves over other Warriors games. Even the visual updates aren’t really significant enough to convince veterans to return and the multi-format release has done nothing to help. There isn’t enough to get new players or people who didn’t like previous titles involved. Ultimately I found Samurai Warriors looked poor and was just plain boring. For me that’s the worst thing a game can be.

With such a wait between each of Telltales’ episodic content releases, I’m often torn between frustration and excitement. In Telltale Games, we have one of the few, rare developers who don’t instantly ruin an established franchise as soon as they’re let loose upon it. Instead, they take their time, work to the series’ strengths and always attempt to emulate the experience of watching an episode. Can they continue upon their success of the first chapter and deliver the thrills once more in ‘The Lost Lords’?

Continuing on from the shockingly dramatic end of the previous episode, we’re thrown in once more with a mix of both new and returning characters. New to the table is Asher, a son of the Forrester’s, and Beskha, his dangerous and flirty mercenary partner. Aside from the ever present and ever irritating quick time event fight scenes of which you’ll no doubt enjoy, it’s business as usual. After you’ve muddled your way through the surprisingly well choreographed, yet frustratingly confusing, fight scene, it’s off to explore Telltale’s other avenues of gameplay, namely dialogue and a small amount of pottering.

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This has to end well

Whereas the first episode clearly had its prerogative set to introducing the series’ characters, this second chapter can be now devoted to setting up and exploring the overarching plot that will run throughout the remaining episodes. Each character gets a significant portion of screen time to further engage in their plights; and scenarios that felt lacking from the first episode get a little more attention too. Gared Tuttle, for example, gets a few more deserved heavy hitting scenes, including one with the popular John Snow. Likewise, Mira Forrester, one of the weaker characters in episode one, save for the Cersei scene, feels a little more fleshed out; with her narrative becoming increasingly more standalone and unlike that of Sasha Stark’s.

Along with the tense, if not occasionally slightly ambiguous conversational choices, the timer returns once again to pile on the pressure to either blurt something out or hold your tongue. Whilst some decisions from the previous episode already seem to be making their mark, there are plenty others present in this one that’ll also have you fumbling for the ‘right answer’. After being sceptical about the timed choices before, in a game that doesn’t require you put over 60 hours into it, they can be a welcome addition. Instead of sitting back and having a good old think about what you’re going to say, you’re always on edge, forcibly listening to the dialogue and trying to anticipate the set of answers available. It tends to flow much more like a real conversation and makes situations mirror the source material more accurately.

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Moody brooding 101

Much like the previous chapter, you’re let out of the stressful conversational constraints once in a while to have a little wander. Unfortunately, much like the previous chapter, there’s not a lot of wandering to be done. Once again, you’ll get the opportunity to talk to a smattering of people and get to ‘investigate’ various objects of interest. Just because it resembles an old school point and click adventure however, don’t expect witty retorts and gainful insights from searching around. Despite what they could’ve been, the free sections feel more as though they were put there simply to spread out the pacing and freshen things up a little for the player; it would be nice to get a tad more meaningful freedom in the future.

As ever with Telltale games, it’s not so much about the fidelity, but rather the stylised picture as a whole; the brushstroke-esque filter works as well with scenic backdrops as it does with the individual characters faces. Unfortunately, as has been with the past few Telltale games, there are the odd few technical hiccups. Certainly not enough to ruin the game, but they’re on the rough side of noticeable; and as prominent as the art style is, if the game jutters, loses audio sync and struggles with the occasional timely button press, it’s more enough to take you out of the experience.

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Just because there’s a sunset, it doesn’t mean everyone’s happy…

The Lost Lords is a solid, if not slightly safe, episode in the saga; it follows on well from the first chapter and impressively, improves upon some of the pacing aspects too. Both the good and bad things regarding this series so far, is that it is quintessentially a Telltale game. It brings all the things you love from the developers such as the difficult moral choices, the well thought out characters and the distinctive art styling. However, hand in hand, it also brings along QTE’s (sigh) and the odd bug too. There’s by no means anything particularly wrong with The Lost Lords, or the Game of Thrones adaptation as a whole in fact, it’s just you know exactly what you’re getting; meaning there’s no real innovation anymore, and that your enjoyment is reliant purely on the source material its based upon.

First appearing as a Kickstarter project, Flippfly’s Race the Sun has gone from strength to strength; at one point hoping to overcome the Steam Greenlight process, its success has now proved itself worthy to join the ranks of the always increasing Playstation indie market. Available on the PS4, PS3, Vita and of course PC, let’s see how an endless runner style game works on the big screen.

Most games employ characters, a plot and other narrative devices to help keep you both interested and wanting to continue playing. Race the Sun instead, relies upon its ‘just one more go’ ethos to try and inject its own form of longevity. The goal of the game is to pilot a solar powered craft towards the ever setting sun in the distance. Movement, at first, can be tricky due to the (presumably) high speeds you’re attaining; especially considering it’s only really the lateral movement you generally control.

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You’ll rarely be this high up for the first couple of hours

Inevitably, there are plenty of obstacles in between you and your infinitely elusive goal, yet what sets Race the Sun apart from the plethora of other ‘endless runner’ type games is its cycling map. Instead of being a random set of junctures each and every time you restart (as you will, a lot!) the ‘map’ cycles every 24 hours giving everybody a fair shot at the leaderboards, but more importantly, letting you learn specific routes to take and avoid. This simple idea makes a larger difference than you might imagine as the problem that often occurs with these sorts of games is the lack of progression. Whereas this way, spending a couple of hours on it will actually make you feel as though you are improving.

On top of the visible feeling of progression you get, Race the Sun also has a few other tricks up its sleeve that help to sway you towards hitting retry. Missions will be constantly doled out, up to a maximum of three at a time, which include a cross section of both easy and difficult tasks to complete. Some might be as simple as ‘travel a cumulated amount distance’ or simply ‘have a few crashes’, whereas others can test your mettle a little more. Getting through zones without denting your ship are easily accomplishable after a while, yet performing 25 barrel rolls in a single run seems a little steep. Acquire three of this level of difficulty and you’ll inevitably feel a tad disheartened at the prospect of progressing.

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Yes, those blocks are moving…

Completing these missions does alter what appears on the map however. At first, it’ll just be you and the open road, yet after making your way through a few objectives; you’ll notice power up items appearing throughout. Some are simply point and score modifiers, whereas others can offer speed boosts, a single jump or even an extra life should you inevitably slam into a wall. Levelling up also unlocks upgrades for your ship too, such as the possibility to carry an extra jump module or a magnetic effect on your ship which’ll help you collect everything from a slightly further distance. The caveat being that you may only equip one at a time, meaning you’ll often have to sacrifice something else you like the sound of.

When you first start playing Race the Sun, not many options will be available, after an hour or so of completing the set goals however, you’ll unlock the Apocalypse mode which is essentially the same, but with a brooding red colour scheme and a much more punishing difficulty. Later on, you’ll also unlock the Labyrinth mode which switches things up a little via zooming out the camera and tasking you with navigating a much more intricate warren of obstacles.

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Staying out of the shadows doesn’t become a priority until you get to the later zones

The games’ minimalist style graphics works to its favour by being both abstractly pretty whilst also highlighting things for the player. In latter zones, the sun will appear to set quicker; therefore casting shadows across the nefarious blocks that threaten to spell your demise. Not only will this make it inherently more difficult to see the clearest path, but let’s not forget we’re in a solar powered ship, and regardless of how ‘green’ that is, too much time in the shade will cause you to slow down to a halt, ending in an immediate game over.

Endless runners usually fall into two separate camps, those who enjoy a quick ten minute romp during a daily commute, and those who feel their lack of depth and substance is more of a barrier than the intended accessibility. If there’s one thing they’ve all got in common however, it’s the pursuit of a highscore, and whether on the global leaderboards, or just some friendly banter between friends, the ability to chase scores is always bound to draw a crowd. Race the Sun then finds itself at an impasse, the smattering of upgrades and permanent progression unlocks are possibly unlikely to draw too much of a large crowd from the more hardcore of gamers who own a PS4. Whilst on the other hand, those already into the ‘endless runner’ genre will most likely have their needs satiated via a smartphone game. That’s not to take anything away from Race the Sun, it is certainly one of the better games of its type I’ve ever played, it just might have suited the mobile market better.

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time on Dead Island Riptide there was certainly something missing. It wasn’t so obvious then and the zombie smashing co-op action quickly had me happily distracted. Apart from the swamp area. Techland have decided to abandon their extremely good work on Dead Island and concentrate on Dying Light.

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Expect the first couple of hours to be way to difficult for you to have much fun. Even with two players zombies are unreasonably tough in the early game. You will be running a lot because it’s your only real option. I’m glad I pushed through and managed to get past the overly difficult start and slowly but surely you start to feel more comfortable dealing with Dying Light’s creatures.

Leaping from a building can easily put your stomach on edge as you reach for a ledge – unsure if you can reach it comfortably. More often than not you succeed and I very rarely missed a grab even though I still exercise caution even now.

The only occasions I felt let down are when you have to aim the camera at a ledge or grab point to pull yourself up. Most of the time it’s not a problem and you find yourself aiming the crosshair where you’re heading anyway. But sometimes you need to make an effort and move the camera before you can leap or pull yourself up. It really breaks the flow and although very rare does cause frustration in the middle of your awesome parkour skills.

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Luckily, running, jumping then eventually rolling and sliding through the city though is a joy. Jumping over zombie’s heads and staying out of reach of the more intimidating enemies is always fun. Games like Assassin’s Creed could learn a thing or two from Dying Light’s free running. It’s a real art to make running away just as fun as combat.

Especially when the combat is this good. Dead Island managed to make crushing skulls, breaking bones and slicing limbs off both (very) violent and fun. You’ve got to love zombies for guilt free violence. And none of those joys are lost in Dying Light. Stabbing with small knifes have a satisfying speed that makes up for their lack of power. Hammers swing a bit slower but their reach and ability to crush limbs makes them satisfyingly efficient.

There’s plenty to choose from between hammers, knifes, swords, sledgehammers, bats and much more. Plus each one comes with a certain amount of upgrade slots so you can modify the weapon’s stats quite significantly. And then you can use a blueprint and really change things up. Each weapon also comes with a limited number of repairs and once the weapon’s durability is low enough it becomes ineffective and you have to repair it using a single abundant consumable and one of the weapon’s repairs. Despite the ability that grants a 50% chance to repair without using one of the repairs it’s incredibly unlikely any weapon will last forever.

At first I was dubious. Having a limit on weapons makes you slightly cautious, making sure you don’t ‘waste’ valuable repairs. But as you level up new items become available so there’s also an incentive to use your good loot before it becomes outdated. Despite my reservations the system works well and knowing you will eventually need to find new equipment keeps things fresh and really encourages you to try new things. Eventually it even encouraged me to use things more to make sure I used the lowest level items before levelling up to a point where they became redundant.

Firearms are exempt from degradation and instead rely on maintaining a stock of ammunition. Ammunition is reasonably easy to find and can even be bought from shops if you need it. Gunplay is satisfying and sounds particularly punchy. It’s a vast improvement from Dead Island and I enjoyed using them a lot, although they never take over from the melee weapons at the core of the game.

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Upgrades are split between Survival, Agility and Power. Survival is levelled up based on quest xp and provides upgrades like bartering and other general character abilities. Agility is levelled up from xp given when running and jumping and gives more stamina, rolls, slides and more. Power concentrates on combat and is earned from killing zombies with upgrades to combat stamina, craftable bombs, special moves, etc. Progression is well balanced and the next ability point is never too far away.

Unfortunately the simple plot very quickly becomes a secondary concern and apart from the occasional important scene there is very little added from listening to people talk. It was never going to be Dying Light’s strongest asset and the weak story and ancillary characters didn’t effect me at all, positively or negatively. I simply ignored them and enjoyed the game for what it is.

On the bright side (geddit? I’m so sorry) one thing you cannot ignore is the night time. It’s no gimmick. Getting caught in the middle of nowhere at night time can be a very real problem. Usually running to a nearby safe zone is a good plan. If another player ‘invades’ your game and takes control of the chasing zombie things get really interesting. But honestly the The ‘be the zombie’ mode isn’t really necessary. Dying Light is a solid co-op game and being constantly reminded you can play as the zombie in adverts, box art and even in game is strange. I want to play co-op with my character and a friend, invading someone else’s game isn’t really a priority for me. But if that’s what you want it works well and can at least be a distraction and you can always opt out if it’s not your thing.

The day/night mechanic is at its best when you still have objectives to complete and you can see the sun slowly going down. The panic of the ever-present passage of time is unique and creates a wonderfully frenzied rush that is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in a game before.

And just to round everything off Techland have again excelled themselves by making the environment ridiculously beautiful. Sun glare is a particular speciality but the lighting in general is something special. However my favourite aspect is the motion capture of the zombies. When you see one stumble over a barrier you would swear you were watching an episode of The Walking Dead. Hacking the leg of a zombie on a car bonnet will see it fall, bang its head and then flail on the ground. It’s amazingly, occasionally hauntingly, realistic. It’s all the more impressive given how many zombies appear on screen at once and how massive and detailed the city is.

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Dying Light is absolutely the game I wanted Dead Island 2 to be. And even though that’s gone in a different direction Dying Light picks it up and improves on it perfectly. Cooperative not-quite-zombie killing with elaborately modified melee weapons has never been better and it’s clear an experienced team has crafted Dying Light.

There are So many zombies that you’ll never go wanting and each horde has a very genuine look to it. A free running mechanic that actually feels responsive with only the occasional hiccup is almost unheard of and Dying Light’s is almost perfect. There’s a decent level up system that rewards your actions and a massive amount of loot to find. A little more confidence in being ‘just a co-op game’ and a solid story and characters are the only thing missing in this amazing FPS. Dying Light is a beautiful looking, content packed co-op zombie romp that is exactly what it should be.

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With more graphics cards and games supporting 4K, there has never been a better time to get a 4K monitor – here is our review of the Asus PB277Q 4K one.

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The ASUS PB287Q True 4K ultra-high definition (4K UHD) monitor, featuring a 16:9 aspect ratio WLED display that delivers next-generation 4K UHD visuals, with resolution up to 3840 by 2160. With a pixel density of 157 pixels-per-inch (PPI), the PB287Q provides over 8 million pixels, four times the pixel density of standard Full HD displays for astonishingly detailed visuals – allowing you to experience more onscreen real estate and stunning image clarity that have to be seen to be believed. The PB287Q also delivers an impressive 1ms GTG fast response time and a 60Hz refresh rate for ultra-smooth gameplay.

Specifications

Specs

What’s in the Box?

The box contains the monitor, base, power cables, manuals, audio cable, an HDMI cable and a DisplayPort cable.

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A Closer Look

The stand is already attached to the monitor, although you can remove it if you wish to wall mount it.

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The base is very sturdy and easily attaches to the monitor.

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Like so.

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Using the PB287Q Monitor

The power and the other connectors are at the rear of the monitor behind a removable plastic strip. I found it easier to rotate the screen itself to fit the cables I wanted to use.

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I connected the monitor via DisplayPort to my Windows 8.1 PC which has a GeForce GTX 680 graphics card in it. Windows and the GeForce software immediately picked up the monitor, however I noticed that it was only offering me a refresh rate of 29 or 30Hz even though DisplayPort should give me up to 60Hz (if you are using HDMI then 30Hz is your maximum).

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A quick bit of checking revealed that the monitors DisplayPort Stream setting was on DP 1.1. When I changed that to DP 1.2 60Hz was selectable.

The menu system on the monitor is very easy to use and includes various modes and other settings.

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Final Thoughts

The monitor comes packaged in its box very securely and only took a few moments to put together. I liked that the only thing I had to do was fit the stand and hand twist a screw! Once attached it felt very sturdy and secure.

One of the things that drew me to this monitor was the 3 possible connections – 2 HDMI (one of which being MHL) and a DisplayPort connector. For those people with multiple devices they would like to connect to the monitor having more than a single port makes it very useful, and tidy to just everything connected and use an input selector to switch between whatever is connected. And the inclusion of PIP is also very useful, so well done Asus on that front. The ports are fairly easy to access, just pop away the plastic covering and that’s it – although as I mentioned I found it easier to rotate the screen to fit the cables.

All of the on-screen menu options and functions are accessibly via a series of buttons located on the rear of the monitor. They are easy to use although it takes a little getting used to. The menu selections appear quickly so its easy to select what you want.

You can adjust the height of the monitor on stand with very little effort – I found that monitor was at the perfect height for my desk by just extending it all the way up. The viewing angles are great as well, you can choose between –5 degress and 20 degrees. If you need anything different to the viewing angle or the height you could always mount the monitor. You can also pivot the monitor so that it’s vertical if that’s your preference.

The monitor has a number of different modes that include all the things you would expect to find such as brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, etc, but there is also a mode called Splendid, which enables you to choose a setting for the monitor depending on what you are viewing. For example, there is a Game Mode for the gamers out there, and even a Standard Mode if you are just doing things like emails and word processing. The best thing to suggest is to try each of these modes and see which suits both your environment and whatever it is you are displaying. All of the modes work very well and I found myself swapping between them more than I thought I would.

Playing 4K games on the monitor, or displaying 4K video content was superb – the quality and clarity is striking, and going back to non-4K you can really see the difference. The very low input lag is a very important feature if you are wanting this for gaming.

The monitor also has in-built speakers, which get the job done, but don’t expect anything superb from them though. There is also a headphone socket to for connecting up your headphones if you dont want to use the speakers. Personally I stayed with my existing speaker setup but it was a useful addition though.

Overall I was really impressed with the PB287Q and can highly recommend it as a great monitor to jump into 4K with, especially if you want to do 4K gaming!

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The Asus PB287Q 4K Monitor is available now from Ebuyer for £449.99.

With THQ gone the originally planned DLC was altered to form what I thought was a slightly disappointing Saints Row IV. Although it offered the usual ridiculous Saints thrills and spills with a creatively ridiculous plot and setting. Personally I didn’t think the super powers were enough to base an entire game on. I still wish Saints IV had been the DLC to the third game so that we would now be looking at a full new title rather than using aging mechanics and technology. Still in its own right Saints IV was a great game.

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Enter Gat Out of Hell: the DLC to the game that should have been DLC to the game from the last generation. So 10 minutes in after a typically wacky set of cutscenes you see the in game graphics. They just about managed to get away with basing the last gen Saints IV on the last gen Saints 3 engine but it’s just not possible now. Switching from any PS4 title I can think of to Gat Out of Hell is an obvious step back 1 or 2 years. This isn’t a bad looking PS4 game, it’s a PS3 game that has been shoved onto the PS4.

It’s not particularly helped by the setting of Hell which creates an incredibly dreary brown, brown and brown pallet, with the inevitable, if not occasional, splash of purple. Orange jets of fire, crimson rivers of blood or bright white skeletons instantly spring to my mind as ways to add colour but none are present in Gat Out of Hell. Some sort of horrible thorny vine plants could’ve added green. I’m not artistic but the sea of browns is completely depressing from the very start.

Character models, weapons and other effects are obviously PS3 quality. There appears to be no attempt at keeping them inline with current visuals at all. The engine running Saints is just too old. It’s impossible for it to look at home on the PS4. The last Saints game should really have had an update so here on the PS4 it’s just too obvious to ignore.

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Even though Saints is known for being intentionally ridiculous and over-the-top the setting of Hell isn’t welcome to me. I want a city to explore and I want it to look reasonably realistic. For me being in Hell is like swamp areas on a game. There isn’t a single game I’ve ever been on and entered a swamp gladly thinking how fun it will be to navigate or how colourful it will be; and the same apparently goes for Hell.

But my biggest problem with the latest setting is the ironic reduction in the humour and insanity of Saints. The reason that gun you unlock near the end is so fun and ridiculous is because the previous 10 or 20 weapons are relatively normal. The reason the near invincible Genki mascot walking casually down the street with a taser is funny is because you rarely see him – and he can make you fall rather sadly to the floor. The humour and general lunacy of Saints relies on the contrast between the norm. In Gat Out of Hell there is no normal. So when you grab yourself a monster truck with flames blaring out of the exhaust pipes and sirens on top there’s no shock. You just get in and drive off. If that had casually driven down the street once every 10 hours on Saints 3 heads would have turned.

With none of the humour and whit of the more ‘creative’ elements of Saints and an unimaginative, bleak setting that belongs on last gen all that’s left are the missions. Usually sandbox mayhem like Saints Row needs a ton of content to keep us busy; it’s one of the best things about an open world sandbox and particularly Saints Row. The missions are varied but sadly it’s really nothing we haven’t seen in the past few Saints games. Also considering Gat Out of Hell actually is DLC it has far less content than the recent ‘full’ titles, punching in at only 4 hours or so. You can probably extend this a little if you try but you will struggle to get past 6 hours.

For me there’s something missing when you don’t get the customization and connection of creating your own character. Given the setting I found it difficult to really feel connected or care about the stuff I was unlocking. There’s an amazing difference between unlocking stuff for my customized gang hideout with my customized character driving a customized car from my garage and unlocking a weapon from hell for Gat. Add in the fact that before 10 hours it’s all over it’s difficult to care.

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Gat Out of Hell is simple. It’s DLC that offers a small amount of extra Saints Row gameplay. It looks shamefully last gen because the dev absolutely refuses to let go of the Saints Row The Third engine. It’s old and it looks it. No amount of polish can fill in the cracks, Saints Row has needed an updated engine for a long time but now it’s just ridiculous. The franchise can’t move on unless it gets an update and starts living in the now.

So Gat Out of Hell ends up being a short and disappointing DLC that offers little new content for those who’ve played Saints 3. Without the contrast of a close to real world most of the ‘crazy’ humour is lost. There’s still no significant visual updates and the environment is drab and just draining to look at. Gat Out of Hell is nothing but a blatant attempt to drag as many titles as possible out of a game that’s already done and very finished. Saints Row The Third was great, but making countless sequels and DLC using nothing but a re-skin is not the way to move Saint Row forward. I say it’s time for a real Saints Row IV.

Back in 2002 I was overjoyed to have the chance to replay one of my favourite games with new shiny bells and whistles. I’d already played the original from 1996 and it had earned its place as one of my favourite games. And a further 13 years have passed and I’m excited to be playing it again, although this time with the added bells and whistles in HD.

It’s generally considered among fans that the original Resi remake for the GameCube is Resi at its best and I firmly agree that Resi has never been better, although 2 and 4 come close at times. Despite the pre-rendered backgrounds and voice acting so bad it’s funny, in its day it was one of the best looking and atmospheric games around. It’s an art that’s largely lost in modern games which so often favour action over consideration and jump scares over tension.

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Almost everything has been left alone from the GameCube remake. The puzzles and areas are exactly as I remember them, and I remember them well. There is a joy to revisiting a place you haven’t been to in over a decade and having an almost photographic memory of every corner and object. For those who haven’t visited the Spencer Estate before it is likely the place will be quite overwhelming. Rooms and corridors are anything but uniform and it will take some time before you have an adequate working knowledge of the mansion and its secrets.

The Puzzles are classically over the top and often totally inexplicable. Examining an emblem that was hidden in a particularly vicious dog’s collar reveals it to be an imitation of a key that you place inside a socket after removing the real key to stop the suit of armour on tracks from crushing/stabbing you to death in a stone hallway. The Spencer’s really believed in strong security. Having so many object results in a sort of constant trading of items back and forth. The dog whistle I used to attract that particular dog is now useless and I can discard it, saving a valuable inventory slot for the new key it allows me to collect.

In fact a large part of solving puzzles, and progressing generally, relies on solid inventory management. Luckily there are ‘magic boxes’ to help you which allow you to store a colossal amount of items that can then be accessed from any other magic box. Even so it’s all to easy when exploring to find a few pieces of a puzzle you’re not even aware of yet and some healing herbs and end up totally full and unable to carry any more items. Making more trips than you need to is not a good idea in this house.

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Also returning from the original and the remake are fixed cameras. And with them come two control schemes; the original ‘tank controls’ (with a button to ‘accelerate’ and buttons to turn like Heavy Rain) and the new scheme that uses the left analogue stick like conventional modern third person titles.

The new scheme is far better for giving enemies the slip ensuring it’s your error that gets you into trouble and not awkward controls. Although they don’t make you untouchable and back in the day I was just as good at dodging the undead with the tank controls as I am now with the new scheme. But the updated controls make it far easier to get playing considering we’re all used to similar schemes – I can imagine many players will never have even used tank controls.

The only time I felt they let me down were on a few transitions when the camera changed and my character was spinning backwards and forwards cutting the camera repeatedly. Almost all transitions worked with absolutely no problems, but when it went wrong it was somehow even worse than it used to be with the old scheme. Out of hundreds of transitions only two or three don’t work but when it happens it’s bad. Throw in the need to dodge an enemy in such an area and it’s all over.

Other than the very rare problems I actually found myself enjoying the fixed cameras. They’re restrictive and claustrophobic. Time and time again I just wanted to rotate the camera to check around the corner. Hearing the shuffling of a zombie that you can’t see creates a tense game of hide and seek that gets the heart going. So much of Resi’s atmosphere comes from the camera angles and I’m glad to have them back. They may have originated from technical limitations but in this arena they excel.

The fixed shooting style also returns and makes for a slow and calculated combat style. Forget about Leon Kennedy’s ability to kick zombies to death or suplex their heads into the ground. You will stop, aim and fire. If you want, or need, to kill something it will have to be thoughtful. If you wait until you need to react it’s unlikely you will have enough time – unless you use some of the rarer ammo. It may be out of place compared with many modern games but again it adds to Resi’s unique atmosphere.

One of the biggest challenges visually comes from working with Resi’s pre-rendered backgrounds. Without a fully realised 3D environment improving elements is difficult, especially when modern lighting models are concerned as they rely on the environment being 3D. But the remaster looks incredibly good throughout. Certain environments are improved more than others, the main hall stands out as an example of one of the best, but nothing looks like it’s from 2002, or even close. To get everything in a 16:9 aspect the top and bottom was cut from the original 4:3 which is a pretty crude technique but at no point did I notice anything missing. Capcom really have done an amazing job getting a 13 year old game to look modern(ish) on a PS4.

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Limited saves, elaborate puzzles, punishing difficulties, cheesy voice acting and door animations all make their glorious return and I couldn’t be happier. The visual overhaul is nothing short of amazing. Areas have been cleaned up and overhauled so they look refreshed and the Dolby 5.1 further rejuvenates Resi into the current gen. The ‘96 original was one of my favourite games until the 2002 remake came out and know there’s the 2015 remaster. That brilliant little GameCube disk remained one of (if not) my favourite game for over a decade. Now that it’s back I’m glad to say this opportunity wasn’t wasted.

It’s great to have a proper survival game back at its best. The only problems are a few iffy camera transitions, some aging that can’t be hidden (i.e. the voice acting) and the knowledge that this is the best Resident Evil in a long time, and it’s only this good because it hasn’t changed. The Resident Evil franchise is so far off track that I can’t ever see it returning to this kind of legendary game. So while I love playing this Resi remaster it’s hard not to play it knowing this is the ultimate version of the long dead glory days of the Resident Evil franchise. I’m so glad I am able to enjoy Resident Evil once again, but it’s extremely unlikely there’ll be another one as good as this. It’s not a negative mark against this game but it is sad to know this is highly likely to be the last time I will play, and love, this truly amazing, genre defining game.

Fundamentally Warhammer Quest is a classic turn based strategy game. You take your band of heroes into a dungeon to kill it’s inhabitants and steal their stuff. Visiting one of Warhammer Quest’s villages will reveal at least one quest for your team to take part in when you return to the world map. To move things along the story is told through a series of text boxes. They’re well written but it can make quests feel a little dry when the big conclusion is a box of text you get to read.

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Dungeons are randomly generated but they’re nothing special. There are clear blocks that form simple shapes that fit together nicely. No matter what the quest is or what’s happening in the ‘story’ the gameplay never deviates from its path. Walk through the dungeon to reveal the area and kill everything in sight. There’s absolutely no variation in objectives other than the distinctly missable text boxes.

Unfortunately this is where the fact that Warhammer Quest was originally from iOS starts to become a problem. Sure when you play a mobile game you want 10-15 minutes of uncomplicated fun. A complex story would probably just ruin the pace. But it doesn’t translate to the ‘big screen’. On a mobile you would expect to play for only a short time and keep returning for a similar burst of game time. You expect to be able to sit and play a full PC game for at least 30 minutes to an hour. Warhammer Quest makes it very difficult to stay interested for that length of time given that not a lot changes.

Finding loot is one of the only ways I felt the need to return to Warhammer Quest. Whichever of the four characters you choose to play with will have loads of options for equipment and loot drops are frequent enough that it’s never long before you find yourself reequipping a character. But the loot isn’t particularly imaginative. More often the not it’s a simple case of replacing items for superior ones rather than any complicated compromises or choices.

The combat is another casualty of Warhammer Quest’s mobile origins. There is nothing more to do than move near an enemy and click on them to attack it. If you have a character capable of ranged attack they obviously will have more choice but it still basically comes down to tapping a creature and seeing if you killed it or not. The only sense of strategy involved is making sure everyone in the team gets an attack which is really a case of making sure you move characters with common sense rather than any strategy.

Yet again this gameplay would work if I were tapping away on a mobile screen but on my PC with a mouse and keyboard it’s just too simple. Click to move, reveal map, click to move, attack enemy. That’s really it. There are a few abilities and spells to concern yourself with but that’s basically just one more click. There’s no cover or defence to concern yourself with. There’s no overwatch or strategic positioning to think about. You move and hit the enemy and hopefully it dies first. The miss rate is unbelievable and more often than not you’ll spend your time swinging and missing; until you finally hit something and kill it.

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Warhammer Quest’s worst sin however has to be the visuals. They haven’t been altered from the mobile version at all. And it shows. At best there is a slight blurring around everything that makes it look like you’ve zoomed in on a low resolution video. At best you have huge patches of unused black space around the edges. Top down strategy games usually don’t focus on high fidelity but Warhammer Quest literally hasn’t been improved from the mobile version to the PC.

One of the most glaring occurrences of this is when you visit a town and a pop-up book opens showing a rough 3D map of the place. It’s a nice way to represent it without rendering an entire town pointlessly but viewing on the PC just makes it look stretched. Which is exactly what it is. It’s pixelated, blurry and just horrible to look at.

But just when you think it can’t get any worse there’s just one more thing that Warhammer Quest has brought with it from the mobile platform – premium currency. I’m not actually so offended by premium currency as a concept these days and some of my favourite games have been free-to-play with currency. But to pay for a game as badly ported as this and then find a premium currency system is just an insult.

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Unfortunately there’s nothing complicated to Warhammer Quest. You play for 20 minutes and probably get bored and turn it off. Which really is to the games credit considering it’s a mobile game. But to port a game successfully from iOS to PC there needs to be at least some changes. Increasing the resolution on videos rather than just stretching them is one. The same goes for the environments too, stretching low resolution assets is never a good move.

Visuals aside there just isn’t enough complexity in Warhammer Quest to compete with other turn based strategy titles on the PC. That same complexity that would be undesirable in a mobile game is so important to a PC game. Space Hulk offers more strategy in a Warhammer setting and if you’re just looking for turn based strategy there are loads of better games on Steam for this price; and almost all of them don’t have premium currency. If you want Warhammer Quest get it for iOS where it belongs, as a PC game it’s just not worth playing.

Singstar, the franchise which has brought both equal love and disdain to fans not only of homebrew karaoke, but the more OCD oriented PS3 users who dislike the unnecessary clutter of their XMB. Either way, after spanning the previous two generations of Sony consoles, Singstar finally makes its debut onto the PS4, but can it still retain its party mantra, or will it shuffle awkwardly in the corner?

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If it weren’t for the scores, you wouldn’t be able to tell who the better singer was due to the frustratingly quiet mics

Even hardcore gamers need to let their hair down at some point, and what better way to do so, than by popping on some classic tracks and waking the neighbours with your caterwauling? Back on the PS2? No problem, just slip a disc in and let the sing-along commence. PS3 users can instead choose from their amassed library, built up through the years. PS4 party goers on the other hand aren’t in for the greatest surprise, as due to some ‘licensing issues’ you’ll not be able to import the majority of your previously purchased songs online. To further add insult to injury, there is of course no way to simply pop your old discs in and import them from there either.

The ‘Ultimate Party’ track list, which can easily be found nestling amongst the ‘overly happy go lucky trendy people’ pictures, consists of 30 tracks from your (probably not so) favourite artists. If you’re below the age of twenty, you’ll likely find the song selection to your tastes; already singing along to your favourites on the car journey home. But if you’re of the age that doesn’t have to ask who Lionel Richie is, then once more, you could well be in for a little disappointment. Anyone initially excited via the inclusion of the increasingly popular ‘Let it Go’ will also be a little disheartened to learn that it is in fact Demi Levato’s cover version. A fact I know for certain will upset a friend in possession of an unerringly strong East Midlands accent.

Nevertheless, if you can live with procuring a selection of your favourite songs, for £1.15 a chuck, there is a free version of the game on the store that, for obvious reasons, won’t come with any included tracks. You’ll be able to re-download some of your collection onto the PS4, their availability permitting of course and only up to ten at a time meaning those of you that have hundreds of purchased songs could be in for a wait. Considering the promotion of playing with an inordinately large group of zany friends, the removal of some of the series’ better game modes is a rather peculiar choice. Gone are Duets, Medleys, Pass the Mic and for some reason even the difficulty settings, leaving a barren, if not well presented selection of options to sorrowfully sift through.

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Look at this cringe worthy snapshot of fun…

Of some saving grace however, are the microphone compatibilities. Not only can you still use your older peripherals that clog up the closets, but now the party can continue on if you get a few surprise guests too. A free app for smartphones (vigorously advertised by the Sony department) and available for both android and iOS, can turn it into a makeshift mic. Whilst it’s not going to replicate the weight and feel of a real microphone, it can be a handy way to ensure the majority of people can participate. A small issue, assumedly dependent upon which model of smartphone you use and your connection strength, is that there can often be a delay in speech recognition. Not a game breaking amount, but enough to be often irritable.

If there’s one thing a good knees up needs, it’s enticing people to get up and make fools of themselves due to their vocal incompetency. For some, this can often mean ‘just the right amount of alcohol’, for others, turning down their microphone volume can also be a winning solution. Fortunately for those of a shy disposition, and unfortunately for everyone else, the mic volume is inordinately quiet. To a point where try as you might, you’ll actually find it difficult to hear yourself never mind your friends.

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Zany fun loving group of best friends not pictured

As ever in the franchise, presentation is lavishly applied to each and every area of the game and can often be its strongest suit. Menus are both slick and accessible along with the general game screen balancing the ratio between being informative whilst also looking good. Inevitably the newer tracks offer a greater visual experience due to some higher qualities, but the oldies still look and feel great too. Sound quality is as good as to be expected with all the tracks coming in at a high clarity too.

Making the move to the PlayStation 4 was certainly going to happen, but it could have been handled better, particularly with peoples previously purchased content. It’s still the classic Singstar experience you’ll know and love, but unfortunately the nifty new additions such as being able to use your smartphone as a mic certainly can’t make up for the bewildering game mode omissions. It’s not quite an ‘Ultimate Party’ either when you have to get everyone to download an app. Especially before asking them to ‘bear with you’ whilst you feebly try to download your meagre selection of music. Simply put, there are more options, more game modes and more importantly, a greater and far wider selection of songs on the older PS3 version. Even if you are new to the franchise, I’d still recommend you stick with the last gens iteration, it’ll be a better party all round.

The original Little big planet was nothing short of amazing. The mechanics where,  even at the time, rather outdated and giving them a quick polish worked amazingly well. It’s pure innocent charms and Steven Fry’s commentary are impossible to resist. But really how complicated can a platformer be? Sure the graphics are nice and the platforming is huge fun but ultimately that’s not enough. And there lies Little Big Planet’s key to success.

As with so many successful modern games opening design and creation to the community can be a huge advantage. You can all but guarantee that eventually someone will make something amazing or use tools in a totally unique way that nobody ever thought of. There’s something very satisfying about playing each level knowing you could make everything in it, with enough talent.

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So Little Big Planet was something new and Little Big Planet 2 added a huge amount of features to expand the creative side of the game and therefore what was possible in a level. For Little Big Planet 3 Media Molecule had a seemingly simple, albeit brilliant, idea. More characters. Given what was possible in the previous two games with one character imagine what you could do with 4. In essence the single player campaign is an extended tutorial, now more than ever given the amount of new stuff to be explained. But it’s a decent adventure with the usual pantomime villains and silly jokes. As usual it’s impossible to resist Little Big Planet’s charms for all of its 6 or so hours offline.

The plot is simple, Sackperson has been captured and 3 new characters are tasked with rescuing him. There’s Odd Sock who’s a sort of dog like Sackperson who can repeatedly back jump off walls to make his way between two objects. When playing as Odd Sock there’s a definite flow to the game with levels tending to be fast paced and almost Sonic like at times. The speed and momentum is similar to the standard platforming with that slight weightlessness that makes the platforming so satisfying, but with some extra jumping abilities levels feel surprisingly refreshed.

Toggle is probably my favourite character to play as and also adds the most new function to the game. Toggle can either become very small so that he has very little mass or become large and have a very high mass. It’s another case of a simple mechanic that can give birth to complicated gameplay. One example is launching yourself out of water by first becoming heavy and sinking then switching back to being light and rising to the top violently to spring yourself up and scale an obstacle.

Swoop is basically a bird and as such can fly – a bit. Swoop is a little less interesting to play and can basically glide and fly about as well as flappy bird. As Swoop you can also pick certain objects up and move them around as a sort of plug and socket puzzle. There isn’t the same pace and momentum that I like so much about the gameplay of Little Big Planet and swoop just doesn’t capture me like the other characters. But still it’s yet another way to play and another option for level creation.

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The compulsory tutorial that you always have to complete before getting stuck into level creation has thankfully been drastically overhauled. Previously they have became stale long before the end. Even Stephen Fry’s narration wasn’t enough to keep the boredom away. With as many complex features as Little Big Planet now has an in depth tutorial is inevitable but luckily LBP 3 makes it slightly more interesting than before. Instead of pop-ups full of information and the odd video the tutorials now play as simple puzzle solving levels.

In one series you will need to create, delete and reshape items to get through the level. In another you will use string and elastic at different lengths and strengths to move objects or create swinging grab able items to Tarzan over a gap. Slowly but surely you make your way through all that LBP has to offer. Making the tutorial a series of mini challenges rather than just being told what to do you not only gives you a greater understanding of how to use the tools but helps prevent boredom too.

And once you’re done you can create and upload levels as much as you want. They can be simple or complex, long or short but they’re fun to create and LBP still invites you to get stuck in and just play around. Creating with a friend is especially fun and can even be quite productive. But I’m not a creative kind of person so playing other people’s levels is the main attraction for me. Luckily all the levels from both previous games are playable in LBP 3 which means there is an absolutely colossal archive of levels ready to be played already. There are some really amazing levels to be played from the previous games so it’s nice to have them all in one place.

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Following tradition everything still looks great but nothing is allowed to look slick. Everything has that tacked together feel that makes LBP look so distinctive. But that doesn’t mean the visuals haven’t been improved. The fuzz from Sackperson’s material in particular looks amazing. It catches the light just as you would expect and really makes you want to reach out and scratch the hessian.

All the usual charm and character is still the basis for LBP. In fact it forms the foundations for everything else to be built on. The first game was a great base and the second one expanded on that in a way that seemed very complete. But Media Molecule have managed it by adding new characters with new abilities that can drastically change how a level is played, or created. Even without substantial new tools just having a couple of key new mechanics has yet again expanded on Little Big Planet’s already impressive world. Even if you’ve been here before and played the previous games extensively LBP 3 is well worth visiting.

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