Tags Posts tagged with "Reviews"

Reviews

The final part of the trilogy (yeah I know lets just forget about that one) is here. The epic tale of everyone’s favourite rodent based hero is here. It’s fair to say that working hand in hand with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy the Arkham games have thankfully moved Bats away from his camp 60’s outing back to the style of the original comics.

54e50da1a1e17

Starting out Arkham Knight wastes no time in getting you into the action. Optional VR challenges are used rather than fixed tutorials. Even though I didn’t need them they were quick enough and rewarded upgrade points and before long I was straight back in the action. They provide good tutorials that are brief, rewarding and informative. More importantly they’re interactive so there’s no sitting around reading pages of text.

Although you don’t have the full set of abilities and equipment on offer from the start you certainly begin Arkham Knight with more than ever before. There’s a sense that this isn’t just unlocking the same upgrades once again in a different city but that you’re unlocking new stuff. There’s plenty of new bat-tech on show and lots of it is used right from the beginning. And of course everyone has been waiting for the Batmobile’s first appearance.

54e5112a16e58

I, on the other hand, have been concerned about the Batmobile not since it was first mentioned but shortly after that when it became obvious it was the only thing Rocksteady were interesting in at all. It’s awesome that it’s here but please let it quietly fester and build excitement in the background. There’s so much more to Arkham games than the Batmobile, it’s never been there before and they’ve done alright. I want it, don’t get me wrong, but lets not forget about the other features.

For the first couple of hours be prepared to see nothing but the Batmobile. Driving around Gotham doesn’t feel bad at all. The impossible speed, agility and strength of the Batmobile is great fun to blast around in. Switching to the combat mode turns it into a strange tank that moves like a crab. Combat in the Batmobile is plain boring. Strafe left to dodge very clearly marked attacks, press R2 to fire, kill the next vehicle. It’s far too simple, far too repetitive and after an hour I was already wishing I was doing something else. Well sadly it keeps coming. Throughout the whole game.

The physical combat is far and away the most impressive thing Rocksteady have achieved for me. That amazing fluidity combined with the feeling of Batman’s brutal strength. The satisfaction of getting a clean combat section is fantastic and I am glad to say this is the best combat I’ve played in any Arkham game yet. I was instantly gratified when the last slow motion kick sent the last thug to sleep. I just wish the Batmobile wasn’t forced on me so I could brawl more often.

54f628aaadd16

The entirely original Arkham Knight plays a fantastic villain more than capable of taking centre stage. Alongside Batman and just about every villain there is the cast is nothing short of amazing. The plot follows the usual trail of tracking villains down and following each as a different plot with the ‘main’ villain as the core plot they all revolve around.

On the world map the usual display of different tasks, puzzles and challenges are available. This time you’re playing in Gotham so the map is bigger than before but probably feels even more dense. The world is full, interesting and all the different tasks, sub tasks and plots are fully featured and enjoyable.

There’s also more attention paid to heroes than before too. You get to play as a potential replacement for the title of Batman. Nightwing makes a stronger appearance finally and in some sections you fight alongside other heroes allowing you to switch quickly mid battle and perform special team based specials. It’s nice to finally see some of the other heroes of the Batman universe but you still feel very much like Batman is in charge.

Sound has always played an important part for Batman even if you must include the iconic sounds and music from the 60’s. The brooding soundtrack crescendos at just the right times and the dark brass sections finish a fight off triumphantly. Rain effects and engine sounds are all punchy and crisp. It sounds great. Rocksteady’s ability to make a dark rainy game look somehow bright and crisp still amazes me. Environments are detailed and Batman’s armour moves and reacts realistically. It sounds and looks exactly like what you would expect from Arkham City’s successor.

54f634cfe9483

Arkham Knight has lived up to my expectations and exceeded them in many ways. The combat is somehow better than Arkham City and given the amount of time I spent (and still spent until this game) in combat rooms that is a big plus for me. Batman feels like he is stronger and faster than before thanks primarily to his new frankly badass armour. Progression feels like a continuation from Arkham City rather than starting from square one again. Tutorials are often optional so experienced players can complete them for points or move on and enjoy the game.

The Batmobile combat sadly isn’t any fun. Driving quickly through the streets and chasing suspects in cars, or other ‘vehicles’, is satisfying. Slowly moving in a third person combat style tediously pushing buttons to win gets boring. Ejecting yourself from the Batmobile into a glide and making a dramatic entrance is fantastic. Calling the Batmobile in remotely and jumping into the cockpit is awesome. I love it every time but Arkham Knight could definitely have done without the vehicle combat. It’s a shame because the design of the Batmobile, it has to be said, is amazing so I feel guilty for hating it. But at times I do.

Characters, plots and tasks are still basically perfect. There’s loads to do and once you get out of the damn car they’re all fun. Arkham games have never let us down on content and Arkham Knight is no exception. Overall a fantastic game that does the franchise and the Dark Knight justice. Another absolutely stunning job from Rocksteady.

I’ve been a huge fan of PayDay since I first played the PS3 version way back. Since then I’ve been frustrated by the level of idiocy online and the terrible support for console updates. So much so that I switched to the PC.

I play a lot of my games on the PC but I still consider myself a console gamer at heart. But PayDay is a PC game and switching soon shows you why. The amount of free content available on the PC version is nothing but impressive. Despite having to wait for significant amounts of time for updates on consoles, Overkill have supported PayDay with some really amazing free content that significantly changes the game.

It’s hard not to feel a little bitter about Crimewave Edition. You get an absolute ton of DLC, and I mean all the updates from the PC version which make up by far the best post launch support I’ve ever seen, and some nice shiny graphics on your new console. if you step up to current gen tech. It’s also well priced but It’s hard not to realise you’re paying for content that PC gamers have had for a long time and in a lot of cases, for free. Not everything that comes with Crimewave edition is free content and there’s a lot of paid DLC too that makes it excellent value but still there’s a slight sting to it. Serves me right for buying the game on the PC because I was sick of waiting for updates I suppose.

20150219045812

But with those things aside PayDay 2 is till one of my favourite online games. It’s nice to be able to work in a team for once and there’s still nothing quite like the thrill of making it out of a mission successfully with bags full of cash. The reliance on random players can still be somewhat of a burden and the things some people do really have to be seen to be believed. I’m incredibly supportive of new players and helping them but when you see someone higher levelled than you futilely staying picking locks on safety boxes at the bank while you single-handedly hold of an army of police at the van is frustrating. When will people learn to leave the security boxes? You’re risking millions for literally a cheese sandwich. It’s not hard maths $1,000,000 > cheese sandwich.

And then there’s the opposite side when you meet someone nice, helpful and good. The first time I played the bank after updates there was someone willing to take charge and help me through the level – explaining the new concepts. We made it out successfully even though it was my first time with the new content. The community is generally pretty good and I still have plenty of fun with PayDay.

20150219045812

There’s a definite visual upgrade from the standard edition too and the current gen versions are closer to the PC version. Unfortunately old games can’t hide their age all that well and PayDay’s cracks are definitely showing, even on the PC. In fact they’re on full display in such a way that there are more cracks than nice smooth bits. Even though it’s undoubtedly well supported it really is time for a new game. It’s amazing how long PayDay 2 has managed to keep going and is further testament to Overkill’s ability to provide great updates and DLC releases. Still, PayDay 2 is old and it looks it so don’t expect the Crimewave overhaul to have turned it into something spectacular.

20150219045812

PayDay 2 is still one of my favourite games and if you’ve only played on the last generation moving to the Crimewave edition changes the game in a massive way. The amount of content and updates that come along with Crimewave are substantial and offer great value. Moving from PC would probably not be a great plan and console gamers are going to have to accept that PayDay still has PC gamers at the top of the priority list. Despite it’s age there’s still loads there to enjoy in payday and Crimewave edition is the best way for console players to get stuck in. Just remember it’s not a new game and there’s only so much that a re-release can do. Bring on PayDay 3.

The latest film with enough money and cinematic clout to own a small country is out and we all know what that means. It’s time for another adventure through the block filled world of Lego. It’s been a successful formula for the most part, although with a few missteps, to have familiar gameplay and objectives with the latest license wrapped around it. I’ve been playing and loving Lego games since the first Lego Star Wars.

On top of that the original Jurassic Park was a significant part of my cinematic education growing up. Giant prehistoric creatures and ground breaking CG are always a winning combination. Despite the fact the series got worse with every new release the original will always have it’s place in my memory as a childhood classic. So Lego Jurassic World seems like a winning combo.

Screenshot_Level_1_E_large

Luckily for anyone that was a fan of the original films, LJW is as expansive as any other Lego title and covers every Jurassic Park film there is. When arriving at the island you can simply select which way to go; one way leads to the older films and the other to the new Jurassic World. Although it can be a bit of a pig at times to navigate your way through levels everything is on offer.

There’s something quite magical about driving the iconic red and grey 4 wheel drive through the first formidable gates of Jurassic Park. Soon you are confronted with the usual friendly Lego puzzles. In fact your very first challenge is a staple of the Lego games involving finding something to smash and then building something useful from the debris. Or more specifically smash everything that looks destructible so you can find which item you were supposed to smash, then build something from the debris. So on you go finding characters, both dinosaurs and people, and solving puzzles.

To anyone who hasn’t played a Lego game yet, and I can’t imagine there’s many left, there will be some fun solving the simple yet occasionally satisfying problems. For everyone else it’s the same old game again but with dinosaurs instead of whatever character set was in the latest Lego game you’ve played.

But the gameplay still has that classic Lego fun factor. It’s impossible to play LJW without having at least a little fun and probably a few laughs – even if you feel slightly guilty about finding something funny. It amazes me every time how Lego games can make me genuinely laugh. Controlling the dinosaurs isn’t quite as fun as hoped but without them running around as normal people with little in the way of abilities may have been dull. They look good and often work fine but can occasionally feel clunky and awkward, especially when rotating. Regardless I didn’t really enjoy playing as the dinosaurs and found it out of place to have a triceratops for a team member but that’s just me.

Screenshot_Level_3_B_large

That being said there is an obvious move away from the block busting combat (huh, geddit?) that was so prominent in previous titles. There is a much higher focus on the simple puzzles and switching between the different characters to achieve your goals. It’s not like switching from Hulk to Iron Man to Spider Man but hunters can follow hidden trails, zoologists can dive head first into dung and so on. Abilities are noticeably more subtle but that really should be the case given that most of the cast of Jurassic Park are reasonably normal people.

Visually the familiar shiny plastic bricks, inexplicably malleable characters and realistic backgrounds are still present. The appearance of Lego is definitely improving as time goes on but there’s nothing much new to look at so there isn’t much to excite. For some reason there are really strange audio clips from the movie that sound unbelievably hideous. It’s like someone found an MP3 running at the lowest bit rate possible then converted it a bunch of times and shoved it between a Dolby Digital soundtrack. It stands out so much and it’s just awful. I’ve never said this before but even the very worst voice actor impersonating the live actors would have been better. It’s nice to have the clips but the quality really is terrible.

Screenshot_Level_2_H_large

The problem with Lego is simple, it’s the same game every single time. There are always a few new features to get excited about but usually not for long. Essentially whichever game has your favourite license will be your favourite. And I like the Lego games. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them in the past and even enjoyed this one. But there comes a point when playing the same game has to start feeling stale. Until something changes in the gameplay or we see some new features I can’t help but feel I’m reviewing the same game each time.

Lego just refuses to improve and change. Even though the formula is strong and has created some really fun games it’s becoming old and boring. I had the same enthusiasm to get stuck in and begin another Lego game but it quickly faded after I’d done the same thing I’ve been doing for 10 years now. It’s the first time Lego’s charm, humour and clean fun have started to seem like they’re not enough to hold my interest. The Lego game formula is good but not invulnerable. Eventually it has to change and for me that time is long overdue.

Geralt has been through a lot during his past outings many moons ago; it’s a wonder he’s not a quivering wreck at the hands of some of the monstrous beasts he’s come up against. Especially so when you consider that he’s popped enough potions to tranquilize many a galloping steed. Either way, he’s back in CD Projekt RED’s, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, let’s jump in.

Straight off the bat, you’re treated to the inevitably awesome opening cutscene involving armies, murderous psycho birds and plenty of CGI goodness. After this, you’ll go through the usual tutorial section where the game explains how to use your vast array of tools in both offensive and defensive manners; it’s not long before you’re thrown in at the deep end and let loose upon the land.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_11_1920x1080_1433341623
That’s not the weapon you need out right now…

Following what could have been a perfectly avoidable ruckus in a bar, the game lets you roam far and wide in what I once considered to be a fairly large open map. I was wholly mistaken as once you progress further in the main storyline missions; you’ll get access to regions that literally dwarf the starting area many times over. It does however make a good starting point, as there are of course many side quests to take on at your leisure, as well as points of interest dotted about the map which are often more than worth your time to explore and discover. Ranging from quests, to hidden loot caches to free ability points, it’s no secret that it pays greatly to explore.

This unfortunately brings me to my first negative issue regarding the game, being that the main narrative held little interest to me in comparison to simply wandering the lush lands by foot or hoof. Exploring every nook and cranny in an RPG is often what piques my interest and gets my immersion levels up. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before my only goal was to see how far I could push forwards before the ever increasing levels of the enemies forced me back, tail firmly between my legs. The frankly incredible ambience of the game was tantamount to this experience however. I’ve certainly seen my fair share of games, but few compare to the visual experience you’ll encounter here. The hyperbole is true. Trees do actually bend and sway in the wind, sunlight will flicker and dance between branches, and packs of wolves will roam and hunt the wildlife. The weather and day/night cycle effects are gloriously fantastic.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_10_1920x1080_1433341622
Yes the lighting can often look this spectacular

Outside of the graphics, the almost intimidating map size and the inordinate amount of quests, how does the game actually play though? For a start, the combat system requires quite tactical thought and is most certainly unforgiving of mistakes. However much it may look like one, this isn’t your typical Western RPG. Fights are hard; you need preparation, knowledge of the enemy type, what it’s susceptible to and more importantly, patience. If you approach The Witcher 3 as though it were a button mashing frenzy, you’ll be seeing your fair share of (unfortunately) lengthy load times. There’s a quick strike, a heavy strike, five ‘spells’, bombs, a handheld crossbow that is only really useful in select scenarios, a dodge, block and a roll. Each of these needs mastering in of themselves, as nothing is every truly instant in the game. A quick attack may require the dextrous Geralt to spin closer to the enemy to get within range, whilst in the meantime; something unpleasant has already jumped on your face.

Mastering the combat in this game is challenging, enemies that are in a group of four or more are likely going kill you over and over again until you learn their patterns and make full use of your equipment and abilities. Learning which enemies you can block and which you should employ your dodge or roll against is also a matter of trial and improvement, but the largest advantage you have against your beastly foes are your Signs. Each of the five are unlocked from the start, but are of course in their most basic form. Igni pretty much does what you imagine; it tends to sets things on fire, occasionally with a burning effect that pretty much guarantees a victory against lesser enemies. Aard is a general pushback move that can help you gain a little space, sometimes even stunning or knocking your opponents over. Axii is a personal favourite of mine, essentially letting you stop the enemy in their tracks; plus later on you can gain the ability to turn them against their allies too. Quen pops a protective bubble around yourself that can absorb a hit, and Yrden is an area of effect glyph that slows enemies inside its radius. If you’re not using these in pretty much every fight, then you’re making unnecessarily hard work for yourself.

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_16_1920x1080_1433341627
This isn’t as rare a scene as you might hope

The slow, almost fastidious pace to the combat manifests itself in some slightly tedious ways whilst exploring however. There are a lot of loot-able containers in the world and seeing them in plain sight can be quite difficult due to their often innocuous appearances. Plain crates on the ground that you would ignore in any other game can often hold rare materials and upgrade parts for example. Your ‘Witcher senses’ can detect them whilst holding down a button, highlighting interactable’s with a yellow hue. Yet it also muddies the screen and alters your field of view, making it an annoyance to use whenever you wish to check out a room. That’s not quite the end of the story either, I found myself constantly having difficulties either picking herbs or generally scavenging due to the inertia and momentum of your character. This wouldn’t be an issue normally, but the radius for searching an object seems to be abnormally small and only appears when Geralt himself is looking at it, not just the camera. It’s a relatively small annoyance, but it did happen constantly throughout my playthrough.

The relaxed pace of the game will certainly surprise some in regards to upgrading and levelling up too. You gain experience very slowly in the game; with some quests giving as little as 10XP upon completion, considering you need 1000XP to level up, you shouldn’t be expecting to be shooting through the levels. Gear upgrades come at a leisurely pace too, I once owned the same tunic for over 6 hours of game time, normally this isn’t so much of a problem, save for when you look like a ‘wacky bard’ of course…

witcher3_en_screenshot_screenshot_14_1920x1080_1433341625
Kill it with fire!

For those who’ve not played the previous Witcher titles, you’ll not need to dredge through countless wiki pages to catch up. The game does a good job of keeping the lore intact too for those who’re privy to it; some characters also make a reappearance that’ll please fans of the series. What the game doesn’t do a fantastic job of explaining however, is your inventory management. Once you’ve expertly brewed a potion, provided you have alcohol in your inventory, it will apparently be automatically be replenished when you rest. Now aside from not being able to see any alcohol anywhere in my inventory, when I rested, sure enough my supplies got restocked. Does this mean I can discard my screens worth of alchemic components? I’m not entirely sure, it looks a mess in my inventory, one which kicks up a severe case of OCD, but so long as I try to not look at it too much, I can just about get by.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a sprawling metropolis of a game, to see everything it has to offer, you’ll be investing around 100 hours of play time. Combined with its deep yet accessible combat system, stunning day/night cycle and subsequent weather effects, you can easily lose an afternoon just via wandering. It lets itself down in terms of the main plot, what with each mission revolving around helping someone find information in exchange for ‘Yes she passed through here a while back’. And there are most certainly annoyances with scavenging, foraging and getting cross eyed due to your Witcher senses too. A little more assistance from the game in regards to what you should and shouldn’t sell would go far, as well as making the inventory screen a touch more responsive and organisable. The Witcher 3 is by no means an easy game; even on the normal difficulty you’ll find yourself at the behest of many a foe. Yet through patience, utilising everything at your disposal and most importantly, learning from your mistakes, you’ll find it very difficult to turn off.

If you often feel as though you aren’t being punished enough for simply progressing through a game’s storyline of late, or like many others, really got stuck into the excellent Bloodborne; then prepare to be castigated again. From Software is back, in a sense, to give us all another kick in the gaming teeth with the re-mastered Dark Souls II. Including all the previous DLC, running at 60fps and hopefully looking a little more refined, we could well be on to a winner here.

Whilst it certainly eases you in a little more gently, Dark Souls II still packs a wallop if you attempt to play it like any other game. Apparently completely forgetting what game I was playing, as soon as I gained control of my character, (after what still looked like an incredibly high budget intro scene many years on) I attempted to explore the wilderness stretching out before me. It wasn’t long before I’d found my first enemy, a giant troll looking character that, inevitably, beat me into submission several soul crushing times. I conceded defeat, and ruefully went about my business following the implied ‘proper’ way to go. From then on, it was a lot easier, there were instructions to heed, little notes informing you of the controls and many susceptible enemies in weak, vulnerable formations that don’t really occur ever again. I savoured this bit whilst it lasted, slowly remembering the horrors that yet await me.

FRPG2_2014_03_03_181932
Fight however you want, you’ll still die

After some nervous foraging and a visit to a disparate warrior complaining nervously about a stone statue blocking the path, I arrived in the hub town of Majula. A place with several branching paths, an unnervingly large pit complete with visible treasure, and a merchant selling a ring to reduce fall damage. I didn’t trust him or the pit, so I left. Oddly serene, Majula instantly felt welcoming due to its soft, never-ending sunset and mostly safe setting. Save for a few small, surprisingly aggressive pig resembling creatures that is. Once again, I will point out is that there is a very helpful woman who resides here, remaining as the only place where you may level up.

Veterans of the series will know exactly what to expect in terms of the combat mechanics, every move and decision you make during combat, even against the lesser foes, could spell disaster. It’s all about learning your opponent’s patterns and exploiting their occasionally wonky AI with your own timing and stamina management. Bosses are of their own unique styles and of course, possess challenges far beyond what you’ve come to face. Once you finally manage to slay one however, the elation is incomparable, until, much like many other RPG’s, they turn up as ‘normal’ enemies… Unlike how it originally arrived on the last gen consoles, Scholar of the First Sin runs at a silky 60fps now. Fortunately for us, this means less screaming at the game when it used to diddle us out of a few crucial frames during a particularly vicious battle in the past. Now if you die, it’s quite likely your own impatient fault!

The basic mechanics of the original release still remain of course, resting at a camp fire, you can fast travel to any other unlocked camp fire without any form of either payment nor punishment. Due to the layout of the world map, and all of its different routes and avenues to explore, you really don’t want to be wandering all the way back. Especially so when you consider that in this version, Scholar of the First Sin, enemy placements and even archetypes have been tinkered with, giving those who’ve already given the game a good seeing to, something unexpected to come across. Plus it makes the frequent and inevitable return trips to Manjula significantly less painful!

FRPG2_2014_03_05_115222
Everybody likes dragons

As before, numerous deaths will whittle away at your maximum health bar, up to 50% in fact; to replenish that lost health, you’ll have to use a human effigy, which are rare. Of course, the counter to this being that you can quell the amount of enemies in an area by repeatedly beating them to a pulp; whilst some may argue against this, I’ll take it. The last thing you need whilst stuck on an already, inherently difficult boss, is to either attempt to kill the horde of enemies along the way, or attempt to leg it past them, each and every time. For those, still on the fence regarding the controlled respawns, there is an item just for you that you can burn at a camp fire which will spawn more deadly variants to battle.

Whilst a player new to the series is always going to experience difficulties with a game like this, certain design choices don’t help along the way either. The menus, whilst archaic in looks, are filled with many, many stats that are going to go straight over most newcomers heads. Alongside this, items you acquire and come across are not named in any relative fashion to what you might expect of a traditional RPG. During the create a character stage, you are offered to pick one item from a list of gifts, most of which, inevitably sound useless yet presumably have a hidden function, accessible later in the game. I appreciate that the Dark Souls series has a reputation to uphold, but increasing the user base must also be of a benefit? I for one, would not be put off via the sheer difficulty of the game itself, but rather having to spend a few hours looking up what each item does, when you can use it and why. Some items, thankfully, are more readily accessible nearer the start of the game now, such as the dull ember, a minor health potion essentially. This for many will be a blessing when this time around; you only start off with one Estus flask.

Dark Souls II was never the prettiest game on the previous generation of consoles; the lighting issues alone were enough to irritate me, never mind the almost ‘rough’ looking finish the game shipped with. The spruced up current gen version certainly improves the majority of the games graphical imperfections, yet it’s of no match to any game designed from the ground up for current hardware. Torches seem more useful this time around, whereas before they were recommended by the game, yet for me at least they held little merit. Now they illuminate dark areas appropriately, casting shadows and the like, however I’d still take a shield in its place!

BattleWithMirrorKnight
Pretty sure you can guess which character is yours…

Online play, once again makes its return with players able to invade other peoples games, help them out or just add a further source of difficulty. The written notes also make a return, either signifying danger or, depending on the player, giving ‘helpful’ hints to others. Entering a certain covenant can also help protect you against these threats should the need arise, or you can play in offline mode to help limit game invasions, at the downside of missing out on what can make this franchise so unique.

Incorporating the DLC and tweaking item and enemy placements will grant even more playtime than the originals already healthy dosage. Newcomers can easily expect at least 60 hours out of it, and fans of the previous version will no doubt find any excuse to give it another run through, especially if they missed out on the DLC before. Whatever you might think of the Dark Souls series, this game isn’t going to change your opinion. If you’ve played and enjoyed the others, you’ll feel right at home; yes it undoubtedly improves on the last gen release with multiple benefits, yet as you might expect, it won’t hold a torch to Bloodborne.

I certainly couldn’t rank myself among one of The Evil Within’s biggest fans. I’m an old school survival horror fan and I know it. But the reliance on action and upgrades did nothing to excite me whatsoever in The Evil Within. The Assignment is the first of a two part story driven DLC that follows the story of Juli Kidman.

Gameplay takes a different approach from the action packed style of the main game and instead focuses attention entirely on stealth. Your only weapons are cover, distractions and the occasional attack that you can perform only when an enemy is looking away from you. You will absolutely be relying on avoiding engagements in The Assignment.

For the most part I preferred the pace of gameplay to the main game. Rather than wondering where the next upgrade was coming from and being required to kill all enemies before progressing I was instead reduced to crawling behind flower beds and sneaking through vents – where would video games be without vents? Generally speaking this provided a much more tense experience knowing full well that I couldn’t deal with the enemies if they discovered me.

Although to help her with these limitations Juli has a couple of all important improvements over Sebastian. The most obvious of which is probably her ability to regenerate health allowing her to say no to drugs and completely disregard syringes. Her other bonus is her ability to move better than Sebastian. After a few brief seconds of running Juli doesn’t have the need to bend over, grab her knees and breath as if she was just recovered from a lake – thankfully.

BloodyFeast_wLegal

Her abilities are mitigated somewhat, however, by certain aspects of The Assignment’s design. While regenerating health would have been an unbelievable blessing during the main game it has far less relevance in The Assignment. If you get detected it will most likely be a game over. Enemies don’t like giving up the chase and they are out to kill you plain and simple. More often than not you will only be able to withstand 1 attack with the second being a fatal blow. Where the main game has the time for you to search around for syringes it would have completely killed the pace in The Assignment. Regenerating health is a pacing design choice rather than an added ability and it helps the flow of gameplay along nicely.

The only source of frustration I found was in executing movements between cover or round corners. On occasion The Evil Within (main game and DLC alike) can be an absolute pig to handle. It’s not such a problem when you’ve got an arsenal of weapons to fall back on but it’s a huge problem when you don’t. You’re only so called weapon in The Assignment is your ability to run away and hide which is awkward to use when you get stuck on a door frame or stuck in cover. Everything is just a little bit too clumsy for the stealth to ever really work as well as you’d like.

FlashlightDiscovery_wLegal

The 4 hours I played as Juli were brief but entirely enjoyable. The increased sense of vulnerability and threat from your lack of weapons is something that was clearly missing from the main game. It’s almost impossible to have any real fear of an enemy you kill with X amount of Y ammo. The gameplay can be a little frustrating with quick deaths and clunky controls but the tension is higher than in the main game because of it. With an interesting story to explore as the vaguely mysterious Juli (fantastically voice acted by Jennifer Carpenter) The Assignment is a great extension to The Evil Within.

A game that revolves entirely around boss fights isn’t an unknown concept. Titan Souls follows in the enormous shadow created by certain well known Colossus and concentrates solely on fighting bosses. You play as a nameless child armed with only a bow and a single arrow who decides that’s probably enough preparation to go and take on the big nasty things that live in the world. I’m pretty sure more arrows would have been useful.

Except you have a rather nifty trick at your disposal. Once you’ve fired your arrow you can recall it and fire it again. Useful. You can also roll around and sprint but that’s the limit to your Jedi powers. Playing a top down action game with this limited set of skills is Titan Souls’ key to success. The gameplay is, mechanically speaking, very limited. There are no complicated button sequences or level ups and stats. Just you, your few skills and the fact that everyone, you and the bosses, all have only 1 health.

The first few fights are reasonably forgiving, at least when you compare them to the rest of the game, and try in a limited way to introduce you to the core gameplay. Just like the action, Titan Souls is very simple conceptually. A series of bosses for you to kill. Each one has only 1 health and all you need to do is find its weak spot, not get hit and successfully attack it. Then you can move onto the next one.

But it’s amazing how much complexity can emerge from such simplicity. The bosses are all different enough that you never get the sense of repetition that could easily have ruined the game. The first few bosses are reasonably obvious although probably only after a death or two. The first splits when you attack so speed is key. Another needs you to lead the enemy around the map to reveal a weak spot. One needs you to use an environmental effect and so on.

There’s loads of variation and there’s never anything other than the simple mechanics and the same single health point system. There isn’t that one boss that has 5 health and you never briefly acquire jump boots or a jetpack. Titan Souls has an incredible robust and well designed set of mechanics and it’s confident enough to stay true to itself and use them effectively.

Titan-Souls---Screen-2

But that also means that aside from the boss fights there is nothing else to do in Titan Souls. Which is great in one way but also limits its potential. I love that it stays focused and doesn’t get clouded by anything else. It really lets the battles shine. But the world ultimately acts as a hub for fighting bosses with no interaction at all. Random enemies would not have worked but there aren’t even people to talk to in the world.

There isn’t really much in the way of a story either. I understand the very deliberate design and the aim of the game to stay minimal and focused but the vague hint of a plot is underdeveloped and my playthrough suffered from it. It’s difficult to say it’s a problem because the entire point of Titan Souls is to avoid these complications but for those who want plot or character development you will probably be left wanting.

So too will those looking for longevity. There are some options that become available after completion but they really weren’t anything that appealed to me. In fact their inclusion seems to have had zero thought at all. One option disables your roll which is just ridiculous. It’s not fun on any level. There is challenge to be had from executing your attacks but the main challenge is from solving the bosses ‘puzzle’. Once you’ve completed them during your first playthrough there’s a lot less satisfaction to be had.

Titan-Souls---Screen-5

Playing through and figuring out bosses is a fantastic experience. The gameplay is solid and finding a boss’s weakness isn’t patronizing. Executing your attacks and successfully defeating an enemy is tough and you know it from the sense of satisfaction you get after each victory. The deliberate trade off of plot and world design for solid mechanics is partially successful but it does leave Titan Souls with something missing.

There’s really no significant plot to wrap yourself in or characters to talk to. Personally I think it works but it’s not for everyone. Your nameless protagonist and the absence of complex plot elements really allow Titan Souls to focus on the minimalist concepts and mechanics. But without much replay value there isn’t a whole lot to do after the initial 5 hours or so.

Titan Souls is a short but satisfyingly challenging boss fest with tons of style and impeccably well crafted top down action gameplay. It may be short and lacking in some respects but my first playthrough was so satisfying it didn’t matter.

After the resounding success that was Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD my interest in Final Fantasy has certainly been renewed. It’s a shame making new titles doesn’t have the same effect but never the less Square finally seem to be getting the idea. Type-0 was originally released on the PSP back in 2011 and now you can enjoy it in the glory of HD. Sure there are other Final Fantasy games I’d rather see in HD but ah well.

Right from the word go Type-0 concentrates almost all of its attention on characterization and plot. And it doesn’t do a bad job of it either. For Final Fantasy the story is reasonably realistic and focuses on military campaigns rather than apocalyptic monsters and world ending magic. Type-0 certainly doesn’t hold back and isn’t afraid to lay the emotion on thick. The characters are just interesting enough to keep it all together but it’s cutscenes and the strong soundtrack that really sell the emotion.

The plot itself is much less interesting. It never develops into anything even close to complicated enough to really suck you in. There’s definitely some interesting characters and emotional set pieces but getting involved in the larger story takes too much effort without any real reward. There isn’t enough complexity to allow the connections with characters to become anything significant.

screenshot01

Despite the undoubtedly good soundtrack that reminds us why we all love the music of Final Fantasy the visuals just aren’t good enough to let Type-0 feel at home on the big screen. Admittedly there’s only so much you can expect when coming from a PSP but it’s all too obvious that Type-0 doesn’t belong. It’s not just the visuals either that are low quality and dated but the controls and mechanics at the core of the game.

I regularly had to battle with the camera which constantly thought it knew better and decided to centre itself at will. More often than not pointing me away from my enemies and towards nothing at all interesting. It doesn’t complement the action well to be continuously fighting the camera and at times it became a significant problem.

The action itself is light and fast paced in a way only a Japanese game knows how. And Type-0 knows how to use it well. Battles are short but lively and always keep the excitement high. If you’re wanting fast paced, cinematic action then Type-0 doesn’t disappoint. There isn’t much in the way of depth so don’t expect much difficulty or strategy to become part of your fighting.

Favouring impossibly quick, and unnecessary, flips and rolls isn’t a problem at all but forgetting about adding any tactical depth to the fighting is a big turn off for me. There’s also a timing system that allows you to perform much stronger attacks with the use of a bit of precision but it’s no replacement for strategy. Although it does lend a sense of character connection and power when you get it just right.

screenshot05

One of FFXIII-2’s biggest most ridiculous sins for me was enforcing the totally arbitrary time limit that forced you to chose what to do. For some reason Type-0 does the same thing, although it was technically made first. I absolutely hate exploring an area and knowing that I can’t complete everything just because the game says so. In something like XCOM were decisions are tactical fair enough. Here in an RPG having to miss sections of the game for no reason is just ridiculous. There’s no risk/reward, you just miss something no matter what you do.

Not all sections suffer from the time limit and when you’re left to enjoy and explore at your own pace the environments are well designed – at least enough that you feel there is a world here somewhere. Being an action based title there clearly wasn’t much in the way of priority given to exploration and world creation but during those moments Type-0 does a decent job of allowing you to enjoy the world.

screenshot02

For me Type-0 has almost nothing I want in a Final Fantasy game. It favours button mashing and spectacle over thoughtful battles. It puts limits on the amount of extras you can complete in a single playthrough. The plot is solid but underdeveloped and doesn’t make enough use of the characters. There are also issues derived from Type-0’s PSP origins. The camera is awkward and rarely helps you see anything important. Plus visuals don’t feel like they received enough HD treatment to belong on consoles – which is particularly irritating considering what Square managed to do with the X/X-2 HD remaster.

Where Type-0 excels is perhaps the last place you might expect, in evoking emotion and making good use of a fully fledged soundtrack. The more realistic (everything is relative) story of war is met head on and I was surprised at how well it was represented. For a game usually concerned with demons and gods I was pleasantly surprised by Type-0’s fresh outlook.

Unfortunately there are too many missteps for me to forgive. I enjoyed the cutscenes, listening to the music and summons are definitely back on form but getting back to the gameplay drained any remaining enthusiasm. It’s too difficult to enjoy button mashing and get involved in the battles. A serious battles system would have done a lot to get me more involved. If you want fast, satisfying action, heaps of emotion and a simple plot Type-0 is your game. If you’re looking for a serious RPG sadly you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Not content with the current unforgiving onslaught of Assassin’s titles that do little to move the franchise forward Ubisoft now bring you Chronicles: China. Moving away from the intricate open worlds of full titles Chronicles is a 2D scroller set, rather obviously, in China. But Assassin’s Creed is Assassin’s Creed and try though I might to resist I still get hooked into every new game.

My biggest problem with the franchise is the lack of direction and seemingly zero intention of pursuing the ultimate ending we are assured is planned. It definitely seems the primary goal is to squeeze games out at any cost. The move into a 2D world feels more like this than ever. There’s really very little attempt at a plot other than a token reason for you to go around assassinating certain people to retrieve an item. Fair enough I wasn’t expecting much in the way of plot for a 2D scroller but there’s little to no attempt at injecting the larger Assassin’s Creed world around Chronicles. It’s very much a stand alone addition with little connection to the wider story and lore. Other than the fact our protagonist was trained by Ezio. Again. Apparently.

Considering gameplay is completely different to anything else we’ve seen before it does a surprisingly good job of mimicking the 3D world. Most of your time is spent sneaking around to slip past guards or killing them silently. There’s also the opportunity for open fights should you want them. The lack of depth that a 3D world allows does become a problem before too long though. Even during some full AC titles the missions can become repetitive but with the limited possibilities to either slink into the background or hide in a hay bale action quickly becomes repetitive.

This isn’t helped by the fact that guards are really quite dense. And I’m talking by AC standards. There are convenient sight lines strutting from every guards face that allow you to sneak past easily – which isn’t hard given that all the guards seem to be badly short sighted. It’s fun for a while even if it is a little on the easy side but after an hour or so I expected a ramp in difficulty. Unfortunately the mechanics are just so limited that there isn’t any room for a difficult ramp.

Right up to the end of the game puzzles and solutions are still exactly the same. There’s a real opportunity for a game that makes you think within the AC world. I’m thinking Hitman GO but Assassin’s Creed. As it happens there wasn’t even enough challenge and different puzzles to keep me interested for the 5 hours of the game.

ACC_Combat_ForbiddenCity_174213

Ironically the most fun I had goes completely against the thinking game and was actually during the fighting or escape scenes. Hopping from ledge to ledge, back ejecting and diving from impossible heights was when Chronicles came to life. It’s also when it best mimicked one of its 3D counterparts. It’s the last place I expected to find enjoyment but there it was.

The combat is appropriately simple but satisfying too. I was always a fan of AC when it’s combat was simple and basically made you feel like a complete badass. With a few elegantly thrown punches and high kicks your foes are cut down. It’s not challenging but it is fun. Sadly just like the rest of the game there isn’t space for expansion or evolution of mechanics as the game progresses. Before the end the magic had worn off.

One thing Chronicles definitely has going for it right up to the end is style. There is a gorgeous Asian artwork style to blood splatters when you take enemies out and cutscenes look like living paintings. Chronicles looks undeniably good throughout.

ACC_Running_Landscape_174217

But it’s difficult to remain interested in a game that shamelessly does nothing to engage the player. The completely missed opportunity for a puzzle game or an expanded version of the management style mini games within the full titles baffles me. I cannot see why Ubisoft opted for this instead. Decent stealth puzzles with a real challenge would have been infinitely more desirable than a four hour guard slaughter with very limited mechanics.

At only 4 or 5 hours long Chronicles still gets boring before the end. Chronicles really just feels like another needless AC tie in that forgets the wider franchise. It’s not that it’s a bad game and I certainly had fun at points. There just isn’t enough interesting gameplay or plot in chronicles to really get involved.

Whilst certainly on a roll from the past two episodes, it’s now the time of the tricky third album. Can Telltale pull it out the bag and expand on the ever intriguing storyline?

jon-and-gared-1920x1080
Brothers, but for how long?

Of course they can, once again; as soon as the infallible intro music has run its course, you’re in for another couple of hours’ worth of relentlessly capturing gameplay. Whilst of course the mechanics haven’t been altered, it still feels like fresh new content, mostly in part due to the addictive narrative styling of the writers. As is evident from the teasers, and the previous episodes ‘next time on…’ section, one of the first few sequences pits you up against a fabled dragon in another of Asher’s well-choreographed action scenes. Not only are there choices aplenty, but several have meaningful consequences that you might well not have the foresight to see.

As per usual, each of the Forrester’s storylines are intertwined with excellent pacing and depth. No sooner have you reached yet another inevitable stumbling block for the poor House Forrester, when the arch twists and turns before presenting another character embroiled in their own plight. The focus on this episode seems geared much more towards the potential of intertwined goals from each member than before. Characters will reference one another’s tasks whilst not so subtly implying that the outcome of which will have meaningful consequences on one another.

Whilst there are still the infamous QTE fight scenes, they’re handled with much more respect to the action this time around. It admittedly helps that the fights you engage in are often with characters that are much more meaningful than generic guards. Emotions will be high as you stick up for friends and attempt to follow vows, even they do contradict what you might be feeling at the time. The developers have also done an excellent job of making the QTE’s less arduous and seemingly more related to what’s happening on screen. A lunge for a blade feels a lot more natural this time around for example.

drogon-cave-1920x1080
Surprise!

It’s not only the conversations that embed problematic decisions anymore either. Several times during one of the excellently composed fight scenes, you are presented with an opportunity to decide where on your opponent to strike, do you show them mercy, or are the atrocities they’ve committed too large to ignore?

Opportunities to explore your surroundings appear to be less and less available as the season progresses, but whereas before this might’ve been a problem, now it simply help the game flow and lets it dictate its own pace. There’ll be the odd section where you can have yourself a little wander and muse about the surroundings, but for the most part, it’s all about the brutal conversations and their dreaded repercussions.

Without trying to give too much away, things are still dire for House Forrester. The injured Rodrick steals the scenes most often with his dwindling grasp of Ironwrath due to the invasion of the Whitehills; humility and self-preservation being the forefront of his set of decisions. Asher and his companions still struggle with regards of finding an army who’ll answer the call and Mira gets progressively fleshed out as she interacts with members of the Lannister family; inevitably becoming torn between the obvious two powerhouses. Gared continues his goal of searching for the mythical North Grove at the bequest of the fallen, and of course has numerous interactions with a certain Mr. Snow. You get the feeling that this is certainly the midpoint of the season due to all the trails being fully explored and realised; whilst this does come at the cost of potential newer narrative arch’s, it does bring aboout the plight of each characters struggles sinking in.

tree-1920x1080
A tree worthy of nightmares

Despite the ever enjoyable writing and story-lines, the technical side of things isn’t nearly as polished. The brushed art style looks discernibly great at times, whereas in others, it’s starting to show its age. Some character animations are a little stiff and aside from the fight scenes, it can look a tad awkward. The frame rate can suffer at times too, as can the lip synching, it’s not a huge problem, but it’s certainly noticeable.

The amounts of difficult and thought-provoking choices are definitely a forte of the writers and there’s no sign of them slowing down anytime soon. Episode three continues the trend of the series and shows once again that great writing alone, can make a great game.

With the giant void left by the undeniably disappointing city builder that shall remain unnamed (*cough* Sim City *cough*) I for one was left with an itch to scratch. Luckily the lovely people over at Colossal Order have just the answer for us. Moving forward from the great Cities in Motion games they decided to have a go at a fully fledged city builder. All be it winner of the ‘Most Awkwardly Named Game 2015’ award.

Taking your first steps into a city can be an intimidating experience, particularly if tutorials are over intrusive or under developed. There’s a lot of tools and a lot to learn. Across the bottom of the screen is a toolbar that contains all the stuff you need to create your city. Initially there is only a limited selection for you to play with. As your population grows more tools become available and the pacing is just perfect.

Features like global policies that can reduce power consumption or increase fire safety are introduced at a rate that never feels like a bombardment. The same goes for buildings and services. Rather than a sit down and read endless pop-ups style tutorial features are gradually introduced so that only small explanations are needed at each stage. It really lets you get hooked even during those often tedious early learning stages.

screenshot_3_3

Another reason Skylines is so fun straight from the start is that each and every tool you use is so effortless. From square one I created a dual carriageway with streets set to one way traffic, a junction and a satisfyingly freeform residential block. I didn’t get stuck or have to continuously remove and relay sections of the road. I just clicked on the tool and started building. I did all this in the first 5 minutes of gameplay.

There’s a zone system used that is very similar to everyone’s favourite Sim City game. But again the tools are there for you to make your life easy. Streets come ready equipped with grids attached that you can either paint one square at a time, use a paint brush tool or even a fill tool to create entire blocks easily. Then waiting just a little time everything comes to life as buildings are erected and citizens go about their daily lives.

Linking up electricity and water facilities is satisfyingly simple too. Once you’ve created your water pump each property will need connecting up with pipes. Once again in the interest of user friendliness pipes have a decent sized radius around them and any areas within it will have sewage pumped away and fresh water in. Pylons too are needed to connect each area to your power plants but it is assumed that cables come included to transfer the power locally so you don’t need to spend hours connecting every single building. In fact my little town had power, water and sewage needs sorted within minutes. Even 20 minutes in I had a decent little town starting to thrive.

All this simplicity isn’t to imply that Skylines isn’t complex. Underneath the user friendly interface there are a set of menus and tables that reveal some of the numbers that lie beneath. Finances, happiness, healthcare, education, crime and transport are all detailed enough to make Skylines worthy of any city building fan. That swing meter balancing act is calculated just as well as the intentionally paced introduction of tools.

screenshot_7_3

Another major victory for Skylines is the potential size of your city. At first appearance it looks to be OK. Nothing special but probably about the same size as Sim City allowed. But, and it’s a giant unmissable BUT, Skylines allows you to expand and include multiple city-sized tiles in one giant city. So once you’re city is big enough, you can expand and make it bigger. Rather than be forced to stop and never play again.

Once your city grows the districting tool starts to become very important. It allows you to paint an area, select the relevant policies and even allows you to select an industrial specialization. For example, you can make an industrial zone agricultural or just leave it general. Each area is automatically given a realistic sounding name and referencing different parts of your city by districts adds a nice layer of realism.

The only thing that some may not like is the slightly sandbox style, especially later in the game. Once the learning curve and introduction of tools is done with there are very little objectives to give you direction. If you’re quite happy developing a city and have enough self motivation to keep going then Skylines will not be a problem. It definitely provides you with enough space and tools to create whatever city you like. But those looking for an objective driven experience may be left wanting. For many the sandbox way will be a plus point but everyone else optional objectives to follow wouldn’t have done any harm.

screenshot_2_1

Skylines knows what other games have done wrong and pulls no punches in getting it absolutely right. Colossal Order also have more than their fair share of experience working with Cities and know how to use that experience. The ‘miniature village’ style is gorgeous and intricately detailed. You can even see people leaving houses, getting in cars and driving around. There’s a real eye for detail that you can see in Skylines if you’re willing to look. Another big winner is the size of the city. Knowing that you can keep expanding at least for five entire city sized tiles is relieving.

But there’s no doubt at all that the key to Skyline’s success is in the design of its interfaces and tools. Every element of the interface is simple and fun. I didn’t need to remove and relay roads or demolish incorrectly placed pipes. It didn’t take painstaking hours to hook everyone up with water and power. Every tool is just a joy to use. Making sure the tools you’re given to build the city with are accessible and fun to use was no mistake and Skylines gets it right every step of the way.

 

With the monumental cult and critical success of both Demon’s and Dark Souls, director Hidetaka Miyazaki has certainly carved out quite the brutal niche with his blend of punishing, yet rewarding gameplay that harkens back to a time when games relied much more upon skill and patience. The Playstation 4 exclusive ‘Bloodborne’ hopes to carry the established formula over to the current generation; providing yet another proving ground for those with the willingness to accept failure and learn from it.

There are a great number of differences between this and a ‘Souls’ game; whilst not all of them are initially apparent, they certainly set Bloodborne apart from its spiritual, DNA ridden counterparts. The first similarity you’ll notice is the character creation screen; despite the sheer dominance of intimidating numbers, new players will simply do well focusing ideally on strength and endurance for the time being. Veterans on the other hand will know the relative unimportance of some stats, and how to compensate for the occasional lowly attribute. Experience, in more ways than one, is key. After you’ve struggled for half an hour googling a suitably Gothic name, you’ll be set to go; chest puffed out and determined not to be killed by the first enemy you encounter…

hunter_1426607870
You’ll quickly learn to hate these things

The bad news for you is that Bloodborne has other ideas up its sleeve. You will likely die in your first fight, mainly because you’ll be fighting an enormous hound with just your bare mitts. Thankfully, this is just one of few ‘helping hints’ from the developers to put the idea in your head early on, that you will not only die often, but that you should learn from your mistakes. If all goes according to their sadistic plan, you’ll awaken in the only safe haven in the game, the spectral realm of the Hunter’s Dream. Enjoy the peace and tranquillity whilst you can, as there’s soon no choice but to venture out into the unknown with your tail stuck firmly between your quivering legs.

Much akin to Bloodborne’s spiritual predecessors, other players can leave daubing’s of text behind in order to help, trick, or in the case of the start of the game, placate others. The starting, gloriously Gothic section of Yharnam is designed to break you. In the immediate opening of the game, enemies shamble alone or are at most grouped in twos, get past this bit however, and you’ll hit a wall. Barely 15 minutes into the game will you encounter a monolithic grouping of enemies that goes well beyond double figures. Scrawled across the floor are encouraging messages of perseverance that will likely do nothing to put your mind at ease, despite how right they are. Get past this section for the first time and you’ll have a feeling of accomplishment unlike little else.

If you do go for the manly/brave/stupid approach of slaughtering everything in sight, it’s actually a remarkably unspoken tutorial of how to intelligently take on a diverse pack of enemies. However, instead of the game helpfully explaining exactly what to do in each scenario, you’re left to your own wits and grace. Trial and error will undoubtedly be little consolation at the start, but you will subconsciously improve and get better to a point where you can comfortably get through fifteen or so torch wielding madmen in minutes not hours. Much like the Souls’ games before it, your gathered experience will be dropped on your first death and lost for good should you die again before reclaiming it too. A quick cheeky tip being that if you can’t find your stash of Blood Echos, it’s worth looking into the eyes of nearby enemies, as that may well indicate who’s wandered off with them…

Screen_6_1426158653
A little help can go a long way

Aggressive play is actively encouraged in Bloodborne due to the alterations in mechanics. There are no shields, armour penalties or sarcastic circle strafe bouts in Bloodborne; instead, you’re much more nimble and nippy on your feet. Where once you would be wise to play passively, it’s now much more visceral, especially taking into account that you can recover a small amount of damage taken should you attack an enemy (with a melee strike) in the following short window. That’s not to say it’s lost the rewardingly punishing difficulty it’s famed for, it’s just played at a seemingly quicker pace. Dodges, rolls and sidesteps are your best friends now. You’ll not only still have to memorise enemy attack patterns and adapt to new scenarios, but also master the new weapon and combo system too. Your chosen weapon can transform at the touch of a button to help adapt to different styles, often at the expense of speed. Wielding the shorter ranged option however, lets you also equip a gun. Before doubts arise regarding how overly powerful these are, I’ll state straight away that they’re often at their best when used to interrupt an enemy attack. You may well find and acquire more powerful variants, but their limited ammo and surprisingly useful close quarters ability ensures you won’t be performing any 360 no-scopes anytime soon.

Despite the synonymous thoughts of difficulty with a game like this, it would do Bloodborne a disservice not to delve into the architecturally fascinating world of Yharnam and its inhabitants. Whilst by no means the best looking game on the market in terms of fidelity and frame rate, the attention to detail and general artistic design more than makes up for any minor shortcomings. The layout is designed in such a way that you’re mostly funnelled along a fairly linear path, of course with many an offshoot hiding both beasts and rewards, yet without feeling constrained. The lack of checkpoints is gracefully handled by shortcuts back to previous areas, giving the feeling of both progression and it conforming to a hub-like world where everywhere is interconnected. Enemy designs, whilst rarely fundamentally unique, are always well thought out and artistically stunning; needless to say, boss designs are often the highlight.

Chalice_Dungeon_5_1426158641
Something to look forward to in a Chalice Dungeon…

Whilst it may not be the longest RPG in a single run, there’s plenty to keep you occupied both before and after you’ve seen the credits roll. On top of the excellent new game plus system, there are also the somewhat undersold multiplayer offerings in the form of procedurally generated dungeons filled with bosses, treasure and hordes of enemies. These ‘Chalice Dungeons’ can be played solo, cooperatively with a few people or even competitively. The game’s invasion system returns with a risk/reward mechanic too, using a consumable, players can receive assistance from nearby others to assist with bosses and the like, at the expense of potentially allowing an unwelcome incursion from another player. Should you wish to, there’s also an offline mode to safely guarantee you’ll be playing alone.

Once more, Hidetaka Miyazaki and his development team of From Software have created another punishingly addictive piece. Yes, it’s still not going to be for everyone due to the inherent difficulty level; and it does come with a few minor irritants such as when you die, you essentially have to sit through two loading screens, but it’s worth it. Bloodborne is a game where you’ll die to frustrating circumstances, attempt to blame anything but yourself, and still look forward to trying it again. It’s designed to punish you at the start, to make you learn, adapt and struggle. Get past the beginning section a few times and you’ll struggle to turn it off.

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.

bfhl_screens_030615_airboat_chase_final_wm

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.

bfhl_screens_030315_bank_heist_drill_final_wm

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.

bfhl_screens_030615_junk_in_the_trunk_final_wm

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.

2_PS4_HELLDIVERS_Bug_Attack_1424778465
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.

1_PS4_HELLDIVERS_Deck_Alert_1424778464
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.

4_PS4_HELLDIVERS_Cyborg_Snow_Truth_Transmitter_1424778466
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…

Web Search

SOCIAL

2,745FansLike
5,349FollowersFollow
14,360SubscribersSubscribe

LATEST REVIEWS