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Matt Gardner

First Contact | The Red Solstice - Mars Attacks

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Early Access, First Contact, Ironward, Nkidu, PC games, The Red Solstice, Videos

First Contact | The Red Solstice - Mars Attacks

The Red Solstice is a top-down, real-time, tactical, 8-player, co-op survival game. Man that was long. It feels a little like XCOM meets Commandos in some ways, though with faster pacing, dynamic events, and pop-up objectives.

It's also confusing as hell.

Set in the distant future, across a Martian landscape ravaged by war, you're greeted by the gravelliest of gravelly voices intoning some guff about a massive storm and alien beasties. It's fairly difficult to take him seriously. I jumped into a multiplayer game straight away, which was a terrible mistake as everyone apart from myself and another poor noobish soul ran off and immediately began hoarding all of the items, and we had absolutely no idea what the hell we were supposed to be doing.

First Contact | The Red Solstice - Mars Attacks

We'll save the multiplayer stuff for a Game Night in the recent future.

Thankfully, The Red Solstice has a tutorial prologue level, which I quickly jumped into after a massive alien ate everyone on my team, to help players get to grips with the basics. It's a fairly complex game, not helped by a control system that can seem a little overly convoluted at times. It handles a little like a clunky MMO in some ways -- the plethora of instructions available can be a little overwhelming in real-time -- but a few replays on, and I began to get used to it.

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VIDEO | Rewriting History with the Dragon Age Keep

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
BioWare, Dragon Age Keep, Dragon Age: Inquisition

VIDEO | Rewriting History with the Dragon Age Keep

My body is ready for Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’ve been one of the loudest detractors of Dragon Age II in recent years, but I loved Origins and the world that BioWare created has proven to be enormously compelling. Frankly, after the expansive nature of Origins, it was precisely the fact that DA2 kept me locked behind the four walls of Kirkwall or in cookie-cutter dungeons that I began to dislike that game so much.

But Dragon Age Keep has, in many ways, reminded me of all the goodness of Dragon Age II. For all of its many faults, it gave you the reins to shape the society and standing of Kirkwall over a long period of time, and that was relatively fascinating to behold.

VIDEO | Rewriting History with the Dragon Age Keep

For the Dragon Age veteran, the Keep is a refresher steeped in hard choices and difficult decisions. Unfortunately, the open beta doesn’t allow for save game imports, but it does encourage veterans and newcomers alike to explore the narrative branches of Origins and its sequel (and all of the DLC for that matter, whether you bought and played the additional content or not). There are over 300 decisions to make, in order to shape the world of the upcoming Dragon Age: Inquisition, and I made a little video illustrating exactly what Dragon Age Keep is all about.

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Game Night | Titanfall - Frontier Defense is AWESOME!

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
FPS games, Game Night, PC games, Titanfall, Videos

Jon's been telling us for weeks that we should jump back into Titanfall, largely thanks to the hefty recent content drop and the addition of a PvE horde mode of sorts, and we finally Titan'd up for some Game Night shenanigans.

It might just be the crushing disappointment and hollow feeling that Destiny has left me with, but frankly this was an utter blast. Frontier Defense is a cracking (FREE) addition to the delightfully smooth gameplay package, and it's clear that Respawn have really made a concerted effort over the past few months to make the game sparkle. The lobbies and customisation options have been tweaked in all of the right ways, matchmaking actually seems to work (and the countdown timers have been decreased), and Frontier Defense shakes things up in a great way, throwing Suicide Spectres and Arc Titans into the fray.

I have to say, though, that I really, desperately wish I had an Xbox One after this Game Night. Titanfall plays so incredibly well on PC, but really its a game that lends itself completely to the couch-oriented console experience. Still, this was an absolute blast, and I'm pretty sure Carl and I will certainly be joining Jon in dipping into it frequently over the next few weeks.

If COD doesn't blow us away, that is. That now has Titans too.

Grab the Valve Complete Pack for under a tenner at Green Man Gaming

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Deals
Tags:
Half Life, PC games, Portal, Valve Complete Collection

Grab the Valve Complete Pack for under a tenner at Green Man Gaming

Valve Complete Pack | Green Man Gaming | £9.75
Use code: SLICKD-EALS22-OFFGMG

Cheaper than Steam, packed with Portal perfection, heaving with the history Half-Life, teeming with the tremendousness of Team Fortress, layered with the lustre of Left 4... you get the idea. The Valve Complete Pack can now be had for under a tenner on Green Man Gaming, but remember to use the code above to knock 20% off of the current price.

Thanks Ilium!

Nab superb SHMUP Sine Mora for just 80p on PC at Bundle Stars

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Deals
Tags:
PC games, SHMUPs, Sine Mora

Nab superb SHMUP Sine Mora for just 80p on PC at Bundle Stars

Sine Mora | Bundle Stars | 80p |Sine Mora Review

Sine Mora is a cracking little SHMUP, with a soundtrack composed by Akira Yamaoka and boss designs by Mahiro Maeda, and now you can nab it for under a quid. The code redeems on Steam, the game is a little beauty with some nice time-bending mechanics, and if you like your bullet hell shooters, you really ought to give this a bash.

Nosgoth Interview | Cat Karskens on open beta, Devil's Night, Noscam, and the Summoner

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
F2P, Interviews, Nosgoth, PC games, Psyonix, PvP, Square Enix, Videos

We haven't checked in officially with Square Enix's humans-vs-vampires, team-based, slay-em-up -- Nosgoth -- for some time now. But with the game on the cusp of moving into open beta this winter, and with a host of tweaks and improvements having been made to the game in recent months, I sat down this week with Community Manager Cat Karskens to have a bit of a natter.

Throughout the last few days, Nosgoth has been enjoying the Halloween-themed Devil's Night event, delivering random drops of ghostly goodness for players, and unique items that are only obtainable this week, but will last permanently once collected. I talk to Karskens about the ongoing festivities, the feedback that Psyonix and the team at Square Enix have been receiving, where the game is headed in terms of improved features and new classes, and how accessibility and monetisation will shift once the open beta begins.

You can check out the official site here.

The Morning Papers | 30/10/14 - Bedtime with Nintendo

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
News
Tags:
The Morning Papers

The Morning Papers | 30/10/14 - Bedtime with Nintendo

Morning all! Nintendo have finally detailed some of the stuff they've been working on regarding the "quality of life" projects that Iwata mentioned earlier this year. Apparently, Nintendo is designing a non-contact sensor that sits beside your bed and watches you sleep. If they cross this sort of technology with Amiibo, a creepy version of Toy Story could feasibly become a real thing.

Elsewhere, Elite Dangerous has gotten a massive update that includes fuel scooping from stars, Dragon Age Keep finally enters open beta, and the super-shiny cinematics for Halo 2: Anniversary are looking gloriously pretty.

In case you missed it...

Inkle on Adaptation, Steampunk, and Writing Interactive Romance | Interactive Narratives - 80 Days, Part 2

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
80 Days, Adaptations, Inkle Studios, Interactive Narratives, Romance, Steampunk, Videos

Last week, we took a look at the masterful 80 Days and how Inkle went about making such a text-heavy experience work on mobile platforms. As promised, here's part two of my chat with the developers behind the game. This time, we were joined by the game's writer -- Meg Jayanth -- to talk about the intertextual side of things, and the literary nature of adapting a century-old novel into a game laden with player choices.

If you're at all interested in the craft of creating branching, interactive narratives, this week's video is fundamental viewing/listening as Jayanth and Jon Ingold talk about the research and structural processes behind one of the finest games of the year, describing how the steampunk elements of the game came into being, and how some of Verne's outdated social considerations (or lack thereof) were updated for a more modern audience in this game. Finally, we talk more broadly about romance in video games, the subtleties of trying to cultivate relationships through virtual narratives, and how games might approach sexuality better going forwards.

This might just be my favourite interview that I've ever done. It's quite a long one, though, so for the sake of navigation, here's a little list of contents:

Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven't already!

How To Survive: Storm Warning Edition Review | One Life Left

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
505 Games, Eko Software, How to Survive, How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition, PS4 games, Survival games, Xbox Games

How To Survive: Storm Warning Edition Review | One Life Left

When Brendan reviewed the last-gen version of How To Survive last year, he found it to offer "ten hours of tropical islands to explore, enjoyable combat, and a moreish RPG grind to keep you foraging for new zombie-killing tools" and serve up a worthwhile way to kick one's virtual heels while waiting for the arrival of the PS4 and Xbox One. Twelve months on and Eko Software have released a new-gen version of their isometric survival romp, adding in a new playable character, one or two new islands, and the new modes that have been dropped in little DLC packs over the last year.

The core game remains largely the same, fulfilling a role that's a kind of mashup between Dead Island and Dead Nation. You trot around a handful of lush, tropical islands, picking up anything that you can find, in the hopes of beating off hordes of the undead and scavenging bits and bobs that might be used to fix a vehicle that can get you out of this hellhole. The darkness that night brings is to be feared, but not quite as much as the creatures who dwell in its inky shadows, and a torch -- flaming or electric -- is a fundamental necessity. Being caught out in the wilderness as night falls with out some form of illumination is a easy way to get yourself killed.

How To Survive: Storm Warning Edition Review | One Life Left

I gather that the game has been spruced up a little, although this isn't exactly a looker. How To Survive wasn't going to win any awards for visual design previously, and it certainly won't a console generation on, but the lighting effects perform well, and that's important in a game like this. Mind you, there's a distinct lack of fluidity to character handling, and I'm not sure having the melee button mapped to R2 is a good idea at all. It feels clunky and unwieldy at times, although ranged attacks fare a little better. Brendan's right, though -- the targeting gaffes can be really rather frustrating.

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FOR SCIENCE! Matt and Carl investigate PS4's Share Play

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
PS4, Share Play, Videos

FOR SCIENCE! Matt and Carl investigate PS4's Share Play

The PS4's update 2.0 was so powerful that it knocked out the PSN yesterday. Considering how long Sony have been doing this, you'd have thought that maybe, just maybe, they'd have learned to sort out their network stability a little better over the past handful of years... but no.

Anyway, Update 2.0 is out, things appear to be working properly, and one of the most lauded features of the new firmware package has arrived in the form of Share Play. In a nutshell, Share Play allows for a remote version of local game sharing -- be that passing a master controller to a friend, or allowing them to play a game that they don't currently own themselves. Sessions are limited to an hour at a time, PlayStation Plus is a requirement for controller sharing, and you can only use the multiplayer aspects of the service for games with local multiplayer components.

FOR SCIENCE! Matt and Carl investigate PS4's Share Play

It all seems to work very nicely indeed, though. To test out the service in the name of science, Carl and I fired up our machines and jumped into a game of FIFA 15, whereupon Carl and I were able to enjoy a match together despite Carl not owning the game in question. Side-by-side, the videos reveal that there's an ever-so-slight delay, but playing the game felt pretty seamless. There's a resolution drop, of course -- you can only play Share Play games in 720p -- but the game still looked pretty good at both end, and it should be noted that visual fidelity is an option that can be changed (we'd set ours to "high").

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Daily Bite: R.T.

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Funnies
Tags:
Daily Bite

Quite frankly, the only thing P.T. was missing was Nicolas Cage.

COMMENT | 2014 has taught us that Mikami's brand of horror no longer rules the roost

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Alien: Isolation, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Horror games, P.T., Shinji Mikami, Silent Hill, Survival Horror Games, The Evil Within

COMMENT | 2014 has taught us that Mikami's brand of horror no longer rules the roost

I've been playing a lot of horror games recently, with reviews in the past few weeks coming in fairly quick succession for Alien: Isolation and The Evil Within -- two very different games that approach horror gaming from two distinctly different perspectives. For me, at least, I find that one represents the future of the genre and where we're headed in terms of horror gaming, and the other is a testament to the classic foundations upon which horror gaming was built.

I love the classic Resident Evil games, and I still believe Resi 4 to be one of the finest games ever made let alone survival horror games, but I don't find them scary, and I'm not sure that I ever really did. They, much like Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami's latest game, are incredibly good at generating mechanical horror through scarce ammunition, oppressive enemies that require thought and skill to dispatch, and giving protagonists a palpable vulnerability. Knowing when to fight and when to run is crucial in these games, but having the option to fight is key to them as well. Mikami, certainly, is a creator who finds value in overcoming fear.

COMMENT | 2014 has taught us that Mikami's brand of horror no longer rules the roost

"Used at the right time and in the right way disempowerment can be the most powerful tool for the horror game creator," he said in an interview earlier this month, ahead of The Evil Within's release. "Sequels are a big problem in horror entertainment. As a horror game series continues you begin to know who the enemies are going to be. Just this knowledge naturally makes the game less scary. So to capture a wider audience designers add more action. That further reduces how frightening the game feels.

"That's one reason I'm making The Evil Within. Also, because the graphical quality of games has increased. This has the capacity to make the fear much closer to you. We can add in a far greater amount of animation and make it context based, so, for example, we can change how a character moves in a certain situation. Really, I'm making this game just because it's fun to scare people. Instead of trying to introduce new ideas I want to return to survival horror's roots. We've strayed from that. I want to explore fear again, and that sense of overcoming fear, one that's unique to games."

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Minecraft: The Noob #3 - Hunger and Death

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Minecraft, Videos

This week, we leap back into the Hunger Games, but it seems as though the admins are pratting about a bit. CR manages to climb a tree and get himself into a good position, but the other Tributes seem to have earmarked me out as a weak link. Fists vs swords is only ever going to end one way.

Silence: The Whispered World 2 - Daedalic's Claas Wolter on going multiplatform, Unity, and console Deponia

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Adventure Games, Class Wolter, Daedalic Entertainment, Deponia, Silence: The Whispered World 2, Videos

Last week, Daedalic Entertainment -- the German dev/pub studio behind the Deponia series, The Night of the Rabbit, and Blackguards -- announced that they'd be bringing one of their upcoming games to consoles. Silence, the sequel to Daedalic's 2009 adventure game The Whispered World, has been developed completely from the ground up with an eye towards porting the game to Xbox One and, hopefully, PS4. To get more information on Daedalic's expansion into the console market, I sat down with Daedalic's PR director, Claas Wolter, to ask what this means for the company and adventure games in general.

"Silence has always been a multi-platform project”, said Daedalic’s Studio Manager Steffen Boos in the company's official announcement. "From early on, we planned to release Silence – The Whispered World 2 on consoles as well, but we wanted to make absolutely certain the controls were tuned to each platform before announcing its console status.

"We think the new generation of consoles offer a platform that is ideal for indie development, and with the new gameplay we’re introducing to the adventure genre with The Whispered World 2, adventure games now also can be a good fit to consoles."

Silence: The Whispered World 2 - Daedalic's Claas Wolter on going multiplatform, Unity, and console Deponia

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Click To Play | Transmission - Making Connections

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Features
Tags:
Browser games, Click To Play, Mobile games, PC games, Science Museum, Transmission

Click To Play | Transmission - Making Connections

Welcome back to Click To Play , the new-old regular series that takes a look at a new browser-based curio each week to further the fine art of procrastination. We accept absolutely no responsibility if you get caught at work/school/uni/on the loo gloriously wasting time on the games listed here when you should be working.

This week: Transmission

Educational games are nearly always rubbish, right? And yet, I've been playing Transmission -- a simple, elegant puzzler created by the British Science Museum to help teach people about the history of electronic communication -- for over an hour.

It starts off slowly, perhaps too slowly, really hammering home the objective of "light up of the boxes". Essentially, in each stage, you have to send little glowing data packets to little empty receiver boxes, dragging and dropping linear connections, and taking care not to cross the streams. It's very simple to begin with, but isn't too long before you end up with bonus objectives, jumbles of data nodes, and seemingly too few polygons of data for all of your receivers. Circles can transmit, squares cannot, filling little superscript stars can earn you bonuses, and so will ensuring you use the minimum number of transmissions.

Click To Play | Transmission - Making Connections

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Daily Bite: Pikachu Parade Dance

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Funnies
Tags:
Daily Bite

I can't tell if this is cute, terrifying, or the heralding of the End of Days. Skip to 2:35 for the good stuff.

Thanks to Alice for the tip.