Rocksteady's trilogy of Batman games have become gaming legend in recent years. Never before has a studio nailed the feel of a comic/movie icon so well in gaming form. Behind every great game though, are reams of artwork inspiring ambitious mechanics and design. The creative mind's eye uses the page to provide the provisional jumping off point for others.
This hardback book is a celebration and homage to the journey of the Batman series' aesthetics from concept through completion. It's an absolute beast of a book too, a true coffee table piece if ever there was one. Weighing in at 2KG, The Art of Rocksteady's Batman has 304 pages containing 400 high quality images. Concept art has long been an unlockable feature in video games, but high quality art assets are much better appreciated on the page rather than your TV screen.
Inside you'll find detailed concept art for Batman himself and many members of the Rogue's Gallery. Images go through multiple gestation stages of sketches, monochromatic character studies, graphic novel-quality images, all the way to their final in-game 3D renders. There are plenty of alternate styles that were drawn up and dropped, some of which would have arguably been better. For example, did you know the original Titan Joker wasn't a hulking beast, but a leaner, jagged creature that was (in my opinion at least) much more sinister than another familiar Croc/Bane mass of muscle? There are even some concepts for Poison Ivy and Catwoman wearing manly jeans instead of a thong/skin-tight leather. I'm joking of course. Can you imagine?
We've had more than our fair share of open world sandboxes on the new-gen consoles, but the wait for Just Cause 3 has been a rather long one. After all, nobody quite does explosions like Rico Rodriguez.
Just Cause 3 does so many fun things right, but the number of basic elements that it utterly fails at is truly shocking. My first few hours with the game were not good at all actually. However, as I got used to the rough edges, the fun side of the game eventually prevailed and I found myself reluctantly being teased into having a good time.
The story is mere window dressing to the carnage. Rico is once again tasked with liberating a sun-kissed set of islands from a tyrannical dictator. Rico isn't so much of a character as much as a walking accent. But at least he's not an asshole (hello, Mad Max).
What's the best way to liberate a nation? By blowing up anything with red paint on it apparently. Small towns or settlements are packed with destructible items like propaganda speakers, dictator statues, billboards, fuel depots, generators and the like. Destroy them all and that's another location ticked off the map. With over 100 areas to liberate, you're not going home any time soon. You'll also need to reach various liberation milestones to unlock story missions, so you may as well get stuck into any town you glide past.Click here to read more...
Before we dive into our appraisal of Book Four, here’s our usual bit of housekeeping for our episodic reviews. If you haven’t already, be sure to get up to speed with our reviews for Dreamfall Chapters – Book One: Reborn, Dreamfall Chapters – Book Two: Rebels and Dreamfall Chapters – Book Three: Realms by hitting the links provided. As always with our episodic reviews, our score will be published once the season is finished, reflecting the game as a whole.
Those of you who read my review for Book Three will know that, while it was enjoyable and made some big narrative moves, I felt it to be the weakest episode overall so far. It wasn’t a bad episode at all, and in fact it had some important reveals that have been hanging over The Longest Journey saga for years, but it failed to match the masterclasses that were Books One and Two. In saying this, it honestly felt like I was kicking a beloved and faithful animal that had been following me around for years. I felt terrible.
Absolutely justified, but still terrible.
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As I sit here having finally completed the main story arc of Fallout 4, I’ve come to realise one thing – that game is bloody huge. However, after over 70 hours of play, 40+ levels, and copious amounts of spent ammunition, there is still more to do. New locations are awaiting my arrival, NPCs are waiting my interaction, and quest chains are awaiting completion. Of course, having all the content in the world means absolutely nothing if it’s not entertaining, engaging or stable affair, but even after all this time I want to be wandering around the wastelands of Boston.
It’s a testament to the overall quality of the writing throughout the game more than anything, which is good considering Skyrim’s main arc suffered in that regard (eg. I can remember the Dark Brotherhood sub-plot, but the journey of the Dovahkiin? Nope.) The fact there are a number of paths to progress the main story, and how many of the side missions weave in and out of it, helps achieve this too. This of course it just one of the reasons Fallout 4 succeeds as an RPG, but is it the slice of perfection we were hoping it would be?
Well, it does its damn best to try and be.
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Despite the success of the original Star Wars: Battlefront games back in the PS2/Xbox days, we never saw a third game last-gen. But now, with modern gaming technology and DICE's expertise on full throttle, we have a game that looks almost as good as the movies that inspired them.
Sure, the animations aren't as fancy as that original trailer set on Endor, (called it!) but the graphical clarity and slick 60 frames-per-second across all platforms makes this one of the best-looking multiplayer shooters ever made.
For what it's worth, I've had significant hands-on time with the finished PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game. The PS4's resolution comes out on top (900p) and the Xbox One version runs at 720p. While that may sound disappointing for XO fans, it really isn't that noticeable if I'm honest unless you get uncomfortably close to some of the textures. Which you won't have time to do because you'll be too busy getting shot.
Both versions feature mild texture pop-in, especially on larger maps, but overall, the scenery is magnificent. The tall forests of Endor are supported by the likes of the slick black rocks gouged by red hot lava streams on Sullust or the epic eternal winters of Hoth. Fans of the original movies are going to love it.Click here to read more...
Call of Duty: Black Ops III is so packed with content it tough to pick a place to start. While many COD players like to skip the campaign each year and dive straight into the multiplayer, Black Ops III's story mode marks the long-awaited return of co-op, making it one of the best campaigns the series has seen in a while.
However, I ran through the campaign playing solo first. This third entry in the convoluted Black Ops storyline jumps even further into the future. The world has gone to shit, but I can't remember why. Soldiers have body modifications that allow them to jump higher and wall-run in a similar, but certainly toned down, version of the hyper movement skills seen in last year's ambitious Advanced Warfare. You can now shoot while mantling over low walls and even reload while sprinting for a much more fluid feeling Call of Duty and these features gel nicely with the competitive multiplayer too.
You also have new skills to charge up during stages and as they recharge pretty fast, you can use them loads. You can send a swarm of bee-like nanomachines to set enemies on fire, highjack turrets, control drones and other sci-fi inspired moves. There's an x-ray view you can use as much as you want to see enemies through walls and there's a good chance you'll never turn it off (like Detective Mode in the Arkham games), although it feels a bit cheaty, especially with the attachments that allow better wall penetration shots.Click here to read more...
If I had to describe Heart of Thorns in one word, it would be ‘humongous.’
Even after two weeks in the Maguuma Jungle I still haven’t traversed all of the new multi-layered zones, which in turn means I haven’t unlocked all of the masteries or taken part in all of the different events. Of course, all the content in the world means nothing if the game is no longer fun, but that is certainly not the case – Guild Wars 2 continues to be an enjoyable MMO experience, and Heart of Thorns adds to that with its own, non-traditional progression.
Most MMO title launches, and even expansions, tend to come with launch day issues. Less intensive titles like Destiny have fallen prey to this apparent curse, and even World of Warcraft’s servers couldn’t handle the sudden influx of players back when Warlords of Draenor launched last year. It’s something that most of us on the MMO scene have come to accept as the norm, and so we bunker up around launch time for the inevitable bumpy ride.
But it didn’t happen with Heart of Thorns. No, everything went smoothly.
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The Need for Speed series has struggled to find an identity for years, despite takes by numerous developers. Between the forgotten titles, we've had the Fast and the Furious-inspired Underground, the cops vs racers of Hot Pursuit (twice), the straight-faced track racer Shift and the open-world attempt by Criterion in Most Wanted.
This latest game has had an extra year of development, breaking the habit of releasing a NFS game every year. The subtitles are gone, 2015's game is simply Need for Speed. Although, given the nature of the game, EA must have been pretty tempted to call it Need for Speed: Underground 3.
The emphasis is once again on the street racing and car modification culture, which is something many fans have been crying out for. What they've not asked for is an intrusive story, putting you in the shoes of a new racer, invited to hang with a crew that worship the ground you walk on like a tire-shredding messiah.Click here to read more...
If there’s one thing Jackbox Games know how to do, it’s create a fun night in. The critically acclaimed You Don’t Know Jack series has continued to gain popularity since its first release back in 1995, but last year the team produced the Jackbox Party Pack. Containing a selection of four party games, including YDKJ 2015, it proved to be a massive hit thanks to its variation, ease of play, and the sense of humour the franchise is known for.
Not wanting to rest of their laurels, Jackbox Games have recently unleashed another compilation of wacky titles. For those of you that don’t know, the Party Packs don’t require you to own multiple controllers to play. All each player needs is a smartphone or tablet with a modern web browser, head over to Jackbox.tv and enter the Room Code on the screen, turning their device into a controller. It not only works incredibly well, but it also means the console owner doesn’t need to spend a small fortune to ensure everyone can play.
However, unlike its predecessor, the Jackbox Party Pack 2 has a new trick up its sleeve – an interactive audience feature.
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There was a time when Japanese RPGs were big news on consoles with regular updates from the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. There have been slim pickings over the last few years though. Instead, we've seen RPG elements creep into more action-orientated games. 2015 has been no different, with the great (Witcher III) and poor (Mad Max) alike bumping their games past the 40 hour mark with skill trees and lengthy upgrade systems.
But what about something unmistakably 'Japanese'? With the Final Fantasy series going online with XIV or still being miles off (XV), it's once again up to Bandai Namco and the Tales series to bring fans a slice of old-school goodness.
Tales of Zestiria, like past Tales entries, sits very much in its own groove with an action-orientated combat system that still somehow feels 'traditional' compared to the fluid systems found in say Diablo III or the melee combat of The Witcher III.
Zestiria's combat can feel limited during the game's opening hours, but it does open up once more features are unlocked. There are two melee buttons for various 'Artes' and these consume juice from a gauge, stopping you constantly hammering the buttons, as you'll occasionally have to pull back to let it regenerate.Click here to read more...
If you're reading this, the chances are that you're in the market for a new tablet but don't want to pay through the nose for the latest poser-friendly iPad. We don't blame you. The price of Apple's tablets has got way out of hand, with the costs of extra memory being particularly shocking.
You're off to a good start looking at an Asus tablet. This is after all the company behind the first truly great budget tablet, the 2012 Google Nexus 7, aka the benchmark. But today the competition is pretty damn strong in this area, with even Tesco releasing an impressive tablet in the form of the Hudl 2. So, let's see how the ZenPad 8.0 Z380C measures up.Click here to read more...
It’s a fact I’ve stated time and time again, but Funcom’s MMORPG The Secret World has some of the best world building of any game I’ve played. Each of the zones is filled with lore that details of the Lovecraft-inspired dangers that roam the lands, and the tragedies caused by them. It’s because of this I’ve always felt that there were more stories to tell and bigger secrets to uncover, and thankfully Funcom felt the same way.
The end result is The Park – a single player experience that tells one such story. Players assume the role of Lorraine, a single mother who loses her son Callum at the Atlantic Island Theme Park. Of course, TSW players who have been to The Savage Coast region will already know the theme park quite well, along with why it’s probably the worst idea ever to take (let along lose) your child there. While the opportunity to learn more of the park’s history and its mysterious owner is there, the main focus aims at delving into Lorraine’s troubled past, and how it affects the relationship with her son.
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Much like with the series itself, to understand the present we must first look to the past. In this case, we need to briefly revisit the mess that was Assassin’s Creed: Unity. There were many flaws with that game, undoing anything of worth being able to shine, and the end result was the worst game in the series. The fact that Rogue – the last-gen effort – was more enjoyable just by sticking to a familiar formula proved that Ubisoft had a lot of thinking to do.
Thankfully, the lesson has sunk in and one year later we have a game that, while not perfect, rectifies many of its predecessor’s sins.
This time around, the player takes control of Jacob and Evie Frye – twin assassins whose aim is to liberate London from Templar control. Over the course of 9 sequences it’s up to the player to build up a gang to rival the oppressors, take back the city for the people, and stop the Templars from seizing a rumoured Piece of Eden. That’s of course on top of Jacob and Evie butting heads as siblings do over how to go about their objective, and it creates a rather interesting dynamic both in terms of the narrative and the gameplay.
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Life is Strange's five part episodic series began life back in January and the last episode was released nearly three months ago. It's safe to say the release schedule has been a mess. Even the originally-planned six-week gap between episodes should have been flagged as a narrative momentum killer.
Such is life when reviewing and playing episodic content these days. If you're smart though, you'll have stayed away until today. Now the final episode is out, you're free to play through the whole story at your own pace. And to get right to it: you really should.
With so many questions left unanswered, Episode 5 has a lot of work to do. Without going into any spoilers, I can tell you that events of the 'dark room' narrative are satisfactorily tackled. Thankfully, that damn storm that's been lingering unexplained throughout finally gets some attention in the plot. Whether you'll accept the reasoning behind it may prove divisive between players.
At long last, it’s time to put this Tales of the Borderlands review to rest. As always, before we get started, a few bits of house-keeping. You can get up to speed on the previous episodes by reading our reviews for Episode 1: Zer0 Sum, Episode 2: Atlas Shrugged, Episode 3: Catch A Ride, and Episode 4: Escape Plan Bravo. We haven’t scored each one individually, but we will score the series as a whole this time. If you just want a full appraisal, skip down to the Series Summary at the end of this article.
Episode 4 was not just a high point for the Borderlands series, it was one of the best bits of work that Telltale Games have produced. The surprises, the shocks, and the ridiculous humour had been orchestrated to almost perfection, topped off by some brilliant performances from its voice cast. It meant that if Tales From The Borderlands was to end on a high note, Telltale had to go all out on everything. As I loaded up the game I was slightly nervous about if they could manage such a feat, but then I hit the main menu and I immediately sensed Telltale knew the gravity of the situation.
How, you ask? Simple – the re-recorded main theme.
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You may already know something about Bedlam as it's based on a book by Christopher Brookmyre. Packed with pop culture references it featured a chap waking up in an old Doom-style shooter he used to play in his youth. The book followed him as he made his way through multiple familiar game worlds and different gaming genres.
The game follows a similar premise, but puts you in the shoes of a different character for some reason. This gives the writers an excuse to come up with additional dialogue, which often falls a little flat if I'm honest and may even cause a few eyes to roll. What we're really after though is an experience of playing through some classic genres akin to the experience in the book.
The game focuses on the FPS genre, so don't expect to be racing around any futuristic cities in flying cars or anything like that. Starting off in the purposefully fugly-graphics of Starfire you'll have time to adjust to the old-school shooting mechanics that lack the ability to aim down the sights of a weapon, but you can at least look around in any direction, a luxury missing in gaming's earliest shooters.Click here to read more...
Rallying used to be king of the racers in gaming, but just like real rallying, it's seen its audience dwindle to a fraction of the glory days. A fact not helped by Codemasters bastardising their own franchise by unleashing Ken Block's show-ponying over actual racing.
The second wave of WRC titles (Sony had a WRC series on PS2) performed admirably last-gen though, despite always being in the shade of Dirt 2. Milestone were a bit cheeky though, recycling some tracks in their annual release and stripping down the career mode to its bare bones.
This year though, for the series' (and indeed the genre's) next-gen debut, we have Kylotonn Games taking over, a studio whose only other racing title was the critically mauled Motorcycle Club, a game currently rocking a 26 on Metacritic. The good the news is that WRC 5 is much better, the bad news though is that this isn't the new-gen rally game you've been waiting for.Click here to read more...
No trilogy rocked more socks off PS3 gamers than Naughty Dog's all conquering adventures. But have they stood the test of time and who is this remastered collection even for?
To be honest, it's an easy recommendation for any gamer. First and foremost has to be the new Sony converts. If you didn't have a PS3 last-gen, or simply missed out on the series (you can't play everything) and now have a PS4, this is an essential purchase.
Alternatively, if you've been a die-hard fan throughout the PS3 days, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how damn good the game looks on PS4, it's no stretch to say much of the game looks better than most brand-new PS4 games. That's a testament to just how good Naughty Dog's originals were and the excellent efforts by HD/Remaster regulars, Bluepoint.
Naturally, the first game in the series has a few rougher areas compared to the sequels, but the fluidity of the visuals and the high levels of detail still impress. The only visual downsides are the facial detail for secondary characters (any baddie really) as they appear a little bland compared to the main gang. That's consistent through the trilogy actually. Another graphical issue occurred after a couple of cutscenes were the distant background appeared blocky and unfinished - we're talking about eight seconds throughout the entire game though.Click here to read more...
Gamers of all ages have been enjoying Traveller's Tales' Lego games for years now, but now they can finally play with real Lego bricks as a part of the game. With the runaway success of the toys-to-life trendsetter, Skylanders, it's a mystery why it's taken this long for the Lego games to jump into the genre.
Rather than focus on one IP, this new series is a mashup of multiple franchises and movie licenses. In the box, you'll find dinky NFC-chipped Lego minifigs for Batman, Gandalf and WyldStyle. Together they must take on evil forces across dimensions to save the day by beating up goons, smashing up environments and holding the Circle button to rebuild odd yet useful tools. So far, so Lego, right?
Except, in order to use the inter-dimensional gateway, you'll have to build it first. With actual Lego, with your own hands. This is your docking station where you place character and vehicle models. You can use the manual, or follow the on-screen version to put it together. It took us (a couple who hasn't touched a Lego brick in many years) about an hour to build along with the other characters and a car. Don't worry if you're rubbish at Lego or if you're buying for a younger child who isn't quite there yet, the game can't actually tell what you've built, so you can't 'get it wrong.'Click here to read more...
As much as I liked Destiny, even I agreed with many others over its issues during the first year of its life. A lack of live events during patrol missions, the ridiculous way the Light levelling system worked, and a poorly implemented storyline meant that, unless you had a group of like-minded players who were happy to repeat the same raids over and over, your end-game solely existed in the Crucible. The first two add-ons did little to help this, presenting too little content for their asking price.
So The Taken King represented a chance to alter the course of Destiny’s… well, destiny. A few of those much-needed changes were felt before the expansion went live – namely the way progression worked and how Light affected gear – and it finally gave me hope. Were Bungie finally using the feedback to deliver on Destiny’s potential? Would The Taken King fix all the other issues that plagued the game? Would I get ever used to the fact Nolan North was now voicing Ghost?
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