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Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review | Girls Just Want To Throw Down

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!!, Examu, Fighting Games, NIS America, PS Vita games, PS3 games, Reef Entertainment

Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review | Girls Just Want To Throw Down

When it comes to the murky world of all-female fighting games, Arcana Heart has more pedigree than most. Pre-dating the likes of Skullgirls, Girl Fight and Senran Kagura by several years, Examu's fighting franchise brought crazy aerial combat and customisable movesets to Japanese arcades in 2006, finally leading us to the recent release of Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! on PS3 and Vita. As a remake of Arcana Heart 3 with rebalanced gameplay and loads of extra content, it's definitely a major event for franchise veterans and lovers of all things moe, but does the latest NIS America localisation job deserve its five exclamation points?

Well, perhaps two or three of them at least. Maybe four if you're a fan of cute anime girls.

Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review | Girls Just Want To Throw Down

After seeing so many fighting games provide little or no story for solo players, it's great to play a brawler that takes its narrative seriously and offers a robust singleplayer experience. There's an entire visual novel's worth of dialogue and storyline here -- or more accurately an entire visual novel -- told through a full story mode for each character, epilogue 'After' story mode that ties up loose ends, plus loads of unlockable skits that shows the cast interacting in their daily lives that usually feature their own battles too. Though experience with the previous games will help you to understand some of the nuances, the first page of the instruction manual sums up the situation in an easy prologue (which many of my fellow reviewers seem to have embarrassingly ignored!), while the cast's personalities conform to familiar enough anime tropes that you'll soon work out what's what.

In short: Japan and by extension the entire world is threatened by a dimensional rift that can only be repaired or worsened by finding some crystals. Some characters want to stop it, others want to exacerbate it, others just have their own adventures or agendas in the background. Yes, I've mullered the fine detail, but that's basically it. I'm not sure what many of my peers were complaining about.

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LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review | Holy Stagnation, Batman!

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham, PC games, PS3 games, PS4 games, Xbox 360 games, Xbox One Games

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review | Holy Stagnation, Batman!

LEGO Batman 3 is a must-buy for DC superfans.

You'll rarely see a licensed game with this much love and respect for the source material, nor attention to detail. Going beyond Gotham City, hence the title, TT Games have assembled more than 150 characters from throughout nearly eighty years of franchise continuity, all with their trademark skills, gadgets, costumes and personality. Wonder-Woman doesn't just wield her Lasso Of Truth and bracelets, rather her 1970s theme song blares out every time she takes to the skies. DC mainstays like Green Lantern and The Flash rub shoulders with Firefly, the Condiment King, Mister Mxyzptlk, The Green Loontern, Plastic Man and BatCow.

Even Adam West -- The One True Batman -- steals the show with frequent cameos and a bonus stage that could curl Cesar Romero's moustache.

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Review | Holy Stagnation, Batman!

The story is similarly excellent. In stark contrast to DC's own convoluted crossovers and crises, LEGO Batman 3 tells a ripping yarn as the Justice League teams up with legendary villains to defeat Brainiac, who's attempting to steal the Earth's major cities with his shrink ray. Stuffed full of subtle in-jokes, larger-than-life humour, great voice acting and a little LEGO slapstick, all of the cast act in caricatured yet deeply believable ways, at least until a mishap involving the Lantern Rings sees several characters assume hilarious temporary new personalities. It's an absolute riot and arguably worth the price of admission by itself.

A good thing too, because this deep respect and love for the universe carries what is otherwise a disappointingly unambitious LEGO title.

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Assassin's Creed: Unity Review | Ah, No

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Action Games, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, PS4 games, Ubisoft

Assassin's Creed: Unity Review | Ah, No

Assassin's Creed: Unity is a beautiful game. Sat atop the towers of Notre Dame, it's hard not to admire the scale of the Paris that Ubisoft Montreal have painstakingly recreated here. Perhaps more so than in any other Assassin's Creed game to date -- the edifices and porticos of Rome excepted -- Unity captures the essence of its setting perfectly. The streets throng with disgruntled citizens, loudly bemoaning everything under the sun in snippets of French. The power of the new-gen consoles has been harnessed spectacularly when it comes to populating the streets, and in later stages, when the guillotine blades start to fall and the masses crowd round to watch the bloody spectacles, the sheer number of NPCs onscreen boggles the mind.

Unity is a game that also seeks to fix some of the issues of previous instalments in the series. Arno, the game's protagonist, can now free-run up and down, depending on the button you're holding. It means that accidental, suicidal plunges are now largely a thing of the past, and that scampering around the city needn't see Arno climb atop the clutter rather than bounding over or sliding under obstacles. It's a system that works relatively well, even if it does take a little bit of getting used to. That Arno will still clamber onto low-slung tables when you're just holding down the sprint trigger is a bit annoying, but at least there's a quick, safe way of getting down from high places that don't have convenient straw piles lying in wait for a Leap of Faith.

Continuing on, it seems ludicrous that a series that sees you engage in clandestine murder should have lacked a dedicated crouch or "stealth" button for this long, but Ubisoft have finally fixed that. Now it's possible to slink about restricted areas in the manner of a cartoon robber, and you can snap in and out of cover at the touch of a button. There's also a dedicated button for helping you slip in through a window rather than jumping up and bypassing it completely as might have been the case before.

The combat system has been made clearer and more readily defined too. Instead of watching the behaviour of your enemies, you can now parry attacks easily thanks to massive, glowing indicators that tell you when you should execute the perfect parry, and when an unblockable attack is coming so you can roll deftly out of harm's way. Pleasingly enough, it feels more solid than combat in recent years, but it's still not really a patch on Ezio's finest work.

In fact, none of it is.

In fact, it's making me think ever more fondly of Assassin's Creed 3, and that's not a good sign.

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Tales Of Hearts R Review | The Vita's Christmas Miracle

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Bandai Namco, Editor's Choice, Games reviews, JRPG, PS Vita games, Tales Of Hearts R

Tales Of Hearts R Review | The Vita's Christmas Miracle

Move over Master Chief. Get lost, The Last Of Us. Play dead, Sleeping Dogs. 2014 has seen more than its fair share of remakes, but Tales Of Hearts R might be the most ambitious of the lot.

It's certainly the most unlikely. Tales Of Hearts was an epic JRPG that released six years ago on Nintendo DS exclusively in Japan, where it received rave reviews and envious glances from us Western fans. The entire 40-hour experience has now been rebuilt from the ground up on a vastly superior machine with brand new high quality assets, new playable characters, extra content, translated dialogue and remastered cutscenes from the studio behind Ghost In The Shell. As the coup de grace, the original 2D battle system has been replaced with slick 3D combat that rivals the latest Tales titles.

The result is something of a Christmas miracle for the PS Vita, at least if you're a fan of traditional JRPG exploration, progression and character development.

Tales Of Hearts R Review | The Vita's Christmas Miracle

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Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit Review | Half Naked, Half Baked

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games reviews, Marvelous, PS Vita games, Rhythm games, Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit, Tamsoft

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit Review | Half Naked, Half Baked

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit is a game about breasts.

No, that's literally it. In case you're new to the series, allow me to explain: the entire Senran Kagura franchise is an up-front (no pun intended) piece of fanservice starring an all-female cast of infeasibly well-endowed schoolgirls who also happen to be ninjas. And who, unsurprisingly, end up exposing themselves and kicking each other's clothes off during each fight.

It's embarrassing, harmless and cringe-inducing stuff that could have been titled Carry On Shinobi, but in a surprising twist, both Senran Kagura Burst and recently-released Shinovi Versus were excellent portable fighting games in their own right. I thoroughly enjoyed both and would recommend them. Unfortunately, as a breast delivery vector disguised as a rhythm game disguised a cooking game spinoff, Bon Appetit has its work cut out.

Senran Kagura: Bon Appetit Review | Half Naked, Half Baked

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review | Part 2 - Multiplayer & Verdict

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
343 Industries, FPS, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Microsoft Studios, Xbox One Games

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review | Part 2 - Multiplayer & Verdict

Last week we reviewed the singleplayer portion of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, looking at all four of the legendary campaigns that this unprecedented reboot brings to the table at 60 frames per second, with new challenges and medals, alongside cross-game playlists and full cooperative support.

However, now that 343 Industries has switched on the multiplayer and matchmaking long enough to test it, we're ready to finish this fight.

If you got that reference then you're in good company -- and, spoiler alert, The Master Chief Collection needs to be on your Christmas list.

Multiplayer

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review | Part 2 - Multiplayer & Verdict

We've never seen a multiplayer collection like this before. More than 100 maps from all four numbered Halo games are ready for action, from Sidwinder to Hang 'Em High to Midship to Zanzibar to Sandtrap to Blood Gulch, playable in title-specific or cross-game playlists. Whether you're a fan of the outrageous vehicular madness of Big Team Battle (which boasts a cross-game playlist containing 41 maps!), insane King Of The Hill brawls, vertical Oddball matches or the tight teamwork of classic Team Slayer, you're good to go and able to delve into thirteen years of series evolution.

I'm also thrilled to report that SWAT is primed and ready on day zero, including maps from both Halo 2 and Halo 4. SWAT is the king. Make sure it's in Halo 5, 343 Industries!

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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review - I like the way you move

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, FPS games, PC games, PS3 games, PS4 games, Xbox 360 games, Xbox One Games

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review - I like the way you move

Before Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare landed on our doormats, this has been a year to remember for the first person shooter. The likes of Titanfall and Destiny have made vital efforts to push the envelope in terms of what we can expect from a shooter.

Titanfall has been a fun-packed title with awesome mechs, jetpack parkour and some decent DLC, despite server issues that made the early months a little rough. And Destiny, well the jury's still out a little there as Bungie's MMOFPS has been a little light on content for many gamers, but there's a solid foundation. It's been a year where developers have attempted to shake things up, and for that they should be applauded. And let's face it, the sequels could be incredible if they take the feedback on board.

But what about Sledgehammer's new innovations with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? It's not the futuristic setting or the hiring of Kevin Spacey that has us more excited than usual (although it certainly helps), it's the prospect of the huge impact the exoskeleton will have on player movement. It's the biggest change to the series since Modern Warfare and after playing through the game, it's become clear that running around like your average Joe just won't cut it anymore.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review - I like the way you move

The abilities on offer vary throughout the campaign as they're pre-assigned at the start of each mission. Generally though you always have the ability to double jump and dash sideways or backwards via clicking the left analogue and pointing it in the desired direction. It's an awkward control input that I would have preferred to be handled via a shoulder button press and the left stick, but it works as intended throughout. I didn't use it much in the campaign, but online it becomes a fantastic way of buying yourself a split second to get out of someone's sights. The enhanced jumps add some much needed freedom to level design though and looking for a higher vantage point is usually your first instinct in each level.

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Football Manager Review - Part 2 | Match Day

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
FM15, Football games, Football Manager 2015, Management games, Sega, Sports Interactive

Football Manager Review - Part 2 | Match Day

A few days ago, I delivered the first part of my Football Manager 2015 review (click here to read it), talking about the tweaks and changes that had been made off of the pitch. The game was in beta, and the match engine clearly still had some work to be done on it, and within hours of part one of my review being posted, Sports Interactive dropped a massive update ringing the changes.

To briefly recap, I've been impressed by the expansive depth available behind closed doors in the world of football management this year. Navigation is smoother than ever before thanks to a revamped interface that better prioritises the screens you'll want to get to. The tactical window is a little cluttered, but it's indicative of a greater emphasis on tactical customisation, and tailoring teams to suit your strategic designs. They won't become comfortable with your methods overnight, but put in the work, and it's clear that you can leave an indelible mark on the way a team performs.

Football Manager Review - Part 2 | Match Day

Broadly speaking, that is.

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Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review | Part 1: The Campaigns

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
343 Industries, FPS, Halo 2: Anniversary Edition, Halo 3, Halo 4, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Xbox One Games

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review | Part 1: The Campaigns

Get Set To Come Out Swinging At 60 FPS

Halo: The Master Chief Collection is magnificent. Unprecedented. Masterful, even. It's thirteen years of console FPS history in a single package: Halo 1-4 tweaked and remastered with all of the local co-op,  optional skulls, new skill and time challenges, levels, stages, secrets, live-action series and a massive multiplayer suite spanning 100+ maps, brought together into one cohesive experience. Halo 2 pushes the boat out even further with an Anniversary Edition boasting all-new textures, tweaks and gorgeous cutscenes. When it comes to HD Collections and re-releases, we may be looking at nothing less than the new platinum benchmark.

Unfortunately, it's also not all there, and I mean that very literally. The multiplayer suite and numerous performance tweaks aren't included on the disc, rather they have to be downloaded via a massive 15GB patch... which was only released 24 hours ago.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review | Part 1: The Campaigns

Giving the Master Chief Collection a score at this stage would be hilariously unethical, then, and I'd raise an eyebrow at any site willing to do so. However, having blasted through the all-important singleplayer campaigns, I absolutely can split the review in two to take an in-depth look at the remastered singleplayer and cooperative experience. You'll have to wait until next week for the multiplayer and our final verdict.

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Tears To Tiara 2 Review | Who Put Punic Wars In My Fire Emblem?

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games reviews, NIS America, PS3 games, Reef Entertainment, Tears To Tiara 2: Heir Of The Overlord

Tears To Tiara 2 Review | Who Put Punic Wars In My Fire Emblem?

Wow. Every once in a while, a game you'd barely even noticed socks you right out of left field and presents something truly unique. Tears To Tiara 2 is one of those wonderful anomalies, but at first glance, you'd probably wonder what the fuss is about.

Half incredibly wordy visual novel and half Strategy RPG, Tears To Tiara 2 certainly seems like standard localised roleplaying fare. A young hero with fabulous hair, Hamilcar Barca, fights to retake his homeland against an evil empire, assisted by a scantily-clad war goddess called Astarte (Tarte for short) and a cast of colourful characters. Over the course of a long campaign he'll go from slave to legend, bringing the fight to the empire with war elephants, fireballs and a little fanservice to keep things interesting.

So far, so generic, except that Hamilcar Barca actually existed. He was the father of Hannibal who resisted the Roman Empire's occupation of Carthage in 247 BC. Astarte really was worshipped as a battle goddess by the Carthaginians. Tears To Tiara 2 isn't just another throwaway RPG setting, rather it's a fantastical yet astonishingly well-observed retelling of the Punic Wars! In fact, you could even call it... don't panic!... edutainment.

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Football Manager 2015 Review | Part 1 - Off the Pitch

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
FM15, Football games, Football Manager 2015, Management games, Sega, Sports Interactive

Football Manager 2015 Review | Part 1 - Off the Pitch

There was a glorious moment last night when my brave Glovers fought back from a 3-0 deficit to tie a crucial cup game against Ipswich  just before the whistle for the end of regular time. It had been a glorious comeback. Conor Sammon had been terrorising my defence in the first hour of the game, but a fiery team talk, a change in formation, and the introduction of some speed on the wings changed things around. As the ref blew for 90 minutes, momentum was firmly in Yeovil's favour.

And then it all went wrong.

A Hail Mary long ball from Ipswich's full back sailed over the top, but it was too long, Chris Weale would surely get to it, there was no one else around. Sure enough, Weale came forth confidently. Everything was going to be fine.

And then he fell over.

Football Manager 2015 Review | Part 1 - Off the Pitch

This wasn't the staggered trip of a man with his foot suddenly caught in a rabbit hole, or the clumsy scrabble of falling over your own limbs, no. Instead, Weale decided that the best course of action would be to do an impression of a dead fish. This might have been fine had he actually been headed for the ball. His body could still have provided a low-slung blockade for the charge of the oncoming Sammon. Sadly, though, he'd veered off course, heading instead for a shiny thing out towards the penalty spot, and had then been felled by an unseen sniper.

My verbal reaction was deemed unsuitable for print.

The review embargo is up for Football Manager 2015, but I don't feel I can give it a score, and I'd advise you take most of the other "reviews" that have currently been published without any sort of disclaimer with a fat pinch of salt. FM15 is still in beta at the time of writing, hence the calamitous goalkeeping described above, and thus the game that will be out on the 7th may well have tweaks and fixes that today's doesn't. Given that it's not actually out yet, we'll be scoring the game at launch.

That said, here are a few things things to note ahead of part two of my review later this week.

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Freedom Wars Review | Go Straight to Jail

Author:
Brendan Griffiths
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Freedom Wars, Panopticon, PS Vita games, RPG Games

Freedom Wars Review | Go Straight to Jail Platform: PS Vita

Developer: Shift, Dimps, SCE Japan

Publisher: Sony

Oh Monster Hunter, why hast thou betrayed us so? After starting life with PlayStation, Capcom's hit series has gone on to become a huge seller exclusively on Nintendo platforms, particularly the handhelds, leaving Sony desperate to come up with a similar winning formula for the PS Vita.

Last year Soul, Sacrifice made a valiant effort and in many ways succeeded, although it was a little too niche for its own good. And boy was it all sorts of brown. So step forward Freedom Wars, a futuristic take on the genre that sees players trying to work off larger chunks of a 1 million year prison sentence by slaying monsters and harvesting resources for 'the greater good'. The world is ravaged by war and hunger and broken up into separate cities or Panopticons, with any child born beyond the strict family quotas imprisoned to earn their way back into society via this obscenely long sentence.

Freedom Wars Review | Go Straight to Jail

Years can be added to your sentence for minor infractions like running, sleeping lying down and daring to keep high level loot for yourself. As you play the game, you can pay for extended privileges, like running, earning better loot and so on. The game's attempts to make you feel the impact of this prison lifestyle work well, but considering your first few hours are downright miserable affairs, it isn't long before you question what you're doing with your life and the precious free time you have - more so than any RPG you may have played before. It's unlikely you'd spend as many hours reading a book or watching a TV series that you didn't enjoy in the hope 'it'd get going soon' and frankly Freedom Wars takes the biscuit even for an RPG.

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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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Disney Magical World Review | You're So Fine You Blow My Mind

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
3DS Games, Bandai Namco, Casual Games, Disney Magical World, Games reviews, h.a.n.d.

Disney Magical World Review | You're So Fine You Blow My Mind

Platform: 3DS

Developer: h.a.n.d.

Publisher: Bandai Namco

I always try to approach reviews without preconceptions, but every once in a while, you just know that a game is going to suck at first glance. Disney Magical World. Even the name screams shovelware, while the blurb and screenshots looked suspiciously like an Animal Crossing clone on a budget.

But there's an old saying about assumptions, and it always holds true, because on rare occasions these games can turn out to be legitimately great!

Disney Magical World is one of those welcome surprises. Here we have a game that goes far beyond what Animal Crossing offers, blending management, adventure, farming, exploration, dungeon crawling, crafting, a cast of legendary characters and a bit of... am I really going to write this?... Disney magic into a confident and competent thief of time. Seeing as it's a personal adventure, it's only fitting that I accompany the article with a selection of my own MiiVerse-shared photos!

Disney Magical World Review | You're So Fine You Blow My Mind

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Stealth Inc 2: A Game Of Clones Review | Stealthy By Name, Bastard By Nature

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Curve Studios, Games reviews, Platformer, Puzzle games, Stealth Games, Stealth Inc 2: A Game Of Clones, Wii U games

Stealth Inc 2: A Game Of Clones Review | Stealthy By Name, Bastard By Nature

Platform: Wii U

Developer: Curve Studios

Stealth Inc 2 is adorable. Playing as a cute cuddly clone, we'll scamper around a toy factory and frolic with a host of lovably rounded robots, all while trying to save our friends and equipping some silly outfits. On Wii U, no less. Aww. Ain't it precious?

No. Don't be fooled, because under Stealth Inc 2's winsome premise beats the sadistic ruthless heart of a Bastard.

Stealth Inc 2: A Game Of Clones Review | Stealthy By Name, Bastard By Nature

A Stealth Bastard to be precise. Curve Studios' flagship franchise may have been renamed to appease the console censors, but the sequel is no less brutal, murderous and punishing than its predecessors. Thrown into nightmarish challenge rooms stuffed with lasers, security bots, cameras, crushers, saws and intricately designed traps, we'll die and die and die in an attempt to overcome the odds, using both fast fingers, on-the-fly brainpower and bona fide stealth skills to eventually triumph.

Half brutal execution challenge a la Super Meat Boy and half devious puzzle platformer, Stealth Inc stands out from the crowd by being a genuine stealth game too, underpinned by light, shadow, evasion, sound and grappling mechanics that quickly become second nature.

Having spent years helping other developers get onto consoles, the indie angels at Curve are back for another round, and it's bigger and tougher than ever.

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Civilization: Beyond Earth Review | The Power of Choice

Author:
Carl Phillips
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
2K Games, Civilization: Beyond Earth, Firaxis Games, Game reviews, Strategy games

Civilization: Beyond Earth Review | The Power of Choice

If Firaxis’ latest title has taught me anything, it’s that I should be very glad that I live in the time period I do. You see, those left behind on Earth have to deal with a dying planet, while those blasted off into deep space are going to have to contend with giant space worms. It’s a horrifying prospect either way, and no one is a winner. Thankfully, I only have to experience the horror virtually through Beyond Earth, the latest instalment of the Civilization franchise. A spiritual successor to Alpha Centauri, it initially appears to have familiar overtones, with menus and the UI bearing resemblance to previous Civ titles, but the changes emerge even before the first turn has started.

While only eight factions are available to choose from, the ability to select specific starting bonuses is a great example of how the game focuses on choice throughout its gameplay. Sure, faction specific perks are there, but allowing players to choose between starting with a Clinic for extra health (something I’ll cover later) or a worker unit allows them to focus on their own style of play while providing a sense of flexibility. This is important, because while planning ahead has always been an aspect of the Civ series, Beyond Earth contains new challenges that, if the player is unprepared for, will punish without mercy. If players are to survive, they are going to need to adapt, or perish in the process.

And it’s all thanks to the untamed and unforgiving planet.

Civilization: Beyond Earth Review | The Power of Choice

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Dungeon Of The Endless Review | Mashup Masterpiece

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
4X games, Amplitude Studios, Editor's Choice, Games reviews, PC games, Roguelike, RPG, Strategy games, Tower Defence games

Dungeon Of The Endless Review | Mashup Masterpiece

Platform: PC (reviewed) | Xbox One version TBA

Developer: Amplitude Studios

Don't call it a Roguelike. Dungeon Of The Endless may feature permadeath and dungeon crawling, but one word can't do justice to this extraordinary genre-defying beast. To take a stab at pigeonholing it, I suppose that 'Real-Time Turn-Based Strategic 4X Tower Defence Roguelike RPG hybrid' is probably the closest I can get.

So the first thing you need to know is that Dungeon Of The Endless uses traditional Roguelike genre staples as a launchpad for a totally fresh and unique Sci-Fi experience that continually switches up the pace and challenge in exciting new ways.

The second and most important thing you need to know, however, is that it's absolutely bloody fantastic. Dungeon Of The Endless was already impressive when Ampltude Studios released the alpha last year, and has only grown stronger due to user feedback and honest painstaking hard work. I'm having trouble finding anything remotely wrong with it, but explaining how all of its crazy genre-blending systems interlock will take some doing.

Dungeon Of The Endless Review | Mashup Masterpiece

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Sunset Overdrive Review | Xbox Fun

Author:
Jonathan Lester
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Games reviews, Insomniac Games, Microsoft Studios, Sunset Overdrive, Third Person Shooters

Sunset Overdrive Review | Xbox Fun

Platform: Xbox One

Developer: Insomniac Games

Publisher: Microsoft Studios

Sunset Overdrive promised to bring the fun to Xbox One. Mission accomplished.

It's an explosive, anarchic and angry thing. Free to create the game they wanted to make after Overstrike was butchered into a generic shooter by EA, Insomniac vented their frustration in an all-out orgy of sweary gory irreverent ultraviolence as we take to the rooftops of a city gone to hell following a soda-related apocalypse. We'll create our character and destroy massive hordes of mutants and robots with outrageous evolving weaponry, grinding on every balcony and bouncing off every parked car. The city is a playground. Go play.

Sunset Overdrive Review | Xbox Fun

This is a game that lets us murder a robotic focus group (revenge for Fuse, perhaps?) and team up with weaponised LARPers, swears profusely, incinerates flocks of pigeons with no regard for animal welfare and insults practically everyone with a smile on its face. It gleefully pokes fun at videogame conventions by acknowledging the absurdity of respawns and the 'rule of three' in sarcastic fourth wall-breaking dialogue, because why the heck not. Whereas many AAA titles are grim and gritty, this is violently vibrant and edgily humorous, backed by thrashing punk rock and gleefully aware that it's a videogame.

Punk isn't just the soundtrack. Punk is Sunset Overdrive's entire deal.

By the same token, though, it's also sarcastic, smug and self-assured to the point of arrogance. Thankfully there's a difference between arrogance and confidence, and despite a few missteps stemming from Insomniac's lack of experience with games of this open scale, Sunset Overdrive succeeds on the strength of its traversal, mobility and firepower.

Sunset Overdrive Review | Xbox Fun

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The Evil Within Review | Shinji Mikami's Greatest Hits

Author:
Matt Gardner
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Bethesda Softworks, Horror games, PS4 games, Shinji Mikami, Survival Horror Games, Tango Gameworks, The Evil Within

The Evil Within Review | Shinji Mikami's Greatest Hits

The Evil Within is a lot like a Greatest Hits album -- a paean, if you will, to the ways in which Shinji Mikami has shaped the face of survival horror of the years he's been working in the genre. It's also something of an old-school indictment of where the genre currently resides, although it must be said that playing this almost directly after having my nerves shredded by Alien: Isolation has left me with a feeling of ambivalence towards this spiritual successor to Resident Evil 4.

The setup for The Evil Within is rather lacking -- our lead, the gruff and gravelly Detective Sebastian Castellanos, is a template of a character rather than one in his own right. It doesn't help that he's backed up an equally forgettable, cardboard cutout partner, and a rookie-in-training who could have been interesting if she'd be given more do actually do. It wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't feel it necessary to force-feed players big eyefuls of unimaginative, by-the-numbers exposition.

The Evil Within Review | Shinji Mikami's Greatest Hits

Even then, it's a bit of a mess in terms of structure. It's a shame really, because some of the conflict-stuffed narrative beats to The Evil Within are really rather good. The bosses and sub-bosses that pop up here and there are brilliantly, disgustingly designed, but they rather come and go without any particular rhythm or pacing to the wider experience, and they often present hideously nasty difficulty spikes. It's impossible to shake the feeling that this could all have been planned a little bit better, and the game lurches from chapter to chapter with little satisfaction in terms of smaller pacing arcs, with creepy scenes cobbled together in a disorienting and disappointing fashion. Occasionally, there'll be a fairly effective cliffhanger at the end of a chapter, only for the game to squander that tension at the start of the next.

That's the thing, The Evil Within works well to create moments of tension and a chilling atmosphere at times, bombarding the player with utterly grotesque imagery, but then it doesn't really know what to do with you once it has your attention.

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Dreamfall Chapters – Book One: Reborn Review | The Journey Resumed

Author:
Carl Phillips
Category:
Reviews
Tags:
Adventure Games, Dreamfall Chapters, Dreamfall Chapters Book One - Reborn, Red Thread Games

Dreamfall Chapters – Book One: Reborn Review | The Journey Resumed

A range of emotions flowed over me on Monday morning. You see, after an eight-year wait with a damn cliffhanger, the next instalment of The Longest Journey saga was finally here. The stories of April Ryan and Zoe Castillo, of Stark and Arcadia, of order and chaos, are ones that have resonated with me ever since I played them years ago, and I have craved more. Thankfully, patience is one of my better virtues, although seeing the game in action and speaking to some of the main people behind the magic as helped make the wait a little less painful (and to this day, Tornquist still refers to me as the “wang guy.” See the reason why here.) So while this next statement shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, in the interest of full disclosure I’d like to state that I backed Dreamfall Chapters during its Kickstarter campaign. While I see no reason why it should affect matters, at least we’re all on the same page going into this review. It’s up to you to decide if it impedes my judgement.

Although if you think it does, you’re wrong and I’m removing your interneting privileges.

To recap the story would require far more space than I can afford, so here’s my best attempt at a quick overview. Dreamfall Chapters follows the adventures of Zoe Castillo, known as the Dreamer, and Kian Alvane, a former Apostle / assassin turned traitor, as they try to find their place in the twin worlds of Stark, a futuristic dystopian Earth, and Arcadia, a world of magic. With both of these worlds in grave danger, Book One: Reborn charges players with guiding both characters through their rebirth into the story, and begin their journey to save Stark & Arcadia from certain doom.

Dreamfall Chapters – Book One: Reborn Review | The Journey Resumed

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