Project Root should be fantastic by all rights. Promising to blend the hectic SHMUP gameplay of Raystorm or Axelay with the open exploration of Desert Strike, this Kickstarted shooter sounds sensational on paper and is now available on PS4, PS Vita and Xbox One.
Unfortunately what should have been a shoot'em up fan's dream is actually a bit of a nightmare.
Though a great idea in theory, Project Root is one of the most deeply flawed shooters I've played in years and a textbook example of a studio failing to understand their source material.
The story, such as it is, sees you assume the role of a mercenary tasked with dismantling and destroying an evil energy corporation. As far as I can tell. Since the plot is delivered through a series of grammatically unsound text boxes that are incredibly difficult to read mid-mission due to the tiny font, I'm only aware of half of it. To be perfectly honest, though, I couldn't care less about the storyline as it's just an excuse to throw us into the cockpit of a powerful jet fighter bristling with advanced weaponry.Click here to read more...
White Night blends classic themes that sound fantastic on paper. It's essentially a survival horror/adventure title hybrid, inked with a gorgeous Sin City-esque graphic novel style, toned with a classic 1930s detective noir vibe. I already want a film version.
We begin the tale with a car accident, which sees our protagonist hobbling towards a nearby mansion for help. And boy do I mean hobble. I've never endured such a slow opening 30 minutes in my life. I plodded up to the gates when the camera eventually let me see them, then up to the porch, then around the graveyard until I found the key, and then around the house for ages until I found the first save point, a couch. Thankfully, when our hero awoke, his injuries were healed and I was treated to a run button too.
Right, god awful start out of the way, I could get on with enjoying the game. The visuals are easily the highlight of the whole experience, with clear cut black and white imagery (no greys); this is one of the most striking games I've played on the PS4.Click here to read more...
Exploration is nice. I'm partial to a little Expansion and Exploitation too. StarDrive 2 offers all of these things, but when it comes right down to brass tacks, it's all about wholesale Extermination on a galactic scale. Sweeping battles in space and on land, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, glittering armadas reduced to smouldering ruin. And that's absolutely fine by us.
While the space 4X genre is actually booming thanks to a small number of true greats (such as Distant Worlds and Endless Space), there's also a slew of generic, mechanically unsound and lacklustre cookie-cutter clones attempting to satisfy the demand. Though much closer in mechanics and tone to a traditional 4X game than its RTS-inspired predecessor, StarDrive 2 cuts through the noise by doing things differently, and in many cases, better.
Also there are Space Bears. Which we like immensely, even when they're rampaging through our colonies thanks to surprisingly canny AI.
Note that this review is based on v.1.0h, which includes a huge number of stability and balance tweaks alongside major AI and difficulty level tuning. - JonathanClick here to read more...
Curve Studios are a class act. Not only are they in the business of making great games, but they also act as an indie angel by helping fellow indies get onto Steam and console marketplaces, using their expertise and experience with certification and publishing to push through the red tape.
The Indie Mixtape is handily their most grassroots collaboration so far: a varied Steam collection of five intriguing games from different developers that were previously released on itch.io, Android or iOS to barely any fanfare. Instead of thoughtlessly shoving the quintet straight into Steam like any number of lazy spam pushers I could mention, Curve curated into a cut price compilation with new achievements, trading cards and a simple splash page interface. A spotlight of sorts, a showcase and highlight reel of unappreciated talent.
It's a lovely idea, but like any mix tape there's no guarantee that every track will be to your tastes or equal in quality. To this end, I'm going to play favourites and critique each games in order of which I rated the highest, followed by our appraisal of the package as a whole. So without further ado: let's start with something spectacular.
If you take nothing else away from the review, remember only this: play Roguelight.Click here to read more...
It’s a good job I hadn’t finalised my review until now. Had I drawn a line under my experience last week my opinions would have been very, very different. You see, it has only been in the last 72 hours that the PC port of Grand Theft Auto V has shown me its strengths. It’s beautiful, beautiful strengths. Up until that point the experience in San Andreas has definitely been a good looking, but had been marred by frame rate drops that killed the enjoyment both in the single player campaign and in GTA Online.
Thankfully, those issues have been sorted, and I can now comfortably say that the PC version really is the definitive version of GTA V.
As someone who last played the game on their Xbox 360, the jump in performance has been significant even without touching the 4K visuals that Rockstar have added. Then again, I didn’t really have to state that – there are videos out there that highlight this is the case, but seeing it in action for myself really hammers home how much work has gone into this version of the game. Of course, the big question is if the PC version is worth getting if you’ve previously played the game, and I aim to answer that by the end of this review.Click here to read more...
State Of Decay is one of the all-time great zombie games.
This isn't just a generic sandbox with zombies sprinkled in. It's an astonishing simulation that models a group of survivors who band together in the face of the Zed apocalypse; exploring, scavenging, recruiting, creating a new home and permanently dying in an experience that's never the same twice or for any two players.
From random personality clashes to ravening zombie hordes, food shortages and illness, you'll face problems large and small in your attempts to keep your people safe, sane and brains firmly intact. More surprising still, though, it's also fun thanks to satisfying arcadey controls and plenty of action.
Which you'll probably already know seeing as I reviewed State Of Decay back in 2013, praising its gameplay but criticising its horrendously rough visuals. Two years on and Undead Labs have returned with the Year-One Survival Edition, including new high definition assets, all the DLC content and save file transfer functionality. So this review has to answer two important questions: is the Year-One Survival Edition worth buying for those who never experienced State Of Decay the first time around? And it is worth buying again for those who did?
Spoiler alert: "definitely" and "maybe, but probably not."Click here to read more...
I really, really want to like Titan Souls.
Billed as a cross between Shadow Of The Colossus and Dark Souls but more like a ruthlessly-filleted 2D Zelda compilation, you'll battle a series of enormous bosses with a single arrow and one sole hit point. You'll learn attack patterns, discover weak points and die dozens if not hundreds of times, living for the moment when your bow hits home and your adversary crumbles before you. Before scuttling off to the next arena and the next tougher leviathan.
It feels a little like Acid Nerve are making up for some of the terrible boss battles we've suffered over the years -- from Human Revolution to RAGE -- and are trying to restore the balance in one streamlined package.
So it's odd, then, that I can't stand it. Titan Souls may be based on a razor-sharp gameplay concept, brainstormed over a game jam and developed into a full release, but it's been stretched to near breaking point in the process.Click here to read more...
The roguelike genre has been spreading through the videogame genres over recent years in everything from RPGs to platformers, but now we have one for the FPS genre too. And it's an absolute delight for anyone that remembers shooters before aiming down the sights was a thing.
The graphics-style may appear dated, but for the most part the controls are incredibly smooth and the twitch-handling is a fond throwback to older shooters; the responsive controls are fantastically fluid as you strafe enemies or nip between the hail of slow but thick storms of enemy fire. It has to be said though, there's some awful slowdown in the larger rooms when they try to pack in too many enemies at once. It's not a regular thing though.
Tower Of Guns' premise is simple; you must fight your way through the eponymous Tower of Guns with one life to make it through multiple procedurally generated (random) rooms. That's right, one life. You begin with a truly awful pistol too; even the game mocks its firepower. Enemies are all mechanical and often canon-based. So expect rows of turrets, floating tanks, flying mines, buzz saw turrets and the like.
If I'm honest, enemy variation isn't great and the small number of bosses repeat and grate very soon. But this really isn't the sort of game you're meant to play for hours on end. It's a fun shooter to play when you have an hour or so to kill. Although, some runs will certainly end sooner if you don't keep an eye on that health bar.Click here to read more...
Weeks after my first night in Yharnam, it's time for a verdict on my adventures in Bloodborne. Well, a number for the experience so far at least. Fresh tales about From Software's new title are appearing online every day. This is a game that nobody can really claim to have mastered yet. Secrets are still being unearthed, much of the lore has yet to be agreed and rumours whisper through the net about everything from werewolf modes to hidden boss fights.
One thing's for sure though, Sony has done very well for themselves by nailing Bloodborne down as a PS4 exclusive. As enjoyable as Infamous, DriveClub (eventually) and Killzone were, they never rode such a continuous wave of hype after release. Bloodborne's appeal won't be a surprise to fans of From Software's Demon's Souls or the Dark Souls series, but what is surprising, is that it's pulling in people who aren't fans of the Souls games. People like me.
After playing Demon's Souls, I stayed clear. Unresponsive combat and the relentlessly hardcore attitude to death just rubbed me all sorts of wrong. But ever since playing the Alpha and Beta versions of Bloodborne, I started to think that maybe it was time to have another crack at From Software's games, which had become much more than a cult game -something that hit home when I saw the diverse and incredibly long line of gamers waiting to play Dark Souls II at an Expo.
Bloodborne is still maddeningly difficult, but the most notable improvement for me is the aggressive combat. Heavy weapons and charged attacks aside, swings of your cleaver (if you choose to start with one) are quick and can be relied upon to attack your opponents when you want, rather than the sluggish eventual sword swinging that drove me insane in Demon's Souls. There are inconsistencies in how attacks interrupt enemy strikes though, which can be very frustrating when they take damage but continue to attack straight through your play.Click here to read more...
I love the idea behind Keebles. Halfway between World Of Goo and Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, it encourages us to scratch-build bizarre vehicles to beat increasingly tough physics challenges. Or, more often, chuckle through clenched teeth as our latest creation careens out of control and smashes into tiny pieces.
The premise is adorable, disarmingly so. A legion of fuzzly-wuzzly Keebles have to reach the Whale At The End Of The World and that's pretty much all the exposition you're getting. What matters is shipping these immobile furballs to their destination in the first place, since without any locomotion of their own, you'll have to collect them in a fragile Bobble container by building a frankly bonkers vehicle around it.
Much like a smartphone app (and I choose my words carefully) Keebles is split into 30 short two-dimensional levels. Each stage has a start point, three Keebles to collect and a finish line, but you'll spend most of your time in your workshop creating a vehicle to trundle along the ground, pick up the Keebles on contact and hopefully reach the end intact.
A tall order considering the fiendish assortment of pits, jumps and obstacles in the way.Click here to read more...
Bikers get a seriously rough deal for video gaming thrills. The late 80s and 90s teased us all into getting bikes when we grew up with classics like Road Rash and Super Hang On and then the genre just up and died. Sure there have been Moto GP titles and a smattering of MX titles, but the genre's glory days have long gone. And booting people on Vespas into oncoming traffic is generally frowned upon in real life.
The last decent pair of wheels seen on PlayStation was the free bikes DLC in Burnout: Paradise. With Road Rash seemingly presumably dead in a desert ditch somewhere, we've had to look elsewhere for two-wheeled fun. Milestone (of recent WRC and Moto GP fame) are taking another swing at the sim-side of the genre, something akin to Riding Spirits. We're not quite ready to call this the Gran Turismo of bikes either though.
Sure there are courses spread over real tracks and fictional road-based events. But the variety of bikes or race disciplines on offer doesn't vary enough to warrant a fair comparison. A Gran Turismo of bikes would need to also include dirtbikes, speedway and the multi-surface Supermoto (Supermoto would make for a great game).
That said, the game is packed with tracks, events and some incredibly gorgeous bikes. All the big manufacturers are included, with the game starting you off with lighter naked bikes and easing you through a grand showroom of rides throughout the career, building you -and your skills- up over time before unleashing you on the suicidal superbikes.Click here to read more...
Dark Souls II: Scholar Of The First Sin is so much more than a remaster. Not only have From Software brought a masterpiece to current-gen consoles with a huge amount of content, significantly improved visuals and a delightful performance bump, but they've also radically rebalanced it to challenge veterans while giving newcomers a smooth new way into the fearsome franchise.
Be in no doubt: Dark Souls II is still a masterpiece, or more accurately Drangleic is.
Like all of From Software's recent wares, gameplay revolves around exploring and making sense of a truly astonishing three-dimensional space; an initially confusing yet delightfully interlinked series of corridors, zones and shortcuts. Unravelling this complex geometry is the core of the game, ferreting out its secrets and hidden passages while surviving its deadly inhabitants. Dark Souls II channels 8-bit game design by refusing to hold your hand, respecting your ability to experiment, learn from mistakes and collaborate with others, just like the brutally tough games we used to discuss at length in the playground.
What makes Drangleic so memorable, however, is its mournful and sombre tone. Our character is drawn to its ruins like a moth to a flame, a cursed undead thrall seeking solace in a dying civilization. In stark contrast to so many games out there, it's quiet and even serene at times, evoking complex emotions as you wonder how so much gothic beauty could have been brought so low. Which is where Scholar Of The First Sin reveals the first of many major improvements: the visuals.Click here to read more...
Under Night In Birth Exe: Late has the most unmistakeably Japanese name of any game I've reviewed in ages. None of it makes sense, familiar words smashed together into complete gibberish, but seeing as it hails from the developer behind the Melty Blood series I suppose it could be worse.
And it doesn't matter, because when a fighting game is this good, it can call itself whatever it wants.
As a massively expanded revamp of arcade brawler Under Night In Birth, Exe:Late inherits a fascinating mythology. An otherworldly phenomenon known as Under Night has ravaged Japan for centuries, summoning creatures known as Voids into the physical plane and transforming certain humans into powerful yet undead In-Births. Blessed with eternal life, some of these In-Births are desperate to end their existence, others are obsessed with exploiting the Under Night for itself, whereas others are determined to enact vengeance against the Voids who killed their families or did them wrong. Fighting games are no stranger to bizarre and convoluted storylines, but Exe: Late presents a seriously compelling context for the action.Click here to read more...
Visceral games had a daunting task on their hands when they were given the reigns for the latest Battlefield game. But rather than attempt another military shooter, they've come up with a fresh angle for the series' single player campaign and the online multiplayer by infusing a cops and robbers vibe.
We'll start with the campaign, as it's always nice to get a feel for the guns before hopping online. That said, DICE's last two campaigns in Battlefield 3 and 4 have been terrible, you'd barely know that the same team were behind the excellent Battlefield: Bad Company games. Visceral know their way around a campaign though, having developed the excellent Dead Space series.
You are Nick Mendoza, a Miami cop on the trail of the newest drug in town. The game plays out in TV episode-like chapters and as such has lots of ideal stopping points if you want to play through it in smaller chunks.Click here to read more...
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is a whole lot of Borderlands. Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel to be exact, remastered with crisp HD assets and shipped on a single disc with all the previously released downloadable content ready for action. Yes, there are far too many remasters on PS4 and Xbox One right now, but there's no quibbling with the value. We're talking dozens of hours of shooting, looting, butt slams and Butt Stallions as you return to Pandora and Elpis for another bloodsoaked foul-mouthed rampage, or visit for the first time to find out what you've been missing over the last three years.
There's so much content here, in fact, that this review would be several thousand words long if I attempted to fully critique both games again. Since Borderlands 2 and The Pre-Sequel remain unchanged in terms of gameplay, characters, missions and structure (they're identical right down to the menu tips, which still tout DLC that's actually included on the disc!), I'm going to link to our previous reviews, sum up the pertinent points and go into more detail about whether the new bells and whistles are worth the price of admission.
Beforehand, though, we need to look at a few new features that The Handsome Collection offers across both titles and some nifty cross-generation functionality that existing fans should take full advantage of.Click here to read more...
Seven weeks is far too long to wait between episodes. Episode 1 was a fantastic opener, but the initial six-week wait between episodes became seven after a small delay. Considering Capcom recently released four episodes in four weeks for their episodic Resident Evil: Revelations 2, it would seem to make much more sense to follow their model by finishing development of a game and then releasing it, rather than frantically trying to meet deadlines every six weeks.
More to the point, with story-heavy content like this, it can be difficult to remember just what the hell is going on. The major events stuck in my head easily enough, but some of the interactions with smaller characters were much harder to recall. That said, checking Max's diary and her character bios was a big help, and for the most part, I felt like I was up to speed enough without needing to replay the first episode. Naturally, if you're holding off until every episode is out, you're not going to have a problem.
As we learned in Episode 1, Max has discovered that she can rewind time, giving the player an enormously satisfying skill of rewinding conversations, testing out multiple dialogue trees and carefully choosing what to say to people. Actions can be rewound too, which is something this episode plays with more as Max shares her skills with Chloe (the girl with the striking blue hair).Click here to read more...
I have to hand it to Telltale – releasing Episode 3 with absolutely no build-up via the usual channels was a very welcome surprise, but then again having to wait extended periods between releases is probably the reason why. I just hope that, with the TV show returning soon, it doesn’t become an excuse to drag out the wait (something Tales from the Borderlands’ players have had to suffer with.) Anyway, before we dive into our review for The Sword In The Darkness, here’s some links to our reviews of Episode 1: Iron From Ice, and Episode Two: The Lost Lords. As always with our episodic reviews, our score will be published once the season is finished, reflecting the game as a whole.
Despite some moments of progression, I felt that Episodes 1 and 2 were more about the setup of the story than anything, building up the world of Westeros before things inevitably come crashing down. While Episode 3 still continues that trend to a degree, there is definitely a sense of moving forward this time around. Choices appear to be more diverse, and actions from previous episodes are finally coming back to haunt the player. Perhaps most importantly, while the other episodes have done a great job in replicating the feel of the show, Episode 3 is the closest Telltale have come to nailing it perfectly, all of which makes The Sword In The Darkness the best instalment so far.
Click here to read more...
Pillars Of Eternity is exquisite. Magnificent. It's like crack and catnip to me: bona fide roleplaying cracknip. Then again, I was always going to love it.
You need to be aware that I adore Black Isle's Infinity Engine RPGs, and Pillars Of Eternity is a true return to form by many of the original masters. Though I didn't back the Kickstarter, I've reviewed this game through a thick lens of nostalgia and affection that I simply can't do anything about.
Bear this in mind, but thankfully it doesn't really matter here. Pillars Of Eternity is a truly exceptional isometric cRPG that's worth playing if you're a fan of the genre, but it's specifically designed to cater to those who still carry a torch for those grand old Infinity Engine days. After all, they're who funded it in the first place!
Take its setting, for example. Eora is a marvel, a world where souls are mutable and complex interesting people live complex interesting lives. The huge tract of it that exists in-game is gorgeous, moody and exciting, from dense forests and crumbling ancient ruins to its massive bustling cities, while evocative naming conventions and beautifully-written lore fleshes out what doesn't. There are gods and wars, big events, real history. We'll enter this setting as a wildcard, a Watcher, who goes from refugee to destined hero. It's fabulous and provides plenty of scope for new modules or sequels like any quality campaign setting.Click here to read more...
It's highly unlikely we'll see Final Fantasy XV released this year as it's apparently only around 60% complete. So it was a great surprise to hear that Square-Enix were releasing a lengthy demo for it. Well, if you bought an copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 that is.
So let's dive into this vertical slice of the game that lets us play around with some basic combat options and also provides a large area to explore. Seriously, this thing is huge, no wonder they called it an Episode rather than a demo.
This lengthy taster begins with a brief introduction to the four main characters of your party. There's some serious box ticking of RPG-tropes here. There's the muscle head, the smart guy, a Junkie-chic version of Cloud wearing a weird vest jacket that looks like a tartan skirt at first glance and then there's you, Prince Noctis, a skinny ultra emo haircut. There's not enough story or dialogue scenes offered to provided a fully rounded opinion I'll admit. But as first impressions go, they're fairly dislikeable. I've noticed that FF party members have been a wonderfully diverse group over the years, so it's odd to see this Japanese equivalent of the Backstreet Boys.Click here to read more...
Visual novels are becoming increasingly popular here in the West thanks to the hard work of international publishers and their valiant localisation teams, bringing us text-heavy narrative experiences that hinge around characters, story and 'talking heads' presentation. Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters is one of the best I've read since the first Danganronpa, but it also attempts to inject more interactivity into the typically passive genre with tactical turn-based battles and frequent dialogue choices.
To be honest, I really wish it didn't. We'll get to that later.
The story is the crux of any great visual novel, and Tokyo Twilight tells an absolute corker. Arriving as a new transfer student to a Tokyo high school, you're free to create your own persona (note the small 'p' before you get too excited!) down to name, favourite pastime and even blood type before settling down to classes. However, it doesn't take long before you end up conscripted into a paranormal organisation with a few classmates, pursuing a career as a freelance ghostbuster. Who you gonna call?Click here to read more...