Developer: Revolution Software
Publisher: Revolution Software
It’s very rare that my fiancée is more excited for a game than me. Normally it’s me explaining to her why you should pre-order, why a console needs to be had on launch day, and why that musical chest I got free with The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds is so friggin’ awesome!
But for one franchise in particular she becomes just like me. The geek within rises, and she gets super excited. Step forward Broken Sword. Now luckily for me we’ve been waiting a long time since the last Broken Sword game – longer than our entire relationship in fact, so this is the first time I’ve bore witness to this excitement. I thought she got excited for Zelda, but Broken Sword is in another ballpark. Apparently this is a big deal – she funded it through kickstarter no less - so I’d better do it justice, or so help me that “big day” next year might never come.
No pressure then right? So, eyes down and concentrate.
For those not in as unique a relationship as mine, Broken Sword first hit the gaming scene way back in 1996. It focused on two individuals – local girl Nico Collard and American George Stobbart – who team up to solve a Parisian bombing, with many twists and turns along the way. The original game was your standard 2D point and click adventure, with sequels sending our heroes further afield to more varied locations, and adopting different gameplay mechanics – and even embracing 3D – with mixed success.Click here to read more...
Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), Xbox 360, Windows 8 Devices
Developer: Vanguard Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
It's official: Halo works surprisingly well as a twin-stick shooter.
Perhaps it shouldn't be particularly surprising, in all fairness. Vanguard Games are dab hands at the genre, having brought us the superb Gatling Gears, and absolutely nailed the basics with Spartan Assault. Reliving a Covenant invasion via a holographic training simulation, we'll wield a selection of familiar armaments and vehicles against believably authentic enemies.
One moment we'll smash through entrenched defences in a 'Grizzly' scorpion variant, the next we'll hose down Brutes with SMG fire or engage in tense shootouts against agile Elites using scavenged improvised weapons. The way foes move and act has been perfectly observed (from teetering Grunts to the shield-toting Jackals), while the balance of brave offence, vehicular hijacks and desperately turtling behind a rock during shield recharge is unmistakably Halo. Though more Geometry Wars than Halo Wars, Spartan Assault feels like a Halo game through and through.
Unfortunately Spartan Assault also feels very much like a mobile game that's been shoved onto a home console at twice the original price. Because... it is.Click here to read more...
Platform: Wii U
Developers: Nintendo EAD
On Wednesday 18th December, Nintendo gave its final Nintendo Direct of the year, and in it announced the launched of a collection of minigames based on Nintendo Entertainment System favourites. This collection – made available on Wii U straight after the Nintendo Direct itself – would boast over 200 minigames of some of the most memorable moments of key games from Nintendo’s inaugural home console. But at £8.99 for a bunch of minigames that are over 20 years old, is NES Remix really worth your time and money, or is this just a cheap, dated version of WarioWare?
The main premise of the game takes much from the aforementioned game starring Mario’s arch-nemesis. Only this time, rather than the games being split by the type of action you have to do in the game, they are split by the games themselves. At the start 6 games are unlocked for you – Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Excite Bike and Balloon Fight. The idea being that each minigame takes place in one of these games, with a set specific objective, or multiple consecutive objectives. Like Warioware the games are short, sharp bursts of fun, with you up against the clock.
When you complete a minigame, you are awarded a ranking out of 3 stars based on your clearance time, tapping into the Angry Birds perfectionist in all of us to pick up the maximum ranking on each minigame. More stars mean more unlocks of minigames, as well as unlocking different games to play – such as The Legend of Zelda and Ice Climbers. However perhaps what’s more rewarding, is collecting stars also adds to the special ‘NES Remix’ list of minigames.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
If you’re a late comer to the Assassin’s Creed series, or your interest for it has waned in recent years, this is the game for you. It’s also an essential purchase for any graphics-devouring next-gen console owners out there, as it’s a visual powerhouse from start to finish.
The story sees you essentially playing a game, within a game. You’re some sort of beta tester at Abstergo Entertainment, using the DNA-memory technology seen in the series beforehand to relive the memories of a famous line of Assassin’s. Rather than trying to save the world from Templars as Desmond Miles, this time you’re running through the life events of one Caribbean-based, Welsh pirate, Edward Kenway, to create a video game. It’s very Meta and inside knowledge of past events is handy for the little snippets of information you may find, but newcomers shouldn’t feel left out. There’s always a quick glance at Wikipedia if you need to catch up on the finale of the previous game(s).
The modern day framing device isn’t very intrusive and for the most part, you’re free to enjoy the action and narrative like it was a classic tale of pirates, beards and booty. Kenway is a livelier character than Connor in almost every way, but Ubisoft have sensibly avoided making him a Jack Sparrow clone.
Kenway isn’t born into the Assassin’s Order, he just falls into it – after stabbing one of them and stealing his clothes. From there he uses his new skills and ever-growing notoriety to help his fellow pirates against the tyranny of Spain and Britain. At the end of the day though, he just wants to earn his fortune.Click here to read more...
Developer: Silicon Studio
Publisher: Square Enix
Without the Final Fantasy label holding it back, Bravely Default is free to inject new life into the stagnating JRPG formula.
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Final Fantasy really needs to take a break for a while, giving Square Enix room to experiment with exciting new ideas. Bravely Default is this year's case in point, a spiritual sequel to Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes Of Light that gives us the comfortable airship-sailing, crystal-locating, power-levelling experience we know and love, yet pushes the boat out on sweeping innovations to the combat, underlying RPG systems and 3DS hardware features. Legendary artist Akihiko Yoshida has run rampant, creating a breathtaking watercolour world to explore and enjoy.
Blending the old with the new was a risky business, but the result is truly superb... and yet another reason why you probably ought to own a 3DS. Seriously. I won't stop banging on about it until I Streetpass you.
Click here to read more...
Platform: PC (£6.99)
Developer: Triple B Titles
Ring Runner: Flight Of The Sages is worlds away from your average space shoot 'em up. It looks like a fairly nondescript Asteroids clone on a cursory inspection, but as you can probably tell from that confusing and fussy title, there's a lot going on here.
This recklessly ambitious indie project is thirty hours of epic adventure spread throughout an enormous galaxy, buoyed up with writing of quality you never see in this genre. Its mechanics take inspiration from action RPGs, creating a versatile framework of attacks and classes supported by ship customisation comprehensive enough to make Chris Roberts blush. It's singleplayer, cooperative, competitive, procedural and beautiful. Ring Runner took more than half a decade to make, during which time three sibling developers stuffed it with everything they could possibly think of, from Steamworks support to fully-featured multiplayer that's as engaging as any MOBA out there.
Put simply, Ring Runner might be the best £6.99 you'll spend this month... even though you've probably never heard of it.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 | PS3 | PS Vita (Cross-Buy)
Developer: HumaNature Studios
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
QT3 has been waiting thirty-two years for the return of the human family who abandoned him, leaving the poor mechanoid stranded on a tiny asteroid with no-one but a sentient balloon for company. God only knows how long he would have stayed there had a talking alien oblong named Jeff not turned up and informed QT3 that his entire robot line is under threat of being scrapped.
This is how Doki-Doki Universe -- a new title from the creators of ToeJam and Earl -- begins: with you (as QT3) being told that unless you trot off on an intergalactic adventure and learn about what it means to be human, you and all of your robot chums will be recycled. It'd probably be fairly dark if everything wasn't so incredibly colourful, and the landscapes didn't look like they were drawn by a children's book illustrator.
Things get progressively weirder from then on.
There's not really a word to describe what sort of a genre Doki-Doki Universe inhabits. I suppose it shares a number of features with adventure games, and there are some light puzzle elements to be found here, but really as far as I can tell, it's a game about empathy and connections and relationships. Tasked with discovering what "humanity" means, you take QT3 from hand-drawn planet to hand-drawn planet, introducing yourself to the weird and wonderful array of characters to be found upon each rock.Click here to read more...
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past was my first ever Zelda game. It will always hold a special place in my heart not only for being the game that introduced me to one of the greatest franchises I ever have had the pleasure of playing, but also for being a fantastic game in its own right. So when a straight sequel was announced, I have no shame in revealing that I was very excited - kiddie at Christmas excited.
But how would I find a sequel to a game that I have placed on a pedestal for two whole decades? Would it be able to live up to the game I held so dear, and would there be enough difference in this game to make it a classic in its own right?
Like most Zelda games, we begin with Link oversleeping – Hylean heroes apparently need their ten hours of beauty sleep a night. After being woken to go and do some work, our hero gets accidentally caught up in a very familiar plot involving kidnap of Sage descendants to a mysterious parallel land. It’s up to our hero to collect some well-known jewels, and a famous sword to go off after them.
So yes, story-wise this won’t win any awards for individuality, in fact its parallel to Link to the Past’s story is equalled in the mirroring that also occurs between Hyrule and the game’s mysterious parallel land known as Lorule. And Lorule itself is essentially the Dark World from Link to the Past, right down to its music, design and enemies.Click here to read more...
Publisher: KISS Ltd
Darkout creates atmosphere better than any crafting sandbox game I've ever played.
Though heavily influenced by Terraria and Minecraft, this new procedural indie effort swaps lurid voxels for dense backgrounds and a rich colour palette, stranding us on a twilight forest world where shadowy predators hunt us through rippling bioluminescent foliage. Our unlucky astronaut is forced to subsist from the most primitive basics, crafting primitive shelters and tools from whatever they can find before eventually bringing outrageous future technology to bear, all while desperately trying to keep the lights on. There's a sense of real purpose, of threat, despair and desperation, that you rarely get from a procedural craft'em up.
Mind you, the player character model sticks out like a sore thumb: a clunky cutesy cartoon caricature who undoes almost all of Allgraf's good work in an instant. They've promised to improve the art assets across the board, but I'm afraid that this is a symptom of Darkout's biggest flaw.
Despite not being an Early Access title, it's neither complete nor fully ready yet.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (timed exclusive)
Developer: PopCap Games
In almost every way that counts, Peggle 2 is exactly what we need it to be. What I need it to be. Another hit, another fix, just a bit more of that sweet Pegglin' action to calm the shakes and stop my teeth itching. A prescription for the Extreme Fever we've all been suffering from these last few years.
PopCap's beloved Bagatelle-meets-Pachinko-meets-psychadelic-insanity timesink is is still as enjoyable and inexplicably addictive as ever. Flinging balls at little coloured pegs shouldn't be this much fun, yet Peggle 2 once again nails the middle ground between chance and skill. Superb ball physics allow experienced players to line up and call the perfect trick shot, while most of us enjoy the thrill of a one in a million chance coming good with random desperate punts. Whatever your style, nailing all of the orange pegs results in a crescendo of classical music, fireworks and ridiculous shenanigans that makes us feel warm and tingly all over.
What? You know it's true.
As you'd expect from a next-gen debut title, Peggle 2 is also very shiny indeed. It's crisp, colourful and utterly gorgeous, oozing both class and painstaking attention to detail alongside rampant hilarity by the bucketload. The five characters look fantastic thanks to big expressive animated portraits, reacting to your shots in all manner of silly ways. Returning unicorn Bjorn prances and whinnies, farting out rainbows and magically throwing up the horns with his... horn. Jeff the troll quotes The Dude as he relaxes with a cold pint, all while his goat pals get so amped in the background that their heads explode. Zombie girl Luna's jaw drops so hard that it falls off. Each master is absolutely packed with personality, though of course, they aren't just pretty faces.Click here to read more...
Developers: Sony Japan Studio
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Mark Cerny. Architect not only of beloved IPs such as Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, and Spyro the Dragon, but also of the PlayStation 4 itself. This smiling genteel man has been one of the most visible exponents of innovative design over the years, no more so than in the past twelve months as Sony had him take the stage time and time again to tell us that the PS4 was focused on one thing, and one thing only: games.
With such a litany of references and credits, and ably supported by Sony Japan Studio -- an outfit although sometimes lacking in execution and polish brought us the fantastic ideas behind games such as Gravity Rush and Tokyo Jungle -- when we learned that Cerny would be heading up a crack team of developers to produce something for the PS4, we all got rather excited.
And then Knack turned up.
Sure, Knack is pretty to look at. Constructed of chunks and shards of minerals and relics, the titular character is a wonderful sight to behold -- an impressive avatar to demonstrate the power in particle rendering and animation that the PlayStation 4 can bring to the table. He trots around brightly coloured landscapes, from ice caves to lava plateaus and gloriously realised, verdant temperate areas, with a fixed camera harking back to days gone by when we'd be controlling a sprightly marsupial on the PSOne. When you open chests stuffed with relic pieces, and Knack absorbs them into his form and swells in size, it's hard not to be a little impressed by the graphical trickery. The textures are gorgeous, the clean, Pixar-esque feel to it all is aesthetically delightful, and Knack at least looks the part.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | PS3 | 360 | PC
Developer: Compulsion Games
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Contrast has been thrust into the limelight of the PS4's launch thanks to its inclusion as a free game for all PS+ subscribers. And given that said subscription is required to play the PS4 online, it may be getting a bigger audience than it expected on opening night. No pressure then.
The game's setup is an unusual one from the start as you control the odd pairing of Didi -the young girl- and Dawn, a female stage performer. More unusually, the other characters in the game don't seem to see Dawn, and they only appear as shadows. This is the norm though as we see Didi talk with her parents in their shadow form throughout.
The setting is based in the jazz age and has a distinct noir flavour thanks to the shadows and scene-setting music. The story and acting border on cliché for the movie genre, but compared to most gaming setups it’s hard not to fall in love with this classic tale of gangsters, jazz singers the circus and family all seen though the eyes of a child.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | Xbox One
Developers: Visual Concepts
Publishers: 2K Sports
The generation jump has, by and large, seen much of the same again in the short while since the Xbox One and PS4's releases. We've had a dearth of truly essential exclusives on both sides, coupled with generation-bridging third party extravagances that, though shinier on next-gen tech, are largely feature-complete and cheaper on old machines. What this had meant is that it feels as though we're still awaiting a number of studios to really commit to the future consoles and truly elevate their games to the next level.
Thankfully, Visual Concepts are on the ball. Sorry for the puns.
NBA 2K14 arrives on PS4 and Xbox One in markedly different form to the game that greeted PS3 and Xbox 360 owners. Instead of being a slightly tuned up version of NBA 2K13, what we have here is a title that has been resolutely overhauled both on and off of the court to striking effect. It hasn't all gone entirely swimmingly, but what we do have here is a truly next-gen title that shows great promise.
If you watched my initial impression video for NBA 2K14 on PS4, you'll no doubt have borne witness to my excited reaction to the player models and exceptionally fluid animations. Visual Concepts have always been excellent at player capture and recreating the spinning, Eurostepping balletic grace of a player such as Kobe or D-Wade. Creating a zippy point guard and giving him a devastating, Iverson-esque crossover has long been a delight. But here, on machines with more power and memory, the animations and level of physical detail on the players have been ramped up to an impressive degree. There's a solidity and physicality to proceedings that is very welcome, aided by an on-court soundscape that has been recaptured and given wider variety and impact.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Frontier Developments
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Zoo Tycoon isn't your typical console launch title.
It's an oasis of calm and entry-level accountancy in a cacophony of tyre smoke and bullets, a sim designed for all the family. And a Kinectimals sequel. Frontier Developments have created an odd little title that seems to be at odds with itself, hectic micro-management one moment and making faces at chimpanzees with Kinect the next. As such, Zoo Tycoon attempts the impossible: finding common ground between fans of simulations and casual players who just want to make a fun little zoo and play with its inhabitants.
Whether that middle ground actually exists is up for debate, but Zoo Tycoon still manages to be a charming compromise that anyone with a love of animals - or just a playful spirit- will enjoy regardless of age or ability.Click here to read more...
Developer: Ghost Games
Need For Speed: Rivals ought to be the best racing game on PS4 and Xbox One. On paper it already is: an enormous open world where street racers challenge each other to reckless head-to-head showdowns, all as the police strive to shut them down hard and fast with an insane range of gorgeous tricked-out supercars. It's a fun factory, a powerslide paradise, underpinned by the AllDrive system that brings players together into a single seamless session on both sides of the law. Ghost Games have the pedigree to pull it off, consisting primarily of Criterion veterans, but the reality match the mission statement?
Everything nearly works as intended, it's almost brilliant, but unfortunately you can feel the limitations of the PS3 and Xbox 360 holding Rivals back where it counts.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Turn 10
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
For many Xbox One owners, Forza 5 is "next-gen," the game that definitely marks the end of one era and the start of the next.
It really is a thing of beauty; the diamond-sharp, crystal-crisp action more drool-inducingly gorgeous than the orange McLaren P1 on the screen. Sure, the off-track detail isn't quite as impressive as those early showcase builds, but we're still able to pick out individual blades of grass as we barrel past at insane speeds, and ogle the tiniest reflections in the bonnet or the inside of the windscreen. It's stunning, £429 stunning.
Forza 5 is built on racing pedigree too. Turn 10's series is famed for its sweet spot between accessibility and ruthless simulation, offering a range of scalable assists and a rewind function to let everyone find their automotive happy place. For me, it's chucking a BMW M3 sideways through the streets of Prague with a braking-only racing line and automatic gearbox. For others, it will be cut-throat authenticity in a track special or F1 car, carefully managing tyres and collisions to stay out of the pit lane. Every vehicle is unique and treated with reverence, regardless of its age or horsepower, meaning that there's a niche for everyone.
You can find it, whatever it is... though getting there might take a little more time than you're used to.Click here to read more...
Developers: Guerilla Games
Publishers: Sony Computer Entertainment
Hot damn, Killzone: Shadow Fall is pretty. Really pretty. It's so pretty, in fact, that my very first act as protagonist Lucas Kellen was to rush to a balcony and gawp at the stunning vistas before me. Unfortunately, though, I was on the run from the Helghast at the time, and dawdling was inadvisable. I'm pretty sure I hold the current record for swiftest demise when it comes to this game.
The point is, of course, that Killzone: Shadow Fall really looks like a next-gen game.
It gallops along in clear, crisp 1080p at 30fps in singleplayer, and 60 in multiplayer, and Guerilla Games have thrown colours into the mix, which makes a nice change from the decidedly military tones of previous installments. An early mission sees you trotting about in a lush green forest to discover what happened to a missing scout battalion. Later on, as you find yourself in Vekta City, the urban landscape unfolds in beautiful fashion, with alabaster monoliths giving way to skyscrapers of vanilla marble and shimmering glass.
The lighting is phenomenal. From glorious sunsets that see stars melt into the horizon, to rich neon hues in more urban environments. There's a hint of lens flare in some shots, occasionally specks of dust and dirt on the camera that add to the framing, as surfaces glimmer and gleam with reflections. Every single frame of Killzone: Shadow Fall is a feast for the eyes, and if you want a next-gen game to drop your jaw with sublime prettiness, then this is it. It's a testament to the artistic craft of Guerilla's designers that you want to move through the game at a relatively languid pace just to enjoy the sumptuous visual detail. The PS4 gives this game the grunt, but the art team deserves real credit for making the tight corridors of a city's shanty built out of shipping crates just as visually engaging as the beautiful, sweeping shots of Vekta that greet you as the opening credits roll.Click here to read more...
Greatness awaits. That's been the main slogan for the PS4 over the last month, along with the party line hashtag #4ThePlayers. But does it really? Have Sony stayed true to their assertions of focusing this console on gamers and developers? The (marathon) race for supremacy in this, the eighth, console generation has begun, and this time both of the big hitters from Microsoft and Sony are out of the gates at the same time. We've already heard about the Xbox One, but what of Sony's machine. After spending most of this year basking in their competitor's PR gaffes and U-turns, Sony's console finally has to stand on its own merits.
So, can it cut it?
The PlayStation 4 is a sexy piece of kit, that much is certain. I had my slight reservations about it early on, but at 275mm x 53mm x 305mm and 2.8 kilos, the frame is both smaller and lighter than the first round of PS3 Slims let alone the original last-gen console itself. There's no ugly power brick you need to find space for, and although at a glance it looks like an obsidian monolithic homage to the National Theatre in some ways, it makes my other consoles look like ugly, jagged crates. Sat next to an Xbox One, it just oozes aesthetic superiority.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Dead Rising 3 is no looker. Forget the cries of "720p!" and "30FPS!" because we don't need jargon to describe this hot mess. There are moments of beauty, but it's hard to notice them when shop signs and road markings take an age to pop into existence, animations are clunky across the board and waxy-faced NPCs frequently look less human than the zombie hordes. As such, it won't be the first game you install on your new Xbox One to show off the system.
However, this madcap slaughter sandbox deserves to be the second disc you pop into the drive... where it will likely remain for some considerable time. Dead Rising 3 is nothing less than the best next-gen console exclsuive on either system and succeeds for one simple reason. Instead of concentrating on graphics, Capcom Vancouver decided to translate the Xbox One's horsepower directly into FUN.
And zombies. Ruddy hundreds of the procedurally-generated shamblers, all of whom can be dispatched in a wonderful cornucopia of profoundly silly ways.
Click here to read more...
Developer: EKO Software
Publisher: 505 Games
Like any good zombie attack, you never see it coming and How to Survive will sink its teeth into your nights if you let your guard down while patiently awaiting the arrival of your shiny next-gen console.
EKO Software’s game is a top-down action-RPG that can be loosely compared with the likes of Diablo III or Dead Nation. After crash landing on a zombie-infested tropical island, you’ll need to scavenge for salvage and build weapons and armour to hold off the infected masses. The overall aim is to make a series of vehicle repairs via completing fetch quests. Ok, so not exactly a revolution of new ideas, but once How to Survive gets going, it’s hard to put down.
Combat is a mix of melee and improvised firearms. Everything must be built from scratch. From humble beginnings with a stick, you’ll go on to craft machetes, axes and spiked boomerangs. Melee attacks are assigned to RB, which isn’t ideal if I’m honest, as it can get uncomfortable after prolonged sessions. You can use basic swings or hold for a charged attack. If you stagger an enemy, you can initiate a grisly kill move, which usually pushes back nearby zombies too, giving you some essential breathing room.Click here to read more...