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...
Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is bigger than Hotline Miami in every way imaginable. From a massively expanded runtime to multiple playable characters, an involved canon-hopping storyline and sprawling murder playgrounds, Dennaton have thrown everything they can at the game to give you more bang for your buck.
We expect this from sequels, of course, but being bigger doesn't necessarily equate to being better. Something that Hotline Miami 2 players will find out the hard way.
Hotline Miami 2's storyline is utterly bizarre. Starting with a controversial fake-out, the plot schizophrenically leaps between events before, during and after the first game. New plot threads are brought up and ignored or left dangling. Characters are introduced, killed off, taken in unexpected directions or otherwise discarded. One moment you're storming a garage as a hired goon, the next you're playing as an actor depicting the events of the original or fans obsessed with the legendary serial killer, then you're fighting the communist invasion of Hawaii. Dialogue shifts between uncanny and clichéd on a whim.
The whole thing eventually unravels as the boundaries between fantasy, reality, delusion and videogame break down, the structure collapsing under its own obtrusive and obnoxiously wordy weight. It's confusing, deeply pretentious and I absolutely bloody love it.Click here to read more...
Missed the earlier episode reviews? Use these links to get to Episode 1, Episode 2 and Episode 3. Unlike the previous episodes, I’ll be putting a score at the end of this one that reflects the complete Season Pass / retail release.
This is it then, the finale to what has been a very encouraging episodic series debut from Capcom and the Resident Evil series. This is where we find out what happened to Claire and Moira as they make their way to the top of the tower and we’ll find out if Barry and Natalia can catch up with them and get some answers of their own.
Last week we were pleasantly surprised to see both parts of the episode last almost twice as long as previous episodes. So, it was a massive kick in the teeth that Claire’s ‘half’ of the final episode lasts about 15 minutes. And there are some incredibly annoying ‘platforming’ sections that will more than likely result in a few cheap deaths to mess with your overall stage rating. Fortunately, Barry’s is closer to two hours, but it’s incredibly frustrating as Claire’s piece lacks any real sense of closure.Click here to read more...
Tales From the Borderlands: Episode Two - Atlas Mugged is excellent, but I have to start this review with a bit of a moan.
Three months, Telltale. Three months.
I've always loved episodic series, whether Stingray, 24 or The Wolf Among Us. After each episode ends I have time to think about the cliffhanger, to debate it with my friends, to fantasize about what could happen and then finally sit down to enjoy the next one jangling with excitement. Binging cheats us out of this simple pleasure, and my 'Telltale routine' involves pouring a glass of half-decent red wine, switching my phone to silent and enjoying each new episode to the full.
Unfortunately, a quarter of a year goes from satisfying suspense to plain boredom and annoyance, and even Telltale know it. The fact that Atlas Mugged starts with an apology and overlong catch-up proves it, and frankly Telltale needs to publish and stick to firm release dates now. Hell, television series start next week at the exact same time. That's what makes the waiting bearable.
So it's a good thing that Zer0 Sum ended on such a satisfying bang, then. And that, as mentioned, Atlas Mugged does the business.Click here to read more...
Capcom's penultimate episode to Resident Evil: Revelations 2 edges us ever closer to what has so far been a very successful experiment for the series as it tries out an episodic model with four episodes over as many weeks.
Like previous episodes, you'll control Claire and Moira for the first part and Barry and Natalia for the second. Given the ending of the last episode, you may be desperate to find out what happens to the latter pair, but you'll just have to wait.
Both parts are very action heavy this week. A little hint, be sure to carry as much ammo as possible for Claire's section in particular - you're going to need it for some of the boss fights. For those of you playing in local co-op, the secondary characters feel a bit more involved this time. Moira's flashlight skill to briefly blind enemies buys vital time for Claire as she reloads or lines up a careful headshot. Laying into enemies with the crowbar should be working better for you now as you'll no doubt have built up some decent BP currency to upgrade your stats.Click here to read more...