Developer: Insomniac Games
Sony’s long serving pair are back for another dose of platforming and mad scientist-style firearms. Let’s get straight to what you want to hear, yes, Ratchet & Clank: Nexus is a return to form after the misguided effort that was Q-Force. So, with no threats of ridiculous tower defence to worry about we’re free to enjoy the series as it was always meant to be.
That said, I’ve been surprised to see Insomniac continue to work on the series since they started working on non-Sony titles, but I supposed something has to pay the bills between Fuse and Sunset Overdrive (an upcoming Xbox One exclusive). This could explain why we’re getting a shorter Ratchet adventure than usual, but in fairness, it’s only £20.
It’s well worth the money too, providing around six hours for an initial playthrough. Then the usual endgame challenge modes, Gold Bolts, Omega weapons and come-get-me Platinum Trophy encourage extra runs through the game, which fans will dive straight into without even making a brew after the end credits.Click here to read more...
I have a confession to make – I didn’t really enjoy the Battlefield 4 multiplayer beta. Something about the Siege Of Shanghai map didn’t really grab my attention, and after a few games on it I was ready to uninstall. As such, I wasn’t really filled with enthusiasm when Matt threw the review copy of BF4 in my face. Still, I had enjoyed the previous effort from DICE – not quite to the same level as the Bad Company games, but it was still enjoyable from a multiplayer perspective. However, before I jumped into that, I felt I should get the single player campaign out of the way.
You see, we here at Dealspwn felt that the previous instalment’s solo effort was… well… I’m going to put this diplomatically - not good. For whatever reason you want to pick, be it jumping narrative perspectives, rat stabbing insta-fail sections, pointless jet plane sequences, and a lack of memorable plot or characters, the end result was not exactly DICE’s finest work. So it’s with some relief that I can say the single player campaign for Battlefield 4 is an improvement. It’s not quite the blockbuster DICE were probably hoping for, and it by no means can hold a candle to the multiplayer side of things, but key issues have been addressed to make it not so much of a yawn-fest.Click here to read more...
Developer: Spiderweb Software
A new Spiderweb Software RPG is like my birthday, Christmas and unexpected tax rebate all rolled into one. While my American peers continually bicker about console resolutions and upload pictures of their brand new PS4s to Instagram, you'll find me playing a game that creates an entire world and believable characters using little more than the written word and a pocketful of sprites. Avadon 2 may look like it's stuck in 1998, but it channels the classic Infinity Engine and Gold Box games of old, another one-man tour de force from the indomitable Jeff Vogel.
Like Avernum and Geneforge before it, Avadon 2 requires its players to just add imagination, using a peerless command of the English language and rock-solid RPG systems to keep us hooked to the screen over the course of fifty-plus hours. Sorry it took so long.
Avadon 2 leads on from the events of its predecessor, though previous experience isn't essential. We're re-introduced to a fantasy world on the brink of destruction, both from a force of monolithic evil and squabbling factions vying for control under the guise of a grudging alliance. The formidable black fortress of Avadon used to keep the treacherous factions in line with an iron fist and its elite armies, but a recent attack leaves it uniquely vulnerable. Into this fragile situation steps you, the player, a wild card who could help to restore Avadon to its former glory or undermine it from within.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developers: Firaxis Games
Publishers: 2K Games
Jon died last night. Just after reaching the rank of Lieutenant, both him and my good friend Seb got ambushed by a bunch of Thin Men and copped it. Soldier Me was back at base, nursing a grave injury after a run in with some particularly brutal Mechtoid, groaning in the infirmary with an equally bloodied and battered Carl. My girlfriend was the only one who made it out of that mission alive, largely thanks to a Hail Mary play that saw a fluke shot hit home, clearing a path to extraction. Jon and Seb and the sniper captain I'd named Starbuck weren't so lucky. Except it had nothing to do with luck, not really. I'd gotten them killed; I was the one who sent them running in too quickly after a time-sensitive resource. All those hours of careful progression and upgrading gone.
Welcome back, Commander. Everything you thought you knew has changed.
It's good to be sinking hours into XCOM again. Enemy Unknown was one of our favourite games of last year, and now, at a time when many are lamenting the absence of meaningful expansion packs like how they used to do, Firaxis have gone and dropped just such a big, fat expansion pack into the mix just in time for another run at Game of the Year.
Enemy Within presents the same outstanding turn-based strategy that you know and love, but with a host of additional maps, missions, customisation options, troops types, and enemies to face thrown into the equation. That might sound a little like a bit of a cop out, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's more like an outstanding director's cut -- a standalone package (on consoles, at least) that includes the original game, all of the DLC that's come out in the last year, as well as a host of new content. It's the gaming equivalent of those Lord of the Rings Extended Edition boxsets. And it's excellent.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developer: The Farm 51
Publisher: Nordic Games
Recently I've been playing a game that features frantic gunplay set in ancient temples full of secrets to discover. One moment I'm battling hordes of foes with my back to the wall, the next I'm exploring massive open levels in search of riches and hilarious Easter eggs. It's utterly fantastic, truly an FPS for the ages.
Of course, I'm talking about Serious Sam: The First Encounter, which I've been playing to remind myself that not all games are as awful as Deadfall Adventures.
The premise was sound. An Indiana Jones-inspired shooter that takes us around the world in a nonstop Nazi-killing treasure-looting adventure? Yes please. That's very much a thing we want, and The Farm 51 are a solid studio with FPS experience. So it pains me to report that Deadfall Adventures manages to seize total rout from the jaws of greatness.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC (Steam & Browser)
Developer: QCF Design
I prayed this day would never come.
Desktop Dungeons is the devil. It's a monster. Ever since I first played this supremely compelling and fearsomely tough Roguelike back in 2011, it sank its claws into me hard and deep. "I haven't slept properly in days," I wrote, a broken husk of a manchild. "Eating and personal hygiene has become a minor distraction. Pity me, dear reader, for I've become a hapless, dribbling thrall enslaved in the grip of what could well be the most ruthlessly addictive game I've played in years." As the months went by, I mustered my willpower, rejoined society and eventually clambered back onto the wagon.
But QCF Design spent the last few years with their noses to the grindstone, and the wagon is now a smouldering wreck. Desktop Dungeons is finally complete and available on Steam after several long years... and since it's also playable in-browser with cloud save functionality, there is nowhere to hide. It's too late for me. Run, before it's too late for you too! Fly, you fools!Click here to read more...
Developer: Scientifically Proven
Publisher: Midnight City
There’s a lot to be said for a good old-fashioned 2D platformer. It’s been a mainstay of the industry for decades due to its simplicity and accessibility as a genre. But as such the plethora of games has made the genre a little stagnated in that almost everything that can be done has been done to it. The room for innovation is limited, but as such is celebrated when it is executed well. So now Scientifically Proven – an indie developer – have created Blood of the Werewolf, their offering in the world of 2D platforming, currently available on Steam for £7.99, but how does it compare to nearly 30 years of history?
In the game, you take control of Selena, a werewolf, who is on the hunt for her missing child, Nickoli, who is one of the last surviving werewolves. Her journey will take her through a variety of landscapes and enemies, with tough obstacles to overcome. She’ll face bosses who are literally a who’s who of fantasy horror titles - Dracula, Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll to just three.
The main mechanical focus, when it comes to gameplay, is that you play the game as Selena in either human or wolf form. In human form, she is armed with a crossbow – whose aim is controlled with the mouse – which she uses to combat the enemies she comes across. It can also be used to shoot switches and other objects which can impact the surroundings. As a wolf, Selena grows in size and can use her brute strength to swipe at enemies. Also she inherits that well-known werewolf ability of the double-jump allowing her to reach even higher or further places than in human form. As is probably apparent from those descriptions, the two forms control and play very differently, but the ability to switch between them is preset in the game rather than at the player’s will. Indoor / underground sections where the moon is blocked out will be played as a human, whereas outdoor / windowed areas will be as a wolf. On the face of it feels restrictive, but actually what it allows the game to do is have sections specialised to either form, allowing for tighter level design rather than having to accommodate either form.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS4 (tested) | Xbox One | PS3 | Xbox 360 (tested)
Developers: Ubisoft Montreal
Apologies to those of you who've followed my writing on Assassin's Creed over the last couple of years as I'm going to repeat myself a little bit here, but for those of you coming into this review in need of a little context, here's the beef: Assassin's Creed III was a sprawling, clunky, overstretched, uneven adventure with a dull central character and too many diffuse game components that failed to come together to present an engaging, cohesive world. There was little freedom, too much linearity in a paradoxically gigantic world, a lack of verticality (the first thing anyone does in AC is climb the nearest tall steeple or spire), and an abandoning of the thing that had made the franchise great. The key has always been in the title: we want to assassinate people.
Thankfully, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag does much to bring stalking one's prey however you like back in a big way.
We'll get to the pirate stuff itself, but let's look at how the more familiar elements to the series have been tweaked up and expanded upon for this game. The best things from Assassin's Creed III -- things like running assassinations, the wide variety of darts, and treetop parkour -- have all returned. But now there's verticality to go with that. Not on the scale of the urban hives of activity that Rome and Constantinople and the Crusader cities presented to us, but enough to warrant more than enough rooftop hopping.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Wii U | Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Developers: Infinity Ward
Call Of Duty is the kitchen sink of the Christmas shooters. It's all things to all gamers - bombastic singleplayer, robust co-op and manic multiplayer action - something for everyone in a single convenient package.
Every year we hear the same old backlash, the tiresome accusations of stagnation and laziness, but every year I've upgraded anyway and recommended that you do the same. Whether we're seeing Captain Price's moustache chronicles through to completion, enjoying new tweaks to the multiplayer formula or revelling in Treyarch's anarchic attempts to subvert the experience, there's always been a reason to ride shotgun on Activision's bandwagon.
What was it again?
For all we know Call Of Duty: Ghosts might feel like a real step forward for the franchise on PS4 and Xbox One, while the PC version seems to be the definitive edition in terms of visuals and features. But if you're sticking with PS3 or Xbox 360 and already own Black Ops II, Infinity Ward's latest effort might feel like less of an upgrade and more like filler material. In fact, the current-gen console version feels so noticeably pared-back that I'm compelled to review it as a standalone product.Click here to read more...
Developer: WB Games Montreal
Publisher: WB Games
Do you know what I’ve learned from Arkham Origins? That Batman used to be a complete jackass. Not one of those loveable gruff types whose acts of being rough around the edges translate into a sort of cavalier coolness, but just a straight-up, actual jackass. Thankfully, by the end of the game he morphs into a more likeable person, but damn, there were points where I was routing for the bad guys.
But I’m rushing ahead of myself here, so let’s rewind a little bit. With Rocksteady Studios now done with the Arkham series, the developmental mantle now falls to WB Montreal – the team responsible for the Wii U’s Armored Edition of Arkham City. The port proved that they were capable caretakers of the franchise, but Origins would be the real test to see if they could continue the legacy of Rocksteady’s work moving forward. Unfortunately, the answer to whether they are up to the task is a difficult one to answer, because for everything they get right there are problems just waiting around the corner.
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS3 | Xbox 360 (reviewed)
Man, I suck at the guitar. This wasn't always the case, mind you. I used to know my way around a fretboard relatively well (relative to a donkey) in younger years. To this day, Jon and I will reminisce about that time we had back at uni when a few friends came round and we managed to jam out a 17-minute long mashup of Phantom of the Opera and Knights of Cydonia with several guitars, a keytar, and a penny whistle. It was awesome.
How awesome? We'll never know. We were drunk and we've never been able to replicate it sober.
The reason I tell you this is because it's important that you know I went into Rocksmith 2014 having not practised in years, with the soft fingertips of a mediocre stringsmith who hadn't picked up an axe in months, and who was never especially brilliant to begin with. To this day, I still struggle with barre chords and making my little finger do anything besides hovering around uselessly.
Several weeks after spending time in the company of Rocksmith, however, and I'm making severe progress.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PSN | XBLA
Developer: Mercury Steam
The 3DS was always going to struggle with the ambitious graphics in Mirror of Fate, but we no longer have to fend off its ugly with a crucifix, because Konami have unleashed a HD makeover on the PS3 and Xbox 360 digital stores and at a bargain price of £9.99.
For those of you who missed the 3DS version (a mildly respectable 6/10), the game ditches the 3D action feel of Lords of Shadow for something more in line with the classic 2D Castlevania games. So expect lots of platforming, exploration and fending off opponents from both sides.
Admittedly, the formula has been watered down a bit. Levels aren’t particularly big, levelling up is very linear and there are many (optional) concessions to the lower difficulty levels with extra checkpoints (even in boss fights), weaker enemies and map guides.
Visually, the game feels like it’s a part of the new saga and looks a hell of a lot better than the seriously jaggy 3DS version. It’s not slap-your-face-gorgeous like the first game, but it’s a massive step up from the handheld.Click here to read more...
Developer: Mine Loader Software Co., Ltd
Publisher: Namco Bandai
It may come as a surprise to some of you younger gaming ragamuffins out there, but despite my age, I missed the Pac-Man craze when it first came out by a good 5 to 10 years, and as such have never really grown up with it close to my heart. Sure I’ve played it through the years, but only fleetingly, and so I’m in probably quite a unique position as I write this review, that I won’t be weepy-eyed over hours spent in an arcade spending all my pocket money on the early 80s smash hit. Besides getting all soppy would undo all the hard work I‘ve done to build up this manly, butch guy image you all see me as here at Dealspwn, right?
Ahem. Moving on…
This latest iteration of the Pac-Man series is the tongue-twisting (and presumably Street Fighter-inspired) Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX+. The game looks to build on the 2007 release, Pac-Man: Championship Edition. The ‘DX’ version came 3 years later on XBLA, and now Namco Bandai have released a DX+ version of the game – as the current definitive version. Still with me? Good, let’s go eat some ghosts.Click here to read more...
Developer: Modern Dream
Did you buy it? Please tell me you bought it.
The Typing Of The Dead: OVERKILL is long overdue: a sequel to the quirky arcade shooter/typing trainer hybrid that released in arcades, on PC and Dreamcasts many years ago. It's effectively a straight-up port of SEGA's grindHouse Of The Dead reboot, but instead of blasting zombies with a lightgun or WiiMote, you'll type words and phrases that appear on screen to emancipate undead brains from their skulls, paying close attention to punctuation and grammar as you do so. The very idea seems bizarre and even a little stupid when laid out in matter-of-fact terms, but in practice, it's one of the most intense and enjoyable House Of The Dead games to have released in the last decade.
And it was also 50% off for the first 48 hours after launch, which have almost certainly expired by the time you read this sentence. I have failed you. Remind me, are there one or two Ps in 'seppuku'?
Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC (requires Leap Motion)
I'm slowly learning my way around the Leap Motion gesture-based controller. As with all new gizmos and platforms for games, there's a little bit of an adjustment period that one needs, both in terms of development and consumer consumption. Expecting 1:1 control out of the Wii when it first emerged was something that quickly needed adjusting, and it's the same with something like the Leap Motion too.
But I'm still not entirely sold on the device itself, and playing through the brief, on-rails shooter that adorns the scrolling headline banner of its Airspace store hasn't changed that one bit. If anything, it seems just as confused as I am.
Blue Estate, the game in question, is an hour-long, on-rails shooter that has you pointing your finger at your PC screen and rattling off bullets like you would in Time Crisis, House of the Dead, or, more pertinently, The Gunstringer. Except here's the catch: it's so much worse than all of those games.Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 | PS Vita (cross-buy, £9.99)
Developer: Ed Key | David Kanaga
Publisher: Curve Studios
Halfway between a gorgeous abstract adventure game, screensaver, electronic musical instrument and pleasant recurring dream, Proteus exists in a world of its own.
It is a world of its own. Proteus plonks us on a procedurally-generated island and simply lets us explore; climbing mountains, trekking through forests and gawping at genuinely beautiful vistas as the seasons change around us, all the while tickling our eardrums with a profoundly soothing dynamic soundtrack. The directionless approach ended up severely splitting opinion when the PC version launched earlier this year, with many players decrying it as pretentious nonsense while others defended its minimalistic overtones.
Luckily I have the answers. Put simply: Proteus is your happy place, somewhere you can go to relax and unwind in a totally stress-free environment. Thanks to a new cross-buy Vita and PS3 version from the inestimable Curve Studios, we can now visit it on the train.
Click here to read more...
Developer: Seaven Studio
Publisher: Seaven Studio
When we first discovered Ethan: Meteor Hunter at Rezzed earlier this year, we were suitably intrigued by the game. A telekinetic mouse who uses his power to solve platform-based puzzles? It had our attention, and so with the game now finally out we were eager to see if Seaven Studio, a team of developers from France who rescued the IP when their old studio was closed, had managed to deliver the game they had worked so hard to deliver.
Before we discover if they have managed that, let’s talk about the setup. The plot is as basic as gets – a meteor hits Ethan’s home, and after being mocked by his neighbour he discovers that the glowing space rock has given him telekinetic abilities. And so begins Ethan’s quest to collect them all, and fight his neighbour occasionally, for some reason. It’s not anything huge or particularly deep, but I will tell you this – by the time I was done with the game, I had an unreal hatred for that neighbour, his mocking laugh, and everything he might stand for.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita (PSN, £23.99)
Developer: Marvelous AQL
Publisher: XSEED Games
There's a great JRPG in here.
I can see it, it's so tantalisingly close. Halfway between Monster Hunter and the Tales series, Valhalla Knights 3 delivers a fantastic foundation for dozens of hours of questing: superb real-time combat for multiple characters, a wonderfully flexible customisation system and an enormity of content to explore, all wrapped up in a brave morally-bankrupt setting where you play as an absolute cad rather than a knight in shining armour. This localised roleplayer may have taken an age to reach European Vitas, but the potential is so clear I can practically taste it.
So I'm genuinely depressed to report that Valhalla Knights 3 buries most of its potential beneath a veritable mountain of awkward design decisions, grind and filth. In any sense of the word.Click here to read more...
Developers: Sports Interactive
It would be irresponsible of me to furnish the current build (Oh, wait, here comes another update) of Football Manager 2014 with a definitive score, if only because I'm not entirely sure of the differences that'll be evident when the game finally releases. Pitched somewhere in between the current beta and what will eventually be a comprehensive retail package, the review build is constantly updating itself, ironing out kinks and delivering improvements.
This is important to note for a number of reasons, chief among them being that Football Manager has always delivered its exam/career/relationship-ruining addiction predicated on a a relatively infallible database of statistics and complex algorithms. We trust in Sports Interactive, keeping faith that a run of poor results is the result of management decisions that we might have conducted differently, that all is fixable. Not that one of the underlying mechanisms has the hiccups.
Given that the animation systems in the match engine are hilariously clunky and seem to be mesmerisingly glitch-happy, that transfers for mid-range players appear to approach the realms of the ridiculous even in this age of inflated currency, egos, and price points (Liverpool and Andy Caroll, I blame you), and that FM14 has tried to lose my save file several times now, we're going to give FM14 the benefit of the doubt in holding off on the score for a little bit. At least until we know that for certain that what we've played will be what you're buying.
Otherwise, what's the point?Click here to read more...
Platform: Wii U
Developer: Nintendo EAD
For those of you who remember reading the Dealspwn Game of the Year 2012 Highlights will remember me stating that my most anticipated game for this year would be a Zelda Wii U game. Well 10 months down the line, and I’d be lying if I thought or hoped that game would have been a remake of a game I’d completed a decade ago. I wanted new Zelda, never-before-seen Zelda, and what I got from Nintendo was Wind Waker HD. I said before that Nintendo needed a Zelda game to propel them forward – a stance that has further been emphasised by a quiet first-half of 2013 and imminent next-gen console launches. So this review is not just any old review. On its shoulders is not just an evaluation of how good a Wii U game Wind Waker HD is, but also whether it can fill that need and push the Wii U forward. And also more importantly (to me at least) was my prediction vindicated that this would be the game of the year? You’ll be able to tell by my smugness at the end.
For those unfamiliar with the original game, or who simply weren’t gaming back when Busted were topping the charts in the UK, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was the main Zelda franchise release for the Nintendo GameCube. It took a few notably different steps to its gameplay and style off the back of previous N64 powerhouses - Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. Despite gamers of the time (myself included) drooling over higher-res, detailed graphics thanks to a Spaceworld demo in 2000, Nintendo decided cel-shading was the way to go – putting a higher emphasis on the emotion of Link and other characters, something they felt was more achievable in this art style. Cue the witty “Cel-da” puns from games journalists and players alike, unable to see how a game that looked like a cartoon could carry on such a serious and beloved franchise.Click here to read more...