Platforms: 3DS | PS3 | PS Vita | Wii U (reviewed)
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Cards on the table: I love One Piece. Granted, there's a world of deeper, more exciting and incredibly tedious anime/manga franchises out there, but for me there's nothing quite like watching madcap super-powered pirates fighting each other, engaging in hilarious banter, learning intense lessons about comradeship and doing almost no actual piracy whatsoever.
It's the sweet spot of irrepressible humour, great characters, shapeshifting reindeer, stretchy protagonists, violin-playing skeleton musicians and swordsmen so badass they hold a third blade in their teeth. And, as such, perfect videogame material. Even the incredibly inconsistent Omega Force managed to make an excellent Dynasty Warriors spin-off in One Piece: Pirate Warriors 2, but Gabarion have gone one step further by basing their latest tie-in on something more profound.
Namely Monster Hunter. It's a concoction that shouldn't work, yet in practice makes for one of the best anime tie-ins ever developed: a gorgeous, enormous and surprisingly compelling game that lasts for hours on end.
Though, as I made sure to mention in the very first sentence of this review, I'm a fan myself. Bear that in mind, won't you?Click here to read more...
Platforms: PS3 (reviewed) | PS4 | 360 | XO | PC
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
With a World War I setting, Valiant Hearts: The Great War explores relatively unfamiliar ground for gaming, or even movies to be honest, as it was generally WWII that inspired so many films and games. It’s hard to believe that the human race had the capacity for war again after the events of WWI and Valiant Hearts plays an important role in showing us that this was one of the darkest moments of humanity’s very chequered past.
Unlike most war games though, Valiant Hearts isn’t another one-man-army first-person shooter or a strategic tactical sim. It’s a heavily story-driven experience with puzzling and old-school adventuring at the core of the gameplay.
The hand-drawn visuals ensure that you’ll fall in love with the game early on and they certainly helped open a few doors for the game in terms of coverage when it was first announced. Like Rayman Legends and Child of Light, the game uses Ubisoft’s fantastic UbiArt engine that brings hand-drawn images to life in a way that other engines can only dream of. Valiant Hearts goes for the solid colours and thick black lines of a comic book style instead of the moving watercolours we saw with Child of Light, proving for any doubters the versatility of the engine.Click here to read more...
Developer: Carbine Studios
Here we are – finally at end of the review that just wouldn’t stop coming (blame Carbine accordingly for their gigantic game, I say.) There’s still a lot to get through before the verdict, but here’s a helpful hub if you’ve missed my previous instalments or want a refresher on my previous musings on WildStar.
We begin this instalment by taking a look at the Limited Action Sets and the AMP system, which acts as the skills and talent tree for WildStar respectively. As long as players are out of combat, the flexibility and user friendly nature of the LAS is one of my favourite aspects of Carbine’s efforts. Being able to swap out abilities at a moment’s notice ensures players can try new tactics and combos, along with the option of powering up equipped abilities with Tier Points to unlock bonus effects. On top of this, being able to buy new abilities from the menu without having to travel to a trainer is a godsend, as it means players no longer have to make their way back to the nearest one upon levelling up (something a lot of MMOs still do, annoyingly.)
Click here to read more...
Developer: Codemasters Racing
GRID Autosport doesn't have an in-car cockpit view. It has two in-car cockpit views.
Despite releasing a scant twelve months after GRID 2, Codemasters' latest track racer addresses every criticism that fans levelled at last year's mixed effort. And then some. Awkward drift-heavy handling has been replaced by tight grippy simulation. Instead of no driving assists whatsoever, we can access every optional helping hand imaginable, letting us scale the experience to our specifications. An idiotic story about social media gives way to a freeform campaign that Milestone would be proud of, complete with five totally different disciplines and AI that fights back, preparing drivers for an enormous multiplayer suite powered by the RaceNet sevice.
In short it's everything that dedicated racing fans wanted from GRID 2... but by tuning, tweaking and expanding upon practically everything in the package, GRID Autosport is also deeply impressive in its own right.
You could even argue that it's five track racers in one, spanning TOCA to tyre-shredding street showdowns.Click here to read more...
Relic have listened to their fanbase. It's taken a year, but the Public Games List option is now absolutely A Thing you can have in Company of Heroes 2 thanks to the arrival of a standalone expansion pack that sees the focus of the war move from the Siberian wastes and the Eastern Front across to a whole bunch of battlefields in and around Belgium. Finally, finally there's a server list to make configuring online multiplayer matches that much easier. It's about damn time.
In many ways, The Western Front Armies feels like an old-school expansion rather than the DLC drops we tend to see these days. Though there's nothing new per se for singleplayer strategy fans to get stuck into in terms of campaign missions, but TWFA's release heralds the arrival of two new factions: the US Allied forces and the Oberkommando West Axis army for a bunch of skirmish shenanigans, and online battles. Company of Heroes has always been a series where the offline components are really just the means by which you get to grips with the depth of tactical systems before taking your strategic brain online and pitting your abilities against other armchair generals across the globe.
The Western Front Armies doesn't require the base game so if you want to jump straight in at the deep end, you absolutely can, but here's how it works:
You're essentially purchasing the use of the new factions, along with the usual COH2 multiplayer modes, and the various tweaks and improvements that Relic have made over the last twelve months. You can buy the use of the US or Oberkommando West forces individually for around a tenner, or pay five quid more to bag them both. That needs you all of teh COH2 multiplayer goodness you could want (Theatre of War content aside), along with AI skirmish options for your purchased factions if you fancy a little bit of offline practice. You won't be able to play as the Soviet or Wehrmacht forces if you don't own the base game, but you will be able to play against COH2 veterans who haven't upgraded, so the player pool is kept nice and large. Better yet, there's no real map restriction. As well as the eight new maps included with TWFA, you'll be able to play on any of the original COH2 maps as long as one of the players in your match has the base game.
But you can buy the complete base game for less than the price of one multiplayer faction in TWFA, so what's new?Click here to read more...
Platforms: PC | PS4 | Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Red Barrels
I'm so glad that I didn't have to review Outlast.
Despite picking up the first-person asylum crawler in a January GOG sale, it was too late to critique and that suited me just fine. The first hour creeped me out enough to turn on the lights, quit to desktop and then procrastinate for the best part of six months; blaming my review workload rather than my lily-liver. I don't scare easy, but Outlast terrified me effortlessly. It then released on PS4 as a PlayStation Plus freebie, but since I haven't bought the console yet, I assumed that one of my comrades would take the plunge.
They didn't. Never mind. We'll have to do without a review on-site, then, since Microsoft's indie parity clause means that there'll never be an Xbox One version that I'll have to review as the only Dealspwn staff member who owns the system. Right?
Oh bugger.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (XBLA, £3.99)
Developer: Happion Labs
I bet that Happion Labs are already sick and and tired of the comparison, but when a game looks like Geometry Wars, swims like Geometry Wars and quacks like Geometry Wars, then it's probably a duck. I mean, Geometry Wars.
However, Sixty Second Shooter Prime is faster, significantly cheaper and much more aggressive than its inspiration, having honed a truly manic playstyle from its roots as a humble Chrome app through the PlayStation Vita. As the name suggests, you've got sixty seconds to kick as much posterior as possible, securing a high score by tactically advancing through levels, perfectly deploying powerups, exploiting a slow-motion chain mechanic and dying an awful lot in the process.
You're not just surviving: you're packing as much neon death as possible into one mad minute.Click here to read more...
Developer: Carbine Studios
Our in-depth and ever-growing review continues for WildStar - because if you're going to do something, you may as well drag it out for several weeks. Or do it properly considering the size of the game. Yes - let's go with that one. If you're a latecomer to the party that is my review, or if you're a swine who has been all like "MMOs? Nah," then I suggest you SHUT THE HELL UP and check out the convenient hub I've provided below for you to click on.
One of the biggest complaints about MMOs in general is the crafting and economy elements. Cries of “it’s too complicated!” or “it’s too boring!” can be heard from across the interwebs, as a large percentage of those that try it will simply go “nah, it’s not for me” before becoming a hoarder of all the crafting materials they can find, vendoring away at the earliest opportunity. Thankfully, Carbine have created mechanics that are not only varied in nature, but far more hands-on than first glance, providing a multiple levels of depth depending on the comfort zone of the player.
I won’t go all FAQ here with the details (if you want that you can find my rather in-depth article on it here) so I’ll give a quick overview - It’s the usual affair of selecting two professions out of the bunch that are available, some of which are better paired than others, while everyone has the ability to cook (labelled as a ‘hobby’ activity.) The strong theme with these crafting elements is that of player choice, providing players with the ability to customise items with stats needed for specific roles (or, if things are being made to order, with a specific balance of stats for maximum class build efficiency.)Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Spiral House | XDEV
Why can the dogs talk?!!
I can't get my head around it. Grooming, petting and feeding virtual pets may be a fun and surprisingly engrossing pastime, but not when they can speak back to you in jarring American accents. Cute and cuddly puppies become uncanny hybrid monsters that are as unsettling as their voice acting is obnoxiously preppy. In a cartoon, it'd be adorable. With realistic graphics, adult voices and unnatural facial expressions, it's plain weird.
Is it okay to own another sentient being? Are they fine with me petting them? How can they possibly be happy with this situation? I freely admit that I'm overthinking like a blithering pedant who's two decades older than the intended target audience, but Spiral House score an own goal from the off and alienate animal lovers in the process. I'd say "screwed the pooch," but that adage becomes doubly inappropriate when the pooches can talk.
Mind you, this is just one of several ways in which PlayStation Vita Pets strives to be very different from NintenDogs and other casual pet simulators. The most important differentiator being... wait for it... an actual campaign.Click here to read more...
Developer: Phosphor Games
Publisher: Nether Productions
I'd love to compare Nether to Fallout 3, STALKER or even Enemy Territory, but let's face facts: it's DayZ. Only shinier.
Which is to say that Phosphor Games developed another 'being shot in the back of the head by griefers simulator.' Zombies have been replaced by teleporting monsters (good luck escaping those) and there's a sprawling city to explore for supplies to replenish your dwindling hunger gauge, eking out a meagre living in a post-apocalyptic urban hellhole. You'll cobble together crude firearms, battle monstrosities and painstakingly gain character levels. And then get shot in the back of a head by a griefer. Repeat.
However, these murderous fellow survivors aren't making tough choices about whether it's acceptable to kill to survive. They're not even evil or depraved. They're just bored. Despite early potential, Nether is sadly half-cooked in almost every way, meaning that there isn't really anything to do after a handful of bleak and admittedly atmospheric hours.
Beyond finding a rifle, pointing it at the safe zone exit and wrangling yourself some newbies. To be honest, I can't say I blame them.Click here to read more...
Developer: Carbine Studios
We’re back with the second part of our in-depth review of WildStar, having covered our initial impressions of the gameplay and the launch in our first instalment which you read here if you had the gall to miss it. Go on, catch up if you must. I’ll wait here, judging you, until you get back.
I’m just kidding. I’ve judged you already.
Plenty has happened over the last seven days on Nexus, with hitting the level cap of 50 probably being the most significant thing. What that means is that I have now experienced every zone in the game and finally delved into the world story, but it also means that I’ve had chance to sample every aspect of the PvE content, which is handy considering today I’ll be talking about the array of activities players can get up to in WildStar. And there’s a lot. Most of it fun, too.
Let’s begin with the bread of button of the experience – levelling. Wandering through the various zones is a familiar affair, with hubs acting as temporary resting points that deliver various types of quest chains – tasks (random quest), regional stories (which guide you through that particular hub), and world stories (which tie everything up together in a “OHMYGODWEBETTERSAVENEXUS” bow.) The objectives for these quests are tried and tested – kill X of Y, pick up X of Y, attach a rocket to a Cubig, etc) although Carbine’s inclusion of a few aspects of Guild Wars 2’s public events system makes questing a more agreeable affair, and the combat system along with increasingly more elaborate telegraphs certainly mix things up as well.Click here to read more...
Platform: Xbox One (£7.99)
Developer: Capcom Vancouver
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
I see what you did there, Capcom. After years of releasing 'super' and 'arcade' editions of games we already own, not to mention bucketloads of deeply questionable DLC, it's time to poke a little fun at yourselves while making amends for Dead Rising 3's calamitous season pass. Half fan service brawler, half 80s retro reference and all slightly-too-forced self parody, this colourful slice of content turns the game into a four-player hack and slasher. A bit like Streets Of Rage or Final Fight, perhaps, only with hundreds of zombies and an M. Bison boss the size of an office block.
It's galling that Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha is still technically "on-disc DLC," mind, since the files are included in the latest mandatory 4GB title update. You've just swapped a physical CD for the hard drive, Capcom; making everyone who owns the game download the content then charging to unlock it. An improvement, except that we've only got 500GB to play with and you should ask our permission before taking up valuable space with stuff we might not want.
Never mind though, because I just dressed Frank West up as Mayor Haggar, teamed up with Nick Ramos in a sexy Felicia outfit and made lots of dead things even deader. Arcade Remix may not be subtle or particularly deep, but it sure is fun when you get some mates involved.Click here to read more...
Developer: Nintendo SPD Group 1
We've had a mad week here at Dealspwn.com. Not only have Matt, Carl and I been covering E3, but we also moved into our new homes on Tomodachi Island. Things escalated quickly.
We've spent our days chilling at the beach wearing hot dog costumes, playing slide puzzles with Darth Vader and visiting Switzerland. Our heavy metal band brought the house down, but Matt doesn't have much time for music ever since The Cat from Red Dwarf set him up with Jill Valentine. Shame it didn't last, even if Carl's recently been trying to introduce him to Danaerys Targaryen. I'm surprised Carl has the energy, what with his newborn kid and all, and continually losing rap battles to Reggie Fils-Aime on a daily basis. I'll catch up with them at the next communal barbecue, or perhaps enter their bizarre dreams like a friendly Freddy Krueger.
Replace our names with people you know and you've got Tomodachi Life in a nutshell. Less a traditional videogame and more an interactive Mad Lib, a little imagination can go a long way in this curiously addictive localised timewaster.
I wish that I was having as much fun as my virtual doppelgänger, in all honesty. Every image in this article is a direct screenshot.Click here to read more...
Entwined is apparently an artistic representation of the love between a bird and a fish -- dancing about one another like a twin-stick take on a 3D Sonic bonus level. It emerged in surprising fashion at Sony's E3 press conference, a pleasant interlude between brooding, big-budget titles, that injected some colour into proceedings.
A blue, origami bird comes to rest on a body of water as twinkly music plays, and an orange papercraft fish bobs its head out the water to meet its feathery chum. They touch noses, it's all very cute. The bird guides the fish skywards, and they shoot forward down a series of psychedelic cylindrical paths that will span nine lifetimes (levels) and see player guiding the two creatures through colour-coded rings of sorts that twist and turn, creating a playful dance between the two creatures. They occupy separate halves of the screen, occasionally meeting in the middle as the coloured gates demand -- orange and blue individually, green when they meet.
The patterns of the gates/rings/checkpoints, whatever you want to call them, twist and turn, becoming more complex as the game progresses. In between these sections, you collect coloured orbs to fill progression meters for each creature. Then, if you successfully manage to guide them through the channels of rings, you keep the orbs. If you skip a ring, the bar drains. To begin with, these channels arrive one at a time in simple patterns, but it's not long before they begin to shift in length and distance, sometimes alternating at speed, before starting to move and undulate, forcing you to keep careful control over both creatures at the same time across different sticks.Click here to read more...
Platform: PS Vita
Developer: Iron Galaxy Studios
Publisher: 2K Games
Borderlands 2 is probably the most impressive handheld game I've ever played. How could it not be? It's Borderlands 2!
Not a limp little spin-off or tatty tie-in: Borderlands 2 in its entirety. Every mission, every bandit, every ridiculous procedurally-generated gun, loads of DLC, all of it. Beyond a graphical downgrade, two-player cooperative cap and a few controls remapped to the rear touch pad, this is nothing less than the full PS3 version, even allowing you to transfer save files and Badass Ranks between the two platforms.
And that's a problem. Handheld games need to be designed and optimised specifically for their platform, but Iron Galaxy were locked into delivering an identical port, meaning that they had to find some corners to cut along the way. Many of which can make Borderlands 2's portable version as disappointing as it is astonishing.
Click here to read more...
Many of Nintendo's best-known franchises have been running for nearly thirty years, a fact that not only cements such series into gaming history, but also raises a growing level of anxiety with each new iteration. After all, how long can you keep on going with the same game, and keep things fresh and exciting for everyone? A question that is currently being asked squarely of the Mario Kart franchise thanks to the game's titular 8th iteration being released on Wii U.
How well Nintendo has done in this challenging balancing act is what matters to fans and newcomers alike, so without further ado, let's delve under the bonnet of the latest instalment of crazy racing with everyone's favourite portly plumber and his chums to see what the Big N has pulled off.
The first obvious point to note, is that gameplay-wise very little has been changed to the formula that has worked so well for over 20 years. Frankly, this familiarity is what piques our interest about all new Mario Karts in the first instance. We know what we like, and it's the good quality fun that a Mario Kart game provides, and Mario Kart 8 most definitely delivers here thanks to this familiarity. However, it's the new additions, improvements and longevity that are going to convert the naysayers of the game and the Wii U (I'm looking at you Matt). So what does Mario Kart 8 bring that's new and shiny to the party?Click here to read more...
As high concepts go, Murdered: Soul Suspect has one of the best. It's like a mashup of Ghost Trick and L.A. Noire -- a modern adventure game that has you step into the ethereal shoes of recently deceased detective Ronan O'Connor, picking apart crime scene after crime scene in the pursuit of clues to help him track down the mass murderer who threw him out of a fourth floor window and turned Ronan into a ghost.
It's like Randall and Hopkirk, but without Randall.
Being a ghost, of course, Ronan can't pick anything up, he can't punch anyone's lights out like he used to as a maverick cop with a chequered past. He can't fire a gun or slice with a blade. Hell, he can't even enter a building unless someone's left a door open. What this leads to is a game that handles like a third-person action title in many ways, but is pretty much bereft of direct violence. Ronan is no longer a character who slugs his way to get results, now he has to be a bit more observant.
It means that Murdered's setup shares much in common with classic mystery titles, point-and-click adventures, and hidden object games. Like L.A. Noire, much of the player's time is spent combing crime scenes for clues, scouring environments for interactive objects, and trying to discern what's important from what isn't. It does that for about ten hours -- sometimes that gets a little tedious.
In terms of mechanics, there's not much to Murdered. You traipse around towns and asylums and wooded glades, pressing a single button when you find something worthy of note, trying to piece together what happened. But there are some good ideas here: the profiling mechanism that has you looking at half-formed scenes to try and determine the actions and motives of those involved really allows you to immerse yourself in the role of detective, as does invading the mind of a witness and trying to find the right combination of information snapshots to trigger the memory you want to access. You don't necessarily need to find all of the clues in an area to progress, just enough to piece together the narrative to a satisfactory extent, and the game never really gets in the way of you moving on.Click here to read more...
Developer: Carbine Studios
Well, here we are. After nearly three years of following the project it’s a little weird to be saying that the game is finally live, but myself and many others have taken to Nexus like a swarm of Chompacabras, ready to eat up whatever Carbine have been cooking. Before we kick this off, some housekeeping – because of the size and scope of MMOs, and the wide range of content available in this one specifically, WildStar will be reviewed in instalments that cover different aspects of the game, with a finale in a few weeks’ time that will deliver my overall verdict. I’ll be providing a “summary so far” at the end of each part, but be aware this is a huge effort, because it’s a huge game.
Or, alternatively, just throw all blame at Matt. Because.
Anyway, enough of that – let’s summarise what Carbine’s MMO is all about for the three of you that have ignored my coverage of it up until now (you swines.) WildStar is a sci-fi MMORPG where two factions – the oppressive empire of the Dominion, and the ragtag group of rebels that are the Exiles – vie for control of a newly found planet called Nexus. Both groups are there because it is believed to be the home planet of the Eldan, a hyper-advanced race that hasn’t been seen in a millennia, and it’s up to the players to tame the wilds of Nexus to forge a new home, fight for the honour of their chosen faction, and discover the reason why the Eldan aren’t around anymore (spoiler alert – bad things happened, and you’ll eventually go head-to-head with that badness.)Click here to read more...
Developer: Team 17
Publisher: Team 17 Digital Limited
Worms Battlegrounds is Worms Clan Wars. The name may be different, but this PS4 and Xbox One port is identical to last year's PC release in absolutely every respect. Six months into a new console generation and we're still paying good money for old rope.
However, you could argue that we've been doing that since 1997. Team 17 created the perfect hotswap multiplayer formula in Worms 2 -- deep yet accessible mechanics, crisp eyecatching art style, amazing weapons, exploding livestock and anarchic British humour -- meaning that all future games could do was add or remove content, slightly tweak features and occasionally pretty things up for new platforms. From the magnificent Worms Armageddon to the skinny downloadable and mobile sequels, we've been stuck in that cycle ever since.
And that's fine. Worms is a timeless gaming institution that we want to keep playing on the consoles we own with improved visuals. I don't take issue with Clan Wars making the jump to new-gen machines, since compensating for bazooka windage, deploying sheep and humiliating our mates is just as fantastic fun as it ever was.
What I do take issue with, however, is the fact that Team 17 had the opportunity to fix several flaws and add extra value to their year-old game... but couldn't be bothered.Click here to read more...
Inazuma Eleven is still one of my favourite gameplay concepts of all time. It's one of those JRPGs based around a specific thing; Pokemon or plastic spinning tops or demons or whatnot, starring an intense youngster who's totally obsessed with tactical battling, outrageous special attacks, collecting loot and becoming the very best like no-one ever was. Except, instead of pulling out a sword or Pokeball, you'll throw down a couple of jumpers and get involved in a game of five-a-side.
Only with strategic real-time action and the ability to pull off ludicrous power moves that set the ball on fire or summon massive monsters onto the pitch! Now that the DS trilogy has come to an end, it's time for the 3DS sequel to... kick things up a notch? Oof.
Football is everything in Inazuma Eleven GO; a way of life, the combat system, the entire driving force behind the plot. High school football is apparently the most important sporting event in the entire world, yet ten years after Raimon High rose to prominence as the ultimate soccer academy, things have gone horribly wrong. A massive conspiracy has taken over the sport and rigs every match, effectively dominating the entire world in the process. So it's up to freshman Arion Sherwind to lead a revolution and bring sportsmanship back to the beautiful game, making a new Raimon team while meeting some old faces.
It's silly, ludicrous, hilariously hammy and impossible to take seriously, but Inazuma Eleven GO embraces its silliness so earnestly that you can't help but get swept along for the ride. You won't be able to keep a straight face as Arion shouts "I'm going to defend football! I won't make football sad!," and that's absolutely fine.Click here to read more...