"The Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing 2 punches well above its weight and ends up as a markedly superior game. Seriously, even the optional tower defence sections are good enough to be a standalone game in their own right."
I'm not trying to take credit for Deathtrap -- even I'm not that egotistical -- but I certainly called it in our Incredible Adventures Of Van Helsing II review. NeoCore are already masters at creating rock-solid action RPG gameplay with compelling progression and great combat, so having discovered a knack for tower defence too, they decided to build a brand new game mixing all three elements together.
The result is half Diablo-style dungeon crawler, half tower defender and all delightfully OTT gothic horror romp. With multiple classes, tricky mazes, hordes of enemies, addictive levelling, versatile upgrades, co-op, infinite user-generated content and more besides, Deathtrap expertly blends the strategy of tower defence with the insanely hectic combat of Diablo. It's an example of a tower defence RPG hybrid that actually tries to break the mold, and rise above the pack in an otherwise crowded sub-genre.
And because it's built on the dependable Van Helsing foundation, it's also an example of an Early Access game that actually works!Click here to read more...
LittleBigPlanet 3 is out next week, and I sat down with Sumo Digital designer Jonathan Christian for a massive last-minute chat. Over eighteen minutes we cover the new story details, brand new gameplay features, differences between versions, amazing new create mode functionality and working with Hugh Laurie.
This is pretty much everything you need to know about LittleBigPlanet 3 in one convenient place.
I'm currently hard at work on our Sunset Overdrive review, and by hard at work I do of course mean "grinding, swinging and leaping across a vibrant colourful city while shooting a huge horde of crazy enemies with insane weaponry." I know, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
As such, I can't deliver any sort of value judgement until next week, and I don't plan to. We're a classy outfit here at Dealspwn.com. But based on the first two hours of gameplay, those official videos and previous contact time at preview events, I'd like to offer a purely descriptive preview of what Sunset Overdrive has to offer, and to point out a incredibly basic fact about what Sunset Overdrive is bringing to the table at this late hour. Or more accurately, what it actually is and what it definitely isn't.
See, there's a big difference between a "sandbox" and a "playground," and understanding the distinction will help you make the most out of Insomniac's high-velocity shooter.
Click here to read more...
I'm quite excited for Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault. I must admit that I'm more of an offline player than an online one, having had my backside handed to me on numerous occasions, but that's what this expansion is all about. Just like Western Front Armies, Ardennes Assault will be a standalone slice of strategic action, but one that eschews the linearity of COH 2's campaign for something a little more dynamic.
My preview for Ardennes Assault went live yesterday, and here's what I had to say about my time with the game in my closing paragraph:
The bottom line is that Ardennes Assault finally brings the feeling of grand strategy and broader tactical thinking to bear on a game that has been renowned for tactical gameplay on a smaller, more individual scale. Company of Heroes has long been a series that is all about making the best with what you have, realising the importance of different individual units and the ways in which they can complement one another. Now, added to that formula, there's more of an opportunity to be a true armchair general, as well as a major on the field. It looks like it truly present the best of both worlds, and that's very exciting indeed.
As well as going hands-on with the game, I also had the opportunity to sit down with campaign designer, Mitch Lagran, to have a chat about the changes that Relic have made and the ambitions that the studio has going forwards.Check out the interview after the jump >>
It's always a good sign when a preview event starts wrapping up and the first thing you think is 'Nooooo, please let me take this game with me'. It was nice to place the latest standalone expansion pack for Company of Heroes 2 in context, with our gaggle of assembled European writers given a tour of the Bastogne barracks -- the operational heart of the Allied war effort during the Battle of the Bulge -- before checking out the game inspired by that bloody piece of history.
Inspired is certainly the word, as Relic have used the events of the battle to bookend this particular experience. Essentially, Ardennes Assault gives players the freedom to plan out their own military machinations in the region by way of a 'meta map'. If The Western Front Armies provided a multiplayer introduction to this newly explored theatre of war and the factions involved, the Ardennes Assault pack is the singleplayer counterpoint -- an expansion that zooms in on three individual companies and their commanding officers, struggling to take control of a region filled with constantly shifting German divisions. The idea is clear -- to present a relatively open ended canvas, framed by history, upon which we armchair generals might paint our personal tactical masterpieces.
Our two-hour session with the game consisted of playing the same mission multiple times. Set not far from Bastogne in the town of Houffalize, the skirmish in which we were involved saw us trying to join up with an allied column to the north, cutting through German-controlled territory, overrunning the enemy's artillery stations, and co-opting the massive guns for our own purposes. By focussing in on this single mission (there will be 18 in total we're told -- seven rather broad encounters and eleven more scripted scenarios) several times over, we were able to see how the different companies performed, and how the map changed depending upon what stage of the campaign we were at when we took the plunge.Click here to read more...
People tell me that cutting-edge graphical tech is absolutely crucial for attaining that most hallowed of made-up buzzwords: immersion. I understand that point of view and the logic behind it, but also contend that it's complete and total bollocks.
See, for the last few weeks I've been compulsively glued to a primitive early alpha that uses the bare minimum to ground you in an evocative lonely Sci-Fi universe, by making your computer monitor look like a different computer monitor.
Duskers casts you as a astronaut castaway in the depths of space, running out of rations and going half-mad from isolation, desperately eking out the last of your days by salvaging any usable supplies from derelict space hulks. You'll use your precious supplies just to travel between them, meaning that you have to find food or die of starvation, but in a unique twist you'll never personally leave your ship.
Without a viable space suit, you'll instead rely on a handful of remote-controlled drones that become your only means of exploring the wrecks, your eyes, ears and hands, and also your only friends in an otherwise hostile and empty universe. As such, both you and the astronaut stare at the same arcane control interface -- your computer monitor and keyboard -- connecting and immersing you in the game world in a unique and deeply chilling way.
After all, your drones aren't alone out there... and without them you're as good as dead.Click here to read more...
DieselStormers is billed as "high-octane carnage for 1-4 players featuring customizable motorguns, gas-guzzling knight armour, generated levels and randomized loot" on its Steam Early Access listing, but I much prefer the description that Black Forest games gave me in an interview last summer. It really is "Metal Slug meets Left 4 Dead meets a nuclear pinball machine."
Back then it was known as Project Ravensdale, and following their release of the brilliant Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, Black Forest games were confident in another Kickstarter success. They failed, but a name change and Steam's Early Access scheme finally put DieselStormers on track.
Which leaves us with an unfinished yet very promising cooperative run and gun romp that resembles the legendary action platformers of yesteryear, only in a Dieselpunk fantasy universe with goblin bullet hell death balloons, persistent crafting and electric ninja ropes a go-go.Click here to read more...
Chances are, you're either a big fan of the Dark Souls series or you just can't be doing with their brand of no-nonsense difficulty and downright unresponsive controls.
Me? I'm not a fan and haven't been since I played the original Demon's Souls. So why am I the one talking to you about Bloodborne, a game by the same devs and seen as a potential killer exclusive on the PS4 for fans of From Software’s series? Well, after trying out the recent Alpha, I'm thinking maybe Bloodborne will be worth a look after all and those of you that aren't fans of the Souls games probably shouldn't dismiss it so soon.
Is it still hard? Of course, and the checkpoints (or lack of them in the Alpha) will certainly make your eyes water a little and I'm sure there will be plenty of difficulty settings to nail that feel of trapping your junk in your zip, or stubbing your toe for hours on end or what other kink that makes you keep playing these bastards.
So, let's dive into the Alpha demo. First of all you're given the option of four different characters with four varying weapon loadouts. The first is the one you may have seen in past footage with a blunderbuss gun and a saw cleaver, this was the first one I tried. The second was armed with a pistol and a sword that could split into two blades at the touch of a button.Click here to read more...
I'm really enjoying This War of Mine.
Actually, that's wrong. "Enjoying" is too jolly a word for such a bleak game. This War of Mine puts you in control of a band of civilian survivors trying to eke out an existence in the rubble of a war zone. Food is scarce, illness is widespread, and extreme circumstances have led many into taking extreme measures to survive. The pockets of humanity that are left are rife with mistrust and paranoia, and you must do all that you can to keep your characters alive.
Well... "must" is a strong word too.
See, This War of Mine is all about choices. It's what you might expect The Walking Dead to look like if they replaced the zombie apocalypse with a war-torn one, and took the shackles off the story so you could create your own survival narrative packed with questionable decision and moral crises.
As you'll see in the video, the characters you take control of are not hardened action heroes or gritty folk well-seasoned in the art of living off the grid. These are regular Joes and Janes, people who never thought they'd live through times such as those depicted here. Their concerns are basic -- food, warmth, health, safety -- but I was struck by the appearance of "sad" in their character files after I accidentally got one of them killed on a night-time scouting mission. Clicking them open, I realised that they'd been chronicling the days through brief journal entries -- character reflecting on the things that I'd caused to happen. The mental strain of it all taking a toll on their efficiency.Click here to read more...
If you're new to the Might & Magic Heroes series, sorry, but the seventh instalment isn't going to make things easy for you.
Set between Heroes VI and Heroes V (yes, they're in canonical order, just run with it), Heroes VII chronicles the epic power struggle ignited by the Falcon Empress' murder. Ivan Griffin, a noble member of the Griffin Family, steps into the vacuum and gains the support of the other races of Ashan, who advise him from behind the scenes as a Shadow Council. In order to convince the unwilling hero to step up to the plate, the council representatives tell their own stories to convince him that he's the right man for the throne.
Or, in other words, we've got another excuse to partake in some streamlined strategic turn-based battles that resemble Chess and Pokemon in equal measure, with all manner of mythological creatures at our command. Limbic Entertainment clearly don't want to deviate from the formula, but they have been busy ensuring that Heroes VII makes Ashan feel like a living, real place.Click here to read more...
Another year, another spectacular season of Formula 1 racing, another Codemasters tie-in. F1 2014 is out next month on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3, giving racing fans their authentic simulation fix without having to buy into any new hardware to calm the shakes.
Having tested the in-development project at Namco's UK headquarters last week, I can report that it is indeed an F1 racing game. I'm not sure what else really needs to be said on that front.
Despite being a relatively early build awaiting visual polish and optimisation, it's clear that the handling is still delightfully scalable and the experience feels authentically F1 thanks to the updated team rosters, cars and the addition of the Sochi Autodrom. New players can leap straight into a one-lap evaluation, which automatically grades their skill level and sets the rebalanced difficulty appropriately, whereas veterans can get to grips with ERS and the new fuel limits.
However, rather than slogging away at a full season (which can now be approached in marathon sessions or smaller chunks), I decided to revisit my favourite feature from F1 2013: the Scenario Mode. Newly expanded in F1 2014, it's another selection of bite-sized challenges that throw you straight into an exciting situation and forces you to overcome increasingly long odds -- many of which are drawn directly from recent racing history and feature some well-observed cutscenes whether you win or lose.
Once again, I suspect that completing your gold medal set is going to be one of the most compelling parts of the package. Since I'll be describing many of these challenges in detail, I suppose you could argue that we need a spoiler alert. Maybe.Click here to read more...
There's a reason why The Crew has taken so long to develop. It's breathtakingly ambitious.
Ubisoft describe it as an "MMO driving experience," but it's really an enormous adventure playground for cars shaped like the United States. Instead of swings and roundabouts we have enormous caricatures of American cities, national parks, famous landmarks, miles upon miles of road and terrain to explore. Instead of slides and climbing frames we have ski slopes, ramps and hills. The Crew is stuffed with events, races and mingames, whether you're hammering around a street circuit, ramming a high value target into the Grand Canyon or smashing through a dense forest like the Endor scene from Return Of The Jedi. Only with a LaFerrari instead of a speeder.
We enter this crazy canvas alone and offline or online with other players streamed into our session, able to meet up with our friends, join factions, and complete all events in competitive co-op. We'll continually earn new cars, parts and upgrades. And on top of all that, there's even a story.
This all sounds good, but the more moving parts a game has, the more likely it is to go spectacularly wrong. After testing the latest Xbox One production build for several hours at Ubisoft UK's Guildford HQ, I'm inclined to believe that the The Crew is more or less on the right track -- and significantly more fun when you leave the track behind to go exploring with a few mates.Click here to read more...
Shadow Warrior was a proper breath of fresh air in an industry obsessed with 'shared worlds' and 'cinematic narratives' when all you really need are great big guns and hordes of beasties to point them at. Plus sprawling levels stuffed with hilarious secrets.
"If you miss the thrill of classic old-school shooters, the simple joy of blasting hordes of foes with oversized weapons and ferreting around for secrets, quicksaving and circle-strafing all the while, you should buy Shadow Warrior immediately," I wrote in last year in our Shadow Warrior PC review.
Now Flying Wild Hog's retro-themed slaughterfest is coming to Xbox One and PS4, the latter of which I was able to test out earlier this week. The result? Shadow Warrior is still a real, slam-bang, honest-to-goodness, three-fisted humdinger.
Click here to read more...
The FIFA 15 demo has been out for around a week or so now, and I've been dipping into it in amongst swathes of Destiny, Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 (do check out Carl's review of Bungie's FPS, and my appraisal of the Zelda/Warriors mashup). As per usual, EA Canada have been showering us with buzzword-heavy promotional sentences largely devoid of any real meaning, and the biggest of the lot for this year's release has been "emotion" -- that is to say player and crowd reactions, presentation tuned to deliver the theatrical and entertaining, and a boost in dynamic atmosphere when it comes to the in-game environment.
Has it worked? Are all of the footballing feels writ large upon this new, super-shiny canvas? Here are a few thoughts are several hours spent playing the demo:
Emotional behaviour is a thing: FIFA's always been a rather emotional game for me, in much the same way as any multiplayer game that you love can be. When winning and bragging rights amongst your friends (or the rest of the online community) are onthe line, matches mean more, and the peaks and troughs of a game matter more than they really have any right to. But this is now reflected on the pitch. In one game where I was playing as PSG, Lucas skipped past several defenders, Ibrahimovic shook his man, but I wanted to get the winger a goal so I ignored the Swede and promptly ballooned a sitter over the bar. Ibra then launched several unintelligible insults Lucas' way.
Players will shove and barge more than they used to, they'll clamour and cheer when you do something awesome, but they'll also let you know when someone's been an arse. After unclean tackles, if those involved are not injured, they'll leap to their feet and start mouthing off and pushing one another. If anything, FIFA 15 has most gloriously captured the notion that footballers are whinging prima donnas, who'll get uppity about anything.Click here to read more...
The Masterplan is like a top-down Payday in many ways. The Early Access version of Shark Punch's hold 'em up is just a smattering of levels at this point, but already there's something glorious about the whole affair. Much like Starbreeze's criminal FPS, you're given a location, some intel, and it's your job to get and get out with the swag, hopefully before anyone calls the police.
Here's the official blurb:
Drawing inspiration from both legendary tactical turn-based games and classic heist movies alike, the goal of The Masterplan is to put together the right crew, get the right equipment, and finally plan and execute the biggest heist ever.
Set in the early 1970s, the game features beautiful hand-drawn 2D art and an authentic soundtrack recorded by a real band. The gameplay blends a physics-based world and a clever AI system with an easy to approach "real time with pause" user interface.
The user interface is lovely, keeping things simple and allowing players to better survey the area, identify obstacles and issues quickly, and try to plan out the perfect heist. Left-click to select, right-click to move and aim and interact, and there are a selection of useful hotkeys for brandishing weapons and (this is easy to forget at first) concealing them once more. Simple stuff, but when applied to an intricate tapestry of guard patrols, security cameras, a steady stream of potential witnesses, and obstinately locked doors, The Masterplan really comes alive. I have to talk about the music as well, because it's simply superb. The band recordings conducted for this game have brought an aural "crime caper" soundscape into the mix, with the dizzying horns rising and falling as the drama in the level unfolds and is dealt with. It's brilliant stuff.
It's early days indeed on the content side of things, but the core gameplay works very nicely indeed as it stands. I rather hope that the toolset of your goons expands as you progress, and I'm eager to see what other systems can be brought it to further deepen the options available to players. There's some serious potential here, but it hinges on building upon the solid foundation with some scope and ambition. One of the best things about Payday 2 was the manner in which you could specialise, and the persistent nature of progression. Borrowing those systems wholesale for this wouldn't work, but it'd be nice to see a simple continuity in your goons much like Cannon Fodder or XCOM -- improved efficiency in certain areas through use, perhaps, and (hopefully) the ability to name them ourselves. It's a simple device, but it fosters a surprisingly strong connection.Click here to read more...
Some say that Real Time Strategy is a dying genre, but Eugen Systems are having none of it. After shifting a million copies of Wargame, the passionate PC studio plans to bring the RTS back to its roots.
Act Of Aggression may be the spiritual successor to 2005's Act Of War, but judging by what Eugen co-founder Alexis Le Dressay showed me at Gamescom 2014, it's also set to be a spiritual revival of the classic fast-paced, over-the-top and brutal RTS action we once adored in the Command & Conquer days.
Set in the 2020s, Act Of Aggression sees three factions fighting over real-world locations in the strategic equivalent of a Clancy-esque techno thriller. The US' conventional military might faces off against the shadowy Cartel: a high-tech criminal syndicate who tacitly fund a vast number of PMCs, bringing sleek and futuristic tech to the table. Like the Brotherhood of NOD, perhaps, only eschewing religion for big business and bigger tanks. Finally, the United Nations rely on the Chimera; a hardbitten Private Military contractor empowered to act on their behalf.
The stage is set for epic showdowns on asymmetrical maps, with the time-honoured gameplay pillars of resource collection, base-building, tech trees and high-octane combat between dozens of powerful units and aircraft. However, despite its old-school pretensions, Act Of Aggression is loaded with cutting-edge new features that make real strategy the key to victory.Click here to read more...
Who do I want to be?
It's the question that plagued me at the start of every Infinity Engine RPG -- the plethora of choices, the breadth of meaningful combinations, I found them to be paralysing in some ways, often stuck for well over an hour in indecision. Of course, back in those days, the game usually came with an instruction manual of such thickness that the Bible might have seemed a pamphlet next to it, a manual that made for the best toilet reading ever. So I'd go off and to my business, catch up on some lore, immerse myself within the game world, and attempt to make a decision from a position of greater understanding.
So it is that I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time reading every bit of character description for the Pillars of Eternity Backer Beta, swotting up on the little twists that Obsidian have made to the more traditional classes, and deliberating over the geographical history of my character -- a feature that makes no real difference in the game itself on a mechanical level, but simply further envelopes you in the game's lore.
It was far too difficult. In the end I went for a Fire Godlike Cipher because he looked utterly badass, and because the psionic class is one of the most unconventional I've seen in some time. Typical.
To have spent so much time (none of it felt even remotely wasted) building a character for a slice of standalone gameplay with a party of template strangers and a bunch of powers and abilities that I didn't choose might seem odd, but actually I feel the Backer Beta has been somewhat perfectly balanced. That mix of the familiar and the utterly new, plonking you down in the game world without a lick of context, was probably the only way Obsidian could have made a working beta that manages to show off a great deal of the character of this game without spoiling things too much. Dyrford is a sleepy little village that's home to a fair bit of ruckus of late, and although there's nothing here affiliated with the main story in the game whatsoever, the settlement does a nice job of introducing quest types, gleefully throwing you into the middle of disagreements and disappearances and danger.Click here to read more...
The last time we left our heroes, they'd emerged from a vicious street fight and secured a new base of operations. The Division's first gameplay trailer gave us a look at how players will cooperate to take back New York from the deranged survivors of a chemical attack; using both gunplay, strategy and RPG-esque skills to outmanoeuvre and outsmart their foes.
It's all right here in this E3 video. Watch it, else nothing that follows will seem wondrous. Or make any sense.
Ubisoft brought the next chapter to Gamescom 2014, or perhaps more accurately, the prequel. After showing us the daytime section again, running on Xbox One and iPad, they whisked us off to a new section of the game set during the previous night. Manhattan feels like a totally different place after sundown, an eerie and haunting environment that feels preternaturally wrong as you carefully pick your way through the ruined streets. A once bustling city now silent and deserted, save for the packs of hard-edged operators stalking through the rubble.
However, the day/night cycle is more than just a stylistic choice. New threats come out to play once the sun sets, and you'll need to work together in order to survive until dawn.Click here to read more...
With four Super Mirrors available in Bayonetta 2 (although only one that we can talk about currently), there's a fair bit of opportunity to play dress-up in Platinum's madcap action bonanza. To give you an idea of what to expect, hit the jump for a bunch of gameplay footage of Bayonetta in action, dressed in a variety of costumes and outfits from Super Mirror 64-2.
The Super Mirror's are all available at different intervals via Rodin's shop -- The Gates of Hell -- and the Mirrors themselves all cost 100,000 in currency. Unfortunately, you only get one costume included in that price (for 64-2 it's Fox's outfit), and every other costume costs another hundred grand as well. Cosplaying is an expensive pastime when you're an Umbra Witch.
The effects that the costumes have on the game itself are fairly minimal -- this is pure bonkers fan service, and there's nothing wrong with that. Most of the little changes are cosmetic, but there's something undeniably grin-inducing about rolling a Morphball about the place, or kicking the butts off of angels and demons with a set of tiny Arwings.Click here to read more...
I have a confession to make. Despite being Dealspwn's Grand Strategy Guy, the reviewer who always dives headfirst into the likes of Crusader Kings II, March Of The Eagles, Sengoku and loving every single beardy minute of them, I've never been able to get into Hearts Of Iron. There's just too much tedious micromanagement for me to handle in Paradox' World War-themed series, and I'm not alone.
Paradox Development Studio freely admit it, and they're trying to make the experience more engaging for us filthy fence sitters without killing the depth; cutting out the fiddly fluff to focus on the big bloody picture. While also addressing some of the fan feedback from Hearts Of Iron III. From what I saw at Gamescom 2014, as the lead designer showed me around the latest production build, it looks like they're on the right track... by turning boring micromanagement into awesome accessible historically-flavoured micromanagement.Click here to read more...