Video Games / Reviews

A Solid Start, Ending The Rot – Resident Evil Revelations 2 – Episode 1 Review

A Solid Start, Ending The Rot – Resident Evil Revelations 2 – Episode 1 Review

Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 1 feels like the game Resident Evil 6 should, and wanted to be. The episodic approach to Revelations 2 isn’t just another experimental move by Capcom, but a beneficial move for the sake of game. Filled with fan service, references and the positive elements of the original, Revelations 2 is a curious step in the right direction. For £5, Episode 1 is two hours of setting up the rest of the series. Franchise familiars Claire Redfield and Barry Burton both feature, both of them with their own experience and gameplay style. Diverting away from the awful fire fights featured in Resident Evil 6, Revelations takes a much more subdued approach to it’s gameplay. Claire’s portion of the game is a slow burning affair, with less ammo and fire arms available to her. Barry is armed to the teeth from the get go. While his sections may be more action orientated, there’s still a degree of vulnerability lurking. There’s a distinct difference in both respective sections, giving the game a genuinely varied experience that consistently remains enjoyable. Both parts of Revelations 2 feature co-op mechanics. Claire is accompanied by Moira Burton (yes, THAT Burton) while Barry teams with a young child named Natalia. Both newcomers have their own unique uses that feed into the tone of their sections. Moira, as a result of the plot, only wields a crowbar and flash light. Natalia possess the ability to see enemies through walls, alerting Barry to their presence, as well as crawling into small spaces.   The co-op nature of the game is the weakest element of Revelations 2, at least as far as Claire’s part goes. Moira, as a character, is utterly insufferable thanks to a mixture of weak writing, voice acting and a annoying personality. Her constant whining and f-bombs grinds throughout the entire time the player is with her. Moira’s self proclaimed roles of ‘torch holder’ and ‘door opener’, make the character feel a little pointless. It’s utterly bizarre when a character’s main role is to point a torch at something.She does posses some usefulness in the shape of her ability to stun enemies by blinding them. Natalia is much less of burden. There’s a clear relationship developing between both her and Barry, giving the game a little touch of humanity. Her abilities of pointing out enemies, and crawling into small spaces, give her a legitimate place within the game. There’s something sinister behind the character that’s hinted at, obviously setting up plot point to be revealed in later episodes.   The biggest issue with the co-op focus is the AI and mechanics. Switching between characters can be down with a button press. The problem is, when the player switches characters, it often leaves their past choice frozen on the spot for a few seconds. It’s a issue that rears it’s head towards the later stages of Claire’s section. A few nagging issues with AI running into enemy attacks also make a cameo from time to time. When in control of Moira or Natalia, who both lack any real ranged attack, the AI tends do little. Claire and Barry, when controlled by the AI, will stare into space, or trot around in circles. Even when the relevant skills have been unlocked, the AI is near useless in a combat setting. The ease of switching between characters does curve the majority of frustration thankfully. Underneath the core gameplay is a skills system. Players earn points by their how well they perform in-game, as well as collecting items dotted around the levels. Skills range from improving the healing factors of herbs, improved weapon and ability damage, among a few other curious enhancements. It’s not exactly an essential addition, but it does add a little bit of welcomed depth and customization. Revelations 2 – Episode 1 does a fairly decent job of placing the player in a interesting setting. The prison island provides for some challenging encounters, most of which carry that classic Resident Evil feel. The level design is similar to that of the tight, dark spaces of the first Revelations. The chaotic nature of Resident Evil 6′s level design is a long distant memory.   It’s fair to say Capcom have successfully implemented the best of Revelations enemies into the follow up. From slow traditional zombies, to more aggressive La Plaga variants, there’s decent range of threats to encounter. The slower enemies do tend to run into a few issues when it comes to movement. Getting caught on the environment seems to be a growing trend towards the end act of Barry’s segments. While it’s not a major issue, it does detract from the players immersion, cheapening the atmosphere. By the time the two hour episode is over, there’s very little of the plot revealed. Beyond a few minor hints, the plot remains distant, allowing for the characters to be firmly established. It would be harsh to criticize Revelations 2 for it’s plot so early into the series, it is episode one after all. From what is shown, and previewed via the ending, there’s promise within the story, albeit a typically Resident Evil plot.   Replay value comes in the form of ‘Raid mode’, a Mercenaries like mode that’s surprisingly well crafted. Players choose a character, their gear and a set of skills, before being deployed into the field. Raid mode is a nifty run through multiple levels, gunning down enemies left, right and centre. Each enemy rewards the player with experience, allowing them to purchase more skills for their character. New weapons can be found across the map, allowing players to further customize their load-out. The mode is pretty basic, but hugely satisfying. There’s a odd sense of progression at the core of each run, even more so when beefier weapons are found and equipped. Much like Mercenaries before it, Raid Mode feels like it could become Resi’s next big mini-game. For a game released on both current generation and last, Revelations 2 hold up fairly well in terms of presentation. While there is a lack of detail in parts, the visuals on the whole are decent. Enemies provide gory imagery, with decent amount of detail on show. Human character models are adequate but look slightly robotic at times. The environments, at least indoors, look good enough to carry the brooding tones. Outdoors, the game struggles to look as slick. Rocks and trees have a noticeable lack of detail compared to the rest of the world, but this is merely nit picking. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 1 is fine starting point for the series. Solid gameplay, decent production values , allow the game to blossom into a enjoyable bite sized experience. Capcom have managed to dial in their efforts into a much more precise experience, avoiding the messy nature of Resident Evil 6. With all the traits of the first Revelations present, a long with some improvement, Revelations 2 could just be the next big Resident Evil. It’s just a shame there’s no offline co-op. For £5, it’s hard to find reasons not to at least try Episode 1. The Raid Mode is genuinely great, the core experience is solid, with a promise of more to come as the series goes on. Capcom have seemingly found their feet once more. The nose dive in quality the Resident Evil franchise has suffered, it finally seems to be over.  ...

Brilliance In Mediocrity – The Order 1886 Review (PS4)

Brilliance In Mediocrity – The Order 1886 Review (PS4)

Console exclusives come with the burden of massive expectations. Regardless of who makes them, or what the concept is, there’s not many places to hide for the exclusive. The Order 1886 isn’t just another exclusive, it’s carrying the flag for the PS4, as well as for cinematic video game experiences. The problem is, like most games of it’s nature, the blurring of lines between cinema and video game, results in some major issues. Set in a alternative London, The Order 1886 is a heft mix of classic themes from both history and Gothic horror. An ancient struggle between Humans and Half-Breeds (a mixture of human and animal) rages on. The Order exist to protect humanity and end the Half-Breed race. The uprising of a rebellion, and suspicious goings on within London, forces The Order into action.   The Order 1886 is simply a technical marvel of it’s time. The visuals, direction and overall performance, are by far it’s best traits. While other games on this generation of consoles look good, The Order 1886 looks real. From the first second, till the last, the production value is nothing short of breath taking. The world moves and breathes in a manner you’d expect if you were to look out the window. The sheer level of detail in every nook and cranny all drip into a beautiful image, it’s a genuine work of art. The sheer attention to detail showcased across most of The Order 1886′s settings is something that should be noted and awarded. It’s obvious that Ready At Dawn have went to great lengths to recreate London in all it’s Gothic glory, while adding a touch of alternative to it. The lighting plays a vital part in breathing life into 1886 London. Shadows cast in a organic manner, light reacts to it’s environments, the result is some truly breathtakingly framed locations.   Ready at Dawn have arguably set a new benchmark for character models and animations. There’s a eerie sense of humanity to the faces of The Order 1886′s main cast. Their skin rumples as they talk, hair sways in the wind, eyes glare with a sense of life. Clothing lays upon the characters, reacting to movement in a totally natural way, it’s far from the stiff nature often seen in video games. Presentation can only cover so many cracks, and The Order 1886 has plenty of cracks. Story is vital component to the cinematic focus, and unfortunately The Order’s tale is a bit of a mess. The plot tends to jump around, ultimately becoming rather predicable. It’s not that the plot is bad, it’s perfectly serviceable, it simply never makes the most of the universe it’s set in. The quality of the voice acting, and presentation, saves a number of potentially dull scenes.   The sheer marvel of seeing a character’s face, match the emotion of the voice, is what prevents scenes from dragging. The key issue with the plot is the manner in which it ends. When a major plot point is revealed, it’s almost discarded within the next few scenes. The ending of the game almost entirely ignores what was presented as the turning point in the story. While the ending isn’t terrible, it feels more akin to the ending of a chapter rather than a story. Gameplay is easily The Order 1886′s main fault. It’s not because it’s bad, it’s because it’s utterly dated. The ambition and success of the presentation is not reflected in the gameplay what so ever. A basic cover shooter, with a variation of bullet time, is exactly what The Order 1886 is. There’s nothing new, there’s nothing creative, it’s simply dated. Run, take cover, shoot, repeat, it’s the core of the game. There’s no room for tactics or creativity, there’s not even a gimmick to fall back on.   To Ready at Dawn’s credit, they do try to change things up at various points, it’s just not very well implemented. Attempts at stealth are nothing but a frustration that feels totally alien from the rest of the game. There’s a few times when the player is tasked with looking at a box until some dialogue is thrown out, it’s sadly a comedic farce that truly cheapens the cinematic angle. The odd mini game is also chucked in, at some points feeling slightly forced reminders that they exist. Potential is something The Order 1886′s gameplay had. Given the Half-Breed enemy, it feels like the lack of fantastical enemies, is a missed opportunity. Players find themselves gunning down humans for the most part, with the odd werewolf. The Human enemies are barely a threat, most enjoy hiding behind cover throwing out the odd shot. Werewolves are initially interesting to tackle, but soon become a utterly repetitive exercise of shoot, dodge, press triangle.   Quick time events make up a rather sizable portion of The Order 1886′s spine. Each chapter includes at least a handful of quick time events, mostly attached to a plot points of sorts. In all fairness, the Quick time events don’t feel as intrusive as they do in other titles on the market, they do however feel far too regular. For every well placed quick time event, there’s two that come off as totally unneeded, ruining any feeling of immersion. Performance wise, The Order 1886 is incredibly smooth. The frame rate never suffers from a noticeable drop, textures never pop in/out, draw distance is spot on and there’s little to no bugs to be found. Ready at Dawn have polished their work to the extreme, resulting in them creating a impressive technical achievement. After the year of broken and buggy games that was 2014, The Order 1886 comes onto the market in a technically flawless state. The Order 1886 is truly a technical marvel, raising the bar for visuals on consoles. Ready at Dawn display their ambitious attempts to create beautiful scenes in every chapter of the game. The same can not be said for the gameplay, it’s the exact opposite of ambitious. The Order 1886 is a dated playing experience wrapped up in top end presentation. It may be decent, but it’s hard to look past how rigid many of it’s mechanics are. The plot is adequate but far from compelling, which is a shame given how well it’s all acted. The end leaves a lot to be desired, as well as being blatant sequel bait.   With no replay value, and a campaign clocking in at around 6 hours (normal difficult), The Order 1886 is the definition of shallow. Average has never looked so good....

Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords Review (PS4/Xbox One/PC)

Game of Thrones Episode 2: The Lost Lords Review (PS4/Xbox One/PC)

The first episode of TellTale’s Game of Thrones set the scene for a vast, and layered, story. With a host of new characters, new houses, and some familiar faces, episode one was a success. The various character story arcs were set, with each arc hinting at big things, all of which were drenched with the brutal twists and turns you’d expect from Game of Thrones. With all that being said, Episode two: The Lost Lords doesn’t exactly stay on the road paved by it’s predecessor. The Lost Lords opens with a huge mount of confidence. The writing is distinct sharp nature people expect from TellTale, only this time it’s complimented with a fairly long action sequence. In between quick time events, players engage in conversations with the supporting cast. This pattern of action sequences followed by conversation is what forms the heart of this episode.   While past TellTale games would often give the player the time to explore the environment, and solve puzzles to progress, The Lost Lords does nothing of the sort. This episode is purely about progressing the plot in the most efficient and streamlined way possible. It’s a jarring switch in formula, but given the sheer amount of characters and story arcs going on, the switch makes perfect sense. The game it’s self is not bad, far from it, it feels like it’s treading on thin ice. The sheer amount of stories going on per episode leaves little time for the player to truly feel like they’re playing a game. The Lost Lords does not feel like a point-and-click light experience are known for, instead it feels more like a interactive movie. This was true with the first episode, but the focus on pushing the player through feels far more intense in episode two.   TellTale have managed to craft a decent story, with each character having a distinct tone or theme at the heart of their tale. A broke house trying to rebuild amidst tragedy, the sell sword set for greatness, and the innocent soul trapped in a web of politics. Each character feels like a natural fit within Westeros, giving the plot a sense of legitimacy. Fans of the book/show may find things a little predicable at times, detracting from the impact of some of the plot developments. Voice acting is at a relativity decent standard, as too are the appearances from characters in the show, all of which are voiced by their actors/actresses. Lord of The Lost suffers from various issues that come in the form of audio bugs, crashes, and some shabby textures. Character dialogue had a habit of repeating it’s self at times, or just cutting out all together. Some character models would fail to load up fully, leaving them looking like splodges on a page. The overall visual presentation teeters on the edge of adequate to messy. Textures tend to look rough, especially in some of the games brighter locations. The last act of the game was met with a few crashes that resulted in starting scenes all over again. While the crashes were far and few between, it’s still an annoyance.   Game of Thrones: The Lost Lords builds upon the foundations of the first episode nicely. While the plot is decent, it’s pacing and constant switching of characters can become rather grating. The lack of gameplay and puzzle solving (beyond quick time events and dialogue options) does result in The Lost Lords feeling like a interactive episode, rather than a playable experience.          ...

Game of Thrones Episode One: Iron From Ice Review (PS4/XB1/PC)

Game of Thrones Episode One: Iron From Ice Review (PS4/XB1/PC)

Telltale have seemingly continued their blitz on 2014 with their fourth licensed game of the year. After their successful runs with The Walking Dead, Borderlands and The Wolf Among Us, Telltale have released their take on Game of Thrones, possibly their biggest challenge to date. Based on the TV show, which in turn is based on a series of fantasy novels called A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones has been exciting the masses since it’s announcement. The concept of Telltale creating a brand new story in such a beloved universe was mouth watering. The game is set around House Forrester, a house never mentioned in the show (as of yet) and only scarcely in the books, banner men to House Stark. The first episode picks up in line with the infamous red wedding and creates a expanded narrative centering around the impact of the event. The bulk of the plot revolves around establishing Forrester history and traditions, while introducing the key players in and around the house.   Given the scope of Game of Thrones, this title feels less focused than past Telltale games. Players aren’t put into the shoes of one character, instead they are thrown between multiple characters, all with interweaving stories. The lack of focus on one character allows the game the feel fresh when compared to past Telltale titles. Playing numerous characters gives the player more freedom and creativity in how they wish to approach situations. It’s a change that make sense given the size of the Game of Thrones universe, but it’s also a change that makes the whole experience less safe, given any character is at risk of death. Having the ability to play around with different characters, choosing how they react to various conversations and events, opens up a whole new element not seen in past Telltale games. Switching between playing a character with a edge of brashness to a character just trying to get by keeps the games momentum going. At no point is there a wall where things feel slow or dragged out, Telltale have nailed the pace of game, drawing everything together in a neat bundle. The way in which the games events are tied into the show gives the whole experience a sense of legitimacy. Familiar faces make appearances throughout the game and never feel forced in for simple fan service. Each scene, each character, each action all have a point, there’s never a second that feels wasted. The only real issue with Telltale’s Game of Thrones is the presentation. The ‘painting’ art style does not lend it’s self well to the game. Environments tend to look a bit dull and lacking detail, character models range from adequate to slightly ugly. Sub bar visuals are accompanied by some truly horrific animation. Characters have a tendency to move their heads in robotic manners, detracting from the voice acting and taking the player out of the moment. It’s a niggling issue that becomes a frustration towards the end, even more so given most of this episode is long conversations. It’s hard to look past the awful animation when the voice acting of characters from the show (all voiced by the original actors) is so spot on. The dialogue is delivered in the exact way you’d hear it on the show, but the dead pan robotic character models distraught the quality acting. Visual issues aside, Game of Thrones Episode One: Iron From Ice is a fantastic start to the series. The new characters are all compelling, the overall plot remains unique while relevant to the source material, and the twists and turns the show (as well as Telltale) are know for are all present. There’s at least one scene that will genuinely surprise players, forcing them to see this series as a whole new ball game compared to past Telltale games. Fans of the show will undoubtedly appreciate the authenticity found within the game. It’s hard not to recommend the game given it’s quality and it’s low asking price of £5....

The Red Solstice – Review (PC)

The Red Solstice – Review (PC)

I recently got the chance to sit down and try my hands at The Red Solstice which is a top-down, tactical, squad based survival shooter developed by Ironward. The Red Solstice plays very similar to games like StarCraft in the way of how you control your character. That being said, I had some major issues trying to connect to an online match, but once I did I was greeted with a gameplay formula I’ve been very familiar, and comfortable with since the launch of the original Starcraft in 1998. Plus, it has that whole Starcraft/spacey-wacey shooter vibe going on. So, that helped me get into the game when I booted it up.  Now, to be fair in terms of single-player content I only played the introductory tutorial to get an understanding of the game, plus this game is all about hopping online, starting a squad, and blasting some aliens. From what I got in the tutorial I have to admit I was a little underwhelmed. I didn’t feel like the game was offering anything new, or unique. However, I pushed through and played through the tutorial. Most tutorials are fairly meh in games, but I’m going to throw that up to the fact that I feel like this game is built around being in a squad and playing with other people. You’ve got eight different classes to choose from when playing: Assault, Heavy Support, Recon, Marksman, Demolition, Terminator, Hellfire and Medic. The classes are pretty straight-forward, but the shining two classes would have to be Terminator, and Hellfire. And no, we don’t mean the T-800 from The Terminator franchise. So, if you’re one of those people who want variety in these types of games then the class system has just that, if you’re dedicated on ranking up and unlocking these things. Probably my most favorite, and memorable aspect of the game is an ailment system which allows your character to be poisonous or bleeding and various other ailments creating a new and harder aspect of the game. This is pretty great, and can definitely change the flow of the game instantly. I applaud the developers for doing something like this, it breathes something unique and fresh into the game, but also gives us that degree of difficulty that makes these kind of games fun and challenging. From what I got to play of TRS was a fun experience, albeit with some flaws. Connecting to a multiplayer game was quite the task, and when it finally worked itself out I had a blast. The game is also slightly punishing in the way of unlocking classes, and what-not. You have to be good at the game to score achievements and rank-up, they just won’t throw them out to every player who hops in game (which is nice). You need to play well with a team, and actually play tactically. No Rambo fun here, or at least from what I encountered while playing. Would I recommend this game? That depends. I’d say if you were fan of tactical/strategy games like Starcraft then it might be up your alley in terms of enjoyment. But, if you prefer games that won’t require some form of skill, and prefer just to shoot dudes away without any risk of defeat then this game probably won’t appeal to you. It’s a fun game, and for the $19.99 price tag, it’s quite the deal. Now, it is part of the Early-Access program on Steam so that means it’s constantly being updated, and having new bits & pieces thrown into the mix. So, if you’re one of those lads, or lassies who likes these types of games then go gather 8 of your friends together and dive into The Red Solstice. Mars won’t ever be the same....

Divinity: Original Sin Review (PC)

Divinity: Original Sin Review (PC)

The Divinity franchise has been around for some time, but it’s never truly became a house hold name. With various spikes and drops in quality from across the years, the franchise has never truly imposed itself upon the masses. Divinity has earned itself a rather cult following however, but its latest installment, Original Sin, could be the game to truly make a impact…at least on the RPG fan base. Divinity: Original Sin is one of the many success stories of Kickstarter. After going over it’s goal, and garnering a lot of attention, the game went through early access and finally hit retail release. Larian Studios made it quite clear that Original sin was a ambitious project, made by RPG fans, for RPG fans. Their ambition is easily measurable in the sheer amount of content and personal touches burnt into the core of Original Sin.   In terms of role playing games, the genre has been going in the wrong direction of late. Action has began to take over the core elements that traditional RPG games are so heavy on. Original Sin feels distinctly old school from the off, and that is nothing short of glorious. Having the ability to roll a character is such a welcomed feature. The option to select each stat, trait and role is liberating to say the least. Players aren’t restricted to fulfilling a set class with all the expected skills, instead they are given the freedom of choice. Original Sin has a interesting variation on the party system. Players are given two characters to customize and mould how they say fit, these two characters are bound together for the entire game. Both characters act as the main protagonists as they jointly venture through the world. There’s a number of points within the game where the two character can discuss matters at hand. These discussions can depend on various stats and actions the respective character has taken through the game. It’s a neat dynamic that works especially well in Original Sin’s full online co-op experience.   The trend of old school mechanics bleeds into the core combat of Original Sin. Turn based combat, fueled by action points, makes for some truly intense battles. Every action is dependent on how many action points the character has at the ready. Using action points well is the key to victory, strategy becomes a must. Planning how to make the most of each action point is where the game enters it’s true depth. One mistake or waste of action points can lead to a swift defeat. The combat offers a truly intriguing mechanic that gives each battle it’s own dimension, especially in co-op. Spells and skill can be combined to create powerful combos, this expands the scope of each battle, halting any sense of repetition from sitting in. The true joys of the combat come in the shape of using the environment to your advantage. Spells and skills can be used to interaction with the environment, creating opportunities to cause heavy damage to the enemy. Setting alight oils, dislodging boulders are just some of the nifty tricks available at the players finger tips.   The interaction with environment isn’t exclusive to combat. There’s a number of situations in which using spells and skills on the surroundings can aid players in their exploration. Be it a puzzle, a hidden area, or just a simple short cut, these little interactions give the world a touch of life. The world itself is a character, full of curiosities and wonders. The world is huge and populated with some truly fascinating NPCs. The adventures to be had all feel like they have a purpose, be it to make the player laugh or give them that next step up in the various stories dotted around the game. At no point will the player find themselves disengaged or disinterested, there’s literally something to do at every point of the game. While the core gameplay, and all it’s mechanics, are solid, it’s Original Sin’s charm that shines through. There’s a sense of awareness to the game and it’s writing, it know it’s market and it knows how to engage them. Humor is provided in vast amounts, making each quest and interaction with NPCs enjoyable and satisfying, rather than just a means to gain a quest. It’s not uncommon to spend 45 minutes in a new area, purely talking to people. The world has so much charm and character that the players time never feels wasted.   Original Sin’s production values are pretty slick. The visuals are vibrant and reflect the tones of the game nicely. Character modes and environments are packed with detail consistent with the world. When the spells are flying, the visuals take on a new life. Explosives colours burst into life, the audio sings proudly, it all feeds into the end experience. The size and scale of Original Sin is something to marvel at. Creativity, charm, a immersive experience, all with a strong focus on traditional RPG values. The only issues to be found are minor quality of life problems such as inventory management and a rigid fast travel system. The main plot may be a little bit ropey, but the ‘side quests’ within the game offer a number of interesting short stories. Huge in scale, and hugely enjoyable to play though alone, or with a friend. Divinity: Original Sin is one of the best games of the year so far, easily worth the time of anyone looking for a true RPG experience.      ...

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition Review (Wii U)

The influence of both Metroid and Castlevania is still felt to this day, especially during the last five or so years. One of the best examples of this influence can be found in last year’s Guacamelee, from developer Drinkbox games. With its 2D platforming, brawler combat system, and a lot of humor, Guacamelee became a hit across a number of platforms. Now it’s back in the shape of Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, marking the game’s début on the Nintendo system. Guacamelee follows Juan, an average man slain by the kidnappers of El Presidente’s daughter. Juan reawakens to find himself in possession of a Lucha mask, granting him the power of the Luchador. From here, Juan must save El Presidente’s daughter while avenging his own death. Juan’s journey is a humorous romp across various environments beautifully presented in a cartoonish manner. While the story is never compelling or engaging, it does progress the game efficiently enough that it never becomes an issue that detracts from the overall experience.   The aforementioned Metroid influence is made clear pretty early on. Each environment hosts various sections that are only accessible after the player has unlocked certain skills. The risk of adopting this approach is putting far too many inaccessible areas in one zone early on, making the player feel trapped in a box. Thankfully Guacamelee does a fairly decent job of keeping the balance between keeping the player curious while allowing them to progress at a manageable level. The nifty parts of the environments hide secrets; this is what captures a genuine feeling of rewarding curiosity and exploration. The core gameplay of Guacamelee is accomplished. The jumping mechanics feel tight, responsive, and only the player can make errors. The combat is built around the idea of building combos and adjusting to the enemy in question. The early stages of the game feel rather repetitive due to the lack of abilities and a small range of enemy types. As the game chugs along, things become far more enjoyable with the player being granted more freedom in how they wish to build combos. With this focus on combos comes an unfortunate fascination with repeatedly putting the player into kill rooms. While it’s fun to string combos together in brainless kill rooms once or twice, it devolves into a repetitive chore after the sixth or seventh room within an hour or so of play.   One of the surprising highlights of Guacamelee is the platforming component. There’s a neatly entwined relationship between platforming and a number of the attacks featured within the game. There’s a number of cases in which the player is required to combine movements, jumps, and attacks in order to reach a certain point. The combination between challenge and skill is wonderfully delicate, making each tricky jump satisfying to pull off. It’s a neat touch that gives the core gameplay an extra dimension. The presentation of Guacamelee is a wonderful meld of bright colours and quirky character designs. The sheer boldness of the colours allows the game to almost jump out of the screen, which technically you can do given the Wii U’s capabilities. The game looks great on both a TV and a Wii U pad. The pad’s other features aren’t really used all that well, however, it’s only purpose is to host a mini-map. Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a wonderfully crafted experience. There’s little to truly complain about beyond some repetitive enemy patterns and some areas that feel a little less interesting than others. There’s enough content there to keep everybody happy given the price point–even more so given the local co-op that the game offers. With tight, responsive controls, wonderfully crafted platforming sections, and more than an odd giggle along the way, Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition is a great example of Metroid-inspired concepts put into practice.          ...

ONE PIECE: Unlimited World Red Review (3DS)

ONE PIECE: Unlimited World Red Review (3DS)

- Review by Ben Leslie ( @LegendHeroBen ) One Piece has been around for more than seventeen years, and is one of the best-selling Manga series in history. From the mastermind of Eiichiro Oda, its Anime is still going today with over 650 episodes that run weekly in Japan. The games themselves have had an impact over the years. One Piece: Unlimited World Red shows a good example of how colourful and well done an Anime game can be for the 3DS. It can ensnare anyone with an eye for crazy pirate adventures. If you’ve been following the series, World Red follows the adventures of Luffy and his misfit crew, The Straw Hat pirates. This feels more like a spin-off episode or even a movie where Luffy and his crew encounter and befriend a cheerful yet mysterious raccoon named Pato who possesses a shadowy power to create anything drawn onto a leaf. Helping their new friend, the Straw Hat Pirates agree to assist Pato on an ambiguous mission to meet someone. Pato then leads the crew to the Forgotten Island where all the Straw Hat Pirates except Luffy are successively kidnapped by a wicked pirate named The Red Count, who has escaped the lower depths of Impel Down. With Pato’s help, Luffy must fight to recover his crew from the enemy’s grasp and find out exactly what The Red Count’s evil plots are. But they also encounter some of The Straw Hat’s dangerous foes from Caesar Clown, Crocodile and Lucci. If you’ve played previous games like One Piece: Pirate Warriors, this might feel familiar to you in terms of gameplay. As you come across each of the levels you travel to, you’ll end up at one part of the map with countless enemies or at another area with the same thing. Each of the Straw Hat members you play as has their own battle commands and special attacks that become available for use once their gauge unit is full from fighting enemies. This can feel a little repetitive at times. You can also capture bugs and catch fish, leading to a mini-game for each of them that typically involve pressing various buttons and directions on the screen in order to capture them and get better at your skills for bug-catching and fishing. You can also expand the town of Trans Town, giving you more options and choices on gaining more new items and extra features from various shops and facilities. You can send and receive wanted posters to your friends if they also own the game when two systems are in close range. You will automatically pick up your friend’s wanted posters and send your own poster in return, including a scratch card game that only needs at least one coin to play. Its co-operative play can be fun when you can choose a quest level; as you collect more and more pirate points you will be able to choose more higher levels of quests. The visuals and animations are very impressive to see on a handheld system, but what really lacks about One Piece: Unlimited World Red is that the 3D effect isn’t well implemented at all, meaning you will not be able to see any fighting scenes in 3D-even with the 3D effect turned on. The camera system, which utilises the touch pad to pan across the screen, is also yet another big problem. This can be a little fiddly to do while fighting through enemies or bosses at the same time, but if you own a Circle Pad Pro this really make the game more comfortable to play. If you have a Wii U you can Data Link with Unlimited World Red. Also, if you own the game on the Wii U, you can transfer your save and data back and forth, meaning that you could play the game at home on the Wii U or on your 3DS if you are out and about. Getting through the main campaign can take you at least seven hours or more depending on how much you want to get out of the game. This would appeal more to the fans themselves, including a battle colosseum, where you’ll be in an arena fighting waves and waves of enemies and battling various friends and foes from the series. With rough textures and not a hint of good lighting to be found, it at least looks bright and vibrant, while character models are detailed and nicely made. W ith a well-rounded variety of missions and DLC on the eShop, this should keep anime fans and gamers happy for quite a while....

Blue Estate Review (PS4)

Blue Estate Review (PS4)

The light gun is nothing more than a fond memory, at least in today’s market. After enjoying a brief resurgence during the hayday of motion video games, the light gun crept back into the shadows once more. It comes with some surprise that Blue Estate, a comic-inspired on-rails shooter, has stepped forward to replicate the light gun experience using only the accelerometers in the PS4′s controller. The PS4′s motion control capabilities have hardly been pushed or even used all that much, and especially not to their limits. The concept of basing the entirety of a £16.99 video game on an untested feature creates an instant notion of caution. Things aren’t helped by past failings by other light gun games that have tried to adopt motion controls from the likes of Kinect or the Wii. Unsurprisingly the controls of Blue Estate are the primary issue, but not as big of an issue as might have been expected. The control scheme is simple, yet uses two of the most curious features of the PS4 pad: the touch screen and motion controls. Aiming, as expected, is done by using the pad to shift the crosshair around the screen. The crosshairs can be reset to the centre via a quick tap of the L1 button. R2 acts as the trigger and L2 is utilized for the cover and reload mechanics. The touch screen is used for interactive sections of the game, such as picking up health, melee, and enemies. The touch screen is also used in quick-time events that happen during certain levels, as well as various other bits and bobs that see the player interact with the environment. For the most part, the general shooting experience is solid. The PS4 pad takes a while to get used to when used in the capacity required, but after a while it feels natural, and most importantly, it works. There are a few elements that feel slightly frustrating. For example, when switching weapons the crosshair tends to fly off the screen. While the L1 button resets crosshairs, it’s frustrating to have to constantly realign the aim on a regular basis, detracting from the core experience. Behind the shooting there’s a score system keeping the action flowing. Points are earned by chaining combos together as well as pulling off special shots. Scattered across each level are short shooting galleries where the player is tasked with popping headshots. They break up the fast-paced action but feel somewhat forced at times. The points system only truly lends itself to a visual representation of how well the player did. Leaderboards are supported, but with no unlocks, only board-climbers will have an interest in racking up points. Blue Estate‘s campaign isn’t especially long, either. Clocking in at around 3-4 hours, it is enjoyable but limited. The whole deal is filled with pop culture references poking fun at various video games and shows, with the Game of Thrones reference being the most obvious. The campaign follows Tony Luciano, the son of one of LA’s most notorious crime lords. Tony is a greasy, disaster-prone slime ball who enjoys hair styling, hookers, and shooting. Tony finds himself stuck in the middle of a gang war centered around his favourite hooker, Cherry. Tony, being the gentleman he is, sets out to defend Cherry while his father drafts in help from gun-for-hire Clarence. Blue Estate requires its player not to take themselves too seriously. The plot has a huge undertone of exploitative cinema running throughout it, mixed with the snark you’d expect from a jaded pop culture expert. There’s a decent amount of environments on offer, each with their own enemy types and mini-bosses. The campaign is fun but never something that makes an impression. Not that the campaign was trying to do anything more than that, however. While the campaign is fun, it’s made even better via local two player co-op, a rare feature in modern video games. The overall Blue Estate experience is solid and well produced. The visuals aren’t exactly stunning, but they do lend themselves well to the tone and art style of the game. The action is fast, perhaps too fast for the controls, but remains enjoyable throughout. Given its length and lack of content, the price point of £16.99 seems a little high. Ultimately, Blue Estate is a decent on-rails shooter with plenty of cheap laughs. The only problem holding it back from being widely recommended is the price. Fun, funny, enjoyable, but overpriced.      ...

EA Sports UFC Review (PS4/Xbox One)

EA Sports UFC Review (PS4/Xbox One)

EA’s UFC has been one of the company’s most hyped titles, mainly due to its visuals. After months of press releases, trailers and screenshots, does the game deliver the realistic experience promised? In short, no. Not entirely, at least. At its core, MMA is arguably the purest form of competition. The sheer amounts of disciplines that factor into the sport give it such a sense of depth that not many other sports can match. This alone makes MMA a tricky sport to translate into a video game. Every fight starts on the feet, and this is possibly the strongest elements of EA UFC’s gameplay. The range in strikes gives the players more than enough options to create combos and put a bit a flare into their fight style. Each strike carries a genuine sense of impact; faces wobble, cut and bruise, and it’s noticeably realistic. This allows the striking to become an instantly rewarding mechanic that engages players, as well as spectators, straight away. There’s a sense of ease to stringing together basic combos. Knees and fists can be strung together in effective methods without requiring too much thought. There’s a number of advanced stand up techniques, mostly built upon the blocking and evasion mechanics, which require some time to learn. The basic stand up is well rounded, but that quickly becomes a problem given how simple it is compared to other key elements of the fight, such as clinching, grappling, and wrestling. Stand up only makes up part of the sport; any fighter who doesn’t learn the ground game wont last very long. This is where EA UFC runs into some major issues. The clinch is solid, with controls that are easy to learn and a viable part of the game. The same can also be said of the takedowns, which carry a sense of weight to them. The ground game, however, is an utter mess of confusion, frustration and bemusement. Transitioning from position to position, be it from the top or bottom, feels like a horrid dance of jerking analogue sticks around in hope more than expectation. Even after taking time to learn the controls, the ground game never feels accomplished and becomes something the player fears rather than utilizes.   It’s frustrating that such a key part of the sport is so undercooked and so rough around the edges. What should be a smooth experience, with plenty of depth, is instead a flurry of stick wiggles and button presses while the on-screen fighter wiggles in a strange limp motion. It’s rare the ground game feels smooth or useful. It instead feels like a hindrance that is unfairly thrown upon the player as the AI imposes its willful mount with ease. While it may seem like a small issue to those not familiar with MMA, these ground game issues are in fact a big deal given how large of a part the ground game plays in any given fight. It’s unfortunate that the effort put into the stand up is deflected by shoddy mechanics used for the ground game, mainly the transitions. There’s also an issue that pops up with how submissions are handled. Attempting a submission prompts an odd mini game in which the victim presses in a direction while the submitter tries to match his victim’s stick wiggles. The mini-game feels out of place, even more so given the pace and presentation of each fight. The mechanic simply doesn’t match what is going on, almost cheapening the experience.   The visuals of EA UFC are what have been the main focus, at least in terms of marketing. To EA’s credit, the character models are mostly stunning. The attention to detail is staggering, from the scars on Jon Jon’s face, to the readable text on Rousey’s ankle tattoo.The finer details have all been taken care of. There are one or two character models that feel a little less well crafted, mainly Chael Sonnen and Alexander Gustaffason, both of which carry a distinct video game look. The general set dressing isn’t quite up to the standards on the character models. Arenas feel oddly vacant, lacking the soul and buzz of a real UFC event. It seems odd that EA would go to so much effort to create fantastic character models only to put them into rather vapid arenas. Thankfully the soul of the fights is injected with how much damage is shown on the respective fighters. When a punch is thrown, the impact is visible. Bodies will ripple, cuts and bruises will appear, and it gives each each fight a much needed sense of life, as well as adding weight to each punch, knee, kick and takedown.   One of the main criticisms of EA UFC is the lack of content on offer. While ninety-seven fighters may sound impressive, there aren’t many modes to use them in. While past UFC titles by other developers made full use of the UFC’s purchases of the PRIDE (the premier MMA promotion pre-UFC days) and history, EA has focused mainly on the current times. Aside from the standard fight mode and online modes, there’s a career mode built around The Ultimate Fighter TV show. Players create a fighter and fight their way through the UFC in pursuit of capturing gold. In between fights, players complete various drills in order to obtain evolution points. These points can be spent on new moves or by boosting the player’s attributes. As players enter the bigger fights in their career, more sponsors and gyms will become available. The career mode has a rather curious mechanic which dictates how long the player’s career lasts. After each fight, the player will be presented with an overview of how much damage they took and what impact it has on their career. Much like real life, taking numerous heavy hits in each fight will cut short the fighter’s career. Players wishing to have a long and illustrious careers are forced to take note of how much damage they are taking. This mechanic forces players into changing their approach to fights in order to maintain their fighter’s career. It gives the mode a genuine sense of depth as it pushes the player to learn the game and formulate genuine game plans rather than relying on throwing bombs each fight.   The online multiplayer is adequate enough but lacks anything to truly write home about. There are often times when players will come into contact with players from across the pond, creating a laggy connection. The lag doesn’t make the game unplayable, but it does make it frustrating. It’s hard to string combos together when a 2-3 second delay keeps occurring. As stated, this only seems to happen with overseas connections and is not an issue that runs throughout. If there’s one hugely annoying issue with the multiplayer, it’s the inclusion of Bruce Lee as DLC. Boasting insane speed and power, Bruce Lee is possibly the best fighter in the game, and he’s locked as paid DLC or as a pre-order bonus. Having the option to play as Bruce Lee is a huge advantage over those without him. His sheer speed makes him near impossible to out-strike, creating a feeling of pay-to-win. It feels like a low blow by EA as they try to make a quick buck. EA’s first attempt at a UFC game is admirable, but flawed. While the stand up is satisfying and the visuals impressive, the ground game is a huge detractor. Given how vital the ground game is, the core gameplay is effected by the rough nature of the ground game mechanics. It’s a hugely frustrating part of the game that truly sucks the pace, fluidity and enjoyment out of each bout .A lack of feinting strikes, option to touch gloves, no leg kick KOs and everyone being able to pull of flashy (physical impossible moves for some) moves also makes for some annoyances. The lack of modes and content is also an issue, one that feels like the product of a rushed release more than anything. Given the calibre of past UFC titles, EA’s attempt may look the part, but it doesn’t feel like the complete package. While the game is enjoyable for the most part, the issues truly hinder the overall game from reaching the heights it could have reached.  ...

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