All posts by Thomas Souter

Teacher, editor and writer. Get in touch at contact (at) TPReview (dot) co (dot) uk

Injustice 2 Review (Xbox One)

Last year Street Fighter V came out and many of us (including me) were shocked at just how little content it offered. This was a game created almost purely for the hardcore tournament goers, no single player to speak of, no progression, just a roster of character and a solid offline multiplayer and slightly shaky online. For people who are really into fighting games, that might be all they need, but for the millions of casual fighting games fans around, it felt far too sparse. Enter Injustice 2, possibly the most generous fighting game I’ve ever seen.

For starters, Injustice 2 is a direct sequel to the first game. While the roster has changed (lots of heroes have been taken away including Zatara, Lex Luthor, Doomsday, etc) the campaign follows on directly from the first game and the fighting systems are all intact. You still build up a super meter that can be used to augment attacks, bet on a wager, or unleash your super-move; you can still hit people off the stage into a new one; you can still interact with all kinds of things in each area (if you want, all of this is customisable).Anyone familiar with how the first one played will be instantly at home, but there are some new toys for anyone who was put off by the simplicity of the first game.

Now that super meter can be used for something much more technical than just adding damage to your moves. You can now use a bar of it to do a counter mid-combo to make sure you always have a chance to break free. This is a combo-heavy game and the ability to do an air-counter when you’re juggled into the air is an absolute godsend as some characters can destroy you as soon as they bounce you up. This new feature seems to make the game a lot fairer and even online all of my games have been incredibly close, with far fewer whitewashes just because someone gets control early on.

Of course all of this doesn’t mean much if you’re just here for the fancy fighting and characters you know, and that’s where the campaign really shines. It might be cheesy and over-the-top, but it manages to fairly intelligently weave in every major character (except the pre-order exclusive Darkseid) into a plot that sees many of the DC heroes facing off against Braniac and a collection of the villains. If you haven’t played Injustice the roster might be confusing, with Superman now a villain in prison and Harley Quinn on Batman’s side, but with a couple of YouTube videos you can catch up quickly and enjoy the ride.

The campaign is a series of fights with cut-scenes in between and the occasional choice of which character you’d like to fight as. The cut-scenes are fantastic with some spectacular set-pieces and outstanding facial animation. The characters sometimes look a little odd, but the animation on characters such as Gorilla Grodd and Braniac sets a new bar for in-engine scenes.

Speaking of the characters, no-one can accuse the developers of playing it safe. Alongside series stalwarts like the Justice League, the Joker, and Bane, we’ve now got a group of new additions from characters made popular by recent TV shows (Supergirl, Captain Cold, Firestorm, Gorilla Grodd), classics of the comics who aren’t given enough screen time (Swamp Thing, Darkseid), and some strange characters who I’d never heard of before (Cheetah and Atrocitus). The roster is incredibly diverse with no two characters playing the same. There’s no group of ‘heavies’ anymore, each character has their own quirks and ways of holding control, from Grodd’s incredible rushing potential to Deadshot’s extreme zoning.

All the characters also have a tonne of dialogue with specific lines for every single match up, often with references to the comics or films. Some of the designs are perhaps less convincing this time around, with the Joker being more inspired by Leto’s Suicide Squad version moreso than other popular takes on the character, and Green Arrow oddly going for the classic comic version rather than the TV show. Still, there’s always the potential for new skins and I sincerely hope (I can’t believe I’m saying this) there’s a bunch of DLC packs for skins in the near future.

To top off the progression system there’s a huge number of collectables that serve as gear on your characters. If both players agree this gear can be used in multiplayer, boosting stats as well as having a visual impact. If you like the stats of one piece (and there are hundreds of different items) but not the look, you can even transmogrify everything to keep the look and shaders you want, but with the bonuses you need. The idea of having stat-enhancing gear sounds terrifying, but so far online it doesn’t seem to have too much of an impact as most of the boosts are relatively minor or only activate until very specific conditions, like never jumping, or being in a certain part of your health bar.

To get all this gear you unlock loot boxes, which are liberally given out through the campaign, levelling characters, levelling your profile, or possibly my favourite thing about the game, the Multiverse. The Multiverse gives you loads of sets of challenges that rotate on timers, from hourly, to daily, to weekly. If you finish a challenge (with interesting mutations like being able to call in Constantine to help, or both players being able to heal by collecting pickups) you get gear and box and xp rewards, and can face off with other players on leaderboards. This means there’s constantly more things to do and if you just fancy a quick fight without the pressure of fighting online, there’s always plenty for you to do.

Of course there’s even more to this game that I haven’t really mentioned. There’s a guild system, there’s progression challenges, different difficulties, a whole season of DLC coming and built-in tournament options. It’s basically everything you could ever want in a fighting game, with gorgeous graphics, a fantastic roster, and engaging mechanics. If you’re into DC, or fighting games, this is an essential purchase.

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The Surge Review In Progress

So I haven’t finished ‘The Surge’, because it’s really hard. The first boss kicked my ass four times before I bested it, then strange quadruped monsters ripped me to shreds so much we stopped playing. I’m sure I’ll heads back into it tomorrow, but I thought I’d share my thoughts on the game so far here ready for the game’s launch.

If you’ve heard that The Surge is made by the studio behind Lords of the Fallen and it’s set in a futuristic dystopia that features a lot of mechs and robots, then you’re pretty far into understanding everything about the game. There’s definitely a lot of innovation hidden away in the game mechanics, but this game is never going to escape the label of ‘Dark Souls in Space’ – at least until From Software bring out a proper sci-fi game.

I won’t spoil the opening, but early on you are strapped into a mechanised suit that greatly enhances your strength, then everything goes horribly wrong and you’re left for dead in a strange industrial complex where husks of people completely taken over by their mechanised armour roam the environment just begging to tear you limb from limb.

The early enemies are fairly simple to dispatch, either buzzing little drones that can be blocked, enemies with simple blades that can be dodged, or heavier enemies with giant hammers of fast dual blades. All of these have around three attacks each, and once you’ve got the rhythm down, you can dispatch them surprisingly efficiently.

The big headline feature of the game is the ability to target specific limbs. Once you’ve locked on quick flicks of the right stick target individual parts which will be highlighted yellow if they’re armoured and blue if they’re vulnerable. Vulnerable limbs obviously cause more damage, but making the system interesting is the fact that by chopping limbs off your enemies, you can get pieces for your own gear. So if you need a new helmet, get cutting those heads off, want a new weapon? Go for their arms. If you build up enough energy while attacking an enemy’s limb, you can do a spectacular finisher and sever it from the body, getting you something nice in the process.

Once you start getting mods that give you bonuses for finishers, each fights becomes a tactical little game of risk vs reward, where you want to get the most health back, metal (xp), or a quick kill, and you need to decide where to attack and how to finish them to achieve that.

The rest of the game is very much like Dark Souls, you have hubs (bonfires) where you can spend metal (souls) to level up or craft/upgrade gear. Out in the field you drop your metal if you die, but you can go back within two and a half minutes to collect them as long as you don’t die again.

Missing from this title is co-op, in Dark Souls if you get stuck on an area you can summon a phantom to help you out. In ‘The Surge’ you’re sticking it out on your own. This can be a good thing, after our fourth death on the first boss, we probably would have called in a summon, but we gave it another go and managed to kill it, barely getting hit in the whole fight.

Of course, while the game owes a lot to Dark Souls, it would have to be amazing to stand alongside it, and it’s not quite there. That first boss fight featured only a handful of moves, and once you worked out a safe pattern it took many minutes to take down, doing the same thing over and over. It lost its magic and just became an exercise in maintaining my concentration to take it down. The combat is definitely satisfying (and there’s some terrifying enemies we still haven’t been able to take on so the alternate routes are a blessing) but it does feel almost unnecessarily punishing when the ops centre shortcuts are a long way apart from each other and a single mistake can easily get you killed, forcing you to repeat the same (not very fast) fights over and over.

The environments are also less interesting so far, with every room being a variation of ‘factory room number one’. Once I saw a tree and that was pretty exciting, but otherwise it’s been a soulless (no pun intended) jog through generic industrial areas. It’s not that the graphics are bad, the enemy design is good and the animations are pretty great, but the overall art direction is unbelievably bland, in a similar way to how Lords of the Fallen couldn’t hold a candle to the worlds of Dark Souls.

If you’re after another Dark Souls fix, this is definitely a great buy. It’s super cheap on CDKeys (check the link in the sidebar if you want to get us some affiliate pennies) and it’s definitely a worthy challenge. That being said, it’s definitely not of the same quality and is unlikely to stick in your memory once you complete it. Other than the opening, which is great and I can’t spoil.

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PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds Guide

I’ve played a lot of PUBG now, 129 hours to be exact. That’s two hours more than the amount of time it took someone to saw their arm off because they were stuck between two rocks, so you know I’ve had a lot of time to think about the game.

One of the things that can be frustrating is introducing someone new to the game. It’s a squad game, so of course it’s more fun when more of your friends play, but it’s also an Early Access game with no tutorial, no skill-based matchmaking, and a pretty horrendous learning curve for people that haven’t played this kind of game before (or people that are really used to the other games in the genre). With that in mind, this is my effort to help new players find their feet, and hopefully teach more experienced players a thing or two I’ve learnt along the way.

Part 1: The Lobby
Part 2: The Jump
Part 3: The Drop
Part 4: The Looting
Part 5: Early Combat
Part 6: Getting into the Zone
Part 7: The Final Twenty

Part 1: The Lobby

The lobby is absolute chaos, but it’s also the closest thing to a practice that you’re going to get. If you’re quick you can grab any of the guns off the table (or there are snipers in the towers and more guns in the bunker/buildings) and mess around with them for a minute or so. This time is invaluable as the guns all have their own strange quirks. Ever notice the SCAR is fine with single shots but jumps around all over the place if you move at all while shooting? Or that the M16 has burst fire but no auto, while the M4 has full auto? Or that the M24 doesn’t have any iron sights at all? All of these things are a bad thing to discover in a firefight so you can take your time to get a feel for the guns. Practise shooting people at different ranges, take pot shots at the people inevitably standing on the wing at the top of the crashed plane – you can’t hurt them but you’ll see if you hit them from the blood splatter. Until you get to grips with the game, practising in this area is going to be a huge help.

Part 2: The Jump

Once the plane loads in, you’ll have a rough idea of the options open to you. Broadly speaking you can get to anywhere within a quarter of the maps length/width away from the plane’s route. Of course there’s a lot of randomness to deal with, you never know where the other players will jump, but you can make some educated choices. If the plane flies directly over the military base, the tunnels, or a town, it will be busy. If the plane misses all of those, the next closest one out of them will be busy.

A busy landing spot isn’t necessarily a bad idea, sometimes if you’re in the mood for a quick game you can get a few kills if you’re lucky with loot, and occasionally you’ll luck out and end up with a huge looting area all to yourself. It’s important to communicate with your team in duo or squad (if you put markers down by opening the map with ‘m’ then right clicking, everyone can see them) and try to keep an eye out for other people when you’re on the way down. Knowing where another team is looting might be the difference between an early death and being able to set the perfect ambush.

Generally if you’re looking to win, you want to find somewhere with at least one large building for each member of your team, and a guaranteed car spawn. The west side of Yasnaya Polyana has four apartment buildings and a garage between them with a guaranteed car spawn. That’s usually a pretty good location to get looted up and then drive to wherever you want to go, and if you see too many players heading there, you can always head to another part of the city.

Part 3: The Drop

As I said, you can travel about a quarter of the map from the plane’s route on your drop. To do that, aim as high as you can (hold alt to still look down) until your parachute opens, once it does you can keep rocking backwards and forwards pressing ‘W’ to keep your forward momentum going. As soon as the parachute is open, check all around you by holding alt to see what company you’ve got. Information is important!

If you’re landing in a town, generally you should aim for rooftops with loot spawns. If you find a decent gun you can often shoot people who are landing around you, if you don’t you still have options of heading into the building or jumping off and going somewhere else. Fall damage in this game is surprisingly lenient, so you can jump off even the apartment buildings without taking enough damage to kill you.

Part 4: The Looting

As soon as you land, you need to find a gun to defend yourself. Generally this will mean grabbing a shotgun or SMG. All the shotguns and SMGs can be devastating at close range (where most of the fights will be in the first five minutes) and they’re fairly common all over the map.  Assault rifles are also useful (the AKM in particular does a lot of damage in auto) but sniper rifles and pistols are only worth it as a last resort.

The 1911 pistol isn’t too bad but suffers from a small clip and a lack of accuracy over any kind of distance. The p92 and revolver are a nightmare to use. The p92 is weak, inaccurate, and has a fairly small clips while the revolves just takes forever to reload. If someone is jumping around you’re going to have a hard time doing any kind of damage.

Once you have a gun (seriously don’t worry about anything until you have something to defend yourself with) you need to get the essentials. Your priority list should be something like Gun>Backpack>Armour>Health>Spare Ammo>Attachments>Frying Pan>throwables.

The backpack is self-explanatory, but the armour is extremely important as it gives you an extra chance in a firefight. The reason health and spare ammo are so far down is because it’s rare that you’ll actually get to use them if you don’t have the other things. Don’t worry about getting too many bandages, they heal only a tiny amount and take quite a while to apply. Instead you should be searching for Medkits (full health) First Aid Kits,  painkillers, and energy drinks.

Spare ammo is useful but all too often I’ve got a backpack with 200 bullets in that I’m never going to use because firefights are often so quick. Once you’ve got three or so magazine’s worth, you’ll be fine for the rest of the game. Remember if you kill people you’re often able to take their ammo anyway. In terms of attachments the big ones are the Ext. Quickdraw mags, scopes, and suppressors. Suppressors enable you to shoot long range without giving your position away, which is invaluable in the late game.

The Frying Pan is the only melee item worth picking up because you carry it on your back and its model is bulletproof. This means if someone tries to shoot you in the butt, you’ll be fine and it happens far more than you’d expect.

The throwables are less important because they’re currently extremely reliable. Of course in certain situations a well-placed grenade or effective smokescreen might save you, but it’s rare that you’ll ever find these hard to get. They’re all over the place and will just be picked up as you loot everything else.

Part 5: Early Combat

Whilst your looting, you’ll often hear someone else running around near you. In PUBG, combat is all about getting the drop on people. If you hear footsteps, try to make sure you’re in cover (avoid windows and open spaces) and then stay as still as possible while looking around. Sound is incredibly important in this game, and running around is going to give you away, even outside in fields. Work out where they are, then wait until you have a decent shot. Say someone walks past a window and have time for a single shot, if you take it you’re only going to (at best) damage them slightly, but you’ve now given away your position and let them know you’ve seen them, this gives them the advantage. If you see someone at a window, set up so you can look at the door and shoot them once they leave. If you see someone hiding behind a tree, make sure you line up a decent headshot before you take that shot.

Of course if you’re playing with a group, everything changes. Communication is key, and in a hectic firefight effective communication is rare, but essential. Call out directions using the compass (numbers are fine) and try to give information about distance straight away. Saying ‘there’s a guy over there’ doesn’t help anyone. Saying ’15, 100m away, two guys’ gives your team nearly everything they need.

If you’re separated from your group, remember the compass directions might not be the same for them, so try to use landmarks like ‘green roof’ ‘left rock’, etc. As you play with a group you’ll find your own names for things and get better and better at letting people know what’s happening. Remember to let people know if you’re going to shoot, or if you don’t want them to. Remember if someone calls for help, you should be dropping everything to get to them. A dead team member means you’re now outgunned in any fights against full teams, it’s always worth risking everything to save people. It also makes the game a lot more fun.

As you’re shooting, remember this game isn’t Call of Duty. You need to account for flight time, bullet drop, and their movement. If someone is running right to left 100m away you can line the crosshairs up with their head and aim a cm or so to their left to hit them. If they’re 400m away you might need to aim a few cm above and to their left, long shots are difficult.

If your opponents is in cover, consider your options. Can you get a throwable to them? Do you have a teammate who can flank them if you give them the information? Are they hiding behind a car? If they are just shoot the car with full auto, it’ll explode in no time and kill them outright.

As you drop enemies in group modes, remember if they get knocked down they still have a teammate up. Only when the last one dies immediately do you know that team is done for. Using a downed enemy as bait is particularly effective, so don’t always be too quick to try and claim your kills. Definitely don’t loot anyone until you’re complete sure everyone nearby is dead.

If you’re looking for a fight, remember all the doors in this game spawn closed. So you should be looking for building complexes where some doors are open but others aren’t (implying that people are still looting) or cars that have their brake lights on (cars always spawn with their lights off but you can only turn them off again by pushing forwards a little after you stop, which most people don’t bother doing). Always make sure you have the advantage before going into fight, especially if you’re with a team and a few extra seconds would give them time to set up and cover you.

Part 6: Getting into the Zone

As you play you’ll notice a white circle on the map and a countdown. Once that countdown reaches zero a blue circle will start encroaching from the edge of the map until it reaches the white circle. The first zone will take ages to come in and you can comfortably escape it driving in any vehicle. It will do very little damage if you are in the blue zone and you can last for a very long time, so don’t panic too much and run out into the open while you’re trying to get to safety.

Towards the end of the game, the zone gets more and more dangerous. By the fourth circle being in the zone at all will drop your health quickly, and once it reaches the white circle, the damage is doubled which can down someone from full health in a few seconds.

Always be aware of where the zone is and make sure you have a plan to get to it, staying on the edge of the zone is a good idea as it means no-one will be behind you, but be aware the zone is random and could spawn on the other side of the circle from you, forcing you to move just when you don’t want to.

While you’re moving, you always need to be thinking about how visible you are. Standing on top of a hill is a great way for people to see your silhouette against the sky, so never stand on top of things. If you think people might be looking at your area, try to move as little as possible, movement is a dead giveaway.

If you’re in a team, consider where they are too. Can you see their blind spots? Can you get to them if they need help? Don’t crowd into the same cover spot behind a tree or room in a building, it makes it much easier for enemies to spot you, and if they shoot at your friend and miss, they’re possibly going to hit you!

Part 7: The Final Twenty

So you’ve got this far, you’re looted, you’re in the final zones, and you’ve hopefully got a few kills under your belt. How do you actually win?

Concealment.

As the numbers tick down and everyone gets closer together, you’ve got to stay hidden. Hide behind trees if you want, but remember you’ll always be exposed to people behind you. Long grass is excellent to go prone in, but it means you’ll be unable to move quickly or shoot anyone easily. Buildings can help you to feel safe but once there’s only a few buildings in a zone, everyone will be watching the windows and doors.

Each zone is different but you need to make a decision about where you can be to still move as the zone constricts, without letting people know where you are.

The most important thing is not to give yourself away by shooting unnecessarily. If you have a suppressor, feel free to pick off the players you can see, but remember players within 20ft will be able to find you easily. If you have someone discover you, put them down quickly, but other than that you really need to avoid firing your gun because it lets every other player know exactly where you are. In an ideal world you want to wait until the other players kill each other and it’s down to you and one other. If they’ve been shooting, you now have the advantage in that you know where they are, but they can’t find you.

Now you need to get yourself into a good position, make sure your energy bar is full (down those painkillers and energy drinks), and strike as hard and fast as possible.

Hopefully you’ll be home in time for some chicken dinner.

If you have any more tips and tricks please let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to this guide!

 

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