Category Archives: Previews

Stationeers Preview

Yesterday, at EGX Rezzed, we go to go hands on with Stationeers and speak to the man behind it all, Dean Hall. For those who haven’t been following RocketWerkz, Dean Hall is the man behind the DayZ mod for Arma II that eventually became the DayZ game on Early Access. Unfortunately remembered for broken promises, an incredibly long development cycle, and Hall leaving the project unifinished, it’s easy to forget just how amazing DayZ is. A huge open map, realistic combat, the constant risk of losing everything not just from a stray sniper, but from hunger, cold, or thirst. We put over 500 hours into the DayZ mod and another 100 into the full game, mostly because the player interactions were unlike anything else. In the early days of the mod, people didn’t just kill on sight, people would trade, gang up, help each other, and even travel across maps to fix someone’s broken leg. Some of our favourite gaming moments came from the emergent gameplay afforded to us by Dean Hall trying something different, and it looks like he’s going to try again.

His new company RocketWerks have taken the approach of not wanting to show anything until they have something to show, and it’s worked. In a small room in the basement of Tobacco Dock, London, Hall and two other developers from the six-man development team stood near four computers running their latest game, Stationeers.

In Stationeers you are in charge of building and maintaining a Space Station. The graphics are simple and blocky, but that’s purposeful, it takes attention away from what looks realistic and focuses on what matters, the systems. In Stationeers as much as possible is properly simulated. The space station itself doesn’t move through space, it’s on a fixed plane and everything else moves around it, and as this is a very early version of the game, plenty of systems are quite there yet, but as a proof of concept it’s enthralling.

As I sat down to have a go I found I was in some kind of engineering room surrounded by pipes and what looked like large pumps or boilers. On every machine and on plenty of the pipes there were readings, describing the exact pressure inside them. There were loads of numbers that I didn’t know how to interpret alongside complex interactions of conveyer belts, machinery, and supporting structures. Hall explained that the idea behind the game is to not take the player out of game too much by giving them information directly. Instead things must be read from displays. If you can’t work out why not enough Hydrogen is being provided to your water creation, you need to find where the pressure is dropping. Perhaps a valve has been left open, perhaps it’s being re-routed somewhere else, perhaps you have an unfinished pipe leaking into space.

Currently the game is strictly creative mode, there’s no way to get new raw resources, but you can refine them using the machines. Different elements react and combine in the way you’d expect so you need to be careful about the oxygen mix in the air, or hydrogen leaks leading to catastrophic fires.

The game we were playing had four people all in one server, but I was assured they’ve got it working with up to 16 players so far and are still finalising how big they want these servers to be. As I pottered about exploring the station I regularly game across the other players doing their own thing and editing the station as they saw fit.

I opened up an airlock and went for a float outside. Seeing a long tunnel of girders I ventured inside the end and travelled up to what looked like an airlock that was holding back a great deal of fire. “You probably don’t want to go in there” a dev explained, ” that guy’s trying to build a railgun.” Another guest at the show had apparently spent most of the day before and all of that day stuck to the game, seeing how far he could push the simulation. He had built up a huge amount of energy and pressure within one compartment then used an airlock system to load some shot (in this case some loose canisters) into the ‘barrel’ and a final airlock to hold it all in while he built up the required power. I rush out of the barrel and took a vantage point a little way away. Quickly a mass of blue fire enveloped the space station, what he was doing was incredibly destructive, but impressive. The fire raged through the compartment, built up to the airlock, then when it was remotely opened, canisters fire at speed out of the barrel. A success! As I was marvelling, the shockwave hit me and sent me tumbling a little bit backwards.

It’s not all 100% scientifically accurate (yet), and many are going to be wary of any promises that Hall makes, but I’m already eager to put my money in for Early Access. It’s a fantastic project and what little there already is would be more than enough to provide hours of entertainment to anyone with a mind towards experiments. Here’s hoping the world of internet negativity doesn’t stifle this kind of creativity in games development. Yes Rocketwerkz might be taking a lot of risk, but I’m glad they are.

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Conan: Exiles Cinematic Trailer

Conan: Exiles is only five days away now and we couldn’t be more excited. Funcom have just released their cinematic trailer and if anything it just made us want to build a pyramid. This might not show off much of the game but if you want to get hyped, this will do the trick. Come back on January 31st to see our livestreams of the game and all of our coverage of the launch.

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The Nintendo Switch is coming, but is it what we want?

So the Nintendo Switch has finally been completely unveiled. It’s coming out March 3rd, which is much sooner than we anticipated, but it’s also going to cost £280, which is much more than we wanted, especially considering that’s with zero games. Only five games are confirmed for launch, a figure we’re not expecting to change over the next month, so we’ve pre-ordered the console and Zelda. That’s it. We’re going to have a brand new Nintendo Console with no multiplayer games. We can’t afford a second pair of Joy-Con controllers because they’re £75. Thankfully Zelda is only £40 on Amazon, but the RRP is £60.

There were plenty of cool little features we didn’t know about, like the IR camera that can detect gestures and distances, or the high-definition rumble that helps to make the joycons feel like different objects (apparently mostly glasses full of ice). While these are interesting and we’re definitely hoping Nintendo can do something cool and make some really different experiences, we can’t help but feel these cool features will only get used in 1,2 Switch and then never again, but are responsible for pumping the price of those controllers up.

The online offering appears to be mostly terrible. Voice chat is possible but you have to do it via an app on your phone. I’m not sure if you’ll be getting game audio through your phone too, but it makes no sense to not be able to plug a controller into your headset. What if you want to do other things with your phone, or if your phone runs out of battery? It seems like an unnecessary complication for a system that already exists in a much better form on consoles from three generations ago. Not only is this voice chat awkward but you’re paying for the privilege, with the ridiculously slight incentive of getting a free NES or SNES game each month (with added online functionality) that you don’t get to keep past the month it’s available.

Of course the greatest problem with what Nintendo have shown so far is with the software lineup. Even looking past the disappointing games we get to pick from for launch, there was nothing to surprise or excite anybody. Bomberman that looks like it did on the N64, re-releases of Mario Kart and Skyrim, a barely changed Splatoon they’ve stuck a ‘2’ on to, identikit ports for Just Dance and Skylanders. There’s nothing that screams innovation beyond the minigame collection 1,2 Switch. Even that looks like it will struggle to justify a RRP of £40, as everyone is saying – it should have come with the console.

All these signs point to a Nintendo that is increasingly out of touch not just with core gamers, but with the market as a whole. Perhaps the screenless 1,2,Switch could capture people who would usually play board games but that’s a tiny market. Casual gamers won’t be tempted away from their iPads and phones, hardcore games won’t leave their consoles and PCs. Instead this feels like a meagre offering towards Nintendo die-hards like me who’ll buy any old garbage they put out. I’m sure we’ll get a Switch, and I’m sure we’ll enjoy Zelda and perhaps a handful of others games this year, but the hype level has plummeted to subterranean levels and Nintendo’s poor decision making is entirely to blame. I’d like to say maybe next time Nintendo, but unless they do something very impressive this year, I’m not so sure there will be a next time for Nintendo home consoles.

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Why We’re Excited About Conan Exiles

It’s no secret that we’ve been playing a huge amount of Ark lately. There’s something addictive about building up a base with your friends and always having goals that you can log on to work towards. Of course there’s the (very real) risk that someone will come and destroy everything you’ve done, but the risk makes what you have all the more valuable.

In a couple of weeks Funcom are bringing out Conan Exiles, which is a very similar kind of game, but set in the Conan world. Of course that piques our interest, but why not just carry on playing Ark? Well here’s some reasons.

  1. Funcom

Funcom are a developer that gets very little attention despite having a pretty consistent record for excellent  and innovative games. The Secret World is probably our second favourite MMO running, tackling a huge range of different environments, with different gameplay styles, huge amounts of content and an interesting levelling system that doesn’t tie you down to a single class. Age of Conan (the MMO that this game is definitely using some ideas from) was also trying plenty of new things and had much more exciting melee combat than the usual fare. Even Hide and Shriek, a tiny multiplayer horror game where you’re both invisible, is a ton of fun. So when Funcom are ready to try their hand at a new genre, I’m always interested in seeing what they’ve come up with.

2. Conan

While I might not be a big fan of the Conan books, films, or comics, there’s definitely an appeal to the universe. It’s a throwback to the pulp stories of the past where overly dramatic adventures could take place, without the emotional turmoil that seems to be a necessary tick box for modern game stories. You’re a giant muscley man or woman who’s going to go out into a horrible environment and kill things. Sometimes that’s all you need. There are gods, monsters, slaves (but they’re just NPCs so it’s probably ok) and giant sandstorms. This is the sort of universe where you can build an 80ft statue of yourself and no-one thinks it’s weird.

3. Slaves

Not to sound like I’m obsessed with the slavery thing, but as a mechanic it could be genius. Much like Ark has its dinosaur taming, Exiles lets you knock out NPCs, tie them up, drag them across the desert, then break their will on a giant ‘wheel of pain’ before you set them to work for you. Normal ‘thralls’ might be set to guard a gate or wall, or to gather a simple material, more skilled ones might be useful to put at a crafting station to make the most of their skills. This will lead to you searching out for particular people who you want working for you, then mounting a giant kidnapping mission to get them back. Sounds like fun.

4. It’s new

While Rust and Ark and DayZ are all still in Early Access, they’ve been mastered. You can go on wiki sites and find out everything about the game instantly. It’s all been worked out, it’s all been solved. With a new game, there’s a sense of mystery. We don’t know how everything will work, or what the best layout will be, or what secrets are hidden on the map. By getting into the Early Access straight away you can get ahead on a server and be one of the pioneers. Thanks to internet wikis, most MMOs and exploration-based games have lost a lot of their wonder for the sake of efficiency, and while that might be inevitable, it’s exciting to be able to avoid it, even if it’s just for a little while.

So we’ll be streaming the Early Access build of Conan Exiles as soon as the doors open, and if you want to join our tribe just let us know through our Discord (look to the left) or leave a comment below. The more the merrier!

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HTC Vive Initial Impressions

Thanks to the generosity of all the people who donated on the stream, we managed to pick up a HTC Vive last weekend and we’ve put some serious time into trying out everything we’ve been able to get our hands on.

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Setup

Much has been made of the Vive setup being difficult or a hassle but we found it much better than we expected. As long as you take your time to find a good place in your house everything will run smoothly. If you haven’t done your research though you might be in for a surprise as the Vive requires a pretty specific space.

First of all you need physical space. You can get by with 1.5mx2m for room space but we’d recommend more than that. Our space is around 2mx2m but was really pushing up against the boundaries of how small it could be and at first it didn’t believe us that we could do what the VR setup calls ‘room space’. If you don’t have the space you can still play most games by selecting ‘standing space’ in the setup, but you’ll be missing out on some of the most exciting features in games. Don’t forget you need overhead room too. Try to make sure you’re not easily going to hit anything if you try to throw overarm, it’s unbelievably easy to get absorbed into a game and completely forget where you are. We’ve taken out the lightbulb from the overhead light fitting for just this reason. I would recommend that you find a space that you can leave set up like this for as long as you want. If you have to move furniture every time you want to play I doubt you’ll be playing very much and that’d be a shame for something so expensive!

The next thing you need to look for are plug sockets. In the area you want to play you’ll need two sockets, one for each lighthouse. Of course you can use extension cords etc but you want a minimum of clutter that you could potentially trip over in the space you’re using. You also need to make sure your PC is close enough. The cable from the breakout box is about 5m long and the USB cable and HDMI cables that you need to plug into the PC are about 1m long (remember you’ll need ports for these too or a powered USB extender if you want to use your own longer HDMI cable). While all of these restrictions might sound imposing, in practice it all seems pretty reasonable. Basically the more space you have, the better, but it’s quite accommodating if you’re in small accommodation.

Setup is quite simple really once you’ve got everything. You simply plug the base stations into the power and make sure they sync up (they just sync with each other and not with the PC, all they do is bathe your room in infrared dots that your headset can pick up, much like the Wii U sensor bar). Then you switch the wireless controllers on and make sure the headset and breakaway box are plugged in then you go through some room setup including calibrating the controllers with the space and tracing the boundary (this later becomes the wall you see if you get close to it in games) then you have an in-VR vaguely portal-themed setup that introduces you to the main controls and is a lot of fun. We’re not big fans of the tiny headphones you get but other than that using it now is easy as anything. We simply turn the controllers on and put the headset on in the tracked area. Even if you’re not in the area as long as one station can see you the VR will work for seated experiences.

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The Hardware

The hardware feels premium as although it’s plastic the matte finish and foam sections all fit beautifully together and are grey and black so it’s easy to ignore when you haven’t got it on. Of course the screens inside and lenses aren’t perfect yet, it can be hard to get them entirely focused and the resolution and light bleed leave a lot to be desired, but they are industry leaders at this point. HTC have got the form factor basically perfect, it’s just a matter of time before the screen technology improves in later generations. The breakaway box is tiny and unobtrusive too, like a little lozenge roughly the size of a Steam Link.

The controllers are worth special mention. Their weird hoop-on-a-stick shape is unusual but it feels great to hold and within VR every button is easy to reach and it feels perfectly natural whether the game has skinned it as a variation of the controller, a gun, a torch, or even a lightsaber. The haptic touch pad on top can take on many functions but works very well as both a button and a joystick and the triggers feel every bit as good as those on the Xbox One pads

The Experience

Right now, nothing comes close to the Vive. Yes the Rift has a decent screen but the lack of room-scale VR is really harming its position in this competition. The VR might be a tiny bit blurry but it’s incredibly responsive (even just running on a 970) and once you get into a game you forget about the low resolution quite quickly.

Being able to move around in a game like FPS military shooter Onward is revelatory in terms of gaming. If you need to lean around a corner, do it for real. If you need to go prone, go prone. Suddenly kids have an advantage of me on the battlefield not just because of their quicker reflexes, but because they can get up with having to be careful about their clicking knees and aching back, but I love it. Throwing things like discs in Rec Room feels as natural as anything and projectiles coming towards you in game like Audioshield and the Star Wars experience feel incredibly real and elicit a surprisingly genuine response. Even cardboard cutout zombies in Zombie Training Simulator can make you feel genuine fear as you get swarmed by hordes of the paper-maché undead.

Right now there is a much-reported limit on the number of AAA games, but there’s more and more each week and there’s already plenty of adventure games and decent shooters alongside the plethora of tech-demos to keep you busy. We’ve found our gametime is limited more by the hot weather than running out of things to do and with nearly every new experience we can’t wait to show it to someone. In a genius stroke every game produces a 2D image of what you can see on your monitor so other people can still watch what you’re playing. This alleviates some of our worries about how antisocial VR would be, but we’re still hoping for some more asymmetrical multiplayer games to take advantage of this like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes.

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Conclusion

We’re a long way away from making any final decisions on this hardware yet, but we’d say if you have the money this is definitely an incredibly exciting and compelling taste of the future. It’s expensive for what it is, and the technology is very immature, but you can have a lot of fun with VR already and if you’re looking to be blown away by the next big thing, you owe it to yourself to try the Vive.

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Worms W.M.D Preview

This preview is based on a very early E3 demo build of the game. We mean really early, like there’s no options menu or way to quit the game.

Worms has been a staple of gaming for almost as long as we can remember. When the first Worms came out it allowed for something that was quite special, turn-taking multiplayer. While this might not sound impressive, it meant you only needed one controller. It meant you could all watch the other person take their turns. It meant there was a lot of nail-biting tension while you waited to see what would become of your little worms. Only needing one controller was quite a big deal, controllers have traditionally been quite expensive, and on a PC it was quite unusual to have two controllers, normally you just had the keyboard and a mouse. Golf games had always let you take turns, but other than it was rare for a game to feature that as the focus of its multiplayer, and it meant a lot of Worms got played. Of course Worms also had some crazy character and weapon design, randomised maps, and the addictive ‘Scorched Earth’ style gameplay that was a genre unto itself in the early 90s, but was it ever a really good game? When we think back to our fondest gaming memories, none of them are of Worms. We remember playing it on the Playstation and enjoying the little FMV sequences before each game, but then we also remember how long the games would drag out and how often they ended in a kind of stalemate where you were almost co-operating with your opponent to get the scenery out of the way. Worms wasn’t necessarily a classic game, it was just one that filled a gap of something to play in multiplayer if you only had one controller and were sick of PGA Tour.

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So the newest entry is called Worms W.M.D and what has changed? Very little.

The biggest innovations are the introduction of vehicles and buildings. Vehicles are a genuinely fun addition that change the gameplay somewhat. They provide some fairly significant firepower, but more importantly they provide protection (in terms of a tank) or mobility (in terms of a helicopter). Those annoying stalemates towards the end of a long game where you’re both unwilling to teleport but are a long way away from each other can be worked around by jumping into a helicopter and flying across the map before strafing your opponent. The tank can give a single remaining worm a decent chance at a comeback. Unfortunately, both of these make the RNG inherent in Worms even worse. Sometimes in multiplayer we’ve started with two tanks and a helicopter right next to our worms, while the enemy team has none. Similarly the new building system that provides shelter and concealment for your worms, but allows them to fire out, is only really an advantage if you spawn next to it from the beginning. They don’t tend to last too long for anyone else.

This is what stops Worms from moving with the times, with the randomness and blatant unfairness inherent in the procedural generation of the maps, it could never be an eSport. Victories never fill you with pride and losses never sting, because you know it was more down to luck than your own skill. Of course better players can make better use of their advantages, but on an even playing field you can almost tell as soon as the map loads who is likely to win.

To alleviate this a little, there is a new crafting system that allows you to break down things you don’t need and replace them with things you do. This is a nice touch that does help to ease the frustration of never getting the one weapon you want to try out, but it isn’t quite enough to make up for the positioning.

Worms W.M.D also feels far too similar to the 1995 game that kicked the series off. Most of the weapons are the same, or are taken from other early entries like the super sheep and holy hand grenade, the gameplay is the same, the movement is the same, and the graphics, while high-res, don’t impress. It’s the same kind of art style they’ve stuck with for twenty years, and while there’s scope for something really impressive (think of all the amazing 2D games we’ve had in the last decade like Rayman Origins, Limbo, Super Meat Boy, etc) they’ve played it safe and just gone for high resolution simple sprites with similar animations to what they’ve always had. It’s a sign of how stuck in the past they are when things like the Worms blowing themselves up when they die no longer feels like a funny joke, it feels like a decidedly unpalatable reference to suicide bombers. Alongside the W.M.D reference in the title, coming out in the same year as the Chilcot Enquiry, the whole thing seems tasteless and gratuitous. They could have easily innovated and used that as an opportunity to change things that don’t really work anymore, but instead they’ve chosen to stick with what they know, even if it’s not fun.

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Overall we’re not impressed with W.M.D so far – it feels like another rehash of a game we’ve played many, many times before, and never found particularly interesting in the first place. If you’re a die hard Worms fan, maybe you’ll enjoy the new features, and this is certainly the best version of the game so far, but if you burnt out on this long ago, you’re unlikely to find anything to rekindle your flames.

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Vr Ping Pong Preview (PC)

VR Ping Pong is a fun game. Let me get that out of the way, what I am not convinced of yet is whether it should really be trying to be a Ping Pong game. In these early days of VR the best experiences so far have been completely new ones, designed to take a new idea into a VR space, rather than take a traditional idea or game and adapt it to VR. The danger with taking something like Ping Pong and making a VR experience out of it, is that it will be competing against your own real life perceptions of Ping Pong as well as how much you may enjoy it as a VR experience.

Continue reading Vr Ping Pong Preview (PC)

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Shadows of Kurgansk Preview

There’s been a wealth of survival horrors since the early days of DayZ (and I’m tempted to say Minecraft). Each tend to have their own little quirk of unique selling point, but they eventually come down to trying to manage stats to keep yourself alive while crafting, exploring, and fighting.

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Shadow of Kurgansk has two fairly unique features. Firstly there’s a campaign-esque tutorial with characters that lets you know what your options are. This obviously eliminates some of the wonder of exploration and experimentation that you find in things like DayZ, but it also gets you on your feet much quicker so you can take part in the real mode, the survival mode, without making too many stupid mistakes. The other unique thing is the art style. While it’s going for a slightly cel-shaded look, it ends up looking a lot more like the incredible and underrated XIII from two generations ago, rather than like Borderlands. The fact that this is an old game ins’t an insult to Kurgansk, XIII still holds up today with a comic-book style that hasn’t really been imitated successfully in FPS games.

Kurgansk is a little by the books in other respects, you are exploring a post apocalyptic temperate wasteland where there’s plenty to scavenge, rats to cook and eat, and monsters to kill. One of the biggest problems we have with the early access version so far is that the monsters simply aren’t scary at all. They look like the local hoodies you’re likely to recognise from outside your local McDonalds and they drop pretty quickly after a couple of blows to the head. Similarly the Stalker-esque anomalies that are meant to have horrific and terrifying effects just warp your screen a bit or make things a little dark. They’re not the lethal death traps we were used to seeing in Pripyat.

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Overall Kurgansk shows some promise with an interesting art style and a slightly different take on the genre, but at the moment everything it’s trying to do just isn’t working so well. The dialogue is awful, the combat is floaty and weightless, the crafting is dull, and the world just isn’t scary enough. Go play The Forest, Stalker, DayZ, or even H1z1 and soak up the atmosphere. In those games you’re always fighting to survive, always on the run, you rarely feel like the apex predator. In Kurgansk you generally feel like you’re the most powerful being around, and it doesn’t matter because there’s nothing interesting to do with that power.

We’ll keep you updated as new builds come out, but for now we’d probably hold off on this one.

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Why the Halo Wars 2 Beta has killed my hype

First of all, I understand that this is a beta. I can imagine how the conversation went over at Microsoft:

So do you have that Halo Wars 2 demo ready for E3?

I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that, it’s not ready. The animations are incomplete, it’s buggy, the performance is all over the place, and we haven’t even finished the assets for most of the units.

OK but we need something to send out, people need convincing that a console RTS can still work, it’s been a while.

This won’t do the job, it’s not ready.

It’s fine, just bundle together the unit’s you’ve done, put it on a weird game mode so people won’t notice the balance issues, lower the unit cap until it runs and just call it a beta.

But it’s barely even an alpha…

Call it a beta.

And so here we have the Halo Wars 2 beta. I was so excited to play it, telling everyone I know who played the old game to go download it so we could relive all that fun we had with the original. Two games in and I stopped telling people to download it.

The biggest problem, aside from the performance, missing animations and effects, and lack of game modes which is just down to it being a beta ( I hope) is that it doesn’t feel like a Halo game. When people think of a Halo RTS they want Warthogs being sliced in half by Brute Choppers, Banshees to be raining down Fuel Rod shots onto advancing Scorpions, squads of marines facing off against squads of elites and grunts, scrambling for cover, using grenades and getting decimated by vehicles that blaze through the combat. They want the opening cinematic of Halo 5, with a Spartan team laying waste to a downhill battle at breakneck speed.

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Instead, we get pathetically anaemic skirmishes that mostly consist of a group of vaguely marine-looking people, firing shots randomly at a load of Brute-looking people, why vehicles park up and join in with the neon snowball fight. There’s no sense of impact, no velocity, no excitement in the battles at all. It even feels like there’s a delay in issuing commands so every battle happens at a tortoise’s pace, unlike the fevered warzones of Starcraft or Dawn of War.

The units simply aren’t what you’d recognise from a Halo game. Yes there are warthogs, scorpions, banshees and more, but the warthogs park up to shoot, the scorpions can siege up and are less intimidating that most of the marine squads, and those marines are just the basic unit of the UNSC, more advanced infantry types are flamethrowers units and cloaking snipers. Not cloaking Spartan snipers, just random marines that apparently go invisible. It’s almost as if 343 and Creative Assembly have had a hard time balancing the real kind of units in the Halo universe and just decided to copy Starcraft instead. Scorpions are now Siege Tanks in all but name, sniper units are Ghosts, Hellbats are thrown in for good measure despite not having an equivalent in Halo. On the Brute side you have some Brutes, but they’re not the rampaging death Gorillas we’re used to, instead they are just gorilla-skinned marines, standing there going ‘pew pew’. Grunts come in suicide squads but the explosion animations seem to be missing. There’s no Pelicans to quickly transport troops and equipment, the Banshees are weirdly weak and slow, particularly to marines, even the Wraith doesn’t look quite right. There’s plenty of new units, but they all have an uninspired design that simply copies another unit and makes it chunkier. Creative Assembly have clearly tried to stick to the rock-paper-scissors style of gameplay from their Total War games, but that doesn’t translate well if it means a marine with an assault rifle can easily down a Banshee.

The larger powers at least feature the MAC cannon, but here it does about as much damage as a large grenade, without any of the punch you’d expect from a space-station cannon that’s firing at a planet. You can also drop mines (remember that from Halo, when a load of mines were dropped from orbit and decimated an entire army?) and ODSTs, but the ODSTs look and move just like normal marines, there’s nothing special about them at all, nothing to make them live up to their fearsome reputation.

As it stands, nothing about this game is good. It looks terrible, with low resolution assets and tonnes of missing effects, played out on dull looking maps. The unit capy is unimaginably small, enough space for 2 scorpions, 2 warthogs, and maybe 4 marine squads in your entire army (until you get the upgrade that lets you have an extra warthog or so). The buildings don’t look like buildings we recognise from Halo, the upgrades are nearly all completely soulless and uninteresting, offering things like a flat 15% in damage for a single unit type. Nothing to change up the gameplay at all, just a stat boost to make you kill things quicker.

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The controls themselves are barely functional, mostly due to the aforementioned delay in getting anything done. They need to be quick and snappy for any kind of competitive play to be bearable, but instead they’re so and sluggish, leading to all games consisting of players amassing one army (unit cap is too small for efficient smaller groups) that lumbers around the map occasionally coming into contact with another lethargic horde, trading tiny little ineffectual blaster bolts until one of them disappears.

If this had been a new RTS coming out in the era of the original Red Alert, I would still have been disappointed. To be coming out in 8 months, in 2017, and to not even feel like it carries the licence it’s designed with, is appalling. Hopefully 343 will take on board the criticism and delay it another year or two to rebuild most of it, because what exists so far just isn’t worth your time.

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Perpetual Night Preview At Norwich Game Festival

2D atmospheric puzzle platformers have become surprisingly commonplace since the incredibly innovation that we saw with games like Trine, LittleBigPlanet, and Limbo a whole generation ago. It’s a crowded market thanks to the comparative ease of developing in fewer dimensions and the capacity to create stunning and effective artwork with control over how it will be seen. You can see why Perpetual Night took this route, it’s a beautiful game already and while at this early stage some of the puzzles can frustrate and confuse you, the joy of finding a new environment or pulling off a perfect leap is hard to deny.

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Perpetual Night is a puzzle game more than anything. You run, you jump, you pull switches and you stand on moving platforms. The innovation comes from the use of light. Once you move into a turquoise light you become your shade, a huge skeletal Moose-like creature that is much more agile and can climb different kinds of walls. What starts off as simple and fun exploration quickly gives way to some challenging and precise jumping puzzles where you need to make sure you transform at just the right movement to make a leap to the next platform before you move out of the light.

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So far, so familiar, but what sets Perpetual Night apart for me is the quality of the writing. In our short demo with the game we got to play through a decently sized section of it that took us through what seemed like catacombs and caves filled with interesting characters. You’d expect them to be melancholy and cryptic like in Dark Souls, but in fact they were often cheerful and at times hilarious. The writing is on point and the tone might be what sets this game apart.

We’re looking forward to spending some more time with Perpetual Night but for now it’s early days so you’ll have to make do with this video.

 

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