Category Archives: PC

Crossout Review (PS4)

Crossout is the latest in the free to play genre of vehicular battles published by Gaijin Entertainment. Much like War Thunder or Star Conflict, in essence you are customising a vehicle then taking it into various PvE or PvP modes that don’t last too long, where you only have one life to get as many kills as you can or complete simple objectives, before taking your rewards and moving on to the next. The essence of these games is the progression, the idea that with every match you are moving closer to a more powerful machine, until eventually you move on to end-game PvP where all the customisation in the world is open to you. Or of course you can simply pay to get there quicker.

Crossout’s unique selling point is just how far that customisation goes. Taking inspiration from Mad Max and perhaps even Vigilante 8, in this you take control of cars, trucks and even small tanks that appear to be cobbled together from scrap pieces of other vehicles. In your garage you can build up these vehicles piece by piece, rotating and painting each part and then bolting it on to create something as intimidating or ridiculous as you’d like. Somehow your creations rarely look like some sort of Minecraftian monstrosity, instead they all fall within a wider aesthetic of grime and rust that makes them look ‘right’ somehow.

It’s hard to overstate just how far the customisation can go. We’ve built tanks that are compact and hide each weapon effectively. We’ve also buillt trucks with all our guns on one side, then an arm sticking out to the other with a giant wall of metal and spikes on it. Of course all of this affects the handling and where your weapons can fire, but that’s part of the fun. Do you want tonnes of armour that might get in the way of your guns? Or do you want something hyper-mobile that can escape quickly? You can only add so many parts to your vehicle (this limit increases as you level up so you’re not too overwhelmed initially) but within that there’s plenty of scope.

Once you get into a game, it’s surprisingly strategic rather than the chaos you might expect. Your guns are aimed by the analog stick (or mouse on PC) and you can shoot individual parts of enemy vehicles. You could go for their wheels to disable them, go for their weapons to disarm them, or just go straight for the hull to take them out quickly. Often in matches you’ll find yourself spinning around with one wheel left and a single weapon, trying to work out what you can do to keep helping your team. If you want you can put explosive barrels on your truck, making it a dangerous proposition for enemies with close range weapons to attack you. Having your machine guns stripping shards of armour off your opponent is immensely satisfying and gives every single weapon in the game a huge amount of weight and impact.

Of course, this being a free to play game, microtransactions are always going to be a sore point. For the purpose of this review we were granted two founders packs, and it’s undeniable that they gave us a huge advantage in early matches. Everyone else had a truck with three machine guns on while we had a tank with a 30mm cannon and two solid machine guns. Pay-to-win is definitely a thing in this game, as in the lower brackets if you’ve spent money you simply will be more powerful. The longer you play, the less important this becomes, as everyone gets randomised loot from matches and will start finding the same things you paid for. That being said, if you want to get a lot out of this game you will be spending money. The grind is so slow, it’s hard to get much value out of the game for the first ten hours or so. Games get repetitive and you’ll be itching to get your hands on some more significant firepower sooner rather than later.

We don’t see the need to pay some money as a negative thing. If this game was £40 we’d be recommending it in a heartbeat. If you spend that kind of money on it you’ll be well placed to level up while having fun and feeling powerful, you can realistically get away with spending far less. This game is definitely fantastic value for money, just don’t expect it to be completely free-to-play and still get the same enjoyment out of it as others do.

Our only real complaint with the game is the graphics on console. We played this a long time ago in the PC alpha, and it looked phenomenal. On the consoles textures are bland, geometry is simple, and particle effects are dull and flat. While the vehicles have interesting (player made) designs, this simply isn’t a good looking game. You forget about that as soon as you really get into the game, but it’s a shame when the PC version can look so good.

In conclusion, this is a fantastic entry into the vehicle combat genre. If you like War Thunder, World of Tanks, or Star Conflict, you need to take a look at this. Thankfully it’s free-to-play so you can try it and get a long way into it without paying a penny, but if you want to get the most out of it, perhaps stump up a little cash for one of the starting packs.

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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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Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality Review

If you’re a fan of Rick and Morty and have a HTC Vive, chances are you’ve already played Accounting. If not, go play it, it’s ok, I’ll wait.

Right, great wasn’t it? From the writers of Rick and Morty, Accounting combined their zany and tasteless humour with some interesting uses of the VR medium to create something truly special. Virtual Rick-ality promised to be an authentically Rock and Morty experience in the same vein, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s just a shame that Accounting was actually better.

We won’t spoil anything but in Virtual Rick-ality you are a character within the Rick and Morty universe and the whole game takes place almost entirely within Rick’s garage lab. There’s three areas you can move between, and there’s even a mechanic to interact with things you can’t reach, but can see. The game is very aware of its own limitations, highlighted by restrictions like trying the door to get out of the garage, only for the door handle to fall off.

In the garage you can interact with plenty of objects from the show, most of which work exactly the way you’d expect them to. There’s plenty of hidden items in the way of tapes that can be played, and there’s loads of hidden achievements for doing particularly strange things with the tools at your disposal.

There’s also a campaign of sorts, a series of missions and quests that involve you searching the garage for the right tools, or taking part in a few minigames. Some that involve shooting are pretty dire, like the most bare-bones shooting VR games, one that involves a kind of Simon-says is actually a lot of fun and could almost be a game by itself.

The thing that holds this title back is that you’ve seen it all before. Despite VR being a relatively new medium for gaming, this title seems to borrow lots of other ideas without really introducing its own. The licence is leaned on heavily to make stale mechanics feel fresh, but even the writing just feels like a Rick and Morty clip show, with beats from episodes of the cartoon, rather than a real story in its own right. Generally the jokes are likely to raise a smile rather than a laugh and just like the Simpsons 3D games, seeing Morty’s family in three dimensions is unnerving more than it is familiar.

There’s some little moments in this title that any Rick and Morty fans will really enjoy, particularly the inclusion of a reasonably hefty game within the game, and once you’ve finished the campaign you have access to everything to do what you want with, but after the two or so hours you’ll spend with it, there won’t be that much more you want to see.

For £22.99 – there’s not a lot of value in this title. Two hours to see almost everything and no incentive to go back to it after that. I imagine there’ll be a lot of Steam refunds because it’s possible to get everything you’re ever going to get out of it so quickly. This feels like a missed opportunity. If this was a single episode, with more taking part in other locations, or if there was some kind of multiplayer side based around the multiverse, they could have made something really special, but this is just another little VR sandbox to play with, but this one happens to have a hefty price tag attached to it.

If you’re a big Rick and Morty fan, wait for a sale, if you’re not interested in the show, this is a VR title you can safely give a miss.

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Mr. Shifty Review (PC)

Mr Shifty is much, much easier than its clear inspiration, Hotline Miami. Thanks to your ridiculously overpowered ability,  there’s only a couple of rooms in the whole game that gave me any problems. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with some serious power tripping in video games.

If you’ve seen X-Men 2, you can understand the main innovation in Mr. Shifty, you can teleport just like Nightcrawler. Your bamfing is even accompanied with a little puff of smoke, and you can do it five times in quick succession before it needs a few seconds to recharge. With this ability you can charge headfirst into full rooms of enemies, all pointing machine guns at you, and dispatch them all before they know what’s happened. Bamf. Punch. Bamf. Punch. and so on. Over the course of the game you also find a variety of melee and thrown weapons that can help you out like a broom, a metal pipe, a shield, and even a trident.

The whole game only took us just under three hours to beat, but that was in three sittings and we loved every second of it. Levels are short and most stages introduce some kind of new mechanic like new enemies or traps. The levels ramp up just after they’ve introduced a new idea so, for example, when you first find proximity mines you have all the time in the world to figure out what sets them off and the fact you can pick them up and throw them once they’re activated. Within a couple of levels you’re sprinting at full pelt through a minefield, grabbing one, teleporting through a wall into a room full of enemies, throwing it on to someone’s chest, teleporting back in to the room that just exploded and watching the enemies disintegrate. Moves like this are surprisingly common in the game.

The whole thing is played from the top down perspective, similar to Hotline Miami, but it doesn’t have the same visual style. The animations are quick and sometimes impressive, and the fact that bodies will stay on the floor even when you return to an area is a nice touch, but it’s not a spectacular game and you’ll be hard pushed to remember anything about what even the main character looks like once you’re done.

Everything from the music to the dialogue is incredibly generic for a video game, I think on purpose, and this gives it a certain blandness which is unfortunate when the main mechanic of the game is so engaging.

If you’ve got a spare afternoon and £10 free, Mr Shifty is definitely a worthwhile play. It might not be a classic but we really hope we see this mechanic return for more games.

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Yooka-Laylee Review (PC)

Originally we expected Yooka-Laylee to be the next best thing to Banjo Kazooie Threeie. Turns out it’s defiantly a game of it’s own, and stands up against Banjo-Tooie without relying on it for the sake of Nostalgia.

Taking heavy cues from the N64-era of games where genre conventions were basically set in stone, Yooka-Laylee will be immediately familiar to anyone who played games like Banjo, Super Mario 64, or Donkey Kong 64. You have a central hub world, and from this you can travel to other worlds via books assuming you have enough pages (think stars or jiggies). In each world (and the hub) you can complete a range of challenges to get more pages, or you can gather the hundreds of feathers. You can also upgrade your abilities as the game goes on, gaining access to new areas.

The core gameplay is very reminiscent of the old games, but the level of polish demonstrates how Playtonic have made a modern entry into an old genre, rather than just making an old game in the modern era (like so many 8bit indie games are doing lately). You can jump, glide, roll, and spin attack and it all feels just right, with just enough extra movement to give the illusion of weight and just the right height to the jump to makes distant jumps feel impossible even when they aren’t. The abilities you can upgrade get a little confusing, but all of them make previously difficult challenges much easier, allowing you to go back and get even more out of previously-completed levels.

Speaking of this, once of the new features in the game is that you can expand each world. When you first enter a new zone it will seem huge, and have a full compliment of challenges, pages and feathers. Go back outside and spend a few pages and you can expand the zone, often to double the size. It’s an impressive mechanic and sometimes a little dismaying when you think you’ve nearly completed an area only for it to grow immensely (and often vertically).

The music is another accomplishment for Playtonic. It’s all original, but has the same uplifting jauntiness that we came to love from the music by Rare (I still have the Diddy Kong Racing theme stuck in my head nearly two decades later). The graphics too are extremely polished with particularly good character models and draw distances. Of course on PC everything is as customisable and you’d expect – this definitely isn’t a shoddy console port.

The only real issue we have with the game is the camera. During some of the games more challenging sections (usually involving a boss or big fight of some kind) the camera has a tendency to flip around, ruining the way you move. This was an issue for Super Mario 64 and I’d like to think that we’ve progressed since then, but the exact same problems are rearing their ugly head. I’m not sure if this could be fixed with a patch, but for now it’s a mild annoyance that only crops up during a handful of sections.

Overall, Yooka-Laylee is everything I wanted from this game. It’s good enough to deserve its own franchise and in many ways replace Banjo Kazooie rather than simply exist as a homage to it. Looks like Playtonic really are Rare reincarnated, and that can only be a good thing.

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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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The Wonders of Werewolves Within on PSVR

Werewolves within is an adaptation of a board-game where you sit around a campfire with seven other people and lie to them. It’s also the best game currently in VR.

 

Taking the general structure from games like ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’, Town of Salem, and Mafia (the card game, not the open world video game), Werewolves Within has a devastatingly simple premise. Eight of you are all given roles in secret, each with their own (individually useless) power, and you have a few minutes to work out who is lying and actually a werewolf.

There’s no visual signs to look for, no way of knowing for sure who you can trust, just a random selection of weak powers and your own powers of deduction, and a lot of name-calling and the occasional spot of begging.

Balance is key in any multiplayer game and although there’s a random element that can stack the odds for or against team werewolf, there’s very rarely a game where you can be absolutely sure you’ve made the right choices. The Saint, for example, does get to know exactly who one of the werewolves is, but if the werewolves all vote for him, the werewolves win regardless of whether they die or not. This leads to a precarious game where you try and push the rest of the group in the right direction, while keep your true identity a secret. It forces you to lie, which makes you suspicious, which might make the village inadvertently turn on their only saviour. Houndsmen are powerful as they can whisper with the players either side of them and discover their true roles, but the werewolves have the exact same power, so you can never be sure if a houndsman is really who they say they are.

Every game starts with the group going round in a circle announcing their roles and inevitably some people will claim the same role. What do you do if someone claims your role? They could be a werewolf, so you should get everyone to vote for them. They could be a Turncloak, who is working with the werewolves but wins if they die instead of the werewolves. They could be a deviant, who wins if they get killed. They could be the saint! It’s an incredibly complex psychological game that runs lightning fast thanks to the simple rules and fantastic community.

Players quickly learned to adopt certain unenforced rules, like everyone praying at the start to hide who the real saint is (they have to pray to find out who the werewolf is). While the community is small (you’ll often run into the same players night after night), that leads to friendships and vendettas. I play nearly every night and I know who’s a good liar, who’s a lot of fun, and who to avoid.

Thankfully the number of players you want to avoid is incredibly low, as players can be kicked at any time. People who are racist, homophobic, or just can’t play by the rules get kicked mercilessly, leaving lobbies full of like-minded people to play with.

In terms of the actual VR, it’s used in a subtle but effective way creating an effect you couldn’t really get any other way. Only your head is tracked, and whenever you talk your mouth moves and your character gestures. It’s surprisingly convincing so it’s easy to tell who is speaking and who people are looking at. You can also use a set of emotes if you’d like to emphasise a point or hint at someone. All of the games take place in various different environments around a small town, and while they become quite repetitive, they’re appropriately atmospheric and well designed.

If you’ve got a PSVR, Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive, you owe it to yourself to try this game. It’s entirely a seated experience, the VR will never make you the slightest bit nauseous, and the gameplay is almost entirely unique to videogames (Town of Salem is a little similar). Check out the video at the top of the page if you’d like to see a game, then come and join us to hunt some Werewolves!

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Battlefield 1 Review (PC)

Battlefield has managed to come a long way over time without really changing. If Dice decided to re-release Battlefield 1942, the game that started it all, it would be instantly recognisable to the millions of younger fans who have only played the newest entries in the series. Conquest is the main game mode, you fight across war-ravaged towns and meadows using a wide variety of weapons, tanks and aircraft to try and defend or assault positions. The actual fun of the game is still the same chaotic sandbox-style multiplayer violence. This isn’t meant as a criticism by the way, Dice have somehow managed to keep this pure and incredibly fun core while constantly updating the rest of the package that surrounds it, to the point where Battlefield 1 is easily one of the most impressive first-person shooters currently played. The graphics are cutting-edge, the multiplayer infrastructure is finally strong enough to cope with the huge numbers of player (most of the time) and a new time period manages to make a familiar game feel fresh again. On top of that Dice have managed to create a compelling (if brief) single player campaign that would be worth paying for alone. That’s not something I expected to write about a Battlefield game that doesn’t have ‘Bad Company’ somewhere in the title.

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When Battlefield 1 was announced as being set in World War One, many gamers were appropriately concerned. Most people’s view of World War One was that it was a dull yet horrifically torturous affair that managed to suck the joy out of an entire continent. It had none of the heroism or daring raids of World War Two, none of the might of technology on display that has characterised wars since Vietnam, and none of the honour and chivalry that we romanticise into wars pre-1900. Instead it mostly seemed to involve mud, a lack of movement, and a horrific death toll for very little or no gains. Not exactly the perfect setting for a multiplayer game.

Dice clearly realised this and have instead decided to create a vaguely believable ‘based-on’ version of World War One. All of the weapons, the vehicles, the places and even many of the characters from the campaign are at least based on real things from the war. Perhaps they were hardly used, or only ever tested, perhaps they’ve been slightly exaggerated or modified to make things more exciting, but nothing is completely out of place. This means that rather than a historically accurate battle simulator, we get a game where you can stand on top of a giant zeppelin, throwing grenades hundreds of feet down on to a giant tank that’s charging across trenches bellowing fire from both sides chasing down a heavily armoured man carrying a giant machine gun. No-one’s saying it definitely did happen like that, but technically it could have. Kind of.

Regardless of the accuracy, what we have is an incredibly fun game. The campaign is split up into five hour and a half sections that demonstrate specific mechanics within the game. Each one tells a surprisingly touching story about one person’s experience of the war and the narrative touches are difficult to fault. These are over-the-top stories of bravery, deception, and luck. They don’t truly delve into the horrors of war, but there’s definitely an element of that, and each fo the characters are interesting in their own way, rather than being the two-dimensional ‘soldier’ stereotypes we’re used to in previous campaigns.

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The first sees you as a young soldier joining a tank crew Fury-style as they head towards a particularly brutal battle. You fight over tanks, assault a town and even lead the tank through ambushes in a foggy wood and get to do some sniping before that story comes to a close. Another has you essentially stealing a plane and getting involved in some of the most ludicrous air battles I’ve ever seen in a game. The third has you donning heavy armour to plough through the Italian Alps trying to protect your brother. One involves storming a beach as an elite Australian soldier, trying to protect a younger newbie. The final mission involves Lawrence of Arabia and an assault on the intimidating armoured train. You can play through these missions in any order you’d like and the quality is consistent across all of them. They manage to keep you entertained while teaching you every single major mechanic of the game, and none outstay their welcome. In fact we’re rather hoping to see some more stories from the Eastern Front from the upcoming (but still far off) DLC.

The multiplayer is clearly where it’s really at for Battlefield fans, and Battlefield 1 does not disappoint. In squads of up to five you’ll fight through forests, castles, mansions, cities, deserts and more in all of the game modes you’ve come to love from the series. Conquest and Rush are much as they ever have been, but the inclusion of trenches and a distinct lack of helicopters refreshes the series and means new strategies are needed. Poisonous gas forces you to put on a mask and fight without being able to look down the sights, smoke is entirely blinding and forces you into brutal close-quarters combat, heavy bombers can wreak havoc on objectives but are so flimsy they can be brought down by small arms-fire from the ground.

Graphically, the game is absolutely breathtaking. The environments themselves are impressive and completing convincing for the places they are supposed to be, from the whitwashed walls in the desert on the Sinai map to the dense forest of Argonne, but it’s really the weather system that takes your breath away. Within a match you might have fog roll in, reducing visibility to ten feet or so, then you might have a heavy storm, blowing things around and making it difficult to fly, then brilliant sunshine might emerge, revealing the beauty of the maps and the lighting system. The changes are subtle and natural, if a little fast, and it’s amazing how differently you need to play to adapt to the conditions.

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Overall, Battlefield 1 is an absolute triumph. There are still bugs and the odd server issues, the menu system still don’t work properly (you can’t edit your loadouts unless you’re in a game and often you can’t leave a game when it’s over) but these are easy to ignore when the actual gameplay is so much fun. This is easily worth your money, even at full price. We’d say wait on the season pass until we know what you get, but the base game is more than worth the money. We just need to find the time to play more of it alongside Titanfall!

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Syndrome Review (PC)

Note: This is the first of our reviews where we will not be giving a score. We are following the trend of many sites where we think a score is simply no longer meaningful. We’d prefer for you to read the reviews and see what we think rather than assign some arbitrary number for you to compare against other arbitrary numbers. 

Last week we attended the Fright Night at Thorpe Park. I hadn’t been through a scare maze for many years so was unbelievably jittery while we were queuing to be taken through a series of rooms and scared silly. When we finally got in it turned out all these people can really do to an adult is make you jump. I knew the actors were just actors, I knew the weapons were fake, I knew the blood was just make-up, so while they could easily make us jump by leaping at us out of the dark, this was no more frightening than the childhood bully trying to make you flinch. Once you realise that the whole premise becomes hollow as your fear leaves you and you start to see how cheap the props are and how bad the acting is. All of this reminds me very much of Syndrome, a horror game that is entirely capable of making you jump, but nothing more than that.

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Starting off with some story exposition about waking up on ‘totally-not-the-Nostromo’, which just so happens to be a large ship that looks like the Nostromo, Syndrome drops you right into a clichéd space horror. You awake from cryosleep and everyone’s dead, except for a few groups who you’re not sure if you can trust. Syndrome is content to leave it there though, quickly introducing you to your objectives which attempt to outdo each other in how much of a cliché can they become. Find keycards? Check. Find a door code in a diary? Check. Crawl through a vent to get around a malfunctioning door? Check. That’s all within the first few minutes.

Unfortunately Syndrome doesn’t really progress from there. Of course there’s some monsters in the way of weird zombie things but they all look the same and will react to your trusty wrench smacking them, but not getting shot until they die completely. Later on you face some slightly more intimidating enemies but beyond being faster and tougher, they act the exact same way and somehow manage to sound less frightening.

All of this would be forgiven if it built up a frightening atmosphere like Amnesia or Outlast, but it simply doesn’t. The ship you’re exploring looks like it was created in the Half Life engine and just smattered with some dynamic lights. Most of the decorations don’t make sense, like awkwardly placed boxes everywhere, there’s no moments of intense fear or calm, it’s just constant grey corridors and rooms with occasional enemies to murder or run away from. The fact it’s a indie game could answer for some of this, but then the developer is charging £18.99 for what feels like a horror mod and for that kind of money you could easily buy much better games in the same genre.

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Overall it’s impossible to recommend Syndrome. If you’ve played Alien: Isolation, the Dead Space Trilogy, or System Shock, it’s going to feel like a massive letdown and far too familiar. If you haven’t played them, buy those instead, they’re all much better.

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No Man’s Sky Review (PS4)

So we’ve been to the centre of the galaxy, we’ve got the platinum trophy and we’ve streamed over fifty hours of No Man’s Sky over the last four days. But what do you do in the game?

No Man’s Sky is the much anticipated space explorathon that Hello Games unveiled three years ago. Coming out as a PS4 console exclusive with the Sony Marketing machine taking care of the advertising, this is very much still an indie game. You’d be forgiven for thinking a space simulator with 18 quintillion planets, a score by 65DaysofStatic and such polish was an AAA game, but it’s important to remember that this was made by a small team and not in particularly long time for its ambitious scope.

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In the game you start off with very little on a randomised world. Everyone starts on a different world, but everyone is in the same galaxy. If you zoom out on the galactic map it’s hard to get over the breathtaking awe over the numbers involved. Yours is one of so, so, many stars. You will almost certainly be the first person to ever see this planet, you’ll be the first to see the creatures that inhabit it, the particular type of landscape, the plants, and the first to experience the thrill of exploring it. Explore you must because your ship is broken you and you need minerals to fix it. Mining minerals is as simple as finding them and shooting them with your multi-tool, but finding them is the real challenge. Not a challenge because it’s mechanically difficult, but because on your way to find some big blue-black pillars of heridium you’ll discover ancient ruins, outposts, trading hubs, monoliths, crashed spaceships, amazing creatures, incredible vistas and so much more. This is at the heart of No Man’s Sky. We’ve played a huge amount of time and still constantly find things that distract and enchant us – it really is a procedural dream.

It’s not just the planets that are procedural either, the music mostly is courtesy of 65DaysofStatic and it deserves special mention because it’s just incredible. It ramps up at just the right moments, dials back when something relaxing is happening and constantly sounds fresh and innovative. There hasn’t been a single time when we’ve thought we’ve heard the same track twice in all our time of playing. It could easily be the soundtrack of the year, if not the decade.

Once your spaceship is fixed up you can head into space and explore new solar systems, black holes, huge space stations and much more, finding new things and upgrading everything as you go. Everything can be upgraded or replaced and getting a new ship really is as simple as asking people if you can have theirs – they’re always willing to sell even if it’s for an incredibly high price. New spaceships bring new capacities and capabilities and even these are procedural so you can spend ages trying to find one that looks just right. In space you really can do whatever you want, there’s a vague path where the game leads you from place to place for the first couple of hours to get some important upgrades outlined a little in our top five starting tips but you can completely ignore this if you want to. The goal appears to be to get to the centre of the galaxy, but that’s entirely up to you. Much like how Minecraft has a boss now that plenty of people will never see, getting to the center isn’t that important. It’s the journey that matters.

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Visually, No Man’s Sky is like nothing else. The developers wanted to capture that feel of the 80s sci fi book covers and they succeeded gloriously. Although plenty of planets are ugly, none of them look completely out of place. We’ve found plenty of beautiful oceans, canyons, meadows, forest, deserts, and everything else you can imagine and it feels like every single planet we’ve landed on (which must be in the hundreds) has had something interesting about it, even if what was interesting was just how barren and inhospitable it was. Every multi-tool has a unique appearance, every ship, every animal, every planet, every planet. It’s amazing how this kind of variety really helps to keep you interested and unlike lots of attempts to make things procedurally, No Man’s Sky manages to make it look like it was designed.

Of course not everything about the game is perfect. While the launch day patch went a long way to fix the problems people had early on with the game, there’s still plenty of strange glitches, the game crashes a lot, and occasionally things don’t work the way you should. This is to be expected from a game with such a grand scope and it’s certainly more stable than anything by Bethesda, but it’s still a frustration when the game crashes in the middle of something important or when you can’t do something for the arbitrary reason that the game engine says no. We also believe that much of the game is smoke and mirrors, with multiplayer being the obvious controversial example. There is no multiplayer in this game. We’re confident that there are no player models, no animations and no ways to meet up with each other in-game. You all explore the same galaxy so as streamers have shown yesterday, you can get to the same place at the same time, but you are not connected in any meaningful way. What you can do is share your named creations and others will see this. There’s a chance we’re wrong on that and I’d be happy to retract all of it, but the evidence isn’t looking good and you definitely shouldn’t pick this up for multiplayer.

NPCs are similarly designed to give the impression of intelligent life in the galaxy, but after a while you realise that all the aliens stand perfectly still, say the same thing over and over, and are generally devoid of life. This is a real shame as your interactions with them, while funny, are very limited and after ten or so hours of exploration you’re likely to encounter the same immersion-breaking events again and again.

There’s also the issue of terrain deformation. When you shoot the ground with a grenade, you make a hole. But this isn’t you mining in to the world like in Minecraft, instead you are simply creating a space with a shell around it. We discovered this when we made a hole then accidentally slipped through the edge of it and entered the inside of the empty planet. Sadly this means no adventures to the core of a planet because there’s simply nothing there. This issue won’t affect the majority of players but we felt it’s worth mentioning so you don’t spend too long getting your dig on.

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Overall, No Man’s Sky is easily a contender for Game of the Year. There’s so much to do, so much to explore and it’s an experience unlike anything else. People are constantly moaning about the lack of new IPs so I hope that people support one of the most exciting new original games to appear in a long time. It’s a beautiful and enchanting game and we can’t wait to buy it again for the PC release.

BRB – off to explore the universe.

Verdict 9

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