Category Archives: Xbox One

Destiny 2 Vanilla Review (PS4)

I think I’m finally in a position to review Destiny 2. I’ve spent 100 hours in-game, got the platinum, completed the raid, finished the prestige nightfall, went flawless in Trials of the Nine, and got all three characters to max level (only one is 305 but they’ll get there). Just like Destiny 1, I think I’ve burned through all the content within a month of launch, and I’m still not entirely sure how much I enjoy it.

Clearly I’ve got my money’s worth, 100 hours is a ridiculous amount of time to spend on a game I only paid £40 for and I would easily recommend it to anyone with any kind of passing interest in FPS games; but still there’s a nagging feeling that it should have been so much better.

For those who have been avoiding the pages of Eurogamer and have no experience with Destiny as a franchise, it is a new breed of FPS from Halo-developers Bungie. Freed from their Microsoft overlords they embarked on a mission to create a multiplatform FPS that fuses some of the best elements of MMOs and FPS games together, and they largely succeeded with the first Destiny. It wasn’t perfect and took a few patches and expansion to realise the dream, but they created a new genre that was definitely appealing and addictive. You play through a standard FPS story mode with some open world aspects then group up with other players to work your way into the ‘end-game’ made up of typical MMO tropes of dungeons, raids, and PVP. In return for beating the various challenges you get gear that increases in power, and thus begins the familiar MMO treadmill of getting better gear to be able to take on harder content in order to get better gear and so on.

The first Destiny did a fantastic job of introducing raid mechanics with the Vault of Glass raid and proved that FPS games could work with raid mechanics and large group strategy. While the game didn’t really find a proper voice in terms of story and progression until the later expansions, that first raid really hooked a certain type of player and we were all looking forward to the sequel to see what they could do next. Then Bungie decided to take a step backwards.

While Destiny 2 is an incredibly accomplished game, it moves backwards in nearly every respect to be closer to what the original game was before the DLC. The horde modes, sparrow racing, reputation grinds and even sparrow horns are all gone. Raid and strike gear has lost the interesting perks that made them unique to that part of the game. PVP has a very limited pool of maps and only three playlists to choose from. The Patrol zones (open world areas where you can complete various objectives for rewards) all feel strangely lifeless with the exception of the excellent EDZ.

That’s not to say what’s there is bad in most respects, it’s a beautiful game, the music is hauntingly memorable and evocative, the gunplay is as satisfying as ever, the strikes and raid are nearly faultless (with the exception of one strike that happens to be this week’s nightfall) and the campaign is much more effective and interesting than its predecessor.

It just feels like so much is missing and no one needs to ask why, they’re keeping it for DLC. The season pass is already on offer and will clearly reintroduce much of what we’ve lost to people that pay for it, over the course of the year. I’m sure by this time next year we’ll have at least one more raid, more strikes, more exotics, more multiplayer modes and more patrol zones, but by the end of it I’m worried that we’ll just be clawing our way back to how good the first game was by the end. Bungie had an opportunity to take their awesome framework, make a huge amount of content to justify a new game, then go even further with their DLC. Instead we have a stripped back game, almost devoid of real end-game content, and an offer to pay a lot more money to get what we’ve lost back further down the line.

The issues with end-game only really manifest after you’ve put in a decent amount of time already into the game. If you’re the sort of person who’s only going to be playing for an hour or two a week, ignore this and just go get the game. You’ll have an awesome time with it and never run out of things to do. If you’re like me and want to put in 5+ hours a night, you’ll run into the same problems I have. Firstly, the maximum level is too attainable. Once you get to level 20 (around 8-10 hours in for your first character) you can only progress by getting item drops that increase your average power level. The maximum currently is 305 and this can be achieved by simply grinding any of the activities available to you at that point. You can complete public events over and over in any of the open-world areas, where you complete objectives and kill enemies, possibly with the help of other random players or your friends. These are pretty entertaining but get repetitive quick as there’s only five or six that repeat every few minutes. You could go for strikes (dungeons) but these are quite slow and inefficient, only giving you a little bit of gear at the end. You can do crucible, which is the PVP mode where currently games take too long to be a good method of grinding, but you can get amazing rewards (not for being good, just for participating).

Then there’s the weekly tasks, each week you can take on public events on a certain planet, complete a more challenge form of a strike called a Nightfall, where you’re up against a time and various other modifiers, complete the Prestige Nightfall which is even more difficult, run through the raid, or complete Trials which is a special PVP mode where you see how many games you can win before you get a loss. Get seven in a row without losing and you get a huge amount of gear and a special emblem. Every week these tasks give you a new powerful reward that will boost your level considerably, and even with three characters it doesn’t take too long to get through all of them.

Now the problem is that after two weeks of completing all of these different events, I have maxed out a character, with the other two very close. Once you get to 305 there’s very little to strive for beyond finding certain weapons (complete luck for all but a few quest exotics). There’s no reputation levels to increase or progression for the PvP system at all.

So while I’m obviously a fringe case and not everyone will spend the amount of time I have on the game, Destiny fans are voracious and lots of people are already feeling a similar way, there’s just nothing to works towards. Think of WoW’s faction grinds, Call of Duty’s prestige modes or Battlefield’s ranks. There’s always progress, always a carrot to urge you on, and that’s what’s missing from Destiny 2 at the moment. It’s an incredible game, and I’ve loved all the time I’ve spent with it so far, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that there should have been so much more.

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Ark: Survival Evolved Review (PC)

So Ark is out of Early Access and is now officially released. A dinosaur based sandbox survival game, Ark sees you and your friends (or enemies) gathering, crafting, building, and taming on a tropical island (or a scorching desert in the controversial paid DLC). You go through an underpowered weakling struggling to survive on scraps of cooked meat and berries to a powerful clan with numerous complexes all over the map, mech-style gear for you and your dinosaurs and a mostly automated system of gathering so you never run out of crafting materials. But is it any fun?

My feelings towards Ark can be summed up in two brutally short stories. One evening, on an official server on the Xbox One, Naimgear and me spent five hours taming a pair of sarcosaurs (giant crocodiles) in the always-dangerous swamp. Taming involved knocking them out with a huge amount of crafted tranquiliser arrows and bolts, and then sitting by the unconcious beast while you feed it narcotics and meat for hours on end, praying that nothing from the swamp comes out to kill you. We eventually got both of them, made the dangerous swim back to our base using our very expensive saddles, and put both of them in a giant pen we had been creating for this very purpose. We logged off, satisfied that they were safe.

The next day we logged on and everything had been destroyed. The giant warehouse we kept our flyers in, the giant pen, both sarcos, everything was gone. This was because some other players had seen our base and wanted to destroy it, no other reason.

The second story was on an unofficial server on the PC with ‘TheArrow’ and Naimgear where gathering and taming was sped up to be twice as fast, making the tames and building not quite so painful. We had built up a huge metal base with turrets on top, vaults inside, and electricity to power all manner of top-tier crafting benches. We had a pet T-Rex, a Brontosaurus, a Quetzal (the largest bird in the game that is notoriously tricky to tame because it never lands) and more. While we were playing the other two had gone off to gather things from nearby mountains while I was doing some basic chores around the base, fertilising planets, filling up feeding troughs etc. Then it arrived. A gigantosaurus, the largest of the carnivores in Ark, spawned in the middle of our base. Instantly everything went crazy because it took a disliking to one dinosaur and bit it, causing every other dinosaur to attack. Suddenly the base was a flurry of tooth and claw, but the gigantosaurus was high level and was winning easily. They go berserk when they take too much damage, and this one was destroying absolutely everything with reckless abandon. The main metal base fell almost instantly, along with most of our supplies and defences. The collection of dinosaurs was decimated as many of the carnivores who might have been able to help were trapped behind the herbivores and the flyers were on passive to make sure no one could kite them out of our base. Eventually I hopped on the quetzal and led the lizard away into the sea, hoping to drown it. This involved flying close enough to make it think it could bite me, then flying up and away so it missed and chased for a while. Leaving the smouldering wreckage of our 100-hour base behind, I flew out to sea. Then it bit the bird and we lost that too.

Both of these events were immensely frustrating and the reason I quit playing on each console, but then both couldn’t have been that frustrating if it wasn’t for the tens of hours I spent building up to that moment. Ark is a game that draws you in and absorbs your time, and the thrill of exploration and expansion is very real. There’s nothing like building a huge fortress with your friends and there’s always a project to be getting on with. If you log in alone you can head off to gather some rarer materials or even just expand your buildings a little. When everyone is on together you can take on a challenging tame, or explore a cave (which are unbelievably tough challenges until you have end-game gear and levelled dinos) or raid another team’s base.

Of course there are horrible disasters that will befall you, but you can mitigate most of these through your choice of server and base location. PvP servers make the game much more exciting and makes success more rewarding, but you’re constantly faced with the threat of being wiped while you’re offline because people are cowards. PvE servers are safer, but a little more boring and you end up butting against the strange building restrictions that occur when you allow hundreds of new players to build little huts everywhere but then not letting you destroy them to make space. You can make your own servers and play offline single-player or with a small group but then you’re missing out on the social aspect of Ark altogether. The point is, you have a choice and that choice is very broad. You can play Ark how you want to play it and once you get into a server you like, there’s a huge amount of things to do and fun to be had.

Sadly, there’s also a lot of annoyances in the game that will cause you problems at some point and betray the game’s lack of polish. Dinosaurs will glitch through the map and clip into rocks, you’ll be attacked by things you can’t see (especially underwater), when you’re building things will get placed in the wrong position at the last second, wasting your materials. While Ark is an impressively broad sandbox, it’s not a very refined one, and the developers have focused on introducing new dinosaurs and tech into the game without ever really fixing some of the key problems.

Thankfully on PC you can use mods and private servers to alleviate much of this, and even add in new maps and features. It really is a very customisable game and will no doubt persist for a long while after the developers stop providing new things thanks to the excellent community that works hard to create new things for people to play with – but for a game that is now charging a high retail price (£50 at the time of writing) you’re going to be getting something of much lower quality than you would probably expect.

For all its issues, Ark is an incredible game. It’s easy to spend hundreds of hours in its worlds and each time you start afresh on a new server you’ll have all of that fun all over again, but despite it coming out of Early Access, do be aware that you’re very much paying £50 for something that feels like a work in progress.

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Agents of Mayhem Review

It’s strange to complain about a game based on what it’s not trying to do, but it’s almost impossible to avoid with Agents of Mayhem. It’s an absolutely fantastic, entertaining, polished, funny, fairly deep single-player experience. But it should have been a co-op game.

Agents of Mayhem is the latest game from Volition, famous for the Saints Row franchise, and this is evident in every part of Agents of MAyhem. Beyond the obvious links through the colour scheme and icons (and being able to play as Johnny Gat if you pre-ordered), AoM feels like a Saints Row game. The humour is on point, if a little crass, the violence is ridiculously over the top and gameplay trumps realism at every turn, and the missions tend to follow a similar structure. If you played Saints Row IV (and why wouldn’t you have, it’s amazing) you’ll be vaguely familiar with this take on the world, with superhero-esque powers and a massive open world city that serves more as a playground than something that feels alive. Certainly, with regards to the world and much of the game, you can see this has been partly inspried by Crackdown, with collectables shining on rooftops to clamber over and a wealth of ridiculous powers and vehicles to supposedly help you save the town as you ‘accidentally’ mow down innocent civilians in crossfire. This is Saturday-morning style superhero shenanigans at it’s best.

The basic structure of the game sees you choosing a squad of three agents from a pool of twelve to go out into Seoul and kill enemies, defuse bombs, and occasionally take part in a car chase. Down on the ground you can choose between the three agents on the fly and jump into any vehicle or call your own agency vehicle. Of course if you want to free-roam you can, and there’s plenty of collectables about to help boost your abilities and the agency, or you can just cause some mayhem with the tools at your disposal.

The city itself is by far the weakest part of AoM. It feels dead and lifeless, the civilians don’t react naturally and it’s hard to cause GTA-style chaos where your actions seem to have significant effects on the area. There’s no real destruction mechanics and car explode in a very unsatisfying way.

Thankfully the game is saved by just how much fun the mechanics are. Each agent plays differently with a unique main weapon, ability, and ‘Mayhem’ move. Each of these can be swapped out or modified for others back at the base. One uses a bow to get critical hits, one uses a freeze gun, one uses an SMG. Each character suits a different playstyle and you can switch between them at any time using left and right on the d-pad. Like tag-based fighting games when one gets low on health you can switch to another and let them heal up meaning the action never really stops and you get a lot of variety even within a single fight.

The enemies aren’t particularly interesting, but they are challenging and there’s a wealth of different difficulties (the menu seems like the one from Diablo 3) with the idea that you can push yourself to higher difficulties with higher rewards as you level up your agents and unlock more abilities.

The constant loop of missions, upgrades, exploration is unbelievably engaging and it’s wrapped up in some very funny writing and a visual style that is at it’s best when there’s a lot of chaos breaking out around you. If you hated the humour in Saints Row, you won’t be won over by this, but if you enjoy things that are a little more puerile and you enjoy the over-the-top excess of cartoons like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or the animated X-men series, you’ll feel right at home. It’s hard to get across just how important this is, the game is just plain fun.

Which brings us back to our main complaint about the game. It should have been co-op.

You play the game with a team of three heroes, each hero has a range of abilities that work best in different playstyles and situations, the levels are big and usually quite open, there’s loads of jokes and teasing between the characters. There’s even a per-character progression system. It feels like the game was built for co-op then it was yanked out at some point to save time on production. As it stands, we can easily recommend this game to Saints Row fans. If they brought out an update adding co-op, we would recommend this game to everyone.

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Vostok Inc. Review (PS4)

Vostok Inc. is a perfect example of a truly brilliant game that’s almost completely ruined by a relatively tiny game design decision. For me, the game went from something I could easily recommend, to something that I’d tell others to steer clear from in a single moment, and hopefully it’s a (very long) moment that can be patched out.

Simply put, Vostok Inc is a clicker game combined with an open-world version of Asteroids. You fly a sprightly little 2D shop around the solar system, shooting asteroids and various aliens. Once you have some money gained from doing that, you can go land on planets to build various buildings in a more typical clicker-type interface. Each building costs an increasing amount for each copy, and produces a certain amount of money. You can also buy upgrades for those buildings and for your ship. Eventually you earn enough money to fight the boss of the solar system, then that opens up the next solar system for you to work through, with increasing financial targets.

First of all, the good. The art style and writing in this game is quirky and brilliant. Some of it’s genuinely funny and the annoying voice interruptions can now be turned off at will (or will be soon at the time of writing). Flying around space is a joy where there’s always things to do. Do you upgrade to the giant laser and sweep through asteroid fields? Do you take on the enemies and their challenge rooms (occasionally if you don’t kill some enemies quickly enough you get locked into a challenge room with a moderate reward if you survive)? Do you simply fly from planet to planet upgrading things? The choice of what to upgrade is always difficult. Say a school costs 100 dollars. The second one will cost another 120, but will obviously double your output. Now there might be an upgrade that costs 120,000 but only increases the productivity of those schools by 1.2. At what point is the upgrade worth buying over another school? You’re constantly faced with questions like that and when you discover the games many breaking points, parts where it feels like you’ve broken the system and can suddenly rake in huge amounts more money, are incredible.

Unfortunately, that’s also where the game’s biggest problem lies. Remember those financial targets? Well for the second to last planet, you’re looking at getting quadrillions of dollars. That’s 1000 trillion. Up until then you could always increase the amount of money you were getting fairly easily and keep up with the targets without breaking pace – this one is different. There’s no good building or upgrade choice that will let you move from trillions to quadrillions. Mining asteroids and killing enemies only brings in a paltry amount of money, the next set of buildings are far too expensive, and the last ones don’t make you enough, even with all the upgrades. You now have over twenty planets to manage (upgrades don’t transfer between planets) by flying to them individually, and everything takes a long time. To try and complete the game for this review I left the PS4 running overnight twice, and it still wasn’t enough to buy a decent amount of upgrades to make the target more reasonable. Basically I hit a brick wall.

Any time a game requires you to grind for hours it has clearly failed, and that’s exactly what happened to Vostok Inc. If they release a patch to boost the earnings of a few buildings exponentially, they could fix the game within minutes. If they don’t, it’s going to be remembered for that soul-crushing grind, rather than all the fun and whimsy that fills the rest of the game.

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Aven Colony Review (Xbox One)

We love survival colony games. From Settlers to Anno, it’s always been a nice change of pace from the usual hectic first person shooters and tense RTS games. The joy of starting out with an empty field then slowly building up a village, to a town, to a sprawling metropolis than is entirely self sustaining. Aven Colony fits into that category neatly, but sadly doesn’t do anything to push it onwards.

The basics are simple, you begin on an alien planet with colonists from Earth. You very quickly need to establish the basics: Power, Water, Food, Air, Storage, Entertainment. Usually in that order. Over time the game throws new challenges at you like a kind of fungus that grows on your buildings and needs to be scrubbed off by drones, or lightning storms and ‘shard storms’ that are basically just meteorites – but dealing with these is as simple as building a specific building.

As your colony grows there’s a wealth of things to farm and mine, chemicals to produce, and things to research – but essentially they all serve the same function, it’s either food or entertainment. This is symptomatic of the larger problem with Aven Colony, it’s all so bland.

After you’ve created your first proper colony and completed the first real campaign mission, you will have seen nearly everything there is to see. Each map has a new twist on the formula (maybe there’s nowhere to farm so you have to trade, or there overly-aggressive fungus that needs to be beaten back quickly) but the description of the campaign level basically tells you what you need to do. Very quickly you fall into a set building pattern of how to deal with challenges, then you just let it play out.

Difficulty settings are present, but essentially they are just narrowing the margins in which you can be successful. Once you understand how the systems work, the game is exceptionally simple, with very little RNG to mess you up.

Sadly the game isn’t immersive enough to be a fun distraction when you just want to relax. Everything looks incredibly generic and is quite low-res on Xbox One. You can occasionally see colonists milling about but they don’t really do anything other than walk from building to building. There’s no life or spontaneity in anything that happens – you’re just slowly expanding a collection of by-the-book sci-fi pods in a colourful, but forgettable landscape.

It’s a shame that the game is quite dull when it gets so much right. The controls, often a bugbear in strategy games on console, are spot-on. Whoever has designed the interface is a genius as everything is immediately accessible and not once did I feel using a gamepad was getting in the way of what I wanted to do. The quest system too is quite good, giving you a range of different challenges that don’t distract you from your overall goal, but let you try something different for a few moments like growing a load of a certain crop, processing it, and trading it. Even the voice acting is a step above other games in the genre on console – but however satisfied you can be with the mechanics of the game, there’s just no heart to it and nothing unique to keep it fun.

If you’re desperately looking for a colony-builder on console, Aven Colony is a fine game, just go in aware that’s uninspired and unlikely to last you more than a mildly entertaining evening.

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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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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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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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