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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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Foxhole Preview

Foxhole is almost certainly unlike anything you’ve played. It could be compared to Cannon Fodder, to ARMA, perhaps even to Age of Empires – but none of those are quite right. It’s a WWII-era massively multiplayer combat game that features a persistent world, crafting, and a top-down view.

When you spawn in Foxhole there’s very little guidance on what to do – other than players rushing past in trucks yelling at you to get out of the way. Open the map and you’ll see your side (green or blue) has a number of bases, and the enemy has a number of theirs. Your first instinct would probably be to pick up a gun from the town hall and some ammo, then run off to the front line, where you’ll almost certainly get horrible murdered by someone you can’t see. You’ll then slowly realise you just wasted a uniform, a rifle, some ammo, maybe a pistol and some bullets. All of those things were crafted from raw materials that were mined out of the ground. Those then got taken (usually driven in a truck which was also crafted) to various factories, where they were put in a queue to be built. Once complete they were collected and shipped to the spawn points. Like I said, not like anything you’ve played.

The biggest turn-off for some from Foxhole is going to be evident from the screenshots, the view. It’s top-down 3D and your field of view is exceptionally small. Cover breaks your view of even your own team, so if you hide behind a wall, everyone on the other side of it will disappear because you can’t see them anymore. To shoot you hold right click to aim, drawing a line across the terrain, then you shoot with left click, firing a bullet somewhere close to that trajectory. It’s slightly inaccurate and you’re often shooting at people you can’t see – a bit like the real WWII I guess. When it gets dark your view shrinks even further and only a few items (like binoculars) can increase it. Using binoculars, of course only lets you see further when standing still, so you have to relay all that information to the rest of the team.

Finding a team to start out is very daunting, you don’t get placed in a squad like in Battlefield or ARMA, instead you just bumble about until you find someone. There is an official Discord set up to solve this problem, but it’s vital that you group up with people – your carry limit is so low there’s no way you’ll be able to carry all the gear needed for a serious attack.

Once you’re spawned into the game with a team and have a little directions, it all seems to make sense a little more. You could become a scavenger, collecting the metal needed to create the tools and machines of war, doing runs backwards and forwards as efficiently as possible in relatively safe territory. You could become a truck driver, taking the crafted supplies to the front line where there’s a little more risk of ambushes, but people will be more likely to thank you as they are directly affected by what you are doing. You could become a medic, holding back a little and crawling to the wounded to heal them up and get them out of harm’s way. Or you could become an infantryman and master the art of moving through cover, scouting, and then committing to a big push with your team. Some people like to stand around and open gates for people, that’s fine too.

While the game undoubtedly has its epic moments, currently it starts to get quite tedious quite soon. Lots of the jobs simply aren’t that interesting and take a long time. If you want to build tanks for your team, you’re looking at hours of gathering and crafting. Even as an infantry soldier you’re not going to see a great deal of progress very quickly unless the enemy team completely falls apart. Instead you have lots of incredibly long stalemates where nothing interesting happens.

There’s no stats to speak of other than a basic xp levelling system, so nothing you do seems to have any weight. Either you stay in one server for hours and hours playing until you win or lose, or you leave the server half way through a fight and come back to join a different one later, it makes no difference and no successes are going to be particularly remembered.

This tedium and lack of obvious progression have put me off the game for now. If it had lots of dramatic emergent gameplay, that’d be fun. If it had a really fun progression system, the grind would be more bearable. But without either, you’re left with an interesting experiment in a new type of war-game, but not enough to be a really good game.

Now, moreso than usual, I am aware this is very much just my opinion. A friend has been absorbed by the game and lots of people have put hundreds of hours in already, so clearly there’s something there that grabs some people. You can get a decent idea of how the game plays by watching some streamers, but be aware that for every front-line hero, there’s ten more running the supply chain to keep them stocked. That supply chain isn’t a whole lot of fun.

 

Foxhole is available now on Steam Early Access

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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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Fable Fortune Preview (PC)

Fable Fortune is the somewhat unexpected entry into the card-game genre for the Fable series. Unexpected because there hasn’t been a Fable game in a long while, and because the card-game genre is not only saturated but also completely dominated by Blizzard’s excellent Hearthstone.

It’s no great surprise then that Fable Fortune feels instantly familiar. Essentially this is a slight retooling of the Hearthstone formula rather than a new take on the genre. You and your opponent take turns to play cards, using up gold to do so. The amount of gold you have goes up by one each turn so you can progressively play more, or more powerful, units. The aim of the game is to reduce your opponent’s health down to zero before they can do the same to you. You have a hero ability unique to each class and create your deck from a combination of neutral cards that can be used by any class, or specific cards that are tailored to your particular brand of combat. So far, so Hearthstone.

Fable Fortune does have a few aces up its sleeve though. First of all, and my personal favourite addition to the game, is that you have a taunt ability that can be placed on any unit for 1 mana. This makes taunt-specific cards less important and frees you up to create some interesting plays. You can force opponents who run very few units to waste turns killing off your weakest units, or turn absolute powerhouses into solid walls to protect you. This ability can only be used once per turn but is available to all characters and will often save you from death.

Secondly, and a much less enjoyable change, you start with three gold on your first turn instead of one. I can see why they’ve made this change, it means there’s far fewer skipped turns at the start and everyone has some options. On the other hand, it eliminates the viability of having high-risk decks designed around killing the opponent before they have a chance to get going. I quite enjoy that kind of variety in the game but here rushing is much less of an option.

The final significant change is the morality system. At the beginning of each game you select one of three quests. If you complete this quest, you get a morality point to spend on either good or evil, and this will change your hero power. The more quests you complete, the more points you get, the more options you have. This system also affects certain morality cards that shift depending on your alignment. While it’s an interesting extra system, its impact on the game seems quite limited from what I’ve seen so far, and it would have been nice to have a little more nuance to the system, like healing units pushes you towards good and killing things pushes you towards bad? It feels like an adaptation of the worst side of Fable, which for me was how easy it was to game the morality system. Here they’ve removed any pretence of it being organic and simply let you click a button.

In terms of game modes there’s your regular PvP but also a PvE co-op mode that works on a rotation. Each ‘season’ (lasting a couple of weeks) you get to take on a boss alongside someone else. You take a turn, then the boss, then them, then the boss, then you and so on. You can make use of your team’s units but only your hero powers. The major downfall of this is how incredibly limited the communication system is. You can suggest moves using little exclamation marks, but you can discuss strategy ahead of time or chat at all. In versus you can’t even say ‘well done’, you can just concede. This lack of interaction spoils the co-op mode a bit and really eats into my enjoyment of the versus mode. Everyone is just a faceless opponent with no character, making the game feel more like a grind that it needs to be.

In terms of strategy, the game is fine, but not a patch of the variety and range of Hearthstone. Some of the decks and classes lend themselves to ridiculously long games thanks to the taunt mechanic, and fast, decisive wins are few and far between. At the moment it’s too easy to cling on for another few rounds even if you’ve clearly lost, dragging out games far past the point where they stop being fun or exciting.

Graphically it has a nice Fable-esque art-style, but very little in the way of animation. The boards have no interaction and are simply static backdrops, the cards just project a little 2d cutout of the character above them, and spell effects are basic and uninteresting.

Overall I feel like this has been quite a negative preview, but you definitely can have a lot of fun with Fable Fortune. If you’re looking to learn a new game with new cards and a few new rules, it could be engrossing and eat up your time. If you’re just a casual player like us, it’s hard to see why you’d ever choose this over Hearthstone.

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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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Fate/EXTELLA: The Umbral Star Review (Nintendo Switch)

Full Disclaimer here, I have no idea what the Fate series is. As a complete non-anime fan, it’s with some trepidation that I enter games like this, fully aware that I’m not going to be getting everything out of it that other people would be, so if you’re a fan of the series, try to find a review by another fan of the series. This is really just for people who are into games and are thinking about giving this a shot on the Switch.

Fate/Extella is basically Dynasty Warriors sped up in an anime world. It’s much brighter, much faster, and somehow more ridiculous than Dynasty Warriors, but once the novelty of all of that wears off, you’ll find it’s very much the same game. You roam around a map made up of different shaped arenas joined by corridors fighting off hordes of enemies (and I really do mean hordes), trying to win each zone over for your sides until you have enough to take on the boss.

In between all of this there’s plenty of different characters, weapons, loot, special items and skills to find, but loot definitely isn’t the focus of this as it is in something like Earth Defence Force, instead your focus is purely on killing as much as possible as quickly as possible.

The enemies frequently number in the hundreds are for the most part look absolutely identical to each other within a level, other than the mini bosses and bosses. So you unleash all hell on these legions of identikit troops through a flurry of spins, swipes, and magic, until you’re ready/able to take on the bigger enemies.

Frustratingly there’s no lock on for the smaller bosses so the speed actually works against you, but for the most part you are a vaguely controlled whirling dervish slicing through enemies while only pressing two buttons. At first it feels like you’re not really in control at all – there’s a spectacle to be sure as you slice you way through enemies, getting combos into the early hundreds without knowing what’s going on, but on the harder difficulties you do need to get to grips with which moves to use when, usually boiling down to do you want to restore health, get away, or cause damage. That risk/reward strategy is engaging, but only really present on the harder difficulties. On lower difficulties every fight plays out the same, simply tapping buttons to kill enough troops until you’re done and can get on with the story.

The story is told like a visual novel, with lots of static images and text and the occasional choice thrown in to spice things up a bit. This is where I was hopelessly out of my depth. I had no idea what was going on and quickly resorted to skipping everything that I could (which, thankfully, is pretty much everything). Looking up the series online, it looks like it started off as an erotic anime, which isn’t surprisingly considering some of the costumes you can wear, but also doesn’t bode well for the quality of the storytelling.

After a while I realised I was rushing through the fights to progress with the story, then skipping the story to get back to the fights. Everything is so repetitive it’s hard to work out exactly where the fun is. The levels aren’t even that quick so it’s not like you can quickly plough through one when you’ve got 5 minutes with your Switch.

If you’re into the anime, I’m sure there’s a lot to like here, and if you’re into Dynasty Warriors but want something quicker and more colourful, this is exactly that – but for the average gamer, there’s nothing that’s going to impress you or change your mind about this sort of game. It’s a crazy Japanese grindfest with character designs that will put you off playing this in public.

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Diablo 3 – Rise of the Necromancer Released

Today Blizzard has released another update to Diablo 3, reintroducing the Necromancer class from Diablo 2 into the mix. The pack costs £12.99 and comes with a few little extras like 2 more vault tabs, a pet, a sigil, a banner, some wings, etc.

Obviously the main attraction is the new class and we’ll be streaming some Necromancer gameplay tonight to try it all out! Read the full press release below:

Continue reading Diablo 3 – Rise of the Necromancer Released

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The Surge Review In Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds Guide

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

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

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

Part 1: The Lobby

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

Part 2: The Jump

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

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

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

Part 3: The Drop

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

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

Part 4: The Looting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 5: Early Combat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 6: Getting into the Zone

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

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

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

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

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

Part 7: The Final Twenty

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

Concealment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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