Tag Archives: fps

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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Titanfall 2 Review (Xbox One)

We’ve been excited about Titanfall 2 for a long time purely because it’s a sequel to one of our favourite multiplayer FPS games of all time. That being said, we were worried. We’d been on holiday over the beta so had missed out on that, and with Battlefield 1 being released a couple of weeks ago (and being excellent) and Call of Duty coming out a week later, we thought it might get buried, forgotten, and ignored like so many brilliant games that were released at the wrong time. Thankfully Titanfall 2 is being to shine through it’s unfortunate (or incompetent on the part of EA) release window and has actually managed to drag us away from Battlefield. Titanfall 2 is everything we wanted and so much more.

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The multiplayeris very similar to the first game in nearly all the right ways. You still fight over control points, or kill AI opponents, or capture flags, or kill enemy players in order to get points. As you gain points yu also gain percentages towards your Titan meter. At a specific point on this meter you unlock a boost like a Smart Pistol (no longer a normal equippable weapon) or a turret or mines. Once the meter reaches 100%, you can call down your Titan. The Titans make exactly the same sounds and visual impact on the game as they did before and I genuinely can’t see what Respawn could have done to improve it. Screaming from the sky in a fireball of cloud and steel they smash into the ground and await your instructions or get ready to help you climb in. Jumping into your Titan is incredibly empowering. You go from an agile but flimsy weakling darting around the battlefield to a 30ft tall death machine. Obviously as the game goes on other players will get theirs too and it quickly separates into a war of two fronts with pilots duking it out in the buildings and on objectives while Titans do their best to gain map control and prevent the pilots from going around their business. When it works and your team manages to keep a few titans while destroying all of your opponents’, it feels amazing. Suddenly you can lock down the map and quash any resistance.

Of course Respawn didn’t want that to be the end of a round so now pilots have even more abilities designed to help them get around and avoid the Titans’ attacks. There’s a grappling hook that lets you clamber up ledges and onto Titans quickly, a phase shift that lets you shift out of real space for a while and then reappear at another point, and even a decoy that will run ahead of you and hopefully confuse the opponents into shooting the wrong way. Games of Titanfall never get boring and there’s always something to do or a problem to solve, within short spaces of times it’s amazing how quickly you transition between different tactics and strategies alongside a team you’re not even speaking to, from armoured warfare to guerilla defenses to free-running sprints across the map. Even when you lsoe a game the desperate sprint to the (now much more fragile) escape dropship feels exciting and meaningful.

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In terms of what’s new for Multiplayer, there’s now six Titans instead of three, but you can no longer select the weapon for them. There’s still a 40mm cannon attached to Tone who plays the most like the old Titans, but then there’s some interesting new takes on the machines like Scorch who can set down petrol bombs ready to ignite large areas, or Ronin who can dart around and phase shift then lay waste to enemies with a giant sword. It might not be practical or realistic, but it looks amazing.

The weakest part of the multiplayer offering is definitely the maps. Although the layouts are quite interesting and work well, visually they’re very dull and nowhere near as good as those found in the base game. Thankfully Respawn have said that all future maps will be free, so perhaps they can change things up with DLC, but at the moment every map essentially feels like a series of boxy buildings. One has caves and a crashed ship, and one is in a giant building, but the rest are all pretty forgettable. We’re also a little annoyed by the lack of viewable stats, but it’s understandable that Respawn didn’t want people working to improve their K/D ratio at the expense of the rest of their team as happens so often in Call of Duty and Battlefield. At least having some basic stats like kill streaks and win percentage would be really useful.

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Now the most surprising thing about the game package is the single player. The original Titanfall didn’t even have a single player – it was purely multiplayer combat, but Respawn decided to do more than just dabble with a campaign and have created a short but incredibly impressive story that doesn’t just help to explain what’s going on in the Titanfall universe, but actually makes you care about the characters. The level design is top notch with each mission introducing you to a new mechanic or tool that feels natural to use in the situations you are presented with. Interestingly there’s plenty of platforming involves in the campaign and trying to find some hidden helmets that serve as collectibles is actually one of the most entertaining things we’ve done in a game this year. The free-running puzzles involves have been far more engaging then the entirety of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.

Overall Titanfall 2 is an absolute no brainer for anyone who enjoyed the first game. If you’re new to the series this is a refreshing and entertaining take on the FPS genre and easily up there in terms of quality against the big hitters. We only hope it survives well enough against BF1 and COD to warrant a Titanfall 3.

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Battlefield 1 Review (PC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Homefront: The Revolution Review (PC)

It’s hard to express just what Homefront is getting wrong. The setting is kind of interesting, with an oddly powerful North Korea taking over the mainland USA and the player character working as a freedom fighter in Philadelphia to lead a popular revolt to get rid of the oppressors. The weapons are typical of the genre but have a vaguely innovative system where you can switch between different setups for each, so having a silent pneumatic pistol, or an SMG, all based on the same base weapon. There’s crafting, there’s an open-world, there’s co-op, there’s a decent amount of challenge at times, and there’s some passable voice acting. But it’s just all so boring.

The biggest issue is that the game opens up quite a lot to you very early on, and then never really goes anywhere. You pick up a few new tools along the way, and the balance of power steadily shifts to your favour, but you’re always just taking on patrol after patrol in an effort to capture bits of the map by interacting with something in a building. In the beginning you need to sneak around a little (although the stealth is weird and sometimes the enemies will ignore a motorbike going past them if you’re fast enough, but lead a huge manhunt if you’re crouching behind a bin 200 meters away), and there’s even some sections where you can try and blend in with the other citizens, avoiding camera and drone scans, but it always come down to you getting somewhere and pressing E. In the first region we found we didn’t really have to engage with whatever set up the developers threw at us, we could just walk straight up to objectives, often while being shot, and press ‘e’ to capture an area. Riveting gameplay.

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It doesn’t help that the shooting is so unsatisfying. Games like Doom, Gears of War, or Halo can get away with being one fight after another because each fight is so much fun. In this many of the enemies act like bullet sponges, and there’s so few types that strategy doesn’t come into it. You just find somewhere to hide and then murder everyone. Sometimes you have to scramble around for ever-scarce ammo, and you can hack robotic vehicles or use firecrackers to distract people, but to be honest you rarely need to. As long as you can line up headshots with a marksman rifle, that’s all you ever need. You can even take down the bigger trucks with a few well-placed rifle shots turning what should be terrifying into a mundane and simple task.

Graphically the engine is pretty good, but the art design is abysmal. Everything looks washed out and dull, for a better look at how dystopia could go, try Metro or Half Life. Those depressing cities had tonnes of character and interesting little scenes to discover, this is just boring city block after boring city block. Occasionally you see a neon sign but that’s about as exciting as it gets. Sadly this bland environment isn’t to help the game run better, even on our i7, 970, 16gb RAM machine the game regularly dips down to 40fps without the screen even being busy at 1080p with everything turned up to high. Turning settings down doesn’t seem to help much, and when you do get 60fps all of the animation seems odd and rushed, almost as if they designed the game to run at 30fps instead. Due to the unstable framerate the controls don’t feel right and at no point is it a fun game to watch, every single movement and scene is a drag. This is compounded by the prevalence of bugs in the game with character models getting stuck in the ground, bikes having some of the weirdest physics we’ve seen, and a huge inconsistency in the controls when you’re trying to grab a ledge.

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If there is a silver lining, it’s more of a grey one and it’s ‘Resistance’ mode, the co-op. There’s no versus multiplayer (which is a shame as the original Homefront’s was quite good) but instead there’s a series of co-op missions that can be played at different difficulties for different rewards. Playing with other people does make the game more fun and it really shows how much better the single player would be if it was co-op. Instead you’re restricted to short missions where generally you have to go somewhere, destroy something, then run away. The running away is often the most fun as the AI starts spawning a lot more enemies and the game often gives you a few bikes so you can speed away together across the city, getting more points for the more of you that reach the extraction. You end up with tense moments where someone in your team goes down and you have to pick between going back to rescue them, or moving on to escape yourself. Sadly the missions are short-lived and become repetitive quite quickly thanks to the mode relying on the main game’s poor combat and enemy types. At the end of each round you get some money and some xp. The xp can be spent on skill points but none of them give you any exciting new abilities, and the money can be spent on random ‘lucky dip’ packs as we see in games like COD and Halo. In those games most of what you get is either cosmetic, or a boost. In this it’s the only way to unlock weapons and attachments. So we spent something like $5000 (about 5 game’s worth of money) trying to unlock a sniper scope but got three shotgun attachments and two pistol attachments. We still haven’t got that scope. Locking basic weapons that suit your playstyle behind this system is incredibly frustrating and just means you need to play more missions with guns you like to unlock the ones you want. For some people they’ll get it on their first roll, for others they might never get it.

Overall, Homefront: The Revolution is everything everyone expected it to be from its tumultuous development. There’s a shadow of some good ideas here but they’re completely blocked out by a terrible engine, terrible art design, and terrible gameplay. Avoid.

Verdict 4

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Lessons learned in thousands of hours of online FPS games

We’ve logged a few thousand hours across a several team based online shooters, Battlefield Bad Company 2, Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4, and Team Fortress 2 as well as dipping in and out of Counterstrike, Day of Defeat and the occasional iteration of Call of Duty. With all this experience, which is somewhat useless in the real world, we thought we would try and share some smarts to help anyone who wants to get more into the genre.

 

 

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There’s always a bigger mountain.

We’d like to think we’re pretty good at FPS games, especially once we get into them, but one of the key things we’ve realised is that there will always be someone better than you, or someone who is having a better round than you. The most important thing is to be having fun, or there’s no point in playing. So play how you want to to have fun. Sometimes we don’t bother using the tried and tested tactic that is more likely to win, sometimes we just try something else to keep the games fresh. You might not always win, or always maintain a positive k/d but we guarantee you will learn something and have fun doing it.

 

 

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Tactics can beat skill.

Following on from the last point about there always being a better player, the counter point is that there is always a way to beat them. If you are playing a team based mode, I.E anything that’s not a deathmatch, with the help of your team you can win. Is someone camping a corridor so well that no one is getting through? Well don’t keep running down it, figure out what the counter is and use it, use grenades, use smoke cover or perhaps go a different route? Give yourself the best chance of success, don’t just try the same thing again and again you will beat the situation if you haven’t thought about trying anything different.

 

 

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Teamwork is the best way to win.

A great idea is nothing in a round of Battlefield’s rush mode if you are the only one doing it. If you die there will be no one to back you up. Working with the team is still the best way to get something done even if you have to try and encourage them to do it. We wouldn’t like to think how many timesweI’ve typed ‘flank’ into the team text chat. The first time in a match no one will know what we’re talking about but sometimes by about the third time, or when we’ve switched to saying ‘GO AROUND!’ it might start to work and that choke point the team were stuck on, gets attacked from a different angle and we progress.

 

 

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Every failure is an opportunity to learn something.

Every time you lose an encounter with an enemy, think what was it that caused them to win it? Was it because they were camped in some sniper spot you didn’t know about? Or because they had some other tank counter measure you hadn’t unlocked yet? Always be thinking; what did they have over me in this instance? It may not always be obvious or it may just be the fact that they shot first, but sometimes you can learn something. Even if it’s ‘this isn’t fun anymore’ that’s how you know it’s time to take a break from the action before you get angry at the game.

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Shadow Warrior 2013 Review (PC)

How many Wang jokes could they possibly make? Turns out quite a lot

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Shadow Warrior is back with a modern HD reboot like so many games recently and it’s just as offensive and crass as ever. While other games have changed with the times, Shadow Warrior remains stubbornly faithful, for better and worse.

The original game was a FPS very similar to Duke Nukem 3d, but even more offensive. You play as Wang, a westernised ninja with a fondness for a bit of the old ultraviolence. Whereas Duke Nukem and Doom had big guns and chainsaws and fists, Shadow Warrior had a trump card, a Katana. It’s one of the first games we can remember having a sword in first person mode, and it felt liberating to hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies. The update works in much the same way, you play as Wang again and while there’s a full selection of weapons you can use, the Katana is by far the most original of the bunch. Hacking apart and dismembering monsters is the key to getting higher scores (each fight ends with a score rating) and since ammo is often quite scarce, you find yourself wading into enemies more often than not. It feels decidedly old school, with huge groups of enemies in rooms that need to be cleared before you can progress. Health doesn’t regenerate, instead there’s pickups and sometimes heals spawned by dead enemies (giving you a chance when you’re in the middle of all of it). The enemies have very little variation between them, but that doesn’t matter because you’re usually fighting 5 or 6 at a time, sometimes more. There’s some standout minibosses and huge end-level bosses, but for the most part it’s strafing, stabbing and shooting your way through Japan, Hell and beyond.

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Mechanically, the game is entertaining, and captures that retro FPS feel without feeling too dated. Ploughing through enemies is satisfying and there’s a wealth of tools at your disposal once you’ve levelled up a bit, with different sword and magic attacks allowing you to control the battlefield and heal yourself. Graphically it looks quite nice at times, although the simple geometry and repeated textures could easily lead you to believe this is a budget game (it’s currently £29.99 on Steam, which counts as a full-price title in our books). Lighting and art design is used to great effect at times, but the vistas that are truly spectacular like cherry blossom trees and lanterns over lily-strewn ponds, or stalactite ridden caves illuminated by lava are reused so many times they quickly lose their effect. It runs without a hitch on our machine (using a 2GB 7870HD Radeon) at 1080p60 but the fan was working overtime implying it was using every bit of power we were throwing at it. While the lighting is nice, it’s not that nice and hints at some poorly optimised-code.

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The big problem with Shadow Warrior is that it’s not nearly as funny as it thinks it is, and at times it’s just plain crude. There’s odd little moments like the opening that will have you chuckling to yourself, and at times your assistant Hoji can be fun is a slightly unhinged Heath Ledger Joker kind of way. But the rest of the time it’s a throwback to 80s action films and terrible Western Kung Fu attempts that might appeal to some but just left us cold. Like Far Cry: Blood Dragon laughing at how bad 80s entertainment was isn’t that much fun when the jokes are simply imitating it. The ‘satire’ of Asian culture is at times horrifically blatant, all we could do to not think it was racist was assume it’s actually making fun of the way Asian culture is represented in Western media. Media like this… oh dear.

Overall Shadow Warrior is a fun old-school FPS, and much better than Duke Nukem Forever or even the latest Serious Sam game (although it lacks any kind of multiplayer which is entirely the joy of Serious Sam). But once you’re over the joy of mindless violence and you’ve seen some of the prettier sights the game has to offer, you’re left with a shallow vaguely offensive husk of a game that you’ve paid £29.99 for. Some people are going to love it, and that’s fine, but for us, Shadow Warrior is better left in the past.

Where’s our Blood reboot?

Verdict 6

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Payday 2 Preview

Crime never pays if you don’t get to the van

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Payday 2 is a game all about heists. A 4-player co-operative first person shooter, each level or mission is set up as a way to steal money or drugs off someone else. You get to do a little bit of planning, then once you start the level you’re wearing plain clothes and can wander around like any other civilian. In this mode you can’t do anything crazy like jumping or ducking though. When the time is right you press ‘G’ to pull on your mask and get to work, shouting at civilians, tying them up, setting drills to crack safes; if the alarms been triggered you also need to fend off wave after wave of the police.

To say Payday 2 was realistic would be a disservice and a lie. In some ways the things you need to think about have been handled much more realistically than in other games, crowd control for instance is difficult as there’s often lots of civilians, and they’ll often try to call the police or make a break for it, but shooting them is expensive (you have to pay for cleaner costs) and noisy. Instead you can tie them up, but you only have so many cable ties, so you should keep shouting at them and intimidating to keep them down. But then once the police are alerted, they come in ridiculous waves where you’ll often find yourself killing over thirty officers of the law in one wave. It starts getting a little bit like Left for Dead with you and your teammates cutting your way through a crowd of police, guns blazing.

At the moment we’ve just been playing the beta which you can get into if you buy the Career Criminal edition (£29.99 on Steam). For that money you get the game, two beta access keys (one for a friend) and a bunch of little extras like a mask, a soundtrack (which is amazing) and a few other goodies.The beta is already packed with more features than the original game, but comes with the irritating proviso that they can (and will) reset your progress every few weeks. Thankfully when they do reset everything they also seem to be releasing new heists, at the moments there’s loads of different ones that each play in completely different ways. This isn’t like most FPS or horde-mode games where a map is just scenery and geometry, here the nature of the heist really changes what you have to do.

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In the simplest of heists, you have to go rob somewhere like a set of small stores, a jewelry store or a bank. These usually involve trying to take out security as cleanly as possible (don’t forget the cameras and people on the street!) and then setting up equipment to break into the safes and/or vault. The drills take a long time to work their way through so you’ll be in it for the long haul, so it’s best to find somewhere to hide or keep the civilians under control. If someone finds out what’s going on they’ll wring the police and you’ll go into a kind of siege where every two minutes or so a wave of police and SWAT teams will flood in, and you and you companions will need to fend them off. Ammo is at a premium so you’ll want someone around you can drop ammo bags, but then you’ll also want someone who can drop a doctor’s bag to heal yourself up. As you play through the heists you earn money and skill points, the skill points can be used to progress down skill trees for different classes. The Mastermind can trick other civilians and guards into doing what he wants and can intimidate people into giving up. The Enforcer can take a lot of damage and dish it back out, he can also unlock a saw that can speed up breaking through things or can even be used as a weapon. The Technician can use explosives and mini turrets, setting traps which are ideal in a siege. Finally the Ghost can blend in and is the class of choice for anyone hoping to stealth the mission.

Once you’ve unlocked the safes or vaults you can load up all the money into bags and then try to get to the exit point. The bags are often heavy and significantly slow you down, so in many heists we’ve ended up with daisy chains of people throwing the bags from one person the next, dramatically speeding up the process. If you make it to the van with the goods, then you’re safe, but what if not everyone makes it? Well if someone is just taking their time, you’ll wait for them, but if they get downed you’ve got a decision to make. Do you risk your own life to go help them or do you leave them to get caught. If they get caught the remaining crooks get more money at the end, but the one who got captured gets significantly less. It’s an interesting mechanic that brings out people’s true colours right at the closing curtain.

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Not all of the mission are about heists, there’s one that involved breaking into a meth lab (there’s a lot of links to Breaking Bad that I won’t spoil here) and cooking up batches of Meth while under siege. There’s one where you’re transporting cocaine across a city. These more complicated heists take places over three or four days, so after you finish each heist you move onto the next one, with your performance being added up as you go. The newest heist takes place in a nightclub, where stealth really is key as avoiding shooting civilians on your way out is going to be tough.

Everything is presented with a clean and simple menu, you log into ‘crime.net’ and pick a mission, it shows you a different choice each time with jobs coming and going. It’s basically a server browser but presented in a more interesting way. You can see how many players are in the lobby, what difficulty it is set on (more difficulty means more money, it’s not a bad idea to start off on ‘hard’ as you can usually cope with that even with the starting gear) and which heist it is. From the menus you can also customise your masks (which all look awesome) and loadouts, attaching weapon mods and buying new ones with the cash you’ve stolen. Now you’re spending the cash on things it really pushes you to steal just a little bit more each time and you quickly find yourself getting greedy, trading safety for bigger numbers.

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Graphically the game is quite impressive, running at solid 60fps at 1080 on our i5, 7870, 8gb Ram. The locations are detailed and the animations are good. The audio is really where it’s at though, with the tense quiet being decimated with a cacophony of shouts, gunfire, drills and an amazing soundtrack as soon as the police arrive. It gets the heart racing and keeps you on your toes, definitely worth playing with a pair of decent headphones on.

We’ll be bringing you a full review once the game is released properly, but for now I can wholeheartedly recommend putting down £30 on the beta if you’ve got some people to play it with. It’s a fantastic co-op game and there’s nothing else quite like it. This could be a contender for my Game of the Year.

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Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review (PC)

Call of Juty

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The Call of Juarez series has had its ups and downs but has never been considered truly exceptional. There were two pretty great western games, one mediocre (although not quite as bad as some people make out) modern take on the same ideas, and now Gunslinger. Gunslinger is a return to the Western roots, but with a twist. Rather than following a usual narrative you are instead playing through the recollections of the life of a bounty hunter, as told to some strangers in bar. As you can imagine, things get a little ridiculous. Continue reading Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Review (PC)

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Metro: Last Light Review

In Soviet Russia, Metro rides you

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Metro: Last Light is the unbelievably bleak FPS from the excellent 4A Games. The original game, Metro 2033, was a graphical powerhouse, telling of a bleak dystopian future where nuclear war has forced the denizens of Russia to live underground in the Metro system. Based on a novel by the same name, it told an interesting story introducing elements of horror and science fiction in between all of the sneaking and murder. Last Light continues the story, assuming you took the ‘bad’ ending of 2033, taking you on a tour of some new parts of the underground.

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Painkiller Hell & Damnation (Full Metal Rocket DLC) Review (PC)

You’ll need more than aspirin

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Painkiller Hell and Damnation is essentially a reboot of the excellent Painkiller. More than just enabling higher resolutions, maps have been added, new modes have been created and entirely new monster designs and high-definition textures have been used to bring the game up to date. TIt was originally out in October 2012, but since then there’s been four DLC packs with the latest coming out last week. We were lucky enough to get a review copy to try out and we’ve been having fun with it for the last few days. Since I’m assuming lots of people won’t be familiar with the base game this review will be based on everything released so far.

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