HaloWars2
Feb 23
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Microsoft picked Creative Assembly, of Total War fame, to create RTS sequel Halo Wars 2. Masters of the genre, they’re the right men for the job. The result is one of the best examples on consoles, and that’s even with bearing in mind that scores have been mixed – RTS aren’t for everyone, especially with joypad controls. We’d argue that it was never going to receive glowing reviews across the board.

Most reviews have clocked in around 8/10 – alongside a few 9/10s from the likes of God is a Geek and EGM – but it has also seen a few 6s from such sites as GameSpot. Gaming Trend opted for a 6 likewise: “Its relatively flat story, short campaign, and strategically shallow mechanics hold it back from greatness, instead relegating it to being yet another example of why RTS games don’t mix well with consoles.”

Beserk

Berserk and the Band of the Hawk and Warhammer 40,000: Deathwatch are the only other two retail releases out this week. Both are for PS4, although a digital version of Berserk is available for PS Vita.

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SONY DSC
Feb 22
By Matt Gander In Features No Comments

The Nintendo Switch’s launch line-up has come under scrutiny. Not only does it show a lack of faith from publishers, but it’s also far from ideal for consumers – a tiny assortment of games on store shelves sends out a negative image to those thinking of buying a Switch on a whim.

While the line-up is smaller than what both the Wii and Wii U arrived with, the Switch still has more games available on ‘day one’ than many consoles before it. Today, we’re looking at six consoles from the ’90s that either favoured quality over quantity, or simply arrived with only a couple of games due to rushed launches.

As tempting as it may be, don’t read too heavily into this piece. The world of gaming has grown vastly in the past 20 years or so. It’s a far bigger industry with multi-million development budgets, a favouritism towards digital distribution and systems that are created with ease of development in mind. A far cry from the days when systems were tricky to develop for thanks to specialist hardware, or when platform holders were so secretive with new hardware that only first-party games were available at launch.

Mega Drive (Japan) – Two games

space-harrier-2

SEGA were arcade giants in the ‘80s and ‘90s and as such designed their consoles – from the Mega Drive to the Dreamcast – with ease of converting arcade hits in mind. The SEGA Saturn was the rare exception, falling short of being able to present perfect conversions of even Model 1 arcade games let alone Models 2 and 3. Of course, the system suffered because of this.

g4003front

Anyway, we digress. The Mega Drive’s Japanese launch in 1988 saw just two titles – arcade conversions of Space Harrier II and Super Thunder Blade. Similar games, both of which featured sprite scrolling.

Space Harrier was the better of the two, and by a long shot – reviews of Super Thunder Blade weren’t kind. Some sources say Altered Beast was a Japanese launch game, but they’re mistaken – it arrived roughly six weeks later.

Eleven months passed between the Japanese and American Mega Drive launches, where it was then rebranded as the Genesis. You’d think almost a year would lead to a far superior line-up, but that’s pushing it somewhat. The system made its mark with the two Japanese launch titles, Last Battle, Thunder Force II, Tommy Lasorda Baseball, plus the pack-in Altered Beast.

The European launch in 1990 meanwhile added Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, Columns and Golden Axe into the mix. Sales were sluggish, but a certain hedgehog soon changed that.

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Vaccine2
Feb 20
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

With the Nintendo Switch just weeks away, we expected this Thursday’s eShop line-up to be somewhat lacking. Fortunately, this isn’t the case – the Wii U alone receives a couple of intriguing indies, plus a VC release of the legendary Harvest Moon 64.

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A late release for the system, Harvest Moon eluded European N64s. With Stardew Valley skipping the Wii U and heading to Switch instead, this is a good option for those up for some light-hearted toil and graft. The £8.99 asking price seems reasonable, too.

Those aforementioned indies are forma.8 and Vaccine. Both are also due on the likes of PS4 and Xbox One before the week is out, incidentally. forma.8 (£13.49) is a passion project that’s been in development since 2013, taking the form of an abstract 2D adventure with shooting elements. A compelling story wraps the package up.

Vaccine (£8.99) meanwhile is inspired by the PSone Resident Evil games, right down to featuring a 32-bit visual style. This also means fixed cameras and ‘tank controls’, for better or worse.

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ForHonor1
Feb 20
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Despite a lack of reviews in the run up to release, For Honor has bagged Ubisoft their first UK no. 1 since Tom Clancy’s The Division.

It’s also the biggest new IP to head straight to no. 1 since No Man’s Sky. Chart Track informs sales were split 57% on PS4 and 43% on Xbox One.

Sniper Elite 4 had a good first week as well, arriving at #2 in the UK top 40. Like For Honor, it was also partly responsible for dethroning GTA V.

The evergreen crime caper falls to #3 this week, even though sales were up 7%. For those not aware, GTA V recently celebrated its 12th week at the top of the chart.

FIFA 17 held onto #4 while Battlefield 1 rose to #5. Then at #6 it’s RE7: Biohazard, down from #3.

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare dropped to #7, Rocket League is at #8, Forza Horizon 3 shifted to #9 while Watch_Dogs 2 sits at #10 for another week.

Nioh – last week’s only new arrival – dropped to #12. This could be due to stock shortages.

Dragon Ball Fusions entered at #36 meanwhile, also claiming a somewhat more impressive #4 in the 3DS chart.

ZeroDawn
Feb 20
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

The internet woke this morning to a wealth of Horizon: Zero Dawn reviews – the embargo has lifted well ahead of the 1st March release date. Early embargo dates are usually a sign of a publisher’s faith that their new releases will gain glowing reviews, which is something that rings true here.

So far Guerilla’s open-world sci-fi opus has gained top marks from Giant Bomb, The Telegraph and PlayStation Lifestyle, along with impressively high scores from the likes of Polygon, God is a Geek and Jim Sterling.

Consensus has it that it does have a few faults, with voice acting and AI coming under scrutiny the most, but these issues are minor and easily excused. That said, US Gamer – amongst a few others – weren’t swallowed in by the fancy visuals and found the experience to be less of a revolution, and just another repetitive open-world game.

There’s also Eurogamer’s scoreless review to consider. “Horizon: Zero Dawn is a work of considerable finesse and technical bravado, but it falls into the trap of past Guerrilla games in being all too forgettable” was their verdict. It didn’t even gain a ‘recommended’ tag, which has so far lead to a 150+ comment ruckus.

Here are other choice cuts from critics:

5/5 – Giant Bomb: “Horizon: Zero Dawn is familiar but also really refreshing. It’s not a short game (I spent around 30 hours with it), but the storytelling still feels concise and efficient”

5/5 – The Telegraph: Aside from the occasional bit of weak voice acting and some bad lip sinc, there’s not a lot to complain about with Horizon.

10/10 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “This is a glorious game, the result of a team of masterful artisans who not only had a story that they wished to tell, but a world that was living inside of them which they wanted to share with us all”

9.5 – Polygon: “Horizon Zero Dawn thrums with the energy of a creative team finally allowed to explore something new. It builds on elements of open-world and loot-and-craft gameplay that we’ve seen before, but it does so within a context, a setting and a style that feel fresh”

9.5 – The Jimqusition: “Horizon: Zero Dawn is just brilliant. I speak as a critic who has played more “open sandbox” games than any one human should and has grown so very weary of them. I should have gotten sick of this thing in an hour, but I’ve been glued to it for days and days and I don’t want it to end”

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typo3
Feb 16
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

British daytime quiz show Chain Letters never received a video game adaptation before its cancellation in 1997. Things may have been different had the word-based quiz hit our TV screens during Nintendo’s casual market boom ten years ago. Clearly the concept of changing and rearranging four letter words to make new ones was well ahead of its time.

Typoman: Revised – which has found its way onto Xbox One after launching on PC and Wii U last year – is probably the closest we’re ever going to get to a modern day Chain Letters tie-in. It’s a 2D platformer similar to Limbo and the recent Toby: The Secret Mine, favouring silhouettes, non-confrontational combat, and sinister shadowy beings. Set in a hellish world where objects and obstacles are formed from various, alterable, words, our hero – constructed from the word ‘HERO’ – is out to retrieve a lost limb, taken by an evil entity. Or to be more concise, it’s a platformer with word game elements.

typo1

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ForHonor
Feb 15
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Launching a major new release on Valentine’s Day strikes us as a shrewd move – the high streets and supermarkets we visited yesterday were far busier than usual.

If you were lucky enough to receive either For Honor or Sniper Elite 4 from a loved one, then you’re in for a good time – both seem to be going down well with critics.

Reviews of Ubisoft’s online-focused melee hack and slasher – which has been likened to a fighting game, thanks to its nuanced combat system – are starting to filter through now. Attack of the Fanboy opted for a 4.5/5, calling it “one of the most visceral multiplayer experiences in video games”, while Cheat Code Central went for a 4/5. “The multiplayer is extraordinary, when it’s working properly” they claimed, suggesting that Ubisoft needs bring the servers up to speed.

V4

It seems to be business as usual for Sniper Elite – it’s another sturdy shooter, but one that’s lacking when it comes to story and character development. The AI has been improved greatly this time round though, plus melee combat now has those gloriously grizzily slow-mo X-ray sequences.

Scores for the UK-developed shooter include 4.5/5 from Windows Central, 8/10 from GameSpot and a 7.75 from Game Informer. “Sniper Elite 4 is a well-rounded experience that delivers on multiple fronts,” said GI.

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Yazuka0T
Feb 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

When it comes to balancing seriousness and silliness, Japanese developers have it perfected. The Yakuza series is perhaps the most explementary juggling act out there, featuring cuts-scenes that often involve unpleasant themes, along with sub-quests that push the boundaries of ridiculousness. It makes for a heady mixture of surprise, suspense, and hilarity; this is one of those rare games that makes you believe anything is possible.

Franchise newcomers (the Yakuza series started out on PS2) may get the wrong impression initially. This ‘80s set prequel is linear to begin with, featuring a few lengthy (approx. 15 min) cut-scenes in close proximity. Not only do they introduce one of two playable characters, but also develop the plot in a surprisingly rapid manner. A straightforward shakedown for cash goes awry, leading a low ranking yakuza – Kazuma Kiryu – to be framed for murder.

Just to illustrate how fast the plot evolves, it’s soon revealed that the murder isn’t the issue – it’s the location in which it took place. A valuable empty lot in an estate due for renovation is causing a commotion amongst warring yakuza clans, and the murder has made the whole situation ten times worse.

Yazuka04

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