998f1635-2a68-4b32-bc95-400436701b52
Nov 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

If you find yourself buying more games than ever before, there’s a very simple reason for this. With budgets as expensive as they are, games nowadays are designed to appeal to the largest possible audience. An easy way to achieve widespread appeal, especially when it comes to first-person shooters, is to add sci-fi elements. Indeed, this is the approach Respawn took with Titanfall by mixing military and mechs. Sledgehammer’s Advanced Warfare follows in its footsteps, with a side order of Kevin Spacey for good measure.

Spacey fills the role of Jonathan Irons, the head of private military corporation Atlas. Refusing to work with governments is one of the key elements to Atlas’ success – with bureaucracy pushed aside they’re able to get things done quickly and efficiently, even helping to turn Baghdad into the technologically advanced New Baghdad. Another reason for Atlas raking in countless contracts is that their soldiers come packing some impressive kit, including armour-coated Exo suits and grenades that automatically home-in on their hapless targets.

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After a brief – and predictably explosion filled – opening, a section set inside the Atlas research facility gives the chance to observe firsthand what the Exo-suits are capable of. Skill sets vary depending on mission – a cloaking ability unlocks for stealthy sections, for instance – and all of these skills can be upgraded by meeting the criteria of four ongoing combat-based challenges. The Exo-suits are by far the biggest ‘game changer’ here, making it easier to escape danger while dishing out some serious firepower. As per previous Call of Duty games, enemies throw grenades if you cower behind cover for too long but now grenade blasts can be evaded by dashing out of harm’s way. The double-jump meanwhile not only allows access to higher plains but can be bolstered with a ground smash that knocks enemies for six. As well as EMP grenades, sonic pulse emissions and more, some missions give access to a portable shield offering temporary protection. This becomes a lifesaver when playing on the harder difficulty levels; on the standard difficulty its purpose is negligible. Still, it does look flashy.

Regrettably, style over substance is something of a recurring theme. A lot of Atlas’ tech can only be used in certain instances, and this can at times make the experience feel like a passive one. Imagine owning a high-tech Swiss Army Knife but permission has to be granted every time you wish to use it. That’s how we imagine Atlas’ highly skilled soldiers feel. Magnetic gloves allow buildings to be scaled but can only be used when prompted, while a rather nifty tool that bestows X-Ray vision has its use restricted to a single non-interactive set-piece. This is where Call of Duty would benefit from taking inspiration from the likes of Far Cry 3, Deus Ex and Dishonored. These games give you the tools and let you use them as you please. Here it’s always when instructed. Even stock arsenal such as mines have to be planted in highlighted areas. As such, the majority of Advance Warfare’s highlights are little more than flashy set-pieces which you have no control over.

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FarCry4
Nov 19
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games 1 Comment

After next week’s heavily Nintendo-oriented slew of releases the annual barrage of big name games starts to slow. December is looking very quiet indeed. This is no surprise – the last month of the year is usually void of major new releases. Why publishers can’t hold a couple of titles back until then, instead of releasing games ten to the dozen in Oct/November is beyond us.

This week it’s Far Cry 4, GTA V and Dragon Age: Inquisition that are setting tills ringing. All three are well worth considering, bagging some impressively high review scores.

Ubisoft can happily boast of a perfect 5/5 from The Guardian for Far Cry 4, along with 9/10s from God is a Geek, The Metro and Destructoid.

FarCry

JoyStiq meanwhile handed out a 4.5/5: “There’s a staggering number of adventures to extract from Far Cry 4, whether you chase the ones laid out by the game explicitly, or the ones that develop naturally as you take in the sights. It’s another interesting and absorbing world to fall into, shoot through, burn and then guide to new beginnings. Far Cry 4 may have installed a despot, but it’s still the undisputed king of the open-world shooter”, they said.

There were no ridiculous ‘embargoed until launch day’ shenanigans with Dragon Age: Inquisition, thanks to EA sending out review code well in advance. Reviews started to surface as early as the start of last week, including 9/10s from both EGM and The Official Xbox Magazine, 8.8 from IGN and 8/10 from The Metro. “An excellent return to form for the Dragon Age series, and the biggest and most ambitious Western role-player since the new generation began,” came The Metro’s verdict.

We hope Inquisition does well as this is EA giving gamers what they want. To wit – a colossal adventure that doesn’t have loads of gaps requiring premium-priced DLC to fill.

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As for GTA V, Rockstar has managed do the unimaginable and get PS4 and Xbox One owners excited about a year old game that they probably already own. It’s more than your standard HD conversion, adding a first-person mode, vastly improved visuals and more. Quite possibly the first next-gen revamp deserving of a full-price release. The PS4 version currently stands with a 96% Metacritic, formed of a long list of 10/10s and 9/10s. In fact, there isn’t a single review lower than 9/10 currently.

From good to bad. As our review round-up indicated, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is getting a critical mauling. Not just the Wii U version but the 3DS iteration – from a different developer – too. When the most “positive” review of a game is a 2.5/5 you know you’re in murky territory.

Also out on Wii U this week: the incredibly belated Watch_Dogs and lukewarm underwater racer Jett Tailfin. That last one is a budget release, currently available for just under £17 on Amazon.

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WatchDogsT
Nov 17
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

After more delays than we can recall Watch_Dogs finally arrives on the Wii U eShop this Thursday. While the retail version – due out Friday – can be found for around £35 online, the eShop version has been marked up at a hefty £49.99.

On top of this there are two additional add-ons – Conspiracy! sees Aiden take a ‘digital trip’ to battle cyborgs and is priced at £3.99 while the Access Granted Pack costs £5.49 and includes 3 missions, 6 skins and access to “powerful” perks.

Although it’s great to see Ubisoft supporting the game with DLC, that £49.99 price tag strikes us as incredibly steep considering the PS4/Xbox One versions can now be found for around the £20-£25 mark. It’s hardly the way to thank those who have been waiting patiently.

We’re also currently in the dark as to how the Wii U version performs. Presumably it’s somewhere between the last and current gen versions, a la EA’s impressive NFS: Most Wanted conversion. Presumably. Hopefully reviews will appear before Friday.

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Also on the Wii U eShop this week: Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric (£39.99), scrolling brawler Rock Zombie (£6.29) and two SNES VC releases courtesy of Natsume – Wild Guns (£5.49) and Natsume Championship Wrestling (also £5.49). Nintendo’s press release notes that if you already own either on Wii these two re-releases can be had for a special price. How “special” though is a mystery.

The PAL version of Wild Guns is worth a small fortune, so to see it on Wii U pleases us. Natsume Championship Wrestling meanwhile was never released in Europe, making it a likewise welcome addition to the Wii U’s VC library.

Natume are also bringing Lufia: The Legend Returns to 3DS VC this week, priced at £4.49. This Game Boy Color RPG reviewed reasonably well when it was first released back in 2001.

Asterix3DS

That’s being joined by 101 Pony Pets 3D (£3.59), Tetris Ultimate (£15.99) and movie tie-in Asterix The Mansions of the Gods (£29.99). A demo of that last one is also due on Thursday. “Walk through the village, hunt wild boar, make the bard stop singing and prepare the final victory banquet!” reads the press release. Sounds like a tenuous mini-game collection to us.

Then there’s Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal (£34.99), which like it’s Wii U counterpart has been getting incredibly unenthusiastic reviews. Still, Nintendo are giving away a free 3DS theme to “celebrate” its release. That’s got to be worth switching the 3DS on for.

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18f52505-92b0-4857-978d-fc9c54e5ec3f
Nov 17
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare remains top of the UK chart for a second week running, fending off six of this winter’s biggest releases.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the highest placing new arrival at #2. Chart-Track informs that sales were spilt 52% on PS4, 46% on Xbox One and 2% on PC.

Although it misses out on the top spot by a substantial 16,000 copies, it did manage to outsell last year’s Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue put in a strong appearance too, arriving at #6. Combined sales of Unity and Rouge would have toppled Advanced Warfare, Chart-Track notes.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection entered at #3, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham at #5, Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 at #8 and WoW: Warlords of Draenor at #9.

The rest of the UK’s top ten is comprised of FIFA 15 at #4, Minecraft: PlayStation Edition at #7 and Destiny at #10.

To make way for ‘the big six’ a bunch of titles this week depart the top ten. Specifically, Skylanders: Trap Team, Football Manager 2015, Alien: Isolation, Sunset Overdrive, The Evil Within and Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.

No other new titles make the top 40, although we do spy Tales of Hearts R take #2 in the PS Vita chart while Ubisoft’s Tetris Ultimate makes a lowly #32 in the 3DS chart.

SonicBoom
Nov 16
By Matt Gander In Blog No Comments

No thanks to a broken US street date, word of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric’s foulness started to spread far quicker than SEGA probably anticipated. Indeed, YouTube footage generated quite a buzz earlier this week, showing off all sorts of glitches and bugs. Not only this, but players have also discovered a jumping technique that allows most of the game to be effortlessly skipped. Good grief.

Reviews of Big Red Button’s Wii U-exclusive are now starting to surface, and while it’s not quite the gaming travesty as Ride to Hell: Retribution was, its current 39% Metacritic is lower than that of the dreadedSonic ’06“.

Expect more reviews to appear later this week in time for Friday’s European release. Until then, here’s what the US press has been saying:

2.5/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “It’s admirable that Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric tries so many new things, but every path it follows is a dead end. While the environments look decent and collectibles help give the short story some legs, the lack of difficulty, variation, and personality ruins any chance it had of making Sonic relevant again”

4.3 – IGN: “Rise of Lyric isn’t fundamentally broken or unplayable; it’s just thoroughly disappointing and unpolished, and while it does have some fun to offer, it’s fun that’s been done better in countless similar games”

4/10 – GameInformer: “I thought Sega handing the iconic license over to a new developer might shake Sonic loose of the slump he’s endured via a string of rough Sonic Team titles. Unfortunately for fans and the Hedgehog himself, Sonic Boom is a blemished bore”

2/5 – Slant: “It’s an extraordinarily bad sign when the television show based off a video game is better than the source material itself, but that’s the case here. Even for the most hardcore fans of the famous blue blur, avoiding Rise of Lyric and instead tuning into Cartoon Network on Saturday mornings is the best way to achieve an easily digestible Sonic Boom fix”

2/10 – GameSpot: “While it’s understandable that a franchise may want to move beyond the simple elegance of its origins, a muddled web of poorly connected and even more poorly executed systems is not the answer. The Sonic name deserves better than this, and so do consumers”

3DS adventure Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal – developed by Sanzaru Games – is getting something of a kicking too. “With a heaping helping of poorly written and unskippable cutscenes, Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal is a slog that never finds its footing” said IGN, who gave it 4.0. Slant also found the unskippable story to be a huge problem, giving it 2/10.

Oh well. At least the Sonic Boom TV series is surprisingly decent.

TMNT_DotO_3DS_FOB
Nov 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

WayForward’s take on the Turtles franchise surprised us for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it isn’t a wscrolling brawler – the genre that pretty much every TMNT game in the past has favoured. Instead it takes the form of side-scrolling ‘Metroidvania’ adventure that has obviously been designed with speedruns in mind. Secondly, it’s surprisingly good. Not ground-breaking, or genre-defining, but certainly pleasing enough. We’d even go as far as saying that it’s better than it needs to be.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t have shortcomings. And to be brutally honest, it does have more than its fair share. Thankfully they’re the kind of problems that are easy to look past, especially when taking the £20 price-tag into account. The visuals are the biggest offender – it’s rougher than sandpaper. Character models during the cut-scenes aren’t too eye offending, but there’s still little reason to doubt that the original Xbox could have pulled this off without breaking a sweat. Collision detection is another issue. Not so much during combat, but notably so when leaping onto platforms and such. Once the double-jump move has been gained however this problem pretty much rectifies itself.

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The plot also feels the wrath of a stunted budget, but it does at least allow for appearances from numerous characters from Nickelodeon series, including boss battles. Pleasingly retro boss battles, at that. Speaking of which, music during said fights will definitely ring a bell with those familiar with TMNT games of yore. Much later on there’s a subtle nod to Castlevania IV as well. Anyway, we digress – the plot sees Shredder teaming up with a creature from Dimension X to create a mutagen potent enough to power a weapon of mass destruction.

proof that a little fan service can go a long way

One nice touch is that extra lines of dialogue are unlocked by beginning boss battles and meeting NPCs when playing as a certain Turtle. Outside of cutscenes the Turtles refrain from cracking wise every few seconds, instead opting to use their power of speech sparingly. For those not aware, the speech samples in the last TMNT game – which we gave a miserable 2/10 – were so repetitive that they grew tiresome as soon as the second level. So WayForward gets a pat on the back there.

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HaloMC2
Nov 13
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Ubisoft releasing two Assassin’s Creed games on the same day sounds like the start of a bad joke. There’s no punchline here though – this Friday it’s really happening. Won’t somebody think of the easily confused parents?

Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed Rogue launched in the US on Tuesday, a few days ahead of the European release. Come Tuesday morning it became apparent that something was wrong – reviews of Unity were yet to surface, despite it being available to purchase. Reviews of Rogue were even less forthcoming, with IGN reporting that they were yet to receive a copy.

Once the cheekily timed embargo lifted Tuesday evening though a torrent of reviews of Unity arrived. Praise was far from universal however, with a vast number of critics claiming that it wasn’t quite the next-gen début they were hoping for. Reviewers also noted a few performance issues, including drops in frame-rate and graphical glitches. With a bit of luck a patch is already under way to smooth these problems over.

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Technical problems aside, the majority of outlets still weren’t sold on Unity. “Assassin’s Creed Unity is the best and worst of Assassin’s Creed. It’s hard not to appreciate everything that it gets right, and you’ll have a good time if you can wrangle some friends for co-op, but it’s impossible to ignore where Unity falls tragically short” said JoyStiq.

Polygon shared the sentiment: “In the quest to build something that looked and sounded “next generation,” Ubisoft Montreal failed to fix the problems that have accumulated over so many annual releases. Combined with an uninspiring story, and a long list of considerable technical problems, Unity falls short of the fresh start Assassin’s Creed needs”.

The Official Xbox Magazine on the other hand felt that it was a return to fan-favourite Brotherhood, and as such is a very welcome addition to the money making franchise. “In many ways, Unity feels like the sequel Brotherhood should have had three years ago” they said. They went on to give it an 8/10 – one of the higher scores at the time of typing.

While Unity is getting mixed reviews, the few reviews of Rogue out there are altogether far more positive. “With much of the groundwork already in place, the developers have been able to focus on content creation, and Rogue is one of the biggest and most varied titles in the franchise to date” said GameInformer. The National Post echoed this: “While Rogue is overshadowed by Assassin’s Creed Unity‘s next generation marketing blitz, it’s a meaty additional chapter that provides greater depth to some fan-favourite character”.

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Another wowing the critics is Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Currently it has a Metacritic of 90% formed of 35 reviews, none of which are below 8/10. Destructoid believes it sets the new gold standard for remakes while ZTGD reckons it’s worth buying an Xbox One for. “The sheer amount of content included for $60 is staggering” they claimed.

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Tengami
Nov 10
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Top up your eShop accounts – it’s another busy week for new arrivals on Nintendo’s download services. We’re also going to use this opportunity to remind Wii U owners to check their Nintendo Network Premium Account – the 31st December deadline for earning points is quickly looming.

On Wii U this week there’s a curiously timed pairing of papercraft adventures – point ‘n’ clicker Tengami (£6.99) and Paper Monsters Recut (£5.49).Tengami favours puzzles and has an oriental setting while Paper Monsters Recut is a colourful 2D platformer with 3D visuals (£5.49).

Our man Jake wasn’t too impressed when reviewing the iOS version of Tengami earlier this year: “It’s a slow moving game – literally. Literally literally. The protagonist walks at a leisurely saunter, which is in-keeping with the tone, but with fairly sparse landscapes doesn’t do much to keep your mind occupied”.

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