Oct 16
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

History tends to repeat itself. In 2014, FIFA 15 managed to prevent Shadow of Mordor from topping the UK chart. Skip forward three years, and we find FIFA 18 at no.1 for the third week running with Shadow of War being forced to settle for #2.

We doubt Warner Bros. are too concerned – they now have three games in the top ten, with LEGO Worlds at #9 and The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame at #10.

After months of silence, Bethesda finally started to promote The Evil Within 2 during the end of last week – just days from launch. Although it managed to make #3, Eurogamer reports sales were less than a quarter of the 2014 original. Seems it needed more than a last-minute promotional campaign.

At #4 and #5 it’s a double-whammy of Forza Motorsport, with Forza 7 at #4 and the popular Xbox One bundle pack-in Forza Horizon 3 at #5.

Activision’s Destiny 2 fell to #6, its lowest chart position yet, while GTA V dropped two places to #7.

Then at #8 it’s good old Crash Bandicoot. Still no official word on the Xbox One version, despite it having an alleged 7th December release date.

Outside the top ten, the retail release of Friday the 13th: The Game puts in a strong showing at #15 while Battlefield 1: Revolution made #29.

Curiously, Nintendo controls the lower echelon of the chart this week. Splatoon 2, Mario + Luigi, Layton’s Mystery Journey, Super Mario 3D Land, Pokken Tournament DX and the re-release of Luigi’s Mansion 2 occupy positions #34 to #40. Not bad going.

Oct 12
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Eleven games make their merry way to the Switch eShop this week. While there’s certainly a lot to consider, with Sine Mora EX and The Flame in the Flood standing out as highlights, many of this week’s releases launch at eyebrow raisingly high prices.

88 Heroes and Tiny Barbarian DX, we’re looking at you here. There does appear to be a reason for their lofty asking prices, though – both have received almost-full-price retail releases elsewhere in the world. It doesn’t make their prices easier to swallow, but at least there’s logic behind it. Well, sort of.

Here’s what you’ll find on the UK Switch eShop this week:

Touhou Kobuto V: Burst Battle – £29.99
An anime influenced 1-on-1 ‘bullet hell’ battler, similar to SEGA’s Virtual On series.

Sine Mora EX – £24.99
THQ has given this underrated side-scrolling shooter a complete makeover, bringing it up to current-gen standards. It’s more than deserving of a second chance to find a new audience.

Unbox: Newbie’s Adventure – £22.49 until 18th October (£24.99 thereafter)
Imagine a typical 32-bit era platformer only on a far larger scale and with wackier, more unpredictable, physics and a sprinkling of internet memes. That’s Unbox in a nutshell.

88 Heroes – 98 Heroes Edition – £29.99
88 Heroes (plus 10 of their friends) attempt to defeat Dr. H8 with only 88 minutes left until doomsday, and only 88 seconds to complete each of the 88 levels.

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Oct 10
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Big game season is well and truly upon us. No, this isn’t a reference to a new Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts (mercifully, Activision appears to have put that series to rest) – the ‘AAA season’ is underway, with Middle-earth: Shadow of War and The Evil Within 2 out this week.

Starbreeze’s RAID: World War II joins the big hitters on store shelves. We suggest approaching this shooter with caution – Polygon described it as “an unfinished Half-Life 2 mod with slightly higher resolution textures.”

Steam users reviews are mostly negative, too.

This Friday also sees a perfectly timed retail release of Friday the 13th: The Game, along with the New 3DS XL SNES Edition and a trio of new budget-priced 3DS Selects – Luigi’s Mansion 2, Super Mario 3D Land and Kirby Triple Deluxe.

Retailers tend to get competitive with their prices for these, bringing them down to around £15. We really enjoyed Luigi’s Mansion 2, awarding it an 8/10 back in 2013. In fact, all three are recommended.

Sticking with Nintendo, we’re also going to give Sine Mora EX on Switch a shout-out. This surprisingly lavish shooter is more than deserving of a current-gen revamp, having passed many gamers by.

New release showcase:

Middle-earth: Shadow of War – PS4/XO/PC

While review scores for Shadow of War have been high, many critics chose to skirt around the fact that loot boxes are heavily promoted.

Polygon and GameSpot were the exceptions, pointing out that the game’s second half feels like it has been purposely made to be a grind to provoke players into coughing up cash. To get the true ending a powerful orc army is also required, again putting the focus on time-saving IAPs.

While we don’t doubt that the core game is sound, it probably would have been even better if Warner Bros. wasn’t as greedy.

Reviews:
9.0 – IGN: “Similar to the way Batman: Arkham City built on the foundation of Arkham Asylum, Middle-earth: Shadow of War is bigger and more ambitious in scope than Shadow of Mordor, with great result”

7.5 – Polygon: “If you can get past the microtransactions, Shadow Wars seems set to provide a much meatier extended playtime than Shadow of Mordor ever offered. But more than anything, that’s my biggest disappointment with Middle-earth: Shadow of War: Everything about it seems to come with a caveat, some small annoyance or two that you need to dig past to get to the still-very-fun game underneath”

7/10 – GameSpot: “It tries to be larger than its predecessor, there are more abilities, more weapons, more Orcs, yet it leaves you wanting less”

The Evil Within 2 – PS4/XO/PC

Being a Bethesda-published title, don’t expect to see any pre-launch reviews of Shinji Mikami’s latest. The original, while good, had a very predictable pattern of quiet exploration based sections followed by combat-heavy areas. The slower paced bits gave the chance to stock up on ammo, while the combat sequences saw supplies rinsed and your pockets left empty once again. Hopefully, this sequel will shake things up a notch.

[Update – We spoke too soon. The first reviews are now live]
Reviews:
4/5 – Twinfinite: “Despite its flaws, The Evil Within 2 is a thoughtfully constructed horror rollercoaster ride that strikes a delicate balance between giving the player the power to fight back, and also making them realize that sometimes, all those guns and gear won’t save you from the terrors you can’t understand”

7.75 – GameInformer: “The Evil Within 2 is a solid horror game that expands the scope of the series to extend out of the shadow of a titan in the horror genre, even if it sometimes leans heavily on borrowed ideas”

3.5/5 – GamesRadar: “Though it doesn’t outdo its predecessor, The Evil Within 2 delivers another fun, challenging, tense horror headtrip that should delight fans of the first game”

ECHO- PS4

This sci-fi stealth game has quite the pedigree, created by Ultra Ultra – a studio formed of ex-Hitman devs. An intriguing twist is put on the genre here – the greatest threat is yourself; the more powerful you become, the wiser the clones you’re up against.

Reviews:
8/10 – Push Square: “ECHO boasts a rich and well-designed sci-fi world that isn’t bogged down by plot or exposition. There isn’t much to do beyond the core sneaking, and the midpoint drags, but this is a genuinely unique and intense title that deserves to be experienced”

7.5 – PSU: “ECHO’s lacklustre story, slow pace and restrictive character control mildly detract from what is otherwise one of the most refreshing stealth titles to come along in a good while. Make no mistake; fans of the genre will find much to like in ECHO”

7.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “I really enjoyed Echo, but like a song played on repeat, I could only suffer so much repetition before it began to lose me”

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Oct 10
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This single-screen shooter involves a grizzled grunt, his trusty gun turret, a garishly coloured boombox, and a seemingly endless supply of cigars. Our hero is partial to a smoke, see, sparking up a fresh one while you manage the inventory and casually flicking it to the ground when it’s time to get back to the grind.

Rock Gunar, to use his name, also seems to enjoy the task at hand – wiping out wave after wave of rampaging aliens, as they crawl along floors and walls in an attempt to reach the end of the corridor.

The only thing standing in their way is Gunar’s stationary turret. Kills earn credits, used to buy permanent upgrades, special ammo, various explosives, and stronger melee weapons. Only standard ammo is in infinite supply, so it’s wise to use special ammo sparingly. There’s no harm in being thrifty – it’s sometimes sensible to make do with standard ammo and slog through a few waves, saving cash for an upgrade that’ll make things easier in the long run.

Occasionally you’re forced to grind until you can finally afford the firepower to repel fiercer waves. It isn’t an unpleasant grind, however. At least, it isn’t for the most part – this is a game eager to please, throwing lifelines in the form of temporary perks, and giving the choice of a bonus power-up (air strikes, drones, double damage, etc) every time the combo meter is maxed.

As the game progresses – taking Gunar to new locations across a doomed space cruiser – certain upgrades become essential; a fact associated with the occasional difficulty spike. Only the riot shield can block sprays of acid, for instance, with acid spewers appearing around the halfway mark. If a certain wave is giving grief, it’s entirely possible to spend your gains on explosives and reduce all in your path to a burning mess.

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Oct 09
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

FIFA 18 remains the UK’s no.1 for the second week running. It had a stronger week two than FIFA 17, which was up against Mafia III during its second week on sale.

Forza Motorsport 7 parks up at #2. The series certainly isn’t declining in popularity – Forza 6 and Forza Horizon 3 also made their chart debuts at #2.

Somewhat amusingly, popular pack-in Forza Horizon 3 is at #3.

Activision’s Destiny 2 falls from #2 to #4, and then at #5 it’s good old GTA V.

Despite the UK movie release still being a week away, The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame enters at #7. With no pre-launch buzz, this has taken us by surprise.

Moving much further down the chart we find the cumbersomely titled Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions at #19. It also takes no.1 in the 3DS chart.

Fellow 3DS tongue-twister Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy had to settle for #31.

Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen HD arrived at a lowly #39, meanwhile. We imagine a lot of people went digital for this one, due to the sub £20 price.

Oct 08
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The Devil’s casino sounds like a place only the naïve or incredibly foolish would stroll into. Cuphead and his porcelain pal Mug Man don’t come across as either, so we can only assume on the day they played dice with the Devil they were filled to the brim with something far stronger than coffee.

Suffice to say the odds weren’t in their favour, and now unless they can claim the souls of numerous ne’er-do-wells on the Devil’s wish list, a grave consequence awaits. What then ensues is a series of boss fights, run ‘n gun platforming stages and aerial combat battles, all rendered in 1930s-o-vision.

You only need to look at screenshots to understand that Cuphead is a thing of beauty. The 1930’s cartoon aesthetic has been hand-crafted with an incredible eye for detail, resulting in one of this generation’s most visually striking titles.

Seeing it in action is only half the story, however. To really appreciate the effort Studio MDHR has poured into this passion project, you need to experience a boss battle for yourself. The animation loops and attack patterns work in tandem perfectly, with frequent visual prompts to forewarn of incoming attacks. Moreover, bosses don’t merely stand on one spot while firing their perfectly timed projectiles. They have numerous waves – some of which can turn a battle completely on its head (so to speak) – and can call in reinforcements. A good example here is Baroness Von Bon Bon, who summons various candy-based critters in a randomised order.

some final waves are so tough that you’ll need an almost full health bar to prevail

The whole experience boils down to learning from past failures until finally dealing a long-awaited final blow. Bosses initially seem impossible but given time, you’ll learn how to survive long enough to finally tick another soul contract off the Devil’s list. It’s perfectly acceptable to select ‘retry’ after taking a hit just moments into a battle; some final waves are so tough that you’ll need an almost full health bar to prevail.

Cuphead can withstand just three hits before kicking the bucket, with a fourth health point available as a perk at the cost of reduced firepower. Coupled with a choice of switchable weapons – all of which can be in your possession by the halfway mark – there’s a lot of scope for experimentation.

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Oct 05
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

While the Switch eShop sees fewer new games than last week – ten, compared to last week’s whopping sixteen – it’s a no less exciting line-up, with more than a few big hitters.

Even this week’s NeoGeo title is a doozy – Metal Slug X (£6.29) is a fan favourite, being a remix of MS2 with new power-ups, revised enemy attack patterns and new music. It even went on to gain a standalone PSone release, arriving late in the system’s life.

As for the Switch’s biggest release of the week, well, it’s hard to pinpoint – Stardew Valley, Oxenfree, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime and Axiom Verge all gained glowing reviews on other formats.

Stardew Valley (£10.99) was born out of one man’s desire for a new Harvest Moon that sees the farming/RPG hybrid return to its roots. The result is the best unofficial Harvest Moon game ever, chockablock with personality. It’s a huge, spare-time sapping, adventure with lots to see and do. It’s also expertly designed, with most chores feeling less-chore like thanks to time-saving techniques.

Story-driven adventure Oxenfree (£15.99), influenced by classic teen movies and coming-of-age shows, is a modern-day classic too. Axiom Verge (£14.99) meanwhile is knocking on a bit, first released on PC and PS4 in 2015, but it’s still one of the best Metroidvania games out there. Nintendo Life awarded it a perfect 10/10 earlier this week.

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (£11.99) is very different to the games just mentioned. In fact, it’s different to anything out there – a co-op space shooter based around ‘twitch gameplay’ that forces you to plan ahead and communicate with your couch-based wingman.

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Oct 05
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Like the recent NBA 2K18, Microsoft’s Forza 7 has come under fire. It hasn’t been loaded with in-app purchases just yet – although they’re almost certainly coming – but it does feature ‘Prize Crates’ that include single-use mods, adding an unwelcome ‘pay to earn’ slant.

Last week it was also revealed that the VIP Edition, which usually bestows 2X XP permanently, now only includes 25 single-use double XP items. Nothing was mentioned about this in the pre-launch material, and fans were rightly annoyed. However, MS has decided to do a U-turn on this matter. At least they’re listening to feedback, we guess.

We aren’t out the woods yet, with rumours mounting that WWE 2K18 has also been given the loot box treatment. Batten down the hatches, people.

Anyway, we digress. This week sees the return of Capcom’s cult hack ‘n slash RPG Dragon’s Dogma and the arrival of THQ Nordic’s anticipated turn-based RPG Battle Chasers. Then on 3DS we have not one, but two, new big-name titles from Nintendo.

Switch owners are in for a treat too, with a wealth of quality games imminent on the eShop – we’ll give ‘em a rundown during our weekly eShop update.

New release showcase:

Dragons Dogma Dark Arisen HD – PS4/XO

To say we have a soft spot for Capcom’s Dragon’s Dogma would be an understatement – it’s one of our favourite last-gen games. A huge, accessible, RPG with a brash and brutal hack ‘n slash combat system. Rather than feature online play, it’s possible to swap AI controlled Pawns with players. Their intelligence grows over time, allowing them to become more skilled in combat. They also provide helpful hints and will pick up any items you’ve missed.

Taking combat one step further is the inclusion of a ‘grab’ button, giving the ability to pin weaker enemies to the ground or climb colossal beasts to find their weak points. While it’s a little slow to start – we remember that stupid mission to find a red book on a red roof all too well – it’s nothing short of spectacular.

Reviews:
8.0 – PSU: “While the original issues are still present, what made Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen so special is here as well. Glorifying combat, organic progression, and a saturated world will keep you slogging through the occasional lull on your way to the heart of it”

7/10 – The Metro: “Despite borrowing so much from so many different games Capcom’s Western style role-player remains very much its own game – with plenty of interesting ideas of its own”

8/10 – Push Square: “Tight controls hold together thrilling combat, and the sense of adventure that the game exudes is almost unmatched. At its budget price, newcomers should definitely give the PS4 release a fair chance, while veterans will find a good enough excuse to begin the cycle all over again”

Forza Motorsport 7 – XO/PC

With Xbox exclusive titles thin on the ground, it’s good news that Forza 7 is another decent entry in the series. Critics are concerned about the series’ direction though, due to the presence of elements usually associated with free-to-play games.

Reviews:
8.5 – Polygon: “This is a game for everyone who loves racing. It offers every helping hand to those who want to just thrown themselves around bends, while allowing die-hards to tinker with their rides, and really feel like they are there”

4/5 – US Gamer: “Turn 10 Studios has created another winner, but there’s a creeping specter in the form of consumable mod cards and Prize Crates that undermines the more straightforward experience in previous titles”

8/10 – The Metro: “A better Gran Turismo game than the real thing, with stunning graphics and mountains of content – although the use of loot crates and limited-use mods is worrying”

Battle Chasers: Nightwar – PS4/XO

Also due out on Switch at a later date, THQ Nordic’s turn-based RPG is proud to be classed as traditional. Maybe not for everyone, but for those looking to spend the cold winter months invested in an RPG, you could do much (much) worse. Sweetening the deal, it’s a budget release too.

Reviews:
9.0 – EGM: “It can be extremely difficult to introduce a new game into a genre long dominated by one company and franchise, but Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a modern and expertly executed take on everything turn-based RPGs introduced to gamers so many years ago. It’s a reminder that old ways don’t have to die away; they just need the right people to hone in on what made the genre work in the first place”

7.75 – GameInformer: “Airship Syndicate’s gorgeous art design and fluid animations are a wonder to watch, and Nightwar’s overcharge ability system offers a layer of strategy that is often missing from turn-based RPGs. Overcoming Nightwar’s most challenging battles is a thrill, but only if you’re willing to put your nose to the grindstone”

7.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “While not without its fair share of problems and technical issues, Battle Chasers: Nightwar still manages to provide plenty of tense battles that challenge players”

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