Feb 18
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

While it’s true that Bioware is more than familiar with sci-fi tropes – and that Mass Effect’s combat improved significantly as the series evolved – we doubt anybody at the studio predicted they’d one day create a sci-fi loot shooter.

Indeed, Anthem has a stigma attached that’s hard to shake – a feeling that Bioware is being forced to prove their worth here, put to work on something with mass appeal that’ll help recoup losses. This is what happens when a marketing team forces a studio to follow a trend, regardless of genre experience.

Being a slow-burning experience designed for the long haul, reviews of Anthem are yet to surface. Many critics have chalked up impressions from their weekend spend with the alleged Destiny killer though and they’re somewhat predictably mixed.

“After several hours with Anthem, I can’t say I’m particularly interested in it yet. I’ve completed some missions, upgraded my loadout, and gone on some more missions, but I’m not yet invested in anything I’m doing,” said GameSpot.

Games Radar painted an even bleaker picture: “Anthem is designed to grow and evolve over time, but unless that happens sooner rather than later it’ll be dead on arrival.”

The Metro was more concerned about the game’s structure. “[…] at the moment it seems to be an internal struggle between its gameplay, its mission design and structure, and its corporate mission to become an ongoing service.”

But it’s not all bad news – Kotaku found “a lot to love”, even though they had doubts about its staying power. “Of course, the real challenge for a game like Anthem is whether it can still feel almost as exhilarating after 100 hours as it does after six. Even now I have concerns the breadth and diversity of enemy encounters and mission types,” they said.

Finally, God is a Geek found the story and lore to be “better than expected” but complained of stupidly long loading times, some of which seemed completely unnecessary.

It seems very few publishers dare go up against the might of EA’s marketing team – Anthem has one of the largest advertising campaigns we’ve seen in a while – but there is one other big name release out, in the form of DiRT Rally 2.0. We’ve rounded up scores below, along with reviews for visual novel Steins;Gate Elite, JRPG Death end reQuest, and the Switch release of Aragami: Shadow Edition.

New release showcase:

DiRT Rally 2.0

9/10 – Push Square: “Even if the sim label puts you off, we’d encourage you to take this for a test drive; it’s easily one of the most thrilling racing games in recent years”

87% – PC Gamer: “Simply the best rally sim around, building on its predecessor’s already fine foundations”

4/5 – Screen Rant: “Rewarding racers who stick with the difficulty, it’s a title that gives players back as much as they put in – and the end result is a stunning rallying sim at best and a more than solid racer at worst. Casual gamers might find it too extreme to be really enjoyable, but hardcore motorsport fans should definitely check it out”

Aragami: Shadow Edition

8.5 – GameSpace: “You can tell where to hide and where to avoid very easily as you walk through the terrain, or jump around above it. Couple this with the musical score that is present in the game and it is a very well made stealth adventure game where stealth is the keyword”

7/10 – Nintendo Life: “It takes a while to get going and it has its fair share of annoying quirks, but as it progresses Aragami becomes a solid stealth game with a compelling story. The addition of extra DLC chapters gives the game a welcome boost in longevity, and though its temperamental mechanics prevent it becoming an unarguable gem, its stylish look and the range of abilities you acquire by the end mean fans of stealth games (and fans of stealth only) will still have a fun time with it. Eventually”

7/10 – Cubed3: “Those looking for the quintessential stealth experience, will not find it in Aragami: Shadow Edition. That being said, this is definitely an enjoyable, and unique take on the genre, albeit, one that’s a bit light on content and depth”

Steins;Gate Elite

9/10 – PSU: “Easily one of the best visual novels available, Steins;Gate Elite is a stellar and beautifully framed retelling of its source material and one that is grandly suited to series newcomers and stalwarts alike”

4/5 – Twinfinite: “Whether it’s your first time playing a game in the genre or not, Steins;Gate Elite is definitely one of the best visual novels available today. Just keep in mind that, while it may have taken a bit for the Phonewave (name subject to change) to heat the story up, the payoff is worth the wait”

8/10 – GameSpew: “I wasn’t particularly fond of feeling like I was watching an anime without being able to take a break between each episode, but I’d have to be an idiot to not see that Steins;Gate Elite is still one of the best visual novels out there”

Death end reQuest

8.4 – Video Chums: “It may be a niche JRPG but Death end re;Quest is impressively innovative in both its storytelling and battle system. If you’re even mildly curious about this kind of game, I highly recommend giving it a try”

7/10 – TheSixthAxis: “Edgy writing aside, Death end re;Quest has marvellous gameplay that kept me glued to my controller. It’s a strong package for JRPG fans, but you might end up wanting to use that skip button during cutscenes”

3.5/5 – Attack of the Fanboy: “Battles are dynamic and fun, but get bogged down by ill-conceived mechanics and concepts of difficulty; there’s plenty of detail applied to the characters, but exploration often didn’t receive such treatment; and the Bad Endings, though well-executed, can be off-putting at times”

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Feb 18
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

Ubisoft must be feeling good – Far Cry New Dawn is this week’s new UK no.1, fending off strong competition.

Deep Silver’s Metro Exodus settled for #2, Bandai Namco’s Jump Stars made #6, while the long-awaited Crackdown 3 debuted just outside of the top ten at #13.

Everything isn’t quite as it seems, though – the ever-informative GI.biz has a few juicy facts that shine a different light on things.

While Far Cry New Dawn was indeed the best-selling game in the UK last week, sales were less than impressive. Ultmately, Metro Exodus had the better week – its higher price point generated more revenue. Not only this, but sales were up a resounding 50% over 2013’s Metro Last Light. Bear in mind here the ongoing shift to digital – in 2013 physical sales still lead the way.

Now here comes the real kicker. New Dawn’s sales were significantly down not just over Far Cry 5, which was perhaps to be expected, but also the fellow spin-off Far Cry Primal. Primal outsold New Dawn by almost four times as many units, claims GI.biz.

Maybe Ubisoft isn’t feeling too good after all.

Crackdown 3’s physical sales also sound rather disastrous, shifting barely 10% of what 2010’s Crackdown 2 managed at launch. However, it has been an Xbox Game Pass poster child for quite some time – we wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn that digital downloads are fast approaching a million. It may have passed that milestone already.

Jump Force paints a better picture, at least for the publisher. Reviews haven’t been too positive yet it managed to enter at #6. This makes it Bandai Namco’s third top ten entry of the year so far behind Ace Combat and Tales of Vesperia Remastered.

To make way for the new arrivals most of the remaining titles in the top ten fell a few places each. Red Dead Redemption 2 – last week’s chart topper – fell to #3, while FIFA 19 tumbled to #5. Resident Evil 2 dropped to #6, NSMB.U is at #7, Kingdom Hearts III moved down to #8, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe shifted from #7 to #9, and then at #10 it’s Call of Duty Black Ops 4, which fell five places.

Over in the Switch chart, meanwhile, Captain Toad and Starlink: Battle for Atlas both re-entered the top 20. Last week’s Nintendo Direct news doubtlessly played a part in this.

Feb 14
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

The PSone classic Final Fantasy VIII celebrated its 20th anniversary this week. For reasons beyond us, Square-Enix has marked the occasion by re-releasing Final Fantasy IX instead. Guess we can’t grumble too much – FF XI something of a fan favourite, after all.

Available now for £16.99, this HD re-release includes seven game boosters including high speed and no encounter modes, and a new autosave system.

This week sees another surprise release – Tetris 99, a new take on Battle Royale. It’s a free download for online subscribers, pitting you against 98 other Tetris players at once.

There’s also The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince, a 2D adventure entailing two lonely hearts brought together through a mutual misunderstanding. Review scores are a mixture of 7s and 8s. “The brief length can make it feel a little less ambitious, but I can’t say I was let down by this whimsical short story of a video game. Lovely art, a cute story, and solid puzzle platforming help make The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince a pleasant ride,” said Nintendo World Report.

That’s joined by The King’s Bird, a hardcore precision platformer that’s also on the receiving end of 7s and 8s.

As per usual, a few belated conversions also make their merry way to Switch. The very good Iron Crypticle combines elements from Smash TV and Gauntlet, while OlliOlli: Switch Stance brings both OlliOlli games together in one package for a reasonable £13.49.

First-person shooter Modern Combat Blackout – first released in 2014 – makes the jump from mobile, meanwhile. Even though the Switch is short on shooters, we still suggest approaching with caution.

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Feb 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

The name ‘Apex Legends’ may not inspire much confidence, sounding like an amateur wrestling league or an overpriced protein shake, but Respawn would doubtlessly face a backlash had they connected this spin-off directly to Titanfall. While set in the same universe, it strips away numerous core elements, including the ability to wall run and the titular titans themselves.

Being franchise staples and all, it may initially seem like a bizarre decision. It just so happens there’s no place for colossal, rocket spewing, piloted mechs and the ability to sprint along vertical surfaces in Respawn’s take on Battle Royale. When given more than a few seconds thought, it makes perfect sense. It isn’t as if there’s nothing here to replace these elements, either.

Play just a few rounds of Apex Legends and Respawn’s vision becomes crystal clear. It’s more than evident that not only has Respawn spent a lot of time trying out the competition, taking notes about what works and what doesn’t, but they’ve also spent precious development time improving and refining the basics of the genre.

The result is nothing short of impeccable. At a time when most Battle Royale games feel as if they’re being shoved out the door while they’re the current hot thing, it’s refreshing to play something clearly held back until it was good ‘n ready.

Battles begin in a familiar fashion with players being jettisoned from a dropship, swiftly descending onto rugged terrain below. In this case, an island formed of distinct areas including a riverside shanty village, industrial complexes and a forest ravaged by fire. PUBG players will know how ‘make or break’ the initial drop can be, with some individuals immediately deserting the group. Apex Legends makes this issue a thing of the past by joining squads at the hip – so to speak – during descent.

Moreover, players can call out ideal or preferred locations using the ‘ping’ system. This is Apex Legends’ trump card – a pivotal feature allowing players to pinpoint loot, enemy locations, or provide directions using just a single button press. It works effortlessly, helping teams without mics communicate in the heat of the battle without resorting to messy radial menus. In a game where teamwork and communication are critical, this feature holds the package together single-handedly.

Once on the ground, the onus swiftly shifts. Players commence battle with no weapons, armour or health packs and so there’s a sense of urgency to grab vital loot before other players. There’s a wealth of stuff to look out for – weapons, armour, ammo, backpacks, weapon upgrades, and more – and thanks to equipment falling under different tiers, rated by rarity, looting continuously remains a focal point. It taps into that primal desire to constantly improve oneself, and although it’s possible to quickly become bulked down with reserve ammo, each new upgrade raises potential chances.

The brutally departed leave loot lockers behind

The brutally departed leave loot lockers behind too, allowing survivors to rearm and swipe upgrades from the fallen, purposely left defenceless while doing so. Fallen teammates also leave respawn beacons behind – another key feature. Carry these back to a respawn charger, and fallen squaddies (Apex Legends favours three-man squads currently) can be revived. Successfully bringing a squad back from the brink of death is satisfying, inducing another sense of urgency as you scurry to the nearest respawn point. Acting as an extra lifeline, it helps keep battles unpredictable.

Apex Legends also takes inspiration from Overwatch, introducing a cast of diverse characters. Eight in total, only two of which are locked behind a paywall – being a FTP release, there’s an in-game currency that can be either purchased or gained from battle. Characters fall into offence, defence and support classes and each has a distinct personality – with Pathfinder, a high spirited robot, being a personal favourite – along with unique abilities with cooldown timers. Most abilities benefit the whole team – Lifeline can heal the crew and summon supply pods, while others can call in mortar, toxic gas and airstrikes. Pathfinder can erect a zip line for all players to use, meanwhile.

Unlike Overwatch though, Apex Legends doesn’t allow for duplicate characters in a team – if somebody picks your ‘main’ then you’re forced to settle for your second, or possibly third, choice. This seems to be a purposeful design decision, making players become adept – and potentially master – a variety of characters, rather than just one. Of course, they each have a cubic tonne of unlockables, varying from weapon skins to finishing moves. The latter animations come across as tacked on, however, not really adding anything aside from a means to gloat.

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

With no less than four big-name titles vying for both your spare time and money, this week’s new release line-up closer resembles a busy week in October or November.

Publishers definitely aren’t hoping Valentine’s Day will drum up extra sales, as all four major releases launch on Friday. This is also why reviews are slow to surface – critics had their say on Metro Exodus earlier today, but being a few days away we’re still waiting on Far Cry New Dawn and Crackdown 3 reviews.

We imagine Far Cry New Dawn will be a safe purchase. In fact, it has already recieved 9/9/9/9 from Famitsu. Crackdown 3, however, has always looked a little rough in pre-release footage. Signs of a troubled development might be visible.

The fourth major release? That’ll be the anime crossover brawler Jump Force. It launched on Tuesday in the US, yet the only review currently online is a mediocre 5/10 from SquareXO. “Jump force [sic] misses the mark by miles and these characters just don’t work in this style,” they said, referring the game’s chunky aesthetic.

Echoing this, user reviews on Metacritic are mostly average too. It seems Bandai-Namco are trying to keep this one away from critics.

As for smaller releases, there’s Nippon Ichi’s 2D adventure The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince on PS4 and Switch – a tale of two lonely hearts brought together through a mutual misunderstanding.

That’s joined by hardcore platformer The King’s Bird – also out on PS4 and Switch – and Conarium on PS4 and Xbox One, a first-person Lovecraftian game that tells the story of four scientists.

We wonder if launching a Lovecraftian game near Valentine’s Day was intentional.

New release showcase:

Metro Exodus

9/10 – The Metro: “The best post-apocalyptic survival game of the generation, that innovates in terms of both its varied gameplay mechanics and its incisive storytelling”

4/5 – The Telegraph: “The characters you share it with can be overly loquacious and too broadly drawn, but its sense of camaraderie in the face of hardship can’t help but endear to the bittersweet end”

8/10 – GameSpot: “The open sandboxes may not be strongest addition, but the game still embraces the sense of vulnerability and post-apocalyptic terror alongside impactful weapons used in refined combat and stealth scenarios. You may miss the mystery and intrigue of the previous games, but Exodus puts together a charismatic crew of friends and family that you’ll want to follow to the ends of the earth”

7/10 – Destructoid: “Metro Exodus is a tour-de-force in apocalyptic exploration. It offers a rich, evolving world, brought to life with stunning visuals, immersive sound and ghastly creatures. These thrills and chills are irritatingly tempered with menial tasks, poor voice acting, dull stealth and a soulless hero, all of which prevent Metro Exodus from achieving its true potential”

6/10 – Push Square: “While Metro: Exodus delivers on its promise of deep and meaningful combat situations that let you approach encounters from any angle you can think of, its technical shortcomings are simply unforgivable. Combine that with a plot that doesn’t answer its most intriguing questions and you’ve got an experience that will please at times, but will also disappoint those looking for something meaningful outside of the distribution of bullets”


7.2 – Xbox Tavern: “Conarium is certainly one for the fans of H.P. Lovecraft, despite the fact that it’s less of a traditional horror, and more of a puzzler with elements of suspense present. That said, the game does a wonderful job at presenting a dark and eerie story that follows in the footsteps of its source material, complete with a great setting and several nods to its inspirations. Unfortunately, however, its slow pace and its short length holds it back quite a bit”

7/10 – GameSpew: “It’s certainly not the ideal game for those expecting sweat-inducing horror or adrenaline-pumping action, but for those who like to explore eerie environments and unravel a good story, there’s a good evening’s worth of entertainment”

3.5/5 – The Xbox Hub: “If Conarium ran at just a slightly faster pace I would have loved this game, but unfortunately it didn’t grip me nearly as much as I’d hoped it would”

The King’s Bird

8/10 – PlayStation Country: “It’s tough, so if you shy away from this type of game normally then be warned, but it’s also slightly more forgiving than its contemporaries. When you succeed at flying it feels fantastic and missing the target only to adjust your flight path and save it is superb. The visual and audio presentation is the cherry on top of a flight certainly worth taking”

4/5 – Video Chums: “Hardcore platformer fans will love the challenges that The King’s Bird presents while less skilled gamers can still appreciate the gorgeous game world via the incredibly helpful Assist Mode. Talk about going above and beyond!”

7/10 – Nintendo Life: “For fans of hard-mode platformers, this may arrive as a welcome treat and worth sinking a handful of hours into for that sweet payoff, but those with other tastes may want to keep looking elsewhere”

The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince

8/10 – Nintendo World Report: “The brief length can make it feel a little less ambitious, but I can’t say I was let down by this whimsical short story of a video game. Lovely art, a cute story, and solid puzzle platforming help make The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince a pleasant ride”

7.5 – EGM: “The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince continues Nippon Ichi Software’s tradition of visually compelling games that sadly feel a little lacking in the gameplay department. This adventure of a wolf in human form leading a delicate prince through a dangerous forest could have benefitted from a deep level of puzzles and polish—and yet, in the end, it may still win you over due to its style and sentiment”

6.5 – Destructoid: “The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince only ever comes close to meeting its potential in the final stage of the game, and that’s not an exaggeration. Every time it flirts with some creative concepts, it quickly retreats to its quotidian comfort zone. I personally love this game because I enjoy a good fairytale, but unlike the titular prince, I’m not so blind I can’t see everything that’s wrong with it”

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Feb 11
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

When we glazed over this week’s UK top 40, we expect to see either Kingdom Hearts III or Resident Evil 2 at no.1. In a twist of events, it’s Red Dead Redemption 2 that claims the top spot.

It’s the first time in 2019 that Rockstar’s cowboy caper has taken no.1, and it appears a minor price cut is the reason – numerous online retailers have dropped the price to £35.99.

On a related note, Soul Calibur VI dropping to £10 at Tesco has seemingly helped the weapon-based brawler re-enter at #27. Stock was quite limited, we imagine.

FIFA 19 moved up to #2, with Kingdom Hearts III now sitting at #3 during its second week on sale.

Resident Evil 2 fell two places to #4 while Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 held onto #5.

New Super Mario Bros. U also remained at #6, making it the best-selling Switch release of last week.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy – which has seen some recent price activity too – moved up to #8, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fell to #9, and then at #10 it’s good old GTA V.

Milestone’s Monster Energy Supercross 2 was the only new arrival, making #34.

Lastly, Dreamwork’s Dragons Dawn of the New Riders managed to remain in the top 40 for a second week, now at #39.

Feb 11
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

If you’re going to name a game after someone, Amelia Earhart is a fine choice. Not only was she the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, but she also formed a feminist organisation, may have been a spy, and disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She was, as the children say, ‘lit’.

Airheart developers Blindflug Studios put this inspiration to good use. They’ve mixed 1920’s biplane aesthetic with steampunk and anime elements to create something unique. It’s certainly one of the better-looking indie games we’ve seen on Switch, full of luscious trees growing on islands, floating in a beautiful blue sky.

You play as Amelia, who lives in a floating city called Granaria. Her day job involves jumping into a biplane and catching fish. Sky fish. This is achieved simply by flying your little plane into them, earning money that’s later used to purchase upgrades.

The levels have an interesting verticality to them. Each is essentially one ‘tier’ higher than the last, and in each, you can enter something which will propel you higher.

If only things were as simple as catching fish before skyrocketing to the next tier.

Enemy biplanes, drones, and the occasional massive blimpy boss dwell within the levels. You need to get your weapons trained on them, via the age-old technique of twin-stick shooting. This isn’t a twitch shooter like Geometry Wars, though – it’s slower and more tactical. There’s a vastly different pace. It’s all about making sure you have enough manoeuvrability and that you don’t take on too much at once.

The handling on the planes is less than ideal initially, but if you persevere, the handling model is quite unique and rewarding.

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Feb 10
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

It takes just a spark to ignite a war. The same can also be said for turning a peaceful protest into a full-blown riot. A projectile lobbed too hard, a push becoming a shove, or some looney turning up to a quiet demonstration with a backpack full of fireworks. The police take aim with rubber bullets and in a matter of seconds there’s hysteria on the streets. Who’s to blame? Well, this is seemingly something the press decides – this rioting simulator definitely makes a few bold statements.

It taps into the messy, unpredictable, nature of organised riots, making you guess as to whether the police are going to retaliate, or to contemplate resorting to violence yourself.

It’s an intriguing concept, and unlike similar games released over the years (remember State of Emergency on PS2?) the developer isn’t out to generate controversy. Very few riots entail brutality, and using harmless tactics is encouraged. You can, however, use violence to swing things in your favour. This is when things become messy and chaotic, and all feeling of being in control is lost. Riots can become wildly unpredictable in these instances, too. The police use live ammo so rarely that the first time they opened fire it left us rather shocked. Realism is favoured here, certainly.

The four short campaigns – lasting 20-30 minutes each, complete with pixel-art cut-scenes – are set in such locations as Egypt, Greece, Italy, and Spain. It’s possible to play through each campaign as either the rioters or the police, both of which have their own strengths, weaknesses, and abilities.

Rioters always outnumber the police, often three times over. Most missions – which entail protecting or destroying structures, pushing the police back (off the screen), or simply holding your ground for five minutes – put four or five groups of rioters under your control.

Now seems a good time to mention that there’s no tutorial, which made for a poor first impression. It also doesn’t help that the HUD is extremely crude, to the point that some of the item icons – particularly for the police – are hard to distinguish. This can result in using the wrong ability at the wrong time. It seems the developers really struggled with the HUD, as it’s prone to glitching too.

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