Apr 24
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Roughly a year ago developer Holospark released Earthfall, an extra-terrestrial take on Valve’s seminal Left 4 Dead. Despite a decent amount of post-launch content, the co-op shooter never managed to find its niche. If only Holospark had taken Saber’s approach and associated a well-known, if outdated, movie license with their shooter it may have avoided obscurity. Never underestimate the importance of brand recognition.

World War Z also takes inspiration from Valve’s sadly dormant zombie series, with missions involving groups of ragtag survivors co-operatively completing objectives while occasionally stopping to hold their ground by erecting temporary defences. All the while they face sudden waves of undead, and a trickle of ‘special infected’ including the usual assortment of screamers, lurchers, tanks, and more.

So far, so predictable. It stumps up surprises in other areas, thankfully. Borrowing a trick from its silver screen counterpart, the festering undead attack in great numbers – a spectacle in itself – forming human pyramids at key locations. Throwing a grenade at the ‘base’ and watching these human towers crumble is oddly satisfying. In fact, the zombies are satisfying to slaughter in general, whether you’re mowing them down with a sentry gun or sneaking around with a machete and a silenced pistol.

Visually, it’s a cut above what we were expecting, with character design showcasing creative flair and the rubbish-strewn environments packing a lot of detail. All four missions are based in vastly different locations too, each with a central theme.

The survivors in New York attempt to flee the city – a journey that takes them through a swanky shopping mall, cluttered city streets and a subway system. The trek through snow-covered Moscow includes a stop at a partly ruined museum and a quaint shopping district, including a climactic battle on a frozen river before heading into a government lab. Jerusalem provides a stark contrast: the sun beats down on the dusty terrain below, and there’s a huge-scale battle at a disused dam.

Finally, there’s a shorter two-stage mission set in Tokyo, which starts out in a quiet village with blossoming cherry trees and ends in a built-up industrial complex with a harbour.

Each mission has its own quartet of battle-hardened survivors – which provides the PvP MP mode with a sizeable roster of playable heroes – and rather than having their own roles, each can be designated a class of your choosing. Again, Saber has put their own twist on the assortment of classes (assault, medic, engineer, scout, etc) by introducing the trap-carrying Exterminator, the explosion-loving Hellraiser, and the melee-focused Slasher. Credits doled out at the end of each mission can be spent on new skills and improved stats.

Now would be a good time to note that there are no IAPs, loot boxes or other nonsense. Instead, there’s an XP system which slowly unlocks new weapon mods – upgrades that are vital for making progress on the harder difficulties.

Saber has also clearly put effort into making sure mission objectives are varied. While a few co-op shooter tropes are present, you won’t be ferrying around oil cans here. Hurrah for that. The Jerusalem stage adds an NPC to your team, essentially turning the whole mission into an on-going escort quest. Worry not, as they’re able to hold their own. Speaking of escort missions, a quest to protect an armoured bus provides an eventful ride. The numerous instances which involve searching dead bodies for keys/passes are both overused and tedious, however.

Every so often you’re tasked with setting up defences to fend off an incoming swarm. Available arsenal varies from one run to the next, which helps mix things up a bit. Adding to this, heavy weapons – which include chainsaws, crossbows, and grenade launchers – are also placed at random and if you’re lucky enough to find a breaching charge, a bonus stash of goodies can be yours. The AI won’t intervene or interfere with your plans, but thankfully, they’re quick to come to your aid when you’re down and will watch your back as you go about completing objectives.

Teammate chatter is about what you’d expect – a bit of banter, lots of shouting, and almost continuous narration of every single action performed, no matter how minor.

As well as the co-op campaign there’s a full suite of MP modes. By which, we mean there a decent selection of mode types, including Swarm Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Vaccine Hunt (capture and hold onto a vaccine for as long as possible), and Scavenge Raid (collect as many resources as possible, including those dropped by defeating the enemy).

We found ourselves getting into matches relatively quickly, finding plenty of players in all five modes.


The zombie swarms have been incorporated into MP, and while they still attack with ferocity, here they’re alerted to sound. Or to be more exact, too much noise will summon a swarm. This is supposed to encourage players to pay more stealthily by using melee weapons and silenced pistols. In practice, many players still rely on rifles and SMGs. More fool them – the pistols pack quite a punch.

In respect of weapon balancing, heavy weapons can only be used for a few precious seconds in MP, while ordinance such as grenades and mines are dished out sparingly.

Ultimately, World War Z is an entertaining shooter that not only gets a lot right, but it’s also surprisingly slick. Some of its mechanics are a little hackneyed, this much is true, but it’s hard to argue that they aren’t refined – it offers a smooth ride that’s hard to criticise unless you were expecting something slightly more cerebral. And even then, you would be pushed hard to defy its winning combination of colossal zombie hordes and multiple ways to effectively maim.

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

You may be surprised to learn that sales of the recent Mortal Kombat games far exceed the MK games of yore. While under Midway’s wing, sales of the PS2/Xbox entries would usually clock in between 1-2 million. Since Warner Bros. rebooted the series, sales of each entry are now around the 5-6 million mark. Not bad going for a franchise some consider past its best.

Reviews of Mortal Kombat 11 went live yesterday, and it was mostly met with a positive reception. It’s likely that there are fewer 9/10s than WB hoped for, and perhaps more 7/10s then they anticipated, but still, an 83% Metacritic is nothing to sniff at.

The Switch version is currently review shy, incidentally. Early footage suggests it runs smoothly in handheld mode, but the visuals take a slight hit when docked. You may have seen posts on social media claiming that it looks “terrible”, which seems way off the mark. It appears a respectable amount of effort has been put in.

Sony’s PS4 exclusive Days Gone is another of this week’s big name releases. Although Sony’s first-party efforts have been mostly excellent this generation, this biker-based zombie shooter has been a cause for concern – the first batch of previews weren’t too positive. It has received extra development time since, however, so there’s still hope Sony can pull another major hit out of the bag.

Elsewhere, Capcom’s hack ‘n slash RPG hybrid Dragon’s Dogma makes its way to Switch. It was one of our favourite games on the last generation, full of spectacular set-pieces, combat that’s easy to learn while still featuring some subtle nuances, and unique online functionality that allows AI teammates to be swapped and shared. Oh the things you’ll see.

We’ve rounded up scores below, along with a smattering of scores for Jupiter & Mars – an underwater adventure that’s (for better or worse) drawing comparisons with Ecco the Dolphin.

New release showcase:

Mortal Kombat 11

Reviews:
9.0 – IGN: “It’s a rare fighting game that hits just about every note as strongly as Mortal Kombat 11 does. Everything from its methodical and deep combat to its fantastically absurd story mode and its rock-solid netcode, right down to its extraordinarily comprehensive tutorial is absolutely exceptional”

4/5 – Trusted Reviews: “Mortal Kombat 11 is yet another great entry in NetherRealm’s fighting series. We’re living in a golden age of fighting games right now, and NetherRealm’s latest can happily join some of the generation’s best”

4/5 – Games Radar: “Mortal Kombat 11’s story mode, along with its gameplay, is the most intense and gripping narrative in a fighter that I’ve played in years”

3.5/5 – US Gamer: “There’s a lot to love in Mortal Kombat 11. It’s a fantastic fighter with a roster of 25 varied characters, tons of customization options, beautiful graphics, and one of the best story modes in a fighting game. It’s a shame that modes like the Krypt and Towers of Time inject annoyance and tedium into what was an excellent experience. The progression is complex and obtuse, when it should be easy and straightforward. MK 11 could been an all-time best, but it’s just a contender”

7/10 – Push Square: “Structural foibles detract from the fact that Mortal Kombat 11 is an excellent fighter with lots to offer. Those yearning for the gore-soaked days of old will find plenty to love, and newcomers will be enthralled by its excellent story and deep fighting system”

7/10 – TheSixthAxis: “This game is the pinnacle of Mortal Kombat action. Fights are fluid, weighty, and gorgeous to look at. Unfortunately, that tightly-designed gameplay is bogged down by a grindy system of loot and consumables that only serves to artificially extend your playtime in the most tedious ways imaginable. There is so much heart and care put into this game, from the combat to the gorgeous visuals and memorable story, but that effort feels nullified by the desperate attempt to twist an iconic video game franchise into just another endlessly online service game”

Jupiter & Mars

Reviews:
4/5 – AOTF: “Following the journey of two neon colored dolphins, Jupiter & Mars can be enjoyed both with PSVR and without. Not only is it an actually well made underwater experience, but it also comes with a good message about protecting the future of the oceans in some interesting ways as well”

6/10 – Push Square: “Jupiter & Mars is an enjoyable underwater experience that sadly doesn’t push the boat out. The visuals and music mix for a trippy swim through Earth’s ruins, but the lack of interactivity makes the journey surprisingly dry. If you’re after a relaxed dive through colourful caverns, this might be worth a look, but don’t expect it to make a big splash”

2/5 – Screen Rant: “One of the first things most players will do is swim quickly up to the surface, expecting that triumphant and cinematic dolphin spin-jump to give them a bout of VR indigestion, but Jupiter merely smacks directly into the peak of the sea-level and immediately stops. There’s enough content in Jupiter & Mars to take up a lazy Sunday’s time, but it could have been so much more”

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen

Reviews:
8/10 – Nintendo World Report: “Dark Arisen has some of the most unique systems in modern RPGs, and great combat to go along with it. It’s a great adventure, and if they can improve the loads after the inns it’ll be essential”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “There’s no denying that it is rough in parts and really could have done with a full remaster rather than a straight re-release, but Dragon’s Dogma nonetheless remains a fantastically gripping role-playing experience that manages to straddle the divide between exhilarating real-time action and stat-based adventuring”

3.5/5 – We Got This Covered: “Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen arrives on Nintendo’s portable console, warts and all. It’s more than worth playing, if only for the combat alone, and it’s one of the best mediocre games ever made. If you long for the feelings of adventure that often only come when imagining a good Dungeons and Dragons campaign, this should be up your alley”

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Apr 23
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

In what was likely a quiet week for physical UK game sales, the incredibly belated movie tie-in World War Z had no trouble claiming no.1 in the all-formats top 40.

Publisher Focus Interactive must be pleased as punch, as it also managed to top both the PS4 and Xbox One charts. It’s not often we see a Focus-published title at no.1 – their last was Dontnod’s Vampyr, back in July 2018. In fact, that was their first ever UK no.1

FIFA 19 held onto #2, The Division 2 – last week’s chart topper – fell to #3, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe remained at #4 while RDR2 dropped two places to #5.

A price drop to around £20 has helped Assassin’s Creed Odyssey hold onto #6.

Switch exclusive Yoshi’s Crafted World moved down to #7, while Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice fell one position to #8.

At #9 it’s another new entry – the quintessentially British Snooker 19: The Official Video Game, which also took #6 in the Xbox chart and #8 in the PS4 chart.

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe rounds off the top ten at #10.

World War Z and Snooker 19 weren’t the only new arrivals – Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster took #20 while Team 17’s My Time at Portia sailed in at #27.

Apr 18
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Homage is difficult. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is a homage to 1980’s video games and the Toronto indie music scene. Both the novel and the film are wildly inventive and beautiful works which use the specificity of the premise and place to say wider things about love, responsibility and growing up. Mockbuster movie Transmorphers is a homage to Transformers. It’s absolute cack.

The difference is care and attention. The developers of Metagal clearly love Mega Man, and this homage to it feels affectionate and true. From the screen-scrolling to the way you upgrade your arsenal by stealing boss’ special powers, there’s a specificity to Metagal that’s hard not to admire. And there’s a lot of time to admire it. The game over screens provide a lot of time to reflect.

It looks the part, with nice, clean pixel graphics, although it feels a lot sharper in handheld mode. When blown up on the TV, it feels out of place and a little blurry. The sound design fares better, as the soundtrack is exactly how we remember NES games sounding (jaunty and twee) rather than what NES games actually sound like (monotonous and painfully high pitched).

Metagal isn’t a straight up copy of Mega Man, though, as it brings its own ideas to the table. Abilities utilize a charging system, as expected, but you start with a blast-shot and the ability to regenerate health. You can also collect cogs along the way that help you by allowing you to restart from the last screen, which helps with the problem of having to repeat vast parts of levels. They’re a valuable commodity.

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Apr 18
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

The Switch continues to prove that it’s the little system that could, placing an extremely competent conversion of Cuphead in the hands of run ‘n gun fans.

Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry was left entirely smitten. “Cuphead delivers a locked 60 frames per second on both docked and mobile Switch configurations, meaning that it’s absolutely on par with the Xbox One version in terms of fluidity and consistency – a boon for a sideways shooter like this one,” was their verdict.

Review scores are a mixture of 8s and 9s so far, with many critics claiming that’s an ideal game for the Switch, ergo one that’s more than welcome.

Reviews for Katana ZERO – a stylish, insta-death, samurai slashing platformer – are also starting to surface today, and in short, barely a bad word has been said. Screen Rant doled out top marks (5/5) before claiming that it’s one of the best games of 2019 so far.

“There’s so much to like about it – its sleekness, its bizarre plot, its beguiling soundtrack, the fluidity of its slashing-around – and so very little to take issue with. If Katana ZERO were to have a fault it would be its length which is on the shorter side. But what a wonderful problem, when a game’s only flaw is that there isn’t enough of it in the world.”

Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is another one of this week’s high scorers, and as you may have already guessed, it’s yet another retro re-release more than welcome on Nintendo’s platform. Two fan favourite JRPGs in one tidy package – there’s not much to dislike here. “It goes without saying that Final Fantasy X & X-2 HD Remaster is an incredible port of a pair of already incredible games. While both Final Fantasy X and X-2 have received numerous new releases over the past several years, it is apparent that the Nintendo Switch version holds up extremely well alongside the other available systems,” said the role-player lovers over at RPG Site.

The Harvest Moon alike ‘life simulator’ My Time at Portia is one you may want to approach with caution. It has gone down rather well on PS4 and Xbox One, praised for its relaxing nature, but the Switch version apparently has technical issues. Long loading times, input lag, and poor visuals reportedly put a dampener on the experience.

Konami’s eight-game strong Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection isn’t off to the best possible start either, with the first review off the bat being a lukewarm 6/10 from The Metro: “A seemingly random collection of Konami arcade games that’s so incoherent and bare bones it won’t please retro fans or newcomers.”

You’ll find the full list of new Switch releases below, with other notable new arrivals including the point ‘n clicker Trüberbrook, visual novel Our World Is Ended, the taxing isometric puzzler SlabWell: The Quest For Kaktun’s Alpaca, and the hypnotic, visually arresting, adventure Path to Mnemosyne.

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Apr 16
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

At a time when zombie games are a dime a dozen, it helps to have a little special something to stand out. Knowing this, Saber Interactive has associated their Left 4 Dead-alike with the 2013 movie World War Z. Having some sort of brand recognition is better than nothing.

Besides, WWZ did rather well at the box office. It seems WWZ (the game), borrows the movie’s penchant for colossal zombie hordes – showcased here using Saber’s Swarm Engine – so it isn’t just cashing in on WWZ’s good name either.

It’s a co-op shooter with missions set across the globe (New York, Jerusalem, Moscow and Tokyo) that’s been heavily likened to Valve’s L4D series. While critical reviews are yet to surface, user reviews on Metacritic are surprisingly positive, with both the level design and the XP-based character progression system receiving praise.

If you’d rather wait for Days Gone for your zombie fix, a few other notable new releases are available now. PSVR owners may want to check out Ghost Giant, another VR showcase that presents a beautiful world to explore. Recent Wireframe cover star Heaven’s Vault is aimed at budding archaeologists, meanwhile, being an adventure game with an entire hieroglyphic language to decipher.

Trüberbrook offers a different kind of adventure, influcensed by point ‘n clickers of yore. It’s set in an alternative 1960s and provides a sci-fi mystery to uncover. “While Trüberbrook suffers from a handful of technical issues and some occasionally sluggish gameplay, the story, atmosphere, and dry humour make for a largely enjoyable experience. However, if you don’t already love point-and-clicks, this one won’t change your mind,” said Switch Player before dishing out a 3/5 review score.

There’s also My Time at Portia, from good old Team 17. Taking inspiration from Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing and other relaxed ‘life’ sims, it’s apparently a little scrappy in some areas but bursting with personality. We’ve rounded-up scores below.

You’ll also find scores for Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, which is out on both Switch and Xbox One later this week. It’s fast become a cliché to say it, but it’s another fine addition to the Switch library.

Retro purists may also want to investigate Anniversary Collection: Arcade Classics – Konami – the first of three collections – which includes Haunted Castle, A-Jax (aka Typhoon), Gradius, Gradius 2, Life Force, Thunder Cross, Scramble, TwinBee, and an ebook full of sketches and design documents. We doubt we’re the only ones pleased to learn that Konami still possesses documentation on their older games.

New release showcase:

My Time at Portia

Reviews:
8/10 – PlayStation Country: Barring a few janky moments, My Time At Portia remains an engrossing, vibrantly colourful Sim-RPG with tons of charm, surprises and discoveries around each corner. There is plenty to see, lots to do and a fair amount to love about this charming and rewarding adventure.

7/10 – Push Square: The game is effortlessly simple, but it excels in almost everything it aims to achieve. It’s one of the most relaxing indie life-simulation games out there, and yet it still offers enough adventure and addictive crafting opportunities to keep you hooked. A totally new spin on the post-apocalyptic experience, My Time At Portia is vibrant, relaxing, and brimming with charm.

3.5/5 – Windows Central: My Time at Portia could use some polish to improve things like menus, positioning objects, and cursor positioning with a controller, but once you get used to its idiosyncrasies, it’s a relaxing and rewarding experience.

7/10 – Nintendo Life: My Time At Portia is an ambitious game that actually delivers on what it sets out to do. The crafting can be extremely overwhelming at first and the presence of some in-game timers can be a mild annoyance, but get your head round its detailed multi-step building missions and you’ll end up with a game that could end up racking hundreds of hours on your Switch.

6/10 – GameSpot: Time feels like it crawls by unless you’re occupying yourself with busywork, which unfortunately ends up detracting from the charm of the lively hustle and bustle of the town of Portia.

Ghost Giant (PSVR)

Reviews:
9.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: It’s not a difficult game, but that’s not the point. Ghost Giant wants you to play in its world, but also engage with its heart. It’s a beautiful experience that really highlights what not just VR, but games overall, are all about.

8.3 – IGN: Ghost Giant may look like something you’ve played in VR before, but has the character and emotional depth to invoke very real feelings.

8/10 – The Metro: A wonderful mix of cutting edge technology and nuanced storytelling that instantly becomes one of the best games for PlayStation VR.

Heaven’s Vault

Reviews:
8/10 – TheSixthAxis: Heaven’s Vault is a fantastic narrative experience that offers a genuinely mature and intelligent take on science fiction and the interactions between technology and religion. Superbly realised characters, fascinating architecture, and a wonderfully detailed new language to decipher combine to make this a truly original and rewarding game. It’s a shame that the sailing is so repetitive, but Heaven’s Vault will reward fans of slower paced and meditative games.

5/10 – Push Square: Heaven’s Vault will satisfy budding archaeologists and linguistic fanatics in fits and starts, but the overall experience that brings those mechanics together leaves a lot to be desired. Alongside technical frustrations and tedious movement between locations, this is hardly a game we can recommend with any sort of confidence.

N/A – Polygon: Heaven’s Vault does hold great potential; Inkle’s commitment to delivering an alternative (and more realistic) take on video game archaeology, and to encouraging players to decipher and learn a language, is inventive and mentally stimulating. But holistically, the experience is humdrum; there’s little incentive to keep on unpacking its world if I don’t buy into its fiction. And sadly, I do not. For a game that revolves around the beauty of languages, it’s a disappointment that Heaven’s Vault can’t find the right words to express itself.

FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster

Reviews:
8.5 – CGM: Final Fantasy X/X-2 make for a lovely addition to the Switch’s library – a touching experience for new and old players.

4/5 – Game Rant: The Switch’s visuals are on-par with the other remastered releases of Final Fantasy X/X-2, but with the added plus of custom controller binds and the Quick Recovery system. Gamers who want to play FFX and FFX-2 on the go have a great option here, but it’s still not an ultimate release, as some of the PC perks didn’t make it to this version.

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Apr 16
By Richard In Reviews No Comments

Flailing limb sims such as Surgeon Simulator and Octodad have become big business recently. The former, in particular, has sold over 2 million copies.

It’s easy to see why. Surgeon Simulator is hilarious, frequently making the slippery controls and the player’s incompetence the centre of its comedy making machine. Godly Corp is the latest attempt to introduce guffaws into games.

It makes a decent first impression. It has a nice icon (it shouldn’t matter, we know, but so many Switch games make such a bad go at this) and its basic premise of being an ancient Cthulhu charged with manning a desk in a drab office is ripe for laughs.

Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ends. Godly Corp is less ‘corrupted elder being’ and more ‘corrupted save slot’.

Let’s start with the controls. Frankly, they’re abysmal. But not abysmal in a fun way; more like in an H.P. Lovecraft racist essay way. In most limb simulators (this is a term I’m trying to coin, so go with me), the joy comes from flailing about, the fluid and quick movements quickly get out of control as you lose to momentum and inertia.

Godly Corp’s controls are way too slow. You control one single limb, rather than two, using the analogue sticks. The right stick moves up and down while the left moves left to right. It all results in a lot of frustration, jerkiness and clipping, but no joy.

The developers clearly want you to laugh. There’s a picture of Cthulhu on the wall with an ’employee of the month’ badge, as well as a radio that spews ‘satirical’ messages, but it thinks being difficult is enough to bring that about. It’s not. To compound the issue, most tasks make you do two things at once. Frustration alone isn’t enough for comedy.

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Apr 15
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

April’s quiet spell leaves its mark on the chart for a second week running, with the only new arrival in the entire UK top 40 being the Burnout spiritual successor Dangerous Driving at #34.

According to Chart-Track, the two Nintendo Labo Toy-Con 4 VR kits “just missed out” on breaking the top 40.

They both managed to make the Switch top 20, however – the £69.99 VR Kit took #11 while the cheaper (£34.99) VR Starter Set + Blaster made #13.

Back in the multiformat top ten it’s Ubisoft’s The Division 2 that claims the top spot, making it two weeks in a row. FIFA 19 also managed to hold onto #2 for a second week.

At #3 it’s Red Dead Redemption 2, up from #6. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe remained at #4 while fellow Switch exclusive Yoshi’s Crafted World moved down to #5.

Retailer promotions help Assassin’s Creed Odyssey rise from #11 to #6.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice hangs around at #7, NSMB.U Deluxe is on the rise to #8, while the evergreen GTA V is at #9.

Marvel’s Spider-Man swings in at #10, up all the way from #29. A few other Sony exclusives also enjoyed a sales boost with God of War back at #26 and Detroit: Become Human re-entering at #33.

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