Mar 20
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

When it was revealed Activision are involved with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, some folk were left scratching their heads. If you’re still confused as to why the house of Call of Duty has picked up publishing rights, ask yourself this: which publisher wouldn’t want a Dark Souls spin-off in their line-up?

It’s pleasing to see Activision hasn’t pushed DLC, retailer exclusive content, deluxe editions with early access and all the other gimmicks publishers are keen to flog. Less pleasing is the fact that reviews are under embargo until a day before launch. FromSoftware rarely puts a foot wrong though, so we imagine it’ll be a safe purchase. In fact, FromSoftware are one of the most consistent developers out there.

For the uninformed, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is set in 15th century Sengoku Japan, starring a disgraced and disfigured warrior who uses prosthetic tools as weapons. Stealth and the ability to wall-run should make for a remarkably different experience to past Souls-likes. [Update: review scores added below]

Devolver Digital’s The Messenger is an altogether different ninja adventure, influenced by Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi and other retro classics. It first hit the Switch a few months ago to rave reviews, and it’s looking like this belated PS4 version hasn’t lost anything.

“It perhaps flies a little too close to the sun later on as you hunt down the final few collectibles, but by and large, it’s a cloud-stepping joy. Fans of 2D action games should have a blast with this, and that’s a message we’re happy to pass,” said Push Square before dishing out an 8/10.

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection also makes the jump from Switch to PS4. This isn’t a collection of NeoGeo games, but rather a package featuring 24 titles from the company’s early years. There’s some obscure stuff on here – developers Digital Eclipse even trekked around Japan to find arcade cabinets so rare that little to no information existed.

The first review of this PS4 iteration clocks in at a stonking 10/10. “SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is one of the coolest, most fascinating video game releases out in 2019,” was PlayStation Lifestyle’s verdict.

Speaking of belated conversions, tower defence hack’n slasher Hell Warders has finally made it to Xbox One. The Xbox Tavern wasn’t left too impressed, disappointed by the visuals and sloppy controls, ultimately resulting in a mediocre 5/10.

Switch owners get EA’s Unravel Two, meanwhile, avaliable both digitally and physically.

Also of note: Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon EVERY BUDDY! on Switch and PS4. It’s an enhanced version of 2007’s FINAL FANTASY FABLES: Chocobo’s Dungeon with a new two-player buddy system. The jury is still out on this one.

Check back next week for more Square-Enix re-releases, with the legendary Final Fantasy VII receiving a digital dust off on Switch and Xbox One. Now, this is the kind of Cloud-based gaming we can get behind.

New release showcase:

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Reviews:
9.5 – IGN: “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is a stylish, focused stealth-action take on the FromSoftware formula that evolves in a different and refreshing direction. It may be a bit easier than a Souls game, but it’s something amazing all its own”

9.5 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “It blends mechanics and narrative in a way that is too rare in games today, allowing for a deep level of immersion that begs for just one more clash of blades no matter how difficult the encounters get. Seeing each one to its bloody finish is well worth the trials it takes to get there”

9.0 – GameInformer: “Sekiro is a wild ride through narrative twists and shocking boss battles, and an amazing triumph or crushing defeat is only ever seconds away”

4/5 – Hardcore Gamer: “Set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Japanese aesthetic, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice combines what makes a From Software title special into an excellent, solid package that fans are going to love. Death may be a constant in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, but it’s worth getting up each time”

Fate/Extella Link

Reviews:
4.5/5 – Digitally Downloaded: “Fate/Extella Link is a delight. It takes beloved characters from a beloved anime franchise, and then appropriates the Koei Tecmo Warriors gameplay structure with such style and panache that Koei should be taking some notes itself”

4/5 – ATOF: “If you’re a fan of the franchise and like musous, then I see no reason why you won’t enjoy this. On the other hand, I recommend checking out Extella if you’re new. You can go in blind if you want, but I don’t think the gameplay alone is good enough to carry the whole package”

7/10 – Push Square: “As far as Warriors-style action games go, Fate Extella Link is near the top of the pile on PS4 — it’s a robust and refined sequel that fans of the genre shouldn’t miss out on. The process of levelling up, collecting skills, and bonding with your favourite Fate characters is both satisfying and rewarding, and although repetition does become a factor later on, the flashy combat has enough kick to keep you engaged”

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Mar 19
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This comic book style first-person shooter feels like a breath of fresh air, arriving at a time when the genre leaders are only willing to imitate (cough, Battle Royale) rather than innovate.

Bristol-based Ground Shatter (Binaries, Skyscrappers) has looked to the past to give shooter fans something new, with RICO being influenced by such fast-paced, quick-draw, arcade shooters as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop. Or to be more exact, it’s a thoroughly realised version of Time Crisis 4’s often forgotten FPS mode, which was no longer on-rails but still possessed arcade-like sensibilities. Perhaps not the most useful of comparisons, but rest assured we aren’t in typical shooter town.

Here, you’re kicking down doors and shooting smartly dressed drug lords and tattoo-covered thugs in glorious slow-mo, clearing out one room at a time. Once the dust settles, it’s then a case of collecting evidence (briefcases full of miscellaneous contraband) and scavenging for crucial health/ammo pickups before finding another brittle door to boot.

The developers have implemented ways to keep backtracking to a minimum while hunting for evidence. Not only is the map surprisingly helpful, showing rooms yet to be peppered with bullets (cleared), but items of importance are also highlighted.

Thanks to procedural generation each level is different from the last, and there’s a decent variation in themes: posh mansions, apartment blocks, construction sites, offices, and more. It’s a mystery as to what lies behind a door – anything from a trio of enemies to a dozen, maybe an explosive barrel to thin the numbers if you’re lucky, or a ticking bomb if luck isn’t on your side. If that wasn’t enough to keep you on your toes, destroying servers and defusing bombs will often summon reinforcements too.

The level randomisation isn’t faultless – we came across a few peculiarly narrow rooms and one corridor that lead to nowhere – but for the most part, it does a good job of providing varied layouts.

Mission objectives are likewise doled out at random, complete with a few bonus targets such as performing a certain number of headshots. Generally, though, you’re tasked with either collecting evidence or clearing out every room, with later levels set over multiple floors. Get in, make a mess, and get out while there’s still time on the clock – cases must be cracked within 24 in-game hours.

Completing objectives earns merit points, used to purchase new weapons, larger clips, laser sights, and both frag and flash grenades. Weapons are loud and punchy, becoming more exuberant as things progress. Only two firearms can be taken into battle, and as some have drawbacks – such as heavy recoil, slow rate of fire, or a small ammo capacity – it’s worth mulling over which to buy.

Health carries over from one stage to the next, so occasionally merit points must also be spent on health top-ups. Single-use resuscitators, meanwhile, can bring you back from the jaws of death.

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Mar 18
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

As the weeks go by the UK chart – which only includes physical sales – becomes more irrelevant.

Case point: Tom Clancy’s The Division 2‘s physical sales were just 20% of the 2016 original, but without digital sales data, it’s impossible to gauge how successful its launch actually was.

Nowadays physical sales only paint part of the picture, whereas years ago, they were the most reliable way to tell if a big new release was proving popular. Or flying off shelves, to coin a phrase.

As an online-focused game, and due to Ubisoft heavily pushing the Gold and Deluxe digital versions, it has no doubt performed incredibly well on the digital storefronts. That said, the lack of pre-launch reviews and open world sandbox fatigue may have resulted in fewer sales than Ubisoft predicted.

A combined digital and physical sales chart can’t come quick enough, really.

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 had no trouble topping the UK chart though, dethroning Devil May Cry V in the process. Capcom’s hack ‘n slasher had a poor second week, in fact – it’s now at #6.

Red Dead Redemption 2 held onto #2, while the evergreen GTA V rose to #3.

FIFA 19 moved up one position to #4, while the arrival of the Switch version of The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame pushed the movie tie-in up to #5.

At #7 it’s Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, down from #3. Far Cry New Dawn dropped two places to #8 while Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fell one place to #9. Then at #10 it’s another Switch release – NSMB.U.

Anthem and Metro Exodus both left the top ten, meanwhile. EA’s loot shooter went from #4 to #11 while Deep Silver’s post-apocalyptic road (train?) trip is now at #15.

Bandai Namco’s One Piece World Seeker was the only other new release, making #28. It also made #17 in the PS4 chart, but failed to break the Xbox One top 20.

Mar 14
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

This wave-based zombie shooter is so lacking in content and creativity that not only is its £8.00-£9.00 price tag unable to withstand scrutiny, but we also began to question its very existence.

That asking price – roughly double that of Sometimes You’s previous games – gets you an alarmingly bareboned tower defence shooter, featuring one playable character (a bland Lara Croft clone), a single circular arena set inside what’s presumably a tomb, and no online/MP modes to speak of.

As for presentation, there’s nothing in the way of cut-scenes or backstory. Not a deal breaker, but some explanation as to why the female lead has riled up the undead wouldn’t have gone amiss.

We may have been able to live with the lack of content if the core gameplay was fun and engaging, but it simply isn’t. It is at least structurally sound, if beyond familiar. Starting with a knife and a pistol, you take down waves of zombies – with reaching wave 30 being the ultimate goal – earning cash for each kill.

Once a wave has been completed a passageway to a concealed armoury opens, where you can purchase new weapons, barricades, turrets and zombie churning grinders, as well as upgrade health/defence stats and improve the effectiveness of your arsenal.

Defences and traps can be placed anywhere on the map. Unlike some wave/horde shooters, there’s no nagging time-limit between waves. A good thing too as the trek to the upgrade store is considerably time-consuming alone. Incidentally, the upgrade dispenser – decorated by a glowing ominous skull – is the only example of creative flair. The rest of the experience is so visually formulaic and bland that it could easily be mistaken as a Steam asset flip.

It’s the lethargic pace that outright kills the few things Blood Waves does get right. This isn’t a shooter where the enemies come thick and fast, satisfyingly exploding into a shower of gore. Quite the opposite, in fact. The shambling undead trickle out the catacombs at a rate of two or three at a time, shuffling towards your defences in hope of tearing them down.

Things don’t kick up a notch until wave five – which due to the slow pace can take a good 10-15 minutes to reach – and because there are no checkpoints or retries, you’re always forced to endure the irksomely slow waves before getting onto the good stuff. Or as good as Blood Wave gets.

More problems soon arise. It’s from wave five onwards that the ‘special’ zombies start to appear; the kind that can destroy your turrets and other contraptions in one fell swoop, putting an end to your plans and ruining all sense of progression. It’s very easy to overlook special zombies appearing on the battlefield, and so a momentary lapse of concentration can set you back to square one.

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Mar 14
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

Don’t be fooled or mislead by Baba Is You’s simple visuals – this 2D puzzler is a game changer, literally. The rules of play can be changed at any time, pushing words around to create sentences that manipulate the world. It’s smart. Very smart.

So far it has yet to receive a review score below 8/10, with We Got This Covered settling on a 4/5 and Nintendo World Report opting for 9/10. “The degree of ingenuity and creativity in Baba Is You is breathtaking at times,” said NWR.

Another innovative puzzler launching this week is Claybook, set in a manipulative world formed of squishy clay. We recall being moderately impressed by the Xbox One version back when it was in early access.

This new Switch version garnered an 8.5 from Nintendo Enthusiast, who called it “a great pick-up-and-play game”. VideoChums felt it deserving of a 7.3, meanwhile.

You won’t be solving any puzzles in RICO, that’s for sure. Plenty of door kicking and bad guy shooting, though. This roguelike FPS is going down well, gaining praise for its arcade-like sensibilities.

“It’s great fun in single-player, but when you head into each randomised set of rooms in co-op, you’ll shoot your way into an interactive buddy cop movie right there in the palm of your hands,” said Nintendo Life.

Review scores for the JRPG remake The Caligula Effect: Overdose – one of this week’s few full price releases – are all over the place, meanwhile. Pocket Gamer enjoyed the combat but despised just about every other feature, resulting in a poor 4/10. Digitally Downloaded, on the other hand, dished out full marks (5/5), calling it an “unapologetically smart and thoughtful game”.

Square-Enix’s cult 1993 JRPG Romancing SaGa 2 is a cheaper alternative, launching at £9.99 (50% off for a limited time). It sold over 1.5 million copies on Super Nintendo back in the day.

Which brings us onto this week’s retro releases – Arcade Archives ELEVATOR ACTION from 1983, and the 1994 platforming sequel Johnny Turbo’s Arcade: Joe and Mac Returns.

‘90s throwback FPS Apocryph: an old-school shooter also piques our interest, as does the surprisingly in-depth Motorsport Manager for Nintendo Switch, the cyberpunk adventure The Red Strings Club, and the hand-drawn action brawler Dusty Raging Fist.

If none of these take your fancy, perhaps something from the full list below will. There’s also a new release for New 3DS, but don’t ask us what it entails – the description is beyond cryptic.

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

Here’s hoping you’ve had your fill of Anthem, Far Cry New Dawn, Metro Exodus, Crackdown 3, and Apex Legends as another colossal time-sink is upon us – Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

The DC-set loot shooter is out now for those willing to shell out £93 for the Ultimate Edition or £85 for the Gold Edition. The standard edition is out Friday, and no doubt more sensibly priced.

Reviews are yet to go live but early impressions are positive, suggesting it’s the game the first Division should have been. “Despite my misgivings with the narrative The Division 2 is a polished shooter and that counts for a hell of a lot. Mission variety is on point, there seems to be a decent amount of progression available, and there’s a lot to do,” said Destructoid.

The Metro’s early verdict echoed this: “Unlike Anthem, we don’t think anyone’s going to be complaining about a lack of things to do or a disappointing endgame in The Division 2.”

RICO is a shooter of an altogether different variety, inspired by Time Crisis, Virtua Cop, and other arcade-like first-person shooters. It entails kicking down doors, slow-mo style, and clearing out rooms one at a time. Scores are clocking in at 8/10, with the Switch version going down well in light of the system’s shortage of FPSs.

Then there’s the JRPG remake The Caligula Effect: Overdose, out on PS4, PS Vita, and Switch. Scores are mixed so far, varying from Digitally Downloaded’s 5/5 to Pocket Gamer’s 2/5.

Scores for the PSVR spell-casting shooter The Wizards: Enhanced Edition are far more consistent, being 7/10s. We’ve rounded up a smattering of reviews below.

Blood Waves sees indie publisher Sometimes You branching out into new territory, meanwhile. It’s a wave-based (zing!) third-person zombie shooter heading to Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 this Friday. Shoot zombies, buy defences, rinse and repeat.

We’ve spent a few hours with the Xbox One version and suggest approaching with caution. It’s clunky, slow paced, and lacking on content – one arena, one playable character, and no online features to speak of. Check back soon for a full review.

New release showcase:

RICO

Reviews:
8/10 – PSU: “A fiendishly compelling re-imagining of the gun-toting cop shows of yore, RICO is an effortlessly playable, highly enjoyable and deceptively clever roguelike FPS that is at it’s very best when enjoyed with friends”

8/10 – Nintendo Life: “It’s great fun in single-player, but when you head into each randomised set of rooms in co-op, you’ll shoot your way into an interactive buddy cop movie right there in the palm of your hands. Loading times and the occasional bit of pop-in aside, this is another fine addition to the console’s growing list of first-person shooters”

The Wizards: Enhanced Edition

Reviews:
7.5 – Upload VR: “Its spell-casting system is interactive without being too cumbersome and the campaign mode packs a solid amount of content. Plenty of collectibles, a replayable Arena mode, and lots of mission augmentations add up to this being a really fun journey”

7/10 – PlayStation Country: “The Wizards offers a slight change of pace from the wave based shooters PSVR is flooded with. You’re still taking out waves of enemies as they run towards you but this time you’re using gestures to conjure spells and it works very well. It’s quite short and even then the constant battles do become repetitive but the spell upgrades do give a decent incentive to replay levels”

6.5 – PSU: “Beautiful visuals and a cool gesture-based magic system can’t save The Wizards: Enhanced Edition from an inscrutable progression system and some dire technical issues. Fantasy fans will find some enjoyment from the puzzles and the fun narrator, but some strange design decisions end up kneecapping the experience”

The Caligula Effect: Overdose

Reviews:
6.5 – Destructoid: “The Caligula Effect: Overdose is still definitely a flawed, frustrating work. Its shortcomings are many, and might still be too intractable for some, but the refinements and additions have,for me at least, papered over the cracks just enough to make it worth putting up with”

5.0 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “While The Caligula Effect: Overdose has some interesting ideas, none of them really work. I suspect that after some time with The Go-Home Club, players will be longing to go home to the cozy comfort of a classic JRPG. Better to avoid this simulation from the start”

2/5 – Pocket Gamer: “Interesting combat system aside, it’s a mess of mixed metaphors, dreary writing, annoying music, and worn-out graphics.Take the combat and put it in a more interesting world, and you’d have a hit on your hands. But as it stands, this is a hard pass from me”

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Mar 12
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Critics have long complained about the staleness of the LEGO franchise’s once winning formula, even suggesting that if you’ve played one LEGO game you’ve played them all. A change was inevitable, and it looks like TT Games has chosen this movie tie-in as a test subject for a long overdue shake-up.

The focus on teamwork and swapping between characters has been ditched in favour of a single central character with a bag of universal tools and an ever-growing list of objects to build. By removing the unique abilities linked to each character, they’re reduced to being little more than skins. Once unlocked, it’s even possible to stick with a single character for the whole game. Gone are the days when somebody small is required to squeeze through a gap, or a someone with superhuman strength needed to smash…whatever.

As a side note, it also seems Chris Pratt didn’t want to be involved with this project. Well, that or they were too expensive to hire. His character, Emmet, doesn’t utter a single word throughout, reducing him to a shadow of his former happy-go-lucky self. Lucy (Wildstyle) takes centre stage instead, narrating all tutorials and cut-scenes.

To accompany the newfound ability to free roam in open worlds there’s also a fresh structure in place. Each world has 40-50 ‘Master Piece’ bricks to collect, gained by completing straightforward quests for NPCs or found tucked away behind structures and such. Only around 15 ‘Master Pieces’ are required to unlock the portal to the next world, however, usually gathered while working through the simple quests that lead up to the whereabouts of one of the movie’s stars. Once they join the crew a new tool is unlocked, such as Benny’s blow torch and Rex’s brick destroying gloves.

All characters have access to these tools, which also include a (krazy) glue remover, the paint gun from LEGO Worlds, and an object scanner which adds new decorative items to your catalogue. Buildable objects, meanwhile, require resources to construct and take the form of self-explanatory bounce pads, water sprinklers, and power generators. They’re deployable only within designated areas and are used to complete quests, solve simple puzzles, and access new areas.

This tie-in only loosely follows the movie’s plot, with a premise that involves visiting different worlds to reunite Wildstyle and Emmet with their chums before confronting the new villain. In fact, the events of the movie go mostly untouched until the final, ridiculously spoiler-filled, cut-scene which provides a synopsis of all the twists that occur in its silver screen counterpart. If you’re yet to see the movie this cut-scene will spoil the whole shebang in one fell swoop, so consider yourself warned.

The opening world set in Apocalypseburg does at least put on a good show. While getting to grips with the new menus and tools there are a few bombastic set-pieces to take in, along with a boss battle against a colossal Duplo beast, and one humorous cut-scene involving Batman’s inflated ego.

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Mar 12
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

It seems Capcom has another s-s-smash hit on their hands – Devil May Cry 5 has topped the UK chart, dethroning Anthem in the process.

For reasons unknown, Chart-Track has provided a handful of physical sales figures this week – information usually kept hush-hush. Sales of DMC5 totalled 20,872, outperforming Red Dead Redemption 2 – at #2 with 5,980 physical sales – by some margin.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe had a substantial sales boost, rising from #8 to #3. Then at #4 we find EA’s loot shooter Anthem, boasting 4,974 sales.

FIFA 19 fell from #2 to #5. Far Cry New Dawn dropped three places too, now at #6. Continuing this theme, The LEGO Movie 2 Videogame went from #4 to #7 during its second week on sale.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate rose to #8, Metro Exodus prepares to depart to the top ten at #9, while the evergreen GTA V sees us out at #10.

Dirt Rally 2.0 and Trials Fusion: Gold Edition both had rough second weeks – Codemaster’s racer went from #6 to #21, while Ubisoft’s racing/physics/party game tumbled from #10 to #27.

Square-Enix’s universally panned Left Alive – which currently has a dismal 40% Metacritic – was the only other new release, scraping in at #39 and selling just 947 copies. We guess this means a new release only has to shift around 1000 copies during this time of year to break the top 40.

Also of note is Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn on 3DS failing to make the top 40. The Wii re-release managed to top the 3DS chart, at least.

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