warband
Sep 30
By Matt Gander In Reviews No Comments

Now here’s a fine example of an open world game that has ambitious intentions, and unlike so many others, manages to make good on its promises – to find fame and fortune in a sandbox medieval realm.

This is achieved by any means seen fit, from becoming a notorious ne’er-do-well to man of the people; a hero for village peasants everywhere. With No Man’s Sky allowing us to become an intergalactic tourist and the upcoming Sea of Thieves giving the chance to become a scurvy ridden pirate, our childhood dreams are finally becoming a (virtual) reality.

Indeed, Warband casts us back to simpler times. Quite literally, in this case – it’s a no thrills conversion of a 2007 PC game; one that managed to amass a loyal following. If you go into this belated console conversion expecting flashy visuals and the usual next-gen sheen then you’re in for a disappointment, as even back in 2007 it was hardly cutting edge stuff.

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Thankfully, the £15.99 asking price – even in physical form – softens this blow, while allowing for some shortcomings with the presentation. A slight emphasis on the word some, there – the UI isn’t best suited for a joypad. This is most notable when trying to flog all your gains – either ill-gotten or otherwise – when heading into a town after a victorious battle. A slow process that requires each item to be selected individually. A ‘sell all’ button would have eliminated this problem instantly.

NPCs treat female protagonists differently

A basic nature does work in the game’s favour elsewhere, however. Loading times are resoundingly brief, even when entering new towns, and the game engine can cope with 64 player battles – actual human players, we might add – without breaking a sweat.

Like most role-players, Warband starts with a character creation tool, albeit a basic one. No matter how much time you spend here, the end result will always be the same – a hero with a face like a potato and a haircut resembling that of a Playmobil man. It’s worth mulling over their backstory though as this effects starting stats, and also think carefully when deciding on sex – NPCs treat female protagonists differently, with the Lords in particular often offended by the very presence of a female warrior in their abode. Ingeniously, it’s possible to give them backchat. Most conversations are over in mere seconds as few NPCs have a story to tell.

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fifa2
Sep 28
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

This week sees the release of what’s likely to become one of 2016’s biggest sellers – EA’s annual update of FIFA. It’s all change for the franchise this year, with the current-gen and PC versions moving over to the Frostbite engine and a new, blatantly NBA 2K16 inspired, single player story mode.

As usual, the supermarkets have commenced a price war. Morrisons appears to be the cheapest – £38 on all formats until Sunday. According to Smyths’ Twitter feed, the toy shop chain is selling PS4 500GB FIFA 17 bundles for £150 during tonight’s midnight opening. How many they’ll have in stock is a mystery, however. We’d wager just two or three bundles per store.

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Reviews for FIFA 17 went live earlier this week. “Not the transformative experience offered by this year’s PES, but still unmatched in the genre for atmosphere, licenses, and finer details” said GamesRadar before handing out 4.5/5.

The Metro also thought that it isn’t up to the standard of this year’s PES, but went for a far lower score – 7/10. “The match gameplay is often mediocre, with poor passing and a lack of responsiveness. Pace is now too fast and shielding the ball too easy” read their list of complaints.

Backed by a steady string of almost perfect review scores, Forza Horizon 3 also looks set to become a strong seller this autumn. We have a feeling that it’s going to end up being the highest scoring Xbox One-exclusive this year too, bettering ReCore, Gears of War 4 and Dead Rising 4.

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explosionroyale
Sep 27
By Matt Gander In Blog, Retro No Comments

Popular YouTuber Stuart Ashen takes a break from unboxing loot crates, and gently nibbling the corners of expired foodstuffs, to bring us footage of unreleased PS2 shooter Explosion Royale.

Ashens came across Explosion Royale while browsing a charity shop in Norwich back in 2012. Packaged in a badly printed case, he initially believed he had found a bootleg of a little-known NTSC release. Testing the disc on a chipped PS2 proved fruitless, however – it wasn’t until trying it out via an emulator that he found that it was in fact an early demo of an unreleased game.

Very little information about Explosion Royale is known, save for the fact that it was in development at King of the Jungle, a London-based outfit best known for B-Movie on PSone and PS2 budget game GrooveRider: Slot Car Racing. The developer was purchased by Unique Development Studios in 2000, which closed in 2004. The game’s title screen shows a date of April 2003. It stands to reason, then, that the cancellation was due to the publisher’s closure.

Just one unfinished level features in the build, plus a short intro sequence showing the lead character driving a tank and piloting an aircraft. The intro ends with the lead crashing their jeep into a cliff face, suggesting that a humorous tone was going to be present.

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steamworldheist_hd_07
Sep 26
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

A handful of new Wii U games join the Nintendo Selects range this week, prompting Nintendo to permanently drop the prices of Captain Toad, Mario Party 10, Pikmin 3 and Super Mario 3D World on the eShop to a rather handsome £19.99 each.

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Coming as a surprise to many, we also have two indie games hitting the budget range – Fast Racing NEO and Steam World Collection: Steam World Heist + Steam World Dig. These are both hitting store shelves for £19.99. In physical form, of course.

This marks the arrival of turn-based tactical shooter Steam World Heist on Wii U, which is officially due Thursday. The digital standalone release will set you back £14.99 and is well recommended. We gave the 3DS original a lofty 9/10 back in December 2015.

Fast Racing NEO also gets some timely DLC. The NEO Future Pack includes ten vehicles, eight tracks and 18 music tracks for a not entirely unreasonable £4.20.

Other games heading to the Wii U eShop this week include Wales Interactive’s first-person sci-fi adventure Soul Axiom (£11.99 or £10.19 until 15th October for those who downloaded the Nindies@Home demo), the roguelike dungeon-crawler Quest of Dungeons (£7.99 with 3DS/Wii U crossbuy support) and art tool SDK Spriter (£10.50 or £8.40 for those who own SDK Paint).

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destinyiron
Sep 26
By Matt Gander In UK Charts No Comments

The UK top 40 sees just one new arrival this week – Destiny: The Collection at #4, with the Xbox One version claiming the bulk of sales – while the top three remained unchanged.

This means BioShock: The Collection takes the top spot for a second week running, followed by PES 2017 and fellow sports sim NBA 2K17.

Then at #5 it’s Overwatch, down one position.

Rocket League holds onto #6, Fallout 4 re-enters the top ten at #7 – up from #18 – GTA V remains at #8, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens rises to #9 while Uncharted 4 drops to #10.

Meanwhile, No Man’s Sky, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and ReCore say farewell to the top ten.

Also making a speedy, and possibly unrecoverable, descent are FIFA 16, NHL 17 and Dragon Quest VII: The Forgotten Past.

If these three are still in the top 40 next week, we’d be very surprised.

ngc-105
Sep 23
By Matt Gander In We've Got Issues No Comments

The NGC team must have mulled over putting the Nintendo DS on issue 105’s cover as the mag included reviews of every single UK launch game. Primarily being a GameCube magazine, though, it was Namco’s Starfox Assault that took the newsstand limelight. And who was here to welcome us this month? Why, it’s only an opening page penned by Slippy Toad, in lieu of a new editor waiting in the wings.

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“Hey, fellow space frogs! I’m so, like, totally stoked to be here. Wow, it reminds me of the time I had some bogeys on my tail and was about to wipe them off when suddenly, from nowhere…oh boy! Ice cream!”

This issue from April 2005 is a pretty good example of the amount – and quality – of software the GameCube received on a monthly basis. The console have been outsold by both the PS2 and Xbox, but publishers were still committed.

April saw the release of Starfox Assault from Namco, Capcom’s Viewtiful Joe 2, Mario Party 6 from Nintendo, a trio of games from EA – Fight Night Round 2, FIFA Street and TimeSplitters: Future Perfect – plus a handful of kid’s licensed games. The GC certainly wasn’t short on software, with a page long release schedule in the mag to prove it.

Killer7, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – which was later reworked into 3DS launch title Splinter Cell 3D – and Ghost Recon 2 occupied the previews section, with GR2 receiving a tepid 2/5 anticipation rating.

“Unfortunately this belated GameCube version isn’t based on the decent Xbox version. It’s a port of the comparatively poor PS2 edition, which is a completely different game developed by a completely different team, and therefore quite hard to recommend, that is unless you’ve always wanted a Clancy-based Doom-style shoot’em up”. Harsh but fair – when reviews appeared the following month, they were mostly around the 5/10 mark.

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With previews out of the way, the staff then cast their critical eyes over all 14 UK Nintendo DS launch titles. It’s easy to forget that Nintendo was gunning for hardcore Nintendo fans during the DS’s early days. It wasn’t until the arrival of the DS Lite and Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training that the Kyoto giant targeted casual gamers, complete with a highly successful marketing campaign showing B-list celebs playing the DS whilst on the toilet. Or was it while lounging around in the living room? We forget.

After taking a good look at the handheld itself, the second wave of games got an airing. The team was very eager to get their hands on Castlevania DS, a tad optimistic about Another Code and Lost in Blue, and curiously positive about both Meteos and, uh, Pac-Mix. Presumably, that was a typo. They also rightly called out Need for Speed Underground 2 to be a stinker. EA didn’t put any major effort into DS development until it started selling gangbusters.

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destiny
Sep 21
By Matt Gander In This Week's Games No Comments

Depending on how flush you feel, Forza Horizon 3 can be yours this week – the £79.99 ‘Ultimate Edition’ goes live at 1am Friday, ahead of next Tuesday’s official release.

Reviews went live earlier this week and were full of praise. The demo appears to be going down a treat, too, so no doubt some eager gamers will be keen to take to the track early.

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As for releases arriving in a somewhat less extortionate manner, Destiny: The Rise of Iron launched Tuesday. GamesRadar is the only site to give it the review treatment so far, handing out a 4/5. “If you’re a long-standing Destiny player, it’s almost certain to refresh and revitalise your daily visits. And if you’re a curious newbie, there has (once again) never been a better time to jump in” they said, while pointing out that the shift to current-gen only doesn’t appear to have improved the visuals to any notable degree.

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severed_screenshot_08
Sep 19
By Matt Gander In New Nintendo Downloads No Comments

We were starting to think that Drinkbox Studio’s Severed would never find its way from PS Vita and onto other formats. Pleasingly, this isn’t the case – the RPG-light adventure, starring a one-armed female warrior, graces both Wii U and 3DS this Thursday.

As well as crossbuy support, it’s also arriving with a discount in place – £10.79 until 29th August (£11.99 thereafter). Scores for the PS Vita version included a stonking 9.5 from Destructoid, so you can see why we’re pleased as punch to see this one going multi-format.

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In the eyes of Nintendo, Noitu Love: Devolution (£6.99) is the week’s eShop highlight. This too is due on both formats with a crossbuy offer – buy it on one format, and get it for £3.99 on the other.

Clearly cut from the same cloth as Contra, Metal Slug and Gunstar Heroes, it’s an arcade shooter of the 2D pixel art variety. There’s one major difference to the aforementioned, though – it has a pointer driven control scheme. A choice of control methods is in place – reign fire either with the GamePad and stylus, or Wii Remote and Nunchuk.

Nintendo Life gave the Wii U version the review treatment last week, resulting in an 8/10. “Noitu Love: Devolution feels like a love letter to the likes of Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug or Contra; yet it’s also a romance as per the vision of developer Konjak. While it feels like those familiar arcade romps of yore, then, this game is also decidedly its own thing; it’s all the better for it,” they said.

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