Assassin’s Creed Rogue Review

So recently Ubisoft had the bright idea to release two brand new, full-priced “Assassin’s Creed” games at the same time- one called “Rogue” on the current generation of consoles (as in PS3 and Xbox 360) and acting as a bridge between ACs 3 and 4, and one called “Unity” on next-gen (PS4 and Xbone) set in the French Revolution. Unity’s been getting a lot more attention and some have simply swept Rogue to the side, but the joke’s on them, because not only is Unity a buggy, broken mess and Rogue runs smooth as you like, the latter is also a serious contender for best game in the series, and is without a doubt at least one of the best.

You are Shay Patrick Cormac- an idealistic but brash young Irish American and part of the Colonial American Assassins run by Achilles (Connor’s mentor from AC3) in a time after AC4 but before AC3, and as such featuring cross-over characters from each. The well-publicized twist in the tale is that, after a mission in Lisbon goes disastrously wrong and results in the destruction of the city Shay crosses over to the Templar Order and becomes a ruthless “Assassin Hunter”. It’s an interesting set-up, but after the game’s story trailer hit I was worried that the game would simply switch things around so that the Templars are good and the Assassins evil so as to make everything ethically simple. While that is the case in a broad sense, it’s a strong story with enough nuance to make the role-reversal feel natural and believable rather than just an artificial change. Basically the Assassins are painted as wanting freedom at all costs while being unwilling to accept any responsibility for the consequences for this while the Templars seek peace through order and control but due to being seen as evil have to put up with constantly being murdered by Assassins. I won’t be able to go back to an Assassin view point next time- the Templar mindset is painted so well here, at least for me. Achilles’ Assassins are shown as blindly loyal and devoted to their creed to a dangerous extent and Shay has to put them all down for the good of humanity. It’s pretty heavy, particularly considering the series’ usual tone. Compared to the other games the story here feels shorter but leaner- everything here feels necessary whether it be for set-up or part of the pretty hectic work Shay has to do once he’s a member of the Order, and the characters are all pretty strong, with Cormac himself being the clear stand-out. The future sections are pretty much the same as they were in AC4 but with a much better pay-off, and the whole thing ends with a neat twist that joins Rogue and Unity together.

Gameplay wise it’s very much revising and adding to what came before- sailing makes a triumphant return from AC4 but in trickier, often shallower waters, the combat is pretty much the same but with some new animations, an air rifle replaces the blowpipe and can fire three different types of grenades, and forts make a come back, but in reduced quantity. Elsewhere “Far Cry”-style gang hideouts require you to complete three objectives including killing the hideout’s Assassin leader, Assassin ships can be raided (complete with a hooded captain always up for a scrap) and warehouse raids now consist of multiple locked warehouses whose contents combine to make-up the total haul you get from the Island. If the gameplay has a theme it’s making things more involved by adding objectives that need to be completed where killing a certain key individual would suffice, but these manage to avoid feeling like mere padding. The game is split into large areas- New York, River Valley (a large expanse of water with a lot of islands and coastal areas worth checking out) and the North Atlantic- an arctic region complete with heavy snow, polar bears and sheets of ice thick enough for you to run on, which created some nice organic moments where I’d drop anchor away from the island I was infiltrating and sneak in across the ice. Another new feature is that falling into the water while sailing will make you gradually lose health due to old-timey hypothermia (which I assume to be hypothermia but it’s racist and doesn’t think women should have the vote). The combat and stealth are pretty much at an all-time high for the series, with barely any tailing missions or parts where being spotted by one guard who does literally nothing in the second before you kill him somehow alerts everyone on the bloody map and for that, if nothing else, AC Rogue deserves all the commendation it can get.

Overall, “Assassin’s Creed Rogue” is a great addition to the series. It takes the gameplay of AC4 and adds in extra things to do to make it more involved, the story is great with interesting characters and the all important Templar viewpoint is very well done. For my money it’s easily up there with AC2 and AC4 as one of the best in the series, and a serious contender for best in the series. Definitely give it a look- it’d be a real shame if this gets overshadowed by Unity.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Indie Game Super Review, brought to you by Overgamerisation

Because I’m a terrible lackadaisical human being (This is Reuben writing, not James. James has a work ethic) I’ve written barely anything for this blog in the past year. That changes now however, so prepare to have your regularly scheduled itinerary of reviews and well thought out opinions supplanted by my hilarious comic stylings*.

A big part of the reason that I didn’t review anything is that I haven’t bought any new games in about a year. I put together a great gaming PC just after Christmas then realised I’d spent all my money on components so couldn’t get anything to play on it. As a result, I’ve spent the past few months going back and trying older games that I’ve managed to snag in steam sales or, the holy grail of PC gaming, indie titles. Because what better way to celebrate owning a PC with lots of RAM and a high end video card than using it to render 2d sprites? I mean maybe something with 3d graphics and actual effects, but shut up.

*The Reviewing Floor takes no responsibility for any comic stylings that do not reach the appropriate level of hilarity.

To make up for my lack of review writing, I have written three reviews! They might be games that you’ve never heard of, or last heard of ages ago, but they’re really good I promise. Three vastly different games with different genres, mechanics and art styles, all alike in being a lot of fun to play. So we shall begin at the beginning, with…

 

Steam World: Dig

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Despite hailing from the overly optimistic school of game naming (see also: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning) SteamWorld: Dig has its feet very firmly planted in the ground. Or rather underneath them. You play the part of a steam powered robot named Rusty, who receives a letter from his uncle leaving him ownership of a mining claim in rustic little hamlet called Tumbleton, populated by the usual cast of colourful piston powered locals. He ventures into the mine, promptly finding his uncle’s corpse and setting off on a journey to investigate the secrets of the underground world he discovered. Simple, yet effective opening, and a story that more or less gets out of your way in order to let you get to work.

Dig, as well will henceforth be calling it, bares some initial similarities to other popular underground mineral retrieval simulators Minecraft and Terraria. It seems more visually similar to the latter, but in fact has bugger all in common with either. In fact it’s closer to Metroidvania than a crafting sim. You use your trusty pickaxe to adventure deeper and excavate valuable minerals. Later upgrades like a drill and explosives can be used to break harder rocks quicker and reveal more valuable elements. While there are upgrades available for Rusty throughout, the materials found in the mine are simply converted into gold which can then be spent to buy them. There is also a secondary currency of Orbs, which are harder to find but vital for the higher level upgrades.

Visually, Dig has an aesthetic all its own. Bright cartoony character and enemy models move smoothly and fit into the animated world perfectly. It won’t win any prizes for graphical fidelity, but it looks damn charming and in a game like this that counts for more than lighting effects. Although those are present and look good too. All the models have simple designs and personalities communicated by the odd snippet of dialogue.

Steam World: Dig is  a short game, but one that makes every second of it’s time enjoyable. The three worlds and the selection of puzzle caves that make up it’s 5 hour story are short and sweet and left me wanting more. Which was not something I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by Dig, and I hope we get to see more use of the Steam World Colon franchise.

 

Gunpoint

Gunpoint-screenshots-01

So next we move onto Gunpoint, a game as different to Dig as a Saturday morning cartoon is to Blade Runner. Set in side a noir world made of grey buildings and shady dealings, Gunpoint follows the exploits of freelance spy and general grey hat Richard Conway, who’s acquisition of some high-tech new trousers leads to him being framed for the murder of a arms manufacturing executive. And his day only gets worse from there. Attempting to rectify his precarious situation leads him into a bitter war between rival companies and the murky underbelly of a town so full of corrupt and incompetent cops it’s a wonder that anyone ever gets convicted of anything. But for all its noir infused sensibilities, Gunpoint has a rather wonderful sense of humour. Every conversation has a wealth of dialogue options and they can take wildly different turns depending on what you say, and to whom. Conway can be a sarcastic asshat or an indifferent gun for hire, sometimes in the space of a single interaction.

Mechanically, Gunpoint falls somewhere between stealth ‘em up and puzzle ‘em sideways. Each mission focuses on one of Conway’s assignments, usual an object to steal or a computer terminal to hack. The aim is to reach your goal, bypass the security systems and guards between you and your loot. But because you’re a spy, a wealth of gadgets and fancy hacking tools are available to you. The aforementioned fancy pants allow you to leap massive distances, stick to walls and break through glass walls. A phone app called Crosslink allows you to wire any two electronic devices together, as long as they have both an input and output. So for example, light switches can be used to activate doors, motion scanners and cameras can trigger electronic booby traps and so on. These devices are controlled via an overlay activated using the mouse scroll wheel and work in real time so getting everything to line up can require quick thinking and quicker fingers. Although initially tricky to get your head around, especially since Gunpoint refuses to hold you hand or mollycoddle you after the initial tutorial level, the hands off approach really pays off when you eventually figure out the solution, as you can be sure that you reached it on your own, without any kind of hint or prompt from the game itself. All the information is there, you just have to know how to read it.

Gunpoint is another pleasant surprise (seeing a theme yet?), a game in a genre that I am both terrible at and has also grown a little stale of late. It’s unapologetically a stealth puzzle game, with none of AAA games concessions to alternative play styles. Rather it rewards creative puzzle solving and lateral thinking. It says a lot about the game that the gun is actually one of the less useful items in it. Or possibly it just says that the game was poorly named. Either way, it’s really good, so go play it.

 

Luftrausers

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I have tried on several occasions to write about Luftrausers, and on every single occasion, except this one of course, I have failed. Not because I have nothing to say about it, and certainly not because anything I’d have to say would be bad, but rather  because every time I think about it I remember the theme music and then I have an uncontrollable urge to play it again. However I’ve managed to restrain myself long enough to write the following paragraphs about the 8-bit arcade shooter. On the off chance I succumb before I finish though, it’s really really great.

A simple description might come across a little underwhelming. Or intriguing I suppose depending on your opinions on the following words: 8-bit arcade style bullet hell shooter. Using the arrow keys and the X key you guide your custom made (more on that in a moment) jet fighter through the skies above some duo-chromatic ocean, dodging the other planes, boats, battleships and blimps sent by the opposition to stop you from rausing the luft. Where that gets interesting is in the way you move. The up arrow fires your engines, propelling you in whatever direction you’ve pointed the nose of your craft. Unusually for a game games if this type however, the planes in Luftrausers have momentum. Kill your engines at any point and you’ll start falling, still moving in whatever direction you were travelling. If you were flying straight up, then you have a couple seconds grace before you start falling with style. This might not sound like a much of a gameplay addition but it’s one of those wonderful mechanics that is simple to get the hang of, but makes you feel like a badass once you’ve mastered it.

The other little tweak is giving you a endless battlefield to play in. Most shooters of this type have a limited area you can manoeuvre in, usually equally to the width of the screen. Whereas Luftrausers will scroll either left or right indefinitely, meaning you can feel or chase your foes for as long as it takes to get them right where you want them. Usually on the business end of your machine guns/homing rockets/laser cannon.

The other thing that Luftrausers does to set itself apart from the majority of other games in its genre is the addition of customisable plans. Every plane is split into three sections, weapon, fuselage and engine. Each one of these comes with different properties, usually one pro and one con each. Each individual component comes with an optional objective, usually revolving around killing a certain number of things in a certain way. Completing objectives with the different parts will unlock new parts and so on. Every part is compatible with every other part and each possible combination comes with its own title and its own remix of the game’s music. This is itself a thing of beauty, as the soaring electronic drive of the theme not only compliments the fast paced dog fighting perfectly but serves as a neat little relfection of the other gameplay elements. Also, I defy anyone to not feel like the greatest pilot in the history of space and time when the drop happens.

Luftrausers is a game that take all the best elements of its various genres and discards all the stuff that either weren’t fun or didn’t look cool enough. The result is a game that looks like  throwback, plays like a dream and sounds like the best thing in air-to-air combat since Kenny Loggin’s Danger Zone.

 

 

 

And there you have it, three different games, all if which are worth the pittance their respective creators are asking for them. So next time you’re bored and trying to wade through the video game slurry drowning the stream front page, why not look up one of those. Then send me some chocolate to thank me for being so right.

As I said, regularly shcheduled Reuben will be coming at you as of now, so stay tuned next week for some stuff that I’ll write about Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Or possibly Assassin’s Creed 4. Because I can finally afford AAA games, and I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

 

Oh and so the title of this post isn’t totally in error, why not click the link and watch some youtube videos on Overgamerisation, the official (I know there’s no way there’d be an unofficial one but still shut up) youtube channel of the The Reviewing Floor. Here’s some thing to get you started: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0PUOaiihEk

Thoughts on: Metro 2033 Redux (and Metro Redux as a whole)

So the PS4 is continuing the whole “HD collection” trend that the PS3 had going on, and it’s now grown to include the excellent “Metro” series- “2033” and “Last Light”. “2033” was an Xbox 360 and PC exclusive, so for those who exclusively play Sony consoles this will be their first chance to get into it. At least, it’ll be their first chance to play a version of it, which I’ll elaborate on shortly.

First, the background. I played through and beat “2033” back on 360 and loved it- it’s a damn fine example of how a first person shooter can be a genuinely effective horror game (it thoroughly puts, for example, “F.E.A.R” to shame, a game I’ve always thought to be overrated)- blending stealth, tough shooting and intense horror all with a solid story adapted from Dmitry Glukhovsky’s Russian novel of the same name. Plus, you can play the entire game in Russian with English subtitles. That’s a pretty cool option. “Last Light” was a more action-based sequel that took the focus away from horror in favour of a more human-focused story with better stealth and more streamlined combat. It was a good game, but I personally preferred “2033”‘s horror approach. It’s this game I want to address here, because unlike many “HD” re-releases, this isn’t a simple visual upgrade- it’s an overhaul.

The story remains the same- you are Artyom, a young man living in the Moscow metro stations (a real-life potential solution to nuclear apocalypse) after the world has been thoroughly ruined and polluted by the end of the world as we know it- people are few, monsters roam the surface, and the atmosphere is lethal to human lungs. A new threat from creatures called “Dark Ones” arises and Artyom is sent on a long journey across Moscow to deliver the message of the Dark One’s arrival, and hopefully find a way to stop them. The story doesn’t have many real twists and turns or the like, but it’s of a consistent quality, and as a journey it works well- the world is a vibrant (in a very bleak way) and detailed one, whether you’re encountering groups of Russians all huddled into a metro station attempting to live some semblance of a normal life, sneaking your way through a frontline in the nazi-communist war (Yes, that’s a things. Nazis are apparently so persistent they survived the apocalypse) or negotiating the ruins up on the surface.

The gameplay is where things have really changed. Basically- it’s like “Last Light” now. Same UI, same inventory, same three weapon slots, same “Mask Wipe” button, and same improved shooting. Now calling switching out a game’s UI and gameplay with that of its sequel included on the same disc an “Overhaul” may sound like Hyperbole, and I understand if you think that, but given how different the two games felt this is a pretty big change. “2033” had a set number of weapon slots with certain weapons having alternatives in the same category- the new limited weapon slots mean you obviously have fewer options but you can carry literally any three guns you like (from those available, obviously), and the customistation options are strong. Its shooting also leaned towards the more realistic side of the spectrum, and as such felt less refined than it did in “Last Light”- complementing the horror atmosphere. Basically what I’m trying to say here is that both games now have more of an action focus, gameplay-wise. “2033” can be played on two different modes- one supposedly more akin to “Last Light”, and the other supposedly more in line with the original “2033”, which I picked. This turned out to make little difference though- this mode was still crammed full of ammo and health pick-ups. The few times I died were because I couldn’t get away quick enough or I took too much damage in too short a space in time. The game has also lost its dedicated “Check watch” button, so now to check your oxygen level you have to view your watch when you’re holding your gun, which is less accurate. Fortunately the game flat out tells you when to change your gas mask filter so swings and roundabouts. Is Metro “2033” worth getting in this state? I’d say so, yes- it’s still the same game, just with the refined gameplay and UI of “Last Light”. Purists might be put off, but this is definitely worth at least giving a look- especially if you’ve never played the original version.

The version of “Last Light” included here is pretty much just an upscale, but with all the DLC included. Among other things are several chapters played from the perspectives of various different characters, including one great mission in which you venture up to the surface around the Moscow library (Yep, THAT library) in search of pre-war items to sell for weapons other supplies.

Overall, this is a good package- refined version of “2033”, “Last Light” plus all its DLC, for a reduced price. If you’ve never played the games, this is the way to go. If you have already you may just want to pick up “2033” stand-alone to see the changes. But both games hold up well (Last Light only came out last year so I should bloody well hope so), and are still really solid as horror games, and as FPSs.

Oh, one last thing: they changed The Librarians- they look like enemies from some lost “Doom 3″ expansion. It’s a shame- I really liked their old design.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Thoughts on: MGSV The Phantom Pain’s “Quiet But Not Silent” and “Diamond Dog” trailers

Here we are again- back with my most-wanted upcoming game, “MGSV: The Phantom Pain”. This time we’ve got two trailers to look at, both of them showing off the new buddy system in the game.

First up, “Diamond Dog”.

(Picture and contents copyrighted by Konami. I do not claim ownership of the picture, its contents or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

So it turns out that wolf cub seen in the Africa demo shown at TGS has a bigger role to play in the story, as he’s seen hanging out with Ocelot back at Mother Base (unfortunately when he appeared he didn’t yell “SNAAAAAAAAAAAAKE! IT’S NOT OVER YET!”)- he’s called DD now, and Ocelot’s going to look after him. Fast forward to three days later and the wolf is now fully grown (presumably it’ll take much longer in the actual game, or at least the time they say has passed will be longer. Unless wolves go from puppy to grown in three days) and wearing an eye patch. Now at first I thought the eye patch part was just a joke to make him look like Big Boss, but as you can see in the picture above, the wolf does indeed only have one eye. Anyway that’s pretty much it for the trailer- there’s a puppy, it’s called DD for Diamond Dog, then it grows up and goes off with Big Boss to have adventures.

I wasn’t sure how to react to this when I first heard about it. On the one hand I love all the goofy stuff in MGS, and in that regard I can take this in stride. On the other hand Kojima’s said this entry in the series is going to be dark, bleak and mature as all hell. Ground Zeroes did that really well- that was a very dark, serious game with some pretty harrowing story elements. I can’t help but wonder how the silly parts are going to fit in with the more harrowing tone, but for now I’m giving the game the benefit of the doubt.

Next up: “Quiet But Not Silent”

(Picture and contents copyrighted by Konami. I do not claim ownership of the picture, its contents or Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)

This is the trailer that was teased before TGS- it’s a short character trailer dedicated to scantily-clad sniper “Quiet” seen above. In it, Quiet shows off her supernatural powers- floating down from a helicopter, teleporting and turning invisible. Miller wants her dead, but Ocelot reminds him that she saved Big Boss’ life. Snake appears, orders them to put her in a cell, and silently comforts Quiet into going with them. Miller declares that Venom will regret his decision, but he assures Kaz that, although they need her now, he’ll kill Quiet when the time comes.

This was short and sweet- I like the look of Quiet’s supernatural powers (the TGS demo showed her use in-game), and the ending delcaration that Big Boss will kill her when the time comes sets up intrigue both for that event and for the scenarios that lead to Quiet appearing at Mother Base. As I said in my “Thoughts on…” piece for the TGS demo, Quiet can die as a buddy, and depending on the player’s actions she may not even turn up at Mother Base. Quiet continues to intrigue me- I do really want to know about her backstory, and every new snippet of information about her in trailers and gameplay footage draws me in. Also, I have a new possible theory as to why she dresses the way she does: heavy clothing may well interfere with her powers. I could well be wrong, but we’ll see. Though I do find her outfit pretty odd, I don’t mind it as long as there is an actual explanation for it, and as such I’m reserving judgement until I hear it.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

inFAMOUS Second Son Review

Second son cover

 

So then, “inFAMOUS Second Son”- the third in a series of superhero/villain (depending on your preference) sandbox games with an emphasis on moral choices. I enjoyed the first two games a lot- said moral choices were rather bold and dramatic as befits the tone, and the gameplay conveyed being a superhero/villain rather well. Somewhat irritatingly the good ending to the excellent second game was made cannon (I played both games as a complete scumbag), and so we have Second Son- a new story with a new protagonist. Is it any good? Does it live up to the level set by the series so far?

You are Delsin Rowe (apparently Delsin is a name made up for the game, as I suspected) a Native American graffiti artist who wears far too many clothes and lives with his tribe, the Akomish, near Seattle. When a conduit (people with superpowers) escapes from a D.U.P (the people hunting down conduits) transport truck on the tribe’s land, Delsin discovers he has the ability to drain the powers of conduits, an ability that results in the head of the D.U.P (named Augustine) using her concrete-based power to cripple the entire tribe because she’s a dick that way. Realising his ability will allow him to steal Augustine’s powers and reverse the Akomish people’s condition, Delsin and his straight-man cop brother Reggie set off for Seattle, where the D.U.P is based. The story is pretty straightforward- Delsin and Reggie mooch around Seattle, Delsin makes two allies and shares their powers, Reggie tries to do things by the book and gets irritated with Delsin because he’s a loose cannon that needs to hand in his gun and badge because he’s off the case- there aren’t really any surprises. The characters themselves are a mixed bag. The best among them is definitely Reggie; he’s well-written, well-acted and has genuine conflict between his duties as a police officer and his love for Delsin. He’s the straight man but he fills the role nicely, turning it into more of a character than just a cliche or archetype. Worse among them is, unfortunately, Delsin himself- he’s a free spirited rogue who ain’t got time for yo’ rules, maaaaaaaan and he needs to SHUT THE HELL UP BEFORE I WRAP HIS BLOODY RUMBLE CHAIN AROUND HIS THROAT. The vast majority of his dialogue just really irritated me (though its even worse in the subtitles, which in some cases are completely different to the actual dialogue), which is obviously a problem when he’s the player character and I’m supposed to be rooting for him. He’s well acted by Troy Baker, it’s just what he has to work with, which is really not up to much. His two mates are a young woman who used to be a drug addict and has sex with Delsin after knowing him for like an hour and a half, and a dude who’s a  (Homer Simpson voice) NEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRD! who likes fantasy. That’s pretty much it for them, character wise. The tribe themselves are barely in the game- they’re supposed to be the reason Delsin’s doing all this but they’re quickly swept by the wayside. Granted I took the evil path, but even so Delsin still went back to them at the end. Speaking of which, the infamous ending is really rather abrupt- genuinely surprisingly so. Oh, and one of the biggest failings of the story is its moral choices. In previous games they really affected the story. Admittedly it was because you were really good or really evil to an overblown, almost cartoonish degree, but they still worked. Here the choices are sparse and don’t have much visible effect apart from in a few key areas, and some missions are locked depending on your karma alignment. So essentially it’s taking the whole “You pretty much have to pick good or evil from the start” to its logical conclusion. It’s a shame really, as the other two games did have pretty good stories, for the most part.

Gameplay wise, it’s familiar territory. If you’ve played the other games, you know what to expect; free-running, shooting projectiles with a crosshair, melee attacks, that same annoyingly floaty jump that semi-sticks to climbable objects. It’s inFAMOUS through-and-through, with one major difference. Rather than stick with one power for the duration of the game (electricity in the other games) here you have one power at a time and can switch them at will if you’re near the appropriate power source. They are smoke (which sort of makes sense, but it’s pushing it a bit), Neon (Hmm…) and Video (Nope, too much. That’s nonsense). They all follow a definite formula but have strengths and weaknesses, making them stand-out to a degree. Draining points can seem arbitrary though, and none of them are as cool as the electricity seen in the other games. For those unaware of how the game works- it’s a free-roaming game with climbing mechanics, super-powered quick travel and a mixture of melee combat and projectiles that is mixed competently, but can get annoying- some attacks clearly work better than others, armoured enemies are a huge pain in the arse and you can get juggled quite easily. Also there is literally no reason why you can’t swim. Cole MacGrath couldn’t swim because his body was full of electricity. When Delsin falls in water he just freezes and you have to press the touchpad to teleport him back to land. Speaking of the touchpad, it’s just used as a big button, and occasionally you swipe it. Not much, but pretty simple and effective.

I rarely mention this in reviews, but the game does look fantastic- Character models are sharp, environments look detailed and the lighting is gorgeous.

Overall, it’s a mixed bag. The new power system is interesting but not nothing special, the characters are largely annoying or one-not and the gameplay is standard inFAMOUS fare. However, if you’re looking for a beautiful-looking inFAMOUS game, this should satisfy, and if you want a decent action game for PS4 then do consider checking it out. Otherwise there’s not much here. It’s not a failure, but inFAMOUS 2 beats it by a country mile.

Oh, also- it’s nice to see Native Americans in a game that aren’t mystical shamans living in the desert and fighting off demons. The Akomish are just people with a strong sense of identity and community living their lives. So props for that, Sucker Punch.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Murdered Soul Suspect Review

murdered soul suspect ps4 cover Wallpaper

You know what? I was really rather looking forward to “Murdered”- when it was first announced I thought it looked like a pretty cool idea. An adventure game where you’re the ghost of a detective trying to solve his own murder. Now I’ve both seen a full let’s play of it (Two Best Friends Play, if you’re interested) and completed the game myself, and I have a few things to say about it. None of them good.

So you’re Ronan O’Connor- a career criminal since childhood that is inexplicably now a detective in Salem, MA who is thrown through a window and shot seven times (just to make sure, I guess). Now that’s a pretty full-on opening to a game, but it’s all downhill from there. The story focuses on Ronan attempting to solve his murder so he can go to heaven and meet his wife who died three years previously, along the way solving a long-running serial killer case with the help of a teenage girl called Joy. The story’s pretty weak- it goes to some predictable places (but predictable for reasons other than you’d expect), none of the characters are particularly likable, and no one is especially fleshed out or developed, except for Ronan’s wife, whose thoughts on her life with Ronan can be found scattered around Salem written on scraps of paper for some reason. Oh, why doesn’t that mean detective at the station leave your lovely husband alone? Maybe it’s because YOUR HUSBAND IS A CAREER CRIMINAL AND YOUR POLICE LIEUTENANT BROTHER ERASED HIS RECORD. His wife is only seen once in the game, so it’s up to these notes to make her likable. Did they succeed? Well, she seems alright. No more likable than anyone else in the game, really. The story’s definitely better than the gameplay, but there’s nothing here that stands out. Obviously with it being set in Salem the witch trials are a key part of the backstory, and there’s a twist at the end that, while not terrible, didn’t affect anything in the story, and just came out of nowhere minutes before the credits rolled. Oh, and it might be nitpicking, but I would have less of a problem with Ronan’s waistcoat, trilby and trouser chain look if there was any president for it in the game. He’s the only character in the whole thing who dresses like a mid-level “L.A Noire” villain. Not a big problem, but still.

Gameplay is where we really start to run into trouble. It’s basically an adventure game with detective elements that are insulting easy. Basically you run through an area, find a scene and have to examine clues then pick the right ones to work out what happened (Ronan can see past events he wasn’t involved in, for some reason). The problem is, the answers to the question are always ridiculously obvious, and there were several times where I tried to fail them on purpose only to find out that I couldn’t- I’d lose two of my three chances and then the game would just ignore that system and let me keep picking the wrong thing. Other times there as many choices as you have chance to get it right, so it doesn’t even matter. Speaking of things being obvious, examples include the best piece of evidence to make some think about a murder is the fact that a murder happened, the best piece of evidence to ascertain where a witness is is the one called “The witness is in the nearby church” and my favorite: “How did this woman die? Oh hey, here’s a paper open to her obituary that says exactly how she died.” Frankly the “Detective” elements are insulting to one’s intelligence, and as I said- it often doesn’t matter if you mess up anyway because the game just doesn’t care. Elsewhere there are combat mechanics for some baffling reason (I blame Square Enix) in which demons appear and Ronan has to sneak  up behind them and execute them. Where did the demons come from? Why do and can they kill ghosts? Why can Ronan execute them? No idea, the game didn’t say. Demons just pop up and you have to either run past them or use hiding spots to get behind them and kill them. This worked fine for the most part until one point about 2/3rds through the game when I had to deal with three at once. I’d hide, they’d home in on the hiding spots and somehow know I was in them, and I’d have to bolt, repeat. It was frustrating to say the least.

After a certain point my objective was permanently stuck at “Leave the attic”, even when that hadn’t been my objective for ages. When the objective marker was being used it would be correct, but pausing the game would always bring the same thing- “Leave the attic”. At one point the game crashed and erased my save, and throughout the game I had numerous crashes back to the PS4 XMB (or whatever it’s called now. Basically back to the screen where you pick what game you want to play).

Anything good to say about the game? Well, despite all my complaints it’s competently put together for the most part- it’s no “Ride to Hell” or the like. That’s about it, really- it’s not a terrible, broken game. Just a boring, insultingly easy one.

There’s really no reason to pick this up- if you like the concept there are other games that did it before, and as I said the gameplay is ridiculously simple, the combat mechanics are irritating and out of place and the story is boring with under-developed, not particularly likable characters. Avoid it.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Reviews: Daylight and Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Next two, HERE WE GO:

Daylight:


(Screenshot and its contents belong to Zombie studios- the game’s developer)

In a world where P.T and Outlast are on PS4, and P.T is FREE, how the hell did this get on there? Starting out on PC “Daylight” made its way to PS4 somehow, and I’m here to review it I guess. It’s a horror game in the “Slender” mould- you run around environments in first person lighting up areas with your phone (or you use a glowstick instead because the phone sucks), looking for collectible files that enable you to get a key in the form of a unique item that will let you open the door to the next area. I only know all this because I had to look it up. All the game tells you is “Find remnants” and even that’s written in tiny letters at the bottom of the screen. So you run around a lot, and sometimes someone from an amateur dramatics group who sounds like someone doing a bad impression of Vincent Price makes faux-poetic comments about nothing important in an attempt to sound deep.  You are Sarah- a woman who wakes up in an Asylum and rather than trying to leave through the front door (which is blocked, but she could find something to pry it open)  ventures deeper into said Asylum and every now and then says words to the effect of “I know someone’s there!” when there isn’t, and gasps when things fall over once in a while. Oh, and also there are witches that pop out to wish you a good evening, and you politely return the sentiment by using a flare to disintegrate them.

Now, I didn’t finish “Daylight” because it’s awful, but I did look up the story, and it turns out that Sarah obviously has a deep, unknown connection to the asylum that she doesn’t know about. That’s pretty much all there is, really. It’s not scary, it’s boring as hell, the voice acting and writing is awful and it seems even more of a rip-off when you consider that P.T IS FREE. FREE. It’s the scariest game I’ve played in years and it’s entirely free.

“Daylight” sucks, don’t buy it.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Right then, onto a good game. “Valiant Hearts” gets points right away for being a game set in World War 1 without any combat and running on the UbiArt engine (“Rayman Origins” and “Rayman Legends”. An interesting and under-used setting with an amazing graphics engine? Colour me intrigued, Ubisoft. You know, it’s games like this that make me conflicted about Ubisoft as a company. They make some really shitty decisions, but they do make a lot of good games. They definitely have that over say, EA. Anyway, Valiant Hearts is a character piece- putting you in control of four characters: Emile- an old French man drafted into service, Karl- Emile’s German son-in-law who’s drafted onto the opposite side, Freddie- an African-American man who volunteers to aid the French forces after his wife is killed at his wedding ceremony in France, and Anna- a young, Belgian nurse who helps the other three out while being sent to various fronts to help out the French troops. The story wisely uses WW1 as an all-consuming, monstrous backdrop to the personal trials of each character, and most of the time they’re just trying to stay alive and get back to their families, or in Freddie’s case stay alive and get revenge on the game’s villain- Baron Von Dorff. Von Dorff himself is oddly goofy in a way that feels at odds with the tone- particularly its more serious moments- but he isn’t in it that much, and when he is his scenes are over rather quickly. The way WW1 itself is handled ties into my next point:

“Valiant Hearts” works very well as an educational game. Yeah, you heard me- educational game. Every time you enter a new level, or where otherwise appropriate, the game will give you a little notification that, if you press a button, will give you a nice, condensed guide to where you are and what happened there, relevant to the events of that particular level. Sometimes it’ll just provide context for a battle, other times it will offer supplemental information on supplies and gear. That’s more often handled by the collectibles though- items hidden throughout levels ranging from things like ID tags and gas masks to coffee beans and letters. It’s nice that rather than relegate the historical information to an archive the game splits it up and provides it when and where you need it- it’s really well handled. The only problem here is that there’s quite a lot of reading involved. I didn’t have a problem with it but it’s something to be mindful of.

Gameplay wise it’s a mixed bag (in terms of content, not quality)- mostly you move forwards on a 2-D plane, finding items that lead to new areas or can be swapped for other things, and every now and then mini-games break things up, with the stand-out being sections involving a car avoiding obstacles and bombs that appear in time to music. The gameplay is solid and has a decent hint system, but is nothing particularly outstanding. It serves the story though, and that’s the main thing. A real stand-out is how UbiArt- taking a break from vibrant, colourful environments to render the muted tones of trenches and war-torn cities, and it works- it’s the usual beauty of UbiArt with a different palette and look.

Any problems? Well, I only really have one main one. At first I thought that characters were speaking in nonsensical gibberish, but upon listening more closely it turns out they’re actually talking their native language- be that German, French or English- quickly and without subtitles. So if you want to hear what they’re saying you better be able to speak German, French and English or you can eat shit, Space Cowboy. Character dialogue isn’t essential to the plot (A narrator handles all the heavy stuff) but it’s annoying all the same.

So, is “Valiant Hearts” worth a look? Definitely. The story is a personal character piece with some real emotional punch (the ending in particular is rather moving) even if parts of it occasionally fall flat, the gameplay is solid and the educational aspects are surprisingly well handled. Check it out.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Reviews: CounterSpy and Surgeon Simulator Anniversary Edition

Okay, these have been a long time coming but here we go, four downloadable titles I’m going to be taking a look at over two reviews. This one will cover “CounterSpy” and the re-release of “Surgeon Simulator”, both on PS4.

First up, CounterSpy:

The first things that stick out about this one are its interesting plot set-up and its graphical style. The latter is an exaggerated, cel-shaded style in which enemy soldiers are colour-coded and your protagonist is constantly draped in shadow, regardless of the lighting. The former really got me into it: it’s the cold war, and both the USSR and USA have plans to DESTROY THE MOON. Before we go any further, I feel it’s worth pointing out that this was a real plan during the cold war. I shit you not- the USA did actually have a plan to blow up the moon in an attempt to show the Soviets that they were nothing to mess around with. Anyway, you play an agent of C.O.U.N.T.E.R- a neutral, third-party agency that sends you into both Soviet and US bases in an attempt to discover certain parts of the plan. I hope you got your fill from that description of the plot, because there’s pretty much sod-all else on offer. (SPOILERS) there’s a running theme of C.O.U.N.T.E.R seemingly planning to steal the plans and blow up the moon themselves, but it never develops into anything- you steal the plans, you stop the rocket, that’s it. Game over. Back to title screen. (SPOILERS END) It’s a shame because as I said the set-up is pretty good. Worse things have happened though, maybe it’s just gameplay focused. Does the gameplay hold up?

Well, it does to an extent, yes. (I appear to be talking to myself in print. Better not make that into a habit.) It’s a stealth-action game on a 2-D plane with a few faux-3D moments (a la “Contra”). You move through levels taking people out and grabbing pick-ups strewn around; plot-essential plans, weapon upgrades etc. Being seen raises a DEFCON bar. Fill it up entirely (it has multiple stages) and you have to rush to the end of the level and use a computer to stop lunar-based nuclear armageddon. There’s not a lot of variety apart from different layouts and increasingly armoured enemies, but what’s here is definitely solid. The stealth works well enough and shooting while more direct does feel like I’ve messed up when I have to resort to it. There’s a cover system that activates the faux-3D I mentioned, and control is generally good whether you’re sneaking or shooting. It works well as a game to play while listening to something else or keeping an eye on a video of something, but once you’ve gone through it there’s not a whole lot to bring you back. Worth a look, but best wait for it to be on sale. It’s also cross-buy, if that helps.

Surgeon Simulator Anniversary edition

Upon its Steam release, I did my best with “Surgeon Simulator”. While I liked the joke I found that the intentionally shite controls got frustrating fast, and made it rather difficult to actually complete surgeries. For those who don’t know about this, “Surgeon Simulator” was the first and arguably most famous of the joke-simulator genre that started going downhill with “Goat Simulator” and has been powerbombed into the ground with things like -ahem- “Rock simulator”. You play as a man named Nigel who is apparently a surgeon (I choose to believe he wandered in off the street, found an abandoned but well-stocked medical practice and decided to just have a go, in traditional English fashion) and is represented by an ever-present right hand which you move with the sticks and use buttons to make the fingers grasp. You pull out of a load of organs/smash a load of bones, pull out whatever you’re supposed to transplant and dump the new organ into the gaping, lethal hole you’ve created, optionally yelling “DONE” in the process. The joke comes from the physics, controls ramping up the difficulty leading to shenanigans and the sheer absurdity of it all, and for the most part it does work rather well. The soundtrack is a sort of up-beat synth score that’s both catchy and beneficial to the tone, and overall the game’s pretty funny. Now, controlling the game with a keyboard and mouse was a pain in the arse but the PS4 version uses a controller (obviously). Combined with the new operations is this worth picking up?

The controller does make a noticeable difference- it’s precise enough to make the surgeries actually seem do-able but still retains the original joke. You definitely feel more in control of events and can actually do more to fix any problems you cause rather than just flailing around like an idiot (though that is still an option). The new surgeries are a double eye transplant and a teeth transplant, and both of them fit into the game nicely, alongside the original heart, kidney and brain. There’s also a new mode in which you perform a transplant while the patient is being wheeled down a hallway on a gurney, which is rather difficult in a way similar to the mode in which you operate in the back of a moving ambulance, but again it fits in well.

So, new content and better controls then. Is it worth a look? Well the anniversary version is also on steam, so really this is more for people who have a PS4. If you like the look of the joke and think you can get somewhere with the intentionally difficult controls, give this a look.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18

Thoughts on- Metal Gear Solid V The Phantom Pain TGS 2014 demo

Okay, new MGSV gameplay is out, I watched it, here are my thoughts handily condensed into five points for today’s cynical age. Let’s do this:

1) The Jungle

Taking a break from footage of Big Boss infiltrating a beautifully modeled base in Afghanistan, the TGS demo showed him instead sneaking through the jungle MGS3 style, with all of the pros and cons a jungle environment brings. Visibility is low, rain storms are common and enemies can seemingly pop up from nowhere after blending into the background, but Snake is harder to see as well, and the environment looks fantastic.

2) The Sonar Bio-detector

A new item in Venom’s inventory- slam the ground and active sonar will reveal anything making any noise in a rather large area- enemies included. Combined with the excellent map and enemy marking systems in the game this looks to be a helpful addition.

3) Quiet

For me, the biggest thing showcased in the demo was the new role of Quiet- the sniper in her underwear as seen in previous trailers who was recently shown to have superpowers. Here she acts as Snake’s support- she zips around the map from sniper spot to sniper spot covering Snake and shooting whoever she’s ordered to. When in attack mode she seems to kill anyone who’s spotted you, but can also be told to kill specific targets and in one particularly spectacular part shoots a grenade at a helicopter after Venom throws said grenade into the air. She looks pretty damn useful, and according to an interview her being on Snake’s team is entirely up to the player’s actions. She can also die, with the story going on without her. I still want to know exactly why she dresses the way she does, but she’s shaping up to be an interesting and worthy addition to the game.

4) New prosthetic arm

Snake can have different prosthetic arms created by Mother Base’s R&D department, and one of them was shown off in the demo- an arm that can generate an electric shock powerful enough to instantly take down armoured enemies with one hit. Looking good. Here’s hoping for a”Berserk”-style arm that shoots explosives. Hell, with a missing right eye, missing left arm and his current goal in life being an all-consuming rampage of vengeance Big Boss is definitely Guts-esque at this point. Which suits me down to the ground.

5) Decoys

So Kojipro showed off decoys containing holograms of the ghost from P.T, but here it was a life-size balloon of Big Boss himself, who stands around repeating the phrases “Kept you waiting, huh?” or “You’re pretty good.” to lure enemies in, which seems to work even when you’re off to the side shooting enemies in a group.

So those are the five things I felt stood out the most from the TGS demo, but the whole thing was very promising. Check out the video (it’s now on Gamespot and Kojima Productions’ youtube channel), and come back soon for when I take a look at the “Diamond Dog” trailer.

by James Lambert
@jameslambert18

The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 5: No Going Back Review and a look back at the season as a whole

So, another Telltale series comes to an end, and it’s “The Walking Dead” at that. It’s been a long, dark journey, but is it a satisfying conclusion? Does it match Season 1’s finale?

Spoilers for the previous episode follow. Also, if you don’t want to know anything about this episode’s content, avoid the review until you’ve played it. Should you download it? Yes, you should. It’s a good episode overall, but with one major problem.

The episode picks up right where episode 4 left off, with the group mid-gunfight with some Russians. Things quickly resolve themselves however, and the one surviving member leading Clem and friends to a house that’s apparently stocked with supplies. Things rather rapidly degrade over the course of the episode, with Kenny’s increasingly unhinged and brutal behaviour being a massive point of contention for the group and Clem having to decide whose side she’s on, should the worst come to the worst. It’s a dire episode, even by TWD standards, and a lot of the choices for me were rather one-sided, considering I’d already decided my allegiance. There’s one particularly dark section right near the end, and overall the episode is good on its own, and a nice, dark wrap up for the whole season. There’s just one big problem though, and that’s with the choice at the end.

SPOILERS FOR THE END OF THE EPISODE (AND THE FINALE OF SEASON 1)

So at the end of the episode you’ll end up arriving at Wellington- a community guarded by high walls. I arrived with Kenny, and upon being told that we couldn’t go in, Kenny begged that Clementine and Rebecca’s Baby Alvin Jr be allowed entry at Kenny’s expense. Your final choice is whether to go in, or stay outside with Kenny/whoever’s with you. Now, Kenny has a big, heartfelt speech about how Clem deserves better, and how he’s such a piece of shit and begs her to stay here where she’ll be safe. Purely because of this, I agreed to stay at Wellington. I looked it up, and staying out with Kenny is a perfectly viable choice in which they walk off together to go on adventures. I may be over-reacting, but that ruins it for me. “Obviously I would stay with Kenny if I could, but this is for the best- he wants me to stay here. Wait, I CAN stay with Kenny and everything’s fine? Well why would I pick anything else?” I want it on record- I’m going to go back and change my final choice. Killing Lee at the end of Season 1 to stop him coming back as a zombie felt like THE choice, but either choice made sense in the situation- either Clem gives them both an act of mercy, or can’t bring herself to pull the trigger. In my final situation in season 2, there’s an obvious choice there to the point that the alternative doesn’t even make sense to me. It’s a shame, considering the build up it had.

SPOILERS END

So, as a finale it’s good, apart from that last choice (which as I said, I’m going to go back and change). It’s not as good as the finale to season 1, but it still wraps up the season well, and as an episode it’s a good one.

On the season as a whole:

Parts of it really worked, and parts of it fall short of season 1, in my opinion. The whole interlude with Carver felt a bit throw-away despite taking up a good chunk of the season’s plot. Replacing the driving narrative of Lee doing everything he can to take care of Clem and prepare her for her inevitable life without him is a less narrow story of Clementine basically trying to survive. I appreciate the focus being squarely on Clem and how she reacts to the other characters- you’re often acting in your own interest and using the other characters, but can also form meaningful connections to the characters, particularly Kenny, whose comeback I particularly enjoyed. I also like how he, for better or worse, becomes a defining part of the plot, especially in the later episodes. The transfer from looking after Clem to actually playing as her is skillfully handled, and she’s still a very likable character- more so than every other character in the story. The season overall feels different enough to the first one to be noteworthy in that regard- it actually feels generally darker and bleaker (quite a feet considering how depressing the first season could be)- more nihilistic. Whereas Clem in the first season represented something hopeful and innocent, here she can be fully corrupted by the world she lives in (depending on your choices) and the whole thing points out the hopelessness of an apocalyptic scenario, in a way reminiscent of “The Last of Us” and “The Road”. It’s got some great flourishes that show off Telltale’s storytelling and how its skills have grown since season 1, and the choices (the most important part of the game) carry on the same standard as season 1- difficult, realistic and with not much time to make them. This season’s been a real good time, and between this and “The Wolf Among Us” it’s been a good year for Telltale.

It doesn’t have the same effect as Season 1, but it’s still a damn good story and a damn good game, and definitely worth your time. Just a shame about that final choice.

By James Lambert
@jameslambert18