Gone Home and Superhot double review

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“Gone Home” has already had enough written and said about it that what I’m about to write might seem somewhat redundant to some people, but it’s free on Playstation Plus at the minute, and now I’ve played it I feel compelled to write a little something at least. So if you had your fill of Gone Home opinions back when people were bleating about how it “isn’t a game” then skip down a bit to when I talk about how much I like Superhot. Spoilers for Gone Home follow.

Still here? Good-oh. First of all I’m not one of the “this isn’t a game” people (I only tend to say that about David Cage, and even then mainly about “Beyond”); this is clearly a piece of interactive media designed to tell a story by having the player search an area finding clues, there are no cutscenes or any other forms of removing control from the player. This is commendable, but for me it doesn’t work. The story it tells is, I’m sure, very useful and relatable to certain people; the sister of the main character fell in love with a girl, your parents were dicks about it so the sister left. The story and its delivery method lack any real impact; it’s told through collectibles and voice over by your sister; you never meet anyone else, you can miss or avoid the majority of the collectibles, and it lacks any sort of anchor or focal point, like Layers of Fear’s magnum opus, or P.Ts use of repetition. Interacting with the environment doesn’t feel at all engaging, and the items that trigger voice over seem random. There are positives though; despite being underwhelming, the story and the act of walking around the empty house are closely linked, and make each other work mechanically. Also the house is surprisingly really creepy, and I felt for certain that something bad was just around the corner. It never is though, it’s literally just exploring a house.

Odds are you already have an opinion on Gone Home at this point. Maybe if the story resonates with you you’ll enjoy it, but for me it’s just a nice idea held back by an execution with little impact that fades as soon as it’s finished.

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Super…

Hot. Super… Hot. Super… Hot. Super…

Hot.

Buy Superhot- it’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

 

 

Hehe. So Superhot is one I’ve been looking forward to since its initial PC release- an FPS revolving around a unique mechanic: time only moves when you move. It has a cobbled together story about being trapped in the game and brain uploading and “OH NO I CAN’T QUIT” that at times threatens to be interesting, but for the most part is unnecessary and forgettable, so I won’t waste word count on it. What matters is the gameplay, whether it be in the game’s wonderfully crafted missions or “endless” challenge modes; environments are white, weapons are black, enemies are red. They spawn in, the game flashes an 80s one-liner on screen, you murder them. Guns have limited ammo, but can be thrown and the areas are often littered with other weapons. The way the time mechanic works is this: the faster you move, the faster everything else moves, capping at real time. Bullets and thrown items will hang in mid air, though will move very slowly when you’ve stopped; you die in one hit, but provided you watch your surroundings you can dodge bullets, and with careful planning you can survive being surrounded. Really it’s a puzzle game, your goal is to kill everyone but you’re a glass cannon, and murder is intricate enough to feel cerebral but fluid enough to reward improvisation and make you feel like a badass when you shoot someone, throw your empty gun at another enemy to stun them, snatch the first bloke’s gun out the air then headshot them both. At the end of each level the game replays your run in real time, and I’m struggling to think of anything in a game this year that’s made me feel as cool. Later on you gain the ability to jump into the bodies of enemies, killing them and giving you a new position, but breaking their weapon unless you’re fast enough to catch it, which opens up a whole extra layer.

Any problems? Really it’s the story, which ends up being an annoyance with how often it interrupts things. The gameplay itself can get frustrating at times, but there’s always a way around a problem, and it scales and escalates at a pace that feel natural, ramping things up in direct correlation to you getting to grips with how everything works.

Overall Superhot is a good time. It reminds me a bit of Hotline Miami actually- an indie game focused on killing that brings something really new and interesting to the table. With the former it was style and presentation. With the latter it’s a simple hook that has paid¬†off brilliantly, one that turns killing people into a puzzle without forsaking any momentum.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18

 

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Rainbow Six Siege Review

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Haven’t done this for a while. Rainbow Six Siege came out last year but I never got around to playing it because as a rule I’m not into online multiplayer. However; there are still updates for it now, and I wanted to get something written about it before I finally do my 2015 game of the year list, because I’ve been playing a lot of Rainbow Six Siege and it turns out it’s bloody good.

The game has single player, but it’s not worth bothering with; a series of tutorials I had a quick go at while installing an update, and single player terrorist hunt, where you are woefully outnumbered and outgunned. Where you’ll get your money’s worth (which is about twenty quid at this point) is the five vs five multiplayer: rounds alternate between attacking and defending, each with its own unique set of characters (operators, as they’re called), in which defenders hold up in a room with bombs/a hostage/a biohazard container and set up various traps, barricades and wall reinforcements to stop the other team, who are all armed with various countermeasures to the aforementioned traps and such. Rounds run for five minutes and end if an entire team is wiped out, which leads to interesting situations where some people will stay with the objective while others go off to hunt down attackers, or sometimes everyone stays in one place, which the attackers may or may not know about and plan accordingly. Surprisingly this all works well without a headset; attacking ¬†compliments either staying together or splitting up, defenders generally know to keep an eye on each other, and everyone generally tries to avoid friendly fire. Except for some cretins that team kill, but that doesn’t happen too often.

Games like this can be slightly hard to critique, by their very design and nature. Regardless of how the game’s mechanics and design are, the bulk of your enjoyment is down to other human beings playing the game online, and that can’t really be controlled. In my experience the majority of people take the game seriously enough to actually play it properly, but not so seriously as to fly off the handle if you make mistakes. I have played with people who want nothing more than to kill their own team and be a bloody nuisance, but these instances are infrequent. As for the stuff actually designed by Ubisoft; the shooting is solid, your range of movement isn’t expansive but gets the job done (no cover system, but good prone state, which is a trade-off that works), the simplicity of the game with the added depth of traps, barricades, camera-equipped drones and light weapon customisation means that the game has a rock solid base, with replayability and variety provided the fact that you’re playing against other humans. The operators play a big role, too: as I said earlier attack and defend rounds have their own sets, and they each have their own unique abilities. They’re split up by country/team, and include things like the British SAS, Spetsnaz and FBI swat, and pleasingly (for me at least) aren’t all white men. The game is balanced so that regardless of who everyone picks either team can win a round- each operator’s skills are useful, not essential. Different maps encourage switching up operator and load out, too. Operators are unlocked with in-game XP, or through micro transactions, which is a shame, because the four most recent operators are all ridiculously expensive if you want to buy them with XP. Speaking of which, the operators are largely well balanced (apart from the ones with shields, but they can only use pistols) except for the most recent attacker; Blackbeard. Blackbeard has a clear shield that attaches to the top of his assault rifle. It’s utterly bloody cheap, he’s nigh unstoppable and he’s basically a way to dominate the game through the use of real money. Suffice it to say I feel he’s an unfair addition.

Overall Rainbow Six Siege is excellent: Ubisoft have made a brilliantly simple but endlessly replayable multiplayer shooter that’s easy to get into and hard to put down. By eschewing gimmicks or anything needlessly complicated they can focus on tense, well-designed gameplay, and I’ve got more enjoyment from this than any game this year, with the exception of HITMAN, which set a very high bar. It’s going on my game of the year list, and at twenty quid it’s definitely worth picking up and sinking some time into.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18

Thoughts on… The Resi 7 demo

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I’ve not been following E3 too closely this year. I find that rather than stay up all night watching the conferences it’s much better to wait, spider-like, for the games to come to me, checking out the trailers and gameplay footage of just what I’m interested in. So imagine my surprise when one of the games that fell in my lap was Resident Evil 7, selling itself as a triumphant return to horror (and not a schlocky mess in line with RE6), and giving PS Plus members the opportunity to try a free demo, P.T style. Titled “beginning hour”, it turned out to actually be about twenty minutes. There isn’t much to discuss here, but I’ll go into what there is.

People have been comparing its atmosphere to Silent Hill, which is frankly baffling. It feels like a cross between Outlast and Condemned 2; it’s all in first person, you’re locked in a run-down, grubby farmhouse. You watch a videotape about the three-man crew of a “Most Haunted” type reality show searching the same house you’re in (which is playable, pleasingly), there’s an incredibly limp attempt at a jumpscare, then just as you leave an angry redneck welcomes you to “The Family” and twats you in the chops. The gameplay itself is bookended by Capcom’s “Kitchen” VR demo, which may well be scary in VR, but here it’s just dull. There’s no psychological horror, the imagery is bland, the scares have no impact, and the characters shown were irritating and just there to die. Credit where it’s due, walking around the house was slightly creepy, but P.T’s use of repetition and impossible space was far more effective.

Apparently, the demo was created specifically to be a teaser, and its content doesn’t appear in the game. I honestly hope that’s true, because there’s nothing here that felt like Resi to me. I have no interest in the series staying on the path that lead to the likes of RE6 and REvelations 2, but this feels like it’s gone too far the other way; emulating games like Outlast and Amnesia to fall in with the trend of first person horror with no method of self-defence. Resident Evil has a strong pedigree to fall back on, whether it be old-school tank controls of its Ps1 days, or the over-the-shoulder horror action started by and never done better than Resi 4.

Time will tell if Resident Evil 7 is any good, but if it’s anything like what’s shown here, it’ll be a depressing misstep taken by a stale franchise in a desperate attempt to stay relevant.

UPDATE: I played through it again, taking my time to explore the house. I found three new things, with two of them being noteworthy and one directly tying in to Resi as a series: a brief phone call with an unknown woman, and a photograph of a helicopter bearing the Umbrella logo and with “Are they watching us from that helicopter?” written on the back. Then I got twatted in the chops again, because the aforementioned angry redneck spawned in behind me in cheap fashion. I enjoyed the demo more this time, the atmosphere was more effective and genuinely creeped me out. But I still don’t think this is the right direction for Resi, and I don’t understand why it has to be part of the series and couldn’t be a new I.P instead. Having said that, I’m more interested to see what the full game looks like now, and I’ll buy the game for review.

SECOND UPDATE: Okay so when I wasn’t looking they added a load of new stuff to the demo and turned it into much more of a Resident Evil game, albeit one cribbing from Alien Isolation. There are guns in it, monsters, through-line boss characters who can be downed but not killed. The demo itself now has an abstract puzzle, multiple endings and all new areas with impeccable environment design; a bathtub full of blood, a toilet filled with blood and needles and a basement full of strung up corpses in bags. Also there’s a monster down there. “Welcome to the Family, Son” locks you in. So long story short the full demo, reports from journalists who’ve played the full game and its trailers have all got me hyped, and I absolutely will be reviewing it.

By James Lambert

@jameslambert18