Game of the Year 2018

So then, 2018 was a long year, eh? As Jim Sterling pointed out in his shittiest games list Metal Gear Survive came out this year, and to me that seems like a good decade or so ago. Seemingly to balance out being longer and more peppered with infuriating bullshit than a Lars Von Trier film, 2018 also had a lot of good games. In keeping with the layout I’ve had going since 2016, the list will be two honourable mentions, and then a list of my five games of the year in reverse order. So, let’s get into it.

Honourable mentions:

Note that as a one-off, because both of my honourable mentions were incredibly strong and equally deserving of a place on the main list, I’ve decided to give them both pictorial representation.

1: God of WarImage result for god of war Baldur

After six games (seven if you count the mobile one) about an unsympathetic, shouty dickhead whose killing sprees were less and less justified this instalment completely shifted gears. Kratos is now a sombre, calmer figure on a journey to honour his dead wife and bond with their Son, a relationship that may appear dysfunctional but beneath the surface is clearly one of love and respect. The switch to Norse Mythology brought with it gorgeous environments and interesting new lore, the over-the-shoulder camera made combat more intense and the whole thing felt like a proper journey, made even stronger by that central relationship between Kratos and Atreus; acted beautifully by Christoper Judge and Sunny Suljic. It’s a touching, dramatic story about accepting your faults and trying to change, of parenting, relationships and what you pass on, or keep from, your children. All happening alongside excellent Metroidvania exploration, meaty combat and the aforementioned great performances. Somehow, much like Resident Evil last year, a series with nowhere to go found a way forward and powered through like a steamroller.

2: Marvel’s Spider-ManImage result for spider-man ps4

If you’re surprised this isn’t on the main list, rest assured I hear you, but it was a really strong year, and as excellent as Spider-Man was there were five games I liked more. Excellent it was, however. It’s easily the best Spidey story I’ve ever seen, the new takes on established characters were good, particularly Journalist Mary Jane and her surprisingly good forced stealth sections, as well as the personal link between Peter and Otto Octavius. Its gameplay was to the webhead as Arkham was to Batman, making you really feel like the character, easy to do cool things but also rewarding skill. Also the webswinging was ace, which is a big deal as these things go.

Game of the Year List:

5: Yakuza 6: The Song of LifeImage result for kiryu ukulele

It was a bumper year for Yakuza team, as it has been for some time now. Fist of the North Star was good, Kiwami 2 was flawed but still solid, but Song of Life was a thoroughly excellent entry and the clear best of the three. Kiryu’s final act was, smartly, just another adventure in his storied, punchy life. No MGS4-style “The gang’s all here” wrap up, just a man on a mission in uncharted territory, strengthening existing bonds and forging new ones. Smooth, streamlined combat, a touching story about the nature of family and the lengths one will go to for their loved ones and, of course, an end to Kiryu’s run as Yakuza protagonist. This was the entry that finally drew me into going for substories and trying out all the minigames, and despite somehow feeling restrictive in Kiwami 2 the combat system’s debut here worked really well. It was extremely close between this and God of War in fifth place, but Japan’s toughest Hot Dad bowing out is too important to both me and video games to deny a place on the list. Sorry Kratos, but my heart belongs to Kiryu-San.

4: Dragonball FighterZ
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I went back and forth between two fighting games in 2018: Street Fighter V AE and Dragonball FighterZ. The latter is a combination of great fan service like the JoJo games but with far better gameplay, reminiscent of Skullgirls and, fittingly, Persona 4 arena. It’s easy to pick up and play as fighting games should be, exciting, fun AND enables a Goku Black/Bardock best boy tag team. Its quick matches, full-on sense of spectacle and making it easy to pull off massive attacks straight from the anime/manga, all wrapped up in a gorgeous visual style make it an absolute gem in terms of fighting games, Dragonball games and anime games. Now I just need Arc Sys to make 2-D JoJo fighting game.

3: Detroit Become Human
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I know, I know, I’m as surprised as you are. I’m a vocal critic of both the man and his works, and Cage’s influence here is definitely an issue when the clunky racism allegory rears its head, but for the most part it’s an engrossing, well-acted story about likeable characters, and choice-based player interaction with that story that can have genuinely catastrophic effects. Stylish, slick and genuinely engaging, with a great visual style. It’s just bloody good, and I have no regrets about putting it on this list. Credit where it’s due; I really like Detroit, despite its flaws, and it really was one of the best games I played all year. I doubt David Cage had anything to do with it though: I reckon 2018 was where the rest of Quantic Dream and the cast made something so good even Cage’s awful bullshit couldn’t derail it. Side note: between this, Yakuza, Spider-Man and God of War it was a great year for Playstation exclusives.

2: Far Cry 5
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To borrow a phrase from the DMC5 entry of my E3 2018 list: A silver medal so strong it could blot out the Sun and so, so close to the gold. I love Far Cry 5: its world, its characters, especially the Seed family and double-especially Joseph Seed, the music, the story and what I maintain is the best ending to a game ever. It’s a game that, through its memorable interactions, amazing original soundtrack and the series’ great driving mechanics married to beautiful North American scenery has been firmly stuck in my brain since finishing it. Unfortunately, it’s Resi 7 all over again: had a certain other game not been released, Far Cry 5 would be my game of the year hands down. But of course, that game was released, and it was…

1: Red Dead Redemption 2
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…the best game ever made, taking the role previously held by its predecessor. Of course Red Dead 2 is my game of the year, it couldn’t not be. It’s an absolute masterpiece, the kind of game that comes around once in a blue moon, draws in massive swathes of the earth’s population and stays in its collective minds for years to come. So a Rockstar game then, but even among Rockstar games it’s miles ahead of even its second best game (The Warriors, if you’re wondering). Arthur Morgan and his story of the world being a cruel, unforgiving place in which the people you love will reveal their true colours as crushing disappointments and your life will slowly fall apart before your eyes like rotten meat off a corpse is a captivating emotional gut punch. I’ve done a second playthrough where I took my time to do stranger missions, go out robbing and spend time milling around camp and it really is just fantastic. Oddly enough my time with Persona and Danganronpa made me appreciate socialising with Red Dead’s cast all the more, and the way it develops them and gives them all personality and texture augments everything else about the game; its a journey you take with all of them, not just Arthur. I’ll stop there before I ramble on for another thousand words or so, but I cannot stress just how good Red Dead 2 is. It’s the best game ever made and my game of the year 2018. That’s the way it is.

Finally, a quick shout out to Ryuji Goda, the best Yakuza villain, and how gorgeous he looks in Kiwami 2:

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Yowza. The Jingweon did him dirty and stole all his screen time, the bastards.

Anyway, that was 2018: a great year for video games and the most trouble I’ve had picking my list for a while. Really looking forward to at least the start of 2019: Resi 2 Remake and DMC5 hopefully acting as a launch pad for another year of good games. The former will be my first new review of the year, so I’ll see you then.

By James Lambert


A School on The Hill: Thoughts on Detention

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I don’t play as many horror games as I’d like to. I’m a fan of the genre: Silent Hill 2 is my favourite game of all time, REmake is in my top five, I like Outlast and Amnesia, and I’m a fan of unconventional horror games, or horror-themed parts of games, like the opening of Far Cry 5, or the entirety of Spec Ops: The Line when viewed in hindsight, as well as the Souls games, Bloodborne and Darkest Dungeon. I’m fond of horror, basically, and I’ve started down a path to fix my deficit of pure horror titles over the Christmas period with two games: White Day: A Labyrinth Named School, which I haven’t finished yet, and one I want to briefly talk about here called Detention, released in 2017. For readers in England the two games are currently heavily reduced in the January PSN sale: Detention is currently £3.29 if I remember right, certainly £3-something, which it’s definitely worth. Anyway, let’s get into it. Please note that while I won’t be going into deep spoiler territory I will be giving away certain details that you won’t be aware of if you go in blind, so bare that in mind.

Detention is set in 60’s Taiwan under the Historical “White Terror” Martial Law in which anyone having even the slightest perceived, real-or-imagined whiff of communism about them is hauled away and executed. You briefly play as Wei, a student who wakes up to find his school abandoned in the wake of a typhoon warning, and after finding that the bridge leading out is broken and the river has turned red, elects to hold up in the school with another student named Ray. Turns out Ray is the real protagonist, the school has taken on an Eldritch, impossible space form and is now full of ghosts, and Ray did something bad that she refuses to remember. What struck me only once I was actually playing the game and not watching it be played is how reminiscent of Silent Hill it is. The grimy, dilapidated environments, the soundtrack consisting of industrial noises and ambient music, the surreal, disconcerting horror; it’s all very Silent Hill and it drew me in immediately. The ghosts themselves make utterly horrible noises and the puzzles have that same SH style where there’s a touch of the mundane combined with the surreal: rolling three dice that then turn into teeth, using a bowl of blood to reveal scratches on a desk, a harrowing blink-and-you’ll miss it silent jump scare when retrieving that blood; it’s all unsettling, surreal horror that has too much logic to be a dream and not enough “normal” logic to be the real world. The aforementioned jump scares are used sparingly, and rely on the build up dread and tension you could cut with a knife. “The Hill” of this article’s title refers to Silent Hill, and how every game since Origins, with their budgets, teams and name recognition couldn’t scare me, couldn’t instil a sense of dread and unease like a three hour, monochromatic 2-d game made by first time developers. Without wishing to spoil, even its later stages with focus placed on Ray’s traumatic past, what the bad thing she did was and the circumstances in which she ended up in this situation are reminiscent of Silent Hill, and are also handled far better than all the Western ones. Admittedly these sections aren’t as scary as the first half of the game but it earns that more story-driven pace after ramping up the horror and tension so effectively, plot fragments drip fed as you navigate the school. It’s grim, it’s unsettling and it’s genuinely scary, and games like this take some of the sting out of losing P.T. If we can’t have more Silent Hill games, I’ll settle for more games being built on that hill. Now go play Detention while it’s still the cost of a pint. You won’t regret it. It’s scary, its plot is interesting and unique, and the way it’s presented mixes seamlessly with the horror and is told in a manner that’s slightly abstract without being annoying. It’s the best horror game I’ve played since Resident Evil 7, and far scarier. Give it a go, so I can have more games like this.

By James Lambert

DLC Review: Spider-Man The City That Never Sleeps

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Remember Marvel’s Spider-Man? It was good, wasn’t it? On top of being a fantastic Spidey game it was a new benchmark for superhero games akin to Arkham Asylum. Its DLC series “The City That Never Sleeps” ended recently, and I thought I’d squeeze in a review of it before Christmas. It’s split into three parts: The Heist, Turf Wars and Silver Lining. I was going to split this review up along the same lines, but it makes more sense to do it as one big piece. The following contains spoilers for the main story. Also I will be talking about story elements in the DLC in a way that could be considered spoilery, so if you want to go in blind, skip to the third paragraph.

Following the conclusion of the Devil’s Breath incident, a new threat arises in the form of “The Maggia”, the Marvel version of the Mafia, specifically Hammerhead: a man with a metal plate in his forehead, employing Black Cat Felicia Hardy to help remove the other Maggia Dons out of the picture. From there it escalates into a mob war that results in Yuri Watanabe snapping and going rogue, Hammerhead stealing and utilising Sable weapons and technology and Silver Sable returning to New York to take him out. For the most part, the story is solid. Black Cat’s relationship with Peter works well, with the expected flirty back and forth complicated by the reveal that Peter may or may not be the Father of Felicia’s son, and what Mary Jane thinks of that. Yuri going full Punisher is good, but barely touched upon, and is clearly something to set up the sequel, alongside MJ travelling to Silver Sable’s home country of Symkaria to cover the civil war and Peter training Miles Morales, something that’s disappointingly covered entirely through phone calls and one brief cutscene. There was one shining moment where I thought I’d get to play as Miles, but no dice. Silver Sable herself has reset her relationship with Spidey and is now antagonistic again, though she does learn to accept his help and the two make a good team briefly, again presumably setting up a potential angle for the sequel. Hammerhead is a decent enough villain but has no real impact on me, but then I didn’t know about him beforehand and the game doesn’t really give much in the way of detail on him and what he’s about. Given that the ending of the main game was less wrap-up and more set-up, all this DLC does is gently move a couple of pieces forward, sometimes with frustrating results, acting as a preview of events to come more than anything else.

Gameplay wise, they’ve introduced some new elements and none of them work that well. Firstly there’s a new fixation on keeping people away from things: a new street crime is protecting a driver in a locked van from encroaching goons, at one point you have to keep goons away from a switch to keep civilians alive, and there’s a bizarre scene near the very start in which having broken into an art gallery and failed to attain a certain piece, identikit goons start stealing identikit art and making a break for the entrance, and you have to stop them. It’s goofy as hell, and not in a good way. There are new enemy types in the form of laser shield guys, who act the same as regular shield guys but can rush forward and leave behind a trail of damaging energy, and minigunners. Bloody minigunners. They do a load of damage, they’re hard to dodge, and take damage in the same way the regular big lads do, which is to say only in certain circumstances. There’s one fight near the end of The Heist in which you have to fight two of them alongside goons armed with laser RPGs, and I could not for the life of me handle it in anything approaching an organic fashion. I had to awkwardly hit and run, it was a massive pain in the arse. There’s another scene in The Heist that involves chasing a train through the tunnel, where the slightest mistake results in you being informed that you’re losing the train, then a second later that you’ve lost it. The Heist is easily the weakest of the three, being a series of big fights with the mob as Spidey desperately tries to catch up with Felicia, then the aforementioned bullshit.

Elsewhere there’s a new tailing mechanic which is made awkward by the fact that webswinging is infinitely faster than whomever you’re tailing, so you’ll end up dangling and swinging in little circles a lot. There are more Screwball challenges across all three parts and I’m not sure why she has so much precedence, and more bases to clear out, which weren’t great in the main game but are made much worse here by all the Sable weaponry cutting through Spidey like, well, like futuristic laser-based weaponry through a glass cannon. What worked in the main story still works just as well, it’s just a shame everything layered on top ends up being superfluous.

Overall The City That Never Sleeps is alright. Story wise it’s just set-up and teases for things to come, the gameplay is new stuff that doesn’t really add anything and all the best elements of the story aren’t given nearly enough coverage. Spider-Man 2 is all set to be excellent, but this won’t tide you over until then, just make you jones for an announcement.

UPDATE: So apparently Yuri’s Heel-turn is covered in more detail, but it’s relegated to the side missions in Silver Lining, which I didn’t do because I started one, got irritated with it and then pushed on with the story to get it done before Christmas. So that’s on me, and I rescind the criticism that Yuri’s story is barely touched upon.

By James Lambert







Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned – Extended thoughts on Far Cry 5

Back when I was planning out this article I thought my choice of picture was a bit risky, but since then Ubisoft have blown the whole thing wide open by announcing a canon sequel set in a post apocalypse where Joseph Seed is still alive. Rather than write anything about the announcement of Far Cry New Dawn I’ll just say that I’m opposed to it, I think the ending of FC5 stands alone beautifully and any kind of follow up cheapens it. I will be reviewing it though, and I will try to have an open mind about it, but I really think a sequel is completely unnecessary. Anyway on with the show.

I love Far Cry 5, it’s had a deeply ingrained, lasting effect on me since I finished it and I want to talk about just why I love it so much and why it’s so good. I think it should be obvious at this point but if not: spoilers abound from this point on. I’ll be ripping the thing open and rummaging around quite thoroughly.

Part I: Apocalypse Now or: “The world is on fire and it’s your fault”

So The Father was right, the cult was right; the world has come undone in nuclear fire. The great collapse is upon us, but that’s okay, because the Seed family can enact their plan to heard the populace of Hope County into their missile silos and- oh, right, you killed the Seed family and blew up their missile silos. So now the only people confirmed to survive the apocalypse are you and the man you were sent here to stop. Just you and Joseph Seed at the end of the world, Father and Child, prophet and disciple, whether you like it or not. Quick side note: can you see why a Mad Max-style sequel undermines this? I stand by my statement that this is the best video game ending ever. It’s a bold claim, but I just love how it flips everything on its head in a way that’s so simple, but so effective. You may well have seen it coming, but to take that formula of “Charismatic cult leader foretells the apocalypse” and after tearing down their entire support structure have them be right, that’s a gutsy move, and it ties up the events of the game superbly. I’m glad it’s canon too; I’d seen theories floating around that it’s a hallucination and that the Deputy manages to escape and find out that the world hasn’t been destroyed, but nope: Hope County lies in ruins. That alternative main menu? That’s legit. The world is on fire and it’s your fault, and for what? To be the hero, Spec Ops The Line style? Out of a genuine sense of justice and the desire to help people? As John Seed puts it; you’re trying to save people, but they’re already safe. It’s a question of whether the ends justify the means: the cult use extreme, cruel methods to ensure their numbers, supplies and physical capability, and that’s what the Deputy (whose name appears to be Rook, as it turns out) is trying to stop, but with the revelation that those methods were to prepare for an actual apocalypse and that Rook’s actions have ensured that the number of survivors will be small at best, things take a turn. Is The Father the villain of the story? He’s certainly the antagonist, but is he the villain per se, or is he what TV Tropes refers to as a “Well-Intentioned Extremist”? Of course the question arises: did Joseph actually know the apocalypse was coming? Did God really speak to him as he claims he did? The general explanation for the doom saying is that the world they live in is basically ours, and given the current geopolitical climate nuclear conflict seems inevitable. That’s something I can get behind, but how did Joseph know it was coming, if indeed he did? More importantly, given that the world does end, is that question rendered moot? The world being bathed in Nuclear fire is foreshadowed by Faith, both in dialogue and in Bliss hallucinations. As she puts it: If you don’t listen to him, he’ll be right. The game has these moments of foreshadowing throughout but unlike say the aforementioned Spec Ops The Line, which was very much a subversion of tropes and genre throughout, Far Cry 5 pretends to be a more traditional version of this story until the very end. It even has a big, dumb boss fight with Joseph. You beat him, you free your friends after he quickly kidnapped them all off screen, you’ve finally got him in handcuffs and bam, this isn’t how things are supposed to go. It’s not like the wishy washy “is this really happening” cop out from Outlast 2 (which did the cult thing in far inferior fashion) either: the world really ends, and now you’re stuck with a man who quite rightly hates you. How’s that for subversion?

Part II: Drugs, Gospel Choir and The Platters

I listen to video game soundtracks a lot. As musical accompaniments to visuals they’re required to convey emotion and feeling, or at least augment whatever meaning the visuals and gameplay are going for. Far Cry 5 has multiple soundtracks that all do a brilliant job of that: quick shout out to the “Reinterpretations”of Oh the Bliss and Help Me Faith. The former is an ethereal, dreamlike piece that signifies a trip to Faith’s little pocket dimension, and frames the scene in the game’s amazing opening in which Burke and Rook careen into the lake. The latter is used for Faith’s boss fight and, hauntingly, the vocals evoke the sound of someone struggling to breathe, which is fitting given Faith’s use of bliss gas. Anyway the one I want to talk about is the diagetic album “When the World Falls”; an album of songs performed by the “Hope County Choir” about how great Joseph, Jacob, John and Faith are, how the cult is the way forward and everyone who doesn’t join deserves to burn up in holy fire. It’s a beautiful album but what makes it important is that it plays in-game on radios, bits of it are sung and hummed by goons, and it non-diagetically plays now and then to hammer home certain action beats, like the van crashing during the baptism mission in Holland Valley. See, this part of the article is about how the cult indoctrinates people, and memorable, enjoyable music playing constantly on radios is ingenious. It’s a gentle way to get people on side, introduces them to the cult and the Seed family and even gives them each a bit of context. John’s song is about how he’s a noble, brave soul who’s picking everyone up out of the dirt and marching them to salvation. Jacob’s is about how he’s ruthlessly practical and sometimes you just can’t get through to people with teachings and prayer. Faith’s is about her backstory of woe and despair, and how she longs for the Father’s guidance. Joseph’s offers a pretty complete portrait of a man who’s spent his life thanklessly working for The Man, taking his licks without ever giving into the Devil and how he’s stronger for it, here to lead his flock and save us all. Compare that with Jacob’s use of music: classically conditioning people to fly into a violent rage whenever they hear “Only You” by the platters. Kidnapping Rook, starving them in a cage for days and making them run a gauntlet repeatedly until they instinctively do so inside the base of the cult-opposed Whitetail Militia and kill their leader, Eli. Jacob’s extreme “You’re useful or you’re meat” Social Darwinism  and Faith drugging everyone into a highly suggestible stupor with the risk of making them completely brain dead are the more extreme end of the spectrum as far as Eden’s Gate’s activities go, but can still be justified in context. Kidnapping people? If they won’t save themselves from the coming nukes I’ll do it for them. Stealing all their food and supplies? We’ll need to eat and drink when we’re all down in the bunkers. Grinding people down to their primal instincts so they can be shaped into ruthless killing machines? It’ll be a post-apocalypse, who knows what we’ll be up against? The drugging ties into the idea that the cult, perhaps begrudgingly, want to save as many people as they can, even those who oppose them, because Joseph insists upon it. Even by the end of the game after you’ve murdered his family and torn apart his survival plan he still gives you a chance to walk away, and John’s entrance into Eden is conditional entirely upon him getting you to confess your sins and be reborn, so clearly numbers are important to Eden’s Gate. People won’t come willingly? Get them completely off their tits until they understand. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a sucker for a charismatic villain, and it does help that he’s proven right, but I root for Joseph more than I do the resistance. Of course kidnapping people, starving them, torturing them, drugging them silly and stealing all their food and water are heinous acts and I’m not here to defend them in and of themselves, but I will put forward the notion that the ends may well justify the means, or at least they do as far as the Seeds are concerned, and their methods are interesting.

Part III: The Stars Align for Ubisoft’s Open World Formula

Ubisoft’s assembly line approach to open world games turned stale long ago, but somehow they managed to nail it with Far Cry 5 (and Assassin’s Creed Origins but that’s irrelevant to this topic), for a number of reasons. Firstly, the villains. I’ve spoken a lot about them already but I love the different approaches the Seeds have to the situation, each one’s group of missions in their own areas feels like its own little story and they come together to form a whole nicely. I love Joseph, I think he’s easily the best Far Cry villain: his look, his calm manner of speaking that hides a steely, threatening resolve, the fact that his warnings of a coming apocalypse are actually pretty easy to get behind, at least for me. As cult leaders go he’s both accessible and closed off. Relatable and admirable; you can see why people love and revere him in equal measure. Pagan Min was fun, Vaas and Hoyt were key to Jason’s character arc as a reflection and dark milestone respectively, The Jackal was also in a Far Cry game… but Joseph beats them all. I think the game strikes a tonal balance between the more outlandish, wackier elements and the deadly serious ones surprisingly well. You’d think Testy Festy, Hurk, alien artefacts and burning brain dead cultists to “Disco Inferno” would work alongside the opening scene, Joseph talking about euthanising his baby daughter, or everything that happens with Jacob, but it really does.

I actually really like just driving around in Far Cry 5. Don’t get me wrong, I do my fair share of wingsuit/parachute travel but the vast expanses of forest, farmland, lakes and rivers are satisfying to drive through, because a lot of scenery in the United States is bloody lovely, and Montana fits that bill. I like the character creator even though you can’t actually see Rook outside of it, I like cutting around with best girl Jess Black and Cheeseburger, and most of all I like punching key NPCS in the face, reviving them and then punching them again. In particular the racist old woman who owns Peaches the cougar, Hurk’s Dad and the chef in Fall’s End who looks like Steven Seagal. I won’t go into the more general aspects of the game anymore given that I’ve already written a review of the game and gone on for long enough at this point, so I’ll conclude.

Far Cry 5 is, basically, a Ubisoft open world game where the trappings are all good, and in terms of Ubisoft open world games, and Far Cry as a series, it works as well as it can. What makes it special are the story beats woven into that framework, in particular Joseph Seed, his family, the fantastic opening scene straight out of a horror game and the ending, all of which will stay with me. Anyway that’s enough Far Cry for now, we’ll pick it up again seventeen years from now in the surprisingly colourful world that’s risen from Hope County’s ashes.

By James Lambert


I’m a Bomb You Can’t Defuse – Thoughts on Devil May Cry 5

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Sometimes it pays to own an Xbone just in case, say, Capcom releases a demo for one of your two most highly anticipated games of 2019 and its an Xbox exclusive. After spending yesterday evening and night sick as a dog it was a nice surprise to wake up to 1) News that a DMC5 demo is coming out on December 7th and 2) The 7th is today. So let’s get into it.

First of all, there’s no real story in the demo, just what can be gleaned from dialogue which is that Nero is looking for new character “V”, and so I’ll be focusing on the gameplay. Secondly there aren’t any checkpoints, but it’s quite a short demo so that’s not a big deal. Nero controls much like he did in DMC4; he still uses the Red Queen and Blue Rose, he has the same dodge, and his new Devil Breaker prosthetic arm functions much like the Devil Bringer. One of the two variations in the demo: “Overture” fires a huge, hand-shaped electric blast, and any variation lets Nero pull enemies towards him. The other variation: “Gerbera” propels Nero forwards and up, lifting any enemies in his path into the air for follow ups, and can fire energy beams. The only issue I currently have with the Devil Breaker is that there’s no way to switch them out without breaking them. You hold four at once, they’re littered throughout the level and they break either over time, after one charged super attack, or if you use the skill “Break Away” which purposefully destroys the Devil Breaker in an explosion to give you some breathing room. Overture does solid damage to the demo’s boss “Goliath”, but if you’ve got three Gerbera and one Overture at the end of the line and need to really hurt him in a pinch you’ve got to rapidly break your other three Devil Breakers to get to the more effective one, then you have to go looking for more when that one breaks. Fortunately in regular combat this isn’t an issue as they’re both equally effective. At first combat felt a tad sluggish and I felt like Nero couldn’t move out of combos quickly so any time I messed something up I couldn’t adapt as quickly as I’d like. Since then it’s stopped being a problem though, so I think it’s down to me not playing DMC4 for a little while. From the little of the game I’ve played in the demo it plays like DMC4 but with new options afforded by the Devil Breaker, it’s just as satisfying and came back to me very quickly.

The system whereby what section of “Devil Trigger” plays is tied into your combo meter is present, but unlike its most direct comparison Metal Gear Rising, the song still plays normally regardless of how well you’re doing, it just skips forward as your combo improves. Plus they kept “SAVAGE!” from DmC, which I like. The new location of basically London in all but name is nice, the enemies seen here are cool; most of them have an insect theme which is always a winner, and there’s a system whereby Nico lets you customise things for money, but it’s not in the demo.

I’m already hyped for DMC5 after all the trailers, and really all the demo’s shown me is it plays like DMC4, or at least Nero’s sections do. That’s by no means a bad thing, on the contrary it lets me know it’ll be worth it when it releases in March.

Update: There’s been an updated version of the demo released, it’s multi-platform and has a few key differences. It’s not enough to warrant its own separate article but it can have some room on here.

Punch Line:

Alongside Gerberer and Overture is a new Devil Breaker called Punch Line, which is easily my new favourite. Its normal attack is Nero throwing a haymaker that launches the fist towards enemies for it to fly around attacking enemies repeatedly from all angles. Its charge attack is what was glimpsed in the trailers, to my pleasant surprise: Nero detaches it and rides it around like a hoverboard, with the face buttons resulting in different charges and tricks that work as attacks. I only used it twice; one during the boss and once during an added fight with some scythe goons (Not Sin Scythe though), but it seemed like the kind of thing that works well enough but could be devastating with practice. Overture is powerful and does really high damage to the boss, but of the three is the most boring, and Gerberer is neat but its angle of attack is quite specific and it doesn’t always go as planned. Punch Line most suits my playstyle and of the three, it’s the most fun to use.

Nico’s shop

The most illuminating addition to the demo was having access to Nico’s shop, which fills the roll of the God of Time statues from previous games. You can buy new moves, even in the demo (I bought Air Hike) meaning you’ve actually got a use for all the Red Orbs you find, but most interesting for me was the Devil Breakers. Not only can you buy new ones, you can switch out what order they’re equipped in, the apparent absence of which concerned me in the original demo. You still can’t switch between them without destroying them, but it’s nice to know you can sort out the order.

Anyway, that’s it for now, I’m looking forward to the full game in March, see you then for the review.

By James Lambert