Covid-19 Lockdown: the Sequel – Video Game Picks for Survival

Like an inevitable movie sequel, the UK, among many other countries too, are back in Covid-19 isolation. As the virus continues to spread across the globe, many have been told to work from home and isolate where possible. Restaurants, bars and most non-essential shops have closed once again, and many people’s lounges have become their office. For others that may mean not being able to work at all. Staying indoors for long periods can of course take its toll in different ways to all of us. But don’t fear, as in between those Zoom/Teams/Skype meetings there is a plethora of incredible video game across a variety of platforms to catch-up on. Here is a list of suitable candidates to sink your teeth into.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

There isn’t a soul in the world who doesn’t like Studio Ghibli, is there? Whether you have seen just one of their movies or the whole collection, it is easy to see why they’re loved unanimously around the world. So imagine the excitement of many when Ghibli decided to lend their talents to the video game industry. The recently remastered first Ni No Kuni entry, Wrath of the White Witch, adopted the standard JRPG style of open-world adventure with an active-time battle system. Revenant Kingdom retains the open-world aesthetic but with free-roaming battles, for a more action-RPG affair. Add to that a completely new set of characters and story, all animated by the Ghibli team, and you’ve got yourself an adventure well worth your time. It took over 100 hours of mine, and that was before lockdown.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is available on PS4/PC.

Vanquish: 10th Anniversary Remastered

One of Shinji Mikami’s lesser-known titles, Vanquish is an action tour-de-force that is short but oh-so-sweet on the fingertips. You play Sam Gideon, an agent of DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), as he teams up with an army of US space marines to retake a Russian-occupied US space colony. Armed with the prototype Augmented Reaction Suit, Sam can wield three weapons of varying types at a time, from assault rifles to sniper rifles and laser cannons. Against the backdrop of an almost exclusively greyscale colonial fortress, you guide Sam to shoot, run, roll, duck, cover, even slide through six acts of intense, robotic-destruction action. A quick flick of L2 while rolling initiates a slick slow-down feature, which is critical as swarms of sentient soldiers breathe down your neck. Whilst a little dull in appearance, the 60fps upgrade to the speed of Vanquish is a real highlight. And if you’re a trophy/achievement hunter, this is a really fun and often-challenging title to exploit. And for less than £20, its a tough one to ignore if you need a few hours of unadulterated entertainment.

Vanquish is available for PS4, Xbox One, PC. Please check out my full review here.

Fall Guys

If you have access to a PS4, and a PS Plus membership, the likelihood is that you’ve had at least one round of Fall Guys. Visually a vibrant, multicoloured Gang Beasts meets Takeshi’s Castle (including the wacky costumes), Fall Guys pits round after round of sixty online players across several challenge games until just one remains to take the crown (By the way, that first victory crown still eludes me). Simple, fun and on the right side of frustration, a round of Fall Guys is the perfect way to pass on a few minutes.

Fall Guys is available on PS4/PC.

Streets of Rage 4

There are some positive events amongst the shit-cloud that is 2020. The announcement of one of Sega’s most beloved 16-bit franchises receiving a sequel over twenty-five years on was initially met with mighty scepticism. However, all those fears were crushed as publisher Dotemu, on the back of the excellent Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap, teamed up with Guard Crush Games to deliver the finest scrolling fighter since Streets of Rage 2. Ex-cops Axel, Blaze and crew are back. Ten years on from the death of criminal overlord Mr. X, his children have taken over as the new masterminds of crime. Streets of Rage 4 not only delivers top fighting action, it is a sequel that always has its predecessors at heart in all the right ways. Intuitive, challenging, exciting, wonderfully animated with an absolutely masterful soundtrack, Streets of Rage 4 is a retro-revival everyone should experience.

Streets of Rage 4 is available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Spider-Man is the most accomplished comic-book-hero video game ever made. Developer Insomniac Games have come a long way from platforming series Spyro the Dragon. Honing that platforming with a narrative adventure in the Ratchet and Clank series has led to this, a licensed comic-book adventure that is, at times, a storytelling masterpiece. As a long-time Spider-Man comics fan I needed to adjust somewhat to these new takes on Peter Parker and supporting cast. But Insomniac certainly stuck with the courage of their convictions to deliver an excellent Spider-Man tale that is a unique and universal experience for anyone willing to pick up their gamepad and play. It’s open-world Manhattan environment contains seemingly unlimited tasks and missions to complete, and that’s outside of the main storyline. Visually it ranks among the greatest looking games on Sony’s console, with a ton of top action and storytelling that makes Spider-Man an absolute must.

Spider-Man is available on PS4, with a remastered version available for the PS5 also.

There is still a fair amount of time left in this current lockdown, if it even is one (don’t go there now – ed.). If you’re having to isolate or stay home for any reason at the moment, hopefully these suggestions will keep the spirits up as we head towards Christmas and the next generation of consoles. Stay Safe.

Vanquish 10th Anniversary Review (PS4)

Vanquish is an excellent fast-paced, super stylish shooter in the third person, from Resident Evil ­creator Shinji Mikami.

Like Bayonetta, there have been very few titles like Vanquish in the last ten years.

“Get outta the way!”

Like Bayonetta, there have been very few titles like Vanquish in the last ten years. Those dedicated to PlatinumGames-developed entities could only praise its frantic yet exhilarating action, impressive boss fights, even knee-sliding. And they were right; Vanquish is an excellent fast-paced, super stylish shooter in the third person, from Resident Evil ­creator Shinji Mikami. Both this and Hideki Kamiya’s Vanquish are being bundled together (physical release anyway), and both remain shining examples of PlatinumGames’ glamour and glory.

Vanquish puts the gravelly-sounding Sam Gideon at the forefront of a Russian-led robot war on America. Donned in his ARS (Augmented Reaction Suit), Sam can shoot, run, roll, and even knee-slide. That last function, performed by holding L1, shoots Sam across the floor at a breakneck pace to evade gunfire or get behind enemy lines. It’s an excellent defining feature that allows manipulation of your speed of attack, or a change of tactic. It also ties in with the suit’s AR mode, which allows the slowing down of time to make more pinpoint attacks. All consume a meter that, if depleted fully, the suit must recharge. The dynamic here is that these are all managed by you, except for when you take critical hits, which instantly depletes the meter, triggering AR mode automatically.

“What the ****, man?”

In amongst the herds of red Russian robots are plenty of boss fights. They vary from flying super-suited humans to the gigantic Argus, each requiring different tactics to expose their core and destroy them. It’s simplistic in nature but spectacular in practice. There are corridor stages, elevator stages, sniper stages, and most exciting of all are the battleground stages. Finding yourself pinned behind barricades, waiting for that perfect moment to strike. Thanks to the suit’s BLADE system, three weapon types at a time can be stored. A quick tap of the relevant D-pad direction changes to the desired weapon, and any can be swapped out for others throughout. Vanquish’s mechanisms are designed to keep you thinking, and that means quickly. It serves as a constant adrenaline rush.

Ten years on, why should anyone care about Vanquish? Its biggest problem was always recognition, not its quality. Critics loved it, and according to Wikipedia, its more recent PC release pushed it over the 1 million sales mark. Yet it somehow feels like a forgotten gem in many respects. Bayonetta is undoubtedly far more well known (a sequel and SMASH appearance would have a lot to do with that), but Vanquish, although quite different, is cut from a similar cloth. Having them release at the same time makes perfect sense, as they complement each other so well.

“Time to hit hard and make ’em regret it.”

And so, what about the remaster? The 4K, 60 frames per second upgrade provides a facelift for the current generation to have a swing at. Vanquish always had a distinctly futuristic feel with clear visuals, but now they run superbly fast. The frame rate boost gives the action a new lease of life and has never been better. The ARS looks better than ever also, with extra detail evidently on show for key characters to bring them more up to date. Unfortunately, the upgrade can do little for the backdrops, which were of the time already. Some look a bit blurry with Vanquish having an awful lot of greyness about it anyway. As noted in the preview, there are noted small moments of slowdown in some of the cutscenes. There was a patch released earlier today, so fingers crossed both this, and the subtitle inconsistencies are also addressed.

“C’mon apes, you wanna live forever?!”

So, Vanquish is starting to show some age a little. What of it? When the action is as good as this (and it is as good as they come), it’s perfect for a few hours of frenetic fun. Therein lies its biggest flaw: the campaign’s length. Even a first-timer could wade through on the Normal setting in but a few hours. But that in itself is part of the genius of Vanquish; the mechanics are so tight and easy to learn, you’ll soon be clocking headshots in AR mode as if you’ve played for months. Like many games from PlatinumGames, they are often designed to be replayed. For the trophy hunter, there are plenty of fun-to-obtain trophies to collect, which also require a rise in difficulty. The challenge mode becomes exceptionally hard and is still the elusive trophy I am yet to obtain myself on any version.

If Bayonetta is the coveted supermodel, then Vanquish is the young starlet that never got the break they deserved. The story may be a tongue-in-cheek, politically preposterous, and filled with corny dialogue, but that’s all part of the fun. You don’t need to believe it to enjoy it. But what needs to be believed that even with a single playthrough, you cannot go wrong for a few hours of entertainment than with Vanquish.

Bayonetta 10th Anniversary Remaster Review (PS4)

“Don’t f**k with a witch!”

Bayonetta is up there with the best—arguably even the best—hack-‘n-slash action game around. It’s problematic and erratic PS3 port back in 2010 left a false impression – after all, Bayonetta is no mere historical curio. We may have had to wait ten years, but Bayonetta finally has the Playstation port it deserves, offering 4K support with smooth, stable framerates. This, my friends, is how you port a classic.

The story of Bayonetta is, quite frankly, a mental one to explain in simple terms. A shapeshifting witch left with amnesia after a 500-year slumber, with guns in both her hands and strapped to her heels, is but the beginning. From then on, her story is your story. As the detailed lore is explained throughout as flashes of her previous life, reacquaint her, and of course you, of her salient backstory. The fictional European city of Vigrid is the adventure’s setting, and finding the “Right Eye of the World” is the quest Bayonetta must fulfill. Along the way is an army of angels that must be slain in a variety of wonderful ways, including demons made of hair. See, I told you the story was mental.

“Say hi to the wife and kids for me!”

If that potentially sounds too much for you, then remember this: Come for the story, stay for the combat. Bayonetta’s existence revolves around its masterful combat mechanics. Tapping triangle/circle gives you quick punch/kick attacks. Chaining them together with different weapons assigned can lead to a myriad of combinations. Then there are Wicked Weaves; powerful combo finishers that, when executed, transform Bayonetta’s mystical hair into a giant demonic boot/fist that inflict great damage. And naturally, look flashy as hell. In the past ten years, only one title has come close to Bayonetta’s combat, and that is the Wii U-exclusive sequel, Bayonetta 2, a little over five years ago. The fluidity and hypnotic rhythm of the combat are indeed that good.

Aside from the combos themselves, adding to that fluidity is the Dodge function. A quick tap of R2 allows Bayonetta to glide away from harm. Not only that, activating a dodge at the last possible moment freezes everyone – except for Bayonetta – in what is called Witch Time. For anyone who has played a Platinum title since, such as Transformers Devastation or Nier: Automata, this concept may be nothing new. But such is the genius of the concept, and it’s no surprise to see it becoming a developer-mainstay feature. There are, of course, subtle differences. Where Nier is all about accuracy, flow is the key in Bayonetta. The dodge is part of the combo chain, so it can be resumed after dodging.

“Do you like it when she calls you ‘Mummy’?”

The combat is oh so important as it is an extension of Bayonetta herself. The opening sequence gives the impression of someone with grace, poise, always in charge, and enjoys the thrill of combat. In turn, so is the animation of your actions – graceful that is – and assuming you’re not too terrible at it, you’ll be having as much fun as she is. It is both genius and beauty coming together, all at your fingertips.

The same can also be said for the action cutscenes. They are silly, playful, and on the right side of cocky. They are also highly entertaining and brilliantly choreographed, encapsulating again how much Bayonetta is in control. The camera also lingers over our star frequently, often with camera-facing glances, or alternatively, Bayonetta’s more private areas. Some may find this somewhat egregious. But this is merely intended as an extension of the self-awareness and confidence of Bayonetta. The sexualization is merely another source of power for our titular character. She is a funny, tenacious, and wise-cracking witch, and it is hard not to admire her beauty and grace.

There are very few, minor quibbles. This being a Sega property, it feels inevitable that QTE’s are involved. Not often, nor debilitating overall, but let’s face it, they are a product of a bygone era. Here a key life or death moment may need repeating until the correct singular button is pressed. It feels unnecessary and old-fashioned. The tendency to transition directly into being attacked out from a cutscene can be more irritating. Especially for those gunning, slashing, punching, and indeed spinning for top stage rankings.

“Now, it’s time to be naughty.”

But what of the remaster? Well, the action certainly keeps up the 60 frames per second promise. It feels right at home on the PS4 pad also. It is, without doubt, a major upgrade on the Platinum-outsourced PS3 disappointment of ten years ago. Even the Xbox 360 version struggled when the action got too frantic, but here it is smooth as smooth gets. It steps up to the plate of modern resolutions admirably well, also. Never has Bayonetta looked so good in my home than on my 55-inch 4K television.

As for the re-release timing generally, it feels like an important piece of redemption for Playstation hardware. The PS3 version has a bad rap with bad sales to go with it, so it is fitting that a definitive version gets both a new and old audience. The colour palette may seem a little bland in places today, but the level design remains superb, the combat sublime, and, now more than ever, an essential bargain.

This review originally appeared on www.heypoorplayer.com

 

 

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered Announced For PS4, XBOX ONE, SWITCH and PC – Mass Hysteria!

Mad Dog Games and developer Saber Interactive have announced Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via the Epic Games Store. It is due to launch in 2019.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game Remastered delivers a unique story from franchise creators Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Billed as the spiritual sequel to Ghostbusters 2,  Ghostbusters: The Video Game captures the comedic fun and fright the franchise is beloved for. This remastered release coincides with the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters this year.

You play a new rookie on the Ghostbusters team, teaming up with characters from the films, which reunites the voices of Aykroyd, Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson as Stantz, Spengler, Venkman and Zeddemore. Alongside them are Annie Potts (Janine Melnitz), Brian Doyle-Murray (Psychiatrist in GB 2), William Atherton (Walter Peck), and Max von Sydow as the voice of Vigo the Carpathian.

With Manhattan being overrun once more by ghosts, demons, and other paranormal creatures unleashed by a mysterious force, the Ghostbusters must save the day. Only they can drive this evil back to whence it came.

The third-person viewpoint makes for hunting, zapping and trapping a variety of new and familiar ghouls and phantasms. Cool tools such as the Paragoggles and P.K.E Meter are also on hand to can and analyse spooks and demons. Then its time to strap on the Proton Pack to capture your foes in the Proton beam, ready for trapping. Enemies push and pull for freedom within the entrapment of the Proton Beam, and it is your job to force them into submission and into the Ghost Traps.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game was originally a multi-format release 10 years ago. The Xbox 360/PS3 version is the one remastered here, with life-like animated visuals of Peter Venkman and company, and a great script too. If sources are to be believed, Bill Murray was championed with ensuring that all the cast members got an equal share of screen time.

After just a few minutes in, it is apparent that Ghostbusters: The Video Game is a heartfelt piece of Ghostbusters canon straight from the creators. This very welcome remaster will serve as an excellent addition to the catalogues of the current console generation.

 

 

The Trinkets and Kinship of Shenmue

Originally posted on Hey Poor Player:-

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Ryo acquires his latest fix

I have always had a thing for little trinkets. Back when I had to work in an office, my desk accommodated a Lego character here, a Marvel miniature there, an overall undeniable youthful spirit everywhere. My desk at home is a similar fixture, except now it consists of upgrades such as a Super Mario Maker mascot or Amiibo.

My history of such trinkets is a long-standing one. Fond memories of my first trip alone to the local newsagent remain strong, for it was all about the mystery toy/candy machines outside. I never knew at the time that 10/20p would bring so much joy.

25 years later, taking my 6-year-old daughter to a toy store is living proof that that youthful spirit and inclination has clearly passed down from father to child. She will happily glance past the Barbie’s and Pokemon’s that she equally adores without so much as a tentative purchase request. Well, sometimes. But once we hit the collectibles section, often located near the exit, she starts pointing excitedly like something out of a Looney Tunes cartoon. I can empathise. These days I’m more physically reserved, but nevertheless other family members still sometimes bear the brunt of our over-enthusiasm for inanimate plastic, often bringing us both away from retailer ecstasy. But not without a trinket or two of course.

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The capsule machines at the harbour deploy a different tactic

Once I ran across the pair of trinket-dispensing machines outside the Sakuragoaka village store, one of the primary locations in Sega’s recently remastered adventure Shenmue, it was a calling like no other. A sentimental moment within a sentimental moment, if you will. Once that passed, the excitement I’d passed down in my genes surfaced. “Do they work?” I was asked both enthusiastically and hopefully. Usually, in such circumstances, that question would not apply. Very few video games allow for such miniature interaction. It was to my delight, and that of my daughter, that the answer was most definitely, “Yes”.

And so a query of mere functionality quickly ascended/descended into capsule toy addiction. The 100 Yen – 70p – price tag seems insignificant, especially as Ryo begins the game with 10,000. Forlorn housekeeper Ine-San leaving 500 yen allowance each day only facilitates the habit further. But as Ryo says as he collects it: “I should be grateful”. This father/daughter collection connection certainly is.

The toy collection comes in the form of Sega characters – the casts of Sonic, Virtua Fighter and Nights into Dreams among others – that didn’t even exist 32 years ago. Given the alternative mix of dice, rubber balls and paperweights just wouldn’t cut it, this was always an unforgivable oversight.

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You barely get toys this good in real life

Toy capsule collecting has become a major part of this revisit to Yokosuka, but now is presented in a new light. As I direct Ryo to each machine, I let my daughter decide how many turns I take on each. It might be 5 turns on the Sonic toys, the next day just the 3, and so on for the other machines. It became a game within itself. As Ryo’s remaining cash flow is displayed with each purchase, no white lies are going to get me out of it.

After each capsule toy machine routine comes to an end, it’s time to inspect the goods. After all, “How are we going to know how many are left to get, daddy?” As if any more incentive was required to complete the capsule toy collection Shenmue has to offer, the recent PS4/Xbox One remaster also rewards collectors with trophies/achievements for their efforts. It brings a near 20 year old game’s unique experience to a new generation of players.

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“No, you kiss off, twit”

Shenmue is the ultimate example of a small world examined. The 4 years of development and alleged $50-80 million spent shows in its unquestionable detail. Real life locations such as the interconnecting street of Dobuita are prominent throughout – and much of it still parallels many ways in 2018 to the 1986 Yu Suzuki representation. The use of meteorological records to generate the weather cycles of December 1986 Yokosuka produces a plentiful mixture of clement, heavy rain, even snow. All are triggers of excitement from my daughter, from decorations on display at Christmas, to impromptu shouts of “you need to get in the arcade, it’s raining so time to play some games”. Who am I to disappoint?

Yu Suzuki’s classics Hang-On and Space Harrier were still relatively new back in 1986. As a child of the 80’s, fond memories remain of the Hang-On theme ringing in the air at many a seaside arcades well into the 90’s. But the life-size, distinctive motorcycle cabinet is now an arcade antique, rarely seen on today’s arcade scene. The concept of such a cabinet within a video game, let alone in real life, blew my daughter’s mind. She is of that age where she is in complete admiration for her parents’ childhood past’s, more specifically pastimes. We both love to read. I collect toys, she collects toys. I play video games and so does she, but more specifically the ones attributed to my past.

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We understand, Ryo. We really do

As the story has developed over time my daughter’s attention lies away from searching for sailors, gangs and Chinese translators. Thankfully I have enough cash to catch the bus to work at the harbour each day. But not a day in the game passes without prompts of “Have you fed the kitten today?” or “Have you spoken to Nozomi?”, or even “Is Tom still dancing in the street?” It’s a testament to Shenmue’s cast of characters and their day to day actions. They may be mostly insignificant but hardly inconspicuous at the same time.

The world of Shenmue is currently pressing on towards its next chapter in our household. My PSN trophy cabinet is filling up after many revisited gaming memories. But the real trophies will always be the trinkets themselves, and the youthfulness they have invoked. I am eagerly awaiting to start Shenmue II, when the parent/daughter trinket collecting team can begin again.

SHAQ FU: A LEGEND REBORN REVIEW (PS4)

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I’m not entirely sure how it’s come to this: a sequel to Shaq Fu, the now-infamous 24-year-old fighter. Actually, I am sure; Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn came from a successful crowd-funding programme. Which leads to a more important question: why is Shaq Fu back? On the basis of this, some demons are laid to rest. And in some ways, it creates others.

Shaq Fu was a terrible Mortal Kombat clone that somehow made the plot of fellow basketball-er Michael Jordan’s movie Space Jam more plausible. Sportsman walks into a dojo, ends up saving a boy from an evil mummy. In A Legend Reborn, Shaq’s backstory is that of being an orphan to a Chinese family, who of course named him Shaquille. Naturally. Bullied for being 7 foot-plus, he is taught the ways of Wu Xing and must adopt his new skills after his village is attacked. Cue six long levels of relentless fisticuffs and horrifically bad jokes.

The one relief for Shaq Fu numero two is it has ditched the one-on-one style for something simpler; a scrolling fighter. Using the Streets of Rage/Final Fight mould makes for a more flowing experience. But there’s a problem with that as well; Shaquille O’Neal is such a tour-de-force presence, so naturally, it’s all about him and him alone. Which means no multiplayer, which is the biggest issue with this game. It is so dull and repetitive to wade through alone. The same can be said for most scrolling fighters, but here a companion is desperately needed to share the incessant bad jokes. Of which a few even refer to the lack of co-op.

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Shaq Gon Give It To Ya

The levels are way too long at 20-30 minutes each. They are scrolling-fighter-by-numbers; multiple enemies that vary in difficulty and weakness, power-ups to collect by bashing foreground crates and other objects, plus end of level boss set pieces. You can hammer out many 90’s classic scrolling fighters in around an hour and have 10 times as much fun.

The bosses serve as technically awkward, painfully dated concepts. But they’re celebrity figure-satires, so it’s all good. Wait, no. No, it isn’t. At least Donald Trump is one of them. There’s a drunken racist Aussie in a kilt who could only be Mel Gibson, but the scales really tip when a social-media-crazed woman who actually turns in to a giant ass. That eats tacos. That’s not funny, just pathetic.

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Kung Fu Shaq Fu

The visuals deployed are of a cartoon 3D-on-2D style, with varied backgrounds that suit each levels’ setting. The lighting effects are great, as are some of the special attacks, with Bayonetta-style big boot finishers, and Turtles in Time-inspired fourth wall smash attacks that hit your screen. The action moves along at a nice speed, regardless of the number of enemies on screen. The cut-scene artwork is tidy, with character portraits adding a dash of coolness to proceedings.

With its humour Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn disregards all political correctness as much as it disregards the meaning of fun. The humour could rub anyone up the wrong way at some point, like Donald Trump on his campaign trail. It is also relentless. Just like one of Trump’s campaign trails. The jokes are wooden and crass, ballsy yet consistently eye-rolling in quality. That being said, the voice acting, performed by Shaq himself, for the most part, is decent. Fans of his music will no doubt love the title screen track, a new song from the man himself. Make no mistake, this is a fully endorsed Shaq product, and he wants you to know that. There is something to admire there for sure.

The admiration is however soon out of the window once the three-hour approx journey is over. In that time you may well have done everything A Legend Reborn has to offer. There is little/no incentive to ever grace your eyes with its presence ever again. I’m not entirely sure who this even appeals to. It could have served as a great option with friends, but the lack of co-op is a glaring omission. This, along with jokes that almost always miss the mark, and a clear crisis of identity means Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn is once again a wasted opportunity.

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SEGA Reveals New Team Sonic Racing Trailer

The Sonic the Hedgehog gauntlet continues

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Sonic the Hedgehog is back. Back again. And this time he’s taking a back front seat from all that running, back into his racing car. This week, Sega released a teaser trailer for the Sumo Digital-developed racer.

Entitled Team Sonic Racing, it promises to combine the best elements of arcade and competitive style racing, at a fast pace. 12 characters from across the Sonic Universe will be available both solo and online. So far Sonic, Shadow and Tails have been confirmed as characters. Multiple game modes, such as Grand Prix, Time Trial and Team Adventure are also confirmed. More interesting however are the team mechanics, such as Item Transfer or Slingshot, that can be used to assist racing teammates. There will also be vehicle customisation.

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Don’t expect any characters outside of the Sonic Universe, as was the case with 2010’s Sega All-Stars Racing and its 2012 sequel. This is purely Team Sonic. I find this a little disappointing, given the variety of the cast in All-Star Racing. Plus racing as Ryo Hazuki on a forklift was hilarious. It could however prove to be a good platform for fans to become more familiarised with supporting characters, a consistent weak spot for Sonic over the years. There have been far too many over the years, and few remain stable.

The tracks in the trailer look to be a similar style to the All-Star Racing games of last gen. The upside-down arched roads naturally have that Mario Kart look to them. With Sonic Mania Plus due very soon, and Team Sonic Racing set for late 2018, Sonic really is back. No one has come close to emulating Nintendo’s runaway success with Mario Kart. But now, Sonic Team Racing at least looks to be a decent alternative.

Check out the trailer below, and let me know what you think!

 

 

My Top 5 Games of 2017

2017 was some year for video games. The Xbox One and PS4 showing their true capabilities. The arrival of the Nintendo Switch. The impact of the Nintendo Switch. I cannot comment on PC and 3DS because i’m a poor man who cannot afford all of the games and systems. Man i’d love a gaming PC.

Anyway, back to 2017. Here are the 5 games I enjoyed the most. Before you skim down and click away in anger, there are some notable mentions that didn’t qualify. This is simply because I only had limited experience with them, despite first impressions being excellent.

Notable Mentions

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch):-

I am yet to own a Nintendo Switch. Note the word ‘yet’, because there are a few games already that make it scream ‘buy me’. Super Mario Odyssey is absolutely one of those games.

With just an hour or so into Odyssey, I am already in love with it, and in awe of it. The mysterious Cap Kingdom. The landscape of Cascade Kingdom. The beautiful Sand Kingdom. I’ve barely scratched the surface but I already know i’m in for something special.

Yakuza Kimawi (PS4):-

Whenever i see Yakuza, I immediately think of Shenmue. The combat is certainly familiar. This remake of the original, which I missed the first time around on PS2, oozes coolness. Like Mario Odyssey, I’ve only managed but a few minutes, but I can already tell this is going to be a time-devouring experience to remember. It is certainly reminiscent of Shenmue in all the right ways. Did I mention I miss Shenmue?

And now, let’s see what’s behind door #5….

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#5 – Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PS4)

Those that know me won’t be surprised by this entry, given that I love football. But even this, the 17th installment of Konami’s football series, took me by surprise. Up until the series’ transition onto the PS3/Xbox 360 platforms I was always a PES guy. Pro Evolution Soccer 6 is still the greatest football sim known to man. That’s just scientific fact.

I did jump ship to the much-improved and package-heavy FIFA series from ’09-’17. But I grew tired of FIFA’s increasingly unbalanced gameplay. After a taster of the series’ improving game with 2015/2016, I’m back for 2018. And it was worth the wait for many reasons.

First and foremost, Master League. The greatest league mode of any video game football simulation, is back in my life. It’s had a few media-style tweaks that are pretty pointless, but mirror today’s media-heavy approach. Getting yourself a edited data patch online adds to the experience much more. It isn’t official, but allows you to emulate competing in the Premier League, Serie A, etc along with the Champions/Europa Leagues, which are officially licensed. It can be life-consuming, but exhilarating no less.

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But what about the football itself? Master the basics and even the most novice players will be stringing one-touch passing moves together. The key is build up play, and it’s as precise as you want it to be. Passing/crosses/build-up is everything. Like the real thing.

Expect a challenge the other way, also. Defending isn’t easy with the games biggest gameplay issue: slide-tackling. Regardless of position, any tap of the slide button means a full-on tackle. And most likely a foul. That aside, you can press as freely and as high up the pitch as you want, and instruct team mates to do the same. Or not, if that’s your tactical nuance.

And finally, the cost. I managed to get PES 2018 Premium Edition for £38 (before trade-ins). FIFA 18’s standard cost is typical EA at £50/55. Plus EA want you spend even more within the game also. Don’t fall for it.

PES 2018 is an excellent football title. That data edit patch is a must for any true football fan to want it, and it’s worth a few minutes of hassle. As Konami would say, the pitch is ours. With PES 2018, you can make it yours.

Next, what’s behind door #4?

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#4 – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (PS4)

I reviewed this back in June. Check it out for the full low-down.

Off the back of the shocking ending to season 2, Telltale’s 3rd season certainly raises an eyebrow or two. Firstly, another change in lead character was initially disappointing. Disgraced baseball player Javier Carlos is an initially flaky individual, particularly around his family. But in true Telltale storytelling style, enough backstory is presented to make your own mind up. And more importantly, make the decisions. But fear not Clementine fans (me included), for she still plays a pivotal role in this penultimate season.

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There isn’t any change to the Telltale formula, but it’s fair to say there doesn’t need to be. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, right? Telltale’s success is in it’s storytelling. Don’t like how certain decisions turn out? Then it’s worth a replay to see how things differ.

You want character investment? Telltale have become masters of that across most of their series. But The Walking Dead is still their best work. And come the end A New Frontier, you won’t be left wanting. Except for the next series of course.

And now for #3….

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#3 – Sonic Mania (PS4)

Well. Sonic Mania is quite the renaissance, isn’t it? Classic Sonic graphics, classic Sonic gameplay, classic Sonic characters. And while it starts out as an HD remix of sorts, revisiting levels from Sonic 1 + 2, Sonic Mania quickly becomes so much more.

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Granted if you were never a Sonic fan then 1) what is wrong with you? and 2) this could be the one to get you invested. Christian “Taxman” Whitehead has successfully created a brilliant hybrid of Sonic’s best 2D elements. On top of that, there is plenty of new content to justify Sonic Mania being a whole new adventure. And unlike Sonic Generations, the last decent Sonic title, none of that 3D third-person rubbish. It simply doesn’t work for the world’s most well-known hedgehog.

But Sonic Mania does work. On all levels. It has odes to the best Sonic has had to offer over the last 25+ years. Granted, of the 13 Zones on offer only 4 are wholly original. But most have originally developed ‘Acts’ designed against old backdrops such as the Green Hill and Chemical Plant Zones. There’s even a tribute to Mean Bean Machine thrown in for good measure. Add on top of that a host of unlock-able items/modes through in-game special stages, plus Chaos Emeralds to capture, and that’s the longevity sorted.

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And the special stages in particular are a nice addition. Reminiscent of the Sonic CD equivalent stages, they are nostalgia-tinged throwbacks to the 16-bit era. The Mode-7 racetrack-style courses are fluid and fast; something your reactions need to be as you collects rings to keep the timer going, and orbs in order to catch up to each Emerald. And you’ll want to collect them, for it is the only way to fully complete Sonic Mania.

At less than £20 it’s well worth it, whether you’re a fan or a newcomer. Sonic Mania is a retro-based reminder that 2D Sonic is and always will be the best Sonic.

And for my #2 pick of 2017…..

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#2 – MLB The Show ’17 (PS4)

Now this is most definitely the surprise pick of the year. I don’t watch Baseball. I don’t know any current rosters. Hell I can barely even name 10 teams. But such was the praise for Sony’s twelfth MLB installment i’d have been mad not to at least try it. And boy does it ever hit a home run.

MLB The Show ’17 is possibly the most comprehensive sports sim I have ever experienced. Given my little knowledge of the sport, the excellent tutorials get you up to scratch with little fuss/expectation. You can pitch/bat with whatever camera view suits you best, or even choose whatever TV coverage style you want. There is local co-op, online play, season mode and a franchise mode, which gives you control over and above the team on the field.

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The fielding and batting mechanics are pretty much perfect. You can swing with the tap of a button or with a swing of the analog stick. You can control all bases in sync or individually. The amount of functions and features goes on and on. To list everything MLB The Show ’17 has to offer for beginners through to seasoned professionals would simply be too much.

One new feature of note is the Retro Mode; a simplistic single-game mode that provides an excellent, top-level game of baseball for single/co-op play. It is visualised with 8-bit style block-graphics and thinner backdrops. It is an excellent mode to pick up the basics of the rules and batting/fielding timings.

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I haven’t even touched on the ‘Road to the show’ mode, where you create then guide a player through their career. From managing the bases to your contract, your social media profile to your attitude.

MLB The Show ’17 is incredible value for money. I picked this up for half price a few months down the line, but come March I will be looking for the best price for MLB The Show ’18. It is quite possibly the best sports sim series ever made.

And finally…..#1

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Come on Rey TELL ME!!!

#1 – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U)

I think it’s fair to say that most who have experienced Breath of the Wild would make it their top pick. BotW is a genre-defining, mind-blowing experience that just has to be played.

The open-world environment is simply huge and awe-inspiring. The physics engine is tremendously detailed. The visuals are incredible, beautiful and, as a whole, is a brilliant adventure. Breath of the Wild takes elements from its already-greatest hits, as well as a few others (Skyrim being one example), and expands them exponentially.

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There isn’t much left to say about Breath of the Wild that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. But there is a reason it has appeared on almost all 2017 Game of the Year listings. The anticipation alone led to 4 million sales for the Nintendo Switch, a perfect jump-start for Nintendo. It also served as a perfect swansong for the under-performing Wii U, managing to shift just over 1 million copies.

It’s release on the Wii U is something I am thankful for. Being 1 of the 1 million to own a copy on Wii U, it gave me the chance to experience one of the most immersive worlds ever committed to code. I urge you to do the same if you haven’t already. Breath of the Wild isn’t just the best video game of 2017; it’s the best game in years.

So that’s my top games of 2017, what were yours? Leave a comment below!

Review – The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (PS4)

The third season of Telltale’s eponymous series is possibly the most curious yet. Telltale’s approach to storytelling has become familiar over its various franchises. Potential outcomes have become more obvious through familiarity than merely being predictable. This latest Walking Dead installment attempts to skirt around such expectations and take it up a notch.

Like the previous entries in the series, Telltale’s Walking Dead tries to keep you guessing, whilst also filled with moments of genuine emotion. Given the formula is pretty much the same throughout, the first two series were always going to have one over it’s third instalment. There is nothing new here other than the continuing plot line from previous seasons and animation improvements. The voice-acting is once again among some of the best in video games. I certainly didn’t expect anything different formula-wise; in fact, I’d be disappointed if it had changed.

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So, Telltale mechanics? Check. Emotional and difficult choices? Check. Best Walking Dead season so far? That’s much harder to answer. To delve into the specifics of the plot would be unnecessary and spoiler-ific, but of course any previous experience of the series will steer your mind in the right direction. The only reveal I will share – and possibly the most disappointing element of the game – is that you are no longer in control of Clementine in the main story. This time it’s Javier Carlos, a disgraced baseball player who’s current zombie-filled plight is as difficult as his family history.

Despite the lead character change once again, the game’s success still revolves around what decisions are made. Moreover, it can be replayed to enact the alternatives if so desired. There are moments that feel too cliched however, or forcing shock value upon you.

On the whole though Telltale’s formula is more hit than miss; the final chapter has a number of loose ends that tie up really well, leaving a sensation of hope that was missing from the end of the first 2 seasons. It also leaves off with a lot of potential story-lines for potential future seasons. I did find some of the new relationships hard to buy into, with a reliance on flashbacks to mold the character you want. There are mixed emotions to the more abrupt deaths that occur. A simple “oh, they’re dead” is as much emotion as can be spared for certain characters, with little time for reflection.

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Telltale rose to prominence due to the introduction of this meticulous formula back in 2012 with its first season. It may not seem they can quite recreate the success that first season had with this one, but Telltale have certainly proven they are far from bereft of ideas. You won’t be left wanting once A New Frontier ends, with multiple narratives introduced and addressed along the way. The expectation is solely on the stories and how they are delivered, nothing more.

A New Frontier this is a fitting entry into Walking Dead lore. If you’ve experienced the previous Telltale seasons, then you know what to expect. And by the end of A New Frontier, despite it being the weakest entry so far, is still well worth your time. Your jaw may drop from time to time, and there’s plenty of trauma and emotion throughout. But don’t forget that in the long run none of this will probably matter.

Emotional, inquisitive, dramatic yet also comforting, A New Frontier will keep you hooked from start to finish with another solid season.

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Transformers Devastation: Bringing Back Saturday Morning Cartoons

devastation-transIn late 2015, Activision released Transformers Devastation, a brand new Transformers video game. Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Vanquish), Transformers Devastation did something bold. No, not just creating a decent Transformers game (it is in fact fantastic), but it wasn’t based on any Michael Bay rubbish; instead they went back to the beginning of the franchise: Generation One.

For those not familiar, Generation One was the original Hasbro toy-driven cartoon and comic series that started in 1984. Although it only lasted 3 years, it was a worldwide success that spawned an animated movie that has a huge cult following, and countless now-collectible toys. Although that series ended almost 30 years ago, there have been multiple reimagining’s over the years, and it’s fair to say that the afore-mentioned Michael Bay monstrosities have indeed rekindled the memories of the original (and indeed best) series.

Despite the quite frankly surprising news of a Generation One based video game in the works, I was initially met with mostly scepticism. Transformers videos games largely have a terrible record, as do many series/movie tie-ins, unless Lego appears in the title. The news of Platinum Games as the developers certainly helped alleviate those initial fears; Bayonetta and its sequel are 2 of the best video games to ever grace a television screen, so I became swiftly confident they could deliver. The result is more than meets the eye…..

tf_devastation_teaserPlatinum’s somewhat traditional third-person ‘hack n slash’ formula is adopted well here; incorporating both physical attack combos and artillery-based projectile attacks. There are 5 classic Autobots to choose from, and once you get over the cool factor of being the original Optimus Prime, with his original Peter Cullen voice once again, you soon discover the other characters (Grimlock, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack) have enough variety between them to offer different experiences. Grimlock in particular, in his Dinosaur form, unlike everyone else’s vehicle forms, offers different combos and attacks.

But by far the most amazing factor of Transformers Devastation is the fan service, the nostalgia factor. It is by no means a perfect video game; it doesn’t have the combat depth of Bayonetta, or the consistently flawless backdrops of Vanquish, nor does it try to reinvent the wheel in any other way. But don’t be mistaken into thinking it is a poor game with just great fan service, like many other anime titles.

91BPBIsaxyL._SL1500_The characters and combat style is interspersed with the storyline and boss-ridden levels delightfully, and of course the bosses themselves are recognisable favourites such as Starscream, Soundwave, and of course Megatron. Each and every character even has their own heavy metal theme from the excellent accompanying soundtrack, which surely has to get a release. Believe me, I’ve asked, but it’s a ‘no’ for now.

The perfectly nostalgic cast and characters come together with a plot that easily fits in canon with the series, and plays out much like any typical episode would. It’s the perfect Saturday morning video game derived what was once everyone’s favourite Saturday morning cartoon series. Everything about this package is any Transformers fans’ dream. The beauty of the game is its appeal; it knows why you’re playing it before you’ve even booted the game up: you love the 80’s Transformers, so you are going to love this.