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.