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.

Five Fearsome Horror Games of the Last Decade

“just because the 31st of October has passed, it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t remain for a few days thereafter. Enjoy my Halloween horror videogame picks”

Hands up, I’m a little late with this one. But just because the 31st of October has passed, it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t remain for a few days thereafter. After all, no matter what the supermarkets show you, it ain’t Christmas yet! So without further ado, enjoy my Halloween horror videogame picks.

The Walking Dead Telltale Series

Telltale’s The Walking Dead follows zombie apocalypse survivor Clementine across four emotionally gripping episodic games. Growing up and evolving from a little girl hiding in a tree house through to adulthood, as a more than capable survivor, The Walking Dead offers a new and refreshing perspective to the hugely successful TV and comic franchise. From an emotionally provocative perspective it is arguably better than its parent’s narrative. As you make your own informed decisions as the story progresses, Clementine’s world develops around you as a result of these choices. Some choices literally play with people’s lives. The series began in 2012, and really put Telltale Games on the map. The Final Season however, marked the final chapter of Telltale as a development entity altogether, before it was even completed. Thankfully, Skybound Games saved the license, and Telltale has since been reborn. The Walking Dead is a perfect harrowing tale, perfect for Halloween, that few will ever forget.

The Evil Within

The Evil Within is Resident Evil-creator Shinji Mikami’s latest horror franchise. As expected, it is a highly-crafted, horrifying and intricate and immersive story that invokes tension and anxiety.. Whilst investigating the scene of a gruesome mass murder, detective Sebastian Castellanos encounters a powerful force that allows him to wander amongst the dead. The Evil Within is not for the faint of heart. Mikami has created a horrific, twisted world, as well as a formidable challenge. Halloween doesn’t get much more interactively harrowing than this.

The Wolf Among Us

Another entry from the ill-fated but now resurrected Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us is a very different tale to The Walking Dead. Based on the DC Vertigo comic series Fables, this episodic adventure pits you as Bigby Wolf as he investigates the murder of a woman in the mystical enclave location of Fabletown. As the investigation develops, the choices made not only progress this very dark fairy tale, but also lay out the difficult path of Bigby as a protagonist. Nothing is as it seems, and there is more than enough horror-laden mystery and violence to satisfy any Halloween urges. More good news – A sequel is on the way.

Dead Space

Another ill-fated developer tale, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that Visceral Games perfected the third-person survival horror formula with the original Dead Space. Engineer Isaac Clarke and team venture to a mining spacecraft after a blackout in communications, only to quickly discover it has been overrun by monsters. The monsters, who turn out to be mutated versions of the ship’s crew, require Isaac’s various nifty, upgradable cutting tools in order for them to be eliminated.

Before Alien: Isolation hit our screens, Dead Space was the perfect substitute for old-school survival horror. The required limb cutting instils both panic and preservation in equal measure. There are jump-scares and uneasiness aplenty, set against a bleak yet fantastic looking visuals. Possibly its greatest success is all this comes with a minimal plot, as the action does all the talking.

Zombi U

Zombi U was an early pleasant surprise for the Nintendo Wii U, and arguably the best non-Nintendo title to use the second-screen dynamic. Inevitably, it received a much bigger audience when it was ported to PS4 years later. Set in a zombie-apocalyptic London, you guide survivor after survivor through a Zombie-laden English capital with the hopes of escape. As you scrounge for weapons and health, you soon realise that to survive you need to avoid zombie combat as much as possible. When you die – and you will – you pick the trail up as a new character, with anything collected left where you previously bit the dust. Its a bleak, slower paced affair, with the feel of a George A. Romero movie. Only this time, you’re in it.

Oh, what’s that, no Resident Evil 2 remake, even with the featured image as a nod? Red herring! I am still yet to play it. What are your Halloween horror choices for this past spooky season?

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.

 

 

SEGA Reveals New Team Sonic Racing Trailer

The Sonic the Hedgehog gauntlet continues

sonic racing.png

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!

 

 

WWE 2K16 Review – Showcase of the Immoral

THE CHAMP IS HERE! Yes, it’s that time of year again, where the grappling soap opera laces up its boots and dons its flamboyant singlets/shorts to unleash its roster on the world once again. After last year’s threadbare next gen debut, the tension is rising, the deck is stacked for failure, and so can the champion-turned-disappointment come out on top in 2015?

Let’s start with what desperately needed improvement from last year: the content. It’s what generally labels a WWE game as a success or failure, whether it’s Road to Wrestlemania modes, original stories, unlockable content, etc. So it is instantly pleasing to see that WWE 2K16 has introduced the 2K Showcase mode. Essentially a copy of History of Wrestlemania mode in WWE2K14, Showcase lets you play out Stone Cold Steve Austin’s key historic (and some not so historic) encounters. Meeting certain conditions unlocks material that can be used in the general modes of the game. However, whilst initially a lot of fun to revisit scenes that are 20 years old and every older WWE’s fan dream, there are some serious pacing issues.

Most conditions are simple yet tedious to fulfil. These can be as basic as delivering X amount of damage or perform an Irish whip, and are also mandatory to continue and complete the match. The fact that these matches unlock new characters and other goodies is the only incentive to a mode that only succeeds in feeling forced and very restrictive. As you progress the conditions mount up resulting in rather exhaustive and laborious matches. All the while I was wishing I was watching the real thing instead.

91uoZnsrAHL._SL1500_Which leads onto the most disappointing element: the gameplay itself. WWE 2K16 is clunky and slow, with unforgivable glitches such as commands that randomly stop working as quickly as they start working again. Factor in an oddly inexplicable difficulty spike, which leads to frustration more than an increased challenge.

Despite these apparent indignation’s, WWE 2K16 is a generally simple title to pick up and play. The variety of crazy matches to be had will satisfy the hard-core WWE fan. But, and this is the biggest but of all, WWE games have effectively been the same title – albeit tweaked – since WWE ’13. WWE 2K16 is effectively WWE ’13 version 3, with the series in desperate need of a change from the ground up.

Striking, grappling, submission, reversals and even pinning manoeuvres are all just essentially a game of chance; a game built up on QTE-based command foundations that are often cleverly masked behind the accurately depicted WWE arenas and superstars.

WWE2K16LastGen06But then even the visuals themselves are not the draw they once were, especially after taking the step up to the next console generation. Appearances from the owner himself Vince McMahon are almost comical as his face barely resembles the man that made WWE what it is today.  And that pretty much optimises the state of the Yukes-developed WWE game in today’s world; although its wealth of modes will draw a few hours of fun, particularly multiplayer, it really isn’t due to skill; making for a rather shallow experience.

Despite all these grievances, it can be easily concurred that WWE 2K16 is the best wrestling game you can buy today. Unfortunately that does not mean that it is a great game by any means. One obvious reason is lack of competition; there are simply very little rivals to WWE‘s crown, much like the real product. Moreover, WWE 2K16 just isn’t  satisfying enough even for a hard-core WWE fan. As a fan of the promotion for the best part of 20 years, it stretched even my interest. WWE 2K16 has a feel of desperation that its TV counterpart often suffers from: a lack of fan satisfaction.

The version played for this review was the Xbox One edition.

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.