Fortnite is an early access title at present - despite already being purchasable in a four different ways(!) - and so we bring you this look at the game in its current state, in place of a more concrete verdict.
Traps are the one exception to this, as even though they follow the same rules, you often want to grab fresh traps on the fly as the action-packed defence phase kicks off. In the state of heightened adrenaline it’s easy to wish there was a button combination that took you straight to your favourites for added ease of access as hordes of Husks approach.
These enemies are perhaps the roughest edge on the game’s otherwise quite slick execution. The enemy types and variations aren’t necessarily bad, but they do feel quite generic and lacking in character, even compared to the relatively limited enemy pool of something like Left 4 Dead. Groupings of Husks behave quite randomly, rather than having them subscribe to a hivemind mentality, while different enemies each have different movements and attacks, but there’s no personality to any of the animations, which can make combat feel like a chore rather than the climactic reward after gathering resources and building your fort in preparation.
Without a cohesive team dynamic, meeting even basic build objectives - such as “don’t overbuild” - is difficult.
Sunset Overdrive’s occasional area defense battles make for a fair comparison both visually and thematically, with that game’s charismatic and over-the-top presentation offering up unique sound effect and vibrant visual cues that keep you engaged, whereas Fortnite is way toned-down by comparison and worse for it.
Having to take time out of the world-ending scenario to slip into build mode and make repairs or changes to your fort during active combat doesn't do much to complement the gunplay, either.
Teaming up with other players online is the real strength behind the idea, or at least it is in theory. In practice, without a cohesive team dynamic to rely upon, meeting even basic build objectives set by the game - such as “don’t overbuild” - is difficult, since the default for many players is to do whatever they feel like and start the attack when they’re ready, rather than waiting until everyone else has all of their traps lined up…
So far then, Fortnite is an interesting idea, executed well - for the most part - that just feels unfinished. Perhaps that’s alright at this stage, given the point in development we’re being exposed to, but the trouble is that it certainly feels like it’s being presented as more of a finished product than other early access titles. Whether or not you’re at peace with the deep microtransactions culture baked into the game may cause frustration too, but shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for most.
If you have a few even remotely reliable friends to jump into this with, then it’s an experience worth trying out, but waiting for the full, free-to-play release may make you feel like you’re getting the best of what Fortnite has to offer and for no upfront investment; rather than a paid game with real future potential, which is how it currently feels.
Expect more on Fortnite as the game develops in the run up to its free-to-play release, and a full co-op review in 2018.
The debut game from Boss Key Productions, a studio headed by Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski, aims to bridge the gap between old school and modern competitive first-person shooters. Placing one foot firmly in arena shooter territory and the other in the hero shooter’s neck of the woods, LawBreakers confidently puts forward a compelling alternative to both that any FPS fan should appreciate.
Variations on these balletic exchanges are constantly occurring in all directions, infusing the high-octane chaos with a choreographed beauty.
It might take a little while to reach that level of play, as you’ll need to execute several button presses and numerous stick adjustments in a tight timeframe, but it’s worth toughing the learning process out, as you’ll feel like a true professional when you master the satisfying traversal and gunplay first individually; then as one cohesive package.
This high skill cap excuses LawBreakers’ apparent lack of hero variety when compared to it peers, with the nine classes each offering more nuance than any single character in Blizzard’s Overwatch. Their tighter ranks still offer plenty of diversity, accommodating most play styles with damage-dealing tanks, nimble but fragile assassins, supports, and hybrid roles in between.
Each class has a fixed loadout consisting of an ultimate and two secondary abilities, generally also wielding a primary weapon with secondary fire function and a sidearm. Ability usage is limited either by a cooldown period or fuel consumption, which calls for different management tactics between combatants favouring either method or a mixture of both, helping to keep players on their toes both as they meet different foes and freely switch between heroes mid-match.
You’re never limited as to which class you can choose to play as, which can be a blessing and a curse. While you won’t be locked out of playing your main, there’s a definite tendency for most players to pick between the faster classes in Assassin, Gunslinger and Wraith, leaving other roles unfilled. A balanced team isn’t as integral to victory here as it is in other hero shooters - individual skill is much more important on that front - but somebody else going healer every now and then would still be nice.
The self-serving player mindset can impact your win/loss ratio when it extends to playing the objective, however. A portion of players approach the five rotating game modes - these including variations on King of the Hill, Capture the Flag, and even American football - as if they were Team Deathmatch. We'd typically pin this entirely on people being people, but we feel Boss Key shoulder some of the blame in this instance. Foregoing Deathmatch modes in a game so openly inspired by the likes of Unreal Tournament and Quake doesn’t cater to a sizeable portion of the audience they've attracted.
You’ll earn experience points towards levelling whether your teammates cooperate or not, and with levels come Stash Drops, LawBreakers’ take on the loot box. They function exactly as you’d expect, upon being opened spitting out four random aesthetic customisation items ranging from throwaway to must-have. Duplicates are converted into currency which can be used to bypass the random element and directly purchase skins you’ve had your eye on, while you can also use real-world money to purchase more Drops.
All in all, LawBreakers has its foibles, but they’re fixable foibles with a patch or two; for every slight misstep, it nails a handful of the fundamentals. The core combat and traversal loop is outstanding, it looks crisp and controls smoothly at 4K/60FPS on PS4 Pro (after a patch fixing the launch day issues you may have heard about), matchmaking is snappy and well-populated, the pulsing soundtrack keeps you hyped-up and ready to compete. This amalgamates in a game that’s seriously engaging and frequently has us declaring “just one more more match” for several matches consecutively.
It’s taken a while, but Nintendo have finally found their ideal 3DS family. We’ve lost a few members along the way, but after six iterations of the console in almost as many years, there’s now a settled feel about the range of handhelds on offer thanks to the latest arrival, the 2DS XL.
The first thing you’ll notice about the 2DS XL is its sleek design. Available in either black/turquoise or white/orange, it really is quite a looker, easily one of the best of this generation. The colour picked out on the face buttons and the border around the edge of the console, combined with the ridged, textured pattern on the top and the subtle Nintendo logo in the corner help give the 2DS XL a surprisingly premium feel, despite its £129.99 price tag.
By ditching the face-tracking 3D cameras and relocating the remaining ones onto the main body (one forward facing on the hinge, a pair on the back between the shoulder buttons) Nintendo have managed to shave off a few millimetres from the console’s body while still retaining the larger screens. The 2DS XL is light and easy to hold, and shedding a few grams means it sits easily in a pocket, no more noticeable than some of the larger smartphones on the market.
Funnily enough, a smartphone is exactly what the stripped-back design of the top screen resembles, complete with a shiny black bezel that picks up dust and fingerprints, and, more annoyingly, the imprints from the face buttons when closed. The reflective nature of the screen’s bezel also means playing outside or in any well-lit area can sometimes be tricky due to the glare.
Other slight grievances we came across were the d-pad, which feels and looks cheap compared to the rest of the console, and the new cover that hides the game cartridge and SD card slots. The cover does a good job of helping maintain the minimalist aesthetic and alleviates the chance of accidental cartridge ejections (plus, you also no longer need a screwdriver to access the external memory slot) but the material used feels very flimsy, and can be difficult to open without feeling like it’s going to snap off under the pressure.
The location of the speakers (which now sit on the bottom corners of the console) was also a worry at first due to their proximity to your palms, but this didn’t turn out to be a problem and they performed well in their new position, even when outdoors. The only time it’ll cause any issues is if you’re resting the 2DS XL on top of something, but it’s nothing too major.
The 2DS XL’s lack of 3D gaming isn’t really a problem either; plenty of games now neglect to implement the feature, while many players - myself included - never bothered with it in the first place. If you’re of a similar mindset and don’t already own either of the ‘New’ range of 3DS handhelds with all their added capabilities, then the 2DS XL is easy to recommend, especially given its affordability.
For your money, you’re getting a console that not only looks and feels great, but one that can handle the select games in the 3DS library that require the extra power found exclusively in the ‘New’ models. If you’ve yet to pick up a 3DS, or have been looking to upgrade from the original model or the original XL, then we’d highly recommend considering the 2DS XL. Plus, Nintendo have actually included a charger this time!
There’s no doubt that Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is a thoroughly lovely game, but does the lack of threat, resulting from its mild demeanour, prevent the adventure from being a truly compelling one?
You’ll welcome the opportunity to lose yourself and potter about for hours on end, which is a good thing, as these trips generally yield valuable resources, mined, chopped and gathered with your conventional array of tools. Not only that, but there are points of interest absolutely everywhere, meaning you’ll forever be finding intriguing secrets, references and Easter eggs that, along with the whimsical score, compel you to forage on.
You’ll welcome the opportunity to lose yourself and potter about for hours on end.
Once you’ve uncovered the whole map, which it's worth noting will be deep into the game, the cycle unfortunately sours somewhat. Backtracking through locations becomes laborious, which isn’t helped by the flawed implementation of fast travel. You have to discover and complete a quest to unlock each of the eight designated fast travel points, walk to the closest one before you can make use of the system (making it not-quite-so-fast travel), then, in the absence of clear labelling, guess as to which exit might lead to your desired location.
If you don’t mind some extra legwork you can also choose to adopt a number of vocations, joining guilds to expand your library of crafting recipes and building farmland to harvest produce used in those recipes. Building structures on a farm allows you to house wild animals after coaxing them onto your plot, as well as to plant trees and crops, which you can then hire a farmhand to tend. There’s no great need to engage with this stuff, you’ll get by just fine without farming or joining the guilds, but there’s fun to be had regardless.
Yonder has a number of clear inspirations - many of which come from Nintendo’s camp, so fingers crossed the game eventually sees a Switch release - but carves out its own corner by providing a unique mix of their elements. While some of the ingredients leave plenty to be desired, its positive themes and relaxed atmosphere provide a welcome break from the onslaught of bombastic video games that everyone can enjoy for a while.
Painting can be so therapeutic. That said, it’s not really when it comes to Splatoon 2, Nintendo’s frantic-yet-accessible third-person shooter in which you take on squid/kid creatures in battles to paint the town a pinkish red, orange, purple, or… you get the picture.
Ranked Battle brings additional match types befond Turf War, namely Splat Zones, Tower Defence and Rainmaker. The first is a King of the Hill-style mode with one defined area for both teams to frantically fight over to score, the second concentrates the mayhem even further by making the point a moving tower, which must move through a set track and stop at certain checkpoints, giving the other team a chance to knock players off and take the tower back. Rainmaker is more of an out-and-out assault where players fight for control of the Rainmaker superweapon.
Then there’s League Battle, recommended only for real fanatics, which is a two-hour test of skill players can take on without risking their carefully nurtured rank. Finally we have Salmon Run, a cooperative Horde-type mode that’s only available at set real-world times. You’ll take on waves of fish-based enemies, including eight kinds of mini-boss, in teams of two to four players in search of shiny golden eggs.
There’s a decent amount of variety on offer in multiplayer alone, and on top of that there’s a single player campaign which plays out as a series of increasingly difficult challenges topped off with fiendish boss battles. Think along the lines of Super Monkey Ball.
This campaign of sorts is larger-than-life in the best way possible - to give you an idea, the first boss is an angry oven complete with loaves of bread sporting googly eyes - and the entire experience clocks in at around six hours and gives you plenty of practice for the often unforgiving multiplayer encounters that follow.
There’s plenty to do in Splatoon 2, with a consistent level of quality upheld throughout, each mode handling extremely well, looking pretty, and feeling fairly well-balanced. Add to that sleek dual-purpose mechanics like turning into a squid and submerging in ink to reload, whilst also traveling faster and less conspicuously, and you have a design powerhouse.
Unfortunately, when it comes to networking, the game doesn’t offer as great an experience. The Nintendo Switch online app is every bit as awkward to use as you may have heard. There are some nice stats and little elements tucked in there, but the fact that it takes so many button presses to get where you need to be - and even then the audio struggles to work consistently - is extremely poor. We ended up using third-party app Discord to wax lyrical about the game, and the fact that it’s a much better experience is a real shame.
The ordeal doesn’t end there either, as joining in with friends is frustratingly specific, rather than being the quick and easy solution it could and should be. Heading to the friends screen will reveal who’s online but not allow you to join them unless they’re sat in a lobby about to start a game, meaning you have a window of mere seconds before the lobby fills up and you’ll then need to wait until the next game for another chance. On top of that, there’s no queue option or spectator mode while you wait, meaning coordinating more than one other person at a time is a struggle outside of Salmon Run, which is easier thanks to its PvE setup.
Having so many hurdles to online play, many of which aren’t explained, significantly impacts the overall experience. For some, this won’t be a problem at all, but those looking to gather a group of four and take on the world will be out of luck, as it’s not even assured that you’re on the same team when you do finally end up in a game together. The one saving grace is that you aren’t separated again once a match ends, providing all players choose to continue.
Despite the online barriers, which, while somewhat understandable (Nintendo are thinking of the children), are enough to raise your blood pressure, it’s still hard not to recommend Splatoon 2. It’s a fantastically fun shooter in itself, though it also meets the need to prove that the Switch has more than just the odd Mario or Zelda title to accompany a sea of Neo Geo ports.
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SUPERHOT, a first-person shooter built around the uniquely satisfying concept that time moves only when you do, was an instant classic in our eyes. The feats of sheer badassery this central mechanic allows a player to achieve injects them with such an intoxicating power trip that they’re almost forbidden from putting the controller down. By being so moreish, SUPERHOT marries its narrative - which, without saying too much, features themes of virtual addiction - to its gameplay and presents one concise, cohesive whole. If you’ve played the original you’ll know that bringing the SUPERHOT experience to VR was really a no-brainer, but is it worth double-dipping?
The feats of sheer badassery this central mechanic allows a player to achieve injects them with such an intoxicating power trip that they’re almost forbidden from putting the controller down.
Despite the fact you’re all but fixed to the spot in SUPERHOT VR - rather than being able to run around freely, as in the original - the wider spectrum of movement available to you actually makes the change feel liberating. You can still employ the same tactics you would in vanilla SUPERHOT, but also incorporate those exclusively afforded by the introduction of motion control, like extending your arm out from cover to blindfire, or using your hands to physically snatch bullets out of the air. To counterbalance the extra tools at your disposal and keep things engaging, you’ll now need to complete sets of levels before reaching a checkpoint, rather than being awarded one each and every level.
While the switch to motion control brings with it both foibles and boons, the transition from 2D to 3D is entirely a positive one. The clean, simple aesthetic works wonders in disguising VR’s fuzzy edges, while the added depth perception helps to more accurately gauge distances and accordingly lead your shots. You’ll instinctively wince when an enemy pulls the trigger as you stare down the barrel of their gun, but, most importantly, playing in virtual reality is exciting because of the technology’s relevance to the SUPERHOT universe. For existing fans, being sucked directly into the experience they had previously taken in second hand is a real treat.
The one area in which we criticised SUPERHOT was its endgame content; after completing the somewhat short story you unlock a range of challenges that are each interesting in themselves, but ultimately amount to replaying the same levels over and over with slightly modified rule sets. The exact complaint stands when it comes to SUPERHOT VR, but the challenges are a less enticing prospect this time around. That isn’t due to any design shortfall - they’re good fun - but the fact that encountering the aforementioned tracking issues at the wrong time can cost you dearly.
Playing in VR is all the more exciting because of the technology’s relevance to the SUPERHOT universe. For existing fans, being sucked directly into the experience they had previously taken in second hand is a real treat.
SUPERHOT is a power fantasy, and the implementation of virtual reality and motion control helps to realise that fantasy in more vivid fashion, making SUPERHOT VR the best way to play this inspired shooter. For a while, that is, as the original has it beat when it comes to post-campaign challenges - it’s just a good job they’re different enough from one another to both thoroughly warrant purchases.
A dark take on the Ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, Theseus is one of the most engaging virtual reality games we’ve played, despite having its share of problems.
Every single element of Theseus’ presentation is incredibly well considered.
Encounters with Asterion offer up more legitimate scares, the beast being a liberal interpretation of the fabled Minotaur. Conventionally a man with the head of a bull, you’ll instead meet a towering, skull-faced monster with a vertical maw of sharp teeth dominating its torso. The design is definitely Dark Souls inspired, which only serves to make him all the more an imposing physical presence, especially within the 3D realms of VR.
Initially the Labyrinth’s guardian, Asterion was consumed by a literal darkness and coerced into doing evil. Luckily for you, this corruption blinded the creature, making stealth the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over his head. There’s no fighting him, so you’ll need to take the time to creep when his back is turned and freeze when fixed in his gaze to avoid getting insta-killed.
You can battle his eight-legged offspring, though combat is the game’s weak link. Arachnophobes will be disheartened to learn spiders are the solitary enemy type, but can hopefully find solace in the fact they’ll get to stab and burn plenty of the blighters. Theseus fluidly switches between targets as you push the analogue stick in their direction and launch attacks with either his sword or, provided you have one to hand, flaming torch. There’s no real call for finesse here, just mash your way to victory.
Whilst the combat system won’t win any awards, it’s nonetheless exciting to see the choreographed fights play out right in front of you. The same applies to the final encounter, which isn’t anything special in terms of gameplay, but is spectacle enough that you likely won’t mind.
With an incredibly cinematic presentation - one that we find reminiscent of Guillermo del Toro’s work, specifically in its flair for presenting an engrossingly dark fantasy that incorporates elements of both Hollywood and art house - it’s perhaps no surprise that Theseus clocks in at about feature length. It’ll likely take two to three hours to complete, though returning for a second run to gather all of the collectibles and unlock the true ending is an enticing prospect.
If it wasn’t already clear, we adore Theseus’ understated narrative and grim aesthetic. The game draws positive comparisons to a lot of properties we love, but also maintains a strong identity of its own, really hitting a sweet spot in the process. As a result, in spite of the weak combat and linear progression, Theseus is an easy recommendation for PlayStation VR owners.
The once-prominent film tie-in has been on the decline for a number of years now, which is largely considered a good thing, as shedding the often oppressive schedules has allowed licensed games to flourish. Cars 3: Driven to Win, however, is a rare exception; a good ol’ fashioned film tie-in that’s also legitimately fun.
There’s a decent amount of content here to boot, with 23 cars (which are purely an aesthetic choice) and 21 tracks (some of which are rehashes) playable across the 5 event types to keep your 20 or so hour journey towards the Hall of Fame mostly engaging.
When you also take into consideration the pleasant visuals and fun local multiplayer, available in cooperative and competitive varieties, Cars 3: Driven to Win is a surprisingly comprehensive game. It doesn’t do anything particularly innovative, and falls short in some areas, but is still a very solid example of its genre, which is far more than most film tie-ins can boast.
Welcome to Death Squared, a game so dastardly that it keeps a running total of how many times you’ve failed, reminding you of it every time you die. And you will die. A lot. Make no mistake, behind the cutesy aesthetic and quirky sense of humour is a neat little puzzler that takes great pleasure in your misery.
While there’s no real plot, the banter between David and Iris is consistently amusing, even when they’re insulting your ineptitude.
The game has a heavy focus on cooperative play, regularly introducing new rules and mechanics to test your communication, teamwork and, most likely, friendships. Death Squared wants to be a party game for everyone, but while it provides plenty of laughs, it’s also a little too complicated for anyone to just pick up and play.
Another frustration is that you need four controllers for four-player fun. That sounds pretty obvious, but with the only essential control being movement, it feels like there may have been an opportunity to allow two players to share a Joy-Con (one person utilising the analogue stick and the other the four face buttons) in a similar way to Micro Machines Turbo Tournament on the Mega Drive.
Despite the focus on co-op, playing Death Squared solo is often more rewarding and less frustrating than the chaos of tackling mazes with your mates. Each analogue stick controls a separate character, which means that it can often feel like trying to rub your stomach and pat your head at the same time. While this can be a gratifying challenge, it also makes it easy to forget which cube you’re about to move, which can lead you to accidentally plummet to your doom. While the controls are simple, they can sometimes feel a bit loose. Not being able to rotate the level also means that depth perception is occasionally an issue.
Between the co-op campaign, four-player party mode and unlockable content, there’s more than 120 puzzles to infuriate and/or delight. It’s just a shame that there isn’t more variety to keep things fresh from start to finish. Once you’ve mastered all the puzzles, there’s little reason to return. Online leaderboards for level times or total deaths could have helped here.
Death Squared will have you tearing your hair out whether you’re playing alone or with friends, but it has the gravitational pull to bring you back for more and more punishment. Each maze generally only takes a few minutes to complete, so it’s the perfect head scratcher and time waster to play on the bus or train - a feature that is obviously unique to the Switch, in our minds making this the definitive version of a solid puzzle game with plenty of character.
Lagging six months behind its Oculus Rift and HTC Vive counterparts, Arizona Sunshine has finally made its way to Sony’s PlayStation VR platform. Has the transition to weaker hardware sullied the acclaimed first-person shooter? Or has the extra development time made all the difference?
Vertigo Games have utilised everything at their disposal to comfortably accommodate the experience on console.
Outside of the DualShock 4's issues, aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way, satisfyingly lining up shots as if you were in a real 3D environment. Closing one eye and looking down the ironsights allows you to execute strings of carefully-crafted headshots against the intentionally docile and dozy enemy AI, but, in the event a horde springs to life and swarms, you’ll be forced into a spray-and-pray panic, which gets the job done, but at the cost of a chunk of your ammunition.
Ammo should be a limited resource, but if you explore environments thoroughly enough you can scavenge quite the stockpile. Opening up cars, drawers, cupboards and more via occasionally finicky, telekinetic interactions uncovers all sorts of strange hiding places, with certain ammo types being rarer finds than others. You’ll keep track of what you’ve accrued through the innovative, HUD-busting inventory system that sees you look down to inspect the bullets, grenades and firearms holstered on your belt before physically grabbing them to use them. While immersive, the main drawback of this is that, when playing seated, it’s all too easy to accidentally grab items when your arms are held close to your core, so you’ll need to keep them awkwardly outstretched.
You can carry up to four weapons at once, though you’ll find an abundance of them, so it makes sense to choose as diverse a range as possible - namely a shotgun, submachine gun, pistol/magnum and grenade launcher - to tactically meet differing situations head-on. You’ll also sporadically encounter stationary sniper rifle and machine gun emplacements, which offer up an empowering and gleeful temporary twist on combat, helped along by the protagonist’s excited exclamations that will no doubt mirror your own (if you're anything like the psychopaths we are…).
Though they are comparatively empowering, standard zombie encounters aren’t exactly emasculating. This is largely due to the aforementioned healthy levels of ammo, however the (mostly) bright and breezy setting and lead character sap any real sense of horror from the experience. That’s fine, especially with so many VR horror games already on the market, but in doing so it readily passes up on leveraging the genre that is perhaps virtual reality’s greatest asset.
Despite that, it’s still very frightening on the odd occasion you turn around and find a member of the undead ranks invading your personal space, with the resulting unnerved excitement only making us wish it happened more often. Upping the difficulty can draw you closer towards true horror by nixing ammo pickups and buffing zombies, should you desire that, while harsh checkpointing means you’ll actually be invested in staying alive and fear death that little bit more (or possibly just curse the devs).
Aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way.
Regardless of your skills, death is something that always comes in Arizona Sunshine’s Horde mode. This is exactly what it says on the tin, or the cassette, in this case, challenging you with surviving increasingly difficult waves of enemies that attack from all sides as you’re confined to a small central area. Playable alone or with up to three partners online, co-op is definitely the way to go, and not just to have someone watching your back. Thanks to the game’s motion control, interacting with players is often cause for hilarity - you might wave to greet one another, dance and fist-pump to celebrate a wave well defended, or even get weird and spend some time stroking each other's faces, locked in prolonged eye contact… Whichever way you play, there’s a relevant leaderboard to track your performance and give you something to strive towards.
While the level of interactivity in Vertigo Games' post-apocalyptic take on the sunny state of Arizona can leave a little to be desired (you can pick up axes, shovels and pans, but can't use them as melee weapons, for example), its nonetheless rich and immersive environments are a pleasure to explore. When combined with seriously satisfying shooting mechanics and entertaining co-op, both thanks to great motion control implementation when using the Aim and Move controllers, Arizona Sunshine takes mantle as one of the first full fat FPS experiences to reach PlayStation VR.