Games like INSIDE don’t come around often; it’s a truly special experience that should be savoured over its precious three to four hour course. It’s Playdead’s second game, the spiritual successor to LIMBO, and another absolute classic.
To fully explore INSIDE’s strange and exciting subject matter would be to rob you of discovering them for yourself.
Platforming is a secondary gameplay pillar, more a means to an end than a challenge of its own. You’ll naturally employ the tightly controlled manoeuvres to aid in your traversal, but don’t expect any particularly taxing jumps.
There’s a refreshing, if still slight, level of freedom for what’s usually a somewhat linear genre. Some sections can be tackled in an order of your choosing, dependant on which direction you choose to take off in, whilst there are also plenty of hidden secrets to uncover. These are tied to the game’s achievements, in addition to an alternate ending, but please resist the temptation to introduce the distraction of a walkthrough on your initial playthrough. Play at your own pace, allow yourself to absorb it, discover what you discover, then go back.
To fully explore INSIDE’s strange and exciting subject matter would be to rob you of discovering them for yourself. That said, the ending has been the one constant criticism raised. It certainly doesn’t answer all of the questions it prompted, but when paired with the alternate ending, we’re content with our interpretation. It doesn’t need to be spelled out.
A rare, somber experience that’s dense with atmosphere, you’ll likely play in a stunned silence, mouth slightly agape in wonderment. If you ever find yourself in a games as art discussion - a topic that shouldn’t still be up for debate - point towards INSIDE and rest your case.
Back in 2013, legendary game developer Keiji Inafune launched a Kickstarter campaign in aid of funding a spiritual successor to classic platforming franchise Mega Man. The project was a triumph, raising four times the proposed figure and exciting long-neglected Mega Man fans to no end. Now that the lengthy development process has concluded and Mighty No. 9 is in players’ hands, are we left with an experience that fulfils the initial promise, or one that’ll leave them crying like anime fans on prom night? (Couldn't resist that low, low-hanging fruit…)
Characters are unlikable, poorly written and terribly voiced.
Playing in a considered manner is a good idea in general; whilst Mighty No. 9 isn’t as punishing as its forefather, it will slap you back down to Earth pretty quickly if you get too cocky. Facing staunch opposition from precision platforming, tough adversaries and, occasionally, the checkpoint system, frustrations can creep in. On the other hand, successes are met with all the more satisfaction as a result, especially if you’re the obsessive compulsive sort that wants to execute a perfect, S-ranked run.
Less skilled players are somewhat accommodated, thanks to the option to bring nine lives along with them, as well as the fact that repeated failure is met with pity, as game provides you with armfuls of additional health items and power-ups.
Each of the twelve levels - most of which are uninspired, before some misguided variety is introduced towards the end and has you wishing to go back - concludes with an entertaining boss battle. They’re a definite highlight, classically possessive of subtle tells you’ll need to learn in order to employ the proper counter tactics at the proper time.
Eight of these encounters are with the other Mighty Numbers, each of which bestow Beck a new transformation, ranging from emitting a proximity blast of fire, to transforming into a bulldozer, shooting electricity, freezing enemies and more. With experimentation you’ll find that they each work well in specific situations, as well as against certain enemy types. This should encourage diversifying, as does the limited usage capacity for each one, but more often than not we stuck to the standard form and its known quantities - shoot this enemy three times and dash, shoot that one six times, and so on.
The core gameplay loop is an enjoyable and moreish one that manages to outshine the many issues.
The final encounter is unfortunately sullied by some questionable design; it’s fine mechanically, but basically everything in the room is the same colour, making the whole affair a confusing blur as things merge together and get lost - not ideal when precision is called for. Thereafter you’re treated to an abrupt ending, four hours of credits and the setup for a sequel… But hey, it’s better than nothing. (Sorry, low-hanging fruit again.)
After completing the game, there’s plenty more to bring you back. Ex mode features solo and co-op challenges, boss rush and more; there are also hard and hyper difficulty settings for the masochistic, in addition to a sizeable list of seventy achievements to be earnt. There’s no question it delivers on quantity, it’s the question of quality that stands on shaky ground.
Personally, as someone that isn't explicitly attached to the Mega Man franchise, didn't back the Kickstarter project, and didn’t follow the subsequent development process closely - I can say I enjoyed my time with Mighty No. 9. Perhaps it’s partly because I was made no promises and carried few preconceptions as a result, but regardless, the core gameplay loop is an enjoyable and moreish one that manages to outshine the many issues and persist as the game’s lasting impression. Just be careful with Kickstarter…
It’s a reasonably-mighty number 7/10
Never being the most active person, it’s quite easy to see the appeal of free-running (or parkour, as the kids are calling it these days). Flying across rooftops, leaping gaps in a single bound and scaling walls without breaking a sweat - none of these things are possible in the real world without a lot of hard work and training, but, thankfully, you can take the easy way out and get an approximation of the experience with Mirror’s Edge Catalyst.
You start with 11 of the 19 available movement upgrades already unlocked, and it still feels like one vital basic - the landing-comforting roll - should be unlocked by default as well, making the system feel slightly off. You do get a distinctly Batman-esque grappling hook after a while which changes up the traversal a bit, but the places you can use it feel a little limited by comparison.
Combat is at least a lot easier to master this time around; there’s no failing to pick just the right moment to grab an enemy’s gun or being repeatedly kicked off a building here. In fact, Faith doesn’t use firearms this time around, and wouldn’t even if she could, a know-it-all loading screen tells us. Sadly this element of the backstory is limited to a companion comic, which isn’t included with the game, so many will never know the fully fleshed-out story of why Faith was in prison.
The other characters are fairly one-note, particularly compared to the cinematic presentations we’ve seen in other games since the first game’s 2008 release. For many this won’t be an issue though, as they try that Dash just one more time in aid of beating their friend’s best time, or scratch their heads trying to work out the best way to get to a far flung ledge.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is a project many have been looking forward to since the first game achieved cult status. Though not an actual sequel, it’s taken eight years to get back into exploring this world, and it does feel long overdue. Some elements are improved over the first game, whilst others seem to have backtracked, which is somewhat unsettling considering the industry’s advancement.
Obviously the map looks fantastic, though perhaps a bit too clean, and the movement is still fluid and addictive once you’ve got the upgrades you need. It’s a shame in a way that the game hasn’t been released in tandem with a VR version, as it’s always felt like exactly the sort of experience which would work well in that medium.
As a passion project, which it surely must be compared to the Battlefield and Battlefronts of the world, it hits the notes it needs to to be a game which DICE can be proud of, and for players, while it might not bring a lot of new elements to the table, it does what it does extremely well and is absolutely a game worth playing.
What do you think of the game? Leave us a comment below
Let me preface by saying that without touching upon some of the game’s major plot points, this wouldn’t be much of a comprehensive review, so expect some potential spoilers.
When the achingly sad soundtrack erupts to accompany an emotional and relatable scene, there’s real clout behind it.
Fragments of Him is secondarily a story of acceptance. Will loves both Harry and Sarah dearly, but he has to make a choice as to which relationship to pursue; they admirably allow Will to discover himself independently, whilst remaining by his side. Less accommodating is his grandmother, who naturally lives to regret her archaic and inherent homophobia. The generational social commentary is perhaps a little ham-fisted in delivery, just as dialogue can occasionally be verbose and pretentious. Being the first to tread these waters in depth does afford a certain degree of lenience, however.
The major stumbling point for a lot of people will likely be the fact that Fragments is a rather poor video game at its core. It’s mundane by design, visually unimpressive, abundant with lengthy load times and lacking in engaging gameplay. It’s a meaningful narrative simply delivered through this means, the one benefit gleaned from which is the fact that an element of control furthers the developer’s desire to place those engaging with the media into the given situation.
If there’s a game which hasn’t had an easy time of it lately, it has to be Homefront: The Revolution. This reboot/sequel to 2011’s Homefront, which attracted mixed critical response at best, was originally announced by former publisher THQ, before being picked up by Crytek UK, and finally Koch Media’s Deep Silver publishing arm. As a result the game has also had a series of different developers, ending with Dambuster Studios who, at long last, have brought the game to the masses.
This has a few nice touches, like the fact that your character’s former occupation gives a bonus, such as a Pharmacist getting a bonus to reviving allies or a Receptionist being less likely to be targeted by the enemy (Mostly Harmless). The mode consists of attacking or defending missions of up to four players which involve you moving between areas taking out infantry and vehicles in a by-the-numbers fashion.
The characters who you meet on your quest to restore the US (or Philly, at least) to its former glory don’t prove particularly useful (or even memorable in some cases). All your fellow terrorists seem to have a particular look and attitude problem, and though you can recruit individuals to join your squad (though it isn’t clear how many…) they tend only to follow you around and alert the KPA (Korean People’s Army), rather than giving you a tactical advantage. It might be unfair to expect a detailed set of commands, to position them to perform sneak attacks or distractions, but it could have enhanced the gameplay considerably.
The game’s world - somewhat unusually - is open-world in nature, setting it apart from many other shooters released since the original Homefront came on the scene. Yellow zones are a slightly more civilised affair, as you operate covertly to win the locals over, whereas Red zones are the real battlegrounds, destroyed and war-torn to the extent that you could hardly imagine them being rebuilt when it was all over.
The gunplay itself starts off irritatingly inaccurate, making upgrading the base weapons a must.
Players can also take on side missions (or Strike Points) to take out enemy strongholds and supply lines to gradually take over the map, in a similar way as you would in something like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Unlike Syndicate however, these side missions don’t appear to vary; they pretty much all seem to involve going to an area, clearing it of enemies and pressing a button. In fact if you can get to the button then sometimes that’s enough to clear the area anyway.
The gameplay itself isn’t robust enough either. There is a great gun modification system which means you upgrade guns on the fly to make a pistol into an SMG, for example, but the upgrades and the base weapons use different currency, making the system itself frustrating. The gunplay itself starts off irritatingly inaccurate, making upgrading the base weapons a must.
One of the biggest marks against the game overall are the technical limitations. From the outset the load times into the game and levels themselves are huge, giving even Grand Theft Auto Online a run for its money. Not to mention there’s two or three seconds of lag whenever you leave an armoury menu or open a door. On top of that there are numerous issues with traversing such a complex map, which lead to your character trying to mantle over something and ending up perpetually falling just a few centimetres off the group, or being unable to navigate easily at all.
All in all it’s very disappointing to see the game come to this, when there are so many good things in the mix. Unfortunately though, they are largely lost as the game takes cues from other titles, but doesn’t deliver on them as effectively as it needs to. With a campaign which reportedly could last you as long as 30 hours (presumably only if you do all of the extras the game has to offer), repetition sets in quickly and the with the lack of inspiration from the characters or variety in skirmishes thanks to the inconsistent AI it’s no surprise.
If you’re after a quirky shooter experience then there’s certainly some interesting ideas, but not the substance or execution to back it up.
Blizzard’s first new IP in 17 years is finally upon us, but was it worth the wait? Does the finished product differ much from the build I played during the hands-on event in April? Despite some minor niggles and a severe lack of modes, the game achieves exactly what it sets out to do; have you play a fun, fluid game of team-based shooting.
It’s in these vastly different characters where the depth of strategy comes. Will you be sneaking in behind the enemy with one of the aforementioned, or protecting your allies with tank character Reinhardt’s shield? Perhaps you’ll be using the higher ground to unleash Widowmaker’s sniping capabilities, or will you take on the unglamourous - but absolutely essential - role of healing the group with support characters like Mercy? There are so many options at your disposal, and the option to change character upon death means you can react to whatever situation your team is presented with.
Every map is crammed with small details, and a sumptuous colour palette - a true feast for the eyes.
Overwatch is a great looking game, the maps filled with a huge amount of detail and personality that'll have you coming back for more. The gorgeous falling Cherry Blossom petals in Hanamura, to the dimly lit streets of London’s King’s Row, to the post-festival atmosphere of Dorado - every map is crammed with small details and a sumptuous colour palette - a true feast for the eyes. The game moves along at a cracking pace, too, with no noticeable frame-drops. In addition, I’m yet to experience more than a few seconds of lag from my playtime; a real triumph considering my often abysmal internet! The rock-solid performance provides another string to Blizzard’s bow.
The sound design is another marvel; everything from the wonderful, amusing one-liners provided by the characters, to the rousing music as each match enters the dying stages. You get a sense of Blizzard’s sense of humour here, for instance when the resident Aussie, Junkrat, remarks post-death: “That’s a fine how’d ya do.” For those of you with a hatred for headsets, fear not - you don’t need to hear the commands/assistance of your chums as each character will voice their concerns - you’ll know to look out for life threatening turrets before you run into them, for instance.
With all of this brilliance there has to be some dung, mind; the severe lack of modes on offer at launch is a huge misstep. In spite of all the wonderful strategy on offer in each character, or in the core gameplay itself, if you don’t have much to play then video games can get dull quickly. The disappointment is only added to when you consider how lacking in originality these modes actually are.
In its current state I can’t see myself playing Overwatch for a lengthy period of time, and I fear many others will get sick of the capture points and payload game types swiftly too, which is a real shame. There should be more maps, characters and hopefully modes coming in the future, but to pay full whack for a game so lacking in modes is disappointing.
With this in mind I couldn’t help but feel what a waste of money the many animated shorts and comic book series have been. Have they enticed any players that wouldn’t have gotten the game prior? I’m not so sure. I’m left wondering why Blizzard haven’t created game modes with the origins of Overwatch in mind - could they have made scenario type modes that show off some story to give context to all the fighting? Take the Widowmaker short for instance; couldn’t they have tasked one team with taking out Zenyatta, and the other with protecting him with Tracer? This scenario mode would’ve been an excellent addition in my view, and something I think the game could really do with.
In conclusion, Overwatch is an addictive, fun, good looking experience that you’ll shovel down like a delicious meal. There’s no denying that the core gameplay is magnificent; let's just hope Blizzard give us some more game modes soon - if they do, we’re looking at a multiplayer classic (and I’ll add an extra point on, too!).