Well here we are, two years after EA burst onto the scene with the pretty but, ultimately, somewhat disappointing Star Wars Battlefront. Now, EA has pulled together a ragtag group of accomplished studios - DICE, Motive and Criterion - in an attempt to knock our socks off with the sequel, so, how did they do?
Janina Gavankar, who provides motion capture and voice over for the protagonist, gives one of the strongest performances we’ve come across in a videogame.
While it’s nice to fling a lightsaber about, there’s time for that in the multiplayer. Would it have been so difficult to really double down on Iden and make her story as central as she appears on the box art? The worst culprit here is the final mission which (minor spoilers) sees you control current trilogy baddie Kylo Ren “several decades later” in an elongated dream sequence/representation of mental torture which serves as a confusing coda which spoils the neat, if slightly derivative, ending of the proceeding mission (end minor spoilers).
Quibbles aside, the campaign doesn’t outstay its welcome and is structured in extremely manageable chunks, though it does feel quite short. The missions could use a few more memorable set pieces but are, without exception, stunningly beautiful - especially on Xbox One X. The stellar sound design also works to complement the visuals and fully immerse you in this iconic universe.
Multiplayer this time around offers a choice of the large scale Galactic Conquest, engaging aerial ship combat in Starfighter Assault, and the trio of Strike, Blast and Heroes vs Villains. Those looking to dive back into the droid-themed King of the Hill or Star Wars-y Capture the Flag modes are out of luck, but here DICE have focused in on the best they have to offer.
Galactic Conquest is the real headline experience, or at least should be, behaving similarly to Battlefield’s Rush mode, albeit with more varied objectives. The 40-player face off is a mixed bag at times, with certain battles feeling decidedly one-sided depending on whether your team is attacking or defending. More of a systemic problem across the board is players not pursuing the objective (an issue Sam’s lamented in the past) and instead going for kills in search of all important Battle Points.
Herein lies one of the most fundamental changes to multiplayer this time around, and one which, in theory, makes things a lot better. Instead of hero and vehicle pickups being dotted around the battlefront (if you will) in random locations, generally away from the action, they’re now bought with Battle Points earnt through gameplay.
Points values vary from a few hundred for what would be generous to describe as vehicles, to legendary heroes for a few thousand. There’s still only one of each unit on the battlefield at once though, so if you’re slow on the uptake you might find the hero you really want locked out after you save up your points.
This is where we get to the real crux of the matter: the loot box and Star Card systems. You can only choose your favourite hero in multiplayer if you’ve unlocked them first, which costs credits, some of which you get from crates. At the time of writing, EA have decided to deactivate all microtransactions in the game for the time being, meaning that loot boxes and credits can currently only be earned in-game. There are a few rewards on offer for completing campaign missions and gathering collectibles, but mostly you’ll acquire them through putting in a good performance in multiplayer.
When you do get your hands on a box or two, you won’t miss it, as the game’s title screen flashes a notification to remind you that you have goodies to unbox. This is where you get Star Cards, which unlock cosmetics like victory poses and emotes for your characters and heroes, but, more controversially, abilities and items which affect balance during competitive play.
The difference between having no card and a fully maxed out, top-tier card on a given ability can be quite stark. The Heavy class’ supercharged sentry hits harder, for longer, and is generally scarier to be on the receiving end of, for example. Likewise, the already powerful heroes can take on a whole new level of challenge when souped up.
If you do play (or eventually pay) your way to being maxed out, you would have a significant advantage, and that doesn’t make for a fun or healthy competitive culture in the game. Similar to how in Call of Duty those with the best killstreaks can overwhelm novices, the players with their pick of everything in Battlefront II can frequently dominate the end-of-round boards.
When taking the paid element into consideration, the entire thing feels uneasy, particularly when the likes of Overwatch and Lawbreakers manage to navigate the questionable loot box culture with relative grace and ease. Whether these practices are gambling isn’t for a gaming website to decide, but it undoubtedly promotes a haves and have-nots culture.
If you do play (or eventually pay) your way to being maxed out, you'd have a significant advantage, and that doesn’t make for a fun or healthy competitive culture in the game.
There are more basic issues too, amongst them comically bad bugs which spoil an otherwise impressive audio and visual presentation. A lot of deaths can feel cheap, with a short average lifespan meaning much of your time is spent sprinting back to the front line. Weapons lack distinctive naming conventions, or even a clear class system, which makes choosing between them a chore; add to that the fact that some max out their attributes fairly early on, and you’re also left reluctant to ever swap them out.
With two years and a wealth of feedback, which EA are adamant they listen to, the end result is a disjointed, incoherent experience. The game promises to give you the Star Wars universe, and you get moments where everything feels right and it does, but all too often these are short lived and followed by a drawback with no place being there.
There’s no doubt that Battlefront II is the best Star Wars game released in a while, but that’s only because of a lack of competition. The positives do outweigh the negatives in the end however - space battles in Starfighter Assault are gripping, Galactic Conquest does a lot to move things forward from 2015’s Battlefront revival, and the joy of stomping grunts as your favourite heroes can’t quite be matched. Throw in a campaign that’s well worth playing and, ultimately, the game stands up in spite of its toxic progression systems and further flaws.
Terrorism isn't something you usually associate with World War 2. There's some rose-tinted impression that war was 'proper’ back then, that there were rules and black and white interpretations of good and evil. Now I'm not about to suggest the Nazis weren't evil - however you interpret history that seems quite clear - but it's easy to forget many of those fighting for Germany weren't part of that regime.
New Colossus’ feel might be familiar, but everything about the game's presentation is more polished, with lighting effects being particularly striking, as dynamic light rays fall on you through a slowly turning fan in an air vent.
Brutality is no stranger either, as you merrily hack both legs from Nazis with a hatchet in some of the most gruesome and unsubtle stealth kills you're likely to have come across. Of course, this isn't a game from which you'd necessarily expect subtlety, but when you’re trying to get away with a stealthy approach there is a touch of finesse, à la Dishonored.
Sneaking up on enemies in general can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes they can be overly sensitive to a bit of lurking about, catching sight of you from hundreds of yards away, but other times you can manage to creep right up to an alarm-wielding Commander and go unnoticed in messily dispatching them mere metres from two conversing soldiers.
Once you’re discovered, the music will amp up and you have little choice than to pull out the satisfyingly punchy big guns (a fact expertly pondered by RockPaperShotgun). Fortunately, the autosave system, and the ability to manually save at any time, makes most encounters fairly forgiving, though of the game's seven difficulty levels (six of which are accessible from the word go) even the second or third will prove challenging for most players.
Wolfenstein proudly flies the flag for the singleplayer game and really shines in its storytelling, not only deliberately limiting the player character, but presenting its story with a gripping, cinematic presentation that anchors you in Blazkowicz's shoes.
Wolfenstein proudly flies the flag for the singleplayer game and really shines in its storytelling.
Whether this is a game for you largely depends on your approach to first-person shooters. With no multiplayer to break up your play sessions, journeying through the campaign could feel overwhelming, but thankfully the levels are broken up in such a way that you can take a breather fairly frequently, providing you can unhook yourself from the adrenaline-filled saga.
While the trailers may present a balls-to-the-wall, showy action thriller, the reality is far more expertly balanced. Juxtaposing stressful, intense situations in the present with disturbing imagery from the past packs more of a punch than an over-the-top explosion ever could, and it's here we see the best that the game has to offer.
Unfortunately, and somewhat in character for Bethesda, we did experience some technical issues like the odd missing texture, getting stuck in a wall, or being unable to mantle over a fence with no real reason.
There's not a lot of weapon variety either, aside from the fun and definitely OTT heavy weapons, but this is more a symptom of the time than a real criticism.
As a whole, The New Colossus delves deeper into its conflict than the series has prior, but perhaps not by much, as it’s also a definite continuation of what's come before. While not a huge departure, you should at least feel that it isn’t just more of the same.
In truth though, in a time when games are drowning in complexity, loot boxes and systems upon systems (Shadow of War), it's refreshing to be able to enjoy a game as pure and unapologetic as this. MachineGames and Bethesda know what they’re doing by now and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a refinement, if not perfection, of its already outstanding predecessors that anyone who can stomach its world should definitely afford some time.
When the original Destiny was announced, expectations were high. Activision was keen to lay out the legacy of their and Bungie’s project for the next decade, before anyone had even decrypted a single engram. Now, four years in, the franchise has established itself and Destiny 2 launches not only on console, but also on PC. Is the sequel a fresh new chapter in this saga, or just more of the same?
Bungie’s mastery over gunplay remains on point.
You still do your slaying as one of three character classes, but the choice doesn’t slam shut as many doors as you might expect in terms of playstyle and items. There are subclasses too, meaning you can work your way towards a character who has perks to match how you enjoy playing the game. As there are only 20 levels to progress through before it all becomes about your Light level - boosted by acquiring better equipment, as in the first game - the skill tree is deliberately basic, which serves to keep things straightforward and accessible for new players.
Jumping into the world of Destiny at this stage could be intimidating - all that lore and story to catch up on, right? In fact, other than a nice touch which sees your Guardian’s past exploits recounted over a series of splash screens at the beginning of the game, complete with dates and who you completed missions with, the original feels like a non-essential prologue.
Playing alone is all well and good, though you’re still very much encouraged to venture online with friends. When it comes to Raids, however, that’s absolutely required. These major set pieces see you team up in order to tackle the most devious puzzles and gargantuan enemies Destiny 2 has to offer; they’re the pinnacle of the Destiny experience, though barriers to entry mean you won’t get to enjoy them until you’ve been playing for a while.
It’s at least a testament to the game’s flexibility that it can feel like you’ve had a substantial gameplay experience from the campaign alone, leaving it up to the player whether or not they engage with the endgame content. There’s a lot of depth to explore if you do choose to stick around, not least in gathering the coveted Exotic items and upgrades, which are outstanding weapons and armour pieces that can only be equipped sparingly. You’ll likely want to kit yourself out with these before getting competitive in the enjoyable PvP modes.
It can feel like you’ve had a substantial gameplay experience from the campaign alone, leaving it up to the player whether or not they engage with the endgame content.
Now that the initial hype for the game has slightly died down (and on that note, sorry for the delay), Destiny 2 is free to impress you on its own merits, holding your outstretched hand considerately, but firmly, to pull you into a world which asks as much as you’re willing to give.
If this is a game you’ll play for the odd hour, then there’s an excellent campaign to enjoy in its own right, but if you’ll be sinking hours at a time for the foreseeable future, that will work just as well. One side effect of this is that it’s difficult to feel that you’ve experienced everything the game has to offer, whichever camp you’re in, but more content is good content when it comes to the Destiny framework.
In the end, if you have any attachment to RPGs, MMOs, or, most specifically, FPS games, you’ll definitely find something to latch onto and enjoy in Destiny 2. Beyond that base level of pure enjoyment, the rest is up to you; if you give the game the chance, there’s far more substance here than you might first assume, presented more beautifully than ever before.
A remaster of Rogue Trooper, Rebellion’s 2006 shooter based on the 2000 AD comic of the same name, Redux brings the visuals right up to date, but how has the passing of eleven years and two console generations come to impact the gameplay?
The in-game encyclopaedia reveals that so much more could have been done narratively, with a lineage of engaging comic book lore to draw from.
Linear levels offer a decent amount of elbow room, which, combined with your range of weapons and abilities, allows for some freedom of approach. A fairly robust stealth system can see you equip a silencer and snipe distant targets, then make use of cover to sneak in and mop the stragglers up with melee kills; whereas running in guns blazing from the hip, lobbing explosives every which way, is just as valid an option, thanks to a forgiving level of difficulty and AI that obviously graduated from stormtrooper academy. As ever, perhaps the most entertaining approach is a hybrid of the two, for example, deploying your rifle as a stationary turret before using a holographic decoy to lure enemies into the trap, then slipping away courtesy of your manufactured distraction. However you might choose to play, being able to craft generous amounts of resources with gathered salvage ensures you can keep stock of your favourite ammo types and continue to enjoy the game as you see fit.
Back in its day this was pretty innovative design, which has helped Rogue Trooper preemptively ensure its gameplay is still satisfying today, meeting modern standards and even being reminiscent of a more rudimentary Sniper Elite 4.
Some sharp visual upgrades and a solid technical performance, outside of a rare few hitches, help to modernise the areas that haven’t aged as well. That said, mod cons like a weapon wheel, sprint function, and the ability to shoulder swap would have been very welcome additions. A toggleable cover option would have helped in countering the sometimes overzealous automatic system, whilst we’d have also liked to disable assisted aiming, regardless of its significance to the character. Implementing these simple quality of life tweaks could have elevated the experience on the whole.
Innovative design helped Rogue Trooper preemptively ensure its gameplay is still satisfying today.
The campaign likely won’t see you past the six hour mark, cutting off before the samey string of levels start to take their toll, meaning it falls to the multiplayer suite to hold your attention in the long term. Unfortunately, it most likely won’t. There’s no competitive play on offer, just co-op, and only two modes with a sparse few maps between them. Progressive tasks players with completing an objective before the team’s shared pool of lives runs dry, while Stronghold is a horde mode in which you’ll need to survive for the allotted timespan. There are three instances of the former and two of the latter, which are also playable solo, but getting through everything either on your lonesome or with friends won’t take long at all. When you also factor in the barren matchmaking and an ill-considered achievement for killing a teammate, leading to shots in the back, the online offering becomes somewhat throwaway.
Rogue Trooper Redux’s budget price point helps to offset the relative content drought, though what’s here is good ol’ fashioned fun that, for the most part, feels current, rather than dated. Having laid the groundwork for a sequel eleven long years ago, Redux feels like Rebellion testing the waters to see if there’s justification to finally make good on a second trip to Nu-Earth, which in itself is reason to support this remaster, as that could be something special.
2014’s The Evil Within was renowned game director Shinji Mikami’s spiritual successor to the classic Resident Evil titles of his creation, so, with the seventh instalment of Capcom’s horror series successfully returning to its roots earlier this year, The Evil Within 2 needed to evolve to garner attention. Thankfully, that’s exactly what happened: TEW 2 improves and expands on its forebearer in almost every way, making for a great example of a sequel done right.
The Evil Within 2 improves and expands on its forebearer in almost every way, making for a great example of a sequel done right.
While perhaps a little difficult to wrap your head around initially, STEM’s alternate reality is a fantastic means to remove all barriers and let The Evil Within’s design run riot. You’re relentlessly shown exciting new visuals, bolstered by HDR compatibility, all of which are so considered in their grotesquery that they achieve a morbid beauty. Just as you wouldn’t generally link beauty and brutality, The Evil Within 2 revels in making further juxtapositions feel natural next to one another, be that in reality-based and abstract settings, affluence and dilapidation, or low and high technologies.
This serves to complement another of the game’s villains, the artist Stefano, a character that has more than a little in common with BioShock’s fantastic Sander Cohen, complete with his very own Fort Frolic. Using human flesh as his canvas, you’ll bear witness to many of his works, and, somewhat disturbingly, very likely stop to calmly admire them with the fitting accompaniment of an original (and excellent) classical music track.
Having gone quasi-open world, the game’s two truly sandbox areas (one of which is cheekily recycled as a faux third) are, thankfully, packed with exciting and significant optional activities. Compliments for open world design are thin on the ground these days - we, along with many others, have grown tired of the map-filling, tedious brand of busywork many games have come to rely upon. The Evil Within 2’s unique boss encounters, side missions, collectibles and secrets put that issue to rest however, maintaining consistently high quality whilst also serving to fill in the wider narrative and bridge the three-year gap between instalments. This makes scouring the crumbling streets of Union a thoroughly enriching experience, akin to exploring Batman: Arkham City for the first time.
STEM’s alternate reality is a fantastic means to remove all barriers and let the The Evil Within’s design run riot. You’re relentlessly shown exciting new visuals.
What’s more, especially if you up the difficulty to Nightmare, this nonlinearity sees the survival element begin to shine. You might clamber onto a rooftop and use your sniper scope to scout a location in the distance, spotting a tempting loot pile surrounded by enemies before weighing whether or not it's worth pursuing; perhaps you then make some supplies via the simple new crafting system, these convincing you to head in with stealthy intent. You’re spotted. An unnerving chase begins, more and more enemies emerging from all directions, drawn by the ruckus, as you narrowly avoid an incoming swipe and hurriedly slip into the nearest safehouse, breathing a heavy sigh of relief as you stand, shaken, behind the boundary door. That’s just one example of the many possible, and quite memorable, self-contained stories The Evil Within 2’s emergent gameplay can facilitate, in much the same vein as State of Decay.
Frequently breaking away from the open areas for more linear main story segments, as well as trips through a series of tunnels called The Marrow, had us longing to return at times. This feeling isn’t helped by the fact that these sections occasionally force either open combat or stealth on the player, rather than leaving them to choose their own method of approach. Both play styles are at least engaging, with a highly customisable loadout of loud, punchy firearms and a versatile tactical crossbow making up the bulk of your offence, while conventional-but-satisfying hidden melee kills and a slightly dodgy cover system mostly comprise the sneaky side of things.
Having a sizeable arsenal at your disposal unfortunately relieves many of the malformed cast of enemies of their scare factor; provided you’re actively scavenging for resources, you’ll never be in any desperate need for either ammunition or medical supplies, even on the hardest difficulty setting. Throughout a playthrough, which should last around twenty hours, ways to manipulate the dopey AI and reliably spot enemies lying in ambush also become apparent, further tipping the odds in your favour.
Other than some great late game boss encounters, The Evil Within 2 gradually leaks horror until there’s little left to be scared of; this might be either welcome or disappointing, depending on how much you like sitting in your own leakage. Maintaining the first game’s body burning mechanic - which saw enemies have the potential to spring back to life if their corpse wasn’t ousted using a limited supply of matches, à la the Resident Evil remake - would likely have helped the game remain more engaging on that front, however.
All in all, despite a weaker second act by comparison to the superb first, The Evil Within 2 is a mechanically gripping game. It’s a sophisticated mix of old and new, along with Western and Japanese influences, thanks to its diverse development staff. A considered audiovisual feast that, in a year where Resident Evil 7 convinced us first-person perspectives and VR were the unchallenged future of survival horror, compellingly challenged that notion.
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.
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.
What did you think of Splatoon 2? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to check out our video review and give that some love on YouTube. You can even subscribe to keep up to date with future videos. What could be better?
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.
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.