From terrible twosomes to peachy pairs, videogames have hosted a wide variety of iconic duos. These are our picks of the bunch.
Liam | Master Chief and Cortana - Halo
Nobody likes backseat drivers, but when you’re working for the UNSC, beggars - or rather, children stolen from their families and secretly raised to be unstoppable super soldiers – can’t be choosers. An AI living in your head might not sound like the most appealing idea, but in Halo it makes perfect sense.
Cortana’s super intelligence compliments the Master Chief’s raw power perfectly, giving him (and the player) the means to pull off humanity-saving acts of heroism that might otherwise have proven impossible.
The two serve as a reassuring presence during some of the series’ darker moments, making light of heavy situations with pithy one-liners and quick-fire solutions. Halo just isn't the same whenever the Chief and Cortana are apart.
That being said, there was also a sombre undertone to their relationship, stemming from a realisation that, eventually, their adventures together would have to come to an end. Their story arc helped to humanise two decidedly inhuman characters and raised the narrative bar of the original three games, allowing it to reach the same lofty heights as the genre-defining gameplay.
Chris | Ico and Yorda - Ico
Escort missions have a bad reputation. Games generally have you engage in an immersive power fantasy, and there's little that’ll pull you out of that mindset quicker than having to babysit some mere mortal. Ico - the eponymous protagonist of Ico - is no deity, soldier or even man: he’s just a boy. This puts Yorda, your escortee, on relatively equal footing and that results in an immediate feeling that you need one another to survive.
Despite being two strangers with a language barrier, they work together. Yorda is unable to defend herself from the shadowy creatures sent to kidnap her, meaning Ico has to do all of the legwork when it comes to combat, but without her to open doors around the castle he’d be trapped.
A profound innocence sits at the core of their companionship; both were wronged by those who owed them a duty of care, but upon meeting, whether by serendipity or fate, they show only compassion for one another.
The story of Ico and Yorda is not one of hopelessness or despair, rather it’s one of friendship. Specifically, a strained and forced friendship, born out of necessity and probable to be short-lived (unless someone learns to pick up a damn stick and wave it around a little).
James | Banjo and Kazooie - Banjo-Kazooie
While the game in general might be, *ahem*, inspired by the exploits of a certain plumber in Super Mario 64, there's no denying the personality of the dynamic starring duo of 1998's Banjo-Kazooie.
Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird (a red-crested breegull, if you were wondering) are a classic buddy pairing of straight man and comedian - or comedienne, in this case. Wise-cracking Kazooie continually raises a smile, picking on poor Banjo and generally being cheeky to everyone she meets.
More importantly, the pair compliment each other in gameplay terms, offering unique moves both specific to themselves and to execute in tandem. Then, in sequel Banjo-Tooie, they’re further characterised and diversified when allowed to split up for a bit.
The fun, whimsy and excitement of the world they find themselves in only adds to their endearing nature as well, all in a stylised fashion which dynamically emphasises the many contrasts between them.
Memorable, fun and exciting throughout, Banjo and Kazooie are the heroes we need right now (just not in a Nuts 'n' Bolts sequel, thanks).
Rob | Link and Epona - The Legend of Zelda
Football had Shearer and Sheringham, Hollywood had the two Kevs - Lord Costner and Reynolds - gaming had Link and Epona. The 90s were tickety-boo, weren’t they?
Many would argue that the ‘real’ duo in Ocarina of Time, a game I first played back in 1999, were everyone’s favourite left-handed Aryan, Link, and most folks’ least favourite fairy, Navi, BUT HEY, LISTEN - you can’t beat a fox hunter’s best friend, alright.
So, alas, join me in climbing aboard the steed of nostalgia, destination: Lon Lon Ranch. It’s almost impossible to come away from this area untouched by the emotional double-whammy that accompanies a horseback race win, stranded between disappointment - thanks to that sore-losing bastard, Ingo - and sheer glee, as you hurdle the corner fence to freedom.
Back in ‘99, before widely available internet guides, figuring out this naughty trick was some kinda something. The best part was yet to come, though, of course, as Epona not only saved Link’s legs, but proved to be an integral part of the journey. The old gal jumping the broken bridge leading to the desert is another classic gaming memory pour moi.
It says everything that my main gripe with Breath of the Wild was Nintendo locking Epona behind an amiibo, which still aggrieves me to this day...
Which gaming dream team of two are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Last week, during the Pokémon 23rd anniversary celebrations, a Nintendo Direct presentation revealed the series’ eighth generation of games. Scheduled to hit Switch late this year, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield whisk players away to the new Galar region, where they’ll encounter countless new forms of pocket monster.
James | Scorbunny
While there's no question an element of a starter's appeal is its final evolution, which are under wraps for now, the base trio this time around are at least a more crowd-friendly bunch than those seen in Pokémon Sun and Moon (poor Popplio).
Nevertheless, as we're going to be pitting these pocket monsters in bloodthirsty battle, it's clear to me that Scorbunny is the only one of the three with any fight in it - perhaps literally. Sobble looks like a tadpole with all the charisma of Eeyore, and Grookey?! Did they just smash together the words "grass" and "monkey"? Oh Pokémon, I haven’t been more disappointed in you since Trubbish.
Plus we've already had Froakie and Aipom as starters; at least other rabbit-inspired ‘mon have been wild ones, so Scorbunny doesn't feel as derivative.
Finally, the fun inherent to a fire-type can't be ignored. Who doesn't love a bit of recurring burn damage? It's not like you get recurrent wet damage every turn!
Liam | Grookey
Choosing a starter Pokémon is all about forward thinking - they may be adorable little blighters now, but what sort of monstrosity are they going to turn into down the line?
You couldn’t really go wrong with the original trio of Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle – all of whom had badass evolutions – but my recent experience with Pokémon Moon’s Litten, namely the part where he morphed into some awful human-cat hybrid, has taught me to proceed with caution.
Out of the Sword and Shield starters I’m especially concerned about Scorbunny. It already looks weird as is, but I can see its final evolution being the stuff of nightmares, similar to the were-rabbit from Wallace and Gromit.
Grookey gets my vote, simply because he’s the cutest (for now) and I’m a big fan of grass-type Pokémon, particularly with starters. Sobble may have the (admittedly cool) ability to turn invisible, but would you really want a Pokémon that’s going to go missing?
Chris | Grookey
Having never played a Pokémon game and knowing very little about the franchise (you kidnap woodland creatures and force them to fight for sport?), I assumed that I didn't really have a dog in this fight. That was until Sam ranked my choice of starter as last.
We're all entitled to our opinions, but do you trust those held by a man who thinks that Knack wasn't actually that bad? A man who once made a woman cry because he was in a bit of a rush? That doesn't seem wise.
James would have you believe that Scorbunny is the obvious choice. He’d also have you believe that Rockstar's open-world epics are anything but, and that LEGO is terrible in all of its forms. Clearly, this is a man barely hanging on to the cliffs of reason, as each crashing wave loosens his grip and saps his sanity.
These are not the people you want making decisions for you. Now Liam - there’s a smart lad! Only a master tactician would understand the true value of good turret placement, and, as an RPG aficionado, Liam is not only my favourite member of Team PTC, but the only one worth listening to.
Other than me, of course. That’s why Grookey is the one.
Which new Pokémon is your choice of starter? Let us know in the comments below.
With the release of great titles like The Surge and Vampyr, increasingly prolific publisher Focus Home Interactive have been distancing themselves from the somewhat derogatory ‘Eurojank’ label often applied to their catalogue in previous years – so called due to a comparative lack of polish when held up to American and Japanese contemporaries. Now, in collaboration with relatively unknown French developer Asobo Studio, new IP A Plague Tale: Innocence looks set to be the final nail in the coffin for that particular adjective.
Whilst A Plague Tale is firmly rooted in reality, this particular mystery feels like it could play out in a number of... interesting ways, though it’s important to note that’s only based on speculation at this stage.
That being said, there’s definitely an element of whimsy to the visuals which is cause for our thoughts to drift towards the fantastical. In Asobo’s rendition of medieval France, the sun shines that bit brighter on lush forests of vibrant green, whilst dark areas are deeply black and weak light sources serve to highlight the grotesque. Everything is idealistically implemented, which could feel jarring or false, but transitions between extremes are gradual and really help in envisioning things from the naive perspective of an inexperienced leading duo.
Simple moments of visual splendour can spur you on during what seem like hopeless times, but little Hugo is the real driving force on that front. He’s charmingly innocent and polite, at least as far as you could reasonably expect, but those features won’t do him much good now. Factor in his sickness and you’ll quickly grow attached to the boy, which is fortunate, as the early stages of A Plague Tale might otherwise feel like an escort mission.
You’ll need to instruct Hugo to wait and follow as your situation dictates, keeping him hidden from armed guards whom he’s otherwise helpless to resist. Leave him unattended for too long though and he’ll become scared, potentially attracting unwanted attention, so you’ll need to plan and execute stealth maneuvers efficiently.
Once again small touches make all the difference here, as Amicia physically reaches out upon recalling Hugo, taking him by the hand in an effort to both calm and guide him. Frequent contact between the two makes it abundantly clear that Amicia, and by extension you, don’t just bark orders but help him through genuine concern for his well being.
Hugo can be independent though, solving many an impasse by crawling through tight spaces or travelling alternate routes off-limits to Amicia, ultimately manufacturing her safe passage. These situations are generally spelled out through the game’s heavily accented dialogue, authentically delivered by an appropriately-aged cast, which helps to keep the pacing snappy during what is, thus far, a linear adventure with a stark focus on narrative. In this day and age that’s quite refreshing, though it doesn’t mean there aren’t light puzzles to solve and optional areas to explore, which often house an array of collectibles and crafting materials.
Those materials can be used to upgrade equipment at workbenches, most notably to allow your sling - powered by rocks found within the environment - to deliver lethal headshots to exposed domes. The sling takes a brief-but-satisfying moment to reach full speed as you spin it up and align a shot, but can’t be too heavily relied upon as it’s noisy enough to give away your position. In these situations, you may want to throw your makeshift ammunition by hand to create a distant distraction.
During certain set-piece moments this choice of approach is taken out of your hands, as you run from crowds of enemies – be they human or rodent – in tense chase scenes and face a scripted boss encounter, requiring you to utilise Amicia’s dodge and backstep moves in a close-quarters skirmish.
Rats can’t be so easily avoided, infesting the screen thousands at a time as they frantically scuttle over one another in a desperate effort to devour anything flesh, glowing red eyes illuminating the dark all the while. They’re reminiscent of the Locust from Gear of War, telegraphing their arrival as the ground rumbles before they burst through to the surface, only there’s no simple means of dispatching them here.
All you can hope to do is avoid the swarm, keeping them at bay with light sources which are often quick to burn out, or, failing that, distracting them with meat - be it living or dead. They’re a plague in every sense of the word, made all the more vile during a fleeting trip below ground through one of their gnarled, oozing nests.
These finer environmental details are easy to appreciate, as A Plague Tale looks outstanding across the board; lighting and textures are a particular highlight though, even at lower graphics presets. Sound is similarly fine-tuned, with audio reverb switching as you transition in and outdoors during conversation, plus an evolving orchestral soundtrack.
The lasting impression of our time with A Plague Tale: Innocence is just how much of themselves Asobo Studio have poured into the game. It’s clearly a passion project from a developer that’s very reliably, but perhaps uninspiringly, been entrusted with handling a variety of ports before now.
Mechanics and relationships begin to develop in meaningful ways during the opening chapters, leaving us eager to see how they’ll continue to blossom in what should be the game’s remaining ten-or-so hours. The complete journey seems set to be a harrowing one, poised to deepen the siblings’ already developing scars, so we can’t help but anticipate trying to assist them in emerging unscathed come A Plague Tale’s release this May.
A Plague Tale: Innocence launches 14 May on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Last week, we shared a few games which we enjoy despite their damning general consensus; this time around, we’re discussing the instances where the opposite is true. Apologies in advance for the sheer heresy to follow.
Sora's Monsters Inc. transformation is just ghastly.
Liam | Dishonored
Arkane Studios’ stealth-‘em-up came into my possession some time after it originally launched, snapped up for a bargain price as part of a summer sale. After reading glowing reviews (both press and user) I was looking forward to stepping into the role of Corvo Attano: Super Assassin.
As it turns out though, I found Dishonored a chore to play. The characters were weird looking, the story was convoluted and failed to grab me, and the in-game world was dreary and depressing. On top of that, the gameplay was frankly just boring.
I know stealth games are all about suspense, waiting for the perfect moment to make your move, but my word does it get tiresome quickly. My overriding memories of Dishonored involve crouching on rooftops watching guards walk in circles…
More annoyingly, I soon realised that the Dark Vision power, which lets you see enemies through walls, is accompanied by a creepy – and very irritating – sound effect whenever it’s activated, which is pretty much constantly.
Perhaps it’s just Arkane Studios that I don’t get on with, as I also found Prey very underwhelming.
Arkane make stellar games, actually.
James | Rockstar single-player campaigns
The single-player experience is sacred, and continues to be executed exceedingly well despite games executives' insistence that the time for solo experiences has been and gone.
Why then, do I neglect numerous examples from one of the hottest developers in the area - Rockstar Games? I’ve tried my hand at numerous Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead games, so I feel like I've given them a fair chance, but none have gelled with me to the extent that the likes of Mass Effect and BioShock have.
I think the biggest culprit is their sprawling maps, filled with hundreds of activities and locations to explore. While Ubisoft is champion of its own overstuffed take on this, at least in their games it feels like there's an end in sight. With Rockstar though, each game becomes more intimidatingly imposing, causing me to venture less and less into their increasingly detailed worlds.
Instead, GTA and Red Dead Online have been my safe havens, offering a largely simplistic take on each game’s world and more specific tasks to undertake within them. You can also shoot your friends in the face, so there’s that.
How could you not be absorbed by the story of Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang?
Chris | Dark Souls
An engaging narrative, thought-provoking lore and gripping combat with a focus on learning the fundamentals of each enemy encounter; these are just three things I’d add to Dark Souls. Admittedly, the first two could be in there, hidden away between that huge boss fight which requires you to roll around a lot and the other boss fight which requires you to roll around a lot.
You may struggle to work out which bosses I’m referring to, and that's understandable, because it's all of them. In fact, the same could be said for any of the regular enemies too.
I've spent maybe an hour with Dark Rolls and that should have been enough to turn me off, but it wasn't. I wasted even more of my fleeting life watching gameplay videos to see if it was a "me" issue, and I can confidently say that it's not. Everyone else is the problem.
I need something to aim for; a goal, a direction, even a vague hint that the long-dead, amnesiac ghost of a plot could be found somewhere - anywhere.
Mind you, I suppose I’d know if the story was that riveting, as someone would’ve already made it into a terrible film starring Michael Fassbender. Maybe someone more athletic, keeping the rolling in mind...
Sounds like someone needs to git gud...
Rob | BioShock
My first voyage into Ken Levine’s beloved world began with the final entry, BioShock Infinite. I’ll be honest, the only thing that got me through to the end was the shooting and hook-based traversal, as the story is one of the most pretentious pieces of dung I’ve ever experienced.
Is Booker DeWitt actually the mythical, two-dimensional baddie Comstock? Once you’ve made it through to the painful, plain-bloody-nonsense baptism ending - just, ugh, what a load of convoluted tripe.
So why, years later, did I find myself playing the original? Well, a particularly persuasive associate implored me to throw Infinite aside (I was more than happy to oblige) and give it a go. “You’ll love the underwater setting,” she said. “It’s a brilliant portrayal of a Utopian society gone wrong,” she said, knowing that very sentence would immediately put me right off.
Still, I plundered the depths and again came back empty-handed: lovely combat and visuals, but the story was and still is the exact kind of elitist baloney that leaves me cold. Mute indie games like The Gardens Between have had an infinitely (pun very much intended) larger emotional impact on this big softy, and did it without the pretence.
Sorry Rob: BioShock is, in fact, a masterpiece.
Which beloved title can you just not get along with? Tell us all about it in the comments.
When I previewed Kingdom Come: Deliverance a little over a year ago, my experience was limited to three specific chapters that were intended to show off the best of what the game had to offer. I had a great time with them, but, due to time constraints, I never got to explore medieval Bohemia in any truly meaningful way.
Travelling through woods, of which there are plenty in 15th century Europe, is especially atmospheric at night due to a pervasive darkness that’s often underutilised in other games. Think Dragon’s Dogma in terms making visibility an oppressive gameplay feature; and also in terms of traversal, as you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking, due to the lack of a traditional fast-travel system. Still, the opportunity to take in KCD’s serene landscapes along the way softens the blow.
It’s experiencing unabridged daily life as the game’s protagonist, Henry, that’s seen hours pass by so quickly as I play. Running errands for your father and making sure you’ve had enough food and sleep to last the day are the types of menial in-game tasks I’d generally avoid like the plague, but, due to Henry’s low standing in the world, coupled with the game’s focus on realism, I’d no choice but to knuckle down and get on with it or remain a penniless peasant.
Much to my surprise, I’ve found it oddly engaging not having to act as the story’s archetypal hero for once. In KCD, you’re not some super-powered soldier able to cut through hordes of enemies - heck, you can’t even read - and the world treats you accordingly. Henry may manage to work his way into the service of nobility, but he’s very rarely privy to the discussions of the inner circle and is often palmed off onto lesser Lords and tasks that are deemed unworthy of their time.
Most of what I’ve done during the opening hours (namely, investigating a brutal raid on a nearby stud farm) seemed insignificant whenever I presented my findings to my employers, who were dealing with an invading army ravaging their lands. I ended up leading them to a band of enemy soldiers, culminating in my first big skirmish, but even then it’s hard to shake the feeling that it all might have happened anyway, with or without my intervention.
Indeed, thanks to time-sensitive objectives, it may very well have done so; it’s possible to end up with entirely different outcomes on certain missions if you’re trying to seduce the miller’s daughter instead of carrying out vital orders, for example. Having been cast as the unflappable hero so many times before, playing the role of a mere cog in the machine has so far been a different, at times refreshing, change of pace on the whole.
There’s no accounting for taste, so almost everyone finds an outlier or two when exploring new games. Here we’ll champion the software that made us question how soft we were, forgiving issues aplenty to see beauty among beasts.
The offending trailer has an impressive 45,000+ dislikes on YouTube.
Liam | Star Wars Battlefront (2015)
I’ve already come to the defence of perennial punching bag Fallout 76, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to further dump on my credibility by sticking up for EA and DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront reboot.
While I never played the original games, I can understand why those who did weren't happy with what was on offer in the 2015 iteration. With no proper solo campaign and integral multiplayer content locked behind an eye-wateringly expensive season pass - like bloomin’ space battles! - there’s no denying Battlefront was light on content at launch. That’s before even mentioning the lack of Clone Wars content.
Still, that didn’t stop it being fun to play. The arcade-focused action, where jet-packs were the norm and firing from the hip is just as accurate as aiming down sights, was a welcome change of pace from needing to consider the likes of bullet drop and recoil in most modern shooters.
The presentation is also stunning, with weapons, vehicles and outfits looking and sounding like they’ve been ripped straight from the movies. It’s a shame Battlefront got off to such a rocky start, as we had the beginnings of something really special on our hands.
Let’s just hope EA and DICE get things right with the seque- oh, erm… Third time’s a charm?
Chris | Brink
Brink was not a good game. It wasn't particularly well designed, nor was it well balanced. It was a hodgepodge of numerous other shooters, with an abrasive and wholly undesirable personality thrown on top.
If you were to take the very best features from Team Fortress 2, Quake, Doom, Halo and Call of Duty and blend them together, you could bake the most delectable gaming cake. You could, or, you might instead turn the oven up to max, slap the mix directly onto the shelf, leave your house for a few days and come home to find a charred mass of Brink sitting amongst the burnt remains of what was once your kitchen…
Matches played out in one of two ways; you were on the winning team, or you were on the losing team. This might sound par for the course, but most often the result was decided before the first shots had been fired. Some maps heavily favoured attackers and others defenders, so victory was just down to luck.
Lag, bugs, a dearth of both players and usable weapons (amongst the trash ones) only grew the list of substantial annoyances. Brink wasn't quite perfect, then, but does that really mean it's a bad game? Well, yes, it does, but I had fun with it anyway.
James | DmC: Devil May Cry
An old controversy perhaps, but, with Devil May Cry V right around the corner, this particular topic made me think of the bold creative choices Ninja Theory made when rebooting Capcom’s beloved franchise back in 2013.
Dante didn't have long, white hair and the dialogue was arguably even more cringe-inducing (at best) and offensive (at worst), but the game managed to be the perfect entry point for me after only scratching the surface of DMC4 beforehand.
The setting was probably the star, being a surrealist take on what it might look like when a world of demons collided with the modern world of men, conveyed in increasingly abstract and exciting ways. It really looked great for its time, then even more so in its 2015 re-release.
One highlight saw you take on a particularly hateful and toxic news anchor in his office, the fight being reported on through narration as you took out low-level goons before facing off against the man himself, displayed in the psychotic form of a giant, floating digital head...
While the game wasn't necessarily what diehard fans were looking for, it undoubtedly struck a chord with me, to the extent that I completed it and then kept coming back to unlock more combos and enjoy the simple act of wailing on enemies.
What seemingly ghastly game gave you a good time? Let us know in the comments below.
Respawn Entertainment’s free-to-play battle royale game, Apex Legends, took the world by storm when it unexpectedly launched last week. Reaching 10,000,000 players in just 72 hours, the shooter has even surpassed the mighty Fortnite in Twitch viewership, but does it really live up to the hype?
I'm a huge fan of Titanfall. From the series’ multiplayer-only debut to the follow up and its outstanding solo campaign, which was far more compelling than it seemingly had any right to be, I’ve been flying the flag for a long time.
To hear that its creators were poised to bring us something new set my mind racing. Where could they go next?!
As it turns out, Apex Legends has only a few elements in common with Titanfall, but the capability of Respawn shows through 100%. Dropping the titular, mech-like Titans and more advanced traversal aspects including wall running (either of which could, theoretically, be added back in as special abilities for future Legends) initially sounds like a drawback, but in fact focuses the gameplay on what this game is trying to do in its own right.
There's character here that we didn't see shining through as much in Titanfall 2, and the experience is fiercely centred on squad play, from the team deployment mechanic to the communicative ping system.
All of that has come together into something which should feel like just another battle royale title tossed onto the growing pile, but somehow manages to feel fresh, engaging and like just the beginning of something we didn't even know we wanted a mere two weeks ago.
I've only played a handful of matches, but I can already appreciate why Apex Legends - with its slick visuals, solid gunplay and completely optional cosmetic microtransactions - has captivated the battle royale crowd.
The introduction of some neat twists on BR tropes also helps to set it apart from the competition, especially the ping system, which feels like an evolution of Battlefield V's revamped markers.
For people like myself, who never bother with a mic when playing solo, being able to highlight enemies and equipment so easily is great. Despite its ease of use however, the odd uncooperative squadmate can still refuse to play ball and undo Respawn’s hard work.
I've already come across players unwilling to share loot, greedily gobbling up every item for themselves whether it’ll be of use to them or not, and others who’ve failed to warn me of their departure, leaving me as easy pickings for enemy teams. Keeping an eye on your “pals” via the mini-map is definitely recommended.
Still, partnered with a decent pair of actual friends I can see Apex Legends being a lot of fun, and it'll no doubt continue to go from strength to strength over the coming months, especially as the wider playerbase learns the importance of pings.
When it comes to Apex Legends, my love of free stuff overrode my general dislike of media that follows trends, which is fortunate, as I discovered Respawn have crafted the most appealing battle royale title yet.
I was only really expecting a first-person Fortnite, yet I found satisfying fluidity of movement that’s pure Titanfall, sans jetpacks and wall-running of course. The different classes, cooperative focus and potential to be respawned by teammates are all big positives in my book, adding a few layers that make Apex feel like one of few BR games which isn't just a cheap cash-in.
That being said, I can't imagine it'll manage to hold my attention, at least outside of a few quick matches here and there with friends. As fun as it is, there's always going to be something else I'd rather be playing, especially with the downtime between what, for me, can be very short bouts of action.
Still, whether or not you're a fan of the sub-genre, FPS appreciators will almost certainly get a lot out of it. For now though, I'm mostly happy to sit this one out and let the bandwagon pass me by.
Is it a bird? A plane? Dean Cain? No, no, it’s another feckin’ battle royale game!
... Based on that opening you probably think I’m erring on the cynical side of life (that’d be out of character, eh?) so let me be the first to assure you: I pretty much am, yeah.
Let’s check the list: cast of Overwatch-y characters? Check. The exact same overarching design as PUBG and/or Fortnite? Check. Classic sitting around in a building, waiting for shit to happen? Check. If you’ve played a battle royale game before, you already know what to expect.
That’s not to say it lacks in redeeming features, mind. The traversal and shooting are vintage Respawn Entertainment: easy to get to grips with, fast, fluid, and oh so satisfying!
If I’m being honest, due to a random personal note, I’ve most enjoyed the tutorial so far. The old South African dude sounds exactly like a teacher of mine, Mr. Frisbee, who’d always quip “It is much BEDDOR, if you ask to take off your SWEADOR.”
Anyway, do I see myself getting lost in the Apex Legends craze? Nah.
Are you a member of Apex Legends' enormous overnight fanbase? Too burnt out on battle royale games to care? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks to a stress test for Xbox Insiders last weekend, we've had a quick look at Crackdown 3 and can confirm that it is, in fact, a real game. Here's our first impressions on the long-awaited Microsoft release.
Crackdown as a series is built upon two key pillars: hyper-mobility and destruction. Your character's traversal across the map is a mixture of double (triple?) jumps, dashes and ground pounds, many of which satisfyingly send cloud-powered scenery splintering as you crash through.
This gives way to deliberately floaty controls, which, in turn, see you fighting with the camera on occasion. Fortunately, keeping an enemy in your sights isn't too hard thanks to a persistent lock-on ability which tracks them through terrain and adjusts your viewpoint as you each leap about on what amounts to a sci-fi bouncy castle, courtesy of jump pads littered across the map.
The game type on offer during the test set two teams of five against each other in a supercharged re-imagining of Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty, which has you dashing to the site of your victim's downfall to pick up kill tokens and build your team's score.
Unfortunately, both in this technical test and at launch, Crackdown 3 won't support lobbying with friends. That’s both bizarre for such a fun-loving game and an early warning sign, given how genuinely useless the teams we played against were (any time I end up at the top of the table it’s cause for concern). It could prove to be a fumble as lamented as the lack of matchmaking in Xbox stablemate Halo 4’s iteration of Firefight.
It's only a couple of days until the game is due to (finally) launch now, and the performance wasn't buttery smooth either. The raw power of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform should be on full display in multiplayer (the campaign being cruelly left out), but the results frankly weren’t of note even compared to earlier titles like Red Faction Guerilla.
In the end, Wrecking Zone is built upon a simple premise and, given the lengthy development time, that premise should be executed very well, but instead, it feels like the result of too many creative and technical compromises. Honestly, it has us questioning our April 2015 pre-order...
We went hands-on with Tom Clancy's The Division 2 during this past weekend's private beta; following safe extraction, here are our thoughts.
It's telling that we’ve taken this long to talk about much besides the game's setting, as relatively little is new over the original in terms of gameplay. Fortunately this is thanks to the mechanics from part one still holding up.
A simple new map screen replaces the style-over-substance futuristic projection at your feet, helping to locate a dizzying array of item pick-ups, ranging from gun holsters to knee pads, which reveal that health and armour are handled a bit differently this time around.
Separate health and armour meters (the latter of which is generously buffed for challenging Dark Zone excursions) deplete independently as you take damage, leaving you a sitting duck once your armour is kaput. While the pair do (eventually) regenerate, it’s wise to dart between cover in order to maintain the tactical advantage.
You'll need it too, with enemies shouting and running at you from all sides at times. They get noticeably chunkier in terms of both physical bulk and health pools, scaling alongside your Division agent as you progress, to an extent depending on the difficulty of any given area.
Enemies make a lot more use of gadgets this time around, too - we’ve already fended off what amounts to a convoy of RC cars!
Despite its familiarity, The Division 2 has launched a decent opening salvo, but it’ll need to build upon that in order to differentiate between being just a fun outing and a “live service” with real staying power. Perhaps most crucially though, you can still casually close car doors as you sneak by them in cover...
Have you played The Division 2 yet? What are you looking forward to based on what you've seen so far? Let us know in the comments and keep your eyes peeled for our review next month.
Strong settings can really help to make a game, but while single-player locales are often lauded, quality multiplayer maps tend to be less recognised. That just won’t do, so this week we’re sharing the online arenas in which we most enjoy pwning noobs.
Liam | Temple - Perfect Dark
As I mulled over this week’s topic, I began to realise just how many great multiplayer stages I’ve come across over the years. My first instinct was to go with Pokémon Stadium from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but then I remembered Stack from GoldenEye and how much fun that used to be.
If we’re talking shooters, though, I can’t ignore the greatness of Call of Duty 4, a game that’s littered with memorable stages including Overgrown, Crossfire and Strike. In the end, however, it’s a golden oldie that tops my list: Temple, from Perfect Dark.
Its focal point is a giant chamber than runs nearly the entire length of the map, surrounded by a series of tall corridors leading to other flash points that are almost like miniature arenas in themselves. The main room also features a large opening in the floor that’s perfect for making hasty exits when outnumbered or outgunned, as opposed to waiting for the excruciatingly slow (but excitingly suspenseful) stone doors which seal off the corridors.
I have fond memories of this map, particularly when my brother and I would pack it full of MeatSims (the dumbest bots in the game) and partake in some very one-sided matches. Don’t judge us.
Chris | House - Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege's little slice of suburbia has many possible points of ingress for the attacking side, and defenders could be lying in wait near any one of them. There's no shortage of hiding places in the three-storey abode from which players on either team could attempt an ambush, but the best laid plans of mice and men seldom survive a grenade, especially in such compact spaces.
Firefights are often intense, yet short lived, and matches can be over quickly if one team pushes the advantage. Sometimes, just surviving the opening salvo can feel like a win in itself.
On that note, it's admittedly not the most balanced map. Two of the objective rooms can be very hard to defend, even with a coordinated team, but heroes are forged in the fires of adversity and defeat rarely feels unavoidable.
I've always been a fan of smaller multiplayer maps and House embodies everything I love about those spaces, namely less running from A to B and more offloading every time something moves.
James | Valhalla - Halo 3
While the era of online multiplayer was already in full swing by the time Halo 3 graced the Xbox 360, it was undoubtedly a defining moment in the console's history, and that's in large part due to its memorable multiplayer settings, such as Valhalla.
While described as a spin-off from the first game’s Blood Gulch, Valhalla made its own mark by focusing in on the basic, two-base oblong design to create one of the most elegant objective maps of all time.
The terrain between bases is undulating enough to leave plenty of places to duck away from incoming pot shots, in addition to whatever comes courtesy of the mighty Man Cannons, which launch players and grenades out of either base and into the middle of the fray. These were particularly useful for making a quick getaway as the flag carrier.
There's contextual storytelling on offer too, with a downed ship on one side of the map and readouts displayed in the bases themselves, lending plenty of intrigue to the locale, as well as cover on the practical side of things.
Jump on the back of a quad bike (affectionately known as a Mongoose) with a rocket launcher for Rocket Race, a King of the Hill-esque mode, and the map proves just how versatile it is in comfortably accommodating such varied gameplay experiences.
Rob | Facility - GoldenEye 007
The toilet, commode, dunny, long-drop, WC, bog: whatever the heck you call it, we can all agree it’s one of the few places where a person can truly be alone with their thoughts. Fortunately, most toilets don’t have a hatch for Pierce Brosnan to drop through, Silenced PP7 in hand, ready to commit a bog-based bashing.
What am I waffling on about? The world-beating Facility map from GoldenEye 007, of course!
“But Bobby, didn’t you recently say that GoldenEye was better left in the past?” Aye, bang on, but that doesn’t mean my memories of such a wonderful game have been tarnished. For those of you that can still handle both the N64 controller and a single-stick shooter, Facility stands quiff and top hat above all others in my mind.
Select remote mines, cover the walls of the toilet in ‘em, and watch as your local associates are blown away. Add to that the wonderful cast of cardboard Bond characters - Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, et al - some beer and a pizza and you have multiplayer perfection. YUM.
What's your favourite multiplayer battleground? Let us know in the comments below.