THQ's ARPG, Darksiders Genesis, launches on consoles this week, ditching the classic hack and slash gameplay for the first time in the series. This got us thinking about other franchises we'd like to get a genre-swapping spin-off.
A match made in heaven.
Sam | Cuphead
Cuphead is absolutely superb, don’t get me wrong, but its three comprising elements are all too disparate.
Side-scrolling levels are underbaked, having been shoehorned in based on player feedback instead of being planned from the start. Boss battles are incredible, but could be even more so with a preceding level to set the scene both thematically and mechanically. The world map connecting these stages is packed with interesting characters and hidden secrets, whereas in most other games it’d just be an elaborate menu.
Imagine instead that this hodgepodge was married into a more cohesive metroidvania. No longer a mixed bag of elements, Cuphead’s gameplay would flow just as beautifully as its hand-drawn animations. Ori and the Blind Forest, alongside upcoming sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps, would be given a run for their money as champions of the artisan 2D metroidvania.
The true beauty of it is that not much would need to change, in theory. All of the structural building blocks are there, as too are the suite of acquirable weapons and abilities. In addition to serving their existing combat benefits, they’d now simply need to be utilised in solving puzzles and opening up new areas as well.
Has Sam correctly predicted a change of pace for Cuphead 2?
Liam | Halo: Reach
Halo: Reach is pretty much a perfect game, but I can’t help but think that Bungie’s best would also work ridiculously well as side-scrolling shoot-‘em-up.
The Covenant, made up of Grunts, Jackals, Elites and Brutes, are perfect cannon fodder for the genre, and you’ve got a great selection of ready-made characters in the form of Noble team, with enough numbers and skill-sets (Emile for close quarters, Kat as engineer, Jorge as a heavy, Jun ranged etc.) to cater for six-player co-op sessions.
Most of the campaign’s levels would also translate rather well to the 2.5D setting, whether it’s battling through space in a Longsword interceptor, hopping between skyscrapers with a jetpack and some AI ODST’s for company, or tearing through the desert on a Mongoose.
You could even throw in some decent boss battles in the form of Covenant cruisers (for the space parts) Hunter pairs, or maybe even some of those weird giant troll things that briefly make an appearance in the mission Nightfall.
Basically, it’s perfect, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been made before. Halo: Spartan Assault comes close, but it doesn’t really count because it’s a twin-stick at heart and all the action takes place in a slightly different perspective.
There's precedent for an all-together different Halo.
James | Pokémon
While Pokémon is one of the best known entertainment franchises around the world, it's clear a change is needed. While many, myself included, enjoy the lighter-touch approach Pokémon Go presents, there's a lot more that could be done with the franchise.
There have been various spin-offs already, but what I don't think we've had so far is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, something similar to the likes of Streets of Rage or even something more 3D like Sonic Adventure, but with more battling and less platforming.
We've come close before with the fisticuffs of Pokkén Tournament and Super Smash Bros. or the roaming antics of the free-to-play Pokémon Quest, but with a world so ripe for exploration, there's a lot of potential here.
Imagine a few RPG elements to levelling up your character to provide a more active take on the EV character attributes system, letting you double-down on speed and see the benefit in combat.
Tag-teaming a couple of characters would be good, or perhaps something more like Dragon Age Inquisition's party-based combat system, switching up skills and types for the best match-ups for enemies.
Getting the balance right would be tricky, not to mention narrowing down which 'mon to make playable, but inspiration from the anime alone is enough to give some sense of the spectacle and excitement to going more hands (or paws) on.
Take note, Nintendo.
Which franchises would you change for the better?
Zombie Army 4 released on Tuesday, making it the second game in the series following Zombie Army Trilogy. Whilst this is certainly odd, Rebellion aren't the only offenders who could use a little help when it comes to naming sequels. We've come up with a few of the worst offenders.
This is currently the most modern of the warfares.
When you think about it, Halo Infinite is an odd name to give to the sixth mainline entry in an ongoing series of games. I mean, where do you go from there? Infinite 2? Infinity and beyond? But, looking back on the series, it’s not entirely out of place.
The very first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, had a seemingly unnecessary subtitle that was ditched for the numbered sequels that followed, but the practice was brought back, somewhat confusingly, for the fifth entry, Halo 5: Guardians.
Then there’s spin-off titles such a Halo 3: ODST, which isn’t Halo 3 DLC, as you might expect, but an entirely self-contained game set before the events of Halo 3 and during/just after the culmination of Halo 2.
Halo Reach, my personal pick of the decade, I’ll allow, because the prequel is indeed a Halo game set on a planet called Reach, and it makes more sense than calling it Halo -1.
Halo veterans (that’s people who have played a lot of Halo games, not another numberless sequel) might be fine with all this, but if you’re approaching the series for the first time, you’d be forgiven for not knowing where to start. But then again, it is the flagship franchise of Microsoft, who know a thing or two about confusingly titled products.
Halo Veterans does have a nice ring to it.
I’m flipping the topic on its head by singling out a bizarre title with a more sensibly-named sequel on the way.
When I saw that a plucky little game called Remothered: Tormented Fathers was getting rave reviews, as a lifelong fan of survival horror, I had to give it a try. Stepping into the protagonistic stilettos of a blatant Jodie Foster bootleg, I anticipated uncovering the origin of such a mysterious title. Instead, I spent a frustrating few hours being left almost none the wiser.
Made up mystery verb “remothered” is altogether too perplexing to stick at the beginning of your title and then not address. I thought about its potential meaning a lot. Is a child without parents remothered upon adoption, having initially been orphaned? Are you remothered when you marry and gain a mother-in-law? I thought about how these kinds of things could apply to the game and came up with some solid headcanon, which would, unfortunately, spoil the game’s main twist twist if shared here.
Later I learned from the developers’ own “What does ‘Remothered’ mean?” article that it’s a combination of thematically relevant words. It’s disappointing that there’s no more concrete definition, but still, I can appreciate the ballsy (if also slightly baffling) inclusion.
There’s a sequel on the way called Remothered: Broken Porcelain, which allegedly just pipped Remothered: Titillated Grandfathers to the post.
That is an uncanny likeness.
The Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy series fought long and hard for my entry and ultimately I've decided they are both as egregious as each other.
On the one hand Final Fantasy has a legacy of 15 main titles, with only XIII spawning direct sequels, while Kingdom Hearts reached the rather paltry third installment last year – of course that neglects to mention the multiple games that released between two and three.
In fact, there are 13 Kingdom Hearts games before you even think about remakes or remasters, as well as collections on top of that, leading to titles like the daunting Kingdom Hearts HD II.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
For Final Fantasy, you first have to get over that the first game isn't going to live up to its name and be "final" at all, as this series has been going strong since 1987.
Then you've got XIV, which was released, then shut down and re-released as a different game, with a different subtitle (A Realm Reborn) a year later. Even ignoring VR fun times for XV, there's X-2, VII: Snowboarding and Final Fantasy Tactics, which gave way to a series of its own.
In all, both franchises make their games less accessible to some players as a result of this sea of names, which is one reason why I've never been able to bring myself to jump in.
Will there ever be a "final" fantasy?
Which confusingly titled sequels would you like to see renamed?
Final Fantasy VII and Marvel's Avengers had their release dates pushed back recently and CD Projekt Red announced that Cyberpunk 2077 would suffer the same fate. It's a common occurrence in the gaming industry but is it always a good thing?
And now we're disappointed all over again.
With crunch (and not "grease", as it turns out) being the word in gaming at the moment, you'd struggle to find someone who thinks it is, as a concept, a good thing.
Delays though, have more of a direct impact on the customer, the fan, the gamer. People are impatient when games like Cyberpunk 2077, until recently, are on the horizon.
For me, the delay for DOOM Eternal killed the momentum and urgency I felt to glory kill my way through the 2016 game at long last – something I'm only just getting back to.
At the same time, there's a huge backlog of games I already need to spend more time with, a pain anyone with Microsoft's Game Pass will share, so really I should be happy that the first half of 2020 is looking quiet, right?
The end result following a delay can be good or bad, but rushing a game out will almost always disappoint, or at least not reach its full potential until much later. Of course, it still doesn't make waiting for something you are dying to play any easier.
We'll wait patiently for Cyberpunk 2077 but only because we have no choice.
I always like to celebrate delays. Rushing a game to market never pays off in the long term, be that for the consumer or the companies and investors behind it. There are short term gains to be made, absolutely, but damaging your brand with a lacklustre release will never pay dividends further down the line.
In addition to getting a better game and a more likely sequel, the people that develop your favourite games can often avoid having to work crippling hours. It’s another win-win situation whereby crunch is cut back and, in the process, developer productivity and creativity should increase proportionally to their quality of life.
My last point is a tad more selfish, though most can probably relate. With an overflowing backlog, any period of time free from major new releases presents an enticing opportunity to trim it back a little. I’m absolutely loving the fact that DOOM Eternal is the first must-have game for me this year; that liberates most of the first quarter to kick back and catch up on a few of the great games I’ve missed.
We're looking forward to DOOM Eternal, if you can't tell.
Let us know your thoughts on delays.
Last year we tried our hands at divining the future and promised we'd check back in to see how accurate we were. One year later, here we are with a couple of successes under our collective belts and some new predictions.
A pretty paperweight, but still useless.
Last year I predicted there’d be a new Switch, and whilst it wasn’t the beefed up super console I said it would be, I was technically correct, even if the biggest draw of the ‘new’ Switch was just slightly better battery life.
In fact, I think my prediction may have simply been a case of jumping the gun. Nintendo have already shown a willingness to mess with the Switch’s key fundamentals by introducing the handheld-only Lite version, so why not a TV-only 'Pro' edition as well?
This machine (which would have a winter 2020 release date) would be more like a traditional console, sitting under your TV and coming bundled with a Pro Controller and 1TB of internal storage.
It will play games (except handheld only titles such as Severed) at higher resolutions and framerates and, whilst it wouldn’t compete directly with the raw power of the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, it’s lower price point would draw in the pixel counters and doubters who previously scoffed at the OG Switch’s limited capabilities.
To show off the new machine’s prowess and really muddy the waters, it’ll release alongside a Switch edition of Red Dead Redemption 2, which will be exclusive to the 'Pro' platform.
Will Liam's dream of an all-powerful Switch be realised?
The sales for the next generation of consoles won't be as significant as the launches of the Xbox One and PS4.
Not only do many gamers not have the 4K 60 inch flat screens to make the most of the new technology, but the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X have proved the appetite for ultra HD isn't the differentiating factor – games are.
Microsoft made a big song and dance about buying up lots of studios last year, including Double Fine and Ninja Theory, but I would rather see a few delays than any of those developers be pushed to get something out for the coveted Christmas launch season.
Sony too has games in the oven, but more to shout about in 2020, in particular The Last of Us Part 2, which remains one of its most anticipated titles. The question is, will it really gain anything from a next gen upgrade?
PlayStation's studios in particular have had great success in getting exclusives out the door already, and so I predict that the E3 period - when Sony are again due to throw their own party rather than lining up with the class - will see fewer games than last year and some technology showboating from platform holders.
The launch line-up will be closer to the one which rang in the Pro and One X variants than when this generation began, and there's going to be a lot of disappointed people out there.
What are the odds on The Last of Us Part 2 being a cross-gen title?
On a lazy Sunday afternoon like any other, Gears of War director Cliff Bleszinski sits at home alongside his wife and beloved Lamborghini. Whilst hopping between channels on their full cable package, inspiration for a new game strikes when he discovers an original 2011 film called The Three Musketeers.
Bleszinski quickly fashions a plan to establish a new indie studio and develop a game called Musketeers of Yore. Built around the musclebound bonds of brotherhood, this groundbreaking new game features the leading trio of Marquise, D’om and Steam Locomotive.
Launching in early access the following Wednesday, it’ll inexplicably fail to gain traction. Seemingly, even hardcore gamers just can’t handle something so fresh, innovative and deeply considered. Cliffy will be forced to close up shop and re-retire, toughing out life thereafter with the Lamborghini and wife that he has.
… In all seriousness, I’ve enjoyed most of Bleszinski’s work and he once retweeted me which earns him extra brownie points. Even then though, half-baked battle royale title, Radical Heights, was such an enormous misstep that I can’t help thinking a potential return to satisfy his “need to create” with “maybe a game” in 2020 isn’t the best idea.
It's certainly no Gears of War.
Share your 2020 predictions with us and check back next year to see how we all did.
2020 is only a couple of weeks away and this decade will soon be behind us. We've already discussed our favourite games of 2019 but now we turn our attention to the greatest games of the last 10 years.
One could almost regret killing Dutch, all those years ago in the future.
Sam | SUPERHOT and SUPERHOT VR
I suggested this topic a few weeks ago and despite leaving ample time to mull it over, the magnitude of the task only just hit home. Choosing my 2019 Game of the Year was arduous enough, so to open consideration up to nine more years’ worth of games is more than a little bit daunting.
God of War (2018), Batman: Arkham City, Dark Souls, INSIDE… the possibilities are near endless, but only one title crops up on my shortlist twice. Faced with chronic indecision, that was the deciding factor.
SUPERHOT and SUPERHOT VR are basically the same game despite their obvious control and display differences; declaring them joint winners isn’t cheating, but similar to appointing the likes of Pokémon Sword and Shield. Both centre around the simple concept that time only moves when you do, allowing for some impossibly spectacular fight scenes to be choreographed.
Gameplay is both demanding and empowering, yet at the same time slow and considered in a puzzle-like fashion. Whether you’re playing with a conventional controller on a 2D screen or motion controllers in the 3D realm of VR, its beautifully streamlined mechanics translate oh-so fluently.
There’s definitely an engaging story in there, but the ingenious gameplay is really what does it for me. SUPERHOT and SUPERHOT VR are games I already own and have played countless times, yet willingly rebuy and revisit as and when they’re made available on new platforms.
There's a lot more to SUPERHOT than just shooting Red Dudes.
Liam | Halo: Reach
Bungie’s swansong before moving onto Destiny, Halo: Reach felt like the end of an era, and though 343 Industries have since taken up the mantle of responsibility, the series has never quite hit the same heights as the 2010 masterpiece.
The campaign features a decent mix of large, sandbox style battlefields and claustrophobic close quarters action, and, even though its set before the original trilogy, manages to introduce some new weaponry to the already iconic roster, such as the needler rifle and DMR. It even revamps the look of Jackals and Grunts, and once again brings tough-as-nails Elites to the fore as your main adversary.
“New” abilities such as a limited sprint, something that had never been seen in a Halo game before, gave movement a much needed revamp without impacting on the series’ classic feel, and ditching the Master Chief in favour of a new recruit gave players a blank canvas with which they could make their own through armour customisation.
Add to that one of the best stories told in gaming (no spoilers here, just go and enjoy it if you haven’t yet!) and you’ve got not only the best game of the decade, but arguably one of the greatest games full stop.
The Master Chief Collection is finally complete.
James | GTA Online
It's funny when a game you enjoy is only half of the whole product, but that's been my experience with Grand Theft Auto V. Despite buying it twice, on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One, I have still not played beyond the mandatory tutorial section of the main game, instead I've spent my time in the whacky online sandbox of GTA Online.
Despite a rocky start, and I mean very rocky – with constant connection and stability issues for the first few weeks, let alone days – the game paved the way for Fortnite and others after it in serving up a seemingly endless stream of free updates, as an incentive for players to fork out more real world cash.
Heists alone were an update which the community waited years for, but when it did it reinvigorated the game, giving players a more structured, high-stakes mission that hadn't been experienced before outside the campaign, demanding coordination and teamwork to get the biggest score, in the form of GTA fun bucks to spend on fast cars, planes or even tanks.
The world Rockstar managed to create is the real star, and the reason the game works at all. I still might not have the city map memorised, though plenty of more dedicated players do, but many of the locations are iconic in their own right – even beyond the real locations some of them ape.
It's a fantastically crafted world that no sane person would want to live in.
Let us know your favourite game of the last 10 years.
Ho, ho, ho, chums! Whether you picked up a Switch Lite back in September or you’re expecting one under the tree on JC’s birthday, here are a tinsel-encrusted collection of accessories worth finding in your stocking - and a couple to re-gift, too!
Nintendo Officially Licensed Switch Lite Accessory Set
Now this case really looks the business; the off-white material and high quality zip feel and look great in our dirty mitts. Unfortunately, though, that’s where things take a nasty turn. There’s such a lack of space inside - especially when considering there’s no real allowance for the sticks or bumpers - that you’ll be left wondering how this got the official license from Nintendo. Add to that the shocking, thin plastic screen protector (yep, just the one, so don’t make any mistakes) we recommend you steer clear.
1/5 Drunk Sleeping Relatives
Orzly tempered glass screen protectors
While we weren’t particularly fond of the protector included in the official Nintendo bundle, luckily, the good fellows at Orzly (products designed in London, apparently) had us covered.
Included in the box are four (FOUR) high-quality glass screen protectors. Applying one was relatively easy while utilising the helpfully attached tab, especially with the confidence that having three back-ups brings. Did we mention the package includes alcohol swabs, dust stickers and a microfiber cleaning cloth as well? Oh, and the whole lot is under ten quid.
5/5 Reindeer Carrots
FASTSNAIL hand grip
This ‘ere grip comes adorned in a black that took great pleasure in leaving its mark on the corners of our fair Lite. It feels cheap and flimsy in the hands, and to be frank, doesn’t really help with the offset nature of the Lite’s sticks, especially when playing FPS or twin-stick sports games. Another disappointment, unfortunately.
1/5 Katona’s in an Iceland Ad
We’re back with another quickie, this time for WarpTrough, a portal-grabbing platformer from indie developer Roofkat.
Campaign, you say?
Aye, but a very short one, maxing out at around an hour or two. It’s a decent enough offering (if a tad nonsensical) with monsters, demons and otherworldly beings all making an appearance. Throw in a couple of bad puns for good measure, alongside some alternate outcomes, depending on your choices, and the mode is worthwhile.
However, it’s WarpThrough’s gameplay, rather than its story, that’s the real draw. The weekly challenge mode prompts players to rack up high scores with a select character and level, and is arguably the meat of the experience.
Would you recommend it?
Yes. The £9.29 price tag might seem a little steep at first glance, but collecting shiny orb-like portals is surprisingly addictive (as anyone who’s played Crackdown can likely attest to) and there’s a good amount of replayability, particularly for those who enjoy climbing leaderboards.
Last week we booed and jeered the games that disappointed us the most during the year, souring an otherwise pleasant 12 months. Now, feeling more positive after our cathartic outbursts, we praise and cheer the very best that 2019 has to offer.
There are no good options for this unfortunate Raider.
Sam | Resident Evil 2
If you’ve kept up with our output over the course of 2019, my choice most likely won’t surprise you. The Resident Evil 2 remake was my most anticipated game and one I highly praised alongside Sekiro and Devil May Cry 5 (my respective second and third-place finishers) early in the year.
The game’s impeccable visuals and locations set a photorealistic scene that enhances both the gross out and creeping terrors which are implemented so thoughtfully. It’s a rare example of graphics actually serving gameplay, but looks obviously still aren’t everything.
I’m a sucker for survival horror, but particularly survival horror with strict inventory limits that demand forethought and planning. Add to that standard enemies that can take a full pistol clip directly between the eyes and still get back up, and you have a recipe for edge-of-your-seat gaming right there. Especially when starting out on the highest difficulty setting.
A true masochist at heart, I immediately cranked the difficulty right up and, with that, limited the number of saves. Imparting a genuine fear for loss of time and effort, if nothing else, this razor blade gaming cocktail often had my heart racing faster than an equivalent session of Switch workout title Ring Fit Adventure.
For some, this image alone is enough to impart genuine fear.
Liam | Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown
Another year, another round of top titles I’ve yet to play. I still haven’t got to some of last year’s best, let alone 2019’s greatest hits, but I did manage to recently get my hands on the excellent Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown.
Released way back at the start of the year, AC 7 feels like a bit of a throwback to my Rogue Squadron days, except with a lot more missiles and fewer blasters. The narrative is absolute nonsense, so much so that I stopped paying attention to pre-mission briefings and cutscenes very early on, but the rest of it more than makes up for the story’s shortfalls.
Controls are tight, the planes Top Gun levels of cool, and the combat moreish, especially when coupled with the game’s orchestral/electric guitar soundtrack. It’s also quite the looker, with some lovely vistas serving as a backdrop to the meaty action.
The only downside (apart from the naff story) is the heavy reliance on missiles over guns (which also sound a bit limp) but because I’m too much of a coward to try the Resi 2 remake, and have yet to finish Pokémon Moon let alone start Sword or Shield, it still gets my pick of the year.
Ace combat 7 takes the Michael Bay approach to storytelling.
James | Control
Messing about with time, perception and the supernatural was an intriguing prospect even as we were first introduced to Control back at last year's E3.
We'd known Remedy, creators of not only Max Payne but the ambitious, though flawed, Xbox exclusive Quantum Break, were working on something new for a while, and despite going multiplatform, the developer hasn't had to compromise its weirdness to get a quality product on shelves.
Something of a throwback, the game is a singleplayer, largely narrative, fairly open world experience. The live-action elements, something Remedy is known for, are smartly kept to on-screen diary entries and recordings this time around, and the overall effect of not only the brutalist architecture but approach to its story create a world you are excited to explore, as I noted in my review.
While undoubtedly feeling like "a game", the journey is not only memorable, but thought-provoking – particularly if you commit to reading into the world. Most importantly, I powered through the game like a man possessed, which is a rarity, and enjoyed it all the way through. I may even revisit it next year when the PS4 timed-exclusive DLC expansions finally make their way to Xbox.
Time-bending narratives and telekinetic abilities will always grab our attention.
Share your personal Game of the Year picks with us.
A stellar year for gaming is coming to a close. We've seen the creation of instant classics and some high profile releases have really hit the mark, doing everything we expected and more. It wasn't all roses though, as these potential stocking killers could have been so much better...
It may look impressive but air time hurts your run.
Liam | Kingdom Come: Deliverance - Band of Bastards
I first want to point out that I thoroughly enjoyed Band of Bastards and I’m only including it in this list because, as I mentioned in my review, it could have been so much better.
Combat in Kingdom Come: Deliverance might feel a bit awkward at first, but once you get used to it it’s actually a fairly elegant system, although if you do find the swordplay a bit of a struggle (like I do) bashing people over the head with a mace also works well.
Whatever your preferred strategy, fights in KCD are quite fun, but you’d often have to go looking for them in the main game, which is why I couldn’t wait for the arrival of the Band of Bastards expansion and it’s combat centric nature.
The small skirmishes you take part in early doors are excellent, accompanied as you are by the memorable crew of mercenaries, but it’s all done and dusted too quickly, and the final big battle is a somewhat limp affair that’s let down by wonky AI.
What’s there is enough to satisfy any wannabe warriors battle cravings, but it could have been great, rather than simply good, which is the biggest disappointment.
Much like real life, maces solve the problems that words can't.
Sam | Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes
This week’s topic stumped me for a while. Most deemed MediEvil to be disappointing, but I quite enjoyed it; Pokemon Sword and Shield are far from outstanding, but I didn’t expect them to be; Terminator: Resistance is pretty mediocre, but that’s par for the course. What had I played that fell below rather than meeting or surpassing my expectations?
After scouring my list of played 2019 games, it was all the way back in January that I unearthed a release I’d mostly stricken from memory. No More Heroes and it’s sequel are cult classic Wii games in which you play as a trashy American assassin called Travis Touchdown. Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes is the hotly anticipated follow-up that failed to meet its mark.
The new top-down perspective already had eyebrows raised, but marrying that with a collection of unengaging central mini-games made for some questionable gameplay. It wasn’t really what people wanted and the developer knew it, attempting to placate disgruntled fans by stating that supporting Travis Strikes Again might help to fund a full-fledged sequel.
Apparently it did, No More Heroes III now having been announced for Nintendo Switch, but Travis Strikes Again felt disingenuous in addition to underwhelming as a result.
Here's hoping Travis can get the sequel he deserves.
James | Crackdown 3
I made no secret that I was looking forward to the return of the Crackdown series. Despite not being hit by the initial shockwave from the game way back when, the bits and pieces I had played were great fun, so the prospect of bringing that experience up-to-date with a few new bells and whistles was exciting.
Of course, what we eventually got in Crackdown 3, the second most high-profile release for Microsoft this year after Gears 5, was a disappointment in every sense of the word. I got a pre-order in early... in August 2015, but, especially for fans who had been around since the beginning, there was little of the series' magic, reducing the game's open-world mania to little more than ever-increasing tedious distractions wrapped around floaty controls.
The multiplayer was worse still, offering the lowest possible amount of variety and restricting the destruction to an abstract, computer wireframe simulation rather than the spectacle of New Providence (though there wasn't much of that to be found either).
Reducing down a game to its most basic elements is one thing, and often can be helpful when rebooting something for a fresh audience to get rid of any franchise bloat, but here it cut the jugular, and there's no resuscitation in sight.
We still love you, Terry.
Share your 2019 disappointments with us below.
A game's setting can be just as important as the story, characters or even gameplay. For example, swapping the UK-inspired Galar region of Pokémon Sword and Shield with the desolate hellscape of Terminator: Resistance may seem like a novel idea, but roaming T-1000s won't improve your Pokémon experience. With that in mind, here are our top digital destination recommendations.
Liam | UK - Combat Flight Simulator
With Microsoft working on a new Flight Simulator, it seems appropriate to use this week’s topic as a platform to call for a return of a classic spin-off from the series: Combat Flight Simulator.
The first game, released in 1998 on PC, let you take to the skies of Europe during WW2 as a pilot of the British, U.S or German air forces. Whilst hopping into the cockpit of iconic fighter planes such as the Supermarine Spitfire or P51 Mustang was very cool, one of the best features from the original CFS were the real-life locations.
Most games I’d played up until that point all came with fictional settings, whether it was a fantasy kingdom or a far-flung system in deep space, so to be able to fly around a familiar one (namely South East England) and see towns I knew and often frequented – such as Biggin Hill – crop up in mission descriptions was a completely new and novel experience.
It was the first and only time (as far as I can remember) that a game’s setting has ever felt so grounded, which is pretty ironic considering the amount of time you spent up in the air.
If you look very closely, you can see Liam's house. We think.
Sam | Rapture - BioShock
I’m a big believer that setting(s) can absolutely make or break a game. Should that setting also be leveraged as an environmental storytelling tool, then generally players are in for a treat. Lots of rich in-game locations hold fonder memories for me than genuine holiday hotspots, largely because they’re intertwined with stories both manufactured and emergent.
Places like the Spencer Mansion (Resident Evil) and the kingdom of Lordran in Dark Souls are vast, yet simultaneously claustrophobic owing to how they gradually unfurl themselves. The best location to utilise this strategy for my money, however, is Rapture from BioShock.
Channelling spiritual predecessor System Shock - an early “immersive simulator” alongside the likes of Deus Ex and Thief, which together introduced more in-depth 3D settings to the gaming masses - BioShock perfectly marries its setting and narrative.
Buried at the bottom of the ocean to shield its resident creatives from government intervention, the opulent facade soon crumbles in conjunction with the “better” society calling it home. Not only is it metaphorically relevant, but the placement of assets and scrawlings on walls tell a supplementary tale to an already enthralling main narrative thrust.
Mirroring the concept in BioShock Infinite was novel, though the floating city of Columbia ultimately fell short by comparison. Much of the magic was gone, dispersing into the open air after being tightly contained in an underwater capsule.
Claustrophobic, yet oddly serene.
James | The Citadel - Mass Effect
Something about space has always captured my imagination. From endless weekends with the original Star Wars trilogy to learning the history of humanity's own exploration of the big black dark thing with shiny bits, it was a world filled with possibilities.
No game I've enjoyed has brought that to life so fully as the Mass Effect series, and a central location for Commander Shepard's journey is the Citadel. A huge, distinctly sci-fi superstructure, built by a long dead (or so you think) organisation, the space station spans hundreds of buildings and is home to thousands of beings.
It was the first time I got a sense of scale and other-worldly possibility, and the way different species all live together and interact, mostly peacefully, is a testament to a more compassionate future we can only aspire to.
While there were criminally inefficient lifts – designed to hide loading times on the Xbox 360's aging hardware – as you explored each level you could often see the station spanning miles off into the distance, and the great beyond past its huge petal-like array of spokes.
Better still, you can get anything you need right there, and wherever you pop into, you'll know it's Commander Shepard's favourite shop on the Citadel.
And this is Shepherd's favourite spot on the Citadel.
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