Though it may seem like time is meaningless, we've passed the halfway point of 2020 and, thankfully, there's no turning back. The following titles have kept us entertained through uncertain times and are already strong contenders for Game of the Year.
And the art style isn't too shabby either.
James | Animal Crossing: New Horizons
When 2020 began I wasn't expecting to be as excited about digging up fossils on a daily basis as I ended up being.
Nonetheless I stand before you having completed the museum's fossil section in New Horizons and with a sense of accomplishment uncommon in a big-budget release. Thanks to the drip feed of fish, bugs and art though, I'll be busy for a while yet.
Minecraft is a game which has done a lot to spark creativity over the years, and during lockdown in particular I've seen Horizons play host to everything from complex gameshows to elaborate recreations of landmarks and architecture styles.
It's not the most innovative game at first glance, but the various interwoven systems (and the countless frustrations that come with them…) create a wide range of things to do with little of the stress or anxiety you can experience in other, more structured games.
The wholesome nature of everything is enough to cause even the most cynical to relent and raise a wry smile and you'll probably even get one or two villagers who are fun to talk to.
Don't let the cutesy visuals fool you, Animal Crossing is a game for everyone.
Liam | Call of Duty: Warzone
Call of Duty: Warzone might look a lot like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, (no, not that Modern Warfare, the other one) which launched late 2019, but the standalone Battle Royale portion was actually released this March, and therefore qualifies as my Game of the Half-Year.
Apart from a brief dabble with Fortnite, the BR bandwagon has pretty much passed me by, so I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed Infinity Ward’s take on the last-team-standing formula.
Perhaps it’s the classic gunplay, or the mass appeal that has seen long dormant names on my friends list suddenly reactivated, but I haven’t had this much fun with a Call of Duty title since the series’ heyday over ten years ago.
Surviving frantic final circles, plotting winning strategies and picking fights with bounties is, and continues to be, a bloody good time, especially with a full squad of mates in tow. It’s even better when you consider the game costs absolutely nothing and still comes with plenty of content – including the criminally underrated Plunder mode.
The only downsides are the frequent (not to mention large!) updates whose only purpose seems to be to try and evict every other game from my console’s hard drive.
Deciding what games to delete is half the battle.
Sam | The Last of Us Part II
The Last of Us 2 has gotten a bad rap based largely on leaks and misinformation, but setting aside preconceived notions and actually playing it was an experience to say the least. I’ll be keeping things vague, but fair warning that narrative themes and structure are discussed here.
Juxtaposing gorgeous visuals and often grotesque violence, The Last of Us 2 is a tragic story that you experience from two sides of the same coin. Each has their questionable reasons for vile actions, though somehow, I came to root for both. More than anything, I hoped that human decency would prevail and beget peace in the end.
If I was pushed to come down on one side or the other, however, it'd be that of a newcomer and the so-called “antagonist” of the story. TLoU2 challenged my perception via perspective and prompted a complete u-turn. While I can think of other moral twists in entertainment media, they all rely on a somewhat cheesy “Aha!” moment. Here it’s done slowly and subtly enough that I didn’t realise until I caught myself rooting for the “wrong” person, questioned it, then affirmed that I definitely was.
That’s a first for me and has stuck with me in the days since. I’ve thought about this game constantly after completing it, plus discussed and debated about it online. I’m more involved with the world and characters now than I ever was after playing the original - which was also excellent - and keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll eventually see more.
Are there any heroes in this story?
Let us know which games would make your list.
Not too long ago, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 5 with an hour-long stream, finally showcasing the console itself, a bunch of accessories and a glut of upcoming titles that we can look forward to this year and next. Here are our highlights from The Future of Gaming.
Soulstorm is looking slightly more chaotic than the original.
While not nearly as down on the event as Chris, I can echo that the DualSense gamepad is ugly and DEATHLOOP was underwhelming. Bethesda stablemate GhostWire: Tokyo was too, which is especially disappointing with Shinji Mikami at the helm.
Probably the most impressive reveal was Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, which really showcased what the PS5’s SSD can do. Players are able to instantly transition between several completely different levels without so much as a whiff of a loading screen. That likely wouldn’t be possible on PS4, and most certainly wouldn’t be possible while also boasting a level of visual polish akin to the Ratchet & Clank feature film.
While I’ll definitely be playing Rift Apart and Spider-Man: Miles Morales, the exclusive game that really has me excited is the Demon’s Souls remake. The most appealing PS5 game being a PS3 game might not bode well, but my undying love of Dark Souls is well known and exploring its main point of origin (complete with online functionality, since the original servers have been shut down) is a hugely enticing prospect.
Horizon Forbidden West as the grand finale didn’t do much for me, since the original’s reliance on the repetitive Ubisoft formula landed it in the middle of the road. Resident Evil: Village would’ve occupied the prestigious slot more comfortably, appearing to be an excellent mix of old and new.
And still just as creepy as ever.
I love cats, so my favourite part of the event was the Stray trailer, in which a ginger cat with a little backpack explored a rather intriguing neon city. I’ve always thought animal sims/protagonists were a good idea (people did seem to enjoy Untitled Goose Game) and I look forward to catching robot mice and pooping in a box as well as playing detective.
My biggest disappointment from the show was the lack of any PS VR 2 news. I have an unused PS VR bundle just waiting for a shiny new PlayStation to enjoy it on, but if there’s an upgraded headset on the way, I’d rather keep it all boxed up for maximum trade-in value (although with StarWars: Squadrons out this winter, I could be tempted to break the seal).
As for the PS5 itself, I don’t think it looks terrible. Ideally I’d like to own both of the new consoles one day, but with space for only one machine under my TV (literally, if the sizing specs are to be believed) it might have to be the PS5 – the mini obelisk that is the Series X would stand out less sitting next to the set, after all.
Let's hope the customisation options are up to scratch.
Having been off the PlayStation train since the 90s, I gave the event itself a miss – a stark contrast to the E3 season events I would have undoubtedly been glued to in previous years, and different times.
The game to drag me back to Sony most recently was Marvel's Spider-Man, which I thoroughly enjoyed despite being late to the party.
An outing for fan-favourite Spidey, Miles Morales, was a nice showcase, and given the push for next-to-no loading from this hardware, it's likely to be reflective of the final experience.
Putting a new suit on the world's favourite web-slinger isn't quite enough to fork out £500 or more by itself though, so it's fortunate for Sony they have spent this generating a suite of series ripe for sequel treatment.
Horizon Zero Dawn broke records for new IP on the PS4 and God of War was no slouch either. More Horizon was announced and it's extremely likely that Kratos and other colourful characters are already being rendered at the newly rebranded PlayStation Studios. The biggest question left, besides the exact price, will be how long I hold off playing this time.
More Spidey can never be a bad thing.
Catch up with the full stream below and let us know what you think about The Future of Gaming.
After a seven year wait, The Last of Us Part 2 is tantalisingly close, though several plot points have already been leaked online ahead of the game's release. We thought it pertinent to discuss our feelings on the subject of spoilers but don't worry, TLoU fans, we've carefully plotted our course through this minefield to tiptoe around any potential spoilers.
It's a bit of a tear-jerker.
While fortunately I've generally managed to avoid story spoilers, the effect they could have had on several games would have undoubtedly turned me off.
Whether it's the plot twist in the likes of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare or BioShock, the impact is similar – to know what's going to happen lessens its impact and, for some it will damage the overall experience.
Of course, most leaks are far from a blow-by-blow of a story, and there's a huge amount to be gained from context in storytelling. In other words, hearing about something isn't the same as experiencing it for yourself.
For example, when I finished both BioShock and its sequel Infinite, the climax of both stories were hugely satisfying to experience myself, even though with the former I at least knew something unexpected was coming at the end. Admittedly, to go into Infinite's finale cold felt far better as I didn't feel late to the party.
When it comes to The Last Of Us, as a series it's hugely revered and respected for its cinematic storytelling, so potentially it has more to lose by being spoiled. Does that mean it won't be worth playing? For even those who are hugely invested, it's always worth letting developer Naughty Dog tell their own story before making up your mind.
With Bioshock, there's something unexpected around every corner.
While spoilers might completely dissuade me from watching a film, TV series, or sporting event the same can’t be said for games. Though there’s undoubtedly more to all of those visual mediums than the end result, much of the joy is sapped out of the viewing experience when you do happen to know the outcome in advance.
While I certainly don’t appreciate game spoilers, they relate to an interactive form of entertainment where much of the joy remains intact. In my opinion, gameplay is the most important factor in gaming - like EA Sports, it’s in the name!
I actually might’ve seen the TLoU 2 ending spoilers, though I’m in no rush to check whether what I read was legit or fabricated. Finding out for myself later this month will be part of the fun, and it hasn’t prompted me to cancel my pre-order.
If it does turn out to be true, the gameplay experience won’t have suffered any and I’ll get to learn the context surrounding that outcome. In the end, I don’t see myself as emerging much worse off.
If you're unsure of whether something is a spoiler, does it still count as a spoiler?
Most of the big releases where I’ve been heavily invested in the narrative, I either powered through before other people could spoil things for me (Modern Warfare 2) or I ended up experiencing them years after they were in the limelight (Mass Effect and ME2) when most people had already moved on and the danger was significantly reduced.
These days I find I’m more likely to spoil things for myself, like when an innocuous internet search for Animal Crossing: New Horizons tips (spoiler, it’s my GOTY) sends me down a rabbit hole of information that reveals exactly what’s awaiting me in the coming days and weeks as I continue to upgrade my island.
For me, knowing that a wealth of information is readily at hand to look up whenever I please is probably worse than having a story or big moment revealed prematurely. In the old pre-internet times whenever I got stuck in a game, I had to knuckle down and figure it out, but nowadays the temptation to just google the solution can be hard to resist, and quite often I end up robbing myself of the satisfaction of overcoming a tough challenge through my own skill or brainpower.
Take Liam's story as a warning, if you're playing Animal Crossing.
Let us know how you feel about story spoilers.
We recently had the chance to chat with Bruno and Ricardo Cesteiro, the founders of independent development studio Camel 101, about their latest release. Set in an eerie town with dark secrets, Those Who Remain is a psychological horror title focused on the interplay between light and shadow.
Edward Turner is not a hero, in fact, he travelled to Dormont in order to end an illicit love affair. Was it a challenge to create such a flawed character and still have players invested in his story?
It was very interesting to create Edward. I personally think it’s more interesting to play with a character with whom we can relate too, instead of a golden hero that does everything right and never hurts anyone.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that illicit love affairs are a regular thing. What I mean is that we’re all flawed, we’ve all done things we regret. And sometimes we’re trying to do the right thing, and we end up hurting someone we love. That’s because life is not black and white, reality deals in shades of grey.
I think Edward being flawed and feeling human is one of the things that draws players in when they first start the game. They want to know what’s going on, why he’s meeting his lover in a motel and why he feels so bad about it.
We've seen a host of demons in trailers and gameplay videos. Is light our only weapon or will we have other tools at our disposal?
The shadow people that stand in the dark will disappear by using any kind of light source. That’s the only way to fight them. There are creatures that can walk in the dark and in the light. In these cases, the only options are running and hiding.
You've mentioned in interviews that choice and consequence are big themes; can we expect multiple endings which encourage repeat playthroughs?
The main premise of the game is choices and consequences. Not just the things that Edward’s done, but the things that he will do. And so, we want players to feel the weight of their actions too, meaning that there are three different endings based on the player’s choices. So yes, there’s always room for more playthroughs.
We Were Here Together makes its console debut this week; join us on an expedition to the Antarctic for some cooperative puzzle solving on Xbox One.
I enjoy a good brain teaser; will I find the puzzles too easy?
Puzzles start off fairly intuitive, but there’s a sudden spike in difficulty after the first hour or so that sees things get a lot tougher. We also enjoy a challenge, but too often it felt like we were relying on trial and error rather than our grey matter, with some solutions proving to be fiendishly difficult. More than a few times we had to resort to referencing outside guides after drawing a blank trying to find patterns or clues for puzzles that seemingly had none.
Would you recommend it?
Those who prefer a good amount of guidance with their games might want to steer clear, but if you’re a fan of the previous titles, or affordable puzzle games that don’t hold your hand, then at £10.74 We Were Here Together is worth a go.
Robocop is the latest guest to be added to Mortal Kombat 11, joining current alumni Spawn, Terminator T-800 and the Joker. The series has a history of importing iconic characters from games and film, but there's still a handful of potential pugilists that we hope are on NetherRealm's list.
Like Nightwolf, but better.
Sam | Trevor Philips
Grand Theft Auto V protagonist Trevor Philips might be the furthest thing from fighting fit, but Mortal Kombat has a pretty loose rule set. After “mentally preparing” with a hit of meth in his fighter intro, he’d rely on an arsenal of guns and explosives to level the playing field.
As you’ll know if you’ve played GTA V, Trevor is an absolute psychopath. A staple diet of illicit drugs allows him to periodically utilise the Red Mist skill, which decreases damage taken and increases damage dealt. It essentially makes Philips an invincible powerhouse for a brief period and could add credence to his inclusion, while also doubling as a time-limited buff manoeuvre integrated into his move set.
One of his Fatalities could be a curb stop, after which he’d complain about the state of his bloodied shoe while flicking brain matter from the sole. It’s a perfect tonal fit, mirroring MK mainstay Johnny Cage’s grossout antics.
It’s unlikely to happen - whereas Chris’ Talion/Celebrimbor suggestion would arguably be a shoo-in, both being owned by Warner Bros. and all - though it’d no doubt be a fitting and fruitful crossover if ever it did.
He may not have supernatural abilities but we wouldn't bet against Trevor in any fight.
Liam | Judge Dredd
While Judge Dredd might not have a spectral companion to call upon or a rage-inducing drug habit, he does have the Lawgiver, a voice activated handgun. This iconic weapon could be used to devastating effect during fights, with players able pull off special combos to activate the different firing modes, such as incendiary or high-explosive rounds, and deal out massive damage.
It could also make for some great finishing moves, too, with the gravelly voiced Street Judge firing off pithy one-liners before dealing the final blow with one of the many types of ammo at his disposal.
More creative finishing moves could include Dredd calling in his Lawmaster bike and dragging opponents off for a short stay in the Iso-Cubes, or forcing them to take The Long Walk, where they’d have to face the terrors of the Cursed Earth alone.
But Dredd’s not just about the tech, of course. As an experienced Judge raised on the mean streets of Mega-City One, he’s well versed in many forms of hand to hand combat, and having faced-off against the worst humanity has to offer, as well as a host of other worldly enemies, Mortal Kombat 11's roster wouldn’t hold any surprises for him.
Due to a lack of recent Judge Dredd games, Robocop will be filling in for the Judge, until he gets the title he deserves.
James | Travis Touchdown
Far from a likely (or realistic) choice, the cel-shaded star of No More Heroes with a gritty MK-over could pull in those who like their fighters a bit more on the whimsical side. (He’s too violent for Smash anyway).
While weapons aren’t necessarily the be-all in MK, compared to the likes of Soul Calibur, the lightsaber rip-off/light fitting that is Travis’ beam sword could be employed for some suitably OTT Fatalities and Brutalities, while Travis himself maintains a knowing wink to the camera.
More than likely he wouldn’t be much impressed with his own inclusion, as a relatively self-referential character, which could lead to some fun character interactions as well. Imagine him teasing Robocop about the size of his gun, or asking the T-800 about what it was like being governor in those fleeting opening voice lines and his role starts to take shape.
Not an out-and-out psychopath or egomaniac, Touchdown could feel a bit more light-hearted, while playing with surprising dexterity thanks to his unassuming, wiry physique. How effective the design would translate to a “realistic” look is anyone’s guess, but it feels more likely than Deadpool at least.
Johnny Cage might have some competition when it comes to snappy one-liners.
Share your ideas for a Mortal Kombat 11 guest character in all the usual places.
Last week, Epic Games revealed Unreal Engine 5, treating us to a demo running on PS5 hardware. Lumen in the Land of Nanite showcases two new core technologies, which will offer unprecedented levels of detail when the engine (compatible with current and next-gen platforms, including Android and iOS) releases next year.
Lots and lots of triangles.
After the underwhelming third-party Xbox Series X gameplay reveal, Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 footage was just what we needed. While the character model still isn’t quite there, the environments and assets on display are incredible.
That said, the showcase doesn’t actually relate to a real game and should be taken with a pinch of salt. Countless times before tech demos either haven’t quite panned out or it’s taken years of hands-on experience with an engine and/or piece of hardware to fully realise something comparable.
Even if we do get visuals of that standard right off the bat, UE5 isn’t scheduled to release until late 2021. By then the PS5 and XSX will be around a year old, so the demo isn’t a great measuring stick to judge the quality of what we’ll be looking at on day one.
While journo Geoff Keighley claims gamers won’t be disappointed when they clap eyes on next-gen visuals, if there’s truth to that, in the absence of E3 this year, it’s time to show and not tell. Although I’m excited to see what both next-gen machines are truly capable of, it does appear we could be looking at diminishing returns and not the kind of drastic leap alluded to by Head of Xbox Phil Spencer.
Cautious optimism may negate any future disappointment.
While tech talk is always lost on me, I can appreciate lovely visuals, and the Unreal 5 demo certainly had them in spades. The most impressive part, however, was not the magic bats or reactive light but the way the character interacted with her environment.
Little touches, like how she placed her hand on a door frame when passing through it, are far more immersive than ultra-realistic shadows and dust physics, especially if unscripted. In-game worlds have been getting prettier for years, but far too often playable characters seem oblivious to them.
Like Link’s cartoon eyes that pointed out clues in The Wind Waker, more natural animations could be put to good use in next-gen games (at least the ones made with Unreal 5) to subtly do the same. How cool would it be to see your character spontaneously react to unknown sounds by flinching away from them, indicating a potential enemy nearby, or hint at hidden areas with a suggestive glance?
It’s these kinds of innovations and improvements, rather than simply bigger and better-looking worlds, that I’m most looking forward to seeing more of once the next-gen really gets going.
A more subtle but immersive approach gets Liam's motor running.
Graphics might not be the be all and end all, but most of the gaming persuasion would agree that loading screens are not fun. How nice then that this loaded-to-the-brim tech showcase was a fluid, seamless experience from start to finish.
Of course, questions in the days following led to discussion about whether a loading screen was hidden in a "squeezing through a crack" section – a tactic often employed by the likes of Uncharted and recent Tomb Raider instalments to give time to render environments.
This was quickly waved away as an intentional move to show close-up detail, but it's important to remember (as Sam says) that this isn't a final product, merely a glimpse of what might be possible.
On consoles it's potentially even more removed from reality, with the demo undoubtedly running on a high-end PC, though next gen will invite more teraflops to the party than ever before.
Similar to the potential in Assassin's Creed last week, it's the ability to make environmental detail ever more effortless for developers which is most exciting as they can then focus their time in pushing gameplay forward with new ideas and experiences. Bring it on.
It may take time for such intricately detailed worlds to emerge.
Let us know your thoughts on the first PS5 gameplay footage.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was officially announced last week, confirming the previous rumours that we'll be playing as a Viking this time around. Details are scant at the moment, outside of the setting and basic premise, but the recent trailers have given us a lot to speculate on.
Don't get too excited about this gameplay trailer.
After taking back Victorian London in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, I felt my dreams of role-playing as a silent killer were thoroughly satisfied, leading me to let both Odyssey and Origins pass me by. With a more wintery trip to Blighty planned, as the more shouty, but suitably stabby, Vikings, the trailer has me intrigued.
There's not a lot of stealth on show, but King Alfred of Wessex (as confirmed by Ubisoft on Den of Geek) looks thoroughly miserable and that's enough to warrant an untimely spiking in my book. Plus, while the Vikings eventually conquered the entire country, their raids began in more rural, coastal towns - if I remember correctly from my year 9 history - a far cry from the bustling, close-knit rooftops of London. This could lead to some interesting assassination scenarios, and ones which build on lessons learned in the more sunshine-drenched experiences of the past two games.
Having not played PlayStation's God of War, I haven't dabbled much in Norsemen combat for some time, so it will be interesting to see how the style of fighting differs from a more traditional, strictly in the shadows approach. Presumably there will be a bit more aggression to the kills here, which could be juicy.
Finally, we did see some traditional Viking longships (cue an expert tell me they aren't actually longships), which could see the return of a sprinkling of ship combat, a feature I haven't tried out in the likes of Black Flag. With Skull and Bones seemingly endlessly delayed, this could be a good opportunity for some to scratch their sailing itch at the same time, as they make their way up the British coast, gradually planting the flag for the scandinavians.
Is more naval combat on the cards?
First of all, I’m hoping Ubisoft adopt a ‘less is more’ approach with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, as Odyssey was just far too much game, and I can’t be the only one who burned out on the seemingly endless supply of side-quests and loot gathering after only a couple of dozen hours.
Secondly, it would be good to see something more than just a mindless hack-a-thon with some cinematics (albeit very good-looking ones) thrown on top, as the setting could be an interesting one story-wise.
Vikings aren’t exactly known as a history’s good guys, and while I’m sure Ubisoft will try to portray Eivor as a decent person – the trailer even hints this will be the case – raiding locals in order to upgrade our new settlements doesn’t exactly sound like the most paragon behaviour.
Hopefully there will be more subtle ways to expand our influence, such as forming alliances with some of the many kingdoms that made up England at the time, as opposed to just butchering our way to power. Proper choices and a more engrossing story would certainly keep me hooked a lot longer than Odyssey managed to do.
These chaps don't seem keen on the idea of an alliance but the resulting fracas could persuade the next lot.
I have a tumultuous history with the AC series. I love Assassin’s Creed II, Black Flag and Origins, but every other entry I’ve either skipped over or found underwhelming. I guess that’s the nature of a franchise that jumps between characters and time periods so often - some will land, while others won’t.
I’m hearing a lot - not seeing, based on the disappointing “gameplay” reveal trailer - that gives me hope Valhalla will help to even out my list of Assassin’s Creed hits and misses. The biggest positive for me is actually a point of contention for many others, that being that the upcoming Viking Age AC game isn’t going to be the series’ biggest entry yet.
Malek Teffaha of Ubisoft Middle East acknowledged that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla will be shorter than the other recent instalments. While some people want more bang for their buck, I’m a firm believer that less is more and have long held that Ubisoft could do with implementing that philosophy into its game design.
Not only that, but the Norse slant is of more interest than most other settings for me. Following 2018’s outstanding God of War there’s a lot to live up to, though combat is said to have been reworked in “brutal” fashion for Valhalla. I know there’s scope for ransacking forts and that’s pretty encouraging; you can’t beat a good bit of siege warfare, after all.
Hopefully this beautiful world won't be as lifeless as previous entries.
Let us know what you're expecting from Assassin's Creed Valhalla.
It's a great time for fans of strategy games, as XCOM: Chimera Squad is out now on PC, bringing in some new changes to shake up the dynamic, whilst Gears Tactics is dipping its toes into the strategy world for the first time. Will either of these titles reach the heady highs of the best the genre has to offer?
That relaxing vibe slowly ebbs away as the action increases.
Sam | Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden
I’m not a big fan of traditional RTS games, and turn-based combat more often than not leaves me pretty cold. There are certain strategy games that’ve really grabbed me, though, enough even to become exceptions to the above.
The likes of Mount & Blade, The Banner Saga and Dungeon of the Endless crossed my mind, but The Bearded Ladies’ Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden has to take this mantle. MYZ marries narrative, exploration, RPG mechanics, stealth and direct character control with turn-based tactical battles in the style of XCOM.
It might sound like an impossible hodgepodge of genres and mechanics on the surface, but everything ties seamlessly together in-game. It’s quite similar to Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle in many ways - which was definitely another contender for my pick - though with far more depth, likely owing to the older target demographic.
We eventually got more Road to Eden with the release of its Seed of Evil expansion, which picked up right where the main game’s cliffhanger ending left off. It speaks volumes that the shambolic technical performance at launch didn’t stop me from devouring and enjoying the entire expansion over just a couple of play sessions.
Having a pre-existing world to draw from helped Mutant Year Zero pull in fans.
Liam | Kingdom: Two Crowns
Are my walls strong enough to withstand tonight’s attack? Have I hired enough archers? Should I have upgraded my towers? These are the sort of questions that run through your mind every sunset in Kingdom as your underlings hunker down behind your defences in preparation for another onslaught.
On the surface, the Kingdom series might seem like a relatively simple affair compared to other strategic games; you’ve no real direct input, save for ordering the building of structures or recruiting subjects to fill your ranks, and the 2D layout limits exploration to just two directions, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in depth.
Having to carefully cultivate gold resources and strike a balance between daring explorer and cautious defender is great fun and can lead to some incredibly tense showdowns with the troll-like Greed that rock up to your walls every night.
The gameplay might be a little rudimentary, but it keeps things accessible, particularly for casuals and non-gamers. I’ve spent dozens of hours building kingdoms in the series’ two-player iteration, Two Crowns, with a playing partner whose interest in games is almost non-existent. Not only did they quickly grasp Kingdom’s core concept, but revelled in it, proving that a strategy game doesn’t need to be overly complicated to be engrossing.
Sometimes, simpler is better.
James | Red Alert 2
At the end of the 90s, strategy games were on a high. Command and Conquer was finally seeing competition from the likes of Age of Empires, Total Annihilation and Starcraft, which meant industry legends Westwood Studios had to hit back. Their answer? Red Alert 2.
While the first instalment was ground-breaking, the sequel re-defined the series graphically, with a more refined, isometric perspective, and the live action cutscenes having significantly more polish - but just the right amount of cheese.
Whether it was the campaign, which led you on a time-hopping, reality-twisting adventure to further the cause of your chosen side, or the multiplayer, which was my and many others’ first experience of online strategy - which tried hard to get away from the traditional rock/paper/scissors of balancing land, sea and air units, and succeeded.
You could even pick a game type called “Unholy Alliance” which saw you get access to units from both sides. The infantry units in particular packed more of a punch, with capturing a building quickly creating a killbox, even if you fortified your regular GIs in the field to give them access to heavier weaponry.
If you haven’t checked the game out before (or its equally impressive expansion, Yuri’s Revenge) there’s a remastered collection just waiting to be explored.
Is it time for another game-changing Red Alert title?
Share your favourite strategy games with us.
Some of you will have already sunk your teeth into Capcom’s Resident Evil 3 remake and blitzed through it in time for Final Fantasy VII which (officially) launched on Friday. Whilst these classics rightfully deserve a makeover, there are a few other games from that era which are crying out for a fresh lick of paint.
A touch of humour and a ton of gore.
Sam | Dino Crisis
My love of Ape Escape and desire for a reboot or remake is already well known to Team Talk regulars, so, since that pick pretty much goes without saying, I’ve opted instead for Dino Crisis.
Dinosaurs are thoroughly under-utilised in horror; the towering, toothy reptiles actually existed way back when and that fact arguably makes them far more terrifying than any dreamt up monstrosity. Imagine the sheer terror of finding yourself face-to-face with a Tyrannosaurus if they’d never gone extinct or you’d lived back in prehistoric times.
They’ve been dumbed down and made more child friendly over the years, but set that aside and, in reality, carnivorous dinos are downright scary. Dino Crisis knew this and leveraged it, leaning on survival horror mainstay Resident Evil as its gameplay template.
With much of the same talent at Capcom being responsible for both series, it’s a real shame that Dino Crisis ultimately fell by the wayside as Resident Evil prospered. With survival horror currently enjoying a resurgence, plus Capcom said to be open to making more remakes, the odds are actually looking decent when it comes to Dino Crisis’ return. In lieu of any confirmation, however, we can only hope that dinosaurs soon get back the bad name they deserve.
Resident Evil meets Jurassic Park was never going to be a hard sell.
Liam | Firestorm Thunderhawk 2
Firestorm Thunderhawk 2 was one of the many PS1 games I’d get to play whenever I would babysit my uncle’s console while he was away on trips, and I remember being hugely impressed by it, even back then.
Up until that point, the only flying game I’d really spent any significant amount of time with was Starwing on the SNES, which was rather limited compared to what FT2 was offering. Being able to explore in any direction and seek out enemies/objectives was, at the time, mind blowing, and hopping from first to third person views was also pretty amazing.
A spruced up, expanded and much better-looking modern version would be a great thing, in my opinion, as there aren’t enough flying games knocking around these days, let alone ones starring attack choppers. Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown (my personal GOTY for 2019) showed that there’s still a market for action-oriented flying games, especially those with a meaty single player campaign.
It seems unlikely we’ll ever get a new Firestorm game (the series seems to have disappeared after a follow up for the PlayStation 2) but I would happily snap up a remastered Thunderhawk 2, should a publisher/developer be willing to take a crack at it.
We need fewer zombies and more attack choppers.
James | Cool Boarders
While Ubisoft attempted to take the snow-covered world of extreme sports back with Steep (a title so forgettable I just had to look it up), there’s a lot to be said for going back to basics to bring some energy and entertainment to the digital world of snowboarding.
In a similar way to how the acclaimed Skate did in response to the over-saturation of Tony Hawk’s games, Cool Boarders could sweep in and pick up the torch after its former self wiped out on the soft powder back at the turn of the millennium.
Steep didn’t catch on as it tried to do too many things, whereas the updated graphics alone would give Cool Boarders the chance to really showcase the power of the PS5 with some sick snow effects.
Of course you’d need to retain the sense of humour that the series had in its day (or am I just projecting that?) to get young’uns interested, since there isn’t a huge amount of brand recall for this particular gem.
Still, more has been done in the past with more obscure franchises and they’ve come out shining, so why not give the borders another chance to stack it for our amusement?
Cool Boarders was getting us pumped before SSX even had its boots on.
Which iconic PlayStation titles do you think are deserving of a remake?