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.
Share your favourite gaming location with us.
London was host to X019 last week and those lucky enough to attend the Xbox event got a chance to go hands-on with (and see footage of) some of the newest and unreleased titles coming to the platform over the next year. An extended Inside Xbox stream provided a healthy dose of reveals, announcements and updates for the rest of us. Here are our highlights.
See anything you like?
X019 came as rather a nice surprise last week, almost serving the UK up its own little slice of E3. Microsoft went big for what was essentially an episode of their Inside Xbox series, revealing the first batch of new Xbox Game Studios titles and showcasing more of some we already knew to be in development.
They all looked fine, with Tell Me Why from Life is Strange developer Dontnod Entertainment being what stood out to me the most. One title I’m even more curious about is an independent effort, though.
Last Stop is set in present day London and tells a supernatural tale revolving around three different co-protagonists. It’s developed by Variable State, the team behind the excellent Virginia, which channeled The X-Files to tell an engaging narrative without a single subtitle or spoken word of dialogue. Last Stop seems even more ambitious, which immediately put it on my radar.
Elsewhere, I was pleased to hear that Project xCloud will be made available to Game Pass subscribers at no additional cost. I’m still not sold on streaming games, but I’ll give it a go for the grand old price of nothing.
I should also mention that seeing the Yakuza and Kingdom Hearts series find new homes on Xbox brought a smile to my face. Not on my own behalf, but because long-standing community member Plasma Wing has been begging for that to happen.
If Virginia is anything to go by, Last Stop should be an interesting thriller.
Like Chris, much of what got me excited about X019 was the news that more great titles were heading to Game Pass.
Whilst I never got around to completing the original Rage, the fact I can pick up both it - and the newly added sequel - through the subscription service serves as motivation to go back and give the franchise the attention it deserves. I’m also looking forward to trying Grounded and its hugely promising Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-style setting, which looks like it could be a lot of fun.
But the standout title from the show had to be West of Dead, a twin stick shooter set in a western-themed purgatory from Upstream Arcade and Raw Fury. I’m not a huge fan of procedurally generated levels, but I do love me some cel-shaded graphics, and the concept of a dead sheriff (voiced by Ron Perlman, no less) dealing out justice with a six-shooter sounds awesome.
Having got a taste of the tight gunplay and unique setting via the game’s open beta (which you can try until the 25 November) I am now very much looking forward to this game’s full release.
There's still a chance to try out the promising beta.
Having missed out on X019 altogether, and needing to catch up with our very comprehensive and exciting round-up, I'm pleasantly surprised to not see a slew of announcements which are just franchise X with another number slapped on the end – bar FFX-2's incorporation into the Game Pass library of course.
A new IP from Obsidian, hot off the success of The Outer Worlds is equally welcome, and though the people-ambling-about-in-a-coop-open-world genre is hardly under-served, it's been long enough since the cinematic gold that was Ants for the concept to feel like a breath of fresh air.
The rumblings around Project xCloud, which seems to have dispensed with the need for actual grown up product names at this stage, continue to sound good but have fairly little to show for it.
It seems clear that Microsoft is playing the long game on this one, especially compared to Google with Stadia, and while largely pulling out of EGX to focus on this event gave the company a chance to have the audience all to itself, they will need to deliver more exclusives - or just good all round game experiences – to get everyone excited enough for Project Scarlett to actually buy one.
We're going to assume that the name Project Xstream was already taken.
Let us know your highlights from X019.
The final frontier has been the setting of choice for countless titles over the years, but Surgical Scalpels are upping the ante when it comes to vacuum-based fun by putting the vast, empty void we call space front and centre in their upcoming game, Boundary.
After a brief rundown of some of the game’s basic features – customisable weapons, gun range, multiplayer modes etc. – we were handed the controls for our first match against a few members of the development crew. Despite being well experienced in the FPS genre, the lack of gravity and our newfound ability to move in six degrees of freedom initially took some getting used to.
The slower, considered movement of our avatar (a heavy Support class, but the floaty nature of space means nearly all classes move at a similar pace) coupled with the temptation to go blasting off across maps led to more than a few deaths as we were caught in the open by the opposition. Drift too far from the action, as we often did, and you’ll suddenly find yourself lit up on enemy radar. Linger even longer near the fringes and you’ll end up in the middle of a micro meteor shower that’ll quickly rip through your suit and health. Safe to say it took us a couple of matches before we eventually found our space legs.
Surgical Scalpels are aware that for many players, like us, this will be their first taste of zero-g combat in a competitive FPS. The development team have, therefore, tried to make gameplay as intuitive as possible by implementing a control scheme that’ll feel instantly familiar to anyone who has ever played a mainstream shooter like Call of Duty or Battlefield. Some elements are naturally going to be a little different, given the setting; there’s no jump or crouch/prone in space, after all, so those are swapped for ascend and descend abilities, while shoulder buttons traditionally saved for grenades are instead used for rotation.
Most classes – save for the Flanker, which we’ll discuss in a bit – come with a grapple that can be used to navigate close-quarter areas at a slightly faster pace than the standard thrusters allow (we used this method to pull off a particularly impressive surprise kill during one match) or quickly reach floating structures, from where players can set up ambush opportunities or catch a moment's respite to regenerate health and manually patch up any major leaks in their suit. The game also makes excellent use of the DualShock 4’s gyro sensor, which allows for easy precision aiming while on the move – a feature that was particularly handy while we were still getting to grips with zero-g traversal.
Maps themselves, like the rest of the available tech and weaponry, are in keeping with the game’s near-future aesthetic; we played one that was dominated by the scattered remains of a destroyed space station, with plenty of solar panels and pod-like compartments to hide behind. Some parts, like those huge solar panels, are destructible, with players able to shoot holes in them and peek through in a way that was very reminiscent of Rainbow Six Siege’s breakable walls.
When I asked if Surgical Scalpels had any plans to add maps set on the surface of a planet or moon where there might be a touch more gravity, I was told that it could be a possibility in the future, but that post-launch DLC would first focus on adding more classes, with three more said to be arriving at some point after the game launches. The base game will begin with five classes in total, of which we tried the Support, Recon and Flanker (there’s also a Sniper and Medic class).
The Support class is the most armoured, with a huge exoskeletal-type chassis on its back that, while bullet proof, also has the largest silhouette. Most come with two main weapons, an ability, and two secondary weapons - such as heavy cannons or missiles - that are attached to the frame of the big backpack. Recon was our favourite, thanks to a gadget that detects enemy players once it is dropped or launched. Every class’ suit will alert you with audio (and eventually visual, once they’re close enough) warnings to the presence of a nearby enemy, but having one of these beacons floating around proved to be extremely useful at helping us track down the other team’s players amongst the large map’s debris and hiding spots.
We definitely see the aforementioned Flanker class being the most popular, however, due to its “ninja-like” abilities and speedier movement. This class never shows up on enemy radar, and instead of a grapple it has a triple action quick-boost ability that easily outpaces the standard ‘sprint’ found in other classes (it also won’t reveal your position to the enemy if it overheats, unlike the latter). Even though the loadout we tried only came with a shotgun/pistol combo, the reduced range was worth the trade-off for the extra speed and stealth. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a nerf coming its way post-launch.
While our session drew to a close before we could really get to grips with what the game had to offer, what we did play was enough to convince us that Surgical Scalpels could have something special on their hands. First person shooters can often feel formulaic, but Boundary brings something refreshingly different to a crowded table. Once you’re over the initial (albeit gentle) learning curve, the controls prove to be comfortably intuitive, and the extra freedom of movement considerably liberating. Most importantly, underneath it all is a decent shooter that, a few pre-launch bugs aside, felt reassuringly solid, despite the unconventional lack of terra firma underfoot.
With The Outer Worlds' memorable cast still fresh in our minds, we turn our attention to the loyal companions that have followed us into danger without a thought for their own lives. A trustworthy escort or two can enhance gameplay, through either their personalities or simply the bonuses they offer. Whether they are friends, hired guns or merely folks whose interests align with our own, these are the people we'd choose to watch our backs.
This is how The Outer Worlds should be played.
James | Garrus Vakarian - Mass Effect
There's few game characters who have the charisma and likeability of Garrus Vakarian. Initially cold to your character, Commander Shepard, in the original Mass Effect, he quickly stands out from the rest of your companions and only goes on to be near indispensable as both a gun hand in combat and ready with a charming quip or two in conversation.
The joy of the series is often the relationships you build with your crew, and Garrus' interactions with the other characters is endearing as much as his chit chatting with quest givers and adversaries alike. His experience and knowledge has a genuine impact on your decisions too, making you think again about the right course of action, something which is far from clear cut.
On the battlefield, in the fight against the Reapers and various factions they're in cahoots with, Garrus' gunplay is sublime, and you'll combine that with his tech powers to create a diverse supporting character you can always rely on.
There were times in the series that Shepard's journey got difficult, and every single time Garrus would be there in my party to keep pushing me forwards, have my back in combat or be a confidant with advice and support with some of the trickier moral decisions in the game.
On top of all that, it never fails to raise a smile seeing just how much he loves his calculations.
If his sharpshooting skills don't scare the enemy, that melted Halloween mask of a face just might.
Sam | Morrigan - Dragon Age: Origins
Dark Souls notwithstanding, Dragon Age: Origins is my favourite RPG of all time. A major deciding factor in that is the strength of its supporting cast of companions, my favourite among which is Morrigan.
Daughter to a haggered shapeshifter, Morrigan - also known as a Witch of the Wilds - answers the protagonist’s call to aid them in stopping the apocalyptic “Blight” from consuming Ferelden. Though the cause is noble, Morrigan is anything but a willing heroine.
She’s incredibly blunt and dry witted, perfectly brought to life by the excellent Claudia Black (Chloe Frazer in the Uncharted series). When paired with morally upstanding companions like Leliana and Alistair, constant squabbles ensue as Morrigan plays the antagonistic part of devil’s advocate. Often she’ll suggest the less moral (but more practical) solution to a problem, much to the chagrin of other party members regardless of whether or not it needed to be heard.
As a result, Morrigan can come across as uncivilised and abrasive, but the unfiltered truth of her perspective can help any hero to make the hardest decisions with all bases covered. Over time it’s possible to dull her hard edges somewhat and even to romance her, though ultimately, she’s still just serving her own desires.
Unconventional to the end and damn handy in combat, Morrigan lives up to her title by being one helluva wild witch to come to appreciate.
If a tough decision needs to be made, you can count on Morrigan to give it to you straight.
Liam | The Ghosts - Ghost Recon Wildlands
There have been so many notable companions and partners in games over the years that I struggled to pick just one. There’s Skyrim’s Lydia, a Nord sworn to carry our burdens (read: dwarven tat and pillaged foodstuffs) who also loves a spot of spelunking, or Ashley Williams (the steadfast crew member from Mass Effect, not the Bristol City centre back) for whom I sacrificed Kaiden to save during the ill-fated mission on Virmire.
Both would be worthy winners, but, in the end, I’ve gone for the AI squad from Ghost Recon Wildlands. As Sam quite rightly pointed out when we were discussing our choices in one of PTC Towers’ many luxurious spas, these guys aren’t exactly known for their winning personalities, despite their penchant for military humour (and "military" language, shown below).
I couldn’t even tell you their names (I think one was called Midas, though couldn’t say which for sure) but their ridiculously overpowered sync shot easily trumps any personality vacuum. This ability let you pick out three enemy targets which your squad would then take out on your command no matter what was in the way, be it buildings, solid steel walls or even small hills. I’ll take that over a sunny disposition any day.
By military humour, we mean it's not for young ears.
Let us know who your favourite travelling companions are.