As if Sonic returning to cinemas for a second time wasn’t enough, SEGA decided to spoil us further recently with the announcement of Sonic Origins, a remastered collection of four undisputed classic Sonic titles: Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic 2, Sonic CD and Sonic 3: Sonic and Knuckles.
Since some of us played one or two of these the first time around, we’re of a generation that grew up with the fastest blue blur in video games, it got us thinking about what our favourite outing might be.
Do you have a favourite? Is it in this remastered collection? Let us know in the comments.
Chris | Sonic The Hedgehog 2 | MegaDrive/Genesis
Sonic's second clash with Dr. Robotnik (as he was known at the time) has a special place in my heart for a couple of reasons. It was the first game I remember playing with my old man, him leading the way as the eponymous hedgehog and me darting about as Tails.
Looking back, I probably wasn't as much help as I could have been, but being able to respawn infinitely without penalty meant that my dad could concentrate on getting through the level without having to keep an eye on me.
Whilst the option of playing in co-op was a huge draw, the biggest addition must surely be the Spin Dash move, which allowed players to quickly get a speed boost from standstill, making those loops easier to navigate and saving from having to backtrack until you had ample space to hit full sprint.
When I think of Sonic 2, the Casino Night Zone instantly pops into my head. The music is burned into my brain for all eternity as we spent far longer on the big slot machine than we needed to, only leaving when we had hit the jackpot enough times to be loaded with gold rings. It's a trait that my dad still carries with him to this very day.
This week saw PlayStation unveil it's long-awaited response to Game Pass, in the form of new tiers to PS Plus, which brings in the current PS Now service.
In a nutshell, there are now three tiers – Essential, Extra and Premium. The first is just what we have now, even without a price rise. Extra includes a downloadable back catalogue of up to 400 PS4 and PS5 games.
Premium, as you'd expect, takes it a step further, adding another 340 games through streaming, mostly from PS3, but also including some from original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP.
We've got a few thoughts on the service, but what do you think? Let us know in the comments.
At first glance, it seems Game Pass offers more bang for your buck, with all of Microsoft's first-party titles being made available to subscribers on day one, but with over 700 games in the PlayStation Plus catalogue right from the off (at least with the highest tier) it's still a very attractive prospect. Of course, not all of those games will appeal to everyone but since the comparisons to Microsoft's service are unavoidable, it's worth mentioning that Game Pass has its fair share of filler titles too and was far less expansive in its infancy.
I suspect Sony's decision not to include those first-party games will draw the ire of many, though it's understandable from a business perspective. Whilst Xbox boasts a lot of multiplayer titles (such as the likes of Gears 5, Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5), PlayStation tends to focus on the single-player epics. This means Microsoft can pull in more money as time goes on, whether it's via battle passes, multiplayer expansions or even loot boxes, whereas Sony don't have that constant trickle of funding.
It's probably safe to assume that newer games will eventually release on PlayStation Plus, so those who are patient can wait a little while longer without having to fork out extra. Given the choice between PS Plus and Game Pass, Xbox may just have the edge but I don't think we can take anything away from PlayStation.
I was walking down the street with a friend the other day when someone passed me carrying a PS5. I was so flabbergasted to see one in the wild that I genuinely did a double take and interrupted the conversation to point it out.
As you might have guessed, I’ve still yet to acquire a PlayStation 5, but I do plan on getting one eventually. When I do, I think I will sign up for the middle of the new PS Plus tiers. This one seems to be targeted towards players like me, who have missed out on some of the platform’s biggest exclusives over the last couple of generations.
There doesn’t seem to be much info about specific titles just yet, but I think it’s safe to assume PS4 exclusives such as Spider-Man and Horizon Zero Dawn will be included, which is great for me as I’ve yet to play them. Although I could probably find reasonably priced physical copies these days, £10.99 a month doesn’t seem too steep for access to a digital library of classics.
However, the Premium package, at £13.49 a month, would be harder to justify, given that it doesn’t include day-one exclusive releases. But depending on the quality of the PS2 titles (one of my favourite generations), I could still be tempted.
What do you think of the new-look PS Plus? Let us know.
With spring just around the corner, it's the time of year for beginning new things, which got us thinking back to where gaming started for us. (Plus, in James' case, the recently revealed Sonic 2 film poster brought his experience flooding back).
There we were, bright eyed and bushy tailed, blinking as we stepped into the light of what this hobby could be. So we thought we'd share our stories of what was the catalyst for this grandiose moment with you all.
What about you? What was that game that made you think "yes, this is something I could see myself doing a bit"?
Grand Theft Auto III | Chris
Though GTA III released in 2001 (and I already considered myself a gamer at this point) it was a title which changed the gaming landscape for good. Loading up for the first time left me in awe, it was a visual treat like no other. The massive (by early 2000's standards) 3D open world felt vibrant and alive in a way that no game had previously managed.
Even the smaller touches, like the satirical talk radio, add to the feeling that this world existed before I came along and will still exist when I'm gone. The best had been bettered, there's a new yardstick and nothing will be the same again.
GTA III not only reinvigorated my love of gaming but it was a taste of what was to come. I had been made aware of what could now be achieved and the possibilities seemed endless. It wasn't just the aesthetics; the variety of missions, the scope of the narrative and the gameplay itself were new to me, despite the many years of gaming I had clocked up.
Since then, the series has continued to grow and evolve but the biggest step was the almighty leap from 2D to 3D. GTA V deserves the (almost universally) perfect review scores, and I still jump into the online mode from time to time, yet it lacks that same feeling of wonder I got from discovering something special for the first time.
Super Mario World | Liam
Like Chris, there’s multiple points in my gaming career that could be considered pivotal moments. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare got me into online multiplayer and into HD gaming in general (I’d been playing a Wii until that point). Perfect Dark was probably the first time I’d really got into a game’s story, setting and characters, while Ocarina of Time properly felt like a big adventure.
But I’m going to go with the earliest game I remember being into, which is Super Mario World. This game had already been out for several years before I got to play it sometime in the mid-90s but was an ever present in my household thereafter.
This was the first time a game had looked and felt like a premium product. It was like playing a living cartoon, with bright, bold visuals and a catchy, iconic soundtrack. I personally never got much further than the second island, but I remember a real sense of awe whenever one of my older brothers reached a new and previously unseen level.
I’m sure games would have continued to interest me had I not played Super Mario World, but it probably marked the point where I realised they fascinated me.
What title got you into gaming?
PlayStation surprised us with a new State of Play this week, with a “special focus” on games coming from Japanese publishers. There were a flurry of new announcements and updates in the show’s 20-minute runtime.
Square Enix in particular showed off lots of games, giving Japanese gaming fans plenty to chew on. We’ve put our heads together to pick out our favourites. What was your highlight from the show?
Returnal Ascension and Forspoken | James
With a Japanese focus, it wasn’t a surprise to see Square Enix crop up at this show, but the sheer number of titles the publisher is working on is impressive, even outside its usual wheelhouse.
Since I picked Forspoken as my most anticipated game this year, I was excited for an update, and we were treated to a short trailer, interestingly with “some camera angles adjusted for trailer use” – a disclaimer I haven’t noticed before.
It certainly shows off some more of the scale you’d expect from the Final Fantasy XV developer, and while it wasn’t a gameplay trailer, the traversal animations and magic effects are still looking very cool.
A few other things looked worthy of an interested eyebrow raise, such as the intrigue of zombie-game-with-dinosaurs-instead-of-zombies Exoprimal, but largely the genres touched on aren’t necessarily my bag.
To my surprise though, the most exciting bit of news was actually an update to an existing release - Returnal.
When Returnal first debuted it grabbed my attention immediately, but with its high difficulty I’ve been too timid to jump into the haunting sci-fi adventure. The State of Play brought news of co-op being added with the Ascension update, which could bring in me and others who’ve been wanting to try it out.
What was your State of Play highlight?
While it isn’t a significant anniversary year, it’s hard to deny Pokémon is on a hot streak at the moment. From the hype surrounding new MOBA-style release Pokémon Unite last year and the continued reinvigoration of Pokémon Go with lots of regular updates, there’s been plenty to draw in all sorts of new players.
On top of that, we’ve seen an excellent remake in Pokémon Shining Pearl and Brilliant Diamond, and a fresh take on the formula altogether with Pokémon Legends Arceus. So what more could Game Freak and The Pokémon Company have in store for us?
The most recent Pokémon Presents presentation highlighted plenty of nuggets of newness bound for these games, and even new ones to look forward to. Once you’ve munched on the Rare Candy that is our highlights from the show, leave us your own in the comments.
Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s starters and world | James
Although the live-action reveal was a fun change of pace, it’s a little disappointing to step back to a more traditional Pokémon game format for Scarlet and Violet after the freedom of Arceus, the thought of having a few brand new pocket monsters to journey with is exciting.
A crop of brand new starters sees a new cat-inspired ‘mon, a duck wearing a hat as well as a tiny crocodile (or Spragitato, Quaxly and Fuecoco as the game refers to them), and they all look interesting. Giving tiny croc Fuecoco a fire type could lead to some interesting signature moves and who doesn’t find cats adorable?
The starters’ names and the aesthetic of the as-yet unnamed new region give a strong vibe of Spain. In particular, in one of the town’s you notice a tall building – marked with signature pokéball, naturally – which is reminiscent of Barcelona’s famous cathedral Sagrada Familia.
A different region is always interesting to explore, particularly one as colourful as this, and from the gameplay we’ve seen it looks as though the Wild Area introduced in Sword and Shield, or possibly the entire map outside cities, will show pokémon in the overworld.
Hopefully we’ll see Gamefeak continue to push the quality of life elements improved in the last few games, so that it feels like a significant step forward from the last traditional, non-remake release.
The internet may have fallen for Fuecoco but we all know Spragitato is really the best of the three.
Arceus trainer battle update | Liam
The highlight for me was the Pokémon Legends Arceus update announcement, mostly because it has motivated me to get back into the game. After a few days of catching ‘mon every evening, my time in Hisui has dropped off over the past week but having seen what’s coming I’m ready to give it another go.
I’m mostly interested in the new Training Grounds battles that are being added, as trainer battles are something I’ve missed so far in Arceus. There’s been a few, and perhaps there’ll be more to come in the content I’ve yet to unlock, but so far the game feels like it’s lacking in traditional encounters so hopefully this update, which includes matches tailored to your chosen Pokémon, will scratch that itch.
Elsewhere, the show motivated me to try some of the other spin-off Pokémon games that are knocking around. I’ve previously dismissed most of them outright, but some of the titles, especially Pokémon Unite, look worth a try.
The real highlight, however, was probably the animatronic Pikachu lurking in the background behind The Pokémon Company CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara like some sort of shadowy shareholder. Perhaps sentient Pokémon toys are the one’s really in charge? It would explain why there’s been so many games coming out lately.
Great balls of electricity!
What was your Pokémon Presents highlight?
With Cyberpunk 2077 getting a shot in the arm from a current gen re-release and titles like No Man's Sky being totally transformed by post-launch updates, it got us thinking about games that have had the best "glow up".
Remasters, re-releases and ports are all on the table, so what game became your favourite after a bit of a face-lift? Let us know in the comments, if you've got time between jumping into Horizon Forbidden West and waiting for Elden Ring.
Yakuza Kiwami | Liam
I never played the original Yakuza, which came out in 2005, but after hearing lots of talk about the latest (and eighth!) game in the main series, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, I decided to give the remake of the original a try seeing as it was on Game Pass.
I’m very glad I did, as it turned out to be a quality game. The story is captivating enough, and there’s also a few memorable characters knocking about, such as Majima, who periodically turns up for boss fights. Gameplay and is also solid, and the Tokyo-inspired setting is an interesting one.
But I’ve probably been most impressed by the visuals. Although the remake came out on last gen consoles, it could easily pass as a current gen title. The streets of Kamurocho look particularly impressive, with lots of pedestrians milling about, and, my personal favourite, super shiny puddles that reflect the buildings’ neon signs.
I’m not a graphics snob, but I don’t think I would have stuck with Yakuza if I have if I were playing the original version now. I understand the appeal of enjoying classic games in their original form, but sometimes it’s just nice to play a sleeker, more modern take on an excellent game.
Borderlands: The Handsome Collection | Chris
Borderlands passed me by upon release and I never really cared for the series until very recently. Although I was impressed with the first entry, it's certainly showing its age. It was only the promise of something bigger and better that drove me to see it through to the end.
Borderlands 2 (re-released as part of The Handsome Collection) is a much smoother ride with fewer of the (fairly minor, yet persistent) niggles which made its predecessor hard work as the game dragged on. I can't say how much of an improvement Borderlands 2 is over the original, nor how much the Ultra HD Texture Pack enhances the visuals, but it feels modern and looks crisp.
The story manages to be rather grim at times without ever seeming too serious. Events which would, in another universe, be dark and macabre are somehow lightened by the downright silliness that waits around every corner.
Once the credits roll, I can move on to the Pre-Sequel which has also been given a facelift. I'm unsure whether I'll be as drawn to the narrative, knowing that Borderlands 3 is out there and I may get some of my questions answered, but over-the-top weapons and frantic gunfights are the main reasons I find it hard to put down.
What game did you return to or discover after a revamp? Let us know below.
Nintendo has graced us once again with a treasure trove of game announcements for the rest of this year. Breath of the Wild 2 was conspicuous by its absence, all but confirming its release slips to 2023.
There were few first-party surprises for their most well-known characters, but plenty of goodies have been raised from the distant past for Switch owners to enjoy this year.
We've cherry-picked our favourites, but let us know what you're excited for in the comments.
Kirby and the Forgotten Land | Chris
As someone who hasn't owned a Nintendo console since the golden age of the N64, it's interesting to watch the Direct as an outsider. I've thought of Nintendo as the most innovative of the Big Three for the longest time and, although they don't always hit the mark (looking at you, Nintendo Labo), they've usually got something up their sleeves. Something fresh, something different, something weird (again, Labo. Why, Nintendo?).
This time, the main draw seems to be games you've already played on other systems. No Man's Sky, The Ezio Collection, The Force Unleashed and both Portal titles can provide many hours of entertainment but they probably aren't new for most players. At least Disney Speedstorm (which I will be referring to as Mickey Kart from here on in) is something almost new, even if it's made redundant by the existence of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. If there's any console in need of a kart racing game (and we can never have enough), it's one of the consoles that doesn't have some version of the definitive kart racer.
Granted, Kirby and the Forgotten Land would be a must buy if I owned a Switch, and some other first-party titles did catch my eye, but Nintendo haven't done enough to impress me with the re-release of games I grew tired of before the Switch was even conceptualised.
Mario Strikers: Battle League | Liam
I never played the original Super Mario Strikers on GameCube, but I did have the sequel, Mario Strikers: Charged Football, on the Wii, which was excellent. By this point in time, most of my friends were on Xbox or PlayStation and my brothers had moved out, so I never really got to try the multiplayer, but I did play a lot of the solo tournaments which were a blast.
Mario Strikers: Battle League looks like it’ll be just as fun, if the trailer was anything to go by. They’re sticking with the over-the-top, arguably quite brutal take on the beautiful game, which I like, and the addition of new power-ups, such as the one that lets you score two goals at a time, could add some spice to the competitive side.
While I’ll be getting this mostly for the solo offering, the option to jump online for some competitive multiplayer is a nice bonus, because as I mentioned before, it’s an aspect of the series I’ve previously missed out on.
The only downer was the lack of any more Zelda news; not BOTW2, which I’m happy to wait for, but ports of the excellent Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD. They’re right there, Nintendo, make it happen!
What was your Nintendo Direct highlight?
I'm rather disappointed in myself for picking Overwatch 2 as my most anticipated game of the year because it is, in my not-so-humble opinion, more of a full-price DLC. The new maps, modes and heroes will be playable across both titles, with all of your unlocked customisation options carrying over into the "sequel" should you choose to upgrade.
Overwatch 2 promises to keep things fresh by allowing players to modify their abilities, maybe trading a little bit of burst damage for more consistent DPS, or vice versa. The mission variety is what will make or break it for me. I'm hoping for both short and long missions, some adding to the overall narrative and others just there for intense, horde-like, firefights.
When it comes to PvP, there are significant changes being made. Overwatch will shake things up by transitioning from 6v6 battles to 5v5, with teams losing one of their tanks. This would make some of the "off tanks" a terrible choice in the current live game but, with a host of reworks in the pipeline, and not just for the tank class, I'm hopeful that players won't feel pressured to choose a barrier tank.
In fact, tanks may not be tanks at all; Blizzard have expressed a desire to switch the name of the class to brawler. Still, it's hard to see the benefit of forgoing a reliable Reinhardt in favour of a dive-bombing D.Va. Heroes are already getting slight tweaks and reworks (though, like most multiplayer games, this has been a constant ongoing process throughout Overwatch's life), suggesting that the developers are going to drip feed changes until the sequel's release.
I've read and heard nary a thing about the Overwatch Workshop, a tool for knocking together custom game modes. It's already being used in creative ways and could add endless longevity if it's expanded to allow for the easy creation of new missions, not unlike the track editor in the Trials series. It's not very intuitive, nor expansive, but imagination can push technology beyond its limits.
As Liam mentioned, Microsoft's recent acquisition of Activision Blizzard means that we can expect Overwatch 2 to be playable via Game Pass from day one. This not only saves money, but also saves me from having to persuade/bully my other half into purchasing the sequel. Playing with friends and loved ones is always more fun and I find that those closest to me are less likely to bitch and moan when I spend a little too long trying to sink a basket in the spawn room.
Following a successful launch on PC, Black Matter’s tactical first-person shooter, Hell Let Loose, made its way to Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5 late last year.
But, more often than not, it’s people trying to work together to organise a victory. I remember one match where several squad leaders were in routine contact with each other, relaying information about enemy locations, reporting armour sightings, and even saying if a capture point was safe to push or not. Leading it all was a commander who doled out instructions to the team, where to flank, which sector to avoid if they were calling in air support.
It was great stuff, and even though as a team we couldn’t quite get the victory, the defeat was met with calls of “well played” all around. It was the type of experience I didn’t think I’d ever find on console, particularly in a multiplayer shooter.
Engaging in this chat isn’t a prerequisite for victory, however. As long as you’re not a squad leader, it’s more than possible to just be a body and silently do your bit, whether that’s as a run of the mill rifleman or a more specialised role, such as anti-tank or machine gunner. But even if you’re just part of the rank and file, being able to hear orders or know that someone is trying to organise things still enriches the experience.
The strong player base also suggests console users aren’t averse to a tactical style when it comes to gameplay, particularly with gunplay. As much as I enjoy over-the-top, fast-paced shooters like Call of Duty, I’ve also got a penchant for slower, more tactical FPS games like Operation Flashpoint or even Verdun and Tannenberg.
I’ve always thought I was in the minority when it came to one-hit kill weaponry and a lack of aim-assist, both present in HLL, but it seems there’s plenty of other console users who share this mindset, going by the regularity with which I find myself on a full server.
While the high recoil on weapons and lack of sights, scopes and hit markers meant this was a steeper learning curve compared to other realism-based shooters I’ve played, it made mastering the gunplay all the more satisfying. In my first few matches I was lucky to get one or two kills per game, but, after learning the nuances of the gameplay, I’m regularly entering double figures.
Even if you’re not a sharpshooter, the team-based nature of the game means there’s always some way to assist. There’s a regular in our squad who usually takes the role of medic, earning their XP by patching allies rather than dropping enemies. A lot of the time, simply shooting in the same direction as your team mates is enough to suppress enemy movement, even if you can’t actually see any.
It sounds like the combined PS5 and Series X|S player base is strong enough for Black Matter to keep supporting the game on those platforms alongside the PC version, if this interview by The Loadout with studio founder Maximillian Rea late last year is anything to go by, who suggests new content such as British and Commonwealth forces could make their way into the game at some point. A recent tweet from the studio confirmed this via a roadmap, which outlined their intentions to add more post-launch console content throughout 2022.
Hopefully Hell Let Loose’s success on Xbox and PlayStation will encourage other developers/publishers of tactical shooters, particularly those popular on PC, to give the platforms and their user bases the proper consideration they deserve.
While there have been many instances of more ‘hardcore’, realism-based shooters not being embraced by the console community, such as the aforementioned Verdun, where AI bots outnumber human players in most matches, HLL has shown that there is an audience for these types of games, and that they can thrive on console as well as PC.
It turns out, I like Call of Duty games a lot. I always knew I enjoyed them; I played pretty much every title that was released in the early 2000’s and CoD 4 was my first foray into the world of online multiplayer. But exploring my platform history on the Xbox 20th Anniversary Museum showed that not only did I really like CoD, my five most played titles over the last 14 years were all Call of Duty titles.
There’s plenty of other games I’m looking forward to this year, such as Bethesda’s Starfield, or the possibility of going up against the Court of Owls in Gotham Knights. But there’s always going to be an element of uncertainty with games like these, especially the former, which we still seem to know very little about, and I’ve been burned by the hype train before.
With Modern Warfare 2, I know it’ll be fine, even if it’s not ground-breaking. No need for tempered expectations. I mean, the game hasn’t even been announced yet, but we all know it’s coming, and could probably guess with a good deal of accuracy what game modes, weapons and equipment will be making an appearance in its multiplayer. But, despite that, I’m still really looking forward to it.
If I were to let my expectations get carried away just a little bit, it would be very cool to see a return of War mode. This mode made its only appearance in 2018’s Call of Duty: WWII and saw one team having to progress their way through a linear map by completing objectives, such as capturing a certain position, constructing a bridge, or escorting a tank, while the other team tried to stop them. Until Call of Duty: Warzone came along it was probably the most innovation CoD multiplayer had seen in years, but it was dropped after just one outing.
Speaking of Warzone, I’m also hoping Modern Warfare 2 can reinvigorate Call of Duty’s take on a battle royale. I was hooked immediately when the mode first launched back in March 2020, and so were a good number of friends who hadn’t played online in years, but the frequency with which we’d get together for a game slowed to a crawl with the integration of Black Ops Cold War, and the many balancing issues that caused, and we stopped completely soon after.
With the amount of issues Warzone is suffering from right now, particularly performance-wise on console, I’m hoping Infinity Ward, the team behind the Modern Warfare series and the architects of Warzone, can turn things around, perhaps with a fresh start and a new map.
This will also be the first Call of Duty title to be released following the news that Microsoft will be buying franchise publisher Activision. While it will probably have little impact on Modern Warfare 2’s development, it might just help with the game’s longevity.
Recent noises coming from Xbox headquarters suggest the yearly cycle of CoD might be coming to an end, with games instead being given longer post-release support. If this begins with MW2, this would be excellent news. 2019’s Modern Warfare reboot was well received, but post-launch support was dropped just under a year later despite fans calling for more.