When I previewed Kingdom Come: Deliverance a little over a year ago, my experience was limited to three specific chapters that were intended to show off the best of what the game had to offer. I had a great time with them, but, due to time constraints, I never got to explore medieval Bohemia in any truly meaningful way.
Travelling through woods, of which there are plenty in 15th century Europe, is especially atmospheric at night due to a pervasive darkness that’s often underutilised in other games. Think Dragon’s Dogma in terms making visibility an oppressive gameplay feature; and also in terms of traversal, as you’ll be doing a fair bit of walking, due to the lack of a traditional fast-travel system. Still, the opportunity to take in KCD’s serene landscapes along the way softens the blow.
It’s experiencing unabridged daily life as the game’s protagonist, Henry, that’s seen hours pass by so quickly as I play. Running errands for your father and making sure you’ve had enough food and sleep to last the day are the types of menial in-game tasks I’d generally avoid like the plague, but, due to Henry’s low standing in the world, coupled with the game’s focus on realism, I’d no choice but to knuckle down and get on with it or remain a penniless peasant.
Much to my surprise, I’ve found it oddly engaging not having to act as the story’s archetypal hero for once. In KCD, you’re not some super-powered soldier able to cut through hordes of enemies - heck, you can’t even read - and the world treats you accordingly. Henry may manage to work his way into the service of nobility, but he’s very rarely privy to the discussions of the inner circle and is often palmed off onto lesser Lords and tasks that are deemed unworthy of their time.
Most of what I’ve done during the opening hours (namely, investigating a brutal raid on a nearby stud farm) seemed insignificant whenever I presented my findings to my employers, who were dealing with an invading army ravaging their lands. I ended up leading them to a band of enemy soldiers, culminating in my first big skirmish, but even then it’s hard to shake the feeling that it all might have happened anyway, with or without my intervention.
Indeed, thanks to time-sensitive objectives, it may very well have done so; it’s possible to end up with entirely different outcomes on certain missions if you’re trying to seduce the miller’s daughter instead of carrying out vital orders, for example. Having been cast as the unflappable hero so many times before, playing the role of a mere cog in the machine has so far been a different, at times refreshing, change of pace on the whole.
There’s no accounting for taste, so almost everyone finds an outlier or two when exploring new games. Here we’ll champion the software that made us question how soft we were, forgiving issues aplenty to see beauty among beasts.
The offending trailer has an impressive 45,000+ dislikes on YouTube.
Liam | Star Wars Battlefront (2015)
I’ve already come to the defence of perennial punching bag Fallout 76, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to further dump on my credibility by sticking up for EA and DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront reboot.
While I never played the original games, I can understand why those who did weren't happy with what was on offer in the 2015 iteration. With no proper solo campaign and integral multiplayer content locked behind an eye-wateringly expensive season pass - like bloomin’ space battles! - there’s no denying Battlefront was light on content at launch. That’s before even mentioning the lack of Clone Wars content.
Still, that didn’t stop it being fun to play. The arcade-focused action, where jet-packs were the norm and firing from the hip is just as accurate as aiming down sights, was a welcome change of pace from needing to consider the likes of bullet drop and recoil in most modern shooters.
The presentation is also stunning, with weapons, vehicles and outfits looking and sounding like they’ve been ripped straight from the movies. It’s a shame Battlefront got off to such a rocky start, as we had the beginnings of something really special on our hands.
Let’s just hope EA and DICE get things right with the seque- oh, erm… Third time’s a charm?
Chris | Brink
Brink was not a good game. It wasn't particularly well designed, nor was it well balanced. It was a hodgepodge of numerous other shooters, with an abrasive and wholly undesirable personality thrown on top.
If you were to take the very best features from Team Fortress 2, Quake, Doom, Halo and Call of Duty and blend them together, you could bake the most delectable gaming cake. You could, or, you might instead turn the oven up to max, slap the mix directly onto the shelf, leave your house for a few days and come home to find a charred mass of Brink sitting amongst the burnt remains of what was once your kitchen…
Matches played out in one of two ways; you were on the winning team, or you were on the losing team. This might sound par for the course, but most often the result was decided before the first shots had been fired. Some maps heavily favoured attackers and others defenders, so victory was just down to luck.
Lag, bugs, a dearth of both players and usable weapons (amongst the trash ones) only grew the list of substantial annoyances. Brink wasn't quite perfect, then, but does that really mean it's a bad game? Well, yes, it does, but I had fun with it anyway.
James | DmC: Devil May Cry
An old controversy perhaps, but, with Devil May Cry V right around the corner, this particular topic made me think of the bold creative choices Ninja Theory made when rebooting Capcom’s beloved franchise back in 2013.
Dante didn't have long, white hair and the dialogue was arguably even more cringe-inducing (at best) and offensive (at worst), but the game managed to be the perfect entry point for me after only scratching the surface of DMC4 beforehand.
The setting was probably the star, being a surrealist take on what it might look like when a world of demons collided with the modern world of men, conveyed in increasingly abstract and exciting ways. It really looked great for its time, then even more so in its 2015 re-release.
One highlight saw you take on a particularly hateful and toxic news anchor in his office, the fight being reported on through narration as you took out low-level goons before facing off against the man himself, displayed in the psychotic form of a giant, floating digital head...
While the game wasn't necessarily what diehard fans were looking for, it undoubtedly struck a chord with me, to the extent that I completed it and then kept coming back to unlock more combos and enjoy the simple act of wailing on enemies.
What seemingly ghastly game gave you a good time? Let us know in the comments below.
Respawn Entertainment’s free-to-play battle royale game, Apex Legends, took the world by storm when it unexpectedly launched last week. Reaching 10,000,000 players in just 72 hours, the shooter has even surpassed the mighty Fortnite in Twitch viewership, but does it really live up to the hype?
I'm a huge fan of Titanfall. From the series’ multiplayer-only debut to the follow up and its outstanding solo campaign, which was far more compelling than it seemingly had any right to be, I’ve been flying the flag for a long time.
To hear that its creators were poised to bring us something new set my mind racing. Where could they go next?!
As it turns out, Apex Legends has only a few elements in common with Titanfall, but the capability of Respawn shows through 100%. Dropping the titular, mech-like Titans and more advanced traversal aspects including wall running (either of which could, theoretically, be added back in as special abilities for future Legends) initially sounds like a drawback, but in fact focuses the gameplay on what this game is trying to do in its own right.
There's character here that we didn't see shining through as much in Titanfall 2, and the experience is fiercely centred on squad play, from the team deployment mechanic to the communicative ping system.
All of that has come together into something which should feel like just another battle royale title tossed onto the growing pile, but somehow manages to feel fresh, engaging and like just the beginning of something we didn't even know we wanted a mere two weeks ago.
I've only played a handful of matches, but I can already appreciate why Apex Legends - with its slick visuals, solid gunplay and completely optional cosmetic microtransactions - has captivated the battle royale crowd.
The introduction of some neat twists on BR tropes also helps to set it apart from the competition, especially the ping system, which feels like an evolution of Battlefield V's revamped markers.
For people like myself, who never bother with a mic when playing solo, being able to highlight enemies and equipment so easily is great. Despite its ease of use however, the odd uncooperative squadmate can still refuse to play ball and undo Respawn’s hard work.
I've already come across players unwilling to share loot, greedily gobbling up every item for themselves whether it’ll be of use to them or not, and others who’ve failed to warn me of their departure, leaving me as easy pickings for enemy teams. Keeping an eye on your “pals” via the mini-map is definitely recommended.
Still, partnered with a decent pair of actual friends I can see Apex Legends being a lot of fun, and it'll no doubt continue to go from strength to strength over the coming months, especially as the wider playerbase learns the importance of pings.
When it comes to Apex Legends, my love of free stuff overrode my general dislike of media that follows trends, which is fortunate, as I discovered Respawn have crafted the most appealing battle royale title yet.
I was only really expecting a first-person Fortnite, yet I found satisfying fluidity of movement that’s pure Titanfall, sans jetpacks and wall-running of course. The different classes, cooperative focus and potential to be respawned by teammates are all big positives in my book, adding a few layers that make Apex feel like one of few BR games which isn't just a cheap cash-in.
That being said, I can't imagine it'll manage to hold my attention, at least outside of a few quick matches here and there with friends. As fun as it is, there's always going to be something else I'd rather be playing, especially with the downtime between what, for me, can be very short bouts of action.
Still, whether or not you're a fan of the sub-genre, FPS appreciators will almost certainly get a lot out of it. For now though, I'm mostly happy to sit this one out and let the bandwagon pass me by.
Is it a bird? A plane? Dean Cain? No, no, it’s another feckin’ battle royale game!
... Based on that opening you probably think I’m erring on the cynical side of life (that’d be out of character, eh?) so let me be the first to assure you: I pretty much am, yeah.
Let’s check the list: cast of Overwatch-y characters? Check. The exact same overarching design as PUBG and/or Fortnite? Check. Classic sitting around in a building, waiting for shit to happen? Check. If you’ve played a battle royale game before, you already know what to expect.
That’s not to say it lacks in redeeming features, mind. The traversal and shooting are vintage Respawn Entertainment: easy to get to grips with, fast, fluid, and oh so satisfying!
If I’m being honest, due to a random personal note, I’ve most enjoyed the tutorial so far. The old South African dude sounds exactly like a teacher of mine, Mr. Frisbee, who’d always quip “It is much BEDDOR, if you ask to take off your SWEADOR.”
Anyway, do I see myself getting lost in the Apex Legends craze? Nah.
Are you a member of Apex Legends' enormous overnight fanbase? Too burnt out on battle royale games to care? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks to a stress test for Xbox Insiders last weekend, we've had a quick look at Crackdown 3 and can confirm that it is, in fact, a real game. Here's our first impressions on the long-awaited Microsoft release.
Crackdown as a series is built upon two key pillars: hyper-mobility and destruction. Your character's traversal across the map is a mixture of double (triple?) jumps, dashes and ground pounds, many of which satisfyingly send cloud-powered scenery splintering as you crash through.
This gives way to deliberately floaty controls, which, in turn, see you fighting with the camera on occasion. Fortunately, keeping an enemy in your sights isn't too hard thanks to a persistent lock-on ability which tracks them through terrain and adjusts your viewpoint as you each leap about on what amounts to a sci-fi bouncy castle, courtesy of jump pads littered across the map.
The game type on offer during the test set two teams of five against each other in a supercharged re-imagining of Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty, which has you dashing to the site of your victim's downfall to pick up kill tokens and build your team's score.
Unfortunately, both in this technical test and at launch, Crackdown 3 won't support lobbying with friends. That’s both bizarre for such a fun-loving game and an early warning sign, given how genuinely useless the teams we played against were (any time I end up at the top of the table it’s cause for concern). It could prove to be a fumble as lamented as the lack of matchmaking in Xbox stablemate Halo 4’s iteration of Firefight.
It's only a couple of days until the game is due to (finally) launch now, and the performance wasn't buttery smooth either. The raw power of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform should be on full display in multiplayer (the campaign being cruelly left out), but the results frankly weren’t of note even compared to earlier titles like Red Faction Guerilla.
In the end, Wrecking Zone is built upon a simple premise and, given the lengthy development time, that premise should be executed very well, but instead, it feels like the result of too many creative and technical compromises. Honestly, it has us questioning our April 2015 pre-order...
We went hands-on with Tom Clancy's The Division 2 during this past weekend's private beta; following safe extraction, here are our thoughts.
It's telling that we’ve taken this long to talk about much besides the game's setting, as relatively little is new over the original in terms of gameplay. Fortunately this is thanks to the mechanics from part one still holding up.
A simple new map screen replaces the style-over-substance futuristic projection at your feet, helping to locate a dizzying array of item pick-ups, ranging from gun holsters to knee pads, which reveal that health and armour are handled a bit differently this time around.
Separate health and armour meters (the latter of which is generously buffed for challenging Dark Zone excursions) deplete independently as you take damage, leaving you a sitting duck once your armour is kaput. While the pair do (eventually) regenerate, it’s wise to dart between cover in order to maintain the tactical advantage.
You'll need it too, with enemies shouting and running at you from all sides at times. They get noticeably chunkier in terms of both physical bulk and health pools, scaling alongside your Division agent as you progress, to an extent depending on the difficulty of any given area.
Enemies make a lot more use of gadgets this time around, too - we’ve already fended off what amounts to a convoy of RC cars!
Despite its familiarity, The Division 2 has launched a decent opening salvo, but it’ll need to build upon that in order to differentiate between being just a fun outing and a “live service” with real staying power. Perhaps most crucially though, you can still casually close car doors as you sneak by them in cover...
Have you played The Division 2 yet? What are you looking forward to based on what you've seen so far? Let us know in the comments and keep your eyes peeled for our review next month.
Strong settings can really help to make a game, but while single-player locales are often lauded, quality multiplayer maps tend to be less recognised. That just won’t do, so this week we’re sharing the online arenas in which we most enjoy pwning noobs.
Liam | Temple - Perfect Dark
As I mulled over this week’s topic, I began to realise just how many great multiplayer stages I’ve come across over the years. My first instinct was to go with Pokémon Stadium from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but then I remembered Stack from GoldenEye and how much fun that used to be.
If we’re talking shooters, though, I can’t ignore the greatness of Call of Duty 4, a game that’s littered with memorable stages including Overgrown, Crossfire and Strike. In the end, however, it’s a golden oldie that tops my list: Temple, from Perfect Dark.
Its focal point is a giant chamber than runs nearly the entire length of the map, surrounded by a series of tall corridors leading to other flash points that are almost like miniature arenas in themselves. The main room also features a large opening in the floor that’s perfect for making hasty exits when outnumbered or outgunned, as opposed to waiting for the excruciatingly slow (but excitingly suspenseful) stone doors which seal off the corridors.
I have fond memories of this map, particularly when my brother and I would pack it full of MeatSims (the dumbest bots in the game) and partake in some very one-sided matches. Don’t judge us.
Chris | House - Rainbow Six Siege
Rainbow Six Siege's little slice of suburbia has many possible points of ingress for the attacking side, and defenders could be lying in wait near any one of them. There's no shortage of hiding places in the three-storey abode from which players on either team could attempt an ambush, but the best laid plans of mice and men seldom survive a grenade, especially in such compact spaces.
Firefights are often intense, yet short lived, and matches can be over quickly if one team pushes the advantage. Sometimes, just surviving the opening salvo can feel like a win in itself.
On that note, it's admittedly not the most balanced map. Two of the objective rooms can be very hard to defend, even with a coordinated team, but heroes are forged in the fires of adversity and defeat rarely feels unavoidable.
I've always been a fan of smaller multiplayer maps and House embodies everything I love about those spaces, namely less running from A to B and more offloading every time something moves.
James | Valhalla - Halo 3
While the era of online multiplayer was already in full swing by the time Halo 3 graced the Xbox 360, it was undoubtedly a defining moment in the console's history, and that's in large part due to its memorable multiplayer settings, such as Valhalla.
While described as a spin-off from the first game’s Blood Gulch, Valhalla made its own mark by focusing in on the basic, two-base oblong design to create one of the most elegant objective maps of all time.
The terrain between bases is undulating enough to leave plenty of places to duck away from incoming pot shots, in addition to whatever comes courtesy of the mighty Man Cannons, which launch players and grenades out of either base and into the middle of the fray. These were particularly useful for making a quick getaway as the flag carrier.
There's contextual storytelling on offer too, with a downed ship on one side of the map and readouts displayed in the bases themselves, lending plenty of intrigue to the locale, as well as cover on the practical side of things.
Jump on the back of a quad bike (affectionately known as a Mongoose) with a rocket launcher for Rocket Race, a King of the Hill-esque mode, and the map proves just how versatile it is in comfortably accommodating such varied gameplay experiences.
Rob | Facility - GoldenEye 007
The toilet, commode, dunny, long-drop, WC, bog: whatever the heck you call it, we can all agree it’s one of the few places where a person can truly be alone with their thoughts. Fortunately, most toilets don’t have a hatch for Pierce Brosnan to drop through, Silenced PP7 in hand, ready to commit a bog-based bashing.
What am I waffling on about? The world-beating Facility map from GoldenEye 007, of course!
“But Bobby, didn’t you recently say that GoldenEye was better left in the past?” Aye, bang on, but that doesn’t mean my memories of such a wonderful game have been tarnished. For those of you that can still handle both the N64 controller and a single-stick shooter, Facility stands quiff and top hat above all others in my mind.
Select remote mines, cover the walls of the toilet in ‘em, and watch as your local associates are blown away. Add to that the wonderful cast of cardboard Bond characters - Sean Bean, Robbie Coltrane, et al - some beer and a pizza and you have multiplayer perfection. YUM.
What's your favourite multiplayer battleground? Let us know in the comments below.
Well, we're still waiting on that Zombie Apocalypse, but there may now be more pressing matters at hand. We've been keeping up with current events and, as a result, we’re almost certain that the bombs are going to drop anytime now. That's right, up to 50 megatons of quaffed, orange idiocy could come crashing down to ruin your day at any moment.
Anything can be a useful commodity with a little creativity, plus you never know what might have been repurposed as makeshift money. Bottle caps, water and bullets immediately spring to mind, but fuel could be a valuable resource too, provided there are still vehicles in working order. Of course, you should be stocking up on ammunition anyway, because a lot of people are going to want to kill you, or at least relieve you of all the ‘valuables’ you've been collecting.
Not all mutants are bad
Radioactive nuclear fallout is sure to have taken its toll on those within the most devastated areas. Yes, some (probably most) mutants will harbour an intense, unwavering desire to rend the flesh from your bones, however, should you cross paths with one of these unfortunates, first bear in mind that they may just be on the lookout for a helping hand.
If you can stand the sight and smell of them, lending these freaks your able mind and body could win over powerful allies. It's bad form to shoot potential pals in the face, right? Not cool, bruh. That kind of reputation will stick with you, and if you're really determined to be the bad guy, there are better ways of going about it.
Joining a gang of raiders could be advantageous
As we've mentioned, a lot of folk are going to want to spill your blood and/or lighten your load. Attempting to ingratiate yourself with a crew of these (potentially) cannibalistic ne'er do wells could provide you with food (be it of questionable origin), water, ammo and invaluable human support. It only comes at the cost of a nagging conscience and a share of your spoils, while possibly also being required to make a messy example of any would-be heroes who stumble upon the encampment...
Just be sure to adhere to any rules and regulations; raiders might not have the strictest of moral codes, but, from what we've seen, they most certainly have dress codes.
There's no going back; this is life now, accept it
The world will never be what it once was - the best we can hope for now is a little bit of stability amidst the chaos. Clean water, shelter from the nuclear fallout, and people you can rely on are now your most prominent needs. You know, those things you had before you left the bomb shelter to go on a madcap adventure?
But hey, maybe one day we'll meet around a campfire, where tales are told of a charming and friendly writer who decided that the end of the world was the perfect occasion to start working on that Soylent Green cookbook he’d always had in mind.
Welcome down to the paradise city, where we’re pumping At the Gates in our latest quickie.
Alright. How does the blighter play?
Exactly as you might expect, especially if you’re familiar with Civ. You’ll be constructing your clan, learning new professions and skills, expanding your horizons, meeting and fighting other factions, plus loads more.
The game is still in its early-ish stages, mind, so watch out for bugs and crashes (we’ve already had a few of those).
How’s the presentation?
Really lovely, to be honest. The map’s rendered in a beautiful, hand-drawn art style and has neat touches like concealing undiscovered areas under tea-stained map paper. You can add to the pile fabulous character drawings, some solid sound effects, and musical interludes that all round out the charming audiovisual package nicely.
Is it accessible, or do diehards only need apply?
Colonel Indecisive says it’s a little bit of both. Yes, it’s dense, and the opening hours might feel impenetrable to a complete layman, but persevere and you’ll find a decent game full of things to explore and get lost in. At £25, this definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a punt if you’ve a taste for the turn-based.
Bring on the crash fixes, too, Jon-boy!
After discussing those “classic” games which unfortunately don’t hold up, we’re flipping things on their head for this week’s proceedings; setting mere nostalgia aside, which old timers are just as great today as they were way back when?
Chris | Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is as good now as it was back in ‘92. Nostalgia might play a part in that statement, alongside the quality of life updates added when porting it to more modern systems, but the modest core mechanics are still smooth as butter.
There's an impressive amount of variety for a game with the simple goal of running from left to right, without dying along the way. Each zone offers different aesthetics, enemies and gameplay gimmicks, all rounded out with a unique boss battle. You may think that's a necessity to prevent things from going stale, but Pac-Man, Tetris and most current FPS games would beg to differ...
Its soundtrack is catchy to an unparalleled degree, so much so that the Casino Zone theme has been looping in my head since I started writing and will probably be the internal soundtrack to my life for at least the next few days (thanks for that, Sam).
Sonic 2 is perhaps the perfect sequel, and SEGA certainly haven’t bested it since.
James | Gunstar Heroes
Memorable moments, innovation and the legacy left behind are what I’d say lead to a game making its mark on history. You could argue that Gunstar Heroes has none of these things, and yet it still makes the grade through sheer force of will.
It holds up so well not only because the weapon combination mechanic gives you an incredible ten different firearms to play with from just a few elements, but also because of its good humour and excellent 16-bit graphics, which are a masterful example of how art style can help a game to achieve its maximum potential.
Gunstar was playable all the way through in co-op as well (the second player didn't even have to control a useless waste of space like Tails in Sonic 2), making it far more palatable than influences like Contra and Mega Man. Its frantic, exciting brand of gameplay even went on to inspire future classics like Cuphead.
On top of all that, there are some really memorable boss encounters (Curry and Rice, anyone?) which don’t quite match the rogues gallery of firm personal favourite Streets of Rage 2, but offered far more varied gameplay as you were forced to switch up your weapons to counter them. Also, at the end you have to fight some Infinity Stones AND a robot! What's not to like?
Liam | The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
A Link to the Past was the first Zelda game I ever played, and I have many fond memories of exploring Hyrule and fighting the legions of colourful enemies which call it home.
I’ll admit, I was a little concerned when booting up my SNES Mini two summers ago that the game wouldn’t hold up by today's standards, but luckily my worries proved to be unfounded, as A Link to the Past is as thoroughly enjoyable now as it was all those years ago.
The controls may feel a touch clunky compared to more modern Zelda titles, and there’s the occasional cheap death as you struggle to find the right angle to take to on incoming enemies, but apart from that the presentation and overall fun factor remain top notch.
While the scope of modern games has come on leaps and bounds since the early 90’s, if A Link to the Past was released in its current state today, it'd genuinely stand toe-to-toe with some of the industry’s best and brightest.
Rob | Super Mario Land
You don’t need a particularly keen eye to notice that many of Team PTC have opted for platformers, such is their timeless nature. Throwing forethought to the breeze, I’ll be playing the role of maverick, and thus selecting something from right-pitch: Super Mario Land...
SML (as I’ll be referring to it from now on) had a humongous impact on my gaming life, as it was one of the very first games I chowed down on, just the odd 24 years ago now.
Picture this scene if you will, chums: 7-year-old Bobby ‘ere (wearing a Worldwide Fund for Nature T-shirt) is very kindly gifted a glorious grey Game Boy by his fair Ma and Pa, complete with Tetris and a date with our mustachioed plumber.
Like every other child, man or beast that owned that little bundle, I went to work on creating the great battery shortage of 1994/5. Everything about SML had me hooked: the simple controls; the handheld benchmark in platforming; the amusing scenes at the end of every world, as the Princess morphed into a another baddie; the joyous shoot-‘em-up levels; and the utterly charming graphics and sound.
I’ve played almost every Mario game since, but really haven’t enjoyed any of them as much as that first hit. If you’ve got a 3DS/2DS/whatever-the-heck-they’re-calling-‘em-now-DS, hit up the Virtual Console and you won’t be disappointed.
Which classic game can't you get enough of? Let us know in the comments below.
Can you hear the Anthem? Whether or not the thought of a new online shooter from BioWare has you salivating, read on to discover what we learned from the recent VIP demo.
Humanity has settled on a new planet, but some people are being influenced by an ever-transmitting anthem (geddit?) which seems to have a negative effect on those who succumb to it. This leads you, along with up to three other players, to investigate what’s happening as you carefully explore the game’s (fairly) open environments from inside mech suits known as Javelins.
You’re a Freelancer, a gun for hire who travels the world presumably in support of the science-based human contingent who are trying to learn about the planet. Further story details are still somewhat sketchy at this point.
From our time with the demo, first impressions weren’t overwhelmingly positive, but once the game hit its stride there was a lot of potential to chew on (and we intend to). Naturally, demos come with the expectation of a technical quirk here and there, but the problems began for Anthem even before seeing any gameplay - loading into the hub area, just reaching the main title screen even, often took several attempts.
When we did get in, we found that Xbox One X suffered from performance issues when faced with multiple on-screen explosions, in the midst of already visually busy firefights.
You’ll be exchanging shots with (presumably native) nasties, who unfortunately don’t stand out much more than being varying levels of bullet-spongy, when undertaking missions and donning your Javelin in order to venture out onto the planet’s surface. There are four varieties of mech to play around with: the all-round Ranger, elemental attack-wielding Storm, up-close-and-superfast Interceptor, and the hulking Colossus.
Each have access to a variety of weapons - some of which are class specific - their own super ability, grenades and standard abilities, which recharge over time and have (largely) either offensive or defensive capabilities in combat.
There wasn’t enough time to fully get to grips with each Javelin, but, from first impressions, the Storm suit seems to be the most fun, boasting some exciting, flashy powers even by default and having strong mobility with seemingly little sacrifice in shields or health compared to the middle-of-the-road Ranger. The Colossus seems to be at the other end of the spectrum, with not enough durability or damage-dealing to justify its lesser maneuverability.
The Storm suit seems to be the most fun, boasting some exciting, flashy powers even by default.
Balancing could correct some of these observations before launch, or perhaps it's just that some classes are more of a slow burn. Regardless, each Javelin can perform Iron Man-style flight for a limited time, which rarely fails to satisfy.
When choosing fight over flight, you have at your disposal a melee attack and an array of basic weapons, categorised by classes and six tiers of rarity, from Common to Legendary. You can craft your own weapons from blueprints using components you pick up in the game world, or gain by breaking down unwanted loot.
About now seems like the right time to talk about how the game feels, which means drawing some comparisons. The answer to “Is Anthem for me?” largely comes down to whether you enjoy the way it plays, after all.
The Destiny vibes are strong here. Daily and weekly quests haven’t yet been revealed, but they’re sure to feature as Anthem vies for your time against other service-based games. Mass Effect is another close relative, as you might expect, with the third game’s effective, but ultimately disposable, multiplayer a clear influence on combat. Storm Javelins basically fulfil the squad role previously inhabited by Adept, Vanguard or Sentinel classes in Mass Effect 3.
Seeing this DNA filter through is interesting, but so far there’s been relatively little of the developer’s trump card - that being more compelling narrative and characters than those of its service-based peers - with Anthem instead following the crowd and placing the main focus on character customisation (which is fairly aesthetically dense) and combat.
Similarities to Borderlands, another comparison thrown out there, mostly stem from numbers flashing up on screen to represent the damage you deal, as well as the game’s fairly extensive loot rewards. Crafting and unlocking weaponry and armour items is achieved by handing over materials and Coin respectively, which you’ll need to do consistently in order to get the shiniest toys for your character. How much of a weapon variety there is remains to be seen, but, during the demo, sniper fans found themselves with only a handful of bullets to make their point - not enough to clear the field for even the most accurate lone marksman.
Speaking of which, this game really isn’t a solo experience, so those looking to pick up from the highs of earlier, more RPG-based efforts from BioWare will be out of luck. You can play by yourself, technically, as a single squad member in a private group, but even harsh enemy scaling wouldn’t be enough to make the experience achievable and certainly fun, as the most satisfying and impressive displays come as you combine different attacks with teammates.
Even playing in a group has its drawbacks currently though, as restricted respawn areas leave your character helplessly kneeled on the battlefield, their armour locked up until you’re revived, despite the screen reassuring you you’re respawning. This can lead to extended periods feeling like a spare part, as you can’t even crawl helplessly back to your squadmates or alert them and highlight your location unless you happen to be chatting with them already, and even then it’s not always easy to see a felled ally amid the fray.
In the end, the Anthem demo mostly raised more questions instead of giving us a strong sense of what the final game will deliver. EA might have a hit on their hands here, but considering The Division 2 comes out around the same time with a more grounded shoot and loot feel, which players are already comfortable with, it’s also easy to see it going the way of Titanfall - that being an extremely polished title which ultimately doesn’t capture the wider audience’s imagination.
Did you play Anthem last weekend? Will you be checking it out this weekend when the demo goes public? Let us know what you thought and what you’re looking forward to, or concerned about, in the comments below.