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.
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.
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.
In last week’s feature, Sam made a passing assertion that the Shenmue games no longer hold up. That made Rob angry and the rest of us think on the critically acclaimed and/or commercially beloved games that we struggle to see the good in today.
Chris | Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
GTA: San Andreas has everything; a massive open world, memorable characters, a deep story with unexpected twists, numerous side activities, plenty of secrets, terrible audio balance, and probably the jankiest controls I've ever battled against.
Playing today, there’s always an underlying feeling that the stick sensitivity is either too high or too low. Driving, which was perfectly smooth a decade and a half ago, now feels clunky and underdeveloped, as if vehicle handling was somehow a secondary concern when developing a game that largely revolves around driving.
Careening around Los Santos as Big Smoke launched into a diatribe against whoever last wronged him was once an enjoyable part of the whole; now gunfire, engine noise and music compete with (and sometimes overpower) dialogue, yet no amount of tinkering with the audio options can fix this. Everything’s just a little off.
All of its flaws are technical ones and such offences should be forgivable, given the game's seniority, but, after almost 15 years, technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and I frankly don't hesitate to say that San Andreas is a mess.
James | Altered Beast
The yesteryear of gaming might be where it all started but I'm not one to stay stuck in the past, dragging my feet and dreaming of "the good old days".
The few times I have specifically looked back to a time when games had pixels you could count and soundtracks not out of place on the first generation of mobile phones, it's been dipping into the likes of the Virtual Console on Wii and Xbox Live Arcade on Xbox 360.
One notable example which wasn't up to scratch for me was Altered Beast, SEGA’s very own Mega Drive “classic” that’s managed to keep the phrase "Rise from your grave!" stuck in my head for years.
While controlling the powerful, titular beast makes for fun action-platforming fare, I'd forgotten how weak and useless your character's standard form was. Compared to the games which classmates were enjoying on their SNES consoles at the time, or even to my beloved Sonic 2, it's easy to see why Altered Beast isn't as alluring looking back now.
Rob | GoldenEye 007
Another week, another conundrum, comrades. This topic has been perhaps the hardest to nail down, as one’s been forced to consider one’s own mortality while gazing fondly backwards, sepia goggles on. Sonic Adventure was my initial prime suspect, until one of my personal favourites loomed into view.
Much like a young Whitney Houston to a mulleted Kevin Costner, I will always love GoldenEye 007, but there’s no denying it’s aged horrendously. Modern shooter mechanics have left early console FPS games in the dust - admittedly for the better - not only with their controls, but their framerates, range of motion and depth of field.
I have so many fond memories of marathon multiplayer sessions with friends in my youth, staying up late and teaming up on whoever choose Jaws or Oddjob. Regardless, revisiting GoldenEye now (or especially picking it up for the first time) will leave many scratching their noggins.
What the deuce is up with the controls? How was the multiplayer so popular when it often moves at three frames per year? Why is the dude from Sharpe flat, YA BASTARD? These are all great questions, and examples of why it’s often best to leave joyous childhood memories where they belong: in the past.
Which "classics" do you struggle to get on with today? Let us know in the comments below.
We’re dusting off our crystal balls and practising a little mysticism this week, peering into the future in order to share our vision of what’s in store for the coming year.
Will the wait to reunite with Sora, Donald and Goofy have been worthwhile?
Liam | Switching up the Switch
We’ve already heard rumblings of an updated Switch, supposedly set to arrive sometime this year, but I’m predicting (hoping, really) we’ll see bigger and better things from Nintendo.
Rather than just a sleeker Switch, I reckon we might get something along the lines of a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X - a beefed-up, premium console that improves battery life and runs AAA titles without much compromise, all while retaining portability.
Perhaps that’s more wishful thinking than calculated prediction, but, considering Nintendo’s fondness for rehashing consoles (particularly those in the portable family), it’s not entirely outlandish.
At the very least, I’m hoping any potential new and improved Switch comes with a stand that actually works, more comfortable Joy-Con, and a reworked dock (that thing really is cheap and nasty).
Though I’m not overly unhappy with how the Switch performs and feels in its current form, a more premium design incorporating those changes and featuring performance boosts for select games would have me seriously tempted to double dip.
Oh, one final prediction – it won’t come with an AC adaptor. Because Nintendo.
Getting rid of that massive screen bezel wouldn't hurt, either.
James | 8K? No way
Can you feel it? That creeping excitement from gaming executives, the anticipation, the salivation at the fact that this console generation is beginning to come to an end.
How do we know? There's form for a console cycle of around five years before companies perceive that consumers want something new, even though that's usually when all the best games start coming out - just look at PlayStation 4's record-breaking 2018, for example.
We don’t actually have to go on past form alone though, as Sony President Kenichiro Yoshida said himself last October that it's become "necessary to have a next-generation hardware" to replace the PS4.
New things are coming and that should be exciting, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t, because nobody knows what people want next. Most gamers are doing fine with the hardware (especially if they’ve upgraded to a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X) and abundant quality software that they already have, so any new console announcements in 2019 have the capacity to be inherently disappointing.
Sure, Nintendo might shrink the Switch and Microsoft might produce a discless Xbox, but the response will only ever be "is that it?" Buzzwords like 8K might capture imaginations, but we're still a long way from games getting anywhere close to that; we're barely hitting 4K, so why should we care?
With amazing games like God of War coming out, who needs new hardware?
Rob | Indies are the innovators
Unlike my esteemed colleagues Sam and Jam (that’s always fun to say), I won’t be reverting to my cynical factory settings this week. I’m glad to report that I’ll be attending the excellent EGX Rezzed for my fourth year running, and, with that in mind, my prediction for 2019 is that independent games will continue to lead the way in innovation, storytelling and good ol’ fashioned fun.
Many of my favourites from Rezzed 2018 look set to release this year, and I think Jam will attest that the immensely colourful and entertaining local multiplayer fun of PHOGS should be on everyone’s wishlist. You can add to that the strategy masterclass of Wargroove; the unique take on point-and-clicking seen in Heaven’s Vault; Campo Santo’s Firewatch follow-up, In The Valley of the Gods; ultra-ambitious detective RPG Disco Elysium; Rain Games’ World to the West successor, Mesmer; and hopefully every wonderful game that was in the Rezzed leftfield collection.
I love independent developers for their will to try new things and breath life into old ideas. Long may it continue in 2019!
… Oh, and I also predict that Xbox Game Pass will continue to ensure I have more money to devote to playing more and more indies.
Who doesn't love a good indie game?
Chris | “The ramblings of a madman”
The day starts like any other. Amidst the hustle and bustle of commuters making their way to work, you spy an unusually large crowd gathering around a TV in a shop window. A wave of silence seems to propagate out from the steadily growing mass, broken only by the soft, gentle sobbing of a young woman.
You briefly wonder if the two of you could have a future together, before noticing she's wearing odd shoes. One appears to be a flat dress shoe and the other an expensive-looking leopard print heel. How does she walk in those things? Is she compensating for one leg being longer than the other? Who would do such a thing?!
Consumed by a mixture of rage and lust, you step forwards. Just as you open your mouth to scream, a flicker on the TV catches your eye. It's Gabe Newell. A beagle enthusiastically laps jam from his open hand as he whispers "Half-Life 3" whilst staring straight at the camera. A date scrolls across the bottom of the screen.
Odd Shoes turns away from the display, her eyes rolling into the back of her head as she loses consciousness. You were in the perfect place to catch her, and would have done, had you not already popped inside to pre-order.
Will we ever get Half-Life 3? More importantly, should the reveal involve a jam-eating beagle?
Do you think our predictions will pan out? Only will time will tell, though do be sure to check back an entire year from now when we revisit them and see whether we’re more Nostradamus or nonce.
Also, be sure to share any 2019 gaming premonitions you might have in the comments.
Whatever form a re-release might take - be it spit-shined remaster, full-blown remake, or plain-old port - they’re absolutely everywhere and have been for a while. 2019 doesn’t look set to change that, what with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and Onimusha: Warlords launching in the coming week alone. It’s all got us wondering whether the practice of repurposing old software is a cheap and cheerful way to reach new audiences, or just a lazy means of gouging money from nostalgic gamers.
I'm a strong believer that variety is not only the spice of life, but an essential. I crave new experiences, no matter how minor, and I champion creativity and imagination above all else. Which is why I'm against rehashing old content without adding something of value.
Granted, there usually is a little something extra, but its value is completely subjective. Upgraded graphics, bundled DLC, the occasional tweak to UI and mechanics; any of these should make for a better experience and offer a more attractive package than the original, especially for those who missed out the first time around.
Resident Evil 2 sits all alone, perched in a rarefied region on the re-release scale, as Capcom appear to have built a completely new game from the ground up, with little to tie it back to the original besides the characters, story and setting.
I'm not expecting many to follow in their footsteps, nor do I think that every remake needs to be handled in the same manner, but it raises the bar significantly and sends a message to any developer wanting to reinvigorate a beloved title: go hard, or go home.
I’m all for remakes, remasters and ports, so long as they’re done right. Not only do they give people the chance to relive classics and fan favourites, but they also give many who may have missed out the first time around another bite at the cherry. Plus, they're a great way to ensure gems of the past remain relevant and easily accessible years, or even decades, after their initial release.
I never owned a Wii U, which meant I had to look on as a bunch of great first-party titles passed me by, but with Nintendo seemingly intent on bringing all of the doomed console’s heavy hitters to Switch, it feels like I’ve been given a reprieve. I may have picked Pokémon for Switch as my most anticipated title of 2019, but secretly I yearn to see The Wind Waker HD grace the console this year.
Of course, I can understand why people would absolutely prefer to see studios coming up with brand-new IPs, instead of wheeling out yet another blast from the past, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives, whether it’s letting developers know there’s still an audience for a dormant franchise or giving them the chance to completely reimagine an old favourite, à la Capcom’s upcoming Resi 2 remake.
Whatever form they take, cynicism can accompany re-releases like a deadly silent fart. Personally, I’m for remasters if they’re handled properly and there’s been enough time since the original release, but all too often we’re expected to pay bloated price points.
I find the Switch to be an excellent example of this. I was one of about seven people (give or take) that owned a Wii U, so I find the endless “Deluxe” ports being sold at £40+ insulting. Despite the inclusion of minor extras and DLC, these should slot right into Nintendo’s budget “Selects” range.
There are countless examples of this across other platforms though, so, in spite of my internal beef, I suppose it really does come down to whether you’ve played the games before or not. I’d never have played greats like Uncharted, Twilight Princess and The Wind Waker without remastered, after all.
Ultimately, I’d like to see more productions like Resident Evil 2 and the Crash and Spyro collections: games a few generations old that have been brought bang up to date and made relevant again.
So what can we take from all this? 1. Companies like making money without spending money, and 2. I’m a massive hypocrite. Ciao, folks.
What's your stance on re-releases? Love 'em or hate 'em, let us know below!
Happy New Year! Whether you’re recovering from a monster hangover, hitting the gym to meet resolution goals, or just chugging along as usual, one thing we all have in common is another great year of gaming to look forward to! The first half of 2019 already looks stacked, which begs the question: which games are the cream of the current crop?
Chris | Crackdown 3
Crackdown 3 will most likely have a story that involves Terry Crews in some way; that statement alone is excellent reason for the game to grace this list, but what really sealed the deal is the fact I like to blow shit up. There’s nothing abnormal about that, by the way!
I'll certainly sink some time into the campaign, but I'm most eager to jump into an online world with a few like-minded crazies and just tear it apart.
The promise of wanton destruction has been made many times before, without any game coming close to meeting expectations (looking at you, every Battlefield title ever). Crackdown 3 could be the very first to allow us to transform the landscape so much as to make it unrecognisable. If you can't find the aesthetic beauty in the harsh brevity of a built-up city skyline, maybe you can create your own version of beauty by razing said city to the ground using explosives. Either way, you should have plenty of fun in the process.
Liam | Pokémon for Nintendo Switch
Having only recently come back to the franchise after a near 20-year hiatus, I’m not exactly what you’d call a diehard Pokémon fan, but the Switch’s as-yet-untitled Pokémon game gets my vote simply because a mainline entry on a home console is something I’ve always wanted to see.
The Let’s Go games, while impressive, are remakes, and therefore don’t count. However, their fully-fledged worlds, wandering wild fauna, vibrant towns and sleek visuals showed just how good a Pokémon game can look with a bit of power behind it, and have me seriously tempted by another sojourn in the well-trodden Kanto region.
Had it not been for my recent acquisition of Moon on 3DS, the seasonal decimation of my gaming funds and the fact that your rival is now nice (outrageous!), I’d probably be searching for Bulbasaur in Let’s Go this very moment, and, having had my console Poké-fix, Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order would be sitting atop my list.
In any case, observing Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! from afar (for the time being) has only served to whet my appetite for a proper Pokémon RPG on Switch, and I look forward to seeing more in 2019.
James | Streets of Rage 4
Very little is currently known about Streets of Rage 4. The second instalment was one of the first games I ever played and, as mentioned last week, was the first game that I ever completed.
It might come as no surprise then that the obviously-nostalgia-fuelled announcement of a fourth game would set my spine somewhat a-tingling.
While the cynical side of me wants to assume this will just be a hastily cobbled together cash grab to join the other remasters and re-treads which somewhat plague the industry at large, there's a louder voice, deep inside which screams "BAREKNUCKLE!"
The war cry of Axel Stone, one of the game's returning protagonists, has so many memories tied to it that I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for now.
Indeed, the aforementioned trailer leans into an anime art style perfect for the game and suggests a similar 2D scrolling beat-‘em-up style as you’d hope for from the series. Coupled with an energetic soundtrack, early signs are looking very promising in my eyes.
Rob | Ori and the Will of the Wisps
My new year’s resolution is to try and play a few more games this year than I did in 2018. That shouldn’t be too hard, as I’m eagerly awaiting Resident Evil 2, Shenmue 3, The Last of Us Part II (fingers crossed we’ll have it before Xmas), Streets of Rage 4, and I might finally have to get a Switch for Fire Emblem Three Houses, too.
My most anticipated release though, comes on my beloved Xbox One, and was a large reason behind renewing the old Game Pass subscription for another year. It’s Ori and the Will of the Wisps, of course!
I adored playing through the original’s superb blend of challenging platforming, combat and exploration, all wrapped up in Metroidvania staples, so can’t wait to delve into the new and improved world.
Add to that the chance to rediscover such beautiful visuals, aurals and, hopefully, an even more emotional story, and I’m already sold. Not just that, but the time trial and multiplayer modes look to add an interesting competitive element to the game this time around.
Thank you Moon Studios, thank you Microsoft. See you on day one!
What game are you most looking forward to playing this year? Let us know in the comments below.
Merry Christmas! Yesterday was the big day and hopefully everyone managed to make some cherished memories, or, at the very least, get a solid gaming sesh in! For this festive feature, we’ll be sharing the moments in our lives where those two things combined to form our fondest gaming-related Christmas crackers
For my most cherished yuletide gaming memory, I’m going with Christmas 2006, the year I received a Nintendo Wii and the fantastic The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. By this point in my life big Christmas gifts had become a thing of the past (thanks very much, gainful employment), so unwrapping Nintendo’s odd-looking console was a bit of a surprise.
As far as last hurrahs go, it was a good one. Twilight Princess was excellent, easily one of the best Zelda games to date, though, as a proud member of team southpaw, it was disconcerting to see Link forced to wield the legendary Master Sword in his right hand, when the Wiimote was in my left.
It also marked the first time a console had successfully brought the family together for some gaming-led fun since the glory days of Buzz! on PS2. Unsurprisingly, Wii Sports was an instant hit, providing plenty of amusement as non-gaming relatives ironed out old grievances in boxing matches and bowling tournaments.
I may have ended up shelving the Wii in favour of an Xbox 360 a few years later, but I still got plenty of mileage (and some light structural damage to a few walls) out of Nintendo’s unorthodox console, and a decent set of memories to boot.
Christmas morning, 1995. A bright-eyed nine year old, I’d been waiting patiently (or as patiently as one can) for this day for quite some time. The SNES and the Mega Drive had been my go-to consoles up to that point, but I’d asked for a Mega CD for Christmas, knowing nothing at all about it aside from that it used discs, rather than cartridges. Now THAT was fancy! Welcome to the future, young Chris.
My parents looked pretty happy with themselves so I knew they'd managed to get the one thing I'd asked for. I eagerly tore into the biggest present under the tree to find... something different.
I attempted to hide my disappointment over the bland box I’d been gifted. It would’ve been completely unremarkable, save for the fact that its profound unremarkable-ness was in itself remarkable.
Being a December baby, my early Christmas and birthday memories are often rolled into one, but, as far as gaming goes, it was new consoles which really stuck in my mind.
While the original PlayStation is up there (I got one of the first DualShock versions in the UK to boot), receiving a Sega Mega Drive 2 back in the early 90s is what’s burned into my mind most brightly.
I unwrapped the huge package, kneeling on the floor at the young age of six, revealing the glistening console bundled with the sublime Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Aside from speeding through Green Hill Zone, I also experienced the delights of Disney's Aladdin, which takes you through the film in classic platforming fashion. The third and final title I got to enjoy that year was Streets of Rage 2, which took the crown of being the first game I ever completed, in the process cementing a love of gaming that persists to this day.
I believe it was Christmas of 1998 that I first ventured onto the glorious slopes of a true Nintendo classic - 1080 Snowboarding! These were the days when new games would only turn up on birthdays and Christmas (I wish that was still the case for the current generation of kids, I really do), and having received the 64 itself in April of that year, Turok Dinosaur Hunter was starting to get Jurassic.
Right from the get-go, 1080 thrilled me in ways no sports game had before: a cool cast of characters (particularly Dion Blaster for his baritone delivery of "Yo"), beautiful mountains and that trademark Nintendo playability all made for a totally gnarly experience.
I was never too great at the trick attack modes (though apparently nobody was, as I only knew one person capable of executing the titular 1080), so spent most of my time with either the competitive racing or time attack modes.
It's here where I really fell in love. Whether it was slicing through the firs of Golden Forest (man, I wish it were a real place), flying over buildings in Mountain Village, or tackling the gargantuan ice-pipe of Deadly Fall, I was hooked. Everything else was just brandy sauce on the Xmas pud.
Please Nintendo, reboot 1080, it'd make this kid's Christmas 2019!
Once again, we'd like to wish you and yours Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
If you've got a favourite gaming-related Christmas memory, we'd love for you to share it with us in the comments below. If nothing comes to mind, did you get any gaming gifts this year?
Another prime year in gaming is drawing to a close and so, naturally, we find ourselves looking back on the releases we each played and recall most fondly.
Chris | Forza Horizon 4
As someone who’s generally not a fan of racing games (despite having also plumped for one in last week’s feature), I was pleasantly surprised by how easy Forza Horizon 4 is to pick up and play.
Microsoft's chief racing title looks stunning, as one may expect, and has a satisfying amount of depth. Cars are weighty, yet responsive, and those looking to get the most out of their ride can spend forever upgrading them and tweaking a multitude of options, from gear ratios to tire pressure. If that's not your thing and your only desire is to tear around the British countryside in a vintage Aston Martin, you can opt to do just that, using the stock tuning or even another player’s custom settings.
Earning reputation and unlocking events is done simply by playing; whatever activity you prefer to partake in, whether it's creating your own street races, searching for huge jumps or carelessly drifting through fields of wheat, you'll soon be making a name for yourself and building an expanding collection of motors, from classic sports cars to modern supercars. New vehicles are awarded consistently and, coupled with changing seasons that mix up environmental aesthetics and car handling, there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back.
Liam | Battlefield V
As much as I enjoyed DICE’s First World War expedition, the decision to give Battlefield V a WW2 backdrop was a welcome one. It’s a choice that means the game manages to retain a historical setting whilst increasing the pace and intensity of its multiplayer, thanks to the more ‘advanced’ capabilities of 1940s tech.
Despite the hyperbole surrounding the launch build-up, and the fact that I’ve yet to meaningfully sample the single-player campaign, I can safely say this is easily the most fun I’ve had with the series since I first laid hands on Battlefield 3.
Not only does it look and play great, but it sounds superb. From the snap of incoming fire and the metallic (slightly terrifying) grinding sound an approaching tank, to the ominous silence preceding the impact of a V1 flying bomb, this is a game best enjoyed with a decent set of cans.
The total number of maps available at launch may be low, but more free content is on the way, including an obligatory Battle Royale mode. If a small opening salvo is the price paid for the removal of the community-splitting Premium Pass, then so be it.
Rob | Valkyria Chronicles 4
Those of you who read last week’s underappreciated games of 2018 feature may remember that yours truly has been rather occupied this year, failing to find the time to play too many games.
With that in noggin, I could easily have chosen charming platformer Yoku’s Island Express, Far Cry 5 and its lashings of murder, or the bald heads and daddy issues of God of War, but alas, tis none of those. Valkyria Chronicles 4, you’re up…
It’s no secret that I'm a massive Sega fan, who cries a little bit every time they release a good game (it doesn’t happen nearly enough these days), especially when it’s one that harks back to their glorious Dreamcast days.
Valk 4 boasts everything this girl wants in a video game: gorgeous art, superb sound, a triumphant blend of action and strategy, hours of glorious gameplay, and some of the most ridiculous characters and hair to come out of the silicone world.
If all that isn’t enough to get your gaming fluids flowing, then I don’t know what is.
James | The Spectrum Retreat
While it isn't the flashiest or most well-known game, The Spectrum Retreat’s expert handling of story and highly-polished finish place it amongst the greats of the oft overlooked first-person puzzle genre.
While Portal is a clear influence, the narrative and motivation built around the central puzzle mechanics make for an overall more compelling game in my mind (much like fellow indie offering QUBE 2, which also wrestled for 2018’s top honour).
The contrast in setting between the stark, futuristic puzzle rooms and the Art Deco hotel is extreme, and is particularly effective as the two worlds start to bleed together as the story unfolds, using the most effective deliberate screen tearing I've come across in games.
Not something which influenced it's acclaim here, but it helps that creator Dan Smith is a passionate and friendly chap, as I found out at the beginning of the year, and his painstaking piecing together of the title over five years shows in the deliberate nature of every nook and cranny.
Plus, the divergent ending had me happily replay the entire experience again, which isn't something many games can motivate me to do.
So, what's your personal Game of the Year for 2018? Agree or disagree with any of our picks? Let us know in the comments below.
Every year seems to boast more and more huge game releases, to the extent that it’s been difficult to keep up with everything for a good long while now. The usual suite of heavy hitters monopolise a lot of people’s time, but, as 2018 comes to a close and the release schedule settles for all of a few weeks, we thought it’d be nice to shine a light on a few of the year’s less-loved games. Who knows, maybe we’ll find them homes for the holidays.
Chris | ONRUSH
Despite largely favourable reviews (including our own), ONRUSH has failed to take the world by storm. In fact, if not for its inclusion in the Xbox Game Pass catalogue, I wouldn't have even considered giving it a try.
The game mimics the best parts of Burnout, that being the smashing and crashing, without the pretence of racing. Each non-race has objectives and yes, they involve going as fast as possible, but the real reason we're here is to twist steel. Being smack bang in the middle of a furious fracas is not only the most fun aspect, but it's also the most prominent, as dropping too far behind the pack will see you teleported right back into the action and if you happen to be flying ahead solo it won't be long before others materialise around you.
There are minor differences in how each vehicle performs but the arcade handling means every bike or truck is as viable as any other. Whilst this trait may be seen as a negative in any traditional racer, ONRUSH is neither traditional nor a racer, and it serves to enhance the experience by ensuring a playing field that's as level as it can be.
Liam | Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China
Cast your mind back to the very beginning of the year and you probably won’t recall Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China sneaking its way onto Xbox One as a console exclusive. Arriving with little fanfare during a period when most people are feeling the financial brunt of the recent festivities, FTSOC didn’t really get the recognition it deserved.
Its delivery is a bit cheesy and the gameplay a touch too arcade-like for simulator fans, but I very much enjoyed playing through a theatre of WW2 that’s never really been explored in gaming.
Hopping into a Buffalo fighter to “sally” incoming bombers is oodles of fun, and, as I mentioned in our quickie, reminiscent of classics like Blazing Angels and Rogue Squadron. There’s even a cool Dogfight mode that lets you pit all manner of iconic fighters against one another in fantasy showdowns.
Flying games are a bit of a rarity these days, and I say kudos to Ace Maddox for playing their part in keeping the genre going with this engaging effort.
Rob | Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn
Folks, I’ve been a very bad boy this year. I’ve failed to sample so many intriguing and colossal games (Celeste, Dead Cells, Moonlighter, Spider-Man, RDR2) that I feel like a right fanny-pack. We’ve all been there: work, relationships, children, house moving, life, etc. getting in the way of what’s really important - vidya gamez!
Now, with this in mind, my underappreciated title of 2018 goes to the gaming equivalent of an oft-mocked reality reboot, or a nasty 80s soap being resurrected for one last foxtrot. What am I waffling on about? Well, Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn, of course.
The 90s original regularly features on worst-of lists, but the sheer dumb, button-bashing fun and moronic sense of humour present in this revival really helped to take my mind of some “real” stuff during the month of September.
It’s colourful, the soundtrack is great, the combat is simple and satisfying in that 90s side-scrolling brawler kinda way, and the story (Shaq is a Chinese orphan saving the world from demonic celebrities that have scary resemblances to Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, et al) is little boy’s humour of the most glorious order. Did I mention there’s an add-on where you play as Barack Obama in The Adventures of Dirty Barry? Escapism here thy come!
Which games didn't get a fair shake this year in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.