They say that everything’s better with friends, which probably explains why cooperative games have always been pretty popular. Whether playing online or on the couch, we’re sharing our favourite co-op sessions in this instalment of Team Talk, which, it should be noted, didn’t necessarily occur in our favourite co-op games. That’s a whole different discussion.
Many, many moons ago a friend and I sat down for some classic couch co-op with How to Survive: Storm Warning Edition. We both went in blind, knowing only that it was a zombie survival title, not yet realising it’d become a test of endurance more than anything else.
As our blood alcohol level increased, so did the challenges presented to us, in both the real and virtual worlds. Bigger and badder enemies started to appear more often, from undead behemoths which explode when killed, to friends who questioned our decision to spend a beautiful summer afternoon getting hammered and playing a videogame.
After much deliberation, we arrived at the conclusion that said friends would (probably) not explode when killed and, thus, should be dealt with in more mundane ways. Thankfully, closing the curtains not only eliminated screen glare but also kept these incredibly realistic bad guys at bay.
As with all cooperative endeavours, teamwork was key. One of us would hold down the fort while the other went on solo expeditions to gather invaluable supplies, a task which grew more perilous as day gave way to night and the smoky living room became littered with the corpses of fallen beer cans.
I'd like to say we completed How to Survive in one sitting, but my most memorable co-op experience is also the one I remember the least about…
Playing games together is a sure-fire way to enhance the experience in my book. While my first solid co-op experience was the Halo 3 campaign (still one of the most fulfilling of all time), the pinnacle of the concept is without a doubt Splinter Cell Conviction for me.
First off the co-op campaign has its own characters and story, at least to an extent. While it's only two-player co-op (who has time to find more than a single friend to play with consistently anyway?), you’ll quickly grow to love Red and Green and forget about the sad loss of the Spies vs. Mercs mode from previous Splinter Cell titles.
One memorable sequence has you completing objectives in parallel across a level before you both end up attached to the bottom of a truck, which unwittingly acts as your getaway vehicle. The satisfaction to be had here cannot be understated.
The game's signature Mark and Execute mechanic, which has you hover your reticle over enemies to visually mark them and then hit fire to take them out in quick succession (similar to Dead Eye in the Red Dead series), also really hits its stride as you mark enemies for your buddy to take down. Delicious!
I’ve enjoyed countless cooperative experiences over my 25-odd years of gaming. From recent delves into the Overcooked series, to Streets of Rage 2 with the little sister, co-op games really do make lasting memories. Which is why, dear chums, I’ve gone for World Cup 98 on the N64.
Picture this scene, if you will: four 12-year-old boys in the grip of World Cup fever, crowded around the telly playing 2-on-2 whilst recreating scenes we’d seen unfold in the real tournament, all to a soundtrack of Des Lynam, John Motson, and Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping.
Surprisingly, neither duo ever selected England, instead opting for either Brazil or France, the two teams that'd go on to contest the final. Understanding which player was controlled by whom was always entertaining, as were the celebrations both on screen and off. It also helped that the host’s Mum always made pizza and garlic bread, and that the host’s brother also procured us our first sample of beer…
Anyway, I digress. I have many fond memories of that World Cup: Carlos Valderrama’s hair, Michael Owen’s incredible goal against Argentina, France dismantling Brazil in the final - but none touch those gaming sessions. Now, repeat after me: I GET KNOCKED DOWN, BUT I GET UP AGAIN...
Here's one of those memorable in-game celebrations, as performed by England, the team Rob should've been playing as.
Like Rob, I could easily have gone with World Cup 98 for my choice this week. Me and my brother would always team up in an attempt to take England to glory, grinding out vital results in the group stages before inevitably facing elimination in the knockout rounds. The graphics may have been a bit rubbish, but EA managed to nailed the pain and disappointment of watching England in the latter stages of an actual World Cup.
Instead, I’m going for a more recent pick with Overcooked 2. Not that long ago I ended up on a team that featured not one, but two professional chefs, who also happened to be avid gamers. After a brief breakdown of the controls, we set to work smashing nearly every high score I'd set up to that point.
Dishes were flying out not just on time, but in the correct order as well(!), meaning we racked up some seriously meaty scores. Most impressive was the way they both actually stuck to their assigned roles, calling out what they needed in clear, concise fashion – exactly the sort of calming, professional presence Team PTC was missing when we took to the kitchen.
One can never have too much pepperoni, apparently.
What co-op session do you most cherish? Let us know in the comments below.
After sharing fantastic franchises that we finally took the time to discover last week, this week we’re discussing the very biggest games that still remain in our piles of shame.
Chris | Red Dead Redemption 2
Red Dead Redemption was almost perfect (except for that one achievement), so it seems reasonable to assume that a sequel would be just as good, if not better. I’d like to think, in that case, that there are many possible reasons for why I’d have skipped over Rockstar’s latest entry.
If I were to really analyse myself, I might come to the conclusion that huge sandbox games require a significant time investment to get the most out of, and that’s pretty intimidating. We all want to feel like we've got our money's worth from whatever purchases we make - I mean, you wouldn't buy Babybel cheese and not eat the delicious wax, would you? No, because you aren't a crazy person. In the same vein, it would be wasteful to buy Red Dead Redemption 2 and not get lost in it for, say, 18 hours at a time.
Alternatively, I could’ve come to the realisation that almost every game I purchase is later given away by a digital storefront or subscription service, sometimes mere days after the cash has left my wallet.
So, is it real life getting in the way? Do I have poor time management skills? Am I a shameless cheapskate? Yes, but I did also forget it existed as soon as the advertising stopped...
Liam | The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Incredible. Sumptuous. Immense. Sequel. These are just some of the words used to describe what many people regard as the pinnacle of modern gaming: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I wouldn’t know, however, as I’ve never actually played it.
There’s really no reason for me not to rectify that, because it can be found cheap as chips these days, and despite the many distractions of modern life I still find time to play other RPGs, even if they’re not as celebrated… such as Fallout 76.
It’s not like I’m completely unfamiliar with the game’s characters and setting either. I know of Geralt, Dandelion, Yennefer and co. from the books, and I even dabbled in The Witcher 2, though I admittedly never got past the part where you fight the weird salamander-dragon-type-thing on a bridge.
Unlike Fallout 76 though, which I expected to be rubbish and was pleasantly surprised to find wasn’t, if I played The Witcher 3 now I’d be going in with how good everyone says it is on the mind. Knowing that, I’m not sure I could keep my lofty expectations in check.
That’s probably a terrible reason not to try it, but then I like Fallout 76, so what do I know?
James | The Elder Scrolls
Anyone who's been following my Team Talk entries of late might be beginning to notice a pattern. A few weeks ago, I told you about how I struggled to get into the sprawling world of Red Dead Redemption 2, and now it's time to turn our attention to a fellow gaming legend in Skyrim.
While I've dabbled in Bethesda's work with the most recent Fallout titles, The Elder Scrolls games have always eluded me because, frankly, they’re intimidating. Countless others have enjoyed them for hundreds of hours - playing out entire virtual lives encompassing marriage, real estate and the like - across not just Skyrim, but Oblivion and Morrowind as well.
It's not that fantasy doesn't appeal, as Dragon Age and The Witcher have been popular pastimes of mine over the years, but something about the sci-fi side of Bethesda Game Studios’ brand of RPG seems altogether more accessible.
Is there a way for me to begin this epic quest after all these years? It's not as if it’d be difficult to get hold of, given the number of platforms the game has been released on now… but where to even begin? With so many expansions and ways to play, surely nothing can live up to the perfect picture others have painted for me, right?
Skyrim is definitely still worth experiencing, as Sam discovered when he first played the game in VR form.
Rob | Metal Gear
Before I get into my pick, I have to say that blaming a gross case of shovel-hand for missing out on the #BestGameEVA is a bloody outrage! AN OUTRAGE, I TELLS YA! Stop playing all those JRPGs you love so much and get your anus to Hyrule, Sam!
… Now, onto my own heinous confession, which PlayStation chums should probably strap in for. I, Bobby Holt, have never played a Metal Gear game.
“But our Bob,” I hear thee protest, “Kojima is LORD!” Thanks for filling me in, I’d never heard that before...
To add a little context: I didn’t own a PS1 until after its demise, likewise with the PS2, and it was pretty much the same with PS3, except I got one of those when The Last of Us came out right at the end. But - and it’s a big one - I did purchase Ground Zeroes in a sale just before the initial announcement of Death Stranding, and this is where my problems began.
I’d loved the look of Ground Zeroes, as well as big brother Metal Gear Solid V, so with all the critical acclaim I was (as we say in SAAFAMPTUN) well up for it, mush. Then that nonsense Death Stranding trailer dropped, which, along with the daft name, tarnished my desire to sample dear Hideo’s work.
Here's the offending trailer in all its glory.
What's the biggest game you've never played? Share your shameful secrets in the comments below.
Time is a limited commodity and videogames increasingly are not. People struggle to fit every game that’s of interest into their busy schedules, inevitably resulting in cuts to backlogs which can span entire series of games. These seemingly sensible prioritisations can turn out to be regrettable, however, like in these instances where we kicked ourselves for arriving late to the party.
DMC was originally a Resident Evil sequel; considering that's one of Sam’s favourite franchises, how did it take him this long to get involved?
Chris | The Witcher
It took a 10/10 review, pages of recommendations on our forums and a very generous sale for me to finally pick up The Witcher 3. When those stars eventually aligned, I was blown away.
For a newcomer, seeing a number following the title was a little daunting, especially considering the breadth of Andrzej Sapkowski’s fiction. Thankfully, one of the game’s companions, Dandelion, is as good with a pen as Geralt is with a sword, keeping detailed records on the friends and foes they’ve met. A habit which is sure to come in handy the next time anyone disagrees with his choice of starter Pokémon.
Favouring horseback exploration over the game's fast travel system will further pad out your journal, adding a seemingly endless array of locations, quests, map markers and characters, each one intriguing enough to warrant its inclusion amongst a staggering amount of overall content.
It's a less lonesome experience than some of its genre stablemates, owing to the diverse cast of recurring personalities who frequently offer counsel. After decades of hunting deadly creatures, Geralt understands that true power lies in the strength we draw from others. Well, that and from being able to craft a variety of explosives at a moment's notice. A habit which is sure to come in handy the next time anyone disagrees with his choice of starter Pokémon.
James | Hitman
Sneaking around as a silent and sinister saboteur has always appealed to me, but the stress of being discovered has often made me shy away from the art of stealth in gaming. Hitman 2 (2018) changed that, though.
A catalyst for my eternal struggle with stealth was Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, where more often than not being detected essentially - or, at times, literally - meant it was game over. Hitman, on the other hand, gives you a little more room to manoeuvre.
The game gives you pointers on ways to approach your targets, most recently through the addition of story strands which just happen to dynamically unfold whenever you enter specific areas. Not taking itself too seriously also helps to make mistakes come off as far more forgiving, though I'm sure purists would lament my disregard for the professionalism to which Agent 47 aspires.
Kill scenarios and weaponry have a nice amount of variety, even if you do find yourself walking past copious conspicuous glasses to spike with poison and buttons to trigger distractions within any given level, but, most importantly, that coveted feeling of satisfaction is most definitely there.
IO also ran a limited event where you got to take out Sean Bean. As a huge GoldenEye 007 fan, what more could I possibly want?
Liam | Pokémon
I was obsessed with Pokémon when it first burst onto the scene just over 20 years ago. I collected trading cards, watched the anime, and, of course, sunk countless hours into Pokémon Red and Blue. My brother and I even teamed up to help him catch ‘em all, which is still probably one of my greatest achievements in gaming (and life in general).
But, like most of my peers, I eventually outgrew Pokémon and moved on to the next fad - pulling off sweet Around the World and Walk the Dog tricks with my neon X-Brain yo-yo! The 90s were ace!
I still kept my eye on Pokémon, but as the years went by the idea of jumping back in grew more and more intimidating; counting re-releases, there’s been 25 mainline games since the first generation of titles, along with 657 new ‘mon to complement the original suite of 150.
It took a heavily discounted copy of Pokémon Moon to bring me back to the series, but I wish I’d returned sooner. Underneath completely optional new features, like Pokémon refresh and Z-moves, lurked the same moreish gameplay I remembered so fondly, and exploring some of the new concepts hasn’t been as alienating as I feared it would be.
Smart folk will choose Sobble as their Pokémon Sword or Shield starter.
Which series do you wish you'd gotten to grips with sooner? Sound off in the comments.
Last week at the 2019 Game Developers Conference (GDC), Google took to the stage to reveal their vision for the future of gaming. Google Stadia is a streaming platform which reportedly allows AAA games to be played in quality exceeding that of existing “box” consoles - like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One - on any device which can run Google’s proprietary Chrome web browser.
I don't want anyone to think that the burning, deep-seated rage I harbour for Google's incredibly annoying AMP project has flavoured my opinion on Stadia and it's ridiculous name in any way.
I’ve embraced this age of technology as much as I'm ever going to. I care not for the little pictures people use in place of words, and I refuse to learn how to conjure them myself, but, somehow, my games library is entirely digital. While I’m obviously not attached to the physical, I don't feel the need to switch to streaming when downloads provide more options and greater stability, along with much of the same ease of access.
Google certainly have the infrastructure to handle such a service, plus they now count numerous high-ranking games industry veterans amongst their ranks. Men and women, all far more intelligent than I, have devoted countless hours to the creation of something I couldn't even begin to understand - yet - that very same company believes forcing me to click an extra couple of times to view the webpage I'm looking for is progress. At best, it's a minor annoyance I face multiple times a day. At worst, it's motive.
There is no hell hot enough, nor Starburst yellow enough, for these people.
Just imagine that all of the Starburst are yellow...
Back in the day I was fortunate (?) enough to be sent OnLive, the conceptual prototype for a game streaming service that never really met its potential. Stadia, and, more importantly, the infrastructure powering it from one of the most powerful companies in the world, could finally realise that future.
The limiting factor for online services, as I'm sure everyone is already aware, are internet speeds. Finally, decades after the World Wide Web was first conceived, the data speeds many of us have access to are approaching levels conducive to this idea actually working.
Lag with OnLive was immense. We’re not talking the slight irritation of out-of-sync Rock Band, but literal seconds between input and on-screen reaction, to the point that Batman: Arkham Asylum’s revolutionary ‘freeflow combat’ was anything but.
If the reality lives up to the vision (especially the BOLD claim about hitting 8K/120 FPS), then Stadia could be something seriously impressive technically. If it’s also priced in a sensible fashion, without being plastered with ads, then it could be a great way to experience and discover a range of new games in the future.
Sony ended up purchasing OnLive and shifting it towards their PlayStation Now service.
Consuming media content via streaming services may be the standard for most people these days, but I don’t think it’ll ever be more than a novelty when it comes to gaming, at least for the time being. The ability to play AAA games in all their glory almost anywhere on almost any device sure sounds good, but I think we’re at least a decade away from it being an industry standard.
I live in a major European city and my internet is still patchy at best, so the idea of relying on that dodgy connection to play games uninterrupted is neither appealing or seemingly realistic.
I’m only likely to give Microsoft’s Project xCloud a try because I’m already established within the Xbox ecosystem and, I’m assuming, it won’t cost anything extra on top of Gold and Game Pass subscriptions to give it a whirl.
Personally, I can’t see Stadia, Project xCloud and whatever Amazon are cooking up being anything more than a fad - a passing interest for some that’ll eventually be dropped.
It’s taken longer than expected, but here we are: the big bastards of tech are entering the gaming fray, regardless of whether anyone wanted them to or not.
Google has the money. Google has many of the greatest technological minds working for them. Google has the browser history of half the world - yes, Mr. Townsend, you were policing the internet… It’s for these reasons and more that I think they’ve got a chance.
But - oh, yes - what if you have internet with all the speed of yours truly? Google is promising this won’t be a problem, but when large cheddars like Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot are describing it as “complementary” to existing devices, there must be a reason.
Also, what about those fellows that like owning real-world things to hold between their sausage fingers? I bloody love me Xbox Game Pass, but that won’t stop me from buying something physical that I’m genuinely interested in - the same goes for music and film, too, and there are plenty of folks in the same boat.
Where does that leave us, then? The proper answer: we won’t know until it releases. My answer: it’ll probably be for casual shit until broadband speeds and reliability improve, and the fancy wi-fi controller will probably cost £100 or something ridic. Next.
Stadia controllers connect via wi-fi to communicate directly with the server and negate input lag.
Are you sold on streaming with Stadia? Let us know in the comments below.
We’ve all heard the buzz phrase, but what exactly does ‘game as a service’ mean? It’s a burgeoning trend whereby games, be they free-to-play or premium, are specifically designed around maintaining a devoted player base. That following will then, most likely, be asked (or required) to devote their time and money to this one monopolising title for the foreseeable future.
Are these screens from Anthem or Destiny? ... It's Anthem, but you probably couldn't tell.
My experience with service games extends to probably the model’s two most (in)famous perpetrators, Destiny and The Division, both of which I’ve actually quite enjoyed.
That isn’t because I love the grind, but because I treated them as disposable entertainment, engaging only with elements I felt like on the odd occasion I fancied.
Destiny may have been lacking in the story department, but Bungie’s solid gameplay and dry humour made up for that, allowing me to sink dozens of hours into the game without the pull of a traditional narrative to keep things moving.
I did much the same with The Division, though the atmosphere played a bigger part in bringing me back there. I enjoyed hunting down snippets of story away from campaign missions, which served to expand the in-game vision of the future by offering snapshots of life before, during and after its deadly outbreak.
I never touched the endgame for either, but I still feel like I got my money’s worth. I also don’t think the significant number of hours required to max out titles like Destiny or The Division is any worse than huge single-player games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which also want to monopolise your time.
Single-player games increasingly offer recurrent play and spending opportunities; does that put them in the same boat?
I'm not against paying for a promise; I can see the value of pre-order bonuses and season passes, and I've even seriously considered chipping in on a Kickstarter project on at least one occasion. It's the untrustworthiness of those making the promises which often turns me off. EA might say they have plans to support Anthem forever, or that they won't ruin Star Wars, but what reason do we have to believe them?
One solution would be to wait for a 'complete' release and buy into a product rather than a service, but that comes with its own downsides. You'll miss out on limited-time events, members of your friend group may have moved on, plus, even if they haven’t, the general player base is almost sure to have dwindled. The probability of these (and other) issues cropping up steadily grows closer to certain as more and more time passes.
As long as the price of the base game reflects the amount of content at launch, with every expansion following suit, I'm all for the concept. The problem is, outside of a select few free-to-play titles, that’s rarely the case.
Warframe is one of few service games to execute the model in pretty much unobjectionable fashion.
Short answer? It doesn't really work for me. One of the biggest things that makes games as a service work for publishers in particular is continued engagement, and, as far as that goes, I'm not the target consumer.
With news that The Division 2's physical sales are a mere 20% of its predecessor, there's a clear indication (amongst other factors) that the importance of getting involved at the ground floor is on the decline for titles focused around ongoing live experiences.
High profile games like No Man's Sky and Destiny have seen huge improvements in critical and audience reception since their launch, both proudly flying the “it’s good now” flag. The fact that publishers seem to rely on this gradual build is disconcerting, and audiences are beginning to not have the patience or faith in these titles as we're increasingly seeing first week sales miss expectations (Fallout 76).
The biggest problem for me is that I don't have enough free time in my week to give several hours a day or more to one game - let alone multiple - and when the initial experience is so underwhelming, why should I?
Despite positive press, sales figures seem to suggest that The Division 2 could be barren.
Does Destiny dominate your free time? Anthem annihilate your wallet? Whether that's the case or you think service games are a plague, be sure to let us know in the comments below.
From terrible twosomes to peachy pairs, videogames have hosted a wide variety of iconic duos. These are our picks of the bunch.
Liam | Master Chief and Cortana - Halo
Nobody likes backseat drivers, but when you’re working for the UNSC, beggars - or rather, children stolen from their families and secretly raised to be unstoppable super soldiers – can’t be choosers. An AI living in your head might not sound like the most appealing idea, but in Halo it makes perfect sense.
Cortana’s super intelligence compliments the Master Chief’s raw power perfectly, giving him (and the player) the means to pull off humanity-saving acts of heroism that might otherwise have proven impossible.
The two serve as a reassuring presence during some of the series’ darker moments, making light of heavy situations with pithy one-liners and quick-fire solutions. Halo just isn't the same whenever the Chief and Cortana are apart.
That being said, there was also a sombre undertone to their relationship, stemming from a realisation that, eventually, their adventures together would have to come to an end. Their story arc helped to humanise two decidedly inhuman characters and raised the narrative bar of the original three games, allowing it to reach the same lofty heights as the genre-defining gameplay.
Chris | Ico and Yorda - Ico
Escort missions have a bad reputation. Games generally have you engage in an immersive power fantasy, and there's little that’ll pull you out of that mindset quicker than having to babysit some mere mortal. Ico - the eponymous protagonist of Ico - is no deity, soldier or even man: he’s just a boy. This puts Yorda, your escortee, on relatively equal footing and that results in an immediate feeling that you need one another to survive.
Despite being two strangers with a language barrier, they work together. Yorda is unable to defend herself from the shadowy creatures sent to kidnap her, meaning Ico has to do all of the legwork when it comes to combat, but without her to open doors around the castle he’d be trapped.
A profound innocence sits at the core of their companionship; both were wronged by those who owed them a duty of care, but upon meeting, whether by serendipity or fate, they show only compassion for one another.
The story of Ico and Yorda is not one of hopelessness or despair, rather it’s one of friendship. Specifically, a strained and forced friendship, born out of necessity and probable to be short-lived (unless someone learns to pick up a damn stick and wave it around a little).
James | Banjo and Kazooie - Banjo-Kazooie
While the game in general might be, *ahem*, inspired by the exploits of a certain plumber in Super Mario 64, there's no denying the personality of the dynamic starring duo of 1998's Banjo-Kazooie.
Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird (a red-crested breegull, if you were wondering) are a classic buddy pairing of straight man and comedian - or comedienne, in this case. Wise-cracking Kazooie continually raises a smile, picking on poor Banjo and generally being cheeky to everyone she meets.
More importantly, the pair compliment each other in gameplay terms, offering unique moves both specific to themselves and to execute in tandem. Then, in sequel Banjo-Tooie, they’re further characterised and diversified when allowed to split up for a bit.
The fun, whimsy and excitement of the world they find themselves in only adds to their endearing nature as well, all in a stylised fashion which dynamically emphasises the many contrasts between them.
Memorable, fun and exciting throughout, Banjo and Kazooie are the heroes we need right now (just not in a Nuts 'n' Bolts sequel, thanks).
Rob | Link and Epona - The Legend of Zelda
Football had Shearer and Sheringham, Hollywood had the two Kevs - Lord Costner and Reynolds - gaming had Link and Epona. The 90s were tickety-boo, weren’t they?
Many would argue that the ‘real’ duo in Ocarina of Time, a game I first played back in 1999, were everyone’s favourite left-handed Aryan, Link, and most folks’ least favourite fairy, Navi, BUT HEY, LISTEN - you can’t beat a fox hunter’s best friend, alright.
So, alas, join me in climbing aboard the steed of nostalgia, destination: Lon Lon Ranch. It’s almost impossible to come away from this area untouched by the emotional double-whammy that accompanies a horseback race win, stranded between disappointment - thanks to that sore-losing bastard, Ingo - and sheer glee, as you hurdle the corner fence to freedom.
Back in ‘99, before widely available internet guides, figuring out this naughty trick was some kinda something. The best part was yet to come, though, of course, as Epona not only saved Link’s legs, but proved to be an integral part of the journey. The old gal jumping the broken bridge leading to the desert is another classic gaming memory pour moi.
It says everything that my main gripe with Breath of the Wild was Nintendo locking Epona behind an amiibo, which still aggrieves me to this day...
Which gaming dream team of two are your favourites? Let us know in the comments below.
Last week, during the Pokémon 23rd anniversary celebrations, a Nintendo Direct presentation revealed the series’ eighth generation of games. Scheduled to hit Switch late this year, Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield whisk players away to the new Galar region, where they’ll encounter countless new forms of pocket monster.
James | Scorbunny
While there's no question an element of a starter's appeal is its final evolution, which are under wraps for now, the base trio this time around are at least a more crowd-friendly bunch than those seen in Pokémon Sun and Moon (poor Popplio).
Nevertheless, as we're going to be pitting these pocket monsters in bloodthirsty battle, it's clear to me that Scorbunny is the only one of the three with any fight in it - perhaps literally. Sobble looks like a tadpole with all the charisma of Eeyore, and Grookey?! Did they just smash together the words "grass" and "monkey"? Oh Pokémon, I haven’t been more disappointed in you since Trubbish.
Plus we've already had Froakie and Aipom as starters; at least other rabbit-inspired ‘mon have been wild ones, so Scorbunny doesn't feel as derivative.
Finally, the fun inherent to a fire-type can't be ignored. Who doesn't love a bit of recurring burn damage? It's not like you get recurrent wet damage every turn!
Liam | Grookey
Choosing a starter Pokémon is all about forward thinking - they may be adorable little blighters now, but what sort of monstrosity are they going to turn into down the line?
You couldn’t really go wrong with the original trio of Bulbasaur, Charmander and Squirtle – all of whom had badass evolutions – but my recent experience with Pokémon Moon’s Litten, namely the part where he morphed into some awful human-cat hybrid, has taught me to proceed with caution.
Out of the Sword and Shield starters I’m especially concerned about Scorbunny. It already looks weird as is, but I can see its final evolution being the stuff of nightmares, similar to the were-rabbit from Wallace and Gromit.
Grookey gets my vote, simply because he’s the cutest (for now) and I’m a big fan of grass-type Pokémon, particularly with starters. Sobble may have the (admittedly cool) ability to turn invisible, but would you really want a Pokémon that’s going to go missing?
Chris | Grookey
Having never played a Pokémon game and knowing very little about the franchise (you kidnap woodland creatures and force them to fight for sport?), I assumed that I didn't really have a dog in this fight. That was until Sam ranked my choice of starter as last.
We're all entitled to our opinions, but do you trust those held by a man who thinks that Knack wasn't actually that bad? A man who once made a woman cry because he was in a bit of a rush? That doesn't seem wise.
James would have you believe that Scorbunny is the obvious choice. He’d also have you believe that Rockstar's open-world epics are anything but, and that LEGO is terrible in all of its forms. Clearly, this is a man barely hanging on to the cliffs of reason, as each crashing wave loosens his grip and saps his sanity.
These are not the people you want making decisions for you. Now Liam - there’s a smart lad! Only a master tactician would understand the true value of good turret placement, and, as an RPG aficionado, Liam is not only my favourite member of Team PTC, but the only one worth listening to.
Other than me, of course. That’s why Grookey is the one.
Which new Pokémon is your choice of starter? Let us know in the comments below.
Last week, we shared a few games which we enjoy despite their damning general consensus; this time around, we’re discussing the instances where the opposite is true. Apologies in advance for the sheer heresy to follow.
Sora's Monsters Inc. transformation is just ghastly.
Liam | Dishonored
Arkane Studios’ stealth-‘em-up came into my possession some time after it originally launched, snapped up for a bargain price as part of a summer sale. After reading glowing reviews (both press and user) I was looking forward to stepping into the role of Corvo Attano: Super Assassin.
As it turns out though, I found Dishonored a chore to play. The characters were weird looking, the story was convoluted and failed to grab me, and the in-game world was dreary and depressing. On top of that, the gameplay was frankly just boring.
I know stealth games are all about suspense, waiting for the perfect moment to make your move, but my word does it get tiresome quickly. My overriding memories of Dishonored involve crouching on rooftops watching guards walk in circles…
More annoyingly, I soon realised that the Dark Vision power, which lets you see enemies through walls, is accompanied by a creepy – and very irritating – sound effect whenever it’s activated, which is pretty much constantly.
Perhaps it’s just Arkane Studios that I don’t get on with, as I also found Prey very underwhelming.
Arkane make stellar games, actually.
James | Rockstar single-player campaigns
The single-player experience is sacred, and continues to be executed exceedingly well despite games executives' insistence that the time for solo experiences has been and gone.
Why then, do I neglect numerous examples from one of the hottest developers in the area - Rockstar Games? I’ve tried my hand at numerous Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead games, so I feel like I've given them a fair chance, but none have gelled with me to the extent that the likes of Mass Effect and BioShock have.
I think the biggest culprit is their sprawling maps, filled with hundreds of activities and locations to explore. While Ubisoft is champion of its own overstuffed take on this, at least in their games it feels like there's an end in sight. With Rockstar though, each game becomes more intimidatingly imposing, causing me to venture less and less into their increasingly detailed worlds.
Instead, GTA and Red Dead Online have been my safe havens, offering a largely simplistic take on each game’s world and more specific tasks to undertake within them. You can also shoot your friends in the face, so there’s that.
How could you not be absorbed by the story of Arthur Morgan and the Van der Linde gang?
Chris | Dark Souls
An engaging narrative, thought-provoking lore and gripping combat with a focus on learning the fundamentals of each enemy encounter; these are just three things I’d add to Dark Souls. Admittedly, the first two could be in there, hidden away between that huge boss fight which requires you to roll around a lot and the other boss fight which requires you to roll around a lot.
You may struggle to work out which bosses I’m referring to, and that's understandable, because it's all of them. In fact, the same could be said for any of the regular enemies too.
I've spent maybe an hour with Dark Rolls and that should have been enough to turn me off, but it wasn't. I wasted even more of my fleeting life watching gameplay videos to see if it was a "me" issue, and I can confidently say that it's not. Everyone else is the problem.
I need something to aim for; a goal, a direction, even a vague hint that the long-dead, amnesiac ghost of a plot could be found somewhere - anywhere.
Mind you, I suppose I’d know if the story was that riveting, as someone would’ve already made it into a terrible film starring Michael Fassbender. Maybe someone more athletic, keeping the rolling in mind...
Sounds like someone needs to git gud...
Rob | BioShock
My first voyage into Ken Levine’s beloved world began with the final entry, BioShock Infinite. I’ll be honest, the only thing that got me through to the end was the shooting and hook-based traversal, as the story is one of the most pretentious pieces of dung I’ve ever experienced.
Is Booker DeWitt actually the mythical, two-dimensional baddie Comstock? Once you’ve made it through to the painful, plain-bloody-nonsense baptism ending - just, ugh, what a load of convoluted tripe.
So why, years later, did I find myself playing the original? Well, a particularly persuasive associate implored me to throw Infinite aside (I was more than happy to oblige) and give it a go. “You’ll love the underwater setting,” she said. “It’s a brilliant portrayal of a Utopian society gone wrong,” she said, knowing that very sentence would immediately put me right off.
Still, I plundered the depths and again came back empty-handed: lovely combat and visuals, but the story was and still is the exact kind of elitist baloney that leaves me cold. Mute indie games like The Gardens Between have had an infinitely (pun very much intended) larger emotional impact on this big softy, and did it without the pretence.
Sorry Rob: BioShock is, in fact, a masterpiece.
Which beloved title can you just not get along with? Tell us all about it in the comments.
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.