Footage of a supposed “3rd person open-world action RPG” set in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter recently surfaced on Reddit, after a user claimed to have been part of an audience survey relating to the unannounced game. Promising the ability to create your own Hogwarts student and embark on an original adventure taking place before anything yet seen, it prompted equal measures of excitement and doubt from fans.
Order of the Phoenix was a good film tie-in.
I'm aware of the franchise's existence but know little of the subject matter. Having always been an avid reader and a fan of all things fantasy, Harry Potter should be right up my street, though I have no desire to watch the films and would sooner opt to read a pizza menu than any of the books. Of course, when it was first released there were only two wizards in my mind - Rincewind and Gandalf - and we didn't (and still don't) need any more.
That being said, I love open world RPGs and Rowling's tales seem like a perfect fit for the genre. I assume that there's a hefty amount of lore and plenty of stories to tell in that universe, especially given the alleged time frame it takes place in. The ability to create your own character is certainly a plus point and a much more attractive prospect than being stuck playing as the series' milquetoast protagonist.
This would be a great opportunity to win over a new audience with a more adult-oriented take, if they can achieve that without losing the child-friendly appeal.
Half Blood Prince wasn't bad, either.
I loved the Harry Potter books when I was younger, but towards the end of the series, as I hit my late teens, I had grown more cynical about all things magical. I still read every book to completion, but I couldn’t help but wonder why Witches and Wizards were so dismissive of Muggle technology – I’d like to see Voldemort stop a drone strike as easily as he counters a disarming spell. You’re welcome, Mr. Fudge.
It’s something that, however unlikely, I would like to see explored more in an RPG set in the Harry Potter extended universe. Along with Quidditch and Aurors, the secretive balancing act between the magical world and our more mundane one was one of my favourite concepts, more so than lessons in potion brewing and herbology.
If proceedings stay purely fantastical, however, then I’d like to see the developers double down on original stories (maybe even some starring Hogwarts’ ancient founders?) rather than revisiting well-trodden ground. Even though it’d pull an audience in, the world and his Hungarian Horntail already knows the tale of Harry, Voldemort, Dumbledore, et al.
I’m not instantly excited by the idea, but a proper game – not some movie tie-in cash grab – does have potential.
Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 were dire.
As a child who had the pleasure of translating Harry Potter from Latin into English at school, it's fair to say I'm well acquainted with the universe now known as the Wizarding World. While the prospect of more films initially induced a slight eye-roll, in gaming the series as a whole has been criminally underused and under-represented.
The prospect of finally becoming a fledgling wizard and attending Hogwarts is an exciting one then, with childish excitement bubbling up like a fresh batch of Polyjuice Potion.
Whether the reality will do the potential justice is another matter however, with so much lore protected by frenzied fans, whatever era you fancy jumping into. On top of that, how much will you have to specialise to reach the coolest spells? As any casual Dungeons & Dragons player will tell you, it can take a fair few adventures to get to the really tasty stuff.
Hopefully though, this will at least be more accessible than DnD (despite its resurgence in the past few years) and provide a fun entry point. Plus, we'll get to make friends with an owl!
Harry Potter for Kinect was the worst, naturally.
Would you be up for playing a Wizarding World RPG? Let us know in the comments below.
For more Team Talk, check out last week's feature on Telltale Games' best told tales.
Today is PlayStation VR’s second birthday - hooray! The peripheral is now well into its stride, recently giving home to a couple of stellar exclusives in tactical shooter Firewall: Zero Hour and 3D platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission. Critical darlings were fewer and farther between back at launch, though not unheard of, thanks to the likes of Until Dawn: Rush of Blood and Thumper, so we turned back the clock and dove into a pile of premier titles to see if we missed any gems amongst the opening deluge.
Here’s to PS VR and it strong introduction to more immersive gaming on consoles; after looking backwards, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead!
RIGS: Mechanized Combat League
Intended to be a flagship heavy hitter, RIGS instead floundered as a mid-tier game. Its ambition in marrying broadcast spots and FPS into an all-new virtual reality spectacle is certainly admirable, but also misguided, given that this introductory experience is capable of nauseating even a grizzled VR vet.
Sharp visuals, precise controls and a range of tweakable comfort settings just aren’t enough to save our stomachs on this occasion. You need to tear around arenas at speed, turning and changing elevation on a dime in order to stand any chance of beating even the AI.
There’s really a lot of depth on offer, so it’s a damn shame that keeping RIGS at arm’s length seems to be standard practice; it spent months as a PS+ freebie, yet there’s absolutely nobody competing in the integrated online league.
Tumble VR is proof that simple ideas are often the best executed. The basic premise of playing with building blocks should be familiar to anyone with a childhood to their name, though things do get a little more advanced than chewing the corners and clacking them together.
While Tumble arguably doesn’t make the most exciting use of VR, its 3D environments offer increased spatial awareness and depth perception that no doubt serve as a performance booster when, for example, delicately stacking towers. With the complement of precise motion control and accurate physics, tackling the game’s varied suite of challenges is a simple pleasure.
This touching ‘look and click’ adventure from Uber Entertainment, creators of the underrated Monday Night Combat games, casts you as a young girl on course to save her father after their biplane crash lands on a floating fortress.
It does a great job of utilising perspective, seamlessly switching between multiple camera angles to help convey a very charming and genuine story with sparing use of dialogue.
That being said, it’s really the regular introduction of fun new gameplay mechanics that’ll keep you coming back until you’ve seen the impromptu trip through.
A horror game for all the wrong reasons, Weeping Doll is at least amusingly bad. Its abysmal writing, acting and visual effects inspire laughs at the game’s expense, yet fortunately it ends before the issues stop being funny and start to become overly tedious.
You’ll spend an hour or so awkwardly teleporting around an ugly family home, managing a cumbersome inventory and breezing through puzzles whilst unravelling a by-the-numbers story through weak environmental storytelling.
If you’re a fan of Resident Evil 7, it’s almost worth checking Weeping Doll out to witness the bargain bin implementation of its themes. Almost...
Another from Weeping Doll (and Pixel Gear) developer Oasis Games, Ace Banana doesn’t even begin to flirt with the same ‘so bad it's good’ territory.
You play a bow-wielding banana tasked with defending bunches of baby bananas against waves of monkeys with bad intentions. There’s just one map and one game mode, though enemy and power-up spawns are somewhat shuffled between sessions in a failed attempt to keep things fresh.
Confusion underpins Ace Banana’s poor general execution as well-aimed shots inexplicably miss their mark, certain power-ups have no discernible effect, a lack of audiovisual feedback often makes it unclear as to whether or not you’re actually dealing damage, and, perhaps best of all, the in-game encyclopaedia - which should help to set some of these issues straight - is so poorly translated that discerning useful information is almost impossible.
The game’s insane second boss is an even bigger impasse, making quick work of ourselves and seemingly most others, with only 0.4% of players having beaten the encounter at the time of writing. Tackling it with the help of a friend might help, if only the promised multiplayer update had actually ever materialised…
Here They Lie
Far preferable a spookfest to Weeping Doll, Here They Lie boasts a noir-style presentation and some very adult content that’ll leave you feeling in need of a good scrub.
A raw, sexual focus provides basis for an animalistic horror that can feel both grounded and abstract, with the helpless inability to combat aggressors forcing you to linger on the occult, ritualistic and thoroughly bizarre.
There are multiple paths to the same conclusion, offering a little more freedom than VR games of the time tended to, though, thanks to a post-launch patch, Here They Lie is now also playable on a television. You’ll certainly miss much of the atmosphere in TV mode, and probably all of the “Nope!” moments, but the game’s subtle philosophy should still translate.
Harmonix Music VR
This one’s still a great way to unwind, be that to settle your racing heart after tangling with Here They Lie or following a stressful work day. It’s not really a game, by Harmonix’ own admission, rather an encompassing music visualiser with interactive elements.
Four varied game modes see you relax on a beach that pulses in time to music, effortlessly create neon works of art on a blank 3D canvas (so effortlessly that we were never tempted to fall back on the trusty ol’ penis portrait), hilariously manipulate party-goers to create looping scenes and dance routines, and take a kaleidoscopic trip through a psychedelic representation of a song.
17 included tracks all fit thematically, but more than likely won’t match your taste, so you’ll want to stick some MP3 files onto a USB flash drive in order to import them into the game. This essentially makes Music VR endless, while, even more importantly, providing powerful new ways to interact with pieces of music that are meaningful to you.
Not too shabby, we’re sure you’ll agree. Big names like Rush of Blood and Arkham VR lived up to the hype, whilst plentiful hidden gems - Tumble VR, Wayward Sky, Harmonix Music VR, Here They Lie and Tethered - make it easy to imagine that revisiting the launch lineup for basically any other peripheral wouldn’t be anywhere near as positive an experience.
So, here’s to PS VR and it strong introduction to more immersive gaming on consoles; after looking backwards, we can’t wait to see what lies ahead!
If you’re interested in reading about more launch games, check out our reviews for PlayStation VR Worlds and Super Stardust Ultra VR. For an overview of all our PlayStation VR reviews, head over to our vrgamecritic profile.
Team Talk is our shiny new regular feature, in which Pass the Controller staff come together and voice their opinions on different topics throughout the world of gaming.
Chris | The Wolf Among Us
Despite enjoying The Walking Dead, I wasn't initially sold on The Wolf Among Us. I figured I wasn’t the target audience for a story about fairy tale characters living in the real world, but a free trial did enough to convince me otherwise. Sufficiently intrigued, I purchase the first episode and then immediately bought the season pass upon completing that.
This was a far darker story than I’d expected. Whilst protagonist Bigby Wolf (also known as The Big Bad Wolf) is a reformed character, most of his fellow Fables’ lives are quite tragic and far removed from the cheery tales you may have heard about them as a child. Take Georgie Porgie, who’s a brash loudmouth and pimp operating out of his strip club, the Pudding ‘n’ Pie, or the Woodsman, who once upon a time saved Little Red Riding Hood from Bigby, but is now a hopeless alcoholic.
This is Telltale at their finest, bringing personalities to life and creating an engaging narrative which demands your attention. It's just a shame we'll never get to see how the sequel would’ve panned out.
James | Tales from the Borderlands
In a revelation that will come as no surprise to many, I was never very good at Borderlands. However, the prospect of something a bit more story-y and less shooty was a welcome one; enter Tales from the Borderlands.
One of the first Telltale offerings to bring a dual-protagonist perspective (to my knowledge), with corporate yes man Rhys and hat-wearing rebel Fiona, the game benefited from smart writing and the faithful inclusion of series stalwart Handsome Jack to make everything feel significant and connected in that universe.
Where the Game of Thrones series’ ties felt more like tokenism, here the plot device of having Jack be a projection only experienced by Rhys proves to be far more effective than you'd think, frequently impacting the real world beyond just the character getting weird looks.
The adventure has you discover the origins of Atlas, one of Borderlands’ numerous weapons manufacturers, through a structure - much of the game being retold by a captive Rhys, who can misremember events on purpose - that introduces comedic moments to accompany a lot of genuinely interesting lore which serves to enhance the overall Borderlands canon.
Liam | Game of Thrones & The Wolf Among Us
I’ve never really given Telltale games the chance they probably deserve, though it’s hard to say exactly why that is. Perhaps it’s that their most prominent series, The Walking Dead, centres around a topic that terrifies me to the core.
I can handle the odd bout of Zombies in Call of Duty, or the tongue-in-cheek take on the apocalypse seen in Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, but The Walking Dead’s relentless misery just seems so oppressive.
That’s not to say I’ve had no interaction with Telltale’s work whatsoever; I enjoyed The Wolf Among Us’ alternate take on fairy tale creatures living in a real-world setting, and their Game of Thrones series was a sobering reminder that I could never cut it as a little Lord in Westeros. It’s important to stand up to bullies, just not ones named Ramsay Snow (never Bolton)!
If there’s any personal smidgen of good to be salvaged from this unfortunate situation, it’s that I now feel far more inclined to explore some of Telltale’s back catalogue than I ever did previously. Just nothing starring the undead.
Unlike the rest of the team, I’ve never finished a Telltale series. I’ve played a few bits of The Walking Dead’s first season and have The Wolf Among Us and Game of Thrones on the old hard drive, but I’ve never really felt compelled to get stuck in.
Similar to Liam, I’m not too sure why I haven’t committed. I’ve always appreciated their unique stylings - the gorgeous visuals, branching narratives and choices that really affect what happens to characters - though I’m often late to the party with games, so will no doubt rectify my wrongs in the not-so-distant future!
With that in mind, it’s been really disappointing to see the way in which the company has collapsed. Huge job losses and (what has been reported to be) a complete lack of severance pay, after talented people worked long hours on apparently unprofitable projects, showcases the dark and difficult side of business. How this can still happen in the modern world is pretty despicable.
Which Telltale series is your favourite? Let us know with a comment.
For more Team Talk, check out last week's debut feature, in which the team discussed the latest gameplay trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2.
Team Talk is our shiny new regular feature, in which Pass the Controller staff come together and voice their opinions on different topics throughout the world of gaming.
Give the trailer a watch if you haven't already.
Heists! Sure it's pushing on an open door given how effective they've been in GTA Online and how salivating the fanbase has been for more, but there's something altogether more authentic about a bank robbery in the Old West.
This trailer specifically emphasises player choice, so it'll be interesting to see if different interactions with NPCs cause significant change or simply prompt transparent alterations to dialogue. Everything Rockstar does is taken to the nth degree in terms of visual fidelity and thinking things through of course, so if any development team can be relied on to give us the real deal, it's them.
Snippets of activities like fishing and playing cards, amongst a few other bits and pieces, don’t do anything for me personally, but it's nice that they’re there for anybody interested.
Dead Eye, arguably the series’ signature party piece, looks absolutely as you might expect. Gunslinging and the associated cool factor will quite possibly be the game’s bread and butter, but references to eating suggest there may be some survival elements, not just RPG-lite aspects as we've often see from Rockstar in the past. If that is the case, might shootouts become slower and more considered affairs?
Redemption 2 is clearly vast and deep, and it feels like there's a lot of scope to make of it what you want, but a wide open map of possibilities can be daunting and overwhelming at the same time. While it could cut down the number of players who make it to the end credits, the lucrative online mode is no doubt the real endgame for Rockstar, so does that even matter?
I'm impressed. Combat looks meaty, as if there's real weight to each blow. Shooting, which I'm sure we'll be doing a lot of, appears to be similarly satisfying. If it plays as good as it looks, it'll be a strong Game of the Year contender.
There's always a plethora of side activities in Rockstar's open-world titles and, for the most part, they’re done the right way. I can, and will, happily ignore the likes of collectibles in any and all games - unless they’re directly on my path or offer some type of gameplay advantage - but I'll no doubt while away hours robbing houses and playing poker.
Cinematic camera angles will be great for taking screenshots, which is now a popular pastime for many gamers, plus I can see myself at least trying out the new first-person mode.
One thing putting me off, which is admittedly unrelated to the trailer, is the game’s massive 105 GB file size. I'm pretty sure I could design and create my own game in the time it’d take me to download that. I'm struggling to think of a decent title though, so that idea’s on hold for now.
I think the thing that impressed me most from the new footage was first-person mode; it didn’t even cross my mind that we might be getting it in RDR2, despite its appearance in GTA V. For some reason, experiencing the Wild West this way just appeals more.
On the other hand, I can definitely see myself taking advantage of the ‘new’ cinematic camera – another feature borrowed from Rockstar’s flagship franchise - for some stunning rides through the rather gorgeous-looking vistas.
The seamless transitions between gameplay and cutscenes look cool, but seemed quite prevalent. Hopefully it’s not something that constantly crops up with every encounter, so as to not keep interrupting dynamic gameplay with scripted moments.
As always, I'll end up skipping most extracurricular activities like poker and eating (if possible), but I did enjoy hunting down bounties in the first game so I’m glad they’re back.
For the sake of balance, I definitely don’t like the idea of the whole bathing malarkey. In a game about robbing trains, bank heists and awesome shootouts, I don’t want to waste time on such mundane tasks. At least in first-person mode I won’t see how filthy I've gotten...
What did you think of the trailer? Let us know in the comments below.
A lot’s changed since I first played We Happy Few, more than two years ago now, to offer an optimistic first look that ran counter to the backlash surrounding its strict implementation of survival mechanics. Most notably, Gearbox Publishing picked the game up and provided a substantial cash injection, inflating the size of developer Compulsion Games (since bought by Microsoft) and the scope of the project alongside it. While having moved to scale back the controversial survival elements makes We Happy Few read slightly less like a commentary on its player base, finally allowing them to appreciate its retrofuturist dystopia at their leisure, it’s anything but scaled back in other areas and that comes at a cost.
While scaling back the controversial survival elements makes We Happy Few read slightly less like a commentary on its player base, it’s anything but scaled back in other areas and that comes at a cost.
Many of the hours spent with Arthur are devoted to unravelling the dark alternate history of this psychedelic take on post-war Britain, where, with the Germans victorious, a defeated government prescribe their downtrodden population mood-altering drugs in order to ward off nationwide depression. Its unsettling premise and biting cultural commentary are effectively put across by minutely detailed environments and a fantastic script, delivered by a committed cast that convincingly sell the whole crazy shebang. Absorbing the fiction that first time through is a little bit special, but not so the second and third when you’ve already been there and done that.
In a fittingly bizarre twist, perhaps the greatest motivator in progressing through the bonkers variety of missions is to fix a number of glaring design nuisances. It’s essentially a tacit admission of guilt that the most expensive upgrades serve to bypass obtrusive gameplay conceits - like not mirroring social norms or adhering to a curfew turning all NPCs hostile, prompting drawn-out chase sequences reliant on finicky stealth to escape - making for legitimately powerful motivation to keep playing, whilst, at the same time, being a damning judgement of the systems you’re so eager to nix.
Having to once again adhere to these unreasonable standards when you take on the role of each fresh-faced protagonist comes as a crushing blow, though working your way back to a decent quality of life at least doesn’t take as long with higher paying rewards being dished out in the later stages. You’re extended a similar sort of half-courtesy when it comes to rebuilding an inventory, though not to the extent that you aren’t required to rummage through every cabinet, desk and drawer in order to properly deck yourself out with the crafted kit you’ll need to re-engage with the more satisfying elements of combat.
Further to that, the town of Wellington Wells procedurally regenerates between acts, throwing your internal compass off and failing to make contextual sense when overlapping story events now unfold in different locations. It’s obviously there for variety’s sake, having already endured plenty of backtracking through the map’s previous incarnation, but needing to rediscover areas and fast travel points is an egregious example of artificial padding.
In a fittingly bizarre twist, perhaps the greatest motivator in progressing through the bonkers variety of missions is to fix a number of glaring design nuisances.
Delaying players is doubly counterproductive when it also presents time for the numerous technical issues to rear their heads. We Happy Few recently received a patch enabling of Xbox One X support, noticeably sharpening the visuals while failing to address the bevy of infinitely more pressing performance issues. Glitches, dropped frames, agonising load times and horrific crashes - which can shut your console down completely - are frequent occurrences that, as they say, make the struggle real.
Despite all that - perhaps because I’m in the unique position of working in Quality Assurance and so am used to tackling worse on the regular - We Happy Few is, much like State of Decay, a broken solo survival game that I can’t help but love. If you aren’t as tolerant - which, let’s be honest, you don’t need to be when there are so many great games on the market - Compulsion have produced an exquisite world that’s often dull to exist in and, thus, hard to recommend you pay a visit.
It gets said so often that it’s fast becoming cliché, but We Happy Few really is a game that would’ve been better served as non-interactive media. The acquisition of movie rights by dj2 Entertainment is a shrewd move then, as the shorter cinema format should help eliminate the temptation to implement a grab bag of ideas without fully bringing them to fruition.
I don’t doubt that the eagerness to shove more and more content into the package largely came from a place of passion, but it makes a strong case for the editing process when things are stretched so transparently thin; We Happy Few could’ve been an exponentially more engaging experience if boiled down to its striking core concepts, cutting away two thirds of its swollen structure to focus on Arthur’s story, with Sally and Ollie serving in greater support roles. Compulsion, Gearbox and the industry as a whole need to realise that more isn’t inherently better, because no game’s worth is decided by its runtime.
I recently spoke with a friend who we'll call Dave - because that’s his name - who claimed that playing original Xbox or 360 games on a shiny new Xbox One felt wrong in some way. That prompted me to draft this shortlist in order to debunk his nonsense theory, so, basically, here’s a select few games that I think prove Dave a wrong’un.
KOTOR released on the original Xbox way back in 2003, which, in the world of videogames, pretty much makes it an antique. It runs about as well as you'd expect and it won't win any beauty contests, but, it makes up for what it lacks on those fronts with its surprisingly in-depth systems.
Fully exploring the handful of open areas on offer is encouraged, as each location has its own distinctly unique feel and side quests. Players are given free reign when it comes to deciding how they want certain situations to play out, although it can be difficult not to stray towards the dark side when so many folks are susceptible to Jedi mind tricks or will just straight up pay you to leave them alone. Man's gotta eat.
On the surface, this 2D platformer may come across as just another Super Mario clone, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Braid, at its core, is more of a puzzle game with platforming elements.
Tim, the protagonist, has the ability to rewind time, which is essential when it comes to solving many of the game's challenges and erasing any unfortunate deaths. Tim's obsession with undoing his previous mistakes is a trait that becomes integral as the enthralling story unravels, gradually adopting a much darker tone. It’s more than a little bit Manhattan Project-y.
There's even a secret (and very difficult to attain) ending for those with the required patience and dedication, though it’s definitely worth the effort.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Before Skyrim was ported to every single device you own, predecessor Oblivion was top dog in Bethesda Game Studios’ house. It plays in much the same way as its more spritely sibling, but, despite its age, Oblivion is by no means the lesser of the two.
As you’d expect, there are activities aplenty to keep you entertained (or rather distracted) as you march (or rather meander) towards the inevitable final showdown. Guilds offer memorable questlines to anyone that happens to make contact, iconic side quests rival the main story, whilst a generous spattering of Oblivion Gates - portals to a fiery hellscape which must be closed to prevent their demonic denizens from escaping - will have you proudly pushing out your chest as the hero of the realm.
Trials’ simple, physics-based mechanics make it incredibly easy to pick up and play, but, as you progress, environments are deviously built upon to the point that they require savant levels of execution. Beginner tracks require little more than an understanding of the basic premise - get from A to B quick and clean - though before too long you're expected to pull off aerobatic manoeuvres that shouldn't be possible on a bike.
There's an unequivocal feeling of achievement to be taken from just shaving a few seconds off your best time and knowing, should he choose to embrace backwards compatibility, that Dave will never best me on the leaderboards. Isn't that what friendships are really all about?
The inclusion of a track editor increases the game's longevity by a huge margin, especially since many community creations play so well that they seemingly could’ve been designed by developer Red Lynx themselves.
Was Dave wrong to doubt the viability of Xbox One backwards compatibility? Have any of these suggestions convinced you to revisit a classic? Let us know and share your own picks in the comments below.
The recent double drop of Earthfall and Warhammer: Vermintide 2 saw an unprecedented peak of interest in frenetic cooperative action games here at PTC towers, with Sam even pitting the two against each other to see which is the better romp through an apocalyptic world for you and your friends.
The Lord of the Rings
Squint whilst playing Vermintide 2 and you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were looking at a slice of Middle-earth, rather than high Warhammer fantasy. Axe-wielding Dwarves? Check. Large hordes of repugnant enemies? Yep. Towering baddies bringing about the end of days? It’s got ‘em.
No doubt there are modders out there capable of giving Fatshark’s latest effort a Middle-earth makeover on PC, but it’d be great to see the supremely satisfying melee combat of Vermintide 2 officially melded with Tolkien lore.
Any of the franchise’s signature set pieces – the mad dash through the infested mines of Moria, the desperate battle in the woods around Parth Galen, or, perhaps most excitingly of all, the siege of Helm’s Deep – would make perfect settings for epic co-op action, plus the world is rich enough in factions and heroes for there to be any number of enemies and playable characters, each with their own unique weapons and abilities.
Aliens vs. Predator
As was made evident in the infamous Aliens: Colonial Marines, and to a lesser extent the human campaign of 2010’s Aliens vs. Predator, turning H.R. Giger’s terrifying, eight-foot-tall space ants into mindless fodder, easily knocked back and culled by puny humans, all but eradicates their mystique.
Ditching the human element in favour of Predators would make much more sense in any L4D-style iteration; not only do they have a bespoke arsenal of melee and ranged gadgetry, but, most importantly, their natural physique means they’re feasibly able to hang with the iconic, interstellar monstrosities in close-quarters combat.
Before there was the Covenant and the Master Chief, there was the Flood. Coming up against this parasitic life form in the original Halo was almost like a precursor to the L4D games themselves. Agile, deadly, and with a nasty habit of attacking in numbers, the Flood and their various forms are basically already tailored to the genre.
A campaign focussed on the Forerunners’ desperate war to stop them could be an awesome way to both reinvigorate an ageing franchise and explore some of the lesser known lore that’s only really been significantly touched upon in the expanded universe.
Plus, the Forerunners’ advanced array of technology means there’s no shortage of badass weaponry to play with. You could even have Monitors fill in if you’re short on co-op partners for added immersion.
So, those were just a few franchises we think would look good wearing a Left 4 Dead skin. What do you think of our choices? Are there any we missed that’d be perfectly suited to the genre? Let us know below or sound off in the forums.
I’m going to level with you - I’m a pretty habitual human. With the false perception that I have ‘all the time in the world’, I can be easy prey for monotony. I’m not saying I’m constantly glued to re-runs and forever eating the same two food groups (pasta and chips, of course), but I do have a penchant for stagnation. So, when the clock struck midnight on 1 January 2018, I forged a New Year’s resolution; break the cycle and get my shizz together because time is ticking. So, fittingly, the first game I picked up in 2018 was The Sexy Brutale.
But then something unusual happens: the clock is reset, and Lafcadio goes full-on Bill Murray and wakes up to begin the entire day again from scratch. Yep, his magic pocket watch is straight outta Groundhog Day. So now Mr. Boone knows that whatshisface in the next room is about to be brutally executed, he has to somehow find a way to prevent his murder.
Cue the intro to a fabulous game dynamic in which you essentially play the same 12 hours over and over again. It should be mind-numbingly boring, though it’s anything but.
A number of guests are being knocked off around the clock, and you’ll prevent them meeting their grizzly ends by sneaking around and solving a myriad of amusing puzzles. It’s a genius concept. A concept that keeps you smirking with joy at its cleverness each time you hear the gunshots, crashes and other horrific sounds that go hand-in-hand with the murders taking place at exactly the same hour each day.
As formerly expressed, being a creature of habit, this type of gameplay - as enjoyable as it was - seemed to eerily echo my own procrastination cycles. Seeing the cutscenes play out identically and the same old mistakes made reinforced my belief that my brain was occasionally ‘stuck on repeat’. I became somewhat keen on the idea that unravelling Lafcadio Boone’s predicament in this murderous masked ball was tied subliminally to breaking my own stale routine this coming year.
TSB’s shining narrative also helped to keep me hooked throughout this journey of self discovery; the game’s writing is equally essential as its structure to achieving brilliance. Narrative designer Jim Griffiths ensures the dialogue crackles with macabre wit - so much so that the simple description of a cellar filled with booze begged to be uploaded to Instagram - and the conspiracy at the heart of the hotel draws you in, just as Lafcadio leans towards the peephole of a door for a cheeky eavesdrop. TSB leaves you eager to uncover more of its victims and perpetrators’ secrets long after completion. In fact, I’ve often gone back for a wander around the mansion since finishing… I guess old habits do die hard.
A fabulous game dynamic in which you essentially play the same 12 hours over and over again. It should be mind-numbingly boring, though it’s anything but.
Any true completionist will appreciate the chance to keep delving deeper long after the credits roll, though the cryptic path of murder prevention can be a rocky one. Some puzzles aren’t complex enough, being solved all too easily or possibly even by accident, whilst other times you’re left scratching your head, holding a key to a door you won’t find for hours.
In the event you do get stuck, the original soundtrack is truly something to behold and should keep you ticking as you mull things over. The colourful music draws influence from 1920’s jazz, with a sprinkling of funk and the echo of an enthusiastic mariachi band. In parts it feels comically in line with the pithy quips uttered by the NPCs, and at other times its a super sneaky compliment to the stealth side of the game.
When I finally finished TSB, I met with one of the most beautifully profound and well written endings to a videogame since Shadow of the Colossus. You don’t expect it, you definitely won’t welcome it, and you’re left with one sombre realisation: you can’t set your own watch back eight hours and relive the entire spectacle again.
So, after enjoying a game built around reliving the same old existence for hours on end, for me it marked the beginning of a new start in my ambitions. I drew close to unravelling the mysteries at the heart of TSB and I couldn’t help but see the madness in my own sluggish addiction to familiarity. It did – has - changed my life. I don’t have all the time in the world. Tomorrow is a gift; that’s why they call it the present. Duh.
This past Wednesday Nintendo unveiled their Labo range, a series of cardboard-based peripherals - or Toy-Cons (the name is adorable, admit it) - that are used to interact with specific software and provide “a new way to play” your Switch. The products have caused quite a divisive stir, further fuelled by the announcement of a weighty pricing model; as such, we’ve polled team PTC to gauge the reaction in our cosy corner of the Internet.
Editor, James Parry
Announcements which make you say 'Oh' could suggest a spectrum of emotion:
'Oh god, what have they done?’
'Oh wow, that actually looks really cool!’
‘Oh… how underwhelming...'
In the case of Nintendo Labo (surely up there with the Wii as one of the most Nintendo names of all time), for me it's probably a mixture of the first two.
Putting aside concerns about the use of plastic - a hot topic right now - the idea at first glance is one I can't see coming from any other games company, or at least no other company would be able to get away with it. The Joy-Cons as a piece of hardware are excellent, however their broad technological potential, and, by extension, Labo, are mostly lost on me due to sticking with Switch games that have more traditional control methods.
For kids though, it's a different story. Imagination is something Nintendo has always had a knack for capturing, and the pair of cardboard creations revealed so far already offer up near limitless possibilities in the right hands. Some parents may raise their eyebrows at putting down around £70 for some cardboard, understandably, but with so much samey-ness around and the ability to encourage creativity with pocket money-friendly customisation packs, why not?
Staff Writer, Chris Brand
I think the concept of flat pack controllers is ridiculous. I was never one for building or creating things so, for me, this sits comfortably between constructing a LEGO set and assembling an Ikea wardrobe on the entertainment scale. Like LEGO, much of the fun with Labo is to be had on the journey and, although I can see the appeal, it's not an activity I would ever willingly participate in.
There's also the cardboard issue. It's not known for being the most durable material and seems decidedly unsuited to being roughly handled. With the (not insignificant) price point, this could be an issue when it comes to replacing damaged kit.
I can see it gaining some traction but ultimately it's a gimmick and I suspect the novelty will wear off sooner, rather than later. However, I thought the same about Dubstep and that's, somehow, still a thing.
I reckon this is a rare misstep from Nintendo.
Staff Writer, Liam Andrews
Although it took me a full minute to realise the cardboard props being shown in the trailer were the actual product, and not just a lengthy build up to a reveal of some more flashy item, the fact that Nintendo is selling cardboard boxes isn’t all that surprising considering they were shifting empty Splatoon 2 packaging last year.
Still, I don’t quite know what to make of Labo. The idea of sitting down with a clear set of instructions and following them to create an awesome end product certainly appeals to me having grown up with Airfix kits and LEGO, but the price point that’s been floating around since the reveal seems far too excessive for what Labo is.
As Sam mentioned already, the total cost does include the software required to turn the cardboard into actual gaming peripherals, but I can’t see the games themselves being anything other than glorified tech demos, especially if they’re aimed at a younger audience. People have already pointed out on our forums that the combination of kids, expensive electronics and cardboard does seem like an accident waiting to happen.
Having said all that, I fully expect Labo to shift millions of units. I mean, who wouldn’t want their own Joy-Con RC car?
Staff Writer, Rob Holt
Like many others, I waited patiently for Nintendo’s 10pm mystery reveal, praying for the rumoured Link’s Awakening remaster, or perhaps a new iteration on the Switch. What we got were a series of cardboard nets that only the hardiest of Nintendo enthusiasts could describe as “exciting”.
For me, Labo will only ever appeal to young children; I don’t know any adults who would pay for a 13-key cardboard piano, robot backpack (is that where Project Giant Robot ended up?), or a cardboard fishing rod for that matter. Leave music to proper instruments, and videogame fishing to Sega, please, Nintendo.
It reeks of a grand, cynical money making ploy from one of my favourite developers, with price points to match. Mini-games locked inside cardboard nets for a lovely fat price, and nothing more. The only real surprise is that it wasn’t ready for Christmas - think of the guilt-tripping parents would’ve experienced!
To add further insult to injury, they’ve coined the products “Toy-Cons”, a name so bad that I required incense, lemon, ginger tea and an intense Enya listening session to calm down. I’m still on the fence with the Switch and its tiny buttons, but my Labo views are certain: burn that fucker down.
What are your thoughts on Labo? Dead against it like Rob? Open to something new like James? Let us know in the comments below or over on our forum.
2017 was a pretty great year for games, wasn’t it? Games like Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, Horizon Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7 and Wolfenstein 2 were just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Nintendo fans are eagerly anticipating new Fire Emblem, Kirby and Yoshi titles for the Switch, not to mention a potential new Pokémon game, as well as the remastered versions of Bayonetta 1 and 2 that are just around the corner. With a fresh suite of reveals from the recent Mini Direct topping things off, Ninty look set for another strong year.
With yet more exclusives and, of course, an endless supply of multi-platform releases on the horizon, allow me to present my picks of the bunch to help focus those wandering eyes.
The Last of Us Part 2
A bit of a cheat pick straight out of the gate, I know, as it isn’t confirmed to be releasing this year, but a girl can dream, no?
I was unfashionably late to the PlayStation 3 party, finally getting one after watching a trailer for what I deemed at the time to be a Western Resident Evil, without the awful voice acting and story that has often gone hand-in-hand with the (in)famous Japanese series.
The game turned out to be a great deal more than that, combining stealth gameplay and brutal combat with fully-formed characters and a story that far surpassed the usual zombie apocalypse garbage. The multiplayer was pretty damn good, too.
The two trailers released thus far by developer Naughty Dog have shown a glimpse of returning characters Joel and Ellie, alongside some newbies and one helluva lot of violence. Fingers crossed we get to continue this story by the end of the year!
Sea of Thieves
I grew up on Rare’s marvellous Nintendo 64 years - GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie, et al - but have to be honest when I say, I haven’t enjoyed a great deal of their Microsoft output in the ensuing years. This all looks set to change with the colourful pirate plundering of Sea of Thieves.
Band together with a shoal of chums, hitting the high-seas in a quest for treasure, adventure, cannon and cutlass-based skirmishes, and a good few tankards of grog!
Personally, this is exactly the kind of fun-filled experience I was looking for when I climbed aboard the good ship Xbox back in 2016, so I can’t stress how much I’m looking forward to getting lost in Sea of Thieves’ world with the PTC mob.
The granddaddy of open-world RPGs finally returns, after way too many years in the wilderness.
Regular visitors to PTC may recall my plea for remastered versions of the original two games after part three was first announced, and although things have been quiet on that front, 2018 seems to be the year that we’ll finish Ryo Hazuki’s slow-burn quest to avenge his Father’s death.
A truly groundbreaking game on release in 1999, Shenmue set the precedent for open world adventure/RPG titles. The main quest was fleshed out beautifully with a brilliant Virtua Fighter-influenced combat system, side quests and mini-games to play, along with some of the most unintentionally amusing script writing and delivery of all time.
For me, these extras are as vital as the story and combat, so here’s praying Yu Suzuki and his team get it right and we finally get to duff-up that bastard Lan-Di, with or without sailors.
Charming art, beautiful music, a rich colour palette and an isometric viewpoint; I could easily be talking about any of the top-down Zelda games, but it’s a different adventure I’m most looking forward to in indie-land this year.
You’ll be exploring a massive world as a little fox, encountering baddies to battle, secrets to search for and puzzles to ponder. What’s really impressive here is that the bulk of the work has been done by one man: Andrew Shouldice. Check out the first of his developer updates and try not to be impressed by what you see. I can’t wait to delve deeper into Tunic later in the year.
Intelligent Systems, a Nintendo second-party studio, are famous for their output in the world of strategy RPGs, most namely with the fantastic Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series’. Both of these great franchises are a clear influence on Chucklefish Games’ Wargroove, a pixel art strategy title releasing across the major platforms.
The game promises an impressive twelve different campaigns, in which you’ll select a commander to follow from one of the four warring factions. Combine this with full co-op and competitive online and local multiplayer, as well as a map creation suite, and it really does seem like a generous package.
Having sampled the game at last year’s Rezzed, I can tell you first-hand how ruddy good it is. I got thoroughly lost in its world, art and gameplay, even going as far as to go back and replay it. Being an indie game, it’s very likely that Wargroove will launch at an attractive price point, providing yet another reason to take a look when it launches early this year.
Keep your eyes open for more from us on all of the games mentioned above, but, most importantly, have a happy new gaming year, folks!