We've been waiting a few years for Turtle Rock Studios to resurface after the middling performance of Evolve. That game promised to make the asymmetrical multiplayer shooter a force to be reckoned with, but quickly got bogged down by monetisation and balance issues that saw player numbers dwindle. In the end, even making it a free-to-play game wasn't enough to right the ship.
Arguably the best card, and one which may well be nerfed in the final release, is particularly useful for Holly. A melee expert, Holly has access to a perk for 25% boosted damage with hand-to-hand weapons, but her killer skill is a card which grants two health regen for every kill, allowing her to mindlessly swing away and survive almost indefinitely.
In addition to melee weapons, there are tons of ranged firearms as well. Guns in general are a mixed bag. There are the usual archetypes – shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles, pistols and light machine guns – but on top of that is a series of attachments which don't seem to make a huge change by themselves, plus there’s no way to remove them. The lack of explosive launchers in the standard weapon set is a shame, but throwables and stationary turrets are also thrown into the mix.
B4B’s levels follow a similar structure to L4D, though a single campaign run probably takes a little longer. Levels are split into two groups of four chapters with a midpoint climax, as well as a challenging culminating chapter. In the beta, the ending didn't wow us as much as the midpoint (as Liam noted in Team Talk), where the freedom to split up the team made the mission particularly memorable.
We'll need more time with these characters to see if they make a similar impact to the ones in Left 4 Dead, though in the beta, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
In order to leave a lasting impression, Back 4 Blood’s campaigns need to have players asking questions. Currently it’s all very surface level, though simply providing reason to scour graffiti for clues as to what prompted the Ridden apocalypse could elevate it to the next level.
On a similar note, we need to care about the characters. The likes of Bill and Zoe in L4D weren’t capable of doing anything special, rather the conversations and camaraderie between them is what made them so likeable. We'll need more time with this group to see if they make a similar impact, though in the beta, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity.
In all, after only a few hours spread over a few days, Back 4 Blood has established itself as a shooter which delivers on its premise. There's plenty more still to be revealed, but so far it feels as though the team has played it safe in a few areas, which could end up negatively impacting replayability. Xbox Game Pass could be the boost it needs to really take hold, though with similar titles like Redfall and The Anacrusis also coming on day one it’s staying power will be put to the test.
A newbie to the DOOM scene, I went into our time with sequel DOOM Eternal, due out 22 November, with some trepidation.
New to the party this time around are mobility upgrades like a grappling hook, a double dash move and the ability to climb walls. Offensively, a shoulder-mounted flamethrower and an arm blade help to bring more of the series’ staple violence to the table. From what we've seen so far, the wall climbing and dash mechanics look to impact the game the most, allowing for a platforming section on Mars and plenty of interesting ways to hide away secrets.
Resource management seems to be a more important aspect here too, as you juggle to keep your health, shields and ammo topped up constantly. Health is straightforward enough - execute a gory glory kill by meleeing an enemy in the stunned, near-death state - while coating them with your new flamethrower tops up your armour and using the chainsaw once again forces them to spit out ammo.
Depending on your playstyle, you could find yourself constantly short of one resource or another. If you're like us that was ammo, constantly flailing our way through demon-infested areas, powering through every gun in our arsenal, rinsing ammo as we went.
The aesthetic and enemies all look familiar, and the overall style has the same sort of irreverent disregard for context, or reason to really care about Doomguy's plight. Combat seems even more frantic than before, thanks largely to the additional dash, which (as noted) also helps with traversal.
While dashing about is good fun, platforming and utilising boost jump pads can feel quite unforgiving, as can the timing for latching onto climbable walls, though they are at least marked by a distinctive texture. All of this added up to quite a lot of falling to our death in these sections, though it’s likely something players will get increasingly accustomed to, as with first-person platforming in general.
So far then? A thoroughly frenetic affair bursting with style, boasting guns that pack a punch and solid gameplay - very much in line with what you’d expect from a new DOOM. While its older brother re-established the series, Eternal looks to be putting in just enough new ideas to keep it fresh without spoiling what caused the previous one to be held in such high regard.
Doomguy returns 22 November on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, then later on Nintendo Switch.
You can watch the full DOOM Eternal Keynote Presentation from QuakeCon below.
We recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with a pre-release PC build of Etherborn, the gravity-defying puzzle platformer being developed by Altered Matter. After spending around an hour with the game’s first three levels, it seems clear that this upstart studio of four are destined for big things.
You’ll always return to a nearby checkpoint, mind, encouraging experimentation within the unconventional physics playgrounds that are Etherborn’s self-contained stages. More conventional is the gated progression, whereby you’ll need to place key items on pedestals in order to transform the shifting environments and accommodate pressing onwards; you will at least need to double back and re-utilise them in different places on occasion, which is an added wrinkle to consider.
While no real cause for concern, considering we’re judging based on the introductory stages alone, so far Etherborn relies solely on reiterating this structure in increasingly complex ways. It does so very well, coaxing you deeper into what feels like a warmer take on the works of M.C. Escher, but nonetheless we do hope that new mechanics are introduced over time.
We’re equally intrigued to see how things are set to progress from a narrative standpoint, as it’s all quite vague and introspect at the moment, whilst feeling as though it’s probably building towards a deeper meaning.
Your avatar is a completely blank slate, a voiceless humanoid appearing as though a sentient x-ray and lacking any clear motivation. The direct address of a disembodied narrator presumably begins to fill that in, but what’s most enticing is the gentle swirl of this dulcet female voice. Experienced in a dark room with a decent pair of headphones, the sound swishes around your head and the minimalist visuals soothe in an almost meditative fashion, which is a state perfectly conducive to switching off the logical parts of your brain to better comprehend the game’s unbound, geographic puzzles.
Consider the sweeping soundtrack - comprised of twinkling chimes and mellow organ bellows, cut through by dreamy vocalisation, percussion and strings - and you have a package which, true to its name, is healthy with an almost ethereal glow.
Etherborn stylishly ebbs and flows it’s way through the early stages, so do keep an eye out for its arrival on Steam, PS4, Xbox One and Switch this spring.
With the release of great titles like The Surge and Vampyr, increasingly prolific publisher Focus Home Interactive have been distancing themselves from the somewhat derogatory ‘Eurojank’ label often applied to their catalogue in previous years – so called due to a comparative lack of polish when held up to American and Japanese contemporaries. Now, in collaboration with relatively unknown French developer Asobo Studio, new IP A Plague Tale: Innocence looks set to be the final nail in the coffin for that particular adjective.
Whilst A Plague Tale is firmly rooted in reality, this particular mystery feels like it could play out in a number of... interesting ways, though it’s important to note that’s only based on speculation at this stage.
That being said, there’s definitely an element of whimsy to the visuals which is cause for our thoughts to drift towards the fantastical. In Asobo’s rendition of medieval France, the sun shines that bit brighter on lush forests of vibrant green, whilst dark areas are deeply black and weak light sources serve to highlight the grotesque. Everything is idealistically implemented, which could feel jarring or false, but transitions between extremes are gradual and really help in envisioning things from the naive perspective of an inexperienced leading duo.
Simple moments of visual splendour can spur you on during what seem like hopeless times, but little Hugo is the real driving force on that front. He’s charmingly innocent and polite, at least as far as you could reasonably expect, but those features won’t do him much good now. Factor in his sickness and you’ll quickly grow attached to the boy, which is fortunate, as the early stages of A Plague Tale might otherwise feel like an escort mission.
You’ll need to instruct Hugo to wait and follow as your situation dictates, keeping him hidden from armed guards whom he’s otherwise helpless to resist. Leave him unattended for too long though and he’ll become scared, potentially attracting unwanted attention, so you’ll need to plan and execute stealth maneuvers efficiently.
Once again small touches make all the difference here, as Amicia physically reaches out upon recalling Hugo, taking him by the hand in an effort to both calm and guide him. Frequent contact between the two makes it abundantly clear that Amicia, and by extension you, don’t just bark orders but help him through genuine concern for his well being.
Hugo can be independent though, solving many an impasse by crawling through tight spaces or travelling alternate routes off-limits to Amicia, ultimately manufacturing her safe passage. These situations are generally spelled out through the game’s heavily accented dialogue, authentically delivered by an appropriately-aged cast, which helps to keep the pacing snappy during what is, thus far, a linear adventure with a stark focus on narrative. In this day and age that’s quite refreshing, though it doesn’t mean there aren’t light puzzles to solve and optional areas to explore, which often house an array of collectibles and crafting materials.
Those materials can be used to upgrade equipment at workbenches, most notably to allow your sling - powered by rocks found within the environment - to deliver lethal headshots to exposed domes. The sling takes a brief-but-satisfying moment to reach full speed as you spin it up and align a shot, but can’t be too heavily relied upon as it’s noisy enough to give away your position. In these situations, you may want to throw your makeshift ammunition by hand to create a distant distraction.
During certain set-piece moments this choice of approach is taken out of your hands, as you run from crowds of enemies – be they human or rodent – in tense chase scenes and face a scripted boss encounter, requiring you to utilise Amicia’s dodge and backstep moves in a close-quarters skirmish.
Rats can’t be so easily avoided, infesting the screen thousands at a time as they frantically scuttle over one another in a desperate effort to devour anything flesh, glowing red eyes illuminating the dark all the while. They’re reminiscent of the Locust from Gear of War, telegraphing their arrival as the ground rumbles before they burst through to the surface, only there’s no simple means of dispatching them here.
All you can hope to do is avoid the swarm, keeping them at bay with light sources which are often quick to burn out, or, failing that, distracting them with meat - be it living or dead. They’re a plague in every sense of the word, made all the more vile during a fleeting trip below ground through one of their gnarled, oozing nests.
These finer environmental details are easy to appreciate, as A Plague Tale looks outstanding across the board; lighting and textures are a particular highlight though, even at lower graphics presets. Sound is similarly fine-tuned, with audio reverb switching as you transition in and outdoors during conversation, plus an evolving orchestral soundtrack.
The lasting impression of our time with A Plague Tale: Innocence is just how much of themselves Asobo Studio have poured into the game. It’s clearly a passion project from a developer that’s very reliably, but perhaps uninspiringly, been entrusted with handling a variety of ports before now.
Mechanics and relationships begin to develop in meaningful ways during the opening chapters, leaving us eager to see how they’ll continue to blossom in what should be the game’s remaining ten-or-so hours. The complete journey seems set to be a harrowing one, poised to deepen the siblings’ already developing scars, so we can’t help but anticipate trying to assist them in emerging unscathed come A Plague Tale’s release this May.
A Plague Tale: Innocence launches 14 May on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Thanks to a stress test for Xbox Insiders last weekend, we've had a quick look at Crackdown 3 and can confirm that it is, in fact, a real game. Here's our first impressions on the long-awaited Microsoft release.
Crackdown as a series is built upon two key pillars: hyper-mobility and destruction. Your character's traversal across the map is a mixture of double (triple?) jumps, dashes and ground pounds, many of which satisfyingly send cloud-powered scenery splintering as you crash through.
This gives way to deliberately floaty controls, which, in turn, see you fighting with the camera on occasion. Fortunately, keeping an enemy in your sights isn't too hard thanks to a persistent lock-on ability which tracks them through terrain and adjusts your viewpoint as you each leap about on what amounts to a sci-fi bouncy castle, courtesy of jump pads littered across the map.
The game type on offer during the test set two teams of five against each other in a supercharged re-imagining of Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty, which has you dashing to the site of your victim's downfall to pick up kill tokens and build your team's score.
Unfortunately, both in this technical test and at launch, Crackdown 3 won't support lobbying with friends. That’s both bizarre for such a fun-loving game and an early warning sign, given how genuinely useless the teams we played against were (any time I end up at the top of the table it’s cause for concern). It could prove to be a fumble as lamented as the lack of matchmaking in Xbox stablemate Halo 4’s iteration of Firefight.
It's only a couple of days until the game is due to (finally) launch now, and the performance wasn't buttery smooth either. The raw power of Microsoft's Azure cloud computing platform should be on full display in multiplayer (the campaign being cruelly left out), but the results frankly weren’t of note even compared to earlier titles like Red Faction Guerilla.
In the end, Wrecking Zone is built upon a simple premise and, given the lengthy development time, that premise should be executed very well, but instead, it feels like the result of too many creative and technical compromises. Honestly, it has us questioning our April 2015 pre-order...
We went hands-on with Tom Clancy's The Division 2 during this past weekend's private beta; following safe extraction, here are our thoughts.
It's telling that we’ve taken this long to talk about much besides the game's setting, as relatively little is new over the original in terms of gameplay. Fortunately this is thanks to the mechanics from part one still holding up.
A simple new map screen replaces the style-over-substance futuristic projection at your feet, helping to locate a dizzying array of item pick-ups, ranging from gun holsters to knee pads, which reveal that health and armour are handled a bit differently this time around.
Separate health and armour meters (the latter of which is generously buffed for challenging Dark Zone excursions) deplete independently as you take damage, leaving you a sitting duck once your armour is kaput. While the pair do (eventually) regenerate, it’s wise to dart between cover in order to maintain the tactical advantage.
You'll need it too, with enemies shouting and running at you from all sides at times. They get noticeably chunkier in terms of both physical bulk and health pools, scaling alongside your Division agent as you progress, to an extent depending on the difficulty of any given area.
Enemies make a lot more use of gadgets this time around, too - we’ve already fended off what amounts to a convoy of RC cars!
Despite its familiarity, The Division 2 has launched a decent opening salvo, but it’ll need to build upon that in order to differentiate between being just a fun outing and a “live service” with real staying power. Perhaps most crucially though, you can still casually close car doors as you sneak by them in cover...
Have you played The Division 2 yet? What are you looking forward to based on what you've seen so far? Let us know in the comments and keep your eyes peeled for our review next month.
Can you hear the Anthem? Whether or not the thought of a new online shooter from BioWare has you salivating, read on to discover what we learned from the recent VIP demo.
Humanity has settled on a new planet, but some people are being influenced by an ever-transmitting anthem (geddit?) which seems to have a negative effect on those who succumb to it. This leads you, along with up to three other players, to investigate what’s happening as you carefully explore the game’s (fairly) open environments from inside mech suits known as Javelins.
You’re a Freelancer, a gun for hire who travels the world presumably in support of the science-based human contingent who are trying to learn about the planet. Further story details are still somewhat sketchy at this point.
From our time with the demo, first impressions weren’t overwhelmingly positive, but once the game hit its stride there was a lot of potential to chew on (and we intend to). Naturally, demos come with the expectation of a technical quirk here and there, but the problems began for Anthem even before seeing any gameplay - loading into the hub area, just reaching the main title screen even, often took several attempts.
When we did get in, we found that Xbox One X suffered from performance issues when faced with multiple on-screen explosions, in the midst of already visually busy firefights.
You’ll be exchanging shots with (presumably native) nasties, who unfortunately don’t stand out much more than being varying levels of bullet-spongy, when undertaking missions and donning your Javelin in order to venture out onto the planet’s surface. There are four varieties of mech to play around with: the all-round Ranger, elemental attack-wielding Storm, up-close-and-superfast Interceptor, and the hulking Colossus.
Each have access to a variety of weapons - some of which are class specific - their own super ability, grenades and standard abilities, which recharge over time and have (largely) either offensive or defensive capabilities in combat.
There wasn’t enough time to fully get to grips with each Javelin, but, from first impressions, the Storm suit seems to be the most fun, boasting some exciting, flashy powers even by default and having strong mobility with seemingly little sacrifice in shields or health compared to the middle-of-the-road Ranger. The Colossus seems to be at the other end of the spectrum, with not enough durability or damage-dealing to justify its lesser maneuverability.
The Storm suit seems to be the most fun, boasting some exciting, flashy powers even by default.
Balancing could correct some of these observations before launch, or perhaps it's just that some classes are more of a slow burn. Regardless, each Javelin can perform Iron Man-style flight for a limited time, which rarely fails to satisfy.
When choosing fight over flight, you have at your disposal a melee attack and an array of basic weapons, categorised by classes and six tiers of rarity, from Common to Legendary. You can craft your own weapons from blueprints using components you pick up in the game world, or gain by breaking down unwanted loot.
About now seems like the right time to talk about how the game feels, which means drawing some comparisons. The answer to “Is Anthem for me?” largely comes down to whether you enjoy the way it plays, after all.
The Destiny vibes are strong here. Daily and weekly quests haven’t yet been revealed, but they’re sure to feature as Anthem vies for your time against other service-based games. Mass Effect is another close relative, as you might expect, with the third game’s effective, but ultimately disposable, multiplayer a clear influence on combat. Storm Javelins basically fulfil the squad role previously inhabited by Adept, Vanguard or Sentinel classes in Mass Effect 3.
Seeing this DNA filter through is interesting, but so far there’s been relatively little of the developer’s trump card - that being more compelling narrative and characters than those of its service-based peers - with Anthem instead following the crowd and placing the main focus on character customisation (which is fairly aesthetically dense) and combat.
Similarities to Borderlands, another comparison thrown out there, mostly stem from numbers flashing up on screen to represent the damage you deal, as well as the game’s fairly extensive loot rewards. Crafting and unlocking weaponry and armour items is achieved by handing over materials and Coin respectively, which you’ll need to do consistently in order to get the shiniest toys for your character. How much of a weapon variety there is remains to be seen, but, during the demo, sniper fans found themselves with only a handful of bullets to make their point - not enough to clear the field for even the most accurate lone marksman.
Speaking of which, this game really isn’t a solo experience, so those looking to pick up from the highs of earlier, more RPG-based efforts from BioWare will be out of luck. You can play by yourself, technically, as a single squad member in a private group, but even harsh enemy scaling wouldn’t be enough to make the experience achievable and certainly fun, as the most satisfying and impressive displays come as you combine different attacks with teammates.
Even playing in a group has its drawbacks currently though, as restricted respawn areas leave your character helplessly kneeled on the battlefield, their armour locked up until you’re revived, despite the screen reassuring you you’re respawning. This can lead to extended periods feeling like a spare part, as you can’t even crawl helplessly back to your squadmates or alert them and highlight your location unless you happen to be chatting with them already, and even then it’s not always easy to see a felled ally amid the fray.
In the end, the Anthem demo mostly raised more questions instead of giving us a strong sense of what the final game will deliver. EA might have a hit on their hands here, but considering The Division 2 comes out around the same time with a more grounded shoot and loot feel, which players are already comfortable with, it’s also easy to see it going the way of Titanfall - that being an extremely polished title which ultimately doesn’t capture the wider audience’s imagination.
Did you play Anthem last weekend? Will you be checking it out this weekend when the demo goes public? Let us know what you thought and what you’re looking forward to, or concerned about, in the comments below.
Metro Exodus publisher Deep Silver invited us to have some hands-on time with their latest release ahead of its 15 February launch. The code was near-final and our playthrough was on Xbox One X hardware. Here’s how James got on...
While there’s a variety of DNA on display here, the strongest influences are probably Half-Life in terms of narrative-driven game design and Fallout in terms of the aesthetic and manual feel of the world. While Fallout 76 dialled back many of the more distinctive aspects of its namesake, Exodus relishes in the little quirks that make it stand out, like having to manually pump pneumatic weapons or clean and maintain items to keep them in good working order.
While these sorts of mindless tasks could easily become a mess of busy work, the team at 4A Games have managed to balance the elements so that they enhance the game experience rather than being a chore.
Many of the subterranean areas you do explore are radioactive, have air filled with toxins, or a deadly combination of both. Keeping an ear out for the familiar crackle of your geiger counter will handle the former, but for the latter you’re forced to cycle between gas masks which introduce a timed element to exploration, as most filters have only a few minutes of use before they expire (and, of course, you’ll need to manually swap filters once one runs down). This succeeds in pushing that pressure point and heightening levels of anxiety to induce an excited nervousness, which quickly gives way to panic as you near the final few seconds and are (as I was) frantically unable to find the lever to open the escape door.
Elsewhere, the lush green and breathable air of the autumn section affords you the opportunity to take your time and make use of stealth to get by, encouraged with the discovery of a handy crossbow nearby. Conversely, the harsh architecture of our introduction to the game (set back in spring) bangs the drum for the oppressive feel of historical Soviet archetypes.
While narrative was scarce in our preview time - a deliberate step from the dev team to avoid spoiling too much - the cast of Metro Exodus are genuinely compelling and interesting. Even with returning protagonist Artyom a near mute, you constantly feel involved in the story as narrative beats play out around you in real time.
Calling the game open-world would be generous, but there’s definitely scope to wander off the beaten path in search of crafting materials, which may lead to NPCs questioning you on what’s taking so long.
Crafting itself is fairly straightforward, in that you can strip down modified weapons you come across and attach a custom barrel or stock to another at a handily placed weapons bench. While many modifications are slight, the effects stack when put together to significantly boost damage and accuracy.
Gunplay in general feels well-balanced and satisfying, especially as you keep tinkering away and working towards perfecting your loadout. There’s a few gadgets to play about with as well, in particular a silent-but-deadly throwing knife which can be vital for thinning out larger herds of enemies.
While we’re still a month out from launch, the game is looking extremely polished, performing brilliantly in native 4K on Xbox One X (and the surrounding PC demo stations from what I saw), which goes a long way in bringing the world to life. Only a few wonky facial animations slightly let the otherwise stellar immersion down.
In all, from just a few short hours of play, Metro Exodus has shot up my list of anticipated games and could surpass anything to come out on its packed 15 February launch day. Considering that’s the date for my beloved Crackdown 3 (not to mention Far Cry: New Dawn and Jump Force), that’s saying quite something. Here’s hoping the final release delivers.
Bypassing the troublesome Shadwell Overground stairs via the elevator once again proved a dream, especially the smell, but the lack of fish in the ornamental canal was of great concern to me. Where had they gone? Why? And could they ever truly exist in those two-inch deep waters? So many great questions, but only one certainty: I was back at Tobacco Dock for EGX Rezzed 2018.
This year’s show had so many playable games that even two days worth of attendance was insufficient to see them all.
First up was Lake Ridden, a first-person puzzle-adventure set inside the guts of a gloomy lake, largely devoid of water. The puzzles are cryptic enough, the setting has a creepy edge, and the story is intriguing. Let’s see how it develops.
I followed-on with a selection of games from cracking London-based publisher Chucklefish. I’ve mentioned Wargroove a few times on the site - most notably as one of my most anticipated games of 2018 - and I have no qualms in reiterating that this is going to be essential gaming. They also had “Stealthvania” game The Siege and the Sandfox on show, as well as Pathway, another fabulous strategy game. All three titles are a great showcase of Chucklefish’s brilliant expanding roster.
Curve Digital - another splendid publisher - had a few games on show ‘ere too. I thoroughly enjoyed the arcade-stylings and twin-stick fun of Rogue Aces, cartoony aircraft-sim Bomber Crew, and strategic RPG For The King. The former is available now on Switch and PlayStation platforms (that’s PS4 and Vita), whilst the middler and latter are currently available on Steam.
My time in the Indie Room (above-ground branch) came to a close with two biggies: Disco Elysium and Phoenix Point.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty; be they booze, smoking, drugs, memory and/or mental health related. Tasked with solving a murder, this unique isometric police RPG gives the player a staggering amount of choices, featuring multiple skill sets (these affect your character’s perception of the world, and how he interacts with people), a gorgeously gritty hand-painted art style, and ever so much replayability. I can’t help but be excited!
Phoenix Point is the latest strategy game from master of the genre Julian Gollop. In time-honoured fashion, you take control of a team of grunts armed with big guns, rippling muscles and cheesey dialogue as you tackle objectives and blast alien scum. Fans of all things XCOM can PARTY now.
What goes up must surely come down, so, like morning toothpaste finding its way to trouser leg, I stumbled downstairs to the Indie Room (basement branch). Just like its above-ground brethren, the basement room was chock fulla great games.
Disco Elysium sees thee cast as a detective with problems-a-plenty, and I can’t help but be excited about this unique isometric police RPG!
PQube’s selections caught my eyes and ears first, which lead me to enjoy time with sinister text adventure Stay, 8-bit side-scrolling slasher Aggelos, and produce-focused karter All-Star Fruit Racing. They also had the wonderful Cat Quest on the go - if you haven’t already, go and check it out!
It was great to see Aperion Cyberstorm being enjoyed by many in its Switch incarnation, Hipster Cafe Simulator providing many laughs, and beautifully animated (and darkly funny) adventure game Unforeseen Incidents, all running side-by-side.
The highlight of the room was local multiplayer communicate-‘em-up Catastronauts. You and your associates are placed in charge of a spacecraft, tasked with blastin’ away other crews. Much like the genre-defining Overcooked, Catastronauts uses the rising panic of putting out fires, removing bombs and firing lasers to create real laughs. Look out for this one when it drops later in the year.
By now the bells were tolling, so off I toddled to the land of the well established: that’s right, it were time for PlayStation, Sega, Xbox and Nintendo.
PlayStation had a paltry amount of titles on show this year, but as if to paint quality over quantity, what was there was truly fabbo. Guacamelee 2 provides more hectic, Mexican rasslin’-infused fun, there was silliness aplenty in The Adventure Pals, and irresistibly cute graphics in The Swords of Ditto.
Gorgeous adventure Heaven’s Vault is what really stood out, though. Featured in my seven to look out for at Rezzed piece, HV surpassed my already high expectations of what the open-world point-and-click adventure would be. Taking control of archeologist Aliya, I interacted with helpful/humourless robot chum Six, investigated the ruins of a beautiful lost world, and attempted to translate lots of hieroglyphics. The alluring blend of 2D character art and 3D environments is a triumphant success, as was the slow-burn quality of the gameplay. One of my games of the show, for sure.
Microsoft’s ID@Xbox room was lacking in space (at least for corpulent Milky Bar men like myself), but did exhibit some superb games. Our esteemed Editor, Monsieur James Michael Parry, joined me for a blast at Metal Slug-like Huntdown - which is really good old-school fun - Terratech’s Minecraftian vehicular combat, and the joys of reigning over the proletariat in Kingdom: Two Crowns. The highlight here, however, was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person cooperative shooting. It was great fun, and even better when played in a group, as Jim lad will testify to.
The ID@Xbox highlight was Strange Brigade, which is a send up of the British Empire and English buffoonery under the guise of third-person co-op shooting. It was great fun, especially when played in a group.
Nintendo and Sega offered slim pickings this year, as they both showed games already available on other platforms. Mega Drive Classics will definitely be a day one pick up for myself, but I don’t see why they needed to bring it; the just-announced Shenmue re-releases would’ve made more sense. Nintendo’s appeal rested solely on Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes. We’re pleased to announce that it’s shaping up to be another Suda 51 classic, the auteur's crazy combat, retina-destroying colours and self-aware dialogue all being intact.
Are you still with me, comrades? If so, let’s travel into the dark heart of the Unreal Engine Showcase to sample Another Sight, Metamorphosis, Space Cows, some fishing, and the brilliant Lost Ember.
Another Sight puts you in the dual-role of blind gal and nimble cat, as you explore Victorian-era underground London - sewers, trains, et al. Space Cows carries the same charm as clumsy controllers Octodad and Manuel Samuel, as you traverse a colourful world in search of milk and cows. It was hilarious.
Metamorphosis casts thee as a man trapped in the body of a spider: Why are you here? What are those men doing to your friend? How will you return to human form? The game's sneaking and scuttling was good fun, as was currently-available-on-Xbox-Game-Pass carp-botherer, Dovetail Fishing - maybe this is where the ornamental canal’s dorsal-equipped water breathers had vanished to?
Lost Ember was the real winner here though, with its attractive visuals and possessing gameplay mechanic. You play a wolf, who, with the help of a spirit mate, can possess other animals to help traverse a natural world free of humans. I got tinges of Journey and Abzu playing the game, but there’s definitely plenty of originality lurking in Lost Ember’s characters and story. Once polished, this has serious potential.
Coatsink and Wired Productions had some quality stuff up their sleeves this year too, with games that really honed in on fun.
Wired had gravity-defying speedster Grip on show, as well as the glorious return of Shaq-Fu. Shaq was a personal favourite, featuring Saber Interactive’s pleasing NBA Playgrounds art style and side-scrolling, button-mashing bouts straight outta the 90s. Add to that rich colour comic book cutscenes with hilarious writing and voice over, and I cannae wait for this one.
The hockey/football/Micro Machines mash-up that is Coatsink’s ClusterPuck 99 thoroughly entertained myself and herr-Editor, as we managed to win both of our games against fellow attendees. Coatsink’s highlight, however, was the fabulous Phogs, a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
Jam and I played in co-op mode, using the same controller to immensely increase the hilarity of the experience. You each control one end of a double-ended dog, aiming to progress through some exquisite locales via the medium of hungry giant worms. The game had a real Nintendo-at-its-most-joyous feel to it, and trust us when we say, this is going to be the game to play at parties.
The fabulous Phogs is a bonkers ‘physics dog adventure’ so beautifully realised that we have to name it as one of our games of the show.
My voyage around Rezzed finished at the glorious Leftfield Collection this year, a place that truly encapsulates the spirit of the show, in one’s humble opinion. The feeling of community was present as soon as I entered, gazing upon hand-drawn posters above each title, friendly faces from all over the world, and some superb games.
Leftfield was a true exhibition of the arts; from design, to visual presentation, to music, it all came together as my personal combined star of the show. A cop-out maybe, but there’s no doubting the reality: Leftfield displayed the true nature of gaming, and maybe even life (if you’ll forgive my pretension) - personal, meaningful, fun. It’s for that reason you can expect to see an article focused squarely on the great Leftfield games on show, which really deserve the spotlight.
With that, I downed my last coffee of the weekend, checked one last time for fish, and disappeared into the night. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, farvel - see ya next year, Rezzed!
For plenty more EGX Rezzed 2018 coverage, stay tuned to Pass the Controller.
Music rhythm games are pretty old hat these days, having been run into the ground at the height of their popularity, around ten years ago now, through a greedy and endless stream of cookie-cutter releases. By throwing shoot-‘em-up elements into the mix, alongside an apocalyptic story and a cast of corny characters, Double Kick Heroes seeks to draw disillusioned fans of the genre back into the fold when it hits Steam Early Access on 11 April.
By throwing shoot-‘em-up elements into the mix, alongside an apocalyptic story and a cast of corny characters, Double Kick Heroes seeks to draw disillusioned fans of the music rhythm genre back into the fold.
Whilst carving a bloody path through the USA - across 15 stages set to the game’s original soundtrack, which spans light rock through heavy metal - you’ll get to know the head-banging fivesome comprising the Double Kick Heroes. Text-based interactions during interludes make reference to all aspects of pop culture, but they’re so ham-fistedly frequent and obvious that it can feel like there’s a sleeve-tugging child shoving their collection of “cool” toys under your nose. The aim here was never to produce an artsy, postmodern pastiche though, with the foul-mouthed stereotypes quickly establishing the desired sense of character.
Story mode currently runs around three hours, but that’s set to double as DKH continues its development and the band embark on a European tour. There’s also the mysterious Hellgate mode to be added, but in the meantime polishing your skills in Arcade mode and creating/downloading custom stages via the in-depth-but-straightforward Level Editor should be plenty to keep you busy.
Most user-generated levels are based on established songs, for example Metallica’s Master of Puppets, which means you’ll need the relevant MP3 file for the game to sync up and have you play along with. It’s a clever little way around hefty licensing fees and should serve to keep devoted metalheads indefinitely busy.
Provided you held on to them, you can also use your old Guitar Hero or Rock Band peripherals to play; you’ll have no issue plug and playing with a USB drum set, but old wireless guitars require forking out for a signal receiver, which is unfortunate when they’re precisely what most people will have to hand.
That’s not an insignificant blunder, but it’s ultimately outside of developer Headbang Club’s control. The team have otherwise done a great job on the technical front, maintaining a solid 60 frames per second during gameplay to ensure there’s no chance of dropping notes through no fault of your own.
Even at this pre-Early Access stage then, in spite of some largely par-for-the-course flaws, Double Kick Heroes is a very playable evolution of the music rhythm genre. It’s a game with a specific audience that does everything it can to cater to its niche, so, if you fit the bill, add DKH to your watchlist as it can only get better from here.