With Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled right around the corner and Team Sonic Racing just in the rear-view mirror, kart racing games are currently enjoying somewhat of a resurgence. You can’t beat these classic kart racers in our eyes, though.
Look at that hectic, team-based goodness!
Chris | Mortal Kombat: Armageddon - Motor Kombat
Whilst Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's Motor Kombat isn't a fully-fledged kart racer, it does have all the necessary traits to qualify, including the use of a K where a C would suffice. Mechanically, it plays just like a toned-down version of Mario Kart (which one might expect from a mini-game which is, essentially, a toned-down version of Mario Kart), with death traps, shortcuts and power-ups.
There are ten available characters to choose from, each with their own special ability that can be unleashed after grabbing a pick-up, similar to more child-friendly titles starring plumbers. These abilities are based on the characters' special attacks; Scorpion drags an enemy back with his spear, Sub-Zero freezes someone, Johnny Cage lobs a useless ball of green goo… you get the idea.
The limited number of tracks and racers would work against Motor Kombat if it was a full release, but as a side activity in a fighting game, it's perfect for some light relief between bouts. The one criticism I could throw its way is the choice of racers - in a game featuring just about every Mortal Kombat character of its time, having Bo' Rai Cho as one of the featured ten is baffling.
Everyone's favourite character is in the back there.
Liam | Mario Kart DS
One of the best Mario Kart DS features - apart from being a great accompaniment to the footy - was the ability to play local multiplayer matches (albeit with limited tracks) with only one copy of the game.
As cash-strapped teenagers relying on handouts and birthday windfalls, this was a godsend back in the day. It allowed me and my few DS-owning friends to compete in epic tournaments without having to splash out on multiple copies of the game.
It was also the only entry in the series where you could add a self-designed emblem to your kart, introducing a personal touch to proceedings. I'm still rocking the badge I came up with nearly 14 years ago (based on a private joke between me and my brother) and whenever I boot up the game and see it splashed across the front of Luigi's bonnet, it always elicits a childish smirk.
Its age, plus the fact it wasn't a full home console release, might make it easy to forget, but some of the biggest features we take for granted in modern entries - re-imagined retro tracks, alternative kart designs and online multiplayer - debuted in Mario Kart DS, making this unassuming entry a pioneer in the series' history.
Mario Kart: Teaching kids to dodge oncoming traffic since '92.
James | Mario Kart 8 Deluxe
I've been playing Mario Kart for years. From the twists and turns of Toad's Turnpike to the cunning boost shortcuts of Dry Dry Desert, the quintessential kart racer has brought many fond memories. If only there was some way to revisit them all in the same game...
Thanks to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, you can do just that, hopping into the two retro courses mentioned above along with fistfuls of others, including classics from as far back as the SNES!
This entry isn't just a nostalgia-fuelled victory lap though, also boasting plenty of new courses alongside new features like auto-drive and auto-accelerate, finally making Mario Kart fool-proof for even the youngest of Nintendo fans. Like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate after it, there's a whole host of characters here as well, including the Bowser kids nobody’s ever even heard of.
The easily shareable, totally authentic driving experience of playing multiplayer with just a single Joy-Con (clipped into a plastic wheel holster, if you're a true pro) makes Deluxe tons of fun across both conventional races and a host of battle modes.
Put your foot down now, ladies and gents, 'cause this one leaves its competition in the dust.
Mario Kart 8 introduced elements from The Legend of Zelda for the first time.
Rob | Mario Kart 64
This one’s an easy choice for me: Mario Kart 64 stands atop the infamous Choco Mountain, far above all other karters.
Playing solo had its share of lovely moments, but multiplayer is where the game really shines. I grew up sharing a room with my boisterous older brother, and when we weren't mimicking WWF (WWE) wrestlers at home, we were playing Mazzer Kart 64.
Grand Prix's were always a highlight, as we struggled to muscle each other and AI out of the way, off the track completely, or into unfortunate obstructions like penguins, gofers and crabs. Every now and then my younger sister would join in as well, as together we attempted to exact revenge on older bro for whatever shitty nicknames he'd given us that week.
It also came in handy on a night out a few weeks ago, when yours truly was challenged to a race by a rather menacing drunk at a bar in Brighton. Thankfully, he was dispatched so beautifully that he calmed right down and offered to buy me a pint!
Moral of the story? Mario Kart 64 isn’t just for 1997 - it's for life.
Split-screen Mario Kart 64 holds fond memories for many.
Which is your favourite kart racer? Is it another Mario Kart game, or something more exotic? Let us know in the comments.
What’s being considered a rather tame Electronic Entertainment Expo is now coming to a close, though even a slow E3 is sure to have at least a few standout moments, of which we’ve picked our personal highlights.
Liam | Nintendo Treehouse livestream
My favourite part of an otherwise disappointing E3 was Nintendo Treehouse Live. This stream offered an opportunity to see actual gameplay for Nintendo’s upcoming games, countering the deluge of cinematic trailers that made up most of their Direct presentation and all of the other shows.
I was particularly pleased to hear Animal Crossing: New Horizons will feature the full suite of same-screen, local wireless and online co-op. Being able to work together in real time rather than in shifts, as was the case for me and my deputy in New Leaf, just makes sense and will hopefully alleviate some of the more monotonous management tasks.
Despite having initially dismissed it as a gimmick, the new dungeon creator in Link’s Awakening also grabbed my attention and looks like a fun new addition to an already impressive game. It'd be even better if Nintendo let us share these creations with other players, à la Super Mario Maker, but there didn’t seem to be any mention of such a feature.
Visibly wandering Pokémon in Sword and Shield, at least in the games’ designated Wild Area, was another bit of good news from the livestream. Like many, I’ve come to dread all of the random encounters and so this is a very welcome change.
Chris | More on DOOM Eternal
DOOM as a series always failed to grab me, at least until the 2016 reboot, at which point I became immediately enamoured with its fast, fluid movement which is somewhat reminiscent of Halo. That in itself probably wouldn't be enough to keep me around, but the gunplay is just as smooth and yet incredibly weighty at the same time - then there are the gloriously explicit executions, which never get old.
Eternal boasts more weapons (and associated upgrades), abilities, enemies, executions and environments, taking us all the way from the depths of Hell to the heights of Heaven, like Dante's Divine Comedy with guns and gore in place of self-reflection and enlightenment.
Bethesda have teased that we'll discover the origins of this iteration of the Doom Slayer, and I'm eager to see if we'll be battling against both angels and demons. It's just the kind of silly sci-fi story which never fails to draw me in.
When it comes to multiplayer, I can usually take it or leave it, but DOOM Eternal’s new competitive BATTLEMODE also has me intrigued. Assuming it's properly balanced, the unique 2v1 demons vs. Doom Slayer mode could prove to be an entertaining time sink.
James | Keanu Reeves in Cyberpunk?!
Matrix star and altogether nice guy Keanu Reeves is so hot right now, popping up in Netflix film Always Be My Maybe last week, Toy Story 4 next week and soon the eagerly-anticipated third Bill and Ted adventure.
What we didn't expect, but are oh-so-grateful for, was his spontaneous appearance at the Xbox E3 showcase. He graced us not just in digital form as Cyberpunk 2077’s Johnny Silverhand - keeping up the tradition of him playing characters called Johnny after both Utah and Mnemonic - but in person to the melting of timelines and hearts around the world.
While a celebrity E3 appearance isn't unheard of, it's usually Snoop Dogg smoking a spliff while trying out Battlefield, Elijah Wood trying to convince us of his creepy vision for Transcendence, or some WWE wrestlers hidden under the Microsoft stage.
Keanu was different. A perfect blend of "well obviously he's in it" realisation and a wry smile as the now-iconic silhouette of 2019 Reeves appears through mist, he not only looked the part but brought a level of excitement and enthusiasm not seen anywhere else at the event, besides perhaps Tango Gameworks’ Ikumi Nakamura at Bethesda.
When we look back on E3, Keanu will be a stand out for years to come, because he, as one eager audience member said, is breathtaking.
Rob | Breath of the Wild 2 and Spiritfarer reveals
Oh dear. This year’s E3 was a bit of a moist squib, wasn’t it. Whether it be Sony’s absence, Microsoft’s lack of interesting games - c’mon, we’ve all had enough of bloody Gears and Halo by now - or Nintendo’s sequels and remakes (Link’s Awakening does look lovely, mind), everything had an air of predictability about it.
Still, it wasn’t all bad, and Bethesda probably fared best in my eyes. DOOM Eternal looks to continue the glorious, frantic shooting of 2016’s DOOM, whilst GhostWire: Tokyo’s teaser left me exceedingly intrigued. Conspiracy? Check. The occult? Check. Shinji Mikami? Check. This one can’t come along quickly enough!
Personally, though, the announcements of Breath of the Wild 2 and Thunder Lotus’ Spiritfarer are the indistinguishable highlights.
The former is self-explanatory: I’ve been a huge Zelda fan for as long as I can remember and thoroughly enjoyed running around Breath of the Wild’s rendition of Hyrule, so cannae wait to get stuck into another predictably top-notch adventure. Will it be the Majora’s Mask to BotW’s Ocarina?
The latter is a charming, side-scrolling 2D management game centred around coming to terms with death, where Thunder Lotus’ trademark hand-drawn visuals blend with a melancholic tale of goodbyes. It’s set at sea, you can go fishing, and there’s a sidekick cat. I’m sold.
What was your E3 2019 highlight? Let us know with a comment.
The most exciting week in gaming is right around the corner, and like curious kiddies at Christmas, we’ve been passing the time by speculating on what might happen during this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo!
Our chances of another rockin' flute performance are now slim to none, goddammit!
James | Project Scarlett is all-digital ‘Xbox Premiere’
We all expect Microsoft to talk about their new console, codenamed Scarlett, but let's make a discerning stab in the dark about the final name and their hardware strategy.
Firstly, we'll see a subscription-style model of ownership which the company has played with in the past, even if it's just for education or enterprise audiences.
There'll be a more overt link with PC, making it even easier for friends to communicate and play together regardless of hardware, with cross-play enabled by default across first-party titles.
While we all expect backwards compatibility to continue to be significant on the next Xbox, Microsoft will double down on Game Pass to double the number of backwards compatible games on the service in the next year. They’ll also allow players to access new first-party releases not just on release day, but early.
It's possible there'll be more than one hardware format, thought the all-digital version will be the standard model, and the only model they’ll be talking about at the show. It’ll be called Xbox Premiere - representing what Microsoft believes to be the future of gaming.
James expects Xbox to world premiere the Xbox Premiere to the world during E3's premiere Xbox press conference.
Chris | Yoshida and Nadella announce civil partnership
Fable 4 is practically a given at this point and rumours abound that the sole reason for its existence is to stop me endlessly banging on about Fable 4.
Another certainty is Ubisoft's batshit crazy opener, where furries dance to a song that nobody deserves to hear twice. It’d be the perfect time to go and make a coffee, if only it wasn't somehow so damn captivating.
As always, I'm anticipating big things from Bethesda, such as extended footage of DOOM Eternal which, hopefully, makes DOOM (2016) look like DOOM 3. Maybe even something on The Elder Scrolls VI - just a short teaser and the title screen would do.
The biggest news by far, however, is that following on from the news of Sony and Microsoft's strategic partnership, I'm expecting their respective CEOs, Kenichiro Yoshida and Satya Nadella, to announce a civil partnership. The gaming industry's hottest power couple will then go on to adopt Nintendo's Shuntaro Furukawa, merging all three companies in the process. Son-tendo-soft will reveal the SwitchBox Pro, much to the chagrin of Mark "PlayStation 6" Cerny.
Chris thinks things are set to hot up between this happy pair.
Liam | Sony surprise with State of Play stream
I think this year’s E3 will be more about consoles than games.
Microsoft will unveil two new Xbox consoles, along with a handful of next-gen titles, all of which will also be playable on Xbox One X, as Microsoft’s current powerhouse drops down the pecking order to become the new base console of the Xbox family. Oh, and Halo: Infinite gets a surprise winter release date.
Nintendo will confirm the existence of new Switch consoles, a premium version and a budget handheld-only version that comes bundled with your choice of Let’s Go, Pikachu! or Let’s Go, Evee! I’m also expecting a new Mario Kart reveal and ports of Twilight Princess HD and The Wind Waker HD.
Sony won’t regret not showing up by releasing a surprise State of Play stream in reaction to their rivals’ console news, giving us our first glimpse of the PlayStation 5 and some of its exclusives.
Other than all the above, which is definitely going to happen, I’m also looking forward to a first look at some Jedi: Fallen Order gameplay and confirmation that the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare reboot will include all the original multiplayer maps plus a bunch of new ones.
That’s not too much to hope for, is it?
It might be wishful thinking, but a surprise State of Play stream would certainly help placate Sam.
Rob | DOOM Eternal hurts your bum
I fully expect Bethesda to blow our collective anus to smithereens with new DOOM Eternal footage; I was a huge fan of the 2016 DOOM reboot (the only FPS I’ve finished this generation) so await the new campaign - and multiplayer - with sawn-off, double-barrelled enthusiasm!
On the Xbox front, I’m really hoping for some fresh new games to go with the rumoured new console, but half fear we’ll just be blasted with more Gears and other equally overdone first-party franchises.
Nintendo is the one that really intrigues me, though, as usual. Will their Direct presentation contain plenty of previously unannounced games? Or will it go heavy on Pokémon, Fire Emblem and the Link’s Awakening remake? I’m hopeful we’ll get at least one new first-party title, but will it be the game to finally make me swap out the old Wii U for a Switch?
All-in-all, I’m honestly not expecting a classic this year. I’m sure Ubisoft will give us Assassin’s Creed: Derby and Far Cry 406, and I’m certain EA will disappoint once again by failing to announce a new boxing game. With that in mind, it appears my hopes rest almost entirely on DOOM and Nintendo: please don’t let me down, guys.
Hold on to your butts, folks!
Keep an eye on Pass the Controller for plenty of E3 2019 coverage, including livestreams of all the press conferences.
What do you think will happen at this year's E3? Let us know in the comments below.
Some games are so good that it’s frankly hard to put them down, but we inevitably do as enticing new releases stack up and threaten to leave us behind. The very best games will only temporarily loosen that grip, however, drawing us back in at any given opportunity (usually the summer games drought) to rekindle the special something we share.
Limitless New Game + runs don't hurt RE4's replay value, either.
Liam | Mario Kart DS
The year is 2006. It’s Saturday afternoon and the early Premier League game has just kicked off. I’m sat next to my brand-new DAB digital radio – an excellent Christmas gift - listening to the commentary, Nintendo DS in hand.
I was playing Mario Kart DS, still one of my favourite entries in the series, despite now seeming a bit simplistic compared to the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
I played and thoroughly enjoyed it every week, without fail, whilst listening to the football. It was the perfect accompaniment; engaging enough to keep me entertained during the more boring matches, but not so distracting that it could pull focus from the better games.
This was my weekend routine for almost a whole season, and it was glorious. It didn’t matter that I’d beaten every track countless times, or that the AI no longer posed a challenge, it was simply great fun and I loved every minute of it.
Those days might now be over, but whenever I stumble upon that small grey DS cartridge in a drawer, it always calls to me and brings back fond memories.
It looks a little dated now, but that can't keep Mario Kart DS down.
James | Worms Battlegrounds
I often say the simplest ideas are the most effective, and there's one series which best executes on this to keep me coming back - Worms.
While I never played the game in its first iteration, Worms 2 was a seminal part of my gaming experience way back when, as were Armageddon and World Party, the latter of which kept me glued to my computer for years.
While not the most current iteration (that’d be Worms WMD), Worms Battlegrounds is one of the longest-installed and most-played games on my Xbox One, rivalled only by Grand Theft Auto V for the purpose of GTA Online.
The tactics on offer in a turn-based game like Worms, which has you brutally murder the enemy team of titular invertebrates with all manner of elaborate and over-the-top weaponry (like the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch), is a rarity in gaming and one which never fails to find new depths with each and every match.
Terrain is randomly generated, the worms themselves randomly placed, and you can customise everything down to individual weapon selection, making it extremely replayable. There's also a constant threat of drowning on most maps, since the water level rises as matches progress, so even the most experienced players can't get too comfortable.
Just about everyone has dabbled in Worms to some extent, but James is a true devotee.
Which game are you always the most eager to revisit? Let us know in the comments below.
The Batman Arkham series and Insomniac’s Spider-Man have proven beyond doubt that lazy licensed games are a relic of the past, but also that superheroes could be poised to overtake gaming in the same way they have cinema.
The Telltale series was brilliant, but the new Guardians could achieve so much more within the realm of gaming.
Chris | Deathstroke
Deathstroke's mastery of firearms, swords and numerous martial arts could lend itself to many genres. He’s one of the most dangerous villains in the DC universe, with superhuman strength, speed, stamina and reflexes, a sharp strategic mind thanks to his military training, and a regenerative healing factor to top it all off.
I think a third-person action title would best suit our man. If the smooth swordsmanship of Shadow of War's Talion was combined with the frantic bullet ballet of Devil May Cry's Dante, we'd be onto a winner. There's scope to add a bunch of Batman-esque gadgets, like traps and bombs, to the merc's arsenal to provide multiple ways of completing contracts.
There are also heroes aplenty for Deathstroke to tussle with and, despite being a gun for hire, he has a (somewhat malleable) code of honour, meaning that no Teen Titans have to die. The developers (gotta be Rocksteady Studios; I suspect James will be on board) could even lean more towards an anti-hero role, rather than a straight supervillain.
Deathstroke was playable in Batman Arkham Origins, but that wasn't really enough to scratch the itch.
Liam | Judge Dredd
It’s been three years since I first brought it up, but here we are, 2019, and still no bloody Judge Dredd game!
There have been signs of hope, like a few years ago when 2000 AD rights holder Rebellion said they’d be willing to let other developers take a whack at some of the “classic and exploitable properties on the shelf,” but things have been awfully quiet since then.
With E3 just around the corner, and the Mega-City One TV series still hopefully on the way, now could be the perfect time to announce a game starring everyone’s favourite judge, jury and executioner. Like Sam’s Guardians of the Galaxy pitch, it pretty much sells itself.
Dredd is effectively a walking videogame character, thanks to his magic gun and total carte blanche when it comes to law enforcement. As I mentioned in the article linked above, with decades of lore to pick over, including dark fantasy elements, it wouldn’t even have to be simple cops vs. criminals affair.
Should any potential game ignore the supernatural stuff and follow a more traditional route, it’d still be hard to say no to a GTA-meets-Crackdown hybrid where you’re given free reign of a giant, open Mega-City One and its crime-infested streets.
Previous outings, like Dredd vs. Death on PS2 here, haven't been great.
Rob | Bananaman
It might come as some surprise, folks, but comic books and superhero movies have never really appealed to me - the Michael Keaton Batman films aside, of course. So when our Sambo fired over this week’s Team Talk topic I was initially stumped, until I gazed back into my childhood…
It was there I found the ghosts of Super Ted and Bananaman. Two fantastic shows, yes, but which one to pick? After some hard-n-heavy soul searching, the answer eventually hit me like a daily dose of potassium.
I imagine Bananaman: BananaGame (that should definitely be the title) as a side-scrolling brawler with daft puzzle elements, positively bursting at the seams with idiotic English humour. Bash up classic baddies like Dr Gloom, General Blight and that bastard Appleman - even use your thermal underpants to defeat The Weatherman - all the while accompanied by sidekick Crow (brilliantly voiced by Bill Oddie).
Picture additional mini-games and side quests where you play as Eric - the boy who becomes Bananaman after gobbling said fruit - taking in card games with his babysitter, conducting errands wimpishly, or generally just keeping that alter-ego under wraps.
Let’s hope that some plucky English developer has the good taste to get the licence sorted, then we can hit the virtual streets of Acacia Road toot sweet!
Fun fact: Sam dressed up as Bananaman on his last day of school (not pictured) and still has the costume somewhere.
Which super-powered savant would you most like to see star in their own game? Sound off in the comments.
Sometimes things just don’t work out as planned, making the best course of action to call it quits before any further time and/or money goes to waste. It makes perfect sense, but that doesn’t stop anyone lamenting the fact we’ll likely never get to play what looked to be some very promising games.
The Walking Dead's Norman Reedus and a Silent Hills title card awaited those brave enough to finish P.T.
Chris | Fable Legends
Fable Legends was a free-to-play, asymmetrical multiplayer title set many years before the events of the original Fable trilogy. Four players would each pick a hero with which to battle through a level in familiar Fable fashion, whilst a fifth took on the role of the villain, placing deadly traps and giving orders to their chosen AI minions in a way not dissimilar to playing an RTS.
Although many people did get their hands on Legends, it was cancelled shortly before making the transition from closed to open beta, coming to an end at what should have been just the beginning. It was barebones, and not without its issues, but I'd posit that's not surprising for a game at that stage of development.
Legends was even picking up some steam in the final months, what with new playable heroes added, alongside (less excitingly) microtransactions. It strikes me as odd that Microsoft would decide to cancel the game right as it started to recuperate some of the funds that were channelled into it, but the real tragedy was the simultaneous closure of developer Lionhead Studios.
Usually, this'd be my cue to bemoan the drought of Fable 4 announcements we currently find ourselves in the midst of, but with E3 only a month away and rumours swirling, I'm hopeful we’ll see something from the series soon.
R.I.P. Lionhead Studios and Fable Legends.
Liam | Star Wars 1313
I can’t think of too many Star Wars games where you aren’t cast as a Sith, a Jedi, or an Imperial or Rebel pilot, so when I first read about 1313 and its bounty hunter protagonist, I was very much intrigued.
Exploring the Coruscant underworld and the shady characters who dwelt within reminded me of 2002’s Star Wars Bounty Hunter, which starred Jango Fett as he tore his way across the galaxy battling gangsters with an awesome arsenal of weapons.
1313 almost sounded like it could have been a spiritual successor, more so once it was revealed the game’s protagonist was intended to be Jango’s son, Boba Fett. Woefully underused in the original movies, any chance to spend more time with one of the coolest characters in the Star Wars universe would have been great.
Considering Boba had access to the same jetpack/flamethrower/blaster combo - not to mention myriad other gadgets - that was put to great use by his father in Bounty Hunter, 1313 really could have been something special.
I’m still hopeful it’ll be revived at some point in the future, particularly if Respawn’s Jedi: Fallen Order does well. Perhaps then Disney will release there’s still a market for single-player Star Wars games.
With the demise of LucasArts (who happened to be Chris' favourite developer), it's unlikely we'll ever see a Star Wars 1313 revival.
James | Timesplitters 4
Every console generation comes with titles that are killed off before their time, or perhaps get stuck in development hell, though on the flip side there are arguably just as many which should never have seen the light of day...
For me, Timesplitters 4 is probably the most anticipated title we never got to enjoy. The Timesplitters series is the most exciting evolution of the seminal GoldenEye on N64, created by members of the Rare team who (time)split off to form Free Radical Design.
That studio is now defunct, having been shut down in 2014 and its staff moved to Dambuster Studios, who underwhelmingly brought us Homefront: The Revolution. However, the potential in retooling some of the unique gameplay ideas teased in Timesplitters of old for the modern era, with the power of online multiplayer at their disposal, is one which fills my mind with possibilities.
Of course, as a general rule we don't need more first-person shooters, but the promise was once there, and it's hard not to feel we've missed out on something special.
Timesplitters was always a bit of daft fun, which we could use more of to break up all the drab military shooters.
Any particular software casualty keeping you up at night? Tell us all about it in the comments.
As consummate professionals, we of course critique all games on equal terms, but, just like everyone prefers certain children and/or pets (don’t even try to deny it), we do have underlying favourites in some instances. That extends to developers on this occasion, who’s bodies of work call to different staffers depending on their personal tastes.
FromSoftware is one of several Japanese developers which Sam asserts are leading the industry right now.
Chris | LucasArts
LucasArts had a hand in many games over the years, bringing us classics like The Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max, as well as adding more to the Star Wars universe than the prequel film trilogy ever could.
It's no secret that I'm partial to an engrossing story and, though they’re not in the development business anymore, that was LucasArts' forte. Their point-and-click adventures are held in such high regard that any conversation about the genre will invariably lead to mention of at least one of their titles.
Whilst the Monkey Island series isn’t the sole reason for my choice, it is a major deciding factor. The games had stellar writing, excellent voice work, puzzles which require just the right amount of abstract thinking, and everyone's favourite mighty pirate - Guybrush Threepwood!
The inclusion of a Guybrush skin in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II is also, to my mind, proof that both franchises exist in the same universe. Insult lightsaber fighting, anyone?
Betcha you didn't expect to see Guybrush Threepwood battling Darth Vader today.
James | Rocksteady Studios
It can be difficult when a games studio steps outside it's comfort zone. We've seen this most recently with BioWare and Anthem, where the studio struggled to tackle the transition from RPG to service-based shooter.
While it's been a while now since we've heard much from them, a studio which successfully made the transition from FPS to third-person action-adventure, and thereafter knew to stick to their guns, is Rocksteady. With Batman Arkham Asylum back in 2009 (a decade already?), the team put out an outstanding representation of the Caped Crusader.
From there things only got stronger with Arkham City, which conquered the open world formula to a standard that Ubisoft struggles to match even years later. Rocksteady deftly managed to integrate new mechanics and refine the things that worked while still telling a hugely compelling story, resulting in one of the most immersive experiences in gaming.
While Arkham Knight didn't push the series forward as much as it could have, it kept up the momentum and contributed to the legacy of the franchise, which survives to this day with releases like 2018's excellent Spider-Man taking a healthy dose of inspiration.
Arkham Asylum started it all, but Arkham City took things to a new level.
Liam | Nintendo
I was tempted to give my choice to an Infinity Ward or a Bethesda, or maybe even go with an outsider like Rogue Squadron developer Factor 5, but after mulling it over I’ve decided to go with good ol’ dependable Nintendo. I mean, how could it be anyone else? They’ve quite simply been knocking it out of the park for decades.
There’s a certain quality to their games that makes them that extra bit special. It doesn’t matter if it’s an RPG, a racing game or a life-sim - whatever the genre, you can be sure it’s going to be a top-notch experience because of the talent behind it.
I like that they’re not afraid to mix things up every now and then. The Wind Waker (possibly my very favourite game) and its cartoony visuals were something that didn’t go down well with a lot of Zelda fans, but somehow Ninty made it work, and work exceedingly well.
Their ability to keep ageing franchises like The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario – two juggernauts that feel like they’ve been around forever – relevant after so many years is quite impressive. Just as you think fatigue might be about to set in, they somehow reinvent the wheel to make it bigger, better and more fun.
Odyssey provided a creative new take on the Mario series' trademark 3D platforming.
Which is your favourite game dev? Let us know in the comments below.
It’s been said and memed, and memed and said that Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War was the most ambitious crossover event in history. Now sequel Avengers: Endgame is turning things up a notch, but we think we can do one better with these pitches for crossover games featuring some of our favourite characters.
Can you believe the team didn't want any of York's famous turkey, jam and cereal sandwiches?
Whilst I commend Sam’s effort to create a well-balanced squad, we all know that firepower is what really wins the day. So, feast your eyes on my attack-minded team of action heroes and heroines - no parked busses here.
Captain Price is someone you’d always want on hand in the thick of the action. Not only has he fought with some of the best military minds out there, but he also has an uncanny ability to stay alive, which is a rare trait for a Call of Duty protagonist.
Backing him up is the Hero of Time. Other people might question their life choices after waking up in a bath with nothing but their undies and a bout of amnesia, but not our man Link. Blessed with the kind of never-say-die attitude every team needs – the Steven Gerrard of Hyrule, if you will - his BotW iteration even has the added bonus of being slightly tech savvy.
Providing air support is Metroid’s Samus Aran. As well as having a cannon for an arm, she can morph into a ball, which is great for quick getaways and spontaneous team kickabouts when the pressure of the mission gets to be too much.
Last up is Mario, our infiltrator. As the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, use your magic hat from Odyssey and become them. Forever. Problem solved.
Mario's powers of possession are quite horrifying, really...
Appointing the Arkham series' Batman as team leader is perhaps the only sensible choice which I (with the help of my son) have made. It's a purely hands-off role, his intelligence and detective skills making him a perfect fit. Unlimited funding potential and access to cool gadgets are just a bonus.
Fallout 4's player character (his default name is Nate, which you’d have known had you not immediately renamed him something offensive just to hear Codsworth say it) has a number of skills which could be handy in a pinch, such as being able to quick save and reload if things go south. If you think that's cheating, take it up with Special Agent Batman.
Steve, the pixelated protagonist from Minecraft, is both an engineer and a demolitionist. Should top-of-the-line gear from Wayne Enterprises not be enough for the task at hand, he can probably craft something useful from his surroundings.
This team is a little overpowered and so it's time to introduce the wildcard: GTA V's Trevor Phillips. If ever the need arose to have someone smoke a load of meth and kick a tree in half, Trevor would be the man for the job. Yeah, it's irresponsible to keep him around but firing him wouldn’t stop him from turning up tomorrow.
Batman has a real piece of work on his hands in Trevor Phillips.
To take on any foe you're going to need a mixture of brains and brawn, so I’m siding with Chris (and his son) on Arkham Knight’s Batman being a first-tier pick. He has experience, sweet gadgets and a tank - I mean, come on, a tank!
Next up is Blanka from Street Fighter. Every team needs some muscle, and green hunks of it already have a good track record. There's also the possibility he could charge up my phone in case of battery emergencies, which is always useful.
Games often feature supernatural or mystical threats, so The Witcher series’ Geralt of Rivea and his twin swords and beast tracking would also come in handy. No one needs a griffin showing up to ruin a perfectly good weekend jaunt in the Cotswolds, do they now?
Finally, filling out my fab four, there's got to be someone with some social graces. While Bruce Wayne might be alright rubbing shoulders with the social climbers, we're in need of a scoundrel. Look no further than Dragon Age 2's Isabela, a rotten pirate who I'd pay well to ensure her continued loyalty. She'd steal and manipulate on our behalf, as well as executing a bit of good old-fashioned stealth without the conspicuous bells and whistles of Bats.
With this crack team I feel fairly confident that all the bases are covered. Come at me Thanos!
Blanka's basically an electric, ginger-haired Hulk, right?
What characters would comprise your ideal team of iconic gaming figures? Let us know in the comments below.
The fifth console developed by PlayStation manufacturer Sony hasn’t officially been dubbed the PlayStation 5 yet, but we’re gonna call it that anyway.
Sam just uses his PS4 Pro for exclusives and VR, so PS VR matters more to him than most.
It seems a little odd to me that Sony are yet to officially name their new console the PlayStation 5. They’re usually quite predictable in that respect, so I'm going to assume that this is either an upgrade to the PS4 Pro (in which case I’ll be calling it PlayStation 4.9), or an all-powerful future console that may, or may not, be sentient (PlayStation 6). There is no in between, I deal only in absolutes.
With all the talk about fancy CPUs, GPUs and SSDs you might be thinking it's the latter (or a terrible start to a game of Scrabble) and I would be inclined to agree. I'd posit that very few people are invested enough in Spider-Man's fast travel system to warrant spending hundreds of pounds just to save 14 seconds.
The reason for Sony sharing little else about the console is that the PlayStation 6 doesn't want them to. The PlayStation 6 has been biding its time, assimilating all of our knowledge and building the infrastructure it needs to enslave the human race.
For years it has waited, patiently, but it did not hide. It was right there in front of us all along. You see: Mark Cerny is not the man behind the machine - Mark Cerny is the machine.
You don't want to know what happens when Mark Cerny interfaces with that port.
In 2018 I was more tempted to get a PS4 than any year prior, thanks to a number of tasty exclusives (especially Spider-Man). The next PlayStation’s existence is hardly a surprise, but it's again going to be the games that really strike my fancy over any flashy hardware, since I'm not already invested in the PlayStation ecosystem like I am with Xbox.
In terms of raw power, I think Xbox One X already hits the mark and delivers a level of spectacle which I don't fully appreciate. For that reason, the rumoured timed exclusivity period for Grand Theft Auto VI is what has me most tempted right now.
There’s no doubt that I've sunk more hours into GTA Online than any other game, despite being awful at it, though, being realistic, there’ll need to be much more than just an early taste on the menu for me to fork out on a new console and by extension a new library of games.
Considering Sony has decided to skip E3 this year, perhaps we should temper our expectations accordingly, since there'd surely be no better place to drop any bombs they might have stowed than on the industry’s biggest stage?
Will GTA VI, and presumably by extension James' beloved GTA Online, spend its first month as a PlayStation 5 exclusive?
As someone blessed with little to no technological knowledge, the recently revealed PS5 specs mean absolutely zilch to me. There’s no doubt everything mentioned will make games look super pretty, but what most interests me is the confirmation of backwards compatibility and support for PS VR.
I don’t actually own a PS4, but I do currently have an unopened PS VR gathering dust in the corner of my living room. I’m aware this is an odd thing to purchase, considering the lack of a console to hook it up to, but there was method in my madness.
Bought on a whim at a heavily discounted price, the plan was always to try and save up for the PS4 afterwards, but life kept getting in the way. Whether it’s visiting friends, upcoming holidays or paying medical bills (I’m no longer based in the UK), the world seems to be constantly conspiring against me to ensure I never get my hands on one.
While the specs might not do it for me, the idea of being able to finally unwrap my VR headset and experience the whole suite of PS4 exclusives, alongside shiny new games on one shiny new console is worth getting excited about.
How do you see the next PlayStation shaping up? Let us know in the comments below.
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.