Lagging six months behind its Oculus Rift and HTC Vive counterparts, Arizona Sunshine has finally made its way to Sony’s PlayStation VR platform. Has the transition to weaker hardware sullied the acclaimed first-person shooter? Or has the extra development time made all the difference?
Vertigo Games have utilised everything at their disposal to comfortably accommodate the experience on console.
Outside of the DualShock 4's issues, aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way, satisfyingly lining up shots as if you were in a real 3D environment. Closing one eye and looking down the ironsights allows you to execute strings of carefully-crafted headshots against the intentionally docile and dozy enemy AI, but, in the event a horde springs to life and swarms, you’ll be forced into a spray-and-pray panic, which gets the job done, but at the cost of a chunk of your ammunition.
Ammo should be a limited resource, but if you explore environments thoroughly enough you can scavenge quite the stockpile. Opening up cars, drawers, cupboards and more via occasionally finicky, telekinetic interactions uncovers all sorts of strange hiding places, with certain ammo types being rarer finds than others. You’ll keep track of what you’ve accrued through the innovative, HUD-busting inventory system that sees you look down to inspect the bullets, grenades and firearms holstered on your belt before physically grabbing them to use them. While immersive, the main drawback of this is that, when playing seated, it’s all too easy to accidentally grab items when your arms are held close to your core, so you’ll need to keep them awkwardly outstretched.
You can carry up to four weapons at once, though you’ll find an abundance of them, so it makes sense to choose as diverse a range as possible - namely a shotgun, submachine gun, pistol/magnum and grenade launcher - to tactically meet differing situations head-on. You’ll also sporadically encounter stationary sniper rifle and machine gun emplacements, which offer up an empowering and gleeful temporary twist on combat, helped along by the protagonist’s excited exclamations that will no doubt mirror your own (if you're anything like the psychopaths we are…).
Though they are comparatively empowering, standard zombie encounters aren’t exactly emasculating. This is largely due to the aforementioned healthy levels of ammo, however the (mostly) bright and breezy setting and lead character sap any real sense of horror from the experience. That’s fine, especially with so many VR horror games already on the market, but in doing so it readily passes up on leveraging the genre that is perhaps virtual reality’s greatest asset.
Despite that, it’s still very frightening on the odd occasion you turn around and find a member of the undead ranks invading your personal space, with the resulting unnerved excitement only making us wish it happened more often. Upping the difficulty can draw you closer towards true horror by nixing ammo pickups and buffing zombies, should you desire that, while harsh checkpointing means you’ll actually be invested in staying alive and fear death that little bit more (or possibly just curse the devs).
Aiming is pretty spot on with both the Move and Aim controllers; you’ll utilise point-and-shoot motions in an entirely natural way.
Regardless of your skills, death is something that always comes in Arizona Sunshine’s Horde mode. This is exactly what it says on the tin, or the cassette, in this case, challenging you with surviving increasingly difficult waves of enemies that attack from all sides as you’re confined to a small central area. Playable alone or with up to three partners online, co-op is definitely the way to go, and not just to have someone watching your back. Thanks to the game’s motion control, interacting with players is often cause for hilarity - you might wave to greet one another, dance and fist-pump to celebrate a wave well defended, or even get weird and spend some time stroking each other's faces, locked in prolonged eye contact… Whichever way you play, there’s a relevant leaderboard to track your performance and give you something to strive towards.
While the level of interactivity in Vertigo Games' post-apocalyptic take on the sunny state of Arizona can leave a little to be desired (you can pick up axes, shovels and pans, but can't use them as melee weapons, for example), its nonetheless rich and immersive environments are a pleasure to explore. When combined with seriously satisfying shooting mechanics and entertaining co-op, both thanks to great motion control implementation when using the Aim and Move controllers, Arizona Sunshine takes mantle as one of the first full fat FPS experiences to reach PlayStation VR.
Brum, brum, as they say in Codemasters’ midlands-based world of speedy motorcades! Can Codies keep up their mastery of all things diesel-burny with Dirt 4, or is it a mucky stain that even the most efficient of washing machines couldn’t get out? Gentlemen - and ladies - start your engines!
From your first moments on the grid the attention to detail is obvious.
Alongside career you’ll find sack loads more - there’s a wealth of online options under both the competitive and multiplayer monikers. Competitive floats a weekly supply of challenges to undertake and work your way up the leaderboard, plus there’s a divisional, FIFA-style mode that will suck many in. Multiplayer fleshes things out nicely with an assortment of head-to-head modes, but clean drivers should beware, as you’ll come across plenty of corner-cutting hacks like yours truly!
Special mention has to be saved for the literally game changing Your Stage creation facility. Here you’re left to your own devices to create rallying stages and events, which can then be shared online. The track design initially seems limiting, as you can only alter a few sliders - track length, difficulty, etc. - but the game’s superb algorithm chucks out some fantastic stages in just a few seconds, something that just wouldn’t be possible with a full fat design suite. There are endless options here, too - even with the same slider settings, the generate stage option throws up another, completely different track, giving the game real legs when it comes to longevity.
The audiovisual side of Dirt 4 also impresses for the most part; as mentioned earlier, the car models are beautiful, from the authentically placed sponsorship logos to the ever-changing vehicle shell. Crashes often result in bits of the car body falling off, with the wake of crashes ahead affecting you as you pass.
Unfortunately, the off-track visuals are on the more basic end of the spectrum - trees and crowd members look very simplistic, which is a shame, but undoubtedly assists the game in running smooth as silk. Backend elements are also on the unglamorous side of things, with simple, easy to understand menus and options that are functional, but definitely bland.
The Your Stage creation facility offers up endless possibilities, giving the game real legs when it comes to longevity.
Dirt 4 contains the standard array of radio-friendly hits from the last few years, much like EA Sports’ many offerings. If you like that kind of thing, you’ll love being in the menu screens, if not, you’ll be jamming the A button as quickly as possible to advance to the race. The on-track audio is spot on though, with firing engines, screeching tires and colossal bumps and smashes as you take out yet another tree/sponsorship board. Just be careful not to turn the volume up too loud, as your spouse/family/neighbours might find Dirt 4’s tones grating in time.
As we reach the chequered flag, we have to hold our hands up and praise Codemasters for producing another excellent racing game. The sheer wealth of options available in single and multiplayer are backed up brilliantly by the endlessly entertaining Your Stage feature. Though the presentation might be bland in places, and crosskart events can be painful, it’s impossible to overlook how good the actual rally racing is. Grab your helmet and race suit, get in the car, and go get dirty!
Nex Machina is a top-down twin-stick shooter from Resogun developer Housemarque. Its arcade-style design harkens back to retro classics like Robotron and Smash TV, which is no surprise considering the famed designer of those projects, Eugene Jarvis, was aboard the development team.
Nex Machina demands speed and precision to the point we find ourselves playing perched on the edge of our seats, leaning into the screen with a laser-focused gaze.
That’s a lot to tackle, especially with no tutorials or hints of any kind, but by bravely leaving you to uncover its many nuances through observation and trial and error, Nex Machina ensures its self-learnt intricacies are cemented in your mind. The gameplay communicates information fluently, steadily introducing an evolving range of baddies to illustrate what attacks you can and can’t dash through, what you do and don’t have to kill to progress, or who’s the biggest overall threat and resulting primary target of a given wave. Knowing how to correctly manage enemy types to stop them controlling portions of a stage is integral to your survival, while identifying those that target helpless AI humans and dealing with them quickly will work wonders for both your score and your conscience.
That said, choosing whether or not to save humans is a constant risk vs. reward minefield; you’ll need to put yourself in harm’s way to grab them and gain the associated points to climb the online leaderboards, but, if you die in doing so, you’ll end up worse off than if you'd left them to their doom and saved your own skin.
Any single blow is fatal in Nex Machina, and death carries some significant repercussions. Not only do you lose a life and a chunk of the score multiplier you’ve worked to build - along with your all-important, trance-like flow - but you’ll also drop one of the upgrades (increased range, bullet spread, etc.) or secondary weapons (these range from a sword to a rocket launcher, with use limited by a brief cooldown period) you've collected. This often leads to multiple consecutive deaths as you foolheartedly rush to pick it back up from the spot you died, or just struggle on in its absence if it was something you were relying on. All too often we’ve been on a perfect run only to lose multiple lives and upgrades successively to the mechanic, leaving us caught in a rut and faced with besting that same difficult section now at a marked disadvantage.
You can keep retrying while you maintain a stock of continues, but when they run dry it's a legitimate game over and you have to start back at square one. Whilst that’s somewhat jarring by today’s standards - especially when you consider the fact you also can’t save, so you’re in it for the long haul when playing Arcade mode, the game's main attraction - forcing you to replay sections helps to develop your skills, which will see you glean more from the game in the long run. It might seem irritating if you don’t remember a time when this was the industry standard, but the extra practice really does make perfect.
You’ll never actually be at too significant a loss, mind, as the game only takes around two hours to play from start to finish. Despite what you might be thinking, that isn’t any real cause for concern when it comes to Nex Machina’s value proposition, as it’s massively replayable. Memorising enemy spawn patterns and the location of secrets unearthed by destroying environments is endlessly rewarding, allowing you to implement that knowledge into future runs to achieve lofty new high scores.
Arcade and Single World modes (the latter allowing you to practice Worlds out of sequence) can be played in co-op if you have a nostalgia-hungry pal to hand, which we mean literally, as it’s fittingly (though still disappointingly) local only. The suite of modes is rounded out by Arena, which tasks you with meeting gold, silver and bronze score thresholds whilst wrestling with modifiers like limited timeframes and increased tempo. They take place in the same familiar Worlds, but are just about different enough to provide an engaging break from the main thrust now and then, which is perhaps how they’re best consumed, with only eleven challenges on offer.
Housemarque proved themselves capable of keeping arcade-style games relevant in the modern marketplace with the release of Resogun, but in partnering with Eugene Jarvis on Nex Machina they’ve surpassed themselves. Filled to the brim with pulse-pounding, nail-biting and addictive action on a gorgeously impressive scale, never skipping a beat, constantly complemented by the standout, retro-infused soundtrack, the game is a modern shoot-’em-up masterpiece that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the 80s classics that inspired it.
The Town of Light covers bold new ground with its story of a young woman’s treatment in a 1940s mental health facility; with this narrative the clear focus, however, could the moment-to-moment gameplay suffer? Join us for a stroll around the corridors of Volterra asylum, won’t you?
We can’t praise Lka.it enough for attempting to tackle such important, heavy subject matter.
The former, however, is a disappointment. The linear nature of the game could be forgiven if there were puzzles to vary the pacing, but they never really materialise. In the early stages you’re asked to find “warm lights” to keep your doll, Charlotte, nice and toasty, which takes no rocket-surgeon to figure out as there’s only one room with such lights. Similarly, towards the back end of the game you’re tasked with finding your old stuff in the storeroom, but once you’ve interacted with one bag your gaze is automatically directed towards the actual parcel, removing any potentially engaging investigation/problem solving elements - this kind of thing happens a lot during the game’s short duration.
Interactive gameplay may be almost non-existent, but the setting has plenty of depth, thanks largely to the asylum’s design being based on a real-world facility in Italy. Once you finish the game, you’ll be presented with a short live action film that really showcases how spot on Lka.it got it. It’s a pity, then, that the graphics are rather poor, especially when you take into account the always excruciating load times and occasionally stuttering framerate.
Outdoor sections are the real offenders here: there’s ugly texture pop-in and the lighting effects look off, making the whole presentation seem a generation out of date. Inside the facility things fare slightly better, but everything still has a grainy, blocky look to it. The Town of Light does pull it back somewhat with some wonderful graphic novel-inspired flashback scenes - think Deadlight - and marvellous visual effects during playable memories. Corridors wobble, colours revert to monochrome, and light sources pierce as music and voice screech and decay. These are the best sections of the game hands-down, when the story, visuals and sound effects finally align to create a truly affecting blend.
It’s just a shame that the game fails to make good on its early promise with the mighty gut punch of achieved potential. The story rips the veneer off mental health treatment and many other significant issues, but fails to truly discuss the complex depths below the surface and the effect they can have on the individual, family and society itself. Renee’s memories become more and more confusing as the game plows to its denouement, vastly eroding the impact the story could have had.
The Town of Light’s short length, combined with the lack of any truly engaging gameplay mechanics, leaves us with the feeling that this story would’ve been better served as a graphic novel or film. For us, that unrealised potential is a real blow - the game flirts with the idea of being the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest of gaming, but ends up falling well short.
A New Frontier’s previous episode, Thicker Than Water, saw us part with the gang on uncertain terms. Before rejoining Javier and co. in hopes of tying off the loose ends left hanging this past month, From the Gallows continues the customary trend of opening with a flashback to a turbulent time in the Garcia family’s history.
A seemingly critical choice follows thereafter, with seemingly being the operative word, as ever when it comes to Telltale adventures. While switching out the proceeding scene and deciding certain characters’ fates, things quickly reconverge and sprint towards the same conclusion. Whilst this perhaps isn’t surprising, it’s disappointing by comparison to the legitimately different end points offered in the previous season, feeling like a marked step backwards.
From the Gallows puts in a decent technical performance on Telltale’s dated engine, keeping regular foibles like texture pop-in and stuttering to a minimum, while also forgoing out-of-place point-and-click segments on the gameplay front. Despite playing well, a lack of truly burdensome choices (we fell into the large majority on all counts when checking the community stats) and meekly safe progression (there aren’t any real surprises beyond the initial hoodwink) make A New Frontier’s finale the weakest of TWD’s bunch.
With the Garcia family’s story neatly wrapped-up for now, and Clementine’s return not just teased but confirmed, in spite of the fact A New Frontier is a season we can still recommend, we seriously hope to see more imagination and innovation on display come next time around.
New to the season? Check out our reviews of episodes one through four:
Episodes 1 & 2: Ties That Bind
Episode 3: Above the Law
Episode 4: Thicker Than Water
If you’d like a closer look at From the Gallows, have a watch of Gabriella’s full let’s play below.