Are you ready to take another augmented leap into the future? It’s been two years since the traumatic conclusion of Human Revolution, and, regardless of which of the game-ending buttons you (as robotic sunglasses fanatic Adam Jensen) happened to press, the outcome is the same - mankind and the augmented no longer live in harmony.
It can lead to strange conversations with NPCs after missions, where you may have accidentally killed one enemy and they speak to you like you are a serial killer, but it’s nice to see some consequences to optional objectives not being completed and the order things are done having some impact - even if ultimately the situation turns out the same way regardless.
While there are certainly always two or more ways to achieve most objectives, the reality comes down to hack a computer/keypad, find a handy vent or shoot up the place. There is still variety to be had though, particularly with the, albeit inconsistently-implemented, social augmentation, which returns from the last game, which gives you clues to navigate a conversation and persuade your foes with carefully constructed responses.
Those in the mood for combat won’t be disappointed, with a wealth of new augmentations - which it turns out were buried deep inside Jensen all along - and a weapons system which has just the right amount of variety without becoming laboured and complex.
The trouble is that the game really really wants you to play it quiet. It makes perfect sense of course, why would Interpol, which Jensen now works for after being a company man in the last game, want to attract unnecessary attention? The answer is that they wouldn’t, and so you find yourself awkwardly navigating ledges and knocking enemies out to get the job done.
In his own HQ the security feels particularly lapse, with no one batting an eyelid as Jensen breaks into one password protected computer terminal after another
The AI makes your life easier in this respect, as Jensen seemingly can get away with most things without being particularly subtle at all. In his own HQ the security feels particularly lapse, with no one batting an eyelid as he breaks into one password protected computer terminal after another, reading emails and disabling security countermeasures.
All of this is merely following the rules of ‘being a game’ of course, and that’s where Mankind Divided feels the most at home. Its physics puzzles, hacking mini-game and searching for keycards feel like something from a bygone era, now that single player games in particular are embracing that cinematic feel more and more.
There’s shades here of pivotal games like Half-Life 2, but it’s easy to forget that that game came out 12 years ago, and so for some Mankind Divided may run the risk of feeling archaic.
The rules it does follow though it does with great balance and precision, there might not be as deep and interesting characters as you might find in something like Mass Effect, but there’s just the right amount going on to keep you hunting for that next objective, without overwhelming you with a map full of meaningless symbols and a seemingly endless list of side quests.
The setting changes a few times as the story begins to unfold - a fairly unoriginal, but compelling mix of politics, conspiracy and intolerance - and as Jensen begins to make more use of his augmentations he becomes more and more in control of every aspect of the world, even on normal difficulty.
The world doesn’t feel like it has the cool factor in the same way as Human Revolution, something which is clearly intentional as the heavily stylised aesthetic of a world in a golden age gives way to a derelict and dilapidated setting which reflects the mood of its inhabitants (again, without much subtlety).
Those who haven’t played the previous title needn’t worry, as a 12 minute recap video gets you up to speed with the basics, and, despite bombarding you with names, few story threads and characters really follow through, and those that do have exposition of their own.
In the end the game really reflects the world it tries to portray accurately, giving you reason enough to care about what is going on and structuring its gameplay accordingly. If you’re expecting an arresting story to carry you through then you may leave disappointed, as really it’s the gameplay here which wins the day.
While it might not be for everyone, Mankind Divided proves that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to create a game which is fun to play, and if that’s all you’re after then you will be absolutely satisfied.
The 1996 point-and-click adventure game The Neverhood was a cult classic, so when its creators launched a Kickstarter to fund a spiritual successor some three years ago, they comfortably met their target. Whilst Pencil Test Studios haven’t quite managed to bottle lightning here, the obvious passion project radiates a warmth that makes it unquestionably endearing.
The obvious passion project radiates a warmth that makes it unquestionably endearing.
A look at the wonderful world of Armikrog.
You’ll spend most of your time on Spiro 5 solving a range of puzzles that gate progress, but rest assured that solutions are never outlandish enough to deny being reached naturally through the clues you’re provided. Another LucasArts pitfall is dodged by the inclusion of a cursor that snaps to interactable objects, ensuring you won’t miss anything important and need to undertake an ensuing pixel-hunt.
Whilst some puzzles are reused numerous times, the game’s short runtime meant they never had chance to become stale. Perhaps the most interesting of the bunch involve splitting Beaky from Tom to gain a new perspective. Beaky’s blindness is portrayed through a desaturated and rippling filter that allows him to sense otherwise invisible symbols in the environment - which you might want to draw, unless you like backtracking - and communicate with aliens to gain cryptic insight.
In the few hours it takes to reach the credits, not much honestly happens, but the chilled pacing makes for a refreshingly brave change of pace. It’s clear a sequel is planned, though it’s one of those instances where you can’t be certain it’ll ever actually materialise. We certainly hope that fear is without foundation, as what little there is of Armikrog is incredibly charismatic and likeable. Despite its issues, our beaming grin never faltered - to put it simply, Armikrog made us happy.
Despite having been around since 1994, having been available on a multitude of platforms, and having thirteen prior instalments, PS4 exclusive The King of Fighters XIV has been our introductory encounter with this franchise. Whilst we’ve discovered a sound technical fighter to add to our repertoire, we’ve also come to understand why it fell by the wayside for so long.
Don’t expect Netherrealm-style production values from the story mode. A sparse few cinematics convey a scant narrative.
Whilst the characters all have a firm technical foundation, their designs and diversity leave a little to be desired. We couldn’t identify most of them in a lineup, which might sound a petty grievance, but when the genre’s built upon the shoulders of iconic characters, it’s criminal. Thankfully they can’t all be tarred with the same brush, as select combatants - Choi Bounge and The King of Dinosaurs, for example - are bizarre enough to be memorable.
KOFXIV’s game modes are just as numerous with versus, survival, time attack, combo trials and story available on the singleplayer front. They’re all pretty self-explanatory, though don’t expect Netherrealm-style production values from the story mode. A sparse few cinematics convey a scant narrative that does little to distract from the fact it’s actually a tower battle mode.
Whilst disappointing, it’s far from damning for most, as online’s where extended longevity is eked out. There’s a lot to keep you busy between ranked play and free matches across team, single and party disciplines. It’s all for naught if poor netcode warps the otherwise responsive 60FPS control, but for the most part, performance is reliably steady. Whilst we have experienced infrequent pockets of latency, we couldn’t be picky about opponents pre-release, so expect better results when faced with a choice of matches in your region come launch day.
It’s easy to appreciate KOFXIV’s technical prowess, but it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Whilst connections vary, you’re always guaranteed a sumptuous visual and aural presentation. A bevy of creative stages show off a carnival of crisp, 1080p colour, each accompanied by a unique and fitting track. Clean menus also house a hard-rocking main theme, which never fails to build hype for the impending fight.
It’s easy to appreciate The King of Fighters XIV’s technical prowess and no bells and whistles approach; they give it a nostalgic feel that harkens back to many a classic. Despite that, it just doesn’t stand out from the crowd, or excel enough in any one area to take mantle as the game of choice in that distinction. For a certain breed of hardcore gamer, the stark focus on fundamentals will be a huge positive, whereas for another - us included - it’ll lack inherent fun through neglecting established pillars of the genre, like bonkers mini-games and recognisable guest characters. Which camp you fall into dictates whether KOFXIV is worth your time.
Couch co-op games have become somewhat antiquated in these modern times, so how refreshing it is to see Overcooked, a local multiplayer focussed fracas from the good fellows at Ghost Town Games. We loved playing the game at Rezzed back in the spring, but has it lived up to it’s huge potential?
If Keith Floyd were still with us, he’d be raising his bottle to Overcooked - this is essential gaming.
As fun as the game is in multiplayer, it doesn’t send the saliva glands a quivering solo. The joy of assessing a situation and strategizing with a friend (whilst being very vocal with one another) is completely lost here, unless you’re a fantastic self-conversationalist, of course... In solo mode you’ll be chopping and changing which chef you control, whilst you set the other one up with a task, be it frying, washing dishes, etc. It’s noble of Ghost Town to offer a singleplayer experience, but we couldn’t help but find it redundant compared to the wonderful multiplayer.
The overall presentation of the game would make Michel Roux proud, with an aesthetic taken straight from classic games of the 90s. From the Micro Machines inspired vehicle navigation between levels on the world map, to the fabulous music throughout (soft acoustic guitars mix with pianos, accordions, violins and drums), Ghost Town Games have slaved over a hot stove and come up with a masterpiece.
We loved Overcooked, and will continue to break it out whenever friends visit the majestic, diamond encrusted PTC headquarters. Thoroughly recommended for anyone with chums, you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth and then some, especially with the added versus mode (exactly what it says on the tin). Online multiplayer would’ve been nice, but we can’t help but love the game that little bit more for failing to conform to modern standards. If Keith Floyd were still with us, he’d be raising his bottle to Overcooked - this is essential gaming.
Want to know more about Overcooked developer Ghost Town Games? Check out our interview.
Originally released on PC earlier in the year, Hyper Light Drifter recently made its way to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but is Heart Machine’s retro inspired RPG worth console owners’ time? In short, yes - but read on to find out why.
At the beginning of the game you have two attacks at your disposal, plus a drift boost for dodging incoming fire and leaping small gaps. A light sword and sidearm are the weapons of choice at first, but there are a number of guns and alternate attack moves to unlock as you progress.
These include a shotgun type for close quarters (very useful for hit and run attacks in combination with the drift mechanic), a rifle which can cut through multiple enemies at once, and a powerful hand cannon that fires giant balls of energy and is capable of decimating smaller enemies and dealing hefty chunks of damage to larger ones (a personal favourite).
Hyper Light Drifter manages to condense solid gameplay and fast paced combat into a neat 8 – 10-hour package
Ammunition is not found, instead it is replenished through the destruction of objects or by landing melee damage on enemies, the latter of these offering up the greater reward. It’s a clever system, one that stops the player relying solely on ranged attacks and encourages them to embrace the frenetic close-quarters action.
All this takes place in an open world made up of five regions. The central town (used as a hub area for upgrades and down time) is bordered by four neighbouring districts, each featuring their own unique style and enemies.
Your main task is to find and activate a number of modules in each region and deal with whatever boss is residing there. It all looks simple enough when viewed upon the map, but it’s rarely a case of simply walking to the desired destination.
Some modules require convoluted journeys in order to locate them, leading you through dungeon-like underground sections made of multiple levels. The vague map isn’t much help, and as a result it’s easy to end up going in circles, which can quickly get frustrating. Maybe it’s my poor navigational skills, but finding the last elusive module was often just a case of wandering around in the hope I would eventually stumble upon it.
Being able tackle the lands in any order you wish helps keep things from growing stale or repetitive, however. If you become tired of the flooded lands to the east and its ninja star throwing, giant frog occupiers, then you can always head north to a more mountainous land for some battles with vulture creatures.
Approaching each fight for the first time is exciting, but is best treated as more of a recon than a serious attempt to emerge victorious. Some were markedly easier to beat than others, but for the most part it’ll take more than a few attempts in order to learn each bosses’ attacks and how best to counter them. Whittling down the sizeable health bars and eventually landing the final blow after a particularly gruelling fight is very satisfying, and makes all the failed endeavours leading up to victory feel worthwhile.
Taking on the game’s standard enemies is by no means less enjoyable, although sometimes things can get a little overwhelming when you encounter the horde mode like set pieces and the screen is filled with multiple enemies at once, each launching a variety of attacks. Much like boss fights, coming out on top in these moments can be very rewarding, and the game does well to make you feel like a proper bad-ass thanks to a nice little animation after victory.
As was mentioned earlier, Hyper Light Drifter is decidedly lacking in the script department. Knowing the game works as a metaphor for creator Alex Preston’s heart condition does add depth to proceedings, and gives the seemingly un-killable shadow-creature haunting the footsteps of the protagonist more sombre undertones - but as far as the in-game story goes, it’s open to interpretation.
This may be a deal breaker for some, but personally it’s nice to see a game for once not undoing its own sense of mystery and intrigue by explaining things too much. All that’s clear is that things are not right in the land, and you as the player are the person to set things straight, despite battling an unnamed illness.
What information there is to be gleaned from the well-directed cut scenes is enough to entertain, while a suitably atmospheric accompanying score is a more than worthy replacement for words in most cases, helping to deliver some powerful imagery.
Hyper Light Drifter manages to condense solid gameplay and fast paced combat into a neat 8 – 10-hour package (add a couple more if your fussed about finding all the hidden outfits and extras), delivering a solid, streamlined and enjoyable action-RPG experience, definitely one that shouldn’t be missed.
Telltale Games’ narrative take on Batman is a refreshing one; the man beneath the cowl takes centre stage in a battle with corrupt politics and organised crime, whilst maniacal villains take somewhat of a back seat.
Through being exposed to the consequences of Batman's vigilantism, as well as his reluctance to engage in it, the image of an invincible hero dissipates.
The game engine also finds itself lacking, even after an upgrade, as Telltale’s well-established technical hitches remain present and accounted for. They may occur less frequently, but we’d expect noticeable frame drops, momentary pauses, occasionally limp - even entirely missing - sound effects and distracting jagged edges to have been ousted.
Whilst the series is entirely Telltale’s own, tying directly into no established arm of the franchise, the detective scenes lean heavily upon those from Batman: Arkham Origins. You’ll analyse clues within a crime scene and make physical links between the evidence in order to build a picture of what happened - once it’s fully fleshed out, the scene will play back in full. It isn’t particularly mentally taxing, but playing as the World’s Greatest Detective is engaging nonetheless.
The same mechanic is later recycled to formulate a plan of attack, which will go off without a hitch whatever approach you might choose (provided you hit the QTEs in time, of course). This illusory choice is something you’ll have to learn to live with in order to glean the most from the experience, but it does become slightly egregious when characters spout total inaccuracies. After interrogating a goon through the sole means of intimidation, Alfred chastised us for having “gone too far” in “beating him half to death”. Finally gone senile, eh?
Despite its problems, through employing a grounded cast of recognisable characters - whom you can read up on in the Codex, should they be unfamiliar to you - that span shades of grey, the seeds of an intriguing and unique Batman story have been sewn. Its a reinvigorating take on the franchise and its characters that left us questioning who and what we know, as well as eager to uncover more in the coming episodes. That's the sign of an opening done very right.
Bust out that theremin - or musical saw - and put on your wiseguy hat, because we’re taking a trip to 1950’s America. Martians are invading, and Uncle Sam needs you (and any chums you can muster) to help fight against the alien menace. Clapfoot Games’ Fortified is a mash-up of tower defence and third-person shooting, and for the most part, it really works.
The game also boasts a lovely art style and sense of humour; the character models appear basic, whilst possessive of lovely warm edges that perfectly fit the tone. Steam rising up from the undergrounds, brick buildings and streetlights all give off the appearance of 50s America. The menu screens are adorned with graphic novel-style stills that showcase the main characters; The Captain, The Rocket Scientist, The Agent & The Spaceman. Each character has a unique visual style and an amusing array of one-liners and quips, giving the game real charm.
A sticking point for some could be the difficulty curve, which can reach high peaks, even with co-op partners along for the ride, as you tackle an array of enemies from an increasing number of directions. Some of these enemies are simple on-foot robots, some are annoying crab-like swines, but it’s the pesky buggers that fly or quickly roll through the map before launching a tirade of terror upon your rocket that’ll trouble you the most. This high-level of challenge can grate at times, but when you eventually nail your strategy and see your rocket blast off into orbit, you’ll feel darn proud.
Fans of XCOM should definitely check it out - assuming they enjoy tower defence, of course.
Fortified offers plenty of bang for your £11.99, a very fair price for the hours of fun you’ll get out of it. Fans of XCOM should definitely check it out - assuming they enjoy tower defence, of course.
Be sure to check out our play-through video underneath too!