Let me start with a confession, chums: yours truly finds Formula One rather dull. Long gone are the days of charismatic icons like Arton Senna, Alain Prost and Nigel Mansell (yes, yes, that last one is definitely a joke... honest). It’s because of this that I’ve failed to play a video game concerning the sport since good old F1 World Grand-Prix 2 on the mighty N64, so, can F1 2019 change my opinion? Or will the song remain the same? Ladies and gentlemen: start your engines!
“Now, now, our Bob,” I hear thee say “graphics don’t mean a thing if the gameplay don’t swing.” Wise words, comrades, wise words. We’re pleased to announce that the game plays an absolute dream. Every car feels different, and heck, even laps feel different as the tires degrade and corners have to be taken more cautiously (car assist options like racing lines and breaking assistance helped out a lot in our early stages). There's a true meditative pleasure in getting into the groove of a track, following its preferred racing line, breaking and accelerating at the perfect times. It’s sheer ozone-destroying bliss (and this is using a pad, so just imagine the fun of a wheel and pedals).
F1 2019 also boasts options so hearty you’ll be dining out for many a moon. There’s a wealth of single-player options: Career, Championship, Grand Prix, Time Trial and plenty of online malarkey too (more on that later). Firstly, Grand Prix is the exhibition match equivalent: pick a track and a car and off you go for a one-off race. Time Trial is also shockingly self explanatory, but no less addictive for it - the last time we enjoyed them this much was about 1998, trying to take advantage of that ruddy Koopa Troopa Beach shortcut…
Championship, on the other hand, possesses a little more intrigue than its straightforward name suggests. There are the obligatory run-throughs of the F1 and F2 championships, sure, but Championship mode also contains a “Legends” challenge mode that sees you take control of Prost or Senna, over the course of some sumptuous short-burst scenarios. We opted for Senna, thoroughly enjoying smashing Prost in vintage motorcades on the classic Monaco circuit. More sports games need to feature these kinds of hark backs to the past - just imagine if EA could get a Matt Le Tissier goal scenario mode in FIFA 20.
Trust us when we say that career mode will give you your money’s worth on its own.
But alas, we digress. Those wanting to truly get sucked into F1 2019 should head straight to Career mode, the fleshiest part of the game. Here you’ll progress through the ranks from F2 champ to F1 beast and everything in between - and what a ride it is.
The F2 season sees you tussle with rivals Devon Butler and Lukas Weber, interactive cutscenes and all, although they do tail off once you make the step up to F1 and select a team to join, which is where the real game begins. You’ll have chats with your agent, interviews with journalists, qualifying and racing to do. We just grazed over the depth on offer here - there’s so much to tweak and trial car wise for simulation fans - as it all seemed a bit much for our arcade-y tendencies, but trust us when we say that career mode will give you your money’s worth on its own.
If all that isn’t enough for you then we recommend you venture online. Those familiar with Codemasters’ racing games will feel at home here; there are weekly events, leagues, and more. There’s also a focus on the esports side of F1, with videos from global events and competitions to enter, too.
So, to the chequered flag we head, one hand off the wheel in triumph. F1 2019 is an undeniably high quality racing game, full of thrill-n-spills. Sure, the acting and storylines of career mode are corny rubbish of the highest order, and the potential for hardcore simulation mostly left us cold, but the overall racing and package is so fully formed that we can’t help but leave impressed. Add to that the recently announced update including the latest season of F2 and you've got a lot of longevity. If you’re a fan of the sport you should already have this, but if you’re not, you should probably still consider taking it for a spin.
While some of us at PTC Towers were only wee lads back in the 1990s, the decade's pedigree can't be denied its role in propelling console gaming to the heights it has reached today, spawning influential games left and right.
There’s a two-player co-op mode on offer, but only accessible locally, and you can also begin to feel like a bit of a spare part if you're a newbie and your co-pilot is a veteran. You can opt for a harder difficulty if you do find yourselves sailing through, which opens up two new characters to try out, but bizarrely only in solo play...
In typical arcade fashion, you're offered only one life and therefore a single try to get through the game without being taken down. If you decide to continue after dying you'll get going again from a fairly recent screen, but the game stops counting your time, and with no in-game scoring system to speak of there's now just pride to play for.
If a nostalgia hit is what you're looking for, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors could scratch an itch. It’s a well-made if slightly one-note adventure that won't kill a huge amount of time.
The trouble with space is that it's mostly empty. Venturing into the unknown in a tiny spaceship in Subdivision Infinity DX, you feel that sense of scale immediately, as enemy ships, gun turrets and collectables flicker as pixels in the distance - particularly in handheld mode.
Subdivision Infinity DX as a whole doesn’t offer a huge amount of variety, and with limited progression and customisation on offer, at least early on, momentum can start to drain fairly quickly. If you absolutely need a space shooter to play on the go, though, Subdivinity offers a taste of the sort of experience you might expect from something like Everspace at a fraction of the cost. What you’ll miss out on is the depth, variety and graphical polish - though it’s a step up from something like Event Horizon or Vostok Inc. - and experience the odd bit of slowdown when things get busy. It all depends what you’re looking for in a space adventure.
It's a well-known fact that there simply aren't enough hamsters in games these days. Fortunately for the sake of humanity, Hamsterdam is here to put the world to rights. Self-styled as an arcade brawler in which you'll become a "Hamster-fu master" patrolling a charming iteration of (you guessed it) Amsterdam, the game seeks to overpower you with cuteness from the word go.
Mini-bosses and bosses shake up the gameplay with a more side-scrolling approach to action, featuring a few QTEs for good measure. This succeeds in effectively mixing things up, but robs you of some of the satisfaction of taking down the game's beefiest villains. As a result, the difficulty curve also feels a little spikey, since these sections require completely different timing and skills, but after a few determined attempts it’s possible to power through.
Fortunately, the experience remains on the entertaining side of challenging even at those sticky moments, and it's impossible not to fall in love with Pimm and her adorable, increasingly impractical outfit choices. At the price point (less than £10, whatever your platform of choice), Hamsterdam poses great value for money and is an absolute joy.
When Wolfenstein: The New Order came out in 2014, conventional wisdom said multiplayer was king. The hottest games were Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Destiny, yet Wolfenstein came back and blew the doors off with a gripping singleplayer narrative.
Enemies respawn as well, bringing more of a Borderlands vibe, minus the loot, to exploration and quickly making you lament rather than fear running into varying sizes of Nazi. There's a sprinkle of variety in suicide dogs and endoskeletons straight out of The Terminator, but the Panzerhunde and other imposing enemies lack that flash of panic we felt the last time we came toe-to-toe with them.
There is something different about this particular release which doesn't often change where AAA titles are concerned, and that’s the price. Unlike the last Wolfenstein, you can pick up Youngblood for a mere £25, or £30 for the Deluxe Edition.
With the latter, you'll get a Buddy Pass which lets you invite a friend - as many as you want, but only one at a time. Your friend's progress is saved and will carry over to the main game if they decide to pick it up, at which point they’ll also be credited with achievements, though we struggled to get it to work smoothly during our playtime.
Arguably the main draw of Youngblood is as a Wolfenstein game with co-op, and on that front (when working without issue) it largely delivers. There's a few key things missing, like easy-to-use level maps, waypoints or pings beyond one enemy at a time, and a more significant reason to take on foes cooperatively.
Otherwise, there seems to be less here even than a lower price point would lead you to expect. The story and weight of earlier games is mostly absent, the level design feels increasingly generic the more side missions you complete, and even new features, like the RPG-lite elements, leave us wanting more.
Perhaps there are some elements, like the Buddy Pass itself, which will go on to be greater than the showing they had here, but for now there's not much more to say than Youngblood is quite good; we just wanted more.