There comes a time for many games where committing to it is essential to enjoy yourself. Sometimes the premise and presentation is so ridiculous that you feel like you’ll never be able to take it seriously - and, in some cases, games are just games and should be treated as such - whereas in others there’s such a push for photorealistic graphics and a compelling story that calling it ‘just a game’ feels like a disservice.
That’s not to say it’s unbalanced, tanks still explode left and right during matches, but with so many less tools to take them out it becomes a more substantial contrast being on foot to being mobile. There’s attention to detail throughout the game, particularly visually, but the awkward control of these early tanks is faithfully representative, as is the more clumsy and temperamental nature of weapons.
The single-player campaign (War Stories) feels more like series of skirmishes than a cohesive story, deliberately following the stories of five very separate soldiers as they battle on their various fronts. From the word go the game hits home hard the helpless feeling of this war, making it no surprise that many stories don’t have a happy ending.
Characters get up to five episodes, with each section a fairly short mission, to make an emotional impact and it can be a bit hit and miss. You almost wish that we’d spent more time with a couple fewer characters so that we really cared about them at the end of their story. The full geographical variety of The Great War is captured, emphasising just how many fronts armies were fighting on, and offering different terrain.
The opening prologue section throws you into the horror, as a voice over tells tales of the sacrifices and loss of life, making a harrowing impact and steering clear of any accusation of glorifying war at the same time. Soldiers’ names and years appear hauntingly at the top of the screen whenever you’re killed, making death feel all the more permanent - a touch, sadly, not carried over to the multiplayer.
The opening prologue section throws you into the horror, as a voiceover tells tales of the sacrifices and loss of life, making a harrowing impact and steering clear of any accusation of glorifying war at the same time. Soldiers’ names and years appear hauntingly at the top of the screen whenever you’re killed, making death feel all the more permanent - a touch, sadly, not carried over to the multiplayer.
Gameplay is the aspect which does feel the most familiar, with your soldier slinging grenades and reloading their weapon with ease, but traversing some of the levels is more awkward than others, thanks to tricky foliage or destroyed walls with odd-angles. We only encountered a handful of invisible walls, though the signature ‘Return to the Battlefield’ returned numerous times as we tried to outflank enemies, who are generally shockingly oblivious to their friends being stabbed with a shovel mere metres in front of them.
In multiplayer there’s a new mode - Operations - to really play on the series’ love of scale. It’s a showcase for destruction, in which DICE continue to raise the standard, and frantic mayhem as 64 players hurl themselves across vast war-torn areas.
There’s plenty of other modes to indulge in, including the classic Conquest and Rush modes and the part quirky; part contrived War Pigeons mode, which sees teams fight for control of...pigeons. Unfortunately, much like in Battlefront, the gametypes don’t serve to mix up the gameplay all that much. Expect to die many many times in almost every match.
The lack of variety doesn’t end there either. Despite the campaign finally embracing elements which make Battlefield Battlefield, such as controlling points and using vehicles, many missions still boil down to sneaking around an area, hoping you don’t get discovered, and then getting to another area and holding off enemies until something happens. For example, the best War Story is probably Through Mud and Blood, which puts you in the shoes of a tank driver, but more often than not you’re asked to scout ahead on foot.
In the end, Battlefield 1 is a game which ticks all the right boxes, but it all feels quite safe (as the bullets whip past your ears…). The team made a fantastic decision to return to the past, but arguably didn’t make the most of it, besides extremely faithfully recreating the era.
Whether it’s a must buy or a wait and see (there’s 16 more maps and lots of other content promised as DLC), depends if you have friends to play with. Sadly, the reality of modern gaming is that effective teamwork is rare between people who could potentially communicate but don’t, meaning most tactical maneuvers happen by chance as players happen upon the same area at once, rather than deliberate plans of attack.
While there are problems, there’s no denying that DICE are masters of creating a convincing setting, and there’s plenty to do within it, providing you are happy to embrace the game as is, rather than what it could have been.
When Microsoft purchased the Gears of War franchise back in 2014 and announced that The Coalition would be given the task of taking the series forward, the pressure was on to match the already high standard set by Epic Games’ previous four titles – yes, Judgment does count.
DeeBees also bring a few new toys to the battlefield - a personal favourite being the Enforcer, a fast firing SMG that was so good at turning mechs into scrap it remained firmly in the back-up weapon slot until the campaign’s conclusion roughly ten hours later.
Fun as they are, Jinn and her army of mechs were only ever destined to play second fiddle to the game’s true antagonists, the Swarm. Don’t let the name fool you though, if it looks, sounds and fights like Locust, chances are it is one. Still, it wouldn’t be a proper Gears game without some big scaly bastards to kill, and the Swarm fill that role quite nicely.
Swarm mostly come in three types: the classic Drone, the Wretch-like Juvies, and Scions (think Boomer and you’re pretty much there), but there’s a few mini boss types that keep things interesting. Snatchers were a highlight, and aptly named as it turns out. These powerful creatures will target any downed player, hoovering them up in a mess of tentacles and ooze before attempting to leave the battlefield, ending the player’s progress.
As well as new enemy types, The Coalition also introduces us to some new tech in the form of the Fabricator, a piece of kit that allows players to build defences such as barriers, decoys and turrets to take on waves of enemies at certain points in the story, offering up a bite-sized take on the series’ iconic Horde mode.
While these moments may be a more condensed version of the real thing, packing a room with six auto turrets and watching them decimate any enemy foolish enough to come within range is still immensely satisfying.
It’s undeniably pretty – ripping enemies to shreds with a chainsaw bayonet has never looked so good.
Such thrills can be found in the dedicated Horde mode, but it’s much more of a slow burn process – be prepared to settle in for the long haul if you want to complete all 50 waves. Here, the Fabricator acts as your team’s home base and can be moved to whichever spot on the map players decide is the most defendable. Unlike in the campaign, the currency used to purchase or repair fortifications, known as Power, must be earned.
This is done through a sort of ‘kill confirmed’ method, where Power that has been dropped by downed enemies must be collected and deposited back at the Fabricator before the next wave begins. All Power is shared amongst players and needs to be treated as a team resource, otherwise selfish players may find themselves quickly abandoned by their fellow Gears.
It’s good to see Horde back in its true form after Judgment’s experiment with Survival mode, and it bridges the gap nicely between the campaign and competitive multiplayer.
It’s in the PvP side of things that we see one of the biggest changes from previous Gears games, with all the action taking place at a silky smooth 60fps. The jump in framerate can be a little jarring at first, but once you get used to the upgrade it feels like a perfect fit for the brutal, close-quarters combat the multiplayer is famed for.
Series veterans will instantly feel at home one-shotting opponents with Gnashers (which still dominate, despite my attempts to introduce longer ranged combat), and new abilities like the ‘Yank and Shank’ - which grants players the ability to grab and gut enemies in cover - improve upon the existing formula without drastically altering it.
The only real issue was found in the multiplayer’s customisation options, which are unlocked through Crates that can be purchased with micro transactions or with in-game currency earned through matches.
It’s a system similar to the one found in Halo 5’s REQ packs, but unlike 343’s game which readily hands out points needed to unlock said packs, the in-game currency in Gears 4 is a little harder to come by. Even after putting in a decent performance there’s very little reward, and it feels like you are being shepherded towards spending real cash on Crates if you don’t want to be stuck with the vanilla character and weapon skins.
The Coalition have said they are considering tweaking how Crates are earned, but at the time of writing the system feels a bit broken.
Other than this minor issue and as far as series debuts go, Gears of War 4 is a solid first effort from The Coalition. They’ve righted the perceived wrongs of Judgment, while adding in a few changes of their own that complement the series’ tried and trusted formula rather than altering it too much, ensuring that the game feels both familiar and fresh.
Tethered is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing, perilously cute and harbouring a diabolical secret. The aesthetically friendly, PlayStation VR exclusive strategy game is quick to pile on complex mechanics, soon leaving players tasking tasks on top of multitasks in a frantic struggle to heal the land.
Incredibly moreish, as the best strategy games are, Tethered is a fully-featured entry into the genre first and foremost.
Luckily, Secret Sorcery do afford the player some concessions that mean playing Tethered isn’t entirely like wrestling an octopus with your hands bound. Weather effects offer a wide range of boons depending on how they’re employed, for example: snowy clouds alone can be tethered to a body of water in order to freeze it and open new paths, to a depleted rock formation to allow further quarrying, to a peep to give them added damage absorption, to an enemy to hold them in place, and to other clouds to create combined weather phenomenon. A range of clouds with a similar multitude of uses spawn and despawn frequently, so using them routinely and efficiently is key to your success.
There are also a suite of buildables to erect on designated foundations that’ll help you on your way, provided enough resources have been gathered. A field should take priority and provides a consistent food supply, whilst a moot hall and barracks allow peeps to be trained in vocations that boost their productivity, the workshop increases work speed, and a temple offers additional ways to procure Spirit Energy. Building multiples of these base structures proportionally increases their benefits, whilst they can each individually be upgraded once to serve a number of additional uses.
With an absolute swathe of options there are a great many paths through any given level, though across the thirteen present in Tethered we were never really challenged to diversify. Each floating island sports a more complex layout and devious upgrade path than the last, but we were nonetheless able to utilise the same tactics from start to finish relatively unchallenged. As a result, the later levels are perhaps the weakest of the bunch due to repetition somewhat setting in as they unfurl in much the same way you’re accustomed to, just on a larger scale.
The latter stages also demand busy head movements to juggle the increasing number of tasks, leaving you no time to take in their gorgeous vistas, and - more damningly - the PlayStation Camera can struggle to keep track of the action, resulting in the need for semi-frequent adjustments.
You're afforded concessions that mean playing Tethered isn’t entirely like wrestling an octopus with your hands bound.
In addition to this issue, some menus can appear at awkward angles and uncomfortably close to your face, making them difficult to read, but the virtual reality implementation is, for the most part, stellar regardless. You look down on the world as if it were a living diorama suspended in the sky, which stretches, vast and blue, far into the distance to offer a real sense of depth and scale. Importantly, the elevated perspective and the peeps’ direct reactions to the player further the game’s themes; they help to realise the fantasy of embodying an omnipotent and omnipresent deity, rather than simply occupying ‘gimmick’ territory.
Thanks to this, the world of Tethered isn’t one you’ll want to leave anytime soon. Despite becoming a tad repetitive, we’re still drawn back to improve our rankings (not that you can get any higher than first on the global leaderboard /smug), polish our strategies, and even develop some new ones.
Incredibly moreish, as the best strategy games are, Tethered is a fully-featured entry into the genre first and foremost, but one that leverages virtual reality to convey its empowering, godly themes with clout. It definitely has its issues, but they’re easily overcome when contrasted with the game’s mechanical depth and visual charm.
The Stardust series began life on the Amiga back in 1993, long lying dormant until the 2007 reboot Super Stardust HD hit PlayStation 3 consoles. Super Stardust Ultra brought the arcade fun of HD over to the PS4 last year, and it’s now been ported once more to implement PlayStation VR functionality. Though the result is the most involving Super Stardust experience yet, it’s hard to get excited about a game that’s already well and truly done the rounds.
Invasion mode commendably maintains the fundamentals found in the core game, smoothly transitioning genres to place you in the first-person cockpit of a hover tank.
Whilst it’s cool to see asteroids jettisoned into your peripheral vision from all directions, and look deep into the vastness of space, VR is far from integral to the bulk of Super Stardust Ultra (though that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, considering its origins). Oddly, for a pretty sedentary experience, the tracking can drift off centre and you’ll occasionally need to turn in order to keep up with the action. Whilst this wasn’t a major issue for us, thanks to playing in a handy swivel chair, if your seat is fixed, you may find yourself needing to reset your position often.
Luckily, no such issues persist with the new Invasion mode. Though, unfortunately, despite being the premier reason to own this version, it plays a sad second fiddle. Invasion commendably maintains the fundamentals found in the core game, smoothly transitioning genres to place you in the first-person cockpit of a hover tank to resume the fight at ground level.
It’s brilliantly responsive to control with the DualShock 4, thanks largely to PSVR’s compulsory high frame rates. Combine accurate, head tracked aiming and you’ll soon be whipping around the small arena painting airborne targets for homing missiles, keeping ground troops in your gaze to maintain automatic weapon fire, deploying EMPs and more - all whilst feeling like a multitasking badass.
The combination can get a tad intense, however, which can lead to feelings of nausea. Obviously comfort will differ from person to person, but the effects were far from ghastly, allowing us to finish Invasion on the initial sitting. Not that there’s an alternative to powering through it in a single sitting, mind, as you can’t save your place and come back later. Whilst the option would’ve been a pleasant quality of life feature - especially when breaks are encouraged, sternly so if you’re feeling discomfort - the fact it can be completed well within the hour mostly excuses its absence.
If you're looking for a solid game that would stand firm in the absence of virtual reality, Super Stardust Ultra VR has your back. If you're looking for something to showcase your new tech, which you probably are at this point, it’ll leave you wanting. That fact immediately devalues the proposition to existing fans of the series, though if you’re new, there are worse ways to invest the budget asking price.
There's no other way of saying it - Rush of Blood is amazing. It’s the kind of experience you’d expect to find in an arcade, or as a theme park attraction, not as something you can actually own in your own home. Whilst that last sentence probably makes me sound at least twice my age, thanks to PlayStation VR, the game does feel revolutionary.
Rush of Blood’s shootouts are at their best when undertaken dual-wielding PlayStation Move motion controllers. The fidelity is impressive, easily accommodating subtle wrist movements to, for example, destroy a line of objects without missing a shot. As enemies swarm towards you, unsettlingly encroaching on and eventually invading your personal space, things naturally get a little more frenzied and the arm flailing begins. Though the controls adjust well, you’ll need to hold your controller(s) out and keep them still whilst holding Option/Start to properly realign if you get too carried away.
Weapon boxes are scattered around the environment and can be used to your advantage in these desperate situations, shooting them replacing the default, infinite-ammo pistol in the relevant hand with an ammo-limited upgrade. Each weapon behaves differently and carries unique advantages and disadvantages - like the shotgun’s short range and limiting two shots before reload, but immense firepower - making weapon choices an important tactical factor at higher difficulties. This is especially true as reloading is manual, which is easy to forget when you’re hurriedly attempting to fire clicking weapons because your real life is totally on the line!
You’ll also spot deviously hidden collectables and secrets dotted around the place, which, along with Trophies and leaderboards, contribute replay value to the short - though appropriately priced - package. Such is the game's gravitational pull that my second playthrough is already in full swing; what’s more, I’m taking in new sights and travelling new paths all the while.
It’s the kind of experience you’d expect to find in an arcade, or as a theme park attraction, not as something you can actually own in your own home.
The perfect Halloween party game (seriously, convince someone that scares easily to play and hilarity ensues) Until Dawn: Rush of Blood isn’t just a tired rail-shooter, but the rejuvenator of a stale genre. Virtual reality’s added dimension allows for invasive scares that are impossible to become desensitised to, making it genuinely uncomfortable (in a good way) to physically dodge rotting corpses, get drenched in gory entrails that turn your vision a sticky red, and be bombarded by hideous 3D noise that dares you to look in its direction. We’d be happy to leave the house and pay-per-play, so the fact we can stay home and enjoy Rush of Blood to our heart’s content at the very reasonable asking price of £16 makes it an easy recommendation, and a must-buy for PSVR owners.
After a catastrophic series of events, Vietnam vet-turned-criminal Lincoln Clay is viciously thrust into an unfortunate and tragic predicament he didn't see coming. He is now out for blood, and a whole lot of it.
Mafia 3 strikes all the right notes aesthetically with a fantastic ensemble of characters, but at its core, suffers from a bad case of un-inspiring, repetitive and aimless mission structure.
In combat, although there is no room for error, cover-to-cover movement feels fluid in tricky, hostile situations, and the ability to whistle is a handy feature when wanting to increase your body count in certain covert operations. Weapon choice is limited at the beginning, but after time spent collating money and acquiring certain perks from your underbosses, upgrades become more easy to acquire. This is all combined with a straightforward and organised inventory system that’s simple to navigate through, which is great when you find yourself needing ammunition and upgrades pronto.
The game isn't afraid to explore sensitive issues of its time either, tackling subjects such as racial segregation, politics and corruption. Hangar 13 are unapologetic in their execution of these themes - going as far as putting a disclaimer at the beginning of the game - and, as a result of this, it feels like an educational experience as well.
Character encounters are some of the most engaging we have come across in a video game for a long time. This compelling characterisation from its cast is a significant strength, and the game would, undoubtedly, lose a huge amount of its charm without it. It’s captivating to witness the protagonists’ ambitions and integrity challenged, and to digest their outlook on the society they live in.
It’s a shame then, in a city with so much colourful character, that you aren’t able to interact with New Bordeaux with the same level of intimacy as in previous titles. Bars, pawn shops and cocktail bars are in abundance here, but are just for show. Mafia 3 lacks subtle interactions like grabbing a beer or something to eat at the diner, or spending some time in your apartment.
There’s also a lack of incentive. Mission completion has no fulfilling reward system for your efforts, so missions quickly begin feeling like a chore, rather than something to anticipate. The emphasis on stealth is more prominent than it has been in the past, and, in fact, the game relies very heavily upon it, quickly making things feel repetitive. Along with this, the ability to fast travel is non-existent. New Bordeaux is a small enough city to navigate by transit, but you’ll often find yourself spending more time driving than anything else.
Clocking in at just under 30 hours of game time, what Mafia 3 has managed to achieve in this time frame is commendable, and whilst we have many more hours to explore, we’re still taking great pleasure in sabotaging shipments and dropping bodies into crocodile infested waters. Mafia 3 strikes all the right notes aesthetically, and boasts a fantastic ensemble of characters, but at its core, suffers from a bad case of uninspiring, repetitive and aimless mission structure.
PlayStation VR Worlds is essentially a collection of five technical demonstrations that serve to illustrate different ways in which the new technology can be leveraged. They do so to varying degrees of success, offering impressive highs and dismaying lows.
VR Worlds’ games are inconsistent in many ways, but they all share an immersive sense of 3D depth and place.
A spot of Danger Ball seemed the way to relieve stress following an afternoon with a foul-mouthed Jason Statham clone. It’s the literal realisation of what people perceived virtual reality to be way back when; a neon sport suspended in a vast, futuristic arena where opponents rally a ball at immense pace and score by ensuring it isn’t returned. It’s controlled entirely with headset tracking, whereby you’ll simply look to the spot you wish the paddle to occupy, before applying power and spin by moving to meet the ball as sense would dictate. A range of opponents and difficulty levels keep things interesting, and make Danger Ball the most attractive of the bunch to revisit on a whim.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse from here on in. VR Luge is frankly just rubbish. You’ll likely need to lie on the floor on your back, awkwardly propping your torso up with your forearms to mirror the action and fend off nausea. The headset tracking isn’t particularly precise, possibly due to our odd positioning, whilst the sense of speed never fully translates, largely because the already low-resolution visuals are made a complete, disorienting blur as they whizz by.
Scavengers Odyssey, on the other hand, was fantastic for the brief time we lasted before motion sickness hit. You operate a mech as a treasure-hunting alien life form (it’s thoroughly bizarre to look down and see foreign appendages, by the way) in search of a long-lost artefact. Along the way you’ll shift gravity and leap through deep space, as well as blasting baddies and flinging objects with the suit’s integrated weapons and tether. It’s incredibly intense stuff in VR terms, and doesn’t really belong in a collection for beginners. Just thinking about it’s making us light-headed, so we’re in no rush to revisit, walling off a large portion of content.
Like the introductory tech demos for new technologies before it, VR Worlds is a showcase that encourages otherwise hesitant individuals to put their preconceptions aside and just have go.
VR Worlds’ games are evidently inconsistent in many ways, but they all share an immersive sense of 3D depth and place. You’ll recoil from a punch, instinctively raise your hands when a gun is pointed at your head, edge away from danger as you’re stalked by a shark, and engage your acrophobia as you look beneath your feet in the Danger Ball arena. It really is special, and you need to try it for yourself to fully comprehend it, which sounds cliché by now, but it’s no less true.
Sony London might have received layoffs after concluding their work on the project, but ultimately, PlayStation VR Worlds does serve its purpose well. Like the introductory tech demos for new technologies before it, VR Worlds is a showcase that encourages otherwise hesitant individuals to put their preconceptions aside and just have go. I mean, my non-gaming parents couldn’t get enough, and gush about the experience to anybody that’ll listen. That's quite something.
In the now (seemingly) annual Forza release schedule it's once again the turn of the younger, party-loving Horizon series to give people their dose of car porn and speed thrills.
...cars are beautifully modelled and the scenery, even when not in motion, is all very decently rendered, backdrops and skylines being particularly beautiful to cruise along to.
Of course, no one actually plays Forza for characters or plot, and you can soon settle down to smash through the outback. As it happens this is endless fun. Despite all the races and events on offer, I often found myself just choosing a direction and driving, smashing and bouncing across the scenery. As it is a Forza game the driving itself is solid and satisfying, with cars being more controllable and on the drifty side than its brother, the Motorsport series. Cars feel weighty and handle noticeably differently, with ground and surfaces seeming to be more of a consideration this time round – taking your million-dollar supercar off road doesn't always end as well as you might hope. It's still a proper racer though, and drafting behind other racers to slingshot your way past is still essential to victory.
Speaking of victory, I do have the same problem I always have with racing games, in that one difficulty is far too easy, whilst the next one up exponentially increases the AI’s speed and they leave you in this dust at the start line. However considering the best answer to this is to perfect your racing line and cornering, it's not necessarily a criticism. I still have to say that the much vaunted 'Drivatar' system is not all that noticeable, they all follow essentially the same racing line and seldom crash.
It being a Forza game, it looks fantastic, cars are beautifully modelled and the scenery, even when not in motion, is all very decently rendered, backdrops and skylines being particularly beautiful to cruise along to. It's not much of an obvious visual step over the last game but small touches in texture and lighting help it look that bit better. The day/night cycle returns as well as rain which, while not as game-changing as Forza 6 or realistic as Driveclub, still looks pretty impressive and does warrant driving more carefully. The damage model is still pretty poor (almost non existent beyond slight crumpling) though - you sort of feel like 200mph crashes should have some visual effect.
It's not just a pretty face either, there's content too. The world is the biggest yet with nearly all parts of the map accessible, and with collectable (well, smash-able) boards dotted all over the map there's reason to explore. Each area of the playspace contains a good amount of races and 'PR events' (speed cameras, drift zones etc) to complete, and races have different game modes to complete them in, as well as unlockable harder 'street' races (often at night), not to mention new 'Blueprint' races which let you set them up yourself, car type, length etc. Everything is available in multiplayer too, which you can swap to easily from the start menu. With car customisation, tuning and the return of the auction house, you should never want for something to entertain. The levelling system has also been expanded, giving more choice of rewards and bonuses.
It has its problems, but they're more irritations than anything else. Playing with damage on feels unfair, as the AI do not take damage and can take you out. The impact physics are very rigid too - clipping a tree root will stop you dead.
Speaking of being taken out by the AI, the freeroam map always has drivatars around with you, but frankly they're a menace – they turn and overtake without a warning or a care, which is very frustrating when you have a high skill chain or are going for a speed target. There's also little visual difference between trees which can and can't be destroyed, though you learn to tell them apart fairly quickly.
The PC version has some widely documented framerate issues but I did not experience any on console, though it does sometimes take a surprisingly long time to save changes in garage. There's also a slightly unexplained hiring system, which routinely asks you to go find a drivatar and challenge them to a (easy and cheatable) race to hire them, but because it takes them from your friends list it mostly brings up level 1 players you'd never want to hire anyway so it seems a bit pointless.
Forza Horizon 3 essentially just builds on what came before, but hones it and adds enough new content to make this a definite purchase if you enjoyed the last one, or just want a fun colourful racing game to trash the Australian outback with.
Developer Dan Fornace is the mind behind Super Smash Land, a fan-made Super Smash Bros. demake, who also served as Lead Developer on the excellent Killer Instinct reboot that launched alongside the Xbox One. Dan’s background is precisely why his new independent venture, Rivals of Aether, should grab your attention. It’s an amalgamation of the knowledge he’s accrued, as well as another passionate love letter to one of his favourite games.
Once you’re good and ready for competition, you’ll need to carefully select a stage to put your new skills to use on. There’s a mixture of symmetrical and asymmetrical layouts, as well as compositions that allow for more or less verticality, centred around both grounded and fantastical geography. Each possesses a fitting retro soundtrack that’ll really put the wind in your sails, as well as unique hazards and pick-ups that change the way you play. It’s worth noting that these modifiers can be turned off should you want an unimpeded fight experience, perhaps to settle a dispute with a level-playing-field grudge match.
A further glut of customisation options are available for the matches themselves, namely edits to the time limit and number of lives, number of participants, whether the battle is free-for-all or team-based, and each individual fighter’s competence. Everyone can find their sweet spot as a result.
Whatever settings you opt for, matches are enjoyably frenetic, especially if you opt for a full roster of four. The streamlined controls earn their stay here, not getting lost amongst the crazy cavalcade of busy visual effects as conventionally complex inputs likely would.
As you dish out beatings the recipient’s damage percentage increases, and the higher it gets the easier it is to knock them from the stage and deplete their stock of lives by one. Once they run out, they’re eliminated, and you win by being the last animorph standing. It’s incredibly Smash, but it’s regardless a raucous good time that brings the experience to an audience Smash largely doesn’t reach.
It’s incredibly Smash, but it’s regardless a raucous good time that brings the experience to an audience Smash largely doesn’t reach.
For an early access game, technical performance is mostly rock solid thanks to responsive controls and no hitching during even the most frenzied of encounters. When we ventured online, some issues did unfortunately apparate in the finicky invite system and occasional bout of lag.
The online multiplayer issues don’t quite end there, however, as the breadth of choice available to solo users gives way to quite a rigid structure. Whilst it’s understandable that ranked matches would disable stage modifiers and bots, there’s no reason to enforce the same strict ruling on friendly matches. To the same point, team-based battles should also be available. Rivals of Aether is predictably at its absolute best when shared with friends, but unless they’re available for local play, the options are disappointingly limiting.
Despite that, if you’ve been craving a nostalgic shot of Smash Bros. but have long since left Nintendo behind, were burned by PlayStation All-Stars, or are just looking to inject some variety into your repertoire of bog-standard fighters, Rivals of Aether is for you. Whether you choose to invest now or wait for the final release depends where your interests lie; whilst you’re (at least eventually) in for a treat either way, we’d advise erring on the side of caution and waiting to see if the online options are expanded upon first.
Pick it up in preview
Wait for final release
Avoid it either way
Note: To reiterate, Rivals of Aether is currently in preview phase and this review reflects the state of the game at the time of publishing. Things can and will change, likely only for the better.
A brief second opinion:
With that in mind, the preview build definitely offers a strong beginning that we can expect to reach its full potential as the game is updated to reach release state.