The original Killing Floor had a budget charm, largely thanks to its roots as an Unreal Tournament 2004 mod; the sequel manages to maintain that unique identity, whilst a cash injection smooths over most of the rough edges.
A lifetime of headbanging doesn't seem to have had any adverse effect on the team, because the folks responsible for level design certainly have their wits about them. Settings play on recognisable horror tropes while seamlessly incorporating open outdoor areas to kite Zeds around, looping corridors to funnel targets through, and defensible interiors in which to hunker down for the long haul.
Take care to ensure there’s an escape route if adhering to that latter tactic, especially when welding doors shut, or all you’ll succeed in doing is quite literally sealing your fate. There’s a relatively steep learning curve to Killing Floor, due to it having defined right and wrong ways to play - without knowing how, where and when to choose either fight or flight, you won’t graduate from the lowest difficulty level.
As a result, there’s an immensely satisfying sense of progression when you eventually do. Each notch climbed rejuvenates the game, requiring somewhat vast advancements in playstyle to succeed. Playing with randomly matchmade teammates also becomes decidedly less tedious, everyone now beholden to the knowledge that anything other than a close-knit unit is doomed to fail.
Unfortunately, whilst the dedicated servers seldom suffer lag, provided you pause any active downloads, we did encounter an issue that often left us stuck on the loading screen and kept some degree of disappointment in the matching process. The glitch was most frequent when searching the new competitive match variant, which sees a team of players take control of the enemy in an all-too-easy effort to quell the human forces.
It’s incredibly unbalanced in favour of the Zeds, who suffer few to no concessions to counterbalance the fact they’re now powered by someone’s grey matter, rather than predictably regimented AI. Most egregious is what this does to boss battles, removing the staple design behind their patterned behaviour and telling animation, and with that, what makes for hard-fought, but fair, encounters.
Despite a high likelihood of victory, you’ll probably want to avoid playing the Zeds due to some inherent flaws. They’re subject to lengthy periods of downtime, not just at the hands of frequent respawn timers, but for upwards of a minute come the conclusion of each and every wave. In addition to seeing decidedly less action, the Zed side lack any form of customisation or progression, meaning time spent with them can feel wasted.
Sticking to the balanced cooperative play is recommended, and, thankfully, you’re well accommodated in doing so. Match lengths can be customised and don’t feel overly stilted or long at either end of the spectrum, difficulty scales dependant on the number of players, and quitting mid-game won’t negate the experience points you’ve earned up to that point. These simple, quality of life features make KF2 perfect for both quick sessions and hefty all-nighters.
Though it’s displayed at a sharp 1080p on standard PS4 hardware and 1800p upscaled to 4K on the Pro, (which is how we played) the visuals aren’t really anything to write home about. It’s a typical case of sacrificing graphical fidelity in favour of increased on-screen carnage at a sustained frame rate - not that that’s a bad thing.
While there are niggly issues elsewhere, like the touchpad routinely throwing dosh on the floor, despite that function being mapped to right on the d-pad, the biggest foible isn’t a technical issue at all. KF2 carries a large console tax that sees the PS4 version retail for 75% more than its Steam counterpart, while simultaneously charging for the same cosmetic DLC and offering less content in the absence of mods.
Despite the dodgy value proposition, we’d still argue you get your money’s worth. Killing Floor 2’s brutal combat and demanding difficulty are presented with a light-hearted character that, along with great accessibility, make for a winning formula that’s hard to resist.
A phenomenon like Pokémon is difficult to go into objectively. Whether you’ve ever played one of the many, many games before or not, it’s difficult to deny that everyone has some sort of impression on the series.
At the same time, as has been widely reported prior to the game’s release, the changes in this version are perhaps some of the most notable for a decade. Series staple the gym battle, a series of one on one duels leading up to a leader who specialises in a specific type of Pokémon, are out, replaced with trials which mix up the formula by introducing everything from dance move analysis to collecting ingredients for a recipe.
Director Shigeru Ohmori and the team at Game Freak never stray too far from the tried and tested formula however, with the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and over-the-top personalities of NPCs on full display.
For the most part the new Pokémon stray on the intriguing end of the spectrum, with the odd one or two which raise an eyebrow - as ever.
Most notable of these is the borderline ridiculous Team Skull, who are accompanied by a vague mix of generic rap beats whenever they appear, immediately putting them out of place and yet fitting in with the various oddities of the game as whole.
While the NPCs, and even cutscenes and a fairly solid story, are a nice distraction, let’s not kid ourselves - we are here to see some Pokémon battles. There’s a relatively modest 81 new Pokémon on show, with some unique to Sun or Moon respectively as usual, and for the most part they stray on the intriguing end of the spectrum, with the odd one or two which raise an eyebrow - as ever.
The main new creature you will get to know is your starter, and you get to choose from the Grass and Flying-type Rowlett, Fire-type Litten and Water-type Popplio (above). Each have their charms, though Popplio has already taken a lot of flak for looking the least cool of the bunch, and you’ll learn to get to know them through the Pokémon Refresh mechanic, which lets you pet, feed and groom your creatures between battles.
It will undoubtedly be something which appeals to some players more than others, but with some evolutions relying on a high Affection score between Pokémon and trainer it becomes somewhat essential. The reality is occasionally pressing Y after a battle to dry off your Pokémon if they’ve been hit with a water attack, comb their fur or get rid of mud or sand.
While it is something of a mini-game, there are significant benefits in battle, such as Pokémon dodging enemy attacks or holding onto 1 HP after a vicious attack to avoid fainting. There are also dialogue differences and comments about what Pokémon are thinking or feeling about. It is all a bit unnecessary, and yet is a key part of the charm of the game experience as a whole, staving off the feeling of boredom when training up your team ahead of a greater challenge.
Historically there was always quite a lot of grinding needed to have a decent chance of beating the later stages of the game, but in Sun and Moon the balance is actually spot on. While there’s always time for a bit of wandering about grassy areas, looking for easy prey, you could largely avoid it and stick to trainer battles across the region and end up with enough XP to get by.
The setting of Alola, loosely, but quite blatantly, based on Hawaii also adds to the endearing quality of the game, thanks to the world being split up into four islands, all with their own regional Pokédex (used to keep track of those caught creatures) and different challenges to take on.
Each time you board a boat or visit a new area you’re greeted with another twist on what this island paradise has to offer, as well as a selection of new Pokémon to discover. It’s here where things become a bit unstuck in some ways, as the selection of creatures feels somewhat reliant on the original 150 Pokémon which many know and love, rather than embracing what makes this title special and unique.
There are still new regular creatures of course - the Donald Trump-esque Yungoose and woodpecker Pikipek being the most common - and we can definitely forgive the early inclusion of Pichu, Pikachu’s unevolved, baby form, but generally there’s not a lot of variety considering this is a series which now boasts over 800 varieties of creature across its many games.
On the other hand, it’s easy to see why the developers have done this. The last thing you need when trying to get into a new game (or one you haven’t played since 1997) is to remember crucial details about 800 different Pokémon at once. The game does go someway to ease this burden in gameplay as well, highlighting the effectiveness of specific moves on foes once you have already faced them, but it would have been nice to go further.
Specific knowledge is rife on the internet at large, with Bulbapedia in particular being an invaluable resource for move-sets and, more importantly, evolution requirements - some of which are so obscure that you’d never stumble across them on your own.
The question is, why not feed more of this knowledge into the game itself? This game’s Pokédex has something of a personality, so why not develop it into a fully fledged personal companion, much as it acts on the animé television show. Having to look something up every five minutes in fear of missing something crucial (did you stumble across the right NPC to teach Pikachu Volt Tackle?) can grow tiresome.
The shiniest part of the gameplay this time around is the Z-Move, a one-use-per-battle ability which spins off a Pokémon’s standard move based on type. To use them, your Pokémon has to carry a Z-named stone, which are picked up following the game’s trials (or gyms) when you defeat each captain (or gym leader).
Visually, almost every one is an amazing spectacle, almost making you wish the same level of visual detail was thrown into every move (some already commit almost to the same level as it is, while other animations are simple enough to be mistaken for their 20-year-old counterparts). Disappointingly having a Z stone active does use up the slot for Pokémon to hold any other item, which is a shame when there are so many subtle, tactical differences which can be lost in battles as a result.
So, are Pokémon Sun and/or Moon worth buying? After countless encounters, earning thousands of XP and a handful of wry smile-inducing nostalgic moments our official verdict is yes. The sheer amount of baggage present in the Pokémon universe is huge and to strip a lot of that back into a compelling, enjoyable experience which stands on its own two feet without any prior knowledge is no small feat.
Sure, it could hand-hold a little less at the beginning, and veterans will certainly feel the pace more comfortable after the first island or so, but to be a series which has been consistently active for 20 years and now release an iteration that’s possibly the best yet is exceptional.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’ve got a Poké Polago to shake.
Subtlety isn’t always something which comes naturally in gaming. So many experiences are explosion-filled, non-stop action thrill rides that you come to expect grand spectacle and over-the-top set pieces whenever you turn on your console.
Each brutal killer - or ghostlike infiltrator, depending on your playstyle - has their own set of supernatural abilities which work in a similar way to BioShock’s plasmids, only with a more otherworldly presentation. The end result, once you’ve unlocked a number of these powers, is an increasing number of options on how to tackle certain problems and puzzles, which can feel incredibly rewarding when you find a combination that works for you.
The story is, as per usual, one of betrayal and false accusations, which either Emily or Corvo must work towards setting right in order to restore equilibrium. The missions themselves each have their own personality, injected through both level design and specific mechanics, making the game feel much more varied than you might expect.
One such level, which was shown off frequently prior to release, is The Clockwork Mansion, in which the entire building layout transforms around you at the pull of a lever - like some sort of twisted M.C. Escher painting come to life - and it’s extremely impressive.
Dishonored 2 stands up as one of the most compelling single-player outings of the year, balancing gameplay, story and spectacle in a way not often seen these days.
Developer Arkane seems to be acutely aware of the sort of spectacle they’ve created in this and other levels, as they offer occasional periods of respite in which you’re granted the freedom to explore and soak in the richness of this world. It isn’t quite as endearing as pre-event Columbia in BioShock Infinite, but it does have some genuine character to it, while still feeling like a natural battleground to skulk about in.
Gameplay is generally extremely well-balanced; slick and deliberate movements underline the fact you’re a trained killer, whether you decide to use that part of your skillset or not, whilst fluid combat elements flow naturally.
The original Dishonored was considered a challenging jaunt, which is an attribute its sequel holds on to. There are four difficulty settings from the off, with more to be added, along with a New Game Plus option via a free update in due course, but even the standard difficulty is a serious test of skill - particularly if you’re aiming to get through the game with no kills and not being discovered at all. There’s even a mode in which you forgo powers, reserved for actual masochists, though a forgiving save system might help you cheese your way through.
The AI can be overzealous at times, with the slightest glimpse of the player through cover, at a distance, even in shadow, arousing their suspicion, no matter how careful you might be to move slowly and carefully. In the same breath the enemies also suffer from cone of vision syndrome, where if you pull shenanigans behind them, even just a few metres away, they’re completely oblivious. This sort of inconsistency is few and far between, but certainly present enough to be noticeable and impact the way you play.
Some supporting characters have excellent voice talent on show, with turns from Rosario Dawson (Daredevil and Luke Cage), Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham’s Penguin) and Sam Rockwell (Moon, Seven Psychopaths and Iron Man 2). Investing in these names pays off as the cast bring their characters to life, which is essential in what can otherwise feel like quite a deliberately solitary experience.
In the end, Dishonored 2 stands up as one of the most compelling single-player outings of the year, balancing gameplay, story and spectacle in a way not often seen these days. While there are a few things which don’t quite work, the game is greater than the sum of its parts, delivering a thoroughly engaging experience that will push veteran Corvo players while also offering a new gameplay style to master with Emily and her more nuanced set of powers.
At this time of year it might - in the spirit of the game itself - be one which is at risk of slipping by unnoticed, but there are lots of reasons it’s more than worthy of your time.
Did you enjoy Dishonored 2? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check out our video review as well.
November has been a big month for shooters already, and by now it’s likely you’ve already made your choice which, if any, deserve your money. Whether you have made up your mind about Titanfall 2 already or not, developers Respawn have worked hard to get your attention amid the juggernauts of the genre, and it absolutely deserves it.
The multiplayer is still where the big guns are for many people though, with only two thirds of Titanfall 2’s players completing the campaign on standard difficulty at time of writing, and there’s plenty to get stuck into.
Rather than going for a saturation of different modes with only negligible differences, the team have focused on a handful of well thought-through game types, building on what players enjoyed in the first Titanfall. Bounty Hunt sees players having to ‘bank’ money earned from kills at specific points through the map, while Amped Hardpoint feels very similar to the original’s Hardpoint Domination mode.
There an awful lot of games out there at this time of year, but this is a game you’d be a fool for passing up as it is, undoubtedly, a shining example of what a shooter can be.
Feedback from technical tests has been key to tweaking these experiences, something which may have inadvertently put off those who dipped their toe into the game a couple of months ago and felt like they got the genuine experience. Everything which has been changed, including reverting the titanfall timer to count down to your next titan rather than being a purely points-based affair, is designed to make the game more fluid and easier to play.
The maps on offer re-enforce this feeling as well, with a good mix of open areas and more vertical sections to keep gameplay feeling balanced. The game hits the mark where it comes to verticality across the board in fact, as there are a number of great traversal sections in the campaign as well which go a long way to making the game feel different, plus the introduction of a slide mechanic which you’ll wonder how you did without in the first place.
EA’s decision to release Titanfall 2 so close to both Battlefield 1 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (only the former of which it also controls, in fairness), is a shame, as the justification of them being ‘different types of shooter experience’ is weak and will mean that many might miss out on Titanfall 2 until next year, or altogether.
That would be a big mistake to make though, as the game, despite being a sequel, feels like the definitive first-person shooter experience with all the elements you could want. Not to mention plans to add all future modes and maps as free DLC, making it a title with good long-term value despite the fast-paced nature of the game itself.
With nine different, customisable loadouts on offer for titans, a slew of options for pilots including a grappling hook and other nifty new gadgets, there’s tons of depth to get into from a gameplay perspective, and the style of the game allows it to sidestep multiplayer issues such as a lack of teamwork or an excess of snipers you can come across in titles like Battlefield 1. Not to mention a campaign that has moments which reach and even surpass the highlights of Halo, including a surprisingly compelling relationship between man and machine.
There an awful lot of games out there at this time of year, but this is a game you’d be a fool for passing up as it is, undoubtedly, a shining example of what a shooter can be.
What did you think of the game? Check out our video review and share your thoughts in the comments.
Crytek’s Robinson Crusoe-inspired science fiction adventure turned heads with its E3 2015 reveal, promising a prehistoric world in which players could walk with dinosaurs through the immersive medium of virtual reality. The enticing pitch from a proven developer lead many to hope, even expect, that Robinson: The Journey would be PlayStation VR’s so called ‘killer app’, but it doesn’t quite meet those expectations.
A Disney-like tale of a lost boy that longs for human companionship, but finds the same comforting dysfunction in an AI and a dinosaur.
Robinson’s climbing mechanics can cause similar negative effects, pulling your vision in uncomfortably close to geometry and, on occasion, requiring you to crane your neck in unnatural ways to reach for handholds. It’s a shame, as when the segments work they’re exhilarating, especially when taking a sweaty-palmed plunge and nailing the timing to grab a ledge and save yourself below.
PlayStation Move support will undoubtedly make climbing more natural and intuitive, allowing players to reach for handholds with their arms instead of hands strapped to their head. It’ll equally benefit wielding the multi-tool, which is clearly modelled after one of the controllers for immersion sake, but, inexplicably, the functionality isn’t available at launch. It’s coming via a free update, which is good, but so much of the game design seems centred around the control method that it frankly shouldn’t have released in its absence.
Power on, regardless of the issues, and you’ll be rewarded with some stunning encounters that’ll prompt pause, leaving you marvelling at the majesty of a range of placid dinosaur species. Conversely, you’ll also face unnerving encounters at the sharp claws of some unsavoury carnivorous types. Tense stealth sections see you creeping around packs of raptors, physically peeking through gaps in scenery to best seize the opportunity to make a move, or throwing objects to distract them in an exciting realisation of the classic Jurassic Park kitchen scene.
If you’re spotted, another unfortunate issue comes to light in the poor placement of checkpoints. You’re sure to be sent back a decent trek whenever Robin meets his end, but whilst slow movement makes VR nice and comfortable for the most part, it does mean there’s no expedient way to get back to where you were. Considering this sluggish retreading of ground comprised a proportionally decent amount of the four to six hours it takes to complete the game, many will struggle to justify the price.
When all's said and done, even with its myriad of flaws, Robinson: The Journey is a charming jaunt. A Disney-like tale of a lost boy that longs for human companionship, but finds the same comforting dysfunction in an AI and a dinosaur. Crytek focused on creating a rich and interactive virtual world, to which end they succeeded, but it came at the cost of compelling gameplay.
Do you have PlayStation VR and fancy giving Robinson: The Journey a try? Then keep an eye out for our upcoming giveaway to be in with the chance of bagging yourself a copy.
After a disappointing second outing, New World Order elbows Telltale’s take on the Dark Knight back on track. As the centre point of the story, it fittingly serves as a meaty filling on which to chew by placing a focus on the strengths established in the opener that were, unfortunately, largely abandoned by its successor.
Gotham is in shambles, undesirables are in positions of power, and we need to intervene.
On the topic of irrelevant choices, they’re still very much a constant presence. Most notably we devoted ourselves to a central character in an effort to prevent the obvious occurring, but it did anyway. Telltale’s take on this character's transformation is admittedly grabbing though, so it’s hard to hold it against them too much. The iconic villain is born of both stress and paranoia that develop into crippling mental illness, rather than being overtly maniacal for evil's sake.
Grey morality also seeps into the relationship that blossomed with Selina Kyle in episode two, forcing you to question your allegiances once again (not that anyone in their right mind should ever really trust Catwoman). These scenes are a case study on Batman’s flawed humanity, and we take great interest in watching them unfold as a result.
With a glut of engaging characters, relationships and events simultaneously unfurling, we only wish we could binge our way to the end Netflix-style. Gotham is in shambles, undesirables are in positions of power, and we need to intervene. The cliffhanger ending and a tantalising preview of what’s to come certainly won’t make the wait any easier.
For the most part, consuming games in a virtual reality space makes them immediately more intuitive, but that isn’t always the case. Pixel Gear is a colourful, pixelated shooter that often struggles to convey directions to the player.
Despite the impressive level of control, Pixel Gear ultimately feels quite amateurish.
Killing enemies in quick succession is the name of the game, incrementally building a score multiplier as the body count increases. Unfortunately, Pixel Gear seems determined to hinder your success: enemy AI is incredibly stupid and semi-frequently gets stuck outside of your line of sight, spawns can be excruciatingly slow and leave you with no targets, whilst angels (innocent bystanders that should be avoided) can appear in your crosshairs and inevitably get hit to reset the combo. It's annoying to be scuppered through no fault of your own, but without local or online leaderboards scores are basically redundant anyway.
At the conclusion of each offensive wave smooth, 2D ghost sprites that betray the otherwise blocky, 3D graphics (which both contradict the realistic gun models) spawn. Some carry coins, that can be spent on new weapons and upgrades after shooting them down, the latter of which we’d recommend first and foremost. That said, the sniper rifle is worth a try for the novelty value of physically looking down the scope to aim alone.
With the help of these purchases you’ll quickly fell the game’s three imposingly large bosses, allowing graduation to hard mode where the game flourishes by posing a more legitimate challenge. Once hard difficulty has been bested crazy mode offers a repeat round, but this time without laser sights to assist with aiming. The fact we were still quite naturally able to combo headshots while subconsciously judging depth and positioning speaks to the quality of the technology on show.
Despite the impressive level of control, Pixel Gear ultimately feels quite amateurish. There's a constant and distracting artistic incohesion between the game’s disparate visual assets, which paired with some obnoxiously repetitive stock sound effects create a Frankenstein's monster of a game. If you’re desperate for a child-friendly shooter, or find Until Dawn: Rush of Blood a little too intense, the asking price is at least about right for a night’s moderate entertainment.