Hot on the heels of their Crash Bandicoot reboot, Toys For Bob and Activision are back with another slice of 90’s nostalgia in the form of Spyro Reignited Trilogy, an upgraded collection of the first three titles to star the diminutive purple dragon, lovingly restored for a new generation.
There are still gems galore to hoover up across the hub worlds and their many colourful offshoots, and old hands and newcomers alike will be glad to hear that the relatively rudimentary gameplay still holds up, even if enemies - particularly bosses - do seem absurdly easy by today’s standards.
All three games feature a healthy mix of biomes, from sandy deserts and treetop villages to the obligatory water levels, but it’s the sequels, Ripto’s Rage! and Year of the Dragon, that outshine the first thanks to the addition of non-dragon NPCs which imbue worlds with extra character. Year of the Dragon even sees you take control of Sypro’s sidekicks now and then, including a jetpacking penguin with shoulder-mounted rocket launchers, which is just about as fun as it sounds.
Along with bonus levels – including our personal favourites that see you flying through obstacles and taking out enemies within a time limit – these moments help to stop monotony from creeping in as you progress through the collection. There’s also the added challenge of collecting skill points, which are acquired through completing specific tasks on certain levels, be it taking out enemies with particular attacks, reaching a hidden area or taking no damage during a boss fight.
Reuniting with Spyro provided a welcome and nostalgic distraction from modern life.
They add another layer of depth, especially for the completionists out there, but the concept art offered as a reward for their completion is a bit underwhelming. We’d have been much more motivated to hunt down all of the numerous challenges if there was a sweeter bonus up for grabs, like maybe a means to switch between the original and remastered visuals. As it is, the only throwback to the original games’ design is the option to play with the old-school soundtrack (composed by The Police drummer Stewart Copeland) enabled, which doesn’t actually sound all that different from the updated one.
Although the Reignited Trilogy may appear basic compared to many of today’s offerings - you won’t find any branching skill trees or a particularly engaging storyline here - the colourful, cheery nature of the games kept pulling us back in for more. On the whole, reuniting with Spyro provided a welcome and nostalgic distraction from modern life, reminding us of a simpler time when penny sweets and six o'clock double headers of The Simpsons were the norm.
The game industry’s love affair with World War 2 goes back years, with countless titles following in the footsteps of film in exploring some of the most iconic moments in conflict. Battlefield itself is no stranger to WW2 either, with some of the game’s first installments set in the 1940s, but does Battlefield V feel like a respectful return to the well-trodden era or a tired relic?
Core gameplay has been updated, in line with the usual tweaks between releases, most notably making the spotting mechanic noticeably less powerful this time around. What this means in practice is that you really need to look a tank square on in order to tell your squadmates it’s there, which can be a bit of a pain when you get a face full of explosive shell for your trouble.
Squads continue to be crucial to success in the objective-focused multiplayer, now boasting flimsy fortification building, helping Battlefield V to retain a point of difference from the killstreak-loving Call of Duty. The number of packs of ammo and health being thrown around at any given moment can get a bit out of hand at times, though it’s well worth sticking close to a particularly friendly ammo-bearer to avoid running out of munitions in the field, since they can now be fairly limited.
Battlefield V still features some of the fairest, most accessible and well-balanced combat in the genre.
Community member Jordan "Metalrodent" Thomas tried to make the best of a minor crash situation.
The remixing of the iconic Rush and Conquest game modes continues, particularly with Grand Operations, though we’d argue the spectacle of the zeppelins in Battlefield 1 better captured the day-by-day, progressing battle approach to multiplayer skirmishes. Fortunately there are handy intro videos for each mode, so you can easily get to grips with the difference between Domination and Breakthrough, but the overall feel is similar throughout, with only different slants on scale and the use of vehicles.
From the hand-holding introduction accompanied by some stoic voice work from Mark Strong, the tone of the game is set early on - this is an entry in the franchise that’s taking itself a bit more seriously. The ongoing live service known as Tides of War, expected to bring to life the “unplayed battlefields” of WW2 with a foot planted firmly in historical reality, offers reason to keep engaging with the game, while an upcoming battle royale mode gives us something to look forward to from a development team very familiar with creating quality post-launch content.
The visual bugs are particularly abundant, such as this lovely floating bell.
Single-player War Stories make a return, bringing more intimate, even character-driven perspectives on the war, but the format remains too blunt an instrument to create the pathos achieved by something like the recent 11-11: Memories Retold, and distills down to a training grounds for the multiplayer main course.
In the end, it seems Battlefield V has achieved what it set out to do: bring tried-and-tested shooter combat - frankly, still some of the fairest, most accessible and well-balanced in the genre - and re-introduce it to a war which may have seen it all before, but still offers exhilarating experiences, enhanced by the solid foundation of the squad-based approach to combat.
It might not push the boundaries into completely new areas, but delivering an experience which both feels right to existing fans and isn’t too daunting for newcomers is a hard balance to strike. If only it had the character and humour of Bad Company 2 or sheer impact of Battlefield 4’s step forward in DICE’s self-styled “levolution” system, it might jump up from worthwhile to essential. As it is, in a crowded marketplace, Battlefield is finding it harder and harder to make its mark.
Does Fallout need NPCs to work? That’s the question we’ve been pondering almost the entire time we’ve been thinking about this review. The short answer is, as always, the cop-out answer, which is - erm, probably not?
This Fallout adventure is designed with friends in mind, up to 23 others at a time in fact, as you share your instance of West Virginia with fellow survivors getting busy living. Teaming up works as you’d expect, though finding other players isn’t necessarily an easy task with so much real estate to roam, and even the invites only gingerly pop up in the corner instead of really pushing the co-op experience.
For those wanting to be more traditional lone wolves this is somewhat of a godsend, but it gives an indication as to Bethesda's odd approach to playing together. Teaming up with friends to build a ridiculous base is plenty of fun by itself, but even more so is picking a point on the map and just going there, collecting the materials required to build and bringing the gameplay loop full circle along the way.
There’s PvP as well, unlocked at level 5 along with the hassle-free pacifist mode, but so far most players have largely been behaving themselves (perhaps everyone’s focused on levelling?) and there's little to actively encourage player encounters this early in the game's life.
76’s story relies heavily on your patience (which will certainly be tested in a multiplayer environment) for discovering and engaging with holotapes and written logs, as there aren’t any human AI characters to bump into and have deliver exposition through conversations. At first you feel a glimmer of hope that one or two of the quests might end up with you, somehow, coming to the rescue of a relieved NPC, but alas, everything seems to end in death. Death, it seems, never changes…
Building and crafting makes a return in a big way, as opposed to the somewhat take-it-or-leave-it approach of Fallout 4, in that you now have a mobile workbench known as the C.A.M.P. With it, you can construct all manner of things, once you’ve discovered the relevant plans, of course, which have been absent-mindedly left strewn across the vast, open wasteland.
No longer limited to specific settlements, you can lug your C.A.M.P. across the map (which is now four times larger) and place it anywhere not too close to a named location. Honestly though, you probably wouldn’t want to anyway, as you’d forever be pestered by respawning enemies.
While there isn’t the same throughline narrative returning players might expect, there are still main quests which take you on a gradual tour of the sizeable map, as well as side quests which pop up as you might expect, but new to Fallout are more MMO-style daily and event missions, the latter of which generally involve clearing out or protecting specific locations, and can trigger very easily if you wander even close to the marker.
Fortunately, there’s fast travel to help you get around with relative ease, however, this brings us to one of the most significant and potentially deal-breaking areas of the game - bugs.
V.A.T.S. is a little different too... With no slow-motion at all there's a tendency for percentages to fluctuate widely and that led us, ultimately, to dispense with it altogether.
There’s no getting around it: Bethesda games have a reputation for… not performing to the best technical standard. Of course, huge open world games are particularly susceptible to bugs, and when you add multiplayer and base building into the mix, Bethesda certainly haven’t made it easy on themselves.
That being said, Fallout 76 has consistently thrown up more bugs than any other release we’ve experienced in 2018. One particularly nasty error repeatedly caused the console (an Xbox One X) to shut itself down entirely to protect it from overheating. Firstly, the console wasn’t at risk of overheating - ventilation was fine and the device wasn’t hot to the touch as you’d expect if that was a serious risk. Secondly, there’s almost no way to avoid the frightening issue creeping up on you, but particularly if you try to fast travel there’s a high chance of having to suffer through a hard restart.
Needless to say there are fixes coming, and the other, more visible reported bugs - like enemies getting stuck in place and walking at 45-degree angles, or event quests inexplicably failing - will likely be dealt with, but as a customer paying a substantial number of bottle caps to pick the game up, the reality is severely below standard.
Perhaps Bethesda didn’t realise the B.E.T.A. (boy, do they love their acronyms) would throw up as many issues as it did, but, for a game of its standing, the stability should really be a lot better.
To address the big question then, does Fallout really need NPCs? It definitely depends on the game you’re looking for. If you imagine this game as a Conan Exiles or Minecraft survival experience then it might exceed expectations, but if you go in looking for Bethesda-does-Destiny then it could go the other way.
While NPCs aren’t essential to make it feel like a Fallout game (76 does still feel very Fallout), there’s really no specific reason - putting Bethesda’s stance on it emphasising player interaction aside - that there shouldn’t be anyone around, particularly when compared to previous games. To implement a blanket ban seemingly on principle makes the world feel a little more empty and locations a little less exciting; just the odd bit of characterisation here and there (besides identical robots) would have made all the difference.
It may get better in time, but right now it’s hard to fully recommend Fallout 76 for anyone other than die-hard series fans that are hungry for more.
The trap was set. Disguised as a barber, Agent 47 waits patiently for his prey. The barber himself was simple enough to subue, as was his wife (who he’d been arguing with only moments before) once she objected to her apparent husband’s sudden change in appearance.
Star power gives us something to look forward to, but the game as it is on release day is something of a mixed bag. While the mission stories (previously known as opportunities) reveal themselves fairly naturally as you explore the world, normally when overhearing a conversation about one of the targets being in need of something from a certain person, who you can then impersonate to get close to them, the scenarios come off as somewhat contrived.
For example, dispatching one cartel boss in the jungles of Columbia, inside his compound no less, can be achieved by impersonating a renown tattoo artist (presumably whose face is known for him to be internationally recognised) and finding an excuse to get everyone else out of the room before doing the deed.
Afterwards, you might hear the guards you pass by noting how quick the tattoo process was, but otherwise you can be clear of the compound before his body is ever discovered. It all feels a bit convenient… but of course, this wasn’t on the hardest difficulty, which even limits you to one save per level, similar to the restriction found on earlier titles in the series.
To take it too seriously though, would be a mistake, and largely that’s a tone which developer IO Interactive manages to strike effectively. Miami is probably the level in which you see the most madness going on all at once, with an F1-style race happening in the background and you somehow being able to blend in by dressing as a ridiculous mascot character, but there’s no denying it’s extremely satisfying to explore these dense sandboxes.
Where the tone does take an odd left turn is in the game’s story, which presents itself very seriously in cutscenes, but doesn’t hold up to too much thought. Fortunately you can skip and forget the cinematics, jumping straight back into another adventure, but it’s a shame that IO didn’t find a way to effectively marry the two.
Miami is probably the level in which you see the most madness going on all at once, with you somehow being able to blend in by dressing as a ridiculous mascot character.
Largely speaking, the game is a perfectly serviceable entry in the franchise and certainly has some memorable locations to boast about, but perhaps for those steeped in the series things might not feel so fresh.
The biggest additions this time around are new multiplayer modes like Ghost, which has players competing to stealthily assassinate the most targets in parallel versions of a level, while doing what they can to sabotage one another, and the Sniper Assassin mode, which sees you working cooperatively, or alone, to take out multiple targets using, you guessed it, sniper rifles.
Overall, Hitman 2 isn’t a step too far from the 2016 iteration of the game, so those that had fun with that release will find plenty more to get stuck into here. The levels are effectively designed with replayability in mind, and there are certainly great moments hidden in various nooks and crannies for an exacting specialist to discover - or, if you’re so inclined, you can simply grab the biggest gun to hand and shoot the place up (at the cost of a decent mission score) while having almost as much fun.
Everyone has their own feelings about war. Whether it’s something that feels close to home or distant, it’s undoubtedly an emotional and evocative subject. Coinciding with the centenary of the end of World War 1, 11-11: Memories Retold brings a different perspective to a conflict which changed the world forever.
Gameplay is light here, with only the occasional puzzle or slightly wonky stealth section to vary the pacing, but to suddenly thrust you into some sort of shooting gallery would take away the power of what 11-11 is trying to do.
At times you also take charge of a pigeon or cat, which Harry and Kurt have picked up along their journeys respectively. This can offer a few additional gameplay twists and opportunities for unique storytelling moments, but largely they feel fairly token and don’t reach their full potential.
When you venture out into No Man’s Land as either animal, which you’ll do frequently, there’s a far lesser sense of danger considering both sides deem them to be harmless. Neither army is portrayed as right or wrong, and there’s no glorifying the situation; in fact, the soldiers themselves are more alike than any rhetoric or propaganda from the time would have you believe.
Undoubtedly the first things that’ll strike you when loading up the game is the astonishing visual style, which makes use of a technique known as ‘painterly’ to have scenes appear as if they’re being redrawn by thousands of brush strokes as you move. There’s a feeling of walking through beautiful impressionist landscapes as you explore, offering up breathtaking scenes amid the undeniable horrors of the war itself.
In less skilled hands this could have come off as a cheap Photoshop effect, but this collaboration between Aardman Digital (who, contrary to popular belief, work with more than just clay) and DigixArt creates a sublime combination of technical prowess and artistic flair. They’ve crafted a truly unique style which impressively manages to adapt to a variety of locations and climates throughout the game’s course.
While the effect does attract attention, it may prove to be an acquired taste as the industry races towards photorealism. The visual fidelity of the assets themselves, when you look past the effect, is fairly low, which can give a somewhat dated feel at times, particularly to characters in cutscenes.
It’s not too big of an issue, however, when the elements surrounding that mostly nail remaining historically accurate and respectful of true events, whilst balancing that with the sort of nonsense which makes a game a game, like successfully navigating a homemade hot air balloon over No Man’s Land at night, for example.
11-11’s soundtrack also succeeds in feeling appropriate without sounding generic, as composer Olivier Deriviere, responsible for music on titles like Alone in the Dark, Remember Me and Vampyr, uses a choir’s chorus to echo across the battlefield, creating a chilling and sombre mood.
The execution is exceptional and the end product is, quite unironically, a very memorable experience.
The strongest feeling which shines through as you play though, is pride, as every element of the game is carefully pieced together to create a tribute to those who valiantly fought and sadly lost their lives.
It’s unfortunate that the odd technical mishap occasionally creeps in to spoil the immersion, but compared to a narrative journey from, say, the Telltale stable, 11-11 more than competes with the best in the adventure genre.
If you’re looking for a history lesson, you won’t find it here. While Memories Retold uses the war as its setting, it’s more about the relationship between Harry and Kurt and how it develops over those last two years of conflict. Fortunately, the execution is exceptional and the end product is, quite unironically, a very memorable experience.
When it comes to racing games, arcade experiences are often overshadowed by the high fidelity, photorealistic presentations seen in the likes of Gran Turismo and Forza. That’s a shame, considering they often prove to be more fun and accessible, never requiring you to invest the necessary time memorising the perfect route around the Nurburgring.
A standard race takes place on one of 22 tracks - each hiding multiple routes to the final destination, depending on the orientation of your vehicle at any one time - which can be spiced up with reverse or alternate time of day configurations. The first lap on any given level will have you getting your bearings, but then you’ll often need additional runs to get the hang of things, thanks to the loose interpretation of gravity in the game.
Cars have a jump functionality that helps to move around tracks when simply steering isn’t going to cut it, but you’ll need to time your jumps in order to thrust yourself up to the ceiling, causing a slightly nauseating camera flip. It’s a far cry from the stylish tricks of Rocket League; in practice, the acrobatics are a bit hit and miss, not offering as many easy tactical options to avoid cars and incoming attacks as they perhaps should.
Cars feel out of control more often than not, with little weight to them and handling limited by the sheer speed you need to throw at them at almost every moment.
Crashing is never pleasant in a racing title, but here it can bring some of the most unnatural moments, as the physics decide to throw you off at an odd angle from a jump, or not quite fix your orientation at the right time to avoid slamming into a wall and stopping dead (no matter how many hundreds of kilometres an hour you might have been going).
The result is cars feeling out of control more often than not, with little weight to them and handling limited by the sheer speed you need to throw at them at almost every moment. You can manoeuvre in the air, but this requires you to take your proverbial foot off the gas, risking a slow start once you land.
Enemy drivers are fairly reasonable, considering how often they can feel like unworthy cheaters in vehicular combat games, but we can’t attest to the behaviour of fellow human drivers online due to timing and availability. If you do venture online through, you can expect 10-player matchmaking, or you can gather your friends together in a private lobby, assuming you can rustle up that many gearheads.
Largely speaking, the experience of Grip is what you might expect for a modern update to an arcade-friendly formula, complete with the odd prompt to insert a coin here and there, driving the point home of exactly who this game is aimed at.
If that’s you, then there’s a fair amount to digest here overall. The ‘Carkour’ mode is ingeniously named and fiendishly difficult until you have the skill set and later cars needed to pull off necessary manoeuvres, while Arena is reminiscent of the Battle Mode offering in Mario Kart, though here the cars move far too quickly to make for an entertaining skirmish.
In all the game certainly has something, but perhaps not enough to really stand out as anything innovative and interesting. It’s like an old Scalextric: you’ll dig it out play for a while, always thinking you know where it’s going, only to whizz around a corner too quickly and leave your car in pieces.