Having had the distinct pleasure of exclusively revealing the first glimpse of Warhammer: Vermintide 2 gameplay last October, the long wait for the first-person-shooter-come-brawler to arrive on console has been especially gruelling. Now that we’ve gotten our hands on it: was it worth the wait?
You’ll need to juggle priority targets and manage choke points as tidal waves of fetid flesh rage your way.
The level of customisation on offer gets altogether extensive when you also account for Vermintide 2’s loot and crafting systems. Taal’s Horn Keep serves as a sizeable hub area from which to launch your choice of the thirteen main missions, throughout which you can work towards satisfying daily challenges and career quests; completing these tasks awards the game’s strictly non-premium loot boxes, which rain a random array of weapons and gear that can be equipped to improve applicable characters, or, if you unbox a stinker, salvaged into materials used to craft new items and upgrades.
Refreshing a loadout can significantly impact how any given character plays, overhauling attributes and movesets, perhaps not always to your exact liking, but never compromising the viscerally satisfying core combat mechanics. Melee skirmishes can feel either hefty or agile, depending on your chosen armament, though always brutal as you gorily pop heads and lop limbs with each light or (particularly satisfying) charged heavy swing.
While mixing it up at close range you’ll need to be mindful to dodge and block incoming attacks from big bads, though opting for a character with more of a ranged combat style should keep you relatively out of harm's way to begin with. While letting loose with arrows, fireballs, bolts and bullets is good fun in itself, it’s almost a shame to snub one of the best first-person brawling systems around in favour of comparatively bog-standard blasting.
Still, variety is the spice of life, so mixing up your choice of hero whilst tackling repeat playthroughs of Vermintide 2’s semi-open levels - which accommodate multiple paths towards their culminating set-piece encounters, also randomising enemy and item spawns along the way - ensures things remain engaging. Throw in the lure of greater rewards when progressing to higher difficulty levels, as well as unobtrusive storytelling that allows players to easily consume their desired dose of action, and you have a package that’ll keep you busy for a good length of time.
Vermintide 2 is more in-depth than its peers in many ways, but retains the central simplicity that makes this brand of onslaught adventure so frantic and exciting. Doing so at native 4K resolution on Xbox One X, while mostly maintaining a solid frame rate, at no additional cost to Game Pass subscribers, makes for an experience that you (and preferably some friends) shouldn’t hesitate to get stuck into.
Yes, Earthfall does look a lot like Left 4 Dead. In fact, the comparison is welcomed by developers Holospark and something that they strived for as their key inspiration and focus. “We loved Left 4 Dead” said CEO Rusty Williams, when we spoke to him at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, “but we wanted more.” So, after a few years of development, including time in early access on PC, Earthfall is the end result.
While the presentation gets a solid “good” - Unreal Engine 4 would struggle to make a game look bad - it’d be nice to see a bit more fidelity in those textures (perhaps an Xbox One X update looms in the future?) and the game isn’t without some technical issues. We’ve seen a couple of crashes when things get especially hectic, plus the friendly AI more than once has stood in place, staring frantically into space as the rest of their team gets mauled around the corner.
In terms of level design, something so tightly managed in Valve and Turtle Rocks’ original, there are oversights too, with invisible walls being used to channel the player into a linear flow through areas which look as though they should be ripe to explore. Furthermore, giving players an objective marker to head for often makes the campaign feel like a pedestrian trudge between two points, rather than four survivors scraping together what they can in a desperate effort to survive.
It’s here we really must broach the subject of AI. Players can either run through levels with allied bots or open up proceedings to being joined by human players online, as in L4D, but the AI in question doesn’t have the same concern for your wellbeing as it did in that game, frequently leaving you to bleed out whilst prioritising reviving fellow bots and often snatching up helpful items and weapons from under your nose.
If they were able to trigger objectives or be commanded in any way they might be more useful, but they aren’t even fans of deploying barriers or using mounted guns, which can be an issue at some of the game’s choke points, referred to in-game as ‘holdouts’. You can punch up the AI ‘skill’ to limited results, only really boosting accuracy and the eagerness to shoot first and ask questions later. But hey, at least there’s no risk of incurring significant friendly fire damage from them.
Earthfall is difficult in general, with even two players experienced in working and communicating with one another, bolstered by a couple of filler bots, seeing the ‘Normal’ difficulty setting pose a serious threat. While the higher difficulties are a stretch, the ‘Easy’ level can at times be too much its namesake, making you long for a shuffle to give a happy medium.
With only two campaigns of five twenty-or-so-minute chapters a piece, you might find Earthfall a tad pricey at £24.99, since it’s inspiration gave us double the number of iconic campaigns and an additional competitive mode, which is conspicuously absent here at present. That said, the team at Holospark are already hard at work on further campaign content which will be released free to all players (cosmetic customisation items are premium), so there’s some added value to look forward to in the future.
One particularly fun element, which pushes the suspension of disbelief in a very different direction than accepting aliens are a thing, is the fact that many levels are peppered with 3D printers to requisition guns and health stations reminiscent of Half-Life. A great idea, which could have been taken further to include attachments and further customisations, as the risk/reward mechanic whenever you encounter them (turning the power on to use them will attract a mob) is always compelling.
Though it might not be Left 4 Dead 3, Earthfall does enough to scratch the itch for players pining for a similar experience. With games developing far more post-launch than ever before it seems likely this one will continue to mutate to the needs of its player base, which doesn’t undo the fact it could have used slightly longer in the oven before final release, but what’s on offer so far is ruddy good fun, if a tad disposable.
Imagine being dropped into the blazing Egyptian desert with just a baseball cap, a lumberjack shirt and… a potato launcher. Well, now you can face that reality, as developer Crema’s twitchy first-person pyramid-crawler, Immortal Redneck, breathes a colourful, comical breath of life into the old school, arcade shooter genre.
Standing boldly between you and bragging rights are a dastardly array of enemies that range from lava-belching toads to floating skulls.
To combat these blighters you’ll have to rely on two things - your rapidly twerking thumbs and a suite of over 50 inventive weapons, found scattered across each of the floors you’ll navigate en route to the Apex. Our hillbilly hero begins with just a basic pistol, but can uncover anything from an electric flamethrower to a wololo staff (you can decide what that means). Each weapon will put a massive smile on the face of any arcade action fan; the shotgun blast is suitably explosive, machine guns are frantic and noisy, and Grampa’s Blunderbuss is simply a great name.
With all that awesome firepower, it’s a shame the environments themselves contribute little to the overall experience. Despite doing their job in offing up mythical monsters aplenty, plus accommodating hunts for crazy weapons and madman levels of strafing, areas come up short. They start out large and sprawling, like an Egyptian multi-storey car park, and narrow as the difficulty spikes, with the only real design variation being a few random platforms, more ramps and a few spread out pillars. Alas, that’s the inherent danger in opting for procedural generation over human craftsmanship.
It goes without saying that fans of Serious Sam, Timesplitters and DOOM will no doubt find a familiar home in Immortal Redneck, but those who crave a more narrative-driven experience may find that they get bored long before they ultimately reach the Apex. Even then, it could prove fun to dip in and out of whenever you fancy getting some sand between your toes, and, of course, kicking seven shades out of cute looking rattlesnakes with a taser sword.
ONRUSH isn’t your typical arcade racer, in fact, it’s not really a racing game at all. You don’t win by being the first to cross a finish line, and you generally don’t want to be ahead of the pack, but rather in the thick of its metallic stampede of destruction. Inspired by class-based multiplayer shooters like Overwatch, you and five teammates - be they human or CPU - will cooperate to achieve victory across four unique, objective-based game modes.
You don’t win by being the first to cross a finish line, and you generally don’t want to be ahead of the pack, but rather in the thick of its metallic stampede of destruction.
This means ONRUSH moves with a breakneck pace and a tense sense of danger, though you haven’t seen the best of it yet. Utilising boost and playing to the strengths of your chosen class of vehicle, be that by supporting teammates or bulldozing competitors, will gradually charge the Rush meter and eventually allow you to unleash an ultimate ability unique to your equipped off-roader. You’ll always rocket forwards at blistering speed, bonnet combusting and screaming vocals kicking in as you go, though you might also leave a damaging trail in your wake, debuff enemies, buff teammates, or eliminate foes as if they were Fodder.
Rush can generally be utilised a few times throughout the course of a match, often proving a tide-turning highlight, especially if coordinated with teammates. This and its audiovisuals make it true to its name, though ONRUSH is no presentational slouch in general; the high energy soundtrack and punky neon visuals, beautifully enhanced with 4K and HDR support on Xbox One X, quickly serve to get your adrenaline pumping.
That’s true across any of the four game types we alluded to earlier, which offer novel interpretations of some familiar favourites. Overdrive is the premier mode and tasks you with stringing boost chains to score the most points; Countdown sees you pass through gates to top up a depleting timer and outlast the opposition; Lockdown spawns a moving capture point for your team to occupy; while Switch gives each driver three lives and forces them to swap vehicle as they’re expended, with the first team to fully deplete their supply losing. Each event is split into rounds and each victory earns the relevant side a tally in a best of series, contributing a sporting feel and accommodating rousing comebacks.
Events can unfold very differently depending on your approach - for example playing the evasive survival game on a bike in Switch, rather than going on the offensive and doing work as a heavy - and you’re afforded the opportunity to spawn in a new class of vehicle after wrecking in most competitions, presenting the opportunity to tweak strategy and balance team composition on the fly.
Superstar, the game’s career equivalent, sees you climb the ranks of the fledgling ONRUSH scene in pursuit of the tantalising Founders’ Trophy. It’s a journey punctuated by zany cutscenes that can be taken in solo or co-op, with each event - or multi-event series - carrying its own set of challenges to complete in order to earn points and work your way up to the more difficult stages, which incorporate complex tracks alongside different lighting and seasonal effects.
ONRUSH moves with a breakneck pace and a tense sense of danger.
It shouldn’t be too long before you get your mitts on that trophy, which leaves you with single events to consume solo/cooperative/competitive until Ranked play is added at a later date. While we can’t speak for Ranked, naturally, casual online events pad player counts with bots and rotate game types between matches to nix lobbies and keep things moving along nicely. If you’ve been playing solo, it’s also great to finally get some use out of the quick chat system and implement advanced strategies with human players.
Coordinate well and you’ll rack up the wins, earning bonus XP as your reward. Each level gained in ONRUSH grants a Gear Crate, which is essentially a loot box, but don’t panic too much, as they’re free from the shackles of the microtransaction machine. They cough up three random cosmetic items when opened, tiered by rarity, with the better quality stuff not really being held back. You can receive duplicates, which are converted into an in-game currency that can then be put towards something of your choosing.
Credits can also be gathered by completing profile objectives and Daily Quests, which you’ll probably want to keep on top of, as there’s a serious volume of sweet stuff for your bikes, cars and avatars.
While daily tasks might draw you back in for a session here and there, ONRUSH doesn’t have a huge breadth of content, unless we’re purely talking cosmetics. If you aren’t looking to fully stock your wardrobe, the white-knuckle action that’s here is modern, unique, characterful and social all at once, making every effort to remove barriers to entry and offer relentless entertainment - which it does, for a time.
EVERSPACE finally made its way to PlayStation 4 this week, both standalone and bundled with a few extra goodies in the Stellar Edition; whichever version might take you fancy, picking up ROCKFISH Games’ space-faring roguelike is an easy recommendation.
EVERSPACE has a more developed narrative than we’ve experienced in any other roguelike.
As such, it’s important to pick your battles by keeping a distance and utilising stealth where you can. Entering into a smart engagement - isolating enemies, prioritising targets, managing your shield and knowing when to retreat - can be the difference between life and death. It is possible to play too cautiously though, as you’ll need fuel to safely progress between areas and additional resources both to repair your ship and craft or upgrade items, all of which are dropped by defeated enemies.
Valuable resources can also be gathered from mining spots and containers, or purchased via ports and traders, though a looming threat ensures that you can’t spend too long scouring any one area for booty. Enemy fleets will spawn and hunt you down should you allow them to triangulate your position, meaning you’ll need to keep a considered pace at all times.
You’re sure to meet an early grave with so much working against you, which, as you may have already gleaned from our earlier mention of runs - you clever thing, you - will set you back to square one. Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
Any credits you earn during a run can be siphoned into a vast range of useful perks and upgrades, or even additional ships, though you have to spend what you’ve gathered before redeploying. Not allowing players to save towards more expensive purchases might seem unnecessarily harsh, but this simple tweak ensures you’re always heading back out into the unknown vastness of space with an added in-game advantage and a little extra motivation to hit your desired figure this time around.
Permadeath can be a scary concept, but EVERSPACE boasts extensive persistent progression that’ll help to make losing a time investment actually feel productive.
If EVERSPACE is sounding too difficult for you, then opting for the easy difficulty setting is the way to go. It’ll tip the scales in your favour while docking 25% of your earnings, slowing the upgrade process in order to maintain balance. Similarly, the elite can opt for hard mode and boost their income by 25%, whilst the dangerous can ‘enjoy’ a separate Hardcore game type that eliminates persistent forms of progression whilst throwing you the odd bone.
Whatever way you play, procedural generation will keep things varied and interesting between runs, subtly randomising area layouts and spawns. More significant are the occasional prerequisite area objectives and visually stunning weather anomalies that impact play, while the Encounters expansion (included in the Stellar Edition) makes an even greater impact by introducing numerous random character encounters that blossom into persistent quest lines.
Not only that, but Encounters adds a powerful new ship with an arcing lightning cannon and disabling EMP blast, loads more gear to kit yourself out with, new enemies to test everything out on, and even more, all while seamlessly integrating into the base game experience. It’s a no-brainer at just £7.99, which means the same can be said of the Stellar Edition, which offers a couple of premium themes and a digital soundtrack at no additional cost to buying EVERSPACE and Encounters separately.
Its sharp assets and striking juxtaposition of colours make the game really quite beautiful, especially on Pro hardware, where players can enjoy checkerboard 4K as well as the standard HDR support. Really then, EVERSPACE - Stellar Edition is the full package: challenging, tactical, highly customisable, rewarding, almost endless, and pretty darn gorgeous.
Unless you’re averse to taking to the skies, or refuse to succumb to your mortality at the hands of permadeath, you won’t regret climbing aboard the good (space)ship roguelike.
Space gets a bad rap. For a locale which, in reality, is largely empty space; film, TV and particularly video games have taught us that the great unknown is filled only with baddies who want to fire laser weapons at us (pew pew!)
A game steeped in the ever-present nostalgia factor with a few fresh ideas thrown in for good measure.
Such thrills are fairly short-lived on their own, but, if you keep an eye out, you can often string powerups together so your buffs keep the pressure on the enemy.
If it all sounds like a cheerful way to spend some times, particularly on the move with the portable powers of the Switch, then you’re in luck, as the game is fairly easy to pause at almost any point and jump in and out of. If you’re looking for something more however, you may wish there was a little more variety to its gameplay.
There are 12 levels on offer, split into five areas, but you’d be hard pressed to tell each of them apart at first glance, aside from a different vibe from the games authentically 8-bit soundtrack for each. Difficulty builds fairly gradually and increasingly you’ll find you’re taking hits from what you thought was just ship detail below but turned out to be a hull-mounted bomb or gun emplacement. The odd cheap shot here and there is understandable, with so much going on, but at times your health will take a huge hit in seconds when several dangers converge.
Of course, the challenge is part of the appeal, and your squishy health bar remains visible at the bottom of the screen at all times, reminding you of the impending doom. In fact, when your health hits that critical final square there’s even a stylish slowdown effect to alert you to that fact without peppering the screen with ‘helpful’ voiceover from some unseen supervisor back on Earth or a teammate that won’t shut up (we’re looking at you Slippy.)
After the main game’s first run, there’s a few things to go back to. Each level has five optional objectives, some of which you’ll probably stumble across as you play, such as the perpetual “Kill all four alienoids”, but others will require more strategic action.
Then there’s also survive and boss modes for each level, which are exactly what they sound like, but neither really do much to remix and change up gameplay. Speaking of mixing, the game’s Xbox version has a particular tie-in with streaming service Mixer, which sees the audience capable of sabotaging the player by introducing enemies and generally making life difficult, but whether that would be something you’d like to subject yourself to/rise to the challenge of, is for you to decide.
The end result is a game steeped in the ever-present nostalgia factor with a few fresh ideas thrown in for good measure. To really blow us away it would have been nice to see the game break the mould a bit more, but for many a title which makes retro-style games accessible, and slightly more forgiving, to younger audiences and new players is no bad thing.
Having started life as a free-to-play mobile title under the guise of Ace Academy: Skies of Fury, Illumination Games and Seed Interactive’s WW1 air combat game recently made its console debut on the Nintendo Switch.
The bold visuals help give the game plenty of character as you dogfight over the patchwork fields below and fly through giant, marshmallow clouds so thick you could seemingly hop out and walk on them.
There are optional challenges similar to the Halo series’ skulls that can be applied pre-mission to help add some level of difficulty to proceedings, without proving insurmountable, whilst the only significant downside is that you’re less likely to earn loot boxes that contain new plane skins and alternate reticule designs as you won’t be earning EXP as quickly.
Skies of Fury’s campaign is broken up into five chapters, with missions split between German and British forces. Completing all of the missions in a chapter sees you rewarded with a fresh set of comic strips that convey the game’s narrative.
As you progress, you’re also given skill points to pick out new passive abilities to mitigate/increase incoming/outgoing damage such as faster health regeneration, larger magazines and a deadlier special attack. Another cool feature is the ability to snap up your AI allies as wingmen, adding their firepower to yours for greater damage whilst simultaneously acting as shields against incoming attacks.
Despite the sheer number of missions available, it becomes obvious very early on that there’s a distinct lack of variety between them, with the game recycling the same dogfight, escort missions and bizarre time trials that require you to fly through a series of hoops over and over again. In addition to the lack of objective variety, no voice acting means there’s no real difference when playing as either a German or British pilot, save for the names and livery of the planes.
Given the nature of its setting, it would have been nice to see some sort of trench-based reconnaissance or attack missions included, which the narrative suggests played an important role in the build up to the Battle of Arras. It feels like a missed opportunity considering this is supposed to be a more substantial offering than the mobile original.
Yes, there’s local multiplayer and a new survival mode which can be played cooperatively (also only locally), but the overall lack of extra polish when it comes to the game’s focal point - the campaign - drags Skies of Fury DX’s otherwise fairly enjoyable arcade action back down to Earth.
There’s no hiding the fact that Bombslinger is heavily inspired by Bomberman, at first glance even appearing as little more than a Western reskin of the classic series. Whilst the serviceable Battle mode doesn’t do too much to dispute that, its roguelike Adventure mode blasts Bombslinger past Konami’s most recent effort - Super Bomberman R.
Its roguelike Adventure mode propels Bombslinger past Konami’s most recent effort - Super Bomberman R.
While not as complex as the likes of The Binding of Isaac, which can be pretty obstructive to newcomers, the occasionally clumsy four-directional movement in Bombslinger will leave some a-shakin’ in their snakeskins. You’ll very frequently need to duck around a corner to avoid the blast radius of a bomb, but every so often you can be slightly off centre to the gap you’re attempting to squeeze through and end up taking damage as a direct result of the fiddly correction process. Considering that this has the potential to put an end to a run, it’s far from ideal.
It’s not such a problem in Battle mode’s lower stakes skirmishes, though that’s not to say they’re easy - the AI takes no prisoners, yeller belly! DeathMatch and Last Man Standing game types can be played across 12 maps, with the former a frantic race to the frag limit and the latter a more considered bout for survival.
In familiar fashion, you’re placed into a maze filled with a mix of destructible and non-destructible obstacles, as well as power-ups and power-downs, with a mad scramble ensuing as up to four bombers fill lanes with flames in an attempt to quell the competition. It proves tense, fast-paced and skilful despite the inherent simplicity, which makes the lack of online multiplayer support all the greater a blow.
A pick up and play nature makes Bombslinger ideal for gaming on the go, but, when it comes to local competitive matches, a big ol’ TV screen is the ideal way for everyone to keep track of what’s going on. This makes Nintendo Switch the game's ideal platform, offering up the best of both worlds and sacrificing none of the sharp retro aesthetic in the process.
The occasionally clumsy four-directional movement will leave some a-shakin’ in their snakeskins.
Bombslinger’s tentpole is its excellent roguelike Adventure mode, which boasts a characteristically addictive gameplay loop that compels you to keep developing your skill set over time. Battle mode is very much a secondary distraction, though proves to be good fun when getting some local friends involved - it’s just a shame that the fun can’t be taken online when there’s nobody to hand, and that control issues can make a game with a consistent level of challenge stray towards feeling unfair. Still, if you’re a fan of the Bomberman template, Bombslinger is a game you probably won’t want to miss.
A lot can change in ten years, and after a decade of working on Need for Speed titles - and playing second fiddle supporting the likes of Battlefield 1 and Star Wars Battlefront II - Criterion finally return to the franchise which put their name on the map to re-release its crown jewel: Burnout Paradise.
There’s some variety to be found in the challenges you can take on, presuming you enjoy driving cars fast, of course. Simple races start and finish between eight predefined locations on the map - mirroring compass points - and let you take any route, with an indicator at the top of the screen letting you know if you’re on the right track, and even flashing road signs indicating whether to turn left or right to course correct you if necessary.
Road Rage and Marked Man behave in much the same way, asking you to take out or avoid being taken out by AI drivers across a set route respectively. Here, arguably, is where the most fun is had thanks to the game’s cinematic approach to both takedowns and even your own crashes, should you find yourself dramatically spiralling off the road and into oblivion.
Stunt Races do pretty much what they say on the tin, placing you at a specific starting location to rack up as many points as you can. There are multipliers for moves like barrel rolls and spins, or taking out a billboard or two, but it can be hard to make the most of them early on, before you know where the best ramps and shortcuts are.
Burn Races are speed challenges for specific cars, which can be hit and miss depending on how much you enjoy the car in question. The time limits involved can be quite challenging, even from the beginning, so this is another set of events to come back to when you really know what you’re doing.
Progress through the game is gated by your driver’s licence, which starts as a learner permit and graduates through graded letters from D. Each time you achieve a new rank, your wins on completed events are reset, meaning you can revisit races and challenges you’re familiar with in order to push towards the next licence upgrade.
As you gather wins, new cars are unleashed upon the city, making it a simple case of taking them out to add them to your junkyard - the haven where your suite of vehicles live. You’ll find a selection of special cars here too, thanks to all the DLC being included, giving you the chance to take to the streets in lookalikes of some of pop culture’s most iconic vehicles, including the Delorean from Back to the Future, complete with hover mode.
Of course, as these cars are legendary (just like police cruisers and toy cars), they have pretty impressive stats, making them an easy shortcut for race wins in particular. There is a trade off though, in that many can be quite flimsy, and the ability to take a bit of damage without being obliterated is crucial in some modes.
Despite the AI’s aggression building as you climb the ranks, you’re often the biggest danger to yourself. With so many obstacles to navigate, including meandering traffic (though, thankfully, not pedestrians) you’ll find yourself slamming into walls and wrecking constantly, at least for a while as you get the hang of boosting around in your car of choice.
Each vehicle falls into one of a handful of classes, which have different ways of racking up nitrous, suited to the type of car it is. For example, a standard stunt class car gives you a big chunk of boost or fills your bar completely for going over ramps or pulling off tricks, whereas the aggression class is more risk/reward based, in that taking down other cars is a big win, but crashing out or being taken down takes away some of that hard-earned boost.
It’s elements like this which allow you to play the game in a way that’s more tailored to you, and the various systems all stem from previous games in the series, so if you had a particular penchant for Burnout 3: Takedown, you can feel right at home.
Venturing online - with a simple press of right on the D-pad - is a mixed bag. The forward-thinking drop-in/drop-out approach to multiplayer is a marvel which defines a “seamless online experience” even today, but the support systems in place around it are less effective.
You’ll launch you into Freeburn Online almost seamlessly, and other players will be loaded into their respective areas of the map. There’s a garage-full of challenges the tackle between two to eight players, as well as races which can be kicked off by the host.
The fact that challenges often require a specific location is the first major stumbling block, as without players making the most of voice chat (generally the norm in our limited experience pre-release) it can be tricky to get everyone together. There aren’t modern conveniences like group waypoints or text commands to try to coordinate everyone, and with an emphasis on making rivals online by taking down opponents, you can find yourself being smashed to pieces whilst parked at the side of the road navigating a menu.
While these are limitations also present in the original game, it could have made a big impact on longevity to have implemented a few community-friendly features, though, admittedly, as we were dealing with a pre-release audience, there’s still opportunity to be pleasantly surprised moving forward.
From LCD Soundsystem to Beethoven, the variety gives you the opportunity to cruise around with a soundtrack that works for you, with every song feeling like it belongs.
Of course, with friends it’s a whole different kettle of fish and the unhelpful map aside, players who’ve got to grips with where things are shouldn’t have too much trouble taking on a fairly wide variety of challenges, from performing near misses on traffic as a group to one player jumping clean over seven others lined up below.
Burnout has always been up there with the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and SSX series in terms of iconic and engaging soundtracks, and Paradise Remastered brings that magic back with all but two of the 92 original tracks making the cut. The variety on offer, from LCD Soundsystem to Beethoven, gives you the opportunity to cruise around with a soundtrack that works for you, with every carefully curated song feeling like it belongs.
That’s especially complementary to the vast, over-the-top playground of Big Surf Island, which feels a little hidden away, located to the east of the city. Another expansion, here there are unique cars and mega jumps, which crank up the more common super jumps across the rest of the city to 11, often seeing you hurtle halfway across the entire island.
In fact, so extensive is the amount of unlocks and areas to explore, Paradise Remastered could prove a near-endless rabbit hole for completionists. Not only do you have 475 no entry gates to smash, but also 165 billboards. Once you’ve done all that, there’s over 140 cars to unlock (though some are available from the get go) and you can set speed times for every single road on the map, both online and offline.
It’s perhaps forgivable then that one of the staples of the franchise, Crash Mode, where you attempt to cause as much damage as possible at a single intersection, is absent from this game entirely, thanks to Criterion’s past decision to spin it off into its own little game called Burnout Crash!. With such a vast amount of content to explore though, across a stunningly beautiful world, it’s easy to forgive this omission.
Burnout Paradise Remastered is a slice of pure joy in a gaming landscape which has arguably become unnecessarily complex. Re-releases aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and making a habit of such things is an issue in itself, but this case feels well-deserved and expertly executed. The original Paradise raised the bar for what racing games could be, and it arguably hit a high Criterion themselves have failed to recapture since. Remastered has us feeling things we thought were long gone and is an outstanding and hugely rewarding addition to any arcade racing fan’s library.
As its He-Man and the Masters of the Universe-inspired name and neon vision of the future suggest, Blasters of the Universe is a humorous homage to the VHS era. Grandmaster Alwyn, an arcade gaming savant, is so dominant a player that he’s become one with the eponymous game, prompting you to challenge his throne across four levels of intense shoot-‘em-up action.
By tapping into the bullet hell subgenre, the game takes on both a fierce urgency and an enticing element of performance.
This cumbersome issue isn’t something the pulsing synth soundtrack and sharp presentation can’t remedy, the pair drawing you back for another hit in tandem, but perhaps not before altering your loadout. Guns are crafted by choosing a frame and associated special ability, barrel, magazine, ammo type, and a module that provides a passive buff. A lot of possibilities open up as you progress and unlock new weapon elements, allowing you to rock an arcing beam rifle, explosive shotgun, ricocheting assault rifle, or really whatever you can dream up to fit your play style.
The game can only be played with two Move motion controllers (which are tracked particularly well here), one corresponding to your bespoke gun and the other being used to deploy your choice of ammo clips and a limited-use shield. This opens up a further layer of customisation, allowing you to, for example, equip a recharging magazine and focus exclusively on shielding with your off hand, or a small magazine with increased damage output that’ll need reloading on the regular, but should, in theory, eradicate enemies before they ever give you reason to deploy your shield.
If you’re anything like us, bigger will be better when it comes to the magazine, as the manual reload process is quite particular and differs depending on your choice of frame. Such is the precise art of reloading that we’d actually recommend using your dominant hand for it.
A lot of weapon crafting possibilities open up as you progress, really allowing you to rock whatever gun you can dream up to fit your play style.
Though swapping hands can initially prove disorienting, it ultimately lead us to slay all of the game’s long-form, large-scale bosses and emerge victorious on the other side. These battles require specific aiming and avoidance techniques that make them a challenging treat, though a glitch we encountered whereby each loss to the final boss caused an obnoxious buzzing sound until the game was rebooted did make the final leg slightly laborious. Fingers crossed that bug is squashed, which seems likely enough judging by the patch support already offered since launch.
Completing the campaign should take around three to five hours, though the exact number is really dependant on player skill and fitness levels, and that’s without taking into account time spent climbing online leaderboards and interacting with a couple of additional modes that round the package out. Challenge mode hands you a pre-built loadout and an objective to complete as quickly as possible, with the task at hand rotating after a set period of time, whilst Endless mode sees you, shockingly, survive for as long as possible to gain the highest score before meeting an inevitable end.
Despite relying on a played out concept, Endless is a highlight, placing trophies just out of reach to encourage a ‘one more go’ mindset. It randomises spawn patterns with each attempt to keep things fresh, though this does also affect balance, as luck of the draw can vastly impact your performance.
Still, with this mode in its repertoire, Blasters of the Universe might actually prove endlessly entertaining. Its thoroughly rewarding combat encounters can’t be bested with a lackadaisical approach, resulting in not just a fantastically fresh take on the bullet hell shooter, but also a workout regimen that makes you feel like a virtual deity... until your humanity comes a-knockin’ and the lactic acid takes hold.