The original RAGE, released back in 2011, was a bit of a technical marvel; it utilised innovative ‘megatextures’ to hit 60 FPS on console and accommodated that trademark id Software freneticism on last-gen hardware. It played beautifully, but everything surrounding that was pretty monotone, resulting in an ultimately forgettable experience. RAGE 2 looks to remedy this by spray-painting the wasteland neon pink and partnering with Just Cause developer Avalanche Studios to inject some vigour.
It’s familiar and largely uninspired stuff, but, to be fair, better implemented than in its peers. Speaking personally, I’ve never been a fan of Borderlands and I tapped out on the increasingly tedious Far Cry series years ago, both of which share structural similarities to RAGE 2, yet here I am happily playing Bethesda’s latest for the gross number of consecutive hours which are required for the TV to assume I’ve fallen asleep.
So what’s different here? id Software, to put it plainly. The originators of the FPS are still doing it best, crafting on-foot combat encounters that are giddily exciting. Action is supremely fluid at 60 FPS (which does come at the cost of 4K support on enhanced consoles), allowing for the necessary precision to utilise the wide array of tools at your disposal whilst staying on the move. As in DOOM, defeated enemies drop time-limited health pick-ups, so it pays to remain in the thick of a fight in the absence of fully regenerating health.
The originators of the FPS are still doing it best, crafting on-foot combat encounters that are giddily exciting.
Whether using the exquisite shotgun or one of RAGE 2’s more unique firearms to pop heads with a satisfying squish, devastating active abilities like a ground pound and an essential force push can also be executed as often as their cooldowns dictate, fully encompassing the supersoldier power fantasy. There’s a frankly massive amount of maneuvers to unlock, to the extent you probably won’t remember to implement them all, though they’re gradually introduced in an effort to avoid that and also maintain a constant feeling of growth throughout the reasonably-lengthed campaign and much longer road to 100% completion.
While there isn’t any concrete incentive to do so, at least beyond boosting your own ego by looking damn cool, experimenting and discovering effective combinations of abilities allows for immense showboating on the level of Bulletstorm. Stringing kills of any fashion together in quick succession will increase your combo and more efficiently charge the Overdrive meter, which can then be activated to massively boost the effectiveness of all your other offensive and defensive capabilities for a short period, filling the screen with a psychedelic techno haze as you go ham.
Outside of Overdrive you can’t always afford to be so reckless, as different factions and the enemy types within them pose different levels of threat, encouraging slightly altered tactical approaches. Using the Focus ability lets you see through walls to formulate plans of attack, which can then be executed against clever AI which appear in numbers and play to their strengths in order to quickly overrun overzealous players. We particularly like the fact that throwing an uncooked grenade at an enemy can prompt them to intercept it and return to sender, then, with a well-timed melee strike, you can even volley it right back at ‘em!
RAGE 2’s first-person firefights are honestly worth sticking out any of the game’s hardships for, and to a lesser extent, so too are the third-person vehicular combat sections. These only really come into play when you encounter and engage a convoy in the open world, which visually plays out like one of the best scenes from Fury Road, but is less exciting to actually control. Ramming riders from their bikes and quickly dispatching the smaller four-wheelers at the rear is explosive fun, but the leading boss vehicles are comparatively uninteresting since you can mostly just hang back, automatically lock-on to their weak points as they’re periodically exposed, then hold down the fire button to win. Convoys were far more involved in Mad Max, where you might need to remove armour plating with a harpoon in order to expose a weak point, then use a specific ammo type to destroy it.
Swapping out vehicles would help to spice things up a bit, but we’d go as far as to say switching is actively discouraged, despite being able to hijack and even unlock a variety of transports directly to your garage. Similar to the Magnum Opus in Mad Max, only minus any of the context, the Phoenix is your starting vehicle and the only banger capable of being repaired and upgraded.
RAGE 2 ’s first-person firefights are honestly worth sticking out any of the game’s hardships for, and to a lesser extent, so too are the third-person vehicular combat sections.
One benefit of opting out of upgrades would at least be avoiding RAGE 2’s painfully sluggish menus, which hang momentarily whenever you switch between the numerous tabs. Elsewhere there’s graphical pop-in (not great considering the so-so visuals in general), invisible and unresponsive NPCs, we’ve fallen through the floor and had to reload a save, and the audio can cut out completely or persist where it shouldn’t (hearing continuous gunfire from a dead enemy, for example). In fact, the audiovisuals are disappointing on the whole, falling well short of the colourful, Andrew W.K. party atmosphere RAGE 2 was made out to feature and instead sticking closer to your archetypal post-apocalypse.
Still, if you’re looking for a substantial shooter to enjoy in all its gory single-player glory, RAGE 2 most definitely fits the bill. The game achieves its main goal in being sheer and unadulterated fun - it doesn't take itself even slightly seriously and favours gameplay above all else, to the extent that tackling what’s essentially the same side mission for the tenth time isn’t any bother, because along the way you can spartan kick a dude and then decapitate him with a boomerang as he sits up. What, pray tell, is not to like about that?
Some things in life are bloody hard. Think ironing on those travel-sized boards, resisting that packet of Ginger Nuts hidden within the cupboardy prison, understanding anything written by a lawyer, or the cleverly titled DiRT Rally 2.0. We might jest, chums, but seriously: this is the *snicker* Dark Souls of racing games...
From the title screen you’ll find two main methods of play: My Team and Freeplay. My Team focuses on online-centric challenges, AI challenges, and both rally and rallycross career modes. The career modes are an excellent timesink, but we’ve really found ourselves getting stuck into the daily and weekly challenges, which counter-balance the longevity of career with short, sharp tear-ups.
Freeplay features a quad collection of historic rallying (absolutely fantastical), officially licensed FIA world rallycross championship, time trial, and, most intriguing of all, custom mode. Here in the custom world one can create and share their very own championships and stages, all created via an easy-to-use system. Players decide on terrain, type of race, number of stages, weather for these stages, track conditions, etc. Much like DiRT 4’s Your Stage, Custom guarantees staying power.
Raindrops hit the screen with a thud, and muck splatters the back of whatever diesel-burner you happen to be controlling.
2.0 is a real looker, too. Bash your way around cliffs as the sun sets and you’ll see what we mean, as gorgeous lighting creates lens flare and has distant waters shimmering away beautifully. Stagnant puddles glisten with filth, raindrops hit the screen with a thud, and muck splatters the back of whatever diesel-burner you happen to be controlling. Some of the backgrounds might be lacking a bit in detail, but honestly, when the driving is this intense, and the foreground this pretty, you probably won’t care.
Sound-wise, 2.0 gives us the same aural problems that DiRT 4 did, unfortunately. The raucous wailing of engine noise possesses the ability to grate on both oneself and the neighbours, and, on a personal note, the monotone of the co-driver is so reminiscent of my Year 10 ICT teacher that I began to nod off. Menu music and background vibes are fine, if a little understated.
We do have a few more niggles that we’d like to mention on top of that charismatic co-driver, though, folks. Whilst we personally loved the total lack of hand-holding tutorials, many with the desire to get involved with DiRT for the first time will be left feeling woefully unprepared for the mountainous learning curve and ridiculously narrow tracks that lie ahead. A practice/training mode, as seen in DiRT 4, would certainly have allayed this issue.
We’ve also experienced some problems with low-light and night races (the many miserable, rainy Polish rallies come to mind), where even Dr. Personality’s instructions can’t save you from smashing into trees, or even missing whole corners, because you couldn’t bloomin’ well see ‘em! Playing these at nighttime with the lights off and the brightness dialled up will help, but that’s realism gone too far.
These minor negatives aside, DiRT Rally 2.0 is exactly the kind of game that people don’t really make anymore. It’s mercilessly tough, never holds your hand, and takes a while to really get under your bonnet. If you don’t have the leather interior and hub-caps for that, then we suggest you stick with DiRT 4, but for anyone up to the challenge, we can’t recommend this enough.
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.
The Isle of Man TT. Even those with only a passing interest in the world of motorsport will most likely have heard of this iconic event. Now, thanks to the arrival of TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge, fans can (safely) get closer than ever to the infamously dangerous race.
The developers have nailed the sense of speed, danger and authenticity.
Fortunately, the game gives you the option to slice up the large course and enjoy it piecemeal, letting you practice specific sections or simply replay a favourite part at your leisure. If you fancy a break from it altogether, there are also nine fictional tracks much more suited to shorter play sessions.
It’s these courses, along with the individual Snaefell sections, that make up the early parts of the no-frills career mode, where your goal is to win fame, money and, eventually, the Tourist Trophy (that’s four laps of the full track). This is something easier said than done, as winning races in Ride on the Edge is hard, even on the easiest difficulty settings - crank up the realism and simply pulling away in first gear becomes a challenge.
Without wins, there’s little chance of earning enough cash to buy faster bikes and, therefore, progressing to later tournaments. It’s also frustrating to see what wealth you do have frittered away as monthly bills pile up, though the real problem with career mode lies in the aforementioned clumsy AI that comprises your competition.
These infallible racers stick to the yellow chevrons like glue and streak along with little regard for your safety or ambitions, often sneaking up from behind and running you off the road while you’re just focussed on finishing a perfect lap. It’s a problem that effectively renders mass start races - which make up a large percentage of the tournaments on offer - obsolete, along with a big chunk of potential winnings.
Multiplayer doesn’t fare much better, with the game’s small player base limiting the race options available to those who do choose to venture online.
Unless you’re really into time trials and leaderboards, most will find there’s not much to keep them coming back for more once TT Isle of Man: Ride on the Edge’s initial thrills have worn off, meaning this is one best suited for hardcore enthusiasts only.
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.
The one thing better than a car is a car with massive guns strapped to it. We’ve learned from experience that it isn’t always easy to turn this delicious concept into a game however, as the N64 and PlayStation era brought the dizzying heights of Vigilante 8 as well as the cynical, cash-grabbing lows of 007 Racing. Most recently, you might recall elements of the concept in Mad Max or even Borderlands 2 to an extent, but other than World of Tanks - a far more realistic take on vehicular warfare - the market for this experience is far from saturated.
Other than World of Tanks - a far more realistic take on vehicular warfare - the market for this experience is far from saturated.
Creativity is definitely encouraged in the process, though. The garage and its array of possibilities can be quite overwhelming; even though the controls are constantly in view at the top of the screen, it takes some time to get to grips with the interface, and it’s particularly challenging to work out what each component is until you start throwing them together.
As you begin to level up and the array of jigsaw pieces widens, there’s also the introduction of factions to account for. These require a certain amount of reputation to unlock, and give less traditional design options, such as combining features of aeroplanes and vintage cards, in the specific case of the Nomads.
On the battlefield, the variety on offer starts to show itself, and immediately the priorities for building become more apparent. Specifically, vehicle damage is quite substantial, to the extent that wheels and complete parts of your vehicle may fall off if you take too much punishment, or too specific a ramming from your adversaries.
Wheels are a particularly weak link, leaving you beached and motionless or simply spinning in a circle if you aren’t careful, though this is also an Achilles’ heel you can use against enemies. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you may ditch wheels altogether and go for a hovering vehicle instead, but bear in mind that they’re incredibly hard to control, though traditional vehicles aren’t exactly a walk in the park either.
On the battlefield, the variety of customisation options on offer starts to show itself, and immediately the priorities for building become apparent.
Whatever your approach, taking on missions requires the use of fuel, a limiting factor to the game that’ll ask you to wait 24 hours to refill your tank, or speed the process up through microtransactions. This seeming sharp edge is blunted when you consider the cost in in-game currency is low and can be earned by selling excess parts, however. The missions themselves refresh each day, to give a bit of variety - though they stick to fairly basic archetypes like escort or attack and defend - and are level locked to give you a fighting chance.
In all the game is a solid starting point for a beta, if lacking in character and richness of world, despite a nicely done intro cinematic which is rare these days. You might get more of a narrative pull in other titles, though how much that bothers you really comes down to personal preference. Strong potential is a good starting point for an unknown newcomer like this, and the gradual approach of rolling it out means that you aren’t generally left waiting for a game for minutes on end and, more importantly, there’s a bit of fun to be had once you’re there, assuming you don’t mind putting up with the odd rogue player
I must confess before I start this review that I fell out of love with Formula One games some years ago. I tired of the high-speed, tactical gameplay and decided I wholeheartedly preferred the crash bang wallop of BTC and Rallying. The last F1 game I played was F1 2004 - back when Jordan and Orange were still teams - which, to its credit, I did play a lot. It's time to return to the professional's choice of motorsport however, to test my mettle against the best of the best.
Following three practice sessions (which are skippable), a simple, single-lap qualifier precedes the race. The race proper begins after you select your car and pit strategy, and is more engaging than the practice sessions from the get go, thanks to the freedom to take sharper corners and the fact there are racers at the back of the pack for players like myself to contend with, instead of having everyone speed right past.
You’ll also need to contend with weather and fuel, both of which make a significant difference to how the game handles. The weather is dynamic, if not very impressive on the aesthetic front (there's no spray from standing water, as an example), and using the right tyre at the right time can make or break your race. Fuel is linked to driving style, with braking and gear changes taken into consideration, and can be eaten through surprisingly quick if you don’t manage consumption well. The suite of assist and difficulty options can help you tweak things to your liking, which should make driving feel pretty solid whatever the conditions.
There’s good physical feedback from the controller in the corners and when braking, though it’s slightly disappointing that there are just four rigid directional views when manipulating the camera in place of free movement. With the tap of a button you cycle through information screens pertaining to your standing, though this can be difficult to absorb while driving. You can ask the engineer for specific info to make your life easier, and even do so literally with convenient Kinect voice command integration.
Like most modern racers, F1 2017 features a rewind function and executes it well; you see the last ten-or-so seconds of play and can choose when to jump back in, though attempting to fast forward the video does horrible things to the framerate and it’s easy to miss the desired point. Generally you’ll want to rewind following a collision, and, on that note, there’s thankfully a damage model that sees wings and tyres fly off vehicles.
People who like their racing with a bit more depth and strategy - and, of course, fans of Formula One specifically - will find a lot to like in F1 2017.
My eyes suffered similar damage (alright, maybe not that bad) at the hands of the game’s abundant tiny text. The visuals in general aren’t quite so harsh, generally looking pretty good besides the awful track textures (not that you'll see much of them).
There's multiplayer on offer, but it’s limited to pure Grand Prix setups with no bizarre, Forza-style extra modes - probably due to the license. Instant and quick race selections have some variety as there are a few classic cars to choose from - such as the famed blue and yellow Renault or the white Shell cars of the 90s, screaming engines intact - however there's only a couple from each era, making classic races a touch monotonous. Leaderboard races round out the offering and do what they say on the tin, with your willingness to asynchronously compete with friends and strangers dictating their worth.
Clearly this is a not a game for casual players, however people who like their racing with a bit more depth and strategy - and, of course, fans of Formula One specifically - will find a lot to like in this year’s entry into Codemasters’ long-running franchise.
The once-prominent film tie-in has been on the decline for a number of years now, which is largely considered a good thing, as shedding the often oppressive schedules has allowed licensed games to flourish. Cars 3: Driven to Win, however, is a rare exception; a good ol’ fashioned film tie-in that’s also legitimately fun.
There’s a decent amount of content here to boot, with 23 cars (which are purely an aesthetic choice) and 21 tracks (some of which are rehashes) playable across the 5 event types to keep your 20 or so hour journey towards the Hall of Fame mostly engaging.
When you also take into consideration the pleasant visuals and fun local multiplayer, available in cooperative and competitive varieties, Cars 3: Driven to Win is a surprisingly comprehensive game. It doesn’t do anything particularly innovative, and falls short in some areas, but is still a very solid example of its genre, which is far more than most film tie-ins can boast.
Brum, brum, as they say in Codemasters’ midlands-based world of speedy motorcades! Can Codies keep up their mastery of all things diesel-burny with Dirt 4, or is it a mucky stain that even the most efficient of washing machines couldn’t get out? Gentlemen - and ladies - start your engines!
From your first moments on the grid the attention to detail is obvious.
Alongside career you’ll find sack loads more - there’s a wealth of online options under both the competitive and multiplayer monikers. Competitive floats a weekly supply of challenges to undertake and work your way up the leaderboard, plus there’s a divisional, FIFA-style mode that will suck many in. Multiplayer fleshes things out nicely with an assortment of head-to-head modes, but clean drivers should beware, as you’ll come across plenty of corner-cutting hacks like yours truly!
Special mention has to be saved for the literally game changing Your Stage creation facility. Here you’re left to your own devices to create rallying stages and events, which can then be shared online. The track design initially seems limiting, as you can only alter a few sliders - track length, difficulty, etc. - but the game’s superb algorithm chucks out some fantastic stages in just a few seconds, something that just wouldn’t be possible with a full fat design suite. There are endless options here, too - even with the same slider settings, the generate stage option throws up another, completely different track, giving the game real legs when it comes to longevity.
The audiovisual side of Dirt 4 also impresses for the most part; as mentioned earlier, the car models are beautiful, from the authentically placed sponsorship logos to the ever-changing vehicle shell. Crashes often result in bits of the car body falling off, with the wake of crashes ahead affecting you as you pass.
Unfortunately, the off-track visuals are on the more basic end of the spectrum - trees and crowd members look very simplistic, which is a shame, but undoubtedly assists the game in running smooth as silk. Backend elements are also on the unglamorous side of things, with simple, easy to understand menus and options that are functional, but definitely bland.
The Your Stage creation facility offers up endless possibilities, giving the game real legs when it comes to longevity.
Dirt 4 contains the standard array of radio-friendly hits from the last few years, much like EA Sports’ many offerings. If you like that kind of thing, you’ll love being in the menu screens, if not, you’ll be jamming the A button as quickly as possible to advance to the race. The on-track audio is spot on though, with firing engines, screeching tires and colossal bumps and smashes as you take out yet another tree/sponsorship board. Just be careful not to turn the volume up too loud, as your spouse/family/neighbours might find Dirt 4’s tones grating in time.
As we reach the chequered flag, we have to hold our hands up and praise Codemasters for producing another excellent racing game. The sheer wealth of options available in single and multiplayer are backed up brilliantly by the endlessly entertaining Your Stage feature. Though the presentation might be bland in places, and crosskart events can be painful, it’s impossible to overlook how good the actual rally racing is. Grab your helmet and race suit, get in the car, and go get dirty!
The rumours you’ve heard are true ㅡ Mario Kart is back. Of course, if you’re one of those brave souls (like Rob) who boarded the good ship Wii U (and continues paddling even as it begins to take on water…), Mario and friends never left. This new Deluxe version, only available on the Nintendo Switch, offers a few extra bells and whistles to try to entice the die-hards, but, putting that aside, this game threatens to be the definitive Mario Kart experience of all time.
Now, if you’ve followed us up to this point and you’re enjoying your foray into Mario Kart 8 Deluxe so far ㅡ assuming you’ve worked out how to choose the right combination of controllers, as there’s no prompt to choose which control setup you prefer, regardless of what you’re using when you turn the game on ㅡ one thing you might not have yet realised is that this game literally plays itself.
We’re talking about the auto drive and auto steer options, which are enabled by default and about more than just slamming on the breaks as you go careering into a corner, something which you might have experienced in the likes of Forza (though, admittedly, these games are worlds apart). In fact, the aids will effectively drive the entire course for you if you want them to, meaning the barrier of entry for the game has never been lower.
This does make sense, as it’s a game which should bring families together in front of the TV (or crowded ‘round the Switch) like nothing other than Doctor Who or another ill-fated World Cup match has done in years gone by, but if you’re trying to get the feel of the game it can be distracting to notice the computer wrestling some of your freedom away. The story is the same with motion controls, which are oddly disabled by default, but work effectively in any controller configuration; that said, playing in portable mode with the Joy-Cons attached to the screen can be a tad disorienting.
It might seem like things are a little bit hectic so far. Really this is one of the main emotions you feel when getting into the game for the first time, even on its slowest speed (and, therefore, lowest difficulty), as there’s an awful lot to take in. Does it get easier once you’ve got your head around it all? Yes, and it gets even better.
Depending on how confident you are, a run through each of the 12 cups will give you enough experience to feel like you’re fully in control, and the confidence to believe that you aren’t actually half bad at the game. Upping the difficulty can make all the difference, of course, particularly when combined with the game’s mirror mode, which poses a mental challenge as all the courses are ㅡ you guessed it ㅡ mirrored.
The AI unfortunately doesn’t share the same amount of personality and verve as the rest of the game, in that no matter who your rival in a given cup ends up being (it’s usually dictated by which character you choose), they all behave pretty much the same.
Multiplayer helps remedy that issue, however, as you (and a friend, if you have one hanging about) can take on savvy human players the world over in online races (providing you can connect OK). Many of them will relish the opportunity to screw you over at the worst possible moment, which is all part of the fun, but the lack of voice chat and emotes stops you feeling connected to other players, making what could have been raucous fun just an adequate experience.
There are also online tournaments, which Nintendo will hopefully use like the Global Missions in Pokémon Sun and Moon to bring players together, albeit more competitively. Players are able to tweak rules at their leisure, making AI more complicated or restricting what items are available to customise the level of challenge across the currently available roster. It’s a nice thing to have, but not the main event when you consider everything else the game has to offer.
Speaking of which, we’re yet to talk about the revamped battle mode, which is probably the biggest change from the original Wii U release of MK8, and, in many ways, where the most memorable moments will be created. Getting four people together in a room, or more if you have additional Switches handy, to pummel each other with bananas is not to be underestimated.
Getting four people together in a room to pummel each other with bananas is not to be underestimated.
There’s no finish line here, only a variety of surprisingly diverse game modes which involve you getting up close and personal with items. The familiar Balloon Battle is present and accounted for, but there’s also the endearing Renegade Roundup, which pits two teams against each other cops and robbers style, with one team trying to gobble up the other with piranha plants and the others trying desperately to free their friends. Just to reiterate: It’s an absolute blast!
The look, feel and handling of the game itself are all excellent. This is a series which has a lot of history, and Nintendo know how to do it right by now. Everyone has their favourite instalment of the franchise, and it’s nice to see a few things which had taken a break come back in this iteration, but for those coming in fresh, this really is everything Mario Kart has to offer.
While there are flaws, considering Deluxe’s price in comparison to some other Switch titles (we’re looking at you, Super Bomberman R), there’s great value for money on display here. The courses are diverse and interesting, with very few including features that annoy and many boasting interesting tweaks ㅡ The Legend of Zelda and Animal Crossing-themed courses in particular are a bit of fun.
In short, this is the second essential purchase on the Switch so far, closely following Breath of the Wild, and one which really re-enforces what the new system is designed to be ㅡ something which brings people together, in this instance to argue about who deserved to win after a carefully placed item and a bit of luck turn the tables metres from the finish line.
● Looks stunning & plays brilliantly
● Full of content - good value for money
● Play as Link, but this time on a motorbike
● Could do more to teach new players the ins and outs
● Limited communication options damage the online experience
● Those bloody blue shells!