Welcome to a world without consequences. Set in a twisted version of Montana, USA, Far Cry 5’s Hope County has become overrun by religious fanatics, and your nameless deputy is either a professional freedom fighter or a destructive terrorist in a fight to restore order.
It sounds nitpicky, but the problem extends further. You’re free to shoot a quest-giver or ally in the head, leaving them writhing in pain on the floor, but as soon as you get them back up again, they act like nothing ever happened. The game asks you to fight for the cause, even though your character, a new Sheriff’s Deputy - who gets merely a handful of customisation options in the way of backstory - represents an establishment that locals don’t care much for at the best of times.
None of this would be an issue, if the game’s plot didn’t ask you to take the situation so seriously. The visual presentation - particularly stunning on Xbox One X at times - gives a sense of realism, while the practicalities of the game suggest the opposite.
As you start to complete missions, specialists will offer themselves up to join you in your quest (you’re arbitrarily limited to taking one into battle at first, then two later), and they can range from the fairly believable, if stereotypical, redneck with a penchant for explosives, to a bow-sporting Lara Croft wannabe, and, even… a trained bear called Cheeseburger.
Far Cry 5's plot asks you to take it seriously, whereas the game itself suggests the opposite.
Fighting with allies in stride makes you less of a lone wolf and more of a tactical force, as you can dispatch them into combat on a whim - they’ll even try to do it sneakily if the alarm hasn’t already been raised. Unfortunately, while in a BioWare RPG like Mass Effect or Dragon Age these allies are a true extension of your character (as well as having plentiful character of their own), here their implementation is staggeringly basic and the AI not up to the task nine times out of ten, often giving the game away or spending too long dawdling to prove useful.
Far Cry 5 is at its best as you make your way across the map, perhaps in one of many vehicles, towards an objective. Here the game’s freedom is a blessing, giving you the choice to get involved or jog on, safe in the knowledge that nothing bad will happen if you don’t prevent the evil going on all around you. Where things fail to hold together is when the narrative presents you with one of the Seed siblings, confusingly referred to as both Lieutenants and Heralds in different places in the game, and demands you pass judgement on them by destroying their regime a piece at a time.
Take Faith (above) for example, the younger sister of Joseph: she’s busy getting the locals hooked on a euphoric drug called Bliss so that they can see the light of ‘The Father’ (Joseph). As you begin to loosen her grip on her section of Hope County, she pays you a visit a few times and forces you to complete tests, such as a literal leap of faith that represents your own descent into drug addiction.
This begins to play tricks with you as you wander around the world - showing you animals you’re looking for or civilians in peril only to have them disappear or change shape when you get to them - but the climax, your final confrontation with her, is relegated to an antiquated-feeling gun show. Compare this to a more cerebral experience in, say, BioShock Infinite, and you’ll find that the places where the game as a whole could have gone that extra mile begin to wrack up.
If you’re purely looking for some solid shooter gameplay, then everything on offer is fine, though many of the better guns are locked away until you’ve made a dent in the Seeds’ regime. That or held behind prohibitively expensive store fronts which gesture naggingly towards Silver, the game’s premium currency.
FC5’s extremes are perhaps more at home in user-generated content fest Far Cry Arcade mode (and, by the names of them alone, its zany DLC packs), which offers up a range of challenges to keep an itchy trigger finger satisfied, as well as the opportunity to create your own.
All of this leaves Far Cry 5 in a strange place. The main antagonist doesn’t have the charisma or interest of someone like Vaas, who sticks in the mind from Far Cry 3’s trailers alone, which makes meandering around the world more compelling than actually getting closer to a final showdown with The Father.
Those who want a more tactical experience already have Ghost Recon Wildlands, albeit in third-person, and the awkward, mismatched tone here takes away more than it differentiates. If you fancy a distraction which is fun and varied while it lasts, but ultimately does little to leave a lasting impression (whilst failing to ask any thought-provoking questions at a time when the US’s attitudes and values are more under the spotlight than ever), then Far Cry 5 could be what you’re looking for.
Following in the footsteps of Battlezone 98 Redux, the second game in Rebellion’s classic PC strategy series has now been lavished with the same spa treatment. Originally released nearly two decades ago, Combat Commander’s remaster expectedly shows a few cracks, but an intriguing blend of RTS and FPS mechanics still make for some uniquely exciting skirmishes.
Combat Commander’s remaster shows a few cracks, but an intriguing blend of RTS and FPS mechanics still make for some uniquely exciting skirmishes.
Not all of the changes are to your advantage, though. Obviously you can’t just jump back to your base of operations or an outpost that’s under attack in Combat Commander, upping tension and encouraging a careful approach.
While very subtle tweaks help the gameplay to endure, changes on the visual front are a little more drastic. The game simultaneously looks sharp and slightly retro, clearly being a modernisation of aged assets in place of genuine current design, which there’s a certain charm to. Old school wonk like shooting a chain link fence with a standard round causing it to explode, or hilariously bad walking and on-foot death animations, don’t translate quite so well.
Having largely remained true to the original means that the remaster isn’t too taxing to run. Its range of graphics options ensured we had no problem maintaining 1080p/60FPS on a GTX 1060, though it’s possible to reach the heights of 4K resolution and a higher unlocked frame rate with a more powerful rig. Unfortunately, Combat Commander is less technically accommodating elsewhere, with alt + tabbing causing temporary choppiness, and badly implemented controller support.
On the solo front, Instant Action mode caters to an itchy trigger finger, while the lengthy campaign slowly introduces new concepts to players across 24 varied missions. Set in the 1990s, the discovery of a hostile alien race dubbed Scions prompts the US and Russia to combine forces. You play Lieutenant Cooke of the International Space Defence Force (ISDF) and embark on an interplanetary crusade that’ll lead you down one of two branching paths dependant on a pivotal decision.
The narrative is really what you make of it, delivered through introspective loading screen monologues, written briefs and audio logs that it’s up to you to interact with. Jarringly untouched cutscenes are fortunately a rarity, but worse is the often inaudible mission chatter that gets drowned out by obnoxious sound effects, even after lowering audio levels.
The game simultaneously looks sharp and slightly retro, which there’s a certain charm to.
While hopping between six planets provides a welcome change in scenery now and again, differences in mission parameters aren’t always as easy to appreciate. Combat Commander’s campaign can stray from its strengths, dumping you in an on-foot stealth section, or tasking you with building a base then not allowing you to make use of it. Throw instances of generally poor design into the mix, like needing to leave the area you’re defending to proximity trigger enemies, or placing a particularly difficult section at the very end of a long stretch when the game has no checkpointing, and some outings are a recipe for frustration.
They aren’t all bad - a few objectives are particularly good fun, in fact - but with the multiplayer suite there’s less chance of being let down. Up to 14 players can compete and cooperate locally via LAN or online with cross-play between Steam and GOG Galaxy. Eight modes include the conventional Strategy game type, Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and also more more outlandish undertakings like Loot (steal as much money as possible from a bank) and Race.
You may struggle to find active servers for anything other than Strategy and cooperative Online Instant Action, in which a group of players wage war with challenging AI, but already having ‘dead’ game types doesn’t throw up too many concerns about longevity. With modifiers available to hosts, an endless supply of maps thanks to an extensive editing tool, plus mod and add-on support that anyone can get to grips with, the Battlezone player base has a lot at their disposal.
Much like Rogue Trooper Redux before it, in being ahead of its time in many ways, Rebellion ensured that Combat Commander would remain engaging for future audiences way back when. Its central coupling of genres is still genius, but a concept now held back by some dated execution.
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.
After launching on PC and consoles in 2016 to critical acclaim, Furi recently made its way to Nintendo Switch, as publishers and developers alike continue to throw their weight behind Nintendo’s hybrid console and its ever-growing popularity.
From the outset, the game lets you know exactly what kind of punishment you’re in for. Though the words may be spoken by the cocksure introductory boss (whose bark is, in fact, much worse than his bite), the threat of an eternal cycle of annihilation rings true: you’re going to die in Furi. A lot.
That’s part of the learning process, as you may already have learned through exposure to a spate of super tough games inspired by the success of Dark Souls, and most of the time boss encounters in Furi, while imposing at first, are very beatable if approached in the right way. That said, a couple of encounters close to the end of the game do feel overpowered and almost cheap by comparison to earlier fights.
The opening Guardian serves as an introduction to Furi’s combat mechanics, which blend ranged twin-stick shooting elements with close-quarters swordplay. The former comes into effect when enemies are engaging the player in bullet hell-like sections, in which you must dodge a variety of incoming projectiles with the help of a boost ability.
Enemy attacks can become extremely hectic, coming together to form a spinning, colourful kaleidoscope of death as they chuck lasers, fast-moving homing attacks and great walls of energy that encompass entire arenas your way. You’ll need to avoid all of this while also dealing out damage, picking away at a Guardian’s health bit by bit with standard blaster fire, or risking a charged shot to inflict greater damage.
You’re going to die in Furi. A lot.
These ranged confrontations can become stretched across a whole level, with the camera zooming way out to encompass all of the action. It’s here where playing Furi via the Switch’s handheld mode gets a little tricky, as the already small characters become tiny dots lost amidst the chaos on the console’s six-inch screen. It’s not so much of a problem in the more confined melee sections, however, which narrow the action down to a blue ring housing you and your opponent.
This is where timing becomes key, and the game really shows its teeth, as players have to learn and quickly react to a Guardian’s mix of melee and area of effect attacks, each telegraphed by a sound and visual cue, in order to successfully block or avoid them. Blocking melee attacks not only mitigates incoming damage, but also recoups a small amount of health; if you’re lucky (or skilled) enough to pull off a perfect riposte it’ll also temporarily stun an enemy, presenting an opportunity to land a successive flurry of hits.
Both you and the Guardians you face enter an encounter with multiple lives that are incrementally lost when an energy bar has been depleted. You only ever have three lives per fight, while your opponents can sometimes have twice that. It isn’t as unbalanced as you might think, considering that every time you knock one off an enemy’s tally you gain back a lost life, allowing players the exciting opportunity to battle back from the brink of defeat.
With the game’s excellent soundtrack and unique, neon-drenched art style, relatively peaceful pauses between the action can be incredibly atmospheric moments.
Featuring designs by Takashi Okazaki, the man behind Afro Samurai, bosses in Furi have unique personalities and are memorable in many ways, not just for the significant challenge they pose. Some beg for you to turn back, offering an olive branch instead of cold steel, some will openly mock and scorn you, while others simply set to their task with a heavy heart, and it can actually be quite wrenching to see them cut down as a result.
It’s a shame that Furi isn’t one of the titles on Switch that allows you to capture gameplay clips, as, despite the potential heartbreak, emerging victorious from a particularly gruelling boss encounter is a rewarding moment you’ll likely want to relive and share with others.
Aside from this lacking feature and a couple of dropped frames in some of the more intense bullet hell sections, Furi runs more than adequately on Switch. It also comes bundled with all content and updates found on other platforms, including the One More Fight DLC which adds an extra boss.
Featuring combat that feels sharp, fast-paced and satisfying, as well as a ranking system and practice mode that lets you relive individual encounters and engage with those satisfying mechanics at your leisure, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Those looking to cut their teeth on an atmospheric and challenging title ahead of the recently announced Dark Souls remaster should look no further than Furi.
If Furi sounds like your thing, keep an eye out for next week’s giveaway, in which you could win the game on Steam.
Everyone likes money. Making a game hopelessly obsessed with it, focusing on grabbing as much of it as possible, seems like a simple enough idea. Vostock Inc. combines a space exploration experience with a simple, Monopoly-esque construction sim to create a game with a wider variety of experiences compared to your usual idle clicker.
While you wait, there’s the twin-stick shooter aspect of the game, which can be a bit more of a mixed bag than the polished balance of the Moolah-making. You can take out asteroids and crates in space for bonuses, save managers and executives for bonuses, or even take on huge enemy bosses for, you guessed it, bonuses - generally in the form of lots and lots of yellow pieces which your tiny ship can lap up and add to your total.
Enemies spawn a little too frequently at times, sometimes appearing before the graphic congratulating you for defeating a big baddie has even left the screen, but this feels like a deliberate attempt to keep you playing and striving on to the next challenge, rather than a lapse in design.
A few times we’ve found ourselves taking massive damage by being physically stuck between two enemies and bouncing between them at high speed. Fortunately, if you should blow up all is not lost, you have a tiny life pod (which can also protect any executives you’ve collected) that’ll offer some protection as you scatter back to the Motherbase for the system to regain health. Even being destroyed completely only chops away a swathe of the cash you have on you, rather than having any long-lasting implications.
To defend yourself you’ll need to use one of the game’s colourful weapons, which range from a simple machine gun to a laser unicorn attack squad and graviton aperture gun. In practice, merely upgrading the weapon you get on best with works for most encounters, providing you have the dexterity to keep mobile, and providing you invest money now and again, the enemies are rarely overwhelming.
If that wasn’t enough to keep you busy, there’s also plenty of upgrades to Motherbase, your ship and your radar, which can certainly make your life easier - depending on what your priorities are - and there’s the aforementioned executives to look after. These overpaid fat cats (well, one of them literally is a cat lady) are only around to boost your productivity, but they’ll need to be furnished with lavish gifts to be kept happy and let you reap the rewards.
Vostok Inc. consistently punches above its weight, giving compelling gameplay and humour without layering in unnecessary systems and cluttering the experience.
Each has their own personalised 8-bit mini game, varying from driving sims to first-person shooters to Flappy Bird clones, which give you the opportunity to pick up these items, but most are pretty challenging, so you’re better off obliterating a few enemies and asteroids instead. The games themselves are a welcome distraction though, and fill out what is, on the surface, quite a basic experience.
Whether this is a game for you will depend on how you like to play. It’s at its best with a degree of passiveness and patience, waiting for the money total to tick up so you can grab that upgrade before you dash downstairs for dinner. Passing the time before bedtime with the game was initially an exercise in real-world stealth, as destroying asteroids and creating buildings set off the Switch’s overzealous rumble, putting the good night’s sleep of significant others everywhere in jeopardy, but fortunately there is an option to turn this off hidden in one of the multiple options menus.
For something which might look like it only belongs on a mobile phone at first glance, Vostok Inc. consistently punches above its weight, giving compelling gameplay and humour without layering in unnecessary systems and cluttering the experience. The later game may feel more drawn out, as everything takes longer to happen and you’ve explored all of the six systems available, but the thirst for more and more money is strangely addictive - but hopefully in a fun way, rather than the more negative real-world consequences… Without a doubt, for the price (£12.99), this is one well worth snapping up.
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
Tannenberg is the latest First World War-set online shooter from the makers of Verdun, bringing realistic historical combat to the fore on Steam once again, only this time, M2H and Blackmill Games are leaving behind the crater-ridden trenches of the Western Front and taking players to the relatively unexplored battlefields of Eastern Europe.
The four maps on offer - East Prussia, Poland, Carpathians and Galicia - may seem a little stingy by today’s standards, especially with the developers stating that the game is content complete despite still being in Early Access, but each one is vast and most incorporate a variety of landscapes, from dense pine forests and grassy fields to more fortified areas. They also utilise alternate weather and time of day effects as a way of achieving more mileage.
It’s a simple method, but one that works; playing one map in a blanket of snow and grey skies only to go again a few rounds later in bright sunshine feels like two very different experiences, while some weather patterns, such as the vision limiting nature of heavy fog, can even impact upon gameplay, changing the way you approach battles, especially in Maneuver.
Of the three game modes on offer in Tannenberg, Maneuver is by far the most popular, with the game’s other two modes - Rifle Deathmatch and Attrition - unable to match the level of tactical play and the thrilling scale of warfare on offer in the former, thanks in part to smaller maps and lower player counts.
Tannenberg feels like a step forward for the series, albeit not a giant one.
Unlike Verdun’s Frontlines mode, which saw both sides competing in a tug of war match over a single control point at a time, Maneuver has players battling it out over multiple sectors and control points spread over the mode’s large maps. The idea is to outflank the opposition by encircling occupied sectors, cutting off the enemy’s headquarters and leaving it vulnerable to a game-ending capture.
This is a big ask however, as controlling all or enough sectors to capture the enemy HQ is surprisingly difficult, and more often than not victories are achieved through attrition rather than any tactical genius. Both teams begin each match with a set number of points that can only be reduced by capturing and holding the most sectors, meaning playing the objective is essential if you want to end up on the winning side.
Most maps are made up of between 9 and 12 sectors, with each of those (save for the main and often most contested one in the middle of the map) offering some sort of bonus for the team that captures it. These include being able to call in a recon plane that spots any enemies caught underneath its flight path, ammo dumps for resupplying and artillery strikes, the latter of which can be particularly devastating, especially considering there’s no protection afforded to those who have just respawned into an area that’s being bombarded.
The lack of spawn protection is one of the game’s biggest drawbacks, and an issue that’s exacerbated by the developer’s commitment to recreating an authentic wartime experience with the one-hit-kill nature of weapons. Getting picked off from afar by an unseen enemy when carelessly sprinting across open ground is one thing, but being dropped after respawning in a ‘safe’ area is incredibly frustrating, and something that happens far too often.
Despite this, Tannenberg remains an incredibly enjoyable and different online shooter, and though it was disappointing to see Verdun’s less-than-clear progression system once again in play here, as well as the game’s insistence on relying on players’ goodwill to ensure teams are evenly balanced, Tannenberg still feels like a step forward for the series, albeit not a giant one.
Well here we are, two years after EA burst onto the scene with the pretty but, ultimately, somewhat disappointing Star Wars Battlefront. Now, EA has pulled together a ragtag group of accomplished studios - DICE, Motive and Criterion - in an attempt to knock our socks off with the sequel, so, how did they do?
Janina Gavankar, who provides motion capture and voice over for the protagonist, gives one of the strongest performances we’ve come across in a videogame.
While it’s nice to fling a lightsaber about, there’s time for that in the multiplayer. Would it have been so difficult to really double down on Iden and make her story as central as she appears on the box art? The worst culprit here is the final mission which (minor spoilers) sees you control current trilogy baddie Kylo Ren “several decades later” in an elongated dream sequence/representation of mental torture which serves as a confusing coda which spoils the neat, if slightly derivative, ending of the proceeding mission (end minor spoilers).
Quibbles aside, the campaign doesn’t outstay its welcome and is structured in extremely manageable chunks, though it does feel quite short. The missions could use a few more memorable set pieces but are, without exception, stunningly beautiful - especially on Xbox One X. The stellar sound design also works to complement the visuals and fully immerse you in this iconic universe.
Multiplayer this time around offers a choice of the large scale Galactic Conquest, engaging aerial ship combat in Starfighter Assault, and the trio of Strike, Blast and Heroes vs Villains. Those looking to dive back into the droid-themed King of the Hill or Star Wars-y Capture the Flag modes are out of luck, but here DICE have focused in on the best they have to offer.
Galactic Conquest is the real headline experience, or at least should be, behaving similarly to Battlefield’s Rush mode, albeit with more varied objectives. The 40-player face off is a mixed bag at times, with certain battles feeling decidedly one-sided depending on whether your team is attacking or defending. More of a systemic problem across the board is players not pursuing the objective (an issue Sam’s lamented in the past) and instead going for kills in search of all important Battle Points.
Herein lies one of the most fundamental changes to multiplayer this time around, and one which, in theory, makes things a lot better. Instead of hero and vehicle pickups being dotted around the battlefront (if you will) in random locations, generally away from the action, they’re now bought with Battle Points earnt through gameplay.
Points values vary from a few hundred for what would be generous to describe as vehicles, to legendary heroes for a few thousand. There’s still only one of each unit on the battlefield at once though, so if you’re slow on the uptake you might find the hero you really want locked out after you save up your points.
This is where we get to the real crux of the matter: the loot box and Star Card systems. You can only choose your favourite hero in multiplayer if you’ve unlocked them first, which costs credits, some of which you get from crates. At the time of writing, EA have decided to deactivate all microtransactions in the game for the time being, meaning that loot boxes and credits can currently only be earned in-game. There are a few rewards on offer for completing campaign missions and gathering collectibles, but mostly you’ll acquire them through putting in a good performance in multiplayer.
When you do get your hands on a box or two, you won’t miss it, as the game’s title screen flashes a notification to remind you that you have goodies to unbox. This is where you get Star Cards, which unlock cosmetics like victory poses and emotes for your characters and heroes, but, more controversially, abilities and items which affect balance during competitive play.
The difference between having no card and a fully maxed out, top-tier card on a given ability can be quite stark. The Heavy class’ supercharged sentry hits harder, for longer, and is generally scarier to be on the receiving end of, for example. Likewise, the already powerful heroes can take on a whole new level of challenge when souped up.
If you do play (or eventually pay) your way to being maxed out, you would have a significant advantage, and that doesn’t make for a fun or healthy competitive culture in the game. Similar to how in Call of Duty those with the best killstreaks can overwhelm novices, the players with their pick of everything in Battlefront II can frequently dominate the end-of-round boards.
When taking the paid element into consideration, the entire thing feels uneasy, particularly when the likes of Overwatch and Lawbreakers manage to navigate the questionable loot box culture with relative grace and ease. Whether these practices are gambling isn’t for a gaming website to decide, but it undoubtedly promotes a haves and have-nots culture.
If you do play (or eventually pay) your way to being maxed out, you'd have a significant advantage, and that doesn’t make for a fun or healthy competitive culture in the game.
There are more basic issues too, amongst them comically bad bugs which spoil an otherwise impressive audio and visual presentation. A lot of deaths can feel cheap, with a short average lifespan meaning much of your time is spent sprinting back to the front line. Weapons lack distinctive naming conventions, or even a clear class system, which makes choosing between them a chore; add to that the fact that some max out their attributes fairly early on, and you’re also left reluctant to ever swap them out.
With two years and a wealth of feedback, which EA are adamant they listen to, the end result is a disjointed, incoherent experience. The game promises to give you the Star Wars universe, and you get moments where everything feels right and it does, but all too often these are short lived and followed by a drawback with no place being there.
There’s no doubt that Battlefront II is the best Star Wars game released in a while, but that’s only because of a lack of competition. The positives do outweigh the negatives in the end however - space battles in Starfighter Assault are gripping, Galactic Conquest does a lot to move things forward from 2015’s Battlefront revival, and the joy of stomping grunts as your favourite heroes can’t quite be matched. Throw in a campaign that’s well worth playing and, ultimately, the game stands up in spite of its toxic progression systems and further flaws.
Terrorism isn't something you usually associate with World War 2. There's some rose-tinted impression that war was 'proper’ back then, that there were rules and black and white interpretations of good and evil. Now I'm not about to suggest the Nazis weren't evil - however you interpret history that seems quite clear - but it's easy to forget many of those fighting for Germany weren't part of that regime.
New Colossus’ feel might be familiar, but everything about the game's presentation is more polished, with lighting effects being particularly striking, as dynamic light rays fall on you through a slowly turning fan in an air vent.
Brutality is no stranger either, as you merrily hack both legs from Nazis with a hatchet in some of the most gruesome and unsubtle stealth kills you're likely to have come across. Of course, this isn't a game from which you'd necessarily expect subtlety, but when you’re trying to get away with a stealthy approach there is a touch of finesse, à la Dishonored.
Sneaking up on enemies in general can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes they can be overly sensitive to a bit of lurking about, catching sight of you from hundreds of yards away, but other times you can manage to creep right up to an alarm-wielding Commander and go unnoticed in messily dispatching them mere metres from two conversing soldiers.
Once you’re discovered, the music will amp up and you have little choice than to pull out the satisfyingly punchy big guns (a fact expertly pondered by RockPaperShotgun). Fortunately, the autosave system, and the ability to manually save at any time, makes most encounters fairly forgiving, though of the game's seven difficulty levels (six of which are accessible from the word go) even the second or third will prove challenging for most players.
Wolfenstein proudly flies the flag for the singleplayer game and really shines in its storytelling, not only deliberately limiting the player character, but presenting its story with a gripping, cinematic presentation that anchors you in Blazkowicz's shoes.
Wolfenstein proudly flies the flag for the singleplayer game and really shines in its storytelling.
Whether this is a game for you largely depends on your approach to first-person shooters. With no multiplayer to break up your play sessions, journeying through the campaign could feel overwhelming, but thankfully the levels are broken up in such a way that you can take a breather fairly frequently, providing you can unhook yourself from the adrenaline-filled saga.
While the trailers may present a balls-to-the-wall, showy action thriller, the reality is far more expertly balanced. Juxtaposing stressful, intense situations in the present with disturbing imagery from the past packs more of a punch than an over-the-top explosion ever could, and it's here we see the best that the game has to offer.
Unfortunately, and somewhat in character for Bethesda, we did experience some technical issues like the odd missing texture, getting stuck in a wall, or being unable to mantle over a fence with no real reason.
There's not a lot of weapon variety either, aside from the fun and definitely OTT heavy weapons, but this is more a symptom of the time than a real criticism.
As a whole, The New Colossus delves deeper into its conflict than the series has prior, but perhaps not by much, as it’s also a definite continuation of what's come before. While not a huge departure, you should at least feel that it isn’t just more of the same.
In truth though, in a time when games are drowning in complexity, loot boxes and systems upon systems (Shadow of War), it's refreshing to be able to enjoy a game as pure and unapologetic as this. MachineGames and Bethesda know what they’re doing by now and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is a refinement, if not perfection, of its already outstanding predecessors that anyone who can stomach its world should definitely afford some time.
When the original Destiny was announced, expectations were high. Activision was keen to lay out the legacy of their and Bungie’s project for the next decade, before anyone had even decrypted a single engram. Now, four years in, the franchise has established itself and Destiny 2 launches not only on console, but also on PC. Is the sequel a fresh new chapter in this saga, or just more of the same?
Bungie’s mastery over gunplay remains on point.
You still do your slaying as one of three character classes, but the choice doesn’t slam shut as many doors as you might expect in terms of playstyle and items. There are subclasses too, meaning you can work your way towards a character who has perks to match how you enjoy playing the game. As there are only 20 levels to progress through before it all becomes about your Light level - boosted by acquiring better equipment, as in the first game - the skill tree is deliberately basic, which serves to keep things straightforward and accessible for new players.
Jumping into the world of Destiny at this stage could be intimidating - all that lore and story to catch up on, right? In fact, other than a nice touch which sees your Guardian’s past exploits recounted over a series of splash screens at the beginning of the game, complete with dates and who you completed missions with, the original feels like a non-essential prologue.
Playing alone is all well and good, though you’re still very much encouraged to venture online with friends. When it comes to Raids, however, that’s absolutely required. These major set pieces see you team up in order to tackle the most devious puzzles and gargantuan enemies Destiny 2 has to offer; they’re the pinnacle of the Destiny experience, though barriers to entry mean you won’t get to enjoy them until you’ve been playing for a while.
It’s at least a testament to the game’s flexibility that it can feel like you’ve had a substantial gameplay experience from the campaign alone, leaving it up to the player whether or not they engage with the endgame content. There’s a lot of depth to explore if you do choose to stick around, not least in gathering the coveted Exotic items and upgrades, which are outstanding weapons and armour pieces that can only be equipped sparingly. You’ll likely want to kit yourself out with these before getting competitive in the enjoyable PvP modes.
It can feel like you’ve had a substantial gameplay experience from the campaign alone, leaving it up to the player whether or not they engage with the endgame content.
Now that the initial hype for the game has slightly died down (and on that note, sorry for the delay), Destiny 2 is free to impress you on its own merits, holding your outstretched hand considerately, but firmly, to pull you into a world which asks as much as you’re willing to give.
If this is a game you’ll play for the odd hour, then there’s an excellent campaign to enjoy in its own right, but if you’ll be sinking hours at a time for the foreseeable future, that will work just as well. One side effect of this is that it’s difficult to feel that you’ve experienced everything the game has to offer, whichever camp you’re in, but more content is good content when it comes to the Destiny framework.
In the end, if you have any attachment to RPGs, MMOs, or, most specifically, FPS games, you’ll definitely find something to latch onto and enjoy in Destiny 2. Beyond that base level of pure enjoyment, the rest is up to you; if you give the game the chance, there’s far more substance here than you might first assume, presented more beautifully than ever before.