Category Archives: Game Review

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Review

Yep, I brought it. A bit of a gamble to be sure but it’s not the worst purchase I’ve made this year (for anyone interested that would be either Mass Effect: Andromeda or my rather underused Gym membership). If by some miracle you’ve missed the furore that has seen EA being repeatedly eviscerated on Reddit, Twitter and every conceivable form of social media because of this game, let me explain. Battlefront 2 costs full price at release (£50 for either console or PC) but features a levelling and reward system so slow and complex that the only way to get everything out of it was to either sink weeks-worth of time or fistfulls of extra cash into the game. Even then you aren’t guranteed to get exactly what you want, because the reward system relies on (sigh) random loot boxes, which leaves a very ‘luck of the draw’ feel to which players are rewarded most. As a result, Battlefront 2 has had the most difficult launch of any game since Mass Effect 3, whose ending got ripped to shreds by fans. And, as with that mess, EA has backed down. Sort of. Scrapping the ability to buy extra in-game currency with real cash does cut out the whole play-to-win issue, and they have reduced the cost required to unlock heroes and weapons. But the game still has plenty of other problems. So why’d I buy it? Simple: the gameplay’s actually quite good.

I loved the first remake last year (at least at launch). The multiplayer was really good, the servers were normally reliable, and everything felt pretty balanced. I didn’t really miss a substantial single-player mode because the online was nailing what I wanted from the game. Then EA messed about with it and fucked it up a bit. They did this because they wanted to sell £30-40 of DLC, which you basically had to buy to access all the new abilities and heroes the DLC packs included (the multiplayer became significantly harder if you persevered with the abilities/heroes from the base game only). The DLC was also a mixed bag (Outer Rim and Death Star were good expansions, but Rogue One and Bespin were undercooked and the maps nothing special). Although EA/DICE did balance out a lot of issues through updates, the gameplay wasn’t as pure as it had been at launch. I’ve still got the original, but I was kind of falling out of love with it, which is part of the reason I brought the new one (which EA has guaranteed will only have FREE DLC).

First up: the good news. Visually, the game’s a massive step up from its predecessor (which looked pretty damn good). The space battles in particular are stunningly rendered. You now can also play as Light or Dark Side in any of the three Star Wars eras (and you get heroes from the Prequel and Sequel trilogies into the bargain, such as Yoda, Darth Maul, Rey and Kylo Ren). Fans of the original Battlefront series will be pleased to hear that it feels a lot more like the originals than last year’s battlefront did (mainly because it has its own unique combat system and classes this time, not just a Battlefield 1 system with a Star Wars paintjob). The multiplayer has also been simplified, now there are only 5 distinct game modes: Blast (Team Deathmatch), Heroes vs. Villains, Starfighter Assault (Space Battles), Galactic Assault (Massive 40v40 game modes) and Strike (a smaller, 8v8 mode similar to Galactic Assault but easier for low level players). While the loss of modes like Cargo and Drop Zone are a slight shame, the lack of crap modes like Turning Point, Infiltration and Sabotage is an improvement, as is the new system of picking one mode and sticking with it for as long as you like (not cycling between modes, as happened in the first game’s DLC). I’m sure EA will throw in extra modes in DLC packs, but the original 5 are more than sufficient atm. The main improvement is the scrapping of power ups. Now, instead of having to memorise where power-ups appear on the battlefield, you get battle points from kills and completing objectives, which you can trade in to get access to jump troopers, flame troopers, heroes and vehicles. It’s a much better system, and ensures that only good players actually get the power-ups, which feels a lot fairer.

Heroes vs. Villains has actually been significantly improved. The new 4v4 battle between heroes is much better than the old version, simply because you don’t have to spend one of every two rounds waiting to be a hero (and getting repeatedly slaughtered as a standard soldier). Instead, each side has 4 heroes, one of which on each side will be marked as a target for the other side to kill. After a minute or so (or when a target is killed), the target player will switch (first side to 10 target kills wins). This allows for some great battles, as most heroes are pretty evenly matched (The Emperor and Lando are still pretty crap to play as but they’re the only duds). Well, they’re evenly matched unless there’s a single high level hero in play, which can get annoying very fast (especially Boba Fett, because Jedi are next to useless against him while he’s airborne).

This can be a recurring problem in the other modes. Galactic Assault, Strike and Blast can all be really fun, but players who’ve sunk time into the game or got lucky with loot boxes can repeatedly annihilate low level players (I know this is normal for multiplayer, but normally a skilled-enough player can compensate at low-level, but the difference here between low and high level players seems a bit more pronounced that it needs to be. Fortunately, there are no such problems in Starfighter Assault, i.e. Battlefront II’s best game mode. Ship combat and handling has been massively improved since the last game, the variety of Hero ships is better and they are all less overpowered. High level players won’t walk this mode, as skill is much more important than levelled abilities here. There are now 3 classes of ship: Interceptor (good at ship to ship fighting and very manoeuvrable but bad at doing damage to objectives), Bombers (highly damaging but slow and hard to manoeuvre) and Fighters (good all-rounders but not perfect at either style).

Looking at the single player, we’ve actually got a campaign this time. It’s a bit short (4-5 hours) but I suspect DLC will add to it. There are some great set pieces (The Battle of Jakku is a highlight, as are Luke and Leia’s levels) and Iden Versio makes for a compelling enough main character, even if the storyline is VERY predictable and the first few levels nothing special. Single-Player/Co-Op Arcade Mode is pretty fun, but is weakened by another stupid game mechanic, which limits the number of credits you can earn from Arcade mode in 24 hours. This seems utterly needless, given that you only get 100 credits per round (and thus would need 100 rounds worth of credits to unlock heroes like Chewbacca anyway) and disincentives you from completing the various challenges.

Overall, the gameplay, feel and look of the thing are perfect, so well done DICE. It’s just a shame you’re owned by EA, whose greed and outright stupidity have left a levelling system and in-game currency that are both needlessly complicated and rather frustrating if you’re not lucky with the loot boxes (Loot Boxes seriously need to DIE! This is the last multiplayer game I will buy which uses them. They are a toxic idea dreamt up by fat executives in suits who presumably could rival Jabba the Hutt for Greed and general Morality). In short, this game still needs work, but it is worth buying (preferably when its on sale – its worth £30, but not the £50 release price), so long as you’re willing to put the time into it. If you’re after a game you can play every so often but not consistently, ignore this. It isn’t an entry for casual gamers.

This isn’t a total failure, and it doesn’t miss the point of what fans wanted from it, but it could (and should) have been a lot better.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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Injustice 2 Review

A superhero fighting game that’s actually good? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what we’ve got from NetherRealm Studios. For those who don’t know Injustice 2 is a Tekken/Street Fighter style fighting game which allows you to pit 2 DC heroes or villains against each other. Each Hero/Villain has their own abilities, attacks and Supermoves, ranging from Batman’s melee and gadget attacks to Superman’s various powers.

Minor spoilers for Single Player plotline follow.

The sequel to Injustice: Gods Among Us looks better than its predecessor and features a wider roster of DC characters. You don’t need to have played the original to get to grips with this or to follow the single player storyline (long story short: the first game featured Superman going off the rails and forming a tyrannical regime backed by Wonder Woman, Aquaman and several other superheroes after Lois Lane was murdered by Joker, only for Batman to rally other superheroes, such as Green Lantern and The Flash, against the regime and take Superman down). The story this time continues the power struggle between the two factions while also seeing Earth come under threat from Brainiac, the villain responsible for Krypton’s destruction.

The single player campaign takes between 3-4 hours depending on difficultly setting and your own proficiency. The game features an extensive tutorial mode which YOU NEED to try before jumping right in – it will take you several fights to get up to speed. While the campaign is short, there are so many single player modes that Injustice is well worth the £20/30 price tag. As well as a battle simulator and 1v1 modes, Injustice 2 introduces the ‘Multiverse’ section, which features a daily/weekly selection of challenges (involving a series of events featuring anything from 3-10 matches and an occasional high level boss fight). Multiverse challenges will often feature an additional twist, such as having a secondary hero who will occasionally support you, or added arena hazards to worry about. Given that the multiverse challenges refresh continuously, you’ll never really run out of single player. At least not until you’ve levelled EVERY character up to level 20 (the maximum) at which point only the hardest challenges or the extensive multiplayer might still provide challenges. This would take weeks if not months of gameplay, so you really don’t have to worry about running out of things to do.

As for what Heroes and Villains are available? Well put it this way: if you’re a fan of DC movies, the Arrowverse, Gotham or the various cartoons from when you were kids, you’ll be happy with the selection. Injustice 2 features:

Justice League Members: (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern and Aquaman)

Batman Villains: (Harley Quinn, Joker, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Bane)

Arrowverse characters: (Green Arrow, Supergirl, Black Canary, Firestorm, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, Deadshot)

Others: Swamp Thing, Black Adam, Cheetah, Atrocitus, Blue Beetle and various other characters who you may not have heard of before also feature, but are all surprisingly fun to play as.

The season pass is well worth getting as well, as this gives you access to a whole host of extra characters, such as Starfire, The Atom, Raiden, Red Hood, Enchantress, Darkseid and, believe it or not, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!?!?! I don’t think anyone expected them, but there they are.

Incidentally my personal favourites to play as so far have been Starfire, Harley Quinn, Joker and Swamp Thing, but I’m sure everyone will have their own preferences in this game.

Injustice 2’s reward system is a bit more complicated than it needs to be (i.e. 3-4 types of currency where 2 would have really been sufficient), but its not a f*cked up mess like Battlefront II’s seems to be according to reviews, and any pay to play retards (i.e. ones who waste real money buying credits so they can level up faster) won’t actually get themselves much of an advantage in multiplayer. You may get loot crates throughout the game, that’s true, but most of the time the gear they provide is either immediately useable or only 1-3 levels above your characters level, so it isn’t a big problem. They also provide additional skins for your characters, some of which are really cool.

Overall it’s great value for money because of the wealth of potential single-player and multiplayer content. The currency system is a bit contrived and the gameplay can get repetitive, but overall its a fine fighting sim, and a must for DC fans!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Next Up: Horizon Zero Dawn (i.e. the game of the year so far).

Skyrim Special Edition Review

As PSN had it on sale, I finally decided to get the upgrade and re-purchase Skyrim for PS4. Was it worth it? In short… hell yes.

The original Skyrim had several major problems bugging it. The loading screen times were unacceptably long (particularly once you got past Level 30), the save files took up a ridiculous amount of room, and the game was prone to crashing when trying to save or load at high levels. This got so frustrating I finally threw out the PS3 version earlier in the year, as I was wasting 10 mins on loading screens for every hour of gameplay once my character had got up to level 40. Not the case anymore.

The Special edition fixes the loading screen problem completely. The longest I’ve had to wait so far was about 10 seconds, and this makes the game a lot less frustrating. The number of glitches is down as well (noticed two minor glitches and had one crash by level 26, which is a vast improvement on the original). The quicksave feature also helps speed up gameplay, while the game no longer risks crashing everytime it tries to autosave. The PS4’s vast memory also means the large save-file size is no longer an issue.

In short, the Special Edition fixes 95% of the original games problems. It also gives the graphics a welcome upgrade – the game always looked good, but the landscape almost feels real now in a way it didn’t before. The light and shadow effects are something truly special, especially the way that sunbeams and moonlight visually change the light level outdoors. Water, plantlife and weather look more realistic too, while sunrise and sunsets are truly beautiful. One side effect of the improved graphics is that character creation is now actually worth your time – (Argonians, Elves and Khajiit are now far more worth customising than previously, and you can see the effect minor changes make much more easily). Previously you could be done making a good-looking character in 1 minute, now you can take 5-10 to perfect all the details (or 20-30 mins if you’re like my friend Molly 😉 The new version also adds full mod support if that’s your thing.

The Special edition also comes with all 3 bits of DLC attached (Hearthfire, Dawnguard and Dragonborn), so if you never brought those its definitely worth the upgrade. For those who don’t know, Hearthfire allows you to build your own houses/manors, adopt children and, most crucially, helps you level up that Smithing skill really easily! While it’s a fun addition, the other two expansions are far more worthwhile. Dawnguard introduces two new factions: the Dawnguard, an order of vampire hunters armed with Crossbows, tough armour and a few armoured trolls, and the Vampire Lords, ancient vampires (with some really irritating drain health spells) and their minions (mindless thralls, Death Hounds and living Gargoyles). If you side with the vampires you gain Vampirism and the attached strengths and weaknesses (immunity to poison and disease, weakness to fire, improved powers, no health/magicka/stamina regen in sunlight), including most notably the Vampire Lord form, which features a truly brutal drain health spell and complements mages extremely well. Dawnguard also makes the Werewolf much more useful, as the new Werewolf perk tree allows you to make your bestial form much more powerful for every human you slay and feed on (a must for anyone doing the Companions Questline!). Dragonborn adds an entirely new area to explore (the Island of Solstheim), new enemies and a boss fight with Miraak, the original/first Dragonborn. Oh, and the ability to tame and ride dragons.

To sum up, the Special Edition fixes a lot of problems and really beefs up the graphics, but adds little in terms of gameplay. However, if you never brought the DLC for your previous gen version, would like to try out some mods or are just sick of frequent crashes and slow loading screens, get the upgrade. Just maybe wait till its on sale on PSN or Xbox Live. It’s worth a £20 spend, not the full price £35 it came out for.

Rating: 4 out of 5 (A worthwhile if overpriced upgrade)

I’m in a gaming mood atm, so expect reviews of Injustice 2, Horizon Zero Dawn, Assassin’s Creed Origins and Star Wars: Battlefront 2 over the next month, though I will find time for Thor Ragnarok and Justice League as well.

 

My Top Games of 2016

As with last time, this isn’t specifically 2016 releases but rather games I’ve been playing for the first time this year (though all of them have had recent releases). Spoiler-free.

6. F1 2016 (PS4) Formula One, like FIFA, realises a new game every year. Unlike FIFA fans I don’t waste my money buying every single one (Hell, I’ve only purchased 2010, 2012 and 2016) but F1 2016 got strong reviews and looked amazing, and given the lack of racing games on current-gen consoles atm, I gave it try. Boy was I glad I did. As an F1 Simulator, its all you could ever want, with practice, qualifying and the race all tuneable to your personal preferences (you can use aids like automatic gears and racing lines but they are easily switched off if you want the whole experience). Practice sessions now have a point (unlike previous entries) with 3 optional practice programs/mini-games that help you learn the circuit and earn resource points which you can use to upgrade your car. The random weather effects have never looked better or felt more real either (heavy rain is now genuinely challenging). Another welcome addition is the ability to save mid-session, even while on the racetrack, which makes longer-distance races and realistic qualifying sessions less of a challenge. The only slight problem is the AI difficultly, which can jump between difficultly levels somewhat steeply (particularly between Hard and Expert) but its easy enough to fix by altering the game settings in other areas. Admittedly the racing might seem a bit bland if you’re just looking for a fun racer, but for an f1 fan, its a thrilling recreation of the actual sport. Overall, a great F1 sim, though not one that will win you over if you aren’t a f1 fan already.

Rating: 4 out of 5

5. Batman: A Telltale Series (PS4) I’ve really got into Telltale games this year (for those who don’t know, they’re basically interactive episodes which play out dependent on the choices you make in game, with the main gameplay usually composed of quick-time events in the action sequences). The Game of Thrones one from 2014 interested me (as life-or-death choices/plot twists work well in that universe) and Tales from the Borderlands was a hilarious 5-episode romping spin-off from the game series. But its their 5-episode Batman tale that ends up in my games of the year, simply because it does something better than ANY of the Batman films (even the Nolan trilogy) in the way it focuses on the duality of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Its the best I’ve seen it covered and surprisingly the Bruce segments are in a way more memorable that Batman’s as Bruce gets embroiled in a scandal involving his deceased father’s connection to mob boss Carmine Falcone, while supporting Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign. The Batman combat segments vary in quality (an early fight with Catwoman is underwhelming, but fights with new villain ‘Lady Arkham’ late game are very tense) and the best combat sequence in the game is actually where Bruce and Selina Kyle get in a downtown bar brawl. The game has Catwoman, Two-Face, Penguin and Joker (who has a small role but will probably return in the inevitable sequel) in addition to the ‘children of Arkham’ who serve as the main antagonists. A great story makes this the Telltale game to pick if you want to give the series a try. Can’t wait for their Guardians of the Galaxy game next year!

Rating: 4 out of 5

4.Bioshock: The Collection (PS4) We’ve had a fair few remasters this year (Skyrim, The Ezio Collection and Modern Warfare) but the Bioshock Collection has to be the best value of the lot. I brought it to get my hands on the DLC for the third game, Infinite and the collection is simply a delight. Bioshock looks amazing and the sequels are nothing less than cinematic in graphics quality. Several issues involving longer loading screens have been dealt with as well. It doesn’t include 2’s attempt at multiplayer but that’s probably for the best. If you missed this series first time round, don’t repeat that mistake – its a riveting shooter/rpg with a great storyline and superb dlc.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

3. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4) Uncharted’s fourth entry (and the final one with Nathan Drake) fixed a lot of the problems I had with the third one. The gameplay wasn’t sacrificed for the sake of the story this time, and this time the story was far more engaging. The exploring element factored in some of the Last of Us’ features such as optional conversations and collectable journal entries, adding considerable replay value. The fact this was theoretically a series finale also added much tension to the story, with the incredible graphics and cinematic score from Henry Jackman making this feel like a movie even more than the previous entries did. A few minor problems aside (the final third of the game is slightly too long and the final boss fight isn’t the best – admittedly a problem most uncharted games have) it’s one of the best in the series if not the best. Should they return to the series, it also gives us a new character  suited to carry on the adventures and if they don’t, it gives me even more confidence for the Last of Us 2.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

2. Ratchet and Clank (PS4) Part-reboot, part remake of the first game, Ratchet and Clank was a joy to play. It was sheer fun – the guns are as wacky and varied as ever, while some very memorable missions (collecting brains for a blarg scientist has to be the highlight) are complemented by the insanely good visuals. The film may have been a disappointment but this is one of the best games in the series, even if the difficultly is minimal, you’ll have so much fun playing it that it might just be the best way of relaxing 2016 gave gamers.

Rating: 5 out of 5!

1. Shadow of Mordor: Game of the Year Edition (PS4) Ironically, Shadow of Mordor feels like the best Assassin’s Creed game we’ve had in years. The free-climbing, execution style kills, stealth gameplay etc. all feels like what we loved in games like AC II and Brotherhood, while the Lord of the Rings setting and innovative Nemesis system reals adds another level to things. Melee combat is very similar to the Arkham games (if not a touch better implemented) and the whole game feels like a sublime mesh of those two titanic gaming series. The challenge factor is decent too (though not anywhere as high as something like Dark Souls) as failure is punished by your enemies levelling up, to such an extent that if you bugger things up in the early game restarting isn’t the worst idea. The Nemesis system is particularly punishing, as the Ork who survives the most encounters/kills you most often will continually ascend in rank and power till you dispatch him. The dlc included with the GOTY version is worthwhile, the Beast-Lords campaign, while only a few hours long, adds an enjoyable if more of the same storyline with a few interesting monsters like the wretched Graug and the Ghul Matron adding additional challenges, while the Bright Master dlc fills in some backstory to the events of the main game while bringing Sauron to the forefront as never before. Overall, the main game itself is stellar, and the GOTY edition is a fine addition to your collection. Appropriately enough, Shadow of Mordor is my favourite game that I played this year, and i’d thoroughly recommend it to fans of LoTR, the Arkham Series or Assassin’s Creed!

Rating: 5 out of 5!

2017 hopefully should be a good year for games, with hyped sequels such as Injustice 2 and promising new entries like Vampyr. Personally though, I can’t see past Mass Effect: Andromeda… the game we all need after the last 12 months! If we’re lucky, COD might finally remaster MW2, accepting they can’t do any better. Regardless, should be a promising year, and I’ll be eagerly awaiting news on when the Last of Us 2 might come out (end of next year if we’re lucky?).

My favourite games of 2015

First up, this isn’t entirely comprised of games that came out in 2015 – it’s simply the ones I’ve had the most fun playing this year (though all are from 2014 or later) and the ones I’d happily recommend to a friend. All games are the PS4 versions.

6. Driveclub

While its not my favourite racer (nothing can match Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit on PS3) its easily the best one available on PS4 right now. It has a lot of DLC, but most of it is really cheap (1.50 each) and you can end up plugging a lot of hours into the single player. Factor in Multiplayer and it’ll be a long time before you run out of stuff to do on this game. The game looks amazing and the range of circuits and courses is high enough that it never feels repetitive. Not the easiest racer at the beginning, but with practice you’ll be fine.

Rating: 4 out of 5

5. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection

This is a strong candidate for hardest shooter I’ve ever played. I died so many more times on this than Bioshock, COD or Resistance. It’s two games in 1 (Borderlands 2 and the Pre-Sequel!) and both are pretty damn tough (levels 1-50, and if you’re level 25 a level 30 mission is basically impossible. That’s how quick the difficultly scales up). With literally millions of gun/grenade and shield variants with shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, smgs, rocket launchers, sniper rifles in various ammo combinations (fire, acid, shock) with The Pre-Sequel adding laser guns and Cyro rounds, it’s a shooters fantasy. It’s immense fun, but you NEED to be good at shooting games to play it. If you struggle on Recruit/Regular on COD, you’re going to be massively frustrated here. The game is rendered in a unique, almost comic-book/anime style way (watch clips to see what i’m on about) while the dark humour is up their with fallout.

The collection features 6 DLC expansions free, so in terms of value for money, it’s pretty damn good!

Rating: 4 out of 5

4. Dragon Age: Inquisition

In the same way Skyrim is the medieval style Fallout (or vice-versa) Dragon Age is the medieval style Mass Effect and if you liked that series, Dragon Age is the game for you. Inquisition is the third entry in the series, but you can drop right in without playing the previous two games and it won’t be that confusing (though my flatmate would say this was heresy!).  Set on the continent of Thedas, there are four races you can play as: (Male or Female on either) Humans, Elves, Dwarfs and Qunari (muscular warriors with pretty awesome horns who stand a foot taller than humans).

It’s got the same mix of colourful characters (ranging from charming rogue dwarf Varric, flirtatious human troll Dorian, crazy anarchist lesbian elf Sera, the prim proper and frequently exasperated Templar Cassandra and the brutal mercenary and potential ‘friend with benefits’ Iron Bull) as well as the epic storylines and breath-taking settings as Mass Effect.

If you love Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls Games or RPG’s in general, I’d recommend this! It has 3 DLC’s which are all either challenging combat expansions or crucial storyline additions.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

3. Fallout 4

The biggest confusion I’ve had this year is when people say they love Fallout 4 but hate Star Wars: Battlefront because they changed too much from the previous games in the series? That makes no f*cking sense, because Fallout 4 scraps or alters a LOT of established things from 3 and New Vegas. Individual Skills, the Karma system and the endgame slides for side-quests and companions have vanished, while the perk system and power armour has been completely revamped. Conversations and companion loyalty are now a lot more like the systems in Dragon Age or Mass Effect. Most of the changes are improvements, and the game looks and feels a lot better with the new game engine (far fewer freezes or annoying crashes than 3) but I still miss aspects from 3 and New Vegas. It’s a very good game, but at times it doesn’t feel like the same Fallout series (mind you, I had the same doubts when I first played Skyrim because I disliked a few changes from Oblivion, so this will probably change once I’ve done a few more playthroughs). Fortunately, it keeps New Vegas’ idea of having 4 separate factions to pick from (this time its The Institute, The Minutemen, The Railroad and the Brotherhood of Steel) and each side has good points and bad (there’s no obvious evil Karma option like Caesar’s Legion in New Vegas) while even obvious good guys the peacekeeping Minutemen end up massacring the Institute in their final quest. I couldn’t pick who to side with till well into the games final act, and it was very close between the Brotherhood and the Railroad.

It’s very, very good. But it’s not clear-cut the best game in the series as I’d expected it to be. Only time will tell whether it actually has reached that level.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

2. The Last of Us: Remastered

Spoiler Warning (two plot points from the first 2 hours gameplay)

A zombie survival game with more tension than the whole Resident Evil franchise and more heart than anything the Walking Dead can offer. Two bold claims but this is a game that pulls at the heartstrings as you play it. And it’s a bloody dark game with suicide, child murder and various violent death scenes all present at points throughout. There are two protagonists, 50-something Joel, mourning the loss of his daughter in the initial outbreak, and 14-year old Ellie, who is the first human to survive a zombie bite without becoming infected. You have a few weapons in your limited arsenal, ranging from pistols to rifles and improvised weapons like spiked baseball bats, shivs and molotovs. And there are a lot of enemies ranged against you in addition to the zombies. Featuring Cannibals, hunters and ruthless post-apocalypse military organisations, the humans are almost bigger monsters than the zombies. Not that some of the zombie sections aren’t terrifying (a bit where you have to restart a generator in a partially flooded hotel basement, which wakes up a ton of zombies nearby, is particularly memorable) but arguably the most tense sequence is where Ellie is stranded, alone, in a burning building with a machete wielding cannibal hunting her (in the closest thing the game has to a boss fight).

Remastered Edition also features Left Behind, a DLC with Ellie’s backstory. There is an online part but that’s not the main attraction, the single player alone is good enough that you should get this (I don’t even like zombie/survival games all that much- but its one of the best single player campaigns I’ve played)

Rating 5 out of 5!

1. Star Wars: Battlefront

It may have its flaws (basically all of which are because its made by EA) but who cares if the servers are occasionally down because when everythings working, this is simply joyous. Soaring through the sky above Tatooine in X-Wings, Tie Fighters or the Millennium Falcon, racing through Endor’s forest on Speeder bikes, downing AT-ATs in Walker Assault on Hoth, it has everything you wanted to do in a game about the original trilogy.

The best thing has to be playing as heroes and villains. Whether your Force lightning your way through Rebels as The Emperor, clashing blades in lightsaber duels between Luke and Vader (this feels pretty epic 1 on 1, which happens a fair amount on multiplayer), gunning down Sith Lords as Han and Leia (who are much more of a match for them than in Battlefront 2) or racking up massive kill counts as Boba Fett ‘don’t get in my way…’ its immense fun.

Not all the online game modes are great but personally I find Fighter Squadron, Heroes vs Villains, Drop Zone and Cargo to be pretty amazing, and Walker Assault or Supremacy feel like proper all out battles from the films. Good job DICE, even if you are working for EA. Now give us a sequel with the prequels will you?

Rating: 5 out of 5!

Anyway that’s what I’ve loved this year.

Predictably as this is a personal preference list there are some notable absences in terms of big name releases this year. Why? Well I don’t count FIFA as a proper game (it’s just not), I lost patience with the Black Ops series of COD games after the first one and Batman: Arkham Knight just wasn’t as good as its predecessors (its a very, very good game but I feel like it could have been so much more). And Tomb Raider won’t be out on PS4 till next year.

 

Star Wars: Battlefront Review

This game surprised me. We all thought the same things after it was announced: It looks amazing! But why no campaign? Why no prequels? Limited Single Player? Too much DLC? Bloody EA. But the naysayers and sceptics were wrong. This might not be the Star Wars game we wanted, but by hell, it’s the one we need!

EA have nailed it. The multiplayer is up there with the best I’ve played. If even a mostly single player gamer like me likes this game, they’ve done it right. It appeals to both the gamer and fanboy (or fangirl) within you. Even the training missions are a joy – racing speeders through the forests of Endor, taking down AT-AT walkers on Hoth or exterminating rebels as Vader and the Emperor, I had a lot of fun on them.

The single player is divided into 3 categories: 5 training missions, 8 battles (basically single player deathmatches as either normal troops or heroes) and 4 survival games (where you have to hold out against 15 waves of enemies as either a lone rebel or a pair). This might not sound like much, but thanks to 3 difficulty settings (Normal, Hard and Master – and Hard is challenging solo, Master you basically need two players!) it would take you a while to complete these.

The game currently has 5 planets (several maps for each one) though more may be on the way through DLC. These include Endor, Hoth and Tatooine from the Original Trilogy, Sullust (a volcanic planet from the Expanded Universe – apparently it’s where the rebels stole the Death Star Plans or something) and Jakku from Force Awakens. Hopefully future DLC might give us places like Coruscant, Geonosis or Mustafar from the prequels (those maps were great on Battlefront 2!).

I mentioned Heroes, and there are six you can play as in game, 3 for the rebels (Luke, Leia and Han Solo) and 3 for the empire (Vader, the Emperor and Boba Fett). While in Battlefront 2 Luke and Vader would have been the heroes of choice, here the others more than hold their own. This is best demonstrated in the Heroes vs Villains mode online, where you have two teams of six (three heroes that don’t respawn) and the side that wipes out the opposing teams heroes wins. You might expect Luke or Vader to survive the longest because of their ability to deflect enemy fire with lightsabers, but frequently its Leia, The Emperor or Boba Fett that are the last ones standing because of the special abilities they are granted (and Boba’s Jetpack makes him very difficult to pin down!). Han Solo isn’t bad either – in one match where I spawned as him I managed to gun down both Vader and the Emperor at close range (though Boba then shot me in the back). Another mode they appear in is ‘Hero Hunt’ where 1 player from 8 is selected as a hero, the other 7 have to kill them, and whichever player does becomes the new hero (and thus can rake up kills on the weaker normal troops).

Other online modes include Drop Zone (where both teams race to capture 5 escape pods that spawn in random places on the map), Droid Run (where teams have to try and capture 3 moving droids – the team that controls all 3 at once wins), Blast (standard team deathmatch), Cargo (basically a capture the flag mode) and Walker Assault (where the Rebels attempt to destroy 2 enemy Walkers while the Imperials attempt to overrun the Rebels position – whoever succeeds first wins). There’s also an aerial combat mode (X-Wings and A-Wings for the Rebels, TIE Fighters and Interceptors for the Imperials) which is very easy to get to grips with as two teams of online players and CPU opponents duke it out above the ground maps (the best players get to fly either the Millennium Falcon or Slave I (Boba Fett’s Ship), both of which give you a substantial advantage. There’s a supremacy mode which throws together everything from Ground combat, Heroes and Space and its utter chaos – I’d recommend levelling up on other modes before trying it!

While the game may lack a few features I’d have liked to see included, what’s there is excellent – hopefully the DLC can maintain the quality!

Rating: 5 out of 5!

Game Review: Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight starring the voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and John Noble as Scarecrow.

Warning: Major Spoilers for Arkham City and Minor Spoilers for Arkham Knight

This is it. The big one. The Finale. The entire Arkham series has built towards this point. From the very first line in the game you know its significance – ‘this is the night the Batman died’ says Commissioner Gordon – so one way or another, it’s clear Batman will lose in some way, either his life, his allies or his secret are going to be over by the end of the game. Knight does a great job of throwing red herrings throughout the game, there’s one moment shockingly early on where the game actually succeeds in making you believe the Bat’s had it – and another 2/3 of the way through where it looked like you might spend the remainder having to play as Robin or Nightwing. Arkham Knight is the first game in the series where the Joker isn’t the main villain, due to his death at the end of Arkham City, but Scarecrow proves an effective replacement – he always seems two steps ahead of Batman in a way the Joker never was in the preceding three games. You will also spend half (or more) of the game trying to work out who the titular Arkham Knight is – because it predictably isn’t an original character beneath that mask – I guessed who it was roughly at the halfway point, but only because i knew the comics. There were a lot of theories before release (i advise that you don’t read them, working it out for yourself is better) and again the game has a red herring or two thanks to Scarecrow’s hallucinations, but the reveal is worth waiting for.

Is the Joker Back? In one way yes, as Scarecrow’s fear gas causes Batman to repeatedly hallucinate Joker’s presence, and there’s another reason that the clown turns up so often (but it’s too spoilerly to mention) so don’t worry Joker fans, if you wanted him to be back so badly, you only had to ask… Scarecrow gets some fun bonus ‘Nightmare missions’ dlc in addition to being the main villain, probably to make up for the fact there isn’t a boss fight with him in the main game (instead you get one mind-bending sequence in Batman’s mind where he battles Joker one last time). The Arkham Knight however, appears for three boss fights, of which the first, in which he commands a heavily armoured tank and multiple escort drones against the outgunned batmobile, is the best and the most tense. The second fight (where he uses an armoured drill vehicle to chase the Batmobile through some tunnels) is less fun, and requires near perfect mastery of your ability to drive the car, but feels like it is killing time until the reveal (if they dragged it out any longer it wouldn’t work, the final third of the game loses too much intensity after the first boss fight and only regains it in the final section where Scarecrow captures Robin). The third boss fight is a multi-stage predator battle against the Knight, his identity now revealed, but isn’t as good as you’d expect for the final battle.

The game mechanics are largely unchanged, but there are a couple of decent additions such as the environment takedowns in combat (such as Batman slamming opponents into electrical generators to instantly knock them out), the ability to wield melee weapons like baseball bats temporarily in combat, and new ‘fear takedowns’ which allow Batman to takedown multiple foes in rapid succession if undetected, which is extremely useful in predator combat. However, while the game provides a good level of hand-to-hand combat sections, there isn’t as many predator sections as I’d like, mainly because of the over-emphasis placed on the batmobile. It’s integrated into most parts of the game – boss fights, riddler trophies etc. – you’ll probably spend around a third of the game in the thing either racing through the streets or battling the unmanned tank drones controlled by the Arkham Knight. However you spend so long in the batmobile that some of the elements that made the previous 3 games great, such as the predator sections and on foot boss fights, are neglected.

Many other supervillains are back as well, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn crop up in the main storyline, but its the side missions that excel. As well as teaming up with Nightwing to take down Penguin and stopping Two-Face from robbing Gotham’s various banks, several new villains, such as Man-Bat, Deacon Blackfire and Professor Pyg (no i hadn’t heard of those last two either!) make appearances. None of the new villains are that interesting save for Man-Bat, but their side quests are nevertheless good. The main side quest yet again is Riddler, who has kidnapped Catwoman and placed a bomb collar on her neck, forcing you to complete 9 challenges throughout the game (both on foot and with the batmobile) to rescue her – some of the batmobile races are really tough though! In addition, there are still plenty of Riddler trophies scattered about the place needing collecting and for anyone still claiming Origins doesn’t count as a true Arkham game, i’m happy to report this game proves you wrong by including the two characters whose boss fights were the highlight of Origins: Deathstroke and Firefly – though both of them have boss fights involving the Batmobile – which is fine for Firefly, but it’s disappointing not to be able to have a rematch hand-to-hand with Deathstroke after the vehicle combat. Some villains are conspicous by their absence (notably Bane and Mr. Freeze don’t appear, having been so prominent in the previous games) but given how much dlc is on the way, i guess this may be deliberate and that they’ll turn up eventually. The existing DLC includes the Red Hood and Harley Quinn episodes, which are fun but far too short – but getting the Red Hood version of the game gets you these and the Scarecrow Nightmares for £5 extra, so they are worth it.

Overall the game is a must buy for Batman fans and is another decent Arkham game, but an over-emphasis on the batmobile, a few weak boss fights and one or two overlong quests prevent it from being as perfect as I’d hoped. Now can DC give us a movie version of this series please? All 4 games have been cinematic material and the storylines up there with the Dark Knight Trilogy – it’d be worth it!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

So what is the best Arkham game?

Best Tone/Atmosphere/Setting: Arkham Asylum
Best Predator/Combat maps: Arkham City
Best Soundtrack/Best Gameplay: Arkham Origins
Most intense/Best Side Missions: Arkham Knight

Best Game: Arkham City (with Arkham Origins a VERY narrow second)