Posts Tagged ‘hands on’

Metro Exodus is a far cry from the tunnel shooter we knew

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I didn’t realise how much I’d missed Metro’s ball bearing rifle till I spent two hours with Metro Exodus, the third in 4A Games’ cult series of post-Soviet, post-apocalyptic shooters. Goodness, that rifle. The sheer delight of cranking its Super Soaker handle. The vicious snap of escaping air when you pull the trigger. The rush to make the most of those few seconds of maximum pressure, and the panic when you empty the cylinder and all your shots start to bounce off. There’s no better advertisement for Metro’s raw-knuckled survivalist ethic and love of analog technology. It’s something I’ve held onto, as 4A’s flight from Moscow’s tunnels has exposed it to the slings, arrows, repetitions and inelegances of an open world. Read the rest of this entry »

Artifact feels like Valve’s solution to post-Hearthstone card games

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Collectible card games have been around for decades, but they’ve really been running hot ever since Blizzard unleashed Hearthstone four years ago. Since then, we’ve seen Shadowverse, Gwent, The Elder Scrolls: Legends, Duelyst, Faeria – there are a lot of these things, if you haven’t heard. They all put their own spin on rectangles with numbers on ’em, but they also universally take cues from Hearthstone and, just as often, each other, and as a result they regularly run into similar problems, the biggest two being how to balance a competitive system and how to price card packs fairly.

Artifact, Valve’s upcoming Dota-inspired card game, is definitely using some pages from the same books, but it’s also doing enough things differently that it has the potential to solve a lot of those problems. Read the rest of this entry »

Artifact pairs the best ideas of Dota with the best parts of card games

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You’ll often see characters in sci-fi stories play seemingly incomprehensible games like multi-dimensional space chess, and that’s basically what it’s like playing Artifact, Valve’s upcoming Dota-inspired card game. It’s an ambitious hybrid of the studio’s MOBA and Magic: The Gathering, and it works shockingly well. So much so that it only took two games for me to understand and get on board with Valve’s vision. Read the rest of this entry »

Shadow of the Tomb Raider appears to be beautiful but a little vacuous

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In the course of 45 minutes with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft gatecrashes a fiesta, scales a cliff, wrestles an eel, levels a temple, steals a magic dagger, murders a bunch of dudes in Mariachi skullpaint and drowns a city after triggering the apocalypse. That’s quite the evening’s work, especially if you factor in all the times I accidentally impaled her on rebars, but I’m already struggling to remember the details. The first Tomb Raider game with Eidos Montreal at the helm, Shadow is so far exactly the blend of handholdy exploration, uneven combat, wilderness stealth, gauntlet runs and grisly snuff footage we’ve come to expect from the series under Square Enix. Two games on from the 2013 reboot, that could be a problem. I realise it’s old hat to moan about major franchise sequels lacking originality, but even by blockbuster standards this game is surprisingly unsurprising.

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Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War killed off all the diplomats

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Warhammer 40,000: Gladius – Relics of War is an unconventional 4X game that doubles down on the perpetually gloomy universe’s penchant for conflict by cutting out diplomacy entirely. The Space Marines, Astra Militarum, Orks and Necron are all at each other’s throats, leaving them no time to work things out at the negotiating table. War, then, is Gladius’ raison d’être, with Dreadnoughts, Tankbustas and Necron Warriors spilling out onto the hexy map, looking for a fight.

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Learning the ancient language of Heaven’s Vault

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“That’s the Ancient word for ‘writer’,” says Jon Ingold, pointing to some indecipherable symbols on his business card. “What it breaks down to is ‘Person-who-speaks-without-speaking.’”

Ingold is the writer for Heaven’s Vault, an upcoming sci-fi adventure from Inkle (the folks behind 80 Days and Sorcery!) You play an archaeologist investigating the remains of an ancient civilisation in an otherworldly “Nebula”. He and some others from Inkle Studios have been watching me waddle around a garden of strange monuments, trying to discern meaning from the faded words I find carved into trees, walls, rocks and reliefs. In creating this game, they’ve constructed a fictional language of over 1000 words. They’re so proud of this new language, they’ve even used it on their business cards.

Ingold examines a card from Joseph Humfrey, the studio’s co-founder and programmer who is sitting nearby. He thumbs over the pseudo-ancient script.

“Joe’s means: ‘Person-who-controls-robots’.” Read the rest of this entry »

The battle royale of Mavericks is stalking a big game

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A man in black scrambles through the overgrowth, looking lost. So I shoot him. Puffs of bloody air erupt from his body, but he runs on. Behind him something explodes from a stray bullet – my bulet or somebody else’s? I don’t know. But the man in black keeps moving, dodging behind some trees, over a ridge. Behind me, a wall of wobbly energy closes in. I give chase to the man in black, and we come face to face in a dirt glade with a tall, odd structure that might be a radio tower. I lift my MP5 submachine gun and mow him down. Soon afterwards, the game ends. I’ve won. I won’t claim my performance in the upcoming 400-person battle royale game Mavericks: Proving Grounds was a heroic victory. Because there were only 5 people playing. It also lasted less than 5 minutes, and the man in black was the lead devleoper. He definitely let me win. Read the rest of this entry »

Everything is the same but different in World of Tanks 1.0

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It was only when someone from Wargaming closed the door between the demo and interview areas that I realised everyone could hear me swearing at tanks. Loudly. World of Tanks, which hits version 1.0 today, is the sort of game that makes you forget what’s going on around you. Taking your eye off the ball for even a second guarantees that someone will put a hole in your pretty war machine.

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Hands on with Final Fantasy XV in bonkers 4K

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There’s a moment about half way through Final Fantasy XV where you have to say goodbye to your stag-do-cum-road-trip adventure and actually start saving the world. It’s the same point that sees you swap your ridiculously large car and the sweeping fields of Lucis for a boat, and then a train, that carries you, quite literally, in a non-stop line toward the game’s conclusion, where its open world suddenly becomes much more closed in. Read the rest of this entry »

Blade’s tiny Shadow box could be your next gaming PC

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Earlier this week, Nvidia’s GeForce Now PC beta left me pleasantly surprised. This was cloud gaming done right, I thought. I can play my own games on my own ancient hardware at the highest possible graphics settings and give a cheeky middle finger to all those soaring GPU prices in one fell swoop. It’s almost like the PC-equivalent of the Nintendo Switch, as I can use my tiny laptop to play all the latest games from any room in my house. Having seen French start-up Blade’s new Shadow box, however, I’m starting to think I don’t even need a PC full stop anymore.

Whereas GeForce Now is all about letting you game in the cloud, Shadow wants to move your entire PC there. You don’t even technically need that box up there in the header. That’s essentially just a 4K decoder for those who want to sit down at a desk and use a mouse, keyboard and monitor. You could, in fact, access your Intel Xeon and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080-powered cloud PC from your phone, tablet, Android TV or even a Mac, all with a single tap of its multi-platform app. The real clincher, though? You can seamlessly switch between all those devices simply by launching the Shadow app on another device. Based on an hour-long demo session, this looks like it could be the real PC Switch.

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Battletech’s campaign mode is a robot Dark Ages

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It’s odd to think of Mickey Mouse while ordering a giant robot to rip another robot’s arms off, but in the words of its creator Jordan Weisman, Battletech is kind of like Walt Disney’s Tomorrowland. Opened in 1955, the park was an homage to the march of science that inevitably struggled to keep up. Its present-day incarnations are a bizarre mishmash of the vintage, the cutting edge and the merely obsolete, Flash Gordon-brand retro colliding with touchscreens and VR. Similarly, Battletech is a vision of human history up to the 31st century that began life as a table-top strategy game in 1984, made up of once-outlandish concepts such as artificial muscles that now seem positively quaint.

The series wears its age more gracefully than Tomorrowland, however, because its campaign is as much about obsolescence and forgetfulness as the far future – a re-imagining of the fall of the Roman Empire and ensuing “dark age” that rebuts the concept of history as a steady, linear advance. It’s a solid footing for a strategy sim in the vein of Total War, comparable to Warhammer 40K’s Imperium but less, well, preposterous, though I still think the turn-based battle system Adam sampled in June is Battletech’s strongest asset.

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Dishonored 2: I can’t wait to kill The Outsider

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I hate The Outsider. Perhaps that’s too strong a word, but I’ve never liked Dishonored’s meddling god. I’ll explain my stance in some detail below, but before I do that I offer an apology to the large chunk of the Dishonored fanbase who will find my opinions here blasphemous and heretical. But I’ve held my silence for long enough and it’s time to admit it: I really really really really want to kill that equivocating little bastard.

Dishonored 2‘s Death of the Outsider [official site] standalone expansion should fit my tastes perfectly, and the hour I played of it was fantastic.

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God’s Trigger is cooperative Hotline Miami with a devilish twist

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God’s Trigger killed me at least twenty times in five minutes. Announced at Gamescom this week, it’s a new title from Techland that plays out very much like the two-player cooperative take on Hotline Miami that the trailer suggested it might be. You can see that trailer below, followed by my thoughts after fifteen minutes of play and another forty or fifty bloody deaths.

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Project Cars 2 is addressing the first game’s flaws

I’ve taken some flak for how much I like the first Project Cars. No, it’s not iRacing, but iRacing also doesn’t have AI that is ready to start a race at precisely 1:33 AM on a Tuesday night, pause halfway through because the popcorn started popping and the pan needs to be jiggled, and then resume after a light snack. I’m busy, and often the last thing I want to add to my gaming is scheduling.

The first game was a solid experience with a good simulation, and it had a ton of options that allowed you to play in pretty much any way. Oh, and it was bloody beautiful. Project Cars 2 [official site] is an evolutionary step forward. It’s much the same game, but the issues present in the first are getting some serious attention paid to them, and it all really comes down to better tire physics. Read the rest of this entry »

A postcard from the perverted America of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

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Wolfenstein: The New Colossus [official site] is a tale of corrupted icons and waylaid motifs, as Hitler’s propaganda machinery sinks its teeth into the pop memorabilia of 1960s America, and there’s no more wicked instance of that than “Elite Hans” – the Nazi action hero who glares from book stalls, toystores and pinball machines in the game’s Roswell level, which I had a little play of earlier this month. Elite Hans is returning protagonist BJ Blazkowicz’s carnival mirror image: the artwork on one comic even mimics the original cover art for Wolfenstein 3D. Machine Games’ choice of period notwithstanding, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some kind of throwback Nazified shooter to unlock in The New Colossus – a bit of old-fashioned ray-casting to wash down all that glistening high definition viscera. Read the rest of this entry »

Friday The 13th is a smashing slasher sim

Friday the 13th [official site] is occasionally tense and often hilarious in the way that long-running horror franchises tend to be. As Jason, your objective is to kill every player-controlled counsellor, and as a counsellor you’re trying to escape, call the cops, or simply survive until the end of the round. I’ve only played for a few hours but I’m already hooked. There are frustrating bugs and the matchmaking won’t let you play Jason as much as you might want to, but Friday the 13th cleverly uses the tropes of slasher films to build its ruleset, and when it all comes together, it’s fantastic.

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Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour is already great before it’s even finished

Croatian developers Croteam have proven themselves a developer of two extremes. For many years they were about dumbfest shooter fun Serious Sam and Serious Sam alone, and then out of absolutely nowhere produced the cerebral and utterly brilliant The Talos Principle. Since then we’ve had a splendid expansion for Talos and a frankly peculiar number of Serious Sam VR games. Now comes Serious Sam’s Bogus Detour [official site], a rather brilliantly titled game resulting from a team-up with indie devs Crackshell, that fits in neither extreme, despite being entrenched in the IP of their most famous protagonist. A top-down twin-stick action game that eschews all the modern stylings of your Hotline Miamis in favour of something much more madcap, frenzied and enormous. Read the rest of this entry »

CCP’s Sparc is a smart Tron-like virtual sport

The EVE Fanfest a couple of weeks ago was, as the name suggests, dominated by EVE Online, but developers CCP have other eggs in other baskets. EVE Valkyrie, the dogfighting multiplayer space shooter, is the company’s flagship VR title, and though I’ve only played it at events rather than at home, it might well be my favourite goggle-game. It’s not the only egg in that particular basket though, and the virtual sport Sparc [official site], with its full body dodging and blocking, is even more impressive in its use of the hardware.

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Agents Of Mayhem builds upon Saints Row in every way

Skating around as a roller derby player who is gleefully belching and swearing as she sprays enemies with bullets from her minigun, it’s difficult not to have at least a little fun while playing Volition’s new third-person open world action adventure RPG. Taking place within the same universe as their Saints Row series, Agents of Mayhem [official site] has the same irreverent humour, and this time is poking fun at superhero groups. Read the rest of this entry »