Posts Tagged ‘hands on’

The first few hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda are… well they aren’t good

I had, by purpose or distraction, not found out anything about Mass Effect Andromeda [official site] before playing its review build, beyond that it was set in a whole new galaxy. Ooh goody, I thought! A sci-fi RPG series I completely loved, but with a fresh start, baggage shed, and the extraordinary potential of a setting in a galaxy entirely unlike our own.

Yeah, about that. The first few hours of Andromeda are a gruesome trudge through the most trite bilge of the previous three games, smeared out in a setting that’s horribly familiar, burdened with some outstandingly awful writing, buried beneath a UI that appears to have been designed to infuriate in every possible way.

I had gone in assuming this would be more BioWare pleasure. So far – and let’s be clear, there’s lots of room and time for it to pick up and turn things around – the first few hours have been just awful. Read the rest of this entry »

Dawn of War 3 is a best-of mashup of Warhammer 40k

Among the many things that might wake you up in the morning – coffee, cigarettes, aggressive thrash metal – nothing really comes close to being chased by a towering Space Marine Titan, spewing out fire and bullets in a wanton display of horrifying aggression as pitiful Orks scatter and flee. Dawn of War 3’s [official site] invigorating multiplayer is like a shot of adrenaline, blood-pumping, loud and messy.

Based on my time with it, there’s a great deal going on in Relic’s latest foray into the grimdark universe of Warhammer 40K. It’s not entirely unlike attempting to play the previous two Dawn of Wars at the same time, a mashup of each game’s best bits, but with more stuff drawn from both the tabletop games and even other genres. Read the rest of this entry »

Yooka-Laylee is a more open take on the ’90s platformer

Yooka-Laylee [official site] is designed to feel like getting into a warm, foamy bath of nostalgia. The characters and world are new but the industry veterans behind this 3D open-world platformer know exactly which buttons to hit to ease you into comforting familiarity. Everything from the colours to the font transports you back to the 1990s. While playing I half-expected the Spice Girls to break down the door and throw a Tamagotchi into my hands.

Nostalgia is a tricky thing, however. Although the wildly successful Kickstarter (raising £2.1 million from 80,000 backers) shows that there is obviously a huge appetite for it, many people won’t have familiarity with games like Banjo-Kazooie. I have a strange third-person nostalgia for these games, as I never had the consoles growing up but did watch friends play them. Because of this, I wondered if Yooka-Laylee would grab me when I played it in the same way the mere idea of it had grabbed others. Read the rest of this entry »

Five hours with Mass Effect Andromeda

It’s been five years since BioWare released the final part to their Mass Effect trilogy. Five years of very little information dispersed between huge fan anticipation and speculation. The ending to the trilogy meant a sequel was unlikely, and a prequel was rumoured for a while, but instead Mass Effect Andromeda [official site] has shaken off the shackles of the trilogy’s narrative by setting itself 634 years in the future and in the new galaxy of Andromeda.

After five hours of playing both the first mission and the fourth mission (which takes place roughly 3 hours into the game) of a preview build of Andromeda I’m able to share my experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Halo Wars 2’s Blitz Mode could be its salvation

This is Atriox, your chief adversary. He leads a rogue Covenant faction, the banished – the remaining Covenant races are now at peace with humanity following the events of Halo 2. I know these things because I once had to write a 5000-word Halo timeline.

I was all set to thoroughly dismiss Halo Wars 2 [official site], before I joined Microsoft for a spot of top-down Warthog-baiting earlier in the month, and I’m still not completely convinced. Last year’s Xbox One beta suggested yet another Halo game intent on rebottling the lightning of a departed era – in this case, that fleeting, Quixotic period when the idea of RTS on console sounded like cash in the bank.

Much of what made the original Halo Wars work so well on Xbox 360 has been preserved – the snappy, colourful visual design, the stripped-down resource and research aspects, the adroit translation of Halo’s alien Covenant and human UNSC factions into the language of an Age of Empires spin-off. Startlingly little has been added or changed, whether you’re talking about new units or a fresh approach to the typically leaden business of storytelling in a strategy game. This is exactly what many fans are hoping for, I’m sure, but given Creative Assembly’s success with the Warhammer license and Alien: Isolation, it’s hard not to wish for a shade more, well, magic.

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Total War: Warhammer’s Wood Elves like to shoot and run

Let me summarise my highs and lows as a Wood Elf general in one phrase: I’m very much a Dwarf guy. You know where you are with Dwarves. Or rather, you know where they are – all the way over there on that ridge, Ironbreakers in front, Quarrellers behind, Hammerers poised to waddle down the flank like a glacier performing a legal U-turn. Dwarves don’t do manoeuvres, they do gunpowder and big helmets and spurning alliances because somebody’s ancestor forgot to return the lawnmower. Micro? Well, I dare say some of those fancy northern Dawi tribes can find a use for it, but I’ve always set my watch by a good, solid shield-wall.

Wood Elves, it turns out, really, really do micro. When they aren’t doing micro, they also do getting knocked flat by a gentle breeze. A big round of applause, please, for Total War: Warhammer‘s definitive glass cannons. They’re being added to the game via the Realm Of The Wood Elves DLC and I’ve had an early play with them. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Dogs 2 Is Determined To Be Fun

Playful isn’t high on the list of adjectives I’d use to describe Aiden Pearce’s po-faced misadventures in Watch Dogs, so when I sat down to play four hours of Watch Dogs 2, my face wasn’t prepared for the amount of grinning I’d be doing. There were aches. There was embarrassing, snorting laughter. Mostly, though, there was relief.

The first game had a tone problem. It was grey and grim and stuck with a humourless, sad sack protagonist, which didn’t quite match up with a conceit as silly as a magic phone that can hack grenades and find out what type of porn people watch. Its sequel, however, seems determined to be fun.

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Is Breakaway Appealing To More Than Streamers?

It was announced over two years ago that Amazon were going to make PC games, but we had no idea what kind until last week. At TwitchCon, the company announced three games and let people play one of them, a four-on-four called Breakaway.

I was there, to play the game, to talk to Patrick Gilmore, studio head of developer Double Helix Games, and to feel out of touch while not recognising a single one of the Twitch streamers surrounding me.

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The Beautiful Cruelty Of Dishonored 2

Dishonored 2‘s fourth mission is supposedly about infiltrating the home of Kirin Jindosh, a sadistic inventor who must be bumped off or “neutralised” before he unleashes an army of automatons upon the world. But what you’re really doing in the Clockwork Mansion is invading a brain. Having already seen excerpts from a developer playthrough, I had a sense that the building’s rearrangeable mechanical layouts might reflect the character of its architect, much as Bioshock and Portal’s labyrinths do GlaDOS and Andrew Ryan. I was unprepared, however, for how extravagantly Jindosh’s neuroses infest the place, or for how cruel it feels to slip through the cracks in his amazing creation – past the velvet drapes, beneath the lacquered facades and into the whirring schematics of his subconsciousness.

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Hands On: The Signal From Tölva

I’ve had my hands on a brief demo build of a game called The Signal From Tölva [official site], from maverick and bohemian developers, Big Robot – yes, they of Sir, You Are Being Hunted. Oh, and I guess owned and run by Jim Rossignol, one of the directors and owners of this site. (There’s not going to be a conflict of interest issue here, is there? I mean, I can barely stand him.) Below you can read my very early and quite remarkably impartial first impressions.

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Endless Space 2 Hands On: Buying Planets As The Mafia-Like Lumeris

Endless Space 2 is the sequel to French studio Amplitude’s cosmic 4X game, though it feels just as much a follow-up to their exceptional fantasy strategy affair, Endless Legend. Comfortably sitting next to all the numbers, resources and planetary management are lively stories, epic quests, and fascinating space-faring species, each with distinct hooks – the ingredients that made the company’s last game something special.

I traveled to Amplitude’s offices to get my hands on the game, and thus far my goal is to try and get rich – the noblest of pursuits.

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Hands On: Dawn Of War III

Last month, I visited Relic at their home in Vancouver. As well as spending a few hours with a single, complete mission from the Dawn of War III [official site] campaign, I had the chance to sit in on short presentations from various members of the team, demonstrating how their own contributions and creativity become part of the bigger picture. There was a lot to absorb, including enough environmental variety to excite the extraterrestrial explorer in me (ruined temples on jungle planets? Yes please), but one series of brief videos stood out, despite containing nothing that hinted at previously unseen planets or units.

The best of the videos used simple shapes to tell me everything I needed to know about the game’s races, and how well Relic understand them.

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Hands On: Grow Up Is A Confident Sequel To Grow Home

It might be a damp, grey Newcastle morning, but I’m giggling with delight, uncharacteristically, perched on the sofa in the corner of Ubisoft Reflections’ offices. Grow Up is entirely to blame. The sequel to Grow Home, one of last year’s most endearing games and the product of experiments with procedural animation, is a gleeful, lighthearted adventure with a gorgeous globe to explore and a wobbly robot to explore it with.

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I Am Setsuna Has A Few Twists On The JRPG Formula

Due on English-speaking shores this summer, Tokyo RPG Factory’s I Am Setsuna is a charming throwback experience with one of the bleakest storylines I’ve come across. It takes place in a kingdom beset by monsters – if that’s really the right word for the excitable penguins and shellfish you’ll battle early on – who must be periodically appeased with a human sacrifice. The titular Setsuna is next up for the chopping block, and your task as some random mercenary swordsman is to shepherd the poor girl to the site of her ordained demise – a job you land after failing to murder Setsuna at the request of a mysterious old guy in a forest.

It’s not your classic save-the-princess yarn, but during my playtime, it certainly feels like it. I Am Setsuna couldn’t be more of a homage to the genre’s glory days if it were distributed in tatty cardboard boxes and sold exclusively by rancid import shops in Manchester.

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Hands On: Rogue Wizards

Okay, I didn’t want to do this, but the moratorium on “rogue-like” is now legally enforced. Your game is nothing like Rogue, so stop calling it a roguelike, or you will go to prison. Definitely up for a lengthy sentence is the completely charming private beta of Rogue Wizards [official site], which even loses rights to parole for putting the word “Rogue” right in its title, despite containing little that directly associates it with the genre. So forget that silliness, and instead let’s focus on what Not-Rogue Wizards actually does, which is be a very lovely, well designed dungeon crawling RPG.

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Impressions: Knee Deep In DOOM’s Open Beta

Doom [official site]! It’s the bloodsoaked new game with the demons and the rocket skeletons and the telefrags and the shotguns and the multiplayer levelling and the character customisation and the class-like loadouts and the double-jump. Yeah, you know Doom.

Hmmm. Some of those things are more familiar than others to a seasoned Doom player like myself and I fear change more than I fear a sextet of Cyberdemons. The multiplayer beta for id’s latest opened today and, determined to face my fears, I’ve been playing for most of the day.

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Hands On, Bombs Off, With Introversion’s Wrong Wire

As Pip discussed yesterday, Darwinia/Prison Architect developers Introversion surprised everyone at Rezzed by having two entirely unannounced prototypes of new games on the show floor for people to play. Pip had a good play of Scanner Sombre, the game that narrowly won an attendee vote of interest, and I’ve sat down with Wrong Wire to see if I’ve the steely nerves required for defusing naughty bombs.

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Hands On: Gonner Is A Superb, Stylish Action Game

They had to drag me away from Gonner [official site] in the end. Well, truth be told, they were far too polite to drag me away but they came close to turning out the lights.

‘They’ are two members of Art in Heart, creators of the game, and half of Raw Fury, a new publisher made up of industry veterans. I was playing the game in a rented loft near the heart of GDC in San Francisco and I thought then – and maintain now – that it was the best pure action game I saw at the show.

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Homefront: The Revolution Wants To Make America Great Again

Homefront: The Revolution [official site] is a surprisingly sophisticated game. New developer Dambusters has assembled a thoughtful open world shooter that mixes the DNA of a Far Cry gunfight with the dented, jury-rigged science fiction of a Metro 2033. On the strength of six hours play it’s streets ahead of the Kaos Studios original, despite the project’s changing hands twice in two years – airlifted from THQ’s collapse by Crytek, only to be torn from Crytek’s flailing grasp by co-publisher Deep Silver. But it does feel rather conservative for a game about toppling the Powers That Be.

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Planet Coaster Reinvents The Theme Park Genre

Back in 1994, I was five years old and I had a PC in my room. The PC had just two games on it, DOOM and Theme Park, both installed by a family friend who made me promise not to let anyone see me playing DOOM. This meant that while most kids wanted to be an astronaut or a policeman, I wanted to build theme parks. Eventually, world weary cynicism took that away from me: theme park architect probably isn’t a real job, I thought, and it certainly won’t pay the bills. I gave up on my dream.

Seeing the alpha build for Frontier’s forthcoming Planet Coaster last week, I gave up on giving up on my dream. I’m going to be a rollercoaster tycoon (sorry) again.

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