Posts Tagged ‘preview’

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 »

Hunting the giant monsters of Dauntless

Dauntless [official site] plunges you into the Shattered Isles, a broken, albeit beautiful, fantasy world where hulking Behemoths are hunted by adventurers in a quest for glory and most importantly, excellent loot. It’s a third-person, four player co-op action RPG created by former Bioware and Riot devs. Monster Hunter is a key influence here, as the game’s schtick centers on teaming up with a few pals to fight massive creatures. There are hints of Western RPGs mixed in, though, and the combat, replete with dodge rolls, is reminiscent of Dark Souls. It’s still early days for Dauntless, and though I only got to test my blade against two Behemoths, I was able to get a preliminary glimpse of what the game could become as it heads into beta later this year.

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Heat Signature is a comic cosmic playground

I’m not sure if Heat Signature [official site] will be labelled as a comedy game when it goes on sale, but I haven’y played a funnier game in recent years. Your role in each brief life that you lead is to earn money by completing missions that involve kidnapping, assassination and theft, so that you can use the money to buy information regarding an end-game mission that is personal to your character. Get that job done and your character can retire happy. Fail and you’re most likely a popsicle drifting through the void.

Here’s how it all works, and how my most recent character died.

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Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days is smarter than you’d think

I’m very wary of licensed games. It’s not just that I’ve played a lot of bad tie-ins over the decades, it’s that the license itself often seems to be used as a veil to disguise tired design, or as the only actual hook. Let’s be honest – ‘Reservoir Dogs top-down shooter’ isn’t a tantalising pitch in and of itself, is it?

What a shame it’d be if the license did act as a veil in this case, though, because behind that dubious pitch there’s a much more interesting one: single-player cooperative tactical shooter, with time-mangling mechanic. Much more tantalising.

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Inkle’s Heaven’s Vault: a stunning sci-fi archaeology adventure

With 80 Days and Sorcery, Inkle have made some of our favourite games of recent years, but Heaven’s Vault [official site] might just be their greatest achievement yet. It’s early days, of course, but a half hour play session at GDC has already convinced me that this science fiction adventure is a very exciting thing indeed. It’s a game about exploring the past, in the future, through archaeology and translation, and it has a remarkable sense of wonder.

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Future gangs of New York: Huntdown comes out to play

Rockstar’s adaptation of The Warriors is one of my favourite licensed games. That’s probably at least in part because The Warriors is the perfect film for a game adaptation, seeing as it’s full of minibosses, action sequences and a basic level structure.

When I played Huntdown [official site] at GDC last week, a stack of decades-old games came to mind, but it was The Warriors that leaped to the front of the queue, in an explosion of denim, spraycans and chains. Huntdown is a side-scrolling beat and shoot ’em up for one or two players, and it does good gangs.

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Steel Division brings fresh tactical ideas to the battlefield

I can appreciate a carefully crafted digital tank rolling into combat as much as the next war game fan, but there are few things I enjoy more than a visible front line. Not the actual troops huddling beneath hedgerows as explosions tear up the dirt, but an actual line, drawn onto the map, bendling, flexing and breaking as the battle plays out.

Steel Division [official site] has authentically modeled units and detailed rules of engagement controlling their clashes, but it’s the front line that got me all excited when I saw a demo last week at GDC.

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Tormentor X Punisher killed me with unkindness

Tormentor X Punisher [official site] is projected onto a wall in a dark space in San Francisco and it fills the room with “fucks”. Some are triumphant (FUCK YEAH), some are awestruck (Fuuuuuuuuuuck) and some are short, sharp exclamations of frustration or despair (fuck). Some of these come from the person playing the game, some come from spectators, and there’s another variety that come from the game itself. They are the snarling aggression of the marine character, as she tears through the hordes of hell.

“Let’s fucking do this!” she yells at the beginning of every round.

Yes, let’s.

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Into The Breach: FTL follow-up is smart, tense and surprising

Within a couple of minutes of sitting down with Justin Ma and a build of his new game, Into the Breach [official site], preconceptions are torn to shreds. Ma is one half of the team behind FTL and when Into the Breach was announced, I wasn’t alone in thinking it looked like tactical skirmisher Advance Wars, with added monsters. It is that game, to an extent, but its most notable feature isn’t tied to the setting at all – it’s that this is a tactical combat game in which the enemy is entirely predictable. Everything is explained below, but in short, this might be the smartest turn-based design I’ve seen since Invisible, Inc.

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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 »

Styx: Shards of Darkness is a vomit-y fantasy Hitman

Styx was a game in need of a little refinement. You wanted to take the little oik and clean his fingernails, boot him into a bathtub, and scrub him down til he shone like an emerald. In his first adventure, the titular goblin (he’d smirk at being called titular) did some decent stealth, stabbing and scurrying through a handful of levels that were solid if unspectacular. It all worked fairly well but it didn’t pack any real surprises.

Pleasingly, the sequel Shards of Darkness [official site] looks like it might deliver a polished version of the original, though some of the rough edges are still noticeable in the opening level I played last week.

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The Surge brings limb-theft to the Dark Souls party

“It’s sci-fi Dark Souls”, said everyone who had anything to say about The Surge [official site]. I was at a preview event for the publisher Focus and, as happens at these things, journalists would gather in groups and discuss what they’d seen. I wasn’t playing The Surge until the end of the first day and lots of people had already seen it. “It’s sci-fi Dark Souls”, they’d nod to each other. “You know, like Dark Souls. But sci-fi.”

Fine. But is it a good sci-fi Dark Souls?

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Necromunda has bullet casings the size of tower blocks

Necromunda [official site] is finally coming to PC, with the subtitle Underhive Wars. It’s a game set in the underbelly of the factory planets that power the eternal crusades of the Warhammer 40K universe. Players control rival gangs, skirmishing in the shadows of giant machinery. I spoke to Rogue Factor about their upcoming adaptation of this long lost Games Workshop tabletop favourite coming, and here are the important points, including details on the movement system, camera, level architecture and INFINITE PIPES.

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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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Hidden Folks is bursting with life and completely daft

I spotted Where’s Wally-alike Hidden Folks [official site] while judging the first round of the IGFs, and asked the developers if I could preview it back then. Instead they sent over a newer and ever-evolving build of the game which I’ve been playing on and off for the last month, and I am completely charmed. Read the rest of this entry »

Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is an off-brand Far Cry game

Guards come in all shapes and sizes, but their behaviours are quite robotic

We sent Edwin Evans-Thirwell into the field to see Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 [official site] and he came back to us with a report about the good, the bad and the ugly of the game, and thoughts on the loneliness of the long distance killer.

Sniper rifles are ubiquitous in video games, but I’m not sure a game has ever captured what it means to be a sniper – or to face one. These guns are characterised as delicate tools, the preserve of a methodical elite, but while sniping may require subtlety, a sniper rifle is essentially an instrument of terror.

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On abusing the peasants in Kingdom Come: Deliverance

All the NPCs play the same mini-games as the player to craft items and resources

Kingdom Come: Deliverance [official site] is about the ring of steel on steel, the august machinery of feudal politics and the intricacies of village society. It’s also about throwing turds at houses, as I discovered during a hands-off showing of the game’s prologue area. The house in question belongs to a man who has been singing the virtues of the German-backed Hungarian invasion of Bohemia at a nearby tavern. As proud Bohemians, it’s up to Mr Protagonist and his fellow yokels to defend the country’s honour by, in this case, carpet-bombing a small piece of it with dung.

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Fantasy-Free, Choice-Heavy RPG Expeditions: Viking

Over the last three weeks, I’ve received emails about seven different viking-based games. I guess we have our new zombies. Vikings, though, have something that the walking dead do not: Viqueens. I am glad to say that earthy, quasi-political RPG Expeditions: Viking does not force me to be another Odinson.

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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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