Overwatch Review

Overwatch Review

May 27, 2016 By Bradley Marsh

Every now and again an event happens in gaming that can change the outlook forever. More →

TrackMania Turbo review

TrackMania Turbo review

April 20, 2016 By Jason Scott

I have what could be described as a phobia of driving. I failed my test a ridiculous number of times and by the time I passed, my confidence was shot. More →

The Witness review

The Witness review

April 6, 2016 By Jason Scott

There’s an oft repeated scene in high school movies where the nerdy library girl has a makeover and gets to go to the trendy party. At first, she’s really pleased she went; everything’s going great, she’s got a red plastic cup full of beer, the love interest looks over at her and notices how hot she is; she’s fitting in. Then suddenly it all goes wrong. More →

Megadimension Neptunia VII review

Megadimension Neptunia VII review

March 29, 2016 By Natalie Houghton

It may seem like there has been an onslaught of Neptunia games recently and whilst this is true, most of them have been remakes of the original PS3 games which have in turn come to PS Vita and Steam, there actually hasn’t been a main release in the series since 2013. More →

Street Fighter V review

Street Fighter V review

March 19, 2016 By Frank Lee

The granddaddy of all fighting games is out. Street Fighter V, the long expected sequel in the fighting series, is going to try to bridge the gap between Street Fighter 3 and 4. More →

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight review

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight review

February 19, 2016 By Matt Walkden

How many countless hours of my gaming life have been spent in dungeons? Wizardry, The Bard’s Tale, Eye of the Beholder… A litany of traps, pressure pad puzzles and random encounters. More →

SteamWorld Heist review

SteamWorld Heist review

February 16, 2016 By Pete Boyle

Image & Form released this graphical (if not spiritual) successor to SteamWorld Dig. More →

Episode 30

Episode 30

February 13, 2016 By Pete Boyle

Episode 30 explodes in your ears once more, this time we delve into the past and right up to current generation with some wonderful pieces such as Fallout 4 and Devil May Cry.

The full track listing is as follows;

As always, thanks for tuning in. Follow Gamestyle on Soundcloud for more audio-based updates.

Gamestyle on Telegram Messenger

Gamestyle on Telegram Messenger

February 1, 2016 By Matt Cox

We’re hard at work behind the scenes at Gamestyle; sharpening our pencils and our wit. We’ll have a few new reviews for you soon, but in the meantime, here’s something new:

Gamestyle now has a channel on Telegram Messenger. You can follow us for impromptu and unscheduled updates about video games. Get the goods at telelgram.me/gamestyle

Telegram Messenger Logo and Gamestyle Logo

For those that aren’t familiar with Telegram Messenger – it’s an alternative to WhatsApp. It’s an alternative to any messenger app you could be using, but Telegram focuses on privacy.

We aren’t recommending you use Telegram. But if you do, you should follow @gamestyle.

Fallout 4 Review

Fallout 4 Review

December 1, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

…Or. The game Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer should have been!

That will make sense in a bit, because it was at one point my only real issue with Fallout 4, but that has long since been sorted out on my side.

This is a late review, so let me get this part out of the way first. Despite some bugs, as expected from a Bethesda open-world RPG and some poor loading times. This is one of my most beloved games in the past few years and has joined Fallout 3, Tetris, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Silent Hill 2, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 and the likes as one of my greatest of all-time.

Some may not agree, but I don’t care, they are entitled to their opinion and covering the issues with the game is fine, but they really didn’t give me any reason to want to stop, or ruin my enjoyment. So despite the known problems, this is still a 10/10 game in my book.

There is also little point in me going over all the checkpoints for what is new, what has been updated, because chances are you have already read those. This is about what Fallout 4 means to me and my adventures.

Fallout 3 had one of those moments that will live with me to the day I die. When my great-grandkids ask me about videogames in my day and why were they so popular. The moment you step out of Vault-101 will be right at the top of the list of moments I recall.

The build to that moment was perfectly timed. It had you become almost institutionalized within the vault, before setting up the sequence to release you into the Wasteland. It was a perfect moment and it is something that in my honest opinion can only work the once.

So the opening to Fallout 4 was very well handled, the starting of the game as the bombs hit, was, for me, a stroke of genius. It gave us a glimpse of what the world used to be like and setup another moment, that whilst not immediately poignant as what happened in Fallout 3, still stopped me in my tracks.

The time difference between entering the vault for your safety and the moment you leave again is very short, maybe 15-20 minutes (longer if you explore). But this is clearly a design choice, because remember that cozy suburb you left as the bombs were dropping? Well that is still fresh in your memory. So when you return to that exact location, the differences 200 years makes hits home immediately.

Fallout 4 (Xbox One) screenshot

I was concerned early on though, as once you return home, the game becomes a bit linear, shepherding you through a series of quests at quite a pace. However, it is clear why this is happening, because going off and doing your own thing this early would stop you understanding a major new feature in the game and also leave you completely under prepared for the Wasteland.

To be fair, it is just a case of me itching to explore and those early mission don’t really take up all that much time.  Soon enough though the shackles are removed and away you go.

This is the main reason I love Fallout. You start of in one direction as part of a quest, whether that be mainline or side, then something pops up on your compass, so you decide to follow that, so you at least have it saved to the map.

Yet on the way there, something else pops up, so of course I decide I need to check that out. Then it happens again and again and again. Next thing you know several hours have passed and you have forgotten what you were meant to be be doing in the first place.

It is that sense of discovery that really sets Fallout apart from other open world games. Yes there are things to find in GTA, Assassin’s Creed, InFamous and the likes, but they all feel like they are sign-posted for you to find. In Fallout it is different, the world isn’t as ‘alive’ as many others, but because you are constantly discovering new areas, both larger and tiny, it feels a hell of a lot more active.

Now that isn’t a slight on those other games, but you just need to compare this to pretty much any Ubisoft title, where you are required to find some kind of tower, that will then expose everything else there is to find in that area. Fallout doesn’t do this, it lets you happen upon things, with only quest vital landmarks being given to you at the right time.

Because you need to discover everything on your own, it does make the side quests a lot more appealing. Again in other open-world games, the optional stuff can feel like a chore and if I am being honest, I often cannot be bothered with them.

Yet here in Fallout 4 (as it was in Fallout 3 and other Fallout titles) I get a sense of joy when I happen upon a new quest, because I know more discovery is on the way. I don’t know what it is yet, but I know it is coming.

It is the scale of what you find that really impresses me the most. From huge landmarks, that have various levels to them, which can take hours to work through, to the tiniest little shack that may contain something useful Every time you find one, you feel a little more joyful.

The single biggest new thing about Fallout 4, was the one thing that also concerned me the most. The base building stuff. Yet the more I play around with this, the more I fall in love with it. Again there is a lot of discovery here too. I only recently found I can add lights to power lines and light up my settlement at night.

I mean, this settlement in the middle of a wasteland, ruined because of nuclear war, looks beautiful now. I’d happily trade my current situation to set up home there!!!

The base building itself was as I said, something I wasn’t looking forward to. The idea of micro-managing a community, whilst all I wanted to do was wander just didn’t sound all that appealing. But once I got into it, it became bloody addictive.

I joked at the start that, this is the game Happy Home Designer should have beem and whilst it was an odd the cuff joke, it isn’t far removed from the truth. Namely because there is a lot more substance here in a single part of a much larger game, than there is in a game dedicated to doing such a thing.

I am taking great pleasure in removing all the scrap from around a settlement, scraping it and then using it to build up more and more to make parts of the wasteland a living breathing community. Creating new buildings, defenses, food and water resources and so much more.

It can be quite something going back to a place that you have built, knowing what it was previously and feeling a sense of pride at what you have created. I have spent hours upon hours building up Sanctuary, along with (now) some other settlements.

I was worried about the need to do this early on, but now I am deep into the game, I look forward to the next opportunity to add more to my settlements. Which brings me onto something else that is minor, but has really changed the way I loot.

In Fallout 3 for example, there was a crap ton of crap to loot, but much of it seemed pointless on the whole and keeping track of what you wanted or needed wasn’t always easy. Now though you can tag items from your base and when you happen across them on your travels, they will be marked with a spyglass icon, letting you know it is something important.

I find myself now just going on journeys and looting for scrap, just so I can return to a settlement to either use it right away to build, or store for later. It is all these little things that has added something great to an already amazing experience.

I looked at my time played stat and it is at just over 76 hours, yet I still have much of the mainline story to finish and a hell of a lot of side quests. I imagine I have spent at least half my time looting and building. Something I never imagined I would be doing at the start.

There is so much to discover in Fallout 4, that this would become a tiresome read to go through them all, the various companions you get for example, all have their pros and cons and to me at least feel like they are more than just along for the ride. So much so, my main companion from Fallout 3, spends his time back at my home base in Sanctuary.

I am talking about Dogmeat, who comes along for the ride very early and whilst he does help with attacking and defending enemies, I find it quite nice to come home and find him there ready to greet me.

Fallout 4 is my game of the year for 2015 and I know for a fact I won’t be finished this side of the New Year. I don’t want it to be, I love being in the world, I love discovering new things and all in all I just love this game.

Calling Time

Calling Time

November 28, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

I remember it well, how I found myself becoming a games critic, a reviewer, whatever you want to call it. As a member of rllmukforum, I saw another member mention on Twitter that he was playing a game, a game not yet released. I asked him how and he told me he wrote for Gamestyle.

I wanted a piece of that!!

The idea of writing about videogames isn’t something that had even entered my head. You see, I come from a creative background, I wanted to be a graphic designer and despite my training, it was something that, at the time wasn’t happening. I trained to be a print designer, but the web was the future.

At this time I was training myself to learn web design, whilst working in a call center, trying to make ends meet. I had a then 2 year old son and a partner out of work with severe medical conditions. Somehow surviving on £800 a month.

I have always loved games, but with that kind of monthly income, there was no way I could afford games, so the prospect of writing about games and getting the odd freebie sounded great. I had just bought a copy of DiRT 2 (I think I had gift cards or something to buy it) and was told to submit a review and if it was liked I may be able to do more.

I did that and my first review was published and I was part of the Gamestyle team. I did the odd review here and there, got the odd free game and all was good.

Then disaster struck for the site, a major hack, along with various members leaving meant the site was about to say goodbye to existence. So I made the decision to do what I could to save the place. There were some selfish reasons, I still wanted to play free games, but also I grew to love the site and felt that a long standing indie review site, with no advertising, no sponsorship and no pressure from publishers needed to be something that remained.

So I took on the role of handling the PR and running the site on a day to day basis. It was me and two other guys, just doing what we could to keep the ship barely afloat.

Between us, we added stability and all of a sudden we saw growth. I reached out for new writers many of whom would to the odd thing here and there, but couldn’t dedicate the time to offer more. Yet we had enough content to be able to get code from people and get more and more reviews written.

We owe a hell of a lot to Indie Developers, who provided most of our content, but also the likes of Activision, Ubisoft and at the time EA, who were happy to provide of with games such as FIFA, NHL, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, etc.

We added big name titles to our steady stream of Indie games and slowly but surely the site had risen from the grave. We took on more writers, some who stuck and some who didn’t, but we were still getting the content out.

Why am I telling you this? Well, by this time running Gamestyle became almost a full time job, as well as a huge passion project. I wanted to see it grow and become something else.

I am not a visionary by any stretch of the imagination, but it was clear to me, that video content was the future. Not in the sense of pure video reviews, but more like what you were seeing on GiantBomb, GameTrailers, IGN and the like. I wanted to get on that, maybe carve out a niche for Gamestyle to do similar things to those sites.

What I actually wanted was a career in gaming media, to be the UK equivalent to those sites. Along with Steve and Andrew, we started Gamestyle LIVE, a weekly show where we just chatted about games in a casual manner. But it worked, we got some good feedback and despite not having huge numbers, we were having fun.

This led to one of my highest moments for Gamestyle. We had Kyle Bosman on one of the episodes. The guy was and still is a bit of a hero of mine in this field and he agreed to join us for a one off episode, it was an amazing feeling.

Sadly, keeping up with weekly shows became more and more difficult and in the end we decided that none of us could offer the dedication as a group to maintain the schedule, so we put the show on the shelf. A sad time but, hey, it had to be done.

My plan was to somehow get the site making money, make it so I could run the site full time and pay the bills at the same time. We prided ourselves on not having ads or sponsorship, so that wasn’t an option.

Patreon or Kickstarter could be something we look at, allow me to get the right equipment, maybe a studio space and start to do professional output, again whilst being able to do this full time and pay the bills.

The problem was, I couldn’t just ask for the money, I didn’t feel the site was in the right place with the numbers to be able to ask fro donations or subscriptions. We weren’t putting out enough content yet. Also we weren’t names, I am not Jim Sterling, we didn’t have the pulling power of GiantBomb. Who would offer up payments for us. Truth be told, I was scared…

Why? Well as I have said in the past I suffer depression and the thought of taking a risk like that and being flat out rejected felt like it would be the end of me. I honestly don’t think I could have coped emotionally to a failed Kickstarter with ZERO support or a Pateon bringing in £0 a month.

So I struggled on, tried to do Quick Look videos, podcasts and more. All with varying degrees of success. Yet something stood out. I was the only one who was putting in the time needed to run the site.

That isn’t a complaint, far from it in fact. I couldn’t be more impressed by the support of Steve, Andrew, John, Adam, Gareth, Stacey, Jon and everyone else who chipped in. But they all had other commitments and there was no way they could do more than what they did. Hell without them the site wouldn’t exist.

We had a period where it looked like things may just take off for us. We were getting some amazing numbers, but unfortunately there was no way to sustain it. Maybe that was the time to do Kickstarter, maybe not. The fact is I didn’t try it and I will never know.

But it was after this, that I realized something had to give. My ‘actual’ job at the time was failing to pay me and I had barely any money coming in and debt was and still is piling up. Running the site to try and maintain numbers was taking more and more time and having a severe effect on me.

I was playing loads of games, but I found I wasn’t actually getting to enjoy them. Sure I could enjoy them from a critical point of view, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. It was the same with the Quick Looks and the Podcasts. I enjoyed doing them, but it was the editing and posting that took a toll.

But I love the site and I was doing what I could to keep content flowing and making sure the Gamestyle name could continue.

Still something wasn’t right in me. I wasn’t getting the enjoyment. I was happy enough to do Gamestyle without getting income from it, but when I was failing to get paid for my job at the same time, it just became harder and harder to cope with.

So about two months ago, the chance of paid work came about and I had a tough decision to make. Well the decision was actually easy, as I am a father and I have a family I love. Paid work had to become the priority, so Gamestyle had to become part time, I had no choice.

Emotionally it was hard, as I felt I would be letting down those who put their time and effort in. Not just those at present, but also those from the site’s past.

I have a major issue about myself. I honestly believe I have the reverse Midas touch, whereby everything I touch turns to failure. It may not be instant, but somehow because of me it will fail. That is the kind of person I am.

Gamestyle though, for some reason or another was a different story, it made me feel good. Especially when I took a chance and saved the site. But in doing so I felt like I was failing myself and my family. Sure I enjoyed doing what I did, but again the lack of income was taking its toll on my life around me.

So last month I had to decide…all or nothing.

I never wanted to do this, but I have to leave Gamestyle, I have no choice. If I put my all into it, financially I am screwed and my family suffer. If I do the odd bit for Gamestyle on the side, then the site suffers.

So it is with a heavy heart I need to call time on Gamestyle for myself and perhaps any thoughts I had of making it in the industry on the media side. My family comes first and they are the most important thing in the world to me.

I didn’t take the decision lightly, because I honestly believe with the right captain steering the ship, then Gamestyle could become bigger than what it is, but that captain isn’t me. I don’t have the talent, I am simply not good enough.

I don’t know what the future for the site is, but I know there will be someone out there who can keep it going and maybe even take it to the next level. That person isn’t me though. I have to prioritize and at the end of the day, head has to rule over heart.

I have written hundreds of reviews, many articles, recorded tons of videos and podcast and all in all had an amazing time. I have met wonderful people, many whom I can now call friends. I have done things that even a short year ago I never felt I could and Gamestyle was a major part in fighting my depression.

I won’t lie, I do have tears as I write this. Because after nearly seven years, it is hard not to think I am losing something important in my life. My family even know what it means to me, as my partner tried to think of ways we could still make it work.

I am seeing the year out, because I think I owe the site that much, but I will start 2016 without Gamestyle in my life.

Everyone who has been involved at any point, I thank you. I wish I could go on, but I simply cannot. I wish everyone who is still involved all the luck in the world moving forward and maybe, someday out paths will cross again.

Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void Review

Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void Review

November 25, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Since getting a decent PC, I have tried to get into a much wider range of game genres. Many I have loved, others not so much. In years past I have looked upon Blizzard’s output with a mix of envy and relief.

I understood they were, in general, great games, but I had heard about the way they will take over your life. One of those is World of Warcraft, of which I am yet to peer into the rabbit hole. The other is Starcraft, a game that has scared me, one that to me felt impenetrable. However I was given the opportunity to review the Legacy of the Void standalone expansion, so what the hell.

As a disclaimer, this isn’t going to be an in depth review, fans of the series aren’t going to come here and get the best opinion. This is more a look from the outside, from a complete beginner, not only to the series, but still to the genre.

One thing that jumped out to me, was that Blizzard no how to do story, even if the writing is pretty bad on the whole. The cut-scenes and character interaction in said cut-scenes are played brilliantly and I was immediately sucked into the world.

Truth be told, I was taken aback by the single player content, as I always assumed that Starcraft was purely an online competitive game for the ultra dedicated (more on that later), but I was wrong and the single player is deep and plentiful.

Whilst the game does a good job of introducing you to the mechanics, it is clear that this is something that has been produced for fans of the recent series and those with a knowledge of the genre. Now that isn’t to say I was hit by an impenetrable shield, that would stop me playing in my tracks, but it did require me to stop and start a lot and look things up externally as I tried to get a grip on things.

This is far from a casual game, but once you get your head around the basic mechanic, you can start to play and complete missions. Sure you won’t be beasting anything or getting the top rewards, but it is surprisingly simple when you break it down.

The trick of course, is to take those basic mechanics and manipulate them in your favour to get the best out of any situation and that is where I really came unstuck. You can perform basic actions after a short introduction, but as soon as the complexity of tasks increases, you can find yourself feeling like a 2 year old tasked with understanding quantum fusion as the last hope to save the world.

I honestly felt lost, even very early on. The missions I did complete I literally staggered through, hoping for the best. Legacy of the Void isn’t kind to people like me, but nor should it be. I am sure there are games out there that act like baby’s first RTS, but this shouldn’t be one and nor is it.

I wanted to give the game a fair chance though and I did spend many hours persevering, trying to learn and improve, because any frustrations and faults were laid firmly and my feet. And guess what? When I went back to the start, I was then able to think a bit differently, try new solutions and improve on earlier results.

 

I actually got some enjoyment from knowing that I wasn’t just failing constantly for no reason and I was actually learning, albeit at a slow rate. I will go back even after this review and play some more, because I can see the hook and I can see why this is such a beloved franchise and I would love to get more from it.

Yet the single player isn’t what makes Starcraft one of the biggest E-Sports in the world,where prize money is at staggering levels. Where players can turn pro and earn a living from it. That is down to the online stuff.

So what the hell, I decided to jump in and see what it was all about…

Yeah! That didn’t last long. Before I even knew what I was doing, I had lost. I would try again and I would lose again. Again and again.

This is not a world for me, this is something for a very special breed. This was like the lovely 70 year old lady in the library, who loves her stories, deciding to make a run at the NHL. It just isn’t going to happen.

There is no way, that I, in my mid-thirties can even think of becoming competitive in this world. It is too late for me. I have other responsibilities and cannot dedicate the time needed to even think of winning games.

So that became a short lived experience. But thanks to Blizzard’s care and attention to making sure there is a solid single player option, I will still get a lot of enjoyment from this game and I may even go back through the series and pick up some of the earlier stuff.

It isn’t love at first sight, but I think myself and Starcraft could become good acquaintances over time!

Transformers Devastation Review

Transformers Devastation Review

November 17, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Oh Transformers, what a checkered history we have. When I was a child I loved you, the cartoon, the toys, anything I could get my hands on. Then later in life you were sullied by Micheal Bay. A man who just cannot make a film that has a decent story and is just full of explosions and set pieces. He ruined your name for me. That wasn’t helped too, by a series of poor to average videogame tie ins.

Anyway, when news came that Platinum were to make a Transformers game, I wanted to dare to dream, dream that a top quality Transformers game could be made. But I have been burnt before so my expectations were a little tempered, despite it being Platinum who have a fantastic track record.

My fears were totally misplaced though, as Transformers Devastation is an absolute joy to behold. It takes the Transformers universe, using the Generations line, which covers various different eras of the franchise. The visuals are based on the original cartoons, with writing from those behind the comics.

That all blends wonderfully with the traditional Platinum gameplay that makes the likes of Bayonetta and Vanquish such wonderful games. Platinum even showed they can work with existing IP, when they did Legend of Korra, which despite getting a luke warm reception was still great fun to play.

For me, what makes Transformers Devastation work, is that there is no attempts to re-write the genre, both in terms of gameplay and the source material. Platinum have been incredibly respectful of the history of the franchise and built a game around that, rather than trying to shoehorn elements that could work against each other.

The influence from other Platinum titles is clear to see, with the main one being the use of Witch-Time from Bayonetta, where a well timed dodge will slow down time and allow you unleash hell on your foes. However this is a Transformers games, so it does need some characteristics of its own and boy do Platinum put this to good use.

As any self respecting kid from the 80s will know, Transformers are robots in disguise and this is well represented in combat. When in robot form, you can go at your enemy in traditional Platinum combat ways, yet you can also change to vehicle form and use that to attack too, adding a whole new level to the combat mechanics.

Being a Platinum game, means that the combat is actually very simple and allows you to string together combos and fight multiple enemies like a boss. You even get to use various weapons which can be integrated in the hand to hand combat, or used for taking down enemies specifically designed and placed to make use of you weapons.

The are less options in combat when compared to something like Bayonetta, which initially feels a little disappointing, but after a short time with the game, you find it works as you start to master the various attacks and combos and use those to your advantage. If anything having a smaller move set works well here.

I was worried that the game might overplay the transforming, just so it could show of what the Autobots can do, but I actually found the that balance was done just right. There are some enemies that require you to switch between forms, but they are strategically placed and not overdone. Everywhere else it it purely optional.

It could have been very tempting to make Devastation an overly easy IP cash-in, where you go through the motions and have the game look pretty, but the balance in difficulty is well implemented and the difficulty curve is well balanced from the opening level to the final battle.

You get the options to use all the various Autobots to fight and each one feel different to use and you’ll soon find your overall favourite. Again I was worried it may be just reskins over the the same move-sets, but this is far from the case. Optimus Prime will feel completely different to Bumblebee for example.

It’s not all sunshine and roses though. There are some issues, such as some uninspiring level design, that can feel a bit limited from time to time, as well as the game being super short. The main story can be completed in 5-6 hours and whilst extra plays are encouraged it isn’t one that demands your attention.

That being said though, the overall package is decent and Platinum have made a solid Platinum game, yet they have made a truly fantastic Transformers game and I look forward to seeing if they can follow this up with a sequel in the future.

Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

Rise of the Tomb Raider Review

November 16, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

It’s hard to imagine that Lara Croft has been part of my life for just about 20 years now. I remember her debut in 1996 and as a 15 year old boy, I was blown away by what I was seeing on screen and the talk in the playgrounds about this new character and her wonderful game.

I even remember the chatter about the various cheats that were possible, especially ones that could make Lara naked in the game. Due to having no internet or anything like that and being rather naive, I am not ashamed to admit that I tried the cheats I heard and even made some up myself for some playground cred.

The years however haven’t been kind on Lara, with the games gradually getting worse and even becoming a bit of a joke, yet Lara herself remained and still remains one of the greatest icons ever to emerge from videogames. Up there with the likes of Mario, she is one the few characters that even non gaming fans could name instantly.

The Tomb Raider reboot in 2013, which was technically the second official reboot, did a lot to restore the faith in a Tomb Raider game and despite some questionable claims by Crystal Dynamics around the characterization of Lara, especially how she would handle killing, the game on the whole was a real return to form and probably the best game overall in the franchise. I’ll touch on the characterization further into this review.

There were other issues in the 2013 release that felt off, such as the lack of actual tombs to raid, which is one of the first things that has been fixed in Rise of the Tomb Raider. There are still the big set-pieces, the stalking, stealth and murder, but those have been dialed back a fraction to allow for more exploration and basic puzzle solving, bring Lara back to what she was born to do…explore and discover.

Rather than trying to match the darling of the last few years in the Uncharted series, Crystal Dynamics have made the right decision to go back to the roots of Tomb Raider and the game feels all the better for it. Because, whilst there is a constant threat from the enemy, you feel like you have the time to explore what is around and discover new things.

There is a lot to discover too, with artifacts, scrolls and much, much more spread very generously across the various maps which Lara gets to play in. Now whilst I am not usually a fan of collectibles, usually because they are hidden so much, I can never be bother to look, here most you can come across with ease and the fun is working out how to get to them, but very rarely having to ignore your current path. It makes you want to check them out.

Rise of the Tomb Raider still contains one of my biggest pet hates in many modern AAA games. The need to add RPG elements to the progression. Doing certain things in the game, finding new areas, learning by discovery, etc will all earn Lara XP which she can use to level up her base skills. Now I get why this is a thing in some games, but for me it is not needed in a Tomb Raider, it just feels out of place. Lara should be Lara and that is that.

Now this is different to the upgrading of tools and weapons, which I actually do like, but the notion that Lara can become better skilled in a short space of time or learn whole new languages from looking at a few paintings, nah that isn’t for me. I don’t like it in Assassin’s Creed games and the like and I think it fits even worse here.

I can understand though why this has been done, as Rise of the Tomb Raider shares a lot in common with a Metroidvania, where you can see ways to access new areas, but won’t have the right tools and skills to get there until later. I like that, because I love Metroidvania games, but it is something that would have worked just as well by finding and upgrading tools, rather than learning new skills via XP.

The raiding of tomb are pretty much optional, but rather cleverly by going off mission and completing them, you will get very handsomely rewarded and will earn some rather nifty new kit to help you along the way, especially when trying to access the aforementioned cut off areas.

Each tomb will take anywhere between 15-45 minutes to complete and there are a good number of them dotted around. It allows the devs to strike a nice balance between keeping the story moving forward and going back to the franchise’s roots.

Lara, new modern Lara, is the best version of Lara yet. In the original games, despite the aim being to have a strong female lead role-model type character, she became anything but. She was more sex symbol than she was strong lead and looking back, it was almost embarrassing how much sexuality was used to push Lara to young adolescent males. It worked and it worked very well, so you cannot blame anyone for that, especially in the era it was.

But we are in a different world and whilst 2013 Lara looked the part and felt more like a real adventurer who dressed properly for he role, rather than trying to be sexy, her characterization was simply off. She was built up to have real emotions, that she was a survivor and would struggle with the need to kill to survive. It all sounded very promising, maybe giving you some moral choices to make along the way.

Yet the only time this happened was during her first kill, which was pretty much done via a cut-scene. Then it was off on a murdering spree without a care in the world. It was a noble aim, but the build up to the release and with this being a big selling point, it was very disappointing in the end.

Lara can still be a killing machine throughout Rise of the Tomb Raider, but this time there isn’t any claims of Lara having to toy with her own emotions about it, or any such nonsense and instead the writers have focused on other aspects of Lara and a much more interesting overall story arc.

One that not only pushes the story along at a solid pace, but introduces some nice back story about Lara and her relationships from childhood with her father. I would have been happy to have seen more of this with it being expanded on at some point. However, it does seem lessons were learned from the last game and this feels much better for it.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is, for me at least one of the surprises of the years. I was expecting a solid game, one that just gave me more of the same as a follow up to the 2013 release. Yet what we got was a game that improved on the good and cleared away much of the bad, to produce a title that deserves its place among the best Lara Croft games over the previous 20 years.

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 6th November 2015

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 6th November 2015

November 13, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Brad and John take a look at and review the charts and releases for week ending 6th November (Friday).

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As usual we start with a quick look at the charts.

Then it is a very look back at recent releases, including Fallout 4, Call of Duty Black Ops III, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Binding of Isaac Afterbirth, Superbeat Xonic and Dovetail Games’ Euro Fishing.

We think Brad may like Fallout 4 by the way!

Then it is a look ahead to Starwars Battlefront, Sword Art Online, Rodea The Sky Soldier and Barbie and her Sisters: Puppy Rescue.

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks).

This Week’s Top 10

1 CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III
2 FIFA 16
3 NEED FOR SPEED
4 HALO 5: GUARDIANS
5 ASSASSIN’S CREED: SYNDICATE
6 MINECRAFT: STORY MODE
7 WWE 2K16
8 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
9 LEGO DIMENSIONS
10 CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS

Details below on how else to catch this week’s show.


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Super Meat Boy Review

Super Meat Boy Review

November 11, 2015 By Jason Scott

A few years ago I developed quite an obsession with the Nintendo puzzle game Digidrive. Every night I’d get home from work, fire up my gorgeous metallic green Gameboy Micro and get lost for hours in the tiny, crisp screen, blasting stark, minimalist graphics directly into my eyeballs. As much as I loved the game (hold onto your hotpants, but I think it’s a better puzzler than Tetris), it was the combination of hardware and software that really won my heart. They just worked together so perfectly; form, function, aesthetics and mechanics combining to make a match made in gaming heaven.

Fast forward a couple of years and I’m hunched over a 360 pad, punching the air one minute and turning it blue the next, in an attempt to reunite a cube of flesh with a girl made out of bandages. Super Meat Boy was among the first of a new wave of indie games that now seem so ubiquitous it’s difficult to remember a time when they didn’t grace every release schedule. Using an (at the time) original, retro-inspired graphics style and marrying it to a brutally hard platformer with a dark, wicked sense of humour, I was utterly consumed and it dominated my playtime for weeks. It struck me as the kind of game that the naughty kids at Nintendo would make, if they weren’t cowering behind their screens terrified that Miyamoto would launch a chair at them for making something that didn’t feature magic triangles or moustaches. It was compulsive, vicious and funny; but stuck in the living room; tied to a pad and screen that somehow didn’t feel like the right fit.

And then we have the Vita; the good-looking, bastard son of the PlayStation family sent off to die alone and forgotten in the cold. Truly the Jon Snow of gaming. Big name releases dried up completely nearly two years ago but it has managed to carve itself a niche as the home of JRPGs, visual novels and indie titles. It’s a truly wonderful machine that’s a joy to hold, beautiful to look at and with a varied, unique library. It’s almost the portable Xbox Live Arcade machine I always dreamed of. But there has always been one game obviously missing from its roster. One game so obviously suited to that sexy screen. One game whose bite sized, platforming brilliance has been crying out for a portable version.

Well, not any longer! They’ve only gone and put bloody Meat Boy on it!

I’m probably in a minority of one here, but the Super Meat Boy on Vita announcement trumped Shenmue 3 and the Final Fantasy 7 Remake as my best gaming news of the year. Stop me if this sounds familiar, but it’s something I’ve wanted for years and all but completely given up hope on. So it’s with some trepidation that, hands shaking and heart in mouth, I fire it up for the first time. Please don’t fuck this up. Please don’t fuck this up. Please don’t fuck this up…

Hooray! They haven’t fucked it up! Meat Boy explodes onto Vita with all of the manic, high-speed action he’s famous for and he’s lost very little of its spark and charm in the intervening years. From the very first moment you launch the game and his cheeky little smashed-up face splashes across the Vita’s gorgeous screen it feels like this is home; that this is where he was always supposed to be. When held inches away from your face, the bold, bright cartoon visuals have never looked better and the bite-sized, quick-fire structure is well-suited to the portable format. It’s been obvious for years that they should get it on, and now that they’ve finally got together, they really do make a beautiful couple. They’re very nearly perfect for one another.

Yep, sadly, there are couple of caveats here. Firstly, it will become immediately obvious to any fans of the original that the soundtrack has been replaced. This is most jarring the first time you play and the title screen roars ‘SUUUUUPER MEEEEEAT BOOOOY!’ over the top of a rather pedestrian number which seems a bit like a dodgy cover version by someone who played the game once back in 2010. Personally, I think the main theme is the only major misstep; and the rest of the tracks are pretty good and occasionally even improve on what came before. It will bug some traditionalists; and following one of the finest original soundtracks in years was always going to be herculean task; but really it’s not that bad at all and deserves a chance to be appreciated on its own terms.

The only other major issue is that this game more than any other highlights the closeness of the right hand stick to the Vita’s face buttons. I can’t say this has really ever bothered me too much before (which in itself is odd as I must have played hundreds of hours of quick-reflex stuff on the machine) but something about having the jump on X and your thumb occasionally knocking the stick can make the game feel unfair frustrating rather than fun frustrating. Annoyingly you can’t map jump to any other button, as moving it to either circle or triangle would solve this problem almost instantly. I’ve hardly got huge trucker sausage fingers either so I suspect this is a far bigger problem for those who don’t have dainty digits like mine.

Mind you, this is hardly the game for those lacking dexterity. I think the reason I have always preferred this to genre stablemate Trials is that where the latter game rewards patience and a delicate touch, Meat Boy is a lot more about going hell-for-leather and making split second decisions. It can seem almost impossibly difficult, and for those less belligerent as I or without quite so many platforming hours under their belt, I expect the love affair will be short-lived. The dark and light world mechanic (where a tougher version of a previously completed level is unlocked if you get to Bandage Girl within a certain time) does provide a cleverly plotted difficulty curve and there are always plenty of options to get involved if you’re stuck. But you’ll also come up against levels like the notoriously difficult ‘The Kid’ warp zone which was surely designed by a sociopathic spike fetishist in a huff. If struggling with a single screen of platforming for two hours doesn’t sound like your idea of fun then there is the possibility that this isn’t the game for you.

Oddly for a game that’s only a few years old, Meat Boy does feel very much of his time. This isn’t a huge problem but the game does have the distinct flavour of the turn of the decade before we had the retro-themed Indie overload that we have today. The numerous titles that have appeared in the interim have dampened the impact somewhat and it’s no longer the trailblazer it once was. It’s like when every critically acclaimed T.V crime drama was suddenly created in Scandinavia. Yeah, they’re all good but sitting through a BBC4 repeat of The Killing isn’t very appealing either, no matter how snazzy the jumpers are. I feel like I’ve played so many rock-hard, frustrate-a-thons in the meantime can I really stomach going back through one of the originators again, no matter how much I love it?

Probably not, but then what the portability has done is changed the style of the play somewhat. I’m unlikely to spend weeks exclusively going through it again but whenever I pick up the Vita and see the chunky fella staring back at me I suspect I’ll be tempted to fire it up for a level or two. It’s now a tasty snack; a bite-sized sausage roll rather than an entire suckling pig; and it’s pretty neat how a simple switch of platform has changed my approach. The game has always been suited to this kind of play and I’ve found that despite its ridiculous difficulty, it’s not the kind of thing that you can really lose the knack for. Less than an hour of being reacquainted I was hurtling along, frantically slapping against the floor as if I’d never been away. But then the beauty of this game has always been in its exquisitely designed controls; the arc of the jump, the inertia, the slight stickiness against the walls and the soft decent. It’s the kind of thing that once it sinks into your head and fingers it will never really go away.

So, Super Meat Boy on Vita just about scrapes into the pantheon of games and machines that seem like a perfect fit. Like Tetris on the Gameboy, Frequency on the PS2 and Digidrive on the Micro (seriously, look it up, it’s called Intersect on the Nintendo eShop, I promise you won’t regret it) once you’ve had a go it’s difficult to imagine playing on anything else. The only slight danger of course is that in holding the game in your hands there’s a chance you’ll launch the machine through a window when things get a bit frisky. It’s an excellent game on a magnificent machine; a Kobe beef steak served on a silver platter. And although Meat Boy may not be as rare as he once was but there’s no doubting that his long-awaited arrival on a handheld is very well-done.

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 6th November 2015

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 6th November 2015

November 9, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Brad and John take a look at and review the charts and releases for week ending 6th November (Friday).

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It is a quick look at the charts which have had a bit of a mix up thanks to some of the new releases

Then it is a very look back at recent releases, including Halo 5: Guardians, Guitar Hero Live, WWE 2K16, Need For Speed, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate and more.

Then it is a look ahead to Persona 4: Dancing All Night, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Star Wars Battlefront and a little game by the name of Fallout 4.

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks).

This Week’s Top 10

1 HALO 5: GUARDIANS
2 ASSASSIN’S CREED: SYNDICATE
3 FIFA 16
4 WWE 2K16
5 MINECRAFT: STORY MODE
6 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
7 UNCHARTED: THE NATHAN DRAKE COLLECTION
8 WATCH DOGS
9 LEGO DIMENSIONS
10 LEGO JURASSIC WORLD

Details below on how else to catch this week’s show.


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Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate Review

November 3, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Are we at a point with the Assassin’s Creed series where fatigue has well and truly set in? Well after the mess that was Assassin’s Creed Unity, it seemed that way. Being a yearly franchise just doesn’t feel like the right thing, as bugs were rife in the last game and it was an absolute average affair, even if you discount those bugs.

So it was with some trepadation that I started Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. Sure, it had new characters and a different setting, but it is still an Assassin’s Creed game and if I am being honest, I really wasn’t excited for the release.

Yet here I am writing a review for what I consider the best of the series to date, I’d like to sat that this is because this Assassin’s Creed feels different, that is has new mechanics that set it apart from all the other titles. However that isn’t the case.

Mechanically this is as Assassin’s Creed as you can get, to the point you can pick it up and if you have played any of the previous games, you will feel very much at home. Much like most Ubisoft titles, you have a well realised open-world that comprises of main story missions and a ton of side quests and discoveries to keep you occupied.

Combat is nicely done, mixing up close quarters combat and stealth assassinations. At the same time though, the options you have to approach each mission feel a lot more open, allowing you to go in and choose your own approach. Take things as carefully and stealthily as you want, or approach the situation head-on. Both ways have their pros and cons but they both work well if that is your decision.

One thing that does stand out is the AI feels a lot better this time around, far from perfect, but a definite improvement. You do need to be on your toes at all times and slip-ups can be costly.

I’ll come back to combat soon, but I must mention the real reason this is the best in the series to date. That comes down to the characters, especially the two leads, Evie and Jacob Frye. The twins are superbly written and wonderfully acted. The thing that stands out the most is Evie herself and the way she is portrayed.

Games have had a long history of misrepresenting women and their place in the medium and is something that has been discussed at length in various places and something I don’t wish to dwell on for too long. Yet a lot of credit deserves to go Ubisoft’s way, especially after the criticism they rightfully got for Unity.

Just looking at Evie, you can tell from the outset she has been given equal status to her brother. There is nothing sexual about her appearance, she is dressed in a way that is practical to her profession, rather than for titillation, she is also treated with respect by her peers, rather than being used as a plot point to make others seem more powerful.

The interactions between herself and Jacob are well handled and treated like they are any other brother and sister, often at each other’s throats, but with that overall respect and love for each other. Jacob is a lot more cock-sure and is always looking for a more in your face approach to things, whereas Evie is a lot more careful and has a different set of skills.

Yet this isn’t a case of Evie being pushed to the side and only being able to the the less hands on stuff, as she can fight and fight as well as anyone. It never feels like you are playing a role that is specific to a women and it just happens to be a women who is part of the game.

It’s not just in the main characters where respect is given, there are gay characters, obese characters, trans-gender characters and more. Many of which are vital to the game’s story. Yet attention isn’t ever drawn to those characters for those things. They are just characters in a story and they are really well written too.

I never though I would be championing an Assassin’s Creed game for taking a mature approach to how a game handles people of many different walks of life, that doesn’t try to pigeon-hole anyone and simply treats them as human, but here we are.

Such is it the case that Ubisoft has listened to critics, is the loss of the merging with prostitutes to evade capture, which considering this is 1880’s London feel a little bizarre, as if my history knowledge is correct, then this is the one game where their inclusion could make sense.

London is beautiful too. Well it is dark and grimy but there is no denying that the artists at Ubisoft have done a great job in fleshing out London of the 1800’s and making it just feel alive. Whilst it isn’t a perfect one to one vision of London, the recognizable areas feel like they are just that.

It feels wonderful at times just taking it all in, climbing buildings and looking at London from the rooftops and that moment when you reach the top of Big Ben is just magical and one of those awe inspiring moments that you may have had at the start of Fallout 3, or when crossing into Mexico in Red Dead Redemption.

There are still bugs, but they honestly feel like they are less apparent than they were in Unity and in my time with the game, there were none that were game-breaking, but obviously your mileage may vary. So I won’t claim this is a completely bug-free experience.

Overall though, after the disaster that was Assassin’s Creed Unity, this is a true return to form for the series and for me Syndicate stands alone as the best of the lot to date.

Little Big Adventure Enhanced Review

Little Big Adventure Enhanced Review

October 30, 2015 By Gareth Chappell

Little Big Adventure is one of those games that we never quite got around to playing despite having bought it a few times. A cult classic, it has a loyal following and is fondly remembered by pretty much everyone who played it when it first came out. DotEmu have now released this enhanced and updated version of LBA but is it enough to make it work for newcomers?

Little Big Adventure follows the story of Twinsen who has been locked away by the tyrannical Dr FunFrock for having strange dreams about the end of the world. The evil doctor has taken over the planet and holds control through the use of clones which he uses to impose his rule. Twinsen’s first job is to escape from the prison and then set about finding out exactly what his dreams mean and what he can do to save the world.

The game is set out like a semi-isometric adventure where our hero enters and exits different areas via arrows around the edges of the scenes and everyone looks a bit like Weebles. You can talk to just about anyone and everything is voice acted which gives a solid feeling of a functioning world as the various inhabitants impart advice and general gossip to you. There are normally enemies roaming around as well which can be avoided by sneaking or punched and kicked. Shortly after the start you also get a magic ball thing you can chuck at them

The game plays out as an action adventure title where you have to go around and find clues about what to do and then collect objects and use them in order to progress. For instance – in one area you need to get the local people to trust you. They will then help you distract some guards which in turn allows you to get into a house. It’s the sort of game that doesn’t really exist anymore but one that was very prevalent around the time of the LBA’s original release on the PC. However, it was always a unique adventure game and that feeling still remains to this day.

A number of changes have now been made to the game in order to try and bring it up to modern standards. The most obvious of these is the new set of control systems. We started out with mouse control which turns LBA into a sort of point and click game. However, it’s dreadfully un-intuitive and awkward to use. We found simple getting around the screen difficult and numerous times interactions with the environment simply didn’t work. After a while we found ourselves descending into clicking all over the place near interest points in the vein hope something would register as the right place to click.

Not to be defeated we switched to the gamepad control and everything immediately became about one hundred times better. With movement now under direct control and things like running, jumping and sneaking mapped onto the buttons the whole thing becomes a much more joyful experience. The original keyboard ‘tank’ controls can no longer be used however, so you’ll either have to play the original version of the game that’s included or get used to one of the new schemes.

There is also a new status bar added which displays things like health and magic and if you are in sneak mode or not. You now zoom in and out as well, which certainly helps but could have been further improved by allowing you to pan around your environment in the same way as games such as Baldur’s Gate. Far too often you are left at the edge of the screen not able to see what is right in front of you as the camera doesn’t really keep Twinsen centred but normally scrolls along when he reaches certain points.

A welcome chance is improved saving as it’s all too easy to die or get captured. Although you can still only load them from the main menu screen. While this does stop constant cheap use of the system it’s still a bit annoying when you have to go out to the main menu just to load a game. A better system for working out where you are jumping or where exactly the magic ball is going to be thrown is also a very welcome addition.

The graphics haven’t been improved or filtered either so you get a sort of grainy jagged look to everything. That’s not a major issue on the face of it but it seems strange to release a new version of a game without giving it a bit of a facelift – especially when the original version of the game is also included. The map and objective screen could have really done with a facelift as well and we found it almost completely useless as everything just looked like pixelated blobs. A clear list of objectives and locations would have really helped.

It’s certainly not perfect but even as a relative newcomer to LBA once we got into it we really started to like it. The adventure itself is still very solid and there’s a unique humour and charm to everything. We also haven’t really played anything like it before which goes to show how original and unique the game really is. Ok, so more could have been done to make this a really special release but the gamepad controls at least make it playable for newcomers and the game underneath is certainly worth experiencing. With a bit of patience there’s still a lot of magic to be found here and we’d certainly recommend it to adventure game fans.

Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate Review

Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate Review

October 30, 2015 By Gareth Chappell

A few years ago PixelJunk Shooter first appeared on the PS3. Still one of the best games on the Playstation network it is finally now available on the PC. The first game had already been released but now the team have and combined Shooter 1 and 2 and spruced it up a bit to create Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate.

The plot, such as it is, has you sent in to rescue your crew mates after mysterious goings on while mining on the planet of Apoxus Prime. To do this you have to fly your craft around tight underground caverns while using water, lava and magnetic black liquids to your advantage. It’s reminiscent of Thrust with its inertia and gravity based gameplay but your craft will stay still if left alone. You also won’t die from hitting walls (which is a good thing or it would have been nigh on impossible).

The game is a 2D styled shooter where you manoeuvre your ship around a section of an enclosed map. Normally you will have to get water to turn lava to rock or lava to melt ice or some other combination of dropping one liquid onto another. You’re doing this because you need to get to and rescue all the lost crew members in each area. If too many of them die you have to start the level again. It’s wonderfully inventive and a whole lot of fun and there are hidden areas and diamonds to collect along the way as well.

The level design is nigh on perfect throughout the game and the difficulty curve is just about right. The huge boss monsters found at the end of each world may cause some frustration but they provide tense and heroic showdowns of David and Goliath proportions and once you work them out shouldn’t take too long to get past. The difficulty level ramps up considerably once you enter the second part of the game (Shooter 2), but it’s all still achievable.

Shooter Ultimate is now split into six main areas each consisting of five levels. There are the initial outer rocky areas, the ice caves and then the mine. After the mine something happens which we won’t spoil but you’ll be dealing with a host of new gases and liquids. Each individual level is split into sections which require everyone to be rescued before a bulk head opens to the next. Each has its own tricks and traps and will keep you on your toes throughout. If it gets too much you can always call a friend in for co-op action.

You’ll also need to think quickly as the game has a wonderful way of getting you to forget what you’ve just learnt. For instance, for the first area you are trying to keep away from lava (overheating causes you to crash), but then in the ice caves you’ll come across an inversion suit which makes lava cool you down and water heat you up.

It’s a game that keeps throwing new ideas and things at you to keep you interested. The water suit and lava suit are just the start and you’ll soon be switching around and dealing with freezing lakes and clouds of gas as well as the usual lava and water. The key thing is that everything stays fun and creative throughout. Once you’ve completed the game you’ll probably want to dive back in to further explore the levels and find all the missing diamonds and any crew you missed along the way. There’s even a hidden level to try and unlock and online combat.

PixelJunk Shooter is a game we’re still playing on the PS3 to this day. The fact a whole new audience can now pick it up is great and this really is one of the best games of its type. Q-Games have crafted something special here and the years have done nothing to diminish its appeal. With PixelJunk Shooter 2 included as well it becomes an essential purchase for PC owners. We’ll be playing it through for yet another time and we would recommend everyone else do the same.

This was always going to be a certified hit with us as long as nothing had gone wrong in the conversion and from our experience this offers all the fun of the original. PC gamers really need to play this as it’s simply a masterfully executed, great little game packed with more invention and ideas than most massive AAA releases can even come close to.

Life is Strange: Episode 5 – Polarized Review

Life is Strange: Episode 5 – Polarized Review

October 30, 2015 By Adam Gulliver

Every now and again a game comes around that despite having issues you cannot ignore, you can’t help but be in awe of what you have just experienced. A game that while not perfect you want to shout at as many people as will listen about how they must play this game. Life is Strange is one of those.

Now that the conclusion has been reached it’s time to look back on the game as a whole and while there were a few bumps in the road, it’s a game that has largely been excellent.

As a story about time travel you’d imagine it all breaks a little towards the end, like so many films and games that have come before, only it doesn’t. It’s quite amazing how neatly it all ends, no plot holes (from what I can tell) and some of the decisions I was forced to make left me reeling, playing an important part in the way the plot unfolded.

Though it’s not without its blemishes. The teen dialogue can at times feel forced, with Chloe’s constant use of the word “hella” being the main culprit. It’s an annoying trait that you do reel in slightly as each episode unfolds and despite her annoying moments you do like her character, despite the faults.

Then there are the breaks in the story where they needed filler. Remember the bottle collecting part from a previous episode? Well, that’s back again in episode 5 for some reason, albeit in an optional achievement capacity.

As episode 5 begins our hero Max is in a sticky situation. The true culprit has been revealed and only the use of her time travel powers can help her escape. It’s certainly a big opening and requires some thought on how to escape, often rewinding and trying different options in a trial and error fashion. Trial and error being something I usually hate, but here it weirdly works as you witness each outcome and figure out how you could’ve avoided it.

Be warned as well, there is also a stealth section. As soon as I saw what was to come I let out a massive sigh. Forcing stealth gameplay into something that isn’t of the stealth genre usually ends in utter misery. Here, it’s different. Thanks to the ability to rewind time, it’s never challenging or a problem. It’s just a little gameplay section on the way to furthering the story. As soon as you get caught just press the trigger and everything rewinds as Max stays still.

When it comes to gameplay moments, this is possibly the weakest episode. Aside from the two bits mentioned above there’s very little else other than talking and walking. The latter being used quite a bit as Max’s nosebleeds and abuse of time soon leads to some utter bizarre moments later in the story.  But then this is the finale. It’s clear the goal was to finish the tale and tie everything up into a neat little package. And they succeeded. Endings are hard as countless games have proven, often leaving loose ends or just leaving a sour aftertaste. Life is Strange manages to wrap everything up so neatly it’s actually a little surprising. It’s a story that despite a few hiccups had my utmost attention throughout.

It’s one of the most interesting games released in a while that I can’t recommend enough. It’s not just the surprise of the year, it’s possibly the game of the year.

Guitar Hero Live Review

Guitar Hero Live Review

October 27, 2015 By Jason Scott

I live in Colchester and round here everyone has a story about the band Blur. Mine is that my parents were friends with the drummer Dave and when I was a baby he knitted me a shawl. You’re impressed, I can tell. During the great Britpop war of the mid-nineties, being a contrary little bugger I fell on the side of Oasis. This was mostly down to some instinctual teenage reflex to dislike whatever everyone around me liked. But time has brought me round to the idea that I was probably wrong; that Blur actually were quite good and that maybe the most popular option isn’t automatically the worst after all.

This brings me tenuously onto Guitar Hero versus Rock Band. I’m a huge fan of Harmonix (to the extent where for large periods of my first year as a student I was playing Frequency like it was a full time job) and I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about Activision sweeping in, swamping the shelves with releases and strolling away proudly satisfied with yet another cash cow well and truly milked. It always bugged me that ‘Guitar Hero’ was the name synonymous in the public consciousness; like ‘Fifa’ is with football or ‘Call of Duty’ is with everything. I’d be at pains to explain to people that ‘well, actually, the makers of Rock Band made the first two and you should really play their previous games which you’ve probably never heard of’ before adjusting my glasses, stroking my beard and noticing that the person I was talking to had fallen into a twat induced coma.

Well, perhaps I was wrong and Harmonix aren’t all sunshine, buttercups and pies cooling by the kitchen window. Rock Band 3 may be The Greatest Videogame of All Time but 4 has proven that they are just as capable of producing a cynical cash grab when the mood takes them. Guitar Hero Live on the other hand seems like an uncharacteristically brave resurrection; dropping drums, rearranging the guitar buttons, replacing the chunky graphical style with first-person live action video and completely changing the approach to DLC, making all your old tracks incompatible in the process. It’s a bold move; some might even say even stupid and far from the kind of thing you would expect from a company as risk adverse as the hulking, evil mega-corp that is Activision. But do you know what? They’ve only gone and pulled it off.

Firstly, the new guitar. The traditional row of five coloured buttons has now been replaced with two rows of three; black at the top and white underneath. The theory behind this is that it will simultaneously easier for beginners, who now only have to deal with three buttons, and more complicated for experts who will have to twist their fingers into more chord-like positions. I found that getting used to the new placements was surprisingly easy, considering my brain was fighting against ten years of muscle memory, but once it started to introduce notes that covered both black and white buttons, it took a monumental amount of concentration to fight every instinct and get my fingers into the right positions. But once it clicked, the feeling was electric. I don’t play a real instrument so this is based entirely on my uneducated perception, but the new layout does feel fractionally more like playing the real thing. I can’t say with any degree of certainty that either button layout is definitively better than the other but this new method is refreshingly different and that’s surely to be applauded. It’s quite nice to be crap at the videogame guitar again and experience the progression from novice to not-so-novice. The only major downside to the new guitar is that the strum bar makes an awful lot of racket. I believe that this is intentional and some players prefer to rock to the sound of incessant clicking but for me it does verge on the distracting and could have done with being toned down a bit.

Next up, the way it looks. I’ll admit to nearly cringing myself inside out when I saw the initial reveal and expected the finished product to be endearingly rubbish at the very best. The danger in putting you directly behind the eyes of the lead guitarist is that most of the bands are populated by unlikeable dickheads and their cheesy thumbs-up, overly-earnest nodding and in the case of one bassist, outrageous flirting, can feel faintly ridiculous. The crowds, although convincingly large, seem to have taken a leaf out of the Pro Evolution Soccer guide to banner writing and litter the scenery with embarrassingly poor quotes and you’ll catch the occasional Hollyoaks reject desperately trying to mug their way into the centre of the shot. But somehow, despite all the naffness, it actually works.

It would be generous to say that the acting ever goes high above the passable but the live action sequences are directed by someone with an eye for the spectacular and the timing to produce moments of genuine magic. To give one example, early on you will play for a band called The Portland Cloud Orchestra at a mock Glastonbury festival called SoundDial. This band consists of the most punchable bunch of bare-footed, daisy chain wearing, faux folk rockers you could possibly imagine. Their care-free frolicking and beardy banjo-twiddling is irritating beyond all belief and I spent the first song desperately trying to avoid eye-contact lest I launched my guitar into the television. Weirdly, over the course of the next two songs, with the day gradually turning into night and the crowd being whipped into a sing along frenzy, I actually warmed to them. By the time we got to the tweed frivolity of Mumford and Sons ‘I Will Wait’, a song that usually brings me out in a severe case of the vomits, I was all ready to paint flowers on my face, jump in their organic cider bus and tootle off to their mountain retreat. It’s difficult to say much more for fear of spoilers, but often the timing between the live action and the music is so wonderfully perfect that it can pierce even the most cynical of black hearts. These games have always been brilliant at capturing the dank dinginess of a club or the brash excess of a stadium tour, but Live has managed to bottle the bliss of a festival where it never rains. You can almost smell the naughty cigarettes.

And this is playing for a band who are essentially my kryptonite. When you’re the guitarist for a band you might actually quite like to be in (in my case, despite their wonky musical inspirations, Quantum Freqs, whose name I can’t help but hope is an appreciative nod to Harmonix’s debut) the wish fulfilment is taken to previously untapped levels. There is a danger that in capturing 2015 music culture so effectively that the whole deal is going to age terribly. But for now, it works a treat.

Lastly and perhaps most controversially, is the T.V element. Live’s approach to downloadable content and providing the player with an extended music library is to give you a couple of constantly rolling music video channels that you can play along to. What this does is give you access to over 200 tracks for free, but not necessarily the ones you want, when you want to play them. If you do want to pick and choose you can either use ‘plays’ that are rewarded for high scores or, you guessed it, via microstransactions. Even then, you don’t get to keep access to that one song forever so you never actually ‘own’ any of the additional tracks. It does feel all a little bit icky, more so when you notice that the multiplier power up, surely essential to compete in the leaderboards, is restricted to high level or cash rich players.

This kind of behaviour would normally find me storming Activison headquarters with a placard where it not for the fact they seem to have got the rate at which you’re awarded free plays woefully unbalanced to the point where I’m currently sitting on thousands of coins and thirty-odd free song choices. You would expect this generosity to dry up rather quickly, but currently I see little evidence of it slowing down. It’s also quite a lot of fun to just play along to the streams, letting song after song just wash over you and not concentrating on one track for hours on end. Personally, I can actually see this model saving me money as I’m less likely to drunkenly purchase a song, play it once and then promptly forget about it. But there’s no doubt that this shift in ownership of your music library does have a faintly sinister air and there is the permanent danger that this whole chunk of the game is going to be switched off one day when the suits notice it’s not bringing the cash in. Again, it’s an interesting new direction, but one you suspect was inspired by balance sheets rather than any kind of artistic endeavour.

So I like the guitar, I like the live action and I quite like T.V; so why isn’t the score higher? Well in implementing all these radical changes Freestyle have somewhat thrown the baby out with the bathwater. The loss of drums is massive for me and the focus is now very much on the solo guitarist. There is a two player mode somewhere and you can plug in a microphone if you really want, but both seem like a bit of an afterthought. Rock Band and Guitar Hero have always been at their very best when played by a group of four and it is a little bit odd that this defining feature has been removed entirely. It is very, very good on your own (although not quite as good as Freestyle’s DJ Hero) but like most guitar solos, it’s just massively self-indulgent. Remember the Guns ‘N’ Roses November Rain video where Slash walks out in the middle of his mate’s wedding to play guitar in the middle of the desert? Playing Live can feel a bit like that; epic but selfish.

To bring it back to my painfully strained Blur vs Oasis metaphor, while Liam and Noel have spent the last twenty years trying to recapture their glory years with ever less successful tribute acts, Damon Albarn has formed a cartoon hip-hop band and penned an opera about monkeys. Guitar Hero Live feels like one of these experiments. It’s unique, fresh and strangely life-affirming and not even the looming shadow of the record company suits can completely take that away. Maybe the most popular option isn’t automatically the worst after all.

Persona 4: Dancing All Night Review

Persona 4: Dancing All Night Review

October 26, 2015 By Adam Gulliver

It’s really amazed me to see what started off as this late PS2-era, niche JRPG turn into this unexpected success story with an anime, enhanced port on the Vita and a number of spin offs. The latest of which being Dancing All Night, a nice little rhythm game.

If you think about it, Persona 4 fits better into the rhythm game mould better than most, after all, a major facet of the rhythm genre is music. And Persona 4 has some of the best music you can find. But it also has the same issue that Arena (Persona’s fighting game spin off) had.

Most notably it’s with the Story Mode. If you’re heavily invested in the Persona 4 lore then this won’t really affect you, but like Arena it plays a lot like a visual novel with a few gameplay portions thrown in. The story takes a long while to get going with the opening part being quite boring, even for someone like me who’s digested everything from Arena to the anime it’s a bit of a slog to get to the actual meat of the story.

The mystery while obviously not as in depth as the JRPG does eventually go some more interesting places. Yu and his friends being asked by Rise to be her backing dancers in an upcoming concert/festival. Things go a bit wrong however and they soon find themselves dragged into another world where instead of hitting things, they have to dance to win. It actually makes more sense when you play the game, and it’s quite clever how they somehow managed to wrap a story around a game where you just press buttons in time to the music while your character does some crazy dance moves in the background.

Gameplay is quite simple. Notes coming flying in from the middle and you have to press one of six buttons as it passes. Soon though you’ll have to press two buttons at the same time, hold buttons or flick the right stick as things get more challenging. And it does get challenging, at least on the hard difficulty.

While easy is just there so people can see the story as quickly as possible, even Normal posed zero problems. Beating each song was a cakewalk and I never failed once. Hard is a completely different story as only a few misses and it takes a while to build your meter back. Your fail state depending on the little people characters at the top of the screen, going from red (you’re screwed) to flashing and jumping (you’re awesome).

It’s a shame that like every game of its type from Elite Beat Agents to Guitar Hero, you’re too busy focusing on not screwing up that you can’t take in the visual delights that’s playing out in the background. Dancing All Night is a lovely looking game, and the few moments I did take a glance it was quite a great sight. There is a replay mode though so you can just watch and enjoy if you so choose (and pick up a trophy for your trouble).

With a good amount of songs and not to mention future DLC in the pipeline, there’s certainly a decent amount of content here. Not to mention three difficulties, a ton of content to buy in the store (for in-game currency) and the potential to go back to past songs attempting to beat your old score.

However while this is a phrase that I really dislike using, this game really is only for existing fans of Persona. The story mode could come across as incomprehensible nonsense for those who aren’t familiar with the setting and characters, and while the inner monologue tries its hardest to get newcomers caught up, the Persona 4 lore is so deep that explaining it can be difficult.

If you love Persona though and can’t get enough of Yu, Kanji and Yosuke then you’ve probably already ordered your copy. And rightly so.

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 23rd October 2015

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 23rd October 2015

October 23, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Brad and John take a look at and review the charts and releases for week ending 23rd October (Friday).

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It is a quick look at the charts which despite a break for a week doesn’t seem to have changed all that much.

Then it is a very look back at recent releases, including Transformers Devastation, Wasteland 2, The Talos Principle, Downwell, the amazing Rebel Galaxy, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and a lot more.

Then it is a look ahead to Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Halo 5, Guitar Hero Live and Legend of Zelda: Tri-Force…well, not exactly, we end up chatting about the Co-Op.

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks).

This Week’s Top 10

1 FIFA 16
2 UNCHARTED: THE NATHAN DRAKE COLLECTION
3 DESTINY: THE TAKEN KING
4 LEGO DIMENSIONS
5 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
6 FORZA MOTORSPORT 6
7 METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN
8 TALES OF ZESTIRIA
9 LEGO JURASSIC WORLD
10 MINECRAFT: XBOX EDITION

Details below on how else to catch this week’s show.


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Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below Review

Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below Review

October 20, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Oh how I am jealous for WiiU owners having had to part with my console. I loved playing Hyrule Warriors and despite having access to the likes of Dynasty Warrors on next gen consoles and the VIta nothing quite felt the same.

Yet here I am with Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below a game as far removed from what I understood a Dragon Quest game to be, as I can imagine. From the very first moment I picked up the Dragon Quest Heroes it felt familiar, more than it should have.

I will admit it is a game I paid little attention to once I heard of its reveal, not through ignorance, but just I knew I wanted to play a Dragon Quest game and was happy to avoid all media coverage and see what fell on my lap come release day.

Because it felt so similar to Hyrule Warrior and Dynasty Warriors I had to dig a little after my first moments with the game. Lo and behold, the reason I felt like I knew this game, was because the team working on it was Omega Force.

Y’know, the guys who developed Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors, Toukiden, Warriors Orochi and much more. This was one of theirs, using another new setting and basically a new skin. Want to know something? I couldn’t be happier.

The various ‘Warriors’ games are wonderful to pick up and waste time on, just destroying endless waves of enemies and feeling like a general badass. The very moment you pick up a controller, whether you have experience of Omega Force games or not, you just know what to do. You hack & slash your way through arenas with a huge grin on your face just enjoying what is happening on the screen before you.

With Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree’s Woe and the Blight Below, this is no different and whilst there is a story to follow, you can easily ignore it, enter a level and murder everything that dare stand in your way.

Personally I’d like to say there is more to it than that. That there is a bit more depth and sophistication when you scratch below the surface, but the truth it, there simply isn’t and that is a good thing. As not every game needs to have this deep meaningful reason to exist. Sometimes you just want to enjoy a spectacle, pick something up and play it. This is one such game.

Of course there are the opportunities to level up your characters and make them better, but that is all fairly streamlined as the game pretty much just urges you to get into the action. But there are a few things that make it feel different to Omega Force’s usual affair.

Because it is based on the Dragon Quest series, it feels like there is much more emphasis on telling a story and giving substance to the characters. This is something I felt would hamper the game a little, but in actual fact it has made me want to try some of the mainline Dragon Quest games.

The presentation too seems to be up there with Hyrule Warriors, which felt like it finally showed Omega Force could actually add polish to their overall experience. Looking through videos and stills of other Dragon Quest games, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is part of that world.

Compared to other games from Omega Force there is a lack of extras, with the game focusing on the story driven campaign and being aimed more at the single player, rather than a co-op experience. This is pretty disappointing to start with, but the longer you play, there less you miss that option. Yet it wouild have been nice to have.

The one thing I did feel though, is unlike Hyrule Warriors, there is no need to go back and play it over and over, once the campaign is finished that really does feel like that is it. Whereas Hyrule Warriors felt wonderful repeating mission and using different characters, this just didn’t have that and is honestly a one and done game for me.

That isn’t to say that one isn’t a wonderful experience, because it truly is and having finished I am already looking forward to some kind of sequel, hopefully to include more of the options that make and Omega Force game the wonderful entities they are.

Blood Bowl II Review

Blood Bowl II Review

October 20, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

I love sport, well not all sports, but a fair few, I love videogames, I love sports videogames. However, I am bored of just seeing the usual simulation only type games and what feels like the death of arcade sports and developers willing to try something different.

So this is where something like Blood Bowl steps in. It takes its cues from various different worlds, worlds that technically should never be able to mix. The world of sports, the world of fantasy and the world of table top gaming all mixed up to produce something that really works.

I will admit, I hadn’t really paid much attention to Blood Bowl before, yet I was aware of it, so before jumping in to Blood Bowl II it felt right to have a look at the original PC release so I could see what the sequel has improved on, or not in some cases.

The first thing that really stands out is the presentation. Because it has no real world base to follow Blood Bowl II can really push the boat out and at times parody real world sports expertly. The two presenters / commentators are an absolute joy to listen to as they really put their own take on the play by play and colour commentator roles you’ll find in most sports.

It’s not just the voice acting that works here, it is the depth of the script, where seemingly the developers have created a full blown history of the made up sports so previous events can be called upon when building up the coming matches and events.

The single player mode works well to and has a well rounded story to it that is pure sports fantasy, with an owner needing to rip a team apart and rebuild then from scratch, with you being the man to take them all the way. It’s not Any Given Sunday, but it certainly entertains throughout.

Aside from the presentation the mechanics, whilst initially looking as complicated as anything are actually really simple. The opening gambit does a great job of setting the scene and teaching new players the game. It breaks down the basics of gameplay and introduces the strategies at their core and by the time you take on the next game unaided you feel like you have the basics down and are ready.

Of course, try and play online, or against a better AI you soon realise how unprepared you are tactically, but still you have a solid base of which to begin your Blood Bowl career.

Each team has their own style of play, which utilizes different players types and will really affect how the game is played each time. Yet it’s not just the different styles that work, each team also has a genuine personality and players you grow to love or hate.

For those who have no clue about Blood Bowl, the easiest way to explain the game is that it is a modified version of American Football, set in a fantasy world, using turn-based table-top mechanics.

I really cannot stress enough how quickly you go from completely confused to getting a solid grasp of the the game. Literally within the space of a tutorial and a second game, yet it will take many, many hours to fully understand the depth Blood Bowl has to offer. Which from a personal point of view, I really like, as it means there is a reason to keep playing, as you continue to learn.

This version of Blood Bowl has been released on both PC and consoles and again my personal preference is that it has made it easier to control and play compared to the original, thanks to the need to use a controller to make it work on the consoles. This has simplified some things, which I suppose many may dislike, but for me it makes it much more accessible.

Outside of the main campaign the options are pretty limited, allowing you to play a standalone league season, or play friendly matches locally or online. A nice touch though it the Cabel TV mode, which allows you to view full replays of your matches, or saved community replays.

Yet there is one part that stands above, the ability to watch live games! Yep, you can choose to search for and watch live games as they are happening, jumping in at any moment to view the action. The presenters will introduce you to the game as you enter and then you can sit back and watch.

This is something I have wanted to see in sports games for years now. That ability to jump in and spectate. When we are in a world where communities have setup leagues for FIFA, NHL, Madden, NBA, etc this sort of thing allows the community events to be run at a much higher level.

Imagine being able to scout your next opponent by watching their current game, to get an idea of how to set your tactics against them, or watch the final of a cup competition, all without the need of relying on Twitch or YouTube.

As I type this review, I am watching a random game from an online Blood Bowl II matchup and am enjoying myself immensely. So far it is this and Rocket League that have nailed this idea and is putting down the foundations for this to become the norm over the next few years.

With Blood Bowl II, this has another use, as it allows new players to watch how others play and again get a solid grasp of certain mechanics to take back to their games. A wonderful addition and one that deserves immense amounts of praise.

The main issue with Blood Bowl II is who it can really appeal to. If you hate the idea of sports games, then this really isn’t going to be for you, same if you are not a fan of turn-based gameplay or even the world it is based in.

But for those who have even a passing interest in any of those, then this is something you must at least check out, because what it does, it does fantastically well.

Rock Band 4 Review

Rock Band 4 Review

October 13, 2015 By Jason Scott

Crooning, beefcake pop sensation Thom Yorke once sang, “whatever makes you happy, whatever you want”. You get the impression that this was in the minds of Harmonix when they made Rock Band 3. An almost embarrassingly deep pool of riches, its breadth would have surely marked the end of the plastic instrument phenomenon if the genre wasn’t on its last legs already. You had harmonies, keyboards, cymbals, stringed guitars and thousands upon thousands of tracks. It seemed there was nowhere else to go; short of adding a saxophone or trumpet, whose inevitably salvia sodden mouthpiece doesn’t really bear thinking about. It was the utter pinnacle of the music genre; a game honed over iterations by a developer with an obvious passion and skill for what they were creating. It’s my desert island disc, my main stage headliner and my favourite game of all time. It’s as damn near perfect a videogame I can think of. Where the hell do you go after that?

The answer, unfortunately, is backwards. Rock Band 4 sees the next generation graced with the kind of version that would be crucified by the gaming community if it had Activision on the box rather than nice, cuddly Harmonix. Incomprehensibly lacking several major features and the distinct air of a ‘that’ll do’ attitude, what we have here is so obviously rushed to beat Guitar Hero onto the shelves that any goodwill you may have for the company quickly begins to fade away. It’s a quick fix, a hack job; and it’s utterly heart breaking to see the series treated in this fashion.

But first; let me bury the burning, black ball of disappointment in my stomach and sweep away the shards of my shattered hopes and dreams to assure you that the core experience is as magical and wondrous as ever. Despite making you look ridiculous and sound terrible in reality, Rock Band’s trick of convincing you of your musical expertise has not been dampened in the intervening years. To watch a group play is to see your favourite songs ruined by out-of-tune shrieks and the incessant clicking of toy instruments, but to actually play is to be transported instantly on stage in front of a crowd of adoring fans. It’s a captivating illusion and when everything falls into place; when all four of you are in the zone and the screen is alight with the yellow buzz of deployed star power; there is very little in gaming that can match it.

One of the other beauties of this series is the way it can nurture a love for a song or genre that you’d normally never touch with a bargepole. The presence of Rock Band 3’s Rammstein in my music library is about as appropriate as Damien Rice doing an acoustic set at Download. But in the actual playing of their particular brand of Germanic, industrial electro-metal, I found an appreciation of the raw power and intensity until I was uncontrollably head banging, legs stretched wide, doing that devil horn thing with my hands. I very nearly rushed out and bought a pair of leather trousers. Of course, you’re always likely to gravitate towards those songs that fall within your particular tastes, but by placing you within the creation of a song and making a game out of it, Rock Band has the potential to shatter your preconceptions and prejudices and even make shit like Alphabeat sound tolerable.

With that in mind, I approached the track listing in 4 with a receptive attitude. Unfortunately it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Music taste is wildly subjective of course but there’s an awful lot of bland, Brit-award winning fodder and ‘I hate you Mum and Dad, I’m not going to tidy my room’, American teen angst. When the final two tracks on disc were revealed as U2 (one of which being from their most recent album – everyone wanted that, right?) I shrugged so hard I nearly dislocated my shoulder. ‘Uptown Funk’, one of the finest pop songs of the last ten years, joins the ranks of tracks that seem like they should be more fun to play than they actually are and Queens of the Stone Age, whose songs normally seem tailor-made for this game, are represented by the rather dreary and monotonous ‘My God is the Sun’.

But it’s not all bad news; St Vincent’s ‘Birth in Reverse’ is delightfully mental and ‘Fever’ by The Black Keys is excellent fun; particularly when the crowd sing along to the stabby, synth hook. And you can all thank me for White Denim’s ‘At Night, In Dreams’ which I submitted through the games website when they were taking requests. A ferocious four minutes of pure, adrenaline fuelled brilliance it looks certain to join the ranks of my go-to songs each and every time I fire up the game. Given the wildly varying quality of the rest of the tracks in the game, I’m taking full responsibility for its inclusion.

But for goodness sake, just make sure to take the freestyle solos off so you don’t ruin the end for yourself. The big, new, back-of-the-box feature for this entry, which replaces the games complicated and epic solos with a kind of structured improvisation, seems like brilliant fun the first time you do it but the novelty wears off very quickly. If I wanted to be generous, I can kind of see the appeal for playing with the family on Christmas Day and making the songs easier and more inclusive. But to be completely honest (and more than a little snobby) if you enjoy this feature then save yourself £40 and buy a Fisher Price Rock and Learn Guitar and just hammer the buttons on that for much the same experience.

Of the other new features, it now counts you in when your instrument has a bit of downtime which is handy. And voting for the next song will perhaps prevent minutes of scrolling through hundreds of songs and make sure you spend more time playing, so I guess that’s quite good. Oh, and the brightly coloured disco beaming from the lightbar on the PS4 pad is pretty nice. And if it sounds like I’m struggling for plus points here, it’s because I am.

One of the big draws of this game was supposed to be backwards compatibility with your previously owned tracks. Now, this might be the fault of the infamously inept Sony EU PSN team, but so far I have been unable to download any of my hundreds of downloadable tracks despite trying several times. And even if it was working, the process of actually getting hold of them is excruciating. Hopefully this will be streamlined later down the line (and it may be grossly unfair laying the blame for this at the feet of the game) but it’s a problem that exists and it desperately needs to be given some attention.

Elsewhere, Harmonix have said that Rock Band 4 is a return to the core of the series, presumably in an attempt to recreate the glory days of the late 00’s. What this has meant in reality is that they’ve cut off huge chunks of the game. Pro Guitars is perhaps understandable; only appealing to a tiny subset of the audience and presumably a lot of work to implement. But it’s a massive shame that keyboards didn’t make the cut, as along with harmonies and no fail mode, it was probably the best innovation since the series began.

Other areas in which the game is lacking are just bizarre. The character customisation options are virtually non-existent. I hardly have the most outlandish appearance (think of a significantly less trendy Mark Ronson and you’re halfway there) but have found it impossible to make anything that looks even remotely like me. Of course, this kind of window dressing doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but it’s symptomatic of the lack of attention or care that has been given to the game in general. Hilariously, and I’m only putting this in because it made me chuckle in disbelief, but the character limit for your band name has been reduced too. The power of the next generation, ladies and gentlemen.

To be fair to Harmonix, they have said that they view this release as a ‘service’ and plan to build on it with free updates rather than release a 5 or a 6. But coupled with the supply issues that have plagued the games U.K release and you start to wonder if this half-hearted attempt to resurrect the series was worth the bother at all. No matter how much I may love prancing around my living room pretending to be Elvis Costello; I can’t help but think that like Wii Fit balance boards and Kinects, the general public has moved on from this phenomenon. The fact that despite my general cack-handedness on the guitar I’m still regularly getting into the top 100 on the leaderboards on the first time of asking, suggests I’m probably right. It’s more than a little worrying that Harmonix may have bet the house on this and it’s all about to blow up in their faces.

Rock Band 4 is bare bones sequel to a spectacular game and your mileage will depend on how desperate you are to play these games on the newer consoles. It’s still capable of producing moments of magic, and the solid foundations and framework are still present, but the rest has been trashed like Keith Moon’s hotel room. Notoriously well-groomed, social butterfly Thom Yorke once sang ‘no alarms and no surprises’. Sadly, what we’ve got here is far too many of the former and not nearly enough of the later.

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 9th October 2015

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 9th October 2015

October 9, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Brad and John take a look at and review the charts and releases for week ending 9th October (Friday).

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It is a quick look at the charts with a quicker than usual rundown and a short chat about Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer and a lot less football talk.

We apologise for a short show this week, as Brad was feeling rough, but we still find time to talk about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, Skyhill and Super Meat Boy.

Then it is the usual look ahead to Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, Jackbox Party Pack 2, WRC5, Sublevel Zero and Minecraft Story Mode

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks).

This Week’s Top 10

1 FIFA 16
2 LEGO DIMENSIONS
3 NBA 2K16
4 DESTINY: THE TAKEN KING
5 FORZA MOTORSPORT 6
6 ANIMAL CROSSING: HAPPY HOME DESIGNER
7 METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN
8 SKYLANDERS SUPERCHARGERS
9 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
10 MAD MAX

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GS Quick Look: The Escapists’ The Walking Dead

GS Quick Look: The Escapists’ The Walking Dead

October 7, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Rick has gone cray cray, Daryl is the best character, Carl is annoying and did we mention Rick has gone cray cray? It’s time for some more The Walking Dead…This time from the team behind The Escapists

 

Brad and John take a look at The Escapists’ The Walking Dead a standalone expansion to the original prison break adventure, with added zombies?


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GS Quick Look: Pro Evolution Soccer 2016

GS Quick Look: Pro Evolution Soccer 2016

October 5, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Football, kick the football, shoot the football, pass the football, FOOTBALL. It’s that time of the year when sports take over and it is time to look at the better of the two football entries this year, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016.

 

Brad and John take a look at PES2016, a game about getting balls into a goal, but without any cars in sight…this is some kind of madness, humans instead of cars?


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Yoshi’s Woolly World Review

Yoshi’s Woolly World Review

October 5, 2015 By Adam Gulliver

Coming after the likes of Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, two of the best platformers on the Wii U, Yoshi’s Woolly World already had an uphill struggle to try and stand proudly alongside them. And it’s been a bit of a fumble.

Unless you’re dead inside then once you’ve gotten past the “OMG IT LOOKS SOOOOOO CUTE” phase of playing Yoshi, then everything seems fine. Early levels are easy, getting you to grips with the egg mechanic. Working exactly the same as previous games, collecting eggs (or turning enemies into them) then throwing as the curser moves on its own from top to bottom. Sadly the game doesn’t really evolve much as you work your way through the six worlds.

Differences as you progress are only really visual. Yes, all the platformer trademarks are here from ice to fire and the wool visual style really brings them to life, it’s just not particularly interesting. Early levels are incredibly easy, and while the majority of the challenge comes from the amount of collectibles in each level it would be nice to find an additional challenge in reaching the label’s end. It doesn’t help that the levels themselves are far too long. Some are double the size you’d expect to find in other platformers and maybe I’m just impatient, but I’d much prefer a short, but memorable level than a long, padded out one.

As I write this I’m struggling to think of moments that really stood out and I only completed the game a couple of days ago. Aside from the final stage that brings a unique, exploration aspect to the game it’s all so forgettable.

That aside, have I mentioned how beautiful the game looks? More than just an artistic choice, it’s quite clever how it interacts with the environment. Using Yoshi’s tongue to unravel blocks and enemies, yarn eggs to reveal platforms and just the way Yoshi himself transforms his body, from running really fast (legs turning to wheels as he trundles on) to completely unravelling as he catapults himself to the next world. Quite frankly it’s one of the best looking games I’ve seen, not bad for a game on the least powerful console.

The game does try to use its yarn aesthetic to really play around with each level. From enemies firing buttons at you to Yoshi transforming into a variety of vehicles during some rather fun mini levels. It feels like a game that was built around its graphical style. And while obviously graphics aren’t the most important factor in a game, if Woolly World didn’t have this style then it would really have nothing to fall back on.

A bit harsh maybe, as during the final levels it does pick up slightly with some good boss fights and a unique last stage where you’re left wondering where this challenge was earlier. And with five flowers, five pieces of yarn and stamps scattered across every level there is plenty here to keep you occupied but whether you actually want to go through the hassle is another thing entirely.

As it stands, unless you’re a die-hard Nintendo fanatic who will snap up anything put out for the system then you’re going to be left cold with Yoshi’s latest adventure.

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1 Review

Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1 Review

October 3, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Everyone has their own personal bars for their best and worst games. My own personal worst game of all time was (and note the ‘was’) Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. A game that for me played like the developers had never actually played any of the original games.

Anyway, that has dropped a spot to my second worst game, after being replaced by the awful, nay, beyond awful Afro Samurai 2: Revenge of Kuma Volume 1. A game so bad, I am surprised it even found its way into the wild.

I have played bad games before and usually if they are bad you can get some sense of what the developer was aiming for, you can tell they just couldn’t get it to work as intended and it will have one or two redeeming features.

That is just not the case for Afro Samurai 2, the sequel to the pretty decent if average Afro Samurai released in 2009. So I was pretty interested in playing a follow up. But within a few seconds, I could tell this was going to be bad.

Menus, UI, designs, everything before even the game started appeared second rate at best, as though design wasn’t even thought about and the work experience kid had been asked to cobble something together for homework. So bad that same kid wouldn’t even submit it for his GCSE Graphic Design coursework.

It’s not just the design of the UI that is horrible, they are even broken in a way that just shouldn’t happen in this day and age. Level selecting is a meta-game in itself as getting to the choice you want is a ballache of moving around a poorly designed map.

Then the game starts and it is as ugly as sin. Even if we were in the early 2000’s and playing on a PS2 it would still look ugly. Somehow, it looks worse than the original, which wasn’t pretty to begin with.

The gameplay itself is the worst part though, basic controls are awkward, the fight systems fail to work and despite trying to be influenced by the Arkham series fight mechanics, there is no smoothness to combat at all. There are meant to be combo moves, reversals, different styles and more, but it just feels disjointed.

The different fight styles are a requirement to beat certain characters, but aside from pressing a button to change them, there really feels like there is no connection and no need for this. It is so pointless and the differences so non-existent you can forget that you need to change styles.

The poor combat and movement in itself wouldn’t be so bad (well actually it would) if there was some flow to the game. But again there it falls flat on its face. It has more cut-scenes than all of Hideo Kojima’s games put together.

Yet those cut-scenes make little to no sense, you have a quick battle, move on, look like you are ready for another confrontation and bang! It is a cut-scene that plays out for you. It breaks up the game far too much and if anything tells me that the developers knew they had a bad product on their hands and wanted to be sure players weren’t subjected to too much of it.

Even then, the cut-scenes don’t feel natural and are even broken in places. I had one moment where the dialogue for a cut-scene started playing whilst I was still playing the game a good 30 seconds before the scene loaded.

That is just the tip of the broken iceberg, getting caught on scenery, NPCs not performing as they should, boss battles that just fail to work properly. Music is awful and voice acting is quite possibly the worst I have heard in many years.

Again the things that are broken and half-hearted in this game wouldn’t have been acceptable in a Net Yaroze demo on a Playstation Magazine cover-disk. There has been some awful stuff on Steam’s Greenlight that shouldn’t be allowed on Steam, but then this is released broken and feeling barely 10% into development.

Yet the developers are wanting people to part with £10.99 to play this absolute piece of crap. This for me is close to fraud, a game that had been sent out to be sold by crooks. The worst part is that it is part of a trilogy, that can be bought as a bundle. They want you, the consumer, to buy this and the extra volumes knowing how bad this game is.

I am not having it any other way, than they know just how bad Afro Samurai 2 is and are trying to cheat people out of their money, because at no point does any self respecting developer put crap like this on a marketplace and be proud of what they released.

As I said earlier, I can accept bad games, because at the end of the day bad means different things to different people. I also accept there are some chancers out there who will do asset flips and the like to make a quick buck via the Greenlight service, but when it is a known franchise like this, it is beyond criminal.

Luckily the public have voted with their wallets. Looking at Steam stats, there has been a peak total of just 18 people playing this and I can only hope that those who did part with their hard-earned have used the Steam refund policy to get back their money.

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 2nd October 2015

Brad & John’s Game Reviews – 2nd October 2015

October 2, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

Brad and John take a look at and review the charts and releases for week ending 2nd October (Friday).

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It is a quick look at the charts with a comparison of FIFA and PES (we promise to dispense of the football talk next week) as well as another Konami rant.

It was a bumper week of releases covering LEGO Dimensions, NBA 2K16, Jotun, 80 Days, Albino Lullaby, Concrete Jungle, the worst game in years – Afro Samurai 2, The Escapists: The Walking Dead, Arcana Heart 3 LOVE MAX!!!! and Franchise Hockey Manager 2

Looking ahead we have Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, Rock Band 4, Skyhill and Transformers Devastation

Please give us any feedback or send questions to [email protected] (this will change in coming weeks).

This Week’s Top 10

1 FIFA 16
2 DESTINY: THE TAKEN KING
3 FORZA MOTORSPORT 6
4 SKYLANDERS SUPERCHARGERS
5 METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN
6 PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2016
7 MAD MAX
8 GRAND THEFT AUTO V
9 CALL OF DUTY: GHOSTS
10 LEGO JURASSIC WORLD

Details below on how else to catch this week’s show.


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GS Blind Look: Concrete Jungle

GS Blind Look: Concrete Jungle

September 30, 2015 By Bradley Marsh

It’s another genre getting mixed with Card Collecting Games, this time it is the turn of the City Builder as Brad and Iain take a look at Concrete Jungle.

 

Brad is joined by Iain for a blind look of Concrete Jungle a city building, CCG mixed with puzzle mechanics.


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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain Review

September 30, 2015 By Jason Scott

It’s a joke that doesn’t get old.  Tens and tens of hours into Metal Gear Solid V and I still occasionally let out a small snigger as I launch some poor unconscious soul hundreds of feet into the air attached to a balloon; their cheering, screaming or baaing gradually fading as they disappear into the distance.  It’s the kind of thing you only ever really get in this series, which has carved its own niche and made combining the sublime and the ridiculous its calling card.  Few other games would expect you to sagely nod to a lecture on the Angolan Civil War whilst you watch your horse defecate on a soldier’s head or ask you to bundle diamond mining slave children into a helicopter that’s blaring out the intro to Europe’s The Final Countdown, and it’s this duality that truly defines these games.  The Phantom Pain sees this contrast somewhat out of balance and you’re either going to think it’s a complete masterpiece or a teeny-weeny bit disappointing depending on if you’re the kind of person  that’s bothered by the bonkersness being scaled down a bit.

But firstly, let’s talk about what’s been scaled up.  Metal Gear Solid V is huge.  You could quite easily play through from the original to number four in the time it takes you to reach 70% on the completion counter in V.  These games have always been as deep as they are wide with plenty of secrets and easter eggs to unlock but here this scope is completely blown out of the water with missions that can feel intimidating with the number of ways you can approach them.  Fortunately,  more often than not the number of options will feel intoxicating rather than overwhelming.  Even before you set foot on the ground you’re given an insane number of possibilities as you pick and choose which items and buddies you’ll take into battle.  Do you take in a tranquilising sniper rifle to make recruitment easier or do you take a scorched earth policy and bring along a rocket launcher?  Perhaps you’ll take along Quiet who’ll provide long distance support for your softly-softly approach or maybe you’ll jump in your own miniature bi-pedal tank D-Walker and charge in gleefully making a mockery of “tactical espionage”.

When you finally do jump out of the chopper fully loaded, the benefits of making a stealth game open world quickly become obvious.  With no corridors restricting your way, the terrain, the time of day, the weather, the enemy guarding patterns and your patience all contribute to a thousand different ways of meeting each objective.  It’s the kind of game where you can share stories of your victories with your friends, confident that you will have achieved them in different ways.  With the labyrinthine item development trees, and the promise of bigger and better if you focus on one or two types of sidearm, there is a danger of falling back on tried and tested methods.  But what it does so much better than other entries is encourage you to deal with your mistakes when everything goes haywire.  Being spotted doesn’t feel like game over anymore and fighting your way out in a hail of bullets doesn’t feel like cheating.  Outright aggression is a legitimate tactic along with the stealth and although the final score board at the end of each mission favours those who are sneaky, there are a wealth of other emblems and codenames that can only be obtained if you experiment with the tools on offer.

The requirements for meeting these goals are buried away in the game’s vast menus, which is where it starts to lose some of its sparkle.   You will spend a lot of time looking at the text projected from Snake’s iDroid; the handheld futuristic walky-talky which serves as your guide, your map and your cassette player.  It’s frustrating that a game with such a beautifully realised world forces you look at a light blue hologram for large portions of your playtime.   Keeping on top of staffing issues, Mother Base, weapons development and deploying your troops to warzones for extra rewards is just a bit of a hassle.  And the legendarily clunky control scheme from the game proper has somehow managed to worm its way into this spin off, text adventure making every tiny thing much more difficult than it actually needs to be.  Quite why you need to accept your rewards for combat deployment missions is a bit of mystery and the vast swathes of staff that you end up having on your payroll are unnecessarily difficult to differentiate.  It’s all just a little bit too much, and completing a mission and receiving a new bunch of volunteers is more likely to provoke a weary sigh than anything else.  You can auto assign everyone but there will always be the nagging doubt that you’re not quite making the most of the resources you have on offer.

Alongside nagging doubt, you’ll also experience plenty of plain old fashioned nagging.  The Phantom Pain is one of these games that feels the need to give you hundreds of notifications until you’ve no other option but to just give up and let it wash over you.  “The map has been updated”.  “Development project met”.  “Sun will rise momentarily”.  If you have the gall to listen to one of the games many, many, cassette tapes while attempting a mission it can become a little headache inducing.  And that’s just the noise.  The text will fly by in the bottom corner of your screen keeping you updated on what you can do, what you can’t do, what you’ve found and what you’ve lost.  It gets to the point when frankly you’d like it to just shut up for two seconds so you can get on and enjoy the game.  It may seem like this is to be expected of a series that has given us cut scenes over an hour long, but in keeping the gameplay and story separate, the previous games gave you an opportunity to drink it all in.  The equivalent here feels like Revolver Ocelot is standing in front of the T.V and shouting directly into your face while you’re trying to concentrate.

On the other hand Snake, played here by Kiefer Sutherland, is annoyingly quiet.  It’s so abundantly obvious within the first few hours that he was paid by the line that it makes the decision to replace David Hayter even more baffling.  And this is where my biggest problem with The Phantom Pain starts to rear its head; it just doesn’t feel very Metal Gear.  That might sound like a ridiculous accusation when you’re hiding from a huge, walking tank in a cardboard box but somewhere in the process of reinventing the series, part of what makes it so unique has been left behind.  The antagonists are largely forgettable with none of the dark charm of the Cobra Unit or Fox Hound.  The boss fights, which were previously so often a highlight, feel like they’re begrudgingly shoved in and have an air that they exist because you expect them.   And I’m probably in the minority here, but with the storyline uncharacteristically taking a backseat it can feel like there’s no continuity between the missions and you’re playing through a series of one offs.   The linearity of the earlier games gave the action a forward momentum, a goal on the horizon.  Here, with so much dotted across the map, it can feel scattershot and unfocused.   And when you’re sent off to rescue yet another prisoner from the encampment you infiltrated not more than an hour ago, it can even feel a little boring.

I imagine that to a lot people these would be seen as plus points.  Metal Gear Solid has always had its knockers (in more ways than one) and for many the changes that have been made will be seen as improvements.  But when so many of gaming’s big releases are turning into one indistinct blob of fetch quests and map markers to see one of the more unusual AAA series have some of its rough edges and idiosyncrasies smoothed out is a crying shame.  Snake’s exploits have always been beautifully ugly.  Here they’re just plain beautiful; and as a consequence, far less interesting.

Not that any of this really matters of course.  It’s looking nailed on that V will be the final instalment; even after ‘this is our last game, really, I mean it’ being threatened so often in the past; and that really is a tragedy.  There are the foundations of something truly special here, and for those that come to the game with no expectations of what it should or shouldn’t be, I expect there is an absurd amount of fun to be had.  It is a brave, spectacular new direction for the series and some will fall for it deeply.   Perhaps if it didn’t have Metal Gear Solid written on the box and was called Smokin’ Serpents Sneaky Afghan Adventure, I’d be one of those people.  But as it stands there are too many other niggling issues that stop me from looking past my preconceptions of what the game should be.

It seems fitting that for a series with such a convoluted timeline that the end should come at the middle of the story and yet feel like a new beginning.  That we will likely never see where Kojima would have shipped the cardboard box to next is a great shame but he leaves behind a series of games that, despite their flaws, have an undeniable star quality.  Where V sits in that list will depend largely on whether you found those flaws annoyingly off-putting or endearingly eccentric.  With The Phantom Pain, Metal Gear has had its arm removed and replaced with something technically far more impressive.   But although some of the feeling is still there, it’s lost just a little bit of its soul.

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Gamestyle was a long-running video games website that sadly closed it's doors in 2016 to very little fanfare.

Established in 1999 by Dean Swain, Gamestyle was previously known as Dreamers128 and exclusively contained content about the Sega Dreamcast.

Approximately a month after launch, the site rebranded to Gamestyle, became a multi-format site, and began to cover all console systems.

Whilst having experimented with advertising in it's peak to cover hosting costs, the site has always aimed to be self-funded.

Reviews and articles were written by volunteers and contributors across the globe, but the bulk of which operating from within the UK.