Persona Q – A Gamestyle Giveaway!

Never mind Black Friday, the 28th of November 2014 was excellent for one reason: The European release of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. This latest adventure is the first entry in the Persona series on the 3DS, and sees the cast of both Persona 3 and Persona 4 join forces against a mystery antagonist. Unexpected events lead both teams to become trapped in Yasogami High during its yearly culture festival, along with new characters to the series, Zen and Rei.

All is not as it seems, as the crew not only find that the other students seem somehow oblivious to their existence, but lurking behind one of the attractions is the entrance to a labyrinth filled with Shadows – the recurring enemies of the Persona series. Together, the teams must navigate the dungeon and plan their escape from their culture festival/prison/nightmare.

If you’ve been waiting for the next opportunity to revisit Iwatodai and Inaba, we’ve some good news for you. Courtesy of publishers NIS America, Gamestyle have a downloadable copy of Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth to give away! To get your name in the hat, simply head over to Gamestyle’s Facebook page, and follow the instructions. We’ll draw the winner on December the 5th  2014 from all qualifying participants!

What has happened to all the sports games?

Whatever has happened to all of the sport games?

I am sure I am not the only person who remembers video games such as Actua Soccer, NFL Quarterback Club, NBA Inside Drive, Links Golf, the NHL2K and NFL2K series of games and Adidas Power Soccer.  It seemed back in the era of the Playstation and Nintendo 64, a month barely passed by without at least one new sports game being released but today, it feels like this situation has been almost completely reversed.

Take football for example, only two football games are now released on a yearly basis, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. Both of these series have been aroudn for long time now and in one form or another, they can both trace their origins back to the 16-bit era of gaming, and have managed to fight off a myriad of competitors in what once a very crowded market.

Fans of other sports though don’t often even get a choice of two games to pick when it comes living out their sporting fantasies in video game form.  EA Sports  Madden franchise, has been the exclusive NFL game now for ten years now, there has only been one NHL game for four years now, and until recently if you didn’t like the NBA2K series of basketball games, you had no choice but to buy it if you were a basketball fan.

For some sports this situation is even worse.  Golf games seem to have fallen out of favour in recent years, and even EA haven’t bothered to make a new Tiger Woods game for a while and to be honest, they were becoming so poor maybe that isn’t such a bad thing.  The problem is if you are a big golf fan, apart from the admittedly excellent but not really realistic Everybody’s Golf games on Sony’s consoles, the only other choice you have is the bug ridden The Golf Club.  Some sports though don’t even get the a choice at all, there hasn’t been a video game portrayal of Rugby Union now since 2011; though there is one scheduled to be released early next year.  Boxing is also another sport that seems to have fallen out of favour as there hasn’t been a boxing game for over three years.

The question is, has the lack of competition really been bad thing?  The answer to this, really does vary from sport to sport.

Lets start with football, for the last few years now FIFA really has had very little competition from its traditional competitor Pro Evolution Soccer.  the last truly great PES game was released on the PS2, as Konami have struggled to adapt to online gaming which became more or more important to sports games enthusiasts.  FIFA though after a few shaky years, had a nice leash of life, and from 09 to 13, EA Sports produced some really great football games which had most importantly had generally great online features  Sadly though in the last few years, FIFA games have been degressing, culminating in this year’s title that was average at best.  It seems EA has grown complacent after six or seven years of dominating the market and personally, all the new features they have added recently have actually made FIFA an inferior game.  Thankfully, Konami after years of tarnishing the once great PES brand, have finally stepped up to the plate, and this years entry of the franchise is easily the better of the two football games released this year.  Hopefully this will give EA a boot up the backside and maybe next year’s FIFA will actually be concerned with playing a good game of football, instead of just being a vehicle for EA to make money from the Ultimate Team mode that has been so profitable for the company in recent history.

Now I must come to my biggest issue and it concerns the poor state of the NFL sports titles, or in this case I should say title.   Back in 2005 2K Sports released their NFL game ESPN NFL 2K5 to great acclaim, gaining rave reviews, and with the help of a reduced retail price, it’s sales figures came close to that year’s version of EA Sports Madden NFL title.  EA were were running scared, their Madden title was their biggest seller, so EA being EA made a move that even today still annoys fans of American football.  In 2005 they made a exclusive deal with the NFL that allowed only themselves to release any future NFL video games.  To cut a long story short, even today after ten years with the same number of new Madden titles and far more powerful hardware to play with, EA have yet to produce a game that is superior or even as good as NFL 2K5.  Lack of any competition of any kind, has allowed EA to rest on their laurels and quite frankly the standard of their NFL games has been shameful at times. With barely any innovation, and still lacking the gameplay and presentation that 2K Sports did so well Madden in recent years has been a game so poor I have only kept most of them for a month at most before trading them in.  Hearing the news EA had managed to prolong their exclusive with the NFL was a sad day for gamers who were hoping their misery would end and finally we might get to play a really great NFL game made by someone who wasn’t EA Sports

Other sports have thankfully fared better in recent times with the lack of competition, Basketball and Baseball being the two best examples.  The former has been luckily to be represented in video game form by the amazing NBA2K series of games from 2K Sports, with this year’s title possible being the best one yet.  While the latter. not only has the one game representing the sport, it is also only available on Sony consoles as well.  Luckily this game is MLB The Show, which in my opinion is the only sports game that even close to the NBA2K games in terms of quality and it’s simulation of the real life sport.  EA Sports though have recently brought their NBA series of games back from the dead, and while they are not up to the standard of 2K’s game as yet, competition can only be a good thing and will hopefully keep 2K on their toes and will continue to keep pushing the standards of their NBA game to even greater heights.

Now while fans of realistic sport games have an ever decreasing selection of games to pick from, at least they have a choice.  Fans of arcade type sport games, literally really don’t have choice at all.  In the past games like NBA Jam, Virtua Sriker and NFL Blitz, catered for the gamers who wanted to just have some mindless fun and were not worried about any type of realism in their sport games.  Today though it is almost impossible to find any type of these sort of games, and even indie developers have failed to fill this gap in the market which for me is a crying shame.

They say competition breeds success, and in general, when it comes to sports video games, this statement rings true. The sad state of the Madden franchise is testament to this and while luckily some sports have been graced with some great video games, most others have really suffered from the lack of choice and us poor gamers have paid for this.

Digimon All-Star Rumble Review

We had a grand plan with Digimon All-Star Rumble. We aren’t huge fans of the show at Gamestyle and knew we were unlikely to get into the game all that much, however we still wanted to give it a fair review. So we handed it off to an eight year old. The idea was simple, let the boy play the game, then get a video review… Unfortunately that didn’t go quite so well, as he became camera shy. 

However this review is still based on the thoughts of this games target audience…kids.

From a parent’s point of view, especially a parent who is a gamer, it is clear to see that the mechanics within Digimon All-Star Rumble are sound, there is nothing that is over complicated, the general controls for moving around, taking actions, fighting and even camera controls are all solid. So that is the boring bit out of the way, it should be something your child can pick up and play.

The game is pretty much split up into two parts. First you wander about various levels, before arriving at a trigger point that sets up an arena battle between your Digimon and your opponent. Or as my son put it…”It’s Skylanders mixed with Super Smash Bros”

In all fairness, there isn’t a better description for the game. The wandering around bits are very much like Skylanders and maybe a bit of Knack with the linearity, before entering arena battles that share a fair view characteristics with Super Smash Bros.

Now that is not to say this is as good as Super Smash Bros, because it clearly isn’t and even my son said as much. But you can’t argue the influence was there and to be fair to the developers here, despite being a not quite as good version of Super Smash Bros, it was still entertaining to play and that is what counts.

The merging of the wandering sections and the arena battles works pretty well, as whilst you wander you still encounter enemies you fight and beat in real time, rather than switching to the arena sections and they are entertaining enough with various pick ups and secrets along the way. Again nothing spectacular, but it was able to keep the attention of a child.

The only confusing part, that needed some help from dear old Dad, was how the cards worked and why you used them. Cards can be found, won or bought within the game (no micro-transactions, so don’t worry about that) and then applied to the Digimon to give them extra powers, bonuses and what not. It works well and is simple enough in the end, but it may well go over a child’s head initially.

Away from the main story mode, which is pretty short and can be clocked in a few short hours, but is a good length for a child to feel they have accomplished something. There are the training and arena modes. Training is just that, a chance to practice various move-sets without any risk or reward. Arena Battles are where the fun can really be had.

It is the basic set up of jump in, select your Digimon and fight. The fights are the best part of the game and this is where you will spend most of your time. In fact, whilst initially the idea was to play a little to get a grip on certain mechanics for the review, it soon became clear that it was a great little game to play with a younger family member.

After the initial games for review purposes, it soon became a game that would add some competition to game night. All of us are playing and having games of winner stays on and do you know what? After initially having little interest in the game when it arrived, it became something we had more fun playing than anticipated.

Digimon All-Star Rumble is a top example of how broad games can be, that it is possible to make a good game that is aimed at a child or a non-gamer that is easily accessible. It clearly isn’t going to be for the Call of Duty, FIFA or World of Warcraft crowd, but it was never meant to be. I good kid’s game, that doesn’t insult their intelligence.

Nidhogg Review

Almost exhausted after battling for so long, I am now at the final area. I must be the one to be sacrificed. Momentum is with me, but my opponent stares at me without emotion. The arena music drowns out my thoughts, but I wonder if I can hear the cheering crowd in the adjoining area.

I am distracted, and suddenly my opponent thrusts their sword towards me. I feel as if it enters my chest, as if I may explode. But wait, no, that’s not how it happened. My opponent raised his sword, jabbing towards my face…No that’s not it. The ground is covered in something. Is that my blood? My opponent dashes away, thinking they are safe. I react, throw my sword and watch it drive into their back. They explode. I run. Someone appears suddenly in front of me, I skewer them without thinking and run on. The crowd roars. Come unto me, Flying Penis Monster and take me. I have earned this.

Nidhogg is a frantic 2D, one-on-one, sword-fighting game. If you’ve played the PC version, both PS4 and Vita versions are identical. If not, each player’s character is killed by a single successful sword attack, then explodes in a fountain of pixels and respawns ready to defend again. From the central starting screen, the aim is to progress three screens forwards. Kill your opponent to be able to move on, get killed and they can. The results are tense duels with the balance tipping towards and away from you until one player finally gets through the final screen to be consumed by the Flying Penis Monster.

[The Flying Penis Monster, one would assume, is the titular Nidhogg. Nidhogg is a dragon taken from Norse mythology who (possibly) heralds Ragnorak, so it’s entirely possible we may one day see it in a Thor movie. Chris Hemsworth riding a Flying Penis Monster would surely be a sight to behold.]

[So many people are going to arrive on this page through Google and be thoroughly bemused.]

Everything about the game is focused and well put together. The combat relies on positioning and reactions to tease precision from simple controls. One attack button and one jump button lead to three stances to attack high, medium or low, a roll, a jumping attack and, with good timing, a chance to disarm. There are no complicated special moves, and as important as the fighting is success usually depends on knowing when to simply run as fast as you can. Duels can last barely a minute or go on for ages, but the backwards and forwards pattern will always be the same. The driving, magnificent, soundtrack helps keep your mind on the violence too, as if it could ever wander.

Where the gameplay benefits from being so focused, the variety of modes on offer probably could be considered a little too limited. The single-player mode is simply a timed series of bot fights without even a hint of a story attached. Online play seems to have few players, but if/when an opponent is found the game seems relatively smooth and works as well as can be hoped.

Honestly, unless you’re playing locally it’s very difficult to recommend Nidhogg. Against someone on the same sofa the tension and the drama shine through. In the same way you soon forget you’re watching a black and white movie, the pixellated graphics suddenly disappear from your consciousness as you focus on exactly where the opponents swords is and when you can make a move. Best of three matches becomes best of five, best of five becomes a whole night. Few games of recent years can enter the legendary roster of all-time classic local multiplayer games populated by classics such as Micro Machines and Goldeneye, but Nidhogg does.

There is a feeling, engendered by mentioning it along with nineties classics as I just have, that games such as Nidhogg rely on nostalgia, that they’re playing to an audience who remember games “like this”. Certainly at a glance the game looks old fashioned, but it is harking back to an era that never actually existed. Games this well put together, this pure, this fun, have always been a rarity. Perhaps technical limits used to push creators towards this direction, but games back then stretched themselves too far just as often as they do now. When a perfectly crafted game like this does come along, regardless of the era or art style, just enjoy it. It’s a truly magnificent creation.

 

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Review

Swery is the most interesting man working in games at the moment. He has this air of utter brilliance and insanity that makes all his games just so damn intriguing. Deadly Premonition was technically laughable, but gained a cult following just because of how damn weird it was. D4, Swery’s latest and Xbox One exclusive, follows a similar path. But believe it or not, is technically rather impressive.

Presented in an episodic format, D4 follows David Young as he tries to uncover the mystery of his wife’s death, who he rather creepily refers to as, “Little Peggy”. You see, David has this gift. By using objects called mementos he can use them to jump back in time. It’s with this trick he’s able to try and track down the one known as “D” who he believes murdered his wife. This is just the tip of the weird. It gets stranger.

The characters you meet are, a little bizarre. From a mannequin loving weirdo, to a crazed FBI agent, they’re all injected with that Swery magic. There’s even a girl who believes she’s a cat. Or maybe she is a cat? It’s not quite clear. The most head scratching thing about the plot is that the “D” David is looking for is merely the first letter of the person’s name. So basically everyone with a name that starts with D is a suspect. And naturally, the plane you quickly find yourself on is full of characters that share that first initial. Not to mention our very own player character, but surely that’s too obvious of a twist. Right? Right?!?!?!

But what type of game is it? Well, the closest comparison would be something made by Telltale. You can walk along predetermined paths as David, examining items, talking to people and taking part in QTE action sequences. Controlling David can be done in two ways, controller or Kinect.

Once the news came that Kinect would no longer be bundled with every Xbox One it became wise for companies to make the switch and include an alternate control scheme for those without the camera. However, D4 seems to be that rare game, one that actually feels like it was made purely for Kinect. During the QTE sequences, what would usually be done with swipes of hands is done by using the two analogue sticks.

The icons on screen are so small for the sticks that it becomes straining to see what you need to press. And also, it becomes harder to actually watch what’s happening on screen. You don’t need to see the scenes play out, but you really want too. They’re amazingly put together, moving seamlessly between the action with barely a noticeable dip in framerate. You do have health, so can miss a few QTE’s before game over, and at times it’s actually worth doing that just to see how the scene plays out. Breaking up these moments are simple exploration sequences that slow the pace down and are largely forgettable. They’re not exactly taxing, with puzzles (if you can even call them that) revolving around just clicking on things until something happens.

As the story comes to its conclusion you realise that maybe episodic may not be the best approach for something as niche as this. Only containing the first few episodes, the game ends on a rather abrupt cliffhanger, one that if the game doesn’t sell well could end up never getting resolved. It’s the video game equivalent of a TV series you love being cancelled mid-season. And it would be a shame if that happens.

D4 does have its issues. Most notably is the way stamina works. Talking to people, examining the environment reduces stamina. If the stamina reaches zero then David faints, and you need to spend a large amount of credits in order to continue. It never became a problem, credits are plentiful and you can replenish stamina by eating food scattered around or buying them from the cat vendor (don’t ask). Which really makes it a less of a hindrance, and more pointless.

But a few niggles aside, D4 further cements Swery as one of the most interesting developers to come out of Japan. A weird and wonderful game that deserves a conclusion to its bizarre tale.

Far Cry 4 Review

Far Cry 3 was a gem of a game. At the time it could easily have claimed to be one of the most ambitious on consoles to date. Having a well realised open world that was your own personal playground. It had a decent enough story to lead you through and a villain that would stand as fairly memorable. 

Far Cry 4 certainly has a big pair of boots to fill, especially moving into the PS4/XB1 era. And truth be told, it is at first glance just more of the same, just with a new setting and a new story.

In Far Cry 2 you were on the African plains (which by the way is still an amazing experience), then the island paradise of Far Cry 3. Fary Cry 4 takes you to the Himalayan mountains with a new villain that has a ton of character.

Pagan Min is evil, he is a mad man, a psycho, yet a very clever manipulative character. He is the the main man of his world, ruling under his own monarchy. You are meant to hate Min, he has all the characteristics of someone you should despise, yet here he is, the one person in the game you want to see have more screen time, as he is naturally unnerving, as you never know when he will snap.

That’s not to say other characters aren’t well portrayed, as even Ajay Ghali, the man you play throughout is well written, his reasoning for being in the mountains makes sense and the air of mystery that links him to the area and to Min himself is delivered rather well across the main story arc.

Min doesn’t get enough screen time, but without him turning up for scripted set-pieces, it is hard to work out how he could. But the team behind Far Cry 4 have thought of that and instead have him in your ear almost constantly, mocking and guiding you as you take on various missions for the Golden Path and progress the story. It works really well as just having his voice cements his position as the clever, manipulative psychopath that he is.

Much like Far Cry 3, you have the main story that you follow, but also many…many side missions that are designed to take you off the beaten path. The usual go here, help these types are included, along with the find this and oh by the way, you can collect all these, then go and hunt these because you’ll need what you kill to help you further down the line.

Mechanics aren’t all that different either, with various vehicles dotted around that each offer you a way to get around faster, or to even just appreciate the views. This time though you can ride elephants, which is bloody cool and even weaponise them should you need or want to. Hunting feels good in Far Cry, it shouldn’t because hunting is bad, but doing it digitally is really fun and know onegets hurt, so it doesn’t matter. Lining up a shot on a wolf, or tiger from a distance with an arrow is very satisfying.

The co-operative play in Far Cry 4 is well done too, as you can have drop in drop out stuff by selecting to play online, or you can send a key to anyone on your friends list and have them join you for a period of time. It is a lovely idea and is something you will find yourself using now and again, whether that be because you need help, or simply because you are acting as a glorified demo for a friend.

There is something about Kyrat that stands out. Because even though it doesn’t immediately scream next gen, the more you play the more you spot little things that just enhance the world. Snow effects are stunning for much of the time and the character models are some of the best in the series. It all adds up to a very impressive visual package.

It is hard to hide from the fact though, that this is more of the same, a retread of previous games in the series, just with improved visuals. Now at this time that isn’t a bad thing, it is still a fantastic experience but at the same time this also feels like this should be it. This formula for Far Cry stops at Far Cry 4 and if Far Cry 5 is revealed in 2015 and is again the same, then fans will get fed up.

It is the Assassin’s Creed effect, playing it safe and not doing anything different leads to frustrations. If this was the end of the series, then it is a perfect time to bow out it does nothing wrong and is a perfectly fine game, visually impressive and a wonderful world to explore and play in, but the end of an era.

Early Access – Delays Delays Delays

Another weekly web show from Gamestyle. We launch our new show Early Access, which is very much in its early access stage. This week we talk about delays, the horrible delays that are rife in the industry right now. Especially on PSN.

It’s not the smoothest presentation, but hey it is early access and that is our excuse. Enjoy!

 

Grand Theft Auto V review

Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5) screenshot

GTA V has a remastered edition for Playstation 4, a trend for late last-gen games in 2014. But unlike Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs and some others, this is a bit special and could well be worth a buy even if you rinsed the original release.

We won’t spend time talking about the core game, as that is pretty much the same and you can find out about that in our original Grand Theft Auto V review for the PS3.

Instead we are going to look at the remaster itself and what it brings to the table. The immediate thing is just how wonderful the game looks. Hell it look bloody great on the PS3 and 360, pushing those consoles to the limit, it looked better and more alive than even some next gen games, such as Watchdogs and could have been released completely as is on the PS4 at a lower price and still managed to sell a ton and been well received.

But this remaster makes almost every other release to date look last gen and sub standard in comparison. That would almost be enough alone to warrant a purchase. It has the expected upgrades in the visual department, but doesn’t stop there. GTA V on the PS4 adds to the population of the living breathing world, with more people, more vehicles and just seemingly a lot more going on.

Traffic seems to act as it would in real life with the streets being dense during potential rush hour times, start and finish of working days and the such. Then you may find the people who inhabit the world are then denser in certain areas at certain times, again affected by the time of day and other factors.

This coupled with the improved graphics would have been enough and had the remaster of GTA V well received, but Rockstar didn’t stop there.

Did you buy and play GTA V on a PS3 or 360? Of course you did, it broke sales records. What if we said you can import your character from the last gen versions to the current gen? Not that impressive you say? Other games have done that you say? Well that is true, but Rockstar understand that people may well have changed brand when they upgraded. So they have allowed you to import you character from either version of the last gen, to either version of current gen. 360 to PS4, PS3 to PS4, PS3 to XB1 and so on.

You can pick up right where you left off and carry on without hardly missing a beat. That is great, but hey sometimes you could be a fool and lose your save, sell the old console… That doesn’t matter at all, because starting GTA V from scratch doesn’t feel like a chore and you can really feel like you are playing a brand new game, even if it is a retread.

Why? Well, importing you characters, a more alive feeling world and better graphics would have been enough and GTA V would have been well received. However Rockstar didn’t stop there.

With the addition of the first person mode, GTA V becomes a whole new game. You heard that right a first person GTA and it really is a game changer.

We can admit that we at Gamestyle were almost on the fence about getting a remaster, especially of a game that just about a year old. We weren’t tempted by Tomb Raider and hell, even The Last Of Us is only on the list for id we hit a dry period. But when the trailer for the first person mode hit, we were sold instantly.

The sell job on this isn’t even just marketing bull either. We would have reviewed this title a bit earlier, but have spent so much time just wandering around taking everything in via first person views that we have hardly touched the main parts of the game. Well we have now, as we had to…but we could happily have spend more time just pottering about.

After the opening tutorial level, we got control of Franklin and when we reached his home, forty…yes FORTY minutes were simply wasted standing in front of a mirror watching Franklin’s eyes and head move as you’d expect as you move the right stick around, followed by taking selfies from different angles with different expressions, just because we could.

Then we venture outside and the detail of the world created by Rockstar just hits home. It is easy to miss the subtle little details in third person, but looking through the eyes of your character you become easily distracted by almost everything. You become so immersed in this world you forget what is happening in your own world.

Add some headphones and it just sucks you in and we hate to imagine how this will be with Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus. There is a reason this works so well and probably more so than even many game built with first person in mind. You viewpoint feels like you are in the selected character’s head, rather than their chest, or some other point for effect. It really is amazing.

It isn’t perfect though, as this view when driving at pace feels a bit disorientating at times as it can take a little pause to get your view facing forward again, also because of the realistic viewpoint, it feels like weapons are being held at a funny angle by your neck. But that is really being picky, as there are options to allow you to customise some elements to get your favoured setup.

We scored Grand Theft Auto V a 10/10 upon its original release in 2013, yet this is better in every way and adds so much more to the experience that it becomes an essential purchase, whether you want to play through again of just experience something simply amazing.

The original isn’t all of a sudden worse, so unofficially lets give this version a 11/10.

Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! Review

While far from an expert, I’ve been playing fighting games since Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. Street Fighter IV brought me back into the fold in 2008 when I found myself in Tokyo during the location tests, and since then I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on arcade sticks, yearly updates to my favourite fighters, costumes….

Despite all this, nothing could prepare me for Arcana Heart.

Love Max!!!!! (yes – five exclamation marks) is the first revision of 2011’s Arcana Heart 3, and also the first time I’ve had the pleasure of being part of this series. Along with its all-girl cast of 23 characters, the Arcana Heart series has a few unique selling points – the two most notable ones being the Arcanas, which enable some customisation of each individual character, and the movement system.

Each of the 23 characters carries their own unique moveset. Once a character has been selected, they can be equipped with an “Arcana” – a spiritual being of sorts that bestows an additional arsenal of moves as well as attack/defense buffs to your character. Each character has a default Arcana but changing this allows you to customise your character around your individual play style or character’s inherent weaknesses.

The other thing that sets Arcana Heart apart from other fighters is its Homing movement. As well as being able to jump, double-jump, dash and air-dash, you also have the option to home in on your opponent. If they are far away, pressing the homing button will cause you to move towards them, whether they are on the ground or in the air; you can also influence this by holding a direction on the stick before commencing your home – a dash forward or back can help you get out of a sticky situation before making your approach, and you have a certain degree of maneuverability in the air as well, which belies the outward appearance of two characters careering through the sky, seemingly out of control. Moves can also be “Homing Cancelled” – cutting the move short and letting you get out of trouble, or keep the pressure on your opponent, be they ground- or air-based at the time.

When playing fighting games, the learning process is peppered with miniature epiphanies. For instance, in Street Fighter IV – the first time you throw a fireball with Ryu, followed by the realisation that his crouching Medium Kick can be cancelled into that fireball for a small-but-reliable combo that is also safe when blocked. It’s a small, complete package that is over after two moves and is easy to understand. In Arcana Heart, similar things occur – the first time you combo a sweep into a quarter circle foward (QCF)+A  into a QCF+AB with Heart, followed by the time you pick Yoriko, go HCF,F+A then the follow-up attack of drawing a pentagram with the control pad… only to realise that it’s just a power-up and you still have to do an actual combo after that.

Arcana Heart is almost entirely incomprehensible at first glance, and after a few hours I didn’t feel much more comfortable. Everything I learned was derived from someone else’s wisdom. My very first session with the game was about an hour long. Deliberately clueless, I wished to see what the game could – and wanted to – teach me about how to play, and sadly that turned out to be almost nothing. For a game so complex and requiring so much learning to attain any illusion of competency, this was pretty disappointing. There are trials for you to work through, but they do not explain anything, merely requiring you to achieve a specific task that you are expected to know how to perform in advance.

Instead, Love Max contains an absurd amount of additional story content that – mercifully – is completely ignorable if you have no interest in it. The roster is diverse and interesting, but not so much that I wanted to wade through large amounts of Wacky Schoolgirl Adventures. From a fighting perspective though, you’ve a wide range of character types to choose between, such as Heart – your most straight-forward aggressive character; Kira, the grappler who permanently exists in her own personal glob… swimming pool… thing; sword-users like Kamui and Fiona, the latter of which clumsily wields a claymore that is easily as big as she is; and unique characters, such as Eko who rides a giant chalk drawing.

From its name onwards, Arcana Heart 3: Love Max!!!!! is a terrifying experience. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to the unrelenting yelps every time any move is performed (or turned the voices off altogether in the options); made sense of the enormous array of options given to you at any point during a match; learned a few combos and become familiar with the nuances of the Homing movement, you’ll find a hugely complex, satisfying and rewarding experience waiting for you.

For many, though, there’ll be a point where the learning process feels too much like work, the subject matter is off-putting, or the technical ceiling is just too high to warrant the effort. Find a friend who is at the same level of (in)competence as you though and you can at least have the most ridiculous scrap of your life.

 

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel Review

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel is an FPSRPG that is set before the events of Borderlands 2 and takes place on and around the Pandoran moon of Elpis.

You take the role of one of four playable characters, Athena “The Gladiator” who was previously in the Borderlands DLC The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, Nisha “The Lawbringer” who made her debut in Borderlands 2 as the Sheriff of Lynchwood, Wilhelm “The Enforcer” the first major boss in Borderlands 2 and lastly everyone’s favourite character Claptrap “The Fragtrap”.

As with Borderlands 2 each character has their own special power and skills tree. Athena has a shield that can absorb any incoming damage and once the timer runs out, Athena will then throw the shield at enemy to inflict damage, Nisha’s power increases her speed, gun damage and allows her to quickly switch between various enemies. Wilhelm being the cyborg that he is has two drones, Wolf and Saint; Saint will cover Wilhelm and provide shields and health regeneration while Wolf goes out to attack enemies. However Claptraps power is totally different, when his special power VaultHunter.exe is used, it assesses the situation around him and grants Claptrap a random special power, now these powers can either be very helpful, such as the funzerker where he will wield two weapons and his ammo and health will regenerate or not so helpful Rubber Ducky, this is where you find yourself bouncing up and down all over the area reflecting damage and dropping on enemies.

The story is an insight into how Jack became Handsome Jack, you play as one of four Vault Hunters drafted in to help a Hyperion Programmer called Jack find a vault on the Pandoran moon Elpis. However during your journey to find Jack your spaceship is attacked by the Dahl Corporation led by Colonel Zarpedon which sends you crashing in to the Hyperion Moon Base Helios, where you end up fighting your way through hallways and rooms trying to rescue Jack from the Dahl Corporation’s Lost Legion. Zarpedon is trying to stop Jack from opening the vault on Elpis by attacking and shutting down the moon base. When you finally catch up with Jack he attempts to get the base defences back online only to find out that there is a jamming signal coming from the moon and orders you to take it down, in order to do this you have to take a moon-shot cannon ride down to the moon’s surface.

When you finally land on the moon you meet up with a scrap dealer Janey Springs, and at this point you find out that there’s no atmosphere on the moon, this brings in to play one of the new changes to the Borderland Franchise the inclusion of another piece of equipment called an Ozkit, now this Ozkit will provided you with a certain amount of Oxygen that will enable you to survive without Oxygen. Each Ozkit is different and has different abilities, similar to the class mods from Borderlands 2 that are also present in this game, this brings me on to the ButtSlam attack, the moon has zero gravity which allows you jump higher and with the addition of an Ozkit you can boost your jump to get to higher places above the enemies, you can then come crashing down to the surface with tremendous power and deal damage to the enemies in that area, some Ozkits will provide elemental damage to your ButtSlam attach such as explosive and corrode damage.

When you land on the moon your primary objective is to track down the jamming signal and shut it off so that Jack can regain the moon base, and this is where you really start to see Jack transform into Handsome Jack, with each main story mission Jack becomes more bitter, twisted and angry at everything. Through the course of the main story you also get to see how the Hyperion technology came to be, one of the main story missions you have to build a robot army to help Jack regain the moon base, you get to witness first-hand the evolution of the Loaders seen in Borderlands 2, these machines were once robots moving crates around and as the game progresses you see them transform in the GUN Loaders, EXP loaders and the very first Constructor. As you fight your way across Elpis you get to visit a number of locations and meet a varied selection of people. You can clearly tell that the game was developed by 2K Australia, as a lot of the new characters now have an Australian accent. Quiet a few of the characters from Borderlands 2 make an appearance in this game, Roland, Lilith and Moxxi feature throughout the games main story line, and towards the end of the game you get to find out why Handsome Jack hated them so much in Borderlands 2.

There are a few new enemies in this game; there are new creatures such as the hulking Shugguraths that launch flying Rathyds at you and the annoying Torks. There are a few new human enemies such as the Dahl soldiers and Scavs, similar to the Hyperion soldiers and Bandits from the previous game. And with new enemies to kill, comes new weapons, as your in space there are now laser weapons at your disposal, these laser weapons come in all shapes and sizes with varying fire rates and elemental damage, there is also a new weapons manufacturer call Scav, which is similar to the Bandit manufacturer in Borderlands 2 with their high rate capacity magazines and fast fire rates.

This brings me onto a wondrous new inclusion in to the game series, The Grinder, in the previous games if you picked up a weapon you didn’t like, you would trade it in for the money, but in this game you can take three weapons, Ozkits, Grenades or shields of the same class and combine them in The Grinder, there is chance that you can get a higher powered item with special abilities.

In Borderlands: The Pre Sequel Eridium is replaced with Moonstones, these can be found from slain enemies, mainly from Badass enemies, Moonstones can be traded on the black market for ammo capacity upgrades and backpack upgrades and can also be used in conjunction with The Grinder to increase the chances of a higher powered weapon.

Graphically the game is the same as Borderlands 2 but there are noticeable changes in the dialogue, in Borderlands 2 the dialogue was very generic and didn’t really change with the character, in Borderlands: The Pre Sequel the dialogue is tailored to each character, so every time you speak to Moxxi or any of the other characters when accepting or turning in mission the dialogue will be tailored to the character in your current play through.

This game is a must play for any Borderlands fan, as it expand on the Borderland universe so much and answers a lot of questions raised in Borderlands 2, and is ideally for anyone wanting to make a start in the Borderlands games.

 

Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones Review

Welcome to one tough game, here you play as a clone who has escaped right at the beginning, your enemy in the game (apart from the deviously designed levels by Curve Studio) is an obsessed man who simply must be the best at his job.

With cut-scenes throughout the game, your story unfolds gently. You are guided through test chambers via a large overworld in which you must use the gadgets that you earn thoughout your time with Stealth Inc. 2 to traverse levels. Some items allow you to block beams that otherwise would kill you, some enable you to reach those higher platforms to escape the test room. There are others, but the fun is discovering them and their abilities for yourself.

As I mentioned, this game is tough. It is not going to hold your hand throughout, gently guiding you to the eventual exit. You will be scratching your head on several occasions. Stick at it, the reward is always worth it. One thing I did find clever was quite literally, the writing on the wall. The humour in this game is definitely tongue in cheek and marvellously done.

Graphically this game is adorable, there is something incredibly cute about the clones, their dumpy little bodies & goggles that they wear. I found this allows you to become involved with the game very early on as you start to feel responsible for your little clone, willing him to get to the end of the chamber unscathed.

Dying is not an issue either as you restart at a recent checkpoint so you don’t lose too much time or effort getting stuck back in. One point of note is definitely the soundtrack to this game, changing styles throughout as you progress which fits perfectly and quite the lovely thing.

Curve use the gamepad in Stealth Inc. 2 to great effect. You can play through the whole game with a partner, using the gamepad to reveal hidden enemies & hacking terminals together. Playing through in single player is great fun too. Using the gamepad in this way is reminiscent of the Murphy levels from Rayman Legends.

Finally, there is a level editor within the game for all you budding creators out there with a wealth of options to create levels, which you can upload for others to play and vote up or down. Having played some, there are some brilliant creations already out there.

Curve have built on the first game, and made it that much better. Worth a play in any Wii U household.

Sunset Overdrive Review

If you had to boil Sunset Overdrive down to a sentence it’d probably sound something like “Sunset Overdrive is probably what would happen if Jet Set Radio had a one night stand with Crackdown and then the offspring fell into a vat of Mountain Dew and Doritos.” It’s both as wonderful and as cringe worthy as that sounds.

Video games by their very nature are (or bloody well should be) escapist nonsense. Wish fulfillment of the highest order, even if you didn’t know you wanted those particular wishes fulfilling, with the sole intention of wrenching you out of your miserable, humdrum existence into a world of fantasy. Even games supposedly grounded in reality are a means of partaking in an activity or sport or whatever that you normally couldn’t or wouldn’t have the means to do, and so often a lot of games try so very hard to play down their video gamey-ness, to try and convince you you’re not sat in your settee with a lump of plastic in your hands, slack-jawed and ignoring your other half’s screaming to get off your arse and mow the lawn. Or something. So it’s always wonderful when a game comes along, screaming blue murder in bright, day-glo primary colours, most likely on fire, and reveling in it’s inherent ridiculousness. Even if it sometimes tries too hard and misses the mark.

You take control of a fully customisable, yet nameless, avatar who has a long line in needlessly sarcastic retorts and scathing, over-reaching, video game trope mocking one liners. After escaping from the release party for super-corporation Fizzco’s new energy drink after it goes belly up (by turning most of the population of Sunset City into mutants the game calls OD) you’re dumped into a massive sandbox play area. It’s then up to you to complete the missions set by the people not turned into OD and try and escape the sun-drenched hellhole you’re trapped in before you get your face eaten off.

There’s a slightly contradictory nature to Sunset Overdrive. For example it’s structure is incredibly formulaic, with a repetitive mission structure which it tries to play down by making constant gags about how rubbish and predictable the quests are. It’s constantly riffing on the stereotypes you find in video games and pop culture, but doesn’t really push them far enough to lampoon them effectively. Also, the gags more often than not fall flat and come across as trying way too hard to be ‘whacky’ or cool. It’s a shame because there’s definitely some funny stuff in there, it just seems to miss more than hit.

That’s not to say the game is charmless though, because it isn’t. The structure and gags can be patted on the head for trying, but the style and gameplay itself is like a big sack of neon coloured Labrador puppies, all exuberance and irrepressible energy bounding along at 100 mph while weeing on the carpet.

If nothing else, the game traversal should be roundly applauded. Running around Sunset City is a general no-no, because running is boring. There’s no sprint button for a start. Instead you grind on telephone wires, bound off cars, wall run, air dash, pole swing and slide on water to get around the environment. At first this is a little clunky because your brain is trying to think in terms of simply running and climbing, but once you realise that a tap of the X button attaches you to much of the scenery and you’ve got a handle of where the camera needs to be pointed you start chaining leaps and grinds like nobody’s business. This is essential as this builds up your Style meter, which in turn powers your Amps and Overdrives to make you an OD slaughtering maniac.

Hero Amps enhance your character with special abilities. Weapon Amps power up your weapons and add effects, like freezing enemies or shocking them with lightning, and Overdrives add effects and powers like reduce damage from certain enemies, increase damage to enemies or reduce the moves needed to boost your Style meter. The various Amps only trigger when you’ve sufficiently filled the Style meter by performing traversal moves in a chain without hitting the ground. The more varied the moves, the more it fills and the higher your move combo which in turn fills the meter even faster.

It’s difficult to overstate how much fun and how satisfying it is to use pretty much any piece of scenery to bound off and grind on. You could grind on one wire to get about, but that doesn’t keep your combo up and so you start instinctively bounding of a car into a wall-run which you leap and air dash into a grind, then undergrind, then pole swing… it’s wonderful. It also sounds more complicated than it is, but because it’s a button to grind and wallrun, a button to jump and a button to dash it’s simple but not overly so.

Of course, all this combo-ing would be pointless if the combat and weapons were dull, and while the shooting is a little one note, the means of dispatching the various OD, Scabs (the human antagonist faction) and Fizzco robots is varied and shows off Insomniacs pedigree of inventing ridiculous weapons. You’ll have to switch between different weapons to eliminate the different enemy types, and playing with the different types of Amps you can plug into them makes for some ridiculous effects. The only problem with them is you might find 4 or 5 weapons you really like and are really effecting and not bother with the rest, although trying them all out is entertaining.

There’s a lot to like about Sunset Overdrive. It’s a ridiculously overblown and primary coloured slab of entertainment that refuses to take itself seriously and revels in being a video game, which seems to be a rare thing these days. It’s a game filled with character, collectables, pop culture references and amusing respawn animations. The down side to this is it tends to be a little boorish in its humour and intent to be whacky, off the wall and irreverent and that alone seems to have put some people off. That’s fair enough but it’s also a shame, because in many ways Sunset Overdrive is a game SEGA could have easily made had it not been obsessed with driving Sonic into the ground. Still, it’s a good 20 or so hours of blue-sky fun with enough distractions to keep you playing for a good while, even if the replayability is, sadly, almost zero.

 

Gamestyle Live – 19th November 2014

Another week another episode of Gamestyle live.

Bradley and Steve are joined by Jonny and even though we promise not to deviate… We do within the first minute. Because that is just how we roll. But we do talk about some game related things.

We also wholeheartedly apologise for Bradley’s partner randomly swearing at Peggle throughout the episode.

If you missed the live show then fear not, as you can watch right below

We’d love to hear you feedback, so either leave them in the comments here, or one of our many social networks.

Facebook | Twitter | Youtube | Instagram | Twitch

LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham

Look, if you like the previous LEGO games and you aren’t bored of them, then we will tell you right off the bat(man – sorry) that you will find a lot of entertainment from the third installment of the LEGO Batman series and the ten thousandth in the LEGO series as a whole. Well it isn’t quite that many, but it sure feel like it.

Pretty much everything you know from the previous titles is here. There is the general story to guide you through the first time, that unlocks and introduces the core characters. Again there are a few hours of entertainment here and it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Voice acting is back and in all honesty looks to be a permanent fixture now. It still means the games lose the charm that the Star Wars and Indiana Jones games had, but it kind of works and is harmless. That and it keeps Troy Baker in work.

Among the main levels, are the tons of collectibles and unlocks that can initially drive you crazy, knowing you cannot get them, but then become a whole new game as you head back into levels via Free Play unearth them all. As much as you want to hate doing this, you cannot help yourself, you cannot resist going back again and again unlocking everything.

There is a thing with the LEGO games also, that the achievements and trophies actually feel like a core part of the game, they are based on your progress much better than most other titles manage. They aren’t easy to 100%, but it feels like something you can work towards without having to be a gaming master.

Much like the Marvel LEGO games, there are so many characters on offer, you have your main guys such as Batman, The Joker, Superman, The Flash, before hitting the not so well known, such as the Green Arrow and lesser known villains. There is a good amount of fan service here, as well as making the game accessible to those who haven’t dedicated their lives to DC.

One pretty big change is the open world hub that you’ll be used to from Marvel and LEGO Batman 2 is gone, instead using various planets based on the lore of Green Lantern. Initially it is easy to feel a little short changed, but after going through a few levels it soon becomes clear that the structure works and you can still explore a pretty decent amount.

As with most LEGO games, this is better played in co-op and as usual it is the perfect game for gaming with someone who may not be as obsessed with this hobby as we are. It is a wonderful family game that you can enjoy with both kids and adults alike and so much of the fun can also come from being a third wheel and just being a backseat gamer.

There is a little bit of a concern with this title though and that is the introduction of the season pass. Something the LEGO games have been free of whilst all around find ways to add them in. It will be interesting to see exactly what this brings to the game in the long run and does this also mean the titles may slow down? (Well not if the tease in the credits is true)

So far it seems pretty harmless and LEGO Batman 3 seems to have just as much content on the disc as you would expect, so hopefully this means the season pass really does add something extra rather than being a way to obtain more money for the same content. It looks promising as your £12 for the pass should add a bunch of new story based levels, with free play options as well as a ton of new characters. So whether this is for you or not comes down to your love for the world of DC.

LEGO games should really be in over-saturation mode right now, with this being the the 4th LEGO game on the PS4 in less than a year, following on from The LEGO Movie, LEGO The Hobbit and LEGO Marvel Superheroes. Yet somehow you cannot help but want the next one, going through doing the exact same thing as you did last time. They do have that something special, that makes them so engaging and LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is no exception.

Never Alone Review

Indie games have a reputation, they are either adored by those who love them, or vilified by those who think they are somehow stopping the development of the next big budget game. We at Gamestyle have always maintained that a game is a game, no matter the budget, the graphics, the studio or the cost. 

So this brings us to Never Alone and a bit of a new trend in gaming that is taking hold. The interactive story!

Now this isn’t to be confused with the Call Of Duty, Battlefield and the like’s interactive movie. Those are what they are, a showcase of special effects and new technologies. We have nothing against those, in fact we enjoy them in the the right context. The interactive story however is something different.

If you take a look at the likes of Danganronpa, Phoenix Wright,The Walking Dead and other Telltale games, then you are used to a certain delivery method, that being scenes that are mixed with interactive elements, usually based on choices or some kind of point and click mechanic and again that works very well.

Then you have Never Alone that is at its core a simple left to right puzzle platformer where you take control of Nuna and her befriended arctic fox…Fox. In terms of gameplay Never Alone is as simple as you can imagine, it can be played in single player with switching between characters or in co-op with each player taking control of either Nuna or Fox. You will reach the end and you will reach the end with very little challenge.

But that isn’t the point of Never Alone.

This is something else, this is a game that is not only a first, but also something that dares to be different and deliver a very emotional and clever way to tell a story.

Never Alone is the first videogame to be made of native Alaskans and reveals a culture that many of us have probably never been exposed to. That of the Inupiaqs. The story is told mainly as you take Nuna and Fox through each level, with a narrator telling the story as you go and reach certain trigger points. It is something we have seen in the likes of Bastion and Transistor before, but those were still built around being games first.

Never Alone is built around the story and in all honesty is all the better for it. For one, the story is truly engaging and we won’t spoil it and just ask that you play the game and discover it for yourself. Secondly the visual style is stunning, it has an art direction that means this will be a game that will easily stand the test of time. The animation is so wonderfully fluid and creates an amazing atmosphere, especially with the elements Alaska can bring with it.

Add in a superb score and you have everything to create a deeply emotional and immersive story that can pull at the heart strings in the same way a book or finely crafted movie can. Had this just been an experience and story told across a couple of hours gameplay alone, then you’d still feel you had value for your outlay. However there is something else added to expand on the main game.

Included are 24 insights, which are essentially little documentary style clips that further explain the world, the culture, the setting, the myths, everything around the Inupiaq people. Considering these are only a couple of minutes long each on average, the amount of information you get from them is staggering and we at Gamestyle feel like with have learned something.

Not only have we learned something, we feel like we have been taken on an emotional and spiritual journey. This is a game that strips away all the stereotypes of a culture we know very little about and will often leave you teary eyed as you get drawn in to the story emotionally.

The only issue we found, can be solved very easily by playing in co-op, is that the AI partner can sometimes get stuck and not work out what they should be doing, which can slow down the pace of the game. However, it is a mild annoyance as you can just as easily switch character and give them a nudge in the right direction. But it is a slight blip in an otherwise flawless game.

Never Alone is a game that has gone from hardly being on the radar, to something that could quite possibly be a Game of the Year (2014) contender. Those who take a chance on this game will come away knowing they have been part of a unique experience that shows that games can be used as a serious vehicle for story telling. When we said as a community we wanted to show games can be mature… This is exactly what we meant.

NBA 2K15 Review

It was the summer of 2000, when I first played the original NBA2K on my beloved Dreamcast . My girlfriend at the time, was spending the weekend away, which meant I had the chance to spend the next two days without being disturbed.

Popping the disc into the machine, I was to be given a lesson on just how good a sport game could be, and ever since that day, my love for the NBA2K games has stayed with me for 14 years now. Back then it was astonishing to seem and to play just how realistic a sports game could really be. EA Sports games while often fun to play, never seemed to capture the true realism of any of the sports they covered but NBA2K was different, it not only looked almost lifelike but played like a true sim but was still so much fun to play.

I must also add the other 2K games were amazing as well, especially their NFL franchise, and even today NFL2K5 is still often rated by, including myself as the greatest NFL game there has ever been. Sadly this just proves how crap EA Sport’s Madden games have been, but that rant is for another day.

Firstly or should I say from tip off, as is common with most modern sport titles, on the main menu screen you are hit with a vast array of game modes to play. From NBA Today where you play a single game against the AI, though in this game even this mode goes beyond a simple exhibition match. NBA Today is updated daily and downloads automatically when you load the game, player rosters are updated, the way the players look; yes in this game if your favourite player has a hair cut or changes the trainers he wears, this will be reflected the next time you control him ,and also players ratings will go up and down according to how they preforming during the season. It even adds some new commentary that reflects the ongoing NBA season and all players stats for the season are kept up to date as well. This level of detail is just one of the many things that this game does so well and is just another reason why it stands out among other sports games.

Other modes include, the MyGM mode where you take control of a NBA franchise and control every aspect from staff recruitment, player trading and then last but not least getting on the court and playing the games. The popular MyCareer mode where you control a single player of your creation or a current NBA player throughout his career, MyTeam mode, which is similar to the Ultimate Team mode from EA’s sport title’s and there are also loads of different options for playing online as well.

So what’s the actual game like once you put your feet on the court and handle the ball. Well I can’t say I was disappointed ,and in some ways the gameplay has been hugely improved on from previous iterations. It has also amazed me just how realistic they manage to make this series feel and look, and honestly if you squint just a little bit, it is almost like you are watching a game on TV, instead of playing a video game, and It’s all in the little details that makes it so special. From the way every single player looks like they do in real life, the way they shoot, pass and dribble like their human counterpart’s, to the impressive AI that makes all 30 NBA teams play differently in correspondence to real life. Also the commentary, that can fall a little flat at times, is still the best of its class when it comes to sport titles.

The graphics are quite frankly amazing, player models are now so life like at times it’s almost eerily scary how realistic they look, and now its seems with the added power of the next gen consoles, it finally means that white players don’t look a little creepy as they had previously done and now look just as good as their black teammates. Hair and especially beards are particularly impressive, with some such as the one James Harden sports, look good enough to run your hands through.

As well the as graphics being top notch, thankfully gameplay matches it in almost every way. For the first time in a long while for this series, it is now possible to run successful fast break plays with ease. These often end in spectacular dunks, which by the way get automatically saved to your video clips, saving you the hassle of pressing the share button on your controller when you finish off a breathtaking play. Physics have also been vastly improved, battles in the paint now look far more natural, and it is very rare to see any clipping of players limbs and bodies. Other thing’s like the spacing on the court to get a open shot, and the lack of players just barging their way though their opponents to the hoop also help add to the experience of a game, that is getting as close to real basketball as a video game possibly can be.

I should add a little quick note about the sound track and the sound in general. The former track is okay, it does have Public Enemy on it, which is never a bad thing, but there are some odd choices, I will blame Pharrell Williams for that as he supposedly chose the songs. Everything else sound wise is more or less spot on, apart from sometimes music doesn’t start immediately when you go to the main menu.

The only real complaint I have for this game and really its been at the same for a while for this series, is that for newcomers, the simulation style of gameplay can be a little daunting and the controls can also take a while to master. In fact I don’t even think I know all the moves and I have been playing the series for 14 years now, you can though adjust the sliders to make it more arcady, but really doing that sort of takes away what makes this game so damn good. Other small niggles include the passing is still a little woolly and occasionally passes don’t go to the player you intend them to go to. It can also be a little hard to play defence at times, especially if you are trying to stay in front of a star player such as Kevin Durant, but then it shouldn’t really be easy trying to guard some of the greatest athletes in the world.

Overall 2K have done it once again, I really wish other sports games were even close to being this great, and I am sure even non fans of the sport with a little patience would get an awful lot of enjoyment, and would soon lose whole weekends, just like I often have, playing a video game that is not only realistic but full of long term depth and quite frankly is a joy to play.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection Review

Playing through The Master Chief Collection and there’s a feeling that 343 Industries may have bitten off more than they can chew. Four lengthy games, one of which is remastered, and multiple multiplayer iterations make this a hefty package. One that still has the brilliance of the Halo series at its core, but also contains a number of major issues that cannot be overlooked.

Most notably, matchmaking. At the time of writing (around five days after release) the matchmaking is still broken, making it near impossible to get a game. 343 being forced to cut some of the playlists in the hope of making it work, only this appears to have done absolutely nothing. There’s a chance by the time this review goes online that it has been fixed, however, this still does not excuse the fact a major selling point was broken. Gaming appears to be stuck in a ship now, patch later mentality that quite simply has to stop. See also: DriveClub and Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

So with multiplayer out of the window we delve straight into the single player campaigns. Chronicling the Master Chief’s war with The Convenant, it’s nice being able to play through his story in its entirety thus far. And is a perfect way for newcomers to get to grips with the story before Guardians release. Even if it does go off the rails a little with Halo 4.

It’s quite clear that Halo 2 is the darling of this collection. Newly remastered graphics, audio and phenomenal looking cut scenes are all present. And despite being the weakest of the campaigns, we just wanted to play it so we could see just how lovely it all looks. And being able to toggle between old and new graphics makes you realise how much effort has gone into recreating it. Not just the graphics, but the soundtrack is just so much more vibrant and energetic than it was in the original.

It’s understandable why 343 didn’t just choose to release Halo 2 on its own. It still has excellent combat, with some great new additions, but as was the issue when the game was first released, you never quite felt like Earth was under attack (with the exception of the impressive space battle at the beginning). The Earth levels seem incredibly barren, which is probably a restriction of the original Xbox hardware in fairness. So throwing it in with better single player games may have been a wise choice. But a more challenging one.

There are a number of bugs we encountered; most frequent appears to be issues with the audio. During the Silent Cartographer level one piece of music would play, abruptly stop, then start again. Reducing what should’ve been a heart pounding moment into an audio hell. Then as we first encountered everyone’s favourite villainous organism The Flood, our weapons audio cut out completely. Going one better was Halo 2 where all the audio stopped. The only way to fix it was to go to the Xbox Home menu and back again.

One specific bug that is most likely to drive people insane are checkpoints not saving. This has only been seen with Halo 2 thus far. Save the game midway through a level and you’d better cross your fingers, because half the time you may find yourself back at the start of the level. Something that will no doubt anger people attempting a Legendary playthrough. It’s something that seems so basic it’s amazing it passed through testing.

It’s such a shame that all these issues have made it through, because it’s still Halo, a fantastic series. Making your way through the open expanse of Assault on the Control Room, attacking the Scarab, being able to actually run in Halo 4! All great moments in a series made up of great moments. And in the ten years since Halo 2’s releases, combat has rarely been bettered. A good array of weapons and vehicles made every combat scenario different. You could be strategic, find a sniper and pick off the stronger enemies before mopping up the rest. Or just dual wield two SMG’s and go in all guns blazing. When everything is going smoothly, it’s superb.

The Master Chief Collection should’ve been a celebration of all things Halo. It may have that fantastic, core gameplay that made the series much loved, but shipping in such a buggy state is inexcusable. If you’re still on the fence about getting the game, then maybe wait till it’s actually fixed.

BlazeRush Review

Believe it or not, there are still games coming out for the PS3, games that aren’t either on the PS4, nor the Vita. Games like BlazeRush, which in itself is a throwback to a genre that has seemingly been forgotten over the years.

You see BlazeRush is survival, battle racing game. One that takes many influences from the likes of MicroMachines, Mashed and Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing. It doesn’t do much to hide those influences either, instead reveling in the fact. It aims to be complete balls to the wall fun from the very get go.

There is a choice of either a single player campaign, which has all the usual progression stuff, where you do a race, win points, cups, medals and the likes for winning and beating objectives, before moving on to the next event, doing the same again, wash, rinse and repeat. It’s perfectly adequate for what it is, but at the same time is fairly no frills.

This is fine though, because the bread and butter of the game is in the multiplayer. Much like the above mentioned games, where you would have the most fun with a bunch of friends and a few controllers, this follows the same idea. It adds various modes into the mix, such as battle type events, but the most fun is to be had with the eliminator mode, which has a slight variation on the theme you may be used to.

Instead of just getting the last place player to fall of the end of the screen, you have a giant steamroller chasing the pack and if anyone is caught…well they be killed. Whilst it is the same as we have seen before, just with a different skin, the addition of the visual element of the steamroller adds to the panic and in turn the laughs.

The controls are simple enough and again should be easy enough for anyone to pick up and the general setup is easy enough for nigh on everyone who has played a Kart game to understand. There are clearly marked pickups, that range from nitro boosts, to machine guns and circular saws.

It isn’t just a case of pick them up and you get an advantage, as it does take a small degree of skill to make use of the weapons, which means in turn, that the person you are aiming for, can also avoid your attacks and defend. The Nitro drops seem to always drop behind the leader, which is clearly an attempt to keep the action close and competitive, but rather than being annoying, it works a lot better than you’d initially imagine.

The tracks on offer are an odd bunch and many are well laid out and fun to play on, there is quite a lack of variation which does mean the game becomes fairly repetitive early on. This means BlazeRush becomes a game that is only ever going to be played on occasions, rather than something that you’d bust out on a regular basis.

That said, BlazeRush is a nice party game to play and can be a great asset to have during events like the Christmas holidays, as it is a game that everyone can get involved in and have a ton of fun with. There is no real barrier of entry which is something you can’t say too often these days and you will certainly get a good amount of entertainment value from the game.

 

Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 Review

Depending on your age, how you look at Pro Evolution Soccer will differ somewhat. For younger audiences it is a pathetic old man that can no longer contain his bladder while talking to anyone who will listen about his supposed glory days. For the rest of us, we look at the same old man with pity and a hint of sadness. Because we were there for his glory days, he was a champion who beat anyone who challenged him, but now he is an old washed up ghost of himself. 

In recent years the Pro Evo series has shown signs of life, that it can produce a good football game again. 2013 was deeply flawed but had promise, but 2014 whilst technically doing all the right things behind the scenes lacked any kind of excitement.

This meant that once again FIFA was the top dog, it had little to no competition and sales were (are) pretty much guaranteed, because these days it is either FIFA or PES. Gone are the days where there were a ton of other options such as This Is Football, Three Lions, Adidas Power Soccer, Viva Football and more. So no competition means no innovation.

So listen, FIFA 15 is an awful game, but based on the last few years and petty much an entire generation of let downs from Konami, we as gamers flock to EA’s effort because it is the only real viable option…Until Now!

The King has risen! The King is back to rule his land!! All hail the King!!!

Let us take the PS3/360 era out of the equation for a moment. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 feels like the true successor to Pro Evolution Soccer 5 on the PS2 it is as though we have been in a NINE YEAR Nightmare, but it wasn’t real and we have woken in a cold sweat to look across and see the comforting image of the next Pro Evo sitting there as majestic as ever. It comes over to cradle your shaking body, stroking your head and telling you it was all a bad dream, as you look back at it with love and a sense of comfort in your eyes. It really is going to be all ok.

But why? What has happened to turn this game from the mess it has been for nine years, to the glorious return to form you see before you? Well simply put the team behind PES 2015 have gone back to the drawing board, looked at what was loved by fans and made sure that was the basis for this latest version.

What made Pro Evo such a great series of games (as with the ISS series before it), is that it knew it wasn’t trying to replicate a full 90 minute game of football, it didn’t want you as a gamer to have to deal with the 10-15 minute period of giving the ball away and midfield battles, niggly fouls and the like. The team knew that digital football was the Match Of The Day highlights package, the best moments from the game. The good moves, the wonderful tackles, the big fouls and the goals.

Because that is what video game football is. Unlike other games such as NBA 2K, NHL, Madden, football games do not seem to work when played in real time. Playing a 90 minute game of football in real time 90 minutes just doesn’t translate to videogame form like the above mentioned titles. So when games like FIFA and Pro Evo tried to bring in the ultra realism, they lost a bit of that magic and whilst EA seemed to manage this well to a degree, Konami simply couldn’t handle it.

Before getting into what is so good about the game this year, let us have a quick look at the various modes. You get the usual leagues, cups, exhibitions, licensed tournaments and Master League, as well as the various online options. (**NOTE – At the time of writing EU servers were not up and running, but reports from US suggest the online games are rock solid).

The latest addition to the roster is the MyClub mode, which is essentially Pro Evo’s version of FIFA’s Ultimate Team. It has all the basic functions you’d expect from a mode like this, but does try to do things a little differently. The mode seems to be based more around building squads that can fit together, based on the manager you hire and the players that will work best under him. So things like player relationship stats matter more than whether or not they are from the right league, country or team in the real world. Whether this stops the mode being another pay to win option remains to be seen, but it is an interesting angle.

So onto the pitch. This is the bread and butter of a football game, because it doesn’t matter how much content you pack in, how many licenses you have, or how wonderful the visuals are, if the gameplay is poor, then there is no point in playing. This Pro Evo has nailed it for so many different reasons.

First, anyone who loved the PS2 era games will pick this up and feel instantly at home, because the simple things are handled so well. Player movement feels natural and less tied to animations, but doesn’t seem to suffer from the same physics quirks that haunt the latest FIFA games, the passing feels just right, with mistake seemingly well balanced, the player AI is tweaked to be just right and shooting feels just wonderful.

Pro Evo is all about working the best openings to get shots away and seems to play a game of percentages when it comes to shooting. Sprinting at top speed with a bouncing ball? Then your shot is less likely to be on target, slow it down and under control? You’ll be precise but maybe lack power. Get a shot away under pressure and it will possibly be deflected. There are so many variants as to what the result of a shot may be, it never feels like you are just scoring the same goal over and over.

Also what is great to see back and please let EA take note…You can score some absolute world class goals, it is as though the game wants moments of wonder to happen and almost invites you at times to curl one from 35 yards, or rifle a volley from the edge of the box. Once again unlike FIFA’s latest offering, it doesn’t then feel like there is a go to option for scoring, as the AI is very clever here.

It is the little things that make this a special game. Each team replicates its real life counterparts almost perfectly. Liverpool pass the ball around and try to keep possession, Manchester United are entertaining going forward, but weak at the back. Barcelona will just dominate with possession and Real Madrid use their stars to tear teams apart.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Get a player booked early in a game and the opposition will adjust to keep attacking that player, knowing he cannot take chances, o they may get him sent off. You can defend well and manage to frustrate your opponents, but you will physically see them change up how they play, trying to find new weaknesses. Liverpool for example will use the wings and pace of a Sterling if against a slow defender to try and get in behind and put pressure on. If Lambert is playing they will try more high balls into the box, but if it is Sturridge it is balls to feet.

These subtleties are all over the game and we could go on forever about this little things that have been noticed, such as players doing that jump but turn thing they do when another player tries to play a high ball near them. Or knowing that a player is tired and can be exploited. How the current score and time of the match really does affect a teams approach. It is fantastic watching a team losing 1-0 go from trying to build up from the back, to launching the ball into the box in the final few minutes, or how a younger player can become nervous during bigger games, or at crunch moments of a game.

The pacing of the game is really well done also and at first it can feel strange when players stamina bars are in the red after 75 minutes, but then the game wants you to use subs, both as a tactical thing and also to show the effects, running around with sprint held down can have. Everything just works so well.

Skill moves aren’t over the top, nor are they stupidly hard to pull off. The pace of the game feels perfect, to the point you can put your foot on the ball in midfield and have time to survey the pitch. Not just have 3-4 players just jump in instantly. Again because the AI recognises how dangerous a situation may be and whether it is worth them putting on extra pressure at this point. But once again, this depends on the current situation. At 0-0 and 20 minutes into the first half, you can hold a ball and knock it about, but if you are 1-0 up in the 85th minute, then you can be sure someone will be putting you under pressure to try and force a mistake or nick the ball away.

There is so much more that can be said about this latest Pro Evo, but you just need to discover it for yourself. Also, remember the days you played this on a couch with your mates? Remember how good that felt…Well get them round and relive those days, because Pro Evo is once again a wonderful experience when played with a friend on a sofa.

The pretender has had its time in the sun, its 15 minutes of fame, but the King is back, long live the King! Pro Evolution Soccer is once again the Daddy of virtual football!

 

Retrospective: Donkey Kong Country

In recent times there’s been somewhat of a backlash towards the original Donkey Kong Country. Okay, it was never Super Mario World levels of brilliance, but it was still highly regarded at the time of release. These days though it’s often looked down on as being “of its time” and those who like it are said to still be looking through the old rose tinted glasses. So, with its recent re-arrival on the Wii U Virtual Console, it marks the perfect time to take a retrospective look at the Rare platformer.

When initially released it was the visual style that made everyone sit up and take notice, and while it may have lost the wow factor as time has passed, they still look pretty decent. DKC definitely needed a way to differentiate itself from the countless platformers on the system and they achieved that quite well. It almost looks like claymation, especially with the many characters in the game and the unique animations.

One such character is Diddy Kong, who makes his debut. The sidekick who would later take centre stage, does feel a little different than DK. He’s lighter, feels more mobile, but unfortunately can’t kill the heavier and armoured enemies. It doesn’t exactly bring much of a tactical edge to proceedings, but then it really can’t, as after only one hit you lose either Diddy or Donkey. So naturally losing one at a crucial time would mean hitting a bit of a brick wall. And the only way to bring them back is by smashing the rare DK barrels. So get hit twice and it’s back to the start of the level or the mid-level checkpoint. And as you’d expect, it gets incredibly difficult.

Not just from the enemies who all have a wide range of attack patterns, but also the many pitfalls that seem to be placed in the most annoying of positions. Many expletives were spoken as we took a tumble time after time after time. One of the most common deaths we succumbed to though were the moving barrels. Nightmares from childhood came flooding back as mistiming when to launch more often than not resulted in flying straight into an enemy or the deep beyond. Not helped by the fact the barrels almost feel like stop motion. A horrible, jerky movement that means it’s hard to judge when to actually fire. Not ideal when seven out of eight possible directions results in death. It’s a challenging game then, yet it is doable. At times it can feel unfair, but the sheer elation when you reach the end of the level makes it all worth it in the end.

The levels themselves being nicely varied. Mine cart levels, that have become a staple of the series since, are great. Then there are the levels you always expect from platformers, including the traditional underwater ones. And also a few animal companions can join you on your adventure, from rhinos to dolphins, it’s a decent length game with enough hidden collectables to keep the completionists coming back.

So is Donkey Kong Country worth going back to? Absolutely. With Tropical Freeze being one of our highlights of the year, it was nice going back to see where it all began, and with the original developers behind the wheel. It may not be the best platformer on the system, or even the best DKC game (that belongs to the sequel), but it can proudly stand alongside them.

Gamestyle Live – 12th November 2014

ABC
Easy as
123
Or simple as
Do re mi
ABC, 123, baby, you and me girl! 

We have made to to episode 3 and there are people watching still, so thank you for that. In this episode Steve and Bradley have a chat about stuff and things… All kicking off with console talk, but no fanboyism here.

If you missed the live show then fear not, as you can watch right below

We’d love to hear you feedback, so either leave them in the comments here, or one of our many social networks.

How to create your own world ready for Dragon Age: Inquisition

Unfortunately players are unable to bring across saves from Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II into Inquisition. But Bioware have created another way, it’s called The Keep.

It’s in open beta and can be reached by clicking HERE. (Though at the time of writing it’s currently undergoing maintenance. Doh!)

By logging into your Origin account it’s able to access your characters, and from what we here, it also looks at your achievements to calculate what you did in your playthrough.

It’s not perfect, some choices do appear wrong. But once the video finishes telling you the story up to this point you’re able to go through what is called the tapestry to alter decisions.

Then your world state is uploaded to Origin and you’re all ready for Dragon Age: Inquisition next week.

 

Tales of Hearts R Review

The Playstation Vita. Cast aside by so many, the unwanted Christmas pet left to wander the streets. Luckily there are those who look at the handheld’s big soppy eyes and fall in love and are happy to give the delightful package of wonder a loving home. It in turn rewards those who do, as it becomes home to ‘Indies’ and also the RPG.

Which brings us on to our review for Tales of Hearts R, a game that seems to be the perfect fit for the Vita and one that will start to consume a lot of your gaming time.

Tales of Hearts R is a remake of a Nintendo DS game and has been given the usual update treatment for the release on the Vita. Stuff you’d expect to see like improved visuals and some additions to the original story are all there to make it a worthwhile purchase even to returning players.

The story revolves around Kor Meteor, a young man who has just inherited a Soma from his Grandfather. One thing leads to another and eventually Kor finds himself needing to team up with other characters to go on important missions. It is a story of redemption for young Kor, it doesn’t set the world alight, but it is certainly interesting, though it does feel weaker than other RPG titles.

Kor himself doesn’t stand out as a lead character and the support cast, whilst entertaining and believable don’t do enough to take the focus away. It is a shame, because the mix of telling the story through in game moments and some beautiful Anime style cut-scenes is really well worked. But in the long run, you can simply switch off and concentrate on the game in hand.

Again what you have for the most part follows traditional RPG rules. You wander around various levels of the world the game is set. Travelling from A to B to progress the story, whilst facing random battles along the way and then triggering pre-defined major battles. It is all standard fare, but at the same time is balanced well. The random battles are too much that they become an overbearing nuisance, but also aren’t too sparse that you feel you need to grind for hours to be ready for an important moment in the game.

Battles themselves are pretty interesting. Rather than taking the traditional turn-based route, they are free-roam withing in the battle arenas themselves. You and your AI controlled party will encounter the enemies and attack them. You have your basic attack moves as well as various special moves known as Artes.

Early on battles are fairly formulaic and can be breezed over, but has the game progresses and you unlock new abilities, level up Kor and you party improves, there are new mechanics that are introduced. This is something that works rather well as many RPG titles can often feel a grind because of the lack of variation in encounters, here though there is a nice balance and it is much appreciated.

Obviously being a RPG, there is a lot of leveling up, upgrading your character, deciding on weapons, upgrade paths, etc. In other games it can be difficult for some players to really understand the best path to take, especially if they are casual players, or may not be into the overall lore of the world the game is set in.

What Tales of Hearts R has is two options. Players can either choose how they upgrade each specific element on their own and have full control, or the other option is to select an auto-upgrade where you choose the sort of character you want to be, such as a fighter, someone who stands back and supports, etc. It works well and teaches the player how each option effects different stats.

After using the auto option a few times, it became clear how the upgrades were being distributed and eventually it became easier to tinker. Which is excellent, because the auto options won’t give you the very best upgrades and tend to keep things balanced, but by showing you how points are used, you start to get an idea and that something that is very welcome.

Aside from the opening couple of hours, where you really need to set the time aside to get through, Tales Of Hearts R is ideal for spending a little while with, before saving and dropping out. You will find that you want to push on further and further thanks to some well spaced out save points though and that is the sign of a solid game, that you aren’t looking for a moment to save just so you can stop, but instead knowing you can push on without worrying when you can next take a break.

Tales of Hearts R is an interesting game and whilst the story is pretty weak, the gameplay does enough to carry it. It is both open to newcomers but also has enough not to grate on fans of the lore of the ‘Tales Of’ games. In what is now becoming a crowded genre on the Vita, this is a title that should rise to the top.

Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare Review

Oh look, it is November. That can mean only one thing! The avalanche of holiday games is about to arrive and is usually signaled by the release of the latest Call Of Duty. And look! Here it is.Just another standard update to a long running series…

…Or not. As the case may be with Advanced Warfare.

There are two ways to look at Activision’s (and Sledgehammer’s) latest Call of Duty. They either know that the series needed a bit of a facelift and something different to the usual, or it has seen Titanfall and wanted some of that action. The answer probably depends on how cynical you are and somewhere in the middle.

That being said, do we really care if some games borrow ideas of other games? Well, no, not if they are good and help change the landscape of a genre, even just a little. Playing Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare certainly does feel like something different to the previous iterations of the game.

Let’s start with the single player campaign, which now days in most modern shooters feel like they are tacked on, just because it is expected that a game should have offline content and a way to appeal to those who don’t play much online. The problem here and it is really clear in Advanced Warfare, is that the single player experience feels more like one of two things.

Firstly it is just a showcase for a graphics engine and new game mechanics, to give the player a basic feel of the sorts of things they get to play with over the life of the game. A chance to look at the cool new weapon types, that sort of thing. Second, it is now just a glorified interactive movie.

Now there is nothing wrong with that and in all fairness, the performances by Kevin Spacey and Troy Baker in particular are of a high quality. That’s the thing, the production values of the single player campaign are huge and even with a bit of a duff story, you are happy to sit through it, switch off your brain and follow the linear movie like path.

But that then raises some issues of their own. Being linear is fine, there is nothing wrong with that and if a game / interactive movie wants to embrace that, then great, we can be onboard with it. However in the case of Advanced Warfare, it seems to be straddling the line between wanting to be a proper game and being an interactive movie. It shows off some wonderful new toys, but very rarely lets you loose to play with them.

There is a fantastic arsenal of weapons and gadgets that are being begged to be played with. Where you want the choice of how to approach a situation, but because there is a very specific story in place that needs cues to trigger cut-scenes or specific action areas, it cannot let you get too far from the chosen path. Advanced Warfare as a ‘movie’ is certainly passable and the nonsensical story is dumb, but entertaining, especially with the star names now being attached. As a game though, it just lacks as it never feels like you have ever achieved anything, nor do your choices have any effect whatsoever.

That brings us to the bread and butter of recent shooters. The online multiplayer. Before we get into the finer details, kudos must be given to this as a series with regards to split-screen gaming. It is still there and it still allows you to share the experience on the couch, something that has long been forgotten by many games with an online focus.

For the first time in a very long time, this feels like a Call Of Duty that levels the playing field somewhat and rather than just being more of the same with new maps, it feels like a genuine injection of new ideas to the series.

Thanks to the new technology introduced to the game through the single player, the exo-skeleton is the biggest change to how the online is played. Levels now have a lot more vertical action to them and starts to resemble other great games like Halo 2, Quake, Unreal Tournament, etc. You can bounce around levels dealing death from all manner of spots on the maps, which have been designed to allow for this also.

The problem there has been with military shooters, is that they have to be grounded in some kind of realism. Your avatar can’t leap and bound high into the sky, because they are set to realistic tech, thus keeping them pretty much grounded. Now whilst this is fine, t often meant that there was little scope for trying anything new and drastic.

But by introducing experimental future tech, the dog can be let of the leash so to speak and allow players to go all out. One of the biggest changes Gamestyle noticed, was that we could be competitive, whereas in previous recent titles it was a case of spawn, die, spawn, die, spawn…get a kill, die and repeat. Here though something clicked, the ability to really traverse the maps meant we didn’t feel like it was a campers paradise and there were more chances to pick people off in lots of different ways.

One such moment came when moving through the map on foot. Nothing was visible for a kill, so a quick leap showed where a potential enemy was. However they saw us and started come to our position. But because they then decided to use the exo-skeleton for some height, we were able to sneak into another position and pick them off from behind. It felt a lot less restrictive and that can only be a good thing.

Now that isn’t to say this is perfect, because there are some issues to be had still, although many that can hopefully be fixed in a patch. There have been a fair amount of connection issues early on, which have ruined some fun games, we have experience some ‘out of memory’  crashes whilst in split-screen online and it has on occasions had framerate drops that have rendered the game unplayable for a few second to a minute.

Now as we said, all these can be fixed in a patch and it would be surprising if this isn’t sorted soon and despite listing the issues above, they aren’t regular and they don’t all happen together and overall the online experience if pretty smooth.

The other issue with more on the design side of things and any improvements will likely be based on how much you buy into the game with future DLC. The maps are a range of excellent, where you can have wonderful battles and moments of cat and mouse and work well across most of the various game modes. However there are also a number of maps that feel dull, restrictive and lifeless and don’t feel like they were built with the traversal element in mind. You get the feeling that some of the better maps will headline future DLC and that some of the originals are there just to pad out the initial content.

As an overall package, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is something that is really only going to appeal to those who want a decent online experience. The single player is barely worth bothering with, but the new additions that allow for some big gameplay changes are more than welcome in the multiplayer.

Interview – Mike Daw (Don’t Die, Mr Robot!)

We recently reviewed the excellent Don’t Die, Mr Robot! A game that wasn’t on our radar initially until we got to play it. We then fell in love.  

So, when the opportunity came up to have a chat with one of the games co-creators Mike Daw, we jumped at the chance. So below is our interview.

You can check out the review for Don’t Die, Mr Robot! HERE

Gamestyle Live – 5th November 2014

So it wasn’t a complete disaster last time out. Which means we are back for another show. 

In this episode, Bradley is joined by Steve and also briefly by Jonny. Unfortunately we lost Jonny early due to technical difficulties. But we pushed on like the troopers we are and tried to talk about all things positive in gaming. We think we managed it.

 

If you missed the live show then fear not, as you can watch right below

We’d love to hear you feedback, so either leave them in the comments here, or one of our many social networks.

The Legend of Korra Review

Bayonetta 2 isn’t the only Platinum Games joint that’s been released lately, there is another. Step forward The Legend of Korra, an adaptation of the Nickelodeon show that shows that even a developer as great as Platinum has their off days.

We’re not the biggest Korra fans, but we are huge fans of Platinum so were really looking forward to seeing what they do with the license. The results are mixed. There’s an interesting combat system here, but it’s buried so deep that it takes perseverance to unearth it.

For fans of Korra it does a good job in capturing the feel of the show with the art style, animated cut scenes (albeit brief ones) and voice acting, but it’s doubtful whether these fans will be too taken with the story. Korra finds her bending powers opposed by a “chi blocker” who wants to end the world or something to that effect. It’s not a deep story, but then Platinum games rarely are, but those get by with some purely spectacular set pieces. The Legend of Korra has none of that.

Simply being ferried along paths, fighting a lot of identical enemies across some lacklustre environments is the order of the day here. With the exception of the final boss there’s nothing truly awe-inspiring to watch. Of course playing this in quick succession with Bayonetta 2 doesn’t help. A harsh comparison maybe, as Bayonetta 2 is a full retail release and Korra is an £11.99 downloadable. But then when you set the bar as high as Platinum does, then expectation will be high however the game is distributed.

At the start of the game you have all your bending powers (fire, earth, water and air), as you take on an endless horde of enemies. It’s a nice taste of what’s to come as no sooner have you got to grips with the controls as all these powers are ripped away from you. It’s the old Metroid style of going through the levels and gaining what you lost. And each power does have its own strength and weaknesses. For instance, water bending is great at taking out targets from a distance, whereas earth unleashes the strongest attack and is only any use in close quarters. There’s also an interesting counter manoeuver, by pressing the trigger Korra is able to slow down time before pressing the corresponding button on screen to perform a devastating move. Critical when coming up against boss fights.

The bosses actually proving to be quite difficult. Having played on the Medium difficulty, it actually came as a surprise to find how challenging the game is for a licensed title. Items, which are purchased in the shop, became crucial at times, with even the lesser enemies proving to be just as dangerous. Platinum no doubt pride themselves on their intricate combat, so it’s clear this was the area that large portions of the development time was spent because everything else just feels so generic.

The worst part of The Legend of Korra though are the Naga sections. Riding your polar bear dog companion you’re travelling down a lane and need to avoid obstacles, dodging to the left, right or using your bending powers. They’re like sections from modern day Sonic games, only a million times worse. Luckily the checkpoints are well placed, so if you fail then you’re not sent too far back.  It’s one of those things that you realise why they were added, in this case to add a little variety to the gameplay, but they are just so boring. Quite frankly we’d prefer to just continue punching people in the face.

The Legend of Korra is proof that everything Platinum touches doesn’t automatically turn to gold. An interesting combat system can’t contend with the utter mediocrity that is layered on top of it. Even Korra fans may find it difficult to get through the short playtime.

More Sega 3DS remasters are coming

Sega have today announced their latest set of 3D remasters coming to the 3DS.

After Burner 2, Fantasy Zone, Outrun, Fantasy Zone 2 and Thunder Blade are the games with After Burner 2 being the first, releasing “Early 2015”. The rest will follow monthly, each priced at £4,49.

Not just adding 3D, these games will also come with new modes, music and options.

Just imagine, After Burner in 3D. We fully expect eyeballs to melt. See the video below for some classic After Burner 2 footage.

Jet Car Stunts Review

Jet Car Stunts. A car with a jet strapped to it, in which stunts are performed. Reminiscent of other automotive platformers like Gripshift and Trackmania, this port of a hugely popular iOS title has been given a lick of paint and access to traditional controls on PlayStation3 and Vita.

Platforming mode is given top billing with a simple premise – navigate the mysterious floating track, pass each checkpoint and get to the end without succumbing to the track’s twists, turns, loops, jumps and inconveniently-placed random floating blocks. Your car is capable of a limited amount of boost using its jet, and passing a checkpoint is the only way to refill your boost gauge. Managing the boost meter carefully is vital, as often you’ll encounter a few large jumps in between each checkpoint. Too much boost early on will result in you falling short before the next chance to refill, though learning when to conserve boost on each stage can be a matter of trial and error.

Jet Car Stunts is also very difficult.

On the ground, the car handles great – tight turning circle, drifts with minimal effort, and it can be chucked around even the tightest corners at high speed. In the air it is a little less willing to listen – you have some control over altitude, but little over your direction. Air brakes let you make slight adjustments at the cost of a drop in speed, making it vital that your takeoff is in the right direction as veering even slightly off course is often difficult – and sometimes impossible – to rescue.

As you start progressing through the stages, the jumps get bigger and harder to successfully navigate. The in-air camera does little to help you land these, as the angle will often see your car blocking out the entirety of the platform you’re trying to land on, making it feel more like luck than skill when you do eventually land it. In addition, the game is not afraid to waste your time. It’s difficult from the start, which is great – but sees fit to impose a ten-retry limit on you before arbitrarily deciding that you are too much of a failure and must restart the level in its entirety. Retrying before the first checkpoint even counts as one of those ten retries, meaning plenty of time will be spent messing around in menus thanks to this archaic progression gating.

A practice mode is available for each level in which you can retry indefinitely, but bafflingly it gives you infinite boost and no indication of how much boost you’re actually using! Given the heavy emphasis on meter management during a proper run, having infinite boost renders practice mode largely useless. Its entire existence is questionable as allowing a sensible number of retries would remove any requirement for a practice mode. Achieving the higher ranks on each track is the real challenge – something that wouldn’t be compromised by allowing the player to fail a hundred times along the way.

Time Trial mode is straightforward and shows Jet Car Stunts in a much more positive light. Boost management is once again crucial in order to maintain momentum between checkpoints, and the on-track handling really shines as you throw the car into corners it has no right getting around. Restarting carries little penalty, as you are deposited back at the last checkpoint and given a small time refund – a great way of ensuring that one mistake won’t immediately ruin your entire run. Stages are probably a couple of laps too long for their own good but this is a minor quibble.

Collector mode baffled me completely. Each platforming stage has five stars littered about the area and they are seemingly impossible to collect – it’s unclear whether you’re supposed to gracefully land on the seemingly-inaccessible platforms they are located on, or whether the appropriate behaviour is to boost through the star and off into the abyss.

Jet Car Stunts shows a ton of promise, but much of the game is locked behind some pretty awful criteria for progression. With a camera that lets you see where you’re going and a sensible retry policy, it’d be transformed into a difficult game that rewards perseverance and skill. At present it is a frustrating experience that gives the impression that it wants you to stop playing as soon as possible, leave it alone and never come back.

Driveclub Review

***DISCLAIMER***

We at Gamestyle have decided to review DRIVECLUB late and are fully aware of the problems that have plagued the launch and have addressed them separately. If you wish to hear our thoughts on the launch then you can do so HERE

So onto the review itself. Where we have to also touch on the issues still plaguing the game.

First though, what does DRIVECLUB do right? The driving itself and the sense of competition with the AI is really well handled, as we found the AI to be just aggressive enough. It is clear that there is no following of a set racing line that you often see in so many other racers and the AI reacts to you and other drivers on the course.

There have been moments where we have been rear ended or caught by other racers that seem unfair, but that is racing, it happens and we deal with it. Now this wouldn’t be an issue in itself if it wasn’t for the points system the game uses. Which is you’ve played PGR you’ll be fully aware of, as it is basically a version of the Kudos system as used by Bizarre Creations.

The idea is you are rewarded for driving with style, overtaking, drafting, drifting, racing clean, etc. Yet are punished for causing collisions, hitting scenery and cutting corners. On the whole this works really well, but when you get hit by another racer where you literally can do nothing to avoid it, you are still punished. You take the racing line into a corner, but get hit from behind and still get punished.

Now whilst we accept that collisions happen and the aggressive AI is a plus, making the game a lot more challenging and fun, the idea of being punished by losing points because you have been hit is  something that grates quite badly. Fine if you hit another driver, then punish away, but it does need to be a little bit lenient and accept that contact happens in racing.

Anyway, back to something positive. The handling model is balanced really well, sitting between sim and arcade. You cannot approach the game like a SEGA arcade racer, or a Burnout, but it is still accessible to everyone, unlike a Forza Motorsport, Gran Turismo and likely the upcoming Project Cars. Which are fine games, but have a very specific target audience. DRIVECLUB is something anyone can pick up and play regardless of experience.

Away from the track for a moment and to the shell around the game. Instead of going for the open world environment that has become ever more popular over the years, DRIVECLUB goes for the traditional menu system, where you pick your events and the race is loaded. Neither system is better than the other and at Gamestyle we are fans of both the open world hub and the menu system. As a rule everything is clearly set up and when everything is working, you are clearly shown leaderboards and challenges to tempt you back in again and again.

That being said, the presentation almost feels like an afterthought, with transitions between menus to races feeling pretty bland. It lacks a bit of pizzazz, it lacks life. It doesn’t need the over the top dude bro presentation of DiRT 2, but it needs something, as style that fits. Again look at something like PGR4 which has a wonderful visual style, it works as a package, where as it doesn’t in DRIVECLUB.

Which is a shame because it is also taking away from some lovely graphics on the whole. When racing through the wonderfully realised environments, using the in-car camera, you cannot help but be fully immersed and focused on what is happening in front of you. With a pair of 7.1 headphones that experience is ramps up even more and we can only imagine how good it will feel when Project Morpheus hits.

But once again you need to take the rough with the smooth, as it is clear that there is still some polishing to do and it is waiting for the update which includes weather effects and photo modes. It’s not a bad looking game by any stretch of the imagination, hell, it looks damned good. But it is a bit disappointing, knowing visually it is only at maybe 80% of what it is capable of.

The dynamic challenges, when they work are a fantastic addition and really add a new level to racing, having to decide if you can spare some of your focus to drift round a certain corner, or risk going faster through certain sections to maintain an average speed. It isn’t just a case of here are some easy challenges for the sake of it, many of them are difficult in the right way. But unlike much of the experience with DRIVECLUB, whether this is working or not comes down to pure luck.

It is the same story again for the online multiplayer, because when it is working, it is really smooth and seemingly has some excellent netcode behind it. However, whether it is working for you comes down to luck and it is here you can also see why the 6 person clubs was thought out.

When racing with random players across the globe, it can be an exercise in frustration, but that is hardly the fault of Evolution, it plagues every single racing game with online aspects. What doesn’t help though is that private lobbies, or setting up races between clubs just isn’t working properly either, which means again, unless you are lucky, you will not get the optimal experience.

The 6 person club aspect also seems to be missing a layer to it. Whilst from the sense of leveling up and getting rewards makes sense in the current set up, it lacks maybe a larger shell above it, so you can have massive communities with numerous 6 person clubs within. Making it easy to set up a rivalry race, or compare times, scores, etc on the fly.

That is the thing about DRIVECLUB in the end, it is a competent racer, a very good racer in fact, if everything was working properly, even better if all the promised DLC comes as expected. But as it is, you feel let down, you feel like you are playing an early access game. Which would be all well and good if that is what it was, but this is being marketed and sold as a fully working title and that leaves a bit of a bitter taste in the end.

If everything was working, DRIVECLUB would easily get an 8/10 as a game that doesn’t raise the bar, but is more than competent and very enjoyable, but in it’s current state, where the experience you get is based on something you draw out of a hat, then it is a bit of a let down and that is after giving it nearly a month before trying to write this review.

Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Review

The almost sudden surge of popularity the Persona series has seen the past few years is strange, yet sort of amazing. Toys, anime, spin-offs, there’s even a musical concert in its Japanese homeland. Not that we’re complaining as it’s quickly become one of our favourite series’. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax is the latest spin-off and sequel to the 2012 fighting game. And it’s very, very good.

For the Persona faithful, the main attraction here will be to complete the story that was left on such a painful cliffhanger in the last game. And yes, it finally gets an ending, albeit one that could potentially open up other avenues for further sequels in the future. Whereas in Arena the story felt more sided towards the Persona 4 characters and plot events, in Ultimax it’s been flipped. There are a lot more references to the events in Persona 3, so words like Tartarus and The Dark Hour get bandied around quite a lot. The game does a good job however in keeping the players unfamiliar up to speed.

As expected, mechanically the game feels nigh on identical to the first game, though I’m sure there have probably been balance tweaks to certain characters as is always the case with fighting game iterations these days. Moves are the same, with regular and Persona attacks, bursts and many other words that will sound like gibberish to outsiders. It’s a system that is incredibly deep and rewarding, yet even complete novices will be able to get involved and have fun. You can chain supers and combos together, but if you want then just hammering square will result in an automatic combo ending that looks good, and on top of that, will make you feel like you’re playing better than you actually are.

The one move that will no doubt split opinions (much like in the original) is the one hit kills that can occur. On match point and with 100sp built up players can perform a move that if it works results in a one hit kill, usually involving some fancy/crazy animation. Amazing to watch if you’re performing it, not so much if you’re on the receiving end. But, if you don’t want it to happen, then be better!

Speaking of the fancy animation, everything in Ultimax consists of some lovely 2D animation. The developers Arc have a knack of creating some great looking 2D art and this game is no exception. At times though there’s so much going on that it can actually be difficult to see what’s happening on screen. It’s put simply, an explosion of colour, especially during the more intense fights. You might not understand what’s happening, but by god it looks beautiful.

On top of finishing the story, there’s plenty of other new content added making this more than a simple update. On the disc you get new characters Ken, Yukari, Junpei and Rise, as well as the extra DLC. Each feels completely different, Yukari is very much a ranged fighter equipped with bow and arrow, whereas Ken has the unique ability of fighting alongside the dog Koromaru. Then there’s also the new stages and music. Well, kind of new. The music has basically just been ripped from P3 and P4, not that we’re complaining as Shoji Meguro’s soundtrack is simply fantastic and has some epic battle music.

In addition to characters and music, there’s also a brand new mode called “Golden Arena”. This feels more routed to the original JRPG audience, as you fight each character, moving up floors, earning stats and skills. It’s a great new addition. Then there’s the new online lobbies. Selecting a character avatar you can walk through a physical area, sitting down at an arcade cabinet, waiting for a new opponent. It’s purely cosmetic mind and you can just do the traditional match search without the fanciness. Online works perfectly, if you can find someone with a decent connection, which can be quite difficult when the game has yet to be released in the European region. Hopefully it builds up a decent following, something which may be hard when it’s already a niche product on last generation hardware.

Altogether Ultimax is exactly what you would want and more. Those who are deep into the Persona story will be satisfied with the conclusion and those that just want a solid, challenging fighter will also be well catered for. A fantastic swansong for the previous generation.