The Order: 1886 Review


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Pete

Available on: PlayStation 4

Release Date: February 20th 2015

Genre: Action-Adventure / Third-Person Shooter

I’ve steered clear of The Order: 1886 since its release in early 2015.  It was announced with much hype and fanfare at E3 2013 and was received with lukewarm acclaim once it was eventually released after nearly five years in development.  Criticism was given for a whole host of reasons including frequent quick time events, general gameplay letdowns and most importantly its overall length and replay value – and as a regular guy in his early 30’s with a dead-end job and a family to provide for the replay value factor is becoming more and more essential to me as I gradually get older and poorer.  I purchase maybe five games a year (excluding the crap I pick up on Steam sales, but I’m dealing with that), one of those always being Football Manager which guarantees me at least a hundred hours of gameplay, so that hopefully gives you an idea of the type of game I’m willing to part with my money for.  The Order: 1886 is not one of those games, I happened to rent it and I’m glad I did.

The Order: 1886_20161022130238That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy what The Order had to offer, more or less.  It looks incredible, dragging this review on a positive note for the time being, as an alternative universe 19th century London with a fantasy steampunk twist has never looked better.  However going straight back into negative territory as good as the game looks there is definitely a ‘look but don’t touch’ vibe as you progress through the games fifteen chapters, with an extremely limited and linear path to guide you along your way almost from start to finish.  19th century London in The Order reminds me of Neo-Paris in the late 21st century found in Remember Me in that there is an amazing city out there begging to be explored, but you can’t, and you are forced to stick to what is generally a very strict set path.

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Dirt Rally Review


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Pete

Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One

Release Date: December 7th, 2015 (early access)

Genre: Simulation Racing

 

Don’t. Cut.  This is a phrase frequently mentioned by your co-driver, and also on various loading screens throughout Dirt Rally.  It’s a tempting prospect, but when cutting a corner invariably means completely writing off your car for the sake of shaving a few milliseconds off your time you’d do well to listen to the brave man in your passenger seat.  How he stays calm when I plunge off a cliff at 80mph on my roof is beyond me.  That aside he is the most important noise you’ll hear whether you’re driving a banged up Mini from the 1960’s or the beefy Subaru Impreza, and every now and again he throws caution to the wind and advises you to “be brave.”

This is the beauty of Dirt Rally.  One second you’re being screamed at not to cut, then the next you’re barrelling towards a jump and your co-driver is telling you to hit it at full speed.  You as the driver will need to alternate between pin-point precision and balls-out aggressive driving amidst split-second reflexes and decision making, or else you’ll… well, plunge off a cliff at 80mph on your roof, as I have more than once.  You’ll need to be daring, and you’ll need to be cautious, but favouring either decision at the wrong moment will cost you precious seconds.

dirtrally1222151280jpg-0d6e1a_1280wDirt Rally is first and foremost a racing simulator, so you’ll need the correct setup to get the most out of the game.  As with most games a control pad and those cheap speakers you paid less than a burger for will do the job, but to get the most out of this game you need either a good set of headphones and most importantly a wheel, my recommendations would be either the Ferrari Italia Thrustmaster, which I own, if you want a budget wheel or if you’re more of an enthusiast the Logitech G27/G29 is the one to go for, which is what Alan has recently splashed the cash on.  A good setup really adds to the immersion as there is nothing quite like sitting on the starting line with a wheel in your hands being able to hear the roar of a V6 engine before you put your foot down and hope for the best.

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Stardew Valley Review


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Pete

Available on: PC (Steam, GoG, Humble Store)

Release Date: February 26th 2016

Genre: Farming Simulation, RPG

A few weeks ago I posted about Stardew Valley and how excited I was for it, and now the game has been out for a little over 36 hours as of writing.  In that time I’ve put 13 hours into the game, which is an early indication for how much I’m enjoying it.  Here’s my review of the early parts of the game.

Stardew-Valley-free-game-300x169Stardew Valley sees a welcome return to the farming simulator/RPG hybrid gameplay dominated by Harvest Moon over the past twenty years or more, and shares a lot of similarities with that franchise as well as forging its own path in the genre.  The core story will be a familiar one to fans – your Grandfather leaves you a farm in his will, and years later you decide to take it over and transform it from a dilapidated pile of overgrowth and rubble into a thriving money making venture.  Along the way you’ll meet the local Pelican Town community and attend various events and play through various randomly generated scenarios, and follow various sub-plots crucial to the over-arching story.  There is absolutely loads to do in this game taking all that into account, as forming and maintaining relationships, progressing through the story and maintaining the day-to-day running of your farm allows for a varied and enjoyable experience each time you play.

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XCOM 2 Review


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AvailablPetee on: PC

Release Date: February 5th 2016

Genre: Strategy

The climax of the mission is now.  Two battered and wounded soldiers are still fighting, a third carries an unconscious fourth.  The instructions are simple – plant an X4 explosive in an alien facility and get the hell out, but the place is still swarming with ADVENT aliens.  My grenadier fires wildly and misses despite having a 72% chance of a successful kill, so now the time has come to cut my losses and go straight for the objective.  The second of my two remaining active soldiers, a Specialist with little experience of war, makes a desperate sprint for the foreign equipment where the explosive is to be planted and somehow dodges the heavy fire of a camped alien sitting in overwatch in an adjacent room before planting the fateful bomb.  The rookie has successfully ridden his luck.  This time.

Now it’s the turn of the aliens and all I can do is watch and hope.  My Specialist is currently completely open after planting the explosive and the enemy are poised to take full advantage of that fact – a venomous snake-like creature whips out his elongated tongue and quick as a flash drags my soldier half way across the building before promptly wrapping its scaly body around its hapless and helpless prey.  I now have a choice – backtrack to save my ensnared soldier who is slowly having the life literally squeezed out of him, my most decorated Sergeant (with some cutting edge tech on his weaponry I might add, which I would lose should he die) and risk the lives of my other men and women… or continue to the extraction zone mere feet away and sacrifice the life of one man to save several?

xcom2_tactical_target-viper_hud-100632667-origOne of the features I love most about the XCOM games is the permanent death of your soldiers if such a scenario takes place.  It adds a whole new dimension to the strategy genre as every individual soldier truly matters, particularly as you can customise them and name them after friends and family – which sounds very tempting as it adds a personal touch to your campaign but ultimately detrimental to your plight as you’ll find yourself overprotecting your mother or your spouse instead of perhaps taking a necessary risk when the need arises.  In the above situation I left my Sergeant behind, but in all honesty that had more to do with protecting my little soldier version of me (embarrassingly the unconscious one) than rescuing one of my doomed comrades, a decision that would have probably gone the other way had I not personally been a part of the mission in the first place.

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Audiosurf 2 Review


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PeteAvailable on: PC, Mac OS, Linux (Steam)

Release Date: May 26th 2015

Genre: Puzzle, Rhythm

 

I put a lot of time into the first Audiosurf game, one which combines ingenuity with a straight up fun factor to make a really enjoyable game where you play along to whatever music is on your hard drive.  I always felt it was missing some important features to make it a truly great game with an unlimited replay factor however, but much like not adding co-op in State of Decay or… practically anything in the Star Wars Battlefront reboot, that’s what sequels are for.

Audiosurf 2 does a reasonably good job of adding features that should have been present in the first game.  There is still no Spotify integration which I think would have made Audiosurf 2 one of the top selling games of 2015, but at least you no longer need to have any music you want to play on strictly on your hard drive.  SoundCloud integration has been added which is a huge step in the right direction, meaning you can stream a ton of tracks rather than relying on your own paltry collection of CD’s and MP3’s, or indeed pirated music.  Last.FM integration is also still a feature, although as the game is still in early access it’s currently a bit of a faff getting it working.  These are both features that are strongly in Audiosurf 2’s favour.

3294_1The gameplay has been hugely improved too, or at least the Mono mode has which is pretty much the only game mode I have any interest in and have played up to this point.  The idea behind Mono mode is to gather coloured blocks while avoiding other obstacles based on whatever ‘skin’ you’re using – which is again another very cool feature which utilises the Steam Workshop for downloading fan-made graphics – such as spikes, rocks or as you’ll see in the video below, vehicles on a motorway setting.

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Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of The Duelist Review


yu-gi-oh-legacy-duelist-676x380Pete

Available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Release Date: July 30th 2015 (Xbox One), July 31st (PS4)

Genre: Card & Board Game

Legacy of The Duelist is the latest in a long line of games based on the Yu-Gi-Oh card game phenomenon, a strategic game in which players battle with decks of cards.  It’s based off a manga, or comic if you will, which spawned a long running anime TV series and a real life card game which is by far the most popular in the world of its kind.  It all might sound like a game based on a specialist interest or even a niche title, so how does Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist appeal to both fans and non-fans alike?

I’ll start by saying I’m in that ‘non-fan’ camp, I’m not into the Yu-Gi-Oh franchise overall as I’ve never read the manga nor watched the anime.  Even as far as the video games are concerned I’ve only played Forbidden Memories from back in the original PlayStation days and Duelists of The Roses on PlayStation 2 – the latter of which I really didn’t get along with.  So after 14 years I decided to try the latest game mostly because the story mode consists of four ‘arcs’ and follows key moments of the manga and anime series – the original Yu-Gi-Oh, then GX, 5D’s and finally ZEXAL, which all meant absolutely nothing to me before I bought the game.  What appealed to me most is that the original card game can be played – the one I enjoyed – and then for people like me who don’t have a clue what’s going on it gradually introduces the rules to each new game mode and gives a short narrative on key parts of the story as well.

Legacy of The Duelist costs £16 in the UK and I believe $20 in the US, and for those on the fence a demo is available that covers the opening tutorial of the absolute original card game in the story mode and you can then play the next match unaided too, which is plenty to help you decide whether or not to buy the game.

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Rocket League Review


PeteAvailable on: PlayStation 4, PC

Release Date: July 7th 2015

Genre: Sports, Racing, Football/Soccer

Football meets rocket-powered vehicles in Rocket League, the frantic and chaotic new title from developer Psyonix in which two teams of up to four players battle it out in crazy physics-defying wall climbing arenas for victory. The game is available on PC and PS4, the latter of which gave Rocket League away as part of July’s Playstation Plus offerings which quite frankly is the only reason I gave the game a try initially as its £15 retail value is a little steep.

That said I’m so glad I did, as Rocket League is one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences I’ve had in some time. You can play against the CPU or against friends in a local or online capacity; the former is something that is hugely lacking in the modern gaming era so it’s a true breath of fresh air being able to play some good old fashioned split screen action.

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And what action there is. You’ll start playing by basically attempting to smash the ball in the vague direction of your opponents goal, as a free-for-all breaks out due to every player on the field attempting to gain possession. As time progresses and familiarity with the game sets in you’ll hopefully utilize a more team-based tactic – crossing the ball towards the goal area in the hope that a teammate can tap it in via a jumping forward flip, or being back in your own goal to clear what would have been a certain goal had you been simply ball chasing like you were a few games before. Moments like these are as satisfying as scoring, which itself has a cool feature where the ball explodes upon hitting the goal, sending everyone in the immediate vicinity flying back towards the half way line ready for the next kick off.

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