Star Wars Battlefront

Growing up I played a lot of Star Wars games on various platforms – from Nintendo 64 and PC to PlayStation 1 and 2 – the first two Star Wars: Battlefront games being amongst my favourites.

Countless hours were spent with friends and siblings liberating and enslaving the galaxy across various platforms, in one of the most epic multiplayer experiences ever made.

At some stage, they put Star Wars games in the backseat, and fans of the franchise were left starving. Battlefront was a series that sorely needed rebooting.

Star Wars Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront has arrived and it looks magnificent. Hopping between Endor, Hoth, Tatooine and Sullust, prepare to feast your eyes on some of the greatest-looking interactive homage to the sci-fi epic out there.

Every surface is a highly detailed replica that paints a wonderful vision of the original trilogy.

Players wage galactic war as either the Empire or Rebels, having access to the heroes, vehicles and weapons of each side.

By earning credits after each match, you can flush out your arsenal as well as customize your player’s appearance by purchasing new models and accessories.

Star Wars Battlefront

 

My short time spent with the Beta left me eager to dive into the deep-end after standing on the first step.

While I found the Beta to have jaw-dropping visuals and pleasing gameplay, I did find myself getting bored after a while, so I hoped the main shebang would not disappoint and go stale quickly.

Beautiful and enjoyable as the game mostly is, the gameplay does unfortunately sometimes end up feeling tiresome.

Running back and forth capturing flags dressed as droids or cargo soon begins feeling more like a chore than exhilaration, and I sometimes found myself glancing constantly at the clock waiting for the match timer to reach 00:00.

Star Wars Battlefront

 

In essence, it is still a rewarding investment which does not require professionalism to achieve a sense of prowess. Unlike many other shooters that require much precision and delicacy, most confrontations involve overheating your blaster in a full stream of devastating beams.

Shooting does not use ammo but rather works on a red bar under your crosshair that once maxed requires you to wait for the blaster to cool down, which can be quickly done by a well-timed button press. Failure to do so will result in a nasty burn and a prolonged cool down.

Star Wars Battlefront

 

Let’s forget substance for a bit and talk about fan-service. Battlefront is the most true-to-life realization of the classic films I’ve ever seen. Sound-effects like the Wilhelm Scream of a fallen soldier and the Pew-Pew of blasters, glittering stages and dented skins have all been produced as legitimately as possible.

Even if you don’t enjoy the game, you must give credit to EA DICE for spectacularly rendering such a lovely tribute to our childhood. Everything from the start screen to the soundtrack is just one big nostalgic whirlwind, with John Williams’ monumental score playing throughout.

Star Wars Battlefront

I was hoping that this game would play out in a concurrent series of collaborative ongoing campaigns, the epic war between the Empire and Rebels depicted in the movies becoming edited according to the independent victories and losses of each side.

There would be a constant score-keeping system that would monitor which side held supremacy. This would not only create an intimate sense of community, but also have players glued to their console or PC in a constant struggle to boost the efforts of their chosen group, winning or losing having massive repercussions.

The game would feel progressive and cohesive rather than the series of individual and disjointed battles actually seen.

Star Wars Battlefront

The game does still, however, allow you and up to forty people at a time to relive the legendary frays seen in the films and play out iconic scenarios according to the ability of your team.

There are nine modes ranging from the wide-scale domination of a planet, to completely aerial dogfights between spaceships, to fierce massacres involving heroes being pitted up against waves of grunts. In the more populated matches, there are so many lasers flying about it feels like you’re in a Japanese modern art exhibition.

PS4 currently has the most participants on any platform – reaching around 100,000 players – each game always being at its limit. The larger scaled battles feel more like an unruly death march than a structured mission, as waves of Rebel soldiers and Imperial stormtroopers rush each other without end.

Star Wars Battlefront

 

This is all generally a fun affair, but the flat and linear nature of most maps and the lack of tactical sense born from many individual players without communication frantically zapping each other can lead to frustration amongst more authoritative gamers.

Luckily, each game-mode has NPC superiors barking orders at you, and there is plenty of HUD marking and direction to keep everyone flowing in a constant river of death.

Star Wars Battlefront

Sprinting shoulder to shoulder with a dozen or so allies while trampling over the constantly-falling bodies of your enemies is enthralling, especially if Vader or Luke is leading the charge.

Add a bunch of AT-ST walkers clunking along, speeders weaving in between trees and glorious dogfights above to the party and you have complete, wanton eye-candy.

While the shooting is rather simplistic, the gameplay is augmented with the usual spaceships, vehicles and heroes, which are now all accessed by floating tokens scattered across maps, which once collected allow you to use a volatile object or transcend your mundane cannon-fodder foot-soldier self into a vehicle, space ship or hero.

Star Wars Battlefront

The game in many ways reduces you back to being a kid playing with Star Wars toys. I often feel a brattish sense of rage whenever I’m about to grab a hero-token, only to have it snatched away by a quicker punk, my thoughts turning to “I WANNA BE LORD VADER, NOT YOU!”

More conventional item-based power-ups deploy unmanned sentry-guns, various bombs and special weapons. Using a power-up that turns you into a vehicle or hero takes a second or two to activate, so find cover before metamorphosing, lest you find yourself anti-climactically sniped.

Star Wars Battlefront

 

Aerial combat (as well as much of the gameplay) is a lot like Battlefield. You move the left analog stick forwards to thrust and backwards to slow down. Whilst Battlefield required a lot of experience to be an adept jet pilot, Battlefront’s aerial combat is a lot more arcade-ish, allowing you to lock-on to targets before blasting them out of the air.

There is plenty of hilarious silliness to be had. Players are constantly kamikaze-crashing into the face of whatever map you’re on. I watched a friend playing jump into an AT-ST and stomp unchecked across Tatooine, blazing a cauterized trail of destruction free of concerted anti-tank efforts, even when he found himself stuck in a crag.

Star Wars Battlefront

As for the heroes, provided you have the support of the team and don’t become a blisteringly-obvious target soon to be within the sights of dozens of crosshairs, you can tear the opposing team apart.

Skywalker, Vader, Leia, Palpatine, Boba and Solo are all at your disposal, each with their own tasty abilities and strengths. Earlier, I was playing when suddenly I came across a lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker; one of the most incredibly cinematic things I’ve ever seen in-game.

There are many tingling episodes like this that capture the awe of the films perfectly.

Star Wars Battlefront

 

The single-player is basically the multiplayer maps with bots and a survival mode that has you wiping out waves of infantry. The lack of campaign has produced a lot of flak, but it’s obvious here that most of the efforts were directed towards making the multiplayer as good as possible.

Star Wars Battlefront is an accommodating and gorgeous reboot of a timeless franchise. Its massive tribute-value tries hard to make up for a limited experience; it’s basically up to your taste to judge.

Hopefully developers will take the complaints many are publishing to heart and foster the creation of something that can stand on the same level as one of the films, in terms of value and inspiration.

Score: 7.5/10

Dragon Quest Heroes

Dragon Quest Heroes is an absolute gem of a game you might have missed out on. Produced by Omega Force and published by Square Enix, an interesting yet very compatible fusion has been alchemized here.

Dragon Quest Heroes - PS4 Review
Our two dashing protagonists

This cutesy action JRPG follows the latest trend of turning mega franchises into mousou romps (such as The Legend of Zelda’s Hyrule Warriors and One Piece’s Pirate Warriors).

This time we’re looking at the amalgamation of Koei Tecmo’s Dynasty Warriors gameplay with the lore and spirit of Dragon Quest.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
The battles aren’t quite this epic, but still a sight to behold

 

The result is a fan-honouring treasure chest of Dragon Quest nostalgia, coupled with the swarm-busting antics of Dynasty Warriors – the result is sheer bliss if you’re a fan of both series.

With Dragon Ball’s artist Akira Toriyama in charge of designing characters and monsters, expect a delightfully realized realm, brimming with everyone’s favourite anime’s likeness.

The game takes place in an alternate world set in the DQ universe, in which humans and monsters actually get along and play together in joyful harmony.

It doesn’t take long before some Italian sorcerer with a pencil moustache casts a blanketing incantation that returns the once amicable fiends to their senses, erupting in a worldwide onslaught.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
There are some very satisfying special moves in this game

 

You start off by choosing your main character between either the strategic windbag Luceus or the more hands-on, hot-headed Aurora, both loyal members of King Doric’s guard and the game’s central protagonists.

Along with said king, these two will embark on a nationwide adventure with the aim of quelling the source of their newly murderous play-pals’ aggression, unleashing unmitigated genocide on the colourful monsters along the way.

As you proceed along your journey, your party will steadily be populated by previous Dragon Quest titles’ heroes. As this franchise started in the archaic era of consoles, veterans of the series will be delighted to see text-based characters of old come to life in the current generation with jolly voice acting.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
Heroes spanning many generations unite

 

Eventually, you will have a bustling party akin to the size of Dragon Age’s squads. You can take four of your merry band into battle at a time. You will probably find your favourites in time, from spell-heavy magicians, to heavy hitters wielding massive steel killers, to the bare knuckle brawler.

While there are a lot of characters to choose from, each with their own unique style and arsenal, I generally found myself focusing on four characters that were just a cut above the rest. Either way, keep your party interchangeable and exploit each member for maximum, versatile enjoyment.

If you’ve played any Dynasty Warriors title before, you know exactly what to expect from this one. It’s basically the endless swatting of enormous swathes of enemies, done in the most entertaining and satisfying manner.

Dragon Quest Heroes
The game does have its lengthy, difficult boss fights

Nothing beats plowing your way through tons of minions with arcing combos and special moves. Mousou games heavily rely on the entertainment factor of overpowered mass-murder, which can become stale for players in search of more versatile offerings other than the illustration of a 20th-century African warchief’s emotions.

Along with the usual combos comes a bunch of spells and skills for each character, adding a much-welcomed buff to the usual square/triangle button-smashing antics.

More useful abilities include healing spells and attacks that reduce enemy defence, but most focus on widening your path of destruction with swirling electrified or burning tornadoes, overpwered combo outlashes, and even a meteor or two.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
Unleash a whirlwind of destruction

 

Altering the trajectory of a meteor a million light years away to come crashing down to the earth without causing a globally-encasing splash of suffocating ash has always been one of my favourite moves in JRPGs.

The circle button has always held a special place in Dynasty Warriors titles, unleashing an unstoppable torrent of charged attacks, splashing a large amount of enemies about with burning ferocity.

In Dragon Quest titles, players could build tension to build attack-power for a devastating move. Think the super saiyan equivalent for Dragon Quest, unleashing some seriously draconian fireworks.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
Jessica and Yangus from Dragon Quest VIII are two of my favorites

 

Once you fill your tension gauge, you will become temporarily invincible and have a boost to attack power, as well as infinite mana. Once the gauge drains, feast your eyes on each player’s individual climactic ‘coup de grâce’.

The game may seem predominantly easy and juvenile, but late game it can become quite overwhelming, especially when trying to protect an objective from endlessly storming high-level mini-bosses.

A lot of the game involves escorting or defending objectives, a rather severe leash for unrestrained hacking. I guess the developers didn’t want the game to seem like a flat series of massacres, but the game is exhilaratingly shallow enough to afford such meaningless entertainment.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
The Dargon Ball influence is often made apparent

 

There is a skill tree for each character, and along with the universal HP, MP and general stats upgrades comes a plethora of individualized buffs and abilities for each character.

There is a unique design implemented for each character, affording the realization of each player’s ladder-climbing strategies.

Eventually players will have access to fast travel and will be able to whiz about the lovely map, pursuing side-quests that are generally the rehashing of previous story missions. You can also revisit previous stages at any time for some leisurely, objective-free marauding.

 

Dragon Quest Heroes
Heroes aren’t the only iconic characters returing, as all of the classic enemies are here too

 

The monsters and characters are all very adorable, true to Toriyama’s enchanting artistry. It makes for a pleasant change in an industry choking on alpha males and twisted horrors.

The undeniable iconic charm of the game produces much of the pull; you will most likely fall in love with its vibrant anime design and Tolkein-ish inspiration.

As for the story, it’s the usual cliched battle between light and dark, nuanced with a few twists. The characters and world are attractive enough to hold your attention, but George RR Martin would probably jiggle his heavy man-breasts with laughter if you explained the plot to him.

Dragon Quest Heroes

If your stomach is churning with the indigestible difficulty and stress invoked by many of the GOTY monster-hits we saw in 2015, Dragon Quest Heroes is a purifying swig of minty Gaviscon.

It need not be something you even devote yourself to finishing, just some palatable stress-relief to be enjoyed in the gaps between our anxious 21st century existence.

Despite its JRPG flushing, this is your standard mousou experience, albeit a glittering, bejeweled and very enjoyable one.

Score: 8.5/10

Until Dawn

The star-studded Supermassive Games survival-horror hit for the PlayStation 4 is as creepy as it is beautiful. Loosely emulating games like Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, this story-centred title focuses on sensitive decision-making, that effect characters’ fates, and whether they get dismembered or not.

until-dawn-listing-thumb-01-us-12aug14.pngUntil Dawn is episodic in nature (with a very peculiar intermission between each episode) and crafted like a miniseries. Much effort has been put into making the game feel movie-like, with voyeuristic camera angles and progressive and reactive gameplay. It is a very refreshing title indeed, that is as much fun to watch as it is to play.

With actors such as Peter Stormare (Prison Break) and Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) bringing fantastically realistic characters to life, this is one of the most cinematic gaming experiences out there. Throw in a jarring soundtrack and a gloomy snow-capped setting and you’ve got an intriguing fusion of horror film and survival-horror gaming.

 

Nothing better than having big actors in a game

 

Grab your expensive headphones and your mom’s Xanax prescription, because this game is as involving as it gets, and will need your undivided attention if you’re going to carry the story effectively. You are the director here, and it is up to you how things pan out.

Revolving around a group of preppy youngsters – unwittingly summoned to a splatter-fest set in some remote yet gorgeous snowy mountains in British Columbia – players will continually swap between each good-looking character as they attempt to gather clues and survive an onslaught of deadly situations.

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Quick-time event jump-scares

 

Players must combine reflexes with detective-skills to keep as many of the playable characters alive. The story is yours to craft, and almost every narrative-based step forwards is yours to take. By picking up mysterious premonitions (which are kind of spoilerish), one can daringly avoid as much atrocious fatalism as possible.

‘The thing is – I don’t really want any of these unlikable kids to survive. They’re arrogant and shallow – and I am sadistic – and I want to see some well-rendered gore; I’m going to lead each one into the lion’s den!’ is what many people playing this game probably thought.

 

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It’s just a prank, bro!

 

One could pursue this tactic, but that would just squash much of the game’s excellent story and events, and possibly prohibit one from uncovering a titillating mystery. Diligent life-saving and clue-collecting is required for achieving maximum reward and the best possible ending.

If you’ve played Heavy Rain on the PlayStation 3 then you know what kind of gameplay to expect. Players will work through the action dealing with quick-time events and methodological button-pressing sequences. Although the button-tapping antics aren’t as developed as Heavy Rain, it’s still highly thrilling knowing that pressing the wrong button when leaping for a ledge results in a brainy mess.

 

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The game is filled with frantic decision-making, often requiring an instant decision

 

In the case of regrettable screw-ups resulting in the death of a charming twenty-something, don’t even try instantly turning off your console. The developers knew such tactics would be afoot, and so cleverly installed the most punishing autosave system ever made, which will resume the game exactly where you left off.       

There is also much use of the DualShock 4’s added gizmos, such as swiping the touch pad to turn pages or unlock bolts, using the motion sensor by waving the controller around to aim weapons and torches.

As for the horror, there is much homage to various classic horror classics like Saw and Friday the 13th. While tension is pretty constant through the use of rattling violin-scraping and obscure environments, I didn’t find the game anywhere near as terrifying as something like Silent Hill. This is due to the fact that if something ever jumped out at me, it would be a quick-time event.

 

How many will remain at dawn?

 

The meat of the fear probably came from the many jump-scares, which although gimmicky, are still very entertaining. You’ll also be chased a lot and have to decide between continuing to run, or hide, which is an interesting twist on terror: ‘Was that the right idea and am I about to lose another character?’

There are also fantastic moments of stunned stillness where a petrified character must remain completely still to avoid detection. This is achieved by holding the controller as still as possible, pretty difficult for those with an easily perturbed nature. If you don’t fancy using anything more than your index fingers and thumbs to play, you can always just select the simpler controls set up.

This game is for the thoughtful player that enjoys an absorbing story, slowly plodding about searching for clues. That’s not to say more adventurous gamers won’t enjoy it, as there is much heart-pounding action to be had, provided you don’t mind swapping platform for quick-time.

 

Classic horror film tropes galore

 

The game also goes deep into the traits of each character. Players should take note of each person’s fluctuating personality traits, as well as the relationships between the cast, which is displayed in bar-metres. Your decisions will often affect these relationships, which will obviously sway things like being saved or betrayed.

Key decisions will prompt a ‘Butterfly Effect’ moment; seemingly insignificant events will have massive repercussions later on. Weigh your choices against each other and try to predict what the outcome will be before picking a direction. Players can be more effective at decision-making through the studious piecing-together of clues and premonitions.

 

Homage to the countless actors chased in the invincible bath-towel

 

This is a game you will want to play again at least once. Being only about nine hours long (I clocked it in a few days), there are dozens of different possible scenarios and deaths to enjoy in the next play-through. Other than the movement feeling like an early Resident Evil title, this is an absolute slaughter of a game that will keep your sweaty palms glued to the controller.

Rating: 9/10

Just Cause 3

Welcome to the gorgeously picturesque island of Medici, a fictional Mediterranean gem you have been tasked with demolishing. Your job is to liberate this island from a grizzly dictator, employing all sorts of ingenious experimentation in order to raise as much hell as possible.

Welcome to Just Cause 3, a game that has tried its best to give you as much chaotic freedom as possible, a game that pushes the action movie schlock to new and innovative heights.

Our protagonist, Rico, returns to his home country to liberate it from the cruel despot Di Ravello, who is committing the usual peasant-slapping atrocities we come to expect from radical juntas in countries with wonderful weather.

There are over 1,000 square kilometers of magnificent terrain to explore, and the volumetric terrain employs an expansive verticality which allows for unbound mountainous and subterranean investigation.

 

There’s a beautiful contrast between scenic exploration and diabolical fireworks

 

There are five different biomes held within the map, a lush and diverse world filled with varying landmarks and points of interest.

It’s a very bright and glossy game visually – all of the special effects stand out marvelously against the sun-dappled surroundings.

The beauty of the landscape puts you in the shoes of the mean kid in the playground, stomping all over a little girl’s perfected sandcastle; it’s just begging to be obliterated.

 

The ridiculous antics of the series never fail to amaze

 

Anything with a red warning sign attached is your friend. Take silly physics to the next level, as you try to chain as much hazardous material together with the new tethering system, which allows you to connect multiple objects with a cable before winding them together with as much force as possible for maximum obliteration.

Whizzing about with the new and improved grappling hook allows for unparalleled speedy exploration. Combined with the parachute and wing-suit, you become a modern day angel of death – no area is unreachable or indestructible.

Well, not quite everything is indestructible. A game that has such a titanic level of explosive capability should be essentially coupled with a completely destructible environment. It is rather underwhelming triggering an apocalyptic blast radius, only to find the buildings it engulfed are left unblemished.

 

Raising hell has never been so beautiful or entertaining

 

This lack of schadenfreude does not, however, detract heavily from what is truly a scenic vision of chaos. The more creative you are with your new bestowed potential, the more gorgeous your cataclysms become.

Turn a truck into a 21st-century battering ram by cable-towing it with an airplane before swinging it into a target. Shoot a propane tank and hook onto it before launching off into the sky. Exploit a decent range of weapons and pepper your surroundings with craters.

There is no pretense here; the aim of the game is simple, unabashed carnage. Most objectives involve flattening an enemy base by targeting the most potentially-sparkling objects in the area, such as fuel tanks and power conduits.

 

There are many towns in need of a firey facelift

 

Once you turn a spot upside-down, you have ‘liberated’ it, making me wonder if the locals wouldn’t have preferred stifling tyranny to wanton raging mayhem.

But that is the beauty of the game and its developers, they don’t care what anyone thinks. Just Cause 3 is comical, enjoyable mischief that brings out your most base naughtiness. We all love blowing things up; don’t tell me you’ve never imagined shooting a petrol truck on the highway!

Rico is an absolutely versatile joy to control. We’ve seen parachutes, wing-suits and grappling hooks many times in games before, but none streamline them all together with such interchangeable alacrity like this game. Rico would not be out of his league in something like Attack on Titan.

 

Take a break from mass destruction to explore the beauty of Medici

 

My only criticism for Rico is that he can’t grab ledges (let alone climb), which can lead to many frustrating and awkward moments as he hangs from a ceiling like a napping Spiderman. He also can’t sprint.

All of these irks can however be bested if you learn how to use the grappling hook and all of the other gadgets correctly.

There are many towns that need your delicate touch breaking free of an olive-skinned iron fist. In order to do so, you will need to tear down the main symbols of oppression, such as booming propaganda-spewing speakerphones and illusory billboards.

 

You may be here to save a population, but you’ll be erasing its military

 

With your yanking tether system, you can recreate the iconic Saddam Hussein statue toppling as you bring statues of the evil dictator Di Ravello tumbling down.

You also have a battalion of rebels on your side, and once you blast open the gates of a town they will come pouring in to provide much-appreciated backup, and boy are you going to need it!

Whenever challenging the oppressor, expect to be constantly swamped by endless swarms of enemy soldiers. It’s easy to forget that you can, at any time, boost yourself out of a jam with a tap of a button. Just Cause 3 truly provides unbridled accessibility.

 

Di Ravello – the perfect parody of the generic, oppressive despot

 

The upgrade system depends on the successful accomplishment of various extreme stunt-challenges. These challenges include flying through hoops with your wing-suit, racing exotic cars and laying waste to an enemy base with a chopper.

By completing these time-limit based challenges you can progressively unlock a cheery set of hilarious buffs to Rico’s different mediums of destruction and transportation.

The main problem with Just Cause 3 is that the characters and narrative feel rather uninspired and flat, so if gripping discourse is a must for you, expect to be sorely disappointed.

Just Cause 3 is an entire Toys R Us store of childish entertainment, and Avalanche Studios have successfully updated their stock for a thrilling end of year. Make this the last big investment for 2015, it’s worth it.

Score: 8/10

Fallout 4

After patiently awaiting our anticipated return to the poisonous wastelands of post-apocalyptic America, Fallout 4 bombs us back to our beloved scavenger hunt, in a rather familiarized fashion.

This initialization takes place in the ‘Commonwealth’, an area based in Massachusetts, Boston. Incredible efforts have been taken to create a blasted interpretation of this land, a mockingly obscene rendition of what is actually a lovely spot of the world.

Having hired members of id and Bungie to better augment the shooting aspect of the series, many players feel that the RPG side of the game took some unwanted hits in favour of bolstering run and gun, something we will discuss later on in the review.

You begin by customizing your character’s appearance, male or female. I was immediately very impressed with the avatar creation system. Not generally spending much time on the cosmetic editing of protagonists in games, it was a lot of fun yanking my heroine’s nose around with the analog stick.

The latest irradiated explorer looks and feels initially very similar to the previous title, but it’s incredible just how intelligently progressive the varying environments are.

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Once you get into the thick of it, the sheer overwhelming scale of this game will dawn on you. Bethesda always makes the most complexly loaded worlds, but becoming accustomed to this one is an elevated, monumental task indeed.

Both the endlessly hideous countryside and sprawling industrial complexes truly make you feel miniscule. Exploration is driven not only by the promise of loot, but the discovery of countless stories surrounding singular groups and events, as well as feasting your senses on all of the warped scenery on offer.

You will constantly come across epic battles. You will often be greeted by the popping sounds of distant gunfire when entering forgotten cities. Many of the strategically valuable areas you encounter will be fearsomely contested by two or more groups, so be careful not to get caught in the thick of the crossfire.

Whilst the majority of the Commonwealth may initially seem monochrome, there is a vibrant juxtaposition of colourful settlements and exotic landmarks. Diamond City is one of the most intricately decorated and creative cities I’ve ever seen in a game.

The gameplay builds on the successful mechanics of our last adventure in the Fallout universe, with all the tricks and perks needed to rough it out in such a hazardous environment.

A brilliant feature you will spend a lot of hours on involves turning blown out structures into habitable homes. At many stages in the game, you will encounter peaceful survivors simply in search of makeshift civilisation.

This is where the Sims element of the game comes in. You can enter a construction mode at any workshop, and begin constructing essential utilities and security measures which afford coexistence for a small population.

Obviously the more comfort and service available within a settlement, the more people will flock to your commune and the happier existing residents will become, providing gifts for the giver.

This world is still populated with our dear friends of old, both human and fearsomely divergent. While many will be straightforwardly helpful and benevolent, prepare to defend yourself against all manner of classic and original freaks.

Many humans have regressed into ‘Raiders’ – footloose cretins straight out of Mad Max – reduced to savage pillaging.

The Raiders will often roam in large groups and many quests will involve infiltrating factories and compounds converted into their bases, often hosting small armies of the barbaric punks.

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Raiders are the least of your worries though, as the hierarchical classes of varyingly powerful mutants all roam the surface, from the humble radroach, to the hulking behemoth.

As you progress on your journey, you will encounter all kinds of phenomenal abominations, both neutral and aggressive.

Bethesda games are superiorly challenging and force players to be as rational and resourceful as possible when faced with opposition. Unless you are adept and moderately decked out experience and equipment-wise, most well-numbered skirmishes will easily end you.

You’re going to need to deploy the explosives and traps provided to you wisely, learn how to sneak about undetected as much as possible and find the companion that best suits your play-style.

You’ll also need to begin abusing the colourful assortment of drugs in the game, which offer temporary boosts to strength, defence and other capabilities. Be careful not to overindulge or you’ll find yourself nastily addicted.

The V.A.T.S. system is an essential tool for making it through any battle. The world around you will grind to a slow-motion halt with the press of a button, allowing you to hone in on a particular enemy and queue a set of concentrated attacks on a single or multiple baddies.

Mastering this system early on will ensure you possess the maximum oppressive force. V.A.T.S. is also crucial in identifying far off enemies and better planning your next set of actions, the slowed down action better affording cerebral work.

Dogmeat is back and will become one of your most versatile allies. Being able to sniff out resources and enemies, as well as bait and munch on them, Dogmeat is one of the most lovable sidekicks in any game.

Other companions include your trusty hovering Mr Handy called Codsworth – who is a joy to have in some of the more hectic battles – with his octopus-like frame and metallic tentacles ending in toys such as a flamethrower and circular saw.

Codsworth will also carry his comically reactionary commentary as you proceed with your quest and each companion will fulfill more integral roles in later scenarios, so keep them close and safe always.

An incredible amount of customization is now available. Besides being able to create elaborate homesteads, you can also customize your weapons and gear with an impressive range of upgrades.

A simple tire iron can have its angle fitted with a blade, turning it into a messy axe. A makeshift bolt-action rifle can be spiked with a bayonet. A knuckleduster can be barbarously decorated with sharp pieces.

You can build your own set of power armour, the bulky space marine getup required to properly engage some of the more severe foes out there.

Some of the most exciting sections of the game involving charging into a high-level beast in your power armour, the blazing super weapon you’ve industriously upgraded blowing large chunks out of its health bar.

The game continues with its traditionally questionable morality by constantly throwing ambiguously orientated quests at you. The karma system may no longer be in place, but you are still free to choose between being humane or sadistic in conversation and decision-making.

As I started getting deeper into the game, I began feeling a deep sadness evoked by the devastated scenery engulfing me. The possibility of total nuclear war is a great fear of mine, and Fallout profoundly brings to life what our world could be reduced to following such catastrophe.

Constantly stumbling upon the remains of meek shelters adorned with skeletons and tell-tale signs of desperate existence instilled a sense of pity in me I didn’t experience playing Fallout when I was younger.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as your ability to provide comfortable and sanitary living for the survivors through the settlement system is a great way to counter this burdensome collective guilt.

Someone’s wrecked shack also often houses many treasures and essential resources in this frugal existence. You will also very likely come across a tape or note telling of hidden stashes, initiating a lengthy treasure hunt.

Lock-picking and hacking are back, so you’ll want to keep a keen eye out for bobby pins and continue upgrading your perks that will better enable you to open safes and hack personal terminals.

Whilst your weapons may no longer break and need repairing, your body parts certainly will. Sustaining concentrated damage to a particular area will cause crippling of whatever function that appendage is responsible for and require direct medical attention.

I’ve mentioned the removal of things like the Karma and weapon repair systems which dampen the RPG flavour significantly. Further impeding on tradition are the simplified conversational options, removal of Skills and lack of Survival mode.

Whilst it may appear that the RPG elements have been sacrificed to improve on the action, to me it just seems like vital organs of the game have been removed to appease the CoD-masses and the combat does not feel improved enough (at least to me) to justify such amputation.

Despite this, pacing does become significantly improved not having to keep going into your PipBoy to repair weapons.

Engrossing, wondrous and gripping, Fallout 4 is the game we needed, despite its trimmings.

Score: 9/10

Metal Gear Solid V: Metal Gear Online 3

 

 

a
You’ll find yourself in the middle a motley crew online, you’re going to have to blend your skills and abilities to ensure victory

 

MGSV’s multiplayer plays out much like the older ones albeit with TPP’s added bells and whistles. There are also now three classes to choose from: Infiltrator, Enforcer and Scout. There are 16-player matches for PS4, Xbox One and PC, and 12-player matches for previous-gen consoles.

The ‘buddy’ system has been introduced for this installation of Metal Gear Online. You can now pair up with a team mate and share enemy markings on-screen and occasionally be allowed to teleport to each other’s locations during a match.

 

b
Interrogate held up enemies, but be quick about it

 

The introduction of classes is an excellent boosting of fundamentals. Each class possesses unique traits and skills as well as perks and equipment. As one levels up, new gadgets, weapons, and gear will be introduced to personal load-outs.

Infiltrator is my favourite class. Equipped with stealth camouflage which enables short periods of invisibility, your role is to sneak up on enemies and interrogate them in a choke-hold which will reveal the rest of the enemies’ locations on the map. After that one can slit the throats of their victims or extract them using the ‘fulton’ balloon.

 

c
Stop your buddy from becoming part of the atmosphere by shooting down the attached fulton 

 

The infiltrator is also the nimblest and lightest member of the team. CQC (Close Quarters Combat) is the name of the game here as you weave through the map undetected and intelligently get behind your target without being spotted.

The Scout is the sniper and enemy marker of the team. This class involves finding an advantageous crow’s nest and then proceeding to reveal enemy locations to the rest of the team, as well as popping heads with high-powered rifles.

 

d
The cardboard box is, of course, part of anything Metal Gear Solid

 

The Enforcer is the grunt of the team, rooting out sneaky little Snake-wannabes and riddling them with bullets. This class gets many perks to shooting and accuracy. One will also receive staunch vitality and defense.

There are three game-modes available. Bounty Hunter is my favourite and the most exciting. The aim is to reduce the other team’s tickets from thirty to zero. This is done by killing other players or fultoning them, which will also add points to your own team score. A bounty is received on a player for every kill they nab, one bounty point for each victim. If a player with a bounty is extracted, the numerical value of the bounty score will be added to the opposing team’s score. Scoring a high-value extraction is a great feeling.

Cloak and Dagger involves each team taking a turn attempting to retrieve one of two Data Discs containing confidential intel which the other team must defend. Once a player snatches a disc, it’s a mad yet tactful rush to the extraction zone which will grant victory for the team.

Comm Control is basically Capture the Flag. Players take turns attempting to secure a Comm Link which downloads as the attacking team stands in its little zone. The defending team must stop attackers from downloading the Comm Link at all costs.

 

e
Jumping in a D-Walker boosts any assault

 

This is frantic yet thoughtful gameplay, which is why it is so enjoyable. The game combines strategy and tactics with furious combat. There are also many silly gadgets to use such as a plush puppy which enemies can’t help but play with at the expense of a leaking skull and fulton traps which when stepped on will automatically elevate targets for profit.

The issue spoiling the fun though is, of course, wonky servers typical of a new multiplayer. Lag will often hamper combat and being disconnected from a match is only too common. Hopefully Kojima will pull finger and smooth out the debilitations as soon as possible, but in the mean time, we’ve all been donated 3,000 in-game currency and a one-week extension for the double-experience point unlock. How kind of you, Konami.

 

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

The game opens 9 years after the catastrophic events of the demo, Ground Zeroes. An emaciated Snake short of his left arm awakens in a hospital to find his misery has only just begun, progressively intensifying into terror. We witness Kojima’s talent in the horror department, as a hapless Big Boss wriggles his way around various horrors. This makes me sad that Silent Hills was cancelled.

1
Kiefer Sutherland as Venom Snake

Unlike previous Metal Gear Solid titles, which would open with a meaty briefing from some commander as the special agent made his painstaking infiltration of some high-security secret base, this title skips such typical, formal drudgery for a frantic and thrilling prologue that had my eyes bulging out their sockets.

Immediately I noticed just how good the game looks. The nurse attending to the semi-conscious Snake had visibly flexing muscle jaws and temples – all manner of facial detail – beautifully illuminated and shadowed. The facial and motion-capture of the Fox Engine are a pioneering effort. The textures of clothes and materials, shimmering particles and lighting, all these things combine to create a highly lifelike experience. This without a doubt is the best-looking game on PS4 I have played so far.

Players are then thrust into the harsh realm of Afghanistan, a country in the heat of a Russian invasion. Riding into the arid landscape on a horse, Snake determinedly sets off to find his long-time partner in crime. The sun shines into the canyon, causing vivid, lush Fox Engine goodness to light up with jaw-dropping gorgeousness. Claims disputing the downgrading of the final product’s graphical quality become immediately discounted as complete slander.

3
Visibility-killing sandstorms will often swamp the environment

From here on out the game becomes a series of episodic main missions and side quests peppered with story. Note that the stereotypically monstrous cutscenes involving someone lecturing you on some shady fictional conspiracy for a good portion of the day have been erased. Cutscenes are now short and sweet, focusing more on emotion and action rather than lengthy discourse.

The objective here is to build ‘Mother Base’, Snake’s new ocean-based mercenary HQ to a level powerful enough to take on the Illuminati-like ‘Cypher’, the omniscient, malicious organisation that ruined Snake and his pals’ lives and put them on a dark path for revenge.

4
Rhinestone cowboys: Big Boss and his new enemy-turned-partner

This is done primarily through the extraction of soldiers and POWs one encounters continually throughout the game. Attaching a ‘Fulton’ – a balloon which catapults its victim several thousand feet into the air – to an incapacitated enemy or prisoner will ensure some helicopter will extract them safely and return them to Mother Base to be ‘convinced’ to join ranks. Volatile weather conditions, a nearby enemy, and overhead cover will block the safe ascent of a ballooning individual. Make sure that you are in a safe area before extracting.

Once a unit is safe and sound in the oceanic Mother Base, they can then be assigned to various departments which will begin as only a couple-strong, increasing in number once further platforms are built and your base expands. These departments, for example, include ‘R&D’, technological research and development. This wing of the base will provide further improved weaponry and equipment, giving you access to innovative, farfetched gizmos such as invisibility cloaks, replacing the fulton balloon with a wormhole and a detachable, flyable prosthetic arm for Snake which will blast off and rocket punch enemies.

5
Upgrade your fulton to be able to whisk away vehicles and resource-loaded containers

As mentioned above, Mother Base will expand along with your efforts in bringing in personnel, materials and resources and vehicles. There are also plants, animals and other cool stuff to collect which will empower Snake and his equipment further. It is a great pleasure to witness the progressive prominence of your base as new struts are added to your oil-rig-like home, creating new avenues for Snake’s rise to supremacy.

The occasional visit to Mother Base ensures morale stays high, as your staff will be delighted to see you and insist you train with them. Snake will also become pretty filthy with time, as he is continually spattered in blood, dirt and debris. An abundance of filthiness will cause Snake’s physical and mental health to decline as well as reveal his position to enemies more easily. Just exploring your blooming enterprise is also just plain heart-warming, and there is plenty of interaction and treasure-hunting to be done.

7
Build your base, be a Boss

Now for the actual gameplay. Snake can navigate his way between enemy bases and checkpoints on his horse or enemy vehicles. Later on in the game, the methods of transport become more exciting, such as the bipedal, roving D-Walker mech. The meat of my experience has been largely infiltrating enemy bases to retrieve some VIP, intel or research or special item. This would feel repetitive if not for the attention to variation and detail in each fortified location.

The Phantom Pain is still very much a Metal Gear Solid game, stealth is still the crux of the experience. The blind rushing into enemy checkpoints will result in the radioing of surrounding bases, causing a proliferated lock-down and manhunt as waves of enemies will flock for your blood. Surrounding enemy bases will tighten security and infiltration will become harder.

8
Scan an enemy base carefully before making your approach

Every approach to an enemy position requires a varying amount of calculation, analysis and planning, depending on the size and population of the base or checkpoint. This is mainly done by scoping out and marking enemies who will remain highlighted in your vision (thank you Far Cry). Climbing to a high vantage point and surveying an outpost will reveal essential information and visuals. Then there is your angle and approach to decide, finding the right breaching point to slip in past searchlights and sentries undetected.

You can then begin the mischief. Creeping up on an enemy will give you a range of options. You can choke him out, judo-throw him, knife him or hold him up with a gun and force him to the ground where he will remain until a friend finds him. Interrogation is afforded by the grabbing or holding-up of enemies, squeezing out juicy intel and friends’ positions. The classic tranquilizer gun is also back and will aid your stealth magnificently.

9
Snake’s own personal mini-Metal Gear

If an enemy detects you, there is a several-second slow-motion window known as ‘Reflex Mode’ where you have a small chance to diffuse your startled pursuer. Failure to do so will result in a widespread state of chaos, as every nearby bad guy will chase after you, not to mention the recently radioed elite back up racing to your position in trucks.

Unless you succeed in hiding for a period long-enough, you will die pretty soon. This game has a minimalistic HUD: no onscreen map and no alert status display, pushing your senses and reflexes. One day you will thank Metal Gear Solid when you have to avoid someone you really dislike.

Snake will also be accompanied by customizable and upgradable buddies on a mission. The horse is the first and most basic, but in time you will find a bunch of awesome companions, ranging from the sniper Quiet to the wolf D-Dog.

19
Stefanie Joosten as Quiet

This is a magnificent game, unhealthily gripping and addictive. There are a few irksome issues with climbing and the sandbox is no GTA, but I couldn’t have asked for a better swansong from my favourite director. The sheer scale and effort of TPP makes it deserve nothing less than a perfect score.

You should buy it – 10/10