Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn was one of the games that I was most excited for leading up to 2017. With its intriguing juxtaposition of sophisticated, animalistic machines and gorgeous countryside, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m happy to say that my hyped anticipation was well-rewarded.

Many were very curious as to how Guerilla Games – a studio best-known for its gritty, dystopian FPS franchise Killzone,  would handle something as revolutionary as an open-world action-RPG. It’s clear that they did their homework, because Horizon Zero Dawn is a marvelous effort in plant-gathering, skill-tree climbing, and general open-world exploring.

Set in a post-apocalyptic future where a humanity, largely reduced to hunter-gatherer tribes scurrying between the clunking paws of mechanical creatures scrapes out a meager existence. A new, rather peculiar population rules the world – straight out of David Attenborough’s fever dreams – that of a robotic imitation of various stages of Life on Earth.

Primitive combat with a futuristic spin

The game’s narrative centers on Aloy, a strong-headed and determined young lady, supremely talented in the art of disassembling creations millenniums beyond her and her counterparts’ development.

That’s not to say that humanity lost its ingenuity, far from it. Although some of Aloy’s contemporaries do their best to repel these abominations of nature, many have become very crafty and ingenious, our heroine included.

Not everything wants to kill you in this game

Aloy and the others courageous and forward-thinking enough try their best to salvage fallen machines, turning their scrapped appendages and components into weapons and tools. Aloy is also, of course, an adept hunter-gatherer, excelling at hunting more organic wild animals and gathering medicinal plants, both essential to staying alive and well.

Although our main character is determined and independent, she harbours much sadness and uncertainty. Without giving too much away, Aloy isn’t the most popular member of her tribe, for reasons not revealed until much later on in the game. She is eager to prove herself, but what she truly wishes for are answers to her mysterious and difficult existence.

Some machines are just plain evil

My main concern going into this game was its major focus on archery. Although I do enjoy archery in games like The Last of Us and Far Cry, bows and arrows are rather difficult to use on console.

Using an analog stick to aim this slowly reloaded, one-shot weapon can be quite a clumsy affair. Horizon Zero Dawn has made archery more accessible and user-friendly, becoming an adaptable staple, rather than a showy novelty as it is in many games.

Aloy has many burning questions you need to help her answer

Even if it isn’t your strongest point as a gamer, you will soon get to grips with its mechanics and become a proficient archer, feathering the snapping robots with all manner of projectiles.

Despite archery being the bread and butter of this game, there are quite a few other stretchy weapons available to keep the scrap coming. Slingshots that lob bombs (both explosive and elemental), bow-like weapons that lay wire-traps down, and some fancy contraptions to unlock later on.

You need to adapt to the many different kinds of environments

Aloy also has a wide range of outfits to unlock, all meticulously detailed. These new threads will provide buffs to various defense statistics or improve your covertness. Having a bunch of suits at hand means that you can constantly swap back and forth between them, using the inventory, to best handle a situation.

Most of Aloy’s progression in this game heavily depends on exploiting your environment for resources. Be it more advanced ingredients protruding from the rumps of machines, or medicinal herbs, all of your expendable items require an industrious upkeep. This means that you will be spending much of the game scouring the plains for herbal remedies, shafts for your arrows and volatile canisters to fuel your explosive ammunition.

Each machine has its own strength and weakness, and you will soon work out a strategy for taking each one one down

While this hefty administrative side to the game may seem tedious, it makes for a lovely break from the endless cataclysmic fights with some of the more ferociously terrifying automatons. Gathering all manner of pretty flowers and hunting in the many scenic locations is very therapeutic.

The varied juxtaposition in this game makes for a phenomenal aesthetic and design. The gorgeous, sprawling countryside and its ever-changing geographic makeup is a mesh of flora and fauna intertwined with the rusting remains of a supremely advanced civilisation.

The game excels at making you feel small

It’s amazing just how different the environment becomes according to the weather and position of the sun. The varyingly dazzling and dull colours of the world around you ooze and flow back and forth, providing a very romantic and lifelike portrayal of nature.

The fashion and technology of the different human groups in this game seem to have pioneered their own unique contrast as well, giving birth to what I call Palaeolithicpunk. Their garbs and tools are a fusion of impressive lumps of robotic scrap weaved together with earthy threads. A lot of characters wouldn’t look out of place at a forest trance party or Burning Man.

Some machines are exceptionally loaded with goodies

The design of the two-dozen or so robotic enemies in this game is also astonishing. From the more passive herbivore-like machines resembling deer and horses, to the wickedly monstrous and dinosaur-like, each machine comes with its own personality and complex design. Some machines are happy to graze unperturbed and will often run from you on sighting, while others exist to ambush or just plain crush any human that stumbles into their neck of the woods. Machines aren’t your only worry, though, as there are many humans that have resorted to banditry and more nefarious tasks…

You will spend a lot of time exploring abandoned cities

While Killzone has always mostly been about storming your way through with a traditional run-and-gun design, Horizon forces players into a far more tactical and careful mindset. You are, after all, just a small, squishy human taking on hordes of cybernetic juggernauts.

Machines will generally wander about in packs or herds, often as a motley crew. Approaching each production line requires a unique dedication to observation and trap-setting. Sneakily outmaneuvering a cluster of deadly robots, while setting plenty of traps, all the while envisioning the paths they will take once explosively disturbed.

There are various fun ways of navigating the terrain

Once your cunning plan has been set into motion, or once a machine stumbles into an electric/freezing/burning/explosive trap, all hell breaks loose. Depending on how Machiavellian you were in the pre-emptive stages of your assault heavily decides whether you will become a victor or pink porridge.

Successfully decommissioning an enigmatically volatile series of electronic beasts rewards you with a shimmering field of loot. The sparking dump that replaces a once majestic scene of lumbering clockwork organisms provides the player with a myriad of invaluable resources, for both inventory maintenance and upgrade.

A glorious weather system

Aloy may begin her quest with glorified sticks and stones, but in time you will be slinging all manner of fearsome wire and rope gadgets. You will always have to employ care and conservativeness in your playstyle, though, as the clunking automatons only get progressively more lethal and staunch as you wander further from your comparatively mild beginnings.

Many open world games have a massive amount of ‘fetch’ side quests: merely retrieving trinkets for NPCs and the like in endless, unimaginative chores. Horizon Zero Dawn has a lot of ingeniously loaded side quests, each richly charged with engaging dialogue and subplot. Many side quests also cleverly link up to the main story, shedding glimmers of clarity on the main mysteries.

This T-Rex bad boy is going to take a lot of arrows to drop

This game is just phenomenal. It gives you everything you need. An admirable protagonist, a massive amount of addictive content, a captivating plot, and gorgeous graphics. Horizon Zero Dawn has set the benchmark for modern open-world games.

10/10

The Last Guardian

The Last Guardian has finally found its way into the disc trays of PS4s. After a ridiculous level of obscure, backhand changes to schedule in order to delay it to PS4 (paraded as technical difficulties needing work), we can finally tell if it was all worth it or not.

Personally, I believe so, but many others would disagree with me. The game is undoubtedly and very obviously flawed. Most of the reviews and opinions I have come across echo the same annoyances I had with the controls, camera work, and the big feathered fella’s obstinacy.

These issues are either overcome by the individual, and the love shines through, or they allow it to diminish their overall opinion of this title. While I was definitely irked by its faults, I absolutely adore this game.

You’ve got to keep calling for Trico to follow you along

An unfathomably massive and intricately designed environment, a very lovable duo and their teary bond, creative puzzles and thrilling platform action. Maybe I’m being biased, being such a massive fan of ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, but I always try to judge games as independently and objectively as possible.

My biggest complaint is the glaringly low framerate the game suffers from on a standard PS4. Unless you have a PS4 Pro, the game will not run altogether smoothly. Having being delayed specifically so that it could shine its brightest on the current generation of consoles, this is a serious screwup. It’s just plain bad optimisation.

Plenty of leaps of faith in this one

Those that have not played the previous two masterpieces in the series might very easily be put off with its rather unsteady controls and gameplay. The protagonists in these games tend to scrabble about a lot, which although lends a much more organic feel to characters, may deter players used to characters that stop exactly when you let go of the analog stick.

The camera also has some issues. It will often pan all over the place, making keeping track of your progression difficult every so often. This is especially the case with more claustrophobic spots where it just doesn’t know where to go.

It’s great having your own personal elevator

I feel that its undoubtedly sizeable issues cannot restrain one of the most beautiful and soulful games to come out recently. Being a Fumito Ueda game, everything is very enigmatic and surreal. There is a constantly spiritual, otherworldly ambiance that carries the game. Playing The Last Guardian really does have a very dissociative effect on the individual.

The game takes you on a puzzling journey through a multi-dimensional citadel. A young boy inexplicably finds himself trapped inside this sprawling building, face to face with an initially frightened and quarrelsome ‘Trico’ – a chimera of sorts. Their budding bond and progressive relationship are, of course, the game’s main emotional drive.

One of the most divine relationships in any game

Trico is completely adorable, if not a little uncooperative. He will often stare at you ineffectually as the little man furiously stamps his feet shouting orders. But that is ultimately all part of his naughty charm. Trico resembles the best factors of domesticated house pets, the avatar of cat memes.

Trico may appear placid most of the time, but he harbours a well of repressed terror, pain and fury that comes gushing out whenever confronted by his clanking tormentors. Throughout the entirety of the game, you will often encounter strange suits of animated armour. They are hell-bent on abducting our young protagonist, all the time throwing spears at Trico, who will go berserk and begin tossing the empty knights around like toy soldiers with aggravated vim.

You’ll spend a lot of time on the sunny edges of your majestic prison

These encounters season relatively relaxing puzzle-based platform activities, which are very creative and enjoyable. There is a very unique spin thrown in here, as you and your beast must work together in order to solve puzzles requiring a mixture of human ingenuity and monstrous strength, height, and leaping.

That’s pretty much the lion’s share of the gameplay. You and your companion fight and think your way through each section of this immeasurable prison, searching for a way out. It’s the sheer level of emotional bonding you get to do with Trico that makes the game so wonderful. That, and some pretty nifty puzzle and platform design that doesn’t ever get stale or repetitive.

Some very interesting puzzles, requiring a fair amount of brainstorming

Trico is one of the most animated and life-like non-human characters in any game. The only creature that comes to mind with as much believable personality is the Xenomorph from Alien: Isolation.

Trico will spend much of your time together blinking at you quizzically as you hammer commands away trying to get him to do what you want. However, the amount of cute, silly, frantic and violent behaviour you will witness from him will undoubtedly fill you with much wonder for this very enigmatic monster.

The stage design is jaw-dropping. It gives the feeling of infinite, inescapable imprisonment

When you think you have him/her figured out, he/she (or the game in general) will introduce some new aspect to their history or makeup to keep you dumbfounded. Much of this game and its plot and characters – as fans of this series will tell you – is open to interpretation. It relies on the player to narrate what they feel is happening, rather than constantly force-feeding you rhetoric.

This game is definitely for a very niche group of gamers. It takes much patience, a sense of wonder and a love for puzzles. If you think this game isn’t right for you, don’t bother with expensive disappointment. However, if the opposite is true, you are in for a wonderfully emotional journey.

9/10

Call of Duty: Black Ops III

Treyarch (who make the quirkier Call of Duty titles) have delivered a loaded sci-fi barrel of laughs with Black Ops 3.

With the explosive campaign, boosted online and classic zombie mode, there is a lot here to keep you busy.

In other words, the people at Treyarch have looked at different sci-fi games and selected some cutting-edge parts to upgrade the CoD-machine with.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Robots and spaceships and stuff. Oh, and archery!

The campaign is set 40 years after the events of the previous Black Ops, in a world devastated by natural disasters, forcing humans to consolidate in massive cyber-cities.

You take on the role of a special operative, who after being dismembered by an evil Chappie, is mechanically rebuilt into a cyborg supersoldier.

Being a supersoldier means you can now jump onto a wall and dash along it before jumping back onto the ground or a parallel wall.

You can also thrust into the air for a short period (thanks, Destiny). This introduces a fun platform element to the game, an effort to dilute the repetitive run-and-gun drudgery seen in every Call of Duty for far too long now.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Go online for some speedy, acrobatic salt

The protagonist is also jacked into the Direct Neural Interface, a kind of matrix which allows one to manipulate and communicate with machines as well as other humans connected to this system.

Players can now hijack instruments like turrets and drones to lay waste to dozens of enemies around.

There is, thankfully, a 4-player max co-op mode in the campaign, zombie mode and online multiplayer.

The usual corridor-shooting has been swapped for impressive and expansive stages that look a lot like the various planets’ designs in Destiny, such as the snowy industrial complex on Earth and the ruined city claimed by greenery on Venus.

The Destiny influence is so strong I actually wouldn’t be unreasonable calling Black Ops 3 a fun Destiny.

Stages, character model design, abilities, gameplay and overall look and feel have been emulated from the Bungie epic.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
This guy enjoys slamming his power tools into the ground, causing a shockwave

The campaign quickly became boring. The momentum-based movement system doesn’t help break the monotony of advancing through swarms of enemies, neither do your various cyber-abilities, which let you immolate robots (who are actually a lot of fun to shoot to pieces), release a hive of machine fireflies to burn humans and various other cyber-spells.

It’s just not enough, CoD campaigns are the reason why so many people have become desensitised to murder and war.

A realistic difficulty mode has been added to the campaign, in which one measly bullet will kill you.

The campaign has a few recognizable actors in it. With Christopher Meloni as Commander John Taylor, Rachel Kimsey as Rachel Kane, Katee Sackhoff as Sarah Hall, Tony Amendola as Dr. Yousef Salim and Sean Douglas as Jacob Hendricks.

Sports fans might recognize Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch who makes a cameo as a villain.

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Zombie Mode has been very nicely fleshed out

There is an individual experience-based leveling system in all three modes – campaign, online and zombies – which gives you access to more weapons, perks, customisation, and upgrades.

This means three ladders to climb and a lot of hooks to keep you glued to the controller/mouse trying to augment each character as much as possible.

I haven’t properly played a Call of Duty game in several years, but the basic formula remains for the multiplayer.

The basic movement and procedure of a round feels pretty much the same, despite all of the handy augmentations.

A lot of bells and whistles have been added, mainly inspired by Destiny, from what I could gather.

The standard game modes remain, such as Team-Deathmatch and Free-For-All as well as the Pick 10 system from Black Ops II.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
With your robot arms you can now lift Gundam guns

Don’t get me wrong, sameness isn’t always a bad thing; the multiplayer is highly enjoyable and smooth.

Despite many hard-core gamers discounting this franchise as a run of the mill, low-skill shooter for the masses, it is intrinsically a solid FPS.

Of course, a lot of work has been put into making multiplayer feel varied and evolved.

The whizzing acrobatics described earlier translate well to the multiplayer gameplay. Having short aerial-battles reminiscent of The Crucible in Destiny and running at each other along a wall all-guns-blazing is great.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
It’s an honor getting the final kill, can’t say the same for being the final kill

Online there are various classes one can choose from called ‘Specialists’, each with their own back-story and abilities.

The 9 Specialists include characters such as a hooded archer that can shoot explosive arrows and scan the area around them, to a sniper that can shoot chain-lighting which bounces from foe to foe.

There are a few Specialists that can only be unlocked at higher levels.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Find the class that best suits your skills, but don’t forget to try them all out

A kill streak affords the usual map-scanning and artillery functionality, as well as a class-based special move that is unleashed using the top two shoulder buttons – just like in Destiny.

These range from slamming the ground causing an instakill shockwave (just like in Destiny), to scanning the area around to reveal enemies.

A swarm of killer robot bees can be unleashed on a victim and you can split yourself into several illusions.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
Lethal cybernetic upgrades needed to survive in scary robot dystopia

As for Zombie mode, two stories have been introduced, Shadows of Evil and The Giant.

Shadows of Evil introduces a new tale and characters whilst The Giant continues the previous Black Ops’ zombie mode story with the same characters.

Zombie mode was a big part of my teenage life, so it’s nice to see the fundamentals have been left unchanged in this installment.

Zombies spill out of ruptured plank-defences as each round revolves around eliminating all undead pursuers.

New areas are unlocked by paying the toll at each gate, each newly-opened area exponentially increasing the chaos and number of attackers.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
One of the most enjoyable cooperative experiences

New touches include being able to temporarily transform into a tentacle-ridden monster that can easily crush surrounding enemies, gumballs which provide perks and again an experience-based system that allows you to purchase more guns and upgrades.

All-in-all, I was very impressed by how much quality entertainment has been brought to the table this time, despite the mundanity of the campaign.

Call of Duty tried hard this time with Black Ops 3 to address its cookie-cutter existence, and largely succeeded in a rather borrowed manner.

Score: 7/10

Bloodborne

Bloodborne is easily one of the most thrilling and rewarding experiences out there. At its heart, it’s a miasma of obscurity. Players are catapulted into a chaotic world free of proper direction or guidance.

We wander seemingly aimless through terrifying alleyways and forests with little clue on navigation and even less on what comes next.

 

Bloodborne
It’s a nightmarishly picturesque world

 

Players were continually stepping into treacherous new areas, only to fall face-first into smoldering pits of darkness, surrounded by deadly fiends crawling out of the wood-works, or in this case Gothic masonry.

This is what makes Bloodborne so wonderful, you never know what to expect, and never know just what the hell you are getting yourself into.

Everything is cloaked in mystery; characters, enemies, environments and the plot are just one big murky swamp we love swimming in.

 

Bloodborne
Whether you’re plumbing a ghastly sewer or exploring an arcane library, keep your wits about you!

 

Bloodborne is hard. How hard, you may ask? Let me put it this way: I didn’t think I was going to make it through the first stage. I was immediately faced with a brick wall of adversity, one I didn’t think I’d ever smash my way through.

Just fighting the most basic group of creeps was like trying to exorcise the Devil from someone using a YouTube video of a dog drinking water.

Bloodborne
Hacking at crazed plebs has never been so gratuitously thrilling

Few things have made me curse loudly in aggravated bitterness so frequently. Making such sweaty progress only to be drop-kicked back to the last checkpoint clocked about an hour ago is magnificently endearing.

The potion FromSoftware concocted made from despairing degradation and jubilant triumph makes for some interesting psychology.

The finely-tuned reflexes and systematic button-tapping required for this fluid foray can be a bitter pill to swallow for those unfamiliar with Souls games, but once digested, the game becomes a constant flow of garish exhilaration.

It was absolute bliss turning the tide on my tormentors, realizing that I could play this game! Maybe I’d even play it again on ‘New Game +’ (The same game, just much harder).

 

Bloodborne
Boss fights are the bread and butter of Souls games

 

Playing Bloodborne is like being transported into Edo Japan and becoming Miyamoto Musashi’s apprentice.

At first, he constantly beats you with a log for your piggish ineptitude, but in time you are meditating side-by-side under a waterfall, the crashing logs harmlessly splintering off your scalp.

In no time, however, you are magically reduced back into a chubby good-for-nothing and have to repeat the whole process again, and again, and again – pure, unadulterated joy.

 

Bloodborne
Bloodborne’s version of a bonfire

 

I experienced such ominous despair whenever I sensed a boss-fight was about to begin.

My heart sank and the hairs stood up on my arms whenever a colossal hellion skulked out of the shadows, knowing I’d be spending hours turning into days hacking at it.

One particular boss, Vicar Amelia, probably earned me the highest amount of retries I’ve spent on any boss in any game, ever.

Granted I was still pretty green to Souls games at the time – this foray was just complete insanity.

 

Bloodborne
Grab your friend and go tag team on a boss

 

Eventually, I managed to crush her though, and I jumped for joy. This sense of jubilation is rarely felt in many games; it’s the same feeling as finishing a lengthy raid or disarming the bomb surrounded by unaware enemies.

The boss fights are just complete savage adrenaline.

Sure, you spend a good amount of time on your knees, but once you find your way forwards and implement a sound strategy, the sense of competence produces complete elation.

 

Bloodborne
The creature design has been grotesquely detailed

 

 

Story-wise, the game centers around a gothic town called Yharnam besieged by a mysterious and devastating curse that has driven its population insane, and worse. People are starting to mutate into ghastly monsters, the few sane and unchanged individuals cowering in the shelter of their homes.

You play as a hunter, a skilled member of a syndicate tasked with eliminating such abominations, tasked with entering Yharnam and bringing bloody order to a place gone to hell.

Yharnam’s gloomy streets and cathedrals are just the beginning of your quest, as you plough your way through forests, universities and more mystical locations. You will soon begin piecing together a story entailing a damning thirst for power and knowledge that turns humans into the unspeakable.

Bloodborne

Bloodborne is an absolute treat for newcomers and veterans to FromSoftware’s punishing trials. Its hasty make-or-break nature is a fantastic change from Dark Soul’s more sludgy clunking.

10/10

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