Tag Archives: FPS

Play Manchester 2016

The beginning of October marked the fifth year of the Play Manchester gaming expo held at Event City venue. With it’s usual and varied blend of retro gaming cabinets, upcoming indie titles on display, and a wider array of new upcoming mainstream releases than last year’s proceedings, Play Manchester 2016 was even more exciting and diverse than in 2015, and just are star-studded in addition with a special panel present that I shall be covering further in the article. First, I perused the various indie games that were on show at the event, and I was impressed with the amount of range of different gameplay ideas and conceptual designs that the new up and coming developers had to showcase.

Snake Pass

snake-pass

The first indie game I came across was a 3D platformer unlike any other. Developed by Sumo Digital, Snake Pass is a game in which the player controls a snake in order to slither around a series of levels and hunting collectible items throughout. Players must learn to take full advantage of the game’s insanely unique control mechanics to reach high places, overcome imposing obstacles and puzzles, and leave no stone unturned, as there are plenty of items to collect through each level, it seemed. What impressed me most about this game, in addition to it’s impressive-looking visuals, was the game’s style of play. With a completely different take on getting around levels and uncovering secrets, it plays out like no other 3D platformer I’ve ever come across. The developer also explained to me various ways that players could choose to play the game, ranging from emphasis on speed, elegance or thoroughness. I personally believe if the developers plan to integrate this idea into the game further, it would most probably add even more replayability to it, but in the state that it was in at the time, it still impressed me very much.

http://www.sumo-digital.com/snakepass/#

@SumoDigitalLtd

Dragon Bros

dragon-bros

Having discovered a greater fondness for side scrolling shooters since I first started blogging, having played more games like Contra and Metal Slug, I was also particularly amazed by another indie game made largely in the same vein, but with a very interesting twist on conceptual design. Dragon Bros, developed by the aptly named Space Lizard Studios, the game is insanely action-packed, filled with breathtaking pixel art and seemed a lot more accessible than the like of Contra; especially the first three games in the series. For me, Dragon Bros was my pick for the best indie title on display at this year’s proceedings; it was the most fun and addictive game, as well as the most interesting in terms of conceptual design. Though comparisons can be drawn between it and Bubble Bobble, since the main characters are two dragons coloured both green and blue, it takes place in a much different kind of world reminiscent of science fiction rather than the cutesy fantasy settings of the former.

http://spacelizardstudio.com/work/dragon-bros/

@SpaceLizardSt

Mao Mao Castle

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Another game on display I become insanely addicted to, and have been playing frequently ever since the show, is Mao Mao Castle. Created by Asobi Tech, the game is an on-rail free-to-play browser game requiring the player to take advantage of various different mechanics to rack up as many points as possible to attain the highest score possible. The story centres around a cat with supernatural abilities trying to find a way home to a levitating castle in the skies. Reminiscent of the 8-BIT era, it takes influence in terms of conceptual design largely from the varied works of Studio Ghibli; made even more obvious by the fact that the developers had a plushy of the Cat Bus from My Neighbour Totoro perched on top of the projector used to display the game. Usually the game is controlled using a PC mouse, but the version on display at the show used motion controls, and plushies were up for grabs for anyone who could rack up exceptionally high scores. I managed to win one of the three available plushies, and have been racking up higher scores ever since. I highly recommend this game, as it excels in gameplay above even many mainstream releases, as well as it stands out amongst indie games. The link to play is below:

http://aso.bi/maomao/

Unbox

unbox

Another 3D platformer with a difference came in form of Unbox developed by Prospect Games. The player must customize and control their own box-shaped character, and have a wide range of different gameplay modes to choose from, include four-way multiplayer competitive modes, challenge modes, an adventure mode, and even a kart-racing mode; all of which can played to unlock new outfits for their box character, and to attain a wide range of collectibles like in Snake Pass, or most 3D platformers meeting industry standards. Just as unique as the former, it provides an extremely different take on the genre compared to games such as Super Mario 64, Jak & Daxter and Banjo-Kazooie, but also coming with possibly an even greater amount of variety in gameplay and potentially more replayability. Though it may not be as revolutionary as any of the aforementioned titles were at the time of their respective releases, it’s certainly an evolutionary title, and did stand out os one of the better games on display at the event.

http://www.unboxgame.com/

@ProspectGames

Sub Level Zero

sub-level-zero

Another one of my favourite games on display at this year’s Play Manchester was Sub Level Zero; a lovingly crafted Roguelike shooter reminiscent of the classic game Descent developed some of it’s devout fans at Sigtrap Games. Procedurally generated, and with a map system heavily influenced by the Metroid Prime series, which I found to be particularly impressive, as well as surprisingly easy to interface with, Sub Level Zero also has a heavy influence on player character development, with upgrades for grabs, as well as a wide variety of different weapons to use during combat. In lieu of Roguelike tradition, it also offers a fair bit of legitimate challenge, like the likes of Rogue Legacy and Ziggurat. One of many games in display taking advantage of Virtual Reality Headset technology, this game also did extremely well to further alleviate what scepticisms I previously had with the idea back when I first tried the Oculus Rift last year at Play Blackpool. I found that it was a great deal of fun with the addition of VR technology, and made me believe to a greater extent that the concept will be able take off in time.

http://www.sigtrapgames.com/sublevelzero/

@SIGTRAPgames

Hyper Sentinel

hyper-sentinel

The last indie title I tried out was another space-based shooter reminiscent of the arcade classic Defender. Hyper Sentinel, developed by Ian Hewson, son of industry legend Andrew Hewson of Hewson Consultants who appeared on a panel at last year’s Play Blackpool show, it centres on not only shooting down various enemies that appear on-screen, but also collecting power-ups and defeating a boss at each level; normally in the form of a giant spaceship, somewhat reminiscent of Bosconian. Though it may not have been the most unique title on display at the event, with it’s influences blatantly obvious, it does o well to stand out from the game of it’s inspiration in terms of conceptual design, and was also quite fun to play too. It certainly presents as much of a challenge as the arcade classic, and is a must-try for any fan of the arcade era.

http://www.hypersentinel.com/

@HewsonJoystick

Tekken 7: First Impressions

tekken-7

One of many different upcoming AAA titles that were available to try out at Play Manchester this year was Tekken 7. After being sorely disappointed by the previous game, with it’s less than impressive conceptual design, many characters coming across as far too generic, and it’s almost impossible difficulty level at times, I was quite relieved to see how much the seventh game improved on the sixth in every aspect. I was also impressed to see how fluently it plays out in comparison to even the original trilogy of Tekken games, with moves being much easier and less frustrating to pull off. Also, like what Capcom have done with the advent of Street Fighter V, and what NetherRealm studios did with Mortal Kombat X, the developers have seemed to branch out conceptually in terms of character design, but in a way that still makes the game feel like it belongs to the series without them being too generic in design. Akuma from Street Fighter is also a welcome addition following relatively recent crossovers between the two series’. It also makes me excited for what additional characters Capcom may decide to add for when they will inevitably update Street Fighter V.

WWE 2K17: First Impressions

wwe-2k17

The main attraction on show in terms of AAA releases however, as officially announced by Paul Heyman of the WWE, was WWE 2K17. Boasting new wrestlers, a new submission system and the inclusion of Goldberg on pre-order, it marks the fourth WWE released since the publishing rights were acquired by 2K Games, and features all the usual gameplay modes synonymous with WWE games, such as the Triple Threat match, Fatal 4 Way, Royal Rumble and of course, the career mode; as well as the facility to create wrestlers. It is without a doubt the best looking WWE game ever developed, but in terms of gameplay, it did take me a little bit of getting used to; especially since I haven’t played a WWE game since the sixth generation, about the time when I grew out of it as a kid. Regardless, especially after getting used to the submission system, and being able to thoroughly enjoy the game for what it is, I was pretty satisfied with how the newer developers have managed gameplay in comparison to classic WWE games like War Zone, Attitude and Wrestlemania 2000. Though the Attitude era remains my favourite time of the company’s history, it was good to see how the WWE video game formula has been worked upon and handled in a way that works extremely well after so long.

The Tomb Raider Panel

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In terms of guest speakers, however, the main attraction was the assembly of and talk with many of the developers of the original Tomb Raider from Core Design to commemorate the franchise’s 20-year anniversary; many of the panel not having seen each other in as many years. The panel consisted of Jeremy Heath-Smith, the game’s executive producer and co-founder of Core Design, Natalie Cook, who was the original character model for Lara Croft, Richard Morton, who was the lead game, level and environment designer for every game up to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness, Gavin Rummery, who was the lead programmer for Angel of Darkness, Heather Gibson, another level designer for the first two games, Andy Sandham, who designed levels and wrote the scripts for the third game, as well as The Last Revelation and Tomb Raider: Chronicles, Murti Schofield, who wrote the story of Angel of Darkness, Nathan McCree, who composed the original soundtrack for the first two games, and finally Stuart Atkinson, who worked as an artist on the second game. The panel were also to be joined by former Eidos Interactive CEO and industry legend Ian Livingstone, but he unfortunately had to pull out due to ill health. Regardless, I would like to take this opportunity to wish Mr. Livingstone a full recovery.

The panel proceeded to provide an in-depth analysis of how and why Lara Croft was designed the way she was, and how the games themselves were designed the way they were and in what manner, and how both Lara Croft and Tomb Raider gradually went from a unique video gaming idea into a cultural phenomenon, and how it has managed to have such a profound effect on the industry as it has. Questioned were also raised by the audience concerning the reboot of the Tomb Raider series from Crystal Dynamics, and also about the degree of influence Naughty Dog took from Tomb Raider to develop their own Uncharted series. The team responded quite sternly in their answer to the Uncharted question in particular, commenting how many of the various gameplay features were heavily inspired by Tomb Raider, and the long-time Tomb Raider fans in the audience responded fittingly with an astonishing round of applause. Though I may personally prefer Uncharted to Tomb Raider, mostly due to the better start that Uncharted had in terms of controls, credit is due where it is due, and the team deserve props for helping to pioneer one of the most memorable video game series of all time, and so there response was justified in my opinion. Uncharted may have homed the great gameplay concept, but Tomb Raider established it, and has contributed a great deal to the popularity that gaming garnishes today. Especially with the recent release of Rise of the Tomb Raider on PlayStation 4, the talk with the panel was an appropriate reflection on where Tomb Raider has gone, where it is going now, and where it could go in the future. It was extremely exciting to sit in on an extremely insightful presentation, and the made 2016’s Play Expo proceedings all the better for it.

Overall, Play Manchester 2016 was a thrilling experience, and would like to take the opportunity to thank the organisers at Replay Events for the making it the best event it could possibly be, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them next year.

 

Pierhead Arcade: First Impressions

pierhead-arcade

As a bonus, before I headed out to Manchester, Mechabit Games, a Liverpool-based developer, also invited me to try out the latest game they have been working on. Mechabit, who developed the RTS game Kaiju Panic, which was on display at Play Manchester 2015, and won my personal choice for best indie game of that year (shameless plug is shameless), have been working on a virtual reality game called Pierhead Arcade; a collection of interactive fairground games based in a virtual reality amusement arcade. After only having limited experience with VR gaming beforehand, I saw as an excellent opportunity to finally get hands on with the technology involved, so to speak. I wasn’t disappointed.

As I outlined in my Play Blackpool 2015 article, ever since I first heard about plans from of the industry incorporating virtual reality into gaming, I had a great deal of scepticism following the ill-fated release of such platforms as the Nintendo Virtual Boy, and early examples of motion controls before the Wii, such as the Nintendo Power Glove. Since first trying it, and going on to briefly trying it again at different expos, my scepticisms were gradually becoming all the lesser, as I slowly learned to understand how it could work if problems I would encounter would be fixed, such as blurry screens etc, and if there was adequate developer support for these platforms. But now after having seen games such as Battle Zone, and then having seen how much indie developers are beginning to support the platform along with mainstream developers, I now believe this may very well could be a future of gaming that could establish itself as here to stay; provided that developer support will continue, as what is looking increasingly likely, since the technology was on display at other major gaming expos this year, such as E3, Gamescom and EGX.

Pierhead Arcade itself not only takes advantage of this potentially successful technology, but presents players with an astonishing amount of variety, with games like Whack-A-Mole, Shuffleboard, Binary Dash and Skeeball to name but a few. The objective is to earn as many tickets as possible that can be cashed in for prizes, much like in most amusement arcades. There are also a couple of extras in the game, such as a claw machine, and a reception desk with various toys that can be played with, such as building blocks. Overall, the variety is staggering, and the game will make for hours of fun. I may do a full review of this game in the future, I would recommend that VR gamers try it out. Following up Kaiju Panic was always going to be a challenge for Mechabit in my opinion, but with this title, I’d say they’ve done a particularly good job of doing so.

In summation, I would like to again thank the organisers at Replay Events for providing me, as well as countless gamers across the country, with truly memorable experiences at the various Play Expo events this year, and I hope that you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Ziggurat (PlayStation 4, Xbox One & PC)

Developer(s) – Milkstone Studios

Publisher(s) – Milkstone Studios

First released on Steam Early Access back in 2014, and going on to see both digital and physical releases on multiple platforms, Ziggurat is a Roguelike first-person shooting dungeon crawler, somewhat reminiscent of Tower of Guns, with a heavy emphasis on combat, player character development and above all, challenge. After having played Tower of Guns, I had fairly high expectations of how good this game would be, and how it would do the things is does; overall, I was not disappointed.

Graphics – 8/10

The game takes place in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world bearing resemblance to game series’ such as Warcraft or Baldur’s Gate. The graphical quality of the title is stunning, especially for a game developed independently, but more importantly, it also does extremely well to break away from games that were clearly taken as influence by incorporating a massive variety of unique creatures and boss characters, such as Sir Arthur and Lady Audrey. Cutting edge graphics can mean much less if there isn’t variety in conceptual design, but this game has both.

Gameplay – 8/10

The basic premise of gameplay, along with the game’s story, is that an apprentice wizard must take on the challenge of the Ziggurat in order to graduate from his order. Players must undertake increasingly difficult tasks of ascending the floors of the Ziggurat, which are filled with dangerous monsters and challenging obstacles throughout. Players can take advantage of a massive choice of different weapons, spells and perks that can found across the game in order to survive for as long as possible, and to try and eventually graduate from the wizard’s order. Locations, enemies and bosses, in Roguelike tradition, are procedurally generated, an thus does each playthrough provide a new set of challenges every time, keeping the game insanely fresh, and giving it virtually infinite replay value, which can make for hours upon hours of fun.

Controls – 10/10

Belonging to a genre that has dominated the video gaming market since the sixth generation, Ziggurat’s controls are perfect, providing no unnecessary complications, straightforward control mechanics and incorporating all aspects of gameplay seamlessly. The fact that the player character moves faster than in most other first-person shooters also provides quite a lot of fluency for players who have mastered it after a while, as it can become quite satisfying to be able to effectively dodge a wide variety of simultaneous enemy attacks. By the same token, it can also provide an equal amount of challenge to newcomers, since it can be quite easy to rush through unexplored areas, and accidentally fall for a number of given obstacles such as lava pits.

Originality – 7/10

Though Ziggurat is not the first game of it’s kind to incorporate the basic premise of gameplay that it does, it stands out for a massive number of different reasons; the variety in gameplay combat options it provides, as well as it’s conceptual design and artistic direction in terms of visuals. Although it’s clearly not without it’s influences, it provides a marvellous gaming experience that greatly shines throughout the indie developer community, and it’s certainly worth playing again and again.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Ziggurat is a highly enjoyable game, filled with challenge, entertainment and a staggering amount of replayability. It looks great, it plays out wonderfully, and stands out as one of the better gaming experiences on eighth generation hardware.

Score

33/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Doom (2016) (PC, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – id Software

Publisher(s) – Bethesda Softworks

Director(s) – Marty Stratton & Hugo Martin

Producer(s) – Timothy Bell

Twelve years in the making, and finally released to positive reviews in mid-2016, the re-vamp of id Software’s classic shooter Doom presents players with an experience more akin to Doom 1 and 2, deviating away from the survival horror approach taken with Doom 3, and given an overhaul in visuals as well as having numerous different features thrown in for good measure. I thought that whilst it was pretty light on story, again alluding to the first two games, it was overall a fairly decent gaming experience worth at least one playthrough, and was left relieved that it didn’t become another Duke Nukem Forever, as it easily could have been if history has gone another way.

Graphics – 10/10

The game runs on the id Tech engine; one of the most advanced gaming engines on the market. And as a result, it looks nigh on flawless in terms of technical performance. It’s certainly one of the best looking video games I’ve seen throughout the eighth generation so far; if not, the best. The conceptual design is also very well handled, as it looks even more akin to the classic box art than any other Doom game to date, with the red skies and terrains of mars, and the hordes of demons players must have to contend with. Although the game itself plays out much like the first two games in the series, I like that they also kept the scary atmosphere and limited lighting in UAC facilities, which were established in Doom 3.

Gameplay – 7/10

The game has a standard level-based campaign mode, whereby players must shoot their way through hordes of demonic creatures and complete a couple of collectible side quests along the way, but on top of that, there is online multiplayer included as standard. But the most interesting feature the game has to offer is undoubtedly the SnapMap system, which allows players to create their own arenas and stages, and hold their own online multiplayer battles and single player levels as well as other game modes; a direct response to the overwhelming legacy the original game created in terms of user-generated content. The SnapMap feature makes this game stand out among the many other generic FPS games that are released every year, and after completing the main story mode, will provide much more replay value for people left wanting more.

Controls – 10/10

Handled by the godfathers of the first-person shooting genre, id Software, it was expected that there would be no issues with the game’s controls; and so there aren’t any. Doom’s controls are handled just as well as any other modern FPS game, and present players with no unnecessary complications

Lifespan – 10/10

The campaign can typically last up to around 13 hours, which whilst isn’t exceptional is still much longer than the average FPS story mode. But on top of that, online multiplayer and the SnapMap feature will provide players with unlimited replay value, so the game will in essence last as long as player interest, which given what this game has to offer, should be a considerably long time; especially veteran fans of the series.

Storyline – 4/10

As I said, this game is light on story; even in the campaign mode. The plot is that an unnamed space marine is traversing through the planet Mars, and is on the way eliminating as much of the demon horde as possible. There are slight instances of character development and a couple of different plot threads, but not enough to make it stand out from other games in this respect. Arguably, there didn’t need to be a story for it to work, and that does apply to a certain extent, but given how id Software have previously demonstrated that they know how to tell at least an interesting story, as evidenced with both Rage and Wolfenstein: The New Order, I still can’t help but feel that this game fell short in this respect.

Originality – 6/10

Another aspect that the game falls short on slightly is in terms of uniqueness; partly in conjunction with the fact that this is simply a second re-telling of the events of the original game. It’s also due to the fact that Doom does essentially play out like a standard first-person shooter, and that there are no unique mechanics within the gameplay itself outside the SnapMap feature. It could be argued that id Software may have wanted to keep things simple for the sake of delaying the game any more than they already had done. If true, the game was made to suffer slightly in terms of originality.

Happii

Happii

In summation, however, Doom is a solid first person shooting experience, and I would recommend it to both veterans and newcomers. It’s longer than the average shooter, and while it does play out a lot like an average shooter, there are enough additional gameplay features to keep players busy vanquishing the demon horde for a long time.

Score

47/60

7.5/10 (Good)

XIII (PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mac & PC)

Developer(s) – Ubisoft Paris, Southend Interactive (Xbox) & Feral Interactive (Mac)

Publisher(s) – Ubisoft, Marvelous Entertainment & Feral Interactive

Director – Elisabeth Pellen

Producer – Julien Barés

XIII was a game based on the comic book of the same name written by Belgian novelist Jean Van Hamme. According to then Ubisoft president Laurent Detoc, the game would create “a world so unique and enthralling that gamers will become instantly engaged”. Even with a very new form of visual presentation in video games, I wouldn’t entirely agree with this.

Graphics – 7/10

The graphics were fairly well done for the time. This was, after all, the first ever comic book style first-person shooter. Its visual style is indeed the best thing about the game not only that, but it is also very well polished. I couldn’t see any glitches or anything like that whilst I was playing through it. I think the weak point about the game’s style is that the settings are extremely similar to that of games like Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007, which would suggest that influences were somewhat too obvious. For example, the level whereby rooftops have to be traversed in order to elude police recapture was very similar to the opening level of Perfect Dark in conceptual design.

Gameplay – 5/10

Although this game was revolutionary for its time in terms of visuals, it wasn’t in terms of gameplay. Even for the time, this is a first-person shooter, which plays out pretty typically for most games in the genre. Any element of challenge in the game is presented through the stealth mechanics, which again, are not as elaborated on as those found in games like Metal Gear Solid, or the first Sly Cooper. The game also has a small amount of incentive and variety, as the more the player progresses, the more the main character’s memory is regained, thus yielding more skills as the game progresses. But even so, this game can become very boring very quickly, in my opinion.

Controls – 7/10

The movement in this game is also particularly stiff. It can become an unnecessary chore to aim at times, and the auto-aim system can be particularly confusing, as the crosshair doesn’t fix itself onto targets properly. Also, the grapple hook used to traverse buildings or mountains can be difficult to get to grips with at first. But other than that, the game plays out fine in terms of controls.

Lifespan – 5.5/10

Typical of any standard first-person shooter, XIII can be finished within 6 hours. Visuals alone are never enough to keep people playing a video game. At the end of the day, it’s all about the gameplay, and there wasn’t enough of it in XIII to make it last as long as it may have been able to. The problem with developing linear first-person shooters, or even linear games in general, is that very few of them have side quests and therefore contain next to no replay value apart from playing through it on a harder difficulty.

Storyline – 7/10

The game’s story is about a man named XIII, who wakes up on a beach with amnesia to find out he is the prime suspect of the president’s recent assassination, and he must fight his way through the FBI, the CIA and the criminal underworld in order to uncover his identity and clear his name in the process. The game’s story is actually not bad, to be fair. There are a few decent twists and turns to it but the voice acting is a bit off. The standout performances in my opinion are that of both David Duchovny and Adam West, who play XIII and General Carrington respectively. This was based on a fairly popular comic book series, so it was always bound to have some depth in story, at least. But overall, I think the developers chose to concentrate more on that and visual style than on gameplay.

Originality – 7/10

Obviously, the most significant features of this game are the stylised visuals, which would become a stable part of game franchises in the future, and the pretty compelling story. But as I keep pointing out, it’s all about gameplay ultimately, and there wasn’t enough innovation in that department to keep it enthralling in my opinion.

Niiutral

Niiutral

Overall, I think first-person shooting fans should play through this game at least once, but I think it should probably be left at that. It’s terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but I think the novelty wares off after a while, as there doesn’t seem to be enough substance in gameplay to keep it entertaining throughout.

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)

Wolfenstein: The New Order (Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Machine Games & id Software

Publisher(s) – Bethesda Softworks

Director(s) – Jerk Gustafsson & Jens Matthies

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a shooter set in an alternative reality, which has the player character fighting in a small resistance faction to overthrow the Nazi empire. Although there have been better first person shooters than this come and gone, I think it’s certainly a step in the right direction towards developers making shooters with considerably more substance in gameplay than the likes of Call of Duty, Battlefield and Spec Ops.

Graphics – 9.5/10

This game presents what is among the current pinnacle of graphical capability in video games. It was developed using id Software’s id Tech 5 engine, which was used to develop Rage, which is in my opinion not only one of the best games of the seventh generation, but also the best thing id Software have ever done. Machine Games must have realized the immense graphical value of Rage and wanted to bring that to the table with Wolfenstein, which was an excellent move in my opinion. But aside from that, the game is also conceptually compelling as well as graphically compelling, as it combines a very unique take on what kind of a horrific dystopian the world could have been if the German had won World War II (despite heavily fictional elements, such as robotic soldiers) with an extremely realistic portrayal of the horrendous realities and conditions of war and conflict. As such, in lieu of Wolfenstein tradition, the factors of blood, gore and disturbing imagery in this game are through the roof, so readers are warned.

Gameplay – 7/10

Compared to most shooters around at the moment, there is a fair bit more substance and more to play for in Wolfenstein. Indeed, alternative game modes can be unlocked through the completion of side quests, as well having the option to occasionally play through classic Wolfenstein 3D levels. But the factor that I was sorely disappointed by was that though it had the strong feel of Rage about it, I felt as if the RPG element of that game was wanting. There were side quests, but I think the game was far too linear for side quests to be more of a prominent factor in the game. I believe that by that token alone, this game could have been much more than what it turned out to be. However, for a linear shooter, it does play out well enough. It’s challenging and there is some replay value to be had for playing through it twice.

Controls – 10/10

Whilst Wolfenstein doesn’t bring anything new to the first person shooting genre in terms of controls, first and foremost, there are no problems with the formula chosen. But this was to be firmly expected, as this game was developed using an engine made by id Software; the company who popularised the genre with Doom years ago. It’s actually interesting to see how similar the control scheme of this latest game is compared to Wolfenstein 3D.

Lifespan – 5.5/10

I was let down by how short a time one playthrough lasts for how much more emphasis there is on side quests and extras in comparison to other shooters around at the moment, such as Killzone: Shadow Fall for example. The game seems like a first seemingly fleeting experience in that respect. Although there is indeed enough substance in gameplay to at least keep it entertaining for the short time it lasts I can’t help but feel that there’s also more than enough substance in gameplay to have made it last much longer than it did.

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Wolfenstein 3D centres around US Captain William Blazcowicz, who after having fought in World War II, sustains a head injury, which keeps him in a Polish care home for 14 years. Come 1960, having regained cognitive function, he escapes with his carer after the Nazis ravage the care home, to find out that the Germans have since won the war and the Nazi Party now govern the world; Blazcowicz, along with a secret resistance faction based in the heart of Berlin, resolves to overthrow the Nazis, and end their reign of tyranny and oppression. For me, though I won’t give away anything else that happens in the game, there were moments in the story, which made it somewhat hard to follow at times. But having said that, the game does also include some very emotionally powerful and tense moments, and presents a small element of moral choice as well as the portrayal of the consequences of such. But I also think that the factor of fighting Nazis is an extremely satisfying story element in itself, as has been demonstrated by id Software many times before.

Originality – 6/10

As I alluded to in regards to the control scheme, The New Order doesn’t really revolutionize the genre in any specific way, it is unique in the respect of how closely Machine Games have stayed true to the source material of its classic Wolfenstein predecessors games in terms of gameplay. With re-vamps of old series’, that’s not an element normally found. For example, the latest Tomb Raider game has more or less completely reinvented the entire series. But with The New Order, it actually feels a lot like a classic Wolfenstein game, but with some modern first person shooting elements added to it at the same time, such as the weapon selection wheel for instance.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Wolfenstein: The New Order is good for two playthroughs, making for about 12 hours of entertainment. I do think it could have done with a bit of an extra push, but it is still a fairly entertaining game, and much better than many other shooters currently on the market.

Score

45/60

7.5/10 (Good)

Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (Nintendo 64)

Developer(s) – Iguana Entertainment

Publisher(s) – Acclaim Entertainment

Designer – David Dienstbier

Producer(s) – Jeff Spangenbreg & Darrin Stubbington

Although this game was heavily slated as being a Doom clone, and with critics drawing inevitable similarities with the likes of Duke Nukem and Quake, there are those who still believe that Turok truly was the game to truly pioneer the 3D first-person shooting genre. This game remains one of my favourite shooters on the Nintendo 64, and for many reasons.

Graphics – 8.5/10

The first of which being is that though the visuals may not have aged well by today’s standards, they were exemplary at the time. Though there are a few glitches, the developers made up for that in the amount of diversity there is in level design and their attention to detail. Perhaps one of the biggest innovations they made in terms of graphical quality was the inclusion of effect such as fog; not only does it add to the omnipotent atmosphere, but it also adds an element of tension, since players will have a few seconds to react due to the limited visibility.

Gameplay – 8/10

Another innovation that Iguana Entertainment made was in terms of gameplay. Unlike any other first person shooter around at the time, including Doom or Quake, the original Turok took place in an open-world environment, allowing players a certain level of freedom in exploration. There are a lot of secrets to uncover throughout, as well as a plethora of enemies, and of course dinosaur-shooting action, to sink their teeth into, and immerse players into the game.

Controls – 7/10

Since at the time, 3D shooters were very much a question of trial and error, at least until the release of Perfect Dark in my opinion, the control scheme of Turok can be pretty awkward. Unlike in most first-person shooters of today, the character is moved using the Nintendo 64’s C-button controls; effectively an additional d-pad on the controller, which was used to adjust camera angles in most other games on the system. The analogue stick, on the other hand, was used to look around. I think in particular, using the C-buttons to move made jumping from one platform to the other, as was required from time to time, unnecessarily complicated. If Iguana Entertainment had just thought of using the analogue stick to move the character around, as Rareware would go on to do with Perfect Dark, then this game could have been ever better than how it turned out.

Lifespan – 4/10

Unfortunately, for an open world 3D shooter, lifespan also seemed to be a case of trial and error, since Turok can only be made to last for about four or five hours tops. Since there were games at the time, which made use of even less space than Turok, with which to have more gameplay substance, I don’t think it would be plausible to try and put that down to reasons such as hardware limitations or lack of memory within the cartridge, but rather that should simply be put down to developer imagination; or lack of it.

Storyline – 6/10

Playing out like most other video games in terms of story, there isn’t much to differentiate it from others. Based on a comic book of the same name, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter follows the story of a Native-American time-travelling warrior named Tal’Set, who was passed down the mantle of Turok, since he was the eldest male of his tribe. As a Turok, Tal’Set is charged with protecting the barrier between Earth and the so-called Lost Land. He must do this by assembling a powerful weapon called the Chronoscepter, and defeating the Campaigner; an overlord, who plans to use the Chronoscepter to break the barrier between Earth and the Lost Land, and rule over both dominions. Judging by the Campaigner’s appearance, intentions, supernatural powers, and his desire to rule over multiple worlds, I can immediately draw similarities between him and Shao Khan from Mortal Kombat; so much so, that it almost sounds like the same story.

Originality – 9/10

Despite the amount of comparisons I can draw with Turok and many other video games, the fact of the matter remains that until this game came along; open worlds in first-person shooters were non-existent, and would not become a standard until many years later, even if I was unable to realize or appreciate such a fact at the time when I was first playing it. Though it has its influences in terms of visuals and story, there was no other game like it, and it remains a cult classic to this day among Nintendo 64 owners; introduced to the series in a time before it would eventually be left into obscurity.

Happii

Happii

Overall, the introduction to the Turok series, Dinosaur Hunter, still remains a very enjoyable game, and one I would recommend to anyone wishing to explore past Nintendo game libraries. Though Goldeneye 007 is synonymous with pioneering the 3D first-person shooting genre, there were things in Turok that made it stand out just as much; if not, more so.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)

Tower of Guns (PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Terrible Posture Games

Tower of Guns is a Roguelike first-person shooter, with elements of many different games of its kind, including Doom and Borderlands. Expecting a simple run-of-the-mill shooter beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised to discover how excellent a game it is, giving testament to how far the indie movement has come since it’s recent establishment.

Graphics – 8/10

Making use of cel-shaded visuals and robotic enemies, not only is the game conceptually interesting, but the developers have cleverly made it suitable for a wide demographic, since there is no depiction of graphic violence. Whilst it could be argued that many of the different enemies are quite generic, the bosses are anything but that, ranging from robotic goats heads (a homage to the last boss in Doom II), from a room of spikes. The only gripe I have with the visuals is that the developers rushed to render them, since not only there are a fair few glitches, but when enough enemies appear on the screen at any one time, it can severely effect its frame rate.

Gameplay – 10/10

The game simply involves shooting through the many enemies that appear on the screen, and advance to the next level. The game also encourages exploration to a certain extent, offering items in hidden areas, which players must discover in a manner similar to either Doom or Duke Nukem 3D. There is also an endless mode, allowing players to play on for as long as they either desire, or as long as their abilities will allow them before they are killed. The amount of weapon variety in the game is also pretty impressive, with the player having to unlock each one through different means as they go, therefore providing even more replayability. Each room is also randomly generated, so that each playthrough also presents players with a new challenge every time.

Controls – 10/10

The game control scheme is definitely the most simplistic I’ve experienced in a modern-day first-person shooter, which to me, is like a breath of fresh air, having played a lot of first-person shooters with overly ambitious control schemes such as Brink, and to an extent, Destiny. It’s extremely straightforward, and most fans will be able to go from any other game in the genre to this one without skipping a beat. It would also serve as an excellent starting point to any gamers looking to get into the genre, but don’t know where to start.

Originality – 6/10

Though no other developers had ever thought of creating a Roguelike FPS before this, there is no denying that this game has it’s influences, such as Borderlands in it’s visual style, Doom in it’s basic premise of gameplay (indeed, FPS games today are still considered by old-school gamers to be Doom clones), and even Half-Life in its ominous soundtrack. However, in a market, which is now saturated by this particular genre of video game, its extremely difficult to make a shooter that stands out to any extent, and I think props are due to Terrible Posture Games for developing a shooter with this much replay value on a budget.

Deliirious

Deliirious

Overall, Tower of Guns is an exceptional title, and in my personal opinion, the best indie experience of the eighth generation of gaming so far. There have been many great indie games developed since Minecraft, and competition has become fierce, but if most games are as immersing as this, then indie games will prove to be even more popular in the coming years.

Score

34/40

8.5/10 (Great)

Titanfall (Xbox 360 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) – Respawn Entertainment

Publisher(s) – Electronic Arts

Director – Steve Fukuda

Producer – Drew McCoy

One of the most highly anticipated games of last year, Titanfall was supposed to be Microsoft ace in the hole concerning the Xbox One; the title that would attract more people to align with their system as opposed to the PlayStation 4. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and for good reason in my opinion.

Graphics – 6/10

Compared with the conceptual design of many other science fiction games, it feels to me like the game is wanting, as to me, it looks like a watered down version of the game Hawken; marred down by element of both Call of Duty and Battlefield. The reason why it doesn’t lose too many marks in this category is because from a technical standpoint, the game is visually flawless. There are no glitches in site, and everything is extremely well polished.

Gameplay – 3/10

In a lot of ways, I can best describe this game as a middle finger to anyone who bought an Xbox One around the times of its launch. It was game eagerly anticipated for years, but ended up being overwhelmingly restricted in terms of gameplay, as not only is an Xbox Live subscription mandatory to play it, but there isn’t even a single player campaign mode; players having to instead contend with an online multiplayer campaign mode. Some would argue that Destiny was the same, but a PlayStation Plus subscription isn’t mandatory, and players can enjoy it whilst not having to pay an extra £40 on top what they paid for the game.

Controls – 10/10

There are no issues with the control scheme thankfully, since it ultimately plays out like any other run-of-the-mill first person shooter. Even when players embark in one of the titan robots, it plays out more or less exactly the same as it would if they were on foot. Whilst there may be no problems, henceforth why it loses no marks in this category, there’s nothing special about them either. It’s proof of how difficult it can be in this day and age to make an FPS that stands out among most.

Originality – 4/10

Because of the bog standard control scheme, and the visible lack of difference between playing on foot or in a titan, I don’t think for a second of Titanfall being the revolutionary game-changing title it was advertised as being at the time of its release. The restrictive gameplay makes it stand out somewhat, but for all the wrong reasons. To me, this title can be seen as not only vastly overrated, since it miraculously won over 60 gaming awards last year, but it can be seen as a lesson on how not to make a video game.

Angrii

Angrii

In summation, Titanfall is most definitely one of worst games of 2014. It’s one of many reasons to buy a PlayStation 4 as opposed to an Xbox One, and makes me think that if the developers want an entire franchise to spawn from this one wretched game, then making the sequel multi-platform should be the tip of the iceberg. Major improvements need to be made in every other aspect in my opinion.

Score

23/40

5.5/10 (Below Average)

The Stanley Parable (PC)

Developer(s) – Davey Wreden & Galactic Café

The Stanley Parable was developed about three years ago, as an attempt by it’s creator, Davey Wreden to go against the kind of narratives typically found in video games of story; and my goodness, he accomplished that. It’s unlike any other interactive story I’ve ever experienced, in that it’s a lot interesting and open-ended. Though I wish a bit more could have been added in terms of gameplay to keep it a little bit more interesting.

Graphics – 6/10

Though the visuals can indeed seem extremely generic and dull at first, as the game progresses, they become thoroughly more varied and engrossing; taking place in factories, lush fields and even Matrix-style computer rooms depending on which direction the player takes. The fact that there are so many places to go throughout the course of the game in itself makes for a fairly wide degree of visual diversity for a game that takes place mainly in an office building.

Gameplay – 4/10

The game takes on a first-person mode, but only containing a handful of thing to do in-game. There are no enemies to fight or puzzles to solve; only the facility to go off in multiple directions, thus effecting what ending the player is treated to. As I said, I wish the developer had added at least a little bit more to make the gameplay that bit more enjoyable, but ultimately, it feels more like watching a film unfortunately. It’s impossible for me to fully appreciate games that are made solely for the sake of art, and having next to no basis in viable gameplay.

Controls – 10/10

As a first-person with next to no other functions apart from walking, turning and interacting with certain objects and buttons, there was hardly anything the developer could have gotten wrong during the making, and so there aren’t any problems to address; so there is this positive to deduce, at least. If there had been any issues with the controls, then it would have inevitably led to me having major issues with this game.

Lifespan – 6/10

It will take roughly 10 hours for players to take each individual route and witness each individual ending, since there are a fair few to discover; the only basis in gameplay this title truly has in my opinion.

Storyline – 8/10

The story is most definitely the greatest aspect of this game; no matter how confusing it may be to people after a while. It follows an ordinary many called Stanley, who is guided by the player through a series of different paths leading to different places with a plethora of different events unfolding; all the while being narrated by British actor Kevin Brighting. Aside from the surrealist goings on that happen throughout the course of each playthrough, Brighting does provide an extremely good narration, and at times also even bring an element of dark humour, as well as breakings of the fourth wall.

Originality – 7/10

Though this game does have of the most unique stories ever told in a video game (indeed, one to go against other video game narratives by design), the gameplay remains largely unoriginal, and consequently, I can’t call it the overly unique game that many other critics have taken to calling it. It’s all very well and good to have such a strange story add to game’s charm, but for me, the most important aspect in any game is gameplay, and unfortunately, this title comes up short in that respect.

Niiutral

Niiutral

To summarize The Stanley Parable is indeed an extremely strange game with an interesting story. However, for all the room there is in the games environment, it seems criminal to me of the developers to not add any more basis in gameplay that what there ended up being.

Score

41/60

6.5/10 (Above Average)

The Darkness (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Starbreeze Studios

Publisher(s) – 2K Games

Designer(s) – Jens Andersson

Producer(s) – Lars Johansson

After problems arose with development concerning publishing rights, with Majesco originally owning them before having to sell them amidst financial problems, it would have been very easy to assume at that time The Darkness would suffer as a result, most likely due to creative or artistic differences from the various different parties involved; thankfully, it doesn’t suffer to any great deal, and turned out to be a fairly enjoyable game. A linear first person shooter, it introduces some very interesting gameplay mechanics into the genre, and does pretty well to stand out among many others in turn; this is especially impressive, as at this point, the genre had dominated mainstream gaming

Graphics – 6.5/10

What I enjoyed most about the game’s conceptual design was it’s exceptionally dark tone as the player wanders round back allies and open streets of a very gritty-looking New York City. It all works extremely well to set the tone of the game, and make it highly representative of the dark directions the game’s story is taken in. What I didn’t like about it however, are the dream sequences in which the main character is placed in a World War I environment known as the Otherworld. In these sequences in particular, I found there to be much less textural detail, and ironically, looked considerably less darker than in real world sequences.

Gameplay – 7/10

At first, the game seemingly plays out like a run-of-the-mill first person shooter, with the same kinds and variety of weapons that would typically be found in any instalment of wither Medal of Honour, Battlefield or Call of Duty. As players progress, however, it becomes apparent that this title has a little more going for it than that. The player gains the ability to summon small dog-like demons in order to solve puzzles and attack enemies, as well as a pair of snake-like demons in order to reach otherwise impassable areas and see where enemies are positioned in order to gain a tactical advantage. There is also a couple of side quests involving collectible items, like most first person shooters, which adds a little bit more to it’s longevity, but it all did leave me wanting a little bit more for how much variety there is in combat.

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I had with the game’s controls is that it can be a little bit awkward to move the snake-like demons whilst trying to move around impassable areas or detect enemy patters and positions. It can also be a little bit needless annoying, as they can only stretch to a certain distance and without warning, they can immediately retract. Otherwise, however, the game plays out like any good first person shooter should. Movement and attacking is straightforward, and it tried something different without messing with the core formula too much.

Lifespan – 6/10

The game lasts about the average length of time for a linear first person shooter to last, which is around six to seven hours. As I alluded to earlier, it would have been nice to see the developers add more things to do within it to in turn add to it’s longevity, making it stand out even further than the average first person shooter than what it already does, and therefore, it would have most definitely been held in much higher regard than what it was. For example, they could have easily expanded on the brief morality mechanics seen throughout the game.

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of the game involves a contract killer for the Mafia named Jackie, who becomes an assassination target, along with his girlfriend Jenny, for his uncle Paulie after a failed job, and later on requires a mysterious power known as the darkness, which gains him an edge over his enemies, but has unforeseen consequences, which unfold as the game progresses. Overall, the story is reasonably immersing, and there are elements of tragedy to it, along with the fact that Jackie is portrayed quite well as an anti-hero wrestling with his perceptions of right and wrong. However, one fatal flaw I found with it is that it would have made much more sense if Paulie wasn’t Jackie’s uncle, because I personally found it unbelievable that an uncle would immediately decide to kill his nephew for losing some money, and the way this plot element was portrayed seemed nothing short of tacked on.

Originality – 7/10

I have to commend how well this game stands out amongst a genre that was already destined for commercial success throughout the seventh generation, given the launch and prior success of many other first person series, such as Half-Life, Red Faction, Halo and Call of Duty. Like BioShock, but nowhere near on the same level, it presented players with a new way of playing these kinds of games, and did well to remind them that they don’t have to be anywhere near as generic as a vast majority of FPS franchises either were at that time, or what would later become in the future.

Happii

Happii

Overall, The Darkness is a pretty enjoyable gaming experience, and I would recommend and FPS fan tries it at least once. Though flawed in several different ways in varying degrees, it made for a decent early seventh generation title that still holds up reasonably well.

Score

42/60

7/10 (Fair)