Tag Archives: Shooter

Q&A With Resonator

In my ongoing bid to cover and expose as many different independently developed games and indie studios as possible, I discovered a game currently up on Kickstarter entitled Anew: The Distant Light. An action adventure Metroidvania title, there is a heavy emphasis on combat and exploration, as well as a vibrant science fiction setting that contrasts between the beauty and devastation of an endangered futuristic world. Creating the game are two veteran AAA developers; game director and programmer Steve Copeland and art director and sound designer Jeff Spoonhower, collectively known as Resonator. Between then, Steve and Jeff and worked on a multitude of major gaming releases over the course of fifteen years, including BioShock 2, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth, Borderlands 2, Command & Conquer and Uncharted: Golden Abyss to name but a few. After reaching out to Resonator, both Steve and Jeff agreed to answer some questions I had about their upcoming game, their Kickstarter program and their past and present developmental experiences. Here’s what they had to say:

What were the influences behind your game?

SC: For me, the classic Metroid games were a big inspiration.  After all, there is a reason our game’s genre is named after it.  You can probably also spot influences from Ori and the Blind Forest, Dark Souls, and Mario Galaxy.  We’re constantly looking for ways to fit fun game mechanics from other genres into Anew: The Distant Light.

JS: I am a big fan of platformers as well. I grew up playing the Mega Man, Mario, and Contra games, so in addition to the non-linear Metroid-style exploration elements, I am excited about including lots of fun platforming elements in Anew.

What has the developmental process been like?

JS: Steve and I have been working on the game, full time, for several years now. It’s been hugely challenging and rewarding. We spent a lot of time up front working on gameplay systems, player mechanics, development tools and pipelines, and we’ve also built a pretty big section of the game world itself. A lot of the struggles up front we the unknowns – “things we didn’t know we didn’t know about” situations. These were mainly technical in nature, so it was tough to anticipate how long it would take to solve them. We’re happy to say we’ve largely moved through that phase of production and are concentrating on creating content and filling out the game world.

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

SC: A lot of that will depend on how funding goes.  We’re expecting to complete the PC version in about a year, but if we have to stop work to look for investors or a publisher, it will tend to slow things down quite a bit.

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

JS: For me, several things. For one, overcoming difficult technical and artistic challenges, learning a lot, and growing as an artist and designer has been tremendously rewarding. I am also very proud of the world we are creating. We hope that players will find it not only fun to play in, but also visually interesting and enticing to explore and discover. It’s been awesome to be able to tell people that just two people have built the game from the ground up.

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

SC: With just two people making the game, it can be exhausting to cover all of the needed roles in development and business.  If we could afford to, we’d hire some help.

JS: The number of “hats” Steve and I wear, as far as the roles we are playing in production, is pretty overwhelming. We are each doing the work of 5-10 employees in a traditional studio production! It’s been tiring, and often times stressful to have to rapidly switch between these roles on a daily or weekly basis.

How well has the game been received so far?

SC: Feedback has been very positive on all fronts and in all contexts, especially so when demoing in person at trade shows where players can feel the agility and depth built into Anew.  We’re proud to have received the Audience Choice Award at Comicon Phoenix and I think Jeff sleeps with the golden controller under his pillow.]

JS: Haha, yeah the golden sheen is starting to wear off. In all seriousness, we are thrilled with the response Anew has received so far. On a personal level, I am so happy that people have responded positively to the look and feel of the game. It’s been my goal to design a world that looks and sounds truly alien and unfamiliar. Those two words have come up repeatedly in press articles we’ve received, so I feel like I’m doing something right.

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

SC: We’re leading with PC, including Steam and at least one non-DRM platform for PC.  If our Kickstarter succeeds, we’re also committing to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.  We also have a stretch goal that will fund research for porting to Nintendo Switch.

How have your past developmental experiences influenced Anew: The Distant Light?

JS: Our prior AAA studio experience has directly impacted the development of Anew. Steve and I learned a tremendous amount working on games over the past 15 plus years. That includes not only the nitty-gritty of the crafts we practice on a day-to-day basis (modelling, texturing, animating, lighting, programming, designing, tools development, marketing, etc) but how to set realistic goals and achieve them. We were both senior/lead developers on projects, so we know how important it is to properly schedule a project, and avoid common development pitfalls like feature creep and over-scoping. We try to bring everything we’ve learned on these big studio projects to the production of our indie game.

Outside of indie development, what would you say yours and Steve’s favourite projects to have worked on throughout the years?

SC: It was cool to get to work on games related to Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.  I’m proud of having had a small influence on Command & Conquer: Generals Zero Hour, which RTS fans still talk about nostalgically.  Many of those projects required crushing amounts of hours worked in a week, so it’s hard to call one a favorite in light of that.

JS: I’m really proud of all the games I’ve worked on. Making games is a huge struggle, so I feel like shipping each one has been quite an accomplishment. As a personal fan of the BioShock and Uncharted series, I really got a kick out of working on BioShock 2 and Uncharted: Golden: Abyss.

Has having creative freedom made working on Anew: The Distant Light feel like a better experience than any other?

SC: On the creative freedom front, yes it’s been the best game development experience I’ve had.

JS: Yes, the creative freedom of making our own game has been very liberating. That freedom comes at a high cost though. We have taken on a great deal of financial risk, and are pretty much working on the game all the time! It’s a big commitment and we have sacrificed a great deal in our personal and professional lives to make it a reality.

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

SC: I’d advise them to make and complete things with very small scope before getting super ambitious.

JS: Agreed. Try and find the one or two things you really enjoy doing (be it art or programming), and then really dive head-first into practicing those crafts. It requires a lot of patience and persistence to get good at this stuff. At the end of the day, if you want to get a job in games, you’ll need to show a potential employer that you work is of extremely high quality, and would fit into the type of games they are making.

Where about on the Internet can people find you?

JS: We are currently on Kickstarter through March 19th, 11:59pm

SC: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1799572177/anew-the-distant-light. Our official website is:www.anewthegame.com. We are also on Facebook and Twitter at @anewthegame.

Do you have anything else to add?

SC: Please check out our Kickstarter!  If you like games with action and exploration, mystery, and a high skill cap, you’ll find a lot to like about Anew: The Distant Light.  We’re making a game that will scratch the itch for Metroidvania fans, while also bringing some fresh gameplay to the genre with giant mechs and other vehicles that you can pilot, an upgradable home ship, and exotic environments that play quite differently from each other.

Lastly, I would like to thank both Steve and Jeff for agreeing to answer my questions, and to wish them best of luck with Anew: The Distant Light. I would highly recommend that any gamer who may be looking for an upcoming Metroidvania title to check out their Kickstarter page, and back the project. Looking at early footage of it, I myself am extremely excited for the game’s release, and cannot wait to play the finished game.

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)

Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Nintendo EPD & Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Yugo Hayashi & Yusuke Hashimoto

Producer(s) – Shigeru Miyamoto, Tadashi Sugiyama & Atsushi Inaba

Being the franchise’s first home console release for eleven years, and receiving mixed reviews upon release, Star Fox Zero brought the series back to it’s roots, but not without incorporating a plethora of new gameplay elements to perpetuate a great a deal of variety and replay value, as well as to satisfy both newcomers and veteran fans. There were some issues I had with the latest re-vamp of the classic Nintendo rail shooting game, but overall, I found it to be a fairly solid gaming experience, and certainly one of the more standout titles on the Wii U to have been handled by a third party developer.

Graphics – 7/10

As expected, the Lylat System has never looked as detailed or as polished as it does in this game. Many classic planets make an appearance, such as Corneria, Venom, Zoness and Fortuna, with the addition of new locations like Sector Alpha, Sector Beta and Aquarosa. What I was especially impressed with was how most of the classic locations had been redesigned so dramatically to fit in with the unfamiliarity of all the new locations. The only two locations, which stood to me as being arguably overly reminiscent of Star Fox 64 were both Corneria and Titania, but even they differed from their Nintendo 64 counterparts; especially in terms of their respective boss fights.

Gameplay – 9/10

Aside from an overhaul of graphics, there is also a massive overhaul of gameplay too. The classic rail shooting mechanics of the original Star Fox game takes precedent, but in addition, there are multiple vehicles that must be piloted in order to traverse different sections of certain levels, as well as completing different objectives. The Landmaster from Star Fox 64 is used in addition to the Arwing, as well as the new Gyrowing, which is used to hack into computer systems via a deployable robot named Direct-I, and the Walker vehicle, which is used for ground combat; an idea reworked from a gameplay feature incorporated into the cancelled Star Fox 2 for the Super Nintendo. Star Fox Zero also features side quests providing additional replay value; something that many Star Fox games have sorely lacked with the exception of Star Fox Adventure. Incorporating the addictive nature of the series, I found playing this game to be very enjoyable overall, and every bit as challenging as any other game in the series to date.

Controls – 6/10

The biggest reservation I had about this game whilst playing was how the control scheme worked in conjunction with the unique features of the Wii U. Aiming is handled by having players use both the control sticks and the Wii U GamePad’s gyroscopic controls simultaneously. There is an option the player can take to have the crosshair locked when steering, but the gyroscopic controls are then enabled again once the player starts firing their weapons, and in my opinion, it doesn’t work anywhere near well as the classic system. If the gyroscopic controls hadn’t have been incorporated, I would have thought much more highly of this game overall. But unfortunately, Nintendo tried to fix something that was by in large unbroken; and it made for an unnecessarily huge hindrance rather than a pleasure.

Lifespan – 10/10

Like both Star Fox and Star Fox 64, there is virtually infinite replay value to be had in this game. Aside from the main story quest, there is an arcade mode, which players can take on in order to beat their high score as well a multiplayer mode. One quick playthrough can take less than four hours to complete, but to complete the game to 100% can take anything between 15 to 20 hours, which to me was unprecedented for any game made in the same calibre.

Storyline – 6.5/10

Being the third re-telling of the events of the original game, the story centres on the anthropomorphic Star Fox team, consisting of Fox McCloud, the leader, Peppy Hare, the seasoned veteran, Slippy Toad, the complacent mechanic, and Falco Lombardi, the cocky ace pilot. Their mission is to aid the Cornerian army led by General Pepper in saving the Lylat System from the invading maniacal scientist Andross. Though I have already experienced this story many times, and loved it, the main problem I had with this interpretation of it was the voice acting; despite the fact that almost all of the original cast from Star Fox 64 returned. In addition, I found it to be nowhere near as well scripted as Star Fox 64. To me, there wasn’t as much as there was in the former game that brought out the character’s traits and personalities. It was much like the same problem I had with the re-vamp of Ratchet and Clank; many returning characters, and not enough development. The developers tried adding a slight plot twist towards the end concerning General Pepper, but to me, it was too little too late.

Originality – 8/10

In terms of story, I wouldn’t say there was a great deal present to differentiate it from any other game in the series. However, from the perspective of both gameplay and conceptual design, there’s a great deal of uniqueness to experience. It will certainly provide both veterans and newcomers with one of the more special gaming experiences on the Wii U, and whilst the controls scheme can be infuriating at times, it’s not impossible to get to grips with. A lot of the boss fights are also very different to most boss fights in the series, with the strategy of beating Andross being something a little bit more than blowing his hands away, and then aiming for his eyes. It also nicely paves the way for a possible continuation of the series in the future, as well as the possibly of even more unique ideas to be incorporated in future games.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Star Fox Zero has it’s flaws, but it’s by no means one of the more frustrating games I’ve played. It’s addictive, challenging, beautiful to look at, and whilst it isn’t the best re-telling of the events of the original game, it does a good enough job at explaining the basic premise, and leaves the next direction the series could possibly take open to interpretation.

Score

46.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)

X-Type+ (Wii U)

Developer(s) – PhobosLab

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Starting out as a simple browser game developed by the proprietors of the site PhobosLab.com, I was at first surprised to find a game like X-Type+ appear on the Wii U Virtual Console. But after playing it, and seeing just how addictive it can become, I found myself increasingly less surprised by it’s inclusion. After all, Nintendo know a good game when they see one.

Graphics – 5/10

One of the less strong points of this game however, despite its addictiveness, is the fact that the visuals are almost non-existent. Even though this is an arcade game at its core, there have been many games release like it that have implemented much more breathtaking and interesting visuals than this. Essentially, all it encompasses is a blank background, and ship after ship that looks exactly the same. Though it may have started out as a browser game, I think even under those circumstances better visuals could have been implemented.

Gameplay – 10/10

The objective of X-Type+ is simple; destroy each ship that appears on screen, and rack up the highest score possible; all the while dodging bullet after bullet and rocket after rocket thrown at you. Like such games as Galaga and Gradius, it is incredibly addictive, and will compel players to play again and again in order to simply improve their high score and post it on either the website or the Wii U score board.

Controls – 10/10

The best way to play this game is to use a third-party Wii U controller. I found that with either the GamePad, or on the original website, the control scheme is not so easy to cope with, and poses a number of problems. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of using a keyboard to control PC games that aren’t simulators, and the GamePad also poses the same problem of the hands cramping up that I’d previously experienced whilst playing through Hyrule Warriors.

Originality – 4/10

The worst thing about this game, however, is how little it stands out compared to the likes of Galaga and Gradius. As I said, the visuals are almost non-existent, and do little to differentiate this game from other of its kind, and unlike many other recent games released within this particular genre, such as Titan Attacks, there are no new elements introduced, such as upgrades or experience points etc.

Happii

Happii

Otherwise, however X-Type+ is an extremely addictive game, and certainly one of the most interesting indie experiences available on the Wii U. Despite it’s flaws, it makes me wonder why Nintendo don’t keep a closer eye out for other indie developers to work with, as opposed to relying primarily on their own IPs to get by.

Score

29/40

7/10 (Fair)

Worms (Amiga, CD32, Jaguar, Super Nintendo, Game Boy, Mega Drive, Sega Saturn, MS DOS, PlayStation & PC)

Developer(s) – Team17

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software

Designer – Andy Davidson

Starting out as an entry for a programming competition called Total Wormage, Worms went on to become not only a hugely popular game, but a hugely popular franchise. A by-product of the 90s, a strange time for the industry in its own right, Worms combines some concepts which may sound ridiculous on paper, but make for something very entertaining on either CD or cartridge format.

Graphics – 6.5/10

The designs of the in-game battlefield in particular are quite unique compared to typical video game settings for not only its times, but for video games in general, taking place in settings varying from glaciers and scrap yards. The FMVs that play out before the beginning of each battle were also pretty well done for the time and add quite a bit of entertainment to the game, which I will elaborate on further into the review. The aspect that I think lets the visuals down, however, is how poorly detailed the character sprites stand out among the in-game scenery. I think by that token, the game hasn’t aged particularly well from a visual perspective. After a while, the sound bytes of the character voices could get a little annoying after a while in the first instalment.

Gameplay – 6.5/10

I find that this game’s fairly strong level of addiction can be attributed to how much challenge can be involved at times, and for how much strategy and variety in gameplay was surprisingly included in a game like this, which I personally commend it for. At the time, there was something strangely wonderful about determining the best way to take out each of the opposing teams worms before they take the player’s team out, and it’s a unique gameplay novelty, which I believe still hold up to this very day.

Controls – 9/10

The only gripe I have about this game’s control scheme is the system of having to measure up wind resistance against trajectory in order to take the most accurate shot possible with the bazooka or grenades. In my opinion, that can make the game unnecessarily difficult at times, given the most awkward of circumstances and unit positions. To my dismay, this system would feature in future Worms titles. However, there are no problems otherwise.

Lifespan – N/A (10/10)

As a game with no fixed lifespan, it only lasts as long as player interest. Like games such as Mario Kart, Worms is a game that cam simply be picked up and played without players having to worry about making progress in the conventional sense or having to worry about how fleeting the experience may feel like after they’ve finished playing.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

As like many video games before and after the release of Worms, this game has no properly established storyline, but rather a mere basic premise; worms warring with each other. The best thing about the premise of Worms is the entertaining comedic element portrayed in the many FMVs of the game, which play out before each fight. This would become a stable in the series, much to my personal approval.

Originality – 7/10

In the 90’s in particular, when most players were primarily used to 2D side scrolling and first person shooting, a real-time strategy game about worms at war and using a wide variety of weapons and gadgets to subdue each other was a breath of fresh air on both a conceptual level, and in terms of gameplay. Indeed, these are the kinds of seemingly nonsensical ideas, which have been the very foundations for some of the greatest video game franchises ever conceived.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Worms is a very unique and compelling game, which whilst not holding up on a graphical point of view, definitely holds up in terms of both gameplay and originality. In my opinion, it’s a must-have for any fan of the real-time strategy genre.

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Warframe (PC & PlayStation 4 & Xbox One)

Developer(s) –Digital Extremes

Publisher(s) – Digital Extremes

Artist – Michael “Mynki” Brennan

Warframe is an online free-to-play third-person shooter, made in roughly the same vein as Metal Gear Rising, but with considerably less swordplay involved, and more detailed graphics. At first, I had scepticisms that this game would prove to be pretty straightforward and generic, but after playing, I was proven somewhat wrong, since there elements of it that seemed to have influenced some of the biggest games to have come out in the eighth generation so far.

Graphics – 7/10

The visuals are pretty well done for a game developed by a third party, that came out upon the release of a new console; the level of detail is particularly impressive, and the conceptual design also has it’s strong points. For example, the wide variety of different warframes (the game’s variant on futuristic suits of armour), is extremely well though out, made even better with the facility of customisation. There are a few issues with the loading of textures, but for the most part, I was impressed with how well the game looks overall.

Gameplay – 7/10

The gameplay is also surprisingly varied, with a combat system consisting of not only third person shooting, but of swordplay, levelling up and the use of special abilities unique to each fighting class. The main thing I will criticize it for is it’s lack of side quests, since even games as linear as this have at least one of them; games like Gears of War and Uncharted. Nevertheless, the combat system is pretty addictive, and each level is quite varied in terms of how many main objective there are to do in each one.

Controls – 7/10

Unfortunately, there are a few issues with the game’s control scheme. One of which, and the most standout one in my opinion, is that the climbing mechanism seems to have been handled quite clumsily, since there are some climbs players will probably think should be made, and aren’t, creating issues of inconsistency. Another gripe I have is that it can be unnecessarily difficult to effectively execute certain special moves, including the Slash Dash, as it’s overly easy for CPU enemies to move out of the way. Another big problem I have with the game’s controls is that from time to time, the game’s main antagonist can pop up with voice messages, but at with time, the holographic image of his head takes up almost half the screen. I get that the developers did this to try and impose a level of fear within gamers, but for me, it’s much more of a hindrance than the developers intended. Otherwise, however, the games plays out smoothly enough.

Lifespan – 5.5/10

Taking all missions into account, including alert missions, the game can last up to 8-10 maximum. Even compared to games such as Gears of War and Uncharted (which though are among some of my favourite games of all time, they are far too short), this in an incredibly underwhelming amount of time for a game of its kind to last. Even if it is free, there are other games on both the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade free not only to paying subscribers, but to anyone with an account, that can be made to last much longer.

Storyline – 6/10

The story behind Warframe is that the Tenno, a race of ancient warriors awoken from years of stasis, are plunged into war with three other races; the Grineers, the Corpus and the Infested. It’s particularly standard for a science fictions game, and there’s not a great deal present to differentiate from the likes of Gears of War or Halo. The only strong points I can highlight bout it is that the character of Captain Vor is very well brought to life by his respective voice actor, Kol Crosbie, and the character of Ordis does provide some basis in comic relief. It’s actually quite interesting to consider how similar both Ordis and the ghost from Destiny are; though Ordis provides a lot more personality in my opinion.

Originality – 6/10

There aren’t a great deal of games made in this manner that present such varied combat, but in terms of story and inclusion side missions, I think it does fall short of how unique a game it could have been if there had been more added to it. At the time of the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it would have been considered just a game to tide people over before greater and varied releases would come out, but for the people who chose to align with it beyond that point, I believe more could have been done to accommodate for them.

Niiutral

Niiutral

In summation, Warframe is a better game than I expected it would be at first, but I’m still able to express too many concerns about it for me to consider it a classic, or even one of the better games on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One so far. There are a few hours of enjoyment to be had out of it, but after that, there’s not much cause for players to pick it up again, except maybe to play it on a harder difficulty.

Score

38.5/60

6/10 (Average)

Vanquish (Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3)

Developer(s) – Platinum Games

Publisher(s) – Sega

Director – Shinji Mikami

Producer(s) – Atsushi Inaba, Keith Dwyer & Jun Yoshino

Released during the holiday season of 2010 amidst a plethora of many mainstream titles such as Fable III, Fallout: New Vegas and Gran Turismo 5, Vanquish was a third person shooter made in the same vein as the likes of Gears of War, Uncharted and Mass Effect inspired by an anime series called Casshern, according to the game’s director and Resident Evil creator, Shinji Mikami. However, despite the positive reception this game has garnished and becoming an unsung cult classic of the seventh generation, I found it personally impossible to see the appeal.

Graphics – 6/10

The best thing about the visuals in the game is certainly it’s conceptual design. Reminiscent of any other anime series’ aside from Casshern, such as Gundam Wing and even Attack on Titan to a certain extent, there are bullets flying all over the place, futuristic settings and scenery, as well as elaborate armour and highly advanced weapons. However, the game loses points for the fact that compared to many other games at the time, the graphics aren’t anywhere near as technically sound, containing less textural detail than the likes of the two Mass Effect games released prior.

Gameplay – 6/10

The game’s strongest attribute, thankfully, is in its incredibly intense and fast-paced gameplay. Playing out very much like a cross between Gears of War and Lost Planet, the objective is to simply destroy everything in sight in a linear path, and bring down towering boss after towering boss whilst racking up as big a score as possible. Despite the many flaws this game has, it’s still quite enjoyable to play. The biggest problem I have with it is the fact that it is indeed so fast-paced leaves room for much else to included, such as side quests and additional secrets to add even more to the overall experience.

Controls – 6/10

Although the game plays out like a typical third person shooter, there is also the ability to slide around in order to avoid enemy attacks and to move quicker across stages and from place to place in general. The problem is that his feature was a question of trial and error, and is very much unrefined, adding to the frustration that comes with this title. Perhaps if there had been a sequel, this may have been improved on, but it wasn’t to be however, and to me, seems very much like a failed experiment as a result.

Lifespan – 3/10

The game also lasts under the average length of a conventional linear third person shooter, at about 4 hours; 5 at a stretch. I’ve always thought that games in this genre are inherently and painfully short with the exception of the Mass Effect trilogy (a trope still perpetuated to this day, based on reviews of The Order: 1886), but I think a game like Vanquish could have done with a much longer lifespan to make it at least stand out among many of the others, and maybe even be considered superior with the right amount of gameplay content; but it wasn’t to be.

Storyline – 5/10

The story follows DARPA agent Sam Gideon, who is called up to fight for American forces, after one of their space stations are invaded by the Russians, who are threatening to destroy New York unless the Americans surrender. Aside from the story not being too well conceived, the voice acting also leaves a lot to be desired; in lieu of Platinum Games tradition I personally find. The voice acting in Madworld was tolerable, since not only did it incorporate a strong element of humour and a well thought out plot, but in Vanquish, there’s none of this and by that logic, it’s very much irredeemable in my opinion.

Originality – 5/10

To me, the only things that make this title unique are both the fast pacing and intensity of general gameplay and the added sliding ability. Unfortunately, the sliding ability makes this game stand out in the sense that a sore thumb stands out; unsolicited, yet persistent. Although it may have a small portion of artistic merit attached to it through its visuals, this is not Platinum Games’ most unique effort in this respect either; with the likes of Madworld and Bayonetta going far beyond what this game had to offer.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Vanquish will offer a fair amount of decent gameplay for a few short hours, but unfortunately, that’s all it does the way I see it. There was most definitely room for improvement in almost every other aspect, and while many people may think it is very much underrated, I believe it’s very much overrated.

Score

31/60

5/10 (Far Below Average)

Super Stardust Ultra (PlayStation 3 & PlayStation 4)

Developer(s) – Housemarque

Publisher(s) – Sony Computer Entertainment

Director – Harri Tikkanen

Producer – Ivan Davies

Conceived by the same team who developed both Resogun and Dead Nation, Housemarque, Super Stardust was another arcade shoot ‘em up similar to Resogun, but with arguably more variety in gameplay, as well as an endless mode thrown in for good measure. Personally, I think both this game and Resogun are as good as each other for various reasons.

Graphics – 7/10

The conceptual design of the game was fairly well done, and technically brilliant for what hardware was available at the time. The drawback it has when compared with Resogun is that there isn’t as much customisation as there is in the former. For example, it isn’t possible for players to build their own ships. However, each level has the same degree of variety, and helps it to stand out among not only Resogun, but many other arcade indie titles too.

Gameplay – 9/10

Like many others, I believe that Super Stardust does indeed have much more variety than Resogun, with not only more game modes, but with players having to adapt to different styles of play by using different weapons for different situations. There are also not many arcade games in general that have been able to accomplish this to as great an extent as this game does, which is something to be greatly commended, as even some of the greatest arcade games could end up feeling repetitive after a while.

Controls – 10/10

As a gaming formula having been long-since perfected, despite it taking place on a very different kind of stage than in many other arcade games, there would have been major issues if Housemarque messed it up, and inevitable criticisms from old-school gamers and negative comparisons drawn between it, and almost other classic arcade games of the first and second generations. Thankfully, however, Housemarque got it spot on, and there are no complications with the game’s control scheme.

Originality – 6/10

The capacity in which this games stands out as best as it can, much like Resogun, is in comparison with every mainstream AAA title that is being released today. At the moment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to develop an original indie title, and its re-release on the PlayStation 4 may seem finite to those who may not have played it beforehand when it was released on PlayStation 3 back in 2012. Back then, the game was a breath of fresh air, so by that logic, its no reason for it to lose out on too many points in my opinion.

Happii

Happii

Overall, Super Stardust Ultra is an extremely worthwhile game, and one of Housemarque’s better efforts. The Finnish development company have made waves throughout the eighth generation of gaming, but arguably, it was this game that allowed them to begin their ascendance.

Score

32/40

8/10 (Very Good)

Tank! Tank! Tank! (Wii U)

Developer(s) – Bandai Namco Games

Publisher(s) – Bandai Namco Games

First gaining prominence in Japan as an immensely successful arcade game, Tank Tank Tank was then ported to the Wii U as a launch title in all regions, and has since become a free-to-play eShop download, and I would personally recommend anyone with a Wii U to play it. It is a critically wonderful console port of an arcade game, and offers a level of gameplay variety unusually fantastic for a game of its kind.

Graphics – 7/10

Though the graphics may not be cutting edge, as with many titles on the Wii U at this present moment, there is no shortage of vibrant and sharp cartoon-like visuals, as well as their being a plethora of different monster designs such as giant spiders and a robotic hydra. The main criticism I have about the game’s visuals, however, is how generic the design of each tank is. There is a series of different weapons that can be picked up throughout each level, which give tanks a different looks within the level, but each individual tank that can be selected for the beginning of a level do look pretty much the same as one another.

Gameplay – 7.5/10

The objective of the game is to take out every monster in each level within an allocated time limit. That may seem like all there is to the game, but regardless, it is extremely satisfying to do. A fair bit of incentive is also offered to player for playing through each level, such as new tanks to unlock and level up in a traditional RPG fashion. It is rare that so much variety is ever added to an arcade game. Most arcade games, like House of the Dead, are simply straight ports with little to no forethought put into them, and I need to commend Namco Bandai for their efforts with this port.

Controls – 9/10

He only bad thing I can say about the controls is that moving the tank can be a little awkward at first, but payers can get to grips with it fairly quickly; it certainly isn’t awkward enough to the point of completely annoying players or hindering gameplay to any great extent. Otherwise, however, there are no other issues to address.

Lifespan – 6/10

It can take a good few hours to collect every tank in the game and their respective upgrades, as well as finish the main game. It’s particularly impressive, since one playthrough of a traditional arcade game tends to not even last an hour; for example, The House of the Dead can take an average of 40 minutes to finish. It’s just another way whereby the Wii U port has been effectively adapted for consoles, and how much thought went into the entire process, as opposed to simply porting it as it was.

Storyline – N/A (10/10)

There is no clear-cut story to this game, but instead, simply a basic premise. Your character, modelled off your own likeness, must undertake a series of missions whereby certain cities and landscapes are being overwhelmed by menacing and towering monsters, and must be taken down with you little green tank. I think that it’s acceptable that this is the case, because often times, when arcade games try to incorporate a plot, it’s either nor very good or well thought out, or because the games generally tend to last for so little time, not enough time can be invested on the player’s behalf to care about anything that’s happening.

Originality – 6/10

The game does have both influence in terms of both visuals and gameplay; looking a lot like many other generic games set in urban cities, and playing out a lot like games such as BattleTanx and Battle City. But having said that, it also provides a very unique gameplay experience from the point of view of Nintendo console owners compared with a lot of other games they are most well known for releasing. Because of that, I think it’s pretty regrettable that this game has been disregarded to the extent that it has been outside of Japan.

Happii

Happii

In summation, Tank Tank Tank is a pretty enjoyable game, and especially since it’s now free to download on the Wii U, I would highly recommend anyone who owns the console to try it out for themselves. Though it may not have the same charm as the original arcade version, with the added feature of having the cabinet chair jerk the player around with every shot fired, the gameplay has been greatly handled for the console port, and will keep players entertained for a time abnormally long for an arcade game.

Score

45.5/60

7.5/10 (Good)