EGX 2014 – ROUND UP

EGX 2014 Main

I was fortunate enough to once again attend the Eurogamer Expo at Earls Court in London this year. There was a great selection of games to try and despite lengthy queue times for some games, it was relatively easy to wander around and just sit down to play a lot of titles.

There wasn’t one big stand out game for me this year – my anticipation was spread across several titles and the only thing I was disappointed I didn’t play was Evolve. The queue for that was simply too long but I do feel it’s a little like Destiny in that I might not fully grasp what the game is until I actually play it.

Anyway, moving on to what I did play – strap yourself in, we have quite a bit to get through!

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THE ORDER: 1886

The Order

I’ve been looking forward to The Order: 1886 for ages – what’s not to like about London Victorian Steampunk?! Graphically the game was amazing which I think contributed to the feeling of disappointment I had when some of the character animation came into play. Granted this is an early glimpse of the game but the jerky movement of some of the NPC’s and the fact enemies didn’t flinch from shots anywhere except their head, really deflated me by the end of the demo. For me the controls felt a little clunky and the gameplay didn’t really get going in the short time we had to blast through the demo. I’ll still definitely play this but my expectation levels have dropped considerably.

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BORDERLANDS: THE PRE-SEQUEL

Borderlands PS

As a big fan of the first two Borderland games I was kind of hoping this game would make an appearance on the PS4 but at this time there are no plans for a current gen version. The queue for this game was crazy long but eventually we got to play and while the game didn’t do much differently (the gravity changes were interesting but not a game changer) it really rammed home to me how much I enjoy the mechanics and shooting of the series. I’m still not sure I’ll pick this up now that I’m mainly gaming on PS4 but if you like Borderlands then this is more of the same… which is no bad thing in my book.

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MIDDLE EARTH: SHADOW OF MORDOR

Shadow Of Mordor

I had seen some preview videos for Shadow of Mordor and had semi-dismissed the game as an Assassin’s Creed type hack ‘n slash title. Having been fortunate enough to get hands on with the game I can confirm there is a lot more to it than that! The combat is smooth and, while lifted from the Batman series, it really suits the fluid style of fighting in the game. Graphically it looked great and character movement was impressive. Add in to that the Nemesis system, where Orcs you defeat (or who defeat you) will remember and bring it up if you meet again, and you have a really strong title on your hands.

*GREGHORRORSHOW’S BEST IN SHOW – Eurogamer Expo 2014* Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor

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PROJECT CARS

Project Cars

I don’t know a lot about Project Cars, aside from it being a racer that is coming to PS4. Luckily for me this was one of the less busy booths so I could just walk up and play. I’m not a huge fan of driving games but there is usually one or two each generation that I get into and enjoy. The demo here was only one race and whilst it wasn’t bad the handling didn’t quite click with me. I appreciate that this could have been down to the car or track as opposed to being an issue with the game but once I’d finished I didn’t have the urge to play more.

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FAR CRY 4

fAR cRY 4

I tend to try not to play games at these events that I know I’ll definitely be getting in the months following the show but the queue was unusually short at the time so I jumped into some Far Cry 4 :) As expected it was frantic, funny and slightly insane. As I attempted to take over an outpost I used a combination of guns, grenades and even jeeps to mow down an army of bad guys. While there wasn’t too much new stuff on display it seems that Far Cry 4 will be continuing the previous games good work. I just hope the story doesn’t collapse under it’s own weight this time out.

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GALAK-Z

Galak-Z

Galak-Z has been on my radar for a while and it’s ‘Saturday morning cartoon’ style seemed to be something I would like. I’m pleased to say that in motion that style is wonderful and the gameplay was fun but quite challenging. I think that is down to the control of the ship, where the game uses a button for thrust rather than the stick movement a lot of games use. It looks like Galak-Z will be one of those titles that is tough to get to grips with but hugely rewarding when you do.

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HELLDIVERS

Helldivers

Helldivers is a twin stick shooter in the same mould as Dead Nation, the twist here is that the game is four player co-op and friendly fire is ON! I played this with 3 other random people and it was amazing how quickly we started working together as a team. And you have to as the game will punish you quickly if you don’t. Our mission involved going to certain areas of the map to trigger waves of enemies and using our various skills (turrets/mechs/revives etc.) to dispatch them as soon as possible. Using your abilities isn’t as simple as a single button press, you’ll need to input a fighter-style combo to access them, which adds to the pressure. I expected to like this but I came away even more impressed than I thought I would.

* GREGHORRORSHOW’S MOST PLEASANT SURPRISE – Eurogamer Expo 2014 * Helldivers

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BLOODBORNE

Bloodborne

Having not played any of the Demons Souls/Dark Souls games I wasn’t sure what I would make of Bloodborne. Knowing how punishing the games are to newcomers I was expecting to hit a wall quickly. I’m pleased to say that while the nuances of the genre were lost on me I was able to pick up the basics and explore the world for a bit before I met a grisly demise. The game looked wonderful and the character handled nicely (I went for the agility/speed build). Once I get to play the game properly and get to grips with the full controls/game systems I think I’ll really enjoy Bloodborne. It certainly seems like the developers have done a good job of making the game more accessible.

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DRIVECLUB

DriveClub

DriveClub continues to be a driving game that I enjoy playing. It looks great and handles really well – a mixture of simulation and arcade racing that suits me down to the ground. The queue was super short and so even though I’d already played it at previous events I thought I’d check it out and see how it’s developed. The truth is I didn’t notice a big difference between this and the build I played last year. Having said that I still enjoyed it and with Playstation Plus subscribers getting a free (but content reduced) version, I know I’ll be sinking some hours into this when it gets released.

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So there you have it – lots of great new titles will be hitting at the back end of this year and into the beginning of 2015. What titles are you most looking forward to?

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Watch_Dogs – Review (PS4)

WatchDogs Main

Watch_Dogs burst onto the scene at E3 way back in June 2012 and immediately became the poster child for PS4/XBox One games. With stunning graphics and some clever gameplay ideas, gamers marked it as a must buy purchase.

Unfortunately because the specs for PS4/XBox One weren’t finalised at the time, the trailer ended up showcasing a graphical fidelity that wasn’t possible to run in an open world environment. This led to lots of focus on how the game didn’t look as good as that demo. As it’s been such a big talking point I wanted to address this first – Watch_Dogs is a great looking game with some excellent animation. Does it look as good as that E3 trailer? No. But I rarely experienced any drop in performance when playing hectic sections so for me it’s a trade off I’m willing to accept.

The story focuses on Aiden Pearce and his desperate search for the people that murdered his niece while targeting him. While it was definitely nice to see a story like this from a slightly different perspective (it’s his family in danger but not his own wife/children) I still felt the damsel in distress trope didn’t need another airing at this stage. It probably didn’t help that it felt like each time the developers started crafting an interesting relationship for Aiden, the other character would then just disappear for ages. Nicky and Jordi were either underused or wasted and sadly most of the other characters were either a cliche or not that interesting (Aiden included). My favourite character in the game was probably T-Bone and that brings me onto the music of Watch_Dogs.

WatchDogs 2

Aside from one great moment involving T-Bone and a junkyard (I’ll say no more) that had a killer soundtrack, the rest of the game just felt… disjointed is probably the best word for it. There are no radio stations, just tracks, which means you never know what you’ll get next. While that works in a way, the good thing about the radio station mechanic games usually use is that you can at least tailor the vibe of music you’ll get to suit your mood. I also thought the selection was a bit too eclectic and could’ve done with some more focus.

A strange issue I had with Watch_Dogs was the fact that you can’t move doors once they are open! So if I ran into somewhere to evade an enemy the door to the room would just stay wide open and no amount of running into it/frantic button presses would have an effect. A master hacker/vigilante who can’t shut the door behind him?! It’s not a big issue but it definitely broke the immersion for me at times.

Something I did have a big problem with was the driving in this game – cars shoot away at the smallest hint of pressure on the accelerator and general control of vehicles is poor. This led to several ridiculous moments of (great) intense chases being ruined by my vehicle massively over/understeering (usually into a wall). Admittedly each vehicle did have a slightly different feel but for me personally none of them felt reliably comfortable, or fun, to drive.

WatchDogs 3

One of the good things Watch_Dogs does is give you control of the city’s huge technological infrastructure, allowing you to hack into security cameras (for a better view and also to hack other objects not in your line of sight), change traffic lights, burst steam pipes, explode electrical outlets and generally cause chaos. This can be done while driving or on foot, which lends chases and firefights a tactical edge. My only issue with this is that sometimes the game gives you the illusion of variety when really it just wants you to complete a mission in a very specific way. When the illusion works though it’s pretty damn cool. As well as hacking things to gain an advantage on the battlefield you’ll also be tasked with accessing computer software for information on targets and the like. This involves a fairly fun (and usually quite simple) mini game where you direct power to cells by turning corners in the mainframe to make the stream flow where you need it to.

Along with the single player component there is also a full multiplayer suite of options though aside from the ‘Invasion’ none of these were of real interest to me. Invasion basically involves the stopping of your single player game (not in mission) because you are being hacked by another (real life) player. They need to stay close enough to you to download your data and you need to track them down and stop them/take them out. It’s a fun mechanic and if you find it annoying it’s optional so you can just switch it off. There is also plenty of side mission stuff and random crime occurrences to keep you busy. I really enjoyed the side missions involving shutting down a human trafficking ring and discovering a crime was occurring in the vicinity and taking down the offender was pretty good fun.

WatchDogs 5

Watch_Dogs has some genuine moments of great gameplay throughout it’s (quite long) campaign. Unfortunately it shoots itself in the foot by making escaping from the police a chore that is only made worse by some really wonky checkpointing. Making me restart the mission from the beginning every time rather than just checkpointing from the moment I complete the objective and have to escape the cops became soul destroying towards the end of the game. It’s not just escaping from the cops either, several times I had to restart a lengthy firefight from the beginning, which is bad enough but to restart me *before* unskippable dialogue is almost unforgivable.

My experience with Watch_Dogs was equal parts fun and frustration. I’m glad it sold so well because I’m genuinely excited to see what Ubisoft come up with for the next Watch_Dogs title. I hope they can iron out the kinks and make the same kind of leap they did from Assassin’s Creed to Assassin’s Creed II. Watch_Dogs doesn’t live up to the hype but it’s a solid, entertaining game with some messy flaws.

Rating: 7/10

Thief – Review (PS4)

ThiefMain

The first Thief game arrived on PC back in 1998 and was very highly regarded. There have been another two games in the series since then but this years title is the first to hit Playstation consoles and even makes it to the new generation as well.

The game tells the story of Garrett, the Thief of the title, who finds himself attempting to unravel a mystery after a catastrophic event leaves him in a coma for a year. Upon waking he discovers the city is on lockdown because it is being crippled by a disease known as ‘The Gloom’. As Garrett tries to get to the bottom of what has happened you’ll be making your way through lots of different areas of the city.

The game is viewed from a first person perspective and you are given a lot of tools to fulfill your role as master thief. Stealth is usually the favoured option, with lots of different routes in, and out, of places giving you plenty of options to plan your mission. You have lots of different arrow types (fire, exploding, water etc.) to help you either take out or unsettle enemies.

Thief1

As part of a stealth approach, distraction is a decent option but it’s a lot less forgiving than straight up sneaking – when it worked it was great but a lot of the time it was just too easy to get caught by guards etc. Fighting is also viable but if you find yourself against more than one enemy you’d probably be better off retreating and regrouping.

Garrett also has a focus mode that you can enter to highlight objects you can interact with in the environment. It also helps improve the accuracy of you bow skills and increases your fighting abilities. These can be upgraded via a skill tree so you can cater your focus towards the playstyle you favour. I definitely found that focus was a big help, mostly when stuck on where to go next or if rumbled by a guard and I needed a quick takedown!

I liked the setting of Thief, the city has an oppressive air that suits the story and at times it looked fantastic but unfortunately on occasion it looked distinctly last-gen. I suspect this is just down to the game being released in the first 6 months of the new consoles lifecycle and having to be available on PS3 as well. Animation was pretty good for the most part and some of the stealth takedowns were cool, though it would’ve been nice to have a few more variations and they really should’ve made a custom one for enemies sitting, usually asleep, in chairs. As it stands you just sort of slap the air in front of them and they fall heavily out of the seat!

Thief2

The game controlled well and I did feel it was just about forgiving enough (on Normal) for players like me that often mess up the stealth element and have to improvise. Enemy AI was fairly clever, checking around potential hiding places but not usually finding me. There were a couple of times that I ended up getting really frustrated but that wasn’t really during open world stuff, it was mainly during closed area ‘boss’ type encounters.

I didn’t really find the story that engaging and the ending actually passed me by – I had to look up a Wiki to piece together what had happened. I liked some of the side stuff that fleshed out the world though and some of the side missions where you actually had to steal things rather than kill a target were cool. Thief was a rewarding play when everything came together, there were several main missions that went (almost 100%) smoothly and they were probably the highlight of the game for me.

Thief3

The elephant in the room of course is that 2012’s Dishonored essentially ‘out-Thiefed’ Thief and did it better in most senses. With more powers and some better implementation I would recommend going with Dishonored if you are choosing between the two but Thief is also a solid stealth/action game. There were flashes of brilliance during my playthrough but unfortunately, for me at least, at the end of Thief I felt confusion more than anything else.

Rating 6/10

E3 2014 – The GregHorrorShow Round Up

Mordor E3

So another E3 has been and gone. 2014 was not quite as dramatic as last year’s XBox One Vs PS4 launch shenanigans but there were plenty of great games to see.

So in no particular order, here are my favourites from the show:

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RAINBOW SIX: SEIGE

I have been waiting years for a new Rainbow Six game and while we had seen (the now defunct) ‘Patriots’ game last year, Ubisoft have revealed their newest Six title in the shape of ‘Seige’. Looks very shiny and could be quite tactical if playing with the right people. I’m in!

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UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END

We knew this one was coming but we had no idea just how good it would look. The above was from in-game assets running on a PS4. Aside from looking amazing, Sully was *confirmed* which makes it a must buy for me immediately :) They kept saying ‘one last time’, I’d love to see Drake go out with a bang. The series deserves an amazing send off.

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THE DIVISION

Another big hitter from last year, The Division is still a way off but this gameplay demo showcased just how great this title could be. Fingers crossed it can live up to the hype.

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NO MAN’S SKY

Speaking of hype, another title I’m hoping doesn’t drown under the hopes/dreams of the gaming community is No Man’s Sky. Initially revealed late last year it still looks super cool and different to most other stuff out there. The world is procedurely generated so there will be plenty of surprises in store!

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ASSASSIN’S CREED: UNITY

Black Flag won me back over after III’s poor showing and the switch to 17th Century France really appeals to me. Four player co-op will be awesome if implemented well and keeping this just on the newest consoles means we should see a big improvement in AI and graphics (hopefully).

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FAR CRY 4

This looks superb. More of the same in a different location and better graphics. That’s fine with me! Hopefully the story will last the distance this time out rather than collapsing in on itself half way through.

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THE WITCHER 3

The first two Witcher titles were very well received and this is the first time Geralt has appeared on Playstation – fortunately you don’t need to have played the other games to enjoy this stunning fantasy epic. I look forward to exploring the world CD Projekt RED have crafted.

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RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER

I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Tomb Raider reboot – looking forward to more of the same and hopefully some more character development. Maybe skip the multiplayer though Crystal Dynamics?

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DESTINY

This one has definitely snuck up on me a bit as I wasn’t massively keen but Destiny had a good showing at E3. It helps that I got into the Alpha over the last weekend and that it was especially awesome :smile: Coming on like a cross between Borderlands and Mass Effect… well, do I need to carry on?!

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BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT

I never played the non-RockSteady made Arkham game from last year, so I am definitely ready for a new Batman game and this one looks gorgeous. Hopefully RockSteady can keep the gameplay fresh and nail a great story as well.

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THE ORDER: 1886

Unfortunately this was a game that ended up delayed into early 2015 but I still think this will be a stand out PS4 title. Graphically it looks excellent and the seamless interchange between gameplay and cut scene is super impressive. Victorian London Steampunk? Yes please!

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BLOODBORNE

I never played the Souls games on PS3 so my hype for this game is mainly based on a combination of how great it looks and the fact that MisterOggy has been raving about the Souls games recently. Seems as good as time as any to jump in and this is being made by the guy who created the original ‘Souls’ title.

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There was plenty of other great stuff on show including Middle Earth: Shadow Of Mordor (a third person action adventure game set in the Lord Of The Rings universe), Dead Island 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. I also thought Cuphead, with it’s old-skool cartoon vibe, looked fantastic. I was pleased to see Mass Effect 4 confirmed but there wasn’t much they could show. Same goes for Star Wars Battlefront. Ubisoft’s WW1 game Valiant Hearts continues to interest and is actually out in a few weeks.

Cuphead E3

Another one that looks great is 5 player Evolve, where it’s 4 v 1 but the 1 is a huge monster :smile: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was as insane as ever but it looks great and I will definitely be picking it up. I thought Fetch was one of the best (and underused) characters in Infamous: Second Son so the standalone DLC ‘First Light‘ could be really interesting. I liked the look of Inside but I did feel it felt a bit too similar to Limbo for my liking, at least from that trailer.

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Overall I thought it was a pretty great E3, although it’s a bit disappointing that a lot of the best games shown are not going to be out until 2015. There is still plenty to look forward to though – what did you guys like the look of? Was there anything not listed about that you thought might be cool?

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Infamous: Second Son – Review (PS4)

Infamous SS MAIN

I am a big fan of the Infamous series and Second Son was one of my most wanted games for the new generation of consoles. With Sucker Punch’s Playstation expertise, could this be an early killer app for the PS4? I wish the answer was a resounding ‘yes’ but despite some fantastic high points, and coming 6 months after the release of the PS4, Second Son still suffers from early console-cycle jitters.

Let’s start with a positive. Graphically I’m not sure I’ve seen a better game… ever. The lighting, the rain, the neon. I could go on and on and before I do stop, I must mention the cutscenes – Infamous: Second Son has some of the most well crafted scenes I’ve ever seen – a testament to the amount of facial motion capture they did. They are also among the best acted, with some great, believable performances.

Gameplay-wise the enemy AI is robust and will not hesitate to flank you and hide behind cover when necessary. Encounters felt challenging but enjoyable for the most part, although there were a few frustrating boss fights thrown into the mix. Luckily, Second Son does a decent job of giving you different options so that you can change tactics on the fly. You begin the game with smoke powers and as the story progresses you’ll unlock neon and a few others (which I won’t name so as not to spoil it). The powers each have a distinct look which is really cool but unfortunately all of them are essentially just the same set of attacks in a different art style. It’s a real shame because it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity – if they had given the powers a genuinely different feel it could’ve been a game changer. As it is they are still fun but you’ll likely find yourself finding a favourite and just sticking with that.

Infamous SS 1

Second Son tells the story of Delsin Rowe, a graffiti artist turned superhero. Delsin is, unknowingly, a conduit for superpowers – having the unique ability to absorb and use other conduits powers. Conduits have been labelled ‘Bio-Terrorists’ by the government and the D.U.P (Department of Unified Protection) are sent in to capture any conduits they can find. When the D.U.P endangers the local people, Delsin and his brother Reggie (a sheriff) find themselves thrown into a battle with this dark, government force. Along the way you’ll meet other conduits that Delsin can nurture or prey on as you look to sort out the situation he’s found himself in.

The story is fun and the characters are definitely memorable which is why it’s all the more disappointing that great side characters like Fetch and Eugene are barely used. I would have loved to see more missions with accompanying characters so you had a chance to get to know them better. This for me was probably Infamous: Second Son’s biggest crime, especially with how well crafted the characters felt. It felt like a mis-step to introduce these cool characters and then just brush them aside until the final act.

Infamous SS 2

Infamous: Second Son is a graphical powerhouse that I had a lot of fun playing. It tells a good story in a concise timeframe (around 10 hours) and the animation in cutscenes is something to behold. In spite of all that I do feel that the side characters could have been developed more and while the gameplay is decent, it is more of the same from the last two games. That isn’t a big issue for me but people should be aware it is not with fresh gameplay that Second Son makes it mark… graphically however, it stomps most other titles into the ground.

Rating: 8/10

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MXGP – Review (PS3)

*This piece originally appeared on TheSixthAxis and can be viewed HERE*

MXGP is the officially licensed game of Motocross, featuring all the bikes and riders of the sport. The names were unfamiliar to me as I don’t follow Motorcross but by the time I’d created a custom rider and hit the track I was trying too hard to stay on my bike to worry!

As you would expect from a licensed product, the game has a full suite of modes that enable you to jump straight into a random race, hold a Grand Prix (race weekend), take part in the Motorcross Championship (as your favourite rider) or even start a career with a created rider. There are also online options for a single race, ‘Seasons’ mode or Time Attack, so you are well catered for across the board.

The racing itself is fun with a different take on control – here the left stick controls the bike, with the right stick distributing the rider’s weight. It’s an interesting system but you won’t need to use it much when on the ‘Base’ setting that the game starts you on. Even on the highest level of ‘Pro’ I found it wasn’t really needed for cornering but I definitely had to balance my weight to the front or back going uphill or downhill. If you don’t strike the right balance you will find yourself face down in the mud.

MXGP creates some great crash moments, where your rider will tumble realistically off his vehicle and hit the ground. However I do feel this could be a little bit more refined – on some occasions a very slight knock would see my rider thrown in a very over-the-top pratfall that just didn’t make sense in the context of the crash. Another issue I stumbled across on more occasions than I would’ve liked, was my rider coming off his bike without good reason. This was especially problematic at the edge of the track and caused me a few frustrating moments.

Graphically, the game looks good and you get a nice sense of speed from gameplay. The track deforms as you ride around it, which is a great touch because it can slightly change the racing line in later laps, and even the effect of the wind rustling under the rider’s shirt gives an impression that you are tearing around a racetrack. Unfortunately, on the PS3 version I played, there was some noticeable pop in – I suspect this may be down to the game having to keep track of the deformed race area. It wasn’t a game breaking issue but it did take you out of the moment at times.

As I mentioned above, aside from one off races or championships, the main crux of single player action is the Career mode. This allows you to create your own custom rider and work your way up from MX2 racing to the big time of MX1. This mode will be a big time sink for players because of the way MX rules work – as well as Practice and Qualifying, riders also race the track twice within the weekend (with points awarded for both races).

So, even if you decide to skip the preliminary rounds you’ll still need to get through two races to complete each event. My one complaint about the races was that at times they felt a little too long (especially having to do each course twice) but that’s a personal preference.

The Career mode is good fun though, with you starting out as a wildcard before receiving offers for different teams as the season progresses. You will get team objectives and an additional bonus if you finish ahead of a pre-chosen ‘rival’. The team manager and your agent will often drop you an e-mail to give you updates or set an objective. In addition to this there is also an option to check social media and see what the fans and other riders are saying about you. It’s a nice touch and, along with the post race info on how many fans you’ve gained/lost, lends some depth to the MXGP world.

As well as solo play there is also the option to take on fellow gamers online with a single race or ‘Season’ mode. In a single race you will be battling it out with up to 11 other racers and you will race with whatever number of people are in the lobby. The game also allows players to mix settings in single race, so riders are racing with whatever set up they feel comfortable with. This seems like a smart move as it won’t split the userbase straight out of the gate (excuse the pun).

For Season mode, if you don’t have 12 people in the lobby it will fill the race with AI riders so there are always 12 of you. Points are then distributed accordingly after races. The online was stable, I had one lost connection in 10 races, and there was no slowdown or other visual issues.

Rating: 7/10

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Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag – Review (PS4)

ACIV Main

Truth be told the Assassin’s Creed series has been in decline of late. Brotherhood was, for me at least, the pinnacle of the series with both Revelations and Assassin’s Creed III failing to live up to expectations. With Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag can Ubisoft arrest the slide?

Following the conclusion of the Desmond Miles arc in Assassin’s Creed III, here you take control of an unnamed protagonist who has taken a job at Abstergo Entertainment – a games company making historical adventures. As you’ll know if you played any previous titles, Abstergo is a present day front for the Templars. What’s interesting in this title is that you are able to spend time exploring this game company even outside of missions that require you to do so. Your job involves using the Animus (a kind of virtual reality system) to explore the memories of people from historical periods. And for Black Flag that is 18th Century pirate Edward Kenway who also happens to be the grandfather of Connor, the player character from Assassin’s Creed III.

The first thing I noticed was a definite shift in tone following III’s bratty Connor and serious story. Black Flag indulges in pirate lore and gives us a cast of fun, if at times sinister, crew mates and fellow pirates. Kenway falls into the assassin fold rather than trains for it but luckily he’s a natural and it doesn’t take long for you to get caught up in the ever raging Assassin v Templar war.

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The game looks fantastic, certainly on the PS4 version I played, with rich foliage and some great water animation. The cutscenes are nicer looking versions of the PS3 ones and you have to consider how much better Black Flag could’ve looked if it wasn’t spread across current and last generation consoles.

Naval combat returns from III but here it is a main facet of the game, rather than the side activity it was in the previous game. It is easy to get to grips with and I found that I hardly used fast travel while playing – I was happy to just sail wherever I needed to go. As well as enemy ships you will now also need to deal with storms and you’ll have the option of deep-sea diving and hunting sea life, if you wish to.

Gameplay has been refined and Kenway’s animation is much improved. There is still the odd bit of clipping through objects but for the most part you are in a believable recreation of the Caribbean of the time, even docking in Kingston for a while :smile: Climbing has been streamlined and there are lots of ways to take on enemies. Life bars on assassination targets, one of my biggest criticisms of Assassin’s Creed III, seem to have been fixed. So you can sneak past guards and kill a target without raising the alarm.

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Main missions still have a similar feel to others in the series and are beginning to show their age a little at this stage. For example, there must be a more interesting way of structuring an eavesdropping mission? For the most part I didn’t mind the missions but there were a few that felt a little repetitive and unoriginal. There are a wealth of side missions and collectibles though, so you won’t be short of something to do if you want to take a break from the storyline.

To be honest that’s how I’d recommend playing Black Flag. If you just mainline the main story you’ll likely find yourself doing a lot of similar stuff whereas doing some side stuff between each mission, for me at least, kept the game fresh and I had a thoroughly enjoyable playthrough that clocked in at just shy of 24 hours. If you don’t like the Assassin’s Creed games there isn’t much new to tempt you into picking up Black Flag but if you haven’t ever tried a title in the series this is the most accessible yet.

Multiplayer returns and once again has been refined. I really enjoy the mechanics and gameplay of the online offering for the Assassin’s Creed games and it finally seems like Ubisoft have ironed out some of the kinks that were frustrating users previously. The main one is the stun mechanic which now seems to be less about confronting your attacker and is now deployed when you’ve fooled your pursuer into killing the wrong target.

ACIV 1

If you spot a pursuer now your best bet is to try to escape and if you can’t do that your other option is to trigger a ‘contested kill’ where you are still assassinated but your killer only gets a handful of the normal points they would for a more subtle kill. This remains, for me, one of the most underrated online offerings out there.

Overall Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is a step in the right direction for the series. The lighter tone and interesting setting make for a very fun experience. As I mentioned above you can’t help but wonder though, if this version was held back slightly by being across all consoles (including PS3 and last gen hardware). I can’t wait to see what Ubisoft deliver this year with Assassin’s Creed Unity, which is only being made for the new consoles.

Rating: 8/10

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