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

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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.

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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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MOST WANTED 2014 – PS4 EDITION

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A few weeks ago I took a look at the upcoming slate for PS3 and Vita to give you a taste of the titles you should be keeping an eye out for. Well, as promised, here’s another look at upcoming games – this time focusing on the shiny PS4.

This is a much bigger list with a LOT of titles to talk about – so grab a cup of tea or coffee, settle in and prepare to get hyped about what’s coming up this year (and maybe beyond).

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Infamous: Second Son

I loved the last two Infamous games on PS3. Both were great fun, with good characters and a cool comic art style for cutscenes. Well now that Cole McGrath’s character arc is done, Infamous is moving to the PS4 and we have a new hero/villain in Deslin Rowe – voiced by the ever fantastic Troy Baker (of Bioshock Infinite and Last Of Us fame). Firstly the graphics look stunning – check out the video above. I can confirm it does looks that good, having seen it first hand at a Sony event last year. Secondly we’re promised more fun with moral choices and the decision to be a good guy or a bad guy. Infamous: Second Son is the first *big* PS4 exclusive game release since the console’s launch and it’s shaping up to be a great one. Roll on March!

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Murdered: Soul Suspect

Murdered: Soul Suspect was on my list for PS3 games I was looking forward to, only for Square Enix to confirm a few weeks ago that the game would also be coming to the PS4! Soul Suspect focuses on Detective Ronan O’Connor who must solve his own murder from beyond the grave. As if this wouldn’t be difficult enough he’ll also need to fight off various demonic enemies as well. I’m intrigued to see how this one plays out as I think it’s a really cool idea for a game.

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Galak-Z – The Dimensional

At first glance Galak-Z seems to be another bullet-hell shooter in the mould of old classics like R-Type or the more recent Sine Mora. However there is a lot more going on here than is readily apparently from screenshots. AI plays a bigger role than usual for a game of this type – for example, enemy ships will fall back and radio for assistance if they get the chance. Despite appearances this isn’t a twin stick shooter – Galak-Z controls much more like old arcade games with a button for thrust rather than stick movement (think Asteroids). Add to that a superb cartoon art-style and you have a pretty interesting concept.

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Child Of Light

Child Of Light is another game with an interesting art-style and it sees you taking on the role of Aurora in an RPG with some platforming elements. Aurora is a young girl from Austria in the year 1895 who contracts a mystery illness, falls unconscious and awakes in a fantasy world that she must fight her way out of. I’m not a huge fan of RPG games (aside from Persona 4 Golden) but this game looks beautiful and has the potential to be really fun and challenging.

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Lily Bergamo

Coming from Suda51, the man behind titles like Killer7 and Shadows Of The Damned, Lily Bergamo is a bit of an unknown quantity. We know it’s a Playstation 4 exclusive and that it has a wicked cool look that contrasts colour and black ‘n white. The above is all we’ve seen of it but I can’t wait to find out more – the game is scheduled simply as 2014 so hopefully we will get more info at E3 in June.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor

Here’s one for the gamers jaded by the recent Assassin’s Creed games – a third person action adventure game set in the Lord Of The Rings universe that seems to be influenced in all the right ways by Ubisoft’s Assassin juggernaut. The video above is lengthy but gives you a great feel for the game, which will be set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. You’re back from the dead as Talion (a ranger) and you are trying to track down whoever killed you (and your family). The trail leads to Mordor and who knows what you’ll find there!

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Helldivers

Helldivers is a top down shooter in which you are part of the Helldivers unit, tasked with battling the alien enemies of mankind. Battlefields are procedurally-generated so you won’t come across the exact same level twice, which should help add to the longevity of the game. Helldivers features a single player campaign and (up to) 4 player co-op content, so this will be a good title to jump into with friends. One of the great features already confirmed is the ability to play cross platform, so whether you have the PS4, PS3 or Vita version you should always have someone to play with! Helldivers is cross-save as well as cross-play so if you’re making good progress on PS4 and want to transfer to your Vita to carry on during your commute to work/lunchtime then you can. This is definitely a title worth keeping an eye on.

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Transistor

Transistor is a turn-based strategy game in which you take control of Red, a singer who has found herself in possession of a sword, the Transistor of the title. Over the last year lots of people have being going missing from Red’s world and she feels this sword may have something to do with it. She now finds herself being pursued by a band of assassins who also want Transistor, an impressive weapon who can talk to Red and help her out along the way. Transistor mixes the ability to move as you wish in real time with the ability to stop time and plan your next attack. When Red’s ability bar is full you can pause the action and set up a succession of moves to take out enemies, which are then played out at super speed. Which is totally badass.

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Watch_Dogs

Ah Watch_Dogs – delayed and pushed back. Doesn’t always bode well (especially after that really terrible trailer was accidentally released looking like a PS2 game) but I have faith in Ubisoft, particularly having played the excellent Assassin’s Creed IV on PS4. In Watch_Dogs you are Aiden Pearce, a man not afraid to use his hacking talents to get what he wants. In a surveillance heavy world you’ll be doing your best to fend off the authorities and complete your mission. Regardless of hold ups and a lack of recent news on the title, the video above still fills me with hope. Come on Ubisoft, make it as awesome as it can be and we’ll all be happy :smile:

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Deep Down

Deep Down was one of the graphical highlights from the PS4’s reveal event and since then we’ve learned some facts that have changed our idea of what this title is. Initially thought to be a single player game it turns out that Deep Down is, wait for it as it’s a bit of a mouthful… a free-to-play fantasy online role-playing game. Got all that? So firstly it’ll be free to play – great news. It will be an online RPG – again, great stuff. Deep Down also had another trick up it’s sleeve. After convincing the world it was going to be a Skyrim-a-like fantasy game it takes places in both that environment *and* also New York in 2094. Well, it certainly won’t be boring!

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Destiny

When the guys behind Halo have a brand new game coming out people tend to take notice. And Destiny is no different. Coming on like a bigger and more social version of Borderlands the game takes place 700 years into the future, after the collapse of what was the golden age of space exploration and colonizing of planets. Now we share Earth with various alien races and as one of the last Guardians you and your team will be asked to investigate and stamp out alien activity. The game is a first person shooter with some role playing aspects and it looks like it’ll be great fun with friends.

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Alien: Isolation

Ok! Ok! Let’s clear the elephant from the room. Aliens: Colonial Marines was one of the lowest ranked games I’ve ever reviewed. This is *not* made by the same people or is it even the same type of game. Replacing Colonial Marines run ‘n gun playstyle with the horror of the original Alien film, Isolation puts you in the shoes of Amanda Ripley – daughter of series stalwart Ellen Ripley. The game is set 15 years after the events of Alien and 42 years before the events of Aliens. You will be investigating your mother’s disappearance and getting hunted by a Xenomorph while you do it. I think this looks pretty cool and at some stage someone will have to make a good Aliens game this century. Right guys? Right?

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Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Gaming industry legend and MGS creator Hideo Kojima is drip feeding us Metal Gear Solid V – first up is Ground Zeroes, due for release in March. MGS V: Phantom Pain comes after that but it’s likely that will be 2015 at the earliest. Anyway, you know what you’re in for with Metal Gear Solid – crazy, fun, stealth action. Unfortunately, the series veteran voice actor David Hayter has been dropped so Keifer Sutherland is lending his dulcet tones to Snake. If you’re not a fan of MGS this game isn’t likely to get you on board but it looks amazing – check out the graphics in the video above – and I am a fan of the series so I’m really looking forward to this one.

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The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

I haven’t played any of the other Witcher games but the developer has reassured newcomers they will be able to get straight into the game regardless (don’t they always!). Hopefully that will be the case as the previous titles are very highly thought of and I haven’t heard many people talking negatively about the series. You will be playing as Geralt Of Rivia, the aforementioned Witcher, as he travels across the world in the concluding part of his story. This game looks amazing and should have the gameplay to back it up as well.

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Mirror’s Edge 2

A collective sigh of relief occurred when a sequel to the wonderful but not commercially successful Mirror’s Edge game was announced. Rumour has it that this will actually be a prequel to DICE’s title and will tell the origin story of Faith, the first game’s protagonist. Not much is known about this one but the first game was really cool and pretty innovative so I’m looking forward to seeing what EA bring to the table this time out.

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Tom Clancy’s The Division

The Division is one of those games that I use to show people how good games on the PS4 can look. With improved graphics and a huge amount of destructability, The Division looks like it’ll be a powerhouse when it hits the new consoles. Based on real world research that estimates a global pandemic would see society fall apart in just 5 days(!), the game takes place after just such an event and you’ll be fighting for survival against other players as well as the game’s AI. It certainly looks like an interesting set up and seems like another title that will be great fun with friends.

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The Order: 1886

The Order: 1886 is one of the games on this list I’m most excited about – graphically it looks amazing and I love the sound of the story. Set in London, in an alternate steampunk-esque universe, The Order: 1886 sees you take on the role of Galahad – one of a handful of knights from an ancient order that are sworn to protect mankind from all kinds of mutants that roam the city. This is a third person action adventure game with an interesting take on QTE events. It is thrilling to have a game set in London, with a stylized Whitechapel recreating the old days of city life.

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No Man’s Sky

Hello Games that made the wonderful Joe Danger titles are a small team. So imagine everyone’s surprise when No Man’s Sky was revealed unexpectedly at the VGX awards late last year. This is a game in which you travel on foot and by spacecraft to explore a procedurally generated world. The idea is when you start the game you will have no information on your surroundings and will need to investigate to find new planets/territories. Sounds really interesting and it has a cool art style.

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DRIVECLUB

DRIVECLUB is a racing game with a difference. The entire game is laced with social aspects that permeate through races as you drive. For me this is a really smart idea and means that as you race for position against other drivers you will also be compared to your friends via PSN. Not in terms of race time or position but more abstract things who took this corner best, or who was fastest in this stretch of track. It should, hopefully, lead to a much more immersive game because even if you’re losing a specific race you can pick up some XP by beating your friends along the way. A reduced version of this game is planned to be released free for Playstation Plus subscribers so keep an eye out!

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Uncharted

I absolutely love the Uncharted series so I was stoked that Naughty Dog announced a new game, which will be exclusive to the PlayStation 4. The trailer above shows us a map of Africa, specifically Madagascar, so if the game takes us there it could be a really interesting setting. Because the voiceover wasn’t Nathan Drake people are undecided as to whether he will actually feature in the game or if we’ll be playing as one of his ancestors in an earlier time frame. I hope it does feature Nate, Elena and Sully (at least!) but I have faith in Naughty Dog and can’t wait for whatever they deliver!

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Cyberpunk 2077

Unfortunately it looks a lot more likely that Cyberpunk 2077 will hit in 2015 but it’s definitely one to keep on your (long term) radar. It’s an RPG title based on a tabletop RPG game and is unsurprisingly set in a dystopian cyberpunk universe. The developers have said the game can be played in first or third person view and will feature a highly customizable main character as well as a varied and interesting game world. Count me in!

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Still with me? Yep, it was a touch on the long side BUT it is a great time to be a gamer and these ‘new’ consoles have kicked off a boom in gaming.

If you haven’t jumped aboard the PS4 train yet this year will give you plenty of gaming reasons to consider it – I think for most people the end of this year will be the tipping point, as great games continue to be revealed.

So is there anything from the list you guys are excited for? Or anything I missed that you’re looking forward to?

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Battlefield 4 – Review (PS4)

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Battlefield 4 has had a lot of problems since it’s release last year – furious gamers not able to connect to the servers or having the game crash whenever they do. Stuttering, laggy, unplayable. There is even a save bug for the campaign. However since I started playing it online (around Christmas) I have had very little problem with it. The occasional bit of lag here and there, yes, but nothing out of the ordinary. I also have never been disconnected from a game or not been able to connect. I don’t doubt people are having problems, I just wanted to flag this up so anyone reading this can take this into account – I’m reviewing the game as I played it and I haven’t had those issues. I’d recommend checking out some other reviews for a more rounded view.

Ok, with that being said let’s get into it. I’ll start with the campaign. Battlefield 4’s single player content is a lot better than the previous game’s offering. Battlefield 3 was painfully average and Battlefield 4 feels like a step up. It is your usual story of the US army, this time facing off against the Chinese. It’s still not the best campaign I’ve ever played but it has some real showstopping moments that showcase the power of the new systems so it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Moving on to the main focus of the game – multiplayer. The switch to PS4 means that for the first time, at least for many of us former PS3’ers, we can enjoy the full 32v32 (instead of 12v12) Battlefield online experience. And it makes a huge difference. The maps are bigger, obviously, but also the sense of scale is massively increased. And it is easier than ever to jump in and get involved.

This isn’t due to any ‘dumbing down’ of the gameplay or mechanics – in fact I’d say it’s possibly the opposite. Shooting feels a lot more similar to Bad Company 2 rather than Battlefield 3. Shooting while moving is a lot more difficult which is great as it adds an ebb and flow to the gunplay. The reason the game is more accessible is simply that DICE have done a great job of giving out more points for doing teamwork.

Spotting enemies and vehicles, healing teammates, dropping ammo for allies and anything remotely team based nets you a lot more points than previously. I recently had one round where I went 1/20 (don’t ask!) but racked up thousands of points and came third in my team (out of 32 players) by assisting my squad and capturing flags.

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You also have the option of taking on the role of Commander, whereby you’re looking at an overview of the map, distributing aid, advising your team and making high value enemy targets. This can also be played on tablet via the Battlefield app so you can get on the battlefield even if you aren’t at home.

Graphically the game is excellent and the horribly named ‘Leveloution’ is superb, bringing some real drama to rounds. Leveloution is essentially a giant showpiece event that changes the landscape of the game map. We’ve had similar stuff before but never on this level and never with this interactivity. In one map a skyscraper has a capture point on the roof but if the building sustains enough damage the whole thing collapses and the capture point now appears down on ground level in the rubble. The feeling of being on that roof, hearing the warning siren for it’s imminent collapse, jumping off the side of the building and parachuting to safety while it collapses cannot be over stated. DICE are masters of stuff like this (remember the base jump in Damavand Peak on Battlefield 3?!) and it adds something to the experience you simply won’t find elsewhere.

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Battlefield 4 on Playstation 4 is a big step up if you’ve only played console Battlefield before, both graphically and in terms of size. There is a decent campaign in the mix here but the glorious multiplayer is where it’s at. However as I said in the opening of the review, a lot of your enjoyment will depend on whether you can actually play the game online due to the issues it has had. Without issues this is a superb offering.

Rating: 9/10

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MOST WANTED 2014 – PS3 / PS VITA EDITION

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Well it’s already February and it’s been a tad quiet on the game release front so far. But fear not! There are plenty of great games coming soon(ish) so here’s a look at what you should be keeping an eye out for.

Originally this started out as an article covering all formats but there was just too much stuff! So first up will be PS3 and Vita, with PS4 games coming in the next installment.

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PS3

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Well there isn’t a massive amount for Playstation 3 that’s on my radar to be honest, so this will be a shorter section than the Vita one! I’ve already shelled out for the entire Second Season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead (above pic), we have had one episode so far (Clem – yay!) and I can’t wait for the rest. Aside from that I’m interested in Persona 5 but my main question on that is whether to wait for a Vita ‘Golden’ version. Not much is known about it but I loved Persona 4 Golden so much I will definitely play this at some stage!

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VITA

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There is still a misconception that the Vita doesn’t have any games – I busted that myth a while ago and it looks like 2014 is set to give us some real handheld treats. Some of these may have appeared on other systems before but I’ve never played them so I’m keen to try out the handheld version!

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Fez

Fez is a puzzle/platform game in which you rotate the world to progress. It has a fantastic art-style and is recognised as a top quality game by everyone that I know who played it. The player character, Gomez, has his world turned upside down when he receives a fez that allows him to manipulate the world around. Fez seems like a great game to play on the go.

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number looks set to continue the overkill of the first game, which was a fast paced bloodfest that required sharp reflexes to get through. Hotline Miami was one of those games you just couldn’t put down and you can expect more of the same from the sequel. Wrong Number takes place before and after the events of the original Hotline Miami so will tie in nicely with the storyline and will further flesh out the back story of ‘Jacket’.

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Velocity 2x

Velocity 2X is a sequel to Velocity Ultra and gives us a chance to get out of the spaceship we’ve been flying in previous titles to kick some ass on foot as well! You play as Kai Tana, who blacked out while traveling through a wormhole in space. Unfortunately she’s stranded somewhere inhabited by a race called the Vokh. The gameplay is as you’d expect for the flying sections and the on foot stuff is just as slick. We’ve been promised moon bases, space stations and alien planets. Bring it on!

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Volume

Volume is a tactical stealth game in which you play as Locksley, a vigilante who uses distraction and sneaking to commit his crimes. The game is a retelling of the Robin Hood story set in the near future and it looks fantastic. Mike Bithell’s previous game ‘Thomas Was Alone’ is awesome so this is definitely one to watch out for.

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Gravity Rush 2

I really enjoyed Gravity Rush, it remains one of the best exclusives the Vita has to offer. So I was most excited to see a follow up game teased. Kat awoke with no memory but had the ability to influence gravity. It looks like she may have some new powers judging by the trailer above and I’m keen to find out where the game is heading story-wise.

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Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter doesn’t seem like the sort of game I would usually get super excited for. But I thought this looked really cool as soon as I saw it. A 2D action role-playing game that sees you playing a character that has a mystery illness. As you search for a cure you’ll be using technology that only you have access to in a bid to defeat enemies and save yourself. Just look at that art-style… superb!

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CounterSpy

CounterSpy is a stealth game that is played from a side scrolling, 2D perspective. Taking place during an alternate history cold war (!), this game sounds super cool. The developers have some background as well – while this is their first indie game, some of them previously worked at LucaArts and Pixar.

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Murasaki Baby

This one looks dark as hell, no surprise I suppose given the game director’s history of working on titles like Killer7, No More Heroes and Shadows of the Damned. You play as Baby, a little girl who has a mouth (complete with sharp teeth) on her forehead. You’ll be guiding her through a world full of children’s nightmares. Again this is another Vita title with an excellent art direction and one I’m looking forward to playing.

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Rogue Legacy

Rogue Legacy was a bit hit last year and is set to hit the Vita sometime in 2014. The game is a platformer in which you must explore a randomly generated dungeon. It’s a bit like the excellent Spleunky but here when you die your abilities are passed on to one of three random ‘heirs’ who you control on the next run through. An interesting idea for sure and apparently very addictive.

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Frozen Synapse: Tactics

Frozen Synapse: Tactics is a turn based strategy game that sees you as part of a resistance, taking on a corrupt government in a dystopian, cyberpunk future. Which sounds pretty excellent to me. This isn’t a fast paced action title though – you’ll be carefully planning moves for your soldiers in advance and watching how things pan out in skirmishes between resistance and the government.

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Football Manager 2014

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As much as I’m looking forward to Football Manager on Vita I’m also a little apprehensive that it was swallow up hours of my gaming time. This a much more in-depth version than the previous PSP titles and as usual I expect to have great fun guiding a lower league club to the very top! This also has cross-save with the PC version of the game so you can play wherever/whenever you want.

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Freedom Wars

Freedom Wars is a battle action, co-op focussed game which takes place on Earth in the year 102013 (!). Humans now live underground and anyone arrested for a crime is presumed guilty. Prisoners can reduce their sentence by fighting giant monsters up top. If it plays as fun as it sounds this could be a real blast to play with friends.

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Helldivers

In Helldivers you’ll be battling the alien enemies of mankind as part of an elite government unit. The game is a top down shooter with procedurally-generated battlefields, so you won’t come across the exact same level twice. Helldivers features a single player campaign and (up to) 4 player co-op content, so this could be a title to grab with friends and get yourself online.

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Persona 4: Dancing All Night

As it says in the title this is a dancing rhythm game for the Vita. Not usually my cup of tea but I’ll play anything that furthers the story/world of Persona 4. Seems like you’ll still be fighting demons but this time by dancing as opposed to hitting them with blunt/sharp objects. Oh and Atlus, please sort getting Persona 4 Arena onto Vita soon. Or, like, now.

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So what do you think folks? Which games have your interest for the year ahead?

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Killzone Shadow Fall – Review (PS4)

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The Killzone titles have been one of my favourite game series in recent years, the superb Killzone 2 and 3 both spending plenty of time in my PS3. With a new console, Guerrilla Games is again pushing the graphical envelope with Killzone Shadow Fall but as the game breaks away from the plot and characters of the last two titles can it live up to expectations?

While the multiplayer is a huge draw for Killzone titles I have always loved the campaign modes as well. The characters have always been fun and memorable (yes, even Rico) and the story was usually decent sci-fi fare, which is cool with me. In Shadow Fall we say goodbye to Sev and Rico et al, with the game being set 30 years after the events of Killzone 3. You play as Lucas Kellan, a Shadow Marshall for the Vektans. Following the last game’s conclusion, Helghan survivors are granted refuge on Vekta and are eventually given their own territory within Vekta, called New Helghan. A huge wall is built between the two societies with covert ops being run by each government on both sides of ‘The Wall’.

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Which sounds like a fantastic opportunity for some ‘Cold War’ style espionage missions behind enemy lines and a chance to see the fight from both sides of the wall. And sadly Shadow Fall squanders a glorious opportunity to deliver a memorable and interesting story. The characters are uninspiring, Echo is probably the best of the bunch but is criminally underused, and the story plods along with no real urgency or sense of exactly what you’re fighting for. This isn’t a terrible campaign by any stretch of the imagination but I was left deflated by the end of it (and my word the ending is poor). There are a few moments of greatness – the trip through the Helghan slums for example – but on the whole the game fails to take advantage of its setting.

And it’s a real shame because for the most part Killzone Shadow Fall delivers in other areas. Graphically it is astounding and definitely a title to show off your shiny new PS4, particle effects and lighting are a huge step up – it’s hard to see in videos of gameplay but you’ll see it straight away when playing on a TV. Environments are varied and detailed, there are some real stand out moments – the border crossing springs to mind and character design is good, although the character mouths are a bit weird, especially compared to something like Beyond: Two Souls, which had excellent facial capture.

Gameplay-wise it’s a slightly mixed bag – the weapons handle fantastically and you get a real feel for how each one is weighted. You also have the option to switch weapons regularly which will keep things fresh. The AI is a bit hit and miss which is a shame because when it works it is a good, solid challenge. The developers have also included a few levels where you are weightless for part of it and the ship level reminiscent of Dead Space was a welcome addition.

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Unfortunately Joris de Man didn’t score this game and I feel this also leaves it without one of series best aspects thus far. The score here is good but has nowhere near the impact of previous titles. His scores carried such weight before that they were noticeable by their absence.

On to the multiplayer and here Killzone Shadow Fall really shines. Again it looks amazing and plays superbly. All the weapons and abilities are unlocked from the get go, which gives you a stunning amount of freedom to get yourself set up with a loadout that suits your playstyle. You’ll still need to unlock different explosives and sights for your guns but you have access to everything you need out of the box.

The maps are well designed and take a leaf out of Killzone Mercenary‘s book – granting you lots of different ways to get around (ladders/vents etc.), something that adds another tactical layer to the game. There is no rank system – instead you are faced with over 1500 challenges to complete. I don’t have a problem with that but I know it’s been a sticking point for some. You can also create and share your own custom game types (say knives only v sniper rifles only) which adds to the longevity of the game.

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Overall Shadow Fall isn’t hard to recommend. I’ve really enjoyed my time with the online of the game but the campaign, for me, was seriously lacking. Despite that, I would still say give it a run through and the game is probably worth the price just for the extensive online suite (with future maps being free as well). It’s disappointing in some ways but as a launch title for the PS4, Killzone Shadow Fall hits all the right notes technically. It’s just a shame the campaign can’t live up to the high standard of previous games.

Rating: 8/10

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Rain – Review (PS3)

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Rain is a puzzle based downloadable game from Sony developer Japan Studio. The game features some interesting mechanics that use rainfall as a means of stealth and distraction.

The game opens with some lovely water colour style story boards. You play as a nameless young boy who finds himself trapped in another world – where he is invisible and only has the rainfall to reveal himself. He soon finds a kindred spirit in a young girl and sets off after her to find out what is going on.

Rain is one of those games that garnered great excitement when it was first shown and the game design certainly dazzles. The rain looks fantastic and sounds amazing. Muscially the game is lovely as well – the use of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” is particularly inspired.

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However, despite all the positives I felt a little let down by Rain. The gameplay does get a little stale after a while and at times I felt I was simply holding up on the analogue stick for long stretches.

Thankfully the atmosphere and story are strong enough to carry Rain from an average game to a good one. It’s not massively long, perhaps 5 or 6 hours and the last hour or so is a real highlight.

Puzzles come mostly in the form of enemies that you’ll need to avoid, staying out of the rain to remain invisible. There are also some mechanical puzzles but these are all fairly simple.

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Rain feels a bit like one of those projects where they had the idea first and then built the game around it. But it is supported by a haunting story and soundtrack, which add some depth to proceedings. I’d recommend giving it a try as I felt the game as a whole was just about interesting enough to keep you playing through to the end.

Rating: 7/10

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Beyond: Two Souls – Review (PS3)

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David Cage tends to have a polarising effect on people. Some hate his games and his constant talk of ’emotions’ while others think he is doing something different and interesting in the medium.

I tend to fall in the latter category, although I’d be the first to admit that he could probably do with someone working alongside him to reign him in a bit. Regardless of that I enjoyed Fahrenheit and found Heavy Rain to be a great experience, so I was looking forward to Beyond: Two Souls.

Aside from anything else the casting of Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe in the main roles had me intrigued and having seen from the trailers how good the motion capture looked, Beyond seemed like something I’d enjoy.

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And I did enjoy this game. Very much so but it definitely had a few issues that affected the overall experience.

Beyond: Two Souls tells the story of Jodie Holmes, a character who has always had an supernatural entity connected to her. During the game you will play as Jodie (and her entity) from when she is a child until she is a fully grown woman. The story doesn’t play out chronologically and so you’ll be jumping around Jodie’s timeline – which lends the game a ‘Memento‘ vibe. Because of her ability Jodie is placed into the care of scientists Nathan Dawkins (Dafoe) and Cole Freeman (Kadeem Hardison) who investigate her and, over time, become father figures for Jodie.

As things progress you are given various choices, both in terms of action and conversation which means it’s unlikely two playthroughs of the game will be exactly the same. You can also play the game in local co-op, with one player controlling Jodie and the other controlling Aiden (her entity).

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My biggest gripe with Beyond came in the form of the controls, especially with regard to combat situations. At certain times during a fight or attempted escape the game will slow and you are required to push the right analogue stick in the direction of Jodie’s momentum. There is no on screen prompt, you just naturally follow her movement. Which works great with punching or kicking, where there is clear movement and you can judge the direction easily. Not so much for more complex movements such as ducking or rolling to one side – especially if the camera is positioned at an off angle etc.

The general controls are a little more refined than Heavy Rain, with a small white dot indicating something that you can interact with and button prompts for conversation options. Movement still feels clunky on occasion but the motion capture here is excellent – with character movement looking realistic for the majority of the time.

Overall the graphics are fantastic and there are even a few scenes that rival stuff I’ve seen on the PS4. Quantic Dream also manage to avoid the uncanny valley for the most part, which I think comes down to a mixture of improved graphics and the acting of the cast.

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Ellen Page does a superb job here as Jodie Holmes, with her role stretching across Jodie’s entire adolescence. She brings believability to the character and along with Willem Dafoe does a sterling job of making their characters feel well rounded and fleshed out.

Like Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls is a game about choices. And a lot of the time you might not even realise your story has branched off – there are chunks of the game you won’t see if you choose one option over another. It’s handled fairly seamlessly and it’s refreshing to chat to others who have finished the game and compare notes. You will probably be quite surprised at how differently some parts played out!

My other issue with the game (which I’m hoping can be patched at some stage) is that for some unknown reason Beyond doesn’t save your option settings? Meaning that I had to go into the options menu and invert my y axis/turn down the sensitivity EVERY time I booted the game up. It was more infuriating than game breaking but I’m unsure how that slipped through the net on a game with such polish.

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On the whole Beyond: Two Souls is a game I’d recommend to anyone – it does have a few problems and if you’re not a fan of Cage’s previous work you may find it follows too similar a pattern to his other titles but I feel it offers a different, engaging experience. Another fantastic title to add to the PS3’s impressive roster of exclusive titles.

Rating: 8/10

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