Rise Of The Tomb Raider – Review (PS4)

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I was quietly confident that Crystal Dynamics would be able to deliver a strong follow up to their 2013 reboot of Square Enix’s beloved franchise. The sequel arrived on XBox One a year previously as a console exclusive and it got great reviews so I was excited to get a chance to play it. The initial reboot provided a good story paired with familiar but fun gameplay. So did they manage to better this with Rise Of The Tomb Raider?

Graphically the game is stunning and while it can’t match Uncharted 4 it certainly has some sections I thought were beautiful to look at. The level design and more open ended areas give the game some nice spaces to explore, although it suffers from that age old open-world issue of giving you ludicrously low stakes side quests while the end of the world approaches.

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In this instance Lara is chasing an artifact that can grant immortality but the supernatural side of things doesn’t really come into play before the final third. Until then you are taking out an army of mercenaries and trying to beat their leaders to the artifact. The story is so-so to be honest and I saw the main twist coming a mile off but overall it’s an enjoyable campaign to play through.

In addition to the main missions there are also bigger open world parts of the game which contain the optional side missions I mentioned above. The return of puzzle based Tombs is welcome as the ones I completed were a nice distraction from the main path but didn’t take too long to finish.

There are robust skill and crafting trees, which is cool and lets you build your own version of Lara that can play to your own gameplay strengths. Likewise Lara has a selection of different outfits that each come with a stat boost, 10% more melee damage for example, so you can really shape the character to your playstyle.

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While Rise of The Tomb Raider doesn’t have the impact of the original, it builds on what came before and delivers a really good experience with amazing graphics. Unfortunately it suffers a little from hitting the PS4 after Uncharted 4 and can’t quite match the heights of Nathan Drake and co. Nevertheless it’s a strong title which I’d recommend checking out.

Rating 8/10

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided – Review (PS4)

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Adam Jensen is back. Following the events of previous title Human Revolution, Jensen finds himself running ops for a branch of Interpol – with one mission in Dubai going south very quickly. In the immediate aftermath, Jensen isn’t sure who he can trust and with rising tensions between augmented and non-augmented citizens approaching breaking point – it seems like the World is on the brink of collapse. So can he stop the madness?

Deus Ex titles have always been about choice and Mankind Divided delivers some interesting ideas, including a couple of my favourite type of game choices… The type where you literally have to choose one or the other, you can’t do both. While some of these are obvious to the player, others are based around what you choose to do during gameplay which is cool.

As usual Jensen is equipped with a full arsenal of augmentations that you can use to get around levels and complete objectives. Some of these will be familiar to regular players of Deus Ex, with some new additions to spice things up. Stealth is still the main priority, which was good for me as I found the shooting to be quite lacklustre and unenjoyable. It’s a shame because it would’ve been nice to have the flexibility of something like Metal Gear Solid V when missions move from stealth to action. More often that not here breaking stealth meant death. I also felt that I never had enough ammo or charge for my abilities, which meant some missions became a rinse and repeat of running to cover, waiting for stealth to recharge, run to next cover, wait for stealth etc.

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I didn’t really think the overall story was great, though there were some great missions and some of the side content was quite strong. There were some interesting characters and it was nice to see some familiar faces. Also shout out to Peter Serafinowicz in his role as Duncan MacReady, as a fellow Brit it was great to hear such a natural vocal performance.

Graphically the game is a powerhouse, it looks exactly like a sci-fi game should. The oppressive atmosphere is effective and while we’ve seen it done before the overtly aggressive policing going on around you certainly has an impact. For the most part the game runs smoothly on the technical side but every now and again, almost always when moving unconscious enemies, glitches would crop up. The last thing you need when trying to hide a body is for it to melt part way into a wall and start moving violently in a vain attempt to free itself!

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Overall I found Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to be an enjoyable experience and that is down to the writing and freedom of choice it allows. Unfortunately for the majority of the game it just wasn’t that fun to play and at times it really felt like a slog, with the gunplay in particular leaving a lot to be desired.

Rating: 6/10

GregHorrorShow’s Guide To Gaming – Part 5: The New PS4 Owner Edition

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So you’ve got yourself a PS4 and you are now faced with a huge collection of games to consider. Fear not, I’m on hand to recommend the best in class for a few different genres/game types.

Have a look below to find something you’re interested in and some titles to explore!

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REMASTERS

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The Last Of Us

One of the best remasters out there, Naughty Dog did a great job on bringing the PS3 smash to the new generation of consoles. Telling the story of Joel and Ellie as they make their way across a post-apocalyptic America, this is a must for those who haven’t played it previously. Another good shout would be Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Collection, which contains the first three Uncharted titles, all remastered.

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ACTION ADVENTURE

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Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Speaking of Uncharted, if you’re looking for an exciting, gun toting adventure then A Thief’s End might be the one for you. One of the best looking games I’ve ever seen, coupled with some great voice acting makes for a memorable experience. If treasure hunting isn’t your thing I’d really recommend the latest Assassin’s Creed title Syndicate, which for me was the best game in the series for years.

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WITH FRIENDS

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Destiny: The Taken King

A new breed of online gaming has begun to shine on the new consoles, one in which you play with friends cooperatively rather than competitively. Destiny is one such title, much better with a few friends as opposed to playing solo. It’s a space shooter with character based special abilities that allows good flexibility. The Taken King expansion adds some extra content and is worth picking up. Alternatively, The Division does the same thing in the more realistic setting of a post-virus New York.

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DRIVING

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DriveClub

Despite a troubled launch DriveClub grew into one of, if not the, best driving games around. There are tons of single player tournaments to race through and lots of options for online play, from setting challenges to racing face-to-face. If you prefer a more ‘pure’ driving game I’d also recommend Dirt Rally, which is more simulation and less arcade based.

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HORROR

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Until Dawn

For horror lovers the first game that comes to mind is Until Dawn, a title in which you control a group of teenagers and try to get them to survive the night. The most interesting aspect of the game is that none of them can die or all of them can die – it all comes down to the choices you make during the game. If you’re looking for something more tense, I’d really suggest checking out Alien Isolation – especially if you have any interest in the films. It’s a bit too long but a great experience nonetheless.

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ROLE PLAYING GAMES

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

If you are looking for a sprawling, lengthy campaign of around 50 odd hours (or more!) then look no further than Dragon Age. Create your own character and then enter a world of Elves and Mages, submerge yourself in archery or magic. It’s completely up to you. It’s like creating your own version of Lord Of The Rings. If fantasy isn’t your bag then consider Fallout 4, which is the exact same thing but set hundreds of years in the future after a nuclear war!

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STEALTH

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Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

For those of you looking for a more well measured and sneaky experience, it has to be Metal Gear Solid V. While it’s certainly possible to play the game as an action hero this title has some of the best stealth gameplay ever to grace the PlayStation 4. You take on the role of Big Boss, assigned missions ranging from hostage rescue to larger, more complex infiltration scenarios. For those of you that are comic book fans, Batman: Arkham Knight will also tick this box.

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STORY

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Life Is Strange

Some of you might be looking to ease into gaming and a title that is based around story with reduced gameplay could be an option for you. In the first instance I’d recommend the awesome Life Is Strange, the tale of a college student who discovers she has the ability to rewind time. Aside from that, despite the occasional performance issue, I’d suggest checking out any of the Telltale games; The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us or Tales From The Borderlands in particular.

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FUN

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Rocket League

For pure unadulterated fun, it has to be Rocket League. It’s football with cars. Quite possibly the dumbest game I’ve ever played, it’s also the most fun by far. With friends is best but even alone with random strangers online is great. There is certainly a skill to the game but it’s the pick-up-and-play-factor that makes Rocket League stand head and shoulders above other games.

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COMPETITIVE

Overwatch

Overwatch

I’ve gone for Overwatch here, mainly because I’ve spent most of the summer addicted to it, but you could switch it for the faster paced Call of Duty or more military focused Battlefield depending on your taste. Overwatch is a glorious 6v6 character based shooter in which you battle over objectives – its the characters that help make it memorable, you have 22 to choose from, all with various skills and abilities.

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TACTICAL

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Invisible Inc.

If you’re looking for pure tactics then seek out Invisible Inc. It’s a turn based cyberpunk adventure, in which you race against time to prepare your agents for their final, high stakes mission. You’ll take control of numerous members of the team and coordinate attacks on various bases around the globe. Another excellent tactical title is Transistor, which is also turn based and has some fantastic artwork and music.

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So there you go a few suggestions to get you going, let me know if you pick any of these up and whether you enjoy them – or if you guys have any other suggestions of titles people new to the PS4 could pick up. Drop a comment below or tweet me @greghorrorshow.

 

Gone Home – Review (PS4)

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I was quite excited to get the chance to play Gone Home, which had arrived on PC last year. I’d heard lots of good things about the game’s setting and atmosphere. It’s a title reminiscent of older adventure games, there isn’t a great deal of gameplay per se, it’s about unravelling the story by exploring around the environment.

Set in 1995, you play as Kaitlin Greenbriar who returns back after some months away travelling to find her family moved into a new house. To make things even weirder there is no-one home but a note on the front door from her sister Sam begging her not to look for her.

And then you’re off, first finding a way into the house and then trying to work out what has been going on in your absence. Along the way you’ll uncover clues about not only your sister but also your parents, each strand delivering more intrigue as you delve into places you probably shouldn’t – and wouldn’t under normal circumstances.

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Gone Home does a good job of making you feel this, that voyeuristic vibe that should accompany rooting around in other people’s private stuff. In a lot of games it’s sometimes easy to forget that whoever you’re investigating is a person with a history and feelings, not so in Gone Home and there were a few instances that I felt genuinely uncomfortable. I think that’s a good thing as it shows they built a believable cast of characters that you know only through clues.

I loved the design of the house itself, which was interesting and quite a big area to explore. The only downside, not unique to this game but exacerbated by the freedom to move around large swathes of the house, is that there is a lot of ground to cover if you miss a clue. Which is what happened to me.

Let me preface this by saying I appreciate that I might be the only person in the world this happened to, I’m not sure what the odds are for missing clues in the game as a lot of them are signposted well. This clue came fairly deep into the game and I, essentially, didn’t click one thing in the room. Now, that is not the developers fault – I missed the clue – but I found it really disappointing there wasn’t any sort of hint system at all. Surely after an allotted time (10/15 mins) a prompt could pop up, even if it’s asking if I want a hint as opposed to just revealing it?

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Instead what happened was I knew I’d missed something so went right back to the start of the house (more than once) and scoured every room again. For 45 mins. Just to put that in context, Gone Home is 2 hours long. So I spent a further amount of time the equivalent of almost half the game aimlessly walking around, frustrated. Eventually, thinking the game might be broken, I checked online, discovered what I had missed, went to the next clue and activated the following sequence. As I said earlier missing the clue is my fault, that’s a part of adventure games but I do feel if I’m turning to the internet in the belief your game is broken then maybe you should consider a form of hint system for next time.

And this broke the game for me. My immersion was shattered and I had lost any interest in the story. I walked away from the game and returned a few hours later to finish it but the experience was soured. Which is a shame because I imagine in a ‘clean’ run through this would be a short but interesting title.

Rating: 6/10

Tom Clancy’s The Division – Review (PS4)

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It seems like an absolute age ago that The Division was revealed at E3 2013 and gamers everywhere marveled at the footage released. Then we all remembered that Ubisoft’s previous title Watch_Dogs didn’t look quite as good as the promo materials and sighed. Over time though it felt like The Division might end up being a great game, a mix of cool story beats and multiplayer co-op.

Let’s start with the story stuff. The Division opens strongly, with an interesting video about the virus that has decimated New York. Essentially Smallpox, it was transferred to bank notes on Black Friday in an attempt to spread the virus as quickly as possible. Soon enough the city is on quarantined lockdown and the government calls on The Division – a set of sleeper agents in place for exactly this sort of emergency. You are a Division agent and your first port of call will be creating your agent. I managed to make an avatar I was happy with but the selection of faces and hair etc. is pretty limited compared to most other games, which was disappointing. Add to that the fact that your character never speaks and it means you end up not really investing in your character at all.

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Despite that strong start, the story ends up being almost non-existent. A lot of it is buried in side missions and collectibles which, excluding a few interesting side missions, felt like effort for nothing. A good example of this are the missing agent missions – essentially following a set of arrows to a point where you pick up a file and get a written paragraph about the agent. Unless I missed it these aren’t agents you ever see/interact with during the story and it was a case of wondering why I was actually bothering doing the missions, which is never a good sign. The story told by the main missions isn’t particularly interesting either and when the majority of bigger ‘boss’ enemies are just the same guys you’ve already fought with an extra bar of health, it makes things a lot less dynamic.

And that’s the real disappointment of The Division because the game itself is pretty brilliant. The control of the characters and the feel of the weapons are great. It’s a super fun, third person shooter that requires elements of teamwork to excel. You can play the game on your own and matchmake with random people to play missions (something I did a few times with no problems) but The Division is best when played with friends. It’s been compared to Destiny more times than I can remember but it’s a valid comparison, especially in the sense that playing with others makes a huge difference to the overall experience. I had a massive amount of fun in my time with the game but the lack of story really did sting, especially by the end of the game when I had no investment in either my own character or the events that were unfolding.

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As well as story content there is also a Player v Player arena called the Dark Zone, in which players defeat AI enemies for loot that needs to be extracted via helicopter. The twist is that players can turn on one another and steal each others loot. Doing so will mark you as a Rogue Agent for everyone else though, so you need to weigh up whether it’s worth it! It reminded me of the great heist mode in Kane and Lynch 2 and gives each moment spent waiting for the helicopter to arrive a large dose of tension. It was good fun, perhaps not enough to keep me playing but it might be the thing that brings me back from time to time.

Graphically I’m pleased to say that the developer got pretty damn close to those initial promo shots. The game looks gorgeous and the amount of detail is stunning – there seemed to be a wealth of different environments without reusing a ton of assets. It made every new arena feel like a different place so it was always a shame when the enemies turned up and were one of a set of generic types we’d seen hundreds of times before. I suppose that is a drawback of setting the game in the current time – you’re limited by enemy appearances unless you head further down the Warriors gang style of enemies.

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Overall The Division is a really great game in terms of how it handles and the feel of the moment to moment gameplay. It’s wrapped in an impressive representation of New York that, at times, can be jaw-dropping. The problem is that it all feels like it’s for nothing in terms of story and character. I’m really hopeful that we will see another installment of The Division because I believe there is a really solid base here to build on. They don’t need to change the gameplay much, if they can get a more involving story around it and find a better way to tell that narrative, Ubisoft might have something very special on their hands.

Rating: 7/10

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GregHorrorShow’s Top 30 Multiplayer Maps (Part One: 30-16)

Maps Part 1

It’s been a while since I ran down my favourite multiplayer maps, three years in fact, and I thought it would be a good time to revisit the idea. Having gone through all the games released since the last time I made a list I’ve had to extend the list out from 20 maps to 30.

This extension also means I’ll put these up in two parts as 30 videos is quite a lot for one post! If you have any trouble with the video quality on the clips below just click on the YouTube logo on the video to view them on YouTube direct, which may be smoother.

There were plenty of other maps that I love but didn’t make the cut and I did try to stick to only having two maps per game, which was tougher than you might think!

So without further ado, here we go with Part One…

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30. FRINGE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops III)

I’m not the biggest fan of Call Of Duty’s fast paced online action but I usually get a fair few hours of enjoyment from each new title. It didn’t take long for Fringe to cement its place as my favourite map from Black Ops III. The increased movement and different abilities that the game brings to the series has meant the developers have had to plan accordingly. Several levels of verticality, along with window access to ground floor buildings and the open central area led to plenty of great battles.

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29. DRONE (Call Of Duty: Black Ops II)

I’ve found that my taste in Call Of Duty games tend to favour the Black Ops side of things rather than the Modern Warfare series. In terms of multiplayer I’d say Drone is my favourite of any Call Of Duty map. Tightly designed with plenty of ways in (and out) of buildings, you’ll need to keep a constant eye in all directions to avoid enemies flanking you. The main room with the slide doors will have you second guessing yourself – everytime you hear the ‘swoosh’ of the door opening you have milliseconds to decide… friend or foe?

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28. SEASIDE – GLAMORGAN, WALES (Resistance 3)

I still maintain that Resistance 3 was a hugely underrated game and that extends to the online. Glamorgan’s mix of small one floor barns/buildings makes for a strong map and while the bridge in the centre can be a choke point, the fact that you can also go around the sides means it never becomes too much of an issue. Raised platforms at each end also offer the opportunity for sniper fire but it’s when up-close and personal that the map thrives.

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27. PARACEL STORM (Battlefield 4)

Battlefield 4 didn’t quite live up to expectations in the online department, although I did have a lot of fun with it. One thing it did right though (despite the terrible name they gave it) was the ‘Levolution’ aspect of maps, where a huge event would change the layout of the map while you played. Paracel Storm was a close knit set of tropical islands that had you engaged in both long and short range firefights. It was already a great map but when you heard the siren sound… well, you knew there was trouble afoot. Suddenly the environment would be rocked by a tropical storm – heavy rain and huge crashing waves. As if that wasn’t enough, sometimes a massive navy ship would run aground and smash into one of the islands. Really cool stuff.

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26. SAO PAULO BUS DEPOT (Max Payne 3)

Max Payne 3’s gritty, dark universe comes through in the multiplayer as well as the single player and Sao Paulo’s Bus Depot is a prime example. Run down and seemingly abandoned, the design of the map is fantastic. There are so many different ways in (and out) of the depot itself, as well as vertical levels, that you’re never far from trouble. Perfect for settling those Vendetta’s 🙂

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25. RICHMAN MANSION (Grand Theft Auto Online)

A lot of the areas used for battles in Grand Theft Auto Online are small stretches of street or perhaps, an abandoned trainyard. None of them really grabbed me but the close quarters of the mansion map meant you had to stay on your toes. Although it was small in size there were plenty of low walls and alcoves to hide in and I have lots of happy memories of great, intense shootouts on this map. The video above is an example of one of the rare occasions I came out on top… for a while at least!

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24. THE HANGAR (Killzone: Shadow Fall)

The Hangar was a free map that arrived as part of one of the games updates (thank you Guerrilla Games for all the free content! That’s how DLC should work). It soon became a firm favourite, with a huge open area in the middle, corresponding walkways at the side and various alleyways on the lower floor underneath. Clever placement of mission objectives meant that while there were a few chokepoints, they were only clogged while specific missions were in play. Did I mention it also looks glorious?

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23. SYR DARYA UPLINK (MAG)

Sadly MAG is long gone but this was always my favourite of the huge maps on offer in the game. The initial capture points are perfectly placed and having them upstairs means it’s difficult to take but equally as difficult for the enemy if you do manage to secure it. The final point in the warehouse has so many twists and turns that it housed some epic battles for me.

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22. HOTH REBEL BASE (Star Wars: Battlefront)

There has been some grumbling about Star Wars: Battlefront’s lack of maps – different variations on 4 areas at launch – and while I think more environments should’ve featured, what we do have looks absolutely stunning. My pick of the bunch is the Rebel Base on Hoth. Bright white, almost antiseptic, walls inside the base make way to icy caves and pathways. You’ll find yourself fighting among parked spaceships and even using them for cover! While it is narrow in spots there are so many options to traverse the map that it never feels like too much of an issue. Great map design.

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21. GRAY RAMPART (Metal Gear Solid V Online)

Metal Gear Solid Online isn’t a game busting with content. There aren’t a great deal of maps available but what is there, for the most part, is very enjoyable. My pick of the bunch is Gray Rampart, which I’ve found to be super well designed and big enough to host the madness that is Metal Gear Online. There are buildings scattered throughout that give hiding places or somewhere to regroup and plan your next move. Taking place in the shadow of a huge dam, it’s a vast map with lots of ways to get around and just the right amount of open space. Do you chance going over the bridge and getting sniped? Or head underneath to try and sneak around?

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20. OPERATION 925 (Battlefield 3)

The Close Quarters DLC for Battlefield 3 is among the best DLC I’ve ever played. And the map design of the levels is the main reason for this. Operation 925 contains a host of destroyable walls/glass which means no-where is safe to hide! The video above is an excellent look around the level. As well as the two levels of the building you also have the underground car park to contend with, which opens out nicely after the tight corridors leading to it.

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19. VALPARAISO (Battlefield: Bad Company 2)

With plenty of hills to fight up/down on, this is a wonderfully varied map boasting four differently styled bases that will keep you entertained for ages. The mixture of jungle environments just within this map is a testament to how well made it is – you’ll start in dense jungle before breaking into the open for a while until eventually you’ll find yourself in another dense jungle setting for an enclosed final base.

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18. HIGHRISE (Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2)

Call Of Duty’s multiplayer is pretty fun in short bursts and the Highrise map is one of the highlights of the series. Set, essentially, in the upper floor of two buildings and on another building’s rooftop inbetween – this is a close quarters map with plenty of scope for sneaking into the enemies’ tower. One of my favourite tactics was using the lower walkways to get into the opposite tower and launch an attack behind the enemy – that is of course if I could get in without being spotted… easier said than done.

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17. THE PARK (Killzone: Shadow Fall)

Killzone, as a series, has always had superbly designed maps that work vertically on many levels. The Park is another great addition to the collection, adding in a few chokepoints to fight over and capture. If you can keep the enemy from coming through the central corridor on the upper floor (a VERY popular flashpoint) then you can force them to use alternative routes. Having said that, it’s rare for one team to keep hold of that corridor for very long! There is also a cool underground network of tunnels that are very tight but can be used to get across the map of needed.

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16. LONDON UNDERGROUND (Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception)

Like almost all Uncharted online maps London Underground is based upon a single player campaign level. And this one runs the full gambit. Three vertical levels of fun and a speeding train that passes through the level, killing anyone in it’s path. Fortunately Naughty Dog also put some of the objectives on the tracks or near where the train passes, just to add to the chaos! This is a really well designed map with lots of entrances/exits to all rooms, meaning you’ll need to stay focussed to keep hold of objectives.

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So there we go, the first 15 maps done and with 7 new entries there is plenty of new stuff in the mix. The Top 15 should be up next week hopefully, that also has some new entries so keep an eye out for it.

Have you enjoyed any of the maps above? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@greghorrorshow).

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GregHorrorShow: Game Awards 2015

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What a year 2015 was for gaming! I feel like I open my awards post with that every other year but the last twelve months saw the release of some truly astonishing titles. The breadth of titles was stunning and the depth of the games themselves left me wondering when I would get to play everything!

As is always the case there are titles I simply haven’t had time to get to or that I started but only put a small amount of time into. Things like Mad Max, Just Cause 3, Mortal Kombat and Borderlands: The Handsome Jack Collection may well have made it into these awards somewhere but alas not this year.

So as usual let’s delve back into 2014 for a title I missed at the time but ended up being a firm favourite early in 2015…

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MISSED GEM OF 2014

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WINNER: Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us

I had no real knowledge of the Fable comic series before the announcement of The Wolf Among Us and even then I thought it sounded like a cool premise but wasn’t sure if I’d want to play a game based around it. Having loved The Walking Dead (yes, even the much maligned season two!), I just didn’t know if I could care about a cast of characters in such a far fetched setting… Well, as it turns out I definitely could! You play as Sheriff Bigby, the wolf of the game’s title and fairy tale legend. You are charged with keeping fairy tale characters in check as they settle into life in the real world alongside Humans. They do such a good job of dragging you into this world and it features all the hallmarks of a Telltale game – narrative choice, good writing and memorable characters.

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BEST GAME INNOVATION

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WINNER: Metal Gear Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Until Dawn came close to nabbing this award, with the best use of the motion function of the controller in years. In tense moments of the game you are tasked with remaining still and not moving the gamepad. If you do you will be caught/trapped etc. In a game where all the characters can die at any time it led to some extremely tense moments! Life Is Strange‘s unique use of time travel also impressed, just the fact that you could rewind dialogue choices more than once gave you a sense of freedom to explore the possibilities and take your best option. Again, Batman: Arkham Knight might have taken this in another year. I don’t recall a use of audio/visual cues that was as good as it was in Arkham. In addition to the radial wheel to choose missions there was an abundance of in-world feedback that I loved. So many times I’d be on my way somewhere and see or hear something odd, a building on fire or a strange flying shape, that I investigated and suddenly found myself in a side mission. Great stuff. But there is only one game that could take the award for 2015. In a year of amazing games Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain rewrote the rulebook for open world games. There is so much I could say here; the amount of buddies you can take on missions, the customisation of weapons, the base management and so on. It all boils down to one thing: giving players the flexibility to take on missions, or salvage ones gone awry, in their own way. Want to capture that colonel and get his Intel? Go for it. Oh, you’d rather just shoot a rocket launcher at him and jump in a jeep to speed off? Just as valid. Amazing.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Until Dawn (Don’t Move)
  • Batman (Audio/Visual Cues)
  • Life Is Strange (Improved Rewind Mechanic)

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BEST DLC (CONTENT)

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WINNER: Destiny: The Taken King

There could only really be one winner in this category. With The Taken King, Destiny has been revitalised. With fresh content and a re-working of the game’s original story stuff this really was DLC worth having. New multiplayer maps and modes added extra value to the mix and this was a fantastic addition to the game. DriveClub: Bikes also bought a wealth of new content in the form of Bikes to the game. Another full tour mode, challenges and multiplayer bring a different spin on the original game and for the mid-range price point. If you’re into DriveClub and fancy something different, you can’t really go wrong here. Rocket League has been extremely well supported by the developer with both free and paid for content. I’ve taken advantage of both and found them to be excellent. Sure a lot of it is smaller things like cars/decals etc. but with the new content that allows you to mix it up and make the game more fun (low gravity/huge ball etc.) I feel it’s a worthy nominee. The same can’t really be said for Star Wars: Battlefront but it’s the only other DLC I played this year. A free addition that gives you a new map and few new game modes, it’s perfectly fine and apparently more free content is coming.

RUNNERS UP:

  • DriveClub: Bikes
  • Star Wars Battlefront
  • Rocket League

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THE JOE DANGER AWARD

GAMES2015 ROCKET LEAGUE

WINNER: Rocket League

This was previously my Best Downloadable Only Game category but it kind of felt redundant, with so many great games in the spirit of the award also getting physical releases. So from here on out The Joe Danger Award will be for games that are mid level price but captured my attention in terms of hours spent playing or polish. This year the award came down to a head-to-head between Life Is Strange and Rocket League. As much as I enjoyed Helldivers it didn’t stick with me and Steins;Gate is awesome but it just doesn’t fly in the same way as the two frontrunners. In the end I have to give it to Rocket League – I had no expectations for that game and it pretty much took over my gaming schedule for the entire Summer! With no story or characters to divide opinion, Rocket League seemed to be enjoyed by everyone that played it and for good reason.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Life Is Strange
  • Steins;gate
  • Helldivers

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MOST ANTICIPATED GAME OF 2016

GAMES2015 UC4

WINNER: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Well because of its delay in 2015 through to Spring of 2016, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End takes this award for the second year in a row. I love the Uncharted series and the footage that has been released, along with the multiplayer beta I played before Christmas (footage here) have stoked the flames even more. I can’t wait for this… No Man’s Sky was a runner up in this category back in 2013, another game that has been confirmed for 2016. This space exploration sim looks set to explode this year as gamers clamour to name new planets and creatures. Should be good fun! I couldn’t get enough of Persona 4 Golden a few years back so the sequel, Persona 5, is big news for me. I look forward to building up those Social Links all over again! I also think Horizon: Zero Dawn looks astounding, and the creators of Killzone are well worth backing in their new game universe. Another one to look forward to in 2016.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Horizon: Zero Dawn
  • Persona 5
  • No Man’s Sky

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BEST GAME TRAILER

WINNER: Star Wars Battlefront

As someone who isn’t even a Star Wars it was a surprise just how much of an effect that Battlefront trailer had. I suppose everything Star Wars is so much a part of pop culture’s make up that just seeing the characters and hearing the music triggered my brain – nonetheless it’s a great trailer that was the best I saw this year. I’ve been hoping for a second installment of Dishonored and it was finally revealed at E3, with the awesome news that this time out you’ll be playing as Emily Kaldwin – hopefully it can live up to the trailer, which is the same thing I’m hoping for Hitman. This game looks amazing graphically and I really enjoyed the last one. With the PS4’s improved sharing functionality, this could be a game that benefits and the trailer does a good job of giving a glimpse of the world that awaits. I was always going to get Fallout 4 but I thought this trailer was really well done and deserves a spot on the list.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Fallout 4
  • Dishonored 2
  • Hitman

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BEST VITA GAME

GAMES2015 helldivers

WINNER: Helldivers

My Vita was sadly underused for new titles during 2015. I had a lot of game time on the handheld but it was mostly spent playing older titles I’d missed – things like Persona 3, Muramasa Rebirth, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair and the previously mentioned Wolf Among Us. So unfortunately most of the new stuff I played didn’t get a huge amount of screen time. I really enjoyed my time with Helldivers and thought it was a great port. It ran fine for me and I used it offline to level up my character before logging in when possible to update it. Steins;Gate has been really cool so far but I’m under 10 hrs in and don’t feel I can give it the award without having seen the whole story. I also thought Broken Age was impressive – it looked gorgeous and had a very engaging setting. Some of the puzzles were a little bit taxing for me but I’ve never been that strong on logic stuff in games. Olli Olli 2 was more of the same but why change a working formula? The introduction of manuals gave a further level of control to an already difficult, but fulfilling, game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Broken Age
  • SteinsGate
  • Olli Olli 2

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BEST GRAPHICS

GAMES2015 BATTLEFRONT

WINNER: Star Wars: Battlefront

That Star Wars Battlefront trailer that you watched above? Most people dismissed it as CGI and said the game would never look that good. It looks that good. No question. Fair enough the game only has four environments but they are jaw droppingly stunning. The fact that The Order: 1886 didn’t win this category is still a surprise to me. I just didn’t see anything surpassing it, least of all a multiplayer title. But don’t let that detract from Sony Santa Monica’s eye melting depiction of an alternate history Whitechapel in the late 19th century. It has to be seen to be believed at times and while the gameplay wasn’t great, the graphics certainly were. Until Dawn had some ridiculously good facial capture and looked absolutely gorgeous, both in terms of the characters and the environments. Another game that had fantastic environments was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which at times looked unreal – especially with it’s day/night and weather cycles.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Order: 1886
  • Until Dawn
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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BEST STORYLINE

Life Is Strange 2

WINNER: Life Is Strange

I seem to be in the minority when talking about the story of Batman: Arkham Knight. I enjoyed Rocksteady’s final hurrah with this character and found the tales told over the course of the game to be fun and interesting. Although I should also say it was mostly the side stuff that held my interest, the main storyline not so much. Until Dawn was another story I enjoyed – the mix of main storyline and background information found via collectibles was great and felt natural. The Order: 1886 told a solid story and was possibly the best written of the bunch this year. It’s such a shame everyone focused on the, supposedly, short play time of the game and not it’s positive aspects. Which brings us to the winner of this category, Life Is Strange. What a story. This was one full of twists I didn’t see coming and with some lovely character moments. Max’s story is well told and something that everyone can relate to, even if you’re not a teenage girl yourself.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Until Dawn
  • The Order: 1886
  • Batman: Arkham Knight

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BEST MUSIC (SCORE)

GAMES2015 MGS GOTY

WINNER: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

It wasn’t a huge year for music scores in the games I played. I enjoyed Life Is Strange‘s incidental music a lot and Batman: Arkham Knight had some powerful cues that really lent some atmosphere to the events on screen. Jason Graves delivered with Until Dawn and had me jumping out of my skin on several occasions. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain takes it though – some of the score when out on missions is fantastic and that music when you’re preparing for a mission is insanely good. I have high hopes for this category next year with titles like Uncharted 4, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Rise Of The Tomb Raider and Horizon: Zero Dawn hitting the PS4.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Until Dawn
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Life Is Strange

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BEST MUSIC (LICENSED)

GAMES2015 LIFE IS STRANGE

WINNER: Life Is Strange

Battlefield: Hardline set the bar for licensed soundtracks early in the year with songs by Jamie N Commons, Public Enemy, Judas Priest, Run The Jewels and The Clash before being usurped by the 80’s-fest that was Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain which included artists like Hall and Oates, Kajagoogoo, Kim Wilde, A-Ha and The Cure. The use of them in game was great as well, which made a huge difference. Battlefront had the benefit of licensing in some of the most well known film score in history. Those songs just fire something up in people and add a huge amount to the experience of playing the game. But the winner here is undoubtedly Life Is Strange, which has an array of fantastic music from artists like Syd Matters, Amanda Palmer, Sparklehorse and Foals. It all suits the game so well and the opening of the game is possibly the best use of music I’ve seen in a game. It’s flawlessly executed and helped me fall in love with the game even more.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Battlefield: Hardline
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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BEST VOICE ACTING

Until Dawn Main

WINNER: Until Dawn

It makes a change when looking at the best voice acting category to have a selection of games NOT featuring Nolan North or Troy Baker! As great as those two are we have some fresh blood. First up I want to give a shout out to Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and in particular the twins Evie (Victoria Atkin) and Jacob Frye (Paul Amos). Both compliment each other really well and it’s a refreshing change to have such engaging lead characters in the series. Also props to Battlefield Hardline, which I felt was a little overlooked in 2015. I liked the episodic TV format of the game and thought the voice performances were strong – especially Adam Harrington and Travis Willingham. Life is Strange nearly took this category with some wonderful work from Ashly Burch and Hannah Telle, as Max and Chloe, but in the end I had to go with Until Dawn. The game has a fantastic cast and some memorable dialogue that is delivered pitch perfect. Hayden Panettiere is great as Sam and Brett Dalton gives a good performance as Mike. For me though the best two lines were from Galadriel Stineman’s Ashley (“What are you tweeting? Hashtag there’s a freaking ghost after us!”) and Nichole Bloom’s Emily (“Understand the palm of my hand, bitch!”). Wonderful stuff that really added depth to the characters.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Life Is Strange
  • Battlefield: Hardline
  • Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

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SINGLE PLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

Life Is Strange Main

WINNER: Life Is Strange

I haven’t finished The Witcher 3 but have played enough to know it’s deserving of a place on this list. I never had a chance to experience the previous games in the series as they were PC only but that didn’t seem to hold me back at all. The Witcher 3 has an in depth and interesting combat system that takes into account potions and well as sword-play. It can be challenging at times but is definitely worth sticking with, complimented by some cool story beats and side missions. As I mentioned earlier, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain took the opening world genre and redefined it. While it’s story wasn’t strong, I felt gameplay wise this was possibly the best thing I played this year. Until Dawn was also an absolute blast, which is surprising coming from someone who is not into the horror genre at all. I’m still annoyed about my ending to that game, thinking about the characters I lost, which is always one of the signs of a great game. The winner of this year’s award is another game that stuck with me for weeks after I’d finished it. Life Is Strange sucked me in like no other game this year. The mix of setting, characters, music, story and gameplay had me hooked from the very first episode. Seeing your choices make a difference, no matter how big or small, was always cool and some of those cliffhanger endings to episodes were jaw dropping. Checking the online stats and seeing how many people made different decisions was an eye opener. An amazing game, I can’t wait to see what comes next from the developer.

RUNNERS UP:

  • The Witcher 3
  • Until Dawn
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

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MULTIPLAYER GAME OF THE YEAR

GAMES2015 ROCKET LEAGUE 2

WINNER:  Rocket League

It was a much improved year for multiplayer gaming, with Destiny continuing to satisfy and increasing the level of content with The Taken King expansion. I had a great time with the game in 2015, jumping on to do a few Daily Challenges in the multiplayer Crucible modes. It remains the best shooter currently out there, the handling and control I would say are on a par with my other favourite FPS series, Killzone. At the other end of the spectrum we had Star Wars Battlefront, which was aimed at a much more casual market. With looser shooting and helpful mechanics like no reloading, Battlefront might have been something you could dismiss but DICE do a stunning job of creating the most authentic Star Wars experience out there. Now, admittedly, that is the view of a non-Star Wars fan but for me when you look around the battlefield and see Storm Troopers, AT-ATs and then that music swells as Luke Skywalker bursts round the corner… Well that’s Star Wars and it works. I still feel Metal Gear Solid Online was a little under-appreciated this year but then again I’ve been waiting years for a good SOCOM style multiplayer shooter so I was always going to like this. Having said all that the game that dominated my online time in 2015 was a football game. And it wasn’t FIFA 16. The award for best multiplayer goes to Rocket League, a game in which you play football (soccer) with cars. It sounds simple because it is but the developers nailed the control of the cars and the way the ball reacts. Scoring a goal is quite something else in Rocket League. This was the most fun I had this year online and the game also posed a great challenge as I started to get better at controlling the cars. And that’s the amazing thing about Rocket League – you can be good, bad or great. You can pick up a pad for the first time and play the game, having just as much fun as a seasoned veteran. It’s easy to get into, tough to master and generally an all round excellent game.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Metal Gear Solid Online
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • Destiny: The Taken King

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GAME OF THE YEAR

GAMES2015 MGS INNOVATION

WINNER: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

As I said at the start of these awards, it really has been a great year for gaming. It was tough to whittle this list down to four and even tougher to decide a winner. In the end it could really only be one title though, the game that delivered on both single player and multiplayer fronts. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Hideo Kojima’s swan song at Konami and the final instalment in the Metal Gear series was stellar. A few mis-steps aside (would’ve preferred keeping voice actor David Hayter as Snake and well, the less said about Quiet’s outfit the better) it was a masterpiece and has given other developers of open world games a lot to think about. The sheer flexibility of the game is unreal – what would be a ‘Game Over’ screen and restart in other titles (including previous Metal Gear titles) is here a chance to try and salvage the mission by improvising. The AI is clever enough but never feels unfairly advanced or, equally, too stupid. The online is also an achievement, with the slick control from single player coming over. Add into the mix the Fulton system and how that effects things in Bounty Hunter mode and you have mechanics that keep the game interesting beyond your usual 3rd person shooter stuff. This is the best game of 2015 overall and a worthy winner.

RUNNERS UP:

  • Life Is Strange
  • Until Dawn
  • Rocket League

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So there you have it! 2015 is done and we can now look forward to 2016, which is shaping up to be another big year for games. Titles like Uncharted 4, Deus Ex, No Man’s Sky, Hitman, The Last Guardian, Gravity Rush 2 and The Division, among others, will be hitting and I can’t wait! It’s a great time to be a gamer and I’m already wondering which of 2016’s titles will make the list next time out!

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