Monday, 7 November 2016

Mafia III (Xbox One) - Review

Mafia III is available now on Xbox One and is priced at £49.99.

It may seem like this review is a little late in the day. I know some of my followers on Twitter have already played it, and many have already made their mind up about the game. I am sorry it's taken me so long to get this review to you, but I have a few reasons for it; I received my copy a week after release, just as my kids broke up for half term which significantly cuts the time I have to play a game that isn't age appropriate (or thereabouts). Secondly I decided early on that I would complete the game before I tried to get my thoughts out to you guys, for two reasons really; one is that my brother wants to borrow it and the other is that I soon knew that if I didn't complete the game before writing my review the chances of me returning to it afterwards would, unfortunately, be pretty slim at least for a while.

I have looked forward to this game all year. I loved Mafia II and was genuinely excited when I was told I could review Mafia III. The game starts off brilliantly but unfortunately it peters out into a bunch of literally the same quest over and over, ruining the pace of the otherwise fantastic story. I wanted it to be snappy, to feel like I was racing from revelation to revelation without a moment to gather my thoughts. Instead you have what feels like days to think about the last bit of story you received because they are interspersed with at least two enforcers to kill, a load of robberies/breaking things/generally fucking things up for the bad guys and then returning to one of these places to kill the boss - this was by far the most annoying part - by messing with his operation you draw him out but I really wish that they could have just been in the general area and you'd have to hunt them down. It just feels kinda lazy to return to the same factory or whatever again.

The graphics aren't as bad as you have been lead to believe. Everything is a bit fuzzy and yes the sky and water really is a bit crappy but it's all ok. But actually some of the textures are incredible, which I guess kinda make the bad parts look worse. There are some issues with draw distance that saw me driving head on into a car that had just popped in front of me on more than one occasion. The cut scenes look fantastic though, the faces in particular are great to watch, and the lip syncing is pretty much spot on, something some games still seem to struggle with. The story is given through interviews and it is a brilliant touch. I especially loved the grainy effect on the ones from the past, they looked perfect. The voice acting is superb too, emotive and convincing. And it isn't possible to review Mafia III without mentioning it's absolutely fantastic music. This game has the best soundtrack ever. Seriously, it's amazing. I completely understand now why some YouTubers were given vinyl's and record players, this soundtrack is something to celebrate.

Now I wrote the above before I had finished the game. I did toy with deleting it and starting my review again, but that didn't feel fair. Yes, my opinion on the game has changed a little since I've completed it, but that doesn't remove the fact that for the vast majority of this game I was bored and hoping I was getting close to the end. A lot of the time the actual gameplay felt like it was getting in the way of the actual game. Which I realise sounds stupid, but it feels like the dev really struggled to fill this large open world and so it is populated with missions that don't really offer much variation. Repeating the same missions over and over again really detracts from the action of the story in my opinion. And the story is fantastic.

Any of my Twitter followers will know I was starting to really burn out doing this review. And I think this is the biggest problem with Mafia III, it is super hard to have a huge gaming session without ending up feeling a little bored and burnt out. This game is not designed to be played in large chunks, and if I could have played it slowly, maybe a couple of missions a day I likely wouldn't have felt so bad about it. Luckily the last few hours of the game really picked up the pace again. I played it for four hours straight on Friday night and enjoyed every minute. It was exactly what I wanted from the game and has made up for some of the boredom I felt whilst playing the middle bit. I actually want to play it again to get the other ending, but not just yet. I'm not completely crazy.

Overall I would recommend this game to anyone who has considered picking it up. It isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the story is well worth experiencing. Just take it slow and play it alongside something else too so you don't end up burnt out and hating it. It does get better, I promise.

6/10 TRY IT!

A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of this review. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Manual Samuel (Xbox One) - Review

Manual Samuel is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £7.99.

This game is bonkers, so naturally I wanted to give it a look. With half term now here I am always on the lookout for games I can still play with two eagle-eyed children about full-time, and this seemed like a good one to let my kids watch between play fights and epic battles between clip dolls and Imaginext figures.

I was right. This game has had me and my kids howling with laughter. You play as Samuel, who is a bit of an idiot. He manages to get himself ran over whilst chasing after his now ex-girlfriend and thus makes a deal with the devil to live manually for 24 hours in order to win his life back. Samuel now has to consciously do everything we take for granted, including blinking and breathing.

The day starts off simply enough with you learning to just blink, breath and put one foot in front of another. Soon though you have to have a pee, then brush your teeth and have a shower. Then you have to drive to work and dodge an obscene amount of grannies jaywalking. Anyway, the day progressively gets harder and more buttons are introduced, you get the idea.

I didn't struggle with this for quite awhile and was feeling rather smug with myself. And then suddenly it just felt like I didn't have enough fingers for the task at hand and I got completely sick to death of hearing the dialogue I had thought was funny a few hundred attempts ago (this might be a slight exaggeration).

It started off as a game I would definitely recommend to most people, the graphics are cartoony, the voice acting is great and the game is generally enjoyable. But then it wore me down and I just didn't find it as funny anymore. Luckily it's a fairly short game with easy achievements so there are plenty of people that would like to add this game to their collection.

6/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review. 

Friday, 14 October 2016

Bioshock: The Collection (PS4) - Review in Progress

Bioshock: The Collection is available now on PS4 and is priced at £44.99.

I did have all of the Bioshock games on the Xbox 360. I bought the first two at the same time, way past release date (read: cheap) thinking that I'd enjoy them and get round to them fairly soon. Then I played a bit of the first one and scared myself to death before I even got to Neptune's Bounty and have never really played it since. Bad Dannie. I bought Infinite in a Deals with Gold thing ages ago in the hopes it would become backwards compatible at some point - and that I'd have grown some balls and played the first two games through.

If, like me, you haven't played the Bioshock games before then Bioshock: The Collection offers immense value for money. It feature all three games and the DLC and they've all been given a graphical overhaul too. All of this for less than the price of one new game!

It has taken me ages to get around to writing this review, because I wanted it to be a complete review. But, having never played the games before, I can't just dip into each one for a few hours and tell you about how they've changed. I still want to enjoy them and I won't if I have to go to Bioshock 2 and Infinite before I've finished the first one. I was gonna just wait until I had played them all to write this up, but given that my PS4 has been a bit temperamental and I am out of the house more than usual at the minute looking after family I haven't been able to play them as much as I'd like. So I'm gonna do an ongoing review and come and update this as and when I have something more to say.

The PS4 version comes on two discs, one disc for the first two games while Infinite gets a disc all to itself. With the first disc in you just slide left or right to choose which game to launch. They both install separately too, good news for anyone struggling for space on their HDD.

Now obviously I haven't looked at Bioshock 2 or Infinite yet so I can't tell you which looks better now, but Bioshock 1 looks a hell of a lot better than it did originally, the graphics have been cleaned up really well. Don't get me wrong parts of it can still look weak - with the character's being probably the most dated looking - but it does look great now. It's a great remaster.

I have encountered a couple of glitches but nothing game-breaking. A few times it has appeared to have frozen completely but just pausing it for a second has fixed it and I've been able to continue as normal. I've read about a lot of glitches, but in all honesty that has been the worst one I have found.

I'm probably one of very few people that hadn't already played these games. If you haven't played them you've got nothing to lose by buying them. They do offer great value for money for newcomers and die-hard fans alike. Anyone who has already played them can afford to wait for a sale and make these games even more worth it. We do game in the era of the remaster now, but it is refreshing to see a whole collection remastered, rather than just one of a larger whole. And this collection is cheaper than the upcoming Skyrim remaster and many of the remasters we've seen already.

For now I'm going to get back to my play through, but I'll be back to ramble on at you more when I can!

XCOM 2 (Xbox One) - Review

XCOM 2 is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £44.99.

You may remember that I have previously reviewed XCOM 2 when it first released on Steam earlier in the year. I LOVED it. I had been excited for this game for months and it didn't look like a console version would be released at the time. I know, I know, how naive of me, eh?! But I HAD to play it so when a little box popped up and said that it was literally impossible to install the game on my trusty six year old MacBook Pro I had a little cry and then bought a laptop more suitable to my gaming needs. Thos being playing XCOM 2, because thankfully Sims 4 DOES work on my ageing Mac. There is a God.

Anyway as much as I loved playing XCOM 2 on my shiny new laptop I was ecstatic when I found out it was coming to consoles. I know you can use a controller with PC's but I dunno, I just feel more at home gaming on a console. Which is annoying because games for PC are a hell of a lot cheaper usually.

I'm not going to go into the story here, obviously it is the same game I reviewed on Steam, so if you want to know more about the story, click the link at the top of this review. Graphically it is still as beautiful as I thought it was then, and there are still plenty of customisation options. It IS the same game after all.

There are some issues with the console port though, that as of yet I don't know when they will be patched. It lags sometimes in game, the framerate can be incredibly choppy and the cutscenes have glitchy dialogue that chops in and out. So it's not a perfect port, by any means. Despite that though I still choose to play XCOM 2 on my XB1 now rather than my PC, so I definitely don't consider them bad enough to ruin the game for you. Don't get me wrong, the cutscene glitches in particular are so annoying but they're never that long and the game is so much fun that I kinda don't care.

If you have ever shown even a passing interest in turn-based strategy games then you need to add this game to your Xbox One collection. Technically it isn't a perfect port, but it's a damn perfect game. Even if you do want to break your controller because a shot with a 69% chance of hitting misses and results in your death.
9/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Friday, 23 September 2016

The Turing Test (Xbox One) - Review

The Turing Test is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £15.99.

I'm typing this fresh from completing it this morning. I played it until 2am the night before, before I had to give in and attempt to get some sleep and the minute I could today I jumped back in to finish it off. It really is a fantastic game (and it's easy to get all of the achievements). 

I came to it knowing a little bit about Alan Turing and The Turing Test but the game explains everything well anyway so you can go in blind and not miss out. So don't worry if you haven't fully researched Alan Turing and his accomplishments. You won't be alone. 

I always struggle to review a game like this. A game with a story so rich that I'm still pondering it hours - sometimes even days - later. I came to this expecting it to be primarily a puzzle game (which, obviously it is) with a story shoehorned in so that you feel compelled to continue. The Turing Test couldn't be further from this, for me at least. I made my way through the various rooms as fast as I could, hungry for the next story section. And right through to the very end it never disappointed me. 

It feels petty with a game like this to boil it down to it's various sections and discuss all of the elements that make it what it is. The game is slick and thought-provoking and the story is truly intriguing, which for me is so much more important than a game looking picture perfect. That isn't to say the graphics aren't great, they are, but they just play second fiddle to the meat of The Turing Test. The voice acting deserves some recognition here because The Turing Test features some incredible talent. The same can be said for the games soundtrack, often with a puzzle game I end up turning the music right down in the mix because they can be pretty annoying, but I never even considered doing it whilst I was playing The Turing Test, even if it did risk waking the kids up. 

As you work your way through the game you will unlock new ways to interact with your environment. I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game, they made sense to me and I never found myself completely stuck. I sometimes had to step back and think for a second but I never had to restart a level, which speaks volumes for the level designs. I had fun working my way through some of the more involved sections and can honestly say I never felt like I was burning out. 

I have one gripe with this game, yep, just one. It isn't a particularly big problem but my god I found it really annoying. After pretty much each chamber I encountered a significant load time. I'd be walking down the corridor to the next room when everything stops and the little swirly ball of doom would appear for anything from 30 seconds to two minutes. I hope they patch this, because it does remove you from the action and disturb the flow of the game quite significantly, which is a real shame for an otherwise perfect game.

I don't want to tell you to much about this game, I want you to experience it. It is easy to recommend this game to each and every one of you that read this review. It's an amazing experience and a lot of fun to boot. Go grab it! 
9/10 BUY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Monochroma (Xbox One) - Review

Monochroma is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £7.99.

It was pretty difficult to type up this review in all honesty. I mean I've had the game for ages and then family life just went crazy and I never had the chance to sit down and play it to review it. I have now, but this tab has been open on my Mac all week, waiting for me to type up my thoughts on the game. And I just couldn't do it.

I think the main reason for this is glaringly obvious. Monochroma looks very much like a Limbo clone. Unfortunately though Monochrome lives very much in Limbo's shadow and I've spent this week trying to work out how I can review this game without comparing it to Playhead's 2010 hit.

The answer is I can't. To do that would be to do both games a disservice. There aren't many games out there today that could claim to have not taken inspiration from a game or two. And that's fine. It's nice to spot those similarities, discuss the differences and the merits they bring to the game. Not all games can reach that balance though, and end up feeling like a cheap cash in on someone else's brilliant idea. Monochroma is the latter.

The game is good but if you have ever played Limbo (and with it being given away for free on Xbox One awhile back and it being available on a multitude of different platforms how could you not!?) you will not be able to stop yourself comparing the two games and Monochroma will consistently fall short.

The art style is lovely all in monochrome except for the odd splash of red a la Schindler's List making it ever-so-slightly different to Limbo. You play as a young boy, again, but this time you have to lug your brother around because he suffers a fall at the beginning of the game. This little brother will be the source of much frustration as you can't solve many of the puzzles with him on your shoulder as your jump distance is limited and you can't pull the levers and little brother is afraid of the dark, which limits where you can place him and will result in you killing him a fair few times because the only light source just so happens to be where the hurtling mine cart will end up. You have been warned, just like Limbo you will die a lot. And be responsible for your brother's end too. Tut tut.

The thing is the addition of a brother, or anyone that your character feels responsible for should add more charm to the game. You should feel scared for the characters - I know I did playing Limbo - and Monochroma falls incredibly short of the mark here. The only thing I felt after I'd killed off one or both of the siblings was annoyance at having to play that part again. The puzzles and platforming are so pernickety that repeating any section felt like a chore more or less straight away. There was one puzzle in particular that involved you having to drop down onto a barrel that is floating in water. The amount of times I either just missed the sodding thing or landed on it only to fall of it in the next second was just ridiculous. The controls are not responsive enough to allow for this and I ended up playing this section for ages because each time I landed in it I died and had to drag the frigging lit barrel back outside to the rain again. 

Overall I really didn't enjoy my time with Monochroma. I could;t help but compare it to Limbo for the extent of my play through and not one single part of Monochroma felt better than Limbo had. In fact, after playing this game I started up Limbo on my Xbox One (after only ever completing it on 360 previously) and just gloried in how magnificent that game is. Monochroma made me yearn for Limbo, and that can never be considered a good thing. Skip this one guys.

3/10 SKIP IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Pure Chess: Grandmaster Edition (Xbox One) - Review

Pure Chess: Grandmaster Edition is available now on the Xbox One and is priced at £9.99.

We all know what chess is, whether or not we can actually play it. There have been loads of chess games released on various platforms over the years but Pure Chess: Grandmaster Edition is the first chess game to come to the Xbox One. I'd say that if you already have Pure Chess on any other platform I wouldn't necessarily bother with this one. Unless you realllllllyyyyy want some different chess pieces. This version does come with some pretty decent sets.

There are no gimmicks with this game, (though I have to admit I was disappointed that the Roman chess set didn't act like the magic chess sets from Harry Potter) it is simply chess. The interface is slick and easy to use and each time you select a piece it illuminates the legal moves for you. You can remove the HUD which shows you what moves have been made and which pieces have been taken by you and your opponent.

You can play online, with a friend or against the AI, which has various levels of difficulty ranging from Monkey to Grandmaster. There are also three Tournaments, increasing in difficulty for you to complete. The tutorial is great, even for someone who plays chess fairly well as it gives you plenty of handy hints and tips that you might not have considered before. There's an achievement for completing it too, so it's not all wasted.

There are different settings for you to choose from, but once you're into the game you can only really see the chessboard, which is a shame because the rooms are lovely to look at. You can choose between different genres of music too, which is nice. My biggest gripe is with the loading times when you've lost a tournament it takes forever to go back to the menu which ends up with me just ending up dashboarding it on numerous occasions. I don't really know why it takes so long to be honest.

I don't know whether I would recommend this game, just because chess is pretty niche. If you're after a chess game on a current gen console then go ahead. It's a great chess game, I'm just not sure who would choose to play this over most of the games available on the Xbox One.

5/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Headlander (PS4) - Review

Headlander is available now on the PS4 and is priced at £14.99.

This game is weird. Really, really weird even by Double Fine's standards. You may have seen some of my screenshots on Twitter, they don't even go halfway to explaining how weird this game is.

In Headlander you play as a disembodied head. Yup, really. You're a head in a propelled helmet with sucky power that means you can suck the heads off other robots and steal their bodies. I can't even think of a better way to explain this.

You have been awoken by a group hoping to overthrow the AI overlord Methuselah. You being just a head will come in very handy on your journey through the ship "Starcophagus" (again, really) as there will be many doors that are blocked off to you that have a handy head sized vent just above them. Of course heads aren't really known for their weaponry so you'll need to headland on to other robots to better arm yourself against the bad guys. You can dock on to any of the robots you encounter, but most of them are useless in any real sense. Certain robots can get you through doors and if all else fails get on a robot with a laser and shoot the door into submission.

I know that this review isn't making much sense, even as I type it, but honestly the game doesn't make much sense either. It is insane. At first it feels like a lot of fun. It's very tongue in cheek and for awhile it is a lot of fun to just pull the heads off unsuspecting robots. Unfortunately though, it soon gets stale. Combat can be very tricky and it's annoying to try and find another laser shooting bot when the one you were occupying gets blown up. Eventually you'll realise that the best way to navigate combat is with just your head, dodging the lasers and sucking the heads off the robots trying to kill you is often much easer and faster than trying to shoot them. Obviously, sometimes this won't work and these are the times that will have you screaming at the TV. The boss fights are even worse, and if you die you better be ready to repeat the whole effing thing. 

I expected more in depth puzzles from Headlander in all honesty. The puzzles are simplistic and don't make the best use of the whole you being just a head in my opinion. I'd have liked to have seen more emphasis on disguise based puzzles, rather than just navigating various rooms and enemies. It's a very shallow experience, something I haven't said of a Double Fine game before.

All in all Headlander is fairly fun for the first hour or so. But then the fun trickles away and you're just kinda going through the motions. I'd wait for a sale, guys.

4/10 TRY IT!
A code was provided for the purpose of this review.