REVIEW: Ghostrunner (PC)

  • Released: 2020
  • Played on: PC
  • Also available on: Xbox One, PS4, Switch
  • Time to get into: 10 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 18 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

Game Summary

Ghostrunner is tale of a lone fighter in a dystopian future but whilst that world is well designed, this game is not really about that. In a triumph of function over form, Ghostrunner is all about the gameplay. Whether it’s wallrunning, slowing time to dodge gunfire or a well timed parry, the mechanics here are all smooth and satisfying. Whilst it’s a bit too reminiscent of other games and sometimes feels rather cold and lonely, those complaints aren’t enough to stop Ghostrunner from being one of the most interesting and challenging games I’ve played in recent months.

What’s good about it?

  • The world of Ghostrunner is very well realised. It’s set in Dharma Tower, a skyscraper housing the last of humanity. As you travel up and through the tower, the cyberpunk-style environments are very well designed. For example there are piles of rubbish underneath giant high-tech advertising boards – the feel of of the place serves the narrative very well.
  • Ghostrunner is all about function over form. From the platforming aspects, like wallrunning and dashing, to the combat, whether slicing through enemies or shooting projectiles, everything is extremely well honed. The developer, One More Level, has focused on giving you the tools to move through Dharma Tower as quickly and efficiently as possible. The results are pretty spectacular – when you nail a long a long section of almost impossible platforming or clear a room filled with enemies without missing a beat it’s just an absolute joy to be the Ghostrunner.
  • That said, your moves as the Ghostrunner are very stylish! Whilst the game is in first person, putting together one of those combos of moves you feel like you are zipping about as if in an action movie. The game makes you feel like a super hero, even though you don’t have many powers outside of the ability to move very fast.
  • All the different ways of getting around combine really nicely. On top of the aforementioned wallrunning and dashing you can slide and there are plenty of things in the environment to use like hooks and even handing on some robotic enemies to get you over gaps. These are introduced into the game in a well-paced manner as well, so it’s never confusing – you just have a growing arsenal of moves at your disposal.
  • The game is pretty difficult and times and some of the things you are asked to do are audacious. It reminded me a lot of a similarly difficult platformer Celeste, in that there are times when I had tried and tried to beat some incredible platforming challenge or breathless boss encounter and I wanted to give up. I didn’t have any idea how I was going to do it. But after keeping on and keeping on eventually you do and it feels amazing. In some games after just sections you jut feel relieved but in Ghostrunner you feel elated.

What’s bad about it?

  • Dharma Tower is barely populated, which seems odd as you play through the game. It’s not totally outside of what you’d expect based on the story but the only other characters you see outside of the few cutscenes are all enemies. I guess this plays into the function-over-form thing I mentioned above, but understanding why it’s like this doesn’t fully make up for it being a little dry and uninspiring. Even the other characters on your side are only ever in your head, never on screen.
  • Ghostrunner is one-shot-kill but it’s also one-shot-death, which can be frustrating at times. Mostly I like it – it plays into the need to hook together big combos of moves and strikes to survive. But every once in a while there’s a section where you have to play really well to defeat multiple big enemies and then one small dude with a tiny gun gets a lucky shot and you have to start over.
  • Even more frustrating is that there is no saving in mid-level. Some of the levels take over an hour to complete and the main result is just that it took me forever to complete the game. I had to know I had a good chunk of time to dedicate to it if I wanted to play – apologies for having a life outside of video games! It could be argued that this just adds to the challenge but checkpoints within levels are pretty generous, so I just think it’s a flaw. Maybe try on next-gen consoles that should save where you are even if you put them into standby?
  • I was interested to play Ghostrunner because I absolutely adore the first Mirror’s Edge. Unfortunately, here the parkour stuff is, somewhat counterintuitively, too easy! The Ghostrunner himself is too good, as it were, to have the same feeling of achievement from getting around as you did in that game. Speedrunning through assault courses in Mirror’s Edge was a challenge enough in itself but here the challenge comes from the threat of death from enemies.
  • I mentioned Celeste earlier but one place where Ghostrunner falls far short of that game is that the story is not enough of a reward for the hard work. Celeste is a perfect example of gameplay and story blending into an experience. In Ghostrunner, the story is bordering on pointless. It’s just a box in which to hold the gameplay.
  • That said, the one place the story really did affect the game, and for the worse, was the end. The last 3 sections of Ghostrunner are: 1, an easy final boss fight, which was disappointing after the level of challenge in previous levels. 2, the hardest platforming sections of the whole game, in which I had no less than 461 deaths before I completed it. 3, a final cut scene, vital to what story there is, where you the player have no engagement or autonomy, you just watch and the game is done. It must be said that, 461 deaths aside, the final platforming sections are amazing but overall the ending is a real let down.

Conclusion

Ghostrunner is a game that it both hard to love but also hard not to like. The gameplay is first class but it has a bit of a lack of heart that holds it back from really top-level status. That said, I would have to recommend it to gamers – those moments when you string together a long section of platforming or finally defeat a set of enemies that had seemed impregnable only minutes before are very rewarding. Just don’t start Ghostrunner unless you are expecting a decent challenge.

REVIEW: Pikmin 3 Deluxe (Switch)

  • Released: 2020
  • Played on: Switch
  • Also available on: n/a
  • Time to get into: 15 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 13 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local only

Game Summary

Pikmin 3 is a typical Nintendo game – simple but engaging gameplay, bright colours everywhere and a story that just about holds it all together but not much more. Being such both helps and hinders the game. You play as one of three space travelers from the planet Koppai, who are on a mission to find more food for their struggling home. In order to achieve that goal, and more besides, you enlist the help of the Pikmin – cute creatures of varying colours and abilities. On the one hand the exploration and light strategy elements of the gameplay are enough to keep the 20-or-so-minute gameplay loop – building up your army of Pikmin, defeating enemies and gathering fruit – interesting right through the length of the story. On the other hand, with little gaming challenge on the standard difficulty and a narrative that, whilst just intricate enough that you have to keep an eye on it, is not intricate enough to keep you engaged to the end, Pikmin 3 ends up at a bit of a stalemate with itself.

What’s good about it?

  • There is no denying that Pikmin 3 is fun! Using a hoard of creatures to attack enemies and take loot back to base could also be a description for a much more serious strategy game but Pikmin 3 dresses all this up in cuteness and delight. Everything from the tiny faces of the different types of Pikmin to the sound of plucking them out of the ground when they have first grown is designed to put a smile on your face.
  • Personifying the Pikmin works well too – these are not just expendable drones. The combination of only allowing up to 100 to be out with you in the world at any given time and the sounds of distress that they make when they are in trouble make you want to keep them as safe as you can.
  • It’s that balance between the Pikmin being your weapons and also your friends that is the main strategy element of Pikmin 3. Other than choosing the right numbers of each colour for the tasks ahead that is about as deep as the strategy goes but it does make you stop and think. If you just charge out into the bright and colourful areas on the planet you’ll soon discover that it’s not as innocent as it seems.
  • Co-op works really well. The Boy and I had a great time playing through the game together. Parts require working together, like getting to some areas for example (although you can still get to these places in single-player). Pikmin 3 finds a great balance between those elements and letting you just get on with tasks separately.
  • The way in which each type of Pikmin is introduced over time means that the game opens up to you as you progress. For example, you will have noticed some things in areas of water that you want to investigate but until you get the blue Pikmin these things are out of reach. It’s a nice development curve that means even parts when you are retracing your steps seem new through the campaign.
  • Each in-game day lasts around 20 minutes, which is perfect for pick-up-and-play when you have a few moments free. Pikmin 3 is well suited to that kind of thing as it relatively simple gameplay means you don’t need long sessions to get into it.

What’s bad about it?

  • Pikmin 3‘s story really isn’t at all interesting. As I said at the start – there’s just enough to it that you have to pay some attention to what is going on but by and large it is very forgettable.
  • It’s just a very simple game. There is little challenge to be found – not even really any bumps in the road where you might have to repeat some activities or anything like that. There are no particularly threatening enemies, even the bosses, and no puzzles that are too difficult. The very last level is a bit larger and thus can be slightly more tricky but even then patience is all that’s really required to get through it.

Conclusion

I can see Pikmin 3 working for pretty much every gamer but as a distraction, or a side-game if you will. This is the game you play when you’re not playing your main game, or are just looking for a more relaxing break from what you usually play. With that purpose in mind, Pikmin 3 works perfectly and the great co-op play and ideal length of each in-game day just add to that. Just don’t load it up expecting anything greater – this is a typical Nintendo game.

REVIEW: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales (PS4)

  • Released: 2020
  • Played on: PS4
  • Also available on: PS5
  • Time to get into: 5 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 18 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

Game Summary

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the more-than-an-expansion but not-quite-a-sequel to 2018’s Marvel’s Spider-Man. Miles‘ adventure isn’t quite as amazing as that original game but it’s still a wonderful experience. There are enough new missions types and combat options here to make it seem new but the overall feel and the environments are familiar. And when I say familiar, I mean fantastic! Manhattan returns in all it’s glory and I could still happily spent time just swinging about the city but Miles‘ story is riveting and personal. Once again, you’ll find yourself struggling to hold together being a superhero and a regular person at the same time and the gameplay, from combat to simply chatting with friends as Miles, is all as smooth as you could wish for.

What’s good about it?

  • The story has a different feel from the first game. Whilst Peter Parker had been Spider-Man for 8 years at the start of that game, Miles is just at the start of his journey. His reaction to being New York’s only Spider-Man for a time is ‘Please don’t screw this up!‘ This inexperience, and Miles growing as a person and as a Spider-Man, makes for an excellent and different narrative.
  • Miles discovers some new powers that Peter Parker doesn’t have. In particular, his Venom powers – violent bursts of bio-electricity – add a great extra option in combat. Miles is slightly less powerful than Peter from normal punches and kicks but combining that with the Venom powers is a great balance for the combat.
  • Worth saying that everything that was fantastic about Manhattan is back in this game. Definitely a case where more of the same is a fantastic thing. The city feels populated, swinging and jumping around remains the best traversal since paragliding in Breath of the Wild and all of the extra missions remain fun and worthwhile.
  • A new aspect is that those extra missions come in the form of an in-game mobile app through which New Yorkers request Spider-Man’s help. It’s a simple, and really cosmetic, thing but it fits so well with Miles and his friend Ganke, who builds the app. A very nice touch.
  • Spider-Man Miles Morales has a distinct atmosphere, both in general and in comparison to much of the first game. The story is a little darker, it’s deep in winter throughout the game and even the music has a different feel – gone are the strings and in are the beats.

What’s bad about it?

  • One new mechanic – camouflage – doesn’t work too well. Some of the missions based around using it can feel a bit forced but there’s a bigger issue: in the midst of a big fight against many opponents you can just disappear, hide for a bit and then start picking off guys using stealth. It turns what should be one massive and difficult battle into a series of smaller and easier ones, which is disappointing.
  • There is a lack of other mission types, compared to the first Marvel’s Spider-Man. You don’t get to be a scientist with Peter, or go around investigating with Mary Jane or anything similar. This story in Miles Morales is shorter and more focused, so perhaps Insomniac, the developer, felt that adding in such things wouldn’t work. Shame though.
  • This game is quite janky at times. See the video above for an instance where Miles‘ head didn’t appear for a while! Other glitches include getting stuck inside trucks with no way out, or missions refusing to end if I completed them before all the queued up audio had been spoken.
  • I mentioned above that Miles being an inexperienced Spider-Man works nicely so this is really nit-picky, but it’s a bit odd that despite this inexperience, Miles knows all of the moves that you spent ages unlocking in the original game. I totally get it from a gameplay perspective but more could have been done to explain it in the story.

Conclusion

The only real criticisms of Miles Morales that I can come up with are in comparison with the incredible first game. This is a fantastic adventure game that everyone with a PS4 or PS5 should play. Even if you haven’t played the original Marvel’s Spider-Man (although, you should!) Miles‘ adventure will stand alone quite happily. He does not, in fact, screw this up!

Reflections on 2020, Part 2: Awards

So let’s wrap up 2020 with some awards. It’s been a year of great upheaval of all kinds in the world and it hasn’t been a vintage year for games, as far as I am concerned. All the 5-Star reviews I’ve written were actually for games that came out in 2018 and 2019 but I didn’t get around to until this year. Perhaps the same will ring true in 2021 – I’m still playing Spider-Man Miles Morales, for example. On the other hand, the new Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 should hopefully get into their stride and perhaps some of those highly anticipated games will prove themselves up to the hype. For now, here’s my final say on 2020:

Best Game: Marvel’s Spider-Man

Why, oh why, did I not play this back when it was released in 2018?! What a huge mistake by me. Thankfully one I corrected this year. Spiderman is so good that I made sure I completed every single aspect towards 100% and the Platinum Trophy. And the DLC was spectacular as well. Would have won best game in 2018 anyway, so it can take the award this year instead.

Runner Up: Gears 5

Gears 5 was a change up for many aspects of the series; female lead character, new types of environments, new multiplayer modes. All of the new stuff was great and the game retained the core DNA of the Gears of War series too – a great combination.

Best Platform: Xbox Game Pass

Alongside the usual consoles, this year saw the wide-scale release of Google’s Stadia and the introduction of game streaming on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Stadia is a good platform but, so far, lacks games so it’s Xbox Game Pass that takes this prize. Bring able to play a great game on Xbox One and then continue it on your phone, whether on the sofa or in a coffee shop, is a wonderful thing.

Runner Up: Stadia

As noted in my Impressions post, Stadia isn’t a totally flawless service, but it works pretty well, and just needs more great games like Orcs Must Die! 3 if it wants to hang around. The Stadia Pro service has an impressive set of games available on it too – with the new consoles being released at the tail end of this year, 2021 could be an important year for Google to make it’s mark.

Best Multiplayer Game: Luigi’s Mansion 3

There was still a lot of Rocket League played in our house this year but this award had to go to Luigi. Playing together as Luigi and Gooigi was the best fun that The Boy and I had together this year. Luigi’s Mansion 3 does such a great job of making running about the place doing whatever you like, into co-op play somehow!

Runner Up: Avicii Invector

A modern Guitar Hero-like game full of great music from Avicii was always going to be a good multiplayer prospect but the ability to play together, but on different difficulty settings really gave Invector some longevity. An important point, as the game lacks any online options, but makes up for it with a great offline mode.

Most Unexpectedly Good Game: Sea Of Solitude

Sea of Solitude was such a joy. I thought it looked interesting when I first saw it at E3 a few years ago but over the time since my interest cooled a little, until the game appeared in the EA Access Vault. I thought ‘why not?’ Sea of Solitude is inventive, whimsical and poignant. Short, but wonderful.

Runner Up: Orcs Must Die! 3

I really only played OMD!3 because I had a Stadia Pro subscription at the time it came out and was interested to see what the newest Stadia-exclusive game would bring. What it brought was hours and hours of great fun! Definitely the calling card for Stadia so far.

Worst Disappointment: The Last of Us Part 2

A controversial game in many ways but it was the wide range of, very strong, opinions on Last of Us 2 that I found interesting. For some people this is probably the game of the year but I could hardly disagree more. I won’t go over it all again but after the fantastic original game, Part 2 was a huge disappointment to me.

Runner Up: Get Packed

Get Packed was a disappointment primarily because of it’s extremely short length. The first levels have some good ideas and are a good bit of chaotic fun. Then you realise that the ‘first’ levels are the only levels. Shame.

Well, there we have it – the end of 2020. Here’s to 2021!

Reflections on 2020, Part 1: Review of Reviews

2020 has been a weird year, at best, in so many ways. Games-wise there really haven’t been many titles released that I was excited about this year, although that gave me a great chance to catch up on all the games I hadn’t got around to from the tail end of 2019 and even before. As such, most of my 2020 reviews are for slightly older games and none of those that I have given top marks to are from this year. Maybe the games coming out late this year will be great: Spider-Man Miles Morales, Cyberpunk, Ghostrunner and the like. You’ll have to wait for 2021 for my thoughts on those – for now, here’s the run down of what I’ve played in 2020!

2020 Review (by score and then chronologically):

5*

4*

3*

2*

Plus, here’s a list of games that I started but then gave up on, so they would probably have got 1 or 2 stars but it didn’t seem fair to do a review of a game I couldn’t be bothered to finish!

  • Stacks On Stacks (On Stacks) (Stadia)
  • Minecraft Dungeons (Xbox One)
  • Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD (Switch)
  • Dangerous Driving (PS4)
  • Marvel’s Iron Man VR (PSVR)
  • Night Call (PC)
  • Creature In The Well (PC)
  • Just Shapes & Beats (Stadia)
  • Double Kick Heroes (Xbox One)
  • TT Isle of Man Ride On The Edge 2 (Xbox One)
  • Street Power Football (Xbox One)
  • No Straight Roads (Xbox One)

Come back soon for some awards in my next post, to tie the final bow on gaming in 2020!

Gaming in 2020 in one image

REVIEW: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 (Xbox One)

  • Released: 2020
  • Played on: Xbox One
  • Also available on: PS4, PC
  • Time to get into: 5 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 15 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local and online

Game Summary

This is how you do a remake! Take everything the made the original game great, but make it feel modern. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 is an update to two games from the original Playstation era, released in 1999 and 2000. It’s not just about graphical tweaks here, although the game does look great on current consoles. Over and above that, it feels like this could be a brand new game – tightening up the controls and giving plenty of small quality-of-life type improvements leaves us with a game that pays great homage to it’s origins but is totally up to date at the same time. It’s not quite perfect but whether you are interested for nostalgia’s sake, or just looking to fill the gap in extreme sports games that has been going on for a few years now, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 will be a treat.

What’s good about it?

  • Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 looks great – back when these games were first released the graphics of console games were still at a point where you had to kind of imagine how things really looked; these days they do just look like that! The details and the different lighting in each area are superb, note the low sun in the Venice Beach or night time in Downtown.
  • Gameplay is still solid. Tony Hawk‘s is a pretty arcadey take on skateboarding, you can get away with a lot that you wouldn’t in a “proper” simulation game, but the basics of skating, ollies, tricks and grinds etc all just make sense from the first time you do each of them.
  • On top of that there’s a good learning curve. If each part makes sense then the real skill is in combining them into huge tricks, combos and points totals. Eventually you’ll find yourself reaching point totals in a single combo that seemed unimaginable to begin with – exactly how a game in this genre should be.
  • The additional tasks in each area are fun and challenging without ever getting too annoying. They range from collecting things (like the letters S-K-A-T-E, a personal favourite of mine and the first thing I tackled in every level!) to performing specific tricks in specific places or finding hard-to-reach area. The trickiest ones are rewarding, rather than just frustrating.
  • The different characters (each with their own challenges) are fun but the create-a-skater is one of the best I’ve used lately. It’s plenty detailed but not overwhelming like many are. Everything really works well with the skateboarding theme as well.
  • That links in with how you can just tell that overall a love of staking and of the original games comes through every facet of the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2. This is not just a perfunctory re-release (Super Mario 3D All-Stars, I’m looking at you)!

What’s bad about it?

  • Ultimately I felt Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 was too short! Even with the two games included I was only just starting to really feel like I’d mastered it when it was over. Perhaps the challenges aren’t hard enough to make you keep coming back for more, or maybe games are just longer these days.
  • As a result I needed the online play to carry the game for a bit longer, but although playing online can be fun I’m not sure this game really lends itself well to it. Whilst rushing around a level doing tricks and grinds, it’s too hard to keep track what others are doing vs what you are doing. As a result, it’s basically a case of doing your best until the time ends and then seeing if you won. It is nice to be doing this surrounded by other players but it’s not really a significant draw over the main game.
  • As you can probably gather from the video above, I found that the key to big scores was lots of grinding. This was undeniably fun but Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 would be a better game if it naturally encouraged more balance and variety.
  • A few frustrations from the 1999 and 2000 source material remain, like being able to so easily go off the map in places. I can mostly forgive these, as things like the graphics and the menus are so up to date and spot on but it’s occasionally jarring and you remember that you are playing an old game!
  • The biggest flaw for me is kind of unavoidable – a skateboard is just literally too small to be amazing in a video game like this. Perhaps that’s why later games like Skate went a bit more towards simulation but I do like the wild and unashamedly arcade nature of Tony Hawk’s games. But to be honest even now I don’t really don’t know what an Airwalk looks like vs a Pop Shove-It, it all happens so fast in such a small part of the screen. The occasional special trick aside, it’s just not spectacular. This doesn’t hold Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 back from being absolutely tremendous amounts of fun but, for me, it does hold it back from glory.

Conclusion

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+ 2 is a super remake and a super game full stop. Whether you are looking for a trip down memory lane or just for a fun time, you’ll be pleased with what you get here. When you reach the point that your thumbs are pulling off 100k+ point combos with ease you’ll know you’re in the sweet spot!

REVIEW: Hotshot Racing (Xbox Game Pass)

  • Released: 2020
  • Played on: Xbox One / Xbox Game Pass Streaming
  • Also available on: PS4, PC, Switch
  • Time to get into: 10 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 1 Hour (but that is not really the point here)
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local and online

Game Summary

Hotshot Racing is a high speed blast of nostalgia – a game that harks back to the days of playing racing games on big arcade cabinets. A simple game to remember simple days. It nails everything about this aesthetic but unfortunately also nails the lack of depth and short lived nature of such games as well. It’s hard to criticise much of what Hotshot Racing does – it looks great and handles nicely – but it’s offline options are few and rather unbalanced and even the online features don’t stretch out the fun for too long. As long as you are prepared for that, Hotshot Racing is great fun for a little while.

What’s good about it?

  • Hotshot Racing really does look great. The art style is simplistic but not simple. There’s plenty of detail in the cars and the track side but of course it is mainly looking to hark back to its inspirations. The game strikes a great balance – looking like the old arcade games but happy to be modern too.
  • Outside of just the plain races there are a couple of interesting modes. In Cops and Robbers you play as one or the other – trying to survive or trying to take down the robbers. The other is a mode where you have to keep a certain, and steadily increasing, speed up or you’ll eventually explode. The existence of these keeps the game from being one dimensional.
  • The set of cars is fun. There are four types, which focus on speed, acceleration, drifting and an all rounder. Each driver character has one of each and each type really does handle differently – you’ll need to tweak your driving style to get the best from each.
  • The different characters and their comments, both in menus and in game, are a fun bonus. It reminds me of Quantum Redshift on the original Xbox.
  • The game is at its best against others online. Hotshot Racing will fill out the grid with AIs if you’ve not enough players in your session so it’s usually straight forward to find a game. Racing against others gives Hotshot Racing a sense of purpose that it can lack offline.

What’s bad about it?

  • Hotshot Racing has no depth and no nuance. What you see is what you get but then you realise there’s just not much of it. In terms of offline play there are trophies to win for sets of races but that entire thing takes less than an hour. After that there’s only the online modes to keep you coming back.
  • Difficulty is very odd. Offline it starts way too easy, you can win races without knowing the track or the car. But suddenly when you get to the hardest difficulty you can’t win races at all unless you are perfect in every turn the entire race.
  • Likewise online is odd, because I found it very easy. Race win after race win to the point that I actually stopped playing because I was bored of the lack of challenge. It’s many many a year since I was this competitive in an online game!
  • The reason it’s easy is that there is one key to winning. The rubber banding in Hotshot Racing is the worst I can remember. It’s almost impossible to fall far behind the leaders, so just keep your nose clean until the final few corners and then use your boost to rocket to the win. Its a nearly foolproof formula. But again, it’s not something that encouraged me to keep playing.

Conclusion

If you remember wistfully those days of playing racing games on great big cabinets, all loudspeakers and sticky rubber steering wheels, then Hotshot Racing will be right up your street. The fun doesn’t last long but a few power slides, boosts and race wins can be a great distraction from whatever else you are playing.

REVIEW: Blood & Truth (PSVR)

  • Released: 2019
  • Played on: PSVR
  • Also available on: n/a
  • Time to get into: 1 Hour
  • Time to complete: 6 Hours
  • Multiplayer: No

Game Summary

Blood &Truth is a follow up, or remake, or whatever to ‘London Heist‘, which is the best part of the VR Worlds collection of demos that comes with a new PSVR Starter Pack. Read My introduction to PSVR for a quick note on that but suffice to say I enjoyed it enough that I wished it was a longer, more fully fledged game. Well, now it is! Blood & Truth isn’t going to blow you away (pun intended) but it is a lot of fun over it’s short run time, with an amusing, if cliched, story, some spectacular set pieces and loads of guns for you to play with.

What’s good about it?

  • Blood & Truth is all about the set pieces. From high speed motorway chases to aeroplanes to destroying building sites, the action is fantastic. All this works great from the first person perspective of the VR headset too – and the things you need to do (or shoot!) during these sequences are all intuitive and rewarding. I won’t go into detail as these set pieces are really what could be spoiled in Blood & Truth, rather than the plot. Hopefully the video above gives enough of a taste without giving it all away!
  • The variety of guns and environments in the game are both excellent. Handguns, rifles, shotguns and everything in between are all available and Blood & Truth let’s you use them in casinos, art galleries and safe houses along with building sites, rooftops and aircraft hangers. The environments aren’t hugely detailed, thanks to the game being on PSVR rather than being a design issue, but you always get a proper feel for where you are.
  • Moving around the world in Blood & Truth works better than a lot of VR games. You look at a place you want to move to or take cover in and press a button to move there. I didn’t feel any discomfort from this after the first couple times. It’s smooth enough for your brain to deal with – no sudden turns or movements here.

What’s bad about it?

  • Unfortunately the hand motion tracking isn’t really quite up to it and this brings the whole experience down. Blood & Truth never really stands a chance of being great as a result of this. It’s not the end of the world for the game but you end up having to play around issues. For example, think it makes sense to use two hands on that rifle or shotgun? Not here – all kinds of strange hand angles and combinations happen when trying to use two hands on one gun. Whilst this is apparently more of an issue with Playstation VR than other headsets (although Blood & Truth is PSVR exclusive anyway) I’ve played other games in VR on my PS4 and not had so many issues.
  • The story is very cliché. Imagine every London gangster movie you’ve ever seen and you won’t be far off. It’s perfectly good fun, but really only serves as a way to make sense of the set pieces.

Conclusion

If you have PSVR, it’s a bit of a no brainer to play this really. It’s a lot of fun and it’s cheap and short, relatively speaking. But it’s far from being worth investing in a new headset for. Ultimately, Blood & Truth is just… good.

Top 10 Games of the Xbox One vs PS4 console generation

As the new Xbox and Playstation are about to be released, I thought I’d do a quick round up of my favourite games from this current generation of consoles. I’ve not included games that you can play on the Switch as Nintendo is totally out of snyc with it’s generations after the disaster of the Wii U. But just talking about Xbox One vs PS4, here we go:

10. Gears 5 (Xbox One, 2019)

Gears 5 is the most recent addition to this list. One of the best games in a fantastic series, Gears 5 excelled at keeping the superb gameplay of the series in tact whilst changing up many aspects of the story and the environments you play in.

9. Onrush (both consoles, 2018)

Onrush didn’t do particularly well commercially, which is just a total mystery to me. I completed the single player campaign on both PS4 and Xbox One and spent a huge amount of hours playing online as well. A good solid arcade handling model allied to some creative and fun ideas that defied the term ‘racing game’; what was not to like, guys?!

8. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (PS4, 2017)

Uncharted: The Lost Legacy felt like a game that was made by people who entirely knew what they were doing. It’s so polished and technically perfect but manages not to lose the pure fun that all the Uncharted games have brought us. Also showed that the formula didn’t rely on Nathan Drake, as well.

7. Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4, 2017)

Horizon: Zero Dawn contains the most astoundingly ambitious story that I think I’ve ever come across in games. Plus, it looked totally amazing, to the point that I actually put together a separate post just to celebrate Horizon Zero Dawn’s Photo Mode. Not to mention the fantastic open world and the great combat.

6. Quantum Break (Xbox One, 2016)

Quantum Break was a unique thing in many ways, coming with a few episodes of live action to watch in between sections of gameplay. Clearly that concept didn’t go that well, as no other game has tried it since, but I thought it was a neat idea. Quantum Break looked stunning, the gameplay was good and the story and characters were great. Plus, I’m always a sucker for time travel stories.

5. Forza Motorsport 6 (Xbox One, 2015)

Forza Motorsport 6 is on this list as I loved it slightly more, but #7 could easily have been here as well. Forza Motorsport has thoroughly defined itself as the best racing game series in that ‘simulation-but-not-too-serious’ space. This particular one is my favourite as the love of cars and racing that the developer must have had just shines through every aspect. I spent well over 100 hours 100%-ing it, and it was totally worth it.

4. Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox One, 2018)

Forza Horizon 4 is a game that surprised me. I just assumed that a circuit racer would always be my favourite ever racing game. In fact I held onto that belief most of the way through playing Horizon 4, but ultimately I had to accept that this arcade racer is the best ever. Every single aspect of this game from the graphics, to the cars, to the races, to the seasons, to the online modes, to all the activities and so much more besides is just the best in class.

3. Marvel’s Spider-Man (PS4, 2018)

Marvel’s Spider-Man was a game that I started and then drifted away from. Well, thank goodness I finally came back to it. Manhattan is wonderfully realised and it’s just a joy to get around, swinging through the buildings. Plus, the combat is superb and the story is wonderful. So good that I bagged one of my few Platinum Trophies and made sure to get 100% on the main game and all the DLC.

2. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (PS4, 2016)

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is an amazing culmination of Nathan Drake‘s story. The first 3 Uncharteds were so good, I wondered how they could possibly top it, but by the end it was, at that time, my favourite game ever. The platforming and shooting, combined with the fantastic story and wonderful characters would have been enough but throw in some stunning set pieces too, and you have the best game ever that you can play with a standard controller in your hands.

1. Beat Saber (PS4 – PSVR, 2018)

Beat Saber was the reason I picked up a VR headset and I waited for it to release, wondering if it could possibly live up to the hype in my head. Well, it not only lived up to it but surpassed it entirely. This game might be what gaming as a whole was invented for! If you have a VR headset and you’re not playing Beat Saber on a regular basis, what are you doing?! And if you don’t have a VR headset yet, you know what you need to do. Plus, they keep releasing more music packs for it, most recently Linkin Park. Here’s a video of probably the most fun song that the game has had since it’s release:

It’s interesting to note that the majority of the games here are console-exclusive to either Xbox One or PS4. I wonder if that will continue with this new generation, as hardware becomes far less important, at least on the Xbox side of things.

Either way, what do you think of my list? Do you have a top 10 of your own from this outgoing generation of consoles? Let me know in the comments below.

REVIEW: Battletoads (Xbox One)

  • Released: 2020
  • Played on: Xbox One
  • Also available on: n/a
  • Time to get into: 30 Minutes
  • Time to complete: 7 Hours
  • Multiplayer: Yes, local only

Game Summary

Battletoads is a wild and confusing adventure that does a huge amount of stuff but very little of it with any excellence. Jack of all trades, but master of none. It should really all add up to a mess but somehow The Boy and I had a lot of fun. One minute beat-’em-up, next minute racing game, then a space shooter and all of a sudden a platformer. And many more in between. All of which is wrapped up in an equally confusing and fast paced story which is, if nothing else, irreverent and amusing. In the end Battletoads moves along so fast that you don’t have much time to notice how little substance there is below the surface. It’s a crazy ride but it doesn’t outstay its welcome and if you have at least one other person to play it with in co-op you can have a laugh for a few hours.

What’s good about it?

  • There are so many different genres packed into Battletoads that you never get bored. They appear with regularity and none of them hang around too long. This is great as you never quite know what to expect. All the way through to the final battle sections you always have to be on your toes.
  • The main set of characters are good fun. The Battletoads themselves and their old nemesis The Dark Queen are all well drawn characters, at least from a comedy perspective. Generally the humour is quite slapstick and occasionally crude but there are plenty of modern-life and pop-culture references in the cutscenes to keep you entertained.
  • If you do ever get stuck, fear not as there’s an invincibility option after you fail a level a few times. The Boy and I only resorted to this once, but we were totally at a loss how to complete one section without it, so we were certainly glad it’s in the game. Normally I don’t like options that either literally or essentially let you skip bits of a game but in Battletoads, having it available suits the breakneck speed to completing levels and facing new challenges.

What’s bad about it?

  • Sadly, whilst the constant stream of new genres is an important part of what makes Battletoads what it is, they need to get in and get out as quickly as possible as all of them are a pale comparison of the actual genres. The platforming is probably the worst of the bunch, and perhaps the fighting the best, but don’t play this game for the quality of the individual sections of gameplay, every one will disappoint you.
  • Everything that holds together these sections of gameplay is a bit of a mess too. The story is jumbled like crazy – not exactly hard to follow but just inexplicable. Also, some of the humour doesn’t hit home and that is really the glue that tries to hold the experience together.

Conclusion

Battletoads is like trying to play through those early morning cartoons that we watched as kids. It’s chaotic and messy and goes along at a hundred miles per hour – yet somehow leaves you with a smile on your face. Recommended for anyone who has a few spare hours and the chance to play it in couch coop. Just don’t expect the fun to extend beyond that – just as the things that make Battletoads good are the same things the make it bad, you’ll be equally glad it’s over as you were to play through it!