Tag Archives: Gaming

Opinions on Spec Ops: The Line

For all the games I’ve played throughout my lifetime, Spec Ops: The Line has to be up there when it comes to being one of the weirdest that I’ve encountered. I don’t mean that it’s weird in the traditional sense, either – what I mean is that’s there’s so much going on, and so much the game tries to achieve and stir within you, that it’s honestly hard to know where to start talking about it.

Since that’s the case, let’s start with the basics; the gameplay and graphics, actual solid and concrete features that are easily observable. Unfortunately, as becomes rapidly apparent as you start playing, these are features the game is deeply lacking an abundance of in the quality department. This is very much a generic cover based shooter that you’ve probably played a thousand times before, and it’s not even a good example of that genre. It doesn’t feel engaging or enjoyable to play, and in fact pretty lacks anything that make it special in any way. Indeed, the only lasting memory of the gameplay I have is how the fiddly controls (especially regarding cover) are what killed me more than anything else.

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This is a problem that is then only exasperated more by the dismal visuals on display. While I accept this came out five years ago, the actual graphics are merely tolerable when compared to other titles from the same time period. I’m also aware that considering the game’s tone, the dull looking nature of every landscape you encounter is clearly a deliberate design choice. The real problem is just that everything’s so… Forgettable. You’ll pass through area after area completely passively, retaining no information as to what they may have ever looked like. There’s simply nothing engaging to grasp on to; no dramatic vistas or battlefields, and no compelling gameplay to try and counter this defect. It’s the purest definition of bland.

Yet – and here’s where things start getting weird – it’s clear Spec Ops: The Line never really cared for these matters in the first place. What it really wants to focus on, and the whole purpose for it existing in the first place, is how it’s a brutal deconstruction of the military shooter genre as a whole. This is a title that rips apart so many ideas and beliefs common to all the other similar titles around it that it’s honestly difficult to keep up. The idea that America is always there to save the day, the glorification of the army and war in general, even the idea that you could put violence into the form of a video game and call it entertainment… All these topics and more are picked up, scrutinised, and then torn to shreds.

It’s startling to see, and effective for the most part, but it’s not perfect. There’s a deep problem ingrained in the message that’s trying to be conveyed here, and to demonstrate this, you only have to take a look at the pivotal moment that occurs around the halfway point. Its dark, presented to you without compromise, and will make you feel incredibly miserable for a good while afterwards. It’s also the stepping stone by which the second half of the game really ramps the story and its moral message into high gear, with practically everything setting you down a emotionally dark path – loading screens and all.

The problem is this, however – you’re forced to do it. There’s no alternative way out, much as you might like to find one; the only way forward is to commit the atrocities set out in front of you. Yet since you’re so railroaded into doing this, the game telling you you’re an awful person afterwards feels a big hypocritical; you were never given a say in the matter, after all. To commit to a terrible analogy, it’s like me making you a delicious sandwich, placing it in front of you, and then criticising you when you actually decide to eat it – considering the way everything has been presented before the outcome, the outcome itself simply doesn’t make sense.

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The developers have argued in interviews that there is another option to take; simply turn it off. Yet that feels completely at odds to the way every other video game in existence works –  you’ve paid money and invested your time into this product, so you’re naturally going to wish to proceed and not just give up halfway. Besides, if the developers are stating that the best course of action is to stop playing – why create anything after this point? Why develop it at all? The fact this experience takes the form of a video game is both its greatest asset and its greatest curse – it needs to force you to do things to proceed forwards, but by doing so it fundamentally weakens their impact.

There are other smaller moments throughout which provide some form of actual choice, and it’s actually these that fare a great deal better. One in particular saw an intense situation physically panic me, pushing me into making a terrible decision. It was only after the event that I realised there was a better solution I could have taken, the realisation of which made me feel terrible in a distinctly more organic way.  This isn’t really a critique of the other emotional moments the game places in front of you – far from it – it’s just a shame that these moments of true choice aren’t a little more prevalent.

Spec Ops: The Line, therefore, is a lot to take in. As a piece of entertainment, something to actually have fun with, it’s a complete and utter failure. Whether it’s actually a good game is hard to answer as well, because I’m not sure how you define “good” in the context of something that’s as dark as this.  As a think piece, however – something to look at, examine and discuss – it’s a sterling success. It’s made me question things long after I put the controller down, and you only have to glance at the internet to see how much discussion this has created. That’s why it’s so weird and so much in a class of its own – and something that is, despite its many faults, well worth your time.

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Opinions on… Thomas Was Alone

“Minimalist” is a term that can be interpreted in a bunch of different ways. A lot of the time it’s all about a lack of material possessions, keeping only what you really need to live a good life. At other points it’s the absence of complicated visuals; the presence of something that is simple yet appealing to look at, with no sharp corners or brash colours to distract the eye. Or sometimes it can go to the extreme, as is the case with Thomas Was Alone; a game that’s mad enough to consist of nothing but simple lines and rectangles.

I’m honestly not kidding – that’s pretty much all that’s on show here. Apart from a few subtle lighting effects working away in the background, this is very much a textbook example of what you see is what you get. Yet the overwhelming simplicity of this world isn’t as bad as you might be coming to expect; what really matters here is how the story builds up what this world and its inhabitants represents.

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You see, this is a tale of AI programming becoming self-aware, and via some brilliant and funny narration by Danny Wallace (Whose works you should check out, by the way!), each little AI block you control is given their own distinct personality. The main character of Thomas, for one, is naturally inquisitive and logical. Others you meet along the way have their own unique traits; there’s a deeply cynical square, an arrogant yet caring tall rectangle, and another bigger square that has delusions of being a super hero… On and on it goes, with new faces appearing all the time. It’s done to such a level that as the plot moves along you actually start to care for each of them in a weird little way. It’s never to the extent that you’re going to shed a tear for their plight, but it’s enough to keep you engaged with them throughout their journey – even though they’re just little coloured shapes. It’s ingeniously done.

So your gang of crazy characters is set up, but what exactly are you doing with them? Puzzle platforming, that’s what. It’s up to you to switch between all of them, using their unique abilities to navigate through each level, and getting everyone to their respective exits. That’s it. If anything, the gameplay is as minimalist as the art style – but again, that’s by no means a bad thing. Thomas Was Alone’s main strength when it comes to its gameplay is in the way its difficulty and pacing is second to none. Each and every level presents a challenge that is both not so hilariously simple that you can cruise through it in two seconds, but also never hard enough to create a situation where your progress comes to a screeching halt. The game also introduces new ideas and character abilities at a steady rate, keeping things fresh and entertaining, but never at a pace where everything feels overwhelming.

The process of actually navigating your way through each of these challenges, however, is where the cracks begin to show. For one, the act of switching characters is cumbersome, requiring you to cycle through all of them in turn to reach the one you actually desire, the camera trying to zip towards every character in turn at an almost nauseating pace. This isn’t too bad when there’s only three shapes to control, but when there’s six or seven, the endless cycling can start to infuriate somewhat. Couple that with a soundtrack that I found so incredibly annoying I proactively sought out the sound settings just to turn it down, and you can perhaps see how the blood pressure can slowly start to rise.

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There are a few other minor factors that also don’t help. The jumping mechanic, for one, feels at points oddly heavy and stiff, creating situations where I felt I wasn’t fully in control of where my jump was going – with a missed jump often wiping out a hefty chunk of progress in an instant. The level design at points also didn‘t help my mood, and really dents into what is otherwise flawless pacing – you can complete the bulk of some levels, only to realise you need to backtrack and do something with a character near its beginning.

Perhaps I’m just rubbish, but whether you attribute these problems down to poor play or not, they still lead to situations with feel unnecessarily annoying. All these minor niggles created a situation whereupon,
once I realised I was nearing the end of the story, I was quietly hoping it would hurry up and end already, just so I didn’t have to put up with another inconvenience. Considering the game itself is only three hours long, however, and… Well, you can perhaps see why that might be a bit of a problem.

Thomas was Alone is far from perfect, then, but that doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad. It’s still perfectly playable, and the charming narration and story do a lot to help plaster over the faults that might rear their ugly head as you move along. It’s a fine example of how much you can do with so very little, and also stands as a perfect counterpoint against the sheer flood of lazily made indie games with tiny budgets that flood the market every day. So don’t be a square – check this out.

Opinions on… Superhot

Time moves only when you move. It’s a simple idea, all things considered, but oddly enough its taken until the arrival of Superhot before it has truly come to see the light of day. The basic premise here couldn’t be simpler; use this power to the fullest, kill everything that is trying to kill you, and don’t die in the process. Sounds like a relatively easy affair, right?

Not quite. You see, it doesn’t take long with the game to realise that this isn’t an FPS in the traditional sense; one where you can immediately blast everything in sight without ever breaking a sweat. Instead, it takes on the shape or something closely resembling a puzzle… One that requires time and concentration, as well as dying a fair few times, before you can finally wrench victory from amidst the hail of bullets heading your direction. Yet this isn’t a bad thing – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. There’s great satisfaction in slowly breaking down a level piece by piece, then finally succeeding in putting it all into action, that honestly makes you feel something that resembles being the ultimate architect of death.

Superhot knows its strength lies in this careful plotting and preparation, and in a sense its basic art style feels like a response to this. There are very few colours in play here, each serving their own purpose – black things are items you can use, red denotes enemies, and practically everything else is white or grey. With the rules clearly defined, it becomes a simple and pure battle of skill – you against the game, with nothing left to distract you or get in your way. When later levels see almost absurd amounts of enemies being thrown at you, it honestly feels like you’re fighting against the odds, with only your skills and time freezing abilities ever giving you a chance. Naturally, this makes succeeding in a situation where your back is against the wall all the sweeter – an actual accomplishment, instead of something you could have stormed through in under two minutes. It’s a good feeling.

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It’s also a benefit in Superhot’s favour that everything that you’re getting up to just feels really damn cool. For example, some basic strategy here might see you toss your gun at an enemy, swipe the gun he drops as it flies through the air, and then spin around in an instant to slay the dude sneaking up behind you… And heck, I think it sounds cool when I write that, never mind when you actually do it. You that’s not the limit of what you can pull off here, and the more you play, the more daring you will become. In the end, it becomes a challenge of squeezing out the best from every passing second and tiny movement, just to try and achieve something that essentially adds up to a few extra cool points. As the icing on the cake, once a level is complete you also get to see your antics at a normal speed, and that just ends up making everything you did look even more impressive. Thank goodness there’s the ability to save clips and upload them for all to see here, because some of the things you’re destined to pull off will be stuff you’ll be desperate to show off to the world.

Completing the story also grants you additional endless and challenge modes, which not only adds a thoroughly healthy chunk of gameplay to a title that would otherwise end up feeling slightly too brief, but also cranks the craziness up to the next level. Endless mode in particular is a treat, with wave upon wave of bad dudes pushing your abilities to the limit, as you desperately look for any solution or escape route as your margin for error gets smaller and smaller. It’s exciting stuff.

Enjoy feeling like the king of cool while you can, though, because Superhot’s got another goal in mind for you; it wants to mess with your head. Big time.

This is something that the game makes readily apparent it wants to do to you from approximately five minutes after you’ve started the game. This is because as a player of taking the first steps into the world of Superhot, you play the role of someone… Taking their first steps into the world of Superhot. Yeah, wrap your head around that. It creates a situation where every twist and turn may technically be aimed at the character you control, but instead feels like it’s directly aimed at messing with you, and it does so perfectly.

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There’s a lot going on that’s setting out to confuse and disorientate you, you see. Giant messages suddenly flicker and flash in front of your eyes (Photosensitive players beware, because this kind of started to give me a headache after a while), and the retro computer screens that form up the navigation and background to the game flicker and distort to ever greater extents as you descend further into madness. I won’t spoil anything in particular, but there’s a genius moment in particular where you’re compelled into doing something that you’d never expect, but becomes memorable simply because of the fact you weren’t expecting it. It’s clever stuff.

A special shout out also has to go out for the sound design. There’s literally no music in the game besides one track that only ever appears in the credits. Instead it’s down to a series of hums and beeps, constant buzzing static, and much more besides to create an incredible sense of unease. All things considered, I feel it honestly what’s on display here unsettled me more than any soundtrack sound ever have hoped to do. Heck, even the word “Superhot” gets in the action, getting repeated endlessly at the end of each level; it becomes almost a sort of madness mantra, one that I guarantee you is almost impossible to resist repeating yourself. It’s all so pleasingly disturbing.

Overall, then, I can find very little to actually fault with Superhot. There perhaps should be a little more to the story, all things considered, and especially considering the game’s relatively high price point. Additionally, there were perhaps a few scattered moments where the gameplay and difficulty slipped slightly too far into the infuriating category, but hey, maybe I’m just rubbish. In the end there’s nothing I can truly pick apart when it comes to what’s on offer here. When all is said and done… It’s the most innovative shooter I’ve played in years.

Opinions on… Abzu

Upon first impressions, everything about Abzu is curious. From its peculiar sounding name to the endless screenshots and videos showing vast ocean vistas and teeming hordes of marine wildlife,there’s very little that actually gives away what to expect when you plunge into the depths. As it turns out, there’s a lot going on beneath the waves; and most of it does a fine job at making somewhat of a splash.

Probably the first thing that truly strikes you about Abzu is how peaceful everything is. While it has some slight moments of peril, this is very much a game that’s about slow and steady exploration, and taking the time to absorb all the sights and sounds around you. It desperately wants you to take everything in; the schools of fish lazily swimming around the reef, the giant predators floating ominously around, and all the creatures and coral in between. If you’re not already bought to a stop by the sheer level of detail on offer, the many statues dotted around for your player character to sit and ‘meditate’ on only provide further incentive, with the camera whooshing around the different species at your command. In a sense, it’s the world’s most intricate fish tank, willing you to while away the hours with your face pressed against the glass. In many ways, it succeeds in doing just that.

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This overall sense of serenity is not alone in this world, however, as it couples pleasingly together with a bunch of satisfying little moments and interactions that you can look forward to. Whether it is zooming through a jet stream, breaching the surface of the water on the back of a dolphin, or something else besides, there’s a lot to make you gaze with wonder and bring a smile to your face. Toss in a few bigger set pieces, none of which I’ll spoil but some of which made me exclaim softly to myself, and you’ve got a great mix of gameplay brewing up.

A sweeping orchestral soundtrack, matching the nature and events of the game perfectly, then add another layer to the whole experience. Everything gels so well together, becoming much more of a sum of its parts; only a few control issues, mainly involving trying to get your diver to actually point in the right direction, ever seems to really put a dent in the display that’s on show here. With all things considered, Abzu should have shaped up to be an instant classic.

Note I say “should”, however, because there’s a problem here that’s both massive and rather odd; for all the means by which Abzu is expertly designed and crafted, the end result it one that still fails to make any real lasting impression. You see, even with this detailed world, there’s not enough explanation or care given here to make anything actually feel important; events just seem to happen, and you’re given very little reason to care how or why. There’s also very little you can take away from the experience on show… You can speculate a little on the world on display, sure, but beyond that there’s nothing to really keep your mind occupied after turning the game off. It’s a damn shame.

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This issue is only made ten times worse when you consider the length of the game; I completed it in an hour and a half, and I considered myself to be going at a fairly leisurely pace at that. Heck, I’ve spent longer writing this review than I did actually playing through the game. Even slowing progress to a crawl and hunting out every collectable on offer would only likely drag the play time out by another hour or so.

Similar ‘artistic’ games that I’ve played have had short play times of their own, I concede – but with those I felt that I was left with a lot of things to ponder long after the game’s actual conclusion. The Stanley Parable, for instance, incited thoughts about the idea of free will and the nature of the player themselves. Another example in the shape of Firewatch only lasted an hour or so longer than what’s on offer here, but spent enough time to make me really care about its characters and what happened to them. Some of the developers for Abzu also had a hand in games like Journey and Flower, which I personally haven’t played (Much to my own shame), but had a deep impact on those that played them – as even the most casual of internet searches will attest to. Abzu, in comparison, has none of this – For all it takes place in the deep ocean, this is a game that’s remarkably shallow.

Taking into account the fairly lofty price point therefore makes it disappointingly difficult to outright recommend this game. It’s technically sound and does a lot of things right, but when the emotions it stirs up are so vapid and fleeting in comparison to similar titles, it all ends up meaning so much less. I still think it’s worth playing, but waiting for a sale is the best option here by a considerable margin; with that, you won’t end up feeling too disappointed. Anything else, and you’ll just be left with waves of disappointment.

Opinions on… Psychonauts

Ugh. Let us be clear here; I want it noted on the record that I desperately tried to like Psychonauts. I’d seen the praise critics and gamers heap upon it, seen the funding campaign for the sequel that many passionately gave their money to, and came back again and again to the game trying to pick apart what makes it entertaining. Despite all this, however, I only ever came to the singular conclusion which may cause people to label me as mad as the characters in the game itself; it’s just really not very fun.

What makes this an especially bitter pill to swallow is the fact that, hidden deep down underneath its faults, there is the heart of something truly excellent slowly beating away, desperately trying to break free. For one, the Psychonauts universe is excellently realised; one where a great deal of love and effort has been put into it. Even with all the oddball ideas on show here, each of them is nicely fleshed out, everything linking in nicely with everything else with a remarkable consistency. Not only does this create a believable world, but this also allows the story to shine though; an oddball tale of a summer camp for children to be bred into psychic warriors under attack by mysterious forces.

It’s oddly compelling and excellently done, but the game’s real strength comes with the sense of humour that is so excellently fed into both the story and the world beyond. Both carefully crafted jokes and throwaway one-liners by passing characters honestly made me laugh on multiple occasions, and even the most stoic of people will struggle to not crack a smile at what’s on offer here.

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It’s lucky these laughs are present, however; because it’s with them that I found any sense of joy I had with the game ended – there’s just too much here that isn’t that fun for the positive side of things to truly shine through. A lot of this boils down to the gameplay that’s on offer. Whatever it is you’re doing, being it platforming or something else entirely, there always seems to be a part of it that’s incredibly irritating or disappointing… Some sections outstay their welcome for far longer they were actually interesting, others are confusing or fiddly to complete, and then there’s some frustrating occasions where you’re thrown into situations where the idea is amazing – yet fall flat on their face when put into practice

To take an example of this last point in action -– one level sees you the size of Godzilla, tasked with stomping around a city and smashing everything in your path. Yet the actual smashing isn’t that satisfying, and your progress throughout is slow and cumbersome. Oh, and do you need to climb a building for something? Have fun crawling up at a snail’s pace, only for a single enemy shot to send you crashing down to earth the second you reach the top. There’s many a moment like that, and each is as disheartening as the last.

Additionally, and somewhat ironically for a game that’s based around the mind, it feels like the gameplay of Psychonauts is incredibly schizophrenic. It’s trying out as many ideas as it can possibly cram in, but -as with the case above – many of them really don’t feel that well implemented. For instance, there’s a level where you’re suddenly thrown in a weird race section with absolutely no prior warning; where if you make a single mistake you’re likely to get trapped behind an obstacle and have to start the whole thing all over again. Another level takes the form of a puzzle, tasking you with collecting the right items in order to proceed; which starts off well enough and has some of the funniest moments I found. But even that soon descends into endless wandering and confusion, as you’re provided with no hints, and the solution to getting some of the items or simply making progress feels unnecessarily convoluted. And so on it goes, Psychonauts trying to be a jack of all trades, but not coming even remotely close to being a master of any of them.

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Another thing that doesn’t help the situation are the visuals themselves. Not with the graphics, because even I’m not stupid enough to start critiquing how good they are in a game that’s ten years old, but just in the way that everything’s just so bland looking. So many of the areas you’ll explore are a turgid mess of browns and blacks – or, if you’re lucky, some other combination of uninspiring colours. It’s something that starts in the very first level, a dreary and dull looking warzone where it’s often difficult to tell where the heck you’re meant to be going, and then just continues on from there. To add insult to injury, and at the risk of sounding incredibly contrarian, the single colourful level I played actually ended up being too much of an assault on the senses, again leading to a situation where it was hard to know where to do. It’s a shame really, because even with the possibility to create worlds limited only by the imagination, we’re left with something that’s remarkably dull and uninspired.

Throw in a few other small issues, like struggling with the controls and a few tiny porting issues, and Psychonauts became to me what I can only describe as an exercise in frustration – one where I’m honestly struggling to see how it’s loved and admired by so many. Play it yourself and you may find something that I’m missing, but in my personal opinion, the whole thing is just enough to drive you crazy.

Opinions on… Doom

At the announcement of a new Doom, there were a fair few people out there who perhaps let out a slow yet weary sigh, their heads perhaps making a soft thud as they hit the nearest hard surface. It was easy to see how the end result could have manifested itself as a mere cash in, one that could rake in the money without putting any heart or soul into the actual finished product. With hope in their hearts, fans turned to the unexpected success of Wolfenstein: The New Order a couple years prior, and prayed for the best. And their prayers were answered. Because this is really damn good.

The reason for this, you see, is simple; strip away the impressive looking graphics and electronic rock soundtrack that forms the outer layer of the game, and the heart of classic Doom and what made it so good can still be seen to be vividly beating away. The trappings of the modern FPS are non-existent here; regenerating health is replaced with health and armour pickups, the normal slow drip feed of better weapons replaced with obtaining a rocket launcher in about the third level. Heck, even the whole concept of reloading simply doesn’t exist in this world. It’s also incredibly fast – standing still merely offers an open invitation for the hordes of hell to poke a few extra holes in your face. Movement is life, so you’ll be gleefully zipping around the screen, laying waste to anything that moves. It’s refreshingly good fun.

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It’s also brutally violent, in an oh-so-satisfying way. There’s a ‘glory kill’ system in place here, where getting up close and personal to finish your enemies is rewarded with extra health and ammo. Each of the many glory kills on offer are brutal to watch, often involving the forceful removal of limbs to aid in the application of even more pain, but they’re all so quick to execute they never get boring or impede the flow of things in any real way. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also the option to chainsaw your foes clean in two, or later on just blow them up into a thousand pieces using the series most infamous weapon… Yes, you know the one. Oh, and there’s also a pickup that lets you rip opponents clean in half. Vertically.

The game’s over-the-top nature is reflected in the character of the Doom Marine, who literally does not give a damn about anything. Things in his way get smashed without care and reason, and even other characters drily note he only seems to care about killing everything in his way. This attitude even extends to the plot – there’s actually a story of some depth and detail hidden away here, but when the Doom Marine casually throws away the first monitor that dares to try and explain any of it to you, you immediately know the score. It’s gleeful self-parody, and it works so well.

Put everything together, and it’s a glorious exercise in pure chaos simply existing for the sake of pure fun, every component slotting together in a way that just goads you into blowing more stuff up. The main campaign is a satisfying length, and coupling this with the task of uncovering the game’s many secrets and challenges (the completion of each giving you the ability to upgrade your weapons to more brutal levels) means there’s a perfect excuse to keep feasting on the carnage.

When it comes to problems, there’s a bunch of minor irritations that did catch my attention, even if most only dulled my enjoyment by a minute amount. For one, while I understand that working your way through a labyrinthine structure seeking the exit has always been part of what makes Doom what it is, it doesn’t stop getting lost here being a somewhat frustrating affair. Each time it occurs it brings the pace to a sudden and jarring halt, and even though there’s a map screen, it’s so confusing to try and navigate I found myself desperately trying not to use it.

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Weapon strength seems a bit odd as well; I found an upgraded shotgun more beneficial in most situations that an upgraded super shotgun, despite the latter having the word “super” in its name. To add to this, once you get a rocket launcher with homing missiles, it’s only a lack of ammo that stops it being the solution to practically every problem. Snapmaps – user created levels – also seem like a good idea in theory, but all the ones highlighted as the best the community still lack the soul of what makes the campaign so great. The feature, while ambitious, becomes a brief side attraction at the very best.

On a final side note, if you’re here for multiplayer action, don’t bother – the servers are so sparsely populated it’s honestly difficult to actually get into a match. That’s not really a fault of the developer’s own doing, however, and shouldn’t be taken as any real indication of how fun the multiplayer might actually be to play; it’s just the natural passage of time seeing the community moving on to the next big thing.

None of these problems hardly matter, however. Doom is the perfect blast to the past, one that perfectly pokes at that primal urge just to let loose and smash stuff. It’s an FPS game that breaks all the rules that most FPS games of today follow, and it does so in such an over-the-top way that it’s simply all the better for it. Rip and tear!

Opinions on… Game Dev Tycoon

When you first start Game Dev Tycoon, eager to create masterpieces of software design that blow anything in the actual real world out of the water, you’ll rapidly realise that there’s a big problem ticking away under the surface of the game’s mechanics. That problem is quite simply this; it’s impossible to actually truly gauge whether your decisions are leading towards any sort of positive outcome. Any addition of an untested design element in the creation of each of your games immediately throws everything into obscurity… There’s nothing discernible shown to you from one attempt to the next that lets you know if you are making the right decision in any regard – which, considering information is key to success, is pretty rubbish.

I suppose that’s how it works to an extent in the real world, but of course, that doesn’t really make it into a good mechanic to use here. It IS possible to learn what works and what doesn’t after the fact, but this feels a little pointless and hollow when you’ll potentially be haemorrhaging money by the time you learn your mistake. It’s also annoying when you take the time to read more on how the game works, and learn that there actually is a bunch of complicated and clever algorithms working away under the surface to determine your level of success. It’d be fun if these were presented to you, for you to then try and pick apart and make work to your advantage, but they’re all hidden away never to be seen.

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In a sense, this makes everything feel too simple for its own good. A situation rapidly occurs where there’s nothing in the game with any real depth for you to sink your teeth into; Even when you hit the endgame and start bigger projects such as developing your own consoles and research, I found the strategy for this doesn’t really evolve beyond ‘pump money into it’. In fact, that’s an approach that pretty much works across the board – last game didn’t make massive profits? Pump cash into a killer title next time. Need better staff? Pump more cash into your recruitment process and training.

This might all sound overtly cynical, but I don’t really mean it to be that way; in many ways you could see this basic nature as a blessing, rather than a curse. It’s a break away from the endless complexion and confusion that can stem from playing other simulation games – a no frills, easy way to whittle away time. As long as you go into it accepting that, or at least take my approach and enjoy it for what it is, it’s not really an issue – more just something you need to be aware of.

I also haven’t got around to highlighting Game Dev Tycoon’s main strength yet – it’s a master of non-stop, instant gratification. Start development, and bubbles showing your progress fly all over the screen at a relentless rate; all adding to a grand total highlighting your game’s quality that just keeps shooting up and up as you with each new title. Publish your game, and you’re immediately met with review scores, which (with luck) will shower you with praise that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Immediately after THAT, large chunks of cash from sales roll into your account, and by the time that starts to wane you’ve already started the whole cycle again. Nothing takes long to complete in the slightest, and you’re always moving. Think of it as the simulation genre’s version of fast food – you know there’s more complex and fulfilling meals out there, but sometimes you just want an instant hit of pure satisfaction.

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The developer’s love for games in general shines through as well. There’s a nice little (and hilariously copyright avoiding) trip through video game history that – while slightly biased towards certain formats at points – will raise a smile, and there’s a number of similarly themed easter eggs to be spotted both around your development office and elsewhere. I also feel the developer’s comments about piracy, and their approach to preventing it (which, hilariously, sees games made in pirated versions being pirated themselves) are worth noting; again showing a fondness for games in general that should be encouraged in a time where a lot of things feel like soulless attempts to suck as much money out of us as possible.

The key thing to remember with Game Dev Tycoon, then, is to know exactly what you’re getting. This isn’t a game of precise micromanagement and intricate challenges, and if you’re looking for that you’ll be best off going elsewhere. This is a piece of well executed and light-hearted fun, and there isn’t anything wrong with that at all.