Tag Archives: Opinions

Opinions on… Dirt Rally

It was after only five minutes of gameplay that I knew I should have heeded the warnings.

It was as I watched my car lying smoking at the bottom of a ravine that I realised the discussion surrounding Dirt Rally spoke the truth. Put bluntly; this game is hard. Almost ridiculously so. You’re not going to be casually flinging yourself around corners with the greatest of ease within your first hour, picking up one victory after another. You’re much more likely to underestimate what you are getting yourself into, as did I, only to see your hopes of easy glory be chewed up and spat right back out. This is serious business, and in response it’s going to take a serious effort to even hope to come out the other end unscathed.

In some ways, I can’t help but feel this is a downside to the game. At times it feels extremely vindictive; where a single mistake doesn’t just lose a few seconds, but holds the potential to cost you the whole tournament you’ve been desperately trying to win for the past few hours. It doesn’t matter how perfect you’ve been racing or how skilled you are – screw up for the briefest of moments, and only plentiful use of the restart button will save you from unrelenting despair. It’s a strange experience, and one that can at times both be incredibly disheartening and extremely frustrating.

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Now don’t get me wrong – I get it. I know this is what Dirt Rally wants to be, and that there are no second chances in the real world of rallying. I therefore can’t begrudge it for what is clearly an active design choice. Yet it still remains something that I feel really has to play on your mind before deciding on your purchase. Put simply; if you’re not up for a great degree of brutality being flung your way, you seriously shouldn’t be here.

Yet such pain does not come without reward.  Because, slowly but surely, you learn what it takes to succeed. You discover how truly essential it is to pay attention to your co-drivers instructions. You come to understand that crests and dips in the road are as important as its twists and turns. You learn when to go aggressive, when to shy away from speed, and how to save yourself from near disaster. Put it all together and – Bam! – You’re suddenly thinking like a rally driver. You’re absorbed in the moment, doing everything by nigh-on instinct, and at moments it’s possible to forget you’re actually playing a game at all. As an attempt to capture the experience of being a rally driver goes, Dirt Rally can certainly be called a success.

With the sense of this experience, of course, come the feelings that go with it. There’s an actual sense of dread to situations where you plunge through deep forests or skitter on the edge of cliffs. Equally, there’s a real thrill to truly nailing a corner correctly, hitting its line perfectly and zooming away with a burst of speed. It’s the middle ground between the fear and the fury which I love, though – the knowledge that everything is within a moment of falling apart, yet you’re managing to maintain control by the very edge of your fingertips. If you manage to win an event (which is honestly no mean feat), the sense of pride that you’ll take in doing so is very real. It’s not a hollow, easy victory. It’s something you’re worked hard towards and achieved, and the fact the game can invoke so much happiness from such a thing is to be commended.

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So before the menacing demeanour, there’s certainly some satisfying gameplay to be found. It’s therefore just a very nice bonus that such gameplay is also presented in an extremely good-looking way. At points things really do visually shine; dust clouds plume up behind you, and your car amasses dirt and grime as time rolls on, making you truly look well weathered. Crowds are people in general are disappointingly plain, true, but overall this is a pretty good looking game at times. The audio, if anything, is even better. Not only does every car’s engine road and growl roar in an incredibly pleasing manner, but there are loads of little touches to be heard as well. Bits of rock ping and rattle off your car, brakes squeal and squeak when put under pressure, and the roar of the crowd passes away in moments as you surge forward. It really adds to the overall immersion of the experience, in a way that a generic soundtrack blaring away every single race could never hope to do.

Overall, then, Dirt Rally may have a menacing appearance, but give it time and effort, and there’s something that really shines bright and true underneath. This certainly isn’t for everyone, and it pays to be acutely aware of that. But it equally doesn’t stop what’s there from being incredibly thrilling, mildly frightening, and just a whole heap of fun.

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Opinions on… Dead Cells

With so many different titles on offer nowadays, it takes great effort for any single game to truly capture your imagination. There are plenty out there that provide their fair share of fun, but that’s the easy part. The difficult part is finding one that truly sticks in your mind – something that captures your thoughts long after you turn it off, and makes you crave for the time that you’ll be able to turn it back on again. Dead Cells, therefore, is a rare breed – a game that achieves not only that feeling, but does so with almost breathtaking ease.

To explain why, it’s first necessary to explain what Dead Cells actually is… Yet that’s actually a little bit difficult to do. It’s perhaps the developer’s own coined term of it being a “Roguevania” that best describes what’s going on here. Take the gameplay of Metroid and Castlevania, throw in the elements of a good Roguelite such as randomly generated levels and items, and then blend thoroughly. The result sees you exploring 2D dungeons filled with hordes of enemies to smash and bash your way through, all in your quest to find skill-improving scrolls and ever more powerful weapons as you desperately fight your way towards the end.

What that gameplay description really fails to capture, however, is how lightning fast, silky smooth and just damn satisfying this game is to play.  There’s a constant visceral pleasure in basic combat, such as rolling deftly past an enemy attack and them smashing them into a pile of giblets and gold. Combine this with the skills you can collect, though, and things get really interesting. How about using a magnet grenade to drag your foes into a set of spinning saw blades on the ground? Or using a bear trap to snare an enemy and then setting the whole floor on fire around them? Soon your first tepid steps towards each new enemy encounter fade away with time and practice, to be replaced with you slicing and dicing through the hordes like an absurdly terrifying ninja. That feeling of power and pure skill never gets old, and even when a single misstep has the potential to cruelly end your rampage, the desire to keep hold of that feeling makes it so you’ll be immediately eager to dust yourself off and try again.

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What truly makes Dead Cells so compulsive and fun to play, however, comes in the shape of the very cells that grace the game’s name. In simple terms; cells drop from killed enemies. Pick them up, get to the end of the stage, and you can use them to unlock more weapons and abilities or – crucially – permanently strengthen your character in some way. This can include getting a health potion that carries extra doses, upgrading the equipment you start off each run with, and a whole bunch of other stuff besides that.

It’s a simple enough idea, but it’s an idea that completely changes how Dead Cells plays. To give an example, it encourages you to actually explore every level and get into as many fights as possible, because the more you do that, the more cells you obtain. Secondly, it makes every run feel like it has purpose, even the ones that are dramatically cut short or feel doomed from the start. You could limp to the end of the first stage and immediately die on the second, but the few calls you collected in the process means you still walk away with a sense of forward progress – no matter how small.

Think that’s all? Nope. Cells also provide a nice little bit of a risk/reward factor; get to certain doors in time or fight particularly powerful foes and you’ll be richly rewarded, but in turn greatly increase your risk of an untimely death. Keep hold of all the ones you collect without spending them, and you can also reach a point where the ability to permanently upgrade items is presented to you – a tantalising prospect, but a reward you’ll have to stay alive long enough to reach. It gives you something else to think about on top of everything else – play it safe, or risk it all? Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this simple mechanic is what really fuels that pure “one more go” factor – there’s always new items to work towards, something fresh and exciting to splash your hard earned winnings on. Overall, it’s an excellent system, which adds so much depth and fun to what was already a highly enjoyable base experience.

Dead Cells isn’t without fault, however. If the game suffers a main issue right now, it’s in balance. There’s a fair few items and skills that just feel like they’re objectively better than what else is on offer. Perhaps the prime offender of this comes in the form of anything that carries the ice effect, allowing you to freeze your foes in place while also slowing them down once they thaw. This immediately removes most of the threat anything carries – it’s hard to be afraid of something that’s moving at a snail’s pace, after all. When you’re beating bosses with ease due to the fact they’re basically permanently stationary due to the sheer amount of ice skills you’re spamming at them, that’s when you truly start to get the sense that things are getting a little bit ridiculous.

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Many other items also have the opposite problem of feeling that they have very little practical use. The whole subcategory of shields falls foul of this – even with the bonuses they confer, it’s vastly easier just to roll past attacks instead of trying to perfectly time your blocks to achieve said bonuses. Overall, the whole balance issue is not one that is game breaking, but it does stint the variety of your runs somewhat. You might start with good intentions and take a shield, but once things start going south you’ll likely fall back on your old crutches – and that’s a shame.

Honestly though, that’s my only real gripe with the game, and indeed the only thing that truly gives away the fact that it’s in early access. The only other problems I’ve ever encountered are a grand total of a single crash, and one run where the map generated in a way that made it impossible to progress. Both of these things shouldn’t happen, I don’t deny it – but compared to the woes and misery given to gamers via other early access titles, these faults feel like a very minimal dent to the overall experience. Overall, everything here just feels so polished and fun to play that even at this stage I’d have no issue with purchasing this as a fully fledged title. Put simply, don’t let the feeling you might be buying a half finished or broken product put you off Dead Cells, because the reality is that’s far from the case.

If you’re looking for one final argument as to whether you should buy this or not, put it this way – I bought this title in late December. In the brief time before 2017 ended, this title still had such an impact on me that I’d consider it one of the best games I played all year. It’s fast, it’s furious, and it’s just downright fun – your purchase of Dead Cells should be a Dead Certainty.

Opinions on… Resident Evil 4

Hmm. This is a bit of a complicated one. It’s not a complication that stems from trying to explain what Resident Evil 4 is, because that’s fairly easy to do – it’s a survival horror and action hybrid, seeing you taking on hordes of violent villagers and sinister cultists in a mission to rescue the president’s daughter from a dark and terrible plot. Nor does the problem come from gauging the general public opinion surrounding it, which essentially sees it lauded as being absolutely brilliant and arguably one of the best games ever made. The fact of the matter is that the complication lies in the simple fact that despite this nigh-on critical acclaim, and against my best efforts, I… Uh… Don’t really like it very much.

It took me a little while to work out why. At first I thought it was the story; after all, the voice acting is laughably awful, and there are not so much plot holes here as much as there are plot ravines. Yet after the initial wave of cheesy lines were spoken in a manner that made me facepalm so hard my hand nearly came bursting out the back of my head, the sheer audaciousness of how bad the plot is becomes somewhat charming. This is a schlocky, over the top B-movie experience and the game knows it, with so many quotable lines being flung your way that any initial scepticism soon fades away into unbridled joy for the whole camp spectacle.  Nor was my problem the sound design, which is non-ironically excellent – with chanting, foreboding music and much more working together to create quite a menacing atmosphere throughout the whole journey.

My problem, it turns out to be, purely stems from the gameplay and level design choices that are on display here. There are just so many little issues and bugbears consistently appearing throughout, that they mar the core enjoyment that comes from merely shooting the bad guys in the face. To provide examples; some areas require you to stand and fight while others require you to flee, and often it takes far too long to differentiate between the two. In cases of fleeing, there’s no point even trying to put up any sort of combat effort, because enemies will just continue to infinitely spawn without warning. And, despite the escort sections being reasonably thought out, there were still too many moments which felt like I failed purely due to the AI behaviour being a little too unpredictable.

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On the issue list grows, with even core concepts of the game floundering – I don’t mind the idea of not being able to move when firing, but the reality is it doesn’t actually translate into gameplay that’s particularly riveting. It’s more of a case of fire at the enemies, run away a bit when they get close, then repeat the cycle. This comes to a head with the boss fights, whereupon in most situations you can dodge these eldritch abominations and their devastating attacks by simply slowly jogging past them.

There’s also so many rooms and areas that feel as if they only exist to burn away your time in some fashion – most of the roadblocks to your journey simply require you to get the funny shaped key for the funny shaped door, and that never proves to be a simple point A to point B endeavour. At one point I even came across a hedge maze and was struck with an overwhelming desire to simply turn the game off, such was my certainty in knowing I’d have to wander around for far too long shooting enemies that were practically destined to appear.  Anyone familiar with this game should also know exactly what I mean when I say “water room”, and I’m not having you argue that as the pinnacle of excellent level design.

I’ll concur none of gameplay faults listed above are truly horrific, and perhaps some of you out there would even find them endearing – defining traits of the series as a whole. Yet to me they just lower Resident Evil 4 down to a level that for the most part I would describe as “distinctly average” – a far cry from the flawless masterpiece that I was perhaps expecting to encounter.

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There’s a reason why I think this doesn’t feel like a stellar experience nowadays, however. Oddly enough, I think it stems from the fact that back at the time of its initial release, it was the definitive stellar experience. This was the game that invented the idea of the over-the-shoulder perspective in third person games. This was the game that also created the precision aiming system that went hand-in-hand with such a perspective. Heck, it could even be argued that it was this game which made quick time events into something that you can’t escape from in most action titles even to this day. If Resident Evil 4 didn’t exist, you most likely wouldn’t have titles such as Gears of War. Or Uncharted. You certainly wouldn’t have had a series such as Dead Space, and I could keep going with this list if you had several hours to spare.

Put simply, it was the title that set the benchmarks. Yet by doing so, it also devised the means by which it inadvertently shot itself in the foot. You see, so many games have since taken those benchmarks, and refined and honed them via a great deal of time and effort into something that approaches perfection. To therefore go from playing the polished titles of today to the system that’s in place here… Well, it can’t help but feel like a step backwards, a regression into something that can no longer hope to provide the same sense of satisfaction. In many ways, I feel like Resident Evil 4 should be considered a museum piece; something that should be respected, remembered, and admired. It’s just perhaps not something that should be taken out of its case all that often.

In summary, if you were to turn to me and ask me to recommend a good action title or survival horror, I’m not going to turn back round to you and say that you should be giving Resident Evil 4 a whirl. I simply ended up confused and frustrated too often for me to say I had fun with it, despite what it manages to do right. That, however, doesn’t mean I don’t respect the game for what it is and what it managed to do to the industry. If you’re looking for a piece of history or a trip down memory lane, you’ve come to the right place. Otherwise, I’d think twice before taking the plunge.

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.

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… The Mean Greens: Plastic Warfare

There’s a lot to be impressed by in The Mean Greens; Plastic Warfare. This thought began to occur to me when, after a good 15 to 20 minutes of waiting in the multiplayer lobby with no other players in sight, I began to realise how perfectly cheesy the music playing in the background was. It’s a delightful medley, one perfectly suited to taking pride of place in any respectable escalator, even down to the way it’s instantly forgettable from the moment you walk away. As time went by and many more minutes passed without a soul to be seen, it’s perhaps the only thing that kept me sane in those intensely dark moments of loneliness.

There were other things that did a great job at maintaining my sanity, however. The colourful menu screens were also helpful; the perfect tease for the vibrancy and craziness I could expect to be thrown into, once I’d mastered the arcane magic required to summon people at will to actually play the game with me. It gave me the same pleasure as knowing there’s a cake waiting in the fridge for when you arrive home from work; that anticipation of knowing that there is something to look forward to in your future. The fact that your journey home takes 15 years and the fridge is permanently locked kind of puts a dampener on proceedings, but hey… At least you know there is the tiniest possibility of getting cake. Or actual gameplay. This metaphor might be getting a little confusing.

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Riveting stuff.

The unpredictability present in The Mean Greens was another fun factor that kept me on my toes, and not knowing what would happen when I tried to search for a match proved to be gripping stuff. I could end up actually finding a match (unlikely), find myself in yet another lobby, or even be met with a loading screen that looks like it’s loading into a match, only to freeze and crash back to the main menu at a moment’s notice. It all proved to be incredibly uncertain and exciting, something that not many other games could offer in the same weird way. It wasn’t just trying to find a match which created such spontaneous moments, either. Imagine my surprise and delight when I tried to set the game to windowed mode, only for the screen resolution to completely mess up as a result. It created a situation where I was completely unable to click on anything, and was therefore required to force quit to desktop. I never knew what was around the next corner!

Persevere with this randomness for long enough, however, and with a little luck you might be placed into an actual match with a smattering of other desperate players – all of you finally free to play the game you’ve paid for. Unfortunately, this is where things kind of start to fall apart, because the gameplay just isn’t very fun. Take a good minute or so it to digest the poor quality soundtrack constantly on loop in the background, and then another minute to scour the map and find someone to shoot at, and you’ll soon realise that combat fails to provide any satisfaction.

For instance – shooting your gun doesn’t have any weight or sense of impact to it, making you feel as if you’re shooting marshmallows rather than bullets, and the simple task of knowing if you’re damaging someone or being damaged therefore becomes far more difficult than it has any right to be. Even getting a kill gives very little fanfare or rewards, therefore making all your efforts beforehand in taking the time to kill someone feel a little wasted. It’s disheartening, to say the least.

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Each map being a different game mode is also a nice idea in theory, but for one reason or another simply doesn’t work when put into practice. There’s one mode that sees you capturing flags on a speeding toy train. This sounds exciting, but it fails to feel action packed in the slightest, due to the way every death puts you so far away from the action it can take upwards of a minute to actually get back to where you were. Another mode presents almost precisely the opposite problem; you’re meant to float on rubber ducks to capture flags, but considering you can pretty much see and snipe anywhere from the spawn area (Up to and including the other team’s spawn), there’s really no incentive to ever move from your starting position. On it goes, map after map, the sparse amount of players only making games drag out their limited welcome even further. It’s enough to make you long for the lobby screen again.

With all sincerity, however, let me close off this review with an observation; there’s nothing wrong with ambition. Indeed, the developers of The Mean Greens should be commended for taking on the challenge of a multiplayer only shooter, especially when you consider how saturated the market is with them. The problem comes in the fact that I simply can’t help but feel that there should have been a moment where a healthy dose of realism was infused into proceedings. There should have been a realisation that this game, even with all best wishes, could have ended up as the barren wasteland that is has turned out to be. Measures such as the inclusion of bots in the future may not save this game or even make it somewhat appealing again, but at least they would create something that’s remotely playable playable. As it stands, however, this isn’t something that will keep you entertained.

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.