Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Review

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Here we go again, the third game release under the EA Star Wars games 10 year deal, this time coming from the highly talented and experienced team at Respawn Entertainment. Titanfall and Apex Legends have been huge successes thus far but can this trend continue with their action/adventure game set in the Star Wars universe? If past ventures are an indicator then absolutely, but if not, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

Cal Kestis is a former Padawan of the Jedi Order, training under Jedi Master Jaro Tapal. I say was, because we’ve all seen the films and know Palpatine put Order 66 into effect, which in turn declared all Jedi an enemy of the republic. This brought on the seeking out and destruction of any and all Jedi forcing many into hiding and for some a complete overhaul on who they are. Cal became a rigger of the scrapper guild on the planet, Bracca. So far, I am all in, being presented with the type of story I’ve always wanted to dive further into, what life was like for the Jedi following the purge.

What I also love is that for a Star Wars story it feels like one of the more grounded ones. Our hero is deeply flawed and faces many challenges in his journey. Not only that but at no point I felt out of place travelling through space, battling weird creatures and different races or running across walls. It’s a fantasy game sure, but doesn’t seem so unrealistically absurd. I wish I could explain this better, but I’m limited by my weak mind that is surely at risk of the mind trick.

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The journey from start and finish had me hooked, always wanting to see what was next for Cal and the characters I encountered along the way. I found myself infatuated more and more on my quest to rebuild the Jedi Order. This was bolstered by interesting characters, unique enemies to face, the variety of planets to explore and even the new ways to fight that you can acquire throughout. I wanted more Star Wars and damn it, I was getting it in spades.

I’m finding it difficult to do this review because I of course want to speak about many of the enthralling characters, but I feel you need to meet them for yourself. I do what I can to provide a spoiler-free review, and anything and everything could be regarded as a bit of a spoiler. There are situations where you will laugh, and ones that may induce a tear or two. Such is the weight of powerful story-telling that isn’t afraid to explore both the good and the bad parts of life as a post-Order 66 Jedi.

Action/Adventure can be the one of the hardest genre’s to cater for, relying not just on one key aspect of the medium, but many. Gameplay, story, visuals and audio are all majorly important in delivering an experience that is both rewarding and satisfying to play. Many action games can get by with impressive gameplay, RPG’s can be held up with a fantastical and complex story but you truly need all aspects to come together for this genre. Immediate thoughts on combat took me to the Dark Souls games with the importance of parrying, dodging and attacking at precise moments. Not to mention the difficulty faced at even the standard Jedi Knight level.

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There is a weight to the lightsaber that can I felt with each swing and parry. You are rewarded for expert timing and are encouraged to take a more deliberate approach to combat as opposed to trying to hack and slash your way to victory. I faced the biggest challenge of all whilst playing this game, myself. I have always come to an understanding that I like to go gung-ho, and swing wildly at anything in my path, and I got absolutely decimated for it time and time again. It seems I just cannot change, not having the patience to deal with the slow methodical approach, especially when equipped with a weapon I just want to have fast-paced battles with.

The souls-like combat style complements and yet seems to hinder at the same time the overall feel of the lightsaber duel. In some ways it adds to the epicness by having a long drawn out fight to the death in which each second matters and in other ways it can feel far too slow and even a slog to get through battles. During one boss battle I just couldn’t seem to overcome, I was forced to reduce the difficulty to story mode and from there I had no issues what so ever finishing the game. There is a huge leap between the two lowest difficulty settings and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, some games are absolutely meant to be played a certain way, a way that just doesn’t fit my personal playstyle.

So duel’s aren’t the only fight to get into, there are plenty of stormtroopers trying to shoot from afar with their fancy blasters. One of my favourite aspects of the gameplay is being able to deflect bullets and return them back to sender. I’ve felt like such a bad-ass before, but being a Jedi in this, I feel powerful and at the same time I don’t feel over-powered to the point of boredom, there is a challenge and a danger which made it important to keep track of not only the number of enemies but the type of them too. You grow in strength but are presented with new baddies to figure out and beat each time.

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Outside of battle, there is a heavy focus on platforming and puzzle solving as you navigate through each area. With many branching paths, and some only being accessible later on after you acquire certain abilities. What I found myself doing is heading back to areas after a new force power and seeing where else I could now venture. There is plenty of space to explore for those who want it. The platforming itself is solid, it has some of the common issues like missing jumps due to being off the mark slightly but it executes well and you can see clearly where you went wrong.

One trend that is to easy to identify with all three Star Wars games published by EA thus far is that they all look gorgeous. Respawn have gone a different route in terms of game engine, instead of Frostbite being used once more, Unreal Engine 4 is at the core of Fallen Order and does a fantastic job in showing that there are other engines out there that may perhaps be a better fit than the often clunky and jarring Frostbite engine.

Put simply, this looks authentically Star Wars with everything from the expansive universe to the smallest details on articles of clothing and items. When roaming through each planet I feel immersed into the location and can’t help but smile that I’m perhaps as close as I can be to being in the films. From popular previously visited planets like Kashyyyk and Dathomir to the lesser known Bogano and Zeffo, it all seems familiar in terms of the universe I’m surrounded by, in-game of course. Real-life universe is somewhat different, sadly.

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The variety witnessed from one planet to the next has not gone unnoticed, and is appreciated oh so much. Being able to go from the lush-green jungles of Kashyyyk to the treacherous icy plains and mountains of Ilum and to the dry, barren landscape of Dathomir is refreshing and helps prevent boredom that can come when exploring the same style of areas constantly. They have differing colour palettes, structure architecture and wildlife between each planet that every time I would visit a new place for the first time I had to explore every nook and cranny and take it all in.

Another way the game likes to put a stamp on authenticity is through its music and sound effects. The John Williams vibe is present and has been evolved upon to deliver something unique and yet someone without even having played the game could tell, oh this is Star Wars music right here. From start to finish, from one mission to the next, the soundtrack does a great job in taking me on this journey of loss, hope and conflict. It’s present in not just cutscenes, but in exploration and battles too and expertly tells the story of what is happening on screen. It evokes this sense of nostalgia and wonder at the same time, keeping the tension high where it needs to be and calming the mood when it’s called for.

Sounds effects play a pivotal role in atmosphere building, we all know what lightsabers and blasters are supposed to sound like thanks to many films, games and tv shows over the years and of course it all carries over here. That being said many new sounds have to be included what with the new creatures and weapons, each one coming complete with satisfying sounds that make it genuinely fun to play and interact with the new additions on top of the stuff I already know and love.

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Along the way there are collectibles to seek out that come in the form of lightsaber parts and customisation options for Cal, BD-1 who is your charming droid companion and the Mantis ship, mainly coming in the form of skins. It feels like more a quality of life type deal in which the extra is there if you want it, and rewards the exploration of each world.

More on the rewards front, you can acquire skill points through combat, force echoes and by scanning various lifeforms which in turn can be used to enhance one of three skill trees, lightsaber combat, survival or force powers. As you journey on there is always the opportunity to improve and get stronger. The best thing about the skill system is you are encouraged to head off the beaten path and dig for the lore, at least that was the case for me.

OVERALL: 9/10 – EXCELLENCE

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is perhaps one of the best Star Wars games of all time, up there with the likes of Knights of the Old Republic and the Jedi Knight series. It’s a more than competent action and adventure game that delivers rewarding and tough gameplay, combining it with a fascinating story filled with captivating characters and finished off with a huge helping of beautiful visuals and stunning sound design. Its difficulty curve is steep leading to many infuriating moments and thoughts of putting off playing the rest of the game. I’m just so glad I swallowed my pride, lowered the difficulty and kept on at it. What an experience.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Review

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Call of Duty is synonymous with gaming, even if you don’t play games, you know what Call of Duty is or at the very least have heard of or have seen it in some form. 16 years, that is how long the famed series has been around and in that time 15 main series console platform titles have released. There has always been an expected level of quality because of how high profile the brand and franchise is, that isn’t to say they always meet the mark, notable less well-received titles include Ghosts in 2013 and Infinite Warfare from 2016, what’s notable is both games were developed by Infinity Ward who take the helm for this year’s Modern Warfare. The need to deliver is very real, will this be a return to form or an addition to their lukewarm offerings?

What I’ve found to be the most interesting thing before release was that we are getting a reboot, not a sequel. To reboot a series of games that fans already loved and had no real issue with before is ballsy, didn’t need to happen but I think Infinity Ward realised long before now that what they had with Modern Warfare was something special. The risk is high, but the reward could be so much greater and with that, let’s jump in.

I spent roughly five to six hours on my journey through the campaign which immediately is a little bit of a sting, because after it finishes, I want so much more. I know the campaign hasn’t always been why people play these games but for those that do will be left wanting a little more for their money especially if you have no desire to spend much time in the multiplayer or co-op modes. But enough about quantity, let’s look at the quality.

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What I absolutely love is that this reboot in terms of timeline takes place before any of the events of the original game yet also set in 2019, years after the others in the subseries, basically think a completely clean slate almost like what Days of Future Past did for the X-Men Cinematic Universe but hopefully, better. It features some characters we’re familiar with, some being new versions of their former selves and introduces us to brand new ones that perhaps look to play a part in future instalments.

There are two core playable characters that you switch between throughout the story, the first one being Alex, a CIA agent who kicks things off with a mission to recover chemical gas that is inbound to Urzikstan. Kyle Garrick begins his path as an SAS Sergeant who is tasked with going to Piccadilly Circus in London to assist in controlling the horrifying situation after a terrorist attack, this is where we meet that moustache donning SAS Captain, John Price. Two separate encounters but what follows is an organic story development that shows just how close these events are related but in a smart way, not feeling just shoe-horned in or come across as out of left field.

Throughout, there are a ton of characters that get inserted in but only a select few that seem to matter and bring some depth to the story in terms of showing different backgrounds and cultures that are affected by this over-arching plot. Characters like Kate Laswell, Farah and Hadir go on to serve a purpose and then there are the plethora of named soldiers that don’t really do anything for the story other than to just be present and be cannon fodder. It makes battles seem much smaller as if only a select few characters matter and nobody else does, the stakes never feel real for anyone else, so when somebody dies it’s just, oh well.

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That aside, the main recurring characters are interesting enough to carry the story from beginning to end, delivering meaningful interactions with each other and are unique enough to feel diverse even when everyone is a soldier of some sort, they have different reasons for fighting and differing values that shows how close they are in terms of circumstance and at their core so far apart.

Antagonists need to come across as menacing and dangerous and I feel The Wolf, The Butcher and Roman Barkov all do, the issues that often arise for the villains is they can be very one dimensional and that they are just pure evil for evils’ sake. I feel this to be the case for atleast on of these baddies here, unfortunately it’s the main one, the other two show some form of humanity at pivotal moments. That being said, Roman nails the menacing vibe with his cruel humour and antics, it sucks because for being the top bad guy, he’s barely present, a couple of scenes and that is it, a forgettable villain, a good story does not make.

At times, events in the story are dark, sinister, and maybe offensive for some people but I believe do a lot in presenting you with context and aren’t just included for a headline etc. There are scenes that include torture, executions and some include children, not for the faint of heart whatsoever but are important in portraying that some of this stuff, it’s real and it happens to people. Very powerful stuff, absolutely not for everyone but I think executed as appropriately as it can be for a video game audience to witness.

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Perhaps the shining aspect of Modern Warfare is the gameplay, I absolutely loved going through each mission not only because I followed the story closely and wanted to know what was happening next, but because the gameplay made it fun to play. There are several missions that offer new ways to play and prevent the staleness that can often arise when just running and gunning. Scattered throughout, there are times you need to either stealth it up, do some sniping or use various equipment to accomplish the mission and all of them are enjoyable to take part in.

The general gameplay has been tight for years, it just works and is satisfying to play. That is the same here, with all guns feeling different and the time to kill is short enough to present some realism and long enough to not feel so easy in terms to kill things and not too unforgiving when getting shot that’s true for both the campaign and multiplayer. The gameplay itself is accompanied by the sound effects very closely because  the sounds make or break the reward aspect of using whichever weapon or equipment, that click of the claymore or the burst of air from a rocket launcher are satisfying sounds that make you want to keep at it.

Visually, it looks fantastic, of course it does and there’s no way that would be any different, I think at this point it’s almost taken for granted. The levels in the campaign and the maps for multi-player are well designed and varied enough to really display this stark contrast between having a battle in the dessert and executing a covert mission in an urban environment. Everything from the landscape to the fine detail of how walls and ceilings are designed in a mid-terrace house in London look so authentic, that I found myself looking around areas and thinking, I believe this.

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The cutscenes are where this game flexes it’s visuals best, it looks as close to real-life as I think possible to the point there were moments I questioned whether or not it just flipped to live-action. Details like facial expressions which are so pronounced that everything spoken comes across as intended, subtle mannerisms of each character you can pinpoint with ease, beautiful.

After the campaign there is still plenty to dabble in, the multiplayer of course and the co-op missions. The latter of which are delivered as a sort of mini-story that takes place after the events of the campaign. There are four operations available now at launch and they each feature multiple objectives and allow you the choice of how to go about each task. What makes the operations so exhilarating is variety, they are all vastly different and offer some fantastic set-piece like moments.

These operations are tough, if you aren’t communicating with your team or not on the ball, you will get overwhelmed, very quickly. That being said, what I found this did, is that when I beat an operation with my team, I felt like I accomplished something. They are a much-welcomed inclusion to the content offering, it’s something different to dabble in when you’ve been killed one too many times because of ‘bullshit’ reasons online.

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Now for the multiplayer suite that features a whopping 17 maps plus night variations of some of them and 9 game modes plus variations. That is a lot of content but of course that comes with a little caveat, not all maps are playable in all modes online, some are specific to certain game modes due to their size. Gunfight is a 2v2 mode so it only makes sense there are smaller maps to do battle on as opposed to Ground War’s need for massive locations to allow for 64-player combat.

The variety speaks for itself, there is something for everyone, whatever the playstyle and personal preference. Gunfight allows for more intimate gameplay, working cohesively with one other person to try and be the better team. Then you have your standard 6-a-side team modes ranging from team deathmatch to search and destroy and the newly added cyber attack. Finally, on the other end of the spectrum is the 32 per team Ground War, which looks to rival the feel of Battlefield’s large-scale warfare.

If you want a bit more of a challenge, Realism takes away the HUD and makes headshots a one-hit kill, as it should. This adds to the immersion, with no HUD to clutter the screen and distract you, you get sunk into the map and are completely focused on looking for the slightest movement. This isn’t what we know as hardcore however, as hardcore modes are separate to this.

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I think the map design has truly stepped up with Modern Warfare, they seem more optimised to cater for varying playstyles with plenty of indoor and some outdoor areas well suited for close-quarters combat. Then you have large open areas that allow for snipers to take control and everything in between. There are locations where certain loadouts will be the most beneficial and makes the game more tactical than before. In previous titles there has always been weapons and equipment that are rarely used but in this there is a time and place for all to be taken advantage of.

One big gameplay altering addition is finally being able to go up to a corner and mount your gun to it, allowing you to peer around it with protecting your body from gunfire. It’s been implemented well in other games and this is no different, it makes defensive type play so much more feasible, it sucks for those who hate defensive players or ‘campers’, however I am all about more strategic options and a big STFU to those who hate people for defending, in a defending game mode.

OVERALL: 8.7/10 – GREAT

Call of Duty Modern Warfare is a true return to form for the experienced team at Infinity Ward. Delivering a captivating story that is albeit short and produces a cast of interesting characters that make up for the throwaway ones. Gameplay is king, once again delivering a grounded experience that shows boots on the ground can feel just as satisfying if not more satisfying than in the air. The multiplayer and co-op suite is bursting with content allowing everyone to find something they enjoy. New additions in terms of features and modes keep the series feeling fresh. It’s the reboot I never knew I wanted, and eagerly anticipate what’s next for the Modern Warfare subseries.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

Greedfall Review

Spiders has been around now for just over ten years and are still one of those unheard of, obscure studios until you actually realise what games they have created over the years. Of Orcs and Men, Bound By Flame and The Technomancer being perhaps the more popular of their games, unfortunately they mostly have either received lukewarm or mediocre reception. Can the latest from the experienced development team raise the bar for the studio or simply fall?

De Sardet is a simple Legate of the Merchant Congregation which is mentioned quite a lot throughout. Along with Constantin, your trusty cousin who has been named the new governor of New Serene, you travel to the island of Teer Fradee to aid your cousin in his rule. Another primary mission however is to hopefully find a cure for a disease that plagues the populace, called the malichor. This is the anchor to which the rest of the main story will develop on and even the vast majority of side quests serve a purpose in this main arc.

Whether its disbanding a group of fanatics, destroying the nests of some wild beasts or looking to free those wrongfully enslaved, everything adds some much-appreciated backstory and depth to the world. Side-quests instead of feeling like unnecessary padding, they feel important and not so much like a chore.

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As with any good RPG there are a varied and interesting cast of characters to encounter. Your party for instance represents the diversity of people on Teer Fradee well, five characters from different backstories, cultures and factions. Kurt is a captain of the Coin Guard and has been the protector of Der Sardet and his cousin for years prior, he chooses to remain by their side on their journey to the new island and beyond. Vasco is a captain of another kind, a sea captain, as part of the Nauts whose ship you use to cross the sea. Siora, Aphra and Petrus you meet at different stages of the story and are a Native, Bridge Alliance Explorer and Missionary of Theleme respectively. All come with their unique look, personalities and values that are fun to explore in their own questlines.

For those who like to dabble in romance systems when it comes to RPG’s will be happy to see you can build relationships with your party members even to the point of becoming partners. These bonds increase or decrease through your choices in the whole story but more importantly in their specific quests. It’s a basic system but one that isn’t always easy to trounce, just watch what you say and maybe keep different saves if your particular about who you want to end up with.

Story development is always what hooks me in these massive RPG’s, how you get from point A to B is important and I found the journey enthralling. Each twist and turn did well in not only surprising me but progressing the narrative in as an organic way as possible in a video game. It all flowed and nothing felt completely disjointed or out of left field, it all made sense even if it was all fantastical and weird.

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Going in, I didn’t exactly know what to expect in terms of combat and was pleasantly surprised at how simple they kept it on a base level but had all these variables available should you choose to make use of them. X and Y assigned to quick and heavy attack respectively with A and B assigned to Dodge and Parry, it’s easy to get started and allows you the room to learn everything else.

Now, that everything else I’m on about comes in the form of tactical pause, fury, spells, potions and hot buttons. This mixture allows thought to go into each fight and believe me there are battles that absolutely test your limits, and I played in normal difficulty. Entering some of the more major encounters or tackling some of those peskier enemies require some strategy and planning before-hand. If you go in empty handed in terms of health or resuscitation potions your going to have a bad time. (Insert THAT meme here)

Fury is like an energy meter that builds with each regular attack and dispenses with a special attack or spell. Managing this well can lead to some devastating combos to your enemy and it pays dividends to keep on top of this, building up the meter against the easier beasts to then use your better attacks against the more powerful is the way to go. But ultimately, the choice is yours and I love the experimentation that comes with.

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So as expected with most games of the Role-Playing Game persuasion, as you level up you get points to dish out amongst your Skill, Abilities and Talent trees. The rate at which you gain these vary, skill points acquired at every level whilst the other two every few levels. There are two sides to the coin on this and depending on which side you land you may like or not like this system. On one hand I appreciate that it forces you to specialise and carefully pick what to go for whilst having to leave some behind and on the other hand it kind of sucks you have to truly grind in hopes to reach a high enough level to have all the upgrades at your disposal. One way they cushion the blow of the latter is allowing you to reset your trees throughout by using memory crystals, so at those critical points in the game or just if you want, you can change up what you go for and try everything. It serves the game better this way rather than allowing you to be all powerful at once, but sometimes I just want to be OP.

Idle gameplay consists mainly of travelling through each location and crafting upgrades or potions, there isn’t a whole lot else to do when not tackling quests, which is a bummer because of the potential of this world. I’m a huge advocate for idle or side activities in RPG’s that you can get lost in, one example Gwent in The Witcher 3, or the plethora of activities in GTA V. So Spiders, if you’re reading, give me some of that, please?

Diplomacy is real and what I love is being able to literally choose what I believe to be right and wrong. Making friends or even enemies along the way thanks to my own decisions lets me take ownership of my own decisions, and not necessarily be forced into them by linear storytelling.

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The island of Teer Fradee is gorgeous, in both by design and visual fidelity. Something I found myself doing was exploring every nook and cranny of each town and city, fascinated by the layout and how buildings were kind of pieced together and structured. What’s most impressive is the variety shown between not only towns from different factions but also the differences between streets in the same town. Some buildings and structures made of wood in one section of a city and a couple of meters away in the upper-class areas they are all brick. Through the design is how the lore of the world is delivered, you can tell what each location is all about just by looking at it, be it streets filled with trash signifying the more downtrodden poor areas or villages bursting with flora that let you know the population really care about nature and all it brings.

Surprise shout-out to the soundtrack, it was a complete surprise for me which I guess has been the theme of this game, but what a greatly executed collection of music that sets the scene perfectly for whatever is taking place or where on the island you are. It delivers these harsh, menacing tones when in the thick of battle and in contrast can bring your mood up with up-beat, fantasy vibes when taking a stroll through the forest. Great storytelling through music.

The gift that keeps on giving, perhaps an accurate description for the voice acting performances that really exude what each character is all about. The voices that piqued my interest the most were those of the natives, not only are their accents completely different but their vocabulary too that set them apart from the rest of the islanders. It made me believe in the idea of these tribes living for hundreds of years in Teer Fradee before everyone else decided to hop on over and inhabit the land.

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Now I know so far everything has been more or less leading to a glowing review, but of course this doesn’t come without some shortcomings. If you laughed at comings, don’t worry, I did too. Character animations are a bit stiff (didn’t do that on purpose), and when speaking their mouths don’t match what they are saying so it comes across as a little awkward and disjointed. Adding to that there are subtitles that absolutely do not match what is spoken, its mostly little things like instead of “accident” they say “accidentally”, not a deal-breaker but noticeable. To be honest all my gripes are really nit picky ones but they are the ones that kind of break immersion or catch you off guard making me think, ‘huh, strange’.

OVERALL: 8.7/10 – GREAT

Greedfall has now set the benchmark for the team at Spiders for what they can accomplish, it feels like the beginning of what their experience in the industry can deliver and testament to the practice makes perfect mantra. Teer Fradee is gorgeous, filled with fascinating cultures and interesting characters. At times the world feels a little empty and yet still fun to explore thanks to its design and soundtrack that make it satisfying to continue on. The adventures of De Sardet and his companions is one I was more than happy to experience and urge you to as well.

Written by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Greedfall, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or my thoughts on the game itself. I believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Project Resistance Teaser Trailer Revealed

After a short wait of wonder on what Capcom will be bringing us in Project Resistance, we are met with a teaser trailer that leaves us still wondering just what will this game exactly be.

Now, educated guesses certainly point to a survival horror game in which four players will seek to stay alive against either the AI or perhaps what looks to be a player-controlled enemy.

What we now for sure is that it is definitely coming to PlayStation 4 as shown at the end of the trailer. More news to come at Tokyo Game Show, stay tuned.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.

Need For Speed Heat Revealed

The newest instalment in the Need For Speed series was revealed earlier today with a trailer giving a glimpse into the setting, backstory and gorgeous visuals.

“Hustle by day and risk it all at night in Need for Speed™ Heat, a thrilling race experience that pits you against a city’s rogue police force as you battle your way into street racing’s elite.”

Need For Speed Heat will release on November 8th worldwide but for those with Origin Access Premier/Play First Trial, you can get your hands on the wheel November 5th. Heading to Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Published by Rhys Baldwin.

Everspace Review

ROCKFISH Games is comprised of a team that for the most part has been together for ten plus years primarily on mobile titles, Everspace is their first venture into the PC and Console territory. The single-player rogue-like space shooter looks to cement the developers place in the market and perhaps provide a great first impression. But is it all space wonder or does it leave me wondering what the hell?

Try, try and try again would perhaps be the best way to describe the gameplay loop in which you are warped into space, fight, loot and keep on travelling until death or success. After one of two potential ends to the run you then need to upgrade your ship ready for the next mission and do it all over again. For those that either bore easily or just can’t deal with repeating the same things constantly, there is only so far you can get before deciding to throw in the towel.

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That being said, it does its best to throw curve balls at you with its roguelike nature of seemingly procedurally generated encounters. Personally, not my cup of tea but I appreciated the element of surprise that loomed throughout my experience.

One run is comprised of numerous sectors that increase in difficulty as you progress through them. Something I’ve not come across before is that death is encouraged by design, because through failure you can then improve your ship and see if you can get further the next time around. This kept me engaged for brief periods before I found the grind becoming tedious. It just took too long for my ship to get to the point of reaching the latter sectors successfully. Accumulating the credits, fuel, plasma and other resources wherever possible came across as more of a chore than something rewarding to take part in.

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The controls are intuitive and do well in creating a pick up and play feeling whilst in terms of difficulty design remaining tough to master. Because of the natural control layout, I became eager to carry on flying around through space shooting things, even when the dying rinse and repeat cycle began to irritate me. Just proving how important setting the right actions to the right buttons is, when it comes to inviting players in and keeping them.

RPG elements are in play and take the form of loadout and perk systems. I felt like I was controlling my personal ships with the look I chose and upgrades I installed etc. Because of this I became more invested and attached to what I was doing. Experimenting with the variety of perks was fun and interesting to see how they affect gameplay.

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On the surface it looks great, its visually pleasing and nails the look of what we have come to expect space to look like. Other ships, fighters and freighters have different designs that build this world and lore around you and the team make great use of colour to represent the varying factions. The blemishes began to appear when you get right up close with textures and you notice the not so fine detail, but that still doesn’t bother me, because if you play how you should, you won’t see that anyway.

Sound is playing an important role in atmosphere building, space is commonly associated by either other worldly sounds or an absence of sound altogether. This however, mixes both in a subtle way to produce the same sense of dread and nothingness. Using ambient music reminiscent of retro sci-fi films and even games, alongside almost classic sound effects for the engines and lasers makes for this slight nostalgia trip I love so much.

OVERALL: 6.9/10 – AVERAGE

Everspace delivers a competent and enjoyable experience the latter of which I feel only lasts so long due to a lacklustre and unsatisfying gameplay loop. The look and feel were enough to draw me in but not quite enough to keep me hooked. It looks great, sounds even greater and plays really well, those who love a grind will find it here for sure. It just isn’t my thing but of course that isn’t to say it won’t be yours.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Everspace, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

Insurgency: Sandstorm Review

New World Interactive hit the scene in terms of developing games in 2014 with Insurgency, a multiplayer tactical based first-person shooter, it was received with generally good reviews and caters to the more hardcore of players that thrive on difficult, no nonsense gameplay. Sandstorm seeks to replicate the formula and deliver the same tough fast-paced action as before but hopefully bring it to 2018.

There are three experiences to jump into and are all online, players taking on AI, players taking on each other and the third is PVP but ranked competitively. In the co-op section the only gamemode is checkpoint but from a glance it almost appears as two, the difference between them being which side you start on. Checkpoint is a rush style mode similar to the Battlefield staple, one by one, capture and destroy objectives. The twists come with respawns taking place after a point is either taken or destroyed and if the offensive team is successful in capturing the objective, they then need to endure a counter-attack as well. It takes a classic mode and changes it slightly, making it feel fresh, I enjoyed jumping in, and playing against the AI isn’t quite the walk in the park you would expect, there’s a challenge which is definitely welcome and great for getting in some practice.

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Versus mode provides the flexibility of getting better against players whilst not affecting your competitive rank. There are three modes available and whilst each are different in their own ways they also come across as a bit too similar. All three involve points to either capture, defend or destroy, two of them feature respawns occurring after a successful capture of an objective and a different combination of two have limited respawn waves. This presents the feeling that there is a lack of varied content and leads to me only being able to play for an hour or two at a time before getting bored and some will get to that place way before me.

Competitive play is a more tight knit mode with a five a side battle, three objectives, capture the most points or kill all enemies to win the round. This leads to faster fights and forces the ability to respond under pressure be it respond well or otherwise. The atmosphere this brings is addicting, constantly having to be aware of team-mates locations and communicate to keep tabs on what is happening and where. Easily a favourite mode of mine in all online shooters, I love being tactical and feeling a part of a team.

The Low TTK (Time To Kill) provides that harsh reality of imminent death when turning corners without checking them and running across map with no care, because you can get caught out and in one second be watching from the sidelines, waiting for a respawn. Of course, this goes both ways and allows you to really catch your opponent’s off guard. Furthermore, the minimalistic HUD means no unnecessary clutter on the screen, just your weapon and your surroundings, which allows skill to take precedence.

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I love the idea of being able to access all weaponry and upgrades from the get-go however this leaves an almost empty progression system that only allows you to earn customisation items through play. With all weapons available there is a supply point mechanic that gives you limited currency to spend on a layout for any given round and can be adjusted throughout each game which offers a balance of flexibility and restriction needed in this type of game.

Back to the equipment, there are a ton of toys to have at and experiment with, I went straight to work toying with the various combinations of what to take, when to make use of them and sometimes how to use them. I often favoured the sniper rifles as they allowed me to keep an eye from afar and take pick off enemies before they even reach the objectives, didn’t always work out that way but that is what I’m going to tell myself.

The six maps are different in terms of layout but aesthetically they are all too alike which doesn’t help in conducing a long play session. They look good, don’t get me wrong but it’s the same thing almost across each map with one outlier, they certainly got the title right in Sandstorm, because that’s what it is, sand everywhere which wouldn’t be any form of issue if executed right. Visual fidelity in shooters often go hand in hand lately but I don’t quite see the 2018 quality we have to come to expect, having said that in no way is this a bad looking game, by any stretch of the imagination.

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I must applaud the technical aspects of the level design, attention to detail went into ensuring each map added something to the gameplay, providing plenty of areas and points that can be used for great advantage or even disadvantage. I was constantly on my toes, ensuring I was aware of my surroundings, keeping an eye on windows, ledges and even the so many murder holes you can find throughout.

Sound is vital in allowing you to immerse yourself in the and keep track of enemy footsteps, so it’s great to see or rather hear that sound design has certainly been a priority for the team at New World Interactive. I found myself using hearing nearly more so than sight to work up a plan on the fly to decimate the competition, yeah, I have issues.

OVERALL – 7.9/10 – GOOD

Insurgency: Sandstorm is a competent shooter that absolutely does what it needs to, bring fast-paced tactical gameplay into 2018 and almost 2019 now. The maps are incredibly well designed and do a lot in adding depth to the already enjoyable and tough gameplay. There is a lack of varied content and content in general but those who don’t bore easy when subjected to the same thing over and over will feel at home here. Finally the mid-ground between realism and arcade style has been well-tread providing a satisfying experience catering to many players.

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: Jester Says received a review copy of Insurgency: Sandstorm, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)