Carmageddon: Max Damage Review

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CDM, as I shall now reference it, is the junior to the cult shock horror 90’s title of the video game which shares 90% of it’s DNA. Developed by Stainless games, CDM is a console release update of last years Kickstarter-backed Carmageddon: Reincarnation.

I’ll start first off with a small culling, anyone alien to the history of this title or its main objective should take note, if you have a soft spot for cows, dogs or nuns you probably should end your interest here. The absolute main focus of this game is to massacre pedestrians & wild animals (known as Peds). Anyone looking for a racing game in a Forza/Project Cars style or enjoys the visual delights of cute fluffy baby lambs you also won’t find anything to float your boat.

Carmageddon is a vehicle tournament that takes place on half a dozen levels, highlights of which is Bleak City which centers around an NFL stadium hosting a football game with quarterbacks, cheerleaders & all, and Devils Canyon – which includes a crashed UFO and plenty of juicy probe-able cattle.

The main fill of CDM is the career mode, 16 rounds of carnage beginning with a choice of 2 cars/ drivers, the ever present Max Damage, who spent his deed poll money wisely, a skinhead mentalist and Die-Anna (too soon?) whose back story details being raised in a morgue, the characters and car names continue this innuendo theme with such delights as Mother Trucker and her semi truck RigO’ Mortis and Ed Hunter who drives around in a National Lampoons style station wagon with dangerously angled steel pipes attached.

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Classic Carma is one of the main game modes to complete in order to progress through the rounds, winning can in achieved in one of 3 ways, completing the required number of laps, destroying all of the other competitors or running over a ludicrous* volume of Peds.

*700 is quite ludicrous

Other game modes such as Ped Chase requires you to kill 10 designated Peds first, as 6 of you drive around trying to mow down the target first, which in reality is 5 AI drivers who are more interested in being bell-ends and either trying to block me from reaching the target or battering each other into some Red Bull induced cock fight.

Killing the Peds provides bonuses in game either as added time or as points which can be spent on health regeneration or weaponry or practical things as the end of the round score, repairing the vehicle is as simple as pressing triangle and watching your car pieces magnetize themselves around you or if you’ve been backed into a wall or wrapped around a tree hitting square will return you back to the track for a cost.

Repairing will need to be done on a regular basis as your AI opponents have a tendency for carnage over racing, think of it as racing against 5 Pastor Maldonaldo’s and you may be close to the demented regard to health and safety. There are no red flags here.

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As you race there is a huge number (90) power ups or “Pups” to drive over located in unmarked barrels, they range from the simple time or point bonus to ones allowing you to lay road mines, shoot anvil’s from the front of the car as well as negative ones that can make your vehicle bounce like a Kangaroo, or turn to glass so 1 hit will see you wrecked. There are also ones that affect how the Peds act around the environment such as making them dance, slow down or freezing them to provide easier targets and even allowing you to toss off (te-he) a number of nuns, strippers and Penguins at the same time. The problem with the pups is because they are random there’s no way of planning race tactics and it’s a case of make do with what you have been given.

There are a number of vehicles available once you’ve unlocked them or destroyed them during a race ranging from my favourite Delorean (DeGoryun) to the law enforcement element, a smart car which is terribly and offensively named Compact Unit: Nil Threat. All vehicles can be customised with weapons by spending tokens hidden around the levels and visual updates such as rims and paintwork. Weapons should help you mow down a greater number of ped’s such as spikes at the front or scythe blades on the wheels, and even a flame thrower why not.

Vehicle handling on Max CDM isn’t very good or responsive at all, which is made even worse by the opponents who in some cases will drive in reverse just to send you off-course, to combat this I mostly just reset myself onto the track leaving them confused bashing into walls. Even as I progressed through the career mode my handling of the vehicles never improved and ironically gave me more road rage than the premise of the game was designed to alleviate.

The load times between rounds I felt were unforgivable, even resetting an event took a full load up and there really wasn’t anything there to cover that up or pass the time by as patience started to wear down.

The games audio centers mostly around the screaming and squelching of body parts as quotes such as ‘Bacon Slicer’ and 90’s favourite ‘Cunning Stunt’ is thrown onto your screen and into your ears, and in the designated Ped killing round Kill the Bastard’ is said after each target.

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It’s without question that Stainless games were looking to push their previous boundaries on taste and humour, and without a doubt they have accomplished this, I consider myself fairly easy on these things, however I did draw the line when I spotted the C**T word used on graffiti near the stadium, and I get it, it’s used for shock effect I didn’t think it was necessary at all and left me feeling quite disgusted with myself for enjoying some of the other bad taste aspects of the game.

Away from the career path, there is a Free-play mode in which you can create your own events to your liking, and an online Multiplayer mode that inexplicably removes all the pedestrians, so you are essentially left with a bag of dicks. A split screen mode in my opinion 2 or even better 4 players could have given this game some real longevity and perhaps even some beer-fueled lolgasms.

So is this game for you?, if you were around the first time and wish to wipe the blood from the already rose tinted specs, and have suffered the same desensitising from ultra-violence that real life has offered the last 20 years then this would be worth your time and monies, and to its benefit it’s already available for £26. If you missed it the first time and GTA V is your go-to point of reference if you can live with the downgrade in visuals you may find some appeal.

For anyone else looking for a tight racer, Project Cars graphics or engaging career mode, then you’re unlikely to find what you are looking for here.

 

 

 

Pros:

Stress relieving to an extent

Well priced

clever imagined vehicles & Power Ups

Cons:

Poor vehicle handling

Last Gen Visuals

Load times zzzZZzz

Score: 5 out of 10

The Technomancer PS4 Review

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Developed by French studio Spiders, whose previous work includes the 2013 release, Mars: War Logs, an ambitious title which had mixed success on a shoestring budget.  The Technomancer is the spiritual sequel set on the same red planet during the War of the waters, where Mars has been colonized for some 200 or so years and the barren dust bowl has very much panned out like Arnie’s holiday adventure in Total Recall.

Here you take control of Zachariah, a freshly promoted cadet, part qualified Technomancer, which is a mixture of a Judge Dredd style enforcer and a member of the Sith, wielding magical electric shock powers. Zach is employed by Abundance, one of a number of factions vying for control of this rust bucket of a planet.

At the beginning, there’s a quick combat tutorial to try out the 3 fighting styles you’ll be using, followed by a ‘live fire’ taster test Vs. some of the planets more colourful and interesting creatures which appear to have evolved into effective killing machines before your initiation into the brotherhood, which includes a secret you’ll be forced to take to your grave.

I found the story missions and side quests varied and although most had elements of fetching and delivering information or beating they advanced the story along nicely & after about 10 or so hours the game started to come alive.  There are a number of people you can talk to as the tale evolves which uses a fairly limited but competent dialogue tree. As you run missions for certain factions can have a negative effect on your standings with others, so as one door opens wider the other may shut; eventually you’ll have to align yourself with one of these corporations which will likely cut out missions from the others as a working relationship becomes irreparable.

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Traveling between Martian cities is completed by a Mars rover to which gives you a number of levels and areas to explore, there is a map which you’ll be referring to quite a bit as waypoints aren’t provided as you explore the different areas of the cities each with their own styles and environmental changes.

I really enjoyed the combat styles, the 3 stances offer short medium and ranged attacks which can be changed by the touch of a button smoothly and are necessary depending on the enemies. Rogue offers a knife and pistol, which allows you to fire a small number of shots which stuns the enemies to knock them off, guard. Guardian has a shield and mace equipped and the Warrior stance for combat in the Darth Maul style. Each of these stances can be levelled up separately, so a choice will have to be made if you want a balanced character or if you favour one particular mode of violence, although the enemies you face offer different threats which do mean you have to mix it up, and this can sometimes be a bit trial and error. For myself, I preferred the Rogue option as I appreciated the benefits of a long distant weapon to fend off some enemies who were armed with more superior firepower.

The defensive moves are generally just a combat roll away from the enemy and early on at least you’ll be using that in every battle in conjunction with the health syringe. Along with striking your enemies your electrically charged Technomancer skills are available on a cool down timer and can be mixed in when necessary. To complement the weapons there are crafting tables around which when Zach is properly skilled up allow upgrades & boosts to your gear to generate extra damage when in combat. The combat is generally fast paced with some elements of slow-mo action. Very early on in one of my first combat based missions I had to retry a ridiculous amount of times, as my skill level and damage output was low and the enemies were taking me out with 2 or 3 hits due to one having a gun taking pot shots whilst the other was getting slaps in at close range, the save option offered no saviour  as I was thrown straight back into the cut scene ready to be manhandled again. At one point I even considered starting again from scratch but persevered through sheer stubbornness.

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There are 4 skill trees which are aligned with your combat stance, allowing a boost the Rogue, Guardian and Warrior fighting styles along with the electrical Technomancing skills. In addition, Attribute points to level up core skills such as strength and agility and finally Talent point awards which can upgrade charisma lock-picking and crafting amongst others.

You can recruit 2 others to assist you and mostly act as distractions for enemies in combat, where you can kit them out with any weapons and any gear that you may have looted, in addition to having conversations with them about their views on people & places as your relationships develop which opens up further story arcs for you to explore.

Graphically Tecnhomancer has not offered anything jaw dropping or inspiring, the dark redness of the planet and metallic structures are only offset by the brightness of the planets radioactive mostly hostile creatures that have evolved there. There were never any issues with frame rate dropping, but when for most parts this resembled a superior PS3 title it should never show any signs of struggling on the current hardware.

We’ve been treated well with gloriously detailed cut scenes recently and in the character details here it’s fallen short, the mouth movements appear independent from the stone still expressive face. In some occasions Zac’s helmet was miraculously removed during cut scenes, only to return once the dialogue has concluded. On the opposite end of this, I felt the voice acting had real emotion from most characters and added to the immersion, but I felt this was slightly taken away by the use of bad language from some characters and felt tagged on when it possibly wasn’t necessary.

Tiredness Kills. On your way to your summer hols you’ll likely to see this message on the side of the motorway, this is also true for young Zach, there is a fatigue system in place which insists you take a break every so often, like a hidden health and safety initiative, not resting for Zach loses him an experience bonus in combat, and also makes him less effective in battle scoring less hit points on his opponents, and it’s vital you expend as much damage as you can as it’s plausible to bite the bullet after 3 hits from an opponent.

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The currency system  is serum, which can be found as loot in chests & even in fallen enemies in exchange for their life & a negative hit on Zach’s Karma levels; for which I never lost any sleep over. With water being so short in supply I would have thought this would have been the currency of choice, but no, it’s serum, this can then be exchanged with market traders for weapons or protective attire.

This could be the next step for anyone who’s burnt through everything Witcher 3 has to offer, it’s not as polished or beautiful or as deep, but if Sci- Fi is your thing it will provide you with 25 hours+ of gameplay & an engaging fantasy adventure once you get passed the initial slow paced beginning.

It’s to its benefit being released during the dry spell of the year, nearing Autumn in silly season this title could have fallen into a black hole of releases, but as it is, it should have far more exposure than its predecessor and give Spiders a platform to realise their ambition of their next project.

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Venom Officially licensed Wired PS3 Controller Review

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I’ve still got my 2 original wireless pads for the Playstation 3, possibly through more luck than anything they still work to an acceptable standard even though my raging years of Fifa & Call of Duty have left them war scarred. Although they are pretty much used as a wired setup now, due to the battery life and secondly due to being one of the only devices that uses the outdated Mini USB and I’d likely lose the cable if I split them apart. In contrast in 3 years of owning a PS4, 3 pads have already bitten the dust in one way or another and the rest the thumb sticks look like they have been chewed on by a rat.

I’ve been given the opportunity to test out a new wired Officially licensed Ps3 pad from Venom, they’ve had my custom previously with a vibration headset that I’ve had a few years now which has served me well. First point to note is the controller is endowed with 3 metres of cable, so gone are the sessions of sitting uncomfortably close to HD visuals, I can sit back on the sofa as relaxed as I can be and not have to worry about any health and safety trip hazards or developing wall eyed vision.

The size shape and weight of the controller is beefed up from the official PS3 pad, If anything it looks very much in the style of an Xbox One controller which if you are a fan of this will gain your appreciation, the thumb sticks are slightly larger than on the Bone and the D pad is placed the same but has 4 separate buttons as opposed to the single cross.

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The weight of the pad makes it comfortable and all the buttons are responsive and easily reached even with my child sized hands, there is a subtle contour line that fits the palm nicely and allows you to maintain a solid grip which is welcome on those heavy gaming sessions.

The pad has the vibration which is noticeable but no too overbearing and on the bottom of the controller there is a sensitivity button which can be increased or decreased on the fly, which I thought was an unusual yet original feature, but not something I would get much use out of.

Testing the controller through my favourite games including Battlefield 4, Need For Speed and Payday 2 the controller felt receptive and accurate, unfortunately it didn’t help me fair any better than usual so it’s unlikely to see me falsify my way onto the Pro Gaming scene any time soon.

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It’s obviously too early to tell if it has the lifespan of my ageing PS3 pads, the unit feels robust so barring any freak accidents I’m confident I’ll be using it for the remainder of my PS3’s lifetime as my main controller. This Venom controller will set you back £14.99 which I feel is reasonable for a licensed product and personally I would avoid trying to save a small amount of coins by buying some other unheard of brand that’s unlikely to last a round of Conquest.

All in all if you are after a second pad, maybe convinced your partner to get involved in some Co-Op gaming or be fortunate enough to be introducing a youngster into your favourite pastime then I can completely recommend this Venom pad, ultimately so that you can use it and hand down your old pad with all it’s gaming history as part of their inheritance.

 

Upgrading your PS4 HDD

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Upgrading the PS4 hard drive.

The PS4 was released in the UK in late 2013, with the only available storage being 500gb, which appeared to be substantial at the time. Two years of PS+ games and triple ‘A’ titles receiving more updates than the Geospatial summary of the High peaks/Summits of the Juneau Icefield Wiki page**.

**7290 changes made in 2015.

 

If you’re anything like me any new install is akin to a 1 in 1 out policy at midnight at your favourite nightclub.

Battlefield. I love it dearly, (Sunday 9pm games night fans) but at 70gb it’s my worst offender, and with digital becoming the norm for purchases it was just before Christmas my patience was finally tested to breaking, with installs still taking their sweet time important decisions were having to be made as to what made the cut of my precious HD space.

One of the real beefs with extra storage and this Sony system is that it’s not just a case of plug in an external hard drive and away you go, it takes a full on drive swap which with me being me, led to cold sweats and ‘Nam’ style flashbacks.

My tech experience I would say is low to medium, I’m probably the most dangerous type of hardware guy as in I think I know what I’m doing, but I usually end up winging it.

Here’s an example of my type of build…

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Alongside this Reddit sourced example I can also lay claim to my PC graphics card being supported by two cardboard toilet rolls and the finest DDR2 RAM China has to offer, and now I’ve successfully upgraded my storage without major issues or small uncontrolled fires, and I’ve survived to tell you how…

A couple of points I will mention, is make sure you get the right size, the PS4 uses a 2.5 inch SATA drive and it needs to be under 9.5mm thick because of the casing for the drive which neatly keeps your drive in place. Here’s the stock PS4 drive for example and also an example of one that won’t fit…

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The second point is the speed,  most models available which includes the stock drive run at 5400rpm, if the coins allow I’d recommend upgrading that whilst you are here for a 7200rpm drive, as my Ford Galaxy can attest, 7200prm is really fast, better still, if you’re mind go the whole hog and get a SSD drive installed, if speed is your thing.

So first off your shopping list, what you’ll need to get the job done.

PS4 (don’t forget this) (and if you don’t know what this looks like leave the room immediately..)

Phillips screwdriver

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2.5-inch shiny new SATA HDD

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USB memory stick (for old saves & PS4 Firmware)

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PC with internet

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PS4 controller with microUSB cable

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Cup of tea / coffee

Frugal

 

Step 1:  buy the hard drive and locate & dust off the memory stick.

Step 2: Back up the saves. You can’t back up any saved games but you can any profiles that you want to keep, you have to do these individually per game which is a bit of a pain but may be worth it just for the spring clean.., first plug in your memory stick and in the PS4 menu go to settings > application saved data management > saved data in system storage. Here you can copy your saves across.

Step 3: Download the firmware. After you’ve got all your saved games across it’s time to copy across the firmware onto your PC and ultimately onto your memory stick. You’ll find the firmware here https://www.playstation.com/en-us/support/system-updates/ps4/ but don’t make the same mistake as me and just download the update file, you need the one under the section Perform a New Installation of the System Software the file is about 800 or so MB as opposed to the 350 MB which won’t work later on in the process as I found out to my own confusion. This link also tells you the folder set up you need so that the PS4 can find it later on.

Step 4: Locating the hard drive. Unplug the PS4 would probably be a wise move here, and sit your system on table preferably, grabbing the shiny top side of your PS4 it should slide to the left and off the console, it’s not held on with screws so it should be simple.

Step 5: removing the hard drive. Only one screw to remove here, and Sony have made it relevant by detailing the PlayStation button icons on it, with your screwdriver, it’s time for that all important manual labour. Once it’s unscrewed you can just pull out the drive caddy horizontally. Once this is out there are 4 screws either side of the caddy holding the drive in place, unscrew these and keep them handy and insight.

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Step 6: Installing the shiny new drive. Now it’s just a case of unboxing your upgrade, sitting it into the caddy and screwing the 4 screws back into place, and then sliding the hard drive back into position and screwing the Playstation screw back into place. Finally sliding the shiny PS4 cover back into place, by this time your kettle should have boiled so take 5 for your Tetley’s / Nescafe.

Step 7: Installing the Sony operating system. Plug your PS4 back in with all cables and also plug in a controller and your memory stick, you need to put the PS4 into safe mode so hold the power button to switch it on and keep holding the power button for about 7 – 10 seconds until you hear the second beep, from here your system should enter safe mode. When you get the selection of options you want number 7, Initialise PS4 (Reinstall System Software), The PS4 should then grab the software from the memory stick and do its thing.

 

Once that’s completed it’s like having a brand new PS4, you’ll need to set up your accounts and also install all of your games along with any of the saves you kept on your memory stick, also when reinstalling your game saves you won’t be able to install any for games you’ve not yet downloaded, hopefully if you’re mostly digital like me you don’t have a capped internet provider!

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And there you go, 7 easy steps to take to a better life, and less digital storage related stress!, finally, now you’ve updated your drive you can use the old one as a drinks mat, result!

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Disclaimer: Frugal Gaming can not be held responsible for any drunken or non-drunken breakages, that may occur from following this guide.

 

8-Bit Armies

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With the introduction of children and the real time strain on my personal time and resource, it’s been more than a while since I’ve been able to sit down to what was my favourite genre of gaming – the RTS. A Youtube link or two later and I may have found what’s been missing presumed, K.I.A for many a year. 8 – Bit Armies is here, Old Skool Command and Conquer with a Vanilla twist, a colourful blocky voxel design dressed in a Crossy Road styled skin.

Developed by Petroglyth the DNA is immediately apparent from the basic tutorial, these guys worked on C&C & Dune II within Westwood Studios which give them legendary status in my eyes.

Anyone schooled within the Brotherhood of Nod will feel instantly familiar with the setup,

The main objective is to wipe out the other armies, from the start build a HQ and a closely placed refinery, collect resource through joyously bouncing oil trucks harvesting from fixed placed oil fields, and accumulating the $ to finance your armed force. Barracks generates infantry soldiers, rocket firing meat-bags and unarmed mechanics to repair your Jeeps and tanks which are available once you’ve afforded a motor pool and a tech lab which ultimately give you access to a nuke. From these structures you can stack builds like they do at the Honda Factory and line them up ready to take up offensive positions, in case you are on the back foot defensive turrets can be built positioned local to your structures too. All units and structures have a bar which shows their status, from a happy green to an unhealthy blood red, with the units I would have like to have seen some promotion system for collecting kills but as it stands there’s no benefit for a kill streak, and it’s far easier just to replace and spam more units.

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8-Bit Armies currently has one single faction so there’s no rock paper scissors style mechanic and therefore strategy’s to apply other than rush, one team’s tanks are not superior nor move quicker or heals differently, superiority falls down to strength in numbers. With teary eyes there’s no Tayna destroying buildings and providing any form of eye candy, not that it would probably translate well with a voxel cleavage.

The only real tactic is using elevation within the map to gain an advantage where your opponent cannot fire or see you if they are below you, the terrain has slight variations which allow for this but then also has volcano’s and rivers of lava which add nothing to your strategy or game style as your infantry can just sit there chilling instead of melting to death.

Infantry, as well as harvesters, have questionable AI on their movement, either that or their Sat-Navs have a death wish, taking the shortest route possible to get to their destination even if that means cruising through down-town Baghdad. As for the infantry, they’re happy to Lemming their way into oncoming tanks, which sadly doesn’t bring the satisfying “Wicket Wicket” noise that came with a C&C kill roadkill. The sound track is decent enough, and the electronic vocals of when your base is being attacked do echo the Red Alert series.

The colour and style of the graphics is very bold and friendly and appealing, even as much as my 7 year old enjoyed it which in some way is down to the style, although his interest dipped as the difficulty level spiked during the campaign mode but the early missions made easily accessible for the casual gamer or those who were born as late as 2008…

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Currently, the game is missing the depth and grand scale of the genre defining legend it is based on, there are no hammy acted cut scenes, there are 25 single player missions which get progressively more tricky over 10 different maps, mostly described over 2 paragraphs in an attempt to put a motive to you no surrender warpath. Each one has 3 difficulty levels in addition to a 3-star rating, 1st is usually your main objective, 2nd completing with a handicap, for example without using certain equipment and the 3rd is the first two but with an added strict time limit. The time limit option benefits to hone your skills for the multiplayer element, where adding a human adversary requires you to pick up the skills of a clicker hero, creating units faster to rush or be rushed.

Finishing a mission gave off the rather confusing “the winner is you” message, which read like something that had been translated into Japanese and then translated back into English after taking a one night stay in Vietnam.

5f0d6bc0-c159-4c98-9c85-a2bb5179ad73You are then shown the stats page which shows how you fared in kills / deaths buildings built and confusingly lists your AI armies using names such as Nigel and Derrick, which removes you from the original light storyline attached to the mission.

I rate 8 – Bit Armies a 7 out of 10, it’s fun and great value for money coming in currently at £11, and it’s likely to show up on a steam sale or 2 down the line, 8 Bit Armies has brought back lost memories of Tiberium gathering and recreating a basic base building RTS which seemed to have died for me at the release of C&C Generals, I’d also like to mention the patching and updates which have been plentiful since release and I hope continue to build and add more meat to one of my favourite bones, upon writing it looks like they are reviewing the Harvesters movement so they are taking on board feedback which can only be a good thing, in contrast to that it does feel like it is should have been Early Access, there is content here, but some of the polish like the bizarre statement and low detailed mission brief suggests there’s more work to be done.

Pros

Brings back nostalgic memories of youth

graphic style works and the colours are bright and bold

quick pick up and play RTS

Cons

limited RTS setup which doesn’t build & expand on the classic it is based on

No real storyline to follow

One tactic to rule them all

Score: 7 out of 10.

Dirt Rally Review Xbox One

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Dirt Rally has finally moved over to consoles nearly a year after its PC Early Access release, this, in theory, should have given Codemasters time to fine-tune their engine and with feedback from the PC overlords release the ultimate Racing experience. Codemasters, whose name is synonymous with driving games, have turned back the clock and have dropped the numericals, with this unforgiving Rally simulation.

Fans of the recent releases with their donuts, drifts and ‘Monster’ wired dazzling arcade driving may want to apply the handbrake, as Dirt Rally demands you to belt up, strap on your helmet and listen to your co-driver explicitly.

In my case Eddie my 2 year old with his limited vocabulary was a poor choice of team-mate, his pace notes were unclear and sometimes even random, and he also had a knack of sitting on my lap and applying the handbrake on crucial corners of the stage, luckily for me the in-game driving assistant provides none of these drawbacks, each corner dictated in crystal clarity as you hear the rocks bounce off the body work and the engine scream under the heaviest of acceleration.

From the off there are 39 vehicles to choose from, each rendered almost perfectly from their original versions, from the Mini Cooper S of the 1960’s through to the Lancia Stratos of the 70’s, the Sierra Cosworth RS500, the Peugeot 205 T16, the Lancia Delta S4 up to the Ford Fiesta RS.

Tearing away from the start line, the car struggles for grip on the loose surface, you can feel each lump and bump as the physics engine goes to work, each surface you drive on effects how the 4 wheels act on the claustrophobic track, acceleration applied at the wrong moment can have disastrous consequences. There is no ‘Y’ to reverse time and eradicate mistakes, the most you can hope for is to be positioned back on track, which incurs a timed penalty. A crushing impact may result in irreparable damage forcing you to retire from the stage. There is an option to restart the section however this incurs a cash credit penalty each time. In between stages there is also an opportunity to set the mechanics to work for any knocks you’ve picked up, each fix will cost time which is free up to a specified amount of labour, take any longer than that and you’ll incur a time penalty which could affect your final position, so you’ll have to choose wisely. Do you repair the car so it’s in optimal condition and suffer the timed consequences or drive knowing you may very easily understeer off the edge of a cliff?

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Driving conservatively is a new skill drivers will have to pick up if they want to achieve results in Dirt Rally, the learning curve to controlling each of the cars over the different terrain is steep, like Pikes Peak challenge steep. At the beginning of each race the cars handle really well and you can feel the difference if you’ve made any changes to the setup. With options allowing for brake bias, dif, gears, suspension and damping there are plenty of options for the enthusiast. thankfully there is an option to go for the default setup if you don’t fancy adjusting your gear ratios or changing the camber angles…

Any damage taken as you progress has a noticeable difference with the way the car will react, bursting a tire changes it again as you mentally cross your fingers in hope that you’re not sparking around the course on 3 wheels, which will have an adverse effect on your course time.

With 6 rally courses in total between 70 stages Dirt takes you places like the infamous Pikes Peak, the wet corners of middle Wales and the Frozen death-trap of Sweden which are all beautifully detailed, the loading screen before each race gives you details of the conditions and breakdown of the surfaces you’ll be driving upon, which leads to my only grumble of the game, the loading times seem slightly excessive, as I’m sat waiting for the next nerve destroying stage to begin.

Career mode is present, starting out with a small budget with the aim of building a racing team equipped to assist you in becoming a champion, earning the real $ to upgrade your car, employ better staff or part ex for a shinier motor.

Multiplayer comes in the form of online events, which gives you daily, weekly and monthly courses to pit your driving skills up against the best, giving you one shot to stake your place amongst the world, in addition to this a Rally Cross event which allows you to race against others on the track at the same time, and finally a Dirt league, where you can set up or join an existing league where the restrictions & events are determined by the league manager.

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Graphically the game looks damn fine on the Xbox One, the cars at the start of the stage are impressive and finely detailed. The vehicle damage looks as it should so when you do take a knock the car visually looks broken along with the handling issues you’ll now experience. If you dare look away from the parking space width of the track, the scenery, fans and even parked cars look exceptional as you slide past them, the game feels like it has all the frames, that along with the concentration required to complete the course had my eyes experiencing screen burn on a small number of occasions, but I couldn’t look away through fear of failure.

As mentioned earlier the sound quality in Dirt Rally to be another highlight, there’s no mistaking the co-drivers instructions and he actually feels like he is sitting right next to you when he says ‘hairpin’ ‘anything’ you know he means business. The believable sounds of a revving car engine, the crunching up through the gears and the rattling and screeching of the tires creates real immersion and a feeling of being a rally driver.

Any hardcore enthusiasts will already have this saved on their HD, after a day 1 purchase they’ll be adjusting car settings to shave the precious seconds off their course times, and without a doubt be driving with the latest Thrustmaster wheel for the completely immersive experience, anyone new to the series or those who have played previous Dirt games are going to have to put on their L plates, stick with it, and prepare for the ride of your life.

Pros

Both visuals and sounds are impressive

Car’s handling and physicals are accurate

Most lean and tight driving package release to date

Cons
Will not suit everyone, difficulty level requires perseverance

Small delay on loading times between courses

You’re going to want to buy a racing wheel

Score: 9/10

Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition – PS4

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Initially released in 2012 to a mostly positive reception and as a sequel- to the 2010 original Darksiders game. After the demise of Vigil Games & THQ, Darksiders 2 has been resurrected by new publisher Nordic Games, with a vision of imposing life back into the franchise.
For anyone not in the know and who may have missed the last gens effort like myself, you take control of Death, who happens to be the eldest of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse, and generally someone you do not want to **** with. One of his fellow Horseman, aptly named War has been taken prisoner and is being held responsible for crimes basically relating to his birth name. Death doesn’t appreciate this so sets out with assistance from his trusty steed ‘Despair’, and a GPS guiding Raven named ‘Dust’ to both free his brother by proving his innocence and simultaneously resurrecting humanity

Darksiders at its basics is a role-playing action game with puzzle elements and an abundance of hack & slash, with the primary weapon being a pair of well-honed scythes you’re more likely to be hacking than handshaking. Secondary weapons are also freely available such as axes, maces & hammers all with their relevant damage wielding stats, in addition to butchering implements such as extended Wolverine claws and other bladed arm-extensions there is a massive variety of tools you can ‘windmill’ aggressively whilst chaining hits into your enemies.
Your foes come in a mixture of all shapes and sizes, however, other than the big boss characters no real strategy is required to slay them down, await their attack, dodge and hit them on the counter-attack is usually enough to show success, what can prove tough and can make it initially tricky early on is they do attack in groups and at the same time. The massive bosses on the other hand, do require the use of your special abilities like the grapple, once obtained, in order to lay the smack down.

02_afterEach kill provides experience points and destroying enough enemies earns you points to spend on new abilities across two skill trees – Harbinger and Necromancer. The first assists you in battle where the second deals with spells, you can focus on one of the tracks or branch out to both as you progress, There are about thirty different skills in all, ranging from dealing additional damage to gaining health from downed enemies to summoning bloodthirsty ghouls or a murder of crows to tag in and fight alongside Death.

Currency is dropped by enemies and chests, and can also be acquired by selling items to vendors. Special “Possessed weapons” are rarely acquired, which provide an excellent mechanic for trading in items, possessed weapon can be upgraded by “sacrificing” standard items to it, and you’ll spend a fair amount of time clearing down your inventory to max out these weapons.

Graphically adding dynamic shadows, the resolution has been raised up to 1080p and locked the frame rate at 30fps, which is a shade disappointing that they couldn’t squeeze out double that to complement Deaths fluid acrobatics. It’s clear to see why when the action heats up the game can stutter which shouldn’t really be a thing this gen, overall there doesn’t seem a great leap from last gen. The time I feel should have been spent on tidying up these issues, a bit of polish would have gone a long way on potentially securing enough attention to warrant a follow-up adventure with either Strife or Fury.

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The levels are huge and littered with sub-quests, dungeons, collectibles, to keep you busy between the major plot points & story advancement. In addition to your deathly horse there is a fast travel system in place to get you to where you need to be. The puzzles mostly involve navigating platform sections , jumping on ledges, across beams and running across walls through dungeon areas, these can initially be tricky to see where your next step is. The camera angles at times did lead to frustration, there is definitely an amount of challenge in them and this increases as your skills and journey advances.

Darksiders 2 is currently available for around £20 on PS4 and Xbox One, and whilst the price is definitely a plus for anyone yet to have experienced it and makes it great value for money especially as it includes all the DLC which has been cleverly spliced into the game, the silly season is right on our doorstep. Triple A titles are being released weekly right up to the end of the year, and with a guaranteed 30+ hour of game play, time must really be on your side if you’re able to shoe horn this title in amongst everything else being released, It may have actually paid off to hold off on the release until early 2016. Having said that, the combat is tight and enjoyable and the storyline is compelling, so maybe you should pick this up now and store it in your inventory until the seasonal hype dies down.

Pro’s
Excellent boss fights
Good RPG elements
Fantastic storyline

Cons

Glitches & frame rate issues
Camera angles.
Made minimal use of the next gen hardware

Score 7/10

The Swindle PS4

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Crime, as we don’t know is about to become extinct, unless you and a gang of curiously random named Victorian thieves can do what they do best. Embarking on a crime caper of an epic scale to accumulate enough skills and coin for what could be your final heist.

The Swindle is a procedurally generated stealth 2D platformer from the creator of Time Gentlemen, Please! Set in a steampunk detailed London. You have 100 Days to accumulate enough wealth to execute a raid on Scotland Yard, before they engage a state of the art surveillance system called The Devil’s Basilisk which will instantly eradicate all crime at every level.

You start on day 100 in the slums, with little more than a small bat and just enough skill to open a door, from here your sole objective is to earn the ton required to unlock the hacking skill.

Each day starts with you breaking into a building anyway you can, fill your bag with swag and leave silently like the stealthy swindler that you are. This rarely goes to plan though. To start the enemies are security guards and cameras, each with a limited field of view and are fairly predictable, if they spot you the game is up along with the blood pressure, the steampunk styled soundtrack ramps up and the building & occupants are set on high alert. The enemies you face are either deadly stupid or stupidly deadly, whacking a Mutton shunter whilst another is patrolling the same room doesn’t raise suspicion, but one false move and the cops are called and it’s now a race against time to escape the building back outside to your escape pod and to count your coins from the safety of your airship.

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The randomly generated levels both help and hinder in equal measure, it ensures that neither day will ever play out exactly the same, marking the most of the randomness will be more down to your upgrades and player skills rather than problem solving and learning routes. Problems arise however when the main loot is impossible to obtain as it is unreachable, certainly in the early days. The sky high upgrade costs gives you little to no opportunity to pick up more than scraps of cash that are left lying around.

Equally of annoyance, one slight wrong move will end your day in complete failure, steamrolled by a rolling Robocop or falling from a height that was just slightly too high. More often than not this starts a run of failures as you helplessly watch your deadline date loom. This chase feels akin to gambling, as you then become your worst enemy, pursuing your previous failures in a bid to break even.

Once you’ve obtained the hacking skill you can start to work on the more lucrative task of hacking the analogue computers. This is where your cash figure satisfyingly increases to £££’s, but it’s all relative as your next upgrades now demands a bag load of cash to unlock. After a few successful robberies it’s time to move on-wards to the Warehouse District, where the awards are increased along with the security which defends them.

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There is enough skill trees available to make you think about your next step, whether it be the ability to double jump, hack front doors or drop timed explosives to remove some of those unobtainable rooms. The cost of these increases massively at each stage, so you always feel the benefit a skill provides, it is a big effort on your part to level up your character, but well worth the investment.

The graphics of the Swindle does suit the style it’s meant to portray, it’s never going to be ground-breaking or pushing the PS4’s capabilities so I wonder if it would be more suited to a PS Vita. The controls seem tight enough but my worry there is the small screen size may make the errors of judgment increase triple fold either by falling off the side of the building, setting off one of the camera’s or falling foul to the mines.

The final mission unlock requires £400k of your well hard earned cash, and will also require every skill you’ve acquired to get here, time to see if you’ve got them minerals.

Currently priced at £11.99 I would recommend this title for the randomly generated levels and challenge it provides. The random glitches, the sometimes impossible to win buildings and the mid-range graphics won’t make your game of the year list, but there is enough entertainment here to warrant the price tag.

Pro’s
Winning and sometimes losing a day makes you want to play again
Complex skill tree with varied unlockables
Awesome steampunk themed soundtrack.

Con’s
Some random Glitches
Graphics suit the style but are nothing special
Procedurally generated maps can be impossible to cash in

Score: 7/10

 

Project Cars PS4 Review

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The anticipation of playing the definitive racing game of this generation has been threatening to set off my engine management light for some time. Numerous delays and sold as seen releases had me concerned that wait may last for at least another season.

3 years in the making and slightly mad Studios have released Project CARS, which although that title sounds oversimplified, when you’re told it stands for Community Assisted Racing Simulator it gives you some idea to the depth and complexity on offer.

There are wide range of cars available from the start, the basic 125cc karts with their twitchy handling through to the Pagani Zonda R and then further to open wheel Formula 1 cars with their face tearing G forces. Whilst most, if not all, forms of racing are covered we have become accustomed to nearly an all-inclusive list of marque’s in competitive titles and in comparison Project CARS does feel light in this regard.

The standard range of game modes are available from participating in a racing weekend, online multiplayer to a full and unrestricted career mode.

Starting with a race weekend there is almost an endless array of options for you to toy with, race length, difficulty, time of day, weather and so on. You can just jump straight onto the starting grid or have a practice and qualifying session first, it’s all fully customisable.

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The career mode gives you the opportunity to start at any motorsport level you wish, you can begin your journey by following the same path as some household names such as Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton by working your way up from the Karting scene or jump straight ahead into a Formula 1 racing car.

At the start you sign a contract for the season, which from what I’ve seen has no impact on anything, there is no emotional or financial attachment to who you are racing for, you just race for them and they tell you how well/bad you are doing by email. Also looking to review your progress is your Twitter fan base, who will give you encouraging tweets as your season progresses

Of the countless options available to you, it’s the tweaking of the AI difficulty I found to be the most notable, if you feel you’re taking advantage of your opponents you can knock it up a number of notches until you hit your sweet spot, the game can be as demanding as you want it to be and its all the better for it.

The cars handling, for the most part, is impressively replicated, with each type of vehicle requiring you to adapt your driving style accordingly, concentration needs to be remain high and it may take a good while tinkering with the set-ups before you’re happy with your drive. From tyre pressure to ride height, suspension to gear ratios, it’s a tuners paradise.

The controller feedback feels as well as it can, however to get the full effect and experience for this game you’ll likely want to invest in a steering wheel, a Thrustmaster T80 or T100 will see you good.

Out on the track is where the game excels. The detail of the car’s interior is probably the best I’ve seen in a driving game, the vehicles themselves are also beautifully represented and at the very least on par with other driving competitors. There is also a varied range of camera angles to choose from, a few from inside the car and even one from inside the helmet. Driving in varying weather conditions as day passes to night with the shadows from the headlights off the chasing pack, it is a visual masterpiece.

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Project CARS is also host to some of the most famous racing circuits, Silverstone, Donnington Monza and Spa as well as the Le Mans track, and each of them are recreated beautifully. Playing and appreciating this game on PS4, I can barely comprehend how good this would look on a high end PC.

Online racing is fit for purpose and does work from the off, but currently I can’t see any official rankings for player matching and I think that this would improve the experience dramatically, if not just to make the racing competitive but to match up those who are looking to race and those who want to line up on the grid against the clones of Pastor Maldonado. There has also been mention online of some racers joining midway through a weekend session with a far superior car and that really needs cutting out if a fair race is to be had.

Ultimately Project Cars is a game that will require a lot of patience and time, and if you want to be the very best you’ll probably spend half of your time in the garage adjusting your setup and the other half justifying your racing wheel purchase to your wife/husband/parent/support worker. On most parts it’s as good as any of the competition, it’s just not yet, the definitive racer I’ve been looking for.

Dirt Rally | Hands On Preview

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Dirt Rally quietly rolled up to the starting line surprisingly listed as an Early Access title on Steam. Codemasters, whose name is synonymous with driving games, have returned to their roots and have dropped the numericals, with this unforgiving simulation experience.

Fans of the recent number of releases with their donuts, drifts and ‘Monster’ wired dazzling arcade driving may want to apply the handbrake, as Dirt Rally demands you to belt up, strap on your helmet and listen to your co-driver explicitly.

From the off there are 17 vehicles to choose from, each rendered almost perfectly from their original versions, from the Mini Cooper S of the 1960’s through to the Lancia Stratos of the 70’s, the Sierra Cosworth RS500, the Peugeot 205 T16, the Lancia Delta S4 up to the Ford Fiesta RS, with the promise of more to follow.

Tearing away from the start line, the car struggles for grip on the loose surface, you can feel each lump and bump as the physics engine goes to work. The track width can be best described as narrow and acceleration applied at the wrong moment can have disastrous consequences. There is no ‘Y’ to reverse time to eradicate mistakes, the most you can hope for is to be positioned back on track, which incurs a 12 second penalty. A crushing impact may result in irreparable damage forcing you to retire from the stage. There is an option to restart the section however which incurs a cash credit penalty each time, a small deterrent if anything. In between stages there is also an opportunity to set the mechanics to work for any knocks you’ve picked up, each fix will cost time which is free up to the first 30 minutes of labour, take any longer than that and you’ll incur a time penalty, so you’ll have to choose wisely. Do you repair the car so it’s in optimal condition and suffer the consequences or drive knowing you may very easily under steer off the edge of a cliff?

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I have become the Arsenal of racing drivers, each championship I entered I was always a few seconds off the leaders pace, with no sight of making up the deficit and always finishing around 30 seconds off the number 1 spot, with the bottom of the pack nearly 3 minutes behind which slightly strokes the ego. I’ve changed my approach when replaying the stages but that hasn’t affected the results. The split times that pop up are currently only displayed against the race leader, but it would be useful to see your position at each split, or maybe even being able to see the ghost of your competitors, but I guess this may be confusing on such narrow and winding courses.

Each track gives you details of the conditions and breakdown of the surface you’ll be driving upon, which can help you set-up the car accordingly. With options allowing for brake bias, dif, gears, suspension and damping there are plenty of options for the enthusiast. Luckily there is an option to go for the default setup, if you don’t fancy adjusting your gear ratios or changing the camber angles…

Multiplayer as it stands comes in the form of online events, which gives you daily, weekly and monthly courses to pit your driving skills up against the best, at the time of writing the Dirt Daily Live will only give you one attempt at the leaderboard.

At the beginning of each race the cars handle really well and you can feel the difference if you’ve made any changes to the setup. Any damage taken as you progress has a noticeable difference with the way the car will react, bursting a tire changes it again as you mentally cross your fingers in hope that you’re not sparking around the course on 3 wheels, which will cause real concerns.

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Graphically the game looks really respectable, the cars at the start of the stage are impressive and finely detailed. The vehicle damage looks as it should so when you do take a knock the car visually looks broken along with the handling issues you’ll now experience. If you dare look away from the parking space width of the track, the scenery, fans and even parked cars look exceptional as you whiz past them.

I’ve found the sound quality in Dirt Rally to be another highlight, your co-driver sounds crystal clear and it actually feels like he is sitting right next to you, when he says ‘hairpin’ ‘anything’ you know he means business. The believable sounds of a revving car engine, the crunching up through the gears and the rattling and screeching of the tires creates real immersion and a feeling of being in the vehicle.

Currently priced at £24.99, it’s quite steep for what’s currently on offer, but there is plenty more to come in this package with the ‘Pikes Peak’ additions already mentioned as a late May release. Codemasters have promised there will be no micro transactions introduced, which is refreshing compared to other unnamed driving games.

Depending on how often the updates role out will affect the recommendation of this game, my advice is to follow @Dirtgame for updates an announcements, unless you’re already a massive fan of rally sims, in which case stop reading and hit this link.. http://store.steampowered.com/app/310560/

Pros

Both visuals and sounds are impressive
Car’s handling and physicals are accurate
Plenty more lined up from Codemasters

Cons

Content not yet worth £25.00
Will not suit everyone