WWE 2K16 Review

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Building on a lackluster arrival on the new generation WWE 2K16 aims to be a more concise and enjoyable game.

Showcasing the career of Stone Cold Steve Austin, WWE 2K16 builds a far more cohesive narrative in its showcase mode. Allowing players to experience some of the most memorable moments from WWE’s more recent history through the beginning of its Attitude Era and beyond, not only acts as a reminder for old school fans but also gives some great reference points for someone not quite so versed in the deep wrestling history often alluded to on the weekly shows.

WWE 2K16 probably gets closer than any of the previous games in creating the showmanship element of professional wrestling. This isn’t a sport, this is sports entertainment. You’re not here to simply batter your opponent into submission and walk away victorious; you need to entertain the millions of fans watching around the world. Your work in the match will be judged on a five-star rating system always present in the top left of your screen during play, this will change as the match goes on and gives you bonuses for creativity, using different moves and creating tension. You’ll be rewarded for a fight that doesn’t simply go one way but has a comeback or a surprise in the mix. This will be your focal point a lot as you become more experienced in the systems available and will always strive for that perfect five-star rating.

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The Career mode has had a near-complete makeover and offers a lot more for players this year. Not only will you be fighting week after week, but you will be building relationships with other wrestlers. Eventually having a rival whose interference in your career can culminate in a huge PPV battle, or them running in on a key match and ruining your built up momentum by striking while the referee is distracted, giving the upper hand to your opponent. 2K has built on their experience gained from perfecting the career modes in their NBA franchise and brought something competent and fun to use into the WWE Universe.

Making a welcome return this year are the host of create modes that were missing from the first foray onto new generation consoles. You’ll be able to create yourself a wrestler – and import your face on to them with reasonable success and build the wrestler you want from the ground up. You’ll create their entrance and a move set in an extremely streamlined fashion making for a much more palatable experience this year.

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The biggest disappointment is the lack of work that has gone into the in-ring action. The fighting mechanics, with grapples that begin with a rock-paper-scissor style guessing game and a confusing submission mechanic, make playing the actual game more of a challenge than anything. I ran into numerous bugs during my time including power bombing an opponent through the ring that left them clipped at half height until I reset. The fight pacing is stunted by the addition of a new reversal meter which limited the amount I could reverse at one time before I waited for the meter to refill. So, if my opponent was making a comeback and my reversal meter was empty I’d just have to sit there and hope he wouldn’t go for a pin which I would struggle to break. The new additions slowed gameplay down to an absolute crawl if you wanted to be successful and held none of the power fantasy I felt from games years ago.

This becomes more frustrating when in career mode. This requires a lot of tougher goals in very specific situations and the match is going on for a while. Your wrestler will be tired and will still need to complete a number of different goals before you can complete the match. It’s frustrating and takes all of the fun out of what you are actually seeing. Final success feels more like relief than a celebration.

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WWE 2K16 does a lot of things right and the showcase mode houses some of the most memorable moments in wrestling. The gameplay lets this down and makes getting to the end a frustrating challenge but for any wrestling fan is worth seeing. Mostly, this acted as more of an advert for the WWE Network, the dedicated wrestling streaming service as I was able to go back and simply watch the matches I was struggling to complete. It’s great to see this game more of a complete package than last years and some nice touches to the creation mechanics make building some weird and wonderful creations far easier. The career mode offers light rivalries and challenges but leaves the room for you to build up the depth of the feud in your mind which I enjoyed but could be frustrating for some.

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Grand Theft Auto V PC Review

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My previous experience with Grand Theft Auto V? I played it near release on the 360, I enjoyed it but didn’t get massively into; call it wrong timing or maybe too much to play at the time? But I didn’t give it much time, I did enjoy the story part of what I played.

I’m predominantly a PC gamer, also PS4 and an Xbox One owner, but I was holding for the PC release just because I know it will look amazing running on my rig and the possibility of modding and other community made content was enough to make me hold out. Touted as the definitive version of the game.

I was right to wait.

It can look amazing if your system can handle it. Even running 4K if you’ve got a big boy gaming rig. Just make sure you free some room on your HDD for the beefy 65 GB download space it requires.

I’m running it on an i7 4770k @ 3.50 Ghz 4 cores with 16Gb. Not that it’s very CPU intensive, even though the recommended spec is an Intel quad core.

Your real payoff is in your GPU; if you’re running a 4 GB graphics card you’ve got plenty to play with.

I’m running a Gigabyte GTX 770 4 GB Windforce and with plenty of settings to choose from the limits can soon be reached to 4096Mb of video memory in the graphics settings.

I’ve pushed the settings on everything on high/very high and water reflection on ultra and getting a good 1080p output, which is a steady 45ish FPS, not bad but some sacrificing will get you towards the 50-60 FPS mark.

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First off the hype is real, it looks amazing if you can run it at a decent stable rate.

I found myself just stopping and trying to get perfect screen shots, as some of the scenery and places looked amazing; rain on the roads during a neon lit highway to panoramic views of Los Santos from a cliff edge. The links below might help some of you comparing the various options and how to get it looking the best for you:

Gamer Nexus Benchmark

Digital Trends Guide

Geforce Performance Guide

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You can see the incredible production values and the money that went into this game as well as the small attention to detail. Damaged roads which look like the ones I drive to work on, the most notable is the detail of the first person mode, at first I thought this was a gimmick to justify buying it again.

With additional animations and responses to certain actions you really feel it when you come off the handlebars of your bike or roll a car. My girlfriend was watching me play for a time and had to leave the room as she started getting travelsick!

Even wearing sunglasses in first person changes the colour balance of your view. Carjackings and fist fights look incredibly realistic from this point of view and you can tell from the actions and reactions the developers really did their homework on beating the crap out of people and going over handle bars in first person. The water looks amazingly clear and flows incredibly well. Wildlife looks great and no longer flat.

This is the first game in possibly the couple of years, which made me go “wow” visually. (Vanilla of course). I cannot wait for the mods and to see what the community can do; judging on how good Skyrim can look after modding 3 years later, GTA V should hold up for years to come.

Grand Theft Auto V is set in Los Santos

You’re thrown into a bank heist at the start of the game, which is basically the tutorial.

For the first 5 hours you switch between Michael and Franklin, the beginning of what appears to be the story and the reason for you “coming out of retirement”. Switching to and from characters is a nice touch and offers something different to the usual template of newcomer with nothing to San Andreas/Liberty City etc.

My only slight gripe with this is I didn’t feel as connected to the characters as I did in GTA IV with Niko. You start feeling immersed then you’re off flying like a weird carjacking, gun toting ghost to another character on the other side of town. I found myself rarely switching characters on the fly as I wanted to do everything I was supposed/could do with that character before I had to change. That could just be me though.

The first missions do feel slightly linear with the main feel of each mission drive here, kill that, then drive back lose cops. It wasn’t until you start planning your first heist that you can put some thought in and have repercussions for how you go about the job in hand..

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Until you start the Trevor missions and carry on from there is when you really start seeing the narrative and story opening and becoming more of a bigger picture. The one thing that is certain with the GTA games is not only do they get bigger (and this is definitely bigger), but also the story most certainly improves each sequel.

The controls allow you to switch from gamepad to keyboard and mouse as you please and on the fly. I found myself struggling to get decent aim with the 360 gamepad so was able to switch to keyboard and mouse instantly. No need to go to the settings or have the onscreen prompts look out of place with incorrect keys. Then jump in the getaway car and straight back on to the gamepad. A great balance of traditional PC gaming and practicality. The cover system is still there and works and I found the car handling a lot better than it was in GTA IV. All the cars handle each in their own way, but the driving is far more enjoyable this time around in my opinion. The AI is actually quite good and assists you, this might be a small thing but I’ve played far too many games in which the AI either stand around doing nothing or just get in the way, I always appreciate good AI!

There are hours of entertainment in Los Santos and some of its legit!

Play a round of golf, play tennis, go to the cinema or just watch TV at home. Just in case you need to take a break away from the killing and carjacking!

Los Santos really does feel like a different world from Liberty city on GTA IV. The lush beaches and waterfronts generally seems like a much nicer place than the dreary downtrodden streets of Liberty City, the developers have really done it again with setting the tone of GTA V and its location.

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I’m ready for online, put me in!

Firstly, I will say I’m not a fan of the Rockstar Social club; it made LA Noire unplayable on the PC and it’s still a pain in the arse to work with. You can create a crew and get your mates involved, which works OK, just don’t count on it to work for everyone at the same time. We at Frugal had a game night on GTA V and getting everyone on together in the same map was a real faff. With the features that Social club offer I’m sure they could have made that work in game rather than using a shoehorned in external feature.

I didn’t see much in the form of glitches. Driving with your mates can give you some interesting frame rates but overall the graphics still hold up well and the FPS otherwise was fine. It’s a big old world in GTA Online and with the PC community involved I can see it sticking around for a while, rather than the 6 months or so on consoles which people will most likely get bored of.

GTA Online is a great world with loads to do, The Frugal Gaming crew were online for a couple of hours and didn’t really do anything, blow some stuff up and F%$& the police. It’s a place where you can make your own fun, from bike races, jet plane races or making up your own. “Helicopter Jousting” was an interesting one! Heists have been introduced into GTA V Online. A team of 4 can pull off raids and robberies over Los Santos.

During the game you can record your own clips without the requirement of 3rd party software or hardware. In the age of the current gen consoles on which it’s as easy as pressing a button to stream, record and share your gaming victories, triumphs, or massive fails. With the Rockstar editor you can do just that. You can instantly start recording small clips during your game and when you’re finished you can touch them up and stitch them together using different effects/filters/depth of field etc. You can then export them to YouTube.

Exclusive to the PC game is director mode, which allows you to explore the world of Los Santos as any character. you can change the mood, weather and generally get as creative as you want.

It matched the hype and personally I say it was worth the wait. The PC is the definitive version of GTA V which looks fantastic, delivers with the brutality and humour with missions that start ramping up to keep you going back to the story mode. Online and the potential of modding will keep this as part of your gaming time for quite a while. Social club still bugs me and the online isn’t as flawless as I would like and can be downright frustrating. Overall it’s the blockbuster you’ve heard it was and duly delivers. Truly the best and definitive version of the game.

 

Evolve Review

2K_Evolve_StudioTour_TeamC_Pose ReviewEvolve capitalizes on a lot of different elements from successful franchises and combines them into a solid little game, while it struggles to really excel at any one thing, it does build an experience from the pieces and finds its own niche to survive in, as it puts players in a 4v1 battle.

Evolve pits man against monster, as players take on one of five different roles in arena battles across a number of different maps. As the hunters you’ll fit into a number of well travelled MMO-style stereotypes, The Assault, Medic, Trapper and Support classes band together to form a coherent team to hunt the monster. Each class has its strengths and a very specific role to play during the match and depending on what role you’re thrust into, dictates the pace at which your game will progress and how much that progress will become the crutch (or success) of your team.

The Assault is pure and simple Tank class. He is designed to run in, smash the monster for major damage and divert the monster’s attention away from other team mates. Often he can be used as bait if played correctly, to lure the monster into a trap and can also lay mines down to really hit the monster hard. The Medic doesn’t only heal up your team (very similar to the Medic in Team Fortress 2) but also acts as your team Sniper. The sniper creates a weak point for others to attack which provides double damage buff when hit. In later iterations the Medic can even raise fallen hunters from the dead, which becomes an invaluable skill when faced with a fully leveled up Monster. The Support class offers a Shield buff to targeted team members, they can also call in an orbital barrage against the Monster which can be an excellent tool if you manage to pin the monster into a corner and can hit them successfully. Finally the Trapper, who can cordon off the monster into a dome and can also fire harpoons into the monster to slow their attack down. The trapper acts also as a tracker and initially she comes with a pet Trapjaw that will quickly follow the monsters trail if they ever lose you.

2K_Evolve_StudioTour_TeamC_Abe_Shotgun_BurstThe Monster is much easier to get to grips with in the early game. As a solo player you’re not relying on anyone playing their class properly and can focus on your own game-plan of setting false trails, luring the hunters into a trap and waiting patiently as you level up to maximum power and make your final assault against those pesky hunters. The third person perspective used when playing the monster feels jarring and clumsy when darting through narrow corridors, or caught up amongst scenery while trying to battle four hunters.

The hunters weapons feel completely outmatched against the monster and something akin to shooting a potato gun into an oncoming freight train thinking it’ll make a difference. There’s no punch to any of the weapons, even as you climb through the skill tree to unlock new hunters that come equipped with a shotgun, it simply feels impotent against the hulking mass that approaches. Unfortunately the methodical feel to the game often negates any speed or momentum you start to gather. As your weapons all hit their cooldowns in the middle of the heated final battle and you’re stuck simply watching from afar as your teammates battle on without you, you’re left watching a timer tick down as you wait to use your class power and get back in the fight. While you’re never completely segregated from the fight, as you’ll always have a weapon you can use, it just isn’t exciting or fun when the majority of a fight is spent jamming on a button hoping for the cooldown to end.

4-hank-v-goliathEvolves’ maps are varied and offer a lot of different locations to fight in although when boiled down they’re all reasonably similar – a maze of corridors that wind around a centralized point. This central point is the focus for the monster and one of the winning conditions to destroy the power station (and the Hunters main objective is the defence of said object).

Evolve is a Multiplayer game. The meat of the game is spent in the Hunt mode which simply pits Man against Monster and, although the game has a sort-of story mode, it is simply a derivative of this mode that you’ll be playing, but with some additional dialogue thrown in for good measure. This is Evolves biggest problem, you’re relying on others coming to play and engage their class. When people do this you’re going to have a great time fighting against the monster, but when this doesn’t happen, and someone comes in to simply play around and not follow team orders, then you’re going to get wiped out incredibly quickly.

The lack of variety is a problem in Evolve, the elongated method of unlocking additional members of each class feels like an artificial way of stretching gameplay. To unlock the next member in each class (for a total of 12 hunters) you have to upgrade every weapon in the current hunters arsenal. This became increasingly frustrating as I was forced to play against the style I had naturally found and had a lot of success with. It took me over 8 hours to unlock most of the additional hunters and monsters. While the additional monsters were a lot of fun (and the Wraith, in particular, feels extremely overpowered) there still feels like a lack of them to really keep me coming back time and again. Trying something new and the lack of ability to build your own class feels like a missed opportunity.

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It’s hard to talk about Evolve without addressing the DLC controversy. And although I can see what has got everyone riled up, ultimately the DLC currently on offer is simply cosmetic in nature (outside the Season Pass) however, the argument becomes valid when paired with the simply lack of variety in the main game. It seems almost that Evolve was designed as a free to play experience that also comes with a full game price tag.

Evolve is successful in building in the tension during a match, this isn’t a run and gun shooter but something slower that burns under the surface during a match, that cultivates in a very sporadic back and forth in the last few minutes to ultimately decide the outcome of a match. The early parts of a match are where Evolve truly succeeds. When everyone is playing their class and you’re closing in on the monster to get that first hit before it tries to hide away and evolve away in peace. The chase feels fantastic and the game has developed its player base over the past week. It’s interesting to see the amount of people who keep coming back and are now settling into their roles and, as a fellow Frugal Gamer told me recently when I took up playing BF4, playing the objective and team orders.

1-lazarus-v-krakenEvolve does some things right, however this is far outweighed by the lack of variety in the games and development of the classes. I can see the game developing a very solid player base who pride themselves on being able to fulfil certain roles in a team however this, in turn, will turn away a lot of new players. The daunting tutorial takes a long time to clear and doesn’t even begin to teach you the basics and strategy involved in truly being successful in the game. The game is designed to keep you playing by locking away additional content behind a lot of awkward and annoying hoops. I could see Evolve growing into something solid with balance patches and additional content down the line, but right now feels rather bare bones and lacking in the excitement the concept had promised. I was hoping for something akin to Gears of War but instead found something lacking in the same punch and versatility.

Score: 7/10

Grand Theft Auto 5 Review

1280x720_gameplay_bannerA little confession – I played approximately 4 hours of GTA 5 when it was first released in 2013. In the course of this review I picked up a second hand copy and merrily went through comparing the two copies. Any reference to previous generation titles was recent experience and not representative of playing upon first release.

When Grand Theft Auto 5 was released last year the world rejoiced; GTA5 was an excellent open world adventure that followed three characters, each of whom encompassed their own satirical caricature, on a grandiose adventure in the most vibrant and populated city ever realised in a Grand Theft Auto game.

As an avid Grand Theft Auto fan I was keen to discover what changes could have truly improved an already solid experience, and was happy to find this wasn’t a simple slap and dash effort where Rockstar are looking to capitalize upon a whole new market (Star Wars remasters – I’m looking at you)! But it is, from the ground up, a completely overhauled experience.

RSG_GTAV_NG_Screenshot_011The enhanced textures coupled with a jaw dropping draw distance truly allows you to appreciate the San Andreas region, with new lighting that adds an additional level of depth to the game that runs at a solid and appreciable 1080p. The bar set for open world games almost feels like a challenge to competitors, as Rockstar creates quite simply the most beautiful open world region to date. When the rain fell in the dimming evening light I couldn’t help but stop and be astonished at the level of detail that has gone in to this edition of the game – a truly stunning and stand out performance. I noticed very few slowdowns from the 30 frames a second put out by GTA 5 and then only momentary shudders rather than complete stoppages that were a game changer.

The use of the PS4 controller is an absolute revelation; the players phone call now plays through the PS4 controller’s speaker while the controller will flash red and blue when the player is being pursued by the police. While these are minor in the grand scheme of things it’s the best implementation of the PS4 controller features I have experienced to date. They’re not so vital that they become a requirement but also add a nice bit of flair to the experience.

RSG_GTAV_NG_Screenshot_004The big new gameplay feature is the addition of a first person view, which literally brings a new angle to everything you do. Rockstar makes it simple to go in and out of first person, but also allows you to set defaults for driving, flying and walking; to stop you consistently fiddling with the controls. In first person mode you’ll move around the world in an entirely different way – this isn’t something you’ll want to take for granted and discard because the dimension it adds also provides a sense of immersion. You’ll watch you character sip away at a coffee or check his phone while walking down the street. Or, of course, if you’re anything like me you’ll drive up to a street gang slam you brakes on and do a quick drive by and then pause, flip them the bird and ride off into the sunset. Although I think the first person mode is excellent, I did struggle with the lacklustre shooting (And just coming off the latest COD made that tougher) therefore played most of the on-foot game back in third person but loved being able to pop into first person for all my driving antics.

The online portion of the game is OK – and something I feel hasn’t seen much development over the past 12 months unfortunately. Although it’s fantastic to get a small crew of friends around and create havoc across the world, however  you’ll struggle to get the large scale games that promised 30 players and will spend a lot of your time stuck in lobbies while you try to find a game.

RSG_GTAV_NG_Screenshot_091There’s no doubt in my mind that everyone should experience Grand Theft Auto 5 like it is now, however the base game simply hasn’t changed, therefore a buying decision will be down to the individual on whether they’re ready to go back. The story still goes to that questionable place in the second act and the heists remain the standout portion of the game – although there is still far too few to really get in and enjoy. It’s a shame the online section hasn’t seen any vast improvements to the previous generation or that the promise of online heists hasn’t yet come to bare. All being said, Grand Theft Auto 5 is a ‘must play’ game for all gamers, and is a truly unforgettable and epic experience.

Score: 10/10