Strike Suit Zero: Directors Cut PS4

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Strike Suit Zero: Directors cut

Developed and Published by Born Ready Games

Strike Suit Zero is a space combat game that was initially released on the PC over a year ago, since then it has continued to be worked on by Born Ready Games with extra features and missions included to mark its release as the Directors Cut on the PS4 as a digital Download. This game is fairly unique in modern terms as I can’t recall the last time I was aware of a space flight combat game being released on a console that looked as though it could be a good experience.

I used to play many of these games when I was younger and it certainly reminds me of classic Star Wars games- like the fantastic Tie Fighter and Rogue Squadron series as well as other titles including Colony Wars that was released on the PS One and even the grandfather of this genre Elite, that was released before I was even born 30 years ago for the BBC Micro. With this lack of recent titles in this genre in my mind I feel as though this game could well have a found a big gap in the market to fill, the games I have just mentioned were all hugely successful selling a lot of titles.

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When loading up the game I was greeted to an introduction that explained the back story, which basically reads like many sci-fi stories set in deep space. There are two sides involved in a war, the colonists, who want to separate from Earth’s Control, and then the United Nations of Earth (UNE). You play the part of a pilot for the UNE who is caught in the middle of this far reaching and expensive war that could well end in the destruction of our home planet if you fail.

The music in the games menu screens as you prepare for missions really fits the futuristic sci-fi style perfectly, it sounds very similar to what I heard in Biowares Mass Effect games and personally I loved the soundtrack in those games. A problem I do have in the menus is that there is a lack of customisation options for the various ships you will use. Another annoying aspect for me was that certain weapons can’t be used in certain conditions and there was a couple of times when I was unaware of this until I had started the mission, leaving me with the choice of either carrying on and playing through hampered or restarting the mission entirely with a different load-out.

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Graphically this game looked OK, it was nothing special and in some aspects I was let down, mainly the detail on the ship you are flying is just not there, the textures seemed to be missing and it was distracting whilst I was playing through the game. The lack of detail doesn’t end there, on the majority of enemy ships and installations there is a distinct lack of detail with many of them looking like grey blocks with splashes of red on them when you get up close. This was certainly not something I was expecting from a PS4 title. Whilst I understand this is an indie title with a far lower budget than many AAA titles I remember the detail and visual beauty of Resogun and again am felt as though more work should have gone into this area, after all the ships are the main aspect that you will interact with. The backgrounds do look very nice though with large planets, novas and asteroid fields brought to life convincingly. One problem runs through it all though, it looks fairly bland, the colour scale is very conservative with only blues and reds seemingly used. I would have loved to have seen a hugely colourful battle with a variety of colourful lasers, ships and stations.

Moving on from the adequate but overall slightly disappointing graphics of the game, I have to look at how this game feels, do I feel as though I am in an interstellar war for survival in an advanced Space fighter that can transform from a ship to a kind of Bipedal Mech suit and again? I have to say I was left a little disappointed. The flying mechanics do work well and you feel in good control as you avoid enemies and make runs along side a larger cruiser or Corvette ship. Sadly though there isn’t enough variety. There are just four differing classes of enemies; fighters, corvettes, frigates and Cruisers. Sure there are different types of fighters but I honestly couldn’t tell what the difference was between them in the heat of battle.

As well as these dog fighting sections there are the obligatory missions where you have to attack and destroy stationary, but well armed Space stations and weapons platforms, but these play exactly the same as the rest of the missions. This isn’t to say that it isn’t fun to play, many of the missions are hugely enjoyable. You can launch a huge missile assault on a Cruiser before speeding off to take out a bunch of Fighters before returning to another run at the larger ship and this does feel great, as though you could be in a movie. The main draw back is that once you get to the half way point you realise that all the variety in the game has been and gone. From here on in it does feel like a grind as you rinse and repeat the different aspects, just in larger and more time constricted missions to get to the end.

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Some of these problems look to have been slightly addressed in the extra missions included in the directors cut.  Firstly it introduces weak points in the larger ships making them much harder to destroy, even harder as the game doesn’t tell you where the weak points are, leaving you to a bit of trial and error before you find them and again this is something I personally, wouldn’t have expect of a refined version of a game, especially as it has been out for a year already on other platforms.

Overall I have to say that Strike Suit Zero has some good points and the basis of a very good game. It just feels as though it hasn’t been finished to me, the lack of textured detail on the ships is unforgivable for a PS4 title in my opinion. But the game at times is very fun to play through, the problem is that it needs more variety as the fun game play quickly becomes a chore as you repeat it over and over

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Playstation 4 Version Reviewed (also available on Xbox One and PC)

Metal Gear Solid 5 Ground Zeroes Review

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Developer: Kojima productions

Publisher: Konami

Platform: Playstation 4

Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes sees Big Boss make his first outing on the new generation of games consoles, in what is effectively a teaser for the full game arriving (hopefully) next year- in The Phantom Pain. For all intents and purposes, this is the Tanker mission for MGS2 or the virtuous mission in Snake Eater. The only difference is that Konami are charging you around £30 for this experience and releasing it a year in advance of the full game, in an attempt to showcase the new Fox engine that is running on the PS4, and in turn raise the anticipation levels for the release of the Phantom Pain in the future. So the big question is, is this game worth buying?

The first aspect of the game I noticed when I started playing it is just how stunning it is graphically, the opening cut scene (Kojima may have cut back on them but he will never stop having them) looks beautiful. It introduces you to the Ground Zeroes mission. This mission follows on from Peace Walker that was released on the PSP (then re-released on the PS3 a few years ago). This mission is set at night and in the rain, this gives the opportunity to  showcase the incredible lighting effects, whilst you hide in the shadows with searchlights scanning the ground around you. But it is during the day where you truly see a huge leap in graphics that the PS4 is able to produce, a lifelike world is created, each enemy has an individual and distinct look to them. There are no copy and paste armies chasing you, even the grass sways perfectly in the wind as clouds move slowly overhead affecting the sunlight shining down, I have not seen anything as photo realistic so far on the PS4.

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The transition from cut scene to gameplay is seamless. I couldn’t visibly discern any drop in the visuals and this is very welcome. I have often previously felt cut scenes running at higher detail draw you away from the game. Big Boss himself really does looks life like, he is not only voiced by Kiefer Sutherland but his facial animations have also been captured from the actor and this is evident as the voice perfectly matches the facial expressions. Sadly, Snake does not say too much in this game, so it is hard to judge how well the switch from David Hayter voicing snake has been handled in too much depth, but early impressions are that the voice of Kiefer does match this older Big Boss fairly well.

Metal Gear Solid games have always been about stealth and this one is no exception. Set in the mid 1970’s there is no Soliton radar to help you out. This game feels similar in style to Snake Eater, my personal favourite of the series, and whilst there is no radar you do have a pair of binoculars that you can use to tag enemies to help you keep track of them as they move around the map. These binoculars also have a directional microphone, great for listening in to conversations between the guards to give you small hints and clues.

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The game encourages you to sneak around and stay undetected, the core of the MGS series, but this is no mean feat when you find yourself on an army base full of guards. Even with the ability to keep track of enemies they have keen eyesight, especially in the daylight. They can even spot your shadow as you hide behind a wall and will come to investigate if their suspicions are aroused. Like previous games, you are armed with a silenced tranquilizer pistol. Ammo is scarce and if you do knock your enemies unconscious, you have to hide their bodies as their comrades will investigate anything out of the ordinary. Yep, it’s classic MGS.

When you do get caught, and you invariably will do, a new mechanic in the game is activated. You get a couple of seconds in what is called ‘reflex mode’ to get in a quick head shot on the enemy before he can call for reinforcements or simply find the best route for escape. This option can be turned off in the options if you want an even bigger challenge than hard mode already is. At no point in my time with this game have I felt it is unnecessarily hard or easy, the gameplay feels well balanced and this is due to the open ended nature with which you can play the game.

Ground Zeros is set in a sand box world. You can go anywhere on the map and the missions can generally be completed in any way that you wish or can think of. Sneaking is obviously favourable and feels the most satisfying but if you want to go in all guns blazing then there is nothing stopping you grabbing a rocket launcher and literally blowing your way through the front gate. It is this choice that made the game so great for me. Early on in the game you have to get through a closed gate, in the past you would have had a more specific way of achieving this task, but not now. I have got past this point using three different ways, I have snuck around and found a side entrance, I have hidden myself on the back of a truck as it goes through, and I have also planted C4 on a vehicle and blown both the vehicle and the gate up letting me walk through or even drive. All of the vehicles in the base are drivable, nothing feels off limits. You really can play this game in a way I have not experienced before.

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In the run up to the release of this game, director Hideo Kojima, announced that the campaign mission could be completed in a couple of hours, this had many people angry that such a short game could be released and charged for. I did complete the initial mission in around two hours on my first playthrough. But it doesn’t end there, this simply unlocks four other ‘side’ missions and if you collect all of the XOF patches also the Deja Vu Mission exclusive to Playstation.

I have played this game for over ten hours and still do not feel that I have completed it, there is so much more to do if you choose to and completing the missions is just the start. The open world allows and actively encourages you to try out new routes and methods. After playing this I am very excited to play the Phantom Pain- especially if it is around 200 times larger as Kojima has suggested. Essentially by making me feel this way, the game has succeeded in its aim.

If you are a fan of Metal Gear games then this is well worth the £20 it cost to purchase, if you aren’t or have never played a Metal Gear game before then I still recommend that you try it out. Few games give you the freedom that Ground Zeroes does, the missions may be on the short side but they really are incredible to experience.

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Also Available on PS3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Reviewer: James Holland. 

Don’t Starve: Console Edition Review

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Developer/Publisher: Klei Entertainment
Version reviewed: PlayStation 4
Release date: January 7, 2014

Don’t starve. This is a simple rule, no? I mean, maintaining your vitality by cramming your pie hole with nutrient-rich foods is a staple part of everyday life, and if you’re reading this review chances are you’ve gotten pretty good at it. Apply this rule to a Roguelike videogame, however, and suddenly things aren’t so simple. Such is the case with Don’t Starve, the latest IP from Vancouver-based development studio Klei Entertainment. Released on Microsoft Windows, OS X and Linux last year via Valve’s Steam platform, it landed on the PlayStation 4 in January to captivate the console market, but does this indie adventure have what it takes to lure gamers away from triple A behemoths like Battlefield 4, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition?

The game begins by dumping your character, an intrepid gentleman scientist named Wilson, in a strange world. A dapper beanpole of a man materialises to inform you of your gaunt condition, advises you to chow down before nightfall arrives, and then leaves you to fend for yourself. The exposition is vague, though more about the title’s backstory can be learned from its promotional trailer. On a dark and stormy night, Wilson (who looks an awful lot like an Edgar Allan Poe caricature) is tricked into building a mysterious contraption by a windup radio, promising him “secret knowledge” in return, but when he activates said contraption spirits whisk him to an alternate realm. It transpires that this is the sinister work of dapper beanpole man, a.k.a. half-demon Maxwell, who no doubt plans to use Wilson’s machine for evil and stuff.

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The first thing to know about Don’t Starve is that your survival relies entirely on exploration and self-discovery. There is no tutorial; there are no instructions, or “go here, do this” waypoint markers. You are alone in this seemingly hostile environment, and how best to look after Wilson’s health, hunger and sanity levels is up to you. Taking cue from the game’s title, I decided to make nourishment my priority on playthrough one, collecting all manner of seeds, berries and vegetables as I skipped through the forest. A veritable feast in my possession, I was extremely pleased with myself, yet as the foreboding darkness loomed it dawned on me that my single-mindedness caused me to overlook the importance of light. Blackness engulfed the screen and ‘something’ removed Wilson’s appendages with its teeth as I held my head in my hands. Lesson 1: darkness equals imminent death.

Playthrough two saw me change my strategy. This time, I gathered everything I stumbled upon – vegetables, twigs, grass, flint, rocks, an unhappy butterfly… When I came to review my bulging inventory minutes later, I realised I had the raw materials to construct a makeshift axe. Then the epiphanies came in thick and fast; with an axe, I could chop trees into logs. With logs, I could build a campfire, which I could fuel with grass and twigs. It wasn’t long until I was well into my first week, living off the fatta the lan’, but when Wilson’s sanity took a dive on day five he began to hallucinate, and the shadowy products of his delirium beat him to a pulp. Lesson 2: insanity equals unusual death.

The rather long-winded point being made here is that the inevitability of your demise lessens the more time you spend in this obscure, and often ruthless, landscape. Once players acquaint themselves with Don’t Starve’s crafting system, master their micromanagement skills and establish a list of wilderness do’s and don’ts (tip: don’t aggravate a swarm of killer bees. Ever), keeping Wilson alive becomes second nature. This enables you to focus your attention on discovering the title’s hidden wonders, from secret spelunking caves and rare items to a hidden Adventure Mode that slowly unearths the motivation behind Maxwell’s villainy. In fact, there’s an incalculable amount of satisfaction and achievement to be had here if you’re willing to put in the hard work.

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A piece of advice though: do not get complacent. In keeping with the Roguelike sub-genre associated with RPGs and MMORPGs, dying in Don’t Starve is permanent. If you fall victim to the harsh conditions of winter, run out of supplies or get mauled by a pack of ravenous hounds, it’s back to the drawing board. To add insult to injury, the layout of each world is procedurally generated, meaning that when you do start a new game you won’t be able to follow your previous strategy step by step because the placement of landmarks, items and resources will have changed. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, as it compels players to take Wilson’s safety seriously, but that doesn’t negate the frustration they’ll feel when a Tallbird perforates their skull for wandering into its territory by mistake, robbing them of their progress.

Believe it or not, when you eventually meet your maker, some good does come of it. Aside from gaining valuable knowledge that will undoubtedly prove useful in a later playthrough, you’ll also be awarded experience points that unlock new characters. There are eight to earn in total, including Willow, an unpredictable pyromaniac with an unbreakable lighter, Wolfgang, a hard-hitting strongman and nyctophobic, and Woodie, a Canadian lumberjack with an imperishable axe and “a terrible secret” (according to the game’s Wiki). Each of the gang’s specific abilities is balanced by a weakness that can affect your tactics drastically, and this works well to introduce further variety, presenting some very interesting in-game scenarios.

Of course, all of the above would count for nothing if the game’s transition from PC and Mac to console was substandard. Thankfully, the PS4 port of Don’t Starve performs much like the original, running at a fluid 60 frames per second in true 1080p. The hand-drawn, Tim Burton-esque art style is delivered with vibrancy and crispness, and none of the quirkiness Klei Entertainment’s indie gem was praised for first time around has been lost in translation. Its mouse/keyboard control scheme is surprisingly well suited to the DaulShock 4 too. The D-pad performs multiple context-sensitive actions, L2 and R2 handles crafting and inventory management options (navigated using the thumbsticks), and the face buttons are reserved for simple tasks such as picking up items and swatting foes with whatever you’re wielding at the time. In this respect, the learning curve is gentle – a definite plus considering the unforgiving, trial and error-based nature of gameplay.

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So does Don’t Starve hold its own against the latest big budget productions from EA DICE, Ubisoft and Crystal Dynamics? Unquestionably. Yes, it is a slow burner, offering little in terms of help or guidance, but the deeper you delve into this fascinating gothic world and its clever mechanics the harder it is to put down. Time will tell whether it has the clout to outshine Markus Persson’s Minecraft or Re-Logic’s Terraria, but speaking from experience its creativity and peculiarity succeeds at keeping the player’s attention for hours at a time. Given that PS Plus members can download it free of charge from the PlayStation Store as part of Sony’s Instant Game Collection, you’ve absolutely no reason not to get lost in this eerie IP.

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