Sunset Overdrive Review

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For such an original-looking game, Sunset Overdrive is anything but. Tried and tested formulas, gameplay we’ve seen a thousand times before and the kind of sandbox experience we’ve come to expect over the years. So if I’ve seen all before, why can’t I put it down!?

The answer is execution. This game does everything it’s trying to achieve, and it does it almost perfectly. The game feels balanced, fun and a pleasure to navigate. With the exception of some mini-games, every part of the experience felt empowering to control.

Before I even played this game, I knew it would live or die based on the way it handled. Traversal across the landscape is the single most important thing here, and I’m pleased to say that it’s one of the game’s biggest strengths. I’d go as far to say that this game handles better than any other game of its kind. Jet Set Radio is one of my favourite games, and I’ve played nearly every Assassin’s Creed instalment, but I know that there have been plenty of times that I’ve got frustrated when characters miss ledges or rails, awkwardly stopping due to a glitch or unfair collision detection. I have yet to experience this whilst bounding through Sunset City. Generous rail clipping and features – such as the air boost, means you always feel like you can go anywhere, and do anything. It’s an empowering game, which undoubtedly makes it a better one.

1-herker-heroI initially thought that the selection of weapons was a little sparse, as I was expecting an absolute mountain of weaponry that would make Borderlands jealous. But Insomniac knows exactly what they’re doing here. Each weapon is not only different and fairly balanced, but absolutely stunning. The Roman Candle firework launcher explodes with colour and noise, whilst bowling ball launcher ‘The Dude’ whirrs and clicks, launching a colourful sphere of death right into an opponent’s face.

In Sunset Overdrive, Insomniac has mastered the art of difficulty. The game isn’t hard, at all. But this is definitely a conscious design decision, and one that works brilliantly. They want you to play the entire game, but they know that these days, everything is competing for your attention. This has led to a game with a lot of content, but all achievable and attainable. If you see a collectable or a power-up, you’re able to get it. Games like Crackdown tried to make players stay by showing them content they’d have to work ages for to reach. For the most part, Sunset Overdrive gives you everything, right from the start. This instant gratification is clever, as the features that unlock over time are welcome additions, rather than visible barriers halting your progress.

sunset-overdrive-review-las-catrinasDepending on your perspective, the game’s post-modern style could verge on the heavy-handed, whilst some might find it downright annoying. I’m a big fan of games not taking themselves too seriously, and so whilst I enjoyed it, I can see that some people may get tired of this gimmick. It’s a great way of dealing with the stumbling block of game design though. It’s often questioned by the characters where the Narrator’s voice is coming from, and why quests are often convenient in making you fetch multiple items. I really enjoyed this approach, but again it may not be for everyone.

One of the most impressive aspects of Sunset Overdrive is its scope and size, something which is clearly taking advantage of the new hardware. I love the ability for everyone to play games like Destiny and Call of Duty on any console they have, but it’s great to finally see the AAA, current-gen-only games starting to come out, without being hampered by previous limitations. Here, it really shows. The play area is HUGE, I mean genuinely massive. I initially thought the majority of it was just set dressing, or some kind of graphical trickery. I was expecting a loading screen the closer I got to the further points of the map, or the textures to ‘pop’ in as the disguise was lifted. But nothing of the sort. It plays incredibly smoothly, and it’s all there waiting for you to explore it. Similarly, the amount of enemies on-screen at once is insane. They all behave different, all are unique and it leads to some genuine ‘wow’ moments as you play.

sunset-overdrive-mugger-odOverall, Sunset Overdrive is nothing new. But the game knows this, and in fact it plays upon it. It references everything from Breaking Bad to Portal, in a style that is basically Scott Pilgrim with guns. But by doing this so blatantly, it turns a sloppy homage into a brilliant, ‘how-did-they-get-away-with-this’ piece of gaming fun. There’s that old phrase, ‘Talent borrows. Genius steals.’ And Sunset Overdrive is stealing absolutely everything. I wouldn’t quite say it’s at genius level, but it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had so far with my Xbox One.

Score: 8.5/10

Frugal Gaming Review – Fantasia: Music Evolved

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Come Along And Sing Our Song

I’ve spent a good few hours over the last week waving my arms around to the beat of a bewildering array of different pieces of music, I imagine most of the time I looked like an over eager Orangutan trying to direct traffic, but I tell you what, Fantasia: Music Evolved has reminded me that games can be a whole lot of fun.

I love dancing, and whilst it normally takes a considerable amount of alcohol for me to truly get into my groove, I’d like to think that I don’t do a bad job once I get going.  It’s probably this reliance on a couple of drinks that has generally precluded me from enjoying any dance or rhythm games that couldn’t be played via some plastic instrument, but Fantasia has changed all that.

I’ve Got The Music In Me

Developed by Harmonix, the studio that brought us Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance Central to name but a few, Fantasia aims to fuse music, motion and magic whilst wrapping it all up nicely under the banner of Fantasia – one of Disney’s most enduring and memorable films.

Following in the footsteps of Walt’s favourite son, you start the game by taking on the mantle of the new apprentice to the sorcerer – Yen Sid.  Moves and techniques are introduced over the first few immediately recognizable songs and then after that you’re free to explore Fantasia and its catalogue of over 30 included tracks.

Gameplay is very much what you would expect. Using the Kinect sensor to track your hand movements, you basically have to conduct the song. You accomplish this by following the on-screen prompts that tell you what sort of movement to make with your hands, also the direction in which to do it.  From deft flicks to air punches, flicks and holds to punch and move, it’s hard to explain with mere words, but in action it’s easily understandable and after a couple of songs it came to me as naturally as dancing like my dad.

The prompts all take centre stage but the magic happens at the bottom of the screen.  An ethereal silhouette tracks and shows every move you make in real time.  Whilst you do see your whole body, the game itself is only interested in your hands and as such they glow with supernatural light as you wave them around.  It’s a truly magical experience when you first see this all happening in real time, much akin to my first experience with sparklers on bonfire night, making crazy shapes and patterns on screen as you consistently vogue around your living room.

_bmUploads_2013-06-04_433_2013-05-29-TheShoal_Screenshot_02Such Wonderful Things Surround You

The campaign sees you exploring six different realms: From the Hollow, with its magical creatures, to the Solar System, with retro space stations and monkeys in space. The environments are all pure Disney and exploring them in between songs is a complete joy. They all feature interactive elements and have lots of secrets to find, it’s almost a game in itself to be honest and it ties everything together really well. There is a story running throughout the campaign that sees you battling the Noise and you will also come across a couple of characters that help explain everything that’s happening. Whilst I found them a little bit annoying, I’m pretty sure children will love them.

I’ve Heard There Was A Secret Chord

No matter how polished the presentation of Fantasia is, the game would be for nought if it did not have the music to back it up. A rather eclectic collection of pieces has covered just about all bases, from Nicki Minaj and Super Bass, the ever present Message in a Bottle by the Police, to classical pieces from Mozart and Vivaldi. It’s not the sort of mix you would find on a Spotify playlist, but every song or orchestral piece works so well with the game-play mechanics.

Each and every song available also has a couple of remixes. You can switch to these on the fly at certain moments in your performance. Orchestral version of Blue Monday by New Order? Amazing. An alternative rock version of Vivaldi’s 1st Movement of Winter? Surprisingly good. These remixes take the 30 or so songs available and make it feel like much, much more. The song choices on offer are a solid start and are already supported by the obligatory DLC. If you feel the need to expand your library, these add-ons are also rather reasonably priced. Further remix packs, whilst not offering new songs, add further variations to some of the songs already available too.

_bmUploads_2013-06-04_440_2013-05-08-ThePress_Screenshot_01Music Makes The People Come Together

Leaderboards, multiplayer and the ability to record your performance add up to a pretty good offering from Harmonix latest game. Fantasia: Music Evolved is a great all-round package that I’ll be playing and enjoying for a good time to come, however it’s not completely flawless and a couple of niggles hold it back from being an out and out master-class.

It almost feels that at times it wants to shy away from being too much of a Disney title. Whilst the visuals are clearly Disney through and through, I can’t help but feel that big fans of some of the musical numbers that litter their films are going to feel a little short changed. Not one song from any of these films feature at all. Kids would go mad for Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid or Hakuna Matata from the Lion King, and the lack of any orchestral score from Star Wars or Indiana Jones films, really does feel like a huge missed opportunity. Hopefully this sort of music will crop up down the line as DLC.

The recordable performances are a great idea, but whilst they catch what strokes and notes you have hit, one of the best features of the game is missing from these recordings. The Silhouette that is shown whilst performing these songs is strangely absent from the actual recordings. I’m not sure if this is down to technical limitations of the hardware, but it’s a real disappointment that it’s not recorded, I love to be able to watch back my friend’s attempts at hitting all the prompts with magical jazz hands.

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Fantasia: Music Evolved is a must buy for anyone who has either an Xbox 360 or an Xbox One with a Kinect Sensor. If you have a decent audio set-up, then all the better. Out of everything I’ve played in the last year, this made me feel that my investment in a 5.1 surround sound system has been worth every penny. It’s a shame that both Fantasia and D4 which I reviewed earlier have been launched at a time when Kinect is no longer standard with Xbox One. Both show what the hardware is truly capable of and offer an experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

Fantasia at its heart is a game that will offer anyone who plays it great music, fun movement controls and a whole load of magic.

Score: 9/10

Fantasia: Music Evolved is available at retail and digitally for Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Developed by Harmonix

Published by Disney Interactive

Games With Gold November 2014 – What’s Free For Gold Members

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Here is the list of free games available on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One to Gold Members only. Don’t forget you can save lots of money on Xbox Live Gold Membership and Microsoft credit here

Get 12 months Xbox Live Gold membership for just £23.26 here

Get £25 Xbox credit for just £22.31 here

Get £40 Xbox credit for just £35.15 here

Get £50 Xbox credit for just £42.65 here

Free Games

XBOX 360: “VIVA PINATA: TROUBLE IN PARADISE” (11/1-11/15)
XBOX ONE: “VOLGARR: THE VIKING” (11/1-11/30)

XBOX 360: Red Faction: Guerrilla (Nov. 16-30)

Assassin’s Creed: Unity Preview

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“I was wrong”. The most elusive statement on the internet. A sentence so rarely seen online that many refuse to believe it exists. Many Youtube commentators have even removed the letter keys required for this phrase from their keyboard. To mark such an occasion, I’ll say it again: I. Was. Wrong.

A while back I wrote an opinion piece on Assassin’s Creed: Unity, criticising it’s choice of the French Revolution instead of an Far East Asian theme that had been rumoured for some time. I declared the setting of Paris to be boring, and that this game would lead to further stagnation of the yearly franchise.

Well, from what I’ve seen since then, I am gloriously incorrect. Since that E3 demo, Unity has been firmly on my radar, and is now edging into ‘day-one purchase’ status. Every single update is showing that their initial, seemingly impossible promises are being delivered.

ACU_screen_73_SP_District_IleDeLaCite_GC_140813_10amCET_1407889441It’s been a long time since graphics have truly stood out to me. We’re in an age where games all look incredible, and it’s often easy to overlook just how pretty even smaller budget games look. We’ve become spoilt brats, squabbling over 900p resolutions (It honestly doesn’t matter guys) and the difference 2 frames-per-second makes. Games have become so great-looking, and the improvements have become so gradual, that we don’t often notice graphics in a game.

Unity, for me, looks like it’s about to make a giant leap forward. Watching videos of the new Anvil engine in action, It’s hard to believe the level of detail and intricacy the buildings are now showing. Rusted pipes, fully textured brickwork, Incredible torn fabrics. Assassin’s Creed looks properly next-gen. Ryse took the initial steps towards this, but it did so by placing the player in a guided corridor. With this kind of sandbox game, to achieve the level of graphical polish that we are seeing, it’s looking a new benchmark in gaming graphics is about to be set.

ACU_screen_80_COOP_Heist_GC_140813_10amCET_1407889511The narrative trailer recently released also shows us the potential strength the game’s story has. Notorious for it’s complex and often drawn-out storytelling, in the past it felt as if Ubisoft perhaps weren’t ready for the runaway success of the franchise. Trying to tell the plot over so many games took it’s toll, and made a mess of a once interesting approach. After numerous mis-steps with the sub-plots between 2 and 3, I’m interested to see if Ubisoft will pull it back.

And they have the perfect place to start. The French Revolution seems almost made for this franchise. Riots and chaos in the streets making for a perfect distraction for you to create havoc, and the themes of uprising and power shift have been told countless times throughout the franchise already. If Ubisoft can deliver a game that tells it’s story clearly and concisely, the setting and powerful drama that actually unfolded for real will take care of the rest.

ACU_screen_84_SP_District_LesInvalides_GC_140813_10amCET_1407889558If I have any reservations, one would definitely be the extent of the series mini-games. When I played AC4, it felt a bit bloated with the level of side-quests and bits and pieces I had to mess around with. I’d be on a way to a mission, when all of a sudden there’d be an island to explore, or a fortress to conquer, or a shark to hunt, or a treasure to find. The list went on. This kind of gameplay can be done well (See the Fallout series), but Black Flag felt more of a chore. Like Grand Theft Auto 4, the side missions felt like work, dragging down the thrust and adventurous aspect of the game. If Ubisoft can concentrate more on the story and game itself, rather than making it a do-everything sim game, the series will get back to it’s glory days of Assassin’s Creed 2, undoubtedly the series’ finest hour.

We wait and see if Assassin’s Creed Unity can deliver the gameplay and action to match it’s undoubtedly incredible visuals, but I’m optimistic. And if this is the kind of game I get to look forward to and gawp at until that Ninja/Samurai instalment comes along, it’s looking like it’ll at least be an enjoyable wait.

Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor Review

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Developed by Monolith Productions

Published by Warner Brothers Interactive

Reviewed on the Playstation 4

Shadow of Mordor has somehow managed to sneak under the radar a little, which is surprising considering it has been released just a few months before the final part of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit movie trilogy. Over the years we have had many video games based in Middle Earth, starting with the text based The Hobbit that was released in the early eighties, sadly most of them have been either terrible or just plain average. So, does Shadow of Mordor buck this trend and really let us experience the world of Middle Earth?

This game is set in the open world of Mordor, the game uses the power of the PS4 well, to give you a vast living world that is populated with various Orcs and monsters to either avoid or fight. As it is set in between both the books and the films, the story isn’t based on material that you have likely been through before. This has allowed Monolith to create a new character, a ranger, who goes by the name of Talion, who also has some wraith like abilities that can be upgraded as the game progresses. A few well known faces from Middle Earth do make appearances in the game but generally you are creating your own story behind enemy lines in Mordor.

One of the most intriguing and, after playing the game, best mechanics introduced is the Nemesis system; which effectively remembers your encounters with your enemies in the game and really brings them to life. Defeat an Orc captain by burning him and the next time you see him he may have bandages all over his disfigured face, he will also comment on your last battle. This all feels unscripted and I really cannot think of another game that has this level of interactivity with your enemies. Where as in many games, if you are killed by a nameless grunt you will not see him again; this time he will get promoted and remember you. Flee an enemy and he may hunt you down across the map, it really is a system that makes this game much more engrossing.

mordor-coverI have had several battles with the same Orc captain that repeatedly killed me, it felt great to finally defeat him and I could only do this by learning about him. I had to gain intel by interrogating Orcs in the field and finding out who his body guards were, this taught me his strengths as well as weaknesses. Of course you can just go in and take him head on with no preparation but I really felt it made the game a better experience by taking the time to learn about him first and it also made the victory all that sweeter.

Traversing the open world map of Mordor felt very similar to how you run, jump and climb in the Assassin’s Creed games. This means that it is easy to climb towers and sneak up upon unsuspecting enemies. As in the Assassin’s Creed games, there are a few frustrating times when you just get stuck in between walls or keep jumping upwards when you desperately need to run away from an army of enemies, but in the whole it works brilliantly.

You will spend most of your time in Shadow of Mordor fighting against Orcs. I was delighted to see that the battle mechanics in this game are similar to the superb free-flowing fighting seen in the excellent Arkham series of games. If you didn’t like the style of the Arkham games, then you won’t enjoy it here either. I did though and I found it made fighting extremely fun and actually addictive, it made me want to fight more and more Orcs in greater numbers. You flow through enemies increasing your combo meter that then unlocks your special take down abilities. Later on though, once you levelled Talion up enough, it does feel as though you can destroy any enemies fairly easily and it does then take a lot of the challenge out of the game, but even with this I never got bored of slashing through hordes of Orcs.

shadow-of-mordorAs in many open world games there are a variety of missions and side quests that give you experience to unlock new abilities and powers. The missions have enough variety to keep you wanting to try the side quests, but a lot of the main missions do have you finding a war chief and then killing them or later on in the game trying to control them. You can only upgrade your weapons though by defeating the Orc captains, they will then drop runes that you can apply to your sword, dagger or bow granting various perks, naturally beating the higher ranking Orcs gets you the best rewards.

Shadow of Mordor really was an unexpected joy to play and I would go as far as to say that this could be a real contender for my game of the year. I am a huge fan of JRR Tolkiens Middle Earth world and I was really drawn in by this game, it made me want to keep on playing. The nemesis system is one of the best mechanics I have used in any game and it made this game feel next generation, at the moment there is no higher praise I can give it.

Without the pressure of unrealistic hype Monolith has delivered a truly exceptional and more importantly fun game to play.

Score:9/10

Games With Gold October 2014 – What’s Free For Gold Members

 

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Here is the list of free games available on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One to Gold Members only. Don’t forget you can save lots of money on Xbox Live Gold Membership and Microsoft credit here

Get 13 months Xbox Live Gold membership for just £24.50 here

Get £25 Xbox credit for just £22.31 here

Get £40 Xbox credit for just £35.15 here

Get £50 Xbox credit for just £41.71 here

Xbox One

Chariot, the newest ID@Xbox game from Canadian developers Frima, will debut on Xbox One as a free download

Xbox 360

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Darksiders II (

Frugal Gaming Preview – Forza Horizon 2

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With the Demo being made available to download just last week and the 3rd of October release date looming, Frugal Gaming’s MrBaddog and PridedLlama both share their thoughts about one of the biggest Xbox exclusive titles set to launch this year.

MrBaddog writes

The original Forza Horizon was one of the finest examples of open world racing to date. A fictional Motorsports festival played host to some of the most breathtakingly beautiful racing ever realised. From its open rural landscapes to the constricted canyons, rarely had a Motorsport game been so visceral. Tearing through a busy highway, circumventing traffic to the tune of ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ by The Hives, is there any better way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Fast forward to today and the long awaited sequel power slides onto the Xbox One. Moving away from the original Colorado setting, the Horizon festival has thundered into Southern Europe. Tight city streets, sprawling vineyards and perilous Cliffside roads await those in search of infamy. Arriving on a ferry at the wheel of a throbbing Lamborghini Huracan, stamping on the throttle, tyres screech as they are very nearly ripped from the rims, you disappear in a cloud of smoke and goosebumps, the sense of raw power is almost tangible.

The beauty of the surroundings is astonishing and the attention to detail is staggering, the world created here feels alive. Flora and fauna sway in the wind, towns are heavily populated with decor, not that you may notice when you are hurtling at 200 mph bumper to bumper with other competitors. Couple this with the lavish care which has been spent recreating each of the cars and you have one of the best looking racing games ever created.

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Road surfaces genuinely feel different to drive upon. Whether you’re sliding through fields and dirt roads or burning along the tarmac, the cars handle convincingly. It is an awesome feeling when you hit the bend just right and you slip around the corner at breakneck speeds. Take care when the rain comes, the car will squirm and slide as you fight the elements for control. It is all perfectly balanced and incredibly satisfying.

As this is only a demo, there are a limited amount of races for you to enjoy. There is a stunning cross country point to point race which will have you tearing through the countryside and then there is a tight and twisting circuit race. Also available to try is the new ‘bucket list’. Find the Koenigsegg and you will be challenged to ‘drive like you stole it’, which essentially means drive as fast as you can past a predetermined speed camera. Events make a welcome return, the one on offer here will have you racing an aerial display team. These are great fun and add to the overall festival feel. There is very little to do with regards to the online side of things. A free roam mode is available so you can have a little taste, but much more has been promised come full release.

If you enjoyed the first title or you’re a fan of open world racing, Forza Horzion 2 looks as though it will keep you entertained for quite some time. With its improved graphics, wonderful handling, dynamic weather, varied races, extra challenges and an enhanced multiplayer there is a lot on offer. A truly epic racing game may just be on the horizon.

gamescom-press-kit-05-wm-forza-horizon2PridedLlama writes

I hate this time of year, grey skies that are forever gloomy and not a glimpse of the sun for weeks.  We have got a long wait ahead of us for Summer to return, but Playground Games might just be offering us a winter sun deal far too good to pass up.

Forza Horizon was both a commercial and critical success.  Whilst Turn10 Studios doggedly stick to their tried and tested, if somewhat increasingly stale formula of exclusive track based racing, the original Horizon flipped the whole thing on it’s head and added a much needed injection of personality and fun.  Horizon 2 looks set to expand on every aspect that featured in the first open world title, and befitting of a game developed primarily in sunny old England adds dynamic weather with very British rain.

The whole game is much more European affair this time round, and it’s all the better for it.  Gone are the rocky and dusty roads of Colorado, replaced by sparkling Mediterranean tides and lush Tuscan panoramas.  Quite simply it’s a perfect fit not only in the pretty department but also in the driving.

No longer confined to just the roads, the environment and setting is more important than ever.  While established franchises continue to lean heavily on Americana, what Horizon 2 and it’s locals brings to the table is altogether more refreshing.  Twisting coastal roads, open highways and quaint villages abound, but its off the beaten track where things get even more interesting and fresh.

Opening up the fields and dirt tracks has upped the drivable area in the new instalment by 3 times the size when compared to the original.  While a point to point race might start on pristine tarmac it won’t be long until you’re bumping and swerving farms and fields at breakneck speeds.  It takes the whole franchise a step further away from it’s Motorsport roots and offers a real challenge if like me you are used to dropping all the assists.  It’s exhilarating in a way that Forza Motorsport 5 just never got close to matching.

700 events, nearly 150 music tracks, 7 radio stations and over 200 licensed cars.  Add to that truly breathtaking environments and vistas gorgeously rendered in full 1080p not to mention Sean Maguire! Yes Sean Maguire in 1080p too!  October the 3rd can’t come soon enough.  I still have a couple of little reservations, all the dev speak about 3 times the drivable area is rather ambiguous, and for all the near 150 songs they still don’t have a GEM106 equivalent but, the hours and hours of gameplay being offered in much sunnier climes will be the perfect Autumn antidote.  I’ve dug out the factor 50, ordered a new pair of sunglasses and I might even top up my tan whilst I wait for Forza Horizon 2 to release.  Actually sod that, I’m off for another spin on with the demo!

Forza Horizon 2 is developed by Playground Games and set for release on the 3rd of October on xbox one, an xbox 360 version by Sumo Digital is also set for release on the same day.  Both impressions were taken from hands on time with the xbox one demo.

Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition Xbox One

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Route 666

Cars, guns & zombies.  For lots of people that will be all they need to know.  Three of the most popular gaming tropes of recent years, all mashed together in a game that can only be described as a post apocalyptic episode of Top Gear.  Ultimate Edition currently available on just the Xbox One is an update of an update.  First released in 2009 on PC with the name Zombie Driver and soon finding its way to Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, with HD stuck on the end, this latest version includes everything previously released with the extra sparkle of a full 1080p 60fps presentation.

Played from a top down perspective much like the old Grand Theft Auto, Zombie Driver puts you behind the wheel of various vehicles from a yellow taxicab, school bus, limousine and all the way up to a tank.  These are not just plain old jalopies mind you, a plethora of Mad Max style mounted weapons have turned these once straight forward modes of transport into death dealing killing machines, a sadistic Pimp my Ride. Controls are sharp and responsive, but the camera seems a little too close to the action at times, especially when travelling at speed

Gallery_01The Quick and the Undead

Bashing, crashing and shooting your way through the Horde to rescue a bunch of civilians is pretty much your staple mission in game.  Drive from A to B, clear-out the surrounding area and evacuate the plebs back to the military HQ.  Ammo pickups, extra boost fuel and different weapons scattered across the city all help you achieve this, but it’s still just the same mission regurgitated with the odd huge boss thrown in for good measure.  It’s entertaining in short bursts, but not gripping enough for most to want to complete the campaign.

A couple of different modes did extend my interest in ZDUE but not by much.  Slaughter mode was definitely the most fun, you’re free to razz around the map like a boy racer, with the aim of surviving for as long as possible against increasingly tougher waves of the undead and mutated. It really is a lot of fun and would have been even better if you could play online with friends.  The same can be said for the Blood Race mode, a great idea which brings back fond memories of top down arcade racers of yesteryear, but without any form of multiplayer feels like a hugely wasted opportunity.

Gallery_10Horror Express

Having never played either of the first two versions, I did a fair bit of ‘Googling’ and ‘Youtubing’ and the difference to the graphics of the game seem substantial.  It looks fantastic on the Xbox One; the fast/smooth frame rate definitely helps with the high tempo of gameplay.  Blood and gore is nicely done with your trail of butchery being marked out by slick red tyre marks. The amount of on-screen action is fantastic if a little overwhelming at times.  There is the odd omission, like the load out screen for you vehicles.  It seems to be rendered in 4:3 aspect which leaves big black borders down each side of the screen, even sitting a few feet away and having recently been to Specsavers I was straining to see all the detail and really had to lean forward. I’m guessing that this is a hangover from the original version but when so much care has gone into other visuals is a glaring fault which is a shame.

Gallery_08Beyond Re-Animator

Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is the best version of a game made in 2009. If you owned or have played with the bog standard original or the HD version there really isn’t enough new things on offer in this version for me to be able to recommend it.  However if like me you haven’t played any of the others it offers a fun alternative to the bigger titles currently available.  You won’t find yourself sitting down and playing it for hours on end but in short twenty to thirty minute bursts its enjoyable enough.  I’m pretty sure that it will be appearing on PS4 in the not too distant future and after that I’m hoping that the developer – EXOR studios, will come up with something that doesn’t rely on cars, guns, or zombies.  Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition is a well crafted game, but their reliance on re-jigging the same game for the last 5 years can’t go on forever.

Score: 6/10

Developer: Exor Studios

Currently available for Xbox one on the Marketplace

Frugal Gaming Review – Sixty Second Shooter Prime

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Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

I was planning on writing this review in just sixty words, but sixty seemed like fifty eight too many and yet still no where near enough to sing Sixty Second Shooter Primes praises. The two I would have chosen were “ Buy it” and if I was going for three words I would have added “now” at the end.  Six words would have probably ended with “you crazy fool” Hopefully you get where I’m going with this.

It’s first incarnation- sans the Prime, was released back in 2011 on the Chrome Web Store and it’s still available there for free with adverts, or without for a small price.  It’s still a solid browser based game, but much like Optimus, the Prime has made the good Sixty Second Shooter great.

The Xbox has a strong history with twin stick retro shooters.  Geometry Wars by Bizzare went on to be one of the most downloaded games during the 360 lifetime and although Bizzare are no more, Jamie Fristrom and his studio Happion Labs have proved themselves more than able to continue this tradition.

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So more about the actual game.  SSSP does what it says on the tin.  Each game lasts up to sixty seconds.  If you can last that long it tasks you with steering your ship around a beautifully realised play area, avoiding a multitude of different enemies, whilst blasting away and trying to build your score.  Sounds so very simple and at first glance it is, but after a few hundred seconds of playing the depth of the game suddenly becomes clear.

With the idea to build your highest score, there are a surprising array of ways to achieve this.  Enemies left alone will multiply, so you could wait a while letting their ranks swell and then take them all down for a bumper payout.  Perhaps you’re after a harder challenge? Well you can drop through the current level to the one below, where sterner foes gather.  It’s all tied together with a combo system that will see your score leap up for consecutive kills and an interesting power up dynamic.

The more you play the more power-ups you unlock.  Once unlocked, these still need collecting whilst playing by flying your ship over them. From missiles for taking out groups of foes, a short boost that makes you invincible, dual and quad fire, precision mode which slows everything down and a score multiplier which can really see your score rocket.

As you progress, other unlocks include an array of different graphics options which change the hue of both the playing field and the enemies, to an infinite mode where time is not an issue and you just have to survive whilst adding to that ever important score.  The inclusion of leader-boards is such a great incentive to keep playing, always trying to best the score of your friends, as are the achievements on offer. Challenging and yet perceived as attainable, time will tell if i’ll squeeze out the full 1000G on offer but I’ll certainly be giving it a shot.

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One More Time

Sixty Second Shooter is a perfect bite size chunk of gaming goodness, you can play this in the time it would take other games to load up. Several times now, whilst heading to my Xbox One to play something else I’ve often found myself booting this up for a couple of quick games, ignoring the AAA £50 game I originally wanted to play. For a game that costs just £3.99 on the Xbox store that’s quite an achievement. Looking at the Happion Labs webpage, Jamie Fristrom states that his proudest accomplishment in the gaming industry was inventing the dynamic, physical swinging system in Spiderman 2 back in 2004, in the not so distant future I think he’ll be able to replace that with creator of Sixty Second Shooter Prime.

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Sixty Second Shooter Prime is avalable for xbox one and can be found here http://store.xbox.com/en-GB/Xbox-One/Games/Sixty-Second-Shooter-Prime/04df8851-c3e5-40d6-82dc-b0d17d0f93aa

Developer: Happion Labs

Microsoft Xbox- Phil Spencer in Charge. Is He Listening To the Consumer?

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With Microsoft Trying to evolve and move on from the PR disaster that was E3 last year, with Don Mattrick at the helm, Phil Spencer has taken the reigns. Whilst this is not breaking news, it is interesting to see what decisions he is making for the future of the console on the lead up to E3 2014. It seems that every week since he has been in charge we have been littered with info and news regarding the console- things we would usually expect at E3. But with his “Games, Games, Games” policy, it looks like E3 will be just that, with only a few moments of eyes on console features.

Whilst this is good for everyone and generally a step in the right direction in terms of the console and what consumers have been asking for since the console reveal at E3 2014, I personally hope that he does not simply forget the shortfalls of the console. Since its rocky release, there have been plenty of issues on all fronts of the system. For instance, loading times when swapping between a game and a message, Xbox Live Party issues, the resolution differences between the two consoles (however with the recent release of Wolfenstein:The New Order in 1080p/60fps on both consoles, it just goes to show what wonders a decent engine can do).

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In some cases, steps are already being taken to even out the performance difference with the release of a Kinect-less Xbox One for the same price as a Playstation 4. Whilst this is a good move for reeling in those paranoid about the NSA, its a bit outrageous in terms of what you actually get. A console which is less powerful for the same price and missing a large part of its UI which is integral for the full experience. Lets face it, the console has features that are simply inconvenient to use with out voice commands.  Especially with load times of some apps being very slow at times.

In any case, I think that a lot of the bad press and drama seen around last years announcement of the console was created by the walking joke that is Don Mattrick. Coining terms like ” we have a console for those without internet, its called the Xbox 360″ (with regards to the always online status before the DRM U-turn) just goes to show he did not have the consumers interest at heart. I mean, most companies don’t, but at least they pretend they do. At least now he has his wish, working to create online only Facebook games. I wonder if after the abortion that was last E3 he was thrown out, he knew this and then created as much bad press as he could.

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At least Phil Spencer seems to be listening to some of the outrage and cries of the consumer who feel slightly robbed, at the end of the day we didn’t buy a games console to have Sports Channels as Apps and interface-able TV, we bought it for the games. Whilst going Kinect-less is a good move, it is worth mentioning that there will still be releases for it and continued support, we can also expect to see External HDD support, to what extent however is still unknown. I should think it will be like on the Xbox 360 . I just hope that with the games being Phil Spencer’s main concern,  he keeps refining the system and ironing out the little niggling kinks. He seems to be listening to what people want, which can only be a good thing.

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