Read Stuart’s column every week in The Scottish Sun, where he shares his reviews, news and podcasts with the 99.3% of the World’s population not fortunate enough to be able to buy a physical copy of the paper. The following appeared originally in The Scottish Sun on Sunday 25th June 2017.
Tokyo 42 (Xbox One and PC, £15.99)
SMAC Games have taken a revenge tale and given it a twist in the super-stylised Tokyo 42. You have been framed for murder so become an assassin in a bid to clear your name. But, fear not, this is more tongue in cheek than super-dark and everyone can be brought back to life thanks to a wonder drug. The minimalist world is a stunning backdrop as you explore an isometric futuristic Tokyo straight out of Blade Runner.
The game works best in stealth. But there are issues. The world is 3D but you aim on a 2D plane, so shooting can be a bit hit and miss which is not good for a hitman! My tip is to stick with your katana blade. The open world never misses a beat. It is bursting with colour and character and backed up by an outstanding soundtrack. The gunplay is an issue, especially as the AI never misses, but this is a neat twist on the stealth action game. But, if you don’t have patience, then you might hit pause fairly quickly.
DiRT 4 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
DiRT Rally set a very high standard for sim rallying last year — but Codemasters have just gone even better. DiRT 4 takes your DiRT Rally and adds to the enjoyment and skill factor. And once you have switched it on, prepare to lose all your free time at the weekend — you will be hooked. But let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Is it too tough?
DiRT 4 immediately asks whether you want to be a “gamer” or “sim” racer. Pick very wisely. This is where mode and at this point you have to pick if you’re in it for fun or to test yourself to the absolute limit. Gamer mode is more forgiving and is a great addition because it lets anyone have a blast without spinning or crashing at every turn. If you are brave enough and good enough then simulation is stunning. It’s as tough as it gets. But there are a host of aids and options to help you find that sweet spot for your skills. Once there, you can start ramping things up at your own pace as your skills improve. There are a host of modes, but career will give you a taste of all the different styles of rallying on show and is a great starting point.
You can build your own team as you race more and you can use credits to buy better kit and hire better crew. There is a neat feature where new sponsors come on board as you rise through the ranks. They want you to complete challenges which will earn extra goodies. The series has the official Rallycross licence but does not include all the tracks at the moment. That is a shame but there is still more than enough to get stuck into. But the ace up the sleeve is the Your Stage feature — it is a game-changer for rally games. It can generate a rally at random — just pick the length and complexity. This means there are limitless stages to play. Just push a few sliders and a button as you pick from five different locations each with their own challenges.
The graphics are stunning. The detail in things like the engine are superb and prove just how talented the Codemasters team is. Your car even starts off nice and clean but gets dirtier as you drive. The audio is sure motorsport joy. Any petrolhead will drool as the roar of the turbo kicks in or the exhaust pops and crackles. Everything has a really beefiness to it.
So, does Dirt 4 have any issues? Yes . . . and no. Some modes and options from past games are missing. That may disappoint some fans, especially on the multiplayer front but it isn’t a deal breaker. If you’re a fan looking for the best rally game out there then look no further. If you’re just looking to throw a Subaru Impreza around a snowy track then look no further. Codemasters have taken the best rally game to date and made it even better with DiRT 4.
Victor Vran: Overkill Edition (Xbox One and PS4, £29.99)
YOU can pretty much expect any game called Overkill to be a bit of a thrash, slash and hack ‘n’ roll special. But Bulgarian developers Haemimont Games believe in going that extra mile. For starters you get the game and two expansion packs for £29.99. That is serious value for money and killing power.
You are demon-hunter as Victor Vran and you have to clear out the nasties in Zagoravia. The fantasy city has been over-run by a demon infection. Cue a 20 hour + campaign to uncover the truth and plunder loot. The expansion packs add depth — the first one, Fractured Worlds, lets you fight through randomly generated dungeons. Then there is the Motorhead-themed pack. You heard us — it is the ultimate game for Motorhead fans complete with special weapons, outfits and songs! Lemmy at it . . . sorry.
The gameplay is mostly a one or two-button affair but there is an interesting twist. Victor starts the same way every time. It is then up to you to find the tools and weapons to take him the way you want to play — be it warrior, wizard or whatever. The mix of Gothic and horror-inspired backdrops works well but the action does feel a little lost at times because of the camera placement. The sound is solid, with Doug Cockle — who also voices Geralt from the Witcher series — doing an outstanding job as Victor. The soundtrack also sets the dark tone but it cranks up to 11 Motorhead kicks off.
Navigating the menus to swap loots often feels like it would have been better suited to a PC mouse and keyboard. You can also jump in the game, but you can get stuck on terrain which is not so good. But it has Motorhead so it is still a hit.
FORGET E3, Scotland had its gaming fever as Play Expo Glasgow kicked off at Braehead Arena. The two-day event had a mix of indie, VR, retro, arcade and pinball action, plus the latest in cardboard and table-top games. Younger gamers could get time with some legendary game and arcade cabinets like Pac Man, Tron and Outrun. There was also a large collection of retro consoles like NES, C64 and a selection of Amiga hardware with games like Duck Hunt and Crazy Taxis.
The indie section was a big draw with Asobi Tech’s game, MaoMao Castle, being the standout game. Think Space Harrier with a big cat collecting rainbows. You control the game by moving your hand from side to side over a sensor. Make a fist and you can actually break through walls in the game. The indie section was the perfect place for the developers to let gamers try out levels and get feedback. But the expo wasn’t all about gaming — the Scottish cosplay scene is alive and kicking. Play Expo Glasgow had a strong debut year in 2016 and this was just as good. But with a host of new events on the Scottish games calendar this year it will be interesting to see what 2018’s event will conjure up to hang on to its family-friendly crown.
24 Hours of Le Mans
MOST eyes might have been on the track but Le Mans produced another thrilling result — in the Forza Racing Championship Season 3: The Porsche Cup. Michael Coyne, from Blackburn, made the headlines as he took the win. It was the first time the Elite Series finals of ForzaRC Season 3: The Porsche Cup had taken place at the legendary circuit. And, to mark his victory, race organisers — the Automobile Club de l’Ouest — actually created a new Official Endurance Esports Category. It meant Coyne took home $20,000 and picked up his trophy on the main race podium where Timo Bernhard, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley celebrated their 2017 win on Sunday.
Dan Greenawalt, Creative Director of Forza Racing Franchise, Turn 10 Studios, said:
“This weekend, the real and the digital worlds have merged in an unprecedented way.”
The ForzaRC series runs in partnership with the likes of Audi, Ford and Porsche. It is the most inclusive racing competition in gaming, with players of all skill levels competing against each other. If you fancy yourself as the next champ then keep an eye on forzaracingchampionship.com for news on season four.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…