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 13th August 2017.
Black The Fall (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £11.99)
EVERYONE loves bucking the system and Black The Fall gives you the chance to out-smart the man. The Sand Sailor Studios production is partly inspired by the team’s memories of life in 1980s Communist Romania. You are a worker who makes his break for freedom from the oppressive regime. This a side-scrolling puzzler with a political theme and it feels like a tribute to last year’s indie hit, Inside.
You start off in a huge lift with about 40 other workers. The doors open and you run. From there you never stop pushing the right of the screen as you come across a mix of puzzles and challenges. The first few hours are quite tough because you have to dodge the security cameras, guards and machine gun turrets as you try to escape a factory powered by slave labour. It is often a dark picture — and we don’t mean the lack of bright colours.
The puzzles are a neat mix — you get a laser glove which helps you open doors as well as give orders to other workers. But that leaves you wondering whether you are actually any better than the bad guys because you take advantage of them then leave them to rot. You’ll also meet a robot dog which adds a different layer to the gameplay as the puzzle get deeper and deeper. Strangely, they do not get more difficult. The graphics are very much like Inside but they have more of a three-dimensional feel. The only splash of colour is red and yellow in a black and grey world. The soundtrack works well — it whirrs away in the background then suddenly builds up the tension before fading out again when the storyline chills a bit.
It is a challenge and not least because there are a few technical issues. The controls are a bit hit and miss, especially when you are trying to jump, and I ran across a few animation glitches on my play through. But the biggest issue I had is the pace. One second you are building up a sweat in an all-action assault then the next you are simply running . . . and running . . . and running. I get the point that it is all to build the tone but you can’t escape the feeling that these sections are just padding out the overall length of the game. That doesn’t stop the game offering up some interesting gameplay. The subject matter is hard and you have to face some even tougher questions. Fans of Inside and Limbo will enjoy this even though it never hits those lofty heights.
Will The Real Cliffy B Please Stand Up?
CLIFF Bleszinski is a big man in every sense of the word — and he shoots from the lip. The man known as Cliffy B to millions was the face of Gears Of War. He also worked on Unreal Tournament. He co-founded Boss Key Productions with Arjan Brussee and their first game, Lawbreakers, has just landed. It is a modern-day shooter with a classic arena vibe. He said:
“It’s a core shooter for core shooter fans which is the Matrix fight scenes meets the fight scenes from Inception meets Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon on meth.”
But it won’t be on Xbox any time soon. Cliff added:
“It was a business decision. The Xbox fans are being very salty right now, saying you are abandoning the platform that made you with Gears Of War. I am like ‘Guys, I looked at the install base for PS4 v Xbox and PS4 is doing far better right now though Xbox is catching up but it is a PS4 game right now.’ I only have 65 staff and everyone is already working 12 to 14-hour days. We could maybe do an Xbox version.”
But Cliff likes the finished product, even if he disagreed with some of the team about the multiplayer online battle arena. He said:
“A lot of the team are big MOBA fans but I’m not. The only MOBA I ever enjoyed really was Smite. I don’t get the rest of them.”
He revealed the original idea came from a childhood memory. He said:
“I used to have a nightmare as a child about gravity reversing and having to hang onto the lawn or be sucked into the atmosphere. I also did the zero-g flight about 10 years ago which goes up at a 45-degree angle then goes down at a 45-degree angle. That was how they filmed Apollo 13 and it was a transcendent experience for me. Then I read Leviathan Wakes, which was a great sci-fi book by James S A Corey. It talked about firing a weapon in zero-g and I wondered what would happen if I fired a rocket launcher or fired a weapon behind me then we decided to build an entire game around the concept.”
“We have found a formula where the game plays best when there is a gravity pocket in the middle of the map. If you don’t want to deal with it you can just go round it.”
Lawbreakers has the feel of a premade eSport title as two teams fight it out in a mix of arenas, but Bleszinski insisted:
“I am just focused on making a damn good shooter that has entertaining game modes and is fun to watch. Everything else will come later hopefully. There are so many games that try to put the horse before the cart and they link our game and eSport, eSport, eSport. Just let me make a great game and maybe it’ll eventually be an eSport but I don’t know if that will happen.”
Get Lawbreakers now on PS4 and PC, £24.99.
Cars 3: Driven to Win (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, 360, PS3 and Wii U, £39.99)
CUE summer and the blockbusters at the cinema. Now there always seems to be a tie-in game. This year is no different with Disney looking to hook younger racing fans with Cars 3: Driven to Win. It is an arcade-style racer similar to Mario Kart. There are more than 20 motors for the Cars universe and 21 tracks across locations from the movies. That is neat but some are a little flat and overly long.
There are six modes, ranging from the standard race to battle race — where you can get power-ups to boost your performance. There is stunt showcase, where you have to score as many points as you can with a variety of tricks, and takedown mode which feels like a classic Burnout game where you take out as many cars as possible. Carnage. To top things off, there are master level events — a bit like boss fights where you have to take on a character for the Cars universe beat them at their own mode.
For a full retail-priced game based on a movie there very little story — just a few cut scenes — but you will spend most of your time tackling the 136 different challenges. The graphics are not as good as the film and the movie stars are not doing the voice work. There is a handful of multiplayer options including four-player split screen which will attract younger players.
On The Stream
THERE is plenty of soul with the Don’t Give Up, Skeleton! podcast — it is dedicated to the Souls series of games. It was started in 2016 by Jeremy Greer who wants to know: what’s your Souls story? The cast is inspired by two other Souls podcasts — Bonfireside Chat and Twin Humanities. The show features people from well-known podcasters, YouTubers, artists and even indie rappers.
“Everyone has a Souls story: what’s yours?”
Take It To The Track
ENDURANCE racer Harry Tincknell has thrown down a real Gamescom challenge. The Ford driver wants to see if gamers can keep pace with his actual laps in a Focus RS around Spa circuit, only they will be on Forza 6. The fastest gamers at the Cologne event will win a flight by helicopter to drive the Focus RS on track with coaching from the Le Mans 24 Hours racer, two Recaro seats and B&O Play gear. Ford will also be showing off some new toys at the show with the Focus RS, Ford GT and all-new Fiesta ST-Line.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…