Scotch Corner – It’s not LA, but it’ll do

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 1st October 2017.

 

BAJA: Edge of Control HD (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £21.99)

THIS 2008 racer has had a fresh coat of paint for 2017.  First time round it suffered against the likes of Burnout Paradise and Motorstorm Pacific Rift being released.  So, here’s the question: who actually wants an HD version?  The game lets you get behind the wheel of eight types of Baja off-roaders and is, for the most part, a racing by numbers affair.  It has a good selection of modes both on and offline and you can sink your teeth into the career mode.

You start with a buggy and race your way to bigger and better rides along with upgrades.  You’ll also score sponsorship as you rise through the ranks which help you get new kit.  You’ll spend your time racing Baja 250, 500 and 1,000 mile races set out over nine locations with more than 100 tracks, each with their own challenges.  The standout problem is the difficulty of the AI.  If you go off-track a few times then you may as well rest the race as you have no hope of winning.

The graphics are OK as is the soundtrack but it is nothing special.  In a world where you can buy the likes of Forza Horizon 3 and Dirt 4, it is hard to see where Baja fits in.  It is fun but it just isn’t in the same league as most racers in 2017.

Score: 2.5/5

A Vision in Carbon Fibre

YOU’LL feel your motor revving when you see this picture.  McLaren have revealed the car for the new Gran Turismo Sport game which is out on PS4 next month.  The McLaren Ultimate Vision Gran Turismo is the latest in the ‘Vision GT’ line-up.  McLaren will debut their concept car alongside Bugatti and Hyundai, while F1 champ Emerson Fittipaldi will lend his name to a Pininfarina-designed Vision GT concept.

GT Sport is out on October 18th.

A Festival of Gaming

THE tenth EGX fun fest kicked off with some Hollywood razzle-dazzle and the gaming fireworks lit up the show.  The four-day gaming festival at the NEC in Birmingham attracted mega crowds eager to find out the latest news and get hands-on time with the newest titles.  But the big cheer came for Lord Of The Rings star Andy Serkis.  The Gollum actor has also brought a string of apes to life in King Kong and the Planet Of The Apes franchise.  But he was at the show because he has crossed the border into games and is the executive producer of Planet Of The Apes: Final Frontier.  He gave an insight into the game and also showed some behind-the-scene footage of the game.

The four-day exhibition is the largest gaming show in the UK, but many were waiting to see how it bounced back after last year’s show was considered the weakest in its history.  Serkis made sure it all started with a bang.  But it wasn’t just about Hollywood A-listers, the gaming glitterati were out in force.  Developers from Wolfenstein, LEGO Marvel and Destiny were all on hand to talk about their games and let gamers meet their heroes face to face as well.  But if that wasn’t really your thing then there were thousands of games to get up close and personal with.

It was a massive step up from last year with the big three — Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft — all there to show off their shiny new toys.  Sony had a huge range of PlayStation Virtual Reality titles including Skyrim VR and GT Sport, as well as hotly anticipated titles like Hidden Agenda and Detroit: Become Human.  Microsoft caused much excitement by offering the chance for gamers to try out the Xbox X.  It was the first chance UK gamers have had to try out the console ahead of the November launch — and they were not going to miss out.  Microsoft fired up Forza 7, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Super Lucky’s Tale and Assassin’s Creed Origins and it was no surprise that it attracted some of the biggest queues at the show.  Nintendo fans were also in for a treat.  The Switch is still enjoying a honeymoon period — especially as more titles are brought out.  And there were Switch consoles as far as the eye could see — from the official stand to the indie section.  It was too good a chance for gamers to miss.  You could play the likes of Arms and Super Mario Odyssey or get stuck into some more interesting indie games.  It was a winning move from Nintendo — the Switch was definitely king of the consoles on the show floor.

Sega, Ubisoft and Namco Bandai continued the big-hitting with some exciting teasers and titbits for their future product.  But eSports has continued its incredible growth story so it was always going to have a big presence at the show.  There were a number of tournaments to take part in over the weekend, with Streetfighter, Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege all attracting top players.  It was also a great chance to see and feel what top-tier eSports is all about as the best of the best fought it out to bag cash prizes and be crowned the winner.  There was also a heavy PC element which focused on the best of kit for streaming and playing on the eSports scene.  There were countless stands showing the latest shiny kit.

But it wasn’t just the PC crowd that could see the best kit — GT Omega and Thrustmaster showed off their latest wares.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg of this year’s show although it was noticeable that the likes of Bethesda and EA were missing.   They usually take big stands at the show and their absence meant no chance to sample a little Need For Speed or Evil Within 2.  But it’s safe to say that the tenth EGX was a cracking show and had a great family friendly vibe over the four days.  It was definitely back on form.  But gaming festivals are all about . . .  games.  So what were the top titles on show?  We cast our eyes over the games on parade and pick out our top six . . .

Mario Odyssey (Switch)

GAME of the show.  This will be in the running for game of the year when it lands.  We played the city level and were blown away by the open world feel as you wander where you want and do what you like, from exploring side streets to climbing buildings.  And that’s before you attack the missions.  It has the trademark Nintendo look and that makes you smile, but the upbeat soundtrack and the attention to detail takes it up a level.  It’s pure 3D platforming fun with a great deal of polish and we can’t wait to get hands on with the full game at the end of next month.

The Lost Bear (PSVR)

ODD Bug Studio may be small but they have a big vision.  They are behind the charming The Lost Bear — an enchanting PSVR about a youngster’s bid to rescue a stolen teddy bear.  The first thing that hits you is the art style.  It is like papercraft.  You sit in a chair and the world is like an epic tale played around you.  You have to look around to see the small details and spot elements key to the story.  It has a very Unravel crossed with Inside vibe at times and that is not a bad thing.  If you have a PSVR then The Lost Bear is well worth checking out when it lands.

Final Fantasy Dissidia (PS4)

THIS is the third game in the series and throws the world of Final Fantasy into an arena combat game.  It is no surprise that it works because it is by Team Ninja who know their way around a fighting game.  It sees 3 v 3 brawls between a host of characters from across the series.  It is all pretty heavy duty to start with — it throws everything and the kitchen sink at you.  Once you get your head round it then it reveals some hidden depths.

Bomber Crew (Xbox One, PS4 , Switch and PC)

THIS plays like Faster Than Light — but is set in WW2 and you have to guide a bomber on a dangerous mission.  The game has bags of charm as you take command of a super-cute crew and hope to get them home in a testing strategy game.  There is a rogue feel — if a member of crew dies it’s permanent, so you need to look after them.  The game is set to launch on PC this October and consoles early next year.  That includes the Switch which could well be the most interesting version.

Rogue Trooper Redux (Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and PC)

IT’S just weeks from the launch and EGX was the first opportunity for gamers to play it on Switch.  The first thing you notice is that it runs very well but it was the same demo we played on the PS4 at this year’s E3.  But having a Switch means you can play it on the move or docked and on your TV at home.  The developers hope to launch the Switch version as close to the other formats next month.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Xbox One and PC)

EVERYONE is playing this.  PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is coming to the Xbox One later this year and the show gave you a taste of what it would be like.  It has to be said that this is possibly the worst style of game to play at an expo because you have limited time, but the scenes we did attack reinforced how smooth it is and how it will be just like the PC version.  You can’t say much more than that until it actually arrives.  But it sure whetted the appetite.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £44.99)

IT has been a battle that has raged as long and hard as those featured in the famous comics, but the Marvel v Capcom fight has just gone epic.  The latest instalment — Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite — has taken the winning recipe and given it a right good stir.  You won’t ever forget that this is a fighting game, but there is an interesting side tale.  But it all boils down to the worlds of Marvel and Capcom coming together again to save the world.  All the characters are handled as well as you would expect — from the wise-cracking Spiderman to know-it- all Tony Stark.  Everyone has just the right feel in the cut scenes.  But who are we kidding?  It’s a fighting game and you’re here to beat seven bells out of everything that moves.  Think about it like that and this game is a massive hit.

It has two big changes from past games in the series.  The first is that the tag system has been dropped to two characters instead of three.  That does change the dynamics of how you play because you will need different tactics when bringing in your other fighter.  The other big change is that you can now pick an Infinity stone — the clue was in the title, right? — which will give you an extra power during a fight.  There are five stones to pick from.  Each has their own bonus — from added speed to just locking your enemy in a big blue box and laying into them.  The changes add new depth to the game and the more skilled players among us will get the most reward from them.  But don’t be put off if you are a more casual player, you will still get a buzz from using them.

The game has a healthy roster of 30 fighters split between both universes.  That means you can pick from the likes of Ryu and Haggar or Doctor Strange and the Hulk.  That’s half the thrill of the game as you fight as some of your favourite characters.  However, there are some notable names missing like Deadpool and the X-Men characters.  Graphically, the game is a real mixed bag.  At times the backgrounds are so detailed and full of little Easter eggs for fans to spot.  You pull off a combo and the screen lights up like a Christmas tree.  Most of the characters look great, but I have to question others like Ryu and Frank West.  They just aren’t right and that is a shame.  The soundtrack is standard fighting game fare and the voice work is of a good standard if a little cheesy.

If you’re looking to lose yourself in a deep fighting game that has a host of features plus a healthy selection of online modes then Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite is well worth a look.  But sometimes you just want to be Spiderman and beat up Ironman.  If so, then this game is perfect.

Score: 4.5/5

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £17.99)

IT’S been almost a year since Dishonored 2 was released — now Death Of The Outsider has added an outstanding adventure that doesn’t need to hide in the shadow of its bigger brother.  You are Billie Lurk, a charming but troubled soul who helps her dying mentor to get revenge on the Outsider — the shady demi-god who is at the root most things in the series.  The tale focuses on trying to find an item that can kill the Outsider once and for all.

There is a good pace to the tale and fans will actually get answers to questions that hang over the series in the eight-hour campaign.  The core gameplay is a boiled down version of Dishonored.  You have a limited power set and stealth doesn’t play as big a part as in the main game.  Levels are huge playgrounds where you can find hidden secrets but they never match the outstanding designs in the second game.  That doesn’t stop them being a joy to play.  The combat is satisfying but it pays to experiment with the tools you have.  It’s great fun finding out what will and will not work.  There’s a bonus — complete the game and you unlock the chance to play it all again but with different powers.

The look is great. It feels just like the main event and there is an epic soundtrack to back everything up.  The voice acting is also outstanding.  If you’re a Dishonored fan then you will have to fork out your pennies to get it.  It ties up a lot of loose ends.  But if you just want to see what the series is like then this is the perfect way in.  It has focused powers and more laid-back approach.

Score: 4.5/5

I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…

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Stuart Cullen

Scotland’s very own thorn in the side of the London gaming scene bringing all the hottest action straight from The Sun… well… The Scottish Sun at least, every week!

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