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 10th December 2017.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins (PS4, Xbox One, PC, £44.99)
THE movie may have sucked but the Assassin’s Creed games have been a mega hit. Now Ubisoft is back with Assassin’s Creed: Origins – the biggest game to date. The year-long break has seen the firm bring in some new tricks to keep gamers on their toes. We move to Egypt during the Ptolemaic period around 48 BC and the start of an epic battle between the Brotherhood of Assassins and the Templar Order. The main story is about revenge as your character, a Medjay called Bayek, lost his son when he was killed by The Order of the Ancients. He aims to make anyone who was involved pay a heavy price during the 30-plus hour adventure.
But there is more than just the main tale. Ubisoft have given you a HUGE map filled with countless tasks and journey distractions. Play everything and you could easily have a 60-hour game. Each mission rewards with a neat piece of loot at the end. There is a large role-playing core so you need the loot to level up and get new gear before heading to new areas. That is great if you have time on your hands but not so good if you have a job. The Origins world is deep and rich. It feels like a real place as villagers carry on their day-to-day lives as you move from towns and cities. Each place embraces the history of the time and you can even meet the likes of Cleopatra and Caesar.
The other big change is the combat. It’s all about blocking, dodging and knowing when to run. It’s an interesting twist but it does take time to master but you’ll soon be perfecting your dance of death every time you draw your blade. It has a stunning look – from riding over sand dunes to sliding down the face of the great pyramids – and it is all brought to life by the power of the Xbox X. The soundtrack backs everything up well. It crashes out at fight time then blends into the background as things die down. The voice acting is also top quality.
Having a game this big would be a tough challenge to make perfect and there are a few bugs and glitches. Your horse’s head gets stuck in a wall or you are locked out of jumping, but I would expect Ubisoft to fix these in their regular patches. This is a blast. The time setting is superb and you can get lost in the tale. Creed fans can breathe easy – the series is back to what it does best.
Ashes Cricket (PC, Xbox One, PS4, £44.99)
I THOUGHT cricket was an insect. There, I have said it. The whole sport leaves me stumped. I have seen the odd report on the TV, but I was not bowled over when Big Ant Studio’s Ashes Cricket landed. Let’s face it, judging by the sports reports, playing this game may be the only way England will beat the Aussies Down Under. As a total noob to cricket the game does a good job in helping you learn the ropes. There are a mix of controls split between buttons and the sticks and more advanced controls come into play when you are ready for them. There are a number of modes like career and tour, but you’ll want to spend most of your time in the Ashes series. You can play the full tour with options to spice it up. You can also play the one-day internationals and T20 series as well. Get me, I sound like an expert…
The career mode is worth checking out – you can progress from rookie status right up to superstar. And you can take the action online and play the best in the world. It is fully licensed by the Austrian and English governing bodies so you can play with the full teams like Glenn Maxwell and Ben Stokes – although you could mirror real life and leave him in New Zealand. You also have the real kits and, in a nice twist, you can play as the ladies teams. You only have full access to Australia and England, but there is a custom builder where you can craft a squad or download one once the community has built it. That’s a neat touch. The grounds are also licensed so you walk out at the Gabba, the Waka or Edgbaston. Or you can build your own stadium fairly easily.
The key is the way the players look and move and they have done a realistic job. It is all very smart and slick and there are tons of stats for the cricket geeks to get lost in. But, at the end of the day, it is a cricket game and that’s it. How much you play it will be down to how much you like the sport. Big Ant Studios have built a solid game that fans will enjoy. Newcomers will like the challenge and may even get hooked.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 (Xbox One, PC, PS4, Switch, £44.99)
NO kid – even those who are 30-somethings – can resist LEGO. You see it and you want to build something. But things go to a different level when it is Marvel characters. So, a computer game that brings the LEGO recipe to Marvel comics has to be a winner. Travellers Tales have worked their magic with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2. It kicks off after the first game with Kang the Conqueror building Chronopolis – a sort of mish-mash city of places you may have seen elsewhere. And, in doing that, Kang has also taken the heroes from these places and they won’t be sitting back and watching.
The story – by Kurt Busiek and Stephen Sharples – is a great framework for the block-based adventure. You fight through your standard LEGO game of light combat with a few puzzles to mix things up and a few twists in the 12-hour playing time. You fight your way through a mix of locations from Marvel favourites like Sakaar and Wakanda to Medieval England. I know, bonkers, but they work a treat to break out from the normal LEGO gameplay. There is a who’s who from the Marvel world to play – the likes of Iron Man and Thor rub shoulders with lesser-known heroes like the Black Knight. It is a really strong point for the game, and will be a treat for younger gamers.
The graphics don’t disappoint. They pop with colour and style and they have done a great job with the characters, but the soundtrack is nothing more than OK. I did enjoy the voice acting though. We have seen Travellers Tales treatments before and that is the only gripe. This does not move things on too much – they could have fleshed out the gameplay. This is all a bit like other Lego games and that is not good for us older kids. But it is still a solid, enjoyable game if a bit predictable. If you love Lego and Marvel – and who doesn’t? – then it is a Christmas treat.
The Mummy Demastered (PS4, Xbox One, PC, £15.99)
THERE is an unspoken rule about games that are tied to movies – bring it out at the same time as the film and it is usually a bit rubbish. But release it nowhere near the film and it will be good. No one knows why, but it just happens that way. The Mummy Demastered is based on last summer’s reboot of The Mummy with Tom Cruise. The game picks up threads of the movie but mostly goes its own way. And, when you consider that most game developers aim for super HD remasters, it is fairly cool to see WayForward embrace a more retro style.
You are a faceless agent who works for Prodigium. You are the lone survivor from a strike team and you have to fight off the evil forces of Princess Ahmanet throughout a five-hour tale. That sounds exciting but it all boils down to you doing the hard yards while Cruise steals the limelight on the silver screen. It is all classic Metroidvania with a dash of Metal Slug and even a pinch of Dark Souls as you fight your way through big levels hunting for new gear and weapons. But there is a twist – if you die your agent becomes a zombie. You now have to find it, get your kit back and kill it. That’s an interesting addition to the Metroidvania formula but it becomes really testing near the tail end of the game when you’re fighting more powerful enemies and trying to get back your kit.
The developers have created a graphic love letter to the 16-bit games of yesteryear. There is some truly stunning retro artwork – from tombs to the streets of London during a sandstorm. It really does pop and then add in the moody retro-tinged soundtrack and it all works really well. If there is a downside, it is the difficulty of the game. It can be really tough and that will put some folk off. The Dark Souls “win your loot back” system is great on paper but it’s not much fun when you’re under-powered while trying to do it. We also came across a few occasions when the frame rate fell a little, especially during more action heavy scenes. But it is an interesting take on how to do a movie tie-in. Older gamers will have a blast. If you love a challenge then this will test you.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…