Scotch Corner – Welcome to 2018

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 7th January 2018.

 

The Surge: A Walk in the Park (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £11.99)

THE Surge caused a storm when it was released back in May.  It was an interesting take on the Dark Souls formula — but, instead of fighting monsters and demons, you had a vision of the future where you had to upgrade to survive brutal combat.  Fast forward eight months and A Walk In The Park has landed.  The new DLC add-on lets you revisit the bleak sci-fi vision but puts you in a theme park!

It might seem a bit wacky but it actually fits into the main story well.  It adds up to eight hours of new content as you go to Creo World — a park built for the work force to enjoy.  But there’s always a but.  Unlike the name, this becomes anything but a walk in the park.  We have a Westworld-style twist as things go Pete Tong rather quickly as crazed teams and deadly robots target you.  The park is full of rides and theme park staples like mascots but, after the huge energy spike from the main game, this is less of a fun time and more a “grab a pipe and beat everything that moves” world.

You’ll do a lot of point A-to-B fetch-style quest to start off with, but there are a few standout moments that may raise a few questions about how quickly you’ll ever get on a rollercoaster again.  There is an interesting mix of new enemies to fight and you can get your hands on different weapons and armour.  However, the level of gear is actually a fair bit lower than what you get if you are on a new game.  And you have to really grind it out to get the new kit up to spec.

The DLC has a great look.  Running around an abandoned theme park is a great idea and full of fun opportunities.  The art style fully embodies that sense of fun and there is bags of hidden details that hint at tales yet to be told.
If you are a fan of the core game then A Walk In The Park is well worth picking up.  If you want to add to the original gaming experience, then it is also a winner.  There are plenty of twists to make it worth your while.

Score: 4/5 

Okami HD (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £19.99)

GET your teeth into one of the hottest games around — and feed your inner wolf.  Okami HD is a bit special — it feeds off Japanese folklore, has stunning artwork and is a tough 35+hour challenge.  You are Okami Amaterasu — a goddess who has taken the form of a white wolf who must restore peace and prosperity across the land.  If you think it is familiar, then take a bow.  Okami was first released on PS2 in 2006.  There were a few versions after that, but this has had the treatment from Capcom — and now it truly shines.

The nip and tuck has made a cult game epic.  The graphics have been upgraded to run in 4K and it’s also the first time that Xbox and PC gamers can join in the fun.  There is a massive Zelda vibe going on and that’s no bad thing as you explore the overworld and do quest and side missions while working hard to get stronger and unlocking new powers and clear dungeons.  Add in a mix of colourful characters along the way and a genuine sense of humour and you start to see way this is has everything you need to be filed under “special game”.

The combat is a thing of wonder — you freeze the action and paint your attacks with the “Celestial Brush” as if you were painting a picture.  Then the action resumes and your attack comes to life with slashes, bombs and everything in-between.  The original look may be 12 years old now but it still feels incredibly fresh and vibrant.  There is a striking cell shade art style which is inspired by Japanese wood prints and water colours.  They have also pulled out all the stops with the soundtrack — it carries on the ancient theme but is mixed in with some fine work from some of the best composers in gaming.

There are some down points — the game is built on past technology so runs at 30 frames per second.  It would have been nice if the development team could have upped it to a higher rate, but I believe they felt it would not work properly with the way the game had been built.  The tale is also fairly slow paced — it just take a bit of time to get into the flow.  But neither of those issues stop your enjoyment.  There is a select few titles that warrant a “legendary” tag and are challenges that every gamer should take on.  Okami is one.  This is a true modern classic.  It’s a bit of an animal.

Score: 5/5

eSports

MOST people think of eSports as a yoof thing, but no more . . .   A rag-tag band of oldies is on a mission to show they can game with the best.  The Silver Snipers made their debut on Counter Strike at Dreamhack 2017.

The five-strong Lenovo-backed team includes Bertil “Berra-Bang” Englund at 81 and Monica “Teen Slayer” Idenfors at 62.  They are coached by Tommy Ingemarsson — who founded Ninjas in Pyjamas.  Not sure whether this is just a clever PR stunt, but you can find out more at lenovo-silversnipers.com.

Year of Shame

ANOTHER year and another band of brave gamers try to take on the epic Year of Shame challenge.  It’s now in its sixth year and the show aims to help people to tackle unfinished or unplayed games in their collections.  This year sees four new guinea pigs — Andy Brown, Cevin Moore, Gavin Irwin and Stuart Neill.

They will all aim to go through next 12 months without buying any new games, DLC or hardware.  They will then share their experiences with listeners.  You can find the show on iTunes by searching YOS Challenge 6 or follow @YOSChallenge6 for updates.

Road Rage (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £26.99)

A LOT of gaming classics have fallen by the wayside.  Remember EA’s Strike series?  No?  Guess I am just showing my age now.  How about Road Rash?  It was a game where racers fought with pipes and chains at high speeds on top-end bikes.  It was real gladiators with radiators in a 16-bit world.  Fast forward to 2017 and Team 6 studio has released Road Rage, which has the same core ideas.  But this is not the return of vehicular combat racing that I was hoping for.  This is rough.

Basically the government is cutting cities into districts to halt an uprising.  The result is the rise of bike gangs taking part in races across a gritty open world.  So far so good, but then almost everything goes wrong — from the handling of your bike to random cars falling out of the sky.  It is way too unpredictable as you try the 90-plus races and side missions.  The combat is nothing more than a mash-the-button fest as you hope to hit something.  Where are the cool combos?  The graphics are muddy and flat and there is nothing nice to say about the voice acting.
It been almost 20 years since Road Rash. Road Rage is not fit to be in its tyre tracks.  Sadly, it has all it needs to be a fun and enjoyable arcade combat racer but it feels rushed.  Another year in development would have been nice.

Score: 1/5

Gone Fishing…

REEL treat for Euro Fishing fans — the Waldsee DLC is about to splash land.  Waldsee — which translates from German as “forest lake” — will live up to its name.  It transports players to a hideaway surrounded by dense woodland and sun-kissed rocks where you can start fishing for carp up to 62 lbs and catfish up to 68 lbs.

It’s out on Tuesday for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and costs £8.99.

The Catz have got the mice…

MAD Catz has new management and has returned to the gaming peripherals market after weeks of teasing.  The firm — which suffered a string of financial hits — is best known for the R.A.T gaming mice, arcade FightSticks and a host of other peripherals.

They will show off their new gear at CES in Las Vegas next week — it includes mice, keyboards, headsets and mouse mats.

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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