Scotch Corner – Divided We Stand

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 24th March.

 

Dante vs Dante?

CAPCOM crusader Matt Walker has plenty of reasons to smile.  Their latest offering, Devil May Cry 5, is riding high in the charts and the fans love it.  Many loved the Ninja Theory DmC game which has been put into its own universe, but Matt, below, has revealed that his hopes for it to be a DMC sequel had been dashed . . . for now.  He told me:

“We would love to see a sequel to DmC: Devil May Cry some day.  We very much hoped we could do another one when development ended on that title, but unfortunately it never materialised.  Personally, though, a lot of the magic of DmC came from Ninja Theory — so I think it should only ever be done if Ninja Theory gets to make it.  They have a sense of style that is unmatched in the gaming industry.”

Matt is also keen to see DmC Dante and Devil May Cry Dante face off.  He admitted:

“I feel like the Marvel vs games were the beginning of true video game crossovers.  It would be amazing if we could convince some fighting team somewhere to implement two versions of Dante.  But why stop there?  Imaging being able to summon V’s demons, or use Nero’s Devil Breakers in the heat of a fight?  Nero’s Wire Snatch would be right at home in a fighting game.  This is all wishful thinking.  There are no plans to put DMC characters in any fighting currently that I’m aware of.”

The soundtracks are also a work of art that play a vital role in the game.  Matt said:

“This time we felt the battle themes for each character should try to be different from each other and more based around what that particular player character would listen to.  What’s really cool is that the three battle songs play out differently in accordance to how the fight is proceeding on screen.  The song will really heat up and hit the chorus once you’ve hit S rank.  We’re hoping this feels like people are performing live on stage, as they’re dishing out stylish combos — and the music change helps accentuate the high of performing well.”

Devil May Cry 5 is out now on PC, Xbox One and PS4.

Ape Out (Switch and PC, £13.49)

MUSIC and gaming have always had a strong relationship.  From full-blown epic soundtracks to the thud of plastic buttons being bashed on a plastic guitar in Rock Band.  Enter Ape Out — a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the same vein of Hotline Miami but with a heavy dose of style.  Developer Gabe Cuzzillo has created something that is both stunning and brutal at the same time.

The story is simple.  You play an ape who has to escape from four different levels set in backdrops such as a testing facility or a military base.  As you rip through each location you’ll be faced with a horde of guards and soldiers out to stop you, each with different weapons and attacks from machine guns to flamethrowers.  Learning how to deal with each differently (you only have two moves — punch and grab) is where the depth of combat really starts to show itself.  Levels are short and, occasionally, very claustrophobic as you barrel down an endless number of corridors.

Graphically the game is stunning as your big orange ape bombs around the dark walled levels bashing, smashing and throwing enemies.  But the REAL STAR of the show is the jazz soundtrack, composed by Matt Boch.  The beat ticks away with each move you make then unleashes blasts of drum cracks and cymbals with each punch and throw.  It all builds up each track to a bombastic crescendo when it all kicks off.  Movement and music being linked isn’t a new idea but in Ape Out it adds so much to the game.  If you’re looking for a fun, addictive and easy game that is an aural and visual treat, Ape Out nails it.

Score: 5/5

Turtle Beach Stealth 600 White (Xbox One and PC, £89.99)

HEADSETS are all about solutions for gaming needs.  Wireless or wired seems to be straightforward enough, but then there is style, quality and cost.  Now Turtle Beach have muddied the waters even more with their updated Stealth 600.  It comes in a white and green finish that will melt the heart of Xbox fans.  But would they tempt you, especially when £40 more will get you the better-spec Stealth 700 — a solid 5/5 when we reviewed them?  They are very similar — they have the same body as well as sharing a lot of kit but the difference is in the detail.  The 700 can connect to Bluetooth and has all the bells and whistles.

Beyond that, the 600 fights its corner well.  They are very lightweight and the huge selling point is the set-up.  In the past, it could be a real pain to plug in docks and read complex instructions.  The 600 were up and running within minutes.  The headset has 50 mm drivers so you get a great sound sphere.  We tested it with Devil May Cry 5, The Division 2, DiRT Rally 2.0 and Dead or Alive 6 and each was brought to life in spectacular fashion.  The mic is a bit stumpy, but it does a great job — nice, clear audio with just a little background sound bleed.  It also has the excellent flip-up-to-mute ability.  Turtle Beach say you’ll get about 15 hours from a full charge, but we were between 12 and 13.  You also can’t charge the headset and use it at the same time.

Our only gripe was the fabric of the earcups.  It lets in a fair bit of sound bleed and that can irritate on a long game session.  The volume controls are behind your ears, which takes a bit of time to work out.  But, overall, they are a winning addition to your gaming experience.

Score: 4.5/5

Location, Location, Location

BIGGER is better according to the design gurus behind The Division phenomenon.  They have moved from the snow-covered streets of New York to Washington DC for The Division 2 — and Ubisoft World Director Manny Diaz, below, felt the team rose to the challenge.  He said:

“It was a bold move to switch from the iconic backdrop of New York and the winter setting for the second game and there were a few cities we considered.  There was Seattle while New Orleans was really interesting with its cross-sections of cultures as well as being stunningly beautiful.  But we kept coming back to Washington DC for the variety it offered.  The first game was set in Manhattan and, in its own way, it was stunning, but we felt a proper sequel needed to open up spaces and explore nature as well as seeing some of the monuments.  DC is built on a swamp so the air around the city is hot and sticky.  In the summer and spring it’s a lot different from anything in the first game.  We also felt that moving the timeline forward about seven months would let us ramp up the stakes for both the agents and civilians.  But the flip side is the enemy factions are pooling their resources and becoming stronger and ultimately more dangerous.  The agents report directly to the President so we thought ‘Why not bring the crisis to the doorstep of the White House?’.”

They aimed to build a 1-to-1 version of DC — or, as Manny, admitted:

“There is a saying that isn’t official at Ubisoft but you’ll hear it enough around the office.  It’s ‘You’re getting your Hemingway on’.  Ernest Hemingway spent a lot of time in Paris and in the cafes learning about the people and culture then he wrote about it beautifully, so for us at Ubisoft if we are going to build a game set in a real-world location we are going to get our Hemingway on.  We spent time with Special Forces agents, Crisis Responders and the Coastguard.  We went to the Oval Office, looked at art facilities, we went hunting and went underground and tried to breathe in Washington.  One of the things we took away was how thin that line of defence really is.”

Then they had to nail the sounds of the city.  Manny added:

“We didn’t realise how much nature wanted to creep in — from the sounds of frogs to mosquitoes and there was always something rustling in the bushes like deer.  We sent an audio team down to record, mostly at night, to get the true sound of the city without traffic.”

Creating the new playground was a moving experience for Manny.  He admitted:

“We incorporated all this data into the game and when it finally came together I walked around trying to get a sense of the space.  I was at a point just around the corner from a coffee shop I had been to.  It blew me away to walk round the corner and the shop was there.  But we had to transform the city for the game so we imagined what would happen if the infrastructure was to break down.”

Manny added:

“The game has six environments.  The suburbs are very upmarket so the people were evacuated earlier but the area is being taken back by nature.  Fans will feel more at home with the residential area.  The people weren’t evacuated so there are piles of garbage in the streets which attracts animals.  Then there is a commercial area where we can showcase some of the architecture and open up a few new ways to impact gameplay.  The last is the historic — with the likes of the Lincoln Memorial and Theodore Roosevelt Island.  It highlights the changes from the first game.  Then the rule was: If you’re in cover, you are safe.  That’s perfect in New York because you are never more than 10 metres from cover but, in Washington, there are a lot of open areas so we needed solutions.”

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £52.99)

TOM Clancy’s The Division was a strong start for a series — fighting the good fight on the New York streets in snow-covered Manhattan.  But there was a but . . . and it was a significant but.  A BUT if you like.  Once you save the day, that was it . . . until extras were added months after launch.  So fair play to Massive Entertainment and Ubisoft.  They looked at what worked and what didn’t.  They saw what the fans enjoyed and have now blended it all together for the sequel.  The Division 2 is a looter shooter that will be like a pair of comfy slippers to fans, but will also appeal to newcomers.

You are back as an Agent — US sleeper-cell specialists trained to respond to a crisis.  They report directly to the President.  The action has moved from a wintry New York to the hot and hazy summer streets of Washington DC.  The story is a lot lighter than in the first game, which is a shame, but it is full of military chat and has a full-on Clancy vibe as you start in a small camp which is attacked by a unknown, but well-equipped, force.  Then in the heat of the battle, you are sent to Washington as the stakes are ramped up.  Ubisoft’s move to blast what there is of a story at you through radio chat and shortcut scenes is great.  It doesn’t get in the way when you’re playing with your mates across the 30 to 40-hour main campaign (dare we say, unlike Anthem) so my mate, Andy, got his fill of shooting while I soaked up the story.

The gameplay is very much like the first game — main, side and objective missions to boost your experience level up while hoovering up gear and loot.  However, unlike the first game, loot is plentiful and most firefights end like a seven-year-old’s piñatas party with a rainbow of gear levels in between the piles of bodies.  It’s a simple loop but it’s so satisfying as you hope for a rare gold drop and some one-upmanship on your gun-toting mate.  The core gunplay feels great.  You get a beefy arsenal plus some fun abilities and skills, such as a drone and turret as well as kit like a grenade that can pick up fallen teammates.  There are layers of combat, especially when you’re teaming up.  The different skills open up the game as you all fight from each covered position.  That said, you could go lone wolf but it’s a bigger challenge because the AI will hunt you down.

There is a stunning amount of content on show but . . . and this time it’s a good BUT.  The problems from the first game are forgotten because when you reach the end game here — after 30-odd hours — everything gets ratcheted up as a new force fires in and takes over.  They are bigger and stronger.  The tech and the challenges are tougher . . . and you have to win the whole place back all over again.  On the plus side, you can pick one of three specialities which are like classes with their own unlock trees.  That paves the way for you to get a powerful rifle, grenade launcher or a crossbow depending on the speciality.  And that’s all before you hit the three Dark Zones where risk and reward is the key and there is the threat of rogue agents and high-level enemies.  There is also a PvP mode, which is fun if short-lived.

The development team have done a wonderful job with Washington.  There is so much drama in the empty streets and abandoned cars and the little pockets of natural wonder will catch you by surprise.  The sound of the weapons and the voice acting is good, but your agent is mute so that’s a bit one-sided at times.  The battle soundtrack frames each fight well, though.  It is not perfect.  The AI is a bit spongy at times and you can feel rushed if they are a higher level than you.  However, it is still the best looter shooter we have ever seen.  It is fun in a crowd.  But, being a live title, time will tell if it gets the support it needs, although it’s a must-get just now.

Score: 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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