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 27th September 2020.
Crysis Remastered (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £24.99)
CRYSIS became part of gaming folklore when it was launched back in 2007 — and now it has had the remaster treatment. The original sparked memes asking “Can it run Crysis?” and was the benchmark for testing your PC rig because of the high-spec that was needed at the time. The first-person shooter is on the console and PC once again — and has even made the move to the Switch. You fill the high-tech suit of Jake Dunn — codenamed Nomad — who is a member of Delta Force. He gets recruited into a Spec Ops squad called Team Raptor that runs black ops behind enemy lines. The teams are kitted out with Nano Suits which turn them into one-man armies — they can run faster, become almost totally invisible and increase their armour. It is 2020 — but this world is actually in a bit better shape than ours is just now. North Korean forces take control of Lingshan Island. An American team of archaeologists on the island send out a distress call amid claims they have found something that could change the world. Team Raptor are sent in to evacuate the scientists and secure any resources before the nasty North Koreans get their hands on them. It all leads to a solid, if dated, campaign where Nomad runs, guns and blows up almost everything he sees. There are also some neat twists and turns along the way to keep you on your toes.
The gameplay is pure FPS action, but Crysis gives you choices and they open up a world of possibilities. That is a fun mechanic — for example, there is a communication jammer in an enemy base and you have to shut it down. Your options are:
- A: Run in all guns blazing, kill everyone and switch it off.
- B: Stealth your way past the machine gun nest, guard towers, soldiers and two tanks and flip the switch, or
- C: Stand on a hillside and RPG the comms jammer to death then go stealth and slip away into the jungle.
There’s also E, F, G, H options because there is no set way to do any mission. As long as you have the tools you can do it in any way you want.
So how could things go wrong? Well, this is a remaster and it’s really busted like a huge dumpster fire. The rough bits are really bad and it is full of technical issues that are on the verge of being deal-breakers. You will want to shout and scream when you get use of mounted guns and become stuck to them — or things like that. The visuals are all over the shop, especially the ray-tracing mode. It just doesn’t work. There is a reason why ray-tracing will be conquered on next-gen consoles. And the same can be said of the other graphic modes — they just don’t do the game justice. This may be the second time that the game’s been reworked, but it’s still missing the two expansion packs — Warhead and Crysis Wars. That is a criminal error. Warhead is a separate tale whereas Crysis Wars is a multiplayer expansion. That means you could cut the developers some slack, but not much. This remaster is far from complete. It should be a smash hit that has everyone talking — and buying it. Instead it’s like an aged Hollywood star trying to make a comeback after a botched face-lift. The talent is there, but it still shows its age.
Control Expansion 2 AWE (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £12.49)
EVER since the Control roadmap was revealed fans have been chomping at the bit for the AWE Expansion that blends the Control world with Remedy’s much-loved Alan Wake series. All that excitement does not mean that Foundation was a bad first DLC pack, but it has just got a bit lost in light of this epic team-up. And though it’s short it is a very sweet return and will be a thrill for both Control and Alan Wake fans as it blends together the two weird sci-fi universes. It all starts off with Wake’s disembodied voice leading Jesse to a new section of the oldest house in the Investigate Sector — one that has been closed for years. But there is a Wake’s world nasty stalking a sector that has been consumed by the darkness and corrupted by the Hiss. Jesse must get rid of the baddie across the three-and-a-bit hour running time.
Kudos to Remedy, the balance between the worlds is just right — Wake fans can get their fix of their beloved series while Control compadres will not feel alienated in their own game. Like the main game there are a number of side missions on offer as you explore the Investigate Sector area. They open up tales of their own but most of it boils down to fetch quests, which is a shame. There are a few new bits and bobs. There’s a Surge gun upgrade that basically turns it into a sticky bomb launcher. You can also control three launchable objects telekinetically. The gameplay and combat are richer. This is great fun. It is a decent return to Control that delivers what fans want as well as being a strong first step into the Remedy joint universe.
SteelSeries Arctis 9X (Xbox One, £179.99)
CONFESSION time: we love being wired for sound. Wireless headsets are all well and good but . . . these Arctis 9X cans are the business. Normally, wired means more options to tweak and they are usually teamed with a mix amp which offers a world of audio opportunities. But Steelseries have thrown the cat among the pigeons — these wireless wonders pack a real punch in your Xbox experience. They are ridiculously easy to set up — no dongle or plug-in bases. You simply connect them by hitting the sync button on the console and the headset and that’s it. The headset has little difference to a standard Steelseries headset. As the name suggests, the band is made from steel and the fitting is sorted by a strap, not by sliding the earcups around. They are very light and comfortable, which is great for long CoD sessions.
Like most wireless headsets the controls are behind the earcups and it will take time to learn where each one is but they are chunky and easy to find — especially the mute which has a handy red light on the mic when pressed. That mic is a bit tricky. It is housed in the headset when not in use. You pull it out when needed. It’s on a flex wire and the sound is great when you’re in parties. We tested it with NBA 2K21, Marvel’s Avengers, Crysis Remastered and Project Cars 3 and it delivered a solid sound sphere with great levels of bass. Being wireless means you have to charge it — but you get 20 hours. That could be up to four days’ gaming before a charge. You can also tap into Bluetooth and be connected to your phone and console at the same time.
Steelseries Arctis 9X is a bit of a revelation — especially as it will be compatible with the Xbox Series S and X. They will set you back £179.99 — which is good for a wireless set. We are converted into fans. This is the benchmark for all wireless sets from now on.
WWE 2K Battlegrounds (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC and Stadia, £34.99)
HERE’S a chokeslam — WWE 2K20 was not the greatest game in the long-running series. Its development was a well-documented mess and the final game was a double-knee backbreaker and a submission. The result left many fans metaphorically bloodied and beaten as they tried to navigate the glitchfest. It also raised serious questions about whether there should be an annual update — so that could explain why they’ve taken a different direction with this year’s offering. WWE 2K Battlegrounds is an over- the-top cartoon-themed brawler that sees the WWE cast battle it out in evermore outrageous fights that tip a fair-sized nod to the classic WWE All Stars game. You’ll spend most of your time fighting your way through the comic book-told 10-hour campaign where you are a number of unknown grapplers trying to get to the Main Event.
The result is an OK, if a bit cheesy, tale but the main goal is to teach you the ropes and unlock a host of power-ups, rings and wrestlers. Beyond that, there is a host of modes and options allowing you to set up any match you could wish for. There’s also a handful of online options. Fighting is not as real as a full-fat WWE game but that’s a plus in an odd way because it makes everything more accessible and all the fighters have their own moves. You can pick from 70 superstars (male and female, although most of them have to be unlocked) to brawl with or you can use the character creator to build your own. There are plenty of options.
This is a 2K game so you feel obliged to ask whether there are microtransactions? Yes, but they are nowhere as aggressive as other titles and are only used to skip grinding out coins to unlock new fighters and outfits. That said, if you play long enough, you can unlock everything in time. This is a fun arcade brawler that is a fresh take on the WWE scene. It’s a winner.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…