Scotch Corner – Extended Universes

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 8th December.

 

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order (PC, Xbox One, PS4, £44.99)

ODDS are if you look at any of your social media feeds you’ll only go about three posts before you see a gif or meme of that little green guy, and for Star Wars fans, this is a joyous thing — as it means the franchise is back on top.  As the buzz grows for The Rise of Skywalker in cinemas later this month and with The Mandalorian being a smash with fans, EA and Respawn couldn’t have timed the release of Star War Jedi: Fallen Order any better.  It’s a solo-focused affair as you fill the boots of a young Jedi in hiding after Order 66 was given.  And it let’s you see what the Star Wars universes was like between the end of Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One.  You are Cal Kestis, voiced by Cameron Monaghan, who was a young Padawan when the Emperor gave the order to his forces to wipe out the Jedi.  Since then he has been in hiding from the Empire and hiding the fact he is a Force user.

Things kick off in style — you are literally cutting up the prequel saga working in a massive breakers yard but an accident forces you to use your Force powers to save a friend.  And things go sideways really quickly from there.  You are thrust into an epic Galaxy-spanning adventure as Cal and his friends try to track down a list of Force-strong children to stop the Empire from getting to them first.  Unfortunately, Imperial forces are being led by the evil Second Sister and are never far behind you.  The tale feels like it’s part of the overall Star Wars canon and the cast feel as though they could pop up in any of the big screen flicks.

On the gameplay front, it’s as if they mashed Dark Souls and Uncharted together but turned the difficulty down just a bit.  And in an inspired move, Respawn have focused solely on lightsabre combat adding a real authentic feeling to things, in a similar vein to how The Mandalorian will not remove his helmet in the new show.  The only weapon you’ll use throughout the game is your sabre along with a suite of Force powers.  So blocking and deflecting is the key to victory as well as reading your enemies.  You’ll cut down swathes of Stormtroopers and local beasts but there are a few real challenges you’ll face such as Purge troops, special Sith Jedi hunters, as well as a few bounty hunters too.  Then there are the bosses which range from huge bat-like creatures to AT-STs which tower over the battlefield.  But you’re never out-skilled as you have a health unlock tree which grows with play and you have your little droid buddy BB-1 to help along the way.

At certain points in the game, you can meditate to restore your health — but you also restores all the enemies you’ve killed in that area.  By all means, grab XP to unlock new moves by killing them all again, but as it’s a risky play.  While swinging your sabre, you’ll explore a good selection of planets where coming back always pays off when you have a new skill.  The planets include fan favourites Kashyyyk, the Wookiee homeworld where you’ll also run into Saw Gerrera from Rogue One, who is again played by Forest Whitaker which help root the game in the overall universe too.  Visually, the game is stunning at moments and has some amazing set-pieces like climbing an AT-AT during a battle or sneaking into a secret Sith underwater fortress.  And the voice acting is top tier, adding real heart to the tale.  Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order delivers what fans will want — an epic adventure set amongst the stars but also a tale that is ultimately about finding who you really are and overcoming the darkness with the help of your friends.  A must for Star Wars fans.

Score: 5/5

Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts (PS4, Xbox One, PC, £34.99)

THERE is no greater rush in gaming than lining up the perfect shot from half-a-mile away, breathing in, pulling the trigger and popping some bad guy’s brain pan like a ripe tomato.  And when it comes to proper sniping thrills you have two choice — Rebellion’s WW2-themed Sniper Elite series or CI Games Sniper Ghost Warrior which has just had a new instalment, Contracts.  This new addition sees the firm learning from mistakes that were made in Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 by taking things back to contained levels instead of being a full-blown open-world.  And if you have ever played a Crysis game you may feel like this is a strange prequel, as not only is the game made using the CryEngine but there are some really strong vibes of the nanosuit to be found here, to the point that you could be Nomad on a mission.

As the name hints, this is a game all about taking contracts that see you having to get your hands dirty as the action plays out over a background tale of oil companies, corruption and espionage, as you find yourself travelling across the five huge open maps on show.  It’s very much a case of ‘Here’s your toys, go and have fun‘ as the game doesn’t hold your hand or tell you how to carry out any of your objectives.  So that opens up a number of different choices to get the job done.  And as if that wasn’t enough of an extra added buzz, to add a bit more tension, getting the job done is only half the task as you have to then make your way to an upload point after doing the deed.  So you have to think about how you’re going to get your backside out of the action after it all kicks off even before you get your hands dirty.  But you’re well-equipped for the job as you have a high-tech suit — a bit like the nanosuit from Crysis — that lets you scan areas as well as soak up some damage plus it has a few other tricks.

So this is all well and good, but we’ve all got our fingers on our triggers and our eyes locked on the telescopic sight, so let’s get in about the sniping — and on the whole it is very well done.  Okay, it doesn’t have the X-ray Sniper Elite kill cam but that doesn’t stop the thrill of the epic shot getting you.  So once you’ve sussed out your enemies, take your time and read the world around you, down to the wind direction to land that you can kill though — you also get a host of gadgets to help you out as well such as a turret.  Sniper Ghost Warrior Contracts is a move back to what made the series fun and the new focus has made it more of a solid game, though there are still a few glitches, but if you’re looking for a sniping thrill it’ll hit that mark.

Score: 4/5

Need for Speed Heat (PC, Xbox One, PS4, £59.99)

IT’S been a while since EA’s racing series Need for Speed last saw action — 2017’s Payback was okay but a bit forgettable racer that was trying just too hard to be a Fast and the Furious movie.  But Ghost Games are hoping to turn that all around with the newest instalment in the series, Need for Speed Heat, which looks to have cherry-picked the best bits of past games and added a few new ideas.  Heat is a return to the core ideas of the series — it’s a solid arcade racer, set in a good-sized open world with a host of cars to get behind the wheel of and, of course, upgrade and customise.  But it’s also got a story that is once again trying way too hard to be Vin Diesel’s best pal.  It will hold you for about five mins as it’s about crooked cops or some nonsense.  Ghost Games need to understand great racers don’t have melodrama and, more to the point, don’t need it.  I’m looking at Forza Horizon, F1 and GRID which all have loose stories but they take a back seat and are not your main driving force.

But once you get out on the street, things are good as it’s split into day and night racing which see you chasing different goals depending on the placement of the sun.  During the day you’re a racer earning cash in official races to buy new kit, but by night you’re a street racer out to bag rep that in turn unlocks new cars and parts.  But at night if you get busted by the 5-0, you’ll lose a lot of rep, so owning the night has a very risky feel to it, as the longer you go the bigger the hit if you get busted.  As for cars there is an interesting and fun selection on offer here and like all Need for Speeds, you can tweak and tune your ride to your heart’s content from new parts to paint and adding neons.

The game brings a new control system to the drifting party which sees you having to pump the gas to hold that line — it does take time to get your head around and is an interesting addition, but fear not — if it’s not your thing you can switch back to more standard controls.  Need for Speed Heat is an odd beast — on one hand Palm City is bursting with life on its neon-soaked streets as you blast around dodging cop cars but on another it’s all a bit dull and sterile during the day.  It’s a welcome return to a classic series but it’s got a bit to go if it wants to challenge for the top spot on the arcade racing scene.

Score: 3.5/3

Terminator: Resistance (PC, Xbox One, PS4, £34.99)

WITH Arnie and co back on the big screen in Terminator: Dark Fate what better time for the machines to rise in the world of gaming, Step forward, Terminator: Resistance by Polish studio Teyon (yes, the team behind that Rambo game).  Instead of a game based on the movies, Resistance makes a smart move and heads for prequel ground, setting the action long before any of the silver screen tellings of the battle with Skynet.  This also means that Teyon have dodged the need to have any of the cast and their likenesses — which is a bit of a shame if you’re a fan, given that the Terminator cast pop up in everything from Ghost Recon to Gears of War.  And fittingly for a series based on time travel, you’ll feel like you have gone back in time to the early 2000s with this as its very much an old school FPS for better or… worse.

The tale is set in LA 2028 and you play as Jacob Rivers, a soldier who can change the path of the future and overall, it bolts on to the Terminator story well, setting up the first movie.  As for gameplay, it’s basically a really open-level blaster and spending way to long walking around camps talking to people in a sort of Mass Effect style which will give you side mission as well as backstory.  The shooting is ok but somewhat stiff, especially if you’re coming to it from the likes of CoD.  That said, there are lots of nods to fans and being able to blast T-800s with iconic sounding Terminator weapons is fun… I’ll not lie.

But these thrills can’t save this from being a very dull affair as it never really takes off and for an enemy billed as an unstoppable force, the Terminators don’t deliver and 98 per cent of the time just stand there, big shiny bullet sponges firing back now and again at you.  Visually the game is okay and hits that Terminator vibe as you run through the ruins of a destroyed city.  The voice acting is just about passable but all over the shop in tone though the remixed Terminator theme is outstanding.  Terminator: Resistance is a game that is truly lost in time and doesn’t have the muscle to fight in the 2019 gaming landscape.  If you’re a fan, you’ll smile at the nods and winks to the movies but most will feel it’s dated, dull and marked for termination.

Score: 2/5

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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