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 21st October 2018.
Reeling Them In
DOVETAIL Games’ fishing frolics are proving so much fun that gamers are getting hooked on the real sport. Titles producer Des O’Connor revealed that growing numbers are using the game as a tutorial then heading off to the riverbank. He said:
“Our gameplay programmer is a great example — before he worked on the game he had never fished but through working on the game he has learned about it and has actually picked it up as a real hobby. The game has tutorial videos for the core skills and it is 100 per cent possible to take what you learn from them and transfer the skills into the real world. And the videos are available to watch at any point during the game in case you need a reminder.”
But the reverse is also true — with a number of anglers playing the game. Des added:
“By far the highest percentage of the player base are real-world fishers, but we have had lots of feedback from the community saying that gamers just wanted to see what a fishing game was like. We find it is best enjoyed with friends in the multiplayer as you can have tournaments between you to catch the largest fish. Fishing is the largest participation sport in the UK. More people go fishing than play football and it spans a huge age range.”
Dovetail aim to push the boat out with Fishing Sim World — thanks to some extra BASS. Des added:
“We have taken what the fans really enjoyed about Euro Fishing and made it better — so more species and styles of fishing like bass, pike and predator fishing. We wanted to take it to the next level so we have added predator fishing on a canal in the UK as well as two big bass lakes in the US — one in Florida and one in upstate New York. The Euro lakes are about 24 to 28 acres whereas the bass lakes are 2,500 acres so you’ll need a boat to get around. There are also 18 species of fish but the team will continue to make free updates which will add new fish to the after launch and you can buy new lake locations.”
Des reckons the team have ramped up the levels over Euro Fishing. He said:
“The game is built in the Unreal engine and the team have worked really hard on getting it looking just right — how the water reacts and the transparency. You can now see the fish in the water which you couldn’t in Euro Fishing.”
Fishing Sim World (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £29.99)
SIM games are usually hardcore — racing cars, flying planes or operating trains. But there are laidback sim games where you harvest crops or — the ultimate in doing little — become a stone. Well, Dovetail Games in angling for a new activity — going fishing. Now we have to admit that we have never thrown a line on a riverbank or fought to land a whopper, so this is a game appreciation more than an assessment of how real the experience is. However, one of my impressions about fishing is realised from the off — you can just cast your line then sit and wait . . . and wait . . . and wait.
There are seven locations — from an inner city canal to an epic lake surrounded by forest. But, quite rightly, the fish take the epic crown. There is more choice than a supermarket fish counter — everything from carp to pike. You need the right kit — from rods to bait — and the skill set to get the fish out of the water. But, don’t worry, there is a handy tutorial style. There is also a simple or advanced setting to make sure you don’t sink without trace. And the more you play, the deeper it all feels — no puns intended. It is also quite rewarding when you land a large fish after an epic battle. Once you get to the hang of it, there are tournaments for single and multiplayer.
Real-world anglers will recognise a huge range of licensed kit — from lures and rods to boats — so you’ll probably find the gear you actually use. The water and fish look great, but the characters are as stiff as a . . . dead fish. The music is very easy going, if a little bit like a doctor’s waiting room. The game does lack a proper progression system — most things are unlocked and available to buy when you have enough in-game currency and you can fish all locations. The biggest challenge is that most people will dismiss Fishing Sim World because it is a fishing sim. That is a shame because there is more to it than that. And you don’t have to gut the fish.
Catastronauts (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £12.79)
IT pays to talk. That, rightly, is the message for a number of good causes . . . but it is also the key to success in Catastronauts. This Inertia Game Studio creation is a couch co-op with a classic sci-fi vibe. It is the sort of fast-paced mash-up that you would get if you took Overcooked and threw in FTL: Faster Than Light. You and your crew not only have to fight off waves of enemy ships but they must also make sure the ship doesn’t fall apart.
It all starts off nice and easy as you man the guns but things soon shift up through the gears. The game adds a new mechanic after each stage — from two-man guns to teleporters for you to send powers cells to your team. Now us guys are not that hot at multi-tasking at the best of times, so you are never going to hold this one down on your own. You need friends. You need friends who listen because communication is the only way you will cover all the bases. But you also need friends in the same room because there is no online option at the moment. It is rumoured to be coming some way down the line, but it would be nice to get four pals online because getting them into one room is like herding fish. But back to the game, talking to your team is essential. You’ll need to put fires out and boost each other’s health plus there are events like solar flares which needs the whole team to be on the right page if you are going to reach the shielded room and get the door shut. Too slow and you’ll get fried or your crew may just abandon you. If they love you, they may take the gamble to get you in but if they mistime it the whole crew pays the price.
Each level changes the ship’s layout so it takes a few minutes to dial in where you are and what your new role will be. Catastronauts has a lovely art style that is full of character with a number of Star Trek- inspired crew members. The graphics are backed up by a spacey-vibe soundtrack. It has a lot going for it, but the sales success will be down to the co-op. It lives or dies by it and that is where the lack of an online mode could hurt it. On top of that, the number of players will impact how hard the game. You can play solo but it is sooo tough. Two or three friends and it is still a major challenge. That is a shame because it is a perfect chill-out game with a few mates. You just won’t want them to go home.
Call of Duty Black ops 4 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
YOU know it is silly season in the gaming world when the AAA franchises start banging out titles. Call Of Duty have broken cover with Black Ops 4 — and it will be no exclusive to say that it will part many of you from your hard-earned dosh. There is always a risk that latest instalments in big series just reheat the pot and give us little to get our teeth into. So fair play to the developers, Treyarch. They have given the series it biggest shake-up in years. That means two huge changes. One: the single player campaign has been binned. Two: there is now a battle royale mode called Blackout.
The traditional story has been replaced with an advanced tutorial mode broken up with story cut scenes . . . but it is fair to say that these high-production snippets get lost in the noise of the other big modes. Persevere and it will teach you how each operator handles and what their skills do. You’ll play against different bots on different maps in different modes. That’s different. That is the starter before the fleshy COD mains — three modes: multiplayer, Blackout and zombies. Multiplayer is the nearest to a rehash of what fans know and love. It is a shoot-fest. But there have been a few tweaks in that you need to heal yourself in battle. Yes sir, no auto-regen system here. Grenades are also a high-tier unlock so they are pretty sparse apart from the few operators who have them as a special skill. The maps are like a Black Ops greatest hit album. You get some new, interesting ones with a healthy dash of classic maps like the Firing Range. The new ones are good additions with main routes and a few sneaky short-cuts to keep things fresh as you fight from factories to mansions.
Don’t worry — all your weapons, perks and killstreaks are all here and built around Treyarch’s pick ten system, plus the operators add to the excitement because they can alter the flow of the battle. Online will be king, but you could escape being battered by some raging 10-year-old (yeah, we know it is an 18 game), by teaming up with your friends on zombies. That involves two main stories over three maps from ancient Rome to being on the Titanic. You have to discover a host of secrets while battling to stave off the undead armies. But Blackout will be where most players head because this is the first true AAA game to tackle Battle Royale. And it is good. The map isn’t super huge, but features different Black Ops maps as you wingsuit your way in then prepare to be the last man standing. There is a strong PUBG flavour rather than Fortnite, and that works because of the COD shooting format. Blackout will keep you entertained for hours as you battle to be top dog in solo, duo or quad modes with your mates.
Black Ops: 4 takes a few big gambles but is built on solid COD foundations. History shows such moves can backfire, but Treyarch have covered all the bases in their bid to keep this ahead on the FPS Battlefield.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…