Scotch Corner – Friendly Fire

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 10th March.


Warhammer: Chaosbane Closed Beta

THE Warhammer universe has been a stunning part of the table-top gaming landscape for decades — with highly detailed figures and epic models.  But, as hobbies go, it’s pricey to buy the kits, the paints and the rule books.  Then you need the time and space.  So, it seemed a natural move to go digital.  There are a number of different styles of games with a Warhammer theme and the latest is Chaosbane.  Eko Software gave a lucky few the chance to get a taster during a closed beta on the Xbox One.  It is set to the fantasy background of the Warhammer world so swords and spells are all the rage.  If you played Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr you’ll have a good idea of how Chaosbane is shaping up.

The play is very similar in that it’s a Diablo-style game.  You pick a solider, high elf, dwarf and a wood elf. Each has their own style of combat and set of attacks.  The core game loop is a hack- and-slash looter as you work your way through procedurally-generated dungeons slaying hordes of nasties and grabbing goodies while levelling up your powers.  Warhammer fans will have a good idea of what’s happening because there is a lot of the lore.  Newcomers need not fear, there is also plenty going on to keep you busy as you take on the forces of the four chaos gods.  You’ll also be able to play the game with three mates.  That opens up the combat as you bounce attacks off each other’s moves in a bid to become an unstoppable team.

As for the core tale of the game, it looks to be in good hands.  Again, fans of the franchise will love the fact that official Games Workshop writer Mike Lee penned the epic tale.  Graphically, the build we played looked good and was packed with detail.  The dungeons have a real dank and dark tone which lights up when you start casting your attacks.  If you’re a Warhammer fan or like your action a bit more magical than futuristic, then Warhammer: Chaosbane is one show that should be on your radar when it launches on June 4th on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Crackdown 3: Wrecking Zone (Xbox One and PC, included with full game)

CRACKDOWN 3 failed to hit the heights when it was released last month — but that was just part of the story.  Now it is complete, after the multiplayer was brought out as a stand-alone title.  There were initial teething problems but it has now had a few weeks to bed in so has it added a buzz to the proceedings?  The big news is that Wrecking Zone uses Microsoft future cloud tech to add an extra layer to the game . . . and the biggest difference between this and the main game is that you can destroy the maps during the battles.  If an enemy is holding a building then you can bring the whole thing down with a few rockets.  Job done.  It’s a fun and over-the-top addition that keeps things fresh.  It is good but we reckon it should have been in the main game.  We can’t actually think of any good reason why it wasn’t included.  But, beyond that, there is not actually very much to report.

You get either two five-strong teams facing off or a terrorist-style mode where you have to bag the most kills or hold a set point total to win.  And that’s it!  It’s light on modes and options and has no progression system at all.  There is a distinct “meh” feel about everything.  You can pick from 21 agent skins but they just change your look and have no impact on your abilities, as they do in the main campaign.  There are nine weapons — a small arsenal that, admittedly, does do the job but is hardly inspirational.  In a world of Apex Legends, Fortnite and Call Of Duty, there is not much to pull you in here.  It’s a night’s worth of thrills or a 500 Gamerscore option.

Score: 2/5

Anthem (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)

BIOWARE are known for epic space tales like Mass Effect or high adventure swords and sorcery such as Dragon Age.  In fact, they are so good that gamers are chomping at the bit for every little titbit of news and every new challenge.  So, it is fair to say that Anthem had attracted a lot of attention before it was even finished.  It is also fair to say that is does not really stand up to the test.  Anthem is a mixed bag that doesn’t really know what it wants to be.  The game is billed as online multiplayer action role-playing, which sounds great — think Destiny or The Division.

You are a Freelancer — a futuristic mercenary who helps people and dishes out justice in a Javelin (an Iron Man-style mech suit).  The main game is based in and around Fort Tarsis.  It’s the main hub where you get missions, upgrades and story beats.  So far so good — great world, lots of story and lore.  Then BioWare hit the rocks because the multiplayer side sees you team up with three friends and attack the game together.  You are hardly going to sit through 20 minutes’ worth of story after each mission while your mates are in-chat and eager to blast things.  The story is forgotten as you all rush to get new missions and kit and get back into the action.  It jars badly.  There is a heavy tale that BioWare wants you to get lost in, but it also constantly tells you that the game is better with friends.  More often than not my mate Andy just wanted us to blast bad guys rather than have a touching moment with the story.

However, the gameplay is majestic as you take on missions to hammer the bad guys and bag some loot to upgrade your Javelin.  The combat is tons of fun as you fly, shoot and team up with attacks full of cool combos.  That said, the mission variety is a bit naff with way too many fetch quests or “hold this point till a door unlocks or a code is cracked” adventures.  The are four Javelin frames, each with its own combat style, from heavy hitters to speedy melee, and finding the one that clicks with you will take time.  You can kit them out with weapons and colour schemes, although you can’t switch guns or grab stuff on missions so, if you pick up a rare shooter, you can’t use it until that mission is over.  Really?  Not good.

Graphically, the game is stunning, like when you burst out of a river in your suit and swoop over a lush forest.  Fort Tarsis is full of detail.  BioWare are known for the soundtrack and this one delivers again.  The voices are high standard with a rounded mix of accents from well-known talent such as Kristen Schaal and Catherine Tate.  And Sev, a weather-beaten Scottish character, voiced by Jamestown’s Stuart Martin is worth a mention.  There are a few technical issues on the graphics as well as the loading side, especially when playing with friends.  They can load much quicker than you.  BioWare have admitted that the game is an evolving title and live titles are always a bit rough to start with.  Updates may change all that.  It is a solid game with a bunch of good ideas.  Some work while others are not so successful.  If you have three mates you’ll have a blast but the story will be sacrificed.  Go it alone and love the story but miss out on how good combat can be.

Score: 3/5

RIGS 500 PRO HX (Xbox One and PC, £69.99)

THERE are plenty of headsets on the market that offer decent sound and are well-built so the decisive factor can often be price.  If you want good sound, fit and finish then you are normally looking at forking out more than £90.  But Plantronics have shaken things up with the RIG 500 Pro HX.  They give you the build and finish you are after but with a lower price.  The headset features the signature RIG exoskeleton design where the more traditional sliders are replaced with a pop and lock system to adjust the ear cups and headband.  Everything is a stylish black with gold trim that picks out a few details on the ear cups and the mic.

The thing that will strike you most is just how light it feels compared to others on the market.  There is a master volume dial at the end of the jack which plugs into your controller so you can crank up the noise with ease.  It is a simple yet superb way to avoid messing around with cables and keeping them out of your way when you are gaming.  The ear cups are made of a replaceable fabric and leatherette combo that keeps you cool during the heat of battle — and they were a better fit than the RIG 4VR we tested recently.  It is a shame that they are not noise-cancelling so you do get a bit of sound bleed, but the 50mm drivers have good overall sound and bass levels.

The headset also supports Dolby Atmos.  You get a download code with the headset and that adds an extra layer to the sound sphere.  We tested the headset with Apex Legends, Anthem, DiRT Rally 2.0 and Devil May Cry 5 and had a nice balance between bass and treble.  The mic boasts about being noise-cancelling (and it does a good job with a crisp sound in chat parties) and you can just flip it up to mute it.  Very, very impressive.

Score: 4.5/5

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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