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 1st July 2018.
Hyperkin Duke Controller (Xbox One and PC, £69.99)
THE Duke is an iconic part of Xbox history — and now there is a new version. The first Duke was a Marmite piece of kit — the Japanese market hated it so much that Microsoft had to redesign it. It was maybe a lesson that big is not always beautiful, especially if you have small hands. So have Hyperkin learned the lessons with the new Duke? You get the controller and a 9ft USB cable, but plugging it in unleashes the very cool OLED screen that replaces the “goldfish bowl”. It plays the original Xbox start-up video when you switch it on and press the button. That’s very cool.
But the proof is in the playing. This is still a big piece of kit which takes time to get used to. You have to reach for the buttons. It has a 3.5 mm jack port for a headset, but it won’t take the Xbox chat adapter which is a shame. The big pull about the Duke is the connection with a piece of gaming history. This new one has bumper buttons on the top and a few tweaks, but it is virtually a carbon copy of the original. We played CoD WWII, Halo Wars 2 and Forza Horizon 3 and it has a unique style of play. It also brought a wave of nostalgia from when we were kids washing over us. The key is nostalgia. New gamers won’t be clamouring for it, especially at £70. Fans and collectors will want one, but it’s a limited market.
Vampyr (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £40.99)
SINK your teeth into a vampire treat that is bloody . . . well, just bloody. Vampires have always been a favourite haunt in books, films and TV shows — and gamers were never missing out. French developers Dontnod Entertainment have served up a moody monster that has the bones of being a beast without ever reaching its potential. You are a newly turned vampire as he fights to understand what has happened to him and why.
It’s all based in 1918 London. You are Dr Jonathan Reid, who is well-known for his blood transfusion work and for being a war hero. The city has been hit by Spanish flu with loads of people sick or dying, creating perfect fodder for vampires to roam and feed. Reid eventually comes to terms with not only his actions and starts to understand his new powers. That is a key part of the gameplay — you shape how hard the game is and what happens in the world around you. As a vampire you can technically feed on anyone, but that will impact on where the story goes.
Feeding gets you experience points, which you can use to get stronger through better attacks, more health and the like. It’s a very clever system which asks a lot of questions. The game can get very hard, especially when fighting boss characters. As a doctor, people look up to you and hope you will help them. That creates a moral dilemma between feeding to make the game easier or sparing the people and facing the challenge. When you’re not fighting your conscience, you’ll be battling an array of nasties on the streets and trying to evade vampire hunters and other monsters.
The combat is fun but can be a bit stiff at times and you never get into a smooth rhythm. There is a Bloodborne vibe in that you often have a a blade and a gun. But you can also unleash your more primal vampire side to launch claw attacks or bite your enemies. The look is dark, grim and very foreboding. The London streets are somewhere you really wouldn’t want to be caught on. The soundtrack carries the sense of dread and regret which fits the tale well and the voice action is solid which is good as you spend a lot of time talking, although some of the characters’ animations are a bit off during these sections.
The game is also rough around the edges with framerate dips, lengthy loading screens and little glitches like losing your ammo if you die in a fight. It’s not game-breaking, but it does get annoying. Dontnod Entertainment keep bringing interesting games to market and Vampyr is no different but it never feels like it has fulfilled its potential.
Far Cry 5: Hours of Darkness (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £9.59)
THE first post-launch DLC pack is a blast of Vietnam action. You fill the boots of a GI who has been captured and must escape, get to a helicopter rendezvous and get home. There’s a heavy-duty map with thick jungle as you sneak past enemy troops. There are also some side missions, from freeing prisoners to blowing up anti- aircraft guns, which free up bonuses.
Complete the eight-hour game and you unlock two modes that promise full-on action with unlimited air strikes or facing a fight to survive with limited ammo and health. Lots of cool gear, including new choppers and trucks as well as guns which can be used in the main game as well.
Fox n Forests (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £15.99)
FANCY a retro-flavoured 2D puzzle platformer with a dash of Metroidvania? Of course you do, so get your hands on Fox n Forests. You play as Rick — a fox who likes food and coin. The story is a bit light, but you have to stop a fifth season. Winter, spring, summer, autumn and . . .
The game will take about five hours as you go from level to level collecting coins and defending bosses and tackling bonus stages along the way. You also get special arrows that let you change the seasons and find upgrades and areas. The boss fights are a bit easy, but the retro look is superb.
Hitman: Sniper Assassin (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, Pre-order Bonus)
WARM up for Hitman 2 by taking on the sniper challenge map. Sniper Assassin lets you play as 47, or team up in co-op as you take out three targets at a wedding in Austria. It’s a 15-minute play in the sniper sandbox world with various ways to take out the targets as well as finding secrets and completing challenges. However, go for the 20 unlocks for your rifle and the leader boards and you have way more than 15 minutes worth of fun.
This is a real feel of Hitman 2 as you live life behind the scope — and it will make up your mind about pre-ordering the game. If you are already convinced, then this is a very neat teaser.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…