Scotch Corner – Haranguing the Hun’s Hordes

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 16th February 2020.

 

Zombie Army 4: Dead War (PC, PS4, Xbox One, £44.99)

SOME things just go together like fish and chips and — in gaming terms — zombies and Nazis are a guaranteed winner.  It is such a sweet feeling to blow one of the undead Third Reich into next week with a single shot that also nails his rotten buddy behind him at the same time.  UK studio Rebellion are back with a new Zombie Army title and the excitement levels at Gaming Towers had reached fever pitch before we had even pressed play.  It is fair to say that the Rebellion view of the world is very, very wrong — and we love it.  Zombie Army 4: Dead War is pure B movie cult pulp fun and — worst of all — it totally knows it.  So expect everything to be ramped up to 11 and then ramped up some more during a non-stop, four-player co-op blaster fest.

The story is a time-tested formula that just works.  A Nazi cult is trying to raise a dead army with the ultimate goal of bringing back the big cheese — Adolf Hitler.  And it’s your job to stop them as you take control of one of four different heroes — Jun, Boris, Shola and, of course, series staple Karl.  Each one brings a different set of skills to the party but, while they are not particularly game-changing, they do add a bit of variety to your adventure.  The game is set out over a number of chapters that see you do battle across the Mediterranean and beyond in a determined bid to stop the forces of evil who are bringing back the truly evil dead.  It all adds up to an eight-hour-plus campaign that just flies by.

You will never feel like you have spent that long at war with the undead because — in both solo and co-op guises — each level is cut into nice bite-size chunks which are perfect for the drop-in, drop-out style of play the developers wanted you to enjoy with your mates.  Fighting zombies needs a good arsenal — and this doesn’t disappoint.  You get a healthy selection of boom sticks to do the dirty — from side arms to sub- machine guns, shotguns and, of course, sniper rifles.  And, when you consider that this game is from the team behind the Sniper Elite series you can bet the X-Ray cam is in there as well.  So, if you fire that perfect shot you get a stunning slow-mo view of what would really happen when you fire a 30-06 Springfield round into a crowd of badly held together rotten flesh.  For those without that imagination, the answer to that is that you had better get a mop and bucket, although we have to say that we were actually a little disappointed with the X-Ray cam kills — they never really hit the heights of those from the full-fat Sniper Elite games.  However, the actual art of sniping is as solid as you would hope.

A lot of work has gone into the middle to close-range combat which has surely been inspired and boosted by the firm’s other title, Strange Brigade.  The past games were very clunky and not much fun when things got up close and personal.  The odds were that you were doomed.  But it’s all change now because you have great control of the side arms and the like and there is a powerful melee move that can earn you some health back.  The fighting ranges from low-level zombies who are pretty easy to take out to more elite units.  They need a bit of work if you are to time the perfect shot to nail them in the heart or land that killer headshot.  Then the hulking bosses are another step up — and that’s before you get to the half-tracks and tanks which are also zombies.  Oh, a word of warning — if your character is killed then it comes back as a zombie to feast on your teammates while you just sit helplessly watching on.

When you’re not blasting the dead you can hunt for a wide selection of collectables on each level and there are a good few fun Easter eggs to stumble across.  Beyond the campaign, the horde mode sees you trying to hold out against an endless onslaught of the undead.  OK, that’s the usual fare but it has a few twists — the maps can open up so you are never holding down the same patch of turf for too long.  Also, after a number of waves of attacks, a way out can suddenly appear so you and your mates can escape in once piece if it all gets just a bit too much.  This all helps with levelling up your character to unlock new skills and goodies and is fun for a time before the grind sets in.  Now for the gripe.  And it’s huge.  It devastated us.  Pre-launch all the talk was a teaser shot with a zombie SHARK.  Yes, there are plenty vicious undead beasts in the game but they are mostly traps and you never get to go toe-to-toe with one.  That is just not good.  We would have loved to battle one.  We are not happy.

Put that grief aside, and it’s still fun to feed a horde or two to the sharks.  Zombie Army 4: Dead War isn’t deep and it isn’t smart but it is tonnes of fun — and even more so with a group of mates.  It is pulp on the story front but it’s a blast from the first round to the last reload and we never stopped smiling along the way.  If you are looking for a shooter to sink your teeth into with your mates then this is perfect.  Just remember to bring that mop and bucket for the clean-up operation.

Score: 5/5

Ash of Gods: Redemption (Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4, £24.99)

HIGH fantasy is all the rage — from Game Of Thrones to The Witcher series — so it was a no-brainer for Cyprus- based AurumDust to go down that route with Ash Of Gods: Redemption.  It tells a rich tale that mirrors many a fantasy epic.  The world is under siege from an ancient evil called the Reapers who are out to destroy humanity.  And you and a few brave souls need to step up and be heroes.  It may be a well-worn tale but it does a good job in hooking you in as it switches between three leads.  That said, it isn’t as smooth as you would hope because it has been translated from Russian so can be a bit patchy.

The gameplay is a turn-based strategy affair with you doing battle on a grid and you will need time to learn the best tricks as there are a few “interesting” choices which feel a bit counter-intuitive at times.  There is also a fair chunk of game to play so your decisions have an impact on your adventure journey.  Undoubtedly, the star of the show is the look.  The graphics are simply stunning.  It’s a striking art style that is super-clean and crisp and apes that of the Banner Saga.

And that brings us to the elephant in the room because the whole game seems to have drawn a lot of inspiration from that particular saga.  At the end of the day, this is an interesting title full of quirks that takes time to get your head around.  It you need to scratch that high fantasy itch then check it out.

Score: 2.5/5

Dis-aster Chief

DISINTEGRATION is a new IP from Washington-based V1 Interactive.  It’s also the brainchild of Marcus Lehto — a man who forged his career over 15 years at Bungie working on the legendary Halo titles.  So it is fair to say that expectation and excitement over this new shooter project have been pretty high.  We were lucky enough to get hands on with it during a close beta to see just how it is shaping up.  First impression: it blends many elements from a lot of games into one very stylish package — from full-blown shooting to team management and trying to fly a ship.  There is a lot going on and that’s before it all actually kicks off.

Everything goes at a fast and frantic pace and that all equates to a lavish slice of fun.  We got to play two online modes which saw teams battling to secure points or just blast each other.  The game will have a full campaign at launch but that wasn’t available to play in the beta so this can only be our view on gameplay.  It is smooth and, once it clicks, it is very addictive.  Yes, it was rough but you have to remember it is an early beta so there is plenty of time to polish out the kinks.  A new IP is always exciting because it is a voyage into the unknown, but Disintegration looks like a fresh and challenging shooter.

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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