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 24th December 2017.
Soma (PC, PS4, Xbox One, £15.99)
MOST titles aim for the stars when they look for a setting, but Frictional Games are sea-zing the day with Soma. It’s a survival horror game that did the hard yards on the PC and PS4 and has now docked on the Xbox One. You are Simon Jarrett. He was involved in a car crash which left him with severe brain damage. The game starts with him getting a scan from a less-than-official-looking doc before ending up in PATHOS-II — an underwater platform. You have to explore the platform to find out why you are there and what’s actually going on. At the same time you have to avoid robots who have corrupted and a variety of other underwater terrors.
You can just play the game how it was first released. That’s a tense six-hour adventure. But there is a new safe mode which removes the death threat and turns the game into a flat-out walking SIM. The safe mode does take the fear out of the game, but the story holds it all together and you can be a bit more adventurous. In the original mode, the danger of attack may stop you straying too far from the beaten path. The graphics are a mixed bag — PATHOS-II looks grim and damp. The creatures are stunning, but some of the human designs are rough. The sound is good — from the bust and pop of stream pipes to the screams of metal monsters thundering around empty corridors. The soundtrack also builds the drama.
The biggest gripe is the enemy AI. It can be a mess and, towards the end, the game is a bit repetitive . . . but is a gripping tale and something a little different.
Agent 47’s Getting Festive
IT’s ho-ho-Hitman — you can download the Paris chapter for free until January 5. You can also get your hands on the Holiday Pack where you have to track down thieves stealing Santa’s presents — but long-time Hitman fans may be disappointed to know you don’t get to assassinate Santa this time.
It’s out now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC with the prologue also available for free.
Horizon Zero Dawn The Frozen Wilds (PS4, £15.99)
HORIZON Zero Dawn was one of the standout games of 2017 and now it is even better. The Frozen Wilds adds around 15 hours of new gameplay on the new main questline as well as a number of side quests as Aloy explores . . . err . . . the frozen wilds. The new area is playable from the minute it’s installed. You can also get there if you have finish the main game, but we recommend that you get kitted out first. Level 30 is probably a good gauge on where it all starts.
The main tale throws a light on the way the world was lost as well as filling in a few of the blanks left by the main game — mostly the Banuk tribe. You face questions of faith, so it is a bit heavy at times although it is thought provoking. On the combat front, the excitement in the original has been recaptured. There is a dash more platforming at times and you get some new gear — like a staff which shoots an ice beam. That comes in handy when you face off against the robot animals. They are more dangerous than before thanks to being infected by a virus.
There are also new boss-like hulking machines so even the most hardened players will be tested. On top of that, the Wild Lands has a few more challenges — there are towers that remove your shields and others that heal enemies. The key to success is to get rid of them quickly. You also get a new wing to unlock on your skill tree. It adds a few talents that can help to refine the overall gameplay.
Thumbs up to the developers — the frozen lake looks absolutely amazing. The snow-covered forests almost give you a chill. It is a visionary treat that, on its own, is almost worth switching on the game. If you’re enjoying Horizon Zero Dawn or hungry to get thrown back into the world then Frozen Wilds is a true winter wonderland.
PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds – Game Preview Edition (Xbox One and PC, £24.99)
THIS is the game that will be on everyone’s Christmas list — if they have not already bought it. It’s fourth in the sales chart and everyone is talking about it. But . . . and it’s a big but. A BUT if you like. The XBox One version is not finished. It is clunky. It is not very good. It is still way behind the PC version that came out of preview this week.
Here’s another but… it is a game in progress. You could argue the ethics of selling a game that is not finished just before Christmas.
You could also argue that, eventually, you will get patches that will make your gaming experience very exciting. So, maybe it should be Part-game Of The Year. You can’t score a part-game, so we’ll just tell you what we do know from the unpolished version. It is stripped back and you only get three modes — Solo, Duo and Squads. You are dropped into a huge map and left to survive as you jump out of a plane and parachute in. You pick your landing spot so you can search for weapons, ammo, armour and health packs. Then you have to fight off other players on the map as the battlezone shrinks during a 30-minute-plus combat match. It is fast, frantic and swear-inducing, especially when you are down to the final two or three but it is almost worth it to win and see the “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” legend come up on screen. It’s a simple gaming loop but it’s satisfying and heart-breaking in equal measures.
There is a decent arsenal from pistols to high-powered sniper rifles and you can get a host of mods and attachments to help in the heat of battle. There is an interesting mix of vehicles from buggies to jeeps and they move you around the map more quickly but the noise alerts enemies. There is only one map available just now but a desert is being tested on the PC version so hopefully it will come to the console soon. The graphics are OK but there are big framerate issues, especially when parachuting in and in firefights. The game can be a little unstable with random crashes, but if you can get it up and running again you can re-join the game where you were.
So we come back to the BUT. This isn’t finished. This is a Christmas tempter. We hope the game will evolve and will improve. If it doesn’t, you may want to keep the receipt because it will be more of a dog’s dinner than a chicken dinner winner.
THERE’S a cold wind blowing for For Honor fans — the Frost Wind Festival event is running on all platforms until January 4. It has a new mode called Ice Brawlers — with a frozen lake setting for 2v2 brawls. You can also get winter-themed items such as battle outfits, weapons, mood effects and an emote.
They can be looted in any game mode during the festival, and you can buy them as part of Hero-specific bundles. You can also pick up new masks for a cut-price 15,000 Steel before December 28. Then it goes up to 20,000.
On The Stream
JASON Backhouse started streaming because he wanted to share his occasionally epic gaming moments and downright lunacy. He is best known for streaming the creation of custom liveries across the Forza games but, recently, he has widened his focus to games such as PUBG and GT Sport.
“I hope that when I stream, it’s both informative and entertaining. It’s not about the numbers or earning potential, just sharing and having fun. I’ll take each day as it comes and seize the day.”
Tempting You With The Wild West
RED Dead Redemption 2 is already on many gamers must-have list for next year. Now Rockstar is fanning the flames by offering the chance to unlock a gun for the game via Grand Theft Auto Online.
Follow the in-game clues after getting an email on your iFruit device. Find it then complete a Headshot Challenge in Freemode to unlock it in Red Dead Redemption 2.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…