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 8th April 2018.
Gravel (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £44.99)
RACING game gurus Milestone have taken a step outside their comfort zone with Gravel. The all things two-wheeled specialists have turned from hardcore sim to produce a real arcade fun fest. The main draw is the off-road masters’ mode — or career to you and us — which is presented as a fake TV show. You have to win a mix of events to climb the ladder but it all comes with a truck-load of cheese in the commentary and some questionable live acting. You do have to beat some “masters” along the way which makes things get a little tasty.
There is the standard time attack and free play modes where you can go for fast times, but there is also an online attack for you to show the world how good you are. There is a refreshing mix of tracks and vehicles from the start. The tracks are the stars — from frozen forests in Alaska and dusty deserts in Namibia to the more traditional circuits. There are fully licensed vehicles from rally cars to trucks and you have to learn the characteristics of each one. The handling can be a little light at times, but there is a host of technical tweaks to get the sweet spot.
The game looks good if a little under- polished at times but the cars shine under stadium lights, get covered in mud and throw up clouds of snow. The sounds are slightly disappointing — you get a generic rock backdrop that is so Milestone. The voice-acting is better but cheesy, although the car audio saves the day. Very neat. The lack of polish is the only tiny gremlin because there are a few graphic glitches and the AI is a bit hit and miss. But that can’t stop the fun. This is a winner.
Far Cry 5 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
IT is probably fair to say that Far Cry 5 will do nothing for tourism in Montana. It’s a brutal tale of cults, drugs and gun-toting bad hombres. It could be the backdrop for a Donald Trump press conference on life in America today. But . . . and it’s a big BUT . . . put aside the political commentary and remember that this is a GAME and you will have a ball. In fact, it is so good that it has to be one of the first contenders for Game of the Year.
Ubisoft are no strangers to open world games — from The Crew to Assassin’s Creed. They do big dreams. But Far Cry 5 has ramped things up a bit. The exotic sandy beaches and tropical forests from past games have been replaced by Hope County in Montana. The Seed family — led by Joseph and his brothers and sister — control the county through their Eden Gate cult. It has promised that people will be saved if they join them — but at what cost? It kicks off with you as a young deputy joining a US Marshall and other cops to go and arrest Seed. You take him into custody, but that sparks a riot and you’re lucky to find a local who will help you. Cue 25+ hours of over-the-top missions and epic action that could have been lifted from a Hollywood blockbuster.
You must save your friends and take out the Seeds. Fans may think they know the score, but Ubisoft have tweaked the general quality of life in the game. Now you don’t need to climb radio towers to unlock maps and you can travel quickly from the start. The map is split into three main areas, each led by one of the Seeds and they run things their way. But it’s not all gloom and doom. There are missions like helping save a festival — and all to a Marvin Gaye soundtrack — or even trying to make contact with aliens. Then there’s the Far Cry traditions of hunting, clearing outposts and finding stashes. The gunplay is great fun whether on a blaze or trying to be stealthy. It is brutal and enjoyable in equal measures plus you can unlock equipment for your guns. A buddy system — with people who will help you — is a neat touch but the animal allies steal the show. You have to love Boomer the dog and Cheeseburger the bear.
You can play the full campaign in co-op with a friend or do the new arcade mode. The graphics match the scale of the game — lush forests and fields of crops swaying in the wind. The attention to detail is amazing and it is all backed with Rockabilly music and solid voice acting. You may notice a couple of small glitches and having a mute character is a bit of a pain. The Seeds are also not the best villains in the world.
But you will get lost in this world. You will love this world. You will want to get to Hope County — even if it is a virtual trip.
Scribblenauts Showdown (Xbox One, PS4 and Switch, £32.99)
THE word’s out and Scribblenauts has moved from puzzle tease to party game. The Nintendo hit in 2009 is now available on other consoles and provides a mix of fun and frustration. There are three main modes — versus, showdown and sandbox — with showdown as a board game where you and three friends fight out a mix of mini speed and word games. The word games range from having to catch an object on a magic carpet or eating something faster than your friend. But it has a Scribblenauts twist in that players pick the object for opponents to eat — so it could anything from dinosaurs to walnuts.
Speed games are short blasts of arcade-style fun and the enjoyment level will probably be down to what sort of games you prefer. You can go against a friend in versus. You can tailor the games which gives it more of a pick-up-and-play feel. Sandbox is the most traditional Scribblenauts mode. You work your way through set worlds helping to solve puzzles but it’s can be completed in under an hour. It does give a glimpse of how much fun the game is — but only a glimpse.
The hand-drawn art pops with colour and adds character to the locations and characters. The soundtrack backs that up but is a little repetitive. The AI is simple so this is probably aimed at younger gamers. It is good fun but you are left wanting more.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…