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 6th January 2019.
Road Redemption (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £15.99)
THERE have been a few attempts to revive the Road Rash bike-racing formula that was a hit 20 years ago. Some were best forgotten and others were even worse, but Road Redemption aims to capture the essence of the classic series while giving it a 2019 vibe. Developed by Pixel Dash Studios and EQ Games, this is a mix of vehicle combat and flat-out racing all mixed within a light B-movie tale. Biker gangs have taken over the highways but an assassin has taken out the leader of the Ironsights Cartel. They are one of the largest gangs and have put up a reward to find the killer. You have to find them and bag the cash while dodging the cops. It’s not the freshest of ideas, but successfully tops and tails the action while being the backbone for a campaign which can be played in four-player co-op. You can also go online for some basic but fun multiplayer action.
The gameplay is an interesting beast. There is a strong Road Rash feel, but that is 20 years old! Racing up to someone and whacking them off their bike is fun, but it never really evolves beyond that. Most levels see you having to get from A to B with a mix of goals. Again, it’s basic and has a limited fun factor. There is a Roguelike element to the campaign, where if you get so far and fail, you can bank cash to unlock upgrades that make the next run easier. That adds depth to how you spend your loot as you complete 16 tracks across five areas and take on a few bosses. There is a neat arsenal of weapons and it’s a similar story with the bikes. But the graphics are a bit rough. The bikes and the tracks look OK but the world is flat, dull and uninspiring. The rock soundtrack never really gets going, but the voice acting is OK if cheesy. It is a success if it was supposed to be Road Rash reincarnated, but it fails to move the game forward — and that is a real shame.
Farming Simulator 19 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £37.99)
IF you had said farm sims would have been a hit — even a few years ago — you’d have been laughed at. Well, the joke’s on the doubters now because Giant Software has a cult following with the Farming Simulator series. The latest instalment aims to build on the past successes and add a few new elements to attract a fresh crop of virtual farmers. You still have to run a farm — from growing crops to harvesting them and selling them, and getting newer and bigger machines to get the job done. There are three campaign options — a sort of difficulty guide: New, where you have a farm and some kit; Farm Manager, lots of cash but no farm or kit; or Start from scratch. There is a healthy number of tutorials to keep you right. There are also choices for your farm with a nice level of detail although it can be a little rough at times.
But the biggest draw is the HUGE number of machines. If car fans gush at the product list in the latest Forza game, tractor fans will be drooling over Farm Sim. There is a machine for every job and everyone is fully licensed and modelled to a very impressive level of detail on the real-world version. You can grow crops — including, for the first time, cotton and oats — or farm livestock, with horses added to the options. You can also ride any horse you own, so that’s a neat new trick. And you can chop down trees and sell lumber or make biofuel. Or you could use your machines to help out other farmers and earn a few quid.
It is fair to say that this is not a game for everyone. If you have played a past version then there is not much extra excitement. But it is the best and most complete game so far so that will appeal to newcomers. There are a few issues around the physics of how the machines handle. The controllers are a bit of a challenge as each one has a different layout. Farming Simulator 19 is a solid title that adds to the series and fans will get the most from it. Newcomers will also get a taste of what it’s like to be a virtual farmer. It may be a welcome break from the run-and-gun Battle Royale pace.
Taking it to the Trac-tor (by Jon Doran)
I AM sure farmers will tell you about the stresses they face every day. But it must be great to get away from it all and just plough a field. Now we can all enjoy the experience thanks to Farming Simulator 19. I recently got the chance to drive John Deere’s range of tractors at Sherriff’s in Hadington for Scottish Sun Motors, so it was interesting to see how the sim compared to the real thing. The short answer is ‘Wow!’. The game gives you a choice of hardware, but I targeted the John Deere 7310R. The level of detail in the cab is staggering. And, if you use the techniques the guys at Sherriff’s taught me about, then you do get an excellently straight ploughing line.
There were differences — it seemed easier to speed up and the steering was very light. And you can’t reach for your favourite paper while you are ploughing. The biggest gripe? There was no John Deere 9620RX. That has be be added as a matter of urgency. Building up your farm is a great way to chill out. However, you can build a fair speed on the roads. Hmm, tractor racing? Now, there’s a game.
Blue is the Colour
SONIC has always been a high-speed superstar, so it was a no-brainer for Sumo Digital to serve up fun arcade racer Team Sonic Racing.
Design director Derek Littlewood told STUART CULLEN how the game — which lands later this year — will stand out from the pack.
“We had a solid foundation of an arcade racing game that we know fans really enjoyed and loved. That allowed us to build on that with the Team Racing experience. We have added a whole new level of strategic play that doesn’t really exist in other racing games. I think fans coming from Transformed will find lots of finds that feels familiar — like drifting and doing stunts — but, ultimately, it’s all about being the fastest line to the finish. The thing we have really worked on is that you can work in co-op to win the race as a team.”
Having access to Sega’s heroes was another bonus. Derek, below, added:
“With past titles we went very wide with different Sega franchises, but here we decided to do very deep just with the Sonic series. There are new characters that people will not have seen in racing games and there are a lot of different locations which reference his history. That allowed us to introduce a story-driven team adventure mode. We got to explore the Sonic universe in more detail. We wanted something for all Sonic fans — the hardcore that have been there since the Megadrive days will find references to things they will enjoy, but fans who have come to Sonic in the past five years will also have something to enjoy.”
Derek admits he has his favourites. He said:
“I have a soft spot for Tails. I was one of those gamers in the 90s that was there when Sonic 2 came out so I tend to play as Tails but I also like Omega the robot. Omega has some of the best put-downs in the game. If he hits you with a weapon or drives past you, he’ll just throw you a one-liner that really burns.”
But they have dropped the ability to switch from car to boat or plane mid-race. Derek added:
“Instead we have a new customisation system. In terms of the range of looks your car can have, it is as much if not more than the last game and it introduces a lot more depth to the game. Fine-tuning the parts on your car so they have just the right power for the track you are racing on adds a lot of depth and skill to the game.”
The cars are also stars in the game. Derek added:
“We were very fortunate to have direct contact with Takashi Iizuke at Sega America, who is like the head of all things Sonic and has been with the series since Sonic 3 so he really knows his stuff and was able to help us. But we also tried to draw inspiration from the real world so Sonic’s car looks like a modern Ferrari’s whereas Shadow has more of a Lamborghini style.”
Team Sonic Racing is out on May 21.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…