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 10th November.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
YOU know you’re getting old when they remake things you really loved first time around. This fact hit us hard when Activision announced that this year’s Call Of Duty wasn’t just a remake but more of a retelling of its Modern Warfare trilogy. So another year, another CoD but this year’s is a little different from the standard tale as, technically, we know what’s coming but Infinity Ward have mixed things up to make more of a prequel than straight-up retelling. Now as you well know, CoD is really a game of two halves — campaign and online — so we’ll look at each in turn.
After taking a break last year from having a campaign, CoD bursts back on the scene and in some style. You are trying to stop a terrorist cell getting hands on a chemical weapon — but things go wrong and from there you’re on the back foot trying to get things back. Oh, and stop a full-out war between the US and Russia while you’re at it. You’ll fill the boots of a number of different troops on the ground — from a wise-cracking CIA agent to a revenge-focused SAS trooper — and there is plenty of globetrotting to be done. Fan favourite Captain Price is back, complete with the best ‘tash in gaming. The campaign has a really gritty feel and it will have you questioning your actions. With suicide bombers to unarmed women and children dying there is a real weight at times to events happening around you. None is more hard-hitting than having to battle through Piccadilly Circus during a terrorist attack with the public trying to run to safely around you. Given the current climate of the world, this mission really hits home as you fight alongside the police. And that feeling never fades across its five or so hour run time as the game keeps its foot well and truly on the gas, making it easily the best CoD campaign for years with some great set pieces.
But after that, you’re going to want to jump into multiplayer which is where the game really comes to life. There is a co-op spec ops mode to attack with three mates that extends the main game story a little, though these four extra missions turn into real monster closet hunts as enemies spawn from everywhere and it feels more of a forced difficulty than an actual one. The main multiplayer is very much a back-to-basic mode — it has stripped everything back and is a real boots-on-the-ground affair. You get ten maps ranging from great to not so great for a number of reasons — some are too large for the number of players in the match or, worst of all, it’s very easy to spawn camp the other team. It’s a strange move given that the original Modern Warfare trilogy has so many loved maps — why not just pick the best of the series and re-do them.
As for unlocks and the like, it’s very much if it’s not broke don’t fix it, so you get XP during the match that levels you up, in turn unlocking new kit and weapons. What is new though is you have to use the weapons to unlock the attachments as each gun has its own level. On the mode front, there is a host of returning ones with three brand new — Cyber Attack, a new take on Search and Destroy, Gun Fight which is a 2v2 arena stand-off mode making for short tense matches and, finally, Realism, which is a new take on Hardcore. Ground War is a full-on Battlefield style mode where 32v32 battle it out but complete with tanks and choppers. But taking CoD and adding it to Battlefield-sized maps isn’t really a win as CoD’s time to kill is so short you’ll spend half your time hoofing around the map. But it’s early days and the Infinity Ward team are working on the online side as there are new modes popping up daily just now and hopefully a nerf and buff patch soon, especially for that shotgun.
Modern Warfare feels like the start of things to come in CoD especially on the campaign front. If you’re a fan you’ll be having a blast right now and if you left the series because it was getting a bit silly then this is well worth the return, if only for the campaign.
Scuf Prestige (Xbox One and PC starting from £129.99)
EVERYONE is always after a gaming edge in competitive gaming — and that all starts with the controller. Scuf Gaming are known for controllers that let you hang on to the triggers rather than switching between them and the buttons. The firm have had different controllers over the years but the new Scuf Prestige has taken the core design and refined it. You get a box of goodies that reinforces the Scuf customisation mantra. You get two sets of sticks as well as handy tools to change settings on the trigger stops and a 10m heavy duty charging cable. The controller now has a customisable magnetic faceplate that is easy to pull off so you can whip the stick out.
But the business side is very much the back which has texture rubberised grips around the bottom and the trigger stop controls. Both triggers can be set independently, so you could have a long pull on the left if you are sniping and a short pull on the right for sharp-shooting . . . or go long on both if you’re racing and want more control on the throttle and brake. You get a built-in battery, which is a neat move, and Bluetooth so you can use it with a PC. The four triggers are slightly curved at the edges which makes it so much easier to hold than in the past. They match the face buttons so you can switch weapons without letting go of the triggers to press the buttons. You can also re-map the triggers using a special tool but it’s fiddly and takes a few goes to work it all out.
So does it give you the edge? Learn how to use it well and your playing will become more fluid and smooth. It isn’t cheap but the Scuf Prestige will become your go-to tool of destruction for the digital battlefield.
A40 TR and Mixamp PRO TR (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £249.99)
YOU get a warm gooey feeling when something that is already excellent gets a few tweaks and upgrades. Astro’s latest A40s bundle comes with the new Mixamp Pro. You can’t beat the A40s — they have scored five stars every time we have put them to the test. And these are no different — they are comfortable and sit very well when you’re wearing them. The customisation vibe stays strong, with a number of pop-and-change parts on the headset from the side plates to the mic which can be put on the left or right of the headset. You can also change the ear cushions. The headset will take an Astro mod kit if you have one which adds a number of new pieces like noise-cancelling ear cushions and a tournament-spec mic.
However, the Mixamp Pro is the star of this show. It solves an issue we have had when playing the likes of Rainbow Six Siege, Call Of Duty and Battlefield — notably when we’re last man standing we have really wanted to quickly turn down the team chat so we can focus on the action. Most high-end headsets with mix amps don’t allow that without a pre-set profile on the unit or the need to mess around with controls on an app on your phone. But the Mixamp Pro actually has TWO audio dials — a master volume and one to split between team chat and game audio. Game-changer. You can also pre-set up to four audio profiles of your own by hooking up to the PC and using the Astro command centre.
The unit is compact and solid. It works with different systems — there are Xbox One and PS4 versions but both will be happy on the PC. The biggest hassle with some Astro headsets has been getting them working straight out of the box — but the A40s is a doddle. And the audio is top tier. The A40s is good — the Mixamp Pro makes this bundle amazing.
MediEvil (PS4, £24.99)
TAKE a cult 1998 PlayStation classic, throw it in the HD machine and you should be on to a winner? Right? Well, that’s just what Sony has done with their much-loved classic MediEvil which is returning to battle in a shiny new suit of HD armour. Twenty-one years have passed since this title first hit consoles and Sony now have small studio Other Ocean Interactive at the helm of the return of Sir Daniel Fortesque. Right out the traps, fans will feel right at home as the game has had more of a visual upgrade than a gameplay update since it uses much of the original’s core design. And with that choice comes a few hangovers from the 1998 game, such as issues with the camera and the like, which is a shame but also an issue we are seeing more and more with the many facelifted and remastered titles coming out these days, feeding the current craze of gaming nostalgia. Plus, not having a modern checkpoint system really does hurt the game as a whole.
The game’s tale is as fun as ever though, as you fill the bone boots of Sir Daniel Fortesque, a knight who is credited with killing an evil sorcerer called Zarok. But what really happened was Fortesque was killed at the start of the battle by the first arrow that was fired in fact. All is not lost, however, as 100 years later, Zarok has returned looking for revenge, casting a spell to awaken an army of the dead. And, well, Fortesque is very much dead . . . so he’s back as well. So with this new lease of undead life, your mission is simple — stop Zarok at all costs and put right the mistakes of your past in a tale that really doesn’t take itself to seriously. As you battle from level to level, killing the undead and collecting different items, everything has a fairly spooky vibe to it. Combat is more fun than maddening and is quite loose to so don’t expect Dark Souls here — and bear in mind, it’s a 21-year-old game. You’ll also face a few bosses such as a huge ant and a stained glass monster which help to keep things fresh over the course of the adventure.
But the lack of check points and just not being really reworked feels most prevalent. There are a few side missions and other tasks that add to the game and give you a few upgrades to boot, making it well worth looking them out. MediEvil is a fun and, for many, a welcome hit of nostalgia that has real charm and wit — but it’s at times unevolved and not refined enough for the current climate.
Close To The Sun (Xbox One, PS4 Switch and PC, £24.99)
TO be fair, Nikola Tesla has had a bit of a rough time in gaming as he’s been thrust into the role of bad guy more times than the good guy.
And Italian studio Storm In A Teacup are the latest to use the mystery around the inventor as well as his well-known personal beef with electrical pioneer rival Thomas Edison to craft a steampunk Art Deco-flavoured tale set in a ‘What if?’ universe. Close To The Sun sees you play as Rose Archer, a journalist who gets a message from her sister to visit her aboard a huge floating ship called the Helios. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to Rapture in the Bioshock series in that it’s Tesla’s dream city where creative minds fear nothing. But, as is always the way with these utopias, things go very wrong very quickly once you make your way to the ship. Then it’s up to you to save your sister as well as get to the bottom of what’s actually going on.
Gameplay-wise, it’s very much a walking sim at times, in a similar vein to the likes of Outlast, where you wander around the huge ship, searching for clues, trying to piece together what’s really happening on the Helios across its six-hour running time. You’ll solve a few puzzles along the way as well as have a few jump scares as there is a healthly horror tone overriding the whole tale — but the pacing is more slow and steady than going at a breakneck speed. There are also chase sections where you have to leg it but these are very much pre-scripted runs and based on trial and error and learning from your mistakes instead of being frantic runs to safety. Visually, the Helios is stunning at times with a real Art Deco vibe that is a real treat for the eyes although the few characters you meet on your journey are a little bit rough around the edges. But the audio is very good and is always dishing out threads of the tale.
Close To The Sun starts as a really engrossing tale that grabs you but after time its grip weakens which is a real shame as it has some real strong points but they will fade over time. Luckily, the short run time means the credits roll just before the game and story eventually burns itself out.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…