Scotch Corner – Ninjas, Mechs and Fatalities

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 7th April.

 

Mortal Kombat 11 Beta (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC)

IT’S safe to say Mortal Kombat 11 is on most gamers’ wishlists ahead of its launch later this month.  So when we got the chance to get hands-on with a closed beta of the game we couldn’t say no.  The beta was focused on the online side of things but it did give us a sneak peek at a number of modes as well as options that will be open to you in the final game.  A highlight before taking our skills online was attacking the classic tower mode where you have to defeat a set number of enemies while on the climb.  We got to use five of the ever-growing roster of fighters — Baraka, Jade, Scorpion, Kabal and Skarlet.  It was a good selection as each gave a taste of different styles of combat in the game.

As for the fighting, it’s as weighty as ever with you really feeling every punch and kick thrown.  Matches were brutal and drawn-out affairs, often going the distance before ending in a gory fatality (which I felt were easier to pull off this time round than in the past).  The biggest issue we had with the online side was that if you’re having a good fight, nine times out of 10 your opponent will just quit.  That kills the fun dead.  Being a beta, this tactic wasn’t punished but, hopefully, when the full game hits this sort of behaviour will come with a wrap on the knuckles.  Overall, Mortal Kombat 11 is shaping up very nicely and feels like a step forward for the series, at least on the core fighting side, as well as being a very polished product.  It looks great and is brutal in equal measure.  Fighting fans and weekend warriors alike are in for a treat.

Mortal Kombat 11 releases for PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One on the 23rd April.

Left Alive (PS4 and PC, £44.99)

THERE is nothing more annoying than a title which looks set for greatness but falls short — like Square Enix’s Left Alive.  And it’s a real shame because on the ‘things that make games cool checklist’ it ticks a lot of the boxes.  Big mechs.  Tick.  Multiple playable characters.  Tick.  A deep and interesting tale.  Tick.  So where did it all go wrong?  In short, it’s better to master one thing than be a Jack of all trades that masters none.

You play as three people (a hard-boiled cop, rookie soldier and a prisoner) who are trying to make it out of a city in one piece after a surprise invasion from a superior force.  You’ll attack main missions and side missions though you have a limited amount of gear and resources.  Gameplay is mainly a stealth affair as none of the heroes are super-powerful or strong so you’ll sneak around the urban battlefield taking down enemies.  On paper, it sounds great but the stealth mechanics are all over the place.  You’re left feeling cheated more often than not.  As for when things go south and combat takes over?  Because you’re on the back foot for most of the game, you’ll always feel under-armed.  The one saving grace to all this has to be when you get to take control of one of the hulking mechs that are armed to the teeth.  Sadly, these sections are few and far between.

Also, the game runs more than a bit rough at times, especially when there is a lot going on, and the escort AI during side missions is murder.  Graphically, things are dark and moody plus the character models look great.  Sound is OK but voice acting can be a bit limp.  Left Alive is a sort of spin-off of the Frontline series.  If you’re a diehard fan you’ll maybe get something from this but, for everyone else, you’ll just feel let down at what could and should have been a cracking game.

Score: 1.5/5

Rising from the Dead

CHANGE can be scary but Dead Or Alive 6 director Yohei Shimbori insists it is a vital part of a game’s development.  He told STUART CULLEN:

“There are three major parts which form the heart of Dead Or Alive 6.  First, I think DOA6 has clearly evolved into the most beautiful fighting game out there.  It was only possible thanks to the scrupulously developed new engine and engineers and artists of Koei Tecmo Games.  Second, we have made an effort to make this title more exciting and approachable by adding the ‘S’ special button and the ‘Break Gauge’ system.  Lastly, we have prepared extensive training options.  We have a tutorial mode that is as detailed and as extensive as a dictionary, we have free training that allows players to see the detailed action data while trying out various moves, we have combo challenge to learn specific combos and we have added an entirely new DOA quest mode which provides players with challenges for each match to teach them various actions.  All of this ensures that every player, regardless of their level, will find a training environment that will answer their needs.”

Yohei also admitted fan power played a role.  He added:

“We had a lot of requests, especially from overseas users, to enhance our side attacks.  It ended up being a pretty powerful move against head-on attacks.  While it is still weak against rotating attacks, I would say that players who learn side attacks from the beginning have a considerable advantage.”

That fan bonding ensured the team took real care of the DOA fighting system.  Yohei said:

“We did make an effort to keep the core of the move sets unchanged and enhance the best points, but we did add a number of new moves.  We have recently released our first Season Pass that will cover 62 costumes and two collaboration characters, one of which will be Mai Shiranui from The King Of Fighters XIV.  We are also planning a worldwide DOA6 World Championship.”

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £52.99)

EVERY so often a truly great game is cast into the world.  Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is one of those legendary titles.  The offspring of Call Of Duty publisher Activision and Dark Souls developer FromSoftware, the game — set in feudal Japan — is built on the legacy of the Soul series and Bloodborne while being very much its own thing.  You fill the sandals of young shinobi Wolf.  He’s effectively a hitman for a lord who has the power to bring the dead back to life.  But when your master is kidnapped it’s up to you to get him back.  What started rooted in history suddenly bursts into the world of fantasy.

Sekiro has a winning formula, requiring stealth as you dart from shadows to rooftop looking to land that killing blow on unaware enemies.  There is a true beauty to be found in the combat as each killing blow delivered gives you a greater sense of satisfaction.  And that’s before you take on the FromSoftware staple of hugely challenging bosses.  As you move through the game you’ll get stronger through a skill tree which lets you unlock abilities.  There are a few handy moves that will save your bacon.  You can also have a prosthetic arm which can be kitted out with a few different tools such as a shield-breaking axe.  But, in a refreshing move, there are no other weapons to be found, so the blade you wield at the beginning of your journey will be the same you deliver the final blow with.

So what’s the Die Twice part?  That’s where it gets interesting.  If you get killed, you could just start again or jump back into the action which is great if your foe is weakened.  However, that has a price because your regeneration releases a disease called Dragon rot that infects the world. It’s your choice — and you can only do it once each fight.  Graphically, the game looks amazing — from snow-covered castles to hunting villages.  The soundtrack and voice acting are outstanding throughout too.  On the downside?  With stealth being a huge factor, at times we found enemies could spot us from way too far off.  But the biggest issue is the difficulty.  Sekiro takes no prisoners.  It will beat you black and blue while you try to learn new skills and develop.  That will be an issue for some but what do you expect when FromSoftware is the name hanging on the door?  This is a must-play.  It could have been a walk in the park but it asks you to grit your teeth and get better, faster and deadlier.  Awesome.

Score: 5/5

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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