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 26th November 2017.
Call of Duty: WWII (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
CALL Of Duty has gone all retro and headed back to its roots. The mega franchise cut its teeth on World War II in 2003. Now it has returned with all the technological gaming advances we have made in the last 14 years. The new version provides a campaign which tries to fit in as many key moments as it can from the war — while still delivering a tale of brotherhood and redemption. Sledgehammer Games haven’t held back — it all starts with an epic beach landing and it just builds from there. There are plenty of highlights so expect some magical slow-mo camera moments. You are Ronald Daniels, a private in the 1st infantry Division. This is his tour of Europe — a six-to-seven-hour campaign. It is a solid tale, but never really moves the CoD formula on. The biggest selling point is the multiplayer. It’s had a freshen up which mixes things up without too much change.
Play fast, die fast and respawn fast — that’s the name of the game. It retains that satisfying loop of past titles with a flavour of games like Kill Confirmed and Capture The Flag. The new War mode is an interesting addition. It adds a more level-focused vibe where two teams fight through different stages. For example, one team has to escort tanks to a fuel depot then secure a bridge while the other must stop them. The only issue is that the only available maps at the moment have quite a few bottleneck moments which turn things into disappointing kill boxes. The final facet is zombie mode. That has also been beefed up with a strong story and a huge map to fight on — it’s fun, silly and over the top, but it is a welcome break from the serious tone of the main campaign.
You expect CoD to look good, but the developers have out-done themselves. We reviewed it on the Xbox One X in 4K and it was almost photo realistic at times especially on characters’ faces. The soundtrack echoes the sober tone well. It wouldn’t be CoD without some Hollywood talent and Josh Duhamel (Transformers movies) and Jonathan Tucker (Kingdom) are great in campaign while Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible) and fellow Scot David Tennant (Doctor Who) add character to the zombie tale. WWII produces a good tale but the finale is a little forced and that is a shame, especially given the subject matter. It all felt a bit on the safe side.
Cat Quest (PS4, Switch, PC and Mobile, £19.99)
CAT Quest is bonkers. There, I said it. However, it will put a smile on your face. It is an offering from Singapore-based firm The Gentlebros and takes a solid 2D world role-player and throws in cats for a purrfect blend of classic RPG play from raiding dungeons to grabbing loot. It’s pawsome. OK, I’ll stop the puns now. The tale is set around a land where dragons rule and only the fabled dragon blood warriors could defeat them. But then the warriors disappeared. You are a young mute tabby who has been left for dead by a mysterious white cat who has also kidnapped your sister. Luckily, a sprite called Speery saves you and you know how the rest goes — save your sister, free the land from dragons and become a true dragon blood warrior.
It’s standard high fantasy fare, but with more cat puns than even I can think of. The gameplay is mostly fetch quests and to kill monsters, but the missions take no more than 10 minutes so it’s short and snappy. Unlike most RPGs you also don’t need to grind to level up — most of the game moves forward with you. There are more than 60 quests and side-quests, but you’ll see the credits roll on the main event after about six or seven hours then you can jump back in to complete what you missed. The combat is real time so it’s fast and simple — you attack or dodge while learning the timing of enemies’ attacks so there is a tactical slant.
There is a charm to the look as you travel throughout the land and meet a host of feline friends. It is colourful and backed up by a soundtrack that has a Zelda flavour. Cat Quest may be a little too easy at times and the stripped back combat options and gear system could turn some people off, but it is a perfect fit for younger gamers to get their RPG toes wet. It is light-hearted and has charm, by the bucket-load. It will leave you feline happy.
Turtle Beach Stealth 700 (Xbox One and PS4, £129.99)
IT’S all go in the headset world as we chase the clearest and cleanest gaming experience. Step forward Turtle Beach and the Stealth 700. This is the lightweight new flagship model which features active noise cancellation and Bluetooth in a well-built wireless outfit which doesn’t need a dock or base. You do need to update the firmware before you start for the first time. The ear cups may look small but they were a perfect fit for me as we tested them over a long gaming session. The headset has all your controls moulded on to the left ear cup and the mic — which is small but mighty — has a mute feature that activates when you push the mic up. Very clever. Not so clever is remembering that the wheels for game chat and volume are at the back of the cup.
The star is the connection. Plug into your phone through Bluetooth and listen to music when playing, or answer calls — but you can’t control phone volume from the headset. You’ll get about 10 hours charge but the headset comes with a 3.5mm jack input so you can hook them up to other devices such as the Switch. We tested them on Call of Duty WWII, Forza Motorsport 7 and Overcooked and there was a great range of bass and overall sound quality especially when stuff exploded on-screen. You also get Surround Sound as well as Turtle Beach’s own Superhuman Hearing mode. This is a classy bit of kit — especially at £129.99.0
DUTCH sales manager Rudy van Buren is the World’s Fastest Gamer. The 25-year-old saw off 30,000 sim race stars to win McLaren F1 team’s eSports challenge. He now has a role as one of the team’s official simulator drivers for 2018. The former karter won the Dutch championship in 2003, but quit the scene when he ran out of cash. He said:
“Every boy that starts karting dreams about F1, and at a certain point that dream just vanishes. Now by winning World’s Fastest Gamer, I can relive that dream.”
On The Stream
Riirichan is a full-time streamer who started in 2014 after being inspired by other shows. And she admits the experience has helped her battle her shyness. She has also started working with AMD Red Team Plus then with firms such as Overclockers UK, Eclipse Computers, XSplit, ASUS RoG, CoolerMaster and Noblechairs. She doesn’t just focus on gaming as she features cosplay and PC building as well as plenty of chat with fans.
“I love streaming — it’s definitely something I’d never thought I’d be doing five years ago, but now, it’s my life.”
IT is the row that just keeps giving. We told you about the loot box outrage sparked by EA in Star Wars Battlefront 2 last week, but things have taken a turn for the worse. They thought they would ease the situation with a statement that revealed a U-turn by removing the chance to spend real money in the microtransaction system. All good… until gamers spotted that the system could be re-designed and make a return. Then it was revealed that a similar system in EA’s Need For Speed Payback was updated this week to be more gameplay focused.
But there are still some EA games with the same problems and gamers are not happy — especially the FIFA community. If that wasn’t enough, the Belgian Gaming Commission has ruled that the random nature of what was in the add-on boxes mixed “money and addiction” so were are a form of gambling and they want a ban. Belgian Minister Justice Koen Geens added:
“Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.”
Hawaii then followed suit. Republican politician Chris Lee described it as a Star Wars-themed online casino, designed to lure kids into spending money. Now it seems that the French Minister are going down the same route and have referred the system to their Gaming Commission. Don’t expect the fallout to stop any time soon.
Sonic Forces (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £27.99)
I HAVE to declare an interest here — I have been a Sonic fan since I was six. The first game I ever completed was Sonic The Hedgehog on the Master System in the early 90s. Now, in 2017, after more misses than hits since he made the jump into 3D, I have TWO new games. The fan-inspired Sonic Mania is a love letter to Sonic of old. Sonic Forces, by the Sonic Team, is a mix of classic 2D Sonic, 3D Sonic and a new custom character against the evil Doctor Eggman. The plot is a bit confused, but the recipe is pretty familiar.
A new villain, Infinite, has 3D Sonic on the ropes so your custom character and classic Sonic team up to save the day. It’s a fast-flowing campaign over 30 stages that will take you up to five hours and, while the 2D and 3D stages are fun, it heats up when custom guy dishes it out with a flame-thrower. The design is fresh, but the levels are very short and a bit hit and miss — one second you are hitting the perfect run then a cheat hit can kill you. How rubbish is that? Plus, there is no lives system so death is no real loss, but the boss fights are true highlights.
The graphics are classic Sonic. The soundtrack is an interesting mix of 16 bit retro tunes then full-on cheesy pop for new Sonic. Voice action plays a big part — while classic Sonic hardly says a word, new Sonic never shuts up. Perhaps it is a nod to the two generations of fan — the old-timers longing for that 2D rush and the new kids devour OTT adventure bursting with colour and fun. Sonic Forces tries hard to please everyone and doesn’t quite make it — but it’s fun if you are 10.
WE loved Nazi-punching SIM Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus. We gave it five stars. So rejoice because Bethesda have just released a FREE trial on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. It lets you play the entire first level. And, save your progress, and it will carry on from there if you buy the game. Cash in on Black Friday deals and you can pick it up for just £29.99 in the Xbox Store, with up to 50 per cent off for PlayStation Plus subscribers in Sony’s PlayStation Store or £27.49 on Steam. GAME are selling the hard copy for £29.99 on Xbox One and PS4.
Breach and Clear
RAINBOW Six Siege is growing. A third year of content has been announced and will be released in four seasons. January will see two new operatives and fresh maps. Italian GIS and Morocco GIGR teams will also make an appearance while the SAS gets a new member from Scotland Yard and Delta Force adds an American agent. You can now play in Italy and maps that were cut a few months back have been reworked. Finally, there is a free cooperative event called Outbreak. It sounds like it could be a horde or wave-style mode.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border, catch ye’s…