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 27th May 2018.
ONRUSH Preview (Xbox One, PS4, out in June)
As a studio Codemasters are mostly best known for living on the more realistic side of racing line from F1 to DIRT under their belt, as the firm craft some of the best four wheeled games on the market. What happens when they let their hair down? Onrush that’s what! This is a new take on arcade racing thrills which had an open beta last weekend to give a taste of what to expect.
The first thing that hits you is the whole thing has a vibe of Motorstorm and that’s because it’s made by the same team as Codemasters saved them last year so that should give you an idea of how the game plays. The beta was a bit light on options but you got to use a hand full of vehicles from bikes to buggies and trucks, you get to attack a track through different settings from snow to night and everything in-between.
Fast pace fun is the name of the game as it tries to evolve the racing formula aiming to put you in the thick of it at all times and to win you don’t have to be in first. Game modes are very team focused and really have more in common with an FPS than racer as you fight to score as more points or try to bank time by hitting different gates and a race is played over rolling rounds usually in a best of 3 or 5 formats. On top of that you can help your team by using your Rush power which each class has from dropping energy gates to slow the other side, to give to a cheeky shield boost it pays to hunt as a pack here.
Respawning is fast which helps keep the action going and you can takedown other racers in a Burnout style to bag some extra boost juice in your tank which is always a good thing. When you’re faced with a truck hunting down as a bike, fun isn’t the first word that jumps to mind. Onrush is fast, frantic and bags of fun and from the beta it feels like a breath of fresh air to the racing scene with its pick and mix of team focused gameplay. Onrush hits stores on the 5th of June.
Descenders Preview (Xbox One, In development)
RageSquids Descenders has just been released as part of the Xbox Game program which is like an early access mode where developers unleash their (still in development) games to give gamers a peek at them. And it also lets you invest in the titles as you can buy them just now and have it updated until it launches. These games also often come with a demo and Descenders has an hour long demo to give you a feel for this extreme title.
The game is a downhill mountain bike SIM of sorts which task you with starting at the top of a run and having to get to the bottom in open piece which is easier said than done. The whole game is procedurally generated so no two runs are ever the same which help keeps things fresh as the demo sees you racing around a highlands themed playground. The tracks are built around three different key points; steepness, curves and stunts. These range from easy going too full on falling off the side of a mountain. Each area has a track map which lets you pick your own route, on the way to tackling the boss stage where you’ll have to land an epic jump to move on to the each stage.
Along the way, there are special stages where you’ll have to play in first person mode or ones where you can get some extra health if you complete it. Each run also comes with a little bonus challenge asking you to do so many flips or get so much air time and completing them will bag you more health as well. Health plays a big part in the game because if you run out of it, your run is over and this gives the game a very roguelike feel as you’ll also unlock helpful buffs along the way. Like not falling as hard or having more stunts in your tracks, but will lose them all if your run fails.
It’s also worth saying that the soundtrack in the game is outstanding and features a mix of different licensed techno and dance tracks by a number of different artists which help set the vibe as you go at break neck speed through a forest. Descender is a fun and addictive little title which has that just one more go vibe and is well worth giving a look if only for the hour demo.
Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition (Switch, £49.99)
Nintendo’s ports of missed Wii U titles shows no sign of slowing down as the next over looked hit has just landed with Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition. Taking the tried and tested core gaming of the Dynasty Warriors series and mixes it with the world of Zelda for an interesting outcome. The game is the end product of collaboration between Koei Tecmo and Nintendo as Omega Force were the driving force behind the project which first hit the Wii U back in 2016, but like so many Wii U titles was overlooked and missed by many. And to be fair it takes what Zelda fans know and love and turns it on its head, as gone are the puzzles and side quest instead you are tasked with one thing to fight and you’ll be doing a lot of that.
With this being the Definitive Edition it comes with a truck load of content including all the past characters and DLC from the Wii U as well as the bite sized 3DS version. Beyond that there is little new here for those who were lucky enough to play it first time around. On the gameplay front you have to lead an army into battle in the Dynasty Warriors style 1 vs 1000 style gameplay but it’s not all hack and slash fun, as you’ll need to keep an eye on the battle as while you have a set of missions to complete in each battle if you lose the overall fight it’s over.
When you get your boots on the ground, you truly feel unstoppable as you brush aside all but the most powerful of enemies and those that put up a fight really do as each battle evolves from capture and hold points to helping back up your troops to having to take down a number of big bosses.
But adding the endless onslaught is the Zelda edge as you fight though classic areas from the game’s history as well as the control of almost every Zelda character you could wish for with 31 available each with their own styles and attacks to master and fans will get a real kick from finding out just how each plays. Add to that an epic dimension crossing tale that stitches the whole thing together and tries to explain how all the games are blending together, which if you take a step back given past Zelda tale isn’t that far fetched. Graphically the game pops with the same charm and colour of any Zelda game and is a real treat for the eyes. Adding to the remixes of classic Zelda tracks throughout, along with the overly familiar chimes of opening chests and collection of rupees and you’ll not stop smiling throughout your adventures.
New to the Switch version is a split-screen mode where you and a friend can defend the land on the same Switch and it doesn’t miss a beat bit having so much action on the little screen is maybe just too much to take in at times. The game has a few issues as on screen text is just a little too small and the combat is just that little bit too light at times and it does get a bit repetitive quite quickly. Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition is a solid port of a cracking title which takes a well-known and loved series and dares to take a different bold look at it, that fans will love and newcomers will have a blast with as it marriages together two solid series of games.
Laser League (PS4, Xbox One, £11.99)
It’s no secret that eSports are on the rise and it feels like every other weekend there is a final this or championship that. Therefore it was only a matter of time until a developer made a pure breed title with one goal to be a grass roots eSports game. Enter Roll7 with Laser League with a little help from 505 Games. Laser League is a sports game set in a Tron-esque future, which sees teams of 2 or 3 facing off against each other in an area with one goal to be that last team standing. There are a number of ways to do this in a match but the main strategy will see you running around the area hitting laser gates which then activates your teams colour and if the other team touches it they are gone. Sounds easy but when it’s all going at hundred miles an hour its anything but, as you fight to get to gates while all the time dodging the enemies gates as well as the opposing team too.
You can tag fallen teammates back into the game as well if you can make it to their body in time. Beware as the other team will not take this lying down as each player has a special ability from stunting to flat-out just being able to eliminate other players and this adds an extra layer to the gameplay as well. There are a total of 6 different characters to choose from just now, which is a little light but each also has a modifier so there is room to play around and dial it in to find the one that best suits your play style. As for arenas at the moment there are four main locations from around the world that are broken down into 19 different stage layouts, which help keep games fresh as they are always in rotation. To be fair at first it’s a lot to get your head round, but you soon get to grips with it and start to understand the balance of the game and that you don’t need to rush in to get the win. Planning and talking to your team can pay off just as well.
The game can be played both offline and online and it’s the online side of the game that really shines and feels like it is just waiting to be picked up by the community, it’s also easy to see how it could be played as an eSport as well. Graphically the game has a very striking art style with everything being black and neon which isn’t just cool it also actually helps you follow the action when it kicks off with it being easy to spot power ups and fallen teammates. The soundtrack also carries a Tron vibe very well too. The only real issue boils down to if it’s going to take on by the community, as it’s a well-polished game that is fast, fluid and above all fun it may be a little light on content just now but could easily be added to through DLC down the line. Laser League is breed for one thing and one thing alone and that’s to win and with a bit of luck you will get to that top spot.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…