Scotch Corner – Pulped Fiction

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 31st March.

 

RICO (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £15.99)

GAMING escapism lets you drive cars quickly, fight armies and solve mysteries.  But Rico lets you release your inner cop as you boot in doors.
There are a LOT of gangsters.  You will do a LOT of booting.  And it never stops being a buzz because you never know what is on the other side of the door.

This is an arcade first-person shooter with a strong dash of roguelike as each level is built from scratch before you head in.  That ensures background variety, but your goal is the same — clear each room of bad guys while collecting evidence or disarming bombs.  You can unlock weapons like sub-machine guns and shotguns as well as attachments like a flashlight to get the edge in a fight.  But everything comes back to booting the doors down.  Everything goes slow-mo and you get to live out your John Wick dreams — if you watched the Keanu Reeves flicks — as you blast the enemies in a hail of bullets.  That’s the hook — boot door and bang.  And it works.  It is great fun.

Beyond the main cases, there is horde and instant action modes.  They do what they say on the tin.  The cell-shaded style makes the action pop and the slow-mo is classy but the slide attacks take some of the fun out of things.  It’s a great short, sharp blast of FPS action, the co-op is a bit light on depth and content, but booting doors down never gets boring.

Score: 3/5

The Occupation (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £19.99)

GAMING shines when it mirrors the real world — either in everyday situations or massive events.  White Paper Games’ The Occupation initially appears to be an upgraded walking sim.  You explore and interact with objects to solve puzzles.  Dig a little deeper and it is actually a real thriller.  You are Harvey — a journalist in 1987 Britain probing a terror attack that’s prompted the government to go for a Union act which will impact immigration and curb human rights.  It can all give you an uneasy feeling given the current climate.

You must interview people linked to the event and you build up your questions by exploring the world.  Everything is played out in real time, so if you have an hour until your next chat then you have 60 real-world minutes to get as much information as you can to find the answers you want.  Or you can just sit and wait for your meeting.  Your decision shapes the level.  Most levels give you a lead to set you on your way, but you can add info and get tips from your editor.  However, the clock is ticking so time management is key.  There is a real-world vibe to the locations, even if it has a soft-lens feel.  The voice acting includes an array of accents and the soundtrack blends music with more atmospheric tracks.

Gripes?  There are plenty of rough bits that affect your gaming enjoyment.  The game can also crash unexpectedly and the saving system means you can lose a lot of progress.  It has thrills and a deep story.  It is a painful reflection of the real world.  If it didn’t have the glitches then it could be a great game.  Hopefully, these issues will be ironed out with patches.

Score: 2.5/5

Not Going Quietly into that Good Night

DEAD Or Alive 6 has sparked plenty of debate — from a refusal to dive into the growing eSports revolution to the over- sexualisation of the characters.  The game’s producer and director, Yohei Shimbori is like one of the fighters — he refuses to duck any punches coming his way.  In fact, he enjoys explaining the processes the team went through.  Talking to me, he said:

“We’re not focusing all our attention on eSports.  A big portion of loyal DOA fans are casual gamers, and we won’t leave them behind.  We want to implement eSports in a way that will also be enjoyable to them.  As to how . . . now is not the time to disclose our future strategies, but I’m hoping to be able to talk about them after they succeed.”

That focus on the casual fan explains the studio’s move to free up past titles as well as the new game.  Yohei added:

“We have released free-to-play versions — Core Fighters for DOA5 Ultimate and DOA5 Last Round.  Considering their success, we made the decision to release one for Dead Or Alive 6 as well.  While we released Core Fighters for DOA5 Ultimate and Core Fighters simultaneously with the full version of the game, this time we waited a few weeks.  Releasing a free-to-play version brings a large number of new players to the game, and it also helps to keep the online matches diverse and populated.  DOA6 Core Fighters is available to download now.”

So to the other talking point — there have been claims that the game is virtually soft porn or a teenage boy’s wet dream.  Yohei is unapologetic.  He said:

“It depends on the character.  We have to consider what will suit each of them, and if we can imagine them actually wearing something like that.  Who is more suited for a cooler look, and who is more suited for a cuter one?  In this title, with the help of the new technology, we also had to consider the more physical impressions of the materials and designs, rather than only their looks.”

Away from the controversy, Yohei reckons he and the team have provided a base for newcomers and the existing fans.  He said:

“There is no problem in starting DOA6 by mashing buttons.  You can use PPPP, KKKK… My personal favourite is SSSS.  S is the button assigned to the specials in this title, and people will be able to perform some interesting moves just through mashing.  If you’re a beginner and try to start by learning guards and holds, you’re likely to over-complicate things.  Begin with learning how to use strikes to win.  When that isn’t enough anymore, add the guards and holds gradually.  That way, you’ll eventually become better and learn them all.”

The game has a healthy roster of fighters from the past six titles, but there was loads of debate about who was going to make the cut.  Yohei added:

“We had to start by considering which of the characters had to be present within the story.  By picking up those we couldn’t do without this time around, we ended up with the current 26.  There were also about five more that we wanted to include if we had the resources and manpower.”

But it’s not just a case of returning favourites, there are some new kids on the block.  Yohei said:

“Diego was the character we designed with our overseas fans in mind.  He is one to participate in rougher street fights, and we made sure to give him the abilities that would make him an easy beginner character for new players.  He seems to be a popular character among US players.  With NiCO, we had this idea to introduce a female scientist who uses Pencak Silat from the very beginning — to mix a very traditional martial art and the most advanced technology into one character.  As for the visual, we went for something with the taste of Japanese anime culture — I hope she finds many fans around the world.”

Dead Or Alive 6 (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)

ONE-UPMANSHIP is never over-rated.  Nothing is better than giving your mate a doing in a brawler couch fight.  It becomes addictive.  Win and you want to do it all over again.  Scratch that itch with Team Ninja’s newest game Dead Or Alive 6.  Let’s face it, when the series reaches the sixth instalment then the odds are that you’ve been doing something right and you have a huge fan base eager to turn the latest offering into a best-seller.  Dead Or Alive 6 will pull in newcomers as well, because it is easy to pick up and play.  It is just a short time before you are punching, kicking, throwing, blocking and pulling off attacks with the best of them as you hunt down killer combos.

The game does not rest there — you’ll need to read the fight because there is a rock, paper and scissors-esque system allowing you to counter blows, leaving your opponent open to your next attack.  Learning how that works and perfecting your timing are the keys to success.  There is a new break system which lets you unleash a few powerful moves that can bag a win or just give you room to breathe in the heat of a brawl.  There is the standard fighting fare, from arcade to time attack and survival mode, but you’ll spend most of your time in the story.  It’s massively over the top and packed with tons of cheesy moments.  The new element is how you unlock sub- chapters for fighters by completing the main beats.  However, instead of supporting the main tale, it muddies things and it becomes hard to follow.

There is a new quest mode with 100 challenges where you have to bag three stars which will unlock new costume items.  This mode helps showcase each fighter and their move sets.  There is a healthy and deep training mode that shows you the ropes and allows more seasoned players to practise landing combos.  Once you’ve cut your teeth, you can venture online and take on the best in the world.  Graphically, the game is stunning — the details of your fighter’s hair moving or the sweat running down their face after a fight is incredible.  The backgrounds are full of hidden details and are bursting with colour and depth while the sound is all handled well with a good rocking beat.  On the downside, loading times can be a bit long and unlocks can be a bit of a grind.  And don’t get us started on the £59.99 season pass which adds 62 costumes and two characters.  Extreme?  Yes.  Expensive?  Yes.

We have managed to get 75 per cent of the way through this review without touching the debate surrounding the launch — the sexualisation of the female fighters.  Some young male teenagers will love it.  Others may be slightly closer to the “uncomfortable” feeling.
A lot of the high-level costumes leave little to the imagination and have one basic aim.  And that’s before you get to the “jiggle physics”.  Look, it is a fun, solid and enjoyable fighter that is easy to pick up and play — but also hard to master.  Questions will be asked about those costumes, but that is all down to personal taste.  You have been warned.  If you think it will shock you, then don’t join this particular fight.

Score: 4.5/5

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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