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 28th July.
THE next Scottish sporting heroes are set to be keyboard warriors, according to the man behind eSports Scotland. James Hood has helped set up the Scottish eSports League and was banging the drum at Resonate — the two-day gaming festival in Glasgow. The show — in its third year — included a number of tournaments with the likes of Team Penguin Overloads and Anathema doing battle for a slice of a £5,000 prize pot in games including Rocket League and Rainbow Six Siege. James said:
“The show has been amazing. Everyone has such a buzz. We have worked so hard behind the scenes to make this happen and it really gives these gamers a bit or reassurance to keep on doing what they love and getting teams and the gear together. Look at Team Penguin Overloads — people like that inspire others to think ‘we can do that’ so the more tournaments we can hold and the more prize money we have, people soon think they could make a living out of this. It is about inspiring people to give it a go.”
“The Scottish eSport League is the premier competition. We ran a number of qualifiers over the past four months and the best of the best from that took part in the finals.”
But he admitted:
“We never announced the prize pot until four weeks before the show so the people that signed up were rewarded for that gamble while those who didn’t were heard on social media wishing they had. But, ultimately, money talks and any sort of prize pool with bring in a bigger audience as well as more players too.”
Gamers also got a who’s who of the YouTube and Vlogging revolution. The show served up the likes of Syndicate and Pyrocynical as headliners and they were backed up by a host of other internet stars. Fans got a chance to meet their heroes, grab an autograph or a selfie and even quiz them on their success stories. It would have been good for at least one of them to chat about how hard it is to become a streamer and YouTuber, or talk about the kit you need, how much it costs and at which stage you need management. That would have been a great insight for the young fans who are hungry to follow their idols. The indie sector was a bit smaller than recent years. The Tron-inspired Rebound returned and developer Prospect Games also showed off their new fast, frantic and fun arena battler, Robot Champions. Developer Andrew Bennison said:
“This is the most north we have been with the game yet and everyone loves it. It’s easily been the busiest indie booth here and we are very happy with how people are enjoying the game.”
The team hopes hands-on time at events will pay off. Andrew added:
“There is a Kickstarter planned for about mid- August. If that goes well we want to bring the game to all consoles as well as a VR version.”
Resonate also hosted John Robertson’s The Dark Room, and drew a good crowd all looking to try to escape the Aussie stand-up. Robbo said:
“It was an awesome event — any show in Glasgow is good just because it’s in Glasgow. I smashed a man in the chest with a bag of baked beans — you can’t ask for more. Plus, you can swear at kids in Scotland, which makes my job fun. It was a great warm-up before The Dark Room heads to Edinburgh where it’ll be on twice a day all through the Fringe, so I’m looking forward to calling more weans bawbags.”
So how was the show? It was heavily accented towards eSports and streaming and felt smaller than last year even though organisers claimed it was the biggest yet. For Scotland to stand on the same stage as world-class UK events like EGX, Insomnia and Rezzed, Resonate needs to attract the big publishers with their latest wares and bringing the faces behind the games. That would inspire youngsters who’ll take the industry forward.
No Assists Needed
SIM sensation Graham Carroll wants to be the best racer in the world. The Red Bull ace has made headlines across the world with his sim racing and is now at the sharp end of the grid in the iRacing Porsche eSport Cup. His online efforts have already made him pals with Formula One aces Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, but he wants to out-do them on the virtual track. The size of that task was proved when the two F1 stars teamed up to win iRacing’s 24 Hours of Spa event. Graham — from Musselburgh in East Lothian — spoke out when he turned up at Resonate in Glasgow at the weekend. The former Scottish and British Formula Ford champion insisted there was a lucrative career to enjoy in sim racing, and he no longer wanted the real track. He said:
“When I won the British back in 2008 I would love to have kept racing but I stopped and became this sort of eSports guy. I’ve really fell in love with the world and the gaming side of it. To be honest, what I’m doing just now with Red Bull is more than I ever thought I’d get when I stopped real racing so I just want to keep it going as long as possible and to be involved as long as possible with the Red Bull team. I think every kid in the world is trying to go from eSports to real racing and I want to be the one that’s the opposite. I don’t want to be the same as everyone else. Everyone would go real racing if they could but that’s not my main goal. I want to be the best driver online at eSports right now. When I started, about five years ago, I was in the top so many but because things have got so competitive — like in iRacing which is my bread and butter — it’s hard to be in that top group and it’s only going to get bigger and better every year.”
Graham sees a vital part of his Red Bull role as showing off eSports at shows like Resonate. He added:
“We were at Goodwood the other weekend with Red Bull UK and we had the Red Bull KTM energy station with some SIM rigs and gaming stations and Red Bull want to bring a pop-up version to different events like Goodwood and Resonate. Being a Red Bull eSports driver, I get to help with the SIM rigs and race against the public — setting a few fastest laps is great fun.”
He was impressed with the Glasgow crowd. He added:
“Goodwood is a car festival and the SIMs were quite quiet but Resonate had a massive queue. That’s great to see.”
But he laughed:
“No one has even got close to my laps but they are enjoying it.”
Verstappen and McLaren ace Norris have also been pounding in the laps online. Graham said:
“I haven’t gone head to head with Max. He’s in a different eSports team — Team Redline with some other guys I raced with. But Max keeps himself busy and normally does the odd endurance race just for fun whereas I don’t do them because you don’t get any prize money from it. But we have spoken about being in the same sort of team, so Red Bull Racing would need to sort something out. I think it would be pretty awesome to race him. I’ve raced against Lando as he’s done a lot of the iRacing stuff but it would be great to race Max and hopefully show him a trick or two.”
But his sights are firmly set on being No1 in the paddock. He said:
“At the minute I’m focused on the iRacing Porsche eSport cup which has a prize pot of $100,000 and there are a few other little eSports events coming up as well as supporting the other guys in the F1 eSports and just doing what it takes to be part of the team. Once you get your place you need to keep pushing to stay part of it.”
He made the final of the Visa Vegas shoot-out in 2017 and also took part in the qualifiers for the Race of Champions in Mexico. He is now thinking about another attack. He said:
“My manager only asked me to enter last year’s Race of Champions a few days before. I ended getting into the last 20. It would be awesome to enter this year and compete. It looks amazing. One of my old team-mates, Enzo Bonito, beat Lucas di Grassi. Enzo is a proper talent.”
Blazing Chrome (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £13.99)
THE hotter the new consoles become, the more you realise how good some of the retro classics could have been. JoyMaher’s Blazing Chrome proves the point — it’s a great Contra game but has nothing to do with Konami’s legendary series. This is run-and-gun action wrapped in a stunning 16-bit skin. It is set in a future where everything has gone wrong. A super AI rules the planet after sending an army of robots to wipe out humanity. The small groups that were left are in hiding but one bunch of rebels has a revenge plan. Badass future trooper Mavra joins Doyle, a rough-tough reprogrammed robot, to save the day and the human race.
It’s pure 80s sci-fi pulp and carries the six rock-hard stages. The star of the show is the gameplay. It should be simple — walk from left to right and blast everything that moves and fight a few bosses — but the reality is a borderline Dark Souls-tough adventure where everything wants you dead and can do it in very few hits. You do have a healthy arsenal, and there are pick-ups along the way to boost your firepower. There are also some levels where you pilot a mech suit to smash bots or ride a speeder bike. You also switch from 2D to 3D sections which all helps to keep the action fresh.
The sound perfectly fits the action and is catchy at times, but we did suffer a weird visual glitch that left its mark on our TV for a bit after playing the second stage. This is a love letter to run-and-gun shooters and newcomers should get a taste of what it was like back then.
Sairento VR (PSVR and PC, £24.99)
NO ONE could argue that ninjas are cool so it’s a bit of a no-brainer for Mixed Realms and Swag Soft to go down that route in Sairento. But what makes it a cut above its rivals is that its full name is Sairento VR. This takes everything you know about movement in VR and throws it out the window so if you get motion sickness then you will need a sick bag or two because you will be flipping and wall-running as you blast and slice the baddies like a true ninja. It is fair to say that the story is just the glue that links the different areas together. In short, you are cyber assassin working in a futuristic Tokyo.
Sairento VR is all about movement and letting you work at your own pace. You could jump in at the deep end but you can also work through the gears as your body starts to find its VR legs. When you’re not bouncing from wall to wall you’ll be landing kills and blasting enemies with a good section of firearms or slicing them with a heathy choice of blades and throwing weapons. You have two holsters so, once you have picked your weapons, you have options in-game and you can dual-wield as well. The levels are possibly on the short side but once you start an epic run then the action just feels so good and the game is built on replaying levels to grab XP to unlock new skills and abilities which help you become stronger.
There is also a relic system which lets you tickle your arsenal so you can spend an age working out what best suits your playing style. Beyond the main campaign there are missions where you have set challenges which keep changing. You can add elements to make them harder. Then there is a challenge mode where you horde and try to stay alive for as long as you can. The multiplayer mode offers co-op fun although it can be a bit on the easy side. The graphics are a real mixed bag. The setting and theme are well handled, from market streets to neon-covered nightclubs but the textures look a bit rough. That said, this makes you feel like the ultimate ninja assassin. Landing a headshot mid-back flip and reloading before you hit the deck never gets old. It will push your VR legs to their limits.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…