Scotch Corner – Taking a Walk on the Dark Side

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 23rd February 2020.

 

Logitech G920 Driving Force (£179.99)

YOU need wheel help to go from casual racer to a pro star.  A top wheel and pedals set-up can strip vital tenths off your lap time and give you a race experience that is much closer to the real thing.  But — we hate buts but there’s a but — a good set-up will usually cost you serious buttons and they can take over the space where the dog’s bed used to be.  So let’s hear it for Logitech — their G920 Driving Force has to be the pound-for-pound champion, if not one of the best wheels on the market all together.  It has a quality feel — from the stainless steel finish to the leather cover on the wheel.  It all feels well put together and capable of surviving an endurance race session.

It is fair to say this is a heavy boy so you’ll need a solid base to attach it to, but the set-up is very straightforward.  You simply plug in a number of cables and it’s ready to rock.  There’s no need to attach the wheel to the power base.  Then you just plug the USB into your console and the wheel will calibrate itself.  That’s always the bit that scares us.  It is a bit The Omen to watch it spin from left to right on its own.  We tested the G920 with Forza Motorsport 7, DiRT Rally 2.0 and F1 2019 and it really felt the part.  It does take a bit of time to dial it in to the point where you feel totally comfortable but it is worth persevering and there is a whole wheel-setting community online who can give you tips as to how to get the perfect rig set-up within each title.

The Force feedback adds to the experience.  Proper racers tell us it is close to how their real-world cars fight and buck.  It is a real blast especially when you are wrestling with your car after coming out of a rain- soaked corner at 95 mph.  The pedals have a nice weight and resistance, and there is the option of a six-gear shifter that plugs into the unit and adds another skill to master.  If you’re a racing fan who wants a realistic experience but is cared of the cost, then Logitech’s G920 Driving Force is the perfect starting point.  Shop about and you can get it with the shifter and a few games for £179.99.  Tempting.

Score: 5/5

[Editor’s note: The PS4 version is the G29, and both can be used with PC.]

X-Rocker Circuit (£139.99)

IT is easy to get carried away with a racing rig to get that perfect lap time.  Before you know it, you have spent thousands and used up all the space in your living room.  Fortunately X-Rocker have brought a slick rival to the grid.  This a racing chair that holds your wheel and pedals for that championship charge but you can fold it up at the end of the day and store it under the stairs or in a cupboard when it’s time for tea.

The Circuit takes minutes to set up — with just one bolt needing to be screwed in.  The rest is handled by Velcro straps as you put a few pipes together.  Despite that, it still has some weight and that’s before you attach the wheel, which goes on to a plate on the chair.  Now that does take a bit of time because you have to unscrew a few bolts on the wheel base to get the best fit.  You could just use the clamp system on your wheel, but the bolts option is the best because it all stays attached when you fold the chair up and that avoids going through the set-up every time you fancy a race.  Quick warning: the plate can work with a number of wheel models so check whether yours is a match before settling down!

The chair comes in three colour finishes and it’s surprisingly comfortable.  It is a racing-style seat, but it is not as tight and kidney-hugging as some of the real-world seats I’ve experienced.  It has a nice suede finish without going over the top on the style stakes.  This is basically a big deck chair, but if you want solid and comfortable AND don’t want to use up a lot of space then this is a perfect option that won’t break the bank.

Score: 5/5

Stories Untold (Switch and PC, £8.99)

GLASGOW-based studio No Code earned rave reviews for the outstanding Observation, but also wowed the crowd with Stories Untold.  It first hit PCs in 2017 but has now made the jump to the Switch.  In a lot of ways this is a love letter to the likes of Netflix smash Stranger Things and fans will spot a few style nods.  For instance, the main logo was designed by Kyle Lambert, who was an artist on Stranger Things.  All this lip service gives you an early hint to the tone and vibe of the game.  It is a collection of four horror-themed tales, each with its own style and heavily text-based story.  But they are all ultimately linked together.

Up first is The House Abandon which is technically a remaster that sees you playing an old text adventure game complete with a throwback 80s desk.  After that the Lab Conduct sees you have to complete a number of tests and experiments on an unknown object in a very retro lab.  The third story, The Station Process, sees you based in the Arctic manning a radio monitoring station during an epic snow storm.  The Last Session is the fourth tale — but we’re not telling you anything about it because it is easy to spoil the fun.  See, we’re good that way.  The game is very much a puzzle-solving affair as you have a number of different and ever more challenging tasks to overcome but complete one and you are rewarded with a nugget of the tale.

You may feel this is a horror-based text tale but the team at No Code have actually served up a gripping world that is full of atmosphere.  You can really see the team lead Jon McKellan’s style in full effect with the systems and interface all having a retro tech feel.  It is a hugely impressive piece of work with more than a passing nod to his work on Alien: Isolation.  But there is a catch with the port in that it never really shakes that feeling of being a PC game.  Some inputs on the Switch can be a bit clunky and leave you longing for a keyboard and mouse.

TOP TIP ALERT: If you are playing this on the Switch then make sure you have a pen and a piece of paper close to hand.  We can see you shaking your head in disbelief but, trust us, it will pay off in the end.  This is a short horror trip, clocking in at about four hours, that will grab your attention and make you jump.  It is an outstanding tale that’s begging to be told.  If you have a Switch then it’s a must — especially if you don’t have a PC.

Score: 4.5/5

Darksiders Genesis (Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC and Stadia, £33.82)

IT’S tough to pigeon-hole the Darksiders series because the developers have mixed up the rules in every outing.  It had a Zelda-like vibe then it went all Dark Souls and now there is a Diablo feel as the action moves to a top-down hack and slash.  The latest instalment from Texas-based Airship Syndicate wears its inspiration on its sleeve but scratch the surface and you’ll see it has true Darksiders blood coursing through its veins.  The series is based around the battle between Heaven and Hell.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse act like lawmen in this world gone wrong — War, Death and Fury have all seen action in their own games, so it’s about time Strife got to take the stage for his own outing.  But he’s not alone on this adventure — he’s teamed up with War.

The story sees this pair of death-bringers doing battle at the beginning of the Darksiders story, so this is really a prequel to 2010’s first game.  And, for fans, the 15-hour tale will tick all the boxes as the duo are sent on a mission to bring down rogue demons in the underworld.  But there is a twist with Strife.  It is fair to say that he is a bit different from the other Darksiders leads.  They played it very straight and were very po-faced a lot of the time, but Strife is a witty, wise-cracking funny boy.  And when you team this trickster up with War — who is about as comical as a brick — they quickly build a great chemistry.  It’s a brave new route for the series that will probably appeal to as many gamers as it puts off.  You may or may not like the Strife brand of high jinks, but stay with it and you’ll see there’s real heart to be found between the one-liners.

The gameplay is very fast-paced and packed with attack as you battle a horde of demons one minute. then do a bit of platforming before switching back to combat and it all runs buttery smooth.  If you have played a Diablo game then you will feel at home here but there are a few interesting additions to that winning formula that make this game stand out from the crowd.  As long-time fans will spot, War moves and attacks like he did in the first game.  The only change is that the camera has pulled out which is a really nice touch from the developers.  Also, if you’re playing solo, you can switch between the two leads whenever you want and you will make use of that party trick a fair bit to get the upper hand.  Strife is very much range focused while War likes to be up close and personal.  But you’ll need a switch between them if you want to solve some of the puzzles.  But that also means you are free to mix up the combat as well.  You can switch and make the most of their individual attacks and mastering them is necessary.  That said, if you opt for the co-op route, all this will be sorted by working together because each player controls one hero.

Staying with co-op, you can play online or in split screen local co-op but . . . WARNING BUZZER: the local does try to squeeze all the action into the split screen but some enemies will hit you off-screen.  It’s also worth saying that you can move around freely and are not tethered to your partner.  That is a big plus especially when you want to explore.  WARNING BUZZER 2: The camera does a great job most of the time . . . but then you go behind a piece of scenery and it highlights your character but not the enemies.  That means you have no idea of what’s going on.  You’ll also find yourself getting caught on some of the scenery from time to time.  There is a great level of detail in every shot and it keeps the twisted heavy metal look that the series is known for.  It is the same story with the soundtrack — it fully embraces the Gothic theme.  The voice acting is solid, with Liam O’Brien back as War and Chris Jai Alex doing a great job bringing Strife to life.  If the developers wanted to make each game in the series a separate entity then Darksiders Genesis is a success.  It is not content to go down the “normal” route so fans will enjoy their return to the world but newcomers will have plenty to enjoy, especially with a pal in co-op.  It may lack a little polish but there is depth and enjoyment in the combat.

Score: 4.5/5

Sky Rogues (PC, Switch, Xbox One, £21.99)

THE imminent arrival of Top Gun: Maverick on the big screen has revved up blood pressures across the globe — so what better time to fire up a virtual cockpit?  Fractal Phase’s Sky Rogues may just scratch that Mach 2 itch as it hands you the controls of a number of fighter jets and sends you into battle.  It all has a neat bygone arcade classic vibe — think Sega titles like Virtua Fighter and Virtua Racing — and it blends that with procedural generated missions to deliver a short sharp blast of jet fun with a roguelike feel.

You can get credits from completing missions and upgrade your weapons for your next foray.  But you need to think smart — if the numbers don’t add up, you won’t be flying.  That strategy adds depth to the proceedings but the fun is in the flying.  The gameplay controls are tight but the highlight is the firefight.  You can blast in, complete the mission and head home or stay and destroy any remaining enemies for extra credit.  However, the further you go, the harder it is and the risk and reward is more obvious but it is hugely addictive.

If you have the Switch version, the joy-cons control the jet.  Silly, but brilliant fun.  There is no story which is a shame — you need to imagine your Top Gun banter — but the soundtrack is superb.  You fly.  You fight.  You have a blast.

Score: 3/5

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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