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 14th June 2020.
The Persistence (PS4, PC, Xbox One, Switch, £24.99)
IT’S no easy task taking a VR title and arguably removing its biggest selling point (the VR) then sending it back out to fight on other platform. In the past this has seen a real mixed bag of results as it lays bare the core game without the fancy bells and whistle of the new tech to hide behind. But The Persistence, by Liverpool-based Firesprite Games, has nothing to fear on that front. This sci-fi roguelike throws you into a groundhog day from hell as you find yourself aboard The Persistence — a ship that’s got just too close to a black hole, but that’s just the start of your nightmare shift.
You fill the boots a clone (well many by the end) who is the head of security and has been awaken by only other survivor on the ship — its engineer. You have one goal— get the ship fixed and get the hell out of there before the black hole rips it apart. But (and there is always a but) the ship is trashed from the black hole and you’ll have to work your way through its four desks, fixing core systems before firing up the star drive and cashing in your ticket home. Though this is easier said than done as The Persistence is a clever ship and can rearrange itself. But again, the black hole has made this system go haywire so every time you use a teleporter or die the ship completely changes the layout. This means each level and run is never the same and key points are not in the same place and adds to the fun. The clone printer that brings you to life every time you die has a twin printer on the ship which (you guessed it) is busted too and keeps firing out defect clones onto the ship, some of which have deadly very mutations. Oh, the joys. So let’s get the biggest question out the way: has losing VR impacted the game? Honest answer: not really. Yes, there are a few hangovers such as how you interact with things and move sometimes but everything else runs smooth and you’d never know. But you can’t shake the feeling how much more fun it would be in VR, knowing it’s an option for some.
The game blends sci-fi and horror vibes together really well and your first few runs are tense affairs. You’re not really kitted out and have to stealth your way around the hulking ship picking off enemies from the shadows. But keep exploring and you’ll find chips that earn new kit and weapons as well as upgrades for you and your suit plus these points carry over between runs so even if you die you’ll come back stronger than you started. Though the best rewards are often found in the hardest room in the ship and it’s up to you if you want to face them or not, instead heading to the main goal. But if you do take on the challenge you’ll be rewarded well as you could bag a new clone body type which gives you even more skills. The Persistence was a thrilling title in VR and its makes the transfer to non-VR well though has a few hangovers from its first outing. But if you’re looking for a rogue-like with a solid sci-fi horror setting and tale it’s a challenge worth facing.
Those Who Remain (PS4, PC, Xbox One, £19.99)
THOSE Who Remain may look like a run-of-the-mill walking sim with a moody story but dig a little deeper and you’ll find Camel 101 have put an interesting spin on the formula in this six-hour tale. You play as Edward who is fighting depression as well as the loss of his daughter. He’s also juggling having an affair, which leads him to Dormont hoping to break it off and save his failing marriage. Dormont may look like a sleepy backwater town but couldn’t be further from it. You find yourself trapped in it by a darkness and to escape you have to solve the murder of a local girl. Overall the tale comes out as the strongest side of the game as things fall into place.
You’re hounded by your demons, both mentally and physically. The darkness harbours shadowy souls with piercing blue eyes and they will kill you if you stray too far into the shadows, so staying in the light is key and you’ll spend most of your time hunting for light switches. The game walks a fine line between the real world and the supernatural as you switch between two dimensions — often to help you solve puzzles which adds extra layers of depth to the set pieces and a Stranger Things vibe. Another interesting addition to the game is its approach to how it uses morals… well, more how you handle moral choices. Throughout the game you find yourself playing judge, jury and executioner as you are given the power to forgive or condemn some of the town’s people. You’ll spend time getting the facts and backstory and these choices are never black or white and are very much 1,000 shades of grey. The acts you’re judging them on are often truly awful but at the same time understandable as they are motivated by raw feelings and emotions.
Where things don’t hold up so well is in the controls. They are really clunky — from trying to do basic things like turn on light switches to more complex elements focused on stealth. It just doesn’t control very well. Those Who Remain takes a well-used formula and adds a supernatural spin to things while weighing everything down with some very hard-to-answer moral choices. But you’ll have to get past its clunky controls first.
Warface: Breakout (PS4, Xbox One, £15.99)
COUNTER Strike has often been held up as the pinnacle of FPS gaming on the PC. It has a huge community built around it which has a heavy focus on eSports. But this smash title has never really stuck the jump to console, despite trying with the likes of Counter-strike: GO. Enter Warface: Breakout which is developed by My.Games and is very much a stab at a console version of Counter Strike — but this isn’t just a port it’s developed with consoles from the ground up. You play as attackers and defenders with two simple goals — kill the other team or plant a bomb to win the round, win enough and you’ll take the match… easy.
This is very much a pure-breed shooter in that headshots are key. You start with a pistol and have to buy kit as the rounds go on. You have access to a very healthy arsenal of weapons. There are also a handful of maps just now meaning you play them enough to learn them but for a full-price title some may feel it’s overly light on content. And there is of course the elephant in the room in that Warface is a free-to play game so jumping to a £16 spin-off is a real gamble. Warface: Breakout is just out but it’s already crying out for tweaks and for the movement system to be looked at. It needs done sooner than later to keep the core player base as well as tempting newbies to take the gamble.
Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath (PS4, PC, Xbox One, £34.99)
MORTAL Kombat 11 was a hit when it landed just over a year ago. Little wonder. It was a rock-solid fighting game wrapped in a highly polished story, with a real mix of fan favourites and new brawlers to get stuck into battle with. Fast forward to now and NetherRealm Studios have just dropped a beefy update that tweaks and balances the game, as well as adding some general quality-of-life improvements. But it also has a fresh chuck of story in Aftermath, which neatly bolts on to the core tale while also adding Robocop to the mix as well. There are number of different ways to get this new content. If you own the game all the tweaks come as a free update but need to fork out for Aftermath. If you’re new you can buy a complete version which has everything. That is great but for long-time fans the question has to be: is Aftermath worth shelling out the extra cash for?
Well that’s open to discussion as the three-hour campaign is worth a play-through. It acts as an epilogue which follows Shang Tsung, Fujin and Night Wolf (an unlikely bunch) as they time-hop through the main tale in the hope of changing the final outcome. Special shout-out to Shang Tsung, who is played by series legend Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. He really adds weight and charm to the role once again and steals more than a few scenes — all of which have the level of polish you would expect from a NetherRealm Studios offering. Yes, it can be silly and over the top at times but it’s fun and is once again a tour de force of how fighting games can handle a story mode — and handle it damn well to boot. Aftermath also adds three new characters to the ever-growing roster. First up, there is Fujin, the god of wind, who was last seen in the series 14 years ago. Then there is Sheeva, who hasn’t seen battle since 2011. Both feature heavily in the short campaign. They are also joined by 80s movie icon Robocop (who is as much fun to fight with as you would imagine) with actor Peter Weller reprising his role as the cyborg police officer. A real nice touch.
Out of the three new fighters Robocop has the dullest move set and overall fighting style but you can finally play out that epic showdown battle between Robocop and The Terminator (if you have him as he’s also DLC though sadly not voiced by Arnie). And that’s it in the way of content, beyond a few extra skins, for the £34.99 asking price. Although it is quality, that is really steep given what you get. Newcomers are going to get the best deal here by picking up a complete edition of the game. Aftermath was launched alongside a free update, which is where long-time fans will likely find more joy with as it tweaks the game as well as adding elements. It’s nice to see NetherRealm Studios giving the update for free even if it takes away some of the worth of the premium Aftermath add-on. As it added a few new stages complete with classic stage fatalities and also friendship finishers, which replace the uber-violent final moves in favour of killing your opponent with kindness literally and were last seen in Mortal Kombat 3. Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath is a real mixed bag of content that really divides its fan base. If you have been there since day one supporting the game it’s likely not worth shelling out the cash for but if you’re thinking of starting your journey then Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath Kollection is a must.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…