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 12th April 2020.
Animal Crossing New Horizons (Switch, £44.99)
NINTENDO have served up the perfect treat for those looking to wile away some spare hours during a pandemic. This has taken a while to get to the Switch, but it has been eagerly awaited. It is a sort of life sim and it lures you in then refuses to let go. You just want to keep going round the next corner or sorting the next upcoming challenge. The core idea has not changed much from the rest of the series — your goal is to build your own town from the ground up as well as repay a debt or two along the way. But brace yourself because the game is far from a break-neck thrill ride. At times it’s a very slow-paced journey that doesn’t force you in any one direction or really tell you what to do.
You simply start your new life on an island and it’s up to you to do what you want. So, if you want to go fishing then pack up the rods. If you want to collect fruit and wood then go for it. It’s totally open-ended. Then, as you build your town, you can customise it as you go. Spoiler alert: Animal Crossing is played in real time so if a building takes a day to build, then you actually have to wait 24 hours. That said, you can time travel, using the console’s clock, to speed things up but this is generally frowned upon by most of the community and you don’t need that stress. It all just reinforces what a slow-burner this is — but that’s not a bad thing. You can immerse yourself in the world. You can soak up life on the island and appreciate a charm that permeates through the whole game. And, as you work through everything, you will get the tools you need to shape your island.
Eventually, things do go up the gears as you start getting new and more interesting tasks. Craft really starts to play a part in things but resource-gathering can be a grind and there are no shortcuts. Once your island is just right you can open the doors to your friends and up to eight can fly in for a quick visit and even bring a gift or two. The slow pace is ideal in the frantic times we face. This is the perfect title to fill a day or week or even three months in lockdown.
Bleeding Edge (Xbox One and PC, £24.99)
THE Bleeding Edge beta gave us a glimpse of a hero shooter that had the potential to be a smash hit. But it also raised serious questions about the viability of a game that HAD to have four players. How often would you play a game which didn’t work without three mates? Sadly, Ninja Theory have taken those same questions into the finished event. This cyberpunk-inspired arena battler is dripping with style and it clearly has an Overwatch vibe, but there is not enough in the engine room to make it a standout. And that’s because you still need three mates. It is designed for four players and getting a random quartet can be a struggle at times.
You need teams that work together as they take out enemies or capture key targets. If you don’t, you don’t stand a chance of winning. It’s also vital in combat because pack rules apply. Hunt as a team because lone wolves will be taken down in seconds. There are also balancing issues as two healers and a tank can be an unstoppable force and that forces teams to adapt on the fly if they are to counter. Away from the fighting, there is not actually much depth to the proceedings. There are only two modes at the moment — capture and hold or collect and return — and both feel like hero shooter modes. Again, they are OK with your mates. Let’s hope there are more in the pipeline. Better news is the cast of 11 wacky characters, each with their own moves to master. They have plenty of personality. This is a decent first outing, but the limited modes and player problems need sorting.
Resident Evil 3 Remake (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)
CAPCOM smashed it out the park last year with the remake of Resident Evil 2 — so expectations were high for this new one. Fans were desperate to see whether it got the same core game reworking and what the new content would be like. It’s a tough job and we know you hate us for it, but we have gone that extra yard to see if it is worth your hard-earned pennies. Surely it is a no-brainer? Surely they just followed the RE2 recipe? Do that and they are surely on to another winner. Well, no, not exactly. This should have been a killer remake. On the surface, it looks to have had the same treatment, but it just feels and plays differently. A lot differently.
The tale follows series lead Jill Valentine, who returns from the first game, and Carlos Oliveria, a member of shady firm Umbrella’s private security force. The pair battle their way through Raccoon City during a zombie outbreak. But in an interesting twist, the action takes place a few hours before the events of the second game. This also means you’ll go to locations you’ll have already visited in Resident Evil 2 but there are a number of differences because certain events haven’t taken place. We liked that. And this is certainly — as you would expect — no walk in the park. You are hunted by the Nemesis — an armed-to- the-teeth, super-fast, super-deadly bio-weapon whose only mission is to eliminate all remaining S.T.A.R.S members. And, you guessed it, Jill just happens to be one of them. Umbrella is afraid they will reveal that the zombie outbreak is actually down to a virus outbreak caused by them.
It’s a neat storyline that works well with the gameplay. On that front, if Resident Evil 2 is Alien then this is very much Aliens. The action is centre stage and the puzzle side of things takes a back seat. You always feel like you are being pushed on in the game and that there is never a moment for you to catch your breath and work out exactly what is going on around you. You will have to battle a mix of zombies and other deadly creatures in ever more dark and claustrophobic corridors and that’s before the Nemesis crashes the party and things go sideways. That is a titanic fight because you won’t get the chance to headshot him. Instead of having two separate campaigns, this time Jill and Carlos’s tales are interwoven and you swap between them a number of times across the length of the story. Carlos is packing an assault rifle so that covers how his section is going to play out. However, the ingenuity of entwining the two stories is also part of the game’s biggest downfall . . . the length is really quite short, especially when compared to the second game. A first play-through will clock in at about five to six hours.
It is also worth pointing out that the second game added new areas to the world, but the third actually removes wholesale blocks. OK, you’ll have to have played the original back in 1999 to spot the emissions but, for long-time fans, it’s a bit of a gut punch. And yes, like past games, if you replay this there are a number of challenges, unlocks and collectables to go back for that add cool weapons and other goodies — but each run will be quicker than the first. Resident Evil 2 set the bar high on the graphics front and that standard is continued here. Some of the scenes are simply stunning while others truly reflect the horror they depict. The voice acting and sound are also special — with extra credit to the squishy sound you get for blasting a zombie’s head off. We went the extra yard to see if this was worth the hype. In some ways it is. As a standalone game it is an absolute winner. It should have been a blow-the-rest-out-of-the-water remake but RE2 was a tough act to follow and this has suffered in comparison. Resident Evil 3 Remake will forever be in that shadow of the second game — but, here’s a thought, play the two as a whole and you have one hell of a good time from start to finish. Now, Capcom, how about that remake of Code Veronica?
Resident Evil Resistance (Xbox One and PC)
RESIDENT Evil developers have worked long and hard — almost since the day the series was born — to try to incorporate an impressive multiplayer game built around the core ideas. Some efforts have had reasonable success. Others were positively evil. The latest incarnation is Resident Evil: Resistance. This actually started life as the main event until Capcom revealed it came alongside the Resident Evil 3 Remake in a bit of a bait-and- switch move. Resistance throws a team of four generic survivors into a number of large areas on a mission to find kit to help you fight their way out. But it’s not that simple — another player is the Mastermind and it’s up to them to throw as many obstacles in the way as possible. There is no doubt that this is a cool take on the Resident Evil formula. Playing as a survivor makes it feel like the core game, and it is fun to team up with your pals. But it is less than smooth running in some areas.
You pick one of six characters to run the gauntlet — each with their own skills. You’ll soon spot that the Healer is your best go-to option. There is also a selection of bad guys to become the Mastermind with a host of tools, from traps to creatures and even a bio-weapon. Or you can take control of a pack of zombies to spice things up. It’s actually a big thrill being the bad guy. You plan your moves — pushing the survivors into your trap — and always trying to be one step ahead. There is also a level-up system in effect, although it’s a bit messy and does lean into micro transaction territory. It’s not as bad as it could be but it does feel weighted towards spending a little extra to get the upgrades you really want. The result is a solid, if a bit stiff, take on making the series work in multiplayer. They could smooth out the rough edges in time but the asymmetrical style is fun with mates. Being the Mastermind is the highlight though.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…