Scotch Corner – War is Hell

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 29th March 2020.

 

Call of Duty: Warzone (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, FREE)

IT was no secret that Modern Warfare was to get a battle royale mode but we weren’t really expecting Activision and Infinity Ward to go full Fortnite.  OK, calm down, you won’t be running around building towers and dancing like a chimp.  Warzone is a standalone mode that is completely FREE to play if you have the right hardware. It’s fair to say there has been much excitement — with more than 30 million people having played so far.  But the real question is whether it worth the hype.  It takes elements from the world of battle royale games, like PUBG and Apex Legends, and gives them a Modern Warfare core.  It’s fast, frantic and out of control as you and two mates battle it out on a beefy map that is ever shrinking because of a toxic gas cloud.  The aim is to the last team standing from 150 players.

The map is a star — it feels like it’s made up from some of Call Of Duty’s greatest efforts.  It’s a cert that if you have played a battle royale you’ll bond quickly with Warzone.  It’s not really a new formula, but does have a CoD flavour.  For instance, if you die in battle you head to the Gulag to fight in a 1v1 cage match to win a return.  If you fail, your mates can buy you back in game.  This is a real game-changer for the genre.  Another oaft moment — is there is a mode called Plunder.  It’s a massive free-for-all with the team that banks $1million taking the win.  Infinity Ward also are working on a solo battle royale version where all 150 players go head-to-head.  This is polished and great fun.  It adds to the core game and could become the new king royale.

Score: 5/5

Zombie Army 4: Mission 1 – Terror Lab (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £5.59)

OUR guns haven’t even started to cool down after the brilliant Zombie Army 4: Dead War, but Rebellion is sending us back into the thick of it once again.  Terror Lab is the first of three planned DLC chapters — all part if a campaign called Hell Cult which picks things up right from the main game.  So, you may have defeated the Führer, but the dead are still rising and showing no signs of stopping.  It’s up to you and your ragtag band of heroes to find out why and to stop it.  Basically, Terror Lab is more of what you had in the original outing.

That’s no bad thing and it’s great fun to battle through a mystery laboratory that’s overrun by what’s left of zombified researchers and scientists.  Another plus — the mission runs a little bit longer than the main game and has a few nice set pieces.  One of those is an epic stand-off outside a church.  There is a handful of new enemies, but no new heavy units and there is still no sign of the zombie shark that was teased.  Rebellion, you have two other chapters to fix this criminal oversight.  If you enjoyed the main game in solo or with your mates then Terror Labs will extend that fun.  It’s also an interesting starting point for a new adventure.

Score: 3.5/5

DOOM Eternal (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £49.99)

DOOM should have been consigned to the gaming highlights reel of the past.  But, back in 2016, id Software and Bethesda gave the first person shooter a shiny new suit of armour and exciting gameplay and it became a must-play star once again.  It was such a success that it was always just a matter of time before the golden oldie got another outing.  So let’s hear it for Doom Eternal.  Right from the outset, let’s just say this took a 10-out-of-10 recipe and administered a large dose of steroids.  You get a superfast over-the-top campaign that is as much a combat puzzler as it is a bombastic blaster.  You need your wits about you as you plan your next move within seconds of a frantic blast of action.  It’s the only way you will survive an onslaught from the demons.

Doom is pretty much a byword for blasting monsters into tiny slivers, so it is a bit of a shock for this game to start with a bit of story.  In fact, Doom Eternal is packed with details that add depth to the whole gaming experience.  As with the first game, you get suited up as the Slayer and you have to blast anything that moves in a desperate fight to save humanity.  The story is mostly revealed through text logs that flesh out the overall Doom universe and the Slayer’s past.  That’s all tickety-boo and nice, but who has time to read stuff when there are demons to smash?

The gameplay builds on the rock-solid foundations of the 2016 game by adding a sprinkling of tactical nous and, dare we say, strategy to the action.  You can blast everything but the sheer number of enemies and mix of firefights mean you have to embrace this now depth to get the most from each fight.  Yes, you can rip and tear things apart — from pick-ups and ammo when running low — but now you have a get out of jail card when you are in deep doodoo.  You can use your chainsaw to insta-kill a low-level enemy at close quarters.  It also gets you ammo and health and buys you a few second to catch your breath.  You can also use your new flame-belcher to burn enemies or the blood fist, which is a satisfying way to clear a room.  These may be small additions to the fun, but they will put a smile on your face and they play a vital role in keeping the combat fresh and fearsome.

Another new addition is the sawn-off shotgun — or the super-shotgun as Doom fans dub it.  It doubles as a powerful boom stick and a hook which doesn’t bring enemies to you . . . oh no, it takes YOU to THEM so you can dish out the pain.  Another small addition.  Another slice of fun.  Away from the blastfest there is, oddly, a slice of platforming.  It kills the pace dead but, to be fair, they can be a welcome break after a host of epic battles and gives you a chance to refocus on the next challenge.  This is also where most of the game’s secrets reside but, just like classic Doom, they are never as easy to get as they look.  You can be teased in plain sight but need a proper search to work out how to grab them.  Then you can return to your base, the Fortress Of Doom, to check them out.

The campaign really does deliver an epic outing, but things are not so rosy in the garden when it comes to the multiplayer side.  That’s when it all falls apart.  The 2016 offering should have been good.  On paper, it should have worked but didn’t.  The new game promises an interesting new take but it still needs work.  Billed as a 1 v 2, battlemode sees a slayer battling two players as high-powered demons that can spawn lower-level ones.  That sounds great, but what happens is that the slayer just can’t stop moving . . . and will probably die within seconds anyway.  Again, on paper, it is a good idea but it needs a fair amount of development before being unleashed on Doom fans.  There are also issues with match- making and connection so we would humbly suggest you stick with the campaign.  Doom Eternal is everything you would want from a sequel.  The campaign is so good it verges on epic — fast, frantic and over the top.  It is an FPS masterpiece, but just forget about the multi-player.

Score: 4/5

Nioh 2 (PS4, £49.99)

THE first Nioh took the Dark Souls formula and mixed in Japanese myth and lore and they rocked it.  So it’s no surprise that Team Ninja are back with a second outing.  This one takes all the bits you loved from the first game and cranks it up.  Spoiler alert 1: You will be fired up, excited and feeling the love BUT for every little achievement you will endure pain.  LOTS of pain.  This is based on skill and learning what you can and can’t do in the world.  Yup, you guessed it, a lot of that will come through gritted teeth and repeat, repeat, repeat.  However, that doesn’t mean it is boring.  Any problem is down to you, not the game.

The story has been changed slightly from the first outing where you were an Irish sailor.  This time you get to craft your own character.  Big buzz.  And the character creator is an incredible tool with endless options to play with.  Even bigger buzz.  This is actually a prequel to the first game — you have to find the super-natural powers needed to kill the Yokai that have invaded Japan.  In a really interesting move, the game blends the real and fantasy worlds together as you’ll meet more than a few historical figures from Japan’s past including military leaders Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  But, even with that, the tale can be — well, let’s be polite here, a little dull and dragged out.  There is almost a drip-drip feed during the adventure rather than a chunk of story goodness.

Things do come to life when the combat starts — it is a neat mix of incredible and brutal action.  There are nine weapons to choose from — some new and a few old favourites and each one has its own move sets.  Fighting success is all about knowing your best stance and how to use them in the heat of battle — over-extend or over- block and you’ll run out of ki (stamina) and the “game over” sign will signal the shop has closed.  Using the ki pulse is key to battle and mastering it will see you dish out some real damage as well as being able to dodge danger.  When all else fails you can turn into a Yokai to try to get that upper hand.  There are three to pick from, based on your guardian spirit, and being a Yokai means more of a team effort.  Spoiler alert 2: The more hits you take, the less time you have.  It’s a very slow charge power so don’t waste it.  This is deep and hard to master, but very fulfilling if you get it right.  It will beat you up — and you’ll love it.

Score: 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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