Scotch Corner – Xmas Retail Therapy

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 2nd December 2018.

 

Starlink: Battle For Atlas (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, £44.99 to infinity… and beyond)

A FEW years ago bringing toys to life on gaming screens was all the rage, with the likes of Disney and Lego leading the pack.  It all died away a bit in recent times — but no one sent Ubisoft the memo.  The firm has just released Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which looks to breathe life back into the genre in a big way.  Developed by Ubisoft Toronto, the game is an epic sci-fi tale where you fight from planet to planet, helping the locals and chasing down the evil Grax who left you and your crew for dead and stole your tech to use for his own evil plans.  It’s all a bit Saturday morning cartoon — and to be fair that’s not a bad thing, given it’s probably aimed at a younger gaming audience.  Overall, it makes for a fun tale as you meet the crew, each bringing their own personality and skill set to you stop the bad guys and save the galaxy.  And in a really interesting twist, the Switch version has an extra story line beside the main one.  You’ll get to play as Star Fox, who is hunting down the dastardly Wolf, and come across the Starlink brigade.  With this deal, Ubisoft have built the best Star Fox game in years and instantly made the Switch version the must-have edition over the Xbox One and PS4 ones.

Gameplay sees you seamlessly jumping from planet to planet, doing a mix of different missions, over the 20-hour main campaign.  The gameplay has vibes of No Man Sky — but where that gave you a huge galaxy to roam, Starlink is a more-focused affair and is all the better for it.  The starter kit (the Switch version) comes with a model of a ship, two pilot figures and two weapons plus a specially built harness to hold it and the joy-cons together.  To get started you must first pick your pilot (the character you play in the game) and slide them into the harness.  Then you bolt the ship on to them and then you start to arm your ship.  You can mount two different weapons to the wings — and in a fun move how you put them on is how they will look in the game.  So stick a gun on backwards and it’ll be in the game backwards, so you’ll be able to fire at anyone chasing you.  It’s a fun system of popping and locking guns and ships, as well as swapping out bits of your vehicle to make new crazy-looking ones.  For younger gamers this will be a blast, though there is another option for some of the older users.  You can buy all of the ships, guns and pilots digitally (no need to have any of the models) plus you’ll speed up how you play as you’ll not be swapping guns mid-fight.

Graphically the game has a lovely art style and, again, has more than a passing feeling of No Man’s Sky at times, which is no bad thing.  The sound does a solid job all round, with the ships and guns having a nice bite to them, and the voice acting is very well done throughout, from the main crew to Star Fox and his squad to even the random aliens you’ll find in the galaxy.  On the downside, other than the main story missions you’ll have done a lot of the side-mission stuff in the first few hours, only with the backdrop of each planet changing.  It does get a bit repetitive after a while.  Also, the space combat isn’t as gripping as you would hope.  Nonetheless, Starlink: Battle for Atlas is a great game.  It would work as a standalone game, which makes the addition of the toys-to-life side a bit confusing overall.  But younger games will love that side and it will no doubt fuel their passion to play more.  So ultimately that can only be a good thing.  Quite simply, this is the BEST Star Fox game in years.

Score: 4.5/5

Real World DLC

THE toys do help bring Starlink: Battle for Atlas to life — and there are a number of kits you can buy in the real world to add to the fun and your virtual ship.  The Starship pack gives you a nicely built model as well as pilot and a weapon for £24.99.  You can pick up a pilot pack for just £6.99, or it’s £9.99 for a weapons pack with two different blasters.

Get Your Lists to Santa Posted

IT’S that time of year when gamers are filled with festive excitememt at the thought of all the new shiny tech Santa is bringing.  We look at everything rom mobiles to PC kit and even dodgy Christmas jumpers.  Plus we review the item at the top of every dad’s Santa wish list — The PlayStation Classic — and look at six of the best games included with the mini console.  Here, I’ve got Christmas all wrapped up…

 

Xmas Jumpers (from £34.99 to £44.99)

DON’T know which dodgy Christmas jumper to wear to the office party this year?  Fear not, as the guys at Numskull have you covered with their wide range of festive knits, starting at around £34.99.  Gaming-inspired jumpers include Assassin’s Creed, Fallout 4 and Sony PlayStation, while there are also ones for fans of Dr Who and Star Wars.  If you really want to stand out from the crowd then the Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle jumper.  It is even rigged with LEDs so it lights up as well.  Bling!

For more info or to see the full range head over to numskull.com.

Pick of PC Kit (from £99.99 to £2,119.99)

If you are shopping for a gamer who is more at home with a keyboard than a controller there are a huge number of goodies out there.
Like the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile RAPIDFIRE Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (£159.99) — a bit of a mouthful, but it’s the business.  See corsair.com for more details.

For mouse lovers, the Logitech MX MASTER 2S (£99.99) packs a punch with Logitech Flow that lets you seamlessly control two computers with one mouse and copy-paste content between them.  See logitech.com for the info.

Finally, the new Razar Blade 15 has an Intel Core™ i7-8750H Processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 6 GB as well as a full HD display at 144 Hz.  Available from razer.com from £1,479.99.

1/4 Scale Pac Man Arcade Cabinet (£149.99)

IT’S not just consoles that are getting the mini treatment as Quarter Arcades and Numskull have teamed up to downsize a true classic with their desktop size Pac Man Arcade Cabinet.  The 1/4 scale playable replica of the original 1980’s version maintains the original artwork, shape and buttons, all played through a great-quality 16.92 in screen.  But hurry, it’s limited to 10,000 units worldwide.  Available to pre-order now at geekstore.com.

Bespoke Gifts (from £90 to £210)

IF you’re looking to buy the gamer in your life something special this Xmas and they are fans of Bethesda games then DarkWarehouse is the place to go.  They craft stunning Bethesda artworks on unique stone slabs and have a number of different works available from their online store, as well as numbered limited collectors editions.  You can get ones inspired by Fallout 4 and Fallout 76, as well as Dishonored 2 and Wolfenstein.  Plus, there is bespoke furniture based on Fallout as well.  For more info go to darkwarehouse.co.uk.

Gaming Mobiles (from £699 to £779.99)

SONY have the Xperia XZ3 packed with great all-round features, but the HDR OLED screen has to be the biggest draw to gamers.  Throw in the stereo speakers and Dynamic Vibration System and it’s well with a look.  For more info see sonymobile.com.

If you are wanting a real powerhouse try the new Razer 2.  The best gaming mobile on the market has been made even better.  The big changes in the latest model are to be found in the camera, which is vastly improved, plus there is Wireless Fast Charging.  For more info head to razer.com.

PlayLink Games (£15.99)

It wouldn’t be Xmas without something the whole family can enjoy.  And the PlayStation Playlink system has a number of fun party games just landed.  Like Knowledge is Power: Decades — a quiz game with thousands of questions from the 80s to present day.  And then there is Wordhunters, which sees you fly to different cities around the world testing your spelling skills.

Console Bundles (from £179 .99 to £379.99)

MICROSOFT has a number of different options on both the Xbox One S and X, with the standouts being the Battlefield V bundle or the Horizon 4 bundle.  It’s all about the Switch for Nintendo.  There are a few great deals, but the Fortnite bundle has to be the pick of the bunch.  And Sony’s PSVR starter bundle has been slashed in price, to around £169.99.

Stocking Fillers (from £12.99 to £29.99)

NUMSKULLS have a huge range of small gifts.  Their Fallout 76 range has a Barrel Vault Boy Incense Burner, Pip-boy pin set and cool Nuke-shaped coffee cup.  They also have a range of Spyro the Dragon merch which includes mugs and wallets as well as a “burnt sheep” scented candle.  For more info on these and other ranges head to geekstore.com.

PlayStation Classic (£89.99)

IT isn’t Christmas these days unless there’s a new mini console hitting the shelves, as Nintendo proved with their NES and SNES minis.  But now it’s time for Sony to have a bite at the retro cherry with their PlayStation Classic, pre-loaded with 20 classic PS1 titles.  The console itself is really just a scaled-down version of its bigger brother, packed with tiny details that are found on the original and, overall, looks great sitting on your coffee table.  You get two controllers, modelled on the original PS1 versions, before Sony gave us the now iconic DualShock controller.  And this is the first big issue — some of the pre-loaded titles would play 100 times better with a DualShock.  To add to the pain, the controllers connect by USB and the console won’t recognise a PS4 Dualshock.

The games themselves are a real mixed bag, with some great titles and some, er… well, not-so-good.  Rayman and Mr. Driller look great but early 3D games do not age well when upscaled to 4K, with Jumping Flash and Rainbow Six suffering especially.  As 4K TVs leave very little room to hide, some games look stretched or have huge black lines boxing them in, whereas others have real framerate problems, with Tekken 3 being hit the hardest by this.  These issues are only amplified as Nintendo’s mini range all have options you can tweak to get the games looking just right (like adding CRT scan lines, which does help mask a few of the cracks).  The PlayStation Classic isn’t meant for collectors — it’s aimed at people who had a PS1 back in the day, but have grown away from gaming.  It could have been a truly special machine but falls short through a mix of odd choices and technical issues.

Score: 3/5

 

Here’s my pick of the PlayStation Classic litter:

Grand Theft Auto

THIS is a true classic — from its roots in Scotland to the legacy that it built, few games really get to the highs of Grand Theft Auto.  This is where it all started back in October 1997 and now over 16 years later the series has sold more than 150 million units worldwide.  You play as a gang of criminals in three fictional US cities as you carry out bank jobs, assassinations and are generally just run around being bad guys all the time, whether it’s having shootouts with the cops and stealing cars just for fun.  If you’re getting a PlayStation Classic this is a must-play.
For all the dads out there, it’s a fresh opportunity to step back in time and unleash their fun-loving criminal.

Final Fantasy VII

EPIC is a term that is bandied about a bit too often these days but Final Fantasy VII was a truly epic game back in 1997 it was the starting point for many in the world of role-playing games.  Developed by Square it was the seventh main instalment in the long-running Final Fantasy series.  The tale followed Cloud Strife, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist organisation to stop a world-controlling mega corporation from using the planet’s life essence as an energy source.  It also introducing the world to Sephiroth, Cloud’s rival and one of gaming’s greatest bad guys.

Metal Gear Solid

IN 1998, Hideo Kojima blurred the lines between blockbusters and games with Metal Gear Solid.  Directed, produced, and written by Kojima, the story of Solid Snake unfolds through hidden military bases, nuclear weapons and terrorist threats.  The game never missed a beat thanks to cinematic cut scenes and an outstanding cast of characters.  Throw in mind-blowing gameplay sections which break the fourth wall and it’s not just one of the best PS1 games but one of the best games ever.

Tekken 3

WHEN you think of great fighting games on the PlayStation, odds are a Tekken game will be mentioned, with Tekken 3 the best on the PS1.
Released in 1998 the game featured new characters who would go on to become fan favourites such as Jin Kazama, Ling Xiaoyu, Bryan Fury and Hwoarang.  And that’s before you get to beat-em-up mode, Tekken Force, and bonus Tekken Ball mode.  A smash then — and still great fun playing with a few mates now.

Resident Evil Director’s Cut

METAL Gear Solid merged action movies and gaming — and Resident Evil did it for gaming and horror.  The Capcom-developed fright-fest was released in 1996 and has sold 8.63 million copies worldwide since.  Playing as Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, you are sent to investigate the disappearance in Raccoon City of colleagues from S.T.A.R.S.  Cue becoming trapped in a mansion infested with zombies and other monsters — and the rest is history, as they say.

Destruction Derby

SOMETIMES all you want is to have a good laugh with some mates — and Destruction Derby is just the ticket with its mad brand of vehicular combat racing.  Developed by Reflections Interactive, the game is simple — stay moving as long as you can and destroy as many other cars.  The game used simulated physics to make the results of smashing a bit easier to predict and keep the action going.  The 1995 game is still a blast to play.

Down and Out

EGX 2019 will be heading back to London next year.  The expo has been held at the NEC in Birmingham for the past five years.  Organisers Gamer Network also revealed the show at the ExCel in the UK capital will be held from October 17-20 — in a a switch from its traditional September slot.  The news has been greeted by mixed reaction from fans on social media.  The firm said EGX is coming home but many recent attendees look to be staying home next year.

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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