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 May.
World War Z (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £39.99)
MOST Scots will remember World War Z for the month it took over the centre of Glasgow in 2011 to film the Brad Pitt zombie flick. With a movie sequel being a non-starter it looks like it’s up to the games industry to serve up the next chapter. Enter Saber Interactive. They have taken a few ideas from the film and blended them with a third-person shooter. It’s safe to say it has more than a touch of Left 4 Dead about it (but with a few key differences) so if you’re a fan of that series you’re in for a real treat. The game doesn’t really follow the events of the Pitt movie. Instead you play as a number of different characters who have to make it through four chapters set in different locations around the world — including New York and Tokyo.
Each location has its own tale with overriding goals being to escape the city or find a super weapon to try to change the tide of the zombie infestation. Where things start to shine is in the gameplay when you team up with three mates and take on each mission blasting your way from street to street through hordes of zombies or Zs as they are called. And when we say hordes we mean it. Huge groups of the undead will stop at nothing to get you as they throw themselves off buildings and build fleshy pyramids to climb and reach you. The game really comes to life as you stand side by side blasting everything that moves, hoping to drop the last one before you all run out of ammo.
As for weapons, you get a healthy arsenal — from assault rifles and shotguns to a chainsaw and a sniper that fires exploding rounds. On top of that you earn experience with each level you complete which you can then use to level your guns up by adding bigger clips and scopes. Then there is the class system which lets you pick from six different roles that will give you and your team from health bursts to faster reloads but you have to unlock them with experience as well. Between that and the gun upgrades there is a real grind to be found here with over 100 unlocks. Given that you can complete the game in under five hours with friends, odds are you’ll get burnt out rerunning the same levels over and over for experience to unlock the next goodie on your list.
There is also a PvP side which boils down to you trying to fight off another team for the win but with the zombies rolling in to give things an interesting twist. Graphically the game is solid with a clear vision of a world gone wrong but the Zs steal the show. If you’re looking for a fun co-op shooter then World War Z is well worth a look. It takes what works and adds just enough to get its claws into you. Blasting zombies never gets dull.
Days Gone (PS4, £49.99)
SONY have been in top form recently — from Horizon Zero Drawn to God Of War and Spider-Man. They have created a feeding frenzy as gamers eagerly waited for the next treat. That “honour” falls to SIE Bend Studio’s Days Gone — a sort of Walking Dead and Sons Of Anarchy mash-up. But the success of those recent titles brings its own pressure. There is so much expectation on Days Gone to deliver . . . and raise the bar even further.
Days Gone is an open-world game where you try to survive each day while trying to find out what happened to your past and what direction your future should take. You fill the biker boots of Deacon St John — a burned-out, hardened bounty hunter who teams up with his pal Boozer to track down the baddies in what’s left of Oregon. The duo and Deacon’s wife, Sarah, start the game trying to escape an outbreak that has turned everyone into “zombie” freakers. Sarah is injured and Deacon manages to get her the final spot on a chopper leaving town, and he vows to get back to her somehow . . . Fast forward two years and the world has gone to the dogs. Deacon is still looking for her and the 60-hour play adventure is well and truly on.
You basically move around doing missions for a host of side characters. Some are instantly forgettable but others add some depth to the proceedings. But, like most of these games, the undead are more a moving part of the environment than the real main threat. That comes from other humans — namely outlaws and extreme cultists. You can tackle each task as you like — go gung-ho and all guns blazing, or sneak and stealth your way to victory. The stealth system is very forgiving, which is good because a lot of the missions that drive the main story call for you to sneak around questionable government folk and listen in on their chat. It all falls rather quickly into a rinse-and-repeat routine as you move around areas finding camps and doing similar missions to unlock upgrades for your bike.
It is a bit like your horse in Red Dead Redemption 2. You only have one, so you need to look after it. You also need to keep an eye on your fuel and repairs. Then there is the noise your bike makes. It may sound good, but it will attract the baddies so you need to know when to get off and push it. Graphically, the game dances a fine line between really good and ropey. The woodland is stunning. The snow-covered camps and the weather system in Days Gone are awesome, but the highlight is how you can rip apart the freakers with your machete — brutal and slightly disturbing, but a visual masterpiece. The sounds back everything up well — the voice acting is good with Sam Witwer’s Deacon and Jim Pirri’s Boozer the stars. So that’s the good.
The bad bits are split into technical and gameplay. The story gets lost at times, and the open-world element means there is plenty of distractions to the main tale. There are framerate issues, especially when you see a horde and it is raining. It slows everything down alarmingly. There is an array of bugs and glitches that will give you laugh-out-loud moments. It is safe to say this is rough, but patches may well sort many of the issues out. It is fair to say that Days Gone is already a real Marmite game. When it is good, it is very, very good. But the story is really weak overall and, for most of your 60 hours, you’ll be wondering whether you like Deacon or think he is a bit of a ****. He certainly gets up to some questionable stuff on his journey. With the high levels set by the past exclusives, Days Gone falls short in all areas when put in direct comparison. There are green shoots of hope if you treat it as a standalone game. There is fun to be had. And there is always excitement in outrunning a horde or two.
We Happy Few – Roger & James in They Came From Below (Xbox One, PS4 and PC, £7.19)
WE Happy Few could have been truly great but was let down by some poor choices. When we reviewed the game we loved the world and the characters in a 1960s Britain gone wrong. What we didn’t like was having to run halfway across the map every time you were trying to get to the next mission. So when news of the first DLC was announced we were interested to see if anything had changed. Roger & James in They Came From Below is a stand-alone tale set after the main game but it’s a very short return (about two hours to complete) to the We Happy Few world that follows Dr Faraday’s two helpers as they try to stop an invasion of Wellington Wells by killer robots.
That takes the hapless duo to a secret underground laboratory and finds them discovering more than they expected. Gameplay has been shaken up. This is a point-to-point tale so there is no trekking to get to the next mission or messing around. It also adds the first gun to the game to blast robots plus there are a few puzzle sections. This game bodes well for the next two planned DLC packs. We just wish we could go back and play the main game in the same direct fashion.
Snooker 19 (Xbox One, PS4, Switch and PC, £25.99)
SNOOKER 19 is easily the most complete game about the sport ever. There, said it. As the official licensed game, it lets you play as 128 different players in 26 tournaments at venues such as the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Crucially, gameplay is spot-on too. It gives you a number of aiming options to dial it into where you feel your skill level is at but also letting you challenge yourself too. And the overall physics are good, with balls running well (if a little longer than you would expect) while the pockets are tight. One tip. Backspin. Use it.
The AI is good for the most part and will put up a solid fight during matches no matter your skill level, although it can be a bit too aggressive and defensive at times. The game has two main career modes — pro seasons and rising stars. Pro lets you take a top player like Ronnie O’Sullivan or Graeme Dott through a season while rising star sees you attempt to take an up-and-comer like Oliver Lines up the rankings. Graphically the game looks good with a real TV-style presentation. Music and sound are also of a good standard. If you’re a fan of snooker, pocket this one — especially online.
I’ll be back next week with more from North of the Border. Catch ye’s…