I can safely say that I’ve been a fan of horror games since Resident Evil broke out on the Playstation 1. For me, horror games are like a escapism within escapism. Whether it’s hack and slash, survival horror or Zombie gut busting horror, I always feel compelled to pull back the layers of whatever is thrown at me. Speaking of Layers; Layers of Fear was released back in February 2016 by Blooper Team; a dev team that I’d never heard of until now. My question was: Did Blooper produce a significant enough game to win over the hearts and minds of current generation gamers?
Layers of Fear adopts a twisted style of gameplay to say the least. Our main protagonist is a nameless painter who appears to be slap bang in the middle of a psychotic breakdown amidst his efforts to produce his masterpiece. Psychotic breakdown is a easy way to describe the overall vibe and setting for our main guy but ultimately this sets the tone and story for our main campaign.
We are tasked to find six items within a Victorian Manor or rather Labyrinth. The level of distortions can be intense within the manor as we often come across doll-like apparitions, sounds of babies crying, muffled voices through walls and the odd scribbling’s a child’s handwriting all over the walls. After thirty minutes of playing this all seems like pretty boxed-standard stuff for a horror game which made me question at how shallow the depth’s or rather layer’s really were? In conclusion, incredibly shallow. I rarely felt scared, I rarely felt trapped and Layers of Fear became predictable very quickly. I never felt stuck on any puzzle the game presented me with. In star contrast; we all remember the P.T demo (*cries at the cancellation*) don’t we? Now that was intense. That was scary. I got lost in such a small space. That ‘L’ Shaped corridor had me cursing like a sailor! Layers of Fear is nowhere near the same level of horror, intrigue or disgust.
Layers of Fear is top heavy with story which seems to be drip fed to you through various clues within the mansion. Unfortunately these clues don’t come quick enough as I found myself becoming very frustrated with wanting to know what happens? Usually I adore the suspense and build up in games but Layer’s Fear gives you nothing to chew on. I literally felt like there was going to be no end to the madness within the mansion! What’s more is that I noticed a lot of repetition of inanimate objects: the same pair go glasses, the same military medal, the same door knobs lamp shades and books. Remember me saying Layer’s of Fear is incredibly shallow? Well there we go. I would have had a more immersive experience if this were not the case; it felt like a lazy attempt to dress up the experience when all it did was dress it down.
Whether you're playing Layers of Fear on the PS4, Xbox One or PC, your attention may be held for an hour at best. The monotony killed it for me. I preferred the pace and setting of Outlast. At least in Outlast I felt as though I was getting somewhere, I felt the fear of being slaughtered by some trapped, tormented soul and it lasted longer than two hours! This is probably one of the shortest reviews I've ever written but this is literally everything I have to say about the abysmal experience of Layers of Fear. Sorry guys! Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
It’s been a while since I played through a Tom Clancy game. In fact it may have been back on the Playstation 2 with Ghost Recon so it’s fair to say that I went in to The Division with an open heart and an open mind. Now, running on current gen hardware and PC the next Tom Clancy instalment launched on March 8th 2016 with The Division.
We are in Manhattan and we are in the middle of the post events of a smallpox pandemic. This pretty much destroyed New York City as we knew it and instead created a crime fuelled dystopian society. What was once a bustling city, full of tourists, workers and success transformed in to a war zone with tired looking people, collapsed surroundings, danger and disease. Ubisoft play this out with a reel of fictitious news castings at the beginning of the game. This did a great job at setting the tone and hype for the campaign that was about to ignite. From there, I could create my player attributes and off we ventured in to the dangerous Manhattan streets.
The Division is an open world MMO with some seriously tasty RPG elements. A Role Playing Game you might ask? I wouldn’t categorise The Division as an RPG at all as we all know it’s a third person shooter but as I said there are elements in The Division that often made me question: should this have been a RPG? Ubisoft tastefully threaded the two genre’s together to produce this explosive adventure. The levelling up system seemed a little complex at first but as with any game I acclimatised pretty quickly. I was shocked at how quickly I picked up the how to’s actually. I recall watching a lot of the Beta footage and thinking at how cluttered the interface looked but don’t let this fool you. The Division is surprisingly user friendly and what’s more my hiatus since Ghost Recon didn’t affect my approach in to the game either!
Guest Blog by Mark @EmeraldZone.net
The Just Cause series is known for its high-octane action, gameplay diversity and large, scaling worlds. Its engine has set it apart from the competition and continues to deliver a playground of fire, wind and water where destruction is king and all else can suck an egg. Just Cause 3 continues with the same premise of high-octane action.
As Rico Rodriguez you are once again let loose in a tropical paradise overruled by a violent and omnipotent dictator, General Di Ravello. Rico must destroy the general’s resources across the sunny island to liberate rebel strongholds and build Chaos, Just Cause’s answer for a point system. The character roster features yet another tired foray of empty stereotypes churning clichéd dialogue at times meant to resemble humour. This merry band of hackneyed hacks must work together to defeat Di Ravello to restore liberty to the isles. It’s all rather familiar territory, so what sets this game apart.
In the last game, money was used to buy weapons and vehicles. 3 has an improved system where ‘beacons’ are collected to pay for supply drops, making them infinite to those willing to collect them. ‘Flares’ are another useful collectible used to fast travel between enemy strongholds. The creators have been smart enough to grant free fast travel to ‘liberated’ areas to speed up travel with momentum as you progress through the game.
It's safe to say that Far Cry Primal is a World apart from Far Cry 4. Yes the pun was intended. Far Cry Primal does a lot of things right where Far Cry 4 went wrong and it seems rather ironic that Far Cry Primal seems light years ahead of Far Cry 4. I’ve ben asking myself: why is that? What does it do so well that Far Cry 4 neglected?
Gameplay and setting
Far Cry Primal is set in 10,000 BC in the fictional setting of Oros Valley, Central Europe. When I first heard about this Stone Age setting I felt underwhelmed to say the least. I’ve never really been a fan of books, games or movies from this period so why would I devote my game time to it? How wrong of me to judge. Far Cry Primal feels electric and it felt electric from the get go. Takaar is the main protagonist who is a part of the Wenja Tribe. Taaker feels strong and fearless from the get go as one of the first tasks are to create a bow. That only meant one thing: we became the Predator and the hunt was on; no messin’, no overly baked introductions; straight in to the action. Taakar’s hunting skills are somewhat refined from the outset with his heightened senses. In laymen’s terms Taakar's ability allowed us to easily detect threats and items of interest pressing R3. I wondered if this made certain quests too easy but again I was wrong. Seeing the objects were only viewable if they were in a certain radius and within a level viewing plain. That’s right Taakar can’t see though rock, around corners or through hills which meant I had to move fast if I was going to keep, say, a Goat, within my senses.
Guest Blog by Adam @Adam Miller
Let’s face it. Aliens: Colonial Marines sucked. Big time. Gearbox promised the world, and delivered a shambles. Alien fans everywhere were disappointed. More than disappointed, they were angry. Sega had to make things right next time. Flash-forward to the announcement that Creative Assembly would be making the next game for the franchise; Alien: Isolation. It would be a horror game with a single Alien starring the daughter of the iconic Ellen Ripley, Amanda Ripley. People were understandably sceptical. With a single Alien, would the focus be on androids or even worse mercenaries? How would they include Ripley's daughter in a way that wouldn't feel forced? Can a developer who have only made Total War games really make a decent Alien game? Creative Assembly nailed it. They absolutely nailed it. Alien: Isolation is the redeeming game of the series.
As aforementioned, Alien: Isolation is a survival horror game starring Amanda Ripley, the mechanic daughter of Ellen Ripley (from the movies), who joins a crew heading for Sevastapol station to pick up the flight recorder of the Nostromo. Amanda has a personal interest in this mission because it may help her locate her mother, who has been missing for a long time. After a rocky landing on Sevastapol, you realise that something bad has happened. The place is falling apart, blood and graffiti cover the walls, the androids are acting a little weird, and the survivors don't seem too pleased to see you. Things go from bad to worse as you soon realise that you are stuck on Sevastapol without communications, and there is something lurking in the ventilation above you. Something bad.
Guest Blog by Kevin Kissane @Agent_Prince
In late 2015, Activision released Transformers: Devastation, a brand new Transformers video game (on the PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PC). Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Vanquish), Transformers: Devastation did something bold. No, not just creating a decent Transformers game (it is in fact fantastic), but it wasn’t based on any Michael Bay rubbish; instead they went back to the beginning of the franchise: Generation One.
For those not familiar, Generation One was the original Hasbro toy-driven cartoon and comic series that started in 1984. Although it only lasted 3 years, it was a worldwide success that spawned an animated movie that has a huge cult following, and countless now-collectible toys. Although that series ended almost 30 years ago, there have been multiple reimagining’s over the years, and it’s fair to say that the afore-mentioned Michael Bay monstrosities have indeed rekindled the memories of the original (and indeed best) series.
Despite the quite frankly surprising news of a Generation One based video game in the works, I was initially met with mostly scepticism. Transformers videos games largely have a terrible record, as do many series/movie tie-ins, unless Lego appears in the title. The news of Platinum Games as the developers certainly helped alleviate those initial fears; Bayonetta and its sequel are 2 of the best video games to ever grace a television screen, so I became swiftly confident they could deliver. The result is more than meets the eye.
Platinum’s somewhat traditional third-person hack n slash formula is adopted well here; incorporating both physical attack combos and artillery-based projectile attacks. There are 5 classic Autobots to choose from, and once you get over the cool factor of being the original Optimus Prime, with his original Peter Cullen voice once again, you soon discover the other characters (Grimlock, Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Wheeljack) have enough variety between them to offer different experiences. Grimlock in particular, in his Dinosaur form, unlike everyone else’s vehicle forms, offers different combos and attacks.
But by far the most amazing factor of Transformers: Devastation_ is the fan service, the nostalgia factor. It is by no means a perfect video game; it doesn’t have the combat depth of Bayonetta, or the consistently flawless backdrops of Vanquish, nor does it try to reinvent the wheel in any other way. But don’t be mistaken into thinking it is a poor game with just great fan service, like many other anime titles. The characters and combat style is interspersed with the storyline and boss-ridden levels delightfully, and of course the bosses themselves are recognisable favourites such as Starscream, Soundwave, and of course Megatron. Each and every character even has their own heavy metal theme from the excellent accompanying soundtrack, which surely has to get a release. Believe me, I’ve asked, but it’s a ‘no’ for now.
The perfectly nostalgic cast and characters come together with a plot that easily fits in canon with the series, and plays out much like any typical episode would. It’s the perfect Saturday morning video game derived what was once everyone’s favourite Saturday morning cartoon series. Everything about this package is any Transformers fans’ dream. The beauty of the game is its appeal; it knows why you’re playing it before you’ve even booted the game up: you love the 80’s Transformers, so you are going to love this.
Guest Blog by Kevin Kissane @Agent_Prince
Guest Blog by Ronald K@MusicManiac1965
Before the Current Generation release of Grand Theft Auto V, I had the Xbox 360 version, and finished the story five times even before the Xbox One version came out. GTA online was a ton of fun too but there where no heists. I was eager to find out what a more tweaked and more detailed version could add to my gaming experience, as I knew, I love this game a lot!
The first thing I noticed was how much smoother the frame rate was. Billboards next to the freeway could be read far into the distance. In poor parts of the city, you see more worn out houses, bad paint jobs, tagging, and litter on the ground. All those small details give the city a more realistic look as no streets are as clean as they where on the Xbox 360 version. The sharper textures, more cars on the road, more pedestrians, and much thicker foliage in forest areas gives the game a finished and polished look. All that I can find that I don't like to much, is how close to the screen the shadow gets more detailed. This is mostly noticable on the freeways around the city, and it does not really ruin the look of the game, but it could have been a more smooth transition from a blurry shadow to a sharp one. I'd much rather have a less sharp edge closer to the car, than a shadow that has a hugely noticeable swap in detail, close to the car.
This goes for the in car radio stations and the music but also the voice acting, and sounds of the city. I noticed a better sound quality in the music, but also the voice actors sound a bit more clear on my 5.1 surround set. You can leave it up to Rockstar Games to give attention to detail in the sound and music department. The hustle and bustle of the streets, the conversations all around you and the story of the main three characters are of a high caliber. For me, this feels like I'm playing a action movie. The extra music in the next generation version is nice, and ads more variation to the radio stations. When I play the story, I leave the radio where the characters are listening to, but when I play online, I listen to Los Santos Rock Radio, and Non Stop Pop the most.
At first, when I came from GTA IV, I was not to fond of the way they changed the handling of the cars, but now after putting a lot of time on the 360 and One version, the car handling grew on me. I love it how you now can get faster around corners, and some cars can even be put on two wheels when you hit the curbs and proper direction of the front wheels. The smoother frame rate sure gives the handling a boost compared to playing it on the Xbox 360. I love the fact you can choose different aim assist, or even turn it off completely. When you play in first person mode (new to the next generation versions, this is not available on the Xbox 360), it's cool to turn off the aim assist if you want to challenge yourself a bit more. I finished the game twice in first person mode, and only the parts where you have to shoot while driving (think about the boat from Michael being stolen and you Chase it on the freeway), I switch back to the far view and then aim the crosshair on the target, but other than that, I love how this new mode gives the game a fresh feel. Also it's cool to see Rockstar Games put lots of time and effort in the extra animations, as it's not just a matter of slapping on a new point of view.
By Gemma @JuicyGameReviews
It has been a fantastic year for video game releases at least in my humble opinion. The Xbox One and Playstation 4 camps hosted a plethora of games to keep us busy well in to 2016 and beyond. I've been particularly impressed with Polish developers. It seems fitting to discuss some of the cream of the crop as 2015 draws to an end so let's take a look at my top five as well as my honourable mentions. Pausing slightly, I created a Youtube Video on this topic but figured this blog would run nicely alongside it.
5 - Dying Light
Dying Light was released on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC and Linux in January 2015. Techland, the Polish development team behind Dying Light dropped us right in to the thick of a zombie apocalypse in the fictional city of Harran. Our main protagonist, Kyle Crane, is sent out to Harran to source a political figure who went AWOL. Kyle's priorities soon change as he quickly finds himself learning the art of Parkour in a bid to tackle the undead and save survivors. Straight of the bat it seems like the classic Zombie Apocalypse storyline: One man on a mission against the undead but it worked incredibly well. The open world, Harran looked stunning and felt so vast in both day and night. Day and night were a pivotal aspect of the game dynamics. During the day it seemed a whole lot easier to meander around Harran without receiving too much damage. I never felt at threat during the day. Dying Light felt manageable. As soon as night arrived the vibe changed. Monsters as well as zombies became the predator. Monsters had a stark agility that made me feel as though I was always being hunted. I enjoyed the way I connected with Dying Light at night as I felt the Physiological change in me (sweaty palms, increased heart rate). Naturally, this increased the games difficulty which in turn, altered the fluidity of Dying Light's experience. Consider it as, The Opposite of Monotony. That's right, I started to witness the many layers of Dying Light.
Amidst the day to night transition, we were able to craft new weapons, mods, abilities and more. As with any zombie game I would expect this so I don't have too much to say about it. Dead Island had a similar feature but it didn't feel as appealing. I found Dead Island's upgrades to be too accessible at times whereas I preferred the increased difficulty in Dying Light. After all, evasion is the biggest weapon we have right? Fight or flight? Dying Light gave me these options whereas Dead Island seemed more about fighting.
4 - Until Dawn
Until Dawn is a Playstation 4 Exclusive and was released in August 2015. Critics slammed Until Dawn just after release for being too short but with a multitude of endings Until Dawn can keep you entertained well in to 2016. Until Dawn does a lot of things very well which completely eclipses the short story campaign. Eight friends find themselves trapped on a frosty mountain and seek shelter in any log cabin they can find. There are the typical cliche´ personalities that weave in to the hide and seek horror storyline which would typically make me cringe. Nonetheless, the overly eccentric, Frat and Sorority personalities work beautifully.
Until Dawn was developed by Supermassive Games. The gameplay seems to borrow vastly from Heavy Rain in that choice is everything. Every choice we make will affect the ending. You can see the many different endings here. Who survives is up to you and even then Until Dawn is likely to shock you. Emily pissed me off so badly that she had to go! (SPOILER ALERT). Emily in fact survived the fall in to the cavern and proceeded to frustrate me for a few more hours. Joking aside, Supermassive Games did a phenomenal job allowing the story to evolve with plenty of plot twists. The script is excellent and voice acting is high end stuff. My only gripe is that the camera angles are fixed. Upon reflection I believe this adds to the sense of helplessness and fear. There's a lack of control with fixed camera angles in Until Dawn so whilst it's a minor offset it's an advantage too. If you having played Until Dawn then I highly recommend you pick up a copy. I'm looking forward to seeing other titles from Supermassive Games.
3 - Destiny The Taken King
Destiny The Taken King was released in September 2015 and is impressive piece of DLC for Bungie's current generation masterpiece, Destiny. When I initially put the video out for this topic commenters indicated that The Taken King didn't apply as "it's DLC so it doesn't count". I disagree. I genuinely struggled to fit in to Destiny before I played The Taken King. Admittedly I hadn't played the previous two pieces of DLC, House of Wolves and The Dark Below but the Taken King really changed the way Destiny felt for me. The Taken King offers players a chance to level up to level 40, offers new enemies, a fresh campaign and more. Here's what Bungie had to say about The Taken King:
Destiny: The Taken King, the next great adventure in the first person shooter Destiny universe, introduces a new story campaign and quests, new enemies to fight, new locations to explore, new Strikes and Crucible maps, a new Raid that will put players to the ultimate test, and more. To stand up to the challenge, players will have access to three new devastating Guardian subclasses, and a massive arsenal of weapons, armor, and gear.
In answering those comments about The Taken King not being allowed I ask you to re-think your thoughts. It's clear to me that The Taken King offers a lot more than the previous two pieces of DLC and takes the campaign to a whole new level. I've never felt so powerful in other first person shooter games. The entire universe connects with players on a level like no other. Thank you Bungie! Erm, Halo what?!
2 - Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was released in May 2015 by CD Projekt RED. I remember unboxing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a fine addition to the Role Playing Game family alongside Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Oblivion. What separates The Witcher 3 (aside from it being a next generation video game) is that the world is so much more fulfilling. I wrote a comparison between Skyrim and The Witcher 3 and here's what I had to say about the open world in Wild Hunt:
The world in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks absolutely stunning. CD Projekt RED made the transition from day and night very smooth to the point where dusk and dawn are very noticeable by the colour changes. I noticed a lot of burnt orange coming through at sunset in The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt, which made the transition to night a little more realistic and tasteful. Skyrim’s world is not as aesthetic. Before I played The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt I wouldn’t have noticed at just how drab Skyrim’s world feels. The colour palette leans more towards colder colours like blues and greys. Now I’m fine with this but it’s important to recognise at just how bright, rich, warm and alive The Witcher 3 feels in comparison.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt starts out with a fully comprehensive tutorial mode. Prior to stepping out in to my first mission I felt fully equipped for the challenge. What flawed me was how impressive the start was in terms of storyline, graphics, character interaction, suspense and richness of the world. If first impressions last then The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt left a bruise on my face! For more of an in-depth dissection on The Witcher 3 check out my blog here.
1 - Fallout 4
Fallout 4 was released in November 2015 much to the delight of fans across the world. I don't think I've ever been so excited for a gaming release and it's fair to say that we waited a long time for Fallout 4 to be announced by the mighty Bethesda.
Fallout 4 has already been pegged to be Game of the Year 2015 so it's no surprise that it's at my number one. Exploring the Wasteland never felt so good. The vast barron, post apocalyptic wasteland of Boston is jammed packed full of wonder that encourages player's to venture. And venture we do! I've barely scratched the surface of the main campaign and I'm over thirty hours in. I'm continually tempted to side track in to the depths of the extras on offer. I believe I've tackled more side missions compared to the main story but that's okay. Who needs to fine Shaun, our tiny little bundle of joy, anyway right?! Fallout 4, or any Fallout game, is about exploration. The thrill is not knowing what is over the next hill, not knowing what lays behind the locked door or chest, not knowing what loot you're going to find on the Radroach is all a part of the majestic lure of Fallout 4.
Fallout 4's storyline stems around revenge. In the beginning we are lured in to Vault 111 only to be frozen alongside our spouse and baby. Unfortunately, we are the only one to leave 111 hundreds of years after entering. Where's Shaun? becomes a common question of our main protagonist and who took him? drives the main story across the wasteland. Speaking of, we are quickly greeted with out canine friend, Dogmeat. He is a great addition to Fallout 4 for company, battle and carrying items when we are over-encumbered. I'm sure we all know by now that Dogmeat was modelled from the lead level designer's real life dog, River. Check out this video to go behind the scenes with Dogmeat:
Fallout 4 is near perfection for me. I totally lose myself from the stresses of daily life. I'm eager to hear about your thoughts on what games take your pick from 2015. Honourable mentions are at the end of my video below.
2016 is pegged to be a strong year for video game releases. Drop me a comment and let me know what you're looking forward to. In the meantime you can check out these videos from my youtube channel:
By Gemma @Juicy Game Reviews
There’s no doubt in my mind that The Rise of the Tomb Raider is a great game. Crystal Dynamics produced an epic adventure, this is true. I’ve read and watched numerous reviews that ranked the new Lara Croft adventure as an eight and in some cases nine out of ten and I’ve been left wondering why? Before you read any further, know that I, like many of you, was a teenager when the first Tomb Raider game got a release on the Sega Saturn and Playstation 1 and one thing is very, very clear to me: Tomb Raider is one of the most evolved series on the market. The Rise of the Tomb Raider seems nothing like the very first Tomb Raider game. I can hear many of you say “of course it’s not” and especially since the franchise was sold to Crystal Dynamics years ago. They’ll always be a part of me that wants that Tomb Raider game back but the rational part of me knows that Tomb Raider is forever changed and it’s a new generation of gamers sat behind their controllers meandering through the Tombs.
Fallout 4 dropped two days ago. We're already seeing news of glitches, mods, reviews, moans, rants and personal journeys from the Wasteland. It's amazing how much information can circulate in two days. Fortunately, most of the Fallout 4 news is positive and crawling the wasteland is once again, an awesome experience.
I went to a midnight launch of Fallout 4 at GAME in Chesterfield, England. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the Pipboy Edition on the Playstation 4 too. Here are all of the pictures from the evening as well as the video. Drop me a comment and let me know some of your tales from the Wasteland. My full review will be up in the coming weeks!
Do you want to be a part of my Fallout 4 community review? For details of the Fallout 4 Community review, click here and get involved.
-Gemma (thanks to Jess for the shots)
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