Batman: Arkham Origins

Review by Ben Pierson.

I first played Arkham City because a friends recommended it as “Assassins Creed but you’re Batman”. I went out a brought it that same day and I was massively not disappointed. I loved every aspect of it so on completion I went and brought Arkham Asylum (Yes, I know I played the second game before the first, I did it with Mass Effect and I’ll probably do it again with another series I’ll end up wanting to marry.) Asylum was understandably less shiny and well put together as City but that was to be expected. City learnt from Asylum. It’s progression, it’s how things evolve. Sadly the same cannot be said for Arkham Origins. Or Mass Effect: Andromeda but let's not get into that here.

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Having the origin story as the 3rd instalment struck me as a bit odd but I enjoy the Star Wars movies (except those three, you know what ones I’m talking about) so I can deal with it, even if in  this game you get better weapons and the same upgrades as you get in later games that are set after this one but made before. We could argue that different suits require different upgrades but then we have to wonder if the thugs and bullets get stronger as the years go on or if we should just ignore that bit as it’s a video game and writing the last sentence gave me a headache as it is...

The basic premise is this; It’s Christmas Eve, loads of people don’t believe Batman is a real thing yet as basically no one has seen him except apparently Black Mask who offers a bunch of assassins $50,000,000 to the one who kills Batman. I don’t think Black Mask is 100% on the existence of Batman at the beginning of the game but he seem to think it’s worth getting contract killers involved but they only get paid if they do it tonight because reasons. Amongst those who make up the list of assassins after us, we have some well known such as Bane and Deadshot and other, perhaps not so much. Personally, ‘Copperhead’ sounds to me like an insult to be hurled cruelly at ginger people by insecure children. Alfred doesn’t really help the Caped Crusader very much by making snarky comments. Calling the Electrocutioner ‘Shocking’? People are dying here Pennyworth!

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Although the game is a prequel and is set before City, it feels like it was made before the others too. A bit doughy when compared to its sleeker predecessor. It reminds me of Asylum which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but City was such a vast improvement on the second that to regress feel like such a step back even if it is to something that wasn’t bad. It doesn’t mean it’s not good, you still get to runaround as Bats, beating up nameless thugs and there’s loads of hidden things to find and a decent amount of fan service. It’s good but it just feels ‘not bad’

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I don’t know if the graphics had been made to look like Origins look closer to the first game (some of the characters, like ‘Loose Lips’ but me in mind of a more Borderlands art style) or if I’m over romanticising City, but this does not look or feel like something that came out halfway between City and Arkham Knight.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the Arkham series, however I can’t see me returning for another hour to this particular chapter. If you haven’t played it before and want an extra chunk of DC night crawling, go for it. I’ll probably just be over here replaying Knight and totally not getting emotional about any relationships or deaths that may or may not happen. And if you utterly disagree with me I shall borrow a line from Thug #3: “Would it help if I said I was sorry?”


Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom

Review by Ben Pierson

I love Attack on Titan. Got the manga, the DVDs, Wings of Freedom on PS4 and a tattoo on my leg to prove it, so I was vastly excited to get my hands on the sequel to the 2016 game.

For those who don’t know, Attack on Titan or Shingeki no Kyojin (yes, I know, the translation’s a bit dodgy), is a manga and later anime series where humanity has been forced to survive living behind huge walls to protect themselves from the man eating giants that roam beyond, named: Titans. The Scout Regiment are a group of humans who venture out into Titan territory to try to learn about and attempt to reclaim the world, often with bloody, gruesome results.

Hitting Start drops us into an intro sequence showing off the titular titans and  characters from the popular Japanese franchise as well as some sneak peaks that fans of the series will already know. (WARNING: I’m not putting any spoilers in this. People that spoil things are dicks, end of.) 

The first time that the epic music swells, putting me in mind of Lord of The Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean, we take control of our character, hooded in the Scout cloak (because we haven’t made their face yet) and start fighting against one of the harder bosses from the last game. This felt a little unfair given I wasn't sure if I understood the revamped controls straight away or if the game was supposed to give me a hard time deliberately. As the screen fades to black and it becomes clear that this was foreshadowing, I decided that it was likely a combination of both.

The plot of the game itself follows someone reading from a book about/written by a nameless soldier. That’s us. A cool way to add a customisation character into a pre-established story but it doesn’t bode well for a happy ending but then, nothing really does in AoT… I promised no spoilers, so let's talk character building;

The choices regarding customisation are close to Skyrim level detailed, so expect some horrific combinations as you scroll through your choices of eyes, ears and noses as you find the ideal look for your Giant Killer. Whether you choose to recreate yourself or create a terrible monstrosity with zero dress sense, you won’t struggle to spot yourself in the crowd of the 104th trainees. 

Certain parts of the script and video scenes are almost identical to the original material, which is fun. In other cut-scenes you have dialogue options so you can decide how to interact with the characters you speak to.

Speaking of speaking, your fellow soldiers in training often have things they want to talk to you about and if you select the correct thing to say, it may well benefit you (Don’t worry, even with little to no knowledge of the characters, you can probably work out the right to say. If not it’s a 1 in 3 chance.) 

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By telling them what they want to hear you can increase their ‘friendship levels’. The conversation options you choose when you speak when chatting when you see them in the HUB world of the barracks influence your friendship level while helping them in side missions and fighting alongside them also increases their friendship, possibly increasing their effectiveness when out in the field? Either Way I wouldn’t get too fond of anyone character mind you… 

The combat itself is a little weak. In the first game, Wings of Freedom, the was a decent amount of purpose and *omph*, each move powerful and precise. In A.O.T 2 it feels slightly wet, more like a playground swing than rockets attached to your crotch as you blast across the landscape.

One hour was may not have been enough to get the full effect of the joy and terror this series has to offer, however, I personally don’t see myself sinking days and days into this. AoT’s unique story as it arcs, twists and turns need the fire, the urgency that this game seems to miss while the previous game captured so well. My love for the series remains untarnished but in all honesty, I’d always choose Wings of Freedom over A.O.T 2. If you do too, you’ll soon be streaking across the sky covered in blood with a string of gigantic corpses in your wake. 

It may just be me but maybe skip out on  A.O.T.2

Go play AoT: Wings of Freedom.

In Fact, go watch the anime, read the manga and thoroughly enjoy yourself.

Hajime Isayama, give me free stuff.

Pokemon Let's Go

Review by Ben Pierson

I’m happy.

There’s a new Pokemon game.

Well, it’s arguably an older Pokemon game given a spit and polish and released on (in my opinion) one of the best consoles out to date.

While this game is easily accessible to newcomers to the series, I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re an established PokeFan.

Careful now, there’s very minor spoilers ahead.

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Being the first Pokemon game on a not strictly handheld console is quite a big deal, really, considering the franchise has been going since 1996. I struggle to think of a game so popular that hasn’t bridged both portable and home systems over the last 20+ years so if for no other reason alone, Pokemon Let’s Go: Pikachu and Pokemon Let’s Go: Eevee are notable games.

Set in the Kanto region of the very first Pokemon games, Let’s Go is reminiscent of Yellow, almost to the point that I started to think it was basically a direct HD port, until I reached Pewter City Gym that is, and Blue arrived. Yes, Let’s Go seems to be set several years after Red/Blue/Green/Yellow, something I didn’t realise to begin with and has caused minor embarrassment given the fact I named my rival Gary. The story doesn’t deviant hugely from the storyline of Yellow but adds and changes just enough to keep it fresh yet familiar. First off, let’s talk about what’s new.

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There were a lot of mixed feelings regarding the capture system. Heavily influenced by the mobile Pokemon Go you no longer battle to weaken your desired ‘mon after wandering about in tall grass waiting for a random encounter. Instead the Pokemon walk in full view, meaning you have to walk into them to start you attempt to catch ‘em all (I couldn’t resist, sorry). I enjoyed this as it means that you can avoid things that you don’t need (making the cave of Zubats much less infuriating) and you get a rush of excitement when a rare monster pops up on your screen.

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As we mentioned before, you no longer battle in order to capture. Once they bump into you or you to them, you’ll be faced with your Pocket Monster standing in front of you with a circle around it that grows and shrinks. Depending on how you’re playing, you’ll have to press a button or use the motion controls to throw a ball to try and catch it. If you hit within the circle, you have a higher chance of success. The smaller the circle, the higher the chance of catching it and getting an XP bonus that goes towards levelling up the 6 Pokemon you can hold in your party at any given time. While this makes grinding to evolve Pokemon much less tedious, the game keeps trainer battles and makes sure that  you’re required to battle the high level Legendaries before you can catch them to break the game up and keep it from feeling too easy throughout.

Pokemon veterans will notice the original soundtrack is present with a modern boost from the old 8-bit style of the late ‘90s that will have you catching yourself humming the Pokemon Centre theme in the pharmacy hours later.

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The Kanto map is painstakingly recreated perfectly, from the S.S. Anne to those thirsty ass guards. The Safari Zone is different however, now replaced by the Go Park, a place that you can transfer the original 151 from your PoGo account to fill your PokeDex, play mini games with and Mystery Boxes to help find the elusive Meltan (a big help as you’ll need 400 candies to evolve it in Pokemon Go).



When you battle trainers they briefly hold the pose of their original sprites, Jesse and James from Team Rocket are still Blasting Off and that kid’s still going on about how great shorts are.

Weather you’re new to the games, only played PoGo or still have every copy since you first got your paws on a Gameboy, there’s something in this adventure for everyone to enjoy.

While you go by Pokemon Let’s Go, I will travel across the land, searching far and wide.

POKEMON!


Spider-Man on PS4 Review

Review by Ben Pierson. # Spider-man; Spider-man; Hisbestgamewas thesecondGameCube Spider-man #

It’s true. None can deny it. Spider-man 2 on the GameCube was the best modern day Spider-man game, I can’t say of all time because I can’t quite recall the old 16 bit games but I think we’re safe in saying they probably didn’t hold much of a candle to it. Every time a new Spider-man game comes out, I feel that as a collective gamers and Spider-man fans hold our breath slightly. We know it’s probably not going to be great, the physics won’t quite hit the spot ‘2 did, the story may not have a satisfying conclusion because the game came out before the movie it was based on so they had to somehow finish it but at the same time leave it open because they didn’t have all the details of the movie it was based on and didn’t know if there was going to be a sequel. Will we be forced to deliver pizza? Are we able to save the balloons of crying children?

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It’s a hard time when a new Spidey game hits the shelves.

Spider-man for the Playstation 4 focuses on an older Spider-man so we’re spared the origin story. You know it. I know it. Everyone knows it. Even the MCU made a joke about everyone knowing it in Civil War. No longer a 15 year old Highschool student, we’ve got a twenty something webslinger who’s got a firm grip on his super powers. His alias Peter Parker, however, is having to confront new obstacles in his relatively new adult life. Bills and breakfast and all that. The game begins with PP being woken by the news that Kingpin’s men are being dicks and blowing stuff up, showing off the fairly decent graphics of the game while also acting as a fun and good jumping off point for learning the basics of the game as you work your way across NYC and fight your way up a thug infested building. The combat, a la Arkham, gives it more of a Spider-man like fighting style than previous games but still quite jumpy, kicky, button mashy until you get your eye in.

Or maybe that’s just my playing style.

We have a little combo counter in the corner of our screen, the more you hit people, the more it fills with ‘Focus’. Focus can used to heal the Webhead when his health drops, or you can fill it up and use a knockout move on an enemy to incapacitate them in one go. Stealth also plays a part in the combat, the Vent Takedown pulls up an enemy from below and silently(?) sticks him to the ceiling inside the vent... Do you ever think Spidey does that and every so often forgets about them until the next day? Imagine that call to the NYPD…  I digress.

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You really get immersed in the game play be it from Spideys perfect one liners or the QTE where you have to mash square to lift the thing, I genuinely felt awesome and cried out "SPIDERMAAAAAN!" before realising that the windows were open and I just scared the neighbours cat. Spider Sense is akin to the ‘Eagle Vision’ pulse thingy from Assassins Creed: Origins and (speaking of Ass Creed) Spiderman parkour, is a thing I didn’t know I needed until now. That brings us nicely onto the movement.

I’m going to say something that I was honestly not expecting to say here. It’s as good as Spider-man 2. It’s not as physics based but it’s smoother. It’s fast, it’s seamless. It’s fun.

That’s the main thing that I want from a Spider-man game, hell, ANY superhero game. A solid plot is amazing, graphics, the prettier the better but none of that means a single thing if you don’t enjoy playing it. I think this may have done it.

I think this may be the first game for the wall crawler that matches up to Spider-man 2. If you don’t agree, that’s cool. If you do, that’s great, let’s hope to get some more games like this out there. 

Stop reading this, now.

Go play Spider-man.

Nintendo Switch Review

Review by Ben Pierson. Today was a good day. Today was the day I brought a new gaming console. Today, I brought a Nintendo Switch.

A little late to the game, I know. The Switch came out in March 2017, well over a year ago and has had several critically acclaimed titles released such as the visually stunning Breath of The Wild. I can’t deny that I’ve been tempted by the prospect of owning one for a while but it was after watching the Nintendostage at 2018’s E3 that showed the upcoming titles: Let’s Go Pikachu, Let’s Go Eevee, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and with rumours of a brand new Pokémon game in the works, I finally pulled my finger out.

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I was immediately surprised with how small the console itself was, seeming less than half the size of my Playstation 4. The Joycons have a plastic controller that they can sit in if you want to use them as a traditional style controller but I found the real fun was when you put that bit aside. The Joycons can not only be used as a traditional controller without the restriction of their holster, something I felt much more comfortable doing, but if you want to play with a friend, you simply turn the Joycons on their side and BOOM, two controllers. Each bringing to mind the old NES and SNES controls but with a joystick in place of a D-Pad, they also perfectly keep their motion sensors active for use in games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. The shoulder buttons when using the ‘Cons like this take a tiny bit of getting used to but you’ll soon be drifting round corners, grabbing coins and swearing mercilessly at whoever launched that Blue Shell your way.

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The fact that each Joycon can be used as an independent controller really comes in useful considering the fact that you can also attach the Joycons to the console itself and take it down the pub.

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I know, right?

This feature is obviously well known by now but I still think that it’s really undervalued. You can take your high def console anywhere you like in your bag and at a moments notice, whip it out, pop it up using it’s little kickstand and you’re away playing multiplayer. Even if you’re feeling anti-social or just don’t have any friends, leave the Joycons attached and you can use your Switch as a handheld. While, as I said the console itself is relatively small, it’s almost all screen so you don’t have to be huddled with your nose pressed against it when playing it out and about. That would probably interfere with the touchscreen if that were the case.

Did I not mention that it’s touchscreen? No? Well it is. Do I know why it’s touchscreen? No, I don’t. And I don’t care in the slightest, it’s awesome.

All in all, I love my SwitchIt doesn’t do Netflix. It doesn’t have access to iPlayer or All4or any way to get onto nudey sites but that’s why I love it. It’s a Games Console and I think it does that brilliantly.