Game Hype: Agony

Probably NSFW…

Demonic possession mayhem in Hell.

So, I have this little obsession with strange, quirky and usually horrific indie games that pop up on the internet. Horrific in genre and (often) in build quality. They usually embrace the first-person perspective, some form of janky crafting system (which is particularly broken or unclear) and questionable fighting mechanics.

Luckily, Agony doesn’t look like it suffers from any of these problems.

If I had to imagine a brand-spanking new first-person horror game that took influence from 2016’s DOOM, then Agony is it. This game looks equally gorgeous in a really disturbing way, very similar to that of DOOM. As far as graphics go, for a non-AAA game, Agony is shaping up to be a really impressive and unique visualisation of Hell.

Withered trees, fleshy sculptures made from tortured people (presumably sinners if they’re in Hell) and trippy skies that are so vivid in colour you’ll think you’re hallucinating. You’re not, this is art, baby. Gross, fleshy, naked art.

Yeah, so there seems to be a lot of nudity in this game. Some of it justified by the idea of being vulnerable and naked in Hell etcetera, etcetera… But, I will say there’s a fair bit plonked in here for the sake of being titillating. I’m all for developer creative freedom, but sometimes it just makes you feel uncomfortable. WAIT, maybe that’s the point?! Excessive nudity in order to manipulate your fears and confuse you. Now that would be clever.

OR maybe it’s an easy way to get people interested, who knows, I just know the premise of this game excites me. Ehem. Not like that.

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We haven’t been treated to too much detail on what the final game will encompass as a whole, but from the demo and recent trailers it’s clear that it has something to do with a ‘Red Goddess’. This Red Goddess is a holy-like figure, embodied in statues throughout the caverns and plains of Hell itself, and worshipped by the mindless, droning souls who populate it.

I’m guessing the story will entail something to do with finding this Red Goddess and either one, please her in whatever form that takes, or two, kill her. Because nothing says victory like ridding Hell of lust.

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If you’re into weird horror games then I think this is a game you should keep checking for updates. It’s said to be coming to Xbox One and PS4 as well as PC (they even posted about physical copy covers!).

So get hype, and rock on through the bloodied trenches of sinners’ paradise!

Game Hype: Star Wars Battlefront 2

Like it or not, Star Wars Battlefront 2 is coming.

On April 15th, at the Star Wars Celebration, we will get our first look.

Plenty of gamers shared disgruntled moans and cries of disbelief when they discovered how bare EA’s reboot was when it originally released in 2015. Being the wild card that I am I will openly admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Dedicating over 100 hours of gameplay time and £40 for a season pass, I found myself hooked. But, even in my position as a blind sheep I can still see the countless flaws of EA’s Battlefront.

So, rather than asking the question of how Battlefront 2 can improve, I ask WILL it improve?

Have the big, bad cyborg bosses, sitting in their sky-high towers absorbing power from the sun and money from other blind sheep, allowed developers to implement their original creative ideas? The first thing that springs to mind for any Star Wars Battlefront hopeful is ‘SINGLE-PLAYER CAMPAIGN’, or ‘SPACE BATTLES’. Neither of which were present in the 2015 game. No wonder fans were upset, these were massive gameplay elements of the first games.

I addressed these issues in a blog post ages ago, and I still stand by my point; that this is EA’s Battlefront. This is NOT a sequel. This series doesn’t want to remaster an already popular game, but reimagine it, using the original material as a base to build from. So we have large-scale battles, beautiful and large maps, intense firefights. We are missing huge characteristics of the first series; such as classes, single-player and competitive online game modes like Galactic Conquest, space battles, different eras, etc. but doesn’t this emphasise the point? We will all relish the memories of our first Battlefront victory, but time’s changed, let’s enjoy what we have (a gorgeous looking Star Wars game) and hope that classic features make a return in Battlefront 2.

Yes, Battlefront 2. What can we expect to see, come April 15th? Well, I have a few ideas that I anticipate and really want to see make it into the sequel. 

Firstly, I don’t think that we’ll see Kylo Ren or Rey having a clash. Episode 8 will be coming out around the same time as Battlefront 2, before the holidays, and I can’t see how a Battlefront could work on two films without the final chapter. Arguably, they could add Episode 9 as DLC, but it would have to release two years after the game’s release. It just wouldn’t make sense. Also, there’s the issue of how much content would they be able to use from Episode 8 to avoid spoiling the film? The new era of Star Wars is just too complicated to touch at the moment.

Which is why I think the Clone Wars is perfect for the sequel. The lore is there, the films are done, ignore the questionable scripts and focus on those battles. It’s going to happen at some point, and I think that time is now. Imagine the battle of Genosis recreated in DICE’s stunning Frostbite engine. Even in the case of the battle of Naboo and the unbearable Gungans – it’ll look amazing. Battlefront 2015 played it safe. They went with the original trilogy and pulled on people’s heartstrings with lifelike images of Hoth and Endor. Battlefront 2 opens up more risk and creative freedom. They know what the fans want, and they have the resources to pull it off.

A single-player campaign has been confirmed by sources across the web, but space battles are still in question. I assume that EA have heard the complaints even if they weren’t listening for it. So, I expect to see these painfully regurgitated outcries sought to. It would be fairly dumb not to, wouldn’t you think?

Again, I expect another £40 on top of the £40 cost of the base game for the season pass, it’s just EA’s way. Battlefield 1 had the same model, and it’s sad to see it become commonplace, especially at such a high price. Compared to other season passes that retail at £20 (Witcher 3 for example), it’s not difficult to question its actual worth. Unfortunately for me this is a Star Wars game, and I’m more than likely to spend the £40 for a handful of extra hero characters (Jango and Grievous better not be DLC!).

Let’s see the Battlefront we deserve on the 15th. For goodness sake, give the people space battles!*

Alexander Jones

*Disclaimer: I don’t care much for the space battles, I’d rather be on the ground. But, hey-ho, FOR THE PEOPLE! 

 

Exhilarating speeds, wild Pikachu and Beastie Boys in space

The other day children were released from school for their summer holidays, which is terrifying.

It also meant a fayre had opened local to me, an opportunity to venture outside with my little brother and check it out. Partnered with my desire to have a stroll and avoid any sarcastic “lazy” comments from my dad, I also gave in to the unbearably growing virus that is Pokemon GO. Despite wanting to avoid being caught up in the wave of Pokemon nostalgia trips, I couldn’t help myself but bug myself to see if anything rare and exciting appeared in my close, or preferably my house so I wouldn’t have to move. It turns out the closest Pokemon spawn down the road from me, and I faced even more disappointment bumping into endless Pidgeys and Rattatas. A sad day for a sad boy.

So I took up augmented reality Pokemon catching, and I wasn’t disappointed. Instead, I find myself surprisingly addicted. This addiction is probably fed by the shared satisfaction of finding new Pokemon with my younger brother and close friend Matt. Even the common, skip-able Pokemon from the video games were exciting to find; giving me a new Pokedex entry, bountiful experience and new evolution possibilities. After giving up on the latest installments of the DS games I really enjoyed going back to basics and first generation Pocket Monsters.

All the Pokestops!

It felt clean and lighthearted, albeit full of glitches and crashes which arguably hinder the overall performance of the game at the current time. Following Comic-Con in San Diego, news is that patches are inbound to fix these issues. Going back to what I said about nostalgia trips, it’s funny to see that the army of young adults (mostly my generation) who are raving about this new game are the same crowd who denied any attachment to the series in their school years. The irony is pure.

A few Pidgeys later and we made it to Tredegar Park’s fayre. It was fairly small, and £1 entry was a bit annoying but the rides here were definitely not lackluster. After a round of walking past the rides and sussing the scene out we decided that we’d actually go on one of the rides. With little encouragement the three of us squished ourselves into ‘The Sizzler’. Doesn’t that sound scary and fast? Aren’t we brave? Truth is, it was the one ride between being an actual scary ride and one of those slow and pathetically depressing kiddy rides. I feel like I’m playing it down, but the three of us still thoroughly enjoyed the fast thrills. To me, this ride gave me the same feelings that I used to get when I went really high on a swing. I guess this entire post is now about nostalgic feelings – lame.

 

After building up some confidence from the first ride we braved another one. This was one of those rides where you sit in a pod that spins around continuously as the floor moves around you simultaneously. Turns out that’s a bad idea after eating a chicken burger and drinking some Dr Pepper. This ride was extremely fast, sickening and dizzy as hell. I also got whiplash which left my neck aching for three days, so that’s a plus.

On an completely unrelated note, I watched Star Trek: Beyond the other day. Solid 5/10. Slow, cheesy and just not that impressive. Sorry Trekky or Trekkie fans, whatever you call yourselves, it’s not that amazing. My little brother fell asleep in the cinema, I mean it isn’t difficult for that to happen, but still! The Beastie Boys’ Sabotage also played a bigger role than most of the characters in the film, which I found hilarious.

At least I had an excuse to eat some fruit gums.

Alexander Jones

P.S. I walked 18km that day catching computer-generated monsters, I am not ashamed.

 

 

E3: Battlefield 1 Impressions

This was the game I wanted to see at E3. Another installment of addictive multiplayer madness, fully equipped with destructible environments, dynamic weather, punchy guns and now behemoths!

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There’s been an abundance of modern day and futuristic shooters over the last couple of years, and it’s fair to say that some people are getting tired of seeing the same old with every new title. Now, it’s also fair to suggest that going back to World War 2 (a setting that holds a special place in many gamer’s hearts) would also be rather tiresome. How many times can you storm the beaches on D-Day? Or massacre Nazis in Berlin? Too many times most likely. Battlefield 1 is something different, even when it feels familiar. It’s by no long stretch revolutionary; you can feel the same solid Battlefield gameplay from 4 and Hardline, you can also feel some form of comfort in the setting as it resembles but classic FPs games. But this is World War 1, a whole different frontier. New locations, new technology, new battlefield.

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The E3 presentation by EA gave us a new campaign and gameplay trailer which demonstrated some of the locales that will (inevitably) be leveled in the Frostbite engine. We were also treated to three complete multiplayer matches, featuring YouTube gaming stars and, believe it or not, *real celebrities. Snoop Dog died continuously whilst smoking a spliff, Zac Efron looked disturbingly confused whilst driving a tank and Wiz Khalifa was…actually alright? It was a funny game to watch, even if a bit silly. The world finally witness some of the Battlefield 1 goodness, and it looks great. I can already see myself falling in love with this brutal game. Without a doubt, the bayonet charge that has been added to the franchise is my favourite feature, just look at it!

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We don’t have to wait too long for the announced beta of the game (just let us play the damn thing already!), and not too long for the full release in October. Battlefield 1 is definitely in my top 3 games from E3, I just need my multiplayer fix! The other titles that I’m looking forward to grasping with full force is Mafia 3 (thoroughly enjoyed the second one), and hopefully the official reveal of another Red Dead game. In the meantime, Halo Wars 2 looks promising – too many games, so little money, no fair!

Alexander Jones

Review: DOOM (2016)

I survived the hellish onslaught on Mars, and kicked demon butts in Hell. Ripping and tearing, shooting and obliterating everything in my path. Rock music blasting in the background, it’s difficult not to enjoy the terror.

Not without its fair amount of challenge – DOOM succeeds in establishing itself as a classic arcade shooter with advancements across the board.

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Suit up.

As a newbie to the DOOM scene, I don’t really have the faintest idea in regards to the plot. There’s demons and guns, right? Well I must admit, I am hooked on this installment. I can confirm that DOOM 4, dubbed neatly as DOOM (2016), is indeed a reboot of the series. Created by id Studios and published by Bethesda, DOOM is back with impressive graphical and gameplay enhancements.

Playing as the famous unnamed ‘Doomguy’ you awaken in a room, presumed to be your holding cell, surrounded by Possessed Union Aerospace Corporation (UAC) personnel. Breaking free from your constraints you utilise a standard pistol, clearing the room of hellish zombie-like men, continuing to reunite with the very satisfyingly chunky Praetor Suit. From here you embark on your journey to rid the demon presence from Mars. The campaign stretches to around 12-15 hours, depending on how much of the beautiful (yet, disturbing) visuals you want to take in. Separated by chapters (essentially mission levels), you will transcend back and forth between the UAC facility on Mars and Hell, following your own demon-slaying desires and the instructions of influential individuals, the campaign is interesting enough alongside the great gameplay to solidify the intense and satisfying package.

Without spoiling the plot-line, there are a number of set-pieces that appear later down the road which surprised me. DOOM feels like the kind of game you’d expect to run into a boss stage at the end of each mission, this is not the case. Instead, about three quarters through the game you are met with what feels like an abundance of boss fights left, right and center. Definitely not a bad aspect; it actually exaggerated the intensity of the oncoming conclusion, which actually felt rather abrupt. With so many boss fights so close together I was actually expecting a little bit more after the sudden end-game cinematic. In no way does this really subtract from DOOM however, as I found the whole experience very satisfying all the same.

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Moving on to the most important factor: the gameplay. If you previously read my DOOM: Open Beta Impressions then you’ll already have a general idea of how combat and movement works. It’s fast, fluid and gruesomely vivid to watch. Your movement is swift, complementing DOOM’s arcade origins, no sprint button here folks. It feels like an arena shooter, which I have little experience with, but if DOOM is anything to go by, I’m sold by it. Following from the lack of sprinting, there’s also a lack of reloading. Weapons have different shooting rates, but they never require manual reloading, this is after all reliving the arcade, arena feel. You accumulate ammunition, health and armour as pickups (old skool FTW).  It’s a nice change of pace from contemporary FPS games which are littered with regeneration.

Obviously one of the main additions that’s got everyone talking is the Glory Kills. Brutal, so brutal, but so fun. How do you spice up a notoriously bloody and violent franchise? You add even more blood and violence, and make it look amazing. Glory Kills add some fruitful new ways of finishing off those pesky Possessed soldiers but even more so for the big baddies. Chainsawing a staggered Baron of Hell is insane, and makes you feel rather omnipotent for a brief but rewarding moment. These impressively animated kills can feel like a nice breather before continuing to slaughter dozens more demons in one of the arena stages. After performing one of these animations you are given extra pickup items (health at first, armour with a Rune upgrade, and ammo with any chainsaw demise), and also a short speed boost that aids the seeking of your next victim.

That Rune upgrade I just mentioned refers to one of the extra segments within the campaign that the player can interact with. These Runes can be found throughout missions, often hidden behind doors and gates, and grant the player with special abilities after the completion of a relatively tough but simple combat trial. This area of gameplay was probably the most frustrating for me, but I’ll blame myself for being impatient with the trials. One petty complaint regarding this would be the amount of loading screens. I wish it was a little more seamless to repeat trials after failing them. They are very short and can be easily failed, but I lost my patience waiting for the trial to reload several times. I guess I should just get better at games, oops.

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 As well as these Rune abilities, the player can acquire weapon mod upgrades using weapon upgrade points rewarded for completing mission challenges and also combat efficiency. Adding some more dimensions in your arsenal of wiping out the occupants of Hell. These mods can be mastered following specific challenges such as killing multiple enemies with one shot. Additionally to these upgrades, Doomguy’s Praetor Suit can also be upgraded using tokens found on the corpses of Elite soldiers throughout the campaign. These improvements aid survival via movement speed, lessening damage consumed by explosive barrels, enemies and yourself, and also enhancing your map by displaying collectible items. The final feature that strengthens your build is the consumption of Argent Energy. Findings a number of pods containing little balls of the Energy (I call it candy), your player can crush the container and utilise the Energy to put a single point into upgrading either Health, Armour or Ammo.

All these features work well to make daring situations a little easier without totally removing the need to think. No matter how buffed you are, there will always be a challenge. This can be found in the campaign with harder difficulties – try Ultra-Nightmare if you want to get annihilated with perma-death and extremely tough baddies, or in the multiplayer. The multiplayer feels much more fleshed-out from the Beta, adding three more demons, several new maps and game modes, and tonnes of character customisation. There’s plenty of content here for those seeking some cooperative slaying.

Not only are we given a solid traditional multiplayer arena experience, but we are also treated to Snapmap. Snapmap allows players to create, publish and play user-created missions, competitive maps and much more endless possibilities. It’s surprisingly in-depth, despite the simple and easy-to-use UI. I’m looking forward to investing more hours into this entirely under-appreciated (in my playthrough) segment of the game.

Overall DOOM (2016) proves to offer players dozens of hours of gory mayhem, be it online with others, or ripping through its tight and enjoyable campaign packed with content. Collectibles, upgrades, easter eggs and references, they’re all here. Suit up, rev that chainsaw, and prepare yourselves for the next DOOM installment (subtle spoiler there).

Alexander Jones