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! 

 

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

Doom – Open Beta Impressions

Fast-paced, gory, arcade fun is how I’d describe Doom’s multiplayer.

Holy moly! Who expected this game to be so fun? Simplistic, yet dense enough to entice you into further levelling up your character and customising various weapons. It’s punishing if you’re slow on the draw, but hugely satisfying when you successfully perform a killing streak. This may very well be my next big multiplayer game.

I was already pretty excited to dive into the single player onslaught of Doom, but this open beta has proven to me that the multiplayer is something that I can equally look forward to. E3’s gameplay demo showed a promising revamp into the Doom series, a series I have neglected for far too long. Clearly, I have been missing out on some messy, bloody action. Luckily, this open beta (available for all you fellow gamers until 17th April) gives everyone the opportunity to experience hell like never before.

 
The gameplay is extremely fluid and encourages players to keep moving. Camping does not bode well for you in this world, and you are sure to be penalised – either by being repeatedly annihilated by players who have acquired power ups, or simply from lacking any reasonable amount of points to progress or flaunt. From my own experience, players are eager to engage with enemy players constantly, yet thinking tactically and dodging attacks with worrying ease. The double-jump feature complements these evasive maneoveurs, opening up new tactics when approaching or escaping threats. Initially the trailers for the multiplayer convinced me that this experience would be very similar to recent Halo games and Titanfall, but it is different. There are similarities of course, but Doom is very much it’s own game and certain gameplay aspects prove this.

 
For example, the way in which ammo and health is acquired from pickups dotted around the map is a fairly nostalgic jump backwards. But in a good way, it’s fresh and scary in a way. When you’re punishing newbies with your super quick reflexes but find yourself low on health, it’s exhilarating sprinting for the health pack. There’s no actual sprint button, this is a very arcadey experience, fleshed out with very promising additions; such as demonic runes and more traditional power-ups. Power-ups appear at a number of set locations around each map, buffing the players with unique abilities such as increased speed, quad-damage and shields. My favourite is faster movement because this game relies a lot on how quickly you can react to situations. I personally find this very fun – for others this may not appeal so much. But each to their own.

Some low-res Twitch stream captures from my own archive (will edit these on my computer when I get my hands on it):

Lastly we have the demonic runes, which spawn a couple of times each game. These are the pickups people are likely to camp around, and likely to cause arguments among players – very much like the hero pickups of Star Wars Battlefront (see my review if you’d like). On full release I believe there’s meant to be a total of three demons you can play as, but in the beta you can only use the Revenant. The Revenant is the iconic jet-packing, missile-firing, skeleton beast that appears on numerous ads for the game. It’s a scary monster; and even more frightening in the game. The playstyle is pretty simple: one button to jet-pack, and one button to shoot dual-rockets from his mounted rocket launchers. What surprised me was the lack of close combat options, I guess that’ll be the focus of another demon, the Revenant is clearly the run-gun-snipe beast. You’re given one full minute to annihilate other players, and this does happen. The rockets just leave numerous piles of limbs in their wake; which makes it highly entertaining (and tactical) to hide behind the Revenant whilst pursuing capture points in the gamemode ‘Warpath’. It’s not invincible though, players can swarm and over-power the Revenant with some difficulty. When the demon is slain the rune becomes available again for anyone who claims it, however the timer continues from where it stopped. I look forward to trying out the remaining demons in the full release, this feature looks very promising.

 

With only two games modes: Team deathmatch and Warpath, there’s enough content here to decide if Doom satisfies your crave; be it gore, graphics or a new multiplayer experience. Personally I find both game modes compelling enough to confirm my purchase of Doom next month. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how hooked I actually am by the competitive online segment of the game. Now my expectations for the very interesting looking single player campaign have only stretched higher, and I believe Doom won’t disappoint. It deserves to do well and I hope nothing significant brings it down. Guess I can only wait until May the 13th to find out, but until then, back to slaughtering people with my shotgun!

Alexander Jones

Below: my very own Twitch live-stream capture, enjoy!

 

My Game of the Month – February: Far Cry 4

Far Cry 4 is full of problems. Many, many problems that you, the gamer, have to suffer through in order to call yourself a ‘real’ gamer and sleep peacefully at night. These said problems exist in the game world and in the real world. Far Cry 4 is in no way the perfect game, quite far from it, but it makes my game of the month.

You may wonder why I’d pick a game that isn’t “the best thing ever” – well the truth is, it’s the only thing I’ve been playing alongside Star Wars Battlefront (I’m still hooked. I think I’m addicted, seriously send help). With the recent release of Far Cry Primal, I thought I’d try and blow the dust off my copy of Far Cry 4 and actually complete the darn thing. I’d like to say that I consider myself a completionist, but my backlog of incomplete games would only contradict that statement. Instead it would seem that I only truly complete a game if a) I love the game or b) it’s easy to do so. Call me a dirty casual. Go on I dare ya’.

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So why does Far Cry 4 exist? Well that’s a good question. If I was to give a personal answer I’d say Far Cry 4 leap-frogs off the back of Far Cry 3. The third installment was positively received by the masses (especially after 2, which… well nobody liked 2), the story, the gameplay, everything seemed a huge improvement and made for a largely enjoyable game. This amazing package is what makes Far Cry 4 similarly great, but also acts as its major downfall. People who know me in person would understand my issue with the Call of Duty series and its onslaught of repetition. Well now I’m worried for Far Cry. With Primal making its debut this month all I’ve seen so far from trailers and gameplay videos is Far Cry 3 rehashed into 4 rehashed into Primal. If you placed all three games into a blender you’d receive the exact same mush in which you started off with. It’s beginning to become difficult to tell these games apart. Take Assassin’s Creed for example, another series published by Ubisoft. If you haven’t been living under a rock you may have noticed a consensus of disappointment and boredom from the Assassin’s Creed fanbase. This is hugely due to the lack of creativity and simple recycling of money-making formulas. Remember when the devs attempted to change gameplay aspects in order to improve the next game? No? You were born in the naughties? Well I’m glad you’re here, might actually expand your library of games beyond Fifa and COD. But this is my problem. Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed are great games, can’t deny it really, but it’s turning into a case of using the same old phone just changing the case every year and calling it new (bit like the iPhone then really). Far Cry 4 (and Primal) are at the roots the same game as Far Cry 3, they play the same, the animations and missions are the same, however there’s a glossy new skin covering it called Kyrat or stone-age Europe.

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Rant over. So what makes Far Cry 4 good? Well most things actually. It’s pretty damn fun for a starter. Although some missions can be overwhelmingly difficult and punishing, the shooting and fire-play (literal fire) is super punchy and feels so good. Bad guys can soak up some bullets but still drop with the well-placed headshot. It’s satisfying and makes even the driest of missions entertaining. Alongside the solid shooting you have the ability to mess around with a decent sandbox environment. The amount of ways that you can tackle a single outpost is impressive. You could sneak in, taking out each guard silently or you could go berserk, riding an elephant firing off your MG and lobbing flaming molotovs into crowds of people shouting “I am the King of the Fire Elephants!” for example. You can’t do that in most games, but most games aren’t Far Cry. It’s a real shame that most things that you experience in 4 are blatantly ripped straight from 3. The Shangri-La segments follow 3’s hallucinations, the brick factory sequence was an attempt to recreate the thrill of 3’s cannabis burning mission (accompanied by Skrillex’s Burn Dem – it was amazing). They’re good but taste the same, I was really hoping 4 would push above and beyond. But hey-ho, it’s all-round good fun if you’re looking for more drug-intoxicated, animal-littered, psycho-maniac mayhem Far Cry 4 is here.

Once I finish 4 I will invest in Primal and see where that takes me (probably on the same journey just with less soap and edible food)

Alexander Jones