Kane & Lynch 2 is an ugly game in almost every sense. It's aesthetically ugly, it's thematically ugly, it's even mechanically ugly, a clumsy and chaotic third-person shooter with a sticky cover system and AI thicker than asbestos soup. What's interesting about it all, though, is that most of this ugliness (although admittedly not all of it) is deliberate, in what is a fascinating example of a developer exploring its own mistakes and mishaps through another creative work.
Where there's a Will there's a Wei.
Insert coin to continuum.
Open world games are hard to make, but it's even harder to make them about something. When a game's scope spreads across tens, maybe hundreds of virtual square miles, it's not surprising that developers can struggle to fill that space. Who can forget collecting feathers in the first Assassin's Creed, or Unity's unique approach of pouring every kind of content imaginable into Revolutionary Paris, as if Ubisoft was making virtual foie gras?
It may be over 20 years since Age of Empires first conquered our PC screens, but the Pelasgians are still monumental gits. After a relatively straightforward time guiding the Egyptians to supremacy, the campaign mode tasks you with building a Greek state, starting with a small agricultural hub. Yet you've barely erected your town centre when those red-skirted sods come to smash it with their clubs. Guys, I'm trying to build the foundation of western culture here. Take your caveman antics elsewhere. The stone age is so last week.
I'm not sure if there's another game I feel more conflicted about than Max Payne 3. The first two games rank amongst my personal favourites - particularly the second, which I think is one of the finest action shooters going. Max Payne 3 is at once better and worse than its predecessors. It has more intense shootouts, far superior visual effects, and production values to rival any Hollywood blockbuster - all of which were exactly what Max Payne strived to achieve back in 1999.
Battalion proclaims itself to be a stripped down, tackle-out, "old-school" multiplayer shooter. I find this an interesting statement, as to me old-school means rocket-jumps, glistening gibs and mind-bending level design - aka games that graduated with a first from the University of John Romero. Battalion, on the other hand, studied at Zampella polytechnic, as evidenced by the khaki browns and Wehrmacht greys, minimalist puffs of gore, and the presence of a prone key. Lesson number one, Battalion, nobody lies down in an old-school shooter unless they're dead. Now, onto nailgun aesthetics and implementation...
It's fair to say that Battlefront 2 has endured a difficult time of late, much in the same way Anakin Skywalker had a difficult time after fighting Obi Wan Kenobi in Revenge of the Sith. Like poor, pathetic Ani, crawling through the mud with three missing limbs and his skin on fire, Battlefront 2 is a hot mess right now. There's a decent, upstanding multiplayer shooter somewhere in there, but it has been laid low by poorly-thought out microtransactions and subscribing to the absurd notion that Star Wars is somehow about making money. The cheek of it!
Editor's note: In light of EA closing Visceral Games, we thought it would be a good time to remember the game and series the studio is known best for: Dead Space. This article was first published in February this year.
F.E.A.R has the best goddamn shotgun in the history of gaming. This is a hotly competed category, including strong entrants from the likes of Doom and Half-Life - and I'm sure you'll all point to a dozen more once my words run dry. But for my money, F.E.A.R's shotgun is gaming's finest interpretation of clicking a button to make a man die.
After launching the anime-inspired mech-shooter SHOGO: Mobile Armor Division, Monolith Productions was down in the dumps. Although SHOGO had reviewed pretty well, internally Monolith's view on the game reflected my own when I returned to it a few weeks ago. In both style and substance SHOGO fell short of the developer's expectations, and in some areas it was downright broken.
About halfway through Original Sin 2's campaign, you acquire the ability to talk to ghosts. Cast "Spirit Vision" in any given area of its massive, detailed world, and any nearby souls waiting in the queue to the afterlife will be revealed to you, their transparent outline glowing with a greenish hue.
Editor's note: Final review code came in hot for Divinity: Original Sin 2, so ahead of our final review - which will be landing next week - we wanted to offer you some early impressions from the opening of the game. Enjoy!
It's one of gaming's most terrifying introductions. You awake in a cryotube on the medical deck of the spaceship Von Braun. Illegal cybernetics have been implanted into your brain, and your memory has been wiped like a hard-drive. You're contacted by Dr. Janice Polito, who summarises the situation. Nearly everyone on the ship is either dead, or infected with a strange organism that mutates them and turns them hostile. There's an explosion, and Polito tells you to get out of cryobay, because soon there'll be another explosion, and then everything in the area will be sucked into space.
SHOGO is Monolith's forgotten shooter, and nothing demonstrates this more aptly than the fact I have discovered it twice. The first time was a few years after it released in 1998, when I found the CD case in my game collection and decided to give it a shot. Weirdly, I have no recollection of buying it or borrowing it. It just appeared in my house, like a MacGuffin that unleashes an evil spirit in a horror movie.
Imagine the worst trip to the cinema you can. A nightmare on film street, if you will. It's a Saturday night on the first week of the biggest blockbuster of the year, and the screen is full to bursting, stiflingly warm, and with a nauseating odour of sweat and dung. It's so crammed, in fact, that functionally the establishment has begun to break down. There's no popcorn left, people are sat in the aisles, and the toilets are on fire.
Quake Champions is the second shooter this month to promise me a new fling with an old flame. Two weeks ago, Strafe landed in my Steam account like a fresh pile of gibs, promising to take me back to 1996 so we could make sweet death together, the old-fashioned way. This time though, there would be random generation and permadeath involved. Well, everyone's got a kink, I thought.
What's the most important component of a good FPS? Is it violence? No. Is it smart level design? That can certainly make your shooter interesting and memorable, but it isn't a prerequisite to enjoyment. Is it fast movement? Again, that won't hurt your chances. But like all these other hallmark elements of FPS design, it isn't as fundamental as ensuring that your guns are fun to fire.
Sometimes I wonder what the games industry would look like had Bohemia Interactive focussed on polishing and finishing their official version of DayZ, rather than vanishing down a rabbit-hole of granularity from which they never resurfaced. Imagine if players could experience its unique PvP of tense human encounters in a zombie-strewn wilderness, of fragile alliances and galling betrayals, without having to deal with a skipful of clunk and half-baked features for almost four years.
What a curious legacy Prey has left behind. This 'franchise' (imagine airquotes the size of skyscrapers) has been in existence for two decades, resulting in one single game. There are stormtroopers with better hit rates than that. In fact, up to this point Prey is probably better known for the games that never happened than the one which eventually did.
Editor's note: With the recent release of Mass Effect Andromeda, quite possibly BioWare's worst RPG to date, we look back to one of its best. This retrospective first appeared on Eurogamer in June 2014.
My favourite thing about Take On Mars is that you can use your PDA to take selfies. This may sound like a weird and pointless feature, and in a lot of ways it is. But when you're alone on an entire planet that will passively murder you for making the slightest mistake, the ability to take a photo of yourself is surprisingly comforting.
Have you ever noticed that driving games are all a bit samey? Whether it's Formula 1 or Forza, the emphasis never changes. They're all about speed and success, a relentless, testosterone-fuelled drive toward dominance. Drive in enough circles in your gleaming, sleekly lined car, and eventually you'll be rewarded with an even sleeker, gleamier car.
2015 for me was dominated by a single game - The Witcher 3. Nothing came remotely close to CD Projekt's dark fantasy masterpiece. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more. This year, it's been far harder for me to pick a favourite. I agonised over my best games list for a silly amount of time, and even now I'm not entirely happy with it.
My experience playing Rollercoaster Tycoon World began with confusion. Upon launching, it presented me with an entirely black screen, and remained that way for the duration of my mid-afternoon coffee-break. As black screens go it's a very good one, the kind of fathomless void you'd expect Lovecraftian horrors to float around in. In fact, I briefly wondered if this was Rollercoaster Tycoon World's new, avant-garde direction, a theme-park sim set in a dimension where the rides drive you insane.
Tyranny is a Dungeons and Dragons game where the top half of the alignment page has been ripped out and burned. It's a fantasy world where being nice to someone will result in bewilderment from the affected party and scorn from your own. It's an RPG where, rather than choosing between giving someone flowers or stabbing them in the face, you choose between stabbing them in the face or giving them some warning before stabbing them in the face.
Having decided to replay Dishonored recently, I was faced with a dilemma. Not a big Walking Dead "choose which of these people you want to live" dilemma. More of a Bioshock-level dilemma. In my excitement over going back to Arkane's magical murder-sim, I had neglected to consider that I am a parent now. As such, I am as likely to find time to return to a game I have already played as I am to find El Dorado in one of my daughter's nappies.