View Post

God of War

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

By the time the credits rolled on 2010’s God of War III, Kratos – the shouty, chain-wielding, revenge-taking protagonist – was really starting to get on my tits. He’d become a one-note bore, a hyper-masculine, invincible douche bro who couldn’t stop blaming everyone else for the problems his own violent dipshittery had exacerbated over the previous couple of games. Worse still, he’d become predictable and just not that much fun to play. This feeling persisted in sorta-prequel, 2013’s God of War: Ascension, an otherwise excellent hack-and-slash adventure that felt inessential due to a protagonist who didn’t have anything new to bring to the table. “Reckon I’m about done with the God of War series,” I mused, and gave it no further thought.

Cut to: 2018 and the much anticipated release of God of War – a new entry in the series that acts as a sequel, reboot and reimagining all in one.

An indeterminate amount of time has passed for Kratos, who now sports a hefty lumberjack beard, and his chains are nowhere to be seen. When we first meet him he’s preparing his significant other’s funeral pyre, assisted by his son, Atreus.

Wait, what, son?! Kratos has children???

Yes, it seems our bald-bonced deity-slapper sprogged up and the experience has caused the former “Ghost of Sparta” to calm down a bit, and reflect on his past misdeeds. Although having children has caused your real-life friends to become unutterably tedious, the experience has improved Kratos no end. Instead of posting basically the same photo of Atreus over and over and over again (we get it, Charmaine, your kid’s wearing a hat! Sew adorbs, you guyz), Kratos is trying to be a good father, a positive example, and bring up a decent being in the world of Norse mythology.

A fresh pantheon of Gods and a brand new outlook aren’t the only big changes in GoW, we also have a perspective shift to behind Kratos’ shoulder, similar to the POV from The Last of Us. Essentially the game appears to take place in one long, uninterrupted take, which gives a sense of immediacy and grittiness absent from the other titles. The tradeoff here is that you won’t get the series’ signature zoom-out-to-showcase-the-size-of-the-environment/monster but it’s a conceit that really works. The story starts off with very low stakes, Kratos and sonny boy explore the strange lands to scatter some ashes from atop a mountain, and things build from there. Of course the plot twists and turns like a massive serpent, but I won’t reveal any of the specifics here. Needless to say, Norse mythology is a great belief system to tackle and by the end of the game’s 30ish hours you’ll have executed feats of daring and strength that are some of the most memorable in the series.

The biggest surprise in God of War is not how much fun the new Thor-like, boomeranging, Leviathan Axe is to use, because the series has always had excellent combat. Nor is it a huge stretch that Atreus is such a compelling character, because The Last of Us pretty much set the standard for non-annoying buddy characters and is clearly a significant influence here. No, the biggest surprise about this year’s GoW is how much you’ll care about Kratos. Christopher Judge turns in a fantastically nuanced voice and motion performance, with significant range. Combined with a clever, layered script and a story that goes to some genuinely emotional places, old bald-man-punch-a-lot has transformed into a fascinating character reminiscent of William Munny, Clint Eastwood’s broken old gunslinger from Unforgiven (1992).

In 2010 Kratos became a bore. In 2018 he is reborn and headlines what is probably the year’s best game so far. Put simply: if you own a PS4 of PS4 Pro this is a day one, must-buy title. Epic, exciting, visually splendid, violent and emotionally resonant – God of War is more than just an excellent, action-adventure reboot, it’s a Gods-damned masterpiece.

 
View Post

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Game, Home, Review Leave a Comment

No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is the sequel to 2013’s Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Like its predecessor, Ni No 2 presents a fantasy world with the dreamy aesthetic of a Studio Ghibli film (although with no actual involvement from the studio this time around) and the result is as charming and whimsical as that would suggest. However all is not perfect in the playful realms presented, as Ni No 2 seems to want to ask: what if whimsical… but too much?

The story of Revenant Kingdom begins in the land of Ding Dong Dell where the evil-but-cute-looking Mausinger (a giant mouse) is in the middle of a coup to oust animal-eared little boy and heir to the throne, Evan Pettiwhisker. Roland Crane, a mysterious man from another world, saves Evan and the pair escape the kingdom, striving to create one of their own. The game then introduces you to an impressively large semi-open world you can explore and start to build your party and new kingdom where everyone will be happy and no one fights.

If that all sounds a bit saccharine, you don’t know the half of it. Ni No 2 comes off like a wide-eyed idealist or an earnest mate who necked one pinger too many, and although that can be charming it does grate after a while. This almost cloying sense of lightness also creeps into the gameplay, which while well-honed in terms of combat mechanics is also ludicrously easy, without a hard mode available at time of writing. Again, not every game needs to be Dark Souls but it’s hard to get excited about exploring optional dungeons for better loot when your bog standard gear is more than enough to take on even the toughest foe.

That said, there’s a solid little adventure here and while there aren’t quite enough fully animated cutscenes or fully voiced sections (which is weird when you consider how important the art style is to the title), you’ll likely find yourself diverted by this colourful, albeit slight, ephemeral journey. Taken as a fluffy jaunt through a child-like world of wonder and whimsy, Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom is an appealing experience, just don’t expect much in the way of challenge or narrative depth, otherwise you might be unable to see the goods through the twee.

 
View Post

Far Cry 5

Game, Home, Review Leave a Comment

Why do people join cults? Is it a love of Kool-Aid and other easily poisonable beverages? The promise of sex with dozens of vacant-eyed acolytes? Or is it based on a genuine belief system wherein you – the cult leader – are literally in contact with God (or Gods) and have the answer to that whole pesky ‘meaning of life’ thing? Sadly Far Cry 5 does essentially nothing to answer any of these questions. Happily Far Cry 5 features a mechanic where you can rain down hellfire on a camp of cultists and then have a cougar sneak in and eat anyone still left alive.

Yes, Far Cry is back and this time it’s Murica! Far Cry 5 puts you in the boots of a sheriff’s deputy (appearance and gender lightly customisable) and the result is a great deal of absurdist, explosive – albeit narratively shallow – fun.

The game is set in the fictional town of Hope County, Montana, where an inexplicably popular preached named Joseph Seed has convinced whole sections of the community it’s the end of days, and everyone should follow his word to the letter. Joseph – who looks sort of like a sweaty, man-bunned Jared Leto – has brought other Seeds with him, including John, Jacob and Faith, all of whom are the bad kind of Seed. In your role as Rook (or Rookie) you’ll need to dismantle the operations of these siblings, amass a legion of followers keen on fighting these coiffed God-botherers and finally take on the big man himself. But will you be able to survive decimated Hope County? And, more importantly will you blow lots of shit up along the way?

The answer to that latter question is an emphatic yes. Far Cry 5 doubles down on the exploration/explosion conceit of Far Cries 3 and 4 and ups the ante even further, adding planes, helicopters and all manner of companion characters, human and otherwise. You’ll fight, shoot, hunt, explore and craft increasingly potent weapons as you battle the sinister death cult with the power of guns, guns, guns. Yee-hah!

You might think a game released in 2018, set in America, and featuring such savage bloodlust might actually take an ideological position on the story shenanigans, but you’d be wrong. Far Cry 5 is a “shoot first, think never” experience, which – while totally valid for disposable escapism – does rather stop the antagonists from resonating as anything other than names on your shit list.

A more relevant disappointment is the enemy AI, which seems to have not improved since previous Far Cry entries. Yeah, it’s fun to blast away at idiotic, directionally-challenged rednecks, but as Metal Gear: The Phantom Pain showed us, a smart enemy is far more satisfying to outwit.

That said, Far Cry 5 is a massive, gorgeous game and another step along the Ubisoft course correction path that (arguably) started with Watch Dogs 2, then Assassin’s Creed: Origins and continues with Far Cry 5.

It’s not deep, it lacks layers, but burning a scorching path through Hope County, particularly with a co-op buddy, is an undeniable hoot. Ultimately Far Cry 5 won’t answer the question ‘why do people join cults’, but boy howdy does it ever deliver a fun experience while burning them to the ground.

Check out just under 40 minutes of co-op gameplay footage captured by the mighty Grizwords:

 
View Post

A Way Out

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

What’s a better proposition in a game: a slick rehash of something you’ve seen dozens of times before, or an original but wonky experiment and a not-entirely-successful attempt at something fresh? That’s the question that is central to your enjoyment, or lack thereof, regarding A Way Out: a brand spanking new game released by Electronic Arts that is unlike any prior EA title.

A Way Out is a two player, co-op only, experience that puts you in the dirty shoes of prison inmates, Vincent Moretti (Eri Krogh) and/or Leo Caruso (Fares Fares). Vincent is the straight man, severe, serious and efficient while Leo is an absolute mad bastard with a nose for trouble and, indeed, a troubling nose.

Damn thing is huge. Like Cyrano de Bergerac-sized.

These two protagonists aren’t exactly the best of friends, but they need one another to escape from their prison and exact revenge on a mutual enemy. They will need to work together or rot in jail, a decision neither man finds particularly difficult to make. What’s unique about A Way Out is that you’ll be playing co-op with your partner for the entire 4-6 hour adventure. You’ll band together to escape from the prison (which should honestly have been called Endless Shawshank Redemption References Jailhouse), survive on the land and enter a final act that I won’t reveal, but is clever, engaging and unexpected.

That’s all the good news about A Way Out. Less successful are elements like the gameplay, which offers many options but most of them are a little clunky and half-baked. You most likely won’t care that a lot of your progress is essentially quicktime events and mini-games, because the story is genuinely compelling, but it’s worth noting that your fond memories won’t be regarding the driving mechanics or precision shooting. Because they’re workmanlike and functional at best. Like Telltale Games titles, A Way Out is all about the narrative and your interaction with you co-op partner, and when it works it shines. Hell, even when it doesn’t work it’s still pretty fun to riff on it with your mate.

Ultimately A Way Out is a bold experiment that doesn’t always work, but should be admired and appreciated nonetheless. It also sells for $39 bucks and only requires one player to own the game. The price is great, the game is good and the story is legitimately engaging. If you’re into trying new things, then buddy up and have a good time. Because in 2018 any game that isn’t a microtransaction-riddled mess with grindy, tedious busywork is something of a victory.

 
View Post

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

Game, Home, News, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

The rain-slicked streets of Onomichi Jingaicho glisten in the sporadic neon light. I’m walking down a dangerous looking alley, past some very dodgy customers, to get to my objective. They follow, muttering darkly to one another. It soon becomes clear they’re about to have a go at me. I politely ask a nearby pedestrian to hold my baby and then turn to face them. I’m ready to unleash a volley of kicks and punches on these mongrels that will leave them crawling along the bloody ground, sick with agony and regret. I crack my knuckles and get to work, taking care of the six strong crew swiftly and without mercy. After all, I have a hungry baby to feed.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is the latest entry in the long running, critically lauded Yakuza series. The entire franchise is rather unique in the realm of video games. It tells complex, adult-orientated stories that are voice acted in the original Japanese and require subtitles, rather than the usual english language dubs. The stories told are often convoluted, dense and very slow burn, with few if any concessions given to short attention spans and yet it’s precisely because of this originality, this unique flavour, that makes the series so damn engaging.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life is the first entry made specifically for PS4 (as opposed to a PS3 remaster) and graphically the upgrade is immediately noticeable. From lifelike character animations, to sprawling brawls that run from one location to another, to landscapes that are vividly painted and feel alive – Yakuza has never been this pretty before. The story too focuses mainly on the mission of Kazuma Kiryu – rather than splitting the tale between multiple POV characters – and the result is a more disciplined, engaging tale. Certainly Yakuza 6 has many of the series’ bells and whistles: endless side quests, mini-games for days and mildly titillating optional pursuits – but the real star here is the story, which manages to be surprising and unexpectedly emotional at times, with some great twists.

Of course combat is frequent and here too the game excels, featuring meaty, satisfying fighting mechanics that are customisable and, on occasion, hilarious. There may come a time when knocking down half a dozen blokes with a well-swung bike gets old, but that time has not yet occured.

On the downside some of the side content can become a little wearying. Some of the side, and even main, missions get a little fetch questy at times and the new Clan Creator mode feels like an unnecessary complication in a game that’s already chockers with extra content.

Then again that’s another example of the series’ commitment to being its own entity. Is it a brawler, an RPG or a interactive movie? It’s kind of all of those things and more. It’s the type of game that rewards slow, meticulous play so don’t burn yourself out on it. Play for an hour or two a night, and drink in the atmosphere, the tension and the occasionally baffling moments of tonal whiplash.

Yakuza 6: Song of Life is a fascinating, original and engaging experience. Gleefully weird yet utterly compelling, it’s well worth a bash for those seeking something a little bit different and a great jumping on point for Yakuza newbies.

 
View Post

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

After putting a significant amount of time into Kingdom Come: Deliverance one thing has been made painfully clear: being a peasant sucks. Sucks. Powerfully, prolifically and with great alacrity it is just the worst. It probably sucked in every historical period of note over the ages, but it very specifically sucks in the Kingdom of Bohemia, in the year of our Lord 1403. Said location and time period is the setting for Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which thrusts you into the somewhat gormless shoes of Henry, who – within twenty or so minutes of gameplay – has lost his parents, his home, his girlfriend and all hope, thanks to the violent whims of Hungarian king Sigismund, who has sacked the village of his birth.

In an ordinary video game this would be the jumping off point for young Henry to brew up some healing potions, craft himself a big fuck off sword, don some shiny armour and head out into town and get medieval on everyone’s arses. However Kingdom Come is no ordinary video game, for better and for worse.

Funded through a rather excellent kickstarter, Kingdom Come: Deliverance’s mission statement is to give the player as realistic and historically accurate an experience as possible. That means you can easily be killed by any foe, you get hungry and thirsty, you can get sick and die from the ailments if you don’t treat them, and due to your social status things frequently, well, suck.

So before you embark on this game you should be aware that the difficulty level is punishing, saves are limited and extremely rare and the game’s story won’t take you on any wild flights of magical fancy or indulge your desire to feel powerful. It might be played from a first person perspective like Skyrim but this is a very different beast, and about as niche a proposition as can be imagined.

For those of you with a historical bent this may just be just the antidote to the more whimsical, fantastic narratives in The Witcher 3 and the like, however even taking into account the pragmatism of the tale, KC:D has problems. At the time of writing the game is still beset by a galling number of bugs. It’s one thing to be killed in combat due to mismanaging weapons or attack timing, it’s quite another when the game decides your blow didn’t count. Plus floating mid air for no reason or characters morphing into walls, stools and – rather alarming – your own body is a deadset immersion breaker.

That being said, there’s something so fresh and weird about Kingdom Come: Deliverance it’s impossible to dismiss out of hand. In an era where games are often becoming dull, homogenized, beige experiences KC:D stands out as the oddball in the pack. It’s messy and rough around the edges – and good lord it needs some more patching – but there’s an ambition and originality at play here that gives the experience a likable freshness. That said, you’re essentially playing Revolting Peasant Simulator here so proceed accordingly. If rigorous attention to detail isn’t your jam, stay well away. However if a grounded tale sounds like you – then serf’s up, baby!

 
View Post

Shadow of the Colossus

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Shadow of the Colossus is one of those video games that gets talked about in an awed hush as wide-eyed fans tell breathless tales of their first experience with the title. Originally released in 2005 for Playstation 2, the game by developers Team Ico (Ico, The Last Guardian) holds a revered place in the pop cultural pantheon, and with good reason. Shadow is an extraordinary game, mysterious, complex, obtuse and yet somehow emotionally resonant. It’s a dark fairy tale about a young boy, Wander, trying to bring his female companion, Mono, back to life, by killing a bunch of staggeringly massive monsters called colossi.

On the surface said premise sounds a little like this year’s Monster Hunter: World but the titles couldn’t be more different. Whereas Monster Hunter becomes a slash and grind game designed to absorb your precious free time like a hungry maw, Colossus is a shorter, more contemplative experience, which is why it’s often brought up during discussions of video games as art.

Mechanically the game is deceptively simple: you have a sword, a bow and a horse. You can also climb stuff and leap on and off things. Yet even with this small pool of abilities the game manages to change things up to an incredible degree, by forcing you to clamber up the massive colossi – each essentially a living puzzle – and find the hidden way to bring them down.

The news of this HD remaster for PS4 is especially good for people who’ve never played the game. Honestly, if you own a PS4 and haven’t experienced Shadow’s stunningly original charms you need to make this your next purchase. The graphics look superb, especially running on a PS4 Pro, and if you didn’t know this was a remaster you’d absolutely believe the game was a brand new IP, albeit an unusually cheap one at a price point below fifty bucks.

For those of you who have played Shadow of the Colossus before it’s perhaps a little less essential. Don’t get me wrong, the game still stands up and then some, but if you’ve taken this journey a half dozen times before there’s not a lot new waiting for you, other than a beautiful presentation and slightly tweaked controls.

Ultimately Shadow of the Colossus was a near masterpiece in 2005 and it remains so. The remaster does a superb job of bringing the work up to a standard appropriate for modern sensibilities and the story remains strange, sad and a bit wonderful.

 
View Post

Monster Hunter: World

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

In the winter of 2009 I spat on my PSP, deliberately and with malice of forethought. It was a petulant rage spit in the face of a poop-flinging pink gorilla, Congalala, who kept killing me over and over in Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Afterwards, I felt deeply ashamed as I watched the sputum lazily drip off my portable device. I emailed then deputy editor of Official Playstation Magazine (for whom I worked) and renowned spokesperson for “big porridge”, Mark Serrels, telling him of the whole confusing affair. He reacted with sensitivity typical of video game publishing and laughed like a hyena, swiftly informing the whole office of my shame. To this day Mark regularly brings up this story on social media, amusing and bemusing in equal measure.

That, in a roundabout sort of way, brings us to the present day: 2018 and there’s a new Monster Hunter game in town, Monster Hunter: World. It’s been nine years since we last tangled, game franchise, and a lot has changed. Will this be a redemptive experience – my “l33t skillz” now honed on the likes of Dark Souls and Bloodborne – or will be this another case of great expectorations?

Monster Hunter: World is an semi-open world game set in a third person perspective. You assume the role of a mute user-created character who is thrust into a thin but agreeable story involving the appearance of a huge, pseudo-Lovecraftian elder dragon, Zorah Magdaros. The overarching story is really just set dressing, however, as the meat of the game will be about you, your Palico (adorable feline assistant) and your interactions with the less-than-friendly local fauna in the game world. In other words: you’ll be hunting a shitload of monsters, friend.

In fact it can’t be stressed enough that, although there are numerous other tasks to complete, including crafting potions, armour, upgrades, meals and exploring wild, varied environments, the main activity you’ll be partaking in is hunting monsters. Practically, this means you’ll start a quest, search for the monster – using helpful phosphorescent scout flies who will highlight environmental clues and monster tracks – try your best to sneak up on the beastie in question and then wail on that toothy mongrel until it breathes no more. Then you can craft fancy new trousers from its skin, bones and organs and perhaps stitch together that ladybug outfit for your cat. Hey, Claws Kinski looks adorable and you will not judge me!

Happily the combat mechanics are well-honed and surprisingly nuanced, with over 14 weapons at your disposal, all of which have distinct play styles and multiple options for upgrading, plus additional skill trees. In my 40 hours of playtime I reckon I’ve got my head around three weapons tops, with many more enticing offerings on display.

In fact the main negative that can be levelled at Monster Hunter: World is its dizzying array of systems, weapons, upgrades, crafting, armour, exploration, side quests, safaris, endgame and lore may be a trifle too dense and exhaustingly complex for casual players. Happily that’s where the “world” part of Monster Hunter: World comes into play, because you can team up with three other hunters in epic beast-battlin’ sessions to learn the tricks of the trade. Playing with others is a hoot, because even though the difficulty scales higher with more players, the ability to communicate with friends or even strangers – allows you welcome moments of respite where you can sharpen your weapon or neck a Mega Potion, which is absolutely key in overcoming the game’s tougher critters.

And make no mistake, although Monster Hunter: World is the most accessible in the franchise to date, some of those battles are as tough as nails, requiring patience, skill, timing and a cool head. It’s not quite Dark Souls-level of difficulty, but it can get tense and a bit dispiriting if you cark it after 30+ minutes of battle. That said, this makes the (hopefully) eventual victory all the more satisfying and the stuff gaming memories are made of. After all, victories are rarely memorable if they just get handed to you.

Another fantastic element of Monster Hunter: World is the various ecosystems you can explore. From the Ancient Forest (trees) to the Widlespire Waste (desert) and the absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful Coral Highlands (Avatar!) the game delivers environments that feel alive and brimming with secrets. Hang around for a bit and you’ll see epic battles between two, sometimes three enormous monsters that occur organically and can lead to some truly awe-inspiring moments. Of course similar events happen during hunts, which can be maddening depending on the circumstance. Put simply there’s nothing predictable here and the game cleverly changes the stakes as you progress through the story and increase your Hunter Rank.

Ultimately, Monster Hunter: World is a strange but utterly engaging experience. The juxtaposition of gritty (hard as balls killer monsters!) and adorable (kitty chefs doing a dance while they make your food!) really cements the uniquely Japanese style, which may cause tonal whiplash for some. However if you can embrace both the harder sections and innate goofiness, there’s a profoundly rewarding experience waiting for you, featuring a gameplay loop with a surprising amount of depth and living, breathing environments that are a delight to explore.

Oh, and although I have punched the couch and swore so loudly the cat got the shits and left the room, after 40 hours of play? Still haven’t spat on the telly. So, you know, personal growth and that, eh.

 
View Post

Star Wars Battlefront II

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

In 2015 Star Wars Battlefront released to muted reception. On the one hand you had a title that faithfully recreated big battles from the beloved franchise set in a galaxy far, far away. On the other, the game was almost shockingly devoid of content, lacking anything even resembling a single player campaign, and seemed custom designed to sell players the DLC; where the allegedly “good” content was hidden.

The general consensus was, the game had good inside it, but had slipped too far over to the Dark Side. “Perhaps in the sequel,” we said, optimistically, “perhaps they’ll get it right in the sequel.”

Cut to 2017 and Star Wars Battlefront II is here and… well, shit, there’s a lot to unpack.

First up, let’s focus on the positive. Star Wars Battlefront II is a beautiful-looking game. It features massive multiplayer online battles and a solid, albeit slightly truncated and unambitious single player campaign. Also the flying mechanics are much improved and the actual stellar battles in Star Wars are good for once. If you’re an adult with a few mates keen to shoot online, then this is a good time, especially if you can grab it during the post-Christmas sales.

On the negative side? The game’s a mess. Not mechanically, mind you, some early onset server issues aside the game works well but the title’s progression system, the grind, is an absolutely broken, baffling clusterfuck. See, originally EA had most of the game’s content hidden behind loot crates that you – the player – receives for playing the game. These loot crates would deliver crafting materials, skins, and Star Cards. The latter of these can be used to upgrade character’s traits or weapons and unlock heroes like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Originally this progression could be hugely assisted by purchasing loot crates directly – in other words, paying real world money on top of the hundred bucks you’d already dropped on the thing.

The public outcry to this pay-to-win fiasco was prolific and emphatic, so much so that EA has (at time of writing) disabled microtransactions in the game. However even without this rather insidious brand of incentivised gambling the progression in Battlefront II is an exercise in confusing tedium. Really enjoy playing as Assault Class and want to upgrade as you play? Tough shit, the loot boxes are full of randomised gear, most of which you won’t ever use. This leads the experience feeling hollow and strangely unrewarding, as opposed to Destiny 2 which is almost too generous with the loot (which is a conversation for another day).

It’s genuinely sad that a review of Star Wars Battlefront II has to feature so much gear about EA’s shonky practices, but it’s a spectre that hangs over the title. This game should have been a lay down misere, a hugely popular franchise you can play with your mates and have a few laughs. Instead we’re left with a compromised and unfulfilling experience that may be patched or reconfigured in the future, but right now this is probably not the game you’re looking for.

 

 
View Post

Hidden Agenda

Game, Home, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Supermassive Games caught the attention of gamers and genre movie fans alike with Until Dawn, a title that played like an interactive slasher flick complete with numerous endings, splattery deaths and a clear affection for trashy 80s cinema. Hidden Agenda is their newest attempt at an interactive movie and this time they’ve gone all serial killer thriller, and the results are pretty good.

Hidden Agenda has you, the player or players, assuming the roles of homicide detective, Becky Marney and district attorney, Felicity Graves. These two are trying to reveal the truth behind a gruesome serial killer known as The Trapper, who comes off like a low rent Jigsaw with a penchant for creating grisly traps and killing first responders.

Unlike Until Dawn you won’t be using the controller to move your characters around the map, rather utilising the PlayLink app you’ll make dialogue choices, search rooms and complete light puzzles and quick time events with your phone. The added twist is that you can play with a group – a kind of democratised storytelling where majority rules on the decisions made. Picture Telltale Games by vote and you’ve got the general idea. It’s an interesting concept and one that benefits from three or more players, as anything else feels a tad redundant.

The story itself is quite brief, coming in around two hours, with a heavy emphasis on replaying to get better or just different endings. It’s a great idea let down a little by a script that doesn’t quite work and technical oddities where the decision you make, say to answer something sarcastically, doesn’t quite line up with what the character is doing on screen.

That said, a group of film savvy, sarcastic (and perhaps drunk) friends will have a hell of a time mocking the characters and each other as they strive to uncover the villain’s… obfuscated motive.