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Uncharted: The Lost Legacy

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When Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End came out last year it was an epic, emotional goodbye to one of video game’s most-beloved protagonists, Nathan Drake. It was also, it has to be said, frequently a little redundant, retreading familiar territory – both in the narrative and gameplay. This isn’t a bad thing when we’re talking about a series as compulsively enjoyable as the Uncharted games, but it did mean developer Naughty Dog needed to bring something new to the table with standalone adventure, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

So did they succeed? Yes and no. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy features one obvious and major change: new protagonists. This time around players will be thrust into the shoes of fan-favourite character, Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) – the smart arse Aussie/Indian treasure hunter who has teamed up with Nadine Ross (Laura Bailey) – the South African former mercenary and general bad arse.

This classic funny/square team up is the biggest joy of The Lost Legacy. Experiencing the growing friendship between Chloe and Nadine as they explore India, looking for the legendary tusk of Ganesh, is well-written and quite emotional at times. Chloe gets to be more than just a quip-machine and Nadine has layers only hinted at in her time in Uncharted 4. During the 6-8 hour playthrough I found myself genuinely invested in these two characters and their relationship to one another.

I was, however, somewhat less invested in the combat. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy features combat that is basically a cut and paste of Uncharted 4, which isn’t bad – but hasn’t improved. The gunplay still feels a tad imprecise and taking cover can be fiddly. That’s not to say there aren’t spectacular moments – they’re numerous – but in Uncharted’s quest to be an action blockbuster you can play, some of the finer gameplay touches are lost.

That said, the exploration and treasure hunting is excellent as always. Descending into Indian ruins is as atmospheric and intriguing as anything Uncharted has ever offered. The puzzles are clever enough to be a challenge but not obtuse enough to cause any real frustration. The plot moves along at a fair clip – and features one particularly enjoyable open area where you can tackle objectives at your own pace, unlocking optional secrets and even meeting some friendly monkeys! Nadine loves monkeys, you guys.

Ultimately Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is a leaner, more-focused standalone expansion worthy of the series’ reputation. The graphics are utterly, insanely gorgeous, the lead characters believable and likable and the story has enough twists and turns to keep you engaged for the duration.

 

 
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Agents of Mayhem

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Your enjoyment of Agents of Mayhem really boils down to one question: are you a fan of Saturday morning cartoons? As a youngster – or, hell, a full grown person – did/do you thrill to the slightly generic, safe violence of G.I. Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Transformers? If no, then Mayhem will cause you to roll your eyes and sigh loudly, a lot. If yes, then we have much to discuss.

Agents of Mayhem is set in a futuristic Seoul, South Korea. MAYHEM is actually an acronym for Multinational Agency Hunting Evil Masterminds, and it’s up to you – playing as twelve different heroes (fourteen with pre-order) – to stop LEGION aka League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations.

If the above paragraph sounds like insane nonsense to you, congratulations – you are correct. Agents of Mayhem is a powerfully silly story, but where it shines is with the heroes themselves. You can team up said protagonists into groups of three and switch them on the fly. Personally I enjoyed a team consisting of Daisy the alcoholic derby girl with a Gatling gun, Oni the insane, serial-killing former Yakuza who fights with fear and a silenced pistol and Braddock, a tough-as-nails former military lady who brings the pain and airstrikes. However most combinations can be effective, and unlocking each of the new characters and experimenting with them is a great deal of fun. The variety of characters you can choose from is such that even if you find half a dozen of them annoying – and you will probably will – there are likely just as many you’ll kind of dig.

The first ten or so hours of AOM are fantastic, you’ll unlock characters, defeat boss enemies, investigate underground bases and slowly take Seoul back. The problem is at around the halfway point the game stops evolving in any meaningful way. It’s still fun, mind you, but the repetition becomes a little deadening after a while and Volition’s trademark humour becomes less edgy and more annoying-younger-brother-on-a-sugar-high as time goes on.

Enemy variety is also a little disappointing, as you end up fighting the same faceless, generic robo-soldiers over and over. If one were to be particularly kind one might suggest it’s a knowing homage to the cartoons that pulled similar crap in the 1980s, but even if that’s the case it still doesn’t make it any more engaging.

Those caveats aside, Agents of Mayhem is a lot of dumb fun. The run-and-gun gameplay is an absolute joy and triple jumping around the huge (albeit somewhat lifeless) map never stops being a blast. Like the disposable Saturday morning cartoons it seeks to emulate, Agents of Mayhem is a slight, goofy good time that offers colour and movement but it’s unlikely to leave a lasting impression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Diablo III: Rise of the Necromancer

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A corridor full of slavering monsters greets me as I enter the dark crypt. They’re not much for formalities and charge forward, an ungainly horde of teeth, claws and homicidal intent. I sweep my hands over the ground, raising bloody spikes from the floor to impale my foes. They die badly, screaming and baying. Another wave of enemies approaches and this time I conjure the corpses of the first wave to rise, rise and attack their living compatriots…

Rise of the Necromancer is Diablo III’s first major content drop since 2014’s Reaper of Souls expansion. Gallingly, it doesn’t add any story content, but as the name suggests it does introduce a class new to Diablo III: the Necromancer.

The good news is the Necromancer is one of the best classes in the game, hewing closest to the Witch Doctor in terms of skills, but otherwise quite unique. Turning corpse piles into vengeful spiders or spears, summoning wraiths to do your bidding and literally raising the dead from the bloodied battlefield to fight alongside you feels wonderfully morbid and shockingly powerful. Fans of Diablo’s darker, gothic aesthetic will really dig on this class, and the many combinations of powers you can equip on your way to level 70 and beyond.

The bad news is that there’s no new story content in which to launch your brand spanking new necromancer, making the $21.95 price tag feel a little steep. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a regular Diablo III crew running Greater Rifts you’ve probably already purchased this bad boy and are enjoying it mightily. If, however, you’re looking for the next sizable chunk of content to make Diablo III feel brand new, you’ll likely be a little disappointed.

Ultimately Rise of the Necromancer is lots of fun, but a little slight. Still, this is a game released in 2012 that still manages to feel engaging and addictive, so maybe it’s time to jump back in and desecrate a few corpses.

 
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Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy

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Sit down, youngin’, and let us tell you a tale of yesteryear. Twas a time called the 1990s. The fashion was grunge, the movies were talky and the internet was dial-up. Mascots were all the range on consoles. Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic and the PlayStation… well, the humble PlayStation featured the adventures of a gurning, cross-eyed bandicoot named Crash…

Yes, the wave of remasters continues, following on from Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, The BioShock Collection and WipeOut: The Omega Collection, we now have Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, which features remasters of the PS1 classic platformers.

The plot, such as it is, features Crash – a genetically engineered bandicoot in jean shorts – who has to stop the evil plans of the nefarious Dr. Cortex (a scenery-chewing mad scientist) with the help of sentient tribal mask, Aku Aku and sister, Coco. How does Crash accomplish this? By making his way through various themed levels of platforming of increasingly difficulty, of course! This was a game made in the ’90s and that’s how we solved things back then.

Nostalgic reboots like this can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Certainly Vicarious Visions have done a spectacular job of making that which is old look superbly slick and new again, but the gameplay of the Crash trilogy – particularly the first entry – has not aged terribly well. The controls are a tad clunky and lack a fine precision, making a number of sections more than a little frustrating. That said the second and third entries – Cortex Strikes Back and Warped, respectively – are impossibly charming in parts, with the goofy music, colourful graphics and silly animations causing grins and indulgent chuckles in equal measure.

If you can remember playing Crash back in the day, and those memories are fond, you’ll likely have a good time with the N. Sane Trilogy. It’s slight, simple and silly but that’s kind of why we liked it in the first place. Newcomers to the character, however, may be slightly baffled as to the appeal and then go and “dab” or go to a “planking party” off their heads on “the Molly”. Get off my damn lawn, you whippersnappers!

 
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Farpoint VR

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My breath is hitching in and out, my palms sweaty, but I dare not loosen the grip on my gun. It’s kept me alive… so far. I’ve fought through waves of tiny spider-like creatures, goop-spitting monsters and large, armoured crustaceans using a combination of machine gun, shotgun, guided rockets and grenades. I approach a massive cave entrance and hear a hideous, screeching from within. Then something starts making its way out of the darkness. It’s so huge the ground around me trembles. I aim my gun upwards and wait for the beast to approach…

This is Farpoint, the new PSVR game that seeks to fulfill the role of killer app, and mostly succeeds. The premise is a simple one: during a routine transport in space you and some scientists you’re meant to be helping get sucked into a massive space anomaly. You land on an uncharted planet and have to save the scientists and yourself.

This is all a rather generic sci-fi premise, and were Farpoint a typical First Person Shooter, it’d barely register. However Farpoint is VR, with the snazzy Aim Controller, so it’s a whole new world of immersive shooting. When the spiders start crawling down the walls, or alien snipers shoot at you from afar – you’ll be living every second of it, the entirety of your peripheral vision taken up with sandy vistas, luminescent caverns or ruined spaceship hulks. The graphics are crisp and steady, the audio intense and all encompassing and the feel of the gunplay is tight and responsive. It’s not quite at Destiny-levels of firearm satisfaction, but in terms of VR it’s utterly unmatched.

The Aim ControllerFarpoint is intense. So intense, in fact, you’ll probably only play for an hour or two at a time, considerably lengthening its 5-7 hour playtime. There are also challenge modes and a decent number of co-op missions to add value. There are so many well-executed set pieces in the game, you’ll feel like you’re living a Blu-Ray box set’s worth of trashy, but engaging, sci-fi movies. The story falters in places, however, and the difficulty level is surprisingly high, which may turn off some VR casuals. That said, the boss fights in particular are extremely satisfying to complete and give a genuine sense of accomplishment. That big cave-dweller in the opening paragraph? Epic victory earned the hard way.

On a personal note I did frequently sweat during my playtime, but never felt the lurching nausea that unfortunately accompanied Resident Evil VII’s VR mode. The Aim Controller is lightweight, responsive and feels good in your hands. Here’s hoping developers will contribute more games to support the hardware.

Ultimately Farpoint is perfect for early adopters of PSVR but is it a system seller? Honestly, when combined with Star Trek: Bridge Crew VRit’s certainly making the fancy peripheral a hell of a lot more appealing. If a VR sci-fi shooter sounds like your kind of thing, then Farpoint is a bullseye.

 
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Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR

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The Klingon Warbird decloaks before me and the heroic crew of USS Aegis. They don’t look friendly. I give the order to scan.

“They’re arming torpedoes!” Helmsman Jase yells.

“Should I raise shields, Captain?” Asks Tactician Adam.

“Give ‘em both barrels, boys! Fair up the clack!” I growl, all manly and tough-sounding.

The torpedoes shoot from the ship, streaking towards the Warbird. Direct hit! But the Warbird’s still moving, and two more have decloaked either side of us.

“Well… shit.” I mutter as enemy torpedoes blast towards us.

”Raise shields, chuck a doughie and get us the fark out of here!” I shout, hoping against hope we’ll be able to warp to safety in time.

Today may indeed be a good day to die… because, after all, we can just try the mission again.

Welcome to Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR – the new Ubisoft VR game that may be the killer app the PSVR needs. The premise is simple: you’re part of the bridge crew of either the USS Aegis or The Original Series’ version of the Enterprise. With three other friends you can occupy the engineering, helm, tactical or the captain’s chair.

Your enjoyment of Bridge Crew is dependent on two major factors. The first: mates. You’re going to need them, preferably three (to fill all four seats), although you can manage with a three-person crew. The second: Star Trek. How do you feel about it? While you by no means need to be a superfan (I’m certainly not), having some familiarity with the show will definitely add to the enjoyment of the game.

The five main story missions are of a decent size, and offer a mounting challenge, with mission 4 in particular being a white-knuckle ride. There’s also a mode that randomises events so you can keep playing long after the story is done. You can also access a set-accurate version of ToS’ bridge but it’s an absolute confusing nightmare, and for hardcore trekkies only.

The graphics are solid, if occasionally a tad clunky, the sound design is excellent and the mechanics of the game are smart and strategic in ways that give the proceedings a lot of depth. But ultimately, it’s the social interaction with you and your mates that gives Star Trek: Bridge Crew its feeling of joyous escapism. You’re taking fire from some enemies, so do your raise shields or run? You’re hidden in an anomaly, do you leave it to rescue the federation vessel or continue hiding to stay safe? You’re beaming survivors aboard but an attack begins – do you stop beaming to save yourself or take the damage heroically? All of these hard questions and more will be answered – often very swearily – in real time by you and your crewmates.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR is a hoot with friends, although not much fun by yourself. The clever interaction of crew roles is such a fresh take on familiar material and offers hours of genuinely exciting, thoughtful exploration and tense battles. The one negative here is: what about The Next Generation-era Trek or even Voyager? Battling Borg with your buds would be a hoot and we can only hope for future DLC.

In the meantime, however, if you have sci-fi savvy mates and either PC or PSVR – you need Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR in your life. Make it so.

 
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Injustice 2

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You’ve heard the argument at school, in comic book shops and on internet forums. Which hero would win in a fight? Batman vs Superman, Catwoman vs Wonder Woman, Green Lantern vs a terrible movie adaptation – who will be triumphant? Thanks to Injustice 2, the latest fighting game from NetherRealm Studios, you can answer the question in real time, in your lounge room; pants optional.

Injustice 2 is the sequel to 2013’s Injustice: God’s Among Us, and continues the tale of divided superheroes and villains, and the arenas in which they beat the shit out of one another. The original game was a good time, but if you’d rather gargle a tankard full of razor blades and ground glass than subject yourself to the shrieky, nightmarish experience of combat games online, it had a limited shelf life.

Happily, Injustice 2 offers an embarrassment of riches in terms of content. To begin with there’s the 4-6 hour story campaign, in which you control a rotating roster of heroes and villains, ultimately siding with team Bats or Supes. The story is a bit of a goof to be honest, with some wince-inducing dialogue and outrageously contrived premises for fights. That said it is gorgeously cinematic and features fantastic voice actors like A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund aka Freddy Krueger as Scarecrow and Re-Animator’s Jeffrey Combs aka Doctor Herbert West (!) as Brainiac.

Once you’ve completed the campaign there’s still plenty left to do. If you’re a glutton for punishment – or just spectacularly good at fighting games – you can head online to punch on with your fellow gamers. If you’re less proactive, but still want some sweet, sweet loot, you can enter AI battles with other players where the game plays out the matches for you – and you reap the lazy benefits.

However the jewel in the crown of Injustice 2 is Multiverse mode. This is a mode that features a number of temporary alternate realities, where you’ll fight various foes, at different levels of difficulty, with modifiers changing the way you play. The modifiers might feature flaming assistance from John Constantine, or perhaps the map will tilt back and forth like a seesaw, or poison bombs fall from the sky. The more you fight the more you’ll level up (towards the cap of 20) and grind for loot, which drops in Mother Boxes of various flavours. Naturally you’ll want to upgrade your preferred characters as you can then take them into tougher Multiverses and get even more fancy defence-boosting-trousers or strength-enhancing tiaras. You can also customise the numerous clothing options of your characters, so get ready to spend a lot of time cosplaying on screen.

Quite honestly this could, and in fact should, feel like a grind but when the combat mechanics are so tight and well-honed it’s hard to complain. The spectre of micro-transactions does enter into the proceedings somewhat, but can be ignored with no detriment to your enjoyment.

Ultimately Injustice 2 is one of the most consistently engaging, enjoyable and surprising fighting games in years. It takes everything that was great about Injustice: Gods Among Us and makes it faster, prettier and deeper. If you’re even vaguely interested in fighting games, DC superheroes or grinding for gear, Injustice 2 will give your free time a highly-addictive kicking and leave you begging for more.

 
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The Surge

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The “Dark Souls-like” sub genre has been booming of late. Indie charmer Salt and Sanctuary (2D Souls) was followed by the excellent Nioh (Feudal Japan Souls) and now we have The Surge, which could be broadly described as exoskeleton Souls… in the future!

The story opens with a cleverly executed sequence, where the protagonist, Warren, is revealed to be in a wheelchair, quietly maneuvering himself to an augmentation station to have an exoskeleton installed. Naturally the installation doesn’t go smoothly, taking place at the same time as some initially unspecified catastrophe, and the hero of the hour wakes up in a very different world. Certainly you’re now ambulatory, thanks to the exo, but now it seems the machines have risen and are ready to kill their meat puppet masters.

In classic Souls style, The Surge has more of a premise than a story; with details of the world sketched out via environmental cues and audio logs you can find along the way. The game’s opening hours are very evocative as you test the limits of your combat against smaller robots and other exo-suited foes. Horizontal and vertical attacks can be used to defeat enemies and combine for some appealingly chunky combos. You can focus your attacks on limbs, heads or bodies – either going for the weak spot for an easy kill, or ripping off a well-armoured arm or leg to gain a weapon or upgrade. It’s a cool, albeit grisly, way to advance your character’s progress but sadly it’s the only truly fresh idea on offer here.

The rest of The Surge is classic Souls. You’ll explore an area, fight foes, collect Tech scrap to level up or upgrade armour/weapons and, of course, if you die you’ll lose everything and need to pick up your dropped gear up within a short time limit. Problems arise when you start facing bosses, the heart of any good Souls clone. They’re simply not very interesting when compared to the glowering beasties from Dark Souls, Bloodborne or even Nioh. Plus the mission areas, particularly in the first half of the game, suffer from a sameness that makes exploration less exciting. When combined with the game’s seeming delight in making you grind for your supper, The Surge occasionally feels like a slog.

That said, there are joys to be found in The Surge’s dystopian future. When the aesthetic works it feels very compelling, in a strange sci-fi/horror hybrid kind of way. The combat is mostly satisfying, with some spectacularly bloody finishing moves, and the overall experience is engaging, although nowhere near the level of quality of the games it shamelessly apes.

If you want a tough-as-guts Souls-like experience but find dragons and monsters overplayed, and feudal Japan does not appeal, then perhaps The Surge will exo-suit you.