Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam – Let’s Play


Yesterday, we previewed Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam, the early access Steam game by author Christopher Brookmyre and RedBedlam. Today we bring you something a little extra.

Sean has recorded a whole first level play through of Bedlam on his Mac… That’s right, Mac. So regardless of your computing choice, you can play!  There are two levels in the early access and there will be more coming so keep checking back on it. It’s currently available on Steam for £12.99.

For those who don’t know what it is, Bedlam is a independently produced UK game involving several generations of first person shooter inspirations. It’s funny, great to play and… Well we won’t spoil the entire video for you. Suffice to say that the video does contain some colourful language from the story. So people, you have been warned, this video is not safe for work.

If you enjoy this, Sean will also record the second level too, which you’ll see a glimpse of at the end of the video.

So settle back and relax. It’s time to enjoy Bedlam.

P.S. Sean takes no responsibility in how bad he is at playing video games. Feel free to comment and tell him so.





World of Warships – Preview

wow ft World of Warships is the latest offering from Wargaming, the mad geniuses behind the free to play successes World of Tanks and World of Warplanes. This time they’ve taken to the water and while we were at Gamescom, we managed to get hands on with the game and was guided through it by producer Mike Fedorov. The BigWorld engine has created some wonderful graphics. Aside from the ship detail, the world around it is just as good looking. The water, whilst not yet complete, looks amazingly fluid and responsive to everything around it. Apparently it’s going to get better and more transparent come beta release so that’s even better. The sky is just as good. Apparently members of the public were asked to tell the difference between real world skies and skies in game. Some people pointed out what they thought was the real sky. They were actually all in game, so if it can fool people then you know it looks good. The atmosphere that the engine provides is vital to World of Warships given the lack of land based battle. If you don’t feel immersed in the areas then you won’t get as in to the game and if you’ve played World of Tanks, you know that authenticity is one of the things they pride themselves on. That is no different with the warships either. This time you’ll have two nations to start, Japan and the USA, expanding to include the British, Soviet and French if not more in future. The game will run ships from the turn of the 20th century as far forward as they can. Meaning that you’ll have effectively 120 years worth of naval military history to play with. Although it’s not going to be a complete recollection of this, you won’t have whole lines of ships, but you’ll have enough ships of historical relevance to be completely lost in. wow 2 The ships fall in to four basic classes. The biggest ones being the airplane carrier and Battleship, both of which suffer from low manoeuvrability but have ridiculously big guns for flak and shelling everything in your path. The middle class is the cruiser. They are also armed with flak cannons but has a weaker defence. It also have more precise gunnery so you can sharpshoot any weak points of your enemy, if you so happen to know them. The final class, the one we played with, was the Destroyer. A small, snappy vessel with small guns but armed enough to do damage and with quick manoeuvrability. What’s so good about the detail in these? Everything. They look fantastic and each ship has around 500,000 polygons. Even a gun turret contains more polygons than a single tank did in World of Tanks. They also evolve, being historic and subject to changing design and accompaniment over the years. So if a ship had some new guns installed between World War One and World War Two then that will be reflected in the ship in game as well. The team of historical advisors, as with anyone with a passing interest in military history, are meticulous. The blueprints for the ships have been used along with archive material and pictures from all throughout history to get everything just right. There are even “paper ships”. These are ships that were never actually constructed but their blueprints were drawn up. Consider it history plus. Just like World of Tanks, World of Warships is very easy to control. A simple WASD format will speed the ship up or down whilst turning port or starboard. The mouse controls the direction of your fire as well as shooting. You will also have additional buttons to change your gun rounds from normal to armour piercing and when it comes to torpedoes, you have a secondary sight guide. The guiding of you shot is trickier than a lot of games like this. You will have to accommodate that not only are you moving at a rate of knots but so is your enemy. You effectively have to judge how far ahead your shot needs to be. This gets even trickier when you’re firing torpedoes as ships can alter course and you’ll miss. This is made even MORE tricker by the fact that you are moving and you need to pay attention to where you’re going at the same time, or else collide with some land or another ship. Thankfully there is a navigational map where you can plot your courses if you want to take that particular element out of the equation. As long as you don’t blow your allies up. Friendly fire is always on and might land you in a bit of trouble if you’re not careful. wow1 At the moment the game is in Alpha and the Beta is expected before the end of the year. As opposed to World of Tanks, Warships adds a bit more of a tactical dimension given the nature of the warfare arena you’re playing in. Everything from missing a jut of rock to working out where that sonar beep is coming from telling you of your impending doom. Finally you have to be very mindful of your allies and enemies given how the area is not as closed compared to World of Tanks. It will be a lot easier to make a mistake and blow up one of your friendly escorts. But that challenge is one I suspect regular players will rise to and champion, along with drawing other new players to it as well. Just before we played the game, I remarked that the last naval warfare game I had played was the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis) game 688 Attack Sub. A game that whilst frustrating was also very tactically nuanced and reminded me a lot of Crimson Tide and The Hunt for Red October. Since then, I haven’t really found a naval game that really gripped me or that I found myself playing. Even the Battlefield naval missions didn’t really hit that level of challenge enough for me to be truly gripped. I get the feeling that World of Warships may well solve that missing whole in my gaming experience. [divider]   [divider] [author]

Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam – Preview

bedlam ft

I had heard about Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam before I went to Gamescom. I am a writer, I write and as such I end up following the printed prose form and its news. So to hear that a book and a game had been created by the Scottish author, I was naturally intrigued. I’d also been hankering for something for a while. I wanted a game that was like Quake. I’ve been missing the fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of my youth in the mid to late 90s. I know there’s Quake Live but I’m sure you can guess what I mean.

Meeting Christopher at Gamescom along with Nick Witcher from RedBedlam who has made the game put a whole new perspective in to which for me to wax lyrical over. Normally books about video games come in the form of tie-ins or licensed works, with the exception of Ready Player One. Bedlam however is very different. What’s clear about the game is how much the two entities, prose and code, are in tandem. Whilst not necessitating having to read the book before you play or visa versa. But you can of course do both.


The story behind it is that Nick, a fan of Brookmyre’s work, noticed something in his novel Pandemonium that hinted at Christopher’s history as an appreciator of video games that was the way his characters were organised in to clans, much like first person shooter gaming clans. Nick himself was quite the Counterstrike player so it was quite easy for him to spot. This led to Nick emailing Christopher to ask if he wanted to make a video game. Lots of communications later (and apparently a few ‘creative’ binges between Glasgow and Brighton) an idea was forged.

Christopher’s gaming love came from playing lots of games but this focus was on his first person appreciation of Quake, Quake 2, Unreal and the like. Those fast moving, gameplay driven first person shooters that used to occupy so much of his time in the mid to late 90s… You sense a theme here. The staff at RedBedlam grew up playing games like Doom and Wolfenstein. So you can see where this is heading.

So enough about the history? What about the game? Well it is currently on Steam Early Access with the first two levels available. The first of which you can see on our special preview video coming shortly. It plays like a Quake or an Unreal game. But that is only the first part of this game. The game itself, along with the book has become a homage to the first person shooter genre and especially its history. Whilst you’ll see the first level has the element of that futuristic space shooter it is a lot deeper than that. Plus it is very important to point that this isn’t a port or a clone so to completely create not only a game that can replicate the mid 90s FPS genre but others as well in the same engine and controls, it is incredibly impressive. You can tell the research that went in to playing the games they are inspired by to recapture that feeling was well spent.

There will be many ages of games seen from the first person perspective in Bedlam. Inspired by the likes of Elder Scrolls, Call of Duty and even Pac-Man, the game successfully makes you feel like you are in the games of a certain era. The has to go down to the incredible art direction of the game. The level design and the style of the detail both in the textures and in the weaponry (which is interchangeable between each era) are excellent and really evoke that nostalgia whilst making you enjoy what you are currently playing just as much as any of the games it takes inspiration from.

bedlam 2


Speaking of inspiration, we have to discuss the writing. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and the dialogue, voiced by BBC comedy Burnistoun’s Kirsty Strain and Robert Florence (along with some extra from Christopher Brookmyre) takes its inspiration from Science Fiction comedy legends such a Doug Naylor and Rob Grant’s Red Dwarf and Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide stories. There is a very traditional and stoic British humour about it which not only adds to the aura of the game and the tropes of the time they were made, but also adds a great and entertaining story element.

To dismiss Bedlam as a clone of the 90s FPS genre would be a terrible disservice. There is a lot of love that has been put in to creating this game from people that love gaming of all ages and times. It isn’t just a jog down memory lane but a new and welcome addition to the history of the genre that has transported itself across mediums. I can’t wait until it’s finished.


Bedlam Screen 1Bedlam Screen 2Bedlam Screen 3Bedlam Screen 4Bedlam Screen 5Bedlam Screen 6Bedlam Screen 7Bedlam Screen 8Bedlam Screen 9Bedlam Screen 10Bedlam Screen 11Bedlam Screen 12Bedlam Screen 13Bedlam Screen 14



Lego Batman 3 Beyond Gotham – Interview

lb3 ft

While we were at Gamescom, we got to have a look at Lego Batman 3 Beyond Gotham. The next instalment in the DC universe from TT Games and Warner Bros does exactly what the name suggests, goes beyond Gotham City. You will be travelling in to space to save the Earth from Brainiac and visiting far flung planets along the way to add new and interesting environments to the normally dark gothic concrete palette of Gotham. I managed to have a chat with Philip Ring, an executive producer with TT Games and talk about the upcoming chapter in the DC Lego universe.


The universe is greatly expanding with the introduction of space flight missions, reminiscent of the Star Wars franchise, and a whole host of new characters, which is what Philip says they were trying to achieve.

“We really wanted to big on the DC content this time around, add a whole host of new characters, new locations, new gameplay styles even with the space combat and VR missions. Just really cram this game with as much content as we can.”

LB3 3

The content is indeed huge with over 115 characters including Beast Boy, Plastic Man, Catwoman, Bat Cow accompanying the traditional set of our caped crusaders and, my personal favourite, a complete remaining of the 1960s television Batman with levels, characters and Adam West voicing the titular character! TO THE BATCAVE! I asked how good it’s been to have been given the freedom of so many great franchises.

“It’s been absolutely fantastic. We’ve been so privileged to work with the franchises that we have and to go back and really dig in to the DC world. We started off with the Batman story arc and DC have been fantastic that we’ve got that freedom to do things like the 1960s level and the bonus content that comes with that like the speech, Adam West giving a voice over for it, and the modern universe too.”


Of course this isn’t just the television universe or the movie universe in the game, this time it’s going deep in to the lore of the DC universe.

“We have massive DC fans in the office so as soon as the design team start looking at what to include, everyone comes out with “I love this character, I want to include this” and so we’ve got everyone chipping in with the kind of content we’d like to include. And we listen to what the fans like to see. So when Blue Beetle and Beast Boy gets the kind of reaction from what the people want to see, we want to include that in this big DC experience.”

lb3 1

The release date is close but there’s no sign of the development of the game stopping until the very last minute. Not because it’s not ready, but because TT keep finding things they want to put in the game.

“We’re really still putting stuff in and we really want to make it the best experience it can possibly be. So the whole team is still working and people are still coming up with ideas which you think ‘That’s too cool not to include’ so we’re constantly revisiting and adapting to make it really special.”


So does that mean there will be DLC if they run out of time to get it all in to the main game?

“Who knows? We’re really focusing on making sure the game is the best it possible can be. If there was something we wish we could of included or that didn’t really fit in to the main game then maybe we will do it further down the line.”


Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham will be released on PS3, PS4, PSVita, Xbox 360, Xbox One, WiiU, 3DS, Mobile and PC on 14th November in the UK and three days earlier in the US.


Tanki Online HD – Preview

tanki hd ft

Russia had quite a big presence at this year’s Gamescom and you might be forgiven for not even hearing of Tanki Online in Western Europe. However over 40 million people are registered to it across the globe and have been smashing other people in their browsers since 2009. In 2015 though, the game is going HD.

The premise is one that we have become familiar with other the past few years of browser based warfare gaming, you battle in tanks against other players in an arena to gain XP and earn in game currency to improve and customise your tank. The familiarity of such a game may be obvious to those of you who know of Wargaming and other such companies. Tanki however does offer something slightly different.

tanki hd 1

The casual nature of these games has been seized upon here and rather than attention to detail and the long deep research in to the history of a WW2 Panzerkamphwagen IV and its every nuance, Tanki provides a lot more of a pick up and play approach. There isn’t the historical or military enthusiast satiation here. Instead your selection is very simple and the weaponry more open to imaginative interpretation.

Catch up complete, the game is moving from its humble browser capacity now and taking its route on the path of Unity. The development version I played was still in a very early stage and is expected to roll out some time in 2015 but it does look good for a free-to-play game and is interesting to see how the Unity engine (of which I saw a lot of games beginning to use) can be adapted to multiplayer online gaming without demanding serious system power. The plans for Tanki Online with it are also quite ambitious, although that is made easier by the casual nature of the game.

The thing is with Tanki is it depends what kind of gamer you are as to whether you would play it. It is essentially a simple game and the Unity engine would help it to expand out of the browser to other platforms which is probably going to be more essential for its planned expansion to the UK and other new markets. Dedicated in game chat, friends lists, social networking are coming to the game as well as graphics and the Unity engine would allow very easy portability. The game modes would be the same across all versions such as your standard deathmatch, team deathmatch and capture points modes. There will also be the 50+ maps with environmental snow controls, paint jobs and absolutely no AI players are intended to make this game a different slice of pie to the already available options.

The social side of it is already well underway in Russia where the game is already integrated into Russia’s VK network and with a big effort of it being integrated in to Facebook as well. Which means that the game runs directly from the social network itself rather than linked to a site like Bigpoint and the like. The social side of it is important to developer AlternativePlatform due to how far reaching the games popularity is. There is quite the following in Brazil and in South America, as well as Eastern Europe.

tanki hd 2

The thing with Tanki Online is that, speaking for what I know of the UK market, it will be a very hard nut to crack over here. Gamers in this country, whilst they like the casual nature of some games, might not take to this. Despite the graphical improvements, there are already a lot of options that are already established quite well like Wargaming’s various offerings, on multiple formats and the majority of gamers in this country are likely to spend more of their time on the industry dubbed AAA gaming options that will dominate the Autumn/Winter television adverts and website pop-ups.

I would always recommend giving the game a go because, whilst this is a preview for the Unity powered HD option, the game is very much up and running and can be played in its current browser form. When a game is free to play and has quite a large player base and a very easy learning curve without having to download masses of launcher data, then there is no reason not to try it. For what is already a successful game in its own regions, it will be a good barometer to see how the game succeeds in our ever changing games climate and what impact it might leave on other games trying similar social integration.



Magicka 2 – Preview

m2 feat

Magicka was a surprise hit written by eight university students from Sweden (what is it with that country and break out hits?). Magicka 2 not only promises more of the same but an inspired improvement on our multiplayer wizard blasting fun.

The wizards are gone, all but extinct thanks to the Wizard Wars. This has left co-operation between wizards rather tense and firey to say the least. Evil however is returning to Midgard as the folklore of the Nords is once again tapped to set a very atmospheric environment. You could imagine this kind of crazy situation being more suited to the table top antics of Acquisitions Incorporated (bonus points if you get that reference), but the ridiculous nature of your incredibly trigger happy wizards is more than suited to the top down view of the snow laden world.

m2 1

I think maybe a good way to describe the Magicka games, and this one in particular, is as an incredibly fun and easy co-op cast-and-slash (rather than hack). I don’t mean easy as in the difficulty. Oh no, the game is as tricky as it possibly can be when two or more crazed wizards are firing their deathly beams in every direction to beat the oncoming hoards of fantastical creatures. What I mean is the ease of how to play the game, the learning curve if you will. It completely adds to the fun whilst you are accidentally killing everything whilst you are learning and not accidentally killing everything once you have learned.

Friendly fire and casual friendly trolling has never been more fun than it is in Magicka 2. Yes you are kind of supposed to work together, because that’s the entire point of co-operative teamwork. But one snatch at a spell and the repercussive fall out is not only vicious but hilarious. This is a game meant to be played by people in the same room or over a voice chat and, having played it in the former capacity, it excels in creating that amusing, anecdotal gameplay. Especially when you start summoning demons. Having done that, it made for a very crazy 30 minutes of hilarity and constant death until we realised that teamwork actually works.

Speaking of the gameplay, it is very easy pick up and play. I played it using a PS4 controller which felt incredibly natural, something the development team was surprised by given their preference for mouse and keyboard controls. The gamepad support makes the spell selection and movement surprisingly fluid and easy to pick up and master. So now, if you’ve had previous experience of the game and want your friends to get involved, this will be a great way to get in to it. The spells themselves are fun. All based on the elemental system (fire, water, etc), the spells combine excellently with multiple people, especially with the healing and the speed at which everything unfolds, it causes a cacophony of light and a hectic firefight. It’s incredibly fulfilling when you cross the streams to combine these elemental powers, almost rewarding yourself for the several moment of derping around beforehand.

m2 2

The game itself has moved on from the previous incarnation with more customisation options for your wizard and many different spell techniques to get the hang of that really gives yourself a bit of a personal style. The newest thing however is the Artifact system. There are special artefacts to find during the game. The best relation I can give to this is Halo’s Skull system. There are things that add to the replay ability of the game like difficulty enhances (extra health for enemies, less for you, etc) and these can be combined. So whatever crazy hardcore self-masochistic difficulty you like to inflict upon yourself and others, it can always be worse. There are more comedic ones too like the sitcom artefact that adds audience laughter, boos, sighs and the like. Certainly makes for some more laughs.

Magicka 2 is coming to PC in 2015 and, as you might have guessed by the controller use, PlayStation 4. Given the strength of the console’s online play and given the amount of units sold AND the more to be sold with the oncoming release of games like Destiny, there could be a lot of demand and take up for this game on the PS4. It ticks the main three boxes I have with co-op based gameplay. 1) Online multiplayer. 2) Easy to pick up and fulfilling.  3) Absolutely hilarious gaming experiences. So there will be lots of interesting and engaging whooping of evil’s hoards by four dysfunctional and explosive wizards, controlled by you, riding from the ruins of Aldreheim in 2015.


M2 Gamescom 1M2 Gamescom 2M2 Gamescom 3M2 Gamescom 4M2 Gamescom 5M2 Gamescom 6M2 Gamescom 7M2 Gamescom 8M2 Gamescom 9M2 Gamescom 10



Mortal Kombat X – Preview


One of the first things I did when I started writing about games was I did a review of Mortal Kombat, the release from 2011. So naturally I was very excited to get my hands on the new Mortal Kombat X and see how exactly the next generation power has managed to add to the already smooth and visually opulent violence.

In truth, it adds quite a bit. The level of detail and the smoothness of the frame rate is making this one of the most fluid fighting games to date. Not just in its own genre but fighting across the board. The solid 60fps (a phrase I am sure to have worn out by the time I’m done covering Gamescom) makes not only the motion of the characters incredibly smooth but also completely unaffected by the particle effects from attacks. Sub Zero freezing will give you no lag.


Speaking of Sub Zero, the gameplay has changed a little bit. Nothing has changed in a huge way but enough in a freshening way. There are three subclasses to the character you pick. Each one of them has something that adds a buff to some of your moves and attacks, or resistance to the oppositions attacks with defence rebuffs. These variations add another element to the game that makes you think a little differently about how you approach a fight. Scorpion, for example has a demon that he can summon to grab them from the ground in one variation. Another can set himself on fire so that his opponent will also catch fire and the final one will have swords to slice with. These traits are on every character and not only add the tactical element, but also some kick ass new moves.

When it comes to new, there will be new characters. Without spoiling any story, and the lore of the Mortal Kombat universe is being expanded quite nicely with this, 25 years has passed since the last instalment. This means that some familiar faces may be gone but legacies remain. Such as Cassie Cage, the daughter of Johnny Cage and Sonya, and Kotal Kahn, a man who has profited from the conflicts by taking over the Outworld. Don’t fear though as roster DLC will be coming.

The environments where you play the game have also expanded too with the brand new Jungle area (thanks to Kotal Kahn) but the expansion is not just in the choice. The environments are all very smooth with excellent depth in the animations. But it also is immersive and has breakable areas and places that can be used for attacks and defence. Not just the branches of trees or rocks, but the style of the environment can also aid certain players attacks. I got some great freezing action in with Sub Zero in these areas.


Of course you haven’t heard me say anything about the violence and the excellent X-Ray system from the last game. Well it’s here, it’s back and it’s expanded. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it and it certainly wets the appetite for the old ‘ultra violence’, as A Clockwork Orange’s Alex would call it. The three tier power bar mechanic is back and it is smooth and deliciously gory. Some new X-Ray animations have been added, no small part in thanks to the new characters. But the animations are bone crunchingly, spine crackingly vile, repulsive, bloody and impossibly painful… Excellent.

This also means the fatalities are given the next generation treatment too and live up to the face slicing promise that you’d expect (there’s a hint there). The game is coming out on all consoles, so you don’t need to upgrade to enjoy the continuation of the new Mortal Kombat lore. However I would certainly say you are missing out on the smoothest 2.5D fighting game I’ve ever laid my hands on and until later in the week, it was definitely the best looking fighting game regardless of style (more on that in WWE2K15).

The release date is, predictably, 2015 and will definitely be worth waiting for. It has the potential to go unchallenged in its genre for quite a while as well in the next generation market so if you’re a die hard fan waiting for Tekken or a next generation Street Fighter, then you might want to explore this first.


MKX Screenshot 1 MKX Screenshot 2 MKX Screenshot 3 MKX Screenshot 4 MKX Screenshot 5 MKX Screenshot 6



Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor – Preview


So not a lot was really known to us about the new Lord of The Rings RPG, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Thanks to GamesCom, we now know a lot more and does it look deep, stunning and exciting. Who knew that Sauron could be this cool?

Set before the famous book in three parts by J.J.R. Tolkein that we all know and love, but after the last stand of the evil Lord Sauron against the alliance of elves and men. You take the reins of Talion, a Ranger of Gondor who, despite being dead, seems pretty animated to find things out. He also shares his dead body with Celebrimbor, a wraith who is currently experiencing a bout of amnesia over who he is, what his past is and what role he had to play in a bigger plot.

The duo travel around Mordor from mount doom to the newer previously unknown places further south, to uncover the secrets of the wraith and the world around them. Especially when they come upon a strange creature who speaks simply and has recently lost possession of a shiny gold ring to an adventurous thieving Hobbit. Along the way you will find artefacts that trigger memories as well as give an ‘eye’ on Sauron and his descent into the darkness.

The face of it, which is a good looking third person RPG is actually hiding beneath it a deep word that is continuously evolving and, by using Mordor, is completely open to creating new areas outside of the Middle-earth we are so used to playing in. It plays very easily, much like a good hack and slash in places but that would be insulting to its rich and intriguing enemy mechanics.

shadowofmordor2Each enemy, from the Uruk grunt you hit to the to the commander of the troop, has a levelling system that remembers your battles. If you die, you are not reset to a point but placed further down the line in time so those individual soldiers gain more skill points and move up the pecking order of rank. They’ll also remember what you did that they didn’t like, especially if they have fears. Some are scared of fire and they will flee if that comes near them, or some might hate wild animals and do the same.
This chain of command structure, evolution and AI memory is indeed very clever and puts a nice spin into the gameplay of smashing as many orcs as you can. You feel you know these guys, that they have a place or character in the fiction of this world, without having any kind of impact on the games main plot. It’s this detail, despite how graphically impressive it is, that really immerses you in the the game. Each commander has a place in the world, whether they work the slaves, are the executioner or just have a reputation for death. Even down to each commanders bodyguard who will give you a quick pep talk before trying to kill you.

There’s quite a few cool things your duo can do. As a wraith you can possess people to stun them or make them fight for your side. Or explode their head. Your weapons can create an awesome combo barrage of slicing and dicing, especially the slow motion kill cams that appear. Firing arrows gives you the chance to slow down time so you can really hit six or seven Uruk in the face, Legolas style, before you need to start slashing away. The artefacts and weapons in game also contain vast amounts of lore so as with a lot of modern games, there’s good reason to go out and find all the things you can and learn more about the history of this time.

shadowofmordor3You will level up and develop as well of course and your characters have traits, such as Talion’s ranger skills allowing him to climb up big walls and our wraith being able to control others. There is a puzzle element to it too, when presented with the wild landscape of Mordor and how animals and monsters can be manipulated to let you pass whilst avoiding costly combat.

The open world itself is very immersive, from the slave driven farms of Nurn to the ashen landscape of Mount Doom, Tolkein’s fantasy environment has been brought to live vividly and imaginatively. And being Mordor and not being limited to the canon of what is established, it is also quite big. You could probably make a small comparison to Dark Souls in the way that it looks but for once we can truly say that it certainly is its own game.

Not long for this one in the big wait. The game comes out on September 30th on every platform, including PC. Of course that means it has quite the release schedule to go up against but keep your eye on it as it will definitely be worth your time, Lord of the Rings fan or otherwise.



Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel – Preview


If there is any game that’s going to blur the line between a tie-in/sequel between two incredibly wacky and successful games, it is going to be Borderlands.

The Pre-Sequel sets itself between Borderlands 1 & 2 and tells the story of how Handsome Jack became Handsome Jack and captures once again the craziness that the first two games provide. You negotiate the many bad guys around the moon of Pandora, Elpis, which adds a nice new dynamic of low gravity and oxygen starved environments. Firstly, fire. Fire will not work in space. There is no oxygen. So unless there is an oxygen zone you’ve set up or that you’ve entered then there will be no fire, explosions, etc. But you can still fire guns and that will give you the added option of shooting off oxygen helmets and giving the bad guys something else to think about.

The story itself adds a few new characters that you may have seen dotted around the Borderlands universe before in DLC’s, etc. But the main thing you guys all want to know about is Claptrap. Yes he is playable, yes he is funny. But there are now reasons for that. At this point, Jack is busy reprogramming Claptrap and isn’t getting it quite right. So this makes for a crazy cacophony of mixed up thought processes and hilarious speech whilst your playing. Unstable and zany, Claptrap will really steal this game.

2K_Borderlands_ThePre-Sequel_InGameArt_moonBanditsWhen playing co-op, he is so much fun with random buffs that sometimes work. If he gives you a thumbs up and you return it, buffs for all. If not, he’ll get selfish and give more buffs for himself. There’s lots of these random events with funny animations around them to show the horrible clash of poor programming that prevents him from doing some things and allows for hilarious mistakes. All of these are available on the three skill tress that every character has. Claptraps though really are much funnier than everyone else’s.

Of course the game itself has other playable characters such as Wilhelm who later becomes Handsome Jack’s bodyguard in Borderlands 2 and Nisha the Lawbringer who is the Sherrif of Lynchwood and later girlfriend of Handsome jack. You’ll also have Athena the Gladiator from the Borderlands 1 DLC ‘The Secret Armory of General Knoxx.’ The effort in Pre-Sequel to establish a lot of more the story canon to fans of the franchise and to really make this  a big arc that resolves any queries and links between the first two games.

There are lots of cool new enemies as well and the environment in the levels also gives a PvE trickiness at times, especially with the low gravity jumping. But you cannot help but realise you are playing a last generation game. Sure, we understand that the development in this game is something that Gearbox want to do, not to just cash in on Borderlands. They do care about the franchise and want to add this nice tie-in between the games. And I suppose that there is an element of that it isn’t broken then you don’t fix it with this game. The graphics and the smoothness of the cel shading has really been perfected in the engine and in the consoles that they are currently making the game for (along with the PC port).

However when we played the hands-on at Gamescom, it felt a little bit weird given how many next generation titles are coming out soon that this wasn’t one of them. It does show as a testament that the game really does stand up to those new games though given how much Gearbox have perfected this game after years of developing it. Yes we were all disappointed that we aren’t getting a PS4/Xbox One instalment anytime soon. But given that we aren’t ready to trade in our other consoles yet, then this will do nicely. Unless you are playing on a PC and are annoyed that you’re getting a last gen port again. Sorry about that.

The thing is with Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is that this is totally for the fans. There isn’t going to be anything incredibly new and breath taking. Yes there are little things and new bits shoehorned in but the idea is that the story of these characters is told. If you are coming in to Borderlands fresh with this game then don’t. Go to Steam and get the first two (normally discounted) or even in the sales on the consoles. Otherwise you will be completely lost as to what’s happening whilst still admiring a nice smooth exciting shooter with cel shading graphics. But you’ve got time to get the other games done before this comes out on October 17th. Then you may well appreciate Claptrap’s eccentricities.


Batman Arkham Knight – Preview

The latest of the Rocksteady produced saga of open world vigilante crime fighting is soon to be upon us with Batman Arkham Knight, and the Batmobile is ready to ride us into a butt-kicking frenzy.

To start with you will be presented with familiar and comforting sight of gritty gothic visuals amidst a sweeping sprinkle of rain and enough wind to unfurl your cape pleasingly. You ride in to the game in the Batmobile with a load of violent gusto and start looking for the new villain of this piece, the Arkham Knight.

The crazy combo super fighting still feels as effortless and as pleasing as ever along with a few new things thrown in to the mix. Using the environment to incapacitate enemies is fun but the best is the new and easy button combination to make the Batmobile get involved in the fun by gunning down a guy you throw in the air to receive bullets.

Batman Arkham Knight preview 2The Batmobile itself is very easy to drive. Although it does feel as if the brake/reverse controls aren’t where they naturally should be. Once you use the new click wheel selection to get to it, you have two options: drive it like a car complete with afterburner, or into a warthog-esque bumper car with guns and missiles, which require charging up. You also have a very cool tow cable which adds a brand new element to the game. Pulling down walls and doors to make way for your incoming pain arrival which also allows for some cool driving and, my favourite, being able to exit the Batmobile and mid-flight start unleashing fury and then jump back in as the car is moving away. It makes for some excellent cinematic crazy set pieces like jumping a ramp as you’re re entering the car and hitting the after burner. You can even dodge the incoming volley of attacks with a quick retro thruster burst.

The demo we played started with the Batmobile arriving outside the ACE Chemicals Plant and after a short reconnaissance and a few rounds with a couple of human punchbags, you get attacked by a big helicopter destroying the only bridge to the plant. A helicopter piloted by none other than the Arkham Night. A guy who bears more than a passing resemblance to Batman if he wore Mass Effect colours. A guy who takes orders from a very static fuzzed up telecommunication from Scarecrow. So begins your journey to rescue hostages, stop Scarecrow from releasing his crazy toxin across the East Coast of America and find out who this guy is brightening up your suit, but not your day.

Of course a lot of the focus on this game is how the next generation of consoles handle it. The answer is of course very well indeed. The frame rate works very well at bringing the smooth cinematic presentation to the screen whilst getting those all important kick ass moments that you make yourself. In fact when we played it, we hit a combination of jumping down, calling the Batmobile, slipping in nicely whilst in motion, hitting the afterburner and moving forward without even stopping and almost making a jump. The team around us squealed with excitement and the smoothness of it was thanks to the frames.

Batman Arkham Knight preview 1Graphically the Arkham series has always nailed lighting and this edition to the franchise is no exception. The shine of water both on the the ground and on the characters reflects beautifully in the light in stark contrast the the dour gothic colours of Gotham and the neon lights of the factories. The water reflects the lights in office buildings as well surrounding the further playable three islands. It might be the first game where, thanks to the Batmobile, you might just want to cruise around and soak it up, rather than fly around.

We have to wait until 2015 for the game to grace our consoles and it will be worth the wait, after some final polishing. But one thing is for sure, the franchise is nearly six years old and the one thing it still is is fun. There are a lot of AAA games franchises that can’t say that and the way the games have developed, got bigger but kept the games, the characters, the story and the visuals both entertaining, gorgeous and fun says a lot to the promise of Arkham Knight come next year.


Batman Arkham Knight 5 Batman Arkham Knight 4 Batman Arkham Knight 3 Batman Arkham Knight 2 Batman Arkham Knight 1