We might be in a bit of a draught in terms of big games (at least until The Last of Us 2 arrives next month and is either the best thing ever or the worst thing ever, according to the Internet) but we’ve been a nice stream of awesome smaller titles. It’s been even better if you’re a fan of classic genres with the likes of Streets of Rage 4, and now Huntdown, a pixelated shooter with an old-school attitude, a love of action and some seriously smooth gameplay.
Like most kids I was pretty sure that my local pool probably had a massive killer shark lurking in its depths. That didn’t stop me from loving swimming, but I was always wary about the toothy death that could potentially be waiting for me. I blame Jaws for that, of course. Over the years a lot of films and media have painted sharks as terrifying creatures of the sea that will devour anything and everything. But there haven’t been a whole lot of shark based games, for some reason. So when Maneater began circling, a self-proclaimed shark RPG, how could I not be interested?
Saints Row 2 proved to be quite the success for Volition so it wasn’t surprising that they almost immediately began work on a third game. However, for the sequel they moved in a new direction, describing it as a reboot for the series with a focus on being over-the-top to help differentiate the game from Grand Theft Auto. Well, they certainly accomplished that goal, but the result is a wildly different game from its predecessor. There’s even big character changes like the boss of the Saints (who you play as) going from a vicious psycho to an almost Nathan Drake-esque action hero. Sure, it was Saints Row IV where the series went completely off the rails and didn’t so much jump the shark as it did blow the shark up with a UFO, but Saints Row: the Third did at least leap over the shark while wearing a luchadore mask and swinging a giant purple dildo. Now, nine years after it first launched, we have Saints Row: The Third Remastered. How has the game held up over nearly a decade?
Activision just recently announced Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1 + 2, a remake of the first two Tony Hawk Pro Skater games developed by Vicarius Vision, a team responsible for Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remakes. For myself this is pretty exciting because I’ve been playing the Tony Hawk games since the very beginning. While I’d still love to get a brand new entry in the series, perhaps this remake will pave the way for just that.
Sometimes I miss the clarity of being on a mountain bike hurtling down a hill, swerving around trees, carving up berms and nailing jumps. I miss that beautiful clarity where your entire mind shrinks down to a single, overwhelming thought: this is going to really fucking hurt. And it does. It really, really does. I loved downhill mountain biking, but I hated going back up the hills and I was never all that good at it, so I gave up the sport before it forced me to give up on having all my bones intact. Happily I can live vicariously through videogames, so here I am reviewing Shred 2! Ft. Sam Pilgrim.
I’m not saying that the pressure of lockdown forced me to the tape my family to the ceiling, but I am saying that I need to repaint my ceiling. Yes, I’m back, back again (and listening to some Eminem) and lockdown is a confusing mess as Boris Johnson says one thing and Wales, Ireland and Scotland say completely different things. Should people go back to work or stay at home? Can you drive places or not? Is being in the park okay or will you get yelled at by the police? Nobody knows! So I think I’ll just stay inside and play more games. Seems like the safest choice, really.
I guess it’s not surprising that a game about slamming huge meat-slabs into cover before gunning down Locus translates so well into genre that’s about slamming into cover and gunning down bad guys. It would be easy to write it off as nothing more than a basic XCOM reskin if Splash Damage hadn’t done such a damn good job of making it feel like a Gears game through and through. The production values for a game within this genre are nothing short of lavish, with cutscenes being up to Gears 5 standards and actual gameplay being able to pass itself off as one of the main games when it zooms into an over-the-shoulder viewpoint. From the stellar sound design to the way special abilities mirror the main series, Gears Tactics feels like a lot more than just some cheap XCOM clone wearing bulky armour and running around with a chainsaw strapped to a gun.
Phoenix Point had an intriguing development before it got launched in late 2019. Julian Gollop was the co-creator of the original X-COM, so its no surprise that Phoenix Point is like a spiritual successor, and a look at what Gallop thinks a modern XCOM game should be. The game’s development came through crowdfunding, but then controversy hit when the developers signed a 1-year exclusive deal with the Epic Game Store, angering fans who had donated money to the project under the belief it would be available on Steam. It was certainly a shady decision, and the developers must have surely known it would rankle their supporters. But for now let’s put that aside and review Phoenix Point, shall we?
While platformers might not be powerful juggernaut that they once were we gamers are still treated to a relatively slow but steady stream of new games in the genre. Unruly Heroes is the latest in that stream, but as always the question is a simple one; is it actually any bloody good? Yes. Yes, it is. This is a hugely entertaining romp that’s near perfect for family gaming.
By the luxurious beard of Thor’s angelic face, it’s the freaking weekend yet again, meaning that Christmas is now looming like Santa standing over the kid who is at the very tippy-top of the naughty list.