Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (PS4): COMPLETED!

It was quite some time ago that I bought this, but as I’m trapped on the sofa recovering from an operation, I decided to start it this week. Which was a slight mistake to start with since I’d just had my stomach effectively torn open and the first ten minutes of Wolfenstein II has BJ also recovering from having his stomach torn open. In a much more horrific way, but still.

Anyway. I’d enjoyed the previous two games in the series, and this was almost as good. Or better. Hmm.

It’s somewhat different, in that you’re in America for most of the game, where Manhattan has been nuked. And, since it’s set in an alternative 1960s, it’s very hard not to draw parallels with Fallout for these reasons. The bombed out buildings and constant radiation, along with green-screen computers and the aesthetics on board your stolen Nazi submarine feel about as Fallout as you can get. There are other locations, which are less nuclear holocausty, though, such as New Orleans.

It’s also different in there aren’t as many giant dogrobots as in previous games, and there’s no weird Nazi experiments or messing with the occult. You do, however, end up on Venus for a while because the plot is utterly ridiculous.

But despite the differences, and the changes in personality for both Fergus and Engel, neither of which seem to fit with their previous characters, it’s an excellent game. It has fun weaponry, fast combat (I think it has taken a few pointers from Doom here, actually), and some great new characters. Apparently Youngblood, the followup to this, is a bit of a stinker, which is a shame as there aren’t many first person shooters I enjoy these days and another Wolfenstein would be appreciated. Maybe when it’s cheap I’ll try it anyway.

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Shenmue II (PS4): COMPLETED!

When I bought the Shenmue I&II pack, my intention was to play them just before Shenmue III came out. Only, I didn’t start II right after I because III had been delayed. Fast forward a bit and the actual release of Shenmue III is suddenly almost here, and I hadn’t started II! So I did that.

Yuan is an effeminate man in the original Japanese version and this remaster, but a woman in the original western release. Sega were never confused.

As I mentioned when I played Shenmue I around this time last year, I didn’t remember Shenmue II as well as the first game, and when I came to play it, I was right. I recalled the bit where you get off the boat, some of the Hong Kong harbour, having to find the Four Wude (but none of the detail in doing so), being chased by Dou Niu at some point in Kowloon, and a very, very long walk with Shenhua. I didn’t remember Wong, Ren or Xiuying, all of whom play massive parts in the game. I didn’t remember the street fights and the scout in Kowloon. I had totally forgotten about how you meet Shenhua and that you end up at her house, and – somehow – I forgot the hilarious tape you listen to from the wiretapper. I’d also forgotten, spoilers, about Shenhua’s powers.

It’s the Shenmue Tree, which despite having dreams about (and about Shenhua), Ryo neglects to mention either of these things to her. Or even react that much to actually finding them for real.

Compared to the first game, there are a lot of improvements. Maps for each area are portable and overlaid, you can wait until the right time (most of the time), and the graphics are much improved. The latter point may be because this is a port of the Xbox version rather than the Dreamcast, however. The audio sounds less muffled too, perhaps for the same reason. It’s a bigger game as well, both in terms of scope (with three main, very different, locations) and length (it’s nearly twice as long). There appears to be a lot more in the way of QTEs, however, and some of them, such as the plank walking one, are pretty brutal. Having a sequence of complicated ones after the long slog to fight Dou Niu, only have to fight him again if you miss any one of them, is especially cruel.

These planks can bloody do one. How run down are these buildings, anyway?

But, it’s a great game. For all the repeating floors in the Kowloon buildings, and the never ending “Shenhua?”/”Nani?” conversation, and the worse-than-forklifts book airing section, it’s a gripping tale and I can’t wait to get into Shenmue III now. Please don’t let me and my £270 pledge down, Suzuki-san.

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Burnout Paradise Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

I have always maintained that the best Burnout, is Burnout Paradise. And I was slightly concerned going into this that perhaps my memory is faulty and maybe the eleven years that have passed since I played the original version on the Xbox 360 have not been kind. I needn’t have worried – it’s still excellent.

However, the passage of time has still had an effect. The main thing being that the massive open world map doesn’t feel massive any more. Or even big. In fact, since you can drive from one side to the other in about two minutes, it actually feels small. Perhaps other games I’ve played since, like the spiritual sequel Need for Speed Underground, or Forza Horizon, just raised the bar. It’s also not quite as much fun as I remember, but only because of niggles like no instant restart and having to go back to the junk yard every time you want to change car. I’d bet these would be fixed in a new game these days.

I went into the game in a lot more detail on episode 26 of the ugvm Podcast if you want to hear more, but overall it was a lovely £5 trip back to a great driving game and I enjoyed playing it all again. DJ Atomika or no.

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Q.U.B.E.: Director’s Cut (PS4): COMPLETED!

I’d read in a lot of places, and the screenshots didn’t help, that Q.U.B.E. was a poor man’s Portal. Aside from the first person view and the clinical environments, it really isn’t. Mainly because there aren’t any portals, and so the puzzles rely on other quirks instead. Mainly, making use of coloured shapes that do various things – extend, act as a trampoline, create blocks, and so on. You do this to hit switches, move cables, or direct balls, and after each section of the game (of which there are seven) new elements are added, such as being able to rotate parts of the room or direct lasers.

OK, so it’s still a little bit like Portal.

Apparently for the Director’s Cut, they added a story. I’m assuming this is the one sided conversations you listen to on your radio in the game, and if so, before they added them it would have been a very quiet, rather pointless affair. The plot is that you are on some sort of spacecraft made of cubes, and by simply solving puzzles which exist for some reason, you’re destroying the spacecraft. Which is on a collision course with Earth or something. A woman tells you who you are (you’re conveniently suffering from amnesia) and praises you, but then you start getting messages from someone else who says this woman is a liar and you’re going to die. Who do you trust?! (Spoiler: you have no say in the matter).

Anyway, it’s not too difficult (although I did accidentally pass a few of the puzzles without realising), and certainly I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it’s a classic or anything.

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Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4): COMPLETED!

My understanding of this game was that it wasn’t anything like previous Assassin’s Creed games. It was written from scratch, didn’t reuse any engine or assets, and had completely new gameplay. The title also suggests it’s the start of the Assassins. It turns out nothing is true, everything is permitted.

Maybe Ubisoft did scrap everything from the series and built it all up again, but it doesn’t show. In fact, aside from the new control scheme (attacks are on the shoulder buttons now), and the biggest map so far, this is just more of the same. But that’s actually fine.

Yes, you have an eagle.

Yes, so there’s a literal eagle vision now (with an actual eagle), and yes, it tells the story of the start of the Brotherhood, but it’s still parkour and stabbin’ just like before. This time it’s set in the achingly beautiful setting of Egypt, which is far more varied than the sand and pyramids you’d expect, but the core missions are still scoping out the enemy, picking them off, and assassinating a series of important historical figures. And it’s so much fun.

Your guy this time is Bayek, a medjay (a sort of trouble fixer) from the region of Siwa, who, along with his wife Aya, is out to get revenge for the death of his son. Bayek, despite the “by ‘eck” link that can’t be unheard, is a great protagonist. He’s well voiced, has real empathy and morals, and is hard as nails. He’s probably one of the best the series has ever had, actually. At points in the game you also get to play as Aya, who is also great but her sections are generally boating (straight out of Black Flag, and so the worst thing about the game) or combat-lite. She also doesn’t have an eagle, which makes the final mission a bit tricky.

I’ve since found out that the next game, Odyssey, is actually set hundreds of years before Origins, not immediately afterwards as the story of Origins might suggest. This does make a bit of a mockery of the name of this game, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. I hope they do bring Bayek back for another game though, perhaps round Greece?

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Day of the Tentacle Remastered (PS4): COMPLETED!

I was 100% certain I’d played the original game before. I can clearly remember some parts of the game, some of the puzzles and characters, some of the events from when I originally had it on my Amiga. So imagine my surprise that I actually recognised very little of the game at all, and it turns out there never was an Amiga version. So why did I have the bowl, Bart?

Even more confusing, is how now that I’ve established I haven’t played it before, I remembered the solutions to some of the puzzles and part of the ended. Which is even more baffling as I know I’ve definitely never completed it.

Anyway. In a sort of reverse comparison, I’m going to mention The Secret of Woolley Mountain here as I’d compared that to Day of the Tentacle erroneously so it only seems fair to do the reverse now. In it’s favour, DOTT has much higher production values, but then you’d expect that as it also had way more staff and money. The graphics in particular have moved away from the functional style of the original Maniac Mansion to some really very good cartoon characters and backdrops. Sure, some of this is down to it all being HD and not pixelated like the non-remastered DOTT, but it’s still a world away. The voice acting is pretty good too.

However, as I mentioned in my Woolley Mountain post, the puzzles in these older point and click games are often a bit obscure. They’re not as bad in Day of the Tentacle as they are in Maniac Mansion or something like Grim Fandango, but some are obtuse. Take the use of “Booboo B Gone”, which is suggested by the name it’s some sort of cream or ointment for cuts and bruises rather than actually being Tippex. How you use it on a cat is then also a bit of a reach even knowing that.

That said, it’s well put together, hasn’t aged at all, and was a lot of fun. And very funny, of course.

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Sparkle 2 (PS4): COMPLETED!

Sparkle 2, or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Zuma” was a free PS+ rental that I’ve been playing off and on for a few months. It’s not taxing, it’s not hard, but it is fun in the same way Zuma was. It’s just 91 levels of shooting balls at other balls, but it does it well enough and I enjoyed it. Not sure what else there is to say about it, really.

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Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

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Iconoclasts (PS4): COMPLETED!

This is something I’d had my eye on for a while (nice looking pixel Metroidvania, so of course I have), and then, just when I was thinking about actually buying it a little while back, it popped up on PS+. Normally, that means it won’t get played at all, but since I’m letting my PS+ subscription expire (it’s just not worth the money now they’ve halved the number of games per month) I decided to give it a go before I can’t play it any more.

And it’s really good! It has interesting game mechanics, not least the literal mechanics of being an actual mechanic with a big wrench, looks wonderful, has a strange but enjoyable story, and is just a lot of fun to jump around in. And that’s the important thing in this sort of game – it has to be a lot of fun to jump around.

Also a big plus, is that it’s nowhere near as difficult as Hollow Knight. Sure, I love that game but it’s punishingly hard. Much too hard. So hard it’s verging on torture rather than enjoyment. But this is possible for mere mortals! It’s true that some bosses took a few attempts, but other than that, it was pretty easy and a lot more fun for that.

Aside from that “hide and seek” boss, of course. That was pants.

Anyway, here’s me playing it all:

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Doom (PS4): COMPLETED!

Usually, for me to enjoy a first person shooter, there needs to be some added mechanics. Some puzzles. A story. Something more than just mindless shooting. When I think of games from the genre that I’ve liked a lot in the past, I think of stuff like Bioshock, Wolfenstein The New Order or Dishonoured.

But then I forget the older FPS titles which were very much the opposite – the original Wolfenstein 3D and Duke Nukem. Properly mindless. Open a door? Loads of baddies. Pick up a key? Loads of baddies. Press a button? Loads of baddies.

And now there’s Doom. Or to give it its correct title, DOOM (2016). Which is as anti-cerebral as you can imagine. Most of the time the only thoughts you need are “which gun should I use?” and “has my shotgun got enough ammo?”. And you know what? That’s perfect.

Yeah, there’s a story. Some nonsense about you being awoken from stasis to work for the guy who helped unleash Hell on Mars by un-unleashing Hell on Mars. What the story actually is, is Shoot All The Things. Sure, you also have to destroy a big tower and shut down a computer but you even do these things by shooting everything. Or elbowing everything. What DOOM (2016) adds to the formula is the concept of “glory kills” – damage a demon enough and it glows. Then melee it and you finish it off with an elbow to the neck, or rip off their arms, or crush their face, or tear out their heart, or any one of a number of other visceral dispatches. There’s a reason, besides the gory fun, to do this too: glory kills make ammo and health pop out of the corpse.

But mainly the gory fun. So much gore. So much blood and entrails and faces that explode and dripping dismembered corpses and unidentified severed body parts and fleshy chunks of unknown peoplemeat. Gory fun.

The best bits of the game are the arena type areas where demons all spawn and try to take you down while you run around both manically and maniacally, gunning and elbowing all the time. It’s quick paced, feeling a bit more like Quake 3 Arena than original Doom, and far more fun than I can explain. You’re always forewarned one of these fights is going to happen because of the “Checkpoint” save icon and loads of health, ammo and armour is strewn around. In lesser games I’d see these signs and think, gah – another fight. In DOOM (2016) I’m oh hell yes bring it.

One failing the game has is between these big fights, especially on the levels set in Hell itself, is the platforming sections. Platforming and first person don’t sit well together usually (Mirror’s Edge notwithstanding), and when bottomless pits are added, and enemies who can shoot you as you jump the gaps, it’s just annoying. Thankfully most are short and enemyless. In the scheme of things, it’s a minor point but baffling nobody on the development team thought perhaps it was a stupid idea?

Finally, a mention to the sound in the game. The thrashing metal music is great, but the meaty bassy sound effects and excellent “ambient demon noises” in surround sound are just perfect. It’s not creepy enough to be scary, but it’s certainly worrying, when you’re walking down a corridor and the monsters can be heard behind the walls or above the ceiling or seemingly behind you…

Here’s a video of my complete playthrough:

(P.S. there aren’t many in the game, but the toilets that are there are excellent)

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