Far Cry 5 Review

Far Cry 5 is a game I have mixed feelings about. I’ve had it since release in March 2018, but decided to only recently go back and play the campaign some more. Very much a Far Cry game, which largely re-treads the same established formula. However I personally felt this is a game which is held back from greatness by bad design decisions. Most notable is just how busy the world is which feels completely at odds with it’s fictional setting in the US state of Montana. Indeed step out anywhere near a road in this game and it is like a warzone. But no matter where in the world you are enemies attack constantly and it can break any immersion with the game.

I have played many of the Far Cry games and always had some issue that stops me really enjoying or playing them. With the second game I couldn’t get over the checkpoints that would be repopulated with enemies even after you had just cleared them out. Although I don’t think Far Cry 5 makes any mistake as bad as that although it feels largely a retread of the gameplay of the third game to me.

The game itself is technically gorgeous. On the Xbox One X it runs at native 4K and a really solid 30fps. Apart from the early map screen tearing bug (long since fixed by an update) I simply didn’t run into any performance issues with the framerate or the game. Textures and draw distances are stunning. The vegetation and ground clutter is heavily populated and the flame effects as fire spreads on the ground are very realistic. It is certainly one of the best looking games I’ve played this generation. Background music changed to suit on screen action and the game has a neat use of different styles or musical genres. Sound effects too, but audio as a whole is very well done.

Far Cry 5 screenshot

I think the setting of the game is wonderful. The choice of having a game set in a US state was a good one. Indeed the story and the opening of the game feels very solid. It’s not the first Far Cry game to open strongly and this was as memorable as some of the others for me (particularly Far Cry 3). The game doesn’t offer up much diversity in the environment although the verticality in this game world is astounding. There were a couple of times when it almost felt like a vertigo inducing moment.

After the opening tutorial area you are free to go where you want and the game world is split into three distinct regions where you need to complete the story within. I will say the way story missions worked in this game were an annoyance. At certain points when a trigger point is reached the game will interrupt whatever you are doing to either playout a cut scene or force a linear mission on you. After the first time this happens you soon realise it is by design. All of that being said there is loads to do in the world and it is very easy to get lost collecting things, or doing a side activities like fishing or simply exploring. The game requires you to explore to help unlock skills point (called perks) or find new quests. It felt like there was a large amount of side quests to do which isn’t required to complete the main story.

So the game looks stunning, runs really well, has a great opening and fairly interesting story and lots to do. What isn’t there to like? Well there are a few things in my opinion. Firstly as mentioned the sheer number of enemies feels flawed. If it’s not the aforementioned warzones of the roads, it’s the over populated enemies all over the game world. Very often enemies spawn right in front of your eyes or just after a mission area has been cleared. And wildlife in this game is deadly. A few times I died to deadly, super high jumping wolverines that felt more like the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And there is the slowness of earning currency in-game. You earn money from quest rewards, finding it or looting from downed enemies. The money is used for buying weapons, vehicles or parts and unlocking weapons as well as ammo refills. You can also customise your character, weapons or vehicles. It never felt like I was drowning in money and until the late game there is an ongoing slightly nagging feeling of not having enough money if you want to unlock new weapons and vehicles. Despite doing a fair amount of side activities there are still many items I haven’t unlocked after 30 hours. Of course you can simply purchase silver bars (premium currency) with real world money to unlock items quicker. You can also find silver bars in the open world however I barely found any on my play through.

I’ve read a number of times that the microtransactions can be ignored or don’t impact Far Cry 5 in anyway. Your own view will probably depend on how you feel about them but it is hard not to say the design of the game hasn’t been influenced. These microtransactions are really meant to capture the more casual player that is only playing the game for a few hours. Certainly they aren’t egregious or manipulative like lootboxes however the presence of them still feels scummy. Most big triple AAA releases include microtransactions so Far Cry 5 isn’t doing anything that different but that doesn’t make them right. I can’t see any valid reason for them to be in this game which for most people will be an offline single player game. And a full price premium game with a gold version and season pass already.

Looting enemies was really fiddly. You have to hover the cursor over the enemy body and press X (or square on PS4) but it is very easy to accidentally pick up enemies weapons instead. I lost track of the number of times I would accidently swap out my favourite weapon instead of looting and then have to reset my loadout when back at a base. The game would have been so much better with an auto looting feature, in the same way it does for ammo.

There is a challenge system that can help unlock perks to help improve your character, and indeed as you do so it definitely helps increase your enjoyment as things like carrying more ammo, or additional options like parachutes and wingsuits add more variety to the gameplay. There are also friendly NPCs who can unlock in the game and add to your team to help with gun fights.

Away from the main campaign the game also includes an online arcade mode which is user creation tool and includes a mix of single player and multiplayer levels that have been created and uploaded. I barely scratched the surface of this (or the DLC) but thought this was a neat addition to the game. Some of these are available in Co-Op as well, like the main story mode.

Overall I had some fun with Far Cry 5, however the slowness of earning in-game currency, the fiddly control system, extremely high numbers of enemies respawning really held back the game for me. I’ve got to the 30-hour mark and completed two thirds of the game but I’m struggling to find a reason to play it through to the campaign’s end. When the game got into a flow of missions there was a very enjoyable experience. And it was very easy to lose myself and go exploring. And that’s why it so frustrating to have the quiet moments continually interrupted with gunfire or killer wildlife. I can see why some people really enjoy this series but for me some of the low moments with Far Cry 5 were as exaggerated as some of the high moments. A shame as it meant the game was just OK rather than being anything truly special. In other words a reasonably flawed game, albeit a visually pretty one.

Played on the Xbox One X.

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden (Early Impressions)

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden is a mid-budget videogame from developer The Bearded Ladies Consulting which was released December 2018. Set in a post apocalypse world after a global outbreak of a deadly plague, Mutant Year Zero is a turn based tactical RPG, which is very reminiscent of the modern XCOM games.

These are my early thoughts based on a few hours playtime and reaching level 20 in-game. I played the game on Xbox One via Game Pass.

What it does well:

  • Love the real time movement. Game allows you to move your party around in real-time before switches to a turn-based mode for any combat encounters.
  • This balance works really well and gives the game a very accessible feel, as you have to scavenge around the world exploring for loot and resources to upgrade or buy weapons. So although loot and gear appears to be in fixed locations it provides an incentive to explore.
  • The characters are fairly unique.
  • The turn-based combat is fun.
  • The way the story is told well early on.
  • Characters provide some humorous dialog in missions.
  • Controls work brilliantly on the controller.
Screenshot of Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden on Xbox One

Things I didn’t like:

  • There are 3 difficulty levels, and even playing Normal, the lowest of these and the game still feels quite difficult.
  • It essentially rewards you for stealth and picking off enemies stragglers first. Even going onto other areas on the map to level-up before coming back to tackle the earlier encounters. It feels like the game is meant to be played one way and if you deviate from stealth you are quickly overwhelmed.
  • Medbots feel cheap as they revive fallen enemies from a long way away, potentially from earlier fights and after only one turn.
  • Enemies very quickly ramp up in Health Points.
  • A very minor point but the game isn’t Xbox One X enhanced.

Overall I do like the game although in a similar vein to Ashen and We Happy Few which I also played on Xbox Game Pass this might be one I put down for now to venture on to some of my backlog games. A fun and pretty interesting game though.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Review

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition reminded me of playing Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Given there are similarities between the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot and Sony’s Uncharted series, this clearly isn’t an absurd comparison. However there are definitely a few things this Tomb Raider did much better than that original Uncharted. For example not filling your screen with inordinate amounts of enemies shooting at you. Indeed although the combat probably isn’t as strong overall, I much preferred this slightly more realistic approach.

I have a sporadic history with Tomb Raider. I played the first one in 1996 and marvelled at it, much like everyone else at the time. And after playing the sequel I then didn’t pay attention to the series until Tomb Raider: Legend on Xbox 360. I also played a bit of Anniversary at a friend’s. So whilst not the biggest fan of the series I do appreciate the impact the games have had.

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition screenshot of Lara in action.

There is a lot to like about Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition. Which came out nearly a year after the original release, in early 2014, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition updated the 2013 release for the new (at the time) Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles. It has some open-world components and there is some freedom to explore or revisit certain areas on the map. However this is largely a game pushing you on to the next part of the game.

On PlayStation 4 the game runs at 1080p and 60fps, although it does struggle to stay near the 60fps target with frame drops frequently occurring. And this can vary by level. Some of the more wider, open vistas can particularly cause the framerate to stutter. However I didn’t personally find this to be that irritating but this is subjective. It’s worth mentioning I don’t tend to run my PlayStation 4 Pro with boost mode enabled but my understanding is that that it can get the game much closer to the 60fps target.

The game got stuck on a loading screen once, although closing the game and reloaded resolved this. The graphics are muted and they definitely appear to be dated in places looking very much like a game that was designed with previous generation consoles in mind. Although with some great close ups and cinematography the game still has plenty of wow moments. The rendition of Lara Croft here is extremely impressive (particularly the facial features and hair).

Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition screenshot of a cutscene moment from the game.

Overall I liked the story, although I thought the first third of the game was when things were at their best. As the story progresses enemies encounters ramp up, in difficulty and number. And the story advances into fantasy elements. It’s fine but earlier on there is more of a survival aspect. A sense of Lara working through every hurdle. Enemy encounters are more sporadic and shorter. The story takes a slow burn approach to build-up Lara which works very well. The realism is conveyed brilliantly, particularly when Lara gets injured. The weapons and combat are OK, but without crouch and cover button (you go into cover automatically where near some objects) it can get a bit frustrating and simplistic at times.

One thing the game does is encourage you to explore and rewards you for this. You need salvage for improving weapons and other items for XP to unlock skill points. And if you explore then you find more that will unlock things faster. It isn’t particularly in-depth but they have added puzzle elements to some of the things you can find. I think Crystal Dynamics nailed this balance of exploration and rewarding you for it. And indeed the pacing of unlocks was such that it was fun unlocking more moves or tools.

In terms of annoyances the game does rely on Quick Time Events (QTE) far too much for my liking. You often die if you relax as these play and it then becomes a Dragon’s Lair style game of trail and error to pass these segments. I wasn’t a fan of these which I found broke up the flow of the game if you didn’t pass first time. Although the frequent changing of the camera to scripted locked angles makes the game feel very cinematic. Which I’m sure was intended and again really helped to improve the presentation.

Although I knew the Tomb Raider reboot had been very well received back on release in 2013, I wasn’t necessarily sure I would like it. However I am glad to say I thought this reboot was brilliantly done and pretty much a perfect duration. It fits in well with a more modern and relevant Lara Croft. And I am looking forward to soon trying the probably equally as well received Rise of the Tomb Raider. Looking back on this game and it’s probably not an overstatement to regard it as one of the best Tomb Raider games I have ever played. Indeed it’s one of the best games I’ve probably played recently.

Played on PlayStation 4 Pro.

We Happy Few (Early Impressions)

I first remember seeing We Happy Few at Microsoft’s E3 presentation in 2016 and immediately it stood out with the fairly unique setting and aesthetics. Although I haven’t played the game that much, just over six hours, these are my initial impressions. I may return and spend some more time with the game although I currently have a large number of games on my backlog that I would rather be playing.

We Happy Few is a first person, action adventure, survival game crossed with some open world elements. Originally it was released as an Early Access game on PC which was then developed into a full retail release. Set in an alternative 1960’s UK where the outcome of World War 2 was different.

What it does well:

  • The setting and visuals are fairly unique.
  • Strong narrative. There’s a sense of a good story here.
  • Custom difficulty settings. As well as different difficulties levels, you can choose a custom setting which allows you to adjust individual elements such as combat, survival etc. For example, combat can be at the hardest difficulty setting, whilst stealth is switched to easy mode. Everything is explained very clearly to the player.

Things I didn’t like:

  • I encountered a few small graphical glitches and some FPS does drop in places.
  • Controls can be fiddly, you need to precisely hover over the item in question to select which can be tough when it’s bobby pins on top of a searchable cabinet or something. Many open world games have this issue but it feels like the controls work better with a keyboard and mouse.
  • Combat is overly simplistic. If fighting a mob it is far too easy for enemies to hit you off screen, where you never saw the hit coming.
  • Loading times as the game generates a level can be very slow.

Probably my biggest issue is that I didn’t like the survival elements which is at the game’s core and can often feel at odds with the more linear campaign. It feels like two separate games with a sandbox world to play in, which was reigned into a more concise story mode. You can adjust the difficulty on the survival elements so they can be ignored although you are still continually picking up food and drink items no matter what the difficulty setting.

As mentioned We Happy Few is a game that has some intriguing parts, although no doubt the game has some issues too. So it is one I might return to in the future but wanted to note my thoughts for now.

Played on Xbox One X, via Xbox Game Pass.

Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game I’ve had on my ‘to play‘ list for a long time. I first received it as a present near release but didn’t make much progress. Indeed it was a game I mentioned on one of my earliest backlog updates on this very website. However at long last I’ve finally managed to complete the story of the game. Although if I’m honest towards the end I had to really force myself to play the game through to completion.

Overall the game felt greater than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t excel in any areas in my opinion although it was fairly enjoyable. The biggest strength felt like the alternative universe set in a 1960’s where the German Nazis not only won World War 2 but went on to dominate the world. Certainly a far cry from the series earlier 3D games (the last I played was 2001’s return to Castle Wolfenstein). The setting feels original and unique. As if a lot of effort and thought went into this part. The story is fine, with lots of NPCs in the story, although I found them flat and didn’t really much care for them to much as the story played out.

The game has some very nice level design and environments. It really goes to town with its storyline and set pieces. The game uses health and armour packs to provide a ‘retro’ feel given most modern first person shooters have recharging health or shields. I kind of thought this worked well.

Technically the game on consoles runs nicely at 60fps and dynamic 1080p. The graphics have a nice amount of detail even for a game that came earlier in this generation of consoles. It also use has gritty visual style that suits perfectly. I can’t be certain of how long it took me to play through but I would guess somewhere between 20 to 25 hours. It certainly isn’t the shortest game. Oh and yes, the Easter egg is fantastic.

However there are things the game didn’t do well in my opinion. Most notably its use of stealth. It feels like the game was forcing it as a playstyle far too often with few tools to actually play it that way. If you can sneak through a set piece by remaining undetected it will make that part easier. However later on the levels and placements of enemies made this harder or more tiresome and I ended up just going in guns blazing as I couldn’t be bothered with the stealth anymore. The perk unlock system is also just a set of challenges to unlock something, rather than anything more in-depth.

The game includes five difficulty levels which is great, although the main difference seems to be the amount of damage you and enemies take rather than improved AI or anything. Until the final few levels I played the game on the default difficulty but for the last few levels turned the difficulty down and found myself preferring the game that way. Unlike other games such as Halo: Combat Evolved on Legendary, the game just becomes mostly irritating rather than changing the experience massively. At harder difficulty the ‘retro’ health packs and armour pickups obviously become more important.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is nothing I would regard as stunning but equally far from the worst single player, story-based first person shooter than I have played either. Never as downright sterile or flat as something like Halo 5, but equally doesn’t reaches the unique heights or set pieces of something like Titanfall 2’s campaign. If you enjoy the ride and accept the game for what it is, then it is a fun and strong modern update on an old game. A solid reboot.

Played (mostly) on PlayStation 4 Pro. Previously played the opening level on PlayStation 4.

Crackdown 3 (Campaign) Review

For a moment Crackdown 3 had me. Even after a very short time running around the city, I was quickly addicted to collecting orbs and taking out locations on the map. However what quickly set-in was the realisation I was playing the same game again and despite 12-years passing nothing had really changed. Still immense fun though.

I have fond memories of the original 2007 Crackdown videogame. It’s one of the first times I remember watching friends virtually jump from new release to new release every Friday. Something that was quite new with the Xbox 360 as you could seeing what your friends were playing via the dashboard. Although I never played Crackdown in multiplayer I did progress the campaign through to the end and enjoyed the nice twist as part of the story. And hunting down agility orbs never got old.

That said a lot of open world games have come and been in the last 12-years. And Crackdown 3 has left a quick impression on me no matter how long I’ll play this game for. I don’t personally believe a reviewer or critic needs to complete a game or have played it for hours on end. Whilst games can often change mid-way of fall off a cliff after the first few missions I generally feel that you get a good feeling for a game early on, depending on the game type of course. That said I haven’t played this game for long at all barely totalling three hours but I feel that’s enough.

Crackdown 3 is, well…Crackdown. Again. Essentially the same game as the 2007 original but with a new lick of paint. Nothing has really changed. As you jump around you slowly level-up various aspects of your character unlocking new abilities and moves. So you can jump higher, move in mid-air, fire with more precision etc. Just like the original game. You still fight enemies with weapons or melee combat and feel like a superhero jumping around in a comic book town. The sense of progression is both addictive and memorising as you watch, literally in front of your eyes, your foot soldier transform into a superhuman law enforcer.

‘Time to collect those orbs agent!’

The game does look quite nice in 4K on Xbox One X (Crackdowngrade 3 aside) although very bland and sparse with a lack of detail about its futuristic city setting. Much in the same style as the original. Cutscenes are relatively short and the game has the feel of a limited budget production rather than triple AAA videogame with lots of comic book style, 2D style cutscenes. What ever they had though was certainly spent on the intro and the rendition of Terry Crews. As it is superbly accurate.

I haven’t tried or played any of the multiplayer as this doesn’t interest me, although I love the fact you can choose whether to download the campaign or multiplayer parts of the game separately. Bravo Microsoft on this Xbox One feature.

If I’m honest I probably wouldn’t have tried this game if it wasn’t on Xbox Game Pass and again is a great example of the strength of the subscription service. Although still a fun game it might actually be better for those that missed the original. This is a simple update of the first game but without adding anything to really improve or change it. And it that sense as more of the same, it can feel like a disappointment. Which is a massive shame.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

Abzû Review

I’m not sure if I really wanted to write about Abzû from Giant Squid Studios. A 2016 game that I knew nothing about and tried following a recommendation. It is one of those games that it is best to know little about beforehand. I said something similar in my recent review of Dear Esther and it definitely applies with this videogame too.

However after playing through this game over a few hours I realised that Abzû had me wanted to acknowledge it. It felt like something I enjoyed and really think it is worth playing. Although it is a difficult game to put into words, so bare with me if I flounder at this. Like the aforementioned review of Dear Esther, I don’t want to go into too much detail but essentially an underwater adventure game. Although I would be inclined to describe it as more of an ‘experience’ or a ‘ride’.

It is beautiful, stylised and vibrant as it is simple. Abzû reminded me of certain Legend of Zelda games, which is a massive compliment. And it definitely had further parts that made me recall other popular games and films. I think that it does very well at providing some unique atmosphere and moments that are noteworthy or memorable.

The audio is standout and as good as the visuals. Whether it be the powerful and epic soundtrack, or the simple sound effects, which are matched to the game brilliantly. Either at individual level or as a package the whole game is executed very well.

Yes, it could be criticised for being shallow or way too short, but I think it’s best to just accept Abzû for what it is. Whilst the game might be very short it can be breathtaking, endearing and unique. And that makes it worth trying out if you like this style of game. It is very well made and rarely puts a foot wrong. I enjoyed this one.

Played on Xbox One X via Xbox Game Pass.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection Review

My publisher says I can’t call them ‘Bonerfarts’ after all.

Sir Hammerlock, Borderlands 2.

The above quote early on in Borderlands 2 sums up the juvenile and internet meme-ridden humour that litters that game. Indeed the first Borderlands had its fair share of humour but the sequel cranked it up to new levels. To be fair it wasn’t the only thing it changed up from the original game. Larger maps, more quests, more characters, more varied environments, better story and more guns. Borderlands 2 was more fun, loot filled first person shooter gameplay but dialled up to 11.

After completing the original and (most) of it’s DLC I purchased Borderlands 2 at release and over the years spent nearly 130 hours on the PC version. So why am I writing a review of Borderlands: The Handsome Collection years later? Well because I recently purchased it from the PlayStation Network due to being on heavy discount. And it was very timely as only a few days later the developer, Gearbox Software, would announce the follow-up. Along with a new re-release of the original and some 4K DLC for 2015’s Handsome Collection. So a fairly timely review.

Borderlands: The Handsome Collection on PS4 Pro screenshot.

The free Ultra HD Texture Pack weighs in at 15.79GB on PSN and includes a new 4K resolution on the PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One X and PC. Well dynamic 4K on consoles at least. The Handsome Collection runs at full 1080p and 60 frames a second on the base Xbox One and PlayStation 4 so this free update ups the resolution and improves some of the textures in the game. It’s not a night and day difference but the free update has sharpened up the visuals for both included Borderlands games. I don’t think it’s perfect as there are small drops from 60fps. However for the most part both games run smoothly. It’s worth mentioning that The Handsome Collection introduced an adjustable Field Of View (FOV) slider. Anything above halfway (70-110) can cause frame drops in certain busier moments however.

The whole package is a massive performance boost over the original console versions on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Although I only played the original Borderlands on the Xbox 360 the limited FOV made you feel like you were running around wearing binoculars. The PC is still the best platform with the potential for over 60fps and Nvidia PhysX but the gap is now much more miniscule. The Handsome Collection includes both Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! Unfortunately the first game wasn’t included which is a shame as it would have rounded off the whole package perfectly.

Borderlands 2 is widely regarded as the high point of the series to date and this is something I would definitely agree with. As a refinement on the original game its story and characters were a big step up from the original games providing countless hours of entertainment. And whether you max level a character or simply play the main storylines on normal it is always immense fun. Although one of the great things Borderlands always did well was understand it isn’t about the destination, but the journey. The best loot being able to drop at any point is a great choice in making levelling seem like part of the game.

Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! was something I never had much time for despite owning it in my PC backlog for years. Whether slightly irrational its presence irritated me. I regarded it as a cheap and quick cash-in that 2K Australia (who no longer exists) designed whilst Gearbox worked on their new project: Battleborn. What I really wanted was a true sequel to Borderlands 2. Unfortunately it would take Battleborn being a critical and financial failure for Gearbox to return to develop the recently announced sequel.

Playing The Pre-Sequel! For the first time now and I have very quickly realised it is basically more of the same. There are a few unique gameplay additions such as new laser weapons, the need to refill o2 air tanks for most classes and limited gravity. The games feels like more Borderlands 2 DLC doing very little to differentiate itself or anything drastically new. Still for fans it is fantastic and compliments the epic second games really well. The way the new weapons are introduced is fantastic and the game clearly has a lot of Australian references and in-jokes.

Overall Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is a nice re-release and certainly one improved by the recent free Ultra HD update (even with the new pre-order Borderlands 3 ‘nag’ screens and menu adverts). Borderlands 2 is a bonafide classic and this collection was always a great way to experience the two latest Borderlands games. In conclusion in 2019 it is still immense fun being a Vault Hunter. Badass!

Played on PlayStation 4 Pro. Borderlands 2 previously played on PC.

Hammerwatch Review

Hammerwatch is one of a number of games I started playing this last Christmas. It has been unplayed in my Steam library for years (I purchased it New Year’s day in 2014 for just over £2). It’s an indie, pixel art, 2D overhead dungeon crawler with loads and loads of enemies to kill. And unlike many games of its ilk isn’t a rogue-like and isn’t quite a twin stick shooter, although it arguably comes close.

The game has six different classes that can be selected and do have a noticeable impact on the gameplay. Each class has a different main attack and skills. And having played the Wizard followed by the Ranger I can say that the class can have an impact on the difficulty too. I found the Ranger easier with a better range on the main attack.

Hammerwatch screenshot from the PC version.

The levels are fairly large, easy to get lost within and can take a while to progress through with big boss battles breaking up the action towards the end of each chapter. Although it’s worth mentioning that while the game has two campaigns included to play through it does also have survival and wave-based modes as well.

I think this is a game that comes alive with other people although unfortunately I only played it solo. Although it’s fun I found the core gameplay loop can get repetitive quickly as ultimately most of the enemies have either one or two attack patterns. There are upgrades and a combo mechanic that can introduce slightly new elements to the gameplay but ultimately this is a very simple kill hordes of enemies and seek keys to unlock new areas. Although there are also some cool secrets to find.

There is a lot of content here and I do think the game has plenty of fun moments. The controls could be better though. This might just be the PC version but I tried both the Steam Controller and a Wireless Xbox 360 Controller. Essentially you have to use Right Trigger or A button to fire your main weapon, whilst using the left stick for movement and right stick for aiming. When you combine this with the extra skills that are on the front facing buttons (by default) it can make it overly complex to get everything working quickly as the gameplay requires. This felt like a game which is crying out for twin stick support. So shooting with the right analogue stick as well as aiming direction. I do think this change would immeasurably improve the gameplay albeit make the game slightly easier.

As an aside I’ve said recently the Steam Controller works well in certain games. Although I didn’t feel this was one of them. With the dual haptic pads, instead of sticks, I was often struggling to aim the 8 directional fire as easily as on dual analogue sticks although there is an almost unlimited customisation for the Steam controller to improves things.

I don’t currently score games as I generally just write up my feelings on the game in question but this would be a hard one to score overall. It is a simple fun old school 2D shooter which has a neat visual style, nice audio, and great ending mechanic to ensure replayability and different modes to enjoy. However it does get samey, repetitive and feel overly simple. However the developer has continued to support the game years after release on PC which is to be commended. I would have personally enjoyed this game more with a better control scheme and I suspect this is more fun when played with someone else. However even just playing on my own I still played through to complete the campaign which is a sign that I had fun with this game.

Played the PC / Steam version.

The Division 2 Private Beta (Early Impressions)

I written before how I generally was a huge fan of the original game and how the The Division 2 was definitely on my radar for 2019 upcoming releases. Fortunately I was lucky enough to be included in the private beta after registering last year.

I played this on an Xbox One X despite having played the original on PC and these are my thoughts:

  • I’ve had a few bugs and glitches with enemies floating or zooming about once or twice. Also the game disconnected and crashed to the Xbox dashboard twice on the first hotel mission. And the ‘poor connection to host server’ message has appeared a lot suggesting the servers are struggling on Ubisoft’s side. When I’ve been disconnected both times I’ve had to start the whole mission again which was very annoying. At least Anthem would ask if I wanted to re-join the expedition to resume where I was when this happened.
  • Framerate seems fine (on Xbox One X) and as far as I could tell the didn’t fluctuate badly. I would guess the game is dynamic 2160p or 4K – scaling down the game’s resolution when required. On a personal note having played the original on PC I can’t say the drop from 60-100+ fps bothered me that much.
  • Like the original a very pretty game. It appears to recreate its location in stunning detail. Washington, D.C. might not be as iconic as New York City but the more open, green areas are welcome.
  • AR’s and SMG’s seem to have more recoil on them, almost like LMGs from the original game.
  • The map doesn’t seem any bigger than the original, although wider. I know Massive have said it is 20% bigger though.
  • The UI is very similar and very badly implemented. They feel like they are optimised for console/controller, over flashy, don’t use space well and are even more complex than the first game.
  • Although a new look the game seems to have the same enemies types in this, but again they try and flank and take cover etc. when they need to.
  • I also followed some friendly NPC’s around because it says they are scouting for water thinking it might be an organic side mission, but alas even with an enemy shootout there was no reward or anything.
  • I also could play everything so far solo (haven’t tried endgame stuff) but unsure if it scales up for groups.
  • It feels like there are more lootable objects hidden around which is good and encourages exploration.

Overall

Everything feels very similar to the first game; the way the story starts, the way you build the base, the gunplay, movement, skills, perks, echoes, audio recordings etc. It’s simply more of the first game as if the same template has just been lifted from the first one, and simply put into the new location with some minor changes. And whilst that’s great for fans of the game I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed. I personally wanted an Assassin’s Creed 2 or Mass Effect 2 style improvement.

This all feels so remarkably similar, that my hunch is that we are looking at more of the same. Meaning you are replaying the same mission content over, and over. Of course many will argue that is true of the genre but I very rarely have the same complaint of similar games like Warframe where it always feels like there is more actual content.

Of course as mentioned this is a demo/beta and the full game may unlock more new features. And I do think there is enough enjoyment here for hardcore fans of the original who will love this as it is more of the same. However whether irrationally or not I did burn-out on the original Division and I haven’t seen quite enough to buy at the initial asking price. Although I will likely purchase at some point in the future.

Which is good in some ways because there are other games that I am really looking forward to playing and my backlog is still as big as ever.