Wolfenstein: The New Order is a game which is best discussed after completion; its most interesting ideas, those that set it apart from the mixture of old and new FPS it is, are ones that are best experienced and then discussed. As a result this article will take the form of a short review and then a lengthier discussion of what the game does, and whether or not this is effective. As a game it plays very much like an early-era PC FPS; the player collects weapons, can carry many of them, dual-wield them and collects health items to heal. At the same time it has been updated to take into account the ways in which the genre has developed; the health items are supplemented by limited health regeneration to prevent situations becoming completely unwinnable, weapons and abilities are upgraded by completing challenges and mazelike secret areas hidden behind walls are replaced by small side areas containing optional collectibles.
It plays well; the player movement feels weighty and responsive like Killzone, the weapons feel powerful and the action is a good mixture of Call of Duty style visual setpieces and intense combat against large numbers of enemies. There are a decent number of missions, the writing is snappy and effective and the only real complaint in gameplay terms is that there are not quite enough action climaxes. It is, arguably, formulaic – but at the same time it is an update of a series that near enough invented the first-person shooter, and so adherence to a successful formula seems entirely understandable. Thus as a game it is easy to recommend Wolfenstein: The New Order to anyone who has enjoyed previous entries (such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein, or the classic Wolf 3D)
– This section contains significant discussion of the entire plot and themes of the game –
Strider, the 2014 update of the established series of the same name, is a largely unremarkable and unpolished exploration platformer in the vein of Super Metroid. It has several strong features, but at the same time they feel underdeveloped and are rarely used in ways which innovate the genre. Its short length in terms of initial exploration means that the open-world exploration comes surprisingly quickly, but by the same token it comes before the player has really had much opportunity to use or master any of their newly-acquired abilities. This is in part due to the reliance on long chases and linear level design; the progression of the story drives the player through numerous areas without much opportunity to explore. Rather than acquiring an item and then returning through the area to use it, often the game will throw the player into a new area they may only visit a small part of with their current suite of upgrades immediately after making a first trip through one.
Grid Autosport is a racing game which largely eschews the hype and bombast of motor-racing as a sport; it downplays the celebrity and the ostentation and focuses entirely, through a sparseness of design, on the racing itself. Thus arguably it is much more purely simulationist than most games; it has minimal narrative (complete races to challenge more capable opponents), a simple and functional user interface and most importantly minimal downtime between events. Getting from race to race is almost seamless, and this – in an era of complex user interfaces that can be difficult to navigate owing to too many decorative elements – is a virtue of the game.
The best way to experience Dark Souls 2 is to play it from scratch, completely blind to what is coming in terms of level design and challenges; for this reason, this preview will comprise two clearly defined sections. The first will focus on those details which do not relate to exact game events, instead highlighting those mechanical changes that set it apart from its predecessor. The second will be a series of reflections on the gameplay experienced during the three-hour preview session I was a part of, going into more detail about the exact progression of levels and aesthetic.
Saint Seiya Brave Soldiers is a tie-in to one of the iconic superhero animé from the 1980s; a team of ancient Greek themed heroes fighting mythological monsters with magic and martial arts. The series has earned a strong position within Japanese pop culture, as well as limited popularity overseas, and was recently remade with the ongoing series Saint Seiya Omega. That the recent video game tie-ins choose to ignore this modern remake – which is widely available streamed legally online in English – and focus instead on the 1986 original series makes them of somewhat more limited appeal overseas. There is not the same nostalgia – and nostalgia is vital in enjoying many of these kinds of game tie-ins – for the series among Western audiences, meaning the game must stand much more strongly on its own merits.
Expecting greatness from the single-player campaign of a predominantly multiplayer game like Battlefield 4 seems to be overly optimistic, yet compared to many military FPSs it makes a good effort at crafting a campaign. The story is unambitious and short, yet more coherent than its main rival Call of Duty and stands well as a Hollywood action film. Crucially, for a game, it does not get bogged down in uninteractive or uninteresting turret sections or gimmicks; whenever the player has full control, they are playing the game in its standard state. Vehicles function identically to the multiplayer, and many of the annoyances such as poor lighting and overly busy visuals are largely absent.
The multiplayer component of Battlefield 4 is in many ways the natural endpoint of the steady increase in scale seen from the Bad Company games through Battlefield 3 – the maps are now immense yet populated, with far fewer massive grasslands or deserts to race across dully, the vehicles finally fully encompass the branches of the armed services in more detail, with motor-torpedo boats finally allowing proper naval battles within the confines of a FPS, and there is finally a fully functional commander mode, with UAVs and gunships and all the other paraphenalia of technologically advanced war. Yet the whole affair does not have the same buzz of excitement about it that past games brought – in its ambition, it loses some of the simplicity that made Bad Company 2 so compelling.
Puppeteer is a hard game to define; as a platform game it is too obviously and intrusively fragmented by design to have the continued momentum that has traditionally defined the genre, and as a puzzle game it is not as in-depth as a title such as Fez; it sits in a strange yet satisfying midpoint between the two genres. What its deliberate, neatly-broken-up structure does is turn it into a game much more based around technical prowess and replaying levels once the nature of a puzzle is known; despite a strongly narrative-driven linearity of design it is simultaneously a game based around returning to find new areas in past areas.
The Dynasty Warriors formula of straightforward, unproposing action games focused on providing maximum variety of characters at the expense of complexity is a natural mix for large ensemble-cast action franchises, indeed probably a more appropriate fit than the mythologised Chinese history they usually cover. A simple system of light and heavy attacks, short combos and special moves to be used on large numbers of chaff enemies with a few heavier bosses mixed in communicates effectively super-hero combat, and provides a genuine sense of power for the player. Moving away from realism into more cartoonish settings suits a game based around thoroughly unrealistic (and indeed to a degree abstracted) and gamist combat; superheroes and mythic figures can fight thousands of foes and win. Thus is One Piece Pirate Warriors 2, based on a long-running comic and cartoon series based entirely around bizarre superheroes fighting larger-than-life supervillains and hordes of disposable thugs, guards and other such workaday opponents.
JRPGs are a genre of computer game which traditionally have a significant disconnect between mechanics and story in fundamental terms, accompanied by a narrative explanation for aspects of the mechanics. This is most clear in an example like Final Fantasy VII; the materia central to the plot also have a mechanical integreation in the form of the ability learning system. Exactly how this bringing together of player-controlled aspects of the game and the traditionally passive storytelling style of the genre plays out is a key aspect of a game’s success. Tales of Xillia ties many of its narrative points to gameplay mechanics – the levelling-up system is acknowledged in character in the dialogue, for example – but fails to ever really convince.