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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!: First Impressions

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Thanks 2K, but where’s all my new shit?

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Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! (exclamation mark included) is the latest addition in the family-friendly Borderlands series. AKA Borderlands 1.5, this game is set in between Borderlands 1 and 2. However, I will do my bestest not to include any spoilers for any of the three games in this here review. Holla. At time of writing, I have only played a couple o’ hours with a couple o’ characters with a couple o’ friends (and m’self), but I think that’s sufficient enough to warrant a ‘first impressions’ review, don’t you think?

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First off, The Pre-Sequel!, whilst good, does just kind of feel like a Borderlands 2 DLC pack. Which isn’t a bad thing, considering Borderlands 2 is a brilliant game, but there just isn’t enough new/updated stuff to really advance the series. The bottom line is, The Pre-Sequel does everything right that Borderlands 2 did, but also suffers from the same wrongs. There. You can make your own judgement now. Go, fly on!

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Still here? Thank you. That means a lot. Seriously. Ok, detail. So, what’s new? The Pre-Sequel starts off as the two previous Borderlands games did: choosing your character. This game has you choose one from four classes: Gladiator, Enforcer, Lawbringer and Fragtrap. What’s pretty cool is that all of these characters have appeared in some form in previous instalments: Athena, the Gladiator, made her debut in a DLC pack for Borderlands 1 as an NPC. Wilhelm the Enforcer and Nisha the Lawbringer both appear as enemies in Borderlands 2 (in one way or another), and the Fragtrap class is none other than that lovable robot Claptrap. There is quite a variety in classes – each character has their own unique skill command – though Wilhelm and Athena do seem somewhat similar, moreso than the other two, at least.. Athena uses her shield to absorb/dish our damage, Wilhelm summons two drones to aid him, Nisha can enter a Red Dead Redemption-style quick draw mode, and Claptrap….well, his takes  a little explaining, and is definitely the most fun. Claptrap’s skill analyses the battlefield, taking into account how much ammo, how much health etc. you have, and grants some sort of boon to the party dependent on that – whether it’s having everyone enter a ‘funzerker’ mode (guns, guns, guns), or mimicking Krieg from Borderlands 2’s rampage skill, or giving the whole party rubber rings to…bounce with. Inevitably, more characters will be released as DLC, so I am curious to see where that goes. Additionally, each characters’ melee attack feels more unique than it did in 2 too. For example, Claptrap does a little punch, whereas Nisha uses her whip, which has a longer range but deals a bit less damage. Naturally, your real power comes from one of the bazillion zillion guns that you can pick up throughout your play through. Two new additions to your already well-endowed arsenal are laser and cryogenic weapons. The former, as you may have guessed, fire a barrage of lasers that slowly drain enemies’ health. The latter, as you may have guessed once again (you rascal) freeze your enemies, enabling you to shatter them with a mighty blow!

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The story: As mentioned, The Pre-Sequel is set in between Borderlands 1 and 2, and depicts the rise of Borderlands 2 antagonist, Handsome Jack. As with previous Borderlands games, due to the sheer number of side quests, the main story can often be a bit ambiguous and confusing. Still, all in all it’s very funny, and I’m definitely interested to see where it goes. Borderlands 2 had some brilliant moments, particularly in its fantastic DLC, so I have…hopes for The Pre-Sequel. The game is set on Elpis, Pandora’s moon. As such, zero gravity plays a key role in The Pre-Sequel’s gameplay. You’re equipped with an oxygen pack (oz pack) that allows you to jump great distances, float a bit and even butt-slam down onto enemies below – which is pretty cool, because you can send them floating off into the infinity of space Malcolm Reynolds style. Watch out, ‘doe! If you use too much oxygen you WILL DIE. Unless you’re Claptrap. Because he don’t need no oxygen. This is a fun little addition that makes exploration and combat feel that teency bit fresher than it did in Borderlands 2.

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As for newness, that’s about it really. Everything else – graphics and general gameplay etc.– are pretty much the same as they were in Borderlands 2. I mean, it all works brilliantly, and obviously the game features a fresh soundtrack and voice acting – but overall the game doesn’t really feel like an upgrade…just more of the same. The game still wonderfully blends RPG elements into the FPS genre, and for the most part, the script is pretty hilarious. I would say ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’, which, you know, they haven’t…but they also haven’t fixed what is broken. There are a handful of glitches that I have already encountered, rendering a quest un-completeable. These are generally solved by exiting the map and re-entering, but in my fast paced adult life, I don’t have time for that! Also, the menu is still just as clunky as it was in 2. In fact, it’s exactly the same. Again, not game-breaking, just a small nuisance that I would have hoped they may have fixed. Lastly, the enemies feel quite repetitive. You seem to be fighting the same ones over and over again, with no real variety. Elpis is ok to explore, but has nothing on the design of Pandora in previous installments.

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Overall, the game just feels like a big ol’, slightly unpolished DLC for Borderlands 2. It’s still fun, especially with friends, but Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! unfortunately lacks the innovation and originality to really make it stand out. I’ve clocked 100 hours on Borderlands 2…something that I just don’t see happening with The Pre-Sequel, sadly. If you’re new to the series, go and pick up Borderlands 2. If you really like it, give this a go, but spend your time over there first. I’ll be looking forward to the inevitable Borderlands 3 and TellTale Game’s Tales from the Borderlands…

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Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers Review

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This game popped upon Steam’s midweek madness for 69p, so I thought YOLO and bought it. Oh my goodness I’m so glad I did. This is by far the best 69p I have ever spent.

Tiny and Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers has you playing as the character Tiny – a Tim Burton-looking technophile with a squeaky voice – as he tracks down his nemesis (and possibly brother?), Big, who has stolen his grandpa’s heritage: a lovely pair of underpants. Accompanied by his trusty grappling rope, laser cutter and rocket launcher, and friendly talking Radio, Tiny sets off into the desert to foil Big’s plans, whatever they may be, and get back Grandpa’s underpants.

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The story throughout this three hour campaign is pretty funny, witty and very enjoyable. It’s not convoluted or complex – it just does exactly as it says on the tin. It’s silly, charming and wonderfully presented. Aesthetically, the game looks like something from a cartoon, with a very cool hand drawn and cell shaded look, mixed in with the aforementioned Burton-esque character design. The environment is beautiful and immersive, and despite the fact that only two characters (three including the Radio) really exist, the world feels weirdly populated and not at all desolate.

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The best part by far of Tiny and Big is the gameplay. Or, rather, the physics engine. As I mentioned, you are armed with three tools – the laser cutter, which is used to slice up giant rocks and structures; the grappling hook, used to pull things; and the rocket launcher, used to…well, launch things. With them, the world is your oyster! Using a sandbox environment, the game allows you to make your way from point A to point B with no real right answer – how you do it is up to you. I had too much fun cutting up massive statues, watching them collapse, then attaching a rocket to the rubble and sending it flying into space. It’s just very satisfying, if that’s what you’re in to. The physics engine is brilliant in that near enough every object in the environment is responsive – that is to say, you could cut up a large rock into five pieces, one of which falls and hits into a statue, causing it to collapse and unexpectedly smush you. True story. It was hilarious. It’s a game that rewards exploration and initiative thinking, with over fifteen individual songs to collect throughout the game by various lesser-known artists, which means you can be a total hipster about knowing them.

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There isn’t really too much more to say. The game is short but sweet, but personally I would love to see more from developer Black Pants Game Studio! It’s currently 69p on Steam, reduced from £6.99, which is still worth it to be honest as the game is littered with achievements, adding mucho replay value. My screenshots don’t really do it justice as it’s hard to hit F12 at the exact moment of awesomeness, so go on: spend 69p. I mean, what’s that…like…a Mars Bar? You don’t need any more of them, fatty.

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Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 2 – Review

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A fantastic end (?) to an outstanding series.

This review will not contain any spoilers for Burial at Sea Episode 2, I promise. It may contain teeny weeny slight spoilers for Episode 1, Infinite and Bioshock 1 and 2. If you haven’t played these games then oh my god go and play them now. I’ll be waiting here.

Well goodness me and my giddy aunt. I’m going to cut right to the chase and say that if you’re uming and aring (erring?) about this, bloody play it. It’s quite pricey at £11.99, the same as Episode 1, but it’s worth it for the story. Episode 2 gives players approximately 5 – 6 hours of new story, and takes place immediately after the events of Episode 1. As opposed to playing as Booker as you do in Infinite and Episode 1, Episode 2 puts you, for

This was my face throughout playing.
This was my face throughout playing.

the first time, in Elizabeth’s feminine shoes.

The gameplay is more or less what you would expect from a Bioshock game – you have a small armada of weapons (more than two, which is nice) and access to vigors/plasmids, which you must use to overcome enemies large and small. You can also use the Air-Grabber (Rapture’s counterpart of the Sky-Hook) for melee weapons, although as Elizabeth is dainty and squishy as plums, this only briefly stuns enemies and deals no damage. Due to her squishy nature, playing as Elizabeth feels completely different from Booker, Jack and especially Big Daddy Delta. You can’t just run in gung-ho with weapons blazing – if you do, you will end up sleeping with the fishes. Heh. Because it’s underwater. No, instead, Episode 2 advises you to take a more stealthy approach. Whilst this is quite a nice change of pace, the stealth mechanics are definitely the worst aspect of this wonderful DLC. Overall, it feels like a bad Dishonoured clone. Dishonoured did stealth right, so it’s no surprise that a game will try and mimic it, but unfortunately, Bioshock hasn’t done this too well. The main problem is the environment – it just doesn’t feel like it was bit for stealth. Whilst arguably this creates more of a challenge, it’s just frustrating. It’s quite hard, at times, to gage where enemies are, even with the help of the new “Peeping Tom” plasmid. There is also no real quick way to move around the rooms, apart from the occasional vent or hanging hook. But even that takes quite a while. There is also ‘cover’ mechanic – you just have to rely on crouching behind a wall and assuming that no one can see you. One new addition that does work quite well is how different terrains change the volume of your footsteps. But eventually this becomes less of a tactical, strategic decision and more of a “I shouldn’t walk on all that broken glass over there” scenario; you just learn to avoid it. I guess if they added too many new mechanics then this wouldn’t feel like a Bioshock game, but eventually I just grew bored of the combat. But then, we don’t play Bioshock for the combat, do we?

No, we play it for the story and the environment! I promised that this would be spoiler free, so I won’t delve too deeply into it, but I will just say that it rounds the series off stupendously. I was on the edge of my seat, begging for more. As Episode 2 takes place directly after Episode 1, the date is 31st December 1958, which, as every Bioshock fan knows, is the day that Rapture fell. As a result, players get to witness Rapture pre-decline, albeit not as much as in Episode 1. Even still, the story, along with the numerous audio logs you find along the way, sheds new light on Rapture, unveiling still hidden secrets, and giving you a deeper insight into certain significant figures. Indeed, if you thought that Burial At Sea was just Elizabeth and Booker gallivanting around in an alternate reality Rapture, by Jove are you in for a treat!

 

It’s hard to say more without giving too much away. But I will summarise with this: the Bioshock series is proof that games are an art form. Burial At Sea brings the incredibly intelligent and compelling story to an brilliant close, and answers a lot of unanswered questions, whilst opening up more (gosh darn it…). Whilst Irrational Games has, very sadly, recently gone under, I can only hope that the Bioshock franchise isn’t dead. I don’t know when or how we will see another game, but I, for one, cannot wait.