Tag Archives: Exclusive

Review – Gears of War 4

What’s this?

I don’t want to alarm you, but despite quite clearly having the numeral “4” on the end of the title, Gears of War 4 is actually the fifth game in the respectable Gears of War franchise. And when I say “respectable” I’m not even being my usual, sarcastic, devilishly-handsome self. The first game was critically beloved, a commercial success by every possible metric, exceedingly well-designed, and became a rubric for cover-based third-person shooting to such an extent that the industry’s continued – and continuing – milking of the series’ saggy teats has led most people to retroactively taint the Gears games themselves. A shame, really, because they’re all pretty great. Except this one, as it happens. This one is merely fine, just in quite a tired, predictable, faintly desperate way.

Oh, no. We’re not doing the Halo thing, are we?

Not quite, although the business parallels are undeniably similar. Epic Games didn’t want to make Gears of War games anymore, much like how Bungie didn’t want to make Halo games anymore, and so in both instances Microsoft invented a developer with the specific mandate of making more games in those respective franchises. In Halo’s case, the property was handed over to 343 Industries, a phenomenally inept pack of corporate stooges who bastardized Halo’s core gameplay, plot and characters, and slapped them back together in a Call of Duty clone wearing Master Chief’s helmet.

Gears of War 4 has, admittedly, fared slightly better. Its developers, The Coalition, at least had the good sense to leave the fundamentals of a Gears experience largely unchanged. The problem is that they left them so unchanged that the whole thing feels like a knockoff, second-hand Gears experience without any of the creative verve that gave the original trilogy its unique appeal.

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Review – Sunset Overdrive

As my suffering readership is no doubt well-aware, I love a video game which prompts an interesting discussion. And say whatever you like about Sunset Overdrive, the new open-world sandbox adventure from Insomniac Gamesbut it certainly does that. So let’s discuss the thing that’s been on my mind constantly since the first five minutes of it: How can a game so fun to play, a game with such simple, elegant mechanics, a game based around a single near-genius concept… how can that game make me want me murder every single member of its development team?

Well, let’s find out.

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Review – Quantum Break

Remedy Entertainment and their games have always struck me as being smarter than most people give them credit for. They hide it well, admittedly. Max Payne, released in 2001, was on one hand a game about a man with a daft name and an awful shirt. On the other, though, it managed to combine the slowed-down akimbo gunplay of Chinese cinema with hilariously overwritten conspiracy-chewing noir, and it was a great time. Its sequel, Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne, released two years later, was better still. And the games knew this about themselves. They made time for moments of silliness and self-indulgence that other titles wouldn’t. In both, the player could approach television sets and watch short, weirdly detailed little made-up shows, like the soapy Lords & Ladies and the cartoon adventures of Captain BaseBallBat-Boy, who became an unofficial series mascot. Ask someone what they remember most about either of the first two Max Payne games and the answer will probably be one of those shows.

And then there’s Alan Wake, an underappreciated camp gem of the last console generation. Its eponymous hero was an insomniac writer (Alan Wake… A. Wake… Awake… Oh, Remedy) whose terrible writing formed the backbone of a paranormal thriller that stretched the well-thumbed pages of a Stephen King novel into a season of Twin Peaks. That game had TVs too, all showing episodes of a Twilight Zone-inspired anthology series called Night Springs. But it also had scattered pages of Alan’s prose, presented as collectibles. And he’s a hack. His writing is some species of feverish fan-fiction. Yet in the game he’s ludicrously famous. You can scarcely walk anywhere without being greeted by a cardboard cut-out of him. Nobody ever mentions that he’s awful, which is obviously the joke. And as the game progresses, Alan trying to frantically re-write its story (which he already wrote in the first place – don’t ask), you realize the whole thing is in on it.

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Review – God of War: Chains of Olympus

So once again we slip into the blood-stained sandals of Kratos, pasty Spartan sword-for-hire and anti-hero of the God of War franchise. He’s busy killing everything for very little reason and touring the Underworld again, and we’re all invited.

Chains of Olympus is a prequel to the main series and concerns a plot orchestrated by the Goddess Perspehone to destroy the world. Because the game is set during the time of Kratos’ ten years of service to the Olympian Gods, it’s his job to sort everything out, primarily by grunting and stamping on lots of faces. It’s a typical God of War adventure and if you’ve played the PS2/3 games then you’ve essentially played this. What sets this instalment apart, however, is the hardware, this being the first God of War adventure finding a home on a portable console.

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Review – Sand Castle

There are two things I like about Fernando Coimbra’s Sand Castle, the direct-to-Netflix war drama that was released a fortnight ago. The first is Nicholas Hoult, whose character, Private Matt Ocre, is loosely based on the experiences of screenwriter Chris Roessner. Roesnner joined the Army Reserves two months before September 11, 2001, never expecting to go to war. Hoult sells that. He looks like there’s a knot in his stomach that at any moment he’s liable to cough up. The opening scene of the movie has him bundle a greasy rag into his mouth and slam his hand repeatedly in the door of a Humvee, hoping to evade deployment.

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