Tag Archives: Xbox One

Horizon Chase Turbo: OutRun Great or Spirit Of Speed Terrible?

One of my favourite games growing up was the Sega classic OutRun, that game is guilty of spawning my love for arcade racers – particularly those of that 80s/90s era. Sadly, its a genre that has all but faded away what with the advent of modern gaming. Racers these days are going for that ultra realistic kind of approach as seen in titles like the Forza and Gran Turismo series of games. Simple but fun racers are hard to find these days, those pick up and play racers without all the fine tuning guff. Still for every stone cold classic like OutRun there were several terrible arcade racers like Spirit Of Speed 1937 – Just trust me, it’s fucking terrible.

Aquiris Game Studio

Enter Brazilian indie developer/publisher Aquiris Game Studio and their attempt at reviving classic arcade racers with Horizon Chase Turbo. But is this an arcade hit or a coin-op flop? Horizon Chase Turbo started out as a free to play game for mobile back in 2015, but it has since grown into a “proper” title and has already been released on the PlayStation 4 and Windows earlier this year with it’s new turbo additions and tweaks but it has only just seen an Xbox One and Nintendo Switch release and I’ve been playing the Xbox version.

First up, there are a good selection of game modes to keep you playing. The only one available at the start is World Tour which is exactly what it sounds like as you tour the world stopping off at places like like America (specifically California), South Africa, Iceland, China and Japan to name a few. There are a total of twelve different locales to race in and each of those locales features multiple races with even more varied places. As a for instance, the first and only place unlocked at the start is California and yet within California you’ll race at San Francisco, Sequoia National Park, Los Angeles and even Death Valley. There are almost 50 cites to race in and over 100 tracks to tear around. As you play you earn points and said points are used to unlock new cars to enjoy and countries to race in. Unlock more of the World Tour and more game options open up. Soon you’ll find yourself taking part in Tournament, Playground and even Endurance game modes all with their own set of challenges and options.

Tournament mode offers you three different difficulties and each difficultly features multiple tournaments to ply your driving skills to as you and nineteen AI opponents fight for the top spot. While Endurance mode sees you racing on either 12, 36 or even all 109 race tracks in the game one after another. Which will take a good few hours to get through I’m sure.

Horizon Chase Turbo Trio.jpg

The Playground mode is an all new feature added to the Xbox and Switch versions with the PlayStation 4 and Windows version getting an update soon. I could sit here and try to explain Playground mode but I did get some info on the new mode from Aquiris Game Studio themselves:

Playground is a rotative competition that present 5 new races each time. They are time-limited tracks that will always bring something special to the table: Time Attack races with no opponents, changes in weather and time of day, mirrored races, infinite nitros, restrictions on which cars competitors can use.

Expect to see sandstorms in Iceland, volcanoes in California and new rules! You never know what the next season will feature.

Races come in one of 5 difficulty levels, meaning there’s something for every type of Horizon Chase player. Each race presents two levels of challenge for Playgrounders to take on: beating the computer opponents may be a challenge in itself, but you can always take it up a notch and fight to climb the leaderboards. Each race has its own leaderboard, Global and Friends-only, that stay online only for the duration of a season.

In Playground mode, each season brings a new set of surprises and a new place to compete.

Playground mode is immense fun as it throws you into a variety of races each with their own unique challenges and levels of difficultly. You might find yourself doing something as simple as racing a track in mirror mode or maybe you’ll be in a thunder storm at night with unlimited nitros and no HUD. With races that vary from racing on your own or against a dozen or so opponents. Plus the races will change regularly too so there’s always something new to experience and be challenged by. Playground mode is pretty damn amazing.

Horizon Chase Turbo is not a licensed game so you won’t be seeing any Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porches and the like – but you will find some very, very close imitations. The first two cars you have in the game are basically a Ferrari F355 and a Dodge Viper.  And it’s not all about supercars either as you’ll be driving this game’s version of a classic Mini, VW Beetle and camper van plus other everyday vehicles. The cars also come in numerous colours and you can unlock special races that will then unlock upgrades for the vehicles too. There are around 30 cars to unlock and drive and you know what, no pay to play, no lootcrates, no DLCs. You can unlock everything, all game modes, all cars, all races and all upgrades just by playing… you know, like we used to be able to do. Plus you can play four player split screen with friends… yes a local/couch multiplayer game – remember those? Horizon Chase Turbo Online also includes online leaderboards so you can compare your race times with players around the globe and even ghost cars so you can race against not only your friends but yourself and try to beat your personal best lap times.

Horizon Chase Turbo 4 player.jpg

Races are fast paced and enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve taken part in a race that has lasted longer then five minutes yet – and I love it. Speaking if the races, each one has tokens you can collect as you speed along. Collect all the tokens and finish first to get a Super Trophy. worth more points to unlock more goodies, so it gives you something to aim for even if you’ve already completed a race. There is also a fuel gauge so you’ll need to pick up fuel icons as you race. Horizon Chase Turbo offers a firm but fair challenge. I found myself blistering my way through the first three or so countries and races, but the AI gets tougher and the tracks begin to become more twisty and feature narrow roads which begin to push your driving skills.

Your driver comes up with quips and jibes as you overtake or crash, delivered via a speech bubble which is something taken directly from the Top Gear games on the SNES. But Aquiris have added a nice little spin on the idea as depending on which car you are driving, your driver will say different things, if you drive the Explorer car (this game’s version of the DeLorean DMC-12) the driver will quote Back to the Future with lines like “Great Scott” and “This is heavy”. In fact there are a few movie based cars to unlock each with their own references.

Horizon Chase Turbo DeLorean

The graphics really are quite something. They’re retro yet modern in glorious HD. They have that cartoon-like, cell-shaded look. Low polygon count but high in colour and vibrancy. The cars and scenery lack any real detail, but that’s the appeal. The lack of detail means the game moves along as a very speedy pace, this game is fast. Each country/city is represented by a scrolling backdrop that highlights famous landmarks such as The Golden Gate Bridge, Moai stone heads from Easter Island or even the Acropolis.

Horizon Chase Turbo is simplistic and I don’t mean that in a derogatory way – in this case, simple is great. The controls are bare minimum, accelerate, brake, a button for nitro and then just turn… oh and you can blare your horn at opponents. No gear changing, there’s no tweaking your set-up, worrying about down-force, selecting the right tyres, etc. This is simple, basic racing. Select your car, its colour and hit the track taking corners at 140+ MPH as the colorful scenery blasts past you.

Initially, I was disappointed as the game isn’t very OutRun at all. But the more I played it, the more it dawned on me that I don’t think it intended to be OutRun. You remember that Louts Turbo series of games on the Amiga? They were published by Gremlin Graphics and went on to evolve into the Top Gear franchise on the SNES. Well Horizon Chase Turbo very much puts me in mind of those games. The graphics are of a similar style, the cars drive the same way, the sense of speed is the same and even the music is similar (well it was all composed by the same man, Barry Leitch). Horizon Chase Turbo is an imitation of some of the best 90s racers and a damn good one at that. It’s quite clear the guys and gals over at Aquiris Game Studios knew what kind of game they wanted to make with @Horizon_Chase, it’s obvious they have a passion and drive for those 90s arcade racers.

Horizon Chase Turbo Crash.jpg

I first put the game on aiming to play for an hour and thinking I’d get bored. Four hours later and I was still playing while writing this article at the same time, I only turned the game off because it was after 3 AM and my eyes were getting heavier and heavier. I just couldn’t stop playing, I’d unlocked the third locale, Brazil and wanted to see more – but fatigue eventually got the better of me. Let me put it this way, this game has made me stop playing Red Dead Redemption II… for a while at least.

I have since played the game a lot more and still thoroughly enjoying it. As I write this article, I’m a little over 50% way through the World Tour mode and I’ve dabbled a little in some of the other game modes too with Playground being the most fun, I can’t wait to see what crazy rules and races they have lined up next. I’ve still got a lot to unlock and enjoy. This is well stocked game with lots to unlock, new cars, tracks and even game modes. Horizon Chase Turbo is more than a game, it’s a time machine that has taken me back to that early 90s era when me and my brothers would play Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge on the Amiga 500 till all hours in the morning.

Horizon Chase Turbo is pure and simple arcade racing fun that I hope Aquiris Game Studio will refine and add new features too. May I suggest a track editor, overlapping tracks that use tunnels/bridges at the cross-point, jumps, race creator where you can set up your own rules Playground-style… this could be an almost limitless racing game.

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State Of Decay 2: First Impressions

I very rarely pre-order games, I fail to see the point as they are often over priced and I prefer to just wait a while for the hype to die down and get the game at a lower price later. However, there is one game I’ve been looking forward to since it was first announced a couple of years back that I just had to pre-order. State Of Decay 2. Thankfully State Of Decay 2 was being offered at a low price at launch anyway, much like the previous game as it was a low budget/indie game. Plus the fact that I’ve gone for the Ultimate Edition and one of the bonuses was that you get to play the game four days early too…so I had to jump on this one.

I thought I’d just play the game and offer my first impressions as I play. But before I get to that, I just want to quickly cover what State Of Decay is for those not in the know.

The Original

State of Decay

Developed by Undead Labs and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 and Windows. State Of Decay is a zombie survival horror/action game that has a hell of a lot of enjoyment hidden within its basic premise. You’ve played zombie survival games before…but not like this. If there is one thing that amazed me about the game at the time is just how much it has packed into it considering it was originally an Xbox Live Arcade game, which itself was a platform Microsoft used for smaller downloadable games from both major publishers and independent game developers.

Not that I’m saying that Xbox Live Arcade games were poor as they often had plenty of great hidden gems – but more a case of the games the platform offered were just smaller, rougher games over the big AAA titles that were being released by bigger studios. State Of Decay broke the mold – it was a big (for an indie game) open world marvel that really pushed indie games to the limit. Just as a quick visual example – CastleStorm was a game released on the Xbox Live Arcade and it looked like this…

CastleStorm

The game itself is pretty fun to play, but its a simple 2D action game and there were a lot of them on Xbox Live Arcade. Then State Of Decay, released the same year looked like this…

State of Decay action

State Of Decay actually starts pretty slowly and dare I even say, its rather dull really. For the first several minutes of the game, you are just walking around hitting zombies with a stick. Then you get to meet some survivors hiding away in a ranger station and the elements of scouting locations and searching buildings for weapons and supplies is introduced. This is followed by a mission where you rescue a fellow survivor who then joins your team. The game really starts to open up as you make your way to the first safe-house in the game and then the whole base building element is introduced.

In short, State Of Decay is an utterly engrossing game that has a hell of a lot of gameplay when you really get into it. Individual characters have specific skills and traits that can help grow your community through the game. Base skills level up the more you use them, run a lot and your cardio increases, use guns and your firearms skill will improve, fight zombies using blunt, sharp, heavy weapons to increase your skills with these. You slowly but surely begin to build stronger and stronger characters the more you use them…you grow attached to them too and fight hard to ensure they survive as when a character dies in State Of Decay, they stay dead – there’s no checkpoint saves, no reviving. When you lose one of your best, leveled up members of the community you have built up over several hours of gameplay…they are gone for good. Its this element that really makes you care for your characters, do you send out a lesser character to clear out a zombie infestation and just hope they can handle it or do you risk one of your better peeps who have the skills to fight off a zombie horde but could die losing all the work you have put into them?

State of Decay action 2

Your base can be uniquely created with specific rooms such as a bedroom for your survivors to sleep in, a library where you can learn new skills, a garden so you can grow your own food and a kitchen to cook it in. How about building a workshop so you can maintain your cars and even build weapons, plus several other rooms to build. Some rooms work in conjunction with others; build a library and a workshop to unlock more advanced weapons and upgrades for example. Each room can be upgraded and some will require a specialist to get the most of of them. The base building is brilliant and adds a lot of depth and strategy to the game as you safe-house only has limited space so you have to pick and chose what to build. You can’t have everything all at once. You have to balance your resources such as building materials, ammo, food and fuel to get the most of your you continuity along with dealing with morale issues and other problems. And I use the word ‘continuity’ because that’s exactly what you end up building, a continuity of survivors all fighting to stay alive.

The game has driving, shooting, fighting, base building, scavenging and so much more. All wrapped up in a beautiful little indie package that really has the gameplay value of a title made by a worldwide famous software house that knocks out AAA titles regularly. In fact, State Of Decay puts a lot of big budget, massive releases to shame.

State of Decay stats

Not that the game doesn’t have its problems as it does. The graphics are okay at best, there are frame-rate issues and I’m about to use a word I desist using…overall the game’s look and style is very ‘janky’. There are clipping problems, zombies will sometimes just appear from nowhere or walk through walls of a building, etc. There are problems but they’re also mostly forgivable given the low budget and indie team that made it. The game is rough around the edges but still one of the finest zombie survival games I have ever played. In fact I’m going to say it – State Of Decay is THE best zombie survival game I have played so far.

But I’m not here to drone on about the first game. I put this article together to take a look at the sequel. So lets get into it. Just as a quickie – I am going into this one blind, I’ve not read about the story, I don’t know any of the characters and I have avoided looking at any gameplay footage and reviews – all I have seen of the game was the E3 reveal trailer from 2016. I have not played the game yet and I really am just going to just play a few hours and give my first impressions.

So what follows is going to be as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. There could be spoilers ahead as I write up my experience so there’s a pre-warning for you there.

The Sequel

I’ve waited two years to get my hands on this one and now I finally have it four days early thanks to the Ultimate Edition. I’ve been looking forward to this all damn day, I even booked the weekend off work so I could get some serious State Of Decay 2 playing done. So lets crack on…

I suppose the first thing to do is check out the co-op mode, yes State of Decay 2 features a co-op option where you and three friends can fight of zombies together. I have managed to get my bother to join in for this one so lets bash some undead.

Well right of the bat, it looks ten times better than the previous game. Much more colour and detail. Looks like I’ll have to play through the tutorial before I can do co-op though. Just have to make my way to a camp to find help, bludgeoning a few zombies along the way. All good so far made it through the tutorial and now I get to chose which one of the three maps I want to start on. And off we go, got a car and now just driving off over the horizon as the title appears.

Well the car has run out of gas, that’s another new feature in the sequel – you now have to worry about gas consumption. Now the game starts proper and I’ve teamed up with my brother for some co-op. The map is really well detailed, just saw a lizard run across my path on the way to the first safe house. The game does look really nice, not exactly GTA V level of detail but a massive step up from the first game. The menu seems a bit cumbersome compared to the original, but I think I must need to get used to it. The same basics are there such as the base building and resource management, etc but everything is different enough to slightly confuse me after playing State of Decay so damn much, as I say, its just a case of getting used to the new interface. The controls have been slightly tweaked to over the first game and I keep pressing the wrong buttons. But managed to make it to the first safe-house. Its all very familiar and yet new at the same time. Looks like we have our first mission to so some surveying.

And off we go out to venture into the unknown for the first time. Really loving the graphics so far and the views are really quite lovely to look at too. There is a tethering system in place so you can’t wonder off to different areas of the map – that’s a bit disappointing but the range you are tethered to each other is still pretty large and I’m not sure if you really want to be leaving your companions behind anyway as this is the kind of game where you need to stick together. But I’m able to go off and explore one area and numerous buildings while my brother does the same elsewhere. The tethering is not too restrictive to be fair. Well after a few diversions and a bit of exploring, we finally made it to the surveying spot, pretty much the same as the original game. Look around and reveal locales, searchable buildings, vehicles and special zombies.

Back home after a spot of scavenging and can now build a medical bay at the base. Just been introduced to a neighbour and it gives you the option of working with him or not. Could prove interesting further in the story, stay friendly with neighbours and build up some trust…or don’t and who knows what they may do in the future. Yeah this is pretty much what I was expecting so far – State of Decay with a tone of refinements. The character development is still there, the base building is too. So it looks like building a community from the first game is back but with several more options to explore and play around with.

The characters themselves feel much more emotive and animated. The combat seems to be the same as before but with a load of new animations and gruesome finishing moves. This is exactly what I wanted from a State of Decay sequel. They haven’t messed with the winning formula too much and improved on the areas that needed improving. I’ve have only just scratched the surface on this one, done a few story missions, need to get to grips with the new interface and menu system. But overall I’m well pleased. It’s now almost 3 AM and probably a good time to get some sleep. I can definitely see myself getting lost in this game just as I did with the original – I must have sank hundreds of hours into that on the 360 and then again on the Xbox One. This was just a little taster of what the game has to offer in the opening couple of hours, I’m sure there is so much more to see and do and I’m really looking forward to it too.

Just as a quick aside. I’ve not read any reviews of the game myself, but I do know that its getting a bit if a bad rep for bugs and glitches. I have to say that me and my brother never really experienced any on the couple of hours we played. There was one instance of a frame-rate drop for a couple of seconds and that was all. Nothing worth worrying about anyway.

Yup, really happy with this one and I may do a more in-depth and proper look at the game later. I’ll be playing it a lot more over the next few days and I think the co-op will be a damn good laugh too. Well done Undead Labs, I’m well happy with the game so far.

The Flawed Genius Of Spec Ops: The Line

Thanks to the Xbox One’s backward compatibility feature, we are able to play the games we may have missed first time around. For me, Spec Ops: The Line is one of those titles. I had heard a lot about it despite never actually playing the game myself until recently. I finished the game and was left speechless while the end credits rolled…but the overall impression the game left on me was a very mixed bag for two very distinct reasons, one a gameplay issue, the other a story and design one.

Right here I’m going to look at why Spec Ops: The Line left me feeling both unsatisfied and utterly enthralled at the same time.

The Gameplay

Okay so the gameplay for Spec Ops: The Line left me very bored – so much so that I really don’t have that much to say about it. I was less than halfway through the game when I started to feel that fatigue set in and its not a very big game either, I’d say a fairly competent player could get through the whole thing in around five or six hours on normal difficulty. Its one of those cover/shooter games akin to Gears of War – you know the kind where you control a hero and a team of two other squad members.

Spec Ops Squad 1

Enter an area where a mass of enemies come at you all guns blazing and you and your team hide behind the nearest cover as you gun down the bad guys, move on and repeat throughout the entirety of the game. You have some very slight influence on your two teammates with basic ‘kill this guy’ orders and that’s about it for the whole game. Its a gameplay style and mechanic I just find all too dull rather soon. There are a few segments where they try to inject some variety with a scene where you hijack some tankers or split the team up a little, but overall, its a very ‘rinse and repeat’ experience that quickly grates.

Yet despite the lackluster and repetitive gameplay that bored me…something kept me playing until the end.

The Story And Design

So this is the part of Spec Ops: The Line that had me hooked even if during my first play-through I didn’t realize why at the time. Yes I did say “first play-through” about a game I felt was lacking in terms of gameplay as after I finished it, I instantly started a new game just so I could experience the story again.

At this point I’d just like to point out that I’m about to reveal major plot points and spoilers for this game. As I feel the story is something worth experiencing, I’d urge you to stop reading now and go play Spec Ops: The Line as not to ruin the best aspect of the game.

Spec Ops Action 1

Quick synopsis: You play as Captain Martin Walker on a recon mission in a post-catastrophe Dubai following a serious sandstorm that has cut off any surveillance, air travel, and most radio broadcasts. Walker is accompanied by his elite Delta Force team of First Lieutenant Alphanso Adams and Staff Sergeant John Lugo. The trio come across a continually looping radio message from Colonel John Konrad stating “Attempted evacuation of Dubai ended in complete failure. Death toll…too many.” Colonel Konrad volunteered his 33rd Infantry Battalion to stay and offer relief to any civilians defying orders by the Army to abandon the city two weeks before most communication was cut off.

Walker has one simple mission, to confirm the presence of any survivors, then immediately radio for extraction. But when Walker and his team come across some refugees being rounded up by the 33rd, he defies his orders and sets out to learn what happened to his mentor Colonel John Konrad and his 33rd Infantry Battalion led by shortwave radio communication from Colonel Konrad himself.

So I’ve not hit any major spoilers yet…but I will soon. From the synopsis, this sounds like a bog-standard military shooter and its this subterfuge that helps make playing the game so enjoyable. This is not just a ‘bog-standard military shooter’ at all, at least not from a storytelling perspective. Okay so in order to highlight why the story and design of Spec Ops: The Line is so damn good…I need to spoil the ending – so here it goes. Final warning for SPOILERS.

Spec Ops Squad 2

There are actually four different endings to the game, I’m not going to cover all four as I think part of the experience of the game is finding them yourself. But the four endings all rely on one simple fact that slowly builds through the game. The character you play as, Walker, is suffering from a form of PTSD and has been hallucinating throughout the course of the story – basically he’s batshit insane. Colonel Konrad is dead and has been for some time and all Walker has done is lead his team to their deaths.

Its the hallucination aspect that makes the game so great, some of it is so damn subtle you won’t even realize its happening and some of it is so in your face that you just brush it off as nonsense…until the ending is revealed. This is exactly why I instantly started a new game after finishing my first play-through as I wanted to (now knowing what was going on) pick up on all the little and not so little clues. You know how the movie Fight Club is much more fun watching a second, third or forth time because knowing the twist enables you to go back through and enjoy the clues? Well Spec Ops: The Line works the same way.

Spec Ops Squad 3

Writer of the game, Walt Williams pulled off an amazing piece of storytelling using the common standards of video games to fool the player into thinking they are making a difference. For instance, when you play a game like this – you tend to know right from the off that you are playing a hero, someone you the player can trust. In gaming tradition, you do as you are told, as the game directs you to do. You ‘trust’ what the game is telling you to do, you ‘trust’ the hero. Spec Ops: The Line breaks that tradition and has you playing as a delusional anti-hero you simply can not trust. And even better, you won’t realize any of this until you get to the end.

There are several moments in the game that stick into my mind for various reasons. Probably top of the list is the white phosphorus attack. While it was happening, I felt like a god as I rained down hellfire onto unsuspecting enemies. That scene is brilliantly designed as you can see the reflection of Walker’s face in the screen he is using while dozens and dozens of people die painful deaths due to your actions. But then the game does something that made me nauseous – it forces you to slowly walk through the aftermath of your destruction. Soldiers lie on the ground dead from the injuries they’ve sustained, some of them are still alive chocking to death on the smoke or stumbling/crawling asking for help before dying before your very eyes covered in severe burns. Its really quite disturbing to think that YOU caused all of this death and just when you think you’ve seen the worst…

Spec Ops WP

Its revealed that you killed soldiers trying to save civilians and even the civilians themselves including women and children. I’ve never done this with any game before – but after that scene, I had to stop playing for a while as the realization of what I just did washed over me. I needed a break. I went from god-like power to complete disgust in myself.

The white phosphorus attack is one of the biggest instances of how this game misleads and fools you into thinking you are a hero when you are really playing a psychopath. But there are much more subtle things that I didn’t notice until the end was revealed and I played through the game again. In the very first chapter of the game Colonel Konrad’s face appears on a billboard. At this point in the game, you the player have not seen his face before so don’t know who he is…but Walker the character you are playing has – yet he does not mention anything about why Konrad’s face would be on a billboard at all…because it shouldn’t be there and the image is in Walker’s mind. None of his team see it, only Walker and you the player. This is an indication that Walker is delusional right from the very start. Then later in the game and Konrad’s face appears on yet another billboard, this one is much bigger and harder to miss. But something really subtle occurs as you walk around a corner and the face changes into…I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.

There are loads of subtle hints to spot as you play – such as murals on walls of people with blacked-out eyes that are there during scenes where something horrific occurred – this is metaphorically being blind to the violence in front of them – kind of like you the player being blind to the death Walker causes. There is also a scene where you walk past a healthy and lush green tree…but turn around after you walk past and you’ll see the truth. One of my favorite subtleties is at the end of the game when Konrad is ‘talking’ but its Walker’s lips that are moving.

Spec Ops Action 2

Spec Ops: The Line forces you to ask yourself a valid question, “Do you enjoy this, are you having fun, is killing all these people really enjoyable?” Its something that plays on the mind and in writer Walt Williams’ own words…

“We wanted the player to be where Walker was and be angry at us, the people who made them do this. We hoped we would piss people off. We wanted people to be angry because we felt like that was a real emotional response.”

And he managed just that. I was pissed off playing this game, I did question why I was playing and if I was enjoying myself. The story and design of this is sublime, something that lingers at the back of your head, an itch you can’t reach and not sure if you really want to anyway.

There are so many other great subtle moments I’ve not yet covered like the fading to black or white depending on whether Walker is hallucinating or not. If it fades/cuts to black then its a perfectly normal transition – but if its white, then that’s an indication of Walker’s insanity and it is either an hallucination or Walker is outright lying.

And perhaps one of my favorite things that I didn’t even notice until the second play-through was the loading screens. You know how games tend to give you hints and tips during the loading screens? Well  Spec Ops: The Line does just that for the most part but when you get to the last chapter, after you have killed hundreds of innocent people – things change and the tips are replaced with other messages such as: “This is all your fault.”, Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding two conflicting ideas simultaneously.”, “You are still a good person.”, “To kill for yourself is murder. To kill for your government is heroic. To kill for entertainment is harmless.”, plus several others. But my favorite one is this…

Spec Ops Loading Screen

This is why I call Spec Ops: The Line ‘flawed genius’ as the gameplay itself is rather stale and can get old very fast – but is writing is top tier stuff. It made me question myself and why we gamers play overtly violent games like this. I don’t really want to play the game anymore due to its stagnant game mechanics but I can’t wait to play-though again for the third time to enjoy the story once more and hopefully spot some more of that genius writing and design as I’m convinced that there is more to Walt Williams’ amazing story that I’ve missed.

Three Maps For State Of Decay 2… And Maybe More Later?

2013s State of Decay from developer Undead Labs was an unexpected hit. To be honest, I was bored of the whole zombie sub-genre of gaming as zombie fatigue began to set in, the undead blighters were everywhere. But it was State of Decay that provided the shot in the arm I needed. A great mix of action, crafting, base management, RPG and open world exploration. The game had its problems in terms of frame-rates and minor bugs – but what was there was an amazing experience to be found.

When Undead Labs officially announced State of Decay 2 last year, the palms of my hands began to sweat in anticipation and I have been eagerly trying to soak up any information on the sequel like a thirsty sponge. It all began with the teaser trailer shown at E3 in 2016.

While Undead Labs have remained tight-lipped on a lot of the details for State of Decay 2, they have been slowly teasing us with concept art and screen shots over the last few months while they are hard at work polishing and perfecting the sequel to one of the best zombie survival games made so far.

But in a recent post on the Undead Labs official blog, the developers have spilt the beans on what we can expect to see in terms of maps for State of Decay 2. If you were expecting a map that could rival the first game – then you are in for a lot more then you bargained for as State of Decay 2 will feature three maps and each of those maps will be (at least) the size of the map from the original game.

We are launching with THREE maps. Each roughly the size of the original. You should expect to see slightly different environments, definitely different landmarks and locations, different layouts lending themselves to different strategies, unique home sites, and even different mission types.

Sounds bloody great. The map of the original was not really the biggest or most detailed open world map ever created, but it was damn good fun to explore as you learned your way around in search of resources to keep your community of survivors alive and even searched for new places to set up a home-base.

But why are we getting three maps in State of Decay 2?

Well, primarily, because it makes the game more fun. It really feels like you’re moving from one small town to another, and creates a tremendous sense of immersion. And perhaps counter-intuitively, it makes the world feel even bigger. You know how on one map (even one three times the size as the original game’s) the longer you play, the more you start feeling deju vu with every mission? That’s less of an issue with separate maps.

If you played the original State of Decay, then you’d know how important scavenging for items and searching for fellow survivors was. So what happens to all of what we have built up in one map if/when we move to another?

The intent is for us to be able to take all of our people, and everything in our supply lockers and rucks. We’ll have all the vehicles parked in our home site parking spaces, along with whatever’s stored in the trunks. We’re also going to get at least a partial refund on what we sunk into building our facilities.

So any and everything you have striven and risked your life for in one map will be carried over to the next one – creating a seamless transition and allowing you to go from map to map without loosing all of your prized possessions or characters you have grown an affinity with.

I also must point out that the blog states they will be ‘launching’ with three maps. So does this mean there will be more than three maps post-launch possibly offered via DLC? This is sounding better and better.

Undead Labs have promised that more details on State of Decay 2 will be revealed in June at E3 this year, including a release date and gameplay footage.

Friday The 13th: The Game Is Looking Surprisingly Bloody Good

Friday The 13th: The Game started out when independent developers – IllFonic and publisher – Gun Media began making a parody survival horror game called Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp. Originally, the game was intended to be a send-up of horror games using classic 70s and 80s slasher films as its basis as this reveal trailer shows.

Did you notice a familiar name in the credits for that trailer? Some guy by the name of Tom Savini. You know THE Tom Savini – actor, director and all time horror make-up legend. Savini was on board from the start as a visual effects supervisor as well as an executive producer. It was this connection that got the game’s publisher – Gun Media thinking about opening up their game and maybe trying to acquire the rights to the Friday The 13th film franchise. After several meetings with director Sean S. Cunningham and New Line Cinema, Gun Media managed to secure the Friday The 13th IP and Slasher Vol. 1: Summer Camp officially became Friday The 13th: The Game.

The game is going to be a a semi-open world, third-person survival horror game set in and around the the universe created with the Friday the 13th movie franchise. Gameplay wise, it will be a multiplayer experience where up to eight people can play online with one person controlling the iconic Jason Voorhees while the remaining seven players will control one of several camp counsellors over varying game-maps. The goal is simple enough. Play as Jason and you have to kill the counsellors – play as the counsellors and you have to try to survive Jason’s bloody rampage… and bloody it is too.

On board with the game are some of Friday The 13th’s most famous and respected alumni. Make-up genius Tom Savini is on board to work as designer for the many, many, many various Jason kills and the game is set in the 80s with a classic ’80s rock’ soundtrack to give it that very special Friday The 13th flavour.

Fan favourite Kane Hodder who played Jason in Friday The 13th Part VII, Part VIII, Jason Goes to Hell, and Jason X is back and playing Jason again via motion capture for the game as well as being on board as a stunt coordinator.

Original Friday The 13th writer and director – Sean S. Cunningham also returning to the franchise that made him (in)famous as the game’s producer.

Developer, IllFonic have promised a morgue full of nods and references from the moives in the game. With many (if not all) of Jason’s looks over the years being represented in the game from his first ‘real’ burlap sack look from Friday The 13th Part II to his more zombie-like appearance from Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Whether his latter Jason X and Freddy Vs Jason looks will also make it into the game is yet unknown. But I’m sure the game will offer plenty of various Jason skins to use. Even Tom Savini has designed his own exclusive Jason skin for the game.

Yes, the movie references will be coming thick and fast. Even Jason’s arch nemesis – Tommy Jarvis is returning and is being portrayed by Thom Mathews from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Tommy Jarvis is to Jason what Nancy Thompson is to Freddy Krueger, Laurie Strode to Michael Myers or Andy Barclay to Chucky. In short, they have a history.

Even Harry Manfredini who created the soundtrack for the original film will compose the soundtrack of the game too and it sounds gorgeous.

I’m sure the game will feature plenty of extra DLC utilising more assets from the movie franchise, who wouldn’t want to play as everyone’s favourite lovable asshole – Shelly from Friday the 13th Part III? There is so much they can do with this game taking characters and locales from the movies. Maybe even crossovers and get Freddy in there too? A horror fan can dream can’t he?

Its as if all the Friday The 13th moons have aligned as the original creators of the movie franchise team up with a game development crew that actually care about doing the name justice and giving us gamers a good Friday The 13th game experience after all these years.

The game looks and sounds great, intense, atmospheric and scary as this IGN Jason gameplay footage shows.

Set for release on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. No exact date has yet been set but after several delays to add more gameplay features and a single player campaign too. Its been rumoured that Friday The 13th: The Game will be ready for a summer 2017 release.

Besides, its got to end up better than this…

Are you looking forward to Friday The 13th: The Game as much as I am? Let me know what you think in the comments below.