Category Archives: Xbox 360 Reviews

Xbox One X will cost £449/$499

Phil Spencer has confirmed that the Xbox One X will cost £449/$499.

All existing Xbox One accessories will work on the new Xbox One X, alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is even planning to use “super sampling” on the One X to make new games look better even on 1080p TVs.

Microsoft has 22 “console launch exclusives” arriving on the Xbox One X, including Crackdown 3Forza Motorsport 7, and Sea of Thieves.

Destiny: The Taken King review – part two

Welcome to part two of our review of the epic new expansion to Destiny, The Taken King. If you somehow stumbled upon this before reading part one, I highly recommend reading it here, before you continue.

All done? Great… In this segment of the review, I will be covering the new levelling system, how to get your light level up, and some additional tips and tricks to help you along the way.

Those of you who played the original Destiny, will know the struggle of levelling to 20 with XP, then waiting and praying that RNG (random number generator) would gift you something that would take you closer to that elusive level cap for each expansion. This changed slightly when the House of Wolves expansion released, where obtaining armour cores from the Prison of Elders would allow you to buy maximum light level armour. Many Guardians would find that they would be stuck in the situation of being “forever 29” (level cap was 30), regardless of how many times they would enter the Vault of Glass, high light level items would just not drop. This was also the same with The Dark Below expansion, and Crota’s End, resulting in many “forever 31” (level cap was 32) Guardians.

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With The Taken King, things have changed in relation to actual level and light level, as these are now separate entities. Levels 1-40 are now built up via earning XP, much like a traditional RPG, and light level is based on the weapons and armour you equip. Light level is now taken as an average of the attack and defence levels of your items, for example I currently have a light level of 291, which is an average of my weapons with attack levels of 285, 298, and 284, and my armour with defence levels of 293, 297, 295, and 296. Along with weapons and armour, your Ghost, Class item, and a new Artefact item will also give you additional defence values, helping you on your way to maximum light level.

Along with giving additional defence values, Ghosts, Class items, and Artefacts have their own perks which can boost your intellect, discipline, and strength values, as well as grant bonus perks. For example, one of the Ghosts I have has a perk which makes it easier to spot the Earth planetary material, or allows me to pick up more of the same material. It also grants additional glimmer (one of the many in-game currencies) when killing Fallen enemies. Class items can increase the speed of which a weapon will upgrade, and give a buff to reputation for either Crucible or Vanguard, depending on origins of the Class item (you can purchase these from either the Vanguard or Crucible mentors).

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Of course, many activities are blocked until you reach a required light level, or just below, so how the hell do you get there? As explained above, light level is tied in with the weapons or armour you have equipped, and these items can be acquired in a multitude of ways, either as activity awards, or through decrypting engrams.

Engrams are special pick ups, which drop when killing enemies. When you are low level, in both XP and light, these start as white (common) items, going up through green (uncommon), blue (rare), legendary (purple), and yellow (exotic). Before The Taken King, all high level items would be either legendary, or exotic, resulting in the destruction of lesser items due to their commonality and inability to boost your light level. In The Taken King, it is now possible to gain additional light by obtaining rare items of a higher value compared to a legendary, or even an exotic. So, the question now is, why should I bother with legendaries if my rare items are of a higher value? This brings me onto a new levelling mechanic called Infusion.

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Infusion allows you to combine a more powerful item, with a less powerful item of the same type, but this is saved only for legendary and exotic items. For example, say you have gauntlets which are of a legendary or exotic quality, but you have gauntlets of a higher power but they’re rare, you can sacrifice the item of higher value to level up the item of lower value. But why, you ask, should I worry about infusion if the rare item gets me to a higher light level? Legendary items offer more perks to the wearer, and therefore are worth keeping and infusing into, to gain those additional perks as well as the increase in light. It could be the difference between having rare boots at light level 275, which offer a faster reload speed, or legendary boots at 270 which offer a faster reload speed, and the ability to hold more ammo. Infusing the rare boots into the legendary boots will result in a light level boost to that item, approximately 80% of the item being infused, and will also allow you to keep those additional perks. It sounds complicated, I know, but it is a fantastic way to ensure that rare items are still relevant once you hit the higher light levels later on.

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So, you’re gaining light level with your drops, but it appears to have plateaued, now what? I did notice that once you start to get into the 280s light level, it started to become harder to reach those higher levels. This is understandable, as I’m sure Bungie doesn’t want everyone to hit the maximum level within two weeks of the launch of The Taken King, however there are a few tips and tricks to keep your light levels climbing.

  • When decrypting engrams at the Cryptarch, ensure that you are wearing the highest power items you can, across armour, weapons, Class item, Artefact, and Ghost. More often than not, the decrypted item will be of a higher light level. However, this becomes less true once you hit 290.
  • Make sure to check each item after decryption, as it could be a higher level. If it is, pop it on before decrypting the next item. Rinse and repeat until all engrams have been decrypted.
  • Factions now have a bigger part to play, and with the new ability to boost your rank with them via Motes of Light, Weapon Parts, Armour Materials, Heavy and Special ammo synths, it is a great way to obtain higher level gear. You also have the chance to receive faction-specific items, such as shaders, ships, weapons and armour. Once again, make sure you have your highest level items equipped before ranking up.
  • The Court of Oryx is a quick and often simple way to get loot. The tier one runs usually take less than two minutes, and the person who initiated the encounter will often receive the best loot. So make sure to visit court as often as possible, even if you don’t have a rune to activate it.
  • Kill everything. You never know when a rare or even legendary engram may pop out of a downed enemy, so make sure to clear the room before moving on.
  • Xur is now selling a new item called Three of Coins, which gives the player a slightly higher chance of obtaining an exotic engram from boss-level enemies. They come in packs of 5, for 7 Strange Coins (I told you there was a multitude of currencies in Destiny now), so make sure to pick up a few when Xur returns on Friday. Ensure you pop one of these before you face up against a strike boss, for example, to increase your chances. However, be aware that these do not currently work on the Psion Flayers strike, or where there are more than one boss-level enemy.
  • Once you hit the 290s, as painful as it may be, drop your level to the 280s before decrypting engrams. Personally I have had a few instances where the engrams have decrypted into 295+ level items, which superseded anything I had equipped. This may just be a luck thing, but I’m not taking my chances.

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The King’s Fall raid has a recommended light level of 290, so follow the above steps, and you should be able to give it a go soon enough, but be aware that you can access the raid with a light level in the 280s, but it’s going to be extremely tough for you.

Personally, I feel that levelling now makes much more sense than it did before. It also relies much less on RNG to get you to the higher light levels, but still requires a lot of work to get there. It feels much less “grindy” than it did before, especially as all of the above can be done whilst completing quests, strikes, crucible, patrol, everything.

The Taken King is proving to be much much more than just another expansion. As I said in my previous instalment, Bungie have listened to the player-base and have made changes to an already solid, if a little flat, shooter and made it much more of the MMORPGFPS they set out to create.

Part three of my review, focusing on the new strikes and Crucible modes will be here in the next few days, so make sure to keep checking back.

Destiny: The Taken King review – part one

Tuesday September 15, 2015, was the day that everything you thought you knew about Destiny changed. No longer is it about the endless grind, or the mindless monotony. On this day, Destiny changed, and very much for the better.

For those of you who are not familiar, Destiny is an MMO, or massively multiplayer online, style of first person shooter, where the community of Guardians really has made it as great as it is. Wherever you go, you will always be joined by other Guardians, friends or not, as you all fight for the common goal of pushing back the Darkness.

The original story presented in Destiny, which released on September 9, 2014, tells the tale of how the Darkness has taken over the universe, destroying planets and civilisations in its wake. With the arrival of the Traveller, a huge mysterious ball which hovers over the Earth, and with it the coming of the Golden Age, it is up to the Ghosts the Traveller has created to seek out new Guardians to push the Darkness back. Throughout the original Destiny, The Dark Below, and House of Wolves, it has been up to you to defeat the strongest opponents the Darkness has to offer. You have defeated Atheon, you have slayed Crota, and you have overthrown Skolas, but a new challenger has arrived to take your light.

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As The Taken King brings with it a whole host of changes to Destiny, there’s a lot to cover in a traditional review, so this will be separated into four parts. This, the first, will focus on the new storyline and how story and progression has changed, as well as new mechanics introduced to enhance the story. The second, coming soon, will detail how levelling has changed, and give tips and tricks to getting “raid ready” that little bit faster. The third, will be a detailed description of the new strikes which are available on the Xbox One and Xbox 360. We have been given a total of five new strikes, two of which were exclusive to the Playstation for the first year, as well new Taken varieties of these and an original strike. This will also touch on the new Crucible modes, Mayhem, Rift, and an objective-based version of Control, as well as the new maps which were released with The Taken King. The fourth, and last, will come once the new raid has been conquered, and will feature lots of raid-specific mechanics as well as the enemies we have faced.

So, where do I start? Where any Guardian starts their day, the Tower…

10am that Tuesday I was in the Tower, hanging out and dancing with a group of Titans just waiting for something to happen. Suddenly a triangular icon appeared, and like the best synchronised swimming team, we all shot off together. This was where our story began…

When you enter the Tower for the first time after the release of The Taken King, you are given a tour of the Tower in the form of your first quest. You’ll learn of the locations of the most important inhabitants of the Tower, and when meeting them may be given new quests for you to complete; if you qualified for the VIP package (reaching level 30, or playing the previous DLCs before August 31) you will also pick up your rewards during this time. Crucible Handler, Lord Shaxx will give you Crucible specific quests, the Vanguard mentors (Titan, Warlock, and Hunter) will also give you class-specific quests. Before you know it, you have more to do than you ever did in Destiny, and don’t quite know where to start.

Head to the Director and you’ll notice a change. The layout is very different, both to accommodate the new locations and has been given a whole new look. This is a general theme throughout TTK, everything looks much nicer… The graphics appear to have been given a facelift, and feel much more rich and vibrant. Destiny could never have been regarded an “ugly” game, quite the opposite, but the new look definitely takes it up a notch.

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Right, down to business… Your first quest is to investigate a distress beacon on the Saturn moon, Phobos, but before you can set foot on there you are treated to a beautifully crafted opening cinematic, giving you a true introduction to The Taken King.

Oryx, Crota’s father, has heard what you did to him and wants his revenge on the Light. He has created an army of Taken, a mix of Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Cabal, Oryx has captured to do with what he wishes. We are not aware of his presence until we hear that Mara Sov, Awoken Queen, has been attack by Oryx himself, as he pilots his Dreadnaught through the Reef. Oryx unleashes a devastating attack against the Awoken, and we are left to assume that Mara Sov is dead, and it is up to the Vanguard, and their Guardians, to defeat him. Once the cinematic has reached its dramatic conclusion, you are sent to Phobos to investigate a distress call from the strongest of races, the Cabal.

It is during the first mission of The Taken King where you really can see where Bungie have thought about how the story is told. There are new real-time events happening all around you, and there is a real sense of danger for the mission ahead. As you make your way through, you witness Cabal being ripped away into thin air, and black shimmering portals appear everywhere. It is here where you encounter the Taken for the first time, and get a true feeling for just how difficult an opponent they really are.

The Taken are unlike anything we have encountered before, with their ghostly appearance, and new abilities, and prove quite the adversary. Taken Captains shoot a ball of darkness, which when trapped inside, will reduce your visibility significantly. Taken Psions will split into two, and if not dealt with quickly, will continue to multiply. The Hobgoblins will shoot balls of void energy at you, both when they are alive and when they die. The Taken offer quite the challenge to fledgling and veteran Guardians alike.

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Whilst making your way through the Cabal ship, you Ghost will chirp at you, and will highlight points of interest to scan. This is a brand new addition to Destiny, and adds an additional layer of information which will help you on your quest. Before you know it, you find yourself pulling out your Ghost at every opportunity, just to get that extra bit of information. Your Ghost becomes far more useful than being used just to open doors, as he can highlight hidden pathways, and new destructible items littered around the environment.

You’ve escaped Phobos, but now what? You have a choice, something which you’ve never really had before in Destiny. With the completion of the first mission, and after heading back to the Tower to see Cayde, you can either choose to continue with the main story, or go somewhere else entirely.

The new quest format is a breath of fresh air for Destiny. Before, you knew what you had to do, went and did it, and that was it. Either move onto the next part of the story or spend some time wandering around on Patrol. This, understandably became stale and tedious, especially after you had completed the main story, and only had the Daily, Weekly, Nightfall, and Raid missions to do each week. With the introduction of quests, you’re never really finished with a story, be it the main arc throughout The Taken King, or an off-shoot from a previously completed quest. The days of sitting there, with nothing to do have well and truly gone. But, without rewards what is the point? Every quest line finishes with a reward of some kind, be that materials, a new weapon, or reputation, giving you a reason to wade through them.

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So, you decide to continue with the main quest, and before you know it you find yourself on the Dreadnaught itself. This new zone, which you can wander around at your leisure, is a sight to behold. It’s massive, and full of nooks and crannies for you to explore. Beware where you tread though, as you may find yourself in the middle of a firefight between Cabal, Taken, and Hive. The Dreadnaught is easily the most dangerous place to explore in Destiny right now, but it’s full of puzzles and challenges that can only be accessed through exploration. Many a time I found myself miles away from where I was supposed to be, because I found myself in a rabbit warren of pathways and little caves full of chests and other treasures. Along with the usual chests dotted around, you will often come across chests which require keys to access, for which you must complete specific challenges to access. One such example with the Scent is the Key chest, which requires you to defeat a certain enemy, who then gives you access to another chest, this chest will then enable you to open the first chest you discovered. The Dreadnaught is littered with little challenges like this, and breaks up the often monotonous task of completing bounties, encouraging you to return time and time again.

Bounties have also received somewhat of a facelift, and are now much easier and more fun to complete. Gone are the “Complete 6 missions on the Moon” bounties, and in their places are the new reconnaissance bounties which just require you to either complete patrol missions, kill enemies, or pick up planetary materials and chests. These are also incredibly easy to complete during story missions and strikes, so you don’t have to stick to patrol to get that reputation.

Patrol missions have also been refreshed, and now offer two new varieties; a race and a Taken challenge. The race mission has you running around a patrol area, hitting checkpoints to power up an energy source. Once you have completed one round, a second and third may appear, increasing in difficulty as you progress. The Taken challenge is much like the original VIP target mission, where you are asked to investigate a Taken invasion in another part of the planet. When you arrive you must face several waves of enemies, ending in an epic battle with an ultra-level boss. Quite often these bosses are targets for a specific quest for you to complete, so make sure to do these often.

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With the Dreadnaught, a new public event has arrived with the Court of Oryx. It is a special area within the Dreadnaught, which Guardians must place a rune onto a statue to initiate a random battle against one of several different boss-level opponents. There are three tiers in total (that we are currently aware of), and increase in difficulty with each tier. Tier one will spawn an ultra-level boss, which can easily be dispatched with one or two additional Guardians. Tier two will randomly pick two tier one opponents, both of which you must defeat to succeed. The tier two rune is regarded as a Nightfall-level encounter, so at least six are required to dispatch them quickly. The tier three rune spawns a raid-level boss, and nine people are recommended to complete this challenge. The tier three rune requires far more teamwork and communication between those taking part, but upon completion will offer top level rewards. The best rewards are only given to the person who presented the rune originally, but engrams will drop for other participants so keep an eye out for those prizes. The Court of Oryx behaves much like a traditional public event, and once a rune has been presented, more often than not other Guardians will turn up to help you out; I went through four different battles with a complete stranger, as we took turns to use our runes and reap the rewards, and finished with a wave and dance as we parted.

So far I am very impressed with how Destiny has developed with The Taken King. As a day one, and beta, player of the original, I have kept optimistic of the path Bungie was taking with Destiny, and feel that we now have the game we were promised all those years ago. Not only does The Taken King give a fresh new look to a game I loved, but adds so much more with quests, bounties, and patrols, that I am no longer looking for things to do. Unfortunately, Destiny still relies on having a group of friends to do certain activities, but if you don’t have a group of Guardians to join you, there is still much much more to on your own. I completed the main questline in approximately six to seven hours, solo, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. If you’ve kept away from Destiny due to poor reviews when it launched, or left because there wasn’t anything left for you to do, I highly recommend picking it up again. Unfortunately we have been stung somewhat in the UK, with a price point of £39.99, but I am happy to say that it is worth the money. This is no ordinary Destiny DLC, The Taken King feels like a sequel, wrapped in DLC clothing.

Part two of my review, focusing on character progression, and how to get “raid ready” will be here in the next few days.

 

 

Disney Infinity 3.0 review

The Disney Infinity juggernaut ploughs on with the release of Disney Infinity 3.0 – we’re only a few months away from the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens so it made perfect sense to have the starter pack include two Star Wars characters, Anakin Skywalker and his Padawan Ashoka Tano as well as the Twilight of the Republic playset. The starter pack also includes the Disney Infinity portal, it has three slots, two for Disney Infinity characters and a third slot for the Toy Box pieces. The portal itself is fairly simple looking portal, but looks pretty cool when the slots light up in different colours, my children were most impressed.

The starter pack figures look brilliant, it helps that Disney have created Star Wars Rebels which allows them to create more cartoony looking characters, nevertheless they are well produced and as your collection grows they will look great out on display. Unless you are absolutely desperate to get the new Star Wars figures you are better off working on your collection of older characters until the price comes down (£13 a figure!).

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As the game begins you won’t need to use your starter packs character as the game gets you to play a small demo some of the things Disney Infinity has to offer, starting with Anakin Skywalker, you’ll learn his basic moves such as double jumps, fighting with a lightsaber and using the force to help you solve puzzles, within a couple of minutes you are flying the Millennium Falcon, destroying as many TIE fighters as you can. There is no hanging around as moments later you find yourself in the world of Inside Out, showing you the platforming abilities of the game, finally you join Mickey Mouse and the gang in some Mario Kart style racing towards the famous Disney Castle – this was the first time I’ve had my hands on Disney Infinity, I won’t lie, it brought the child out in me seeing the huge cast of characters that have been part of my life. Once the race is over you can begin to explore the world of Disney Infinity.

Disney Infinity 2.0 had a lot of sites say that the game got repetitive quite quickly but this year Disney have been wise to this and instead have brought different teams in to look after specific elements of the game. Avalanche Studios have teamed up Ninja Theory to develop Twilight of the empire and they are looking to bring in other established studios to develop other future sets.

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Twilight of Republic plays really well, the controls are very child friendly which is great news because it will give the smallest of hands great confidence as they battle away with the lightsabers. The combat flows brilliantly and you can finish off opponents with cool slow motion finishers, you can use the force to grab hold of enemies before using your lightsaber to finish them off, there are some neat platforming elements to the levels too. The AI gets tougher as you go through the levels, but never to the point where you (or the kids) won’t be able to defeat them. You’ll get to visit for different planets and you’ll also engage in some space dogfights which will please Star Wars fans.

You can only use certain characters with each of the players you purchase, but it’s still an enjoyable experience – defeating enemies and breaking down your environment gives you orbs that help you level up from which you can upgrade your characters ability through a skill tree. It’s a smarter upgrade system than the one used in the Skylanders game, firstly because you can upgrade at any time and secondly your progress is built up across the whole Infinity world, rather than restricting progress to just the levels.

As enjoyable as the playsets are, Disney Infinity comes to life when you begin to play with the hub and Toy Box. Starting off with the hub allows you to meet various characters throughout the Disney universe and experience the different types of games you can create yourself in the Toy Boxes. Again it’s a great way of introducing the different ways you use the Toy Box to create your own levels.

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The Toy Boxes are full of toys and resources to use to create whatever type of level or game you want. Certainly at first you can feel quite overwhelmed by the amount on offer, but as you begin to experiment you’ll find yourself getting sucked in by the amount of possibility. If you need inspiration you can head online and download community designed levels as well as examples created by Disney Staff, if time isn’t on your side there are thousands of creations to play through.

My first creation was a pretty basic racetrack, littered with pretty much any item I could get my hands on, as I began to get more familiar with how things worked I managed to make things more difficult with obstacles and jumps. It can become quite a pain to navigate the UI, and a simple search would definitely help speed up the creation process, but either way there is plenty of fun to be had coming up with all sorts of concepts.

Disney Infinity is an absolute blast to play, the combat flows brilliantly and the levels within the playsets are well thought out and have enough variation to keep your children entertained. The Toy Box, although quite overwhelming at first is excellent and much like Minecraft, you’ll find hours will pass without noticing as you create your perfect levels to host all of your favourite characters. Value for money wise it’s not as good as it was with the previous levels but you could argue the quality of the playsets make up for that in 3.0. My biggest issue is finding a way of buying every figure I come across…

Thanks to Xbox and Disney for their support 

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https://youtu.be/DWnA-yXUmJI

Goat Simulator Mmore Goatz Edition

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Goat Simulator Mmore Goatz Edition dropped this week on Xbox 360 and Xbox One and includes the updated MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) version of Goat Simulator and the Day Z zombie survival game inspired version Goatz. Living life as a goat in a sandbox environment sounds bizarre enough to me as it is, but given the original Goat Simulator’s past success I wondered if this would be more of the same glitchy hilarious craziness we saw in the first place.

Starting off in the world as a little goat you will be handed two game type options at the main menu, the MMO which is the original game but with lots more to do. There is a level cap of 101, new people to meet and more quests to help out the people of the community in weird and wonderful ways (one of them is dragging a man out of poop!). The quests are generally simple; ranging from killing a certain amount of enemies, destroying things or relocating people somewhere in the world. 

It is pretty much impossible to die in this game, instead you can get stuck in random places due to the glitches that are add to the comedic value but is easily fixed by the magic respawn button. You can explore the vast lands and find collectables, a lot of hilarious glitches, secret areas and defeat enemies with the glorious headbutt while levelling up your beloved goat. Being called the Mmore Goats Edition you can of course unlock a lot more goats each with special powers to use around the maps.

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Implemented into the MMO side of the game is the inventory system where you can store pretty much anything you decide to lick, from which your goat gain XP for, licking items will store them in your inventory. Items range from food, bits of wilderness and enemies you have defeated to people you wish to relocate for quest purposes. There are six variations of goat to choose from, you can pick your original goat in all its glory, the Tank class (which I chose) will grant you access to a butt-slam and a charge and also gives you a nice set of spiked armour! Rouge that has stealth and stunlock abilities, whereas the Hunter, whose ability is to fish. There is also the Magician (hat and suit included) that can produce card tricks and fire bawl or.. wait for it.. a Microwave! Genius. It is entirely possible to switch out the class you picked and try something new to continue your quests and progress, your goat is a jack of all trades!

On top of all the different goat classes to pick from you also have mutators which will range from double jumping, having a jet pack to becoming Zeus! Pick one or pick many, the outcome is always interesting, there are a few to unlock and find by doing certain things in the world.

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The Goatz (Day Z) option is a lot more survival based, you have a health and hunger gauge and will need to feed on normal human food or zombie brains to get to keep your health from depleting. Completing challenges that appear on-screen will give you a bonus of health and hunger fill. Your undead goat will be able to use its voice (BAAAAAAA!) emitting a green cloud to change unsuspecting humans into zombies, It is then your duty to use your goat powers of head butting, licking and kicking to defeat them as they come at you.

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Like in Dead Rising this game mode enables you to make weapon combos in specific areas by bringing certain items to the pad with your tongue, the pad will then magically generate a weapon for you to use and latch it to your goat for a few moments of attacking bliss. Blueprints do reside in the room so you can see all the weapon combos before you drive yourself nuts. Although the mode is not timed your hunger and health play the biggest part in your survival, how much of the city will you infect before you die.. again?

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Local multiplayer is in the game too. You can start a game with up to four players on Xbox One and two on the Xbox 360, finish quests together in MMO or go all out and survive the zombie apocalypse with your friends. The Goatz option will give you the option of a parachute race and races while in the MMO you will have to create your own personal challenges and go against each other in this glitch filled environment.

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Graphically this game is easy on the eye providing you with a colourful palette and amusing hidden extras, with the amount of glitches purposely left in this game anything can go wrong with the visuals at any time, but nothing game breaking, they are more hilarious if anything. One example included me walking down a path minding my own business to suddenly being launched across the sky after missing an enemy with an attack. The music is cheerful from the get go, as soon as the game loads to the menu you will hear upbeat medieval music, once in the game you will be able to appreciate the ambient sounds from the sound effects, explosions and the noises your goat makes.

I would like to have seen the quest givers to have a voice as sometimes you can run past while they are talking and will have to go to your quest screen to find out what you are supposed to be doing. While Goat Simulator Mmore Goatz does not seem to be anything other than a tool to make hilarious things happen it has not disappointed, from the original game. It has kept things simple and throwing in the ability to turn people into zombies and fight them only makes it better. You can walk around, wall run, find collectables, attack anyone you want to and trap defeated enemies in your inventory box. You would be maaad not to play this!

Thanks to Double Eleven for supplying TiX with a download code

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The Bridge review

As a child I loved to gaze upon the wondrous designs of M.C. Escher and imagine what it would be like to navigate the impossible worlds – how could you get from the top to the bottom, and what would happen if you entered that door? The time for wondering is over; The Bridge lets you navigate through Escher-esque worlds with increasing difficult puzzles to solve.

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Some games are an absolute joy to play and The Bridge is one of these games. Each level is hand drawn, and the black and white stills could easily be passed off as an Escher original. I really liked this artistic direction, which perfectly emulates the style of the artist they are based on, and being a fan of his work, playing within the wonderfully impossible illustrations was an absolute joy.

Your goal is to navigate the mind twisting architecture to progress through each puzzle. I’m sure there’s a deep and meaningful point as to why you are in this topsy-turvy world, but it completely passed me by and I didn’t mind in the slightest. The puzzles are so good that they don’t need a storyline to hang from.

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To move throughout each world you must rotate it around a central axis point allowing you to navigate through the impossible curves of the Escher landscapes, but don’t try and unravel them, it will only make your head hurt. Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity holds everything together and in later levels you can even manipulate its directional pull by entering a shower-curtained area called the Veil – it makes for some devious puzzles that will challenge even the most hardened puzzler.

Starting out simple, even when obstacles are thrown in, the puzzles are a breeze to solve but halfway through The Bridge thrusts you into a mirrored reality and this is where the real challenge begins! This reality is not only flipped, but also contains more obstacles to avoid – thankfully there’s a handy rewind feature, which you will certainly need! The standard world demands you make sense of the twisting landscapes, but to best the mirrored world you must focus on gravity and momentum.

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Once you have mastered both worlds, and believe me, it will take some patience, skill and thinking outside the box especially to get through the mirrored worlds – there are numerous achievements to collect, mainly focused on skill at completing levels. There are also several wisps to collect, which are really well hidden and if you refrain from any walkthroughs, then you will be scratching your head for a good while, but even after completing both worlds I was left wanting more from The Bridge.

Those that like a rounded achievement scores may be a tad frustrated at The Bridge – I’m looking at you Dave – the achievement scores are odd numbers, with the first unlocking for 47 GS.

Devious, beautiful and creative, The Bridge is an absolute joy to play. It lures you into a false sense of achievement when you conquer the early levels and then hits you with the hard stuff. If you can best these mirrored levels, then you can truly feel like you are the clever one!

Thanks to Xbox and The Quantum Astrophysicists Guild for their support

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Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded review

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So hands up who hasn’t played Minecraft, I’m guessing it’s not many and there is a good reason for that as the endless opportunities and variations that can be setup in the game really caters for anyone and everyone’s tastes. So with such a successful platform there is no wonder many have tried to adapt Mojang’s (developer of Minecraft) ideas and reap some of the rewards for themselves. Now I have to say, a lot have failed and haven’t brought anything new to the table, so when I was asked to review Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded by Exato Game Studios I was a little hesitant about what new angle they could bring that hasn’t been done before.

I could imagine Exato Studios sitting round in a room one day and talking about what they should play, the room is divided, some want Minecraft, others COD or Battlefield and then suddenly Guncraft: Blocked and Loaded was created. In very simple terms it’s Minecraft but with guns, but not only guns, tanks, helicopters you name it, it’s a full on customisable and destructive combat zone.

From the word go I was smiling, the game itself doesn’t take hours to download and you’re up and running very quickly and it’s got so many features you won’t know where to start. The menus are easy to understand, if the writing is a tad small, but then again I was using an old TV as my Xbox 360 has been relocated to my spare room to make way for my Xbox One, but you can still read it. So where to start, the Tutorial.

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The Tutorial offers you a great and detailed introduction into the game, taking you though basic movement and shooting, to driving vehicles, building and the various game modes. Within 15 mins I was confident that I could build, destroy and take on the world. Now I hear what you’re saying, yeah, just skip that and come to the good bit, the shooting.

I was really astounded about how good the gun part of the game was, the controls are responsive, the gunplay is fast, aiming is accurate and all FPS fans would feel really at home with this game. There is the need, like the major titles, to reload when you get 5 seconds ensuring that you always have a full magazine when you face the next onslaught and not get caught out, like I did a few times. The selection of weapons is also a real surprise and covers light to heavy weapons, smg’s to pistols. When you shoot an opponent they even die with style and rather than falling flat they slump to one side in their last death throes and like COD they have also included a progressive leveling system allowing veterans to hit level 550 which is equivalent to prestige level 10 (50 levels per ReCraft Rank and 10 ReCraft Ranks). Take all of this and add in the ability to fully customise your character with over 4 billion combinations, kill streaks and a clan system then this truly does rival the modern-day shooters.

So now the shooting bit is over let’s take a look at the real crux of the game, the building bit. Each of the games you play has its own style and level but what makes this game also great is the ability to adapt the environment to your own style by building on what already exists or destroying as the case maybe. So, if you’re playing Onslaught you can build extra defenses in your base by placing extra walls or even digging a trench. At one point in the game, both myself and my son dug a cave in a wall so we could snipe from afar the first attack wave but have enough cover if things got bad. The ideas and possibilities in this game are only limited by the player’s imagination and switching from gun to building mode is as easy as pressing the B button on your controller, no honestly that’s all you have to do.

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To accelerate the building process Exato have also included a fast build which I think is a great and unique idea. This allows you to view a set of preset structures and build them in one click, meaning walls, towers even entire buildings can be placed in a matter of seconds allowing you to customize the battle as and when required without being shot 50 times in the process. Building the best fort, eventually, won’t help you because as stated earlier, everything is destroyable, so as the saying says, what goes up, must come down and trust me this is easily accomplished if you acquire one of the many vehicles that you can drive (well, attempt to) in the game.

So a very solid start, but what really makes a game of this type are the game modes and multiplayer aspect. The single player mode has many game modes from Onslaught, where you face wave after wave of attacking worms, spiders, cyborgs etc. to Lava Survival where players have to constantly keep out the way of the rising lava, whilst trying to freeze your enemies / push them into the burning abyss below. Add to this the amusingly called Spleef mode, like Lava Survival, where you are trying to push your opponent in by drilling out the floor beneath them these are just a few of the options available to you and were my favorites.

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The one thing that did really make me happy is the inclusion of a two player split screen. This meant that I could play Onslaught with my son or one of the other game modes, one V one. This is where the game really comes into itself. Unfortunately there is not the ability to battle bots which if could be included would really push this game to a whole new level.

Online is again where this game shines and even though a little temperamental, with disconnections and freezing. I did manage to grab some time with the development team, battling it out on some of the maps. The game becomes intense and crazy as you all work together to fight but also defend and if you play with some skilled builders you will be amazed at what can be built to assist you in your battle.

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Talking about the development team, I just have to say, a big thank you to Exato Game Studios as, during testing, I did suffer some issues but they were really quick to react and resolve my problem. This again tells me that the team behind this game really do care about what they are doing and want a unique and awesome experience for all.

Whatever you think of this type of game, if you still have your Xbox 360 to hand, I would seriously go to the store and grab this. I am still smiling from when I first played it and everyday find myself having to go back and get another fix. It’s truly a unique and really creative idea that fuses two styles of game together brilliantly and will always have a space on my Xbox.

With the title also being part of the July’s Deals with Gold promotion, there is even more excuse now to go and spend your well-earned pennies on picking up this title.

Thanks to Exacto Game Studios for supporting TiX

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Juju Review

What a pleasant surprise Juju turned out to be. After a sickeningly cute introduction to the characters and story, Juju reveals itself to be a delightful, well-designed, and visually impressive side-scrolling platformer. There’s a slight lack of character to the leads and the odd complaint here and there, but otherwise Juju is an excellent little adventure.

The story begins as a panda leisurely walks through the forest to a temple, with an artefact in hand, whilst a young panda named Juju and a young lizard named Peyo, sneakily and curiously follow behind. With the artefact placed on the temple pedestal and projecting great power, a distraction gives the young’uns an opening to investigate with a more hands-on approach. Cue tampering and breaking the artefact, spreading pieces of it in four different lands, and leading to the release of a great evil.  It’s now up to the cub and lizard to gather the pieces together and defeat the escaped villain.

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Juju very much feels like the collation of all past platformers, reforming their ideas within a unique shell. There’re obvious influences ranging from Sonic to Rayman, with level design similarities bringing back nostalgic memories of Mickey’s Castle of Illusion and Crash Bandicoot to name but a few. However, concepts from history’s great platformers are merely borrowed rather than copied or stolen outright, maintaining a unique enough feel and look to avoid direct comparisons with its peers.

3D visuals on a strictly 2D plane setup the perspective for the left to right side scrolling, meanwhile simple jumping on and over obstacles and platforms in order to reach the end, whilst collecting butterflies holding gems, is the objective. Enemies are present as well, stylised appropriately to the theme of the four different locations: a forest, a land of toys, an ocean of plastic inflatable islands, and a land of sweets and deserts. Beyond the forest things gets wonderfully weird in terms of setting, and whilst these locations have certainly been seen before, they’re still a treat to witness.

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It’s not just each location’s design and theme that delights, the visuals are so detailed, crisp and bright that each floating plastic ships bobbing on the clear ocean, and every tree and rock protruding from the forest floor looks spectacular in its cartoon-esque splendour.

Defeating enemies is a matter of good old jumping on their heads, or using abilities you gradually unlock as you progress, like the dash move which quickly sees to armoured or spiked enemies. There are also huge boss fights, one for each location, but for each foe you face them twice, once half way through the set of eight levels, and again at the end.

There is, however, a slow pacing to Juju, partly because of lengthy stays within each location due to their eight levels, but also due to the slow gait of our heroes. Juju’s slow stroll feels very restricted initially, and takes some getting used to. However, this does work in favour of local multiplayer: keeping both players close-by as they explore. And exploration is eagerly encouraged with collectables hidden within each stage and tracked on the level-hub, as well as portals to a mini collection game set in an otherworldly venue. Having a second player for these is extremely useful, as failing it will remove the portal unless you restart the level – or kill yourself before a checkpoint, I suppose.

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There’s also a lack of character to the heroes, and even the villain. The narrative is shallow but ultimately doesn’t require any depth, but no dialogue – written or spoken – and minimal cut scenes means Juju and Peyo never carve an identity out for themselves, and beyond being evil, neither does the villain. It’s not a crucial component by any means, and it certainly doesn’t take away from the otherwise fun, family-friendly adventure, but it’s a layer of polish that would help elevate it amongst the greats.

Juju is an excellent platformer that surprised me wonderfully. With little to no promotion leading to such a quiet release, I expected a throwaway adventure that would disappear into the XBLA catalogue, but instead it’s one of the best titles in its genre. Eight levels is a bit long to spend within each location – more location would have been better – and the injection of some character into the cast would have been a nice addition, but exceptionally well designed levels and mechanics makes Juju a terrific platformer for any age.

Thanks to the publisher for supplying TiX with a download code

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Chivalry Medieval Warfare Review

In days of old, when knights were bold, you couldn’t get a tin of Brasso for love nor money. The smell of the oiled steel, the cries of the sick and dying and oppression of the local Baron landowners. Medieval times, eh?

Chivalry Medieval Warfare then, is a hack and slash, first person, online multiplayer yomp through the usual game modes that fps games usually offer. Included in this are Team Deathmatch, Team Objective, Last Team Standing & Free For All, with another two there to be unlocked by anyone with patience enough to last that long. These can be played as a single player. You get the choice of four characters to play, being Archer, Man At Arms, Vanguard & Knight. Each of these has their own switchable olde worlde loadout and each also has appropriate attributes such as armour and speed. Take a note of these as it should be a trade off.

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Training mode is recommended, but is frankly awful. Your character simply doesn’t react quickly enough to perform combos, which is strange as for the rest of the time, your opponents, especially the AI, seem to flounce around with the grace and speed of Legolas while you seem to be weighed down by lead armour-plate. The Advanced Training arena is a prime example. I marveled at a Vanguard in full chainmail skipping around like Ali in the ring while your character, in a tunic, clumsily swings and mostly, misses.
In the training mode, you learn that every offensive and defensive action you make takes stamina. Deplete your stamina too quickly and you’ll be at your opponent’s mercy. It’s also here that you learn the flimsy backstory to the two sides that eventually will become you and the others. To cut a short story even shorter, you’re one army, they’re another. You get to choose before every game, so this bit is really quite pointless. Training also teases you with the promise of siege engines and you get to play all too briefly with Catapult, Ballista, Battering Ram and some form of mobile step system, whose name currently escapes me. All you do is push it by walking into it, it obviously made an impression. I didn’t get the opportunity to use any of these in the actual game though, it looks to be something you need to progress to unlock.

The single player options are decent enough, however it soon becomes apparent that the AI is horrendous. In fact it is so bad, I considered simply finding the light sources and watching my shadow, with battleaxe moving gracefully in front of me while my weapon remained perfectly stock still. Your playing character attributes, remember, I asked you to bear them in mind, seem to make little difference to the way you move, or the speed you fight. The Archer is supposed to be the quickest with the least armour. You’d expect he’d be able to nimbly dodge that hulking tin pot covered Knight bearing down on you, right? Oh, am I dead again?

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This happens far too often for this to be balanced correctly. It’s down to the finer arts of mash the triggers and forget the finess. You should be able to perform combos and feints. These are far too tricky to master and are let down by the control system.

Damage-to-kill ratio appears wildly out of kilter too. One arrow to the shoulder killed my Man-At-Arms one time while I hacked away merrily at a Vanguard bot to no little or no damage. Lose an arm & you’re a-goner, and yes, every so often you can lop off somebody’s head. All healthy gruesome fun until you realise that the puddle of sticky crimson fun you unleashed has very rapidly disappeared. Not that this is so heavy on the visuals that it can’t keep it there for long, surely?

Chivalry’s Graphics look ok until you start to notice these little things that simply don’t make sense, like your arm disappearing through your opponent’s shield and reappearing on the other side, with the top of your current weapon sticking out.
There are some comic moments, like the local yokel scratching his backside during training, but these are few and far between. When you start the training mode, look at the waves crashing against the shore and you’ll see exactly what I mean. They’re mere tiles of white, pretending to be waves. Some of it has obviously had some thought, I’m just not sure if that thought has been spread evenly over the game as a whole.

The gameplay is what should matter in this though and while there are a number of multiplayer arenas to choose from, all lovingly drawn in the Unreal engine, it begins to feel a bit samey. The usual modes simply don’t offer the difference that should set it apart and it gets either frustrating or far too comical very quickly. Inevitably though, you either get ganged up on and butchered or watch on in fits and giggles as the other side kill each other, as happened, quite unbelievably, in a Last Team Standing. This I saw far too often in the multi-player already which is a shame.

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Overall, Chivalry, whilst it’s not quite dead, it would seem, more often than not, you will be. Glitchy graphics and a general unfinished, unpolished feel to the game spoil what could be a good first-person melee online multi-player game for console. The musical audio isn’t bad, but the grunts, gargles and general noises made by your knightly comrades distract. The voice-acting seems to have been somewhat of an afterthought and it shows, there’s also a particularly irritating bird that sings throughout as well. You are hampered by sluggish reactions and will end up on the receiving end of a halberd more times that Richard III. My advice would be, if you want first person sword-play, invest in, or revisit Skyrim, it’s much more enjoyable. Sometimes it’s the little things.

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Sacred 3 Review Xbox 360

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Sacred 3 tells the story of five heroes working together to stop the evil Lord Zane from retrieving the “Heart of Ancaria” and opening the gates of the Underworld and unleash its armies on the world of Ancaria. This is the third game in the series but the first under developer Deep silver who acquired the license from the original developer Ascaron Entertainment. This is my first time with the series so can it do justice to the popular series?

Sacred 3 is a top down Hack n Slash game that uses RPG elements in order for players to customise the combat style of their chosen fighter by using XP to level up abilities, weapons and armour as you progress through the game. From the start of the game you can pick from any of five cultures, each represented by a hero from the Seraphim, Safari, Ancarian. Khukuri and new to the series, the Malakhim. This culture will be included in the First Edition version of the game available on release day as DLC along with the ‘Underworld’ Mission pack which adds four missions which will see you fight your way to the top of a sinister tower where the Black Seraphim will be waiting, an evil not seen such Sacred 2.

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Once you have selected your hero it is time to step into the world of Ancaria. I chose the newest Culture of Malakhim due to his dual blades combat style. You will have a guide throughout the game in the form of Aria who will provide tips on what needs to be accomplished and where to go during story missions. What struck me straight away is how the dialogue in the game does away with the cheesy ‘ye olde’ style of fantasy speaking and instead infuses the game with humour and comedy as Aria will both guide and entertain as the story unfolds around the action going on often with her interaction with the evil general of Lord Zane’s army you whose forces you are taking down during each location. The banter between Aria and the evil boss is further enhanced by the addition of the weapon spirits.

Weapon spirits can be used to infuse your weapons granting new abilities and bonuses such as elemental damage or increasing the potency of healing orbs. Each weapon spirit has their own personality which will show through the action as they will random speak to you often as a result of how well you are doing. For example the first weapon spirit you discover is the Battlemage. His backstory is one of a ladies’ man who came to an unfortunate end at the hands of an angry father of one young lady. This shows through in his dialogue as he breaks into flirtation with Aria the guide and his often cringe one liners during gameplay. Picking the right weapon spirit does depend on your playing style as some will help you at a character level and some will benefit the group if playing in co-op. My particular favourite weapon spirit is the Elf, who will sing every line of dialogue she has which is just very random but also very amusing.

For me it is the combat in the game that really makes it stand out. I loved the arcade style of just having to wipe out every enemy on screen as you progress through each location. The numbers and difficulty of the enemy builds as you make your way through and there is just so much happening on screen that the action is fast and fluid. Along with your weapon style you also have abilities and spells tied to the bumpers to help you keep the enemy at bay. It can get a bit button mash worthy at times but it is great fun just taking out hordes of enemies until you make it to the end of the mission.

New weapons can be obtained during play and can be enhanced once your character has reached a certain level using the gold you collect along the way to purchase them. Each weapon will have its own upgrade tree and making the right choice will influence how deadly those weapons can be. The game does allow you to roll back your upgrades allowing you to craft the weapons that best suit your play style. The magic spells tied to the bumpers can also be enhanced once you have reached the necessary character level in order to unlock them. What I liked most about this style of upgrading is that being tied to your own character level means you will not be too over powered too early in the game but based on  your progression means you will be strong enough when you start battling the game’s main boss fights. It is a careful balance that both allows you to tailor the combat around what you like in combat but rewarding enough to keep you trying new things during the game. Armour will upgrade over time with enhancements unlocking to boost abilities. There is some visual change to the character but it is automatic with no option to personally customise how your character looks.

Sacred 3 allows for local co-op of up to two players but over Xbox LIVE you can have between two to four player co-op. With the right team combining the right combat styles, weapon spirits and abilities the action can be explosive when the battle numbers increase and it is a visual treat to just see so much happening on screen. I did notice some slowdown when big spells were in use both playing solo and with co-op but it was short and infrequent just noticeable when it happened.

Between the main story locations you will find smaller dungeon areas which will require you to clear the area of enemies in order to reach a large treasure chest. These are good for farming XP and gold to use when enhancing abilities later. They are very short though and can be skipped which makes them a nice option to play or not play depending on how you as the player feels.

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The game has a beautiful soundtrack throughout with a lovely orchestral score running through both the menus and the gameplay. Visually it has a nice art style for the cut scenes which are animated boards rather than full blown CGI sequences. With the almost top down view of the action you never really get to go up close to the characters on screen but the locations you visit are well drawn and create the world and atmosphere of Ancaria really well.

The game did have some niggles for me. Character and ability upgrades can only happen between locations so anything new unlocked via discovery or levelling up will have to wait until you have completed that mission area or retreated back to the world map before you can use them. There is also no real pausing in the game. Pressing start will bring up the main game menu but the action in that mission will continue, so make sure you have killed all enemies on screen and are in a safe area before using the start button.

The dialogue between the weapon spirit and Aria the guide is never interactive. The weapon spirit will respond to something Aria says but she will not reply to them kind of leaving it out there. Aria only talking to you and not your weapon spirit does break it up the flow of dialogue a little as you would expect Aria to respond back especially with characters like the Battlemage who replies with a flirtatious tone that you would expect Aria to just smack him down with a course response.

Overall I really enjoyed Sacred 3. The action is fast and gives you enough to do either playing solo or with friends in co-op. It was nice to see the game offer local co-op which is something that is lacking in recent games and online with up to four the action can get big real quick. There is enough of a challenge throughout the game but at times the areas can feel linear and limited without really allowing you to explore the area, just offering a side path to find a mystery treasure which will only give a small amount of gold. The humour is kept to a level that prevents it from becoming too tedious or cheesy but enhances the story as you battle the forces of evil on screen.

If you like your hack n slash action to be customisable to suit your own play style along with friends who can do the same then Sacred 3 will deliver all that in spades. A good story with great presentation and Sacred 3 is a nice refresh of the series under Deep Silver and will have you coming back for more if only just to try out new characters.

Thank you to Koch Media for providing the game for review

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