Tag Archives: Action

Metal Gear Survive review

After many minutes of cutscenes, several hints at gameplay without, in fact, participation, followed by mere moments of interactivity before the next slew of dialogue and exposition kicked in, I knew I was playing a Metal Gear game. Indeed, despite the apparent departure from the tried and tested formula, Metal Gear Survive has all the same elements you might expect from the series, making it a pleasant surprise after what the open Beta suggested it would be.

As the title suggests, Metal Gear Survive is focused on survival, and this mixes up the usual stealth play and action quite well with expanded mechanics that we saw hints of in previous Metal Gear games. You must now manage your thirst and hunger, which are frequent concerns, especially early on. This involves finding food and clean water and regularly consuming them, which in turn affects your health and stamina. Allow hunger or dehydration to get the better of you and your physical abilities suffer considerably, reducing your combat effectiveness and movement therefore putting you in grave danger against your foes.

These foes take the shape of zombie-esque characters; ferocious, animalistic adversaries that mean to tear you apart. They’re called Wanderers and inhabit a dimension called Dite, a world where you find yourself after an attack on Mother Base from the end of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. You’re not alone in this strange world however, other survivors are scattered around the large, open play area, and they can be found and recruited to help build and maintain your own base of operations, as you seek to discover the fate of a previously deployed unit to this dimension and a ways to escape it.

Managing your immediate needs of thirst and hunger make up only a small part of the overall management system. Your health is threatened by raw meat and dirty water, so medication is required to treat illness, while upgraded facilities are required to prevent illness in the first place. Meanwhile, every scrap of material is precious. This scrap is essential, allowing you to build new crafting stations at your base, new equipment and weapons to aid you, and defences to help keep the Wanderers at bay. This amalgamates in building up your base and outposts to be safe, self-maintained havens for you and the other survivors. And indeed, they soon become just that, with farms growing the all-important food you need and the other survivors even helping maintain it all as well as allowing you to send them on missions of their own. It’s gruelling, desperate survival initially but eventually gives way to rewarding progress and order.

Then there’s the story, which is surprisingly deep and intriguing. The Beta gave the impression of a cooperative survival game with equipment upgrades measuring progress, but in fact there’s a lengthy tale of political intrigue with plenty of twists and turns and pleasant links to The Phantom Pain. This is so much more than just a survival game that means to encourage emergent gameplay, there’s a story here worthy of the series. The multiplayer offering of teams of four protecting an area against swarms of Wanderers is but a small part of the experience, an optional part for more resources.

The meat of Metal Gear Survive is in the single-player offering, of searching for information about the lost unit, the Charon Corps, and figuring out a way back home while enduring the harsh environment. It’s a different kind of Metal Gear, and a riskier one at that, but there’s also something refreshing about it. Newcomers are likely to find this to be a survival game that’s challenging with a surprisingly heavy handed slice of exposition, meanwhile, Metal Gear fans may find something gripping and different about the experience. Post Kojima Konami may not be entirely without hope after all when it comes to this series. There is, of course, the £10 save slot debacle, and indeed that’s anti-consumer, over-priced nonsense, but the rest of the micro transactions are less offensive, allowing you to buy additional load-out slots and unit slots to send on missions. They are entirely optional extras that most will never feel the urge to indulge in.

While Metal Gear Survive is surprising in its single-player offering and story, it still suffers some missteps. Defending against waves of Wanderers and fetching data from computer terminals are the primary missions on offer, with side missions merely pointing you towards additional resources you can gather. It all gets a bit repetitive, especially once you devise a few winning strategies for dealing with the Wanderer hordes. Meanwhile, despite the lengthy story and its twists, character development is a bit lacking. Your character is fully customisable but mostly silent with no real personality beyond the one you imprint on them, and those that are explored come across as dull and uninspired. There’s no Kojima magic here for zany characters. Certainly there’s enough intrigue here to help keep you playing to see how it all comes together but it’s more supernatural than military sci-fi this time around.

Metal Gear Survive isn’t what it appeared to be. This isn’t a multiplayer mode stretched out into a full release, instead it’s an experimental title in the series with the same single-player dedication but some new and expanded survival mechanics running the show. As a survival game it’s a fun and challenging experience, whether played single-player or multiplayer, as a Metal Gear game it’s one of the weaker titles but certainly not without its charms.

Thanks to Xbox and Konami for supporting TiX

Hand of Fate 2 review

The wonderfully unique Hand of Fate made quite the impression with its D&D-esque adventuring combined with a collectable card game and Batman Arkham series combat. The sequel has now arrived bringing with it enhancements to every aspect of the original, resulting in a marvellously compelling, genre-splicing title with enough content and challenge to keep you entertained for hours on end.

The mysterious, card dealing stranger from the first title returns to act as your, for lack of a better term, dungeon master. With his own deck of cards – covering a wide selection of events from monster encounters to narrative driven scenarios – as well as a mixture of cards you’ve selected from your own deck that gradually grows as you play, layers of cards are set on the table that act as a randomly generated map made up of multiple events. Each turn you move your counter through the map and face the challenges that arise from each card you step on. This builds the adventure with enough randomisation to challenge and surprise you as you take part in a grander narrative.

New to the sequel is the addition of companions. These companions offer benefits in both combat – granting buffs or even participating in the fight – and when navigating the challenges of your adventure, aiding in the gambits of dice throws, card wheels and pendulums. They also have their own self-contained stories to experience, adding a lot of depth, some well-written escapades to enjoy, and making the journey less lonely and isolated than in the original title.

The combat has been improved markedly, with a far smoother flow and animations resulting in an easier, fairer system. It still doesn’t capture the excellence of the Batman Arkham combat mechanics but it’s certainly closer to it than before. It’s also more nuanced, with a greater selection of opponents requiring different strategies to fell, and your equipment and the special abilities they grant playing a bigger role. Moreover, there’s more variety this time around, with elements such as primary targets on the battlefield and groups of allies supporting you.

Indeed, with Hand of Fate 2’s smoother combat, new and interesting cards populating yours and the dealer’s decks, as well as a larger, more involved set of stories making up the lengthy campaign, many of the nit-picks of the original have been quelled. Certainly, after a few hours you’ll find the dealer’s quips repeat a little bit, alongside the events on the cards, but each new location adds enough variety of new events to the decks that there’s always something intriguing to discover.

Once again the random nature of Hand of Fate 2 can lead to some unfair deaths, but largely the health, provisions, equipment, companions, and of course the events dictated by the cards, are balanced well enough to provide a challenge but with enough opportunities to stave off death. Its innovative use of mechanics and concepts results in a fantasy adventure that’s fresh yet oddly nostalgic, tapping into the allure of D&D and Fighting Fantasy. It comes highly recommended.

Thanks to Xbox and Defiant Development for supporting TiX

The Evil Within 2 review

The original The Evil Within’s setting of the mind of a psychopath; a whole world contained within a mind that others could access through a device, made for some excellent horror, and allowed elements such as pacing, logical world building, and even characterisation to take a back seat. With the sequel, more care has been taken to establish motivation and character personalities, playing more on emotion within the same madness of a mind-made world of horror.

The mind hosting the frights this time around is that of the protagonist’s, Sebastian Castellanos, daughter, who was abducted by the sinister MOBIUS, those behind the Beacon Hospital event from the original. This organisation have, once again, created a world that others can inhabit, something has gone wrong and now they rely on you to figure out what and save their operatives as well as your daughter.

Indeed, The Evil Within 2’s stronger focus on character gives it a Silent Hill 2 feel initially, this is further explored by a shift from linear environments to several open ones. However, while the psychology of Sebastian is mostly well played on in dialogue, boss encounters and general enemies fail to represent the trauma and fear of the protagonist in any meaningful way. In fact they’re a little disappointing in general, lacking the same originality and over-the-top gruesomeness as in the first title. Considering the visual are leagues ahead in detail and lighting, as well as featuring a far more varied colour palette, this is surprising and a bit of a let-down.

Fortunately, there’s still plenty of frightening encounters and environments to get your blood pumping. Despite spending a fair amount of time in the three open areas, there’s still plenty of corridors and more linear areas that allow for some creepy and tense exploration, playing on audio and the ‘close the shoulder’ camera to really play on the fear of the unknown. The open areas, meanwhile, are a little more action orientated but still do a good job getting the scares in with enough corners hiding terrors and copious amounts of items and side missions to encourage you to explore every nook and cranny. Moreover, the new ability to craft items means less collecting specific ammo types and more collecting material to craft what you want. This brilliantly allows you to create ammo for your preferred weapon rather than forcing you to use them all.

Additionally, the crafting mechanic creates a clever risk verses reward situation where crafting items in the field costs significantly more than returning to a safe house and crafting there. It forces you to frequently decide between trekking through enemy infested areas to get somewhere safe or taking the hit to materials and crafting where you are allowing you to continue. This is especially effective in the first few hours where a couple of hits is enough to put you down and your ammo count is pathetically small.

Even when ammo is more abundant, you’re never fully prepared for the enemy encounters. Stealth is the best way to proceed, avoiding combat as much as possible, and when it does kick-off, the open areas allow you to retreat, which is often a smart choice. Additionally, a more nuanced tree of abilities, both passive and active, can be unlocked with green goo as with the original title, and these help you shape Sebastian into the character you want for the play style you’ve chosen. Still, it’s a difficult game where a lapse in focus can easily result in your demise.

The Evil Within 2 is a great horror game that improves upon the original in movement, characterisation and inventory management brilliantly, but drops the ball a little when it comes to enemy originality and scares. This is partially due to the open areas offering a different experience but more so it’s a simple lack of creativity on the developer’s side. Still, it’s an attractive looking title with an intriguing setting and enough frightening encounters to put you on edge, less original but more refined.

Thanks to Xbox and Bethesda for supporting TiX

Resident Evil Revelations review

Sometimes being a game reviewer isn’t all it seems. Yes, reviewing a game you are looking forward to playing is great (eg.Tacoma), and unearthing a real gem that you had no intention of playing is even better (eg.The Sexy Brutale). But then there are games like Resident Evil Revelations.

The Resident Evil series is well loved and respected, and the most recent game (Resident Evil 7) updated the genre for the current generation consoles and was arguably one of the best in the series. But I was confused, as I knew that Revelations 2 had already been released on Xbox One, so why was I being tasked to review its prequel? A quick Google search later and I found that Resident Evil Revelations is a remastering of a last generation remake of a game originally released on the 3DS in 2012. We are in the era of well-loved games being remade and re-released, which sometimes don’t happen in quite the right order! So, research completed, and my question is: How will this remastering stand up in 2017?

Resident Evil Revelations (now referred to as RER) is developed by Capcom and takes place between the events of Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. The story of the game follows series protagonists Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield as they try to stop a bioterrorist organisation from infecting the Earth’s oceans with a virus. The game mainly involves the player controlling Jill Valentine aboard a ghost ship in the Mediterranean Sea, but there are flashbacks and scenarios where you play as other supporting characters.

RER was originally designed to put emphasis on survival, evasion, and exploration ahead of fast-paced combat by providing the player with limited ammunition, health, and movement speed. It was designed to bring back the content and horror of the series’ roots, while at the same time trying to modernize the gameplay, in which lies my first and most critical complaint of the game. It’s great to put emphasis on evasion, but it doesn’t work when the control of the character is so sluggish. When you factor in the limited ammunition, which you will run out of on most boss encounters, it makes these encounters a hard slog, even when you’re playing on the easiest difficulty level. RER is a third person game which switchs into first person when aiming your weapon, this makes any encounter with more than one enemy extremely frustrating. One section, set as a flashback in a skyscraper, has you defending a foyer as you wait for a lift, against lizards (Hunters) who jump and attack in one movement from multiple directions. This is impossible to defend against or evade when the movement of your character, including weapon aiming, is just so slow! Especially when there are up to five enemies in that small space.

RER has two different gameplay modes: Campaign and Raid. Campaign is your standard singleplayer story, whilst Raid is where one or two players can fight their way through a selection of altered scenarios from Campaign mode. These will reward you with experience and battle points that can be exchanged for various weapons and items at a store. Gaining experience and acquiring new equipment allows progress to higher and more challenging scenarios.

There are twelve chapters in the campaign of RER, and I have to admit by chapter four I had played enough. Even though I was enjoying the story I was hating the controls and how sluggish they were. But it wasn’t all bad. There was a moment early on in RER with a human character who is slowly being overcome by the virus, so she still possessed human characteristics as she taunted and stalked your character. This section did unnerve me with its excellent sound design and feelings of claustrophobia.

But wait, as I mentioned in my opening, being a reviewer isn’t all it seems. I was so close to giving up on RER, but I don’t believe it’s fair to write a review based on such a small amount of game time, so I persevered and I started to enjoy this game. I got used to the clunky controls. I realised that each enemy had a weak point and I began to defeat them quicker. I realised that the Genesis device you are equipped with could be used to find extra hidden ammo as well as scanning enemies. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still not a great game, but it does have a good story and it mixes up the gameplay over the course of the twelve chapters to avoid making it a slog.

Graphically, the cutscenes really show the remastering process and are very pretty, and with most games of this ilk a lot of care and attention has been given to the female form, both in the cutscenes and in gameplay. If only the basic enemies had been given the same attention. Some of the base level enemies are just boring, and you don’t face them in combat with any feeling of dread, just annoyance. In fact, I would go as far as to say I am quite easily unnerved by horror games, and apart from the early encounter I previously mentioned, RER didn’t scare me at all.

Occasionally, you will have to defeat an end of level boss, some of which are fun to go up against, particularly where it takes you into different scenarios, such as on a mounted minigun in a helicopter. Others are dull and frustrating, and frequently lead to your character running out of ammo and resorting to melee attacks on huge monsters. RER also has missions which requires swimming and diving and these are also great ways to break up the standard gameplay, and these are designed well enough to make you feel claustrophobic and uncomfortable.

Story-wise, RER is extremely entertaining, even for someone like me who isn’t familiar with the events leading up to this game. Obviously I was familiar with the likes of Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield, but was obliviously unaware of the range of supporting characters and the agencies of which they belong to, such as the FBC and BSAA. It moves along at a good pace and swaps between characters and locations to prevent things from becoming dull and boring.

Overall, Resident Evil Revelations is an OK game. Fans of the series will probably love it, but the clunky, sluggish controls let it down. This is most demonstrated in the final boss fight, where, although the enemy attacks are telegraphed, the strike area is just too large and it’s impossible to get out of the way in time, which is hugely frustrating. Introducing a roll mechanic for these encounters would increase enjoyment (and my score)!

Thanks to Xbox and Capcom for supporting TiX

THQ Nordic announce Darksiders III

Today, THQ Nordic announced that hack-n-slash action adventure Darksiders III is currently in development and is slated for release in 2018 on Xbox One.

As promised, we have taken our time to ensure that this next Darksiders will be everything action-adventure gamers and especially Darksiders loyalists could dream of and more,

said Lars Wingefors, Co-Founder and Group CEO, THQ Nordic AB.

The company also announced that it is working with the team at Gunfire Games, which is largely comprised of the original creators of the Darksiders franchise, on development of the long and highly-anticipated project.

The Gunfire team brings an intimate involvement with every aspect of the Darksiders franchise since its inception,

said Reinhard Pollice, Director of Business and Product Development, THQ Nordic.

There is simply no team better qualified to create Darksiders III, beginning with our unpredictable and enigmatic hero FURY – a mage who is considered the most powerful of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

Agents of Mayhem gets a release date and new trailer

The Saints Row spin-off, Agents of Mayhem, from Volition and Deep Silver, will be releasing on this August 15 in the US and August 18 in Europe.

Along with the release date comes a new trailer where the Agents offer up some hints on themselves and what abilities they wield.

In Agents of Mayhem, the only hope for governments and global corporations swept aside by the evil LEGION are a group of corporately funded super agents called the AGENTS of MAYHEM. Set loose in the city of Seoul, with your choice of three agents each offering a different set of skills, weapons, as well as their own unique looks and personalities, you must bring LEGION to their knees.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight review

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight is a retro 2D scrolling platformer, and that pretty much says it all.

There’s a plethora of this type of game out for the current generation of consoles – garish looking, 8-bit games with high definition audio, easy to handle gameplay reliant on button bashing and simplistic storylines.

That, however, doesn’t make it great. Sure, there’s the nostalgia of playing a game that harks back to Ghosts ‘n Goblins and the like, but it just feels underwhelming when played on a HD TV!

It’d be perfect for a casual gamer on a mobile gaming platform, wouldn’t feel out of place on the Nintendo 3DS (if it had 3D support), but on the Xbox One, it just feels a bit of a non-event.

The most interesting aspect of the game is actually the 8-bit graphics, more detailed and better animated than fans of the era may expect, but still blocky and occasionally odd looking. The same, however, can’t be said for a soundtrack that seems to meander, with no real sense of urgency.

For scrolling platformer fans, it’ll be easy to get into. Move from area to area, jump, drop and bash away at the buttons to defeat the myriad of bad guys. The same fans, however, will long to play other things, especially in an overly crowded world of emulators, “classic” re-releases and remasters.

Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight may have fans who will embrace this one, but for anyone new to the series, there’s not much to recommend.

Thanks to Xbox and Playism for supporting TiX

Mass Effect Andromeda review

Mass Effect Andromeda isn’t quite the return for the series we all hoped for. It’s technically flawed, suffers from sections of poor writing, padded with dull and tedious side content, and lacks the subtlety of its former trilogy of titles. It’s largely been developed by a fresh set of creators, and it unfortunately feels like it. However, some excellent combat mechanics and a fascinating concept behind the story does make this adventure one worth exploring.

The arrival in the Andromeda galaxy and the events proceeding it tell a well-paced and fascinating story of survival, exploration and mystery. Indeed, the idea of leaving the behind Milky Way, many of that galaxy’s species, and the Reapers, makes this adventure feel fresh and your discoveries more intriguing. It’s a smart choice that certainly feels like a great introduction for an entirely new series of Mass Effect games and stories. However, it also raises a level of expectance and anticipation for something grander that the original trilogy offered; something more threatening than the Reapers and more fascinating that the mass relays, and Andromeda’s stand-ins for both of these don’t fill their predecessor’s shoes just yet. There’s time for this to develop further, of course, if indeed the plan for another trilogy is realised, but this potentially opening act doesn’t feel as strong.

However, the new threat in the form of the alien menace the Kett and the dark matter infecting the Helius region of the Andromeda galaxy, prove to be intimidating enough to compromise the best laid plans of the Andromeda Initiative that organised this colony mission. The Human, Asari, Salarian and Turian races each have their own ark, with other races, such as the Krogan, also joining these arks but in lesser numbers. It adds a nice slice of familiarity to the cast, helping ease you in to the new. As for the stand-in for mass relays, instead there’s ancient Remnant technology from a mysterious, advanced race that can cleanse a planet’s atmosphere, acting as a new tool and source of technological intrigue that works well within the fiction of arriving in a hostile new galaxy.

The goal of the Andromeda Initiative was to setup the first few colonies of Milky Way species in the Andromeda galaxy across seven ‘golden worlds’, that long-range scanned determined were rich with resources and fit for life. However, during the 600 plus years it took the arks to travel to this region, the worlds have been altered. The discovery of the aforementioned dark matter veins surrounding the region, the alien race the Kett, and the Remnant vaults that sit on these planets, provides a strong driving force to figure out how they’re all connected, and your struggle to overcome the challenges of this new galaxy embroils you in a well-told adventure, just one that’s on a smaller, more personal scale than the original trilogy.

While the galaxy is new and mysterious, Mass Effect Andromeda still manages to feel very familiar. Nods to previous events and characters in the series helps make this new chapter feel connected and many of the original title’s tropes are played on to make this feel like a familiar yet new beginning. There’s politics to your position within the Andromeda Initiative as Pathfinder that feels pleasantly similar to the struggle of Shepard as the first Human Spectre. Meanwhile, the Nexus – the huge hub space station where the arks are meant to rendezvous – is the Citadel in all but name. Scanning planet for resources, the Pathfinder’s personal ship, crew and land vehicle the Nomad, intense combat and copious amounts of lore to read up on and glean from dialogue, all makes Andromeda feel like any other Mass Effect title.

Where’s there’s been improvements are in the dialogue choices and the combat. You can now choose from up to four emotional responses during conversations, allowing for a much more natural flow to dialogue, although situations where you’re only provided two options that are practically identical do crop up far too often, and this element of ‘choice’ is more of an illusion than an actual dialogue tree. The combat, meanwhile, is now much more fluid, with your character taking cover automatically when you approach it, weapons and abilities hitting harder and having clear strategic uses, and ammo being strewn across battlefields ready to restock you and get you back in the fight. The upgrade tree is split between different disciplines allowing you to craft different character classes, such as a traditional soldier, biotic enhanced, tech enhanced, etc. Furthermore, you can switch between these disciplines at will, allowing you to adapt to the situation you’re in as well as find a play-style that best suits you. Finally, the jet boosters adds a nice amount of verticality to your movement during combat to allow for better tactics and a more flowing and intense set of encounters, with the enemy AI proving aggressive enough to make moving around during a fight an important strategic consideration.

However, there’s also plenty of issues that can ruin the experience for you. Humans and Asari suffer from horrendous facial animations and dead eyes that make dialogue with them distracting. Meanwhile, all characters are prone to dodgy walking animations and glitches where they reset to the ‘T’ position. There are also many instances of low frame rates and screen tearing, some truly terrible writing, poor draw distance, and characters floating in the air when you approach them. Largely these are issues with the final polish, and as such can be ignored, however, we also ran into some game-breaking bugs that prevented us talking to other characters or being able to achieve objectives within a mission. Reloading fixed these issues the majority of the time, but not always. Additionally, a lot of the side missions feel like filler, giving you dull and repetitive tasks that added little to the lore. Furthermore, tutorials only provided the briefest overview of some of the new systems and inventory management options.

Indeed, Mass Effect Andromeda has a lot of issues that can pull you out of the experience, however, when focused on the story missions it can easily immerse you in this new galaxy and the new challenges it provides. Additionally, some terrific lighting and environment textures make planets a visual treat to visit, and the voice cast does a great job, for the most part. The Multiplayer also provides a compelling, wave-based, cooperative challenge; it’s a little shallow but the intense combat makes it thrilling enough.

Despite the issues there’s still a good Mass Effect title here. There’s a lot of potential for the sequels to jump off this opening chapter in the Andromeda galaxy and build something great. Sure, the bugs and glitches are immersion breaking and disappointing, lacking that polish we expect from BioWare, but a strong story steeped in intrigue does a great job of mitigating most of the flaws.

Thanks to Xbox and EA for supporting TiX

Ubisoft release Ghost Recon Wildlands TV Spot ‘Ruthless’

Ubisoft have released their TV Spot for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, entitled “Ruthless”. This action-packed piece has been directed by the legendary John McTiernan (Die Hard, Predator) depicts the Ghosts’ first mission in Bolivia, where they will try to take down the Santa Blanca cartel.

This TV Spot is not the first work by John McTiernan for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, having also directed the unique Red Dot live trailer, released earlier this year and which revealed an interesting relationship between a red dot, a cat and… Cartel members. While Red Dot shows the merciless efficiency of the Ghosts, Ruthless shows the cruelty of the Cartel.

You can watch Red Dot below:

Players will be able to take on the Cartel themselves from today as the Open Beta for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is now live until February 27th. This Open Beta introduces players to two provinces from amongst the 21 available in the game: Itacua, a flourishing and mountainous region, where the grip of the cartel is looser, allows players to perfect their sniping skill and become acquainted to the Wildlands. Montuyoc, set in the snowy Altiplano and the second province available in this Open Beta, is much more challenging as it hosts Santa Blanca elite training centres.

8DAYS review

8DAYS is infuriating. Every step is dangerous, every fight hard fought, and every weapon precious. Indeed, 8DAYS’ mix of twin-stick shooting, bullet hell and stealth is an intriguing and highly challenging hybrid of genres that often feels insurmountable but is oh so satisfying when you overcome it. It’s the best kind of infuriating.

You are an elite mercenary working for the private military company G.O.D Inc. (Gold, Oil and Diamonds), undergoing operations all over the world to serve your outfit’s clients the best you can. This means murder, mayhem, and war mongering. It makes for a nice change, playing in the mud a little, with no clear heroes and villains just different shades of grey. Of course, a story of betrayal and conspiracies soon unfolds around you, but for the most part it simply facilitates new locations for you to struggle through against superior numbers and weaponry.

Equipment is OSP (on-site procurement) with only two slots available to you. Rocks, guns, knives, rocket launchers and more can be picked up and utilised against your enemies, allowing you to brutally bludgeon, shoot, slice and blow-up those that stand in your way. It’s a bloodthirsty and vicious existence serving as a mercenary, but a necessary one, drop your guard and you won’t be returning home in one piece.

Enemies will react lightning fast to your presence, sending a hail of bullets your way, not dissimilar to a bullet hell shooter, or chasing you with their massive knives where one hit can kill you. Even some of the local fauna will attack on site and ruin your day. Furthermore, you can fall off cliffs and fall in rivers, making awareness of your surroundings a crucial skill. It often feels like everything is out to kill you, and it’s equally exhilarating and terrifying, thanks largely to how insanely fast the action is and how easy it is to die.

Fortunately, progress can be broken down into screens. Each time you reach the edge of a screen and move to a new area it acts as a checkpoint. This allows you to break down the challenge into chunks, and once you figure out the troop placement for a particular screen, you can begin to work your way through it, engaging groups individually, skirting round them entirely, or just running for the edge in a mad dash. It’s completely up to you, and each screen is large enough to provide some tactical options, allowing you to make progress through multiple styles of play.

You’re sent on multiple operations with each one offering an entirely different location and set of enemies to overcome. There’s some nice variety here, whether it’s outdoors in a dusty desert or lush forest, or inside an advanced facility. All of which are superbly designed to provide multiple paths to your objective, or large screen where you can choose your method of engagement. Midway through an operation you’ll face a mini-boss, testing your reactions and accuracy thoroughly, then at the end of each operation another boss will challenge you. These encounters offer a mix of threatening and quirky opponents, in line with the action parody tone of the game. They’re delightfully deranged and dangerous.

It can certainly get frustrating when you fail to get past a screen multiple times (see my video), or can’t figure out the best path forwards, but with each screen offering a discrete challenge and a checkpoint, perseverance will eventually get you through. And it’s cleverly designed to make the frustrations as fleeting as possible. Bringing a second player along for the ride in local coop often turns the frustrating into hilarious shared disasters, and the stunning pixel art portrays the blood, gore and murder in a rather fetching way. Sure it’s challenging, but it’s also fun, funny and compelling enough to keep you playing.

Thanks to Xbox and Badland Games for supporting TiX