Tag Archives: Sci Fi

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

Tacoma Review

Tacoma is going to be a very difficult game to review and score. It will probably be the shortest review I am going to write since joining TiX, as I can’t go into too much detail about the story in fear of giving you any spoilers. And, most importantly, the day after finishing Tacoma, I am still not sure how I feel about it.

Tacoma is the latest game from Fullbright, a very small team of developers whose past game, Gone Home, was extremely well received when released on PC, and has since been ported over to Xbox One. Both Gone Home and Tacoma are examples of games which have been given the somewhat harsh moniker of “Walking Simulators”, which are short, story based experiences.

Tacoma is a story, set in 2088, about six astronauts who are based on the Lunar Transfer Station Tacoma, 200,000 miles from Earth. You play as Amy Ferrier, a contractor assigned by the stations owners, the Venturis Corporation, to enter the abandoned Tacoma station to retrieve AI data from each of its sections and retrieve the physical processing module of ODIN, the station’s AI.

As you explore the station you use an AR device to witness the events that have befallen the crew, leading to the Tacoma becoming abandoned. Using the AR device you are also able to investigate the crew’s personal logs and emails, to see their individual thoughts and messages home. All these AR sections play like video clips, giving you the ability to forward, rewind and pause events to gain all the AI data needed. During these sections you discover codes which enable you to open new areas of the space station. Also dotted around are various objects, which when manipulated can earn you some nice easy achievements.

When you first encounter the AR mechanism its a little bit confusing, as there are markers at various time locations on the bar. But when you realise that they are colour coded, and each crew member is also colour coded, then the objective becomes clear. Each AR sequence can also be split, with the crew members splitting off and having their own conversations, which means the sequences have to be played through multiple times with your focus on different crew members.

The story is by far the most immersive element of Tacoma, especially the back stories and emotional moments witnessed in the various emails and messages sent between the crew, and between their families back home. Just by witnessing these moments, and by reading letters or notes left in drawers, you feel a bond and form emotional attachments to the characters, so much so that you really root for their survival.

The design of the space station Tacoma is also superb. You do feel like you are on a living, breathing space station, where a small group of people live and work. The simple additions of areas like Laundry Rooms and Kitchens, although not the most exciting areas, make it feel realistic. Each area of the station is connected via a hub, where there is no gravity, so you have to manoeuvre being weightless. From the hub, getting to each individual area is done via a long tube with a mechanical lift, which positively reinforces the feeling that you are on a space station. Each area has gravity, so it’s back to walking!

Tacoma is short. I am going to get that right out in the open. It is really short. All in all, to get every bit of content from this game will take about three hours. And that’s it’s biggest flaw.

When the game is about to finish, I was expecting it to move to a new location, or tell me that there has been a mistake and that there was a whole secret area to investigate. But there wasn’t. It was Game Over (man). So, apart from mopping up achievements for the full 1000 Gamerscore, that was it. The achievements are also pretty easy to get, but you will probably need a guide as most are secret and you may not naturally do some of these things whilst playing.

The shortness of Tacoma is the reason I am still unsure what rating to give it. Tacoma is a great piece of storytelling, in a fairly new, inventive way, but it left me feeling a bit empty afterwards. It just didn’t give me enough. I wanted more story, I wanted to see what happened afterwards. I wanted more history of both the crew and the Venturis Corporation.

And, unfortunately I came across a few bugs. At times the framerate drops a lot, and this mostly happened when travelling to different areas of the ship. On one of these occasions it also caused the game to crash, so it’s not perfect in its performance. This even takes place when the game starts with the message “Press A to start”, and you press A and nothing happens, so you keep pressing A until finally the game catches up with the first press of A. The bugs are not game breaking but are definitely frustrating.

So, this is my dilemna. Should you play Tacoma? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. But, if you are like me, you’ll come away with a slight sense of disappointment, as you’ll feel a bit cheated on what time you spend for your £15.

Thanks to Xbox and Fullbright for supporting TiX

Nevermind review

Nevermind provides an interesting and eerie opportunity to see into the minds of four very different individuals, and help them overcome trauma. It’s part walking simulator, part puzzler and part horror, although the latter largely puts you in a position of unease rather than fright. And the three gameplay elements meld together splendidly to create a unique and fascinating, albeit short, experience.

You are a psychologist who’s been newly hired at a very advanced medical facility. Here doctors don’t just talk and listen to their patients but also delve deep into their minds, thanks to technology that maps and then allows you to explore their subconscious as if you are really there. It’s a neat idea and one that opens up huge possibilities for story-telling, but in Nevermind it’s merely a framing device for some eerie and perspective shifting exploration and puzzle solving. That’s not to say it’s dull, far from it, but there’s a spark of Portal genius here that’s unfortunately not acted upon.

One thing that’s missing from the Xbox One version however, is the biofeedback element. This would take data from a variety of third-party biofeedback devices that are available right now, and the game would change depending on how stressed and fearful you were. It sounds a like a great concept, but one that isn’t realised for Xbox One. However, what’s here doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything, and it’s still a great experience.

Nevermind 1

A tutorial level helps ease you into the experience, following the familiar tale of Hansel and Gretel, but before long you’ll be experiencing the subconscious minds of four patients who have suffered some kind of trauma in their lives. Whilst exploring their mind it’s up to you to find 10 photographs which represent key memories, five of which are false. In order to cure your patient you must gather these memories, figure out which ones are true, and put them in the correct order. Afterwards, you can revisit their mind to try and find other memories, which are important for you to understand their story fully.

For the most part you’re walking through locations that represent real locations in your patient’s lives. Much like a dream, these warp and change as you explore them, with doors leading directly to a completely new location or even back to one you’ve recently visited but having gone through a transformation. It’s cleverly designed, with things often changing drastically simply when you turn your back, featuring some powerful imagery that invokes myriad feelings and helps put your patient’s trauma into perspective. It’s a little bit scary too, with some excellent sound effects and music, sparing but deliberately used to bring locations and events to life. However, whilst it’s certainly looking to invoke an emotional response from you, it’s not looking to outright frighten you.

Nevermind 2

It’s meant to be eerie but don’t expect any jump scares, instead it means to tap into your empathy and place you in the mind-set of the patient. And it works too; the framing device of delving into the minds of these people is immersive, making it feel like you really are exploring someone’s subconscious. Meanwhile, some terrifically detailed visuals with high quality textures, a wide colour palette, effective use of lighting, and the added sound effects, music and weird imagery, is remarkably effective at putting you in their shoes. As such, if you pay attention to what is being said and shown to you, figuring out the trauma and what’s a real and fake memory in the photos is fairly intuitive.

Jumping back into your patients minds to further explore and find those fragments of memories to allow you to fully understand them, are a little more abstract and far less gamified than the rest of the experience. It makes them tricky to find if you’re searching for them specifically, such as for achievements, but if you do come across them naturally, they enhance your familiarity with the patient quite effectively.

Nevermind 3

However, it’s not entirely smooth sailing through the minds of your patients, some slow-down kicks in frequently as you’re looking around, making the controls suddenly sluggish. There are occasions where this is done intentionally, such as puzzle sections or to help invoke a feeling related to your patient’s trauma, but when it happens outside of these moments it threatens to break the immersion. Fortunately, as frequent as it is, the overall experience isn’t hurt by it, it just feels odd when it does happen.

Indeed, Nevermind is a clever, revealing and fascinating exploration of mental health. The characters that make up your patients are believable and brilliantly voice acted, the locations and puzzles you explore are crafted to represent and encapsulate the trauma of the patients splendidly, and figuring it out and experiencing perspectives that you might not have otherwise experienced is highly satisfying and intriguing. There’s certainly a ‘what if’ niggling disappointment at how much more this kind of concept could be explored if narrative was more what the developers wanted to focus on, but that’s not what Nevermind is about, and what it does focus on is very well-crafted.

Thanks to Xbox and Flying Mollusk for supporting TiX

New trailer for indie game Caffeine

You awaken aboard a caffeine mining space station to find yourself, a young boy seemingly all alone. The only thing you know for sure? Something bad has transpired here…

Confused and alone, you start to explore this seemingly derelict space station finding cryptic notes and messages everywhere you look, could these be clues to what has happened?”

Caffeine, the sci-fi horror from Incandescent Imaging is expected to arrive this year on Xbox One.

In preparation for the launch, a new gameplay trailer has been revealed at Gamescom.