Xbox One

Review: Titanfall 2

When the original Titanfall was released, it was, to be fair, a stripped down game. With no single player and a smaller budget than the team at Respawn Entertainment were used to, having come from Call of Duty creators Infinity Ward, they never the less created arguably 2014’s best multiplayer shooter.

Fast forward two years and Respawn return with Titanfall 2. The budget been increased, single player is in and the multiplayer has been refined to near perfection. In short, they did it again, and even more surprisingly the single player is awesome.

That mode focuses on rifleman Jack Cooper, who after a disastrous drop onto a planet is paired with Titan BT-7274, a vanguard class titan. The tutorial before this show’s BT’s former pilot taking Jack through training exercises so he can take his pilot's exam, showing you how to jump, wall run and shoot, it setting up the story in a way that invokes the opening of the original Halo. Once BT becomes Jack’s titan, the story really takes off.


BT is probably one of the best new characters in recent memory. The AI that makes up his personality gives advice to Cooper, along with world building exposition and the odd funny comment, born of a machine's inherent inability to understand sarcasm. It makes him believable, a character you can root for. The team of Cooper and BT take you through the story with a relationship that just feels right.

This adds to the universe Respawn started in the original game, which had very little world building. In contrast, even the levels in the sequel flesh things out, let alone all the actual exposition that is done with cutscenes etc. The only problem with the story is the fact that the bad guys are painted as ‘the bad guys’.

What I mean by this is that no time is devoted to why the IMC are actually battling the Militia forces in a galaxy spanning conflict, you are just given a gun, a titan and pointed in their general direction. Normally, this wouldn’t be much of an issue, but the rest of the campaign sets up such an interesting universe that it does it a disservice to have to go to a wiki to figure out quite what is going on in the greater war.

This extends to the ‘bosses’ of the campaign, a series of mercenaries known as the Apex Predator’s. There is no reason given for their employment, and are actually a bit of an overused trope as they say things like “I haven’t been paid to kill you”, pretty standard dialog when combined with all the comments that most other games use for their mercs.

On the plus side, a couple of these bosses are pretty cool. I especially like Viper, who pilots a airborne titan and spouts almost IP infringing dialog ripped straight out of Top Gun, and I appreciate the goofiness it brings to an already slightly goofy tale. This does feel a little random and out of place, but the boss fights don’t overstay their welcome, so it's a small niggle.

Every so often, BT gains a new loadout, taken from the Titan presets in the multiplayer mode. It is a great addition because it stops the sections where you stay in the cockpit becoming boring, giving you new toys to play with. Not all of them are perfect, but that is very much a player preference thing, and with that said, there was something about each that was kinda cool, such as the Ronin loadouts electrified sword that can be used to deflect bullets.

There are some great levels in the campaign, with Effect and Cause being one of the most cleverly designed shooter levels in recent memory. It is cohesive and fun, and doesn’t take the gimmick of it too far. I am trying not to spoil things, as it really is part of what makes the campaign so good. One of the final missions is a blast as well, again not overstaying its welcome with its gimmick.

Overall the campaign is a brilliant, a real surprise to an already great package, assuming that they didn’t mess with the gameplay in the first one. They in fact did, but the changes made streamline aspects of the core feel, and this makes Titanfall 2 one of the best multiplayer shooters in years.

All the usual unlocks, merits and modes are there, but changing your character gives you a primary ‘Tactical’ ability. So if you want to use the STIM pack, that is a different character model than the one with the grapple hook, with every weapon available for all models.

As you unlock more, secondary abilities can be swapped, giving you personal cloaks among other things. The original game suffered from what felt like a very small amount of unlockables, but Titanfall 2 strikes a good balance. Is it as many as in say Call of Duty? No, but it doesn’t need to be, there is enough to unlock without feeling like you got everything super quick.

The nebulous ‘feel’ of the game is pitch perfect, I have rarely played matches where no matter how bad I did, it felt great to play. I wasn’t killed almost upon spawn, battles escalate nicely, I never felt hopelessly outclassed and felt like with some deft exploitation of the environments I could get the drop on opponents. I managed to get a three skill streak in more than a few matches with this and it felt great.

Titanfall 2 is a great package. It has a surprisingly great single player campaign, with some memorable characters, outstanding levels and badass moments. The multiplayer is the perfect way to battle real players, escalating to pitched battles with Titan vs Titan and pilot vs pilot action. If you want a lasting shooter experience, you can do no better.

REVIEW: Gears of War 4


I remember watching a documentary on the making of the original Gears of War. One scene in particular has always stuck with me. Members of the development team, including the outspoken Cliffy B,  are having lunch with Microsoft producers. Cliffy B turns to them, shifting in his seat excitedly and asking “Did you see the chainsaw gun? Did you?”.

This excitement was well founded, the Lancer as it later became known is now one of the most iconic weapons in all of gaming. The brutal machine gun, comically over sized to fit its comically over sized owners, dealt death from afar and blood spraying, satisfying vivisection when the distance becomes point blank. It summed up Gears of War in one single image, and made that first game truly cool.

Fast forward a decade and a few sequels, with a few years off and a new developer, Gears returns in Gears of War 4 and I can most definitely confirm that the Lancer is still cool as all hell. This time though, it is wielded by a new generation of gears, including original protagonist Marcus Fenix’s son, JD.

We are introduced back to the world Sera some twenty five years after the events of Gears of War 3. The planet is scarred by the explosion at the end of the third game and the younger gears, JD, Del and Kate have grown up in a world where the series main bad guys, the Locust, no longer exist, the COG (the government) have started to rebuild the world and women are told they should be mothers to rebuild the population.

At the start of the game, this isn’t your dad’s gears in terms of story. The writing is much improved, the setting genuinely feels like a world trying to rebuild and the main protagonists feel like they no longer believe in the government, and so have become ‘Outsiders’ - people who live away from the main cities, the COG and more over, the law. Meaning they have to perform raids for supplies.

This is the first mission, a raid on a construction site for some supplies. The enemies supplied are robots, called DB’s, and are fresh foe to help regenerate the series. They take cover and flank where appropriate, with bigger and badder robots being introduced the further into the game you get. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last. A few levels in and the ‘real’ enemy appears, and they look awfully familiar. This is actually deeply disappointing.


Falling back on long standing antagonists to remind everyone they are playing a Gears of War game is totally unnecessary. The opening missions set the stage for an intriguing tale of government vs outsider, where superior technology takes on human grit and pure muscle, but The Coalition, the new overseers of the franchise, chose to quickly forget that and move into the same thing players were doing a decade ago.

Therein lies the rub, with ten minutes of play reminding you that yes, this is indeed a Gears game, through and through. The active reload, familiar weapons, weight of just about everything and copious amounts of blood provide comforting knowledge that the core gameplay hasn’t been messed with and the developers know how to make this game and do it well. It just needs better story arc’s, something that moves the universe forward, not back.

That said, the writing is vastly improved over previous entries. One sequence in particular, where the team move from a partially built hospital, scattered with posters and pamphlets about how every women on the planet should become a mother, sticks out. At the end of this, JD asks Kate if she doesn’t like the thought of being a mom, to which she responds that she likes it fine, she just doesn’t like being told she has to.

It once again reinforces that anti-government story that would have been so cool to see played out, while also marking out what a great addition to the series cast Kate is. JD and Del on the other hand, fit more into archetypes seen in previous games, with Del being a wisecracking sidekick, despite being the one that asked Del to leave the COG, for reasons never fully explained. JD on the other hand isn’t as gruff and hard boiled as his father, presenting a youthful exuberance, but feels like he is a character transplanted from a previous game in the series.


Its unfortunate that more isn’t made of these characters, but, this being 2016, the game lets you know there is time. The ending, while not spoiling anything, achieves almost Halo 2 levels of ‘Oh F*** off!’ when it just stops and the credits roll. While this is a good few hours in, it just feels like a cynical way to remind people that this is the start of a new trilogy.

Taking all other elements away, and focusing on just the gameplay, this is probably the best gears game released so far. The new elements, some light tower defense sections and battling through spectacular ‘Wind flares’ during a few levels give some welcome changes of pace and push the Xbox One’s powers, and that core gameplay loop that always Gears so a great game remains fully intact.

The multiplayer returns, and if you loved the previous versions, then you will be very happy with what is on offer here. I didn’t play a huge amount of it back during the series heyday, but I did play enough to know that everything you loved about then is still present and correct today.

If Gears of War was never a series you were into, that this new entry will do nothing to change your mind, but for those who loved the hyper violent, gritty sci-fi and slight ridiculousness of the originals, Gears 4 will be a most welcome return to form. It’s just such a shame that it was felt necessary to cover old ground so completely, Gears of War fans deserve more respect than that, indeed, Gears of War itself deserves better.  



Review: Doom (2016)

Ah DOOM. It is the game that changed so much. ID software’s seminal shooter, while not the first FPS on the market, was responsible for many’s first foray into modding, online multiplayer, hyper violence and the first person viewpoint. I remember playing it as a kid, and it remains one of my favourite games of all time, and the series has earned its place in gaming’s hall of fame.


The first two games are classics in the truest sense, games that at the time were revolutionary, gaining a following that endures to this day. The third game, DOOM 3, which came out ten years after the original, doesn’t hold quite as much reverence, with many citing it as the end times for the series.

So when ID announced a new game in the venerable series, at the time called Doom 4, then later retitled to just DOOM, people were a little worried. Added to this was the fact that a multiplayer beta received much criticism and no review copies were sent out to reviewers before hand, generally a dark sign for the quality of a game.

Those worries, thankfully, were completely unfounded. The rebooted DOOM is the classic games through and through, but with updated mechanics, graphics and design that does everything required to bring what you remember about the original hurtling into the 21st century. In short, DOOM 2016 has no right to be this good.


The game's campaign opens with you awakening inside an ancient crypt, brutally killing a demon and escaping to find the ‘Praetor Suit’, the armour that will provide you protection from the forces of hell. Brilliantly, ID software have continued the tradition of not really naming the protagonist, instead the logs etc that you find simply refer to you as ‘The Doom Marine’.

From there, it's all about the killing. Like the first games, this new take focuses on brutal, bloody death with unabashed glee. It is everything that made you smile when you were younger, except now you can actually legally play it (being over 18 that is). As you travel about Mars and then Hell itself, you are given the tools to take down whatever is thrown at you.

These tools range from classic DOOM weapons like the super shotgun, plasma rifle and chain gun, to new brutal melee kills that aren’t there just for show, but one of the best ways to regain health. As you shoot enemies, they eventually stagger and glow blue. Get closer and that glow turns orange and you can hit a button to perform a ‘glory kill’ which rewards you with important health and after some upgrades, Armour.

This brutality extends to another classic weapon, the chainsaw. The iconic device makes a triumphant return, and it is just as satisfying as ever to rip through demons. However, changes have been made. It now requires fuel, which is in short supply. On the plus side, taking down enemies with it rewards you with a spray of ammo pick ups for your other weapons.

The result is a glorious ballet of shooting, melee and ammo replenishment via the chainsaw, with everything covered in so much blood that you could refloat the Titanic twice over. It is a game that will offend anyone still concerned with the violence in the medium, but to those who remember, those who know, this is what DOOM has and always will be.


Levels are massive, with lots of area’s to explore, and explore you should. Dotted around the environment are various upgrades and secrets and help with all the destruction, and the game doesn’t make finding these a chore. The DOOM marine can mantle up to surfaces, jump and eventually double jump, and even gain an upgrade that shows all the collectible locations on the map.

It makes it a pleasure to go through the levels, though some of these upgrades are a bit pointless and it can be difficult, even with the upgrades, to truly find everything. Some power ups though, are awesome. Take for example, the machine guns micro missile upgrade. This allows you to alt fire using small explosive missiles, couple that with an late game upgrade that allows you to have infinite ammo while your Armour is above 100, and you can’t help to laugh maniacally as you rain explosions on a room full of bad guys.

The story is there mainly to give some context to your actions, and as can probably be seen from how late it is in this review, isn’t the reason to play the campaign. Gameplay rules supreme here, and while the universe is fleshed out with cut scenes and the logs found strewn throughout the levels, ultimately I just wanted to get back to the killing of hell-spawn.

By the end of the game, which will take a good chunk of time, the destructive itch will have been scratched several times over. The ripping apart of classic DOOM enemies - Imps, Cacodemons, Revenants, Pinky demons and Hell Knights to name but a few - never gets old, and combat remains fun throughout.

ID Software have included a multiplayer component, and level design section ala Halo’s Forge mode, and these are fine inclusions for the most part, but once I was finished with the campaign, I had more than my share of DOOM.

I feel like the campaign of DOOM 2016 is something I could go back to time and again. The combination of updated mechanics and classic feel make it something special, and as I said before, it never gets old.

This new take on the classic franchise is everything anyone wanted out of the latest in the series and then some, as I said at the start of this review, it has no right to be this good, and it is more than worth your time.