Game Corner [Sonic Month]: Sonic Colours: Ultimate (Xbox Series X)


Sonic the Hedgehog was first introduced to gamers worldwide on 23 June 1991 and, since then, has become not only SEGA’s most enduring and popular character but also a beloved videogame icon and, in keeping with tradition, I have been dedicating an entire month’s worth of content to SEGA’s supersonic mascot.


GameCorner

Released: 7 September 2021
Originally Released: 11 November 2010
Developer: Blind Squirrel Games
Original Developer: Sonic Team
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S (Remaster); Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS (Original Release)

The Background:
Despite what people would have you to believe, Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 2006) was an absolute travesty and one of the lowest points in the franchise. Sonic Team pulled out all the stops to make up for that dismal failure with Sonic Unleashed (ibid, 2008), which was a commercial success thanks to the speed and exhilaration offered by Sonic’s gameplay despite the inclusion of the lengthy and maligned “Werehog” stages. Development of a follow-up title began soon after the release of Sonic Unleashed, and producer Takashi Iizuka aimed to not only create an equal balance between speed and platforming but to appeal to a wider, more casual audience by making Sonic the sole playable character. In lieu of Sonic’s extended cast, the developers introduced the “Wisps” to act as temporary power-ups that expanded on Sonic’s moveset, and took inspiration from Disneyland for the game’s amusement park setting. Originally released for the Nintendo Wii and DS, Sonic Colours was well-received for its gorgeous graphics, exciting gameplay, and was considered to be one of the best entries in the franchise despite some criticisms of the game’s difficulty. After years of being exclusive to Nintendo’s machines, Blind Squirrel Games were drafted to produce a remaster of the title for modern consoles to coincide with Sonic’s 30th anniversary, which included a number of graphical and gameplay updates to the original title. Unfortunately, Sonic Colours: Ultimate was mired by numerous reports of bugs and glitches, especially on the Nintendo Switch version, though the charm and fun of the original was still noted to be present.

The Plot:
After Doctor Eggman builds a gigantic interstellar amusement park in orbit seemingly as penance for his evil deeds, Sonic and Miles “Tails” Prower investigate and quickly discover that the evil genius has enslaved several worlds and an alien species known as Wisps in order to harness their energy for a mind-control laser that will allow him to take over the world.

Gameplay:
If you’ve played Sonic Unleashed, or most of the main console Sonic games that came after that title, you’ll be instantly familiar with how Sonic Colours: Ultimate looks, feels, and plays. Like its predecessor, the game is a 3D action/platformer that also switches to a 2.5D perspective and has a heavy emphasis on speed, some extremely minor puzzles (mostly just sliding under walls, hopping over pits and steps, activating switches, and kicking away blocks) and a bit of exploration as you’ll need to search about to find optional items for additional unlocks. Unlike Sonic Unleashed, Sonic is the sole playable character here; there aren’t even sections where you get to control the Tornado, and hub worlds have been excised entirely and replaced with a world map, of sorts, where you can select the planets you visit and which level (referred to as “Act”) you want to play on the world. Sonic’s controls remain largely unchanged from before, however; you can still boost ahead by pressing and holding B, though your boost is limited to a meter than can only be filled by collecting Wisps and can no longer be extended or upgraded using experience points. A allows you to jump and holding it will let you jump higher while pressing it in mid-air gives you a very limited double jump. You can also press A during a jump to fire Sonic at enemies, objects, and springs with his iconic Homing Attack, or press X while jumping to perform a stomp to destroy enemies or break through certain blocks.

While you can blast through 3D sections and hop around in 2.5D, control is often taken away from you.

Quite often, Sonic will be placed in an auto-running segment where he has to quick-step to the left and right to dodge walls, hazards, or smack away Motobugs; sadly, this function is limited to the left analogue stick rather than being mapped to the shoulder buttons, which can make avoiding laser beams or obstacles a little tricky. Sonic can also perform a wall jump to reach higher areas, grind on rails, bounce off springs and balloons and other objects to progress, and players can repeatedly tap A after jumping or passing through a rainbow ring to perform tricks and reach new areas. While the 3D sections emphasise boosting and high-speed action, and often take control out of your hands and require you to do little more than quick-step or jump out of the way of hazards, the 2.5D sections focus on platforming; you’ll jump across gaps, to platforms (both stationary and moving), and use wind tunnels to reach higher paths, which typically hold more rewards and are a faster route to the Goal Ring. As in pretty much every Sonic videogame, Gold Rings are your life support; Sonic will be able to take a hit from enemies and obstacles as long as he’s carrying at least one Ring, and he can reacquire them when hit and suck them towards him while boosting. Sonic can pass through checkpoints to respawn if he falls into a death pit or gets hit without any Rings; however, while the life system has technically been done away with, this isn’t strictly true as you can be saved from a fall by grabbing a Tails pick-up, which will see Tails airlift you back to solid ground without having to go back to a checkpoint.

Sonic can grab Wisps to gain temporary power-ups and new forms that allow him to reach new areas.

As mentioned, Sonic is the only character you get to play as; Tails is relegated to a supporting role and only appears in cutscenes or as a new power-up, and you don’t even get to experience a different style of gameplay with a brawling transformation as in the last game. What you get instead are the Wisps, a series of alien lifeforms that you progressively gain access to as you play through the story. When you pick up a Wisp power-up, you can activate it with the Right Bumper and transform Sonic for a brief period of time, which will greatly expand your moveset and options for exploration and attack. The Cyan Wisp allows you to dart through enemies or bounce off surfaces and between jewels as a laser burst, the Orange Wisp turns you into a rocket and blasts you vertically upwards and allows you to float across distances, and the Yellow Wisp turns you into a drill so you can burrow through the dirt or swim through water (though you have to keep topping up the power meter or you’ll risk getting trapped in the dirt and dying). The Green Wisp allows you to hover by holding A and perform a Light Speed Dash across rows of Rings by pressing B, the Blue Wisp briefly turns you into a cube and changes blue rings into solid cubes so you can progress further, the Purple Wisp turns you into a voracious, frenzied monster that eats anything in its path, and the Pink Wisp lets you cling to any surface using spikes and perform Sonic’s signature Spin Dash to blast along at high speeds. New to the game is the Jade Wisp, which turns you into a floating ghost and allows you to teleport across distances, but the Wisp powers are incredibly limited because your power meter is so small and they essentially act as very brief power-ups to mix things up and let you blast through enemies or reach new areas and, for me, are a poor substitute for playing as Tails or Knuckles the Echidna.

Stages are nice and varied, if a bit short, and there’s a slight difficulty curve in the final area.

I played the original Wii release of Sonic Colours, and still own the Nintendo DS version of the game, but it’s been a while since I sat down with it. I don’t remember it being too difficult to play through, though, and the game is littered with hint orbs, tutorials, and warning signs to help hold your hand if you’re struggling. Luckily, you can turn these off at the main menu, which I’d highly recommend, but the game is mainly just a high-speed action adventure that forces you to get through a bit of platforming here and there to get to the next exciting sequence. Gameplay is pretty standard across the board but there are notable things to mix up each of the game’s worlds; there’s pulleys and switches and temporary stairs in Tropical Resort, popcorn to blast through and huge missiles to dodge in Sweet Mountain, and neon pathways to race across in Starlight Carnival. You’ll be quick-stepping across girders on Planet Wisp, punching your way through the gloopy water maze of Aquarium Park by rapidly tapping A and swallowing air bubbles to stay alive, and hopping between high-speed rollercoasters and Homing Attacking asteroids and springs in Asteroid Coaster. You’ll also encounter sections where gravity is reversed or skewed, parts where you need to continuously bounce on a moving spring to cross a death pit, and watch for huge blocks that will force you off the screen and to your death if you stay in their path. Overall, though, the difficulty is noticeably toned down from Sonic Unleashed; Acts are far shorter and designed to be played in fun, short bursts and there are copious checkpoints and Tails power-ups to keep you going.

Graphics and Sound:
Sonic Colours was always a very vivid and graphically impressive title, especially for a Wii game, and Sonic Colours: Ultimate is no different. Everything really pops here; the colours, the textures, and the environments are all really vibrant and there’s lots to see in the background and foreground. If anything, the game’s environments are a little too busy at times and it can be a bit disorientating and distracting trying to focus on what you’re doing, where Sonic is, and what can or can’t hurt you in each of the game’s unique areas. Sonic, however, continues to look fantastic; as ever, he comes with some amusing idle animations and it’s fun seeing him transform into his different forms. The switch between 3D and 2.5D continues to be a little clunky when you’re blasting through Acts and I can’t help but feel like things might have been easier if certain Acts were dedicated to each perspective rather than switching between them, but the camera is never an obstacle and platforming sections are never too tricky beyond getting your jump high and timed well enough.

The worlds are varied, vibrant, and full of life but sometimes a little too busy and colourful.

The entire game takes place in Dr. Eggman’s Interstellar Amusement Park, and there’s a definite feeling of being strapped in for a high-speed, high-excitement rollercoaster of an experience. This is literally the case in areas like Asteroid Coaster, where you ride a dragon-themed rollercoaster hopping between seats over the vast cosmic void, and Skylight Carnival, where you race along cyber pathways as huge neon spaceships loom nearby. Tropical Resort is probably the least interesting area of the game, which is somewhat fitting as it’s basically the entrance to the amusement park, and even that is made visually interesting with all the bright signs and rails and little details like potted plants and benches. Planet Wisp is the closest you get to actually having your feet on natural, solid ground and is a fantastic mixture of nature, foliage, and a huge construction site. Sweet Mountain is easily the game’s most bizarre area and is comprised of cakes, sweets, and desserts amidst a missile factory; blasting through popcorn and using rotating sweets to fly above doughnut plants makes this a very surreal but memorable level. There’s also a real scope added to the environments in Aquarium Park, which essentially takes place within a gigantic aquarium and sees you exploring a vast underwater area and locations heavily borrowing from Japanese temples and aesthetics.

While the lack of hub worlds is disappointing, the graphics and presentation are top-notch.

The game’s final area, Terminal Velocity, is simply a race down the huge connecting tube that keeps Dr. Eggman’s amusement part anchored to the planet, and conjures up memories of the final areas in Sonic and Shadow the Hedgehog’s stories in Sonic Adventure 2 (Sonic Team USA, 2001), and you’ll find a number of pretty basic, almost textureless obstacles courses waiting for you in Game Land. Unfortunately, the game does take a bit of a step backwards as hub worlds are gone entirely, replaced by a world map where you select which planet/location to visit and then pick an Act to play, meaning that the game’s focus is far less on story and exploration outside of the in-Act collectibles. Cutscenes are really well done, however, maintaining the same charming cartoony aesthetic from Sonic Unleashed and featuring some fun, if cringy, jokes and one-liners from Sonic and banter between him and Tails, and Dr. Eggman. Sonic Colours saw Roger Craig Smith take over the role of Sonic, and he’s a far better and more enjoyable voice than Jason Griffith, who I could never stand in the role. Mike Pollock continues to shine as the blustering Dr. Eggman, who’s now joined by Orbot and Cubot for some bungling shenanigans, and the game’s soundtrack is catchy and enjoyable enough. Sonic Colours: Ultimate allows players to select different language options for the dialogue and subtitles, and even switch between the original and the remixed soundtrack, but there’s some jaunty tunes on offer here from Cash Cash and composer Tomoya Ohtani to keep the energy levels high when blasting through enemies.

Enemies and Bosses:
In his quest to free the Wisps from Dr. Eggman, Sonic comes up against many familiar robotic enemies courtesy of the rotund mad scientist; these include Badniks like Motobug, Spiny, Jawz, and Buzzer, and Dr. Eggman’s more military focused creations, like the Egg Pawns and Spinners. Destroying these robots will free the Wisps trapped within, powering up your boost meter and allowing you to plough through them without worry, and you can easily cross chasms and progress further by chaining Homing Attacks of groups of enemies. Probably the most persistent and annoying enemies are Dr. Eggman’s chaser robots, the Aero-Chaser and the Big Chaser. These flying robots will hover in front or behind you, firing lasers and taking swipes at you as you desperately side-step out of the way, and can be a real hassle where you’re also fending off Motobugs or racing towards the camera at high speed with limited visibility. You’ll also face a sub-boss in Asteroid Coaster in the form of a gigantic robotic eye within a shifting gravitational field and protected by some spiked balls; you’ll need to hop between the spiked balls when the gravity field expands outwards to ram into it three times and put Dr. Eggman’s production facility out of commission.

Although the six bosses are fun, it’s a bit disappointing that they’re recycled and reskinned.

Dr. Eggman has ensnared six worlds to build his amusement park; six worlds means six bosses to face as you play through the story but don’t get too excited as it’s really three bosses that you simply battle twice, with the difficulty increased for the second bout. The first boss you’ll battle is Rotatatron, a massive Ferris wheel-type robot that has you dodging its huge claws, hopping between platforms, and ramming its big ol’ face while avoiding its buzz saws. This boss returns again on Planet Wisp, albeit reskinned as the Refreshinator and now protected by spinning circles and laser beams, but you can make these bosses (and all the game’s bosses) even easier to bring down by grabbing the Wisps found in the boss arena and dealing additional damage with their power-ups. Captain Jelly awaits you in Sweet Mountain, requiring you to Homing Attack across some cannonballs on the deck of his airship and hit a switch to force him out into the open. You then need to watch for his little minions and attack him when he stops to taunt you after hopping about, and Admiral Jelly is very much the same scenario except this battle takes place underwater and sees you luring homing missiles to the switch and chasing after the boss using the Drill Wisp. You’ll also have to contend with Frigate Orcan and Frigate Skullian, which are boss battles that take place on an endless running path and see you dodging bullets, spiked balls, asteroids, and lasers to chase each ship down and rapidly Homing Attack different parts of it to deal damage.

Go head-to-head in tough races against Metal Sonic and end Dr. Eggman’s plot by using the Wisp’s full power.

Collect enough Red Star Rings and you’ll unlock a new feature to this version of the game as Metal Sonic challenges you to a “Rival Rush”, which is basically a race through one Act of each area; while this sounds exhilarating and fun, it’s actually one of the hardest parts of the game as Metal Sonic is ridiculously quick, easily catches up and overtakes you, and you have to finish the race in one perfect run to succeed. Once you’ve destroyed all of Dr. Eggman’s bosses, however, you’ll finally face the egg-shaped madman himself in his Nega-Wisp Armour. This battle is also on an endless running path and sees you dodging various attacks themed after the game’s Wisp power-ups; you’ll need to side-step past cubes, jump over spikes, and avoid ricocheting lasers, amongst other attacks, while desperately grabbing Rings, then deliver a series of Homing Attacks to damage Dr. Eggman’s craft. You can also hit him with a boost attack and, after dealing enough damage, Wisps will be released and Dr. Eggman’s attacks will become more aggressive, faster, harder to dodge, and he’ll even combine Wisp attacks to really make things frantic and frustrating. Once you’ve freed all the Wisps, though, you can press RB and perform a Homing Attack to finish Dr. Eggman off with with the “Final Colour Blaster”; then it’s simply a case of racing to safety as the umbilical cord breaks away around you and you’ll have saved the Wisps and defeated Dr. Eggman once more.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Unlike the vast majority of Sonic videogames, there are none of the traditional power-ups on offer here; you can collect Rings either one at a time or in increments of ten, but there are no shields, speed-ups, or invincibility power-ups to find during the game. Instead, you need to collect Wisps to fill your boost meter or provide a temporary power-up that lets you burrow through the ground, blast across surfaces, or zip through enemies in a blast of vivid colour. Each of these is timed and lasts only as long as your meter and, often, you’ll need to collect subsequent Wisp capsules to solve puzzles, reveal collectibles, or progress further but, other times, the Wisps will not respawn and you’ll be left with only one shot to bounce between jewels. Although you don’t earn or collect extra lives, you can collect the new Tails power-up to save yourself from a fall, which is essentially the same thing, but this is merely to save you a bit of time as it avoids you having to restart from a checkpoint.

Additional Features:
There are forty-six Achievements to earn in Sonic Colours: Ultimate, with the majority of them being awarded for completing each of the game’s worlds. You’ll also pop some G for defeating a certain number of enemies in certain ways, achieving an S-rank, destroying the score tally at the end of each Act, and playing/waiting through the game’s obnoxiously long end credits. Achievements can also be earned for defeating bosses in two hits instead of three using the Wisps or getting an S-rank against them, collecting every Red Star Ring, and for getting S-ranks on every single Act in the game for 100% completion.

Take on additional challenges, find the Red Star Rings, become Super Sonic, and customise Sonic’s gear!

Five Red Star Rings are hidden in each Act; the game helpfully keeps track of how many you’ve collected and in which order, which makes searching them out a little easier, and collecting them unlocks additional challenges in Game Land. Game Land sees you take control of a recoloured Sonic robot and completing short tasks that basically amount to platforming and gameplay challenges; there are no lives or time limits here, so it’s a good way to kill some time, and you can even play against a friend in this mode. You’ll need all 180 Red Star Rings to unlock every Act in this mode, however, and to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds to play as Super Sonic. You can challenge yourself further by taking on the Egg Shuttle, which forces you to play every single Act of the game on a handful of lives, and you can also collect Park Tokens in each Act or from besting Metal Sonic to purchase skins that change Sonic’s gloves, shoes, aura, boost effect, and your gamer icon. Unfortunately, this is an extremely limited mode and doesn’t allow you to apply other skins to Sonic, but you can acquire components to have him resemble his Hollywood counterpart, so that’s something.

The Summary:
I remember really enjoying Sonic Colours when I first played it on the Wii; sure, I haven’t revisited it since finishing it years ago, but that’s more due to my dislike of the Wii than of the game. When it was announced to be coming to modern consoles at last, I was more than happy to get my hands on it again, bad press and bugs be damned. Personally, I consider Sonic Colours to be one of the most fun entries in Sonic’s modern era for its focus on action and it’s a blast to play in short bursts, with a difficulty curve that’s perfectly manageable until you hit Terminal Velocity (and that’s just because I struggled with timing my quick-steps). I never encountered any graphical or gameplay glitches on my playthrough, and the only negative I had about the presentation was some lag in the menus and the lack of any kind of additional cutscenes when encountering Metal Sonic. As enjoyable as the game is, though, it is a bit of a step back; using world maps and menus in place of hub worlds is a bit of a disappointment and, while the Wisp power-ups are great, it annoys me how prominent they are here and have become since as an excuse to not include a playable Tails or Knuckles. It also can’t be denied that the game is a bit too easy at times; I enjoy how every other Act is basically like a little challenge for you, but it’s laborious having to collect every single Red Star Ring, the lack of skins or in-depth customisation is a missed opportunity, and the recycling of the game’s few bosses is really disappointing. Still, it’s a super fun time for the few hours it’ll take you to blast through it and absolutely gorgeous to look at and listen to; Sonic Colours: Ultimate shows the potential a big, triple-A Sonic game has but could have benefitted from just a few more tweaks and additional modes and such to make the package all the sweeter.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What do you think to Sonic Colours: Ultimate? How do you think it compares to the original Wii version and what did you think to the new features included? Did you enjoy the focus on short, action-packed gameplay or did you feel the game was a bit too simplified? What did you think to the Wisps and which of these power-ups was your favourite? Would you have liked to see other characters included to play or race against? Which of the game’s stages or bosses was your favourite and why? Sign up to leave your thoughts on Sonic Colours: Ultimate down below, or leave a comment on my social media, and be sure to check back in for more Sonic content later in the year!

Game Corner [Bite-Size]: Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare (Xbox One)

Released: 14 July 2021
Developer: Dotemu/Lizardcube/Guard Crush Games
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4

A Brief Background:
After an absence of almost twenty-five years, the Streets of Rage series (SEGA, 1991 to 1994) finally made a long-awaited comeback in 2020. As a massive fan of the series, and sidescrolling beat-‘em-ups in general, I was very surprised, and excited, to see Streets of Rage make a reappearance; Streets of Rage 4 sold extremely well and was received generally positively but even I could never had guessed that it would do well enough to gain any kind of downloadable content (DLC). Yet, surprisingly, that’s exactly what we got as some additional character, gameplay modes, and difficulty settings were made available for the game and a physical Anniversary Edition was even released (for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch only but still…)

The Review
Streets of Rage 4: Mr. X Nightmare adds some additional features to the original game, which was a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up that saw you attacking enemies with X, busting out a life-draining special attack with Y, jumping with A, and clearing out large groups of enemies with a screen-clearing special move if you have enough Stars in your quest to clean up the streets of Wood Oak City. The first thing you’ll notice when playing Mr. X Nightmare is the addition of three playable boss characters: Estel Aguirre, Max Thunder, and Shiva. Two of these (Max and Shiva) were previously playable but only in their 16-bit variants and all three are ripped straight from their boss battles in the base game. When playing as each of them through the story mode, however, none of these characters have any real impact on the narrative; the cutscenes don’t change or acknowledge them and the only thing that’s different is that when you fight the character’ boss variants, the boss’s taken on a neon, shadowy colour scheme.

Mr. X Nightmare adds Estel, Max, and Shiva as playable characters.

Like the game’s other playable characters, each of these new characters plays slightly different. Of the three, only Shiva can dash towards enemies, for example, but unlike the other two, Shiva cannot pick up weapons (instead, he dramatically flips them up and kicks them at enemies). Estel and Shiva also attack much faster than Max, utilising kicks and fast combos where Max uses slower, more powerful wrestling moves and grapples. Each of them also has Y-based special attacks that will slightly drain their health unless they attack enemies soon after; these seen Estel toss grenades and pounce on opponents with a beatdown, Max charge or slam down on enemies, and Shiva teleport across the screen or out of the air. Each of them also has their own special moves that are executed by pressing Y and B when you have at least one Star. Estel’s is very similar to her boss’s special and sees her call in a bombardment of rockets; Max unleashes a big axe-handle smash and also sees enemies by struck by lightning, and Shiva blasts enemies away with a purple, wing-like aura. The best thing about playing as these new characters is how over-powered a lot of their attacks are; Max, for example, has a super useful Power Slide attack that is easily spammed while Shiva can perform a nifty mid-air kicking combo for decent damage.

Play as Roo and/or test your skills in the new ‘Survival’ mode!

It’s been a while since I played Streets of Rage 4 so I may be forgetting some things but Mr. X Nightmare appears to add a few new weapons into the game’s stages (such as a golf club, an umbrella, and a branch) and the ability to select different colour palettes for every character. The DLC also adds a new difficulty to the game, Mania+, if you fancy taking on an additional challenge and, best of all, the inclusion of a hidden fighter. By highlighting ‘Story on the main menu screen and  pressing up and X and then pressing Start, you’ll get to play as a 16-bit version of Roo the boxing kangaroo, which is pretty cool but it’s a bit of a shame that Roo doesn’t have an alternative skin to match his cameo from the base game. Another addition appears to be that whenever you fight on the hidden, or new, 16-bit stages, every character, even the new ones and altered ones, is rendered as a classic 16-bit sprite. While there isn’t any new story-based content to the game, Mr. X Nightmare does add a new ‘Survival’ mode. Here, you pick a character and play through a series of simulations in a variety of brand new arenas, including new 16-bit levels, and fighting increasingly-difficult waves of enemies. Enemies and destructible boxes will spawn into each area, giving you access to health-restoring good, Stars, and weapons, which you’ll need as you only get one life to play through this mode; when you clear each level, you can pick from one of two perks that stack up and carry over to each level. These can up your attack or defence, add an additional jump, add elemental effects to your strikes or weapon attacks, spawn in Stars, award you more powerful weapons, spawn in an ally, or dramatically increase your attack power and the cost of your durability, among other effects.

The addition of more 16-bit stages, random buffs, and a Training mode all help add replayability to the game.

The levels and enemies get tougher and tougher as you go but you can make use of environmental hazards to damage enemies; meteors will fall from the sky, lasers and flames will spew up in some levels, wind will blow you about, electrified walls and crushers can harm you and your enemies, and you’ll be able to toss them over edges and such. While you’ll earn Stars instead of lives in this mode, it also includes a whole bunch of new weapons to use and, as you clear levels, you’ll unlock enemies to battle in the new Training mode (essentially a traditional one-on-one fighter), concept art and artwork, and also additional alternative modes for each playable character to customise them to your specifications. Even better, the DLC adds not only some new music tracks but also eight new Achievements to earn that are specifically tied to you completing the story mode as the three new characters, performing Roo’s special move and spawning in clowns, and mastering the new Survival mode, all of which is a great incentive to return to the game.

The Summary:
I was super happy with how Streets of Rage 4 turned out; it was everything I could have asked for from a sidescrolling beat-‘em-up and had a decent amount of features and replayability to it. it could be a little unforgiving at times but it was a blast to play through and I was very surprised and excited to hear that the game would be expanded upon with some DLC. The addition of new characters was very welcome, though it is a little disappointing that they don’t factor into the story more; like, maybe they could have played through slightly altered versions of the stages and fought against the existing protagonists rather than shadow versions of themselves. The addition of new Achievements was very much appreciated and the ‘Survival’ mode is pretty great, though, and sees you battling against every character and boss from not only this game but also the others in the series. Again, it can be tough but playing alongside a friend should make it quite the entertaining time and, overall, I’d say it’s well worth picking this DLC up to add a few more hours onto an already enjoyable title.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you pick up the Mr. X Nightmare DLC? If so, what did you think to it? Which of the new playable characters was your favourite? Did you manage to unlock Roo? How far did you get in ‘Survival’ mode? What is your favourite piece of DLC for a videogame? Whatever you think about Streets of Rage 4 drop a comment below.

Game Corner [Sonic 2sday]: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2007; Xbox One)


After the release of Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991), Sonic had firmly established himself as the hot new icon on the block and catapulted SEGA to the forefront of the Console Wars. Anticipation was high for a sequel and, in keeping with their aggressive marketing strategies, SEGA dubbed November 24, 1992 as “Sonic 2sday”, a marketing stunt that not only heralded the worldwide release of the bigger, better sequel but changed the way the videogame industry went about releasing games for years to come.


GameCorner

Released: September 2007
Originally Released: November 1992
Developer: Sonic Team
Original Developer: SEGA Technical Institute
Also Available For: Gamecube, iPod, Mega Drive, Mobile, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Switch, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Portable, SEGA Saturn, Xbox, Xbox 360

The Background:
Sonic the Hedgehog was a massive success for SEGA; thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign and packing the game with their all-power 16-bit Mega Drive, SEGA saw sales of over 15 million copies upon its release. And yet all was not right at SEGA; Yuji Naka, the mastermind behind Sonic the Hedgehog, quit the company and was convinced to join the California-based SEGA Technical Institute. After bringing in many of his own Japanese staff, Naka began spearheading the creation of a sequel while an entirely separate, Japan-based team worked on Sonic the Hedgehog CD (SEGA, 1993). Debates could rage on for years about which of these two games would be the “true” follow-up to the original title, and many ideas and concepts were reused and reworked for each title but, as if the massive “2” in Sonic 2’s title wasn’t enough, it’s clear to me based on graphics alone that Sonic CD was always meant to take place shortly after the first game.

While Sonic was joined by a new friend, not every idea made it to the final game.

Yet Sonic 2’s development was mired by an influx of ideas and concepts; another internal contest was held to design Sonic’s new sidekick, Miles “Tails” Prower, and many Zones were scrapped from the final game despite being relatively close to complete. The pressure was on to top their efforts with Sonic the Hedgehog but, thanks to improved graphics and gameplay and the efforts of SEGA’s aggressive marketing machine, Sonic 2 proved incredibly successful; 400,000 copies were sold in its first week alone and over 6 million units were sold during the Mega Drive’s lifespan. SEGA’s control of the home console market shot up by 40% as a result of Sonic 2 and the game was widely praised upon its release and is still held in high regard, with many claiming that it is the best in the series. For me, I first played Sonic on the Master System but, upon acquiring a Mega Drive, played Sonic 2 before the first game and, as a result, I do prefer it over the original because of its faster, tighter, far more accessible gameplay.

The Plot:
Doctor Eggman is back! This time, he’s set his sights on Westside Island, home of the fabled seven Chaos Emeralds. Eggman unleashes his robotic Badniks upon the island, polluting and destroying the environment to find the gems and power his ultimate weapon: the Death Egg! However, Sonic the Hedgehog is hot on his heels and this time he’s not alone…

Gameplay:
Like its predecessor, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a 2D, sidescrolling action platformer in which you travel eleven stages (known as “Zones”). Unlike the previous game, the majority of Sonic 2’s Zones are split into two “Acts” rather than three (though there is, oddly, one three-Act Zone and two one-Act Zones just to confuse things) and, this time, you’ll battle Eggman in one of his diabolical contraptions at the end of each second Act before facing him once and for all on the Death Egg. Essentially, everything that worked so well in the original game returns here, bigger, shinier, and much more refined; Sonic is faster than ever, now able to zip through every single Zone of the game at breakneck speed thanks not only to his new “Spin Dash” attack but also vastly improved level design that ditches the slower, more tedious elements on the first game and focuses on speed and split-second reactions. Improved obstacles and enemy placement also help speed up the game, as does the implementation of more loop-de-loop, slopes, the introduction of Möbius strips, and very little instances where the game grinds to a halt.

Help or hinder Sonic as Tails or simply choose to play solo with either character.

As before, you can still roll into a ball when you jump or press down while running to break monitors and smash apart Badniks. This time, though, you won’t do it alone; by default, the game has you take control of Sonic with the computer-controlled by his side but, by entering the “Options” menu, you can switch to playing alone as either character. When Tails is onscreen, though, a second player can join in at any time; Tails has all of Sonic’s abilities and essentially plays as a reskin as, though he is seen flying with his unique two tails, this isn’t a feature you can utilise in the game. When playing as Sonic and/with Tails, Tails can collect Golden Rings, destroy Badniks, and dish out damage to Eggman all while being functionally immortal and largely invulnerable. Attacks won’t damage Tails and the only way to lose him is to run so fast that he cannot keep up; unfortunately, second players can also screw you over by jumping onto temporary or crumbling platforms ahead of time, essentially sending you to your death.

Some Zones and mechanics are slower than others but, overall, Sonic 2 is much faster than the original.

Thankfully, Sonic is much faster this time around. Zones are bigger than ever, with more branching paths to take and areas to explore and, best of all, there’s no tedious pushing of switches or blocks to slow things down. Perhaps the slowest Zone is Mystic Cave Zone (which also features a notorious pit that you cannot escape from), which features far more platforming elements and instant-death traps compared to the game’s other Zones; Sonic will have to grab levers and pulleys to create bridges and avoid floating blocks in this Zone but it’s got nothing on the seriously gruelling platforming and obstacles in the increasingly maze-like Metropolis Zone but, for the most part, Sonic 2 hits the ground running and doesn’t stop.

It’s easy to get distacted by Casino Night Zone’s pinball-based mechanics and gimmicks.

Sonic 2 introduces many firsts for the series; gone are the checkpoint-creating Lamposts of the first game, replaced with Starposts that perform exactly the same function but also double as the gateway to the game’s Special Stages (replacing the Giant Rings from the last game) when you pass them with fifty Rings or more. Be warned, though, after finishing or failing a Special Stage, you’ll be deposited back in the Zone with no Golden Rings to protect you (though the Zone’s Rings (and Badniks) will have respawned).  The pinball-like mechanics of Spring Yard Zone are expanded upon in Casino Night Zone, a giant, pinball-themed Zone filled with so many little score-increasing mini games and distractions that it’s easy to run out the ten minute time limit in this Zone alone.

Many of Sonic 2‘s elements became recurring themes in the franchise.

Another first is the inclusion of Sonic’s biplane, the Tornado, which mixes up the speed-based gameplay by having you ride atop the plane’s wings in Sky Chase Zone and, of course, the final showdown with Eggman on his space station. This latter element, clearly evoking imagery from the Star Wars trilogy (Various, 1977 to 1983), would become a recurring element in the franchise from this game onwards as subsequent games sought to either recreate the success of, or cash in on the nostalgia for, Sonic’s bigger, better sequel. As before, Sonic can collect Golden Rings to keep himself alive but, when submerged under water in Aquatic Ruins Zone or in toxic gunk in Chemical Plant Zone, will find himself under threat of drowning if he doesn’t escape to fresh air or find an air bubble before the all-too-familiar sinister countdown reaches its end. You’ll still gain points for collecting Rings, bashing Badniks, and clearing Acts and Zones as fast as possible but you no longer gain bonus points by jumping dramatically at the end of an Act.

While some Zones can be tricky to navigate, gameplay is much tighter and more reliable this time around.

Thankfully, all the little niggling issues that slowed down and counted against the first game have been largely addressed and eliminated; there’s no real danger here of being unfairly squashed or glitching the game (unless you perform some very specific actions) and the only real issue the game has in this regard is that it’s sometimes very easier to run or fly so fast off the screen that the game struggles to catch up. there some instances where you’re forced to use a little more thought than just speeding ahead, though; Oil Ocean Zone, for example, requires you to think a bit before making jumps as you can easily end up trapped in the quicksand-like oil or getting turned around. Like the first game, Sonic 2 isn’t especially difficult game; there are no difficulty settings to choose from as, again, the game’s difficulty gradually increases as you progress from Zone to Zone. This time, there are seven Chaos Emeralds to collect; the now-iconic half-pipe Special Stages are arguably much easier (or, at least, more interesting) than those in the first game, and you get an actual, in-game reward for collecting these gems.

Graphics and Sound:
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 improves on its predecessor in every way: Sonic’s sprite is larger and now a vivid, eye-catching blue and Tails is visually very appealing thanks to his unique twin tails and cute appearance. Zones are as visually interesting and unique as ever; Emerald Hill Zone, while functionally similar to Green Hill Zone, has enough in it to separate it from its predecessor, such as coconut trees, Möbius strips, waterfalls, and underground areas. The game’s later Zones are some of the most iconic in the series; moving away from cliché element-themed platforming levels, you’ll roll around an industrial nightmare full of toxic waste in Chemical Plant Zone, frantically jump to escape from rising lava in Hill Top Zone (which improves upon Marble Zone’s lava gimmick in every way), and explore dark, dank caves in Mystic Cave Zone. Each Zone has different gimmicks to separate them not only from each other but those of the last game; Casino Night Zone is far less random than Spring Yard Zone, for example, with no bottomless spits to worry about and Metropolis Zone is nothing like Scrap Brain Zone beyond being the game’s toughest area to get through.

Each Zone has a variety of unique gimmicks to mix keep things interesting and exciting.

This is largely due to the Zone having three Acts, which means it soon outstays its welcome. Add to that and some annoying enemies and the Zones maze-like layout and you would have a fitting final Zone for the game if it wasn’t for Wing Fortress Zone. Taking place aboard Eggman’s vast airship, this Zone is your last chance to get any remaining Chaos Emeralds before the game’s final Zone and features a whole host of dangerous taps; for one thing, you can fall to your death at any moment, never mind precariously jumping from platforms and hooks and riding gusts of wind to progress further. Once again, there are no transitions or cutscenes or story included in the game until you clear Wing Fortress Zone, then a little cutscene plays showing how the player gets aboard the Death Egg and another shows how he escapes. Generally, though, the same obvious environmental message of the first game is repeated, but dialled up a notch as you end up in space! Both Sonic and Tails have idle animations this time around, giving them each their own distinct personalities, and the game’s soundtrack is, arguably, the best of the series. It’s everything the soundtrack was in the first game but far more bombastic and triumphant, far more foreboding and sinister, far more catchy and memorable.

Enemies and Bosses:
Once again, Sonic and Tails must do battle with Eggman’s Badniks; these cute-looking mechanical monsters are just as deadly as before but their danger increases as you progress further in the game. To start off with, it’s no bother at all to bounce off of Mashers and Buzzers just like in the first game but, soon, you’ll encounter Spinys and Flashers, both of which can throw up defences to sap your precious Rings. While their placement is generally much fairer in this game, you’ll still have to contend with Badniks like Grounder and Crawlton popping out to surprise you but the absolutely worst enemies in the game are found in Metropolis Zone. The mantis-like Slicer will toss its boomerang-like pincers at you and they’re a pain in the ass to dodge, to say nothing of Shellcracker’s massive spiked claw that will almost always catch you unawares or the self-destructive Asterons which always shoot out their damn spikes when you’re halfway up one of those corkscrews!

Dr. Eggman slowly steps up his game after a disappointing first few encounters.

As before, you’ll face Doctor Eggman numerous times throughout the game; this time, he attacks at the end of every second Act and each time he has a deadlier contraption to try and end your adventure with. If you thought the wrecking ball from the last game was easy, you’ll be begging for a challenge even half of that when you encounter Eggman for the first time at the end of Emerald Hill Zone. Rather than trying to squash or zap Sonic, Eggman instead casually drives towards him back and forth, leaving himself wide open for the attack and only being a problem when he detaches his drill appendage at the last second. This mockery of a boss battle is quickly forgotten when you take on Eggman in Chemical Plant Zone, however. Here, Eggman tries to drop sludge on your head, which isn’t as much of a problem as the temporary ground that borders the arena and it’s very easy to fall to your death after landing the killing blow or while trying to escape Eggman’s attacks. Thankfully, most of the game’s boss battles aren’t as tough; Aquatic Ruin Zone’s boss can be a chore because of the jumping involved and Casino Night Zone’s is quite tough if you struggle with Sonic’s perfectly-attuned momentum-based physics but you shouldn’t really encounter an issue until you reach the Oil Ocean and Metropolis Zone bosses; thanks to Eggman’s shielding and strategy, it can be tough to land hits on his Egg-O-Matic in these bosses but, if you have a second player alongside you as Tails, they’re a breeze.

After besting your robotic double, the gloves come off for the final showdown with Dr. Eggman!

Things really ramp up once you reach Death Egg Zone, though; no matter how you play the game, you’ll have to tackle this final Zone alone and with no Rings to help you. Unlike the first game, where the final boss was pathetically easy, Sonic 2 has you run a gauntlet as you must first take on the armour-plated Mecha Sonic (or “Silver Sonic” depending on your preference, and not to be confused with the far more recognisable Metal Sonic). Mecha Sonic is a dangerous foe thanks to its buzzsaw-like spikes and fast-paced attacks but, luckily, its attack pattern is easily memorised; it’ll stand there posing, allowing you to hit it, then charge across the screen before either rolling at you or jumping over you. it can also shoot out its spines in a spread but, if you’re quick and smart enough, you can trash this dubious doppelgänger in no time. Once you do, though, you’ll find Eggman leaping into a massive robotic suit, the lazily named “Death Egg Robot”, which takes a whopping twelve hits to put down. Thankfully, again, this boss battle is very predictable; Eggman stomps towards you, allowing you to get a few hits in (as long as you’re careful to avoid his spike arms), then flies off-screen. A targeting reticule will appear and follow you around; simply wait in one of the far corners charging your Spin Dash and blast away when Eggman comes crashing down. Stay at the far end of where you end up to avoid his rocket-powered arms and repeat until he goes down. I wouldn’t recommend getting trapped behind him as he drops egg bombs that are difficult to avoid and you can also land a hit when he comes crash down from the ceiling if you’re fast enough. All in all, though, it’s a far more dramatic, taxing, and entertaining last boss than the one from the first game with some kick-ass music to boot.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As before, numerous computer monitors are scattered throughout the game’s Zones to help tip the odds in your favour. Breaking these open will award you with exactly the same rewards as the first game (ten extra Rings, a shield, an extra life, a speed up, or an invincibility) with the only difference being their appearance, sound effects, and the music that plays when you acquire them. Sadly, the only new power-up to be found is exclusive to the game’s two-player mode, which is a bit disappointing considering every other aspect of the first game was expanded and improved upon.

Additional Features:
As you might expect, this version of Sonic 2 comes with a handful of Achievements for you to earn. If you’ve played Sonic 2, or any Sonic game, before, these aren’t exactly difficult to get and include standard fare such as reaching certain Zones, collecting all the Chaos Emeralds, and completing the game though the online and time limit-specific Achievements may be trickier to accomplish depending on your skill level (finishing Chemical Plant Zone, Act 1, in under forty-five seconds is no joke!)

Collect all seven Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic and get the game’s best ending.

As in the first game, players can access Special Stages to try and earn one of the Chaos Emeralds. This time, you must pass by a Starpost with at least fifty Rings to challenge for an Emerald, making the process a hell of a lot faster and easier. Additionally, the God-awful, head-trippy rotating mazes of the first game are gone as you now race down a half-pipe, collecting Rings and avoiding bombs. While these Special Stages are much better, they can be more difficult as it’s hard to know what is coming up without a lot of trial and error, you must collect a certain amount of Rings to qualify for an Emerald, and the delay between your jumps and Tails’ can cost you precious Rings if you’re not careful. Special Stages start off deceptively easy but, by the time you go for that damn fourth Chaos Emerald, you’ll start to notice how fast and unrelenting they can be; the seventh and final Emerald is, fittingly, the most difficult to get because it barely has enough Rings to hit the target. Luckily, you can cheese save states to make this so much easier than it was on the original hardware. Collect all seven Chaos Emeralds, though, and rather than jus earning a slightly different ending, you’ll be awarded with the ability to turn into the Super Saiyan-like Super Sonic. “Simply” collect all seven Chaos Emeralds, collect fifty Rings, and jump and you’ll transform into this super-fast golden upgrade of Sonic that has a constant speed up and invincibility. Don’t get too cocky, though, as you can still drown and be crushed and your Rings will slowly be lost over time; once they run out, the transformation ends so be sure to collect all the Rings you can to keep the form up as long as possible.

Race against a friend in the game’s janky two-player mode, or buy Sonic & Knuckles to play as Knuckles in Sonic 2!

The addition of Tails also means that Sonic 2 has a multiplayer component; not only can a second player play alongside you in the main game but you can also race against a friend in a woefully-realised split screen mode. While the screen is awfully crushed and you can only pick from four Zones, this mode was decent enough back in the day; it’s fun to blast ahead and leave your friend in the dirt only for them to smash a monitor and have you both switch places. Sadly, while this version of Sonic 2 won’t allow you to enter the iconic cheat codes and doesn’t feature any of the tweaks, upgrades, and additions for the far superior mobile port, a save state system and online leaderboards are included and, best of all, if you also purchase Sonic & Knuckles (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994), you’ll gain the ability to play as Knuckles the Echidna. Be warned, though; while Knuckles’ abilities mean there’s much more room for exploration, his rubbish jump makes battling certain bosses (particularly the Death Egg Robot) far more challenging.

The Summary:
As great as Sonic the Hedgehog was, it’s nothing compared to Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Bigger, bolder, faster, and better in every way, Sonic 2 is the quintessential example of how not only to do a sequel title right but how to do a Sonic title right. While the first game laid the foundation, Sonic 2 set the standard that subsequent games in the franchise tried to hold themselves up against (or surpass, with mixed results). Sonic 2 introduced numerous elements than immediately became staples of the series; add to that the fascination with all the content that was cut from the game and you have a title that continues to be relevant and influential even now, nearly thirty years after its release. While I, personally, prefer the next game in the series, Sonic 2 is still a highly regarded entry in the franchise for me and I’d always pick to play it over the first game if given a choice.

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think about Sonic the Hedgehog 2? Where does it rate against the other games in the franchise for you? Which Zone is your favourite? Were you the younger sibling always being forced to play as Tails or were you the older sibling who got the privilege of playing as Sonic? Would you like to see a spruced up version of the game released one day, with all the cut content restored as originally conceived? Perhaps you think Sonic 2 doesn’t live up to the hype and prefer a different game in the series; if so why, and what is it? How are you celebrating “Sonic 2sday” this year? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic 2, and Sonic in general, drop a comment below.

Game Corner: The Evil Within 2 (Xbox One)

Released: 13 October 2017
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC and PlayStation 4

The Background:
After a long and illustrious career at Capcom in which he created and spearheaded the Resident Evil franchise (Capcom/Various, 1996 to present), Shinji Mikami left to help found Tango Gameworks in a bid to develop new properties and titles, such as The Evil Within (Tango Gameworks, 2014). Although critical reception of the game was somewhat mixed, The Evil Within sold well enough to justify a sequel, which began development shortly after Mikami’s team had finished up working on the first game’s downloadable content (DLC). In response to some of the criticisms regarding the first game’s convoluted plot, the team sought to make The Evil Within 2 more comprehensible while also placing greater emphasis on psychological horror elements. Despite a much shorter production period and some notable technical hiccups, The Evil Within 2 fared much better with critics than its predecessor and was generally regarded to be an improvement over the original.

The Plot.
Three years after the events of the first game, Sebastian Castellanos has left the Krimson City Police Department and continues to be haunted by his experiences. Driving to alcoholism by the death of his child, Lily, and the break-up of his marriage, he reluctantly agrees to re-enter the nightmarish world that plagues his dreams when it is revealed that Lily was actually being used as the Core for a new STEM system.

Gameplay:
The Evil Within 2 is, fundamentally, extremely similar to the first game but also noticeably different in many ways. Where the first game really emphasised a twisted, nightmarish world where anything was possible and that was populated by a variety of gruesome creatures and restricted your resources to keep you constantly fighting for survival, The Evil Within 2 is much more linear and action-orientated title. The difficulty setting you pick for your playthrough will determine how much ammo and damage you can take, which is pretty standard, but even on the “Normal” difficulty, “Survival”, there’s quite a bit of ammo, crafting items, and opportunities to replenish your health through the game, certainly more than in the first game.

The game’s controls are largely the same as before but tweaked for the better.

Control wise, however, the game is basically exactly the same; you can aim your weapon with LT, shoot with RT, and reload with X, and interact with your environment with A but, this time around, your melee attack is also mapped to RT and Y brings out your Communicator, which allows you to lock on to signals and help lead you towards objectives and objects of interest. Thankfully, you no longer need to worry about burning bodies so, rather than tossing matches with B, B activates your flashlight (Sebastian is no longer hampered by a large lantern this time around), though you can still sprint by pressing in the left analogue stick.

Stay low and sneak around to avoid detection and perform an instant kill move.

Like before, stealth and taking cover is a big part of the gameplay; you can snap to nearby cover by pressing the Right Bumper and shift from cover to cover by pressing up on the left stick. Pressing in the right analogue stick will see you crouch down and sneak around and, when enemies are nearby, you’ll again see the return of the eye-themed “Enemy Alertness” icon that will help you to know when you’ve been spotted. This time around, though, it is much easier to spring away from enemies and out of sight to keep them from pursuing you and there are far ore opportunities for you to sneak up behind enemies and perform a one-hit Sneak Kill, and you’re also given the option to enable or disable an “aim assist” that is super helpful in targeting enemies but combat is much more fluid and far less awkward this time around even without this.

Save areas have now been expanded into two locations to allow you to heal up and upgrade you attributes.

Interestingly, the game also offers the option to enable a first-person perspective; I didn’t play with this as first-person games aren’t really my thing but there was a point in the story that forced you into this perspective and it’s unusual to see this feature included in a game, so it’s interesting, if nothing else. There are far opportunities available to you to heal and craft resources; by exploring your environments, you’ll find Weapons Parts, gunpowder, fuses, and other items that can all be used in workbenches in “Safe Houses” to craft ammo and upgrade your weapons. In these Safe Houses, you’ll usually find similar resources to top up your inventory and will always find a coffee maker, which will fully refill your health with one soothing sip. You can’t abuse this mechanic, however, as it takes time for the machine to refill but you can warp through a cracked mirror like in the last game. This takes you to Sebastian’s office, where you can view documents, slides, access another workbench, and upgrade Sebastian’s other abilities (such as health and stealth) using the torture chair from the last game. In both Safe Houses and Sebastian’s office, you’ll find a terminal for you to insert your Communicator and save but, like before, the game is pretty generous with autosave points.

The addition of a Communicator, map, and waypoints makes navigation a breeze this time around.

The Communicator is a pretty big addition to the game and, yet, paradoxically not that integral at the same time. At a number of key moments in the story, you’ll have to hold X to tune into a frequency that will lead you to your next story-based objective and Sebastian will often stop (or continue walking) to chat with the game’s various non-playable characters (NPCs) and expand the story. Perhaps the best addition to the game is the inclusion of a map, which is accessed from the inventory menu; from here, you can see a simple to understand layout of the immediate area, key locations like Safe Houses, and set up a waypoint marker that allows you to easily navigate towards any location. It’s amazing how much of a difference this makes, though it is slightly unnecessary as the game is far more linear than the first game despite the fact that you’re often exploring much larger and more open areas this time around.

Access your weapons on the fly without fear of attack and chat with NPCs for side quests and exposition.

The heads-up display (HUD) remains very similar to the last game and is noticeably sparse to help with your immersion in the game but, this time, you can completely disable it (and all onscreen indicators) from the game’s settings. When you access the “Arsenal Menu” with the Left Bumper, the game actually pauses to allow you to time to select weapons or map them to the directional pad for quick access, which is super helpful. Later on, you can also craft ammo on the go from this menu as well, though it costs you more Weapon Parts to do this on the go as opposed to at a workbench. When talking to NPCs, you’ll often be given a number of different dialogue options that allow you to learn a bit more about these characters, the world around them, and activate side missions. Thankfully, you can skip through or ignore these entirely if you want and the game’s plot and ending don’t really change based on your choices.

Puzzles are few and far between and extremely simple, even when compared to the first game.

The first game was often littered with traps, many of which would kill you in a heartbeat, but the same isn’t true for The Evil Within 2. There are only a handful of moments where explosive trap wires will dog your progress (this time around, you can’t disable them and must simply duck under them or trick enemies into tripping them on your behalf) and absolutely no instant death traps, which is nice but also removes a lot of the tension and trial and error. The most consistent trap you’ll have to navigate is a series of electrified wires that require you to duck under and inch around to reach your target but one area that did slightly stand out was when you were forced to don a gas mask and forgo the use of your firearms to avoid causing a fatal explosion. There are also a few more instances where you’ll be asked to mask buttons (usually just A) to open doors, pull levers, or turn cranks or rotate the analogue sticks to line up frequency waves to open doors but puzzles are generally extremely simple (even more so than the last game) and boil down to maybe finding a key, flicking switches in the correct order, using a door’s markings to decode a cipher, or shooting a Shock Bolt at a fuse box to open a door.

The game is much more linear but there are still opportunities for exploration..

Gameplay is broken up a little bit but has far less variety than in the first game; alongside the aforementioned brief first-person sequence, there is one moment where you and Esmeralda Torres have to hold out against waves of enemies but you’re never asked to take the controls of a mounted machine gun or battle enemies on a moving vehicle or distract larger enemies with bodies this time around. Instead, the emphasis is largely more on exploration; there are numerous instances where you must access a computer and travel through “The Marrow” (which is a sparse, poor attempt at masking a loading screen) to access an underground bunker and different areas of the town of Unity and you’re generally given free reign to explore, which can lead to you partially completing side quests without realising it. As you explore, you’ll get notified whenever your Communicator picks up a signal, which can lead you to viewing “Residual Memories” to understand a bit more about STEM, Mobius, and Unity and the usual documents, newspaper clippings, and diaries will also help flesh things out but it can’t be denied that the story is much less complex this time around.

Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, The Evil Within 2 doesn’t look that much different to its predecessor; character models are really well done and lifelike (though Sebastian remains a visually uninspiring character) but, despite areas being much bigger, the game’s environments lack much of the foreboding atmosphere and horrific imagery of the first game.

While surreal imagery is still prominent, it’s not as visually interesting or macabre as before.

Unity is quite an uninspiring town; though the influence of the game’s first antagonist, Stefano Valentini, is often felt through the presence of disturbing pictures, a giant camera eye lens in the sky, and murdered Mobius agents frozen in time and staged as “art”, the more bizarre aspects of STEM (twisted hallways, crumbling cities and landscapes, and macabre, nightmarish locations) are downplayed in favour of more sterile locations. The game progressively gets more warped and strange as you progress, though, and by the time you reach the final chapter you’ll be wandering around Unity as it collapses around or and through a desolate limbo trying to rescue Sebastian’s wife but I have to say that I miss the emphasis on gore and disgusting, disconcerting imagery over The Evil Within 2’s more subdued and cerebral presentation.

Graphically, the game doesn’t seem much better than its predecessor and is arguably worse in a lot of ways.

The enemies also suffer a bit because of this; before, they were twisted, terrifying creatures that drew inspiration from a wide variety of media and came in all different variants but here they’re mainly just moaning zombies or flaming brutes. That’s not to say that there aren’t some disturbing enemies and locations in the game (the Obscura and Anima are two of the more horrific enemies and the stronghold of the game’s true antagonist, Father Theodore Wallace, is like a Lovecraftian cathedral) but the problem is that they’re just not as prevalent or as immediately creepy as in the last game. It’s telling, to me, that the finale sees Sebastian forced to relive a few key encounters from the first game and seeing the return of the Keeper enemy only served to reinforce how the sequel’s creature designs are somewhat lacking compared to the original. Add to that the fact that I glitched through some steps once, that there was occasionally a delay in textures loading and graphics popping up around me, and the fact that the game flat out soft locked on me once right before I was about he save and The Evil Within 2 seems like a bit of a step back in terms of its presentation despite appearing to be bigger and the gameplay largely being much more fluid and enjoyable.

Enemies and Bosses:
The enemies in The Evil Within 2 are known as “The Lost” and, as mentioned previously, are far less visually interesting than in the last game, where the looked like weird Cenobite/zombie hybrids that had crawled out of some nightmarish fever dream. Shambling, zombie-like creatures, the Lost shuffle about and are generally found tearing into corpses, wandering around, or rising from apparent death. They were charge at you if they spot you, throw you to the ground, attack with knifes or axes, and like to try and take a bite out of your neck but, as also mentioned, it’s pretty easy to outrun them, stealth kill them, and take out large numbers using explosive barrels, setting fire to oil pools, or electrocuting them by shooting Shock Bolts into pools of water.

Enemies, while still horrific at times, seem much more generic and predictable compared to their predecessors.

While many of the game’s creatures leave a lot to be desire, there are some interesting and disturbing enemies on offer here: Spawn are gruesome, scuttling corpses that leap at you with their huge jaws full of sharp fangs; Hysterics attack you with knives; the bulbous Glutton creatures will explode when they reach you or are attacked; and the Disciples cause additional damage thanks to their flaming bodies. You’ll also occasionally be tormented by the onryō-like Anima who, similar to Ruvik in the last game, appears every now and then and is completely immune to your attacks; she also drains your health if she gets close to you and forces you to crouch and dash through an ever-shifting maze and you’ll also have to sneak around the glob-like Watcher at one point (or risk trying to kill it by shooting it in the face).

The monstrous Guardian is a nightmareish mish-mash of linbs and giggling heads with a buzz saw for a hand!

Similar to the last game, the game only really features a handful of bosses, many of which function more like sub bosses and return as regular enemies after being defeated. The first of these you’ll encounter is the abominable Guardian, a gruesome miss-match or bodies and limbs that wields a buzz saw for a hand and pursues you relentlessly at the beginning of the game. Later, you’ll be forced to battle one outside of Cit Hall but, while there’s lots of ammo, health, and places to get a reprieve nearby, you can also dart down an alley way and cause it to be damage by trap wire traps as you escape into the building through a side door. Similarly, you’ll battle the flamethrower-wielding Harbinger first as a boss (where you can shoot at the fuel tank on its back to disable its weapon and set it alight and use nearby levers to douse its flames with the sprinklers overheard) and then as regular enemies out in the streets.

It’s a shame more of the game’s enemies aren’t as disturbing as these bosses…

The aforementioned Obscura also appears more than once; this demonic creature is one of the game’s most striking and memorable monsters in the game and resembles a weird, mangled corpse with an old style camera for a head! It scuttles about on the ceiling in the first encounter and you’re forced to hold it off and survive while waiting for an emitter machine to activate and, if you’re caught in its camera flash, time will slow to a crawl, allowing it to grab at you and attack you. Later, you’ll also encounter the monstrous Effigy, which merges with a nearby telephone pole and tries to smash you with both the pole and its claw-like hands.

After getting past Stefano, you’ll be tasked with fending off some familiar faces from the first game.

When you finally confront Stefano, the battle is one of the more subdued in the game in its first phase, which sees him teleport around his gallery in a puff of smoke and slashing at you with his knife. Once enough damage has been done to him, though, he’ll distort the area into a hellscape and get backup from his gigantic camera eye. Later, during your pursuit of Theodore, you’ll be forced to battle the chainsaw-wielding berserker (more of an interactive cutscene where you simple press A to slice him in two), three of the Keepers (easily dispatched with your more powerful weapons), and even Laura from the first game. This latter battle takes place in the furnace as before but, by that point, you’ll have access to a flamethrower than can make short work of her, too.

Myra’s horrific final form is a much more difficult finale compared to the simplistic battle against Ruvik.

Battling the Effigy is basically a taster of the game’s final battle against Sebastian’s corrupted with, Myra, who transforms into a similar gigantic creature for the finale. Unlike the final fight against Ruvik, this actually requires you to use your own weapons and ammo and a far greater degree of skill as you have to dodge her massive arms and shoot at her stomach to expose her first weak spot. Destroy this and you’ll have to stomp a load of spiders (which will drop ammo and resources) before blasting her arm fro her torso. When this severed limb grabs you, you’ll have to shoot its glowing stump in slow motion before blasting the glowing weak spot in her head. Compared to Ruvik, it’s a much tougher and more involved boss battle but, even then, the game drags out its ending to an uncomfortable degree, featuring a number of long-winded cutscenes and even a brief sequence where you take control of Juli Kidman to shoot down some Mobius agents.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like before, The Evil Within 2’s locations contain a great deal of resources for you to find by interacting with the environment and smashing wooden crates. Syringes and medical kits will restore your health and you can also find ammo, new weapons in special cases, and both the returning Green Gel and the brand new Red Gel. These can also be earned when, soon into the game, a shooting gallery becomes accessible from Sebastian’s office that places you in a simplisic recreation of areas from the first game and tasks you with hitting high scores to earn Green Gel, Weapon Parts, and other resources. Sebastian’s office also allows you to sit in the familiar torture chair and use your Green Gel to upgrade his abilities; this will increase your maximum health and stamina, your ability to recover both of these, and a number of new abilities. For example, you can upgrade to break free of an enemy’s grip with a bottle if you have one in your inventory, dodge out of the way of enemy attacks, perform Sneak Kills under cover of your Smoke Bolts, or Ambush Kills by stealthily approaching from cover. The Red Gel is used in this skill tree to unlock additional skill levels, which seems a little pointless but it gives you something else to look out for, I guess.

Weapons can be upgraded at workbenches at the cost of Weapon Parts.

From the chair, you can also use the keys you find by smashing special statues to once again open up lockers for additional resources. Many of the weapons Sebastian has access to return, or are very similar, to those from the previous game; he carries a knife for melee combat but can instantly kill enemies if he grabs a one-use axe or distract them by throwing bottles, which can now be stacked in your inventory. Very soon, you’ll get hold of a handgun and, in time, acquire such familiar weapons as a shotgun, sniper rifle (which I had very little use for), assault rifle, and the returning crossbow (now called the Warden Crossbow and capable of firing only explosive, smoke, shock, freeze, or harpoon rounds). Later, you’ll also grab a flamethrower and, after completing the game, gain access to the magnum but you can also find better versions of the handgun and shotgun by exploring your environments. Each weapon can be upgraded from a workbench using Weapon Parts; this allows you to increase their ammo capacity, firepower, and reloaded rate, among others, and this skill tree is similarly expanded with High Grade Weapon Parts. You can also find ammo pouches of certain corpses to increase your ammo capacity and, while pipebombs are missing, the Warden Crossbow is much more accurate and wieldy this time around.

Additional Features:
There are fifty-one Achievements available in The Evil Within 2, the majority of which are earned by simply playing through and completing chapters of the story mode. You’ll also earn Achievements for defeating a certain number of enemies (both in general and in certain ways, like with Stealth Kills and your crossbow bolts), upgrading weapons, and finding collectibles. There are a number of special items you can find that will appear in Sebastian’s office, which are tied to Achievements, and you’ll also earn them for clearing certain sections in certain ways, which will require you to reload a previous save point to pop them in one go.

A few unlockables and bonus content add a little replay value but there’s no additional story DLC this time.

Right off the bat, there are free difficulty levels to choose from; when you clear the game, you’ll unlock another, access to the magnum, 40,000 Green Gel points, and a number of skins for Sebastian (which, while nothing too groundbreaking, help to mix up subsequent playthroughs). By signing up for a Bethesda account, and depending on how you purchase the game, you can also access additional perks, such as the “Last Chance Pack” code, which adds a bunch of bonus items to your inventory but, most usefully, the ability to toggle on one-hit kills, infinite stamina, and infinite health. As you’re not penalised for using these “cheats”, the game is made a complete cakewalk with these activated and means you can stack Achievements by just ploughing through on the hardest difficulty without fear of being killed. Also accessible after clearing the game is “New Game Plus”, which carries over all of your upgrades and unlocks and skins and such to a new save file. Unfortunately, you can’t upscale the difficulty when playing New Game Plus and must, instead, start a new file to play on a harder difficulty. There is also no other downloadable content to expand the game’s story or add in new modes like in the last game, no unlockable rocket launcher, and, worst of all, you can no longer freely jump to the game’s chapters, which means that you’ll have to play through the game from the start to mop up any missing Achievements.

The Summary:
In many ways, I preferred The Evil Within 2 over the original; just the inclusion of a map and waypoint system makes it a much more user-friendly experience and the combat has been tweaked just enough so that you’re not hesitating to engage with enemies. The story, which focuses much more on Sebastian and makes him a far more proactive figure, is also far less convoluted (at least until the ending) and the options available for combat make it much more interesting to play. However, it’s undeniably a much more linear game despite how big the locations are and lacks a lot of the features that make The Evil Within interesting and horrific; enemies and environments are rather drab and uninspired, the puzzles are simple and barely a factor, gameplay variety leaves a lot to be desired, and it’s just far less disturbing than the original. Interestingly, while I found the first game frustrating at times, I didn’t consider it to be so hard that it needed cheats for infinite health and stamina and, while I appreciated these inclusions, making it so that you can finish the game and get all the Achievements with these activated really renders any tension redundant and I simply ran around melee attacking enemies and killing them in one hit to complete alleviate the survival aspects of the game as much as the developers eliminated the horror elements by toning down the macabre, disturbing visuals.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to The Evil Within 2? Do you think it was better, worse, or just as good as the original? What did you think to the change in presentation, mechanics, and tone? Were you disappointed with the enemy designs and presentation like I was or did you find it just as disturbing as before? What did you think to the story and the new antagonists? Did you play the game with the cheats activated; if not, what did you think to the game’s difficulty? Would you like to see another entry in this franchise or do you think it’s best left alone now? Whatever your thoughts on The Evil Within games, feel free to drop a comment below.

Game Corner [Back to the Future Day]: Back to the Future: The Game: 30th Anniversary Edition (Xbox One)


In the classic science-fiction film Back to the Future: Part II (Zemeckis, 1989), series protagonist Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels from 1985 to the hyper-realistic future of 2015. October 21, 2015, to be specific which, despite the numerous iconic dates and times visited in the Back to the Future trilogy (ibid, 1985 to 1990), gains additional significance as screenwriter Bob Gale chose this date as the most absurd prediction for when the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series and for being named as “Back to the Future Day”, a day to both celebrate all things Back to the Future and all things science.


GameCorner

Released: 13 October 2015
Originally Released: 29 September 2011
Developer: Telltale Games
Also Available For: Mobile, Nintendo Wii, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360

The Background:
The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the most beloved, iconic, successful, and influential film trilogies, and science-fiction movies, of all time. Sitting in a rare category where each film is as good, if not better, than the last, the trilogy made over $960 million in worldwide gross and has seen numerous adaptations in comic books, cartoons, and other media. For years, talk and rumours of a sequel and reboot have, thankfully, been shot down by both co-writer Bob Gale and co-writer and director Robert Zemeckis; despite this, a pretty decent animated series and a series of comic books could have been seen as the official continuation of the films until Telltale Games secured the license to create videogames based on some of Universal Pictures’ most successful film franchises.

The Back to the Future story has been continued in a variety of media.

With Gale brought onboard as a story consultant and reworking several of Zemeckis’ original concepts for Part II, the game has been stated to being the closest to a fourth film fans can expect but also taking place in an alternative timeline in the Back to the Future multiverse. With Christopher Lloyd returning to voice his iconic character Doctor Emmet “Doc” Brown and even Michael J. Fox popping up in a cameo appearance, Back to the Future: The Game featured music ripped straight from the films and an extremely faithful recreation of the trilogy’s distinct visual aesthetic despite its cartoonish graphical style. The game was originally released in five individual, downloadable episodes before being collected in a physical edition and, a little later, re-released for the next generation of consoles with Thomas F. Wilson returning to lend his voice to this updated release. Though the game was eventually delisted after the closure of Telltale Games, it received generally positive reviews upon release and, despite some reservations about certain aspects and mechanics of the game, it was Telltale’s most successful title prior to the release of The Walking Dead: The Game (Telltale Games, 2012).

The Plot:
Six months after the events of Back to the Future: Part III (Zemeckis, 1990), Doc Brown has gone missing and is presumed dead. However, when his DeLorean time machine randomly reappears in 1986, Marty McFly travels back to 1931 to find his old friend and bring him home only to run into Doc’s younger self, his own father as a youth, and inadvertently create a dystopian alternative timeline that the two must work together to repair to finally return back…to the future.

Gameplay:
Back to the Future: The Game places you firmly in the role of Marty McFly, the young protégé of crackpot scientist “Doc” Emmet Brown. As Marty, you’ll explore various locations and time periods in the fictional town of Hill Valley, interacting with both new and familiar Back to the Future characters, solving rudimentary puzzles, and obtaining and using items to progress the plot further.

Player interactions seems more of an emphasis than in other Telltale Games.

Telltale Games were famous for creating digital adventures games, essentially interactive movies, rather than traditional action-orientated videogames. My experience with their titles has, so far, been limited to playing free episodes of some of their other titles and Back to the Future: The Game is the first time I’ve sat down and played one of their games from start to finish. Interestingly, Back to the Future: The Game plays very differently from the Telltale Titles I’ve played before; unlike titles like Batman: The Telltale Series (Telltale Games, 2016), Back to the Future features much more emphasis on exploration and player movement over quick-time events or altering the story through a variety of responses.

The game’s camera and controls can be a bit janky and clunky at times.

Sadly, though, the game’s controls are quite stiff and clunky; Marty plods around like wading through thick sludge and, while you can hold B to “run”, you’ll never move much faster than a sluggish pace. Considering the game is a glorified point-and-click adventure rather than an action-packed game, this isn’t a massive issue except that the game’s dodgy camera and some awkward map layouts can make it more of a chore to control Marty than it needs to be and I found myself getting unnecessarily turned around or confused thanks to the camera’s positioning or stuck on parts of the environment.

Sadly, you can’t skip cutscenes, which can make repeated playthroughs tedious.

As the game was originally released in five separate chapters, this collected edition is similarly divided in such a way; from the main menu, you can select any chapter at any time and begin a new game as you wish but you’ll need to make liberal use of the game’s save function if you want to earn all of the game’s Achievements with a minimum of fuss as there’s no way to jump to different parts of each chapter. This also affects the game’s replayability as there’s no way of skipping cutscenes or quickly advancing through story elements, which can make subsequent playthroughs far more tedious than they need to be and make gameplay frustrating when you’ve made a mistake and have to sit through entire cutscenes or lines of dialogue with no way of skipping them.

It can be amusing to try out different dialogue options and items just for the hell of it.

As far as I can tell,  unlike other Telltale Games, there’s no way to really “lose” when playing Back to the Future: The Game; even if you fail to figure out some puzzles or events, you won’t get a traditional game over screen and can simply continue until you get the right sequence or choose the right dialogue option. It can be amusing to select the wrong option and see how characters react or to try and use various items on other characters or parts of the map as Marty, or other characters, will generally have something funny to say or will chew you out for being stupid.

It’s not always very clear exactly what you need to do to progress.

The bulk of Back to the Future: The Game’s “action” is made up of character interactions and interacting with the various detailed environments you find yourself in. You can talk to and interact with pretty much everything, learning more about these familiar and new characters and the various timelines Marty ends up in, which can be fun and interesting. Generally, you’ll pick up subtle hints and tips by talking to certain characters but you can also enable or disable in-game hints and mission objects to give you a vague idea of where you need to go and what you need to do. Because of this, it can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out exactly what it is you need to do; you can take your time and explore multiple options at your leisure but, if you’re chasing Achievements, you might want to use a guide as there are a lot of missable Achievements in this game and it can be tiresome having to play through the majority of one of the game’s five chapters just to get to the part you need.

It can be awkward to target people and items with the game’s clunky controls.

Compounding the issue is that the game’s interface is quite clunky at times; you can access your inventory at any time with X. From here, you can examine items and place them into your hands to use on other characters or your environment but, oddly, items will automatically remove themselves from your hands after a few seconds, which gets very annoying as you might find an item you need to use has randomly vanished from your hands right as you need to use it. Similarly, it can be difficult to interact with characters and other elements thanks to the game’s clunky “targeting” system; as you wander around, points of interest will be automatically highlight so you can interact with them but your point of interest might suddenly switch as you get closer, meaning you talk to the wrong person at the wrong time. By holding down the R trigger, you can see every element in the immediate area highlighted and use the right analogue stick to select the one you want but I found this to be equally awkward and clunky and that it was generally easier to just position myself near where I needed to be and edge myself closer to my intended target.

Some of the game’s puzzles are needlessly obtuse and annoying.

Even without these issues, some of the game’s puzzles can be needlessly frustrating; most are a simple case of talking to the right people to learn what you need or where to go but others involve pressing panic switches at the right time, selecting items around your environment to distract other characters, or finding certain items to convince a character to help you. While most of them boil down to a simple case of trail and error, and some are quite fun (like getting into a play-off against Marty’s rival and recreating his iconic and elaborate guitar performance from the first film), others are extremely complex or annoying. In particular, you’ll be required to listen out for certain code words from Doc’s younger self to correctly make rocket fuel (which must be done flawlessly to earn an Achievement), tediously manipulate your environment to create an incriminating Mind Map, or rescue your younger father with as little disruption as possible.

Graphics and Sound:
Like all Telltale Games, Back to the Future: The Game utilises a distinctly cartoony visual aesthetic that takes the general likeness of the franchise’s iconic characters and transforms them into amusing and charming caricatures of themselves. It’s a unique aesthetic, to be, sure and, while it does work for this style of game, characters can tend to look a little…off, at times, plodding and jerking around like marionettes and looking quite basic. I also noticed a few oddities and graphical glitches at times, such as items not breaking like you might realistically expect, background elements glitching out, or items and graphics randomly vanishing from cutscenes.

The graphics and aesthetic are decent if a bit bland at times.

The game’s environments can be quite bland, at times, but all the iconic locations you remember from the films are here: Marty’s house, Doc’s lab, and, of course, the iconic clock tower and town square. While the maps and environments aren’t especially large, they are varied in that you can enter different buildings in different chapters to learn more about different characters, and there’s generally a lot to do, see, and interact with despite how empty and lifeless some of the locations can be. It’s simple but largely very effective and, thanks to the game visiting new time periods (mainly 1931 and another alternative timeline), adds new wrinkles to the lore of the franchise.

The game’s soundtrack and voice acting elevate it and add to its appeal.

Honestly, my only real complaint with the game’s visual style is that Marty takes his appearance largely from the first movie; I don’t know why it is that so much Back to the Future merchandise only ever seems to recreate his attire from the first film rather than giving him a new look but it’s a little disappointing so I was glad to see him dress in period-appropriate clothing as the story progressed. Of course, what really makes Back to the Future: The Game an attractive prospect is the top-notch voice acting (A.J. Locascio does a great Michael J. Fox impression, Lloyd is fantastic as always as Doc (if noticeably aged in his gravelly delivery), and Fox himself even crops up in the game’s final chapter for a voice cameo) and the soundtrack, which is largely comprised of Alan Silvestri’s iconic score from the movies. It’s just a shame, then, that a lot of the game’s dialogue is muted or drowned out by the music or sound effects, meaning you may need to adjust the audio settings from the main menu.

Enemies and Bosses:
Given the nature of the game, there aren’t traditional enemies or bosses as in other videogames; instead, as per the plot, you will be stopped or obstructed by numerous characters who require you to say the right thing, bring them certain items, or you to perform a certain action before they will help you or let you pass.

As always, you’re hounded by Tannens throughout your journey through time.

As you might expect, you’ll run into Biff Tannen and his various ancestors and incarnations throughout the game’s story. His father, mobster Irving “Kid” Tannen is one of the game’s primary antagonists while you’re back in 1931. You’ll need to work with Marty’s father to get Kid arrested, lie to him about your credentials as a mobster, and set up an elaborate series of events to burn him out of a high-rise window as he shoots at you with a Thompson machine gun. After Marty and Doc inadvertently alter their future, you’ll also have a confrontation with Biff and his newly-acquired brothers, dodging swings from their baseball bats until you can get them all in position to be electrocuted.

Citizen Brown is an antagonistic version of Doc who plots to keep his timeline intact.

After altering the past in 1931, Marty crash-lands in an alternative version of his present in which Hill Valley is a veritable utopia thanks to a stringent police state lorded over by none of than a heavily altered version of Doc, known as “Citizen Brown”. While Marty is able to win Doc over and make him see that his dreams have been perverted by his new wife, Edna Strickland, this version of Doc later grows directly antagonistic when he has second thoughts about restoring Marty’s timeline. This leads Marty into directly opposing his friend and mentor to ensure that Doc’s younger self stays on the path towards science rather and societal correction.

Edna comes in many forms and is the game’s primary antagonist and all-around pain in the ass.

As a result, the game’s primary antagonist turns out to be Edna Strickland, a seemingly harmless character in the game’s first chapter who ends up manipulating Doc’s brilliance into brainwashing the “hooligans” of Hill Valley into being more law-abiding and docile civilians. So committed against sin and vice is Edna that it leads her to not only burn down the local speakeasy, setting in motion the events of the game’s plot, but also stealing the time machine and accidentally erasing Hill Valley from existence. When Doc and Marty travel back to 1876 to confront her, they must manipulate her fragile state of mind to learn the date and time of her arson to set things right, which ultimately leads to the player having to set up an elaborate trap involving sand bags and a chandelier to end her misguided plot.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As an interactive movie, there aren’t really any power-ups in the traditional sense of the word to be found. Instead, as you interact with others and further the plot, you’ll acquire a variety of items to be used in specific situations. Some of these will need to be handed to Doc’s faithful dog, Einstein, to progress the story or set up distractions and events you need to move the plot along, others will need to be brought to specific characters to convince them to help you or otherwise alter their destinies.

Additional Features:
There isn’t really much else to Back to the Future: The Game; as mentioned, there are a number of Achievements to acquire, with a lot of them being easily missed without a guide, which is probably where the bulk of your next playthrough will be concentrated. Don’t get me wrong, the game’s story (essentially a new take on the familiar story beats of the original trilogy) and the voice acting is entertaining enough to warrant another playthrough but, as you can’t really affect characters in the same way as in other Telltale Games, there isn’t as much incentive to try different dialogue options as in the studio’s other releases. The 30th Anniversary Edition of the game also comes with a behind the scenes video…that can no longer be viewed as the servers and Telltale’s website have long been shut down. I would have expected this edition of the game to come with, at least, a gallery of concept and development art but apparently this was too much to ask for and you simply get a questionably improved version of the base game.

The Summary:
Your enjoyment of Back to the Future: The Game will most likely depend on how enjoyable you find glorified point-and-click adventures and your level of patience. It’s not an especially hard or lengthy title (each chapter takes maybe an hour or so, depending on how you get on with the game’s vague hints and fetch-quests), nor or is an especially attractive or complex game, but it’s a fun enough distraction for what it is, with far more required of the player than other Telltale Games I’ve played.

It’s a decent game and a good addition to the lore despite being a bit bland and uninspiring at times.

What elevates the game is, of course, the voice acting and the level of fidelity it has to its source material. As a continuation of the trilogy’s storyline, the game works incredibly well, advancing each character’s story while still exploring new, unseen avenues into their pasts and characterisation. Like Ghostbusters: The Video Game (Terminal Reality/Red Fly Studio, 2009), Back to the Future: The Game is a worthy continuation of a beloved franchise that is let down only by some graphical and gameplay hiccups and, perhaps, the genre of game the films have been adapted into. Had the game, perhaps, mixed up some of its methodical pace and adventure aspects with a few more action-orientated sections (like actually driving the DeLorean or taking part in one of the iconic chase scenes) and had some actual branching pathways, it might have been even better but, as is, it’s an inoffensive and decent enough little game.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Did you ever play Back to the Future: The Game? Is so, what did you think of it? Did you find any oddities or get scuppered by the odd camera and control scheme? What did you think of its plot and attempts to continue the Back to the Future trilogy? Which Telltale Game, or Back to the Future film, is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating Back to the Future Day today? Whatever you think about Back to the Future, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Game Corner: The Evil Within (Xbox One)

Released: 14 October 2014
Developer: Tango Gameworks
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360

The Background:
Shinji Mikami joined Capcom in 1990 and worked on a number of successful handheld, 8- and 16-bit titles during his first six years with the company. In 1996, though, Mikami developed the first Resident Evil (Capcom, 1996) videogame, which not only popularised the “survival-horror” subgenre but was an incredible success upon release. Since then, Mikami spearheaded or was heavily involved in Resident Evil’s sequels and spin-offs, including taking over as director of Resident Evil 4 (Capcom Production Studio 4, 2005) and changing the direction of the franchise. However, by 2010, Mikami had left Capcom to develop new properties and titles under Tango Gameworks; the first of these was The Evil Within (known as Psycho Break in Japan), a title which Mikami aimed to return to the roots of the survival-horror genre, which had become increasingly actionorientated over the years. Despite some criticism regarding technical issues, The Evil Within was received rather favourably; while some struggled with the game’s difficulty and convoluted plot, the atmosphere and horror elements were notably praised. The game was also the second-best selling game in the United Kingdom upon release and earned an even more highly regarded sequel in 2017.

The Plot:
After arriving at a brutal massacre, Detective Sebastian Castellanos is pulled into a distorted world full of nightmarish locations and horrid creatures after pursuing a mysterious, seemingly supernatural hooded figure known as Ruvik. Trapped with limited resources and relentlessly hunted, Sebastian is left to fight for his survival and uncover the mystery of Ruvik and the horrific world Sebastian’s found himself trapped in.

Gameplay:
The Evil Within is a survival-horror videogame very much in the style of Resident Evil 4 in many ways; my experience with the Silent Hill franchise (Konami/Various, 1999 to 2014) is sadly limited but, from the bit I’ve played of the first game, The Evil Within is clearly heavily borrowing from the more nightmarish and twisted reality of Silent Hill than the virus-heavy narrative of the Resident Evil franchise. Like in Resident Evil 4, you have full 3600 control of your character and the camera rather than being restricted by tank controls and set camera angles, and you’re also given much more options in terms of combat. You can melee attack with Y using your fists or bottles, interact with the environment with A, burn bodies and pools of gasoline with your limited supply of matches with B, aim with LT and shoot your weapons with RT, reload with X, and spring with LB. you can’t hold the sprint trigger down for too long, though, as you’re hampered by a stamina meter and Sebastian will be left vulnerable and out of breath if you run for too long.

Sneak past enemies or creep up behind them to pull off an instant kill move.

One of the big mechanics of The Evil Within is the sneaking and stealth-based gameplay that is pushed as a big thing in the first few chapters of the game’s story and then all but vanishes for the bulk of the gameplay as you’re given more ammo and weapons, before rearing up again near the finale of the game. You can use RB to sneak around when enemies are nearby and a helpful eye-themed “Enemy Alertness” icon will let you know when enemies are unaware of you or actively searching for you. When the eye widens, you should sprint out of site or hide inside a nearby locker or wardrobe until the danger has passed but be careful as enemies will pull you out of your hiding place if they see you try to hide. Still, if you manage to sneak up behind enemies, you’ll be able to pull off an instant kill move with a press of the A button but I found enemies become very aware of your presence even when you’re being super stealthy so this was often quite tricky to pull off. As much of the game is seeped in an unsettling darkness, you can also use your lantern by pressing in the left analogue stick to light the way but this will also attract nearby enemies (though, again, this becomes less of an issue hen you gain more resources).

Set your weapons and healing items to the D-pad for quick use and take advantage of any NPC backup you get.

Like all great survival-horror titles, The Evil Within excels in building a horrific, foreboding atmosphere thanks to its unsettling, often gruesome visuals and twisted, reality-bending narrative. To help with this, the heads-up display (HUD) is extremely sparse to increase your immersion in the game’s horrifying locations and narrative. You’ll see your health, stamina, and currently-equipped weapon and ammo and that’s about it unless you’re joined by one of Sebastian’s partners, like Joseph Oda, who often help you out with some additional firepower. If they’re attacked, you can fend off their attackers and heal them by holding down A (which helpfully doesn’t waste your own healing resources). You can set your weapons and healing items to the directional pad (D-pad), which helps you to quickly switch weapons or replenish your health without going into the inventory wheel, which slows the in-game action to a crawl but doesn’t pause it completely and can thus leave you vulnerable.

Puzzles are few and far between in The Evil Within but are suitably macabre (and a bit unfair, at times).

Interestingly, The Evil Within is surprisingly light on puzzles, labyrinthine environments, and the use of keys and other items to progress. Occasionally, you’ll have to acquire a key to open a door or work your way through a grim and grimy location avoiding instant death traps, fending off enemies, and running from Ruvik as you try to open a central door, but these moments are few and far between. Instead, The Evil Within is a much more linear game than its forefathers, meaning that you’re not afforded a map this time around. For the most part, this isn’t an issue but it wouldn’t have hurt to have a map available since a lot of the environments are a bit grey, dark, and look alike so it can be easy to get turned around sometimes. As a result, though, you never really have to worry about pushing statues or getting a bunch of extraneous items or combining them together and, instead, will be more focused on blasting enemies or bashing their heads in than worrying about jewels. However, when puzzles do crop up, they’re fittingly gruesome: you’ll have to insert probes into brains while looking at nearby diagrams and listening to audio tapes, press the right buttons on surgery tables to avoid being skewered and reveal a hidden exit, sneak past wire traps and rush through spiked traps, and shut off valves of steam or activate flames to get past certain areas, and turn a few dials here and there in order to progress, take out enemies, or free your comrades.

You’ll need to constantly be on your guard for traps and hazrads that threaten to skewer or explode you.

During Chapter 11, though. you’ll also have to shoot down corpses hanging above the flooded streets in order to distract and swim past a monstrous creature, which can get pretty tense as your window of opportunity is very small, and you’ll also be chased by chainsaw-wielding berserker’s and suddenly ensnared in traps that you must shoot or run out of or face a grisly end. Indeed, traps and hazards such as these are one of the most recurring dangers in the game; these are dotted around every location, springing up on you when you least expect it and often skewing you or blowing you into bloody chunks with little warning. Many of these will result in instant death, requiring you to retry from your last save point, but others can be disarmed by holding A, sneaking up on them, or pressing A at the right time in a small mini game. Disarming traps such as these will net you additional junk (which you can also acquire by smashing crates and such), which is used in the game’s (thankfully) extremely limited crafting system to create ammo for your “Agony Bolt” crossbow. You’ll also find Green Gel in jars and bubbling on the floor after you defeat enemies; be sure to grab this whenever you see it as you’ll need it to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities and weapons in the game’s haunting save areas.

Graphics and Sound:
Honestly, The Evil Within is quite a bland game in many ways; much of the environments take place in such uninspired locations as a hospital, sewer, grimy caverns, and gothic laboratories, meaning that a lot of the colours are subdued and feature a lot of black, grey, and brown. However, the game excels in the use of lighting and a perverse, macabre atmosphere that really adds to the sense of dread and tension in every area. Things may look perfectly normal one minute and then, very quickly, become warped either by Ruvik, Sebastian’s apparently fragmenting mental state, or the presence of certain enemies.

Environments are forboding and ominous, if a bit drab and interchangeable at times.

Bodies, bloodstains, and gore are in abundance in almost every area you visit; you’ll find dismembered corpses, flickering lights, smashed up areas and some truly disturbing labs and operating theatres that more closely resemble torture chambers or slaughter houses. Sebastian’s journey takes him through a variety of locations, all of which are generally seeped in a thick, ominous darkness or carry an menacing sense of dread thanks to the carnage that surrounds him or the use of screams and ambient sounds (mostly haunting, almost taunting voices). There’s also some cool weather effects on display; rain splatters on the screen, wind blows through trees and grass, and environments twist and change as Ruvik bends them to his will with often devastating effects.

Much of the game draws visual inspiration from Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and other horror franchises.

When The Evil Within breaks free from restrictive corridors filled with barbed wire, wreckage, and corpses, it really starts to feel much more unique amongst other survival-horror videogames; you’ll wander through the castle-like ruins of weird mish-mash of cultures, venture through a city that is constantly shifting and changing and collapsing around you like something out of Inception (Nolan, 2010), but you’ll also recognise a number of the tropes and references to Resident Evil along the way. The hospital and laboratories of the game, for example, are very reminiscent of Umbrella’s facilities, as is the mansion you eventually explore; you’ll also spot a few familiar typewriters but the game also evokes imagery from Silent Hill through its narrative and horror franchises like The Ring (Various, 1991 to 2019) and Hellraiser (Various, 1987 to present) in its enemy designs.

Sebestian might not be the most compelling character but he’s thrust into some horrific situations.

While the game’s use of music and ambient sounds is pretty good, if uninspiring at times, it’s the lapses in sound and use of ominous groaning or wails of some unspeakable eldritch abomination that really add to the game’s unsettlingly atmosphere. The voice acting is okay, for the most part, but kind of reminds me of the B-movie delivery of games like The House of the Dead (SEGA AM1, 1996) and even the original Resident Evil while still treating the events of the game with a grim seriousness that further emphasises that its meant to be unsettling and disturbing rather than thrilling or cheesy. Sadly, thanks to the nature of the game’s narrative, the plot is all over the place; much of the narrative is focused on Sebastian trying to figure out the mystery of Ruvik while the world literally falls apart around him and questioning his sanity but it turns out to be this weird, pseudo-virtual reality environment of sorts that really isn’t elaborate don all that much in the game’s cutscenes or dialogue. Instead, you’ll have to root through the many mysterious and ominous documents and the comments of non-playable characters (NPCs) around you to get a better idea of what the hell is actually going on which, while creating a bit of a disconnect between me and Sebastian’s plight, I found did lend to the nightmarish appeal of the game as it was literally like playing through some ghastly nightmare where nothing makes sense and the world is full of shrieking, gabbling zombie-like creatures and unspeakable horrors and gore.

Enemies and Bosses:
As you desperately plough your way through the game and try to figure out just what the hell is going on, you’ll find yourself besieged by a number of grisly creatures that literally come to life before your eyes as corpses stagger upwards, seemingly innocent blood stains burst free with screaming ghouls, and enemies burst apart into freakish abominations. The most common types of enemy you’ll encounter are known as “The Haunted”; these dishevelled reanimated corpses are like a cross between zombies, Cenobites, and the Las Plagas enemies of Resident Evil 4 and will stagger and rush at you in a blind fury looking to take a bite out of your neck. They’re also capable of attacking as a group and with weapons such as knives, crossbows, and even guns, and will eventually don body armour and wield machine guns, shotguns, Molotov cocktails, and can even activate traps by pulling levers. Thankfully, they go down relatively easily, especially after a few shots to the head, but you’re also encouraged to burn their bodies upon defeat to avoid them springing to life once more.

Ghastly, zombie-like enemies will rush at you and attack using edged weapons, explosives, and even firearms!

The haunted come in all shapes and sizes, including much bigger and more rotund enemies who can tank your shots, ones who rush at you in a suicide run, and even ones that appear invisible until the moment before they strike. You’ll also have to contend with some disturbing little baby versions of the Haunted that seep out through walls and drop from the ceilings, but these are easily dispatched with your melee attacks. You’ll also encounter far larger versions (who are best avoided rather than tackling directly unless you have some heavier weaponry on hand) and the disgusting AlterEgo variants who shamble about the place, take far more damage to defeat, and puke up viscera onto you when they got close to you!

The game’s bigger, more dangerous sub bosses will require your more powerful weapons to put down.

Such larger, more grotesque enemies serve as The Evil Within’s mini bosses; the first enemy you encounter, for example, is the chainsaw-wielding Sadist who cannot be harmed. Instead, you have to frantically run from him and sneak around him to avoid being sliced in two but, later in the game, you’ll encounter these brutes as mini bosses in increasingly confined areas; thankfully, by then you’ll be packing a shotgun and some explosive weaponry so they’re not too difficult to put down as long as you keep away from the wild swing of their chainsaws. Similarly, while exploring Cedar Hill Church, you’ll have to fight past the misshapen, monstrous formally conjoined twins Neun and Zehn, who rush at you and try to smash you into a bloody puddle in a confined area. Luckily, Joseph is on hand to offer support with a sniper rifle and you can use your more powerful weapons to slow them and finish them off one at a time.

The Keepers are similar to Pyramid Head but are much easier to put down…with the right weapons…

Another prominent sub boss, of sorts, is the Keeper; these hulking creatures wield meat cleavers and pursue you with a screen-distorting effect and dropping barbed wire mine traps on the floor. Because their heads are protected by a metal safe, the only way to kill these bastards is to aim for the ample chests but, quite often, killing one will simply cause another to spawn out of nearby safes, which can also spring to life and attempt to attach to your face. As a result, a mixture of stealth and tactics are advised when facing the Keepers, which can often be avoided altogether and mainly serve as a formidable distraction while you try to shut off steam valves and progress further.

The Amalgam Alpha was a horrendous boss figh, especially when it enters its second phase and eats you!

As you might expect from the man behind Resident Evil, you’ll also have to battle a number of bizarre and monstrous creatures to progress; one, the Sentinel, is a giant wolf-like creature transformed into a hideous monstrosity and which likes to hide in nearby bushes before pouncing on you and trying to bite your face off. Another is Quell, a massive octopus-like creature that attacks you in the sewers and likes to hide in pipes and grab you with its tentacles; when it does, you have a small window to shoot its face to damage it and save yourself from a gruesome end. Easily the most prevalent and annoying, however, is the Amalgam Alpha creature, which appears to be an eldritch, nightmarish spider/scorpion hybrid that rampages through an underground car park and was, easily, the toughest and most annoying boss fight of the game. This thing is really big and its weak point (an eye on either its tail or within its gaping mouth) can be really tricky to hit; luckily, the car park is full of ammo and other resources but you’ll have to be quick on your feet to avoid its super frustrating instant kill move.

Laura is a shrieking, persistent threat best staved off with fire and avoided lest she pummel you to death!

As Ruvik remains elusive for most of the game, the most prominent antagonist you’ll face for most of the game is Laura, an onryō-like girl who emerges, shrieking and wailing, from bubbling bloodstains in certain parts of specific chapters and scuttles after you like a spider, instantly smashing your head in if she gets a hold of you. You’ll encounter Laura three times over the course of the game and she gets more aggressive and difficult to face each time: in the first encounter, you simply have to run around a corner and set alight a pool of gasoline to scare her off but you’re then forced to battle her in an incinerator room. Here, she demonstrates her ability to teleport and emerge from nearby corpses so you’ll have to make sure that you burn these and arm yourself with nearby torches to stave her off but the only way you’ll defeat her is to trick her into spawning inside of one of the incinerators and pulling the lever. The last battle against her is even worse as it has multiple stages that see you fending her off by shoot levers on pipes to spew fire at her and desperately making your way towards an elevator before she can grab you. While it is possible to do her in using nearby flame traps and your conventional weapons, it’s worth coming back after you’ve unlocked the rocket launcher to make these fights easier as she’s basically indestructible otherwise.

You’ll battle Ruvik’s monstrous final form without fear of exhausting your precious resources.

Finally, there’s the primary antagonist himself, the mysterious Ruvik, who is apparently the mastermind behind all of the game’s events. Occasionally, Ruvik will spawn into a location and begin to chase you; if this happens, my advice is to run as fast as you can and hide in a wardrobe or under a bed until he disappears as he’ll explode you into bloody chunks otherwise. Later, you’ll encounter Haunted who assume his guise, who can be easily put down without much trouble, and the entire final chapter of the game is dedicated towards making your way to a final confrontation with Ruvik. Here, he merges with the Amalgam Alpha to become the Amalgam, a Lovecraftian beast that you must run from as it chases you up the side of a building before commandeering a machine gun and a rocket launcher to finish him off for good. In this final boss fight, you don’t need to worry about expending your ammo or running around in a panic; you simply have to move to the left or right to avoid his claws, aim for his head, and try not to miss withy our rockets. Eventually, you’re given a split second to shoot the final bullet at Ruvik’s exposed head but it’s okay if you miss as the autosave point is right before this section so take your time and put an end to him for good by stomping on his exposed brain.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the many nightmarish environments of The Evil Within, you’ll find a lot of junk and helpful items to pick up, especially if you smash open crates and open up any drawers or cupboards. You’ll acquire syringes and medical kits to restore your health (these latter will also briefly extend your health at the cost of a few seconds of disorientation), ammo for your weapons, matches, and Green Gel. You’ll want to grab as much of these as you can (be sure to reload your weapons and cycle through your Agony Bolt variants to stockpile as much ammo as possible) in order to have the best chance of success in combat.

In addition to the usual firearms, your Agony Bolt can fire a number of different arrows.

Sebastian is afforded all the usual weapons you should expect from a survival-horror videogame; begins with a simple pistol but soon acquires a shotgun, the aforementioned Agony Bolt, a sniper rifle, and even a magnum as the game progresses. These can usually be found in attaché briefcases so be sure to explore your environments fully to get your hands on more weapons and ammo, and Sebastian can also make use of nearby bottles to throw at and bash enemies with, pipebombs, and explosive barrels (which he can also awkwardly kick around to best destroy enemies). In addition, the Agony Bolt can shoot multiple different types of arrows, from explosives to freezing blasts to stun shots, all of which can be either found in the environment or crafted with a simple press of a button from the inventory menu.

Find Green Gel to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities, ammo, and weapons.

At numerous points throughout each chapter, you’ll find mysterious cracked mirrors that transport you to the save room. Here, you can use any keys you find from breaking special statues to open up lockers and access some extra ammo and also use your Green Gel in a very ominous looking chair. This allows you to upgrade Sebastian’s abilities, such as his maximum health and stamina and melee damage output, and weapons, allowing you to increase your maximum ammo capacity, reload time, accuracy, and overall effectiveness for each weapon. It’s worth stockpiling Green Gel and spreading it wisely to increase Sebastian’s health and the amount of matches he can carry while also focusing on each weapon at a time; I favoured upgraded the shotgun and saved that for the more troublesome enemies but you may prefer to upgrade the Agony Bolt or sniper rifle.

Additional Features:
There are forty-one Achievements on offer in The Evil Within, many of which require a bit more strategy to unlock than simply clearing every chapter. Indeed, almost every chapter of the game has a specific requirement to unlock an Achievement, such as defeating a Sadist with a stealth kill, surviving an onslaught of enemies without Joseph being hurt, or killing Laura rather than simply outrunning her. You’ll also get Achievements for more mundane things, such as stealth killing five enemies in a row without being discovered, upgrading weapons and skills, or killing a certain number of enemies in specific ways, as well as finishing the game on higher difficulties or without any Green Gel upgrades.

Clear the game to unlock bonus weapons, new difficulty levels, or purchase the DLC for extra story content.

The game has four difficulty settings, with two available right from the start; while you can lower the difficulty at any time, you can’t raise it and, after finishing the game, you’ll unlock additional weapons to use in the ‘New Game+’ mode, which allows you to replay any chapter on the difficulty you cleared it on. You’re also given 50,000 Green Gel points to spend and unlock a model viewer but, annoyingly, your rocket launcher and machine gun have limited ammo, meaning you can’t just plough through the game’s chapters willy-nilly. Still, it does give you the edge in tracking down any statue key, map pieces, and documents you missed the first time through and working toward 100% completion. There are also a couple of expansion packs available to download that add an extra thirty Achievements to the game in addition to expanding upon the story with new playable characters and enemies to battle. I haven’t actually bought this, however, so it’s not my place to comment upon it but the game was appealing enough that I may explore this extra content later down the line (or if there’s a sale on).

The Summary:
The Evil Within certainly was a disturbing head-trip of a videogame; very little about it makes sense as you play it, with the events appearing to be the result of Sebastian slowly going insane but eventually being revealed to be the results of some bizarre experiment that, even now, I’m a bit unclear on. The result is a very unpredictable and gameplay experience full of unsettling imagery and enemies, gore, and ghastly creatures of all shapes and sizes that pull from a variety of other media and horror elements and mash them together in a truly nightmarish and ominous videogame that maintains a constant sense of dread and anticipation as you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next as Sebastian is battered and tossed all over the place through a constantly shifting nightmare world.

While it can be annoying and tedious, the game does a great job of conveying a macabre and ominous dread.

Having said that, though, there were a few flaws in the game. It’s not always immediately clear where you need to go as environments tend to look the same (especially in chapters set within the hospital or similar locations), some of the boss battles and enemies were ridiculously unfair thanks to them having one-hit kill moves in their arsenal (something I’m always frustrated by), and expanding Resident Evil’s save rooms out to a whole area was a bit laborious at times when I just wanted to quickly save without having to trudge about in the slowly-dilapidating hospital foyer. Still, it was a harrowing experience, one that really conveyed a tangible sense of dread and horror; Sebastian might not be the most compelling or dynamic character but his “Everyman” persona worked well with the increasingly insane and macabre things he was faced with and it was nice to feel that sense of foreboding menace once again, even if the game does veer more towards action than survival-horror thanks to you have just enough ammo and resources to get through each chapter rather than having to constantly worry about inventory management.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

Are you a fan of The Evil Within? Did you enjoy the game’s ominous atmosphere and mind trip of a story or was it too derivative for you? What did you think of Sebastian as a protagonist, his supporting cast, and Ruvik as the main antagonist? Did you enjoy all the allusions and references to other survival-horror videogames and horror media or do you feel like that got in the way of the game’s more unique qualities? Would you like to see more from the Evil Within franchise? Which survival-horror videogame or franchise is your favourite and why? Whatever your thoughts on The Evil Within, or survival-horror in general, drop a comment down below.

Game Corner [Mortal Monday Month]: Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (Xbox One)


To celebrate the simultaneous worldwide release of Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) on home consoles, 13 September 1993 was dubbed “Mortal Monday”. Mortal Kombat’s move to home consoles impacted not only the ongoing “Console War” between SEGA and Nintendo but also videogames forever thanks to its controversial violence. Fittingly, to commemorate this game-changing event, I’ve been dedicating every Monday of September to celebrating the Mortal Kombat franchise.


Released: 17 November 2020
Originally Released: 23 April 2019
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox Series X

The Background:
Mortal Kombat was a phenomenal success for Midway; thanks to its controversial violence and unique digitised graphics, the game stood out from the likes of Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991). While the franchise went from strength to strength during the 2D era of gaming, Mortal Kombat struggled to really stand out amidst a slew of revolutionary 3D fighters and, following the lacklustre release of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the series looked to be in serious trouble after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. Thankfully, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the Mortal Kombat team was rebranded as NetherRealm Studios. Their first order of business was to get their violent franchise back on track, which they did with Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2009), a particularly well-received reboot of the surprisingly convoluted lore. This gritty, violent reboot again stirred controversy but sales of the game alone were enough to cover the costs of Midway’s acquisition and work on a follow-up soon began.

After the disappointment of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, Mortal Kombat made an impressive comeback.

Mortal Kombat X (ibid, 2015) instantly impressed and out-did its predecessor in every way, being both the most violent entry and having the biggest launch in the franchise’s long history at the time. Mortal Kombat X also scored very well and the success of the game earned it not just a host of additional downloadable content (DLC) but also an expanded version, Mortal Kombat XL, in 2016. Keen to capitalise on the good will they had earned back with these releases, NetherRealm announced the development of Mortal Kombat 11 at the Games Awards 2018, a game that saw the triumphant return of actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa to the role of Shang Tsung and sold over eight million copies by October 2020. Like its predecessors, Mortal Kombat 11 received an expanded addition that included all of its DLC fighters and even additional story mode content and was met with favourable reviews, though some criticised the randomisation of the game’s unlockables and the overreliance on grinding, mechanics that, for me, affected the appeal of Injustice 2 (ibid, 2017).

The Plot:
After the defeat of Shinnok at the conclusion of Mortal Kombat X, Raiden has become corrupted by the Elder God’s amulet and, angered at the Thunder God’s repeatedly meddling in the fabric of space and time, the keeper of time (and Shinnok’s mother), Kronika, plots to rewrite history to erase Raiden from existence. With past versions of classic Mortal Kombat characters showing up all over the place, and Earthrealm’s most dangerous and long-dead enemies forging an alliance to usher in Kronika’s “New Era”, Earthrealm’s Special Forces and allies face a battle against time itself to keep the realms from being torn asunder.

Gameplay:
As you might expect by now, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is a 2.5D fighting game in which players can pick from one of thirty-seven characters and battle through the game’s single-player story mode, fight one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent, battle their way though a variety of arcade-style towers, or challenge other players to a variety on online battles. Battles take place in a best-of-three format and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, including the difficulty of computer-controlled opponents) from the game’s comprehensive menu to speed up gameplay or make it more accessible.

One of the things I love about Mortal Kombat is that gameplay and combos are generally easy to pick up.

As in the other 3D Mortal Kombat fighters, fights in Mortal Kombat 11 are extremely accessible and easy to master. You can attack your opponent with punches with either X or Y, kicks with A or B, block with RT, throw (again, this is more like a grapple) with LB or X and Y and a directional input, and interact with the game’s environments when indicated with RB. You can also dash towards and away from your opponent, jump in or crouch down to attack or avoid projectiles, and string together combos by pressing the attack buttons and using directional inputs quickly. The game features a comprehensive tutorial mode that teaches you all of the basics and intricacies of the game’s combat, which gets deeper and more complex depending on your skill level and who you play as but is still extremely easy for even novice players to pick up and pull off a few simple combos.

In addition to their trademark special moves, characters can also pull off gruesome Fatal Blows when low on health.

Each character also boasts a number of special moves, also pulled off by a few simple button and directional inputs (back, forward, X, for example, or forward, down, B); these can be stringed together with combos and augmented with a well-timed press of RB (this will, however, drain a meter at the bottom of the screen but this will quickly refill in time). Unlike in the last two games, though, you can no longer build your meter towards a gruesome X-Ray move; instead, when your health is sufficiently depleted, you’ll have the option of pulling off a “Fatal Blow” once per fight (not per round) to mash your opponent into mush. While these are suitably impressive, violent, and gory, I have to say that I miss being able to build up to and pull off a momentum-changing special move whenever I want rather than when I’m near death. While special moves are pretty easy to perform, you can review them at any time from the pause menu and even “tag” team so they appear onscreen for easy reference, but I would have liked the option to pick and choose which ones are displayed for quick reference.

Fatalities are more visceral and gory than ever and see you dismembering and eviscerating your opponent.

As horrific as the Fatal Blows can be, though, the real star of the show is, once again, the game’s Fatalities, the trademark of the franchise. At the end of the deciding round (usually round two), you’ll be told to “Finish Him!!” (or her…) and given a short period of time to stand in a specific spot and enter another button combination to tear your opponent to pieces, usually resulting in their guts, brains, and eyes bursting from their body or them being shredded and blown apart. Every character has three Fatalities available to them: one that is readily available, one that is locked and must be unlocked in the Krypt (or looked up online…), and one that is assigned to pulling off special Fatalities in certain stages (“Stage Fatalities”, like the classic uppercut into an acid pit) and you can also find (or purchase) “Easy Fatality Tokens” to pull them off more easily and practice them in the Fatality Tutorial.

There’s more than one way to finish your opponent, including a couple of non-lethal options.

Fatalities aren’t the only way to finish your opponent, though; by following a specific set of instructions during a fight (such as not blocking or hitting a certain number of moves and ending the decisive round with a specific attack), you can once again end your foe with a “Brutality” (although, as Factions are no longer included, Faction Kills are also not present this time). You can also pull off a non-lethal “Friendship” if you don’t wish to eviscerate your opponent and even replenish a small portion of their health by showing “Mercy” to allow the fight to continue a little longer. There are benefits to finishing off your opponent, though, as this will award you Hearts, one of four different forms of in-game currency, additional Koins (the primary form on in-game currency), and contribute to your player level and allow you to unlock additional bonuses.

Once again, it’s going to take a lot of grinding to earn enough to unlock everything in the game.

One of the biggest complaints I had about Injustice 2 was the sheer abundance of different in-game currencies and the unfortunate emphasis on grinding for levels and unlockables and the randomness of the game’s loot crates. Sadly, Mortal Kombat 11 carries a lot of this forward; there are numerous customisation options available to you, from backgrounds and icons for your gamer card to individual gear and skins for each character but pretty much all of them are locked behind the game’s time-consuming grinding system. You earn Koins, Soul Fragments, Hearts, and Time Crystals by playing every single one of the game’s modes; while each of these can be spent in the Krypt to unlock chests and release souls (which will net you additional currency, skins, gear, augments, and Konsumables), Time Crystals can be spent in the in-game shop but, as items in the shop at so expensive, you’re encouraged to spend real world money to unlock additional stuff.

Battle through Klassic and online towers to earn rewards, see character endings, and unlock gear.

Unfortunately, while each character has a whole load of gear and skins and customisation options available to them, these are locked behind grinding; you can find many of these in the Krypt but others are unlocked by playing story mode, completing the character tutorials, or besting the game’s many towers. As in the classic 2D games, you can once again pick between three different towers (Novice, Warrior, and Champion); which tower you pick determines the amount of fighters you’ll face and the degree of the rewards you’ll earn from completion. You can also take on the Endless tower to face and endless number of opponents until you quit or are defeated and the Survival tower in which the damage you receive from each fight carries over to the next. Similar to Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2, you can also challenge a number of different online towers, the “Towers of Time”; these provide you with a variety of challenges but are only available for a set amount of time before they’re replaced with a fresh challenge. However, you even access this mode you first need to clear a number of tutorials first, which seemed a bit redundant, and you will need to pay and also perform certain tasks (such as a certain amount of attacks or specials) to complete each character’s specific tower and unlock more gear and skins for them.

Timelines collide in the story mode, which occassionally asks you to pick between two fighters.

A big part of the game is its story mode; once again, the story is broken down into twelve chapters, with each chapter assigned to at least one character but, every now and then, you’ll be given the option of picking between two characters. It doesn’t really matter which character you pick, though, as you don’t even need to tick off all of these options to 100% the story mode and it hardly affects the narrative at all. Despite the fact that you can’t finish off and kill your opponents, the story mode is a great way to earn Koins and gear and get to grips with each character; the story sees characters from the past return to life as Kronika attempts to rewrite history, which effectively undoes a lot of the development done to the series in Mortal Kombat X but it’s a good excuse to have classic characters return to the series. You can set the difficulty setting for the story mode whenever you like but there are no Achievements tied to beating it or any of the other mode son higher difficulties but you do generally earn better rewards for taking on more difficult challenges.

Graphics and Sound:
Mortal Kombat 11 looks fantastic; character faces still look a bit shiny and odd at times (particularly the females) but there’s even less distinction between the in-game graphics and the many cutscenes you’ll see as you play through the story. Every character is full of life and little quirks, such as Liu Kang constantly hopping from foot to foot in true Bruce Lee style, Kano nonchalantly spitting on the floor, and Skarlet cutting herself open. If the winning fighter is too close to their fallen foe when a round ends, they’ll back away with their own unique animation and voice clips and taunts can be heard throughout each fight as you pull of special moves, combos, and gain victories. Unfortunately, as always, the developers continue to render the character’s different endings using a motion comic aesthetic and voice over rather than utilise the full motion CGI cutscenes used to great effect in the game’s story, which continues to be a disappoint for me and I’ve never really understood this choice.

While environmental interactions seem limited, they’re still a great way to deal some damage to your opponent.

Where Mortal Kombat 11 fails a little bit is in the stages; stages are a big part of any fighting game but especially Mortal Kombat and NetherRealm Studios’ recent efforts since they introduced the concept of interacting with various parts of the environment. This returns again, allowing you to skewer opponents with spears, throw bodies at them, wall run out of harms way, or toss or wield a variety of weapons (such as a chainsaw and a sledgehammer) to deal additional damage. These will often finally utilise the gruesome x-ray feature that was a big part of the last two games (which can also be triggered with certain special moves and augmented specials) but it feels as though there are a lot less opportunities to interact with the background and pull off Stage Fatalities than normal, making environments look and feel very alive but being disappointingly light on interactive elements despite all of the cameos and interesting elements at work in the background.

The game goes to great lengths to recreate iconic environments and locations from the first two games.

One thing I did like, though, was the return of some classic stages from past Mortal Kombat games, such as the courtyard and the dead pool; the best stage for this is, easily, the Retrocade stage, which randomly generates pixel-perfect recreations of classic Mortal Kombat stages complete with music. The game also goes above and beyond to recreate Shang Tsung’s island in immaculate detail in the Krypt; not only does it feature every stage from the first Mortal Kombat but it also recreates scenes and locations from the brilliant Mortal Kombat (Anderson, 1995) and cameos and references to numerous Mortal Kombat characters, which makes it a fantastic area to explore that is sadly let down by how confusing the Krypt’s map system is. Not only that but Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa lends his voice and likeness to Tsung once again, adding his unmatched gravitas to the character, and you can even buy a skin pack that adds skins for Sonya Blade, Johnny Blaze, and Raiden that adds three more likenesses and voices from the film.

As gruesome and visceral as the Fatalities are, the Fatal Blows are just as lethal and gloriously rendered in macabre detail.

While the game does excel in its many cutscenes and does a great job of telling its story with just the right level of cheese and seriousness, the main draw of the game is in its violence and gore and Mortal Kombat 11 certainly delivers in that respect. Skin is literally peeled from the bones, eyeballs fly in geysers of blood, bodies are dismembered, split into pieces, dissolved, and shredded, and limbs are torn apart in a variety of ghastly ways and it’s always a joy to see the horrifying ways characters are going to mutilate their opponents. The Fatal Blows are sometimes just as good, if not better, as any of the game’s Fatalities, with characters being stabbed, shot, and blasted in ways that would surely kill them only for the characters to hop right back up afterwards. While character’s clothes and accessories don’t rip or tear during the fights, they do seem to get stained by blood at times and skin can be seen baring wounds and scars from battle.

Enemies and Bosses:
As a fighting game, every single character in Mortal Kombat 11 is your enemy and you’ll be forced to do battle with all of them at least once, at some point, as you play through the story mode and arcade towers. Because every character controls and fights a little differently, with some focusing on ranged attacks or brawling while others emphasis slow but hard-hitting attacks, it’s best to sample each for yourself and to get an idea of your favourite character’s different abilities and variations in order to achieve success. Also crucial is mastering a handful of the game’s combos; many are as simple as X, X, Y or X, Y, X but others require directional inputs, longer button presses, and the co-ordinated stringing together of frame-perfect attacks and special moves. Luckily, though, every character usually has one or two simple combos for you to master so it’s simple enough for players of any skill level to pick up and play.

Your attack strategy may have to change depending on who you are fighting or playing as.

Some characters, though, play a little differently to others and this affects not only how you play but also how you fight them. Shang Tsung, for example, can not only steal the soul of his opponent, which not only drains their health but also has him assume their form and moveset for a short period, but can also morph into various masked ninjas from the franchise; Shao Kahn primarily attacks with his massive hammer, which can make his attacks slower; Jax Briggs can charge up his metal arms with punches and other attacks, which allows him to pull off his projectile attacks; and Erron Black can whip out a shotgun, which allows him to fire at and melee attack his opponent but also needs reloading and to be manually put away. Other opponents can be a lot cheaper than others; Noob Saibot, for example, is always a bit of a pain because of his vast array of teleporting attacks and the same applies to Mileena, who’s capable of quickly teleporting about the place and launching sais at you. There are also some returning favourites you’ll have to watch out for, such as Sub-Zero’s ice ball, Scorpion’s kunai spear, and Liu Kang’s lightning quick kicks and fireballs but the new characters have their own tricks to watch out for, too. Geras, for example, loves to spam his little sand pit trap and Certrion will spawn elemental hazards out of thin air to trap and hurt you.

Cyrax and Sektor can only be fought in the story mode and you’ll face tough boss battles in the Towers of Time.

When playing through the game’s story mode, you’ll also have to fight a couple of familiar faces in the form of Cyrax and Sektor. These cybernetic ninjas sadly don’t make the cut this time around so they essentially fill the role of mini bosses, in a way, despite appearing quite early on in the story mode. In addition, there will also be time sin the story (and in certain towers) where you have to face two opponents in a handicap match very similar to the “Endurance” matches from the first game, which see your opponents automatically tag into battle once their comrade has fallen while you’re forced to continue with whatever health you have left. When taking on the Towers of Time, you’ll get to battle against a character that has been augmented to “boss” status; this means that you can’t use Konsumables and that your opponent will be super tough, requiring multiple players to take on the challenge while its active to help bring them down and earn rewards.

After Kronika is defeated you must choose between facing Fire God Liu Kang or Shang Tsung in Aftermath.

When you play the story mode or battle through one of the other towers, your final opponent will be Kronika, an unplayable boss character who presents a unique challenge compared to the likes of Shinnok and Shao Kahn. The battle against Kronika takes place in one round but is split between three fights against her and three different locations and time periods, with each phase seeing you having to battle a randomly generated opponent. Unlike other characters, Kronika cannot be thrown, staggered, or hit with a Fatal Blow; when you try any of these attacks and certain combos, she’ll take damage but you won’t see the usual animations play out, which can leave you open to one of her devastating attacks. Kronika likes to teleport around the arena and summon energy balls and projectiles but her most lethal attack is a time warp that renders you helpless and drains a massive chunk of your health bar, which basically means that it’s best to reach her final phase with as much health as possible or else you have to replay the entire fight from the beginning. At the conclusion of the Aftermath story mode, you have the choice of facing either Shang Tsung (who has usurped Kronika’s powers) or “Fire God” Liu Kang (a merged form of Liu Kang and Raiden) as your final opponent. Unlike Kronika, though, these are standard battles and subject to all the normal gameplay mechanics, meaning you’re free to hit your Fatal Blows and augmented special moves and combos without fear of being left vulnerable. Indeed, as long as you’re proficient enough with a few combos and special moves, these fights should be noticeably easier than the one against Kronika though be wary as Shang Tsung and Liu Kang are also much more versatile in their attacks than Kronika, who favours bursts of temporal energy over combo strings.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Like in Injustice 2, each character has a number of gear that can be equipped but, thankfully, unlike in that game, these do not affect the character’s stats or abilities and are merely cosmetic. As you battle with your character, their gear will level up and unlock up to three augment slots and you can then equip augments to their gear to increase their special attacks, defence, and other attributes to make them more efficient. Similar to Mortal Kombat X, each character has a number of variations available to them but, this time, it’s up to you to equip and assign these variations to each character; these are limited to three slots, which allow you to assign different special moves and abilities to each character to differentiate them (you can have Scorpion, for example, focus on flame or kunai attacks, or mix and match them). You can also assign different intros and outros for each variation (once you unlock these) and tweak their artificial intelligence (A.I.) stats to make them more focused on reversals or brawling, for example, or a more balanced fighter when taking part in A.I. Battles.

Equip Konsumables and augments to give you buffs and power-ups and make beating towers a little easier.

To help you clear these modes, you can choose to have the computer battle through each tower on your behalf and also use up to four Konsumables to tip the odds in your favour. These allow you to flick the right analogue stick and call upon assistance from other characters or effects (such as a brief acid rain, missiles, or similar projectiles) and/or earn additional rewards from battle or performing finishers. Other times, especially in the Towers of Time, your opponents will have access to similar Konsumables and augments, which essentially recreates the Test Your Luck feature from Mortal Kombat (2009), and you’ll again have the option of teaming up with others to take on super tough boss battles.Each time you take on a tower, you’ll be asked to take on a number of “Dragon Challenges”; these appear at the bottom of the screen and ask you to do such tasks as switching stance, ducking, jumping, or performing (or not performing) a certain number of actions throughout the fight and the more you complete, the more additional Koins you can earn so I recommend drawing the fight out so that you can pull off as many as possible.

Additional Features:
There are fifty-eight Achievements on offer in Mortal Kombat 11 and, unlike most games, most of these are tied to repetitive actions rather than playing though the story mode. You’ll earn an Achievement for pulling off a certain number of Fatalities and Brutalities, one for performing two Fatalities with every character who isn’t a DLC fighter (which is a good way to test out each fighter), using a certain number of Konsumables, and opening a certain number of chests in the Krypt, for example. You’ll also earn Achievements for clearing the Klassic Tower with first one and then ten characters (why not all of them is beyond me), running five miles in the Krypt, and for taking part in A.I. and online battles and clearing half of (and all) of the main story mode.

All of the DLC is included as standard but, sadly, there are no additional Achievements tied to these features.

Sadly, however, the Achievements do not extend to any of the DLC fighters or story content; there are no Achievements to be earned from clearing Aftermath or specifically tied to any of the DLC fighters, which is a real shame when you’ve got RoboCop and the Terminator in your game and when you consider that Mortal Kombat XL had sixty Achievements to earn, with an extra thirteen added with its DLC fighters. On the one hand, this does mean that it’s a lot easier to get Achievements in Mortal Kombat 11 since there are far less devoted to online play but, on the other, I was disappointed that the Achievements didn’t encourage more replayability and variety; instead, it’s all repetitive actions and nonstop grinding and I’d be pretty pissed off to have paid £40-odd for the Aftermath DLC and all those fighter packs only to find that they don’t come with any extra Achievements.

Some familiar faces and movie icons feature as guest fighters…and also the Joker, who I could live without.

Speaking of which, Aftermath and all of the DLC fighter packs and skins are included in Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (…except for those released after the game) but you should be aware that your previous save data from the base Mortal Kombat 11 is not compatible with Ultimate. This means that you can play Aftermath right away, if you want, and thus complete the actual story since the main story just kind of ends unresolved. The additional fighters include the likes of Spawn, RoboCop, the Terminator, and even John Rambo (with Keith David, Peter Weller, and Sylvester Stallone all lending their voice talents (and likeness, in Rambo’s case) to the game. You can also play as returning characters such as Sindel, Fujin, and one of my favourites, Rain though I question the inclusion of the Joker as I really think Pennywise the Dancing Clown would have fit a lot better. There are also a number of cheeky DC Comics skins and gear to equip that turn Cassie Cage into Harley Quinn, Geras into Darkseid, Kitana into Catwoman, and Baraka into Killer Croc and you can even dress Jacqui Briggs up in Spawn’s costume.

The Krypt is full of Easter Eggs and references to both the 1995 movie and the franchise’s long histor.y

Aside from fighting, much your time is also spent exploring the Krypt and spending all of your hard-earned currency on skins, gear, augments, and the like. The Krypt is the biggest it has ever been, encompassing the entirety of Shang Tsung’s island and is full of treasure chests, death traps, and references to the videogames and movies. Unfortunately, though, as great as the Krypt is for Easter Eggs and such, it’s a bitch to navigate; you can create shortcuts by smashing through walls and pulling levers and such but the map is dreadful and it can be extremely difficult to get to where you need to be as it relies on an awkward coordinate system. It’s also ridiculously expensive to open the chests, which can lead to you spending over 10,000 Koins just for some useless icons and concept art and it’ll cost you 100 Soul Fragments and 250 Hearts every time you want to open one of those chests. There’s a lot to see and do, though, with new areas to stumble across and fun little Easter Eggs to find but, again, no Achievements really tied to this; when I find the statue of Reptile’s reptilian form from the movie or examine Drahmin’s mask or find Goro’s corpse, I’d expect at least a fun little 5G Achievement but…nope.

The Summary:
I knew that we would eventually be getting Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate and specifically held off from purchasing the base game or Aftermath while waiting for this release, which bundles 99% of the game’s content all onto one disc (well…technically it’s two…) for you to play at your leisure (after the lengthy download and installation process, of course). In many ways, I wasn’t disappointed; Mortal Kombat has never looked better, with blood and guts and gore being rendered in exquisitely visceral detail and the recreation of Shang Tsung’s island for the Krypt is stunning, full of little details and references that really reward my many years of fandom. Equally, the story mode and fights are brought to life fantastically and the scaled back approach to gear and customisation is appreciated since it means I don’t have to worry about my character being underpowered if they look how I want.

Mortal Kombat has arguably never looked better but the emphasis on grinding and repetition lets the game down.

Unfortunately, though, there are a few things that let it down. The Fatal Blow system is great but seems catered more to new players and a defensive playstyle; tying so much of the game to online servers results in a lot of dodgy slowdown and loading on the menus at times; locking everything behind the towers and such is fine but forcing players to grind for in-game currency to spend on even challenging those towers is not; the handful of Achievements might be pretty simple to get but there’s not a lot of variety or fun to them; and I question some of the choices made for the roster. First of all…why thirty-seven fighters? Why not go all-in and bring it up to a nice, even forty? Where are Takeda Takahasi and Kung Jin, the actual descendant of the Great Kung Lao? They weren’t exactly my favourite characters from Mortal Kombat X but they were just as important to the “new generation” of fighters as Cassie and Jacqui but they’re missing yet that lumbering oaf Kotal Kahn is still there. In the end, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Mortal Kombat 11 but it’s notably more finite and time-consuming than in the last two Mortal Kombat games; it’s not as bad with the randomness and loot boxes as Injustice 2 but some of the better skins and gear and such is still annoying locked away and will take a lot of time and effort to unlock, which is especially aggravating when the game uses four different types of in-game currency and yet your options for actually purchasing new stuff in-game are severely limited.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What are your thoughts on Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate? Did you wait for this version to come out or did you buy the base game and DLC separate? Either way, do you think there was enough value for your money or, like me, were you disappointed to find the DLC didn’t have any new Achievements to earn? Which fighter in the game (or the franchise) is your favourite and why? What did you think to the story mode and the use of competing timelines to bring back classic characters? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? What did you think to the online options and the different towers the game had to offer? Which Mortal Kombat game, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Mortal Kombat 11, or Mortal Kombat in general, leave a comment down below.

Game Corner [Mortal Monday Month]: Mortal Kombat XL (Xbox One)


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To celebrate the simultaneous worldwide release of Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) on home consoles 13 September 1993 was dubbed “Mortal Monday”. Mortal Kombat’s move to home consoles impacted not only the ongoing “Console War” between SEGA and Nintendo but also videogames forever thanks to its controversial violence. Fittingly, to commemorate this game-changing event, I’ve been dedicating every Monday of September to celebrating the Mortal Kombat franchise.


Released: 1 March 2016
Originally Released: 13 April 2015
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: PlayStation 4 and Xbox Series X (XL Edition); PC and Mobile (Standard Edition)

The Background:
After gaining equal parts success, popularity, and controversy thanks to its peerless use of gore and violence and unique digitised graphics, the Mortal Kombat franchise (Various, 1992 to present) offered not only the first real competition for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) but also redefined videogames (especially fighting games) for years to come. After the series hit its peak in the mid-to-late nineties, Mortal Kombat struggled to find a footing in the emerging 3D fighter arena; however, after recovering from the poor reception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008) and bankruptcy, Midway was bought by Warner Bros. Interactive, rebranded to NetherRealm Studios, and successfully got their ultra-violent fighting game franchise back on track after Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2011) was very well-received for its “back to basics” approach.

After Mortal Kombat breathed new life into the franchise, Mortal Kombat X took the story in a new direction.

Production of the next game in the series began in 2012 and much of the hype and marketing focused on the game featuring the most brutal and gruesome Fatalities in the series to date. Mortal Kombat X expanded upon not only the mechanics and story of its predecessor but also the content, featuring a wealth of new online modes that would come to be a signature of NetherRealm Studios, alongside far more downloadable content (DLC) than its predecessor. Sales and reviews of the game were incredibly strong, leading to the release of the XL version of the game about a year later; this version included all of the DLC and additional content released and continuing the game’s strong critical response and all but guaranteeing the production of the eleventh entry in the series.

The Plot:
Although Shao Kahn and his Outworld forces were defeated in Mortal Kombat (2009), much of Earthrealm’s forces were killed and enslaved by Quan Chi’s dark sorcery and put in service of his master, the fallen Elder God Shinnok. After Johnny Cage uses his mysterious latent powers to defeat Shinnok and many of their friends and allies are restored, a new generation of Earthrealm warriors are forced to put aside their egos and arrogance in order to prevent Shinnok’s resurrection and continue the uneasy truce Earthrealm has forged with Outworld.

Gameplay:
Like its predecessor, Mortal Kombat XL is a 2.5D fighting game in which players select one of thirty-three characters and take on the game’s single-player story mode, battle one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent, or challenge a variety of arcade-style towers or other players in a variety of online battles. As is the Mortal Kombat tradition, fights take place in a three round format and against a time limit, though you can customise these settings (and many others, such as the difficulty of computer-controlled opponents) from in game’s options to speed up gameplay or make things more accessible.

While the controls stay the same, the overall fighting mechanics have been improved upon considerably.

Essentially, the game’s fighting mechanics are exactly the same as in the last game but tweaked and improved in numerous ways. You can throw punches with either X or Y, kicks with A or B, hold RT to block, perform a grapple-like throw with LB (or X and Y and a directional input), dash towards or away from your opponent (or hold RT to run, though this consumes the new stamina meter), jump in or crouch to attack or avoid projectiles, and string together combos by pressing the attack buttons and using directional inputs quickly. The game also expands on the tutorial of its predecessor to teach you the basics of the in-game combat, which gets deeper and more intricate as you learn more about the game’s combo system and stringing together basic attacks, combos, and special moves but, thanks to a refined and simplified control scheme and a much more user-friendly move list that is accessible by pausing a fight at any time, it’s very easy for even new players to perform a few simple combos and succeed in most fights.

You can now select up to three different fighting styles for each character and X-Rays are more brutal than ever!

With a few simple directional and button inputs, you can also pull off a number of special moves, ranging from projectiles to grapples and elemental or telekinetic slams. This time around, though, every character has at least three different “variations” that alters their special moves and fighting style; this adds a great deal of variety to the game’s fights and means that you can focus on ranged attacks, grapples, or even summon minions to provide a modicum of assistance and can help make each character accessible to your fighting style. As you perform combos, special moves, and absorb damage, you’ll once again fill up the Super Meter at the bottom of the screen; this meter fills much faster than in the last game, allowing you to enhance your special moves with RT and pull off combo breakers much faster and more frequently. Once it’s completely full, you can once again pull off a devastating X-Ray move but, this time, you also have the option of enhancing your moves further with another tap of RT (though this will burn up your meter) and perform reversals and “block breakers” without draining your meter.

Grab an interactable object to put a beating on your foe and then rip their head off in gruesome fashion.

While the tag team system has been completely abandoned in Mortal Kombat XL, there are numerous opportunities in every stage for you to interact with the environment with a press of RB. This allows you to swing from vines, flip up walls, throw innocent bystanders, or use weapons to avoid incoming attacks or dish out a bit more damage to your opponent. Most stages have at least three of these but some have more, or less, and you can even set the game up to give you an audio indication of when you can interact with the environment or turn them off completely (though I don’t get why you’d do that). Of course, once you’ve drained your opponent’s health bar completely and won the decisive round of the fight, you’ll be given the chance to finish off your foe; by positioning yourself correctly and inputting some directional inputs and button presses fast enough, you’ll pull off a gruesome Fatality that will leave your opponent dismembered (usually with their brains, eyes, and/or other organs spilling from their remains).

Brutalities and Faction Kills offer new and horrific ways to leave your opponent a mangled corpse.

Every character has at least two Fatalities (in addition to special “Stage Fatalities” that can be performed on certain stages) available to them and, while you’ll have to unlock their inputs in the Krypt or look them up online in order to pull them off, you can view them at any time from the pause menu, practice them in the Fatality Tutorial mode, and earn (or buy) “Easy Fatality Tokens” to assist you. While “Babalities” (and all silly elements) are no longer present, Mortal Kombat XL sees “Brutalities” return to the franchise; by following a specific set of instructions during a fight (such as ending the fight with a throw or a stage interaction or performing a certain number of attacks during the final round), you’ll mutilate your foe with a sudden, vicious kill move. Another new addition to the game is that you’ll be asked to join one of four “Factions” for the purposes of online play; as part of this, you’ll also be able to pull off one of five “Faction Kills” by standing a jump distance away from your opponent during the “Finish Him/Her!!” command, holding block, and entering specific directional inputs.

Mortal Kombat XL expands upon your options for on- and offline play to add a lot of variety.

Every time you win a fight, you’ll earn Koins to spend in the Krypt, experience points (XP) to level up your user profile (which can also be customised with unlockable icons and backgrounds by winning fights, exploring the Krypt, and completing simple daily challenges), and points to aid your Faction. This allows you to increase your rank in your Faction, unlock access to more Faction Kills, and help your Faction to beat the others in an ongoing struggle for dominance. This is further aided by full on Faction War through a variety of towers and the regular Invasion of a super tough boss character that everyone in your Faction has to work to whittle down for more rewards, and you can change your Faction at any time to explore their different Faction Kills. Towers themselves are greatly expanded this time around; the traditional arcade ladder still has you tackling eight random opponents before battling Goro and Shinnok and unlocking your character’s ending but you can also take on daily, hourly, and premium challenge towers, and Test Your Might returns (though the other “Test” mini games are absent) in the tower mode as well. You can also tackle an Endless tower and a Survival mode that sees any damage you take carry over to the next fight and you can even create Tower Challenges for your friends to try out.

The story is a generational tale of new warriors rising up to combat the resurrected Shinnok.

Mortal Kombat (2009) sought to revitalise the franchise by retelling the events of the first three games in a cohesive way and making big changes for the series and Mortal Kombat XL’s story expands upon this greatly. Essentially a retelling of the events of Mortal Kombat 4 (Midway Games, 1997), the story deals with the emergence of a new generation of fighters and the building of inter-realm relations between Earthrealm and Outworld. Divided into twelve chapters, the story again has you playing as one character for each chapter, which continues to be an effective way of getting to grips with a wide variety of the game’s roster (though, again, you still can’t perform Fatalities in the story mode), and you can replay them at any time. While you won’t have to worry about fighting two characters at once this time, you will have to be on your toes as you’ll be asked to perform a handful of quick-time events (QTEs) during the story, which also features cameos not only from unplayable characters like Sareena, Li Mei, and Smoke but DLC characters like Tanya and Bo’ Rai Cho. Because the last game left many of the series staple character undead minions of Quan Chi, much of the story’s focus is on Johnny Cage rather than Liu Kang and the new generation of fighters (Cassie Cage, Kung Jin, Takeda Takahasi, and Jacqui Briggs) but, sadly, a lot of the unique appeal of these new characters is somewhat undermined by the inclusion of their parents (the more popular series staples like Johnny, Sonya Blade, and Jax). Equally, the story immediately backpedals on a lot of the changes made in the last game; Sub-Zero is no longer a cyborg, Scorpion is human now, and both of them (and Jax) have been freed from Quan Chi’s influence, which is a shame as it would have been cool to see a streamlined design for Cyber Sub-Zero but it is cool seeing Scorpion’s human form.

Graphics and Sound:
As great as Mortal Kombat (2009) looked, Mortal Kombat XL is a massive step forwards in terms of its graphics, presentation, and gore; character faces can be a bit shiny and unnerving in the story mode cutscenes but you won’t really notice this minor issue when locked in combat. Similarly, there’s basically no distinction between the cutscenes and in-game graphics, with only a change of lighting and camera positioning separating the two.

Mortal Kombat has never looked better but these improvements still don’t carry over to the game’s endings.

This means that the game is presented so convincingly that it’s basically like playing a high quality CG cutscene and the character’s little quirks and mannerisms are emphasised even further; the winning character will back away from their fallen opponent between rounds, characters spit taunts after landing combos and special moves, and each one is injected with a high degree of personality to make them shine (Ferra and Torr, being two characters fighting in tandem with each other, are the perfect example of this but you’ll also get little moments like characters reloading or straightening their outfit). Even better is the fact that pre-fight introductions have been greatly expanded; characters will now trade dialogue with their opponent, which changes depending on who you’re facing and leads to some interesting references to previous games and rivalries. It thus remains a shame that NetherRealm Studios continue to offset all these impressive graphics with the motion comic-like sequences used to convey each character’s ending.

Stages are brought to life through numerous interactable elements, which also offer more unique Stage Fatalities.

Mortal Kombat XL’s stages are equally far more detailed and full of even more life than ever before thanks to the wide variety of stage interactions on offer. Aside from the returning Pit stage (which still has random fighters battling it out in the background), stages in Mortal Kombat XL are both new and immediately familiar; the Dead Woods and Sky Temple stages recall the Living Forest and the Courtyard, respectively, for example. You’ll also battle on a boat in the middle of a tumultuous storm as bodies rise and fall with the waves in the background, outside of the Lin Kuei palace, in the middle of a dense jungle, and even before the very life force of Earthrealm itself. Each stage has a fantastic field of depth and brought to life through the different interactions and Stage Fatalities on offer, which allow you to bash your foe’s skull in, toss hot coals at them, uppercut them into the sights of a machine gun, or feed them to a hungry kraken. 

X-Rays and Fatalities are more gruesome and disgusting than ever and emphasise dismemberment and horror.

Characters still carry cuts and the wounds from their battle but their clothing no longer rips or tears as fights progress. However, the game’s graphical upgrade does mean more gore and more brutal Fatalities and X-Ray moves. X-Rays now lose the distorting x-ray effect and clearly show bones, muscles, and arteries snapping and splitting in gruesome, over the top detail as characters stab their foe through the eyes and deliver bone-breaking shots to their limbs. Similarly, Fatalities are much longer and gorier than ever and make Mortal Kombat (2009)’s look tame in comparison: Kung Lao forces his opponent face-first into his razor sharp buzzsaw-like hat, Kenshi cuts them into little bloody chunks with his telekinetically-controlled sword, Takeda and Ermac uses their whip and psychic powers, respectively, to rip out their opponent’s insides, and Reptile dissolves his foe in pools of acid. The game takes full advantage of its greater processing power to show guts and brains plopping out from their dismembered remains and characters being torn apart in explicit, sickening detail and there’s a definite sense that Mortal Kombat XL’s Fatalities were purposely designed to be as entertainingly disturbing as possible.

Enemies and Bosses:
As before, every character in Mortal Kombat XL will be your enemy at some point as you play through the story mode and many different towers; this time around, though, you don’t just need to worry about the fact that every character plays and controls a little differently but also has a variation that can fundamentally alter the way they fight. You might be expecting Scorpion, for example, to fight with his trademark kunai and fire breath but one of his variations adds additional sword attacks and another allows him to toss demons at you or hold you in place. This means that you’re asked to adapt your playstyle on the fly and experiment not only with different characters but their different variations as well; Kotal Kahn might be a lumbering, unwieldy lug but his War God variation affords him greater reach with his sword and D’Vorah might be a massive pain in the ass of a character but her different variations give her different rush and projectile attacks. It’s all about experimenting and seeing which variation of which character best suits your play style and finding ways to counteract the different moves and abilities afforded by your opponent’s variations.

The new characters are okay, if a little redundant and underwhelming, with Takeda shining the most for me.

Of course, there are quite a few new characters on offer in Mortal Kombat XL but, as unique as characters like Erron Black and Takeda are thanks to their long-range weaponry and whips, respectively, characters like Cassie and Jacqui are merely faster, weaker shadows of their parents (Johnny, Sonya, and Jax). Personally, as much as I like Johnny, Sonya, and Jax, I feel like the game missed a trick by not removing them from the roster and simply having their moves represented solely in the variations of their kids as it would help them stand out more but, as it is, I’d always pick to play as the iconic and capable Johnny than Cassie. Kung Jin, despite being related to Kung Lao, is basically a new version of Nightwolf, which hurts him a little, and Ferra/Torr (despite their unique symbiotic gameplay) are little more than an ape-like beast. Of all the new characters, Takeda was my favourite to play as thanks to how overpowered and versatile his whips were but the four generational characters left a lot to be desired in terms of their design and attire (but then, to be fair, Johnny also gets a pretty disappointing default attire this time around).

While there aren’t any secret fighters this time, Goro has been tweaked to be far less of a cheap spam artist.

When playing the story mode, you’ll have to battle against Tanya at one point, which was the first hint towards some of the DLC characters that would round out the game’s roster. Similarly, originally, Goro was only available as a pre-order bonus and would await you as the penultimate boss in the traditional arcade ladder. Thankfully, Goro is nowhere near as cheap or as tough as in Mortal Kombat (2009); a far more balanced character, he still tanks your attacks with armour and is capable of dishing out a great deal of damage but it doesn’t feel like the game (and the character) has suddenly been ramped up when you face him (you can even perform finishing moves on him this time around). Fighting Goro really helps to emphasise how much fairer Mortal Kombat XL is over its predecessor; Breakers and parry moves are still a pain in the ass but the computer no longer hides behind their blocks and is nowhere near as cheap and frustrating as in Mortal Kombat (2009).

Even in his most demonic form, Shinnok is no Shao Kahn, which a good thing as it means the fight is actually fair!

At the conclusion of the story mode (and waiting at the end of the classic tower) is Shinnok (who is, unlike Shao Kahn in the last game, also a playable character). The fight against Shinnok is a standard two round affair that is far easier than battling Shao Kahn; first of all, you don’t have to worry about Shinnok hiding behind armour and spamming moves that drain half or all of your health in a few attacks and can freely jump in and attack Shinnok with a string of combos rather than camping out at the far edge of the screen and spamming your projectiles. Defeat him, however, and he transforms into the boss-exclusive “Corrupted Shinnok”, a demonic form that looks far more intimidating than it actually is. You are still free to attack at your leisure and however you prefer, which makes beating the arcade ladder much easier and far less frustrating than in the last game. Sadly, though, there are no secret or hidden fights to be found this time around, which is a shame.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Although it scales back on the available mini games and distractions, Mortal Kombat XL sees the return of the Test Your Might mini game and the Test Your Luck mode. Test Your Might is now confined to the towers and has you, once again, mashing buttons until the targeting reticule is in optimum position so you can hit LT and RT to smash a variety of materials. This quickly becomes incredibly difficult, though, and sees you frantically mashing buttons only to fail and see your character being killed as a result. Test Your Luck allows you to have up to seven different modifiers that will randomly select your opponent and cause a number of positive and negative effects to alter the fight; this can cause acid to rain down, Cyrax’s bombs to fly into the fight, dashing, blocking, or Breakers being disabled, an instant boost for your Super Meter or health, or characters to randomly fall asleep among many others. It remains a very fun and entertaining additional mode that adds a lot of chaos and variety to the game and there’s even a whole tower dedicated to this mode to really spice up your fights.

Test Your Luck and Dragon Challenges help to spice up fights considerably with random elements and tasks.

When tackling the Living Towers (either as part of a Faction or the timed tower challenges), you’ll also be tasked with completing a “Dragon Challenge” as indicated by an ethereal dragon flying around your next fight. This gives you the option of performing a specific task (such as landing certain attacks or not blocking) during the fight to earn additional Koins, XP, and points for your Faction. When tackling the Living Towers and Faction Towers, you’ll also find that your opponents are far more capable than in the regular arcade ladder on the easiest setting and that fights are often subject to Test Your Luck-style modifiers and, though Kombat Kodes are no longer a thing, you can evoke the spirit of those codes using the Kustom Kombat mode to set modifiers and fight-altering effects when fighting against a friend.

Additional Features:
Mortal Kombat XL offers sixty Achievements for you to earn, with only two being directly tied to the completion of the story mode. The others encourage you to experiment with all the different characters, variations, and game modes on offer, giving you Achievements for winning fights with every character variation, completing towers, performing jumps, throws, and Fatalities, and battling online. Best of all, the developers added thirteen additional Achievements when they released the DLC packs, with many of these directly tied to the DLC fighters, though a great deal of the game’s Achievements are tied to battling online, which can be tricky given how stupidly good players always seem to be online.

Mortal Kombat XL‘s guest fighters were a mixed bag but, overall, included some fun, smart, and fitting choices.

As in the last game, the DLC characters unfortunately don’t come with additional costumes but their appearance does change when you select their variations (Alien has a variation that spawns Baraka’s trademark arm blades, for example; both Jason Voorhees and Leatherface’s appearances alter to reflect their looks in different movies, and you can even choose to play as Cyber Sub-Zero by pressing up twice when selecting Triborg’s variation). The DLC fighters are an…interesting bunch; on the one hand, the game offers what I would consider to be underwhelming characters like Tanya and Bo’ Rai Cho (I seriously don’t get why Rain wasn’t upgraded to the main roster after the last game) while also bringing back an obscure character like Tremor and making the brilliant decision of combining the cybernetic ninjas into one character. Then there are the guest fighters; Predator was an awesome, inspiring inclusion (as was the skin packs that accompanied him) and including Alien was a logical choice but, as great as Jason is (one of his variations has him returning to life with a small bit of health after being defeated), it feels like a missed opportunity to have him in a game where Freddy Krueger is absent. Leatherface is a decent enough inclusion, to be sure, but hardly conjures the same visual as Freddy when set against Jason.

Explore the bigger, more detailed Krypt to spend your Koins on finisher inputs, concept art, and more.

Thankfully, though, the DLC characters aren’t completely mute this time around and there were loads of additional skins released for the game (some that were only unlockable by linking up to the mobile game) that include classic outfits (and Fatalities) and character cosplay. All of these are included as part of the XL version of the game but NetherRealm Studios did release a few additional skins after the XL edition released so, while it is the definitive, most complete version of the game, it’s not got 100% of the content as a result. Returning from Mortal Kombat (2009) is the Krypt, which is now a far more elaborate first-person jaunt through spooky, gothic environments; this time, you can also acquire a number of iconic items (such as Reptile’s Claw, Scorpion’s Spear, and Raiden’s Staff) to open up new areas and explore further. In the Krypt, you’ll be able to spend your Koins opening a whole bunch of chests to unlock concept art, finishing moves, and other goodies but, if that’s all too much work for you (and, honestly, it can be), you can pay real-world money to unlock everything in the Krypt.

There’s a lot of variety on offer thanks to Factions, online modes, and ever-changing towers.

Otherwise, you’ll earn rewards and Koins the old-fashioned way: grinding. Lots and lots of grinding. You’ll do this primarily by besting the game’s many towers with each fighter, performing finishing moves, and battling online. Online fights include standard one-on-one affairs and the “King of the Hill” mode where you sit and watch other players fight until it’s your turn and offer (and receive) “Respect” points. Sadly, however, I found online play far too difficult to be enjoyable; I don’t know what it is but online players always seem to move at lightning speed, stringing together nearly endless combos and attacking with an aggression that makes it almost impossible for you to win without a bit of luck and a lot of spamming. There is some attempt to encourage collaboration through the Faction mechanic but it’s tentative, at best; when an Invasion Boss becomes available, you’ll battle them alone rather than directly alongside other players and your Faction can easily win (or lose) without you being involved in any of the decisions at all.

The Summary:
Mortal Kombat XL takes everything that worked in Mortal Kombat (2009) and ramps it up to eleven; not only are the graphics leaps and bounds beyond the last game, the gameplay mechanics have been tweaked and adjusted and expanded upon to make the game far more accessible and enjoyable. The inclusion of intractable stage elements adds an additional layer to every fight and increases your immersion in the game and, thanks to the Super Meter filling faster and the wide array of offensive and defensive options available to you, fights are faster and more entertainingly gruesome than ever. Best of all, even with the continued inclusion of Breakers, parries, and having to hold block to press up for some finishing moves, the computer-controlled opponents are far less likely to hide behind their block or just smack you out of the air so fights are much more fun rather than becoming frustrating or annoying.

For me, Mortal Kombat XL is the best of NetherRealm Studios’ revived Mortal Kombat titles by far.

There’s very little at fault in Mortal Kombat XL for me; of all the NetherRealm Studios Mortal Kombat games, it’s easily my favourite and expands the story into new territory. While it’s a shame that some story elements were abandoned and a lot of the new characters are a bit underwhelming, the benefits on offer far outweigh the negative. Mortal Kombat XL also comes before NetherRealm Studios got greedy and locked everything behind numerous in-game currencies, grinding, and real-world purchases; the DLC was really well done and actually included additional Achievements, I enjoyed all of the different skins, and the game expands upon the Challenge Tower of the last game into a wide variety of different gameplay modes to keep you coming back for more (as if the horrific Fatalities weren’t enough).

My Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Fantastic

What did you think to the XL edition of Mortal Kombat X? Did you buy the base game and all the DLC packs separately or, like me, did you wait for this complete edition to release before buying the game? What did you think to the DLC characters this time around and the additional Achievements and skins made available? What did you think to the game’s story; did you like it as a retelling of Mortal Kombat 4 and an expansion into new territory or were you disappointed by the new fighters? What did you think to the new features, like the variations, Factions, and Living Towers, and which Faction was your preference? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? Which Mortal Kombat game, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Mortal Kombat XL, or Mortal Kombat in general, leave a comment down below.

Game Corner [Sonic CDay]: Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Xbox One)


Sonic the Hedgehog CD (Sonic Team, 1993) released on this day back in 1993. Produced alongside the blockbuster Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1992), Sonic CD expanded upon the Blue Blur’s original debut title with lush graphics, a time travel mechanic, gorgeous anime cutscenes, and introduced players to Metal Sonic (one of Sonic’s most popular and enduring rivals) and Amy Rose. Considered by many to be one of the best of the classic Sonic titles, Sonic CD might not be one of my favourites but it’s still a classic in it’s own right and it’s worth looking back on today of all days.


Released: 14 December 2011
Originally Released: 23 September 1993
Developer: Christian Whitehead
Original Developer: Sonic Team
Also Available For: GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Mega-CD (Original); Mobile, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Remaster)

The Background:
Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic Team, 1991) was specifically created and marketed as SEGA’s Nintendo-beater and, thanks to selling over 15 million copies, succeeded in its goal. Naturally, SEGA were eager to produce a sequel but, rather than create one game, they ended up making two! With Sonic creator Yuji Naka having moved to America to work on Sonic 2, Sonic’s designer, Naoto Oshima, spearheaded an entirely separate title built on the bones of the first game that would be exclusive to SEGA’s ill-fated CD add-on for the Mega Drive.

Sonic CD is largely regarded as one of the best Sonic games and was finally widely available in 2011.

With Sonic 2 more focused on speed, Oshima placed Sonic CD’s focus more on platforming and exploration with its speed-based time travel mechanic (which was cut from Sonic 2) and included gorgeous anime cutscenes from Toei Animation (which would later be the basis for the feature-length original video animation). Artist Kazuyuki Hoshino designed Sonic’s metallic doppelgänger and biggest fan, Amy Rose (though that character actually debuted, in a slightly different form, in a 1992 manga), both of which were as pivotal to the game as the time travel elements. Despite the game’s U.S. release being delayed for an entirely new soundtrack, Sonic CD was met with widespread critical acclaim but, for many such as myself, the game was somewhat elusive since no one I knew had a Mega-CD and it just wasn’t the same playing the PC version. I first played the game properly when it was included in Sonic Gems Collection (Sonic Team, 2005) but jumped at the chance to play the HD remaster when it first dropped on the PlayStation 3. Developed by Christian Whitehead, this new version of the game was widely available, included Achievement support, numerous bug fixes, and a whole host of new elements that make it the definitive version of this cult classic entry in the franchise.

The Plot:
When the mysterious Little Planet has makes its annual appearance, Sonic travels to Never Lake but finds the planet has been overtaken by Doctor Eggman’s Badniks! When Sonic’s number one fan, Amy Rose, is kidnapped by his robotic doppelgänger, Metal Sonic, Sonic must race across time itself to keep Eggman from polluting the past, recover the seven Time Stones, and ensure a good future for Little Planet!

Gameplay:
Sonic CD is a 2D, sidescrolling action platformer that once again sees you guiding the titular blue hedgehog across seven stages (known as “Zones”), each split into three parts (simply called “Zone 1” to “Zone 3” rather than being called “Acts”). At the end of each third Act, Sonic must battle Eggman in one of his contraptions but there’s quite a twist this time around.

Sonic CD‘s biggest gimmick is the speed-based time travel mechanic.

This time, as well as passing Lampposts to create a checkpoint, Sonic will also run past special signposts; once one of these has been triggered, Sonic will begin to sparkle as he runs and, if he builds up enough uninterrupted speed, he will travel to the past or the future depending on which post he activated. While the general layout of the Zone remains the same in the past, present, and future, there are numerous aesthetic and difficulty differences in each one. The past is generally much more lush and vibrant, lacking many of Eggman’s traps and Badniks; the present is a standard-fare Sonic stage; and the future is a pollution and hazard-infested mechanical hell. When in the past, Sonic must search high and low for a Robot Transporter and a holographic projection of Metal Sonic; destroying both in Zone 1 and 2 ensures that Zone 3 earns a good future, which strips it of all Badniks and hazards and even makes the boss battles noticeably easier.

Sonic’s new Super Peel-Out is great for reaching top speeds, but Zones are generally not built to make this easy.

If you’ve played the first Sonic game then you’ll be immediately familiar with Sonic’s controls and physics. Sonic’s speed, jumping power, and abilities all carry over, making him as tight and responsive as ever, but he is afforded two new abilities. One is a variation on the Sonic 2 Spin Dash (it’s not quite as useful or as fast as in that game, though) and the other is Sonic’s Super Peel-Out manoeuvre, which sees Sonic rev up his legs until they become little more than a blurry figure eight and then rocket ahead at full speed, which is perfect for the few instances where you have the room to travel fast enough to time travel. Sadly, there’s not always the opportunity to do this; like in the first game, Sonic has to earn his breakneck speeds and, all too often, you’ll go running or rolling ahead in a blur of spikes only to slam head-first into a wall, a pit, a bumper, or poorly-placed enemies and hazards. This makes the time travel much harder to pull off than it needs to be as you’ll constantly be fighting to find a long enough stretch of ground or the right opportunity to build up your speed only to accidentally screw up the attempt at the last minute. Similarly, there’s a much greater emphasis on exploration and platforming this time around; every Zone feels like a mixture of speed, loops, and obstacles and the level design is questionable at best and haphazard at worst, with Golden Rings floating inside of the environment and your progress to the many alternate paths either blocked or protected by dead-ends and endless loops. As a result, when you travel back to the past, it can be extremely difficult to navigate through the Zones to find the Robot Transporters and projectors even in the more linear Zones; the bigger, more complicated Zones like Wacky Workbench and Metallic Madness make it nearly impossible to do without a guide or copious amounts of trial and error.

There’s still plenty of opportunities to be bounced around despite the many stage hazards.

Still, speed is a prominent factor in the game; thanks to the Super Peel-Out and new gameplay mechanics, Sonic is much faster than he was in the first game and is still bounced all over the place like a pinball in Zones like Collision Chaos. Indeed, there are technically two ways to play; the slow, methodical Sonic CD way which has you hunting down objects in the past or the faster, more Sonic 2 way which has you racing through Zones as fast as possible and completing them holding fifty Rings or more to enter the game’s Special Stages. Once again, Golden Rings act as your protection from damage; they’ll scatter everywhere when you’re hit and, as always, Sonic is in danger of drowning when underwater in the distinctly Labyrinth Zone-like Tidal Tempest but, thankfully, you don’t seem to spend anywhere near as much time underwater in this Zone. As is to be expected, every Zone has different gimmicks (such as moving or crumbling platforms, tubes, conveyor belts, bumpers, and the like) but these actually change when you travel through time, meaning different routes become accessible in each time period. Zones also take on more and more gimmicks (most of them very dangerous) as you progress but even the first Zone, Palmtree Panic, is crammed full of different ways to navigate. As a result, you’ll be bouncing all over the place in Wacky Workbench but fighting against treadmills and cogs in Quartz Quadrant, racing along tunnels and vast stretches of ground in Stardust Speedway, and dodging spikes, buzzsaws, and a bevy of hazards in Metallic Madness (which also features a unique shrinking mechanic). Thankfully, bottomless pits are a rarity in Sonic CD but crushing weights, sudden spikes, electrified coils, and falling boulders and stalactites more than make up for that! Also, Sonic CD is as difficult as you make it be; if you choose not to try and take the higher, easier, and faster routes or purposely visit the bad futures, then you’re going to have a much tougher time of it than if you actively try and create a good future. This places much more emphasis on your actions actually having consequences as, normally, you only restore (or fail) the world when you lose all of your lives or fail to collect all the jewels but, in Sonic CD, you can actively affect and improve each Zone on a case-by-case basis by collecting the Time Stones or destroying Eggman’s machinery in the past.

Graphics and Sound:
Thanks to the graphical enhancements of the Mega-CD, Sonic CD may very well be one of the most visually striking and vibrant games in the franchise, especially amongst the classic titles. Every Zone is awash with colour and life and full of little details and background elements; every time you travel to the past or future, the Zone gets a complete facelift and takes a much more verdant or ominous light depending on how well you play which really adds to the replayability of the game as every Zone has, essentially, four parts to it (past, present, good future, and bad future) that all present a different aesthetic and challenge while still maintaining the basic structure of the Zone.

Zones are packed full of details and vibrant colours but can look a little busy at times.

Zones have a real depth to them, allowing you to see into the distance and take in just how badly Eggman has affected each environment. You might see a vast sea full of ruins in the past of Palmtree Panic but all you’ll see is pollution and machinery in the bad future; similarly, Tidal Tempest is an unblemished cave in the past but has been transformed into a mechanical base in the future. Zones are also full of interesting and unique graphical mechanics, such as the pseudo-3D ramp at the start of Palmtree Panic, the Mode-7-like Special Stages, how a certain tube in Palmtree Panic will send Sonic smashing through the background and leave a Sonic-shaped hole in his wake, and the way graphics change size as you bounce and run all over the place. Unfortunately, though, I often find Sonic CD’s Zones to be a little too busy; there’s a lot going in the background and foreground, a lot of competing, clashing colours (especially in the garish pink of Collision Chaos), and it can be difficult to keep track of where you are and what’s going on sometimes.

The power of the Mega-CD makes for some gorgeous and well-animated sprites.

The sprites have, however, benefitted greatly from the graphical upgrade; Sonic has more animation frames and a more dynamic moveset and seems far more lively and energetic despite the majority of his assets being lifted from the first game. Sonic also speaks a little bit, shouting out “Yes!” when he grabs and extra life and “I’m outta here!” when left idle for a few minutes (which causes an instant game over). Other sounds, however, are not quite as appreciated, such as the sound Sonic makes when he jumps (which is decidedly squeakier and much more annoying and it also bugs me when it is recycled in both fan-made and official Sonic games). The bosses, too, are bigger and more elaborate than in the first game, requiring actual strategy on your part to defeat and even Amy Rose gets a lot of personality as she follows Sonic around like a love-sick puppy, desperately trying to hug him while love hearts adorably fly from her head.

The anime sequences really bolster the game’s appeal and capture Sonic’s essence.

Of course, you can’t talk about Sonic CD without mentioning the anime cutscenes and the soundtrack. The opening and ending of the game features gorgeously animated anime sequences that showcase Sonic at his best, in my opinion; I loved that these were expanded upon in Sonic the Hedgehog (Ikegami, 1999) and I would absolutely be over the moon if they were brought back for future Sonic games. Sonic CD’s soundtrack is also one of the most beloved and contested in the franchise; many prefer the original Japanese soundtrack and, while that is good, it’s much more peppy and vibrant and happy-go-lucky than Spencer Nilsen’s version for the U.S. As a result, while I prefer some tracks from the Japanese soundtrack, overall I prefer the U.S. one; the invincibility music is better, the boss theme is better, and the U.S. soundtrack is much more in the style of rock and metal than anything else, which I prefer.

Enemies and Bosses:
Once again, Sonic must contend with Eggman’s Badniks; unlike in the majority of the classic Sonic titles, Badniks don’t drop cute woodland critters and, instead, blossom flowers upon defeat (again tying into the game’s overall theme of restoring Little Planet to health) and, honestly, they’re far less prominent than in other 2D Sonic titles. Indeed, Sonic CD’s Badniks mainly exist to screw up your run-up to a time travel attempt and cost you your hard-earned Rings right before the goal and they’re probably some of the most unremarkable in the original games. Eggman’s theme this time around is definitely geared more towards bugs than anything else as needle-nosed Mozzietrons try to skewer you from above, Arachnisprings jump out at you, Damsiltron and Buzz Bomber 2s hover overhead and take shots at you, and Poghoppers bounce around the place on their springy bases. Probably the worst enemies are the Snail-Spikers due to their spikes, Motherbombs (which are invulnerable to your attacks and explode into a shower of projectiles), and the Flashers, which must be hit at just the right time to avoid taking damage from their laser beams. Your main opponent, though, will be the abundance of spikes, springs, bumpers, and other obstacles that mess up your momentum and cost you valuable Rings.

The first boss is, quite possibly, the easiest of any of the classic Sonic videogames.

The bosses, though, are a completely different story. Sonic CD features some of the biggest and most unique and interesting boss battles of all the classic games and, while each boss only takes three hits to defeat, they all require different strategies on your part and are affected by whether you battle them in a good or bad future. The first time you battle Eggman, he’s inside of his EGG-HVC-001 mech, which is either a striking pink or an ominous red and sports spikes on the feet. Eggman protects himself from attacks with two bumpers but, after a couple of hits/bounces, these will break off and allow you to land the decisive blow. It’s, quite possibly, the easiest first boss in any Sonic game as even Sonic 2’s Eggmobile took eight hits to defeat.

Bosses require a bit of strategy on your part but are extremely fragile once you get your hits in.

In Collision Chaos, Eggman hides at the top of a giant pinball table and drops weighted balls down at you that can force you to drop down to the lowest level or into some annoyingly-placed spikes. The whole battle is structured very similar to the Star Light and Casino Night Zones and is a clear precursor to Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (SEGA Technical Institute, 1993) in that players must make use of the flippers to bounce Sonic up each level of the arena, ricocheting off of bumpers and such to ram into Eggman’s machine three times. Your enjoyment of this boss may vary as it all depends on how well you get on with the pinball-based Zones and mechanics of Sonic games; for me, this meant it was quite an annoying boss as it can be tricky to get the angle of your trajectory right to go where you need to. At the end of Tidal Tempest Zone 3, you’ll have to chase Eggman around a short maze similar to the end of Labyrinth Zone; unlike in that encounter, though, this time it’s a simple loop that repeats until you land a few hits and you don’t need to worry about spikes or other hazards. Also, after Eggman flees, he floods the area and surrounds his craft with air bubbles and shoots projectiles at you; in order to finish Eggman off, Sonic has to suck up a couple of the bubbles to make a gap in his defences, which is certainly a unique spin on Sonic’s notorious underwater mechanics.

Compared to some of the other bosses, the final battle is a walk in the park!

Probably one of the more frustrating bosses is encountered in Quartz Quadrant; here, Eggman hides behind a giant piston and Sonic is forced to perpetually run on a treadmill lest he be skewered by spikes on the far left of the arena. Unlike the other Eggman bosses in Sonic CD, this boss isn’t about attacking but surviving as Eggman drops bombs onto you, which must be avoided, and you have to wait for the friction of the treadmill to destroy Eggman’s machine and defeat him. Because of how difficult it can be to maintain your speed and footing when avoiding the bombs and their projectiles, this can be a particularly challenging boss for your patience, if nothing else. In comparison, the final boss is a fairly anti-climatic and simple affair; Eggman surrounds his craft with four blades and hovers in a slow pattern around the arena, shooting them at you or occasionally spinning your way. However, it’s ridiculously easy to attack between the blades and, each time you land a hit, he loses one of them so, even though he speeds up and becomes more erratic, he’s made more vulnerable to attack and, honestly, this final boss is easier than the one in the first game!

The race against Metal Sonic might be Sonic CD‘s most iconic, and annoying, boss battle.

Of course, the most iconic boss battle of Sonic CD comes in Stardust Speedway where you’re forced to race against Metal Sonic! This is a thrilling, if frustrating, experience as Eggman flies along behind you firing an instant-death laser and it can be difficult to get up a good run of speed because, again, of spikes, obstacles, and sudden drops or edges in the path. Metal Sonic is completely invulnerable to harm and will charge at you full-speed or electrify its body, which is helpful for breaking spikes and clearing a path for you. Because of the way the screen is locked, though, this isn’t quite the fast-paced experience it’s often thought and interpreted as and is, instead, a strangely-paced, annoying affair that generally comes down more to luck than anything else. The best thing to do is to stay ahead where you can, jump over Metal Sonic, and then blast past it at every opportunity so that you’re on the right side of that wall when it comes crashing down.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As is the standard for most Sonic games, a number of power-up monitors are scattered throughout the game’s Zones. Unfortunately, though, there are no new or exclusive items to be found in Sonic CD; instead, you’ll have to make do with either ten Rings, a shield that protects you from damage for one hit, an extra life, speed-up shoes, or a brief invincibility just like in the first two games.

Additional Features:
Sonic CD has twelve Achievements for you to earn, some of which are pretty simple; you’d be hard-pressed to play through the game without travelling through time, for example, and you’re guaranteed to get a hug from Amy after defeating Metal Sonic. Others, though, are a bit trickier, requiring you to collect two hundred Rings rather than the usual one hundred, or to find the upper goal signpost in Collision Chaos 2 and a hidden angel statue in Wacky Workbench. Probably the most troublesome Achievements, though, involve beating Metal Sonic without being hit and destroying all of the Robot Transporter and holograms in the past.

Conquer the seven psychedelic Special Stages to get the Time Stones and the best ending.

As in the first game, finishing every Zone except the third with fifty Rings or more allows you to enter a Special Stage by jumping through a Giant Ring. These Special Stages are much more elaborate than in the first game, though, and arguably a bit more forgiving than in the second; here, you must race around a flat area against a tight time limit, avoiding water and other obstacles as you hunt down and destroy a number of UFOs. If you land on water, or similar surfaces, your time will drain exponentially so be sure to avoid these at all costs but don’t go too fast on the booster pads as it can be very difficult to make tight turns. As you destroy UFOs, you can earn Rings and even a time bonus, which is helpful, but while fans can be used to float into UFOs, spiked grates will cost you valuable time. Depth perception is a real issue here as you have to be very precise with your jumps but, if you see your time is about to run about (when it hits, say, ten seconds), you can pause and quit to the main menu and then retry the Special Stage from your save slot, meaning you basically have unlimited tries at each Special Stage and can easily grab all seven Time Stones and get the best ending.

The Xbox Live version of the game includes a host of bonus features, including a playable Tails!

I mentioned before that this was the definitive version of the game and it’s true; you can pick from a variety of display options in the menu, choose between the U.S. and Japanese soundtracks (but can’t mix and match, unfortunately), choose which Spin Dash you want (I recommend the superior Sonic 2 one), and have access to four save slots. Unfortunately, these don’t work like in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (SEGA Technical Institute, 1994), meaning you can’t pick and choose a Zone to replay, which is disappointing. You can, however, unlock a stage select, D.A. Garden (basically a sound test which you can also use to enter a variety of cheats, though Achievements can’t be earned this way), and “Visual Mode” (a gallery for viewing the anime scenes) by completing the “Time Attack” mode fast enough. Perhaps the most notable addition to this version of the game is that you unlock Miles “Tails” Prower after beating the game in any way; Tails controls exactly like he did in Sonic 3, meaning he can fly and swim, but Achievements are disabled when playing as Tails as it’d be too easy to get around Sonic CD’s more annoying level layouts.

The Summary:
Sonic CD is an absolutely gorgeous game; it took everything that worked about the first game and expanded upon it wonderfully, bringing a much greater sense of speed and liveliness to the core gameplay and really utilising the power of the Mega-CD to its fullest with its anime sequences, animations, music, and unique time travel mechanic. Yet, as much as I love how visually appealing the game is, I find it lacking in a lot of ways; it’s frustrating at times, the level layouts are massively annoying for a game whose main mechanic is based on speed, and the amount of exploration and trial-and-error needed can get annoying at times. Still, I love how every boss battle is unique and how your actions have actual, visible consequences as you play; it really invites multiple playthroughs to see what each Zone looks like in different situations but, similar to the first game, I find myself less excited to replay Sonic CD and more aggravated as it can be a chore at times. When it shines, it shines brightly and I’d love to see more of this style of 2D Sonic in the future but its more irritating features and mechanics definitely need polishing up first.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Did you enjoy Sonic CD? Did you own this, and a Mega-CD, back in the day or did you first experience it on PC or through some other port? What did you think to the game’s presentation and which of the two soundtracks is your favourite? Were you a fan of the level layouts and time travel gimmick or, like me, do you think they could have been better implemented? Which of the game’s Zones and bosses is your favourite? Are you a fan of Metal Sonic and Amy Rose? How are you celebrating Sonic CD’s anniversary this year? Whatever your thoughts on Sonic CD, or Sonic in general, feel free to leave a comment below.

Game Corner: Terminator: Resistance (Xbox One)

Released: 15 November 2019
Developer: Dlala Studios and Rare
Also Available For: PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5

The Background:
The Terminator franchise (Various, 1984 to 2019) has quite a long history with videogame adaptations; every film in the franchise has been adapted to at least one videogame over the years and the franchise even crossed over with RoboCop (Verhoeven, 1987) back in the day. Just as the movie rights continually get shopped around Hollywood, so too have the videogame rights done the rounds in the industry; in 2013, though, Reef Entertainment purchased the Terminator rights and their original plan was to create a videogame tie-in to the classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Cameron, 1991). Poland-based developers Teyon came onboard to develop the game which, after a delayed North American release, was met with generally unfavourable reviews.

The Plot:
On August 29th, 1997, computer defence system Skynet became self-aware and initiated a massive nuclear strike against humanity, who form a fragmented resistance under the command of John Connor. After his entire unit is wiped out by a mysterious new infiltration unit, a T-800 Terminator, Resistance fighter Private Jacob Rivers is forced to ally himself with scavengers to survive and reunite with the Resistance and continue opposing their mechanical enemy.

Gameplay:
Terminator: Resistance is a first-person shooter (FPS) in which you are placed in the role of Private Jacob Rivers, a Resistance fighter in the war against the machines in a war-ravaged future. Unlike many FPS protagonists, Rivers can actually talk, which greatly helps to flesh out the story and his characterisation, which is also dictated by the choices you make during the story.

Combat and controls are all pretty standard FPS fare, though you can hold more than two weapons.

In terms of controls, it’s all pretty standard FPS fare: A allows you to jump (which is mainly to clear some low obstacles or to hop out of some glitchy parts of the environment), B puts you into a stealthy crouch, Y sees you swinging a metal pipe in a melee attack, and you can press in the left analogue stick to run indefinitely. It takes some time for you to acquire a firearm but, once you do, you can hold the Left Trigger to aim, press in the Right Trigger to fire, and use Y to reload and, in a nice change of pace, you can hold up to four weapons at any one time. You can also throw a variety of explosives and other weapons by pressing the Right Bumper and bring up the weapon wheel with the Left Bumper to switch weapons on the fly (though be warned as this doesn’t pause the in-game action so it does leave you vulnerable).

It’s important to stay out of sight of the machines, especially in the game’s early going.

The first portion of the game is extremely light on combat and is focused more on stealth, survival, and scavenging; Rivers can pick up a whole bunch of junk (or “Trade Resources”) and other items that are used in the game’s rudimentary crafting system to create explosives, Medkits, ammo, and other items but, while it is worth searching high and low and all around to find these items, you can only carry so many in your inventory and, to be honest, I never really found myself lacking for ammo and Medkits and such. In the early going, though, your greatest ally (besides your trust metal pipe) is your ability to stay out of sight; Skynet’s machines will detect you if they spot or hear you, so you must sneak around them and keep an eye on the Motion Detector bar if you don’t want to get into a fight. It’s easy enough to pick off the small Spider Scouts but, when the T-800s come onto the scene, you won’t stand a chance and they’ll hunt you down relentlessly, smashing through doors and choking the life out of you if you’re not careful.

The Ultravision Goggles and comprehensive in-game map help you to track your objectives.

To aid you in getting about during these vulnerable times, you can press in the right analogue stuck to use the Ultravision Goggles, which let you see through walls to a limited extent, point our nearby machines, and show you their health and current weapon (though, annoyingly, you can neither attack or run while using these goggles). You can also enter vents to get around, close and barricade doors to slow the machines down, and toggle a torch (or “flashlight” for you Americans) by pressing down on the directional-pad (D-Pad). A helpful mini map is located in the very clean and limited heads-up display (HUD) and you can bring up a bigger map of the immediate area, and a list of your current objectives and side quests and such, by pressing ‘Select’.

Earn XP to upgrade your different skills and gain access to addition weapons and abilities.

Eventually, you do acquire firearms which, like the enemies you encounter, start small and ramp up as the game progresses; you start off with a pistol and a shotgun battling smaller machines or drones, before eventually acquiring the iconic Phase Plasma Rifle and battling variations of the T-800s. Every time you destroy a machine, complete side quests or missions, or find notes and Skill Books you can increase your skills by spending experience points (XP) on one of three skill trees: Combat (which increases your stealth and allows you to utilise better, more powerful weapons), Science (where you can increase your lockpicking, crafting, and hacking skills), and Survival (which increases the size of your inventory, your health bar, and how quickly you level-up). The maximum level you can reach is twenty-eight and you’ll need to reach level twenty-four to unlock everything but, as long as you stay the course and engage enemies and complete your quests, that’s pretty easy to do.

Use cover and your computer-controlled allies to pick off the machines safely.

Once you become better equipped, your combat options become much more versatile and you can be much more proactive against the machines. Still, you can’t just go in all guns blazing against rooms full of T-800s and may have to content with multiple different enemies in a single environment, meaning you’ll have to switch between staying out of sight of HK-Aerials, picking off Silverfish with your sound decoys, and blasting T-800s in the face from behind or around cover. If worst comes to worst, though, you can always try to run past enemies but a lot of the time your objectives are directly tied to clearing areas of enemies. Luckily, other Resistance fighters are often on hand to offer back-up (or be invulnerable human shields) but make sure they don’t steal your kills (and, thus, your XP in the process).

A couple of mini games help to break up the sneaking and shooting mechanics.

It’s not all sneaking about and combat, though; often you’ll need to use a lockpick to open doors. Lockpicks can be found and crafted and you’ll need a lot of them as they tend to break on the harder games and because the controls are so finicky; basically, you have to rotate each analogue stick to find the sweet spot, which can be tough the first few times but then either you eventually get into the rhythm or the game just decides to let you win (though you can also try to force the lock, which is generally easier despite the higher risk of the pick breaking). You’ll also make use of a hacking device to hack turrets (which is super useful as they’ll attack other machines on your behalf) or open doors, especially in Skynet bases and facilities; these mini games are basically a horizontal version of Frogger (Konami, 1981) and see you moving a small, 8-bit dot across moving pathways while avoiding collisions.

There’s a heavy emphasis on character interactions, which will determine events and endings.

One of the big mechanics of Terminator: Resistance is the emphasis on story and character interactions; you’ll talk to a wide variety of non-playable characters, from scavengers to children and other Resistance fighters and commanders, all of whom have their own stories and opinions. Often, you’ll be asked to pick from a couple of options and what you choose depends on how close your relationships with these characters grow and the endings you’ll get. As there are no Achievements tied to these interactions, you can simply skip through all the dialogue and pick whatever you want and the only real consequence will be that some characters live, die, or fuck you depending on how well you do. These NPCs will also set you optional side quests, which are generally easy enough to accomplish so it’s worth taking the time to complete them if only to take in more of the game’s environments and earn some more XP; in fact, there’s only one point where you absolutely will fail one of two side quests as you’re given the option of killing a man or sparing him, which is a bit of a black mark on your record.

Graphics and Sound:
In many ways, Terminator: Resistance does a fantastic job of recreating the look, feel, and atmosphere of the Future War scenes of the first two Terminator movies; environments are a mess, with bodies, skulls, debris, wreckage, and smashed up cars and buildings all over the place. Every area is a bleak, desolate location where humanity is holding on by the skin of its teeth, with rundown interiors, gaping holes, exploded buildings, and all kinds of post-apocalyptic horror strewn all over the place. In a common issue with the Terminator films, though, it’s odd how many buildings are still standing, vehicles still work, and technology that still operates with little issue but, for the most part, it definitely sets the mood for the game and works best in the night-time sequences.

The game includes some welcome, and surprising, faithful references to the first two films.

The best thing about this is when the game includes references to the first two films; you’ll spend a lot of time in Pasadena, a common location from the films, including paying a visit to Big Jeff’s (Big Buns is even standing right outside of it) and what appears to be Miles Dyson’s house, and, while Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t make an appearance, a body in the hospital bares more than a little resemblance to Robert Patrick’s T-1000. The desolation of the world is juxtaposed with Skynet’s smooth, shiny, horrific technology; Skynet encampments can be infiltrated here and there and large mechanical prisons and structures are all over the place, all of which are highly technologically advanced and stand out from the misery and suffering of other recognisable environments, such as the Resistance base.

Sadly, as good as the machines look, the human character models leave a lot to be desired.

Sadly, though, while a lot of the environments look great, they’re very drab and grey and, while the T-800s and other machines are faithfully recreated, character models look absolutely dreadful; they, and the game in general, resemble something more suitable for the Xbox 360 and I can imagine people who paid full price for the game were quite disappointed with these graphical features. Since story and character interaction is a big part of the game, it’s very noticeable during gameplay even with the comparative lack of cutscenes and no amount of awkward first-person sex scenes can really save that.

The game’s stability and graphics may be questionable but the soundtrack is impressive.

I also noticed a fair amount of graphical issues, such as renderings and items popping up and a delay in them loading properly and, as if some long load times weren’t bad enough, I also had a weird moment where the game crashed on me. There are also some odd grammatical errors in a lot of the dialogue sequences (“you’re” instead of “your”) but where the game excels is not only recreating the bleak Terminator mood and allowing you to take part in the penultimate campaign against Skynet’s defence grid but also in the use of music and sound effects ripped straight from the films. The ominous T-1000 theme, especially, stood out to me as a highlight during the more action-packed moments and the iconic “duh-duh-dun-da-dun” plays frequently throughout the game, which never gets old, though I found the user interface to be a little too boring and simplistic.

Enemies and Bosses:
One thing I really enjoyed about Terminator: Resistance is that, unlike some other games I could mention, you never had to fight against human enemies (though you can kill any of the really shittily animated rats you find for a Trade Resource); it’s fitting that, even though the human survivors don’t always agree or even like each other, they’re still united against the common, prevailing threat Skynet poses.

A handful of mechanical monsters regularly patrol the war-ravaged future.

Instead, you’ll battle a range of mechanical enemies; the first you’ll encounter are the Spider Scouts, which are small spider-like machines that zap you with an electrical blast if you come too close but are easily smashed into junk with your lead pipe or some pistol bullets. Scout Drones hover overhead and protect their vulnerable “eye” with their armoured flaps and Armoured Spiders scuttle about and blast at you from their twin guns; again, the key here is to target the red eye when it’s exposed and shoot from behind nearby cover. Silverfish pose a bit more of a problem as they pop out of their metal hidey-holes and roll at you in a suicide run (you can coax them into destroying themselves, though, with a sound decoy and they’re easy enough to pick off with a shotgun).

At first, you’ll need to hide from the T-800s but, by the end, you’ll be blasting them to smithereens.

Eventually, of course, you’ll come up against the Plasma Rifle-wielding T-800s; these horrific mechanical endoskeletons patrol around and relentlessly clomp after you to blast you to smithereens or crush you to death and must, initially, be evaded or put down with pipebombs until you acquire Plasma Rifles of your own. You’ll also encounter slightly different variants of these machines which utilise flamethrowers, more powerful Plasma Rifles, or even dual-wield weapons, though they’re often indistinguishable from each other beyond the number of weapons they use and the colour of their laser blasts.

The massive T-47 is actually pretty easy to take down if you keep your distance.

Terminator: Resistance is surprisingly light on boss battles; you’ll have to hack into and destroy Skynet outposts by overloading the main console and will come up against larger versions of the T-47 Walker every now and then. These like to fire rockets or plasma blasts at you but, because they’re so big and clunky, it’s pretty easy to pick them off from a distance and from behind nearby cover and it’s definitely worth doing for the XP and to take them off the battlefield. Later on, though, you’ll have to battle them alongside other machines and multiple Walkers at once, though your more powerful weapons and explosives will turn the tide in your favour.

The T-850 infiltrator is a far more formidable killing machine, but easily duped.

You’ll also do battle against the T-850, which is the infiltrator model of the T-800, covered in human flesh, and wields a far more powerful Plasma Rifle. The T-850 can also absorb a great deal of punishment (with more and more of its exterior suffering damage as the fight goes on), retreats behind cover and out of range, and even throws pipebombs at you from a distance. Eventually, you’re left to finish it off by yourself, which can be a daunting battle but it’s also ridiculously easy to trick it into going around in circles around parts of the environment. Later in the game, you’ll be stuck in a narrow corridor with only a few pillars for cover and trapped in the burning remains of the Resistance base but, in both cases, you’ll have access to far more powerful weapons to make short work of the T-850.

The HK-Aerial and Tank prove to be dangerous threats requiring a little more skill to destroy.

A persistent threat in many of the game’s missions is the iconic HK-Aerial; similar to when you first encounter the T-800, at first all you can do is hide when this flies overhead and you can only bring them down when you get your hands on a rocket launcher and the game’s more powerful plasma weapons. One of the standout boss battles is against the titanic HK-Tank; though completely stationary, it will unleash a barrage of plasma shots at you if it spots you and you’re forced to desperately run around the ruins of the environment, grabbing rockets and stunning it with shots to its head to score a damaging blow at its exposed generator. It’s quite a harrowing battle, made all the more tense by waves of different machines that distract you from your main objective.

The final mission sees you storming the defence grid in a massive campaign against Skynet.

Terminator: Resistance is at its most enjoyable when you’re out in the field trading shots against a variety of metallic machines and the game’s final mission is all about that. Loaded up with the most powerful weapons, with a Resistance-piloted HK-Tank at your back, you’ll blast down every single variant of Skynet’s forces as you help to smash through the defence grid, including T-800s, T-850s, HK-Aerials, and another HK-Tank, all of which are reduced to mere cannon fodder by this point thanks to the weaponry at your disposal and makes for a thrilling conclusion to the game.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
As you explore the game’s various bleak or ruined environments, you’ll pick up all kinds of junk and other items that can either be used to craft useful resources or traded with other survivors for ammo and weapons. When you destroy machines, you’ll be able to loot them for weapons, ammo, items, and chips; these can be grafted to the Plasma-based weapons to power them up, increasing their fire rate, ammo capacity, handling, and damage output, but must be placed in a specific order so that they actually work.

Your standard firearms soon get replaced by heavy-duty plasma weapons to deal serious damage.

Weaponry is largely tied to your current level, the progression of the story, and how you unlock upgrades through the skill tree. At first, you’ll have your lead pipe, pistol, shotgun, and rapid fire weapons like the uzi and machine gun but, eventually, you’ll be able to wield a far more powerful Plasma Rifle that will even the odds against T-800s and Skynet’s more powerful machines. A major plot point of the story is the acquisition of the VSB-95 plasma minigun (as seen in the first film) and, while you can eventually wield this beast of a weapon, you can also acquire other plasma-based weapons, such as a sniper rifle-esque gun and more powerful plasma weapons. The most powerful of these don’t require reloaded but will overheat if overused, which adds an extra dimension to combat as you’ll be left vulnerable while waiting for the weapon to cool down but can blast the machines to smithereens in seconds on the flip side.

Get in close to use the Termination Knife for an instant kill move.

Rivers can also utilise a number of sub weapons, such as pipebombs like in the first film, decoys to take out Silverfish, and more powerful explosives. You can also pick up and craft Medkits to replenish some, or all, of your health and also acquire (or, again, craft) a series of stimulants that will give you an edge in combat by temporarily slowing down the action or increasing your attack and defence. Then there’s the so-called “Termination Knife”, a specially crafted electrical shiv that will instantly dispose of a Terminator if you manage to sneak up behind them for an instant kill move.

Additional Features:
Terminator: Resistance features twenty-five Achievements for you to earn, most of which are tied into story progression. Although there are four difficulty modes, no Achievements are tied to them so you may as well play through on ‘Easy’ to sweep them up, but I’d advise upgrading your lockpicking skills to the maximum as quickly as possible as you can miss the ‘No Hope’ Achievement otherwise. Other Achievements include setting off a boombox to annoy an NPC, destroying the T-47 in Pasadena, and simple things like hacking a device or crafting items so it’s pretty easy to get all of the Achievements on offer.

There’s not much replay value beyond the Achievements and limited DLC.

Sadly, there’s no a lot of incentive to replay the game beyond reliving some of its more entertaining moments; when you finish it, there’s no ‘New Game+’ mode and, while you can reload previous chapters to try out different dialogue options, endings, and grab a few missed Achievements, none of your skills or weapons carry over. There’s also no multiplayer option but the Steam and PlayStation 5 versions of the game does allow you to download “Infiltrator” mode that puts you in the shoes of the iconic T-800 and sets you against the human resistance. Presumably, this mode will eventually come to Xbox as well and I can only hope that, when it does, it comes with some new Achievements.

The Summary:
Terminator: Resistance is probably the best and most accurate Terminator videogame ever made; it perfectly captures the atmosphere and mood of the first two movies and recreates some of the dread and tension of the first film alongside the action and desperation of the second film. Numerous references and allusions to the first film help to emphasise the legitimacy of the title, which does a much better job of continuing the franchise than the last movie, and the game does a great job of bringing the machines to life even without some of the more iconic celebrity licenses. Sadly, though, the game’s graphics, character models, and glitchier moments let it down; it feels like a step back, technologically speaking, and, while it’s not a game-breaker, it was noticeable. It’s also little more than a fairly bog standard FPS; the stealth elements and tenser moments of the early going were an interesting change of pace and I was happy to see that the crafting system was nice and simple, but there’s a lot of extraneous collecting and some wasted potential here and there (particularly in the branching story paths) that also bring the game down a bit. Without the Terminator name attached to it, it would be little more than another unremarkable FPS title but, as it is, it’s enjoyable enough if you pick it up cheap.

My Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Could Be Better

Have you ever played Terminator: Resistance? If so, what did you think of it and how do you think it holds up against other Terminator games and FPS titles? What did you think about the game’s graphics and its attempts to recreate the look and feel of the Future War? Did you enjoy the stealthier sections or are you more a fan of the more action-orientated parts of the game? Do you feel like it failed to properly live up to its potential or do you think it’s decent enough for what it is? Would you like to see more Terminator games in the future and which Terminator videogame is your favourite? Whatever your thoughts on Terminator: Resistance, feel free to leave a comment below and be sure to check back in next Sunday as I’ll be celebrating Judgment Day!