Let’s take a look at … – Epic Showdown

Epic Showdown is a casual arena-shooter released this October by indie developer Naloki. With four unique characters to choose between, and two game modes available: survival mode and crypt (dungeon crawling type option), there’s premise for a fun little casual shooter. Unfortunately, although I try to find the best in every game I review, I cannot recommend this one in the state it is in. It is nearly unplayable, and here’s a list of reasons why:

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The trailer for this game on Steam – which is also very unpolished – gives some back story to the game, but the game itself does not. There is no explanation for the character with the green hand who is watching some very oddly put-together heroes fight on television. There isn’t background on the heroes themselves, either. They are just there with no content, so there’s no way to get invested.

Control are typical of this genre with WASD and mouse movement, but their implementation is rough making them very difficult to use. At first the game looks like it is third person, but it actually isn’t. It’s fixed behind the character but it can’t turn meaning you just sort of slide around the screen more, like an unnecessary addition to your crosshairs. I was killed so quickly over and over because I wasn’t able to see well around the environment and back-up out of the way. I didn’t even have time to monitor my health and it seems the enemies hit way too hard relative to your health!

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The titles shortcomings don’t step here. The graphics feel old, and not in an intentional retro way either. It’s also too easy to get blinded by the environment. i.e., if you back-up into a tree, instead of stopping you from moving it envelopes your vision and you can’t see. You clip right through. The menu system is ugly, hard-to-read, and poorly designed. For example, hints are provided on the load screen, but the text is cut off.

In crypt mode, there is a slapping sound that repeats over and over and is extremely obnoxious. I couldn’t survive long enough to find out if it was something in the environment, or a glitch in the game. Overall, the game is just extremely unpolished and unfinished. The game crashed while loading and I had to force the executable to stop through Task Manager. It’s not worth anywhere near the $9.99 price tag it currently has.

Tl;dr – A catastrophic lack of polish isn’t the only thing letting Epic Showdown down.  If the game had more story behind it, and the controls were fixed, there might be some potential here. As-is, this game is unplayable and is not recommended. Don’t buy this.

Rating – 3/10

Purchase – Steam £6.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Razenroth

Razenroth is a top-down shooter with a bunch of roguelike and RPG elements thrown into the mix. Perma-death, random levels and a multitude of enemies will put you to the test as you try and find out what happened to your missing grandad. Developed by Enitvare and released on Steam late August, the title offers a lot for a low price of £3.99/$4.99. Let’s take a look.

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Razenroth starts with an opening narrated-slideshow that gives context to the journey that you’re about to undertake. Your grandfather mysteriously went missing and whilst looking through his old notes you stumble across something interesting. You find the name ‘The valley of Whispters’, and identify it as a possible location of your grandfather so you head off in search of him. Deep in the woods you find a wooden cabin with a single note that reads ‘Run Charles’ and your journey begins.

The intro does a good job of introducing the game, but I can’t help shake the amateur feeling it gives off. The writing isn’t bad, but has some awkwardly worded sentences. The art is also not too bad, but again gives of an amateur vibe. Since it’s the first you see of the game I think it would have benefit from some TLC, and more production value would go a long way here.

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Once the opening cutscenes ends you get right into gameplay. You start in what appears to be the abandoned cabin in the middle of the woods from the opening cinematic. There’s no introduction to your surroundings, and no hints as to what you should be doing. It’s up to you get stuck in and work it out for yourself which I liked. Razenroth is a top-down shooter, so the mouse is used to aim and rotate your character, the arrow keys are used to move, and the left and right mouse buttons use the magical abilities that you seem to have gained from a book in the intro.

The controls are somewhat floaty, and I’m not sure if I’m a fan of it or I simply go used to it. You character carries inertia, so if you run in one direction and release the key you’ll carry on moving for a little while. It felt a little like walking on ice the whole time.

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Though the graphics are in the same style as those in the intro, the in-game graphics feel to be of much higher quality and the game looks quite nice with its hand-drawn aesthetic. Killing enemies produces some cool blood effects, and likewise the use of your abilities creates nice light effects. One area that could have used more work is the UI. Same reasoning’s as my comments regarding the opening cutscenes, it just felt underwhelming in places.

The meat of gameplay is exploring the procedural woods you find yourself lost in, finding and killing everything to gain loot, and finding the various items and destructible spread throughout the map. As you kill monsters you gain EXP, and each level up provides you a skill point to increate one of your characters stats and buy abilities. This is where the RPG features lie. You can kit your character out in the gear you find through your travels, level up certain skills to suit you play style, and purchase different abilities to make yourself a more formidable force.

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Spread amongst the normal enemies are tougher enemies that have a skull above their head. While tougher, the rewards are much greater as they drop gear. Alongside these tougher enemies are also fully-fledged boss creates. These are accessed via finding their portal in you level. Step inside it and you’re whisked off to another area to have a one-on-one showdown! It was at this point that I learned that Razenroth features perma-death!

There is also no manual save, and the game will only auto-save each time you beat a boss character. Once you die that save is removed and you’re back to start at the beginning! If you do manage to defeat the boss you’re taken to an entirely new area, with a different environmental theme and aesthetic and your journey stars once more.

Razenroth started slowly for me, and it took a few runs to get into it, but once I did I really started to enjoy it. The only area in which I felt let it was production value, and it would benefit from some more overall polish. Maybe it’s just the hard-drawn aesthetic that gives me that impression? The game is also priced very fairly at just £3.99/$4.99 so is a great cheap pickup.

Tl:dr – Razenroth is a top-down shooter with rogue-like and RPG elements thrown into the mix. While slow to get going, after a few runs I found my stride and enjoyed my time. With repetitive gameplay, I’m not sure how long it would hold interest for, but for £3.99/$4.99 you’re sure to get your value out of it.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £3.99/$4.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Guns, Gore & Cannoli (XBONE)

Earlier this year we covered the title Guns, Gore and Cannoli; an action-packed 2D run ‘n gun featuring a mobster working his way through the zombie apocalypse. You can read that article here. Well, that was on PC, and it’s now released on XBONE and we were lucky enough to get a review code to see if the console version matches that of its PC counterpart. Let’s take a look .. again!

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Starting with performance, the game runs great. It’s certainly not a last-minute dash to get to another platform. It’s clear time and effort has gone into making the game run soundly on whatever platform you choose. The game suits a gamepad incredibly well, with tight, self-intuitive controls. In Heather’s article she mentioned she has trouble with the controls, sometimes hitting wrong buttons; I had no such issues!

The quality of the art and other resources is on point also. There’s no scaling or compromise in quality; the game looks and feels just as crisp as the PC version. I did experience some loading times higher than I would have expected. Not huge, but enough for it to catch my attention, but it’s hardly a problem. The content is well worth the extra few seconds loading. Maybe it’s because I’m used to gaming on a PC!

Best of all, the game is priced fairly. The title is currently £6.99 on Steam, so I was expecting a price tag of ~£10 for console, but it’s only £7.99. A really nice pickup price for the XBONE. To be honest, mine has sat unused in the corner for the most of the time I’ve had it as I can’t justify paying 2x more for a game than I would do on Steam. It’s awesome that this isn’t the case with Guns, Gore & Cannoli and it’s given me a reason to keep my XBONE out for a while!

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I’d like to just share few thoughts on my own experience with game. A cinematic brings the game to a start, introducing Vinnie, a mobster on a mission to capture someone. Sleeping on a boat he learns that the world has been overrun by zombies. Naturally, been a mobster and all, he’s well kitted out and does not deviate from his macabre task. From here on you work your way through a multitude of environments, collecting new and exciting weapons as you progress, and meeting new enemies to test you.

One thing that I really liked was the difficulty. The game looks great, has a really funny story, and as such I was expecting something much more casual that what it is. The game puts up a fight, and if you don’t stay on your mobster toes it will punish you. Everything Heather said in her original article about the title I can 100% corroborate, and it is well worth the 9.5 we gave it originally. I’m not that far in, and already I’ve fought across a boat, a dockyard, a town, and met a wide range of interesting enemies!

A zombie football player that knocks you on your ass every opportunity he gets. A pinup zombie resembling Marilyn Monroe that likes to jump about, and another female zombie that can’t stop burping out some horrible green gas! I’ve also met a couple of NPC characters, all of which are funny and interesting dialogue with Vinnie. The game is lots of fun, plays great, looks great and sounds great, and it arrives on XBONE as strongly as it hit PC.

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Tl:dr – Guns, Gore & Cannoli is now available on a number of game consoles and it’s no shoddy port. It’s clear the Crazy Monkey put time and effort into ensuring quality across the board, and the XBONE version is just as good as its PC counterpart. At £7.99 (or your regional equivalent) there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have this title on your XBOX. Get it downloaded!

Rating – 9.5 (again!)

Purchase – XBONE £7.99 or your regional equivalent | PC/Steam £6.99/$9.99

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – M4 Tank Brigade

Early Access can be a great thing. It allows communities to experience a game before its complete, providing valuable feedback to the developer regarding improvements and ideas. As a reward for showing your support early on, you get the full game a discounted price and get to experience the process of a game being built. Everyone is a winner.

Unfortunately, there’s another side of Early Access. Sometimes games that look to have little hope of ever making an impact in a world enter Early Access, and the only thing you get is the experience of being let down, frustrated or wishing you hadn’t made that purchase. M4 Tank Brigade unfortunately falls into the latter. This game is riddled with poor control, graphical anomalies, collision detection issues, and sound choices that will make you want to punch your monitor they are so bad.

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In the tutorial you are provided with an abundance of information, which is a good thing. Everything from how to move, change positions from turret, to driver, to machine gunner, change squadrons, call in airstrikes, and hunt the enemy down. Though, while doing so, you’re forced to listen to some of the worst dialogue (content and quality) I have ever heard.

The voices sound like they were recorded in a basement, and try to push off the stereotypical ‘Drill Sergeant’ persona. The combination of “Hit any key to continue”, and “Way to go!” blasting through my speakers, because no one bothered to adjust the audio levels of the recorded dialogue, were almost enough to make me not want to finish the tutorial. Not to mention there are two different voices that are used. It’s confusing and just beyond bad.

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Things unfortunately don’t get any better in-game. The controls are very confusing, and once you’re in your tank, simple tasks such as driving, switching positions, and shooting are non-trivial; your tank continues to move and you can’t steer it. In what I expect is a WWII tank simulator, why would there not be multiple people per tank?

Trying navigate the mini map requires the mouse, but the mouse can’t be used in the tank. As a result you will find yourself moving your hand from mouse to the arrow keys, all while trying to aim the turret and keep your tank in position. It’s very unintuitive and overly complicated.

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The landscape is ridiculously barren. Between a few houses and anti-tank barriers, there is literally nothing. Not even trees in most cases. In addition, the collision detection doesn’t always work. You can run into a house and stop dead in your tracks, while other obstacles allow you to pass right through. The terrain is also pretty flat, with a few bumps along your path, are giant trenches that will put you in a huge bind if you find yourself in. They are best to be avoided unless you are taking cover from fire.

I did enjoy the explosions, and found the AI to be aggressive and intimidating; however, the enormous lack of polish, lack of an online community, and a host of better games already on the market make this game forgettable. It’s best to avoid playing this game at least till it comes out of Early Access. Maybe by then it will be an entirely different game, but who knows when that will happen if ever.

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Tl;dr M4 Tank Brigade is an ugly, irritating, unpolished action tank simulator that is currently overcharging for the content it provides. Graphically it’s about as barren as a desert, and the audio is awful to the point where you’d almost rather turn it off and just read the text provided. Controls are overly complicated and counterintuitive which may be the biggest issue with this game. I’m not sure what sort of crowd wants a game like this. If you are a huge WWII tank buff, or historian, you may find a way to enjoy it … if not, I’d recommend waiting till it’s out of Early Access before even considering it.

Rating – 3/10

Purchase – Steam £10.99/$14.99

Trailer – 

Indie Showcase … – Netw0rm

Netw0rm is a 3D action/runner game by indie studio Cuddly Zombie Games. We were recently given access to a build, and was pleasantly surprised! It’s a fun little action game, with a great premise, but has a few flaws. We were originally going to review the title, but given the fact that it’s not yet available, we’re going to bring it to you guys via the showcase, then we’ll conduct our review upon release.

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Netw0rm is an action shooter surrounding hacking. Yeah, how cool is that! You play the role of what I presume is a systems admin, and you have control over a system called the mothership. You can buy parts for your system, upgrade its hardware, and buy tools to help you hack. The game interface is pretty simple, and it looks like you’re working on an old computer terminal. It’s minimalistic and fits the mood and theme of the game well.

Gameplay sees you hacking into servers of multiple companies and instituted in order to steal data. What you do with this data is up to you. Leak it, or sell it on the black market for more credits in order to upgrade your PC. The hacking mechanic involved travelling down a tube, with multiple obstacles in your way. The steam page states:

“The game is inspired, in part, by the hacking sequences from 80’s sci-fi films and TV shows. In various films, hacking into a computer was represented in a very videogame-like way, navigating along a series of wireframe environments, dodging enemies and barriers as they attempted to break into the heart of the system.”

 The developer achieves this, and the game feels very much that way. You play the hack, you have to keep a certain space otherwise the trace will find you, and the obstacles in your way and things like ICE blockers, for which you need a certain type of program to overcome. But be careful, programs require both RAM and CPU cycles, so you need to manage your system carefully.

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The premise to the game is great, but unfortunately I feel there are problems with the fundamentals. The movement during gameplay feels … sluggish and flawed. It’s not as fun as it could be. The developer states that the game is ready to launch as soon as Greenlit, but I’d like to see some more time spent polishing the feel of the controls, and I’m sure others will agree.

Another potential issue I see is with repetitiveness. Given what I’ve played, I’m not sure how long it could hold the attention of the player without becoming too repetitive.

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Despite some concerns, I think Netw0rm is a fun game. The premise is great, I just feel the controls need some TLC to reach their maximum potential. If you want to check out the game, head over to its Greenlight page and drop your vote!

Here’s the trailer so you can get a feel for gameplay.

Let’s take a look at … – Reign of Bullets

Reign of Bullets is a side-scrolling 2D shoot ‘em up from Critical bit, a small indie studio based in the Netherlands. They have quite a line-up of games under their belts. Reign of Bullets is their latest, and it’s hitting Steam today. Let’s take a look.

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What would you do if a big-ass corporation steam rolled through your house, and didn’t offer as much as a sorry? Well, when the Titan Corporation rolled through Troy’s garage, he wants revenge. As most garages do, he has an old jet in the corner, so puts it to good use by launching his own assault on Titan.

Gameplay is classic 2D shoot ‘em up goodness. Enemies come at you from the right, and you have to dodge and shoot as you make your way through section of level. As well as fighting flying enemies, ground units and civilian vehicles move along the road beneath you, adding more targets. Each level last 1 minute 30, and if you survive that long you beat the level.

Each level is also graded, so depending on how many enemies you killed, and how much health left, you will get a score which helps determine how much scrap you get from the level. Each 10th level is a big boss battle and will allow you to move on to the next area.

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Throughout the game your ship can be upgraded as you please. As you fight through the levels you will collect both scrap and weapons. If you go back to your hangar, these can then be purchases to upgrading your ship and weapons. Your ship has 5 attributes that can be levelled up using scrap; Autogun, Weaponslots, Luck, Hitpoints, and Shield. Also, each weapon you unlock can be upgraded using special pickups that are also dropped as loot. You can increase a weapons damage, and range for example, amongst other things.

Weapons are applied to your ship however you like. There are no set weapon positions, so to a certain extent, the design of the ship is up to you which is a cool little feature. Smash through levels, spend your scrap upgrading your ship, and repeat.

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You can use either a mouse or gamepad to control Reign of Bullets. I started with pad controls. When actually fighting, the pad feels great. Nice and responsive, and the controls are self-intuitive. This all goes to pot when you enter the hangar menus however. The pad control scheme in the menus feels incredibly sloppy and not self-intuitive at all. I was having a hard time understanding why it felt so weird until I tried the mouse and keyboard controls. It appears to me that Reign of Bullets was built and tested using a mouse first.

The menus when using a mouse are a lot easier and can seemingly do more things. I had no idea you could rotate weapons on your ship until I used the mouse. Maybe I missed it when I used the pad, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t there. It’s not a major issue if you use the pad. But it does take some getting used to the seeming arbitrary key mappings. I often accidently nearly scrapped a weapon when using the pad.

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Reign of Bullets features 10 difficulty levels, ranging from Rookie to Legend. I fancied my chances and choose Legend straight away, and just got owned. It’s clear I’ll have to work my way through the lower difficulties first, develop an epic ship, and then come back to Legend difficulty for retribution. There’s also plenty of levels to go at. 4 distinct areas, each having 10 levels, provides 40 tough battles to get through in the campaign. There’s also an endless mode available for those who may want to spend some time mindlessly destroying the Titan Corporation, or grinding to upgrade your ship.

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Reign of Bullets is a solid 2D shoot ‘em up and implementation of the genre. I like the graphics and the character of the game, the story is novel and has funny moments via the twitter messages, and ultimately I had fun smashing through the Titan Corporation. Apart from the sloppy feeling pad controls in the menus, Reign of bullets doesn’t do anything wrong in my opinion, but on the same token it doesn’t do anything particularly ground breaking. A solid entry into the genre, which fans will pick up, play, and then move on.

Tl:dr – Reign of Bullets is a solid implementation of a 2D shoot ‘em up, which a nice aesthetic style and novel story. I had fun smashing through the Titan Corporation, and once complete I’ll have no problem moving on.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £9.99/$12.99, discounted to £8.99/$11.69 until August 25th

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Breach and Clear: DEADline

Breach and clear: Deadline is a zombie A-RPG/tactical strategy simulation from Mighty Duck Studios and Gun Media. A follow up to 2014’s Breach and Clear, Deadline offers a new setting for the franchise, with the enemy this time around being a swarm of nasty-ass zombies. The original B&C got great reviews, I haven’t played it myself, and so does the second instalment deliver? Let’s take a look.

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Breach and Clear: Deadline starts with a really nice tutorial mission. It introduces all the combat aspects of the game, but isn’t overpowering as a lot of tutorials are. There is plenty of action, and lots covered. Gameplay is broken in to 2 distinct phases, free movement mode, and command mode. In free movement move it plays like a standard ARPG. You have a squad of 4 characters, and at any one point you are in direct control of 1 of them. Your other teammates will either follow, or stay put, depending on the commands you given them.

Command mode is where things get real, and the strategy aspect of the game comes into play. In strategy mode you gain control over the flow of time, and your view retracts to give a view over the entire situation. You now have unlimited time in order to plan the individual movements and actions of each squad member. Members have a stack of up to three commands, so you can move them into position, set them to use an ability, then open fire as an example. Once all your soldiers have commands you’re happy with, hold space to advance time and watch how the action unfolds. If at any point your movements aren’t working out, you can stop time and set new orders, clearing the previous queue of unexecuted commands.

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The ability to switch between the two at will is great as it means the pace of gameplay is not broken. If you’re working your way up a street, and there are 3 enemies in front, you don’t have to enter combat mode to kill them. You can just continue on your way in real-time combat. When you approach an area and the game automatically kicks into command mode, that’s usually a sign that shit is about to go down, and command mode is probably where you want to be.

At the start of the game you get to create your squad, and this includes picking each member’s speciality. For example, on my squad I have a Fireteam Leader, Scout, Explosives Expert and a Medic. The makeup of your squad is important, and will determine what skills you have available. Each soldier has skills that match their class. So my Explosives Expert can lay mines, and throw satchel charges, while my scout can tag enemies. Getting the right squad makeup to match your play style can really help. Each squad member also has a skill tree with skills from each tree available. You can put skill points onto any tree you want. So if I wanted to fill out the scout skill tree on my explosives expert I could.

These skills unlock better abilities, and like standard RPG skill trees, the more you commit to a single class, the better skills you unlock. Skill points are earned by levelling up, which is a natural progression as you complete quests and kill enemies.

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As a squad of 4 elite soldiers, it’s your job to stop the spread of a deadly new breed of human monsters. You travel across multiple environments, completing main and side quests, collecting gear and levelling up. It’s a very traditional RPG experience. I especially like how much control you have other your kit. For each weapon and piece of gear you can rename it, upgrade it, and add attachments to make it more powerful. This is all done back at headquarters, where you have a workbench to perform your upgrades, and a locker to store any gear you might want later.

Weapons are upgraded using scrap, which is a resource dropped by zombies. It’s essentially the currency of the game, and can also be earned by scrapping weapons and gear that you don’t want. Gear also come in a range of levels, ranging from common to, what I presume is, legendary or something akin to that. I have collected white, green and orange named weapons, with the orange weapon being worth a lot more scrap than the others.

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The environment feels free and open, and you feel totally in control of what you do. There are main quests, with a linear progression, but aside from that you are free to move wherever you want, searching for loot, side quests, or just kicking zombie ass to farm scrap and upgrade your weapons. The map is big, and movement speed is slow, so there are bus terminals scattered around key locations that allow you to fast-travel. This menu is one of the ones that need immediate attention. You go from a nice looking game, to a menu that looks place-holder. One of the uglier parts of the game.

The graphics are nothing to write home about, but it’s an ARPG. You spend most of the time zoomed out, so the graphics are fit for purpose. Nothing special, but nothing particularly bad. Some of the UI could use some work, as it feels a little un-polished in places, but overall it’s nice. The music is great also. High temp tracks when you’re getting down to business get you into the mood for a fight, and compliment the combat experience well.

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From what I’ve seen so far, I think B&C:D looks and plays great. The UI for the most part is nice and easy to use, some areas are shocking and need immediate work, the graphics are up to par for what you’d expect from an A-RPG, and the gameplay is lots of fun. Yet, if you head over to the steam page, it’s sitting on an underwhelming mixed review average with 66% positive reviews, and lots of that points towards bugs and issues with multiplayer. I have 6 hours in the title, and I can honestly say I haven’t run into a single significant bug. Sure, I’ve seen a few textures flicker every now and again, but that’s hardly game breaking, and happens so seldom that you could easily forget about it. Multiplayer on the other hand is a different story.

At first I simply couldn’t find a multiplayer game open to join. Not a great start. I decided to host one, and jump into the game. Your single player save works on multiplayer, you just open the lobby up to others, which is nice. I played for around half an hour, and forgot I was hosting a lobby until the game paused on me for some reason. When you play online, and the other person pauses the game, it pauses yours also! It’s horrible. The person that joined my lobby just sat paused meaning I couldn’t do anything. Sure I could have kicked him, but I want to play online with someone!

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I eventually had someone join and stay, but he left pretty quickly, and that was the end of my multiplayer experience, no-one else joined. Other have reported big problems with it, and the developer has since released an update saying a reset of the servers fixed a lot of issues. I wish I could say more, but I just haven’t seen enough of it. My experience as it took a while for people to join, and when they did I just ended up sitting on a pause screen. If you’re looking to play online with friends, I’d wait until people are confirming that the multiplayer issues are sorted.

Steam reviews almost unanimously give tales of bugs and an unfinished product. I understand this regarding the multiplayer, but I’ve not encountered a single significant issue in the single player in my X hour play time. My only complaint is that the characters move too slowly. Hardly a big deal. Maybe I came in after they had been fixed, but the Steam reviews don’t reflect the experience I have had so far. I’ve really enjoyed the 6 hours I have in the game, and will be back for more. I’ll also be buying the first tile in the franchise.

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Maybe I missed the launch issues and they’re now fixed, or I’m a lucky one. But Bread and Clear: Deadline to me is a fun A-RPG, which great depth of control and good gameplay. Multiplayer is currently lacking and a feels empty, so take that into consideration if you like to play online a lot. I had fun with my team and look forward to finishing it.

Tl:dr – Breach and Clear: Deadline is a fun zombie ARPG, with a great tactical combat system. Graphics and sounds help deliver a good experience, and despite current Steam reviews I found no bugs or crashes. Multiplayer is both empty and flawed at the moment, so if you’re buying it solely to play online I’d hold off until it’s definitely sorted. I’ve really enjoyed playing the game, I currently have 6 hours in the title, and will be finishing it off.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam £14.99 (£10.04 until August 3rd)

Trailer – 

Let’s take a look at … – Interstellar Marines (Early Access)

Interstellar Marines is a science fiction FPS with quite the history. Currently in development by Zero Point Software, the game has been in development since 2005 under the working title Project IM. After being Greenlit in late 2012, a Kickstarter was launched to fund the rest of the game, but it unfortunately fell short of its target: $157,907/$600,000 was raised.

Since mid-2013 Interstellar Marines has been available in Early Access on Steam. That’s quite a run in Early Access! Let’s take a look.

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The official website states that IM will take you through three massive campaigns, taking you through mankind’s first contact with a sentient alien species. The gameplay currently available in Early Access appears to be the pre-cursor to this storyline. You play as a soldier who has been specially selected to join the Interstellar Marines, and you play through training.

On starting the game for the first time you’re greeted with an epic introductory cut scene. It looks great and production value is through the roof. It got me really excited to get playing! This quality carries right through into the game models and environments. It’s a looks great, and even in early access I had only a few very minor graphical glitches. The same can’t be said for UI. It feels empty, and unfinished. Not a fan, and I hope it gets an upgrade before the game leaves early access.

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My favourite thing about Interstellar Marines is how it feels. It’s solid and different than a lot of shooters. The closest thing it reminded me of was Battlefield. You feel more connected to the character, and movement feels real. It’s the little things like how your sight sways, and if you become out of breath they will sway more as you recover. Weapons give a lot of kickback, so you can’t just spray and prey. You have to pick your shots, and use your weapon wisely.

At the time of writing this article, the game supports keyboard and mouse only, so those that like to play their shooters with a controller are out of luck. I would however encourage those pad users to give the game a go with mouse and keyboard. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

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Up until this point Interstellar Marines has a good first impression. It looks pretty good, I like the controls, they feel solid, and the overall production is great minus some lacking UI. As we now come to take a look at gameplay however things ramp down a gear.

There are currently 2 campaign missions available, and both are training exercises that take place in quite small environments with equally small goals. Campaign 2 is longer than campaign 1, but they can both be completed in a short single sitting. There is also only a small collection of weapons available, and a single enemy. It’s all very sparse and demo-ey feeling, even for an early access title.

Alongside the 2 campaigns, and a tutorial level, there are a selection of scenarios such as survival and escape. These can be played in either singleplayer or online multiplyer, although I could only find a couple of multiplayer games live that were both for survival.

Gameplay itself is very unforgiving. The campaigns do not have any checkpoints, so if you die during the mission that’s it. It adds a real sense of fear, and make you feel very vulnerable which is great. It can be frustrating when a robot that you can’t see shoots you, and the mission re-starts, but I enjoyed the challenge. I was playing on normal, and it doesn’t take many bullets to kill you. There are also two difficulty levels available above normal, so I can only presume they are insta-death!

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I was unsure whether to include this next section or not, but since it directly affects you as the consumer I decided to leave it in. The advertising of the game irks me greatly. I understand that when selling a product you want to make it seem amazing, you really have to sell it. But Interstellar Marines has lists upon lists of selling points that just shouldn’t be there. Here are a few from the list of current features:

  • Shoot from hip or look through the Red Dot scope for increased accuracy.
  • Full-body first person character simulation (no more floating hands!) with a physics-based dynamic character controller.
  • Toggleable tactical flashlight for when it’s pitch black.
  • Toggleable laser to assist your aim (no crosshairs).

These are all standard things that every FPS has. It’s like selling a car and going ‘Look. It has wheels and doors.’ Well, it’s a car, so obviously it has wheels and doors, what else does it do? This may seem pedantic, but this sensationalism is seen throughout the Steam page, the website, and all promotional material, and the game does not live up to how it’s sold. On the website you’re painted a picture that you’re about to receive an epic ‘AAA-Indie’ experience, but that’s just not the case. Not yet anyway.

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What gameplay is there is solid, it’s just there isn’t a lot of it! I enjoyed my time with it, but have no reason to go back to it. If you’re a big fan of shooters you’ll find reasons to like Interstellar Marines. But given the development history, and its current state, I’m not sure I’d actively suggest it right now, but keep an eye out.

Tl:dr – Interstellar marines is a promising shooter with controls that feel great and make it stand out amongst other shooters, and an interesting sounding story line. Its main problem right now is lack of content, and according to plenty of Steam reviews updates just aren’t coming frequently enough. Fans of shooters will find reasons to like it, but for casuals I’d suggest waiting until further into development.

Rating – 7/10

Purchase – Steam (Early Access) (£10.99)

Trailer –

Let’s take a look at … – Dirty Bomb (Beta)

We covered Dirty Bomb last week as the title prepared to transition from closed to open Beta. Well, the game is now openly available through Steam, so here are our thoughts on what we’ve played so far.

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In-case you missed our last article, Dirty Bomb is a FREE-to-play FPS from Splash Damage. With a heavy emphasis on fast, team-based combat, it’s all or nothing. The game starts with a clear and concise tutorial, covering not only the basics of a first person shooter, but also a quick guide to class specialties and skills such as the medic (Aura) being able to throw down healing stations and quick-revive fallen comrades. Right from the tutorial you can see the production value of the game. It’s so well done, with a witty narrator introducing you to the game.

Once you’re into the game you have the possibility to land in a variety of environments ranging from the classic Underground tube stations to the Aged Chapel, each with their own objectives. My favourite initial map had to be “Bridge” in which your objective when attacking is to repair your mobile vehicle (EV) and escort it to the completion zone. I loved the map’s mix of open areas for sniping, and tight alleys with their sharp corners for the more close-combat mercenaries such as the medic that utilises the shotgun and fast heals to capitalize on the funnel-like corridors.

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The game consists of multiple classes known as mercenaries and it’s up to you which you choose to play with. As a new player you’ll have a few standard mercs unlocked, with the others requiring unlocking either through in-game currency or cash; the same system that MOBAs tend to use. At the time of writing each merc costs £7.99 or 50k in-game credits, or you can wait until that merc is in free-rotation to try it out for a limited time. Before each match you’re able to choose 3 to take into battle, and each time you respawn you have the opportunity to change between them, allowing you to respond to battle situations as they arise. Each has their own weapons, perks and loadouts, which are also handled in a unique way.

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Loadouts in Dirt Bomb are handled through a card system. It’s really rather nice. Through playing games you unlock in-game currency which can be either spent on mercs or equipment cases. From each case you’ll receive a random loadout card for one of the mercs. This is how you get gear, and the cards come in a range of qualities, ranging from iron (a basic card) to cobalt (an epic card). You don’t unlock weapons, sidearms, and special equipment separately, then build a class, you unlock an entire loadout in a single card! Inevitably you end up with duplicate cards, so you can use them to ‘trade up’ to a card you want. It’s akin to the crafting system in Hearthstone; you use the value of existing cards to create others. So say you want a cobalt loadout for the sniper class, but don’t want to open a boatload of cases to get it. Well you can craft one providing you have enough cards of the right rarity. This is cross-class also, so you could dump all your cards for a certain merc you don’t play to create an epic loadout for one you do!

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The developers and trailers all boast that the game is reliant on teamwork, as most FPS titles do, and this is a vital component to Dirty Bomb. Whilst I was able to rush round saving my fellow mercenaries with my speedy revives, when it came to drawn out standoffs with the opposing team I found myself relying heavily on my teammates generosity and their ability to deploy ammo packs as I rapidly fired through my few shotgun pellets and found myself backed into the corner desperately trying to defend objectives with solely my pistol and knife. Whilst this initially seems limiting, it does force team co-operation which led to some intense gameplay as teams set up stations with healers and ammo focused players as they progressed to their objectives. If you don’t play as a team you’re going to lose.

There are currently 2 gamemodes available: Objective and Stopwatch. In objective the goal is to either complete the level objectives, or stop the opposing team from completing them. Each map has different objectives, it isn’t a simple capture the flag deal, so there’s lots of fun and variance in gameplay to be had between maps. The other mode, Stopwatch, is a race to complete the level objectives as fast as you can, then stop the other team beating your time.

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The standout factor of Dirty Bomb for me is the speed of combat. As soon as game starts teams pile forward relentlessly towards one another. This relentless back and forth continues throughout the game, and since it doesn’t take much to down you, sticking with your team is vital. If you do try to be a hero … well that won’t happen. You’ll run into a group of the opposition and you’ll be dead before you’ve even thought about shooting. It’s fast-paced, relentless team combat just as they promise.

The game’s art style and models are similar to that of titles such as Warface and Loadout with a detailed cartoonist art style, allowing for immersive gameplay without too much direct realism. Whilst there where minor texture issues, the game was in closed beta during my game time, I found the overall graphics to be fitting for the game style and pleasing to the eye, with the TF2 like animations such as the healing bay and ammo pickups. There is also a good range of options for player to alter their settings allowing those with non-high end rigs to enjoy the title.

The audio for the titles is enjoyable and solid as the rest of the game. In-game sounds are fitting and what you’d expect in any form of shooter, with a clear instructional voice describing the objective on each level.

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Overall, after clocking a few hours on the title and ranking up to level 5, I think that Dirty Bomb is a fun and enjoyable F2P game which I can see myself spending around three to four hours on per session, especially if playing with friends as I would want to try and incorporate a full team skill set into some matches. The game feels incredibly solid and polished with an already impressive set of maps and loadouts and will only get better. If you’re into your shooters then this is a must-play.

Check out Dirty Bomb for yourself on Steam http://store.steampowered.com/app/333930/ or on the official site Nexon Site http://dirtybomb.nexon.net/, be sure to let us know what your thoughts are on the title via our comments section below or via social networks!

Tl:dr – Dirty Bomb is a FREE-to-play fast-paced shooter with a heavy emphasis on teamwork. With a unique approach to characters and loadouts, it feels fresh, and although in beta is a very much a solid and high quality game. It will only improve, so if you’re a fan of the genre it’s a must-have.

Rating – 9/10

Purchase – Steam FREE

Trailer –

Let’s talk about … – Dirty Bomb enters open beta June 2nd

If you’ve not heard of Dirty Bomb yet let me introduce you. Dirty Bomb is a free-to-play team-based shooter from Splash Damage, the team that brought us the likes of Brink and more recently Batman: Arkham Origins. It’s been in closed beta for a while, and starting June 2nd it transitions to open beta so everyone can now get in on the action.

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The action-packed objective-based FPS sees you controlling a mercenary, fighting in a whole range of battles in the post-apocalyptic city of London. With the moto “What’s a little radiation sickness when there’s money to be made?” the player fights through a variety of environments to complete objectives and gain experience and credits. These credits can be used to purchase “Cases” containing a random class load out with the potential reward rarity ranging from lead to gold.

Combat is fast is relentless; if you turn it down a notch you’ll have your ass handed to you before you know what’s hit you. With the focus on team objectives, you can’t hold off. You’re either on the front lines, fighting toe-to-toe with your team and the enemy, or you’re going to lose. Simple as that. We’ve had lots of fun with the title so far, and are pretty confident you will too if you’re a fan of the genre.

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Although still in Beta the polish of Dirt Bomb is awesome. When you first load the game there is a very well presented, and funny, introduction to game, followed by an optional tutorial. Once complete, or skipped, you’re ready to jump into the multiple game-modes and maps that are included in the beta. If you’re a fan of shooters, especially objective based ones, Dirty Bomb should be at the top of your ‘To Play’ list. When the game launches into full open beta next week we’ll be back with a full review, but for now we’ll leave you with a video the takes a close look at the title. Make sure to check the Steam page from June 2nd to get in on the open beta.