Games

Friday 25 July 2014

Wolfenstein: You can teach an old dog new tricks

REVIEWED - Wolfenstein: The New Order; Transistor; Tomodachi Life

Ronan Price

Published 14/06/2014|12:39

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Wolfenstein: The New Order
Transistor for PS4 and PC
Tomodachi Life

WOLFENSTEIN: THE NEW ORDER
PS4/XOne/PS3/X360/PC
RATING: 8.5/10
AGE: 18

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SOMETIMES a leopard can change its spots. Wolfenstein 3D spawned an entire industry in 1992, establishing the first-person shooter genre with a revolutionary perspective allied to a hyperactive trigger finger.

Without Wolfenstein, there would be no Halo, no Call of Duty, no Battlefield. But its whole ethos could be boiled down to one simple instruction: shoot Nazis in the face with a gun. It was the original big, dumb shooter.

The New Order rewrites history in more ways than one but most interestingly introduces stealth as a viable tactic – a significant departure for a game synonymous with run and gun. Students of history will know, though, that Wolfenstein 3D evolved from Castle Wolfenstein, a simplistic 2D adventure where avoiding being seen is paramount.

There’s even a plot of sorts, a well-worn riff on an alternative history in which the Nazis won World War II aided by futuristic technology and conquered the globe. Yet it’s deftly handled, interweaving the Inglourious Basterds-style Nazi slaughter with subtly played cut-scenes featuring moments of rage and pathos.

Although the action is weighed heavily in favour of trigger-tastic mayhem, there’s frequently scope too for creeping through a heavily guarded fortress and quietly knifing your way to your destination. It’s far more satisfying than usual gameplay loop of fire-and-reload.

All in all, The New Order marks a welcome rebirth for a series whose time had passed, whose ideas had become stale and whose thunder had been stolen. It looks as if you can teach an old dog new tricks.

TRANSISTOR

PS4/PC

RATING: 8/10

AGE: 12+

AN EXQUISITELY presented RPG voiced by a sardonic narrator – now where have we seen that before? Why yes, that was Bastion, the previous game from Supergiant, the creator of Transistor.

But this is no mere Bastion II, even though Transistor clearly springs from the same prolific well.

Don’t waste too many synapses on the plot – a nightclub singer rendered mute hooks up with a talking sword to escape AI creatures in a digitally created city. Take it from me, it doesn’t make any more sense the more you play.

Instead, revel in the distinctive art style - all neon edges and cyberpunk flourishes – chuckle at the deadpan narration and relish the deep combat systems. On PS4, the narrator’s wry observations emerge from the DualShock controller’s tinny little speaker, an effective device but one that would have worked better if used more sparingly.

Battles with the rogue AI take place in real-time but can be paused to stack up movement coupled with attacks. It quickly becomes a necessity as the enemies grow in number and allows for complex actions with satisfying results.

Just as interesting is the range of powers and weapons acquired from vanquished foes. They can be combined and reinforced in myriad ways that encourage experimentation.

Alas, though, the enemies don’t offer a nuanced challenge, with the same tactics working efficiently time after time. As quirky as Transistor is, this repetition may be the impediment that keeps you playing to the end.

 

TOMODACHI LIFE

Nintendo 3DS

RATING: 7/10

AGE: 12+

DESTINED to be remembered as the game in which Nintendo refused to permit same-sex relationships, Tomodachi Life deserves a better epitaph.

Eccentric to the point of amusing, entertaining without ever being enthralling, TL crosses the pet-care of The Sims or Tamagotchi with the downright bizarre – such as encouraging celebrities to, er, mate.

You’re asked to manage of community of characters on a cartoon island, feeding their whims and needs in the hope they’ll do something wacky, which they frequently do.

Maybe it’s a satire of consumerist society, maybe it’s a learning tool about how to treat your fellow humans. But it’s not really a game, in that the characters operate to their own schedule, not yours. You can’t really force them to do anything, merely lead them into temptation.

It’s surreal and frustrating by turns but Tomodachi Life is like having your own zoo full of human experiments.

 

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