Thursday 23 November 2017

Games: Curious hybrid is born to be wild

Battleborn (PS4/XOne/PC), 4 Stars, Age: 16+

Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Brash and loud, Battleborn starts as it means to go on, bursting out of the gate with a hyperactive intro video in manga style underpinned by a hip-hop soundtrack.

That's as restrained as it gets. Reliably unhinged developer Gearbox takes flight with a flurry of ideas that fuses the very direct principles of a first-person shooter to the more tactical teamwork of a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA).

Battleborn might even feel like two different games at times - sometimes it's a bit Destiny, at others you could mistake it for MOBA king League of Legends but for the first-person perspective. Yet common to both is a riotous cast of 25 "heroes", imaginatively designed and toting a raft of special abilities.

The character variations provide the key drive to keep coming back for more. But Gearbox hurts its case with the absence of meaningful tutorials, leaving the player to muddle through the baffling permutations. However, a creditable multiplayer story mode supplies the space for experimentation with the hero roster, though it still leaves much unexplained.

Ultimately, the player-vs-player end game is the draw here, a slightly odd take on MOBAs with familiar mid-mission levelling up and base defence/attack gameplay offset by a lack of maps and the claustrophobic first-person perspective. Battleborn may be a curious hybrid but it has to be applauded for carving out its own unique niche.


(PS4), 3 Stars, Age: 12+

Housemarque made its name executing near-perfect revamps of classic genres. From the vector sizzle of Super Stardust to the neon voxels of Resogun, the arcade revival never felt fresher.

The studio was also responsible for top-down shooter Dead Nation, a less compelling rebirth that now lends its shape to Alienation. It's not much cop visually but there's a frantic inertia to the twin-stick action that makes it hard to put down.

Single-player mode is a looting/shooting slog through alien-infested wastelands. But online with others, the required teamwork coupled with the sheer variety of mods give Alienation room to get its hooks into you.

Fragments of Him

(PC), 4 Stars, Age: 12+

Death, the ominipresent character in so many video games, looms large here. But not in the way you'd expect. Fragments ruminates on what we leave behind - the memories, experiences, influences and learnings.

To say it's unconventional understates its emotive power, recalling in flashback the life of an ordinary man cut short, through the prism of his grandmother, ex-girlfriend and long-term boyfriend.

The rudimentary "gameplay" feels almost superfluous as Fragments explores themes of love and loss in what might be termed an interactive movie, in the best sense of the words.

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