Tuesday 19 March 2019

Apex Legends review: Battle Royale blueprint wearing thin

(PS4/XO/PC) **** Age: 16+

Apex Legends
Apex Legends
A Fisherman's Tale
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Oh no, not another one. Have game designers truly run out of imagination? Or have game corporations become so greedy they see only the dollar signs written on lootboxes?

Kildare man Brendan Greene could scarcely have anticipated shifting the gaming landscape when he created his Battle Royale formula that morphed into PC sensation PUBG. Half the world's developers now seem bent on copying his blueprint.

Free-to-play Apex Legends came out of nowhere last week to capture 25 million players within 10 days - unsurprisingly, given the pedigree of its developer (Titanfall creator Respawn).

At its heart, it's merely a PUBG clone: last man standing after multiple combatants fall from a dropship; shrinking circle; random loot, etc. Respawn applies its own spin and polish to make Apex Legends demonstrably different.

Crisp shooting, distinct Overwatch-­style character classes and a neat revival system all stand out in an overcrowded genre. But Apex Legends could be hurt by coming late to the post-Fortnite/PUBG party and its approach to lootboxes (you can't buy an advantage but can pay for shortcuts).

It's a quality release, no doubt, but it makes me pine for the days before Battle Royale when designers started with a clean slate rather than a photocopy.

A Fisherman's Tale

(PSVR/PC) **** Age: 12+

A Fisherman's Tale

Mind, prepare to be melted. This playful VR puzzler opens in a lighthouse kitchen much like any other escape-room adventure. But it soon steps up to brain-warping mode with the realisation you're also manipulating a model of yourself in an identical diorama on the kitchen table.

Cue lots of puzzles deploying experiments with 'big' or 'small' objects, and eerie moments where you loom over yourself. One sequence near the end of the tale's sadly short running time threatens to drive you cross-eyed as you manoeuvre a lit match in multiple dimensions.

Handling the VR objects in tightly confined spaces proves intensely frustrating at times, the tracking failing to register boundaries and dropping things at random. But the teeth-grinding is more or less worth it for the ingenious ideas at work here, not to mention the feeling that someone really is watching you.

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