No Man's Sky review, part II: A celestial do-over eases the hangover
No Man's Sky (XO/PS4/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 12+
You'd swear Sean Murray had deliberately run over a child or something. Such was the vitriol heaped on the Irish-Australian developer two years ago this week for his small team's long-anticipated No Man's Sky.
Murray was guilty of the classic mistake of overpromising and under-delivering. His technically astonishing space exploration game was filled with billions (yes, billions) of planets, creatures and resources, each generated by algorithm not human hand. But it was missing a slew of key features and felt painfully cold and empty once you'd rummaged around your first handful of (admittedly spectacular) planets.
Here now, though, with the latest free update dubbed Next is possibly the definitive version of the divisive game. It still leans on the core loop of flying then finding, looting, crafting and trading resources. But gratifyingly enhanced with true (if basic) multiplayer, quality-of-life tweaks around transport and crafting, plus some narrative streamlining, NMS is within touching distance of its great potential.
You need to suspend your expectations of evolving gameplay in that it is a repetitive experience. But there's something humbling about the scale of its virtual space tourism and something intriguing about the vague mysticism around the various alien races and the random creatures encountered.
We don't often re-review games in these parts but No Man's Sky deserves a second look, especially as it makes its rather lovely debut on Xbox One with all its shaders set to stun. Murray and co are still beavering away on more content, something we can look forward to now they've rectified the rickety foundations and given themselves something solid to build on.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
(XO/PC) ★★★★ Age: 18+
You don't need to know anything about the Warhammer tabletop gaming franchise to understand Vermintide. Simply take hammer (or sword or axe) and whack rat-faced monsters into a bloody pulp. Rinse. Repeat.
Lest that sound tiresomely monotonous, be assured that the frantic four-player co-op of Vermintide 2 is anything but. Reminiscent of Valve's riotous Left 4 Dead series, it pits one to four players against a swarm of repulsive creatures in large-scale arenas.
Gory and at times terrifying thanks to the random placement of the monsters in each round, it adds to the L4D formula with a needlessly complex RPG upgrade system and a plethora of brutal weapons.
It's at its best when your team of four face down overwhelming odds and carve a gruesome swathe through the hordes.