Katana Zero review: All killer, no filler
Imagine you're an assassin forced to visit a psychiatrist after every mission. How disturbed must you feel? How evil have you just been? That's one of the many imponderables in Katana Zero,...
Imagine you're an assassin forced to visit a psychiatrist after every mission. How disturbed must you feel? How evil have you just been? That's one of the many imponderables in Katana Zero,...
ANNUAL franchise updates often degenerate into a game of numbers: “We’re giving you X more of this and Y extra that”. It often serves to disguise the real lack of progress elsewhere when the...
When a game character suddenly starts spouting Sartre at you, you know you're not in Kansas any more. This delightful VR game has an otherworldly edge to it, not least because you play the...
FINISH HIM! The chilling guttural roar that ends many a Mortal Kombat bout typifies the transgressive bloodlust of the franchise, topped only by the gruesome Fatality finishing move...
Serene and yet Byzantine, Heaven's Vault spins an intriguing yarn of ancient villainy blended with hieroglyphic puzzles. On the trail of a missing colleague in a retro sci-fi universe,...
The lawless Washington featured in TD2 is a Trump ultra-loyalist's dream, a place where normal society has collapsed and weapons rule the streets. Unsubtle graffiti greeting your arrival rams home the point: "We have more guns than you."
Poetry in motion encapsulates the DMC formula but never so much as in this sixth (yes, sixth) in the series. DMC5 returns to the roots of the gothic fantasy brawler after a divisive 2013 reboot.
You can't please all of the people all of the time, nor should you even try (just ask Theresa May). Veteran driving sim studio Codemasters wanted to have its cake, etc, with the most recent in the venerable Dirt series (confusingly badged Dirt 4). In straddling both the hardcore and casual player bases, it failed to fully satisfy either.
Scarcely 11 months have elapsed since Far Cry 5, yet somehow time has telescoped enough for Ubisoft to churn out another instalment in the open-world shooter series. The explanation is clear enough when you realise the bucolic setting of Hope County - think Trump heartland - has been repurposed for (sigh) a post-apocalyptic version.
You wait ages for one Crackdown 3 and then two come along at once. This much-delayed superhero fantasy props up Microsoft's spring schedule but neither of its components stand out after protracted development.
Obscuring, confusing and sabotaging, the clouds transform Ace Combat's dogfighting in this latest in the long-running series. What might seem like innocuous wisps of fluff perform an elemental...
If Ben Irving had his way, he and the team at BioWare would keep making Anthem forever.
Reflecting on the pixellated state of graphics 20 years ago, it's difficult to realise how scary Resident Evil 2 was in 1998. But Capcom's zombie-outbreak masterpiece was filled with horrific...
Some allegories are more transparent than others. It doesn't take a genius to spot the underlying theme of Gris. It's a delightfully presented world in which restoring colour to the beautiful monochrome vistas acts as a tonic to the main character's state of mind.
A game less in need of an age rating than a patience rating, Below emerges from five-year development hell with a warning. Don't buy this unless you've a deep well of bloody-mindedness.
Originality may be overrated but a little goes a long way. Perhaps the zombie trope had been bludgeoned to death already when Days Gone began development in 2015. Yet here we are four years later and it has hardly a new idea to call its own.
Pioneering as always, Nintendo jumped into virtual reality in 1995 long before its resurgence in recent years. But its Virtual Boy headset was fairly rubbish and flopped unceremoniously back then.
Nintendo sure loves its cardboard these days. With another batch of the brilliant Labo real-world papercraft games coming soon, there's just time to squeeze in a return visit to Yoshi's handmade haven.
One of the great joys in Sea of Thieves, Microsoft’s raucous pirate sim, comes from dropping the anchor while sailing at full speed. Rather unrealistically but totally amusingly, your ship performs a handbrake turn, perfect for docking quickly or dodging enemy cannonballs.
Ninja fans of a certain vintage may dimly recall Tenchu, a stealth assassin series last glimpsed a decade ago. Sekiro, the latest offering from Dark Souls creator From Software, began life as a Tenchu follow-up only to morph into something different.
Stick with me here because this gets weird. You're a wheeler-dealer piloting a steam train through space, dodging pirates and giant squid while (hopefully) not resorting to cannibalism. Oh, and you can heal at a brothel that doubles as a nunnery (no, really).
"There is Metro, nothing else," the inhabitants of post-apocalyptic Moscow in this book-to-game series were told repeatedly. Much like a lot of government propaganda, it was a lie.
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?
Amazon reputedly paid up to $250m for Jeremy Clarkson and co to make their Top Gear-alike car show for the Prime streaming TV service. This curious hybrid is a hesitant attempt to exploit, ahem, market the brand with a mix of footage from the show that segues into videogame driving sequences.
Players may despair of the excessive handholding that blights some games.
GIANT woolly mammoths would improve almost any game, we can all agree. But author Dmitry Glukhovsky fought a losing battle to have the prehistoric creatures incorporated into Metro Exodus, the latest game adaptation of his wild post-apocalyptic fiction.
Generosity is the watchword for Ultimate, the acme of Nintendo's fighting series that has racked up almost two decades of madcap brawling. With 74 fighters, 750 tunes and more than 100 level designs, even the raw numbers fail to do SSBU justice.
Start saving your pennies now as the hotly anticipated titles start to come thick and fast from later this month.
If a new product drops in price by 40pc just weeks after its launch, you know something's amiss. Most surprising is that the item comes from Sony, purveyors of fine hardware and wildly successful games consoles.
We are in a golden age of gaming and this list could have been twice as long. But forced to pick our top 10 of the last 12 months, these are the games you should not miss.
Choas is the currency of the Just Cause series, an amusing open-world sandbox that gets more outrageous with mercenary Rico Rodriguez's every outing. JC4 ups the ante in several entertaining ways, including a devastating weather system. But it never addresses the underlying weaknesses of Rico's rampages in South American dictatorships.
Always under-promise and over-deliver, never the other way round. In one sense, Battlefield V stands head held high, pulsating with thunderous, exhilarating action as it tackles World War II.
For a game going on 35 years old, Tetris is in great shape. Having slotted itself into every possible platform since its creation by Soviet engineer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984, now it falls into its real niche in virtual reality.
Assassination is a serious business, but the Hitman series likes to play it for laughs, taking the edge off a macabre theme. How else do you explain murder by (dead, stuffed) shark, among many other absurd options?
In a mark of the maturity of the medium, videogames have joined the centenary Armistice commemorations with this thoughtful and sober evocation of the horrors of the Great War.
Everyone lives and dies by the sword in SoulCalibur. Among fighting games, weapons combat is the unique series signature, along with the freedom afforded by the eight-way movement.
WE thought the phenomenon of toys-to-life was dead. But Ubisoft believes otherwise. Despite Activision canning Skylanders and Warners killing Lego Dimensions in quick succession, Ubi has decided there’s life in the genre yet.
SO this is what happens when almost 2,000 people in nine studios across the world spend seven years meticulously fashioning a breathtaking simulacrum of the Wild West, at a cost running to hundreds of millions of euro.
The world probably doesn't need another Super Mario Party game - but we've got one anyway. This rendition of the long-running virtual board-game is equal parts simple, silly and sassy.
Just occasionally in this gaming lark, you stumble into something that completely upends your expectations and leaves you laughing out loud at its invention. Astro Bot is a glorious example of that rare beast.
A slow-paced piece of interactive fiction, LIS2 has no connection to the high-school melodrama of the original, focusing instead on two young runaway brothers fleeing a horrible killing.
WAR never changes, “they” say. Well, “they” haven’t paid attention to the rapid evolution of military shooters in recent years, not least since the explosive popularity of PUBG unleashed an entirely new genre.
Everybody wants something from you in Odyssey, the umpteenth in the AC series that edges ever further from its origins as an assassin simulator. Reminiscent of another great RPG, The Witcher 3, this instalment (set in Spartan-era Greece) melds a sprawling storyline with myriad side-quests from ordinary folk who "need something done".
"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads!" Forza Horizon takes its inspiration from myriad sources but perhaps none more so than Doc Brown's line in Back to the Future.
Ikea meets Lego meets Minecraft. Excuse the hyperbole, but that’s the potential of Nintendo’s left-field Labo construction kit, which offers you a box of flat cardboard and challenges you to make something with your hands. You know, like the good old days.
When you’ve triggered the apocalypse, who could blame you for becoming a little morose?
A seemingly deep game with hidden shallows, Donut County builds a short two-hour experience around one clever idea. Give the player a moveable hole that grows bigger as it swallows objects.
IN a little clearing in the woods, we enter a glass room and spy a perspex lift shaft disappearing into the earth. Pressing a button brings the elevator silently to the surface and we descend into the bowels of the building, to be greeted by white corridors stretching off into the distance as far as the eye can see.
The king of the swingers leaves behind some awkward questions. To what do Spider-Man’s webs magically attach to up high beyond the buildings so that he may swing through Manhattan like a modern-day Tarzan? Who cleans up all the webbing he slings at crooks? Is it biodegradeable?
Every year, it's a struggle to find a new analogy to illuminate the scrap between megabucks franchise FIFA and plucky underdog PES - prince vs pauper, Man City vs Leicester, etc.
With tongue so firmly in cheek, it's practically sticking out, Strange Brigade parodies those 1930s adventure serials that spawned Spielberg classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. The members of the Strange Brigade - a band of gung-ho archaeologists-cum-secret agents - pull off a fine impression of Indiana Jones in this four-player co-op supernatural shooter that's also part puzzler and explorathon.
Death is an inconvenience in this rogue-like 2D prison-escape platformer that riffs on Metroidvania tropes and echoes the vertiginous challenge of Dark Souls. If you cark it before the end of a level in Dead Cells, it's back to the beginning (the very beginning in your cell) for you, with the landscape randomly rearranged and all your weapons stripped away.
Nintendo doesn't seem as if it does naughty. The squeaky-clean heroes of the Kyoto giant contrast with the wicked warriors and mean-spirited killing machines that dominate the rest of gaming.
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.
EA took a right kicking for its implementation of lootboxes in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Even politicians became involved in the row over the lack of transparency, the poor value and the cynical attitude of a mega-corporation exploiting a cherished franchise.
We all know that feeling of waking up in a hotel room, not knowing where the hell we are, what we did last night, and why we're there. The Spectrum Retreat is just like that, only worse, in the most entertaining way.
Nine years is a long time in gaming. Genres come and go, technology rapidly changes, and what seemed cutting edge a decade ago stands little hope of holding out against the shiny baubles of 2018.
WHY can’t we all get along? In the quarrelsome world of videogames, it’s no wonder players’ instincts bend inexorably towards shooting first and asking questions later.
Mario never gives it to you straight. When the world's most famous plumber tries his hand at sport, he's forever throwing curveballs. From soccer to tennis, the rules go out the window in Nintendo's versions.
Meet the new Crew, same as the old Crew (but different). Yes, that doesn't make sense but then neither does this sequel, at least in its current form.
THE Last of Us was just about the most bleak game you’ve ever played. It took the post-apocalyptic nihilism of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and stitched in a layer of deadly zombie-like ‘clickers’ for good measure. Hope was in short supply, not least in the ending.
Hanging by a thread encapsulates the theme and gameplay of this sequel to the charming but slight indie platformer by Swedish studio Coldwood from 2016. Released on the same day it was announced at EA's pre-E3 event last month, Unravel Two springs from a similar well as the original, as a woolly character named Yarny overcomes obstacles in a natural environment.
A bundle of contradictions, Onrush is the racer where you don't race, and a revival of the arcade genre popularised by the audaciously fun Burnout.
REMEMBER the time Ireland beat Brazil 9-0? I do. David Meyler played an absolute stormer, marshalling the whole team. Neymar flounced around being useless and the South Americans could barely string two passes together.
THE consensus is that Xbox ‘won’ this year’s E3 game show in LA with a strong showing that delivered a broad slate of upcoming games, as well as the addition of five studios to its development team.
The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles had more than 3,000 products on show from hundreds of exhibitors across the vast halls of the LA Convention Centre and many more venues around the City of Angels. Here's what I found as the only Irish journalist to attend.
Can we all just calm down for a minute? Gamers: No one's trying to stigmatise you if you're a little obsessive about your pastime. Parents: Your children will not be sucked into a life of worthless oblivion if you let them play a little more 'Fortnite' today.
A dancing panda, a lesbian kiss, a "healing space" for the elderly with dementia and, of course, bone-crunching violence. The common thread linking them all is probably the last thing you'd guess: video games.
Designed seemingly by a demented draughtsman, the oppressive architecture of Dark Souls is what stands out most for me seven years after it was first released in 2011.
Androids, they're just like oppressed black communities, aren't they? The latest pseudo-social cinematic production from French auteur David Cage couldn't be any more transparent in its parallels if it tried.
IRELAND may still get to the FIFA World Cup after all if one Irish player has his way this week.
The jokes write themselves. Shambling zombies in shambles. Brain-dead survivors fight undead. Civilisation in disarray portrayed by chaotic game.
The journey from game console to touchscreen device is an arduous one. Many developers have come unstuck in trying to translate ideas best suited to a console controller.
DUBLIN footballer Ciaran Kilkenny and Tipperary hurler Jason Forde are the best players this year in their respective leagues, according to an analysis of performance data for the 2018 GAA season.
NINTENDO engineered a flop when building the Wii U console, the successor to the gazillion-selling Wii. The misstep cost Nintendo its lead in the market but also cast many worthy Wii U games into premature obscurity. Hence DKCTF's revival, the latest remake to pad out the Switch release schedule.
Parents already know the frustration of shelling out for an expensive toy only for their youngster to spend more time engaged with the simple box it came in. Nintendo cleverly draws on that experience in its new Labo toy kits that combine the functionality of a game console with the tactile task of building components from cardboard, string and rubber bands.
Worst. Dad. Ever. As candidates for father of the year go, perma-angry Spartan warrior Kratos is the most unlikely. He mistakenly slew his wife and daughter in the franchise's debut instalment in 2005. Now, as this lavish reboot from the same Santa Monica Studio opens, his second wife has passed away and he's left to raise their son Atreus alone.
Nine years in gestation, Owlboy made a low-key debut on PC in 2016 but this retro platformer about a hapless young owl battling sky pirates always deserved a bigger audience. Now ported to the leading consoles, the experience has been rendered unchanged, its pretty 2D aesthetic a throwback to the 16-bit era of pixelated visuals.
Not for the first time, we are urged to invest in a dislikeable lead, except this time on the double. Leo Caruso is quite the asshole, an arrogant thief who is newly jailed. His new pal, convicted murderer Vincent Moretti, rates as only marginally more agreeable.
Political and social satire is a rare beast in gaming. It's not that it doesn't exist - see controversial examples such as JFK Reloaded, The McDonald's Game or Super Columbine Massacre RPG. But at the big-budget level of Far Cry 5, few chances are taken.
The south of Spain is the most popular destination for Irish sunseekers, with Malaga Airport on the Costa de Sol handling the highest number of holidaymakers from this country over the last six years.
Kirby's adventures in 2D platforming have never been remotely demanding, focusing instead on a sugary confection of colour, wacky scenery and Mr K's signature ability to absorb enemies' powers.
It's easy to get lost in Sea of Thieves, in every sense of the words. This unpredictable pirate adventure revels in its physicality, eschewing many common game protocols to force players to think and act as if it's a real world.
The screech of tortured metal, the theatrical shower of sparks, the blinding sense of speed - nobody did car carnage better than the team at Criterion, an EA studio from which most original staff have now scattered to the four winds.
PlayStation has given birth to many icons, from Crash Bandicoot to Nathan Drake to Kratos, God of War. Moss deserves instant promotion to these hallowed ranks, purely on the basis of this short VR adventure.
UNIVERSITY Hospital Limerick has the worst record for the number of patients on trolleys over the last five years, according to an analysis of data from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
John Steinbeck could never have imagined his novel The Grapes of Wrath becoming a video game. But that is effectively the heart of Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, a remarkable collection of vignettes set largely amid America's Great Depression.
So beautiful, and yet so dangerous. Subnautica's gorgeous underwater world resembles something out of David Attenborough's Planet Earth, but with added monsters.
It took me several games of EA's latest attempt at capturing the essence of MMA to realise that UFC is just a real-life version of Tekken or Street Fighter (without the fireballs, obviously). It comes with brutal moves, outrageous showboating, plus copious splatterings of blood and sweat.
IN A boardroom in the countryside outside Birmingham sits a weary Gregg Mayles, creative director at renowned studio Rare. With just a few weeks to go to the launch of arguably Rare’s most important ever game, Sea of Thieves, Mayles hunches over his laptop writing dialogue, fielding emails and greeting media visiting the offices set amid the rolling fields near Twycross.
Homer Simpson wouldn't like Celeste. This is the man who said to Bart and Lisa: "You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try."
This is what clubbing a seal to death must feel like. Except you were duped into thinking the seal was an evil monster.
It would be easy to overlook this belated port of a 2014 PS4/PC chiller, but fans of intense mysteries should give it a whirl. It belongs to a genre unfairly dubbed "walking simulators" but there's much more to the Vanishing than ambling from place to place, drinking in the atmosphere.
This might just have as well been subtitled "fantastic beasts and where to find them", for it's the latest in Capcom's long-running Monster Hunter franchise. Nothing to do with JK Rowling and everything to do with communal expeditions to track and slay gargantuan animals.
The last horrorfest from the Supermassive studio was a masterful riff on teen slasher flicks. Until Dawn's mix of Hollywood royalty (Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek) and knowing twists on genre conventions won it a Bafta for Best Original Property.
Farmers account for the third highest number of tax defaulters, according to an analysis of figures from the Revenue Commissioners.
Curiosity killed the cat, but in Gorogoa it gets you places. This remarkable one-man project took more than six years of painstaking experimentation and reworking before its emergence as a delightfully realised puzzle.
Donegal has the highest rate of tax defaulters in Ireland over the past five years, according to an analysis of figures from the Revenue Commissioners.
It's the silence that gets you in Battlegrounds. In rival shooters, the air crackles and fizzes with the din of furious gunfire. But much of your time in PUBG (as aficionados dub it) is spent fearfully creeping around abandoned buildings scavenging weaponry while listening intently for a sound, any sound.
Our gaming expert looks forward to new game releases in 2018.
The first thing that strikes you about Cuphead is its gorgeous and distinctive 1930s-style artwork. The second thing is its utter mercilessness. Consisting largely of a series of one-screen boss fights, Cuphead laughs in your face at your best efforts.
You probably shouldn’t laugh but the inevitable reaction to some of the more pretentious dialogue in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a guffaw. Not because it’s inherently funny but because there’s something ludicrous about grandiose statements dripping from the mouths of anime characters in British regional accents.
THE Fast and the Furious has much to answer for. The Vin Diesel vehicle, now in its umpteenth incarnation, has its share of lazy characterisation and improbable plotting but at least can always fall back on outrageous stunts to prop up viewer interest.
PLAYSTATION is mighty keen to push its PlayLink tie-up with smartphones, allowing multiple players to feed into an interactive PS4 experience with their mobiles as controllers. It’s a great idea in theory but the execution leaves a little to be desired.
From Hawaii to Australia to Belgium, the debate rages. Across the world, regulatory authorities are talking about Battlefront 2. Not about whether it’s any good but whether its controversial loot boxes constitute gambling.
THERE’S no future in the future. The Call of Duty juggernaut has finally tired of its sci-fi leanings and pulled back from the faintly ridiculous laser-shooting, rocket-jumping cul-de-sac the franchise had wandered down.
THE stuffy blazers of the Royal and Ancient would have a fit. Golf’s overseers would hardly approve of the outrageous outfits, incessant chatter and impatient simultaneous play of this long-running series. But that’s a core part of the joy of this PlayStation stalwart, which as the title suggests brings “a good walk spoiled” to the masses.
THE 2014 Wolfenstein reboot arrived as a startling scrambling of the old order. Wolfenstein 3D invented the simplistic first-person shooter in 1992, paving the way for Halo, Call of Duty, Destiny, etc. But its 2014 descendant deftly rewrote the playbook, turning gung-ho hero BJ Blazkowicz into a sympathetic, troubled character – albeit one who still gunned down Nazis (and Nazi zombies) –...
YOU’RE looking at the second fruit of Nintendo’s eye-opening decision to lend its iconic franchises to the Dynasty Warriors template, a fairly mindless hack’n’slash that never really gained popularity outside of Japan. But last year’s Hyrule Warriors obviously did some business on these shores or this crossover with Fire Emblem would never exist.
SLAYING orcs by the hundred never costs a thought. As cannon fodder goes in videogames, these nasty, filthy creatures with their slobbering jaws and twisted faces practically invite a sword to the gut.
A MATE of mine religiously spends at least €600 a year upgrading the graphics card on his PC. Every second year, he shells out even more to replace his processor, motherboard, memory … the list goes on. The wallet pain just about keeps him abreast of PC requirements for the latest games.
From one extreme to another in four years. Gran Turismo 6 shipped in 2013 with 1,200 cars and almost 90 track layouts but its successor (which we shouldn't call GT7 but could anyway) manages just one-tenth of the vehicles and half the tracks.
Hats off to Nintendo but it’s done it again. As if the latest Legend of Zelda wasn’t reason enough alone to own a Switch console, Super Mario Odyssey effortlessly confirms the theory that no one can conjure gaming magic like Nintendo can.
Cuphead ships with two difficulty levels: "impossible" and "harder than impossible". Or so it seems when you dive into this delightful side-scrolling 2D shooter.
You would think the scenery in a driving game to be no more than background, a placeholder in a world where you're focused relentlessly on that narrow strip of tarmac in front of you. But lap after lap in Forza 7 something new always caught my eye.