Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Out now on DVD and Blu-ray, Avengers: Age of Ultron is the latest film (apart from Ant-Man) in the now expansive Marvel film canon. It had a lot of things to achieve. It needed to be as good as people have come to expect from Marvel in the past, it needed to be bigger than the first Avengers, it needed to lay the foundations for the next few films and it had to please the Whedonites. Does it succeed? Read on! 

This sequel to the 2012 original sees Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ resident scientists, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, create a worldwide peacekeeping programme to really keep the bad guys at bay. As is the norm with films of this ilk, things quickly go awry and Ultron is created. This sees the team bouncing all over the world in an effort to stop it. Since the first film, the Marvel cinematic universe has expanded a whole lot. In this film alone there is at least ten central characters to keep track off. The acting is still great though so the majority of characters are entertaining to watch (although Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Quicksilver is irritating with his fake Russian accent). And with this being a Joss Whedon film, I bet you’re all expecting that witty, snappy dialogue! There are some great lines in the film, like Hawkeye’s line, “The city is flying and we're fighting an army of robots. And I have a bow and arrow. Nothing makes sense.” Joss Whedon is a good writer and he brings the characters to life and he makes what might have been a pretentious film as the trailer’s suggested (the Pinocchio song in the trailer was a bit much guys) more funny and light-hearted than you’d expect. Although with all the talk of cuts this film went through you wonder what HE wanted the final product to look like.

Joss Whedon writes those clever sarcastic characters really well, like Tony Stark. But in this film one too many characters sound like Tony Stark. They all have these quick-witted one-liners that on a few occasions reminds you that you’re watching a film written by Joss Whedon. The worst example of a Whedon-ism is the speech Andy Serkis’s character gives about cuttlefish which just borders on annoying. But luckily the vast majority of the dialogue is good so it’s easy to forgive these few Whedon-y moments.

There is some delving into the character’s psyches in Age of Ultron and that stuff works really well. Seeing the minds of the heroes is a nice touch, except in Thor’s case in which it leads him off into a subplot that was really not needed. It feels like set up for Thor 3 and not an integral part of the plot. There is however an excellent, unexpected subplot about Hawkeye and his family. This is a great addition, if only because Jeremy Renner is a fantastic actor and it’s about time he got some more story!

People have noted recently that Marvel has a problem with it’s villains. Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy was pretty crap and does anyone even remember Christopher Eccleston was in Thor 2? I don’t think that’s the case with Ultron. His plan to save humanity by eradicating it makes sense, to him at least. He’s also pretty charismatic. People had a problem with how funny he was, that he wasn’t the serious villain that he was advertised as. But for me it was a breath of fresh air to have a funny and unexpected villain as opposed to the boring villains we’ve had recently. With that being said, his ending in the film is pretty disappointing. I won’t spoil it but don’t expect a big finale with Ultron. Also the film is called the ‘Age’ of Ultron, which means his ‘age’ only lasts a couple of days. He never quite lives up to the threat he’s built up as.

Despite one particular scene in a boat in which it gets a little too cluttered, the action in Age of Ultron is really well done. The standout fight is the Hulkbuster fight about halfway through, which sees the Hulk go up against Iron Man in some pretty giant armour. It’s well made and it is original, and it’s awesome to see the two characters duking it out. The ending action scene is great too, an over the top set piece straight out of a comic book in which a city floats above the ground. Each member of the team gets a chance to shine, and seeing them all balanced perfectly with one another makes you realise when it’s done right, it doesn’t matter how many characters there are.

The film overall is better than the first, more action and more superheroes. But to some that may not be enough. At this point in the Marvel cinematic universe we are really expecting a little bit more, something more original. To keep the run of superhero movies going the creators need to be creative. Ant-Man knew that and delivered a film that was unlike any other we’ve had. Age of Ultron is basically just The Avengers 2.0. and for some that will be more than enough, but for others it may leave them craving something more.

The comic book fan in me really, really enjoyed Age of Ultron. It’s fast, funny and has some scenes in it that I’ve wanted to see since being a little kid. Seeing Cap and Iron Man argue foreshadows the beginning of the Civil War and I cannot wait. For that the film gets four stars. If, however, you have not grown up with these characters or you expected something to twist the Marvel Universe on it’s head, or something gritty and serious, then you will be disappointed. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron gets 4/5 stars.


Jack Bumby

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Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Asus Zenfone 2

There are phones and then there are beasts, and Asus just managed to unleash a monster with the Zenfone 2, as this is the most powerful phone to come out of the Asus yet.

Design , Display & Hardware: 


The phone feels great in your hands, albeit a little bigger as at 5.5" the screen to body ratio isn't great. With dimensions of 152.5 x 77.2 x 10.9 mm (thick and heavy at 170 gms) it looks inspired from the LG G series of phones. The phone comes in 5 colours; Red, Silver , Black , White and Gold.        

The volume rocker is at the rear just underneath the camera, while the power button is  right at the top edge in the centre, awkwardly placed alongside the 3.5mm jack. Thanks to  the double tap to lock/unlock, you won't really use the power button except to turn the device on/off.  The back cover is removable plastic but has that great brushed metal finish, so it thankfully doesn't attract any fingerprints. The Back, Home and Menu buttons are below the screen and not backlit.

It has a 5.5" screen that utilizes an IPS capacitive touch screen with 1080p resolution and 401ppi with Gorilla Glass 3 protection. The innards host an Intel Atom Z3580 chipset with a 2.3GHz quad-core processor and PowerVR G6430 GPU, 4GB of RAM, 32GB (25GB approx available memory) of storage and a microSD slot for further expansion upto 64GB. It's a Dual-SIM (4G + 2G) device and has NFC, Bluetooth 4.0; GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS that is fuelled by a 3,000mAh sealed battery that can fast charge to 60% in 40 minutes! (only with the original ASUS charger).  Call quality is good and had crystal clear voice from the speaker, while the loudspeaker is decent as well.

Software :

It comes with Android 5.0 out of the box overlaid with the Asus Zen UI which is not very heavy but again, there's a lot of bloatware installed here, with most of them being non-removable. There are 3 customisable app shortcuts on the lock screen which are still lower than what many other UIs offer. ( 5 on the LG G2 for example). The phone also has a ZenLink package of 4 apps such as PC Link (to control the phone from your PC ), Remote Link ( turns your phone into a remote for the PC), Share Link & Party Link ( sharing files & images with other Aus devices).

Gestures for apps work while phone is in the sleep mode, so drawing a “C” on the screen can take you straight to the Camera app. You can customise up to 6 of these for any apps you want.

Camera :

The Asus Zenfone 2 ZE551ML is equipped with a 13MP rear camera with a f/2.0 lens and Asus' proprietary PixelMaster 2.0 technology, capable of producing shots up to 4,096 x 3,072 pixels. It is also aided by a dual-tone dual-LED flash for low-light shooting. The volume rocker can be used for either zoom control, or shutter release (much needed for those front cam photos). Photos are good in daylight but do get pixelated at the slightest use of the zoom function. There's also a Super Resolution model that merges 4 x 13MP pics into one image.

The front camera is a 5MP unit which outputs photos up to 2,560 x 1,920 pixels, satisfactory for your social media posts. Videos can be shot at 1080p at30fps only, again not the best use of the great H/W which is ideally capable of playing at least 60fps.

Gaming & Multimedia :

Usual high end games like FIFA 15, Asphalt 8 andModern Combat worked flawlessly even when switching between them randomly, and all 3 running in the background ready to continue from where they were paused. This clearly demonstrates the partnership of the Intel CPU working with the 4GB of ROM on board, which is as good as any Snapdragon processor could do.

There's a built in Aus Mini Movie app that lets you add your images and turn into a video with special effects, and Asus Music player with an Audio Wizard sound enhancement software takes care of all your music needs. A good pair of earphones should do the trick here.

AnTuTu test score of 48512 with this phone is higher than LG G3 and Samsung Note 3 but, they’re last year's flagships. Samsung S6 , HTC M9 and even Note 4 are higher than the Zenfone 2.  With the 3000 mAh battery I only got 8 hours of usage out of it, which did definitely disappoint me considering the fact that this is a flagship device. Even if this was all out usage, on any other day as well you'll definitely need to charge the phone at least once a day.


Conclusion :

Great H/W for those who want to have  a phone that is a top spec phone. It's definitely value for money if you chose to ignore the cons like average battery life, non removable battery and its rather ordinary camera. It could've been a flagship killer like the One Plus Two which has similar specs but is a much better phone for just a little higher price.

The Asus Zenfone 2 gets a 3/5.

Pritesh Khilnani

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Monday, 28 September 2015

Super Mario Maker

Have you ever played a Mario game and thought to yourself “Yes, this has exquisite level design and timeless gameplay, but what this stage really needs is an enormous cock and balls fashioned from coins”?

Welcome to Super Mario Maker.

Developed by Nintendo and out now on the Wii U comes Super Mario Maker. The truth is of course that such a level wouldn't survive long at all with Nintendo's censors doing the rounds, and perhaps it would even get you a temporary or permanent level sharing ban; so don't try this at home, kids. You could certainly do something like that for your own amusement if you have a mental age of ten, though. Placing objects in each level is as easy as tapping the screen with the relevant object/enemy selected. If you want to 'draw' or 'write' with bricks or coins, you can try dragging the stylus across the screen to place multiple items in a row; but for accuracy, you'll need to place 'em one by one using the faint but visible on-screen grid.

There's been a bit of hoo-ha about how the level creation content is unlocked. There are in effect a collection of level creation 'packs' that contain various things such as themes (make it look like one of the earlier Marios, or New Super Mario Bros U), enemies, objects, hazards, tools, and more. Initially, Nintendo announced that one of these packs would be unlocked on each day of play – no more, no less. This kicked off so much nerd rage however, you'll notice that there's a patch to download which changes this. Now, a new pack is unlocked whenever you've spent a certain amount of active time in Create.

Games with a heavy creation element tend to have prolonged, tedious tutorial stages where all the good stuff is blocked off. Even Minecraft is guilty of this to an extent. Here however, you're given surprisingly little direction; most of what you learn, you learn by testing things out and playing around. It's all been perfectly balanced too, so that you'll be putting a workable level together within 15 minutes of first playing, with all the background heavy lifting done for you so that it's all mechanically sound. As for the unlocking of content I found that, after the first few packs, new stuff was arriving before I'd even finished playing around with what I already had.

But are there levels to actually play? Of course! There are 30 stages on the disc unlocked as you progress, but these are mostly there for the purposes of showing what's possible with the level packs, and aren't exactly Miyamoto-beaters. There's also the aforementioned level sharing, which is done better than LittleBigPlanet in some respects. Not all examples are great of course, with a few where Little Johnny has essentially farted a brief and directionless level into existence. There should be no fundamentally broken levels however, as you must play your level from start to finish before being allowed to upload it. Also, each user is limited to just ten uploaded levels at a time – unless other users reward their efforts by favouriting them.

There are some inspiring examples of what's possible too, with (for instance) several popular levels that play themselves; Mario goes from start to finish without you touching the controls at all, whizzing through a stage that must have taken an unhealthy amount of time to make. On a related note, Nintendo aren't precious about their franchise here. You can make 'straight' Mario levels; but do you want ten Bowsers underwater? A giant turtle in a retro stage? A squid on an airship? A Link costume in a question mark block? Go for it. It's the most user friendly level creator I personally have ever known, which is just as fun to use as to play. If you are even slightly interested in Mario games, buy the hell out of this.

Maker no mistake, Super Mario Maker is awesome. 5/5.


Luke Kemp

Super Mario Maker at CeX

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Sunday, 27 September 2015

Escobar: Paradise Lost

For those of you who don’t know Entourage, it was a brilliant comedy series (and disappointing film) that followed the lives of a fictional young actor and his friends trying to get by in Hollywood, given extra authenticity by having countless actors playing themselves and making the Entourage world feel like the real world. Back in the early years of the show, a running storyline was Vincent Chase’s attempts to secure the role of Pablo Escobar in ‘Medellin’, an Escobar biopic within the series. One of the hurdles Vincent came up against was the possibility that Benicio Del Toro may have already secured the role. Now, in one of many cases of life-imitating-Entourage, Del Toro is finally here playing the infamous drug lord. 

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes Andrea Di Stefano’s directorial debut Escobar: Paradise Lost, a ridiculously underwhelming little film. Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games’ Peeta) stars as Nick, a young surfer who falls for the beautiful Maria (Claudia Traisac). Everything seems hunky dory until Maria introduces Nick to her uncle, the feared criminal Pablo Escobar (Benicio Del Toro) who quickly pulls Nick into his dodgy business. Unfortunately, this narrative is one of the main issues with Escobar: Paradise Lost. Instead of opting for a straight-up biopic of Escobar, the film is more of an unfocused romance between the two youngsters with thriller elements and the occasional appearance from everyone’s favourite Columbian drug lord. This is ridiculously disappointing for those of us who’ve waited a long time to see Escobar’s story reach the screen – even more so for us Entourage fans who want to see a real-life ‘Medellin’! 

Benicio Del Toro owns the film and, unsurprisingly, proves himself a perfect casting choice for the iconic criminal. His subdued lack of mercy combined with the ease with which he orders murders creates a strong sense of darkness and dread throughout the film, and creates an incredibly strong presence for his character, as with Brando in The Godfather, despite the focus rarely being placed on him. Unfortunately we must spend the majority of our time watching Josh Hutcherson’s silly little romance with Claudia Traisac, which really does not need to be in an Escobar film. One can only imagine this was done to try and shift a few more tickets to the Hunger Games crowd – an example of Hollywood being more evil than Escobar himself, getting too greedy to realise they’re wasting the opportunity to make a great film. Hutcherson’s Nick is so bland and lifeless in comparison to del Toro’s menacing presence that it makes him look even worse, like Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. Patrick Smith of The Daily Telegraphy wrote ‘Every time del Toro's onscreen, you're so blown away that you end up angry at what might have been’. And he’s right. This could’ve been a phenomenal, award-winning crime thriller with that performance. Back in Entourage, ‘Medellin’ was labelled as ‘the next Scarface’ and that’s exactly what this could’ve been. But it’s not. It’s one of the most disappointing films ever made, especially given the strength of the source subject and the talent playing the character.

It’s not all hopeless. Escobar: Paradise Lost looks nice enough, don’t get me wrong. The visuals perfectly match the tone of the film, especially as they get darker and bleaker when Nick learns more and more about ‘Uncle Pablo’. The music is great, and the direction is more than adequate, especially from a first timer. In terms of the production, it’s certainly a decent effort. But unfortunately it’s this insistence on focusing on a fictional young romance that cuts deep, when Escobar’s thrilling life could fill a hundred films by itself. Benicio del Toro is incredible in it, but he has unfortunately wasted his time on a criminally underwhelming film that could’ve been so much more. What a shame.

Escobar: Paradise Lost is not the film it could’ve been, and walks away with a disappointing 2/5.


Sam Love

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Saturday, 26 September 2015

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

Following hugely successful broadcasts on HBO in the US and Sky Atlantic in the UK, The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is out now on DVD. Shortened to The Jinx, it is a 6-part documentary series recounting and arguably investigating one of the most bizarre cases in crime history. How many of you saw the 2010 thriller All Good Things, starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst? Not many, right? But if you have seen it, you basically know the Robert Durst case. Strongly based on the Durst story but partly fictionalised, it is because of this film that The Jinx series happened. Robert Durst, subject of the film, contacted All Good Things director Andrew Jarecki to arrange an interview and discuss the accuracy of the film. And so, The Jinx was born.  

For those of you unfamiliar with the case, it goes a little something like this. In the 1980s, eccentric millionaire Robert Durst’s wife went missing, never to be found. In 2000, his long-time best friend and confidante was found murdered in her home. And in 2001, his neighbour’s remains were found in the Galveston Bay water, where he was living nearby under a false name and unusual disguise. But due to the lack of any hard evidence and several unpredictable turns of events, Durst has never been convicted of murder. I won’t say any more about the case but believe me when I say you’ve never seen or heard anything like this before. You may have heard parts of it – it was particularly relevant recently in the news, when the series ended – but if you don’t, steer clear of any research until you’ve finished watching it. Go in blind and be shocked by the unexpected turns, or go in aware of the case and still leave in awe of the filmmaking. Either way, The Jinx will grip you. It will grab you from the first minute, hold you tight, and then throw you away at the end in a smug “aren’t I just the best thing you’ve watched recently” kind of way.

Andrew Jarecki, director of documentary Capturing the Friedmans and aforementioned thriller All Good Things, creates an exceptional piece of work here. The Jinx is the most compelling, gripping, tense and addictive series I have seen in a long, long time. Playing out like a thriller, the case is delivered in (mostly) chronological order and unfolds with twists and turns in a way you will hardly be able to believe is real. But it is all true, and therein lies a big chunk of The Jinx’s power. The rest of its power? Simple. The constant interview and testimony throughout with Robert Durst himself. Usually when we watch a documentary about a killer, we just hear from the police and the victim’s families. Here, we regularly hear from an often brutally honest and bloody creepy Durst whose lack of empathy and uncomfortable delivery makes for truly engrossing viewing. I’m sure people will be analysing his behaviour in this piece for years to come. A cheap, Channel 5 documentary series this ain’t. Produced by HBO, the production values are exceptional. If you’ve seen The Imposter, Bart Layton’s BAFTA-winning documentary film, then you’ll know the cinematic and film-like power a documentary can have when done right.

In The Jinx, reconstructions are incredibly well-shot and brooding, and the opening credits sequence in each episode is the best I’ve ever seen – perfectly setting the mood and introducing the menacing Durst in the best way. The original score by West Dylan Thordson is eerily creepy and foreboding, the pacing is consistently excellent and the editing is spot-on. There’s not a dull minute in the six hours of The Jinx, thanks to these factors and the fact that this is one of the most interesting and bizarre cases in history.

All in all, The Jinx is perfect television. There isn’t one thing I can possibly fault with the series. I’ve watched it through 3 times, and could easily start it again right now. Watch the first few minutes of episode one, and I guarantee you will be completely hooked for the entire six hours. This is one to watch again and again, and deserves a place in any documentary or true-crime fan’s collection. But if you’re not a fan of documentaries, don’t let that put you off The Jinx. It’s as much thriller as it is anything else.

The Jinx pulls off the crime and earns an extremely strong 5/5.


Sam Love

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

This is a game where you fight bears. More specifically, it's a game where you fight robot bears. Impossible as it may seem given this information, however, it's not a game for everyone. There are two ways to review this. The easy way is to say to people who already love the Danganronpa series “Yes, this is totally worth it, buy it immediately”. The other way is to reluctantly acknowledge that most people won't know their Makoto from their Junko. So here we go; wish me luck.

Developed by Spike Chunsoft and out now for PS Vita comes Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. This is a Vita exclusive game, which is – ironically – sort of like saying 'this is a Latin exclusive book'. Not even Sony cares about the Vita anymore; if you have one, that's likely only because (a) you've forgotten that you own one and it's gathering dust somewhere, or (b) you were waiting for the next Danganronpa game. The first two were also Vita exclusives in English speaking countries, you see, and they've built up a ferociously devoted cult following. Whereas Danganronpa 1 & 2 belong to the interactive novel genre (where almost all your time is spent reading and/or listening to dialogue), Ultra Despair Girls is (theoretically) a third person shooter. 

The Danganronpa universe is one where the world has been thrown into chaos by 'The Tragedy', with the ruinous state of the world having been kicked off and perpetuated by a highly dangerous organisation concerned only with spreading despair across the planet (like the Tories). The first two games saw talented students forced to kill one another; Ultra Despair Girls is based in the world outside, but in a city isolated from the rest of the planet. Corpses are scattered throughout each level, sometimes literally piled up. All the adults are being slaughtered – and a group of children are behind it. But why...?

The eponymous girls are Komaru and Toko. Komaru is the character you'll be controlling the most, handed as she is a special gun at the beginning of the game to defend herself against the robots known as 'Monokumas'. Holding down the aim button gives you an over-the-shoulder view to unleash the variety of ammo you unlock throughout your adventure. Unfortunately, the deadzones and aiming sensitivity are pretty crap, which I'm happy to (mostly) blame on the Vita. I don't know what the Vita's analogue sticks were designed for, but it wasn't playing videogames. Toko doesn't suffer these problems, as she's a melee fighter. Her weapons are, er, scissors, and you only get to use her for limited periods of time because you need to collect batteries to power the stun gun that, ah, she has to shoot herself with in order to switch personalities and – look, it's not as stupid as it sounds. Not quite.

Despite crappy controls for the main character, the game manages to redeem itself in other areas. There are bloody loads of collectables to find if you're one of those OCD gamers, and the various challenge rooms make a nice change of pace and engage your brain a little. There's no getting away from the fact that the script still dominates the experience; it's no exaggeration to say there's more talking than action. In Danganronpa tradition it's by turns horrifying, intelligent, daft, and witty. That said, the most memorable line for me is the distinctly unwitty “Fuck off, four-eyes!” (and I'm a proud four-eyes myself).

Best appreciated by Danganronpa nuts, it's more story than game – but what a wonderful, fucked up story. If you like anime flavoured games but not interactive novels, why not give this a try anyway? It's not like you're doing anything else with your Vita.

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is flawed, awkward, creepy, and unforgettable. 4/5.


Luke Kemp

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Oculus Connect 2015- 5 Things You Need To Know

Chances are, if you were born somewhere in the 80's you'll remember the the attempted rise of Virtual Reality in the 90's. With every second film, TV series and game out there featuring fictional VR, usually paired up with a cyberpunk setting, it really seemed like VR would finally happen. Sadly though, for all of us out there who dreamed of having our very own Holo-Deck from Star Trek, when the 90's VR craze died out we were all left to cry into our Captain Picard pillows. But the 90's VR craze didn't die because lack of interest, no, it died because the tech at the time wasn't up to scratch. But times have changed and early 2016 sees the release of the Oculus Rift. This week Oculus held their yearly event, Oculus Connect. Here's what you need to know.


VR Minecraft

No matter how impressive VR is, without the games and experiences put in place, it's worthless. That's why a large chunk of this years Oculus Connect seemed to focus on what you'll be able to play with the device upon release. Though literally no real details were given, Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey did reveal that the Windows 10 version of Minecraft will be optimized for the VR headset. All we know so far is that this new version of Minecraft will be played with the Xbox One joypad, rather than with Oculus Touch, the motion sensors developed by Oculus. Minecraft has been unofficially playable with the Rift for some time now due to a very dedicated online community, so lets hope the official version offers players something new.


Though Oculus is more than happy helping developers move forward on new and interesting games and experiences, they're also allowing them to hold onto the past. At Oculus Connect it was announced that the Gear VR will feature a new app simply called Arcade. Though name kind of says it all, Arcade puts the word of retro arcade games at the players fingertips. Teaming with with publishers such as Namco, Sega and Midway, Oculus are bringing a whole slew of classic games to this new app. Again, details are rather thin at this point, but I can only imagine how it'll all work, complete with a smoke filled room, dimmed neon lights blazing a trail for you directly towards an authentic looking Pac-Man cabinet, and all topped off by a simple hand motion to insert a coin. Well, here's hoping it's that magical.

Bullet Train

At Oculus Connect the VR company showed off Bullet Train among other games. Bullet Train is an upcoming VR-only game by Epic Games, the company mostly know for the Gears of War series. Clearly putting Oculus touch to great use, the game is a fast, frantic and action packed shooter that, in theory, should be an incredibly immersive first-person shooter. However, colour me a little pessimistic, as the gameplay video of Bullet Train ultimately looks a little scripted and, well, clumsy. Perhaps it's a whole different story once your perched behind the lenses of the Rift, but right now it looks a bit haphazard, too fast for its own good and not exactly the perfect way of selling some Rift units. Then again, I may be wrong, but once things for certain; indie developers are creating VR experiences that are far more interesting than those of AAA developers.

Oculus Medium

This looks fantastic. Before my days of writing for CeX and the various publications I have found myself in, I studied Multimedia and Games Design. Though I eventually fell out of love with it, I always enjoyed creating characters, locations and worlds. Outside of my well worn pencil and sketchbook, my other tool of creation was 3DS MAX, a program I used to pull my art off the page and into the realm of 3D. I haven't done that work in years, but once I saw Oculus Medium I suddenly wanted to create within a 3D space again. Quite simply, Oculus Medium, by using Oculus Touch, lets you create sculptures in 3D space. It's a very basic concept, but this proves that VR is for anyone. It's for the gamer, the movie watcher, the artist or even someone who simply wants to experience the next level of intermittent.




After Oculus announced Oculus Video, a streaming service in which through partnering up with 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate they'll offer all kinds of movie experiences, they dropped something big. Finally Netflix has found its way onto the Gear VR, and it's available to download now! I only hope that Oculus let us watch Netflix in a selection of VR rooms. I want to watch The Lord of the Rings in The Shire, man. Yeah, make it so, Oculus.

Denis Murphy

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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

I was excited about The Phantom Pain. It filled the void until Fallout 4’s release. Perhaps I’m about to put my foot in my mouth by saying that I’m not a die-hard Metal Gear fan. I played the first Metal Gear Solid, but that was at least ten years ago, and I know the story well enough to know that to trust an ally is folly, but I’m not well versed in the gameplay and style of Kojima’s masterpiece, and maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy The Phantom Pain, but I don’t think so.

Developed by Kojima Productions and out now on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC comes Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Now when I say I didn’t enjoy it, I know many of you will be cracking your knuckles ready to unleash a torrent of abuse at your keyboards – but at least hear me out so I can get to a safe distance while you’re reading it. I won’t even attempt to explain where The Phantom Pain fits in with the other Metal Gear series, because I have a limited word count. It is set in 1984, you play as Venom Snake, and Kojima made it (though if you’ve played even five minutes of the game I’m sure you’re aware).

In the prologue, you are introduced to the controls, the stealth aspect, and what to expect in terms of story from the rest of the game. A burning man, a gigantic fire-whale, and Psycho Mantis are all thrown in for good measure. I loved this prologue. It was awesome. It was the perfect blend of intrigue, tutorial, plot-development, and combat. It was all geared (no pun intended) to a solid (perhaps a pun there) story filled with twists and turns. And then, after a couple of montages and cut-scenes, you fast-forward to the mother base building and “free-roam” sections – and that’s where it all fell down for me.

The Phantom Pain has one of the worst “free-roam”s ever. All it offers is a bland setting in which every road looks the same, save for maybe a couple of animals running around that you can airlift back to mother base, for, you know, science. Occasionally you’ll stumble across a guard post which offers up five minutes of fun, to be rewarded with an emblem and a bit of heroism which, I assume, helps you capture better soldiers for mother base. I say assume, because I haven’t come across any sort of explanation in-game, which was a big problem in general.

This is where the people really clued up on Metal Gear go up-in-arms and tell me I’m not playing the game correctly – so here goes. After the prologue, there is barely any story presented to me. After a few hours of playing I was confused, and decided to check if anyone else had the same problem – they did. The fix for the problem was that pretty much all of the story is tied into the cassette tapes you unlock after missions and around the world in stereos. 


Is it just me that finds that almost insulting? I remember another game coming under heavy criticism for doing the same thing, hiding away the story in optional extradiegetic components, that game being Destiny. Why the hell are these huge plot points not being presented on-screen? Maybe it’s just me, but if I’m playing a game, I want the story to be a part of that game, not an option that you can discover if you have the time and patience. There are moments were the story rears its convoluted head, be it through a cut-scene or a mission that strays from the repetitive go-there-capture/kill-this, but they’re very rare. And even when they do appear, and they try to shock you or introduce a twist, they’re ruined by credits that appear before the mission. When Skull Face finally shows his ugly mug, I knew it was coming, because it told me before the mission even began! Having credits before every mission is ridiculous enough, but to actually spoil itself is just idiotic.

I have numerous issues with this game, and sturdy gameplay and tight stealth mechanics do not make up for it. Trust me, no one is more disappointed at my disliking of it than me, I so wanted to, I still do, but I cannot look past its issues like so many people can.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain gets a 2/5, failing to inspire a Metal Gear rookie.


Jonny Naylor

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at CeX

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Wednesday, 23 September 2015


When you think of Spanish cinema, you think of Pedro Almodóvar. And that’s it, for most people. Other than Almodóvar’s works, Spanish cinema has never found a huge audience here in the UK. The last film from that neck of the woods I saw was Wild Tales, which I bloody loved. I remember seeing it was nominated for 9 Goya Awards, which honour Spanish cinema. I thought it had all 9 of them in the bag, as I couldn’t believe any film out of Spain would beat Wild Tales. It won ONE. It lost out on the majority of them to mystery thriller Marshland

Out now on DVD, Spanish-language Marshland (La Isla Minima) tells the story of two ideologically opposed homicide detectives – young, by-the-books Pedro (Raúl Arévalo) and the older Juan (Javier Gutiérrez) - in 1980s Spain. Sent to investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls during a middle-of-nowhere town’s festivities, their investigation soon becomes a lot bigger than just disappearance and before they know it, they’re chasing a serial killer who has been slaying the town’s girls for years. Fans of the genre might be shaking their heads right now, thinking “I’ve seen it all before”. And sure, some elements of Marshland are certainly predictable. Mismatched detectives? Check. Small town? Check. Disappearance case becomes murder case? Check. But Marshland is more. As well as being a murder mystery, the film is full of socio-political undertones and the plot occasionally dabbles in these themes. Being set in 1980, Spain is presented as country completely shaken by instability and corruption. These themes aren’t explicit, but they’re there. It’s these smart undertones that elevate the film into a new level of quality. 

Marshland is easily one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen in a long time. From the beautiful aerial opening credits (created by digitalising the photographs of Hector Garrido) to the cinematography throughout, I was frequently taken aback by how incredible Marshland looked. It instantly set the mood and held the tone of the film throughout. The cinematography is, quite rightly, one of the many things for which Marshland won a prestigious Goya Award. Marshland walked away with 10 awards that night. Each one was well and truly deserved. 2 of these awards were for acting, for which there were 3 nominations. Unfortunately, only 1 of the lead actors could win Best Actor, obviously. Javier Gutiérrez took that, while a supporting character picked up Best Supporting Actor. Both of the leads are phenomenal though, and it would’ve been an extremely difficult decision as to which took Best Actor.

The characters of Juan and Pedro are extremely deep. There is subtle tension between the pair’s ideologies throughout; with the younger detective being somewhat anti-establishment, speaking out at his superiors being the reason for his reprimand, whilst his hard-boiled older partner is wiser to the societal change and while perhaps bitter, is accepting of it. Again, this is where the subtle political undertones come in. This is handled extremely well by a solid script and the phenomenal performances throughout. Despite all this amazing acting – especially from the two leads - the best character and presence in the film is infact the location. The vacuous and barren marsh landscape is hauntingly beautiful and memorably eerie, making this film hard to shake once the credits have rolled. The ominous atmosphere created by the location alone is only strengthened by the foreboding score and, obviously, murderous themes of the narrative. The film has been labelled by some as ‘a Spanish True Detective’ and it’s very easy to see where this comparison comes from. The two detectives with differing views on the world investigating murders in a bleak, marshy land in the middle of nowhere. The music, tone and pacing is all very similar. But Marshland is far better in its consistent quality and more satisfying (yet still somewhat ambiguous) ending. It’s definitely better than the second season of True Detective at the very least.

Ultimately, Marshland is far more than just another generic whodunit mystery thriller. It’s incredibly intelligent, visually stunning, superbly acted and phenomenally directed. It’s a perfect film. Honestly, despite the awards success I wasn’t expecting a huge amount from it. On the surface, it doesn’t look special. But it truly is. Its films like this that remind me why I love cinema so much.

Marshland is without a doubt the best film I’ve ever seen come out of Spain, and one of the best in recent years from anywhere in the world. 5/5.


Sam Love

Marshland at CeX

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Tuesday, 22 September 2015

CeX at MCM Scotland Comic Con

We are on our way to MCM Scotland Comic Con this weekend!

Come by our pop up CeX shop to check out our treasure trove of gaming and gadget goodies, and of course, buy, sell & exchange to your heart's content.

Watch our live video stream below on the weekend or check out our photo feed of cosplay kings & queens who enter our photo competition. Vote for your favourites on the CeX Facebook page by liking and the top 3 will win a £250, £150 or £50 CeX voucher.

Held at the SECC Glasgow, MCM Scotland Comic Con is Scotland's biggest festival of popular culture and all things beautifully nerdy. It's the perfect place to indulge your inner geek with aisles of stalls, comic village and epic special guests !

See you there!
CeX Towers

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Under the hood you’ll find an Intel Core i3/i5/i7 CPU, as well as 4GB/8GB of RAM and an SSD with between 64GB and 512GB of storage space, depending on the model you choose. What’s that I hear you say? These laptops sound pretty decent? These pieces of hardware are actually powering the Surface Pro 3, which is predominantly a tablet - a tablet that runs a full installation of Windows 10 Pro.

Today, we’re testing out the Intel Core i5-4300U 1.90 GHz model, which can be Turbo-Boosted up to 2.9GHz. It houses a 128GB SSD and also 4GB of RAM. More than enough for the average user. Sporting a 12-inch ClearType Full HD Display, with a resolution of 2160 x 1440, it certainly offers a huge amount of visual real-estate. Combine this with multi-touch and you’ve got an incredibly powerful display. Some of the other features of the Surface Pro 3 are 5-megapixel, 1080p, HD front- and rear-facing cameras, Dolby Audio-enhanced stereo speakers, a microSD card reader and even a mini DisplayPort.

One of the main benefits of Microsoft using full desktop versions of their OS, on their tablets, is that the Surface Pro 3 could technically replace your laptop. This makes it ideal for users who want to save space, but also take their office with them without lugging around a giant laptop bag. The first things you notice when holding it in your hands, is how amazing the build quality is. It’s casing is constructed from Magnesium and is extremely sturdy. With a built-in kickstand to prop up the tablet, the Surface Pro 3 is fully adaptable depending on the environment you’re in. If you want to watch some Netflix or YouTube, then it can be a tablet. If you’re in the mood to get some presentations finishing, or carry on writing the next best-selling fantasy book, the Surface Pro 3 can be used for all of these by hooking up the detachable keyboard.

I did notice that whilst the kickstand works extremely well in a variety of situations, it didn’t work too well in a few others. The whole device just takes up too much damn space sometimes! If you’re unlucky enough to not get a seat in the tabled section of a train, then you’ll have great difficulty placing the Surface Pro 3 down in “laptop mode”. Not something you expect from such a high-quality “mobile” device. The detachable keyboard can also act as a screen protector by simply folding the keyboard over the screen, much like the Apple iPad smart covers.
Speaking of Apple, with the newly announced Apple iPad Pro it looks like there is now a decent bit of competition for the Surface Pro 3. It’s not possible to say which will perform better at this stage without testing them both side by side, but the Apple iPad Pro looks to be of a fairly high standard. It does run on iOS though - a mobile operating system. This is where the Surface Pro 3 will probably give the iPad Pro a run for its money. The ability to run both mobile and desktop applications is surely better than just being able to run mobile applications?
The overall experience, with regards to the tablet’s performance, was awesome. It’s super quick, and almost doesn’t feel like a tablet at all. It has the ability to run some pretty power-hungry applications. With the inclusion of the Surface Pen, you could even get away with running Adobe Photoshop and create an extremely detailed work of art. If you’re not a fan of Apple, then this could be a graphic designers go-to tablet thanks to the Surface Pen.

The HD display works beautifully with video, and makes for an enjoyable viewing experience. If you’re not a fan of headphones, you won’t be disappointed by the tablet’s stereo speakers either. They certainly pack a punch. Music sounded great when I tested the tablet with Spotify. The camera quality, for both photo and video, is stunning. Despite only sporting 5-megapixel cameras, they work brilliantly. During a Skype call, my partner commented on how good the camera was! Not bad for a tablet.

Normally I’d expect to find a few issues with regards to performance, however I’m happy to report that everything worked as expected. Maybe a little better, actually. Sure, it’s more expensive than an iPad. However you’re purchasing the full-package here, and not just a mobile device. The Surface Pro 3 works just as you’d expect a desktop PC to, but it can also transform in to a tablet by removing the keyboard. The Surface Pro 3 is certainly a mobile powerhouse.

The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 gets a deserving 4/5.


Matthew Scott

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 at CeX

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Monday, 21 September 2015

5 Great Games @ Tokyo Game Show 2015

It's that time of year again, you CeXy people. No, it's not time for E3. Nope, I'm not talking about Gamescom either. I am of course talking about the Tokyo Game Show. Though there certainly weren't any giant reveals or announcements like we got in previous years in the form of the Playstation 4 and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, this years TGS was pretty awesome nonetheless. So, like we always do, to help you get right to what was worth looking into at TGS 2015, here's a little rundown of the best games on show.

Summer Lesson

Playstation VR is certainly shaping up as a viable platform for some pretty astounding experiences. For anyone who has tried VR in the past regardless it if was the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive or Playstation VR, chances are you see how important and industry changing this little thing called VR will be. At its worst VR will be a cool new way of playing with games. At its best VR will not just change gaming, but also how we view entertainment.

Though Playstation VR (previously known as Morpheus) is currently on the bottom of my VR device list, it's looking like a great piece of kit in its own right. The big VR "game" they showed off was Summer Lesson. Effectively Summer Lesson simply has you interacting with a girl, albeit very basically. And that's it. Literally. Though some writers out there are complaining that it felt "creepy" , I believe that could be the point in many ways. I've tried VR demos in the past that have given me the feeling of a character invading my personal space. It's something that feels strange, amazing and, well, creepy, but in a "Holy shit, this feels real!" kind of way. Though it appears to be something perfect for the body pillow inclined gentleman, Summer Lesson just might be Sony's way of letting their VR characters reach across that void from their world and into ours.

Dragon Quest Builders

I can't say I'm a huge fan of the Dragon Quest franchise, but simply because I just haven't played many of them. Whether it's Dragon Quest or another franchise that is primarily focused on a certain type of genre, I do love it when developers try something completely new. Who knows if it will work out in the end, but here comes Dragon Quest's take Minecraft, you know, the mash-up no one asked for! Hell yeah, bring it!

Though my initial reaction was one of trepidation, I gotta say, Dragon Quest Builders looks fun, cute and, despite its complete ripping off of all things Minecraft, rather uniquely cosy. Serving as a kind of sequel to the original Dragon Quest game from 1986, Dragon Quest Builders essentially plays like a simplified version of Minecraft. You kill bad things, mine, build stuff, etc. It's all very straight forward, but with its Dragon Quest setting, cute visuals and casual approach, it doesn't look as bad as most people might assume.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness

Again, this is another series I never really got into, which is surprising considering Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is literally one of my favourite RPGs of all time. I'll always remember playing through Till the End of Time during the winter of 2004. Incredible game, stunning story, good times. The latest Star Ocean caught my eye though as they're clearly trying to replicate the look and success of Till the End of Time, most notably by paying homage to its logo.

This latest entry in the franchise is the fifth one of the main series, and its already looking pretty special. Blending stunningly colourful visuals with quite an impressive game world, and a combat system that thankfully takes a major influence from Till the End of Time, Integrity and Faithlessness just might be my next Star Ocean adventure.

Persona 5

I'm a pretty avid Persona fan. Though I admittedly started the series late with Persona 4, since playing it I've gone back and played my way through the entire main series, as well as its spin-offs. Blending everything from horror, comedy, adventure to science fiction, and all wrapped up in a nice little JRPG bundle makes the franchise insanely playable and highly addictive. Though some details on Persona 5 are pretty unclear at this point, we got another glimpse of it at TGS 2015.

Though all we can see with this TGS trailer are some slotted together Persona 5 anime scenes, I'm still rather hopeful that it'll ultimately come together to make something that will rival Persona 4 in terms of atmosphere, story and originality. I guess time will tell, but for now all we have are a few screenshots, a few pieces of information and an anime trailer. Great things come to those who wait, right?... Right?

Final Fantasy XV

At this point I feel like I've waited half of my life for Final Fantasy XV. However, though it's pretty much been in development for a decade at this point, 2016 will finally see the release of Square Enix's step into the realm of the open-world RPG. Though we've seen plenty of gameplay before, been treated to an awesome demo of the game itself and have been inundated with all kinds of nonsensical trailers, this new little snippet of gameplay from TGS 2015 is pretty great.

In the latest piece of footage we're shown the protagonist going on a bit of a fishing trip. That's it. It's simple, yes, but this latest look into the game gives us a great insight into the atmosphere of the world of Final Fantasy XV, especially in terms of those extra side missions outside of saving the world. From the rain drenched grounds, the howl the Chocobo lets out when it jumps, the fun looking fishing mini-game to the fact that you can then cook and eat what you catch... count me in man, just count me in. This game looks f*cking brilliant.

Denis Murphy

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The Top 5 Directorial Debuts

You’ve gotta start somewhere. Before directors become legends of cinema, before their films get to the point where they’re instantly recognisable as theirs, before their name is as much of a pull as the cast – they have to make their first. Some don’t go well at all, and some are the director’s peaks. Here we shall look at 5 of the best. Now of course, many won’t make the list – it’d be hard enough making a Top 50, let alone top 5. But as always, I’ll try and cover a range of genres and styles.


Before Quentin Tarantino gave the world Pulp Fiction he made a little film called Reservoir Dogs, which in many people’s opinion still holds up as his finest work. After a simple jewellery heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant. In typical Tarantino style, the film’s narrative is unchronological and the screenplay is absolutely phenomenal (‘Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?’), delivered finely by an incredible cast of Tarantino regulars including Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen and Tim Roth. And of course, what would a Tarantino film be without an uncomfortable attempt at acting from the director himself? Reservoir Dogs is violent and profane, but oozes cool and set Tarantino off on a filmmaking journey which isn’t showing any signs of stopping – his latest, The Hateful Eight, is released this Christmas.


Anyone who has seen a David Lynch film will know that he’s one messed up bloke. But he’s a genius. Without him we wouldn’t have such delights as Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet and Lost Highway. But it all started here, back in 1977. After making several bizarre short films, Lynch gave us his feature-length debut with the story of Henry Spencer (Lynch regular Jack Nance), a man trying to survive living in a dirty industrial environment with his angry girlfriend and the unbearable screams of their newly born mutant child. With its bleak black and white cinematography, almost constant disturbing sounds and very surreal imagery, it’s extremely unsettling and difficult to watch - but it’s one of the best films of the 1970s.


Ah, Citizen Kane. Widely regarded as one of the finest films in cinema history, it also serves as the legendary Orson Welles’ directorial debut. As well as directing, producing and co-writing the classic; Welles delivers one of his best performances as Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper magnate based in part upon William Randolph Hearst. The film is gloriously ahead of its time in its style, telling a very interesting story with flashbacks and twists in a non-linear narrative that doesn’t feel remotely dated. Despite being something of a ‘flop’ on release, Citizen Kane has since rightly earned its place in the top 5 of almost ever Greatest Films Ever Made list in the last 50 years – and Orson Welles was only 25 years old when he made it. A truly visionary piece of cinema, which continues to remind audiences that Hollywood just ‘don’t make ‘em like they used to’.


In 1974, first-time director Tobe Hooper and a cast of relative unknowns worked 7 days a week under the burning sun on a miniscule budget to create The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Telling the ‘true’ story (the film is loosely based upon Ed Gein, as is Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs) of a group of teenagers being hunted down, killed and eaten by a sadistic cannibal clan, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was widely banned and pulled from release in several countries due to the unprecedented violent content. But despite this, it still grossed over $30 million in one of the most enormously profitable film releases in history – especially considering the amount of theatres that couldn’t or wouldn’t show the film. The popularity of the film has made the masked killer Leatherface an instantly recognisable figure in popular culture, and has gone on to spawn sequels, remakes and even comic books.


While it might seem strange to include a comedy in the list of the finest directorial debuts, there’s something about This is Spinal Tap that feels infinitely right in this list. Directed by Rob Reiner (who went on to direct Stand By Me, The Princess Bride and When Harry Met Sally), This is Spinal Tap is a phenomenally funny mockumentary about the fictional heavy rock band Spinal Tap, portrayed convincingly and hilariously by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer. Infinitely quotable, the film has given one phrase in particular to the modern vernacular – for something to ‘go to 11’. So much so, This is Spinal Tap is the only film on IMDb to not be rated out of 10. Yes, you guessed it – it’s rated out of 11. One of the funniest films of all time and an extremely confident directorial debut, it would be rude to not end this list with This is Spinal Tap.

Sam Love

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Sunday, 20 September 2015

Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition

Risen 3: Titan Lords launched last year for PC and previous gen consoles, and despite it being the expected rough-around-the-edges game as the rest of series has been, it had enough charm and fun Action Role Playing elements to maybe make it worth your time, if you're looking to scratch that type of itch. A year later, the game has launched for PlayStation 4 as an enhanced edition promising improved visuals and an all-round a better game. The problem is that the game feels so unoptimised that  it makes it very hard to recommend to anybody. 

Developed by Piranha Bytes and out now for Playstation 4 comes Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition. Upon initial release it was janky to begin with, but it launched at a good time last year as there were a lack of open-world Role Playing Games meaning it had its place and a role to play for those looking for a certain type of game. A year later though and we have games like Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Witcher 3 occupying our PlayStation 4, which makes Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition look even worse. 

The main story carries some of the pirate-themed fun of Risen 2: Dark Waters, but quickly takes new turns bringing in voodoo and a new antagonist: The Shadow Lord. Your first encounter with him results in your death, and your quest is to stop the shadows from taking over the island and also to ultimately take revenge on The Shadow Lord himself. The story quickly runs out of steam however and becomes far too convoluted to ever care about.

Animations are awkward as is combat, the story becomes slightly confusing and overall it’s a much lesser game than its current contemporaries. It could be overlooked last year, but now its flaws are overwhelmingly in your face and makes it incredibly hard to play through.

Combat is awkward and unresponsive. You hold R2 to parry attacks, tap X for a light attack and holding it for a heavy attack. Dodges can be performed using the Square button. This combat system can go from being adequate to downright frustrating, especially against anything more than a single enemy. An example I can give was early on in the game: I was walking around one of the islands when I can across a scavenger (bird-like creature). Very quickly I was surrounded by three and one knocked my character down to the ground. What followed was 30-45 seconds of him constantly being pecked by one of the birds, resetting his recover animation every time. I eventually died and had to re-spawn a fair bit back. I could literally do nothing except wait for the inevitable.

The open-world has plenty to explore and do, but there's nothing in it that will be memorable. Quests are dull for the most part and the many generic characters you meet along the way kind of all blend into one. Dialogue is written and delivered fairly poorly and you'll probably end skipping the dialogue just to receive your quest. Visually, the game is acceptable and can sometimes bring some nice vistas, but for the most part it's underwhelming. Performance is also inconsistent as a unlocked frame rate means it can suddenly go from 60 frames to 20 and below in one half-turn of the camera which is really jarring.

It’s disappointing because there’s great charm in rougher RPGs as they take an unorthodox approach with gameplay, world, and story but especially on PS4, it’s just too hard to power through to get any enjoyment whatsoever. 2015 has been an incredible year for open-world games and Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition will never be mentioned as one of them.

Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition walks the plank with 2/5 stars.


Jason Redmond

Risen 3: Titan Lords Enhanced Edition at CeX

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