Friday, 23 October 2020

Black History Month


This month we are celebrating black history by looking at iconic names across the games, tech and film industries.

Click the buttons below to read on.




More coming soon!

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Black History Month: British Acting Talent

 

Continuing our celebration of Black History, this week we are looking closer to home and spotlighting some of the best British Actors from the Black community.

Michaela Coel


Starting her career as a poet and performance artist, Michaela Coel released her debut album 'Fixing Barbie' in 2009. Coel made her stage debut at the Bush Theatre in 2013, where she wrote and performed 'Chewing Gum Dreams', a play that would go on to become her breakthrough sitcom, its title shortened to 'Chewing Gum', starring Coel in the lead role. This skyrocketed her acting career and she has since starred in comedy-drama 'The Aliens', ‘Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi’. Coel also wrote, co-directed and starred as the lead in the thrill ride of a series ‘I May Destroy You’.


Naomie Harris OBE


After graduating from Cambridge University, Naomie Harris went on to train at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Success followed soon-after with her breakthrough film role in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002). Harris' prolific acting career would go on to include notable projects such as Miami Vice (2006) and Small Island (2009) for which she was awarded ‘best female actor’ by the Royal Television Society. Her mainstream success grew with her role as voodoo witch Tia Dalma in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Eve Moneypenny in the James Bond franchise. Harris was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Moonlight (2016) and appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2017.


Richard Ayoade


Richard Ayoade began his acting with breakthrough performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he won the Perrier Comedy Award for co-writing and performing in Garth Marenghi's Netherhead. His first real TV break was directing, co-writing and starring in cult classic Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and cameos in The Mighty Boosh. Ayoade’s status as a cult entertainment icon was cemented when he was cast as Moss in The IT Crowd series. He moved into directing with music videos for well-known indie band The Arctic Monkeys. These set him on a path to direct feature films, starting with the critically acclaimed Submarine in 2010, followed by The Double in 2013.


Georgina Campbell


Georgina Campbell’s first role came in 2009, portraying the lead role of Lucy in the online drama Freak. After previously starring in minor roles in TV series such as Casualty, Holby City, Doctors and Death in Paradise, Campbell won a BAFTA TV Award in 2014 for Best Actress for her role as Ashley Jones in Murdered by My Boyfriend. Since then, Campbell has starred in various TV dramas and comedies. In 2017, she gained acclaim when appearing in the ITV drama series Broadchurch as DC Katie Harford and in Black Mirror episode "Hang the DJ", as Amy.


Chiwetel Ejiofor CBE


Actor, writer and director Chiwetel Ejiofor has an incredible amount of achievements to his name. By the age of 13, he was appearing in numerous school and National Youth Theatre productions. Ejiofor got his big break when he caught the attention of Steven Spielberg who cast him in the critically acclaimed Amistad alongside Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins. He has since gone on to be renowned for his portrayal of Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which he received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations, along with the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. Dirty Pretty Things (2002) for which he won Best Actor at the British Independent Film Awards and a whole host of major appearances and accolades that have firmly sealed his position as one of the greatest British actors of all time.


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Thursday, 22 October 2020

Spooktastic Games For Halloween


Spooktastic Games For Halloween

It’s spooky season and we have a ghastly group of ghoulish games for you to get the chills over this Halloween! For all you tiny terrors, we’ve started our list with the scary (but family friendly) titles we can all enjoy, before we dive 6-feet under into the real terror.


Luigi's Mansion 3



The hotel is haunted. Mario is missing. And our only hope is…Luigi?! He’s invited to the towering Last Resort hotel, but when Mario and friends go missing, our green-clad hero will have to conquer his fears to save them! Slam, blow away, and vacuum up ghosts with the all-new Poltergust G-00. Join forces with Gooigi to overcome the puzzling contraptions and mischievous boss on each themed floor. Enter the ScareScraper for 8-player local wireless or online co-op gameplay.



Plants VS Zombies GW 2



Prepare for a shooter like no other in Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2. Dr. Zomboss has conquered suburbia and transformed it into a zombie-filled, plant-free Paradise. Help the plants reclaim their turf in the new player Herbal assault, or choose your side in 4-player co-op or solo play. With new modes, classes and loads of humour, plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 2 lets you wage war however you want!




-WARNING-

Here is where things get super scary and not suitable for little monsters.
Read on…. If you dare!



Resident Evil 7: Biohazard



Resident Evil 7 takes the series to a whole new level as it opens the door to a truly terrifying first-person horror experience. The game boldly embodies the iconic gameplay elements of exploration and tense atmosphere that the "survival horror" genre was built on. Still not scary enough!? Grab a PSVR headset and take the horror to the next level with full PSVR immersion.



Silent Hill 2



Silent Hill may just be the most iconic horror game of all time. With its creepy atmosphere, dense fog and pitch-black hallways, Silent Hill 2 sends the player down a spiral of paranoia and mystery. The game offers formidable foes, plenty of puzzles, and bone-chilling gameplay. The visual and sound effects are amazingly detailed and macabre, and, if you're playing with headphones on, you may find yourself keeping the lights on.



Alien Isolation



The original Alien movie was pitched as ‘Jaws in space’, and Alien: Isolation keeps that spirit well and truly alive. You play as the daughter of series lead Ellen Ripley, being chased around by the rarely seen, but always threatening Xenomorph. All you’ll be able to do is run and hide from this unstoppable killing machine. And with one of the smartest enemy A.I.s in gaming, this is easier said than done.



Little Nightmares



Immerse yourself in Little Nightmares, a dark whimsical tale that will confront you with your childhood fears! Help Six escape The Maw - a vast, mysterious vessel inhabited by corrupted souls looking for their next meal. As you progress on your journey, explore disturbing and challenging levels while you reconnect with your inner child to unleash your imagination and find the way out!



Dead Space



When a mining spaceship comes into contact with an alien artifact in a remote star-system, its communications with Earth are mysteriously cut off. Engineer Isaac Clarke is sent to repair the ship, but arrives to find a living nightmare! The crew have been unspeakably mutilated and infected by an ancient alien scourge. Playing as Clark, make your way through the nightmarish levels of the ship as your repair mission becomes one of survival. With intense action and non-stop scares, Dead Space has arguably reinvented the sci-fi horror genre.



Until Dawn



Until Dawn plays like a love letter to classic horror movie tropes. It’s an interactive drama, dependent on decision branches and quick-time events, as well as third-person exploration and puzzle-solving. You’ll play as several characters over the duration of the game - a small group of teenagers, who all share responsibility for the sudden disappearance of two of their friends. Even if you’re a lover of action survival horror, you’ve gotta give Until Dawn a shot. The interactive mechanics make the story incredibly engrossing, and the plot is genuinely fantastic, and made all the better with A list acting talent such as Rami Malek (We Will Rock You / Mr Robot).



Bloodborne



From Hidetaka Miyazaki and FromSoftware – creators of the legendary action role-playing games Demon's Souls and Dark Souls – comes Bloodborne, an action-packed RPG brimming with unforgiving, unrelenting terror, developed exclusively for PlayStation 4. Face your fears as you search for answers in the ancient city of Yharnam, now cursed with a strange endemic illness spreading through the streets like wildfire. Danger is an ever-present shadow in this horrific world, and you must discover its darkest secrets in order to survive.



Resident Evil 2



Finally the crown jewel of horror games, Resident Evil 2. The cult classic that had audiences running away from the towering Tyrant (Mr. X) in their dreams! In this remake, a lot more has been updated than just the graphics, the legendary survival horror game has kept the gripping story and everything else you loved about the original, whilst fixing the outdated controls and janky mechanics. If you’re lucky enough to have never played this game before, you are in for an absolute trick…. or treat!


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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

RPG Maker MV



Welcome to our review of RPG Maker MV, now available on PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Who wouldn’t want to make their own RPG? Not only could you set out your own path, but the very parameters that define it. The RPG Maker series has allowed you to do this in some shape or form since the early 90s. Essentially a piece of PC software, it gives you all the building blocks necessary to make your own dungeons, quests and characters, without any need for coding knowledge. 

RPG Maker MV is the latest version to be ported to home console, giving the widest audience yet the chance to build their own Final Fantasy, Pokémon or Dragon Quest. But does it live up to its lofty promises? Read on to find out...


Firstly, RPG Maker MV for console appears to be a straight port of the 2015 PC version. This is by no measure a bad thing, as it means you get the full featured release without any scaling down for less advanced hardware. This itself is quite the achievement, as it’s one of the most advanced builders of its kind we’ve ever experienced.

Creating your game is broken down into easy to follow, logical steps. The map editor gives you a plethora of options for building an overworld, town maps, interiors and more. You’ll have a plethora of tilesets to choose from, allowing you to make unique levels that exude retro charm. The event editor allows you to place characters, objects, and practically anything else into your new world, and even allows you to program how they interact with your character. The battle system is just as deep, allowing you to design spells, assign weapon damage and difficulty curves. Character classes and level progression can also be finetuned to a near molecular level. It’s a slow, methodical experience for sure, and feels more akin to playing with LEGO than a PC game. But for those with the patience is a truly rewarding experience. 

However, there are a few issues brought about from porting to console. The most egregious is that you can’t download any mods or plugins to compliment the base game. We doubt this will be a problem for most players, particularly those picking up an RPG Maker for the first time, yet for those looking for an extra level of customisation or the chance to bring their favourite established characters into their game, you’ll be left lacking. 

What’s more, the menus just aren’t suited to a controller. Navigation that would take less than a second with a swipe of a cursor can take significantly longer fumbling about with a controller. If you do pick up this game on console, we’d definitely recommend investing in a keyboard too. It’ll save you so much time and give you a much more enjoyable experience in the long run. Check out our range of keyboards for PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

Our only other major gripe is that while you can export your games in multiple formats on PC, you can only share creations on the game’s native online library on console. Again, this is by no means a deal breaker, and the free RPG Maker MV Player app does allow friends to try out your games for free. However, it’s still a mark against this version compared to the original release.

To wrap up, RPG Maker MV is objectively the best game building experience on a console. If you have an interest in game development but aren’t ready to dive into coding, this is the perfect gentle introduction. With that being said, it’s not something you can briefly dip into, and you should be prepared to sink multiple hours into it to create something even semi-competent. But if you have a creative itch that needs scratching, look no further.

★★★☆☆
Tom Baker




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Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions ★★★★☆



Welcome to our review of Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, available on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. Sports games aren’t what they used to be. In days gone by, you could expect a plethora of arcade-y, often ridiculous titles to coincide with the more realistic simulations. For every Madden title there was a NFL Blitz. For every FIFA there was a Mario Strikers Charged. Nowadays, these more novel outings are few and far between, but developers Tamsoft are looking to rectify this with their latest release Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions.

Based on the classic manga series Captain Tsubasa, Rise of New Champions looks to blend football with roleplaying and quintessential anime madness. But does it hit the back of the net, or is it a big fat own goal? Read on to find out…


The most impressive thing is it’s a great sports game first with layers of anime silliness layered on top. Even if you’re not too enamoured by the latter, it still offers competitive, fast gameplay that offers the same addictive, competitive gameplay as you’d expect from FIFA or PES. However, be prepared for a few major departures from this tried and tested formula too. For example, if you perform an action in just the right way (such as a tackle or shot on goal), expect an anime close up with dramatic camera angles and sound effects. What’s more, stringing together passages of play will grant you special abilities, like super powerful strikes. 

This base game is complemented by two massive story modes. In Episode: Tsubasa, you play as the titular hero in a more linear story, with plenty of over the top drama. Episode: New Hero is much more open ended, starring you in more of a career mode framework. Not having watched the anime or read the manga, this reviewer preferred the accessibility of the latter, but there’s definitely plenty to love about both. 


It’s also worth noting that this is one good looking game. The anime artstyle is an absolute delight, and works so well to augment the drama of the sport. Even the fictional players of different nations are absolutely charming; where else can you hear your English centre forward shout ‘Blimey!’? What’s less impressive is some of the technical aspects of the experience. The load times can often be inexcusably long, particularly on the Switch. We also encountered some graphical glitches, which isn’t just annoying, but essentially game breaking,  in a competitive sports title like this. Fortunately, the glitches were a lot less prevalent than the wait times, and didn’t tarnish our enjoyment all that much.

To wrap up, Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions is the arcade football game from the modern player. It combines a solid sporting experience with enough charm and heart to really set itself apart from it’s more simulation-based counterparts. Whether you’re a fan of the manga, or just discovering it for the first time, you’re sure to have a blast lacing up your vibrant, anime boots.

★★★★☆
Tom Baker




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Monday, 19 October 2020

Nexomon: Extinction ★★★☆☆



Welcome to our review of Nexomon: Extinction, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Nexomon: Extinction is a monster-catching RPG from developers VEWO INTERACTIVE (we can only assume the caps mean you have to shout their name). In it, you have to explore a vibrant world collecting Nexmon, as you hope to become a legendary Nexmon tamer for the Guild of Tamers. But your quest won’t be easy, as you have to contend with powerful rogue Nexomon called Tyrants.

If this all sounds a little Pokémon-esque, you may be on to something. However, the game promises enough differences, both thematically and mechanically, to help it stand out from its iconic forebears. But is it any good? Read on to find out…


Firstly, the most impressive thing about this game is the sheer scale of it all. Once you complete the tutorial, you’re free to go anywhere you’d like (with the exception of a few buildings significant to the story). This itself might not be anything new, but Nexomon includes an intuitive feature in which the difficulty of enemies scales to your own experience. This means you can explore without fear of falling foul to a beast that can bite your head off before you’ve summoned your first fighter.

Speaking of the combat, fans of the Pokémon series will find the turn based mechanics pretty familiar. You take turns pitting your Nexomon against wild ones in the hope of defeating or capturing them. With that being said, there are a couple of notable differences. There’s a stamina bar that wears down after each attack, with more powerful moves draining it faster. This means you’ll often have to rest or switch out one of the 6 Nexomon you’re allowed at a one time to ensure victory. While this can allow for some deeper strategy than found in Pokémon, it does slow things down a lot, and battles can be exhaustingly long. 

To make matters worse, the XP system also leaves a lot to be desired. You seem to earn the same amount regardless of the enemy you’re facing, whether they be a jacked up Tyrant or a low levelled wild Nexomon. This removes any real incentive to tackle the more challenging beasts, outside of narrative progression, and feels like a hugely avoidable oversight. 

In better news, the tongue-in-cheek tone of the game is a delight, and really helps to set it apart from its contemporaries. It’s based much more in high fantasy compared to the more grounded Pokémon, which allows it to get away with more silliness. Fourth wall breaking jokes, a sassy cat sidekick and even an overt nod to the Power Rangers (Go, Go… Nexolords?) can’t help put a smile on your face, and truly make up for some of Nexomon’s shortcomings.

A special mention must also be made for the stunning visuals. Take inspiration from the classic 2D art style of the classic Pokémon games, it’s vibrant, charming and has enough animation to help it feel alive and organic. The almost 400 monster designs are also largely fantastic. Some might have more than a striking resemblance to certain Pocket Monsters, however most are truly inspired and fit the aesthetic of the world brilliantly.


To wrap up, Nexomon: Extinction might be a Pokémon clone, but it’s the best one we’ve ever played. It follows the tropes when needed, and offers enough thematic and mechanical variety to prevent it from ever feeling like a straight rip off. We just wish the combat was a little snappier, as it unfortunately proves to be the weakest part of the whole experience. With that being said, it’s still the best ‘Pokémon’ experience you can have on a non-Nintendo console, and that alone makes it worth picking up. Unless, you know… you have a Nintendo console. In which case, why aren’t you playing Pokémon?

★★★☆☆
Tom Baker




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Sunday, 18 October 2020

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning ★★★☆☆



Welcome to our review of Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning, available on PC, PS4 & Xbox One. There’s a strong argument to be made that Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is one of the most underrated games of the modern era. At one time, the 2012 cult classic RPG seemed to be a legitimate alternative to Skyrim, launching to positive reviews and slated to be the first entry in a sprawling series. However poor management led to its original studio shutting down and the franchise effectively dying. 

Fortunately, it was picked up by THQ Nordic, who’ve decided to give it a second chance in the form of the cleverly named remaster - Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. But after nearly a decade, is there enough on offer to appease old and new fans alike? Read on to find out...


Firstly, to call Re-Reckoning a remaster is a stretch, instead performing as more of a straight port. There’s no discernable visual upgrade, which unfortunately leaves it looking pretty dated. The colours look washed out, and textures appear bland, almost as if they were made of clay. Yet the most egregious relic of the past is the character faces, which look rather odd with poor expressions and truly rubbish lip syncing. 

With that being said, it does have a charming artstyle that doesn’t rely on being photorealistic, so the antiquated aesthetics we by no means a deal breaker for us. It just felt like a huge missed opportunity not to at least freshen them up for the remaster. However, what was perhaps an even more annoying relic of the past was the loading times. The open world of Amalur isn’t seamless, and you’ll come up against several loading screens while playing. Loading screens aren’t too bad themselves, but what’s less forgivable is that they don’t seem to be any shorter than they did in 2012. With very few updates to the original, we would’ve expected wait times to plummet on more advanced hardware, and the fact they haven’t is more than a little annoying. 

Thankfully, the game itself makes all the above worthwhile. It has one of the largest, most dense open worlds we’ve ever experienced, full of unique places which in turn are full of interesting characters and things to discover. There’s a rich lore and backstory to sink your teeth into, and while not all the quests on offer are winners, you’ll want to complete them all to spend more time in this enchanting place.


It’s also great to see the combat is still one of the highlights of the experience. You can pick to be one of three classes: Warrior, Rogue or Mage, with each offering plenty of choice regarding progression. Once you’re in the game, you’ll find the action is still punchy, responsive and slick. It’s all super satisfying if a little too easy in the higher levels.

To wrap up, Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning remains a bit of an outcast. It’s still the great game it once was but doesn’t do nearly enough on a technical level to entice players used to the modern comforts of 2020. Likewise, if you enjoyed the original, there’s no real incentive to purchase it again, aside from having it playable on current-gen consoles. We’d still recommend picking it up if you never played the original, but only with the huge caveat that you’ll have to overlook its performance limitations.

★★★☆☆
Tom Baker




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Saturday, 17 October 2020

Marvel's Avengers ★★★☆☆



There’s a joke in here somewhere about how we all wear masks of our own (because of the pandemic and superheroes wear masks) but I’m going to leave you to marinate those choice comedy ingredients and just dive right into the review. Coming off the back of the most successful Beta in Playstation history, Marvel’s Avengers had a lot of hype to live up to. Now that the complete game has been released for all of us to get our hands-on, how does it measure up?

Marvel’s Avengers is a beat-em-up RPG that has both a story campaign and online multiplayer modes. This game is built entirely on the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and although they don’t seem to share the same canon this game has definitely inherited the visual style of the movies. The look of the helicarriers, Iron Man armour, team costumes - at least for as long as it takes you to unlock new cosmetics. Nearly everything except the movie actors themselves has been lifted - they’ve been replaced by a cast of voice actors that are pretty A-list as far as voice actors go.


The least well-known of the main roster is the game’s insert character and main protagonist Ms Marvel, Kamala Khan, who I’ll start by saying is an absolute hoot. She’s super likeable, her powers are fun to play, and it’s great to play as someone who we don’t know inside and out from the movies. She’s a huge superhero fan and her exaggerated reactions and funny quips act as good punctuation to the games more serious and awe-inspiring moments. You’ve got plenty of chances to play as all of the Avengers but spoiler-free, the crux of the plot is a coming of age story for Kamala. 

So the story is a lot of fun, but is the game? Mostly. And I say mostly because there are features of this game that start out incredibly fun and exciting but don’t always stay that way. It’s satisfying if you love perk tree level-up systems and stuff, everyone’s powers and abilities are fun to use and feel pretty different from one another. But the unique enjoyable factors of each character seem to kind of melt away when you’re button mashing through wave after wave of hundreds of monotonous characterless robot enemies.

The multiplayer elements seem like they’d be fun if you had the right people to play them with, but kind of boil down into a similarly monotonous gameplay cycle of just mashing your powers into endless waves of drones until they’re gone. But how many multiplayer games don’t have a repetitive gameplay cycle? Just look at the likes of Destiny 2, Overwatch and Borderlands. It’s the camaraderie that makes it special. I think the multiplayer in Marvel’s Avengers is probably a lot more fun than I had with the short, friendless time I spent playing it. 


I really can’t be too harsh on a game that Square Enix is planning to release a steady stream of free content for, this could be a totally different gaming experience a year from now. But my advice? If you’re a Marvel fan you’re going to love it and it’s absolutely worth your time and money. If you’ve never seen a Marvel movie and have no friends to play with? The gameplay might start to get old pretty fast. 

★★★☆☆
Jake James




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Friday, 16 October 2020

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Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars ★★★☆☆



Welcome to our review of Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a turn-based strategy game by Palindrome Interactive. Set in an alternative version of the 15th century, in which vampires rule and humanity is subservient to their bloodsucking overlords. Those who ‘donate’ their blood are spared any grief, but those who resist might want to stock up on stakes and garlic. 

It’s an interesting premise, that promises to blend the best of the Total War series with the timeless cool factor that vampires exude. But does it hit the mark, or is it Dracu-lame*? Read on to find out…


Firstly, it’s worth noting how cool the world of Immortal Realms is. You play as one of three vampire clans: the pretty vanilla Dracul (led by bad boy Vlad), the human-hating Moroia nobles (the more magical class) and the feral Nosfernus (the monstrous bruisers). There’s also the encroaching Human Empire, who threaten the vampiric rule over the land. A lot of it might just be flavour narrative, but it definitely helps you to immerse yourself in the world and weaves into the gameplay seamlessly.

Speaking of gameplay, it’s a much more fast-paced, streamline affair compared to most turn-based titles. Instead of starting with a blank map and having to choose which buildings to craft, each location simply has three upgrade levels. What’s more, buildings are already present on the map, you just have to capture them. Rather than doing the work for you, this system makes you think differently; there are key buildings that everyone wants, and instead of building your own, you’ll have to take them and defend them. This scarcity drives the conflict forward at a tremendous speed, and the absence of building or recruit times only augments this. 

Streamlining the experience by no means dumbs it down, either. Each faction has its own mechanics and units to learn, and you’ll have to really spend some time with each to get your strategy optimised. In a genre known for being a little more on the methodical side, the pace really helps Immortal Realms stand out.

The game itself is broken out into two main game modes. The Story campaign consists of twelve missions, four for each of the three factions. Admittedly, it’s all pretty average, making everything too linear to dive into the best elements of the gameplay. The Sandbox mode is far better. It offers classic free for all, winner takes all matches, where the gameplay takes place unhindered from any artificial narrative. A decent tutorial means you can basically skip the story altogether and jump straight into the good stuff. 


Looking to graphics, don’t expect ‘triple-A’ visuals. The game looks fine and does everything needed to help you quickly and clearly establish what’s going on during combat, however it doesn’t appear much more advanced than a mobile game. Likewise, the soundtrack is serviceable, however, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not inherently awful, but after a couple of games you will have heard the same lines over and over again, and they quickly become tiresome.

To wrap up, Immortal Realms: Vampire Wars is a slick strategy game with a really fun premise. It’s nice that it isn't needlessly complicated for the sake of it, making it a great title for newer players to dive into the genre. We’d recommend picking it up on the Switch; the visuals are a lot more forgivable on the tablet screen, and the fast pace of combat makes it perfect for the portable console. 
*I’m so very, very sorry.

★★★☆☆
Tom Baker




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Thursday, 15 October 2020

WRC 9 ★★★★☆



Welcome to our review of WRC 9, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. While Forza and Gran Turismo might be forever duking it out to become the best mainstream racing game, WRC has always been the undisputed king of rally racing. A completely different discipline, it’s just you, your car, and some of the most punishing tracks in the world, as you aim to top the time trial leaderboards. Now the nearly 20 year old franchise has released its latest entry - WRC 9. Does it clip the apex on a hairpin right, or does it veer off into a hedge? Read on to find out…


Firstly and most importantly, the cars feel really nice to drive. Each handles well, with simple controls making it easy to pick up, but difficult to master. A lot of detail has gone into making each vehicle feel unique, with differences in acceleration, handling, brakes and more making them feel authentic to their real life counterparts. You can even change things under the hood to get your car to your liking, and it’s one of the true geeky joys to tune it until it's just right. 

Once you hit the track, there’s a great level of simulation, with realistic terrain and conditions affecting the way your car handles. For example, a snowy course will offer no grip, and you’ll have to go light on the accelerator, and muddier ground can easily gum up your tyres if you’re not careful. Overall it’s difficult to manage, but hugely satisfying when you get it right. 

The career mode proves to be the chunkiest part of the game, and fortunately it’s one of its most impressive modes. In it, you act as driver and manager, hiring staff and setting up your schedule, with the aim of competing in the titular WRC tournament. Much like the driving itself, there’s an incredible depth to the management elements, and will require a lot of practise and concentration to get yourself to the top of the sport. 

Once you’re ready to race competitively, there’s plenty of multiplayer options on offer too. Coupled with the traditional online play, there’s also a rare outing for split-screen action. This makes it great for couch co-op, and local bragging rights among friends and family. If you’re feeling particularly confident, E-Sports mode allows you to take on the best of the best in a pro setting. You can even unlock exclusive cosmetics, allowing you to show off your achievements.

Looking to graphics, they’re solid but nothing too special compared to other racing games. To be fair, in motion it’s essentially photorealistic; it’s only when you pause or bring the camera in close that things look a tad dated by modern standards. Fortunately, the physical effects are much more impressive, with good impact damage response; expect plenty of nicks, scratches and buckling when the going gets rough. The only other aesthetic criticism we had is that most cars sound exactly the same. This really feels like a missed opportunity to make things feel more immersive, especially when so much effort went into making each car look and feel unique. Hopefully this is something that can be patched post-launch.


Beyond the gameplay, the menu interface is the only other major letdown. It’s still the same clunky mess that was present in the previous game, and is particularly hard to navigate on console with a controller. This, coupled with some horrendous load times, can make it a pain to get into the game, and doesn’t offer the best first impression when you boot up the game. Fortunately, once you ignite the engine, you’ll soon forget about these quality of life gripes. 

To wrap up, WRC 9 offers a high skilled racing simulation that’s deep and rewarding. Controlling each car is an absolute delight, and trying to knock seconds off your time can become massively addictive. Aside from a few predominantly aesthetic concerns, there’s plenty to enjoy for both hardcore racers and casuals alike, and we’re looking forward to booting it up with a friends in local co-op.

★★★★☆
Tom Baker




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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Wasteland 3 ★★★★☆



Welcome to our review of Wasteland 3, available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. The Wasteland series has an interesting history. The post-apocalyptic isometric tactical RPG started life in 1988, released by Interplay Studios, headed by Brian Fargo. When Fargo couldn’t get the rights to make a sequel, he would go on to make a spiritual successor - a little known game called Fallout. That’s why it was all very cyclical when his new company inXile developed Wasteland 2 in 2014, citing it as ‘their Fallout’. Now in 2020, they’re releasing Wasteland 3, the sequel to the spiritual successor to Fallout, which was the spiritual successor to Wasteland. Yeah, I’m confused too.

Anyway, Wasteland 3 picks up where its predecessor left off, starring you as the last survivor of a Ranger Squad. Set in the frozen wasteland of Colorado, it’s a brand new setting for the series, and promises to introduce plenty of new role playing and action encounters. But with a rich (albeit confusing pedigree), and a tonne of hype behind it, is Wasteland 3 any good? Read on to find out...


Firstly, you don’t need to have any previous knowledge of the series to dive into Wasteland 3. Unlike many supposed modern RPGs, that give you the illusion of choice while still guiding you down a fixed path, this is a true role playing experience. You make up the story as you go along, with a level of freedom just not seen nowadays.

There’s a lot of emphasis on game altering decisions. You often have to choose if someone lives or dies, and rich, deep conversation trees can throw your campaign in wildly different directions. In fact, the developers claim that certain choices will mean you miss thousands of lines of dialogue, which I’m all for; role playing is all about getting in the mindset of your characters, not being a completionist. It just adds to the sense that this is a living, breathing world. And this immersion begins when you make your character. Although there aren’t an exceptionally great deal of cosmetic options, there’s a lot of choice and variation when it comes to attributes and skills. Interestingly these can have both positive and negative effects, and go a long way in making your character feel like your own. 

This immersion begins when you make your character, and although there aren’t a great deal of cosmetic options, there’s lots of choice of attributes and skills. These provide both positive and negative effects and help to make the character feel like your own. It’s also worth noting that like the Fallout and Wasteland games of old, there’s some hilariously dark comedy littered throughout the game. It’s deftly weaved into the experience, adding some levity to the snowy hellscape without descending into parody. 

Now, depending on the way you approach the game, a lot of your playtime may be in combat. If you’ve played a game of this ilk before, you’ll know what to expect. Everything is set into rounds and phases, meaning you have to be smart, rather than gungho. Most of the action is ranged, so finding cover is essential, although you will have a few close quarter options at your disposal when things get more personal. But the combat gets really fun once you get to know your enemies. You’ll have to get crafty to exploit their weaknesses and surroundings, and there’s fewer things more satisfying than when a plan all comes together. 

What’s more, it’s vital you get acquainted with your squad to make sure they’re used effectively. Each member will have their own perks and abilities to help you out, and when they work as a unit, it’s a thing of beauty. You don’t have to go it alone this time either, this is the first game in the series to feature multiplayer. I really liked that you can drop in and out, swapping between single and multiplayer whenever it suits, meaning you don’t always have to align schedules to keep the story going. 


But with a game this deep, it can be hard enough remembering all your own stats, let alone your team’s. Fortunately, if you select your whole squad and ask them to complete a task, the game will automatically select the best member for the job. A nice touch meaning you don’t have to remember everyone’s skillset. Beyond the gameplay, this is one pretty game, something that can’t be said for a lot of other titles in the genre. It makes good use of lighting to add depth and character to what might otherwise be an ugly world, and it achieves it all without distracting from the action on screen. 

To wrap up, Wasteland 3 most certainly lives up to the hype. It offers a deep, old school roleplaying experience with enough modern updates to keep it feeling fresh and vital. There’s so much choice and variation that it warrants plenty of replays, and I’m already looking forward to trying it out again to see what I missed the first time around. Of course, it’s going to be niche, but for people looking for a little bit more meat to their experience, Wasteland remains the OG king.

★★★★☆
Tom Baker




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Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Apple October 2020 Event - What You Need to Know



Earlier this evening, Apple held an online event to announce four new iPhones – including their first 5G devices – and an exciting new home accessory. Here’s everything you need to know about the exciting announcements!

HomePod Mini


First up, we have a development on Apple’s home speaker. A compact version of Apple’s smart HomePod still promises “truly big sound”, despite its smaller size. Boasting an S5 chip – the same as you will find in last year’s Apple Watch – the speaker promises “computational audio”, while it will interact directly with a user's iPhone, providing visual, audio and haptic feedback. When two are placed in the same room, they automatically become a stereo pair, while multiroom audio is an option if they are placed around the house. Whatever your music taste, it’s certainly going to sound stunning coming out of this little beauty.

And if that wasn’t enough, Siri support will make life easier, especially with the charming feature ‘Intercom’ that allows users to send instant messages across a network of linked HomePods, Watches, iPhones and other Apple products. The Office’s Ryan Howard’s Wuphf.com is becoming a reality!

iPhone 12


The main attraction of tonight’s event was, of course, the announcement of Apple’s next iPhone. The 12 will offer 5G support, along with a “Smart Data Mode” that will drop to 4G to save battery life when high speeds aren’t needed. A new type of screen known as “ceramic shield” that is supposedly tougher than any smartphone glass with four times better drop performance will offer a stronger phone than Apple has made in the past, while the A14 Bionic chip is 50% faster for graphics performance than any other smartphone chip.

Games are going to look stunning on the phone’s gorgeous OLED screen, while a beautiful new industrial design with squared-off edges resembling the latest iPad Pro looks gorgeous here. We can’t wait to get into some Among Us action on this stunning screen - red will look even more sus than ever on that display.

A circular magnet wireless charger can be attached to the phone’s inner ‘MagSafe’, which will also allow accessories such as cases and money clips to attach to the phone strongly.  A super retina XDR screen will bring your 4K 60fps recordings to life along with your stunning night-time photography thanks to Night Mode support across all lenses, while new model colours will inject some personality into the handset. We’d plump for the stunning new pacific blue, but traditionalists among you will be glad to see that graphite, gold and silver will be available too.

iPhone 12 Mini & Pro Editions


With a 5.4” screen versus the flagship model’s 6.1”, the Mini edition of the new iPhone isn’t enormously smaller but will certainly make all the difference in your pocket. The Pro has a super sexy Stainless Steel finish, along with some improved features such as telephoto lens and Deep Fusion technology to enhance photos along with optical image stabilisation. The Pro will also shoot videos in Dolby Vision HDR and ProRAW, which will delight budding filmmakers and professional videographers. LiDAR on the camera system adds AR features, promising this phone is truly prepared for the future of tech.


In summary, these updates offer a nice introduction to the future, while not reinventing the wheel. The saying goes that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and Apple have certainly taken this to heart by subtly improving their leading products across the board without forgetting that it is their beautiful simplicity that makes them the best tech products on the market. We are so excited to get our hands on these beauties! Welcome to the future. 

If you missed it, you can check out the whole event here!

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Death End re;Quest 2 ★★☆☆☆



Welcome to our review of Death End re;Quest 2, available on PC and PS4. If there’s two things the Japanese do well, it’s RPGs and the horror genre. Developers Idea Factory look to combine the best of both worlds with their latest game - Death End re;Quest 2. 

You play as Mai Toyama, a troubled girl who’s been admitted to the Wordsworth Women’s Dormitory after the death of her father (a death she may be responsible for). Once at the orphanage, it soon becomes clear that nothing is what it seems, with several monstrous, otherworldly incidents occurring. Naturally, it’s up to you and your friends to solve the mystery, find your sister and save the day. It’s certainly an intriguing premise, but is Death End re;Quest 2 any good? Read on to find out…

Firstly, don’t let the cutesy, anime design fool you; the storyline is incredibly dark, and deals with some truly harrowing issues. Starting the game with the visual of Mai butchering her own father really sets the tone for the rest of the experience. It might not be for everyone, but it definitely helps make the characters tragically relatable* and well fleshed out. As things progress, they get more bizarre, and you’ll encounter a plethora of otherworldly beasts. The monster design is largely really good, straddling the line between comical and horrifying.


Looking to gameplay, it’s a story of two halves. The meat of the game is a solid JRPG affair. Expect classic dungeon crawling with turn based combat against the aforementioned beasties. These battles prove to be the best parts of the game, with plenty of skills and classes meaning there’s plenty of strategy needed to prevail. Turn based gameplay often suffers from a slower pace, but this variety helps keep it feel fresh and exciting. The only thing to be mindful of is some ludicrous difficulty spikes that sporadically appear throughout the game. They can be hugely frustrating, but fortunately they’re the exception, rather than the rule. 

These JPRG elements are interspersed by a visual novel. While the illustrations are fine and the dialogue is competent, there’s far too much of it. It takes ages to get into the more action-oriented parts of the game, and although you can skip these passive sections, you run the risk of missing key plot points. There’s nothing innately offensive about blending JRPG with a visual novel, but in this case it results in strange pacing that weakens the overall package.  *Relatable in a nebulous sense, not in a ‘I’ve butchered my father’ sense.

Aesthetically, it’s a mixed affair as well. The art style and world have a cool gothic appeal, but some areas suffer from looking a little repetitive. Whether it be creative or technical limitations, it seems like they had the nub of a great idea, but weren’t able to execute it to its full potential. Thankfully, the audio is much more solid. The soundtrack is fantastic, combining horror soundscapes with high tempo rock. Even the dialogue is enjoyable; it’s as cheesy as month old stilton, but that adds to its charm. It makes Mai and her accomplices all the more endearing. 

To wrap up, Death End re;Quest 2 is a case of missed opportunities. The story, tone and characters are solid, and when the gameplay is good, it’s phenomenal. It’s just disappointing that these moments are few and far between, and you have to sit through an inexcusable amount of filler between each exciting moment. If you’re a fan of both JRPGs and visual novels, it’s definitely worth a go, otherwise it’s probably worth a miss. 

★★☆☆☆
Tom Baker




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Monday, 12 October 2020

PGA Tour 2k21 ★★☆☆☆



Welcome to our review of PGA Tour 2K21, available on PC, PS4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch. PGA Tour 2K21 might be the first title of its kind under the 2K banner, but this isn’t a brand new series. Instead, this is a rebrand of HB Studios’ The Golf Club series, known for its realistic, challenging gameplay.

With the extra investment and name recognition brought in by the acquisition, expectations were high for this to be the best golf simulation to date. But did it live up to the hype? Read on to find out…


Firstly, this is very much a simulation, rather than an arcade-y experience. You have six swing difficulties to choose from, and the more advanced settings are truly unforgiving. You’ll need pin point accuracy, timing, awareness of your surroundings and knowledge of your clubs to succeed. The lower difficulties are much more like what you would expect from the old Tiger Woods titles, meaning the whole game has a good balance of real challenge for veterans, and accessibility for newcomers.

The only caveat to this is that you need to be using pro difficulty to play online. We found this a little disappointing, as it adds a massive barrier to entry to people dipping their toe into this style of game. This humble reviewer felt most comfortable on the ‘Pro-Am’ difficulty, which equates to around ‘normal’; anything higher felt more frustrating than rewarding, making online play a pretty arduous experience.

The more inclusive online feature is the course creator. You can design your own tracks and share them online for others to download. This means there’s a constant stream of new content being created to complement the base game. From impressive recreations of non-licensed courses to the truly whacky, there’s enough to keep everyone entertained.

And fortunately, everything looks fairly pleasing. Each of the licensed courses are almost photorealistic, but if anything, this is also their downfall. They all look a little pristine, with little to no movement or animations to make it feel like a living, breathing world. This might be a little pernickety for a golf game, but when everything else is designed to be totally immersive, this felt like a bit of a missed opportunity. 

And speaking of missed opportunities, PGA Tour 2K21 suffers more than I do on a Par 4. Although several major tournaments are included, the Masters isn’t. That’s as glaring an omission as FIFA deciding to ignore the Premier League. Although it doesn’t affect the gameplay as such, it cheapens the overall package, and gives it a sense of illegitimacy.

To make matters worse, there’s no women’s tournaments or pro golfers included either. Although you can design a female player for your careers, you’ll only be able to compete against your male counterparts, making it feel like a shoehorned oversight. When so many other sports series are pushing for gender equality, this feels like an utterly dated presentation. 


To wrap up, PGA Tour 2K21 is objectively one of the most realistic golf simulations to date. The precision it offers means it’s incredibly satisfying when you hit that perfect shot. The thing that lets it down is the packaging around it. The lack of licenses and almost elitist preference to higher difficulties makes it feel more amateur than the 2K name would suggest (well, until we saw what they did with WWE 2K20). And that’s perhaps the biggest tragedy of PGA Tour 2K21, at its core it’s a great game, it’s just spoiled by all the guff around it. A swing and a miss, I’m afraid.

★★☆☆☆
Tom Baker




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