Xbox One – 2017
WWE 2K18 is another entry in 2Ks annual sports franchise. The game features a large selection of wrestlers to play as, from classic technicians such as Bret Hart to modern day powerhouses such as Brock Lesnar. The game also has a great variety of matches. You’ll have your regular One vs One matches but also Hell In A Cell, Elimination Chamber and the glorious Royal Rumble. If you’re not happy with the current selection of matches, wrestlers, arenas or belts, you can always create your own. The create-a-wrestler has a lot of depth to it but I did miss the layering system of older games. Sadly, you can’t import your own music into the game as an entrance theme but this is more a limitation on the consoles part and not the games. Create-A-Finisher is strangely absent but there is a good selection of moves to choose from. The two main modes are WWE Universe and My Player. WWE Universe has you editing matches, setting up promos, adding or removing superstars from the roster, and most importantly competing for gold. It has a good depth to it that should keep you entertained for hours. My Player is a career mode where you’ll create a superstar and guide them from NXT to Wrestlemania. This mode has potential but it falls flat on its face. Most moves and equipment are hidden behind loot crates which can be purchased using VC. Attribute points can be earned by doing side quests but these are limited. Instead, the game encourages you to use the Road to Glory mode to build up your superstar. This is an online mode that is now defunct. The storylines often felt flat, especially compared to the older Smackdown games. I honestly hadn’t a clue how to do Promos and they often just felt random. As mentioned above, VC is used to unlock loot crates but also to use attributes, purchase gear, skills, abilities and hidden wrestlers. The game leans heavily into VC which is earned through matches but it is slow to accumulate. I purchased the Deluxe Edition which meant all the wrestlers, belts and arenas were unlocked straight away. Gameplay for the most part is fluid. Its easy to pull off moves, reversals and finishers. There’s also a wealth of customisable to tailor the experience to you, from Blood to Squash Match rate. There was the occasional slowdown when I was running around backstage or in a match with numerous other competitors. Targeting opponents during a match was a pain as I had to cycle through the wrestlers before I got the one I wanted and it often led to me being hit. Overall a fun grappler let down by its over reliance on VC and loot crates, a defunct online mode and an uninteresting career.
Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity
Nintendo Switch – 2020
Set before The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Age of Calamity follows Link, Zelda and their comparisons as they attempt to stop the rise of Calamity Gannon. The game is developed by Koei Tecmo and is a hack’n’slash adventure, similar to their other offerings. Each level is set on a battle map, with objectives such as capture an enemy fort, defeat a certain enemy or escort an ally to safety. The combat is fun if a little repetitive in places. There are a range of characters to play as, each with their own style of fighting. I found some to be much more useful than others. The main campaign is broken into chapters, with story missions to undertake. There are also Challenges and Quests to undertake. Challenges will have you replaying a small section of a story level. These are also used as a tutorial for new characters. The Quests simply require you yo gather items on your way or purchase supplies from the shops to complete them. They help to power up your characters, unlock new characters and power up passive abilities. The game can be played in 1 or 2-player. The two player mode is a blast to play through with a friend but it does have some issues. Slow down is common when a special is used, especially Urbosa’s. It can also be difficult to see certain enemies life bars. One thing I did find annoying was how difficult it was to hit flying enemies. There is no jump button, instead certain combos will launch you into the air or you can vault off a wall. The game looks good but there is some pop up. I noticed this most with grass textures. The sound is wonderful and when you hear the legendary tune, it gets the blood pumping. Overall a fun game to play, especially with a friend.
Xbox One – 2016
Mafia III is Hanger 13’s first attempt with the series. Set in New Bordeaux, Louisiana, in 1968, it follows Lincoln Clay as he attempts to get revenge. It’s a game that has a lot going for it but ultimately falls short. The unique setting is fun to explore, if a little empty. You can blast through the streets of the French Quarter or ride roughshod through the Bayou. The story is incredible, with a likable cast of supporting characters (including a returning face). However, I’m not a fan of how it’s presented. It’s shown in a sort of documentary style where people look back at the events. On a few occasions it did spoil an upcoming event, which I found disappointing. The main story progression is split into taking over rackets and taking down the boss. Taking down the boss of each District is exhilarating and the missions do have a nice variety to them. In order to reach them though, you have to take over their two rackets and this can be a bit repetitive. It follows a format of cause enough damage, take out the under-boss and assign to a companion. It’s the same format for all nine Districts. There are side-missions too but these are very repetitive. It essentially boils down to go to a location, steal a vehicle, drop it off at a racket. Combat is a decent. The stealth gameplay is fantastic and is really satisfying when you clear out a base through sneaking alone. Gunplay is a bit hit and miss (literally). At first I enjoyed it but as the game went on, it became a little frustrating as enemies rushed you. Driving comes in two styles, Normal and Simulation. I stuck with Normal and had a blast drifting around corners. The music is phenomenal (mainly because I like most of the songs) but you won’t get the same level of radio as, say, Grand Theft Auto. My biggest complaint, though, as to be the bugs. On the odd occasion the vehicle sounds would just stop. Lighting, especially in poorly lit areas, would flicker. While not massive issues for me, they did take away from the game. The biggest issue was the crashes. I’m playing on a base Xbox One so your experience may be different. The game booted me back to the Xbox Dashboard nine times across my playthrough and attempted to reinstall the game three times. This meant I was never sure if I could make it through a mission (on one occasion it crashed as I was taking on a racket’s under-boss). Overall the game had potential, with moments of absolute brilliance, but by the end I was just frustrated with the mission design and glitches.
Xbox 360 – 2010
Released in 2010 by 2K Games, Mafia II follows the story of Vito Scaletta as he becomes entangled in the mob. Unlike it’s predecessor, Mafia II focuses more on the protagonists rise within the organisation before things go sour. The story is set in 1945 and 1951. Broken into two parts, the city sees some changes between the two different years, most notably in the cars available and the music you can listen to. The city looks beautiful, as it changes from the winter of ’45 to the summer of ’51. While the game is still broken into Chapters, you can now roam the streets of Empire Bay at your will. While having the new found freedom is nice, there is very little to do in the city so you’ll probably just stick with the main objectives. This becomes a bit of a problem later on when you have to raise cash and there are very few ways to do it. In terms of gameplay, it can be hit or miss at times (literally). The game’s missions come in a variety of stealth, driving and shooting. The stealth sections are done well, with certain areas having alternative ways to complete a mission. Car control varies from car to car, with some handling smoothly while others lumber around corners. Shooting is where I had some issues. I always felt it was a bit sensitive and without a lock-on or some aim assist feature, I often found my aim further from my target than I hoped. You also can’t shoot without aiming, which was frustrating in missions where enemies can quickly overrun you. Overall, the story carries it well but the lack of side-missions and the aiming are a bit of a let down.
Mafia: Definitive Edition
Xbox One – 2020
Hanger 13’s remake of the 2002 cult classic follows the rise of the Salieri family across the 1930s. You star as Tommy Angelo, a Lost Heaven taxi driver who gets involved with the mob. The game is split into two modes, Story and Free Ride. Free Ride does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing you to explore the city and its surroundings at your leisure. Free Ride does include some side-missions to undertake as well as collectibles to find. The meat of the game is in Story mode, where you’ll recap Tommy’s journey from 1933 to 1938. Here, the missions follow one after the other allowing you no time to explore. The game comes with four difficulty settings to choose from, including a Classic difficulty, reminiscent of the 2002 original. The story itself is a slow burner at the start, jumping across the years, until the final few chapters where it explodes into action. The graphics look stunning, with Lost Heaven being wonderfully brought to life through its many different districts. I did notice some cars popping in every now and again but these weren’t a common occurrence. The cars handle like trucks, which is what I’d expect vehicles from the 1930s to feel like. There is a speed limiter to help you obey the traffic laws to avoid unwanted attention. The game has a healthy mix of stealth, action and driving to keep you amused. Not a long game by any means but one that is definitely worth trying.