PlayStation 4 – 2016
Atlus’ long awaited fifth entry in the Persona series is a wonderful experience. A turn-based JRPG with a compelling story, you step into the shoes on a young student who’s been wrongly accused of a crime. As a result, he’s been sent to live with a coffee shop owner in order to keep him out of trouble. As he begins his new life, he discovers there’s a hidden world built from people’s cognitive desires. Here, he and a group of friends will steal these people’s treasure and stop their distorted desires. Persona 5’s play style is slightly different from other JRPGs. Here, everyday life, such as school, friendship and hobbies are as important as dungeon exploring. In the real world, you’ll interact with several characters, call confidants. Building your bond with these will help you to understand the world but also unlocks cool features that will help you in battle. Taking part in hobbies and school helps to build up your skills and in turn, these will help you to advance confidants, make tools and unlock items. The dungeons are large and involve you making your way to the treasure before sending a calling card. The idea behind the dungeons is that you don’t do it all in one go but instead mix it up with real world activities. As the loading screen says, “take your time”. The combat is turn based but the main protagonist, Joker can persuade the games enemies, called Shadows, to join him. They each come with their own strengths and weaknesses, abilities and stats. These shadows can also be fused together to make even more powerful persona. The game looks amazing, from its in-game presentation to its anime cutscenes, and even its wonderful menu screens. The music is catchy, if a little repetitive. The heist music will get you pumped though. Persona 5 was my first entry in the series and it is a jaw-dropping experience, if a little slow in places. Overall, it’s a fun adventure that leaves you wanting more when it’s over.
Xbox One – 2017
F1 2017, similar to Codemasters’ previous entries, is a visually stunning game, from the details on each car to the track and even the race weekend presentation. TV Presentation is here, with commentators going through the Grid order and podium celebrations after the race. The career mode now features a paddock type hub, similar to how the first entries in Codemasters’ F1 sims. Here, you’ll interact with a laptop to go to the next session, change engine parts, see the championship standings and develop your car. Other characters will approach you to tell you of a new rival, how a new part has progressed or to invite you to a classic car event. It looks fantastic but the only downside is it increases the load times. The car development is much improved over the previous entries. Using a system F1 2016 introduced, you complete objectives over a race weekend and earn resource points. These are then spent to improve your car’s performance or reliability. These accrue slowly as a way to encourage you to remain loyal to a team rather than jumping around. Replacing car parts may incur a penalty, similar to how it would in real life. My issue was I found my car parts to wear very quickly so I ended up investing most of my development into durability to avoid grid penalties. When you start out, you create a character, customise their helmet (some helmets allow you to change individual colours) and pick your car number. Then you can choose any team to start with along with your teammate. The career mode is 10 years long but unfortunately other drivers don’t switch teams. This was an issue with all of the F1 games until recently. Classic events will pop up every now and again but they can’t be skipped. It’s a nice addition to be able to play as old McLarens, Ferraris or Williams but after a while I just wanted to get on with my season. Outside of career mode there’s Championships, which allow you to partake in different championship events such as Classic Championship Season and Sprint Challenge, as well as the Invitational Events you’ll encounter in Career Mode. The game has the usual wealth of options from assists such as Pit Limiter to weather setting but now you can change the time of day and difficulty is a sliding bar so you can find the driver AI just for you. There’re also a few variances on tracks such as Bahrain or the USA. On the track, the cars feel fantastic. With the right set-up, you will be gliding around the track with ease and thanks to the track acclimatization programme in practice, you’ll soon pick up how to manoeuvre around each course. Overall, it’s a great experience, even a few years after its initial release.
Lego Batman: The Videogame
Xbox 360 – 2008
One of TT Games earliest releases in the Lego series sees you take control of the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder as you smash your way through Gotham’s villains. The game is split into two parts, the Hero side where you’ll control Batman and Robin, and the Villain side where you’ll play as the likes of the Riddler, the Penguin and the Joker. Each side has three chapters with five missions in each chapter. The game isn’t long, with 100% competition easy enough to achieve. The game does feature collectibles in the form of Mini-kits, coins and hostages to rescue. Most of the game is played on foot but there are some levels where you’ll fly a plane, drive a car or control a boat. The game features a decent list of characters to unlock but nothing on the scale of the later Lego games. As it’s an early entry, there is no voice acting. Instead, the plot (if you can call it that) is told through the characters’ expressions and set pieces. The game can be played alone or with a friend but most of the achievements are only unlocked for the main player. The game does have some annoying faults. In two-player, there’s no split screen. This often means that the computer will drop a player out if another goes too far ahead. It appears to decide which player to drop randomly as there were times that I was the second player who didn’t progress quick enough but player-one was dropped out instead. In other cases where it doesn’t drop the player out, it drags them across the screen, sometimes into danger. The game does sometimes freeze (during our playthrough it crashed three times) and achievements can be glitchy. One achievement forced us to start a new game to unlock. It also has one of the worst bonus levels in the series to date – Wayne Mansion. It requires you to get 1,000,000 studs but there’s only that exact number in the level and if you miss one, you’ll spend some time trying to find it. It’s a decent entry in the Lego series but feels incredibly dated as a result of how much the series has progressed. It’s fun to play with a friend but you’re probably better off sticking with the newer entries.
PlayStation 3 – 2014
Formula One saw some major changes t the sport in 2014. Turbo-hybrid cars were introduced, gear ratio could no longer be changed from race to race and the final race of the season awarded double points (a ludicrous idea that was rightly dumped after 2014). Some of these changes do have an impact on the game. A combination of the EGO Engine 3.0 and the turbo-hybrid cars has the game sounding fantastic. It also looks great too. Being unable to change gear ratio won’t really impact casual fans of the series but those who like to play on the hardest difficulty may feel it. KERS is no longer controlled by the player but DRS is still in your hands. The double points can make the final race in Career Mode exciting or annoying, depending on how it affects you. As I’ve skipped over F1 2013 (I don’t own it), I can only really compare the game to the previous three I’ve played. I am aware that F1 2013 did have classic cars but none are present in F1 2014. In terms of control, it feels like an improvement on F1 2012 but I still prefer F1 2011’s cornering and acceleration. The game sees the return of several assists to help out but now they have different degrees of impact rather than just being on or off. You can also set parc fermé rules to on or off and have unlimited flashbacks. The AI are improved over F1 2012, making car setup and race craft important even on lower levels. The game no longer has a young driver test. Instead, there’s an evaluation test that is designed to help you pick your difficulty level. Scenario Mode is a tweaking of Champions Mode, where you’ll undertake challenges of varying difficulty. Season Challenge also returns. Career Mode is probably the part I found most disappointing. You can now select a short (7 races), medium (12 races) or full calendar at the start. The menu layout is nearly identical to F1 2012 but you no longer receive a tour of the track if you select it. There are no press interviews, podium celebrations or TV style presentation. These were all absent in F1 2012 also. At the start of your Career Mode you can choose any team. While it may be great for me having played several other beforehand, some of the joy in Career Mode was working your way up from the backmarkers to become the champion rather than diving into a Mercedes or Ferrari. Overall, it’s a strong F1 game from Codemasters but the lack of innovation, especially in Career Mode is a little bit of a let down.
PlayStation 3 – 2012
F1 2012 is the fourth game in Codemasters’ annual F1 series. Similar to its predecessors, it uses the EGO engine. As a result, it looks and sounds very similar to the previous HD entries, with damage and tyre wear graphics and physics being identical to F1 2011. There are some changes, though. The game introduces Young Driver Test, Season Challenge and Champions Mode. Young Driver Test is an introduction to the game, teaching you the ins and outs of acceleration, DRS, KERS and the racing line. The better you perform here, the more teams you can unlock to start your Career with. Season Challenge sees you attempt to win the Driver’s Championship within ten races. Depending on what difficulty you select, you can pick from a range of teams to play as and switch teams during the season. Champions Mode has you take on challenges to beat each of the six Driver’s Champions in the game before racing them all in Austin. These challenges include staying out in the wet with dry tyres while Hamilton hunts you down, catching Schumacher after being forced to pit and catch Vettel while setting the fastest lap. The menus have also seen an overhaul. Gone is the paddock setting from the previous two games. Its replaced with a sliding menu. With the paddock removed, the interviews are absent too. These could be repetitive in previous games but they did add a bit to the Career Mode and would have been great to expand upon. Emails are the main source of communication in Career Mode, where you’ll get track info, team-mate challenge stats and tyre wear info. You’ll also have to select a rival towards the end of the season and beating them again nets you their seat. The biggest let down for me from this over F1 2011 is the car handling. While F1 2011’s felt smooth and exhilarating, F1 2012 feels floaty. The car is easier to spin (not as easy as F1 2010) and when it does happen you simply have to hope you don’t hit a barrier. It’s hard to describe it without experiencing it for yourself. Overall, a great entry in the series but with little graphical upgrades, a lack of interactions in Career Mode and inferior car controls (to me anyway) means its marginally behind its predecessor.
Xbox 360 – 2011
Similar to their previous entry, F1 2011 was released well into the 2011 season. As a result, car and drivers’ performances are similar to their real life counterparts, i.e. HRT will often be glued to the back of the grid while Red Bull Racing will be competing for podium places. The game features the same teams from the 2010 game with the driver line-up receiving a shake-up to reflect the start of the 2011 season. Most of the tracks return but Sakhir and Hockenheim have been replaced by the Nurburgring and New Delhi, with the latter being a new track altogether in Formula One. The Game Modes from F1 2010 return, with Career being the main attraction. Here, you’ll race through five season to become the World Champion. Most options and assists are the same but you can now set the racing line to dynamic, which will help you pick up the course layout quickly. The menus are slightly different. They’re still set in the paddock but they’re a bit more streamlined. In Career Mode, you’ll choose from one of the lower performing teams and have to make your way up the ranks. The game introduces an email system and news headlines. Emails will outline your race objectives, track conditions (including weather) and any contract offers you receive. Once again contract offers are linked to your reputation, which will grow through your race results. Career Mode again features a season objective but will have objectives for each race and these will change depending on how well you perform. TV presentation is similar to F1 2010 but there are cutscenes after Qualifying and the Race, although they’re not podium scenes. Interviews are back but take place in the paddock. Again, you’ll have to pick a rival and beating them will net you an offer from their team. Graphically, the tracks look similar to its predecessor but the cars look better. You’ll also notice marbles on your tyres if you drive on the dirty side of the track, which is a nice little feature. You can bring up a small menu that will tell you when your scheduled pit-stop is and what position you’ll rejoin the race in. The big difference is the driving. The car glides around the track and it feels like you have more control over it. Braking is much more forgiving this time around but you can miss the odd braking point or lock your wheels. The cars are also less likely to spin, especially going over the curbs. In F1 2010, it was very easy to spin out. You can still spin out in 2011, such as driving off the racing line or hitting another car, but it feels more manageable. DRS and KERS have also been introduced. While not as important on the lower difficulty settings, it’s important to get to grips with these on higher settings in order to improve your lap times. Overall, while many of the features are similar to F1 2010, the racing feels better, and that’s where it really counts.
Xbox 360 – 2010
F1 2010 was Codemasters’ second attempt at an F1 sim, following the Wii and PSP F1 2009. It was also the first F1 sim to be released on the Xbox 360. The game came out late in the 2010 season and as a result, the cars and drivers mirror their real life performances in the season. The game comes with one of the largest grids at 24 drivers and has 19 unique tracks to race around. Visually, the game looks stunning, even today. The cars looks fantastic and small details such as car damage and tyre wear are noticeable. The engines sound great and you’ll have a race engineer who will communicate to you throughout the race, relaying important information such as when to pit, how far the car behind or in front of you is and when a rival pits. There is no commentary and the TV style presentation is non-existent. You won’t get a run down of the grid at the start of a race, just the pole sitter, your position and your team-mates. There are also no podium celebrations, instead you’ll have an interview. After a while, the questions begin to repeat themselves. The main menu is more like an interactive paddock where you can choose Online, Time Trials, Grand Prix or Career. Career is where you’ll spend most of the game as it’s designed around it. When you first start the game, you’ll be asked how long of a career you want. This will determine your career objective and what cars are available to choose from. There is no driver tests, just pick a team and away you go. You’ll be able to change some of the settings before a race, from drivers assists, to race length and weekend type. Long weekend has you play the full three Practice sessions, three Qualifying sessions and the Race, while short weekend just has one of each. Driver assists such as ABS, racing line and Pit Limiter are all useful for starting out but avoid Braking Assist, it will hamper your experience. In career mode, you’ll earn reputation, that will help you get offers from bigger teams. After a certain point, you’ll be asked to pick a rival. Beat them and their team will offer you a seat. The reputation points are a good idea but they feel slow to build up, especially if you’re over performing with a poor team. Car setups return and are important in order to achieve good results. There is a large community to help if you’re not too confident in experimenting. As you continue through the season, you will get challenges in Practice to complete that can improve your car or unlock new settings in Car Setup. If you’re the first team driver, you can dictate how much you want to push for improvements. In terms of driving, the cars feel great for the most part. Braking will take a little time to get used to as it’s very easy to either lock your brakes or miss the braking point. The game does have a feature called “Flashbacks” where you can go back a few seconds and try again. You can select up to four “Flashbacks” before the start of the weekend. One major flaw I had was that the game would freeze for a few seconds while driving. This had a huge impact, especially if it happened on a corner. It felt like it occurred every second race. Overall, a great early entry to Codemasters’ F1 journey, even if it was lacking some expected features.
Formula One 06
PlayStation 2 – 2006
Studio Liverpool’s last Formula One entry was released in July 2006. It featured the 11 teams and 22 drivers that started the season, including new teams Toro Rosso, Super Aguri and Midland F1. It features 18 tracks, with Spa-Francorchamps missing from the 05 edition. Playing the three games back to back, it becomes harder to point out differences as you go along. Formula One 06 really does feel like a reskin of Formula One 05 with some very minor tweaks. The car liveries and driver line-ups are updated, as you’d expect. The game features more TV-style presentations, with commentary appearing in game, as well as the option to take part in the parade lap. Pit stops are also more interactive but this is mainly because you have to change tyres this year whereas tyre changes were banned in the 2005 season. Tyre condition does play a bigger role as a result, so it’s important to keep an eye on them. The race engineer is a lot more talkative this time, which is great at first but he never tells you who’s retired, can sometimes forget to tell you when to pit and a lot of information he could relay is done through the commentary, which feels redundant at times (how many laps in succession are they going to tell me the top 8 positions). The menus have received a slight upgrade, looking marginally better than the previous game. The race hud looks a lot better, is neater and displays all the important information you need. The game’s classic cars are unlocked from the start and there is no bonus track like Formula One 05. The same game modes from 05 return. Career mode sees you once again creating a character (you can edit their helmet again) and start out by testing for one of the three new teams. From there, you can move through the grid. One thing that is odd is that bigger teams advertise roles early but you won’t get them as you won’t have enough race experience and since other drivers don’t move, what is the point. Another thing is that better teams will offer you Test Driver positions no matter how far ahead in the standings you are in the first season. It’s an odd complaint but the previous games took into account if you were winning the Championship. This led to a rather odd end of the season where I had a massive lead in the standings, became Renault’s Test Driver before the end of the season, didn’t race the final few races, got let go because my test results weren’t great but still won the Driver’s Championship. In terms of the tests, they’re a lot more involved than the others but not being able to change your tyres when the weather changes is definitely an oversight. In terms of gameplay, it feels slightly better than Formula One 05 but the difference is marginal and can often come down to the car you’re driving. I think it’s the best of the three PlayStation 2 games I played but the differences between 05 and 06 are so small that either one will more than pass the time. In the end, it gets a 4/5 because of the foundation Formula One 05 put in but its lack of innovation does hamper it slightly.
Formula One 05
PlayStation 2 – 2005
Studio Liverpool returns with an updated F1 sim, featuring 19 tracks, 10 cars and 20 drivers of the 2005 season. Similar to its predecessor, it only features those that started the season. The game is more evolution than revolution but those small changes help to improve the game. The cars and tracks look great, including the new Istanbul circuit. The control scheme is very similar to last year’s, with you being able to use either the buttons or right stick to accelerate and break. Break bias and traction control toggles still exist but oddly they’re not on the default controller layout. The game once again sounds great, full of engine noises and tyre screeches. There is supposedly a pit crew who communicates with you (I know this because it has a volume setting) but throughout my play through I never heard from them. The game features a selection of game modes, from Race Weekend, World Championship, Career and even Online play but I’d imagine that mode is now defunct. The game comes with Driving Aids, such as Steering Assist, Braking Assist and a Racing Line, which are great for starting out but I wouldn’t recommend leaving them on. You can change them in the main menu or in the pause screen while driving. The menu’s look tidier and no where is this more noticeable than in the Career mode. Career mode has also seen improvements. It now has a difficulty option, fuel and tyre wear settings (both of which can’t be changed after starting), race length and rolling starts. These are small changes but they make a difference. For example, rolling starts mean you don’t have to drive the out lap for a Qualification Lap. Car setup also returns and is necessary on higher difficulty levels but with Easy mode, you can just dive in. Driver customisation is more or less the same with one exception, you can no longer pick your helmet. Instead, you unlock a new one after every 30 points you get and can’t go back to an older one, which is a pity. You start Career mode by test driving for one of three teams and you can even be offered a First Driver contract if you’re good enough. For switching teams, you have to apply for roles when they open up, which is great as it meant Minardi and Jordan weren’t spamming my inbox with contracts despite me leading the Driver’s Championship. One other little feature the game added was interactive pit stops. They’re only quick time events but get them down and you can improve your chances of winning. Race presentation has also been improved, with the game showing the Grid Layout before a race. Overall, the little changes really made the difference.
Formula One 04
PlayStation 2 – 2004
Studio Liverpool’s racing simulator is based on the 2004 Formula One season. You can race as any of the 10 teams or 22 drivers that started the season across 18 tracks. The game has three core modes: Arcade, Simulation and Career. Arcade and Simulation see you choose one of the 22 drivers as you take on race weekends, a full season, time attack or time trials. Career has you create your own racer and compete across 5 seasons to win the Formula One World Drivers Championship. The cars and tracks all look fantastic, even now. The sounds are what you’d expect, lots and lots of engine noises. There is no commentary in this game, instead you will have a race engineer relay important information to you. There are some customisable options, from rules to damage and even fuel usage. Rules and damage seem strange. You can take shortcuts if you don’t overtake a car but pass another driver, even a back-marker, off the track and you will be penalized. The cars are more robust than later entries, which is a good thing because the AI will aggressively defend its racing line or try to overtake, ramming you to one side. Control wise, the game has an interesting concept. You can use X to accelerate or use the right analogue stick. It took me a while to adapt to the right analogue stick method but it’s worth doing as it gives you more control. I spent a lot of time in Career mode while playing this one. It’s a noble first attempt that just falls short. The creation options are limited (my nationality isn’t present for a start) but its not bad. This mode doesn’t really have any custom options. The race length is set, rules and damage are enabled and there are no pit stops (unless you pick up damage). You start out taking trials and can be a Test Driver for bigger teams, which is a nice feature. You will have to properly set up your car as if you don’t, you’ll spend most of your time near the back. Once you do and you start scoring points, you can move to bigger teams such as Williams and Ferrari. Each car drives differently and it can take time to get used to but stick with it and you’ll get there.