Monday, 31 October 2016

Top 10 Games in Steam's 2016 Halloween Sale

Happy Halloween! 

It's finally here. Possibly my favourite day of the year. And, with Steam's Halloween sale, it could easily be yours as well (if it isn't already). I was going to cover my top five horror games on sale, but, well, there are just too many great games to choose from. I would be doing you, and the games on sale, a disservice. Instead, I'm going to highlight five games that I already own and love, and five games that I'm likely to own soon... because I'm weak for horror with a discount. 

Games I own (and that you should, too!):


From the team behind Amnesia: The Dark DescentSOMA is a sci-fi horror that feels like it's set in the dank, underwater sections of BioShock. Within its dripping hallways are many tense moments of hide-and-seek with a creature that you'll never want to get too close to, and a surprising depth (no pun intended) surrounding the concepts of consciousness, reality, and what it is to be human. As you'll see from my review, the game was worth every penny at full price, so it's a complete steal at £9.19 (60% off). 


If you haven't played Outlast by now, shame on you. It's a game-changing horror from Red Barrels, where you'll explore an old asylum as an investigative journalist with a night-vision camera and little else. It's one of the scariest games I've ever played, and also one of the best. With Outlast 2 drawing near, there's never been a better time to pick up Outlast, and at only £3.74 (75% off), you'll even be able to afford the therapy afterwards. 


Depth has sharks. It's as simple as that. Not enough? Okay. Depth is a multiplayer game that pits divers against sharks, all player-controlled, across a series of different modes and maps. As a diver, you'll try to complete objectives, upgrade gear, and listen to the sound of your own heartbeat growing faster as a shark swims closer. As a shark, you'll choose from a number of different sharks - from the Mako, to the Hammerhead, to the beauty that is the Great White Shark - upgrade your own abilities, and pick off the divers one by one. It's great fun. Read my review, and see why it's worth every penny at £4.74 (75% off). 

Dead by Daylight

Dead by Daylight is a game that people are probably sick of hearing me talk about, but what's one more recommendation between friends? Frankly, I love it. One killer. Four survivors. As they try to escape, the killer hunts them down, hacks them up, and hangs them on a meat hook to either die or be saved by another survivor. It's like playing through a slasher movie. If that's not enough, the game now has its first licensed killer in Michael Myers from Halloween, along with Laurie Strode as a survivor and Haddonfield as a map. You can join the multiplayer madness for £10.49 (30% off), and if you think you might pick it up, make sure to read my top 3 tips for surviving and slashing

Dead Space 1 and 2 

I doubt the Dead Space games need much introduction, but just in case, these games see Isaac Clarke, Space Engineer, responding to distress calls aboard massive space stations. Each time, when he gets there, he finds the stations oddly abandoned. Before long, the reason why comes crawling from vents all around him: Necromorphs. Once crew members, they are now disfigured monstrosities that'll give you nightmares. Both Dead Space and Dead Space 2 are amazing games, and they're £2.49 each (75% off). I can't recommend them highly enough if you haven't played them before, and £5 will buy you hours of enjoyment (and tears).

Top five games I'll probably own soon:

Slayaway Camp 

Slayaway Camp is doing the rounds at the moment and is seeing some great reviews. It was already on my radar even before it went on sale, so now it's a pretty big blip I'm keeping my eye on. Players control Skullface, a psycho that's looking to slaughter a few teenage counsellors at the titular Slayaway Camp. Despite its gory concept, the game actually has a pretty cute voxel style and killing the teenagers involves solving isometric puzzles. This "darkly comic homage to 80s horror" will keep your mind, and your knife, pretty sharp. Plus, the game is only £4.43 (26% off). 

Camp Sunshine

I'm clearly still not over my 80s teen-slasher phase, because Camp Sunshine is another horror set at Summer Camp where teenagers are becoming an endangered species. This time, it's a "16-bit blood-soaked horror RPG" where you play as Jez. He wakes up in the middle of the night to find blood splashed everywhere. Before he knows it, he's trapped in a "deadly game of cat and mouse" with a murderer dressed in a mascot costume. It's like the creepy bunny mascot from Silent Hill 3 finally moved... It's only £5.59 (20% off), and looks to be a 16-bit nightmare that I can't wait to be trapped inside. 

Darkest Dungeon

Darkest Dungeon is a rogue-like, turn-based RPG in a dark, gothic wrapper. Players have to recruit, train and lead a group of "flawed heroes" in a battle against a number of twisted creatures and the "ever-encroaching dark." It looks to be a challenging experience, but one that is also available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita (where I may pick this one up). At only £11.39 (40% off), Darkest Dungeon is quite a new game with an interesting premise, and one that is more than likely to keep you going through its hellish battles for a good, long while. 

Check it out >

Lakeview Cabin Collection

Honestly, of all the games in my list, Lakeview Cabin Collection is the one that I understand the least. What I do understand is that the game is a 2D action-puzzler that puts another group of people in another set of lakeside cabins with a murderer on the way. By now, you can probably tell that this combination is all I need right now. According to the Steam reviews, which are "very positive," you can "get drunk, get naked, have a foursome" and then try to survive the killer. That's really all I need to hear. LCC sounds fun, and at £1.74 (75% off), it's a risk I'm very willing to take. 

Through the Woods

Through the Woods, though the most expensive game on the list, is also the newest, and was only released on Thursday 27th of last week. It features a mother searching the woods for her missing son, and is heavily influenced by Norse mythology and Norwegian folktales. Based on what I've seen so far, there seems to be a focus on Norse giants. At £14.39 (10% off), it still looks well worth the money for an immersive, third-person stroll (or, more likely, sprint) through the woods. 


Like the sound of quite a few of the games on sale? Better act fast, as the sale is only running until November 1st (inclusive). After that, the prices go back up and can be as scary as the games themselves. Quick, get yourself some cheap horror!

And with that... the candle inside the pumpkin has been blown out. I hope you've enjoyed my daily posts leading up to Halloween as much as I have. If you did, please make sure to leave a comment, share the articles, or just get in touch on Twitter

Don't fear - I'll be sharing the scares again before you know it. I've already got a few more game reviews lined up. I'll just need a day or two rest while I lock all of the doors and gorge on horror in all varieties to celebrate Halloween the only way I know how. Have a scary one.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Blood & Gourd - Issue 1 and 2 Review

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, I was lucky enough to find myself in possession of Issue 1 and 2 of Dead Peasant's Blood & Gourd comic book. By which I mean, they were kind enough to send me review copies. What I discovered within its pages was a witty, gory experience that fully encapsulates the Halloween season. Oh, and if you have a pumpkin spice latte nearby, I'd put it down... You never know where those pumpkins came from.

The basic concept, without spoiling the story, is that it's almost Halloween and there's a pumpkin growing contest on Henderson Farms; a family farm that is now being bought out by a big corporation up to no good. So, this pumpkin contest is the family's last weekend on the farm. This is basically Blood & Gourd's version of their "last night on the force before retirement." Naturally, things go wrong in the most unnatural way. Evil (and awesome) pumpkins. 

Then, the entire farm, and all of its visitors – from the country folk that grew up there to the city mice that have travelled to reconnect or relax – are thrown into chaos. In the first two issues, this is Blood & Gourd.

The art and colours of the page immediately transported me to a place where Autumn is in full force, and every page is bursting with seasonal reds, oranges and yellow. It's perfect for setting the Halloween mood, as well as representing the season we all know and love in a small American farm.

Then, once I'd appreciated the style of the comic, and it's beautiful covers (seriously, dat issue 1 cover, tho), I noticed the writing. Not only did it give me a good idea of the characters, histories and motives - some of which I liked and respected, some of which I didn't - but it was also pretty damn funny. I learned my new favourite insult, "butt crumbs," and the humour kept the barrage of horror and gore (which I loved, of course) at a good pace. It never felt like I was drowning in gore, but able to jump from one stepping stone of humour and wit to the next, appreciating both without ever been consumed too fully by either. It was a perfect mix.

When the horror does take hold, though, it does it well. Pumpkins with teeth, necks being snapped, faces melting... Blood & Gourd has all of the good stuff, and it's drawn in great detail with bright colours and splash pages. Heaven. 

One favourite moment, which I'll share, has a kid holding his Mum's hand. She's out of the panel and the kid is glancing around, unsure of whether the brutality around him is real or a Halloween show. He asks her. When he looks up, wondering why she hasn't replied, her head has been replaced by a pumpkin with teeth from the neck up. Then Kitty, a take-no-crap kind of protagonist, pitch-forks her through the chest. I loved it. 

It's an amazing moment that reminded me why I love horror, but before long there was another joke, and it's this mix that keeps the comic flowing nicely. As Joss Whedon once said, "Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”

Issue 1 is a 48-page spectacle of autumnal horror, and Issue 2, while much shorter, continues the story in a speedy fashion, leaving the reader on the edge of their seats with a cliff-hanger that could have global repercussions. Issue 2 also starts with a short limerick, which reminded me of the shorter tales in the back of the Harrow County comics - known as "Tales of Harrow County." This showed that the creators could create a much darker tone if they desired, and it's something I'd be happy to see more of, either at the start or end of issues.

If you're on my blog, I can almost guarantee that you'd enjoy Blood & Gourd. It features a story that's perfect for the Halloween season and stirs together all of the best ingredients in one massive, indie-comic cauldron. Brutal deaths, drawn and coloured perfectly for maximum effect, combined with witty writing that keeps the pace flowing nicely from one petrifying page to the next, and a story where I'm excited to see what happens next. You should be, too.

Ready to carve some pumpkins? You find out more about Blood & Gourd on its website, or purchase the issues for yourself in print or digitally via Comixology. Go on. It's bloody gourd.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hello, Neighbor! - Pre-Alpha Demo Impressions

"Hello, Neighbor!" isn't something I say often, or ever, since I don't speak to my neighbours, but since it's the name of Dynamic Pixels and tinyBuild's upcoming stealth horror, it's something I'm happy to add to my vocabulary. Even in such mysterious circumstances as this: 

Across the street is a man. There's something strange about him. Something shines from behind his basement door, which is padlocked and boarded up. Just what is he hiding back there? Well, in Hello, Neighbor!'s pre-alpha demo, that's what I aimed to find out.

Here he is. Looking out the window like he doesn't have some terrifying secret hidden in his basement. Douche.

At its core, Hello, Neighbor! is a game which has players exploring the house of the man across the street, whether he likes it or not. And he really doesn't. The ultimate goal is to find out what is locked away in his basement. The only way to do this, however, is to sneak into his house and gradually work your way through using items you find, such as keys to unlock doors, hammer to pry off boards, and codes to enter into keypads. 

In order to get enough time to do actually do this, or to explore a room that the neighbour is currently in, distractions are key. For example, do you want to go into the living room where he's watching TV? If you smash a window, turn on a radio, or open the garage door, to pick out a few examples, he'll get up to find out what it was. While he's up and about, it's time to move. Be quick, though, because you never know when he might be back.

If he comes back to find you snooping about, you'll know about it. The music becomes almost deafening as he chases you down, and if he catches you, you wake up back in your bedroom across the street. Only next time you go back to the neighbour's house, things will have changed.

You see, Hello, Neighbor! features procedural AI that can, and will, adapt. During one of my many short playthroughs (I wasn't very good at snooping), I got my foot caught in a bear trap. Shortly afterwards, he appeared, and I found myself back across the street. Then, knowing my weakness for this method of capture, I found that he'd put another bear trap right outside the front door. Clever bastard. 

While Hello, Neighbor!'s premise and procedural AI definitely have promise, the early build that I played through felt like just that. I was able to somehow glitch through a wall and hide under a bed without ever stepping foot inside, and the neighbour himself would often get stuck inside objects. Though this seemed like an invitation to explore the rest of the house in my own time, it actually meant that he was sometimes stuck inside the very room that I wanted to be in. If he then spotted me, he'd break free from his glitch-trap and catch me. It almost always made me jump...

In addition, I had to guess what the controls were, as the escape button closed the entire demo rather than bringing up a menu, like I'd thought it would. In a demo as tense as this, it would have been nice to know the controls from the get-go. The latter issue is obviously very minor, but adds up to the unpolished feel that can be expected at this stage in development.

Regardless of the few bugs mentioned above, which really aren't that surprising inside a pre-alpha build, Hello, Neighbor! has my attention. From the very first trailer, I've been captivated by the game's unique style, making the world and its characters seem surreal and larger than life, much like the world of Albino Lullaby, another one-of-a-kind horror that I reviewed in 2015. Everything is extremely colourful and hides a much darker tone behind its cheerful exterior. I can't wait to peep through its curtains, explore its rooms, and, ultimately, find out what's hidden in the depths of its basement.

You can find out more about the upcoming horror game on its website, sign up to play the pre-alpha demo for yourself here, or even purchase the game on Steam, as it's just enter Early Access release with an updated demo known as Alpha 1 (featuring more items and a two-story house). Happy hunting.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Horror Games on VR

Virtual reality is blowing up right now, and my tiny brain is blowing up right alongside it. We're one step closer to living out our lives in a virtual paradise (or nightmare), and I'm so ready. Until then, though, the various VR offerings — HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR (along with more entry-level systems) — are still in their infancy. 

PlayStation VR (PSVR) only launched on October 13th, and the other major players have yet to show off too many fully-realised VR experiences. Even so, the PSVR launched with a nice line-up of  titles and many more games have been announced for the future across all VR platforms. This includes titles from the horror genre, which VR is sure to make even scarier. 

Since it's that wonderful time again, when the smell of pumpkin spice floats on the breeze and the sound of witches cackling fills the night, let's run through a list of a few exciting horrors that have either been released, or are still in the works, for VR. 

VR Worlds: Into the Deep 

Platform: PSVR 
Release date: Out now
Synopsis: One experience of five that launched with PlayStation VR in a bundle known as VR Worlds. Into the Deep sees players plunged into the depths of the ocean in a cage. At first, it probably seems beautiful and awe-inspiring as you take in the sights of marine life around you in an endless blue sea, but things quickly take a nasty U-turn when a Great White shark aims its beady eyes in your direction.

Until Dawn: Rush of Blood

Platform: PSVR
Release date: Out now
Synopsis: An on-rails shooter set inside the same universe as one of my favourite teen-slasher games, Until Dawn, which I reviewed on its weekend of release. Though I'm not sure it will have the same impact as the game it is based on, it still features a creepy circus setting, jump-scares, and what appears to be a spiralling rollercoaster into insanity (with a few nods to Until Dawn and its characters, just for good measure). If nothing else, it looks like a fun time in a horror setting, and could be a perfect way to experience the genre up-close and personal for the first time. 

Here They Lie

Platform: PSVR 
Release date: Out now (digitally)
Synopsis: A true foray into a horror experience that was created with VR in mind, Here They Lie looks like a creepy combination of BioShock and We Happy Few, while adding a few of its own strange creatures into the mix. Frankly, a lot of details are still hidden in shadows and vague descriptions from the developers on PlayStation's blog do little to shine much light on them, but why ruin a terrifying mystery before playing it? 

Killing Floor: Incursion

Platform: Oculus Touch
Release date: TBC
Synopsis: Tripwire Interactive's gory Zed-splatting series is making its way to VR as an even more immersive shooter experience. I'm a big fan of Killing Floor 2, as I first found out when it went free-to-play for one weekend, and I can't wait for its heavy rock and heavier gore to explode onto VR. What I'm not looking forward to is seeing the spider Zeds with my own eyes... So many arms and legs. So many.

Resident Evil 7

Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4, PSVR
Release date: January 24th 2017
Synopsis: Resident Evil is returning, and believe it or not, the majority of people are actually excited by what they see. In a post-PT world, where Silent Hills has already been cancelled after having changed the genre forever, Capcom seems to have finally take note of what gamers want. Resident Evil 7, as seen in my recent demo impressions, is first-person, cuts back the action, and actually delivers multiple tense moments that aren't centred around roid-rages and rock punching. With another completely new step for the series, the entire experience will also be playable in VR. I'm daring to be overly optimistic.


Platform: Steam, PSVR
Release date: Steam (Q4 2016), PSVR (TBC)
Synopsis: The upcoming debut title from Gattai Games, Stifled has players exploring the world around them using echo-location. It's an unique mechanic that lends itself nicely to the horrors of hide-and-seek, whereby players will have to make a sound in order to see the world around them, possibly alerting someone, or something, to their presence while doing so. You can check out my initial thoughts on the press demo here. Initially only planned for release on Steam, Stifled was also recently picked up as a perfect game for PSVR, which I can't help but agree on.


Platform: Steam, Oculus Rift
Release date: Q4 2016
Synopsis: Another debut title, this time from Honor Code Inc. Narcosis sees an industrial diver stranded at the bottom of the ocean in an intense survival horror, trying to make their way back to the surface before their "oxygen - and sanity -  give out." The developers describe the diving suit as a "walking coffin," which sounds like a great time to me, so I can't wait to see more. Further information can be found on the website, in case you're itching to get your scuba gear on.


And... I'm leaving it there for now. The horror genre on VR, much like virtual reality itself, is still learning the lay of the newly virtual land, but I'm certain that it is this genre that will see the most effective performance early on. I think we're all going to smash a few belongings while we get used to not running blindly around our living rooms, but when it comes to horror, I'm always happy to just buy new things.

Are you looking forward to VR, or are you not quite sure yet? Do you have a preferred VR platform in mind? Or maybe you know of some more upcoming VR horror titles that I haven't listed here?

Come and chat all about it with me on Twitter. We can be virtual buddies.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Outlast 2 - Demo impressions

Outlast 2 has been making its way through the dark for a while now, but it's finally getting much closer. The sequel to Outlast, which was set inside a dark, corrupted asylum, will be released in 2017 across PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. No price has been revealed. Never mind all that, though. Grab your night-vision camera and a handful of batteries, because we're exploring the Outlast 2 demo.

The demo starts with a little context, wrapping the scares up in an investigative package that is similar to that of the original game:

"You are Blake Langermann, a cameraman working with your wife, Lynn. The two of you are investigative journalists willing to take risks and dig deep to uncover the stories no one else will dare touch. You’re following a trail of clues that started with the seemingly impossible murder of a pregnant woman known only as Jane Doe. The investigation has lead you miles into the Arizona desert, to a darkness so deep that no one could shed light upon it, and a corruption so profound that going mad may be the only sane thing to do."

With that in mind, Blake is thrown down a cliff, clearly separated from his beloved Lynn, and re-unites with the other love of his life; his camera. As soon as he picks it up, I'm in control, and immediately as spooked as ever. It's an almost pitch-black night, though the moon lights my way at first, and I'm heading towards a small gathering of huts. When I get there, I turn on my night-vision camera for the first time and see eyes shining in the darkness. All around me. They don't move, but I decide to duck into one of the huts through an open window. An errant crow flies through and I wonder why I even like horror so much in the first place. 

By this point, I very much feel like I'm back in the universe of Outlast, despite the fact that everything so far has been much more open. Each new scare, whether scripted imaginary, nothing more than a gust of wind blowing through an open door, keeps me on edge. This is definitely Outlast.

I'm being as vague as possible in order to leave the 5-10 minute demo unspoiled, but there's a lot packed into it. It appears as if there's multiple facets to the narrative of Outlast 2, with the little town or farm feeling somewhat cult-ish, containing a number of different spirit-like entities, and a hell of a lot of dead bodies. Naturally, it's all very creepy, if a little disconnected.

My initial concern with the Outlast 2 demo is that this small glimpse into the sequel felt like it had too many different layers. While this isn't necessary a bad thing for the full experience, these layers were added with an increase of the spiritual element that only really appeared towards the end of the first game.

Within the demo I was shown a number of different entities, locations and trippy sequences in a short space of time. Though each delivered their own scares well, they lacked the brutal realism of the first title, which felt very much like You vs Them in an abandoned asylum. Clean. Simple. Scary. Outlast 2 has clearly been messing with a Ouija board since then.

The demo was also much more open than I'd expected, and I lost my way a few times towards the end of the demo when being chased through a cornfield. It could have just been fear, but the way out - which turned out to be jumping a fence using a stack of pallets - wasn't clear to me. All very minor things, and I'm not surprised to find myself with some concerns. Outlast raised the bar so high for indie horror games. It's a hard one to live up to. I know that I've been spoiled...

Don't get me wrong, I completely trust Red Barrels to deliver a sequel that's as terrifying as the original. I just hope that the scares aren't wrapped up in a story that I'll neither understand nor remember when the final credits roll. Until we find out for sure, go forth, find out more about the game on Red Barrels' website, and try the demo on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam. It'll scare the night-vision right off of your camera.

If you'd prefer to watch someone else be terrified by it, watch Markiplier play through below:

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Sun is a Tangerine - Storytelling in VR

We're doing something a little different today. Rather than a horror game, I wanted to tell you about The Sun is a Tangerine, the first book in a trilogy of dark sci-fi thrillers from the critically-acclaimed mind of Brian Kirk. The book may not be strictly horror, but it has some aspects that are pretty close, and aims to include VR features that I'm sure you'll find interesting. 

The Sun is a Tangerine is set in a future that seems not too far off these days; a world where virtual reality has been integrated into daily life and is weaved throughout all of society. Brady Manes, a gifted man with one of the most influential VR companies and a young daughter, leaves the bright lights of Los Angeles behind for a simpler life in Old Montana. Not only does he leave behind a "society of the verge of artificial utopia" and his company, but he leaves behind his daughter as well. Now, the world needs him to go back.

Someone is blurring the lines between reality and virtual reality, "trapping people’s minds within simulated worlds, turning their bodies into human avatars controlled by someone or something on the other side." See, I told you it was dark — that's what you're all here for. 

Now, with Jake Shaw, a Native American man that taught Brady the ways of a simpler life in the Montana wilderness, he must return to LA in order to save the users of VR. He just may be the only man who can. Of course, it also means returning to a daughter who has grown up with a lot of questions and resentment, in a world that believes him to be the main suspect in the mysterious incidents taking place.

As if the story itself wasn't interesting enough, Kirk wants to bring two specific scenes to life within virtual reality. Kirk hopes those that these VR scenes will add a new level of immersion to the story, and if the feature is integrated in the right way, I can see myself agreeing. VR marks a new era for storytelling. There's no reason that shouldn't apply to the written word just as much as it does for the world of gaming (and elsewhere). 

Each novel will come with a Google Cardboard headset, enabling readers to turn their smartphone into an entry-level VR headset, and there will be an app that readers need to download in order to access these VR features (potentially priced between $0.99 - $3.99). This app would also include behind-the-scenes content and teasers for the sequel, giving more bang for your buck. Don't worry if you're not quite sold on VR yet, or have no plans to ever be sold on it, as these virtually-realised scenes will also be on paper for anyone that would still prefer to read them in the most traditional sense.

Interested in Kirk's immersive VR trilogy? He's looking to get in touch with anyone working in VR as a way of bouncing off ideas, discussing the ins-and-outs of what VR can do for his novels, and altogether, in his own words, "make history." You can get in touch with him via his contact page on his website, or by starting a conversation on Twitter

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Dead by Daylight - Michael Myers returns for Halloween

Ah, Dead by Daylight... Sadly, it's been a while. Not by choice, mind you. I was still very much enamoured by the game when my Internet connection decided it would just plain stop. Now I'll have to find a way to return, because on Halloween comes an extremely important update; the inclusion of the game's first licensed killer, Michael Myers.

That's right. Michael Myers, from the beloved Halloween series, is coming to Dead by Daylight, along with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as a brand new survivor, and a map set in the sleepy little town of Haddonfield. But how will Michael play as a killer? According to 1428 Elm, a game journalism site:

"Michael Myers... comes with his own “ultimate stalker” style, growing his power from watching his victims until he becomes “evil incarnate”. The Haddonfield map, featuring a well-lit street with houses to scavenge, is also fresh to the game."

Fish Without Chips, a YouTuber, managed to get their hands on this new map already and has shown how it looks with one of the existing killers:

Just in case you're not really sure what Dead by Daylight actually is, or why you should feel as excited as you do, the game is an asymmetric multiplayer in which one killer (of varying backgrounds, aesthetics and abilities) hunts down four survivors (again, all with their own styles and skills). The survivors try to escape procedurally-generated maps by fixing generators and opening doors, while the killer uses their traps and wits to track them down and kill them. It's one hell of a good time. 

So good, in fact, that I also wrote a Top 3 tips to survive article a little while back. Check it out if you're planning on returning to, or joining, the fearful ranks of Dead by Daylight as a result of the Halloween update. Incidentally, it'll be arriving on Halloween. If you already own the game, new abilities introduced in the DLC will be free, but for the new killer and survivor there will be a cost that hasn't yet been revealed.

Dead by Daylight is on Steam for £14.99 ($19.99) and the Halloween DLC will be launching on Halloween. That's a Halloween treat that you don't even have to leave the house for.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Friday the 13th: The Game - Single player added (and delays)

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I've been re-watching all of the Friday the 13th films (and sharing trivia while I do so). Halloween may  be close, but my main influence for doing so was all of the recent news on Friday the 13th: The Game. Just in case you've been hiding under a bed inside a cabin and missed it, here it is.
Friday the 13th: The Game has been delayed. Now, before you start throwing a tantrum - which I'd completely understand - there's a few reasons why it's actually a good thing.

Firstly, and most importantly, Gun Media and IllFonic are working on a Single Player mode. See? Told you it was good. This mode was originally only going to be possible if the crowdfunding stretch goal was reached, but the team have managed to find a way to add the feature within the budget they have (which, to be fair, is sizeable). Little is known on the details of this mode, but we do know that it means the game's release date has been pushed from Fall 2016 to Spring 2017. 
Personally, I'm more than happy to wait if it means I'm getting more content for the same price (since I was one of the backers), and the PC beta is planned for Fall 2016 so we'll still get to don the iconic hockey mask this year. That is, if you've backed or pre-ordered the game before then. 
As an added bonus, those that receive beta access will also receive four extra beta keys for their friends. Since I have no friends outside of Twitter actually interested in horror, that means you guys. I'll probably hold a giveaway when the codes are sent. Keep your eyes peeled.

The team also announced a new playable character — one that has had a big impact on the franchise; Tommy Jarvis. They haven't yet clarified which Tommy Jarvis this will be, as he first appears as a child, and is later played by two different actors, but we do know that "he'll return ready for battle." In addition, Packanack Lodge, the setting of Friday the 13th: Part 2 has been revealed as the third playable map in multiplayer. The other two maps are Camp Crystal Lake itself and Higgins Haven (Part 3).
As a result of the delay, the team shared the new timings for beta, multiplayer and single player release. "The release schedule is roughly as follows: 
  • Fall 2016: Beta Release
  • Spring 2017: Multiplayer Release with Tommy Jarvis and Packanack Lodge as the third playable map 
  • Summer 2017: Single Player Release and Offline AI Bots
I'm hoping that the beta itself will last for the rest of the year once released, giving the team lots of quality testing/feedback, and giving the rest of us a distraction until the full multiplayer release in Spring of 2017. Only time will tell.

Speaking of time, Wes Keltner, the studio head and co-creator of Gun Media, issued a statement about the positives that the delay will bring:

"The first thing people are going to read here is 'delay'. We want everyone to be assured that coming to our decision to delay was no easy matter, but we believe that the positives far outweigh the negatives. We've been reading day in and day out on our social media feeds that single player and Tommy Jarvis were in such a demand that we couldn't ignore our fans. After securing funding, we're here to tell you that it is a reality and we're making this game even bigger. It sucks that there's a delay, but the wait won't be too long and it's going to offer more for fans in the long-run!"

Other than the release date itself, the single player mode also affects the price of Friday the 13th: The Game (for those that didn't back or pre-order the game before the announcement). The digital version is being bumped up from $30 to $40 (approx. £30), while the physical copy is staying at $60 (approx. £50). 

Alongside this, the team stated that:

"We believe that digital prices should include a savings for those that purchase them, and those that want to hold a physical copy in their hands can pay more for it, since it costs more to produce, manufacture and distribute. It's logical and we at Gun Media scratch our heads when we see digital pricing for games that matches the physical pricing." Well said.

Excited? Upset? Saw the delay coming? Either way, let's make sure you're on the hype train for Friday the 13th: The Game by watching some of the more recent footage; multiple kills, a close-up teaser of Jason at Higgins Haven and even pre-alpha gameplay:

Kills montage:

Jason in Higgins Haven:

Pre-alpha gameplay footage:

As an added bonus, here's CharminEXSoft discussing the gameplay footage after an interview with Keltner, which offered up more information about Jason's abilities:

Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Final Station - Review

Feel like riding the rails through a stunning, yet rotting, world of shady governments and the undead? Well, that's your mission, and it may be humanity's last hope. All aboard for The Final Station, a side-scrolling, cross-country pixel-horror developed by Do My Best Games and published by tinyBuild Games. There will be no hot drinks or snacks served on this service. 

What there will be, however, is a thought-provoking combination of music and pixel-art. The soundtrack, composed by Geoff Hart-Jones, first grabs hold in the title screen and doesn't let go until the credits roll. (You can check out his work on Soundcloud, or chat with him on Facebook and Twitter.) Pair this with TFS' pixel-art — which is perfect for showing the beauty of the surviving world, the horrors within it, and the untold stories of its inhabitants  — and you have a gripping experience that goes much further than its familiar gameplay structure would make you think.

In essence, TFS has two main sections of gameplay; managing a train and its passengers, and exploring stations and towns in search of survivors, supplies and blocker codes. The latter is the only way to progress from one station to the next.

The train management sections are similar to Faster Than Light, albeit a much stripped back version. In these you keep an eye on your passengers' health and hunger stats and feed or heal them when the time arises. If the time arises. Supplies are hard to find, and the reward that passenger's safe journey may bring you (normally money or ammo), may not be worth taking a precious medi-kit from your own inventory. The choice is yours. Keeping them alive does nurture some interesting conversations, though, which give fleeting insight into the decaying state of the often beautiful world that you're steaming through.

While doing that, the train has a few issues of its own. A few different systems around the train tend to break, and to fix them and keep power flowing through the carriages, mini games need to be completed. For the most part, these are extremely easy, but on the occasion that you have a train full of hungry, bleeding passengers, it can be a nice challenge to juggle the tasks. 

Occasionally there'll be a notification directing you to the front of the train. When this happens, someone working somewhere along the rails wants to talk. These conversations are short, but left me with snapshots into what others were going through. It gave me a tip-of-an-iceberg feeling that only made me feel more entrenched into the world of TFS.

When you reach a station, the second part of gameplay takes over. You're on foot, armed with a pistol, shotgun, or machine-gun, and you're tasked with exploring a town or station to find the code for the blocker that's stopping the train in its tracks, quite literally. 

Either you'll find a town full of people, conversations, shops and hints of a shady government working beneath it all, or you'll find silent stations full of '​them'. In The Final Station'they' are zombies.

Zombies are represented as two eyes in a silhouette, but those silhouettes come in a number of different shapes and sizes. A 'regular' build is your average Romero zombie; Slow moving, downed with one shot to the head, but dangerous in numbers. If that was all TFS would be a walk — or train journey — in the park.

Gradually introduced throughout the game are smaller zombies, built for speed; taller zombies, built for defense and power; and armoured zombies, who can only be killed with a headshot once their helmets have been knocked off. There's also a couple more, but I won't spoil them because then they might not surprise you like they did me. 

And you will be surprised, I'm sure. Only by opening a door will you be shown what is waiting inside. It could be food, ammo, money, but it could also be a horde of 'them'. Depending on how many of them there are, it can be better to run than use up what's left of your ammo. Another option is punching your way through. Punching works best on less energetic varieties, but is often the only way to thin a herd without running out of bullets.

Then, when you've searched almost everywhere, there'll be a note on the wall. This will probably be the blocker code, a four-digit code that lets the train pass. My favourite thing about these blocker codes and DMB Games' level design is that once I found the code, I knew that I'd seen all there was to see. More often than not, there was then a very clear path back to the train that didn't involve backtracking. I never felt like I'd missed anything, and I left each town or station feeling like all loose ends were tied up. It was a consistent sense of satisfaction.

Consistence is another thing that TFS does well. The game follows this train management to station exploration tag-team throughout and rather than becoming monotonous, it feels right. The developers found a structure that seemed to work, and they stuck to it. Thanks to this consistence I was able to take the time to appreciate the beauty and unrest of the world.

In towns, trains were being cancelled leaving people with nowhere to go, and others were in hiding, either at their church or deep underground with a shotgun held to their chest. All the time, an overly aggressive police force watched over them, begging somebody to step out of line. Each town was full of hidden people and moments that pieced together a world that, ironically, was falling apart.

Then, on the train, the backdrops were often as gorgeous as they were haunting. Snowy mountains, towering cities, a silent lake house, followed by the occasional gas canister or graffiti: "The Guardian will save us."

I never really found out what The Guardian was, though I know I helped to transport parts for it, but I'm okay with that. A lot of TFS' stories are hidden in shadows and only see light when completed in your own mind, so it feels right that humanity's last hope and its results are equally murky. However, some of these mysteries may have been answered without me knowing...

One minor issue I found was that I was unable to read all of the conversations between passengers, due to running up and down the carriages to fix machinery and grab supplies. These conversations felt important to the narrative of the game, but it was impossible to read them all and keep the train running. If I were to miss anything in terms of context or information, it would have been during those conversations. 

Also, in direct contradiction, sometimes I couldn't help but read the conversations because the text boxes covered up tasks that I was trying to complete. It didn't happen often, though it's one to watch out for.

In relation to the tasks, they seem to be isolated to only one machine at a time. Early on when there's little to do between stations it would have been nice for multiple objects to fix, as I found myself twiddling my thumbs. Not that I really minded... The pixel-art scenery rolling past the train is truly mesmerising.

Controller support, which I much prefer and used throughout, was also a little sensitive for aiming. Not a deal-breaker, although I couldn't see any sensitivity settings to tweak, which might have been helpful. As you can see, there's nothing that took me off the rails in terms of negative feedback, and definitely no blockers to my enjoyment.

See that? That's a blocker. It's empty because it didn't block my enjoyment.

Overall, The Final Station is a 5-6 hour journey that you should definitely be taking. You'll travel through a world of beautiful pixel-art scenery, thriving towns of fear, confusion, and shady governments, all of which is broken up nicely by exploring abandoned, zombie-filled train stations complemented by TFS' haunting soundtrack (which you can buy!).

Though the train management sections could take a leaf out of Faster Than Light's difficulty book, and also revealed a few issues in pacing, text overlap and missing dialogue, the game is all the better for its consistent mix between the two types of gameplay. At only £10.99 ($14.99) on Steam, it costs about as much as a train journey and is a hell of a lot more fun. Jump on board before it leaves the station, because who knows when they may arrive.

The Final Station is on PC, PS4 and Xbox One right now, and you can find out more about the game on its website, or by chatting with the developers or publishers on Twitter.

Or you can come at chat to me! (Go on, I have a competition running and you could win Resident Evil HD on PS4 if you enter by Sunday 11th 2016.)