OXCGN’s Project Cars Review


Project Cars is the ultimate racing-simulator for the current generation. It’s racing expectations hit you in the face from the moment you ‘press start’. And it is definitely not a game for everyone.

From the very beginning Project Cars feels like it assumes players come from an automotive background and would know their way around its complex menu’s. The lack of explanation provided in some areas can offer a confusing experience. I’m afraid that many people may form their own opinion on Slightly Mad Studios game before they have even pulled the right trigger to accelerate.

Take Career mode for example, players are immediately given access to the entire range of career modes on offer, from Go-Karting to Formula One, the freedom here is greatly appreciated.

However, many players will be completely lost as to where they want to begin, because Project Cars’ menus can explain things very poorly. The career modes offer no explanation besides a small logo/graphic of the type of race they will be involved in, so hopefully you can decipher them.

Once you think you have it right and press that A button – you’re locked into that Career type. No back button to change your mind.

But the good news is that you can run multiple careers at the same time. The downside is you’ll need to fill out your driver profile details for every time you want to investigate a new career mode. This may get quite tiring if you’re a naive car gamer just looking to find a race with a Nissan GTR.

Did I say Nissan GTR? Sorry, it doesn’t exist in the world of Project Cars. Nor do many other popular brands that you would imagine would exist in racing games of today. No Lamborghini, no Ferrari, no Subaru and no Nissan are just examples off the top of my head.

I feel this is a huge deal breaker for any car enthusiasts wanting to race in a similar car that they own in real life.

One great piece of news for Australia is the Bathurst track is featured here, but don’t expect any Australian cars. I image the latter part just caused you to slide your Forza disc back into your disc tray. By the time you make it into your first race hopefully you’ve left all your Forza knowledge locked up outside. Forget it all. Project Cars is a true test of skill, and by far it is the most unforgiving and raw racing experiences on the current generation consoles so far.

Project Cars is like learning to play an instrument, it’s a frustrating test of willpower until one day when you just pick it up and it just works. Along the way you will get penalised for touching the grass, love tapping other cars and just general loss of control. The game offers an insane level of customisation for your driver preference. From its difficulty, to tuning your car, to even the location of everything on your heads up display. For those true racing-sim fans – paradise. But everyone else, I must ask, how long do you want to be in menu’s compared to actually driving the cars?

There is so much driver preference customisation you may feel disadvantaged by just wanting to come home from a long days work and have a few quick races before dinner.

Forgetting Career mode, I found a much more enjoyable experience simply using the quick race feature found from the home screen. Simply pick any car and any track and off you go. I felt this was a great way to experience all that the game offered and was a much quicker learning process than from career mode.

In the brief time I’ve spent in multiplayer a large portion was waiting for matchmaking to work. Finding a specific game type with a similar class of car was a test of patience.  After waiting for 10+ minutes I finally was placed in a match that was already in progress and lasted 30 seconds before ending.

After that test, I used the quick match option featured from the home screen. Which was not quick at all, but substantially shorter than the earlier 10 minute wait. The result was a race against a completely random collection cars and classes. Was it a race? not really, in fact it was more of a test of who could stay on the track for the longest.

Multiplayer is a testament to the difficulty of this game. Forget the battle to the podium simply trying to reach 1 lap with no major incident is hard, whether your fault or not someone will stack and crash into you. In fact in one match, I had a player stack their car right at the pit lane exit and every player crashed one after another.

If you’re the type of enthusiast who hears the title ‘Project Cars’ and thinks of Dad working on his rusty 69′ Camaro for years until it’s restored to glory. Think again. In fact there is really no vehicle customisation available in the game at all, the cars are all already at ‘race spec’. If that type of project is your thing then walk away right now.

Graphically the cars look fantastic and very realistic, the amount of different camera angles to choose from is appreciated and really suggests they have thought about exactly what this niche group of gamers would want. Slow the car’s down and look at the environments and perhaps they’re a bit blurry but who cares you’re supposed to be going fast!

TL;DR

Project Car’s is a raw racing-simulator experience. And expect just that. This game is for the niche that have been dying for a true  racing simulator. If you can overlook the lack of vehicle-customisation and lack of cars on offer there may be a home here to truly test your skills. If you have the patience and invest the time you will find a considerably strong racing-sim that I’m sure will grow stronger as the months go by.

Project Cars is available now on Xbox One, PS4, and coming soon to Wii U and PC.

Pros:

  • Ultra Realistic Racing
  • Realistic Physics
  • Graphics
  • Niche game many have been wanting

Cons:

  • Ultra Realistic Racing
  • Lack of cars to choose
  • Matchmaking needs improvement.

For the casual racing gamers:

6/10

For the racing simulator fans:

8.5/10

OXCGN’s Super Smash Bros. Wii U Review


Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a whole other beast in the console-reviving line-up of late. Having played the recently released little brother of Smash Bros Wii U for the 3DS, I went into this thinking all I’ll get is some improved graphics, bigger stages, and a few bonus features. Well… ultimately that is completely true, but this game stands alone as a sparkling light in the previously dark life of the Wii U console. New stages, amazing music, incredible graphics, and multiplayer mayhem make Smash Bros. a Wii U owner must have. Many features are perfectly akin to the 3DS version of the game, so to catch up on the major analysis of many features, give OXCGN’S Super Smash Bros. 3DS Review a read here.

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Smash mode brings the generic 4-player mayhem with hundreds of new items from new and old games alike. The console-game based stages offer a great range of challenge from basic to infuriating. Some are just plain huge. And boy do I mean gi-goddamn-normous. The new super-sized stages are made fresh for the 8-player smash mode. Using any combination of the Wii U gamepad, Wii-controllers, Wii U pro controllers, classic gamecube controllers, and even your 3DS console, you and 7 of your closest friends can battle it out on the massive arenas. If 4-player smash ever felt like a horror show of particle effects and explosions that contain no discernable trace of your character, double it and add a dash of hellfire. 8-player smash is chaotic, confusing, gigantic, and double the fun with friends.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U comes with the bonus minigame modes that came with the 3DS version: multi-man smash, target smash, and home run smash. All have been scaled up for the console iteration. Multiple players, allowing you to rack up the percentages on those bombs and sandbags, can now complete all these modes. Multi-man smash now plays with up to 6 fighters on screen including your own, which really lends itself to a Dynasty Warriors-esque feeling of satisfaction in KO’ing handfuls of enemies at once. Target Smash and Home Run Smash both lend themselves to the same pitfall as the 3DS version; they’re fun for a little bit, but other than besting your own high scores they offer little in entertainment after a few rounds with your favourite fighters. Also like the 3DS version, multi-man smash offers a ton of satisfying single or multiplayer brawling to break up just playing smash mode.

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Like the 3DS version, the console version also ships with no Story Mode; its replacement is a little game called “Smash Tour.” Ultimately, it is Super Smash Bros. Wii U’s biggest let down. What was removed was a core single-player element to Smash Bros; the story mode, where you unlock all the trophies and bonuses and progress through a Nintendo-antics filled story alone or with a friend. What has replaced it is Mario Party’s little brother; a board game that you traverse with 3 other players, picking up fighters, trophies, and winning special moves. Plainly put, it is not enjoyable when playing alone. At all. The entire thing feels like a very poorly randomized series of unexplained events, and it’s really hard to know what is ever going on. With friends it is another story; friendly competition always livens up a video game, though the mode itself still suffers from a bit of “dammit just end already” syndrome. It is disappointing that the core single-player element of Super Smash Bros. was replaced by a mode that is dull and near unplayable alone, and merely okay when with friends. I would gladly trade Smash Tour for it’s 3DS counterpart ‘Smash Run’, or better still a full story mode.

Customisation is much the same as the 3DS version, in that it is a welcome and engaging feature that suffers from a few unpolished edges. There’s no way of telling how many items there are, who they’re compatible with, or how many you’ve got left to unlock. A simple menu with some numbers, or a chart showing who has unlocked what moves would be a welcome and basic addition. Different upgrade branches for most of the fighters’ moves give great variety to the characters. It is possible to have 4 people play Mario and all be unique for reasons other than being a non-canonical colour.

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 Customisation takes another turn in the Wii U version in the form of music chances and the stage builder. Using the music menu, you can set the chance of certain songs playing on particular stages. If you don’t like a track, crank down the chance of it playing and turn up the chance of the songs you like. It’s a great feature, and it really showcases the great compilation of amazing Nintendo music through time. The custom stage builder has reached the epitome of stage builders when used with the Wii U gamepad’s touch screen. Drawing up your own battle royale locales has never been easier, and the number of little tweaks you can make to your stages adds what is essentially an unlimited number of stage choices.

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I also got to test out the Mario Amiibo, and it wasn’t what I originally expected. As per my experience with Skylanders and Disney Infinity, I assume we could play as our figure characters and level up to gain stats and items across Amiibo games. This isn’t the case, as your Amiibo figure is it’s own entity, a character to fight with or against, but not as. They level up on their own, and learn how best to aid or defeat you through particularly remarkable AI. Though the menus for saving and writing data are a little clumsy. It will be interesting to see where these Amiibos take us in other games.

Many other features like classic mode and all-star mode carry over mostly similar to the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. and you can read about those in our 3DS review from a few months ago. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is a monster game with few downfalls. Smash Tour could have been ditched for Smash Run, or even better, a story mode. However, 8-player smash, sized up target, home run, and multi-man smash modes, music customisation, and exciting stages all make for the Wii U’s game of the year for brawler fans.

TL;DR

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U brings together everything amazing about the Smash Bros. games: multiplayer mayhem, incredible fighters, fantastical stages, great Nintendo music, and competitive rifts in previously bonded friendships. It falls short in its Story Mode replacement, Smash Tour, which is boring at best when played alone, and between bearable and kind of fun when played with friends. With new fighters like Mewtwo to come, Smash Bros. looks to entertain Wii U owners for a long time to come, and offers everything we love about Super Smash Bros. and more to the next generation.

Pros:

  • Fun, addictive gameplay.
  • Amazing graphics and soundtrack.
  • Perfect for parties; Smash Bros. shines in multiplayer.
  • Fun and exciting characters, that are all balanced in their own way.
  • Stages are enjoyable and frustrating all in one, and it’s perfect.
  • Amiibos aren’t what I personally expected, but they are an intelligent and interesting feature that will remain so into the future.

Cons:

  • Smash Tour is a poor replacement for the core single-player experience of Smash Bros.
  • Customisation is lacking some polish and details.
  • Minigame modes become repetitive very quickly.

7.5/10

Super Smash Bros. Wii U and the Mario Amiibo figurine were provided to OXCGN to review by Nintendo Australia.

OXCGN’s Mario Kart 8 Review


The Mario Kart series stands out as one of the best party games, from the original SNES version to the Wii’s installment. Now Nintendo have delivered us Mario Kart 8, a beautifully crafted game sticking to the formula that has worked for over two decades whilst introducing some new features.

This game is stunning and within the first minute of powering up that Wii U you’re exposed to beautifully upgraded graphics. Particles fly past you as speed your way around the courses and everything looks bright and delightful.

There are also little things such as the characters turning on their lights whilst racing through a tunnel or yelping as you narrowly miss a hazard that contribute to this game being so aesthetically pleasing. Even just seeing smoke puffs or skids paved across the road makes you appreciate this revamped installment.

Once again the character menu gives you plenty of choices including some newbies such as Pink Gold Peach and the Kooplings. Combine this with your customisable kart and it makes quite a difference during your race. You can pick from different kart bodies, wheels and gliding equipment that you unlock by collecting coins in races. The most notable difference I found with whilst creating my vehicle was choosing between a kart or a motorbike since the kart was easier to maneuver around bends whereas the bike has little control but was a speed demon.

There are 32 courses for you to race on with a mixture of some of the old classics such as Rainbow Road, Moo Moo Meadow and Dry Dry Desert along with a bunch of new tracks. What’s most impressive is the variety of choices in every level. There’s multiple paths to pick from whether it be a ramp that sets you gliding through the air or a wall you can drive onto thanks to anti-gravity racing. The course allow lots of experimentation to achieve the fastest speed possible but short cuts have a level of risk whilst playing. Some paths can be blocked becoming available only a certain number of times during the race and while a path may entice you with speed boosters it sometimes becomes apparent that you’ve pick a slower route.

The newest feature anti-gravity racing other than letting you drive up walls gives you extra chances to boost across the course. By knocking into bumpers or opponents you will achieve a speed boost. The angle and timing are important when gaining it off your rival because if you’re not careful they can gain that same boost.

Included on each lap are the many item boxes with a bunch of familiar items such as the banana, devastating lightning and unpredictable green shells. It was sad seeing no fake item box because I like using that item to trick people by popping it next to other item boxes. The new item additions are the boomerang that knocks out players, the piranha plant the speeds you across the road whilst gobbling up other players, crazy 8 and the super horn which stops those evil blue shells reaching you. The item system feels more refined giving you enough chances to work you’re way back to the pack without feeling overpowered. They keep the races a bit unpredictable but not so much as to make them unfair.

The only thing that Nintendo changed around for the worst is the battle mode. Instead of having battle mode maps that are enclosed and allow for interaction between players, you play on the game’s racecourses. This results in you driving around in circles for ages trying to find an opponent. It is noticeably bad when you find someone going the opposite direction to yourself and you frantically try to turn your vehicle as he or she speeds off into the distance.

Mario Kart 8 is a triumph, being the best in the series. This simple kart racer has evolved into a near flawless game with a variety of characters, karts and tracks. Combine this with the cheerful soundtrack and impressive graphics and you have a stand out Wii U game.

Pros:

+ Upgraded graphics

+ Variety of routes in racecourses

+ Many characters, karts and items

Cons:

– Battle Mode doesn’t work on racecourses

TL;DR

Mario Kart 8 takes all the goodness from previous games and adds in a couple new features making it a stand out in the series. With a variety of characters, items, karts and racecourses mixed with upgraded graphics Mario Kart 8 is the funnest kart racer out there.

8.5/10

OXCGN’s Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze Review


Donkey Kong is back, and no one is going to steal his banana hoard this time

©2014 Yvan Zivkovic

Back in November, 1994, Rare released a game on the Super Nintendo that changed the image of what we all thought when someone mentioned the name ‘Donkey Kong’, which a little game titled ‘Donkey Kong Country’. Since then, it’s breathed new life into the franchise, with DK being the hero (rather than the villain) and spawning sequels, racing games, and becoming one of Nintendo’s iconic mascots. Unfortunately, Rare are no longer at Nintendo’s side, instead making horrible Kinect games for Microsoft, Retro Studios are now at the helm, and brought the Donkey Kong universe back to life with the Wii game, Donkey Kong Country Returns.

But it’s now 2014, almost 20 years since the original release of DKC for the Super Nintendo, so does DK bring his A-game to the Wii U?

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Donkey Kong and the DK crew celebrating something. Perhaps a 20th anniversary?

We open to Donkey Kong and the rest of the Kong’s, sitting around the table to a banana cake, when all of a sudden, their little party is crashed by a boat full of viking-like animals. The Kong’s are all blown off the island and this is where their adventure starts. You’ve crash landed on a neighbouring isle, and much like DKC games in the past, there are multiple islands and each one has their own unique level style.

You jump right into the gameplay, which I am really fond of, no silly tutorial level or some annoying assistant flying by telling you to press A to jump (although we do have a few pig friends, returning from the previous game to give you hints on what to do in certain scenarios). You only play as Donkey Kong in this game, whilst the rest of the Kongs cling to you and offer you their extra abilities through the levels, Diddy will help you hover over short distances, Dixie, lets you fly up slightly, like a double jump, and Cranky gives you a higher second jump. Levels will have their own DK barrels, but most of them will cycle between the three side-characters (in which case, I suggest choosing Dixie) unless the level requires a certain teammate, at which point it will only give you one choice.

Secrets are aplenty, as with any of the DKC games, with each stage having the K.O.N.G. letters scattered around for you to find, and a number of puzzle pieces, including banana coins to use as currency to buy extra items to help you throughout the game, Tropical Freeze will bring out the completion-ist out in you to find all the hidden items in each stage.

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Many of the Kongs return. Diddy, Dixie and Cranky all help you throughout the levels. Even Funky Kong returns to exchange your banana coins for items to help you throughout the game in times where you’re finding it just too difficult.

Retro Studios really show that they know what they’re doing with this franchise and have picked up where they left off with Donkey Kong Country returns. Everything in this game is so fine tuned, the level of detail in the backgrounds, the well known and modernised versions of the classic DKC music, even the variety in the bosses, which I found to be some of the most memorable, if not painful moments in the game, but that’s the game style of DKC, it’s never about the game cheating and not letting you win, it’s timing and making that precise jump.

And that’s the thing about Tropical Freeze, it won’t cheat you out of a boss fight or completing a level, it’s completely about mastering the game and getting everything right, it also teaches you that it’s OK to make mistakes, because it’s extremely forgiving with the amount of extra lives obtainable throughout some stages. You can even give yourself a buffer and get a few extra items from Funky Kong to give you a bit of extra health, or help discover those hard to find secrets scattered throughout every level.

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He’s back in form.

There certainly is a lot of gameplay variety, as you’ve come to expect from the DKC series, whether it’s your typical platforming level, the underwater levels (with the famous iconic music used in each DKC game), the dreaded mine cart levels, requiring precise jumps, or even the ever unforgiving rocket barrel levels, doing your best to avoid any obstacle. There are so many points in the game where you’ll find yourself clenching in frustration because you’re only a few screens away from the checkpoint or final barrel, forever learning from your mistakes.

There are times where some of the secret rooms feel a little lazy, which just involve you to jump around and collect 100 bananas within 30 seconds, it’s not an easy taste to do, but a little variety wouldn’t have hurt. Even having your animal buddies return in extra stages for bonus lives, like Winky the Frog, or Expresso the Ostrich, admittedly Rambi the Rhino returns and helps you out in a few levels, Squawks is back but only to help you find secrets scattered throughout the levels. Getting 3 animal statues and collecting lots of mini statues to farm lives was always fun and exciting in the original DKC games, it’s a shame it wasn’t added to this one.

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After infinite tries to defeat many of the unforgiving bosses, the satisfaction you get after punching them square in the face is overly satisfying.

Pros:

+ It’s Donkey Kong! Do I really need to give you any other points? (OK, I’ll give you a few more…)

+ Gameplay is fantastic and levels are well designed

+ Every little detail about this game just seems so sharp and well done. The backgrounds, animations, even bringing the old Donkey Kong Country music back to life – This is another great first party title to the Wii U library.

Cons:

– It doesn’t stray much from the formula – It’s great to have Cranky Kong along for the ride, but it would have been nice to see a few new additions to the franchise.

– Some of the bonus rooms are a bit repetitive and kinda boring, would have liked to see a little more variety

– When playing on the TV, the Wii U gamepad is completely blank – What gives? A first party Nintendo game with little gamepad support?

9/10

TL:DR

Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a fantastic addition to the franchise and a must own title for any Wii U owner, I’d go as far to say that it’s a good reason to go and BUY a Wii U if you haven’t already (Unless you’re specifically waiting from the new Smash Bros, or a new Zelda or Metroid). It will test your platforming grace with it’s gradual difficulty setting, but if you’re finding that the latest Mario games are a little too easy, or the last Sonic games a little too crappy, then Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is challenge you’ve been waiting for. The only thing stopping this from being a near-perfect game is it’s lack of details to the small things like the bonus rooms and gamepad functionality.

OXCGN’s Sonic Lost World Review (Wii U)


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OXCGN’s Sonic Lost World Review for Wii U

Sonic Lost World, or Sonic Lost Cause?

by Yvan Zivkovic

Ah, Sonic. You were such a important impact in my childhood. Growing up with Sega consoles, I always looked forward to one of your new games. But now, how you have fallen from the platforming throne of the 16-bit era, once battling for the top mascot, you’re now selling your image for insurance commercials, appearing in a Disney movie, and cameoing in a game with your once arch rival!

Sega have made many attempts at the Sonic franchise, some great, like Sonic Generations, some not so great, like Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. So how does Sonic Lost World compare to Sonic games of the past?

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Sonic in very familiar surroundings.

Continue reading OXCGN’s Sonic Lost World Review (Wii U)

OXCGN’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist Review


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OXCGN’s Splinter Cell Blacklist Review

Modern stealth perfected

by Nicholas Laborde

©2013 Nicholas Laborde

SCBL_XBOX360_2D_ANZIf you’ve ever happened to read any of my multitude of opinion pieces here at OXCGN, you’ll find something that’s quite clear: I love Splinter Cell.

In my opinion, it’s the ultimate spy story and stealth game. You’ve got the character you can’t help but love, the gameplay that identifies its place within the market, the atmosphere to support the illusion, and a believable fiction that’s intoxicatingly immersive.

I fell in love with Chaos Theory many moons ago, and I believe that it was the best game of the last generation. Since that precedent was set, fans have been yearning for the one successor that’d usurp Chaos Theory, and be the true sequel to that incredible experience.

We didn’t quite get that with Double Agent or Conviction. And it’s been eight years since Chaos Theory.

From the bottom of my heart, I can assuredly say that Splinter Cell: Blacklist is the true successor to Chaos Theory, and is not only the best Splinter Cell title ever released, but quite possibly one of the greatest stealth games I’ve ever played.

Splinter Cell Blacklist review here

Nintendo’s Got Their Game Face On: Are Sony and Microsoft doing it wrong?


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Nintendo’s Got Their Game Face On

Are Sony and Microsoft doing it wrong?

 by Victoria Carvajal

© 2013 Victoria Carvjal

wii u system oxcgn #5While attempting to avoid the crossfire of the newly revitalized Play Station versus Xbox console war, I found myself in an unusual position: I’m not as excited as I’d like to be for either console.

Anyone who’s paid any attention to the recent E3 conferences can tell you that Microsoft’s conference was widely considered to be, to put it lightly, sub par.

Even if the console is in and of itself innovative, Microsoft’s approach to selling their product was disastrous.

While always an Xbox fan, I found myself leaning towards the PS4. However, Sony’s approach to selling their console was not perfect either: while their console is arguably more user-friendly, the conference was riddled with low-blows and sarcasm aimed at Microsoft and the Xbox One.

During this increasing animosity, I decided to take a different approach. I took a more earnest look at what Nintendo has to offer, and I’m truly glad that I did.

Why Nintendo have the ‘right stuff’ here

OXCGN’s Injustice: Gods Among Us Review


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OXCGN’s Injustice: Gods Among Us Review

It has begun!

by Arthur Kotsopoulos

©2013 Arthur Kotsopoulos

injustice box art oxcgnLet’s wind the clock back to 2007 when Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe was released.

While it was an awesome cross-over, it wasn’t exactly met with the best reception. It was not a bad game by any means, and it did have some nifty gameplay features like Falling Kombat and Klose Kombat (which were interestingly enjoyable).

The problem with it was, due to how violent and graphic Mortal Kombat is, the game was heavily tamed because of license restrictions with DC characters. This kept it from its true potential.

Everything about Injustice: Gods Among Us, however, does justice to the DC Universe and its characters. Whilst it may not be as violent as Mortal Kombat, it is crafted to suit the DC Universe more than what MK v DC was.

The DC characters were basically tacked onto a Mortal Kombat game whereas Injustice is a stand-alone game where Netherrealm had more freedom to work with. Continue reading OXCGN’s Injustice: Gods Among Us Review