This week, EA Sports UFC 2 steps into the ring on PS4, Need For Speed screeches onto PC and Stella Glow shines bright on Nintendo 3DS.
Elsewhere, Dirac and Retro City Rampage DX provide ethereal puzzling and classic top-down crime action on smartphone and tablet
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Title: EA Sports UFC 2
A fighter to put the smile back on Conor’s face
Irish UFC star Conor McGregor will be ruing the curse of the pack shot after a shock defeat, just as his face hits gaming shelves to promote the latest release in this popular fighter franchise. Now he’s picked himself off the canvas, though, he’s probably enjoying getting to grips with a cracking new physics-driven hit reaction and knockout system, which certainly delivers more visceral KOs than ever before. Every knockout is now unique, while simultaneous two-fighter interaction brings the ground game to life with much greater responsiveness and variety. Whether you’re being surprised by your opponent with a flying armbar from the clinch, or a quick transition from a knee bar to a heel hook, you’ll need the improved blocking and parrying system to fend off and then counter-attack with a devastating suite of combat options. UFC 2 looks awesome, too, and with an Ultimate Team Mode to boot, it’s one of the finest fighters in the ring right now.
Title: Need For Speed
Rip-roaring racer is ready and revving to tear up the streets
It’s time to jump behind the wheel of some iconic cars and put the pedal to the metal through Ventura Bay, a sprawling urban playground. As the Need For Speed series presents arguably its most definitive arcade racing experience to date, you’ll explore a series of overlapping stories as you establish your reputation - and your dream car - en route to becoming the top racing icon. With a crew of five drivers to toggle between, you’ll build a range of different skills that gradually level you up across different disciplines and unlock increasingly difficult challenges. And, as with all the best NFS games, the level of customisation options is staggeringly high, from the cosmetic pimping of your ride to the performance-enhancing mods and under-the-bonnet adjustments that make a huge difference to how your car handles. Cruising around this vast open world is a blast, with incredible graphical prowess and finesse on show at all times - when you find time to drop down from 150mph to take in the astonishing detail, that is. It’s a gorgeous addition to a brilliant franchise, and you shouldn’t think twice about slipping into the street racing driver’s seat once again.
Title: Stella Glow
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Genre: Fantasy / Strategy
A shining light for handheld strategy RPGs
In Stella Glow, protagonist Alto starts as a country boy in a small town. One day, he hears a song coming from the forest, where he discovers the lone Hilda. She soon reveals she’s the Witch of Destruction, hellbent on “saving” the world (by wiping out all of humanity) with her Harbingers. And so begins Alto’s quest to halt Hilda’s reign of destruction, played out in a superb strategy RPG from the creators of Luminous Arc. Everything about this dual screen experience is so rich - from the graphics to the gameplay, the characters to the overarching narrative. And the audio plays a huge part, too, as famous Japanese voice actors sing more than 20 songs, which form part of the vital Song Magic combat element within the game. It’s weird and wonderful, and probably something of an acquired taste, but if this brief overview of fantastical handheld gaming has already given you goosebumps, be assured Stella Glow will blow your mind.
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Colourful dot connecting fails to dazzle
There’s a decent game desperate to be unlocked in Dirac but, despite its slick design and solid play-style, it never quite gets out of third gear. Your mission is to connect a series of dots on screen, applying simple logic to colour schemes and bonuses that also need to be cordoned off. With different coloured dots shuffling around the screen it’s sometimes enjoyably tricky to meet all your objectives on the later levels. But it never quite gives you the app itch that means you can’t leave the game alone. In fact, within a couple of hours, you’ll more than likely have seen everything it has to offer and only diehard high score-hunters will be returning for more after a few days. It’s a shame, because the overall premise boasts some clever ideas and mechanics, but that special connection you strive to achieve throughout the game is never quite managed.
Title: Retro City Rampage DX
Platform: iPhone / iPad
A charmingly clunky crime caper
The Grand Theft Auto references are inevitable when you play Retro City Rampage DX, particularly the iconic series’ earliest iterations. Blasting round a city stealing cars and shooting people in a top-down world is pretty much how GTA began all those years ago, and Retro City affectionately nods to this and all manner of other classic titles in its fun, charming little pixelated world. The controls can be a bit clunky, the graphics are similarly primitive by today’s standards, but there’s such a deliberate step into the gaming world of years gone by that you can forgive any errors that may not have been so carefully planned. You will get frustrated at times, but you will also whoop with laughter and chuckle at the geeky gaming gags that will sail over the heads of today’s new school gamers. It’s clearly not Grand Theft Auto, but it’s certainly Good Thumb Amusement.
WHAT’S HOT AND WHAT’S NOT?
Puzzle fans looking to grab a break from their smartphone screens can still get a sweet Candy Crush fix, thanks to the launch of the Candy Crush Magazine, in partnership with Puzzler Media. The puzzle-packed paper version will cram a host of challenging brain-teasers onto its pages, as Puzzler Media MD Neil Flockhart explained: “We know the millions of Candy Crush fans across the globe love puzzles so we’ve used the best brains in the business to create some unique, never-seen-before puzzles exclusively for this magazine.”
Meanwhile in the charts this week, Tom Clancy’s The Division stole top spot from Far Cry Primal, while Call of Duty: Black Ops III climbed one place from four to three. Forza Motorsport also zoomed up two places on the grid from 10 to eight, as LEGO Marvel Avengers and Grand Theft Auto V held firm at six and seven respectively.
GAME CHART ALL FORMATS FULL PRICE
1. Tom Clancy’s The Division
2. Far Cry Primal
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops III
4. FIFA 16
5. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
6. LEGO Marvel Avengers
7. Grand Theft Auto V
8. Forza Motorsport 6
9. The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess HD
10. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Siege
Leisure software charts compiled by Chart Track, (c) 2015 UKIE Ltd