Category Archive : Gaming

DarkStar One – Nintendo Switch Edition screenshot
DarkStar One – even in 2006 space traders were relatively rare (Kalypso Media)

An obscure space trading game from the Xbox 360 era is inexplicably remastered for the Switch but does it have anything to teach Bethesda?

In 2006, when third person space combat and trading game DarkStar One was originally released, Tony Blair was prime minister, Saddam Hussein was still alive, and Xbox 360 was in its pre-Kinect heyday. Looking back, it feels like an eon ago, which makes the game’s sudden reappearance on Nintendo Switch so unusual, especially since this isn’t a remake but a direct port.

Unlike films which, despite advancements in image capture and sound reproduction, often remain watchable decades after they were made, video games tend to date more quickly. What were once reliable stock-in-trade mechanics rapidly become risible, as technology and player expectations escalate. That often makes coming back to a nearly 20-year-old game quite an experience.

The first thing you notice with DarkStar One is the graphics. Although the Switch is the least powerful current console by a wide margin, it’s still capable of rendering astoundingly beautiful games, as players of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or The Legend Of Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom can attest. Darkstar One is perfectly serviceable but reminds you of just how much things can change in two console generations.

Murky textures, blurriness, and oddly squared off human faces are things we all mutely accepted in the early 2000s, and despite notionally having received a graphical makeover, things still look distinctly old school in the Switch version of DarkStar One.

The dialogue is just as iffy, its cut scenes now sounding stilted and poorly translated (original developer Ascaron Entertainment were German). In dogfights, opponents repeatedly spout the same clichés, including ‘Now it’s your turn to die!’ and ‘You are easy prey!’ Although we must admit we got a good laugh when one of them said, ‘Now we will find out who has got more honour in his body!’

Nevertheless, Darkstar One does age better in terms of its flying and shooting action. Viewed from just behind your ship, the majority of your time is spent warping between star systems, shooting down pirates, and hunting for the mysterious alien artefacts that you use to upgrade your ship. And no, we didn’t just accidentally cut and paste a summary of Starfield in there.

Every system you visit has a main planet, giving the area a little colour and personality, along with something for its research and trading space stations to orbit. You can only land on the former when the story demands it, but you’ll frequently need to visit trade stations, which automatically repair your ship, offer side quests and escort missions, and let you buy and sell commodities.

That’s important because, like Elite Dangerous, this is a game that lets you be whatever kind of spacefarer you want to be. As you follow the game’s plot, you’ll continually need to improve your ship’s weapons, shields, and systems, and while artefacts take care of enhancing its superstructure, you need cash to buy the equipment to fit it out.

DarkStar One – Nintendo Switch Edition screenshot
DarkStar One – it’s not quite the Switch version of Starfield (Kalypso Media)

There are a lot of ways to earn money, from becoming a trader by building out your ship’s freight capacity; getting into piracy, which also demands room for loot but with more guns; or turning to bounty hunting and mercenary work. Your reputation evolves according to the choices you make, along you to specialise as you please.

There are also factions you can do odd jobs for, or inadvertently anger by destroying their assets doing a job for someone else. There’s a GTA style wanted level that gives you up to five stars of heat from that faction’s police force, which gradually subsides over time, provided you don’t commit any more crimes in sectors they control.

When the going gets tough, the soundtrack turns to heavy metal, its screaming electric guitars lending the whole thing an even more goofy 1980s feel. It fits well with the creaky graphics, phoned-in voice acting, and endless fetch quests, completing a package that’s truly, madly retro.

Considering the light load all that must put on a modern era console, it’s depressing that it still has bugs, and during our play through it crashed quite a few times, forcing reloads of the game. In most cases only a few minutes’ play time was lost, but it’s disappointing given how few other improvements seem to have been implemented.

Sadly, that lack of re-engineering extends to its missions, whose nadir comes when you leave space in favour of flying down seemingly endless canyons, or worse, cramped tunnel interiors. Those sections serve to highlight the shortcomings of the control scheme and also seem to cause more frequent crashes.

Ultimately, you can’t escape the sense that this is a poor man’s Everspace 2. That’s another third person space combat with strong role-playing elements, but one coded for PlayStation 5 rather than antique PCs. That’s not unfair, given that Darkstar One costs exactly half as much, but it also reminds you how far games have come in the best part of two decades.

The weird thing is that despite its shortcomings, Darkstar One remains oddly compelling. The complexities of its upgrade paths, and the decisions they force you to take, are finely judged, making grinding side quests for extra cash seem like a fun and useful thing to do. Going back to eliminate a bunch of pirates that made mincemeat out of you earlier is also immensely satisfying.

If you like tooling around in spaceships, and especially if you were a gamer in the early 2000s, this may well play as a delightful slab of space opera nostalgia. There’s certainly a lot of map to explore and from a certain perspective the muddy artwork, bugs, and laboured dialogue can be considered part of its offbeat charm.

DarkStar One – Nintendo Switch Edition review summary

In Short: One of the least demanded remasters on Switch is a primitive but surprisingly nostalgic reminder of just how ambitious and open-ended gaming could be in the Xbox 360 era.

Pros: A huge map and endless (although often recycled) side missions. Satisfying upgrade system and accidentally amusing dialogue.

Cons: The story’s forgettable, the voice acting mediocre, and it still suffer from crash bugs despite being so graphically primitive.

Score: 6/10

Formats: Nintendo Switch (and Xbox 360 and PC)
Price: £26.99
Publisher: Kalypso
Developer: Engine Software (original: Ascaron Entertainment)
Release Date: 20th June 2024
Age Rating: 12

DarkStar One – Nintendo Switch Edition screenshot
DarkStar One – the Switch’s most unexpected remaster (Kalypso Media)

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Nintendo character Mario peering from behind a curtain
Is it time for a party, Mario? (Nintendo)

Nintendo is set to reveal the Switch line-up for the rest of 2024 in its next Direct, in what could be the last presentation dedicated to the console.

With the follow-up to the Switch on the horizon, 2024 is almost certainly the final year that it will be Nintendo’s primary console.

There’s no better evidence that the Switch’s time is coming to an end than the games line-up for this year so far, which has mostly consisted of smaller first-party titles like Princess Peach: Showtime! and remakes such as Paper Mario: The Thousand Year-Door.

So what could Nintendo have up its sleeve for the Switch’s final Christmas in the spotlight? Here are all the rumoured and likely games for the Nintendo Direct on Tuesday, June 18.

Has Nintendo confirmed anything about the June Direct?

Nintendo has announced this year’s June Direct will span around 40 minutes in total, which suggests the company has at least something significant to show.

The company hasn’t confirmed any games for the showcase but it’s practically guaranteed Luigi’s Mansion 2 HD will be shown in some capacity, as it comes out later this month.

Nintendo has ruled out any ‘mention’ of the Nintendo Switch successor though, so don’t expect any reveal of its next console – although some kind of minor hint is possible.

What’s rumoured for the Nintendo Direct in June 2024?

In the lead-up to the Direct, reports suggested Xenoblade Chronicles X, one of the last remaining Wii U games trapped on the system, will finally make its way over to the Switch. As the other Xenoblade Chronicles games are all available on the system, it makes sense that this would be given the revamped treatment to complete the set.

There’s also rumours of something related to Star Fox, although it’s unclear in what capacity. The last original title in the series was 2016’s Star Fox Zero on the Wii U, which came out towards the end of that system’s life – but it made extensive use of the Wii U GamePad and may be difficult to get working on the Switch.

The last major Switch game known to be in development is Metroid Prime 4, although after being restarted in 2019, it’s unclear whether it has been pushed back for the next console. Even so, it’s possible Metroid Prime 4 does make some sort of appearance, especially if it’s intended as a cross-gen game.

It might not be the only Metroid game shown either. Metroid Prime 2 and 3 remastered have been rumoured for years, and this might be the perfect time to showcase one (or both) of them, to drive up anticipation towards the next instalment.

Some smaller announcements also appear to have leaked last week. An update for Among Us outed the date for the Nintendo Direct, so it’s almost certain that will show up.

Evidence of PlayStation trophies also emerged online for Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition, suggesting it could be shadow dropped during the presentation. On the same day, The House Of The Dead 2 remake was rated for Switch in Europe, after it was originally announced back in 2019.

Noted Nintendo leaker Pyoro recently retweeted a post suggesting something Ace Attorney related will be announced at the presentation, which some believe could be a remaster of the Ace Attorney Investigations series – one of which has never been released in the West before.

After it didn’t show up at the Xbox Games Showcase, there is hope for Hollow Knight: Silksong finally making an appearance – but no more so than usual.

Lastly, there’s also the ongoing rumours of ports for Zelda: The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess which still haven’t materialised. As well as less substantial rumours of a new Zelda remake and/or a spin-off game starring Zelda.

What else could be announced?

Beyond rumours, Nintendo usually turns to Mario-themed sports games when the schedules need filling up, so it’s possible that we could see something in the vein of Mario Sports Mix, or a new tennis or golf title.

The same also applies to Mario Party, which consistently sells well. The last title in the series was Mario Party Superstars three years ago, so it feels like another entry is due. There’s also been unsubstantiated rumours to exactly that effect.

The Nintendo Direct will be available to stream across YouTube on Tuesday June 18 from 3pm BST in the UK, which translates to 7am PT/10am ET in the US.

A still image from Xenoblade Chronicles X
Xenoblade Chronicles X could be saved from the Wii U (Nintendo)

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Team Spirit wins Counter-Strike 2 Blast Premier Final in London (Blast Premier/Stephanie Lindgren)
Counter-Strike 2 is finally back in London (Blast Premier/Stephanie Lindgren)

London has played host to the Counter-Strike 2 Blast Premier Spring Final, where a 17-year-old player took home the £158,000 prize.

This weekend Counter-Strike 2 and its relentless schedule, which sees professional players travel around the world to participate in new tournaments, returned to London, with the first international tournament in the capital since 2020.

The roughly 8,000 fans who attended the final on Sunday at OVO Arena Wembley, and the 18,000 who showed up between Wednesday and Sunday, were ecstatic to watch their favourite shooter in a live setting once again.

The Blast Premier Spring Final saw the best teams in the world battle against each other to take home a cool £158,000 first place prize, and it was a 17-year-old wonderkid who stole the show.

Team Spirit and Natus Vincere reached the final on Sunday, where the former was seen as the favourite to lift the trophy, with Dmitry ‘sh1ro’ Sokolov and youngster Danil ‘donk’ Kryshkovets dominating much of the final series.

The final used a first to win three maps format, where a team is said to have won a map by accumulating 13 rounds.

Team Spirit got off to a great start and was up 6-0 and 5-0 in rounds on maps Ancient and Dust2 and, despite heroic efforts to climb back by Natus Vincere, they eventually won both maps 13-9.

It could’ve all ended on the third map, Mirage, but Natus Vincere blew Team Spirit out of the water with a 13-4 win.

Natus Vincere's jL in the Blast Premier Final in London (Blast Premier/Michal Konkol)
Natus Vincere’s jL admitted they weren’t good enough (Blast Premier/Michal Konkol)

The series was then 2-1 in favour of Team Spirit, with the next map, Nuke, being a closer affair.

Natus Vincere got off to a 2-0 start, but Team Spirit fought back to make it 3-3 and eventually a 7-5 lead in their favour. 7-5 turned into 11-6 and Team Spirit won the map – and became Blast Premier Spring Final winners with an impressive 13-6 victory.

17-year-old prodigy ‘donk’ was crowned the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament, and his talent shone through in the finals, where he choked up the most kills of everyone.

He finished the final series with 54 kills, six more than the second best player, and fellow teammate, ‘sh1ro’ Sokolov, further solidifying the young rifler’s reputation as one of the most feared players in the game right now.

Calm as can be after just lifting the trophy, and celebrating with his fans, donk wasn’t quite sure why he is so good at such a young age.

‘I don’t know… I think it’s because I believe in myself when I play CS [Counter-Strike 2] and that I like to play CS, and I’m really enjoying my time when I play CS,’ he told Metro.

‘I just want to be better every day that I spend playing this game. And I’m sure I can be much better than what I am right now.’

He said he can’t describe the feeling of winning the tournament, but that he was tired after giving his all in the finals and wanted to continue the celebration by finding some time to relax.

Team Spirit and donk win the 2024 Blast Premier Final in London (Blast Premier/Michal Konkol)
Donk was crowned champion and best player (Blast Premier/Michal Konkol)

On the other hand, Natus Vincere’s top fragger, Justinas ‘jL’ Lekavicius, was clear on why they lost against Team Spirit.

‘I just don’t think we were there as a team, we’re not prepared to play for the win. I think we’re most scared about not losing. That was probably the main reason we lost, because the only map where we played for the win was Mirage.

‘I don’t think it was Team Spirit at all. It was us, Navi, that failed to show up. No matter the team we played, I don’t think we could’ve beaten a team. who came to win,’ he said.

For those not invested in either team, it was still a very entertaining final series, and the production and presentation of the event was equally impressive.

The players were lifted up from under the stage before the match, during team intros, and pyrotechnics fired up every time the in-game bomb exploded. The venue was also rigged with lots of cameras to capture it all on numerous livestreams across the internet and on the three big screens above the stage.

Counter-Strike 2 fans have gained a reputation as an amusingly overzealous bunch, which was also on show, with loud cheers for every kill and many holding up posters with silly captions, such as: ‘Get donked,’ and, ‘I missed Taylor Swift for this.’

The pros now get a month to go home and get ready to get back on the carousel again for the Esports World Cup in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where a new Counter-Strike 2 tournament starts up July 17 and first place takes home no less than £315,000.

Counter-Strike 2 is back in London at the Wembley OVO Arena (Blast Premier/Michal Konkol)
Counter-Strike 2 is back in London at OVO Arena Wembley (Blast Premier/Michal Konkol)

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Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson got a tidy little bonus last year (Cody Pickens)

The boss of EA got a £4 million bonus last year, for launching EA Sports FC, at the same time as he was laying off hundreds of developers.

It’s just an ordinary Monday today and already we’ve had three stories about industry layoffs, with Embracer Group shutting down Alone In The Dark developer Pisces Interactive, Wizard With A Gun developer Galvanic Games announcing it’s closing down, and Hi-Fi Rush maker Tango Gameworks sharing some final photos of its studio before its closure.

It’s been like this for over year now, with well over 10,000 developers having lost their jobs in the last 12 months. And yet that’s not because any of the publishers that own them are doing badly, in fact quite the contrary.

Despite having laid off over 670 developers earlier in the year, EA has revealed that its top execs earned $60 million (£47.3m) between them over the last financial year, with CEO Andrew Wilson earning a staggering $25.6 million (£20.2m) all on his own.

Wilson’s pay packet works out at $1.3 million (£1.0m) in basic salary (how does he get by on just that?), $20 million (£15.8m) in stock options, £3.44 million (£2.7m) from a non-equity incentive plan, and $500,000 (£394,000) of ‘personal security benefits.’

That’s £3.9 million more than Wilson earned last year, as according to the report, highlighted by Game Developer, he hit all his ‘key strategic and operating objectives’ and oversaw the successful launch of the EA Sports FC brand, after ditching the FIFA licence.

From a certain point of view, you could argue that an increase was deserved, except Wilson also oversaw 670 job cuts, despite the fact that the publisher is doing extremely well.

It’s a similar story for many publishers, from Microsoft to Take-Two, who know that cutting staff is an easy way to show profit growth, even if it’s simply because they didn’t have to spend as much on salaries that year (except for all the execs, of course).

Ironically, Wilson was also praised for ‘a year of continued employee satisfaction scores above industry benchmarks.’ Which presumably didn’t include the people he laid off.

The average employee pay at EA last year was $148,704 (£117,221). That’s not a useful figure though as it’s heavily skewed by the pay given to execs, and almost all actual developers earned far less than that. Even so, Wilson still managed to take home over 172 times more than the average worker.

The second highest earning EA exec was President of EA Entertainment, Technology & Central Development Laura Miele, who earned over $12 million (£9.5 million), while third was Mala Singh on $6.9 million (£5.4m). Her job is Chief People Officer, so presumably her workload got significantly easier recently, on account of having far fewer people to officiate over.

EA Sports FC 24 Euro 2024 asset (Electronic Arts)
At least EA Sports FC 24 sold well (Electronic Arts)

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Nintendo Direct
The Direct is confirmed (Nintendo)

Nintendo has officially announced a Direct showcase for Tuesday, but don’t expect any mention of the Switch 2 console.

After leaks suggested as much, the next Nintendo Direct – the equivalent of the traditional E3 summer blowout – has been officially confirmed for Tuesday, June 18.

The presentation will premiere on Tuesday at 3pm BST in the UK, which translates to 4pm CEST in Europe and 7am PT/10am ET in the US. As made clear by Nintendo, the Direct will not mention the ‘Switch successor’ and will instead focus on Switch games coming out in the second half of of 2024.

It will span ‘around 40 minutes’ which is the usual length for the June Directs, but that does raise the question of what Nintendo has to talk about that would last that long, since they have virtually nothing announced at the moment.

Recent rumours have pointed to a number of ports, including Xenoblade Chronicles X, which is one of the last remaining Wii U games which hasn’t yet arrived on the Switch. The Beyond Good & Evil 20th Anniversary Edition also seems likely, after evidence of PlayStation trophies recently appeared online.

The original leak for the Direct date was tied to a teaser for an Among Us update, so it looks likely that will show up too.

As for the big headliners, Nintendo usually closes out a console cycle with a string of smaller Mario spin-offs or remakes, with a new Mario Party game seeming very likely and already having been hinted at by leaks.

Mario-themed sports games are also common schedule fillers for Nintendo, as are remasters, with various Zelda titles and the remaining two Metroid Prime games being likely candidates.

After it didn’t show up at the Xbox Games Showcase, there is still hope of Hollow Knight: Silksong finally making an appearance – although that’s been said far too many time over the last few years.

With the Switch 2 just around the corner, no one would blame Nintendo for having a quiet Direct but the fact that it is 40 minutes long suggests something of significance will be announced, with the long delayed Metroid Prime 4 now seeming like a real possibility.

Mario Party Superstars
Are we due another party? (Nintendo)

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Alone In The Dark key art
The search for infinite growth goes on (THQ Nordic)

Just three months after it launched Alone In The Dark, developer Pieces Interactive has announced it’s closing its doors as the industry’s cutthroat layoffs continue.

If Microsoft’s decision to shut down Tango Gameworks proved anything, it’s that no studio is safe from the chopping block in the current climate.

As development costs rise and companies scramble to ensure ‘growth’ in the wake of the pandemic, the games industry has been subject to widespread layoffs over the past two years, with over 10,000 already having lost their jobs.

Now, Embracer Group has shut down Swedish studio Pieces Interactive after 17 years, just three months after it launched the reboot of Alone In The Dark.

After going on an ill-advised shopping spree of developers, Embracer has already shut down Saints Row developer Volition and TimeSplitters’ Free Radical Design, amongst others, as part of its ‘restructuring programme’ following the collapse of a $2 billion investment deal.

Pieces Interactive confirmed the closure on Monday in a post recapping the studio’s history, which says: ‘Thanks for playing with us.’ The studio released over 10 games, including Magicka 2, Leviathan Warships, and Puzzlegeddon, before they were acquired by Embracer Group, under THQ Nordic, in 2017.

‘Out last release was the reimagining of Alone In The Dark,’ it concludes.

Last month, Embracer Group stated, in a financial report, that Alone In The Dark had ‘performed below management expectations’. This was after reports of layoffs at the studio back in April, a month after it launched.

It’s another example of how studios, in the current climate, are often only one flop away from being shut down entirely. We’ve already seen this concern hang over Rocksteady, following the failure of Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, even though that studio is apparently safe.

Pieces Interactive’s closure is likely not just due to the failure of Alone In The Dark but the fact that the studio now has no imminent game for release, making it an easy target for closure at a company that is looking to cut costs.

Given how long it takes to make a modern video game they wouldn’t be able to make any substantial contribution to their parent company’s bottom line for several years, which is a danger for all other developers in the current climate.

Embracer Group’s ‘restructuring’ has led the company to sell off Borderlands creator Gearbox and Saber Interactive in a bid to recover costs. In April, Embracer also outlined plans to split into three separate companies: Asmodee Group, Coffee Stain & Friends, and Middle-earth Enterprises & Friends.

The closure of Pieces Interactive signals a bleak outcome if any of Embracer’s future projects fall below expectations. The company’s future slate includes Kingdom Come: Deliverance 2, Disney’s Epic Mickey: Rebrushed, and Killing Floor 3.

Alone In The Dark
Alone In The Dark is a reboot of the classic series (THQ Nordic)

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Still Wakes The Deep screenshot
Still Wakes The Deep – walking into a nightmare (Secret Mode)

The makers of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture create a homage to The Thing that features no combat but plenty of scares.

Body horror’s a genre that never really goes out of fashion. It had an early peak in the 1980s with The Fly, Re-Animator, and The Thing and it’s currently enjoying another. Possessor, from the son of David Cronenberg, the utterly unhinged Titane, and When Evil Lurks spring to mind, and there are plenty of others.

Body horror in games is not uncommon either, with The Thing, in particular, being a long-standing influence on many survival horror games, most obviously in late 90s titles such as Resident Evil 2 and Parasite Eve. It’s become rarer in more modern games though, many of which have been disappointingly nervous about showing anything genuinely horrifying, but that only makes Still Wakes The Deep even more of a welcome surprise.

Unsurprisingly, developer Chinese Room cites John Carpenter’s sci-fi horror classic as a key inspiration and, alongside that, the works of Ken Loach, whose gritty realism and social commentary are not at all what you’d expect to find in video games. The result is unlike anything else you’ll play this year, although you may occasionally be reminded of their earlier attempt at a survival horror, with 2013’s Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs.

Like Still Wakes The Deep, that was a walking simulator, although one that lightly stretched the boundaries of the genre, making it feel more open world. Where it was set in a deserted English village in the 1980s, this takes place on a well populated North Sea oil rig in December 1975, and its mise en scène is so detailed and textured you can practically smell it.

From the ghastly 70s curtains and carpets to the girly calendars, and the fact that everything seems to be leaking, the richly detailed world is a staggering achievement and almost as persuasively authentic as its characters. You play Caz McLeary, the rig’s electrician and no friend of the boss, who’s annoyed that Caz got himself in trouble with the police when he was back on the mainland.

Caz’s marriage is on the rocks, and getting fired – as he is in the opening minutes of the game – is exactly the Christmas present he doesn’t need. His friends and fellow crew members are just as believable, from his cockney buddy Roy in the canteen to communism-loving Trots. You can chat to a few of them over lunch, where they all seem impressively real, in the precious moments before events overtake them all.

Still Wakes The Deep screenshot
Still Wakes The Deep – apparently oil rigs are a profanity rich environment (Secret Mode)

Those events are every bit in line with The Thing. The isolated circumstances and rapid degeneration, from complete normality to grotesque horror, are brought into sharper focus because you’re at the heart of it and must help save the rig and as many of your friends as you can. However, given Still Wakes The Deep’s walking simulator roots, you won’t be fighting any monsters to achieve that.

What you will be doing is a lot of traversal. Starting with barricaded corridors and doors, most of your time’s spent making your way through a litany of industrial hoists, air vents, teetering ledges over a stormy sea, and claustrophobia-inducing flooded corridors; getting around the rig and its inky black, oily interstices.

Without combat, moments of tension are usually characterised by having to hide and then run from a seething, mutated former crew mate. That involves stashing yourself briefly in a locker, Alien Isolation style, before legging it through cramped corridors until you can find a cupboard to hide in, or a small enough gap to crawl through that the raging, panting horror behind you can’t follow.

Despite the obvious homages to The Thing there’s relatively little gore, beyond coming across the remains of your former workmates. Instead, it’s the swearing that makes the 16 age rating seem bizarre, with its surprisingly liberal use of the c-word. It strongly suggests, as we’ve long suspected, that PEGI never properly plays any of the games it rates, with the end result being something no American publisher would ever dream of releasing.

In terms of gameplay, there are also frequent QTEs, but while these are normally the last stop along a developer’s path to mediocrity, here they’re brought to life by the startling realism of Unreal Engine 5, and the extraordinarily high quality of the voice acting. These two elements are easily the game’s strongest suit, with every character being exceptionally well written and acted.

Even the vocabulary they use has a rare level of authenticity. Words like bampot, bahookie, and scunnert will have Sassenachs – us included – reaching for Urban Dictionary, but they evoke an atmosphere and intensity that’s quite unlike any other game we’ve played, and clearly reflect the developer’s love of Ken Loach.

Unfortunately, there comes a point where you’ve skirted enough ledges and swum enough water-filled crawl spaces that their capacity to unsettle diminishes, making them just obstacles to overcome, like the padlocks or ventilator covers Caz casually twists off with a screwdriver. But the story, mostly conveyed via breathless phone calls between duty stations, keeps things moving.

Walking simulators are regularly criticised for removing familiar gameplay elements, but their absence here is refreshing. Taking part in a scene, being moved by the dialogue, unnerved by the sound effects, and knowing that the horrifying thing in the walls underneath admin is exactly where you’re heading next, is far more affecting when you’re not continually backtracking in search of ammo and crafting materials.

Still Wakes The Deep is completely linear, there’s no combat, it doesn’t have puzzles, and as far as we could tell there are no alternate endings. However, you do get to participate in an extravagantly textured and characterful 1970s body horror experience, with a brilliant script, some of the best voice acting we’ve heard, and a lovingly crafted setting that viscerally places you in the era of miners’ strikes and Ford Cortinas.

Still Wakes The Deep review summary

In Short: A walking simulator that’s also a love letter to The Thing, transplanting its blend of naturalistic realism and abject horror into an immaculately recreated 1970s North Sea oil rig.

Pros: Enough atmosphere to terraform Mars, excellent script and voice-acting, and a much needed diversion into profanity-laden Scottish slang.

Cons: It’s a walking simulator: so no puzzles, battles, or traditional gameplay. The plot is completely pre-ordained and almost the entire game is effectively one, single, rubble-strewn corridor.

Score: 7/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox Series X/S*, and PC
Price: £29.99
Publisher: Secret Mode
Developer: The Chinese Room
Release Date: 18th June 2024
Age Rating: 16

*day one Game Pass release

Still Wakes The Deep screenshot
Still Wakes The Deep – you’d swear it should be an 18 (Secret Mode)

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Will Smash ever be this big again? (Nintendo)

The director behind the Super Smash Bros. series appears to be shifting his time to a new project, as he officially wraps up his YouTube channel.

After dishing out game design tips over the past two years on YouTube, Masahiro Sakurai has filmed his final video for his channel.

Sakurai, who is best known for spearheading the Super Smash Bros. series, previously said he would be bringing the channel to a close earlier this year. Now, the end is officially nigh, with Sakurai confirming on Saturday the final episode is in the can.

‘We have finished recording the final episode of the channel,’ Sakurai wrote on Twitter. ‘I think it will be a while before it is released, so please enjoy the regular episodes until then.’

While Sakurai has given no indication as to why he’s ending the channel, he did previously confirm he’s ‘still creating games for the time being’ in a YouTube episode earlier this year.

As you might expect, Sakurai’s decision to end his YouTube exploits has spurred a new wave of speculation around another Super Smash Bros. entry.

Fans have also highlighted job listings for Nintendo projects from December, at Namco Studio 2 and Studio S, who work on the Smash series, which have since been taken down – implying the positions are filled and that work can begin.

While there was no mention of Super Smash Bros. specifically, one listing did refer to the ‘construction of stage specifications’ for ‘side-view action games’, which some believe could be related to Smash in some capacity.

The sales success of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate makes another entry practically inevitable, but the biggest question is whether Sakurai will be involved. Despite claiming he was ‘semi-retired’ in 2022, Sakurai has since suggested work on another Smash game couldn’t happen without him.

‘I mean whatever comes after Smash Bros. Ultimate,’ Sakurai said on his YouTube channel last year. ‘One option would be to separate the series from the original creator. But for now, at least, I can’t really imagine a Smash Bros. title without me.

‘You might think that’s a natural stance for someone in my role, but I say so speaking objectively. I feel the same way [former Nintendo president Satoru] Iwata did when we formed the team for Smash Bros. Brawl. At present, we don’t have someone who can simply take the reins…’

He added: ‘Smash Bros. is a massive, important title for Nintendo, so it’s fair to assume there will be another one at some point, but it’s going to take some work to figure out exactly how to make that happen. For my part, I’d like to keep working with Nintendo however I’m able.’

Considering the amount of work that went into 2018’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and its two waves of DLC fighters, the quickest solution for the next title might be an expanded ‘deluxe’ version in the same vein as Mario Kart 8 on Switch – especially with Nintendo’s next console around the corner.

While Nintendo has made no official announcements about its follow-up to the Switch, aside from that it exists, it has said that it won’t feature in its next Nintendo Direct, due sometime this month. That implies Nintendo won’t start talking about it or its games until at least this autumn.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
Is it deluxe time? (Nintendo)

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Silk in Marvel Contest of Champions
Silk as she appears in Marvel Contest Of Champions (Kabam)

What seem to be early images from a third Spider-Man game by Insomniac Games have leaked and they suggest the game is a long way off yet.

The fact that there’ll eventually be a Spider-Man 3 game for PlayStation 5 seems pretty obvious, but the problem is that Spider-Man 2 cost over $300 million to make. Its massive budget is assumed to be one of the primary reasons that Sony is suddenly so obsessed with live service games and its number of new releases have slowed to a crawl in the last few years.

That doesn’t mean Sony won’t fund more such games in the future, just that they’re likely to be far less frequent and/or subject to lower budgets. Insomniac is known to be working on a new Wolverine game though, as rumours also suggest a spin-off starring Venom (likely similar in scope to the Miles Morales game).

A massive hack last year revealed that Insomniac is also planning games based on the X-Men and a new Ratchet & Clank, as well as the inevitable Spider-Man 3 for autumn 2028. And now the first screenshots have, sort-of, leaked online.

The hacked information suggested that Venom would be out in autumn 2025 and Wolverine in 2026, but the further forward you get in time the more subject to change these plans will inevitably be.

Nevertheless, the hack suggests that Spider-Man 3 is due in 2028 and may be split into two parts -either because it’s too big or to help compensate for the high budget.

The ending of Spider-Man 2 certainly made it very clear there was going to be another one, with a number of plot threads left dangling and a teaser featuring a new character called Cindy Moon, who in the comics becomes the superhero Silk.

Silk has similar powers to the current two Spider-Men (plus organic webshooters) and it seems obvious that Spider-Man 2 is setting her up as a new playable character, so it’s no surprise to find her turning up in new images from a prototype version of the game.

The prototype is extremely early, so the graphics are very basic, but assuming they’re real they show her web-swinging around what seems to be New York City’s Central Park.

We can’t show the images here for legal reasons but they’re easy enough to find online. Although it’s unclear why they’ve only emerged now and not at the same time as the other hacked information last winter.

It was a lot of data to sift through but that also means they could be fakes, given Silk’s presence is all but confirmed by the last game.

The hacked information about a 2028 release date for Spider-Man 3 does seem to be real, but the release of Venom will be the best indication of whether Insomniac has been forced to change its plans since the hack.

Venom in Marvel's Spider-Man 2
Is a Venom spin-off the next Spidey-related game? (Sony Interactive Entertainment)

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Starfield cover art
Bethesda is playing the long game with Starfield (Microsoft)

Bethesda’s Todd Howard has discussed the future of Starfield, along with how it is influencing the development of The Elder Scrolls 6.

Starfield may have landed with a mixed response from fans and critics, but it appears to have been a success in terms of player numbers. That doesn’t mean much when the game is on Game Pass but it seems that rather than sweeping it under the carpet, developer Bethesda is going to support it more than their previous games.

After showing off the sci-fi title’s first expansion, Shattered Space, at the Xbox Games Showcase, Bethesda Game Studios’ director Todd Howard has confirmed Starfield has been played by over 14 million players in a new interview. Although there’s no indication of how many bought it individually.

‘We have now three big franchises [The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Starfield],’ Howard said. ‘To have Starfield be there. It’s 14 million players, and average playtime is still over 40 hours a player. It’s a staggering amount of time in-game.’

Bethesda previously confirmed Starfield had reached 13 million players back in December, following its launch in September. At the time, it was described as the ‘biggest launch’ in the studio’s history.

As such, it’s unsurprising to hear Shattered Space will not be Starfield’s last expansion. Speaking in the same interview with MrMattyPlays, Howard was asked if we can expect annual expansions for Starfield in the years to come.

‘More or less, yes,’ he replied. ‘How long that continues, hopefully a long time. But we’re planning for the one after this, so there will be another one.’

This planned roadmap for Starfield, which includes the recently added mod creation tools, is partially in response to Bethesda’s regret over not supporting The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and Fallout 4 with substantial DLC for longer.

‘We would look back at Skyrim, which we’re still updating to a small extent – and there’s all of the creations and mods there – it’s still a hugely played game, same with Fallout 4, that we wish we had supported them longer,’ Howard added.

‘We went into Fallout 76 knowing, hey, this is a game we’re going to support for as long as we can. Starfield, we go into that knowing the same thing. And as we go into The Elder Scrolls 6, with all these games you’ve gotta start now by thinking about a 10-year horizon. How do we support a game for that long?’

Howard reaffirms this long term roadmap is ‘100%’ planned for The Elder Scrolls 6, only to stop himself from revealing too much: ‘Seeing obviously what Skyrim has done, and our other games, I think you could say for Elder Scrolls 6… yeah, I’ll just stop there.’

The studio’s director, however, doesn’t quite stop there. ‘We know people are going to play it for a long time, so I think a game like that is not just, what it means for content. It goes further than that in, you know, the type of game, what it means for your character, what it means for other things to say, ‘Hey, can this be something that you come back to?

‘We see that Skyrim, what people do in the game today. Even though it’s popular, what are people doing when they come back to the game after putting it down for a few years?’

In other words, it sounds like Bethesda is trying to recapture what made Skyrim a long term success with The Elder Scrolls 6 – which is not surprising considering how successful the former’s been since it launched in 2011.

It remains to be seen whether Starfield will have the same staying power, but development on The Elder Scrolls 6 is fully underway, after the studio confirmed earlier this year the sequel is already in playable form.

Shattered Space is out in the autumn (Microsoft)

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