Dragon, Dragon, Draggin': The Bandai Namco Showcase

Bandai Namco logoBandai Namco certainly is busy. Just a few weeks ago I was sitting down and getting some quality time with CD Projekt’s The Witcher 3 (released May 19th), and now here I am checking out more of the publisher’s games. This time, I had opportunity to sample some upcoming releases. Dragon Ball Xenoverse, the latest entry in the long series of Dragon Ball games; the next-gen release of Dark Souls 2: Scholar of the First Sin, and the highly-anticipated racing sim Project CARS.


Dragon Ball Xenoverse

Dragon Ball Xenoverse 

Dragon Ball has a lot to answer for. Well, mainly just two things: The clips of the show set to Linkin Park that seemingly account for half of the videos on Youtube; and the roided up young men who, clearly influenced by Dragon Ball Z, have modeled their bodies on Vegeta when he turned Super Saiyan 2 in the Cell Saga. That being said, I have a soft spot in my heart for Dragon Ball after growing up watching the show every morning before school, and the Budokai series is one of my all-time favourite games. So, when I found out I’d get to check out Dragon Ball Xenoverse a few weeks before release, I was definitely excited.

The game starts off in the character creator, where you are given your choice to customize one of the five main races featured in the Dragon Ball series: Saiyans, Earthlings, Namekians, Maijin and, uh, whatever Frieza is. You’ll be taking this character through the story mode, which is all-new original story, unlike most other Dragon Ball games. You can, of course, still play with Goku and all the series regulars if that’s more your thing.

Developer Dimps is no stranger to the franchise, having previously developed numerous Budokai titles. However, gameplay is similar to that of the Tenkaichi series, where battles are arena-based rather than your standard one-on-one fighter a la Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. This makes sense from a fan perspective, as it does a much better job of replicating the fights featured in the TV show. Unfortunately, the Tenkaichi series has always suffered from camera issues and it appears that similar problems persist in Xenoverse; the camera is always a touch too close to your fighter, meaning you won’t always be able to see your opponent. Despite these problems, I did find the spacious arenas easy to navigate and the destructible environments immensely satisfying to play and Kamehameha around in.

I was also somewhat underwhelmed by the use of the Dragon Ball license. Although I only experienced a very early portion of the game, I was disappointed by the lack of recognisable music and voice acting during fights. Battles I took part in were for the most part in silence, save for my character’s grunts and the sound of energy blasts. Hopefully this is something that improves in the final release.

Although I came away with a few minor issues with my short preview, Dragon Ball fans should look forward to this game. If three-on-three online battles with all your favourite Dragon Ball characters sounds like your sort of thing, then definitely give Dragon Ball Xenoverse a look when it releases on 26 February.


Dark Souls II Scholar First Sin

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin

You either love or despise the current crop of HD re-releases . I have a huge backlog and I don’t usually buy games on release, so I certainly appreciate these ‘definitive’ editions with the best visuals and all the content for one price. I completely understand the frustration that some people have for these re-releases for titles released less than a year ago, but if you’re still interested in the Dark Souls games and unplugged your last-generation consoles long ago, then you should be very interested in Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin.

There isn’t much new here for Dark Souls II veterans. Graphical fidelity has been given a significant bump and the game runs at a very smooth 60fps (which might be enough to entice the more hardcore of Dark Souls players), but that’s about the extent of the new additions.

However if, like me, you missed out on Dark Souls II first time around, then you’re looking at a package that contains the original main campaign, all three well-received DLC campaigns and all the features that will be in the upcoming patch. That’s a hell of a lot of content.

Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin is also hitting Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, sans graphical upgrades, alongside the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions on 2 April.


Project Cars

Project CARS

Xbox owners sure are a lucky bunch. Whether you like driving simulators or arcade racers, the Forza series has provided fantastic racing experiences every year since 2011. Playstation owners haven’t been quite so lucky; they’ve had to sit through the debacle that was Driveclub, a game that wasn’t sure what type of racer it wanted to be and was besieged with online problems. Although they’ve got access to decent multiplats with Need For Speed Rivals and The Crew, Sony stalwart Gran Turismo seems to show up whenever it pleases. Thankfully, it seems the multiplatform racer Project CARS (Community Assisted Racing Simulator) might just be able to satisfy Playstation and Xbox fans alike and maybe even steal a few fans away from the juggernaut franchises.

This game has a lot of options. A lot. You can adjust virtually element of your driving experience that you would care to. If you are the type of racing fan that likes to have the most realistic experience possible, you’re in the right place. But if you’re a bit rubbish at racing sims (like myself), then you can turn all aids and assists on and gradually turn them off as you improve. I was very impressed with this level of customisation and hope it is extended to the cars themselves in the final release.

Of course, all these options to improve realism don’t mean much unless the graphics are up to scratch, and I can safely say you will not be disappointed. I had the opportunity to play Project Cars on PC with both the Oculus Rift and a 4K screen, and it looks amazing on both. I only had time to mess around with a couple of cars, but the models of both their exteriors and interiors were breathtakingly beautiful. If the console ports look half as good as the PC version, everyone will be in for a real treat.

Project Cars is looking very promising and is shaping up to be the complete racing sim package. Interestingly, in addition to Oculus support, developers Slightly Mad Studios has announced support for Sony’s still-unreleased Project Morpheus VR headset. You can get your hands on the game 2 April.


While Dragon Ball Xenoverse and Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin did impress, it was undoubtedly the latter that was the real standout and is shaping up to be something that should be on the wishlists of all console and PC racing-lovers.

 

Updated to reflect change in Project CARS’ release date from 19 March to 2 April.