It’s time to dust off the gaming console, as entertainment editor John Turnbull reviews a couple of new releases from two of the biggest entertainment companies around.
Developed by Visual Concepts (2019)
Like it or hate it, professional wrestling (or sports entertainment, as Vince McMahon would prefer we call it) is an international cultural phenomenon. The WWE broadcasts programming in around 180 countries and 28 languages, which means there is a good chance Stone Cold Steve Austin is more recognisable around the world than LeBron James. However, if you think this international fame and fortune means the WWE is capable of producing a decent video game, then you’re dead wrong.
Back in 2000, the dynamic developer duo of Yukes and Visual Concepts released WWF Smackdown, then proceeded to release pretty much the same game every year (with minor updates). In 2013, the series rebranded as WW2K, but nothing much else changed, in that each year's new game was the same as the last, but with an updated roster of superstars and maybe a new match mode. Until 2019…
The departure of Yukes from the 20-year development partnership did not auger well, but I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how bad WW2K20 would be.
The game shuts down or freezes at random, roughly two to three times per hour of playtime. Collision detection between players is woeful and there is an entire corner of the internet devoted to the horrific creations that the game produces, again seemingly at random. Characters that used to resemble their human counterparts in previous iterations now look like refugees from the Island of Doctor Moreau and the create-a-wrestler mode is great, unless you want to try anything creative, like giving your wrestler a tattoo.
Looking on the bright side, when WW2K20 actually works, it’s a pretty fun game. Following a massive and ongoing backlash for releasing a fundamentally unfinished game, Visual Concepts have pledged to release a patch to fix this never ending series of problems. Although, the game has been out for around a month now and VC seem more intent on getting you to pay for the next round of DLC than actually fixing the game.
Jedi Fallen Order
Developed by Respawn Entertainment (2019)
Much like WWE, Star Wars video games have maintained a relatively poor standard over the years, relying on franchise love to sell titles which were unfinished (Kinect Star Wars); unplayable (Flight of the Falcon) or simply rubbish (Yoda Stories). Even when developers get one part of the game right – such as the online multiplayer mode in Battlefront – the overall package still disappointed with the lack of a single-player mode.
Fortunately, Respawn Entertainment have apparently listened to player feedback and developed a Star Wars game that is not just playable, but more accurately represents the feeling of gradually becoming a Jedi than any other game in the franchise. Set five years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Fallen Order focuses on former Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis (Cameron Monaghan from TV series Gotham), who is drawn into a burgeoning rebel plot to resurrect the Jedi order.
With well-drawn characters, an intricate plot that links back into the larger Star Wars universe and large-scale battle sequences that recall the best of the films, Fallen Order sets a new standard in Star Wars video games — at least from a storytelling point of view. From a gameplay perspective, there is certainly a lot of fun to be had in Fallen Order, but certain elements may induce rage rather than enjoyment. While it is rewarding to level up your Jedi skills, accruing skill points can be a slog, particularly when an ill-timed wall run sends you plunging to your death seven or eight times before you work out the precise spot you have to jump.
With The Mandalorian currently raising the bar for what Star Wars can become in the new millennium, Jedi Fallen Order is a fine accompaniment for fans nervously awaiting the 19 December release of The Rise of Skywalker — and one that is unlikely to disappoint because the studio wanted to sell a few more toys.
There seems little doubt that both WW2K20 and Jedi Fallen Order will make end of year video game lists, but at entirely different ends of the spectrum. From my experience, WW2K20 is not just the worst game of 2019, but quite possibly the worst game I’ve played in the last 5 years. For a game to be released in this unfinished (or simply broken) state is unforgivable… but we’re also talking about the same company who has signed a multi-year deal to produce shows in Saudi Arabia, because money is far more important than human rights to Vincent K. McMahon.
If you are both a fan of the Star Wars universe and a gamer, I highly recommend picking up Jedi Fallen Order. Even non-gamers won’t have too hard a time getting into the game due to a generous sliding difficulty system, and the fact that Disney have confirmed that the events of this game will be crucial to upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows makes it a must-have for fans.
Jedi Fallen Order: 8/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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