Weekend Whammy

Weekend Whammy: A Lack of Gameplay & Mass Effect Tactics

I’m not saying that the pressure of lockdown forced me to the tape my family to the ceiling, but I am saying that I need to repaint my ceiling. Yes, I’m back, back again (and listening to some Eminem) and lockdown is a confusing mess as Boris Johnson says one thing and Wales, Ireland and Scotland say completely different things. Should people go back to work or stay at home? Can you drive places or not? Is being in the park okay or will you get yelled at by the police? Nobody knows! So I think I’ll just stay inside and play more games. Seems like the safest choice, really.

Anyway, I hope you’re keeping well, my friends. If you’re classed as a key worker then thank you so much for keeping the shelves stocked, the Internet running, the drink flowing, the food rolling and our world generally just rocking on. And if you’re at home then I hope you’re using this time to spend with family or to play awesome games or to read amazing books or learn something new or become a raging alcaholic. Whatever floats your boat, y’know?

Since my last Weekend Whammy I’ve managed to shove out four more reviews, three of which were for turn-based tactical games. I actually got an offer to review another turn-based tactical title, but after having a small mental breakdown I politely told the company to sod off and never speak to me again. I love the genre, but by the painful pimple on my otherwise pretty petootie I don’t think I want to play another tactical game for a very, very long time.

I kicked off with Fort Triumph, a fun little farcical fantasy game that mixed its turn-based tactics with a little Heroes of Might & Magic. It’s a good time if you’re looking for something lighter and like the idea of squishing a goblin under a pillar.

Then I got to XCOM: Chimera Squad, a spinoff from the main series which feels like it might have been a testing ground for ideas heading into the inevitable XCOM 3. I like that Firaxis announced and released this little project in the space of a few weeks, and considering the small price-tag it packs about 20-hours of gameplay into its campaign. Some of the risk it takes work, some don’t, but overall its worth playing.

The final turn-based tactical game I played wound up being the best, and probably my favourite example of the genre currently. Yup, it’s Gears Tactics and it lets you chainsaw Locusts in half! YAY! But yeah, Splash Damage did a fantastic job of taking th Gears franchise and laying it atop the XCOM formula, then adding some of their own tweaks and ideas. The lack of a larger strategic layer might put some folk off, but personally I liked the focus on the action. Plus, I’m a sucker for loot.

“Splash Damage have done an outstanding job taking the foundations laid by XCOM and building on top of that before loading it all in a heavy, sweaty layer of Gears armour before strapping a Lancer to it. The lack of a more meaningful metagame between the action hurts it a little, but Gears Tactics more than makes up for it with it’s fantastically fun tactical plotting and in the way it lets you chainsaw Grubs in half. Which XCOM doesn’t. And really, isn’t that what we all want in life?”

Gears Tactics review

But I did get a break from all the plotting and taking cover and swearing at Therons in Gears Tactics, and that welcome relief came in the form of Streets of Rage 4. How the hell Streets of Rage got a sequel in 2020 is beyond all mortal comprhension, but I’m supremely glad it did because Streets of Rage 4 is awesome. It’s glorious. It’s fantastic. It’s orgasmic. But you do need to understand that it doesn’t seek to radically change the franchise’s gameplay or even modernize it. It’s a side-scrolling brawler with no nonsense getting in the way. I love the purity of it, and that’s why I score it so highly.

Playing Gears Tactics did get me thinking what other franchies could make the leap to the turn-based genre. The one that sprung to mind was Mass Effect. Think about it; it heavily uses cover and guns, but also has a big variety of alien species and Biotic powers that could translate to some cool abilities. Like, being able to levitate someone out of cover would be a fantastic ability, or a Krogan could smash straight through walls. C’mon EA and Bioware, you know it makes sense.

A lot of people were left dissapointed by Microsoft’s recent Xbox Series X event which was advertised as being a “gameplay” showcase. I was eager to see some footage of next-gen games running on the new hardware, too. What we actually got were a bunch of cinematic trailers with very few snippets of gameplay. The Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla trailer probably contained less than 10-seconds of gameplay. In short, it was a bit of a disaster. It was already strange that Microsoft were holding an Xbox branded event purely for 3rd party titles that are going to be on other platforms as well, so promising gameplay and delivering barely any was the nail in the coffin. Both Microsoft and Ubisoft have expressed their sorrow and claimed that fans deserve better, but the words have no weight. Companies have been doing this for years and years, so why would we believe that they’ll change now?

And in a random bit of news there has been a small furor over Cyberpunk 2077. The ESRB ratings board revealed that the game has been given a mature rating for sex, violence, gore and a whole host of other awesome sounding things. But the weirdest reason is because the game features customizable genitals, as confirmed by the developers. According to the ESRB, “Players can select a gender and customize their character; customization can include depictions of breasts, buttocks, and genitalia, as well as various sizes and combinations of genitals.” So, I can adjust the angle of my dingle-dangle?

Anyway, there appear to be people upset at this, and that baffles me. Firstly, it fits the genre – cyberpunk typically focuses heavily on body modification and augmentation, so being able to play with your honey hole is right on point. Plus, why get upset about being able to fiddle with your little private when other games let you rip off arms and beat people to death with them. I mean, have you see Mortal Kombat 11? Are we really going to get upset about dicks and vaginas? People are stupid. Personally I’m just hoping I can add a cybernetic hand down there for some fun surprise handshakes or in case I want to hold a third gun.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that CDProjekt Red had already told everyone they were working on being able to retool your tool, so….yeah. Oh, and Conan Exiles gave you a slider to adjust how long a dong you ran around with.

I made sure to set aside some time so that I could finally watch a few movies, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized all three were connected, at least tenuously. I kicked off by finally getting to rewatch my favourite film of 2019, Jojo Rabbit. I’ve gushed about it before, and I’m going to gush about it again. Deal with it.

On paper Jojo Rabbit doesn’t sound like it should work. It follows a young boy called Jojo in 1945 as he joins the Hitler Youth, the brainwashing system that was mandatory to attend for children at the time. It’s basically a comedy film with young Jojo having an imaginary best friend in the form of Hitler. From there we follow Jojo as he learns his mother has been hiding a Jewish girl in the house, and his slow realization that the Jewish people are not in fact strange horned creatures that hang from rafters. I know that sounds crazy, but that’s the kind of shit German kids were actually taught. Jojo’s interactions with the older Jewish girl are charming, funny and heartwarming. The movie is hilarious thaks to imaginary Hitler, and yet it packs in an emotional sucker punch that genuinly brought tears to my eyes. It manages to pay respects to the horrors of the time, take the piss out of the Nazi’s and their idealogies, and reminds us that dancing is freedom. Honestly, go watch this movie. It’s fantastic in every respect.

Then I watched Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. The tie here is that the director and writer of Jojo Rabbit, the talented Taika Waitatai, is set to direct and co-write a Star Wars movie in the future. The man has already proven he can handle a big-budget blockbuster when he gave us Thor: Ragnarock, so it’s going to be interesting to see what he can do with Star Wars. He’s already had a small taste of the franchise when he directed the season 1 finale of The Mandalorian. I admit, I’m excited by this prospect – I’ve loved the three Taiki Waititi movies I’ve seen (What We Do In The Shadows is terrific) and Star Wars has loads of potential for something different to be done away from the existing movies and characters. I want to see something completely standalone set in the Star Wars universe that doesn’t have anything to do with the Skywalkers, Death Stars or Rey.

Anyway, back to Rise of Skywalker. I’ve held off watching it (in fact, I went to see it in the cinema and wound up swapping over to Jojo Rabbit when a friend tagged along) because the Internet furor around it killed by exciement. But I finally picked it up on 4K Blu Ray, settled myself in and wrapped up the final movie in the latest Star Wars trilogy. And by the end I felt…er, nothing, really. And that’s the worst thing. I never once imagined the day when the credits would roll on the “last” Star Wars movie and I’d feel nothing. I didn’t dislike it. I didn’t like it. It was fine. It was okay. It had some great moments and it’s visually stunning in places, but it also had some exceptionally poor moments, too. A major character return was poorly done, the whole sequence with Chewie was horribly written, and the whole script felt like a first-draft written hastily on a napkin after a few pints at the local pub. Still, it was nice to finally see Rey, Finn and Poe actually hanging out and getting to be friends, something that should have been happened throughout the prior two films.

That brings me to the third movie I watched. This one was directed by Rian Johnson who also did Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which I kind of like. He tried some bold things, and he deserves credit for at least attempting to bring his own flavor into the universe. But while I do sort of like The Last Jedi I still believe it’s a naff Star Wars film.

Thankfully Rian Johnson reminded me that he’s a talented director due with Knives Out, a whodunnit flick that has such a beautifully written script that I cannot find a single thing I’d cut from the film. The acting is fantastic, the story is tight, entertaining and fun, and best of all it’s the kind of murder mystery where you can actually figure out the ending if you pay attention. And if you can’t then you can go back, watch it again and pick up on all sorts of clues and wonderful details. I can easily see myself watching it a few more times just to enjoy the background details and the way Johnson constructs his shots. But the best thing are the outstanding characters, each with a well-defined personality and acted by a stellar cast. In short, Knives Out is absolutely worth watching. And you won’t be able to eat a donut again without laughing.

That should do it for now. Keep your eyes out for a review of Shred 2! Ft. Sam Pilgrim, and stay safe out there. And if you fancy supporting the site ( a big thank you to everyone who has donated) then you can do so below. I’m working on adding a recurring payment system if you’d like to throw in some pennies every month. Or should I just try Patreon?

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