3 cert, EA, Xbox One (also PS4, PS3, Xbox 360) Last year was the 25th an­niver­sary of Amer­i­can foot­ball videogame fran­chise Mad­den NFL, but it seems 2014 might be its time to re­ally shine. The game was shown off to ea­ger fans at this year’s E3, and the leap in its de­vel­op­ment was ob­vi­ous.

Mad­den NFL 15 looks bet­ter, plays bet­ter and acts bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sors, pow­ered by the Ig­nite game en­gine. (We won’t dwell too much on the glitch and the tiny line­backer.)

Much is to do with the power of the next-gen con­soles. The power be­hind the Xbox One and the PS4 was brought into play for Mad­den NFL 25, but this year sees more tweaks and changes that should make the game more popular among Amer­i­can foot­ball fans.

First up is Mad­den’s de­fen­sive is­sues. You feel more in­volved in the game, thanks to a player-lock cam­era that puts you in the mid­dle of the ac­tion. In­stead of watch­ing the team from afar and hav­ing more broad con­trol over play, you follow one player.

Tack­les must be more pre­cisely timed, and their suc­cess will de­pend on the dif­fi­culty of the move. The risk can pay off oc­ca­sion­ally. AI has also been tweaked to make it a lit­tle more re­al­is­tic, though we can’t prom­ise the odd fore­head slap­ping mo­ment won’t oc­cur.

Vis­ually, Mad­den NFL 15 shows def­i­nite im­prove­ment. The broad­casts now feel slicker and more pro­fes­sional. That’s in part down to hav­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion di­rec­tor on board, and the ad­di­tion of new cam­era an­gles that add new visual el­e­ments to the game.

It’s the lit­tle de­tails that re­ally bring pol­ish. The dy­namic cam­eras mean that the screens around the sta­di­ums now dis­play dif­fer­ent shots and re­plays to what’s go­ing on in the game.


12 cert, NIS Amer­ica, PS Vita If the past decade has taught us any­thing, it’s that vam­pires don’t al­ways look like you’d ex­pect. For in­stance, Val, the anti-hero of Dis­gaea 4, is a short, baby-faced, sar­dine-loving blood­sucker. The con­vo­luted plot isn’t Dis­gaea’s strong­est sell­ing point. In­stead, think of it as a ter­rific ex­am­ple of a turn-based, real-time strat­egy game. It’s com­plex, with a long tu­to­rial, but once it kicks in it’s grat­i­fy­ing and in­ven­tive. The set-up is stan­dard, with play­ing fields that re­sem­ble board games; strate­gic, de­lib­er­ate game­play; and power-ups and up­grades spe­cific to each fighter. The more it pro­gresses, the more chal­leng­ing and elab­o­rate it be­comes. Hop on col­leagues’ shoul­ders to make “tow­ers”; throw friends and foes around the dig­i­tal board; de­stroy items to make en­e­mies’ en­vi­ron­ment more hos­tile; meld monsters, and even morph them into big ugly weapons that you can use to club en­e­mies. nisamer­


EA, PS4 (also Xbox One, Xbox 360) The lat­est in­stal­ment of the Plants vs Zom­bies fran­chise has now launched on PS4 after de­but­ing on Xbox, bring­ing the strug­gle be­tween veg­e­ta­tion and the un­dead to Sony’s next-gen plat­form. There’s not much to dis­tin­guish it be­tween the two plat­forms, although PS4 play­ers can take ad­van­tage of the down­load­able con­tent re­leased since the orig­i­nal. A bit more fluffy and car­toon-style than the shoot­ers we’ve be­come used to, the on­li­neonly game pits a team of plants against the zom­bies, giv­ing each spe­cial pow­ers. Sun­flow­ers, for ex­am­ple, heal the wounded team mem­bers; other plants are more ag­gres­sive. Level up as you go, adding new pow­ers. There are a few on­line modes to choose, in­clud­ing Gar­den Ops sur­vival mode and the Team Van­quish death­match-style game, but the PS4 ver­sion also ben­e­fits from the down­load­able con­tent that PvZ has added since its de­but.


4 cert, Gri­alr LLC, iPhone (also iPad, iPod Touch) “Greet­ings, lazy hu­man. I, Car­rot, am your new taskmistress.” Gameifi­ca­tion is one of the marvels of mod­ern liv­ing – ma­nip­u­lat­ing your mind with imag­i­nary pun­ish­ments and re­wards (which is em­bar­rass­ingly easy to do) to make your work and per­sonal life bet­ter. Car­rot is a sim­ple, clever idea; a talk­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity app with a with­er­ing sense of hu­mour. It’s got a neat, sparse lay­out; mostly white with black text of your to-do list, and Car­rot’s blue eye star­ing at you from a cor­ner of the screen. With a me­chan­i­cal voice and mean com­ments, Car­rot is like Hal’s sar­cas­tic cousin, or the long-lost sis­ter of GLaDOS from Por­tal. There’s retro syn­the­siser mu­sic, with three cords that play when you write a task, and a dif­fer­ent tune when you strike one off the list. Com­pleted items are also greeted with a dead­pan, stac­cato com­ment from Car­rot (“Well, nice try, I sup­pose”) and the task-re­ward loop is ad­dic­tive enough to gen­uinely help pro­duc­tiv­ity. Ring that bell, Pavlov! meet­car­

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