MADDEN NFL 15
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.
DISGAEA 4: A PROMISE REVISITED
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. nisamerica.com
PLANTS VS ZOMBIES: GARDEN WARFARE
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! meetcarrot.com