Games of the week
Total War: Three Kingdoms
Let loose the dogs of war
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the Chinese Game of Thrones, dramatising a period in history when Emperors were kidnapped, eunuchs corrupted governments and grand warriors wrestled for dominance. Total War: Three Kingdoms plants its blend of high-level strategy and real-time tactics within this chaos, benefiting from the strong personalities of whichever general you elect to control, even if it can't boast the unit-level excitement of Total War: Warhammer. The passing of time is still daft (armies can take entire seasons to cross valleys) but the superbly revamped campaign map, attractive interface and huge depth of diplomatic options make Three Kingdoms a warlord's paradise.
Skip to the end: An engaging and intricate strategy, despite the vanilla action elements.
Zombotron's fantastic hand-crafted look is the game's only lasting appeal. The 2D platforming is rudimentary, the story is half-baked (spaceship captain answers distress call on abandoned planet, discovers all hell's broken loose, blah blah blah), and monster design is jarringly inconsistent. At least the mouse-aimed shooting feels satisfyingly powerful. Unfortunately, resources are so scarce that you'll become thoroughly depressed by the idea of grinding out the ludicrously unaffordable cost of any purchasable weaponry you find. It's also seriously annoying that you can't melee while reloading, because otherwise what's the point? The visuals really are great, but Zombotron can't avoid falling apart unpleasantly during long play sessions.
Skip to the end: Attractive but unbalanced and uninspired blast 'em up.
Giga Wrecker Alt
Platform: Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Hunk of junk
The big idea is that your character's bionic arm can amass and then reform rubble from the environment into weapons or puzzle solutions. Sadly, Giga Wrecker Alt itself looks like salvaged scrap, amassed from discarded pieces of ridiculously fey anime, bland 2D platformers and side-scrolling shooters from 1980s arcade halls. Controlling your tiny on-screen avatar feels more like sending out vague and delayed instructions for movement, while animation is poor, level design awful and the bonkers plot handed out in lifeless snippets of text. It's almost like the last 30 years of videogaming didn't happen. The idea is decent but Giga Wrecker Alt is an example of how good execution often matters more than innovation.
Skip to the end: An instantly outdated and ugly platformer.
Mortal Kombat 11
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
To the death
The king of controversy in the early-nineties, Mortal Kombat 11 is everything you'd expect. It's still two fighters scrapping in embellished 2D, it's still grim-dark as a death metal playlist and it's still wholeheartedly disgusting. Fighting takes place on a strict side-on perspective, but each Fatality move triggers a stomach-churning 3D execution (for the uninitiated, Fatalities are how you humiliate your opponent after a win, and each is so brutal even Eli Roth might baulk at the savagery). Yet beyond the inevitable goresploitation, there's a finely-constructed beat-'em-up with a staggeringly good tutorial mode – probably the best in any fighting game, ever. It's a shame it doesn't have more fun (remember Friendships?) but Mortal Kombat is still a videogaming legend.
Skip to the end: As barbaric as ever and now even more accessible.