Port roundup: The Ascent, WRC 10 & Thunder Kid

We’re looking at three recent ports today, one of which is the highly polished PlayStation version of the excellent The Ascent. We’re also checking out WRC 10 on the Switch, as well as the console version of Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor.

The Ascent (PS5)

It’s no secret that we really enjoyed The Ascent when it launched on Xbox last year. If you look past Halo: Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, it was possibly the best reason for PlayStation owners to be jealous of the Xbox platform last year. Well, no longer, as Neon Giant has brought their game to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 – a port that was a fairly poorly kept secret for a while, but has now materialized.

One benefit of this port arriving a little later is that it includes all the post-launch updates that the Xbox version received – so most of the technical issues we referred to in our review have now been fixed. In addition, you also get all of the post-launch features that were added later, which includes the transmog system we discussed earlier.

the ascent2

The jump from Xbox to PlayStation 5 seemed even larger to us before we originally reviewed The Ascent on an Xbox One, and played the new version on a PlayStation 5. This means we were able to enjoy the game with DuelSense support – which works very well for a twin-stick shooter like this, supporting haptic feedback that makes guns feel distinctly different from one another. But it also means we got to see the game’s excellent visuals with full HDR support – which makes a big difference in the game’s neon-soaked and already atmosphere-rich environments.

The core gameplay and campaign content remain largely untouched, prioritizing fun and accessible gunplay over complex and varied gameplay mechanics, but now that we’re in 2022 the game finally lives up to all its promise, and you can comfortably add half or even a full point to our initial score (7.5/10), depending on your affinity with the twin-stick shooter genre. A real treat that PlayStation owners shouldn’t hesitate to pick up.

WRC 10 (Switch)

With a new WRC game arriving pretty much like clockwork every single year, it’s surprising that it took until now for the Switch version of WRC 10 to arrive. The original release was back in September, and we covered it on the PlayStation 5 back then.

wrc10

We booted up the PS5 version as a bit of refresher course while the Switch version was downloading, and boy was that a mistake. WRC 10 on the Switch feels like a massive step back in terms of visual fidelity, reminding us of how underpowered Nintendo’s console can seem at times. It’s not just a step back from the ‘bigger’ console version, it also feels like a step back from the last Switch game in the series.

This is especially true when playing in the handheld mode, where not just the visual detail but also the frame rate takes a hit – in addition to introducing a lot of pop-in. Ironically, it made us think back to WRC 3, 4 and 5 on the PlayStation Vita, which fared a lot better in comparison despite being several years older. If you’re looking for a fun handheld racer on the Switch, this isn’t it.

Luckily, it’s certainly not all bad. This is a racing game that veers towards the sim end of things, and it’s rare to find a driving model like this anywhere else on the Switch. Your controller choice and setup matters though, because WRC 10 benefits from having a responsive controller with analogue controls. In docked mode – if you don’t have access to a ‘big’ console, the game delivers a decent rally experience.

wrc10a

The game also shines in terms of content, because you’re looking at almost two dozen locations with close to 150 different courses to race on. Sure, the somewhat drab presentation makes them blend into one another visually, but that’s a lot of rally racing to master. If you’re Switch-bound and looking for a serious rally racing game, this’ll tide you over nicely until the next iteration in the franchise.

Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor (PS4)

This is easily the oldest game in our port roundup today, as Thunder Kid originally launched on Steam back in 2018 – though its retro visuals imply it’s quite a bit older than that. Developed by Renegade Sector Games and now brought to console with the help of publisher Eastasiasoft, we took a look at the PlayStation 4 version.

For a game that evokes memories of arcade games like Space Harrier with its fixed third person perspective and forward scrolling levels with crude 3D visuals, Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor certainly has an ambitious plot. In it, an evil AI (there never seen to be benevolent ones in games) takes over North America and forms the Robot Empire, and you’d the human hero trying to prevent them for wiping out mankind.

thunder kid

This is far from a narrative-driven game though. You essentially shoot everything that moved while collecting pickups as you push forward and engage in the occasional platforming moment. Boss fights break up the flow at the end of each level, making for an old school and very arcade-inspired game structure.

While the game’s very accessible because of this, you’ll also notice it’s a fairly one-note affair, with little to mix up the gameplay formula, visual style and level layout. Thunder Kid: Hunt for the Robot Emperor is unlikely to leave a lasting impression because of it, but it comes at a budget price point with an incredibly easy trophy list for those who look for those.

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