The last time I was in charge of a kitchen – see Cooking Simulator – plates were smashed, customers complained in their droves and my blood pressure went through the roof. Before that though, developers Vertigo Gaming managed to create a fairly good balance between the stressful nature and the sense of accomplishment involved in cooking with restaurant sim, Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!. It did so well that a third instalment has arrived on Xbox One, but can Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! step up and ensure we’re treated to an experience worthy of a Michelin 3-star award?
While Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! isn’t quite exceptional enough for top marks, it appears as though the game has procured the finest ingredients of the previous offering and then cooked up a fresh recipe that’s suitable for more palettes to enjoy. My word, the levels of stress have certainly reached new heights in this one however.
In Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! (CSD 3), that fancy restaurant you put blood, sweat and tears into is in a better place now… and by that I mean it’s been destroyed. The year is 2042 and your exploits continue in post-apocalyptic America, where two Search & Recovery robots have just found you half-dead under some rubble. Naturally, they think the best course of action for a chef that’s lucky to be alive is to immediately start a new business. Maybe you’re suffering from concussion, because after turning the recovery truck into a mobile food truck, you hit the road in the hopes of getting a chance to shine in the Iron Cook Food Truck Championships.
The premise of the Campaign is very silly, but at least offers a thin slice of storytelling to indulge in. It’s a nice touch that the androids, appropriately named Whisk and Cleaver, have voiceovers and will become kitchen aids too. Indeed, these two stick by your side for the road trip of a lifetime across the US and through the 387 levels contained within. And that’s one of CSD 3’s greatest strengths: the mammoth amount of content found in the Campaign.
Each level consists of roadside stops on the travels throughout numerous states, such as Idaho, Utah and Kansas. Between each stop, there’s time to prepare certain foods on the holding stations, while you can also begin work cooking the special orders that have come in. The fact it pre-warns as to how many of the holding station delicacies you’re going to need is massively helpful. That doesn’t mean it’s any less stressful however, with swarms of impatient customers and complicated orders becoming the bane of your life.
As for the menu that you’ll specialise in, well that depends on the level in question and the theme it presents. For example, in one level you may be limited to choosing from a selection of breakfast items, while another is all about salads. Furthermore, each item of food available has a difficulty rating, hence it may require throwing a couple of tricky dishes into the mix. Then comes the tough decision as to whether you would prefer to add an extra tough recipe in order to allow the rest to be simpler affairs, or average out the difficulty.
The gameplay itself takes a lot of getting used to, even for a seasoned veteran, mainly due to the complex controls. Much like its predecessor, the X button takes an order from the list, the Y button lets you start prepping and the A button cooks or finishes off the food. But then to actually put the meal together could involve multiple button combinations using the triggers and, if the difficulty is high, sifting through pages of ingredients. It’s all fine and dandy when someone wants a breakfast sarney, with just a few options like eggs, bacon and cheese. Try serving Korean specialty Bibimbap however, and the requirements make it hellishly complicated; carefully adding the correct items into it from the list is hard enough without the pressure of customers and other foods spoiling over time.
My biggest criticism is how, even with advance notice for orders, it’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed and break down. Once you make a simple mistake or put extra time and care into an awkward order due to the controls, the panic sets in and there’s very little chance of recovery – you might as well just throw in the apron and quit. There’s also the small matter of the food truck being attacked by competitors, which can lead to certain aspects of your little kitchen being out of use. Sure, it fits with the apocalyptic setting, but I’ve got enough on my plate with fussy Florence who wants every topping in existence on her single slice of pizza!
Given that there’s a medal system in place for progression, if you’re going for Gold, there can be no disgruntled customers, which seems nigh-on impossible as a result of the onslaught outlined above. Silver is a stretch too, awarded to those who merely lost a few customers. Fortunately, Bronze can gain you access to most of the levels on offer, and I had settled for being the greasy roadside cafe of the culinary world. That is until the Chill mode brought a new lease of life into CSD 3.
Chill mode is for everyone incapable of handling the ridiculous stress of running a restaurant on wheels, as it removes the worry of walkouts. You won’t even get attacked, which is always a bonus, no matter what your occupation is. With this mode though, the Gold medals are off the table, but it means you only need to be careful about fulfilling orders correctly. It’s a much more delightful experience and really brings out the best of this suddenly relaxing simulator. While some folks will be happy to stick with the zen atmosphere forevermore, it could be useful as a stepping stone to give you a confidence boost before heading back into the regular warzone.
Another decent addition is the ability to earn upgrades for your food truck by performing well and levelling up your YUM rank. These allow for extra order slots, more prepping stations, added longevity on food deterioration times and better protection from attacks, to name a few. There are various trinkets to customise the truck’s interior as well, which are fine, but it’s the upgrades that give you something substantial to work towards.
In regards to the foods you’ll be getting your hands on in CSD 3, there are well over 200 items available and the wide range included is impressive. It’s great to be able to conjure up all manner of global recipes; one minute you serve up a bowl of Japchae or Buta Kimchi, and then the next it might be portions of cannoli or tacos. The descriptions pertaining to the origins for each can be fascinating to read too, albeit with a bit of creative license on the ‘facts’. Visually, as the centre-pieces, the foods are colourful and fairly accurate enough to do the job. But maybe they just appear better amongst the rather bland American environments, who knows?
Nevertheless, it’s not the be all and end all to provide cutting edge graphics, because that’s not why Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! on Xbox One should be on your radar. There are hours upon hours of Campaign levels to delve into and a huge variety of foods, ensuring a freshness is achieved for a long, long time. While the Chill mode is brilliant for those that can’t stand the heat, it does seem as if the stressful nature of the standard offering is a bit much because of the controls and, although in keeping with the story, the attacks are a pain in the bum. Despite that there’s still an addictive hook to proceedings, making it a worthwhile sequel that just about surpasses its predecessors.
Put on your toque blanche (that’s a white chefs hat), maybe grab a bottle of wine and begin your culinary journey across the States in Cook, Serve, Delicious! 3?! today. It’s bigger, better, slightly pricier, and absolutely worth the stress.