Far Cry 6 – Review

So I just beat Far Cry 6, well that’s not true, I did this all last December. Because I’m awesome I completed the story and got the platinum trophy for it just to show off. I was really hesitant on playing another Far Cry game, especially if Ubisoft wasn’t going to change up the formula in some drastic way. I just felt like I was tired of the formula. I was tired of these styles of story and tired of running around a big open world where I had to collect shit every 15 feet. So what changed? I guess it started when I finally decided to go back to Far Cry New Dawn a little bit ago, I started it a long time ago on PC and just stopped completely. This time I decided that I’ll just skip all cutscenes and try to liberated the bases and complete the story, that’s it. I hated the story in 6 and New Dawn, so skipping the story made me appreciate the gameplay more. It made me realize that I do love the gunplay in these games, it feels good to snipe and headshot people in video games, who would have thought?

Best way to take out an anti aircraft gun, fly in with a wingsuit, switch to your parachute, pull out your NASA rocket launcher and blow it up from on high.

So that was the start, I then had to wait for a good enough sale to even consider getting this game. Ubisoft games always go on sale soon after release and we had black Friday coming up, so it was in one of those game hauls that I got this game. I picked it up for just 35$, not bad.

This game surprised me, a lot. The biggest surprise I had was that I actually liked the story. It’s not the greatest thing ever, but I didn’t skip the cutscenes when they happened. I guess I wanted to see where things went, even if I didn’t care about a good amount of the characters and their arcs. That was a big win for me, I get really tired of the villain’s in these games, they’re made out to be such legendary characters, like Vaas was ever this great character (he wasn’t). Or let’s look at Far Cry 5 and the whole religious cult aspect, that’s a trope I just can’t stand, I don’t want to hear people preaching in real life let alone a video game.

In Far Cry 6, you start out picking a gender for your character, of course I went with female. She’s a beautiful woman named Dany Rojas that has probably murdered over a thousand people, so she’s a bit of a mass murderer. Just try not to hold that against her. After that you start getting set up on the plot and what’s going on in this world, they give you a small island, which is actually big, for you to run around and get your bearings in. You get a taste of everything the game has to offer here. Your weapons start out pretty basic and you can craft parts to customize them, starting with cheap suppressors that stop working after a few shots.

I enjoyed the introductory area of the game, but then it breaks off into the meat of this chalupa, the big island. Here is where the freedom really kicks in. The main island is broken down into three major areas, that you’re free to roam between, with each group being lead by different resistance fighters. Your job is to go to each group, help them out, and try to convince them to join Libertad to take down the big bad guy, Anton Castillo. He’s basically using the population of the country as slave labor to grow and produce a cancer medication that is only found on this island.

The world of Far Cry 6

What I actually love about this game is something that I sort of hate about this game. Now that’s something intriguing! I feel like you’re hooked now, so let me explain. Maybe a third of my way into my playthrough I had a rifle that I added different modifications to, it had a nice suppressor on it, armor piercing rounds, things like that. (Check the pic below, it’s the gun pointing at the bulls balls.) I’d mess with the scope to try out different ranges, and I’d changed the ornament that hung off the side all the time, so that was fun. The hang up is that I loved this gun so much because of what it could do. I could literally scope out a compound and headshot enemies, killing each one in a single shot to the head. It was a click-delete tool. Having armor piercing rounds, which are very easy to unlock, equipped, meant that any of the higher ranking enemies would get all the armor blown off their head in one shot and the bullet would hit their dome. There was rarely a moment when an enemy would survive a clean shot to their head. Perhaps I just needed to up the difficulty level or something, but it felt so good so stop judging!

My favorite gun looking at sum bulls balls. nothing to see here.

It’s hard to really argue with the feeling you get from head shotting people with a rifle in a Far Cry game. I’d love to see a stat on how many headshot kills I got, the ratio must be insane. I would eventually equip a nice little handgun with a suppressor and use that as a backup. I don’t like that I was able to stick to my setup for so long, it carried me all the way to the end of the game. The only things I switched out were my explosive weapons, which were critical for destroying anti aircraft guns and helping with tanks. I’d also need to pull out my heavy machine gun to deal with the annoying ass helicopters.

Early into the game you’re given what’s called a Suprimo weapon, it was a big selling point in all the media leading up to release. It’s a big ass weapon that you have strapped to your back all the time. It can do various things like launch rockets or create an EMP depending on the model you have equipped. I only really used them in the beginning of the game, before I started using a six shot grenade launcher, after I got that I really had no desire to even try my Suprimo anymore. Again, maybe on a higher difficulty setting I’d need to rely on that more. It’s not a big knock to the game, just a weird inclusion considering how inconsequential it was is to my gameplay.

Graphics

The first thing I just have to talk about in regards to the presentation of this game is that there was so much screen tearing. I don’t think I’ve seen a game tear this much in a long time, especially on console. I was playing on PS5 and it felt like it was hitting a clean 60fps at all times, I really do think it’s a rendering error on the game engine and not because the console is struggling to keep up with the frames. A lot of people are reporting this issue on all the consoles so I don’t see why Ubisoft still hasn’t patched this out, it’s not a good look. (I wonder if the VRR update fixed this issue)

What is a good look though, is the way this game looks! It’s a really pretty looking game. The vistas stretch out as far as you can see, you can hop into a helicopter, fly all the way up, jump out and glide across the map and seamlessly land in a completely different area of the island and it all looks seamless. The guns are highly detailed, the character models all look really good, the animation quality is pretty good for a Ubisoft title. It did feel like a step-up from the last game and I can’t wait to see what a proper next generation Far Cry game will bring to the table.

It’s the final countdown!

Final Score 8.8

This is not a revolutionary title in open-world shooters, it’s not even a crazy take on the Far Cry formula, but it is an enjoyable experience that gives me hope towards the future of the series. I really did like this game, something I thought was not going to be possible due to burnout on the series. I liked the character I played as, I liked taking over bases, something anyone close to the series will understand. I actually felt a connection to the weapons I customized and used for hours on end. It would have been nice to not have a bunch of collection trophies, but I was able to use a guide and fast travel around the map to clean them up relatively quickly, which was a bonus of the next gen consoles. I wish the expansions for this game weren’t based on the villains’ of the old games, that just makes me not want to play them. I would think about playing this game on a harder difficulty in coop with my brother though, that could be really fun.

Supremo weapons and a butt.

Oh! One last thing, I nearly forgot. This game has no big drug hallucination scenes in it like all the prior games. That was something I was really tired of doing and was not looking forward to. Let’s fuck up the screen and have you fight invisible animals and shit while a disenchanted voice speaks to you, fuck that. I mean, there is one point that I remember where you do have to shoot at a ghost image of a person because you got a little poisoned, but it only lasted like 20 seconds and you just run through it all. So that’s an improvement we should mention.

Hot Shots Golf (PS1) – Review (kind of)

Growing up as an NES/Sega kid made me have some weird choices in the games I had as a kid. We got our Sega Genesis for Christmas and got to select from a range of games on the back of the box, getting one of them for free. I filed out the card, selecting a few games and ended up getting Pebble Beach Golf Links and played the shit out of it. I can’t say that it was my number one pick, but the whole family actually ended up liking it. The next golf game that I really ever got into would be Everybody’s Golf for the PS4, which I loved playing. So it was pretty interesting to go back to the game that started out the series on the PS1.

Just look how hot those games are!

I just have to get right out there and say that having this game on the PS Plus Premium service really made me play it in an odd way. I like the choice of game and that they added trophy support for it, I love how they’re doing that to select games even though every one of them should actually have it. I’m sure a lot of these developers are going to be hard to track down, and getting them to add trophy tags to their games will be next to impossible. The more games that get this feature, the more I’m going to play, that’s for sure.

So let’s get to the golf in this game. I don’t think it’s that great, especially compared to any golf game in todays market. My biggest gripe is the amount of control you have over your shots. The amount of options available to you make it seem like a math game at times. Let’s say you’re 50 yards from the hole and have to make chip shot, the wind is very mild and things are looking good. You hit the ball and it lands about a foot away from the hole. Because this game is emulated on the PS5, you get a rewind feature, so you rewind it and try to nudge the shot over to get your chip shot to go right in. You tap the button ever so slightly and try again, this time the ball goes two feet to the right of the hole. Shit, so let’s go back and try that again, tap it back to the left and the ball goes exactly where the other shot went. The amount of control you have is not granular enough to make every shot. It feels like it’s all integer based and not floating point. It’s actually a little crazy to think about how basic this golf model is. It’s a limitation of the technology and I’m not really faulting the game on that, even though it might feel that way. It’s nostalgic and interesting to see from a technical and historical perspective.

Where this is really evident is when you try to go for a few of the trophies, like getting a hole in one or an albatross. Let’s say you’re on a par 5 course and trying to get it in in two shots. The first one is going to have to get you close to the hole for a nice chip shot. Depending on where your first shot goes, it may just be impossible for the next shot to get in because of the way the ball physics and controls work. You’ll have to retake your first shot off the tee and try to see if you hit it in the right spot this time so the math works out for your next shot. It’s cute how simple it all is.

The craziest part of this game is just having that rewind functionality. I couldn’t help but just use it each time I fucked up. I knew it was ruining my experience of the game but I just couldn’t stop. That meant I never really fucked up a shot, every time I went to put, the ball went in, because why wouldn’t it? It made me just demolish every versus player I went up against. Knocking them all out, unlocking all the characters and trophies as I went.

One of the craziest things I came across while playing are the occasions when your computer controlled opponents get into a loop of fucking up their shots. This water hazard image shows my opponent constantly chipping her shot into the water. She was on the other bank and kept trying to chip the ball onto the green over the water. The lie of her ball just wouldn’t allow her shot to get to the green, so she kept going over and over until she hit a high number and was disqualified. It happened a few other times when they got stuck in a sand trap and the ball would never get out. The AI just doesn’t have the programming to realize the shot is impossible, where they should just chip to the side or back onto the fairway and try again from a better position.

FINAL SCORE – 6.2

It’s interesting to just see how the evolution of golf games have gone over the years. If you have any interest in golf games it’s a must play. They really had the start of something wonderful with this title, from the little characters to the fun courses. I do think that it’s way to basic to be considered seriously in todays market. There also feels like a little bit of lag is present when picking your power and accuracy. It ends up feeling random and not skill based if I was going to get the perfect shot that I wanted. I’d recommend trophy hunters and people into the history of games to give this a shot. If you want a better game of golf though, try out one of the newer versions instead.

IQ Intelligent Qube – Review (ish)

IQ: Intelligent Qube is a Playstation 1 puzzle game from 1997, making it 25 years old. That’s a little insane to think about, especially since I remember playing a demo for this game at some point around then. I also remember not really understanding what to do in the game and giving up on it fairly quick. It would then always shock me when I heard people talking about how good this game is and that it’s a bit of a classic. With that all in mind, it’s nice that this is one of the first games Sony added to their PS Plus Premium tier. I especially like that it has trophy support since we all need more ways to feed that addiction.

I booted this game up and skipped the tutorial section and instantly had no fucking clue of what to do. I kept getting run over by the rotating blocks as they slowly marched towards my little polygonol character. Instead, I hopped on YouTube and thumbed through a quick tutorial just to get the gist of the game. I was now prepared to dominate this game.

The game consists of three colored blocks, black, grey, and green. They slowly rotate in unison down the stage until falling off the edge. Your goal is to mark blocks for deletion, trying to clear all the grey blocks before they fall off. Take out a green and that spot gets marked, activate that mark and you clear all surrounding blocks. The trick is to leave all the black blocks intact, that’s where the skill lies. You’re allowed to mess up a few times, but like with any good puzzle game, it’s more rewarding and challenging to perfect each stage.

With just a little bit of knowledge of the mechanics of this puzzle game, I was quickly able to plow through the whole thing in just over an hour, getting every single trophy and earning that coveted platinum. I feel like that’s what makes a good puzzle game, being able to pick it up with the core concepts of how it works and use those to take down some puzzles.

What trivialized the game to me was the ability to use the rewind feature of the classic emulation on the PS5. Any mistakes I made were quickly rectified through a quick rewind of the game. Don’t wait to die and restart the level, just go back a few seconds and make that critical move. It was a great tool in helping me tear through a classic game in record time while getting the platinum.

I feel like that is the more interesting topic in this whole subscription service and these classic games. You provide tools that allow you to quickly put down certain games. The only thing I feel like I may miss is a fast forward feature like the modern remakes of the old Final Fantasy games have. So if you want, you can get a taste of what these classic games have to offer. You don’t have to really spend much time with them and you can beat them fairly easily. Is it the experience the developers originally wanted players to have? Not in the least, but is that okay with you?

The game controls like an old PS1 game trying to get to grips with 3D. Directional movement isn’t smooth, when the camera moves and your character is trying to do precise movement, directionality tends to get locked up (think Resident Evil controls when the camera moves). The character you control will sometimes just not move where you think he should. It could definitely be frustrating if you didn’t have the rewind function. With it I found I’d just rewind and try again without getting upset, so that feature ended up being a positive to the game design.

Final Score – 7

In the end, I’m happy for this game to be in the PS Premium tier with trophies. I am actually happy that I got to play all the way through it and have a platinum trophy to show for it. It feels like a small part of my gaming history has come to a close.

Doki Doki Literature Club – Review?

This is one of those games a lot of people on the internet talk about and vaguely mention how the story goes in a direction they weren’t expecting. The thing they tend not to mention is that its a tad forgettable. To understand where I’m coming from, I played this game a few months ago and I’m writing this using whatever I remembered from that experience.

Let’s also just say that spoilers will be in the article, so be aware.

You’re not allowed to see, so don’t even try!

The game itself, is just a game on a computer that you play. It’s meta like that. It plays in the style of a dating simulator where you try to get to know the girls in your literature club and kiss them. Weird things slowly start to happen in the simulation that causes you to get out and start messing around with the files. One of the girls becomes sentient and wants to be one of your love choices. The “shock” factor comes from one of the girls killing herself.

Uh oh, sticky situation here.

The sentient nature of one of the characters is an interesting plot point, I just felt like the rest of the story is where it got lost for me. Perhaps it was the limited way in which the story was told. Consisting of a visual style that is comprised of fairly static characters over the same backgrounds over and over, but I wasn’t really drawn into the world. I got to the end of the game the first time and was like “oh, so that’s what it was all about?”. That was my literal reaction. I had to then look up online to see if that really was the big thing everyone had been talking about. I just don’t think I was impress that much by the package. The art style is great though, the characters are all super cute and have a good anime style, but that is more subjective to the user.

Image viewer of the girls being cute.

It does seem to be a fan favorite game, winning IGN’s fan favorite best PC game of 2017, for what little that’s worth. I just wanted and expected more from this title. Perhaps that’s the real issue with how I played it, I knew there was something about this game that was different. I expected to be rattled or shocked by something, if you played it before getting popular it must have come as a huge surprise to you.

It teases you with lewdness.

Final Score – 5.5

As it stands, I got the platinum, so I did all the things. I really don’t see any reason to ever play this game again or even recommend it to other players. Maybe just watch a YouTube video of it. Is this even a controversial opinion? I also don’t get shocked by a lot in entertainment. So perhaps if the creator of this game went like 10x harder I would have had a memorable reaction that I’d remember for the rest of my life. Instead, this is the game that people got shocked at because a girl/computer character inside a game killed herself and a sentient AI woman took over.

Ape Escape (PS1) – Review

Another classic PS1 game to play on my PlayStation 5. Oh how time flies. I have a lot of history with this game. I remember picking it up for PS1 when it came out back in May 1999 from my local Toy’s R Us. It was the first game to explicitly require you to use a DualShock controller. So not only did I have to buy this game, I had to get a controller with it just to play it. That’s a big ask for a kid with limited funds, but I was already sold on the possibilities this new controller could provid.

You have to see how crazy this scene is in motion, building move around, wobbling like they’re made of jelly.

What’s interesting about these times is that a full three years prior, Sega released their Saturn 3D controller to use with Nights into Dreams. That was a controller with one analogue stick, along with the traditional D-Pad, that would give you smoother control over the way your character would fly through the environments. Instead of a digital interface, like a keyboard, you got the smooth motion that only an analogue stick could provide. Sony just went to the next level and added another stick, forever changing the game. The history of console gaming has to give it up for the efforts of Sony and these developers for making it a requirement to play this game, it’s just sucks that the first person shooters of the time didn’t get the memo.

This is what I respect out of this game. I have to give it up for the fact that they were the first to go all in on this new standard of control. It’s a little harder to praise the rest of the game though. The new PS Plus subscription service allows you to play some of these old games on PS5, I’ve already played a few of the other PS1 classic games, but this title really highlights a main issue I have with these games. For context, the PS1 has some really weird graphical issues when you play them, polygons seem to be made out of Jell-O and textures warp left and right all the time. The texture warping doesn’t really bother me that much, it’s what 3D games on a PS1 look like, so I can overlook that (even though modern emulators have solved this problem). My main issue with the 3D games on PS1, and especially this one, is the way the PS1 handles vertex points. If you don’t know, a 3D object is made up of polygons, each triangle polygon is composed of three vertex points. The PS1 can only do integer translation of these vertex points, which means the hardware itself didn’t have support for floating point calculations. So what does that get us in the 3D games that came out? It means that vertices constantly snap as they move, it’s not gradual and can honestly be visually annoying and can cause headaches. I feel like this problem is exacerbated by the fact that we’re now playing these games at higher resolutions on 4K screens, the problem is just amplified to an insane degree. Modern emulators can solve these issues, but that feature is currently not supported on the emulator the PS5 uses at this time.

Ape Escape is almost hilarious to play today. As you go through a few stages, you start to realize just how small these levels are. You can catch all the monkeys and get the collectable coin(s) in about 5-10 minutes. The draw distance in the game is insanely short as well, with parts of the level fading into the skybox at about 50 feet from the character.

I ran through the whole game and got the platinum in this one as well, but I did use my trusty rewind feature. I would run up to monkeys and if they got away after a bad catch attempt, I would just rewind it and try again.

I wouldn’t say this is a great game in today’s landscape, especially considering the evolutionary leaps in controls and gameplay since this titles release. Even compared to Mario 64, which came out 3 years prior, the controls are no match to what Nintendo were already doing. The controls in this game are a little bit of a gimmick, the right stick is used to give directionality to your attacks, which makes the camera controls default to the left and right of the D-Pad. This feels horrible and actually made me change the controllers button mapping on the console level to swap the R2 and L2 for the left and right D-Pad. There wasn’t way to make this change in the game which was frustrating.

a cinematic scene without the draw fog.

Another one of those classic PS1 games that I am glad I went through and got the platinum but couldn’t see myself ever playing this again, perhaps in another 23 years or so. It feels like watching an old movie today, you have to understand the cultural context to when it was released to really appreciate it, and I appreciate this game for what it’s done. It really needed some quality of life improvements like better controls and the ability to map buttons differently. It would have also benefited heavily from modding the game to allow for floating point calculations, I really had a hard time towards the end of the game with the way the motion of the polygons were translating, it was honestly giving me a headache. I also did play this on a 77″ TV, which made the actual jumps between frames turn into inches of my screen. If you play this on a 13″ CRT monitor using VGA cables, I’m pretty positive those issues aren’t as noticeable.

The draw distance is funny.

Final Score – 6.8

Play it just to see and feel a little bit of the history of video games and to help understand where the industry evolved from. This is a landmark title that is a little rough around the edges by today’s standards. The story is basic as fuck, the graphics are hilarious, and the controls are frustrating until you adjust them on a console level, and then they’re just a bit better. It will be really interesting to see what the sequel did for the series though, so perhaps I’ll try that at some point. One more thing though, the main character Spike, sucks. I beat the game and can’t remember him having any sort of personality or even saying anything. I’m sure he must have, but this is not a mascot for Sony by any stretch of the imagination.

Big boss battle!
What until you see this in motion. The vertex points are popping all over.

Resident Evil Village – Review

I played this game a couple months ago and I’m just trying to get down some of my thoughts on the game before they leave my frail mind.

I kind of love the direction these Resident Evil games and remakes have been going lately. I just love the length of the titles. I like how the first time you play the game it takes X amount of hours, but you can get trophies for playing them over and over with different win conditions. It kind of unlocks a meta to the game that I’m not typically privy to. I’ve talked about this before, but the almost speedrun quality to the game really becomes apparent and it’s actually something that draws me into the game more.

The first time you play RE8, the story and setting really draw you into the world. It’s a continuation of the events from REVII and you play as the same character. I really felt invested in my character and his progression through this small village and the people that inhabit it. I like the mystery and sense of discovery available to you as you explore. I loved the character progression and upgrading of weapons at the Duke.

I wont try to avoid spoilers since this game has been out for a while, and I’m saying right now that I may spoil some stuff down below.

The first thing you notice about this game if you play on the PS5 is just how fast the loading times are. It’s so great to jump into a save in two seconds. From a playability standpoint, that’s an amazing feature and one I want all games to have.

I also really like the combat and the feel of the weapons as you battle the creatures of the village. It just works really well. I guess I kind of lost a lot of my nitpicky thoughts on this title, but I have to say that I was really pleased with my experience playing it.

I don’t think that’s how a shirt is cut… Just saying.

I’ve become a huge fan of these recent RE releases, including the remakes. I love slowly going through my first playthrough and looking in every corner for pickups and secrets. Then immediately playing through the story again to get a few more achievements while cutting down my time to just a couple of hours. Then going for the next run where you don’t open your item box or some shit like that. I like the fact that you can cheese those runs by unlocking overpowered weapons and the ability to turn on infinite ammo. They make it fun, they allow you to feel like you’re getting one over on the developers and tricking the system.

Let me just say that the one thing I do remember about this game is the fucking Mercenaries mode. If you’re going for that Platinum trophy you know what I’m talking about. You have to beat all the levels at increasing difficulty while S ranking the stages. It’s one of those things that when you start making attempts you just think it’s an impossible task and that you’re just going to fail, which you will. You clear the first set of challenges and have to go up a level and say “fuck it”. I would just stop the game for the night and attempt it the next day. On the highest difficulty Mercenaries challenges, I would watch YouTube videos of routing and try to follow along with them. It was a challenge, one that I ultimately came to respect, but don’t wish to attempt again. I did have fun with it but it really did make me wonder if I should continue down the trophy path.

Final Review – 9.0

I’m just a huge fan of this series and the direction the team is going with these games. They have a game engine that feels great to play around in and it looks beautiful. I can’t wait for the inevitable remake of RE4. Do you think the women will get even bigger in the next game though?

Watch Dogs Legion – Review (PS5)

Oh boy, this is some type of game. It was the weirdest experience I’ve had while playing one of these large open-world style games. I have to just start with what made this game so odd, screw the rest.

So you don’t get a main protagonist to control, instead you have to go around London to recruit people into your group, called DedSec. These recruits can be any NPC you see walking the streets of London, does that sound interesting to you? Because it wasn’t for me. I’ll get back to that though because I still need to get to what’s so fucking odd about this game and the way it was designed. You can unlock, very easily mind you, a little robot that you can control to infiltrate any base in the game. This little spider-bot robot can be upgraded to go invisible for a short period of time and can stun enemies, while also being used for hacking and stuff like that. That’s the setup.

Clean up your streets London!

Another hacking skill you can do is to hack construction drones with the tap of a button. Their stations are littered across the city, so all you have to do is walk near one, scan it and call a drone to your location. You then hack that drone and bring it down to the street level so you can hop on. You jump onto those drones, control them, fly over whichever mission you have, and drop down your spider drone. Your human character is just floating 50 meters in the air while you’re controlling a robot as you complete your objective. Once that’s done, back out of the drone, leaving it since it doesn’t matter, and you’re immediately in control of your character. You then fly out of the danger zone of the mission and the mission is done.

That sounds like a great setup and a cool mechanic, and it really is the first few times you use it. You quickly discover that it’s an easy, quick, and effective way to complete 90% of the missions in the game. I would start a new mission, fast travel as close to it as I could, find a construction drone to hop onto, fly to my mission, use the spider bot and bounce. You start to just get the sense that you broke the game design and that you’re cheating. It ends up getting super boring to keep doing this. I get that you’re in control of how you experience the missions and you can just sneak in with your character, kill people left and right, but that’s just a huge fucking hassle.

I think that’s what it is with game design and me as a player. If I’m given the option to have this amount of power over the game, I’ll use it. This setup is just too powerful. The second the game gets a little boring or you don’t care about the mission, or you’re just rushed for time, you’ll resort back to what makes the game easy. There is nothing to then stop you or slow you down from abusing this system to complete the game. It’s a freedom, why restrict you? When you think about it this way you start to understand why games may limit your abilities, or only allow these at certain times or towards the late game. I had this ability just a few hours into the game mind you. That is a serious design issue in my mind. Have missions where the spider-bots can’t enter a building because they have some sort of security preventing it, forcing me to change up my tactics, but that’s not in this game.

Play dress up or down.

The Citizens of London

My main issue with the story is the use of NPCs as the main protagonist in this game. It sounds like a cool concept but it leaves a lot to be desired. You just don’t give a shit about any of them to be honest. You may prefer one for a skill they have, a vehicle they have easy access to, or something similar, but that’s about it. You don’t care about their story or background, why they joined DedSec or anything like that. And yes I skipped recapping the story or how it all works because this is the third game in the series and you should already be caught up and I don’t care.

Instead, they should of had a group of characters, like in an Oceans 11 movie or something, all of them unique and with their special abilities. Just have their designs all locked in with great voice acting for each character and a unique backstory and abilities. I would have been 100 times more invested in the story if I felt like the rest of the team were actual characters with depth! Not this bullshit of disposable agents that you don’t give a shit about. It’s a shockingly bad design decision. A cool concept to have in a meeting and when creating a design doc, but it should have stopped there, at least for this iteration of it.

A true moment of tension, a rarity.

That’s all okay in the end I suppose, care less about the story and try to enjoy more of the gameplay. Does that work out for you? It kind of worked out for me. I started this game up and played it for a day or two a couple months ago, got distracted by something shinny and only just got back to it on a lark. I even got the fucking platinum trophy in it I’m so insane (not bragging).

The one thing I liked about the story is this moment when I had to chase down this bad guy that fucked over my team. He took off in his car and wouldn’t you know, I was on my dumb construction drone. I stuck with it and pretty soon he was out of sight while I slowly floated after his engine exhaust. I figured the mission would fail, I would be sent back to a checkpoint and I’d try it over again in a car this time. Instead, to my surprise, he got away and the story kept going. I had to do a mission to resolve this new branching story arch, it felt surprisingly organic and kind of impressed me. Now, to be honest, I have no idea if this was an actual branching story path or I was going to fail that mission no matter what, I hope it was a branching path because that is pretty cool. And if that’s the case I want more of that, I want a harder game that accepts your failure and gives you alternate ways to achieve success.

Just flying my construction drone, as you do.

So yea, I plowed through the story, which is really just forgettable. A lot of video games, in my eyes, just fucking suck at telling a good story that grabs your attention. It’s like we’re still coming out of the silent film era and learning how to use voice and audio in our movies. After that I stuck around to get trophies, which I wasn’t sure I was going to do. Luckily I had some nice podcasts and long-form YouTube videos to listen to in the background. I checked out PowerPyx for their guide and just went in the order they recommended. Sometimes it’s just therapeutic to go around checking boxes and cleaning up a game like this.

So I played the game on PS5 and it offers you two different graphical options to select from. You get a performance and quality mode, only one of which is actually playable. You would have to be a complete psycho to choose the quality mode in this game. It runs at 30fps and it’s just not where it’s at, it gives me a headache to watch the camera sweep around at such a low framerate. It really makes me wonder how I used to feel good about 30fps games on last gen consoles, perhaps they better optimized the way the image was rendered to smooth out some of the stuttery look of 30fps by using motion blur and stuff like that. You do get some nice ray traced reflections and everything, which are impressive but not worth it in the least. I would love to see them go for a 40fps quality mode with raytracing like Ratchet and Clank did, now that could be something usable, especially with a 120hz TV.

Ray Tracing Comparisons – Quality vs Performance

Quality mode also pushes out the shadows on the right. Check out the ghosting of the building reflection on the top of the car.
The RT reflections extend past the screen-space ones typically used, while also reflecting the robot perfectly.
Reflections on the buildings windows are actually accurate with RT on.
RT really does ground the scene and make it feel more realistic.
While not the best looking water, RT on does add to the realism.

In the end, I guess I’m happy that I played this game and bought it at a discount instead of full price. Watch Dogs 2 still stands out in my head as the best game in the series. I remember having fun playing that game and actually liking some of the characters in it, which is something one should care about (hint hint.

Final Score – 6.2

It’s a game that filled up some time, I had some fun with it. It’s not great. It shows that the series needs a serious redesign to stay relevant and to captivate a whole new audience. They really need to start fresh and not be so bleak with the look. Invest in characters, story, mission design, weapons, all that open world good shit that other games do better. I would have loved if they took the way the story in GTA5 wrapped around the three main characters, where they were all unique and living in the world, but just added a few more. Steal from the best. Give me that style of character progress and backstory but in the world of DedSec and Watch Dogs.

You’re welcome Ubisoft, I’d love to work on a game with you.

Returnal – Review

Returnal for the PS5 is a run based, rogue-like, third-person shooter from Housemarque. If you don’t know, they’re the developers that did games like Dead Nation and Resogun, which are both awesome. Returnal came out earlier this year on April 30 and I just picked it up a week ago. If you’d like to know why I waited let’s talk about the price.

Price

This was one of those Sony first-party super special sauce game where they felt like it should be a 70 USD experience, I felt differently. I’m a huge fan of Housemarque and I think their games are a blast to play, they focus on gameplay first and it really shows. I also don’t think they’ve ever created a product that I would consider paying 60-70 USD for. It’s just not what they do, all their games feel more like arcade experiences to me. Listen, if you paid full price I have no issue with you or your purchase. The only way Sony is going to learn anything is if people speak with their wallets. I found the game at my local store for 30 brand new and that’s when I bought it. I would have bought it on launch if it was going for 40, so I had to jump at it for 30. And after beating the game, that’s exactly what it is. Don’t be fooled by whatever anyone else may say. I’ll try not to harp on the whole cost analysis of this title, it’s not worth 70, they shouldn’t have priced it at that, and it felt really shitty that they did.

The Game

So what do you do in Returnal? You run around semi-random environements exploring and shooting monsters while you try to figure out what the fuck is happening to you. I say semi-random because while the next room in the map may be random, the layout of that room is predetermined. They’re just slotting in rooms in different ways and adding new ones in to make it seem interesting. Those monsters that you kill drop obelites that you can spend to buy items, power-ups, or equipment that will make your “run” potentially easier. If you die, you start back at your spaceship with none of the progression you earned from your last run, except for specific things which I won’t spoil.

When you finally do get to the end of a level, you then have to face a boss. Beat that boss and you gain an ability and get to move on to the next world. There are 6 levels in total. Enemies get stronger as you go, but so do you and your weapons. That is literally all the game is until you finish the last boss, the endgame mixes up the formula just a bit, but we’ll get to that shortly.

The game itself feels really good to play. They really have the feeling of third-person shooting spot on and you have to commend the developers for that. Running around, jumping, and aiming all feel perfect. The amount of control you have of your character in mid-air when jumping, along with the dash move you have gives you confidence in every move you make. Sometimes you have to make a long jump and dash at the end to reach the ledge, but I had no doubts in any of the jumps I attempted. It just all works and feels good. What that all means is that when you die, you probably did something wrong. The game gives you all the tools you need to survive, it just depends on your skill level.

You might get to the first boss or a tough enemy and feel like all the beams coming at you are unfair and you have no recourse to deal with any of it, but that’s just because you need more time with the game. Put in a few more hours and you’ll be dodging through beams, jumping over rings of energy, all while keeping a steady stream of bullets firing at your enemies weak point.

A big part of the game are the multitude of weapons that you unlock, but if you’re like me you’ll quickly find the few that you want. I don’t think I even fired the shotgun weapon at an enemy the whole time I played. Their were only about 2 or 3 guns that I really felt good with and wanted each time. I would end up not picking up any guns unless they were one of those. The weapons you pick up get different types of augments that change the way the they handle and even augment their special attack, all of which you’ll get used to, but you’ll definitely start to prefer some over others. I feel like that works for this type of game. As you go through this groundhog day you’re bound to find things that work for you and feel right.

This all just gets me to how confusing a lot of this game is. When you start playing you’re unlocking things, picking up purple and red items. Some things are malignant and you just have no clue what in the hell is going on. You’re leveling up adrenaline, collecting ether, gaining proficiency, and collecting all these obolites. When you die you really don’t know what carried over from your last game so you open your inventory to try and figure it out and still have no clue. I guess the developers just want you to keep playing until you figure it out. Just like the story.

The Story

Since I don’t really want to spoil Returnal maybe I’ll be a little vague on the story, or does that even matter? I mean, sure…from here on out there will be SPOILERS for this game. I personally didn’t care for the story that much, it’s not really something that kept me coming back to the game. So I think the game was a little flat on that portion.

You start out as an astronaut that crash lands on an alien planet. Your ship is destroyed and you wake up and have to explore this environement to try and find a way off the planet. The story is told through a lot of audio logs that you find in the environment along with some glyphs that you have to uncover. Every once in a while you’ll find an old house in the map that you can enter and go into first-person to get some pointless story exposition.

I’ll be honest with you, as I was playing this game the last thing I was thinking about was the story. It’s a part of why this game doesn’t feel like a big-budget thing. The story elements are all on the periphery. It’s hinted at in audio logs and these weird flashbacks you have. You get a little nugget of it and then have to run around an alien world for a few hours. It was never motivation enough for me to continue.

Endgame

Let’s just get right into the meat of this game. Again, SPOILERS.

To get to the end of the first part of the game you have to beat 5 bosses and clear 6 worlds. That took me about 10 hours to do. When that’s over, you have to start from the first world and go through each of the six biomes again searching for 6 sunface fragments, one in each world. Once you find all six, beat the last boss again and you’ll open up the last scene and finish the third and final act of the game. That wasn’t really too hard to do.

Thinking back on a lot of the social discourse of this game, a lot of podcast personalities complained about spending multiple hours on a run and then dying. They felt like all of their forward progression was lost and felt it hard to pick up and go on another four hour run to just die at a boss or something. That’s not really how this game plays. You can skip most of the levels fairly easily if you’re so inclined. You only have to beat bosses once to finish the game. It’s a lot more forgiving. You also shouldn’t be spending that many hours per run after your first one or two good ones.

I thought about getting the platinum trophy for this game and saw online how random some of these collectibles are and how much of a grind it is to get them. So I didn’t really want to do that and was kind of worried about it. I stuck with it, just getting the next trophy for getting the 3rd act ending. I decided to keep going and started doing runs of the first three levels and pretty soon got a trophy for getting all the collectibles in one of the biomes. A strategy was starting to form in my head.

I was watching the PS5 Trophies YouTube channel to see what he was saying about how he was going to get his last trophies, some random collectibles had eluded him so he was just running it over and over. What he would do is level up on the first biome and get his character build set so that he could survive the next two biomes. I decided to do something different.

I would blaze through the first world and go right to the portal I needed, either the one for biome 2 or 3. I’d avoid all the enemies and chests, wouldn’t even upgrade my gun or health. When I got to one of those biomes I’d pick up the proficiency bonus and then start looking for a gun in the level and getting upgrades. I would skip fights if possible, they don’t matter, all you’re looking for at that point are the little arrows on your map. You just need to find them and see if they are one of your missing collectibles. If it’s a map tile you’ve already seen a bunch it’s more than likely to not have anything for you. This started really helping my collectible runs in a major way. It’s not like you’re all of a sudden going to get every collectible in one run, sometimes I’d only get one item from each run, which really sucked. Sometimes the game would crash and you’d lose all your progress, which happened to me twice.

I did get that platinum though and I must say I loved almost every minute of it. This game was a blast to play. I actually got the last few trophies, netting me the platinum, faster than I wanted to. When the platinum trophy popped I was a little disappointed that it was over. It was just a fun game with a good amount of challenge that kept me wanting to come back to it.

Final Score – 8.6

I must say that I really did enjoy my time with Returnal. If I didn’t have a thing about picking up a game I already platinumed, I’d want to jump back into it again. All that’s left are daily challenges which I don’t care about. This is a great third-person shooter that actually feels good to play. Combat is fast and challenging, forcing you to keep your wits about you to survive. Pick it up on a sale and it’ll treat you right. Perhaps the story could have been a bit more engaging but that would mean it’d get more in the way of the gameplay, which would suck.

All of my juicy end-game stats.

Doom Eternal – Review

Doom Eternal is a shooter ass shooter. It has one of the smoothest sensations of locomotion in a video game that I’ve felt in a long time. You effortlessly run around your environment ripping and tearing and blowing Hellspawn to bits. It’s a great feeling shooter that should satisfy just about everyone’s craving to rip and tear.

I played it on the PS5 and the controls feel great, it’s easy to move around and melt enemies with your weapons. Granted, the game doesn’t really have to deal with a lot of micro aiming at a distance. Most weapons have a wide spread to them so you just need to aim in the general direction to get a hit. Even the long range precision rifle attachment to the machine gun has a snap-to feature to negate any slowdown in combat. That is all by design though, slowing down will get you killed. You want to keep moving through your environment as you launch rockets or use your double barrel shotguns hook attachment to pull yourself in for a quick blast to the face.

Where the controls let you down, at least on console, is when you need to switch your weapons. You have a very limited supply of ammo for most weapons, this can be upgraded slightly. This forces you to rotate through the weapons you have as their ammo is depleted. Specific enemies require you to use a special weapon, like the basic shotguns alt-fire that shoots a grenade projectile into a demons mouth to cause it to explode. What bothered me was how this slowed down combat when I had to use the R1 wheel to select a new weapon. You do get good at it and can usually do it pretty fast, but those times when you accidentally select the wrong weapon and have to try it all over again really suck. Tapping R1 will let you switch to your last weapon but that’s only good if your last weapon happens to be the one you’re trying to use. You almost want another hot swap, perhaps if the L1 button swapped between two weapons as well. It also gets a little cumbersome because most weapons have multiple alternate fire modes that need to be switched by pressing the Up on the directional pad. None of this is complicated or hard to do, it just interrupts the flow of combat in a way I don’t think they intended. Perhaps this is the game where using a mouse and keyboard would really help, or just release some flappy paddles for the back of the dual sense controller.

The premise for this sequel is cool at first. You’re in a space station above earth and have to teleport to different places to take on your missions. The issue I had with the missions is that I prefer more of the industrial design of the first game, compared to the generally more organic feeling of these levels. The map does a really good job of showing you where all the secrets for the levels are if you’re trying to collect everything, which is great. The only tip I’ll give you is that you can hold off on getting everything until the end of the level since you unlock a fast travel system right before ending the level. If you try to get all the collectibles as you go from room to room, you have to constantly open the map to see if there is a hidden item nearby. This really starts to kill the pacing of the game and it’s a little counterintuitive to the soul of the game. A game all about speed and chaining moves together but you have to stop yourself from going to the next room so you can pause, open the map, analyze it, perhaps go and get a collectible, and finally move on to the next room and repeat.

You have to appreciate a good map in a video game.

I ended up playing through the first DLC of the game, The Ancient Ones, which I did enjoy. I’m not always a fan of playing DLC because it’s usually just more of the same, which is the case for this game. The only thing that started to annoy me was how long some of the enemy encounters became. You enter a room that is clearly an arena, enemies start spawning in and you’re just locked in there clearing out wave after wave of enemies. The gameplay is fun, the combat is a blast, it just gets a little monotonous is all. I do recognize that this is probably a little unfair of me to judge the main game and the DLC together. Normally, you’d get to play the main game and a few months later pick up the first DLC pack and jump back in that way. Doing it one after another just became too much and I got worn out by the endless combat encounters. It sort of felt like they were padding out the play time by having each encounter last two or more waves than the base game.

For some reason the story of this game didn’t really stick out to me like the way the first Doom (2016) did. It seems like there were a lot more story elements intertwined with the gameplay, but it felt a little confusing at times. I didn’t care about reading everything I picked up like I did the old game, so maybe some of that is on me. I actually think a part of this has to do with the way stories are told in the medium. This is not a movie where you’re sitting there and locked in on the story for two hours straight. You get a minute of story and exposition, go off to play a level, perhaps take a break and finish it the next day, then get another minute of story. You’re expected to keep all this in mind when it’s all wrapping up in the end. I just find it a huge disconnect with certain games sometimes. It could have been the headspace I was when playing this as well. At least I can always just watch a story recap video on YouTube to figure what I missed.

These marauders were really fun to fight.

A great addition to this game are the enemy marauders. You have to time your attacks to actually do damage to them, adding another level to the combat in this game. It’s a really smart direction for the game design to move towards. I think it would have been really interesting to see the each pack of DLC add one more character with a similar system, making fights even more of a puzzle of how you go between enemies and hit their weaknesses. Timing attacks to stagger the enemy so you can damage them definitely feels like a Dark Souls influence and I’m all for it.

Graphics – We got that sweet raytracing now!

Raytracing on and off.
Raytracing on and off.

So the thing that really got me to pick up this game on PS5 was the update they put out where you get a 60fps raytracing mode for free. That is honestly what drew me in. I wasn’t planning on getting this game, it wasn’t on my radar at all. I loved the first one but got a little sour on it when I saw the reviews and discourse around the title.

This games implementation of raytracing can be summed up in the two examples I provided above. You can clearly see the effects of raytracing on the bottom image, but it’s a little hard to really notice the improvement on the top one. Seeing raytracing running on this game, at a locked 60fps is pretty incredible. I honestly didn’t think these consoles could really pull this off with the amount of dedicated ray tracing cores they have. The levels don’t always show off this effect to the best of it’s ability, but that’s just fine with me. You don’t want every hallway to just be full of mirrors and shit, you want the effect to be used subtly and naturally to add to the realism. Look at the top image and see how it helps to ground your weapons in the world by creating more realistic lighting and reflections on the metals of your guns.

You looking at me?

Final Score – 8.2

If you haven’t already played this game you should definitely pick it up. It’s constantly on sale for 20 USD and with the added support for PS5 quick loading and raytracing, if you have the console it complements it perfectly. Just be wary of getting burned out on the combat and exploration. Have some fun and rip and tear as they say. I personally preferred the smaller, more intimate setting of the first Doom (2016) and it’s story.

Shenmue 2 – Review

I originally played through Shenmue 2 on the XBox when it came out in 2001, so it’s been a solid 20 years since I last checked in on Ryo Hazuki. The most interesting part of playing this game is just how small and insignificant it makes the first game feel, which I wasn’t expecting. That’s because when I remember back to playing these games I had all these great memories of playing through the first Shenmue, with it’s engrossing story and memorable scenes, with the second game being little more than a footnote in my memory.

To put all this into context, Shenmue 1 is the first chapter of the saga. Shenmue 2 covers chapters 3 to 5. The missing chapter 2 is a comic book story that covers the boat trip Ryo takes after he left Yokosuka, Japan. It makes sense when I go back to my review of Shenmue and take note of how short the story is and how it basically just feels like it’s the opening to a grander story, because that’s exactly what it is.

Shenmue 2 takes place in Hong Kong and then ventures a bit into mainland China in the final, brief, chapter of the game. This is probably where I have one of my biggest complaints about this game, the location. It feels a little odd that the game went into Hong Kong in these chapters. I feel a personal disconnect from what I felt when playing Shenmue 1, perhaps it’s my own bias towards Japanese architecture and culture.

When you get off the boat at the beginning of the game you’re in Aberdeen harbor, it’s honestly one of the ugliest locations in a video game I’ve seen in a while. The buildings are all this horribly textured red brick. The lack of geometric detail and lighting, combined with low quality texture work, just makes the whole image hard to look at. It starts to get a little better as the game progresses, but even then you’re mainly inside large buildings with repeating geometry and texture work.

A really ugly environment.

Yes, this game is pretty ugly to look at. Some of the NPCs will make you laugh because of the way they’re represented. It almost feels like the Japanese developers are kind of taking the piss out of the Chinese people in their game. You do have to take into consideration that this game is a port, not a remake. It was originally developed for the Dreamcast and Microsoft made a deal to get distribution rights for the XBox in the States, which means the game models aren’t improved or anything for this title.

I went back and forth on being impressed that a Dreamcast could render scenes in such detail, but other times I was really scratching my head at just how bad things looked back then. I can really see a remake of these games with the Dragon Engine from the Yakuza developers Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio. I would personally love a complete remaster, but I don’t see a world where that would be financially viable for a studio to commit those levels of resources and money for this brand.

So let’s talk about playing the game. The map system is almost completely useless here. You first need to buy a map for each and every area you load into. The city is broken up into multiple parts, so one map will not be enough. The names of building will not be on this map, they simply give you something in the corner of your screen to orient yourself with. If you want to find a specific place, you have to ask people for directions or find a map directory in the world that you can zoom into and look for your destination. I ended up just pulling up a map on my laptop and keeping that up, way easier.

A big complaint that I had on the first game was the amount of time I waisted just sitting around killing time as I waited for the next scheduled event to take place. In this game that’s almost completely eliminated. You can fast travel in specific instances, it’ll always give you the option to wait and speed up time. If you run out the clock on a day it’ll bring you back to your resting spot, then the next morning, it’ll give you the option to continue from yesterday and warp you back. It’s nice to see the evolution and problem solving at work. If you just want the story then this is a great quality of life feature added over the first game.

The fighting is better than it is in the first game. In Shenmue I felt like I had almost no control over a fight and just smashed the same few attacks and I’d eventually win the match. There’s a bit more strategy involved in this one, especially when you get to the later parts of the game and have to do a series of street fights to progress. It’s by no means a great fighting system. You wont have fun doing it and you wont look forward to fighting at all. Just keep at it and you’ll get through it.

Let’s not even get into the QTEs and how stupid they are. You have to do button presses at various story moments and fight sequences. This is not a good mechanic that holds up to the test of time. It was meant to provide a more cinematic experience but really it just frustrates the player if they mess up. You end up not caring about what’s happening because all you’re doing is trying to input a dumb sequence of button presses so you don’t have to start the whole sequence over again. This is a slam against all instances of QTE throughout all video games, it is simply a commentary on how they were implemented in this title.

If you intend to play this game I recommend that you use a guide to get you through the story. I don’t have time in my life to play this game the way you were supposed to when it came out. I don’t want to run around asking people where to go and piece together all the clues. Modern games would just give you waypoints on your next objective, pointing you to a restaurant you’ve never been to, this game makes you figure all that out yourself. I didn’t just want to beat this game or see the story, I was aiming to get the platinum trophy for both Shenmue 1 & 2 so I followed a trophy guide. Luckily, it was a fairly straightforward platinum and doesn’t require you to have to do a bunch of extra tasks, which is really nice.

I did come to this game for the story. I wanted to play through all three titles just to see what happens at the end of the third game. I think I owed it to my younger self to experience all the Shenmue that I can and to at least get the platinum trophy in the first two games. I’ve been looking at what’s involved for the third game and I’m not sure I care that much about collecting herbs, but I’ll see what happens when I get there.

What can I really say about the story in this game? It’s slightly better than the first game. I’m simply talking about the story itself here, not the way it’s presented or anything like that. There’s a bit more action towards the end of the game that really makes you feel like you’re actually in the second act of the game. Things are happening, granted, there all happening in a 17 story building that seems to go on forever and everything looks the same. You start to learn about the mirrors and what they do. Some mystical/magical things happen with the mirror that isn’t physically possible. Lan Di is talked about a lot and you get to see him at the end battle, but he’s not involved and just hangs off a ladder attached to a helicopter. This is literaly the weirdest game ever made.

The final chapter of the game has you going into mainland China to rescue a girl in a river chasing a deer. She seems to have magical capabilities or something and keeps reciting a poem that references you coming to her. You get to run around a forest for what seems like forever. You see the Shenmue tree and use a sword and the mirror to make a sword float in mid air. What does it all mean?!

I don’t even know…

Do you see what I’m saying? I have no idea. This is what I was left with 20 years ago, an image of this. This is what all of us Shenmue fans had to go on. Then Yu Suzuki crowdfunds a sequel to this game and it gets greenlit. I hope he can wrap up this story in the sequel because I really don’t think he’s going to get another shot at it.

Final Score – 7.1

I think it’s a better game than the original. As hard as it is for me to say that it is a better game. The setting and the sheer volume of memes from the first game make it more memorable by a mile. Is this a good game that people should actually play in 2021 though? No. Only people with a soft spot for this series should even think about going back to these games. It’s fascinating to see what they were trying to do with the technology they had at the time. They were clearly overambitious and bit off more than they could chew. If you have never experienced a Shenmue game then you really need to give it a try, it’s interesting for sure.