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.

I Collected ALL the Cars in Gran Turismo 7 and All I Got Was…

That’s right, I collected ALL the cars in Gran Turismo 7 and all I got was the pride in knowing I got all the cars without paying a penny!

Does that sound enticing to you? It shouldn’t.

How did I do this you may or may not ask?

Well, when the game came out, people were just talking so much shit about how it’s full of anti-consumer micro transactions that it kind of stirred something in me. For context, I beat the game, did all the books, got a majority of all the trophies, and didn’t spend a dime on in-game currency. You frankly don’t need to, that’s not really what this game is all about. If you think you need to spend money for this game, I don’t think you’ve actually played it and/or know what you’re talking about. By the time I rolled credits on the game I had a few million left in the bank and about 100 cars collected already. So what happened?

Full collection 433/433.

I grew up playing Gran Turismo on PlayStation 1. I had both GT1 and 2 for that console and my brother and I would play it constantly. I kept up with the series and bought every title released, although I did drop out of racing games and only played Sport a little bit, mostly because it came with my VR headset. I don’t consider myself a racing guy and really only stick to GT and Forza Horizon these days. So I really wasn’t sure about picking up this title, especially at the marked up 70USD price tag PS5 games are going for.

I did, however, have an idea about going for the platinum trophy in this game. Prior entries in the series have ridiculously hard platinum trophies that I would never even attempt to get. This one felt doable, except for the Le Mans trophy that requires you to buy or collect (but really buy) three legendary cars from the Hagerty dealer. These cars weren’t known at the time so people were just trying to take educated guesses until they figured it out. Looking into all this caused me to stumble on some threads about AFK credit farming in the game.

So after a little bit of reading, I decided to give this a shot. I thought it would be funny to earn money in this game while they’re charging real money to consumers to buy these credits. A little “fuck you” to the developers and people in charge at Sony that thought this was a good idea in a 70USD game. My method involved using PS Remote Play and a keyboard script that would automatically control my car and navigate through the menus to constantly play one stage over and over in a car that would win a race while riding against the railing. Silly and stupid, no doubt about it, but it works and I find that hilarious.

How many people max out the money without paying a dime?

You can see that I have all 433 cars (as of this writing that’s all the cars). Some of the harder cars to get would be the ones where you need to be invited by the dealer to buy. These invites were randomly awarded to players through the legitimately unfair roulette ticket system. Where you earn tickets of varying star ratings and then get to spin a roulette wheel for your reward. This system will 9/10 times give you the worst valued item as well, you don’t want to give the player too much money or it’ll break the economy. Polyphony Digital had some issues with this and allowed users to access all these invites for a short time, so that was prime opportunity for me to go in and scoop up all those cars, one problem done and dusted.

The next issue was the biggest, the Hagerty collection. A slowly rotating group of cars that can cost up to 20 million credits each. So as I slowly amassed my fortune, I would venture into the Hagerty collection to see if there was a new car for the day, scoop it up, and then go check the used car dealer for anything new as well. Then I would systematically go through the normal dealer, one by one, buying every car they had to offer. At first this was harder to do, the max amount of money allowed in your account was just 20 million, so you could quickly run out of money and not have anything left to buy a rare Hagerty car the next day.

Take it from me, I opened all these and got shit 98% of the time. Pointless.

When I wasn’t checking the daily deals available I would have my console running non-stop. I eventually moved it from my PS5 to my old PS4 Pro. Having the PlayStation console and computer running the remote software hard wired helped with the network connection and the hotkey software, but because I have a mesh network, sometimes doing intense internet related things on other devices would cause the connection to degrade, which would mess up the hotkey application. So it had to be monitored frequently, which was annoying. I eventually got the whole setup working well, earning millions of credits for me each day. I even took a trip around Japan and would remote into my computer from my iPad to check the progress. I could restart the farming or check out the new stock in the game through this setup, a little funky doing it all through an iPad, but I really wasn’t trying to take a laptop on this trip.

I eventually got it down to only needing one car, the Ferrari F40 ’92. I had missed it the first time it was available since I wasn’t farming cars yet. So I had to just wait on Hagerty to finally rotate through all the cars so it’d be available again. 2.6 million credits later and it was mine.

This car turned into my white whale. It was a lovely sight seeing it available, pretty cheap too!

The Aftermath

If you’d played GT7 you know you get a little message as you grow your collection. This happens when you hit certain milestones, like 100 and 200 cars. I was expecting some sort of fanfare for the person that actually got every car in the game, even all the ones they release each month for free, but nothing happened. No fanfare, congratulations, or anything. I think the real congratulations is that I did this without spending a dime of real world money.

So what are the stats you ask? Here we go.

Cars Bought – 363
Credits Spent on Cars – 424,588,607
Total Distance Driven – 116,943 Miles
Total Time Driven – 652 hours
Total Fuel Consumed – 80,432 liters
Average Fuel Consumed – 5.00 MPG
Total Credits Acquired – 469,586,047

If I were to spend real money to acquire those credits it would have cost me –
212 packs of 2 Million credits = 4,240 USD

I drove around the equator 4.7 times.
Which is about halfway to the moon.

Should other people do this? It really depends on how dedicated you are to actually completing this task. It became a part of my daily routine to have to check up on these systems and to jump into the game to check the in-game store for new stock of cars. Once I actually started, part of me couldn’t really stop either, I needed to just hit my goal of getting every car. I have a bit of OCD in me, so that helped with this method, while also being a fairly pointless endeavor in the grand scheme of things. The issue now is whether I have to continue collecting cars as they’re released. I still have a little over 40 Million credits just sitting there for new cars to come out. I also kind of stopped playing the game while this was all going on. I felt like I was wasting my time playing when it could be grinding currency for me in the background. When I first hit 100 Million, which is the new cap, I felt like I could just give it all a rest since I had bought the majority of the cars by then.

This process felt like a small way of saying “fuck you” to the people in charge of implementing these mechanics into triple A games from major developers. I would rather pay for a season pass or expansion pack once a year than see inflated currencies in my games. If you feel like in-game currency that can be bought with real money has zero effect in the way pricing or payouts are handled in the game you are absolutely wrong. However, you DO NOT have to use real currency to play and enjoy this game on a daily basis, I would actually recommend not to do this and to not grind currency like I did. I don’t get that mentality from people that truly love these games. This is a game that will get updated monthly for years to come, it’s meant to be slow played. So try to take your time and enjoy it. Save up for a car and really understand the way it drives, go for the ones you’re passionate about. Perhaps they need to add a test drive function so players can have a couple laps in different cars. I took a different route, which may hinder my long term enjoyment of this title, but I like to think I’ll still enjoy it for years to come. I do have those 50 online races to go through for my trophy still.

20 million for a car I’m probably never going to drive. Insane.

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?

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.

Shenmue – Review

When Shenmue came out on December 29, 1999, you bet I was ready to play it. Who didn’t see the trailer as a kid and say “I want to experience a F.R.E.E. game?!”. If you don’t know the history of all this. The Director of the game, Yu Suzuki, created a brand new genre that he called “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment”. It basically meant that you were supposed to be playing a game so realistic that you’d basically think it’s a movie, and it has quicktime events.

When you get down to what Shenmue is, it’s the seed in which not only a Shenmue sequel grow from, but a series of Yakuza games did as well. I haven’t played through Shenmue in a number of years, but I remembered so much of it. The launch of Shenmue meant a lot to me when it came out, from both a personal level and that of a gamer. It fostered a love for Japan and it’s culture as well as the types of games being developed there. They were attempting to push the medium of video games into scripted stories with “fully interactive” worlds to explore. It was on a completely different level from anything else being released, or that’s how it felt at the time.

Replaying this game on my PlayStation 5 and on a 4k OLED TV really brings everything into a sharp focus. You realize that there were severe limitations to the Dreamcast hardware at the time. Even though this is considered to be the most expensive game ever made at the time of release, it’s almost comical at the level of detail on display compared to any modern title released today. That doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of it, it’s just examining what it is in the social context of today.

The game really feels like the first arc in a modern game or story. Time moves in the game as it does in the real world, just at a slightly faster pace. I was able to complete the story in about two weeks of game time. If you stretch out the game and take too long to complete it you’ll be given a bad ending on April 15th. I finished the game with about four months to spare, so you have plenty of time to get every little collectible if you happen to have all the time in the world.

The story is just bare bones to be completely honest. You set out on a journey to find your fathers murderer, Lan Di. This is done by talking to people in town, investigating and trying to get more and more clues to where Lan Di is. Ryo will hit a roadblock here and there, eventually landing a job moving crates at the docks and finding passage on a ship. This is where the game ultimately ends and the next game picks up, simple as that really. Apparently, in Japan, they even took all the cutscenes in this game and made them into a movie that they played at certain theaters after the game came out. What a simpler time.

I’m not really knocking the game any for it’s brevity, I have so much love and fondness for this game that nothing can really spoil it for me. The simple fact that Ryo goes around asking people where sailors hang out is worth the price of admission. What surprised me in this playthrough was just the shear amount of downtime you have.

The story in this game cannot be rushed. You will be told to come back at 7PM to meet a character and have nothing to do for the whole afternoon. This is why you’re allowed to explore, shop, buy capsule toys, and visit the arcade. You’re meant to be enamored by the depth of the world to keep you occupied. I, however, have played this game before and have played the arcade games many times in the past. I only wanted to get enough capsule toys for the associated trophies. So I just ended up leaving the game sitting idle as I did other stuff non gaming related. When the time came I’d pick up the controller, make a save, and trigger the next cutscene.

Let’s now talk about work. Ryo will eventually head down to the docks and start working a forklift to make some extra cash and learn about the Mad Angels. You have to spend a few days going to work, starting with a race around the docks where you can earn little capsule toys for winning. You then get instructions on where to pick up boxes and where you need to drop them off. So you just drive around on your forklift until you get a lunch break where you can buy some more toys, work again and clock out at 5pm. Going back to this game and playing it now, this part of the game really felt like a bit of a slog. Compare that to playing this back when it launched on the Dreamcast, this part of the game was an opportunity for my brother and I to slow down the story and earn some money while buying all the toys, music tapes, and items in the store. The reality of it all, you come to find out, is that you don’t need any of that crap (besides 50 unique toys for the trophies).

When looking back at this game, the interesting aspect is the fighting mechanics. Shenmue was originally meant to be an offshoot of Virtua Fighter, but it doesn’t feel like it translated that well. I absolutely hated the combat in the game this time around. The controls in combat just felt so slow and unresponsive. You have no way to effectively counter or control your opponent. Instead you just try to do some sort of move and hope it lands. Sometimes you’ll win your fight the first round, sometimes you die and have to replay it, it all feels like luck whether you win or lose. You get to the point where you just want to try and cheese all the enemies by spamming some moves you think will land. I tried training in some of my downtime, but it just ends up feeling pointless after a while. You go into a parking lot and just do the same moves over and over, hitting the air. What’s the point? If you’re coming from some of the Yakuza or Judgment games and are expecting a fun arcady style beat ’em up, this is not that.

Final Score – 7.0 (biased opinion)

I have a soft spot for this game so it’s hard for me to recommend it to others that are coming in new. I’m not sure if I could honestly make that call. Part of what makes this game so special is knowing all the history behind it and knowing the state of video games when it was released. You see the seed of the Yakuza franchise here. You understand that people who worked on this game went on to create the Yakuza games. I would have loved if this title was remastered by the Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio like they did the first two Yakuza games. Until that time, this version allows a wider group of people to experience this classic and historical game, whether you have the same connection to it as I do is a different matter. I do find it hard to dismiss the historical context of this game and what it was attempting to accomplish at the time. My score would have been higher if I reviewed it when it originally came out, and I still feel like this score is a tad high for what it is, but it would hurt me too much to bump it down even further.

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Review

Now this is the second game I jumped into on my PS5, right after finishing up Astro’s Playroom. I didn’t want to get into Demon’s Souls at first, since I figured it was going to take a good amount of time and commitment to get through it. So what’s more fun than a modern Spider-Man game to break in a console? I bought the full 70 USD version of the game that came with the remastered original, not because I thought it was a good deal or anything, I just want the best version of that original game for the next time I play through it. I do consider the price and the way they structured the upgrade to PS5 to be a bit anti-consumer, which is a topic we can get into later. A funny thing to note about this title and the PS5 is that I bought the PS5 version of the game, from my PS5, which I have to say it did download at a really fast speed and only took between 20-30 minutes for the whole bundle to download. What I noticed though, is that it also downloaded the PS4 version of the games onto my PS5. It’s a really odd thing for the system to do without even asking, this is not something people are looking for. If you have data caps on your internet you should be really pissed, and what’s the likelihood that someone downloading a PS5 version of a game onto their PS5 would also want the PS4 version at the same time? What are they thinking over there at Sony HQ? It’s dumb, fix it.

The Game

What struck me most about this game and the character of Miles Morales is the way he’s positioned in the pop culture of America between the games and movies. The previous game came out before Into the Spider Verse came out, and that game introduced his character into the game world, but now you have this larger game that is centered around this established character. The Spider Verse movie came out so strong that that version of Miles is who the character should be in the game, that’s the version we all love. So this character had a hard time being as good as that one and I don’t think he eclipsed the Miles from the movies performance and vibe. He’s a different person, a Miles from a different multi-verse and that’s okay in the end. You can unlock his suit from the movie and add modes that make him animate in the style of the film, which ends up looking really cool. Just don’t go in expecting that vibrant and alive world from the movie. It’s more of a realistic, grounded experience that feels constrained by the previous game.

In the game, you get a little bit of the musical flavor from the movie, a little bit of his style as a person, but it just doesn’t seem to have that insane and dramatic flair that the movie did so well at portraying. That hurt my impression of this game just the slightest as I played it, Miles would start dancing to a song and I’d just want the game to give me more of it and to pump it all up to 11. When you get past that point though, you find a game that has a story that grips you and carries you through the whole experience. It doesn’t drag it’s heels much, you learn about all the characters in his life through the story and missions. It becomes less about the city and more about the people in it. It becomes okay that it’s not Into the Spider Verse, it’s a continuation of a Spider-Man game and it’s going to lead into the next main title in the series.

If you’ve played the first Spider-Man game in this series, then you’ll know exactly what to expect in this one. It’s the 1.5 version on the way to the next full sequel. The combat is exciting, you get different powers than what Peter Parker uses, which makes it seem fresh. It’s just more of the same which isn’t that bad of a thing. Swinging around the city feels just as good as it did in the last game, the only major difference is that you do a lot less of it since you can basically fast travel around the map in the matter of seconds. That also helps in cutting down on the feeling of wasting time as you play this game. If you have a mission or side quest that you want to do on the other side of the city, just pull up your map and select the nearest fast travel point, you’ll be there in two seconds.

What makes this game feel next gen is the loading speed and the use of ray traced reflections present in the graphics mode of the game. On your first playthrough, I say don’t even start up the performance mode, keep it locked to 30 fps and see what ray tracing does to the world. If you switch back and forth to test them out, you really do notice the difference in performance and just how smooth the 60 fps is, but if you keep playing on 30 fps then it really does become less of an issue.

The reflections in the game add a lot to the way the world looks. Swing through a city street with buildings of glass on both sides and take in the added depth and believability on display. Plant yourself to the side of a building and see your character reflected perfectly on the glass. Walk up to the TV in your house and see the distorted image of your character on the curved tube of the TV. As a person into the graphical fidelity of games, this is something I couldn’t stop looking at in each new environment, we’re finally at a point where the horrible artifacting of screen-space reflections can be put to bed.

Some impressive detail. Remember when games used to have walls of fog to hide geometry?

Once you get past the graphics, or at least admire them only on occasion and not all the time, the story in the game becomes the leading force. You get to experience Miles becoming his own version of Spider-Man at a time when Peter is on vacation. The arc of the story is nice and tight, with not a lot of down time or long, drawn out sequences. The game does play it really safe, which is both good and bad. It’s good in that it makes the whole game fun to play and enjoyable to watch, the bad is that it ends up lacking an emotional punch. I felt like the game didn’t take that many chances, Miles never really got angry at anything or anyone, and the trauma in his life has already past well before this game started. While he does experience a traumatic experience in this title, I feel like it didn’t carry the emotional weight that it should have.

Saying that, it’s okay that it didn’t. It’s nice to have this type of experience, not everything has to be a Last of Us game. Kids are going to play this and get a real kick out of it. Hell, everyone who plays this game will get a real kick out of it. The swinging mechanics are just spot on, it’s so fun to swing around and launch off the top of a building, then do a few flips before skimming the ground as you swing back up.

Oh yea, my two cents is that the new Peter Parker face is way better than the original from the first game. When I saw that guy on screen for the first time I couldn’t believe they made Peter look like that, didn’t fit the character at all. The face swap makes his character so much better for it.

I did experience a few bugs with this game. It crashed on me once, which might be the result of not quitting the game when I’m turning off my PS5, I usually just put it into rest mode and resume on next bootup. That shouldn’t be an issue though, although it is early days for the console. I also had an issue of playing it on the performance mode and getting massive stutters constantly. I closed out the game and reloaded it and that seemed to have fixed the issue. So just a few little patches to both the game and the system should resolve those issue easily.

Final Score – 8.8

A great little game. An even better value at a discounted price. If you’re going for the platinum like I was, you have to play the game again on new game +. I switched it to the 60 fps and skipped as many cut scenes as possible and was able to beat it in about 3 hours. That will give you a bit of context on it’s length. I’m happy I played it, can’t wait for the next full sequel.

Two for the price of one?