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.

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.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (PS5) – Review

Having played the original Mass Effect on the XBox 360 when it came out, the second game on PC, and not having a solid memory of playing the third game on anything, I had to pick this collection up. This was a day one purchase and a series I truly enjoyed replaying.

This is my Shepard, there are many like her, but this one is mine.

Over the years I forgot most of the story of Mass Effect. I remembered bits about splitting up your team on a suicide mission, Mass Effect relays, sexual relationships, and scanning planets for hours on end. Having just completed the collection, I’m drawn to the relationship with Liara that my fem-Shep carried through all the games. How I spurned the advances from my other team members. How we took down the shadow broker and revived a Prothean all while saving the universe.

The games do need to be played back-to-back to get a true feeling for the brilliance of this series. If you pick up the Legendary Edition, make sure you have the time to commit to the whole series, the payoff is all the better for it. The amount of time needed to beat each ones goes up with each game. Depending on trophy hunting and completion ration, you’re looking at 15-30 hours per game.

The first game is a little rough around the edges. The environments are really basic and there isn’t much depth to any aspect of the game besides the storytelling. While that sounds like a negative, it’s not a knock against the game. You’re already jumping into a massive trilogy, so feeling this first game out and seeing that it’ll be a relatively short and easy romp provides a good sense of motivation. There aren’t a lot of side missions to mess around with. Levels are pretty basic so you’re not going to get lost or frustrated. Just dig into the fantastic story and start learning about the lore of the universe. Spend some time getting to know all of the squadmates and engross yourself into the world.

I started the game thinking that I’d go renegade (dark side), as apposed to paragon (light side). From my first interaction I realized that I just can’t be a dick to people. I wanted to help everyone out, be the hero, get my girl, and save the day. So Paragon it was.

STNG reference?

The first game has one really major choice for your character to make, it has to do with the squad-mate you send to die. You get to chose between Ashley and Kaiden, needless to say the guy took the bullet for the team on this one. He was a good soldier and understood the risks involved and was wiling to make a sacrifice for the galaxy.

I’m not going to dive deep into the story in this review because that’s the whole point of the series. The story is the main driving force and the relationships you form with your crew are all the flavor your little ice cream shop needs to stay in business. The first game does start surprisingly well. The voice acting holds up, even though the character animations and graphics don’t. It would have been really nice to have seen this series get the Demon Souls treatment and brought into the current generation of graphics. As it is, it’s a nice lookback of the evolution of the series and how their engine evolved over the three games.

The guy is old.

The second game immediately feels tighter in the gameplay area. Combat is more strategic, you don’t have to just run around with a handgun shooting people in the head. The AI in the first game is pretty horrible, characters would just move left and right like big idiots, the second game bestows them with more of a brain and they’re now capable of using cover.

The biggest addition the second game makes is the introduction of the Illusive Man played by Martin Sheen. It’s a cool concept to have this perceived enemy, with crazy eyes and a room looking over a star that is controlling your characters actions and all that it implies. You get a mix of old and new crew along with DLC characters that are all included in this game.

Illusive Man.

The game world itself expands from the first, now worlds are more detailed and not as cookie-cutter like how the first game felt. The universe is a bit bigger and has more places to explore. You now get bespoke loyalty missions with each of your squadmates. These missions allow you to get some one-on-one time with your crew to help them out and learn more about them. They are each a great chance to play a cool mission while hanging out with your crew and making them happy.

This is the game that made planet scanning a thing. The thing is, and here is a tip for all you trophy hunters, you don’t need to scan that many planets. Just take it easy, every solar system does not need to get 100% scanned or drained of resources or anything like that. It’s a waist of time, trust me. It’s funny how scanning planets is a memory I clearly have from over a decade ago…

Choices.

The hacking in this game is also so much better than the first one, you don’t have to do that simple puzzle game anymore, now you get a few different options based on the type of device you’re getting into, and they’re a little more stimulating this time which is good.

Some highlights from this game are taking down the Shadow Broker, Jack’s storyline, and the final assault where the whole team comes together to do a mission. Nobody on my team died because I looked at a trophy guide and made sure I ticked all the boxes, but it’s just fun to finally have everyone you’ve met get involved in a big mission. It made the stakes feel even that much more important to the story, especially for the player.

Old Friends.

After taking down the second game, I was almost about to stop playing and mix it up a bit with another game. I am so glad I didn’t do that and just started up the next one. Now remember, I just got the platinum in two games in a row, even though they are much easier to get now than in the original trophy list, which was something I never even considered doing. So I had a few more hours invested in each game than someone else who just wants the story. I was immediately hooked in the story and just wanted to see it through the end. I loaded up my save character and got to work!

The best thing about this game is that you get to start with a bunch of level up points that you can spend on skills, and you start with a bit of money which makes everything a little easier.

Choices

Immediately you can tell this is a new game. It just felt even better to play than the second game. Movement felt fresh and you weren’t confined to the running stamina bar you had in the second game. Character models all look pretty good, the females in this game have bodies out of magazines, which is a look. The weirdest thing I found in all these games is the way Shepard walks, there is something about her gate. When you think about it you can figure out what is happening, I think they have one skeleton that they use for all their characters. That means that everyone will have the same basic proportions and the joints will be in the same places. To accommodate certain species and genders using one rig, something has to not look right, and it’s definitely female Shepard. As she saunters around the galaxy, looking like a cowboy or something. She has one of the oddest gaits of any character in a game. It’s not a huge deal, just an interesting artifact to uncover.

Another thing that shocked me was when I saw Ashley Williams. I guess being a Specter suits her well. She cleaned herself up, got a haircut and learned how to put on makeup. It’s pretty hilarious to see how her character evolved over the games. I wonder what happened in the meetings with the character artists as they were putting this game together.

Ashely, meet Ashley. She’ll be replacing you from now on.

The thing that blew me away with the third game was just how many different environments and art assets you see in your journey. You go from a mission on a crashed ship in the middle of an ocean where you dive down in a mech suit to the bottom searching for your goal to a densely populated city where you’re helping freedom fighters take back a city. It just adds to the world building and makes you feel more connected with an actual universe of people who are all counting on the success of your mission. Compare that to some of the previous games and it does feel like there is a bigger budget on this title.

This game adds a war assets feature where every good deed you do and every alley you recruit adds to a growing pool of assets. The more you get the better your outcome is in the end. Needless to say, you kind of want to get as many forces together as possible. Not just for the number or for the outcome it provides, but you want to stay in this world just a little bit longer. You want to get that flotilla together because you’ve been hearing about these people since the first game. You feel a need to make the rounds, to touch base with everyone you can and to join hands in stopping this genocide from happening.

Perhaps it’s because Liara is my girl and I stayed faithful to her throughout the series, but I did feel a connection to her. It’s a little sad that you can’t go full dating sim with her and that you only get a few scripted moments to have any real sort of connection. It would have been nice to get that a little more fleshed out, but that’s a criticism I have for a lot of games with this type of mechanic. In the end, they did do a good job with her relationship, so I’m not complaining too much.

If you have a problem with Jack dancing on the table, you tell her to stop.

Another great moment in this game is when you get to bring everyone to your apartment to have a party. It’s a great time to just have the whole crew together for a celebration, where characters can loosen up and get drunk. It was fun seeing everyone interact with each other, which doesn’t happen that often with the dynamics of ship life.

The funny thing about the ending is that I can’t say I was overly happy about the way it turned out. For those that want to know, you get to choose between three different outcomes for the universe, or go down a secret path were it’s basically game over and you fucked up. I don’t like how ambiguous the ending feels, no matter which one you choose. I got a little beacon of hope at the end, but I still would have liked just a bit more. It’s a little sad knowing that the new game, Andromeda, doesn’t really pick up on this character arc and they team decided to start so far away from this world and everything that was established in this trilogy.

My girl.

Final Score – 9.4

This was a fantastic series. Playing through this legendary edition made me really love Mass Effect all over again. Time had worn down my appreciation for the series. It left it as a memory of something that was good, but today probably wouldn’t hold up. I was wrong. These games do hold up, and they tell a science fiction story full of depth, heart, and intrigue. I finished the series and had the same feeling I got from finishing a good TV show or movie series in which you’re fully invested in the characters and world for an extended period of time. You just want to live in it a little longer and digest everything that just happened. The only thing left for me to do would be to play through again as a renegade asshole. Here’s hoping that a remake of this series, similar to Demon’s Souls on PS5 is in the works.

Shadow of the Colossus (PS4) – Review

I played this game back at the end of January of this year and just needed to put some words down about it. I did play this game when it was first released on the Playstation 2, and I still have my copy locked up with my old games. It was originally released back in 2005 and fans were clamoring for a remake ever since. This version was put out for the PS4 and I ended up playing it on my PS5.

What makes this game special in my mind has a lot to do with how slight it feels. The game can be beaten in one day, easily. There is no voice acting and hardly any story at all. The bosses can be killed relatively easily. This all works together to encapsulate the feeling you get from playing this game, which is unique. A lot of modern games are just so bloated that any sort of feeling you might have is eroded away through a constant grind of game mechanics that are solely there to keep you playing.

This title respects your time and doesn’t try to do more than it has to. You quickly grow an attachment to your character and horse. It feels wrong what you’re doing to these colossi, but destroy them you must for the princess is what matters most to your character. That feeling you get from playing the game pulls you through the journey of your character and by the end of it you can honestly say that you’ve had an emotional connection to the story. Not a lot of games can make that claim.

Different quality modes present. Added resolution and shadows can be seen in the right image.

This title is special. The remaster done by BluePoint is fantastic, it’s a beautiful looking game that plays great on the PS5. The controls and camera can be frustrating at times, but if you’re grown up with this title you know exactly what you’re in for. I didn’t attempt to get the platinum trophy or anything like that, not really necessary for me to feel good about this game.

Final Score – 8.3

This is a rare style of game that draws an emotional response from the player using minimal storytelling elements. Those limitations help make it one of the more memorable titles you can play. A true classic and something all gamers should experience.

End

Days Gone – Review

This is one of those PlayStation first party games that I didn’t think I’d ever play. It’s hard getting the motivation to play open-world games, especially if you already play each new Assassin’s Creed game that comes out. Add that to the growing list of other games, like Ghost of Tsushima, Red Dead Redemption 2, etc. It’s a lot, they take up a massive amount of players time and did Sony first-party really need to dip their toes in those waters?

Ride or die.

That was until I finished up Cyberpunk 2077 and wanted to start using my PS5 again. I’m talking about a new console months after the generational shift, and I haven’t played a game on it for over a month. If you sit down with that thing it doesn’t have that many native games to play, I’ve already played Demon’s Soul and Astro Bot, what else is left? So I had to start digging into my back catalogue and see what tickled my fancy. Days gone is one of the titles included in the PlayStation Plus free game program they have with PS5 so that made my barrier to entry super easy. Going in, I had faint memories of the early E3 presentation, where they showed off the hoard at the saw mill, and I recalled something about having to find your wife, dead or alive. That’s basically all I knew about the game.

*** SPOILER WARNING ***

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Graphics

I’ll start with graphics because why not? This game looks really nice on my PS5, even for a PS4 game that doesn’t have any real patches for next-gen. It does allow you to run the game at 60fps in resolution mode, so it feels good to move around and it’s really sharp. Honestly, playing this game and going around the open world made me give a little shout out of respect to what the PS4 was capable of, it impressed me. The frame rate will drop here and there, causing little stutters, but those honestly happen in the most random places. It probably just needs a proper patch to take advantage of all the PS5 features, since it only runs in back-compat mode those things are locked out for the game. The good thing is that I never felt any sluggishness when going up against a hoard.

The world is the shining star in graphical department. The game takes place in the mountains and lakes of Oregon. It gives the game a natural feel so you don’t get office buildings made of football fields of glass, just a lot of good old fashioned wood. It’s rendered well using the Unreal Engine, which comes as a big surprise for a first party Sony game, since they usually opt to use proprietary engines for their games. Wonder how they felt about paying a licensing fee for this title, or perhaps their investment in Epic allowed them to skirt around that issue.

Character models are really hit or miss for me. The main cast of characters are okay, with one or two standouts besides the main protagonist. Animations are also in that B tier category, they get the job done but don’t really stand out in any way. The real star of the show is the hoards.

Coming over a hill and seeing your first hoard out in the middle of nowhere is a real treat. It’s pretty rare that a game while come up with something that surprises you like this one, especially on the bigger hoards. These hoards come in all different sizes, increasing the further south you go. When you see that first large hoard, maybe you try something that you think might work, like lure them into a group and chuck a few grenades at them, that should do it. You come to find out that all you got was about 10% of the group and the rest start rushing at you as you attempt to shoot them with everything you have. Once you have the scope truly down you can start to think logically and plan out your attacks. The sheer number of enemies on screen at one time is remarkable to see. I do think the game could have stood out on it’s own with just small groups of freakers, but having these massive hoards to battle really makes it stand out in a crowded field of releases. They become the star of the show and I give them a lot of credit for doing it on the PS4.

Complaints

Deacon St. John is one of the worst characters in video games. It just needs to be said. He is one of the worst protagonists that I have ever had the privilege to control. I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a disconnect with who a person is and how they represent themselves than I did with this man. It’s not that he was in a biker gang and talks about his cut (jacket) all the time, or has hands full of the most ridiculous rings imaginable. It was that his personality, or lack of, came out constantly when he tried to speak. He’s played by actor Sam Witwer, who I also am not the biggest fan of, which is all a shame because I really enjoyed the story surrounding this character. I just wish he wasn’t such an idiotic douche all the time.

This is the idiot I chose to marry.

Deacon is a biker boy who loves to ride his hog and his woman, all while treating everyone around him like they’re annoying idiots.

The game starts off, like all good fiction these days, with a zombie apocalypses. Your injured wife is placed on a helicopter with a man in a hazmat suit who promises to take her to a safe camp. You stay back with your other injured friend, Boozer, so you can help him get to the camp and meet back up with your woman. Needless to say, things happen, you don’t find her and think she’s dead, you and Boozer both survive for two full years. That’s where the gameplay part of the game picks up and you’re left to fend for yourself as you try to leave Oregon and move on with your life. Only to find that the hazmat guy is still alive and perhaps your wife, Sarah, is too.

What a nice little premise for a game. How is this hazmat guy still alive? Shit, your wife maybe alive as well? Sold!

Mysteries abound.

So the problem I had with Deacon is that he’s so stupid and annoying. Pretty simple, right? He treats everyone around him with such irreverence, he just blows everyone off. You’ll get to a camp and help them out over multiple missions, building up friendships with people that you, as the player, grow attached to. Only to have Deacon act like a 15 year old child with mood issues one second later. These people are actually nice to you, they don’t want to kill you, you’re helping them build a community, and then you just get the stinger of him being a dick. It makes so little sense, I can see how it could make sense If I inferred into his character a whole lot, but that’s not my job, the story should have conveyed that aspect to his personality. If the main character is going to act like an idiot and just treat nice people like shit all the time, give me a little more setup to why his mind works this way. Maybe something happened in the two year gap between the opening and the game. None of it is explained to any level of satisfaction so it all comes off as crass. It might also just be the way the actor chose to portray Deacon, like he had a bad take on the character.

It’s a mad mad mad world.

I get that not every person or character in a work of fiction should, or would be the most elegant of speakers and communicators. It just needs to be setup to the player in a better way. As the game went on there was just more of a disconnect between Deacon and I, he’d pull up to a camp that he had to clear out and literally yell out that it’s full of murders and rapists and shit like that, and that they all have to die, like calm down dude. I get that they’re bad, but every time you pull up to one of these camps he says the same exact thing, it’s a little comical.

That issue get’s more into the performance of Deacon, which is half of the equation I feel. The actor, Sam Witwer, is just not good in this role, or the way he was directed is off. I’ve never really been a fan of that actor and I feel like this role just does nothing for him. The vocal audio is mixed incorrectly most of the time, where characters are either speaking really softly while giving a speech to a group around a raging bonfire, or they’re just yelling at each other in a way that makes no sense for the scenario on screen. The sound design for the voices could have been handled way better.

Burn the nest to the ground!

Part of the issue comes from the type of game this is. You’re, for the most part, a lonely guy going out into this open world to kill things. Your main action in the game is to shoot bad things. You spend a lot of time with your main character, with that comes a level of connection and understanding you could say. This is what video games are all about, being a character in a foreign world, living out an experience only achievable in this form of entertainment. Dozens of hours looking at them in the center of your screen as you roam around on adventures. I just had a disconnect with how shitty I felt he was. How he’d barely answer a question, rarely ever get personal, would shut down emotionally constantly, and treated friendly people like crap. I kept wanting him to do more, say more, be more, but he was just Deacon.

What I liked

Even though I just shat all over the main character of the game, I really got into the story of this game. It starts you off in a small region of the map, doing mission after mission helping out the local camps in the region. I initially thought that this was going to be the whole game. That it was just going to take place on this, relatively small and manageable sized map, which felt oddly refreshing and quaint. Come to find out that no, you get to open up another large area and then another after that. So the game was a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be.

The length of the story felt a little off to me. It seems to be broken up in three parts and they are all longer than I thought they would be. I did do every mission as they came up, so perhaps I was doing a lot of side content that didn’t really matter if you only care about the main storyline. The third part is when you get to the Wizard’s Island and discover that your wife is still alive and kicking. Which is awesome! I love that you got to find out in this game and that you got to spend a good chunk of the ending focusing on your relationship with her. She even ends up being a way better character than the blunt instrument of Deacon. I was interested in the scientific research that she was still working on, which is a way to actually reverse the zombie infection, not kill it. You get to visit her old lab and see what’s come of it. Mysteries reveal themselves and new ones form. It pulls you in, if you’re hooked as I was, and really makes you want to finish the game.

Keep it going.

The thing I wasn’t expecting is that all the mysteries that surround the freakers are not resolved by the end of the game. It felt like they had so many plot threads and the game was already so long that they just cut a bunch of them so they could focus on wrapping up a handful of smaller ones. It does leave the title wide open for a sequel, which I really did not expect coming in. If you keep playing after you beat the game you’ll even get to find out what’s happening to the hazmat guy that you’ve been in contact with throughout the whole game, and why he’s still in a hazmat suit. That’s where the real intrigue comes into play and makes me want to see what will happen in the sequel, which I hope they make. It’d be really cool to see what they can do with a freaker horde running on the PS5 natively. It’s what makes this game stand out form The Last of Us, a game that doesn’t care to answer how it happened or how to fix it, the intrigue in Days Gone is the mystery behind how it happened and if it can be fixed.

I also really liked the gameplay. You get around by riding your custom motorcycle through the land while being mindful of the amount of fuel in your tank, making sure to top it of off wherever you can get some fuel. The combat and weapons felt like a nice 3rd person action game. I had favorite weapons out of the growing arsenal at my disposal that I’d keep on me at all time, turning my character into a zombie and human killing machine. You can mix up gun combat with the strategic use of remote and motion activated bombs, Molotov cocktails, and a form of napalm. You can use lures to draw in large crowds and funnel them where you wanted, then blow them all up. At the end of the game, when you’re allowed to free roam, dozens of hoards appear all over the map that you can take down. It’s just a good way to finish leveling up, go take on a hoard, earn more XP and go for that platinum trophy. Every single one of them is slightly unique and fun to do. I ended up getting the platinum since I enjoyed playing the game and it wasn’t that much of a grind.

A family affair.

Final Score – 8.2

I enjoyed this game more than I thought I would. I loved the mystery around the story and I want to know what the hell is going on with O’Brian. I just wish the main character had a personality facelift since he took me out of the game way too much. The gameplay was great, fighting humans and hordes all felt good. The progression system, from skills to weapons, kept me looking forward to the next unlock. A proper PS5 patch would be nice to see, but it’s not the one I’m hurting the most to have. If you have a PS5 and Plus, along with some time to get into a game, definitely give this game a shot.

I want the sequel.

Resident Evil 3 (remake) – Review

I ran through this game in just a couple of days and got the platinum trophy on it before Cyberpunk 2077 hit. I was able to get it for cheap in a PlayStation Sale and just had to go through it since I loved the Resident Evil 2 Remake so much.

Now, I haven’t played Resident Evil since it came out on the PlayStation 1. Most people, I suspect, have never played it. I never felt like it was one of the beloved sequels in the series, kind of like Code Veronica, so it didn’t get the rerelease treatment often. I was a kid at the time and played it at my friends house. Back then we used to play shitty Sega CD games and speed run Resident Evil: Directors Cut, but I only remember playing this game a little bit so just about everything about it was new to me.

Just before getting into this game though, I went back to my Resident Evil 2 Remake game and got the last remaining trophies and finished up the platinum on it. I was on a bit of a roll I guess you could say. I had already heard when this game was released that it was shorter than 2, but I didn’t really understand how much that was true. It’s not that it bothered me or anything, It would have if I had paid full price though (I believe it cost 60USD on release). It’s definitely not worth that release price, especially if they’re going to release little nickel-and-dime DLC to unlock extra costumes and shit like that. It’s a bit bullshit and one of the reasons I sat on the game for so long and waited for a sale.

So right off the bat I love the way the Jill character model looks in this game. I just think there is an ineffable quality about her look that is just so well done. It’s only slightly let down by some of the lighting and animation work, but the look of the model itself is great. I feel like she’s one of the more beautiful women in gaming today, there is just something about her that makes me want to keep looking at her face. The French would call it “je ne sais quoi”, it just grabs my attention more than a lot of other female protagonists in gaming. I can just respect the choice of look they went with here, it’s definitely not how I remember Jill looking in the original. In this game, she’s a complete badass that doesn’t take any bullshit from the men around her. On the other side of the coin you have Carlos and his massive head of hair, it’s insane.

The game itself is modeled closely on the remake of 2, except now you get a dodge move. You basically just have to take the 2nd game, remove almost all puzzle solving from it and make it an hour shorter and this is the game you get. It’s so streamlined it almost makes it a speed runners game. That’s exactly what I liked most about the game too. There’s something about a game with good mechanics like this where you can just blow through it in 90 minutes.

Yes, this will happen…

What that does is it forces you to learn the patterns of each level or section, so the next time you run through it you automatically know where to go and how to deal with all the enemies. Granted, that’s only if you’re going for the trophies. If you’re not you’re just getting a short little action movie of a game, which may be disappointing to some. It would have made a good rental game.

I didn’t approach the game like that at all, I watched the story the first time and skipped it every other. I was able to unlock the rocket launcher as a starter weapon, which helped me on subsequent playthroughs. I did a run without accessing the item chest which added another degree of complication to one of my speed runs. I actually just found it fun to run through the game so much. It truly felt like being a speed runner. I tend to only play a game once these days, games are getting so fucking long that you don’t get the opportunity to just play through them more than once, or for this game more than once in a day.

The trickiest thing about RE3 had to be the last boss on the hardest difficulty, that guy was a bit of a fucker. I did have a good tip that I think others should follow, which is to listen out for a particular sound to push in the charging cells. If you time it right you can skip one of his attack animations, making the fight a lot easier.

Open with a bang.

I thought the game would use a lot more of the locations from the 2 remake, but you basically just get a little bit of the police station and the street out front. It’s not like the locations really impressed me that much in this game. It was all kind of toned down in the excitement level. Nothing really stood out to me. The whole opening section around the train station and the streets surrounding it were a little forgetful. The coolest part was probably the big head above the store, but even then it didn’t wow me.

The hospital in the later portion of the game tries to complicate it up a little bit, but you can literally just blow through it with relative ease. You don’t get that Resident Evil puzzle solving, figuring out how to open doors thing. Sure, you have to get the tape player and the tape, but just open all the rooms and look around, you’re not going to miss anything. That’s all fine though, that’s not what this game is about. We got all that in the last game.

What I really liked about the story and where this game goes is when it starts interweaving into the events of the second game. It was cool to see how the timelines fit together and really make this seem like a more cohesive package with the 2nd remake.

The boss battels, I felt, weren’t really that much of a challenge (except the last on the hardest difficulty). If you play the game right, you’re going to get the rocket launcher in your chest for your other playthroughs. It doesn’t even cause your rating to decrease so you kind of need/have to use it. Except for the playthrough you do without opening the chest, which is fun. You have a dodge move which makes maneuvering the boss arenas a lot easier, if the nemesis comes at you and you’re good at timing your rolls you shouldn’t have a problem. The arenas were memorable, particularly where he’s running around in circles on the walls and the last when you finally kill it, which was awesome.

Some nice cloth, looks like someone learned Marvelous Designer.

Final Score – 8.5

There really isn’t much else to say about this game. Listen, if you liked the 2nd remake then you’ll dig this one. Just know it’s super short and try to go for the trophies because they really add to the fun and enjoyment you get out of this title. Isn’t that a weird thing to say? With most other games the trophies are a grind and don’t add to your overall enjoyment, this title is the complete opposite. If you don’t care about trophies, you’re going to want to wait for a deep discount on the PlayStation store before pulling the trigger. If you can understand and see how the trophies push you to enjoy the game in ways you might not naturally seek out, you might find that you get a nice challenge and some more time out of this game.

Cyberpunk 2077 – Well, Shit…

So much drama. It’s actually hilarious what’s been going on in my head. I woke up this morning and saw that a couple people, sites like Push Square, had access to the PlayStation version of the game. They talked about the differences in the versions and what playing it on the PS5 is like. Apparently it’s just a 60 FPS, slightly better than 1080p version of the PS4 game and that’s it. Then all I was thinking is how much better it would look on my PC…

So I contacted Sony and tried to get my pre order refunded. If you check their return policy they state that you can’t refund a pre order if you’ve already downloaded the content to your console, which I had already done. Luckily, it was my first ever refund so they allowed it. That’s what I was told through their online chat. The person on the other side of the chat was really nice and it was an easy process to get my refund. I then went to the Epic game store and now it’s almost downloaded there.

Perhaps I’ll revisit the game sometime next year when the PS5 patch comes out and the price drops on that system. Then I can go through and get some trophies if I like the game enough to do so. I just really want those ray traced graphical options. This game does have a lot of ray tracing options, so it’ll be fascinating to see how much my 2070 Super can do. I’ll keep you updated about it.

Cyberpunk 2077 – Decision Time

I am really just getting jacked about playing Cyberpunk 2077 right now. I decided to go with the PS4 version, playing it on my PS5. Little pissed about the raytracing support for PS5 users. I’ll give Sony the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re not going to censor the North American version of the game on the console. I think the YouTube video that CD Projekt put out with the comparison was the censored one, since the game needs to be censored in certain regions like Japan. While I think all of that is dumb and censoring nudity is the most ridiculous thing in the world, so be it.

Didn’t take too long to pre load.

My only thought right now is if I should play the game on the hardest difficulty setting or not. I was listening to the guys at Giant Bomb talk about the game and they were saying how easy it was to just shoot everyone. They made it seem like it was too easy and the choices they had to make in leveling didn’t really matter since they could just headshot people and keep it moving. I just checked out the trophy list and it doesn’t seem like there are any difficulty related trophies like they had in the Witcher 3, which is good I suppose. I mean, if the game really is as long as they say it is, with side quests, then having one long completionist playthrough is for the better.

I can’t wait for that timmer to tick down so I can finally launch this game that we’ve all been waiting years to play. I hope it’s not insanely buggy on console and runs well, that would be a nice bonus.