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.

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.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Review

The Good

This is definitely the best Star Wars game I’ve played in a very long time. The game is basically Metroid Prime for Star Wars. You visit multiple planets and unlock new abilities that allow you to open new paths and find power-ups for your character. There is just something about that style of game that feels just right. Now, I don’t want every game to be like this, but it sure is nice getting one. It would have been even better with fast travel, because fuck this game for not having fast travel.

The games story is good, not great. It definitely serves it’s purpose and makes you want to keep exploring the various planets in your journey. You probably wont be surprised by anything that happens, save for one moment that I wont spoil. It starts off with an interesting premise and set location and quickly moves into a romp around the galaxy.

What a cool scene.

The best part of the story and set up is simply the main character Cal Kestis. He’s acted by that kid from Shameless, which isn’t really needed, but the part that I like is just his character. He’s a pretty chill dude, there isn’t much drama with him and you’re not struggling with light and dark at every turn. He’s just a guy that knows what needs to be done, keeps a fairly level head throughout the whole journey. It’s just refreshing to hang out with him and your little robot companion, BD-1, in the game. The could have easily gone down the typical tropes in other stories, showing a struggle with the light and dark side, but they just keep it fresh and light.

The gameplay is good, it feels good to swing a lightsaber around and you get plenty of upgrades to add new moves to your arsenal. Particles and lights flash as you cut through your foes with your lightsaber, providing a kinetic experience not found in other Star Wars games. I found the whole “Dark Souls” get killed and your experience is in the person that killed you thing to be a little pointless. I only really died a few times in my game and rarely against normal style enemies. I think it should have been a mechanic that was saved for the higher difficulty tiers since it had little to no impact on my game. The biggest issue I had with the gameplay was using the ropes and jumping around before getting more powers, to sliding down slopes which got a little janky at times. Sometimes jumping off a rope or to the rope is an exercise in frustration, you will constantly miss or launch out at the wrong angle, causing you to fall into a hole over and over. I wound up just calling him an idiot when he did something utterly stupid, which happened a lot.

The music and sound effects were all very good. I liked a part in the beginning of the game when you enter an area and local music is playing, it’s a really Star Wars style grunge sound that just fit with the game. Sadly, it’s not used as often as I would have liked, but that would involve less barren planets and more locations with a population of civilians. The voice acting and everything was good, I also liked the sounds that BD-1 gave as you ran around, it was a good clue for points of interest in the environment. You end up really liking the little robot by the end of the game, even though it doesn’t have that much personality and is used more as a tool than a character in the plot.

I can’t forget to talk about one of the best aspects of the game, which are the environments and the way they are constructed. There is just a massive amount of high-frequency detail in the geometry. While it might struggle in other ways, it is always impressive to see what they are doing with game geometry compared to other titles. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the game has such a hard time with loading. It really did give me memories of playing Metroid Prime, whose levels were created in Maya and were not cookie-cutter in nature. This does feel like a real world with interesting things happening around every corner. Don’t expect to see the exact same shapes and objects scattered all over the place. There is some real talent and asset production that went into developing these worlds in 3D. I would be really excited to see what they can do with the next version of Unreal Engine on PS5, that’s for sure.

The Meh

I have a real issue with the character model of Cere. It’s almost distracting when the character is on screen. I just think the model and rendering of her face is not where it should be and does not compare with the work done on the other women in this game. The best way I can describe it is that there is just a softness in her face. The other women do wear more makeup, which really helps in making their character models stand out. Cere’s eyes just bulge out without having any sort of shadow around them. It’s almost unnatural the way it looks. I’m not saying that her eyes or the shape of them are unnatural, just the way they are rendered. I wish they would have added more shadow in the corners of the eyes to help set them into her face better while also adding more, better defined creases above her eyes and around her mouth. I’m adding a review of Death Stranding soon and seeing the way their characters eyes are done make you really see a difference in modeling, texturing, shader work, and rendering between these two games. It’s a distracting aspect that actually pulled me out of the story and should be improved.

This is one of the better images of her cinematic model, I still would have liked to have seen the upper eye flap that actress has, this would have helped in adding more character to her model. Compare her model to the one of Nighsister Merrin with her makeup, huge difference.

The Bad

If you’ve seen the Mark Cerny “GDC” presentation about the upcoming PS5, where he goes into the improvements they made in regards to hard drive access speed, then I think I know why that’s needed now. I mean, I already knew why it was needed from a technical perspective, but this game is the definition of needing that increase in speed.

You’ll be seeing this a lot, maybe not if you’re on a nice PC, but console version for sure.

Just for context, I played this game on the base PS4 since my two Pro consoles are in a crate traveling to Japan right now with the rest of my stuff. Not that it would have changed that much in regards to this aspect. The game has a terrible time at trying to keep up with streaming in new assets, it kind of hurts the game and it’s part of the reason why I knocked my score down just a bit.

If you run through a level, especially after beating the game and going for the platinum trophy, you are constantly hitting signs of the levels trying to load around you. Sometimes the game would just freeze if I went too fast, just like how Half Life 2 used to do between areas. It’ll just freeze the frame, no loading sign, and you just have to wait a few seconds before being able to continue. Sometimes you can watch parts of the world just appear around you. One section I jumped down into a workshop and there was nothing in it but the walls and basic lighting. I ran into the room I was going into and got hit by an invisible spinning blade, only to then have the furniture, lighting, and blade start to appear moments later.

I think something forgot to load.

I’ve had the game crash on me about five times while playing. Each time I was forced to go back to the last meditation point I stopped at while not keeping anything I picked up. This had me replay sections, recollect any collectibles I already picked up, which led me to stop at every single meditation spot I saw just in case it crashed again. It was very frustrating. I do think it had something to do with the streaming of assets, since there was a lot of hitching caused by that.

I would really love to see a version of this for PS5. This game needs that hard drive speed and the increased graphical capabilities available there, it’d be nice if they provide a free patch. If they did that and made some big improvements before the sequel, perhaps I’d run through it again.

While I’m talking about negatives, the presentation and quality of the image being presented on-screen is of a very low quality. What I mean by this is not the typical graphics, it’s the way the frame is rendered out. The game itself can be very beautiful and is technically really nice, it is just covered with temporal ghosting artifacts all over. I’ll show an example below of what I mean. What I’m talking about is not a part of the camera motion blur, the aspects I’m talking about would not have motion vectors associated with them. It reminds me a lot of the ambient occlusion ghosting I experienced in Control on the PC.

BD-1 should not have a ghost trail coming off his head.

Final Score – 8.6

A great Star Wars game marred by technical issues. Perhaps I should have just played this on PC. The main character and his mild-mannered personality was a refreshing aspect that I didn’t know I needed. Just please include some sort of fast travel in a sequel, especially for trophy hunting purposes in the end-game.

Assassin’s Creed Rogue – Remastered – Review

Boy oh boy, where to even start with this game?

Sleepy Hollow

Okay, so let me just say that I have a weird predilection to want to play and platinum every AC game that is made, aside from the sidescroller things they did. Why do I have this feeling? I’m not sure. So this game came out for the PS3 and Xbox 360 way back when AC Black Flag was launching for the new PS4 and XBox back in 2014. So it’s been out there for a while, and the remastered version for PS4 was on sale so I thought it was finally time to give it a go.

I knew all along that this was not a big tentpole AC title, more like an offshoot or something. That’s what made this game so weird to me. You have three big maps that you can run around in, one is of New York and the other two are just parts of the North East of the US that focus around sailing and hitting up little villages along the coast. Sure, okay. You got a little of the old AC and some of the, then new, sailing that everyone was in love with. The two maps with a lot of sailing end up just feeling like a random assortment of islands and doesn’t actually feel like a real-world location. It’s a little uninspired.

Escaping the Lisbon earthquake.

What makes this an offshoot title is that the story and the missions are all a little short and don’t really draw you in like other titles. They’re boring to be honest, you don’t actually care about any of the characters, which is an odd thing for an AC game. The old historical figure you get to meet up with is Ben Franklin, like what the fuck. He doesn’t even get to make you cool tools or be an actual relevant part of the story like DaVinci did in AC 2. The plot was poor at best, you turn from being a member of the Assassin’s to joining the Templars. Which is a cool concept to start with, but it was never really fleshed out enough to make me want to care. It’s just a bit of a muddled mess that I stopped caring about until the end. The biggest eye roll in the game came from getting your book back from a character, only to then entrust that book with the same character because it would be safer in his hands. 10 minutes later that character is mortally wounded by the hands of the Assassin’s and the book is missing… Like, let me wright your next story please.

So that’s the main story, just a bunch of little missions you have to do. I decided that I’m going to platinum the game. This means that you have to get 100% sync in all the missions, which is a little boring and dumb, but that’s how the older AC games are, so sure.

How is this gate keeping this armor secure? You can literally break into it with a match…

The biggest drag on the game, while going for a platinum, is the amount of collectibles and all that bullshit you have to do. While this isn’t really a mainline game in the series, they sure spent some money on a team of people to scatter 200 fragments around the world and shanty songs and chests and all that shit. God damn people. Luckily, I had a bunch of podcasts to catch up to, so I just put in headphones and listened to podcasts while I ran around the maps collecting shit, killing idiots, and sailing my boat around.

That reminds me, the enemies in this game are really stupid. Perhaps this is just how dumb they used to be in the last generation of consoles. I wonder if they were this hard of hearing in Black Flag also? I do still have AC 3 to get through at some point so I’ll be curious to see what they’re like in that one also. Definitely not up to the Origins standard set in this gen.

Starter ship vs upgraded destroyer.

It might sound like I hated this game and you might be wondering why I even spent the time to get the platinum. Sometimes it’s just nice to play a game that has collectibles. There’s an odd sense of accomplishment from clearing out a map. The game isn’t bad, it’s old school AC, so there’s a bit of comfort and ease in that. You get the weird mechanics of the older games where you can’t scale everything, which can lead to more frustration than needed. And hey, you get ship combat and can upgrade all aspects of your vessel, who doesn’t love that?

This is the games protagonist, such an uninspired and generic person.

Final Score – 6.3

In the end, it took just over 30 hours to get my 74th platinum trophy with this game. The game itself wasn’t that bad, it was just uninspired and filled with boring collectibles. I’m glad I played it, if that makes sense. This is a game in the series that I always felt like I missed out on simply because of the platform it was released on. In the end, I just needed to see the game for myself to really understand what it was and what it wasn’t. So now I’ll never have to play it again. Cheers!

Judgment – Review

Judgment is a game that is close to my heart before even playing it. At the end of 2018 and into January of 2019, I played through all the Yakuza games. These are games that I absolutely loved, especially now that 1 and 2 have been remade. The lineage of the series lies in the classic Shenmue game from the Dreamcast. After the team lead by Yu Suzuki fell apart after the sequel, a few of the members of that team formed a new studio and got the original Yakuza game made for the PS2. It’s been a long road for the series, and luckily for me, picked up the pace with new games being produced from the studio Ryu Ga Gotoku on a regular basis.

A fascinating aspect of this game, along with the Yakuza games it owes a tremendous amount to, is the world of Kamurocho. This is the city, first introduced in Yakuza 1 in 2005, that has slowly filled out with each subsequent sequel. All of these games are based around the same city. That means you’ll see the same buildings and the same layout of streets in every game. This could be considered lazy and boring game design, but it somehow works for these games.

Who’s that?

The city of Kamurocho becomes a character in and of itself in the series and it’s what ties Judgment to the rest of the Yakuza franchise. There are no games of this style that have used the same map layout for all the games, but it gives the player a sense of knowledge that is otherwise impossible. If you actually play all the games, that means you’re spending 30-100 hours, depending on how hard you go, in each title. So when you get to Judgment and a character tells you to go to Children’s Park to meat someone, you already know where it is and what path you want to take. You can visit the same convenience store or sushi restaurant from a decade ago and see how it’s changed.

Even after all these games and all the time I’ve spent in the city, all I want to see is how it’s going to change with the next generation of systems. I want them to keep this city in their games while adding and filling out more buildings, increasing the amount of micro details in the city. It is a character in the game, so it’s evolution is a critical aspect of the design philosophy of the title. It’d be amazing to have this virtual city where ever room and building is recreated perfectly, a little simulation where stories can unfold and engross the player.

The sad part of this game is that you have to say goodbye to Kazuma Kiryo, the main protagonist of the Yakuza games so far. Perhaps this will prepare me for not being able to play as him in the upcoming Yakuza 7 game. It’s sad that I can’t play as him, but luckily the main protagonist of this game, Takayuki Yagami, does an admirable job of drawing you into his world. You also still get to deal with the Tojo clan and all the Yakuza members that fill out the streets of Kamurocho so you wont be missing out on Yakuza.

Instead of a badass Yakuza member, Yagami is a detective/lawyer that is trying to deal with being a detective in the city. Along with his best friend Kaito and his old law firm, he quickly gets involved in a soap opera plot of assassinations, government officials, corrupt cops, and alzheimers drugs.

Look both ways before crossing the road!

If you’ve played any of the Yakuza games, the story unfolds in a similar fashion. It slowly draws you in until you’re absolutely hooked by chapter 10. At that point you’ll want to just plow through the story to find out who is doing what and how it all fits together. It turns into a soap opera, which sounds like a bad thing, but absolutely works for this game. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll avoid a lot of the plot. What I found, that I didn’t think would happen, since I loved the characters so much by the end of the last Yakuza game, was that I just wanted to spend more time with these characters as the credits rolled. They made me want to watch them interact together, go on another adventure, and wish that a sequel was in the works so that I could see how their relationships play out from here.

I made the choice, right from the start, to play this game with the English voice acting. This is something I would have never done prior, but I was actually happy that I did. The voice acting in this game is surprisingly good. It even has Mathew Mercer from Critical Role fame voicing one of the police officers.

That’s a hell of a kick.

The gameplay, while good, can be a bit repetitive. The biggest issue is the amount of running you have to do around the city. If you try and blow through the game in four days, like I did, you run around Kamurocho an awful lot. It gets fucking tedious. I actually got to a point where I wanted Yagami to get an electric scooter or something to allow him to zip around the city. Hopefully with the fast loading speeds of the PS5, we can get some super fast travel system in case I just want to warp to a place I’ve already been 100 times. Don’t let this seem like I’m contradicting myself with what I said about the city earlier. The city is a great character, it’s just that I’d like to have a bit more say in how I interact with it.

I found the fighting in this game to be more repetitive than in the last Yakuza game. I felt like I had more options in that game and in this one I was doing the same one or two combos over and over for almost all the battles. The only thing I’d change up would be what object I picked up to smash someone with, or perhaps just using my special triangle attack to mix it up a bit. You can change your stance between the two that are available, one is for dealing with crowds, while the other is for one-on-one battles. I just wish they added more combos and allowed you to really mix up your fighting style, perhaps If I go for the Platinum trophy and have to play the game on the hardest setting will the combat truly shine.

I just need to give a shoutout to my girl Saori. I just loved her demeanor and the way she handled herself in the law-firm. She’s a character that is reserved but assertive. She hides behind her hair yet knows who she is and isn’t afraid of just being herself. Her English voice acting was spot-on also. It was funny how she got to shine for a bit during the game, where she was needed for two of the missions, and it was really nice to see how her personal relationships with another character evolved. I can’t wait to see how she grows in the sequel.

KAMUROCHO!!!

Final Score – 9.1

The studio still keeps me glued to the cutscenes and the story that is playing out, something I can’t say about 95% of all video games. I’ll definitely line up for more soap opera goodness from them. Let down by a really simple combat system and a lot of running. I loved the characters and can’t wait for a sequel to this game.